WATCHING the Westminster Government’s fiasco on social care has inspired me to write to you. We need an honest debate.

I am 75+ and have friends desperately needing social care. I have always thought it was reasonable that the value of my house would contribute to my social care.

It seems to me that all this talk of a cap of £86,000 on how much individuals will have to pay towards their care costs, is only a part of the question.

I want to discuss how we all pay in for social care.

I thought Theresa May’s plan included some idea for us all to pay, say, £40 per month from the age of 40, to set up a fund so we can expect good care – not fighting over what we can keep, but working out what we can contribute.

I would like to make it £30 per month from the age of 30, because that sounds like just £1 a day.

Obviously, people without money can’t pay it. Surely the civil servants could work out a system that would seem fair. I think the public are open to well-argued proposals.

Barbara Darcy, Edinburgh.




AFTER all the fine words at COP26 in Glasgow, including many from the First Minister, it is astounding that the Scottish Government heartily welcomes the £2.5m subsidy from Westminster for flights between Dundee and London.

We are sadly used to stupidity emanating from London, but with the Scottish Greens backing the minority SNP administration, one might have thought that Holyrood would have had something to say about funding climate-unfriendly domestic flights between two cities connected by the East Coast main railway line. For goodness sake, some of the trains are direct.

It is appalling that although everybody at COP26 seemed to agree that action was needed now, and with Holyrood vying to show it was much more environmentally-friendly than Westminster, suddenly the can has been kicked down the road and the Scottish Government enthusiastically expresses its delight with the money for these unnecessary flights to continue.

Some claim they have to fly because it is cheaper than rail travel.

In which case, why does the UK government not redress the environmental balance and use the available £2.5m to cut the cost of rail travel between Dundee and London and, for that matter, the £1.8m for Newquay and London, a journey which also appears to be perfectly feasible by rail?

What, I wonder, would wee Greta say?

Jane Ann Liston, St Andrews.




MUCH is made of Covid ‘restrictions’ being an infringement of individual rights. How have measures designed to protect people from contracting a deadly virus morphed into a debate over rights? UK Government framing has a lot to do with it.

On July 19 the Tories ended protections in England, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, without ever addressing the crucial issue of indoor ventilation. They called it ‘Freedom Day.’

Since then, the UK has had 15,000 Covid deaths and has had the highest hospital admissions during all waves including the most recent, bringing the NHS to the brink as winter looms. Compared with Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, the UK has the highest per capita excess death rate.

The gloating in the UK press over the current European wave ignores the cost of this ‘freedom.’

To prevent future lockdowns, scientists recommend adopting the vaccine-plus strategy. This means not relying solely on vaccinations but combining them with regular testing, isolating when infectious, maximising indoor ventilation, and social distancing and face coverings, which are all proven to reduce viral spread.

In addition to communicating clearly with the public, the Scottish government has adopted the vaccine-plus strategy. It has the lowest infection and death rates and the highest vaccination rates in the UK. Not surprisingly, a UCL Covid social study found public trust in government is higher in Scotland than in England.

Leadership matters. Imagine how many more lives could have been saved had Scotland been independent.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh.



WITH the debate still raging as to the merits of Covid passports it is disappointing, to say the least, to share the recent experience of my wife and I at Murrayfield last Saturday.

Our entrance tickets clearly stated that “Proof of vaccination is required for entry to the ground.” Furthermore, the ticket also recommended that spectators take “two Lateral Flow tests in advance of the game and ideally one within the 24 hours prior to the game.”

Accordingly, we arrived at Murrayfield with our phones at the ready, together with proof of the negative Lateral Flow test that we had taken the evening before.

To our considerable surprise we could see absolutely no sign of any checks being carried out at the entrance gates to the East Stand. Hundreds of spectators were being admitted to the ground without being asked for any proof of vaccination or of a recent negative Covid test. We could see only one steward who seemed to be covering all of the East entrance gates.

This was in marked contrast to our experience at Tynecastle a fortnight before. Before we went through the turnstiles at the Gorgie Road entrance, every spectator was checked for proof of vaccination or of a negative Covid test. Extra stewards had clearly been employed to carry out these important checks.

The Scottish government’s regulations state quite clearly that ‘Sporting venues with capacity over 10,000 will be required to see proof of spectators’ double-jags before they are admitted to the largest events in the country, regardless of sport or discipline.’

I think that there are serious questions for the SRU to answer to explain their failure to carry out their responsibilities.

Eric Melvin, Edinburgh.




DAY in, day out, we read more horrendous stories of people waiting days for ambulances and many being pronounced dead when the poor paramedics finally get there.

When dialling 999, we should not be hearing that it may take 90 minutes when the target for the least urgent category should provide an ambulance within an hour.

When those falling into the most serious categories, which should be responded to within eight minutes, are having to wait 2,175 minutes – ie 36 hours, we have a system that has failed.

People are dying waiting for ambulances to be freed up from sitting outside hospitals which don’t have the beds available. They don’t have the beds available as there are too many delayed discharges, due to there being no social care system which has a place for those who no longer need to be in hospital but can’t yet go home.

This has all happened over the last 14 years on the SNP’s watch, under Nicola Sturgeon as Health Secretary and now as First Minister. It has been a disaster waiting to happen due to her never having her eye on the ball.

We have known that our demographics are tending to more elderly living longer and requiring hospital treatment and social care provision. Yet the SNP are reactive rather than proactive.

There’s no point the goalie trying to stop the ball going in the net when it has already flown past you as you were looking elsewhere.

Jane Lax, Aberlour.



I AGREE with Frances Scott (letters, November 23) that there is much wrong with the UK state pension, and that the triple-lock should have remained at least for 2022/23, pending new legislation.

It would seem logical over a few years’ transition to align the basic “new” state pension (£9,339 per annum, currently) with both the tax-free personal allowance (£12,570) and the minimum wage for 18-year olds (£12,792 for a 40-hour week).

But as in other countries, pensioners should then be subject to National Insurance, whose rules and thresholds should of course be integrated or at least aligned with Income Tax.

Why on earth should retired millionaires escape it, such as certain bankers disgraced in 2008? Nor should they benefit from the tax-free winter fuel allowance and the fatuous £10 Christmas bonus, which should both be incorporated into the pension.

Also, we should recognise that at present many pensioners, especially but not only those in generous final-salary schemes, can end up with net disposable income little different from that in their last years of employment, as they no longer pay NIC, or their previous pension contributions, or commuting costs.

Some of the better-off will pay only basic-rate tax if all their taxable income is just below the higher-rate band which applied to their marginal income when employed.

With longer life-spans, those pensions could last for 25 years after 45 years’ employment. Can the UK afford such often-unfunded obligations ultimately payable by younger generations in an increasingly competitive world?

John Birkett, St Andrews.