Here are the letters from the East Lothian Courier February 15 edition...

Traditional skills must be nurtured


Regarding the decision of East Lothian Council’s planning department to refuse an application for furniture-making studios in Bolton Muir Wood, near Gifford, this decision seems incredibly short-sighted given the well-documented decline of heritage craft skills.

The proposed workshop spaces would provide an ideal next stage for local graduates of the nearby Chippendale International School of Furniture.

The school is able to provide some graduates, such as the applicant Iain Stirling, with workshop space for up to three years after graduation, giving them an opportunity to start their own independent businesses. But if they then wish to continue working in East Lothian, they need to acquire alternative studio spaces. The proposed development has exactly these aims.

In rejecting this application, the planning department shows their ignorance of the need to nurture traditional skills. Doing so not only allows these makers to create by commission high-quality 21st-century furniture, which will become the antiques of the future, but also to use their woodworking skills in the repair and maintenance of our heritage of historic buildings and furniture.

Planning officials could not do better than take a lesson on the connection between forestry and furniture making by visiting the Real Wood Studios in the Scottish Borders. These studios take forward the inspiration of Scottish furniture maker Tim Stead and are a hub facility for designer makers and for the supply of sustainably sourced hardwood. They are supported by both the public and local forestry, who identify suitable timber for them to store and season for use.

East Lothian should be encouraging standards of excellence and sustainability such as this, not forcing skilled makers to leave the county in order to establish their businesses.

Anne Orr



‘An opportunity’

Scottish Tories have form for opposing changes that individuals can make to clean up the environment and reduce Scotland’s carbon footprint (letters, February 1).

Way back in 2012, an SNP Government proposal for a 5p charge for single-use plastic bags was condemned by a Tory MSP as “a punitive tax on the Scottish people”. Fortunately, the measure was introduced; almost overnight, reusing carriers or durable alternatives became a feature of 21st-century living, taking hundreds of millions of bags off our streets and out of hedges, trees, rivers and seas.

Rishi Sunak pledged to axe various “green” measures, including the supposedly intolerable burden of seven separate recycling receptacles. Recycling isn’t a burden, it’s an opportunity, and East Lothian has eight: counter-top and outdoor food caddies; boxes for paper/cardboard and glass; bag for plastic and tin; the right to recycle batteries via a separate food waste bag; green bin for unrecyclable rubbish; brown bin for garden waste. With textile banks also available, it’s not surprising that there’s less pressure on green bins, and every household has an equal entitlement. It’s fair that the 50 per cent of households who use the garden waste service should pay.

There’s a vast difference between the Scottish Government tackling climate change via extensive policy commitments to mega projects, such as renewable energy infrastructure, and households putting their bins out. But opposing the tiny contribution that individuals can make sends a signal that those opposed aren’t really “buying into” addressing climate change.

Mr Marshall raises an interesting point about the lack of garden waste material during winter months, but there’s no shortage here, close to the sea. In 2023, garden waste was put out for collection every month from February to December. This January, garden waste was augmented by debris from climate-change-impacted winter storms.

Not only is a more frequent garden waste uplift welcome, what about adding another £35 to get rid of small electricals, kettles, toasters, irons, digital paraphernalia, redundant chargers, miles of cables and their non-replaceable plugs? An absolute bargain.

Dr Geraldine Prince

Victoria Road

North Berwick


Uplift issues

I am writing on behalf of my 82-year-old mother, who recently had a fall and broke her shoulder; fortunately she did not require surgery, just a few weeks’ rest and physio.

My sister and I decided it was time to buy my mum a new bed.

Now I had to arrange the disposal of the old bed. I had arranged a bulky uplift with East Lothian Council the previous year using the online booking system and was impressed by the efficiency of the system.

The item (a mattress) was left just inside the garden and visible from the pavement (or the kerbside, as ELC “rules” state). On this occasion, the item was uplifted with no issues – great service.

What a difference a year makes. . .

My sister and I carried the old bed down the stairs into the garden and left it in exactly the same location as the mattress the previous year.

I booked the uplift online, which was free of charge, as it was her one free uplift for 2024.

The item was not uplifted, as it was not at the kerbside as the “rules state”, the very unhelpful member of staff who took my call said. They were not interested in an 82-year-old lady living on her own, and did not offer an explanation as to why they had uplifted the mattress the previous year from the garden with no issues.

I asked if they were instructing me to cause an obstruction on a public thoroughfare and was then told, “I can tell you’re getting worked up” – at that point, I put the phone down.

I rebooked the uplift, selected the “not by kerbside” option on the template and “assistance required”. I paid £15 as my mum’s free uplift had been used despite nothing being uplifted.

I live in Glasgow; we have bins that are not emptied and streets not swept, but we don’t rob our elderly.

Gary Brunton


An East Lothian Council spokesperson said: “When a bulky uplift is booked online, there is an option to click an ‘assistance required’ button for residents who face difficulty in presenting items at the kerbside. This should be selected so that details can be passed to the collection team.”




I recently received an election communication from the SNP candidate for East Lothian, Iain Whyte, ahead of this year’s general election.

In his communication, Mr Whyte claims that, in all policy areas, Westminster is failing Scotland. This includes reference to the health service, where he argues that “Westminster are threatening to privatise our NHS”.

This is palpably untrue. Health is, of course, fully devolved and therefore the responsibility of the SNP Scottish Government.

Is Mr Whyte therefore admitting that there is a crisis in Scotland’s health service, which has been managed by his party for over 16 years?

Mr Whyte also says that the SNP are “lifting barriers to education and work”. This is despite one in four state primary school pupils in Scotland not achieving expected literacy levels, with recent reports showing a long-term decline in Scotland’s education performance in reading, maths and science.

In 2007, the SNP inherited the best education system in the UK with the highest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores. However, Scotland’s PISA rating has now fallen below England and Northern Ireland.

The SNP leaflet also claims that “decades of Westminster austerity have plunged millions into poverty, even those on above-average salaries”. But the party have made Scotland the highest-taxed part of the UK, increasing the tax burden on those earning over £28,000 and making Scotland a less attractive place to live and work for high-skilled workers.

Under the SNP, Scotland’s economy, education and health service have declined. It says it all about the SNP that it is distributing election literature full of half-truths and untruths.

Tim Jackson



Social housing

Martin Whitfield (column, February 1) is correct in claiming there is a social housing crisis in Scotland; however, he misleads about the causes and solutions. ‘SNP bad’dery only gets you so far.

True, most blame can be laid at the door of two Tory Prime Ministers; nonetheless, Labour is complicit.

Labour’s Scottish branch office’s contribution to restraining landlordism, regulation of Airbnbs, holiday homes, empty second homes, has been the square root of zero. Demolishing homeless hostels hasn’t helped.

Thanks to Liz Truss, we have soaring rents, rent arrears, mortgages, evictions, repossessions and homelessness. Thanks to Thatcher, most good Scottish council houses are gone. East Lothian lost 8,000 in the fire sale; Scotland lost 500,000! The proceeds by law went to the Treasury for tax cuts rather than investment in housebuilding. Labour governments liked this, so it was left to the SNP to abolish.

Will an incoming UK Labour government end the right to buy in England or will they serve their millionaire funders?

Council house building was begun by John Wheatley, a Scottish MP in the first Labour government. His solution to the housing crisis 100 years ago remains the solution today, not house building per se, but building by and for elected councils with capital borrowing powers. Labour regard Wheatley as their hero but this is a pretence; were he alive today they’d chase him. He was a socialist.

Scottish Labour governments built seven council houses. When Labour handed over one of the largest social housing stocks in Europe to the “arms-reach” body, Glasgow Housing Association, they signed a contract which forbade the building of council houses. This giant, pre-listed UK, pre-private corporation keeps its charitable status while snaffling housing associations wherever it can find them. Their Glasgow stock is 40,000 homes; elsewhere it’s nearly 60,000. Reflecting this, in 2022 GHA became the Wheatley Housing Group. Another noble legacy mocked. Thanks, Labour.

Fraser McAllister

Inveresk Road



Harry is hurting

As expected, Harry is still being painted as the wayward prince, while William is portrayed as the dutiful son.

While Harry jetted back to sunny LA after a short visit to see his ill dad, William had to don his RAF uniform to dish out honours to kneeling subjects when he should have been supporting Harry in his fight against phone-hackers and journalists.

These are some of the same journalists who chose to ignore Harry’s cry for help when he alleged that members of his family did not accept his partner, Meghan Markle, because she was the wrong colour.

William should have supported his brother and Harry should have been more specific in his accusations.

Harry is hurting. If people can’t see this, there must be something wrong with them.

Jack Fraser

Clayknowes Drive