DOUG Marr ("Happy days are here again... or maybe not", The Herald, December 28), highlights how the 11th-hour Brexit deal is likely to be a "victory for our very own dictatorship of the privileged", and how bankers, speculators and the variety of spivs who cosy up to the Tories in their "chumocracy" are the ones who will benefit. How have we got here?

The success of the Brexit movement, riding the crest of the Tories’ dominance in recent years, has been rendered possible by skilful manipulation of political realities. We are all embedded, in our personal and public lives, in the construction and constitution of knowledge and the "reality" that lies out there. Our beliefs and attitudes develop through the community of ideas to which we are exposed, in a kind of marketplace of propositions. Politicians seek to shape and create their own preferred reality in order to be elected and to be able to pursue their preferred objectives.

So, in the case of the Tories, we end up with myths like "taking back control" and "sovereignty", and the imagined threats of being swamped by immigrants. In creating this version of reality and supposed threats to our "freedoms", one has to acknowledge how effective the Tories have been, with the assistance of social media and the right-wing press – not least as evidenced in their large majority in the last election. They were able to persuade the populace that the years of austerity were a necessity and not a political choice, and people voted for them in huge numbers, and, significantly, in traditionally Labour-voting areas in England, dogged by years of poverty and inequality. Yet we discover, in the Government’s response to the coronavirus crisis, that eye-watering sums of money can be magicked out of thin air, when there are other perceived priorities.

The more fundamental trick magicked by the Tories is to have persuaded us that a group of self-serving elitists will really, truly, look after our interests. Sadly, mired as we are in a society devoted to cap-doffing deference, that is what we seem willing to swallow. The Tories have shown us clearly: reality is what you can get away with.

Dr Angus Macmillan, Dumfries.


WITH the announcement in the Brexit deal that the UK is to withdraw from the Erasmus European student exchange scheme, Boris Johnson has broken yet another of his promises. As always, he tries to pull the wool over our eyes by announcing a new half-baked and underfunded UK student exchange scheme named after the computer pioneer, Alan Turing, a man who was persecuted and prosecuted by a previous Tory government for his sexuality. Northern Ireland will continue to participate in the Erasmus scheme. As a nation which also voted to remain in the EU, why not Scotland?

As a former student participant in Erasmus who spent two enlightening but challenging years at a German university, I can state without hesitation that this experience did much for my confidence. I also got a feel for how a genuine European social democracy operated. I found a country facing its difficult recent history with courage, humility and obvious determination. Crucially, it was (and is) an enthusiastic team player in the European scene. Additionally, I discovered that most Germans have great affection for the UK, even if this is not reciprocated. However, that bank of goodwill has now been carelessly squandered by Brexit.

It is abundantly clear by now that Boris Johnson and his Tory chums are not content to be team players in the European or any other scene. English exceptionalism rules. Even my English friends are conscious of – and somewhat embarrassed by – this "master race" mentality. The clue lies in Mr Johnson’s constant references to "world-beating" plans of one kind or another. However, I think we have learned by now that this hyperbole is usually a prelude to the complete opposite, the stumbling and partially-effective UK track and trace system being a perfect example. As someone who, infamously, has little grasp of detail, he never learns to stop making promises he cannot keep.

Scottish voters have already been betrayed by the promise of the Better Together campaign in 2014 that the UK would continue as a member of the EU if the No side won. Now Mr Johnson has done exactly the same with his worthless Erasmus promise. Is any more evidence required that Scotland will continue to be treated as a "junior" member of the UK unless it seizes the opportunity to follow its own destiny by becoming independent? That independence, I trust, will be one of equal partnership with other nations and a sharing of mutual respect. The world-beating myth can be left to what remains of the United Kingdom.

Dave Stewart, Glasgow G11.


BEFORE retiring, I taught in a university language department, teaching students from all over the world but mainly from Europe.

The majority of this latter group had been funded by the wonderful EU Erasmus programme and it was a real joy and privilege to see them exchanging ideas and experiences and learning from each other’s cultures and enriching the UK (and frequently contributing to it after graduating by staying and working here). Such exchanges contributed massively to research in all sorts of areas, from sport to literature and the arts, to medicine and engineering, science and technology.

The scheme of course also enabled British students to study throughout the EU, a fantastic and enriching opportunity for our young people, as well as contributing massively to the funding of UK universities, which will probably now have to cut courses.

Tragically, as part of the so-called Brexit “deal” – and despite Boris Johnson assuring Parliament that Brexit would not affect Erasmus – the UK Government has wilfully chosen to abandon the scheme, an act of unnecessary and vicious cultural, social and intellectual vandalism that will set many young people’s aspirations back irretrievably. The suggested replacement scheme has already been widely derided as hopelessly inadequate.

There will be students throughout Scotland who had looked forward to studying abroad thanks to Erasmus whose hopes have now been shattered.

It is worth noting that students in Northern Ireland will still have access to Erasmus, so I wonder if Scotland’s Tory MPs will be pressing for this crucial programme to be retained by Scotland, especially as my MP, David Mundell, threatened to resign if Northern Ireland received any favourable treatment?

C Donaldson, Moffat.


BORIS Johnson has been told continually over the last year that it was not possible to leave the single market and customs union and at the same time negotiate a zero-tariff and a zero-quota trade deal. Whether you like or loathe him, he has negotiated such a deal. This is the first ever such trade deal with the EU, covering trade valued at more than £600 billion per annum.

This deal really irritates the First Minister and Ian Blackford, whose initial comments cover the “broken promises” to Scottish fisherman and the “cultural vandalism” of leaving the Erasmus scheme. The irony can only be lost on separatist supporters and Nicola Sturgeon who would cast adrift Scottish fisherman into the net of the wholly discredited Common Fisheries Policy should she endeavour to rejoin the EU. The only “cultural vandalism” waged in Scotland is that from this SNP administration that has resulted in the destruction of a once world-leading and world-respected education system.

This Brexit deal demonstrates that the nationalism offered by Ms Sturgeon is the ideology of division, grievance and the building of barriers where none exist. Why would she want to establish a hard border between Scotland and the rest of the UK, hindering the most successful trading union with our nearest neighbours?

It is abundantly clear except to those with the myopic view of independence that such a move would be fantasy economics and cause massive disruption to the people, the wealth creators and the businesses of Scotland.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh EH4.


I VOTED to remain in the EU but have accepted the democratic decision to leave. However, I am yet again astounded by the hypocrisy of the SNP, which is now publicly criticising the fishing agreement. It is not a perfect deal, but is better than that which currently exists with the EU and has the potential to improve further.

I have always found it difficult to understand an argument whereby we “will not be governed by Westminster” but desperately want to be governed by Brussels. An independent Scotland in Europe would not have a strong voice and could look forward to Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Mallaig becoming harbours for the French fishing fleet and there would be nothing Nicola Sturgeon could do about it.

Duncan Sooman, Milngavie.


IS now the time to remind Ian Blackford how he and his fellow SNP MPs previously chose to vote when Theresa May's far less extreme Tory Brexit agreements came before them in the House of Commons?

Laurence Wade, Ayr.