IS there anything to be learned from the farce of pushing the SNP's Gender Recognition Reform Bill through Holyrood with the provision that Gender Recognition Certificates (GRCs) can be handed out virtually willy-nilly to anyone who looks for one without having to prove that they meet the requirements to belong to their psychological gender identity when their birth certificate shows that they do not?

Unicamerality shows that a bicameral parliament is superior in that cool heads can scrutinise legislation pushed through in haste and amend the flaws in such legislation to avoid the embarrassment which accompanies flawed legislation.

Death and taxes were long said to be the only certainties in this world. I think we can now add a third to join that pair, namely, the ineradicability of the chromosomal combination defining your sex at conception.

You may feel trapped in the wrong body but nature assigned you the chromosomes which make you male or female to ensure the ultimate aim of perpetuation of species. Even when radical reconstructive surgery supplemented by lifelong hormonal medication is undergone, such procedures do no more than mask or override and eradicate nature's intention for the individual in the scheme of things.

However, individuals who wish to go down that route should not be denied the right to do so.

It is in the area of GRCs I take issue with what has been rushed through Holyrood without taking into account the anxiety created by that less than halfway house now permitted but they do have to be fully aware that entrance to spaces reserved for those who have fully accepted their chromosomal combination must depend upon their having undergone the full package of transformation before being granted such access.

It should be accepted that, to avoid the consternation created by this liberal granting of GRCs, those who have fully made their minds up to fully transition should have the good grace to wait until they have completed the necessary transformation before being allowed access to those areas to which their psychological gender identities draw them.

We do have to take others into account when we take decisions which are going to affect the community at large.

I would hope that those who made this decision in haste will find the time to reflect at leisure to repair the distrust created by the blurring of boundaries endemic in the provision of GRCs under the present provisions.
Denis Bruce, Bishopbriggs

UK running Covid risk again

GIVEN the recent relaxation by the Beijing government on overseas travel undertaken by Chinese nationals despite the exponential spread of Covid-19 and its highly-transmissible sub-variant BF.7 across the most populous country in the world, while many countries around the world, including the United States, France and Australia, are insisting on a pre-departure negative test, it seems the UK Government has learned little or nothing about protecting our borders and us citizens from the fall-out from previous waves of the virus.

Following a period of delay and dithering in response to the opening up of foreign travel by Chinese nationals – who are in the main inadequately and ineffectively vaccinated – the UK Government appeared to join the growing list of countries demanding evidence of a pre-departure negative test; but all is not as it seems. As ever with the Whitehall machine, ambiguity reigns supreme with Government rhetoric by far outstripping the reality on the ground.

Indeed, the Home Office recently issued the following edict: “UK Government confirms Precautionary and Temporary Measures," adding: "Passengers arriving from China to England from January 5 will need to show a negative Covid-19 pre-departure test (PDT) taken no more than two days prior to departure,” seemingly no ifs, no buts.

However, in the real world at Heathrow, the only UK airport offering direct flights to and from the PRC mainland, uncertainty has reigned supreme, with arrivals from China without a valid pre-departure test reportedly being waved through and even those testing positive following a voluntary test on arrival not being required to enter compulsory or even voluntary quarantine.

There are echoes of the peak-Covid days of 2020 and 2021, with the UK Government slow off the mark and ambiguous in the implementation of its perforated, colander-like policy, yet with the NHS on its knees and according to many healthcare experts, close to total collapse (partly due to a spike in recent Covid-related hospital admissions) basic, vital health protection measures appear to be, as usual, all talk and no action.

The first and most basic obligation of any national government is to use its best endeavours and considerable resources to ensure the health, safety and well-being of its citizens, but – yet again – the Whitehall machine appears asleep at the wheel.

The stock, hackneyed knee-jerk response to governmental cock-ups and conspiracies is "lessons will be learned", but, with the highly-anticipated UK Covid-19 Public Inquiry already under way, it seems the same errors and omissions are being made, with the consequences of a significant new wave of the virus too gruesome and scary to contemplate.

When, if ever, will they ever learn?
Mike Wilson, Longniddry

The con that is Maths

ONE of the biggest cons ever inflicted on society was that which said "numeracy should represent the mirror image of literacy" (the Crowther Report 1959). Listening to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's ludicrous proposal that English high school pupils should have maths inflicted on them till age 18, suggests the con still has its adherents. Perhaps he meant arithmetic.
There has been concern, in recent years, that the number of senior students studying Higher Maths is down 10% on the start of the century but, if this challenges the subject's pre-eminent position in the curriculum, it is to be welcomed.
There is so much violence against teachers in high schools today one would hardly welcome a measure which would demotivate pupils further.
In my high school years, only Latin was to prove a more useless, tedious waste of my time (they couldn't find a bona fide Roman assistant, presumably), yet I remember a book called Maths Is Fun.
Yes I need arithmetic to check Dunfermline's goal difference, or to examine a ScotRail timetable, or to check my change in a shop.
However, I have never been asked by Egypt to build a pyramid; nor how to lay a carpet 8' by 12' (I phone a carpet fitter). Equally useless was knowing when a bath would overflow (I turn the tap off). I was taught to use Logs (but didn't fancy being a lumberjack). Pie is what I buy at my chip shop. Why did I need to to know when a train leaving Aberdeen at 10am would crash into a train leaving Edinburgh at 10am? (I trust Network Rail, though it would be a novelty to have two Express trains running).
Yes in Scotland there is a case for certain subjects being compulsory, but the case is easier to make for Spanish, Modern Studies or Home Economics.Thank heaven Rishi Sunak's writ stops at the border.
John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing, Fife

Nuclear should be a priority

JAPAN is to reverse its nuclear reactor phase-out. The ban was introduced after an underwater earthquake resulted in a tsunami wave which flooded reactors and killed 15,500 in Japan in 2011. Not one death has occurred because of radiation.

Japan now intends to maximise the use of existing nuclear reactors by restarting as many as possible, prolonging the life of old reactors and then developing next-generation reactors to replace them. This will give Japan energy security and a carbon-free baseload energy.

This news will upset the anti-nuclear brigade. What will upset them more is that more countries will follow suit. France has 56 reactors and thus is less reliant on fossil fuels. The UK should now build these carbon-free reactors as fast as possible instead of relying on unreliable wind which over the last 12 months only provided 28.3 percent of our electricity.
Clark Cross, Linlithgow

Time to hand back Elgin Marbles

THE Elgin Marbles, actually the Parthenon Marbles, have been Greek for more than 2,000 years and still are in every way except location. They were taken, realistically stolen, by Lord Elgin in the early 1800s and most people believe they should be returned, but that is actually illegal under the British Museum Act 1963 and offers to "lend" them are insulting.

One of the most obvious concerns that many museums have is that they would be emptied of items that were acquired, a weasel word for stolen, during times when the attitudes were different. Different attitudes do not condone theft.

Let's return the thefts of the past to their rightful owners and put the past attitudes in the rubbish bin of time.
Dennis Fitzgerald, Melbourne, Australia

John Buchan one of our greatest

JOHN Buchan is among the 50 or fewer great Scots in history.

His contributions to Scots literary culture and to boosting the spirits and understanding of his very many readers and a career of glittering successes, culminating in his Governor Generalship of Canada, attest to his contributions to Scottish and international life.

The headline on Rab McNeil's review of Buchan's career ("Author created heroes ... but was not without flaws", December 18)mentions his "flaws" but Mr McNeil then dismisses them by retracting each criticism, from anti-Semitism to Buchan's unabashed involvement in the British imperialistic enthusiasms of the day.

None of us is without flaws but Buchan's were dwarfed by his merits.

John Buchan's story contributes mightily to my own love for Scotland, the country of my birth.
Charles Wardrop, Perth


Letters should not exceed 500 words. We reserve the right to edit submissions.