BLUE Cross warns against buying a new pet as a surprise Christmas present. Although the festive period can be a good time of year to welcome a new pet into your life, it is important to make sure you take the time to ensure you make a responsible choice. Whatever time of year you decide to take on a new pet, please beware of unscrupulous and unethical sellers.

We have admitted poorly young puppies and kittens in all of our animal hospitals because they had not been vaccinated or had been taken from their mother when too young. When the new pets became ill their sellers vanished and owners had not been given relevant vaccination records or microchip paperwork.

When choosing a puppy always insist on seeing the pup in the home with at least his mum, if not both parents and a grandparent. Walk away if the seller insists on meeting in a public place or delivering the puppy to you. Always ask to check paperwork for vaccinations and microchip (now compulsory for dogs by law) before agreeing a sale. Blue Cross is always on hand to offer advice on those wishing to welcome a new pet into their home.

Research any breed and species first and don’t buy a pet based on just its looks, never get a puppy or any pet on impulse. We hope anyone looking for a new pet considers a rescue – all they want for Christmas is a loving new home.

Becky Thwaites, Head of Public Affairs, Blue Cross

SOON it will be the festive season, a prospect that can provoke contradictory reactions. But whether one is a Christian or not, nobody can be unmoved by the image at the heart of this commemoration.

Ignore all the manic spending, the hysterical commercialisation, and the blatant racketeering that characterises Christmas. At the centre remains an archetypal reality: a human baby, the most helpless thing in the world, born in rejection and poverty into the mighty Roman Empire, the most powerful political entity in the ancient world.

The child would grow to be crucified by the Empire, goaded on by religious leaders. Humiliation and death were his lot, oblivion his fate.

Yet, see what happened. Caesar’s might is gone to dust, his empire vanished. But the challenge of the child, to build his Kingdom in humility and service to others lives on, and struggles to be realised.

There is a cosmic paradox in the heart of the Christmas tableau, a real divine comedy. The message is clear to all who have eyes to see – the vanity of political domination, the ultimate impotence of mere power.

Isaiah tells us “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel”.

But we know better. Bigger and better bombs, relentless progress of industrialised slaughter, dazzling developments in high tech-killing – this is our chosen way to peace.

We mouth the empty words “peace on earth”, but our energies and our hearts are focused on the things that do not. We seek security in ever growing power, as did the Roman Empire. We do not seek justice or pace. We have forgotten mercy.

Our fantasy of a benign everlasting Pax Britannica is as delusional as the Pax Romana. People are not born to dominate, but to love; and to love is to be vulnerable, like the baby in the manger. This is the message of Christmas – and it is for all time.

Brian Quail, Scottish CND, ​Glasgow

I FOUND the feature, Hill House (The National, December 7), highly informative and noted that the work to preserve it could cost £4 million and take many years.

I would hope that at a time when public services are being cut and cut again that the National Trust for Scotland would not be permitted to expend public funds on this project. It should be funded through donations from the public and industry, or crowd-funded.

In Scotland there are a significant number of people with family who are classified as homeless. Many of them hardworking and contributing and I would suggest that their needs should take priority over the preservation of Hill House.

If the public is not prepared to support it then perhaps in the eyes of the public it is not all that important.

Thomas L Inglis, Fintry