JUDITH Duffy’s article on Professor Sir Chris Whitty’s (below) evidence to the Covid Inquiry (November 22) again raises the spectre of a UK Government that was contemplating letting the pandemic spread unchecked through the country until natural mass immunity was achieved.

Apparently, advisers – such as Dominic Cummings – understood the effect of the infection doubling factor but it was not well understood by “everybody in the building”.

In spite of the many reshuffles in government since that time, a surprising number are still in “the building”, many sitting on the frontbenches in parliament with the Prime Minister.

The National: Sir Chris Whitty giving evidence at Dorland House in London (UK Covid-19 Inquiry/PA)

The reappearance of David Cameron reminded me, and perhaps other pensioners who were lucky enough to survive Covid, of the 2014 UK Government’s great concern for our survival in an independent Scotland without the security of UK Government guarantees for our state and private pensions.

To think that a few years later in 2020 there were people in the UK Government making life-and-death decisions who either didn’t understand or didn’t care that pensioners and others in vulnerable groups would suffer disproportionate death rates and who would put the whole population at risk from the unknown long-term effects of the virus if it was given a free run.

The inquiry has a long way to go yet but it appears that the UK Government did not put the safety of all its citizens as the first duty and highest priority of government.

It is almost certain that in the event of another pandemic, the UK Parliament will legally place the power to deal with the matter entirely in the hands of the UK Government, excluding the other three countries of the Union.

These countries appear to have suffered unnecessary problems during the pandemic because the devolved governments were ignored by the UK Government even though their independent health services are the responsible to the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments.

Recent events are making it more and more obvious that the objectives of the Westminster Parliament and the people of Scotland are so different that there is absolutely no logical reason why Scotland should remain in a union led by any Westminster Government.

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We are trapped within the Union by a Parliament that refuses our Holyrood Government and Parliament the right to investigate, debate or consult the people on the treaty that enshrines the present system of government in the Union.

John Jamieson

South Queensferry

I WATCHED much of Patrick Vallance’s evidence to the UK Covid Inquiry. He was the chief scientific adviser to the UK Government during the pandemic. For me, during that period, Patrick was very much one of the few adults in the room dealing with it.

A very impressive man indeed. Why is politics so perverse that someone of the calibre of Patrick merely provided advice to a bamboozled UK prime minister, for Johnson then to go on to make the massive life-and-death decisions – eventually, after much “trolleying”!

Surely it was a bit like the teacher advising Dennis the Menace and the Bash Street Kids (ie Johnson and his cronies in Downing Street!) how to run the school while he was away on holiday! It would be funny in a comedy film but this farcical situation was reality. Given the enormity of the pandemic – a grotesque reality. I can only imagine what families of virus victims made of it.

To rub salt in the wounds, an extract dated October 25, 2020, of Patrick’s notes, made regularly throughout the pandemic, often written late at night, was referred to. He mentions that Johnson begins to argue for, “letting it [Covid] all rip”, saying “yes, there will be more casualties but so be it.

They have had a good innings” and “most people who die have reached their time anyway”. He also states that Dominic Cummings said that “Rishi thinks just let people die and that’s ok”. Patrick completes his note by stating: “This all feels like a complete lack of leadership.” Sounds like a massive euphemism to me!

In stark contrast to this bumbling, callous approach to the pandemic, the way our First Minister, unfairly much abused of late, handled the situation, was completely different. Albeit Nicola herself has since acknowledged she did make some mistakes, nevertheless she wasn’t bamboozled by the technical stuff and communicated the “do’s and dont’s”, as they say, to the Scottish public, with absolute clarity, on almost a daily basis.

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Apart from those supportive and impartial, though, Nicola received zero credit for this from the “Scottish” press and media, with the exception of the National/Sunday National of course. What is surely indisputable though, unlike Johnson and some of his cronies, was that Nicola’s heart was most certainly in the right place, and not made of stone!

Returning to Patrick, from everything I’ve heard from both Nicola and him about the pandemic, they were clearly on the same page. Twae adults in a room fou o’ eejits!

Ivor Telfer

Dalgety Bay, Fife

AN interesting article about Scotland’s forests and land ownership in last weekend’s Sunday National.

More to the point was the brief comment concerning the fact that our government owns around a third of Scotland’s forests and being the largest owner!

The article then goes on to say that that ownership is actually in the hands of government ministers on behalf of we, the people, but managed by “Forestry and Land Scotland”.

So, while the Government attempts to discuss issues concerning land ownership, there has not been much, if any, discussions about forestry ownership. That is until now, thanks to The Ferret and, again, Andy Wightman.

It’s bad enough to know that invisible people not only own so much of Scotland’s land but also that of our woodland and forests. However,when we discover, thanks to The Ferret, that government ministers have purchased a third of Scottish forestry, the questions remain, who are they, how much was spent, and whose money was used?

Not a lot of so-called transparency shown here, which the Government likes to shout about. So how about shouting some more transparency information about the “state-owned” forests and where they are situated?

It would be nice to walk through our own Scottish woodland and forest as well as that owned by people who don’t exist except through an offshore bank account.

Alan Magnus-Bennett


MEMO to Angus Robertson (below).

Angus, it is very difficult to understand why you and presumably the heid bummers in the SNP, whilst we need as many supporters for independence as we can muster, are selling the divisive “Independence plus joining the EU” strategy at this time.

The National: Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson writes on devolution, Scottish parliament consent, and

Not every supporter wants to join the EU, and by tying this with what is the ONE target, independence, we will lose most of them. This last year, the SNP/Greens had some excellent ideas, which were divisive, and lost us much credibility and support.

Angus, please, please stick to the task in hand – get these polls up to 55% first. No distractions, no EU or EFTA, no bottle recovery programmes, no anything else – keep the direction of travel clear in everybody’s head. However many seats the SNP and other indy parties get, it would be critical to have a majority vote to go with it.

What the Scottish voter wants to know now, is what is the Master Plan? Not the plan for the next parliamentary term, but the plan for our bairns and grandchildren – 25, 50 and more year strategies, in pictures, graphs, pie charts, etc, as no one reads lengthy position papers today.

Include the possibility of joining the EU – of course – in these plans but this and other concepts must be the subject of promised referenda after independence, when we are able to see actually what the EU terms are likely to be, when we have the Scots Pound in our hands, and the voter is in a position to make such decisions.

And Angus, please put high on our agenda a lot more emphasis on understanding climate change and sustainable development. I believe the voter needs to believe that we by 2050 are going to be leaving behind a healthier and happier environment for our bairns. The 16 to 25 year olds support independence, but too many don’t vote, or even register. What is their future? It would be helpful if they knew.

Gordon Grant Benton

Newburgh, Aberdeenshire

ONE of the headlines last week was that “raw sewage” has been discharged into the sea and thousands of such events have occurred over the past number of years. The pressure group “Surfers against Sewage” is taking the issue into the public domain.

The facts being used are true to the level of frequency – yes, 58,000 incidents were recorded, however, the devil is always in the detail.

It is not true that raw sewage from toilets was being discharged into the sea, as implied by the statements and the language used.

The contributor from Scottish Water clearly described that 99% of the discharge events were “rainwater” run-off, not raw toilet sewage, and that is by the design of the water treatment systems.

The Scottish Water contributor advised it only monitors 4% of the discharge outlets, whereas England has 100% monitoring. Again, the data is correct, but the detail is enlightening.

He continued, Scottish Water has used computer science and technology to model the water catchment areas and is able to predict where the discharges are highly likely to occur and has placed the monitoring equipment as appropriate.

It appears that if you take the initially provided numbers and extrapolate them to the worst case, it will imply 1,450,000 discharges of raw sewage.

Whereas, extrapolating the 4% monitoring and the 99% raw sewage events will provide 14,500 discharge events for the same period.

Significantly less than the 58,000 stated.

Where I would agree with “Surfers” is that due to the increased rainfall caused by raised atmospheric temperature and weakening of the jet stream (global warming), that allows rain to fall for extended periods, as was experienced in Brechin, Scottish Water should be increasing the capacity of the system to prevent the 1% increasing.

Alistair Ballantyne


Jim Taylor is angry the NHS Dental Service has collapsed in Scotland.

A lot of dentists are also very angry the once universal system of NHS Dentistry has been driven into the ground with the loss of the many public health gains previously achieved.

Many dentists have tried, against their best financial interests, to keep the NHS service going in Scotland and the few that were left are giving up the struggle, faced with the impact of decades of austerity and the reality that dental, staff and management costs for running a surgery far outstrip fee increases retrospectively awarded by NHS Scotland.

The Scottish Government’s NHS Dentistry pot via Barnet is determined by the NHS England spend on NHS dentistry which has been cut in real terms year on year since the 1990’s.

The Scottish Government has sought to try and make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear with NHS dentistry in Scotland but the core NHS model in use since 1948 is no longer fit for purpose for either dentists or their patients.

The goodwill UK dentists had for NHS dental provision has been lost, killed by UK Governments of every stripe since 1990, and not returning any time soon.

The idea that ‘dentists are trained at public expense’ misses the point that the costs are repaid many fold in taxation of dental practices and the dentists themselves.

Mr Taylor, the NHS Dental Service in Scotland has not been killed by the dentists but by public indifference to the longstanding decaying provision of NHS Dentistry, UK Governments and their media pals selling the “greedy dentist’ trope or the “dentist’s must be compelled to work in the NHS” trope, an NHS Dental system past its “sell by date” and ignorance of the reality of running a dental practice under NHS sub-contracts which have all the long term value of zero hour contracts.

As a dentist I could go on and on but I will not, just this; In 1990 I, along with other concerned NHS dentists, had a meeting at Richmond House with the then Minister of Health for dentistry.

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We pointed out the impact of the changes being made to the NHS dental contract in England on NHS Dental funding overall and in specific terms we predicted within the decade there would be a return to multiple extractions of children’s teeth under GA and a withdrawal of NHS Dental Services for adults.

The latest figures for England I have found states the biggest reason for general anaesthetic in under 12’s in England is multiple dental extractions and 85% of all adult dental care is carried out under private contract. I doubt the figures for Scotland will be much different.

Maybe if the public had listened 1990 when we “greedy dentists” tried to tell you about the impact of the cuts to NHS Dental Services across the UK but no, the public bought into the “greedy dentist / scaremongering” line sold by the Tory Party and the UK media.

Peter Thomson BDS (Edin)

WHAT a surprise. Tony Blair is acting as Middle East broker for Keir Starmer, which is what Israel wanted. The Times of Israel recently reported that Netanyahu’s government wanted to appoint Blair as ‘humanitarian coordinator’ for the Gaza Strip, to reduce international pressure on Israel as it continues its slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza. The irony – no British PM has done more to destabilise the Middle East than Blair. He’s perfect – a war criminal to sanitise Israel’s war crimes.

The pro-Israel lobby’s influence on the English Labour party is obvious. Labour’s witch-hunt against anti-Semitism was in reality an exercise in weeding out those who opposed the Israeli government’s brutal occupation of Palestinian land and oppression of the Palestinian people. It also explains Labour’s shameful whipping of its MPs to abstain on the SNP motion calling for a ceasefire earlier this week.

As is true for most things, follow the money and you can understand the motivation. Two-fifths of Starmer’s shadow cabinet have received money from Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) and Sir Trevor Chinn, a wealthy pro-Israel lobbyist whose father made a fortune manufacturing arms in Israel. LFI works closely with the Israeli embassy and has funded trips for 8 members of Starmer’s shadow cabinet including David Lammy, Wes Streeting, Emily Thornberry and Rachel Reeves, currently a parliamentary vice-chair of LFI. Keir Starmer has spoken at several LFI events, claiming Israel was founded by “social democrats who made the desert flower.”

Meanwhile the world does nothing because money is power. It drowns out the voices that demand an end to violence and oppression.

Leah Gunn Barrett