There's a third way to fight coronavirus

Iain Macwhirter is right to warn that a prolonged lockdown risks a major economic crisis (Herald Voices, March 29). However, he seems to assume that the only two options before governments are either a long lock-down, resulting in severe hardship, or, presumably, unmitigated spread of the epidemic. The latter is expected to result in hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Mr Macwhirter fails to acknowledge the obvious third option, which is for the UK and Scottish governments to finally start following World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance instead of stubbornly ignoring it. If governments did that, they would use a temporary lockdown to quickly introduce mass testing, contact tracing and proper isolation of those infected, while scaling up the capacity of the NHS to treat those infected.

South Korea diagnosed its first Covid-19 case at the same time as the UK. It followed WHO protocol to the letter, has so far limited total deaths to 158, compared to the UK's 1,228, and has avoided the need for a lockdown. Across the UK, failure to contain the epidemic has made a lockdown unavoidable now, however, following the same international protocol would give us a safe way out of this lockdown, minimising deaths as well as economic hardship. It remains a mystery why our governments are still refusing to do so.

Almuth Ernsting Edinburgh

• It was depressing to see Iain Macwhirter make ill informed criticism of Jeremy Corbyn in his column last week.

Macwhirter indicated that Corbyn had made out that he had been proved right on the coronavirus pandemic. However, what Corbyn actually said in a BBC interview was that the Government response proved he was absolutely right about public spending in the 2019 election.

He then went on to make the very sensible point that the Tories now realised that they had to invest in the state.

The inconvenient truth for Macwhirter is that yet again Corbyn has provided a sensible perspective on an important issue.

It is disappointing that a quality journalist like Macwhirter has followed the example of the numerous journalists and media outlets who cannot bring themselves to give fair coverage to one of the most principled and clear-minded politicians of the modern day.

Arthur West Irvine

Scots NHS ahead of the game

Vicky Allan’s column “Speechless” (Herald Voices, March 29) documents well how petty corruption is creeping into some of the responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, she gives the impression that by last Thursday NHS workers were still not being tested for the disease. An understandable error since most of the coronavirus “UK” news and statistics we’ve been getting appertain to NHS England. In fact in Scotland (unlike England), NHS workers have been getting tested for the past two weeks.

This of course in no way excuses Prince Charles “jumping the queue” of his fellow non-essential workers who are ineligible for testing. Even in the 21st century the adjective “royal” still propels the hand towards the forelock in too many of our decision-makers.

Mary McCabe Glasgow

Time to cut climate spending

I wonder if the hordes of people who are making a comfortable living out of the climate crisis will be taking a 20% pay cut because of coronavirus?

The UK cost of net zero emissions by 2050 will be £3 trillion. The coronavirus has solved the emissions problem since global emissions are dropping fast and the UK will very soon be at the levels agreed at the Paris agreement.

The world economy will take more than a decade to recover so all UK expenditure related to climate change should be terminated immediately and instead used to help the UK's economic recovery.

Clark Cross Linlithgow

A suggestion too far?

How Orwellian does the suggestion to members of the public, from various police forces in England, to inform on neighbours who breach lockdown rules sound?

Of course, hands will be thrown up in horror at any reluctance on my part to do such a thing, if it were suggested up here. Reporting a crime is what the defence for such irresponsible conduct would be termed.

Yes, there is a likelihood of harm to the individual and an added burden on an already overstretched NHS, both of which would be reprehensible.

What I object to is the mindset this would create in the heads of the public. A neighbour's behaviour could be easily misconstrued and any information laid against that neighbour could cause difficulties for the accused in these heightened crisis conditions.

Some would say it would be better to be safe than sorry, but it is the plight of the accused individual which would be unnecessarily parlous.

Then there are neighbours who have scores to settle, and what better way than to lay a false accusation against such an estranged neighbour?

Such a request from the police could so easily become the thin edge of the wedge, opening up the doors to all kinds of social abuse.

If there is to be any action taken against those contravening, through a sense of irresponsibility, what it would be better to term health and safety regulations, then prominent public notices and frequent public announcements should spell out the penalties to be imposed on offenders caught by the police patrols.

What we must resist is turning the public into unpaid – or even paid – spies for our police force. Public trust is what policing needs to be based upon rather than such underhand measures.

I just wonder how many share my revulsion at the prospect of dividing neighbourhoods by introducing suspicions that neighbours could be spying and informing on those next door or across the street?

Denis Bruce


Nationalism, dead? Far from it

I couldn’t disagree more with Alexander McKay’s letter (The Herald on Sunday, March 29) purporting that coronavirus has sounded the death knell of Scottish nationalism and that “remaining united and facing difficulties together strengthens every single one of us in the UK. The evidence suggests quite the contrary. The case for Scottish independence is strengthening daily partly because the arrogant, bumbling, metropolitan-centric Westminster system compares so poorly with the decisive, practical approach by the Scottish Government in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Roy Pedersen Inverness

• I hate to burst Alexander McKay's bubble, but I'm afraid he is clutching at a very slippery straw if he thinks "coronavirus has sounded the death knell for Scottish nationalism".

Of course, in these stressful and difficult times it is right that other considerations should be put aside for now, but when we emerge from this terrible ordeal we will find that Scotland still has no say over Trident nuclear weapons of mass destruction being in our waters, and that despite overwhelmingly rejecting the Tories last December, Scotland is still ruled by a Tory Government which has dragged us out of the EU against our will.

And as the latest opinion poll suggests that the SNP is on course to win its best ever result at next year's Scottish Parliament elections, it looks as though Mr McKay is once again out of step with public opinion, and that far from being on its last legs, the SNP continues to go from strength to strength.

Ruth Marr Stirling

The scourge of 'so' is spreading

So, in response to John V Lloyd's annoyance at Sir Patrick Vallance, I would simply add that the Chief Scientific Adviser is not alone. Not by a long way.

It is a verbal affectation which appears to be growing rapidly in the same way as carrying a bottle of water for all to see became the latest fashion accessory.

John O'Kane Glasgow

Public pensions, the facts ... again

Readers Clark Cross and Dave Anderson have taken exception to my response to Mr. Cross’s letter on pensions. Sadly, both have seen fit to speculate on my financial situation rather than just making a factual response. I’ll try to just stick to facts.

Mr. Cross suggests I did not absorb his statements about ONS statistics. He is correct. I didn’t understand the point he was making. He gave figures showing a reduction in final salary schemes in the private sector over 20 years or so and compared these with figures showing an increase in the number of public sector pensioners. Given that the total number of pensioners in the UK has increased over the past 20 years this increase is hardly unexpected. In his second letter he used exactly the same figures but said they related to pension funds. I’m still none the wiser.

He also states that “approximately 33% of council tax goes into the pension fund”. I can’t dispute this. However, only about 20% of council funding comes from council tax. Why didn’t he say that approximately 7% of council income goes towards pensions? I suppose it depends what message he is trying to convey.

Mr Anderson’s argument seems to be that as the private sector claims it can’t afford "good" pensions then the public sector shouldn’t have them either as they are taxpayer funded. I did point out in my original letter that not all public sector pensions are taxpayer funded but would also add that I have friends who worked in the private sector whose pensions are better than mine. Guess who paid for them – their employers’ customers – who may have included Mr Cross and Mr Anderson.

I do take some offence at Mr. Anderson’s final sentence where he refers to me saying “…he and those like him forget to thank the rest of us for paying through the nose in our taxes so he can share such wisdom from his ivory tower". Firstly, he knows nothing about me and so speaks from a position of ignorance. Secondly, while my main income is from a company pension, it is not funded in any way by taxpayers so my thanks to him are unnecessary.

Neither Mr Cross nor Mr Anderson make any comment on the state pension, which, although generally regarded as inadequate, is taxpayer funded and index linked – features which seem to annoy them. Is this because they are or will be beneficiaries?

Lastly, could Messrs Cross and Anderson give us a definition of a "gold plated pension". Is it one which is more than theirs?

Douglas Morton Lanark