NICOLA Sturgeon’s decision to make quarantine mandatory for anyone flying into Scotland ("PM: UK has one of ‘toughest border regimes’ as quarantine row continues", The Herald, February 4) is the right one. The detection of the South African Covid-19 variant in England emphasises that the UK Government’s policy of only requiring quarantine if someone flew from a country with a high infection rate, is as useless as Donald Trump’s flight ban from China and mainland Europe was. Many people will use the obvious loophole by flying via a third country that isn’t on the quarantine list before flying back to the UK.

And by the time we know about an infection spike or new variant in another country, without quarantining everyone, it may already have arrived here.

The only effective policies would be to require everyone flying into (or back to) the UK to undergo quarantine in a hotel, as New Zealand did; and, ban all flights except humanitarian, cargo or emergency ones, as Singapore did. Both have a tiny fraction of our Covid deaths per capita.

But more than a year since the first confirmed cases in the UK (January 31, 2020), Boris Johnson’s Government is still failing to take the most basic and obvious necessary measures, despite Covid having first arrived here by air travel.

Copying a policy proven to have failed rather than ones proven to work shows the UK Government isn’t serious about stopping the spread of Covid. And like its previous fence-sitting and attempt to appeal to both sides of a debate in which one side is clearly right and the other wrong will result in the Covid crisis lasting longer, and not only more deaths, but probably years' more damage to the economy, as the virus and new strains will spread faster than vaccines can be mass-produced.

Contact tracing after new variants have arrived will never identify every case, let alone get them all to isolate.

Duncan McFarlane, Carluke.


AS the First Minister now boasts that the vaccine programme is on track with little or no mention of thanks to the UK, it is worth remembering the comment from the SNP Westminster Brexit spokesperson, Dr Philippa Whitford, in July. She said then: “At a time when the UK should be accelerating efforts to work with our EU partners towards finding a vaccine, it is concerning that the UK has instead rejected the opportunity to take part in yet another EU-wide programme. The UK Government’s short-sighted and increasingly isolationist approach does nothing but hinder the ability to tackle the virus effectively.”

Clearly she could not have been more wrong, and thank goodness her advice was ignored. Her silence and the very muted response of the First Minister to the behaviour of the EU in the immediate past somewhat ironically speaks volumes. Yet again, on on a major issue affecting the whole of the UK, the SNP has been found wanting.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh EH4.


ROBBIE Drummond (Letters, February 4) states that CalMac is "a private limited company", which is undoubtedly true in terms of its legal form. However, the corporate section of the company’s own website states: "CalMac Ferries Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of David MacBrayne Ltd, which is wholly owned by Scottish Ministers." It is not a privately-owned company.

The simple matter of a ferry company procuring two new ferries has cost the taxpayer dearly, taken longer than the 1960s race to put a man on the Moon and left communities with services that they cannot rely upon, with consequent risk to the islands’ economies.

In contrast, the public sector employees in the numerous state-owned organisations involved in this fiasco experience no financial insecurity, as their salaries continue to be paid by the taxpayer irrespective of whether they deliver success or failure.

It is simply not acceptable that those involved, from the minister down, do not take accountability for their failure and accept the need for radical change.

Ferry services between Scotland and Northern Ireland are provided by the private sector. Privately-owned companies provide services to the Cowal peninsula and to Orkney.

The competition which CalMac won in 2016 saw the only other bid deemed "non-compliant" as it "sought changes to commercial terms aimed at striking a balance between the risks and rewards involved" (BBC news, May 19, 2016). It may be surmised that CalMac won the tender on the basis of the taxpayer accepting risks that private sector investors could not accept. That is not good news for the taxpayer.

When the contract is up for renewal the competition must be structured to allow a genuine competition involving the private sector to bring its skills and capabilities to bear.

George Rennie, Inverness.


DURING the war I remember eating ice-cream out of paper cases used in baking cakes, as wafers and cones were not available. I went for a threepenny cone one day and the ice-cream man said he was sorry, but he had burnt the ice cream – but he would give me it free. "Burnt it?" I said. "How did you do that?"

It turned out he had made a kind of custard first and burnt it before he whipped it up and froze it.

Catherine Murray, Largs.