Readers' Letters: Sickening response to UK's offer to help Scottish patients

It has been revealed that in August Steve Barclay, the UK Health Secretary, offered, in a letter to Michael Matheson, the Scottish Health Secretary, that Scottish patients waiting for operations could be treated in England under the NHS or privately. There are over 800,000 Scots on waiting lists but Michael Matheson rejected the offer in a reply to Mr Barclay.
Health Secretary Michael Matheson turned down an offer from the UK Government to help cut Scottish NHS waiting lists (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Health Secretary Michael Matheson turned down an offer from the UK Government to help cut Scottish NHS waiting lists (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Health Secretary Michael Matheson turned down an offer from the UK Government to help cut Scottish NHS waiting lists (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Victoria Atkins is the new UK Health Secretary and it is understood that the offer still stands. On Saturday 2 December Mr Matheson seemingly said Scotland did not need any such help.

I hope that the 800,000-plus Scots currently on waiting lists remember this at the next elections.

Jim Houston, Edinburgh

Colours may vary

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Regarding recent reports about King Charles and the Princess of Wales allegedly discussing the skin colour of Harry and Meghan’s baby Archie before his birth, we should be relaxed if they did indeed say the little that is reported, as it shows that in this respect they are perfectly normal and just like the rest of us, as several mixed-race parents have confirmed.

Did Meghan's own parents and both families not wonder the same about her when her mother was pregnant? And surely there were comments in both families as to whether Harry's ginger hair would continue down the line. It's a pity that despite the “never complain, never explain” mantra, the late Queen did not shut the ludicrous speculation down after Meghan's grossly insulting remark to Oprah Winfrey with an immediate response along these lines.

And having deliberately damned the whole family unfairly with that remark, should Meghan be believed when she now says she never wanted the individuals to be named? I doubt it.

John Birkett, St Andrews, Fife

Changed times

Questions over the legitimacy of a particular government that existed 200 years ago in Greece seems to be the main thrust of Robert Cairns’ rebuttal (Letters, 2 December) of my argument about the means by which Lord Elgin obtained the eponymous Marbles.

Such arguments seem to be applied retrospectively to everything nowadays and are a good excuse to lambast governments and individuals who are unable to defend themselves, because they are dead. It won't wash. Standards nowadays are different. As someone said, “the past is a foreign country. They do things differently there”. How true.

Andrew HN Gray, Edinburgh

Cool it

Too much time is given to global warming. Those countries who have disregarded ecological parameters need to promptly execute remedial measures.

The UK emits only a small fraction of greenhouse gases and no longer needs to adopt every potential carbon-saving initiative. Many mistakes are made. Heat pumps unsuited to most existing houses will punish owners for insignificant carbon savings. Holyrood restricting the full lifespan of existing gas boilers will result in increased carbon release in manufacture by their mandatory premature replacement.

Scotland, an insignificant carbon emitter, now aims to become the net zero capital of the world. Contrary to the principle of a fairer economy this will penalise consumers. Decisions should be based on cost/emissions reduction. not on the whims of opportunist politicians.

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Since Earth was formed, repeating ice ages and periods of warming occurred and human contributions could at worst be accelerating these cycles. Recent temperature rises could be misleading since similar interim shorter warming periods prior to industrialisation were previously noted. Should temperatures rise further, a lesser need for heating will reduce carbon. Climate modelling over the next decades may be most revealing.

JHR Hampson, Kinnesswood, Kinross

Cold comfort

As the “net zero” debate rages on it is very clear the Scottish Government appears to have a close to zero appreciation of their policy outcomes. In an illuminating TV interview this weekend, the Greens' Patrick Harvie gave a typical totally one-sided viewpoint.

No nuclear, no way. Just rambling nonsense about Scotland's “abundant” wind and solar energy as if to imply that the wind and sun never reaches any other countries. If this is the standard of our decision makers then, indeed, only heaven can help us.

Mr Harvie has also ignored the gigantic woolly mammoth in the room who is also freezing. If Scotland was ever independent where would it get its nuclear energy from? Saying it does not need it just compounds Mr Harvie's problem. Net zero is not achievable in Scotland until there is a new type of energy source or a new means of delivery discovered.

Do our current politicians just want us all to freeze?

Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.

Power down

As anyone who paid attention in primary school knows, anything multiplied by zero equals zero. To give a practical example of this, when, as this weekend, wind speed is below nine miles an hour, thousands of wind turbines throughout Britain generate no electricity.

The carbon crazies, who demand we “de-carbonise” our economy, have no answer to this. We do not have the topography for endless inefficient pumped storage of energy. Even if we had vastly more capacity to import electricity from the Continent that would not solve the problem, as a cold front and low windspeed can be spread over several countries simultaneously, meaning that they wouldn’t have excess electricity to export.

If we want to keep the lights on, our homes warm and industry moving, we need to continue to rely on oil and gas. Nuclear power can help a bit. Part-time short-life wind turbines and endless solar panels can’t.

Otto Inglis, Crossgates, Fife

Big challenge

Your correspondent, Derek Farmer (2 December), is correct to say that heat pumps don’t work in a power cut but neither does any boiler that depends on electricity for ignition or to run a pump to drive water through radiators. To get oil, gas or pellet boilers to work in a power cut one would need a back-up generator. I live on a croft in Lochaber and we rarely have power cuts that last for any length of time. There was one in 2010 that lasted three days and we were grateful for our woodburning stove in the sitting room that gave us warmth and something on which to heat food. It’s good to have a back-up, but in my experience it isn’t needed very often.

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Mr Farmer also says gas is the cheapest way to heat a house, but I don’t think he is considering the cost of the floods in Brechin, the wild fires in Greece, Australia and North America or the damage done by rising sea levels. All these happen because of our burning of fossil fuels and are part of the real cost of oil or gas heating. We have to change the ways in which we heat our homes. It will not be cheap or easy and, as things stand, many of us cannot afford to make the transition and will need a great deal of help. Nobody should underestimate the scale of the challenge.

Ronald Cameron, Banavie, Highland

Red squirrel rescue

Ian McNicholas is rightly concerned about the destruction of dreys by Forestry & Land Scotland (Letters, 4 November). A much greater threat to red squirrels, however, is squirrel pox. Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, which monitors numbers for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, shows sightings of the proportion of grey squirrels to reds at a high of 35 per cent. This compares to around 30 per cent in 2019 and also 2020, when over 16,000 red sightings were reported, inflated by lockdown. This compares to around 11,000 expected this year.

The charity also monitors squirrel pox, which is spreading north through the Central Belt. Much of the increase in grey squirrels has been in mixed red and grey regions such as the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway, where squirrel pox carried by the greys, without adverse effects to them, is increasingly being transferred to the reds, with devastating consequences.

While the Scottish Government’s objective of turning 30 per cent of land into protected habitats for improving biodiversity by 2030 will help, it’s unrealistic to expect this further million hectares would be fully protected within six years. Adding a national park and more nature reserves will not be as effective as incentivising major estate owners to create habitats, encouraging predatory species like pine martens, proven to kill grey squirrels but not reds, to extend their territories or be transferred to suitable habitats, especially in Southern Scotland where squirrel pox is most prevalent.

The public has a chance to voice its opinion by replying to the Scottish Government’s “Tacking the Nature Emergency” consultation by 14 December. Chapter 5 fleetingly mentions building on existing policy for protecting endangered native species like red squirrels, capercaillie and eagles. Radical rewilding is needed to encourage a greater biodiversity to save our red squirrels.

Neil Anderson, Edinburgh

Growing potential

George Rennie (Letters, 4 December) says doctors can detect, just three weeks after fertilisation, cardiac activity in an embryo. Proponents of abortion never tell us when they think life begins. If not at the moment of conception, then when? A foetus is not a potential human being but a human being with potential.

Colin McAllister, St Andrews, Fife

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