THE “ifs” of history are indeed intriguing, but Rosemary Goring’s speculations regarding Mary, Queen of Scots lead her altogether too far into the realms of fantasy ("So, what if Mary, Queen of Scots had stayed in France?", The Herald, January 16).

Though James VI no doubt had something of a bee in his bunnet concerning witches, that his witch hunts “devastated the country” is a ridiculous exaggeration. And it is even more ridiculous to suggest that the two wholly unrelated facts of Mary’s political ineptitude and James’s propensity for burning witches contributed to “blackening women’s reputation indelibly for centuries”. Attitudes to women in general were far too deep-rooted to be affected by the failures of one woman (even a queen) or the idiosyncrasies of one man (even a king – and overall, let us remember, a highly successful one): if this were possible, it is to be expected that such imposing and momentous figures as Isabella of Castille and Elizabeth Tudor would have done far more to enhance the status of women than a minor figure (as in the context of European history she certainly is) like Mary, Queen of Scots to diminish it.

Derrick McClure,

4 Rosehill Terrace, Aberdeen.

ROSEMARY Goring is way off the beam.

The problem was not Mary, Queen of Scots, but her son, James, who may not have turned out to be such a disaster if he had not been taken from his mother in infancy and brought up by cruel fanatics.

Mary may have made mistakes, but she was not given a chance because of her faith. She was the victim of cruel adversaries and it is sad that Ms Goring shows no pity for her.

Anti-Catholic sentiment still exists. Ask the midwives who were sacked for refusing to have anything to do with abortion, despite the law against discrimination on grounds of religion.

John Kelly,

87 Roxburgh Street, Kelso.