IAIN Macwhirter's comment that “the Scottish Government made exactly the same mistakes as Mr Johnson. She [the First Minister] similarly delayed lockdown in March 2020, halted community testing and failed to protect care homes” is riddled with errors ("Sturgeon could be caught in the Cummings crossfire", The Herald, May 26).

First, is he unaware that until the end of March 2020 the devolved governments did not have the powers to declare a lockdown? The lockdown in Scotland on March 23 may have been too late, but the powers to do so lay at Westminster at that time.

Secondly, I can scarcely believe that Mr Macwhirter is unaware that a lockdown without furlough – or some other method of maintaining incomes – is impossible without the economy going into meltdown, as well as widespread social disorder. Once again, the powers lay at Westminster.

We know that the First Minister’s adviser, Professor Devi Sridhar, recommended lockdown in February, but the First Minister, as set out above, was simply unable to follow this advice as she lacked the necessary powers.

As for community testing, is Mr Macwhirter aware the testing capacity in the UK – the whole UK – on March 20 last year was 6,127 tests (UK Government figures) per day? How far was this going to go? Once again, this is managed by Westminster.

As for protecting care homes, just last month, the BBC’s Head of Statistics, Robert Cuffe, said those care homes that received discharges actually had a lower rate of Covid. Moreover, charitable care home owner MHA found in a survey of its own homes as early as June last year, that “42% of its staff members who recently tested positive were not displaying symptoms. Nearly 45% of residents who had a positive test were also asymptomatic”. The charity’s chief executive said at the time: “I think it’s very difficult not to see that the only real way that this can have come into our homes is through staff picking it up, just through the community contacts.” What seems common sense is that larger homes faced a larger problem due to a larger number of staff picking up the virus through normal community interactions.

Mr Macwhirter bemoans that “nationalist supporters have tried to write this out of history, but they cannot”. Oh yes, we will. The truth, the whole truth, is always liberating.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.


THE news that disgraced former Finance Secretary Derek Mackay will receive around £65,000 of taxpayers cash as a "resettlement grant" and "for losing ministerial office" along with departing MSPs who will receive grants of up to £64,470 ("Disgraced Mackay to get share of MSP pay-offs", The Herald, May 26) shows me two things – first, why MSPs are so desperate to climb aboard the Holyrood gravy train and secondly, why they seem so insulated and detached from Scotland's real-world problems.

Meanwhile I am trying, by robbing Peter to pay Paul, to find a way to keep my business (a public house in Glasgow) which is still closed under level 3 restrictions afloat. The well-paid MSPs and ministers who are still receiving their handsome salaries have very kindly decided that a grant of £350 per week will help me to pay my fixed costs, pay my 20 per cent contribution to staff furlough costs and pay suppliers for stock purchased for the "false start" date of May 17.

If ever confirmation was needed of the agenda Nicola Sturgeon and her Cabinet have against the licensed trade this insulting figure surely provides it.

Billy Gold, Hielan Jessie bar, Glasgow.


WHILE it is good to read about the Leith renewables hub and the jobs that it will bring ("£40m renewables hub in Leith will help Scotland meet net zero", The Herald, May 26), it seems to me that the wind turbine parts will come in by sea, probably from Denmark, then once assembled they'll be lifted on to an installation vessel for transfer to an offshore site.

Scotland is ideally placed to be leading the way on green energy but we are being held back by the policies of the UK Government that has not only announced cuts of support for renewables but also our electricity consumers, and green energy companies are levied the highest grid transmission charges in Europe.

The Renewable UK report Charging the Wrong Way shows that billions of pounds of green infrastructure investment are being jeopardised by GB regulations which favour EU energy imports and discriminate against Scotland compared to other parts of the UK.

Energy policy is reserved to Westminster and Ofgem charges Scottish Highlands and Islands £7.36 per Mwh to connect to the National Grid and £4.70 in lowland Scotland. The figure in England is 49p per MWh and the transmission charges for other western European countries range from zero in most countries up to £1.36 in Norway.

Norway and Denmark have invested in state-owned hydrogen and wind power companies that are actually manufacturing the green energy products of the future while Scotland can’t fully capitalise on our renewable potential as part of the UK.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh.


DR Angus MacMillan (Letters, May 24) critiques Boris Johnson as a "con", lacking trust and unworthy of presiding over COP26. Why not go the full Monty and insist that he is an Eton-educated promiscuous cad? Nothing is offered in support of his contention that Nicola Sturgeon would be better placed to champion ecological values.

Complaining about diatribes delivered against Ms Sturgeon is rich. The language of political exchange adopted by the SNP is all too frequently abusive, with a particular animus directed against Mr Johnson. Day after relentless day disparaging ad hominem abusive attacks are delivered against him. Ian Blackford deploys ridicule in his verbose assaults. The SNP’s electronic bard Pete Wishart is similarly engaged in the juvenile pursuit of Mr Johnson with his repeated jibe that he is "a clown in clown’s shoes".

Comparisons of Mr Johnson with Churchill are all too frequently overblown but one common characteristic is a shared determination to employ robust argument without denigrating their opponents. Both remained (and remain) admirably resilient in the face of seemingly endless and tedious personal invective.

Would it be facile to argue at this time of post-Covid reconstruction that a moderation of political invective is a necessary and sufficient condition for engendering that cooperation which all parties have declared is essential for economic and psychological recovery?

Cleansing of the ecological environment could benefit from an accompanying cleansing of the personalised language all too frequently in evidence in the current political environment. A good start would be an encouragement of restraint by the SNP leadership of the ritualised anti-Tory dogma espoused by its rank and file.

(Dr) Douglas Pitt, Newton Mearns.


THE many unsupported assumptions and provocative questions from Isobel Lindsay (Letters, May 25) avoid the realities of the constitutional situation. Have the nationalists yet come up with the solutions to the financial and trade problems of secession from the UK?

Pre-Covid, Scotland’s annual fiscal deficit was £15 billion and the annual trade deficit averaged around £10bn. To address these dire economic figures drastic austerity measures would have to be taken by an independent Scottish government – income tax and VAT increases, cuts to public services, sale of public assets and restrictions on imported goods. The nationalists must tell us the truth about their economic strategy, if they have one.

James Quinn, Lanark.


SO Boris Johnson’s very nuanced article in 2018, critical of liberal Denmark for banning the burqa, suggested that “Tories are insensitive to Muslim communities” – because two words have been highlighted and over-publicised out of context ("Probe blast at Johnson comments on Muslims", The Herald, May 26).

But Remona Aly, the liberal female Muslim journalist who does not wear a full veil, was able to quote sardonically and humorously, both the "letterbox” and “bank robber” descriptions of headgear worn by some Muslim women, in her Guardian article on November 6, 2013. She received no criticism or backlash whatsoever.

The PM’s critics must also know that Labour’s former Home Secretary, Jack Straw, said he did not feel comfortable in meetings with constituents whose face he could not see, and that shadow minister Emily Thornberry said on Question Time she would not want a burqa-clad woman looking after her four-year old or her elderly mother.

They should also acknowledge that it is certainly possible for bank robbers or worse, of either sex, to disguise themselves in such attire. A learner driver was convicted in July 2019 of hiding a headset in her hijab while taking her theory test in London.

John Birkett, St Andrews.

Read more: Dominic Cummings saga could see Nicola Sturgeon caught in the crossfire