ONE particular sentence in the Danish author Bjorn Lomborg's book False Alarm caught my attention: "Our extraordinary focus on climate means we have less time, money and attention to spend on other problems." How true. But how much more true in Scotland where the fantasy of secession sucks the last bit of oxygen out of every conversation about every challenge that we face whether it be local government funding, education, or the health service, to name but three.

Despite the somewhat predictable slurs that he is a right-wing climate change denier, Lomborg neither denies the reality of climate change nor our role in that change. Instead he regards it a serious issue, one we shouldn't ignore and for which we should be prepared to innovate and adapt. What he does do is unrelentingly puncture the rhetorical hysteria that obscures what should be our priorities.

But it's the book's subtitle that seems particularly relevant to Scotland just now: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails To Fix the Planet. Referring to the biggest-ever study of heat and cold deaths published in The Lancet, Lomborg notes that whilst heat caused 0.5 per cent of deaths, cold was responsible for 7% of all deaths. In the same year, 2015, the ONS estimated that the UK experienced 33 cold deaths for every heat death. Since then the numbers of cold deaths have continued to rise, with this paper reporting earlier this year that the number of cold deaths in Scotland had doubled to a record high of 2,424 people in the winter 2022-23 ("Cold home deaths in Scotland 'double' during cost of living crisis, The Herald, September 6). Last week we learned, as if we didn’t already know, that 400,000 Scots live in cold houses ("Health alert as over 400,000 Scots living in cold damp homes", The Herald, December 14). Cold housing accounts for something like 20 per cent of excess winter deaths, so the more cold homes there are, the more cold deaths there are. Another grim harvest beckons.

Yet, these almost certain deaths are not inevitable. These deaths are the result of poor policy decisions and misplaced priorities. They are the consequence of 16 years of dereliction, division, and deflection. Whilst SNP politicians prance about the world stage, pontificating about subjects beyond their competence, and pronouncing that the end of the world is nigh, poor people back home in Scotland freeze to death in cold homes. So a climate change summit is the last thing that the First Minister needs to convene.

What he needs to do is stop wasting time and money on his vanity projects and utopian pipe dreams, and concentrate on making poor people richer. Rich people don't die of cold. Tragically, it won't happen, because cold Scots don't rank highly on Humza Yousaf and Patrick Harvie’s apocalyptic climate change agenda. Instead we'll get a doubling down on failure and a reiteration of every self-righteous climate change cliché that ever polluted the political atmosphere. All that remains is to concur with Lomborg that a modest rise in temperature might well be the only way to save people in Scotland dying from the cold.

Graeme Arnott, Stewarton.

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Indy would make things even worse

I NOTICE from Alasdair Galloway’s letter (December 15) that the blame for the SNP Government’s poor performance is now being expanded beyond Westminster to include misrepresentation by the Scottish media. This is ironic given the amount of print afforded to him by The Herald over the years.

Had I known what the consequences of voting for devolution back in the day were going to be, I would have voted against. Unfortunately I didn’t and for that I must take my share of the blame. There is little I like about it, from a voting system that few people understand to the poor quality of the politicians it has attracted, from a mismanaged and over-budget parliament building to mismanaged and over-budget ferries, from forgetful and secretive first ministers to, at the very least, misleading and secretive health secretaries, from high and probably going higher taxation to poor and getting poorer public services, from over-reaching policies actually designed to create conflict with Westminster to unsafe main arterial routes and mismanaged ferries to the islands.

And still Mr Galloway blames outside forces, that we need more independence. It will fix everything. In my view it would only lead to even worse decision-making and more division between us and our neighbour and main trading partner, and to third world country status.

Angus MacEachran, Aberdeen.

Our Government is committed to NHS

I NOTE your report on last Thursday's First Minister's Questions ("Deputy FM apologises over ‘scandalous’ waiting times for an ambulance", The Herald, December 15).

Shona Robison's apology was genuine, because she recognises that our Health Service is struggling as we enter winter.

Her statement came in response to a question from Douglas Ross, but where are the Scottish Conservatives' proposals for improving the NHS? I am sure his own party's Health Secretary at Westminster would be interested.

Shona Robinson informed the Parliament that only two months ago the Scottish Government announced an additional £50 million in funding for the Ambulance Service and told MSPs that 1,388 workers have been recruited to the service in the last three years. Also announced by the Health Secretary two months ago was an additional £12m this year to expand and improve the Hospital at Home Service in an attempt to reduce pressure on A&E and the need for ambulances. Those announcements have barely had time to impact on services, but I am sure the Scottish Government is committed to keeping our NHS free at the point of need - something I am not convinced is the case in other parts of the UK.

Catriona C Clark, Falkirk.

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Case for flat-rate income tax

SO another tax hike for high earners is threatened to fill a hole in the budget for public expenditure ("Warning over new tax band for higher earners", The Herald, December 15); when will politicians and public alike wake up to the fact that what we call “income tax” is actually a wealth tax applied to earnings rather than to wealth?

Higher earners who share their good fortune by spending their money for the benefit of the economy are punished by unfair tax rates while those who hang on to it are able to accumulate wealth from which they enjoy unearned income. At the other end of the earnings scale employers are able to pay poverty wages to workers who are untaxed, leaving the public services and benefits provided to them to be funded by the tax on higher earners.

Surely the direction of travel should be towards a fair income tax which taxes all income at a flat rate with no cliff edges at threshold points? This would result in someone earning £100k paying 10 times as much as someone on £10k. It would clearly be necessary to move progressively towards this objective but the end result should be higher wages at the low end of the scale and less need for “film star” salaries at the top end.

The disincentive which higher tax rates bring to those undergoing education and training for highly skilled occupations would be removed. The difficulty of persuading early retirees to return to the workforce to fill vital skill shortages would also be greatly eased. Everyone requires the services provided by public expenditure and fair tax rules would require every pound of earned income to be taxed at the same rate in a similar fashion to expenditure tax.

Willie Maclean, Milngavie.

The Herald: Baroness Michelle Mone on the BBC One current affairs programme, Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg Baroness Michelle Mone on the BBC One current affairs programme, Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg (Image: BBC Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg)

Shame on BBC for Mone platform

WAS Laura Kuenssberg's Baroness Mone interview (December 17), which had great similarity to the Prince Andrew interview, acceptable to the public? Is this propping up of one side of ongoing legal processes and disputes the balanced reporting expected from the BBC whose service we are forced to pay for?

The whole situation where people in positions of power were invited to join a "VIP lane" to provide goods and profit from a dire situation was wrong. A greater display of avarice is hard to bring to mind. The behaviour of Baroness Mone and her husband, who seem to have spent this summer rehearsing their performance, in my opinion, is unacceptable. The BBC should not be allowing these privileged people further privilege by presenting this to the general population.

The BBC's position needs to be questioned. Is this to be allowed to become a thing: the rich are to be allowed to use the BBC to present a defence for potential wrongdoing that is under investigation by legal processes in our society?

The whole situation is unacceptable and unbelievable. It is time to lose the House of Lords and scrutinise profiteering in our NHS.

Morag Campbell, Glasgow.