Letters: Council tax freeze only serves the government

Council services are being squeezed by the tax freeze. Picture: Dan Philips

Council services are being squeezed by the tax freeze. Picture: Dan Philips

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How often have we heard the hierarchy of the SNP trumpeting their intention to create a free, fair and democratic society in Scotland? We have 32 councils with councillors elected by their constituents to manage the public services in their council area. At least that’s the way it used to work before the democratic SNP came to power.

Now local authorities have been emasculated to such an extent that they cannot raise the funds necessary to provide services to those who elected them and they are constantly threatened that unless they meet certain tick box targets they will suffer cuts in grants from Holyrood.

Now we have the unedifying situation where John Swinney is threatening draconian consequences if the local authorities break the SNP populist council tax freeze because as we all know nothing must be allowed to frighten the horses ahead of the May elections.

The SNP’s Scotland is as democratic as those other well known democracies, The People’s Democratic Republic of North Korea, The People’s Democratic Republic of China and The People’s Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Donald Lewis, Gifford, East Lothian

New bus shelters are worse than useless

Edinburgh’s new bus shelters are absolutely useless. No protection from the elements whatsoever. The rain comes in at all angles because of the large space between the uprights of the shelter and the roof.

Recently with all the rain and wind you could not sit in the shelters, never mind stand in them – as the seats were soaking wet.

What a waste of taxpayers’ money – especially when there was absolutely nothing wrong with the majority of the previous shelters. Whoever designed these new ones? They are about as good as a chocolate fireguard!

Name and address supplied

Cyclists should pay towards road upkeep

I WAS shocked by your front page header “Double Whammy For Motorists”, Evening News, January 21.

Sadly it looks like parking charges in Edinburgh are set to rocket and cash for pothole repairs will be cut back. Surely things in Edinburgh are not that bad?

On January 20, the Evening News had a story about plans for a £9m cycle superhighway for Glasgow-Edinburgh. Perhaps this £9m can be diverted to repairing the roads and keeping the parking charges lower?

If cyclists want a special superhighway and other special cycling facilities then surely it is time that cyclists start contributing towards these sort of amenities. It would appear that local authorities are cash strapped and if there is not enough in the pot to repair roads then I certainly have problems understanding how there is money to provide enhanced cycling facilities.

I suggest that every cyclist over the age of 16 should have to pay a compulsory levy of around £75 a year. This would then give them more of a right to be using the roads and/or demanding better cycling facilities and might go some way towards easing tensions between motorists and cyclists.

Alastair Macintyre, Webster Place, Rosyth, Fife

STEM jobs are coolest jobs in the world

As a little girl, I spent many hours playing in my dad’s lab while he worked on a number of inventions and made important discoveries in his area of electrochemistry. He always had fun, and I had fun being his youngest assistant. My fate as a techophile was sealed.

I was lucky enough to have early access to technology, engineering and science in this way, but my case is rare.

Most girls have little exposure to STEM-based subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics); the old-fashioned myths that they are “off limits” or just for boys still linger in schools. It’s widely reported that girls in school are less likely to pick STEM studies compared to their male peers and we need to address this.

It’s great to hear that girls here in Scotland are getting the opportunity to explore the STEM sector from a young age. The Girls in STEM event, hosted by Accenture and Stemettes in Edinburgh this week, introduced girls as young as 11 to these industries where they otherwise may not have the chance. It blasts apart the notion that STEM jobs are for men only, and reveals a wide range of careers in this area, from coding for video games to designing sports cars to laboratory research.

The timing is excellent because skilled workers in these sectors are in high demand.

A recent report by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills in July 2015 found that due to a shortage of applicants with the required skills, 43 per cent of vacancies in STEM were not being filled.

We need to seize this opportunity and educate everyone from a young age about these exciting, creative careers. I grew up thinking STEM jobs are some of the coolest, hippest, most fun jobs in the world. I still think it’s true. I hope younger generations will see that too.

Caroline Jones-Carrick, Director, TEV Project, Prestwick, Ayrshire, Scotland

Pope teaches us God’s design for marriage

Pope Francis must be applauded for giving clear teaching on the Bible’s essential truth of God’s design for marriage ahead of Italy’s politicians’ debate on civil partnerships.

The church throughout the world, not just in Italy, needs to explain the gospel in its fullness so all people, not just the politicians, can understand the merciful love of Christ and receive it.

Name and address supplied