I’VE been a Socialist and Labour voter for over 50 years. Life was simpler years ago when it tended be a choice between the Tories’ every man for himself style or the mixed economy style preferred by Labour. It was a free choice in a democracy and usually based on working conditions and the state of the economy.

I read Struan Stevenson’s excellent article on the populist government in Hungary ("Where will EU populist surge leave UK?", The Herald, April 23) and although I share his fear of any growth in a far right movement, it’s very difficult to question the election of Viktor Orban in what appears to be a free democratic vote.

I believe the Hungarians have re-elected Orban five times in 14 years.

What we should be considering and studying is why is the populist being re-elected and not casting aspersions that come over as weak.

One of the phrases used is that he and others are “anti-immigrant” rather than against uncontrolled and illegal immigration. There is a very big difference. We need to encourage people who have qualifications and skills that we need. We need a plan to accommodate them as we did for many years up until 10 or so years ago.

We should be able to speak freely on the subject without being branded far right or populist because it’s completely wrong to do so and quite unfair.

I think it was Jimmy Reid who said it’s wrong to define politics by left and right because these positions are based on wherever the centre is.

If the centre shifts we find ourselves redefined either further right or further left without actually changing our views.

John Gilligan, Ayr.

We're a resource to be harvested

A PROPOS Max Cruickshank’s letter (April 22) on the availability of alcohol and the adverse effect it has had on alcoholism and its related problems, one has to ask why the changes were made to the model of alcohol availability that applied in the 1960s when I was a teenager; who has profited from the increase in consumption of alcohol?

Likewise in the midst of an obesity epidemic one has to question who has benefited from the change from local “corner shops” to supermarkets and multinational burger chains etc where a large part of what they sell is the processed foods recognised to be a major contributing factor to the problem. Shopping itself has morphed from being part of the service sector to one where the customer is herded round the store, does all the fetching and carrying, packing and checkout themselves without interfacing with a member of staff. Customers now do the work that staff were formerly paid to do. Yet prices go up rather than down.

This is all happening in a social environment where the cost of food is escalating but the standard of living and the life expectancy of the general public are reducing not increasing. The banking system can and does independently and invariably detrimentally affect the value of our national currency and the purchasing power of our wages and savings. Corporations, often international, control our energy supplies for which we pay substantially more than do our European neighbours. Our pensions are worse than any other comparable country. Transport is also more expensive here than in Europe, even something as basic as dropping off or picking up one of the 6.5 million passengers who flew from Glasgow Airport last year would have cost you a fiver or more for something that was previously free of charge.

Call me a raging loony conspiracy theorist as you may but one interpretation of the facts is that the Establishment is treating the general public and what it earns as a resource to be harvested at every opportunity irrespective of any harm that is caused. Mind you it's all the SNP's fault.

David J Crawford, Glasgow.

READ MORE: Europe is surging towards the populist right

READ MORE: We don't decry Abraham Lincoln, so why slate Henry Dundas?

We should vary alcohol duty

THE Minimum Unit Pricing of alchohol policy on alcohol (Letters, April 22, 24, 25 & 26) mostly affects low-income people, who are the most likely to need a glass or two to give them some small pleasure at the end of the day.

The retailers keep the unearned and undeserved extra profits. It is not collected by the Scottish administration.

The analysis on the data supports the explanation that it is the cost of living crisis that has reduced the spend of moderate drinkers. Problem drinkers, the supposed target of this policy, remain undeterred.

Problem drinkers are in all social classes, so MUP is failing because the only drinks that are increased are the cheapest.

A fairer way is to apply a Scottish element to the alcohol duty similar to the Scottish tax codes in the UK PAYE system.

Carl Bush, Lamlash, Isle of Arran.

Repeal the Climate Acts

ON the distinct topics of the UK Government's policies re energy generation and fears of worsening man-made adverse climate changes, our primary need is to enhance and maintain national supplies of energy for home, industry and transport.

When the still-unproven suspicions were aroused over 30 years ago of man-made global warming due to greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide (CO2), our authorities should have, ignoring enthusiasts like Ed Miliband, declared that our national greenhouse gas output was negligible at around 1% of the global total.

The resources we have wasted since then on failing to influence the world's climate could and should have been lavished on keeping the UK's power supplies fully adequate for our real requirements.

Renewables powered by wind are irrelevant to that goal because of their worsening subsidy dependence and the damage they inflict to avian wildlife, land and us.

However, it is perhaps not too late for us to opt out of the doomed UN quest of offsetting any hostile local and global climate changes by repealing the hopelessly imprudent Climate Change Acts (2008,9).

Charles Wardrop, Perth.

In defence of Dundas

IN support of John Birkett’s letter (April 24), I too was astonished to learn that the City of Edinburgh Council had restored the controversial Dundas plaque in St Andrew Square. For whatever reason, the council has chosen to ignore the opinions of leading academic historians and made the elementary mistake of taking a historical event and creating a narrative that simply is out of step with the historical context.

Those attacking Henry Dundas have to address the question as to how a slave-supporting Parliament at that time was ever going to vote for abolition. The motion proposed by William Wilberforce would have faced certain defeat in the House of Lords as well as the opposition of King George III and members of the royal family. A previous attempt in 1792 to pass a motion for abolition had been very heavily defeated. Dundas knew perfectly well that Parliament was packed with members who had strong vested interests in the slave trade. It would take years for the force of the moral argument against the vile trade to have any chance of success.

There were other serious matters for Dundas to contend with. Britain was then at war with Revolutionary France and was faced with the real prospect of invasion. Furthermore, the British Establishment was terrified that the success of the French Revolution might inspire similar uprisings in the UK. The country was in turmoil and it fell to Dundas to try to restore order at home and to meet the French threat.

During the debate in 1792 Dundas, determined to keep the issue on the statute book, proposed a gradual path to abolition stating that "My opinion has been always against the slave trade". Indeed it was Dundas who had taken on the case of the West Indian slave Joseph Knight in 1777 which successfully established that there was no slavery in Scotland. ‬‬‬‬‬ So it is quite wrong to state that Dundas was fighting a rearguard action against abolition and that he alone was responsible for condemning some 420,000 Africans to the horrors of slavery. ‬

The Herald: Edinburgh's statue of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount MelvilleEdinburgh's statue of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (Image: PA)

It is worth remembering that the vast majority of these unfortunate Africans were captured and sold to the slave traders by their fellow-Africans. It is seriously misleading to present slavery as a white persecution of black people. We must also remember that during the centuries in question at least one million white Europeans were captured and sold in the slave markets of North Africa.‬‬

Finally, it is also wrong to state that Wilberforce and Dundas were enemies. Dundas advised Wilberforce as to how best to take forward his campaign. In later years Wilberforce remembered a meeting with Dundas. “About a year before he died we suddenly came upon each other… at first I thought he was passing on, but he stopped and called out, ‘Ah Wilberforce, how do you do?’ And gave me a hearty shake by the hand. I would have given a thousand pounds for that shake. I never saw him again.”

Eric Melvin, Edinburgh.