I SEE Michael Fry has learned nothing from past criticisms or perhaps he just likes to shock? I am definitely not the “right sort of tourist”, yet we have managed to tour in some lovely parts of Scotland, despite not being the right type of people (Mediocre facilities mean Scotland fails to attract the right sort of tourists, January 8).

Funnily, though, we were not interrogated about our jobs or income or the type of house we live in at home before they allowed us to stay. Sadly though, despite the beauty of the landscape, it is only available to those who can pay. Why is it fair in Fry-World for children in some parts of Glasgow to have never seen a beach, but rich tourists from outwith Scotland are welcome despite the distortion they cause to the rural economy? The idea that there is nothing else you can do with the Highlands apart from make them into playgrounds for rich tourists, the type who will give anything for Scotland to keep bowing and scraping and taking any crumbs they throw down, blithely ignores the damage that grouse estates do to other types of wildlife, which The National has previously covered.

School trips used to be a way of getting children from the inner cities out to see a bit of their own country. As Vonny Leclerc pointed out recently, some school trips now need a second mortgage, and reinforce the disadvantage some children live in. Should not the Scottish Government be tackling this form of elitism in our schools, not by banning school trips but reining them in a bit and making them accessible to all?

We also need to embrace the Nordic idea of weekend huts, which I had never heard of as a way to see the country (despite living in Scotland for 30+ years) until Lesley Riddoch brought the idea mainstream. And what needs done urgently is to make rural Scotland welcoming in terms of facilities – nothing grand, just functional and reliable.

Tourist taxes would make a dent in this, but unlike most people, I believe they should be collectable locally but under a national framework of regulation, otherwise it would be too easy for some councils to avoid collecting them, particularly if said councillors were privately running facilities or estates which they would wish tourists to pay through the nose for.

It is hard to square Michael Fry’s demand for development with the desire to keep the “wrong type” of tourist out. Maybe they would cease to be the wrong type if they had better life chances, paid for by taxing the rich. Unfortunately, the type of tourist he loves would be the same ones who would not particularly wish to invest in Scotland by way of paying their fair share of tax.

Provision of decent facilities does not turn Courchevel into Benidorm. It enables the residents of Scotland to see their own country, and it should do. Facilities should not be so priced that only the rich can afford them. And his example of Skye is a warning. Yes, tourism has boomed, but at what cost? The waiter who serves the well-heeled their breakfast may be living in a broken down caravan (possibly left by the wrong type of tourist), and you cannot get a spare room anywhere on Skye at peak season. Buying a property has become the preserve of the already “haves”, but it is more than just a matter of pique if house prices serve to cause a new set of clearances from homelands where the young cannot afford to stay, as happened not far from where I was born and brought up in Wales.

Or are new clearances a price he regards as worth paying, as long as he is not paying it?
Julia Pannell

THE chaos continues. Theresa May appeals to the unions for help? She promises to ensure workers’ rights if her deal is accepted? At this late juncture what is going on in this rapid maelstrom? Desperate panic? Or last ditch hopelessness from a PM scraping the barrel, a PM who was disdainful of reaching out over the last two years to enable consensus?

Now former Brexit minister Steve Baker, from the ERG group, plans to publish a blueprint to explain how Theresa May could employ tough (re)negotiation tactics with the EU. He aims to force the EU to the negotiating table!

Are these people living in a political bubble? The delusion that somehow the EU will or can be forced to return to the table is the worst exemplar to be raised since Boris Johnson claimed that the UK could have its cake and eat it.

The UK Government, PM, Cabinet and ruling party (with no majority) at Westminster is stumbling from one absurd and desperate “plan” to the next to extricate itself from its own inadequacy. When one stands back and plots the actions, events, twists and turns after activating Article 50, it is one relentless plunge to ludicrous depths of absurdity.

At this late juncture the EU will probably let the UK simply leave. They will not enter into a renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement.

There is no way anything meaningful is now possible from the UK Government, let alone an agreement which stands any chance of passing the Commons either.

The comedy continues as the Defence Secretary and the Business Secretary openly contradict one another about the impact of a no-deal Brexit. As the Cabinet descends into the “pits”, there seems to be a complete paralysis at the centre. The EU must wonder what turn of events will come from a chaotic Westminster next.

The English body politic is convulsed as suppressed tensions and existential weaknesses of the Westminster set-up suppurate and fester on the surface of its “Order, Order!” pomposity. This toxic Union underpinned by Westminster has no credibility remaining.
John Edgar

WHY on earth are the opposition parties questioning the First Minister on her contacts with the former First Minister and ignoring the fact that the civil service discipline code procedures designed to give protection to Scottish Government employees from any kind of harassment have collapsed and completely failed to deliver?

As it is clear that the First Minister played no part in the current procedure, any discussion in parliament on the relevance of contacts she had with Alex Salmond can wait till the much more serious collapse of the civil service complaints handling procedure revealed in the court case has been resolved.

It appears that it is the Permanent Secretary who is responsible for the procedure that suffered a disastrous failure during the investigating of the complaints by two people of alleged offences against them by the former First Minister, which he entirely denies. Politicians of all parties should be demanding an inquiry into what went wrong during this investigation as the Permanent Secretary states that the “Procedure for Handling Complaints Involving Current or Former Ministers” is in itself robust.

The present case is now in the hands of the police and no matter what the outcome it is very likely that all of the people directly involved, and probably many members of the civil service staff, will be left with lasting distrust of the system which has already failed so abysmally to deliver on any of its objectives of dignity, fairness and impartiality.
John Jamieson
South Queensferry

IN January, 10 years ago, the ground invasion stage of Israel’s 2008-2009 assault on Gaza began. As with much else during what is known as Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli army exploited its massive military advantage to the full. Palestinians in Gaza paid a devastating price. More than 1400 people were killed in Gaza during the attack.

Among them, few suffered more than the Samouni family. Twenty-three members of the extended family were killed in two separate incidents on January 4 and January 5, 2009.

Twenty-one of those perished in a missile strike on a house they had been ordered into by Israeli soldiers on the ground. The UN subsequently deemed the slaughter of the Samounis to be war crimes.

The Samouni story is the subject of an Italian documentary by filmmaker Stefano Savona. Samouni Road won international recognition at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, where it garnered the L’oeil d’or prize for best documentary. For Palestinians it has special resonance.

As the audience watched and cried, the sounds and images of war – the bombs and sirens, the pictures and footage of the dead and wounded – came, reviving the state of fear and anxiety the people experienced.

The film’s sequence of events follows the narrative told by survivors of the Samouni family. The key scene is the first. Here, Amal Samouni, a young girl who was injured and lost her father and brother during the attack, tells the director, in response to a question about what happened, that she doesn’t know how to tell a story. Innovative and touching, Samouni Road has reached beyond the usual crowd of exiled Palestinians and Arabs and human rights activists. It avoids rendering Palestinians solely as victims and brings Gaza to life through interviews and the use of animation in a manner rarely seen The simple words of ordinary people from Gaza are also extremely powerful. What better way to talk to international audiences than to do so directly?
Name and address supplied

I AM a big football fan having supported Celtic and Scotland all my life, and even have a soft spot for Rangers because my cousin played for them (if only they’d forget all that Union flag waving nonsense and remember their Scottish roots!), but I am also a huge fan of cricket. In fact, if I had to choose a favourite sport, it would probably be cricket, although there wouldn’t be much in it.

Video technology has been used in cricket for many, many years, and has proved to be incredibly successful, improving the game no end. I do not know why the SFA does not introduce video technology along the same lines as it is used in cricket. Apart from goal-line technology which should always be in place, I would suggest each team has three appeals to question any refereeing decision. This would be for those things which can turn a game such as a sending off, an offside decision or a disputed penalty or free kick award.

It would be the responsibility of the captain to make the appeal, as in cricket, by making a T sign with his arms. The incident would then be reviewed by the third umpire (the video assistant referee), who would look over the footage. If the decision was clear cut then it would be relayed to the on-field referee who would either let his decision stand or reverse it accordingly. If even on the video footage it was still not clear, then the referee’s original decision would stand.

I think this would be very successful in raising the standard of football without interrupting its natural flow, given that the majority of appeals would be following dead ball situations. I am quite sure the International Cricket Council would be very helpful in providing support and guidance if approached by the SFA. The utilisation of video technology by the football authorities has, thus far, been messy and illogical, to say the least!
Solomon Steinbett
Maryhill, Glasgow