TODAY the debate continues in the Scottish Parliament on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

I remain at a loss to try and explain to friends who might otherwise be tempted to vote SNP at the next election why this bill is a necessary and progressive step on the part of the Scottish Government.

These are friends who, unlike myself, have never voted in a way that would further the independence cause but are increasingly dismayed by the shambles that passes for government in Westminster and for the first time are tempted to vote for either the SNP or the Scottish Green Party. But the current press by the Scottish Government towards facilitating Gender Recognition Certificate acquisition is a huge sticking point for a number of these people. And, just to clarify, these are not the kind of people who are in any way affiliated with general right-wing resistance to progressive reform. Far from it.

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Like many people, I tend to form friendships which by and large are with people of similar outlooks to my own – namely, being supportive of change to end oppression of unfairly treated minorities. However, time and again I come up against the argument as to why the voices of concerned women are not being properly heeded – women who themselves are still engaged in the battle to gain full equality rights in our society.

The rather glib response that is often given that there is not a shred of evidence to suppose that transwomen represent any kind of threat to womankind as a whole is simply not true, certainly not in the case of the prison population. A paper on this subject (Evidence and data on trans women’s offending rates by Professor Rosa Freedman, Professor Kathleen Stock and Professor Alice Sullivan) was submitted to the Westminster parliament in November 2020 and section two of this report contains stark and alarming data on the incidence of sexual crime among the transwomen population in prisons.

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How then do I succeed in persuading those friends of mine for whom this is a non-negotiable issue to vote for an independence-aiming party? For myself, it is a cause of great unease but not something that will change my mind about the greater issue of independence for Scotland. It puzzles me though just why the SNP have made such a crusade out of this matter that they are pushing ahead in what seems a rather monomaniacal manner with this bill, ignoring real concerns among large numbers of the voting population.

Of course trans people need to have the matter of their rights addressed, and they have undoubtedly been unfairly treated historically and up to the present day. That is not in doubt. But surely it is no solution to make it as easy as renewing your driving licence to change your gender practically overnight and thereby gain access to all women’s spaces.

So to come back to the question of how I succeed in persuading people to change their votes – I really can’t see the answer. There are many issues that the SNP have avoided taking on board in a big way, in order not to alienate potential voters – things like land reform, wealth inequality, repudiation of a monarchy. The idea being that we first of all gain our independence and then sort out those issues. So why risk alienating a substantial number of people in this case? It is, I fear, a mistake. One that I only hope does not prove too costly.

Name and address supplied

HAVING read Caitlin Logan’s informative article “Gender reform debate has shattered the image of a progressive Scotland” (Dec 21), I cannot understand what has motivated the head office of the UK Tory party to instruct its Scottish branch to organise this sustained all-out attack on progress of the GRA through the Holyrood parliament.

Perhaps the Tories only recognise democratic debate when it is their party’s proposals that are being debated in a parliament where they have an overwhelming majority.

John Jamieson
South Queensferry

I’M surprised that Kenny Gibson MSP is taken aback that the UK tax systems lose many billions of pounds through tax avoidance and evasion (Scotland loses out on £3 billion in tax every year, Dec 19). What does he expect when some commentators estimate that the UK tax log is 17,000 pages?

It’s hard to think of any tax in the UK which is not open to avoidance (which is quite legal). Indeed there are very few of us who don’t avoid tax, and in all probability an equal number who evade it to a greater or lesser extent.

And for Mr Gibson to complain that we should close this or that loophole – for every one which parliament seeks to close, another opens. There are some very clever people whose profession it is to seek these loopholes and are handsomely rewarded for their exploits. Even devolved taxes created by the Scottish Parliament are not immune from the virus of avoidance and evasion.

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There are those who would claim that the integrity of the system depends on a certain “flexibility” where the odd turning of the official blind eye keeps the bulk of the population reasonably compliant.

The fact is that if you are very wealthy, tax is largely a voluntary payment depending on how you arrange your affairs.

There is an army of accountants, lawyers, financial advisors, economists, think tanks and many more in both the private and public sector who live off the tax system, so there is no interest in simplifying it.

All tax could of course just be abolished and replaced with the only source of public funding which can’t be hidden and payment avoided or evaded: an annual rent on land. All the infrastructure to introduce it is in place and it will produce far more public funds if it is levied on all private and publicly owned land and property.

Professional self-interest and political tinkering is the only barrier to its introduction.

Graeme McCormick