WE are still reeling from the consequences of the disaster in Afghanistan. Now comes the crisis enveloping our energy supplies.

This problem should have been seen heading our way weeks ago and steps taken to secure supplies and to build up a national reserve as has happened in other European countries. Reports suggest that the UK currently has only very modest amounts of gas storage – less than six per cent of annual demand. In Germany, France, and Italy, storage covers about 20% of annual demand.

On top of the mistakes with Covid, Afghanistan and energy are yet more examples of the chronic failings of this incompetent Government. Decisions are taken far too late or we are left playing catch-up, so a challenge that should have been anticipated and prepared for instead sees a desperate scramble to find some way of dealing with the mess. To compound matters further, there is a dreadful inability to see the consequences of poor decision-making. The collateral damage of soaring energy prices is just adding to the plight of our poorest fellow citizens already struggling to feed and clothe themselves and their families. Now they will struggle to stay warm this winter. If things weren’t bad enough, we have the wicked decision on the part of a Tory Cabinet, many of whom are millionaires, to end the Covid increase to Universal Credit.

With a change of heart on the part of the Westminster Government extremely unlikely, I would appeal to the Scottish Government to introduce an emergency budget with an immediate increase of 1p in income tax for middle and higher-rate taxpayers. The sums raised should be used to offset the imminent cut to Universal Credit payments with the balance being allocated to the NHS and the proposed National Care Service. I am sure that there would be support for this measure in these very difficult times.

Eric Melvin, Edinburgh.

* ALISON Rowat ("Looks like a crisis, feels like a crisis: yes Minister, it’s a crisis", The Herald, September 23) is right to call on the Scottish Government to be candid about the extent of the problems in the NHS and to “lead a grown-up discussion about what to do about them, and how much it will cost”. The difficulty for the Government, of course, is that solving the problems in health and social care can’t be done by reorganisation, upbeat speeches and a public relations gloss. The solutions will cost money and there’s only one source for that: taxation of we, the people. One thing I’ve always criticised SNP politicians for is their pretence that we could have Scandinavian levels of public services on Scottish levels of taxation; we can’t.

I know it takes a brave politician to talk about higher taxes, but part of being grown-up is being prepared to face unpalatable truths. Health and social care need a significant injection of money over a prolonged period, and more cash might put a bit more oomph into attempts to improve the life chances of school pupils in our most deprived areas. More spending in those areas is also an investment in the future: for example, better-educated youngsters go into higher-skilled jobs, earning better wages and paying more tax, a virtuous cycle if ever there was one.

Tax isn’t an evil, it’s the fee we pay for living in a decent society. At the moment, we’re well behind on our fees and some of the pillars of our society are crumbling. It’s time for those who can afford it to pay their dues.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.


IT has been striking to note the Government’s continued insistence on cutting £20 a week from Universal Credit next month.

Such a cut is morally repugnant and pursued without disregard to those who will be impacted. It is one of the most callous and vindictive acts pursued by any government in modern times, with little disregard for impacts on the poorest in our society.

There has been no justification for this, no study undertaken on the impact of the cuts, and because of the coronavirus crisis and rising fuel and food costs, this will inevitably push hundreds of thousands of families into poverty.

Many peoples’ lives and livelihoods still hang in the balance and a choice will have to be made for a number between heating and eating.

The Welfare State was founded on the principles of abolishing squalor, want, disease, ignorance and idleness. We are currently very far removed from these well-intentioned principles.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh.


JILL Stephenson (Letters, September 24) asks readers to compare the state of ferry services in Scandinavia with Scotland but fails to mention that Norway and Denmark invested their oil and gas revenues on infrastructure, modernising their shipyards and invested heavily in renewable energy manufacturing.

Successive UK governments failed to invest the hundreds of billions gained from Scotland’s oil and gas revenues in Scotland, preferring to hand out tax cuts and only invested in infrastructure in the south-east of England. I think you will find that virtually no ferries operating from English ports were built in the UK and independent Ireland has 40 weekly direct sailings to Europe whereas Scotland has no car ferry to Europe. Under Ofgem, Scotland’s renewable industries pay the highest grid connection charges in Europe and double that of our nearest competitors in Northern England.

There would be no energy crisis and food shortages in an independent Scotland as we produce four times the amount of gas we use and export vast amounts of electricity, oil, food and drink.

Also, under the SNP, by any measurement we have the best-performing NHS in these islands plus fewer Covid cases, fewer deaths and more jags administered per head of population than Tory England or Wales under Labour control.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh.


THANKS to the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine led by our UK Government I have been lucky enough to be out of the country for three weeks. steering clear of news from home. However, on picking up my Herald on arrival home to Scotland I have been immediately reminded of what a joke country this has turned into. It seems everything around us is failing, from ferries to education, from health service to airports.

When is the Scottish Government going to admit that something is going badly wrong and it’s not Westminster to blame. Was it Oliver Hardy who said “here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into”?

Sheila Watson, Giffnock.


SHOCKED and angry was my reaction when it came to my attention that the House of Commons is currently in recess – not for a week, but for more than three weeks (September 23-October 10).

So why are MPs absent? Well, it is party time: party conference time. Be those conferences in person or virtually, it is an outrage of gigantic proportions while the county is sinking before our eyes.

Waken up Westminster, we are in embroiled in a global pandemic, vaccine roll-out, travel restrictions, crisis in the food chain, crisis in the supply chain with the shortage of HGV drivers, crisis in our fuel supplies with suppliers going burst, in a climate crisis with only 38 days till COP26 in Glasgow, savage welfare cuts in a week's time, the list could go on.

The crisis is real, it is worrying, the country needs reassurance, the country needs leadership, so what is Westminster’s response? Let's down tools and have a recess. You could not make it up. How are they getting away with this?

Catriona C Clark, Falkirk.


PRIVATE limited companies are misleadingly described as “energy suppliers” but do not supply any energy to the consumer. It is supplied direct by those organisations that own the networks from whom these companies buy the energy and add their mark-up to fund their existence.

They also tell us we have to agree to contracts of between one and three years to get the best price as they have to negotiate prices with the suppliers for the future, which now appears not to be true. If it were true, they wouldn’t be affected by rising prices, but when they go bust their one-sided contract with the consumer is worth nothing.

The network suppliers should be not-for-profit organisations selling their energy direct to the consumer thereby cutting out this raft of private intermediaries with their high salaries, opulent offices and who profit handsomely at the expense of the consumer until they can’t meet their obligations, which then costs the consumer even more when having to transfer to more of the same elsewhere.

And they have the cheek to call it “competition” in the energy market.

Angus Macmillan, near Balloch, Dunbartonshire.


BORIS Johnson has some nerve saying that “we trash our habitats again and again” during his recent UN climate speech in New York.

Wind turbines are the top choice for politicians wanting to reduce emissions. But studies from 2016 suggest that 4.1 million birds and bats are killed by the blades annually. This total is likely to be higher now as there are many more turbines. Or perhaps the total is lower as birds in relevant areas are wiped out.

Politicians also subsidise biomass. But they don't boast about it, as biomass is actually burning trees. Whole forests are felled.

And they promote biofuels. Huge areas of rain forests are replaced with oil palm. Crops like corn are grown on vast acreages in the West and oil is extracted from the seeds. This takes land away from food production, resulting in yet more rainforest being felled to create agricultural land.

Geoff Moore, Alness.


NOT that Brian Logan requires any support from me or from any other practitioner of the black art of mathematics, but his answer (Letters, September 23) to Eric Begbie’s “wee sum” (Letters, September 21) is correct, and, regrettably, Mary Fallon’s letter (September 24) shows a sign of confusion.

Ms Fallon appears to think that 13 feet = four yards and that six inches = 2/13 of a yard. From this, the conclusion is that 1 yard = 39 inches.

To the best of my knowledge and belief, there is no recognised unit of length which is equivalent to exactly 39 inches. There is, however, one which is quite close at 39.3700787… inches. What’s it called? A metre.

Al Cowie, Milton of Campsie​.

Read more: We are paying a heavy price for SNP vanity projects