ALEXANDER McKay (Letters, May 28) asserts that the transfer of patients from hospitals to care homes led to unnecessary deaths. He seems unaware that Robert Cuffe, the BBC’s head of statistics, concluded that care homes receiving hospital discharge patients actually had a lower rate of Covid infections. The highest death rate occurred in larger, privately-owned homes that maintained maximum capacity, skimped on PPE, failed inspections, and employed minimal levels of poorly-paid staff who were forced to work even if symptomatic. The Care Inspectorate reports there were 2.1 Covid deaths per 100 care home places with up to 20 beds, but 12.6 deaths in homes with more than 80 beds.

England’s Covid death rate, 40 per cent higher than Scotland’s, shows the Scottish Government mitigated Tory mistakes, chief among them locking down disastrously late. The Scottish Government did not have lockdown powers until the end of March 2020, but Westminster did all along. Even if Holyrood did have lockdown powers, it doesn’t have the power of the purse so would not have been able to offer furlough and other financial support which would have made a lockdown declaration a political and economic non-starter. Again, those powers are held by Westminster.

We don’t need a Scottish Dominic Cummings to tell us that an independent Scotland would have locked down earlier, closed its borders, and provided financial support, saving thousands of lives.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh.


IAN W Thomson (Letters, May 28) fails to understand the limitations of devolution, as initially the Scottish Government had to follow the flawed UK policy on Covid as it didn’t have the statutory powers to close borders and implement a lockdown or the borrowing powers to compensate businesses and individuals through furlough and the like.

It is astonishing that the BBC, including Stephen Jardine on Radio Scotland's Morning Call on Thursday (May 27), continues to promote the narrative that Scotland’s death rate is “roughly the same as the UK” when the official UK Government site, by nation, shows that the death rate per 100,000 in Scotland is 184 compared to 231 in England, which has been the pattern over the past 15 months.

Then on the BBC News channel, Dr Philippa Whitford had to correct Clive Myrie, who claimed that Scotland has one of the highest care home death rates per capita "anywhere in Europe”, by pointing that a recent Nuffield Trust report and London School of Economics research both refuted these claims on Scotland's care home deaths. She also stated that about 11,000 care home deaths in England were not put down to Covid, but clearly were.

To date, there is no evidence that hospital discharges led to a spike in care home deaths as opposed to transmission by asymptomatic agency staff and the failure to isolate residents who had caught the virus. Also, the size of the care home was more of an indicator of outbreak risk than hospital discharges, which were ultimately decisions taken by clinicians and home care managers in the best interest of patients.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh.


THERE seems to be little that anyone can teach Nicola Sturgeon in the art of deflective politics at a time when her Government is under fire for failures in the notification of Covid appointments and lacking candour over the deaths of children in hospital.

As always Boris Johnson is an easy target and while her allegations that he dithered at the start of the pandemic leading to the unnecessary loss of lives may have some merit ("Sturgeon hints at Johnson failures for Covid death toll", The Herald, May 28), she seems to forget that her own Government sanctioned the quick release of untested and infected elderly Covid patients from hospitals into care homes, resulting in a massive number of deaths. In this unprecedented situation which faced the UK and even the world, there are many things which could have been done better, but nitpicking at particular elements of the country's Covid response in an attempt to cover up one's own failures doesn't help anyone.

Bob MacDougall, Kippen.


PETER Russell (Letters, May 28) calls for a "plague on both their houses" while castigating Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon for their catastrophic failures over Covid.

The animosity and bickering poisoning intergovernmental relationships, to which he refers, is an unintended (or perhaps deliberately contrived) outcome of devolution.

There is clearly no easy solution to such a situation while the fault line of secession continues to fragment Scottish politics.

However, in the interests of even-handedness I hope that now that Dominic Cummings has pressed the nuclear button on what he perceives as the chaotic shambles in Westminster no time will be lost in subjecting the equivalent shambles in Scotland (vide care homes) to an equivalent degree of critical analysis. Mr Cummings commented en passant on similar Scottish policy delinquency to that of Westminster.

If the Scottish Government seeks equivalence with its despised UK counterpart it should be held to the same standards of public scrutiny.

I am having trouble holding my breath on this last point ... an affliction which is only indirectly related to Covid.

(Dr) Douglas Pitt, Newton Mearns.


BILL Brown (Letters, May 28) once again parades his hatred of the SNP and contempt for the democratic wishes of the Scottish nation. He offers no explanation of how the SNP or any other party would be able to exercise total power in a democratically-elected independent Scottish parliament. I am at a loss to understand why Scottish Labour in particular appears to see no opportunity for itself as a strong contender to win power in an independent Scotland.

It is this head-in-the-sand attitude which has caused so many of its previous supporters to defect to the SNP. If Anas Sarwar could bring himself to face reality rather than using the excuse of Covid recovery to justify fence-sitting on the independence issue he, and Mr Brown, might be pleasantly surprised at the public response.

Willie Maclean, Milngavie.


THE recent foray of the Earl of Strathearn into the murky and emotional waters of constitutional politics north of the Border raises some very intriguing points.

First, who is advising William at the moment? One would be forgiven for thinking that, following the Queen’s untimely intervention during the referendum on independence, his minders themselves would have intervened to stop it instead of clearly facilitating a leak.

This was the beginning of a dark charm offensive by the unionists in advance of a possible second referendum. Such a referendum clearly has the air of inevitability about it, given Gordon Brown has come out of hibernation in his search for political relevancy. But there's also a very intriguing point here.

As I understand it, and as we are frequently informed, the House of Windsor is supposed to stay out of partisan politics. That should have been enough reason to put the mockers on William and Gordon’s tête-à-tête. One could therefore ask with good reason: “Well what about the unelected second chamber? Like the monarchy it is unelected with members being there either by accident of birth, religious affiliation or by being appointed by the will of politicians. I contend that neither the monarchy and those who represent that institution nor an unelected second chamber should be in a position to intervene in the running of the country.

Rev John Nugent, Wick.


A NETHERLANDS court has ruled that Shell must drastically cut its CO2 emissions by 2030 (“Court orders oil giant to cut carbon emissions”, The Herald, May 27). Other European countries are considering following suit.

The world's oil and gas companies should immediately declare that they will suspend all sales of oil and gas to any country that does likewise, then those countries will achieve net zero even quicker than they thought. I'll leave it to the reader to imagine the consequences.

Geoff Moore, Alness.


I SHOULD be surprised if reader Tina Oakes (Letters, May 26), who professes disdain for English opera, dislikes the 17th century operas of Henry Purcell, especially Dido and Aeneas.

The paying public in London and Dublin preferred oratorio to opera when Handel moved from Italy, where he had written exquisite Italian opera. The theme tune of the prosperous classes was Handel’s Messiah for the next three centuries.

In Italy meanwhile, opera is the passion of humble and exalted folk alike from those days to these, with crowds in the street singing Verdi’s Va, pensiero at his funeral.

Ms Oakes is right about Gilbert and Sullivan. It is torture, not opera. But it was written as music hall with a dash of satire.

There are even people who think Broadway musicals are opera, but that is not so.

The 20th century wasn’t kind to serious music, especially not in English-speaking countries. Everyone had to pretend they liked academic work with no tunes, even when it was meant to be opera. James MacMillan I can tolerate, Harrison Birtwistle a bit, Britten not at all.

Tim Cox, Bern, Switzerland.


THE Remember When... contribution by Russell Leadbetter concerning Sugar Ray Robinson in an exhibition boxing bout in Paisley in 1964 (The Herald, May 25) brought back many memories for me of the exciting times to be had at Paisley Ice Rink, alas no more.

I remember the busy nights in the east end of Paisley as crowds made their way to see the ice hockey involving the Paisley Pirates. The Ice Rink, which could cope with 5,000 spectators, provided accommodation for many other attractions, such as exhibition tennis matches with players such as Rod Laver and Lew Hoad, and in 1965 Muhammed Ali, billed as Cassius Clay, the world heavyweight champion, also appeared in an exhibition match. And not to be overlooked are the Humpty Dumpty and Cinderella pantomimes.

All that is behind us now, but those were the days.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.


R RUSSELL Smith (Letters, May 27) will be aware of Lynne Truss's book "The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation" and its sub-title "Eats, Shoots and Leaves".

Or should that be "Eats Shoots and Leaves"?

David Miller, Milngavie.

Read more: Is there anyone brave enough to be Scotland's Dominic Cummings?