Why emerging from lockdown is a matter of life and death for many of us

Sir David Spiegelhalter has likened the Covid-19 figures to the Eurovision Song Contest. In the week when we normally look forward to the fun event, London-based BBC, ITV and Sky News could not resist a league table. Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Germany and Austria are doing well but the UK, Italy, Spain, France and Belgium compare badly.

It led to the spat between the PM and the statistician as Boris Johnson tried to deflect criticism of the UK’s grim figures. Spiegelhalter had never suggested one should not analyse the reasons why the figures are so bad. We know already that population density, poverty, age, the inequitable effect on the BAME community and countries’ methodology are all factors.

Of course, this was indicative of the wider problem that London-based news, while worthy, has become tedious, repetitive, patronising and childlike. We have the familiar problem of the audience having to differentiate between news meant for England and the rest of the UK, notably on easing the lockdown. It may also explain why the snowflake generation turned away from TV, radio and newspaper news to advice from some Love Island celebrity rather than an eminent epidemiologist.

Professor Linda Bauld has said we are building up a raft of health risks for young people and for those with untreated medical conditions. The consequences of the lockdown period may emerge as far greater than the challenge we face tackling the virus.

Fertility clinics have closed their doors. Attendance at A&E is halved. Cancer referrals are down 72%. The pandemic has curtailed breast, cervical and bowel cancer screening. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are down 20%. Doctors are seeing fewer patients who may have had a mini-stroke or heart attack. Nor are they seeing children with coronavirus who have mild symptoms as they will recover. That is a concern as some ailments (e.g. appendicitis, pneumonia or sepsis) can mirror the virus.

All politicians hide behind the mantra that they are guided by the scientists (so why are we the last to close our borders?), but, with one cancer death for two from Covid-19, the time has come for Scotland to take baby steps and emerge from the lockdown.

John V Lloyd


The point-scoring blame game does no good to any of us

Hindsight is a very useful tool in learning lessons and planning for the future. However, too many times it is used by those wanting to score political points, air a professional grievance, or laying down the foundations of blame. In doing so any lessons that should be learned are in danger of being lost in the resulting arguments.

In all four home nations the current watchwords of a majority of opposition politicians, media and those experts not directly involved in Government planning seems to be “could have, would have, should have”. This virus took everyone by surprise by its virulence and contagiousness. It moved at such a pace that Government departments and agencies for a long time could only play catch-up.

In such a hectic and confused atmosphere, mistakes were made and vital decisions delayed, but that would have been the case no matter who was in charge. You only have to reread newspapers back in January to see that little attention was being paid to the impending crisis by anyone.

Yes, at the end of this hold an inquiry as to what went wrong and in doing so learn lessons and plan for the future. But let us not allow it to be used by politicians for cheap political point-scoring and others to pursue their own grievance and blame culture agenda – something that appears to be gaining momentum now. If we fail to learn those important lessons then at some time in the future history will repeat itself.

Now is not the time to look back at what might have been. Decisions were taken at the time in conjunction with the medical evidence available at the time. At this time we can only come through this crisis by putting differences and grievances aside and working together.

Yes, questions can be raised but once a decision has been made we should get behind it and take responsibility by whatever means and however small a contribution to make it work.

Paul Lewis


Wise words? I'll drink to that!

Last night, I had an excellent, impromptu virtual pint with two friends, a world-renowned infectious disease expert (who wasn’t wearing a mask as my anti-virus software had recently been upgraded) and a “seen it all” oil and gas expert, who wore an old North Sea survival suit.

After an hour-long “beauty contest” involving Teams, Zoom, Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp, one of our wives got us up and running with one of them (I can’t remember which).

It was a great evening and we got coronavirus policy “going forward” sorted out too. Here are our conclusions:

1) Stop lockdown and get everyone back to work.

2) Impose tougher lockdown to save the country.

3) It is all Boris’s fault.

4) He has done a great job.

5)This is all due to Brexit.

6) Thank God we’re out of the EU and have taken back control of our germs.

7) Nicola Sturgeon is playing politics.

8) Nicola Sturgeon is not playing politics.

9) Taxes will have to go up to pay for this.

10) They’re not getting a penny more from me.

Then we all staggered off to our virtual beds.

Allan Sutherland


I know which 'style' I trust more

I am more than a little puzzled about reader Martin Redfern’s comments on Nicola Sturgeon’s coronavirus TV briefings ("This crisis is not a popularity contest", Letters, May 10). He claims her broadcasts have more style than substance when compared to those of Hancock, Gove and Raab (He makes no mention of Johnson, Jenrick, Sunak and others).

I have watched most of Ms Sturgeon’s broadcasts. I find them informative, but, as far as style goes, a little dull. Given the topic, that is not a criticism.

However, the UK Government broadcasts sometimes seem like party political broadcasts, especially when a new measure is being announced. Have a look at Rishi Sunak when he announced the furlough measures. There were certainly triumphalist moments.

Give a choice of the two, I know which "style" I think is more appropriate.

Douglas Morton


When it comes to ferries, take off those rose-tinted spectacle

In response to Mr Ware’s letter published last Sunday (The Herald on Sunday, May 10), I would suggest a case of “rose-tinted spectacles”. All is not well with CMAL and there must be a doubt regarding competence in procurement, otherwise this shocking situation would not obtain. Interestingly, the CMAL corporate plan to which Mr Ware alludes makes considerable mention of training in procurement. Enough said.

This debacle is going to involve huge sums of money, not just for the vessels, but in pier works to accommodate the size and displacement of these craft. This is a shocking waste of taxpayers’ money which will, this year, amount to some £150 million in subsidy.

Consider this. The money spent, and to be spent, on the completion of these ships would buy 10 “Alfred” catamaran type ships with cash to spare. These craft would be more sea kindly, more manoeuverable, would miss fewer sailings and, given their smaller draft, displacement and shorter length would not necessitate the strengthening and lengthening of piers.

I wonder if CMAL has investigated the success of Alfred and her predecessor, Pentalina. I wonder if CMAL has invited some of its masters to experience and evaluate Alfred. I further wonder if CMAL is commissioning the vessels its masters, the men with the experience, want and require.

It is time to move on and stop squandering our money.

J Patrick Maclean


I’m afraid I have to respond to Rob Ware’s comments about my previous letter recommending the scrapping of the ill-starred ferries 801 and 802 currently half-built at Ferguson’s yard.

He takes me to task for what he states was an allegation by me against CMAL in my evidence to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. In fact, there was no allegation. To put the record straight, Mike Rumbles MSP asked for ideas as to why Ferguson’s, with the highest bid, had been awarded the contract to build these two vessels. I confessed that I did not know the answer, but ventured incompetence, vested interest or corruption as hypotheses that the committee might wish to consider.

Thus, my comments were speculative, general and theoretical in nature, and were not directed at any individual or entity. It is, therefore, unfortunate that it was assumed, wrongly, that my comments were directed at CMAL.

Mr Ware goes on to suggest that I should read CMAL’s three-year corporate plan. I have and it would take up too much space here to cover all the observations I would wish to make.

However, rather than going over old ground, I simply put forward three questions:

Is almost half a billion pounds for two replacement ferries and associated terminal works good value?

For a route that has never carried more than 312 passengers on any sailing, is a 1,000-passenger capacity ferry, necessitating a huge crew to feed and evacuate non-existent passengers, sensible?

Is it a good idea to perpetuate chronically bad connectivity across the Little Minch with one grossly over-specified ship (802) when a simpler, two-ship solution would revolutionise access to and from the Western Isles at less cost?

In all sanity, the answers surely have to be a resounding “no, no and no”.

Scotland-wide, some 50 ferries will need replaced in the next two decades. In achieving that, if current policies were pursued, the cost to the public purse would be astronomical, thereby depriving our hard-pressed health and education services of the funds they so desperately need. There is a better way

Roy Pedersen


Football scandal is a true test of character

Will the SPFL and the SFA now be allowed to draw a line under the shenanigans of the recently put-to-bed EGM, invoked by a disgruntled club?

If our national game is to have a future, all efforts will have to be concentrated upon securing the future of the game and keeping as many clubs as possible afloat. That hope could well be sunk, if the litigation route is taken by the club whose efforts to dislodge two key members of the SPFL failed.

The only weapon left in its arsenal is going to law – but that club with its proud history will do itself and the footballing community no favours, should it choose to go down that road.

Rather, it should do its talking openly and honestly on the pitch where its glorious record comes from, and upon which it is based.

If its intent is to prevent its main rivals from achieving a record number of titles, it should fire itself up to meet that challenge on the pitch – or do they really want to be remembered as a mean minded outfit, unable to be generous in defeat, which is the hallmark of true character?

Denis Bruce


University bailout? That's rich

The Scottish government has given Scottish Universities a one-off funding boost of £75 million to help them cope in the wake of Covid-19. Education secretary John Swinney insisted that the UK government should also contribute and fund Scottish universities. He and the Scottish government have a nerve.

Since the SNP came to power they have monotonously blamed Westminster, moaned over trivial issues, reacted to every perceived slight and constantly complained that Scotland was being ignored. The Scottish parliament demanded devolution and they got it including control of Scottish universities. Now the Scottish parliament does not have the funds to bail out Scotland's universities which will have an estimated £500 million deficit due to Covid-19.

Mr Swinney, why should English taxpayers bail out Scottish universities when your Scottish government policy gives free education, not only to those residing in Scotland, but also to EU students? Mr Swinney will not want it to be remembered that many suitably qualified students living in Scotland were denied places at a Scottish university since places were prioritised for fee-paying foreign students.

Clark Cross