Readers' letters: Festival offers a home for freedom of expression​​​​​​​

Edinburgh has been blessed to have Fergus Linehan as the director of its International Festival over the past eight years. His bold vision for its future – expanding the event to the city's waterfront – will I hope find enthusiastic support (Scotsman, 1 August).

The International Festival has, however, always been about so much more than mere bricks and mortar. It is about the spirit of the city and its people. That is what makes it unique.

I certainly don't take for granted the stage that the Assembly Rooms has given to Bloody Difficult Women this month. When my play opened at the Riverside Studios in London in the Spring, I was struck that there had been no serious attempt to examine on any stage south of the border the upheaval in our politics over the past six years. No play had before mine looked at how our newspapers in London have behaved over Brexit, the impact of this ideology on our society and what it is doing to the rule of law.

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When one thinks of Arthur Miller daring to confront McCarthyism as it was happening in America in his play The Crucible, this certainly seemed like a dereliction of duty on the part of theatre. I understand of course how some venues have to think about government subsidies – and some playwrights are reluctant to get on the wrong side of the papers that they want to review them – but I also think theatre should be about defiance.

Fergus Linehan is directing his last Edinburgh Festival this year.Fergus Linehan is directing his last Edinburgh Festival this year.
Fergus Linehan is directing his last Edinburgh Festival this year.

The Festival has always had a great tradition in this regard. It recognises that freedom of expression is a privilege and not a right, and, trust me, no matter how splendid any cultural complex may look, it's only ever as great as the people who work in it and whether they have any courage or not.

Tim Walker, London

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Edinburgh International Festival preview supplement: E-mag

Coming home

England’s women did well to win the European Championshipoand should be congratulated. However, BBC Scotland must be the only news channel in the world to spend the first ten minutes of its main TV bulletin devoted to a sporting achievement by another footballing nation. Conversely, STV lead with the cost-of-living crisis and how UK inflation has savaged Scotland’s fixed budget while relegating England’s football win to the sports section.

As for football “coming home”, our English neighbours fail to realise that the world’s first football club was established in Edinburgh in 1824 and the earliest known set of football rules were written by John Hope in Edinburgh in 1833 to guide the members of his Foot-Ball Club. This document now resides in the National Records of Scotland. Scotland’s then leading club, Queen’s Park, was also the first to introduce the modern passing game in the 1860s.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh

Second half

I always suppress a wry smile when I hear, as I have quite a lot lately, “football’s coming home” being chanted by English footballers and fans alike.

Football will only truly come home when it comes to the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Partick, Glasgow, where the world’s first international (recognised by FIFA) took place in 1872 between Scotland and England.

The final score was 0-0, but anecdotal evidence suggests that Scotland were “all over” the Auld Enemy and would have won but for some dodgy decisions by the referee who had, it was suspected at the time, an English granny.

By the way, well done the Lionesses.

Ian McElroy, Thurso, Highland

English anthem

It was striking and much-welcomed to note that the anthem for the English Commonwealth Games Team is the wonderful hymn, Jerusalem, first used at the 2010 Games.

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Composed by choral trailblazer, Sir Hubert Parry, the words are from a poem written by William Blake in around 1808, and inspired by the legend that Jesus may have travelled with Joseph of Arimathea to Glastonbury.

Jerusalem is also sung at cricket matches featuring England and clearly forms a more fitting anthem to use for sporting events featuring English teams than the all-encompassing UK anthem God Save the Queen. The latter, written in 1745 in support of King George II after the defeat of his army at the Battle of Prestonpans by Bonnie Prince Charlie, was followed by a verse appended to it calling on the Lord to assist Marshall Wade in his endeavours – “rebellious Scots to crush”.

It is time that England had a national anthem of its own and Jerusalem is certainly worthy of consideration in this respect.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh

Irony alert

Few people will have failed to see the irony of Liz Truss referring to Nicola Sturgeon as "an attention seeker” (Scotsman, 2 August). The inexplicable PM-in-waiting has spent the last few years travelling the world with her taxpayer-funded personal photographer posing for pictures imitating Margaret Thatcher. And as if her costume box wasn’t big enough she has now taken to using Thatcherite language such as "No, no, no...”.

Sadly for Liz Truss the comparison with her hero ends there. Margaret Thatcher, whatever your view of her, was a ferociously intelligent and driven politician who had a vision for the country, although not one I shared, but no one could ever accuse her of not being up to the job.

Truss would not have been allowed near a Thatcher government, let alone be a member of her cabinet. Announcing a raft of increasingly bizarre right-wing pipe dreams for the tiny number of Tory members who will elect her, again, just looks desperate and most certainly “attention seeking”. Truss also reveals her complete lack of political acumen when she starts trying to strong-arm political opponents in an attempt to emphasise her “toughness” without any awareness as to how this may play out with large parts of the electorate.

She reminds me of a deluded and not very able supply teacher who bursts into a difficult class believing she can "tame” them. Within minutes the class are running rings around her. It’s not going to end well for Liz Truss.

D Mitchell, Edinburgh


As regards Liz Truss’s remarks about Nicola Sturgeon, I can only comment that it takes one to know one.

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Neither of these women are fit for high office, and I await the day that the voting public will recognise their gross inadequacy and boot out them, and their enablers.

EP Carruthers

Lockerbie, Dumfries & Galloway

Truth hurts

Although there might be more than a grain of truth in it, Tory leadership contender Liz Truss's comment that Nicola Sturgeon is an “attention seeker and should be ignored” has caused quite a stir within the nationalist community.

It's clear to many people that Ms Sturgeon does whinge and grandstand instead of laying out coherent strategies and credible policies to win over the hearts and minds of unconvinced voters like me, while demanding yet more money from Westminster to fill financial black holes which shouldn't have been created in the first place.

It seems that the demise of Boris Johnson will not lead to improved relationships between Holyrood and Westminster as had been hoped and the only losers from such fractious dealings will be the Scottish people.

Bob MacDougall, Oxhill, Stirling

Scots students

Bob Taylor (Letters, 2 August) is concerned that “if the increase in Scottish students being refused entry is as high as Reform Scotland claims, then the case has been made for an urgent review”. Relax Bob, it’s not.

Reform Scotland, the right-wing ‘think tank’ headed by Lord McConnell and former Tory researcher Alison Payne, concludes there has been an 84 per cent increase in Scottish applicants being rejected. Nonsense. A competent researcher would compare the percentage of the applicants not accepted in 2006 (24.3 per cent) with that in 2021 (28.7 per cent), a 4.4 per cent increase. Furthermore, to identify a trend, you should look at the acceptance rate in the last five years (72.1 per cent) with the rate of the previous five years (68.2 per cent), which shows an increasing percentage of Scottish students being accepted.

In making the case, badly, as it turns out, for re-introducing university tuition fees, the report concludes that “deferred fees should not deter applicants”. But the evidence shows that they do. There were about 35,500 applicants in the years before 2008 when the SNP abolished tuition fees. From 2010 onwards, applicants rose to around 45,000.

Scotland values education too much to burden its graduates with crippling student loan debts. The average English university graduate has debts of £45,000, the highest in the UK, whereas Scottish graduates have the lowest.

Looks like McConnell and Payne need to go back to school.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh

Begging bowl

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Surely John Swinney is having a laugh asking the Chancellor for more money to pay wage increases (Scotsman, 1 August).

Westminster has been throwing money at Scotland since the pandemic was at its worst and to blame anyone except the SNP government for the situation we’re in is sheer brass-necked hypocrisy.

Scotland’s finances have been mismanaged to a point of no return by the reckless spending of various finance secretaries and now we are suffering for their incompetence. And still they try to convince us that we would be better as an independent country.

If their selfish, uncosted, crazy plans ever do achieve independence get your savings under the mattress before they get their mitts on it.

Ian Balloch, Grangemouth, Falkirk

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