ONE could justifiably be forgiven for thinking from some of the headline media coverage that in spite of a 20 per cent-plus reduction in drug deaths over the last year that Scotland was making no progress on the war against drugs (“Tide now turning on Scots drug deaths, says minister”, The Herald, August 23). Furthermore, that the high number of drug deaths here was exclusively the fault of the Scottish Government and that the minister in charge, Elena Whitham, should be the person held to account.

Peter Smith of ITV and Connor Gillies of Sky may have perversely advanced their careers by their crude focus and rude questioning of the minister, but both failed to appropriately highlight the root cause of the problem – the UK Government’s abandonment of Scottish workers during de-industrialisation while exploiting Scotland’s resources primarily for the benefit of those living in the south-east of England. There was no "transition plan" for the many communities left behind and this was the actual “Union Dividend” where today UK Government inaction is condoned via questionable comparisons made with drug deaths in neighbouring countries without acknowledging that the UK overall has among the highest drug death rates in Europe.

Persistent deprivation, criminalisation and stigma do not resolve public health issues spanning generations.

Patronising arguments for the indefensible and the imposition of further austerity may win more votes from compassionless individuals content to reap the benefits of exploiting the misfortune of others but will not resolve such complex tragedies. Of course the heartless approach of a Tory government is not news to those dismayed by the treatment of desperate refugees arriving on Great Britain’s shores. Concerned citizens already realise that self-centred, narrow-minded, short-term perspectives can only lead to the UK’s further decline, economically as well as morally, while more fires erupting around our planet add to the destructive environmental and cultural smog that will eventually suffocate all of us unless we find a better way.

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry.

Cutbacks were to blame

FROM her comments on the release of the latest statistics of the continuing tragedy of drugs deaths in Scotland, Drugs and Alcohol Policy Minister Elena Whitham appears realistic about the scale of the challenge facing her and genuine in her desire to make a positive difference (“Tide now turning on Scots drug deaths, says minister”, The Herald, August 23). Yet the minister should be careful about being drawn into repeating the line Nicola Sturgeon once fed Scotland on the then rising drug deaths. She spoke of her Government having “taken its eye off the ball”, hoping to use an apparent rare admission of a mis-step, to deflect attention from the reality of years of SNP actively under-funding the frontline services that are the principle hope of turning lives around in this critical area.

Before the recent "realisation" that more resources are required to tackle the crisis of Scotland’s relationship with drugs, the SNP spent a decade squeezing the budgets of Scotland’s local authorities. This forced our councils to make impossible decisions between areas such as education, social care, and all the other areas they are responsible for. The drug rehabilitation and support services that these local authorities have funded suffered years of declines in grants and financing. The previous First Minister knew perfectly well that the monies taken out of local authority budgets by the Scottish Government to fund the SNP’s high-profile universal benefits meant critical local services would suffer as a result.

Talk of "taking an eye off the ball" was simply a cynical use of political spin to get some credit for apparent honesty when the harsh truth is that the SNP has itself made things so much worse in the complex area of drug misuse. The new funding that the Scottish Government is now putting into drug programmes is simply trying to reverse the damage their own cutbacks caused in the first place.

Keith Howell, West Linton.

Read more: Arran is under serious threat from the SNP's ineptitude

A misuse of our money

IT is wonderful to see how generous our First Minister is with our taxes - promising as he did today £24m foreign aid to Rwanda, Malawi and Zambia ("FM will pledge £24m aid for climate", The Herald, August 24).

This despite foreign aid being a UK role, and Scotland being the highest-taxed part of the UK - with many taxpayers paying £2k a year more than their counterparts in England - not to help our local services, councils, health boards or transport systems, but to send overseas.

I am sure that Scotland's health boards in particular, who are currently being asked what services they can curtail in order to make more savings, would have been more than happy to accept this £24m. What a disgraceful misuse of taxpayers' money by a separatist Government currying favour and grossly misusing public funds in an expensive attempt to posture on the "world stage".

Steph Johnson, Glasgow.

We need an election now

IT is obvious to most voters that the SNP administration has failed Scotland, and therefore is in urgent need of removal from office. Now it has been announced that one of the SNP's former spin doctors has been appointed as the party’s new chief executive ("Former spin doctor Foote to take key party role", The Herald, August 24).

It is not a reshuffle within the SNP that the electorate of Scotland need right now. Most voters are fully aware that the SNP/Green administration has been a complete disaster in most of the sectors devolved to Holyrood; also, that without economic support from Westminster via the Barnett Formula, the situation in Scotland would have reached disastrous proportions.

What is urgently needed at the earliest possible opportunity is an election to allow the voting public to choose a new Scottish government.

Robert IG Scott, Ceres, Fife.

McKenna hits home

OH, how I love it when our Kev talks dirty. And he does it so eloquently when he trashes the doyens of the SNP, past and present. ("Indy can only be rescued if the SNP lose - and lose big", Kevin McKenna,The Herald, August 22).

If any of the apparatchiks of this discredited bunch read Kevin’s scathing but entertaining (depending on your political affiliation) linguistic filleting of their ineptitude, they must squirm in embarrassment. "Shape-shifting, civic spivs, party hacks, mediocre middle-management floor-walkers, Westminster troughers". How he plays so creatively with language directing his curare-tipped invective darts right where it’s deserved. Ouch!

Scotland is owed better than this coterie of self-seeking sycophants. The forthcoming election result in Rutherglen and Hamilton West might just loosen the already-shoogly coat pegs of enough hangers-on to dislodge a party bereft of ideas and of failed policies.

We wait with bated breath. Doubtless Kevin McKenna’s poison-tipped pen is already being sharpened.

Craig Wishart, Eaglesham.

Read more: Managers and politicians must be held to account for their mistakes

Was the Brexit vote decisive?

BOB Hamilton (Letters, August 24) repeats the view in my recent letter that while a 55/45% outcome is clear it is not decisive, drawing from this the “logical conclusion” (in his view) that it “sums up perfectly the nonsense of Scottish independence being achieved by a 50.01% vote in favour at any future referendum”.

Could I suggest that for consistency’s sake, he considers events following the EU vote when the UK left the European Union on the basis of a 52/48% vote.

In this way, Mr Hamilton also illustrates another tendency of the unionist side to use any evidence to support their case, no matter how tenuous or, in this case, inconsistent with practice otherwise.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

• THERE is a simple test to determine whether the outcome of the 2014 referendum was decisive.

We just need to ask ourselves whether the nationalists would have had any doubt whatsoever of that being the case if the result had been reversed. We can be absolutely certain that had the vote been 55% Yes and 45% No, every Yesser from Alex Salmond down to Alasdair Galloway would have been in no doubt at all that there was an absolute and irreversible mandate for independence.

What is absurd and irrational is that they do not accept what actually happened in the same way.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow.

All at sea

IT is interesting that the Ferguson Marine ferries are now being delayed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which has obviously had years to review stair plans and passage widths planned for the new ferries ("Sea trials delay for troubled and over-budget ferry Glen Sannox", The Herald, August 25).

The MCA is part of Gov.UK.

Bill Batchelor, Anstruther.