We can all do more to help combat loneliness

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It is fantastic news that the Scottish Government is taking the issue of loneliness seriously. It is a blight on our society and has far-reaching impacts on physical and mental health to individuals, as well as significant knock-on effects to health and social work departments throughout Scotland.

While this is an issue facing all age groups, it is particularly prevalent among our older population. With people living longer and families living increasingly global lifestyles, many older people can go days, even weeks, without seeing or speaking to another individual.

It is incredibly sad to think of someone in their later years simply existing day to day and not having the opportunity to enjoy their life. This is only set to become more of an issue in the years to come with the number of over-65s set to rocket.

The Holyrood Equal Opportunities Committee concluded that loneliness is as damaging to health as poverty and poor housing, and called for a national strategy and publicity campaign to combat it.

For such a deep-rooted and significant issue, it is vital that these discussions turn into action sooner rather than later.

While talks of a national strategy are at an early stage, it is important to recognise the direct, local and simple things that can be done that have an overwhelmingly resounding impact on the lives of people suffering from social isolation. Charities such as ours play a vital role in re-engaging older people in society and help them live happier, healthier and more fulfilled lives.

Our network of more than 1000 volunteers in Scotland allow almost 800 older people from the Borders to the Highlands to make friends and enjoy afternoons out at a time when they would otherwise have nowhere to go and no-one to see.

Our free Sunday monthly afternoon teas work on a very simple premise but the older people who attend them have told us time and time again how important they are in their lives.

To keep supporting these people, and to reach out to more in need throughout the country, we need more people to give up a small amount of time to make a difference.

Valerie Crookston, Scotland Executive Officer, Contact the Elderly

We should make more of a transport fuss

I’m always puzzled and saddened that people walking in Edinburgh aren’t angrier about how much they’re disadvantaged by the priority usually given to traffic movement around the city. Although I’m a car owner, it’s not cars that buy goodies in Harvey Nicks, it’s people.

So I’m applauding an enlightened and visionary City of Edinburgh Council and Transport Convenor Lesley Hinds for introducing a 20mph speed limit on many Edinburgh streets from July. The outcomes will be a big difference in safety, noise, emissions, child independence and the ability of people walking and cycling to enjoy our streets.

This is our capital city, let’s pay respect to what the city offers to its citizens and visitors in terms of its architecture, heritage, and uniqueness and create opportunities to enjoy it, as opposed to avoiding being knocked over by a vehicle!

Isobel Leckie, West Crosscauseway, Edinburgh

Simply put, speed kills

For the noisy blusterers who object to our roads being made safer I’ll keep it simple: speed kills.

Malcolm Bruce, Grigor Gardens, Edinburgh

Controlling mobile phone use in prison

I see that after a freedom of information request it has been found that prisons are awash with mobile phones. Also that prisoners are running their criminal empires and going on Facebook, all from mobiles and all from behind bars.

It’s said that prison service is at loss on how to stop it and are trying to block the signals.

Would it not be better to adopt the American system and have all visitation done from behind glass with the use of phones? This would stop them from passing things between them.

Also, surely if they can trace the phone when it is switched on and can do this when following crooks, etc, why not when it is used in prisons?

Raymond Ross, Hutchison Avenue, Edinburgh

Don’t mind the gap, raise the standards

National testing in schools will measure, not close, the ‘attainment gap.’ How refreshing it would be to hear the SNP - or Labour for that matter - say anything about driving up standards in all schools, for all pupils.

High performing pupils in good schools in relatively well to do areas must feel that they are the bane of the SNP’s life, because their success helps create the ‘attainment gap’. If only they would not work so hard and be so clever, the SNP could claim victory in narrowing the dreaded ‘gap’.

The Left assume every statistical difference is the result of one of their universal causes: discrimination and poverty. The reasons for lower academic performance in some areas are actually lower average intelligence, unstable and chaotic families, low valuing of education, negative peer pressure and schools disrupted by bad behaviour.

Steps to counter these factors are to be welcomed, but so are measures to lift standards in middle of the road schools and to accelerate the progress of the brightest, regardless of school. Each of these benefits individuals and the nation.

The goal should be a highly educated nation, not a uniformly mediocre one.

Richard Lucas, Broomyknowe, Colinton, Edinburgh