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READERS’ LETTERS: Economic disaster may cause multiple more deaths than current 42k Covid-19 tally

Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Sir, – In 2017 the British Medical Journal calculated that Tory-Lib Dem “austerity” between 2010 and 2017 caused 120,000 excess deaths. This inspired outrage from Labour and the SNP in particular.

In fact the UK economy actually grew by 30%, unemployment almost halved from 7.9% to 4.4% and annual deficit fell from £100 billion to around £5bn.

If 120k “excess” people did indeed die when most indicators were actually good, arguably multiples more than the current 42,000 Covid deaths may be caused by the forecast economic disaster caused by Covid restrictions. I wouldn’t want to be the prime minister presenting these facts and the obvious conclusions.
Allan Sutherland.
1 Willow Row,

Proof we’re better together

Sir, – The annual report on Scotland’s finances found the national deficit is soaring. In fact the SNP’s own figures show how much we benefit from being part of the UK, pooling and sharing resources in times of trouble such as Covid-19. As a result Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has wisely ditched plans to publish the counterintuitive “annual economic case for independence”.

In spite of the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) publication
showing that public spending north of the border outstripped tax revenues by over £15
billion and citing the pandemic as the reason for not producing a detailed economic case for independence, Forbes claimed Covid-19 demonstrated why we must be independent to control our economy.

Such an infantile response highlights the incoherence of nationalist economic strategy.
People in Scotland, year after year, benefit from levels of public spending substantially above the UK average, with a Union dividend of nearly £2,000 per person.

That has never been more important than it is right now when we are experiencing an
unprecedented health and economic crisis.
Dr John Cameron.
10 Howard Place,
St Andrews.

Sturgeon must grasp the reality

Sir, – Nicola Sturgeon bemoans the fact she isn’t able to go further in measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, by for example, closing pubs, as she doesn’t have the “firepower” to support workers affected by such measures.

The first minister is requesting Westminster grant increased borrowing powers to the devolved Scottish Assembly. The latest GERS figures showed Scotland’s deficit had
risen to £15 billion, and this without the full impact of the pandemic being included.

The figures for this year, which are due out in August 2021, are predicted to show a
deficit of between £28 billion and £40 billion. The GERS figures, although showing the
reality of Scotland’s gap between income and spending, are described as “notional” as Scotland, being a devolved area of the UK, is sheltered from the real effects of deficit and debt, as Scotland’s deficit is absorbed into the overall annual UK deficit.

Any increased borrowing powers granted to Scotland would simply increase Scotland’s deficit. This would be passed back to the UK taxpayer and added to the UK national debt.

If the increased borrowing powers Sturgeon is requesting were to be granted, Scotland would be able to borrow at favourable rates as part of the UK and underwritten by the UK. If Scotland was to become independent this would be drastically different.

Without our own currency, no bank of last resort, and a dire fiscal situation it is highly
unlikely we would find lenders lining up. Any who were willing to take the risk would
certainly impose punitive interest rates.

Nicola Sturgeon has to grasp the reality of the benefits of life as a result of being a member of the UK. She must stop politicising and weaponising the pandemic and focus on pulling together with the rest of the UK for the common good.

But as we know from her own lips, “Independence transcends all else”.
Donald Lewis.
Beech Hill,
Gifford, East Lothian.

Dilemmas of a circular Highland economy

Sir, – Regarding Sean O’Neil’s article (‘Perthshire gamekeepers call for protection’, The Courier, September 24) and reporting Liz Smith MSP requesting estate workers receive more protection from attacks.

Attacking estate workers doing their job is unacceptable behaviour, even if people do not agree with the methods of wildlife management being deployed.

These estate workers are employees and have the added complication of living in “tied” houses, and the task being performed is part of their job specifications or contract.

Coming from agricultural labourer stock in the 18th Century, as most of us do, we
should have some degree of empathy with estate workers.

It is not up to vigilantes to take action, let the law do its work. If the law can’t do what
we as a society believe is correct, then we need to change the law.

However, there have been several incidents of protected raptor species going “missing”,
suspected of being killed, even when these raptors have been GPS tagged. The presumption is the raptors are killed by miscreant estate workers to protect “prey species” prior to “harvesting” in August.

Certainly there have been videos of estate workers shooting at raptors, one of which was
found to be inadmissible in court.

But on to the vexed question of how to manage our wildlife humanely. Animal traps which restrain only the target species, without causing physical pain, should be supported. To design and manufacture this type of trap is difficult and probably more expensive than the current model. Now there is a design challenge for the likes of James Dyson or Jim Ratcliffe!

Another report describes thousands of mountain hares which were culled, aka shot,
simply to stop them from eating the succulent new heather.

What are the grouse going to eat? Cake?

And what used to keep these big bunnies in check? Foxes! Where are the foxes when you need them?

These same or similar species of shooter are out “managing down” our fox population. So a low fox population means more bunnies, which means less grouse, and we can’t
have that, can we?

As a longer term solution, with only 14% of our land “forested”, compared to roughly 40% in the likes of France and Germany, we are missing out on a better revenue stream.

After all, forestry is more profitable and employs more people than grouse shooting.
Alistair Ballantyne.


Students should work from home

Sir, – Nicola Sturgeon has said that all who can work from home should work from home. So why doesn’t that apply to students?

Most courses are now online but students are paying for communal accommodation where their chance of contracting the virus is high. They would be much safer at home.
William Loneskie.
9 Justice Park,
Oxton, Lauder.