I READ with concern Ruth Davidson’s recent comments in favour of assisted dying ("Davidson: My mistake on assisted dying bill", The Herald, December 28).

One of the reasons is her grief at changes brought by dementia to those she loves. I have great sympathy for her situation but disagree with her conclusion.

People who are disabled or dependent are of extraordinary value and worth. Society should reaffirm this when they feel of little worth or dread dependence. When we acquiesce that some lives are not worth living, we are on a dangerous path indeed.

What happens if a person changes their mind? What does it mean in practice? In the Netherlands in 2016, a woman with dementia was sedated and then held down by her family to receive the lethal injection. She had requested euthanasia at the onset of her dementia, but later when asked if she wanted to die, said "No" three times. The action of the doctor was found to be lawful by a court in The Hague.

Ms Davidson spoke of the right to choose the timing of our death. Respect for individual autonomy is important but cannot be absolute in a community. We should respect individuals' rights to make decisions about their own affairs. But we stray into unsafe waters if individual autonomy becomes me before you. In ordinary life, we give up autonomy as we pay tax, give way while driving, look after families. This year we have had our individual autonomy significantly restricted for the sake of others. The respect for not taking life is so critical to a society that, in this situation, it is necessary to curb individual freedom. Just as it is illegal to assist any person to commit suicide.

The terrible irony of Ms Davidson's proposal is that euthanasia would reduce the autonomy of the most vulnerable. She said that the issue of "protection against coercion" has been resolved in other jurisdictions. This is not the case. A review of involuntary euthanasia in Belgium by Raphael Cohen-Almagor was published in the Journal of Medical Ethics in 2015. It found that one in 60 deaths had occurred without the patient’s explicit request. It was more common in the elderly, those in a coma and those with dementia.

Those who are frail and elderly, those with dementia – these are the very patients for who we should ensure there is no move to assisted suicide and euthanasia in the UK.

Dr Gillian Wright, Researcher, Our Duty of Care, Glasgow G1.


IT has been stomach-churning over the last few days to read the panegyrics for Prime Minister Boris Johnson from Andrew McKie ("Love him or loathe him but, Johnson has defied his critics and achieved Brexit", The Herald, December 29) and Iain Macwhirter ("We should bite the bullet and hail Boris the history maker", The Herald, December 30). Such blatant Tory propaganda is unwelcome, but expected from those like Alister Jack ("Brexit deal finally moves the UK out of the EU's orbit", The Herald, December 30), whose job it is, but surely not from those who purport to be serious journalists?

While Mr McKie and Mr Macwhirter are correct to identify Mr Johnson as an astute manipulator of the current UK political system, this surely only points to failings in that system. For such a self-promoting, amoral, serial liar to rise to a position of power is a travesty of real democracy. Unfortunately, with a handful of billionaire owners of the mass media providing free propaganda, the gerrymandered first-past-the post system gives ample scope for such bad outcomes and must be re-examined.

For those young people now robbed of the chance to experience European academia via the Erasmus scheme, the fishing communities betrayed by those very Tories for whom they voted and for Scottish livestock and potato farmers, the outlook is bleak. As a septuagenarian, the prospect of living out my last years under what has all the features of an ultra-right-wing dictatorship is awful. How can anyone find anything to celebrate in this catastrophe?

Dr RM Morris, Ellon.

* IAIN Macwhirter’s article led me to ponder, once again, the serious question: should parents and teachers now teach young people that in order to realise their ambitions and achieve success they need to learn to be dishonest, cheat and deceive, since the “ends justify the means”? Or is this approach to life only the prerogative of the privileged “leaders” of the United Kingdom?

What is the future of a country where the egregious disregard for the truth practised by the Prime Minister is seen to result in personal success? I for one will not be hailing Boris.

Mike Hackney, Bearsden.


IT is only three weeks ago that the First Minister, in an interview on CNN with Christiane Amanpour, declared: “I think the chances of a deal now are almost vanishingly small. They’re not non-existent, and I remain hopeful I guess, because no-deal would be catastrophic.” Additionally she and her colleagues have told Boris Johnson incessantly that a tariff-free, quota-free deal was not possible at the same time as leaving the single market and customs union.

The First Minister has been proved utterly wrong but worse, instructed her robotic colleagues, who will offer no party dissent for fear of retribution, to vote against the deal and in effect support a “catastrophic no-deal”.

Once again the SNP demonstrates its self-serving interests in achieving independence to the detriment of the people and the businesses of Scotland. The reality is that the First Minister and her colleagues are simply furious that one of the biggest-ever trade deals has been achieved which they thought not possible and now more will follow around the world. This in the week the vaccine developed in the UK will mean we are the first country in the world to benefit. An independent Scotland would simply have been in the queue.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh EH4.


THE road ahead for Scotland this year is clouded with doubts and fears arising from the dual effects of Covid and Brexit. A particular concern of our young people and their parents is the disruption to higher education on which the career prospects of students is dependent. Every cloud has a silver lining, however, and Brexit has provided this with the ending of free movement which will stem the flow of immigrants to fill low-skilled, low-paid and seasonal jobs in our economy. Our indigenous young people will be able to fill these positions without the need to worry about academic achievement.

Employers too will benefit from removal of the financial burden involved in funding scholarships, sponsorships and training schemes to prepare school-leavers for responsible positions in industry and commerce. A supply of well-qualified, "oven-ready" expatriates will be readily available within the immigration rules in Boris Johnson's brave new world. It stirs up a vision of the situation in former British colonies where the ruling classes were expatriates while the locals toiled for subsistence wages or of Tolstoy's Russia in which the aristocracy spoke French and Russian was the language of the peasantry.

How unfortunate would it be if Scottish independence were to intervene and rob our young people of this wonderful future?

Willie Maclean, Milngavie.


WE have had this week’s news dominated by the approval of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine in the UK, and the huge difference this will make to a return to normal life in the UK ("New vaccine paves way for mass rollout of jabs to be accelerated", The Herald, December 31). The bigger picture has been largely ignored and deserves mention.

Think of the billions of people in low-middle income countries such as in Africa and India who would not be able to afford the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and the impossibility of transportation and distribution of the Pfizer/Moderna vaccines in these hot countries which lack basic infrastructure. The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine changes all of that. This AZ/Oxford vaccine is a vaccine for the world, coming with a promise to be provided at cost during the pandemic. The Oxford team and AstraZeneca should be congratulated for developing a philanthropic vaccine for the world, and for putting aside commercial gains for the greater good of mankind.

Ian Forbes, Glasgow G41.


QUEEN of the South's apology ("Queen of the South ‘sorry’ over Galloway", The Herald, December 29) to its fans notwithstanding, George Galloway is not stupid and knew the rules from Boxing Day, and he is the one the police should have spoken to. Another example of the political elite thinking it is a cut above.

Francis Deigman, Erskine.


I LIKE Brian McGeachan's suggestion ("The pipe tune that should be our anthem", Agenda, The Herald, December 31) that Norman MacLean's My Land should be our country's anthem. It's a great tune, one that's easy to sing and which plays well on a variety of instruments including the pipes.

Norman's BBC TV programme, Tormod air Telly opened and closed with another of his tunes, Scarce of Tatties. The title is lifted from a piobaireachd (Scarce of Fishing), but it's a bouncy jig, and so has as much chance of becoming an anthem as Billy Connolly's choice, the theme for The Archers.

Gilbert MacKay, Newton Mearns.


I'VE eaten half a Christmas cake

And now I'm feeling funny,

There are rumbles, squeaks and heavings

Going on inside my tummy.

My dear old dad said long ago,

'Pay attention to your mummy,

And don't act so piggy-wiggy(ish)

Or you'll start to feel real crummy'.

Christmas Day has been and gone

And now I'm feeling glum(my)

As the future after New Year

will be trying to find ..... a decent rhyme for tummy etc etc.

And leaving the rest of that cake alone.

Robert Burns and Wordsworth have nothing to fear ... back to the drawing-board for me.

Thelma Edwards, Kelso.


ALAN Fitzpatrick's old football chestnut (Letters, December 30) reminds me of a game at Firhill, when a Partick Thistle player lay sprawling on the touchline with a gaping head wound. "Look," said a Thistle aficionado to his mate, "his heid's fu' o' sawdust".

Long gone are the days of winter touchlines being marked with joinery trade leftovers.

David Miller, Milngavie.