Concern over smacking ban

We are deeply concerned by legislation before the Scottish Parliament to remove the defence of reasonable chastisement and introduce a "smacking ban". It is unnecessary, will do nothing to help vulnerable children, and will instead cause traumatic intervention in good families.

The discourse around smacking is dishonest. It conflates "hitting" and violence with smacking. But violence against children is already outlawed under current legislation. The reasonable chastisement defence merely allows a caring parent to use a light tap on the hand or bottom without being charged with an assault.

A careful examination of the evidence does not find that light, infrequent physical discipline is harmful to children. Major studies on smacking are often misinterpreted or misused by academics seeking to further their own political agenda.

Removing the defence will leave loving parents open to police cautions and even criminal convictions for behaviour which is, by definition, "reasonable". The stress this would bring to parents and children far outweighs any perceived benefits.

A smacking ban would also make the work of the police and social services more difficult by bringing hundreds of good parents under the remit of child protection agencies, impeding efforts to identify actual abuse.

The vast majority of Scots do not want to see smacking criminalised, regardless of their views on smacking as a parenting technique.

We urge MSPs to oppose this legislation when it is debated next week.

Professor Tommy MacKay, consultant child psychologist, former president of the British Psychological Society

Joy Knight, former national chair, Children's Panel Advisory Committee, director of large charitable organisation

Dr Simon Knight, senior community work practitioner, Glasgow

Dr Penny Lewis, parent campaigner, Dundee

Professor Ellie Lee, director, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, University of Kent

Dr Ashley Frawley, senior lecturer in social policy, Swansea University

Anne Atkins, novelist, writer and parenting expert

Frank Furedi, sociologist, commentator and author

Sally Gobbett, parent campaigner, qualified speech and language therapist

Jamie Gillies, Be Reasonable Scotland campaign

Fine words, but there will be no action

I was interested in your article in The Herald on Sunday on nitrates and nitrites in food (Join our fight to rid Scotland of cancer-causing nitro-meats, May 19).

Surprisingly enough, this has been known for at least 35 years. I was an in-patient in a Glasgow hospital for six weeks in 1986. I knew that I became ill if I ate processed food containing preservatives, but the dieticians did not know what I was talking about, nor the nurses or doctors. To avoid becoming worse, I had to get my family to bring in food from outside without nitrites and nitrates.

There is even a book published on the subject called E Is For Additives. It details the toxic effect of all the E numbers. The book was published round about 1995. Nothing was done to change the situation 20 years ago, and nothing will be done to change the situation this time. Nobody cares.

Ask Joanna Blythman – your restaurant reviewer and a renowned food writer – to write a piece on this topic for The Herald on Sunday. However, it doesn't matter what MSP or MP is asked to change the situation, nothing will be done, even though it has been known and understand for at least 35 years. Twenty years from now, people will still be dying, and authorities will still be saying "something will be done".

Margaret Forbes


Theresa May did not deserve that

Anyone claiming to a be a functioning human being and remaining unmoved by the stricken Theresa May at PMQs on Wednesday, cornered and stricken, has a problem.

It would take someone with lack of any kind of compassion or inherent decency to attempt to make a cheap political point at such a moment, but that is exactly what the SNP’s Ian Blackford did. It was shameful. This was not politics, it was more akin to sadism.

Alexander McKay


Milking it

In the light of recent incidents with milkshakes, would it be an offence for people to turn up to public appearances of right-wing politicians carrying empty milkshake containers?

It would certainly create uncertainty in the minds of security staff and police.

John Hein


Without a published manifesto, how can voters tell if Mr Farage's Brexit Party is willing to get rid of unwanted metrication and return to inches, pounds and Fahrenheit degrees?

At least with the Liberal Democrats you think you know what you're voting for even if it's probably not what you want ... if you could understand the units they use.

John Eoin Douglas


Wrong place, I presume?

As I am sure you will have been notified many times today, especially by the people of Blantyre, David Livingstone was not born in New Lanark as claimed in Sandra Dick’s article (New Lanark: the landmark that nearly never was, The Herald on Sunday, May 19).

He was born and lived in his boyhood at Shuttle Row in Blantyre at the local cotton mill. This was built by David Dale of New Lanark fame and so there were links between the two enterprises, but to claim he was born in New Lanark is not true.

New Lanark is a fabulous historic site and well deserves World Heritage status and I hope the new exhibition is a great success. Just don’t airbrush the David Livingstone link with Blantyre out of history.

Fred Chatterton

(not from Blantyre!)

You don't need religion to be moral

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is once again deliberating in Edinburgh.

Church membership fell by around 20% in the five years, from 413,000 in 2011 to 336,000 at the end of 2017. Do they need to show more concern with relegation than with resurrection?

In the next five or six years there will be a shortfall of around 300 paid ministers with 75% currently over the age of 50. Clearly, they need a sign outside the General Assembly Hall beseeching: ''Come and work for the Lord. The pay is low but the retirement benefits are out of this world."

The problem is, these people believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, people walking on water, eternal punishment and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories.

The teachings of Jesus on family values were ludicrous in the extreme, showing a very weird morality. His mission, he tells us, is to make family members hate one another, so that they shall love him more than their kin. He promises salvation to those who abandon their wives and children for him.

Not surprisingly, people long ago realised that you don't need religion to have morals. If you can't determine right from wrong then you lack empathy, not religion.

Doug Clark


The trouble with words

Referring to “a simmering row…within the SNP over transgender rights” (Cherry picking: the week when the SNP's famous image of solidarity slipped, The Herald on Sunday, May 19), Ron McKay wrote: “Sturgeon is one of those who believe people should be able to self-declare their sexuality.”

The dispute about transgender rights has nothing to do with declaring your sexuality. It is, instead, concerned with self-declaring your gender identity. The difference may seem minor at first sight but it is in fact major.

A person’s sexuality is a matter of whom they are attracted to. Gender identity is a matter of the sex a person regards themselves as belonging to (their physical body notwithstanding). Perhaps the surprisingly common use of the “LGBT” initialism is encouraging the false idea that sexuality and gender identity are the same or at least much of a muchness, but in fact gay men do not envisage themselves as women and lesbians do not identify as men.

In some ways, conjoining gay people and trans people as "the LGBT community" makes as much sense as maintaining that all single parents and all sex workers are joined in "the SPSW community". To say that is not to be hostile to trans rights, only that, as the philosopher Joseph Butler put it, everything is what it is and not another thing.

Paul Brownsey