WELL done Fraser McAllister (Letters, August 26) and Ian Gray (Letters, August 29) for highlighting the mindbogglingly-high loss of life statistics revealed by the recent study by the University of Glasgow and Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) as a proven consequence of the Conservative Government’s shameful austerity policy.

This report states that between 2012 and 2017, around 335,000 people endured a premature death directly linked to the amoral austerity policy prosecuted by the then Cameron/Osborne administration, aided and abetted by Nick Clegg and their LibDem coalition partners until 2015, under which the ordinary people of Britain were obliged to pay the price, some of them literally with their lives, by bailing out rapacious bankers and failed politicians, who, between them, led to the worst financial meltdown in living memory.

And yet this startlingly high, and largely avoidable, number of premature deaths at the hand of a state whose primary responsibility is the wellbeing of its constituents was scarcely covered in the UK mainstream media; had 300,000-plus people died in a natural disaster at home or abroad, the press would have been all over it, as when a "mere" 50,000 perished in the recent Turkish earthquake.

Factor in the additional estimated number of premature excess deaths in the UK reported by the US-based Johns Hopkins University of 220,721 (325.13 deaths per 100,000) up to March this year and it is abundantly clear, when measuring UK figures with the likes of France (166,176 / 254.68), South Africa (102,595 / 172.98) or South Korea (34,093 / 66.50) that the UK Government has blood on its hands, through a combination of social engineering, financial mismanagement and rank incompetence.

Yet, with well over half a million premature deaths on its watch, this Conservative Government still has the temerity to constantly call out the Scottish Government over admittedly unacceptable numbers of drug-related deaths in Scotland, as ever, shameful and shameless; but, with the connivance of largely compliant right-wing newspapers, a timid BBC in fear of its very life and a semi-detached, largely disinterested population, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of them ever being held to account.

Mike Wilson, Longniddry.

Lack of realism on substance abuse

THERE is a complete lack of realism coloured by subjective morality in how the problem of deaths related to alcohol and drugs are perceived by the Establishment and what attempts are made to ameliorate the situation. The reality is that man has always indulged in these or similar substances and the use of them is not exclusive to one section of society. History also proves that prohibition does nothing to prevent those who wish to partake from doing so, it simply criminalises the production and consumption of the product to the detriment of all involved: it achieves nothing.

Despite the consumption and abuse of drink and drugs being prevalent throughout the social pyramid, the authorities and media target a narrow band at the bottom of the pile without trying to remedy the basic causes that have driven those unfortunates into substance abuse. The Establishment refuses to accept or try to improve the lack of quality of life that drives these unfortunates to abuse drink and drugs to the detriment of their health. The Establishment patently doesn’t care about the circumstances that those at the bottom of the social order experience, it is happy to stigmatise them and make it harder for these people to get the drink and drugs that offer them a temporary respite from reality.

As long as the wheels of society keep turning to its satisfaction the Establishment doesn’t actually care how many at the bottom lead pointless lives and die before they should or else the problem would not exist after years of our vaunted democracy.

David J Crawford, Glasgow.

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

We must think outside the box

RECENT correspondence on immigration reminded me of Gaia Vince’s book Nomad Century: How to Survive the Climate Upheaval from which I quote: “... migration is to be celebrated”, it having been “a fundamental part of our species’ remarkable success story and the diversity and complexity of our cultures.

“Migrations, whether for exploration and adventure, from disaster to safety, for a new land of opportunity, for god and soul, for trade or art, under duress and by kidnap, have transformed our globe and globalised our species. Human migration fundamentally created the human system of which we are all a part today.”

I suspect that most of your readers will consider Vince’s first assertion above to be singularly challenging but I suggest that we are going to have to evolve totally different mindsets if we are to be able to meet the unimaginable challenges ahead. For instance, is neoliberalism the most appropriate form of capitalism for us? Or perhaps the worst? Will nationalism be the most appropriate foundation on which to build the necessary international relationships?

We really need to start thinking outside the box and doing so right now.

John Milne, Uddingston.

A new format for Indyref2

BOB Hamilton's letter (August 28) poses a vital question and seeks an answer: "how do we determine a fair and decisive split of the (independence referendum) vote?" Can I offer a personal view but one which may be shared already by others in the community?

When the momentous 300 year-old decision was made to unite with England, only our "betters" were directly involved: the views of the general population were assumed (rightly or wrongly) to be in accord with their decision. Nowadays, for any meaningful referendum to be recognised - particularly the referendum now being proposed by the SNP - the object must be to determine as accurately as possible the whole nation's preference: either "to remain in the Union - In" , or "to leave and become an independent state - Out". A straightforward choice, but one which past experience suggests could lead to another indecisive result.

In practical terms, it is likely that only persons whose names are included in the then current electoral rolls will be eligible to vote. If not, they cannot vote. Eligible participants have a single choice: In or Out. But what if, though eligible, some electors decide not to use their vote ? Their non-involvement might well render the resulting count unfair and undecided (again) - the silence of this minority might undermine and confound the whole process.

Whilst electors cannot be compelled to vote, they still remain part of the nation and the electoral process. A civic responsibility. To make their non-participation more understandable for them and to all concerned and, given that there is only a single choice on the ballot paper, the general population should be advised clearly and well before election day that electors not casting their vote will be considered content with the status quo and accordingly will be counted as "In" voters. The eventual number will be calculated by subtracting the actual numbers of votes cast from the total number of names on the electoral rolls - less say 5% to exclude those with genuine cause not to vote.

Though this broad-axe approach may be considered heavy-handed, the result would provide a reasonably clear, decisive picture of the wishes of the Scottish electorate on the day. If further clarification was thought necessary, a requirement that a minimum 60% "Out" vote would be required before the truly-life changing institutional consequences began.

But that is another argument for another day.

JW Napier, Alva.

Read more: Stop blaming the politicians for the bad choices we make in our lives

Memories of 1970 and all that

I WASN'T present when your "Remember when... Labour and SNP raised the roof in Auchinleck" picture was taken (The Herald, September 1), but it brought back many happy memories of that campaign, including being pelted with eggs in Cumnock and spat on in Drongan; I'd just turned 16, and thought I was seeing life. Sam Purdie was an excellent SNP candidate, but Labour and Jim Sillars romped home to victory and Westminster, and there he could have comfortably stayed; but while I often disagree with Mr Sillars these days, I commend him for leaving the Labour Party and putting Scotland's interests first. If only all the other Labour MPs had shown the same honesty and commitment.

The day after the South Ayrshire by-election, that tasteful tabloid, the Daily Record, announced the result and pictured a noose in the shape of the SNP symbol on its front page. Today, Ayrshire has SNP MPs and MSPs; back in 1970, nobody could have reasonably predicted that Mr Sillars would go on to join the SNP and win another by-election, or that the SNP would now be in its fourth consecutive term of government in a Scottish Parliament.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.