NICOLA Sturgeon claims “patient confidentiality” as the reason for a lack of transparency in dealing with an outbreak of coronavirus in February ("Sturgeon denies virus outbreak ‘cover-up’", The Herald, March 13). It's a flimsy excuse at best. But “cover up” or not, the matter raises additional questions that the First Minister must answer.

There is no doubt that the outbreak took place and that we are only now learning about it. The most serious implication of this lack of transparency is the suspicion that if the outbreak had been public knowledge there may have been pressure for an earlier lock-down which, as the BBC Disclosure programme showed, could have saved more than 2,000 Scottish lives. This is not a trivial consideration to be justified by patient confidentiality, important as that is.

Also, according to the Scottish Government the outbreak was handled using a contact tracing strategy, which Ms Sturgeon claims was successful. Why then was contact tracing abandoned? Surely if it had proven successful it should have been continued as the epidemic became more serious? Now we learn that contact tracing is to be reintroduced when, ironically, it is probably too late to avoid the worst effects on human life. The outbreak centred around a hotel and conference centre. If it had been made public, would people have changed their travel and accommodation plans in the city, and would this have led to fewer infections? Why did the First Minister allow concerts and even international rugby matches to go ahead in Edinburgh when she knew the virus was already active in the city? Did the Scottish Government tell the Cobra and Sage meetings about this event, and if so, why not the Scottish public?

Whether her actions amount to a “cover-up” only Ms Sturgeon can say, but it certainly gives the lie to her repeated claims of openness in dealing with the pandemic. And it leaves her with many questions to answer, not to be glibly swept aside by spurious claims of confidentiality when it is, for the people of Scotland, a matter of life and death.

Alex Gallagher, Labour councillor, North Ayrshire Council, Largs.

THE BBC Scotland Disclosure programme on 11 May criticised the Scottish Government for failing to put the country into lockdown sooner, which could have saved 2,000 lives. What the programme omitted to tell us was that the Scottish Government did not have the devolved powers to act in this way. The UK Government did not transfer these powers to Scotland until March 25, two days after it had put the whole UK into lockdown.

This clearly highlights two things. First, that the BBC cannot be trusted to report on Scottish affairs fairly and reliably. Secondly, that Scotland needs to be independent. If our Scottish Government is to be able to take decisions in the best interests of the Scottish people, then it needs to have all the powers available in its own hands.

Linda McIlvenna, Lenzie.

THE divergence between England and the other three countries in the UK should be welcomed. "Stay at Home" rather than the vague "Stay Alert" message now used in England provides a testbed for the future handling of the pandemic throughout the UK, with the key indicator being the R number.

The R number is always based on historical information; the outcome of someone contracting the disease in England, that is whether they die or recover, will not be known for around 20 days. The other three nations in the UK should be seeing the results of Boris Johnson's actions in the first weeks of June.

Perhaps now is the time for the Scottish Government, and the other two devolved nations to declare that our Stay Home message will remain in force until the results of the experiment in England are known. Whether the people of England should be happy to be the guinea-pigs in this experiment is something that Mr Johnson will no doubt be able to explain to them in his usual concise way.

John Jamieson, Ayr.

GERARD McCulloch (Letters, May 13) provides a number of facts, but makes no proposal as to how we should proceed with regard to our fight against Covid-19.

One fact that Mr McCulloch did not list was that we are all going to die. Admittedly I live my life in the hope that I might not die, but I do realise that my last mention in The Herald will be in the Family Notices rather than on the Letters Pages.

My fear is that the policy is being driven by an attempt to avoid death, despite the fact that death is an inevitable conclusion for all of us. Should we all stay at home then we will indeed defeat Covid-19, but we will also die when we run out of food. We have to act with care and reduce physical contact with others, but we need to act proportionately. The regulations actually give us a defence if we leave the place where we are living in so far as we have a reasonable excuse to do so. Getting on with making the most of our lives is one reason for leaving our homes.

Sandy Gemmill, Edinburgh EH3.

WHAT a nation we live in.

Politicians applauding themselves for the work they are doing in dealing with the Covid -9 outbreak.Even having the temerity to call it a success when we are nearing a figure of 60,000 associated deaths. Leaving care homes with the responsibility of meeting the costs of unexpected and exceptional PPE requirements while providing countless billions to business to keep it afloat.

Now we know who they consider most important and it isn't the lives of the weak and powerless residents in care homes.

I have no connection with the Care Home system. I have no relatives or friends in care homes. I have no axe to grind.

I am simply ashamed.

Campbell Thomson, Carluke.

THE callous bean-counting bores regard a few thousand more dead – someone's parent, someone's child – as less important than the health of the sacred economy.

We will only know it is safe – truly safe – to go back to our normal daily lives when MPs feel it safe for a full seating in Parliament and company bosses no longer work only "remotely". Until then, we are but just another array of test subjects.

Mark Boyle, Johnstone.

IN seeking maximisation of the benefits with minimisation of the terrible damage of lockdowns, we must always be alert to the most important experiences gained. Thus, it seems the fit and youthful are, unlike older people and those with prior ill-health, relatively resistant to Covid-19 and don't pass on the infection.

More flexible lockdown conditions could have been easily formulated, to important personal and economic advantage.

Likewise, since the much less-damaging arrangements in Sweden evidently prove no less safe than ours, why not adopt them now?

Recent changes in lockdown criteria in different parts of the the UK look to be founded more on politics than on convincing medical risks.

We could all benefit from more realistic appraisals of the lessons learnt from the pandemic thus far.

There is still time to seek more flexibility of lockdown criteria based less on politics and more on clear epidemiological reality. It's still up to our politicians and their advisors to accept that and react accordingly, gaining benefits for all.

(Dr) Charles Wardrop, Perth.

IT appears that most countries in Europe seem to be able to communicate differing levels and rates of response in different parts of the country, some down to municipality level. Is the UK population uniquely dense in being unable to understand they need to listen to what the government in each of the four countries is telling them is appropriate for their situation, or is the media simply using the opportunity to showcase people with a particular axe to grind?

Cameron Crawford, Rothesay.

IAIN Macwhirter ("Border war has been headed off, but the tensions remain", The Herald, April 13) could easily have expanded his article on the Scotland/England border. Many beauty spots in England: Cornwall, Cumbria, Somerset and more also do not want visitors until the virus can be contained.

French towns and villages don’t want Parisians to visit their districts . The EU now has cross-border checks again. Many countries have instituted internal restrictions. Individual states in the US have their own quarantine laws on cross-border movement.

If the virus rages for years, there will be a lot more agitation to close/restrict border movement. But at least we can visit France without quarantine on either side. Lots of Tories have villas in France, maybe?

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

WHEN I read the headline of Brian Beacom's latest column ("I'm sorry but Margoyles was right to wish Johnson dead", The Herald, May 13), I naively thought it was deliberately provocative, perhaps even sarcastic, to catch the reader's eye. Of course, I was wrong to think so.

In sum, Mr Beacom asks "isn't her comment perfectly understandable?" After all, he argues, the Tories have been battling the civil service and fudged their response to Covid-19, whilst Government advisers have flouted their own lockdown advice.

I am certainly not a supporter of Boris Johnson, his Conservative Party or his Brexit project. Indeed, I cannot say that I am satisfied with his handling of this pandemic. However, needless to say, I do not wish him dead.

In recent years, many of us have lamented the state of our public discourse and have appealed to one another to be kinder. I would suggest that a good place to start would be to refrain from wishing death on our leaders – whether that is Mr Johnson, Sir Keir Starmer, Nicola Sturgeon or whoever the Liberal Democrat is at the moment – and stop defending those who do.

I'm sorry, but Ms Margoyles was wrong to wish Mr Johnson dead, which is probably why she withdrew her ill-judged remarks, and Mr Beacom was wrong to not only excuse them but to try to justify them, in a national newspaper no less.

Andrew McGowan, Paisley.

I REALLY don't care how big Wetherspoons' boss Tim Martin's fuel bill gets but I have to marvel at the carbon footprint his pub in Coatbridge is leaving, as his internal lighting system appears to have been full on, night and day, since the pub was forced to close seven weeks ago.

There is, however, something fitting about the arch-Brexiter's premises having all the lights on but nobody home.

Steve Brennan, Coatbridge.

Read more: Letters: We must face up to the heavy price society is going to have to pay