INNOCENT until proven guilty appears to be a concept lost on many in the media (and some regular contributors to these pages) given the coverage of the Covid Inquiry to date.

While understandably the SNP’s political opponents wish to muddy the waters by conveying equivalence between the actions during the Covid pandemic of the former FM and those of the former PM, most people with a modicum of common sense appreciated fundamental differences between the seriousness and professionalism of two starkly contrasting characters. While one was avoiding COBRA meetings and according to his political adviser making comments such as “let the bodies pile high”, the other appeared regularly in front of the media to openly explain a logical and caring approach determined in consultation with government health advisers.

While Rishi Sunak seems to have been given a free ride by the UK press over the unavailability of his WhatsApp messages, speculation abounds about what was contained in Nicola Sturgeon’s social media messages with some (without even knowing what was contained in any of her informal messages and whether these have been irretrievably lost to the Covid inquiries or not) even claiming that relatives of the bereaved have been “betrayed”. Of course information relevant to these inquiries should not have been deleted, especially if pertinent details were not recorded through formal government channels in contradiction of rational Scottish Government policy, but perhaps before more people rush to judgment and speculate that important information was “deliberately deleted to avoid public scrutiny” they should recognise and reject scurrilous attempts to falsely equate the modus operandi of two radically different leaders.

No doubt Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government also made mistakes, but it appears that the most significant errors made during the pandemic were made by Boris Johnson, who acted like a maverick-dictator when making decisions around the control of our borders and the timing of lockdowns with associated "relief spending". Some will claim that the UK’s slightly earlier rollout of vaccines effectively offset his seemingly reckless decision-making, but other countries soon caught up and in many cases overtook the UK in vaccine delivery while overall the UK, and particularly England and Wales, tragically suffered much higher death rates than many neighbouring countries.

Emphatic early-warning signals from Italy of a pending health catastrophe were largely ignored by a PM who insisted on shaking hands during a hospital visit in the early days of the pandemic while the substantial natural boundary of water and exclusive control of the UK’s borders which should have helped to isolate its citizens proved ineffective for Brexit Britain.

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry.

The Herald: Jason Leitch arriving at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry hearing at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre yesterdayJason Leitch arriving at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry hearing at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre yesterday (Image: PA)

Significance of Leitch evidence

IT is becoming crystal clear that the UK Covid Inquiry operating in Edinburgh has been deprived of sufficient details. The claim that no WhatsApp messages were relevant except for some sections that were saved is looking very hollow.

The revelation that Humza Yousaf was given "cheat" information by Jason Leitch ("Jason Leitch confirms he wiped pandemic WhatsApp messages", heraldscotland, January 23) confirms why these WhatsApps should have been fully retained.

This inquiry has been attacked by some SNP politicians as being of little relevance but the public may well be taking a completely different viewpoint. Nicola Sturgeon should not have conducted government business through her private email address or telephone number either. The word "transparency" is often issued; the picture is becoming more opaque daily.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.

Inquiry is not following remit

THE UK Covid-19 Inquiry has been set up to examine the UK’s response to and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and learn lessons for the future. The inquiry’s work is guided by its terms of reference.

From the media coverage it would appear that the inquiry is not following its remit as stated above. It is not examining the actions taken and the laws passed but is concentrating all its efforts on the the various discussions, emails, WhatsApp messages etc.

What is said and what is done are two entirely different things, Considering that Covid was the worst pandemic since 1918 and action needed to have been taken extremely quickly, it is imperative that we learn from the actions and responses taken and not what was talked about in brainstorming sessions.

W Thompson, Lenzie.

Read more: WhatsApp is a sideshow. We should focus on the facts

Too early for conclusions

REGARDING excess deaths, Alan Ritchie (Letters, January 23) is right that most of us live in towns, but that may undermine his Covid case. Scotland's five towns with more than 100,000 people are widely separated (other than Glasgow and Motherwell) versus over 70 in England largely concentrated in the Midlands/Lancs/West Yorkshire area.

We have nothing which remotely compares with Greater London's 7-8 million.

Nor do we have anything like the number and concentration of ethnic minorities who sadly appeared to be more susceptible to such a disease, whether by their ethnicity itself or from the prevalence of three generations of a family living together.

The age-related ONS statistics showing excess deaths of 0.2 percentage points fewer in Scotland at 3.0 v 3.2 (i.e. 6.25 per cent "better" than England) may therefore still give a misleading comparison which will require further fine tuning. So the zealots on both sides might be advised to haud their wheesht until the public inquiries are complete; and even until the NHS returns to its pre-Covid state in terms of delayed operations and the like.

John Birkett, St Andrews.

Scotland will lose out again

KEVIN McKenna points out that "in the 100 years since (Ramsay) MacDonald's administration, Labour has held power for only about a third of that time. The natural party of UK governments has been the Conservatives" ("SNP’s goal more distant than ever", The Herald, January 23). It still is. Middle England voters may be fed up with the Tories for now, but sense that Sir Keir, with his U-turns and watered-down policies, is a Tory in all but name. In Scotland however, the Tories have been consistently rejected since 1955, but we've been saddled with Tory policies and Tory prime ministers nonetheless.

David Bol reminds us "that the SNP cannot win a General Election UK-wide" ("Talking up Labour poll chances is a risky tactic by SNP", The Herald, January 23). Currently, Northern Ireland has 18 seats at Westminster, Wales has 40, Scotland has 59, and England has 533, but this will change at the upcoming General Election, when Wales will lose eight seats, Scotland will lose two seats and England will gain 10. So everyone will get the government England elects. No change there then.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

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Impatient for a Holyrood election

I NOTE that Humza Yousaf wishes to set "political differences" aside, and work together with Sir Keir Starmer following this year's General Election ("Yousaf invites Starmer for ‘respectful’ indy talks", The Herald, January 22).

All very commendable I am sure, but surely all it goes to prove is just how naïve Mr Yousaf really is: Labour will have a successful campaign which will result in the ousting of the SNP in favour of Labour. Scottish Labour candidates are likely to gain many more seats in the House of Commons, perhaps totalling as many as 26.

But what a great many folks in Scotland are really getting impatient for is the next Holyrood election when hopefully we will see the end of the SNP/Green Government, most likely in favour of a Labour/LibDem alliance.

Robert IG Scott, Ceres, Fife.

Read more: Scotland has never been in a worse state than it is under Yousaf

Anti-nuclear stance must end

KRISTY Dorsey ("Storms show the economic madness of having no secure energy policy", The Herald, January 23) writes: "The Conservatives have had 14 years in power to start making good on the UK’s crumbing energy infrastructure and have failed to do so".

For the avoidance of doubt, in that 14 years, the Conservative Government, in the face of stiff (and baseless) opposition, has pushed through the Hinkley C Zero Carbon Power station, and had approved Sizewell C. This is on top of the countless wind energy projects that have been approved through government energy policy and investment in gas stations to help "keep the lights on". Too late, yes, but nonetheless, all will play a critical part of our energy security in years to come.

Meanwhile in Scotland the SNP refuses point blank to have a grown-up discussion on building on Scotland's excellent track record of running nuclear power stations for more than 50 years, by way of its quasi-ban on new zero carbon nuclear. To develop new stations would not only give us a credible, sustainable, completely carbon-free energy mix, but would provide energy security and high quality, well-paid long-term jobs for generations to come.

It's time for change and for the SNP to abandon the anti-nuclear sacred cow once and for all. Scots deserve better than blind ideology.

Jamie Black, Largs.