MICHAEL Fry’s article in yesterday’s National contains a glaring inaccuracy which should not pass uncorrected. He states that “the corona death rate in Scotland is higher than the rate in England” (This is why I’ll be giving the Alba Party my list vote in May’s election, March 30). This is completely untrue.

If one compares the “daily” figure showing deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test, it is clear the rate in England is significantly higher than that in Scotland.

READ MORE: Michael Fry: This is why I’ll be giving the Alba Party my list vote in May’s election

If one compares either of the more realistic statistics – either excess deaths above average or deaths where Covid is referred to on the death certificate as a contributory cause of death – again the English mortality rate is higher than that in Scotland. These figures are available from NRS (Scotland) and ONS (England).

Only if one foolishly compares the “daily” rate in England with the real rate in Scotland can one come to an opposite conclusion. This is clearly an incorrect thing to do, though that has not deterred the BBC from doing so on a number of occasions.

I have usually found Michael Fry’s articles interesting and thoughtful. I cannot say the same for his article yesterday, which appears to be an illogical rant, and, judging by his comment on mortality statistics, clearly unresearched.

Harry Smith
via email

MICHAEL Fry is perfectly entitled to prefer Alex Salmond to Nicola Sturgeon, but he is not entitled to invent facts to suit his prejudices. He states “Nicola’s actual record in saving people from the virus is worse than Boris’s. Yes, indeed the corona death rate in Scotland is higher than the rate in England.” The truth is the exact opposite: the Covid-19 death rate has been substantially higher in England than in Scotland.

The following Covid-19 figures are from the UK Government website coronavirus.data.gov.uk. Total deaths up to March 28 2021 within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test: England 111,414 and Scotland 7,584; the rates per 100,000 population on this measure are 198 for England (population 56.29 million) and 139 for Scotland (population 5.463 million).

READ MORE: John Swinney 'mortified' about Covid rule breach, Nicola Sturgeon says

Owing to differences in testing, a more reliable measure is the number of deaths with Covid-19 on the death certificate. Up to March 12 the totals were: England 128,507 and Scotland 9,830; the rates per 100,000 population on this measure are 228 for England and 180 for Scotland. Thus, the rates in England are between 27% and 42% higher than in Scotland, depending on which of these measures you base the comparison.

A further measure is excess deaths. This is arguably the best, as this allows for different recording practices between countries. The excess deaths presented on the website www.euromomo.eu again show far greater excesses for England compared to Scotland.

On all these measures, the coronavirus death rate since the start of the pandemic has been substantially higher in England than in Scotland.

Paddy Farrington

LAST week was not short of news. In the crowded agenda, one development has received little attention. The Dunlop Review of UK Government Union Capability was published after a long delay. This was accompanied by a six-page response from Michael Gove, which was full of Unionist propaganda, and a 15-page summary of a Review of Intergovernmental Relations.

Readers will remember that this review was established in July 2019 and was to report in the autumn of that year. To be fair to its author, Lord Dunlop, he succeeded in this task. His review published last week is dated November 2019. It has been kicking round Whitehall since then, and no doubt the Covid pandemic will be trotted out as an alibi.

READ MORE: 'Outdated half-measures': Tories' Dunlop review into how to save Union panned

There is much in the report we could have anticipated. Again being fair to the author, its content, while focussing on how to proclaim the benefits of the Union, is less dismissive of the current devolution settlement than most government ministers. Moreover, events have moved on; for instance, the review’s conclusion “that it is not necessary or productive to bypass the devolved governments in funding arrangements” has been undermined by the clear intention underpinning the subsequent Internal Market Act.

The date chosen for this long-promised publication was Wednesday, March 24. This was when the Holyrood Parliament and the Welsh Senedd were being dissolved in preparation for the 2021 elections. It marks the beginning of the pre-election period when the outgoing Scottish and Welsh ministers are unable to make any official response.

This gives yet another indication of the complete and calculated lack of respect on the part of Westminster for the Scottish and Welsh Governments – or “devolved administrations”, as Gove prefers to call them. (Lord Dunlop varied his terminology!)

Gavin Brown