BACK in March, you published a piece from Carlos Alba which can only truly be described as a hatchet job on his one-time friend, Neil Oliver ("Neil Oliver: The man I knew – and the man he became", heraldscotland, March 6).

Mr Alba did a first class job of cataloguing Mr Oliver's erroneous ways, characterising him as an attention-seeker plunging downward in a spiral of increasingly shrill and extremist pronouncements. Amongst his many failings, “Neil has, for example, campaigned for Reform UK, a populist, right-wing party founded with support from Nigel Farage”. No-one reading that sentence can fail to notice that the F-word is being used as a kind of logical shibboleth. Farage is a spreader of hate; therefore so is Oliver. Farage holds views that no decent person would hold: therefore so does Oliver. Farage is wrong about everything; therefore so is Oliver.

Of particular concern to Mr Alba was what Neil Oliver has had to say about Covid lockdown and vaccinations. In one of his GB News monologues, Mr Oliver said he would "cheerfully" catch Covid if it meant safeguarding his freedom. "If your freedom means I might catch Covid from you, then so be it. If my freedom means you might catch Covid from me, then so be it. That's honestly how I see it." Personally I'm not sure I'd be cheerful about catching Covid, but I get Neil Oliver's point. Better to die on one's feet than to die on one's knees pumped full of a vaccine the consequences of which are unknown. Except that now they are.

We learn that Astra Zeneca has withdrawn its Covid vaccination worldwide; "the jag can, in very rare cases" cause Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS), a serious and potentially fatal blood clotting complication" ("Covid, AstraZeneca vaccine, blood clots: What do we know?, heraldscotland, May 11).

Is this the reason that male heart deaths in Scotland are at their highest number in a decade? Public Health Scotland’s report published in January 2023 recorded that the age-standardised mortality rate from heart failure among men in Scotland had fallen steadily from 2012 to 2019, before rebounding in 2020 and rising again in 2021 ("Male heart deaths in Scotland at highest number in a decade", heraldscotland, January 25, 2023).

Was it the virus, the unhealthy lifestyle caused by lockdown, or the Astra Zeneca vaccine that caused the change? I don't know, but then again neither does Mr Alba.

What is certain however is that Mr Oliver's scepticism has been justified. I suspect the audience share on his GB News show will now soar. Good on him. To raise questions about the rapidity of the vaccination process is to ask why. To ask why is to think scientifically. To ask questions is, in my opinion, the purpose of journalism. It is not journalism's purpose to ventriloquise the propaganda of politicians and large pharmaceutical companies. That, in my opinion, is the very opposite of thinking.

At the time of reading Mr Alba's piece, my knee-jerk reaction was that Mr Oliver was entitled to a reply. It was, as is the case with most knee-jerk reactions, wrong. Mr Oliver remained silent and retained his dignity. History looks like proving Neil Oliver to be somewhat wiser than his one-time friend.

Graeme Arnott, Stewarton.

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Let's follow Europe

IT'S a rare time that I find myself agreeing with Peter A Russell, but his letter (May 13) makes some good points.

The SNP should be working on getting something passed into UK law to make Scottish independence unstoppable, even by Westminster, if agreed criteria are reached. Perhaps if Holyrood ever achieved a 60%-plus vote for independence, then the UK MUST action it. That's a high bar.

Where I disagree is waiting till 2040 and/or depending on the UK Government being "reasonable". What if it's not?

In the meantime, why can't Holyrood act as a Continental-style government, with the government being formed from all parties in proportion to the number of MSPs they have? If we've a Continental voting system, why not a continental-type government?

Iain Cope, Glasgow.

Voters back the SNP

PETER A Russell's congratulations to John Swinney are clearly insincere, but when he writes that it would be "unduly pessimistic to assume that he is going to be as hopeless as his predecessors", I would remind him that the SNP is in its fourth consecutive term of government at Holyrood, suggesting that the voters don't share Mr Russell's opinion. As for Mr Russell contending that independence is off the table "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", that must be a reference to Labour campaigning alongside the Tories which went down so well in Scotland that Labour was practically wiped off the electoral map.

Of course there was another referendum in 2016, when Scotland freely and fairly expressed our overwhelming desire to remain within the EU, but that decision was ignored by Westminster governments. I know that Mr Russell will want to point out that the EU referendum was UK-wide, but that to me illustrates the folly of 2014, when we passed up the opportunity to put Scotland's future in Scotland's hands. We won't make that mistake again.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

Give us a referendum

ROBERT IG Scott, (Letters, May 11) assures us the majority are content that Scotland remains in the UK and further campaigning, marching and rallying for independence is futile.

Perhaps in our “democratic” society there exists a mechanism which would allow him to test the courage of his convictions and establish whether his hypothesis is fact or fiction?

Alan Carmichael, Glasgow.

Problems with free markets

FOR some time and over a range of social, economic and other questions Scottish business has been increasingly vociferous in its opposition to policies which it regards as suppressing economic growth and the creation of a more prosperous country. Taxation, rates, regulation and alcohol advertising are some areas where such concerns have been expressed.

In an interesting recent article Rebecca McQuillan remarks: "Working more constructively with business cannot mean giving it a veto on desperately-needed measures to tackle poverty, educational and health inequalities" ("Swinney must hold his nerve and keep tax high for the wealthy", The Herald, May 10).

It's no revelation to say that in a free market economy businesses are motivated by profit and the need to constantly grow them. This is not to say that they are all red in tooth and claw capitalists or that they lack a social conscience or a concern for wider social issues. Nonetheless the underlying drive and aim remains. The state of our town and city centres are a testimony to the problems which can arise from "free markets".

When three huge retailers exit from Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street they show no concern for wider economic, social and environmental consequences. These become a problem for the civic authorities. Banks too, bailed out by society, and now making huge profits, show the same disregard for the communities they serve when closing branches. Recently in the days before an explosion in internet gambling, there was a proliferation of bookmakers on our high streets; now that there are other, more profitable ways of operating, they have closed many of these premises. Interestingly those that remain tend to be in areas where poverty and levels of deprivation are highest. These bookmakers, actually multi-billion-pound transnational gambling companies, like retailers and banks, made hay and then upped sticks.

Business and businesses are part of a wider society, it is wrong as Ms McQuillan suggests that they should have a veto on taxation or other crucial areas of social and economic policy.

Brian Harvey, Motherwell.

The Herald: Could Holyrood have a Continental-style government?Could Holyrood have a Continental-style government? (Image: Newsquest)

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Redolent of Vietnam

READERS might want to put some of the world news in context when considering the horrors of Gaza that USA students are protesting.

Israel, in a few weeks, has dropped more bombs on Gaza (the size of our island of Arran) with more than a million civilians and refugees, than the USA dropped on Vietnam in 20 years.

However the hypocrisy is even clearer when we hear US government officials suggesting that the state of Israel should not be deliberately killing and terrorising so many thousands of children with weapons (profitably) made and supplied by Britain and the US.

It brings back memories to see students in the USA leading protests against active collusion in such well-publicised genocide.

Norman Lockhart, Innerleithen.