Borders braced for an epic production
Your front page story, “Largest wind farm looms on horizon” (Southern, January 28), was accurate, but does not tell the whole story, which is even more concerning for those who live or work in, or enjoy visiting, the southern Borders.
Firstly, the fact that there is only one planning application for what are clearly three separate wind farms, in three different community council areas, might be seen as a deliberate attempt by the developer, Partnerships for Renewables, to muddy the waters, complicate community reaction, ignore the cumulative impact of each of the three sites on each of the other two, and generally ride roughshod over Borders people and their planning authority.
Local community councils have joined in asking that the application be required to be split into three.
Secondly, although these three (Wauchope East, Wauchope West and Newcastleton Forest) would, if granted as a single wind farm, constitute the largest in the Borders so far – up to 90 turbines, reaching up to 132m tall – they are by no means the only wind farms in the pipeline for this area.
z At Highlee Hill, just south of Chesters, RES has submitted a proposal for 13 turbines up to 176m tall – these could be the biggest onshore turbines in the UK, twice the height of those on Soutra.
z An application for 15 turbines (132m tall) at Birneyknowe by Banks Renewables has been looming over the Bonchester Bridge area (and much wider afield, including Hawick, because of its visibility) for far too long and is still unlikely to be ready for planning consideration until September.
z At Cummings Hill, near Chesters and Southdean, an application for seven turbines (126.5m tall), which would dominate the view from Carter Bar, has been withdrawn, but developer Infinis states that a re-application is likely.
z Scottish Borders Council turned down another Infinis application for nine turbines at Windy Edge, near Hermitage Castle, but this is currently subject of an appeal.
z A meteorological mast has been applied for a wind farm site at Harwood, about seven miles south of Hawick on the road to Newcastleton. It is believed that 12 turbines are planned for this location.
This is wind farm development on a truly epic scale, despite the fact that Borders wind farms already produce more than nine times the amount of electricity needed by this region’s homes, yet the enormous profits made by their owners rarely, if ever, stay in the Borders – lots of other people are benefiting at our expense.
Quite apart from the enormous visual and landscape impact, what, for instance, would be the effect on our local roads of an extra 135,000 to 150,000 construction vehicles?
And on an unfortunately topical point, i.e. flooding, what will be the effect of thousands of tons of concrete being poured into our upland headwater areas for the bases of wind turbines? You don’t have to be a hydrologist to realise that this will not help to reduce flooding, most probably the very opposite.
John Curtis (chair, Hobkirk Community Council),
Graham Fry (chair, Jed
Council), Philip Kerr (vice-chair, Southdean
The trees felled at Tweedbank to make way for the Great Tapestry of Scotland building were supposedly protected by a preservation order – they had tags attached to prove it.
If any person, organisation or business had applied to take
them down, they would have been refused and fined had they done so illegally. Will Scottish Borders Council be fining itself or repaying others who have cut down trees illegally, thereby adding yet more to the cost of the tapestry project?
As usual, double standards apply – there is one law for us, while the council can flaunt whatever law that doesn’t suit it.
The council would do well to listen to the people it claims to represent – even if the rejected petition was signed on toilet paper, it would still have been representing the people. The council official form for petitions is very hard to find, purposely well hidden I suspect.
The tapestry trustees stipulate they would only consider the Melrose/Galashiels area for siting the tapestry. What could be better than the new travel hub in Galashiels which has two spare floors, is on a main road, as also stipulated, and has facilities such as catering and toilets already in place.
If this is not to their liking, what about the three large vacant shops and restaurant just across the road from the hub over the bridge opposite Argos? They surely could be converted at far less cost and would encourage people to venture further into town.
Parking could be provided where the old bus station is.
Galashiels really needs something to encourage people to visit. If we must have the tapestry, it should be there.
Andrew’s awards appeal
After the devastating moment when a stroke strikes, the healing process can be a labour that takes a lifetime.
It takes mettle, tenacity and patience, not only from the survivor, but a legion of family, friends and medical professionals to reassemble the fragments of yourself.
The Life After Stroke Awards are an opportunity to recognise the courage of stroke survivors and their supporters everywhere.
I would like to urge anyone who knows an undaunted stroke survivor or a remarkable carer to nominate that person for a Life After Stroke Award.
There are around 121,000 stroke survivors living in Scotland, which means there are many unsung heroes who deserve recognition and celebration.
Nominations for the awards are open until April 30. For more information, go to www.stroke.org.uk/lasa.
National insurance plan
Is it not time that the Scottish Government – regardless of political persuasion – rose above petty politics and displayed far-sightedness by creating a national flood insurance scheme?
This would take the matter out of the hands of insurers and, with a modest annual addition to council tax, allow citizens to know they are properly protected.
Surely it’s the first duty of any government to place the safety of all its residents as paramount.
Some future vision on this matter would be welcome. Scotland has the opportunity to lead.
Not being held to account
Independent auditors have refused to sign off the EU’s latest financial accounts, saying that £4.5 billion of European taxpayers’ money was misspent and was “irregular and possibly illegal”.
This is now the 21st year that auditors have refused to give the EU accounts a clean bill of health.
Companies doing this would be struck off and not allowed to trade.
Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands refused to approve these accounts, but they were outvoted by the other 25 EU finance ministers.
UK prime minister David Cameron’s dream is to stay in the EU, but to have the power of a “red card” to block rules we do not like being imposed by Brussels.
This is highly unlikely since he would need 14 of the 28 nations in the EU to support him. We have repeatedly seen in the past how nations have ganged up against Britain on issues such as human rights, immigration, refugees and welfare caps on migrants.
Yet another reason to leave this corrupt, unaccountable, uncontrollable, dictatorial and mega-expensive colossus.
Taking heed of poll position
The latest YouGov poll shows only one in 10 Scots think holding another independence referendum should be a priority for the Scottish Government.
So will the SNP take the view that it is popular enough to risk annoying some of its core support and say it will not seek another referendum for at least the term of the next parliament?
That would give the people of Scotland a welcome rest from all the discord and uncertainty of having a threat of an indyref2 hanging over us.
After all, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear she does not want to hold another referendum unless she is confident of winning.
With the same poll revealing that nearly half of Scots think Scotland would have been worse off economically if we had voted to break-up the UK, surely she would not want to go to the polls in the foreseeable future.
As our politicians struggle towards concluding the fiscal framework negotiations, the reason why this process has been so protracted is emerging.
As we know, the Barnett Formula is unfair in favour of Scotland, providing more tax receipts to spend per capita than other parts of Great Britain. Our economic and tax outlook is less robust than the rest of the UK, particularly with Scotland’s population growing more slowly.
So the fiscal framework needs to perpetuate the Barnett Formula’s block grant unfairness. If not, Scots face increased taxation or declining public services, or both.
Not a palatable pill for the SNP to ask us to swallow, especially in the run-up to an election.
But why should other UK taxpayers subsidise Scotland, if our devolved tax take under-performs relative to the rest of the UK? And let’s not forget, the SNP intended an independent Scotland next month – there’d have been no UK subsidies then.
It appears we’re edging towards a compromise by which the UK government, that target of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s derision, will subsidise Scotland’s devolved tax yield.
If I lived in Bradford or Swansea, I’d be seething; as someone resident in Edinburgh, I’m relieved.