Readers' Letters: Does the 'S' in 'SNP' now stand for 'Stasi'?

We all know the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words, they cannot hurt me.”
Even minister for victims and community safety Siobhian Brown seems to have concerns about the new hate crime lawEven minister for victims and community safety Siobhian Brown seems to have concerns about the new hate crime law
Even minister for victims and community safety Siobhian Brown seems to have concerns about the new hate crime law

Now that Humza Yousaf has introduced his anti-free speech bill into Scots law, that basic freedom has gone. We are no longer a free people, as long as we have this frightening limit on what we can say. It is now in the hands of the police to decide whether an offence has been committed or not, as was made abundantly clear in a car-crash interview with the SNP minister responsible on the Today programme on Radio 4.

The fact of the matter is that it will come down to the interpretation of what someone says and, naturally, that is entirely subjective. Consider the case in England in which an African mother took offence when her child (and white children) were called “little monkeys”. A perfectly normal expression to native Britons, but totally misunderstood by someone not brought up in our culture.

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Will Sassenachs be able to report Scots for racial slurs? How about Teuchters, or Weegies? A Weegie bobby might take exception to use of that term by an Edinburgh man, but is it a crime? It is up to Police Scotland to decide if an offence has taken place. It may even be at your home. There is no escape. “Reporting centres” are all over Scotland for people to tell on us. Very Stasi.

It is no surprise that when this mess was put to her, Siobhian Brown MSP said, “It is all getting a little bit out of hand”.Perhaps we should reframe the old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but a wrong word could spell seven years in jail.”

Peter Hopkins, Edinburgh

Backwards think

I read that Rajan Barot, a former prosecutor, has recently advised the admirable JK Rowling to delete tweets she has made about a trans activist because they may violate the new Hate Crime Law.

But this law took effect on 1 April 2024. Is one of its provisions that its scope is retrospective? Is this what we expect in a democracy? This is rather the stuff of authoritarian dictatorships which cannot be tolerated in a liberal democracy.

I do hope Mr Barot is mistaken in his assumption.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Woke bigotry

The tyranny of “woke” bigotry, infantilism and intolerance has to be challenged and refuted, whenever it rears its ugly head – in political life, business, schools and universities, the Churches, charities, book and newspaper publishing and broadcasting.

“Political correctness”, devised by Frankfurt Marxists in the 1920s, is a bogus “groupthink” posture behind which lies a desire for power and the wish to control what individuals say publicly and think privately while appearing to do so for virtuous reasons.

Politicians and online trolls should stop equating “disapproval” with “hatred”. The problem is compounded nowadays by the tiresome use of trigger words often comprising a Latin prefix and a Greek suffix – a dubious combination best avoided.

Legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament is not law if it is deemed incompatible with the rights defined in the Human Rights Act 1998.

Duncan McAra, Bishopbriggs, East Dunbartonshire

Dire implications

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How is it that no one has thought through the full implications of the deplorable new Hate Crime and Public Disorder Act, which makes it illegal to stir up hatred based on someone's race, ethnic or national origin?

It is the position of the SNP that Scotland is a separate nation from England; and that the Scottish and English people are two separate ethnic groups.

Now put those two paragraphs together. Would denouncing the oppressive English regime and demanding independence for the plucky Scots count as stirring up hatred against the English based on their ethnic origin? Inquiring minds want to know.

Sarah Johnson, Edinburgh

Bottles bill

The Scottish Government is facing a £100 million compensation claim from recycling firm Biffa over its shambolic bottle recycle scheme and Scottish taxpayers will foot the bill. Other claims are sure to follow.

Green Minister MSP Lorna Slater was the mastermind of this failure so should immediately be sacked from her ministerial position. The Government should clean the stables and get rid of Patrick Harvie who is the driver of the ban on gas boilers in new homes and offices which came into effect yesterday (your report, 1 April).

Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Age limit

Legally we are free to do whatever we like as long as the law doesn’t forbid it. Thus we may take our own lives whenever we wish. The new proposals on assisted dying would, sensibly, allow sufferers to legally obtain (from volunteers) the appropriate medical help. However, common sense says this help should only be available to those who have already lived their “three score years and ten” as for younger folk there is still a good chance of a medical remedy being found. Certainly, offering the option to immature youngsters should be rethought.

Tim Flinn, Garvald, East Lothian

No pressure

Regarding the ongoing discussions on assisted dying, one concern is pressure applied resulting in the acquisition of the deceased estate.

That aspect could be mitigated by an automatic and compulsory freezing of the deceased entire estate for a fixed term of ten years. The will and winding up of that estate could only be executed commencing on the tenth anniversary of the death. The disincentive to bring about the assisted death for reasons of gain is thereby obvious. Any MSP, or MP, care to think about it?

Mike Scott-Hayward, Kemback Bridge, Fife

Fix the time

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When will this nonsense of changing the clocks be stopped? Every year there is a higher risk of strokes and a 24 per cent higher risk of heart attacks in the first 48 hours of the clocks changing. Road traffic collisions increase by 30 per cent and workplace injuries by 6 per cent.

The figures will be lower this year because of the early Easter, but the interruption of our circadian rhythms will still disrupt lives. We need daylight early in the morning, the best part of the day, not at 10pm. And think of all the time wasted by millions of people changing their watches, clocks and alarms, to say nothing of those who fail to do so and are late for work.

This is a silly practice, first introduced by Germany in 1916, and should be scrapped. The EU is moving in this direction and the UK should follow its lead, not least because it would result in two time zones on the island of Ireland.

William Loneskie, Oxton, Berwickshire

Boom or bust?

David Alexander (Opinion, 28 March) contradicts himself by stating first that “Scots have been enjoying a bit of a mini boom in housing with the market rising substantially” and then citing the latest data showing that from December 2022 to November 2023 average existing house prices increased by just 1.9 per cent.

Mr Alexander was making a distinction with new house prices, which rose 22 per cent over that period, and prices overall rose more quickly longer term, but only 20,992 new houses were completed last year, a tiny fraction of total housing stock, and 11 per cent down on 2022.

Estate agents naturally talk up the market and one wonders how many Scots are benefitting from the new house price boom. New house prices are 64 per cent higher than existing stock and with the cost of living crisis and high mortgage rates biting it’s difficult not to draw the conclusion that much of the demand for new housing is coming from England, where average house prices are over 50 per cent higher, bringing affordability.

Indeed, as The Scotsman reported (27 March), migration is sustaining our population. Pre-pandemic there were around 45,000 entering annually from the rest of the UK and the most recent NRS data shows an annual increase to above 50,000 so the new housing demand is there.

With recent tax rate hikes for high earners here, however, it’s questionable if working age inward migration of high earners from England is sustainable, making this new housing boom ephemeral.

Neil Anderson, Edinburgh

Knight work

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One really has to wonder who on earth is “advising” the Prime Minister at this time? I ask as the headlines blast out details of the Knighthood awarded to Mohamed Mansour, who just happens to be a Tory donor to the tune of £5 million.

It really does put into question whether Rishi Sunak has the political nous to manage situations, as clearly the timing of this award displays a level of naivety almost beyond belief. He also seriously needs to consider the expertise of those who surround him, supposedly offering advice.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh

Knowledge drop

If I may add something to Allan Massie's excellent article on drop goals (30 March). I think he refers to January 1963 when, very late in the game, Iain Laughland attempted a drop goal to win the game . He sliced it and it fell nicely for, I think, Arthur Smith to score in the right hand corner. Ken Scotland then converted from the touchline.

Scott Miller, Joppa, Edinburgh

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