THIS morning (October 25) I listened to a distressing report on Radio 4 from Herat in western Afghanistan. Yogita Limaye described in harrowing detail the sight of starving children inside a hospital run by the redoubtable charity MSF, Médecins Sans Frontières. She went on to interview Afghan families who had decided to sell one of their children, in the hope they would then be able to keep the rest of their children alive.

This desperate situation didn’t arise overnight, or even in the two months since the US and UK and their allies scurried out of Kabul with their tails between their legs. The cause lies in part with a severe drought that has gripped the country, but the greater reason for this catastrophe is the corruption and mismanagement of the previous regime in Kabul: the regime that the US and UK installed and kept in power for two decades.

Of course, the argument goes up that we shouldn’t recognise the Taliban, because they’re a pretty odious bunch. But when did we start being picky about dealing with regimes of which we disapprove? We’ve done it throughout history and continue to do so. The Saudi Arabian regime has similar policies to the Taliban, but they’re our best friends in the Middle East, and we’ll happily take their money and the influence that comes with it.

Saad Aljabri, second in command of the Saudi Arabian Intelligence service, now lives in exile in Canada. He describes the Saudi Crown Prince and effective ruler Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) as “a psychopath who poses a threat to the planet”. And the CIA concluded that it was highly likely that MBS ordered the killing of his critic Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. If we’re comfortable cosying up to the Saudi regime, we should be able to hold our noses and work with the Taliban to limit the disastrous famine that looms as the Afghan winter approaches.

In Afghanistan, we helped break it, so we have a responsibility to help fix it.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.


UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is cranking up Project Fear, saying an independent Scotland would be vulnerable to Russian aggression ("Defence Secretary warns of terror risk rise for independent Scotland", The Herald, October 25).

That’s curious, since David Cameron asked Vladimir Putin to help halt Scottish independence in 2014. Which is it, Mr Wallace? Is Russia a friend or foe? I’m betting on the former, since 14 of Boris Johnson’s ministers, including Rishi Sunak and Alok Sharma, and two Tory MPs on the Intelligence and Security Committee received funding from individuals and companies linked to Russia. The wife of a former minister in Mr Putin’s government, Lubov Chernukhin, and energy boss Alexander Temerko have given thousands of pounds to the Tories.

And we can’t ignore the vital role that the City of London plays in laundering money from Russian oligarchs. The Tax Justice Network ranks the UK first in international tax havens. More than two-thirds of the 956 companies that the Pandora Papers link to public officials were established in the British Virgin Islands. The New York Times identifies the City of London as the "nerve centre of the darker global offshore system that hides and guards the world’s stolen wealth”.

And it will only get worse. The Brexit fiasco has made the Tories even more eager to shore up this sinister web. The Tories invoke competitiveness and competition repeatedly in a new financial services document, code words for low taxes, flaccid regulation and weak enforcement.

Restoring Scotland’s independence has never been more urgent.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh.


GERALD Edwards (Letters, October 25) asks “where are the details?” to justify David J Crawford's claim (Letters, October 15) that independence is the only answer. Well, first of all, the resource constraint that the Scottish Government works under is that the resources for the NHS in the annual Block Grant are determined at Westminster.

It is possible to move funds from one budget head to another, but ultimately this is a zero-sum game – more from X means less for Y.

As an international comparison, Scotland, as part of the UK, spends more than North Korea, Portugal and Slovenia, though to be fair, just slightly more than the OECD average. However, it spends less than Belgium, Ireland and Japan, and less than the EU median. Compared to such as Germany, Norway and Switzerland, the UK spends much less. Yet, should Scotland want to spend at those levels it couldn’t. Westminster wouldn’t let us unless we cut drastically another budget heading such as education. And that, sir, is why “independence is the only answer”.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.


I HAVE a different view of last week's BBC Question Time to Mary Thomas's (Letters, October 25). Why are pro-UK Scottish politicians so mealy-mouthed with nationalists? In response to Brian Cox's harrumphed "that's life" response to audience complaints about the state of Glasgow, Andrew Bowie should have said: "I can't believe you just said that. Are you so keen on independence and so blind to the incompetence of SNP administrations in Glasgow and Holyrood that you expect the rest of us to brush it off as 'that's life'?"

He'd have got a standing ovation instead of a polite clap. Anas Sarwar wasn't much better.

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven.


NO seat and no input. That is the outrageous scenario Scotland finds itself in as COP26 descends on our largest city.

This outrageous scenario could have been avoided, not by giving special concessions for the host nation, but by giving Scotland’s parliament the rightful place it deserved as host nation. Yet another glaring example of why Scotland needs independence to regain her identity and voice on such major global issues as climate change.

Catriona C Clark, Falkirk.


IS the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow completely unable to learn from its mistakes? Last winter/spring, I was twice taken there in the middle of the night by ambulance: treated, diagnosed, given medication and discharged. In the cold dawn, in my nightclothes, outside. I wasn't even permitted to phone for a taxi from inside. On neither occasion was the department busy, hardly any other patients, in fact. Staff knew I had a mobile, but not if I had any money.

On each occasion, I had had a painful and stressful night – I am also over 70. I duly wrote to the NHS complaints department and to the Health Secretary, and received a fulsome letter of apology on July 22. This assured me that a meeting had been held, discharge procedures tightened up, and patients would be able to wait indoors until their transport arrived.

Fast forward to this past week. A friend's son was, at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, diagnosed with pneumonia, given medication and discharged, to wait outside in the rain for his lift to arrive. Pneumonia!

The lack of care is clear, the opportunities for something to go wrong hardly need explaining, and the blatant hypocrisy of my apology letter striking. There is a disturbing degree of cynicism – tell them something so they'll go away.

Ann Walsh, Glasgow.


AS part of the push to "save the planet" (I think the planet will be fine – it's just we annoying humans who are on a shoogly nail), we are being encouraged to leave our cars at home and use public transport instead. I should like to give an instance where, in that respect, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Last month, my wife and I attended a concert at Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall. Said concert finished not long after 10.30pm, giving us, so we thought, plenty of time to walk across the road to Buchanan Bus Station to catch the last bus home at 11.15. We didn't realise that that particular service had been axed so, instead, boarded another bus which gave us a substantial (at our age) walk home at the other end.

On the same bus, we struck up a conversation with a couple who had been at the same concert. As the lady was wheelchair-bound, the gentleman had decided to drive in to Glasgow by car and had parked in the nearby Buchanan Galleries car park. On attempting to retrieve his car, he found that the car park had closed at 10pm.

Are we all meant to use taxis after late evening? Good luck with that. They're rarer than hens' teeth now that so many drivers have found alternative employment during the pandemic, gone back to their native EU countries, or realised they can make a decent living being paid by councils to do the "school run" without having to work nights or weekends. I suppose we could call in the Army. It looks like they're having to do everything else.

Anyway, a very annoying end to the night for both car and public transport users alike.

Brian Johnston, Torrrance.

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