Point of no return

PRIME Minister David Cameron's attempt to achieve a measure of reform both for the UK and the European Union is being frustrated by mandarins wedded to the glory days of European integration (your report, 19 February).

His best hope is that Europe’s leaders see the need for reform better than its bureaucrats since the outcome will point to a modus vivendi for an enlarged Europe in the years ahead.

Certainly Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel’s belief that “the responsibility for social security lies not in Brussels but in member states” supports his call for more power to be devolved.

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The UK may be semi-detached but it is also clear that not everyone in the EU seeks “ever closer union” and that a multi-currency union is emerging with a dearth of new euro joiners.

A looser union including the likes of Switzerland and Turkey would be immensely beneficial and the kind of diplomatic chicanery which leads to a Brexit would be a huge mistake.

(Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place, St Andrews, Fife

Whilst I certainly hope that the UK remains a member of a reformed European Union, I do think that Scottish voters who appear from the polls to be less critical of the EU will take note of the actions of some of the leaders from Eastern Europe.

Quite rightly, if an EU worker is in the UK and his children also in the UK then child allowance should be paid at UK level. However, paying UK levels of child benefit to children in Eastern Europe means that those children will receive much more than if their own government paid them and that money will be coming from hard-pressed Scottish families.

Why we should pay taxes not just to support but actually enrich some Eastern European families whose children are not in the UK at the expense of our own children is patently unfair. Clearly, every Eastern European child enriched by the UK government is one less for his or her own government to pay for. Do a majority of Scots really support taking monies from our families in this way?

(Dr) Roger I Cartwright

Turretbank Place, Crieff, Perthshire

Joyce McMillan (Perspective, 19 February), raises a few interesting points on the current European Union situation. She claims that Prime Minister David Cameron’s demands are almost irrelevant, which is quite correct; but as everyone knows, these are what the EU will let him get away with.

If we want real reforms, we will need to do what Daniel Hannan MEP (a serious politician) suggests, that is, vote for Brexit, then just watch the EU bend to our real wishes. 

In looking out for the interests of the City of London financial services, Mr Cameron is not looking out for a special interest group; he is trying to protect one of our ­biggest industries (which many in the EU would love to weaken). 

As for the EU bringing peace in Europe, this is not wholly correct; the division of Europe in the Cold War made conflict in Europe unthinkable.

She says further EU integration is a good thing; I agree, it is good for the Europeans - just leave us out of it, thank you very much. 

William Ballantine

Dean Road, Bo’ness, West Lothian

David Cameron has reached a crucial point in his negotiations with other EU leaders. Negotiations that are looking to implement new agreements within the EU for member states.

Those negotiations are crucial and will affect us all, but I have noted some very important leaders have been excluded from those negotiations; no room at the top table for them, it seems. Those missing political figures are the leaders of the devolved parliaments in the UK.

Don’t citizens of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland deserve a voice at the top table at such crucial negotiations, considering any deal struck will impact on the devolved administrations?

Catriona C Clark

Hawthorn Drive, Falkirk

I suppose it’s inevitable that from time to time we amateurs writing to the letters pages should end up well out of tune with the professionals writing for the Scotsman. So it is with Keith Howell’s slightly hagiographic descriptions of the talents Prime Minister David Cameron has shown in negotiating a new deal for the UK within the EU (Letters, 19 February). 

Mr Howell believes that Mr Cameron will deliver “a substantive package of changes”, but we learn from David O’Leary’s report that Mr Cameron is a long way from a done deal and that MPs from his own party have dismissed the entire process as a “sham” and say that so little has been asked for in the first place, that there is no prospect of any fundamental change. They go on to point out that the amendment to the one directive which has been achieved could have happened without the circus which has attended the negotiations.

Douglas Turner

Derby Street, Edinburgh

Trauma fear

Shona Robison’s decision to abandon the plan to establish four major trauma centres in Scotland, announced with no ifs or buts by her health secretary predecessor, Alex Neil, six months before the independence referendum, is a big ­setback. The 40 lives that the centres could save will go on being lost until Ms Robison does yet another U-turn.

The need for the centres is indisputable. England has had a network of them since April 2012. 

Even stranger than Ms Robison’s decision is her excuse, that she has asked the National Planning forum to examine Mr Neil’s plan. It was based on the advice from the very same body.

Hugh Pennington

Carlton Place, Aberdeen

Off the rails

Brian Monteith’s judgment appears to be clouded when it comes to the railway between Tweedbank and Edinburgh, a project he opposed before it ever happened (“Romance clouds our judgment of Borders Railway plan”, Perspective, 15 February).

I wonder if it was “romance” that led to scenes I have witnessed on the station platform at Galashiels where large numbers of people have been seen to join trains to Edinburgh. Perhaps their judgment was based on facts concerning the availability of regular trains.

The line has proved more popular than some forecasts suggested before it was opened by the Queen last September. There are growing calls for the railway to be extended beyond Tweedbank, with Hawick being a particular location in need of a boost to its economy.

Allan McLean

Mountcastle Bank, Edinburgh

Book of judges

I hope that when the Scottish Parliament’s petitions committee reconsiders a proposal to implement a register of interests for the judiciary next Tuesday, it does not accept the Lord President’s advice to throw out this petition.

When I was Scotland’s first independent Judicial Complaints Reviewer, I gave evidence to the committee in support of a register of interests. I am a ministerially-appointed board member in Scotland, where I am rightly required to complete a register of interests to provide assurance to the public that my dealings are above board. For the same reason, the judiciary should also complete such a register.

The judiciary can take away people’s assets, separate families, and lock people away in prison. Given this position of power, it is essential not only that they have absolute integrity – but crucially, that they are seen to be beyond reproach.

A register of interests is a way of demonstrating that a judicial office holder is impartial and has no vested interest in a case – financially, through family connections, club/society membership or in any ­other way.

Conversely, the refusal to keep a register of interests creates public suspicion that in turn undermines judicial credibility. Thus, a register of interests is good for the judiciary and good for the public.

Moi Ali

West Calder, West Lothian

Brownout threat

George Shering thinks that wind turbines and battery storage systems are the way ahead for Scotland and the UK (Letters, 19 February).

At present, in return for substantial payments, manufacturing and engineering companies and large electricity consumers have agreed to shut down should blackouts be imminent.

Little known by the public is the fact that there are banks of diesel generators all over the country standing by and are being handsomely paid to sit idle. This provision has been made because it is recognised that the safety margin between supply and demand is dangerously low since there is too much reliance on unpredictable wind.

These costs will be added to our already high energy bills.

However, the threat of a deliberate decision to reduce voltage, called a brownout, or indeed a blackout of our electricity supply is very real and immediate, not sometime in the future when some form of cheap battery storage system may be available.

Clark Cross

Linlithgow, West Lothian

Running scared

We are right to be concerned at the Scottish Government’s plans for the BBC and not just because of the risk of a parochial schedule (Letters, 19 February).

The unwillingness of BBC Scotland’s political commentators, with the honourable exception of Gordon Brewer, to challenge the Scottish ­Government or undertake any in-depth analysis is quite striking when compared to the equivalent London-based correspondents.

The Nick Robinsons and Andrew Neils of this world may not be everyone’s cup of tea but they play a vital role in holding our politicians to account.

Devolution and federalism being applied to the BBC would normally sound benign and attractive to my ears but the evidence of the recent past is certainly not encouraging. The last thing Scotland needs is a timid public broadcasting organisation.

Joan Mitchell

Newton Stewart, Dumfries and Galloway

Ungracious Alex

Yet again former first minister Alex Salmond blunders about on his weekly radio phone-in show, with revelations intended to score points, shock or otherwise cause controversy (“Salmond says Queen assured him she did not ‘purr down the line’ at PM”, your report, 18 February).

This time Mr Salmond appears to reveal the content of a conversation he had with the Queen. Admittedly he was trying to counter what had been picked up by TV microphones when David Cameron was talking indiscreetly, though he thought privately.

But Mr Salmond, to his shame, has no such excuse.

Keith Howell

West Linton, Peeblesshire