ON May 6, the Scottish Parliament elections take place.

We are a group of women of all ages and backgrounds who want to demonstrate to Scotland’s politicians that we are walking away from political parties that refuse to support the rights of women and girls.

We have watched as policy and legislative changes, many achieved through stealth and secretive lobbying, others with disregard to public consultations, have diminished established women’s rights and put women’s lives and wellbeing at risk.

As an example, the new Hate Crime Bill offers greater protection to some vulnerable groups but not to women on the basis of sex.

This is despite the Scottish Government’s own 2020 publication describing violence against women and girls as “one of the most prevalent human rights violations globally, directly affecting one in three women and girls around the world”.

Instead, a cross-dressing man on a stag night has greater protection from hate crimes than any woman or girl in Scotland.

Fewer women are more vulnerable than those in prison. But the Scottish Prison Service now has a policy that puts male offenders who say they are women in jail alongside female prisoners – a direct contravention of the Equality Act 2010.

Figures in 2020 suggested there were 22 male-born individuals who claim to be women housed in the female prison estate at that time, some serving sentences for serious sexual and violent offences.

Police Scotland say that male-born individuals accused of sex offences can self-identify as female, distorting crime data.

Primary and secondary schools routinely change male and female toilet provision to make them “gender neutral”, which makes them, in practice, mixed-sex facilities.

Again, this flouts the current regulations that provide for 50-50 toilet facilities for male and female pupils.

Health boards allow men who say they are women to be treated in the ward of their choice.

Research suggests that 80 per cent of those transitioning make no physical changes, meaning that women in a vulnerable situation may be denied privacy and dignity away from male bodies.

Similarly, a woman asking for a female doctor or a female social carer for intimate care may instead be seen by a man who says he is a woman, removing their right to comfort, safety and dignity.

In 2018, again without any public consultation, the Scottish Government redefined the word “woman” in legislation designed to improve the gender balance of public boards.

Where once “woman” simply meant adult human female, the Scottish Government’s version now includes anyone “living as a woman” or who is “proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of becoming female”.

In response to a question on Twitter that asked: “Would you consider a public board consisting of 50% men and 50% trans women to be gender-balanced?”, SNP MP Kirsty Blackman replied: “Yes.”

Women make up 51 per cent of the population, yet the rights we have are barely a century old and still easily cast aside when politicians are pressured by lobby groups and special interests or swayed by fashionable causes.

We support Women Speak Scotland’s Manifesto for Women’s Rights, which affirms women’s sex-based human rights, including rights to safety and privacy; health and bodily autonomy; freedom of speech and association; fairness in sport; and freedom from male violence and exploitation.

This manifesto is, we suggest, the bare minimum commitment that women should expect from any political party in Scotland.

Women have a voice, and our voices will be heard.

When we cast our votes on May 6, we will vote for the party that is most willing to stand up for women and girls.

Elsie Inglis, Women Voting With Our Feet Collective, Edinburgh.


WITH the weather improving and the country gearing up for the relaxation of lockdown rules, Gordon Watson’s Agenda article (“Increase in Scots enjoying the outdoors is a golden opportunity”, April 20) could not have been more timely.

As chief executive of our first and busiest National Park, at Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, he knows more than most the pressures which will soon be coming to bear on the area’s “honey-pot” locations.

He makes a plea for a modal shift in rural transport and for more resources to help make it happen, but listening to the politicians on the election stump, it seems that few of them see many votes in it.

That is a pity and it bodes ill for our beautiful places and the communities who live there, and for the thousands of Scots who, after months of internment, will soon be seeking an escape into fresh green air.

Mr Watson is right to identify the vital importance of a rural transport system that provides for popular itineraries.

It sounds kind of like the “4Bs” – a Bus, Bike, Boat and Boots bus service – that I helped to pilot a number of years ago between Balloch and Arrochar, only to see it fold when the European funding ran out.

Weaning us off our motor cars will not be easy.

It will take time and determination and without the exercise of considerable political will it probably won’t happen.

The recent decision to impose charges on Lochs and Glens coaches that use the National Park’s Inveruglas car park while passengers make the transfer by ferry over to Inversnaid might not be the best way to start.

Meanwhile, this summer it is a fair bet that good weather weekend gridlock will continue to occur and the poor residents of Arrochar, Tarbet, Luss, Balmaha and Strathard will continue to pull their hair out!

John Urquhart, Vice chairman, Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs,