This week’s jobless figures, although not surprising, are nevertheless harrowing and a wake-up call for our somewhat precarious economy. Most worrying is the harrowing figures for the age range 18-24, people who are not only just starting on their own careers but are indeed the country’s future out of Covid-19.
The worry is that the figure among this age group is only going to get worse, with school leavers and graduations round the corner. Perhaps a system should be put in place for businesses that are getting assistance from the government, be it from Westminster or Holyrood, to employ workers in this age group – along the lines of the apprentice schemes or job creation or work experience schemes – to ease the unemployment figures, but most of all to get those young people into the employment market. It would benefit not only the employee, but the country as we recover from the Covid-19 crisis.
Another sector highlighted as being badly affected in the jobless figures are the over-60s, who are being forced into an early retirement. Their prospect of gaining future employment will be very scarce. Many in this sector have worked and contributed to society all their lives, effectively allowing the government to put financial packages in place for the good of the country.
So it would be rather terrible for many in this sector to be effectively signing on, applying for benefits for the first time in their working lives...so what could the government do for them? The governments at Holyrood and Westminster have both shown the speed at which legislation can be processed in an emergency and for many over-60s, this is indeed a personal emergency. A review of the pension age in light of Covid-19 may be one road we need to explore; a speedier process of gaining the state pension would cut the rather tedious and expensive process to all parties of applying for benefits. Going back to the 18-24 year old group, I do feel they are the ones who should be getting any jobs that become available and if the over-60s have their state pension, a means to live on, they may want to consider contributing to this new caring society we hope to establish by volunteering. It could become a win-win for all groups on what will be a long road to recovery.
Catriona C Clark, Hawthorn Drive, Banknock, Falkirk
Those who gave
A great deal has been written about the economic burden the Covid-19 crisis will place on the current generation of young people. However, Martyn McLaughlin’s thoughtful piece (Perspective, 20 May), about the elderly being lost to the virus sparked in me an alternative thought.
His article is perhaps best summed up in his last paragraph: “They are being taken from us too soon, the dead, but they have given us so much.” We must not forget they also suffered so much: grew up during the pre-war Depression; lost their youth and many contemporaries fighting to defend the UK; pulled in their belts for post-war rationing and on and on. Now that remarkable tenacity and commitment seems to have been overlooked, particularly in care homes, as the authorities battle the current crisis.
What a way to leave us!
Kit Fraser, Belhaven High Street, Dunbar
Nicola Sturgeon has complained on Twitter that the BBC’s Sarah Smith stated that “Sturgeon has enjoyed the opportunity to set her own lockdown rules”.
It’s an open secret that many ardent nationalists and SNP members were uncomfortable with the principle of SNP administration moving in step with Downing Street in tackling coronavirus – it’s these same members Ms Sturgeon will need on board if she is to successfully fend off a leadership challenge from Joanna Cherry.
We must be grateful the nationalist leader remained in step with Boris Johnson for so long in tackling the virus as it spread across these small British islands. However, in delaying lockdown easing in Scotland, Ms Sturgeon is rightly recognising National Records of Scotland’s figures showing that the coronavirus death rate in Scotland is the highest in the UK, particularly taking into account our large land mass and low population. The crisis in care homes is serious across the UK, but especially severe north of the Border.
I don’t know whether Ms Sturgeon enjoyed adopting a separate lockdown policy to the rest of the UK – but our death toll suggests she may be correct in so doing.
Martin Redfern, Woodcroft Road, Edinburgh
Show us figures
Re: Murdo Fraser’s column (“How introducing a universal income could actually increase poverty”, Perspective, 20 May) in response to the First Minister’s suggestion that we need to introduce this, it is my understanding that as part of their agreement with the Scottish Green Party, the current Scottish Government would trial such an approach in Scotland.
Instead of saying what she thinks people might want to hear, could Ms Sturgeon not report on what research and pilots her government has undertaken to date, and use that as a starting point?
With the world the way it is, it is not what people talk about doing which is important, but what they actually do. There is a case for cutting out the massive bureaucracy of the welfare state by simply just giving people enough money to live on, and then they can top it up with working as they see fit. We all understand the principle. But will it work in practice? Murdo Fraser has his doubts. The Scottish Government should by now be able to inform us of their trials to date, or was that just another tick box exercise to keep the Greens onside?
Victor Clements, Aberfeldy, Perthshire
When recent research by the London School of Economics (LSE) found that there were nearly 20,000 “excess deaths” in care homes in England and Wales to 1 May it confirmed what many have long-suspected, that Covid-19 deaths are being under-reported. In fact a Channel 4 News report over a month ago indicated that some doctors working for health boards in England may have deliberately avoided mentioning possible Covid-19 related deaths on death certificates. The latest ONS figures to 8 May indicate deaths across the UK in care homes at nearly 10,000 in addition to the daily figures reported by the UK Government (now over 35,000), so based on LSE numbers it is reasonable to estimate total Covid-19 deaths across the UK as already, appallingly, in excess of 50,000.
With regard to care homes themselves, while no one would dispute the aim of regularly testing care home workers now that sufficient capacity across the UK is apparently in place, calls to regularly test all residents seem to lack understanding of the current situation. Given the fact that the antigen tests can be quite painful and possibly distressing, especially for the elderly, care home staff can understandably be reluctant to subject a resident to one test, never mind repeated tests. Furthermore, even tests carried out by trained professionals are reportedly producing up to one-in-three false negatives, so after testing there is still no guarantee of absence of the virus on which clinicians and care home staff could base future decisions.
Setting aside added delays in processing, antigen home test kits produce even more unreliable results, bringing into question a health strategy (separate from the UK government’s apparent political strategy of falsely claiming much greater numbers of tests “carried out”) which will divert much needed resources from a comprehensive Test-Trace-Isolate (TTI) strategy.
Stan Grodynski, Gosford Road, Longniddry
Kenny MacAskill in his piece (Perspective, 14 May) states: “The road to independence is open.” Rather than speak in hypothetical, unsubstantiated terms, he might like to devote a series of Scotsman articles to explain in precise detail how economically and financially an independent Scotland will serve the people.
In common with the majority of proponents of separation, he never provides any facts and figures, preferring to expect “the people of Scotland” to go head-first into the unknown, promising some emotional nirvana – he does, however, confirm that The Growth Commission “is now well and truly redundant”.
The woeful economic record of the SNP regime gives us ample confirmation that this socialist, controlling party would be a disaster for “the people of Scotland”.
If Mr MacAskill thinks “the road to independence is open”, he should think again. Realists in Scotland, based on the financial record of the SNP, know differently. At least he has the good grace to admit “independence isn’t without obstacles” and “the SNP has also to change”. Taking all of this into account, the road to independence is closed for a long, long time.
Douglas Cowe, Alexander Avenue, Kingseat, Newmachar
Professor Neil Ferguson and his team at Imperial College London seem to have a grip on the government when it comes to action on viruses. The government chose to follow the advice in his recent research paper on Covid-19, and to ignore other scientists. But when you look at his advice on past outbreaks they are certainly controversial.
For example in 2002 he published a paper on so-called mad cow disease predicting that worst case scenario there would be 150,000 human deaths. Eventually 178 deaths were attributed.
In 2005 he stated that “around 200 million people probably” would die from avian flu H5N1. The final toll was 375 confirmed deaths.
For the 2009 H1N1 swine flu, one of his models predicted 65,000 UK deaths, but in the end no more than 500 died.
Eisenhower, in his 1961 farewell address, warned us that we must be alert to the “danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite”.
Geoff Moore, Braeface Park, Alness, Highland
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