PATRICK Harvie suggests I have not seen “the hard-right forces in the Tory ranks salivating at the prospect of slashing workers’ protections and human rights” (Brexit will not be good for our planet, The National, June 17).

He’s right, and the reason is that their prospects are poor, and they know it. A grown-up analysis of the post-Brexit position at Westminster, which Harvie seems incapable of, will be a Tory party tearing itself apart and defending a majority of only 12, which can disappear like snow off a dyke with a few by-elections. It will be lucky to function, never mind legislate, and may even fall. There is also the important fact that the feminist movement, and the English middle class combined, who like the entitlements, would send the message that any attempt to roll-back entitlements would be political suicide.

The facts, as distinct from Harvie’s juvenile hyperbole, are these: holiday pay as a legal right, here since 1938; maternity pay at 39 weeks better than the EU minimum of 14 weeks; paternity leave at 52 weeks with EU minimum 4 months. Equal pay legislation can be traced back to the women workers’ fight at Ford in 1970, and a woman called Barbara Castle. Another fact for him to digest: the only countries where workers’ rights have been torn up, and the social fabric rent asunder are Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain – all at the hands, not of mad right-wing Tories, but the EU and the third leg of its Troika, the IMF. His Remain vote will be taken by the Commission as endorsement of all it has done.

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Has he no knowledge of the judgments of the European Court of Justice between capital and labour? The Viking and Laval cases have created a hierarchy of rights. First comes the absolute right of employers to re-locate to anywhere in the EU irrespective of the harm done to workers and communities. Below that comes the right to strike, which the ECJ has said is not an absolute one, but must be proportionate and subordinate to the employer’s economic position. The lost jobs at the Carron Pheoenix plant in Faklkirk, with owners transferring to Slovakia, are sad examples of EU laws’ placing the rights of capital above that of labour.

As for fracking, I would have greater respect for the Greens if they had the courage to go and tell the workers at Grangemouth that their plant should close and their jobs along with it, since in taking fracked gas from the United States they are endangering the planet (his belief not mine). Closure of Grangemouth, not to mention the North Sea oil industry, is the logical position of the Greens. Something they continue to conceal.

Jim Sillars
Edinburgh


I HOPE that I, a 68-year-old Scot, am not being selfish in asking if The National’s website might include a translation into Doric of the weekly article in Scots.

I doubt if I have ever met anybody who speaks in the way the item is written. Although I try hard to trudge through it, recognising that it is full of worthy ideas, I don’t think I have ever struggled as far as the end.

For the record I was born in Banff, lived for a spell in Nairn, had 10 years in Dundee and for the last 37 years have dwelt in Friockheim, Angus.

Please let us recognise that Scotland is rich in dialects which are geographically separated and clearly distinct from each other. But trying to create a common lingo is like trying to build a car using bits from Fords, Nissans, Volvos, Morgans, etc.

It might be worth adding when Aberdeen comedy trio Scotland the What entertained in Glasgow they discovered they had to use heavily diluted Doric, as audiences had no idea what was meant by, for example, weet Coapie coal.

Gordon Cook
Angus


WHEN asked by folk which way to vote in the coming EU referendum I have found what normally wins them over to the Remain side is to put the question back to them by saying: If we leave the EU, Westminster will be in full control of all Scottish affairs that are not devolved, whereas if you stay as you are ,within the EU, you will have access to both parliaments. This at least gives Scots a second voice if they are not in agreement with the decision of either the EU or Westminster parliaments’ rulings.

Many seem to see this logic, and will hopefully vote to stay in.

Bob Harper
Anstruther


I WANT to tell you the story of why there is a GP shortage.

It is the result of the deal which brought the NHS into being in 1948 which ensured a “shortage” to protect consultants and some GPs’ private practices and get the BMA ducks into line.

By 1960 it was already clear the deal was unsupportable but instead of increasing places at UK medical and dental schools, the Government decided to import doctors from Commonwealth countries.

In the early 1980’s the Thatcher Government jumped on a manpower paper which suggested that by 2000 the UK would see medical and dental graduate unemployment, then gleefully shut down three dental hospitals and cut funding for medical places; this was despite shortages of GPs and dentists across the UK.

In 1985 the UK had the worst GP and dentist to patient ratios across the EU. The Tory answer was to impose NHS medical and dental contracts which increased workload but not funding. William Waldegrave, as Tory Health Minister, was described as screwing down the safety valve on the NHS pressure cooker to see what would happen. What happened was dentists left NHS dental practice at an ever-increasing rate from 1990 onwards and GP recruitment, already weak, started collapsing. Of course when silly GDPs and GPs like myself tried to point this out to the UK’s general public we were labelled as greedy and protectionist by the Tory press while folk inside the BMA and BDA tried to shut us up because we were rocking the boat, in much the same way as we have recently seen the current medical establishment in the form of the “Royal” colleges and Tory media demonise the junior doctors in their current, legitimate dispute.

In Scotland, due to longstanding underfunding of medical and dental undergraduate courses from the 1980s the only answer the medical and dental schools had was to encourage overseas students paying large tuition fees, and applications from England. On most medical and dental undergraduate courses in Scotland 50% or less are Scots while over 50% are female who will, in all probability, take time out to have children and return to job-share later. This is not a rant against female doctors but simply to highlight further the recurring recruitment problems.

In simple terms, if you could double the current places at Scottish medical and dental schools and reserve the extra places only for graduates who would remain in Scotland for the whole of their working lives; then if all these extra graduates had to become GPs; the reality is the current hole in GP recruitment and pressure on Scottish GPs would not see any real change for the good until 2026 at the earliest. The sting in the tail is the final tranche of “baby boom” generation GPs and dentists are reaching retirement age over the next ten years.

The idea that the SNP or any devolved government can wave a magic wand and reduce the massive shortfall of trained medical personnel caused by insufficient undergraduate training places over the last 70 years is a nonsense.

This is a problem the UK has had for a long time and has created through UK Government indifference and public ignorance. The NHS managed its first personnel crisis in the 1960s by importing staff from Commonwealth countries and then carried on regardless assuming folk would always want to work in the NHS. This assumption is now on the point of collapse as UK-trained doctors and dentists emigrate in increasing numbers and it gets harder to import replacements.

There is only one place the blame can be laid for the collapsing NHS GP services across the UK and that is the UK Parliament at Westminster.

Peter Thomson
Address supplied