LESLEY Riddoch ("The dilemma in Scotland: Is independence the only way to escape privatised Britain?", The Herald, September 27) gives us a reality check on how how the rich get richer as the poor get poorer, because of the sleekit decades of privatisation of almost every service all of us need to have a comfortable and healthy life.

The Westminster Parliament continues to pile on the pain of ever scarcer and poorer services in England; that includes privatisation of much of the NHS; prisons, water, Royal Mail, gas, electricity, bus and rail transport. People of my age will never forgive Margaret Thatcher for allowing council housing to be sold off to tenants, with the false promise that the proceeds would be used to build more affordable homes for the thousands who need it. That never happened.

We in Scotland are in a slightly better position with free prescriptions, free or subsidised transport for pensioners and under-22s, free university tuition and more. However, all is not rosy, because like England and Wales all of us are slowly finding that more and more of our health services are being hived off to the private sector. Long ago optical services were slowly offloaded to high street opticians, which although providing free testing, offer very little else. Dentists too have in the main gone private, so the poorer you are the harder it is to find a decent dental service.

The latest service that more than 6.5 million of us need as we get older are services for hearing loss. There is an additional and hidden but enormous group of younger people who by their forties are losing their hearing from decades of listening to loud music in venues, concerts and most of all through earphones.

Audiology departments in our NHS are not only underfunded but the private providers, which cannot operate without at least one qualified audiologist, are poaching these highly-trained professionals. The public are being conned daily by companies diving into the savings of pensioners to sell them hearing aids that cost £2,000-£3,000 per ear. That does not include maintenance, batteries, replacements of unrepairable hearing aids or even the high quality of hearing test normally provided by the NHS in soundproof studio-type environments.

Some patients are being sold hearing aids they do not need or which could never solve their hearing problems. Those signing up for private hearing devices are not warned that hearing aids need replaced very four to five years or sooner, so spending £4k-£6k on private aids is tying those with hearing disability to a life-long expenditure for a service that is completely free on the NHS.

All of us should be doing everything we can to stop the scourge of privation damaging any more of the services we depend on.

Max Cruickshank, Glasgow.


THE BBC drama Vigil was a rattling good yarn that straddled the crime, spy and thriller genres with the additional spice that its main setting was on board one of the UK’s nuclear weapon submarines. Like most of its kind it was rich in cliché, stereotypical representations, inaccuracies and the implausible.

And yet what made this one stand out is the fact that many of the most dramatic and shocking features are indeed wholly plausible, given the chequered history of the UK’s nuclear submarine fleet. This is true of the fishing boat tragedy, reactor failure, near collisions, drug-taking, onshore crew mayhem, and the ageing fabric of the Vanguard boats. As such the tale is a useful reflection of the enormous risks presented by the UK’s fleet and the entire system. As well as the Faslane/Coulport complex offering a tempting target for a nuclear strike, the realities of a programme dependent on outworn technology and fallible, if highly-trained, human beings, pitches the risk factor to extreme level. Note that good risk assessment takes full account of the potential impact of an incident as well as the likelihood of one occurring, to say nothing of the fact that this risk is being taken by the UK Government without our consent.

There is, of course, sharp irony in a crime drama set in a nuclear-weapons submarine with no mention of the fact that the UK’s nuclear weapons system is a calculated preparation for war crime on a vast scale, with unimaginable human suffering and environmental degradation. The weasel term “deterrent”, much used on the show, hides the nature of the terror behind an abstraction, especially since we know that the use of these hideous weapons might not be restricted to retaliation. We owe a great deal to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) for putting the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons at the heart of the issue. This is is why the nuclear armed states hate the treaty – it rips off their sleazy disguise.

David Mackenzie, Edinburgh.


THERE are clearly lessons to be learned from the current disruption at the petrol pumps ("Don’t panic! Petrol crisis is like a bad case of Dad’s Army", The Herald, September 29 ).

Firstly, it is important not to panic. Secondly, if you’re going to – be among the first.

R Russell Smith, Largs.


REGARDING your front page picture today ("At last, Mr Bond...", The Herald, September 29): I am not convinced that a nice little pink double-breasted jacket enhances the image of James Bond.

Colin M Guthrie, Bearsden.