Readers' Letters: Don’t blame media for trans bill culture war

Joyce McMillan writes of a “right-wing media culture war against a vulnerable minority” (Perspective, 20 January). Alexander Mackay is much nearer the mark in saying “whatever else the opposition to the new [Gender Recognition Reform] bill is, it is decidedly not a reflection on trans people” (Letters, same day).

Trans rights activists protest the Section 35 order to block Scotland's recent Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill outside opposite Downing Street this week (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Trans rights activists protest the Section 35 order to block Scotland's recent Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill outside opposite Downing Street this week (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Those who oppose the bill in its current form do so for reasons that have nothing to do with people who are genuinely trans. We worry that self-ID will allow predatory men to pretend to be women in order to access women’s safe spaces. There have already been cases of this kind. Why could the SNP/Greens not accept amendments to the bill that would not have impinged at all on trans people’s rights?

For example, why was it deemed wrong, or unnecessary, to prevent men accused or convicted or sexual assault against women or girls from being able freely to self-ID as women, in order to be incarcerated in a women’s prison? Why was it so urgent to lower the age for self-ID to 16, when 16-year-olds were recently deemed by the SNP to require a “Named Person” to supervise their welfare?

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No, Joyce, the culture war that has been whipped up is the product of blinkered insistence by the bill’s proponents that their version is 100 per cent correct and requires no nuance or amendment. I shall not speculate on what their motives might be. But Alister Jack has done us all a service by halting the bill, sending its champions homeward to think again.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Political theatre

Even the SNP can’t pretend that the Gender Recognition Bill is supported by a majority of Scottish voters. This ill-advised legislation has parallels with their highly unpopular and intrusive Named Person Scheme, which was rightly stopped by the Supreme Court just as this latest nonsense probably will be.The First Minister’s purpose in pushing this law through Holyrood was not to protect transgender rights but to provoke another constitutional clash in the hope of generating yet more false grievance.But it is Nicola Sturgeon, not Westminster, who isn’t listening to “the people of Scotland”. At least those MSPs from her own party who rebelled to oppose this bill have more moral integrity than their leader.Shame on the Liberal Democrats and most of Labour for ignoring their constituents and instead enabling our FM’s latest piece of political theatre.

Martin O’Gorman, Edinburgh

Scotland the rich

Alex Gallagher’s long epistle on why Scotland should remain subservient to Westminster rule falls on every one of his assertions (Letters 20 January). On Scotland’s economic case for independence, Mr Gallagher should read the House of Commons Library Report on oil and gas taxation published last November in which the Resolution Foundation analysis predicts £20 billion from the North Sea in 2023 which more than covers the £15 billion deficit Mr Gallagher quotes.

Scottish Government statistics show that, despite the UK’s benign taxation policy when compared to Norway, $872 billion has flowed to London from Scotland’s waters since 1998.

An energy-rich independent Scotland would be one of the richest countries in Europe as Scotland produces the vast bulk of the UK’s oil and gas and has 20 per cent of the EU’s total planned offshore wind power, ten per cent of the EU’s wave power and is a net exporter of electricity. Per head of population, Scotland exports twice as much as the rest of the UK, mainly due to our food and drink industries, plus our tourism, life sciences and gaming industries resulting in a healthy balance of trade surplus.

Given our vast renewable energy potential and a highly educated population there is no logical reason why an independent Scotland can’t match the economic growth of Denmark, Finland, or Ireland in the EU and independence is the only route available to reverse the UK’s Brexit catastrophe, which is costing £40 billion a year in lost taxes.

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Fraser Grant, Edinburgh

No bounds

Alex Gallagher's analysis of the evidential paucity of the case for Scottish independence is spot on. But nationalism is driven by emotion, not evidence. During the 2014 referendum campaign the Yes side was awash with artists and actors, including at least one pantomime star, but struggled to get any scientists on board. They flocked to No, including at least one Nobel laureate.

Science is not only about testing the evidence, but cares not for national boundaries. It does best without them. Joseph Lister came from England to Scotland where he made surgery safe. Alexander Fleming went from Scotland to England, where he discovered penicillin.

Hugh Pennington, Aberdeen

Things change

Alex Gallagher raised the “once in generation” quote yet again, but in real life and politics, things change. The situation in politics has markedly changed and the next generation are arriving as each year passes.

As for the evidence, I have yet to see a strong case for the Union as we are out of the EU in a Westminster government's generated downturn.

John Cutland, Kirkcaldy, Fife

Whole answer

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Jane Drysdale comments on the random repair of Edinburgh road potholes (Letters, 20 January). Perth & Kinross Council have roving teams of repairers who constantly look for road damage and deal with it on the spot. Surely Edinburgh could do the same.

Malcolm Parkin, Kinnesswood, Perth & Kinross

Power vacuum

The Scotsman appears to agree with the UK Government that the way to reduce our reliance on the international gas market is to invest more in renewables and nuclear power (your editorial, 20 January).

Investing in reliable nuclear power does not make renewables any more reliable; the latter, especially wind power, will always be unreliable and nuclear power cannot readily be switched on and off to compensate. Nuclear generation is best suited to provide the base load, the consistent demand below the variability level. But what will provide the extra power to fill gaps left by the absence of renewable generation? Gas?

Steuart Campbell, Edinburgh

Missed chance

John Birkett is right to highlight Henry Dundas’ anti-slavery credentials and include his role in the Joseph Knight case (Letters, 20 January). Knight had been bought in Jamaica by Sir James Wedderburn and wanted to live with his wife, one of Sir James' servants, when she became pregnant. Sir James petitioned the courts to have Knight return to his service.

What is often forgotten is that Dundas, in an unprecedented move, stepped down from his role as Advocate General in order to join leading advocates John Maclaurin and Allan Maconochie as part of Knight’s legal team.

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The eventual 1777 judgment of the Court of Session declared that slavery was contrary to “natural law” and so breached the principles on which Scots law operates. This means that had Scots law – rather than English “common law” – formed the basis of the legal systems in the British colonies in North and Central America, slavery would have been declared illegal there in 1777, a century before Abraham Lincoln’s presidency; and Dundas would have played a leading role in that abolition.

(Dr) Francis Roberts, Edinburgh

Dead parrot

Council heads are appealing to the Scottish Government for increased budgets but being met with the usual response, “there’s £550 million more than the year before and you are free to raise council tax”.

The SNP seem to think this is good enough for Councils but, when they receive a similar response from Westminster (which really does give them more money every year), they express outrage. I think that Westminster should only ever reply to the SNP using a response that they have themselves used. That way the SNP might eventually be embarrassed into reaching some harmony and agreement between the two governments. Of course, harmony is not an goal of the SNP.

Ken Currie, Edinburgh

Strike back

Andrew Vass attributes the Labour Party’s troubles in the 1970s, culminating in the Winter of Discontent, to the attempt by the Labour government to impose tight control over public sector pay (Letters, 19 January). Actually, I think Prime Minister James Callaghan had no option when his Government had had to seek the help of the IMF to meet its debts. After the post-war nationalisation programme, strikes in the relevant industries had become endemic – much to the discomfort of the citizens. This was a significant factor in the fall of that first effective Labour administration and subsequent ones, both Labour and Tory.

Harold Wilson favoured “beer and sandwiches at No.10” as a way of dealing with them but eventually sought some better way and brought forward a white paper proposal, “In Place of Strife”. The TUC would have none of it. Now the Government wants to have another try.

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The strike weapon was developed for use in the perpetual war between capital and labour. All very understandable when the employer is a business run for profit but not the case with the public sector, in which I would include nationalised and significantly subsidised concerns.

In view of the sad history I would hope the current Labour Opposition would engage positively with the Government in its endeavour.

S Beck, Edinburgh

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