The Spectator

Letters | 23 March 2017

Also in Spectator Letters: the tragedy of the commons in Cyprus, DNA tests for dogs, the Quran and misogyny, darning and Jack the Ripper

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Speaking for Scotland

Sir: I wonder if it is wise of Charles Moore (Notes, 18 March) to assume — as so many do — that because they lost the independence referendum back in 2014, the Nationalists do not speak for Scotland? In the following general election Scottish voting virtually wiped out every political party north of the border, other than the SNP. Might it not be wiser to assume that the Scots had thought again?

Ian Olson


Birds, gangs and economics

Sir: Simon Barnes is correct in his implication that the trapping and harvesting of small birds by criminal gangs in Cyprus is enough to make the average Briton squeamish (‘Little birds, big trouble’, 18 March). However, while this may be so, the current system of enforcement is clearly failing.

The problem Barnes describes seems to the uninitiated observer to be a variation on the classic the tragedy of the commons. While nominally anyone may benefit hugely from bird-catching if they get away with it, no one is willing to police the area effectively. The risk-to-reward ratio of illegal activity is simply too good for criminal gangs to pass up.

By way of a solution, I suggest that licensed individuals (local Cypriots preferably) ought to be able purchase quotas for the catching of birds from the bases, with the revenue paying for gamekeepers to patrol the areas.

This will have the quadruple effect of eliminating the unsustainable ‘take all we can, while we can’ attitude, undermining the profitability of criminal activity, reducing friction with the local Cypriot population and allowing the base police to make actual security the priority.

While for some this may seem distasteful, it must be remembered that the current system will see the birds harvested to extinction by criminals. Creating legitimate livelihoods that rely on bird populations’ continued strength is the only way that they can be managed sustainably.

T.C. Philpott

London W14

Dogged enforcement

Sir: Bravo Toby Young for his piece on dogs’ calling cards (Status anxiety, 18 March). He highlights a real problem. There seems to be but one means of dealing effectively with the minority of selfish dog owners who allow their pets to foul private and public areas, and that is an innovative Italian solution whereby dogs must be licensed and owners are required to submit a sample of each dog’s offering. The local authority then retains a DNA record of each animal and when canine muck is collected it can be matched with the sample and a hefty fine levied on the responsible individual. If the fines and licence fees are set at the right levels, the process can be self-financing, covering the costs of data collection, personnel and vehicles used in such a scheme.

Anthony J. Burnet

East Saltoun, East Lothian

Chapter and verse

Sir: In her interesting piece on the veil and the recent ruling from the European Court of Justice (‘Uncover her face’, 18 March), Qanta Ahmed writes that ‘rigid interpretations of the veil’ are derived ‘not from the Quran’ but from a ‘misogyny which claims a false basis from the divine’. I think she is on sticky ground here: Quran 4:34 (‘Al Nisa’) clearly states that God created men as superior to women, and enjoying corresponding rights and authority over them. Indeed, disobedient women may be beaten by their husbands. If you believe, as I understand true Muslims should, that this is the inerrant word of god as revealed to Mohammed, it seems perfectly reasonable that veiling and other restrictions are imposed on the inferior sex by its superior.

Peter Lucey

Wokingham, Berkshire

Darning with Daddy

Sir: Lara Prendergast reminded me that, in the days of conscription, very many young men were given instruction in basic needlecraft, and much more besides (Spectator Schools, 18 March). Those conscripts passed on those skills to their sons, as my father did to me. I never cease to be grateful that my father taught me how to sew buttons, how to repair split seams, how to darn socks and how to cobble my own shoes. As to ironing, there was only one person who could iron my shirts in the correct fashion, and that was me. While we both acknowledged my mother’s superior skills in every area other than cobbling, my brother and I felt no shame in threading a needle and getting stuck in.

These days, I look forward to a hole appearing in a sock so that I can lose myself in the satisfaction that comes from creating the perfect darn. Father would have been proud.

On the other hand, what they taught British conscripts about cooking probably contributed to the reputation of the post-war years for the most bland food imaginable. My father’s efforts nearly poisoned us.

Tony Bryan

Richmond, Surrey

Who was the Ripper?

Sir: I have great respect for Patricia Cornwell as a writer of fiction. Sadly, though, her beliefs on the identity of Jack the Ripper (‘Redeeming the Ripper’, 18 March) are just that. The generally-held belief is that the correspondence from Saucy Jack are fake, written either by a journalist or some other hoaxer. My own view is that the Ripper was probably Aaron Kosminski, but I doubt very much that it was Walter Sickert. He is as plausible a candidate as Sir William Gull, or the Duke of Clarence.

Eliot Wilson