IT would be churlish not to offer congratulations to John Swinney on his reluctant accession to the office of First Minister, and unduly pessimistic to assume that he is going to be as hopeless as his predecessors.

Let us hope that he fulfils his pledge to concentrate on the things that most concern the people of Scotland: poverty, the cost of living crisis and public services, and that he has the plain common sense to stop his party's posturing that independence is "frustratingly close". On the contrary, the fact is that Scottish independence is off the table for the foreseeable future, due to the steadfastness of Scotland's other parties to uphold the will of the Scottish people freely and fairly expressed in the referendum of 2014.

The question for Mr Swinney must be how he manages the politics of retreating from the "One More Heave" strategy of the downward-spiral of the Salmond-Sturgeon-Yousaf dynasty. To be helpful, I would advise that he concentrates the constitutional obsession of his party on how to secure Indyref2. Above all, Scotland's UK Government has very politely and rationally replied that now is The Wrong Time for such a vote. The best course of action for Mr Swinney would be to make a sensible proposal as to what would be The Right Time: he might suggest the usual type of time gap (say, not until after 2040) and then only if there is a super-majority in favour at Holyrood (the requirement for changing the voting system which would also be logical if the proposal is to cut out representative democracy altogether.) Such an arrangement would set a high bar which any reasonable UK Government should accept, and would allow the time and space for Mr Swinney to pursue the agenda based on the needs and wants of Scotland which he has set out (you are welcome, John).

Peter A Russell, Glasgow.

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The hysteria is exhausting

NEIL Mackay's article ("Hatred of SNP and the left has reached absurd levels", The Herald, May 8) resonated with me regarding the current toxic climate in Scotland, particularly towards those who are even vaguely left of centre or in favour of Scottish independence.

Like Mr Mackay, I am not a fan of the SNP, but for anyone to accuse Nicola Sturgeon of a lack of awareness on women's issues is ludicrous. As a woman, I was pleased with her leadership on feminist issues, particularly reproductive rights, and especially because I do not want hostility towards minority groups in my name. Scapegoating minorities is not feminism.

I am also glad that the abuse Patrick Harvie is subjected to has been highlighted. It is abhorrent and makes me fearful for my LGBTQ+ friends and family. Homophobic trolls do not just exist online; they also exist among us in the real world, and this vile rhetoric puts people in danger.

As the article pointed out, the abuse directed at comedian Janey Godley is particularly sinister. Even a woman living with terminal cancer is fair game for cruel abuse, including receiving images of a gravestone with her name on it and being taunted for being abused as a child. I wonder if these trolls' families are aware of what they say to her and if they would be ashamed. The abuse directed at Godley serves two purposes: the abusers simply enjoy sending her abuse, knowing there will be no consequences, and they use it as a warning to any woman who dares to speak out, defend trans people, or step out of line.

I find the hysteria and hyperbole in Scotland's political discourse exhausting. Instead of having a nuanced, careful, and considered debate about the upcoming assisted dying bill, we see certain lobbying organisations labelling doctors as "killers" or claiming that people suddenly want to murder their loved ones for "convenience". This hysteria drowns out the voices that deserve to be heard, such as the concerns raised by disabled individuals and those living with terminal illnesses.

I have the utmost respect for pro-Union politicians like Labour's Monica Lennon, who consistently calls out hate towards minorities and gives credit to her political opponents when it is due. Unfortunately, politicians like her are scarce nowadays. Despite bringing forward groundbreaking legislation to help end period poverty in Scotland, Ms Lennon is subjected to constant abuse as well.

I remember the solidarity that Kezia Dugdale and Ruth Davidson showed to Nicola Sturgeon when she publicly discussed her miscarriage and faced disgusting abuse over it. Unfortunately, it is difficult to imagine such solidarity occurring in parliament today. Click farming, tabloid hysteria and unchecked social media hate have dragged this country to a political space that I can hardly recognise now. Or… that I do recognise. It is reminiscent of Germany roughly 100 years ago, and nothing good can come from this.

Gemma Clark, Paisley.

The Herald: Monica LennonMonica Lennon (Image: Newsquest)

NHS not safe in Labour's hands

IN the failing UK, the NHS is the last great thing of public value, yet we are watching it bleed to death at Government hands. The Tories have made no secret of their desire to privatise the whole thing, but Scots need to wake up to English Labour’s plans. It won’t inject needed cash or undo the disastrous PFI schemes engineered under Tony Blair. Instead, Keir Starmer and Wes Streeting will hand over what remains of a once-great public service to for-profit companies. As with any public service privatisation, the public ends up paying more for less. It’s a giant con.

Private agencies are overcharging the English NHS to supply NHS-trained doctors and nurses. One agency targets NHS hospitals experiencing nursing shortages and charges nearly £2k per shift for a freelance specialist nurse. It takes a hefty £800 cut. The English NHS paid £3.5 billion for agency staff last year.

Private firms cherry-pick patients who are generally healthy for routine operations like cataracts. If a case becomes complicated, they bounce the patient back to the NHS. This lets them cram in more operations and make more money, leaving the NHS to shoulder the cost.

They also cherry-pick NHS staff because they can offer more money. The NHS doesn’t allow pension contributions if staff take on work beyond their full-time hours, so it loses the simple operations while paying staff less for the more difficult ones.

Wes Streeting vowed to wage war on hospital health unions and rejected nurses’ pay demands. The Labour front bench has taken £650k from private health interests, 25 per cent more than the Tories.

English Labour will be under intense pressure to deliver what remains of the NHS to its donors. Scotland’s health service is a prime target. Another excellent reason to end the Union.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh.

Are we slaves?

IF it weren’t so serious it would be laughable reading the diametrically-opposed viewpoints in these columns about what is in reality trivia.

Nobody seems concerned that the UK national debt now stands at over £2.6 trillion, a figure that does not include future commitments for the likes of pensions which almost doubles the figure. That currently equates to a debt of approximately £40,000 for every man, woman and child on these islands and exceeds the UK GDP.

We are one of the most heavily-taxed societies on Earth. I am in my seventies and retired, yet because of being entitled to both an occupational and an old age pension, which are not benefits but savings created from wages that I could have done with years ago, I now pay more in income tax than I get as a state pension. I pay council tax; I pay the highest energy costs in the civilised world, everything I buy or use has a tax applied to it. From the day when as a teenager and started to work part-time after school till today, all my income has a sizeable bite taken out of it before I actually lay hands on it. At the same time there are families in the UK who pay no income tax because of how their wealth is managed and I personally know a family where nobody has worked for three generations, are as rich as Croesus and pay no personal tax.

One has to ask where all the money goes, when it is indisputable fact that the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, food banks are an accepted norm, public services are deteriorating and life expectancy is dropping. Who do we each owe £40K to? Who profits from the 4% of GDP that Westminster spends servicing the debt? I wonder how many of our representatives at Holyrood and Westminster were forced to turn their heating off last year or skip a meal so their kids could eat? The answer is none and that’s perhaps where the problem lies.

In reality despite all the razzmatazz associated with our system of governance the country still functions as it did when Harold got one in the eye, at best most of us are serfs, at worst slaves and we are obviously expendable. But in these columns we argue about a delayed ferry when a warship that cost £4 billion lies unusable in one of our lochs and most of the £4bn was pocketed by the rich. Get real.

David J Crawford, Glasgow.