TOADS might not have had the best press over the years but it’s still good to see an increase in their numbers at the Mersehead nature reserve in Dumfries and Galloway (Leap in number of toads, The National, March 9).

It’s good too to see the RSPB branching out into conservation of species other than feathered ones. 

The organisation has in some quarters developed a reputation for pursuing bird protection at all costs, and is something of a monolith in the conservation world, with few daring to question its authority in matters environmental.

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This work on natterjack toads, starting three years ago, appears to be part of the organisation’s mission to become an environmental protection organisation rather than just being concerned about birds.

It is important the RSPB keeps up this holistic approach to conservation, recognising the interdependent nature of different species and habitats.
Of course, some of the toads will end up being eaten by birds, but that’s just nature.
Michael Macanenay


Is it stronger and fairer? A Budget to concern us all 

A BUDGET for whom it may concern! That would be us all, as the Chancellor informed the country that we are all servicing a national debt of £1.7 trillion which is in the region of £62,000 per household – quite frankly shocking. Servicing this debt is costing the country more than the total budget for many Westminster departments. Appalling.

The Chancellor went on to inform us all that despite the aforementioned deficit, our economy was growing faster than any other in the G7. I suddenly became optimistic. Optimistic for those whose daily survival is a struggle, whose every penny is a prisoner, never mind every pound. But as I optimistically waited and waited, I was very disappointed that we heard no mention of, never mind assistance for, the million hard-working households who are currently claiming housing benefit, just to keep the roof over there heads.

And alas, no assistance for those who are forced to live on benefits due to their long-term health conditions, many visiting their local food banks today. It really is shocking that they were not even mentioned.

Yet the Chancellor was quick enough to tell us that the Conservative government is building a stronger, fairer Britain. Stronger and fairer for whom?

Catriona C Clark
Banknock, Falkirk


WHAT is the Auditor General complaining about (Auditor blames lack of trust and rows for £60m police computer contract fail, The National, March 9)? Police Scotland needed an up-to-date IT system, wrote a specification, accepted a tender, signed a contract, monitored progress, decided that the supplier was not going to meet the specification, stopped the contract and got its money back plus expenses.

It’s a pity that Police Scotland will have to go through the process of reassessing their IT requirements for a new tender and the ensuing delay in introducing the system.

It certainly makes a change from so many UK Government contracts where the department has bought a pig in a poke.

John Jamieson
South Queensferry


IT seems that Caroline Nokes is honoured in being another Tory in the tradition of talking nonsense and being responded to in another idiom to make the point.

Many years ago now, Selwyn Gummer, former Chairman of the Tory party was at an international conference on the environment.

He so infuriated the Norwegian delegate that the normally calm manner and demeanour we associate Norwegians broke and he responded by saying to Selwyn Gummer “din drittsekk!” “Dritt ” is the Norwegian word for sh**, while “sekk” means bag or sack!

John Edgar Blackford IF Mhairi Black did indeed mouth “you talk sh*te, hen” to a Tory then she was clearly out of order.

She should have said “You talk sh*te, madam.”

Malcolm Cordell
Broughty Ferry


YOUR coverage of the Named Person (NP) statement by John Swinney (MPs to get vote on NP, The National, March 8) stated: “The scheme, which effectively appoints a single point of contact, such as a teacher or health visitor, to look out for the welfare of every child until he or she reaches the age of 18, was due to come into force later this year.”

This is half right, and fails to be clear about exactly what the Supreme Court found illegal and objectionable in the Act.

The scheme does appoint a named person for every child. The child’s welfare, however, is not mentioned – the term wellbeing is used instead, which has a much broader and undefined meaning, and thus can mean anything the NP might want it to mean. This is one of the criticisms that the Supreme Court had of Part Four of the Children and Young People Act.

The government has at different times chosen to call the scheme a service for parents that “parents asked for” and on the other hand a necessary compulsory measure to risk-assess all families in case they harm their children.

I suggest to government and the advocates of the NP (most of whom stand to make money from it) that more harm is done to children by thoughtless officialdom than by their parents.

But the NP was never intended as a service for parents, but rather a service about them. Information-sharing without consent is reserved for concerns about significant harm to a child’s welfare: and even then consent should be sought where possible. Those powers have existed for a long time.

However, the NP legislation was struck down by the Supreme Court because it was nothing to do with child protection and represented a gross breach of our right to family and personal life.

What is truly worrying is that this legislation went through parliament and then through the Scottish courts up to the High Court meeting uncritical approval at every stage, despite warnings. This is shameful – it should have led to the resignation of the Lord Advocate and senior civil servants, and the ministers who developed, backed and defended it.

As an independence supporter myself I am clear that we need to hold these people to account and ensure that they don’t ever develop such poor policy ever again. Trust is in very short supply between the public and politicians – this kind of error and denial needs to end now.

Maggie Mellon, social worker
Address supplied