AS its Chair, I was surprised to read Kevin McKenna describing Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs (Scottish Families) as a “recovery quango” (“They are using tens of millions of pounds every year and failing spectacularly”, September 3).

A registered Scottish charity, Scottish Families was established by family members almost 20 years ago to support each other and campaign for recognition. As stated in the OSCR register, our charitable purpose is “to provide a range of support to families across Scotland who are affected by misuse of alcohol and drugs, and to influence policy and practice”.

It is somewhat dispiriting that Mr McKenna has made no effort to check the veracity of numerous unsubstantiated claims in his article.

A quick internet search would have confirmed Scottish Families did not refuse to back Douglas Ross’s Right to Recovery Bill – we supported some aspects and opposed others, following consultation with family members, as anyone can read on our website.

Far from dancing to the Scottish Government’s tune, we are passionate advocates of families’ rights and are quick to highlight policy and practice failings and the need to do better. Again a quick search of our news pages would confirm this, including our responses to the recent drug-related and alcohol-related death figures.

Our annual accounts, published by Companies House, illustrate that we are some way off an income of tens of millions of pounds.

We receive a small core grant from the Scottish Government (equivalent to around 7% of our income this year), in recognition of our role as the only national organisation supporting families affected by someone else’s alcohol or drug use.

We provide a free Helpline, one-to-one support and bereavement support for families harmed by substance use in Scotland, no matter where they live, as well as delivering a number of locally-based family support services. We can only do this due to the tireless efforts of our fundraisers and the generosity and support of our funders.

I am particularly concerned that families who are desperately in need of support will read this article and decide not to reach out for help, based on inaccurate reporting of our work.

Families affected by substance use already face huge barriers to support, including stigma and feelings of worthlessness and blame. The reality is that each year we support thousands of families across Scotland, with demand increasing (for example our Helpline is 81% busier since pre-pandemic).

Feedback from families is overwhelmingly positive about our support, describing it as life-changing for the whole family.

Kevin McKenna is welcome to meet with our staff team and family members, to learn more about the reality of supporting families on the frontline, and how it feels to live every day in a family harmed by substance use.

He is then welcome to make a more informed judgement as to whether we are in it for the money and whether we are failing in our aims.

Our latest Impact Report, ‘Changing Lives and Saving Lives’, along with information and support for anyone concerned about a loved one’s alcohol or drug use, can be found at

Colin Hutcheon, Chair, Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, Glasgow.


WE are told repeatedly in the media that the dreadful plight that is afflicting Pakistan during the current torrential monsoon season which has resulted in devastating floods, are “unprecedented”.

Although far from being indifferent to this situation I cannot help but reflect that this word is increasingly and incorrectly being used to describe every imaginable weather extreme, as well as species extinctions and environmental degradation, by those who’re determined to attribute them a changing climate caused primarily by human-induced emissions.

A closer look at the situation in Pakistan reveals that on at least four occasions over the past 70 years the death toll and levels of human misery have matched or exceeded those of today.

The exceptional rainfall has been primarily due to the unusual, though certainly not the “unprecedented”, simultaneous combination of cyclical changes in two major naturally occurring but irregular drivers of the Earth’s sea surface temperature and climate system. known as El Nino and the Indian Ocean Dipole.

These have happened for millennia and while scientists have been unable to discover a trigger factor, many of them nevertheless appear eager to attribute their consequences to climate change.

What is unarguably unprecedented has been the wholesale destruction of Pakistan’s forest cover which has declined from 33% in the 1950s to just 4.8% today.

Vast swathes of vitally protective watershed forests that should have impeded water run-off have vanished, leaving behind massive, self-inflicted wounds of erosion, massive downstream sedimentation and a consequently heightened risk of flooding.

Since the last “unprecedented” flooding in 2010 the population has increased by 28% to 230 million with a resultant increased demand for food, commodities and fuel (mainly wood).

This has resulted in both environmental degradation and many new settlements being situated in vulnerable locations and where maintenance on river embankments has also been neglected due to a combination of administrative incompetence and widespread corruption.

It therefore seems clear that to lay the blame for this disaster solely at the door of human-induced climate change is far too convenient and simplistic.

Neil J Bryce, Kelso.


WHILE driving in central Edinburgh at the end of last year I happened to pull up at traffic lights behind what is apparently classed as a mobile digital advertising van.

Both sides of the vehicle, and the rear end, were entirely covered by digital TV displays. I thought at the time that the rear of the van would prove to be a distraction for other drivers and thereby a road safety risk.

I wrote to Police Scotland several times to ask if these vehicles were operating within the law and never received an answer to my enquiry. I subsequently wrote to the Automobile Association and again I didn’t receive a reply.

A key aim of the Highway Code is to keep people safe on our roads, and the purpose of these vans is to attract your attention, so this would appear to be somewhat of a conflict. Surely safety should come first. I wondered if any reader could perhaps clarify?

Brian Watt, Edinburgh.