I MOST heartily agree with Douglas Gray’s letter (We can learn from litter-free US streets, October 2). So in the National Conversation let’s talk rubbish!

He suggested we invoke the US scale of fines $25 to $2,000. I also heard in Massachusetts there are $10,000 fines. Now that would certainly make people think twice!

In the UK there has been a plethora of campaigns. I can even remember Margaret Thatcher (not a hero of mine) picking up litter and handing it to her bodyguard for disposal! In Scotland there have been numerous national and local initiatives. They reckon litter and fly-tipping costs Scotland £50 million a year!

So why does it continue? Are our fines not big enough? Are we not tough in enforcing our fines? Singapore, unlike us, do have a real zero-tolerance approach, where chewing gum is banned. Singapore is nicknamed “The Fine City”! There, first-time offenders who throw away cigarette butts or sweet wrappers are fined $300. For bigger items you face court, are shamed, and subject to a “corrective work order”.

Living in the Highlands I get particularly annoyed with the drivers who throw stuff out of their windows, especially when there are two bins at every layby! But maybe we should look further abroad. Japan in particular set a magnificent example to us all.

Our Scottish rugby supporters will bear witness to this, having experienced a crash course of their proud cultural rules. There you can’t talk on your phone in public places. You don’t eat or drink on trains, you always wait for the green man before crossing the road. But most relevant to this article, you do not drop litter anywhere except in bins. If none is available, it’s simple – you take it home.

Apparently the visiting rugby players are following suit and, win or lose, they are tidying their dressing rooms before they leave! And do you remember the scenes in the football World Cup when the Japanese fans cleaned up the stadium before they left? Senegal fans, inspired by this impeccable example, followed suit. Wouldn’t be great if this happened here! Imagine after every game the stadium is as tidy as it was before the game! Your children start tidying their bedrooms!

But joking aside, a collective will is needed. It cannot be just about tough enforced fines. Parents and schools can make a big difference. Let’s not just work around the edges. Cleaning up stadiums is an extension of basic behaviours that are taught in Japanese homes and at school where classrooms, corridors and playgrounds are kept clean by the pupils.

Japan is quite rightly proud of its recycling and anti-litter tradition. Let’s set an example to the world and do the same here in Bonnie Scotland!

Robin MacLean
Fort Augustus

IT is good that Scotland has banned violence against children. Although “a wee smack on the hand” is how it is described by those not in favour of this legislation, that is naive and ignores the sad fact that – if that doesn’t “work” – it too often escalates to an angry sore one and tears. I did sometimes strike my children when they were small and I am ashamed. Apologists for such violence, such as “criminologist and libertarian” Stuart Waiton (he who got the ban on sectarian and violent chants at football games thrown out ... how’s that going I wonder?) are plain wrong.

However, the claim by a Scottish Government spokesperson that “this will make Scotland the best place in the world for children to grow up” is drivel, and ranks along with Jack McConnell’s boast that “Scotland has world-class road and rail infrastructure”. “Here’s tae’ us, wha’s like us?” etc etc as such.

We are a second-world country – colony really – courtesy of being shackled to England’s delusions of grandeur, but we now have a golden opportunity to aim higher and for European standards of efficiency and wellbeing.

David Roche

CONGRATULATIONS to Susan Egelstaff on her excellent article “Drug cheats aren’t always the clear-cut villains of their story” (October 4). It offers an unique insight into the problem from a former elite athlete with outstanding written skills.

It highlights many of the problems faced by athletes and yet never mentioned in the media, who often appear to be more interested in the sensational aspects of the “story”. The general public often, quite wrongly, expects world class athletes to be world-class communicators and more often than not that is not the case. The result is that their individual problems are overlooked and they end up disgraced and on the scrap heap.

I would hope that those responsible for regulating sport in its widest sense would take heed of Susan Egelstaff and others like her, to realise that “hanging” a few athletes and coaches is a policy which is doomed to fail.

Thomas L Inglis