MSP Karen Adam said in her column on Tuesday that the Nordic countries provide an illuminating example of effective local governance, citing the Swedish and Danish systems. There are, however, two sides to this.

Here in Norway there is a growing debate about the wisdom of decentralisation. Norway (with the same population as Scotland) has 354 local authorities with full planning powers. Scotland has 32.

This often means that tiny local authorities can make decisions that have local, regional and even national impacts.

One local authority with 4000 inhabitants has allowed almost 5000 new second homes/mountain cabins to be built in the last 20 years in the mountain plateau above a village. These are not wee “buts and bens” but fully serviced two to four-bedroom homes with one or two garages, full services and tarred roads. Average use is 50 days a year. The same holiday/second home invasion is happening along the south coast.

Forests are felled, beaches are fenced off, swamps are drained and wild reindeer herds are chased away. Small local authorities have limited access to qualified technical staff, and it is often difficult in small communities, where everyone knows everyone, to refuse a local builder hoping to bring money and jobs to a village.

There is much to be said for decentralisation and local democracy, but Norway is beginning to find that it can be too much of a good thing.

Mike Fergus


IT is very disappointing that government funding is not being provided so that the Rosyth ferry project can continue to progress. Unfortunately, the Scottish Government is struggling financially due to UK Government austerity economics policies, deliberately intended to cut funding to public services.

These were put in place by the Conservative/LibDem coalition government in 2010 and were continued by Tory governments Scotland didn’t vote for. As a result, the Scottish Government is already having to juggle finances to try to support the NHS, education etc. The UK Government could, however, with the UK having its own currency, increase the quantity of currency to add this valuable national resource without adversely affecting the currency value.

It is to the detriment of local people and potential businesses that the UK Government has chosen not to support progressing the ferry project – similarly with its decision not to take public ownership of Scotland’s only oil refinery at Grangemouth instead of letting it close.

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It is, however, supporting the proposed erection of infrastructure including huge pylons, very large substations and battery storage fields, adversely affecting areas in Scotland, to provide an east coast link facilitating the transfer of renewable electricity, enough for two million homes, to England.

It is also supporting going ahead with the erection of a large plant at Kintore converting electricity to hydrogen gas including piping down to England. While this is providing some jobs, more could be gained from supporting more local plants near electrical generators to benefit local people and attract businesses wanting to use renewable energy.

None of this suggests the UK Government is interested in benefiting Scotland and its people. It only seems interested in continuing to exploit our resources to benefit private industry and England, where the vast majority of its voters live.

James Stamper

via email

A FEW weeks ago, we had the obscenity of the New Year’s Honours list when the privileged in society – the political party donors and those who helped to save the Union – received the important baubles while other minions got the awards befitting their lowly status.

I have often thought that Scotland should have its own awards so our heroes would be recognised for their big contributions to society. We can then dispense with the nonsense which comes out of Westminster and show to the world the type of people we in Scotland really value.

On that theme, can I offer as a candidate one who is coming to the end of his career but who is an icon of Scottish folk music – Dick Gaughan? Not only has he had an amazing life at the top of his art, he has been resolute in his political beliefs and has never been afraid to state where he stands in defence of the unfortunate in our society.

In my mind, it is not enough to be good at your art and have a large following. You need to be a person of substance who treats all people as equals while giving extra attention to those considered as the “ignored” in our country.

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These are the qualities I saw in Dick when I had some dealings with him. For 10 years I helped to put on traditional music concerts in a small rural hall in the Highlands. On two occasions Dick came to play to a relatively small audience and for a very small fee.

He was the last to leave after his outstanding musical performance was over because he took the time to speak to everybody who wanted to talk to him. On another occasion in 2002, I attended a concert at Eden Court in Inverness where Dick was performing. As I crossed the car park, Dick was heading in the opposite direction I shouted good wishes to him. He didn’t know who I was, but he turned on his heel and walked back to thank me and to have a chat. Truly, one of nature’s gentlemen.

Dick’s health has been poor in the last few years but he appeared at Celtic Connections a few days ago in probably the last stage appearance of one of our all-time heroes.

Let’s start a campaign to have our government launch its own Awards for Outstanding Achievement so that great Scots, from all sections of society, can be recognised for what they have done for the people of Scotland.

Alasdair Forbes

Farr, Inverness-shire

PRIME Minister Rishi Sunak was unable to give an answer to SNP leader in the Commons Stephen Flynn in relation to the killing of a civilian under a white flag in Gaza. Most of us could have answered the question in the affirmative, yes it was a war crime. If he wanted to be cautious but still give a decent answer Mr Sunak could have added the word “probably” to that reply; he would have come across as somewhat sleekit but it would have allowed him to continue to appease Israel and the USA at the same time.

Meanwhile, Knight Commander of the Order of Bath Starmer appears to have spent more effort rebuking his Party member Tahir Ali than offering any opposition to the Tory government. In the Commons Mr Ali rightly identified Israeli war crimes and called out the complicity of Mr Sunak who “has the blood of thousands of innocent people on his hands”.

Surely a caring and compassionate Scotland deserves better foreign policy than that devised by any of the three London based Parties. It is time we stepped out of the shadow of the British Empire so that we can make our own mark on the world stage, applying our own model of social justice to our international affairs.

Ni Holmes

St Andrews