YOU have reported that the First Minister is considering changing the law to force people to stay at home in anticipation of another wave of the virus ("Scots face breaking the law if they fail to stay at home", The Herald, December 23). This would be a grave mistake: the law is not just words on sheets of paper that can make a government feel better about itself; it is a serious matter.

Humza Yousaf, in defending Nicola Sturgeon’s breach of the law mandating indoor mask-wearing, said that he suspected that “most of us” had broken the coronavirus regulations this year (Mr Yousaf can speak for himself). But if, indeed, this is the case, then these regulations should not have been written into law – especially without even a vote in parliament under the Government’s emergency powers. M. Sturgeon’s Government has made its authoritarian bed and now it must lie in it: the law is the law and I expect a penalty notice of £60 to be posted through her door by the police.

If the Government wants to avoid such ineffective measures and such a humiliating outcome again, I suggest that it advises the public to stay at home instead of mandating it.

John Boyd, Perth.

* IT would appear that Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government now feel that they can never bring in stricter pandemic rules without the threat of making them punishable by law.

Perhaps now is a good time to remind our leaders that countries which do not trust their citizens to follow rules, and use the law to frighten them into submission, are usually referred to as police states.

Scotland can not quite be described under that heading – yet. But slowly and surely we are in danger of getting there.

Dave Henderson, Glasgow G12.


AS the tsunami of the new Covid variant threatens to swamp the NHS in all four corners of the UK, we have to ask ourselves why there is no one hospital in every region dedicated solely to the care of Covid patients in the way that the old fever hospitals operated.

Of course, there was a big fanfare about the opening of the Nightingale and Louisa Jordan units when there was so much publicity about the likelihood of there being a flood of virus patients in the event of a second wave of the pandemic. Fortunately little use, if any, had to be made of those units specifically equipped to deal with such an outcome. Now there is a real threat of the NHS being overwhelmed as a result of the accelerated spread of the new variant.

However, if there is insufficient personnel to staff them without leaving all other hospitals short, what real value is there in those units except as empty showcases to prove intent without the backup to allow them to operate effectively?

Isolation of Covid patients in Covid-only facilities is what is needed instead of hospitals having to house Covid patients as well as all patients with other health conditions, which allows the spread of the virus within hospitals to the detriment of those whose immune system is low owing to age or other conditions along with the stress the pandemic places on overstretched NHS employees.

We have not experienced this type of outbreak within most people's living memory and our politicians appear to be all at sea over how to handle this matter in a way to limit contagion.

When we come through this crisis, the findings of any inquiry into how the situation was handled will pinpoint the blind spots and incompetencies of those whom we have trusted to help keep us safe.

Denis Bruce, Bishopbriggs.


I FREQUENTLY read quotes and letters in The Herald and elsewhere comparing the rate of coronavirus infection in Scotland with the UK, usually to make a political point. Sometimes figures are given, sometimes not. When they are, they can be presented in different ways. This must be quite confusing for readers.

The Herald publishes the confirmed cases for Scotland and the UK in its Daily Update. Without coming down on one side or the other, can I suggest two fairly simple ways of comparing them for yourself?

Firstly, for confirmed cases, simply divide the UK figure by 12 to compare it with Scotland’s (since Scotland’s population is approximately one-twelfth of the UK’s).

Secondly, rates are sometimes quoted as "weekly cases per 100,000 of the population". To calculate this for Scotland, divide the confirmed cases by eight and you’ll be pretty close (that’s multiplying by seven to get the weekly cases then dividing by 55 to get the population rate, since Scotland’s population is about 55 times 100,000). For the UK, dividing the confirmed cases by 100 will be about right. This assumes that the number of confirmed cases on that particular day is typical of the whole week.

So next time you wonder about the figures being bandied about, look up The Herald, work them out for yourself and see whether or not the claims are justified.

Colin Pennycook, Glasgow G41.


TO quote Ruth Marr (Letters, December 22), "we've heard it all before and nobody will buy it for Christmas, let alone for life". I wish to echo her sentiments; however, certainly not in relation to Gordon Brown, but in respect of her beloved SNP. Later in her letter, Ms Marr expounds "a confident Scotland which increasingly sees its future as a modern European nation, not tied to a diminished UK".

Where does she get her rose-coloured spectacles from?

After more than 13 years of SNP Government with incompetence on every level – health, education, police, business purchases, ferry design and building, bridge design, and the latest, drug abuse deaths – we need a change. And I am quite sure that I speak for the silent majority of Scots, who do love their country but will make sure it remains part of the potentially growing UK and no longer part of the European Community, which has little to look forward to now that we have left – stagnation, bankruptcy and collapse.

Boyd Houston, Dollar.


IN the debate on Scottish independence we should take a look at the independent country next door, the Republic of Ireland. Last week it was announced that Ireland is second only to Norway and joint second with Switzerland, on a United Nations annual ranking of 189 countries measured according to average longevity, education and income. Ireland was ahead of Germany (6), Sweden (7), Australia (8), and the UK (13).

Ireland's UN Human Development score has increased 23.5 per cent since the recordings began in 1990. The Irish economy has almost doubled since 1990, but the biggest Human Development driver was progress in education.

Average life expectancy at birth was 74.8 in Ireland in 1990 and has now risen to 82.3.

This is the progress independence has brought to Scotland's next-door neighbour over the last 30 years.

Tom Johnston,Cumbernauld.


DURING Margaret Thatcher’s regime the oft-spouted response to any mention of Scottish emancipation was “the Scottish people receive a greater, per capita, spend than the people south of the Border.” When asked "how much, per capita, do the people of Scotland contribute to the Exchequer?”, the response was: “Those figures are not available.” Not to worry, though, the Tories had a catchphrase to parrot.

The truth, of course, is summed up by these two sentences from the Business for Scotland web page, “Where does Scotland’s wealth go?”. It says: “Put simply, when the UK runs a surplus Scotland contributes more to the surplus, and when the UK runs a deficit Scotland has to pay more of the debt back than it is responsible for. It’s a "lose/lose" situation for Scottish taxpayers and especially for those in need of support from the state.”

Unionist politicians know the truth of this. Without the river of revenue from Scotland, the Westminster Exchequer would, and will, be in far greater, and more serious, fiscal difficulty. They know this but they daren’t say it.

And so, we have yet another Westminster party leader telling us things like “and just as in 1997, we will make devolution a reality under the next Labour government”, in his efforts to keep the river flowing, particularly because the cost of Covid will take many years to reconcile.

My only question is: how many more layers of bovine excrement do these unionists think they can spread before Jock Tamson and his bairns tell them “enough”, because they can’t take the smell, any longer, and “independence” is their preferred perfume?

Ned Larkin, Inverness.


SHOULD the Labour Party not just admit it has nothing to say on Scotland? It only wants Scots as lobby fodder, not as any kind of equal partners in a Union, where “sovereignty” does not extend to Scots. As for pushing Mr Brown forward, he fooled us once in 2014 (does Sir Keir Starmer not know?), with his dangling carrots of home rule and federalism: he won’t fool us again.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.