LETTERS: Bridge closure puts our lifestyle choices in focus

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The temporary closure of the Forth Road Bridge has thrown into sharp focus some wider issues as to how we as a society live and our over-reliance on this piece of infrastructure.

Each day an estimated 70,000 vehicles pass across the bridge, adding to congestion and climate-changing emissions. This raises obvious issues around the use of public transport and our over-reliance on the car, as well as the location of housing and its relationship with employment opportunities.

Many of those travelling across the bridge are coming from Fife to work in Edinburgh. Not only is this where the jobs are situated, but constraints on housing in the Capital, especially family housing, have forced people to live outwith the city.

Housing demand in Edinburgh is huge, due to years of constrained growth as politicians in the past have been afraid to take the decisions required to deliver more housing.

The Scottish Government requires the city to build 32,000 new homes by 2024 and the Local Development Plan (LDP), now out for examination by the Scottish Government and which highlights locations for development, has been viewed by most commentators as failing to deliver on the number required.

The LDP was indeed hugely controversial, for while we largely recognise the need for new housing, for many communities this is as long as it is nowhere near them.

The Forth Bridge closure has thrown into sharp focus the need for us to look not only at our over-reliance on the car, but also where we are building housing and locating employment. The acceptance of the need for more housing in the Capital is a first step in that process.

Alex Orr, Leamington Terrace, Edinburgh

More ScotRail stops at South Gyle would help

I was much impressed by the speed and scale of ScotRail’s response to recent events and particularly interested in the additional services being provided between Haymarket and Inverkeithing/Dunfermline/Cowdenbeath.

However, I would suggest that the new package needs tweaking if it is be of significant benefit to the many commuters to and from South Gyle.

So far as I am aware, none of the additional services stop there and yet this is perhaps the category in the greatest need. For example, yesterday afternoon I observed around 50 passengers trying to board the 15.28 (2-car) service to Cowdenbeath which was already full and standing and I have no doubt the situation could only have worsened in the rush hour.

So I hope it will be possible for ScotRail to fit in South Gyle stops on the peak hour additional services which would go a long way to relieve the problem.

The other device which might be used when the need is greatest is to permit passengers to go back to Haymarket to connect with the greater variety of Fife services on offer there.

Marion Scott, Durham Avenue, Edinburgh

Woolf report missed chance to end privilege

We were disappointed by the conclusions of the Woolf Institute’s report on Religion and Belief in British Public Life chaired by Baroness Butler-Sloss.

We applaud that it has called for the abolition of the requirement on schools to provide a daily act of worship, but its answer to the problems of Christian privilege seems to be the similar promotion of other religions in the name of fairness.

The way in which religion is reported by the press is proposed to be policed by a panel of ‘religious experts.’ This is a dangerous precedent.

Despite its conclusion that faith schools do ‘segregate children’ the report makes no recommendations to remove their exemption from equality legislation and meekly calls on bodies responsible for school admissions to ‘reduce selection on grounds of religion in both pupil admissions and employment practices.’

Perhaps most disturbingly its answer to the anachronism of unelected bishops in The House of Lords (unique among Western democracies) is to have more unelected representatives from other religions.

The freedom to believe in any religion is not in doubt, but these issues of Christian imbalance in a society which is increasingly multi-faith and generally less religious are better addressed by protecting all religious beliefs as privately held views with none enjoying unrepresentative public privilege.

Neil Barber, Edinburgh Secular Society, Saughtonhall Drive

Big vote of thanks to our charity volunteers

On behalf of Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, may I take this opportunity to send sincere thanks to all the many volunteers and supporters in Edinburgh who have contributed to the work of our charity in 2015.

Chest, heart and stroke illness can affect anyone. Thanks to advances in treatment and changes in lifestyle, many more people survive heart attacks and strokes than ever before - a real success story for Scotland’s health.

However, this means that many more people and their families, are living with the long-term impact of these conditions. Right now one in every ten people in Scotland is living with chest, heart or stroke illness and CHSS is the only charity providing services throughout Scotland. During 2015 we were able to help more than 18,000 people in communities throughout Edinburgh.

None of this would be possible without the contribution of our volunteers. We very much appreciate the commitment, enthusiasm and care they bring to the charity and to their local community.

Mark O’Donnell, chief executive, Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh