IN his letter (November 23) recommending the European model of health care provision, John Sinclair stated that competition drives up standards and bureaucracy is kept to a minimum. Both these statements are valid only in very limited circumstances.

As soon as large business organisations are involved in near-monopolies, endless ingenuity is applied to create cartels or otherwise prevent genuine competition. It is also notable that when national resources are broken up in the interests of "competition", bureaucracy and confusion are multiplied. He might like to consider the nation's railways, electricity industry or water supplies.

Many of the problems of the NHS can be traced back to the Thatcher Government's decision to run the service like a business. There have been many illustrations of the folly of this dogma, including Enron, BHS, HBS, ICI, Barings Bank and FHP. There are plenty of others.

The letter also contained the common British reference to Scandinavian levels of taxation. Having experienced life in Scandinavia, I would be delighted to pay Scandinavian levels of tax if I had the public services and standard of living of Scandinavians.
Peter Dryburgh, Edinburgh

Follow Italy on languages

I WAS surprised, and I may say disappointed, to read Mr Beppe Conte’s letter (November 22) on Neapolitan. He should be aware, first, that there is no hard and fast opposition between “language” and “dialect”, the status of any speech-form being dependent on several mutually-independent factors; and second, that any community speech, whether classed as language or as dialect, deserves support as an integral part of that community’s identity.

Some years ago I attended a conference on minority languages in Ortisei, in the Italian Dolomites. The languages of the conference were Italian, German, English and Ladino, the local speech: the conference was opened with a speech in Ladino by the Mayor of Ortisei. I am competent in Italian, but Ladino proved almost completely foreign to me, both from hearing it spoken and from the textbooks and grammars which were on display at the conference. Neapolitan, in my limited experience of it, is equally remote from standard Italian.

One of the things I learned from that conference was that Italy puts Scotland completely to shame in its provision for the local languages and dialects which abound there. Each local speech form, even those with only a few hundred native speakers, has its own website, mutually linked to allow for collaboration in developing the dialects for modern use; and each one is actively supported in its own community and recognised by the educational system: some have their grammar and orthography defined in textbooks and others are in the process of reaching this stage of development. Haste the day when Scotland is as advanced as Italy in this respect, and we see Glaswegian and the other dialects of Scots getting the same respect as Friulian or Abruzzese.
Derrick McClure, Aberdeen

A96 must be dualled

HAVING read Patricia Fort’s response (Letters, November 22) to Doug Marr’s article (“Dualling is essential to end A9 and A96 carnage”, The Herald, November 21), I can only conclude that she does not drive the A96 regularly.

Aberdeen and Inverness are more than 100 miles apart by road. They are two of Scotland’s most important cities and the road is busy. Yet, the A96 remains completely inadequate for the traffic. This would be so even if we were all the perfect drivers she discusses but which, sadly, we aren’t. The road should be designed with this in mind.

It is difficult to maintain an average speed of even close to 40 mph. I allow three hours for the journey. Drivers often use secondary Don and Deeside routes, hardly main arteries, in order to avoid the A96. Although even slower they are at least pleasurable to drive. They do however take one out onto that other problem road, the A9. Of the two the A9 is better.

There are no bypasses of three of the reasonably-sized towns on the route and a further, at Forres, is fairly half-hearted. Apart from the low average this obviously leads to local traffic and environmental issues. Lorries find it hard to maintain a good speed on the many hills. There are numerous side and farm roads and tractors abound, as do tourists. All amongst purposeful white van and business traffic. The overtaking lanes are infrequent and woefully short leading to considerable anxiety. Overtaking away from these lanes is only possible when traffic is quiet and is near impossible when busy. Nevertheless, a lot of overtaking in potentially dangerous situations does go on.

The dualling project does appear to have ground to a halt, no doubt due to political pressure. Meantime, the accidents mount up. I completely agree with Doug Marr.
Angus MacEachran, Aberdeen

• THERE’S been some debate this week about trying to reduce the number of deaths on Scottish roads. It reminds me of a time back in the early 1990s when I signed a petition that was circulating in my workplace demanding the Government “dual” the A1 from Edinburgh to the Border, to reduce the number of road deaths. Thirty years later this still hasn’t been achieved, although admittedly there has been extensive dualling work completed in that period. Along many stretches of the A1 and A68 there were, for many years, road signs highlighting the number of fatalities on these roads as a stark warning to drivers.

Your caption beside the photo of the A9 asks “is dualling the A9 really essential to reduce the number of accidents there?” (Letters, November 22). I think it would (as with the A1) certainly reduce the number of accidents caused by drivers taking unnecessary risks on single-lane parts of the route. However, it’s not a silver bullet and encouraging drivers to drive safely and legally (through warning signs, publicity, and appropriate punishments for offences) would undoubtedly also greatly help.
Brian Watt, Edinburgh

Parting note

IT may be of interest to those following the appraisal of “banjo” alternative meanings (Scots Word if the Week, November 19) to report the advice offered in some quarters to a member of a group announcing their early departure, either fraternally jocular, or as veiled displeasure: “And take your bloody banjo with you”.
R Russell Smith, Largs


Letters should not exceed 500 words. We reserve the right to edit submissions.