I have been dismissed by the kind of 'vaxatious' senior civil servant Walter Humes describes in his piece, and would like to know how many people get this brush off. I do appreciate that members of the public can sometimes become obsessed by apparently minor issues and civil servants have many other important things to do. However, in my case it was simply that this civil servant found excuses not to accept an official complaint against one of the funded bodies (Creative Scotland) – despite fobbing me off with procedures, which I complied with for over six months, and when it came to the crunch finally refusing to engage in any further communication. This meant that there would be no record of my concerns about this arts organisation being recorded. It's a cunning 'trick' strategy to wear down the complainant and guarantee that under this particular civil servant's watch a criticism that may possibly reflect poorly on Creative Scotland is suppressed. The question is: should being dismissed as 'vexatious' be a positive critical achievement?

Duncan Comrie

I am glad Jean Barr traced her 'fascist-supporting' relative Alexander Robertson and recognised that his odd admiration for Mussolini belonged to the time when the Duce was merely an authoritarian nationalist demagogue, like many since. This was long before he linked his fate to Hitler’s, even adopting the murderous nazi obsession with anti-semitism.

I first encountered Dr Roberson (ordained as a UP minister but eventually entering the Church of Scotland) through his delightful pre-1914 book on the Dolomites and then, with more perplexity, when I was writing a book on British connections with the Italian Protestant minority. But I missed the important Ezra Pound connection which Jean Barr has brought to light.

One aspect of Dr Robertson’s support for Mussolini during his very individualistic ministry in Venice is distinctive enough to be remembered. When the fascist government settled the Vatican’s long dispute with united Italy by the Lateran treaty and concordat, most Italian Protestants and their British friends feared the marriage (though it was only a liaison of convenience) of authoritarianism in church and state. Robertson, who rightly pointed out that the popes had only pretended to be 'prisoners in the Vatican', argued the more dubious proposition that the settlement showed Mussolini as the successful heir to Italian nationalism’s determination to curb the temporal pretensions of the papacy.

Incidentally Jean Barr will have no qualms about Robertson’s first Italian decoration as 'cavaliere'. It was for his relief work after an earthquake in San Remo, where he ministered to a congregation of Scots expatriates and visitors on the then fashionable Italian Riviera.

Thanks to you and Jean Barr for this piece. Maybe it will encourage people to regard fascism as a quaint and unpleasant Italian historical phenomenon and to abandon the present promiscuous use of the term.

R D Kernohan

Cafe is SR's readers' forum for short articles or responses to other articles. Send your contribution to rachel@scottishreview.net

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