MARK Smith’s statement that "the problem with any concept of normal is those who do not conform to it can be judged or bullied or feel the pressure to toe the line" ("There is no such thing as normal anymore", The Herald, June 10) is curiously naive. Lisa Keogh ("Law student who said ‘women have vaginas’ cleared of charges", The Herald June 10) was judged and pressured for not conforming to woke normality and being foolish enough to make an obvious and biologically proven statement which is clearly not normal to those whom Alan Simpson ("Orwell was right, just a few decades too early", The Herald, June 10) calls "woke warriors" and the "serially offended". As Mr Simpson states, the serially offended "do not offer any counter-arguments, they just shout louder".

Mr Smith’s article is really championing "woke" but I am glad he concedes only that we MAY end up a little bit happier. (Is there a little bit of doubt there that we may not?) The huge rise in mental health figures tell the opposite story – of a sad and unhappy society. A society without any boundaries, any "norms" is an unstable one. Lack of free speech suppresses, confuses and oppresses and contributes to a bottled-up society. We inhabit a rather bleak society that Mr Simpson rightly compares to the totalitarian one envisioned by George Orwell.

Irene Munro, Conon Bridge.


ADAM Tomkins’ first column for The Herald (“Free speech matters – even when it’s offensive”, The Herald, June 9) made for interesting reading.

I agree with his assessment of censoriousness on university campuses and the need for this to be tackled. As he notes: “Free speech can make us uncomfortable, irritated, even outraged. But that is its very point. The hallmark of a free society is where, instead of trying to silence our opponents, we engage with them.” Universities, and other institutions, must always err on the side of more speech, not less.

Recent events on university campuses in Scotland are an affront to the proud free speech tradition our country is famous for. If censoriousness continues to take hold, this will be damaging not only to institutions but to society at large. We may be denied the positive changes that result from robust, open debate and free inquiry in places of learning.

I would, however, question Professor Tomkins’ assessment of the Hate Crime Act. He states that this legislation “got the law of free speech right”, adding: “It does not criminalise offensive speech, but it does make it an offence to use threatening or abusive words or behaviour with the intention of stirring up hatred.”

Certainly, major improvements were made during the passage of the Act. But, given that the law has not properly come into force yet, it remains to be seen whether the Hate Crime Act will be enforced fairly, or if it will improperly undermine freedom of expression. Even with the threshold of "intention", there are questions over the understanding of terms such as "abusive" and "hatred".

Prof Tomkins does recognise that “bogus complaints” will be made under the new law. This is important. Because even if few actual prosecutions occur, vexatious reporting will be problematic for the police and deeply stressful for individuals who are investigated. This is why so many people opposed the creation of new "stirring up hatred" offences. It plays into the hands of the censorious.

Scotland must remain vigilant to the potential dangers of the new stirring up offences. If the legislation ends up damaging civil liberties, it should be overhauled or scrapped.

Jamie Gillies, Free to Disagree campaign, Brechin.


I MUST pick up on Neil Mackay’s article ("As Britain declines, London prepares for an existential fight against independence", The Herald, June 10), when he says Britain’s "not evil or a menace to world peace”. What about:

* Selling hundreds of millions of pounds worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen?

* Selling billions in arms to Israel as it continues to keep the Palestinians effectively as prisoners in UN-recognised occupied territory?

* Cutting vital international aid to poverty-stricken countries?

* Dawn raids on asylum seekers fleeing persecution and conflict, including in Scotland, and appalling accommodation conditions?

Just a thought, Mr Mackay.

Andy Stenton, Glasgow.


IT is worth noting the change in emphasis from the 1941 Atlantic Charter to the new Atlantic Charter ("Johnson plays down Northern Ireland Brexit issues after G7 talks with Biden", The Herald, June 11). Article 3 in 1941 stated:“All people have the right to self-determination”. The third Article in the 2021 Charter states: “We remain united to the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and the peaceful resolution of disputes.”

It is thought that Churchill (a fervent imperialist) did not like the anti-colonial sentiment included in the 1941 version, but that has been rectified, presumably by Boris Johnson. We can all guess why.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.


IN your edition of June 11 Rebecca McQuillan ("Politicians need to keep their paws off our history) and three of your letter writers most effectively demolished Andrew Bowie’s stance on the teaching of history ("Scots Tory MP backs Union 'fightback' in the classroom", The Herald, June 10). However, I would wish to add one point. On the day that you headlined Mr Bowie’s weird opinions, Gordon Brown’s book Seven Ways to Change the World: How To Fix The Most Pressing Problems We Face was published.

Both Mr Brown and Mr Bowie are unionists but their perspectives are entirely different. The latter’s views are indeed “sinister” (as Ms McQuillan suggests) and will be roundly dismissed by Scots of all political persuasions apart from the most Johnsonian of unionists from the Brexit stable who do not see the Union as a partnership of nations. In fact, although I described Mr Bowie as being a unionist I suspect he is a British nationalist with all the baggage that carries.

On the other hand Mr Brown is an internationalist whose progressive Labour politics and views on devolution and nationalism could be the route to the salvation of the Union, whereas Andrew Bowie’s attitude can only lead to its disintegration.

John Milne, Uddingston.


THE discussion around the teaching of history brought back memories of my days at Kirkcaldy High School in the 1950s.

The Lower History course began with the reign of Henry VII and throughout the next three centuries I learned about the reigns of Tudors, later Stuarts and Hanoverians, ending with the battle of Waterloo in 1815. Scottish history did get a wee look-in at the Reformation and the Jacobite uprisings. I learned nothing, for example, of the Clearances or the rise of our capital city as a centre of much-admired innovations in the arts and the sciences. The Higher History course concentrated on 19th century empire building and how Britain was now top nation.

Fortunately as a student I found the works of Nigel Tranter a great source of learning about Scotland's past. The more I read the more I felt disgusted and betrayed, a true victim of undue bias, by whoever the education officials were who decided the history of our neighbours was to be learned and the history of our own country was to be largely ignored.

Andrew Bowie might like to comment on my schooldays' experience of having to pass examinations on English history in Kirkcaldy, Scotland.

May Kelly, Edinburgh.


AS a committed supporter of one side of the constitutional debate, I recognise that there is no prospect of consensus or political success for either side of that debate as suggested by Iain Macwhirter ("Devo max is back ... and this time it could actually be a goer", The Herald, June 10).

From many years of professional negotiation in a different context, I have learned that one can seldom find a resolution which is welcome to both sides of a dispute and that the best resolution available is often one which is not welcome to either side of the dispute. In this case, independence is anathema to one side and the UK is anathema to the other side. It follows that independence in the UK may be the best available avenue for debate and consensus. It may have the added bonus of marginalising the mindless, flag-waving extremists who afflict and obstruct both sides of the current debate.

Michael Sheridan, Glasgow.


IF “Saving the NHS” is a thing, why do we still allow the sale of cigarettes, does anyone know what experience justifies Humza Yousaf’s appointment as Health Secretary, and is there a cure for scepticism?

John Dunlop, Ayr.

Read more: We are sinking ever deeper into the Brexit fallout mire