I FULLY support the Prime Minister's decision to make mask wearing voluntary in England ("Warning crisis is ‘very far from over’ as Johnson pledges easing of restrictions", The Herald, July 7) and hope that the Scottish Government follows it.

While FP3 disposable masks are effective against coronavirus transmission for a short time, few people use them. Mask wearers may fall into the trap of thinking that their ineffective masks offer them protection against Covid-19 rather than spacial distancing, ventilation or hand washing, which really do work. A study has shown that people touch their face between 15 and 23 times an hour and so if their mask is contaminated their hands become infected and they transmit the virus on to surfaces. A study by PM Medical showed that wearing a mask makes breathing shallower and more rapid.

Dentists warn of "mask mouth" whose symptoms include xerostomia – dry mouth – making swallowing and speaking difficult, halitosis or bad breath, and gingivitis, or bleeding of the gums.

If the entire UK population were to use disposable face masks daily it would create 42,000 tons of contaminated and non-recyclable waste, not to mention the littering problem.

My main complaint against masks, however, is that they make people less human. To converse you need to see the whole face, the grimace, the smile, the laugh. Goodness knows the effect on infants of people who look like bandits.

The Prime Minister has taken a sensible decision and those who rail against him for political reasons should ask themselves: "If not now, when"? Do they ever want economic and social life to recover and the country to move up into top gear?

William Loneskie, Lauder.


I WRITE regarding the letter about assisted dying which has been published to mark the launch of the campaign group Our Duty of Care ("Assisted dying: Hundreds of medics sign letter opposing law change", The Herald, July 5). The authors of that letter raise some important points about protecting vulnerable people, but I wanted to raise two points in response.

First, the authors correctly emphasise the vulnerability of people facing terminal illness, but they respond to that vulnerability by refusing to respect an individual's autonomous preferences about what happens to them. That seems perverse, and it's out of line with how we respond to vulnerability in other domains. Rather than doubling down on their vulnerability, we should empower people at the end of life: give knowledge, safeguards and support, and respect people's autonomy to decide these important questions for themselves.

Second, the letter sets up a false dichotomy between assisted dying and palliative care. I agree that there should be "well-funded, accessible, high quality palliative care for all", but it's not an either/or: good palliative care should be an option for everybody, and so should assisted dying. Even if someone prefers the former, and decides not to pursue the latter, knowing that they have that option liberates from the fear of being trapped, pained and powerless at the end of life. That's good for all of us, no matter what individual decisions we make about our own lives.

Contrary to what the authors say, many "civilised countries" (including Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, and parts of Australia and the United States) have recognised the force of this reasoning. Rather than invoking vulnerability as a reason to maintain an unjust status quo, I would urge the authors to look at the evidence from these fellow nations, and see how the legal option of assisted dying, with suitable safeguards for the vulnerable, is empowering for us all.

Ben Colburn, Professor of Political Philosophy, University of Glasgow.


NO ONE is suggesting that Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird should be banned or burned (“Goodbye y’all: School calls time on ‘dated’ Mockingbird and Mice”, The Herald, July 5 and Letters, July 6)

It is, however, time for these novels to be replaced as teaching texts in the classroom with books and stories that do not contain casual and liberal use of the n-word. Neither Steinbeck nor Lee had a target readership of school children in a multi-cultural society in mind when they created George and Lennie, Atticus and Scout.

Ruth Hird (retired English teacher), Inchture.


I READ with a wry smile your report regarding the "dangerous" armadillo markers being removed from cycle lanes near Celtic Park ("Cycle lane marker bumps removed from road amid fears supporters could trip over on their way to Celtic Park", The Herald, July 6).

Maybe Glasgow's roads department should reconsider their use, as I question if they are even fit for use; at times they are almost invisible to traffic.

I have seen cars in the north of city damaged by inadvertently clipping them and, from what I can, see they effectively make parts of the cycle lanes almost unusable as debris and dirt cannot be easily swept out of them. I wonder what the cycling fraternity's opinion is of these dividers?

Douglas Jardine, Bishopbriggs.


YOUNG man meets lovely young girl at a dance. Young man asks the girl to the pictures. Many years later, with three grown-up children and seven grandchildren, old man (young at heart), flinches at the pitfalls of dating described by Uzma Mir ("The do’s and don’ts of dating in the post-pandemic world", The Herald, July 6).

Old man counts his blessings.

R Russell Smith, Largs.