Readers' Letters: Parties should band together to save SNHS

The Scottish NHS, when all is said and done, is a huge not-for-profit business. It requires the management of multi-millions of pounds in wages, property, IT, transport, training, procurement and a host of other functions, and yet it is hampered by continual changes in government thinking which result in changes to planning, targets, funding and its overall aims.

No normal business could function successfully under these restrictions – even the smallest companies have business plans for at least the next five years, and a set-up like this not to be able to plan ahead restricts its ability to function in an efficient and economically sound manner.

All political parties have committed to supporting the SNHS, but if we want this organisation to be successful it is surely time to stop it being used as a political football and take a different approach.

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This might sound unlikely or, perhaps naive, but I'm sure that the electorate in general would applaud if all parties with seats in parliament worked together and came up with a plan to which all agreed to abide by for the next ten years or so. This plan can be kept under constant review by a similar mix of politicians so that continuity of planning can continue, no matter which party holds power. Any changes needed would be agreed by all representatives involved and the SNHS would therefore be taken out of the hands of the ruling party.

Is it time to stop the Scottish NHS being used as a political football and take a different approach? (Photo: Michael Gillen).

In this way managers of the organisation would be free of concerns that plans made could be shelved as the next election comes around.

Does this idea have merit? What might the pitfalls be with this approach other than removing a vehicle used for point scoring by political parties?

Hilary Halliday, By Cupar, Fife

No Fear

Deja vu! Pol Yates again rolls out the notion that the NHS is about to be sold off and privatised and that the only way to save it is Independence (Letters, 2 November). Never mind asking who on earth would buy it in its present state, it wasn't a Project Fear argument that won for Yes in 2014.

Healthcare has always been fully devolved. I know, because long before parliamentary devolution I used to attend meetings of the Public Health Laboratory service as the Scottish observer; its remit didn't extend north of the Border and we did our own thing in our own way with Scottish money.

It would also be good if Mary Thomas (Letters, same day) acknowledged that the generosity of the Barnett formula enables the Scottish budget to fund more health care staff and hospital beds per capita than England.

Hugh Pennington, Aberdeen

Labour pains

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I nearly choked on my breakfast reading John McLellan's castigation of the Scottish Government and his belief that Sir Keir Starmer could rectify all that is wrong in Scotland, taking life expectancy as an example (Perspective, 1 November).

It has only been 15 years since Alex Salmond first formed a minority government; as he said then, the Scottish people have “freed themselves of the yoke of Labour mediocrity forever”.

As Scotland had not voted Conservative since 1955, who was running things in the ensuing years? Long enough to have an impact on things like life expectancy? That's right, 50 years of Labour. Need I say more?

Marjorie Ellis Thompson, Edinburgh

Hancock halfwit?

Matt Hancock, our disgraced former Health Secretary, has travelled to Australia to take part in a TV show.

It obviously did not enter his mind that he enjoyed a lucrative salary from the British taxpayer and that his job was to represent his constituents in Parliament. Instead he has treated them with utter contempt. How such a shallow individual had not been exposed for what he is, is beyond my understanding.

Now we know just how despicable this man really is there should be some mechanism for removing him permanently from the scene and allowing his constituents the opportunity of electing a more worthy occupant of his seat in the House of Commons. Suspension by his party if by far too lenient a penalty!

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Robert Finlay, Burntisland, Fife

Whipping boy

Matt Hancock has had the whip removed for signing up for I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Boris Johnson went to the Dominican Republic for a holiday when Parliament was sitting and didn't lose the whip. Both would be out of the country unable to represent their constituents, what is the difference?

Mary Douglas, Galashiels, Scottish Borders

Safe bill

Cate MacDonald's letter about the Gender Recognition Reform Bill is incorrect on the key points (2 November). There is no requirement under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 for any bodily change, surgery, hormone treatment, or any other medical treatment, to qualify for a gender recognition certificate (GRC). It is quite wrong to claim that the 2004 law was intended only for people who “changed their bodies as much as possible”. The core requirement since 2004 has been that the person must be living permanently in their transitioned gender, and intend to do so for the rest of their life. That will remain the core requirement under the proposed reforms.A GRC makes no difference to a person's access to single-sex spaces, and it is incorrect to claim that it allows access. The Equality and Human Rights Commission confirmed this when they gave evidence on the bill to the Scottish Parliament. They pointed out that under the Equality Act, a trans person can lawfully be excluded from a single sex space where that is a proportionate means to a legitimate aim, and that applies whether or not the trans person has a GRC. The reform bill will not change that.We welcome that the Parliament committee considering the bill took evidence from those with a wide range of views on this bill, considered the facts and supported the bill. We hope that the Parliament as a whole will do the same.

Tim Hopkins, Director, Equality Network, Edinburgh


Nicola Sturgeon's planned attendance at COP27 is accompanied by inevitable virtue-signalling about her impressive green credentials and her determination to tackle climate change.

But hang on a minute! Is this the same Nicola Sturgeon who, not so long ago, intended to slash Air Passenger Duty here with the intention of dramatically increasing the number of flights into Scotland?

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And is this the very same Nicola Sturgeon who has just stated she intends to use North Sea oil and gas revenues in an attempt to kickstart the economy of Scotland, in the unlikely event it were ever to become independent? Surely Nicola Sturgeon's frankly risible greenwashing of her environmental record reeks of political opportunism of the very worst kind?

Martin Redfern. Melrose, Scottish Borders

Tolerance please

What kind of world are we living in when people are physically threatened because of the choice of a sculptor for a statue (your report, 2 November)? Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the decision, why can’t people get a sense of perspective, act reasonably and put their views across in a civilised way? We seem to be heading into a world which describes itself as liberal, but refuses to allow anyone to express a view different from their own. Ironically, the more liberal we claim to be, the less tolerant we seem to be.The First Minister’s response to a minister who resigned is another example of the intolerant tone from the top that simply rejects anyone else has a legitimate right to hold a contrary view.All so very sad.

Brian Barbour, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland

Extreme idiocy

Dr Leslie Mabon (Friends of The Scotsman, 1 November) claims that “climate protesters have resorted to ever more frequent and dramatic actions as exasperation and distress at a lack of action from governments grows”. Sorry Dr Mabon, but most people are not exasperated or distressed by the government's lack of action. I suspect that most are more concerned about the cost of the foolish Net Zero policy that environmentalists have foisted upon governments. They don't want to scrap their gas boilers and replace them with heat pumps which aren't up to the job. Only yesterday my plumber told me his heating engineer friend had recently installed three new oil-fired boilers in place of heat pumps. Farmers don't want to give up their diesel pick-ups and Land Rovers which can pull a 3-ton Ivor Willams trailer full of stock. No-one wants blackouts as our electricity supply becomes increasingly weather dependent.

As far as “climate protesters” are concerned, in my view they are not protesters but criminals. Just Stop Oil vandalise pristine buildings with orange paint; they block the King's highway; they monopolise police resources and so undermine law and order. Roger Hallam, one of the big shots in Extinction Rebellion, has said he would prevent an ambulance passing through one of their roadblocks. Dr Mabon should read the Policy Exchange report Extremism Rebellion to see the danger these groups pose.

As far as “Scotland leading the way” is concerned, we should ask “to where?” As Viscount Ridley has said about Net Zero: “I am genuinely shocked by the casual way the Commons has committed future generations to vast expenditure to achieve a goal that we have no idea how to reach technologically without ruining the British economy.” The Centre for Economic and Business Research has calculated that the cost of the petrol and diesel vehicle ban alone will be £400 billion between 2022 and 2050.

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William Loneskie, Oxton, Berwickshire

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