DICK Webster (Letters, December 21) finds "the almost universally-harsh response to the Scottish Budget to be rather disappointing". I find it depressing but hardly surprising. It is easy for opponents to criticise but we hear little by way of genuinely sensible alternatives, such as posed by Alan Ritchie (Letters, same day).

To my mind, the sterile debate highlights what is wrong with UK politics. We only have binary choices; between Labour and Conservative at Westminster, or unionism and independence in Scotland. The reason for this at UK level is our polarising "winner takes all" voting system, which leaves most of us disenfranchised. And here in Scotland, despite a form of PR, albeit obscure, the enmity between supporters and opponents of independence overrides everything. We need a more collaborative approach, particularly in deciding what public services we should have and how to pay for them.

A recent letter (December 14) from Doug Clark suggested abolishing political parties which, although meritorious, is unlikely to gain traction given the money and power of the main parties. Real proportional representation would be a start. I'd also support citizens' assemblies to tackle the issues politicians constantly avoid.

According to Ipsos, in a poll published this month, politicians are trusted by only 9% of the population and theirs is the least trusted of all professions by some margin. I'm sure a good number are genuine in wanting to serve us but most, I suspect, are simply there to make up party numbers. In the short term, PR has to be introduced to help restore faith in Parliament by forcing more cooperative decisions and longer-term policies. For me it will be the most important matter in determining who I vote for, which rules out Labour and Conservative at the next election.

David Bruce, Troon.

Read more: Shona Robison Budget disaster shows SNP bubble is finally burst

Comparing Mone and Matheson

IN reply to Brian Chrystal (Letters, December 22) and other correspondents who have compared Michael Matheson to Michelle Mone, may I point out that from 2020 to 2023 Baroness Mone constantly denied that she had any involvement with the PPE contracts which resulted in a profit of millions of pounds. Immediately Mr Matheson realised what had happened with his iPad, he repaid the money, accepted responsibility and admitted that he should have handled the situation better.

Mr Matheson has been a loyal, hard-working and devoted MSP for more than 20 years; one mistake should not negate his service and the huge amount of work he has done for his constituents, and continues to do.

And of course, one of the many differences between Michelle and Michael is that ermine will never be draped around his shoulders. There will never be a Lord Matheson of Falkirk.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

The Herald: Michael MathesonMichael Matheson (Image: PA)

Where did oil profits go?

I FIND Brian Wilson’s column is always good for a laugh.

The former Labour Party MP and Energy Minister asked "Where do all the Barnett consequentials go?” ("We need a root-and-branch review of how they spend our money", The Herald, December 19).

Well former minister, where did all the profits from the oil extracted from Scottish waters go?

Scotland is the country that just keep on giving.

I suppose, however, we do get the crumbs back, through the Barnett Formula, so we should be thankful for that.

Ian Archibald, Edinburgh.

Covid Inquiry is a farce

LIKE many observers I have dipped in and out of the UK Covid Inquiry many times over the months since it commenced, and I have been completely dismayed at the line of questioning used by the multiplicity of eminent lawyers when attempting to intimidate and embarrass their witnesses.

This farce, which formally opened in the summer of 2022 with the public hearing commencing in June this year, is destined to run and run until 2026. The inquiry has been totally lost in the shallow end of its main objective, which is to establish what went right, what went wrong and what lessons are to be learned in the event of any future pandemic. Answers to fundamental questions should have been the priority, such as: was our reaction to the disease swift enough? Did lockdown work? Should schools have been closed when it was clear children were least likely to be infected? Should elderly untested patients have been transferred from hospitals into care homes? Did we have the correct type of PPE? Would mass testing have meant damaging lockdowns could have been avoided?

Unfortunately, what we have endured so far is a blame game with a series of irrelevant finger-pointing exercises focusing on who wrote WhatsApp messages to whom and who was rude to someone else, egged on by a bunch of highly-paid lawyers wallowing in the limelight while swelling their already-bulging pay packets. Whilst it is understandable that members of the public who lost loved ones during the pandemic need answers and someone to blame, it should be remembered that no one in government or the medical profession had had any experience of such a catastrophe and with very few exceptions handled the situation as well as they could.

The fact that the inquiry is destined not to conclude until 2026 is just unfathomable with the cost to the taxpayer rising exponentially until then. It is now time to bring it to a conclusion so that any lessons learned can be logged and used in the event of the next pandemic and I just hope that the separate Scottish inquiry, of which there is little media coverage, is equally truncated.

We can then all sleep a little easier in the knowledge that the authorities are armed with sufficient expertise to avoid a repeat of the many sad deaths that Covid-19 inflicted on our country, along with the world at large.

Christopher H Jones, Giffnock.

Read more: Assisted dying: a better option is properly funded hospices

What about the doctors?

WHEN someone champions the legalisation of procedures such as assisted dying or abortion, is any consideration ever given to the effects of carrying out such procedures on the medical practitioners necessarily involved?

Both of those procedures run counter to the primary objective of health care which aims at the protection of life.

Those practices are contrary to the usually-accepted duties of doctors and nurses.

Once assisted dying is added to the tasks on the table for medical professionals, it will affect the mindset of those who will be expected to implement that procedure, making them complicit in the deliberate ending of lives and producing a feeling of guilt along with a twinge of conscience, even although it may well have become legally feasible.

Thus a massive alteration of mindset will occur amongst the medical profession to which they will likely become inured with the passage of time as the practice becomes the norm.

There surely can be no doubt that the introduction of assisted dying will alter the doctor-patient relationship in that doctors will be expected to ask patients with terminal conditions whether they would contemplate assisted dying. Do we really want to encourage such desensitisation in the caring professions?

I just wonder if any research has ever been undertaken to explore the adverse psychological effects upon those involved in carrying out such procedures.

Denis Bruce, Bishopbriggs.

Leave the suburbs alone

I NOTE with interest Mark Smith's column on Friday ("Glasgow is a 'shipwreck' but there's a plan to fix it", The Herald, December 22). So yet again part of the answer to solving Glasgow's problems is to integrate the surrounding suburbs, using the council tax generated there to pay for the mismanagement of the city by the council.

Services in these so-called suburbs have improved significantly since they have been freed from the clutches of Glasgow and the former Strathclyde and are managed by local authorities which exercise due diligence and focus on service delivery and improvement. Residents in the suburbs would not want to return to being managed by Glasgow.

People in the suburbs use some facilities in the city and do contribute through buying goods and services, thereby helping the economy and supporting employment, although with recent tax rises that is unlikely to continue to the same degree.

Bill Eadie, Giffnock.