HAVING recently been provided an insight into working life and workplace culture at the very heart and top of government through documentary evidence provided under oath to the ongoing UK Covid inquiry, it comes as no surprise to me that there was widespread, inherent incompetence and serious misconduct.

The standards of leadership, competency and conduct of the Government ministers in the three key offices of state, No 10, the Treasury and the Department of Health and Social Care, fell catastrophically below even the most basic level, a minimum standard required and not unreasonably expected by the British people.

Personally, I would not trust Boris Johnson with running the junior tuck shop at Eton, let alone the country, or Matt Hancock in shaking a health charity collecting can on his local high street, while former Chancellor of the Exchequer and now Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s dumb, deadly contrivance of Eat Out to Help Out clearly caused accelerated rates of transmission, untold illness and additional unnecessary fatalities; serious and sustained mismanagement and endemic misconduct for which all three - and others - will require to answer for before long.

What has seeped out through the sewers of Downing Street's septic tank reveals a governmental response to the most serious, complex threat to the UK in living memory that has seen a contemptuous, desultory, dysfunctional and disgraceful scattergun approach taken mostly by men of a certain age, who all volunteered for their role with a presumption of competency and suitability, many seemingly intoxicated by their own sense of self-importance and self-regard at a time when humility, calm and a steely steadfast strategy were essential.

Meanwhile, as the huckster Hancock and the PM’s not-so-special adviser Dominic Cummings appear to have escaped scot-free, Johnson and Sunak, both millionaires many times over have been "punished" with a £50 civil penalty while hundreds, possibly even thousands, of their fellow miscreants operating in the real world have been hit with swingeing five-figure fines and a criminal record, while multiple offender and serial liar Johnson has even been supported through publicly-funded legal fees currently standing at £265,522 and counting, all while "Ordinary Joe" outwith the comfort zone of the Westminster bubble has paid a heavy price for breaching Johnson’s laws.

Given the inherent incompetence and deceit, a clear and obvious absence of sound judgment and credible leadership by those serving at the Court of King Boris, criminal sanction should - but won’t - be considered; misconduct in public office, health and safety at work and even corporate manslaughter would all sound appropriate to me, but, of course, those in and around the heart of government are immune.

Mike Wilson, Longniddry.

Regan move does not mean crisis

I WAS surprised to see the front page of last week's Herald on Sunday headlined "New crisis for SNP" (October 29); no crisis, Ash Regan joining the Alba Party was coming as sure as Christmas, the only surprise is that it took her so long to officially jump ship. Her repeated denials that she was going to join Alba always reminded me of the old guy in the Vicar of Dibley: "No, no, no, no... yes".

Surely more deserving of the front page would have been the real, horrendous crisis in the Middle East, and the responses from Sir Keir Starmer which have seen growing tensions and a rash of resignations from the Labour Party, with several high-profile members diverging from the official party line due to Sir Keir's position.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

Read more: Just what does Ash Regan stand for?

Yousaf is no racist

ACCORDING To Elon Musk First Minster Humza Yousaf is a racist for complaining in a 2020 speech about the number of senior posts in Scotland that were held by white people.

Mr Yousaf may well be incompetent but racist he is not; he has experienced racism in Scotland himself.

At the last count 96% of the population in Scotland was white so it is not beyond comprehension to understand why most senior positions in Scotland are held by white people.

Holywood however defies the statistics in having both Labour and SNP leaders coming from Pakistani backgrounds.

Dennis Forbes Grattan, Aberdeen.

Fergus Ewing is a Highland hero

THERE is currently a Facebook page, numbering 62,000 subscribers, devoted to highlighting the dangers and tragedies of the A9 north of Perth. There is palpable anger directed at the abandonment of the promise made by the SNP quotient of the Scottish Government, once committed to the dualling of the main artery servicing the communities of Highland Scotland and beyond by 2024.

There is one man who, steadfastly to the point of alienating his political colleagues rather than opponents, has striven to secure safety for his constituents and all those who travel this notorious road. Effectively, Fergus Ewing ("The people of Scotland want tarmac, not talk’", October 29) has the support of quarter of the entire population of Highland Scotland and this comprises only those who take the time and have the possibility to subscribe to this valuable example of social media. A man of his word and a man of honour, Fergus Ewing's is an example all politicians should seek to emulate.

Christine Martin, Inverness.

Go for the Swedish option

IT is very interesting that Fergus Ewing's opinion piece does not mention the far cheaper Swedish 2+1 with wire rope median system when referring to the need to avoid head-on collisions. This design has one continuous lane in each direction, and a middle lane changing direction every few kilometres, with a median barrier separating the two traffic directions. Head-on crashes are eliminated. It will mostly fit into the present single-carriageway roadspace. This, combined with grade-separated junctions, would avoid very many accidents.

Our transport budget is limited, and much of it will be required to achieve the modal shift from road to rail which is Scottish Government policy. It's hard to understand why this solution is not already being seriously considered. Let's hope this changes soon.

Ian Budd, Bishopbriggs.

Read more: Fergus Ewing calls on Scottish Government to deliver on A9

We must fund Scottish Water

YOUR report on the discharge of sewage into the environment ("How illegal sewage spills pollute the country’s beauty spots", October 29) and the many previous similar reports shows the extent of the challenge Scottish Water faces bringing its drainage networks up to modern standards. But when we criticise Scottish Water we are criticising ourselves as we own Scottish Water and we all contribute to the inflow of sewage into its, or rather “our”, drainage networks.

The problem of underinvestment in our water and drainage networks goes back years. We have been living off the legacy of our Victorian ancestors who invested heavily in bringing clean water to our towns and cities and in providing sewers to carry away our waste. Their treatment of the waste may have been, in many cases, non-existent, but they provided a core network of drains which we still rely on.

However, for far too long investment has lagged behind what was needed as our population grew and the environmental standards applied to the water industry rightly tightened. Margaret Thatcher may have admired Victorian values but she did not match their far-sighted investment in public infrastructure. The rot she started, or at least accelerated, remains to this day. Scottish Water is investing in capital works to address the challenge but not to the extent that is needed to bring our water and drainage infrastructure up to the standards we all need.

This should not be a party political issue, politicians and voters of all parties contribute to the sewage flow. They all have an equal responsibility to face up to the need to fund Scottish Water properly so that it can boost its capital spending. It won’t be easy, “a penny - or whatever - on income tax to fund sewage works” is not an easy election promise to sell, but doing nothing should not be an option.

Alistair Easton, Edinburgh.

Paganism is empowering

I REALLY enjoyed Vicky Allan's article on the rise of Paganism in Scotland ("Scots embrace ancient religion searching for spirituality in nature", October 29). It was a positive and warm depiction of the true beliefs of those of us who love the Earth on a spiritual level and engage in rituals to observe the seasons. Paganism has long suffered from disinformation, fearmongering, and false links to Satanism. Satan, being a Christian deity, is not recognised by Pagans.

Ms Allan points out that many of us practise pagan rituals, whether we even know it or not. This can include decorating an evergreen tree, blowing out candles on a cake, or eating chocolate eggs in spring. The pagan Samhain festival has endured as "Halloween", but many are now reclaiming this ancient festival as a time to honour and remember the dead and the transition into the dark half of the year.

The 1990s saw a ridiculous moral panic that the Harry Potter books would indoctrinate young people into witchcraft, leading to demonic possession. There are reasons why more people, especially young women, are finding fulfilment in Pagan practices and witchcraft. Mainstream religion can be fulfilling and valuable for many people, but for a lot of us, it feels patriarchal, oppressive, and anti-feminist. Witchcraft, on the other hand, is empowering, peaceful, and feminist. One thing Pagan communities have never done is try to inhibit or infringe upon the freedom of other people. Pagans have never opposed abortion rights or attempted to obstruct LGBT equality. And yet, according to a recent Scottish Pagan Federation survey, more than 40% of the community have experienced direct discrimination.

Paganism is a massive umbrella term that encompasses Druids, witches, Wiccans and a host of other spiritual paths, but there is an understanding among the vast majority to live by the Wiccan rede: "An' ye harm none, do what ye will." If only the religious right, so obsessed with the bodily autonomy and free will of others, could live by a similar ethos and respect the natural world, we would all be much happier.

Gemma Clark, Paisley.