SOMETIMES, their very own newspaper can present something so outrageous that readers can, initially, quite fizz with frustration – to the Alf Garnett level even. Beyond a certain age, that can, however, be deleterious to their well-being and, as a member of that particular age-group, reading Archie Burleigh’s letter about Fidelma Cook this morning (April 16), sharing it explosively with an equally appalled husband (we are both delighted followers of Ms Cook’s beautifully poignant and reflective writing in The Herald), I was very grateful for the cooling effect of irony.

Mr Burleigh is clearly very annoyed that, from the useful perspective of living in Europe along with hundreds of thousands of British expats likely to be affected by Brexit and able to observe the conduct of politicians in Westminster and television news coverage of the progress of Brexit through both houses, Ms Cook has simply and clearly deplored several aspects of the situation and urged Scotland to consider a better future than what is offered there.

His subsequent letter is, putting it mildly, disingenuous. He ignores the powerful propaganda effect of cutting out any evidence of SNP contribution to Brexit debates in Westminster from TV news bulletins and suggests that fairness exists in the opportunity, later, to dig around other TV channels and archives to find them. He must have missed the whipping and gerrymandering techniques employed by the Tory Party, and deplored by the Speaker himself, on several other occasions to deny opposing speakers, especially the SNP, the right to speak at all – especially on the Withdrawal Act itself.

The irony of suggesting that Ms Cook misjudges the situation by viewing Scotland from France through “rose-coloured” glasses while claiming that Theresa May has little or no responsibility for the horrible saga of the Withdrawal Agreement, blaming it on the civil service, lies deep. Describing that lady’s behaviour as courageous rather than manically relentless as we are driven thickly towards the madness of a constitutionally illegal Meaningful Vote 4 next week and a last-minute European election campaign (which may, also at the last minute, be denied a voting day) seems fanciful and fantastic, rose-coloured thinking indeed.

Thank goodness for Fidelma Cook. Thank goodness for the cooling effect of irony. If Westminster had not sunk so deeply into chaos under this administration and if the prospects were not so dangerous, Mr Burleigh might even have made us smile.

Frances McKie,

20 Ash Hill, Evanton, Ross-shire.

I HAVE never before submitted a letter to The Herald, or any other national newspaper for that matter, but I cannot allow Archie Burleigh's absurd comments to go unchallenged.

In the first instance, as a retired newspaper reporter (not with The Herald, I may add) I can assure Mr Burleigh that The Herald does not employ "hacks". On the contrary, its editorial team includes some of the most talented journalists and informed columnists in the business and Fidelma Cook is no exception.

Secondly, he asserts that the Prime Minister's parliamentary party is "probably the most truly representative" of the opinions of the entire country with so many divisions apparent. That is, at best, a moot point, but it is those very divisions within the Conservative Party that lie at the heart of the Brexit madness.

Yes, there have always been Euro-sceptics within the Labour Party and there is clear evidence that some members of the SNP also voted Leave in that ill-conceived referendum. But this is primarily a Conservative Party problem and has plagued a succession of Tory Party leaders for decades. What tipped David Cameron's hand and prompted him to make a mad dash to the polls was the emergence of Ukip (a slightly better-dressed version of the old British National Party) and the threat it was beginning to pose to Tory seats. Lastly, I would say to Mr Burleigh, if he's concerned about paid "hacks" offering opinions which I assume are contrary to his own, he should spare a thought for others whose attempts at rational debate are constantly undermined by the pro-Brexit bilge pumped out on a daily basis by the hacks employed on some of the English-based right-wing press.

James Cuthbert,

Drumellan Road,

Alloway, Ayr.

I'M going to leap quickly in defence of the Letters Editor, obviously in the hope of currying favour, after Archie Burleigh's letter today.

Mr Burleigh complains that Fidelma Cook has a guaranteed place in the opinion firmament while ordinary mortals have to jump through editorial hoops to see our opinions published in the Letters Pages. I too frequently have contributions ignored, to my disappointment, but it's usually clear that the topic has moved on or that others have said it better.

However, as for Mr Burleigh's suggestion that Ms Cook, domiciled in France, sees Scotland's position in Europe through rose-tinted glasses; au contraire, as Fidelma might say. I suggest that from a distance the Brexit farce, and its threat to Scotland's economy, is only too painfully clear.

Mr Burleigh quotes Harry S Truman, "progress occurs when courageous skilful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better". Quite so, but what happens when stubborn, purblind and ham-fisted leaders are in control?

John Jamieson,

60 Craigie Road, Ayr.

Read more: The UK is damned whatever is to come. But Scotland isn’t

AS a long-time reader and admirer of Fidelma Cook's column in the Herald Magazine on Saturdays, it has now been pointed out to me by Archie Burleigh that Fidelma is a "paid hack", living in France, whose column sullies the Magazine's pages by expressing political opinions with which he disagrees. Perhaps Mr Burleigh will enlighten us by explaining the difference between a paid hack living in France and a well-respected professional journalist living in the European Union. I would suggest that to qualify for the latter characterisation it would be necessary for the paid hack to express views in line with those of Mr Burleigh.

Willie Maclean,

48 Braehead Avenue, Milngavie.

THE agreement between the European Union and the UK to extend Article 50 until the end of October has rightly been welcomed by business leaders across the length and breadth of these islands. This was the right decision, as leaving without a deal this spring would have put businesses, local economies and livelihoods at risk.

But the value of this extension will only be realised when political consensus is reached about a sensible way forward. Decision-makers cannot waste the time that the country has been afforded. In addition, we must start to address fundamental issues about the direction of our economy.

For firms north of the Border, there are few more important issues than the development of an immigration system that meets Scotland’s needs. Outlined proposals must be changed to avoid putting Scottish businesses at risk and undermining efforts to develop demographically sustainable communities in many areas. Developing a more flexible, responsive, forward-looking system should be a priority for policymakers.

Andrew McRae,

Scotland Policy Chair, Federation of Small Businesses, Berkeley Street, Glasgow.