ON Saturday, I sat down to listen to the BBC Any Questions? programme from Madras College, St Andrews. In his contribution to the answer to a question on independence, Michael Forsyth took the opportunity to denigrate Scottish education with the ritualistic swipe at the SNP government and its record in office. Did he present a detailed and cogent answer to the original question asked by a member of the audience? No, he followed the example presented regularly by the Prime Minister of refusing to answer a question by haranguing the questioner with a completely different topic.

Indeed, this seems to be a formulaic pattern for some members of the Tory party. The Foreign Secretary on a visit to the oil industry in Aberdeen did exactly the same thing on Friday. It is quite unacceptable that politicians of the governing party in Westminster are behaving in this way, especially when they are engaging in slogans which are untrue.

Having spent all of my career in education in Scotland, though retired, I am interested in considering the progress of education in all parts of Great Britain. Last week the press was full of the sorry state of local authority schools in England. Head teachers were writing to the Prime Minister begging for more funding as they could not cover costs. Schools were planning to reduce pupil contact time, staff numbers were being cut and parents were regularly asked to cover costs of basic books and equipment.

I know that Scottish education could always be improved, but to contrast it in any way with the situation revealed in England last week and to suggest that the English experience is better is a nonsense. Local authorities in both Scotland and England have suffered greatly as a result of austerity. Before members of the Tory government throw insults at the Scottish Government, schools and teachers, they should reflect on their contribution to the difficulties schools face.

Contrast Michael Forsyth’s intervention with that of Tom Hunter in the first Debate Night on the new BBC Scotland channel. Tom wholeheartedly supported the teachers’ pay claim (now achieved); he appreciated schools and their staff and the vitally important contribution they make to society as a whole. He was soundly supported by the audience, too.

Michael Forsyth and Tory politicians should take note. Failing to answer questions, haranguing people with slogans and false information does not win hearts and minds. In fact it does the opposite. We deserve better.
I Gibson

MICHAEL Stewart is clearly an asset to The National newspaper (Unionists are twisting the truth on independence, The National, March 9). Well known for his outspoken comments as a football pundit, it seems that he likes nothing better than to confront today’s penchant for misinformation, untruths and plain ignorance.

I think that the general public has become lazy, content to sit back and be told what the “facts” are on any subject. It has taken me, for example, becoming reliant upon the news media to keep me informed, to realise that I was being fed propaganda from a right-wing press and English-slanted BBC coverage – which, at the time, was intent upon ignoring what is best about Scottish people and Scotland. Thankfully, the Welsh Assembly is showing signs of waking up to its own situation of non-existence.

I agree with all that Michael says, particularly pointing to the nub of our desire to reach out to other cultures, other human beings. When the SNP came into power, it was they who led the way to create a more socially democratic society. Isn’t it about time they had some help and co-operation to make these noble ideas work? The way things are, independence is the only way forward.
Janet Cunningham

WITH reference to your piece in the Seven Days section (Derek MacKay, 10 things that changed my life, The National, March 10), I would make the following comment.

Before our referendum, Barack Obama was in London. For what, I can’t remember and he did an interview with the BBC.

Of course, the referendum was brought up and Obama replied that he did not favour Yes winning – bigger is better, he implied. Did he think about America circa 1776, I don’t suppose he did.

Also during the conversation he twice mentioned England, where it was obvious that he meant the UK.

Of course, the interviewer did not correct him, probably never even noticed the mistake, as that is par for the course. He certainly went down in my estimation at that point.

Rather like Clint Eastwood at the 2016 Republican convention, addressing Obama while talking to an empty chair, I took it as a sneer. I have disliked watching his films since because of that.
Ken Johnston