Harsh turn to economy and weather

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another severe winter – and the economic recovery that apparently bypassed our region – were reflected in these columns in the first six months of 2011.

Lauder may still be divided over where its new health centre should be sited, but it came together to mourn the death of popular businessman Paul Watson after he fell from his horse during the Lauderdale Hunt’s traditional New Year’s Day meet.

We knew a Holyrood election was in the offing with Labour’s Rab Stewart announcing he would fight the redrawn Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire seat and target Lib Dem voters disaffected by that party’s coalition at Westminster. The Tories’ John Lamont won in May and Christine Grahame took the other Borders seat – Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale – for the SNP, helping her party claim an overall majority at Holyrood.

The fuel increases introduced on January 1 brought grim predictions from local hauliers, while we revealed that more than £1.2million was paid out in golden handshakes to 47 departing Scottish Borders Council staff the previous year.

A report from the UK Airprox Board admitted that two RAF Tornado Jets were within a quarter of a second of colliding over Galashiels in September, 2010, and Hawick ambulance man Gordon Jackson was made an MBE for services to his community.

Anti-tamper devices were fitted at cash machines at Asda in Galashiels after a customer’s RBS bank card was “skimmed” by fraudsters, and police issued a warning to rural households after a spate of heating oil thefts.

February began with a boost for the Tweed Foundation with Whyte & Mackay launching a whisky – the Dalmore Tweed Dram – in Kelso. Up to £8 from each bottle sold will go to the foundation.

A wrangle over land access near Wairds Cemetery in Melrose was resolved, paving the way for the region’s first crematorium to be operating by the end of the year.

In Jedburgh, bus operator Munro’s ended its staff pension scheme, citing “severe cash-flow problems” and Liz McIntyre, principal of Borders College, said there would be staff cuts “across the board” after its funding was cut by more than 10 per cent.

Exiled Borderers gave their accounts of the earthquake that hit New Zealand, killing 75 people.

The council’s planning committee voted 4-3 to approve a realignment of the A7 north of Heriot. The project, involving the creation of two roundabouts, is to accommodate the Borders railway and avoid the re-routing of a high-speed gas main.

Shareholders of Galashiels-based ProStrakan were urged to back the sale of the pharmaceutical firm to a Japanese company, while the council announced it would no longer accept payments in cash at its contact centres.

In March, we reported that the chosen site for the Lauder health centre was owned not by the council, but by the burgh’s Common Good.

The uprising in Libya resonated as Hawick teacher Ameera Gemberlu relived a “terrifying” journey to Tripoli before she was airlifted to safety.

John Raine from Melrose became chair of NHS Borders on £29,640 a year for a three-day working week.

Following “concerns” from the police, a school party due to take place at the Burgh Hall in Peebles was cancelled by the council the day before it was to take place.

SBC and the Scottish Borders Housing Association ended a six-year legal dispute over the sale of the former’s housing stock to the latter. The association’s original claim had been £19million, but the matter was resolved with a payment from SBC of £250,000.

In April it emerged that more than half the houses of the main registered social landlords in the region were below the Scottish Government’s quality standard.

Many street parties celebrated the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. The region’s three lords lieutenant attended the ceremony in Westminster Abbey.

Home care firm Independent Living Services (ILS) apologised to a Darnick pensioner who was forced to look after his dying wife himself because of the poor level of day-care service.

In May, in an interesting postscript to the Holyrood election, Christine Grahame failed in a bid to become the parliament’s presiding officer.

H20, a Galashiels pub, lost its licence for a month after police complaints about underaged drinkers.

In June Prince Charles visited Abbotsford to hear about plans to turn it into a major tourist attraction. In Kelso, staff said they were “stunned” to hear of the closure of Haldane’s supermarket.

And there was relief in Hawick, Selkirk and Jedburgh, with the council agreeing that their swimming pools should remain open for at least a decade.