No peace on earth in little town of Bethlehem - Readers' Letters

On Christmas morning and I turned on BBC1 to find my favourite carol being sung amazingly well.

Nuns, mask-clad due to the Covid-19 pandemic, enter the Church of the Nativity on Christmas Day
Nuns, mask-clad due to the Covid-19 pandemic, enter the Church of the Nativity on Christmas Day

I first learned O Little Town of Bethlehem in the Canongate Kirk of my youth and particularly relished singing it year after year until my retirement with huge congregations in South Leith Parish Church.

But this experience was wondrous, as could never have been imagined then. All the participants were singing, swaying and even dancing to the traditional tune, here played with a verve that at first to the Presbyterian mind-set seems unrestrained, but yet is undeniably disciplined – and also impelling me to join in singing the unforgettable words.

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But, dear God, to find oneself singing of the little town of Bethlehem must bring a lump to the throat of all of us these days! Even back then, under the ruthless rule of Rome and Herod, "how still we see thee lie" did not last long for the baby Jesus.

And today, when we have seen the skyline over the shepherds' fields dominated by illegal settlements whose pumps suck up the water that the shepherds' livelihoods depended on, we just cannot escape the realisation that the new normal there is no way to peace on earth. What do Palestinians today think of our nostalgic singing when their reality is to be confronted by an insurmountable wall and weapons at the ready, while Christian singers do nothing effective about their suffering and inability to earn a living and to be free? Bah, humbug?

How glad I am that a non-church friend has sent me – with permission to quote – new words written by Penny Stone of Portobello for O, Come All Ye Faithful: "All who care for justice . . . Sing in indignation . . . O come let's not ignore Him!"

(Rev) Jack Kellet,

Dyers Close, Innerleithen

The wrong Way

i have watched the growing use of the John Muir Way with increasing unease since it was first constructed through what were once pretty wild areas of the Kilpatricks a few years ago.

I now see streams of people, most with dogs, at all times of the year, having a significant impact on the wildlife of the area, not least, ground nesting birds, with many having nests and young destroyed by dogs out of control in the springtime. and last weekend, and not for the first time, after descending from Duncolm, we were harasssed by people on motorbikes once we reached the "Way" around Burncrooks Reservoir.

The Green Action Trust" should be ashamed of what they have done to the Kilpatrick Hills. They are effectively trashing the place and I’m certain that John Muir would be horrified to see the degeneration and degradationnstituted in his name.

There is little that is "green" or that invokes "trust" in what the Geen Action Trust have done and nobody with a genuine, informed interest in wildlife and environments could approve of this particular "action".

Aylmer Carson

Sinclair Avenue, Glasgow

It doesn’t add up

So, our Constitution Secretary, Michael Russell has warned (Scotsman, 26 December) that Scotland’s economy “is facing a £9 billion hit as a result of of the Brexit trade deal struck between the UK and the EU. Really?

Are we to believe that Mr Russell has studied and assimilated an agreement running to around 1,300 pages struck only on 24 December, then carried out calculations enabling him to pronounce Scotland will face a £9 billion hit?

This is yet another blatant, totally predictable example of the SNPs habitual whipping up of grievances against the UK with a transparently political motive of furthering the cause of independence.

David Hollingdale

Easter Park Drive, Edinburgh

Patience a virtue

We, the 48 per cent in Great Britain who didn’t want to leave the EU, thank you, dear Mrs von der Leyen, for your patience, understanding and graciousness, during the difficult conversations and negotiations with our government.

Trevor Rigg

Greenbank Gardens, Edinburgh

The real deal

Whatever you think of Boris Johnson and Brexit (I'm a recent convert to both), in terms of political leaders initiating and executing huge change the Prime Minister's achievement is genuinely historic. He campaigned for it, won the referendum, secured a landslide majority, negotiated the withdrawal agreement and, against all the odds, a final agreement in the teeth of what we are continually told is the worst crisis since, well, take your pick. He even managed to find a way to honour the terms of its nearest rival, the Good Friday Agreement for which he has had relieved prase in Northern Ireland.

Unfortunately, according to the SNP it will be disastrous for Scotland with no upside for any enterprising businesses and the only way out is to leave the UK and the new trade deal and spend at least ten years trying to get back into to the EU.

Allan Sutherland

Willow Row, Stonehaven

Cultural vandalism

The nasty sting in the tail of Brexit was the mean-spirited decision of the UK Government to withdraw from Erasmus, the European student exchange scheme, and replace it with a “global” scheme – for global read Anglo-Saxon.

This was not widely anticipated and has clear political symbolism. Anything which encourages engagement of our young people with other Europeans and may engender a feeling of European identity is to be crushed. It is cultural vandalism and for me it’s the last straw. I am not at home in the United Kingdom.Bagbie

Joan Mitchell

Bagbie, Newton Stewart

Profound relief

The beginning of the 21st century’s third decade has a 1950s feel about it – not just the privations and troubles with international travel but the petty rules which infect every aspect of our lives, private and public. Yet after a year of Covid and in spite of having the most incompetent political leaders in recent history, we have the world’s fifth largest economy, behind the US, China, Japan and Germany but ahead of India and France.

As for Brexit, it ended like any other human relationship gone sour in absurd haggles over mere trifles: £600m worth of fish versus the £300bn of goods exported to Europe. On Christmas Eve the historic trade deal fell into place with senior diplomats divvying up the herring. It was all so preposterous, Ursula von der Leyen admitted to a feeling of profound relief probably shared by all save Neanderthal Tory backwoodsmen.

Dr John Cameron

Howard Place, St Andrews