DR Paul Behrens (“Why Scotland needs a law against conversion ‘therapy’”, The Herald, January 9) writes only days after the widespread publication of a legal opinion by Aidan O’Neill KC, who gives several reasons why Holyrood cannot legislate in the way activists would like. Dr Behrens does not engage with any of these legal difficulties.

Mr O’Neill – a highly-respected lawyer who has previously led cases which have seen Holyrood legislation struck down and was the lead counsel in the successful case against the UK Government’s prorogation of Parliament– explains that the Scottish Government does not have the necessary powers to put into law what Dr Behrens asks for. Recommendations to the Government from his advisory group would interfere with no fewer than four Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as impacting areas of law reserved to Westminster.

Dr Behrens' article is also disingenuous in suggesting that the main issue is to ban abusive and coercive actions such as electric shock therapy. The Free Church of Scotland is completely opposed to those practices but believes the law is already clear that such practices are rightly illegal. Aidan O’Neill lists various laws which offer the very protection that Dr Behrens says LGBT people deserve. So why does Scotland need a new law against conversion therapy when these practices are already illegal? Clearly the intention is to stop other practices.

And the Expert Group’s recommendations make clear that they want to prevent parents having loving conversations with their children about their gender struggles and stop Christians from seeking prayer from their friends – it is these practices that the proposed law is targeting. Which is why any proposed broad ban on conversion practices will undermine hard-won human rights and represent a new form of state oppression of parents and religious communities.

The Government’s expert group did have a number of religious representatives but every one of them had previously indicated their support for a broad ban on conversion practices. Whereas religious organisations who had expressed reservations and concerns were excluded from the discussion.

Surely, any expert group considering the impact of this proposed ban on religious freedom should have consulted with the religious groups who had expressed concerns? I do hope that when the Scottish Government consultation is launched, a more inclusive approach will be taken to ensure all voices in this debate are heard.
Rev Stephen Allison, Public Engagement Coordinator at Free Church of Scotland, Kiltarlity

Harry's behaviour is inexcusable

NEIL Mackay’s piece about Prince Harry’s shenanigans will undoubtedly resonate with many (“Harry’s saga hits home because we can all identify with the pain”, The Herald, January 10). We all deal with family relationship problems in our own way, and we all have to live with the consequences. A salutary reminder that you get to choose your friends but you don’t get to choose your family.

Nothing, though, can justify the inexplicable behaviour of Prince Harry. Like a one-man travelling circus, he hawks his self-pitying tale around television studios (for handsome financial reward, no doubt), leaking his emotional incontinence all over the place and childishly venting his spleen in petulant fashion, all the while seeking to absolve himself from any responsibility for his past behaviour or his present troubled relationships. And this from a man who claims to value his privacy so preciously, and who one might expect to have learned some degree of self-discipline during his military career.

Even without the advantage of royal privilege – albeit somewhat diluted in Harry’s case – washing a fragment of our dirty linen in public is sometimes unavoidable. But few of us would choose, as he has done, to wash the whole caboodle in public, and have the effrontery to sell tickets for the event.

None of this of course would be possible without the connivance of our compliant media, endlessly rehashing and over-analysing the whole unedifying spectacle, thereby elevating it to a wholly unwarranted level of significance. Now that the wretched book is published, things can only get worse.
Iain Stuart, Glasgow

How did we survive school?

OUR recent 50-year school reunion has subsequently brought some interesting stories to light and reminded us of how our treatment would be unrecognisable to pupils today. One of my fellow pupils, having split his shin at rugby, was told to walk on his own to the local hospital and get it stitched up and then walk back to school. (If this had been today with 12-hour A&E waits, he may have just about made it back to school by the next day.)

It stirred a personal memory of feeling a burning pain as a chemical dripped off the teacher's science bench on to my foot. I watched with both horror and fascination as the foot of my tights I was wearing disintegrated. I was dispatched without apology to the Home Economics department, where I was given a batch of odd stockings to rummage through and was instructed to sew a replacement "foot" onto the bottom of the leg of my tights.

I cannot recall sympathy, first aid or any comment that this was unusual any more than walking to A & E with an open wound might have been ( I don't remember my parents thinking of asking for compensation for the ruined tights, or a request for a public inquiry either). Oh, and I was so bad at chemistry that the teacher told me I must have been dropped on my head when I was younger.

I am not sure how we survived the trauma of schooling without masses of counselling in 1969. They certainly prepared us to expect that life is patchy and we were not to be precious about ourselves. These incidents demonstrate how injuries and trauma were somewhat normalised as an accepted part of school life in the late 1960s. Oh for the good old days?
Irene Munro, Conon Bridge

A model response

FURTHER to the correspondence on formality in letter writing (Letters, January 9 & 10), I recall that in the early 1960s my father received a letter which began with "I am directed by Their Lords Commissioners of The Admiralty to advise you" and closed with "I remain your humble and obedient servant".

Was my father an executive of a Clyde shipyard receiving an order for a new warship? Not so. He had simply written to an obscure outpost, in Bath, of that vast entity, The Admiralty, seeking to purchase a de-classified and simplified model-maker's drawing of the destroyer which had rescued him from the Indian Ocean in 1944. The letter went on to inform him that for the sum of half a crown (12.5p) the drawing could be his. I don't imagine The Lords Commissioners of The Admiralty were actually consulted about the deal.

In due course the model was built and, occasionally, it can still be found patrolling certain inland waters of the West of Scotland under my direction.
David L Smith, Newton Mearns


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