November 29, 2004

Readers’ Views; Time for a High-Voltage Controversy

BY publishing your article on the proposed transmission line from Ullapool to Beauly you have correctly brought this project into the public domain where the implications need to be discussed openly by all.

The proposed high-voltage line does not stop at Beauly but continues through the heart of Scotland's beauty, eventually arriving at Denny. The main purpose of this line is to facilitate the export of surplus energy to England. The main beneficiaries seem to be shareholders of the companies involved. These will sell cheap power to a marketplace where, if we are serious about global warming, energy needs to be conserved and its use made more efficient.

The potential cost to Scotland will risk our tourist industry and the desecration of one of the last wildernesses in Europe, as well as possible health concerns for those living close to the proposed route. This project and the whole issue of wind farms and renewable energy needs the Scottish Executive to formulate a coherent energy policy so we can maximise opportunities arising from renewables rather than having a free-for-all "cash dash" to erect wind farms which seems to be the case at the moment.

Mike Cox Dunblane Just spell it out I READ with interest the comments attributed to Professor Vivian Cook and Professor Donald Weir in connection with the BBC's Hard Spell, which will feature five Scottish children live on TV in the finals this week. Among them is Marc Pacciti, an 11-year-old pupil at The Mary Erskine and Stewart's Melville Junior School. Weir refers to a concern among "educators about a test that emphasises recall, as it does not necessarily test understanding with the ability to use the word for effective communication".

There is undoubtedly an element of truth in his comments, but it concerns me that they may also contain an underlying assumption that recall and memory are not important in themselves. As a headmaster of Erskine Stewart's Melville Junior School, I am concerned that too many educational purists and social policy commentators seem to denigrate traditional learning and to focus almost exclusively on content-free understanding and interpretation. Many children enjoy learning lists, are proud to be able to recall capital cities, rivers, famous people in history, dates and events and gain pleasure from the acquisition and retention of knowledge.

Knowledge in a vacuum is clearly of little value but applied knowledge is crucial in every child's development and Marc and the other children who have challenged themselves to learn 3000 words as part of the Hard Spell competition deserve praise for their commitment, attention to detail and the sheer pleasure they obtain from mastering something which is intrinsically difficult. Learning "lots of peculiar words", to use Professor Cook's quote, has given Marc and other children in our school great pleasure.

The rules of English spelling are complex and sometimes obscure but that only increases the challenge for able children. In my view, shared I suspect by teachers all over the country, the explosion of texting and computer spell-checks makes it more important than ever that children are encouraged to learn correct spelling, punctuation and grammar.

I have no doubt Hard Spell will provide great pleasure and enjoyment to many families and no doubt that, as a result, there will be children throughout Britain who will begin to see for themselves how complex and interesting their native language is. As a result of this programme, fundamental issues about the importance of accuracy within spelling will be raised in schools. As someone who has to read applications for teaching posts littered with spelling errors, I welcome and endorse anything that promotes attention to detail and encourages children to set high expectations for themselves.

Bryan Lewis Erskine Stewart's Melville Edinburgh Donation nation

JOHN Farquhar Munro MSP (November 21) again raises the possibility of a change in the law to an "opt out" system of organ donation as the solution to the current shortage of organs for donation. Nurses overwhelmingly rejected this option when it was last debated at the Royal College of Nursing's(RCN) annual congress in 2000.

There are many reasons why RCN members took this view, not least of which are the important ethical questions it raises. For example, a presumed consent framework, as proposed by Mr Munro, requires action on the part of the individual to opt out. Are we to assume apathy can be interpreted as a desire to donate organs? Some people's religious faith does not allow them to donate their organs, while the ability of vulnerable patients to adequately express their wishes is a concern.

The practicality of keeping an accurate and accessible register of those who have opted out (or who might be exempt) would likely be a complicated undertaking. Furthermore the evidence of success from countries with an opt-out system is far from conclusive.

RCN Scotland supports the many initiatives the Executive has already undertaken to improve the current system but believes more can still be done. Central to this must be action to increase public awareness of organ donation and the importance of ensuring individuals make their intentions known, either through donor cards or the national register, or to relatives and friends. It is also important staff receive training to approach bereaved families about donation to help maximise the number of successful requests. We believe we must exhaust all of these alternatives before considering such a major change in our approach to this issue.

Professor James Kennedy Director RCN Scotland Edinburgh Bitter pills I REALLY appreciated the wonderful article called The Chill Pill Kids. Excellent job exposing this important aspect of our current society. However, I wonder how long it will take the drug companies to figure out they are being misled by the psychiatric industry.

Drug companies produce medicines which are vital to improved survival. When they accept false science, such as the current model of mental disorders created by the psychiatrist, we can predict failure. The psychiatric model fails to cure even one of the disorders listed in its diagnostic and statistical manual. Why do we continue to use their theories when they fail to work?

Factually, you can trace many industrial failures to the use of these failed theories. When general practice doctors and paediatricians prescribe damaging psychiatric drugs, it is because of acceptance of false, non-scientific theories. Psychiatry has damaged many industries in our society. The failure of public schools and the failure of modern business to behave ethically are both attributable to incorporation of psychiatric failed ideas, such as values clarification. When do we finally get upset enough to discover this fact and then disregard psychiatric drivel? I hope the drug companies wake up soon before more stock holders are damaged, and more consumers injured by these mistakes.

Richard Palmquist Inglewood, California

IN reading your article, The Chill Pill Kids, I was left hopeful for the future of children. Now all we have to do is emphasise prevention and early intervention with mild to moderate depression symptoms and we will be well on the way.

Kathleen P Hockey Richland, Washington Tory death wish

IN last week's Sunday Herald, Brian Monteith challenged the First Minster Jack McConnell to prove that passive smoking kills. I suspect that the First Minister can no more prove that than he can prove that the Thatcherite policies of the 1980s and 1990s, still alive and kicking in the likes of Monteith, killed the Conservative Party in Scotland but I think we know the answer.

Aidan McLaughlin Glasgow Dangers of dope

THE bus driver who caused carnage when driving under the influence of cannabis highlights only too clearly the folly of David Blunkett's decision to downgrade cannabis from category B to C. Even before this ridiculous decision was made the average cannabis user was already convinced that this is a harmless wee drug. Now that the government has downgraded it this has reinforced their mistaken belief that there are no ill-effects of using it.

In my work as a drugs education worker I have met thousands of cannabis users who mistakenly believe that it is a relaxant and downer which will calm them down and so improve their driving. Many even used it to overcome the stress of a driving test.

They could not be further from the truth because cannabis is a hallucinogenic drug. It alters our perception of reality. So we may imagine that we are driving better, we may think that we are going slow when in fact we are driving fast. Cannabis can also make us feel detached from reality so we might be daydreaming when we need to be fully in control of all our faculties.

The whole situation is made more complicated by the fact that cannabis stays in our system longer than most of the illegal drugs.

Because little research has been done into drug driving as against drink driving we have no real idea how big a safety problem this is. I have no doubt that there are thousands of car, lorry, bus and motorcycle drivers on our roads every day of the week under the influence of cannabis. Politicians should also be aware that the use of other drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine and now crack cocaine when driving is an ever growing menace on our roads. These stimulant drugs make people aggressive, over-confident, bad tempered and also speed up their reactions so in a crisis driving situation they are likely to overcompensate for their lack of control of the vehicle.

I will no doubt be accused of adding to the nanny state brigade's desire to control everything that we enjoy in society. The school children killed and seriously injured in the Scottish bus driving in France should be enough to convince any responsible adult that we badly need to address this major safety issue.

Max Cruickshank Hamilton In last week's online poll we asked you:

Do you believe that Iraq will go to the polls in January?

Yes 32% No 68% See for this week's online poll question. Results will appear on this page next week.