WHEN I saw your photo of the aid shipment to Gaza, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry (“Aid ship sails from Cyprus to Gaza as thousands face starvation”, March 13). Is that it? A small boat towing a wee barge with half a dozen lorry-loads of aid for 2.4 million people? To be unloaded, goodness knows how, on a beach when there’s a large port just 20 miles up the road at Ashdod in Israel.

When this maritime corridor from Cyprus was announced, it made headline news and came with support from the US, UK and Europe. I assumed the job was being done by these governments, who are the only players with the capacity to prevent mass starvation in the ruins of Gaza.

But no, the operation is being undertaken by World Central Kitchen, a charity founded in 2010 by Spanish-American chef Jose Andres. Good for them, but their aid will only scratch the surface and most Gazans still face famine; that’s if disease or an Israeli bomb doesn’t get them first.

In some ways, this trickle of aid is counter-productive. It allows governments to say: “Oh look, aid is getting in, the crisis is over.” And the media, tired already of the story, moves on to other matters, while infants die in the ruins of hospitals from malnutrition, dehydration and easily treatable illnesses. If a case study in inhumanity is ever needed, what’s happening now in Gaza will be a prime candidate.


Read more: Glasgow student driving ambulance 3,000 miles to Gaza

Robertson urges UK to resume funding UNRWA in Gaza

Gaza: Spinning politicians must see the public demand peace


In 1984, when drought and famine struck Ethiopia, the country was ruled by a brutal Marxist regime led by Lt Col Mengistu Haile Mariam. Despite the politics, detachments from the Royal Air Force and the German Air Force were sent out to deliver American rice and grain to the Tigray and Amhara regions, where the famine was at its worst and where a civil war raged against the ruling Workers’ Party. A show of humanity that saved thousands of lives, so why is so little being done for Gaza?

Mengistu was kept in power by the Soviet Union, who provided weaponry. Is that any different from the Americans supplying weapons to Benjamin Netanyahu and his odious government? The last I heard of Mengistu, he was a healthy 86-year old living in Zimbabwe; that nice Robert Mugabe gave him sanctuary.
Doug Maughan, Dunblane.


This rotten plutocracy of ours
THERE is a difference between being taught and learning. From the day we are born we are taught how the world works and how we are destined to fit in. It is only with the passage of time that some find that what we were taught is at variance with what we subsequently learn.

You ran an article on March 12 on the £10 million that was donated last year to the Conservative Party by Frank Hester, the sole shareholder in The Phoenix Partnership, a company in the private sector which contracts with Westminster to store NHS records. These very profitable contracts have cost the UK taxpayer hundreds of millions of our hard-earned taxes. 

I look at a situation where an unpopular UK government, which has made a complete hash of the UK economy and its NHS, receives a donation of £10 million from the head of a company whose main source of income is from the NHS budget. I find that difficult to reconcile with the touchy-feely paternalistic democracy I was taught I was born into.

It sounds far more like the rotten plutocracy that I have subsequently learned to be the reality in our benighted, bankrupt country. Yet those who still believe what they were taught will vote Labour next time and Sir Keir Starmer will ensure that nothing changes. I wonder where his party funds will come from now that its membership is collapsing and the unions are cutting back on their financial support. Let me guess!
David J Crawford, Anniesland, Glasgow.


Be polite to your proctologist
I READ that a group of boffins in the USA are researching “common sense” with a view to reaching a definition.

Perhaps not surprisingly, they have found it to be a bit of a “slippery concept” and it would appear that common sense is not actually very common.

Indeed, the standard concept of common sense has a somewhat circular definition: common sense is a set of claims that sensible people agree with, and sensible people are those who possess common sense. One can only sympathise with philosophical conundrum this presents for our intrepid researchers.

By way of helping them out of their dilemma I would submit that for most of us, common sense isn’t related so much to factual information (a triangle has three sides) as it is to behaviour, specifically our ability to understand and observe the norms of a safe and  successful life.

By way of illustration, common sense says don’t let your children play in traffic. Don’t laugh out loud at your boss’s big idea.  Avoid close contact with people who are ill. Don’t poke a wasps’ nest or taunt a bear in the woods. Be very polite to the proctologist. Take care with a steaming cup of coffee as it is probably very hot. Come inside when it is raining ….and so on and on. I am sure Herald readers could add to this list.

Common sense, it seems, is an elusive thing, but we all know when it is absent. That is just common sense!
Keith Swinley, Ayr.


Our broken political system
WHEREAS once Scotland was a reasonably well-managed homogeneous country, the recent political divisions regarding council tax has show we are no longer.

In October last year the First Minister promised all the people of Scotland that to assist with the current cost of living crisis, he would freeze council tax for 2024/25. 

However, recent events have shown that was an idle promise which he could not fulfil, with at least two councils –  Argyll and Bute, and Inverclyde – refusing such a freeze and increasing council tax by up to 10%, arguably for party political rather than financial reasons.

In Argyll and Bute council officials calculated they needed a 6.1% increase to raise approximately £3.56 million.

Many councillors indicated that could be achieved from the £2.86 million offered by the SNP Government, and taking £0.7 million from the council’s huge £98 million cash reserves.

Incredibly, the Conservatives/Liberal Democrats ignored those financial facts and instead pushed through a 10% increase to raise £5.99 million from their council tax payers.

Even worse, following the UK budget announcement, the SNP Government received a further £62.7 million of Barnett consequentials, which could have resulted in another £1.22 million being given to Argyll and Bute.

Therefore, whereas now council tax notices are dropping through Argyll and Bute letter boxes to raise £5.99 million from the local population, the council could have received – but rejected – £4.08 million from the SNP Government (compared to only £3.56 million that council officials required) without the residents paying even one penny extra compared to last year.

These facts demonstrate a broken society/political system where the Conservative and Lib Dem parties appear more interested in fighting the SNP than doing the best for their residents.
Robert Hepburn, Helensburgh.


Oversight of health boards
DUMFRIES and Galloway Health Board have announced an intention to review A&E and medical admissions based at Stranraer, 75 miles from the nearest facility.

Over decades, a Dumfries management has published reviews containing incorrect or inappropriate data often poorly interpreted. Like Skye and Caithness, reviews that do not suit the board agenda are rejected.

Board consultation and engagement should protect the public. The board Chair and Integrated Joint Boards should be responsible from overseeing executive performance. While a recent Wigtownshire maternity review noted poorly attended public sessions the board chair attributed this management failure to engage towards the public, rather than the way the board conducts engagement.

A proposed review of A&E services, prompted by staffing issues, locum costs and a regional overspend precipitated an engagement opportunity in Stranraer but no Health Board attendance to listen to 210 attendees. 

This lifeline safety net is of great public concern. Wigtownshire has the worst deprivation in Scotland, the least accessible maternity, oncology, and only one full-time Stranraer GP (with locums) in post for 10,000 patients. Skye and Caithness are on similar trajectories and have had to resort to public meetings and have similar undelivered reviews.

Scottish rural board chairs overlook their duty to make executives accountable to listening and delivering on formal reviews, causing services to decline and disappear. When Skye, Caithness and Wigtownshire groups gave evidence to the Health and Social Care committee, they described Boards hearing the public without listening and making misleading statements to the Scottish Executive.

Political oversight of executives by non-executives, Integrated boards and politicians is ineffective, disjointed, and invisible to the centre.

This new threat to another lifeline service is particularly worrying. Along with maternity concerns it appears to fulfil level 4 of the NHS Board Performance Escalation Framework by creating “Significant risks to delivery and tailored support is not producing the required improvements. Senior level external support required.” 

The 210 Wigtownshire attendees unanimously agreed that this escalation framework would at least allow an independent evaluation and clarification for the board to deliver what is a fair and reasonable use of resources in these difficult times. Such a mediation process would deliver political oversight and reverse public mistrust creating a more open relationship and a shared understanding of what is deliverable.

Alternatively, Parliament Petition 1845 proposing a rural and remote agency should remove the obvious distrustful and adversarial disconnect between boards and rural communities through better political oversight, and feed into the patient safety commissioner role.

Either of the above interventions would create better data and clearer understanding of specific unrecognised challenges in rural and remote healthcare provision.
Dr Gordon Baird (Galloway Community Hospital Action Group), Sandhead, Wigtownshire;  Ron Gunn, Chair - Caithness Health Action Team, Thurso; Neil Campbell, Vice Chair SOS (Save our Services), Skye.

Timely wisdom
I AM struck by the simple yet profound wisdom in Neil Mackay’s column (March 14) about the Royal photoshop situation, and the wider implications for all of us. I have so many gripes about how life has changed in negative ways in my time that I cannot deny the curmudgeonly carapace I carry around.

I do need to remind myself occasionally, however, of the real kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity which continues to walk side by side with the fake stuff. Yes, we need to be aware of the dangers inherent in our modern world, but we cannot afford to be blind to the innate goodness of the majority of our sisters and brothers. Sometimes my bleak outlook can do just that.
John O’Kane, Glasgow.