IT was reported recently that 50,000 coronavirus tests were sent to the US for processing after "operational issues" in UK labs”. Last week, our First Minister reported that testing capacity in Scotland had been increased to more than 8,000 per day in NHS and Glasgow University labs, from 300 per day before the pandemic struck. That is an increase to be praised. However, what is not to be praised is that testing capacity could wither to less than four per cent of the current required capacity.

It is not as if there were no warnings. Exercise Cygnus in 2016, which simulated a pandemic to test UK capacity to cope, forecast that, at that time, to quote one report, “there was not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for the nation's doctors and nurses. The NHS was about to 'fall over, due to a shortage of ventilators and critical care beds.”

Given other similar warnings going back to at least 2010, why were we so unprepared? Many reasons will be put forward, including, for instance, lack of attention (for some years now have we thought at length about much other than Brexit?). Then there is carelessness and incompetence, as the search for scapegoats cannot be long delayed. However, perhaps we need to consider a more wide-ranging and historical influence?

For many years now, low tax rates have become totemic, with the consequence that public services have either been abandoned altogether or become so hollowed out that they barely exist. The state has retreated and been diminished as public spending has been reduced to the point where it is seldom more than the minimum necessary to carry on, and too often not that much.

Of course, addressing this will inevitably mean higher tax rates, more like those my parents’ generation were willing to pay to create the welfare state after 1945. Since then, we have been beguiled by generations of politicians who have convinced us of the inherent inefficiency of public services and that, of course money can and should be saved, to be passed on as tax cuts.

During the referendum in 2014, there was much talk of a fairer Scotland, but if that is to be realised then a debate is needed about how much we are prepared to pay for it.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

SOME eyebrows are raised at the £60 billion cost of extending the furlough scheme; how quickly we forget that 10 times that was flushed down the pan to save a corrupt banking system and the taxpayer got none of that. The reality is that the global financial system creates money out of thin air all the time and the Government also can print money whenever it wants to.

At least in the furlough system the cash goes directly to the taxpayer and the vast majority of those receiving the money will spend all of it and help to keep the economy turning over. Of course as is the norm, a percentage of what is spent will be syphoned off by the corporate capitalist system, but at least it will have done some good in the UK before it nominally sits in an account in some off-shore tax-haven.

What about paying it back? To whom exactly? Just like the hundreds of billions Westminster conjured up by quantitative easing to rescue the global financial system in 2008 and our £2 trillion national debt they have created, it cannot and never will be repaid. So on you go, Rishi Sunak, while you are at it give every citizen and their children a decent living wage. Oh, and while you've got your wallet out, what about the Waspi women? Give up and give them their money and ensure that the currently decreasing number of pensioners receive a pension that is nearer the national average wage, as is the norm in most civilised countries.

David J Crawford, Glasgow G12.