SHOULD anyone have a scintilla of doubt left as to how the SNP-led Scottish Government operated furtively and in a clandestine fashion, then surely that is dispelled by the shocking disclosures about WhatsApp messages being deleted on a daily basis during the Covid pandemic ("Scots ministers accused of withholding Covid texts", The Herald, October 27).

It should be noted that the questions of this shameful Government headed at the time by the ex-First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, are not being led by opposition parties but by an esteemed KC, Jamie Dawson, who is lead counsel for the UK Covid inquiry’s module on Scotland. Further, Mr Dawson notes that “subject to one exception, no WhatsApp or other informal messaging material” has been received. To those many people who lost loved ones during Covid and without being able to see them (including myself) these disclosures are distressing.

Should the cabal that operated during Covid of Ms Sturgeon, Jeane Freeman and Jason Leitch avoid the real scrutiny they deserve due to these WhatsApp deletions, it would be a disgrace to any claims of transparency in Government and will not be forgotten.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh.

• WHY is everyone surprised that there are no WhatsApp messages kept by members of the SNP Covid group? The leader at that time was Nicola Sturgeon and we know from the Alex Salmond inquiry that neither she nor whomever she spoke to re Mr Salmond kept notes. So, can we assume there are other crucial decision-making processes that have no traceable notes?

Elizabeth Hands, Armadale.

Read more: Covid Secrecy row as Jason Leitch deletes WhatsApp messages

Israel made the wrong choices

BOTH Israel and its Arab neighbours have made the mistake of reacting by doing what their enemies wanted them to do.

It was obvious on October 7 that Hamas's immediate intention was to prevent the apparently-imminent rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia (and others) who also hate Hamas – but they fell into its trap by immediately ending the USA-brokered negotiations.

Israel could have deferred its understandable reaction of instant retaliation, and announced that the 1,400 brutal murders proved how necessary the talks with the Saudis were for long-term peace in the region, while calling on them and those more friendly Arab neighbours to join them in finalising their negotiations and in unequivocally condemning the Hamas action, abductions and murders (and by extension its paymaster Iran and other client Hezbollah).

Preferably with such neighbours' agreement, they could also have cut the water, power and other supplies to Gaza but promised their immediate reinstatement if Hamas freed all the 200 kidnapped hostages within say 10 days, failing which military action would reasonably follow.

But no doubt this would seem to many as naive as turning the other cheek, which of course the Jews did for centuries regarding the antagonism and brutality of so-called Christians - and which ended with the Holocaust.

John Birkett, St Andrews.

Building a legacy of hate

I PREFACE my comments by categorically condemning the actions of Hamas in murdering innocent men, women and children in Israel.

Consider the situation of a Palestinian young person in Gaza who has seen many family members and friends killed by the bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli Defence Forces.

That young person is likely grow up hating the Jewish State of Israel and its inhabitants and having the desire to seek revenge for their families and friends.

When you realise that half of the 2.3 million inhabitants of Gaza are children, it doesn’t take a genius to see that it is possible that future generations could be more extreme than Hamas and have significant larger numbers willing to be martyrs.

How do Israeli actions, killing thousands of innocent men, women and children, help the process of eventual peace?

How can the UK Government and opposition Labour Party support the collective punishment of 2.3 million civilians and the numerous war crimes being committed by the State of Israel?

David Howie, Dunblane.

• APPROXIMATELY 700 homicides took place in the UK in 2022. If our Government selected 100,000 citizens of all age groups at random and simply shot them all on the justification that statistically speaking some of them were possibly murderers, would we stand by and do nothing? The media give the impression the general public seem to be unmoved when a similar policy is being pursued in Gaza. We can however be lambasted for waving a flag.

David J Crawford, Glasgow.

Tribalism in moral issues

AS a Sikh who supports Ross County, my friend is unsure which side he should take in the Hamas-Israel conflict. Can anyone help him?

Otherwise, I'll have to explain to him that moral questions should be approached from the standpoint of disinterested moral reasoning, not irrelevant tribal allegiance.

Richard Lucas, Scottish Family Party, Glasgow.

Starmer's big mistake

IS there no end to Sir Kier Starmer’s ability either to miss an open goal or to simply put his foot in it?

The current turmoil within his party over the Middle East situation is entirely of his own making.

There was absolutely no need for him to take sides and thus alienate a large part of his party at a time when he is looking to be the next Prime Minister. He needs the party to be presenting a united front on all the issues of the day and particularly in the case of a global event like the Middle East conflict.

The Labour Party has its problems with anti-Semitism (see Sir Keir’s Starmer's predecessor) and though some progress has been made to eliminate it it is only ever just suppressed and remains a running sore which occasionally and regrettably erupts to the surface.

Not taking sides could have been viewed as a positive move given that there is currently no moral high ground for either side in the current conflict.

Keith Swinley, Ayr.

Read more: No excuse for not knowing about Scottish history

UK actions are no surprise

WHY is anyone surprised that our great colonial masters and would-be masters at Westminster refuse to condemn the breaking of international law by Israel?

Have they not themselves on more than one occasion broken it? Was the indiscriminate bombing of thousands of Iraqi civilians in what can only be termed an illegal war not a war crime and breach of international law? And have they not been blocking the right of Scots in international law to decide their own future?

Recently, they allowed the Supreme Court, operating under English law, to decide against that international right, based on the potential effect on the sovereignty of Westminster, which that same court had previously decreed had no validity in Scotland, and therefore should have had no relevance to the subject of the case.

Is it not past time that someone should be researching just how often and in which respects the Treaty of Union, recognised in international law, has been broken by Westminster? If such breaches have happened, as we know they have, does that not invalidate the Treaty and thereby free us automatically from the Union?

Are they afraid we might notice the pots calling the kettles black? Sorry, but we already have, a long time ago.

P Davidson, Falkirk.

The Herald: Author John Prebble wrote a series of novels based on Scottish historyAuthor John Prebble wrote a series of novels based on Scottish history (Image: Newsquest)

We learned from John Prebble

I HAVE read with interest Alison Rowat’s article about Scottish History and the subsequent letters from several of your correspondents sharing their own experiences of school history ("Sir, why was I taught nothing about Scotland’s history?", The Herald, October 25, and Letters, October 26 & 27).

I belong to a generation where there was virtually no Scottish history taught. I can remember brief references in my primary years to Bannockburn, Mary, Queen of Scots and of course Bonnie Prince Charlie but the content throughout my secondary school was dominated by English history. Perhaps I was unfortunate in the curricular decisions that were made by my history teachers but whatever the reason for the absence of Scottish history, my ignorance was profound.

Things were no better at university. I studied what was advertised as British History Honours 1 and Honours 2 at Edinburgh. Again, the content was overwhelmingly English history. There was one lecture a term on Scottish history delivered by the Professor of Scottish History, Gordon Donaldson. At his appearance, about half the class got up and walked out as they were English students and had absolutely no interest in Scottish history.

I can remember that some time in 1966, all the history undergraduates were summoned to the History Library by the senior professor, Denys Hay. We were understandably curious as to what he was going to talk about. The professor brandished a book and told us in so uncertain terms that this was "wrong history" and was to be avoided. The book was Glencoe written by John Prebble, an Englishman brought up in Canada. Other academic historians joined the clamour to denounce Prebble and his books. Prebble had already published the very readable Highland Clearances in 1963. The problem for the academic historians was that John Prebble thoroughly researched his books and was an excellent writer. Accordingly, his books were extremely popular with the Scottish public who, perhaps like me, were largely ignorant of their own history. So it an Englishman who taught me something of the Darien Scheme, the Act of Union, the Jacobite Rebellions and the Highland Clearances.

Thankfully matters were improved considerably in Scottish high schools in the 1970s by the introduction of a wonderful option for O Grade: "Changing Life in Scotland 1760 – 1820". Pupils (and their history teachers) discovered that there had been an Agricultural Revolution in Scotland as well as an Industrial Revolution and a Transport Revolution. A man called Robert Owen had introduced revolutionary ideas at his mill and village of New Lanark. Furthermore, Glasgow and its Tobacco Lords were flourishing and there had been a Golden Age in Edinburgh when arguably the city was the intellectual capital of Europe. Then there was the story of the Lanarkshire lawyer Thomas Muir sentenced to 14 years transportation to Botany Bay on a charge of sedition. All of this was completely new territory to me.

I was fortunate then that I was eventually able to learn something about Scottish history, but certainly not through my formal schooling. I must add that apart from one Walter Scott novel, Scottish literature did not feature either at school. Why was this?

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Eric Melvin, Edinburgh.

• YOUR correspondent A Blue (Letters, October 27) who dismisses Alison Rowat's claims of a lack of Scottish history being taught when she attended school as "biased, anecdotal and unsupported" may well have taught history, but I can assure readers that Ms Rowat's assertions are accurate.

When I attended school (Cumbernauld High 1969-74) we were force-fed a diet of Plantagenets and Tudors, Norman conquests, Magna Carta, the Crusades, not forgetting Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake or the hero of 1805, Lord Nelson, with Scottish history very much an afterthought if mentioned at all. I often wondered why we were taught so little of Scotland's proud and colourful history and of the many great things Scotland gave the world.

William Gold, Glasgow.