Letters, September 11 2020

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How fortunate we are

On arriving in Lochgilphead after a trip to Oban on the bus in June, I came across a young man in a state of severe distress at the Red Cross Shop.

He said he had no shoes, that he was homeless and that he had lost his benefits card which was vital for him to get his benefits paid at any bank. The next pay day was the following day.

I know what you are thinking – he was having me on. However, I played a small part in getting coffee and a pair of cheap canvas shoes and the owner of the Taj Mahal restaurant gave him a meal.

We seniors have enjoyed free bus travel for many years and can access another five non-means tested benefits – but not for much longer. Together with the building trades and builders’ merchants, senior citizens have had it far too good for far too long. Change is on the way.

The destitute and rough sleepers among us are also fortunate when compared with poor people in Dallas, Texas, and with the underclasses in Washington DC, and in the chronically overcrowded favelas in Rio de Janiero, to name but three cities currently suffering devastation by the deadly coronavirus.

Here in north Britain, we are where we are in our long battle with Covid-19. We continue to adopt, adapt and improve our coping strategy and, for the most part, we are acting responsibly.

We all have our own personal degrees of physical and mental wellness but no-one in north Britain needs to be shoe-less, homeless, hungry or lonely.

How very, very fortunate we all are.

Duncan Iain MacDougall, Tarbert.

Think about water use

According to a new survey, 46 per cent of people in Britain believe their household uses under 20 litres of water a day, roughly equivalent to taking a two-minute shower.

The true figure is closer to 142 litres per person per day, meaning an average family of four could use more than 500 litres each day.

This summer we saw a surge in demand for water as more people stayed at home and enjoyed hot weather in parts of the country. This is why Water UK and water efficiency experts Waterwise have joined forces to encourage people to think about the amount of water they are using.

This new campaign offers hints and tips to help people cut back, save energy and money and protect the environment. More information can be found online and across social media.

We all have a role to play in saving water and even small changes, such as using a watering can instead of a hose, or reducing the length of time spent in the shower, can make a big difference.

Christine McGourty, chief executive of Water UK, and Nicci Russell, managing director of Waterwise.

Think of Childline during Remember a Charity Week

As a volunteer for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC’s) Childline service, I have seen first-hand how lockdown has impacted a generation of children. Combined with the closure of schools and the lack of contact with their usual support networks, many already vulnerable children have been placed at increased risk of mental health difficulties.

Since lockdown began, Childline has delivered more than 2,600 counselling sessions to children in Scotland for support with mental and emotional health issues, including suicidal thoughts and feelings. It is vital children know we are still here for them and that Childline can continue to provide a vital lifeline.

This is why I am appealing to readers to remember us in their will this Remember a Charity Week (September 7 to 13).

Leaving a legacy can have an incredible impact – the amount we receive through legacies is the equivalent of the cost of running our schools’ Speak Out Stay Safe programme and Childline combined for a year.

As we move from crisis to recovery, we need your help to continue to support children during this challenging, ever-changing situation and beyond.

To find out how you can help please call 02078 252505 or visit nspcc.org.uk/guardian

Thank you.

Kat McMahon, volunteer for NSPCC Scotland’s Childline service.

Call to cut deaths from our biggest killers

Heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lung disease and diabetes are responsible for around two thirds of all deaths in Scotland – around 39,000 every year – and are among the world’s biggest killers.

Sadly, deaths from these conditions are often preventable. The burden of these diseases on families and on our society cannot be underestimated.

This week, as a global campaign takes place raising awareness of the impact of these non-communicable diseases, we have come together – representing ten of Scotland’s leading health charities – to call for action.

We believe many of these deaths and lost healthy years of life are preventable through addressing modifiable and societal risk factors. Official statistics estimate that each year around 14,000 deaths in Scotland could be prevented through public health interventions.

We have set out a series of priorities to tackle three of the biggest risk factors that affect people today – tobacco use, alcohol consumption and unhealthy diets – to improve the health of everyone in Scotland.

Evidence shows the environment around us heavily influences whether we smoke, the amount of alcohol we drink and what we eat. The visibility of products on our high streets and the way they are marketed all contribute to Scotland having some of the lowest healthy life expectancies in Western Europe.

This is particularly true in our most deprived communities where levels of smoking, harmful alcohol use and the number of overweight and obese people are often at their highest. Research shows this is in part due to the higher presence of outlets in these areas selling alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy food and drink. We must act now to ensure the healthy choice is an easy choice for everyone in Scotland.

Covid-19 has also provided a wake-up call on these issues. We are becoming aware of possible links between smoking, alcohol intake and obesity on the severity of Covid-19 infections, highlighting the need to take action now more than ever as we continue to tackle the pandemic.

Scotland has been a pioneer in public health. It was the first country in the UK to ban smoking in enclosed public spaces and the first in the world to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol.

In this week of awareness, we are calling on all political parties to make the prevention of Scotland’s biggest killers a priority and to give a strong commitment, ahead of next year’s Scottish Parliamentary elections, to work with us to create a step change in the health of the nation.

Alison Douglas, chief executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland; Shelia Duffy, chief executive, ASH Scotland; Lorraine Tulloch, programme lead, Obesity Action Scotland; Lindsay Paterson, interim director, SHAAP; Joseph Carter, head of the devolved nations, Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation; Dr Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive, British Heart Foundation; Michelle Mitchell OBE, chief executive, Cancer Research UK; Andrea Cail, Scotland director, Stroke Association; and Angela Mitchell, national director, Diabetes Scotland.