Drew Allan: Let’s talk about … anything you like

THERE has been a lot to talk about in the past year, and I am grateful that you have taken the time and effort to discuss it with us. As ever, The Herald has been proud to host Scotland’s foremost forum for debate. Our Letters Pages publish, by my reckoning, around 13,300 of your words every week. That makes 691,600 over the course of a year; that’s a lot of collective steam that has been released, appropriately enough in the year of Glasgow’s COP26.

It has been a year that not all of us will remember fondly, given that Covid-19 has again dominated most of our thoughts. We began January with the start of the vaccine rollout; we end it debating Omicron, the booster programme, anti-vaxxers, mask-wearing and more restrictions.

Our political leaders have of course featured strongly in your letters. Boris Johnson got married in May and had a baby in December, yet by the end of the year those may not even be his standout moments. Nicola Sturgeon took on Douglas Ross, Anas Sarwar and Willie Rennie in May’s Scottish Parliament elections, but her most bruising encounters were with Alex Salmond, Jackie Baillie and Alex Cole-Hamilton in the Holyrood inquiry into the handling of the sexual harassment allegations.

At the start of the year we had the US presidential election, with Donald Trump handing over the baton to Joe Biden, almost literally kicking and screaming. I salute the admirable few who wrote in stoically defending the former. Our Letters Pages truly represent a broad church; we have had a wide range of views on all of the above.

But there has been much else that has occupied your thoughts. Throughout the year we received many submissions around COP26; not just the nitty-gritty topics of coal, rainforests and CO2 emissions, but about the staging of the event, coming as it did amidst the threat of a wave of transport and public strikes.

One of our biggest mailbags came in August, with the completion of the US and British withdrawal from Afghanistan; we carried many eloquent and moving letters, as we did with events surrounding the murder of Sarah Everard in March and the drowning of 27 migrants in the English Channel in November.

As noted, we have discussed many weighty topics over the course of the year, but the beauty of our Letters Pages is we don’t just talk about the heavy stuff; we have had contributions on, among many other things, humorous biblical quotations (yes, honestly), grab a granny night, obscure insults – for the attention of snollygosters and throttlebottoms – and, as every year, the maintenance of good grammar. Does everyone remember our discussions on alliteration, onomatopoeia, zeugma, and litotes? I hope so, I may be asking questions next year.

In the meantime, thanks again for all your support this year.

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