Your picture of the Week

By the banks of the River Ale near Longnewton
By the banks of the River Ale near Longnewton

Curtis Welsh’s four-legged friend needed a rest during a walk along the banks of the River Ale by Longnewton.

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

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

WHAT DOES BANK CLASS AS REGULAR?

I read in last week’s Southern that my local Bank of Scotland branch in Lauder is to close.

Why did I have to find out this news from your paper?

Your article quotes a bank spokeswoman as stating: “... have informed customers of the closest alternative branch”. There are four account holders in my house – none of us received any notification.

The spokeswoman goes on to say only eight regular customers use the branch. I think the key term here is ‘regular’. The numbers may be low, but as the branch’s opening hours has already been cut to two days a week, that is hardly surprising.

All of my family use the branch – but not on what would be classed as regular basis. At least one of us uses the branch at least once a month. I’m sure most folk in the town do the same.

The closest branch to Lauder is Galashiels, noted as 10.32 miles away. That may be as the crow flies but, I’m not a crow. Like everyone else, I’d need to drive (using about £5 in petrol), or get buses and pay the fares. Is the bank planning on refunding costs to those having to travel?

One final point, whatever happened to the promise regarding “the last bank in town” made by all the banks? Do they consider the Post Office and a cash machine at The Co-op as a viable alternative?

David Laing

West High Street

Lauder

SET TO SPEND £712,328 A DAY

According to recent reports from Scottish Borders Council (SBC), a five-year revenue plan (2017-2022) totalling £1.3bn has been rubber-stamped by elected members.

A significant number of those councillors who voted through that massive budget will be seeking re-election next month. It is to be hoped all candidates realise the awesome responsibility they will shoulder during their 1,825 days in office, deciding how to spend other people’s money as it flows into the local public purse.

The £1.3bn grand total works out at £260m a year, £5m a week, or £712,328 a day. SBC taxpayers must hope and pray these wannabe councillors from every political hue and none are up to the job, and deliver value while all of that cash passes through their hands.

There have been a few examples during the five-year term just ending which suggest a lack of rigorous financial screening by our elected representatives may have cost council ‘clients’ dear, while daft decisions such as the withdrawal of garden waste collections have left us angry and more than a little frustrated.

Regular readers of our local press may be aware of the catastrophic liaison between Scottish Borders Council and waste management “specialists” New Earth Solutions (NES) and their useless partners which cost long-suffering taxpayers at least £2.4m.

The calamity evolved over four years after our councillors signed an £80m contract aimed at solving urgent refuse disposal issues. The deal included a £21m “cutting-edge” facility at Easter Langlee as an alternative to landfill. A collection of extremely expensive lawyers and consultants were assembled by the council, then commissioned to help with the delivery of the combined recycling and energy recovery plant.

But there appears to have been a decided lack of scrutiny of the NES accounts, as the company was already heavily in debt when it was handed the Borders contract. To compound matters, the form of technology sanctioned by councillors was completely untried and turned out to be completely unfit for purpose, despite a costly visit to the “pioneering” plant near Bristol.

Meanwhile, the crucial role of funder for the project was handed to an offshore investment fund called New Earth Recycling & Renewables (NERR), controlled and managed by Premier Group (Isle of Man) Ltd. The group had links to the tax haven of British Virgin Islands.

Between 2012 and 2015, NES and NERR provided a string of reasons and excuses on both technical and financial grounds for delays to their Borders scheme. Additional time was granted to tackle and fix problems, but the saga ended in farce when SBC and NES agreed to abandon the contract.

The local authority then resorted to “commercial confidentiality” to avoid having to make information about the failed venture available for public consumption; none of the regulatory bodies, including Audit Scotland, thought the debacle warranted an investigation into the council’s activities, despite the loss of a significant amount of public money; and it was “business as usual” for SBC after councillors and officers agreed to blithely write off the entire £2.4m loss.

For the record, NES Group is in the hands of administrators and about to be consigned to the dustbin of waste management history, while NERR is in the process of being wound up with insufficient funds to even pay the liquidators, so how were they ever going to find £21m for Easter Langlee? And Premier Group has gone belly-up too, and will also be dissolved.

Investors, shareholders and creditors in all three businesses have been warned they will not get their money back.

So before casting your vote on May 4, try to work out which candidates are best qualified to watch over that impressive daily figure of £712,328. There may be some who fail the test of fiscal competence.

Bill Chisholm

Honeyfield Road

Jedburgh

SCOTLAND SAME AS MAIDENHEAD

Attitudes concerning Scotland, the UK and the European Union put in a nutshell the difference between those who consider Scotland a democratic nation with a right to determine its own future, and those who don’t.

Scots voted overwhelmingly to remain part of the EU in last year’s referendum. The Scottish Government accepted Brexit, but, with a responsibility to represent the viewpoint of the Scottish people, asked for a proper input into the process.

Although Theresa May had promised that agreement would be reached with the devolved nations before Article 50 was triggered, this request was ignored. The Scottish Government also constructed a detailed plan of how our different needs could be dealt with in negotiations, whilst Brexit went ahead. This was also ignored.

With all offers of co-operation being treated with contempt, Holyrood passed a proposal for a referendum, for us to choose between whatever the Brexit negotiations eventually threw up, or a path we judged better for ourselves. This Westminster also refused.

Mrs May says her own constituency of Maidenhead in Berkshire voted “remain”, but will have to lump it as far as Brexit is concerned – and Scotland is no different.

The Conservative Party north of the border agree with Mrs May that Scotland is no more important than a Westminster constituency in the south of England, and refer to attempts to protect our interests as a pointless “distraction”.

David Mundell, the one Tory MP in Scotland (majority 798 votes), Secretary of State for a country he doesn’t believe in, insists that nothing can or should be done to stop Scotland suffering the full consequences of Brexit.

Borders MSP John Lamont has already run two special anti-referendum meetings. I can only hope the cost of these has not been added to Mr Lamont’s famously-generous expenses claims.

It’s hard to know where the great mess of Brexit will end up, but it’s not looking great for the UK at the moment.

Do we in Scotland have any right to represent our own interests and that of our families in the whole, sorry process? That, dear reader, will ultimately be a matter for you to decide.

Eric Falconer

High Road

Galashiels

NATIONALISTS ARE NOT SOCIALISTS

I see the First Minister of California – sorry, Scotland – has spoken in defence of globalisation.

At last the mask has slipped. Nicola Sturgeon has revealed her true self.

Let us hear no more nonsense about she and her government being socialists – they are Tories, neo-liberal capitalists who, despite their protestations, owe allegiance to no country, but to the mighty dollar/euro.

This is no surprise to me as I am old enough to remember the late Donnie B. McLeod, MP for the Western Isles, who stated: “The SNP is not a socialist party.” I took him at his word. Gordon Wilson, Alex Salmond, John Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon have, by their actions as opposed to their words, all proved it.

I know why Ms Sturgeon wants to join the big business tool that is the European Union, but I still do not understand the attraction of EU membership for the SNP’s working class supporters. Why ditch “London Rule” for “Berlin Rule”?

C. Beagrie

Tweedbank

SEEING NEGATIVE POINTS OF VIEW

With an extensive response to the letters of those who support Scotland’s positive place in the UK (letters, March 30), J. Fairgrieve reminds us of how for every view there is another opposing one held with as much passion on either side, although both tend to only see the negatives in the other stance.

This is why so many people do not want another referendum just now.

There is no more clarity currently than when all these issues were last aired in the run-up to the 2014 referendum. Back then this was at a cost of divisiveness and discord across Scotland.

Of course even that point is a matter of disagreement with some viewing the last campaign as one of a great awakening of positive political engagement, while others remember ill-tempered debates with occasional bouts of intimidation and abuse.

Each point listed off in J. Fairgrieve’s letter could be replied to in turn, triggering further counter thoughts, so perhaps it is best to focus on the question it says is still unanswered, namely: If Scotland is such a burden and a drain on the UK, why are Unionists so determined and desperate to maintain control over us?

The answer is that no serious pro-UK politician or commentator has ever said such a thing – it merely suits their opponents to present a caricature of them suggesting this.

The reality is that just as Scotland currently benefits to the tune of some £9bn per annum from a top-up of our finances from the rest of the UK, there have been past periods when the sharing of resources across the UK has seen the flow of gain travelling in the other direction.

In any case, the positive interdependence of Scotland and the rest of the UK goes well beyond simple finances. Over the course of generations we have seen extensive two-way mutual advantages socially, in science and technology, culturally, and defence matters, along with all else that critically defines us.

The determination is not therefore to maintain control, but rather not to lose what so many of us value so much.

Others view this differently, feeling they have justified grievances that rationalise a drive for what, to the rest, can seem like the pursuit of independence at any cost.

If we do end up having another referendum, whatever the eventual outcome, we will all have a heavy price to bear.

Keith Howell

West Linton

SNP DENYING FACTS AND FIGURES

Having cheered Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland figures (GERS) in 2013, the Scottish National Party is now booing them.

The Scottish Government (not the Treasury) revealed tax revenue per head in Scotland was £10,000 – £400 below the UK average. Public spending per head was £12,800, or £1,200 above the UK average.

The big crunch for the SNP is spending £15bn more than it collects in tax.

With these serious fiscal figures (and an independent Scotland) the large financial institutions based in Scotland will leave for London (taking their corporation tax payments with them). This will deliver another big blow to Scotland’s already shrinking Gross National Product (GNP).

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Joan McAlpine, and a large number of their SNP colleagues, are simply denying these facts and figures.

The relationship between people within the UK has always been friendly and strong, and have always helped each other

Don’t let the First Minister and her “family”, because of personal ambition, disrupt this now great situation for our sovereign United Kingdom.

It is only the Scottish Government that has voted for another referendum – not the much-wiser Scottish people. If Nicola Sturgeon asked the people of Scotland to vote tomorrow (but she has not the courage), she would lose. Then we could have her resignation. But pigs will fly first.

Paul Singleton

Main Street

Gordon

NEWTOWN LITTER PICK

Newtown Community Council organised a very successful litter pick in the village over the weekend of April 1/2.

More than 25 residents and children helped over the Friday and Sunday afternoons.

A big thank-you to everyone involved and to the residents who help keep the village clear of litter throughout the year.

George Luke

(Newtown Community

Council)

Selkirk

COLLECTION

Thanks to the people of Selkirk who donated to the can collection I did outside the Co-op on Saturday, April 1, for Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland, raising £81.59.

Gordon Nicoll

Deer Park

Selkirk