War in Syria is foolish – the West should welcome refugees if we really want to help

Syrian refugees carry their children through a snow storm at a refugee camp north of Athens, Greece, on 10 January: Reuters

President Trump has launched a strike of 59 Tomahawk missiles against the Syrian state. The attack is in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syria’s President Assad on the town of Khan Sheikhoun last Tuesday, which killed at least 85 Syrian civilians including 23 children. Many are now calling for more Western intervention to overthrow Assad.

I don’t agree. If we acknowledge that Assad is a brutal dictator prepared to murder his own people to maintain power, then dropping bombs on those same people is no answer. Western military intervention in the region – as seen in Iraq and Libya – has only brought greater catastrophe to the people there.

But there is something we can do. The Syrian civil war has displaced 6.6 million within Syria itself and turned 4.8 million Syrians into refugees outside their country. The vast majority of refugees trying to get into Europe are Syrians.

The majority of the 5,000 refugees who drowned in the Mediterranean last year trying to reach Europe were Syrian. We can stop vilifying these desperate people and offer them a safe haven. We can open the borders. We can let them in.

Sasha Simic
London N16

The decision by Donald Trump to bomb Syria in response to the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria will have incalculable consequences for the world. Trump is risking a direct confrontation with a nuclear armed Russia which could mean the deaths of billions worldwide.

Trump has produced not a single piece of evidence showing Assad's guilt. He merely asserted he was guilty. There has been no independent investigation into the circumstances of the Idlib attack.

Trump's decision is similar to that of George W Bush in 2003 when he attacked Iraq. Bush did not wait for weapons inspectors to finish their job – he simply blundered in. However, Bush had at least 12 months of bogus intelligence to base his claims.

Trump is as clumsy as he is foolish. He has taken the US to war in Syria on the side of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra front.

Alan Hinnrichs

School holiday fines are ludicrous

Sorry to bring up school holidays again but the vision that a short absence from school ruins a pupil's future and warrants a fine I find ludicrous. To think you can be absent from a private school and not incur the penalties is even more ludicrous. And what if, god forbid, the kids fall sick? What penalties then? How do you know if they are sick or on holiday?

This beautiful country is changing, and not for the better – legislated to the hilt, with freedom being eroded day by day.

D Higgins

Fairer school fining rules

Jon Platt was fined for taking his daughter out of school for a family holiday. I believe the daughter was aged seven. In some other countries children have not even started school at this age. It seems harsh that the same rules on absence are applied to all age groups and stages of education.

Libby Lamb

Labour's private school VAT plans are short-sighted

It's very disappointing to see the private school witch-hunt continuing on Question Time. If parents chose to send their kids to private school, at great personal expense, that's no business of the state.

The status quo in this situation is just fine without changes. The huge issues that no one mentions are, firstly, that if we punish private schools and the parents in this way, we may well see private schools close or parents decide the expense becomes too great. We would then see a large influx of extra kids into the state system which is already under pressure with regards to funding and class sizes.

Secondly, it wasn't so long ago that tax credits for private schooling were being talked about, why? Quite simply, because the point everyone is missing is that for every kid not in the state system, that's £6,000 that the Government isn't spending each year on their education.

VAT on private schooling is an absurd and short-sighted policy.

Tom Davies

Education is needed for long-term ill children

Perhaps all those that insist that “even missing a day can affect progress and outcomes” of full-school attendees may wish to explain to all the parents concerned why the home tuition service provided (or not!) for long-term ill children is so dreadfully, unimaginably dire?

For five GCSEs, or three A-levels, most offer one to three hours a week support (which is cancelled if not taken in a bad week, rather than carried over) with a non-specialist tutor who often cannot teach science or languages and often fails to turn up. Even with an SEN statement, I know of one such pupil whose tutor failed to appear 13 weeks running just before A levels.

Do the healthy, able bodied, and motivated students really suffer if they lose 20 hours out of 760, when the seriously ill are expected to manage GCSEs then A-levels on (in this case) 80 out of 760? Balderdash!

Carol McPhee
Address supplied

Brexit is all about tax havens

Today’s “leaders” of our wealthy establishment have managed to orchestrate the UK’s “Brexit” from a United Europe – and their motivation is well hidden.

The EU authorities were closing in upon the UK’s “European” tax havens. The EU was supported in this endeavour by global authorities.

The wealthiest people in the UK and beyond are able to hide their wealth and avoid taxation by using the banks and hedge funds operating in the UK’s tax havens.

The EU authorities were about to force the UK to shut these places down.

History will show that “Brexit” was not a people’s revolution against EU bureaucracy – but our wealthy establishment’s clever mechanism to hide wealth and escape from fair taxation.

And our media oligarchs, who use these tax havens, helped to ensure that the UK public was persuaded into “Brexit” by using a litany of lies, xenophobia, fanatical nationalism and racism.

None of the promises that the people voted for will be delivered. But our tax havens will remain safely intact.

We have, once again, been manipulated by the power of the super-rich establishment in a society where wealth accumulation and tax evasion rules.

Martin Deighton
Wickham Market

Easter eggs aren’t for commercial gain

Cadbury's creme eggs are not Easter eggs at all. They are available all the year round. Theresa May ought to be pleased that the National Trust no longer wishes to exploit Easter for commercial gain.

Ian Turnbull

The SNP finds itself in a particular bind

The SNP’s argument is that Brexit will be a disaster and therefore Scots need to vote in another separation referendum, to give what Blair Jenkins calls a “life raft” to the EU. Yet it is now not unequivocally clear that an SNP-led separate Scotland would aspire to join the EU.

The SNP is in a bind: its leaders want Scotland to apply for EU membership, yet they know that over one third of their voters oppose that.

It would almost be worth having another referendum campaign to watch the SNP leadership wriggling on this particular hook. Almost – but not quite.

Jill Stephenson

Mental health in Scotland must be protected

As a coalition campaigning on behalf of vulnerable children and young people, we welcome the Scottish government’s new 10-year mental health strategy. It is also promising to see a commitment to delivering a separate Children and Young people’s strategy, as well as guarantee to establish an audit of rejected referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

The clear focus on prevention and early intervention in the strategy is very much to be welcomed, as is the commitment to establishing parity of esteem between mental and physical health. It is also good to see on-going work being undertaken to understand the mental health inpatient needs of children and young people with a learning disability and/or autism spectrum disorder.

However, we do feel that this strategy could go further and have concerns over a lack of funding necessary to deliver it. The Scottish government’s commitment of an additional £150m for mental health over five years is welcome; however it is not nearly enough. To ensure we make positive, impactful steps towards fulfilling the proposals of this strategy, a set yearly mental health budget of at least £100 million, in line with that south of the border, is essential.

What is also concerning is that budget cuts in community-based services mean that children and young people are often being forced to wait considerable periods of time before being able to access specialist mental health services. If we are to focus on prevention and early intervention, we need to ensure that adequate investment is being provided in these areas.

Ultimately, we require a mechanism to review performance in the key areas as outlined in the strategy so we know if its objectives are being met. The outcome of the previous mental health strategy remains unclear and we cannot afford for progress to stand still when dealing with such an important issue.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition