THE brutal murder of George Floyd by police officers in open daylight has shocked the conscience of millions, as has the violent authoritarian repression inflicted upon peaceful protesters by American authorities.

Black people, people of colour and their allies are braving a pandemic – one which disproportionately harms them – in order to defend their very right to life under institutions which relentlessly persecute them. They deserve everybody’s unqualified, uncritical solidarity and support.

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We welcome the First Minister’s statement of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and call on the Scottish Government to condemn the violence perpetrated by police forces and supported by municipal, state and federal governments, and emphatically condemn it ourselves.

However, it is not enough for us to condemn what we see when we look across the Atlantic. Britain and Scotland have to reckon with their own deeply ingrained anti-blackness, emanating from their history in slavery and colonialism. It’s visible on our street names, museums and monuments across our cities.

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It’s in our trade, where domestic companies supply riot equipment to American police forces which are being used to disproportionately and indiscriminately attack protesters. It’s in our law enforcement, which brutally killed Sheku Bayoh in its custody, and our justice system, which in 2015 failed to charge any of the police officers involved in his death. We welcome the public inquiry announced by Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, but this is five years overdue.

We call on the SNP to commit to fighting institutional racism in Scotland. We also call on it to commit to a more inclusive culture for its own membership and in Scottish politics – not a single candidate of colour was fielded for last year’s elections. We commit ourselves to examining our own shortcomings as an organisation and fighting for racial justice within our party, movement, country and world.

SNP Common Weal Group Executive Committee

PROFESSOR Linda Bauld says it would be safer to release trainee teachers early rather than use retired teachers to expand education in the midst of Covid (‘Hire more students to help in classes’, June 2).

I don’t think either is viable since I don’t know of any school that has the spare capacity of classrooms, canteens, playgrounds, toilets, staff rooms, office space etc to fit all children in using social distancing. Especially in new schools, space has been pared down to a minimum, with sports facilities and outdoor spaces reduced greatly.

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In high schools the situation is worse when considering corridors, stairs, canteens, etc and the need for pupils to move around much more.

I’m afraid there are no easy solutions. Even if we used public buildings, church halls and community centres, the logistics of getting pupils, materials and facilities to them is massive as they do not have the toilets, outside space etc needed to house pupils and staff.

While this pandemic is with us I think the safety of pupils and staff is paramount. Education is of course important, but not worth even one life.

Winifred McCartney

ACROSS the world, much of the religious response to Covid-19 has been a litany of silliness. New York rabbi Yosef Mizrachi explained that a cure was to blow a hairdryer into your throat. A popular Pakistani cleric Maulana Tariq Jameel has blamed the pandemic on the "immodesty" of women. The Pope has asked god to “stop the coronavirus with his hand": you don’t have to be a philosophy undergraduate to wonder why god started it in the first place.

Now in the UK, 25 prominent church leaders wishing urgently to restart Sunday worship are threatening a judicial review, arguing that they are "at the centre of the communities".

They are certainly at the centre of their own communities but there is no reason why religious groups should be privileged in this way and not wait for scientific health advice like everyone else.

Neil Barber
Edinburgh Secular Society

MARY Queen of Scots’s prayer book is coming up for sale at Christies in July. With a top-end estimate of £350,000, its value to Scotland is priceless.

It was gifted to the monarch by her great Aunt Louise de Bourbon, Abbess of Fontevraud, in the mid-16th century as a wedding present after her marriage to the Dauphin of France.

It is believed the she carried the prayer book on her return to Scotland in August 1561 at the age of 18, three years after his death.

The prayer book, signed in her own hand with her monogram, is a unique time portal into the life of a tragic woman whose eyes would have fallen on the beautiful miniature illustrations, and whose fingers would have lovingly leafed through the highly illuminated pages. Surely such an important part of Scottish history must be saved for the nation.

Mike Herd