WE have a populist PM whose Cabinet reshuffle indicates that he must be aware that many voters neither trust him nor like him much. The new recruits are mostly seen as popular among Conservative Party members, although that may not be the case among the Tories' conditional supporters; it all comes down to trust.

On the international front, if a nation's standing can be measured by its alliances, Britain's appear poor indeed. Boris Johnson appears to enjoy springing ill-thought-out but headline-grabbing ideas via sympathetic media, without either informing – or better, consulting – allies and neighbours who may be affected. We have the unedifying spectacle of two French trade deals (vaccine production in Livingston, then submarines for Australia) being scuppered without any sign of discussion between parties. To lose one trade deal may be counted a misfortune; to lose two, carelessness, but whose? Mr Johnson must realise that for any relationship to survive and grow, mutual trust and respect are necessary.

Graeme Orr, Neilston.


AJP Taylor, the eminent historian, characterised the origins of the Crimean War as "misunderstandings, misjudgements and blunders". The AUKUS deal easily meets the same criteria ("Morrison rejects Chinese criticism of nuclear subs deal with ‘forgetful’ Biden", The Herald, September 18).

A nuclear-powered submarine takes on average 10 years to build and get into service. Australia could have built French-supplied diesel-electric in its own shipyards, but does not have the capability or the technology to build the nuclear-powered version. Nor does it have any naval bases capable of maintaining these vessels. The other branches of Australia’s armed forces will face drastic cuts in order to afford this grandiose plan.

The only country capable of building these vessels is America. Currently the US is building a new fleet of attack submarines. In order to supply Australia they will have to slow down their own programme or, more likely, lease some of these vessels to Australia. Either way, America will be the main beneficiary, not the UK. If China is the main threat how does the programme benefit Australia? China is Australia’s most important trading partner.

Australia is now placed fair and square in a potential conflict with China. Is this something the Australian people are clamouring for and, indeed, are they happy with the billions to be spent on the programme? Moreover, are the Australian people now happy to be the guarantors of the security of countries like Taiwan and South Korea, thus making themselves potential targets in the event of Asian conflicts? Is Nato threatened?

The message is clear, the EU will have to move quickly to develop its own forces, for neither the US nor Britain can be depended on to put Europe first.

Raymond Pattison, Neilston.


WHY are the French so surprised and so exercised over the cancellation of the contract to supply their diesel-engined Barracuda submarines to Australia?

Apparently there have been growing concerns in Australia over leakage of information which could affect the security of these submarines in service, as well as substantial construction cost escalations and increasing uncertainty over the extent to which they would be constructed in Australia as originally envisaged.

The current forecast is that the first of these submarines would not be ready for service until at least 2035, which begs the questions, first, what is Australia to do in the meantime, and secondly, will such old-fashioned submarines still be effective then?

With the help of the United States and the UK, Australia has opted sensibly to refit its present ageing submarine fleet as a stopgap until it can be replaced by a fleet of modern nuclear-powered ones better suited to defend its and our interests in the region, necessitated by the Chinese actively seeking to extend their growing influence there.

Alan Fitzpatrick, Dunlop.


MAX Cruickshank's long experience in the field of drug addiction shines through in his letter (September 17). My general practitioner contribution spanned 30 years with opiate-dependent patients and I too have viewed residential treatment as not very successful and costly.

However, there are some less well-known aspects which would be most interesting to explore further. Why, for instance, is the death rate in Scotland so different from England – at least double here? Is policy and the service so different? Perhaps we dropped the ball here some years ago and patients' health has suffered as a result?

Secondly, why do the social insurance companies in the Netherlands think it is a good use of their funds to pay for so much residential treatment?

I note that the long-lived Castle Craig clinic near West Linton has 55 beds but has expanded to run out-patient facilities in Stockholm, The Hague and London, and a 22-bed unit in County Louth, Ireland. I would expect that reduced charges have been negotiated for volume of referrals, but no doubt still costly.

Thirdly, I don't view private treatment for drug addiction (and the profits from that) as immoral. Pragmatically, we are going to need all the facilities available to recover from the pandemic backlog, while mindful that many in Scotland working in the private sector have a main work commitment to the NHS. Do we know what that balance is in whole-time-equivalent doctors, nurses and therapists?

The Scottish Conservatives have a new health spokesperson in the shape of GP and MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane. We should expect that he will want to make best use of evidence to answer these and other questions to inform us and the Minister for Drugs Policy, Angela Constance. I absolutely agree with her committee "that we must ensure that people are treated not only for their physical addiction but that we must also address their underlying mental health problems". The problems are that these are difficult to treat successfully and we are short of skilled staff to deliver that service. Sadly, despite regular governments' promises over some years to boost mental health services to reach parity with physical health services, the NHS north and south of the Border has failed to do so.

Dr Philip Gaskell, Drymen.


I WATCHED the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday (September 19) where he was interviewing Alok Sharma, the Westminster minister in charge of the COP26 arrangements in Glasgow.

Marr produced a graph which showed the world's top 10 greenhouse gas producers. There at the top was China, way out in front by a mile, followed by the United States and so on. Marr made the point that China was producing more greenhouse gas than the next nine put together and put it to the minister that we should all be pressing China to drastically reduce its emissions.

If someone showed me a graph of the greenhouse gas emissions of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland it would show England way out in front also. If I were to suggest that this showed that England must be pressurised to reduce its emissions the response would be "but England has a much bigger population than the other three", a very valid observation.

If we are going to reach agreement on tackling climate change we must first recognise that the starting point is not how much greenhouse gas each country produces, but how much each country produces per capita.

Such a table would show that the main country causing the problem is not China but the US, followed by the industrialised countries of the West, and a range of oil-rich countries in the Middle East.

If the Marr interview showed anything however, it was that it revealed that Mr Sharma was completely clueless in his responses to the other probing questions from Marr about gas boilers, heat pumps, wind power and solar costs; and who was going to pay for the mind-blowing costs involved in tackling the changes; and how these were to take place at the speed required. Not exactly confidence-building for today's young people.

Nick Dekker, Cumbernauld.


TOM Perridge (Letters, September 20), confuses opportune statistical references with facts.

He states that "last year, 97 per cent of Scotland’s power was provided by renewable generation”. This figure is provisional, and also not true as stated.

The Scottish Government Statistics Energy Summary published in March 2021 states that “provisional figures indicate that in 2020, the equivalent of 97.4% of Scotland’s gross electricity consumption was from renewable sources”.

When reviewing the total Scottish energy consumption from the March 2021 publication, consumption is as follows: Total Scottish energy consumption (produced) from renewables = 24% in 2019, against a target of 50% by 2030.

Beneath this figure, it states 97.4% (provisional) of gross electricity consumption is from renewables. The 97.4% makes no account of power required for heating and transport. Most home and industrial heating is still gas-powered, and that is not a renewable source.

It is sadly a case of don’t let statistics get in the way of a good, but misleading, letter.

Grant Aitchison, Aberdeen.

Read more: Never mind the shared values, share the wealth