I DISAGREE strongly with Alison Rowat's general theme of forgetting about the Thatcher government and "moving on" (" Radical ideas won't emerge if we're stuck in the past", The Herald, March 20).

After the war, this country gradually made real social progress. There were mistakes and setbacks but people's lives largely improved.

Despite hostility from some civil service mandarins and much of the press, the nationalised industries were successful. In particular, the railways, despite their monumental contribution to the war effort, and the lack of any reparations for the massive damage they had suffered, started to progress away from the inherited anomalies of the old private companies into a national network. Similarly the NHS provided a dramatic improvement in people's health. Young people from a completely new type of social background managed to attend university as a result of grants. Incomes improved and holidays became more affordable.

This steady progress was brought to an abrupt halt by the Thatcher government. Financial institutions were changed into unregulated gambling dens, the police were converted into a political force to fight the unions, the NHS became run as a business, council houses were sold off and national resources and industries were made available to unprincipled plunderers.

These changes constituted an abrupt end to decades of progress. This was not a normal political change of policy but a national catastrophe from which we have not recovered. Do not let us forget it.

Peter Dryburgh, Edinburgh.

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Get ready for an ugly fight

WE are at the fag end of a tired government and all parties are now cranked up to election mode What can we expect from the different parties as they look to the big day of the General Election, which is still in the gift of the PM?

With nothing to lose and nothing to defend, Sir Ed Davey's lot can promise the moon to their heart's content.

Incitement for independence will be the hallmark of the SNP's campaign Labour is inhibited by caution in case it provides the right wing with ammunition it can exploit to brand it as a spendthrift party which will bankrupt the country. As a result it does not want to offer any hostages to fortune in the way it did in 2019. It should be the party of hope but it has pinned its flag to the fiscal rules of the Government in case it frightens and stampedes the Don't Knows.

The Tories are so far down in the polls that they can throw caution to the winds and go on the attack in the hope of discrediting the main opposition party.

The black arts will be much in evidence during this febrile period. We will witness an elasticity of conscience which will come to the fore in the blizzard of propaganda issued from different camps and directions.

Fiction will be presented as fact to derail any propositions presented to the electorate.

Much as the incumbent Government would like to mark its own homework by being both judge and jury in its own case, it will not escape the judgment branded on the brains of the electorate in relation to its dismal record in its 14 years of being in power.

Will Labour once more snatch defeat from the jaws of victory through a misstep precipitated by its overcautious demeanour?

It is at this stage of electoral proceedings that integrity leaves the stage to be replaced by the belief that man is the measure of all things.

In such an incandescent atmosphere, following feelings takes precedence over following the evidence. Ambitions of power and profit dictate the conduct of all parties in the pursuit of the keys to Number 10.

It will be an ugly fight which will do no credit to the reputation of our democracy.

Denis Bruce, Bishopbriggs.

UK should use D'Hondt system

IN light of the impending UK General Election it is worthwhile revisiting why elections to Holyrood are performed under the D’Hondt system while UK elections persist in using the “first past the post” method.

The turnout at the last UK General Election was 67.3% of the 47.6 million registered to vote. The Conservative Party took 43.6% of those votes and gained 365 seats. The parties supported by the other 56.4% of those who bothered to vote however only gained 285 seats in total. The current Westminster Government was elected by fewer voters than voted against it yet it has an unassailable majority.

At the last election for Holyrood the SNP took 47.7 % of the votes cast. Had the election been carried out under the same “first past the post” system the SNP having won 62 of the 73 constituencies would currently be working with a whopping majority. Because of the D’Hondt system however, it finds itself without a majority with only 64 of a possible 129 MSPs at Holyrood, hence the obvious pandering to the policies espoused by the Green Party.

The data obviously demonstrates “first past the post” effectively is undemocratic as it allows a political party that lacks the support of the majority of the electorate to form a government with an unassailable majority at Westminster and so effectively disenfranchises the greater part of the UK electorate. The obvious question is why the difference in electoral methods for two institutions with broadly similar functions; if D’Hondt is good for Scotland then surely it’s good for the UK.

David Crawford, Glasgow.

The Herald: Should the D'Hondt sytem be used for Holyrood elections?Should the D'Hondt sytem be used for Holyrood elections? (Image: PA)

The NHS and good governance

AFTER a boat race between a US crew and NHS Scotland, which the US won easily, the chief executive of NHS Scotland set up a working group to investigate.

The group concluded that the US had eight people rowing and one steering, while the NHS Scotland team had eight steering to one rowing. A second opinion from expensive consultants confirmed this.

So the Scots structure was changed to three assistant steering managers, three steering managers, one executive steering manager and a director of steering services. A performance system was introduced to give the rower a much greater incentive to row harder.

The US were re-challenged, but won even more easily. NHS Scotland responded by laying off the rower for poor performance, selling the oar and cancelling orders for a new boat. The money saved was used to finance pay rises for the steering management team.

Roget’s Thesaurus equates governance with “power” and “influence”. In the context of NHS Scotland, I struggle with the Government’s approach to governance.

As shown by recent Audit Scotland reports, the degree of intervention from St Andrew's House is such that it is unclear for what, if anything, the 14 regional boards with annual budgets up to £2 billion are accountable.

My guess is that NHS Scotland governance doesn’t get much attention, partly because politicians and their officials don’t understand good governance and partly because the complex and dysfunctional structure of the NHS in Scotland puts it in the “too difficult” box. The current talk is all about the wider issue of public sector reform.

However, reform will be largely ineffective without good governance. Glaring governance flaws across the NHS, Edinburgh trams, Ferguson ferries, Transport Scotland, the Enterprise and Skills Agencies, Scottish National Investment Bank, Police Scotland and the Water Industry Commission provide compelling evidence.

Is it credibly possible to separate national public sector delivery organisations from politicians and their accountability? It seems to me that politicians have increasingly been unable to allow accountability to rest with these organisations and their boards. Given that they feel responsible for the actions (and inactions) of the organisations, ministers feel a need to control them more directly.

It starts with the appointments of chairs which are ministerial appointments. If there are properly constituted selection panels, the choice should rest with them and not be political.

I don’t have the knowledge or experience to suggest what public sector reform should look like. What I do know is that whatever the structure, it is essential that good governance is embedded in it.

Sir Ewan Brown, Edinburgh.

Is healthcare still a vocation?

A FRIEND told me that his surgeon reported lengthy delays for a minor operation. However, when he arranged for a private operation he got it after two weeks by the same surgeon. Was the surgeon more interested in maximising private income than serving the NHS?

In my town most GPs are part-time but the NHS is not part-time. How can this be justified?

Perhaps this why junior doctors and A&E staff are overworked. Thank God most nurses are not part-time.

I thought that health care and teaching were vocations. However there are now some teachers who want bigger wages because they cannot work from home. Perhaps the money-seeking surgeons and doctors will do the same.

JB Drummond, Kilmarnock.