Readers' Letters: ‘Take back control’ doesn’t extend to Scotland

Brian Wilson misunderstands the need for a National Care Service (Scotsman, 7 January), as the current system, is dominated by remote corporations milking profits while ignoring standards required by the local councils and health boards with fatal consequences during the pandemic. The Covid-19 review into care home quality published on 13 September 2022 highlighted the patchwork of local frameworks for assurance and support was such that many, especially private, care homes did not do enough to protect their residents.

Labour’s “taking back control” agenda doesn’t extend to Scotland as Sir Keir Starmer didn’t mention how he would negotiate with the Scottish Government over its democratic majority for full autonomy and for control of policies such as immigration, foreign policy, energy regulation, employment law and borrowing powers.

Keir Starmer says Labour will not open the “big government cheque book” which suggests a worrying acceptance that deep spending reductions are to come. The cost-of-living crisis requires more central government interventions and spending to deal with the pressures in the NHS and the dire economic consequences of Brexit – not less – and it seems Starmer is going to replicate the Brown/Blair regulatory light touch that encouraged the banking crisis in 2008.

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“Taking back control” is just a meaningless gimmicky sound bite when Labour won’t introduce proportional representation at Westminster, and for councils in England and Wales, to give more expression to local minority views.

Keir Starmer delivers the speech in which he spoke about 'taking back control'Keir Starmer delivers the speech in which he spoke about 'taking back control'
Keir Starmer delivers the speech in which he spoke about 'taking back control'

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh

Wrong priorities

As the Scottish MSPs return to Holyrood after their Christmas break (this having commenced on Christmas Eve), one might have thought that the SNP government’s ambitions and priorities would dictate that the Scottish Parliament might want to debate the huge problems facing Scotland around the NHS and waiting times, the failure in social care and strikes across the core public sector services in health, transport and education, to list just some of the huge issues facing the people.

How naive I must be to expect this. Instead, in the week they return to the parliament, the first debate will be on a motion tabled by the SNP government, titled “People’s Right to Choose—Respecting Scotland’s Democratic Mandate”. Further confirmation, if any was needed, that the hostility, division and policy catastrophes will regretfully continue for the people of Scotland.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh

Saturday GPs

I was delighted to see that Scottish GPs are considering holding Saturday morning clinics to ameliorate A&E queues (Scotsman, 6 January).

When I was in practice, we always had one doctor holding a “walk-in” clinic on Saturday morning for however long it took. It is, however, an ideal job for a part-timer and a nurse who make it their own.

Our Saturdays were not abused by chatty patients. They really were unwell and sometimes the surgeries went on a bit. I remember one such when one of my sons rang at about 1pm to say “Mum I’ve set your kitchen on fire”

“Ha, Ha,” I said. “I’m almost finished and I’ll be back.”

“No, I really have set it on fire.”

“Nonsense, darling. I’m coming as soon as I can.”

To do them credit, they had turned off the gas, torn the burning cooker hood off the wall, tossed it into the garden, opened doors and windows and called the fire brigade, who reassured everyone and left. Not bad for adolescent boys.

However, two days off a week to be with your family, is not too much to ask if you are working hard the rest of the week.

Elizabeth Scott, Edinburgh

NHS delays

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I am sure it may be an over-simplification but is the winter problem in the NHS, at least in the short term, not relatively easily solved?

During the Covid pandemic, we quickly set up Nightingale hospitals. These would be ideal now for patients not requiring intensive medical care.

Staffing might be put forward as an issue, except we now know from BBC Breakfast Television on Saturday that skilled practitioner nurses have already been allocated, in some trusts, to patrol the waiting ambulances giving medical support. Simply move them into the Nightingales for a win-win situation – more comfortable for patients and staff! Beds and bedding must be stockpiled somewhere and plans are already in place – so there’s no need for expensive consultative committees to draw up “plans”.

James Watson, Dunbar, East Lothian

Soviet science

Alan Hinnrichs (Letters, 7 January) makes New Labour blameworthy for current NHS travails, a bizarre conclusion because it was Tony Blair and Gordon Brown who consistently gave the NHS above average funding increases when they were in office.

Fundamentally, his argument is ideological. Capitalism is to blame. But as a medical microbiologist who met some Eastern Bloc scientists before the fall of the Berlin Wall, when they were obliged to be anti-capitalists, I long puzzled over a paradox. Why was it, in spite of generous funding, they never discovered any new antibiotics or developed any new vaccines or any new diagnostic systems like CAT scanners?

But to be fair, there were some successes. Soviet scientists developed the world’s largest H bomb.

Hugh Pennington, Edinburgh

Trump card

The 2021 attack on Congress and the “Stop the Steal” movement shows how democracy is being deliberately misrepresented for party political reasons in the US, threatening the very basis of American democracy. Ex-President Trump has even called for suspension of the Constitution.

Here in Scotland, the SNP wish to overturn the 2014 independence referendum outcome, permitted by Westminster to decide the issue once and for all. The SNP's leaders, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, both agreed to “deliver a fair test and a decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland and a result that everyone will respect”. However, they do not respect the democratic decision of the Scottish people.

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Remember: the SNP were allowed to choose a question with an inbuilt bias towards choosing independence; allowed to give 16-18-year-olds the vote and to prevent 800,000 Scots living elsewhere in the UK from voting; even to hold the referendum in the year of the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. Even so, they lost the outcome by a country mile.

Now, Stewart McDonald of the SNP claims that Scots should have “the right to revisit our constitutional future” (Scotsman, 7 January), despite the SNP White Paper repeating that their referendum was “once in a generation”.

Clearly, solemn undertakings matter not a jot to Mr McDonald, or his party. The democratic decision of the Scottish people on the specific question is to be ignored because his party lost. Just like Trump.

Andrew HN Gray, Edinburgh

Tale of two Harrys

My great-uncle, Harry Dixon, served as an infantry NCO (6th South Lancs) in the bloody Mesopotamian campaign against the Turkish Army from 1916 to 1918.

As a boy in the early 1950s, I once asked him how many Turkish soldiers he had killed. He simply said, “Soldiers don't talk about that.” I had a lot of respect for my Uncle Harry. A damn sight more than I have for his namesake.

D Mason, Penicuik, Midlothian

Going spare

In this part of Scotland (and presumably in other parts), the informal adjective “spare” (for example, “The wee bampot went spare!”) means furiously and uncontrollably angry. A nice nod to this part of the UK, Harry! We know exactly what you mean, even if we disagree with your attitude.

Steve Hayes, Leven, Fife

Strike days

I believe that most UK residents would support the right to strike after complying with legislation. This present wave of strike action highlights a major flaw in current legislation which, I feel impacts the general population unfairly – i.e. sporadic short-term strikes limit the disruption to the strikers’ take-home pay but creates havoc to the working public in terms of coping with travel and family arrangements.

The right way would be to stage an all-out strike until a compromise solution is found. This way families have the opportunity to find longer-term solution for travel and family to work around problems and the strikers can make their points. If unions and striking workers insist on sporadic, short-term strike days it becomes obvious that the focus of the strikers are on the ordinary person rather than their employer.

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Finally, can our news outlets focus on actual pay levels including pensions paid by employer rather than percentages.

Tony Lewis, Coylton, South Ayrshire

Tanker trouble

Dr Richard Dixon is keen to stop using oil because tankers occasionally run aground and there is a danger of spillage (Scotsman, 6 January).

By the same thinking we should have stopped using aeroplanes after the Tenerife disaster in 1977, and certainly after the 9/11 Twin Towers attack.

Malcolm Parkin, Kinnesswood, Perth & Kinross


Your article on lost and found in Travelodges (Scotsman, 6 January) made my day by saying someone had to drive from Shetland to Edinburgh to collect a forgotten item. Was that by aquacar?

C Lowson, Fareham, Hants

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