Helen Martin: Electric cars not austerity priority

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MATHS was never my strongest suit but even I can figure out that £2.6 million divided by 200 equals £13,000.

It’s an important sum because it illustrates how much we are spending on each of the 200 owners of electric cars in Scotland with our investment in charging points across the country.

Coincidentally there are to be 200 charging points at major car parks, ferry terminals etc as well as every 50 miles on trunk roads. Electric car owners of course have their own charge point at home too.

Nor will this ambitious scheme be spread over years and years by which time the use of electric cars might have risen... or might not. The whole network of plug-ins is to be completed in time for the Commonwealth Games next year.

It might well be the case that in 20 years or so the old-fashioned, petrol or diesel driven motor will be a museum piece and folk will be quietly buzzing about on battery power. Perhaps by then the cars themselves will be made of some solar-power gathering material that will render plugs completely unnecessary. Who knows?

But right now, right here, within the next 12 months, we are spending money we don’t have on something hardly any of us will use to a create a network that very few want and which might be obsolete if electric cars never really catch on.

I heard a green lobbyist claim it was necessary so that we were ahead of the game and ready for the motoring revolution when it came. If it only takes a year to set up, I think we can afford to wait until a few more than 200 out of five million express an 
interest.

And seeing as we are still in the grip of the recession, that could take some time given the £25,000 necessary to buy an electric car in the first place.

This is where any sane person 
begins to wonder if the green lobby and the alternative energy industry are pulling too many strings... not to mention the wool over our eyes, and if our politicians are getting just too carried away with the whole environmental ticket. Perhaps they have shares in renewables and electric 
engines?

How many power stations, nuclear or coal-fired, how many acres of wind farms, how many fathoms of wave-power or solar panels would it take for us to generate enough electricity to satisfy a future of electric cars? What environmental damage will that cause?

But the biggest question remains... why now?

We are told every penny counts and everyone has to pay their share which is why the poorest of the poor are seeing benefit cuts that will certainly plunge them into debt they can never repay.

We need more money for schools, health, affordable housing, the very building blocks of communities, yet here we are squandering £2.6m on an infrastructure that may be used fleetingly by a few hundred.

Grammar gripes

I DISTINCTLY remember the first time my son came home from school and showing me his work book said: “I done that.” I was horrified. Where had that come from? Worse was to come when he started using “yous” as some sort of collective pronoun.

(Apparently the latter wasn’t acquired as part of a Scottish dialect, and rather part of the US gangsta fashion that soon saw him wearing jeans several sizes too large and so low-slung that his pants were 80 per cent revealed above his belt. Fortunately he stopped short at the wife-beater vest and bandana.)

So I have every sympathy for the head teacher in Sacred Heart Primary School in Middlesbrough who has sent a letter to parents asking for their support in helping children speak and write the Queen’s English.

I done that... I seen that... We was... He’s went... Yous... all have the same effect on my ear drums as nails scratching down a blackboard. In Scotland there seems to be a knee jerk reaction against anything that curtails local dialect or suggests it isn’t quite as good as “proper” English. Try to correct it and you could well be accused of being a snob and a traitor.

But while dialect is perfectly acceptable down the pub or in the playground, even in drama or a poetry slam, it doesn’t belong in a job interview or on an exam paper.

One of the most common Scottish-isms is the perversion of the word “definitely”. The emphasis should be on the first syllable, not on the third which, in any event is not “ae”. There is no such word as “definaetely” and the only possible explanation for its use is that people don’t know how to spell it.

The Middlesbrough teacher just wants her pupils to enter the world of work “without being disadvantaged”, in other words to show that they at least know the correct grammar and pronunciation of their own 
language.

Is there a Scottish educationalist out there with the courage to fly the flag for our children’s futures?