Readers' letters: Gender Recognition Reform Bill far from ‘dead in the water’​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

You quote un-named MPs claiming that the Gender Recognition Reform Bill is “dead in the water”, and that it has set trans rights back (Scotsman, 21 February). It’s not clear why anonymous MPs think they can speak for trans people.

Of course it is nonsense to say that the Bill was rushed through. It was consulted on publicly over five years, and had more debate in the Parliament than almost any other Bill.

It was then passed by a large majority including MSPs of all parties.The bill is far from dead. It is now the Parliament's Bill, and only the Parliament can withdraw it. It is possible that a court challenge to the section 35 order might not succeed. The courts have ruled before that the Scotland Act means that power devolved is power retained, and that the UK has the final say. But that would not end the Bill, which would remain on the Parliament's books.

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It is clear that the current UK Government is refusing even to discuss a solution that would allow the section 35 order to be lifted. However, the Labour Party supports reform of gender recognition.

Demonstrators hold placards as they take part in a protest march in central London  to show their support for Holyrood's Gender Recognition Reform BillDemonstrators hold placards as they take part in a protest march in central London  to show their support for Holyrood's Gender Recognition Reform Bill
Demonstrators hold placards as they take part in a protest march in central London to show their support for Holyrood's Gender Recognition Reform Bill

If necessary, the Scottish Government can simply wait for a change in UK Government, and then negotiate to lift the order, with the necessary adjustments to cross-border matters and if needed, the reserved Equality Act. Those can be made in the usual cooperative way for UK amendments in consequence of a Scottish Bill, via a section 104 order at Westminster.

Tim HopkinsDirector, Equality Network, Edinburgh

Reaching out

I do hope Kate Forbes becomes our new First Minister. I feel she is the most likely of the candidates to try to reach out to the unionist half of Scotland, to seek consensus on the independence issue, perhaps with Devo Max, or Home Rule along similar lines to that proposed for Ireland in the 19th century.

Scotland has a lot of negotiating clout with Westminster, given our strength in renewables and our importance to the defence of the UK. I’m sure Westminster would be prepared to agree to a referendum on a package that would work for the majority of Scots, especially if the SNP dropped its red line about a threshold, and agreed to, say, 75 per cent of voters saying yes, as was achieved in the last devolution referendum.

However, the nationalists would have to be prepared to soften their dogmatism over nuclear weapons and possibly nuclear energy as well. And this, along with effectively dropping the idea of full separation, would be an extremely hard sell for Ms Forbes. But it’s the only possible way I can see of bringing our divided nation together, so that we can concentrate on the things which really matter to us – public services, a strong economy, the environment, opportunities for our young people and so on.

Brian Carson, Edinburgh

Respect for law

Candidate for leader of the SNP and First Minister Kate Forbes, who is a devout Christian and member of the evangelical Free Church of Scotland, has said she would have voted against the 2014 introduction of marriage equality in Scotland (Scotsman, 21 February). With some contrivance she explains that, despite this, she now respects current legislation.

Ms Forbes is of course entitled to have religiously informed political views: she was elected quite independently of them; but is the glaring discrepancy between this faux support for the law as it stands and her actual personal beliefs on equality something we could accept in a national leader?

Neil Barber, Edinburgh Secular Society

Fiery trumpet

No wonder so many in Scottish nationalist ranks are blasting the fiery trumpet against the monstrous regiment of Kate Forbes. She sounds utterly terrifying.

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Would have voted against gay marriage when the previous SNP leader Sturgeon merely “abstained” so she could boast her LGBTQ+ credentials without upsetting her Muslim backers?

Has stated “I will defend to the hilt everybody’s right in a pluralistic and tolerant society to live and to love free of harassment and fear,” when her opponents believe in the divine right to issue routine public death threats against TERFs and anyone else showing signs of “Wrongthink” against their sound doctrine?

Believes her role to be as “a servant of democracy, rather than a dictator”?

Jings, crivvans, help ma boab, we cannae be having that, Morag! The brazen hussy will be wanting folk to think for themselves next!

Mark Boyle, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

Ordinary people

In deciding to throw her hat into the leadership race, I note that Kate Forbes based her own polling on “conversations with normal ordinary people”. Given senior politicians struggle to define what a woman is, I wonder how she would define what a normal ordinary person is.

Brian Petrie, Edinburgh

Agent of change

In his speech at the recent Scottish Labour conference Anas Sarwar reportedly spoke of the need for change 57 times (Scotsman, 18 February). We could certainly do with some changes in the way we are governed. One which he could implement right away is to stop the playground bickering and name-calling by the Opposition in our parliament, substituting for it reasoned proposals including how alternative action could be funded, should that be relevant.

Party zealots might miss the rush of adrenaline they get from the scourging of their enemies but for the rest of the population I guess it would be a welcome indication of some rationality.

To reinforce this approach I suggest that legislation of a social nature which doesn’t run counter to the governing party’s manifesto, such as the recent Gender Act, be subject to a free vote at all stages. Indeed, might there not be opportunities for the opposition parties to bring forward legislation of that kind – after all they have been elected to represent a sizeable number of citizens.

S Beck, Edinburgh

Invest in NHS

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Gerald Edwards (Letters, 20 February) casts vague aspersions on Nicola Sturgeon’s legacy, while failing to note the massive damage being done to whole of the UK by the Westminster government, which ignores devolved nations’ needs.

Following Brexit, we see the downward slide of the UK economy and pound. We see Scottish exports badly hit and mountains of red tape making it impossible for small businesses to trade with the EU. We see prices going up and delays. The Bank of England raising interest rates has made matters worse and pushed up inflation. Rishi Sunak now intends a bonfire of EU legislation including on workers’ rights, the environment, food standards and pollution in rivers, pushing the country further downhill recklessly.

Westminster is privatising public services and hurting public service workers, and is interfering in devolved areas like health. On the NHS it aims at the US health model, one of the worst in the world, in which millions cannot afford healthcare and must pay insurance and costs. They legislate accordingly, extensively cutting the public NHS and fragmenting it.

The BMA has accused the government of reckless behaviour on how they are dealing with “shattered” staff. Junior doctors are the latest to ballot for industrial action. Their pay is low and the work overload too much with dangerous levels of understaffing. These problems result from a complacent and incompetent government which could manage the health service with care and invest in it. Professor Jeremy Farrar, soon to be chief scientist of WHO, has warned that health workers are being stretched “beyond their resilience”.

The Westminster government is cruel, unable to govern safely for the majority.

Pol Yates, Edinburgh

Assisted dying

James Downar (Letters,15 February) criticises MSP Murdo Fraser (Perspective, 8 February) for claiming Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) in Canada is being offered to people who are vulnerable, poor and otherwise marginalised, that it is available to young people with anorexia and can be obtained on the same day as the MAiD assessment occurs.

In Canada, MAiD is now being made available on the same day that the second doctor assessment is completed. Similarly, a young woman with anorexia may qualify for MAiD if she refuses treatment and her death is considered "reasonably foreseeable” owing to malnourishment.

Numerous cases of those who are poor and vulnerable being offered MAiD whilst not being given access to social care packages, housing or even wheelchair ramps have hit the headlines.

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Mr Downar’s research has been criticised by other Canadian doctors, with Dr Ramona Coelho stating “a study prematurely declaring no concerns for the vulnerable is alarming and reckless”.

Most disturbing about Canada is the speed with which the law was expanded to include non-terminal illness and how quickly deaths increased to over 10,000 per annum in just six years. Since, the Bill being proposed by Liam McArthur at Holyrood is similar in scope, with no prognostication of death being required and refusal of treatment being included, Murdo Fraser was right to raise these concerns.

Dr Gordon Macdonald, CEO Care Not Killing, Glasgow

Royal waves

Alison Campsie refers to the future James II and VII being shipwrecked on his way to Edinburgh (Scotsman, 18 February). Surely, he was James VII and II if he were in Scottish waters! A Scottish newspaper should report from a Scottish perspective.

Walter MacAulay, Piperdam, Angus

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