Letter: Mr Gorbachev will speak, and for free

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your diary item about Mikhail Gorbachev's visit to Edinburgh ('And why weren't we invited', 11 November) misses the point about the lectures to which the former president is contributing.

The 13 Lothian European Lectures include the following speakers: Richard Rogers, Tim Sebastian, Joan Bakewell, Douglas Hurd and Shirley Williams, along with Mr Gorbachev. They are not private regional council or university events but are open to the general public who can reserve seats for all lectures - including Mr Gorbachev's - for pounds 2. The announcement of Gorbachev's visit was front-page news: a (free) full-page advert gave details of tickets and people queued up or sent in postal applications.

The remaining 500 seats are not 'for VIPs' - the majority are available to individuals or companies who wish to contribute to the leukaemia research and other work carried out by the Gorbachev Foundation. The University of Edinburgh, as a partner in the series, received a generous allocation of VIP tickets to distribute as it wishes, and its students will form part of a team of volunteer stewards who will hear Mr Gorbachev speak, free of charge.

Your comparative charges for lecturers are intriguing, but you may like to note two things: Lothian Regional Council will not be paying any fee to Mr Gorbachev for his lecture. No fee has been requested, and the Regional Council has no contract with Mr Gorbachev: the Gorbachev Foundation will, however, receive all donations from the public.

Second, unrestrained public enthusiasm for Lothian European Lectures by either Baroness Thatcher or former President Bush is not something we have so far noted in Scotland. We are, however, having Sir Edward Heath back by popular demand to chair the Gorbachev lecture, but he doesn't mention fees, either.

Yours,

GERALDINE PRINCE

Co-ordinator

Lothian European Lectures

Edinburgh

15 November

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