IN society, individual rights and responsibilities are relative, not absolute. My rights are tempered by my responsibilities to not impinge on the rights of others. The rights of the fetus (this incidentally is the correct spelling from the Latin root – the Americans are correct) to life versus the rights of the woman to choose, are central to the difficult debate on abortion (Letters, May 5 & 6).

Each side has valid arguments and deeply-held beliefs. The argument which has the casting vote in the debate, for me is a negative one. You and I do not have the right to impose our ideology on the pregnant woman. I know that these competing rights, often unexpressed, underpin the intensely emotional internal debate all women facing abortion undergo to a greater or lesser extent. We have no right to restrict that personal debate. The conflation of the anti-abortion movement and the political right in America is chilling. Party politicisation of debate on difficult social issues is to be avoided here. Fortunately, public opinion seems to favour easy access to abortion.

To do nothing, is however wrong. Health is a devolved issue. Is there any reason why Holyrood should avoid acting? Sex education, greater access to prophylactic contraception and “morning after” contraception all have an important place. The 1967 Act is out of date and needs to be adjusted to reflect modern society and medical advances.

The reality of abortion on demand should be legally acknowledged. Health care workers should not provide a cloak of respectability by being required to sign off termination forms but should be released from that responsibility to concentrate on medical and psychological support of women who need it.

Remote and easy prescription and supply of medical termination should be the norm. It is only later in pregnancy that there should be increasing medical involvement as risks increase. Fortunately, the numbers of women undergoing later abortion in the absence of significant risk to their physical or mental health is small. Modernisation of the law and improved early services should reduce this problem further, leaving late termination for those with substantial risk if the pregnancy continues.

John Murdoch, retired gynaecologist, Innellan.

* JOHN NE Rankin (Letters, May 6) points out that Martin Conroy's anti-abortion view (Letters, May 5) comes from a man. The US Supreme Court is also overwhelmingly male. If this subject is ever debated or voted on in the UK perhaps it should be made clear from the start that only the views and votes of women will count in the debate.

John Jamieson, Ayr.


CHRISTOPHER H Jones (Letters May 6) accuses Ruth Marr (Letters, May 4) of "beating the same old drum" because she complains about Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will and not getting the government it voted for. He then beats his own repetitive drum about the results being "UK-wide", just another way of stating that the individual voice of Scotland should always be ignored.

Peter Dryburgh, Edinburgh.


YOUR headline "Ukraine must be persuaded to give ground to end slaughter," (Letters, May 5) would bring a tear to a glass eye. Of course it would end the killing, if only for the immediate time being. On reading Duncan McFarlane's letter the first thought that immediately came to mind was remembering standing in the fort at Masada in Israel many years ago, where instead of logically surrendering, the entire garrison chose to die by their own hand rather than being ruled by the Romans.

Nearer at home, Sir Walter Scott's poem "Breathes there a man with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said, this is my own, my native land..." says it all.

Unfortunately logic and being patriotic are strange bedfellows. It is clear that Russia intends to destroy if necessary all Ukraine, and all it stands for, if it has to, in order to protect what it sees as its vital interests.

"We will only stop at the Polish border" says the Kremlin. Perhaps the saying "might is right" is logical, but I still prefer to think that a greater force, in the long run, has to be love for your country, its ideals and all it stands for. Hopefully watching such events as the march past of the 51st (Highland Division) entire divisional pipe band in shirt-sleeve order in Tripoli at the end of the North African campaign will continue to defy logic. It certainly still brings a patriotic tear to an old eye.

Robin Johnston, Newton Mearns.


WITH energy giant Shell revealing record profits of more than £7 billion in the first three months of the year, along with profits of £5bn over the same period, this amounts to a staggering profit of £1,500 a second ("Shell underlines value of North Sea after profits hit 14-year high", The Herald, May 6).

Household bills are soaring on the back of these profits, renewing calls for a windfall tax. While the UK Government is claiming that this will impact on investment by these companies, the irony is that BP boss Bernard Looney has said that such a tax would not impact on its proposals.

Other countries also do not seem averse to imposing such a tax. Italy has imposed a windfall tax, to cushion the impact of energy price rises, with the levy on energy industry profits rising to 25 per cent from 10%. Spain has also agreed to remove taxes from home energy bills, which would instead be paid by enforcing a windfall tax on companies profiting from the surge in energy prices.

It is highly immoral that oil companies are benefiting from excess profits, while households struggle, and yet the UK Government is unwilling to act to impose a one-off windfall tax to cushion the blow.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh.


The Westminster Government has ruled out imposing a windfall tax on the energy giants

The Westminster Government has ruled out imposing a windfall tax on the energy giants



I AM a 69-year-old retired widow who lives in a two-bedroomed ground floor flat. It's fairly spacious but certainly not huge . Today I received my energy statement from Scottish Gas and, despite having a credit balance of £32.21 for the period October 16, 2021 to April 23, 2022, it states: "You're using more energy and you need to pay more each month. Your new monthly payment will be £137.95 and will start on 1st June 2022".

My previous monthly payment was £54.47 and for the life of me I cannot understand how energy firms are getting away with massive increases like this. If any other business increased its prices by such a huge amount most people would vote with their feet and go elsewhere but energy companies have us all over a barrel and the only way to rein them in has to be by Government intervention. Any bets on this happening before the coming winter or at all?

Margaret Thomson, Bo'ness.


MARTIN Williams ("£30m hydrogen network project aims to replace natural gas", The Herald, May 5) quotes the Energy Networks Association and says that hydrogen could heat homes around the country from next year with all five of Britain's gas grid companies preparing to provide the gas without any changes to people's cookers, boilers or heating systems. Yet, yesterday I had a visit from a British Gas engineer who stated that my boiler, which is 10 years old, would not work with 20% hydrogen, 80% natural gas and would require replacement. I was quoted £2,646.12 to replace my boiler.

Is there any published guidance for consumers to clarify this confusing information? Do I really need to replace my boiler?

Dr William L Maxwell, Newton Mearns.


IT’S surprising that a professional musician such as Sir James MacMillan should write an article from which it is impossible to discern whether he regards music as an art or as a form of entertainment comprising a succession of more-or-less agreeable sounds ("Some of the surprising ways in which music can help us", The Herald, May 3).

“Everyone can enjoy a good tune, a pop song, a folk song, and on occasions, a concerto or symphony,” he writes. Is he suggesting that a pop fan will occasionally listen to a symphony by way of temporary relaxation of his usual standards?

Is White Christmas a better tune than the subject of the Art of Fugue because it’s more highly esteemed by more people? Sir James says “music is, or should be, for all”. Amen to that, but more than 99 per cent of people never listen to a bar of music properly so called, and there’s no chance of anything changing until those who actually know what music is try to explain matters instead of accepting near-total ignorance as inevitable. It’s worth remembering that Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit is conventionally regarded as “light”, and The Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy as “serious”.

Robin Dow, Rothesay.


IS it not time for a competition to name Hull 802? To get the ball rolling how about Nicola's Nemesis? Or Surely No Point? For the more historically minded I suggest Darien 2.

John Murdoch, Innellan.


WHAT sort of a world do we live in when people are hungry, homeless and helpless, and someone can spend £7 million on a shirt ("Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ shirt sells for over £7m million at auction", The Herald, May 5)? In 1945, we thought everything would be better, and keep on getting better. How naive were we?

Dorothy Dennis, Port Ellen.


GLASGOW Rangers have achieved a very unlikely but highly deserved place in the final of the Europa League to be played on May 18 ("History awaits in Seville as Rangers are on their way...", Herald Sport, May 6). Unless you subscribe to BT Sport or use other perhaps not-quite-legal means, this major sporting achievement by a Scottish team will not be viewed on your television screen.

Considering the infrequency with which Scottish football hits these dazzling heights in the game, surely the television companies can come to some arrangement to allow the licence-paying, advert-absorbing Scottish public to view a sporting occasion that hasn't been witnessed for years and most likely won't be for years to come?

I'm sure most of Scotland's football-loving public would tune in, although I realise half of Glasgow would perhaps be wishing the German lads the best of luck.

Willie Ferguson, Irvine.

Read more: US-style changes to UK abortion law would have a disastrous effect on women's health