RESPONDING to the new Scottish Child Poverty Bill, LibDem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton states that “alongside efforts to address the financial health of our nation’s families, we must not forget the more insidious poverty of aspiration, where children growing up in families that have experienced generations of unemployment and economic activity do not seek social mobility for themselves” (Groundbreaking child poverty legislation receives unanimous support, The National, November 9).

There is much to challenge in this statement. For one thing, it’s arguable that material deprivation, such as food poverty and insecurity, fuel poverty, poor housing and homelessness, is actually far worse in a more immediate sense than any so-called poverty of aspiration. Presumably Mr Cole-Hamilton has never heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs! But what is truly insidious (to use his own word!) here is the implication that there is a significant number of households in which “generations” have never worked and which inculcate a lack of aspiration in the children growing up in them and render them unable to improve their lot as adults.

In fact, the number of households where two generations have never been in paid employment is miniscule and, even then, things are not always as they seem – for example, such a household can be comprised of a disabled person and a carer. Despite extensive searches by academics, they were unable to find a single household containing three generations who had “never worked” – even Iain Duncan Smith was forced to admit a while back that such a statistic wasn’t available!

As someone who has both personal and professional experience in relation to poverty, I don’t recognise the portrayal of poor families as lacking aspiration. And in any case, are children and adults living in poverty really likely to find it such a wheeze that they are content to remain in those circumstances? Or is it not more likely that the daily grind of poverty and the many barriers it can place in the way of social mobility robs them of hope? Hope – not aspiration!

When the Joseph Rowntree Foundation did some research on this, it found that poor, unemployed parents wanted something better for their children – there was no evidence of a lack of aspiration. (And, incidentally, social mobility is arguably a rather narrow definition of what constitutes “aspiration”.)

Mr Cole-Hamilton may have had experience of working “alongside charities and groups campaigning to end child poverty” all of his life, but he doesn’t seem to have been listening.
Mo Maclean

GEORGE N Grey wrote that questions must be asked over the viability of Queensferry Crossing (Letters, The National, November 9). Without going into details that have been discussed many times already, opinions on the need for the bridge varied between the extremes of closure of the Forth Bridge in a few years and that the new bridge was not needed in the foreseeable future.

Mr Grey obviously has a great deal of experience in civil engineering. I, too, am approaching 80 and my experience of civil engineering is limited to the fact that it normally costs a lot of money. The Scottish Government faced opposition to the project, coupled with serious problems in arranging funding for the replacement crossing without adding on the burden of restructuring the approaches.

On the south approach, costs ruled out providing the essential direct link from the M8 and M9 to the new bridge. The use of an extension to the existing spur instead saved money but consequently all traffic between the A90 feeding north Edinburgh and the M9 still has to pass through a roundabout in South Queensferry. The expansion of housing in west Fife and conglomeration of roads on the north side will require more than a few adjustments if traffic is to access the bridge smoothly.

The Queensferry Crossing has delivered just what has always been written on the tin – a bridge to replace the Forth Road Bridge. Perhaps if the age of austerity ever ends we will see funds available for a solution to the traffic problems around the Firth of Forth.
John Jamieson
South Queensferry

I ENJOYED reading George N Gray’s long letter. What I, as a retired quantity surveyor, found a little surprising was that there was no mention of the fact that the £1.35 billion bridge was completed within the budget.

This is a massive achievement and the system of cost planning and cost control of the project must have been of a very high standard. No doubt there are many governments who will wish to employ that system on large infrastructure projects which if the cost spirals out of control the effect on the national budget can be catastrophic.

Many congratulations to all those responsible for creating such a magnificent structure and completing it within budget.
Thomas L Inglis

THE UK Government has been a lot more forthright in its support for the appalling behaviour of Spain towards Catalonia but it looks like the EU alone is taking all the hits.

In many publications, UK Unionist supporters – terrified of what Catalonia’s resistance is doing to support for Scottish independence – are supporting Spain’s “legal” position and making fools of themselves in the process.
Dave McEwan Hill
Sandbank, Argyll