NEIL Mackay (“Johnson has corrupted English politics with the hate and bigotry that’s corrupted English football”, The Herald, July 15) refers to the “vast swathe” of the English population who are “trapped under an ideology it loathes”. That is exactly how I, a citizen of the UK, currently feel.

Although I have as yet (although the time may be coming) no great enthusiasm for independence I have to acknowledge that at least the Scots have that option if only the SNP could get its act together. It needs to explain its strategy, in particular how it intends to deal with the inevitable challenges such a constitutional upheaval would bring. This the Yes movement failed to do in 2014 and lost the referendum as a result.

The current response to that challenge is that now is not the time to address these issues because we are still dealing with the pandemic. That excuse does not stand up to close examination. We ought to recall the post-Second World War planning that took place at the height of that war in relation to the creation of the NHS and the Welfare State.

Remember also in relation to Scotland, the project of considerable significance to the Highlands, the establishment of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board by Tom Johnston, a politician not only of vision but of great practical abilities. Where are his likes today?

John Milne, Uddingston.


LORNE Jackson's column ("Is this a conspiracy too far – even for Twitter?", The Herald, was an excellent one – at least, up to a point. I disagree with him that "it [Twitter] has had a greater democratising effect on society than the ballot box, Emmeline Pankhurst and Magna Carta combined". Such an assertion is pretty ridiculous.

Twitter does not democratise, rather, it operates on the principle of the hive-mind, of peer pressure and a desire for social success creating conformity, and this point weighs heavily on its political discourse. Twitter users, craving likes and guided by algorithms' unseen hands, are driven into echo chambers in which critical faculties must be suspended by left and right alike in order to fit in. What matters on Twitter is that you pretend to have something urgent to say, a dramatic yet snappy way to say it, and that it be on trend. This is why statements like Philip Pullman's succeed – they are entertaining (to a degree), and they, regardless of accuracy or plausibility, touch on enough on-trend talking points in a brash enough way to engage the faceless mass of Twitter users inclined to agree with them.

One thing it does not do is "democratise"; instead, it homogenises and creates political mobs and cults which are tremendously dangerous – Boris Johnson and Donald Trump would not exist without it. "Make America great again" and "take back control" are Twitter-ready (and totally meaningless) straplines, devoid of content, but snappy enough to engage a mass that do not look for real meaning or value, but rather for a mob to join.

In this sense, Neil Mackay's column yesterday is very Twitterish. It's another predictable rant, touching on many of his favourite talking points in rapid succession (patriotism, Russia, Brexit, Northern Ireland) without ever deciding to focus on one. Not once does he offer a solution to our dilemma: how do we tackle Mr Johnson's menace?

It seems that every week, the same bold opinion articles come from his direction, much the same in overall content (anti-Johnson/the terror of coronavirus/eco-catastrophe), but touching on a current event to justify them. Such energetic but flimsy rhetoric achieves nothing if it offers nothing constructive.

Jack Sam Anderson, Holytown.

* NEIL Mackay's excellent analysis of the ills besetting our neighbour omits to mention one of the more pernicious influences on the English consciousness and behaviour. On a daily basis, the Tory tabloids glorify Boris Johnson's position, the three largest-circulation newspapers promulgating his deviant views, his rank hypocrisy and the racist stance of his party.

Unfortunately, the Scottish editions of those newspapers spread the poison north of the Border with their jingoistic headlines and intemperate opinions.

Eric Begbie, Stirling.


TOM Gordon (“Police probe into the SNP will rind Sturgeon down”, The Herald, July 15) is right: in an open democracy, the funding of political parties and the disposal of the moneys involved should be an open book for us all to see. That the SNP will be under pressure is obvious, less obvious is how the opposition could weaponise it.

The Tories have the “Dark Money” scandal, never properly investigated, and a torrent of money from vested interest groups. The LibDems accepted £2.4 million of criminal money – astonishingly the Electoral Commission stated it was “permitted” to do so (don’t think Joe Public agreed). Labour accepted donations from trade unions with which it then colluded in keeping women’s pay illegally low. Then there is always the bestowing of peerages or government contracts to remind us of the nepotism and cronyism at the heart of UK corruption.

No, modern politics is more squeaky bums than squeaky clean, I’m afraid.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.


IF we gave aid through registered charities on the ground and attached anticipated outcomes to the money instead of through governments, the five per cent of Britain's GDP allocated to overseas aid would double the impact of what the present seven per cent achieves and the only losers would be foreign government fat cats.

James Watson, Dunbar.


MY wife is fully vaccinated and has been since May. Her vaccination record is incorrect. Both appointments are in the record but incorrectly described and incomplete. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) has the information but has failed to correct the record despite five requests to do so since May. Before I expand on the implications, I must say that the vaccination programme itself and the dedicated staff are exemplary.

Whether we like it or not we are required to prove vaccination status if we want to travel. It is likely that we will also need to evidence status in an increasing variety of social, travel and eligibility circumstances. An incorrect record condemns both the individual and families to isolation, quarantine and increased testing costs. As we are being told frequently, Covid-19 is here to stay. An accurate record is clearly essential.

The only way to request a record correction is through the helpline. The online offer is a waste of time when correction is required. Each time I call the call handler is pleasant, sympathetic and does try to help. They have no control over the process or the end result. They submit the information to NHSGGC. It is their responsibility to correct the record. There is no way to contact them direct. Is this deliberate? How many people are affected?

Five calls from one person result in five separate requests for action. The pressure on the system must be horrendous as each call made falls into a black hole when it reaches the health board.

I understand that the pressure on the system is now so great that a special task force has been set up and is in operation from today (July 15). If they correct the problem then great, if not we are condemned to restricted access, unnecessary expense and quarantine and isolation.

Joe O'Donnell, Newton Mearns.


SO, after a long period with limited capacity for bikes on trains in the UK, ScotRail makes a token gesture (“ScotRail launches new trains in Highlands adapted to carry 20 bikes”, The Herald, July 15). Excuse me while I slap my forehead in awe at the forward thinking of our transport system and policies.

Before the "modern" trains that we are now accustomed to came into use, all trains had capacity for 20 bikes. Do the rail companies think we have such short memories?

As a member of the Cyclists Touring Club, we often caught trains as a club. I recall going down to Chester for the CTC annual birthday rides with 20-plus on family railcards in the early 1980s.

No need to even book the bikes as the trains then had the baggage car, a large caged space for transporting bikes, bags and the like. Okay, sometimes this was empty, an obvious loss-maker for the rail companies. When the new design of trains came in, all cyclists who used trains kicked up a stink, and no one cared a jot. I suppose Thule and the other car bike-rack companies must thank the forward-thinking railway companies for their stupidity. Even my older brother, who has recently become a bike convert, is considering getting a driving licence and a car, so he can get further afield, because train space for bikes cannot be trusted as being available.

So now, that one section gets decent bike space, what about the rest of the network?

Richard Blair, Oldham (originally Edinburgh-based).

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