Working people under pressure
A couple of weeks ago, Calum Kerr writing his View from Westminster posed the question, “Do we still need trade unions?” It was therefore quite interesting that last week you reported a story that probably helped to answer that question.
Seemingly members of the RMT rail union were having to contend with raw sewage dumped on the Waverley line by the old style carriage toilets of the vintage steam train. However, I have no doubt that the train company and the union will get together to sort things out and we will all soon be able to enjoy the sounds and thrills of nostalgic steam travel in the Borders.
Meanwhile it’s worth remembering that trade unions have always worked to resolve the difficulties, large and small, that can affect anyone in their working lives. Sadly many low paid employees have to work without union support for various reasons. These people have often to cope with “dirt” metaphorical or otherwise, on their own.
These are tough times economically, no doubt about it. Power of all sorts is increasingly centralised and often working people with least say seem to be put under even greater pressure than ever. The answer to Calum Kerr’s question is obvious.
Democracy v realpolitik
On the eve of Halloween 2015, BBC Scotland announced via its website that Scottish Borders Council are to set up a working group to investigate how its officers handled the procedure for delivering the “Great” Tapestry of Scotlandat Tweedbank station.
On this evidence one might deduce that an enterprise that began beyond the Borders as a heroic venture in the service of nation building has been transformed by various administrative “procedures” from an epic intoa saga, which has impacted retrospectively upon the reputation of other groups and authorities responsible for the initiativeand its implementation.
The record of bodies investigating themselves invariably results in a disreputable whitewash, anaemic censure or more infrequently stains on a carpet extruded by some hapless functionary and recommendations to return to the status quo ante.
To obviate any disingenuous comparison or contamination by association, it would be as well if the results of the SBC working group’s investigation should be available for scrutiny before the results of the Chilcot inquiry are published in mid 2016. By that time, (thankfully or regrettably according to one’s viewpoint) one assumes the project will be proceeding as envisaged by its various sponsors, carried forward ineluctably under the impetus of its own momentum and accelerating cost.
Where the majority of the funding for an enterprise derives from the local population it was incumbent upon SBC to carry the majority of stakeholders with them, not to subordinate their interests to a cabal of out of area writers, politicians and economists with agendas of their own. As a result of this process the inhabitants of the Scottish Borders have acquired a valuable if unwarranted insight into the effectiveness of representative democracy versus realpolitik which by this precedent can be replicated here again or elsewhere. Thus the real story behind the Crummy Tapestry does not bode well for the future of Scotland’s democracy.
Happier across Great Divide?
I do not need to take issue with the rantings of your habitual correspondent Mr Michael Wilson, as others have done that far more eloquently than I could aspire to. But he would clearly be much happier living “across the Great Divide” where he could enjoy in undiluted form the full benefits of the ongoing Tory dismantling of all aspects of the welfare state, using disintegrated English infrastructure and presumably happily paying share of the £167bn cost of Trident.
But I wonder if he really exists? I recall that decades ago, when I lived in London, there was a similar habitual correspondent with similar views who featured on the letters page of the local newspaper week after week, and who wrote under the extremely unlikely sounding name of “A.N. Flick”. It was rumoured locally that he did not exist and that his alleged letters were but a ruse by the newspaper editor to generate debate on the letters page, an outcome in which it surely succeeded. I never did find out if he was for real.
Not that I would suggest for one moment that the Southern Reporter would employ such duplicitous tactics, of course. So I am left being forced to conclude that Mr Wilson does exist and can almost feel sorry for his obvious depression at being stuck in this “bankrupt basket case” of a country. Perhaps the Southern should start an appeal to help to fund his moving south?
Re-dedication at Eckford
It has taken 70 years but at last Eckford War Memorial has been engraved with the names of the six local men who died in WW2.
There will be a service of re-dedication at the graveyard on Wednesday, November 11, at 10.45am.
We are looking for the families of four of the men: Charles Edward Buist RN, James Robertson Inglis RAF, Alexander Sherriffs Scott RAF and Ronald Moscrop Smith DLI, in the hope that they would like to come to the service.
We would also like to find the families of the 13 men listed on the WW1 memorial: Andrew Armstrong, James Boyle, George Crerar, Andrew Kerr, Robert McGeorge, John Neillans, Jasper Paterson, William Ruddiman, Charles Thomson, George Whitelaw, Robert and William Yeomans and Thomas Younger.
We extend a warm welcome to join us and pay a tribute to their sacrifice.
For more information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kelso sessions are popular
We would like to thank everyone who helped with the blood donot sessions when we visited the Tait Hall, Kelso, on Sunday and Monday, October 25 and 26.
A total of 331 volunteers offered to give blood and 303 donations were given. There were seven new donors. We are grateful for your help.
Donor Programme Organiser
Connecting old shipmates
This is a big thank you to this newspaper which, along with other local publications across the UK, printed a letter of mine recently.
I explained that the best way for those who have served in the Royal Navy to find their old shipmates was to get in touch with their old ship’s association and attend one of the reunions.
Well, the response has been terrific. At the moment I have more than 60 reunions listed, complete with the first point of contact.
If any ex-Royal Navy reader missed the first letter, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org with brief details of your service and who you are looking for and from which ship. I will send the latest list through, along with the latest monthly news sheet full of messages. This goes to over 400 ships’ associations and Royal Naval association branches.
And if you served on one of the 12 Blackwood class frigates, it looks as if a new association is starting for those.
Isle of Wight
Playing games with UK
With Syrian refugees now arriving in the UK, doubtless we shall hear a great deal over the coming weeks from the SNP of the 2000 Syrians being welcomed to Scotland by the Scottish government.
Yet Scotland is taking merely 10% of the 20,000 to come to the UK over the next five years. Our population is 8.3% of the UK’s so a fractionally larger number than one might necessarily expect - but not that many more.
In early September, Nicola Sturgeon told us she was in tears and ‘very angry’ about the UK government’s ‘walk on by on the other side’ attitude to the refugee crisis. Yet her own government appears willing to do little more than David Cameron’s.
Plus we’ve learnt the First Minister has reversed her TV declaration to take a Syrian family into her own home.
Ms Sturgeon’s rhetoric appears unmatched by her actions. Could the reality be Ms Sturgeon views the appalling refugee tragedy as just another opportunity to play her favourite game of ‘them and us’ with the UK?
The evidence of detective chief inspector Paul Settle to the House of Commons’ home affairs committee should trouble us all in Scotland.
Mr Settle gave evidence that the case against Lord Brittan “fell at the first hurdle”, but that as a result of an intervention by Tom Watson MP, his superiors in the Metropolitan Police were thrown into a “state of panic” and immediately ordered that the terminally ill peer be questioned.
If an opposition politician can have this effect on such a major police force, how much more susceptible must Police Scotland be to political pressure from the Scottish government? Of course, some believe that the single police force was created for precisely that reason.
Evidence of the Scottish government’s authoritarian tendencies and contempt for civil liberties is too plentiful.
The most egregious example is the Named Person Scheme under which every family in Scotland is to be spied on and every parent treated as a suspect. Attempts to abolish corroboration in criminal trials, which has long protected us from miscarriages of justice, are another example.
The creation of Police Scotland was a mistake. If we value our liberty, we must re-establish regional constabularies, each with its own chief constable and accountable to its own elected police board.