THE claim by Donald Macaskill from Scottish Care that older people with dementia were responsible for the Covid death rates in nursing homes ("Death rates higher in larger care homes", The Herald, May 27) represents a new low in the private care industry's attempts to deflect responsibility from the disaster that happened last year.

Large care homes are typically built in wings or as separate "units". If these had been properly managed, outbreaks should have been no different to smaller homes. A 120-place care home, divided into four 30-bed units, should have had the same infection rates as a 30-place home, while a 60-place home divided in three, the same as a 20-place home.

A failure to understand basic infection control practice resulted in a failure to segregate units physically but, even more importantly, inadequate staffing led to the workforce being deployed across units. This spread Covid-19 through larger care homes. That this need not have been the case is demonstrated by providers who did segregate units, laundry and staff teams. Indeed there were care homes that restricted the spread of the virus by moving all infected people into one contained area, a practice that was also widely used in the NHS with its system of red, amber and green wards. Arguably, segregating infected people should have been easier, not more difficult, in larger care homes but, as Mr Macaskill admits, there had been a lack of investment.

The explanation for this failure is that most larger care homes are run by the large corporate providers who have been focused on extracting every penny they can from sector. Over the last 20 years they have asset-stripped, gambling on care home buildings and separating out the property from the operations side of the business, reduced the number of qualified nurses (who know about infection control) and cut the pay and conditions of the rest of the workforce to the bare minimum. The crisis came to a head a year ago when care staff, who should have been self-isolating, were forced into work due to lack of income, forcing the Scottish Government in turn to pick up the tab last June.

While Mr Macaskill is right that more investment is needed in the care home sector, he failed to say it will cost an arm and a leg from providers, some of whom have siphoned tens of millions of pounds into tax havens.

The report of the SNP's Social Justice and Fairness Commission last week rightly called for the social care system to be not for profit. That is clearly at odds with the recommendations of the Adult Care Review, which were endorsed by the Scottish Government before the elections and welcomed by Scottish Care, that the private sector should continue. At stake is whether Scotland has a National Care Service worthy of the name or whether we perpetuate the system that was responsible for the needless deaths of thousands of people.

Nick Kempe, Glasgow.


ALEXANDER McKay (Letters, May 28) wonders where our Scottish whistle blower is when it comes to the Scottish Government's failure with regard to care homes.

We have already had a whistle blower in the person of Alex Salmond on an entirely different matter. In that instance, the First Minister came out smelling of roses and virtually unscathed for some inexplicable reason. In the eyes of her adoring public, she retained her gloss without any damage to her bodywork.

My contention over the Westminster revelations emanating from Dominic Cummings ("Cummings: Johnson is not fit person to lead country"m The Herald, May 27) is that the UK electors are not suffering from being lions led by donkeys, but more frogs beguiled by the sweet talk of Boris Johnson and have forgotten about the sting in the tail.

The voters in both the UK and Scotland are the victims of a hijack where they fell for the narrative promising a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, whether that be the hope of independence for Scotland or the freedom to make trade deals globally by the UK.

So they have become exemplars of the Stockholm syndrome, their devotion developing towards their captors despite being hostages to fortune.

Both electorates have embarked upon illusory voyages which will eventually leave them stranded like beached whales.

With regard to the Westminster project, the malevolent conjunction of Covid and Brexit will see our economy crash and burn, the result of which will see the phoenix of the small state arise from the ashes.

Playing a major part in that scenario has been the arsonist-in-chief, Rishi Sunak, who, on the plausible pretext of protecting workers, has shovelled cartloads of cash into furlough, knowing in his heart that the day of reckoning will come when it will be incumbent to concentrate on cutbacks to public services, which he will sorrowfully and solemnly declare with crocodile tears, telling us that dismantling our public services is unavoidable if the books are to be balanced.

Unless both electorates realise that they are being taken for a ride, they will sooner or later be unhorsed and have a really nasty fall when it is too late to right that wrong.

Denis Bruce, Bishopbriggs.


WITH regard to the somewhat petulant letters from Bill Brown and W MacIntyre (May 28) on the subject of co-operation between the SNP and the Greens, I note that Mr Brown refers to the independence referendum as though nothing has happened politically since 2014, and asks "are the Greens willing to hold democracy in such little value as the SNP displays?"

Where was the democracy in Scotland being dragged out of the EU after voting to remain, and indeed after being assured that voting No to independence was the only way to guarantee Scotland's place in Europe? The growing desire for independence has been mirrored by the SNP democratically winning the majority of Scotland's Westminster seats at the 2015, 2017 and 2019 General Elections, and its landslide victory a few weeks ago.

Mr MacIntyre bizarrely claims that an arrangement with the Greens is being considered because "the SNP's grip on power slips a little", ignoring the fact that the SNP not only held all its constituency seats in the Scottish Parliament, but added to them.

An arrangement between the two pro-independence parties at Holyrood can only strengthen the independence movement; in the run-up to the election the pro-Union parties were blatantly urging voters to "lend their votes" and vote tactically to stop the SNP; a tactic that in most seats failed dismally.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.


THERE is an incessant call by people opposing the dissolution of the UK for a detailed statement of the economics of an independent Scotland, and James Quinn (Letters, May 27) joins in this chorus. He and many others do not seem to realise that no such statement will be possible until there is an independent determination of the proper division of assets, liabilities, duties and obligations between England and Scotland. What should be a detailed analysis has been reduced to a sequence of reports by pseudo-independent think-tanks, confident assertions by economists of various persuasions, and the opinions of percentage jugglers.

Confusion is compounded both by the naive belief that statements provided by Whitehall must be completely reliable and the fact that most considerations of important constitutional issues are provided to the public by the inherently parochial London newspapers. The BBC struggles to provide a balanced view but often fails.

In the absence of an impartial constitutional commission, any summary of an independent Scotland's possible economic position will continue to be a matter of subjective political presentation.

Peter Dryburgh, Edinburgh.


WE are urged to be Green. How green were we when we contrived to construct an electoral system whereby a university drop-out with no life experience at all could be appointed as an MSP at the age of 21 and potentially remain there until his retirement without ever having anyone ever vote for them personally? Is that democracy?

And how can a party that has proven time and again that it is an incompetent manager of our schools, hospitals and economy be repeatedly elected? Are we all stupid?

Holyrood is a failure and a disastrous waste of £100 million a year. It has added no value whatsoever. Indeed with its nurturing of uncertainty that deters any inward investment at all, the current stewardship has destroyed value.

John Dunlop, Ayr.

Read more: Independence would have saved lives