I do not blame Kenneth Roy for his continued critiques of the Named Person issue. I take the view that it is less of an attempt at Big Brother control and more of a typical local government initiative designed to make inadequate officials believe they are 'making a difference'. And his focus on titles is understandable too – I currently work in an organisation where the personnel director is known by the megalomaniac title of 'head of people'.

But I can't help thinking that all of this slightly misses the point – Liam was murdered by two women who seem to have followed a pattern, seen in similar cases, that we non-experts might regard as criminal insanity. It must be difficult for relatively 'normal' people to understand this sort of behaviour, and I suspect that social workers might be confusing criminal madness with inadequate parenting – the latter in itself a form of cultural relativism, which suggests that perceived 'working class' norms might not be acceptable for us educated lot, but are okay for the masses. And, perish the thought, that we should ever blame anyone for behaving badly when the fault lies in their own upbringing.

It might be a deeply unpleasant job – I for one would not wish to do it, as a non-expert on abnormal psychology – but it might just prevent a few more cases if the perpetrators of such crimes as Liam's murder were exhaustively studied to discover what motivates them to torture and murder their own children. This might at least help us to differentiate between acceptable parenting and criminal madness.

Dr Mary Brown



According to the Sunday Herald of 5 June, there was an anti-refugee rally organised by the Scottish Defence League in Glasgow recently, with participants from the North East of England White Infidels and supporters of the National Front. In a protest against the event by others, including trade unionists, groups of anarchists, United Against Fascism and members of political parties, a man carried a placard with a hand-written message. It read as follows:

An immigrant with a degree is not coming over here to 'steal your job’ when all you have is a standard grade in PE and an STI.

Across Scotland, the National 5 English exam, which has replaced Intermediate 2 English, which replaced Standard Grade English, includes a close reading test. This used to be known as 'Comprehension’. Close reading also now features in Higher English, which has been called Higher English for a long time. In the interests of lifelong learning, those who are so old that they sat O Grade English may want to continue reading and attempt the questions at the end.

In 2005, I employed an immigrant with a degree. She was called Gabriela, and she was from Slovakia. Before coming to Scotland, she had worked for the Slovakian equivalent of the British Standards Institution in Bratislava. She answered an advert I had placed in a local shop and proved to be a first-rate cleaner. She stopped cleaning when she became pregnant and returned, with her partner, to Slovakia. We have not kept in touch, although she emailed me to say the baby had arrived safely and was also called Gabriela.

After Gabriela left, I employed a Polish cleaner, Dorota, who is also a very efficient worker, cleaning and ironing. She has now been working for us for about six years. Her husband is a mushroom picker in East Lothian. He is also Polish. Neither of them has a degree.

In 2013, my pre-Gabriela cleaner, Anne, contacted me out of the blue. She is a local person, born, raised and educated here, but without any certificates in physical education. She stopped domestic cleaning in the early 2000s in order to take up permanent employment with the council as a cleaner in a public building. But increasingly, she was finding that position exasperating. Her standards were higher than some of her colleagues. Plus, she was frequently being asked to clean her own section and the sections of other workers who were off sick. Domestic cleaning had started to appeal again, and it offered a welcome flexibility, since she lives with and cares for her sister, who has a severe mental illness. Because of Dorota, I couldn’t offer Anne a job. But working-mother types like me are always keen to have good help in the home, so she now has several slots with friends of mine. Two of these friends used to have Polish cleaners.

Now answer the following questions:

Who stole whose job?
What job does the man with the placard do?
Does he have friends in Shettleston?
Which people in this passage pay tax?
Does Anne have an illness?

Please use your own words.

Laura Dunlop

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KENNETH ROY
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The inspector is about to call, and this time he's calling on us

WALTER HUMES
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Better the 'faceless bureaucrats' than the cabal lying in wait

DAVID TORRANCE
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The man in the library who had me staring into a brownie

GERRY HASSAN
Essay of the week
Whatever happens, Britain has already left the building

ALICE FLORENCE ORR
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If we leave Europe, the young will leave Britain

ROSE GALT
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MORELLE SMITH
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The reinvention of Jean Armour is worth reading twice

PAUL TRITSCHLER
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CRAIG BROWN
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Dominoes a sport? I'm a convert to the idea. Just don't cough

RACHEL MACPHERSON
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Let's not be 'fat' or 'skinny'. Let's just be ourselves

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KENNETH ROY
Fetch the sick bag, Alice, before it's too late

LAURIE GAYLE

Jo was magical. A hurricane. She ran towards the fire

EILEEN REID
The real culprit is the word 'passion'

CHRIS HARVIE
The unnoticed statue of Birstall

Jo
Six short essays on her death and its implications

WALTER HUMES

GERRY HASSAN

JEAN BARR

BOB CANT

ANTHONY SILKOFF

ANGUS SKINNER

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