CONGRATULATIONS on your historical article (The National, January 5) covering the life of Alexander Dubcek, former leader of Czechoslovakia, who played such a pivotal role in the history of Europe during the 20th century.

I was, along with anyone else who was interested, able to watch history in Europe unfolding before my very eyes through the daily news footage available to us here in Scotland via television.

It had been a very different situation with the earlier Hungarian uprising in 1956. Then, virtually no television coverage was available to the ordinary Scottish person, and coverage was restricted to such film footage as was available to be shown during the Newsreels in cinemas. Apart from that the only information was what was available in radio broadcasts from the BBC.

I have a very vivid memory to this day of managing to tune in my radio while sitting in my van in Lanark and finding myself listening to a repeat of a broadcast from Budapest, in which the voice of Imre Nagy could be clearly heard pleading, in English, for the governments of the free West European countries to come to their aid.

They did not, being as they were far too involved in typical colonialist policies around the then current Suez Crisis. It was a long time after that before it became known that Nagy, along with his colleague General Malater, had indeed been executed.

When it was reported, at the height of the Prague Spring invasion of Czechoslovakia, that Dubcek had been summoned to Moscow, and was indeed on his way there, I, for one, seriously wondered if he would ever be seen again. Happily he was allowed to return. Inevitably, as you say, he lost his job and disappeared into obscurity until his resurfacing at the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Thank you for bringing to our attention again the memory of one who deserves to be remembered as one of the most important political figures of 20th-century Europe.

George M Mitchell

AS someone who has been committed to working for equality throughout my adult life, I welcome Jim Taylor’s commitment to this issue (Letters, January 3).

However, what he fails to recognise is that prostitution is both a symptom of gender inequality and one of its causes, and how we respond to it socially, politically and legally is a key indicator of how seriously we are committed to addressing it.

Decriminalising prostitution does nothing to tackle what Mr Taylor himself agrees lies at the heart of this highly profitable, exploitative trade – abject poverty, abuse, and hopelessly inadequate state support. In many ways it actually reinforces it. Germany took the decriminalisation route after passing legislation in 2001, widely known as the Pimp Protection Act. It is telling that the burgeoning high-rise brothels there are recruiting few local women and have to turn to poorer countries which offer far fewer alternative employment opportunities.

German women are not averse to sex nor subject to the nouveau puritanism referred to by Mr Taylor. They are simply freer of the punitive pressures and constraints that force other women into what most people agree can be a very precarious and dangerous business. There are much better ways forward, including the Swedish model or a variation of it adopted by France, Ireland and most Scandinavian countries.

Margaret Sievwright from Pencaitland, who played a leading role in the struggle to make New Zealand the first country in the world to grant women the vote in 1893, got to the heart of the matter when she said “prostitution will always exist as long as women lack equal opportunities”. More than 120 years on, I couldn’t put it any better.

Joan Skinner

HOW disgusting to read these unelected lords are squandering £1.2 million on afternoon tea and champagne (Lords spend fortune on afternoon teas, The National, January 6), yet we have cuts to those suffering PTSD like myself who are struggling to get basic medication, and left feeling isolated and neglected.

Scotland should be a independent republic nation. Let’s help our homeless, disabled, kids in care and elderly and have a country for all. This is the Scotland my late dad would have wanted, and for all Scots to be equal and part of society.