On 14 February 2007, at Campsie House, Glasgow, the board of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) had a detailed presentation from Alastair Andrew, general manager and bridgemaster, Forth Estuary Transport Authority, on the state of the Forth Road Bridge.
In response to questions from my colleague board members, Andrew memorably insisted: “The Forth Bridge is no stronger than its weakest link.” The minute records: “Tam Dalyell suggested that SCDI ask to meet the First Minister at an early stage to discuss SCDI priorities. This was endorsed by other board members.”
Subsequently, we met the First Minister, and I recollect that Alan Wilson, then SCDI chief executive, negotiated Andrew’s concerns, in particular that there should be constant inspection.
Forty-four years earlier, that gifted engineer, Jack Hamilton, in charge of construction, told me severely, after he had taken my fiancée and me over the catwalk: “It will be you’re as MP for West Lothian, to look after my bridge.” Along with Forth Bridge Board members and many others, I did. I am in a position to assert that it is inconceivable that any Secretary of State for Scotland, Tory or Labour, until responsibility was devolved to Holyrood, would have countenanced the ditching of plans to strengthen part of the bridge, were it deemed advisable. Attempts to shove the blame on to officials of Transport Scotland, who advised a strengthening programme, only to have their advice accepted and then immediately overturned, are contemptible.
Shame on Holyrood politicians. The Scottish parliament has served Scotland ill. Amid the blethering about more powers, and vanity projects geared principally to the Referendum, they have taken their eye off the ball.
House of the Binns
The Scottish Parliament’s loyal opposition’s amateur armchair criticisms over the way the Forth Road Bridge closure has been handled by a competent SNP minister (Derek Mackay) is appalling.
It is noticeable that a lack of common sense and intelligence (on the part of Scottish Labour, Tories and the Lib Dems) has become the motivation for the opposition war dogs to attack to gain party points.
If the SNP had not the foresight and courage to initiate the new Queensferry Crossing, God knows where we’d be in a year’s time. It’s time to work together.
Benefits of holistic palliative care
End-of-life care must be tailored to the needs of dying patients rather than a “tick-box approach”, the health watchdog Nice says (16 December).
I work in this field and it is blindingly obvious that this is true. Many I have seen over the years have “outlived” a terminal diagnosis and, as a benefits adviser, I see the true value of the welfare state.
Getting people financial support at the potentially end-of-life stage, helps prolong life as people are able to afford to eat well, and keep well, as well as getting access to ongoing health care.
Indeed, if we adopted an earlier holistic approach to healthcare, many people could improve their own health dramatically through lifestyle changes and thus save the NHS billions.
In a civilised country we should be better equipped to ensure that dying with dignity comes to the top of our priorities pretty quickly.
The Chancellor’s health devolution announcement for London (15 December) is an encouraging start for the devolution of powers in health and social care.
However, the nine boroughs involved need to bear in mind that community-focused services delivered at a local level often provide better outcomes and value for money. Only by involving communities and the community organisations that serve them can we develop effective, robust health services which really meet people’s needs.
Chief executive, Locality
In his coverage of the association between antidepressants in pregnancy and the development of autism (15 December), Steve Connor did extremely well in covering both the overall story and giving a rounded expression of the statistics involved. So many commentators give just one aspect, allowing people to get over-fearful about an issue, or underplay it.
Mr Connor, I salute you.
Peake’s mission will inspire a generation
Tim Peake’s space mission is exciting on so many levels – not least because it will inspire young people at a time when it is critical that we cultivate a new generation of engineers and scientists in the UK.
Our research shows that 20 per cent of children would consider an engineering career – but I’m hopeful that, as the story of Major Peake’s mission unfolds and people understand that it has all been enabled by engineering, we might see more children express an interest.
President, Institution of Engineering and Technology
World has to tackle mass migration
Presidential candidates seem not to know what to do with the US’s 11 million undocumented people. We need to accept that mass migration is possibly the greatest threat facing the world as millions of poor people seek a better life in rich western countries.
But with billions of poor people on the planet it is clearly inconceivable that this mass illegal migration can continue. Like climate change we have to rethink the whole situation.
This requires ending exploitation, endemic corruption and despotic regimes and sharing the world’s resources and wealth to eliminate the desire of millions to leave their homes. We also have to make each country responsible for the wellbeing of its citizens. A difficult task when there are so many conflicting cultures, religions and ways of life. But if we want peace this is the only solution.
Paris (Author of ‘The World at a Crossroads’)
One of the many defects that afflict Donald Trump is that he can’t see the wood for the trees. There are hundreds of mass shootings a year in the US – committed by people who have obtained weapons of mass destruction legally. Mr Trump should take aim at the National Rifle Association rather than Muslim immigrants.
Painkiller packaging targets consumer choice
It’s a shame your headline writers and our MPs have nothing better to complain about than the packaging of perfectly safe, over-the-counter remedies (15 December). A look at the products available in any chemist will show that there are only three major active ingredients for pain relief and that only two, paracetamol and ibuprofen, are in the majority of products. Of these, only ibuprofen has anti-inflammatory action as well as analgesia and temperature reducing properties.
That Reckitt-Benckiser put the same ingredient in several of its products is therefore not surprising. Buying any competitor product is also likely to have the same ingredient and probably the same dose.
Making the choice easy for the consumer by displaying the site for action on the front of the packaging is not a bad thing and obviously has no effect on safety.
Dr JE Finch
After paris, Politicians return to normal life
The behaviour of politicians increasingly takes my breath away. Here they are, Cameron and his crew, back from Paris trumpeting about signing this wonderful “anti-climate-change” treaty only almost immediately to put before Parliament regulations making it easier to frack for oil and gas under our National Parks.
Warm response to cold callers
Emily Lamplough (Letters, 15 December) tries to make a comparison with cold callers and shop staff, but this is not valid. I voluntarily enter any shop, but cold calls are an unauthorised intrusion into my personal space and privacy.
Luckily there is a handy device on my handset – the “off” button. This is much easier than playing games or holding conversations with unwanted callers, and the hint is usually taken after a few attempts.
I have a referee’s whistle and blow “time” at every unsolicited call.
Callers claiming to be able to detect and fix a virus on my computer are told “I’ll just put you through to our head of IT”. They usually end the call first.
If a cold caller wishes to speak to Mr Wilson I ask “Which Mr Wilson?” When told “Mr Kenneth Wilson” I say, “Hold on; I’ll go and see if I can find him.” Then I do not hang up.
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