REBECCA McQuillan (“No one’s defending devolution, least of all the SNP and Tories”, The Herald, October 29) believes devolution can work. After 20 years, it’s clear it can’t deliver what the people of Scotland want – full, not partial, control over our own nation.

Devolution didn’t stop Brexit. Brexit has allowed the Tories, who have shown open contempt for devolution, to make spending decisions in devolved areas. Indeed, they seem to delight in punishing us, knowing we will never vote for them. They broke a 2014 promise to invest in the Aberdeenshire carbon capture project, choosing sites in former Red Wall England instead. And our export-driven economy has been dealt a body blow by their hard Brexit. The losses won’t begin to be replaced by the puny Australia and New Zealand trade deals that will drive our farmers to the wall.

Devolution doesn’t let us keep our own money and natural resources. We can’t invest to make Scotland a fairer, greener and more prosperous nation. We are told we benefit from the UK’s broad shoulders when for years it has stolen our oil wealth and now has its sights set on our vast renewable energy resources and our water. We are charged billions for UK debt and nuclear weapons and then told we are too poor to go it alone.

Devolution doesn’t give us control over social welfare. We can’t pay higher pensions, a living wage nor guarantee that education and healthcare will remain free and accessible to all Scots.

Power devolved is power retained. We can’t prevent Westminster’s power grab – our MPs are outnumbered nearly 10 to 1. It’s time we stopped being treated as a colonial outpost and reclaimed our sovereignty.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh.


THE First Minister’s interview with Vogue magazine and her comments around her relationship with the Prime Minister really are scraping the barrel ("Sturgeon says she is considering becoming a foster parent after politics", The Herald, October 30). She notes that the Prime Minister delegates much of the Government’s interactions with the devolved nations to Michael Gove. What is surprising about that, except that it shows the First Minister’s jealousies about the fact that there is a serious dearth of any recognisable talent sitting on the SNP benches behind her in the Scottish Parliament? How she must wish to be able to delegate something.

However one of her further comments in the Vogue article quoted her as saying that Mr Johnson’s refusal to meet her was perhaps because of his “fragile male ego”. It is hard to conceive the levels of bile and vitriol that would have erupted from the SNP and its supporters if Mr Johnson had referred to Ms Sturgeon’s “fragile female ego”.Howls and cries of “misogyny “ would have been heard across the airwaves.

The simple fact is that Ms Sturgeon allows ambition to overrule ability and that Mr Johnson only needs to consult with her when it is deemed appropriate and necessary in the national interest and not at her beck and call.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh.

Double standards over trade unions

IT’S hard to know where to begin in reply to Andy Maciver’s union-bashing diatribe (“Unions have a vital job – but it’s not holding country to ransom”, The Herald, October 28). He portrays a picture of union members champing at the bit to go on strike when that is simply not the case. Why would they be when they would lose pay in the process?

For any industrial action to be legal in the UK, a ballot has to be held which requires at least 50% of the membership to take part and there must be a vote in favour of at least 40%. The idea that strike action is taken to satisfy the ego and greed of trade union barons is not only absurd but insulting. And Mr Maciver’s snide reference to the salary of ScotRail train drivers (who, as it happens, were not involved in the current dispute) as “double the average salary” is as relevant as the price of fish. Frankly, I’m very happy that ScotRail train drivers are well trained and well paid, given the level of responsibility the job entails.

Mr Maciver also states that “belligerent disruption by trade unions is becoming more and more prevalent”. He must be joking, surely, as industrial action by trade unions has reduced markedly over the last few decades and actual strike action nowadays is always a last resort.

Using a situation to your advantage in negotiations in just about any other field, be it political, financial or business, seems to be fine, indeed it would be considered daft not to, but when a trade union uses the same tactic, it is invariably characterised as “holding the country to ransom”. Yet another glaring example of double standards.

Bill Stewart, Glasgow.

* I NOTE Andy Maciver’s comments about the salaries of police officers, teachers and NHS doctors and agree they all have responsibilities that should receive an appropriate salary. I must, however, take issue with his comments regarding train drivers.

They are responsible for the safety of passengers on what could be a full train at rush hour, not to mention the very unsocial hours. As the mother of a train driver I know my son regularly leaves home at 3.30am on an early shift and can still be driving after 1am when on a late shift. This is not to mention the ever-present danger posed by irresponsible members of the public regarding crossing the track and worse.

Kathleen Ross, Kilsyth.


IT is difficult to know where to start when finding fault with Joanna Blythman’s article on Scotland’s approach to Covid ("Scotland/England mask divide shows we should rethink Covid restrictions", The Herald, October 30).

Scotland, she asserts, is “sunk in an abyss of Covid trepidation” while England is “stepping out into the light”.

It is worth looking at some cold facts. The John Hopkins University in America, which produces worldwide stats on the Covid situation, shows that the UK figures for Covid deaths per 100,000 is at 210.41. has very similar stats.

When one extrapolates the rates for the individual UK countries, England’s death rate is 217, Wales stands at 189, Scotland 167 and Northern Ireland 142. Perhaps Ms Blythman could illuminate us as to why England is stepping into the light compared to Scotland in the light of these figures. I would suggest the opposite is more likely to be the case.

She then also asserts that the countries with the worst death rates are generally those which took the most stringent measures. To back up her case she mentions Peru, currently heading the death rate per capita in the world.

This is simplistic nonsense. Certainly Peru did go into lockdown early, but its death rate is far more to do with social and economic factors, an inferior health service to most advanced democracies and a vaccination rate which means that currently less than 4% of its population has been fully vaccinated.

Ms Blythman then extols the situation in Florida which, she says, now has the lowest rate of new cases of all 50 American states. Florida, she says, has consistently followed a different (more lax) Covid strategy to states “like depressed and edgy New York and California”. California’s death rate per capita is substantially lower than Florida’s at 182 per 100,000 to 277. New York’s is certainly higher at 290, but it is a major air passenger hub and the US was hardly a beacon of light under former President Donald Trump’s farcical guidance.

New Zealand, one of the strictest countries in the world over Covid regulations, especially regarding air travel, has one of the lowest ratings in the world – a staggering 0.57 – massively lower than Sweden, which Ms Blythman feels is a beacon of light regarding its initially lax regulations.

The Scandinavian countries have far lower death rates per capita in general than the larger European democracies. The reasons for that are many, including excellent health services and far less activity in terms of air travel and general cross-border travel. But, when comparing like with like, Sweden’s immediate neighbour, Norway, which adopted a strict lockdown policy in contrast to Sweden, has a death rate per capita three times lower than its immediate Scandinavian neighbour, specifically 16.8 per hundred thousand to 48. Finland, its other immediate neighbour, also has a far lower death rate at 20.9.

This article is a prime example of an opinion piece based on very little detailed research.

Roger Graham, Inverkip.

* I WAS dismayed (and a bit angered) to read Joanna Blythman's article. She seems to think that because Scotland is more "closed" than England, we are under the thumb of the "hard-core lockdown zealots". So England is "tentatively stepping out into the light to reprise the breadth of its former life", while Scotland is "sunk in an abyss of Covid trepidation"?

Can I give her some perspective as someone just returned from England? We found many people not wearing masks, despite many shops with signs asking people to do so. It was our misfortune then to attend an RAF reunion at a hotel in Lincolnshire, where the advice was "it's up to you" regarding mask wearing, and very, very few of the staff wore masks. Result? At least the of our party now testing positive for Covid, and one quite poorly, elderly husband is hoping the double vaccines and booster will see him through (as of course do I).

Ms Blythman can criticise Nicola Sturgeon all she likes. We two, at least, are convinced she has chosen the right path.

Lizanne Mackenzie, Dumfries.

Read more: Scotland has no reason to be grateful for this Budget