While I agree that inequality in access to primary care services has to be addressed, there are just as important and more fundamental causes of Scotland's poor health record ("Health inequalities persist despite £2bn investment", The Herald, December 13 & Letters, December 14).

We are already too far down the league tables and have some of the worst health in Europe.

While access to health services is very important for population health, it is also true that poverty, and its consequent poor housing, poor nutrition, stress and stigma, all contribute to poor health. We are making progress on smoking and alcohol, but good food and decent housing will be in short supply. We all have to recognise that health in Scotland is not going to be improved by the dismantling of the welfare safety net.

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There are some things that could be done quickly. A free hot and nutritious school meal for every child would do much to mitigate the poverty of both the working and the non-working families who will be affected by benefit reductions or withdrawals. Allotments for all, to increase the supply of cheap food. But much more than this is needed and could be done.

We do not need to wait for independence to take action to make Scotland a fairer and healthier country. We can begin now. Instead of waiting until 2014 and beyond, what is wrong with Parliament starting now?

As for funding it? The Parliament could start using its extra tax-raising powers now to raise the extra revenue needed. Do we really think tax rises for those on higher incomes would be any harder to sell politically than no smoking and less alcohol? I don't.

Maggie Mellon,

3a Fettes Row, Edinburgh.