Readers' Letters: Reasons to be cheerful in an otherwise bleak year

This year for many has been one filled with doom and gloom. War in the Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis have dominated news headlines. However, while the negatives tend to drive the media agenda, we must remember that there were many positives to look back on.

For example, while the list of endangered species continued to grow at an alarming rate, some creatures bounced back from the brink in 2022, proving that extinction is not inevitable. Beavers, bison and pelicans were among the species identified as having bucked the trend by the Wildlife Comeback Report, published in September. Most are the subject of reintroduction programmes, including the bison, which is roaming England again for the first time in thousands of years.

There’s also cautious optimism that the civil war in Ethiopia could finally be over, after the warring sides agreed to permanently end hostilities in November.

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New fronts in the fight against cancer opened up this year, with scientists developing better tools for detecting and treating the disease. Tests were developed that appear to be able to diagnose cervical cancer, prostate cancer and other forms of the diseases. Experimental treatments also provided some good news. In December, a teenager who had been diagnosed with “incurable” leukaemia was cured, thanks to what scientists say is the most sophisticated cell engineering to date.

Bison released from a corral at the Wildwood Trust nature reserve in Kent in July - the first time the animals have roamed freely in the UK in thousands of yearsBison released from a corral at the Wildwood Trust nature reserve in Kent in July - the first time the animals have roamed freely in the UK in thousands of years
Bison released from a corral at the Wildwood Trust nature reserve in Kent in July - the first time the animals have roamed freely in the UK in thousands of years

This year also witnessed more progress in tackling discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, although there is still much work to be done. Greece and Israel, for example, became the latest countries to ban conversion therapy, and Slovenia ruled that its ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional.

So, when one reflects on the year, let us not forget that among the doom and gloom, there were many positive stories to reflect on.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh

Sprouts of wrath

One could sympathise with those Belgian fans who went to Qatar feeling very angry right now.

After throwing thousands of euros away to watch their team put in their nation's worst ever performance at a World Cup finals, Kevin De Bruyne and the rest have turned in scintillating performances at the restart of their domestic footballing duties – almost as if they'd been warned their lucrative contracts could be compromised should they acquire long-term injuries with less than half the season played

Mark Boyle, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

Austerity Bonds

When I was young democracies were at war with fascism and one of the ways governments raised funds to defray the costs was through voluntary interest-bearing loans from the ordinary person known as War Bonds. These could be freely traded until the date of repayment.

Correctly set up, today’s government could inaugurate Austerity Bonds that would access the billions of cash held by private citizens in the absence of decent alternatives, thus avoiding international and corporate money lenders and the need to consider foreign exchange and other penalties and premiums. Such a system gives many of us a chance to help get the nation out of the black hole into which we are rapidly sinking.

Tim Flinn, Garvald, East Lothian

Chinks of light

The 5 December edition of Holyrood magazine has two of the most sensible and hopeful articles on the Scottish constitutional position.

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Deputy Editor Chris Marshall quotes independence supporter Joyce McMillan saying “a de-facto referendum is an implausible prospect” and “asserting Scottish sovereignty is important but the endgame is actually quite subtle and nuanced. It’s not just about walking away from the rest of the UK, it’s more about renegotiating the relationship”.

He also quotes Stephen Noon, a respected SNP strategist saying “Independence will be its most successful if we move forward together not as two 50/50s. It’s also important that we do it in partnership with the rest of the UK” and “There’s a better way of doing this – it’s not just about winning a campaign, it’s about nation building”.

Former Labour MSP, Neil Findlay in his article reminds us that Nicola Sturgeon promised talks with other parties, brokered by a respected individual, to agree areas of constitutional change and a citizens’ assembly to come up with proposals and that agreed proposals would be presented to the UK Government, but none of these promises were ever fulfilled.

Neil reminds us of the 1990s when faith groups, parties, civic society and trade unions worked together to give us a plan for devolution which was agreed with the support of 74 per cent of the people of Scotland.

Instead, we now have increasing division in Scotland which has resulted in two equal and increasingly strident halves.

If the Scottish Government was to honour the pledges Neil quotes and cooperate with other parties in Scotland, and also make a greater effort to run services already devolved successfully, then all of us who signed the Claim of Right could come together and find an agreed way to move forward.

Whether this is possible under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon is a moot point.

George, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, Edinburgh

Rein in costs

The escalating growth of employees in the public sector in the UK has resulted in higher and unsustainable costs for the taxpayer.

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The public sector headcount is now a massive 5.8 million and an increase of 426,000 since 2018. The civil service was responsible for 77,000 of that increase. The British Army has only 79,380 members.

Public sector employees take 7.9 days sick leave compared to 5.5 days in the private sector. That is 43 per cent more. There are tens-of-thousands of non-jobs, the most recent being to employ on a salary of £115,000 a "director of lived experience” capable of creating “brave spaces” in the Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. How many frontline staff could this employ?

The government must force the public sector to cut their employee numbers, reduce sickness levels and introduce a less expensive pension scheme for new employees. This government must impose a freeze on all new and replacement jobs unless they are frontline services.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothian

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