THE campaign has just really begun in earnest for next month’s election and there is no doubt who the main Scottish protagonists are.

Labour ruled themselves out when Kezia Dugdale dismissed the possibility of a U-turn on her opposition to a second referendum on independence. She shall be within the city walls of Damascus and her walk will be over when that particular light comes on.

The LibDems remain electorally challenged because memories of the Clegg/Cameron coalition are still vivid.

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Mainstream media, not to mention Ruth Davidson, would be absolutely delighted with 10 Scottish Tory seats. Even four would be quite acceptable to them, so deep have conservatives sunk in the esteem of Scottish voters.

In either of those scenarios, but especially the former, they and the media will bleat ad nauseam that the independence dream has been shattered. There may be some, even from within the independence movement itself, who believe them.

A possible cause for despondency then amongst nationalists? Only in the sense that we shall be massively disappointed for every SNP MP who loses out.

A slight recovery of the Conservative party in Scotland means simply that the battle lines have become starkly defined and the options have been reduced.

Austerity, hard Brexit, xenophobia, isolation, reduction of workers’ rights and of human rights, automatic adoption of the policies of Trump’s USA on one side.

And in the other corner, Scottish independence, with a commitment to a fairer society and that necessarily implies a fairer distribution of wealth, a welcoming internationalist approach and a meaningful ongoing relationship (hopefully full membership) with the EU.

There have been plenty of signals recently that the EU would welcome us, not only as it limits to some extent the damage of full UK Brexit, but also as it massively strengthens their hand in the next two years of negotiations with a fragmenting UK.

There is simply no third way now. Offers of titbits of further devolution will no doubt be thrown in but hardly anyone will notice as the two sides play their chess pieces to a final conclusive victory.

Sturgeon has outsmarted May so far and May’s obsession with control of Westminster may in fact be her undoing.

Ultimately, in 2014, Alex Salmond fell short – I always felt his one major weakness was currency – so Sturgeon can only afford the most minor of slip-ups and the preparatory work has to be better thought out this time around. Fingers crossed, thus far, the political stars are aligning more in her favour than was the case for Alex Salmond.

Later this year, on November 2 to be exact, 50 years shall have slipped past since Hamilton sensationally chose the SNP’s Winnie Ewing as their new MP in a by-election. She uttered the timeless words, “stop the world, Scotland wants to get on”, and is probably wondering what is taking us so long!

It is quite apt somehow that most of her subsequent career after Hamilton was in the European Parliament, where she was known affectionately as Madame Ecosse.

The unexpected and frankly stupid decision of the electorate of the UK to remove us from the EU, where Winnie Ewing spent the majority of her working life serving Scotland so well, could actually provide the kick up the pants Scotland needs to choose independence.

Fitting tribute indeed to the great woman who started it all off.

David Crines
Hamilton

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Europe Day is still an important reminder of progress

TODAY events will take place across the European Union (EU) to mark Europe Day, an annual celebration of peace and unity across the continent.

Thousands of people will take part in visits, debates, concerts and other events to mark the day and raise awareness of the EU. Celebrations will naturally be more muted here in the UK, as we embark on the process of leaving the EU.

Because the UK is embarking on the Brexit process however does not mean we should not celebrate the EU and its many achievements, the foundation of which the UK played a key role in.

The day is also known as Schuman Day, commemorating the historical declaration 67 years ago on May 9, 1950 by the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, which marked the first move towards the creation of the European Union.

Its creation has proven to be highly successful in transforming a previously warring continent – the foundation of peace, stability and prosperity after centuries of bloodshed.

Since the Schuman Declaration, nations across Europe have forged closer links and come together to reach common solutions to common problems, keeping the peace and enhancing our collective security.

The EU gives the freedom to live, study, work or retire in 27 other EU countries and many millions from the UK have taken advantage of this. EU migration to our shores has in turn benefitted our economy and society. Being able to trade with our EU partners via a single market of over half a billion consumers, unfettered by tariffs and trade barriers, is also essential to many Scottish businesses.

It does no harm in being reminded what we have enjoyed, the precious gift of more than 60 years of peace, stability and prosperity in a previously war-ravaged continent.

The EU has on the whole proven to be a success story, and in leaving it we are rowing against the tide of history.

Alex Orr
Edinburgh

THOSE born in the UK after EU accession in 1973 have always been part of the EU and the UK. EU citizens as much as UK citizens? Surely our government cannot simply strip those people of the right to EU citizenship, without permission?

Some may wish to revoke their EU citizenship, but what of others choosing to retain their extant rights? Could this be a matter for the European Court of Justice, the highest authority whilst the UK remains part of the EU?

As an individual could I “leave” the UK and remain in the EU? That may sound far-fetched, but what of EU citizens wishing to remain in the UK? They will presumably retain all their EU rights within the UK, so why not UK citizens?

What of UK citizens living in the EU? Will they be allowed to be both UK and EU citizens? What of those in Northern Ireland with Irish citizenship? Hopefully, they will have a choice to remain in the EU as well, but why not the rest of UK? Particularly Scottish citizens.

The UK Government have said nothing on the matter of citizenship post-Section 50. Unexceptional for the UK, but what of our EU Parliament? Upon pondering some of these questions it is worth remembering this will touch each and every citizen of UK for the rest of our lives.

I for one would like to retain my EU citizenship, rights and responsibilities in full. Anyone else?

David Campbell
Glasgow

SHOULD we all reflect for a moment (or four weeks) on why Theresa May wants a June election?

We know the script she regally recites, every few hours or so, whatever question she’s been asked. The PM’s message is simple: a June 8 triumph will empower her bid for the best Brexit deal going.

Presumably Theresa felt relatively weak and unstable before the Downing Street pageantry of her EU volte-face. And the band played Believe it or Not. Now supposing, just supposing, the number of new Tories in Westminster made not an iota of difference to Brexit-means-Brexit talks, what would Mrs May do in her day job? Her election manifesto might – or might not – make clear that voting Tory is kissing goodbye to a better, fairer society.

In plain words, it’s a vote for higher taxes, lower pensions, welfare cuts, and five years of all-round austerity to finance borrowing and reduce national debt. It’s quite a thought, isn’t it?

Jack Newbigging
Irvine