Readers' Letters: Sturgeon protests too much over Covid aid

On Tuesday the First Minister outlined her new “restrictions” for socialising before and after Christmas in a Parliamentary chamber where most of the attendees would do us all a favour by working from home as advised!

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon updates the Scottish Parliament on her new Covid guidance (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon updates the Scottish Parliament on her new Covid guidance (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

However, she gives the game away by making the three household mixing “advice”, not law, as it was earlier in the pandemic. We now have the ridiculous scenario where she is asking for a maximum of three households to meet on days before and after 25 December, but a bigger gathering on Christmas Day is fine. She clearly realises that the public would dissent from such a law but she doth protest too much that when coming to these decisions and making requests for financial assistance from the UK government, she is not being political.

The fact of the matter is she is doing her best again to “front run” the UK government. Almost daily she notes how Scotland is the most vaccinated part of the UK, which most certainly would not have been the case had the UK government followed the advice of the SNP MP Dr Philippa Whitford, who was adamant in July 2020 that the UK should follow and work with the European Medicines Agency for vaccination procurement. Sturgeon has again, in a single moment, thrown the hospitality industry under her “political” bus, as she has done generally with business in Scotland. At some point the economic vandalism and damage she causes on a regular basis will dawn on the majority.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh

A query

Despite what the First Minister claimed, would this £100 million from “our own resources” to help the hospitality industry in Scotland happen to be derived, by a convoluted process, from the entire UK tax base or the creditworthiness/borrowing power of the UK on international markets somewhere along the line? Just checking.

David Bone, Girvan, South Ayrshire

Lessening blow

In reply to Malcom Parkin’s letter: the history of the common cold provides a sobering lesson, as virologist Dr Chris Smith remarked on Radio Scotland on Tuesday morning.

The common cold, when it first appeared in 1889, with five yearly recurrences, was one of the most deadly pandemics in recorded history. The common cold then became, after some years, a relatively tame, if very infectious, inconvenience.

Let us hope that Covid can be tamed much more quickly with appropriate vaccines and sensible precautions. It is doubtful that when the common cold first appeared the populace went about without fear and did not require the local equivalent of lockdowns. Fever hospitals were first introduced at the end of the 19th century in the UK, and not without cause.

I doubt that confirmation bias as mentioned by Otto Inglis (Letters, 14 December) can be applied to the Omicron infection. Confirmation bias requires only applying data which is selected to support a particular belief. The point about Omicron is that there is not enough data to apply. The omicron variant has only been known for three weeks and then from a slow start. Few, if any, vulnerable persons will yet have been exposed. You might personally be swayed by initial reports from South Africa as against those from Denmark, but health authorities need real world data. Obtaining this will take time.

We do need to develop strategies which minimise economic pain while drastically reducing infection transmission. These are not just needed now but will be needed when the next pandemic happens. For now, though, we need to be careful, as whichever reports you select this omicron variant is killing people.

Ken Carew, Dumfries

Party poppers

Seeing Scotland’s First Minister pressing the button to blow up Longannet, I thought, why don’t the SNP change their party name to the SDP – Scottish Demolition Party? They’ll be busy over the next 15 years blowing up the Ineos Grangemouth refinery, Huntertson B nuclear power station. Torness, Mossmorran etc, cheered on by the zealots in the Green Party. They’re quite happy to virtue signal to some of the many, many naive Scottish electorate while effectively offshoring our carbon footprint to Norway, Qatar and Russia.All this happening as the Chinese Communist Party builds 43 new coal fired power stations and quietly laughs up its sleeve!

John Smith, Falkirk

Alarm call

Thanks for your report of 13 December raising awareness of the new laws in Scotland demanding all homes have interlinked smoke and fire alarms installed by February 2022. I still meet people who are unaware of this, as it has been badly thought through and poorly communicated. I have had the work carried out at a cost of £288, of which £48 is VAT. I think it is outrageous to be charged VAT on something that is mandatory.

Several weeks ago I wrote to Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP about the unfairness of this, and he in turn contacted the Cabinet Minister Shona Robison. I have heard nothing since, but I would still like to hear from Ms Robison as to how I may claim back the VAT.

Joan Grant, Edinburgh

Revenue gap

It is currently in the gift of HM Treasury and the Chancellor whether or not furlough is reintroduced to help halt the spread of Omicron and prevent the NHS in Scotland from being overwhelmed. In an independent Scotland that would, of course, be in the gift of a Scottish Treasury answerable to an elected Scottish Government.

But as things stand, though we pay our taxes and raise revenue in Scotland, only a portion of that revenue is ever returned to the Scottish Government through the block grant. This is not, of course, Westminster’s money, but a portion of our own money being returned to us. Without the sovereign powers to control revenue and taxation, furlough cannot be extended by the Scottish Government on the reduced amount it receives back in the block grant as it is a devolved administration with limited revenue, fiscal and borrowing powers. It lacks the economic levers available to a sovereign state.

That being said, it never ceases to amaze me how many letter writers to the pages of The Scotsman, such as Gerald Edwards (14 December) continue to blame the Scottish Government for the policy failings of the UK Government and Treasury who control the purse strings.

Is this mischief-making, ignorance, or deliberate obfuscation?

Mairianna Clyde, Edinburgh

Small mercies

I watched a Scottish news programme about how hospitals are reaching breaking point again. It showed a lady who had come to Accident and Emergency with a finger “that had become infected”. When she was told the wait was several hours, she went home and returned the next day, prepared to wait however long it took.

Why had she not contacted her general practitioner, or her pharmacist, or gone to a Minor Injuries Clinic that some hospitals run, or even rung 111 for advice? All these places are professionally prepared to deal with an infected finger. That she did not consider them must mean that the NHS has not advertised its services widely enough to allow correct usage. Clogging up emergency care seriously slows vital services.

I received a very useful letter, “Accessing the right care from the right place”, detailing NHS services, but perhaps it did not reach enough people and it might make a difference if the NHS went on primetime television/Facebook/Twitter to explain how best to use their services.

It might make sense also for general practices to run their own walk-in and wait minor injuries clinic throughout the day. Smaller practices could get together so that doctors or nurses were available. Patients in rural areas seem well able to cope. It appears that the problems lie in urban surroundings.

NHS Scotland is a star performer and the more we know about how to use it, the better it will work for us.

Elizabeth Scott, Edinburgh

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Deep trouble

Now that COP 26 has been and gone, big business, can get on, as usual, with their destruction of the planet.The Guardian reported recently on a quiet deal between the little-known island republic of Naura, in the South Pacific, and a Canadian mining company called TMC, to begin, in two years’ time, mining the Naura seabed for valuable minerals, allegedly essential for “a just transition”.Having ruined much of the earth, and most of its waters, big business is now intent on exploiting the huge, relatively untouched, seabed, of which, it is said, we know less than we do about outer space. And poor, powerless Naura, the smallest – and possibly most remote – republic in the world, would seem to them like a good place to start.If the Naura deal is approved, then the undersea world will be open for business, and, if, as we have seen all over the world, the greed and duplicity of big business is difficult to control on land, it will run amok in the hidden depths of the ocean, where there are, as yet, no restrictions, no protocols.The people of Naura already know about exploitation, having had the surface of their island reduced to a barren moonscape by previous mining activity. But what can they do? They have been promised lots of money, and they have nothing else. As the former Naura finance minister says, “Naura was once a tropical paradise, (now it is) mostly a wasteland”.

And, if this development is allowed to go ahead, its surrounding seabed too will become a wasteland. And so will the rest of the world, both above and below the sea, if we don’t all take responsibility, and, somehow, make the people in charge change the game.

Les Mackay, Dundee

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