THE recent and much touted comparisons between Burns and Weinstein are invidious (Letters, January 17). The poet had close but largely platonic friendships with women of all ages. Moreover, to label as rape the events described in the notorious “horse litter letter” is to over-simplify a relationship of great complexity. When I was researching my novel The Jewel (published by Saraband in 2016) Jean Armour emerged as a strong woman with an abiding affection for her husband.

In 1788, she was pregnant with the second of two sets of his twins. Burns was enjoying his Edinburgh celebrity, but feeling guilty about the emotional mess he had left behind in Mauchline. Both were in mourning for their 13-month-old daughter, who had died in what seems to have been a domestic accident (Burns refers to it bitterly as “careless murdering mischance”).

Although he bragged that he had made love to a receptive Jean, I suspect the truth was that Jean submitted to him without much enjoyment and he knew it. The babies, born soon after, didn’t survive long. Never a cruel man, he had betrayed Jean and his own code of kindness. Within a short space of time, he trotted back to Mauchline seeking her forgiveness and the couple were officially married. The honeymoon period seems to have been both passionate and happy.

I am often asked what I thought of Burns. As I was researching the novel, I could feel the warm blast of his charm, his empathy and good humour some 230 years later. There are few “sex pests” who would elicit that response.

Catherine Czerkawska

I HAVE read with interest Michael Fry’s article (Our NHS is better than England’s ... but what about other countries?, The National, January 16) in which he claimed the only solution to our current underfunding of the NHS is economic growth. I have some questions to which I would really like his response:

1. Does he think Earth is infinitely large and can supply resources (like oil, clean air, clean water, food, living space) all without end?

2. Does he think climate change is real – or a hoax created by the Chinese?

3. Does he think that economic growth (as we currently know it) can continue indefinitely into the future?

4. If he thinks that economic growth must come to an end one day, how does he think we will be able to recognise that the era of indiscriminate growth is coming to an end? Will it stop suddenly or will it stutter to a close with some economic sectors failing and others struggling on for a while?

5. If economic growth does have some foreseeable end, what kind of world order/economic system does he think will take its place? Riots? Mass suicide? Mass departure to Mars (with each departure dumping thousands of tons of spent rocket fuel into the upper atmosphere of this planet)? Internecine war over the dwindling resources? Or what?

6. Does he think it is reasonable for us to defer any action to avoid these circumstances, or to avoid even thinking about it and, by implication, leaving it for our children, and their children, to deal with these problems, after it has become too late to reverse the conditions we have created?

If he can respond only negatively or with prevarication to any or all of those questions, I invite him to become an honorary member of the MAGOOs (Master Advocates of the Grand Orders of Ostriches).

Hugh Noble

I’M afraid Wee Ginger Dug’s barking up the wrong tree in his criticism of BBC News (The National, January 17). BBC Scotland led its news on Monday morning – across TV, radio and the website – on the Scottish Government’s report on the economic impact of Brexit. It was the top story for us, as it was for The National. So while our online newspaper review reflected the various front pages, the BBC’s own coverage devoted large chunks to the Brexit report. Next time you decide to cock your leg in our direction, please check your facts.

Gary Smith
Head of News, BBC Scotland

I HAD a chuckle at the names suggested for the road gritters (Don’t worry road users - Andy Flurry is on the case, The National, January 17). You asked for other suggestions so here are a few crazy ones I have come up with: [William] Burrell Salt Aroond; Humdinger Gritslinger; Grittius Maximus; Ice-Man Cometh; Auld Firm Gritter; Kilt The Ice; Salt n’ Shake.

Anne Smart