These attacks should be investigated

The abuse that Nicola Gilchrist, the chair of Scottish Women's Aid, has received is disgusting and should be addressed robustly by Police Scotland (“Lawyer plagued with hate mail after Rangers 'domestic abuse' TV comment”, Herald on Sunday, March 31). Her specific mentioning of Rangers was unfortunate but she has explained why that team was in her mind (her grandfather was a supporter and she had just driven past Ibrox) and that should be the end of it.

Domestic abuse is a scourge on Scottish society, causing untold misery to those adults who are targeted as well as to their family members. It also causes both moral and economic harm to society as a whole. Ms Gilchrist’s slip should not distract anyone from these facts.

I have argued that feminist-inspired approaches to domestic abuse, including the recognition of “coercive control” as a key element, are to be welcomed (“Men’s experience of domestic abuse in Scotland”, AMIS 2013), but the implications of this move have perhaps not been thought through.

In recent years the number of incidents of domestic abuse reported to Police Scotland each year has been around 50,000 (roughly 80% women and just under 20% men in heterosexual relationships and 2 to 3% people in same-sex relationships) but if, as Ms Gilchrist is reported to have said, domestic abuse was not about "a black eye after [a football team] lose nor something" then a number of these reports will have to be reclassified.

It may be that saying “domestic abuse is not about a black eye” will have a chilling effect on those seeking to report domestic abuse or on those such as frontline medical staff who are urged to be alert to the possibility of their clients experiencing domestic abuse.

Brian Dempsey

Lecturer, University of Dundee

Indyref2 - this is indeed not the right time

You rightly urge the First Minister to resist the temptation to exploit Brexit turmoil for the pursuit of a second independence referendum (‘In our opinion: First Minister should ignore Harvie’s call’, April 7).

Many on the pro-independence side of Scotland’s big debate argue the case for a rerun based on the mandate provided by various votes, and the trigger of the Brexit result. Yet after the last few years of such uncertainty, surely Scotland deserves some time to allow the dust to settle and to reflect after the 2021 Holyrood elections. If the SNP secure a clear majority based on a manifesto centred on the pursuit of independence then they will have strengthened the case to put to the UK government. Alternatively, if pro-UK parties have a collective majority then that updated will of the people will avoid the need for a further divisive referendum.

For the SNP to push ahead now will simply be interpreted by many as primarily an attempt to stir more grievance from the inevitable rejection by a UK government still embroiled in all the implications of Brexit.

Keith Howell

West Linton

It looks like Nicola Sturgeon’s speech writers are in for a tough time at the forthcoming SNP conference.

Of course they'll be able to fudge over - at least well enough for the SNP faithful - Ms Sturgeon's failure to address the educational attainment gap, her apparent inability to reduce NHS waiting times and that Scot Rail let's down commuters on a daily basis across Scotland.

But where the SNP leader's spin-doctors will struggle is Brexit. Conference after conference, she turns up to tell delegates Brexit equals independence - but she doesn't deliver. She's been teasing dyed-in-the-wool separatists with another indyref2 announcement for months.

It's not Ms Sturgeon's fault Brexit is going slowly but many in the SNP establishment grow impatient, requiring her to demand indyref2 now - some even favour a Catalan style referendum.

But the cautious SNP leader wants to play it by the book and won't risk an unofficial referendum - and the EU has now granted a six month delay to Brexit, with still no one knowing what form Brexit will take.

So Downing St will inevitably continue to reject any renewed indyref2 demands until, very likely, after the next Holyrood election in 2021. Good luck to Ms Sturgeon's spin-doctor team trying to get a lengthy standing ovation out of that message.

Martin Redfern


Alexander McKay suggests "a complete realignment of British politics" and proposes "a new three or perhaps four party system where the views of the voters are reflected properly" (Letters, April 7).

I can only assume that he is referring to the system that has been used by the Scottish Parliament for almost 20 years, which does properly reflect the views of the voters; and incidentally, where the SNP is in its historic third successive term of government.

Ruth Marr,


Law change is the right thing to do

The news last week that a small cross-party group of MSP’s remain opposed to attempts to legalise assisted suicide is disappointing. Just how unrepresentative this position is, when compared to that of their constituents, can be shown by the Populus survey, where nine out of 10 Scots support legalising assisted dying.

The groundless claim that it would have “a damaging effect on society” in Scotland ignores the experience from other parts of the world, including the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, Belgium and Luxembourg. Their laws permit assistance to be made available, if requested, to those in need. What evidence can the MSPs provide that civilisation in these countries has been wounded as a result of such compassionate legislation?

MSPs at Holyrood must change the law on assisted dying, but not because that would bring us into line with other civilised societies. They should do so because it would be the right thing to do.

Dr Bob Scott (Retired GP)


A nit I'm delighted to pick

Being a man of a certain age, the only pleasure I have left in life is nit-picking. So imagine my delight when I spotted, on pages 10 and 11 of the April 7 edition of The Herald on Sunday, a nit that was badly in need of being picked. The fact that it was an old nit which has been picked by better men than me did not diminish this delight.

On page 10, Ron McKay featured a piece about cost cutting in our legal system, which is all well and good. But you illustrated it, over pages 10 and 11, with a photo of a gavel. Surely journos have latched on to the fact by now that gavels are not used in UK courtrooms? Judges, sheriffs and magistrates in the UK don't use, and never have used, gavels. I can only surmise that The Herald on Sunday has been watching far too many American courtroom dramas.

I keenly anticipate future nit-picking while reading your august publication, so keep up the good work!

James Gracie


Assange must account for his actions

One thing is for certain: Julian Assange is no hero – coward more like. Putting aside the untold damage he may have caused with the revelations of military names and identities, his retreat and refusal a few years ago to face up to accusations of rape in Sweden – a country with probably one of the most liberal and fair judicial systems on earth – was cowardly in the extreme. In the end it seems Ecuador was only too happy to get shot of him from their London Embassy and it is easy to see why.

In truth, in news broadcasts, he looked dishevelled and pitiable and in dire need of medical attention. When fit, as everyone else has to do, he has to account for his actions to the judicial system of this country, in Sweden and possibly the USA.

Alexander McKay


This taxpayer-funded scandal must end

Thanks to the Taxpayers Alliance (TPA) senior staff leaving public sector roles in England and Wales will soon have "redundancy" pay-outs capped at £95,000 by the Westminster government.

In Scotland three council chiefs were handed huge golden goodbyes in 2017-18. Perth and Kinross Council gave the head of finance £287,000 and the senior deputy chief executive £194,188. Aberdeen City Council made a golden goodbye of £188,093.

In 2007 there public anger when the chief executive of East Lothian Council persuaded councillors to pay him £130,000 redundancy despite him planning to retire. Public anger forced Audit Scotland to investigate and the payment was cancelled.

That was eleven years ago so why did the Scottish Government not do something at that time to stop this taxpayer-funded scandal? I trust that the Scottish Government will now act and rush the appropriate legislation through Holyrood and show Westminster how it should be done.

Clark Cross