Public health officials such as Jason Leitch have expressed concern that the conference and the recent continued “opening up” will add to pressure on the NHS. This when our hospitals are already at capacity weeks before the expected winter peak. With higher flu cases predicted this winter, a cost of living crisis looming and huge numbers of us faced with the choice of heating or eating, it all points to a perfect storm, with the vulnerable at a higher risk than in the 1978-79 “Winter of Discontent”.It’s difficult to understand why the UK and Scottish Governments are continuing to put the economy before public health but it is clear that the travel industry has done an excellent job of lobbying to ensure that the red list of countries has shrunk from 54 to just 7 overnight from today, timed nicely for the October school holidays. It’s all down to the excellent vaccine rollout, we are told, but the Government’s own health adviser, SAGE, noted on 9 September that since June the majority of hospitalisations with Covid have been from the fully vaccinated. While vaccines continue to save thousands of lives, on their own they will not avoid an NHS meltdown this winter.
Neil Anderson, Edinburgh
Follow the logic
There have been a few letters published from Independence supporters citing the damage done to the Scottish economy by Brexit. This is the ending of a 40-year-old union. One even called it a catastrophe. What would be a catastrophe would be the ending of a more than 300-year-old union (and it would be acrimonious, as can be seen from Brexit). The damage to the Scottish economy would be incalculable.
Jack Watt, St Ola, Orkney
Wisdom of age
As a proud Scot and a pensioner whose demise First Minister Nicola Sturgeon appears to await with thinly disguised anticipation, I feel simultaneously infuriated and insulted. Perhaps she should be careful for what she injudiciously wishes for. It is estimated that the over-sixties population is actually projected to increase steadily in the years ahead. As the wonderful idealism of youth gradually gives way to the harsh realities of life, so will the voting preferences shift. It will become clear that Sturgeon's perpetual claim that the SNP speaks for the Scottish people is simply a barefaced lie. During the 2021 election the Constituency and Regional vote favouring them was just 47.7 per cent and 40.3 per cent respectively on a 60 per cent turnout.
Clearly her weapons of choice are sheer nerve and brass neck. It was obvious to most folk at the height of the pandemic that her daily monologues were being used to political advantage. Granted, she expressed concern and sympathy for those of us most afflicted and affected by Covid, but judging by her recent ill-judged comments we might be forgiven for concluding that those emotions were, in part, mere crocodile tears.
We have become all too familiar with Ms Sturgeon's mastery of verbal contortions, laced with apologetic contrition that her Administration will learn from a breathtakingly long list of ineptitude. Her former law professor, Alistair Bonnington, rightly declared that “a one-party state is the enemy of democracy”. It's probably too much to hope that the zealous Saltire-waving followers of All Under One Banner might take note.
Neil J Bryce, Kelso, Scottish Borders
Nicola Sturgeon can crow all she likes about time being on her side regarding voting demographics in a future Indyref, but study of the 2014 result suggests that those counting chickens before they hatch could end up with egg on their face. This analysis indicated that not only did most 50+ old roosters decide not to flee the UK coop, most 16-24 years old pullets also opted to stay put. My feathers remain unruffled.
Andrew Kemp, Rosyth
Thanks to Brian Wilson for his telling and appropriately scathing article (“Sturgeon cynically used children’s rights to further the Indyref2 cause”, Perspective, 9 October). The First Minister and her colleagues in the Scottish Government no doubt started out with good intentions when they decided to enter politics. Yet as every year goes by their arrogance and sense of self entitlement is increasingly on display, as time and again spin and subterfuge are presented as substitutes for effective government. Scotland and the goodwill of its people are treated by the SNP hierarchy like their personal playthings to do with as they want.This latest attempt to generate false grievance against the UK is in particularly poor taste, based, as it is, on a topic about which there is actually widespread agreement across political parties and throughout the UK, namely the rights of children.Yet I should not be surprised by this latest example of the Scottish Government progressively losing its collective moral compass. After all, I read that its leader hopes that the cause that she pursues at any cost will eventually advance by my demise and that of others who think like me. I can only hope our children and grandchildren stop to ponder what kind of twisted dogma drives such a callous view of Scotland’s future.
Keith Howell, West Linton
Freedoms at risk
Now that the Westminster Government has "successfully” taken back control from the EU, they intend to follow up by taking back control from the British people. They are proceeding a bill to “reform judicial review”, presumably in response to recent court cases in which they were found to have exceeded their powers, or acted illegally. This new bill would, in effect, move much Government action out of reach of the courts: the Law Society has responded by warning of a diminution of powers to curb “the might of the state”.
They are also set, under the new police bill, to curb the right to protest. For example, to cause “serious annoyance” to the public could land you or me in jail for up to ten years, while demonstrations loud enough to cause a bystander “serious unease” could be banned altogether.
Press freedom, too, is under threat, with a plan to widen the Official Secrets Act to cover more aspects of Government activity, and increase penalties for those deemed to have broken it, even if the breach is in the interests of the public.
The new Elections Bill will give the Government power over the Electoral Commission, currently independent. The bill is said to be “an attack on the UK’s proud democratic tradition and some of our most fundamental rights”.
This new bill would also tackle the non-existent problem of voter fraud by requiring voters to have photo ID, which has proved elsewhere to deter poorer voters, who are less likely to vote Conservative.
In a world in which freedoms in many countries are being limited by extreme right wing governments, we need to beware of what lies behind the the ruffled mop, the rumpled suit and the jocular jest.
Les Mackay, Dundee
Given the news that we face a 12 per cent increase in energy bills this autumn, to be followed next April by a further 20 per cent increase, it may surprise some people to learn that Scotland is in fact self-sufficient in electricity and that the energy comes from renewable sources. Scotland is also a net exporter of electricity, and in 2020 31.8TWh of renewable electricity was generated in Scotland. This is the equivalent of powering all households in Scotland for almost three and a half years.
Why, then, are we about to pay through the nose for something we already cheaply and cleanly produce? The UK imposes a much higher surcharge on Scotland's cheap, clean energy as a condition of admitting it into the UK National Grid. In effect, England is charging us for the privilege of supplying it with abundant electricity.
Yet again Scotland, uniquely among the nations of the world, is not allowed to enjoy the bounty of its own natural resources. In this case, it goes beyond even that. We have huge natural advantages for achieving net zero. We are not allowed the use of them. While Scotland remains a hostage of Westminster, we will be slung in the car boot of a fossil fuel-guzzling UK and driven towards a future of fuel poverty and shared culpability for the climate crisis.
Jim Daly, Edinburgh
I am a big fan of 44 Scotland Street. Alexander McCall Smith's acute observation and gentle ribbing of the Edinburgh middle classes rarely fails to raise a smile.
I was therefore disappointed to read one of the, otherwise, more sympathetic characters, Bertie's grandmother Nicola, apparently vilifying "the English" with her comment that: “The English...have shown a slight tendency to take things from other people” (8 October).
No-one could deny that Western powers have taken many fine artworks from the countries they colonised or explored – the museums of western Europe are full of such artefacts. But to suggest it is only England that did this is misleading. It was, after all, a Scotsman, Lord Elgin, who was responsible for perhaps the most controversial cultural appropriation, by transporting the eponymous marbles from their home in Athens to Britain.
Perhaps Bertie's education would be better served by pointing out that no nationality or country has a monopoly on virtue – or vice.
Peter Lewis, Edinburgh
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