YOUR lead article on Friday ("Care home residents ‘left tied to long-term contracts’’", The Herald, March 12) should be a wake-up call for us all living in a country with an ageing population. How can this be? Who is asking for those contracts, under what conditions are they being offered? Surely there is an ethical and moral question to such contracts and where does social services fit in?

Your article rightly pointed out the recently published review into adult social care in Scotland, undertaken by Derek Feeley. This was an urgently-needed review and the Scottish Government has given a commitment to endorse the review in full. Indeed, only last month it brought forward legislation to establish a new National Care Service in line with NHS services in Scotland. Health Secretary Jeane Freeman emphasised that we must accord adult social care the same values as our NHS.

Funding has been allocated for the purpose of getting this legislation off the starting block and to that end in an initial effort to address the need of those with complex need and provide rehabilitation and support, the Community Living Change Fund of £20 million has been established. Included in the published review is a move away from competitiveness in providing care, a move to end non-residential charging for care and a review of the structure of free personal care.

It is very welcome that carers working in care establishments are having a full review of their conditions including sick pay, pension provision and working practices reviewed. And the major contribution of unpaid carers certainly needs reviewed. However, it may be worth pointing out that as a result of the limited devolved welfare powers, the Scottish Government immediately revised Carers Allowance and brought it up to the same level as basic Jobseeker's Allowance, giving around 70,000 carers in Scotland a 17% increase.

With an ageing population where many will need the services of the care sector, it was rather disturbing that both Labour and the Conservatives in the Holyrood Parliament voted against the introduction of the Scottish Government's endorsement of the review.

Your article highlighted the alarming findings of Alzheimer Scotland which highlighted the exploitation of families to meet the long-term financial responsibility and commitment of signing such tied-in contracts. We really need a full investigation into those issuing of such contracts and those responsible should be named and shamed.

Catriona C Clark, Falkirk.


I NOTED with interest Ruth Marr’s criticism (Letters, March 12) of Carole Ford’s letter of March 11), but I would go much further – at least geographically.

To be precise, Ms Ford alleged that the Scottish Government “has to be one of the most untrustworthy governments in Europe”, which is difficult to accept when one considers that the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has recently been sentenced to jail time for corruption, trading in influence and nepotism, during his time as President. While he has appealed both the verdict and sentence, it is important to note that he faces similar charges in addition to these.

A short journey to Spain would remind us that the Popular Party of Mariana Rajoy – you’ll remember, the man who said Scotland would never be able to join the EU – is also mired in financial shenanigans involving the party’s former treasurer, and another case involved the former President of the Community of Madrid, the former Work Minister and the vice-councillor of the presidency of the Community of Madrid over the embezzlement of public funds.

One thing Ms Marr omitted though was the recent decision by the High Court in England that the UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, had acted unlawfully by failing to publish details of not one or two, but dozens of contracts awarded without competition for goods and services such as personal protective equipment (PPE) needed during the Covid-19 pandemic. There has to be the possibility that with normal competition not applying, the cost to the public purse of the Scottish Government not conceding Alex Salmond’s judicial review must pale not so much into insignificance, more to nothing at all.

On a positive note, however, Ms Ford did have the wisdom to restrict her comparison to Europe, thus excluding such luminaries as Jai Bolsanaro, the President of Brazil, who not only has failed to protect lands around the Amazon from illegal logging, but also denied the existence of Covid, at least until he caught it. And then of course, there is always Donald Trump ...

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

* RUTH Marr (Letters, May 12) should bear in mind that just because the Westminster Government did it too doesn't mean that the SNP didn't, if she sees what I mean.

Brian Chrystal, Edinburgh.


HAVING recently watched a Boris Johnson Covid briefing, I was struck by a number of issues which I believe are worthy of mention.

The very premise of these regular No 10 briefings – and their live broadcasting across most major TV news outlets – causes a fundamental ambiguity, given they relate exclusively to England, but are seen across the UK.

Behind the PM, or whichever alternative minister is on duty, the iconography of the British state – two Union flags – are conspicuously draped behind each shoulder.

Yet almost all the information imparted relates solely to England, causing confusion amongst viewers – many elderly and/or vulnerable – in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, yet nobody points out, despite the optics suggesting otherwise, the "England only" relevance.

If broadcasters can – and routinely do – display captions and provide verbal notice giving viewers advance notice of flashing images, distressing scenes and the like, similar warning devices must surely be prudent in this health emergency setting.

The same not-so-subtle Union flag shtick now applies whenever a UK minister appears on screen, even when subjects like health/transport/education are devolved matters, causing confusion, but ramming home the UK’s perceived primacy.

At Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford’s Covid briefings, a Welsh flag hangs either side of him, not a Union flag in sight; in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon’s stage set is devoid of flags, medical imperatives taking precedence over constitutional niceties.

It will be interesting to see how the deployment of flags at such briefings – and other settings – plays out once Scotland and Wales go into pre-election "purdah" and I suggest the Union flag –which I personally find repugnant – be removed on the grounds they could be prejudicial in favour of Conservative & Unionist Party candidates standing for the Holyrood Parliament or the Senate in Cardiff in May.

Mike Wilson, Longniddry.


NICOLA Sturgeon will be having real problems sleeping in these early spring evenings. She has stated that she will be haunted for life by the Salmond fiasco, her Government's mistakes having let down the complainants ("Sturgeon: I will be haunted for life by Alex Salmond debacle", The Herald, March 12). Once you add in the deep regret over all the victims of drug-related deaths, the needless care homes deaths during the pandemic and more, it is hard to imagine her sleeping at all.

Ms Sturgeon is the First Minister. She is in the best position for being able to change things for the best for the future. Sadly, as the years roll by I fear more nightmares are on the horizon.

In our future history lessons the kids will read of the amazing Nicola Sturgeon who took us to independence. We won't read so much of the many things beyond the capacity of this SNP Government which kept her awake at night..

Paul Morrison, Glasgow.


I NOTE Scott Wright’s article giving a detailed account of the proposed takeover of Aggreko ("What next for Aggreko after £2.3bn bid recommended?", The Herald, March 11).

If successful, this will be one more major Scottish company losing its independence and key decisions on its future will no longer be made here. Whichever way Scotland is governed we need world-class companies to earn the profits that deliver taxes to support and improve our standard of living. It is therefore disappointing that there appears to be no comment on the takeover from any of the political parties in Scotland.

It’s fine having spending plans but these must be funded and industry has a key role in delivering taxes and in creating the job opportunities for the next generation.

Henry Perfect, Bearsden.


YOU have reported several statements by SNP politicians that there will be a second independence referendum before the end of 2021. Does this mean the First Minister will be contacting Boris Johnson to request a switch of COP26 to Cardiff to ensure the SNP can organise a referendum without interfering with arrangements for the safety of the thousands of delegates attending the conference?

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas.