THE normally-assured TV performer Nicola Sturgeon has spent much of the last week spluttering her way through car-crash interviews on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill (GRRB) and the vexed issue of male rapists being sent to female Scottish prisons if they self-identify as women.

The devolved SNP administration is tying itself in knots over trying to justify its own legislation while simultaneously being forced by the court of public opinion to undermine it. Ms Sturgeon is now obliged, by transferring trans women to men-only prisons, to challenge a central tenet of her own legislative proposals that if a man self-identifies as a woman, then he is a woman and should be treated in the same way as a woman born a woman.

Many believe Ms Sturgeon has shoddily used the (sadly, often discriminated against) trans community in Scotland as pawns in her ceaseless constitutional game-playing with Westminster. She surely sponsored the GRRB secure in the knowledge that it would breach existing GB law – and if the UK Supreme Court finds against her, rather than graciously admitting to a legislative breach, she'll invariably distort the outcome into another tediously predictable anti-UK narrative.

Again following public pressure, Ms Sturgeon has somewhat back-tracked on her frankly bizarre slur that many of those who oppose her bill are transphobic, homophobic, misogynistic, racist bigots – but that she made such a claim is informative. Has she reached the dangerous career stage that long-serving politicians such as Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair did shortly before they stood down, of believing her own spin-doctors' propaganda and in her own invincibility?

As speculation mounts that Ms Sturgeon won't remain in post for this entire Holyrood term (a prospect welcomed by many on both sides side of the independence debate), let's also focus on how important it is that legislation in this complex area must fully respect the rights of women born as women, and that the trans community has a right to be respected and to live contentedly, free from fear and discrimination. Regrettably, the GRRB isn't achieving these important twin objectives.

Martin Redfern, Melrose.


WHAT a refreshing change to read Neil Mackay’s interview with India Willoughby ("'Someone will end up killed unless things calm down'", January 29). It has become unusual to hear a trans person’s voice in the mainstream media. I remember India used to be on TV fairly regularly and remember Nadia Almada winning Big Brother in 2004 with no controversy or drama. With women like India vanishing from our screens it is little wonder that trans women have been so easily demonised since they are no longer represented in popular culture.

It is not hyperbole for Willoughby to say that she fears that someone will be killed. Only last week it was reported that hate crime against trans people in Scotland has tripled. This will indeed end in tragedy if many mainstream news outlets continue to chase clicks rather than reporting accurately and responsibly.

I note the discussion of transphobia has become a wedge for the religious right to further their homophobic and misogynistic agendas. Only a few weeks ago there was an anti-trans rights protest outside the Scottish Parliament. Women dressed in green and purple applauded as the leader of the explicitly anti-abortion Scottish Family Party was handed the microphone. Any feminist who thinks men from the religious right will defend her bodily autonomy is seriously mistaken.

The American QAnon "groomer" conspiracies India mentioned are becoming a problem in Scotland too. LGBT teachers (and even straight teachers who are perceived as inclusive) are being hounded online with the conspiracies becoming increasingly bizarre. It beggars belief that a local authority had to release a statement denying that pupils were "identifying as cats and using litter trays".

One thing is for certain, conspiracy theories take people down other far-right rabbit holes. It is no coincidence that some prominent gender-critical activists have forged alliances with white nationalists because this is how the far right operate… Britain First for example, used the veneer of "animal rights" to spread their online presence and lure people into their web of Islamophobic hatred. Anti-trans organisations have about as much interest in feminism as Britain First had in veganism. Hatred, division and fear-mongering can never bring positive change to society. The very least that marginalised people deserve is a chance to be heard.

Gemma Clark, Johnstone.


FROM my reading of media reports on the trans debate, and NeiI Mackay’s interview with India Willoughby, I understand that a high proportion of the opposition to trans rights comes from the Christian community. I was brought up as Catholic, and Catholic teaching is that human beings were created by God in His own image and likeness. My strong belief is that God, in his wisdom, never created anything imperfect, and that to me, means God created people the way he wanted them to be, they are not in any way less perfect than any of His other creations.

So possibly a bit more understanding, and communication between those for and against trans rights would enable the trans debate to calm down. Just a thought.

Margaret Forbes, Blanefield.


I HAD decided to give BBC News & Current Affairs yet another chance, having previously banished it in favour of the much-improved ITV News, Channel 4 News and Sky News in light of what I have perceived as a clear and obvious pivot away from independent news reporting to a tacit and subtle editorial policy which is mindful of helping its puppeteers, the UK Conservative Government, rather than serving its paymasters (the viewers and listeners) in getting its version of events into the hearts and minds of the corporation’s dwindling British audiences.

The BBC News & Current Affairs output, especially its flagship lunchtime, early evening and 10 O’clock bulletins appears to me broadly somewhere between tamely compliant and cautiously non-critical, but it was a glaring example of "bias by omission" that provided a deafening silence screaming at me from my TV on Monday this week.

Rightly so, the damning IMF economic forecast led the lunchtime bulletin; first, economics correspondent Andrew Verity kicked-off with a bland, circumspect recorded package followed by his boss, BBC Business Editor Simon Jack (annual salary, £240,000 from the mandatory public purse, the licence fee) in the studio, with a five-minute lead story where every conceivable reason (war in Ukraine, Covid, inflation, energy costs, cost of living crisis, etc) other than Brexit, served up to lunchtime viewers as reasons why the UK economy will shrink [by 0.6%] and perform worse than other advanced economies, including sanctions-hit Russia – followed by the caveat that this was only a forecast and the IMF had been wrong in the past.

In contrast, ITV News Business & Economics Editor Joel Hill, Sky News Economics & Data Editor Ed Conway and Channel 4 News Policy Correspondent Paul McNamara all placed Brexit front and centre, alongside those other factors judiciously chosen by BBC editorial bosses in their on-air analysis of the withering IMF forecast.

With subtle but pernicious so-called news shaped and presented in suspiciously close alignment with UK Government thinking, the BBC carefully followed the Downing Street line, timidly keeping schtum on the elephant in the room, Brexit.

The sad truth is that, both UK-wide and here in Scotland, the BBC's news and current affairs output simply can no longer be trusted.

Mike Wilson, Longniddry.


TIME is running out for the West to utilise the spring-back mechanism to UNSCR2231(UN Security Council Resolution) to force the return of all UN sanctions, given Iran is currently spinning enough advanced centrifuges to produce high-enriched uranium for several nuclear bombs. The missile embargo and sanctions end in a few months, the nuclear restrictions in 2024. The UN Resolution would leave Iran isolated in the world with the Mullahs and the Revolutionary Guard specifically sanctioned.

The events in Iran affect all of us. The Director-General of MI5 said that Tehran security services were threatening prominent UK citizens and, last month, counter-terrorism officers intercepted uranium at Heathrow destined for use against Iranian dissidents. In the Gulf the Royal Navy intercepts thousands of tons of illicit drugs bound for our streets and Iranian component parts of drones and cruise missiles. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was held from 2016 to 2021. Last month UK national Alireza Akbari was executed.

Rishi Sunak condemned the atrocity but also called on allies to work together to remove the threat of Iranian drones. The Shahed and Mohajer drones,with multiple warheads, and Farsi markings, cause carnage in Ukraine, but they destabilise the Middle East as they are given to proxy militias like Hamas and Hezbollah. So far only Israel has launched an attack at the manufacturer in Isfahan. Then there is Iran's barbarism against its own people.

Iran is locked in a war between its medieval Islamic theocracy and, remarkably, Generation Z. What civilised regime turns its guns on teenage schoolgirls, who are protesting or not wearing the hijab? Yes, we noticed Iran's footballers in the World Cup not singing their national anthem. But we are not being made aware of the 15,000 writers, musicians, actresses, rappers, teachers, nurses and sports stars who are languishing in the cesspit prisons. There is open revolt in all 31 provinces as teenage girls, empowered by 30 months out of Covid-hit high schools, have missed out on indoctrination.

Our news media, shamefully, do not take seriously the proposal in the Iranian Parliament that all 15,000 be executed. Their average age is 15 in a country where 60% are aged under 30.Where are the #me too marches for the dead Iranian teenage girls?

The main opposition party, MEK, is aiding resistance by ensuring the young are unaffected by the internet going off and successfully hacking TV news, but it is crying out for western support. Is this really much different from Ukraine?

John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing.