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Readers’ letters: Health risks due to hospital waiting times, Remembrance Day and Aberdeen City masterplan

NHS waiting times, Remembrance Day and Aberdeen City masterplan

Sir, – Week after week we are getting dreadful reports about Scottish hospital waiting times and ambulance services in meltdown, and week after week we listen to Humza Yousaf telling us that things are going to take five years to get better.

In the meantime, patients are suffering and dying as a direct result of the devolved NHS Scotland services failing to provide adequate medical services.

In real terms, NHS Scotland has been starved of funding by the SNP and Scotland’s healthcare standards are now well below acceptable levels.

Dennis Forbes Grattan, Mugiemoss Road, Bucksburn, Aberdeen.

Poppy is a symbol of remembrance

Sir, – The linking by Catherine Deveney of the poppy to political causes could have come straight from a student newspaper.

The poppy is an apolitical symbol of remembrance of the suffering and death caused by conflict. It is not “a symbol of democracy” or any other system of political governance, as claimed.

The very foundation of the United Nations embraces a recognition of differing systems coming together to avoid conflict. The diatribe about a Cairo-born activist, Qatar, rich oil companies and social inequality reeked of animus – the very thing the poppy warns us to avoid.

Paul M Rhodes, Lochview Place, Bridge of Don, Aberdeen.

Vested interests of sporting estates have failed our moorlands

Sir, – I read with some interest a couple of the letters in last week’s P&J and would comment below.

Andrew Dingwall Fordyce objects to the purchase of Glen Prosen by the government agency Forest and Land Scotland – the organisation which manages Scotland’s forests and land for the benefit of the people. As well as producing much-needed timber the agency manages its forests for conservation, biodiversity, renewable energy, tourism and recreation.

Forests are available for walking, cycling, camping and wildlife watching. Local communities are consulted on how best they feel local forests should be managed.

Any land owned by Forest and Land Scotland belongs to the nation and is managed in accordance with the points I have outlined above. Private ownership is subject to the whims and desires of landowners.

I sense fear in Mr Dingwall Forsyth’s letter – a fear that the tide is turning against the vested interest of so-called sporting estates with their very narrow form of management which creates a heather monoculture; fear that the people of Scotland may eventually own their own countryside – either directly or through a government agency – and also a fear that the vast tracts of Scotland currently managed for the benefit of the minority of people who like to kill grouse and deer will eventually return to their original vegetation and support substantial employment and increased population through a wide range of opportunities.

Peter Fraser proposes that peatland erosion is an entirely natural phenomenon – and suggests that since moorland management for grouse shooting has only existed for 170 years it cannot be the cause.

Well, you can do a great deal of damage in 170 years.

Peatland is very fragile, and once the vegetation has been removed by human agency, such as burning, tree-felling or over-stocking, the unprotected peat is slowly washed away by rainfall.

Grouse shooting also involves creating roads by bulldozing the peat down to the solid subsoil. This produces spectacular erosion with large areas of subsoil exposed.

Sporting estates have failed in the management of our moorlands but the consolation for those of us who care about Scotland’s uplands is that, given time, patience and good management, they can recover.

Colin D Young, South Headlands Crescent, Newtonhill.

Bad attitudes are costing us dear

Sir, – Jeremy Hunt will probably not please anybody in his Autumn Statement, even though his rumoured tax and spending cuts of around £50 billion are only 5% of the government’s total £1.1 trillion annual spend.

The real way to solve the problem, as Liz Truss rightly argued, is economic growth – not simply borrowing and cutting taxes. We need to get people back to work, reform the public sector, improve education and health – and attitudes.

There are 5.5 million UK citizens on incapacity, job seeker and universal credit out-of-work benefits – up from 3.6 million in 2018 – and 600,000 people have left the workforce since 2019. If they were all on average annual earnings of £35,000 that would equate to almost £2 billion in income tax and NI.

There are 1.2 million job vacancies and 1.2m registered unemployed in the UK. Scotland’s numbers are roughly proportionate.

Reasons given for many people leaving employment include waiting for medical treatment for long-term illness or they are fed up working and think they have enough income to get by on.

According to the BMA, the UK spent £193 billion on the NHS in 2019. In real terms, the number was £74 billion in 1999, £34 billion in 1979 and £16 billion in 1959. The bottom line is in the last 20 years spending in the NHS multiplied threefold and yet people give up work and go on benefits because, it’s argued, the NHS can’t cope with them.

When I was a kid in the 1960s people died quickly of heart attacks, breast, bowel and lung cancer, mostly due to smoking and fatty food.

Illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer are long-term, often caused by diet, obesity and lifestyle – there’s a growing array of expensive treatments and not enough emphasis on prevention.

Based on the numbers (£193 billion vs £16 billion) we spend 12 times more today than in 1960. Most of that is genuine progress but there have to be huge savings due to better organisation and preventive medicine.

It’s a similar story with education. According to the IFS, when I went to school in 1960 the UK spent 2% of GDP on education. This doubled to 4% in the 80s, peaked at 10% in 2010 and is now around 8.5%.

So, we spend four times more today than when Scottish public education was the best in the world. In my simple, anecdotal brain this is down to a mixture of genuine improvements torpedoed by poor parenting, disregard for the importance of education, poor behaviour in class, consequent dumbing down of the curriculum and growth in the number and cost of classroom assistants.

Why has this all happened? I’m not a sociologist but I think it’s a combination of us all going soft, a very human response to years of peace, actual prosperity, decline in family life, deindustrialisation, globalisation and consumerism – and no moral or political leadership willing to spell this out, challenge us and show us the way forward.

Allan Sutherland, Willow Row, Stonehaven.

A dearth of detail from nationalists

Sir, – Another day, another blinkered nationalist (Peter E Smith, November 14), like a broken record, repeating the same far-side-of-the- moon anti-UK nonsense that preoccupies our pernicious and hypocritical SNP Scottish Government.

After 15 years of failure in government obsessed with squandering taxpayers’ money bribing the public, and even handing out free bus passes to Scotland’s growing army of delinquent schoolchildren so they can promote their lawless entitlement across the country, and with many skeletons rattling in cupboards, it’s time for scrutiny of the shameless rabble-rousing Nats, and for them to be judged in the same God-like manner in which they delight in judging our UK.

The highly secretive cloned Nat leadership have proven themselves to be incapable of government or of producing a sustainable “economic plan” for their much talked about independent Scotland. And they do not take kindly to people with a different opinion from that of the SNP.

Surely a difference of opinion, free speech and open debate is the backbone of democracy, helps expose dishonest politicians, and should be welcomed by the SNP, not despised.

Scotland’s future generations and dwindling band of persecuted taxpayers are the truly entitled ones, and deserve much better than broken-record no-plan nationalism.

George Emslie, Bridge Of Don, Aberdeen.

World leaders’ air miles could be cut

Sir, – Last week hundreds of world leaders, including our prime minister, jetted off to Egypt for COP27 to discuss climate change and to reduce the use of fossil fuels as their jets use. Then they all jetted back home.

One week later, another lot of world leaders – including our prime minister – jet off to Bali for the G20 meeting to discuss the world economy. Double the distance they flew to Egypt, and then they will all fly home again.

The world leaders at COP27 who were due to go to the G20 could have flown on to Bali without going home – they were only days apart – and saved all these unnecessary flights.

Don McKay, Provost Hogg Court, Torry, Aberdeen.

Tories torpedoing their sinking ship

Sir, – We are always being reminded of the “benefits” of our 300-odd years Union with England.

Could the Tories mean Brexit or Trussenomics benefits?

We do have the Barnett Formula where they, very kindly, give us back some of our contributions to the Treasury, plus a little top-up in recognition that we have kept them afloat for the last 40-odd years with tax revenues from the North Sea. Those billions were simply frittered away.

Another “benefit” must be the heavy surcharge applied by the National Grid for our abundant green energy input. Scotland is, virtually, self-sufficient in energy although we pay the highest prices in the land for same. Fair?

An independence referendum is constantly blocked in this voluntary union of unequals. Why? Are they frightened they have to pay their own way in life? We aren’t.

Scotland is a very wealthy nation, but that wealth is not shared equally. That needs to change, but never will be by Westminster. Both Labour and the Tories have, for generations, allowed the gap between rich and poor to widen exponentially, making us the most unequal nation in Europe.

If we remain, the following little Bills will come to pass in the foreseeable future, to which we will have to contribute heavily.

Firstly, we have the “renovation” of the Palace of Westminster – a multi-million-pound venture. Did you see the cost for the clock tower alone?

Secondly, they plan a multi-billion-pound replacement for Trident, the weapon we dare not use, and of course we have to contribute to the multi-trillion “fiscal imbalance”. I wonder how many hospitals, schools, teachers, nurses, doctors and social care workers that amount would pay for?

It may not be the ideal time in 2023, but the way things are going it is in our best interests to leave a sinking ship – one being sunk by its own torpedoes.

Ron Campbell, Richmond Walk, Aberdeen.

Master plan needed now

Sir, – Evening Express I applaud you. Aberdeen City Council needs to listen to the citizens of our once proud city.

They have turned against the people’s most important wish, to bring back our economy to what it once was, a beautiful city, a place where people wanted to come on holiday, to live and to experience what the Granite City had in store for them.

We, the older generation, know what it was like even before the oil boom came. Everybody talked about our city, hordes of visitors from all over the world visited, and it can happen again if our council and the Scottish Government turn around and stop ignoring what our city needs now and not later, when it will be too late.

Our children deserve much better. Plenty of wealth was taken out of Aberdeen during the oil boom, but sadly nothing is coming back our way.

Why is that I wonder? Greed and ignorance maybe. If there ever was a masterplan, now is the time for it to become a reality.

Joseph Durno, Cummings Park Circle, Aberdeen.