Legion branches feeling the pressure

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IT may well be its 90th birthday year, but the Royal British Legion Scotland is clearly feeling the economic pinch just like every other organisation in the Borders, writes Mark Entwistle.

Just weeks after a major feature on the Legion and its 90th anniversary in TheSouthern comes news that one local set of legion clubrooms has been forced to shut its doors, while another has reduced its opening times.

The clubrooms at Newcastleton have shut pending a permanent decision to be made at a meeting on July 7 – although the clubrooms will be open for next month’s local music festival.

Meanwhile, over at one of the region’s best-used clubrooms, in Jedburgh, an extraordinary general meeting held last week agreed to the premises not opening on Mondays (for the summer only), Tuesdays or Wednesdays because of the current financial climate.

It will still be open, however, on Thursday nights, all day Fridays and Saturdays and from noon until 5pm on Sundays.

It must always be remembered that legion clubs and legion branches are two seperate entities, although some clubs are owned by the branches.

Both Newcastleton and Jedburgh branch presidents, Jackie Brown and Lt Col Colin Hogg, respectively, say the closure and changes are simply a sign of the times.

“We are still open more than most other legion clubs, but one has got to look at your income,” Lt Col Hogg told TheSouthern this week.

“You have got to look at what money is coming in and then expenditure – with VAT increasing it means everything has gone up and you have to cut your cloth accordingly. I am afraid this is just a sign of the times economically.

“We also have to compete against other clubs and pubs in Jedburgh and I don’t think any of them are finding things any easier at the moment.”

Last week’s EGM at the Jedburgh branch attracted a large crowd of members to debate the situation and Lt Col Hogg says he would appeal to all the branch members to make use of the clubrooms in the town.

Jedburgh chairman Harry Wright pointed out that the legion clubrooms were not just open to ex-service personnel and that anyone could now apply to join.

“We have a notice of the new opening times outside the clubrooms, so everyone can easily find out what they are,” he said.

Newcastleton president Jackie Brown says while the Copshie premises have halted trading for the moment, they are not officially closed down.

“A final decision on that will not be made until the meeting on July 7,” he added.