RECENTLY a young man was compensated by a UK police force undercover agency for the way he and his mother had been treated. His father had infiltrated an animal rights group and had formed a relationship with this man’s mother purely to spy on the group. Once the job was done he deserted them. The woman in question felt that she had been "raped by the state".

The Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill currently going through Westminster, dubbed the "Spy Cops Bill", gives agencies including police, armed forces, HMRC and even the Food Standards Agency permission to break the law, even to the extent of rape, torture and murder with impunity. Just let’s think about that!

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These agencies will be permitted to break International and domestic law, in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention on Human Rights.

M15 and M16 have always used underhand means in dealing with terrorists and foreign spies and those deemed to be "enemies of the state", but there are already counter-terrorism laws in place to deal with such matters. Why, then, is this legislation being brought in, and why are HMRC and the Food Standards Agency being given licence to rape, torture and murder? It is beyond belief that the majority of MPs actually voted for this bill.

A clue to its purpose may come from recent comments made by the Home Secretary and endorsed by the PM about "leftie lawyers" and "do gooders" referring to human rights lawyers and refugee organisations.

As for the Food Standards Agency, clues might come from the other very concerning bill in process at present, the Internal Market Bill, which contravenes the Good Friday Agreement and the devolution settlements for Scotland and Wales by undermining the authority of the devolved governments, as well as breaking an international treaty that was signed less than a year ago.

This bill contains some deeply concerning clauses which would come under the remit of the Food Standards Agency. It normally only has jurisdiction south of the Border, but this bill would enable a UK trade minister to unilaterally overrule Scottish legislation on food safety standards to allow for a trade deal with the US, and the importation of sub-standard foods and food products. It is also the case that any UK minister or appointee would be able to overrule ANY Scottish legislation! This could affect all aspects of our lives.

The "Spy Cops Bill" is a means of enforcing the Internal Market Bill by using the threat of underhand means. Thus piling illegality on illegality with regard to international law! We need to be very concerned on both counts! The UK is fast becoming a "rogue state" and is in danger of turning into a police state dictatorship! Amnesty International has already voiced its grave concerns, as have other international bodies and governments. We need out of this mire!

Surely independence is now the best option for Scotland, where we can build a better, fairer nation for ourselves, one that obeys international laws and respects the basic human rights of all its citizens, with a written constitution to ensure that no future Scottish Government could ever impose such draconian legislation on the people of Scotland.

Cecilia Rees

YOU report Richard Leonard saying "word choice always matters" (Leitch hits out after Leonard calls comment ‘tone deaf, October 24). I would suggest that “Dickensian” can have very opposite meanings.

The negative meaning is of hardship, poverty and sadness; the positive of charitable generosity and well-being. I would have expected a trades unionist to know that the book that brought this distinction to public awareness – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – was written specifically as an effort to bring the attention of decent people to a second "Report of the Children’s Employment Commission".

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The matter enraged Dickens. He therefore wrote a vivid tale to put forward the charitable meaning of Christmas which has been the dominant meaning since. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote of the Christmas books "What a jolly thing it is for a man to have written books like these and just filled people’s hearts with pity." I too would prefer not to use Dickensian pejoratively.

Dickens got the idea of Scrooge from the Edinburgh grave stone of "Ebenezer Scroggie, meal man", which he misread as mean man. He was married to Catherine Hogarth from Edinburgh, and through her had links to Scott and Burns.

Iain WD Forde

I WAS aware of the quip “a shiver ran along the Labour benches looking for a spine to run up” but was unaware it had been made by the Scottish activist Oliver Brown until I read Saturday’s National (The National unveils new plan to help support Paul Kavanagh, October 24).

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Brown’s Wikipedia entry also contains a comment he made after he received a very derisory, small number of votes in a campaign in which he was involved. He said: “I appealed to the intelligent section of the electorate and the result shows I have received their unanimous support”.

RG Clark
via email