ONCE again two recent columns provided an interesting counterpoint, the heads and tails of one coin: ‘Global warming could kill off grasses’ (The National, Sep 28). Put the the lawn mower away: this is the life-sustaining wheat, rice, barley and other grasses, the basic foodstuffs on which the planetary food chain, including us humans, is founded. The flip side was provided by Murdo Fraser’s Fracking could secure the future of Scotland (The National, Sep 27), in which he purported the economic benefits of the irrevocable release of environmentally damaging methane and carbon, which are the cause of the threat described above. Without wheat, barley and oats what sort of Scotland will that be? Will we rather do without the plastic packaging or the food it contains? Whilst fracked gas may have lessened pollution levels in the US, the as-yet unquantified impact from ground level downwards is at best detrimental, at worst irrevocably disastrous. As we have seen with North Sea resources, which fracking is threatening to kill off, and other finite energy sources whether natural gas or nuclear, we inevitably exploit them to their limits and move on to find the next easily exploitable golden egg, heedless of the inevitable environmental damage. It may be considered smart that the US government aided the fracking industry to be able to cash in on the current bonanza, though will it still look smart if their food supply turns out to be threatened as a result? Continuing to exploit non-renewable resources is like seeing how far through we can saw through the branch we are sitting on before it snaps. Economic bonanzas never happened as the result of exploitation of any resource, the bonanza is created from supplying the consumer with what they need. Therefore as consumers we have the opportunity, if not the obligation to future generations, to ensure that we drive our economy to look to a future firmly positioned for sustainability which it will only achieve with renewables. Jim Ratcliffe at Grangemouth, with his determination to frack the Central Belt, could find himself like that previous mass employer Tutankhamun, with the biggest monument to his own glory in another barren dessert.There might even be a niche for Murdo Fraser.

Alisdair McKay
Ardersier, Inverness

THANKS for publishing Leslie Riddoch’s brilliant piece on broadband (Scotland is taking the slow road to connect to the superfast highway, The National, Sep 29). It sheds light on many aspects of the subject area which are obscure and difficult to understand otherwise.

Where I stay, just west of Banchory, download speeds of 2Mb/s and less are the norm, even though the main optical fibre trunk passes up the A93 only a few metres from our doors. But as Ms Riddoch says, whether or not we are part of the 95 per cent of the population expected to be connected by 2017 seems impossible to establish.We presumed we are not, and so formed an action group with the aim of securing a broadband service via the offices of Community Broadband Scotland (CBS), a body which has been set up to offer alternative solutions for those with no prospect of being included in the present 95% plan. Only this week we discovered that in our postcode there are three subscribers that have been classified by BT as “in scope” (ie they are apparently within the “95%”). Unbelievably, CBS now inform us that under the rules, plans by BT to connect a single subscriber in a given postcode excludes all other subscribers in that postcode from CBS support. It transpires that, by this means, half of the 130 local residents who have joined our action group are excluded from CBS support and are thus cast into the wilderness with no prospect of broadband before 2022. After reading Ms Riddoch’s article, I suspect that the reason for BT’s planned connection of selected subscribers (those presumably which are relatively easy and thus “cheap” to connect) is that it excludes those requiring more expensive connection, so delivering a commercial gain.

This situation is totally unfair to large numbers of the Scottish public, who pay their taxes and line rentals like everybody else.

Ken Gow

AT the time of the referendum, every suggestion that the SNP’s financial case for independence was seriously flawed was met with references to scaremongering, negativity or the ubiquitous “talking Scotland down”. The low oil price and the largest deficit in the EU have combined to prove that the naysayers were correct. However, the more domestic financial impact of leaving the UK has rarely been discussed.

For example, in Scotland we live in the remotest part of the UK, with much more difficult transport issues than elsewhere.Yet the Post Office charges the same for a stamp to send your grandmother’s birthday card, whether from Shetland to Dumfries, or Notting Hill to Islington.The standard, averaged cost is hugely to Scotland’s benefit. If you shop online, the post and packing cost from anywhere is the same for the whole of mainland UK. Just check the international price tag on an item of clothing and observe the varying prices in different parts of Europe. Losing the economy of scale of the UK, and our shared transport and infrastructure costs, would cost Scotland dear. We have yet to hear what independence would give us which would be worth the price.

Carole Ford

HAVING enjoyed a two-night stay in Stirling last week, I was interested to read Stewart Connor’s letter of September 27 on the NTS, and the reference in Donald Anderson’s letter of the same date to the Stirling Smith Museum and Art Gallery. I went to the National Trust for Scotland’s Bannockburn Centre, and was appalled. The focus is 3D technology and gaming, using elements of the battle as the game scenario. The attempt at historical context was poor. I wrote to the NTS to say the Centre did not “conserve and promote” the Bannockburn element of Scotland’s heritage, but destroys and denigrates it.

However, I very much enjoyed the current art exhibition, and the history of Stirling exhibits at the Stirling Smith.These included a lot of contextual information on Wallace, Bruce, Bannockburn and the Wallace Monument, as well as fascinating finds from the battlefield site, lent by the metal detectorist James Bayne. For me it is the Stirling Smith which is the winner of the Bannockburn battle! It has a very good child-friendly cafe, and an interesting selection of books for sale. I recommend the Stirling Smith to your readers.

EM Campbell
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire