THERE has been much talk about the various causes of Scotland's stubbornly-high alcohol and drug death rate ("More Scots are now dying of drink than drug abuse", The Herald, August 30, and Letters, August 31). Social, political, and economic reasons have all been bandied about. Somehow, individual politicians are even blamed. However, surely we have complete control over what we ingest into our bodies.

I have a vested interest in this. My estranged father died 20 years ago when I was 20, due to his alcoholism. Did I miss the part where Tony Blair and Jack McConnell poured his drink? Unfortunately, sometimes, people just make bad choices.

David Bone, Girvan.

We can never improve in UK

DOUGLAS Ross's “economic strategy” (“Douglas Ross’s economic blueprint hides an election plan of attack”, The Herald, August 30) shows that he doesn’t understand the limitations of devolution or the UK’s disastrous economic position since Brexit. With economic growth at 3.3% of GDP, Ireland recorded the highest level per capita among the 38 OECD countries in the second quarter of this year, compared to only 0.20% in the UK.

Denmark’s wealth per head is almost twice that of Scotland’s and, thanks to government investment, is the world’s leader in manufacturing wind turbines while Norway is even wealthier as, unlike the UK, the government used some of its oil revenues to modernise its shipyards. It is now a world leader in building cruise liners and Norway has already established a hydrogen fuel cell-powered ferry service, but Scotland doesn’t even have an electrolyser manufacturer to convert our excess water and electricity into hydrogen and oxygen or a fuel cell manufacturer to power this fast-growing renewable energy source.

Scotland does not have the fiscal powers to match our prosperous independent Nordic neighbours or Ireland while the UK’s support for renewable energy is paltry compared to Germany’s £50 billion next year.

Denmark, Norway and Ireland all enjoy a higher standard of living than in the UK while Denmark, with much higher personal taxes, has GDP growth running at 1.7%, around eight times better than in the UK. These small nations provide better state pensions and benefits, with far less living in poverty and resultant fewer drug and alcohol-related deaths compared to the UK, never mind Scotland.

With Westminster’s continuity candidate Sir Keir Starmer’s latest U-turn on a wealth tax for the super-rich and refusing to rejoin the EU, there is no prospect of higher living standards or significant economic growth within the UK.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh.

• IF Leah Gunn Barratt (Letters, August 31) is accurate in her belief that Douglas Ross is actively not disclosing the proportionate value of Scotland's wealth to the wider UK economy, then why can't the Scottish Government simply produce a detailed, transparent and credible case to deligitimise Mr Ross's non-disclosure?

Laurence Wade, Ayr.

Read more: SNP took fatal missteps in the fight against alcohol deaths

Unions should back the SNP

 “WITHOUT social security society is a jungle” were the profound words of Jimmy Reid quoted by Fraser McAllister in his letter of August 26. Surely it is time for the Scottish Trade Unions Congress to represent its members and put its money where its mouth should be? Or, should we simply deduce that like the Labour Party in Scotland it is merely a branch office acting on behalf of London masters?

Now that Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour Party have backed away from nearly every socialist policy commitment that Anas Sarwar and his Labour Party colleagues in Scotland have uttered in recent years, surely it is time for Scottish trade unions to stop backing Labour and support the SNP.

At least half of the population at large support independence and probably closer to 75 per cent of Scottish trade union members support the principle of self-determination in echoing the laudable aspirations of the founders of the Independent Labour Party (1893) under the chairmanship of trade union organiser Keir Hardie. Those aspirations are more likely to be achieved with a strong SNP representing the interests of the people of Scotland rather than more Labour MPs following the short-sighted instructions of Sir Keir Starmer.

Furthermore, with the prospect of another referendum, or preferably a vote for immediate independence at the next General Election, the workers of Scotland could finally achieve socialist governance free of interference from the right-wing interests prominent in influencing government from London (irrespective of whether Labour or the Tories are in power at Westminster).

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry.

Treating migrants as criminals

FROM this bottomless trouser pocket known as the UK national debt the UK Government has paid £140 million up front to Rwanda with the cost of each person being sent there estimated at £169,000.

How many have we sent? Er, none.

We have now committed to pay France £480 million over three years to “stop the boats”. That hasn’t worked too well either.

How many Government heads have rolled over this fiasco? None.

Now we have berthed a monstrosity of a prison ship in Portland, Dorset. It arrived with legionnaires disease in its water supply and the Government planned to more than double its capacity to 500 people. It has been deemed dangerous, a health and safety hazard and a danger to life by the Fire Brigades Union. Naturally this has been dismissed by the Government. I hope and pray that this is not another Grenfell in the making.

It would seem the Government intends placing round-the-clock security guards around the barge with strict curfews and it has not ruled out electronic tags for everyone. Is it fanciful to suggest that if we treat people like criminals there is a greater chance of them actually behaving like criminals?

When will people realise that “asylum seekers” and “migrants” are actually human beings like you and me?

Stewart Falconer, Alyth.

Read more: We must not abandon the blameless poor people of India

Disgrace of cuts in aid

IF my letter (August 28) has led to a debate in your columns, which it seems to have done, then I cannot say I am disappointed with the outcome.

Inevitably there were a number of inaccuracies, and in some cases misleading information to which I would like to reply.

James Hardy (Letters, August 29) made some interesting comments about the gap between governments and the governed and since that was my main theme it would be difficult to disagree with much that he wrote. I can’t resist saying, however, that with Stormont not having sat for ages, the cost to UK taxpayers must be well in excess of our limited aid to India’s impoverished.

While I was flattered with the comparison with the late and rightly respected John Smith, I think Marjorie Ellis Thompson (Letters, August 29) was a little hard on Keir Starmer and the Labour front bench. When they achieve the burdens of office next year, as I believe they will, they will once again inherit one awful mess. I think it is fair to give them a chance before rushing to judgement. I have every confidence that they will retrieve Britain from the ongoing shambles we have witnessed.

In his original letter of August 25 Alan McGibbon said: "Britain has provided £2.3 billion to India by way of foreign aid”. He must know that the figure he gave is not aid at all. The report he mentions in his letter of August 30 is in fact an example of a Business Investment Enterprise from which the UK benefits.

Following the shameful abolition of the Department for International Development, which in fairness was retained by David Cameron and Theresa May, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office made the position clear. It said: "Since 2015 the UK has given no financial aid to the Government of India. Most of our funding now is focused on business investments which helps create new markets for the UK as well as India.” Shamefully under the last three Conservative prime ministers, the UN target of 0.7% GDP has been cut to 0.5%. My basis for complaining about cuts in aid to the poorest people in India was upheld when the same report said: "UK aid to India is fragmented, lacks strategy, and is unsatisfactory in many areas.” If such a distinguished body found it difficult to find precise evidence of misuse that surely sets a very high bar for Mr McGibbon.

Sir Tom Clarke, Former MP and Former Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Coatbridge.

Make private ops tax deductible

A REPORT by Age Concern Scotland has revealed that one in three elderly people in Scotland had either paid for private medical treatment or intended to do so to avoid long NHS waiting lists. After paying their taxes for years these people have been abandoned by this mega-wasteful Scottish Government and are being forced to use their life savings. Private medical care eases the pressure on the NHS so the cost of such operations should be tax deductible.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow.