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PRIME Minister David Cameron is sure to encounter his own “Nightmare Before Christmas” as he prepares to attend the European Council summit this week.

Reports that he is set to back down on his proposed curb on migrants from elsewhere in the European Union entering the United Kingdom in the ongoing EU renegotiations should hardly come as a surprise. The proposed “fundamental” reform of the UK’s relationship with the EU in the run-up to the promised referendum has become a rod that is currently breaking the Conservative PM’s back.

Proposals to limit EU migrants through imposing a cap were quickly rejected following objections, primarily from Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.

And now proposals to limit in-work benefits to those EU migrants who have been in the UK for four years look set to go to the wall, with no support from any other EU member state. The Commons European Scrutiny Committee has added insult to injury, warning that Mr Cameron’s desired proposals would NOT deliver the “fundamental” changes in the UK’s relationship with the EU he is seeking.

The issue of linking benefits to migration was always a sideshow, as those coming from the EU to the UK don’t come for benefits but to work.

So, any attempt to curb migrants through restricting benefits will inevitably have little impact, a view most recently backed by economist, Sir Stephen Nickell, a senior member of the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).The wheels are rapidly falling off Tory renegotiation proposals, as many predicted, and talk of “strong fundamental reform” of our relationship with the EU has become something of a damp squib.

Alex Orr

Leamington Terrace, Edinburgh

Does Nicola Sturgeon have mixed emotions about the latest European referendum opinion polls showing United Kingdom in/out opinion evenly divided?

Scots are somewhat more pro-EU than other parts of the UK while Ms Sturgeon seems genuinely in favour of staying in, for access to markets.

But as we all know, what drives Ms Sturgeon is to separate us from the UK. Given current polls, is she edging towards breaking her “once in a generation” promise and asking us to choose between two single markets?

Martin Redfern

Royal Circus , Edinburgh

Cringe worthies

The Scottish Cringe is well demonstrated in the instinct to favour English applicants for the top jobs in Scottish civic society, a Unionist mindset which clings to the belief that – in spite of plentiful examples of “carpetbaggers” not proving up to the job – they are more suited to be our leaders than our ain folk.

I had hoped that we might be moving beyond that “(bended) knee-jerk” philosophy, but the latest developments with the recruitment of English officers for the top jobs goes beyond the pale.

The position seems to be that the First Minister’s (Scottish) preference for the post of Chief Constable of Scotland was overlooked in favour of Phil Gormley, who must indeed have been an impressive candidate. Fair enough, but we now learn that he will be recruiting from England for his deputies and assistant chief constables, “due to a shortage of Scots qualified for top posts”.

My questions are: Why did not the retiring Chief Constable – whose coat has been on a shaky peg for ages – ensure a sufficiency of “native” candidates were able to apply for the top job (and why did not the Ministry of Justice require that to be done?). And is the Chief Constable-designate qualified in Scots Law and will those recruited from south of the Border also be so?

Further, is there any chance that the discredited flummery of the knighthood – which Stephen House found on his desk on Day One – could be put on ice until Chief Constable Gormley – and I wish him well – has had time to prove his worth?

Mature countries, secure in the belief that their people are “better than none but as good as any” would find this sorry state of affairs simply incomprehensible.

David Roche

Coupar Angus

North Sea slump

A few months ago I wrote to The Scotsman (Letters, 28 August) saying times were “brutal” in Aberdeen due to the low oil prices impacting adversely on jobs and investment in our city. I also took the opportunity to remind people about the nonsense spoken by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon during the referendum campaign regarding the value of the oil assets and the claim that we were on the “cusp of a second oil boom”.

On Monday the price of oil dropped below $38 a barrel, which will compel oil companies to seek further cuts in costs (jobs) in the new year and accelerate decommissioning in order to remain viable. Rather than continue to make silly claims that oil is “merely a bonus” the latest downward movement in the price of oil should be of great concern to the Scottish Government, especially when one considers that Aberdeen produces an astonishing 28 per cent of the GDP of Scotland with only 4 per cent of the population 

Although, we in Aberdeen have been through difficult downturns before (1987) and recovered, it feels very different this time round. Why?

Apart from Aberdeen becoming a “one trick pony” (mainly oil) we now have an SNP government focusing exclusively on breaking up the UK and severing the very financial stability we desperately need from a much larger UK economy (£2 trillion GDP) to ensure our recovery.

Indeed, the uncertainty of a further referendum is adding to the gloom in Aberdeen and is bad for business generally in Scotland as illustrated by a recent poll which found that 85 per cent of firms surveyed believed the referendum debate will have a negative effect on their firms.

It is high time the Scottish Government got a grip of the seriousness of the situation and spent less time manufacturing “outrage” at every opportunity to deflect attention away from the real issues effecting the future of Scotland.

Ian Lakin

Murtle Den Road, Milltimber, Aberdeen

Climate fears

Lesley Riddoch (“It’s time to plan a future without oil”, Perspective, 14 December) is scathing of David Cameron but ignores pertinent facts.

The Paris deal on climate change allows nations to set their own voluntary carbon dioxide emissions targets without any legally binding caps or international oversight and zero sanctions should countries fail to meet their promises.

Ms Riddoch is obviously unaware that the UK government is planning to phase out the use of gas for cooking and heating.

Where does this leave the 23 million homes reliant on gas?

What about the 50 years’ worth of clean gas under our feet?

This government’s insane approach to gas and fossil fuels will lead to tens-of-thousands of job losses. Is Ms Riddoch happy with that?

She majors her anti-fossil fuels article on Britain as if emission reductions here will “save the planet”. The UK has a minuscule 1.3 per cent of global emissions (Scotland 0.13).

She should save her lectures for China, India, Brazil and Indonesia where emissions total 41 per cent and who will continue to pump out toxins on the basis that they have a lot of catching up to do. The UK’s and Scotland’s boast to “lead the world” will lead to black-outs and people dying.

Clark Cross

Springfield Road, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Secular hostility

If Allan Ramsay “can’t imagine many churchgoers sharing their car or leaving it at home” (Letters, 15 December) he lacks imagination. There will countless examples of such actions every Sunday.

Mr Ramsay’s embittered determination to criticise Christians might be taken as an unattractive eccentricity, but the surge in such hostility towards Christians, stoked by secular media and education, should concern anyone wanting to maintain good community relations and a harmonious society.

Richard Lucas

Colinton, Edinburgh

Blinding justice

The veiled woman who recently caused a trial to be postponed at Dunfermline Sheriff Court, by refusing to reveal her face when asked to do so by the Sheriff, raises important issues for Scots law. As Muslim women continue to advance in the legal profession, it is only a matter of time before we have a veiled sheriff, veiled procurator-fiscal, veiled accused, veiled defence solicitor, veiled witness and possibly even a veiled forewoman of a jury in court. What legal rights would a non-veiled accused, an atheist perhaps, have to see the face of his or her accusers and the sheriff who will pronounce the verdict and sentence?

Ian Stewart

Convener, Atheist Scotland

Park Avenue. Dundee

Favourite tycoon

The First Minister was keen to strip Donald Trump of his role as Business Ambassador for Scotland. But who appointed the US tycoon to that post in the first place – a position many didn’t realise he had?

If Trump does become 45th President of the United States of America, and at the moment he looks ahead among 14 Republican aspirants, the words of that well known tune may alter to God Help America.

There was a time when Alex Salmond was keen to look close to Trump. Besides his ambassador role, it would be interesting to know how much public money went towards assisting Donald Trump’s golf course ambitions here?

Jim Craigen

Downie Grove, Edinburgh

Scotsman tribute

Following the sudden, quite untimely death of Herald journalist Ian Bell, as a former colleague – in the features department of The Scotsman under Jim Seaton – I well remember his quiet, supportive presence and dry and acerbic wit. Thanks Ian for years of fun and friendship in what were happier times for journalists.

Sarah Nelson

Comely Bank Road, Edinburgh