WE hear so often about “returning to normal”, but what does that mean?

“Normal” is most certainly not a state to which so many in our society and globally, for instance the children in pre-pandemic poverty and their families, would wish to return.

What the “new normal” will be for them depends on us, the privileged ones. If what we mean by a “return to normal” is no more than a return to business as usual, with all its bread and circuses, then all the fear, suffering and death will have been for absolutely nothing. An enlightened society would emerge from this pandemic determined that the future for the poor, the hungry and the oppressed will be better.

We moved heaven and earth, with every justification, to protect ourselves from the worst consequences of the coronavirus. Are we prepared to take action on a similar scale in order, for instance, to reduce the inequalities which are at the root of so many of our problems? Such action on top of the long-term and ongoing consequences of coronavirus and of a disastrous Brexit would mean a radical alteration to our lifestyles. Are we prepared to take that step?

As reported in Neil Mackay’s article ("Scotland can lead the world in changing economy… here’s how", The Herald, June 23), Professor Ronald MacDonald of Glasgow University “wants to completely reimagine capitalism – to recalibrate how we live so the world becomes a fairer, safer, saner place”.

It is possible that humanity is likely to face, in the coming decades, crisis upon crisis originating in the related issues of climate change, zoonotic pandemics and inequality. We must prepare for what lies ahead by creating societies which are founded on, as Neil Mackay himself suggests, “ideas that champion decency and fairness”.

I note with interest that he further suggests that we have, in Nicola Sturgeon, a leader “who has the intelligence to see that change is needed”.

John Milne, Uddingston.

“SCOTLAND can lead the world”, writes Neil Mackay, as he cites Ronald McDonald's alternative economic future. Bit of a contradiction, though. Scotland can only realise Prof McDonald's vision by being independent, which he has previously opposed. Labour and Conservative governments at Westminster have sold off the very utilities which could have given a leg-up to “greening” our economies in the way proposed, and it isn’t likely they would change their spots. It is inconceivable that Scotland would have the economic leg-room to realise this plan as a “devolved” nation under the auspices of a rapaciously centralising Westminster.

I do think Prof McDonald's view of the future is a good one, and I hope Scotland can attain it. Incidentally, we have been told for decades that we are “stakeholders” in the economy through our pension funds, but these funds are invested to fulfil a fiduciary duty, not with “public good” in mind.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

Your front-page report on Monday ("One in three working-age Scots furloughed or jobless", The Herald, June 22) was not only alarming, but harrowing, because for so many a new, scary chapter lies ahead, a chapter not previously experienced. This involves welfare, becoming a statistic for the first time, trusting and hoping the place of last resort, that of social security, will be there in the hour of need.

Applying for welfare is a very daunting experience and for many it is alien, because for most who join the workforce, there is no need to familiarise oneself with the ins and outs of the welfare system, that is for others. So this will be a whole new chapter and one that will be daunting.

The current system of welfare involves applying for Universal Credit and your article highlighting the research by Bath and Oxford Universities ("Universal Credit slated for unfair way it hits couples and families", The Herald, June 22) certainly exposed the downfalls of this system. It pointed to an unfair and thoughtless system of payments, and – confirming what opposition MP’s have been telling the Government for years – the view that Universal Credit should be reviewed, even replaced, with immediate effect. Perhaps two million new applications for Universal Credit, consequences of Covid-19, will once and for all expose the shortfalls of this system to a Government at Westminster who must tackle this sector of the economy going forward.

Catriona C Clark, Falkirk.