NOW we have a new Government and Health Secretary it is timely that Professor David Kerr reminds us of his radical plan for the Scottish NHS of 15 years ago ("Progress has not come far enough, says NHS reforms academic", The Herald, May 24).

Furthermore when the NHS absorbs almost 45 per cent of the Government’s budget one might consider that in Scotland we have a health service with a Government attached. Yet little notice of the ongoing failures in the health service were considered important by the electorate if recent voting patterns are interpreted.

The last 15 years have been a litany of lost opportunities, politically populist policies and failed or incompetent Health Secretaries, from the present First Minister onwards. Few if any of Prof Kerr’s suggestions have been acknowledged or implemented.

From the rallying of street protest over A&E rationalisation, the 350,00 failures of the statutory right for a 12-week wait for treatment, pointless elections to health boards and the chaos of heath and social care partnerships which have not solved the bed-blocking crisis, the SNP Government has failed repeatedly to manage the health service, presiding over what is now in many areas a non-service, manifest for example in a six-year wait for a hip replacement.

It is clear from all evidence that the challenges for the NHS in the next decades are increasing numbers of elderly with chronic conditions best managed in general practice or community facilities. The days of the all-providing district general hospitals (DGHs) are numbered, to be replaced by specialist centres for elective surgery, and acute medical hospitals. Yet, for example and for local political advantage, £500 million is to be spent on a new DGH in Lanarkshire when the need is for community services and an expansion of GP services.

The Covid crisis has proven the need to keep acute medical care and elective surgery geographically separate, which if it had been implemented as Prof Kerr recommended would have mitigated the failure of elective surgery to manage waiting times when beds and operating theatres have been closed for over a year. The Golden Jubilee and the private hospitals are clear examples of how elective surgical services could have been maintained. These Covid-free operating facilities did not close. The present and increasing waiting lists are unmanageable and clearing them may be impossible, a situation which even the new Health Secretary admits will take years to resolve, if ever.

We have witnessed 15 lost years for the health service. Can we hope the new Government will be bold and take on the real challenges of health care in the 21st century, and also will the public will take more interest and hold it to account for presiding over a service which is a national embarrassment, notwithstanding the fine work that the staff have done in the Covid period?

Gavin R Tait FRCSEd, East Kilbride.


UNTIL the question of a second independence referendum is settled once and for all I don’t think we are ever going to be able to focus on the real issues facing Scotland today.

The newly-appointed Cabinet members at Holyrood will be sitting at their desks full of good intentions with the stated objective of seeing us through the pandemic and theoretically focusing on an economic recovery and the other pressing issues such as child poverty, drug deaths, falling education standards and so forth. In reality however, due to one of the First Minister’s early utterances since being reappointed being a renewed pledge to hold indyref2 in the first half of this parliament, even appointing a Constitution Secretary, they will be constantly dragged off course by the ramifications of breaking up the Union. There will be endless and rather futile arguments with Westminster, which holds the key to allowing a referendum or not. The press and news media will also be saturated with coverage of the controversial subject.

So, I say to the Westminster Government; for the sake of sanity, call the SNP’s bluff and agree to sanction a Section 30 order scheduling a second independence referendum for mid-2024. This will obviate the need for constant carping by the SNP Government over the coming years about who has the right to sanction another referendum, also allowing time for the electorate to be furnished with the full implications of leaving the Union warts and all. If, heaven forfend, we then become independent after all the facts are fully explained, then that will have been down to the will of the people and I hesitate to predict the future for both Scotland and the rUK.

Christopher H Jones, Giffnock.


A FEW questions for David Martin on his exercise in magical thinking ("Why independence within the UK will never be real independence", The Herald, May 24)

Why is he so enthusiastic about keeping what will now be around 260 nuclear bombs on the Clyde?

Why does he think it is such a good idea for Scotland to be represented in international affairs by people like Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab?

Given our experience of being dragged into disastrous wars by deceitful leaders like Tony Blair, does he not think Scotland could make more ethical decisions?

Does he think Scotland would be worse in our management of monetary policy than what we experienced with the harsh and unnecessary austerity of George Osborne and the huge mess made by Gordon Brown, who floated the economy in a sea of personal debt and allowed financial institutions to run wild?

Does he think Scotland is incapable of negotiating its own European relationships?

Do his proposals include complete control over trade, industry and employment, VAT, National Insurance, Corporation Tax, migration?

Finally, what conceivable benefits could this bring that would be better than being an independent state?

Isobel Lindsay, Biggar.


THE Scottish Greens’ leader Patrick Harvie should not so readily dismiss the findings of the important Stack Data Strategy post-election poll for Our Scottish Future ("Tactical votes for Greens could have hurt Indy cause, says poll", The Herald, May 21). Contrary to what he claims, it did not try to show "without a shred of evidence that every Green voter is voting tactically on the constitution alone", or that the Greens are not "a distinctive party", with its "own voter base".

What it did show is that about half of those voting Green on the list in 2021 were doing so primarily to maximise the number of pro-independence MSPs, and that for those voting Green on the list as a whole, Scottish independence was the No1 issue while climate change was No 4. So the Greens do have their own voter base committed to green values, but it is a lot smaller than is suggested by their list vote. Stack Data Strategy estimated that without pro-independence tactical voters, the Greens would have only two rather than eight seats in the Scottish Parliament. The electoral system has indeed been "gamed" as suggested by Alba, just not by Alba itself.

This has serious political implications. It means that the public need to be sceptical about, for instance, the Greens’ claims that the climate emergency can be addressed and independence pursued at the same time, when the electoral cost to them of prioritising climate over independence could evidently be so large. It may also explain why the Greens have taken up such an extreme position on a potential referendum, claiming that they and the SNP alone should be allowed to decide everything about its timing, rules and question – a stance that hardly aligns with Green values (a kinder, gentler style of politics, anyone?).

Indeed it puts a question mark over why the Greens support independence at all.

David Webster, Glasgow.


QUELLE horreur! For the second time, the UK garnered nil points at the Eurovision Song Contest ("Millions watch as UK scores nil points", The Herald, May 24). No blame whatsoever can be attached to the singer or the song, but with next year's almost inevitable humiliation waiting in the wings, such a cringe making, toe-curling slap-down cannot be allowed to continue. Accordingly, my suggestion for a way out of this awful predicament would be for the four nations of the UK to compete as individual nations in Europe. After all, we compete as nations on the football pitch, and it might be revealing to see if making that change to the song contest would affect the way in which Europe awarded its points.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.


I CAN understand how you can prove you have bought a Covid test from Boots, Superdrug or whoever. How do you then demonstrate at the airport that you have taken the test and it is negative? There seems to be a lot of implied trust in the process, or am I missing something?

Paul Morrison, Glasgow.

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