DR Gerald Edwards (Letters, October 25) accords the current Holyrood Executive more power than it actually has as regards to our beloved NHS since funding is fundamentally determined by Westminster and day-to-day running of the NHS delegated to the health boards.

In her article on the same subject Rebecca McQuillan again voices essentially the same argument ("The SNP’S excuses on the NHS won’t wash any more", The Herald, October 25). To both of them I would simply say look south of the Border and you will find the NHS in a far worse state in England than here. That fact does not excuse the state of the Scottish NHS but it is relevant. The insidious sneaking privatisation of the English NHS fundamentally dictates Scotland’s NHS budget since Westminster determines the allocation of funds to the NHS for all of the UK, the Scottish Government does not run a deficit so has limited room to manoeuvre. Sure, even Nicola Sturgeon would agree that our NHS could be dramatically improved. Staffing levels could be increased, waiting times reduced, GP services enhanced and more emphasis placed on prevention than cure but it all takes money.

If the £48 billion Westminster pays annually in interest on UK national debt was instead spent on the NHS the problem would gradually vanish. Do we really need aircraft carriers and Trident submarines? Remind me again which government has been mismanaging its budget for years?

Finally let me reassure Dr Edwards that the raison d’etre of the SNP is independence for Scotland, that’s what it says on the tin. We are not going away. If again he cares to look south of the Border he will find that an increasing number of the less-friendly natives there want us to go. Oh dear.

David J Crawford, Glasgow G12.

FUNDING for the Scottish NHS is a function of spending in England, and it is noteworthy that the National Audit Office recently found that “funding boosts [in England] appear to have been spent on coping with current pressures rather than making the changes required to put the health system on a sustainable footing”. It goes on to suggest that even when spending has been increased “there is a risk that the NHS will be unable to use some of the £20.5 billion of funding optimally due to difficulties recruiting staff”, which will not have been helped by Brexit.

Thus, if the primary constraint on spending in the Scottish NHS is spending in England, and a major problem for recruitment engendered by Brexit, we need to remember that both problems are not of the making of the Scottish Government but decisions at Westminster.

Of course, it might be argued that the Scottish Government has discretion on how to spend the Block Grant. However, given that Derek Mackay cannot send a note to the Treasury telling it to flog a few more government bonds, this source of revenue is relatively fixed. Therefore, if we want more spent on health, less must be spent elsewhere.

Thus to complain that the Scottish NHS “simply does not have the correct policies to attract and retain staff”, as Dr Gerald Edwards does, fails to consider the financial context within which these policies are formed, and, while I agree that more should be done to train and retain doctors (and nurses) in Scotland, staff retention – particularly those from abroad – has been made much more difficult by Brexit.

However, when he broadens his attack, arguing that the Scottish Government lacks “the taxation policies to grow the economy”, I really do wonder how much influence he thinks that control over income tax alone will have on economic growth? Do rates of Corporation Tax, or policies on trade and industry, employment or even immigration have no influence on this, for these are areas reserved to Westminster? Is control over income tax not rather like driving a car which has only one gear?

I would be happy if the coming election were about independence, but no less concerned were it to focus on “grassroots concerns such as health, education, transport and the economy”. These can only be properly considered in the context of the influence exerted by Westminster in terms of funding decisions, and policy control (in the case of the economy). The performance of the Scottish NHS can only be fully and properly analysed if those constraints are considered, something Dr Edwards singularly fails to do.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

WHAT on earth is Jo Swinson playing at with our NHS? Abstaining on a vote to prevent future privatisation? Have the LibDems learned nothing from their austerity-enabling years in coalition with the Tories? In recent times Ms Swinson has been challenged on her appalling voting record (check theyworkforyou.com); particularly whilst she held ministerial office in the Tory/LibDem coalition. I don’t intend to recount her austerity-enabling "sins" but they continue to cause hardship across the UK and will likely shadow her for good.

You might think that she would make some effort, away from coalition government, to at least pretend to have some social democratic credentials, even if only to try to dispel her reputation as a Tory in all but name. It seems she hasn’t learned; or perhaps she has an eye on a possible outcome of the next General Election. Could she be looking to get the band back together in another LibDem/Tory Coalition?

On Wednesday (October 23) there was a Labour amendment put down as part of the NHS debate in the Queen’s Speech. The motion was fairly straightforward; it was to protect the NHS “…from future trade agreements that would allow private companies competing for services who put profit before public health…”.

Six different political parties and 282 MPs voted for the motion. Ms Swinson and the rest of the LibDems abstained. If you want to protect our NHS from future trade deals it is not enough to say you will; you have to show that you will.

What are we to make of a party and a leader who abstain on such an important matter? Is this part of a power play in anticipation of a hung parliament at the next General Election? Is failing to protect our NHS from privatisation in future trade deals a price worth paying to get back into government with the Tories?

Phil McCloy, Milngavie.

Read more: The General Election will be decided on grassroots issues like the NHS