Readers' letters:

You report the escalating cost of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) (Scotsman, January 27).
Judge Lady Smith is chairing the inquiry into abuse of children in ScotlandJudge Lady Smith is chairing the inquiry into abuse of children in Scotland
Judge Lady Smith is chairing the inquiry into abuse of children in Scotland

Elsewhere a spokesman for the inquiry has been quoted claiming it has been making ‘excellent progress’ (“Child abuse inquiry costs soar to £65m”).

Given the context is SCAI reporting (late) on the rising costs it has incurred, rather defensively, a variety of statistics relating to days of hearings, numbers of witnesses and volume of documents have been provided; these are measures of activity rather than of achievement.

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The broad remit of SCAI is to raise public awareness of historic abuse of children in care and to create a national public record and commentary.

Since it was established in 2015, SCAI has published on its website only seven Case Study Findings. The most recent was published in November 2021. These findings cover events that took place in 31 institutions between 1917 and 1991.

SCAI has published a list of 113 institutions it intends to investigate. It therefore appears that findings are yet to be made in the case of 82 of these. SCAI may decide to investigate additional institutions.

Lady Smith, who chairs the inquiry, is supported by a secretariat, a legal team and counsel to the inquiry, led by two KCs. It is therefore not surprising that costs are running at over £1m per month.

Astonishingly, by reference to the SCAI website, the inquiry has an open-ended budget (“It is not possible to provide a figure [as to how much the inquiry will cost in total] at this stage”) and timescale (“It is not realistic to give a specific date [when the Chair will issue her final report]”).

Lady Smith effectively has been handed a blank cheque subject to the weak requirement that “the Chair [is obliged] to have regard to costs at all times”.

In September 2020 it was reported that the inquiry could run until 2026 at a cost of £100m. Given the limited progress made in almost eight years, these projections may be under-estimates.

This is a huge investment of public funds simply to raise public awareness of abuse which took place between 30 and more than 100 years ago.As a minimum the inquiry should be working to an overall timescale and associated budget.

George Rennie, Inverness

Democratic deficit

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The UK Parliament and government is not fully democratic because of the unelected House of Lords. This is important because the UK government retains power over the Scottish Parliament.

I’ve looked at the current ministers in each UK government department, and I get a total of 30 ministers who are members of the House of Lords.

The latest information on “Number of Ministers in the House of Lords” in the Commons Library website is on Boris Johnson’s December 2019 administration. It says “In all, 24 out of the total 116 ministers in government (21 per cent) were in the House of Lords.” The UK is not a full democracy.

E Campbell, Newton Mearns

Weasel words

While it does indeed sound like the First Minister has lost the plot, I do not agree she should “apologise forthwith” for her gross insults that some opponents of her GRR Bill are “transphobic….deeply misogynist, often homophobic” and even more extraordinarily, that possibly some of them are “racist as well” (Scotsman, January 28).

As you say, her attack may backfire against her, both from outside and even within the SNP, both of which would be a welcome result.

Just as with her “I detest the Tories and everything they stand for”, these remarks were not ill-thought out, spur-of-the-moment outbursts. They were and are her considered views after years or decades of careful thought, for which any apology would be untrue and therefore rightly disbelieved.

When politicians are forced into apologising, they tend to adopt weasel-words in so doing; and a forced apology is no apology.

What is clear after this farcical debacle, caused by a majority of MSPs not agreeing any sensible, logical, common-sense amendments to her Bill, which the vast majority of adult Scots surely support, is that all these MSPs should be deselected before the next election.,

John Birkett, St Andrews

Jail diversity

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I find myself bemused at the rapid escalation of potential difficulties being raised over transgender legislation – not least in respect to prisons.

Are we soon to see a call for bisexual prisons and will this demand extend to vegan prisons and separate prisons for Rangers and Celtic fans?

Perhaps we might even require separate establishments for those supporting The Greens or Labour or Conservative or Liberal views. SNP supporters, of course, like their leader are never wrong – only ‘challenged’.

James Watson, Dunbar

Nicola logic

Logic provides a precise and perspicuous way of conveying the content of laws.

I remember studying basic syllogisms in logic classes, including the much quoted “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal”.

The SNP’s Gender Recognition Act seemed to have its equivalent “All trans-women are women. X is a trans-woman. Therefore, X is a woman”.

However, recently, in its first real test this turns out not to be the case, which seems to be suggestive of a bad law?

Perhaps Nicola Sturgeon feel for the old spoof syllogism “Some women are nurses. Ann is a nurse. Therefore Ann is some woman”. She takes no lessons from anyone, not even her old tutors it seems.

Ken Currie, Edinburgh

GRR Bill no risk

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In your editorial (Scotsman, January 28) you say that there are some circumstances, such as prison, where trans people should not necessarily be treated as their lived gender.

That is correct and the Gender Recognition Act and Equality Act allow for that. The Gender Recognition Reform Bill would not change that at all and it is incorrect to suggest that the Scottish Government or Parliament intended to do so.

In September 2022, there were 15 trans prisoners in Scotland (0.2 per cent of the prison population). Following risk assessments, nine of them were held in the estate matching their gender as originally registered at birth and six in the estate matching their transitioned gender. It is right that this should be decided on an individualised risk assessment basis.

Someone convicted of a sexually violent crime who poses a risk to women should not be housed with women on the female estate

It seems that Isla Bryson was held in segregation on arrival at prison, while the risk assessment was done and has now been allocated to the male estate. That is in line with the policy and the law.

The Prison Service's risk assessment policy applies to all trans people in custody, with or without gender recognition certificates (GRCs). The GRR Bill's changes to the process for applying for a GRC would have no effect on the Service's policy on this, and no effect on their ability to continue to apply the policy.

Tim Hopkins, Director, Equality Network

Tory rethink

I have been a lifelong supporter of the Consevative and Unionist Party. But I honestly have to say that they need to be out of office for a parliamentary term to sort themselves out.

Boris Johnson, a likeable enough personality and extremely good at PR and marketing, proved a hopeless administrator and was instrumental in recruiting people into Cabinet who were not up to the job.

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Nadhim Zahawi is the second Cabinet member of a family guilty of being less than honest about his tax affairs. The other, of course, being Rishi Sunak and his wife, who happily used Non-Dom status to minimise his UK tax.

We need a far more astute, honest and capable Cabinet in charge of the UK and probably the best way to achieve it would be a coalition government with a focus on discipline, leadership and competence.

Doesn't mean that I will now vote for the SNP, who have proved to be even more useless and devious than the Conservatives. So its a toss-up between Labour and the LibDems

Derek Farmer, Anstruther

Planting doubt

An extremely well written and scathing article from Stephen Jardine (‘Food for Thought - The "Plant Based Treaty" won't make us all vegan’, Scotsman, 28 January).

He quite rightly chastises City of Edinburgh Council of virtue signalling by seeking to ban meat from the menus in schools, hospitals and nursing homes despite the fact other councils who tried to force-feed the vegan lifestyle were left with egg on their faces and "significant food waste".

Despite the number of vegans in the UK being only around two to three per cent of the population, the PETA foundation has been writing to every newspaper and magazine in the land to "Go vegan in 2023".

If PETA, CEC and others think that a few more vegans will "save the planet" then here is a reality check.

There are 1.5 billion cattle, 1 billion sheep and 1 billion pigs in the world

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CEC and PETA should go to the largest meat producers, India, Brazil, China, US and Argentina, set up vegan stalls and then publish their conversion successes.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow

Energy supply

Currently windmills are only supplying six per cent of system demand, hence what is the logic of the SNP planning to increase windmill capacity from the present 13GW to around 58GW when it just means even more unaffordable generators failing to provide security of supply?

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas

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