It is cowardly to neglect the vulnerable

I AM appalled that yet again free care for the elderly is under threat (your report, 12 July). Why is it that funding for the most vulnerable members of our community always seems the most begrudged?

We are constantly told how unaffordable this policy is yet the government and councils are prepared to waste millions of pounds onprojects through incompetence and poor execution, theParliament and the Edinburgh tram project being two examples.

We know from past experience that any publicly-funded project will come in vastly over-budget yet money which is so short for the sick and needy will suddenly be found forthe Commonwealth Games and the Forth Bridge project. But those bring kudos to politicians, while care of the elderly does not.

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The trauma and distress resulting from abolishing this care will be immense for so many of our already mentally fragile citizens and it would be a real backward step for the caring ideals that have always set Scotland apart from other counties. But the real key to all of this is the fact that the greater majority of these people do not vote. Would thepoliticians be as equally as zealous in cutting all child benefit for families over a certain income?


Forthview Walk

Tranent, East Lothian

The creation ofa system of free personal care for the elderlyin Scotlandwas a testament to the courage and vision of Henry McLeish when he was First Minister from 2000 to 2001 (your report, 12 July).

It is still important to recall the points of controversy the measure did raise, and why it cannot be rolled out to the rest of the United Kingdom.

Universal provision based on need is attractive to many on ethical grounds. There was stilla lot of evidence that the system introduced nearly ten years ago would benefit many people arguably in a position to pay for care themselves.

The measure might place an unbearable strain on a block-grant budget, and strengthen the view that the money might be better targeted in terms of improving overall health and care provision.

But the spectre of elderly people having to sell their homes to find the money for care held a lot of sway. Mr McLeish managed to find the political support for whatwas without question his most memorable achievement.

Should the system be considered sacrosanct in the forthcoming round of budget cuts? There are reservations about means testing, but if the Scottish Government isto look ahead at demographic trends and other priorities there may be little alternative.

Free personal care wasonly practical because Scotland has a small though increasingly elderly population. It was never feasible on budget grounds to introduce exactly the same system throughout the UK, a matter which is source of resentment south of the Border. Finance Secretary John Swinney will not appear callous if they decide to reappraise the whole policy.

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It will still be a test of compassion and political skill to change it in a way that moves personal care forward.


Shiel Court


Am I the only one who is getting more than a little fed up with Labour politicians, of various hues - including those currently seeking to lead the party and also the former First Minister - coming out and condemning those addressing the current financial crisis?

Early in my life I realised that "any fool can be critical - it takes a clever person to be constructively critical".

So the challenge to the Labour Party leadership aspirants and Henry McLeish is to be constructively critical and list the alternative cuts you would make to address the current situation.


Beauchamp Road