The SNP has made fatal missteps in the fight against alcohol-related deaths

From 2001 to 2002 I was Minister of Justice. Realizing this problem in 2001, we hired Sheriff Principal Nicholson, along with Jim Wallace, to prepare a licensing report. According to the report of the new 2005 Licensing Act, which includes five objectives: “ensuring public safety, preventing public nuisance, protecting and improving public health, and protecting children and young people from harm,” deaths fell between 2006 and 2012. This and minimum unit prices (2018) have contributed to a significant reduction in the ratio of deaths in the most deprived areas to the most affluent areas from 9:1 to 4:1. Conservative spokesman’s attack on MUP is unjustified. There is no doubt that MUP is not a panacea. But it has saved lives, particularly among those in lower income brackets, and narrowed the gap in excess deaths in Scotland compared to those in England.

The SNP government’s failure to implement the Social Responsibility Levy clause, which I promoted, in the Alcohol Act 2010, taxing windfall industry profits (around £100m a year) from MUP, was a missed opportunity to strengthen treatment. The SNP’s reckless rejection of all ten alcohol-control proposals in my private MP’s bill in 2015, as well as cuts in treatment budgets, showed a startling lack of concern.

It’s no coincidence that the number of deaths has risen since 2012, when the UK Tory government abandoned Alastair Darling’s annual alcohol tax escalator at a rate of two per cent above inflation, making alcohol cheaper. Cheaper alcohol leads to more deaths. The SNP has even been critical of the UK government’s recent and welcome U-turn on tariff hikes in August this year.

Richard Simpson, Honorary Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, University of Stirling; Research Unit for Midwifery Nursing and Allied Professionals; Honorary Visiting Professor School of Medicine, University of St Andrews.

The pricing plan failed

IF evidence was needed to establish that the SNP was purely a protest party and not a party capable of governing, the latest alcohol deaths figures should suffice.

One of the main problems of the SNP is that it is chasing the headline and actually does not understand the problem. As we know, Nicola Sturgeon hasn’t taken any classes and Humza Yousaf is just a little bit off the old block. He’ll think he knows best, regardless of what the experts in the field say.

Minimum prices have not helped to reverse the trend of alcohol problems in Scotland. It just lined the pockets of retailers. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that an alcoholic would rather buy alcohol than eat and heat it. An increase in the price is likely to have had a rather negative impact on the health of those struggling with alcohol addiction.

What is needed is treatment and intervention, not some headline-grabbing gimmick. But that takes proper government, not just an army of spindoctors.

Jane Lax, aberlour.

Read more: We must not allow ministers to control our legal profession

We Scots are being robbed

DOUGLAS Ross’ economic advice to Scotland (“Douglas Ross’ economic plan conceals an election attack plan,” The Herald, August 30) is insane. We would be insane if we allowed the Tories to continue their wrecking ball policies and vote for more of them in Scotland. This is the party that gave us more than a decade of austerity, destroyed public services, increased poverty, deepened inequality and pushed us out of the world’s largest single market, making the UK the economic basket it is Today is.

Unfortunately, the Labor Party will not act differently, having pursued the same abhorrent policies. And both parties are staunchly opposed to Scottish self-determination, knowing that freed from the shackles of the UK we would be just as prosperous as our independent Nordic neighbours.

The UK needs Scotland’s resources and revenue. We have not only been supporting the UK economy since the discovery of North Sea oil, we have been doing so for more than 120 years.

From 1900 to 1921 the British government compiled accounts, receipts and expenditure for England (including Wales), Scotland and Ireland. Publication ceased when Ireland became independent. During this period, Scotland provided the UK Treasury with £762.3m and received back only £211m or 27.7%. Converted to 1911 prices, that equates to £2.5 billion a year, more than the £1.5 billion that oil-rich Scotland sent to Westminster between 1979 and 1997.

Mr Ross and the British establishment are keen to keep Scots in the dark about their wealth and how it is keeping the dying UK afloat. It’s time we opened our eyes ’cause we’re about to be robbed.

lead actor Gunn Barratt, Edinburgh.

Why we must march

ALISON Rowat asks why marching for independence (“something that is not going to happen anytime soon”), pointing out that a referendum has been blocked by the Conservative government and the Supreme Court and it would also be a no from Sir Keir Starmer if if he should get into government (“What if they held a march for India and no one came?”, The Herald, August 30). I would have thought these were very good reasons why people who believe it is Scotland’s democratic right to decide its own future, whether or not they are a member of a political party, put on their marching boots and on should be seen and heard on the streets of the Scottish capital and outside the Scottish Parliament, reminding people that Scotland is meant to be a member of a voluntary union and remembering that Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union, and look what happened.

The question is whether Scotland will tamely do what it is told by a Westminster government which we rejected at the ballot box, or believe that decisions affecting Scotland should be made in Scotland. Marches and rallies are a way for people to express their trust in Scotland and to share the vision of Scotland as a modern, self-governing European nation alongside all the other nations of the EU.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

Read more: We should prosecute this government for manslaughter

The poll result is no surprise

WHO can be surprised that less than 10 per cent of Scottish businesses have confidence in the current Scottish Government (“Less than 1 in 10 businesses trust SNP, survey results”, The Herald, 30 August)? Check out our main streets. Look at our shrinking industries. The SNP/Green watchword is: if there’s even a tiny hint of profit, tax it. The same applies to the housing market.

Our leaders’ sole focus seems to be on climate change, minorities, and strange notions of independence. In this mix, the focus is on the current well-being of the man or woman on the street. Nothing can change until the SNP abandons the Greens or, failing that, calls new elections.

dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.

Migrants could enrich the nation

ALAN Fitzpatrick (Letters, 28 August) seeks to fit the large number of outstanding asylum claims into the Tory mantra of ‘control our borders’, rather than blaming the Tory government for massively underfunding the relevant Home Office department . No mention of the suffering that caused these people to seek refuge.

He mentions the overstretched infrastructure – the result of ten years of Conservative austerity – and the costs of caring for these desperate people. These costs could easily be turned into benefits to our economy if they could work while awaiting a decision and it is possible that among them nurses, doctors, caregivers, truck drivers, farm workers, etc. we urgently need to replenish our vacancies after Brexit.

He then turns his attention to the students and their “surprising ability to bring family members with them.” What’s so surprising about three or four years that you don’t want to separate your family most of the year? Surely he knows that while these family members are here, they are making a significant contribution to our economy, likely filling a vacancy, paying taxes, and spending money? In addition, studies have shown that they use services such as the NHS very little. As a rule, they also rent out their apartments and in this way make a contribution without putting a strain on the housing market.

To cap it all, Mr Fitzpatrick suggests making sure the government reviews courses to “remove the dodgy ones” to prevent foreign students coming to study. Who decides which are “dubious” and which are valid? How do colleges and universities feel about such government interference?

Finally, he proposes setting up camps and assessment centers on the beaches along the English Channel to save the Tory government from actually dealing with the backlog that its policies have caused. Aside from the costs and problems for migrants who camp there summer or winter, storm, rain, hail or shine, he certainly expects long lines of applicants keen to work there under the same processing conditions. Yeah right.

L McGregor, Falkirk.

Grace Reader

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