IN recent years there has been a great deal of controversy about the name of the University of Edinburgh building at 40 George Square (most recently, "Edinburgh University rush to condemn David Hume shames it", heraldscotland, December 28, 2023) From 1961 until 2020, the building was called the David Hume Tower. In 2020, Hume’s name was removed from the building in response to protests about Hume’s racism. Since 2020, many people have decried the un-naming of the building, accusing the University of Edinburgh of perpetrating the egregious wrong of “cancelling” David Hume.

The first thing to say is that Hume’s philosophy was never cancelled. Faculty members at the University of Edinburgh have continued to write and lecture about Hume for scholarly and popular audiences, and to teach Hume at all levels of the curriculum. Some Edinburgh faculty members, in their teaching and writing, have focused on Hume and race. Others have focused on Hume’s views of causality, personal identity, ethics, history, and so on. The University of Edinburgh remains one of the richest places in the world for the study of Hume. Questions about race have not cancelled that study; they have been incorporated into it, enriching it.

The controversy over the removal of Hume's name is thus not about whether Hume’s writings should be expunged from the University of Edinburgh. Hume remains a towering figure in the university’s intellectual life.

The controversy seems to be, rather, a proxy battle in a culture war as massive as it is ill-defined. It’s a war over identity politics, decolonisation, woke-ism, and many other things besides. The name of the building at 40 George Square seems to have become a potent symbol in that culture war, a high-visibility spot on which opposing forces seek to plant their own banner.

Both sides should be aware, however, that the result of the battle over the name of the building has less bearing on teaching and scholarship then they might have thought. Even if Hume’s name were to go back up, people inside the building would continue to explore the part Hume played in the development of European racism. And even though Hume’s name has come down, people inside continue to devote themselves to understanding what is of profound value in Hume’s philosophy.

Michael B Gill, Department of Philosophy, University of Edinburgh.

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Secularism on the rise

ROBERT Hardman’s book Charles III: The Inside Story quotes the Prince of Wales as wishing to become the first British monarch to break official ties with the Church of England. He also wants a ‘‘less spiritual’’, ‘‘shorter’’ coronation. Perhaps he is flying a kite?

The Census 2021 data on ethnicity, religion, national identity and language revealed that England and Wales are no longer majority Christian countries, with a fall of 13 percentage points (from 59% in 2011 to 46% in 2021) in those claiming a commitment to Christianity. Other studies such as the British Social Attitudes survey have consistently reported even lower levels of religious commitment.

Time was when to be British meant to be Christian, when you were almost automatically listed as "Church of England" on hospital admission forms unless you specifically provided another identifier. Those days are clearly long gone: it’s now entirely socially acceptable for Brits to say that they have no religious commitment without being thought of as in some way morally deficient or excluded from opportunities in public life.

The British population is simply much more relaxed about its secularity, and we can expect, with the monarch’s support, to see further declines in the percentages of people claiming to be Christian in the coming years.

Doug Clark, Currie.

The Herald: The Prince of WalesThe Prince of Wales (Image: The Prince of Wales)

Crusade for mental health support

THIS is Children’s Mental Health Week, shining a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health.

The rise in such problems over recent years has previously been labelled as one of the greatest public health challenges of our times. These problems are even more worrying when they concern the mental fitness of our younger generations, and how we are preparing them to face the growing challenges of entering adulthood.

Against this backdrop, our mental health services are however facing overwhelming and unprecedented pressures, which existed even before the pandemic and are becoming further exacerbated by the cost of living crisis.

Too many of our young people are waiting too long for treatment and the rapidly escalating number of those seeking support, faced with inadequate services, could potentially lead to a lost generation of vulnerable children and young people who are missing out on the support they vitally need.

Against the perfect storm of a mental health crisis combined with the long shadow of lockdown and the rising cost of living, we must not lose sight of the challenges that our children and young people are facing, renewing our efforts in a national crusade to ensure that they receive adequate mental health support.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition: Kenny Graham, Falkland House School; Stephen McGhee, Spark of Genius; Niall Kelly, Young Foundations, Edinburgh.

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Garden bin charge is a disgrace

TODAY I discovered that SNP-run East Dunbartonshire Council proposes to impose an annual charge of £50 per green bin for residents who wish to continue to have their garden waste collected. The charge will commence in July 2024.

This amounts to a tax on those in possession of a garden, whether owners or not.

This charge is already in place in other SNP-controlled councils, like Glasgow and Stirling. Possession of a garden - working in it, grass, flowers, bushes, trees - is conducive to mental health. I am a 79-year-old No voter. The SNP no doubt wishes me dead, and now seeks to hasten my end. However the SNP may die before I do. The odds are good.

William Durward, Bearsden.

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Salute Liddell the rugby star

IAN Houston writes of Eric Liddell’s remarkable life as a missionary in China and as a talented athlete ("Liddell: Scotland’s golden boy whose life still shines brightly nearly 80 years after his death in POW camp", The Herald, February 5). It is perhaps timely to recall, at a time when Scotland have just won their first match in Cardiff since 2002, that Eric Liddell was also a distinguished rugby player.

He played seven times for Scotland during 1922/23, including a victory for the first time in 33 years at Cardiff. During that game he scored a try. He was indeed, in many different ways, a son of Scotland to be proud of.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.