WHAT a complete shambles my health board is making of the flu vaccine programme. Trying to get through to the telephone number provided is totally impossible. I have tried more than 40 times in the last two days and continually get the engaged tone. My finger is numb from pressing "1" to continue. Of course, the office is only open between 10am and 4 pm so there's no urgency there then.

Given an appointment by letter which I can't make I simply wanted to change my slot or day but that has proved impossible. My wife has a separate time and day which I could make. What sense does that make?

In the past we have made appointments at our GPs surgery and gone together.

The management of this important programme has been taken out of the hands of the GP practices and it is impossible to communicate with new providers. Who made this decision? Who is monitoring its implementation? Who is going to put their hand up and admit it is a shambles?

Meanwhile I will miss my appointment, the slot will go vacant and I have no means of rearranging my inoculation. As an over 75 I really don't want to get the flu when Covid is about.

Dave Biggart, Kilmacolm.

AND so to a near-deserted St Andrews Castle, suitably masked, to be refused access even to its sizeable shop because we hadn’t booked a tour online first. Eh? Step forward the sales prevention officer, working hard no doubt with the best intent to guidelines set by Historic Scotland or perhaps Hysterical Scotland, a de facto branch of the Scottish public sector Not so smart successful Scotland.

John Dunlop, Ayr.


CHARLES Dickens, in the preface to his novel Little Dorrit, offered an apology for his creation of "The Circumlocution Office" but said circumstances had prompted him to create it to explain the effects on people of the years they could spend trying to obtain justice with little hope of seeing a return for their efforts.

It was while reading Tom Gordon's reports ("Fear of whitewash as Salmond inquiry is stalled by 'obstruction'", The Herald, September 30 and "Salmond inquiry turns to courts for evidence blocked by ministers", The Herald, October 1) that I thought again of Dickens Circumlocution Office, "the most important department of government," he wrote, "which went on mechanically every day keeping things in the state of being lost; it had its finger in "the largest public pie and the smallest public tart". It kept that "wonderful, all-sufficient wheel of statesmanship – How NOT to do it – in motion".

Reading Mr Gordon's reports of officials trying "to block witnesses; murky goings-on; botched probes and broken promises" but the SNP Government saying that it was co-operating fully and rejecting any suggestion of obstruction, recalled Dickens's portrayal of how government departments, between themselves, can obfuscate, procrastinate and obstruct, making things more complicated than they really are; or just lose things as necessary.

But, of course, that Circumlocution Office was invented by Dickens to portray aspects of government in his own time; and this is now. Things are different now, are they not?

Thelma Edwards, Kelso.


MARK Smith's column ("Sturgeon does it so why can’t Johnson say: I don’t know", The Herald, October 1) reminded me of my early years in business and my attendances at training courses when often the topic was of how to answer questions when I did not know the answer. It was emphasised that saying "I don't know" with an immediate follow-up of "but I will find out and get back to you" and making sure that I did was often used to my own and my employers' advantage throughout later years. As my experience and knowledge grew I became the go-to person to help other colleagues. Even so I still had to look to others to provide needed answers to pass on.

I agree with Mr Smith totally and get annoyed in the same way about politicians and their evasiveness. Perhaps attendance at applied psychology courses would help them and us and get them some earned respect, like that applied to Nicola Sturgeon.

Ian Gray, Croftamie.


ON walking across the Forth Road Bridge mid-morning yesterday I observed more than 20 buses travelling in both directions.

I counted five passengers in total in all of these services.

In the present pandemic we are encouraged to work form home and not to travel on public transport if possible.

Clearly many passengers are heeding this advice.

It seems very wasteful to run these near-empty coaches every five minutes or so, not to mention unnecessarily harmful to the environment.

It is further noted some of the bus services are duplicated by a near-parallel railway service, similarly lightly loaded at present.

In the current circumstances could the frequency not be reduced?

Who is paying for these under-used facilities?

Could it be the taxpayer via an additional subsidy to the transport companies?

Can I suggest more prudence without significantly compromising these life-line public transport services.

Robin M Brown, Helensburgh.