IT was disappointing to read Neil Mackay's insulting caricature of the views of those who have a more reflective view of the war in Ukraine than those who parrot propaganda ("The West must reflect on its failings over Putin", The Herald, February 23).

There must be very few who do not condemn without qualification the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and its horrific consequences, but some of us believe that a deeper understanding of the origins of the war will better help to bring it to an end than merely reinforcing the inevitable cliches of unthinking partisanship.

It seems to me there is little doubt that the West made a huge blunder when, under Republican American leadership, it declared in 2008 that Ukraine and Georgia would become members of Nato and then in succeeding years positively encouraged such expansion. It really doesn't matter that we declare Nato to be a harmless "defensive" alliance.

Russia loudly made it very clear at that time and for all the years since that having accepted the expansion of Nato far into the East towards its territory, it would see such further expansion to its very borders as a hostile act which it could not tolerate.

Forgetting or not caring that Russia is a power with an immense nuclear arsenal with whom the West could not enter into direct war if Russia acted in Ukraine on its warnings, these warnings were not merely ignored, but no meaningful diplomatic effort was made to engage with Russia over them. Simple prudence in the interest of Ukraine should have dictated a much more careful approach.

And now Mr Mackay informs us that Russia must be unequivocally defeated and its leadership ousted, in effect roundly humiliated, for what it has done. Again, the reality that it still has an enormous arsenal of nuclear weapons is wholly ignored by Mr Mackay in his belligerence.

It is very possible that Russia could not tolerate what its current regime would see as a defeat of existential proportions without recourse to what gives it a last remaining strength. The foolish dismissal of Russia contributed significantly to the Ukrainian catastrophe and a failure now to explore peace on terms other than Russia's humiliating defeat could lead us to a catastrophe which would make Ukraine look mild by comparison.

No doubt if that happened, Mr Mackay (in the unlikely event that he was still here) would continue to feel that condemnatory rhetoric alone was a useful response.
Stephen Smith, Glasgow

NatWest still owes us billions

WHILE Scott Wright ("UK Government moves to reduce stake in Royal Bank of Scotland owner", The Herald, February 23) mentioned that we, the UK public, still own 43 per cent of NatWest (ex-RBS), he did not cover one critical aspect of its results, very relevant in any comment on its welcome return to profitability as exemplified by its 2022 results and £11 billion of net profits generated from 2017 to 2022.

Prior to 2017 RBS/NatWest losses totalled a massive £58 billion from 2008-2016, after the crash of 2008 revealed the apparent “boom” years of profits up to 2007 were in fact “bust” years, whose reported “profits” (on which bonuses were paid to the then board and top executives, and were not clawed back despite our £45.5bn bail-out) ultimately proved as bogus as the ability of the bankers to manage or even understand their complex financial instruments.

So £47bn of profits must still be generated in the next few years before RBS/NatWest breaks even, let alone makes an adequate return, for the whole period since that debacle of incompetence and greed. Hence the 43% ownership still remaining.

Like Mr Wright, some readers may well query whether it is appropriate so early in its recovery for the CEO to receive a salary of £2.4m, a bonus of £643k, and share-based incentive awards of £2.2m – plus no doubt, contributions to the generous pension scheme which entitled her 2008 predecessor, aged 50, to a pension of £713k per annum for quite possibly 40 years ahead.
John Birkett, St Andrews

Code red for bus passengers

LESLEY Lyon (Letters, February 21) is searching for another cause to fight for after an eight-year campaign against paper tickets being issued with concession cards. An obvious candidate is the creeping replacement of bus timetables at bus stops with a mere QR code. Arriving at a bus stop wanting to know when (if ever) the next bus will come, in the pouring rain and laden with bags or a wean, then if one has power, one must spend money in phone costs (potentially a lot for foreign visitors) to try and figure out the answer. Meanwhile, looking down at the screen, a rare bus may drive by unnoticed.

It is another example of how companies and government try to exclude from basic services those who are not or do not wish to be digitally connected. This should not be a binary choice: a digital solution is fine, but it should not mean the end of time-proven analogue ones. In this case, it is an example of technology moving us backwards: the age-old system of posting a weatherproof current timetable at bus stops is faster, easier, more reliable and cheaper for passengers.
Christopher Ruane, Lanark

Safety first, and last

ANDY Trombala's letter (February 24) about the possible sanitisation of Shakespeare reminds me of Biddie Burt, who taught English at Hillhead (as did her brother), carefully ending one lesson before one of the saucy passages of a play, and beginning the next lesson after the conclusion of the passage.

Miss Burt was a fine teacher; I believe that one translation of Biddie is "fussy old woman".
David Miller, Milngavie

Higher thoughts

THE recent plethora of letters to The Herald, culminating in DB Watson's effort headed "Class acts" (February 23) has been most welcome.

In switching to some translating problems regarding school mottos, may I suggest the motto of the oldest school in Scotland, the High School of Glasgow, still brings a lifting of an eyelid – "Sursum Semper" which is translated as "Always on top".

The Whitehill school in Dennistoun, however, whose motto is Altiora Peto, "I seek higher things", was translated by those who failed Lower Latin as "I seek my Highers".

The list, thank goodness, is no doubt endless.
Robin Johnston, Newton Mearns


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