Can you still afford to take the kids to see Santa this year?

The financial odds may be stacked against an audience with Father Christmas, but it is still possible, says Sarah Marshall.

Prices rises, inflation, spiralling fuel costs… The list of financial woes is endless. Given the current circumstances, it doesn’t look like Santa’s sack will be very full this year.

But don’t be despondent.

The economy may be looking bleaker than a chilly mid-winter day, but that doesn’t mean Christmas is cancelled. There are still plenty of ways to see the big man in red without having to spend a fortune, and it’s even possible to make it as far as Lapland on a (relative) budget.

Take a look at these tips and deals for proof dreams still have the capacity to come true.

Stay for a day

One of the biggest expenses when travelling to Lapland is accommodation. But if the only aim of your trip is to see Santa, there’s not much point in hanging around.

Although it might sound extravagant (and a little bit exhausting), it is possible to get to the Arctic Circle and back within 24 hours.

Newmarket Holidays offer a One-Day Santa Experience in Swedish Lapland, arriving in Pajala on a festive-themed charter. Change into thermal gear and take a reindeer-drawn sleigh ride through the snow, followed by husky dogsled and snowmobile rides. There’s spare time to build snowmen and play on toboggans, before the grand finale is a trip to see Santa. Prices from £649 per adult and £599 per child, with flights departing from a variety of regional UK airports in December 2022 (; 0330 160 7700).

Alternatively, Transun offer a similar experience in Finland (the original home of Father Christmas), with limited dates still available in December from Bournemouth, Gatwick and Bristol. Prices from £579 for adults and £499 for children (; 01865 265 200).

Go for a local grotto

You don’t need to leave the UK to find a winter wonderland. From department store grottos to epic festive-themed amusement parks, Santa pops up in dozens of spots.

Butlins, for example, are promising festive fun below 140,000 twinkling lights for their sleigh-cations, available throughout November and December. Festive stays start from £85 per break, Christmas Day breaks from £410, Twixmas £275, and New Year £492. There’s also 10% off selected Christmas breaks starting on 23, 27 and 30 December (; 0330 100 6648).

MacDonald Hotels in Aviemore offer family Christmas packages which includes an Elves workshop and Christmas panto, a visit to Santa in his grotto (gift for children 12 & under), a visit to Santa’s real reindeer herd and a festive themed dining. For more information visit

Peebles Hydro are offering various Christmas packages including twinkling gin trees, sledging down the front lawn, hot chocolate in front of the fire and a host of family entertainment. For more information visit

Book early for 2023

If you’ve missed out on a decent deal this year, get ahead for 2023. Several operators have already launched holidays for this period, enticing early birds with some great deals. Santa’s Lapland is offering a limited number of half price child places for several Lapland holidays, and grandparents can earn £100 off adult prices if travelling with two children on the same booking. It’s even possible to pre-register interest for 2024 holidays before they go live (; 01483 945 420).

Glasgow’s Golden Generation sees demand for support soar

The head of a 74-year-old Glasgow charity that provides hot meals and companionship for lonely older people has admitted funding uncertainty is giving him “sleepless nights” amid increased demand for their services.

It costs around £1million a year to run Glasgow’s Golden Generation, which has three centres in the north south and west of the city and runs other services including befriending and welfare advice.

Richard Donald, who took over as chief executive of the charity four years ago, said they were already seeing increased demand in the centres, amid rising energy and food prices and this is anticipated to increase over the winter months.

The charity at one time got most of its funding from Glasgow City Council but the £600,000 grant has gradually decreased to £137,000 and Mr Donald fears this may be reduced further.

The service now relies on funding from private trusts but Mr Donald says the economic crisis prompted by the leadership chaos at Westminister has created further uncertainty for this crucial income stream.

He said: “There’s a £400,000 gap and we make this up by going to private trusts and investors.

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“Obviously their stocks and shares are down massively so they have got smaller pots and it has never been more competition from other charities.

“It’s a worry. We can’t rely on the private trusts, you can’t guarantee it.”

He said private trusts only meet at certain times of the year which means funds might not always arrive when they are most needed.


The charity has launched a public appeal for help to fund the centres over winter, when demand is likely to soar.

“Unfortunately it will come down to funding, if it’s reduced then the service will have to be reduced and you’ve just got to hope it’s damage limitation.”

Charity sector bodies have warned that some voluntary organisations are likely to close in the coming months as inflation increased to a 40-year high.

Organisations are being hit by higher costs, lower donations and increased demand, they warned, with pressures set to intensify further as inflation is expected to rise even higher.

READ MORE: Why I refuse to sell our childhood home to pay for mum’s care 

To compound matters the charity does not do as as well as others from fundraising activities because most of the service users have no family or friend and most who pledge to raise money have a connection to the charity.

He says the day centres could take “twice as many” older people than they do now but they are restricted in doing so – because the majority must be transported there and back to their homes.

“Transport is a big issue.” he said.”If our day centres were drop in, then we could see twice as many people as what we are now but the nature of our older people is that they are isolated and lonely and they don’t have family or friends.


“Most come from poorer background so they can’t afford their taxi in. Our service is very reliant on the transport network.

“Ultimately we can only take so many [by minibus] and that’s our biggest challenge. If we had another minibus…

“We know people want to come and we have a demand for it but how do we get more of them in.”

The charity runs a care line but is also unique in that welfare advisers go out to peoples’ homes.


“One of the issues with older people is that they are so resilient that they don’t want to be a burden and they are proud,” said Mr Donald.

“There are a lot of older people out there who are struggling but don’t want to admit it.”

Lynn Campbell, welfare officer for the charity, said she had heard from elderly people who were delaying putting their heating on until the evening.

She said she had recently received a card thanking her for her help which said: “I would never have made the application. 

“The pressure it has taken from me is enormous. I feel like I can put my heating on in the winter and pay for help around the house.”

She said many older people are not aware of non-means tested benefits such as attendance allowance which provides financial support to those with physical or mental disabilities.

To donate £15 to GGG’s Winter Warmer Appeal text WARM to 70560 

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Cycling presenter Ned Boulting on his love for Paris

Where is it?


Why do you go there?

Every edition of the Tour de France finishes in Paris. It is one of the unifying things when you work on the race – in whatever capacity – because we are all filled with the same emotion at the end of three weeks.

You drive through the night and end up, close to midnight, passing through the Peripherique and seeing the searchlight on the top of the Eiffel Tower. I have covered 20 editions of the Tour de France. That sense of completing a journey never leaves you.

How often do you go?

A few times a year. I have been working on a book, out next summer, that has taken me to Paris for research.

How did you discover it?

I had a university friend who went off to study at the Sorbonne. At the same time, I was doing a year abroad in Germany. I took an overnight train from Hamburg to Paris to pay him a surprise visit.

I remember three or four blissful days staggering around from bar to bar and playing pinball, which seemed to be popular back in the day in France. That was my first experience of Paris. I was 19.

We ran out of money. Our only hope was to get across the border into Germany before the banks shut on a Friday afternoon, so I could withdraw some funds from my German bank. We had to hitchhike overnight, but we made it.

What’s your favourite memory?

Certain memories spring instantly to mind. Bradley Wiggins, when he stood on top of the podium in 2012, turned to face the crowd and said: “Right, we’re just going to draw the raffle numbers …” That was a pretty unbeatable line.

The first Tour de France I was sent to cover was in 2003 – it was the centenary edition. In 1903, the race started and finished in Paris, and as a nod to its history, it started and finished there again in 2003.

Who do you take?

Can I choose a historical figure? Henri Desgrange, the founder of the Tour de France. I would love to sit opposite him in a turn-of-the-century bistro to find out what he really meant the race to be.

What do you leave behind?

Working on the Tour necessitates wearing an accreditation around your neck for the best part of a month. One of the great joys is taking that off at the end. The accreditation usually ends up in my hotel room bin.

Sum it up in five words.

Vive le Tour de France.

What other travel spots are on your wish list?

I have a deep fascination for the Balkans, specifically Bosnia-Herzegovina. I would also like to spend more time in Germany. I lived in Hamburg for four or five years in the early 1990s. There are parts of the former East Germany – particularly Thuringia – that are massively underrated.

Ned Boulting’s cycling-themed show, Retour de Ned, is at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, on November 13. Visit and

Glasgow dad tells how cancer support charity was his ‘light at the end of the tunnel’

WHEN David Johnstone was diagnosed with a sarcoma after months of back and forth with doctors telling him not to worry about a grapefruit sized mass it turned his world upside down.

However, after referral to a specialist consultant surgeon, it became clear that cancer couldn’t be ruled out. It led to more than 10 hours of intensive surgery in which a watermelon sized mass was removed alongside part of his bowel meaning Mr Johnstone now relies on a stoma bag.

During his recovery in hospital, his family couldn’t visit, and he relied on the hourly phone calls from his wife Sharon.

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The 55-year-old from Glasgow says one of the hardest parts was the impact on his wife and three children, Dee-jay, 25, Fyrarie, 31, and Craig, 37. He felt he had to keep his negative thoughts under wraps as he could see the stress the diagnosis was causing them.

He said: “I didn’t want to burden them with my thoughts and feelings.”

That’s when Cancer Support Scotland became what he described as a “light at the end of the tunnel.”


David Johnstone and wife Sharon

David Johnstone and wife Sharon


It was with the help of his counsellor Natalie Barron that he was able to navigate his feelings while she provided tools for coping with stress.

Cancer Support Scotland gave him the outlet he needed to speak openly about his concerns and fears without worrying about the stress it would cause his family.

“I didn’t feel like I had to hide anything when speaking to Natalie,” he added.

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Founded by leading cancer researcher Sir Kenneth Calman in 1980, the charity was set up to provide a comfortable environment, far removed from the clinical settings of

the hospital, in which patients and their loved ones could share their experiences of living with


In 2012, The Calman Cancer Support Centre, formerly the Gartnavel Royal Chapel, was opened.

Today it provides holistic wellbeing care to those affected by cancer through counselling, complementary therapy, befriending services and coping with change workshops.


Cancer Support Scotland staff pictured at the charitys Calman Centre in the grounds of Gartnavel Hospital, Glasgow. They are from left- fundraising manager Emma Connor, digital communications assistant Annie Hyde, counsellor Debra Sinclair and

Cancer Support Scotland staff pictured at the charity’s Calman Centre in the grounds of Gartnavel Hospital, Glasgow. They are from left- fundraising manager Emma Connor, digital communications assistant Annie Hyde, counsellor Debra Sinclair and


Last year they provided more than 6,500 wellbeing appointments and continue to see an increase in demand for our services.

Now the charity is among those nominated by our readers for this year’s Cash for Charities initiative run by the charitable arm of The Herald’s parent company Gannett.

Through the Gannett Foundation project, Cancer Support Scotland could receive a share of £16,000 to help run its vital services. Nationally we are giving away a total of £128,000 to charities across the UK.

This month readers and supporters can collect tokens, which will appear daily in The Herald, for their favourite charity who will receive a percentage share of the funds after voting closes on November 20.


Cancer Support Scotland fundraising manager Emma Connor pictured in the garden at the charitys Calman Centre in the grounds of Gartnavel Hospital, Glasgow. Photograph by Colin Mearns.

Cancer Support Scotland fundraising manager Emma Connor pictured in the garden at the charity’s Calman Centre in the grounds of Gartnavel Hospital, Glasgow. Photograph by Colin Mearns.


Among the 10 nominated charities are Action Against Asbestos; Greenock Medical Aid Society; Sense Scotland Touchbase Ayrshire; Finding Your Feet and Fairway Fife.

Rob Murray, chief executive of Cancer Support Scotland, said: “As a charity we rely on the generosity of the public, we’re thrilled that The Herald and the Gannett Foundation have provided a platform for our supporters to help us win a share of these vital funds.

“We understand times are tough for everyone so the opportunity for supporters to help our cause simply through collecting our tokens is incredible and easy to do in a cost-effective way. It is also an amazing chance to share the story of Cancer Support Scotland to the readers, we want everyone to know if you, or your loved ones, are affected by cancer – we’re here for you.”

The charity offers wellbeing support to those affected by cancer throughout Scotland and Mr Murray said a donation will give a massive boost to their services and ensure help them reach more people.

He added: “Currently, the average cost of a wellbeing appointment is around £36, and as a charity we provide all our services free of charge which we understand is so important in

the current climate. We continue to ensure our services have no barriers and are available to anyone affected by cancer. Funds would go towards increasing the reach of our services to ensure no one faces cancer alone.”


David Johnstone and wife Sharon surrounded by their family

David Johnstone and wife Sharon surrounded by their family


The charity team including supporters, volunteers to service users were delighted to be chosen for Cash for Charities.

Mr Murray added: “Our supporters understand that the services provided by CSS are a lifeline for many people that are struggling with a cancer diagnosis. We have no doubt they will be on hand to help spread the news and ensure we can raise the funds needed to support even more people affected by cancer throughout Scotland.”

For Mr Johnstone,who is still undergoing treatment, he will never forget the help he was given by the charity as his diagnosis was all made even more difficult for the family after his father William, known as GG, died of Bile Duct cancer after only three weeks.

It was a huge shock after Mr Johnstone’s diagnosis and it had a huge effect on the entire family, especially their grandchildren.

“I felt like I was being crushed by the weight of holding everything in if it wasn’t for Natalie, I don’t know what I would have done.”

* To determine how the £16,000 is allocated, readers are invited to collect tokens which will appear in our newspapers every day or pop them into the charities special collection boxes in local supermarkets or newsagents.

You can then post your tokens to The Herald Readers’ Choice Cash for Charity Nominations, 125 Fullarton Drive, Glasgow G32 8FG.

Tokens must arrive by the closing date of Sunday, November 20.

Each token collected will then be used to allocate cash to the nominated charity – so if your favourite good cause collects 50% of all tokens collected, it will receive £8000.

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Issue of the day: Able-bodied Norwegian identifies as disabled woman

A TV interview with an able-bodied male-born finance worker who identifies as a woman who is paralysed from the waist down has sparked controversy in Norway.


What’s happening?

Jørund Viktoria Alme, 53, a senior credit analyst in Oslo, has no physical handicaps, but now identifies as a disabled woman. In an interview on ‘Good Morning Norway’ last week, the programme introduced Alme as someone who “uses a wheelchair even though her legs are completely healthy”, adding that the interview was conducted as the programme is “keen to create transparency around difficult topics”.


What was said?

Alme said it had been a life-long wish to have been born a woman paralysed from the waist down. Alme told the programme of experiencing “thoughts and reactions” from the age of five, triggered by certain situations such as when a fellow student arrived at school with a splint on his leg and crutches. “My reaction was one of intense interest,” Alme said. “My heart pounded, my pulse increased and I was activated in my body. I was incredibly focused on him and what this was all about…As I understand it in retrospect, it was a recognition of the situation and that it was I who should have been there.”



With partner Agnes for 31 years, and parents to two sons, five years ago, Alme began using a wheelchair, saying: “I had a very ‘aha’ experience when I got to sit in that chair. When my legs are allowed to rest completely, it stops the triggering of the BIID, so I get a lot of rest and can use my resources for other things.”



Alme says that as well as the ‘body integrity identify disorder’, five years ago also saw a moment of realisation that, the programme says, “she felt like a woman and had an intense desire to be paralysed from the waist down”. Alme said: “All this fell out gradually, and came one after the other. At the same time, there was so much shame and knots there…We have gone through this process together. Agnes has been fantastic.”


What does Agnes say?

She told GMN: “I have been, and perhaps still am, in an identity crisis. I suddenly don’t have a man anymore – I have a lady. And it wasn’t something I ever thought I’d get.”


What has the reaction been?

Asked if some people may think it “hair-raising that you, as an able-bodied woman, choose to sit in a wheelchair”, Alme said: “I hope that no one takes it badly that I use the wheelchair as an aid, because it helps me. I don’t use any resources. For example, I do not use handicap parking, because I have no use for it in my situation.”



Social media lit up following the interview, with one Norwegian 18-year-old, Emma Sofie Grimstad, taking to TikTok to say she was wheelchair bound with Guillain-Barré for two months earlier this year, adding: “I was partially paralysed and remember that I had no other choice but to sit in a wheelchair. I was mostly carried around the house by my father. here is a person with functional legs who chooses to sit in a wheelchair. But there are so many who don’t have that choice. I was in such a helpless situation.” Noomi Alexandersen, 23, who has cerebral palsy, told the programme the interview made her angry: “There was far too much positive focus on a person with functional legs who chooses to sit in a wheelchair.”

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‘Shocking’: Violent assaults on Scots NHS staff rise by over a third since before the pandemic

THE number of NHS workers on the receiving end of violent assaults at work has risen by over a third since before the pandemic.

Analysis of annual returns of NHS boards in Scotland has revealed that there were nearly 20,000 assaults on NHS staff in Scotland in the year to March 31, 2022.

It can be revealed that that it is around 5,000 more than in 2019 – before the Covid pandemic hit – a rise of around 34%.

The Royal College of Nursing in Scotland which represents health care said the rise was “shocking” and called for better protection.

Incidents reported range from aggravated assaults with intent to kill with a firearm or knife, sexual assaults, threats to kill and hate crimes involving targetting staff over race, religion, disability or sexual orientation.

It is believed that the soaring levels of violent assaults based on returns procured from health boards by the public services union Unison Scotland is down to a combination of “chronic” staff shortages, long waiting lists and improved reporting.

In October, last year NHS Glasgow and Clyde launched an investigation after nurses at one of Scotland’s most secure psychiatric hospitals said they are subjected to regular sexual assaults.

Whistleblowers said staff at the Rowanbank Clinic – situated within the grounds of Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow’s Springburn – had reached “crisis” point as stressed workers struggle to cope.

Returns showed there were 17,557 reported violent incidents in 13 of 14 analysed health boards. Estimates were made for the numbers for unreported figures for NHS Forth Valley figures which reported 1569 attacks in 2019.

Some 17,557 of the reported incidents took place in area health boards, with 4949 of the assaults reported by Scotland’s biggest health board Glasgow and Clyde – the highest figure of the 14 analysed.

NHS Tayside registered the second highest number of violent incidents with 2636, while NHS Fife recorded 1871 attacks and NHS Highland reported 1496.


Some 832 incidents were reported by special health boards including the Scottish Ambulance Service and NHS 24 in 2022.

Unison Scotland believes that there are still many incidents which remain hidden because they are unreported.

It has called on NHS boards to manage violence and aggression risks and implement control measures while increasing site security and ensuring attacks are reported to the police.

NHS Scotland currently employs approximately 160,000 staff Official figures show about 6,000 nursing and midwifery posts are unfilled in Scotland while A&E waiting time targets continue to be missed.

In June, the Herald revealed that ministers were breaching the law on safe staffing by allowing the enlisting of students to fill gaps in nursing cover in the NHS in Scotland.

The Royal College of Nursing uncovered “clear evidence” that students and support staff are being used to fill staffing gaps.

It says that the the ‘gap’ between the number of registered nurses required to run services and the number actually in post has been rising steadily since 2015 to a record high level of over 4,500 nurses.

Meanwhile some 7,000 people are waiting more than two years to start hospital treatment in Scotland at the end of last month.

Unison Scotland said the patient waiting and queuing times have to be cut along with a recognition from government that, while not an excuse, unreasonable waits promote unreasonable behaviour.

The union’s head of health, Matt McLaughlin said: “Clearly these figures are unacceptable – and a determination on the part of everyone involved in running the NHS to change this situation is needed urgently. We all need to understand the range of factors that contribute to this appalling level of violence against NHS staff.

“There are doubtless a number of reasons – but we are certain that the chronic staffing crisis is one of the causes, and tackling that crisis is part of the solution.

“There are 6500 – 7000 unfilled nursing vacancies, and we estimate that staff shortages across the NHS in Scotland are at 15,000. According to Public Health Scotland waiting lists are the longest on record Scotland’s accident and emergency waiting times are the highest on record. And while this not excuse for bad behaviour it is not unreasonable to suggest that this is a factor in these assaults.

“But increases in these figures can also be attributed to better recording of incidents. And that is a good thing. That’s why we are asking employers and government to do everything they can to investigate the reasons for this level of assaults. As we all agree is it should not be part of the job.”

Last year, staff from a Scottish health board  revealed the shocking abuse they’ve received from patients during the coronavirus pandemic in an emotional video.

Anything from slurs, swearing, racial abuse and threats of legal action have been aimed at NHS Lanarkshire staff by those getting treatment or receiving a vaccination. 


The 90-second video begins with a montage showing people clapping in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic when health staff were thanked for their work in the fight against coronavirus.

Then after the words “August 2021” appear on the screen, health board staff recount abuse they have received more recently.

The data is part of Unison’s Violence at Work survey, which it has carried out every year since 2006, except during the Covid outbreak years of 2020 and 2021.

Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland director, said: “This is a shocking increase in assaults on staff. Nursing teams were already under pressure due to staff shortages and increasing demands before the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all well aware of the extra pressure on staff during the pandemic and in its aftermath.

“They should not have to put up with verbal or physical assaults from those they are caring for or their families. One assault on a nurse or any other health care worker is one assault too many at any time, never mind now. The RCN would encourage any staff member who experiences any type of aggression or violence to report it.

“All health boards have a duty of care to protect their staff from attack. They are expected to have policies in place to deal with these distressing situations and must always listen to their staff. They should also make clear to patients and their families that that they have a zero tolerance approach to any harassment or violence and that they will report all incidents to the police and seek a conviction if appropriate.”

Health secretary Humza Yousaf, said: “Assaults on patients or staff are completely unacceptable, and everyone has the right to access healthcare, or their place of work, without the fear of verbal or physical abuse.

“The courts have extensive powers to deal robustly with assaults. All instances of violent behaviour, including sexual assaults should be reported and escalated to the Police as quickly as possible.”

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Letters: When is the SNP going to come clean over the EU and the euro?

WITH the arrogance that we have come to expect from SNP representatives and members, Deirdre Brock, SNP MP, tried to patronise Penny Mordaunt, Leader of the House of Commons: “She might not know that there are… seven countries…in the EU [that] still use their own choice of currency… so it is not quite the “gotcha” unionists thought it was” (“SNP’s Deidre Brock insists Scotland can join EU without joining euro”, heraldscotland, November 3).

In fact, what pro-Union people have said is that applicants to the EU must undertake to adopt the euro at some point in the future. The SNP now seems to accept that, in spite of Nicola Sturgeon having previously said that the euro was “not the right option for Scotland”. The question now is: would an independent Scotland undertake to join the EU without having the slightest intention of doing so? That would accord with the SNP’s loose relationship with truth.

Ms Brock mentioned Sweden and Croatia, in her SNP-approved list of those EU members who are not in the Eurozone. Croatia is due to join the Eurozone in a matter of weeks, on 1, January 2023. Sweden was already an EU member when the euro was introduced in 1999. As in Denmark, a referendum held in Sweden in 2003 rejected euro membership. The official SNP line is that “no country can be forced to join” the Eurozone. “The example of Sweden and others show that.” No, it doesn’t. The remaining six EU members outside the Eurozone are making progress towards joining. Sweden, as shown, cannot have euro membership held over it as a condition of admission to the EU.

I do wish the SNP would stop prevaricating. Fat chance of that.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.


THE Herald’s political sketch can generally be relied upon to give rise to a wry grin, sometimes a quiet chuckle and on rare occasions an undignified guffaw. However, Tom Gordon’s contribution this week (“FMQs sketch”, Breaking bad, heraldscotland, November 3) was no laughing matter.

His excoriating analysis of Nicola Sturgeon’s reaction, when presented with the appalling story of 81-year-old Catrina McFarlane’s agonising wait for an ambulance that never came, wiped the smile right off my face. This time it wasn’t funny. On the contrary, the First Minister’s riposte to the grim facts of an elderly lady’s desperate plight was contemptible. Instead of indicating what steps she might take to correct such deficiencies, Ms Sturgeon took refuge in a formulaic routine which focuses on denigrating other political parties before, of course, going on to claim that independence will solve all those faults and failings.

More than 200 years ago the French philosopher Joseph de Maistre wrote that every country has the government it deserves. If he was correct – and the phrase has withstood the test of some considerable time – then where did we go wrong?

Bob Scott, Drymen.


BOB Hamilton (Letters, November 4) points out that at elections (for example, the General Election in 2019), while the SNP won a majority of seats, it has not won the majority of votes required in an independence referendum. However, his comparison is apples and pears. A referendum poses a binary choice, while an election poses a choice between several parties. Drawing any sort of firm conclusion about a referendum from election votes is highly unreliable.

Moreover, Ruth Marr’s letter (November 3) was part of an exchange of views about referendum mandates in Scotland and at Westminster. Her observation about winning the majority of seats is germane, as these majorities are the currency of UK politics. If confirmation were required, in 2019 Boris Johnson won an 80-seat majority at Westminster, to “get Brexit done”, with 43.6% of the vote. For comparison, in 2019 the SNP won 45% of the vote and 47.7% (in the constituency section) in 2021.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

• THE letters from Ruth Marr and Gordon Evans (November 3) repeat the mantras that “things have changed since the independence referendum” and that “Scotland does not get the governments it votes for”.

This suggests that they respectively believe that Scotland voted in 2014 to stay in the UK in the expectation that nothing would ever change, and that people vote for the SNP in General Elections in the expectation that a party that only contests 59 seats can form a government in the House of Commons. Surely people voted in 2014 in the knowledge that things will inevitably change (indeed, we all voted in the knowledge that a Brexit referendum was possible – it was in the Scottish Government’s White Paper). And in General Elections, we know that to get your choice of UK government you have to vote for a party that contests all of the UK mainland seats.

The likes of Ms Marr and Mr Evans obviously think that Scottish voters are that stupid. I am pleased to say that I cannot agree with them.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow.


AS a coalition of organisations that supports children and young people, many of whom have mental health problems, we share the concerns of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland relating to proposed cuts of £38 million to planned mental health spending (“Swinney warns NHS staff he has nothing more to offer to fund a bigger pay rise”, The Herald, November 4).

It should be noted that we were already experiencing a mental health emergency in Scotland, even before Covid-19 and the cost of living crisis took hold. These have worsened an already devastating situation for many children and young people, resulting in a perfect storm of challenges.

It therefore beggars belief that, in the face of a mental health tsunami, the Scottish Government is set to cut the mental health budget. Combined with this, an already tight budget will have to stretch even further to keep pace with soaring inflation.

With the resultant personal cost to those concerned and their families, as well to the economy overall, we need to invest more, not less, in our mental health services. The situation we are currently in could potentially lead to a lost generation of vulnerable children and young people who are missing out on the support they vitally need.

To address this, we must ensure our mental health services are protected and would urge the Scottish Government to reconsider these cuts and commit to increase investment, ensuring that our children and young people receive the high-quality care they need, when they need it.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition: Kenny Graham, Falkland House School; Lynn Bell, LOVE Learning; Stephen McGhee, Spark of Genius; Niall Kelly, Young Foundations, Edinburgh.


I NOTE with interest your report on the botched Dargavel Primary in Bishopton (“Stooshie in staff room as school bosses bungle building”, The Herald, November 4). I write as a long-term resident of Bishopton who has been involved with the development of the old ROF site since its inception in the early 2000s.

The local community council has expressed concern to successive Renfrewshire administrations over the provision of education, health, and leisure facilities due to the massive increase in population due to this development. In a letter to the then Education Director in 2013 the community council questioned the formula they used to determine the school provision to no avail; they consistently insisted that there would only be one child per seven houses.

In 2012 there was a Section 75 agreement between Renfrewshire Council and the developer BAe Systems. In it the people of Bishopton were promised a new school, a new health centre, library, community facilities, floodlit playing fields with pavilions, play parks, and many other “benefits” including 4,000 jobs, as a “sustainable” community.

To date we have seen a new school which is woefully inadequate, the promise of a “satellite” health centre sometime in the future, park and ride car parks, one of which remains unsurfaced, and some small play areas throughout the development. The commercial land which was to provide the 4,000 jobs is now all housing, which has gone from an initial plan for 2,300 houses to more than 4,200.

The residents and newcomers to Bishopton have seen all the grand promises made to gain planning consent whittled away over the years until there is hardly anything left.

The school situation is but the tip of the iceberg.

John Mackintosh, Bishopton.


I NOTE Kevin McKenna’s article concerning Dunoon Grammar, which has been rated the Best School in the World (“The school that kids don’t mind attending”, The Herald, November 4). Dunoon, of course, has a link to Robert Burns in that it has a memorial celebrating the life of Highland Mary, with whom Burns had a relationship. Mary came from the nearby village of Auchnamore. The closeness of that relationship is suggested by the words of Burns in the song Highland Mary:

“But oh! fell Death’s untimely frost,

That nipt my Flower sae early!

Now green’s the sod, and cauld’s the clay

That wraps my Highland Mary!”

One is tempted to wonder what Burns would have made of this “very special place” in Dunoon in attracting such a prestigious award. The words from The Cotter’s Saturday Night seem fitting:

“From scenes like these, old Scotia’s grandeur springs,

That makes her lov’d at home , rever’d abroad”.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.

Sir Rod Stewart has an interesting Highland clan ancestry Picture: Press Association

Sir Rod Stewart has an interesting Highland clan ancestry Picture: Press Association


ROD Stewart presumably has an affinity for Scotland because of his Stewart name (“Englishman Rod Stewart to be honoured in Scottish Music Awards”, heraldscotland, November 3). Apparently, it was originally something like Steward in the Lowlands but a Highland clan was established in the Appin (An Apainn) area of Argyll (Earra-Ghàidheal) called Na Stiùbhartaich (the Stewarts).

Rod, and his sons, should not neglect their Highland clan ancestry. Alexander Stewart of Invernahyle was a client of Sir Walter Scott’s father, and his frequent guest in Edinburgh when Scott was a boy. It was from this old Highland warrior that Sir Walter got his earliest lessons in storytelling. His “tales”, Sir Walter relates, “were the absolute delight of my childhood. I believe there never was a man who united the ardour of a soldier and tale-teller – a man of ‘talk’, as they call it in Gaelic – in such an excellent degree, and he was as fond of telling as I was of learning; I became a valiant Jacobite at the age of ten years” (Wikipedia).

Rod should consider learning to sing a Scots Gaelic song suitable for his voice.

Ewan Macintyre, Inverness.


I AM cheered by research which shows that swearing has favourable physiological, cognitive and emotional benefits; and, I guess as many of us know already, even pain-relieving effect (“Issue of the day: The power of swearing”, The Herald, November 4 ).

I admit that most of my expletives and maledictions are quietly under my breath. But, what the hell, it still works.

R Russell Smith, Largs.

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