It was disturbing to read yesterday’s news that by the time they are 15, more than a third of girls in Scotland report experiencing “very high” emotional problems. Facts such as this shine an uncomfortable spotlight on the mental health and wellbeing of our children and young people.

Even more striking was the disparity in gender. The figures showed such problems are up to three times higher among girls than among boys. A recent report from the Scottish Government also noted that many young girls in Scotland report being “unsatisfied with their physical appearance”, often trying to meet unrealistic standards seen on social media, leading to anxiety and depression.

The need for more research to understand more about the impact of social media on our young people is clear, as is the need to ensure that they are educated on how to use it healthily and on how social media promotes unrealistic expectations.

While people are now more willing to talk about their mental health, more needs to be done to develop the resilience of our children and young people and to ensure they get the support they need when they need it.

Sadly, too many of our children and young people wait too long to get support. By raising children and young people with good mental wellbeing we can ensure that they are able to reach their full potential. 

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition
Tom McGhee, Chairman, Spark of Genius
Duncan Dunlop, Chief Executive, Who Cares? Scotland
Kenny Graham, Falkland House School
Niall Kelly, Managing Director, Young Foundations
Lynn Bell, CEO, LOVE learning

Why Australia’s burning

In reading James Dyke’s piece “Australia is being burned by the climate crisis – so why does it keep denying it?” I am struck by the mistake everyone is making about this ongoing disaster, which means continued errors will be made amounting to a perversion of the truth.

While it is true to say that the effect of global warming makes the probability of worsening frequencies year on year more likely, it can not be blamed wholly for the severity of the disaster now unfolding in New South Wales and Victoria.

There is ample evidence available online that the severity of this season’s fires has been consequent on forgetting the lessons of history, mainly thanks to direct governmental reduction of spend on fire safety measures and subsequent failures of proven, prudent forest management practices.

To name just a few factors, firefighting staff have been reduced, investment in fire suppression hardware neglected, preventative controlled burning significantly reduced, underbrush clear up neglected and fire control access roads poorly maintained.

Australia has over a century of recorded forest fire tragedies, and there has always been a high risk. Typically Eucalyptus trees are highly susceptible to fire, and an Australian Government Briefing (Current Issues Brief no. 8 2002-03) sets out the management case beautifully. If its recommendations had been adopted subsequently then we may well not be having this particular tragedy to discuss.

Please can we not just jump on the bandwagon, rather treat both issues on their own merits. 

Climate change is an urgent crisis in its own right, but so too is good governance, and these fires have probably been far, far worse than they ever needed to be because the lessons of history have been forgotten – probably for populistic reasons and short-term policy.

Jennifer Rorrison
Address provided

An ironic demise

As Karl Marx observed, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”

It was the downing of Flight 655 (an Iranian passenger plane full of pilgrims) by the gung-ho crew of the USS Vincennes which first brought Qasem Soleimani to international attention. 

As a colonel in the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, he was part of the Iranian delegation that engaged Ahmed Jibril, the Syrian head of the PFLP-GC, to carry out the tit-for-tat destruction of Pan Am 103. The start of a stellar career, Soleimani was to become Iran’s chief terrorist mastermind before he was assassinated on the orders of US President Trump.

It’s beyond irony that his rise was marked by the tragedy of Flight 655 while his fall may have been marked by the farce of an equally nervy and inept Iranian missile crew shooting down a Ukrainian tourist plane as it left Tehran’s international airport.

Dr John Cameron
St Andrews

A change of scene

Let Meghan and Harry be Meghan and Harry. The royals don’t need them – unless they get caught in some awful accident, William and Kate’s nuclear family takes the pressure off Harry to be the “spare” to William’s heir.

If I were them I’d find a way to give 90% of my money away to good causes and then spend the last 10% on myself, in Meghan’s case topping it up with on-screen odd jobs. I thought she did a good job on Suits – let’s hope she gets the lead in a Netflix show of her own (with Harry cameo of course).

Gisette Hornchurch

Overpaid, overfed, and over here

Since Donald Trump became president, I have started to question the benefit of our special relationship with America, which historically has always tended to benefit the US rather than the UK. Doubts must even be creeping in with the senior members of the Royal family.

First, Wallace Simpson stole the heart of Edward VIII leading to his inevitable abdication. Now another American seems to be causing ructions following Prince Harry’s recent public announcement that the Sussexes will be extricating themselves from the firm and spending more time in America, of all places.

I fear this year could be yet another annus horribilis for the Royal family.

Christopher Learmont-Hughes​


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