Yes, back to one of my favourite topics. I attended a recent presentation on the progress of the railway – and forgive me – it’s on track.
To remind you, it is running from Edinburgh Waverley to Tweedbank, with a total of seven new stations. Did you know that there has to be specific environmental management of the line? This includes protection of badgers, otters and lampreys? Now some of you may know what a lamprey is, but I confess I didn’t. It is, before you ask, a fresh water eel which is breeding in The Gala Water. A protected species. So there you are, ye ken noo.
Back to school
I have started seniors’ surgeries across the constituency. The first was a one-to-one with students at Penicuik High, and so I turned up expecting the same at Gala Academy. The fact that it was to be held in the assembly hall should have been a clue, but, frankly, I was a bit taken aback to enter a hall full of senior pupils. There followed, after a little hesitation, a series of sharp, thoughtful questions, mostly on the Referendum. They were good questions and I hope I gave as good as I got. And as always, I’m happy to take questions on that subject from anybody, any time, any place.
The Scottish Youth Parliament to you and me. I attended the declaration of the vote results for members from the Borders, and the member for my part of the region is Nicole Young from Earlston High. I had a chat with her and she will, I think, be coming to Parliament to “shadow” me. Hope that doesn’t put her off.
Among the many meetings I have across the constituency, I was delighted to speak with the committee at New Horizons. Hot topic was the bedroom tax and the implications for those with mental health issues. One member had just been allocated her two bedroomed flat in January and now is in receipt of warnings that she will lose 14 per cent of her benefits because of so-called “over occupation”. It’s either that or share, but because of her health she is unable to share. What on earth was the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition thinking about when it had the brainwave of the bedroom tax? Was it thinking of that person or of the many others unjustly worrying and losing from what little they have? Not a bit of it, it was thinking of London and the costs of private rented accommodation and the benefits bill in London, and London alone. I’m not surprised at the Conservatives, but the Lib Dems? Where was their socially just conscience at the time? Or is Nick Clegg just too comfortable in that ministerial car?