Readers' Letters: Politicians let down elderly as winter bites

Scotland is either part of the fourth or even (by slightly different calculations) the seventh richest nation in the world yet this week we hear on TV news that our paramedics answer at least 44 call-outs every day to the public for patients suffering from what is diagnosed as hypothermia.
Are Scotland's leaders letting down the elderly when it comes to keeping them safely warm in the winter? (Picture: Adobe)Are Scotland's leaders letting down the elderly when it comes to keeping them safely warm in the winter? (Picture: Adobe)
Are Scotland's leaders letting down the elderly when it comes to keeping them safely warm in the winter? (Picture: Adobe)

This is an emergency you might reasonably expect to encounter amongst well-equipped adventurous youth in the hills of our Highlands, not in urban houses that are poorly heated and insulated.

Our politicians – both MSPs in Holyrood and our MPs in Westminster – should be ashamed they are unwilling to prioritise their, usually older, constituents so that their lives are not threatened by the variations of winter, a season we have every year, often milder than that in Scandinavia or Canada.

Norman Lockhart, Innerleithen, Scottish Borders

Cut your cloth

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I have to confess myself slightly puzzled by the news that “Energy Arrears hit a ten-year high amid soaring fuel bills”. Our household has found that with a relatively mild winter to-date; the Government subsidy of £400 paid directly to the supplier; turning down the thermostat, putting on an extra sweater and shutting doors – our bills have actually been slightly lower this winter. A bonus has been that the reduction in the thermostat has resulted in a less “stuffy” atmosphere. Of course, we have also cut our cloth in terms of shopping to match our budgeting and not spent the fuel savings.

I realise there are many households who always struggle, particularly those where there is a long-term illness or medical equipment gobbling up electricity; but most of our friends are in a similar position to us with regard to energy costs – having reduced the thermostat and put on an extra sweater. Even my grandchildren have twigged that they don’t need the house so warm – they have stopped running around in tee shirts and shorts and are dressed more appropriately. Energy supplies are a challenge that has to be tackled with all-round budgeting solutions.

James Watson, Dunbar, East Lothian

Older and wiser

“Westminster has consistently opposed the suggestion that 16-year-olds should have a say in their future through elections or decisions on gender.” (James Scott, Letters, 25 January). There can little doubt as to which side of the constitutional divide Mr Scott stands upon. Alex Salmond mistakenly believed that allowing children to vote in 2014 would swing the referendum his way. This strategy was based on the sound knowledge that teenagers lack life experience, tend to be more impulsive and are particularly vulnerable to social media misinformation, an art form the separatist movement excels at.

However, youngsters often move away from radical causes once they have increased exposure to the real world and have developed a more mature ability to critically weigh up opposing arguments.

The Scottish Government’s position on this area is hilariously inconsistent. On the one hand they loudly support the right of under-18s to vote and “change” gender, even suggesting that they should be allowed to stand for council and Holyrood elections. On the other, they pontificate that this very same age group is not responsible enough to serve in the armed forces, gamble or buy alcohol and cigarettes!

Mr Scott grumbles that Scotland’s broadsheets are filled with “contributions from those in retirement who fill their declining years with repetitive assertions, often tinged with bile, on issues of the moment”.

In the week that saw SNP politicians photographed in front of a banner advocating decapitation of those opposed to the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, perhaps Mr Scott should explore certain online platforms to read similar comments frequently made by nationalists. This might show that senior citizens’ letters don’t have a monopoly on “repetitive assertions, often tinged with bile” that he refers to.

One final point: be assured that many of us who make the case against our country’s dismemberment in these pages are many, many long years away from retirement.

Martin O’Gorman, Edinburgh

Confidence hit

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At long last common sense has prevailed, with a convicted rapist being transferred out of a women's prison and incarcerated in accommodation which no longer puts women at risk. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place and shows how the Scottish Government is at odds with public opinion on some gender issues. It ultimately turned out to be a fiasco, with Justice Secretary Keith Brown failing to take action to resolve a situation which was spiralling out of control and apparently putting the onus for the placement upon the Scottish Prison Service.

Embarrassingly it seems that his boss couldn't stand the public heat any longer and changed the government's stance on the matter. It hardly inspires confidence!

Bob MacDougall, Oxhill, Stirlingshire

Beat your Greens

E Campbell is correct in saying that eight Green MSPs were elected in 2021 through votes on the regional lists (Letters, 27 January). Certainly, other parties received seats from the regional lists also. Nevertheless, the point is that those parties stood candidates in all or most of the constituencies. The Greens stood in only a few constituencies, including two in Edinburgh. For their paltry 34,990 constituency votes, the Greens received no seats. Their eight seats were for the 220,324 regional list votes that they attracted. It is not unreasonable to surmise that a fair proportion of their list votes came from people who had voted SNP in the constituencies. There was discussion before the election about how the SNP was unlikely to be awarded many list seats if they won in over 60 constituencies.

The real injustice in that election was suffered by the Liberal Democrats, who won four seats – all in constituencies – for 187,746 votes. Their 137,152 regional list votes won them no list seats. The Holyrood system is deeply flawed, skewed in favour of the Greens. There are ministers in the SNP administration for whom no-one voted yet whose influence on policy, particularly on the Gender Recognition Reform bill, has been substantial. It would be fairer if parties were eligible for list seats only if they stood in a certain proportion of constituencies. A proportion of 50 per cent might not be unreasonable.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Calm needed

The news that Ukraine will receive battle tanks from Nato, and that Boris Johnson wants Ukraine to join Nato now, and that various armchair generals are calling for Ukraine to be supplied with F-16 fighter jets marks a serious escalation of the war. Nato’s tanks and planes require training, servicing and maintenance by highly trained specialists which the government in Ukraine doesn't have. British, American, and German experts will be drawn into the conflict. Not a good idea.

Nato wants its proxy Ukraine to drive out the Russians from the Russian-speaking provinces and then it will have “won” the war. Really? If that event happened, and it is by no means certain, it is likely that Russia would move to total war against Ukraine, perhaps flattening all its cities as the Allies did to Germany in the Second World War. Russia could bring out the big stuff and then we would be on the road to World War Three, after which there would certainly be no winners. What is required is a peaceful solution to the conflict, not a war which will spiral out of control.

William Loneskie, Oxton, Berwickshire

Fur play

Mark Boyle is incorrect, not only in using the appellation “Sir” before my name, but in describing me as a bacteriologist, not a naturalist (Letters, 27 January). I consider a naturalist to be someone with broad biological interests. As one of the few few virologists to have handled live smallpox virus, and an entomologist who was the first to record the big handsome bumble bee mimic hoverfly Eriozona syrphoides as a species new to Scotland and England, I nominate myself as one..

Red squirrels in Scotland, England and Ireland suffer from leprosy. We don’t cuddle them or kill them for their pelts, so transmission to humans doesn't happen. But as a bacteriologist I have speculated in print that the persistence of leprosy into the 20th century in Norway, Estonia and Russia could be linked to the extensive hunting of red squirrels for their fur. It is probable red squirrels became extinct in Scotland hundreds of years ago, due to our longstanding enthusiasm for chopping down trees. Their disappearance coincided with the closure of Scottish leprosariums. Deliberate reintroductions mean many reds have English ancestry.

Hugh Pennington, Aberdeen

Back culture

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Reading this week about the plight of the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh and recently of the sad demise of The Filmhouse, I had a strong feeling of deja vu. When I became Convenor of Culture on Edinburgh District Council, back in the olden days, there was a similar malaise in funding for the arts. It occurred to me then that if Edinburgh was to retain its valued reputation as an International Festival City, it was imperative decayed theatres were upgraded and refurbished, including The Lyceum, Kings and Traverse. Funding was also allocated for the building of The City Arts Centre in Market Street, and necessary funds were given towards constructing the now defunct Filmhouse in Lothian Road. The Queens Hall was formed from an old church. Money was found to enhance the inadequate coffers of Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera.

Where there is a political will there is a way. In those days local authorities had autonomy and the ability to dig deep for funding when required. The Scottish Parliament did not exist.

Jane Ball, Cardrona, Scottish Borders

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