NEIL Mackay was right to be concerned about the illiberal interests that have jumped on the Scottish Government's health and well-being survey for young people ("We are at risk of reverting to a bitter, backward society", The Herald, December 7). But he was wrong to conclude from that that the questions are therefore acceptable and any criticism in the press reactionary.

It is not just that the survey is fly, presented as confidential when it can't be because of some of the questions asked. The bigger issue is what difference would it make (apart from creating a moral panic) if say 1 in a 1,000, 1 in a 100, 1 in 10 or indeed 1 in 1 young people under the age of 16 responded yes to any of the questions about sexual activity or drug use? How would these answers help? If the intention was to assist young people, might it not have been better to ask them how useful they find the sex education in their schools or whether there is enough support for young people who feel under pressure to have under-age sex or use drugs? The answers to such questions would at least give some indication of what the Government needs to change if it wants young people's health and well-being to improve.

This points to the real problem with the survey: it appears to be about general attitudes and lifestyle rather than what children think about the things that impact on their lives: their attitude to school, not whether the school has the right facilities and enough staff; their physical activity, rather than whether there are enough places to do sport in their school or local community; their eating behaviours, rather than whether school dinners are any good; their relationships with their peers, rather than whether having a youth club to go to would make a difference; their sleep pattern, rather than whether they have a bedroom and bed of their own; their relationship with their parents, rather than whether they think their parents are left enough time to care after work. The point is that the survey appears to avoid asking children and young people their views on the material conditions of life that affect them, from poverty to cuts in public services, which are ultimately the main determinants of health and well-being.

He may have been polemical ("This Government should have been given a restraining order" , The Herald, December 6) but Kevin McKenna was right, this appears to be another example of the Scottish Government's trying to influence behaviour rather than taking the practical actions that are needed improve people's lives.

Nick Kempe, Glasgow.


YOU report on the desire of investors to make SSE separate its generation business from its network business ("Energy giant in war of words as activist investor calls for shake-up", The Herald, December 8). The investors claim that “renewables and networks are intrinsically different businesses with individual funding needs, growth profiles and strategic priorities”. The article goes on to say the combination of renewables and network assets is depriving shareholders of £5 billion value because they do not belong together.

I find this cynical prioritising of shareholder value over the engineering and ultimately the consumer interests in efficiency, security and cost control deeply upsetting. The strategic priority is to recognise that the integration of generation and network is a real-time absolute and demands engineering discipline. Anything which intervenes to confound this fact can only lead to increased risk and costs to the consumer.

This highlights all the problems of establishing a viable secure and efficient public electricity supply when it is being controlled by bankers rather than engineers.

The establishment of a National Energy Authority is an urgent priority.

Norman McNab, Killearn.


BOB Ballantyne (Letters, December 8) cannot be allowed to get away with his claim that, if the father of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and his partner “had been religious”, they “could not possibly” have carried out the boy’s ill treatment and murder. He should try telling that to the many victims of physical and sexual child abuse when in the care of schools or other institutions run by religious orders.

The truth is that those who choose to belong to a religion are no better than those of us who do not. Clearly people have every right to choose to believe in a god, or gods, and to try to live their own lives under the rules of their chosen religion. But they have no credibility if they try to imply, as Mr Ballantyne does, that they are somehow better people than those of us who live in a more rational world. Given the human misery caused by strife between religions, sects and denominations, followers of religions have no cause at all to claim moral superiority.

Alistair Easton, Edinburgh.


TUESDAY’S golf column by Nick Rodger is always a delight to read and his views on “green reading paraphernalia” was no exception ("Throw away the book for true test of skill and nerve", Herald Sport, December 7). It jogged my memory to an article I read a few years ago in the golfing column of an old (c1920) magazine in which the author was bemoaning the prevalence of slow play.

In particular he singled out the time spent on the green assessing a putt and offered the following advice which I have frequently proved still applies today: “As the golfer approaches the green, the line of the putt which he instinctively sees is the correct one." In the same article he also said that these days it is not uncommon for rounds to exceed two hours. I wish.

David Waters, Blackwood.