Readers' Letters: Pausing Gender Reform act was right move

Lord Falconer (“The Tories have picked a political fight with the SNP over Gender Bill”, Perspective, 25 January) is mistaken that the UK Government’s decision to require Holyrood’s Gender Recognition Reform Act to be paused is motivated by political rather than legal considerations.

Whilst the politics of trans rights can be toxic, the United Kingdom’s laws relating to equality are complex to the point of being incomprehensible. Whatever the policy merits (or otherwise) of the Scottish legislation, there is no doubt that the Bill as enacted by Holyrood complicates matters even further.

To take just one example, overlooked by Lord Falconer in his article, reducing the minimum age at which people may obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate from 18 to 16 means that, for the first time, we now have to think about the implications of gender recognition for same-sex schools. It is to allow the many and various unintended consequences of Holyrood's legislation to be properly thought through that the Secretary of State has used his powers to pause the legislation. Given the mess the law is in, he was right to do so.

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Adam Tomkins, School of Law, University of Glasgow

Lord Charlie Falconer at the 2021 Labour Party Conference in Brighton (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)


The precariousness of Nicola Sturgeon's position is amplified by the paucity of her arguments over the Section 35 order. Nicola Sturgeon “thinks” that the UK Government can use this “on a whim” when it is the first time in 25 years that this has occurred. Ms Sturgeon goes on to say that she “thinks” there is a real public interest in getting some judicial interpretation of this. This suggests she is passing the buck. Whatever happened to leadership and taking “full responsibility” for her governments actions?

Gerald Edwards, Glasgow

Transparent tax

There is considerable public debate concerning incomes and the tax that some people may or may not pay. This is especially important when governments plead they are too poor to pay proper wages to public sector workers such as those in health and education. As is often the case it is worth noting the Scandinavian examples.

Every October, the annual tax returns of Norwegian citizens are posted online on the Norwegian Tax Administration’s official website, and anyone can go and have a look.

While individual incomes may not be published the tax paid is publicly recorded on government websites so everyone can see that everyone else is contributing to public welfare.

This has been the case for over 100 years, so long before Norway had north sea oil. Tax offices in Sweden and Finland have variations along similar lines.

Norman Lockhart, Innerleithen, Scottish Borders

Dying wishes

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Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields has the right to determine his own choice in dying according to his faith or otherwise (Perspective, 23 January), but does not have the right to dictate that others must not be afforded safeguarded choice in their own dying. The proposals in Liam McArthur's Bill are for safeguarded choice for terminally ill mentally competent adults and the attempt to conflate suicide, “killing” and euthanasia with the assisted dying proposals of the Bill, is alarmingly misrepresentative.

Like too many others, I’ve watched terminally ill loved ones suffer and die in traumatising ways, despite exhausting all feasible palliative support. Their verifiable wishes for choice of assistance in ending the later ravages of death was entirely different to choosing to end their lives in suicide. Their pleas for their choice to be respected did not conflict with their faith and it did not devalue their lives. Instead their trauma, agony and the loss of autonomy in denying their wishes in dying, devalued their humanity.

Living with disability myself, I advocate for patient choice and autonomy in research and healthcare within my voluntary work as a patient representative. I find it incredibly patronising and controlling to imply that patients with disabilities must be “protected” from having autonomy in their own mentally competent safeguarded choices.

Choice and caring are not mutually exclusive. In fact, informed meaningful safeguarded choice is integral to a caring Scotland.

Caroline Brocklehurst, Giffnock, East Renfrewshire

Beds unblocked

When I served on the Social Work committee of Edinburgh Council the cost of care beds came to the committee. It was stated that the council could provide beds at a lower cost than the private sector.

A private contractor has to count all overheads before quoting his prices. The council appeared to forget many of the overheads required to provide council care beds.

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When I asked what overheads were accounted for by the six floors of social work staff at Shrubhill and to include the director’s salary as an overhead I was laughed at. I did run a small business and I know that every penny of expenses had to be counted as an overhead.

It would appear that the Scottish Government is also forgetting about overheads in the NHS. When one bed in the NHS can cost upwards of £6,000 per week it is a no-brainer to use the private sector to clear some of the bed blocking. The cost of a private sector care bed is £1,400-£1,600 per week, about 20 per cent of the cost of an NHS bed.

Alastair Paisley, Edinburgh


Under the regime at Holyrood the Scottish political scene has become extremely narrow, and lacking in what might be defined as a true form of democracy. Debate instigated by the opposition parties is generally treated with derision. And let us not forget that without support from the unelected Green Party, the SNP does not actually have the necessary majority to govern.

It really has to be said that the whole current charade at the Scottish Parliament has become just a mockery of democracy. Scotland would be much better off these days without Holyrood. We Scots deserve better than the haphazard “government” enacted by the Scottish Nationalists. Their Administration lacks purpose, consistency and economic sense. Surely the time is fast approaching when governance of all parts of the UK should be returned to Westminster. Perhaps the buildings at the foot of the Royal Mile could be converted into a rather overpriced museum dedicated to Scotland's political history and culture?

Robert I G Scott, Ceres, Fife

Easy equation?

The main ingredient required to make inland wind turbines generate electricity is wind. Recently the “windmills” in my area and in many other areas have been motionless. In the form of a simple equation; wind turbine + no wind = no electricity generated = coal fired power stations fired up = expensive imported coal = useless wind turbine = financial windfall to owner of useless wind turbine. There must be someone in the SNP/Green gang who can understand my equation and put the brakes on their plan to have wind turbines on every spare blade of grass, and reconsider the back-ups of nuclear power, and gas and oil for Scotland.

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Ian Balloch, Grangemouth, Falkirk

Fear the reds

Nicole Still, programme manager of Saving Scotland's Squirrels, congratulates the volunteers who are collaborating to help save our iconic red squirrel from the non-native grey squirrel (your report, 21 January).

As Prof Sir Hugh Pennington has said in these columns, the reds were introduced from Scandinavia in 1793, the greys from North America in 1876. The cuddly red squirrel can carry leprosy. The reality is that, within 18 months The Animal and Plant Health Agency will have a contraceptive vaccine which can be used to reduce the grey numbers in place of the barbaric culling which has failed spectacularly for 100 years (there are 2.7m greys as they breed twice a year). There are areas of Scotland where reds and greys live side by side. Greys do not attack reds and a 2008 study showed many reds are immune to ghastly squirrel pox, which urgently requires a vaccine too.

Much of the problem stems from the reluctance of the SNP Government and ambivalence of the SSPCA to challenge the English classification of the greys as “vermin”. The reds are in decline due to a lack of coniferous woodland outwith Scotland and the increase of deciduous. The habitat of the reds has been destroyed by agriculture, housing and industrial use. They are arboreal feeders. Greys have adapted to foraging on the ground eg for the unripened seeds reds will not touch. Their success has led to horrors of which we should be ashamed.

John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing, Fife

Time to explain?

Elizabeth Scott is fond of making extreme statements about the Government at Westminster's sins, as she sees them. Now she claims that the NHS in Scotland may be “subsumed by a two-tiered NHS England” (Letters, 24 January). I am at a loss to understand why that should be the case, as NHS Scotland is wholly under the control of the SNP. If Elizabeth Scott is, as she claims, a former GP, why is she not aware of this?

Or, could it be that she knows something about the Scottish Government's plans to privatise the NHS on this side of the Border? I would not be surprised if they did, as I have had experience of the gradual privatisation of the SNP's NHS when I recently had a check-up, due to my age. That check-up was at a private hospital. Then, later, I had a scan at another (private) hospital, all through the SNP-run Scottish NHS. The scan, I was told, cost a cool £1,000!

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If the Scottish NHS is in danger of being privatised, as my experience would seem to confirm, then Humza Yousaf has a lot of explaining to do.

Peter Hopkins, Edinburgh

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