HELEN McArdle provides a well-considered report and comment on alcohol deaths ("More Scots are now dying of drink than drug abuse" and "Older bear brunt of tragedy", The Herald, August 30).

I was a justice minister 2001-2. Recognising this problem in 2001, along with Jim Wallace we commissioned Sheriff Principal Nicholson to report on licensing. Following the report the new Licensing Act 2005, which includes five objectives, "securing public safety; preventing public nuisance; protecting and improving public health; and protecting children and young persons from harm", deaths fell 2006-2012. This and Minimum Unit Pricing (2018) have contributed to a substantial reduction in the ratio of deaths in most deprived areas to most affluent from 9:1 to 4:1. The Conservative spokesperson’s attack on MUP is unwarranted. There is no doubt MUP is not a silver bullet. But it has saved lives, especially in lower income groups and has narrowed the gap in excess Scottish deaths compared to those in England.

The SNP Government’s failure to implement the Social Responsibility Levy clause which I promoted in the 2010 Alcohol Act, taxing windfall industry profits (around £100 million annually) arising from MUP has been a missed opportunity to strengthen treatment. The SNP’s cavalier rejection of all 10 proposals for alcohol control in my private member’s bill in 2015 alongside its cuts to treatment budgets displayed a staggering lack of concern.

It is no coincidence that deaths have risen since 2012 as that was the time when the UK Tory Government abandoned Alastair Darling’s annual two per cent above inflation alcohol duty escalator, thus making alcohol cheaper. Cheaper alcohol equals more deaths. The SNP has even been critical of the latest and welcome reversal by the UK Government in the duty increase this August.

Richard Simpson, Honorary Professor Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport University of Stirling; Nursing Midwifery and Allied Professionals Research Unit; Honorary Visiting Professor School of Medicine, University of St Andrews.

Pricing plan has failed

IF evidence were needed to see that the SNP is purely a protest party rather than one capable of governing, the latest alcohol death figures should do the job.

One of the main problems with the SNP is that it runs after the headline and actually fails to understand the issue. As we know, Nicola Sturgeon took no lessons and Humza Yousaf is a chip off the old block. He will believe that he knows best regardless of what the experts in the field say.

Minimum pricing has done nothing to reverse the trend of alcohol issues in Scotland. All it has done is line the pockets of the retailers. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that an alcoholic will buy alcohol ahead of food and heating. Increasing the price is more likely to have detrimentally impacted on the health of those struggling with alcohol addiction.

What is required is treatment and intervention, not some gimmick that grabs a headline. But that would take proper governing and not just an army of spin doctors.

Jane Lax, Aberlour.

Read more: We must not allow ministers to control our legal profession

We Scots are being robbed

DOUGLAS Ross giving economic advice to Scotland ("Douglas Ross's economic blueprint hides an election plan of attack", The Herald, August 30) is lunacy. We’d be crazy to let the Tories continue their wrecking ball policies by electing even more of them in Scotland. This is the party that brought us more than a decade of austerity that has gutted public services, increased poverty, exacerbated inequality and ejected us from the world’s largest single market, making the UK the economic basket case it is today.

Sadly, Labour won’t act differently since it has adopted the same execrable policies. And both parties are adamantly opposed to Scottish self-determination because they know that freed from the UK’s shackles, we would prosper, just like our independent Nordic neighbours.

The UK needs Scotland’s resources and revenues. We’ve not only propped up the UK economy since North Sea oil was discovered, but have been doing so for more than 120 years.

From 1900-1921, UK government produced accounts, Revenue and Expenditure for England (including Wales), Scotland and Ireland. Publication ceased when Ireland became independent. During this period, Scotland provided the UK Treasury with £762.3 million and received back just £211m, or 27.7%. Converted from 1911 prices, this is equivalent to £2.5 billion a year, more than the £1.5bn oil-rich Scotland sent to Westminster between 1979-97.

Mr Ross and the UK Establishment are keen to keep Scots in the dark about their wealth and how it is keeping a sinking UK afloat. It’s time we opened our eyes because we’re being robbed blind.

Lead Gunn Barratt, Edinburgh.

Why we have to march

ALISON Rowat asks why march for independence ("something that is not happening any time soon"), pointing out that a referendum has been blocked by the Conservative Government and the Supreme Court and it will also be a No from Sir Keir Starmer, if he should get into government ("What if they held a march for indy and nobody came?", The Herald, August 30). I would have thought that these are very good reasons why people who believe that it is Scotland's democratic right to choose its own future, whether they are members of a political party or not, should get their marching boots on and be seen and heard on the streets of Scotland's capital and outside Scotland's Parliament, reminding people that Scotland is supposed to be a member of a voluntary union and not forgetting that Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union, and look what happened.

It is a question of whether Scotland tamely does what it is told to do by a Westminster Government we rejected at the ballot box or whether it believes that decisions affecting Scotland should be made in Scotland. Marches and rallies are one way for people to express confidence in Scotland, and share the vision of Scotland as a modern self-governing European nation, alongside all the other nations of the EU.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

Read more: We should be prosecuting this Government for manslaughter

Poll finding is no surprise

WHO can be surprised that fewer than 10 per cent of Scottish businesses have confidence in the current Scottish Government ("Fewer than 1 in 10 firms confident in SNP, poll finds", The Herald, August 30)? Look at our high streets. Look at our shrinking industries. The SNP/Green watchword is if there is even a tiny sign of profit, tax it. The same goes for the housing market.

The only focus of our leaders appears to be on climate change, minorities and quaint notions about independence. In this mix the current wellbeing of the man or woman in the street is bottom of the heap. Nothing can change until the SNP ditches the Greens or failing that, calls a new election.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.

Migrants could enrich the nation

ALAN Fitzpatrick (Letters, August 28) tries to fit the huge number of outstanding asylum claims into the Tory mantra of “control our borders”, instead of blaming the Tory Government for massively under-resourcing the relevant Home Office department. No mention of the suffering that has made these human beings seek sanctuary.

He mentions overstretched infrastructure - the result of 10 years of Tory austerity - and the costs involved in caring for these desperate people. These costs could readily be turned into benefit for our economy if they were allowed to work while awaiting a decision and it is possible that in their number are nurses, doctors, carers, HGV drivers, agricultural workers and so on that we desperately need to fill our post-Brexit vacancies.

Then he turns his attention to students and their “surprising ability to bring family members”. What is so surprising in not wanting your family split for most of the year for three or four years? Surely he knows that these family members, while here, contribute substantially to our economy, probably filling a vacancy, paying tax and spending? Moreover, studies have shown that they make very little use of services such as the NHS. They also normally rent their accommodation, thus again contributing without burdening the housing market.

To crown all this, Mr Fitzpatrick suggests ensuring that government vets the courses to “remove the dodgy ones”, to prevent foreign students coming to study them. Who decides which are “dodgy” and which valid? How do colleges and universities feel about such interference from government?

Finally, to save the Tory Government from actually dealing with the backlog its policies have caused, he suggests setting up camps and assessment centres on the beaches along the Channel. Apart from the costs and problems for migrants camped there, in summer and winter, gales, rain, hail or shine, I am sure he envisages long queues of applicants desperate to work there on the processing in these same conditions. Aye, right.

L McGregor, Falkirk.