AS someone who retired at age 52 and eventually received the state pension at age 66 rather than at age 65 as anticipated at the time of my retirement, I fully endorse the plea from Jim Mackenzie (Letters, January 21) that the retirement age should be reduced to age 60.

In order to achieve Mr Mackenzie’s vision radical changes must be made to the provisions currently made for retirement. The most obvious change is to eliminate employee National Insurance contributions and collect that source of revenue as income tax.

One legacy of the time served by Rishi Sunak as Chancellor of the Exchequer was that National Insurance on earnings from any one source of employment is now charged at the same level that income tax is payable at (currently £12,570). If employee National Insurance contributions were incorporated into income tax and the two rates combined the Government would receive additional revenue which might allow certain wage demands to be met.

Individuals with more than two employments would no longer avoid National Insurance on what is in effect two personal allowances. Similarly, individuals in receipt of pensions and/or investment income would then contribute additional tax to the Exchequer.

The above and other changes are vital. If changes are not made then Mr Mackenzie’s proposals will simply play into the hands of people like me, rather than the people, such as shift workers and manual workers, whom he correctly wishes to support.
Sandy Gemmill, Edinburgh

The best PM we never had

THE picture of Hugh Gaitskell in conversation with two young girls during a visit to Glasgow in May 1961 ("Remember when … Britain mourned Hugh Gaitskell", The Herald, January 23), brought back some memories of his career, which ended prematurely upon his death in January 1963 at the age of 56. One is tempted to wonder what he was actually speaking about to the young Glaswegians.

When leader of the Labour Party he attempted to scrap the pro-nationalisation Clause 4 in the constitution of the party. He was ahead of his time in that regard. Tony Blair, as leader of New Labour, succeeded where Gaitskell had failed with the production and approval in 1995 of a new version.

Gaitskell was against the Labour Party policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament. At the party conference in 1961 two unilateralist resolutions were passed. Gaitskell made a speech when he undertook to "fight and fight and fight again to save the party we love". A decisive vote in favour of multilateralism was secured at a later party conference.

There are those who believe that, but for his premature death, he would have become Prime Minister in 1964 rather than Harold Wilson and that he was one of the best Prime Ministers we never had. The tributes to him following his death were extensive from both home and abroad.
Ian W Thomson, Lenzie

Um, er, what else?

I SHARE Andy Trombala’s dislike (Letters, January 21) of the frequent intrusion of “like” into speech, where it seems to have become the pause filler of choice of so many. “Like” is a useful word but it is already a heavily used one. In my dictionary it has two ranges of meanings with it being used as a verb, noun, adjective, adverb, preposition and conjunction.

It is entirely reasonable for speakers to pause briefly in the middle of sentences while they locate the right word to continue their message. But, if they then wish to fill the silence, why not use the traditional “um” or “er”? And if they wish to use a real word, rather than a mere meaningless sound, why use such a busy word as “like”?

Dictionaries are full of little-used snappy monosyllabic words. Perhaps we should chose one of them? Of course we would have to hold a full public consultation overseen by a new Minister for Word Use who could then table a bill for careful consideration by our elected representatives. I am pretty sure that the use of words is not reserved to Westminster, so Scotland could choose the pause-filler word it wants. That is, of course, so long as the choice did not have an obscure adverse impact on British laws.
Alistair Easton, Edinburgh

• I ENJOYED Andy Trombala's caricature of the youth of today's use of like. Like all good caricatures, it like takes a small portion of the whole and like exaggerates it so it can be comic like.

Speaking as an old fogey, I too could slag off the way youngsters speak quite easy like. Luckily like, I understand that these "yoofs" are actual like, reviving a way of speaking that occurred historic like.

The use of the word "like" is indeed a remnant from Old English when the word "lic" meant "similar to". This eventually became the suffix "-ly" that we use to form adverbs such as the ones I could have used above: "easily", "luckily", "actually" and "historically". And yes, before I enthuse other pedants to get writing, I do know that "lic" itself comes originally from the OE word "gerlic" meaning "body".

"Like" also developed into "-ly" adjectives too. I sincerely hope, then, that readers will accept my letter as kindly, friendly and timely.
Gordon Fisher, Stewarton

Out of step

PROFESSOR Alan Dunlop and I clearly have very different ideas of what constitutes a landmark – the Glasgow Concert Hall steps, really? ("New plans raise fears for Concert Hall steps in £800m Galleries plan", The Herald, January 21.)
Stuart Neville, Clydebank

Room with a sea view

I HAVE often fancied that redundant oil platforms might be transformed into rather pleasant hotels for weekend breaks when they end their useful lives ("Harbour hits out at windfall tax as North Sea giant plans job cuts", The Herald, January 20). Some joinery, glazing and a lick of paint needed with rather nice fittings inside; shrubs and trees grown inside too. Such a pity to waste the platforms, and just think of the ready-made staff on hand, in evening-suits and bow ties instead of boiler suits.

My late husband would say "another of your daft ideas" but I would reply "waste not, want not". A daft idea? I wonder.
Thelma Edwards, Kelso


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