Readers' Letters: Hume was a victim too

Prof Joseph Farrell (Letters, October 20) is to be commended for trying to encourage Edinburgh University to adopt a rational approach to the renaming of the David Hume Tower – known to generations of students as the DHT.

Two observations could be added to the call for rational thinking. Firstly, Hume himself was the objects of prejudicial discrimination on behalf of the University itself. He was refused a professorship in Philosophy on the grounds that he did not profess the Christian faith. The basis of this refusal was the accusation of being an atheist. It is an accusation which does not square with his scepticism about the certainty of our knowledge of the world we live in – knowledge which, ironically, is a necessary condition for one to have faith.

If we accept the principle that an institution should be renamed on the basis of any unacceptable value statements of individuals, then all those bearing the name of Einstein should be renamed. His letter of July 1914 to his first wife, Mileva Maric, would today be condemned as misogynist.

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It is a mark of Hume’s standing in Philosophy that his work is, like that of Einstein, taught throughout the world. He studied at Edinburgh University without graduating and was refused a post on dubious moral grounds. These would seem to be sufficient grounds for retaining the name of the DHT.

(Dr) Francis Roberts

Duddingston Square West, Edinburgh

Teed off time

Whilst sipping coffee in a public space the other day, a Scottish woman was congratulating her friend on acquiring an Irish passport. "You're so lucky,” she exclaimed, “I'd love one of those, but I'm stuck with a scabby British passport for now. Mind you, we'll have our own Scottish passports soon."

This tartan hypocrite would have reacted with indignation to hear French, German or Italian passports spoken of in this way. Had anyone present dared to describe something Scottish as "scabby", they would probably have perished in a hail of scalding beverages and shortbread fingers.

Martin O’Gorman

Littlejohn Road, Edinburgh

Bring the baloney

The latest SNP U-turn is overdue but welcome ("Yousaf U-turn on widely criticised Hate Crime Bill confirmed", October 21). Mr Yousaf described the criticism of his bill as "absolute baloney". It is comforting to know that Scotland's Justice Secretary listens to baloney and takes it on board. Perhaps the final mish-mash could be labelled the Baloney Bill?

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh

Consult thyself

The SNP’s Michael Russell continues the shameless, barefaced hypocrisy of his party. He criticises the Tories for paying ‘’oodles of cash’’ to recruit consultants and trying ‘’any trick or deceit.’’ To begin with, how could anyone in the SNP have the brass neck to accuse others of hiring extra consultants?

Has he really forgotten the virtual army of special advisers and consultants employed by his boss and whose salaries are paid by the taxpayers of Scotland/UK? Many more than any other devolved Scottish administration has ever had and more akin to what would be expected of a country ten times Scotland’s size.

One again it is a very bad thing if others do it, but if it is the nationalists, well, then it does not even merit a mention in the ‘’bad thing’’ league.

Alexander McKay

New Cut Rigg, Edinburgh

Return to gender?

In an era when we are supposed to “follow the science”, I find it difficult to accept the concept of self-identification as the basis for answering the question on sex in the 2022 Census (Tim Hopkins’ letter, 21 October). He claims that this has always been the case. But this was specified only in the guidance to the 2011 Census. Before that it would have been assumed that people would self-identify with their birth certificate sex, whatever their preferred gender or sexuality. Now these all seem to be confused or conflated.

Surely sex is biologically determined by one’s chromosomes and cannot be changed when early development is complete. Gender is usually consistent with chromosomal sex. Those who feel they are in the wrong body and undergo transition change their primary and secondary sex characteristics and change their gender, but do not actually change their sex. They may be recognised officially as having changed sex, but I think it is important for their medical records, as well as for national statistics, that their birth sex is recorded.

Having read the latest paper about the Census from the National Records of Scotland, the research referred to by Tim Hopkins seems to me to show that the trans group seem to be reluctant to state their birth sex and would rather state their preferred sex. They would then be more willing to answer the optional question about being trans. It is claimed that this would give a more accurate number for trans people. I wonder how rigorous this research method was.

(Rev Dr) Donald M McDonald

Blackford Avenue, Edinburgh

So persuade me

I was a No voter. Indeed I campaigned for Better Together. I am now neutral on the question of Scottish independence because of the contempt shown by the UK Tory government for Scottish opinion. I cannot subscribe to the potentially damaging “independence at any cost” stance seemingly adopted by many nationalists; my support would be conditional.

I will not be voting for independence at any forthcoming referendum unless it is clear what currency we will be using, it is clear that there will be no hard border with England, membership of the EU is guaranteed and there is hard and unbiased evidence that Scotland will not be worse off economically than if it remained in a post-Brexit UK.

I am sure that many others who like me are swaying towards independence will want similar assurances. My great fear is that Scotland could become a kind of backwater outside the UK and outside Europe, with dire consequences for our trading relationships. This points to the need for negotiations within the UK and with the EU before, not after, a vote so that we all know exactly what we are voting for or against. We must avoid the fiasco that has been the aftermath of the EU referendum. We cannot have people saying “this is not the independence I voted for” once a separation agreement is reached.

So if there is a majority in parliament supporting another referendum after next year's Holyrood elections, and the Tories finally see that resistance is undemocratic and self defeating, let there be a sensible approach to arranging it that will minimise confusion and dissent. I will not campaign for either side but I will press for facts and answers. I am open to persuasion.

Barry Turner

Carberry Close, Musselburgh

Covid facts please

Any suggestion Nicola Sturgeon should continue the current lockdown must be put in context. Many of the Covid cases which prompted the panic here and at Westminster were students trapped in halls of residence who were unlikely to suffer more than short-term discomfort. The number of cases will reduce as they recover and the number of deaths will not be affected at all. Before we agree to continuing lockdown, or, perish the thought, even more harsh measures, the First Minister needs to tell the people of Scotland a few facts.

How many people have died each month from Covid? What ages were they? How many who were under 60 had underlying health issues?

When we have more information of this kind, we can decide for ourselves whether there is any justification at all in Ms Sturgeon continuing the destruction of swathes of the Scottish economy.

Peter Hopkins

Morningside Road, Edinburgh

Not convinced

Just who is Alan Hinnrichs trying to persuade with language such as: “Johnson and the Tories will lace their Brexit poison with reactionary filth” (Letters, October 19). Apart from anything, a party that has had two female prime ministers and has both an Asian Chancellor and an Asian Home Secretary is hardly socially backward. Nor can a party that has consistently failed to control immigration, consistently failed to stand up for the family and had to be dragged kicking and screaming by the pressure from an external populist movement to give us Brexit be credibly described as politically reactionary.

Otto Inglis

Ansonhill, Crossgates, Fife

Phenomenal idea

Apropos the search for a new Scottish emblem, how about a heraldic can of Irn Bru statant with a couple of charged flaunches of deep-fried Mars Bars rampant.

Andy Davey

St Andrews Road, Peebles


I would like to suggest the Red Grouse for three reasons: 1) Red symbolises our left-wing politics; 2) Grouse, as a verb, is something we do well, from Flodden to Indyref there's aye something to moan about; 3) Goback – the call of the grouse is usually rendered thus – presumably to round about 1600.

Willie Waugh

Howgate, Penicuik

Look down

As we approach darker evenings, can I as a cyclist make a plea to fellow cyclists to point very bright cycle lights slightly downwards towards the road rather than straight ahead which risks temporarily blinding drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists. It won’t make cyclists less visible, but it will increase the chances of avoiding potholes on our roads; This and avoiding temporarily blinding other road users, will make things safer for everyone.

Brian Barbour

Yewlands Gardens, Edinburgh


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