YOU report (‘Call for scrutiny over baby deaths’, May 14) that the level of neonatal deaths in Scotland rose to 135 in 2021-22, an increase of 30 deaths. Each one of these is an individual and family tragedy.

What, then, of the much-vaunted baby box, which Nicola Sturgeon repeatedly cited as a major achievement of her regime? First, she was wrong ever to say, as she did in May 2016, that baby boxes ‘reduced infant mortality and improved child health’ in Finland, where they were pioneered in 1938.

The Finns’ welfare agency, Kela, insisted that the box alone did not prevent infant death, but rather the package of measures that accompanied it did. The Lullaby Trust in the UK concurred, saying that there is no evidence ‘to directly link the use of a baby box with a reduction in infant mortality’.

Second, in Finland, from the start, the box was an incentive to expectant mothers to attend ante- and post-natal sessions with medical or nursing staff. As one Finnish nurse said, ‘introducing the baby box in Scotland without that qualification would be just a case of giving a nice gift. In terms of helping the health of pregnant women and unborn children it would be worthless’.

That is what happened in Scotland. Baby boxes, without any requirement to attend health checks and without official safety accreditation (whatever the Scottish government claimed to the contrary), are distributed to all expectant mothers. The cost to taxpayers is £8.8 million a year (2018-19 prices).

Would that money not be better spent on regular health checks for expectant mothers? In Finland, whose rate of infant mortality has plummeted, there are 16 such meetings.

Jill Stephenson, Glenlockhart Valley.



Churches’ role in seeking peace

I HAVE occasionally criticised in your pages the Church of Scotland for not speaking out loudly enough about the tragedy unfolding in Gaza and on the West Bank. However I consider it only fair to draw your readers’ attention to its Palestine and Israel website.

In that, it lists one of its projects as being the support of Kairos Palestine, an ecumenical non-violent movement led by a number of Palestinian Christian denominations, with two of which the Kirk is partnered. Kairos asserts that now is the kairos – the appointed moment – when Christians are called to labour for justice, hope and love in an attempt to end the suffering in the Holy Land.

I suggest that the role of the global faith communities, in these dangerous times, is to come together to play a much more prominent role in promoting the case for justice and peace at home and abroad.

Their current role, in comparison with students and others, is too muted. The odd mention from the pulpit on a Sunday morning for instance is insufficient. We must recognise the role of and support such organisations such as “Jews for Justice for Palestinians” which aims “to secure a lasting settlement to the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis so they can live in peace and security, thrive side by side, and co-operate together.

Jews today are obligated to pursue justice on behalf of both peoples…Without justice for Palestinians, there is no hope for Israel…. the Torah teaching ‘Justice, justice, you shall pursue’ (Deuteronomy )”. Similarly, in the Qur’an, we find the words “God commands justice and fair dealing…”.

We Christians must put less emphasis on the selfish pursuit of our own “salvation” and focus on the message of Jesus the Jew who taught “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after justice”… “Blessed are they which are persecuted for justice’s sake” (The Gospel according to Matthew).

John Milne, Uddingston.


Christ’s family values today

THE Church of Scotland 2024 General Assembly will be held on May 18-23. According to a General Assembly report the Church of Scotland has lost more than half of its members since the year 2000, Membership in 2021 was 283,600. On what will they deliberate?

For Christians, Christ is the flawless foundation and centre of faith. But are his family values acceptable today? He tells us that his mission is to make family members hate one another, so that they shall love him more than their own kin (Matthew 10:35-37).

He promises salvation to those who abandon their wives and children for him (Matthew 19:29). Disciples must hate their parents, siblings, wives, and children (Luke 14:26). Children who curse their parents must be killed (Matthew 15:4-7). Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death (Mark 13:12) ; and let us not forget the arrogantly sexist teachings about women (1 Timothy 2:12).

This is the outlook of people who sincerely believed the Messiah would return very soon, within weeks or months.

Christ’s miracles were all performed by Elisha (2 Kings) and Elijah (1 Kings) before him. Jesus made blasphemy the worst possible crime, worse even than murder or child molesting (Matthew 12:31-32), believed in Hell and eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46), claimed that self-castration is a passport to heaven (Matthew 19:12), lied to his brothers (John 7:2-10), believed in a demonic possession theory of mental illness (Mark 1:32; Mark 5:1-5), and was vituperative - calling his enemies a “brood of snakes” (Matthew 12:34), “sons of vipers” (Matthew 23:33), “blind fools” (Matthew 23:17).

Contradicting his own teaching at Matthew 5:43-44, Jesus chillingly demanded, “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.” (Luke 19:27).

Only a moral bankrupt would consent to be saved from the penalty of his own misdeeds by the sufferings and death of an innocent man.

If the concept of a father who plots to have his own son put to death is presented to children as beautiful and as worthy of society’s admiration, what types of human behaviour can be presented to them as reprehensible?

Doug Clark, Currie, Midlothian.


Neil Mackay’s dog days

NEIL MacKay (‘I know I’ll get cancelled but I really do gate dog owners’, May 16) is entitled to vent his spleen in his apoplectic condemnation of dog owners. I prefer calmly to try and be the sort of person that our dog thinks I am.

David Miller, Milngavie.