SOMETIMES the simplest questions are the most powerful, as for example, when a Freedom of Information request to the Office for National Statistics asked: “Please can you advise on deaths purely from Covid with no other underlying causes?” (FOI/2021/3240).

The essence of the reply was that in all of 2020 and the first nine months of 2021, a total of 17,371 people had died in England and Wales with Covid listed as the sole cause of death.

This figure is an order of magnitude lower than the various figures we usually hear for Covid deaths and is at a level more typical of influenza.

As Professor Mark Woolhouse, the University of Edinburgh epidemiologist, has pointed out: "People over 75 are an astonishing 10,000 times more at risk than those who are under 15."

These facts raise very uncomfortable questions for all parts of the UK: were the universal lockdowns justifiable? Have we reduced a great many people to penury and grossly disrupted the education of a generation of young people for nothing?

Otto Inglis, Crossgates, Fife.


YOUR report on the SNP/Greens' damp squib ScotWind licence round ("Scotland set to ‘lose billions’ from ScotWind by failing to set up state-owned energy firm", January 23) highlights a woeful lack of business nous and, along with the fag packet strategy for mass transit and tunnels to the islands, an unseemly haste to grab a few headlines.

You extensively quoted the pro-independence think tank Common Weal and energy expert Keith Baker.

They pointed out that the over-hyped and undelivered national energy company would have been an ideal platform for creation and delivery, and discussed the scandal associated with some of the successful bidders.

I sincerely hope that all this doesn't remain with the readers of your newspaper. There are 4.3 million voters in Scotland who need to hear this, but while a few doughty souls on the opposition benches in Holyrood will ask questions, I bet the 800k viewers of BBC and STV news won't hear a dicky bird.

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven.

* FURTHER to your coverage of the ScotWind announcement: One does wonder why if the current Scottish Government believes that an independent Scotland should emulate Norway, it has not set up either a Scottish energy company or a Scottish wealth fund similar to the one that Norway has had for many years.

Duncan McKay, Aberdeen.


I NOTE the report by Martin Williams on the economic implications of offshore wind development in the seas around Scotland. I am a retired senior manager from the electricity networks industry and was intensively involved in the commercial restructuring of the British grid system at the time of privatisation around 1990. This allows me, from a well-informed position, to suggest that your reporter needs to add some more depth to his wide range of news topics. He talks about the National Grid, suggesting that this is a London-based company which, since privatisation, has owned all the assets of the British Grid network.

The term National Grid was in use for many years before privatisation as a generic reference to the interconnected power systems of England, Scotland and Wales. At the time of privatisation the grid was owned in England and Wales by the CEGB and in Scotland by the SSEB and NSHEB. Your reporter is a victim of the residual confusion caused by the decision, strenuously opposed by myself and others at the time, to allow the privatised successor to the CEGB to style itself National Grid plc although it had no jurisdiction over Scotland. The grid in Scotland today is owned by the network divisions of ScottishPower and Scottish & Southern and all regulated revenues from charges for grid access and use are passed through to these businesses, although operational control of the entire interconnected system is now performed by National Grid plc.

Willie Maclean, Milngavie.


MARGARET Forbes (Letters, January 23) is very sincere in her green crusade against anyone who dares to suggest that the UK's expensive policy to reach Net Zero by 2050 is pointless whilst other nations break their promises. The cost of the UK's Net Zero will be well-over £1.5 trillion for the UK's 1.13 per cent of global emissions. She makes pleas about our peat bogs: every turbine built on peat land has displaced peat with 30,000 tons of concrete.

She is rightly concerned with nature but turbines mince up tens of thousands of birds and bats every year.

She appears to have faith in Friends of the Earth (FoE) but the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ordered FoE to remove unsubstantiated, scaremongering anti-fracking posters which claimed that the chemicals used in fracking caused cancer and contaminated water supplies.

With this latest fuel crisis countries are digging up and burning more coal. China needs it to feed its 1,082 coal-fired generators and those under construction. Ms Forbes will also be aware that at COP26 China and India forced through that coal would be "phased down" not "phased out".

Clark Cross, Linlithgow.

* I BEGIN with the assumption that Margaret Forbes approves of wind farms. In this context it is therefore odd that she has pleaded over the years for the protection of insects, peat bogs and forests.

A study published by Christian Voigt in January 2021 estimates that 1.2 trillion insects are killed by German onshore wind turbines annually. It is also well-documented that peat bogs have been ripped up, particularly in Scotland and Wales, to make room for wind turbines and their access tracks. For the same reason thousands of trees have been felled, and this is well-documented in countries like Germany, the US and UK.

It seems we have to destroy the planet to save it.

Geoff Moore, Alness

* I AGREE with Margaret Forbes that the young hold the key to climate change action. They need to know about new technologies, so tearing up peat for the sake of wind turbines is a definite no-no. We need to invest in new nuclear power technologies like those developed by Rolls-Royce which are a tenth the size of Hunterston B, which closed recently after 46 years of supplying electricity to 1.7 million households.

Forests are being harvested for wood chips and pellets for biomass boilers.

Reducing plastics is a good idea also but we still need oil for paints, medicines, plastics and fuels.

Michael Baird, Bonar Bridge.


NICOLA Sturgeon has made a miscalculation. She insists now is the right time to push ahead again with plans for Indyref2, but this move must be underpinned by a strong economy to have even the slightest chance of success. Tax receipts must be high and rising to show the successful business acumen of the SNP under the "shackles" of the Union with the promise that it would be even better once "free." The reality is anything but. Tax receipts are falling and the SNP handling of the economy during the pandemic has been woeful.

Putting health before economics has consequences.The SNP has now nailed its colours to the mast for 2023, a date which leaves it very vulnerable to the after-effects of its policies during the pandemic. Economic recovery requires stability, the Scottish Government is offering only upheaval. This is not a recipe for success.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.


I HAVE just read, belatedly, Ron McKay’s recent Spotlight feature ("Apple at its core: How 1984 ushered in the golden age of computing", January 16), and cannot let it go without comment. He says that “before the Mac, computers were controlled in a language called DOS by obscure typed-in commands".

I wrote my first computer programme in 1969. The computer programmers wrote the commands which were not obscure to them, on large purpose-made pads, line by line. These were then passed to another department who would transfer the information on every line to a different thin long card.

He forgets that computing is no different from any other technology. It evolves. My first car was a 1935 Hillman. I had to stand at the front of the car and "wind it up" to start the engine. I didn’t wait until I could use a key to start a car engine. The original computers were used in scientific, engineering, medical and financial sectors. They were not meant to be social media gadgets, which children can use.

In the 1980s, DOS computers were used extensively throughout the UK, and throughout the world. Please don’t demean what was an innovative development, long before the Apple appeared on the scene.

Daniel Harris, East Kilbride.


IT is beyond doubt that Professor Geoff Palmer has suffered from the shameful post-colonial racism endemic in the UK –including in Scotland – but if he "remembers being jostled as a boy by Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts" ("University steps in to diffuse academics’ bitter war of words", January 23) his memory is misleading him. The Blackshirts were active in the 1930s and were disbanded in 1940, while Prof Palmer arrived in the UK in 1960.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow.

* I REALISE that many people do not understand the difference between teeter and totter or between begging the question and raising the question, but it is surprising that your headline writer should be unable to discriminate between "defuse" and "diffuse". Perhaps the writer should consider how he or she might diffuse an unexploded bomb.

Peter Dryburgh, Edinburgh.