RHODA Meek’s article in Seven Days on Sunday has solidified my thinking on second home ownership in island and rural communities (The ignorance of both our government is hurting our communities, Jan 7).

Full disclosure: I have made use of holiday lets with family throughout the years past and may continue to do so in the future.

To reduce rural depopulation caused by lack of housing, it seems by all accounts that tackling underused second homes is a required urgent action.

Building new homes for doctors, dentists, nurses, teachers and other important providers will take time and capital that we don’t really have. Increasing availability of long-term (minimum three-year) rentals could be a desirable and reasonable goal.

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Second homes could be taxed in bands based on the rental use of the home – a sliding scale where little or no use in any 12-month period, by the owner or any renter, significantly increases the council tax level.

Council tax offset could be achieved by the sale of land to the relevant council adjacent to the property or close to it with access to services. Aggregations of land within one ownership could be permitted, at council area level. Homes that are rentals with long-term rentals contracts could be exempt from council tax uplift.

Council areas that have no shortages of community support staff could be declared exempt.

I am not sure there are any areas like this at present.

Alistair Ballantyne

JUST when you thought the enforced demise of the gender recognition legislation might lead

to the Green/SNP government resuming a plausible campaign for independence, along comes the latest very divisive issue in the shape of a consultation on banning so-called conversion therapy.

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The next few months, in the lead-up to a UK General Election, will probably see the Scottish political agenda distracted by this latest piece of ham-fisted legislation. Already people are taking sides, with claim and counter claim featuring on the TV, press and on social media, with some even stating that parents in Scotland will face up to seven years in prison under the SNP plans if they don’t allow their young children to change gender.

It seems we have learned nothing from the result of the recent Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, where the vast majority of SNP supporters were so scunnered they could not even be bothered to cast their vote.

It is a great shame that many of our SNP MPs – some of whom, like Joanna Cherry KC and my own MP Gavin Newlands, have actually made an impact at Westminster – may suffer as a result of the actions of some of their MSP colleagues in Edinburgh who seem hell-bent on alienating increasing numbers of both SNP voters and potential SNP voters.

READ MORE: LGBT+ activists 'confident' conversion therapy ban will pass at Holyrood

No amount of cardboard baby boxes and vague promises of £10,200 per household in a future independent Scotland will save the SNP from the fate that probably now awaits them at the UK General Election.

For some of our Green and SNP MSPs, including cabinet ministers, independence has clearly become a sideshow and the Scottish Parliament merely a venue to promote their own agendas.

Brian Lawson

TWO climate stories were in this week’s headlines. 2023 was the hottest year on record and Israel’s war on Gaza has produced more greenhouse gases than 20 climate-vulnerable nations do in a year.

It’s time to lift the veil on the world’s largest single emitter of greenhouse gases – the global war machine, led by the US, the UK and now Israel, whose military is entirely funded by the US.

READ MORE: Scientists confirm 2023 as hottest year on record due to climate change and El Nino

Since 1945, the UK has deployed its armed forces 83 times in 47 countries, in conflicts ranging from colonial wars and covert operations to propping up corrupt regimes. It has permanent bases at 145 sites in 42 nations or territories, spending £55.5 billion per year, while the US maintains nearly 800 permanent bases in more than 70 nations and territories, spending $850 billion a year. By contrast, Russia has 21 overseas bases and China has one.

The US military emits 51 million metric tons of carbon a year, a larger polluter than 140 countries combined, and the UK’s military emits 11 million tons a year, not including the emissions caused by actual wars. (In its first four years, the Iraq war was responsible for 151 million tonnes of carbon releases.) The September 2022 sabotage of the Nordstream pipeline was the biggest release of methane gas on record.

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Now the global war machine – led by Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, BAE Systems, General Dynamics and Northrup Grumman – is stoking conflicts with Iran and China while the wars in Ukraine and Gaza grind on.

A glimmer of hope is that a group of emerging economies, the BRICS, that collectively represent 36% of global GDP, are calling for a rebalancing of the world order away from a US hegemony based on military force towards a multipolar world based on trade and cooperation. It’s one that an independent Scotland would welcome.

Leah Gunn Barrett