IAIN Macwhirter’s demolition job leaves the Scottish Government’s Hate Crime Bill in ruins ("Politicians are now too scared to defend the right to be offensive", August 2). Little is left to be tidied away, other than the standard of proof.

Were the bill to become law, much would hinge on the definition of what was “likely” to ensue after an individual had expressed an opinion to which A. N. Other had taken exception. As a criminal offence, proving that such a likelihood lay “beyond reasonable doubt” would surely be the test, rather than that it was so “on the balance of probabilities”. An estimate that there was a 51 per cent chance of something happening would be insufficient grounds for a conviction…or would it? The best of luck in deciding that point, M’lud.

In George Orwell’s imaginary world, “Thoughtcrime” was a criminal offence. This bill threatens to take us a step closer to such a terrifying reality.

Bob Scott, Drymen.

I’M no lawyer, but with the “the vagueness of the bill” being one of the many concerns the Law Society of Scotland has highlighted, I may be forgiven for concluding that the wording of the SNP’s Hate Crime Bill, could lead to some entertaining scenarios.

Imagine the situation where one of the many proposed "protected groups" (call it group A) does or says something that another of the "protected groups" (group B) deems to be offensive or "stirring up hatred" towards group B. No corroboration would be needed for group B to justify the complaint and resultant charges against group A, but immediately on doing so, it would be acting in a way that could "stir up hatred" against group A. Group A would then have a valid complaint which could presumably result in the group B being charged. There would also be documentary evidence (the charges) that group B had acted against group A.

Comedy potential aside, the implications of the bill on the future of free speech in Scotland are scary and anyone who is not familiar with the proposals should be finding out more. If you come to the same conclusions as many, including The Law Society of Scotland, the Scottish Police Federation and the Catholic Church, then voice your concerns to your elected representative.

Mark Openshaw, Aberdeen.


I READ with great interest the article by David Pratt ("Never igain: Cold war legacy of atomic strikes that stunned the world", August 2). I am a 100-year-old veteran and former Japanese POW.

A survivor of "the Death Railway" and working on defence tunnels in Singapore, later this month I shall pay a part in the Royal British Legion's Scottish VJ Remembrance. Seventy-five years ago I walked out of Changi prison weighing only six stone, and since that time I have remembered comrades who never came home, but I also know that I am alive today because those terrible weapons of war were used.

I have recalled those events every day since, they never leave me, and I do have a sense of guilt that I still enjoy life whilst people in Japan remember with sorrow family members they have lost.

Eleven years ago I went back to the River Kwai to pay respects to those pals who are buried in Kanchanaburi Cemetery and

it was very pleasing to find Japanese tourists there doing likewise. I also say "never again".

Jack Ransom ("The Scottish Cockney"), Largs.

DAVID Pratt's article discussing the Cold War legacy of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not mention the part played by the United Kingdom Government in the further development of these nuclear weapons.

The UK’s development of nuclear weapons involved testing these weapons in Australia and on the small North Pacific island of Kiritima (Christmas Island) from 1952 to 1964. This has resulted in long-term suffering to the native Australian population and to the native inhabitants of Kiritima. There were also around 22,000 British servicemen involved in these tests. Many of these servicemen died at an early age, from a multitude of rare and unexplained illnesses, a large number of their wives had miscarriages, often multiple, and many of their descendants are now suffering from various unexplained illnesses.

For years successive governments have denied that these deaths and illnesses were in anyway linked to the servicemen’s presence at these tests. At present the British Nuclear Veterans Association is campaigning for the Government to award a medal to the men involved in these tests. We wait, but time is running out, as we the veterans grow older.

Colin Moir, Peterhead.


YOUR investigation into the university funding situation ("Scotland's universities face the biggest shake-up in learning in centuries", August 2) seems to have turned up a number of issues that we are forced to confront if we are to arrive at a satisfactory resolution to them.

The Glasgow University principal was concerned about the loss of soft power from decreased Chinese students as a reason to justify dependence on the Chinese state. That adequately demonstrates firmer power in action within that relationship.

A cost to Scottish students that was not mentioned was the increased housing costs. Large numbers of well-funded international students have driven up the price for local accommodation and has pushed many Scottish students to live further away from their place of study, particularly for the less well-off. An extra hour of daily commuting is a large cost over four or more years.

We were told that our universities let out a collective sigh of relief that they will not have to refocus on Stem ("Science, technology, engineering, and maths) subjects, health workers or teachers. This is the wrong attitude and is looking at education costs without consideration of value. Give the universities the money but only for areas of greatest consequence. Train more doctors, dentists, scientists and engineers here in Scotland.

Tom Walker, Loanhead.


I HAVE noticed that during this coronavirus pandemic – currently ongoing contrary to popular belief – that the usual snipers from both sides of the independence debate continue to have a sneaky shot when the opportunity arises. However, I would like to take the opportunity to thank all political leaders and players of the Scottish Parliament for largely sticking together and following a clear strategy to eliminate Covid-19 from Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon is the First Minister of Scotland and with the support of the Scottish Parliament and her scientific advisors has worked tirelessly to ensure that everyone in Scotland is clear on what is expected of us to help achieve zero Covid-19 in Scotland. Thanks should also go to Jason Leitch for the clarity of his guidance both to the Scottish people in general and directly to the wider UK audience when answering specific questions - you are a credit to Scotland.

Every political leader in Scotland should step forward and take a bow on current performance in tackling Covid-19 and take a vow to continue working together until normal service is resumed. The time will come when you can all resume your normal – but insignificant – bickering, but in the meantime, thanks for all your efforts in showing a united front and keeping Scotland safe.

In the words of my 80-year-old mum, “I don’t really bother much about politics, but I feel safe in Scotland, we’re in good hands with Nicola”.

Let’s keep fighting this current pandemic together and make it our priority to lead by example by keeping Scotland safe.

Tom Cassells, Ayr.


THERE was considerable excitement and anticipation at the prospect of the return of Saturday night Sportscene after a long absence of 18 years.

That was because the Scottish football public had inferred the programme was going to be the hugely successful line-up of Jonathan Sutherland, Steven Thomson and Michael Stewart. They are a marriage made in heaven because they are experienced, intelligent, articulate, get on well together and their sense of fun and banter reflects that. Few BBC Scotland programmes get a bigger audience. It was the jewel in their crown.

What on earth have they done? Gone is the highly articulate Michael Stewart, who has played at the highest level and speaks with authority. Were they leaned on?

Some critics have suggested this is the familiar London-based tick-box political correctness, given Sportscene is inflicting Shelley Kerr, Leanne Crichton and Julie Fleeting on us. For some time now they have failed on the likes of Saturday Sportscene Results where the likes of David Currie have rescued them repeatedly. On Championship Sportscene they are rescued by Steven Thomson. They detract from both programmes. Both presenters have had to resort to questions where the reply was framed by the question.

Yes they are intelligent, articulate and friendly but they are experts on the women's game. They do not have the background knowledge of the men's game outwith the big five clubs, so the expertise and spontaneity are jettisoned to the detriment of the programme.

They do have some excellent guests like Marvin Bartley and James McFadden, who merge their knowledge of the game with a great ability to poke fun at themselves, but neither is a pundit.

This has been a great disappointment. I am not alone in these views. The BBC should have a look at fans' forums.

John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing.


A FRIEND recently reached her 80th birthday and received a letter from Westminster's Department of Work and Pensions, informing her that she'd be receiving an increase in her state pension. When she checked, it turned out to be an increase of 25p a week. She quickly checked her pension credit –only to find that it had been reduced by 15p a week. How do readers think she could best spend her 10p bounty for cheating death in one of the world's richest countries?

Ian Waugh, Dumfries.