Readers' letters: UK needs a free speech 'First Amendment'

The last few months have been very instructive. We have seen concerted attempts by certain groups to silence opinions that differ from their own. If they do not silence alternative points of view, they attempt to act oppressively, as Just Stop Oil has attempted at sporting events and note-0major roadsnote-1.

People who express a variety of opinions now face oppression, ranging from nationalists like Joanna Cherry when The Stand tried to prevent her Fringe show to Nigel Farage with his bank account and Gina Miller with hers.

Now, we have the authors who staged a walkout at the Edinburgh Book Festival (Scotsman, 14 August). Such an action is one which states that we are right and you are wrong. However, there is no discussion about the rights or wrongs of the issue, simply the sort of shouting of one opinion, rather as Greta Thunberg does, but never allowing facts to get in the way of a strongly-held opinion. They know they are right and with a religious zeal, expression of their unwanted opinions are planned in advance and waste the money people paid out to see them. I would have been incensed to have paid £15.50 to see Mikaela Loach (I have no idea who she is) at the event sponsored by Baillie Gifford.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Unlike Ms Loach, I believe in a free society in which divergent views can be expressed. She and her fellow protestors clearly do not and they should be made to repay everyone who missed the show they had paid to enjoy and compensate Baillie Gifford also.

Irish comedy writer Graham Linehan performs his Edinburgh Fringe Festival show outside the Scottish Parliament after Leith Arches cancelled the Comedy Unleashed event  at which he was due to appear (Picture: Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS)Irish comedy writer Graham Linehan performs his Edinburgh Fringe Festival show outside the Scottish Parliament after Leith Arches cancelled the Comedy Unleashed event  at which he was due to appear (Picture: Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS)
Irish comedy writer Graham Linehan performs his Edinburgh Fringe Festival show outside the Scottish Parliament after Leith Arches cancelled the Comedy Unleashed event at which he was due to appear (Picture: Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS)

Then Graham Linehan had his show closed down by Leith Arches (Scotsman, 16 August). This is simply another example of the intolerance expressed by people who would claim, I am sure, that they are very, very tolerant, but intolerant of intolerance. Except, of course, for their own version of it.

It is high time that the UK had a First Amendment ensuring free speech and applying penalties to those who seek to infringe it.

Peter Hopkins, Edinburgh

War in Ukraine

The military industrial complex is humming along very nicely in the West again and along with Big Oil are the principal beneficiaries of this war in Ukraine.

The question must be asked; why were the repeated Russian requests for Ukrainian neutrality over the past decade not responded to and how many Ukrainian deaths does Joyce MacMillan (Scotsman, 18 August) accept before she is willing to accept a peace within which Ukraine survives with its sea access intact?

The betrayal of Gorbachev by the West and the failure to guarantee Russian security post-1990 is the root cause of the war. Since the Tsars, access to its southern ports is a key foreign policy security aim. Putin is no different to any Russian Tsar post-Catherine the Great and Ukrainian nationalists have never enjoyed a boundary as expansive as Khrushchev mistakenly allowed today’s Kiev.

Peace should have been negotiated in winter 2022/23. The priority is the grain harvest and the food security of the Levant and Africa; it’s criminal that this has not been prioritised by the West. Instead we have arms races and accelerating climate change.

Peter Hack, Bristol, England

Memorable lyrics

With reference to Iain Mackintosh’s letter (18 August), I have the programme for a revue called Groop 69, produced by members of the Edinburgh Graduate Group in the Bedlam Theatre (formerly the University Chaplaincy Centre) during the 1961 Festival.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The words Mr Mackintosh quotes, which from memory I would correct to “You can keep your Ionesco, you can keep your Harold Pinter”, formed part of the hilarious finale entitled “A Guid Scots Fareweel” in which the whole of the talented cast took part.

The programme simply credits this to Michael Barnes, the joint producer of the show with Alistair Walker. I would guess though that others in the cast, in particular Alistair Walker and Joyce Oliver, would contribute to the parodies of well-known Scottish tunes which made up the “Fareweel”, including We’re No Awa’ Tae Bide Awa’, which included the Ionesco/Pinter verse; the Skye Boat Song which focused on the new Forth Road Bridge then being built – “Speed bonnie bridge ‘way up in the air, over the Forth to Fife; carry us all who long for a fling to Leuchars and Rosyth” – and concluding with Scotland the Brave which included the lines “Tartan braces, tartan hats, tartan for your dogs and cats, if your tartan isn’t here you haven’t got a name”, which stopped the show with the audience’s delighted response.

As one of the stage-hands who saw the show every night for its two-week run, I have only the happiest memories of these far-off days. The Scotsman critic, “D.L.” loved the show, and concluded his review thus: “The ending was jolly and delightful. ‘A Guid Scots Fareweel’, it is called, and shows that there are some Scots who can make fun of themselves. Praise be!”

Andrew Broom, Edinburgh

GERS reprise

I had to smile when Leah Gunn Barrett (Letters, 18 August) warned that people would be digging out old letters to regurgitate what was said last year in defence of GERS. The irony that she and a few like-minded people had already regurgitated what they wrote last year about GERS must have escaped her.

I imagine, as Burns said, people sitting awaiting the publication of GERS, pens at the ready while “nursing their wrath to keep it warm”. Read and digest GERS, Ms Barrett – and learn from another Burns quote: “facts are chiels that winna ding”.

Brian Barbour, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland

Wrong question

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, rightly renowned for giving aspiring comedy performers an audience, appears to have turned to politicians for entertainment.

During Kezia Dugdale’s performance at the Edinburgh Book Festival alongside arch nationalists Ruth Wishart and Lesley Riddoch, she indicated a change in her opinion on secession (Scotsman, 18 August). Ms Dugdale stated that if the choice was between an independent Scotland in the EU and a little Boris Brexit Britain, she would favour the former.

She asked herself the wrong question. A more pertinent binary choice for all Scots is between an impoverished, seceded, nationalist Scotland run by economically incompetent failures with no chance of joining the EU, and a Labour UK government in Westminster? As she says: “I know where my cards would fall down.”

James Quinn, Lanark, South Lanarkshire

Litter Day

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Well done for the proposal to mark 16 August as National Litter Day throughout Scotland, although a better title might have been National Pick Up Litter Day.

Forget all the political problems associated with the Deposit Return Scheme and concentrate our minds on two dictums. First, do not deposit litter and second, pick up litter and deposit where appropriate.

Our streets, pavements, verges and country paths are a national disgrace but it not too late to do something about it.

Sandy Macpherson, Edinburgh

Bonnie Prince Tilda

I was fascinated by the photographs of the recreated face of Bonnie Prince Charlie (Scotsman, 18 August) because he bears a strong resemblance to the actress Tilda Swinton.

They look as if they could be related. It’s not impossible, given her Scottish forebears. Her great-grandfather was Scottish politician George Swinton, and her great-great-grandfather was Scottish botanist John Hutton. She lives in Scotland, and considers herself to be Scottish.

If she reads The Scotsman she may see the resemblance for herself, and will be in touch to claim her royal heritage!

Carolyn Taylor, Broughty Ferry, Dundee

Doctors’ pay

I have been appalled by the SNP’s claim of a record pay deal for junior doctors, repeated again on the front page of The Scotsman (17 August).

In the late 1970s/early 1980’s Margaret Thatcher’s government gave doctors two pay awards in quick succession, one in excess of 20 per cent and the other in excess of 30 per cent. So due diligence has not been competently completed, and the self-congratulatory claims by the SNP leader have no merit.

Dr R J Dow, Edinburgh

Chronic ‘doomism’

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

I have already caught a dose of “doomism” (“Humanity is failing to face up to the climate change threat”, Scotsman, 16 August). In fact I think it’s chronic, or will be until someone sees sense and calls on geoengineering to save us. We can all see where “business as usual” is leading us: to becoming a hothouse planet with large areas uninhabitable (pace wildfires, floods, storms and rising sea level and ocean acidification).

Ian Johnston thinks that a dose of doomism will stir the world “into real action”. I fear that it won’t or not until world leaders recognise that the measures they have been trying to introduce are failing to work. The CO2 level continues its relentless rise as people refuse to give up their love of plentiful energy. Not just individuals; whole countries, for example China, are actually increasing their greenhousegas emissions by building coal-fired power stations. The need for electricity trumps green policies.

The only solution is some form of geoengineering to shade part of the planet, so reducing the temperature.

Steuart Campbell, Edinburgh

Write to The Scotsman

We welcome your thoughts – NO letters submitted elsewhere, please. Write to [email protected] including name, address and phone number – we won't print full details. Keep letters under 300 words, with no attachments, and avoid 'Letters to the Editor/Readers’ Letters' or similar in your subject line – be specific. If referring to an article, include date, page number and heading.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.