YOU report (‘Nearly half of Scots want hate crime law scrapped as complaints hit 10,000 in a month’, May 15) that almost half of people in an opinion poll by Savanta “want hate crime law scrapped”. 

Perhaps many of those people may not personally have experienced a hate crime covered by the legislation. Because hate crime attacks a person’s core identity, it can have a particularly big impact. And some communities are more at risk – surveys indicate, for example, that the majority of LGBTI people in Scotland have experienced more than one hate crime.

You report also that nearly 10,000 online complaints of hate crime were made to police in the first month since the new act was brought into effect. But almost all of those happened in the first two weeks.

The weekly numbers of such complaints over the first month were 7,152, then 1,832, then 390, and then 106 in week four. The fifth week’s figure of 124 complaints was similar. 


Read more:

Poll finds nearly half want Scottish hate crime law scrapped

Justice Minister admits Hate Crime information could have been better

'Hate crime act won't divert from violent crime fight'


At that rate, there would be 5,000 to 6,000 online reports per year, of which some will not be crimes, and some will not be solved by police. Those numbers are much in line with the experience of the past 12 years, during which the number of hate-crime charges reported by police to procurators fiscal has averaged around 5,300 a year.

In short, the stooshie around the start-up of the legislation resulted in a huge number of reports, which were not in fact assessed to be crimes or hate incidents, and things have now settled down again. That’s not surprising – most of the new act re-states long-existing law. Repealing it would remove vital protections that have been part of the law for many years for people attacked because of disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity.
Tim Hopkins, Edinburgh.


Legal definition of a woman
JODY Harrison (‘Does Swinney know the answer to the key question?’, Unspun, May 15) is to be commended for his fair and opinion-free piece on John Swinney’s attempt to answer the question “What is a woman?”

It is a question that has joined, at a more trivial level, “Will you be supporting England in the semi-final?” as questions cynically designed to create heat and a few cheap headlines rather than to further debate on what has become a vexed subject. 

Given that the UK Gender Recognition legislation has been on the statute books since April 2005 one would have thought that we had a legal definition of a woman, and a man for that matter, already. If not, there is certainly a place for a reasonable debate.

However, the opinions of the First Minister, famous writers, Herald opinion columnists and any other “reasonable” people should be irrelevant. While they are entitled to their opinions it is not for anybody to tell the rest of us what should and shouldn’t be. The legal definition is an important part of our democracy in that it sets a standard and takes opinion out of the equation. Should it need to be updated it can be done by our elected lawmakers with proper professional advice.

This is a debate where people need to take a step back and stop stoking the fire. Opinion may sell newspapers and offer a reassuring source for the aforementioned “reasonable” people to exercise their  confirmation bias but it is not solving any serious societal problems any time soon.
Robin Irvine, Helensburgh.

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So much for new FM’s ‘fresh start’
JOHN Swinney regaled us all with his claim for a “fresh start” to his leadership yet within a few days it is not looking so wonderful. Scotland is declaring a housing emergency and needless to say it is the “auld enemy”, Westminster austerity and Brexit, that is receiving the blame.

If Mr Swinney is so full of fresh ideas, why is he not tackling this crisis with the powers he has? He could start by genuinely cutting the waste like Holyrood’s burgeoning wages bill, stop money being frittered away on a pointless quest for independence, and even cut the taxes and red tape that have strangled Scotland’s housebuilding industry. Why has he not thought of this?
Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.


Catalonia’s priorities
YOU reported last week that Scottish Labour has pulled ahead of the SNP in Westminster voting intentions and that the two parties are now neck-and-neck in the Holyrood constituency vote (“Savanta poll finds Labour ahead of SNP for Westminster”, The Herald, May 10). 

This decline in public support for a narrow, separatist-driven political agenda has been mirrored in Catalonia where, in the regional elections at the weekend, the Socialist party won the most seats and the Catalan nationalist parties had the worst result in their home region since 1980. For the first time since 2012, pro-independence parties no longer hold a majority in the Catalan parliament.

As in Scotland, Catalans have much more pressing concerns than separation these days – recent polls show that they care much more about tackling the damaging effects of increasing drought than they do about independence.
Michael Laggan, Newton of Balcanquhal, Perthshire.


Penalising the Highlanders
YOUR article (‘Scots councils making £400m of service cuts face new £780m budget black hole’, heraldscotland, May 15) about council cuts reports that Glasgow City Council, population 635k,  faces a deficit of  £3.1m. This equates to £4.90 per  resident.

Highland Council has a shortfall of £65m, which is £280 for each of its 235,000 residents, more than 50 times the Glasgow number.

I’m no public finance expert but it does seem that Highlanders are being unfairly penalised and under-financed.
Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven.


The grim divisions marring society
THE changing meaning of certain words has never been more apparent than the word “community”. My community used to be defined by the area I lived in. 

We had, for example, community halls and, regardless of religion, race or gender, our community was basically defined by geography.

Now we find ourselves excluded by definition from the new “communities” that are defined by race, religion, nationality, gender and so on. This is very unhealthy and instead of uniting us actually causes terrible divisions in society.

This is highlighted by the proliferation of so many activist groups with their own narrow-minded agendas that see Christians with beliefs like Kate Forbes as some kind of enemy totally unsuited to govern. It’s quite disgraceful, it’s bullying, it’s nasty and it’s intolerant. All the things that many of these “communities” try to claim they stand for.

The most sinister unintended consequence of this relentless and endless re-defining of society is that it’s driving many people towards right-wing alternatives.

I dream of politics returning to political manifestos that are based on economic growth, education, housing and employment. Anything else is just self-indulgence from our candidates.
John Gilligan, Ayr.

Don’t give in to Hamas
WE have all negotiated at some time, most likely starting with our parents over bedtime. Most of us have had to try to negotiate with dodgy tradesmen or other chancers.

But none of us has had to deal with callous religious fanatics bent on our destruction, which is the situation facing Israel.

Hamas has been holding been holding one Israeli, Avera Mengistu, since 2014, and another, Hisham al-Sayed, since 2015. Yahya Sinwar and the other key terrorists in Hamas do not intend to yield up the remaining hostages in exchange for released prisoners, benefits for the people of Gaza, peace even.

No, their intention is to keep Israel on the hook indefinitely. Hamas has been absolutely consistent in its disregard for the Geneva Conventions, all international law, and the best interests of the Palestinians.

Western leaders should not be pressuring Israel to agree a ceasefire with Hamas, as any terms Hamas agrees to will be so one-sided as to be a defeat for Israel. On the contrary, the West should give the people of Israel our fullest support in this war against these monsters.
Otto Inglis, Crossgates.


Spending money like water
I WOULD question the justification of sending any employee on a course at Harvard University but for the Scottish Water Regulator to approve spending taxpayers’ money to that level is quite ridiculous. There seems to be little or no control by the  SNP administration in the way such money is being used –and perhaps explains why the SNP  budget is always overspent.
Dennis Forbes Grattan, Aberdeen.