BECAUSE of the global health issues in the past couple of years and the UK-wide pressures on the NHS I have always tended to give Humza Yousaf the benefit of the doubt when it came to demands for his resignation.

However the recent revelations that he and the Scottish Government were, last winter, warned by health experts of severe shortages which this winter would endanger life and by all reports have done so ("Patients ‘not safe in A&E’ warning as Yousaf defends winter planning", The Herald, January 9) means that, in my opinion, he needs to be sacked if he will not stand down.

Of even greater import is the judgment of those who were also privy to this information and who allowed him to remain in post when they undoubtedly knew that these life-threatening matters were not being dealt with.

Politicians need to realise that when entrusted with the governance of our country the care, wellbeing and protection of the individual should be the highest things on their list.
W MacIntyre, East Kilbride

We should look at Europe

THERE are almost daily demands by the unionist parties for the resignation of Humza Yousaf despite health care being a UK-wide problem. While it would offer no solace it may offer some perspective to our situation if we looked at what is happening in Europe.

There Hans Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe, has described health care as “a ticking time bomb".

In Germany, where health care spending is amongst the highest in the world, 35,00 care sector positions were vacant as well as 23,000 unfulfilled hospital posts, resulting in the temporary closing of some casualty departments due to a lack of doctors and nurses. This is due to years of low recruitment and recent mass resignations due to excessive workload

The Spanish health ministry announced last May that more than 700,000 people were waiting for surgery. This won't be helped by doctors in Catalonia going on strike for two days next month or the exodus of health staff moving abroad for better conditions and pay. Front line hospital staff have already been on strike. Last November in Madrid at least an estimated 200,000 took to the streets to defend public healthcare against creeping privatisation.

Finland will need 200,000 new workers in the health and social care sector by 2030.

The low salaries of the public health sector in Italy, where there is already a serious staff shortage, has resulted in doctors working freelance, where they can earn €1,200 for a 10-hour shift – three times more than working directly for the government.

In France more than six million people, including 600,000 with chronic illnesses, do not have a regular GP and 30% of the population does not have adequate access to health services. “In fact, about 87% of France could be called a medical desert,” Agnès Firmin Le Bodoa, the junior health minister, said recently. The French government introduced a cap in 1971 on university places for medical students by more than half and is now paying the price for that decision.

It would appear the Westminster Government is not aware of this as it also has a cap on the number of doctors training in the UK due to costs. Far easier to poach doctors already trained from Asia and Africa, I suppose.

Possibly we should be looking at freeing funding for doctor training by cancelling some of the half-baked useless degrees on offer at our universities. Media studies for one immediately springs to mind.
Robert Aitken, Glasgow

Sunak's false claims on A&E

ON the Laura Kuenssberg programme on Sunday, Rishi Sunak falsely claimed that A&E waiting times were worse in Scotland than England ("Sunak hints at shift in strategy as unions double down on NHS strikes", The Herald, January 9).

The data shows that in November 2022, 64.1 per cent of admissions to full Scottish A&E departments were seen within four hours, and 4.3% waited more than 12 hours. In the same period, in full English A&E departments, the figures were 54.4% and 10.2%. So, Scotland’s A&E departments were 18% better on the four-hour target and more than twice as good on the 12-hour target.

Mr Sunak will claim that the English A&E figure is 68.9% which includes county hospitals that don’t have full A&E departments and that deal with less serious cases. The Tories are expert at distorting the data when they aren’t outright lying.

Finally, there is no acknowledgement that NHS funding is largely controlled by the UK Government and Scotland must make do with its limited "allowance" from Westminster. Scotland isn’t the currency issuer, Westminster is. That’s why restoring our independence is the only way to prevent the collapse of our vital public services and the immiseration of our population.
Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh

UK priorities are correct

IN a whirlwind past four days the Prime Minister committed to halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting NHS waiting lists and stopping small-boat crossings to the UK, spent Saturday with health experts to discuss priorities and a plan for the NHS, finishing with an absolute grilling on Sunday from Laura Kuenssberg.

Nicola Sturgeon's approach to the crisis is yet another independence debate on Tuesday (January 11), heralded by a gloomy press release from her "human shield" Angus “Air Miles” Robertson that Scotland faces a “stark choice” between remaining part of the UK and a “different future” outside.

I think I’ll stick with the UK. Its priorities align with mine.
Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven

Labour's shifting principles

PETER A Russell (Letters, January 9) is careful to remind us that Labour campaigned in favour of Remain in 2016, though much good it did supporters of the EU in that party, as it now embraces not only Brexit, but also “take back control”. I would point to “the courage of your convictions”, but the flips in Labour policy over the years demonstrate the futility of that.

Mr Russell’s letter recalls Groucho Marx’s joke that “these are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.” Labour used to be against nuclear weapons. Not now. Why? To quote Mr Russell, “this was roundly rejected by the electorate”.

Or there is always lack of clarity, the "fudge". Having claimed PR “is Labour Party policy”, we learn that “it may not be in the manifesto in the next General Election”. We can though be “optimistic”, though of what is never made exactly clear.

Considering Labour over the years prompts the question whether its role is to provide leadership to the community by seeking power with a vision of a better society, or to follow public opinion in order to win power.

Where it leads Mr Russell is to such a lack of self-awareness that he can write “Labour believes that we achieve more through common endeavour than we do alone”, but having just accepted Brexit, that common endeavour now ends at Dover.

It also leads him to argue that “there is no lawful or democratic route [to independence] until Scotland's UK Government agrees”, thus not only endorsing but celebrating the undemocratic nature of the UK state. No matter how strongly the Scottish electorate might vote for parties supporting independence, as long as Westminster says “no”, there is no lawful route in UK law. Is that Labour’s idea of democracy? Or does it now endorse politico-legal captivity?

Lastly, he berates the SNP for its lack of expenditure on the Brexit campaign, when barely a month before the Brexit vote there was a Holyrood election. Moreover, we know that votes cast in Scotland were 62% Remain. This was not only down to the SNP, but clearly, the party contributed to that positive outcome in Scotland.
Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton

A meaningless soundbite

LABOUR’S Taking Back Control agenda doesn’t extend to Scotland, as Sir Keir Starmer didn’t mention how he would negotiate with the Scottish Government over its democratic mandate for full autonomy and for control of policies such as immigration, foreign policy, energy regulation, employment law and borrowing powers.

Sir Keir says Labour will not open the “big government cheque book” which suggests a worrying acceptance that deep spending reductions are to come. The cost of living crisis requires more central government interventions and spending to deal with the problems of the NHS and the dire consequences of Brexit – not less – and it seems Sir Keir is going to replicate the Brown/Blair regulatory light touch that encouraged the banking crisis in 2008.

Taking back control is just a meaningless gimmicky sound bite when Labour won’t introduce proportional representation at Westminster or for councils in England and Wales to give more expression to local minority views. And, Scotland will become a normal self-governing independent nation long before Labour abolishes the House of Lords.
Fraser Grant, Edinburgh


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