JUST how do our Scottish ministers decide on planning issues? What prompted me to question this now? The “controversial” Coul Links issue has generated quite a few column issues. Aside from the merits of the proposals themselves, the planning authority, Highland Council gave it a “big tick” but by just eight to six! Then our Scottish ministers decided to “call in” the proposal.

So what was the justification? Was it to reinforce the environmental safeguards? (Think back to Trump and the Mennie Estate. How have the environmental safeguards put in place back then performed?)

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All this is in contrast to the decision by our Scottish ministers to approve on February 9, just as the ink was barely dry on the reporter’s recommendation of that day, the siting of a solar array farm in the middle of a nature reserve on the highest point on the Isle of Cumbrae despite all the protests of the islanders over may years, the objection of the local community council and the proposal being rejected by the democratic planning authority, North Ayrshire Council.

There was a lot of deliberation about that one? So just how do they make decisions? Have a second look a yet another golf course when lots seem to be struggling. But it is all right to effectively vandalise the seascape/landscape views of Cumbrae? Was that deemed to be “in the national interest”?

They don’t even have to tell our parliament – far less justify their decisions. Surely the system needs to be reformed.

Willie Oswald
via email

THE Clearances are being reversed, mainly from south of the Border. Rhoda Meek’s article in the Sunday National (What do we do in the winter? We worry about the summer season, Mar 17), tells us that living on tourism is a leading concern.

Seventy and more years ago, to her welcoming moo, I milked the house cow twice a day, cleaned the byre, fed the hens, the sheep and a pony. Looking forward to the swallows return to their nests in the byre, I carted out and spread last year’s dung for the next hay crop, took pleasure in saving skylarks’ nests when cutting it. No TV – summer’s peats gave warmth to a winter evening’s read of Walter Scott.

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Subsistence living, a dram and a musical night with the neighbours! Unchlorinated water from a well, a cold outside loo, a bath but no shower, was it really “the good life”?

Intensive farming and dairy herds milking a thousand cows feed our stylish living. Could something be missing? Maybe greater contact with a once-natural world of the Highlands and Islands is being sort? Swallows and skylarks have flown. Can there be a balance between saving nature and flying out to holiday in Spain?

Iain R Thomson

I THINK Mr Jim Taylor (Letters, Mar 20)  is mistaken in arguing that the restoration of Scotland’s Royal Burghs, as eloquently advocated by Hamish MacPherson, would be a “retrograde step”. The old burghs and counties, which had existed for centuries until they were abolished by government fiat in 1975, were communities with strong individual identities, regarded with affection and patriotic pride by their inhabitants.

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I can well remember from distant childhood how my brothers and I, as we passed the sign when returning from an expedition in the family car, invariably sang in unison “Now we’re in the Royal Burgh of AYR!” And that great loose cannon of the mid-century literary scene, Fionn Mac Colla, saw clearly what their abolition was: a deliberate Unionist ploy to weaken the sense of local identity and pride in our history. As he put it in Too Long in This Condition, “The Act will have the effect of eradicating the entire element of local patriotism, the substratum and support of patriotism at the national level.”

Nobody, surely, imagines that by restoring the Royal Burghs we would be returning to the days of David I and William the Lion, or even giving tacit support to the ideas of monarchy and the feudal system: Mr Taylor’s fears on that score are groundless. What their re-establishment – and not only in name, but as entities with a political definition and a strong measure of self-government – would do is bolster our civic pride and improve the running of the country at community level. Give it some thought, Holyrood.

Derrick McClure

I JUST do not understand why the SNP government doesn’t pursue RADICAL land reform as well as implementing, or at least telling the public they are seriously reviewing, a land tax. The public are desperate for some radical policies to stop the rich getting richer and the poor being unable to afford to put their heating on. Certainly not the same old tired tropes about driving Tories out of Scotland!! The Tories are shooting themselves in the foot, the SNP need to be gunning for Labour. It’s almost as if the SNP have accepted they might lose 20 or so seats in upcoming General Election!

C Tait