WHILE in no way attempting to deflect focus from the national and international crisis facing society at every level and, hopefully in keeping with Rosemary Goring's column ("Optimism seems to me as essential as anti-bacterial gel", The Herald, March 18) I can't suppress some observations which perhaps provide a few beacons that might have been hastened or directly caused by it.

In no particular order:

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe released (with a tag) from her cell in Iran.

Fewer non-essential planes in the sky.

Petty disputes and point-scoring publicly scorned by politicians of all persuasions.

Glasgow sectarian marches abandoned.

News of potential vaccine developments.

Welcome acknowledgement of "regrettable" NHS decisions by previous health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Chinese assistance to other afflicted countries.

A refreshed focus on needier sections of society abandoned without food and shelter.

A large section of American society apparently re-appraising the suitability, or otherwise, of their President.

An increase in general societal concern and awareness, as observed and promoted by respected Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, provided a measure of inspiration and uplift in an interview by Emily Maitlis on BBC's Newsnight last night (March 18).

I hope others might notice a few glimmers in an otherwise gloomy firmament.

Gerry Burke, Strachur, Argyll.


Great Scot, who?

I AM fairly sure that Michael Fry was not oblivious to the fact that he was being somewhat provocative when he referred to Angus Deaton as being "the greatest living Scotsman" ("The lessons we can learn from our greatest living Scot", The Herald, March 17).There is no doubt that Nobel Laureate Professor Deaton is distinguished and highly respected. Of that there can be no doubt. However, "greatest living Scotsman"? That is, perhaps, more debatable.

It clearly depends upon the citeria being adopted in arriving at a judgment on the question of the individual who deserves the title of being the "greatest living". What of Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the greatest-ever football managers, or Sir Sean Connery, an icon from the world of film, or Sir Andy Murray , multi-title winner from the world of tennis?

There will obviously be different opinions on the question of "greatest living Scot"' and even more controversy, I have no doubt, on the question of the "greatest-ever Scot".

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.