AMIDST the disappointing figures revealed on Tuesday regarding waiting times in our A&E departments, perhaps we should pause, take stock and recognise the massive effort of our NHS staff operating in A&E departments daily. Staff who arrive on shift with no idea of what the day might bring.

The question arises, is the four-hour waiting target for treatment/diagnosis realistic in such an ageing population as we have in Scotland? Only last week the Health Secretary Michael Matheson informed parliament that as a result of a recruitment programme in our NHS in the last three years, more than 1000 midwives, nurses and allied health professionals from overseas have joined.

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In an effort to address waiting times and first-responder services, the Health Secretary announced an additional £50m in funding for the ambulance services and informed the parliament that 1388 have joined this service in the last three years.

Recognising that the A&E figures are disappointing, and may continue to be so as we have now officially entered winter, I always try to get things in perspective. Treatment is available, albeit after an extended wait, with no demand for payment before assessment. Long may this continue within our NHS.

Catriona C Clark

I WOULD like to express my opinion on Robert Armstrong’s piece in Tuesday’s paper (The floods in Brechin were always going to happen).

When I was a lad in the 50s and 60s, fishing was a huge sport in my area around Hawick with its rivers and tributaries. The three main rivers were Teviot, Slitrig and Borthwick Water. The tributaries were in catchment areas up the steep valleys surrounding Hawick.

Any fisher around today that fished in that era will tell you quite openly that we talked about a “10-day flood” – three days to rise, three or four days at that height and three days to “run off”, nae fishing.

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So why now, as in 2005 in Hawick, did we have our worst flood in memory? The flood was devastating to homes and businesses, causing great upheaval and grief.

Since the 50s and 60s up our valleys they have planted trees, MILLIONS of them, with Craik Forest at one time the largest man-made forest in Europe. The ground they planted on was always saturated, it held water, you could stand on the ground and “wobble “ the ground as you stood. So when the rains came, this peaty ground held the water and released it slowly and steadily into the rivers and burns.

Since planting the catchment areas, there are now only “dreels” (the deep trenches), with the holding ground for the rains erased.

The result, as in 2005 and twice since, is that within 48 hours, bar the destruction you wouldn’t know we had had a flood of that magnitude.

These holding areas were all over our hilltops and headwaters. The fishers might be pleased they don’t have to wait as long to fish, but the consequences are dire.

Ken McCartney

I DISAGREE with Professor Gregor Gall in the National of October 30 (Rail’s return to public hands doesn’t give us a real say). Whilst the nationalisation of public transport in the UK is desirable, it is no guarantee of success, either with or without a participative and democratic form of ownership and governance.

To describe the newly nationalised ScotRail as not having covered itself in glory is in my opinion and experience unjustified. I have found travel with ScotRail to be pleasant, comfortable, punctual and reasonably affordable, and with cheap parking.

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Had Professor Gall wanted to really study a failing nationalised train service then he need have looked no further than Transport for Wales Rail, which “celebrated” five years nationalised recently.

Again in my opinion and experience, Professor Gall should experience rail travel between north and south Wales to see what dysfunctionality in rail travel is all about, with severe and dangerous overcrowding a regular feature of travel, not to mention the chaotic scenes when there is a major event on in the capital, Cardiff.

There is no doubt that the travel experience in Wales has worsened in the five years since rail nationalisation, after Arriva Trains Wales surrendered their contract. For me, the alcohol-free experience of travelling with ScotRail is as good as rail travel anywhere in the UK, public or private.

Mr Arfon Jones
Wrexham, Wales

REGARDING Rishi Sunak blocking the Scottish Government from this week’s AI summit, why should the current leader of what is emerging as the most incompetent group of people ever to form a government even think of inviting representatives from the nation whose universities already have world-class AI research and teaching and are, in the words of Richard Lochhead, “determined to remain at the forefront of AI policy and technology development” to a conference convened to show off the English government’s prowess to a global audience?

John Jamieson
South Queensferry