I ARRIVED in Glasgow in 1997 to study at Glasgow University and spent the first year in the Maclay Halls of residence, which are now luxury flats but in those days were the cheapest university halls available.

At Maclay, students from less affluent backgrounds were stacked up two or three to a room. Not all of us could afford the luxury of a private room like they had at the student village on Murano Street, but we were all delighted to be in a new city at a great university.

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I remember a bunch of first years sitting cross-legged on the floor of my room one evening, all of us horrified at the announcement by the still new Labour government that maintenance grants were being binned and that future students would be liable for the cost of their tuition fees.

I, and many among us, were acutely aware that we might not have been at university at all if we had faced the prospect of thousands of pounds worth of debt in order to do so.

I thought of my own parents and aunties and uncles, hailing from council estates in Derry and Salford, who were among some of the first teens to benefit from free university education. They went on to be lawyers, teachers and engineers and as a result my generation had a more secure upbringing than our parents had.

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I’m still in touch with some friends from those days – living cheek by jowl in a new city is a bonding experience, after all. Someone from Maclay Halls I bump into from time to time is Mike Marra, the Labour MSP. Mike was so avowedly socialist in those days, he claimed his dad used to deliberately lose at Monopoly in order to demonstrate the folly of capitalism.

Mike and I agreed on many things in those days, even if we disagree about independence today. We both came from modest backgrounds and were able to attend university without the weight of thousands of pounds of tuition fee debt colouring our future. That’s why it’s so desperately sad to see him as the smiling poster boy of Labour’s plans to start charging Scottish students tuition fees once more.

It’s not a burden he ever had to bear, yet he seems shamefully intent on imposing it on today’s young people, including my children and his own.

David McDonald

IT was reported in The National on Feb 21 that all seven Scottish Tories abstained on the recent vote to guarantee that all Scotland football internationals are shown on free-to-air TV. In actual fact, four of them voted against the proposal – Andrew Bowie, David Duguid, Alister Jack and John Lamont.

I am particularly concerned that my own MP, John Lamont, be exposed to the good folk of the Borders as the spineless toady that he has demonstrated himself to be over his seven years in Westminster. In the hundreds of votes he has participated in, on not one single occasion has he veered from the Tory party line.

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Not only did he support Liz Truss’s budget, and resist opposing Boris Johnson until his demise was certain, but he even gave his backing to the trade deals with Australia and New Zealand that undermine Borders farming, especially cattle and sheep farmers. And for the benefit of those many rugby fans down this way – he also declined to guarantee the showing of the Six Nations tournament for free on TV in the future.

David White

Editor: David is correct apologies for this error

PIPE dreams, as Rhona Meek points out in the Sunday National, do not come cheap (The new Action Plan fails to address the key issues facing the Highlands, Feb 26). Thanks in part to holiday home demands, house prices on the west coast are rising.

Escaping the noise and pollution of city environs to the relative seclusion of a croft on an island appears to be desire of an increasing number of people. Changing laptop lifestyles into the skills of growing food or clipping sheep is quite a learning curve. Milking a house cow twice a day and churning butter and cheese has now given way to the weekly shop. Unfortunately, returns from livestock husbandry on an average croft do not support today’s expected standards of living.

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As I remarked in Edwin Mickelburgh’s thought-provoking film on a bygone Highland life, An Element of Regret, tourists are the new sheep of the Highlands. Are there any practical planners amongst the politicians designing the government schemes Rhoda mentions? Until chemical usage became a large part of farming, the old-fashioned ways were largely environmentally sustainable. How to balance modern social demands with the rapid changes facing the environment requires major planning on a wide scale. We all enjoy the perks of destroying the planet. More people living by and caring for the land they occupy might be one way forward. The crofting lifestyle could set an example and be part of current eco-friendly plans.

Let a return to the land on sound principles be the basis for Scottish Government thinking in any schemes they bring forward.

Iain R Thomson