THE Highland community around Loch Hourn say that they have struck a crucial blow for the protection of wild fish populations in Scotland by blocking the expansion of a local salmon farm ("Campaigners celebrate blocking the expansion of salmon farm", The Herald, July 13). They say that this is a milestone moment in recognising the biggest threat from salmon farming – how parasites harm wild fish. However, this might be the first and last milestone moment, because despite a long-established narrative from the angling sector, sea lice from salmon farms are not the reason why wild fish stocks are in decline. Even Sepa’s head of Ecology, Peter Pollard, said in a report to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy Committee that salmon farming is not to blame.
Friends of Loch Hourn (FOLH) commissioned scientific modelling to demonstrate the threat to wild fish, but the actual counts of wild fish tell a different story. Rod catch data, which Scottish Government scientists use to assess stocks of wild fish, show that since the farm first arrived in the area, catches of salmon and grilse have actually increased. Even FOLH’s own data confirms this. They highlight a restocking programme which began before the farm arrived, suggesting local fish stocks were already in trouble.
What FOLH chooses to ignore is that salmon returning to all Scottish rivers have been in decline since the 1970s. One out of every four salmon used to return from feeding at sea. The number is now one in 25 and critically, fishery scientists still don’t know why. More importantly, this decline has impacted all rivers across Scotland, including those hundreds of miles from any salmon farm.
They also ignore the fact that since records began, 984 salmon and 2,049 sea trout have been caught and killed from the River Arnisdale for sport. This is from a river that has a typical annual catch of 30-40 salmon a year. Since 1952, anglers have caught and killed about 5.9 million wild fish in Scotland, and they now wonder why there are none left. Rather than accept any responsibility, the wild fish sector has made a scapegoat out of the salmon farming industry and now FOLH has too.
Dr Martin Jaffa, Callander McDowell, London.
REFUGEE PLAN IS MISGUIDED
WHILE it is good news that Ukrainian refugees are to be housed in 200 refurbished housing units in North Lanarkshire, as well as being given accommodation on board the chartered MS Victoria to be based at Leith (“Scottish local authority to bring 200 homes into use for Ukrainian refugees”, The Herald, July 11, and Letters, July 13), as distinct from living in a hotel with all its attendant costs. One must wonder at the thoughts of the countless homeless Scots who are walking the streets of our cities every night and realise that they are not so politically newsworthy.
The concentration of such refugee numbers will surely strain the local communities beyond breaking point, be it medical attention, social needs, and education. If the object of the exercise is also to try and integrate them into the local community, then living together in such numbers gives them little incentive to mix with their new neighbours and learn a new language.
Robin Johnston, Newton Mearns.
LOOK AGAIN AT RAIL FARES
I FIND it interesting that just over 19 years after London introduced the Oyster card which provided an integrated fare system for London, with its zones one to six covering most of the old GLC area, that IPPR Scotland is suggesting that such a system should be introduced in Scotland, even if its aim is to cut fares rather than provide convenience, although this would follow ("Call for fairer transport system as low-income Scots tell of worry over travel", The Herald, July 12).
Why has the Scottish Government not taken action before to at least integrate fares across Scotland, or at least provide simple ticketing? After all, in general terms, the only integration between bus and rail are the possibilities opened up by the PlusBus system where local bus travel can be added to a rail ticket.
It also about time that rail fares were looked at again. The fact that most single flexible fares are almost the same as returns does of course go back to the days before major stations were gated and the system was introduced to effectively reduce the cost of ticketing fraud.
Duncan McKay, Aberdeen.
MIDGES: SOME HOME TREWS
I WOULD suggest that all kilt wearers in Scotland, particularly those of the "True Scotsman" persuasion, take note that scientists responsible for the Scottish Midge Forecast have warned that hordes of midges could be about to be among us ("Midges ‘could be back with a bang'", The Herald, July 13). Our worthy forecasters have indicated that given some wetter weather, the tiny persecutors could be back in some force exacting a big "bang" for their bite. In that event, in some parts of the country it may be advisable for Donald from Skye and others, for a while, to keep their troosers handy .
Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.
A DIFFERENT BALL GAME
WALTER Paul's memories of Open Championships (Letters, July 13) demonstrate how times have changed.
A friend, a former Scottish professional champion, set out from Glasgow to East Lothian to try to qualify for an Open at Muirfield. Carrying his golf clubs and overnight bag, my friend's journey was by tramcar, train and bus. On arrival, a practise round was arranged with fellow Scottish professional Jimmy Adams, known for his long backswing.
Moments later, my friend was approached by the great Henry Cotton, whose offer of a practise round had to be politely declined.
The stuff of memories; the twists and turns of life.
David Miller, Milngavie.
• AS a candidate for the title “Golfer most in need of help”, with my share of missed tiddlers, I have thought many times of the colourful and likeable Doug Sanders (died 2020 aged 86), with his 20 Tour wins reckoned by many to be “The best golfer never to win a major”, who missed a 30in putt on the 18th at St Andrews to win The Open in 1970, and his legendary line years later: “Do I ever think of it? Not really. Sometimes I go a full five minutes without thinking about it.”
They don’t make them like that any more.
R Russell Smith, Largs.