THE outcome of votes cast across the EU in the forthcoming European parliamentary elections will play a key role in how Brexit is ultimately shaped.

In these elections traditionally dominant centre-right (EPP) and centre-left (S&D) parliamentary groups are forecast to lose significant numbers of seats – and the majority they have held for 40 years. The liberals (ALDE) and Greens should be stronger, and the right-wing, EU-critical populists in Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen’s new European Alliance of People and Nations much stronger.

Majorities will be harder to form and less stable; nation-first parties seeking “less Europe” and more power for member states will have a greater influence on policy.

The European Parliament has to sign off on the Brexit withdrawal agreement (assuming it is ever passed in Westminster) and this could be problematic if the current stable majority, which has generally backed the European Commission’s Brexit approach, is disrupted by a large contingent of populist, EU-critical MEPs.

The new parliament will also have a considerable say in the make-up of the new Commission, which could involve British MEPs, and will eventually negotiate the EU’s future relationship with the UK. Finally, MEPs will have to agree the future relationship itself.

In all of these areas a more divided, polarised and unstable European Parliament with potentially conflicting demands could create considerable problems for the UK.
Alex Orr

NIGEL Farage is part of the strange breed Herman Melville described in his novel The Confidence-Man, in which the main character uses protean personas, flattery and lies to gain the confidence of his fellow passengers to fleece them on a Mississippi River steamboat. “Confidence men,” as Melville understood, are an inevitable product of the amorality of capitalism and the insatiable lust for wealth, power and empire that infects society. Farage’s narcissism, his celebration of ignorance, which he like all confidence men confuses with innocence, his megalomania and his lack of empathy are pathologies nurtured by the UK media.

In The Individual In Society, Ludwig von Mises, teacher of Friedrich Hayek (the founder of modern neoliberalism), wrote that in a contractual society, the employer is at the mercy of the mob. But in a self-interested market economy, “[t]he co-ordination of the autonomous actions of all individuals is accomplished by the operation of the market”. So, in this fantasy world, employers can fire workers and replace them with cheaper ones without incurring the social costs associated with contractual societies.

Neoliberal market economists attempt to channel errant behaviours by using stimulus-response theory in the form of anti-union legislation, cuts to social services and the threat of outsourcing jobs. Market economists have elevated self-interest to a normative ideal.

The crisis of capitalism has seen the collapse of confidence in the traditional Westminster parties. The backers of Nigel Farage are right-wing, free-market extremists They see “Hard Brexit” as something that will allow them to continue coining it in at the expense of the population .

Nigel Farage and the Brexiteers are the epitome of what William Faulkner portrayed in the depraved Snopes clan – that it does not matter in the crass commercialism of society how you obtain wealth and power. They are their own justifications.
Alan Hinnrichs

IN his article “A step change is needed from politicians in way they see marchers” (May 15) Kevin McKenna criticises elected SNP politicians for not participating in marches. Some readers have already responded, taking issue with him on the accuracy of his comments. However, the final two paragraphs are not about marches but do merit some response.

Mr McKenna makes snide remarks about the “salaries and expenses and taxpayer-funded second homes” of elected SNP representatives. He must realise that the consequence of not having adequate remuneration for our elected representatives is that only wealthy people would stand for election – like in “olden days”. Is he really suggesting that our elected representatives are overpaid? If so, he should say so. Jacob Rees-Mogg may agree with him.

He also suggests SNP representatives have one eye on securing a well-paid sinecure in the future. Does he have the slightest piece of evidence? We have to assume he does not.

Mr McKenna could have written an article about the value of marches and the importance of supporting them. However, as is his wont, he chooses to include ill-informed criticism of others. I suppose we should be grateful he didn’t mention the masons.
Douglas Morton

THE performance of the Prime Minister in the House on Wednesday was a boring, repetitious example of the usual avoidance of acceptance of responsibility, or the workable solutions thereto, for any of the truly major issues of the day, not the least of which is that concerning the fourth coming vote on the Withdrawal Bill.

It seems likely that the outcome, after yet another forecasted defeat, will be either to allow parliament to ignore the democratic OUT vote of 2016 and to legislate for rescindment of Article 50, or to ignore parliament’s decision to avoid no deal and to leave accordingly. To the untutored in constitutional law the latter would appear to be “what the country voted for” and therefore the sole acceptable means of avoiding an unacceptable crisis. The stalemate cannot go on and the bullet must accordingly be bitten. MPs are there to execute the will of the electorate.

The position of our country, Scotland, is unequivocal, in that no account by Westminster has been taken of the majority view so expressed in 2016 and no attempt, even minimally, to consider its implications has been taken by the parliament. Holyrood has made its decisions in the interest of our country.

Westminster has long ago begun leaving Scotland only one route for its future well-being. There is no evidence whatsoever that Westminster, irrespective of party, will demonstrate in the future any sympathy for Scottish opinion, the issues now having been crystallised. That fact is inescapable.

Scotland’s only acceptable option to avoid the consequences of the continued neglect to which it has often been, sometimes quite cynically, deliberately subjected to by London, is to depart from the failed Union. Our country simply cannot depend on the supposed magnanimity of the latter, nor is it either required or wanted. All that is asked is honest co-operation.
J Hamilton

WHEN Thomas Paine published The Age Of Reason in 1794 he was reflecting on the many advances in knowledge and social ideas which had emerged in the later part of the 18th century, not least from the “Edinburgh Enlightenment” and the works and ideas of many Scots.

This “age of reason” was undoubtedly a response to the collapse of feudalism in Britain and parts of Europe and the new ideas of capitalism shining through to disperse some of the remaining bulwarks of feudal ideology and power.

It strikes me that we are living in a new “age of reason” which is beginning to challenge the failing ideology of “neo-liberal capitalism”.

We are now increasingly hearing logical condemnation of “austerity” and “trickle-down distribution”, “banking/financial expertise” and “globalisation”, all of which were once worshipped without question by politicians from both the right and the left, many of whom have now paid with their political lives for their folly.

Although some have learned nothing from the financial crisis and carry on ignoring reality because it does not fit with their neo-liberal ideology, still proclaiming the same old nonsense and trying to convince the rest of us to join with them in their happy delusion and design a new Scotland in line with the neo-liberal dream.

Some, such as Mervyn King, have stopped dreaming and have recanted to some extent and started to identify the flaws in the dream. In his case the way fractional-reserve banks are creating money out of thin air, which he calls “alchemy” and which he suggests should be “ended”, although he is not quite clear how.

If Mervyn is not clear about the way forward, there are many others, some of whom write to and in The National, who do have better ideas. Indeed Scotland seems to have an increasing number of people who can see that our economic system is broken. A system which has done so much damage to our society and even more to our environment is not fit for purpose and needs a total overhaul.

Fortunately for Scotland there are a number of people around who are able to advise us on how to build our new Scotland, and it must be clear to an increasing number of people that we will need to do just that if we are going to start to save our country, and give a lead in saving our world, from the desperate situation it is now in We urgently need open and rational debate about this on a large scale, indeed a new Scottish enlightenment to examine the failures of our broken system and how to repair it. I am confident that the knowledge and talent exists in Scotland today to provide this.
Andy Anderson

BORIS Johnson told a business conference he will run for leader and Prime Minister. Don’t underestimate his campaigning abilities.

For me, he showed a complete lack of class in announcing when there is no vacancy. He might find like Michael Heseltine did with Maggie that he who wields the knife does not get the top job.

Then we are told that the Prime Minister has agreed to some kind of resignation timetable in June.

Be under no illusions – this is a Tory coup against the Prime Minister.

Nigel Farage forced David Cameron to hold a referendum which he lost and had to resign.

Has Nigel just claimed a second prime minister’s scalp?

What now for independence? Does the First Minister wait for the election of a new Tory leader and prime minister or go for it now? What if Tory leadership candidates run on a platform of no People’s Vote and no indyref2? They can then say “no more referendums, that was a campaign promise”.

This is a watershed moment for the independence movement. What just happened coupled with next Thursday’s EU election result could change everything.

Meanwhile, earlier in the week, the Commons suspended its sitting after 3-and-a-half hours – no business, empty benches.

I say to all parties, was this a joke? You could have fixed little things that affect people’s lives, like Universal Credit. It’s what we pay you for.
David Ritchie
North Ayrshire