AS I returned from receiving my jag with an extra spring in my step I entered a date, 12 weeks hence for my second jab, to notice that it was one week after the Scottish election date.

Thereafter I was pleased to hear that the youngest can shortly return to primary school, because one of my grandchildren is in that category. Then listening to the First Minister I learned innumerable things I shouldn't and cannot do. But do not worry, next week she will announce a roadmap to ease the lockdown. No dates mind you, just a roadmap. And for goodness sake do not book a staycation this spring ("Tourism blow as Sturgeon warns against Easter break", The Herald, February 17).

All I was hoping for was the possibility of meeting my grandchildren, whom I haven't seen for many months. This is particularly irritating because we all live in virtually infection-free areas.

The Government is looking even to toughen up rules here and there, but meanwhile the only really totally safe thing to do this spring is hold an election.

No risks at all from visiting polling stations, counting votes, doorstep electioneering and various shouty politicians and activists, who had better not pitch up on my doorstep. Apparently highly remunerated returning officers have said they can run a safe election, but that's like hospitality owners saying they too can operate safely when all that matters is what the First Minister says.

All indicators suggest an SNP government will be elected, so exactly why do we need an election before this pandemic eases? This, by the way, is not running scared, it's just taking Nicola Sturgeon's own advice seriously. When we can open hospitality, staycations, relative meetings, schools and so on, then it may be safe to hold an election.

It is complete double standards by the First Minister if she thinks she can hold an election while the country is in lockdown with a very uncertain outlook that she herself demands we adhere to.

Ian McNair, Cellardyke.


AT what point is the Scottish Government intending to initiate a meaningful consultation with the people of Scotland about the way forward on Covid, if only to obtain "buy-in" for the continued straitened measures that are being imposed? After all, this Government has no doubt whatsoever, we are told, about the populace's collective intellectual capacity to make a decision as to whether we should remain part of the Union, a matter which is of significantly greater importance than Covid over the long term for the country's future. This version of Covid will be overcome, at some point.

The latest soundbite from the First Minister is that we will act according to data, rather than dates. But, what data is that? To the extent we ever will, we all understand the dangers of Covid and what we should do to ameliorate the risks to us as individuals. At the same time, there are all sorts of other data. For example, the calamitous effects on family life; on livelihoods; on people's mental health perhaps, particularly, children and young people; on young people's education, at school and university; on the non-diagnosis of illnesses and the cancellation of operations and other procedures; on the separation of our vulnerable elderly in care homes from family and society generally, and the guilt and profound regret that creates for family members. This list could fill a page.

We need, at some point in the not too distant future, to accept that we will have to live with some compromises, with some element of risk. No one expects life to return to "normal" for a long time but, for many, employment and, indeed, life prospects recede while we remain in this hinterland.

Charlie Burns, Edinburgh.


AFTER all the haranguing by the Scottish Government of Westminster over English loopholes which threatened Scotland's quarantine rules, it is ironic that the first recorded loophole did not come from England but via the Republic of Ireland (" Probe into quarantine hotel loopholes as charity calls for refugee clarity", The Herald, February 17). During all the past days' war of words and threats to close the border with England, the First Minister and her ministers have never criticised Wales, Northern Ireland or the Irish Republic, made demands for them to quarantine transit travellers, or threatened to close travel from these countries to Scotland.

It appears that this dispute with Westminster and casting England as the "villain" is nothing but a manufactured political grievance designed to aid the SNP's drive towards the May election and a second independence referendum.

Paul Lewis, Edinburgh.

* PAUL Morrison (Letters, February 17) contends that Nicola Sturgeon should "put political stubbornness to the side and public health first by aligning with the current UK policy and then lobbying for the outright travel ban the UK needs". In fact, Ms Sturgeon has strongly and consistently urged the UK to rethink its policy of only quarantining travellers from the red list countries; after all, the virus doesn't have a red list, anyone from any country will do. As for Scotland following UK policy, since the start of this health emergency it has been Scotland which has often led the way with Boris Johnson's Government eventually following. And that may well end up being the case with this current issue.

What is needed is not deference to the UK Government, but action to keep Scotland safe, and safety is precisely what the First Minister is striving to deliver.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.


IN his thought-provoking article ("England could be SNP’S best ally in breaking up Britain", The Herald, February 17), Iain Macwhirter puts the case for the United Kingdom becoming a union of essentially free states, working together only where necessary. At first sight this may seem an attractive proposition, but the devil is in the detail, especially with the "where necessary" element of the proposition.

A state such as he suggests would need common defence and foreign policies for example, yet one of the attractions of independence is that Scotland can chart its own course in these waters. Scotland does not need aircraft carriers which are essentially weapons of offence, especially if they do not have enough surface ships to protect them or sufficient aircraft to carry on board. Our needs are fishing and oil rig protection and guarding our coastline.

We don't need a foreign policy that results in us regularly invading other countries, the death of several of our young men and women, and very little progress to show for it at the end. Indeed it can be argued that British foreign policy over the years has placed all of us at greater risk from terrorism. We don't want to be involved in "rendition" of suspects by processes banned under

international law. And we do want to develop our own relationship with the European Union and other friendly countries, but this could not happen in the scenario painted by Mr Macwhirter.

The idea of federalism within the UK has been advanced many times over the years but always rejected because of the size of England relative to the other component territories and the understandable unwillingness of England to divide itself into regions which have no natural or accepted boundaries. I cannot see how it could be different this time.

Scotland will be a good neighbour but must be free to chart its own course in the world.

Ian McKee, Edinburgh.

*LIKE Iain Macwhirter, I too read Nick Timothy's piece in Monday's Daily Telegraph, in which he discussed something he called "The Scottish Question". Mr Timothy clearly experienced an epiphany when he composed this remarkable utterance: "Imagine if we had a government elected with a majority of seats from across the UK but with no majority in England. The ministers deciding unprecedented restrictions in our liberties would have no legitimacy at all."


Dr Hamish Maclaren, Stirling.


I READ, with amusement, Allan Sutherland's statement that all parties join together to prevent the SNP's possible success in May's election. Perhaps he forgot about the wonderful Better Together some time ago which resulted in one Labour MP left in Scotland, with other parties also damaged. Beware what you wish for when dealing with the Tories.

Mr Sutherland comes from Aberdeenshire; is he not aware of the huge damage to the fishing industry due to the dismal handling of Brexit by the Tories? Boris Johnson, when in charge of London, spent £50 million on a Garden Bridge for Londoners Result: no bridge, £50m lost. He now wants to build a tunnel from Scotland to Northern Ireland. Costs will be astronomical but no doubt the project will go the way of the Garden Bridge. Major costs will be incurred on consultants' fees and the like, to be paid for by the taxpayer before it is abandoned.

Can I add the eye-watering sums spent by Westminster on Covid-19 contracts? Many contracts were not tendered for or scrutinised, some were given to “pals”, I understand.

Mr Sutherland ends with a call to “rise up and fight for Scotland and the UK". We do not want to accept the crumbs off the Westminster table any more, our own destiny should be in our hands.

Vincent McBrearty, Troon.

Read more: Sturgeon should stop being stubborn and align with UK quarantine rules