IN his every utterance on the Scottish drug deaths problem, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, health spokesperson for the Scottish Tories, ignores some of the important facts ("Drug deaths progress call", The Herald, July 29).

He ignores the fact that the latest annual drug deaths figure of 1,330 is almost matched by the Scottish annual alcohol deaths of 1,020 ­– a figure that is rising year on year, and increasing because of the Covid pandemic. Dr Gulhane, a GP as well as an MSP, must be aware that the there are 61,500 Scottish individuals addicted to illicit drugs but also that 106,500 individuals are addicted to alcohol. Alcohol is our biggest drug problem, resulting in 35,499 stays in hospital compared to the 10,509 hospital admissions for those addicted to illicit drugs.

The Scottish Conservatives constantly ignore the fact that all Scottish drug addictions – smoking, alcohol and illicit drugs – are worst in our most deprived communities where poverty is at its highest. In the last 12 years they have done nothing to reduce poverty. Their Government has also made it more difficult to find new solutions to illicit drug use and deaths, by refusing to reform the 1971 drug laws.

The Scottish Conservatives are instead trying to get a bill passed in the Scottish Parliament that would give those addicted to alcohol and illicit drugs instant access to treatment and especially to residential rehabilitation. That proposal if passed is undeliverable because it would require several thousand highly-trained doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and a wide range of counsellors that will take decades to recruit and train. If Dr Gulhane and his party are serious about reducing all deaths from drug misuse, they need to take a long, hard look at what it is that their policies have done over decades to make it so difficult for drug users to access the sorts of care they need.

Max Cruickshank, Glasgow.


I GREATLY enjoyed Bjorn Lomberg’s piece on world food production (“The global food crisis … and organic farming’s dirty secret”, The Herald, July 28). His typically irreverent views on the dangerously negative implications of some of the environmental movement’s ideas, in this instance organic farming, are refreshingly persuasive in a world of environmental activism by people whose passion is often matched only by their ignorance. (Might such people have reservations about the use of water if they realised it has a chemical formula?)

In this particular article, however, he gives a misleading picture of the “alternative” of “scientific” agriculture, particularly the role of mineral fertiliser and most especially synthetic nitrogenous fertilisers, which he describes as “a modern miracle”.

Plants need three macronutrients – nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potassium – together with a host of micronutrients (trace elements) such as boron, calcium, copper and cobalt. Without a balanced supply of these chemicals a plant’s uptake of nutrients and water from the soil will be sub-optimal. One of the problems with the green revolution in South Asia, for example, was that often too much policy emphasis was placed on promoting the use of nitrogenous fertiliser, encouraged by subsidies, at the expense of other essential nutrients, leading to imbalanced fertiliser use, which in turn not only reduced crop yields below their potential, but also caused plants increasingly to “mine” other nutrients naturally occurring in the soil, with adverse implications for long-term land productivity.

Another issue with the use of synthetic fertilisers is that, while they can contribute greatly to enhancing soil chemistry, they do little to enhance soil physics – basically the structure of the soil – so as to provide an optimum environment for essential processes such as soil aeration, root ramification and the uptake of nutrients and water. Soil structure is best improved by the incorporation of organic matter such as crop residues and farmyard manure to decompose into humus. However, organic matter by itself has two drawbacks. It is not sufficiently rich in the above chemicals, nor is enough of it available (as Sri Lanka’s experience so graphically demonstrates). A good balance of soil nutrients and soil structure is required. Hence chemical and organic agriculture, far from being alternatives, have a highly complementary role to play in the search for global food security.

Gerry Gill, Glasgow.


UPSETTING reports have been aired on the BBC, available on the iPlayer, of another lorry crash caused by the driver using his phone on the motorway. Ion Onut, who ploughed into stationary traffic on the A1(M) in County Durham and killed three people having looked at adult dating sites on his phone moments before, was last week jailed for eight years and 10 months.

Last Wednesday, due to another rail strike, I travelled from Edinburgh to Dundee via bus. The vehicle on the way home was one of those tourist-type things with a single but high passenger seating deck. Perfect height to see into the cabs of lorries and vans.

Using a phone in the cab while driving seems to be normalised. The only one that even made me double-take was a guy driving a small lorry sitting sideways on to the road half-facing the other guy in the cab with – it seemed – one knee up. He had one finger – yes, one finger – on the wheel and his phone was in the other hand.

Near where I live there are two pelican crossings where locals know cars don't stop regardless of the colour of the lights.

Speeding in built-up areas returned during Covid and hasn't gone away. I just wonder what the road death rate will have to rise to before we go back to trying to prevent this very preventable carnage.

Amanda Baker, Edinburgh.


THE picture of Jack House ("Mr Glasgow in George Square", The Herald, July 229) brought back many memories. He once observed that he viewed himself as one of "The Wise Men of the East" – that is, The East of Glasgow.

However, I remember him most for his distinctive, reassuring voice. For many years in the 1940s, 50s and 60s his voice was heard all over Britain when he appeared often on the Light programme, later the Home Service, as a member of the Scottish team on the Round Britain Quiz. He often appeared in that team with Sir James Fergusson. They frequently met with success, which he ascribed to the fact that "James is public school and I am public house".

Jack House – no mean Glaswegian.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.