Your picture of the Week

Mertoun Bridge over the River Tweed near St Boswells on Saturday morning.
Mertoun Bridge over the River Tweed near St Boswells on Saturday morning.

Walter Baxter captured this image of Mertoun Bridge, which spans the Tweed near St Boswells, on a sunny winter’s day. Following flood damage, the structure was rebuilt between 1839-41, with the stone arches being added in 1887.

Please email photographic contributions, with a brief caption, to southern-letters@jpress.co.uk

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

INTIMIDATING THE MEDIA

In recent days, SNP MPs have described themselves as “liberal”.

Party leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has even declared she will defend “liberal democracy” in 2017. It is almost as if nationalism might become a tainted brand in the coming year.

But someone needs to advise Nicola Sturgeon accurately.

As a rule, liberals don’t march upon and intimidate independent media. Liberals don’t demand public broadcasters are bought under their control, as the SNP does. Also, First Minister, seeking the sacking of critical journalists, like Stephen Daisley, is really not very liberal either.

Liberals don’t ban football songs. A liberal places free speech above offence. And liberals don’t organise the state monitoring of private family life.

Note to Nicola Sturgeon: you may be many things, but you are not a defender of liberal freedom.

Mrs C. Sharwood-Smith

Town Yetholm

INDEPENDENCE ADVICE

UK Chancellor Philip Hammond has recently been quoted as predicting that after 2020 it will no longer be possible to maintain the “triple lock” on state pensions.

This is the commitment that annual pension increases will be determined by the highest of price inflation, earnings growth and 2.5%.

It is easy to understand the Chancellor’s prediction when we consider the obscene amounts of our money being spent by the UK Government on vanity projects such as renewing nuclear weapons that can never be used and pursuing military adventures around the world in a vain attempt to pretend that we are still a world power.

Contrast this with the commitment by the SNP that in an independent Scotland the triple lock will be maintained indefinitely.

And before anyone asks, “How could you afford that”, it has to be pointed out that once Scotland was a nation again, after independence, we would no longer be paying our share of the enormous cost of Trident renewal and the huge cost of upgrading the Houses of Parliament. In addition, tax receipts from North Sea oil – although currently less than a few years ago – would be retained in Scotland instead of, as at present, disappearing into the black hole that is the London Treasury without ever touching the sides.

The moral is quite clear: if Scots wish to protect the value of their state pensions, the only way is to vote for independence next time.

Anyone wishing to be kept informed about pensions and the case for independence is invited to contact pensionersforindependence@gmail.com.

Peter Swain

Dunbar

IBOGAINE ANSWER?

Earlier this month we saw gunfire on the M62 and a funeral accompanied by alleged general disorder in Bradford.

The only necessary thing for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

If we address society’s addiction problem, don’t we then solve the disorder problems we have?

I am told that alcoholics in prison are placed on the hospital wing upon arrival and sedated for two weeks for a drying-out treatment.

If this is the case, can’t we do something similar for drug addicts too? It is claimed in Holland, Canada, Mexico and other places that a drug called ibogaine, made from the root of a West African plant, is being used to successfully cure drug addicts of withdrawal symptoms with one simple dose costing £2.60.

Ibogaine also cures 50% of smokers, it is said, and some claim it cures depression too.

If even a tenth of the claims being made for ibogaine turn out to be true, could we explore if this is a viable way of treating those drug addicts who go to prison? Could this help keep order in our prisons? What of the massive long-term potential savings for the NHS?

The methadone programme has improved the situation in society in general. But methadone takes a very long time to work, making treatment very expensive.

Shouldn’t we at least look at licensing ibogaine to be available upon private prescription, even if the NHS and prison service decline to use it?

Nigel F.H. Boddy

(solicitor and former researcher to two MSPs)

Darlington

A WELCOME AWAITS VETERANS

The Scottish Borders Veterans’ Breakfast Club meets on the last Saturday of each month in the Reserve Forces Centre (TA Centre), Paton Street, Galashiels, between 10am-noon.

This is open to all veterans – RN, Army, RAF, reserve forces – who have the chance to meet old and new friends in a casual and relaxed environment, have a brew and a bacon roll, and to ‘swing the light’ over memories of derring-do.

All veterans are urged to make every effort to attend this great wee event, particularly those who may be in need of some form of support, which can be given here.

The next meeting takes place on Saturday, January 28, and I hope that anyone who knows of any veteran who might not see this message passes on these details.

Bill Heaney

Galashiels

THE TANKED UP SHOULD COUGH UP

The problem of drunks clogging up hospital A&E departments is so acute that those in charge of the NHS say it now stands for “National Hangover Service”.

Drunks are responsible for a third of A&E attendances, rising to 40% at weekends.

Over two years ago, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said drunks should not be treated in accident and emergency departments because getting intoxicated “is no accident”. Drunks are diverting A&E medical staff from more urgent patients.

The RCN suggested that “drunk tanks” were needed over two years ago, so why no action by the NHS mandarins?

Drunk tanks must be set up all over the country and their “residents” charged at least £200 for their overnight stay.

Clark Cross

Linlithgow

SEEKING STORIES ABOUT GAY MEN

Testimony Films need your help for a new Channel 4 documentary to mark the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967.

Through this film, we want to tell the story of gay men throughout the United Kingdom during the 20th century.

If you have a story to share we would love to hear from you.

Please contact Pete Vance or myself on 0117 925 8589, or at pete.vance@testimonyfilms.com or emily.sivyer@testimonyfilms.com

Emily Sivyer

(assistant producer)

CHILDISH COMMENTS

In response to Richard Walthew’s comments in last week’s letters pages, I would like to point out that the people he has mentioned (but not named) have a democratic right to their opinions without his childish comments that bear no useful content whatsoever.

Paul Singleton

Gordon

A YEAR OF GOOD AND BAD TIMES

By common consent, 2016 has been a challenging year – 12 months of disasters, what with Brexit, the election of Donald Trump as US president and a litany of celebrities who have sadly passed away.

It is therefore often difficult to remember that parallel to this we are living through somewhat of an arc of progress.

We are living in a world that is getting richer, with the number of people living in extreme poverty falling below 10% for the first time. Indeed, since 1990, almost 1.1bn have escaped extreme poverty. World hunger also reached its lowest point for 25 years in 2016.

For the first time the death penalty has become illegal in more than half of the world’s countries.

And the world got healthier, with a World Health Organisation report showing that since 2000 global malaria deaths have declined by 60%. Since their peak a decade ago, Aids-related deaths have fallen by 45% and infant mortality has halved since 1990.

Taiwan is on the verge of becoming the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage and Tanzania banned child marriage.

For many, 2016 may have been seen as the worst of times, but let us not forget it has seen the best of times too, so let’s not be too pessimistic as we enter 2017.

Alex Orr

Leamington Terrace

Edinburgh

COFFEE MORNING CASH BOOST

We need to relay our thanks to local people who helped us raise a gross sum of £457 at Saturday’s coffee morning to be dedicated to the repair, conservation and research of the medieval Lennel kirk, on the outskirts of Coldstream .

We were overwhelmed with the generosity in terms of bakes that Mary Berry would have loved, raffle and tombola prizes, donations, willing helpers and the splendid refreshments of the refurbished Coldstream British Legion and popular Sonia Martin.

Henry VIII etc. made sure that our famous Coldstream Priory was no more, but somehow Lennel kirk survived and is being conserved today with the help of external grant funding. The £457 collected in the British Legion last Saturday will be used to cover expenses not covered by the grants.

Overall, June 2017 should see a conserved, safe, tidy and fully-researched kirk site that will have a longer life than our priory and where the level of volunteering (satisfaction, achievement, enjoyment and camaraderie) has lifted the roof on the amount set for it by one of our grant funders, the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Thanks to everyone for giving their support to our project, in any shape or form.

The project has not always been a smooth journey, but days like last Saturday’s coffee morning definitely lift the spirits.

Will Murray, Trevor Swan and Gerald Tait

(Coldstream’s Heritage Ltd – community interest company)

CHARITY’S HUNT FOR UNSUNG HEROES

We are searching for unsung heroes in the community who go above and beyond to support people with diabetes.

We would like to invite your readers to help us by submitting nominations for our annual Diabetes Scotland Inspire Awards.

Every year hundreds of people across the length and breadth of the country volunteer their time and energy for Diabetes Scotland. Their tireless efforts make a real difference to the lives of people living with diabetes.

The Inspire Awards are a chance to recognise those special volunteers who have gone the extra mile and highlight how their dedication, enthusiasm and hard work has had a positive impact. We want to pay tribute to our incredible volunteers for the amazing support they provide, without which we could not continue our vital work towards a future where diabetes can do no harm.

Across Scotland, one-in-five people is living with or at risk of diabetes. It’s a serious condition which requires careful management and support every day for people to live well.

From fundraising to campaigning to supporting others, there are lots of ways that our amazing individual and local group volunteers make a positive difference for people affected by the condition.

Award nominations close on February 17.

Visit www.diabetes.org.uk/Inspire-Awards to find out more and nominate people.

Allan Kirkwood

(volunteer development manager)

Diabetes Scotland

Bath Street

Glasgow

BATTLE TO BEAT DISEASE GOES ON

Like millions of people, I spent post-Christmas lunch with the family.

It was great to tune into the BBC’s Call the Midwife at 8pm and see a popular programme cover the horrors of a polio epidemic in a realistic, contemporary and sensitive way. It was a welcome reminder of the polio eradication programme that continues abroad and of the 120,000 people in Britain still living with Post Polio Syndrome (PPS).

At home and abroad, 2017 is going to be pivotal in the ongoing battle to beat polio and PPS.

With this disease endemic in just two countries, the End Polio Now campaign can count on our ongoing backing, but the British Polio Fellowship continues to focus on members of the public living with PPS and in need of our support.

Call the Midwife rightly depicts the polio epidemics of the 1950s – the Dickensian conditions of post-war Britain – and the Christmas special set in 1962 South Africa accurately portrays the extension of the polio eradication programme. Sadly, many children unfortunate enough to contrac polio then face the perils of PPS today, and like the ghost of Christmas Past, PPS has established itself as the unwelcome footnote of Polio UK.

While there is no cure for PPS, there is much we can do to alleviate the symptoms if properly managed and the British Polio Fellowship continues to raise awareness and offer support to those who continue to be affected by it.

For more information on polio, its late effects and PPS, call 0800 043 1935 or visit www.BritishPolio.org.uk

Ted Hill

(CEO)

British Polio Fellowship