AT the very time when we are celebrating the anniversary of George Orwell and many of his contributions such as Animal Farm, when we were told that some of us are more equal than others, we are made to question what is wrong with some of us in the Highland regional council area?

During last year the Disability Committee (CPG) in Holyrood looked at accessible toilet facilities and facilities for changing places toilets. Some similar work has been done in the Whitehall Disability Committee (APPG). Both these committees have linked with organisations to encourage good practice, publicity, improvements in planning and legal requirements.

In this work we discovered that in the Highland region, although the general toilet facilities are open to all, for some reason the so-called “accessible” toilets run by the Highland Council are locked. People needing an accessible toilet are for some reason expected to purchase a key, now for sale on Amazon for about £5.

The leader of the Highland Council has been written to asking for the logic of this.

Further correspondence was sent pointing out that part of the UK Equality Act 2010, whilst not a legal guide, protects the rights of all disabled people as individuals – which includes “sanitary facilities being offered must provide equal access to toilets for disabled customers/visitors and employees, to the same standard as non-disabled people”.

We wrote to the First Minister who asked the equality, human rights and third sector official of the Scottish Government to write their views on the same topic. Similar responses were made about equality expectations. Sadly, although copy was sent to the chief executive of Highland Council, there has not been any further action.

During recent times a great deal of money has been spent supporting the development of the N500. Tourists have been encouraged to take this route which runs the whole way around the Highland Council area. What are visitors expected to do when they need accessible toilet facilities and find them locked? In one place in Lairg, there is no explanation on the door.

In another place the door sign suggests the user travels for a key at the nearest post office a mile away, that is only open for 12 hours per week. One council member wrote telling us as a disabled person he had purchased a key and was delighted as there was always a toilet available for him!

The Highland Council has not claimed funding shortages. One councillor suggested that open accessible toilets would be damaged.

In the whole of the UK we have only had once such event reported, whereas many ordinary toilets often have soap dispensers taken home, locks stolen or broken. One can only be amazed that the door is not broken down by families and carers trying to access the accessible facilities!

Animal Farm is still strongly alive in the hills of Scotland. The debate about equality lingers on and we have to realise it is not very active in the north.

Maggie Ellis
Member of Disability Committee (CPG) at Holyrood and Disability Committee (APPG) at Whitehall

IN our bid for self-determination we tend to decry Boris, England and Westminster but maybe we should be focusing on those in Scotland who maintain their loyalty to the status-quo.

As Kevin McKenna pointed out (January 22) “Scotland was happily independent, dealing with its own disputes and finding its place in the world for longer than its been part of the UK”.

The Union of 1707 “only happened when a few dozen of the richest and most powerful people in the land decided by using Scotland as a bargaining chip”. Burns’s denouncing of the Scottish Commissioners selling Scotland for gold emphasises this very point!

So maybe we should ignore Boris (for a wee while) and spend more energy on identifying and shaming the powerful, influential and well-off people living in Scotland who are working so earnestly to undermine the honest, law-abiding and legitimate movement for independence (while they maintain their self-interest and adding more money to their coffers).

As Burns eloquently wrote: “What force or guile could not subdue thro’ many warlike ages, is wrought now by a coward few, for hireling traitor’s wages, the English stell we could disdain, secure in values station: But English gold has been our bain, such a parcel of rogues in a nation.”

Things don’t change!

Robin MacLean
Fort Augustus

MANY people feel powerless and voiceless about Boris Johnson’s reply to Nicola Sturgeon. It has been suggested that a mass letter-writing exercise would at least give independence supporters a chance to give vent to their feelings and point out a few home truths to Boris Johnson.

It is important that it should be a paper and ink letter as that would firstly ensure that each letter is at least opened and read and that a reply is received.

Letters are a bit more difficult to deal with than emails, thus ensuring that the PM’s office is given a good workout. Log onto or the Facebook page or Twitter to find a sample letter. This letter can be changed to suit yourself. However, please keep it civil.

Sandra Durning

IT’S a fundamental law that if you play by the rules and your legal case is deemed weak by those controlling the process, then the way to secure victory is by challenging the process.

Blackford asks at PMQs for a referendum. Boris rejects it in his usual arrogant haughty way, Blackford points to the illusion of UK democracy and the Scottish MPs leave the chamber.

Given recent events if the MPs from Wales and Northern Ireland, who have also rejected Brexit, also walk out then the UK is in the severest constitutional crisis. The international ramifications would be immense. This should happen before royal assent to the Brexit Bill.

Jim Taylor

IT’S not just a question of language. I sigh every time I am described as a “separatist”. I do not want to separate Scotland from the United Kingdom.

Scotland is not a possession of the United Kingdom, the way that so many of the UK’s colonial possessions were. We are in a Union.

When we dissolve the Union there is no successor state. The United Kingdom will cease to exist and both Scotland and EWNI (or whatever the other “bit” calls itself) will have to reapply to everything from the International Postal Union to the United Nations.

The defunct seat on the UN Security Council may not be offered to EWNI (number three on my list of reasons-they-want-us-to-stay) but that is hardly our problem. Of course, this means unlike all of the colonial possessions, we are obliged to take our share of the debt.

However, if by some legal trickery the 1706 and 1707 Acts of Union that each parliament passed are ignored, and we “separate” from the United Kingdom, we would take none of the debt with us, since as conceded by the Treasury in 2014, this is the UK’s debt. This was the position of Ireland when they left.

Of course, the British nationalists do not recognise this, and expect our shared seat at the Security Council, and that we take a share of the debt when Scotland is again an independent nation. I think we should allow the EU to administer all the “cake and eat it” lessons that are unquestionably due to the Westminster Government before we try and administer the truth.

David H Kelly

IT is really encouraging to find correspondence in The National readily identified by its writer as being an Englishman who is sympathetic to what we are fighting for, and Robert Mitchell in his letter equates the Norfolk situation of the 1500s and their uprisings against the elite’s actions of creating hardship for the people.

My experience some time ago as a mud student in Norfolk found that opinion at that time indicated that the county had indeed been treated abysmally as an outpost and that this still rankled even when I was on the farm, in their treatment as an out of the way part of the UK. Of course, being young at that time on the farm had no real impression on my mind.

This of course brings me to my concern to the young in Scotland and how their similar attitudes to Scotland’s independence can be more readily strengthened. After all, the success of achieving independence for Scotland is so important for our future generation.

I am aware that in the universities here there is activity regarding youth politics, but it strikes me that more publicity in that subject in The National and elsewhere would add grist to the independence mill at this critical time of our activities in any of the media that are sympathetic to Scotland’s outlook.

W D Mill Irving

IN the winter of 1962 I met Bob Dylan in a folk club in London. I actually gave him his first gig, albeit a walk on. During the interval he came to me and asked if we could discuss Scottish folk songs which I did at great length. This included Burns of course, and we talked a few times on other occasions. I’m not suggesting I inspired him to read/listen to Burns, but it may have helped.

Jim McLean

WHERE is the proof of Tony Perridge’s preposterous claim that EU monetary policy “has been proven to be disadvantageous to the (sic) much of the populace, particularly in the UK?” (Letters, January 24). Isn’t this just a bold statement with no footing on planet reality?

Was it the euro that printed shedloads of cash to prop up the collapsing UK banking system? Its strength certainly was the means to resolve circumstances like the fiscal mess of the Greeks who failed to properly collect taxes while engaging in profligate social spending they couldn’t afford and now recovering with the disciplines they are now bound to.

How does it mitigate against the populace when goods and services are trading in the common market without the banks taking their cut like a private tax, keeping prices lower? Doesn’t Mr Perridge curiously seem to relish government playing fast and loose with monetary policy to patch up cracks in a profligate government-controlled banking system when what any economy needs is stability without political fingers in the pie?

Any decision on currency will rightly be taken after independence. Proper arguments will be made for joining the euro or not, but for me it is a ready-made stable currency backed by many nations happily enjoying its benefits.

If its a choice between the euro and the casino banking, paper money printing and inflating actions of the UK government and the Bank of England, then for me it’s a no-brainer.

Let’s not forget, it is the “great” British pound that has dropped over 12% against the Euro since the Brexit referendum.

Jim Taylor