IN response to my previous letter regarding the use of the term ‘underclass’, Peter Craigie opines that “it is not the use of the word ‘underclass’ that is loathsome, whether by Darren McGarvey or by Michael Fry. What is loathsome is the state of poverty and in many cases despair that exists in a wealthy nation like Scotland”, (Letters, July 6).

The problem with such a view is that it ignores the language of stigma and abuse that is frequently used towards and about people in poverty, not least by those in power, and the lasting impact this can have on people, especially children.

I’m not someone who is part of “polite society”, afraid of calling a spade a shovel. Nor am I getting caught up in mere “semantics” – life’s too short! But alongside my own personal experience of poverty, I’ve been engaged in a lot of anti-poverty work during my life, including advice and campaigning work in two of Glasgow’s most deprived areas for almost ten years, and I am only too aware of how stigmatising language can impact on people.

It’s not just my heart that’s “in the right place” – it’s my head too! It’s about knowledge and awareness, and the importance of challenging attitudes and prejudices which are reflected in the terms we use about other people. The othering of people is one of the things that helps perpetuate and entrench poverty, and a word like “underclass” fits right in with this. No wonder it goes down a treat with people like George Osborne ... and Michael Fry.

Peter suggests that we should focus on “the realities of our society” such as poverty itself, and not “argue over the use of words”.

I totally disagree. The rhetoric around poverty and benefits has been increasingly weaponised in recent years, and deliberately so: for example, the term “welfare” has been adopted in order to chip away at the whole concept of social security and so justify the shredding of the social safety net. It’s no coincidence that the Scottish Government are in the process of setting up a Scottish “Social Security Agency” – they recognise how harmful the language around benefits can be and has become. If we really want to tackle poverty, now let alone in an independent Scotland, we need to recognise the powerful role that language and the associated attitudes play in helping to tolerate, perpetuate and entrench poverty in our society.

As for me, I intend to continue to challenge the use of stigmatising language around poverty, social security and related issues – not to dictate to others or shut them down, but to be able to open up discussions such as this one!

Mo Maclean

OUR ex-Cabinet Secretary for Health came under constant, unrelenting and very much unfair fire from the opposition parties at Holyrood, in spite of the acknowledged fact that Scotland’s NHS does perform better than any of its UK counterparts.

The lame, hypocritical utterances by those same critics after our First Minister’s new appointments serve only to demonstrate that their attacks were cynically party-motivated. Ms Robison deserved better.

Having been treated on 12 different occasions in pre-NHS, military, private and NHS hospitals, I can with absolute confidence claim, having listened to the health commentaries from England, that Scotland’s NHS does indeed deserve the accolade of the best in the UK, for which the Scottish Government can in turn claim credit, this being now abundantly clear, dismissing with contempt the efforts at disparagement by the Conservatives and their Labour and LibDem allies. Using our NHS as a political football for party electoral “gain” deserves condemnation, which they will in due course get.

Recent experience in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital gives an opportunity to record complete admiration for the help I received, for which all of the staff, from consultant to non-medical, deserve the fullest praise. In conversation with other patients I can assert that no single attempt at criticism of our NHS was voiced. I do believe our NHS is an example of what an independent Scotland, free of the constraints cynically imposed by an anachronistic, self-serving Westminster, can and will achieve.

J Hamilton

I SEE the state media in Russia denies that their country is involved in the recent poisoning cases in Salisbury and Amesbury.

Meanwhile the state media in Britain claim that Russian agents are dumping poison around the British army’s favourite exercise ground on Salisbury Plain.

This, interestingly, is close to Porton Down, Britain’s renowned Chemical Warfare Research Laboratory, now ingenuously renamed as a Science Park.

So which state media should we believe? Hard evidence seems in surprisingly short supply, given the gravity of the matter. Perhaps at this stage the good old Scots verdict of not proven is appropriate.

Peter Craigie