THE Covid pandemic monstrously deprived Scotland of 5135 people and left others with long-term effects. It left families and individuals bereft.

I can understand how many people feel about losing their mothers, fathers, daughters, sons and other dear relatives and friends.

What I find hard to understand is how many people seem to have little gratitude for the fact that they survived the crisis, and that more people did not die in what was the worst worldwide event for the current generation.

Looking around the world and at the history of those nightmare years, some did better, some did much worse but there was no-one on Earth that was not touched by this in one way or another.

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What an astonishing response to such a threat was made by the leaders of governments and citizens, the vaccine-makers and the people who managed to keep us fed and alive.

Now we come to apportioning blame. That is the bit I do not get. I have tried to understand but I cannot. How is it possible to blame anyone? Nobody could have seen this coming, for all the emergency planning that could be done (though it is true that the UK is not an organism that prepares much, it seems not to be in its nature. If you saw how the Swiss prepare for the unknown, you would say “wow”) and nobody could have prepared because nobody had dealt with anything like this before.

I’m sorry but I find the unholy dissection of people who should be praised for saving so many lives being smashed by lawyers and the bloodthirsty media appalling.

It makes me ashamed to be a citizen of the UK – which I am not that by choice, I am Scottish – to see Johnson and Sunak get off with a “free pass”, having deleted all their WhatsApp messages while our ministers presented what they could. Humza Yousaf said the Scottish Government presented the inquiry with 14,000 electronic messages, yet the inquiry only brought a handful to our attention – the explosive ones they knew that the media would love.

I watched the UK Covid Inquiry in Edinburgh and then watched the news.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon gave evidence to the UK Covid Inquiry earlier this week

What I heard live was so distorted by the media it, to me, was truly vile.

I am glad that I was here at home in Scotland during that awful time. I am sad that so many people with whom I had a connection passed away and I feel for pals who are still suffering.

This is to say thank you to Nicola Sturgeon, Jeane Freeman, Humza Yousaf, Jason Leitch, Gregor Smith, Maree Todd and all those in our Government who could not get it right ... because there was no right nor was there wrong. It was the way it was because it had not been done before.

Thanks to those who invented the testing kits and the vaccine, thanks to the army of people who administered the vaccines and did the administration to allow all that to happen.

So not everything went well and I say again sorry for all those bereaved people who have wounds that will never heal. However, that is not an excuse for some of the outlandish claims and inferences which have been levelled at people who had no choice but to try and rise to an event that no-one wanted, and no-one knew how to deal with.

We are not in ancient Rome in the Colosseum, but the UK Covid Inquiry has felt like the Christians being fed to the lions. That is what is so wrong with this, how it is all being handled. It is wrong, deeply wrong.
Cher Bonfis
via email

FIRSTLY, I want to say how much I have really valued your coverage of the UK Covid Inquiry in Edinburgh over the last few days. During Covid, I lost a family member (not due to Covid), and we were unable to visit her while she was ill, or when she passed away. There were also restrictions during the funeral, which meant that only a small group of people were allowed to attend, and there was no socialisation before, during or afterwards. It was a terrible experience, and I have therefore been very interested in the work of the UK Covid Inquiry.

However, during the inquiry, there has been a constant flurry of negative headlines and politically motivated attacks, which have made trying to keep up to date with developments a very tiring and emotional experience. Over the last few days, the excellent work and reporting by The National has helped to cut through some of that – so a very big thank you to you and your staff.

Secondly, I wanted to share some more general thoughts on the inquiry. The way it has been set up, and the way it is being reported on daily, reminds me of a show trial. The questions asked are designed to point the finger of blame at people, and are a form of “monstering”. This is because the inquiry is being run as if it is a legal trial. Legal trials aim to find fault with people. However, I think this is the wrong approach.

Instead, the inquiry should have been set up in a similar style to an audit or a review. Audits or reviews do not focus on laying the blame on people, but on trying to find faults, inefficiencies or contradictions in a process. They then make recommendations on how the process can be improved going forward. This is a crucial difference – they review the PROCESS, not the PEOPLE.

This difference means that failures in process and improvements can be identified. People are not afraid to share experiences, because they know that they themselves are not being reviewed, it is the process. However, when people are reviewed, all that happens is that a finger of blame is pointed and the process itself is not improved. As a result, a “guilty” party is identified, they leave the limelight, a new person comes in, and then the same mistakes are made over and over again because the root cause of the problem, which lies in the process, hasn’t changed.

As such, I am fearful that the UK Covid Inquiry will not lead to meaningful change in the way that pandemics are handled, and could even prove to be unhelpful. If the outcome is that all decision-makers are “monstered”, and the underlying processes remain the same, then trust in all decision-makers will be further damaged. Decision-makers themselves will feel attacked and no longer want to be in the public eye, and the opportunity for meaningful reflection and process improvement will be missed. Ultimately, the UK Covid Inquiry will have failed those who it aimed to protect – those who lost loved ones to Covid.
Peter Clark
via email

I WAS utterly appalled at Alister Jack’s dreadful comments and barbs, denouncing Nicola Sturgeon’s obvious upset and genuine tears as she delivered her answers to the Covid Inquiry.

It speaks volumes about how some ministers are selected by the Tory Party, as I’m sure you’ll agree. I’m delighted that he is standing down at the next election, not before time.
Stefan Klimowicz

LAWYER Aamer Anwar (below) should know the importance of words, so why is he likening care home deaths during Covid to “killing fields”?

The National: Aamer Anwar

I remember all the carers, nurses, doctors and everyone else putting their lives on the line in care homes and hospitals doing their utmost to keep people safe. I know medical people who came home from work and stripped outside in the garden, put their clothes into washing machines and went straight to the shower. To describe their efforts in such terms is despicable.

I know bereaved people suffered great grief and loss, I know they remember every day but so do the many who worked within the hospitals and care homes. The blame game serves no-one, least of all the bereaved.

I also remember Richard Leonard, Scottish Labour leader at the time, and the Scottish Tory leader demanding that beds be freed up in hospitals for Covid patients. Do they have a record of how they decided to make that call?
Winifred McCartney

I AM delighted that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (below) has announced that England, Wales and Scotland will be working jointly to ban completely single-use vapes. These child-friendly, colourfully designed, pocket-money-affordable vapes with sweet flavours have successfully caused at least 51,000 under-16s in Scotland alone to become addicted to nicotine.

The National: DARLINGTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 29: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks with parents and teachers as he visits Haughton Academy in Darlington to outline plans for the banning of single use vapes on January 29, 2024 in Darlington, England. Rishi Sunak

The national consultation on these vapes – which I contributed to – was mainly asking questions about how to modify the attraction of children to single-use vaping by introducing plain packaging, reducing the number of flavours and restricting who could sell these highly addictive products. That does not sound to me like a serious intention by our governments to completely ban these dangerous products. I believe disposable single-use vapes were deliberately marketed towards children and young adults, in order to create a new generation of nicotine addicts, to replace the millions of people who have successfully quit smoking without the use of vapes.

It is despicable that the UK Government allowed both the tobacco and vaping industries to contribute their views to that national consultation on vaping. In the two decades of successful work by all political parties to address the 50% death rate of smokers, big tobacco was not permitted to join in these deliberations because that would undermine the successful outcome of that plan. We the public won that battle by reducing smoking dramatically and saving many lives in the process.

It is well known that the tobacco and vaping industry has one of the biggest groups of lobbyists, working daily to try to convince politicians that they are happy to assist smokers to quit smoking, using the new, supposed well-proven method of vaping. They claim to have assisted 50,000 smokers to quit yet provide no evidence of that. In reality, what the vaping industry is doing is cleverly conning smokers into believing that vaping is safer than smoking – when in fact what they have very successfully done is to switch nicotine addicts from using tobacco as their source of nicotine over to vaping products, which often contain higher levels of nicotine. I have been told by hundreds of adult ex-smokers they now regret ever starting vaping because they are now more addicted to nicotine than before. This very clearly reveals how successfully the tobacco industry has protected its business, and is able to continue profiting from the ill-health of young and old.

None of us – and particularly parents of young children – should rest contented until we are assured by all of our politicians that they are serious about banning completely single-use vapes. They also need to come up with an urgent plan to ensure that we have available the means to support the thousands of children already heavily addicted to nicotine.
Max Cruickshank