AS Christmas and the New Year approach, it is worth pausing to reflect on the significant changes imposed on our society in the name of combating Covid-19. Frequent, indeed at times daily, announcements by politicians at both Westminster and Holyrood have left us no clearer on the visions they have for a return to "normal" life. The promise of the lifting of all restrictions always seems to be illusory.

Those fortunate enough to venture abroad now find their return to the UK contingent on a Passenger Locator Form, unobtainable without a computer or smartphone. Mere days after the end of COP26, an event for which vaccination requirements were waived for tens of thousands of visitors to Glasgow, the provisional extension of the vaccine passport scheme for people living in Scotland was announced ("Rollout of vaccine passports to wider range of venues expected", The Herald, November 16). Citizens will doubtless be encouraged to use a smartphone app to provide evidence of inoculation, further extending the digitisation of everyday life and the creeping normalisation of a state surveillance system enabled by Big Tech.

Vaccination appears to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, but prevents neither infection nor transmission. A vaccinated infected person producing a passport will therefore potentially be able to gain admittance to restricted venues, whilst an uninfected individual, who for whichever reason (there are many valid ones) has chosen not to be vaccinated, will not. I have been vaccinated, but believe that citizens in a free society should not be marginalised should they choose not to be.

We are witnessing growing state encroachment into our private lives, with little sign of this coming to an end any time soon. Public discourse on key aspects of our way of life has effectively been stifled in the name of “staying safe”. We should be asking ourselves just how far we are willing to surrender our personal liberties as Covid-19 moves from the pandemic to the endemic phase. We will likely have to live with the virus (and its variants) for decades to come so fundamental, challenging issues such as the mental health impact of what were presented as temporary measures, and the relative impact these measures are having on those (overwhelmingly younger) most affected by the changes they have wrought versus those most at risk from the virus, need to be fully and frankly debated.

READ MORE LETTERS: What will it take to end the inadequate sentencing that is putting our lives at risk?

Nick Ruane, Edinburgh.

* DURING the EU referendum campaign it was common for Remain supporters to claim that various institutions of the European Union act as a guard against national governmental tyranny. This has failed to happen as numerous European administrations severely limit the rights of their citizens. As powers on the Continent turn against its people once again we should bolster our own defence of liberty.

Tom Walker, Loanhead.


AFTER reading in The Herald that a decision on Covid passports is to be made on Tuesday ("Hospitality trade claims vaccine passports ‘devastate’ business", The Herald, November 19), my wife and I decided to apply, just in case. Our invitation letters and appointments for our first two jabs and boosters went smoothly. We were impressed with those arrangements. We both opted to go online to apply.

I went through the process, providing my NHS (CHI) number, date of birth, and postcode. I was sent a security code by email – the system wouldn’t recognise it. I got a different code on my mobile phone. The system wouldn’t recognise me. I was asked to send a proof of identity, a copy of my driving licence. At this point I gave up. My wife went through it all, was not recognised, and sent a photo of her driving licence which was rejected as having “inadequate definition” although it is perfectly clear on the email. At this point she too gave up.

I have lived in Glasgow for 75 years, my wife for 55 years. We have always been registered with Glasgow West GPs. We have not moved for 12 years or changed our names. If this Government thinks it can enforce legislation with this lamentable standard of service, it is surely mistaken.

A year ago you printed my letter about Government legislation regarding compulsory installation of fire/smoke alarms in all Scottish homes. No information of any kind had been made public and householders and landlords had exactly three months to install the equipment. The compliance date was suddenly advanced 12 months – to February 2022.

There is something seriously wrong in all of this. As an SNP supporter in a general way, I am very concerned.

READ MORE LETTERS: Scotland needs independence to tackle climate change and to protect its economy

Simon Paterson, Glasgow.


WITH a global study suggesting that the wearing of face masks is more effective than social distancing and hand washing in combating the coronavirus, it's a matter of concern that Deputy First Minister John Swinney has highlighted research showing a "declining level of compliance" in following the current mask-wearing rules. Merely a visit to supermarkets and even local shops can confirm this to be the case.

Instead of dithering, surely Mr Swinney should be considering fining shop owners for serving unmasked individuals who on the basis of the worldwide research are increasing the chances of passing on Covid to others, or would this just be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut? In any event, more lives will be put at risk unless the Scottish Government takes a more proactive approach.

Bob MacDougall, Kippen.


IT is welcome to have some focus on the other great threat to human civilisation – even if Neil Mackay's conclusions are entirely wrong ("How does SNP vision of independence fit in a world where war threat grows daily?", The Herald, November 18).

Climate change and nuclear weapons are the twin threats to life as we know it. The Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratified by seven of the nine nuclear powers, has been treated with contempt by those states. In signing it, they were supposed to pursue a programme leading to the abolition of nuclear weapons. They did the opposite.

Don't just blame Russia and China – all of them have engaged in this constantly spiralling arms race. The US at several stages has been technically ahead and then the others feel threatened and rush to catch up. Chinese tests earlier this year suggest that they have made a technological leap, possibly beyond the US, and so the leapfrogging goes on. We need to turn the spotlight on the military industrial complexes driving so much of the arms race. There are large corporate powers and military vested interests for whom disarmament is totally against their interests.

The UK is completely dependent on the US for its supposed "independent system" and has been for 60 years. It rents the US missile system and pretends it is in charge. Scotland has around 200 nuclear bombs close to our major population centres and this will increase to 240. Obviously we are a very top target.

One of the great contributions that an independent Scotland could make to the world would be to remove all nuclear weapons and to start to put that hideous nuclear spiral into reverse. We would do this with significant international support. The new UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has specific provision for states that have the weapons of another state on its territory. Fifty-six states have already ratified this treaty and another 30 are signatories giving support. The first meeting of the State Parties to this treaty takes place in the spring. Our neighbour Ireland will be there. Would that Scotland were at the table.

Isobel Lindsay, Biggar.


NEIL Mackay, who often presents himself as a supporter of Scottish independence, bases his analysis of future defence issues on the flawed assumption, so often promoted by unionist politicians, that an independent Scotland would inevitably be governed in accordance with the policies of today's SNP. Surely defence policy and alliances in an independent Scotland would be a matter for whatever government the people of Scotland chose to elect at that time?

How do the citizens of other small European nations such as Ireland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Portugal and the like manage to sleep soundly without the comfort of nuclear weapons under their pillows? The loss of the peacetime alliance within the EU will not be compensated by the retention of the military alliance within Nato. With the UK and France, both members of Nato, currently snarling at each other in the aftermath of the madness of Brexit, what comfort is there in the obligation on each Nato member to come to the aid of any other member state in the event of hostilities?

Willie Maclean, Milngavie.

READ MORE: We should be sending killers to jail for the rest of their lives