Tide turning?

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Angela Merkel is besieged by right-wing demonstrations after her “everyone welcome” policy led to mass sex attacks and criminal attacks.

In Hungary and Poland the far right are gaining new recruits every day.

All over Europe razor-wire fences are holding back the tsunami of migrants keen to explore the west and its generous welfare, housing and health systems. Even liberal Sweden has had enough and is about to expel 80,000 migrants. At last the tide is turning.

Clark Cross

Springfield Road, Linlithgow

Debatable EU

The future of the EU debate doesn’t look too rosy, if the article by Henry McLeish ( Scotsman 4 February ) is anything to go by.

Every mention of anti-EU feeling is followed by, for instance “extreme euroscepticism”, “right wing of the Conservative Party”, “extreme elements of the Conservative party”. There are legitimate arguments for leaving, as there are for staying, and not all anti-EU elements are Conservative – there are Labour people who want to leave!

I’m sure there will be SNP people who want out as well, but they seem to be gagged.

He is using smear tactics – there are good arguments for staying, but we saw little of them here!

William Ballantine

Dean Road, Bo’ness

An early referendum on whether to remain in the European Union now looks inevitable, after David Cameron and European Council President Donald Tusk reached agreement. The terms agreed to for continued UK membership confirm both the reactionary character of the EU and the failure of its stated mission of uniting the continent.

The demands he placed on the EU were for more powers for parliament to block proposed EU legislation, greater protection for EU member states not in the eurozone, action to boost competitiveness, and a limit on the in-work benefits paid to EU migrants working in Britain. His overall aim was to encourage xenophobia, to exempt the UK from what little remains of the EU’s human rights and workplace legislation, and to safeguard the City of London against competition from European rivals.

Greatest attention has been paid by a noxious UK media to restricting benefits for migrants.

The man who announced that the UK was now in a permanent “age of austerity”portrays migrants as a danger to the welfare state even as he allows companies like Google to pay virtually no tax. EU migrants account for just 2.5 per cent of benefits and 7 per cent of tax credits, with both EU and non-EU migrants underrepresented among out-of-work benefits recipients. Between 2001 and 2011, EU migrants made a net positive contribution of £20 billion to the UK, while non-EU migrants made a net contribution of more than £5bn.

Alan Hinnrichs

Gillespie Terrace, Dundee

Alarm bells

The Principal of Edinburgh University, Sir Timothy O’Shea, is ‘’alarmed’’ by the proposals in the government’s Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Bill.

In particular, he claims that the new amendments for an elected chair propose an “incoherent and inconsistent” system of governance. It would appear that it is the particular form of this government proposal to which he objects, not the proposal per se.

I hope that Principal O’Shea would agree that as long as the university takes the King’s shilling, the tax payer has every right to a say in how that money is spent in the university.

Doug Clark

Muir Wood Grove, Currie

Engage senses

With his tongue very firmly in his cheek, Bill Jamieson seeks to stir some debate over what “voter engagement” has come to mean and whether the old are being pushed out of the realms of influence by social media and populist activism (My vote goes in favour of the old, 4 February).

We are not of course going to start rewarding people with additional votes for simply getting older, not least because I am afraid adding years is far from being a guarantee of wisdom or a willingness to think things through.

I understand Bill’s frustration with young people apparently all too willing to take something they read on Twitter as evidence of anything, even if they have no idea of the credibility of the source, and typically no more than 140 characters to be so informed.

Yet all the noise, rancour, and occasional lapses into rudeness and intimidation to be found on social media should not be used as an excuse by the older generation to turn our backs on it all. I am afraid we too must try to become more engaged and find ways of reaching out with what we hope are more balanced views.

In particular, this is needed to counter the tunnel vision of the world as it is or might be, that some politicians are all too good at promoting amongst the young.

And as we hopefully become more active politically, let us also not be too judgmental about those we come across, lest someone reminds us about some of the things we said and believed so passionately all those years ago.

Keith Howell

West Linton, Peeblesshire

I was interested to read Bill Jamieson’s thought-provoking article (Scottish Perspective, 4 February) proposing that additional votes be allocated on an age basis. His suggestion that an additional vote be allocated for every multiple of 16 years of a voter’s life was particularly appealing.

Might I suggest that an additional vote be allocated to those whose aptitude in mental arithmetic brings them to the realisation that thrice 16 is 48 and not, as Bill Jamieson seems to think, 45.

Paul Anderson

Garvock Terrace, Dunfermline

Help those in need

The proposed income tax increases have reopened some old controversies. It is generally accepted that free homecare for the elderly, abolition of bridge tolls and prescription charges, free bus passes – some of which I benefit from myself – were little more than (successful) electoral bribes. The annual cost must be in the billions.

Why should, by mere virtue of age, even millionaires be afforded such hand-outs? In effect it transfers the cost of vital services to the young and working sector of the population. Many of these are struggling, while many of the better-off could well afford to pay their share. Is it more than coincidence that those most likely to vote are the big beneficiaries of this largesse?

The shame of means testing remains an anathema but this is 2016, not 1936, and with modern technology this could be done sensitively.

The counter-argument that if these goodies were taken away many who do so now would not make their own provisions for old age does not hold.

Benefits should not be universal but for those in genuine need. Which party would ever have the guts to acknowledge this universal truth?

Alexander McKay

New Cut Rigg, Edinburgh

The tree line

I am relieved to see W Douglas (Letters, 4 February) questioning the efficacy of trees in mitigating flooding as this seems to be  becoming an orthodoxy and quick fix solution.

From 30 December, in Glenprosen we had three serious flood events in the space of two weeks, in common with our neighbours.

The ground was saturated beforehand and for most of this period. I would not deny that trees may have a limited and temporary benefit, but the suggestion that any different form of ground cover would have made one iota of noticeable difference to the run-off from the exceptional volume of rainfall in this period, and the consequent flooding defies common-sense.

The clue is in the word “saturated”.

Hector Maclean

Kirriemuir, Angus

Off the rails

You can tell there’s an election near when the Scottish Parliament has a debate on reopening a railway line.

In 2007, the incoming SNP administration inherited five such projects, one of which was nearly complete and another had begun work. Two of the others were cancelled and the remaining one (the Borders Railway) only opened last year, many years later than originally planned.

In the years since 2007 the SNP administration has not brought forward any firm proposals for rail reopenings and there have recently been questions about their commitment to a new “high speed” line between Glasgow and Edinburgh, which Nicola Sturgeon said could be ready by 2025.

Going back to the 2003 election, the SNP manifesto included a commitment to electrifying the line between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and I think we all know what has happened to that! Voters may wish to keep a close lookout for leaves on the line over the coming weeks.

David Hodgson

Forth Street, Cambus, Alloa