Jo Selwood (letter, 13 June) suggests that oil and arms mean more to our rulers in relation to events in the Middle East than human rights or combating Islamic fundamentalism.
The point about oil, a commonplace in criticism of the foreign policy of successive British governments, suggests an odd vision of a society in which only the rulers are interested in oil, and in which the rest of us could do quite well without it (or would be happy to pay much more for it than we do at present). A glance at any main road in the rush hour will demonstrate the falsity of that vision.
As a society we have allowed ourselves to become dangerously dependent upon oil. Until we take seriously the need to reduce that dependence, in matters ranging from alternative energy sources to reduction of consumption of fossil fuels for transport, our foreign policy seems doomed to operate in the malign shadow of our insatiable demand for oil at affordable prices.
Since most people, particularly in positions of responsibility, have regular performance review, is it not time for one to be carried out on the performance of the Middle East Peace Envoy, one Tony Blair?
Arts grants for the unknown
David Lister, in his The Week in Arts column (“Why won’t the Arts Council tell us who’s getting our money?” 7 June) gets it badly wrong. There is no comparison between the funding given regularly to arts organisations relying individually on a wide variety of funding sources, and those judged to merit emergency funding.
Having an Arts Council grant will to most funders – whether a bank, commercial sponsor, paying customer or philanthropist – be seen as a badge of recognition, a reason to support the organisation. Where, after careful consideration of the financial risk, an organisation is judged to require emergency assistance, that is an entirely different form of recognition. And the message that could send to other potential sources of funding at a difficult time could have the reverse impact of what was intended.
A very modest £14m grant programme suggests small organisations not in the same league as ENO – ones judged to have the artistic merit to be helped over a difficult patch in a way that is most helpful.
The idea that decisions are better made by civil servants or ministers, or for that matter “democratically”, is frankly bonkers. The Arts Council is audited by the National Audit Office and is well led by its trustees and executive team. It is right that decisions are made by peers from the arts world at trustee level, supported the extremely competent team led by Alan Davey. Anything else would be the equivalent of ministers picking the England squad for Brazil.
The NAO follow the money. The farther ministers are kept from decision making in the arts the better.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
Interim Finance Director at the Arts Council, 2008-2010
Councils’ duty to help wildlife
Britain’s bumblebees, honey bees, butterflies, mammals and birds are starving from a shortage of wild flowers, seeds and insects. Changes in agricultural techniques have meant that there are fewer wild flowers in the landscape and this has caused a dramatic decline in the populations of our native wildlife (as highlighted in the RSPB “State of Nature” report).
The most important thing that can be done to help conserve our biodiversity is to provide more flowers, seeds and insects for them to feed upon. This may involve restoring habitats to conditions that allow more wildflower meadows to grow. It also involves allowing more plants in our parks, road verges and open spaces that can be used by bumblebees and butterflies for food.
Much of the land being managed by local authorities is unknowingly managed in a way that makes it unsuitable for wildlife. Many of the plants used in bedding displays produce no pollen or nectar. Many areas covered by grass, which are not used for sport, are cut too many times a year, which prevents the growth of wild flowers, seeds and insects.
As councillors, we need to know that we have the support of the public for these vital changes to happen, which in time, will hopefully reverse the worrying decline in our native wildlife.
Cllr Rob Curtis
Barry, Vale of Glamorgan
In defence of posh boys
John Newsinger’s carping about rich posh boys wearing weird costumes and running education (letter, 13 June) is another example of the millions in this country who think it is a crime to be rich or to be educated in independent schools.
May I ask who elected these “posh boys”? And if they are running the system well, should they still flagellate themselves regularly for the sin of being rich ? Is jealousy one of our prized British values?
Fight for the Land Registry
I am encouraged that 38 Degrees has taken up the cause of opposing the selling off of another public service, the Land Registry. This service, which holds much sensitive information, no doubt will be sold cheaply to become a cash cow for a foreign investor. At present it is self-financing. Any profits are used to reduce fees. It will become a cheapjack outfit bent on milking the public and exploiting the information it holds.
South Cadbury, Somerset
Corruption at the top of football
I am constantly astounded to hear of the levels of corruption within the Fifa organisation that have persisted for many years, bringing disgrace to the game of football (“Enter Blatter and his Fifa army to enjoy the perks of office”, 10 June). What hope of a clean-up for Fifa when its president, Sepp Blatter, refuses to disclose his salary or perks?
Dennis Forbes Grattan
Scottish science needs to stay British
Like Andrew Watterson (letter, 13 June) I have an English background and live and work in Scotland. But I call myself a Scot. Like J K Rowling my allegiance is wholly to Scotland. I share her fear for the future of medical research (and science in general) if Scotland votes Yes.
We have been playing lead roles in the UK science system for more than 300 years, and benefit enormously by our successes in the fierce competition in this big enterprise. UK science is the world leader in delivery per pound and ranks only second to the US in discoveries. If we left the UK we would leave this great British institution.
The Scottish Government currently chooses to spend less per head on science and technology than the rest of the UK. According to its White Paper, an SNP government after independence would not have a minister with a science portfolio, unlike Scots, Gaelic and sport.
I will be voting No in the referendum.
Professor Hugh Pennington
The Tories remain deeply unpopular in Scotland and many in Scottish Labour are somewhat uncomfortable at the connection between the two parties in Better Together. And after Nick Clegg’s coalition with the Tories in the London Parliament, the Lib Dems are almost unelectable.
I am sure that any region north of the Home Counties would jump at the chance of gaining independence from London. Unfortunately, they do not have a choice; they are for ever yoked to London rule. We are not.
An independent Scotland would ensure that our long-suffering electorate would never again be governed by a Tory or right-wing administration for which we never voted. Let us not squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Let us ensure that Scottish people, and only Scottish people, will for ever make the crucial decisions for the public weal in Scotland.
We in the rest of the UK may not have a vote in the September referendum, but we do have a say. And, according to the polls, most of us really want Scotland to stay as part of our country,
We in Scotland certainly live in exciting times. Our Prime Minister, David Cameron, is against an independent Scotland. Recently, on a somewhat wider scale, the leader of the free world, President Obama too has endorsed the No camp (followed by Hillary Clinton no less).
Surely, it can only be a matter of time now before Pope Francis informs us that the Creator has declared that an independent Scotland would spoil His vast eternal plan.
Currie, MidlothianReuse content