I FEAR that Dennis Forbes Grattan (Letters, April 30) is probably right to say that the NHS is in dire straits in Scotland. The situation seems to be even worse in England, so scaling back on devolution would not help.

There have been endless stories of maternity units south of the Border with dreadful records of infant mortality in addition to the familiar problems of chronic waiting lists, overworked A&E departments and ambulance problems. In the end it all comes down to money. Germany spend in excess of $6,000 on health per patient per annum while the UK only manages $4,000.

The NHS does heroically with what it gets but we have one of the weakest health services in Europe. Spending decisions are made in Westminster and passed on to Holyrood via the block grant. The Scottish Government can only improve on this by cutting other budgets or increasing taxation in Scotland. There are limits as to what can be achieved under devolution but things would be worse if we were back under the Governor General.

The Tory Party was opposed to the NHS at it inception and has never really been committed to it. Each time it is in power it effectively reduces its budget. In recent years private medicine has been a major growth industry, especially south of the Border and it seems that the Conservative vision for the NHS is of a basic service for the poor while the better-off buy American-style insurance.

Ferries are a tale of woe but I doubt if remote control from Westminster would have had a better outcome. As I travel round the west coast I notice that much of the harbour infrastructure was part-funded by the European Union, back in the day when we were seen as a backward and neglected region. The Skye toll bridge characterised the Conservative and Unionist vision for transport in the Highlands and Islands.

It is hard to see Ferguson Marine as a success story, but then again it is still there and may continue to provide jobs in the future. Under a Tory administration there would not have been two unfinished ships to embarrass us. There wouldn't be a shipyard either and no prospect of employment or improvement in the future.

Ronald Cameron, Banavie.

Arrogance of Ian Blackford

IF indeed Ian Blackford tweeted "how dare you" in response to a very pertinent and reasonable question from a journalist about the auditors ("An awful question? How dare you, Mr Blackford", April 30), then he should resign forthwith as he has obviously forgotten that we, the people, pay his wages and his considerable expenses and may also have to pay for auditors from our taxes or employees at Westminster may lose their jobs.

The words familiarity and contempt come to mind. Shame on him.

W MacIntyre, East Kilbride.

Tax rises are on the way

IT'S interesting that at Humza Yousaf's anti-poverty summit on Wednesday, he paved the way for "bold" tax decisions (for that surely read tax increases) and "targeted benefits".

The former, of course, is the SNP way, and as we know, the nationalists have made Scotland the highest income-taxed part of the UK. The latter, though, marks a directional change for the separatist administration.

In return for higher taxation in Scotland we have become used to universal benefits, which the SNP has long found to be a middle-class vote winner. Targeting benefits is very much a Westminster Tory Government strategy; essentially to provide support where it is most needed. It is, therefore, surprising the SNP apparently plans to adopt the Tories' fiscally prudent policy by, so Mr Yousaf implies, reducing dependence on universal benefits.

A key difference, however, will remain between the SNP and the Tories; at Westminster, targeted benefits are accompanied by lower taxes for many tens of millions resident elsewhere in the UK. Based on Mr Yousaf's comments at the summit, it seems that rather than cutting income tax, he plans to increase the income tax burden for so many Scots yet further.

Martin Redfern, Melrose.

SNP in need of a rethink

HUMZA Yousaf is getting worried by the marked drop in SNP popularity and now wants to rejig the finances and the priorities. In typical SNP fashion, manifesto pledges are being casually dropped and absolutely no lessons have been learned with the desire to raise Scotland's already-higher taxation level to that of a crippling one.

The most obvious policy that will cost a gargantuan amount of money is independence. Would he contemplate dropping this policy too as little actual progress has been made after 15 years of trying? The SNP must reconsider its position if it wants to retain power, which appears to be its genuine number one priority.

In desperate times, desperate solutions are called for and it really is the last chance saloon for the SNP now – or is it a case of too little and far, far too late?

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.

Read more: SNP rebellion as McAllan defends fishing ban plans consultation

Sack the Green ministers

THE bid by the Scottish Government to create Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) is in disarray. These exclusion zones would prevent fishing, the farming of fish, and swimming and watersports would be outlawed. Coastal communities would have no economic future and become ghost towns. In a show of contempt ex-SNP minister Fergus Ewing ripped up the proposal, saying: "This is not a consultation document, it's a notice of execution".

Which party is behind this bill? The Greens. Which party is behind the alcohol advertising ban? The Greens. Which party is behind the Deposit Return Scheme? The Greens. Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater must be sacked from their £98,045 ministerial positions and be MSPs on a salary of £66,662, which is still too much for their lack of talents. If they are not sacked the SNP will implode.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow.

Lack of expertise on recycling

YOUR article about "key waste targets being missed" ("SNP waste targets off track despite DRS rollout delay", April 30) records Friends of the Earth Scotland's Kim Pratt describing the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) as "an impressive plan postponed due to business complaints". Clearly she doesn't understand that in its present form the DRS would simply divert material that our councils have been collecting at the kerbside for nearly two decades.

Scrutiny of the FoE Scotland website reveals that Ms Pratt (one of 17 senior staff photographed there) has no practical experience in municipal waste recycling. Its current director was previously director of Liberty for a year and specialises in "human rights and migrant justice". When appointing people to senior positions, does the ability to raise profiles (and obviously funds) and generate PR take priority over an understanding of what the charity's main objectives are?

If we then add in the 46 prominent employees photographed on the Keep Scotland Beautiful website, the 145 staff employed at Zero Waste Scotland, and the 45 new recruits at Circularity Scotland, one has to wonder why none of them can come up with a workable DRS that won't squander all the progress Scotland made until 2007?

John F Crawford, Lytham.

Read more: The West must not take the easy way out

Questions over Loon Fung

I LIKE to get facts before making a decision. Your article on the Loon Fung being a secret overseas police station ("Ex-FM Sturgeon declined invites to alleged ‘secret police station’", April 30) is high on speculation and low on fact. Taken at face value it is not unreasonable that a high-profile member of an expat community would try to interface with senior members of the established community.

For me the significant part of the article was the organisations who have cast aspersions on the Loon Fung and Jimmy Lin as they appear to have little public support or profile. In would be interesting to know who funds these organisations, as that information is not readily available online.

David J Crawford, Glasgow.

Britain is a republic

VERONICA Nelson (Letters, April 30) needs to consider what she considers to be democracy.

There are a handful of constitutional monarchies in the world. They are nearly all robust and evolving democracies as Britain is. Ms Nelson owes her freedom of speech to that kind of democracy.

Those heads of state are not adulated, but they are the products of dynasties able to mesh with emerging democracy.

There are hundreds of dictatorships bearing the name of republic. The most murderous of them are even named democratic republics.

What is then a republic? Well for example, Britain is, because republic means something belonging to the people, in other words a democracy. Like Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Canada and Australia.

A similar number of great democracies like Germany, France, America and Italy prefer the styles of republic and president, and are exactly as much republic and democracy as Britain.

Tim Cox, Bern, Switzerland.