ROBERT Stuart (Letters, January 20) makes the comparison of deaths from Covid in Scotland versus those in some European countries with similar-sized populations, from which he infers that this reflects badly upon Scotland's ability to cope well if it were independent.

What he misses is the fact that each of the countries to which he refers are themselves independent. Norway, 95 deaths, 5.4 million population; Finland, 111, 5.5m; Denmark, 296, 5.8m; Ireland, 501, 4.9m; Slovakia, 616, 5.4; all independent smaller countries, self-governing, economically self-sufficient within the EEC (Norway EEA/EFTA). Perhaps the conclusion to be drawn is that Scotland's response to the pandemic is being both directed by and hindered by the Westminster Government, the competence of which is already the subject of widespread criticism.

Mr Stuart would like inquiries into the mistakes made in each wave, and I agree; but any inquiry has to start with the conduct of the UK Government: its conflicting advice, its expenditure in billions to inexperienced private companies and its failure of leadership. As a consequence today's statistics give total deaths per million to date as 1,001 in Scotland and 1,453 in England – 45 per cent greater. This is not delusional point-scoring; it is merely a reading of the numbers. It seems that Scotland, by comparison, is coping fairly well after all.

Paul Scott, Edinburgh EH3.


RATHER than having to “defend” its vaccine record ("Sturgeon defends jabs rollout as her adviser backs independence", The Herald, January 21), the Scottish Government should be congratulated for following JCVI advice and saving many lives in care homes since mid-December, whereas in England the death rate in care homes is currently approaching three times the rate in Scotland.

Vaccinating in care homes is far more time-consuming and labour-intensive than in the community, and this is why overall figures are at this stage lower than in England. When opposition politicians made Covid a competition, Nicola Sturgeon resisted the temptation to point out that England has one of the worst death rates in the world and to date Scotland’s rates are a third lower.

Of the 700,000 jags that Ruth Davidson complained about, STV explained that 310,000 had already been injected with a further 25,000 scheduled for Wednesday, 175,000 were with GPs, 70,000 in transit from England and 120,000 were in England awaiting checks.

Vaccines won’t make Covid go away and the UK strategy for tackling the pandemic has failed. Devi Shridhar was merely stating the obvious when she said an independent Scotland would have been better able to tackle the pandemic and that Scotland’s response to the crisis has been constrained by being part of the UK in respect of economic packages to extend lockdown and no control over borders like Denmark and Norway.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh EH11.


I AGREE with David Weller that Devi Sridhar's comments in favour of one particular side of the constitutional debate are unhelpful, if not highly inappropriate given her role as health advisor with a responsibility to inform the public and the government.

In this role it's her duty to share scientific expertise, not personal political views on a contentious, divisive issue. For example, I can't recall that last year, during the first wave of the pandemic, any of the advisors to the UK Government publicly offered their personal opinion for or against Brexit. If they had done so, it probably would have been a resignation matter.

Professor Sridhar's comments should be treated as such. Alternatively, if she feels the need to use her publicity to beat the drum for a particular political cause, she should resign now.

Regina Erich, Stonehaven.


NICOLA Sturgeon has been unable to satisfactorily defend the fact that more than 400,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine allocated to Scotland are unused.

In England, GPs order supplies directly from Vianto, the logistics company which specialises in distribution for the healthcare industry. The Scottish Government does things differently, whereby GPs place orders with boards, who pass the information to NHS Scotland, who in turn advise Vianto.

Perhaps less bureaucracy would help. At the current rate, those of us lucky enough to have had our first vaccination wonder about achievement of the 12-week target for the second, while friends in their 10th decade sit by their phones awaiting a call about an appointment for their first.

These delays pose another question; since no one seems to know for how long the approved vaccines will provide immunity, what plans, if any, are in progress towards implementation of re-vaccination?

David Miller, Milngavie.


IAIN Macwhirter ("The ‘me first’ vaccine grab is surely morally inexcusable", The Herald, January 20) asserts that AstraZeneca is making no profits out of the Oxford vaccine. Putting aside who verifies this, my understanding is that this is only the case until the pandemic is over.

Who decides when this will be is not stipulated, but presumably a time will be reached when the disease will be declared endemic, like seasonal flu. Some say this will be as soon as July this year. Taken together with the fact that countries have put many hundreds of millions of pounds into the development of the vaccine and that it will no doubt become an ongoing need, the gesture by the company may not be as philanthropic as first appears.

It should also be noted that the pharmaceutical companies have been given indemnity against any future claims regarding long-term negative health impacts. For the avoidance of doubt I am not an anti-vaccination person but realistic enough to feel that the companies, and their shareholders, will make a lot of money in the longer term.

Allistair Matheson, Selkirk.


THE tragedy of Neil Mackay's excoriating article on the United States and much of its history ("Joe Biden can’t fix a divided America – because it has always been broken”, The Herald, January 21) is that by far the most of it is true and very accurate. It's worthwhile asking, however, what stage in its historic development America is currently at and whether there are parallels with other stages of history.

Listening to the still extremely influential, and recently pardoned, Steve Bannon, it is the medieval stage. He wants to "put heads on spikes". Perhaps, and this concerns centrally the Republican Party, it is Weimar Germany. Are political parties of the right prepared to work within constitutional and legal norms or as we saw last week, attempt to overthrow these norms by mobilising armed mobs? Maybe it is 1861, the eve of the country's civil war. It is not difficult to see that the logic of much opposition to Washington and "big government" is secession from the union.

It goes without saying that decent people in this country will wish President Biden well. In doing so, however, we should not be too complacent. We have a Government in Westminster which routinely lies, sought to prorogue Parliament and set aside international law on key matters relating to the EU. Too little has been said about the British right-wing's view of Donald Trump. Joe Biden's election will be a setback for them, although a victory for basic decency.

Mr Mackay is inaccurate on a least one important point when talking about "coups and death squads in Latin America in response to communist totalitarianism". The government of Salvador Allende won a democratic election in Chile in 1970. It was subsequently overthrown by the CIA and one of the most brutal regimes of the 20th century installed.

Brian Harvey, Hamilton.


I DID not disagree with anything Neil Mackay said in his latest article. However, I read this morning that the new President has placed in his Oval Office busts of Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, César Chávez and a sculpture of the Chiricahua Apache Tribe.

I suggest that such significant symbolism confirms that President Biden, described by Mr Mackay as being “a good man for sure”, obviously understands America’s relationship with its history.

While no one man can “fix a divided America”, as Barack Obama for instance demonstrated, the fact that even a disappointingly narrow majority rejected what Donald Trump stands for must be recognised as grounds for hope. Even this slender hope will be a powerful force in the battle for America’s soul which lies ahead in the coming years.

John Milne, Uddingston.

* PRESIDENT Biden made an excellent job yesterday of laying out to America and the rest of the world his highly-welcome policies, aspirations and road map.

As an honourable, humane and committed team player he is well respected on both sider of the House and the Senate – as well as extensively throughout the world – and offers the perfect antidote to the Trumponavirus.

First shot delivered yesterday. Booster shot in 100 days followed by a four-year evaluation of its efficacy, then a decision on whether to continue with JRB (82) or switch to the younger backup vaccine KDH (60).

Ross Ballantyne, Bearsden.

Read more: Never mind the talk, what GPs want is action and strategy