Together in face of adversity

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The widespread flooding we saw across the Borders last weekend caused huge problems.

We can only be grateful that there were no serious injuries or lives lost.

But it was still a major incident requiring an emergency response.. And I have to say that in the teeth of the appalling weather caused by Storm Desmond, our communities and emergency services reacted magnificently.

We can’t stop the rain, but we can mitigate its effects with things like flood prevention schemes.

In some places, these seem to have worked, with the water largely being held back and disaster averted by the protection barriers.

But other towns – most particularly Hawick – took the full force of the flooding and parts were awash as a result. In some cases people had to be evacuated until the waters subsided.

Nothing could be done to stop this, but the response from local people and agencies was amazing.

I was in Hawick and the work done by the town’s flood group was truly inspiring. They could not have done a better job. It was a fantastic community effort in the face of adversity and everyone involved should be proud of themselves.

I also have to praise the efforts of local MSP Paul Wheelhouse who went massively beyond the call of duty in talking to the authorities and providing help and support.

Paul was at the scene in Hawick from 4am on Saturday morning, was still on site until late in the evening and even stayed overnight in the town.

Despite his own constituency office being one of the premises flooded, Paul never lost his focus and did everything he could to help – including leading me and others in placing sandbags and keeping everyone’s spirits up. It showed real personal commitment and acted as a reminder of how lucky the region is to have him at Holyrood.

The rescue services also did a fantastic job, pulling in police and firefighters from places like Edinburgh and West Lothian. We also had sandbags sent by other Scottish local authorities and volunteers from outside the Borders too.

It’s hugely comforting to know that this sort of response is there when we need it.

So what now? Funds and procedures are in place to cover the cost of repairing the damage and, of course, we need to get on with organising that as quickly as possible.

It’s also clear that Hawick and other places in the region need early flood protection measures and Paul and I will be making that case to the Scottish Government.

These things always take time as communities rightfully have to be consulted, but I’ll be arguing for our towns to be made a priority.

I have huge sympathy for those caught up in the events of last weekend, and would urge anyone who feels we can help with addressing the effects to contact Paul or myself.

But in one way, we can all be proud.

We pulled together as a community – and that, particularly in adversity, is worth a lot.