WHEN I was studying philosophy the professor alerted us to what he called "spurious" arguments, reminding us that that which is gratuitously asserted can be gratuitously denied. Such is the position of the Scottish Government when it says that the buffer zone's aims to ban prayers, witness and silent vigils outside abortion facilities are no threat to freedom of speech ("New law will ban praying near Scots abortion clinics", The Herald, March 18). Clearly they are.

Every other representative group can freely access and target places where their stance is most relevant and most effective. But pro-lifers are not afforded this platform under proposed legislation. This is surely unfair and a stifling of free speech, which is ironic for a government constantly touting its inclusive and diversity credentials.

It is one more ill-conceived attempt by the Scottish Government to close down debate on the abortion issue. Ministers refuse to acknowledge that over time the public mood can change and become more sensitive to the trauma that is abortion and can begin to appreciate more profoundly both the rights of the unborn child together with the long-term adverse emotional and psychological effects of abortion on the mother. We see this recent sea-change currently taking place in many states in America.

Furthermore, do the courts, already struggling with a backlog of cases, and the police, understaffed and under-resourced, really want to be jailing people for saying the rosary? Heaven forbid.

Joseph Walsh, Kirkintilloch.

Send for Kate Forbes

MARTIN Williams' article on banning prayers outside abortion clinics exposes the ineptitude of our current Scottish Government.

These are a few examples of many: 1. Green unelected MSPs allowed to make hugely important decisions affecting society.

2. Attacking society’s fundamental right to freedom of speech and religion observance.

3. Discrimination against Christian believers.

4. A determination never to fall in line with English legislation be it good or bad, just because it is English.

There is a parallel with Putin’s dictatorial powers; he is afraid of Christians too.

Kate Forbes, where are you?

Ray Brown, Strathaven.

• “YOU couldn’t make it up!” is the anguished cry of many a letter writer attempting to come to terms with what they see as the madness of the modern world. I think anyone who has retained even a small scrap of scepticism while reading the torrent of nonsense that has accompanied the Named Person Bill, the Gender Recognition Bill and now the Hate Crimes Bill would conclude that “making it up” has become an essential part of what passes for political debate in Scotland.

Sometimes it is worth taking a step back and reflecting what experience should have taught us long ago, that if something sounds ridiculous, 99 per cent of the time it is ridiculous.

Robin Irvine, Helensburgh.

READ MORE: Row over outlawing of prayer outside Scots abortion clinics in new law

READ MORE: How can Police Scotland be trusted on hate crime laws?

READ MORE: Put us out of our misery, Sunak. Call an election now

More disaster for the SNP

THERE is an unexpected item in the political baggage area for the SNP. It is the looming prospect of yet another legislative disaster.

Humza Yousaf's Hate Crime Act was delayed for years because fallout was probably anticipated but it is much worse than forecast. Like so many other policies of the SNP/Green coalition this one looks like a huge mistake too. The question is how many of these "mistakes" can any administration make before all credibility is gone?

That moment looms. The big dilemma now for our Scottish Government is does it hold out for as long as possible as a lame duck or does it ask the country for a new mandate? Neither choice looks good for Mr Yousaf.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.

• PERHAPS Police Scotland could resurrect an old title for whoever is tasked with identifying hate crime, prayer crime and, indeed, any other crime this Government sees fit to enact. I believe the position of Witchfinder General is currently vacant.

John NE Rankin, Bridge of Allan.

Beyond optimism

INTRODUCING the theme of her letter (March 19), which is to discredit the Labour Party, Mary Thomas cites a single measure from the polling data published by Redfield & Wilton on March 13, namely that, in terms of voting intentions for the constituency element of a Scottish parliamentary election, the SNP polls at 35% ahead of Labour on 31%.

The poll included a wide range of questions and, taken as a whole, the figures suggest that the SNP is facing serious problems.

For the Holyrood regional list vote, Labour leads the SNP and for Westminster elections, SNP and Labour are equal on 34%, a result that would see Scotland electing more Labour than SNP MPs.

In terms of issues that will most determine voters' decisions, independence is ranked seventh, with only 16% of respondents identifying it as one of the top three issues for them.

Forty-three per cent consider the Scottish Government incompetent compared to 28% rating it as competent.

Finally, Anas Sarwar is judged the best person to be First Minister ahead of Humza Yousaf.

There is a saying that an optimist regards a glass as half full rather than half empty. Ms Thomas’s optimism is on a different scale. What she appears to see as a full glass is, in reality, virtually dry.

George Rennie, Inverness.

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The Tory-free diversion

IT is abundantly clear why the First Minister has decided to use the divisive rhetoric of having a “Tory-free” Scotland or questioning the “fitness” of Keir Starmer to lead the country. He stood as the continuity candidate following Nicola Sturgeon, who one recalls saying she “detested” all Tories. He simply does not want to be examined on the disastrous policy record of an SNP Government that has been in power too long.

Further, the SNP continues with its quixotic independence papers with its latest one on defence in an independent Scotland being universally derided, but again it diverts focus away from its domestic record. Unfortunately for the First Minister, the forthcoming election will be dominated by the SNP’s utter failure in education, health and transport and no diversionary tactics will take the focus away from such failures.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh.

Return Stone of Destiny chip

I DON’T understand the story about Humza Yousaf stepping back from any decision-making role regarding the Stone of Destiny chip in order to avoid any “conflict of interest” ("Yousaf steps back from Stone of Destiny fragment decisions", The Herald, March 19).

Surely it is very simple. The chip in the SNP’s possession does not belong to the party, nor have the people of Scotland given it permission to hold it in its filing cabinet. It is part of a national symbol, above all politics.

As leader of the SNP, Humza Yousaf needs to instruct his party to return it. He cannot do anything else.

I do find it astonishing that Scottish nationalists dropped the stone in 1950 and broke it, and no-one says anything about it. Now they decide to keep a bit and not tell anyone about it, and people think it is OK. It is not.

The Stone of Destiny has been around for 1,000 years. The SNP will be gone by Christmas. We can't trust it with its keeping. The SNP's ideology has already fractured the stone in the same way that it fractured the country. We need all of the bits of the Stone of Destiny back together again, and this lot kept away from it for ever more.

Victor Clements, Aberfeldy.

The Herald: Has devolution been a failure?Has devolution been a failure? (Image: Getty)

Let's do away with devolution

AT last the truth has dawned, as your headline today highlights, Scots have woken up to the fact that the exorbitant dream of Donald Dewar is depriving Scots of badly-needed funding ("Holyrood blow as poll ‘should be wake-up call to all MSPs’", The Herald, March 20).

We have only to imagine the hundreds of millions which have been wasted at Holyrood, paying stipends for MSPs, their innumerable staff members and consultants and the cost of all the bureaucratic regulations that strangle enterprise and we see that Scotland's would be a booming economy with ample funding for proper road maintenance, improved education, efficient policing and adequate health and welfare.

The minimal special legislation that Scotland needs could be handled by our MPs sitting for a week or two in Edinburgh between diets at Westminster.

What are we waiting for? Let's go for it.

Rev DS Fraser, Stornoway.

• SINCE the UK Government is so keen to take the Scottish Government to court to overturn legislation made in our parliament, perhaps, given the disastrous consequences it will have on our already-stretched social care sector, the Scottish Government could use the same tactic to challenge the new UK immigration law preventing carers bringing their families to the UK on the basis that it contravenes Articles 16(3) and 23(3) of the Universal Convention on Human Rights.

Brian Murphy, Glasgow.