THE latest revelations about UK Government incompetence in the management of the Blood Transfusion Service in the 1970s and its tragic consequences come sadly as no real surprise. Nor should we be surprised at the cover-up and obfuscation by Westminster politicians who have obstructed every attempt to expose this failure.

For this is just one more example of a long history of British governmental incompetence and secrecy stretching back over the past half a century or more. As Peter Hennessy, now Lord Hennessy, made clear in his excellent book on British constitutional history, Muddling Through, the British state has staggered from one economic and diplomatic crisis to another, while steadily declining in international status.

But all the time, as Hennessy says, the Whitehall mandarins and the politicians have calmly refused to accept their failures for what they were.

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Well, now we see the results. Not only is there this latest appalling example of incompetence, there is also the astonishing failure to develop a coherent energy policy and the overarching problem of an utterly misguided economic policy, based on creating booms and busts while trying to manage them for electoral purposes. Then there is the crushing level of government debt; the ridiculous cost of nuclear weapons, and the grotesque succession of military adventures and foreign policy blunders.

The list seems endless. This is the reality of Westminster rule.

Peter Craigie
Edinburgh

FOR the first time in many years, on Wednesday, I was unable to donate blood when invited to attend the local session in Beith. My grandson has chickenpox. My feelings of guilt were, however, assuaged by the knowledge that the harm done, albeit inadvertently, to a vulnerable part of our community in the 70s and 80s, has been officially recognised by a government that didn’t exist at that time and hence had no direct responsibility to do so.

As the UK media fret on the horrific possibility of Scottish influence on UK government policy, perhaps they should reflect on this small but telling example of good governance.

As soon as my quarantine period is ended I will be visiting the first available donation session and I urge all healthy Scots to do likewise.

Iain Hunter
Beith


I HAVE become concerned regarding the recent hysteria in the press regarding who would hold the balance of power at Westminster. I also have concerns over the continual intervention by Alex Salmond on this subject.

I fully understand that neither him nor the SNP can be held responsible for the continuing anti-Scottish rhetoric in the media or their interpretation of how many seats the SNP could win at the election, but now that the election campaign has started in earnest it is time to concentrate on winning seats and not discussing what may or may not happen after the votes are cast.

In this respect I think Salmond would be better employed in concentrating on winning his own seat before involving himself in hypothetical scenarios – and remind himself that Nicola Sturgeon is the party leader, with Angus Robertson leading in Westminster.

Let's keep calm and win the seats before getting ahead of the game. It's not easy convincing a nation who have had their confidence knocked out of them for the past 300 years that things could be so much better if they would just take the first step.

Bryan Auchterlonie
Perthshire


BARELY a day goes by now without some speculation on the precise nature of a Labour-SNP coalition. On Wednesday evening I took part in a protest outside the headquarters of East Renfrewshire Council against the privatisation of Bonnyton House, the only council-owned care home in the area.

The future of the care home is in the hands of a coalition of Labour and SNP councillors; an irony that wasn't lost on the protesters. Whilst at a national level Labour and the SNP politicians seek to outdo each other's left-wing policy credentials, at a local authority level both parties' councillors are minded to pursue what can only be described as the continuation of a Thatcherite approach to public services.

Angus Robertson speaks of "a progressive alliance". Progressive alliances do not privatise care homes. Instead of following the Thatcherite privatisation route, the council should be looking to expand Bonnyton, and thereafter building more publicly-owned care facilities.

Graeme Arnott
East Renfrewshire


WHILE Mike Russell's interesting article on the history of photography and Scotland's contribution to it was both interesting and informative, I was somewhat surprised that he did not include mention of a significant development in that field which was indisputably a first.

I refer to the world's first ever colour photograph, which was produced in 1861 by James Clerk Maxwell. Using three separate coloured filters on the camera and three projectors for reconstruction, Maxwell was able to reproduce, to the amazement of his audience, the first photographically produced colour image.

Rather patriotically, this first ever colour image was of a tartan ribbon.

Chic McGregor
Address supplied


MARTIN Hannan made a valiant effort to put some gloss on Scotland's poor performance in the Six Nations (Wooden spoon has stirred out will to win, The National, March 23). I don't share his optimism for the World Cup though. Scotland have been wooden spoon contenders for the majority of Six Nations tournaments. I have often wondered why this would be, considering that our players regularly beat the same Irish, Welsh and Italian individuals in club competitions.

It was well publicised that some international players vociferously voted No at the referendum. I can only conclude that when wearing the Scotland jersey, many of our Unionist, middle- and upper-class public school-educated players have the same inferiority complex as 55 per cent of us. They don't believe they are good enough to win, and they inevitably lose.

Let's broaden the player base in Scotland and get rugby played in every state school. Perhaps our working-class boys who are not accustomed to having everything handed to them on a plate might have more passion and fight about them.

Andy Thompson
Monifieth


THE Scottish Government is trying to pass a law to protect children up to the age of 18 from smokers in a car? At 18 – no, even 15 – I considered myself a man and put away childish things. I started work at 15 like many others in 1961.

How things have changed. Do the young men and woman of 16, 17, 18 think themselves children? The government should start treating 15-year-olds as young adults.

John G Phimister
Kirkcaldy


IT is good to see one of Scotland's funniest writers, sharpest minds and acerbic bloggers Paul Kavanagh (Wee Ginger Dug) being able to opine in pages of The National. Some of Paul's scathing put-downs usually result in a deep intake of breath followed by convulsions, tears, snotters and a desk awash with tea. Brilliant stuff.

Malcolm McCandless
Dundee