DEVI Sridhar, professor of global public health at Edinburgh University and a member of the Scottish Government's Covid-19 Advisory Group, has said that an independent Scotland could have handled the coronavirus better. But it seems important to emphasise that no leader in the UK, whether at Westminster or a devolved parliament, has done a "remarkable job" – indeed it disrespects the families of the thousands who’ve died through this terrible pandemic.

Comparing case numbers between devolved nations is an unhelpful and distracting exercise – these numbers are a product of many complex factors, including population density and mobility. Perhaps Scottish Government Covid-19 messaging has been clearer, but in general practice we are desperate to vaccinate our patients and can’t get supplies – we’d prefer action and strategy rather than daily BBC "briefings".

As part of the UK Scotland has received billions of pounds to help maintain people's livelihoods – the health effects of depriving Scots of that funding would have been profound. We’ve benefited from being part of a country which has developed vaccines – and our universities have access to UK funding to carry out their life-saving Covid-19 research. While not apologising for Westminster’s shambolic approach to the pandemic, it’s vital we don’t make unsubstantiated claims about how an independent Scotland might have done.

David Weller, James Mackenzie Professor of General Practice, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8.


ROBERT Stuart (Letters, January 20) is correct that the UK Government has not coped well with the coronavirus pandemic and the UK has in fact suffered more to date, both on an economic as well as on a health\mortality basis, than most if not all countries (on a population basis) around the world.

More difficult to determine is the relative performances of governments within the UK, especially as only the UK Government has control over international borders, can introduce legislation for the exercising of substantial emergency powers and can borrow significantly to help manage the economic impact. Besides the clear and consistent health messaging coming from Holyrood in comparison with Westminster communications, the fact that in England the tragic death count is around 50 per cent higher than that of Scotland on a population basis, both in robust comparisons of deaths within 28 days of a test and "excess deaths", would suggest that actions of the Scottish Government have had a relatively positive effect, especially when one considers the full range of demographic influences.

What may have confused Mr Stuart and others is that sometimes comparisons are made between ONS (Office of National Statistics) figures for England and NRS (National Records of Scotland) figures for Scotland, with registered deaths including those not directly attributable to Covid-19 recorded on death certificates. As was first identified by Channel 4 and confirmed via studies reported by the LSE (London School of Economics) and the Financial Times, as well as via consideration of data from countries across Europe, the ONS figures appear to significantly “under-report” deaths that may be “presumed or suspected” of being related to Covid-19 so should not be referenced for serious ‘international comparisons’.

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry.


COULD Nicola Sturgeon confirm why it is necessary to bombard the public with constant pandemic messages through the media or postal flyers? And could she also confirm how much this drip-feed of information is costing the taxpayer?

Yes, there is a pandemic on and yes, not all the people are following the rules, but neither is everyone a complete fool that needs to be reminded every 20 seconds of the day of the FACTS and such like.

Without being political, it seems to me that the Scottish Government's answer to resolving everything is to saturate people's brains with the information it wants to share, until like robots, we all comply. Sadly those who won't, don't listen to such messages. Meanwhile the rest of us are being driven crazy as we sit cooped up in our homes, day in, day out, with the same banal words of wisdom.

As your granny would say, Nicola, the less said, the more achieved.

Jessica Williams, East Kilbride.


IAIN Macwhirter ("The ‘me first’ vaccine grab is surely morally inexcusable", The Herald, January 20) helps to confirm the eternal verity: "life is unfair" . How you live can be determined by so many different, significant influences, such as the intelligence with which you are endowed, the country you are born in, the home you are brought up in, the education you receive, and, indeed, happenstance. John F Kennedy once observed: "There is always inequality in life. Some men are killed in a war and some men are wounded and some men never leave the country. Life is unfair."

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, chair of the World Health Organisation, has referred forcibly to the "me first" approach as "catastrophic moral failure". He is, of course, entitled to express his opinion detached from the real world of politics. However, it is difficult to imagine, in our less than perfect world, the governments in the wealthier countries doing anything other than what they are currently doing with regard to the availability and distribution of the vaccine.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.


I ENJOYED Catriona Stewart’s article ("The final end of a great man, the greatest", The Herald, January 20). I hope we don’t see ex-President Trump on a golf course in Scotland anytime soon; even if it might give me the opportunity, wished for in an earlier letter, to tell him he’s a loser. Of course, I wouldn’t be playing golf: spoils a good walk.

It will be interesting to see what Donald Trump does next. Recently, a friend was talking about Idi Amin, Uganda’s brutal dictator and the Last King of Scotland. After he was overthrown, he was given sanctuary by that nice regime in Saudi Arabia.

And three years ago, on holiday in Ethiopia with my wife, I was shocked to learn that Mengistu Haile Mariam was still alive. Mengistu headed the Marxist Derg government in Addis Ababa when I was there in 1984/85, during the great famine, and it was clear that they were making a dreadful situation worse, exploiting the famine to bolster their grip on power. After the Derg were toppled, Mengistu fled and was given sanctuary by that generous chap Robert Mugabe. He certainly put me off Marxism.

So where is Donald J Trump going to go when the heat’s turned up and presidential immunity no longer applies? I’m sure Kim Jong-un would give him a warm welcome in North Korea, but suspect Vladimir Putin no longer has any use for him. Jair Bolsonaro could invite him to Brazil, though the golfing options might be a bit limited. You can tell a lot about someone from the friends they keep, and it’s clear Mr Trump has few friends in Europe.

There seems to be a view that Mr Trump should be allowed to walk away unscathed from the carnage and division he’s created. I disagree: actions have consequences and no one should be above the law. I hope America is strong enough and brave enough to hold Mr Trump to account for the vast amount of damage he’s done.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.


WHILE I agree with William McLauchlan (Letters, January 20) regarding the need for a direct sea link with Europe from Scotland, I respectfully disagree that Rosyth is the best port for this to be achieved.

I refer to the Review of the Cockenzie "Masterplan" in regard to the cruise port question prepared for Prestonpans Community Council by Dr Alf Baird (formerly Professor of Maritime Business at Transport Research Institute, Edinburgh Napier University) published on November 27, 2017.

Dr Baird sets out the advantages that the development of the Cockenzie site would provide compared to Rosyth. The Superfast service between Rosyth-Zeebrugge was in fact profitable. The service ended due to several factors, including high port charges and insufficient land area for vehicles at the Rosyth terminal. When a good offer was received for one of the ships, Superfast sold it off, and the second ship was moved to Baltic routes. The Superfast service did nevertheless prove that sufficient demand exists to sustain a direct Scotland-Continent ferry connection which can easily attract 250,000 passengers, 50,000 cars and 50,000 freight units a year, even more if greater ship capacity (cabins, car deck space etc) is provided.

It can be argued on this basis that a superior, lower-cost, and better positioned cruise-ferry terminal on the Forth at Cockenzie could attract a new, daily cruise-ferry connection to the continent.

Malcolm Boyd, Milngavie.

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