The dangers of doing nothing
THE collapse of the carriageway on the A708 near the Grey Mare’s Tail just over the county border in Dumfriesshire is a huge loss for all of us and a tragedy for businesses such as the Tibbie Sheils and Gordon Arms inns, and St Mary’s Café – but it comes as no real surprise.
As far back as the 1950s, the then provost of Selkirk and a member of Selkirk County Council, Russell Dalgleish, accused the local authority of wasting money on “a motorway for sheep” around St Mary’s Loch and the Loch of the Lowes, citing as his reasoning that Dumfriesshire County Council would never spend money on their bit of this road into Moffat.
He was right then and it looks like his prophecy of “never” may be correct too.
Dumfries and Galloway Council has a ring-fenced amount of £18million to spend on the road from Moffat to Birkhill summit, and while that amount wouldn’t build a dual carriageway to the Grey Mare’s Tail, it would go a long way to making this once-vibrant tourist route at least workable again.
When I was representing the three-councillor multi-member ward of Selkirkshire, myself and then colleague Carolyn Riddell-Carre spent considerable time discussing and debating the merits of this important east-west highway. There were those in the Yarrow Valley who wanted it to be reduced to a B road where regular maintenance and even winter gritting could have been phased out, but we insisted on keeping our end of the road up to scratch.
What to do about the Dumfriesshire end was always in our thoughts and one suggestion then was that our officials should meet up with their counterparts in Dumfries and Galloway Council to at least talk about the way forward.
Never was this more asked for than when the slippage occurred at Auchenrivock on the A7 about three years ago while that bypass was under construction. That left drivers with the sole option of using the A74 in the west of Scotland then diverting through Tweedsmuir and Peebles to get back on to the A7 at Galashiels.
That wasn’t acceptable then and we spoke up for some much-needed upgrading to the A708.
This road is important for both Selkirk and Moffat, and for businesses in between. I have already mentioned the three most high-profile of these, but there are others, including craftspeople in the valley and the forestry industry. And what about the extra traffic now forced to use the B7009 up the Ettrick Valley through ’Brigend and past the primary school there and at Ettrick, instead of Yarrow school?
Selkirk suffered huge flooding in 2003 and by 2007 when both Carolyn and I took over as councillors for the ward, nothing had been done to set up even a flood advisory committee. During all that time Bannerfield and the low parts of Selkirk were in danger of it all happening again. The plans are now in place, put there by an all-party group under Councillor Jim Fullerton when he was in charge of roads and infrastructure.
I do hope that the pressure is still being applied to get the funding for this so that the flood barriers can be put in place quickly. Delay could prove fatal for a huge tranche of the valleys, just as delay in setting up a joint approach to deal with the A708 problems could prove catastrophic for the local tourism industry, and for the folks who live and work in the Yarrow and Ettrick valleys.
We cannot afford to have this road closed for months or even weeks.
Firm fighting to survive
“IN THESE days of financial cutbacks and recession ....”
Mr Hunter’s opening sentence (letters, April 11)goes some way to answering his own questions, though given the length of time since he was employed at Munro’s of Jedburgh it’s hard to understand how he has stayed so well informed on the inner workings of his former employer or the morale of his former teammates.
The simple truth is that times are hard. Many businesses are struggling to survive. Munro’s of Jedburgh is fighting to survive, fighting to ensure that its staff have a job next week, next month and next year. It does not have the resources of some of its competitors, so it does the best it can with what it has.
Given the current situation, Munro’s sometimes struggles to provide the level of service that its passengers deserve. I don’t think that anyone, least of all I or my employers, can deny that. We know what needs to be done, but without suitable funding many of the current problems will continue.
Munro’s is currently running buses that ideally should have come off its routes two years ago, but without adequate funding it was an impossibility to do so on the current contracts – something I’m sure Scottish Borders Council understands. No-one is happy with this, but given the state of the economy it is an unhappy fact.
“White coffins” – a strange expression for Mr Hunter to use.
He is the only person I have heard using this expression and I find it extremely disappointing that Mr Hunter, who was a colleague and teammate, has taken every opportunity to try and harm his former employer and endanger all of his former colleagues’ employment. I can only assume this comes from a vindictive desire.
Munro’s puts every available penny into fleet maintenance. Passenger safety is the top priority and has at times led to buses being pulled off the road rather than trying to operate a vehicle with a problem.
Given the opportunity, I and my colleagues at Munro’s will give our all to provide our passengers with the service they deserve. We may get knocked down on occasion, but we will never give up. Tomorrow is another day and we will do better – we have no choice – we are your local bus operator; we have no place to run.
IN RESPONSE to the letters (April 11 and March 28) regarding the bus service provided by Munro’s, I would like to inform anybody who has concerns to get in touch with the traffic commisioner’s office.
There is a public enquiry being held at 10 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh, on May 8 at 10am.
The person responsible for maintenance is now applying to run the business.
A far from
MICHAEL Moore stated in last week’s Southern that upon forming the coalition government with his new pals, the Tories, his main priority, along with his Liberal Democrat colleagues, was to tackle the financial crisis as a prelude to creating a stronger economy and a fairer society.
Well, I’m afraid, Michael, on all these points you have failed miserably.
Let me try and explain where I’m coming from. First of all, overall borrowing is clearly up if you dismiss all George Osborne’s and Danny Alexander’s fancy bookkeeping. The economy has flat-lined, and as for creating a fairer society, that has to be some kind of sick joke.
Just this very week we see top-rate taxpayers getting massive tax rebates, while ordinary, not-so-very-well-off people – be they in work or out of work – being made a helluva worse off as a result of a combination of brutal austerity measures and welfare reforms championed by your party in alliance with the Tories.
It’s all very well you constantly harping on about the tax threshold being raised to £9,440. The threshold was always uprated annually and if you strip away the increases that would have taken place automatically in normal circumstances since 2010, the bit on the top you claim credit for would not have ammounted to anything substantial.
You also have to bear in mind that a lot of Borderers don’t even earn £9,440, as most of the work here is part-time. Consequently, anyone in this category doesn’t benefit at all, but are still affected by some of the other measures which, when factored in, make most of them that much poorer.
The same principle applies to anyone fortunate enough to see a slight reduction in their tax – they very quickly learn it’s more than wiped out by all or some of the other measures you and your coalition buddies have introduced.
So in conclusion, Michael, you are clearly deluding yourself if you believe a fairer society is being created by the policies pursued by this Tory-led, idealogically-driven government you are part of.
I think your party and you personally will find out to your cost come the next general election that not many people in the Borders see things in quite the same way as you see them.
HOW I agree with Mark Rowley (letters, April 11) – wherever you go in the Borders the most prominent sight on the horizon is wind turbines.
These leviathans are being paid for by you and I through our electricity bills. The effect of under-investment in viable and conventional forms of energy production, the over-emphasis on renewables and subsidisation of renewable energy has seen fuel prices rocketing and sending millions of households into fuel poverty.
Energy-intensive industries are unable to continue operations in Britain because of this expensive energy, so they either move out of Britain or simply close down altogether, causing unemployment.
With regard to Mr Rowley’s point that “our local politicians, whether councillors, MSPs or ministers, should start to take their lead from the real needs of the Borders, not from their party HQ in Edinburgh”, UKIP councillors do not have to follow the party whip and put people before party.
Sherry M. Fowler
(UK Independence Party candidate
for Leaderdale and Melrose)
I THANK Jim Gibson and Eric Falconer (letters, April 11) for taking the time to enlighten me on the specifics of what an independent Scotland would look like.
Unfortunately, neither gentleman really understood the point I was trying to make and I apologise for any confusion caused.
Jim makes light of the situation, but I doubt an hour would have been enough time for any activist to answer my question, perhaps even Alex Salmond would have struggled with it. The electorate still does not know what currency an independent Scotland will use. The Scottish Government haven’t entered into any negotiations with the Bank of England and no amount of rhetoric can disguise the fact that there are too many unknowns about independence.
Another independence paradox is outlined in Eric’s response. Talk of a desire to make decisions does not fit with Mr Salmond’s aim to join the European Union. An independent Scotland would be required to sign all EU treaties with no opt-outs, therefore making Scotland subject to rule from Brussels with only six MEP’s to fight our cause.
Finally, to be labelled “reprehensible” for expressing an opinion different to the Yes campaign perhaps underlines everything that is wrong with a movement that is too keen to sling mud at those who question their policies.
AS, I THINK, both the offender and offendee in Leslie Rose’s letter (April 4), I would like to clarify.
The number one reason for independence is so that the people of Scotland will be masters of our own destiny, not the additional almost £900 a year that each of us would gain.
Perhaps if Mr Rose had been willing to listen rather than abuse, he might have learned a little more. Unfortunately, he accused me of lying about the GERS figures released by Westminster and said: “You make it all up – it’s all a malarkey”.
I would have liked to explain some realities, but he clearly didn’t wish to listen.
Mr Rose also seems confused by the Yes and No campaigns. Each is multi-party.
LAUDERDALE’S fundraising committee for Macmillan Cancer Support has been in existence since 1974, raising several thousands each year for those living with cancer and their families.
Regular fundraising events are held every year, including The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning each September. Members of the committee recognise Macmillan’s valued services require constant funding.
Macmillan is using a Newcastle firm to travel to the Borders for door-to-door campaigns to encourage regular giving by direct debit. Lauderdale was targeted twice in a nine-month period.
The committee does not condone such cold calling and supports residents who object to this approach, especially as local police are repeatedly telling us not to give bank details to strangers on our doorsteps.
Having raised these concerns with Macmillan, the TD2 postcode area will not be targeted by the Macmillan door-to-door fundraisers for a year.
Supporting Macmillan by direct debit is securely organised through the website www.macmillan.org.uk, or ask one of the local committee for assistance.
The continued support and generosity of Lauderdale residents is greatly appreciated.
(chair, Lauderdale committee, Macmillan Cancer Support)