THE row over the Gender Recognition Reform Bill ("MSPs end days of wrangling to pass gender reforms bill", The Herald, December 23) highlights the need for a revising chamber at Holyrood. That such a controversial piece of legislation can be pushed through in a few days with minimum scrutiny is obviously not right. A second chamber would allow for more leisurely and reflective scrutiny to address the concerns of those, from all parties, who are unhappy with its present form.

It also reveals a flaw in the devolution settlement, that there is no formal standing committee or other means of moderation between Holyrood and Westminster. This bill has implications for the enforcement of the Equalities Act and attendant regulations which affect both Scotland and England, and yet no-one from either jurisdiction has sought the opinions of the other before voting through the bill.

Given that neither of these mechanisms currently exists, rather than the present situation of the Tories crying moral panic over the bill and the SNP pursuing its usual manufactured grievance, wouldn't the sensible thing be to get the UK Government and the Scottish Government representatives in the same room to thrash out an agreed solution?

Alex Gallagher, Largs.


IT is a sorry sight to see that the conflict between the rights of women and those of trans people (whether real or perceived) has become yet another battle in Scotland's culture wars.

This sad situation might have been avoided if a procedure had been used to mediate the strongly-held views on all sides, and indeed, such a mechanism was successful in the Republic of Ireland on the contentious issues of abortion and divorce. The mechanism in question was the use of a Citizens' Assembly, which the Scottish Government also set up as recently as 2019. It is a remarkable omission that it was not used in this case.

Could it be that Nicola Sturgeon only trusts the Citizens Assembly when it will give her the answers she wants and where she sees political advantage? Perish the thought.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow.

• AS the current trans issue is causing so much disquiet, argument and controversy throughout Scotland, surely the easiest way to reach a conclusion on the issue is to take it to the electorate in a referendum, a form of decision-making that the First Minister seems to like so much?

Or is she afraid to hear the views of the silent majority?

W MacIntyre, East Kilbride.


I WONDER if all the writers who are hostile to the Scottish Government's legislation on transgender issues have actually researched the issue?

Such as what has been the outcomes in countries which passed legislation such as this years ago? Or what is the suicide rate among young transgender people? Or the relative levels of violence between male prisoners pretending to be transgender, in order to access female prisons, as opposed to violence against transgender people in male prisons? Or the incidence of transgender people, later on in life, regretting the decision?

Finally I wonder how the gay community would feel about having to obtain certification from medically qualified people that they are, indeed gay, before their status is legal?

Iain Cope, Glasgow.

• AS someone born in 1949, I grew up in an age of sexual repression and ignorance, and where sexual minorities were persecuted and shunned. Since the 1960s onwards this was supposed to have changed, but the moral panic surrounding gender legislation makes me wonder.

The BBC has a duty to “inform and educate”, yet Scotland is surrounded by countries where gender legislation of a similar nature to that just enacted in Holyrood is now old hat. The “lived experiences” of Scandinavians or Ireland on gender legislation was not properly aired and examined on BBC Scotland yet time was found for people like Lord McConnell, who seems to have no knowledge or insight on this subject to offer. Spain is passing similar gender legislation to Scotland, but again this was ignored.

If the BBC can only “see” Scotland via its relationship to a pearl-clutching political and media environment down south, then I want my licence fee back.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.


ALLAN Sutherland (Letters, December 23) writes that “we (and I include myself) need to pay more taxes and tax the better-off”. I largely agree with this and in particular that those with the broadest shoulders should bear the greater burden. However, Mr Sutherland referred in his original letter to eight of the 10 countries cited in the leaflet of which he complains collecting “an average of 41% of GDP in taxes”. So, his comparator is not only personal taxes, but tax generally, a matter on which the Scottish Government’s powers are limited.

He cites the STUC report “Options for increasing taxes in Scotland to fund investment in public services”, which does include consideration of tax on the non-domestic and business sectors. However, recognising the restricted tax powers of the Scottish Government, its focus is on personal tax. In comparison, a UK Chancellor has the full range of taxes available to them.

Moreover, the report itself is clear that 60% of the changes it recommends are both “longer-term and more complex” (for example, a wealth tax, property taxes). Within the UK, these would also face the complexity of directly interfacing a UK tax system of allowances and exemptions, rather than being written on the blank sheet of paper of an independent Scottish tax system.

However, our main difference lies in what we consider possible. The lacuna in his argument is when he writes in his first letter, “Of course a leaflet entitled “vote Yes for a 20% tax rise" wouldn't work”. Why not? For instance, despite 46% of Danish GDP being taken in tax, OECD reported in 2019 that “Danish people are consistently among the most satisfied with public services in OECD countries. In 2018, 88% and 84% of the population reported to be satisfied with the health and education systems, respectively.”

After 40 years of the UK’s (ongoing) race to the bottom on tax, how much of Scotland’s GDP (ie not just personal tax) we are prepared to pay for high-quality public services must be debated and the argument won. However Mr Sutherland’s own evidence is that this is possible.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.


AT Christmas time we, of all faiths and none, would do well to reflect upon the story of the homeless family whose child was born in a slum. This child grew up to devote his life to serving the poor, eventually paying the ultimate price for his preaching of a subversive message which challenged the establishment of the day undermining the political and economic status quo.

What would he, the prototype for our humanity, be thinking today about our capitalist system which creates such inequalities, which so favours the rich and the relatively prosperous at the expense of those who are vulnerable, which encourages ever-increasing consumption-fuelled growth at the expense of the planet upon which we depend for our very existence?

How counter-cultural will the sermons preached in churches across Scotland be this Christmas? Will Christian congregations be reminded of the radical message of Jesus that the one born in Bethlehem came to bring Good News to the Poor and that it is their calling to continue this work?

With Neil Mackay’s significant interview with Dr Iain Greenshields ("Kirk Moderator on the agony of Scotland’s forgotten poor at Christmas",, December 18) in mind I suggest that the Church must be more outspoken and go beyond charitable works, absolutely vital though they are, and challenge the political consensus of our day. With reference to the Moderator’s suggestion that there needs to be a debate on “how we structure society” I hope that the Kirk and other faith communities would be welcomed as active participants in that debate, bringing to the table their considerable spiritual resources, an element too often missing from our political conversations.

John Milne, Uddingston.


DING Dong merrily the tills in Princes Street are ringing

Ding dong verily the bills bad tidings will be bringing

Gloria, can interest rates get higher?

Gloria, can interest rates get higher?

E’en so here on Earth below where is humanity?

For I owe, I owe, I owe, I owe too much for sanity

Gloria, can interest rates get higher?

Gloria, can interest rates get higher?

Transport and the NHS like bells they are a-striking

Royal Mail, teachers and the rest have joined in pay a-hiking

Gloria, will interest rates get higher?

Gloria, will interest rates get higher?

Frances Scott, Edinburgh.


STEPHEN Langston's piece on pantomime ("From all-women casts to a drag queen named Dorothy, panto never stops evolving", The Herald, December 23) lists the great Stanley Baxter amongst former stars of pantomime. I will certainly never forget him dressed as a Christmas tree to "flash his charm" at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, in 1967, as an Ugly Sister in Cinderella, alongside Ronnie Corbett dressed as a Christmas pudding. However, just a year earlier another member of that family also played Dame at the King's; his sister, Alice Dale, in the role of Meg Gemmell, Queen of the Circus, in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. She was very good and funny, making her entrance on a sleigh, if I recall correctly. It was a pity she apparently did not play Dame again.

That production was also memorable for Jimmy Logan using a form of "phonetic punctuation" on a bass drum, not unlike that made famous by Victor Borge, though I suspect the latter invented it.

Jane Ann Liston, St Andrews.


I EXPECT there will still be a requirement in the coming year for “'Let me be clear’ – Your guide to what politicians really mean" (Rebecca McQuillan, The Herald, December 22), despite no-doubt well-intentioned New Year resolutions, when it comes down to the nitty gritty and placating the electorate.

Perhaps space did not allow for repetitive “I can’t recall”, “I don’t remember”, “I don’t have a recollection”.

Translated variously as: I don’t want to say, I don’t want to be found out, You don’t need to know, I’m being economical with the actualité, or the ba’s on the slates.

R Russell Smith, Largs.

Read more: Shame on the MSPs who voted to undo the work of the feminist movement