IT was around September 2020 when Matt Hancock appeared on TV to say that the UK was in an excellent position in terms of PPE ahead of the expected second wave of Covid-19 and that 90 per cent was being produced in the UK. This was in contrast to the position before the pandemic started when 70% came from Malaysia and most of the rest from China. I am not a huge fan of Mr Hancock, but I was genuinely delighted by what he had to say that day. Given the issues in securing the PPE early in the pandemic this was a significant moment. And good for UK business.

Imagine therefore my amazement when it was announced that the UK had signed a trade deal with Australia that would allow them free access to the UK market for their agricultural products and that such a move would be bad for Welsh and Scottish farmers ("UK-Australia trade deal has ‘screwed over’ British farmers", The Herald, June 16).

I should declare that I am a big fan of Australia. I lived there for a while, am a citizen and hold a passport from that fabulous country and love the food they produce. But if importing their food puts our agriculture at risk then it seems like a crazy move on the part of the UK. Our agriculture was doing really well in exporting to the EU, prior to Brexit, but to add this new shock could leave us producing less of our food in this country. Not to mention the jobs that would be lost, how environmentally crazy it is to be bringing food from the other side of the world when we produce a lot of the same stuff in this country, or the impact on our countryside from the decline in farming.

It does though seem like this UK Government has learned nothing from the PPE crisis. If our agriculture is run down over the coming years and we are hit by a similar short-term situation like the Suez Canal blockage or a longer-term crisis similar to the pandemic then we are in trouble. You can get a PPE industry up and running in six months; it takes a lot longer to get an agricultural industry back to its former strength. Boris Johnson is keen on taking us back in time to historically big moments, surely then he needs to be thinking about the slogan for food self-sufficiency during the Second World War, Dig for Victory?

It’s another indication of the desperation and stupidity that drives decision-making by the UK Government, and all because of its xenophobic and illogical Brexit, and further underlines the need for Scotland to be an independent country.

Rab Mungall, Dunfermline.


THE broad outlines of a free trade agreement between the UK and Australia should be viewed in context.

It is the UK's first post-Brexit trade agreement to be negotiated from scratch, and the Government has long argued that the ability to strike its own deals around the world is one of the big benefits of leaving the EU.

However, on the Government’s own figures it is worth saying that the trade deal is estimated to add 0.02 per cent to UK GDP in 15 years’ time, while the Government’s own estimates of leaving the EU single market will reduce UK GDP by four per cent over same period of time.

We will need the equivalent of 200 Australias to offset the impact of leaving the largest single market in the world.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh.


ON Tuesday (June 15) it was widely reported that there was a 15-year “easing in” of the trade deal with Australia. None of the many Government ministers interviewed denied this was the case. Today, Wednesday, we learn from Australia this was not true; there is no moratorium, and beef and lamb can flood our market as quickly as availability allows.

Is there nothing this tawdry Tory Government says that can be believed? The City of London will gain with its huge financial services industry. Gentlemen farmers in the Cabinet can expand their land holdings as real farmers go broke. There might be a tad more whisky sold, but very few new jobs will come from that, to mop up the loss of jobs that will result from the decimation of traditional farming across the UK, but especially in marginal ground from East Sussex to Wales to the hill farms in Scotland. Gentleman farmers in the Cabinet, reliant on City income, will be rubbing their grubby paws at the prospect of cheap land becoming available, as real farmers go to the wall.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.


IT seems that Michael Gove has suggested scrapping English Votes for English Laws, to appease the SNP. Yet it is perfectly logical for only English MPs to vote on matters affecting England. English MPs have no input into matters affecting only Scotland. Indeed, Scottish MPs have no input into matter affecting only Scotland. This is the paradoxical state to which devolution has brought us. Tam Dalyell was right all along.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.


IT was a pleasure to read Ian McConnell's upbeat and informative article ("Reports of Scottish economic collapse are much exaggerated", The Herald, June 16); Mr McConnell doesn't insult Scotland's abilities or depress us with gloomy prophesies of doom, instead he provides a balanced resumé of where the Scottish economy sits in these coronavirus days.

Mr McConnell correctly points out the more cautious approach taken by the Scottish Government and reminds us of the drive by the UK Government to get people back to offices in England last year, when you didn't need a medical degree to see that Europe's second wave of coronavirus was about to crash on to the UK's shores. And while everyone has made mistakes, Boris Johnson's tardiness in closing the UK's border at the very start of the pandemic when planeloads were arriving from countries with high infection rates was repeated this year with people arriving from India.

I know many people in England who place their confidence in the advice given by Nicola Sturgeon, and who trust Scotland's First Minister to never "let the bodies pile high in their thousands" rather than take difficult decisions.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.


I WONDER if any work is being done to investigate how soon, and how frequently, after two jabs the population will require probably regular boosters? Work must also be done to ensure that second and third world countries get up to speed with their vaccination programmes. Many countries are barely started with vaccinations, and on that basis alone, the UK should not be reducing the foreign aid budgets. To be blunt, any infections there are only going to keep the virus going, and increase the chances of it spreading its way back to nations better equipped financially to halt it in its tracks, at least for the moment.

George Dale, Beith.


HAVING read the letters (June 15) in response to Guy Stenhouse's pointed article ("Action, not words, are needed to solve ferries fiasco", The Herald, June 14), and also thinking about the many other comments from your journalists and correspondents, I don't recall any in-depth response from Holyrood.

I remember reading years ago in Roy Pedersen's book Who Pays the Ferryman that Calmac ferry design had to have crew accommodation. Mr Pedersen explains this and compared other operators who relied on their crew living ashore but appearing for shifts in accordance with crewing rotas. He also claimed, as did some of your recent correspondents, the input and demands of the RMT union claiming that the possible relief ferry, the Pentalina, was unsafe, perhaps due to this living on board rule?

Whether Jim McColl was "badly let down" as Sir Brian Donohoe maintains or not is for him to say, but surely due diligence would have identified the strengths and weaknesses of Ferguson at the time of the acquisition. Would Ferguson's yard have failed if it had not been starved of business with EU yards winning Calmac work in alleged compliance with EU rules used as justification by Holyrood? I remember reading that France and other EU countries got round EU rules relating to subsidies by supporting owners rather than builders and thereby directing business to home industries who did not, by the rules, appear to be subsidised.

With all of the guessing about policy, support, decision-making, buck-passing and so on, it is difficult to understand what is really happening with the Scottish Government. One could easily be led into thinking that Calmac's present large ship fleet is seen as non-green, expensive to maintain, expensive to replace and so a secret policy of creating more reasons to depopulate the islands exists. Or maybe, just maybe, a scenario is being created for a private operation such as Serco, whose Northern Isles service seems to be successful, to be awarded the whole Calmac business.

And the waiting for a proactive responsible government goes on. Limbo cannot go on indefinitely.

Ian Gray, Croftamie.

Read more: Jim McColl has been badly let down