Modelling is vital in the fight to contain Covid - Readers' letters

George Rennie questions the practice and usefulness of modelling of the spread of the Covid-19 virus (Letters, 8 January). Indeed he suggests that it does more harm than good by inducing a collective neurosis because of the alarmist way in which the results are used.

But surely the point of modelling is to warn the authorities to take preventative action rather than let the pandemic follow its natural course. If suitable action is taken, the figures will not approach those of the worst case scenario.

Throughout the pandemic the UK, including Scotland, has acted, albeit tardily and often half-heartedly, and has avoided catastrophe. No doubt we could have done better, but without restrictions and the vaccine the NHS would have been swamped and more people would have died.

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Another point is that if the rapidly spreading Omicron variant is allowed to spread unchecked, it will produce many more infections than we have had from the Delta variant and some of them will be in vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, the unvaccinated and the immunologically compromised. The sheer number of infections will mean that if even a small proportion are serious, the number of hospitalisations and death will be significant. There is also the risk of the emergence of further variants.

As restrictions are lifted it is to be hoped that people will continue to take sensible precautions such as taking the vaccine, avoiding large gatherings, wearing proper masks, having through ventilation when with others in closed spaces and taking tests when indicated.

Rev Dr Donald M MacDonald, Edinburgh

Damage done

As more and more information comes out about the Omicron wave of infections, the more Nicola Sturgeon's rushed restrictions look to be unwarranted. What is definite, however, is the scale of the damage done to Scottish hospitality, entertainment and shopping over the holiday period, the most important trading month of the year. The SNP calls for more furlough and extra money are now being seen to be premature and ill-advised.

The real damage to Scotland has been self-inflicted by our own government. What actions will Ms Sturgeon take to make amends to all those who have lost out without asking Wesminster to foot the bill. With power comes responsibility.

Gerald Edwards, Glasgow

Border disputes

D Jamieson (Letters, 8 January) states that “it is absurd for Tory, Labour and Lib Dem unionists to suggest that trade with England should take precedence over the wider world”.

Perhaps he would have a better understanding of the economic situation if he had read the ‘export statistics for Scotland: 2019’ produced by the Scottish Government. This estimates the value of exports from Scotland in 2019 to international destinations was £35.1 billion of which the EU accounted for only £16.4bn. In the same year exports to the rest of the UK amounted to £52bn In other words, despite being part of the EU for many years exports to the rest of the UK have remained by far and away our most valuable connection.

Mr Jamieson is correct that there is a border between Scotland and England but it is a border over which trade can take place without restriction. The main consequence of independence will (like Brexit) be the removal of this free trade border with our most important trading partner (England Wales and Northern Ireland) and will have an economic cost for each person in Scotland far in excess of Brexit.

Alan Black, Edinburgh

Geography lesson

Has it never struck D Jamieson (Letters, 8 January) that the reason those opposed to separation set such store by trade with England is that the vast majority of Scottish trade is with England, that nearly all trade further afield is exported from English ports and that England is right next door to Scotland, and has been for the past 420 million years?

Geographical proximity and the shared landmass isn't just going to go away, unless D Jamieson and other like-minded folk are planning to open up the Iapetus suture and recreate the prehistoric ocean.

Jane Ann Liston, St Andrews, Fife

Energy prices

Energy prices are soaring, but climate change obligations to achieve carbon-free electricity generation cannot be affordable if it means rapidly switching the UK’s tens of thousands of gas fired boilers – whether domestic or industrial – from fossil to greener fuels.

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It is not only the estimated minimum expense of £10,000 needed per household for thousands of consumers to substitute their domestic gas-fired boilers for expensive electrical boilers and electric heating.

There are also tens of thousands of industrial shell boilers using natural gas to produce steam. Substituting electricity for gas to meet the same steam requirement would entail building new, significantly larger boilers requiring thousands of new boiler houses big enough to contain them. Large industrial electrical boilers are estimated to be up to ten times the cost of their smaller gas-fired alternatives.

Funding such costs would impact the budgets of every hospital and school, and for municipal buildings relying on gas-fired industrial boilers. Manufacturing industry, including food processors, would be similarly affected and obliged to pass on the additional costs to consumers.

Some now question the reductions in North Sea oil and gas explorations and production and in taxation since 2016. This has deprived the UK Treasury of significant income whilst clean burning technology development was not prioritised.

The UK government is now financially challenged to implement long-term technology changes whilst attempting to maintain energy supplies at affordable prices.

All energy consumers must be concerned that no government action might now occur fast enough to lessen the significant economic pain now likely from 2022 price rises.

Elizabeth Marshall, Edinburgh

VAT hypocrites

It is without question, a very worrying time for all households facing probably the steepest price rises in gas prices in their lifetimes and the UK government must look at some sort of assistance.

However, it is beyond parody that the opposition parties clamour for a cut in VAT on energy prices and in addition, it seems to blame Boris Johnson for world gas prices!

These opposition parties across the U.K. were full-on “Remainers”. Are they ignoring the fact that had they won the referendum to “remain” they would be in no position whatsoever to cut VAT on energy prices as this would have broken EU rules? Their staggering hypocrisy knows no bounds and their lack of any viable solution says it all .

Richard Allison, Edinburgh

Figured out

What Brian Monteith says about the First Minister's difficulty with thegrasp of numbers (Scotsman, 10 January) highlights a more disturbing issue.

Responsible decision-making should not be sacrificied at any cost, not least the estimated sum of £807,038 which will be spent replacing the four-year-old efficient heating system in Bute House.

Most heating systems last for ten to twenty years and would it not be a more sensible course of action to use the money to help 448 homeowners with a support package of £1,800 to replace inefficient heating systems?

A corrupt dictatorship may take the former course of action with taxpayers’ money, responsible leadership would take the second.

Ian Culbertson, Edinburgh

Intrusive census

The prurient school census proposed in Scotland, which ten local authorities will, quite rightly, be ignoring tie in with the SNP’s wish to control our children. The intrusive “health and wellbeing census” asks about such things as 14 year-olds’ sexual experiences of kissing, as well as oral, vaginal and anal sex.

In my childhood, schools were interested in how I performed in English, mathematics and other subjects that related to my education. Luckily, we did not then have an administration with an agenda based on knowing all our most personal sexual experiences.

The main problem with this proposal is one of consent, of course. I am not aware of any mention being made of the parents being consulted in this matter and they have to agree before any such census can be held. Parents are perfectly within their rights to refuse to allow their children to be subjected to such an appalling infringement of their privacy. However, the SNP already have form when it comes to ignoring and over-riding parents’ wishes.

However, I think I have found a solution. All members of the SNP at Holyrood should complete the same “health and wellbeing census” and the results should be published and names named. I am sure that they will be delighted to do so.

Andrew HN Gray, Edinburgh

Colston verdict

Those who delight in the result of the Colston statue case and apparently believe a jury’s role is to dispense a kind of generalised “justice” should have a care before offering unstinting support to such an ill-defined principle. I lived in America at a time when southern juries routinely acquitted white defendants charged with murdering black victims.

I cannot understand why the trial judge allowed an academic to air his views on Colston’s role in the slave trade. What possible relevance can such an opinion have in a case of criminal damage?

Verdicts that flout evidence or the law weaken the judicial process by undermining the confidence of the public, complainants, prosecution and police.

Rev Dr John Cameron, St Andrews, Fife

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