NHS Scotland ambulance staff could strike, union warns



Scottish ambulance workers could be next to strike, as industrial action is announced for later this month.

The Scottish Ambulance Service will engage in action short of a strike on November 25, meaning union members will work to their contracted hours and there will be a ban on overtime.

In practical terms this means Unite members working strictly to contractual terms in respect of working hours, shift start and finish times, and the taking of scheduled breaks.

Those taking the action include advanced practitioners, paramedics, planners, administrative, clerical, real time analysts, and business intelligence.

And Unite has announced it is “actively considering” co-ordinated strike action in line with other NHS trade unions if health secretary Humza Yousaf and the Scottish Government do not return with an improved offer.

Jamie McNamee, Unite Scottish Ambulance Service convenor said: “Unite’s objective in taking this first step of action short of strike is to highlight patient and staff safety along with the ongoing concerns we have over the poor quality of care due to years of underinvestment and cuts.”

The offer currently on the table is insufficient and unacceptable. In real terms it represents a significant pay cut.

“The present situation is directly contributing to the NHS losing senior staff due to being overworked and poorly paid. Our NHS workers deserve better from the Scottish Government and now they have a final opportunity to make a fair pay offer before this pay dispute dramatically escalates.”

Sharon Graham Unite general secretary, said: “Unite is determined to encourage the Scottish Government to return to the negotiating table.

“The action short of strike we have announced is designed to prevent all out strike action but make no mistake about this, if there is no new improved offer then this is exactly what will happen and the Scottish Government will be to blame.

“We will always stand up for our brave NHS workers and fight for better jobs, terms and conditions.”





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SNP and Tories must quit blame game and work together on NHS crisis



They say there’s only two things in life which are inevitable: death and taxes. Well, add a third to the list. When there’s a problem which they’re both to blame for, it’s a racing cert that the SNP and Tories will blame each other.

So, sure as sunrise, here they go – passing the buck over who’s responsible for the catastrophe that’s engulfing the Scottish NHS and killing people. The only assured outcome of their mutual blame game is that the crisis will deepen. The two parties will be so immersed in pointing fingers at each other that solutions will come second. So who suffers? Well, we suffer. The voters, the patients, the taxpayers.

The electorate isn’t stupid. We can see that both Edinburgh and London carry blame. The Tory government in London clearly holds the purse strings. It crashed the economy. It’s the ‘daddy’, right. So it has to shoulder the largest share of blame. But Edinburgh can’t just abnegate responsibility. The SNP government runs the health service up here. It’s not good enough to just blame England. The SNP government has financial powers around taxation which it could, but doesn’t, use. Nicola Sturgeon’s government is pretty disastrous when it comes to financial decisions which might benefit Scotland. As witness for the prosecution: step forward the ScotWind deal which sold off the nation’s seabed for a mess of potage.

But neither government will act like an adult and accept its own share of the blame, because to do so would hand a weapon to their opponents. It’s clear that as we enter a winter of strikes and financial horror, that the SNP is banking on blaming London as its get out of jail free card. Humza Yousaf, the Scottish health secretary, was straight out of the gates blaming the UK government for the the state of the NHS as nurses voted to strike. In response, the Scottish Tories covered London’s behind, pointing the finger at the SNP, blaming Yousaf and his government for the nurses’ strike.

Subscribe to our Unspun newsletter to read the rest of this article from Neil Mackay. Featuring the best political insight and analysis from our writers, Unspun is delievered straight to you, every evening Monday to Friday.





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We need a new economic thinking that works for people and planet



AT the bottom corner of my computer screen a little box flashes up occasionally informing me on whether the FTSE stock market index is rising or falling.

Political commentators debate endlessly how we can get the economy to grow faster. Yet, it is only rarely that we are exposed to a more fundamental question: what is the economy actually for?

At the end of November the University of Glasgow will host the Wealth of Nations 2.0 conference, organised by the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) and Carnegie UK. This conference is an opportunity to ask that fundamental question, and to hear from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the other nations which are affiliated to the Wellbeing Economy Governments group.

For decades the accepted wisdom has been that there is no alternative to the current economic design. Other models are said to have failed. Deregulation, privatisation, market solutions and low taxes are all argued to be essential to maintain economic growth and make us all richer, with wealth “trickling down”.

But we know this is not working. Poverty is rising. Average life expectancy has stopped improving and is getting worse in our most deprived communities. Democracy is under threat from digitally-induced polarisation and misinformation. Global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise inexorably and our planet is now set to breach numerous tipping points which pose existential threats. We face so many concurrent threats that commentators have argued that we now face an unprecedented “polycrisis” – where multiple interacting global crises produce greater harms to the planet and humanity than those crises would produce in isolation.

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance has argued that the current economic design is at the root cause of this polycrisis, and with good reason. Wealth ownership has become increasingly concentrated, creating vastly unequal power relationships and incomes. The environment and nature have been exploited and used as a dumping ground for waste, as these impacts are external to current economic models, and the regulations and enforcement processes in place have been too weak to be effective.

Where countries have reduced their environmental impacts, much of this has been achieved by shifting production abroad to other countries so that this does not appear on local accounts, or has led to “rebound effects” whereby savings simply generate consumption in other areas.

In the face of all these challenges, there is a rising tide of new economic thinking. Wellbeing economy is a broad term which describes the achievement of “social justice on a healthy planet”. “Just transition” describes how we can move from a high-carbon economy to a low-carbon economy whilst protecting the livelihoods of workers and people negatively impacted. “Community wealth building” is an approach to economic development which seeks to increase democratic control over the economy and retain wealth locally. Ideas of “degrowth” describe how a managed decline in economic activity and consumption are both desirable and necessary to sufficiently address the polycrisis.

Scotland is pioneering this new economic thinking that works for people and planet, with pioneering businesses, community groups and civic society working to support a transition towards a Wellbeing Economy. The Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) has a wellbeing economy as its overall aim and increased public ownership of sections of the economy is in progress. Many local councils and regional structures are implementing community wealth building. Scotland has world-class examples of workers’ co-operatives (such as Green City Wholefoods, a wholesaler of ethically-sourced food and drink based in Glasgow’s East End), democratising sections of the economy.

However, we are simultaneously facing in two directions. Our public sector is on its knees after more than a decade of UK Government-induced austerity, and a further period of austerity now looks likely. Despite the focus on wellbeing within the Scottish Government’s strategy, economic growth is still prioritised, and with that road building, air travel, space ports, high consumption, retention of regressive taxes such as council tax, and maintenance of the vast inequalities of economic ownership. Most economic activity still fits within the dominant economic paradigm, exacerbating inequalities and externalising environmental and human costs.

The Wealth of Nations 2.0 conference is an opportunity for Scotland to redouble its efforts to change. Redesigning the economy to serve the needs of people and planet, and to value what actually matters, is an urgent task but one which could garner popular support. To successfully make this transition we need a deep deliberative conversation about the society we want and the economy that can support this. This will need to challenge current power imbalances and build on the democratic innovations now available. In contrast to the economic orthodoxy, there is no alternative if we want a healthy planet for our children and grandchildren to live on.

Gerry McCartney is Professor of Wellbeing Economy, University of Glasgow





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A Covid public inquiry is essential for all of us


ADAM Tomkins explains the tragic transfer of Covid-19 cases from hospitals to care homes was due to he and other parliamentarians, which includes ministers, “simply not knowing enough about the nature of the virus” (“Covid inquiry is a waste of time and money, so scrap it”, The Herald, November 9).

I am astonished, because I (an ordinary citizen) knew that while China had questions to answer, it did two things early in 2020: it gave the international science community the genome of the virus, and it stated that young people had mild symptoms, with some not even knowing they had it, but that those over aged 70 were in danger. When my first wife, with Covid-19, was transferred from hospital to a care home I told my daughter I could not believe it, as the Chinese had clearly identified the danger to that age group.

Professor Tomkins describes the hospital-to-care-homes decision as “not the sort of error which can usefully be investigated by … a public inquiry”. Tell that to those who lost their parents, grannies and grandpas. I think they would agree, as should the rest of the community, that a public inquiry is essential, not only for this particular part of the matter, but for the loss of civil liberties, and the trashing of the economy which took place.
Jim Sillars, Edinburgh

Net zero target must change

A HUGE thank you to William Loneskie (Letters, November 10) and his analysis of our power station decisions leading to our current worries (and costs). I worked in manufacturing my whole career and witnessed the many decisions to move production overseas to reduce costs.

The UK economy, once based on added value in product, moved away towards added value in knowledge-based systems. We continue this trend. Who knew about LDI (liability-driven investments) that nearly broke the final salary scheme pension funds? Indeed, how much brain power is sunk into tax avoidance?

I hear much about entrepreneurs. I seldom hear they drive to make a product in the UK. Thus, Theresa May’s legacy net zero target for the UK must change to include at least an attempt to evaluate carbon from imports – where does our steel, our carpet, our cars come from?

I understand coal burning was harmful. However, our demands, steel, carpets, cars and more drive current coal burning in China and India. Education has failed to teach us this; or have our leaders simply decided we should forget the consequences of our demands?
David Hamilton, Largs

The problem of surplus energy

I AM writing to counter some of the claims in your double-page spread (Pages 6 & 7, The Herald, November 10) on wind energy.

A bar chart claims that Scotland’s homes will be powered five times over by existing and planned wind farms. About half of that electricity would be surplus as homes only use approximately 40% of electricity. What will happen with this surplus energy? Exporting is not a solution, as when one country has good wind speeds the neighbours usually have good wind speeds at the same time.

And there’s the claim that Scotland could start a sovereign wealth fund from wind power and see lower bills. Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland shows that renewable subsidies are costing Scotland £747 million per year and rising, or £300 per household. And that’s just the pre-2017 schemes. The cost of post-2017 schemes will likely be far higher, as generating capacity has been rising almost exponentially since 2003.
Geoff Moore, Alness

• YESTERDAY we reported that Scotland has 25% per cent of Europe’s offshore wind potential, a figure supplied by the Scottish Government. This figure is disputed by opposition parties.

Sketch is a top draw

IN these trying times, it has long been my practice to turn first to Steven Camley’s cartoons and the excellent photos in the centre pages. Jacki Gordon and George Crawford are particular favourites of mine.

This helps me gird my loins before, potentially, going in to battle with other correspondents in the Letters Pages. Recently, I have added Rab McNeil’s witty sketches from Westminster to the first two items. Rab certainly manages to capture the farcical proceedings that go on in the House of Commons.
Gordon Evans, Glasgow

Sound and fury

I AM becoming increasingly frustrated by the incomprehensible sounds emanating from both TV and radio. There has recently been quite a debate about posh/local accents defining “class”. I enjoy the various accents and dialects we find on both media. That is not the problem.

There is nothing wrong with my hearing. It’s my listening comprehension which is failing. Certainly Covid and too many telephone inputs which lack clarity and quality are partly to blame. But we seem to have lost the art of articulation. Many broadcasters, and I include Radio 4’s Today, gabble and rush through their reports, such as in reading the newspapers.

Drama on TV is even worse. I have had to resort to subtitles. As for the huge number of drama scenes which seem to take place in dusk or dark … enough said.

Back to the radio: my lovely late Mum was a gold medallist for elocution at the Athenaeum (pre-Royal Conservatoire), about 100 years ago. She would have been dismayed at the falling standards of speech from broadcasters and actors.
Lesley Mackiggan, Glasgow

Squeaky clean and dry

I AM lucky to have a pulley (Letters, November 9 & 10). It was in the house when I moved in 30 years ago and, after hearing about the difficulties some readers are having when drying clothes, I’m very glad I didn’t dispose of it then.

Most clothes are dry overnight but occasionally some things like T-shirts can be dry by lunchtime. It’s amazing the amount of heat near a ceiling.

Ian McCallum has reminded me that when I was a child I regularly heard that squeak… and still do today.
Helen Lane, Bearsden

Sodger on parade

I NOTE the recent correspondence concerning poetry (“Letters, November 8, 9 & 10). Aren’t we edging towards street songs?

In which case, to the tune of “My old man’s a dustman”, one of my favourite Glasgow ones is:

My wee man’s a sodger

He bides in Maryhill

He gets peyd on Settirday

An buys a hauf a gill.

He goes ti kirk on Sunday

A hauf an oor too late

He teers the buttons aff his shirt

An pits them in the plate.
Gordon Casely, Crathes


HeraldScotland:

Letters should not exceed 500 words. We reserve the right to edit submissions.






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Covid health minister Jeane Freeman: ‘Tory behaviour was sickening’



ONE morning in early April 2020, as Covid-19 began to extend its icy fingers, Jeane Freeman, Scotland’s Health Secretary, momentarily felt overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge which faced her.

“It was during my drive through from Glasgow to St Andrews House at a time when our capital city would normally be buzzing with commuters and workers,” she said. “But that morning it was completely closed. And I remember thinking: ‘Oh my God, I hope we’re right’.” It was quickly followed by another thought: “Who the hell did I think I was? Why should they listen to me?”

For the first time since leaving government last year, the woman who, along with Nicola Sturgeon, helped plot Scotland’s recovery route through the darkest days of the pandemic, reflects on the two years which changed the face of the country and defined her entire career.

In the three months or so before the public had begun to realise that what faced them was unprecedented in its scale and nature the Scottish Government was already working towards an emergency plan. “The numbers we were being given across the UK of those likely to be infected; the percentage who would end up in ICU; the percentage of those who would die were huge. And that’s when we kind of knew a lockdown would be inevitable.

“Then it became a matter of managing it and, crucially, of gaining the trust of the population. How could you expect people to trust you if you didn’t appear to have grasped the numbers and done your homework? People were trusting us with their lives and we were asking them to limit their personal freedoms to an unprecedented extent.”

More than two years later her contempt and anger about the conduct of the Downing Street operation throughout this period still burns. It had become obvious that there was a different mind-set at work within the UK Government as a mafia-like, get-rich-quick scheme was shown to be operating among UK ministers and their friends under the gaze of Boris Johnson. Not to mention the year-long, Downing Street Covid bacchanal. Was there a sense of betrayal in the Scottish Government Covid taskforce?

“I had two thoughts when Downing Street’s PPE shenanigans became evident: thank f*** we didn’t need to rely on them for PPE because we’ve got our own procurement systems in place and they were good and they worked. Especially when it came to creating new distribution routes and networks. So thank God. And, by the way, we gave the UK Government some of our PPE supplies.

“The second thought was: ‘Dear God! There are some Tories who will always be Tories, eh? That in the midst of a vast human tragedy and all the heartache and suffering and sense of national crisis that these people would still find a way to make a buck. It was absolutely sickening.

“We had many English people coming forward to tell us that they were tuning in to the Holyrood Covid briefings simply because they trusted them more as a means of information about what was happening in the whole of the UK.

NOTHING in a long and successful career as a serious operator at the heart of Government and Scottish public affairs could have prepared her for these days. A perverse kind of musical chairs at the top of government had left her occupying the doomsday seat as the biggest public health crisis since World War Two began to menace Scotland.

“But I had no time to reflect on how this was affecting me and those around me,” she said. “And besides, whatever I was encountering was as nothing compared to those on the front line of our health service who were, quite literally, working around the clock and risking their own health and that of their families to get us all through the pandemic.”

The ongoing public inquiry into the Scottish and UK Governments’ response to the pandemic prevents Freeman from discussing certain aspects of it but she is remarkably candid about other areas.

In 2015 she had decided to run for elected office as an MSP to represent her home constituency of Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley. “I loved campaigning and canvassing,” she tells me. “I had only wanted to serve the area in which I grew up, just to see if I could make a positive difference. At the age of 63 this wasn’t in any way a career move.”

Within a week she had been made Minister for Social Security. Three years later she’d been promoted to the Health brief, a vast and sprawling area of responsibility that alone eats up a third of Scotland’s entire national budget.

One senior executive, now a member of one of Scotland’s largest health boards, recalls Freeman’s tenure with a mixture of respect and outright admiration. “Very quickly it became obvious to me and my colleagues that this was a woman who knew what she was doing.

“She was rigorous and utterly professional in everything she did. In so many ways it’s an almost impossible job and she didn’t always get it right. But she had a big brain and was willing to listen and sought always to be on top of her brief.”

So what was life like inside the little executive cockpit driving the Scottish Government’s response to Covid? There were a handful of them, led by the First Minister and including Freeman, the National Clinical Director Jason Leitch and other senior Health Directors. They all became household names as their daily afternoon briefings became lifelines for a scared population.

The Health Secretary’s day would start at 6.30am and end at around 9pm. “On the morning drive to Edinburgh I’m reading anything that’s come in overnight and any new research that’s been published.

“You’re getting read-outs from the four Chief Medical Officers’ meetings and I’m also getting every single day the updated position on every single item of PPE: how much have we got; how much is on order; are there any worries about the order. We were creating new routes to distribute it; to make sure that social care had PPE; the private; pharmacists, dentists so that they could continue to deliver a service.

“And you’re also picking up on anything that might be happening elsewhere in the UK. So, I might be talking to my counterpart in Northern Ireland or Wales or Hancock in Downing Street.

“At mid-morning there would be a meeting in advance of the media briefing consisting of me and the FM and the Chief Medical Officer, maybe Jason if he’s on that day and a small number of others. Public Health Scotland are obviously there too. And at that point you’re looking at confirmed statistics. Is there any dubiety around them? Public Health Scotland involved too. Then you do the media briefing and then afterwards you’re following up on everything else. You might be taking to health board chief execs, health board chairs.”

She is full of admiration for the way that Nicola Sturgeon conducted herself throughout the health crisis. Scotland’s First Minister has a reputation for circumspection to the point of secrecy in her dealings with close colleagues. Freeman, though, feels that this perception is mistaken – and the First Minister is actually treating them with respect and letting them get on with the job. “It’s a mature and considered approach,” she says.

“I think her view is: ‘I’ve just made you a Government Minister because I believe you can do the job. I’m no’ your mammy; I’m no’ gonnae do the job for you. I’ve got my own job; so could you just get on with it. You’ve got political advisers who are good; you’ve got colleagues and I’m always here’. I much prefer that approach.

“One thing that Nicola said at the start still resonates with me. ‘We’re all learning as we go. But I’m going to treat the public as adults. I’m going to tell them what I know; I’m going to tell them what I don’t know and I’m going to tell them why we decided to do what we did. And that was the standard we set and tried to stick to throughout it all.

“What I didn’t appreciate until maybe a year ago was how much this all meant to people. And how many had built their days around those briefings. Especially the tens of thousands who were being forced to shield owing to complicated patterns of illness.”

TOMORROW: The ordinary people who reached out to us and cared for us. The amateur blogger who became our go-to fact checker. And how Anthony Fauci is helping us prepare for future shocks.





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AstraZeneca back in black despite fading sales of Covid vaccine



Drug giant AstraZeneca reported rising revenues and a return to profitability during the third quarter despite falling sales of its Covid-19 vaccine around the world.

The company has now abandoned plans to seek US regulatory approval for Vaxzevria, which it developed in conjunction with Oxford University, and will instead focus efforts elsewhere. The vaccine was one of the first Covid jabs to be developed and was quickly approved for use in the UK, Europe and other parts of the world, but not in the US where regulators wanted more data.

During the three months to the end of September, sales of Vaxzevria fell to $173 million (£152m) from $1.05 billion in the same period a year earlier.

READ MORE: Why the US has not approved the AstraZeneca-Oxford Covid vaccine for use and is sending it abroad

“As the primary vaccination needs of the US are being met already, AstraZeneca has decided that it will not submit a biologics licence application for Vaxzevria in the US,” the group said. “The company will continue to focus its efforts on ensuring availability of Vaxzevria elsewhere around the world, including submissions for its use as a booster.”

Despite fading sales of its Covid vaccine, AstraZeneca posted a 19 per cent increase in quarterly revenues to $11bn amid robust growth from other higher-value medicines such as Farxiga for diabetes and cancer treatment Tagrisso. Pre-tax profits surged to $922m from a loss of $2bn a year earlier when the group was selling Vaxzevria at cost.

The result was better than analysts had expected, leading AstraZeneca to raise its earnings outlook for the full year. The group’s shares finished yesterday’s trading 312p higher at 11,158p, an increase of nearly 3%.

READ MORE: Scottish Covid deaths fall in latest weekly figures

“What’s really exciting is its continuing high hit rate in terms of R&D success,” said Derren Nathan, head of equity research at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“Nineteen major regulatory approvals since the last update help to underpin the outlook for sustainable long-term growth, and there is likely to be more to come with 18 Phase III read-outs expected in 2023.”

The results included a $1.7bn contribution to sales of medicines acquired with US-based Alexion, a $39bn buy-out that closed in July.

Last month the group announced that it will take over another smaller US rival, LogicBio, in a $68m deal. LogicBio is developing gene editing therapies to treat rare pediatric diseases.





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City of love hopes for blackjack boom

THEY are features of cities around the world and in some hotspots can be key tourism draws, but it can be a surprise to learn that there are no casinos in Paris. Now plans are afoot to introduce blackjack to the French capital to boost visitors.

Why are there no casinos?

Casino gambling has historically been outlawed in the city of love and light, dating back through the centuries. Napoleon himself – although a fan of blackjack and a gamble himself – ordered gaming establishments to be located far from cities, for reasons of morality, to help protect the destitute from temptation.

And so?

Early decrees banished casinos to coastal resorts and spa towns, favoured by the wealthy. In 1920, the French government legislated officially that no casinos could be formed within 100km of Paris.

Interest remained, though?

Paris institution Club Pierre Charron notes that after the Second World War, gaming picked up in popularity once more and at the end of the 1900s, there were a good fifteen gaming ‘circles’ in Paris, where fans could participate in traditional table games and games against the bank, but casino games based on pure chance, such as blackjack, roulette and slot machines, remained prohibited.

And so?

Card fans though the years have enjoyed playing the likes of ‘Baccarat Chemin de Fer’ – the game James Bond plays in the movies Dr No, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and GoldenEye, where players bet against each other, not the house. But in gaming ‘circles’ rather than at casinos.

What about blackjack?

The origin of blackjack is still debated, although the most popular notion is that it originated in French casinos around 1700 due to its reference in the novel Don Quixote. Then, the game was referred to as ‘Vingt-et-un’ – which translates to 21 in French. But blackjack has been banned in Paris due to the regulations.

Now?

It looks set to be played in the city as the government, led by President Emmanuel Macron, endeavours to draw in wealthy tourists and capitalise on a casino tourism, the likes of which sees more than 32 million people a year visit Las Vegas.

The lack of blackjack has been an issue?

Although gambling has been severely legally curtailed, criminals have used this to their advantage over the years as it went underground, but five years ago, a number of gaming clubs were allowed to open in Paris, offering 12 games including three card poker and stud poker – but not blackjack, slot machines or roulette. Their absence, Le Parisien reports, has proved a setback with tourists keen to play what they know. A source told The Times that “when foreigners turn up and say they want to play, you have to say you have got games that resemble blackjack, but aren to blackjack, and they go away again”.

Now?

Blackjack is one of a number of new so called ‘matching’ games to debut at the gaming clubs, according to a decree published on Tuesday in Paris. The gaming industry hope legislation of blackjack will encourage more wealthy tourists to visit and they are also campaigning to introduce roulette to the clubs in time for the Paris 2024 Olympics. Le Parisien says it is “good news for players in the sector”.

We must back the nurses. They are striking to save lives


NURSES and midwives are the absolute backbone of our society.

I am currently witnessing the value of their work every day, as my father is seriously ill in hospital, and has been literally kept alive by the nurses at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, despite their being perpetually understaffed. Myself, my father and the rest of our family all stand in solidarity with their decision to strike (“‘Catastrophe’ as nurses vote to strike before Christmas”, The Herald, November 10).

Their work is highly demanding, both physically and emotionally, and requires great skill across a wide spectrum of abilities. These people are not, however, heroes – they are humans, who out of a sense of duty and compassion, continue to perform heroic acts, to the detriment of their physical and emotional health, receiving pay that is completely incommensurate to their contribution to society, and to the responsibility that rests upon their shoulders.

Two of my close personal friends have recently qualified into the profession. Due to the numbers of nurses and midwives leaving the workforce, one of them is regularly the most senior member of their team, despite only having been qualified for two years, often having to juggle multiple, simultaneous emergencies with only one other qualified staff member to hand. They are planning to relocate to another country, where circumstances aren’t so dire.

My other friend has already left the profession after one year, despite his team being desperate to retain him, as he felt so overstretched that he spent all of his time off worrying that he might have been rushed into an error that might have caused someone harm (though he never had). He is now a gardener.

Speaking to staff on my dad’s ward, they have said that wards are at breaking point, with Monday to Friday shifts being particularly hard to cover – weekend shifts are paid slightly better, making them more appealing to bank staff, leaving wards at their bare bones throughout the week. This often means that staff members are unable to take any breaks at all, during gruelling 12-hour shifts. As one nurse told me, “even machines need a break”.

The NHS is not a broken system. It is simply chronically underfunded, and consequently understaffed. The solution is incredibly straightforward – nurses and midwives need to be paid enough to retain its current staff, and to make the job attractive to new recruits. With the current maelstrom of crises encircling the country, both financial and societal, we cannot run the risk of letting healthcare continue to be a profession that takes so much more than it gives.

Before the pandemic, it was feared that the UK would need up to 150,000 more nurses over the coming decade. With the Government already falling far short of this target, it is a grim irony that this is the precise number of days that the NHS loses annually to mental-health related sick days amongst nurses and midwives.

Nurses are not simply striking because they want more money. They are striking for the ability to continue to carry out their work. They are striking to save the NHS. They are striking to save lives.
Rob MacNeacail, Carlops, Scottish Borders

Double standards on NHS recruiting

YOU reported this week that Nicola Sturgeon has committed £5 million for “reparations” to poorer nations affected by climate change (“Sturgeon promises £5m to nations hit by climate chaos”, The Herald, November 8).

There has been much debate about this, with accusations of attention-seeking, virtue-signalling, and concerns about using borrowed money to send to other countries.

If she is this keen to avoid, or compensate, for harm to other countries, why did the SNP announce in October that it would spend up to £8 million to recruit 750 nurses, midwives and other healthcare workers from overseas? Surely, from Ms Sturgeon’s vantage point on the moral high ground, it should be obvious that this is harmful to the countries of origin. John Swinney attempted to defend this position when substituting for Ms Sturgeon during First Minister’s Questions today (November 10). He said that they would not recruit from the World Health Organisation’s “Red List” of very poorest countries from whom medical personnel should not be poached.

Trained medical workers are unlikely to come to Scotland from well-off countries with equal or better pay and living standards than ours. They are more likely to come from poorer countries that have spent invested money on training and development for the benefit of their own people. Will we be compensating them as well?
Mark Openshaw, Aberdeen

Why people vote Labour

BRIAN Harvey (Letters, November 10) asks why people vote Labour. Let me answer his question by pointing out that the Labour Party’s Green Industrial Revolution proposes a number of concrete radical changes to our current economic, social and political models.

The Conservative Party has not shown any sign of even recognising the need for such a ground-breaking project, the purpose of which is to deal, in an imaginative way, with the consequences of the fundamental flaws, such as inequality, in our current systems. Neither have the nationalists, who cannot see beyond independence after which “everything will be all right” notwithstanding all the unanswered questions which I need not enumerate.

The potential consequences for the marginalised and vulnerable of the inevitable financial turmoil following independence are of no interest to the SNP.
John Milne, Uddingston

Shouldn’t we scrap Westminster?

STERLING was trading at $1.40 in January 2018 but recently touched an all-time nadir of $1.03. Kwasi Kwarteng’s Budget left a £40 billion black hole in the UK finances and JP Morgan estimates it cost pension funds between $65 and £75 billion.

Christopher H Jones (Letters, November 10) suggests that by not having MSPs we could save “a staggering £17.288 million” and says “for the sake of financial expediency at this time of economic crisis why don’t we scrap Holyrood?”

May I suggest he has the right idea but the wrong numbers and most certainly the wrong address?
Alan Carmichael, Glasgow

Spain trip an eye-opener

I SPENT a week in Spain recently, on the Costa Blanca. The area is geared up for tourists, and the weather was sunny and hot, with sea-bathing and sun-soaking everyday. This is the sort of contrast that is expected against November wind and rain in Scotland. What was unexpected was the efficiency of their huge hotels, undaunted by lack of water, and under-staffed but providing a decent service. Sensors switch on lights when necessary. Solar power is evident on houses and in fields. Their railways are run on regenerating electricity. And the supermarkets are stocked with locally-sourced fresh fruit and vegetables, meat of every description, and full shelves of staple products.

The real contrast was the cost. Inflation reigns everywhere, but a supermarket shop is much cheaper in Spain than Scotland. For the price of coffee and cake in Scotland, you can buy a healthy three-course meal in Spain. I feel that Brexit has cost us dearly, and the solution of spending more time abroad in Europe has been cut to 90 days. Our UK Government has managed the deepest cut of all, that of slicing the nose off the face of our country.
Frances Scott, Edinburgh

Problems with Gaelic

THE lack of Gaelic teachers (“‘Isle of Skye should be home to Scotland’s first Gaelic university’”, The Herald, November 10) is indeed very worrying. Bad enough that people won’t be able to determine whether it’s a police or ambulance vehicle, but how on earth will train commuters know when they’ve reached their station?
Gordon Whyte, Glasgow

Keep the heid …

NIGEL Dewar Gibb (Letters, November 10) suggests that had the Gavin Williamson comment of “slit your throat” been used in the Scottish Parliament, it would have changed to “awa and bile yer heid”. I’m afraid your correspondent is getting ahead of himself.

Slitting the throat is simply a precursor to the boiling, given it is supremely difficult to find a suitable receptacle in which to “bile one’s heid” while the body remains attached. “Aff wi’ yer heid” might be deemed a suitable alternative for use in Holyrood, subject to approval of the Presiding Officer.
Alan M Morris, Blanefield


Read more letters: Has Alister Jack no shame whatsoever?


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