An Open Letter in Support of the Scottish Poetry Library

The letter below is now with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. No more signatures will be added, although you can still make a comment below this post. We will publish her response on this blog.


We, the undersigned, are writing to express our wholehearted support, and our gratitude, for the Scottish Poetry Library’s unequivocal stance defending free artistic expression for all who use its services. The Library is the first significant UK institution to make this stand for a fundamental democratic principle, in a climate which is increasingly hostile to any form of expression outside a very narrow ideology. From universities, to arts organisations, libraries and government departments, the no-platforming and bullying of anyone holding views not actively endorsing extreme gender ideology is destroying our cultural life. Scotland has always been an example of progressiveness in arts, education and culture, and we are proud that the first stand against this aggressive chilling of intellectual debate and thought has been taken by Scotland’s national poetry library. You are leading the way.

We believe that the open letter authored by Harry Josie Giles and others speaks for itself. However we would like to draw attention to the incorrect assertions in it, commonly used by activists to confuse and silence debate around what is the most divisive social issue of our time. 

First, the sleight of hand by which the notion “women’s rights (which are transwomen’s rights)” is made to seem like an uncontroversial, even legal truth. It is not. Under equality law ‘sex’ is a protected characteristic, along with eight others. Gender identity is not one of them. ‘Trans’ is not even used as a term. ‘Gender reassignment’ is, but it is used in a completely different way than here, and still does not over-ride sex as a protected characteristic. This confusion over who and what is protected under equality law is being aggressively exploited by gender ideology activists to frighten institutions into believing they are breaking the law if they do not centre activist demands in all they do. 

Second, gender activists refuse to understand the concept of ‘competing rights’. Women’s rights and the demands of gender activists are in conflict. This is why a proper debate is needed to explore and understand. The refusal to recognise this reveals what is really at hand: a determination to dominate and capture institutions with an ideology that is not enshrined in law but behaves as though it is, and is destroying our public institutions and cultural life.

Many of the undersigned have done so as women and same-sex attracted people deeply concerned by the threat to their rights presented by the blurring of definitions by gender ideology, such that ‘women’ and ‘sex’ become umbrella terms, and not specific descriptors to which specific rights attach. But, also, as writers, readers, and people who believe in free expression in a democracy, we are drawn to defend vigorously this assault on the language itself. The first step of an ideological takeover is to alter language to suit ideological aims. We all know our Orwell: meaning is the battle ground for freedom of thought. Make no mistake, this is what is being aggressively insinuated across our cultural life, which makes it even more courageous that the Scottish Poetry Library has stood up against it. Many of the signatories to this letter have had to do so anonymously or under pseudonyms. We are afraid for our reputations, our jobs, our livelihoods. This is how deeply this ideology has already travelled, that to speak against it is a danger.

We thank you, and hope you inspire other organisations to do the same.

@jeanrhys1 and @wwwritingclub
3rd March 2020


Jane Harris, writer

Dr. Victoria Whitworth, Author, FSA, FSCA Scot

David Robinson, former Books Editor, The Scotsman

Dr. Shereen Benjamin, Senior Lecturer, University of Edinburgh

Joy Hendry, Author, Editor of Chapman magazine

Elizabeth Buccleuch

Catherine Czerkawska, Author

Lewis, Lord Moonie

Seven Hex

Marion Calder, co-founder

J. David Simmons, Author

Dr. Louise Moody

Lynne MacDonald BSc, Glasgow University

Janice Edgar MA, Glasgow University

John McGowan

Cindy Douglas, Musician

Tabatha Stirling

Carole Leslie, Hon President QMU, 1983-1984

Rhona McGrath BSc, Glasgow University 

Russell Walker, Director/Producer

Mark Graham, QMU President 1983-1984

Lionel Shriver, Author 

Amanda Craig, Author

Helen Dale, Journalist

Russell Celyn Jones, Author

Joan Smith, Author

Dr. Mez Packer, Author

Kate Styles

Amanda Smyth, Author

Dr. Justin Hill, Author

Fiona Tresidder

Helen Joyce, journalist and writer

Graham Linehan, comedy writer

Sarah Fox

Ursula Hartlein

Karen Lee Stewart

Maria MacLachlan

Angela Buckley, Author 

Jane Rusbridge, Author

Melanie Silgardo, Poet

Kitty Fitzgerald, Author

Amanda Mason, author

Doreen Milne

Amanda de Lussey

Patricia Knibb

Julia Williams, Author

Ava Marsh, Author

Ellen Phethean, Poet and YA Author

Jane MacKenzie

Lynn Alderson

J Gourley

Sara Bailey, Author and Lecturer (UHI)

Umi Sinha, Author

Julian Vigo PhD, Scholar and Writer

Issy Dickinson, UK Feminist Writer and Activist

Jo Bartosch, Writer and Women’s Rights Campaigner

Libby Emmons, writer

Jon Cook, Professor of Literature, University of East Anglia

Dr. Madeleine Jowett, formerly University of Aberdeen

Bo Novak

Kim Harding

Denise Prideaux

Jean Hatchet, Women’s Rights Campaigner 

Dr. Debbie Hayton, Teacher of Physics

Deborah Evans, English Teacher

Alison Owen, Film and TV Producer

Rebecca Johnson, Writer/Director

Grace Carley

Liz Pitt

Dr Viv Pointon

Jan Taylor

William Hale, Librarian

Kasha Dalal, Thinker

Jill Nesbit

Janet Pontin

Erika Luukas

Stella O’Malley 

Amina Lone, Writer and Researcher

Rita Rake

Ann-Marie Stacey

Sarah Anderson

Charlotte Delaney

Valerie Reltie

Simon Edge

Bea Jaspert

Seani Hansen

Lucy Winters, Teacher

Ann Mclure, Retired Teacher

Jennifer Milligan, Librarian

Ginny Dougary

Jonny Best, Musician and Festival Director

Dr Angela Mansi

Laetitia Pichevin Harrison

Ophelia Benson

Sam Davey, Director, Hastings Literary Festival

Jo Tracy, Script Editor

Anne Cater, Book Blogger

Josephine Liptrott

Pilgrim Tucker
Jackie Mearns
Thain Parnell, Journalist and Feminist Activist
Shernaz Dinshaw

Ms. Joanna Campbell

Rose Sanders

Louise Paine

Rhona Hotchkiss, former Prison Governor

Kristina Jane Harrison, Frontline NHS Worker

Alessandra Asteriti

Ann Sinnott

Kath Ball BA MA

Alice Bondi, Retired Psychotherapist

Miranda Yardley FCA CTA

Janey Hutton, Self-Employed

Barbara Hughes

Leslie Gray O’Neil

Hazel Pegg, Green Party Executive Member

Natalie Bird

Louise Webster

Many Harkness

Karen Varley

Susan Ram

Caroline Foster

Michelle Yanas

Iain Ingram

Dr Lesley Semmens

Professor Kirstein Rummery

Suzanne Kimm

Elizabeth Speller

Carter Sheard

Anna Morvern

Annette Gordon

A.M. Scanlon

S. J. Atherton

Maggie McShane

Dr Louisa Tsongaraki

Harriet Smart

Miki Brunt

Susan Elliot Wright

Lucy Ward

Anne James

Trini Couldrey

Réaltán Ní Leannáin

Andreia Nobre

Pippa Banham

Brenda Ellis

Mary Howden

Dr Ailsa Holland

Lorraine Nut

M. Gadd

Heather Binning

Tony Rose


Cheryl Graham

Mary Gordon

Susan Stowe

Sharon Jenkins

Gina Scot

Christine Kearney

Joanna Green

Anna Brockman

Paul Tracy

Morven McGill

Miriam C. Richards

Peter Magellan

Juliet Dire

Teresa Willis

Pat Arnott

Julie Scott

Julie Smith


Irene Soldatas

Darrell Rivers



Edwina Wolstencroft

Jennifer Griffiths



Julie-Ann Corrigan

Sarah Cummings

Elle Seivewright

Claire Graham

Rachel Rooney, teacher and poet

Jessie L. Mannisto

Maggie Mellon, Edinburgh

Lesley Reeves

Madeleine Kearns

Kalesi Wolf


Delyth Rennie

Andrea Jones, journalist

Georgina Wheatley

Annie Robinson

Caroline Horn

Sharon Muench

Tracy Kershaw

Lorraine McIntosh

Patricia Spencer

Caroline Horne

Patricia Spencer

Pat McGoverne

Kate Tym

Ros Olleson

Rita Balneaves

Meg Baglow

Angelina Melwani

Georgina Farron

Marianne Madill

Susie Harris

Helen Cummins

Heather Welford, writer

Heather Finlay

Michelle Smart

Dr. C Marshall

Jane Hutton

Debbie Black

Sarah McGurk

Catriona MacInnes

Liz Houchin

Julie Bindel

Doreen Dunne

Jane Kavanagh

Euan Johnston

Helen Saxby

Seonaid Dawn Barber

Silvia Beck

Leena Jones

Carol Archer

Tess Joseph

Sarah Takahashi

Angela Stewart-Park

Sarah Honeychurch, University of Glasgow

Nathalie Houle

Robert Dawson Scott

Nathalie Houle

Fodo Higginson

Anna Hillier

Michelle Johnson

Olly Lambert

Cristina Mindroiu

Lisa Randall

R Irischild

Carol Fraser

Lara Alberts

Karen Bresner

Lisa jones

Saskia Bennett

Ann Haigh

Sarah Crofts

Tiffany Jenkins

Sue Thorne

Sandra Price

Diana Peek

Anne Wilson

Jess De Wahls, Artist

Dr Rowan Aust

Matt Seattle

Clarissa Payne

Catherine Hill

Ellen Stagg

Beth Miller

Carly Brooks

Bec Wonders

Sharon Hunter

Wendy Thomson

Stephen Cohen

Yvonne Alexis

Jane Cooper

Fred Sargeant

Professor Kathleen Stock, University of Sussex

Tiffany Jenkins

Esther Giles

Rebecca Harrison

M. Lindsay

Charlotte Roberts

Jacqueline Bale

Rebecca D

Gabrielle Sinclair

Miriam Yagud

Cath Ferguson

Clare O’Neill

Meg Edgoose-Clubley

Louise M Thorburn

Maureen Pickering

Shirley Wishart


Gina Burton

Dr B Reay

Wendy Martin

Cee M. Reilly

Mags Hodge

Amanda Samuels

Graham Boyd

Mark Ryle

Lisa Clark


Bernie Mayall

Charlotte Edwards

Anna Caro

Steven Gray

Dougie McLean

Heather Moore

Louise Somerville

Dr Peter R Ashby BSc PhD

Gordon Dangerfield

Jacqueline McMillan

Fiona Savage

Jess Monck

Rory Waterman

Jill Simmons, QMU President 1984/5

Iain Macwhirter

Nerissa Pace

Marian Coyne

Raymond Soltysek

Claire Gibbs

Leonora Christina

Meg Dellatana

Alison Wren

Fiona Thomson

Margaret Hinchcliffe

Dr A Robertson

Claire Gibbs

Diane Holyoak

Linda Knowles

Susan Smith, co-convener of ForwomenScot

Mary McAuley

Trezza Azzopardi

Georgina Kuna

Jennifer Hill, writer and former newspaper journalist


Terry Hobday

Dr Diane Brewster

Dawn Thatcher

Madeleine Morey

Sadhana Stone

Rae Livingstone

Chantel Mathias

Geraldine Adams

Lorna Gradden

Christine Somers

Jane Clare

Lorna Gradden

Fiona Mitchell

John Yorke

Anne McConville

Nancy Power

Nicola Burkinshaw

Eileen Fingleton

Deb Cox

Annett Kottek

Lisa Thompson

K Taylor

Gerry Robinson

Andi Chapple

Sibyl Ruth

Irene Aristizábal


Allison McDonald

Sue Harris

Cheryl Angle

Chris M

Sarah Gellner

Chris Batey

Seán Martin

Abigail Elizabeth Ottley (teacher and poet)

Hugh Meechan

Helan McMahon

Anne R Kerr

Emma Taverner

Carina Moravec

Lucy Lawrence

Clara Childerley

Bibbit Blair

Dave Jones

Margaret O’Neill

Fay Boans

Jane Irving

Joolz Denby

Anne Marie McGeehin

Mickey McCarthy

Helen Freeborn

Jane Robertson

Janet Wright

Trish Sims, teacher

Jo Kneale, Mother, daughter, wife: Woman

Jane Doe, Writer and lecturer, anonymous for safety reasons

Freddie Brougham

Susan King

Graeme Watt

Gail Ess

Anne Conner

K. Bird, artist, writer, filmmaker

Sara White

Joanne Priest

Victoria Lygo

Katie, Mental health nurse

Caterina Santa Cruz

Willie Clark

Jane Kidd

Elaine Coates

Alison Jenner

Lorraine Mondo

Nancy Shaw

Margaret Paris

Paul Bowen

Sue Harris

Word Respect

Abigail Elizabeth Rowland


Jo Adams

Lola Casey

C.M. Brown

Vicky Miller

Susie Collcut

Raymond Mennie

Heather Jenkinson

Sophie Cook, writer

K Leigh

Huw Parker

Sarah Morrison


Carol Jenkins

Alice Heywood

Craig Porter

Joy Clifford

Geraldine Halpin

Amanda Williams

Jenni Russell

Hedy Watt MEng

Mary Wright

Tiffany Richardson

Ruth Conlock, social worker

Leigh Duncan, writer

Jane Choules

Kat Harvey

Fiona Vigar

Amanda Barefoot

Elizabeth Hamilton

M Parker

Mark Crocker

Merrilyn Wasson


Carole Herbert

Kay Campbell

Julie Moss, freelance journalist

Mary Bain Lockhart, feminist

Jennifer Smith

Julian Whitley

Morwenna Lake

Jaine Cronin

Sam Brando

Cherry Wild

Colin Chalmers

Lynne Keys

Adrian Searle

Alistair Veitch

Peter Morgan

Michelle Houlden

Alistair Gorthy

Stephanie Pickering

Clare Page, Solicitor

Jo. B

Rosie Nesbitt

Molly Burgess

Rehana Rose

Maire McCormack

Alan Ryan

Sian Henry

Leslie McKitterick, English Teacher

Dr A. Dyce

Mrs Ann Fuller

Ewen Stewart

Maureen O’Hara

Jennifer van Leijen

Ian Hirst

Jo Drant

Jacqueline Chneour

Guy Lloyd

Gillian Philip, Author

Catherine Wright

Tamara Kennedy

Ellinor Westling

Marie Murphy

James Madden

Caroline Hepple

Loirna Irvine

Harry Owen

Neil Young, poet

Margaret Gribbon

Kate Alexander

Lisa Mackenzie

Robert Alcock

Margaret Nelson

Dawn Foster

Elizabeth Malcolm

Dr Brian McNeil

Jackie Bourke

Nicola Humphreys

Lucy Hunter Blackburn

Sarah Dunnakey

Les R.

Wendy Brindle

Jenni Bradbury

Jeremy Poynton

Dr Kathryn Turner

Richard Munro

Gordon Edward Newell

Daressa Mullen

Jane Callahan

Dr Sarah Smith

Tessa Pawsey


Click here to read the signatories’ comments





36 thoughts on “An Open Letter in Support of the Scottish Poetry Library

    1. I don’t know how I missed this – too late to sign, but I agree wholeheartedly.

      Paul Madill
      Public Health Specialist


  1. The very people who campaign for liberation from life- limiting, socially constructed gender roles, who oppose discrimination in all its forms and stand with people who face oppression, are being silenced and vilified.

    How has it come to this?

    How has an orthodoxy been allowed to take hold within a progressive movement?

    Whose tune are we dancing to?

    And how weakened do these divisions leave us when we attempt to counter real prejudice?

    Respectful yet robust debate is crucial where the implcations of self identification and the challenge to the factual definition of our biological sex are so far reaching.

    How else, but through legitimate expression and listening to one another, can we hope to move forward in ways that respect the humanity of each person and resolve the conflicting needs of different groups?

    Thank you to the Scottish Poetry Library for your integrity and courageous stance.

    Liked by 1 person

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