IN December, it will be 35 years since I was one of several people who set up a group to lead the campaign against the introduction of Section 28 in Scotland. We did not succeed in stopping the section, but 12 years later, I was the press spokesperson for the Equality Network, as it was at the forefront of the successful campaign for repeal.

Needless to say, Kevin McKenna was not a member of either organisation, and nor were any of the other high-profile opponents of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

Jamie Greene MSP noted in last week's parliamentary debate on the bill that some of the arguments against it are retreads of the arguments used in the past to oppose LGB equality. Having spent the first half of 2000 publicly countering misinformation about repeal of Section 28 put out by the Keep the Clause campaign, I know all too well that Mr Greene is right. Kevin McKenna's comment piece today ("The SNP assault on women’s rights shames Scotland", The Herald, October 31) is an eye-watering example of such misinformation.

The parliament committee leading on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill heard from people who run services, sport, prisons, and the NHS, and from those who are responsible for upholding the law protecting single-sex services, that the bill will not affect whether and how any trans people are included in those services.

Some years after the repeal of Section 28, the Equality Network was contacted by a press spokesperson for the Keep the Clause campaign, who apologised for getting it so wrong and offered to help us. That was welcome, but more important of course was that in 2000 the Scottish Parliament listened to the evidence and decided accordingly. The Equality Network looks forward to the parliament doing the same over gender recognition.
Tim Hopkins, Director, Equality Network, Edinburgh

Tolerance is needed

A FEW years ago, at a fringe meeting during an SNP conference on assisted dying, I shared a platform with Alyn Smith MP. Initial impressions can be misleading, but I came away from Aberdeen believing him to be a reasonable person, a man willing to respect the opinions of others which did not concur with his own.

So it came as a shock to read Kevin McKenna in today’s Herald who quotes my MP as saying “I would imagine those who do not support our own government will be getting a torrid time from their constituency parties and local members soon enough”. Leaving aside the fact that as a Westminster MP, Mr Smith has no responsibility for Holyrood’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill, he must surely acknowledge his words are capable of inciting violence from the less stable. Is he being quoted accurately and was my judgment mistaken?

Perhaps more than any other matter being considered at present, the political debate surrounding gender identity calls for clarity and tolerance ... lots and lots of tolerance.
Bob Scott, Drymen

Ok, follow the Finnish example

I WAS delighted to see that Lesley Riddoch has come round to supporting large-scale landowners ("The communities let down by Land Reform Bill", The Herald, October 31). In her column, Ms Riddoch cites the Metsäliitto Cooperative as being the model we should follow here. She further goes on to suggest that 100,000 people own half the private forests of Finland. This is true – but not quite in the way she means.

Those of us who have had any dealings with it know that Metsäliitto is the parent of Metsa Group, one of Finland’s biggest forestry enterprises. Whilst Metsäliitto is indeed a cooperative, its owners, who swap their private woodlands for shares, are, in practice, merely shareholders in a company. The model, though, leads to the consolidation of Finland’s forests rather than the fragmentation sought by Ms Riddoch and the Scottish Government.

With this structure Metsäliitto, through its subsidiary company the Metsä Group, owns most of Finland’s forests and operates in dozens of other countries wholly unconnected to the owners. It is in effect an international public company.

If this is the type of ownership Ms Riddoch espouses – large holdings by major well-capitalised entities – it rather demolishes the arguments put forward in the rest of her article.
Mark Tennant, Chairman, Scottish Land & Estates, Musselburgh

Sauchiehall Street peril

LAST Friday, while shopping in the pedestrian precinct section of Sauchiehall Street, I was knocked down by a cyclist moving at speed. Though 68, I am fairly agile, and suffered only bruises, but a child, or someone unsteady on their feet might, in similar circumstances, come to harm.

I take my son to Sauchiehall Street regularly, and in recent times the number of cyclists whizzing along has increased greatly. This is especially concerning for my son, who in addition to having autism and severe learning difficulties, has a limited awareness of danger. It is dispiriting that he and I, on exiting shops, have to look left and right as if crossing a busy road, in an area traditionally exclusive to pedestrians.

I fear that it is only a matter of time before someone sustains serious injuries in such a collision. I wonder if any of your readers share my concerns?
Peter Bray, Glasgow

A poor choice of words

DAVID Leask ("Scotland beware – polarised politics can lead to terrible politicians", The Herald, October 29) quotes “an indigent columnist” called Bill Torpy. I cannot see the relevance of Mr Torpy’s financial situation to the matter in hand, whereas it would make sense if Mr Torpy had been “indignant”.
Mrs Carol Primrose, Bishopbriggs

My seat of learning

I AM encouraged by Thelma Edwards' chatty relationship with her resident companion Oscar, a long-case clock which is more than 200 years old (Letters, October 29 .

In my case I am enjoying an early friendship with Tolly, a soft-release toilet seat, which notes my departure as it slows to rest with what sounds like a croaky drawling “Hello”.

I like to respond with a corrective “Cheerio”, but Tolly, not yet a year old, is either deaf or sorry to see me go.

Whether my new friend will reach Oscar’s chin-wag skills I guess only time will tell.
R Russell Smith, Largs


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