I recall that when the NHS was being set up the BMA was passionately insistent that doctors should be able to have private clients as well as working for the NHS. Eventually that is what they got, with Minister of Health Aneurin Bevan saying, “I stuffed their mouths with gold”.
The system which emerged, as I understood it, was that a consultant would have access to a certain number of beds in the NHS hospital where he worked. Someone willing and able to pay to avoid the long wait for treatment could then be referred by his GP to an appropriate consultant who would provide the necessary treatment using the NHS facilities, with the fee paid by the patient going entirely to the consultant. Nowadays there are more private hospitals but medical practitioners, I believe, continue to work part-time in both systems.From the inception of the NHS dentists were overwhelmed and costs soared so very soon fees for dental treatment were introduced (leading to Bevan resigning from the government for a time) while in the recent past some dental practices have refused to take any NHS patients at all. Gradually, other service have had to be paid for. Free sight tests, for example, have been restricted to a few categories while only commercial chiropody is generally available.Provision of appliances also presents a mixed picture. Spectacles, for instance, have to be paid for but not hearing aids.In short, from my worm’s eye viewpoint, the NHS, from its inception, has not been able to meet all health needs free at the point of delivery. I would suggest that discussing where we are at now and where we should seek and are able to go, rather than just reiterating principles that we cannot implement, might be no bad thing.
S Beck, Edinburgh
You published on Thursday the most extraordinary tantrum by Nicola Sturgeon’s official spokesperson. With the clue in the name, I think we can be sure they reflected her own response to the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Scottish Government’s power to legislate for a referendum on independence. Let’s get a few things straight.
No-one forced Ms Sturgeon to resort to the Supreme Court. She sought their decision and they gave it.
The SNP petitioned the court to allow it to provide a written submission. It is the court’s response to that intervention that particularly riles Ms Sturgeon and her cohorts: that the Scottish Parliament does not have the authority to hold a referendum.
Several times in interviews before the election in 2021, Ms Sturgeon gave the assurance that voters should vote for the SNP even if they did not want a referendum. This turns out to have been a scam, with Ms Sturgeon and the SNP using the result of that vote as justification for seeking a referendum.
The separatist parties did not achieve a majority of votes at that election. The SNP can claim a majority at Holyrood only because the Green Party, which won no constituency seats – scarcely anyone voted for them – was awarded eight list seats under our flawed devolution dispensation.
As if it needed saying again: Holyrood has no locus in constitutional affairs. It is the (misconceived) creation of Westminster. Therefore it should have neither a Constitution Secretary nor the hundreds of millions of pounds that accompany that post.
Think of the amount of taxpayers' money that has been wasted on pursuing the nationalist cause. The 20 civil servants who have been beavering away, trying, in vain, to concoct a plausible economic and financial case for secession. The £20 million set aside for referendum preparations – now redundant – and the cost of the Constitution Secretary and his office and activities. Then there are the “foreign hubs” to promote Scottish separatism abroad.
How many Scottish children could be lifted out of poverty with the kind of sums that have been spent on a party political project that has failed? Perhaps Ms Sturgeon’s official spokesman could tell us that?
Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh
Just move on
I am totally fed up with this never-ending focus on a referendum. Let us first understand what the detailed plan for an independent Scotland would be, and the SNP has been refusing to tell us for these past eight years.At first it was trumpeted that "Scotland’s Oil" would make us all rich. Now, fossil-fuel development is a banned subject – just one example of how an ever-changing world impacts political and economic planning.
In any democracy, the people being asked to vote should fully understand what they are voting for. In our case the SNP continues with its haggis and tartan emotional dreams. This should not be tolerated in any democracy worthy of the name. The SNP continues to assert that Scotland is oppressed by its English neighbours.In what way? We would achieve far more in Scotland if Sturgeon, Blackford, Brown and co could properly and positively relate to the UK Government instead of the sniping and insulting behaviour that we have seen for the last four to five years.
Derek Farmer, Anstruther
The SNP and its supporters protest at the “attack on democracy. But which election, both Scottish and UK-wide, has not been conducted in a democratic fashion? That the Nationalists have never had a majority of votes in any of these, should tell them independence for Scotland is not what the majority wish, and their constant harping on will only serve to work against them. Perhaps there would be more support should the SNP administration actually look to fixing those very serious problems that their mismanagement has caused.
EP Carruthers, Lockerbie, Dumfries & Galloway
Nicola Sturgeon frequently refers to the will of the Scottish People in her pro-independence speeches. If we have another referendum and the result is No again will she accept this is the will of the Scottish People and finally confine her dream to the dustbin. Or will she, with her concept of democracy and before the ink is dry on the paper, be screaming for another referendum. I have no doubt the latter will be the case.
Charles Sinclair, Kirkcaldy, Fife
Nicola Sturgeon is keen to portray the continuing stand-off over a second independence referendum as being about a denial of democracy (“Sturgeon fires starting gun on ‘de facto’ referendum”, 24 November). In this she implies a special definition of democracy, namely one whereby she and the SNP always get their way.
The SNP leadership and their supporters, are concerned about being ignored, yet do not hesitate to act as if the more than half of Scots who want to remain in the UK do not count. The First Minister prioritises stirring grievance, and indeed appears to imagine this rather than good governance is her best route to securing more support for breaking up the UK. Nicola Sturgeon cannot hide her irritation at suggestions that she and the government she leads would do better if they focused more energy on their existing powers and the public services that we all so critically depend upon, and which have demonstrably languished during the long years of SNP rule.
Perhaps if she demonstrated more willingness to take responsibility for the Scottish Government’s shortcomings, and suggested scope for genuine compromise on the timing and terms and conditions of a future referendum, she might find both the Scottish public and the UK government a bit more amenable to giving due consideration to that which she believes transcends all else.
Keith Howell, West Linton, Scottish Borders
Angus MacNeil SNP MP reportedly said “Scotland is effectively a hostage in the UK...” and “Plan A is dead, Plan B is the only way forward”. Riddles from the SNP again. Plan A was killed stone dead in 2014. Plan B was to give children voting rights. Plan C failed at the ballot box in 2021. Plan D was Supreme Court fiasco. Plan E will be the final nail in the coffin… E will be for Exit.
And then we can all get back to our lives and stop hating each other, the hatred caused by SNP lies and incompetence. Don't they care what they've done to the people of Scotland?
And finally, Sturgeon and her SNP use the word “democracy” like a weapon. A word oft used by those least likely to embrace it.
Stan Hogarth, Strathaven, South Lanarkshire
The pay offer to the nurses is a final offer… or is it? Will this, and following claims, have the First Minister step in to claim the glory of sorting out the latest dispute herself?
After all, she wanted to be judged on her performance when minister for these departments and could be considered responsible for the situation in the first place. I’m not sure who she could pin the blame on in Westminster.
Derek Sharp, Edinburgh
Leaving the house heating off (your report, 22 November) in cold weather with no change in other activities like cooking and showering risks the development of black mould as humid air condenses on cold surfaces.
At least fit and use extract fans in kitchens and bathrooms to get rid of excess water vapour. However, a certain level of heating is required unless no water vapour is going to be generated. Try to keep the relative humidity below 70 per cent.
Steuart Campbell, Edinburgh
Write to The Scotsman
We welcome your thoughts. Write to [email protected] including name, address and phone number – we won't print full details. Keep letters under 300 words, with no attachments, and avoid 'Letters to the Editor/Readers’ Letters' or similar in your subject line - be specific. No letters submitted elsewhere, please. If referring to an article, include date, page number and heading.
Subscribe at www.scotsman.com/subscriptions