I am afraid I cannot disagree more with Sandy Gunn’s praise of 'passing away' as a more respectful and dignified way of referring to someone dying. This is not a semantic issue, but one with significant consequences for the only people who matter, the living. Death is indeed a dead end (the clue is in the name). There is no place to pass away to. Once my brain stops functioning I will be no more and Ninewells Hospital will be more than welcome to my cadaver to extract whichever organs may be still usable and certainly to my carcass for medical students to practise on. The mystique of the cadaver, propagated by all religions, is a major factor in the current insane situation whereby viable organs are not transplanted as a matter of course, thus depriving thousands of people of a chance of (a better) life.

Manfredi La Manna

I feel obliged to take issue with Gerry Hassan’s negative, blinkered and prejudiced denouncements. He talks only of ‘the sad remains that are left’ of the British empire. I am no fan of political empires but Australia, Canada and New Zealand are far from sad places to live in the 21st century. African nations may be false geographical constructs but the British including Scots were bringing advancement to their peoples as late as the 19th and 20th centuries. India and America are interesting examples of English language and culture being factors in their development.

Gerry Hassan describes the Kirk, law and education as ‘elite-based and controlling, and with limited democracy, accountability and scrutiny’ in post-1707 Scotland with ‘practices [which] were often oppressive, claustrophobic, [concerned with] the maintenance of a rigid system of social control throughout most of the 18th and 19th centuries’. This is rubbish. What about late-18th century France and late 19th and early-20th century Russia and Germany? The Church of Scotland parish system was centuries ahead of its time in effecting local representation and decision-making. Education and charity were practised ideals. Gerry Hassan cannot write out of history luminaries like David Livingstone and Mary Slessor to say nothing of a firmament of scholars, visionaries and humanitarians since, all inspired by Christian faith.

Scotland’s current rudderless fragmentation of existence and purpose is a much worse condition than that which Gerry Hassan despises. He is but a one-eyed polemicist.

Robert Anderson

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