I WONDER what sort of parallel universe Jane Lax (Letters, April 14) occupies. Amid the revelations of serial Downing Street lockdown parties and subsequent police fines for Prime Minister Johnson and his colleagues, Ms Lax tells us there is nothing to see here and we should consider instead the Scottish Government’s management of the health service, which she deems unsatisfactory.
Health services throughout the UK and indeed across the world, have been devastated by the worst global pandemic for more than 100 years. We are now seeing the consequences of being forced to restrict primary care consultations, elective surgery and screening while the NHS coped with the onslaught of critically ill-Covid patients.
Hopefully, we are now emerging from the worst of the pandemic, but one of its many legacies includes an exhausted, burnt-out workforce who Ms Lax now feels should be “working round the clock”. Of course elective treatments and screening have restarted but the limiting factor here is the workforce. Pre-pandemic all of our devolved health services had barely enough skilled clinicians, nurses and paramedical staff to maintain the service. The days of recruiting staff from Europe and beyond is over due to Brexit and the UK Government’s “hostile environment” towards immigration. We cannot solve this problem in the short term even with a substantial funding uplift; the skilled staff are just not there and will take years to train. Chronic underfunding of the NHS which, via the Barnet formula is primarily a UK Government domain, has come home to roost.
By any performance indicator the pandemic has rendered health services across all devolved nations unsatisfactory and, at times, potentially dangerous. Unfortunately there are no quick fixes here and rebuilding our NHS will be one of the most challenging tasks in the post-pandemic world. However, I have more faith in the restoration of the Scottish NHS under Nicola Surgeon and her Government than the Prime Minister and his coterie of law-breaking acolytes.
Iain Gunn, Elgin.
A MATTER OF LANGUAGE
I SYMPATHISE with Mark Smith (“How I got it wrong on the trans rights row”, The Herald, April 14). However, my advice would be not to worry too much about it. So many are getting it totally wrong even in an advanced, educated society in which we think we have the answer for everything. In the past, gender was pretty obvious from the moment the midwife slapped your bum. In adulthood, your sex life was your “private life” and any request for more detail was greeted with a hard stare. Those of the gay community kept theirs extremely private due to the fear of being prosecuted, the state claiming morale high ground the height of Everest when really it was none of its business. People in the community knew who was/wasn’t but did they care? No.
Now another way to divide the community rears its ugly head. To offer some assistance in the matter, I will suggest taking a literal approach: according to the Concise Oxford, the word “transition” means “passage or change from one place/state/set of circumstances to another”; the prefix “trans” implies movement/process. Ergo, those who describe themselves as “trans-women” or “trans-men” have not completed the process. A biological male having undergone a full transition may then become a woman and vice versa with of course, the obvious limitations. A trans-woman who has not undergone a full transition and claims the status of a woman is incorrect.
Pedantic, you might say, but I didn’t invent the English language. When all is said and done, could society not agree that their private life is no-one’s business but theirs? Mind your own business and these days that should provide sufficient trouble for the day.
Maureen McGarry-O’Hanlon, Balloch.
LET’S EXPLORE A LONGER SCHOOL DAY
AS an Independent candidate in the forthcoming council elections, it’s dispiriting to see the usual “ping pong” of party politics preventing a reasonable discussion around proposals for a longer school day.
First, the impact of Covid on education requires an urgent response. This is a crisis. Government has, thus far, not put a coherent national “catch-up” strategy in place. A national tutoring service is a good idea – and, I’d argue, essential. Secondly, what our young people have been deprived of for more than two years now that an extended school day could facilitate is not necessarily more formal study but more curricular enrichment (as happens in the independent sector). Things still haven’t returned to a pre-pandemic state outside the formal curriculum. Far from an extended day damaging mental health, it has the potential to improve it and deliver greater equality of access. Thirdly, it is true that teachers and school staff are on their knees. The stress of “doing school” as if Covid hasn’t happened has finally taken its toll. This isn’t a whinge. It’s the reality. Expecting more of teachers will drive talent from the profession.
So, we do have much to address. A longer school day is definitely worth exploring – regardless of who proposes it. To deliver it will require investment, imagination and collaboration for the common good – AKA politicians behaving like grown-ups.
Sarah Atkin, Independent Candidate, Black Isle Ward, By Fortrose, Ross-shire.
SEA EAGLES NEED SPECIAL PROTECTION
LIKE Elizabeth Mueller (Letters, April 15) and MSP Angus MacNeil, I did not witness a sea eagle kill lambs, in fact few competent people ever have. It is an extremely rare occurrence.
However, I do have a good knowledge of these birds, being a professional ornithologist, unlike Ms Mueller and Mr MacNeil, and probably the complaining farmer. I also tend to speak from experience and not the typical ignorance of those who don’t know the difference between scavenging and killing. The deification of sea eagles is based on their skeletons being found in the ancient graves in Orkney, such as the 5,00-year-old Tomb of the Eagles on South Ronaldsay. It is indeed a good word for a species requiring special protection from the ill-informed who wish to see them killed for no good reason.
Bernard Zonfrillo, Glasgow.
R RUSSELL Smith’s discourse on the coastal grandmother trend (Letters, April 15) alerted my desire to learn. Apparently, white wine is the lifeblood of coastal grandmothers everywhere.
For my part, I’ll stick to the role of urban grandfather, with a lifeblood of a daily pint interspersed with the occasional g & t.
David Miller, Milngavie.