Letters: Galleries plan loss of common land

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I was alarmed to read that the National Galleries are to pursue a Private Bill at the Scottish Parliament to enable them to expand into common good land in Princes Street Gardens (News, 
January 28).

As mentioned in your article, this process has already been used to overturn a substantive legal ruling that Portobello Park could not be built on, as it is inalienable common good land.

This has led to the wholesale destruction of a well used and loved park to allow the construction of a new school that could have been built elsewhere.

Now the National Galleries want to use this process to take some of Princes Street Gardens for an extension. They argue that it’s just a small piece of land, but this gradual erosion of our common good land is insidious and soon it will all have been built on for supposedly legitimate reasons.

It is also a somewhat dubious use of the Scottish Parliament’s powers: is it really its role to repeatedly enable the overturning of legal protection of the common good land that belongs to us all?

Diana Cairns, West Brighton Crescent, Edinburgh

Cameron faces losing battle over EU treaty

One unfortunate side effect for Prime Minister Cameron of the Syriza victory in the recent Greek election is that what little appetite there was for treaty change in the EU has diminished even further.

Leading eurozone countries will clearly be wary of handing the new Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, and his right-wing coalition partners the chance to press for changes to the rules governing the single currency.

The fundamental treaty changes sought by Mr Cameron – who has pledged to hold a referendum by the end of 2017 on revised membership terms should he win the general election in May – will now be almost impossible.

If you open up treaty change there is a clear concern as to what the Greek government will put on the table, and there will also be demands from the other member states.

In these circumstances treaty change is strongly opposed by France. François Hollande, the French president, believes he would have to hold a referendum on a new treaty, which would hand a political gift to the Front National leader Marine Le Pen.

And while Germany is keen to underpin new eurozone governance arrangements in a revised Lisbon Treaty, it accepts that this is all but impossible in the current climate.

Mr Cameron’s pledge of a fundamental reform of the EU treaties, which it should be remembered will require to be approved by all 28 EU member states, just got even harder.

Alex Orr, Leamington Terrace, Edinburgh

Saltire Trust to boost Scots art and culture

A special reception hosted by the Secretary of State for Scotland at Dover House was the venue for the London launch of the new Saltire Society Trust.

With combined assets of £2 million, the Trust was launched in November last year to help foster new and existing cultural talent. Our aim is to increase the Trust to 
£5m by St Andrew’s Day 2016.

Hopefully, the Dover House reception will spearhead a new series of Saltire Society events in London. The aim will be to stimulate interest in Scotland’s arts and culture south of the Border and to identify new patrons interested in contributing to our ambitious fundraising goal.

This takes place against the heartening backdrop of a new opinion poll commissioned by the Saltire Society showing that almost four in five Scots consider Scottish arts and culture to be important to the Scottish economy.

Scotland’s distinctive arts, heritage and culture are important in themselves. But they are also a crucial contributor to our economic success and a valuable export. Initiatives such as the Saltire Society Trust exist to ensure that our culture continues to thrive and this economic contribution is sustained for years to come.

Magnus Linklater, president, The Saltire Society, Fountain Close, High Street, Edinburgh

City parkland starting to look very careworn

Alastair Macintyre’s letter (January 23) suggesting a gravel surface for Edinburgh’s grassed areas is timely. Improvements in park care is now badly needed.

I suspect solutions – likely to be expensive – may be found in other parts of the world, where city garden staff have got on top of these problems. I’m not for a moment suggesting we pay for our council staff people to visit Germany, China or wherever – solutions may be online.

The case cited at Burntisland of ground withstanding pressure may reflect the fact that the park there is sandy soil and well drained. City centre Edinburgh parks may be heavy, clay soils and not easily rescued when damaged.

But our council staff really need to get on top of this. We are far more health conscious and ‘outdoorsy’ than before, walking dogs, playing football. Everywhere there are parks there’s sign of distress – not the fault of the groundsmen, who must despair as increasing pedestrian traffic damages grass.

Inverleith, Harrison Park and the Meadows being just three of many where grass and trees are in a sorry state. Add public events, vandalism, and dogs to the pressures – how can this be dealt with? Could the council let us know if there are plans to invite advice from experts?

Gregor Robertson, Saltoun Hall, Pencaitland