I DO not doubt that there are people who attend A&E when they could phone 111 or their GP.

But telling us to attend A&E only if it is necessary is part of a developing pattern. Calmac, too, tells ferry users that they should "only travel if necessary". What one person regards as "necessary", another regards as indulgence. Nationalised services are under great pressure, and I wonder what will happen when Scottish railways are nationalised. With rail services being reduced, perhaps there will be banners at train stations saying: "Is your journey really necessary"?

Supporting services is about choices and priorities. For island dwellers, ferries are, often quite literally, a lifeline. In any case, why should islanders not be able to travel between home and mainland at will? We hear a lot about how Scotland could be like Denmark. Are there aged and inadequate ferries plying the waters between Danish islands, or for that matter between Scandinavian countries? I don’t think so.

The Scottish Government spends millions on "hubs" in foreign countries which already have British embassies that represent Scotland’s needs. Building up these hubs, and employing ministers to supervise them and the rest of SNP "foreign policy" is a device to build a base for a separate Scotland and to give the impression abroad that Scotland is a separate polity. What with that and providing Gaelic language instruction for the police force, among other things, a lot of money could be saved to spend on the priorities that Scots actually want, such as a functioning A&E service and reliable ferry links to Scottish islands.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.

* IT becomes very wearisome to hear leading figures in the Scottish Government repeatedly claim or suggest that the crisis in the ambulance service in Scotland, as well as in the NHS in general and much else, are all, or mostly all, attributable to the pandemic. This is utter nonsense.

For more than a decade the SNP has been in charge of running our health service. In the same period it has opened "pretendy" embassies overseas at staggering costs for a matter that is reserved; handed out a series of populist freebies and indulged in much nationalist window-dressing, such as having Gaelic signs printed on all public service vehicles; buying a redundant airport; nationalising a shipyard that is now a basket case; on and on it goes, all of them vanity and fantasy projects, and critically absorbing our taxes, which could have gone towards properly funding our councils and providing better health care and welfare for the most vulnerable in our society. The SNP could have cut the toll of the worst drugs death rates in Europe if it had put aside nationalist fervour and prioritised where our taxes are spent.

This administration’s record is Scottish nationalism write large: "all fur coat and nae knickers".

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh.


CAN I ask why independence supporters were out on the streets last Saturday ("SNP has sucked the life out of independence campaign", The Herald, September 21, and Letters, September 22)? If I asked any of them to explain to me what the economic policy for a successful independent Scotland is, what currency would be used, how a central bank would operate, what would the defence policy of an independent Scotland be, how could an independent Scotland join the EU, how would Scotland’s massive deficit be reduced and the myriad of other constitutional issues, would they be able to tell me?

My suspicion is no, so it begs the question, why do they support independence? I know why but I would like to hear from them. When I asked an activist delivering a leaflet prior to the election what has the SNP done for Scotland, his reply was “baby boxes”. I was astonished. So I suspect those “out on the streets” would say free prescriptions, free bus travel, free this, free that, free us from Westminster, give us our freedom, Nicola’s wonderful – all emotional nonsense and not a scooby about the real and serious issues.

Then Stewart Falconer (Letters, September 22) write that an independent Scotland “would be the 14th richest country in the world”. Why settle for 14th when we currently are part of the fifth richest country in the world – the best independent nation in the world, the United Kingdom? Independence would take decades to settle down (as Andrew Wilson said), will provide high taxes, austerity never previously experienced and unemployment. The majority will save us from all of that.

Douglas Cowe, Newmachar.


LIKE the rest of the UK, Scottish taxpayers pay for the British Army, whose personnel will soon be driving some of our ambulances. Neil Stewart (Letters, September 23) makes the silly comment that if Scotland were independent “this would not have happened”, presumably because the British Army or whatever it was subsequently called, would no longer operate in Scotland. An independent Scotland would have its own army backed by a long history of military service pre and post-Union, and freed from pretensions of strutting the world stage as a bit player. Mr Stewart seems to be in a fantasy unionist world believing an independent Scotland would be a unique country by not having an army or air force for that matter.

It would also have its own navy as it had from the 12th and 13th centuries, built up by James IV to 38 ships, around the same number the Royal Navy currently has, including the Great Michael which was reputed to be the largest ship of the time. In 1536 during the reign of James V, the Royal Scots Navy captured the Mary Willoughby, a ship of the English Tudor Navy, which then accompanied our fleet in Europe and visits to Scottish isles, although it was re-taken by the English in 1547. Scotland may not have been a world power but it had strong connections in Europe and was no forgotten backwater as it is today.

After the Union of 1707, the Royal Scots Navy was consigned to the historical bin. A fascinating and interesting part of Scottish history about which many of our own people remain ignorant and which in the re-telling, would provide material for producers of historical drama – if only they knew or even thought about it.

Alan M Morris, Blanefield.


THERE are many valid arguments against Scottish independence, but citing the support from the British Army by Neil Stewart should not be one of them.

Does Mr Stewart think that all the soldiers driving Scottish ambulances are English, Welsh or from Northern Ireland? In the event of Scotland becoming an independent country there will still be Scottish soldiers who can be called upon to support the civilian authorities in times of need. Indeed the Scottish soldier, following independence, is more likely to be based in Scotland rather than be found soldiering far away on foreign hills pursuing the imperialistic dreams of the UK Government.

Sandy Gemmill, Edinburgh.

* NEIL Stewart's letter on the merits of the British Army highlights a major issue.

In the past, the force was used by the British Government to influence and negate strikes in large public sector labour disputes.

The mobilisation of the British Army in the NHS crisis might yet be seen in the same context: why bother training staff if the Army can do the work at a lower cost and without any messy employment issues?

Allan McDougall, Neilston.


I SEE All Under One Banner is marching in Edinburgh on Saturday to Holyrood.

It reminded me of the 2018 march when someone full of their own importance at Historic Scotland banned AUOB having a rally in Holyrood Park after the march, because it was seen as a political meeting and such meetings are not allowed in Holyrood Park.

This is despite the Queen having garden parties and there being good old miners' galas in the park. Both could be described as political.

Anyway, I recently came across a report in an old brochure and lo and behold in 1832 there was the biggest political gathering ever in Scotland in Holyrood Park, which, according to the Scotsman of that day, attracted a crowd of 60,000 to discuss the Parliamentary Reform Bill.

If political gatherings were okay with Queen Victoria, I don’t see why it would be a problem today. One has to be very careful,but the current Queen surely doesn’t involve herself in politics, does she?

IB Archibald, Edinburgh.


IT is not surprising that Donald Macaskill, chief executive of the commercial care industry, should argue for “self-directed support” for those with dementia – in other words, the mentally sick being funded so they can pay his mostly profit-centred members to look after them (“Demand to end “grotesque inequality” of dementia tax”, The Herald, September 23). It is this which is “grotesque”, to borrow his expression.

I trust the Scottish Government will see through this, and will move as quickly as possible to having institutional care provided by the NHS, in publicly owned facilities.

Michael Otter, Kinlochbervie.

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