SHONA Craven’s article on prostitution needs to be challenged (The Kiwi vs Swede debate on prostitution legislation, The National, October 7). Many now accept it is one symptom among many of women’s (and some men’s) oppression, an argument that has been made by women activists for a very long time.

Giving just one example, in the 1890s Margaret Sievwright (a Scottish woman born in Pentcaitland and in the forefront of the struggle for votes for women in New Zealand) wrote that “prostitution will always exist as long as women lack equal opportunities”. Margaret would be birling in her grave if she knew that women across the world are still subject to huge ongoing inequalities and also have to combat new myths about prostitution and the sex industry, namely, that they are just one more life choice.

Shona suggests that this prostitution is simply another exploitative job like work in call centres or on zero-hours contracts. I readily agree such work is exploitative, demeaning, and insecure but this is not on the same scale as the grossly debasing and often dangerous situation faced by many sex workers. In any event two serious wrongs don’t make a right. Both need to be strongly challenged and changed, not improved on the edges and made, in some magical way, more palatable, safe and “nice”.

There is a concerted attempt to make prostitution more publicly acceptable and mainstream, to “groom” society into seeing prostitution and all aspects of the sex industry as normal and like any other “work”. The attempt at decriminalisation is part of this process and begs the question: who gains? Firstly, the worldwide multibillion-dollar sex industry, well aware that decriminalisation in several countries has been shown to increase demand and make the trafficking of women between countries easier. Secondly, on a wider level, those forces of misogyny (Trump and co) that benefit most from a sex industry that not only reflects inequality but reinforces it.

Research over the past 40 years shows that accepting that women’s bodies may be bought and sold for men’s sexual gratification objectifies women and desensitises people to the reality of sexual violence, abuse and rape. We need to be aware that many women in prostitution report they are survivors of childhood abuse and also that they were underage when they got involved in prostitution.

If Scotland is seriously committed to equal rights for all, it has to join those other countries that have sent out the message that prostitution is sexual abuse and criminalise men who insist they have an inalienable right to have their sexual needs met regardless of the harm and abuse this causes to prostitutes and to the wider struggle for women’s equality.

Joan Skinner


ROS Curwood’s response to Shona Craven’s article (Letters, October 13) states that there are many strands to be unpicked in the argument. I would agree.

The elephant in the room is of course the billion-pound global sex industry. In those countries where prostitution has been decriminalised or legalised, the trade has flourished and expanded, the beneficiaries being the pimps, brothel owners and businesses behind them. Those working at the coal face, as it were, do not benefit. In fact, the relaxing of legislation has led in some countries (Germany and the Netherlands, for example )to an increase in trafficking.

On the other hand the Swedish model of criminalising the buyer not the seller has led to a reduction in the sex trade and has been adopted by Norway, Iceland, Ireland and France. Of course there is lobbying against it from the business, there are huge sums of money involved.

It would be useful to have in depth, well researched articles on this subject which is being debated currently, as it ultimately affect all of us.

A Brown


AN airport and runway in Skye for £2-£5 million sounds good, and the costs reasonable (Skye’s the limit: new airport could be built by 2018 and generate £46m over three decades, The National, October 3).

Yet Network Rail want to charge for the reinstatement of two stations at East Linton and Reston for around £22m. This is a staggering increase over the £7m originally suggested at the time of the publication of the last feasibility study (2013).

We were promised stations for the end of 2016 but no trains. We have to wait till 2018 for the new ones, yet local trains pass us by every day.

Who is having us on?

It is clear to me that Network Rail and the train companies don’t want the stations.

In England new stations are being built for much less with lifts, longer platforms, etc. The two councils involved have allocated £3.5m and the government have agreed £11m, which leaves a £8m gap in funding.

I hope the minster in charge and the councils concerned will get to grips with the costs and estimates to enable us to have our station with trains stopping by December 2017.

Mark Waters

East Lothian

WITH our Catalan friends holding a referendum next year surely this is a great chance for both sides to share ideas about currency, exports, imports, etc, with a hard Brexit and the threat of 80,000 Scottish jobs on the line caused by a nasty Tory party.

I hope our independence supporters join with our friends in Catalonia next September to offer support and our friendship, unlike the unionist Tories and Labour here who have veered to the extreme right or left and have made Scots fearful we now leave our European friends.

But I sense a growing awakening from all Scots the Tories have sold us down the river, and I hope like our Catalan friends we can both be free from the “you’re too wee” culture and lies being spread and finally independent.

Stephen Kelly


THIS week in Scotland we have had two local government by-elections, one in Glasgow won by the SNP and one in the Highlands won by the Lib/Dems. With local government elections in Scotland scheduled to take place in 2017, a major marketing campaign informing voters of how the system of elections in local government operate needs to be on the agenda.

The system of STV (Single Transferable Vote) where voters rank candidates is not understood by a large proportion of the electorate. For example how can the SNP have the most first-preference votes yet lose the election, as happened in the Highlands seat of Culloden and Ardersier this week?

It may well be a more representative system of democracy, but the electorate need to be more informed of the process and how a result like this can be achieved by a party who did not receive the most first-preference votes.

Perhaps the Electoral Reform Society in Scotland could address this major issue in our vital local democracy.

Catriona C Clark


THERE is a way that the £12 billion the UK spends each year on overseas development could benefit the people of Britain too.

If the International Development Secretary Priti Patel’s new focus is to be on “results and outcomes that allow the poorest to stand on their own two feet” and the poorest are to be found in predominantly agricultural communities, the government could establish residential colleges in the UK to teach land and water husbandry and renewable energy skills to foreign students who are being sponsored by their governments and have entered into a bonded employment contract to work for the benefit of their people for a minimum of five years. Britain would gain new infrastructure, increased employment, research and development and an increase in international goodwill.

Geoff Naylor

Winchester, Hampshire

THANK you for Carolyn Leckie’s article (It is not racist to condemn Zionism, The National, October 3). It is refreshing to read a mainstream article that records the plight of the Palestinians and condemn Peres’ legacy. In the current climate I understand her trepidation.

Angie Mindel via text