NEIL Mackay (“Johnson? Sturgeon? When it comes to coronavirus they are both the same”, The Herald, May 5) lambasts Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson for both taking an almost identical approach in their fight against Covid-19, somehow implying that this is in itself a fault.

He further implies that had we adopted the policies of New Zealand or South Korea then things would have been so much better.

He ends his piece, which is strong on criticism but weak on solutions, by denigrating politics and politicians generally. He says that they are only fit for mockery and should be laughed off the stage.

In defence of both governments, Westminster and Holyrood, from the outset of this crisis they agreed to be guided by their scientific advisers. That this occasioned unanimity in terms of policy is surely a cause for celebration rather than condemnation.

The fact that both South Korea and New Zealand appear to be coping very well with the pandemic is interesting; and, probably, we can learn from them. However, conditions vary dramatically across the world and each country will face its own set of problems and therefore have to find its own set of solutions.

The answers that are right for New Zealand, a remote archipelago in the Pacific with a population of five million, are not necessarily right for the UK. Sweden, with ten million, has adopted an approach which to our eyes might look dangerously lax.

However, although its death rate is higher than its immediate Scandinavian neighbours, it is lower per capita than Scotland’s.

In truth we will only be able to judge the success or otherwise of policy and implementation after the pandemic is over.

However, it is Mackay’s universal criticism of politicians which I find most disconcerting.

It should not require to be said, but not all politicians are self-serving apparatchiks. Many, if not most, are motivated by a strong sense of public duty. If they leave the stage as he suggests, then who would replace them? A strongman, perhaps? A benign dictator?

Jim Meikle, Killearn, Glasgow.

THE penny has almost dropped for Neil Mackay as he finds nothing to choose between individual politicians and political parties. Does he not realise that is the aim of the exercise?

Let me enlighten him. The UK and the rest of the world are and always have been run by and for the rich, those with inherited wealth; those who attend Bilderberg meetings in secret.

Democracy is simply sophisticated crowd-control, a barrier between us and them, a focus for our complaints and concerns.

The Establishment doesn’t even have to worry about controlling Westminster, Washington or the Kremlin – all it needs do is to control the political parties. How effective that control can be was demonstrated by the recent ousting of Jeremy Corbyn and the reappearance in public life of the multi-millionaire Tony Blair.

If you were running a sweetie-shop would you put Boris or any of his mates in charge of your family business? I wouldn’t.

When I become the supreme leader of a newly independent Scotlandshire the last thing I will do is to be a dictator. No sirree.

I will expand democracy and create new populist parties. Then all I need to worry about is to control a handful of people who know what side of their bread is buttered on; the ire of five million people will be directed at them and I’ll lead the life of Larry.

Why dump a system that has stood the test of time? That, Mr Mackay, is how it works.

David J Crawford, Glasgow.

I ALMOST completely agree with Neil Mackay when he bemoans the mediocre performance of our current political leaders at UK and Scottish level, throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

The only disagreement I have with him, is where he tries to convince the reader that he’s “no nationalist”. I’ve been reading his columns for a decade or so, and I have to inform him, that in this reader’s humble opinion, he’s very much one!

Stuart Brennan, Glasgow.

IN response to Neil Mackay’s column, it is so easy with the benefit of hindsight for commentators to say that the current health crisis has been handled wrongly, and to question faith in politicians.

He should remember the old maxim. “Democracy is not perfect, but preferable to other options”. Would Neil Mackay like to suggest any alternative system of government?

Alec Oattes, Ayr.

I FOUND it curious that Neil Mackay brought up a fairly extreme image of selecting a poison [strychnine or cyanide] when considering alternatives to the current Conservative leader.

He used less caustic language when referring to alternatives to the leadership of the SNP when he declared, less colourfully, that “I’d sooner have Sturgeon than anyone of her MPs or MSPs”.

Even Nicola, however, will not go on for ever. I am sure that she is not looking forward to the various inquiries involving Mr Salmond, put on hold currently because of the pandemic, proceeding to complete their hearings and to reach conclusions.

While on the subject of poisons, now that Mr Mackay has raised it, it is worth recalling the words of Paracelsus some 500 years or so ago: “All things are poison, and nothing is without poison: the dose alone makes a thing not poison” .

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.

OUR First Minister states that “real and significant progress” has been achieved in the fight against Covid-19. Despite this, we are told not to expect any loosening of the lockdown restrictions any time soon.

Tragically, there has been overwhelming evidence of high mortality rates in the care- home sector and, indeed, we are told that approximately 50 per cent of deaths in Scotland due to Covid-19 are directly attributable to that sector.

No doubt in the fullness of time this will rightly necessitate an official enquiry.

If the care-home death rate is treated as a separate entity from the overall mortality rate in Scotland, I think it is fair to say that, relatively speaking, Scotland has fared reasonably well compared to what has occurred elsewhere.

It is surely the case that Scotland’s figures. being that bit better than elsewhere, however tragic, is largely attributable to the responsible adherence to the safety guidelines laid down despite the obvious inconsistencies therein.

The economy, and people’s mental health, have suffered massively due to, in many cases, illogical and totally unnecessary restrictions imposed by the FM and her government.

DIY stores and supermarkets are operating successfully, with due care for public safety paramount, and yet the same cannot be said for other businesses being forced to remain closed.

Garden centres, for example, are having to destroy tons of plants because, for whatever reason, they are deemed unsafe despite the obvious ability to operate in the same way as DIY and supermarket stores.

I could go on, because the list of such inconsistencies is endless. I can visit a shop as long as I adhere to the two-metre social distancing rule yet I am forbidden to visit my family on the same basis.

It is time for the FM and her government to refrain from the dogma and stop treating us like naughty children not to be trusted.

J F McGilvray, Edinburgh.

CLAPPING the NHS each week is all well and good but surely we can think of a more permanent recognition.

I feel a more fitting tribute to the heroes of the health service is to name future NHS wards, departments, annexes and, indeed, hospitals after health workers who have died in our service during this crisis.

Surely there are more than enough royal infirmaries, and myriad other NHS facilities named after a privileged elite.

Each and every NHS worker who has lost his or her life in battling Covid-19 is, by a distance, more worthy of this honour.

Eugene Cairns, Prestwick.

I JUST wanted to say (for what it is worth) that I thoroughly agree with the content of Kevin McKenna’s article (“Keep your NHS claps and faux British patriotism”, May 2): it was clear and concise and, sadly, very much to the point. Nothing to add: well said.

Alison Hannan, Glasgow.

MR McKenna was correct to identify Sir Keir Starmer as mild, risk-averse, rich and trouble-free.

He is a decent and civilised sort, plainly, and able to articulate concerns about the government’s handling of the crisis, but an inspirational, driven figure he is not.

Tony Blair had his faults but he certainly was inspirational. You wonder how he would have dealt with the Tories and their sluggish reaction to Covid-19.

A. Mills, Glasgow.

DAVE McEwan Hill (Herald letters, May 5) is absolutely correct that after the Covid-19 crisis is over, we need to examine and improve the ways in which care for the elderly and vulnerable is provided and regulated. However, like many of your other correspondents, he appears not to have noticed that devolution has happened, and continues to blame the Westminster government.

While it is true that the private sector was originally able to use the elderly care system as a cash cow due to the UK government, most of us are aware that for over 20 years the issue has been in the hands of the Scottish Government, which since 2007 has been run by the SNP.

Similarly, when it is apparent that that the protection of vulnerable people in Scotland’s care homes is inadequate, the blame for deficiencies in the regulation of those institutions lies with Jeane Freeman [health secretary] and ultimately with Nicola Sturgeon.

The Nationalists choose to neglect the fact that they have had the powers to create a better system for all those years, but have failed to do so. I wonder what could have been the distraction on which so much energy and money has been wasted instead of looking after our elderly?

Peter A. Russell, Jordanhill, Glasgow.