I WRITE in support of John Birkett’s letter (November 19) regarding Scottish sentencing policy. It seems to me that current sentencing policy favours the criminal at the expense of the victim and society in general. To allow a murderer back into society is in effect the judicial system according a greater value to the murderer's life than that of the victim, who gets no second chance.

I believe the suggestion is that in future, simply to reduce crowding in prisons, convicted criminals may be released on licence after serving a third of their sentence. I ask you how society benefits from releasing offenders early from sentences. How does it benefit at all from releasing repeat offenders back into the community?

The recent case of a convicted rapist with 23 previous convictions being given a sentence of 19 years for the rape and murder of a pensioner ("FM rejects ‘soft touch justice’ claim as questions raised over killer’s early release", The Herald, November 19) is a prime example of how the current system fails the law-abiding general public. The murderer had been released early from a previous imprisonment for rape and while supposedly under supervision he was able to continue his drug habit and rob, rape and murder an innocent woman. The final injustice is that despite being convicted of rape he will serve no time in jail for that crime, since the sentence will run concurrent with rather than consecutive to his imprisonment for the murder conviction.

I challenge anyone to demonstrate how his eventual release from jail will benefit society in the slightest. Do you want him living next door to you? One has to ask, if a criminal can be released from prison after only a few weeks or months of their penalty to serve the majority of it out in the midst of a law-abiding society, why send them to prison in the first place?

Despite all the available statistics current sentencing policy ignores the fact that in the majority of cases there is no Damascene conversion for criminals after a period of incarceration. In the order of 50% of those discharged from UK jails re-offend within a year of their release. I acknowledge that many of them may be drug-dependent addicts who should be treated as having a medical problem rather than criminals.

If your crime merits a sentence of four years or 24 years then I believe that is what you should serve behind bars. Life should mean whole-life just as it was for the victim and there should be a “three strikes and you’re out” policy for criminal convictions. If you are a persistent offender you should go to jail and simply never get out. If there is insufficient space to house persistent repeat offenders behind bars, build more prisons, preferably on a remote uninhabited Hebridean island. If habitual criminals won’t play by the rules then don’t let them participate at all.

David J Crawford, Glasgow.


DEPUTY First Minister John Swinney has told an Institute for Government seminar that the people of Scotland have no faith in devolution and can now see no alternative to Scotland leaving the UK. Devolution, he said, is being rolled back by the UK Government ("Relations between Holyrood and Westminster at ‘worst’ since devolution", The Herald, November 18. All I can say is, "if only".

The SNP has had 14 years in which to demonstrate that devolution is such a great thing that we should have more of it, and ever more of it until the salami is completely sliced and Scotland is entirely self-governing. Can anyone seriously claim that the SNP’s record in health, education, transport, housing, policing, justice and the other devolved areas has been such a roaring success that what we need above all is even more SNP control of even more areas of governance? Anyone who has studied the sorry saga of the ferries that haven’t been built and haven’t been providing the service for islanders and others that they require has learned a lesson in how to fail in government. There are plenty of other examples.

Even this week, we saw the SNP’s Green ally, Lorna Slater, read from her script about the bottle deposit and return scheme so unconvincingly as to leave a heavy fog of confusion around her ("Deposit return scheme delay blamed on Covid, Brexit and VAT row with UK", The Herald, November 18). And now we are to have Mr Swinney’s own trademark project, the Named Person Scheme, resurrected, while questions are asked about the hundreds of billions of a sweetener paid to the Gupta firm.

No, Mr Swinney. If devolution, especially under SNP control, has shown us one thing, it is that a separate Scotland would be an unmitigated disaster.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.


NHS Scotland appears to be guilty not only of bullying its own staff, but also being over-dependent on its accountants. Remember the adage: "accountants are people who know the cost of everything, and the value of nothing".

When, as general manager of Sony UK in the early 1980s – taking it in three years from £10 million to £210 million, facilitated by the most successful launch of such new products as the Walkman – I found myself in constant conflict with accountants telling me that selling into retailers in such as Wick and Fort William in our Scottish region was prohibitively costly, and such sales territories should be closed. What they could not factor into the accounts were image, reputation, availability, and customer support. So I managed to fight them off.

That was a time for businesses to rid themselves of such narrow minds, many of which, however, sadly found their way into the NHS. Having lived at the western end of Ardnamurchan for more than 30 years, I now realise that the narrow view is alive and flourishing in NHS Highlands.

More than 120 miles distant from the hospital at Inverness, with a poor, pale, substitute more than 50 miles distant, at Fort William, my wife and I find that the support system runs out before it reaches us. I, at 77, find myself sole carer for my 71-year-old wife, who earlier in the year had a massive heart attack; we cannot fault the immediate response of the local first responder, or ambulance from Strontian. However, my wife on returning home finds no local GP familiar with her, and absolutely no advice, or care, for either herself, or me.

Given an appointment at Inverness, we arranged an ambulance passenger transport service. However, on arrival, after a four-hour journey, she found her appointment had been cancelled by the Ambulance Service because the driver’s hours of work would be exceeded.

Adding insult to injury, we find ourselves ignored in local booster vaccinations.

Too remote to concern bean counters?

Tim Steel, Kilchoan.


I HAD the privilege of working for a number of years as a stadium tour guide at Celtic Park and we all looked forward to one of the many visits of the legendary Bertie Auld ("Lisbon Lion who became an authentic working-class football hero", Herald Obituary, November 18, and Letters, November 19).

He loved meeting the visitors and, after being photographed with them, he would invariably join the tour and the tour guide would quickly become redundant as Bertie moved into top gear telling his stories about his amazing career. He liked to have some banter with any Italian visitors – and particularly Inter Milan supporters. His audience (even those foreign tourists with limited English) would be held spellbound for the next hour or two and the tour rota for that day would go out of the window.

Being a tour guide during one Bertie's performances was one of the easiest and most enjoyable jobs I can imagine and it's great to think of the number of visitors who will still have special memories of them.

Hugh Phillips, Bothwell.


READING about the aggro on show at Celtic's AGM ("Bankier blames Holyrood for starting Celtic slide", Herald Sport, November 18), I feel it must be dreadful believing that your team has to win every match they play or life is not worth living. The same could be said of Rangers fans, although they are enjoying life a bit more currently.

Now, if they were fans of my team, Hamilton Accies, they – sorry I can't think it about it just now, it's too upsetting. I'll still be at Firhill tomorrow. Sigh.

David Adams, Glasgow.


ROBERT McNeil ("It might be sleazy on the ear but poor Mr Speaker can’t hear a thing", The Herald, November 19), you are a legend. Your Westminster sketch was hilarious and you educated me, too, with a new word for my vocabulary: epizeuxis. Thank you. Camley and McNeil: what a team.

Douglas Maughan, Dunblane.


LIKE David G Will (Letters, November 19), I have copies of Barclay, Knox and Ballantyne classics A Study of Standard English and Approach to Standard English on the bookshelf. In my case the reason is because James Barclay was my grandfather. What a frisson I felt when I read the reference to them. As a former English teacher myself, I dipped into them many times over my career.

Marilyn Copland, Glasgow.


YOUR photograph of the boy displaying bad behaviour by standing up on the teacher’s desk("Covid crisis sees teachers battling rise in violence among pupils", The Herald, November 18), reminds me of a French teacher many years ago, who would illustrate “Higher French” by standing on his desk, leading the class in singing La Marseillaise.

Back to the present – in the interests of “égalité” there should be a girl standing beside him, non?

Desmond Nolan, Edinburgh.


I READ with interest and with amusement Robin Dow's observations on biblical scripture that have relevance and pertinence to our politicians today (Letters, November 18). His comments reminded me of the surely true story of the evangelist who was knocking on doors to spread the word. At one door, receiving no reply, he began to call out if anyone was home. When no reply was forthcoming he popped a card through the letterbox which stated simply Revelations 3:20. Almost immediately the card came back to him with the message, Genesis 3:10.

The references?

"I stand at the door and knock. If anyone heard my voice and opens the door I will dine with them."

"I heard your voice in the garden and was naked. So I hid."

Gordon Fisher, Stewarton.

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