I’VE watched Neil Oliver on GB News for some time and he seems to me to be amongst the most rational voices on television these days ("Controversial TV host quits prestigious scientific body", The Herald, September 7). His comments on the virus appear fairly accurate considering that government action has destroyed large swathes of the economy and adversely affected the mental health of large numbers of the population.

Maybe the Royal Society of Edinburgh needs to examine the scientific and broader academic learning it follows; it seems pretty flawed.

Michael Watson, Glasgow.

Opinion should be respected

I WAS surprised on picking up The Herald this morning to see that Neil Oliver’s resignation from the Royal Society of Edinburgh merited front page coverage and a banner headline.

I then recalled that in a previous edition your columnist David Leask proposed that Mr Oliver be “cancelled” by the national academy because he had “lost the plot” ("Why Scotland’s national academy should ‘cancel’ Neil Oliver, heraldscotland, June 15).

First, what plot has Mr Oliver lost? Presumably the received narrative that Covid was an existential threat, and that lockdown was the only solution irrespective of the financial and personal consequences and therefore Mr Oliver’s views were “not compatible with objective reality?

Whether you agree or not is not the point.

Mr Oliver has been consistent in his opinion since Fright Night on March 2020 when Boris Johnson closed the country down. He is not spreading misinformation, he is expressing his opinion and that should be respected and challenged if desired.

I would remind Mr Leask that we no longer burn heretics or hunt and drown witches. The Star Chamber originally established to crush opposition to the policies of King Charles I was abolished in 1641. We have progressed as a society since then and freedom of speech is undoubtedly the foundation of all human rights which we abandon at our peril.

Finally, given his qualifications and vocation it might be that Mr Oliver’s opinion is more learned than most.

In any event it would be great to have the opportunity to debate it with him.

Keith Swinley, Ayr.

• GIVEN Neil Oliver’s comments about Covid, in particular his selfish and offensive attitude that “if my freedom means you might catch Covid from me, then so be it”, is it really still appropriate for him to be the public voice of Glasgow Sightseeing Tours and Sweeney’s Loch Lomond Cruises?

Stuart Neville, Clydebank.

Read more: TV presenter resigns as Royal Society of Edinburgh fellow

SNP best for fighting poverty

IN attacking the Programme for Government, Keith Howell and Gerald Edwards (Letters, September 7) seem to forget that the Scottish Government’s budget has been hammered thanks to UK inflation and Westminster’s failures to tackle the cost of living crisis plus higher energy costs which are all exacerbated by Brexit.

However, the SNP has made considerable progress when compared to its predecessors or other parts of the UK. Figures published by Action for Children showed that the percentage of children living in poverty was England 31%, Wales 28% and Scotland 24% and that was before the Scottish Child Payment which has lifted 90,000 children out of poverty. Also, Crisis UK figures show that rates of core homelessness are substantially lower in Scotland (0.57% of households) than in England (0.94%) and Wales (0.66%). Who can forget that the last Labour/LibDem Scottish executive only built six council houses in nine years while the SNP has built more than 100,000 affordable homes?

The number of schools in a good or satisfactory condition was 61.5% in 2007 but is now 90.7% under the SNP. That is why Raac and crumbling schools is not such a big problem in Scotland with many more modern schools than in England or Wales. We also have the best NHS in the UK with more nurses, doctors, dentists and hospital beds per head of population than in England or Labour-run Wales.

As the latest Labour U-turn is opposing a wealth tax while trying to portray itself as a party of low taxation yet supporting Brexit which has trashed the UK economy, we can take its spending promises with a very large dose of salt.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh.

UK no longer values service

THE effrontery of Guy Stenhouse’s article advocating more privatisation as a means of solving Westminster’s economic crisis ("Politicians need to be brave over the purpose of our public services", The Herald September 5) is only partly excused by the fact it must have been written before the latest scandals began to emerge from privatised English water companies and school building contracts.

This week, BBC news carried a report about its own investigation into illegal discharges of sewage by private water companies in England: 3,500 hours of “dry-spilling” (pouring out untreated excrement in dry weather) into rivers and beaches. Only three companies were named by the BBC: others refused to answer questions because they are already being investigated for illegal pollution of waterways and beaches. Perhaps Mr Stenhouse has forgotten that Margaret Thatcher sold off England’s water and sewage system to private profiteers in 1989. The consequences stink, literally and very dangerously.

And it’s not just about water: the privatisation of our railways (including tracks, safety and maintenance under Railtrack was completed by John Major’s Tory Government in the late 1990s. Three subsequent fatal rail crashes - Southall (1997) Ladbroke Grove (1999) and Hatfield (2000) - were all found to be linked to failure to invest in safety and maintenance. Railtrack went bankrupt shortly afterwards; still, incredibly, handing out dividends to its private shareholders on the back of government handouts. Its successors, Network Rail and now Great British Railways, might sound nationalised but they are still disastrously riddled by contracting out to private companies like the infamous Carillion. Likewise, since Margaret Thatcher privatised social care and imposed an internal market on the NHS in the 1980, the demoralisation and disintegration of the best national health service in the world has been vividly experienced by most of us.

Indeed, despite Harold MacMillan’s sage warning in 1985, successive Westminster governments have continued the destruction of all our public assets and services by handing them over to the City of London, offshore, anonymous speculators and crude asset-strippers. The PPE scandals during Covid are just the tip of the iceberg: simple greed and corruption have taken over.

The notions of “service” and “community” are clearly no longer understood nor valued by any of the Westminster parties which now openly subscribe to Mr Stenhouse’s ghastly advocacy of private profiteering from what should be public services. Since Gordon Brown raided our pensions to protect Mrs Thatcher’s corrupted privatised banks and building societies, Westminster and the City of London have been leading the world with the simple mantra of “smash, grab and get away with it”: sewage on beaches, lethal rail tracks, broken health and care services, broken climate promises and collapsing schools.

When Westminster parties troop up to Rutherglen, demanding votes for more of the same, I hope they get the answer they deserve. Mr Stenhouse may recall that Strathclyde voters saved Scottish Water from privatisation in 1994; I hope they stand firm in 2023.

Frances McKie, Evanton.

Read more: Yousaf missed a golden chance to be bold, honest and brave

Devolution has made life worse

HOW many of the younger generation in Scotland are aware that our country was far better governed and did much better economically long before devolution and the present set-up? How many know that all the jobs being done by today’s ministers at Holyrood - and all their staffs and movie-star salaries and expenses and hangers-on and offices and overseas trips - were part-time work for sitting MPs of the governing party at Westminster? With a handful of civil servants and no Spads they ran our affairs infinitely more efficiently and competently and certainly much more economically than the present lot. Billions have been spent that could have gone to the poor and our most vulnerable.

The truth is devolution was a sop for an imagined and greatly exaggerated threat by possibly well-meaning Labour politicians. They thought it would "kill nationalism stone dead". Instead it has multiplied it. Some Scots politicians, the late Tam Dalyell was one, saw the present situation and chaos as being a certainty. Dalyell was exactly right in every forecast he made.

Devolution may have some point, but not if any nationalists are involved. They are an obsessed group and do not attract the brightest but merely the biggest believers and their one-issue-dominated policies have been disastrous for our country.

Can we get back to the way we were?

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh.