I REALLY have to take issue with Denis Bruce's letter (August 7) regarding buffer zones around hospitals. I am a nurse with considerable experience and have cared for women going through what is often the most traumatic experience in their lives, that of having an abortion. It is not a decision that is made lightly, indeed many women agonise over it. Having to walk past protesters, silent or not, makes the whole experience much more difficult at a time when emotions are heightened anyway due to pregnancy.

I am firmly of the opinion that buffer zones should be increased to 100 yards. I agree that everyone has the right to protest, but not when it becomes intimidatory, which is the case at present. Even if the protesters are silent, it is still intimidating to have to walk past them. Mr Bruce has pointed out that he is a mere man and therefore he will never have to make that choice. Maybe he should show a little compassion for those whose circumstances have compelled them to take that step.

P Campbell, Paisley.

• I DIDN’T know whether to laugh or cry at the patriarchy telling us again that we must have placards, the wording of which I will not repeat as it is so ridiculous, outside clinics where women are entering for valid medical reasons.

I don’t know what placards Denis Bruce would display to the men who are the fathers of the unborn babies. “Take responsibility for your actions”, Don’t leave it all to me”, perhaps? As a practising Buddhist, I take responsibility for my own choices in my own life, and the only circumstance which would compel me to terminate a pregnancy is an environmental disaster like Chernobyl in Ukraine or Bhopal in India, but the decision for any other woman to take advantage of a legal procedure is hers, and hers alone. There is no way I would allow a man’s opinion to carry any weight on any decision I might take.

Those who want to demonstrate peaceably outside a clinic are entitled to do so, but out of sight of the patients, quietly, and certainly not displaying such signs as Mr Bruce suggests.

The patriarchy have had enough say in how women live their lives. Time to back off.

Margaret Forbes, Blanefield.


AS Nancy Pelosi flew into Taiwan and the People's Republic of China (PRC) responded with military manoeuvres ("Is Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan a risk? Yes, but it delivers a strong message to China", August 7), we should be relieved Britain does not have its carrier group provocatively sailing in the South China Sea, 6,800 miles from home. The area is a tinder box.

Employing "Strategic Ambiguity" had worked well for the United States, reaffirming they would not let an invasion go unimpeded but hindering Taiwan declaring independence.

What is needed from London-based TV news is some explanation of the dispute, otherwise we fall into the trap of regarding it like Russia and Ukraine. The international condemnation of AUKUS (the US/UK/Australia pact to counter China), needs to be expounded, and the strategic nature of the Quad (the US/Australia/Japan/India understanding) analysed.

By 1644, in the Qing dynasty, China was becoming the largest, most prosperous empire in the world. It has had Hong Kong and Macau for almost 1,000 years and took Taiwan (1683) and Tibet (1720). Yes, China has at least 15 territorial disputes ongoing; but the Chinese regard these areas as part of China (albeit Hong Kong and Macau have the "one country two systems policy").

The area is strategic as China turns numerous reefs into man-made islands, gaining access to fishing, gas and oil. The South China Sea has one-third of global shipping and 80 per cent of their energy imports go through there. Historically it may be theirs but the 2016 Hague Tribunal stated their claim had no legal basis.

Against that backdrop, we sent our aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth there for FONOP (freedom of navigation operations), looking like sub-contractors for US anti-China military policy and with even Lloyd Austen, the US Defense Secretary, advising the UK to have a defence policy closer to home. (One would think we might have learned from the loss of battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battle cruiser HMS Repulse trying to halt a Japanese invasion fleet off Malaysia without air cover days before Pearl Harbor in 1941).

How were the Chinese to view this desperate "Global Britain" wheeze with a US destroyer and US F35b jets featuring prominently, and Daring class destroyers, which break down, and obsolete Type 23 frigates? China has the largest navy, the fastest-growing in the world.

We have "a presence in the Far East", claims Admiral Radakin, Chief of the Defence Staff. True; the little River class patrol ships, HMS Spey and Tamar, are in Singapore and Tonga. They both have 30mm guns. The Chinese navy has scores of ships armed with the DF 100 hypersonic anti-ship ballistic missiles which can sink an aircraft carrier. We are well out of it.

John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing.


IF the Covid pandemic, Vladimir Putin and the China/Taiwan situation have shown us anything it is that the best relationship is one that does not foster too much independence nor too much dependence, but exists in the healthy interdependence zone. Scotland’s amazing contribution to the Enlightenment was not the result of navel-gazing but by positive engagement with the rest of humankind.

At present, global security architecture is grinding dangerously; everywhere we see attempts to rock the boat of international peace and stability. It's tempting to stick our head in the sand to blatant threats to extinguish free societies and democracy. Is Ukraine considered expendable in order to appease Russia? Is Taiwan considered expendable in order to appease China? Perhaps for some it is a small price to pay to avoid a major conflict. Unfortunately, it is based on faulty reasoning.

As Ukraine has shown, it does not lead to peace, but bloodshed, suffering and destruction – all without an end in sight. Appeasement does not lead to peace but, rather, encourages tyrants into thinking the free world is weak and indecisive – and emboldens them to initiate new and even larger-scale wars. The only way to prevent further wars is not to yield an inch of territory, for capitulation of ground leads to the certainty of of war. In the face of these attempts to jolt the global security architecture we must dig deep within ourselves and find the strength to safeguard it.

The SNP has the opportunity to show the world that, even a small nation like Scotland not only values freedom and democracy, but is prepared to stand up for it.

Doug Clark, Currie.


I ATTENDED the Iain Dale chat with Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday. No wonder he described her as one of the most impressive politicians he has interviewed. If Liz Truss ever wants to improve her "attention-seeker" barbs, she should watch the Vogue section of the podcast and see how the First Minister neatly positioned her in the magazine's "classified ads".

In general it was a masterclass in skating over the questions and perpetuating myths and grievances, ably assisted by Mr Dale obligingly tugging his newly-sprouted forelock and seemingly lacking the detailed knowledge required for any follow-up questions.

Most strikingly Ms Sturgeon was allowed to brush off border issues as "the same as Norway and Sweden" and solvable by "planning" as opposed to years of hard-nosed negotiation with the UK and EU.

Most of the audience loved it and I was left wondering what their reaction would have been if Mr Dale had winkled the truth out of her.

As someone who is willing to consider independence on the right terms, it was depressing to come away thinking that after 15 years we are miles from a definitive, accepted, way forward based on facts and agreement.

First of all, independence should be proposed by a government that has shown it genuinely has improved the country as far as it can. This one hasn't.

Next it should have a worked-out plan agreed with the UK and other stakeholders which resolves major issues like pensions, currency, debt, transition timescale and cost, borders and trade. It hasn't.

This plan should be independently verified and demonstrate that things can, and will, get better. It doesn't.

And lastly, all of this should this will be put to the people in a joint Scotland-UK proposition, and voted on.

It really is high time this whole situation was ether shelved or the hard yards put in by both governments to agree the above in a Clarity Act.

Or at least, after this week's Advocate General decision which points to the SNP using the next General Election to win the right to hold a referendum, the pro-UK parties should make the passing of a Clarity Act a manifesto commitment.

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven.


HARD on the heels of massive Scottish drug and alcohol deaths comes the exam results fiasco. Yet again we find the SNP and Greens letting Scots down and posting results that simply exacerbate the attainment gap, not close it.

This has become the hallmark of the SNP. Promises freely made and even more freely broken. Its biggest promise to date, that of an independence referendum on October 19, 2023 looks almost certainly to join this growing list. At what point will Nicola Sturgeon throw in the towel?

A politician's well-paid job is to help the public. Ms Sturgeon has shown precious little of this quality but a lot of one that is making life more difficult for us all. Public support won't just ebb away, it will become a flood.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.