I READ Vonny Leclerc’s column on obesity with interest (It’s time to get real on the causes of obesity, February 12). She made some valid points about the availability of “healthy” food to people struggling with money, but doesn’t mention the main cause.

Processed food, particularly cheap processed food, is full of carbohydrates, particularly sugars, which are being consumed in such quantities that in many cases even exercise can’t keep up. Our bodies are being overwhelmed with sugar.

READ MORE: Let's get real about the cause of obesity in Scotland

We should be consuming around six to nine teaspoons of sugar each day, which is around 24g to 36g, depending on gender. One can of cola, for example, contains 35g of sugar. If you have a look at the carbohydrate contents of everything on the shelves of the average supermarket, you’ll be absolutely flabbergasted at the amount of hidden sugar you consume in a day. It’s in everything: wheat products, such as bread, cereal and pastas; as well as jams, dairy products, sauces, sweets, milk chocolate, cakes and biscuits. And then it still goes into tea and coffee, and bottled water, fruit juice and all the other carbonated drinks. Fruit and some vegetables also contain surprising amounts of sugar.

The population needs to be re-educated to understand food, and prepare food properly, from scratch, and watch the obesity problem dissolve.

And, a universal basic income might go some way to giving less-affluent people breathing space to improve lifestyle choices. No easy fix for all society’s ills, I accept, but treating citizens with respect would be a good start.

Richard McHarg
via email

I ALWAYS find Vonny Leclerc’s articles thought-provoking, and I agree with her about the main reason for obesity, which is poverty. I now wonder whether another benefit of universal basic income would be that families would surely be able to afford better quality food and afford to cook it.

Andy Pearson

SURPRISINGLY I find myself in some agreement with reader Jim Taylor’s letter on local government (Letters, February 12), although I’m not sure he would appreciate my conclusions.

There is a valid argument that devolution has stalled at the Scottish Parliament level – although even this faces significant reversals with the Tory government clawing back powers. There is a need for further devolution not just of powers but of finance to local councils. Although the SNP has removed layers of ring-fencing on the funds available to councils, there is still too much reliance on a grant from the Scottish Government. I welcome the news that the Scottish Government and the Scottish Greens will be looking at replacing council tax and would hope that Land Value Tax is given serious consideration as an alternative – not just to council tax but to all other forms of taxation.

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However, I disagree with Mr Taylor’s solution of amalgamating councils to save money. This will only make councils less representative of local areas and make residents feel more remote from those who represent them. I would urge Mr Taylor to read some of the ideas proposed by Lesley Riddoch, such as in her book Blossom – which highlights how our councils cover too large an area when compared to the European average. This is certainly the case in areas such as Argyll and Bute, where smaller councils would be more responsive to local need. There is also a balance to be met between shared services – including, for instance, shared road services or even department heads/directors – and accountability, but there is certainly scope for more movement this way.

Of course if the public disagree with the policies implemented by councillors they have the opportunity to vote them out. However, if Mr Taylor is interested in saving money, then the most obvious route is to remove the layer of government at Westminster.

That way all Scotland’s resources can be spent for the benefit of the people of Scotland rather than subsidising the UK Government.

Cllr Kenny MacLaren

I READ Jim Taylor’s rant against large super-councils with interest. I have been impressed by the line of thinking often made by the likes of Lesley Riddoch which note that we need more local councils, not less.

In fact the term “local” in relation to the council system in Scotland is clearly a misnomer, as they are anything but. It always strikes me as odd that the elections which often have the most impact on our day-to-day lives are the ones with the lowest engagement levels.

This is understandable, as at present local government can be the dwelling place of some utterly incompetent characters who seem to drift silently from committee to committee, contributing nothing; merely a suit with a rosette which will vote the right way when called upon. Hardly inspiring stuff.

Perhaps it’s the fact that the local councils are sewn up in such a manner which puts off many people who have so much to offer their community. If our local councils were truly local then I believe there would be no hiding place for some of the dead wood which currently chokes the system, and we would see a wealth of talent emerge who were passionate, energised and motivated to make their community better in every way possible. Unfortunately such a profound political change will not come from our political system, which is primarily protectionist in nature.

Mr Taylor’s rant then took aim at the pet projects which many councils are renowned for. There are many valid examples. Here in North Lanarkshire the installation of "neon waves" cost the public purse over £1 million and was a shambolic failure in the process. But can he really say that the introduction of 20mph zones has been a failure because some selfish drivers ignore it?

He then went on to display his real prejudice when he made the bizarre claim that millions are being spent on a “politically correct cycling fraternity that doesn’t pay specifically for its infrastructure”. As any right-minded and reasonable person knows, roads are not funded by “road tax” but by general taxation. If you work and earn enough you pay tax. If you buy products you pay tax. If you pay council tax you are paying tax. Everyone contributes and that money is spent as the government or council of the day sees fit. Sometimes this will be on things which benefit you directly, other times not; but we all pay.

If Mr Taylor is suggesting that we single out each mode of transport to be self-funding, then by an extension of his logic we would see the introduction of toll roads funded exclusively by the drivers of the cars which traverse them? Or would that be a tax which, as Mr Taylor says, would be unfair on those who can least afford it?

James Cassidy

WEE Ginger Dug’s regular columns always bring us a breath of good sense and optimism. And his critique of the BBC (February 12) is both necessary and urgent. However, he seems to fall into a trap I’ve observed recently: to direct blame to the wrong place.

Are we not being a tad naïve to be surprised when the apparatus of the British state tries to stop us from dismantling it? It’s up to all of us in the Yes movement, all of us who want self-determination, to take up the issue of an unbalanced media rather than to look to the Scottish Government to sort things out.

The media occupy a privileged place in a democracy. If a government or a ruling party attacks the media, they can be accused of interfering with freedom of speech. There is far more that we can do than just complain about the BBC: for a start, Yes groups and individuals could be doing far more to support The National.

Cathie Lloyd
Letters, Lochbroom

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