THE Scottish Defence League demonstration in Alloa this weekend will be a flop. The counter-demo will be well intentioned but ineffectual in changing the narrative.

The SDL claims to have been asked by local residents to protest on their behalf after a petition (that has now been taken down) gained a few thousands signatures, the majority of which were almost definitely not from local residents.

The reason behind the demo is refugees being given housing. This shouldn’t really be an issue. The problem comes when you are living in a country where people are whipped into hysteria and competition over basic infrastructure due to a very basic, flawed and doomed economic project called austerity.

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Austerity was the answer from right-wing politicians with a very stunted understanding of economics. It was the answer to an economy that crashed due a poorly regulated housing market and an over-reliance on finance. This over-reliance on finance to stimulate the market has come after moving away from a surplus/deficit economy (actually making stuff then buying/selling it).

With nothing to buy and sell, Thatcher and her contemporaries looked to build an economy on debt. With nothing to buy nor sell, they created debt and looked to buy and sell that. This opened up the door for people who didn’t have a wage to live on to have wages subsidised through credit cards and loans (a handy excuse not to increase wages). It was the interest on these that allowed the financial economy to boom.

Next came housing and right to buy, Thatcher sold off the council housing stock for a cheap and easy sale. This in turn was the catalyst for the housing bubble.

It became harder to get a council house due to shortages and became the norm to buy, thus increasing the demand. With this came the increase in value, which increased the value of mortgages, created more debt to pay off and more interest to pay – all this fed a financial economy.

To protect all this, successive governments were hamstrung in regards to house building. Behind the lies about budgets, the truth is any large-scale building project would and still does decrease demand and value of properties. Decreasing the value of property would leave millions paying mortgages that are higher than what their house is actually worth, crash an economy built upon finance and debt, and lose government donors millions from their property portfolios alone.

What happened nearly a decade ago was that folk unable to pay their mortgages caused the full market to crash anyway.

We were told tightening our belts was the only way to rescue the economy. This meant slashing public services, destroying the job market and a lack of housing.

This has led us to an absolute war of competition among everyday people; for jobs, housing, and the NHS. The resentment, anger and frustration that has come from struggling to get by has turned everyone against each other. People are retreating behind identity, race, religion and nationality, looking for protection and security.

This is the flaw in right-wing and centrist ideology: a short-sighted belief that not helping refugees and kicking out migrants will improve the housing crises and improve wages.

Housing is central to absolutely everything we have to deal with and will be central to how we get out of this mess. Scapegoating a handful of poor people fleeing terror because they got a house in Alloa or Wishaw is going to win you absolutely nothing.

As long as our economy continues to be built upon finance and governments continue to be run by cabbages whose only focus is capital, we will never build more houses, we will never create more jobs, and we will never be able improve wages and protect the NHS.
Sean Baillie
Address supplied

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More firms should give a chance to a modern apprentice

THIS week marks Scottish Apprenticeship Week (March 6-10), a unique opportunity to draw attention to and recognise the important role modern apprentices play in the businesses and other organisations in which they work.

Recruiting a modern apprentice enables employers to fill skills gaps, as apprentices begin to learn sector-specific skills from day one, developing specialist knowledge that will positively affect the bottom line.

We recognise that those we have taken on play a major part in our continued success, and we aim to provide an environment where their commitment and our high standards offer unique career opportunities.
Since joining, they have thrived, bringing passion, skills, dedication and drive to the workplace, demonstrating the value of modern apprenticeships, not just to the individual but to us as a company.

Taking on a modern apprentice can lead to improved productivity and morale, better staff retention and quality of service, and assistance in meeting specific industry needs. Plus, businesses get help with training, funding and recruitment, and apprentices often help to upskill existing staff.

With Modern Apprenticeship Week we would like to take this opportunity to encourage more businesses to do as we have.
There really is no better time to recognise the valuable job and vital role they play in so many businesses.
Tony March
Business development manager, 
Anglian Water Business, Edinburgh

I WAS a bit taken aback by the size of the fines and the criminal record involved in camping off the reservation in the Loch Lomond area as described in James Cassidy’s  letter (Priorities are all wrong in our national parks, March 4).

As a boy and man who lived in the west end of Glasgow, I camped in that area. As a member of our school Combined Cadet Force and the local Boys’ Brigade or just with pals (most of whom were Scouts) we climbed, hiked, walked and swam all over the area. From Drymen to Crianlarich, and from Luss to just short of Stirling, the Trossachs and the Touch Hills. That was our holiday weekend.

I know there has been a huge rise in bad conduct, vandalism, littering and anti-social behaviour, yet the access to these and other areas we took as our right. Where we had been you could not tell, other than perhaps a bit of flattened grass.

If the weather was good we cooked our meals over a fire and I would defy anyone to see where that had been also. Surely there is some citizen input into these decisions? Surely some form of education into country life at an early age is called for without these draconian laws?

On reflection, even the most irritable of private owners or farmers would be distinctly preferable to the faceless minions of a soi-disant public body.
Colin Stevenson,
Hillside, Strachur

NICOLA Sturgeon has bought a golf rain jacket and two pairs of golf shoes for £165. To those who complain that this is taxpayers’ money, can they not see the reason?

The result of the vote to allow women members into Muirfield Golf Club is due to be announced this month. Nicola wants to be the first to apply and the first woman to enter by the front door.

Lots of opportunities for self-promotion from the few grateful women golfers who can afford the fees. It will also divert attention from the SNP failures in transport, education and the NHS. What do you mean she doesn’t even play golf?
Clark Cross
Linlithgow 

NICOLA Sturgeon can’t allow the fact Jim McColl, owner of Clyde Blowers, runs a big business and is an excellent, realistic member of the SNP’s Council of Economic Advisers, to stop her from taking Patrick Harvie’s advice and putting him on the naughty step. 

She should have done it last year when he stopped supporting independence and got embroiled in the Panama Papers furore.
And now that he has been caught dining with the Tories, Sturgeon shouldn’t let him off just because he got the SNP out of a hole at Ferguson’s.

He will be devastated, so I hope she is lenient and lets him stay, but not before he does some penance to prove he is a true Scot. Like a crash course in Gaelic or a stint volunteering to deliver baby boxes.
Allan Sutherland
Stonehaven