Your picture of the Week

Took this pic of a roe deer just outside Kelso.
Graeme Rae
Took this pic of a roe deer just outside Kelso. Graeme Rae

Graeme Rae took this image of a roe deer just outside Kelso.

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

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

HOLDING POWERFUL TO ACCOUNT

With all the emotion around the prospect of indyref2 and the confusion around Brexit, it is easy to confuse the areas of competence of the two parliaments.

While I am bitterly disappointed with Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP for the never-ending rhetoric around indyref2, this is a constitutional issue that is going to be played out in the Scottish Parliament, not Westminster.

It won’t be Scottish Tories in Westminster (where the SNP can only ever have less than 10% of the votes) that can stop the referendum, but those working from within the Scottish Parliament, and any ‘fight’ with the SNP about this will be in Holyrood, not Westminster.

The argument that winning a Westminster seat is about indyref2 is technically incorrect and clouds the issues that will actually be debated and decided in Westminster, namely Brexit.

Within this context, we need a representative that will fight for the Borders and not be afraid to vote against the government or, indeed, his own party on critical issues.

So, in the general election, I plan to vote according to how I feel not about independence, but about the place that the Borders and Scotland will have in the context of Brexit.

The danger in the current election is that we let the emotion of independence override the need for balance in the Brexit debate. The result may be that we have a Conservative MP who toes the party line, and does not challenge the government.

I fear that, in an attempt to “send a message” to the SNP, we may end up cutting off our nose to spite our face.

All governments need a strong opposition and to be held to account. This will not be done with a Conservative representative in Westminster who will follow the party whip, and with Labour in a shambles, the SNP (and I never thought I would say this) is the only credible party to do this for Scotland.

In this election, I will therefore, for the first time, vote SNP for the Westminster seat. I am reassured by the professionalism and balance of our current MP, so will happily support him on June 8.

Conversely, in the Scottish Parliament election, I shall vote for the Conservatives, who will give us the best voice to hold the SNP to account in

Holyrood, and hold its feet to the fire with regard to devolved matters and any further talk of indyref2.

We must be in no doubt that this current general election is about Brexit and I am uncomfortable with any government – be it liberal, conservative or otherwise – that seeks too much control and is unwilling to be challenged.

I’m afraid both Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May have been guilty of this, and each need to be held to account in the relevant parliaments.

Heather Buchanan

Melrose

GETTING OVER THE WESTMINSTER WALL

Am I the only person to be confused by the logic of John Lamont’s decision to stand in the Westminster election?

There is a coherent case for Tories wishing to bolster their anti-independence stance through election at Holyrood. But what possible motive could a recently re-elected Tory MSP have to want to be part of a Tory majority where Scotland’s rights are already in danger of being crushed by the Westminster steamroller?

Do we want Scotland to choose its own future in Europe, or do we really prefer to have it negotiated on our behalf by an autocratic right-wing leader who wishes to exercise her power without opposition?

A charitable interpretation of Mr Lamont’s decision would be that he and other Scottish Conservatives are also concerned that Scotland’s assets and resources are not safe in Theresa May’s hands and her Brexit team.

Or maybe – heaven forfend – this simply comes down to personal ambition and Mr Lamont is seizing the opportunity to stand on Scotland’s head to get over the Westminster wall.

The costs and consequences of ‘strengthening’ Theresa May’s hand in the forthcoming election are very far reaching and will affect Scotland, its economy and its people for decades to come.

A vote for Mr Lamont is not a ‘message’ to the SNP – it is a message to Scotland to believe that it is too weak, poor and unintelligent to decide for itself what sort of country it wishes to be.

If that is Mr Lamont’s Scotland, then it is certainly not mine.

Maggie McGonigle

Denholm

LONDON CALLING

I’ve only met John Lamont once, back in 2015 when he was canvassing for votes in the election he lost to Calum Kerr from the SNP. Seemed like a nice bloke.

I do, however, have some serious questions for him in relation to the general election on June 8.

If it’s been such “a great privilege to serve the people of the Borders in the Scottish Parliament for the last 10 years”, why is he quitting with more than four years to go after only being re-elected as an MSP in May 2016? Does he hope the constituents he is abandoning in the areas which overlap between MSP and MP constituencies will not notice and continue to support him?

This is his fourth attempt to become an MP. What is the great attraction to London over Holyrood?

What will being an MP do for him and, more importantly, his constituents, that he can’t do as an MSP? One of 650 rather than one of 129.

If, as he says, “I will always put local people before party politics” and “...my approach to this important job (MP) will be exactly the same as it has been”, why change?

I think the voters would appreciate answers to these questions.

David Laing

West High Street

Lauder

THE REAL CUCKOO IN THE NEST

In times gone by, the missive from Peiter van Dijk last week might just have been put down as delusional rubbish, but in today’s hysterical reporting terms, it must surely now go into the “fake news” file.

If Peiter had just taken a few seconds to check his facts he would have quickly realised that it is John Lamont who is the real cuckoo in the nest down here. He would have found that Mr Lamont originated from Kilwinning, which is no small distance from Peebles where Calum Kerr first saw the light of day, and where he was educated and where he resides.

As to the holding of surgeries, I believe Calum has an office in Galashiels which, and here I hesitate to drive home a patent truth, is in the Borders.

The rest of Peiter’s facts are just as confusing. A thousand surgeries since John was elected? Wow! That is a lot of surgeries in the timescale Peiter quotes.

It may be that Mr van Dijk is in the job market and is seeking some kind of employment from the Tory candidate to his election team. I fear if the rest of the reasons he gives us to vote for John are as solid as his research into his personal history, I would advise him to look elsewhere.

Oh, and one other thing Peiter, do not mention the fact that John is a Tory too much – according to his hoardings, he prefers to keep that quiet.

Jim Gibson

Bleachfield Road

Selkirk

REVEALING INSULAR THINKING

Calum Kerr, our erstwhile representative in the UK parliament, in his recent ‘View from Westminster’ contribution, makes a truly remarkable statement.

He says, on behalf of all Borderers, “we don’t play by other people’s rules”.

To which rules is he referring? The law of the land? The rules of polite society? I think he should clarify as a matter of urgency, before election day.

The Borders, like it or not, is now a diverse society and will remain so. It will continue to diversify, yet Mr Kerr, in seeking re-election, chooses to use the language of “we” and “other” – us and them. In doing so he reveals the insular thinking of the true nationalist.

Looking around the world, in the 21st century, whether we choose Russia or Zimbabwe, UKIP or Le Front National, we see nationalism hand-in-glove with racism.

To ensure our country, whether we consider that to be Scotland or the UK, does not go down that path, I urge the Borders’ electorate to vote for the only credible Unionist candidate.

Christopher Green

Eckford

READER MAKES A SURGICAL STRIKE

Incredibly, our absentee SNP MP, Calum Kerr, not only lives outside the constituency in Cardrona, but has not held a single surgery for his constituents since he was elected by the sixth smallest margin (328 votes) across the UK in 2015.

He typifies the arrogant and cynical attitude of the SNP, whose MPs and MSPs are controlled like automatons by Central Belt Command HQ – obsessed by a second referendum to the point of abdicating all duties for mature and responsible government. They only have one economically-suicidal policy and will say or do anything to achieve it.

Contrast this with John Lamont MSP, who has held more than 1,000 surgeries in every part of his constituency since being elected.

The only way to rectify this unacceptable situation is to vote for John Lamont as our next Westminster MP on June 8. Do not split the pro-UK, pro-sensible economic policies vote among the minor parties in this traditional first-past-the-post UK-wide election.

Michael Wilson

Clovenfords

NATIONALISTS’ FINANCIAL FOLLY

It’s been quite a confusing past few days trying to follow what Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond are attempting to sell to the electorate in Scotland.

Firstly, Ms Sturgeon says the general election isn’t about a second referendum. Then Mr Salmond states that an SNP majority would mean that a second referendum would take place. Who’s actually in charge of the SNP? Ms Sturgeon or Mr Salmond? Or are they just saying anything to get our votes?

There’s also the farming subsidies that Calum Kerr was going on about in last week’s issue (I don’t normally read his articles, but as we’re leading into the general election, I thought I’d just see what he’s promising us – taking into account he’s achieved nothing to date).

The Chancellor has promised that whatever UK farmers receive in subsidies from the EU (it’s only the money that we pay in coming back), they’ll continue to receive these whilst the Tories are in power.

However, taking into account that if Scotland ever becomes independent, the country won’t be in the EU and won’t be allowed to join due to the £15bn deficit which hangs round Scotland’s neck – thanks to the SNP government.

This means that farmers in Scotland won’t receive any subsidies from both the UK Treasury or the EU. This therefore is a no-brainer for farmers and their decision in the general election.

Mind you, I was told that a farmer from quite near Chirnside who supports independence, when asked where the money would come from to run Scotland, stated: “Don’t worry about that, it’ll come from somewhere.” Sounds like he should be heading up the SNP finance team.

There was also a letter in the Berwickshire News last week from a gentleman from Foulden Newton who was having a go at John Lamont for resigning his seat at Hollyrood to fight for our constituency in Westminster.

Like a lot of people, he forgets that when Mr Salmond lost the 2014 independence referendum, he went off in the huff and resigned his position as First Minister. He then won a seat in the UK general election and became an MP whilst still an MSP. Two salaries at the same time – pretty good going if you can get it. Should have kept him in his pink champagne.

With all elections, we the electorate become very important to the candidates. They tell us what they’ve achieved for us and what they’re going to achieve if re-elected.

As I’ve stated previously, Mr Kerr will just do what he’s told by the SNP in Holyrood – this is exactly the same with their local councillors. In the 10 years that the SNP has been in power, we now have Police Scotland (which is underfunded and is now cutting recruitment) with one Chief Constable who was selected because he’ll do as he’s told. NHS Scotland is underfunded, education is underfunded and they’ve closed our courts and police stations due to cuts.

Ms Sturgeon, of course, blames the UK Treasury for these cuts. But because she takes us for fools, she doesn’t mention that Scotland, if it ever became independent, wouldn’t receive anything from the UK Treasury. Bang goes over £24bn smakeroos which Scotland receives from the UK Treasury.

Perhaps Mr Kerr, when he’s out electioneering, will tell us how this black hole will be filled. Higher taxes? Scotland is now the highest taxed country in the UK – with more to come.

For all those Scots who are under 30, it would appear that an independent pensions expert has stated that the Scottish Government wouldn’t be able to afford to pay them a pension. Part of the reason for this is that per head of population, Scotland will have more people of pensionable age and less of a workforce due to the lack of work.

Mind you, that won’t bother Ms Sturgeon or her husband who pull in over £300k per year and have gold-plated pensions. So much for austerity.

Robert Scott

South Cheviot View

Chirnside

NATIONALISTS AND A FLOCK OF SHEEP

At the forthcoming general election, hopefully the electorate will look at what, in 10 years, the SNP government has achieved – virtually nothing.

A flock of sheep do not bleat as much as the SNP does – it seems incapable of seeing what needs to be done .

R. Dickson

Cheviot Terrace

Coldstream

COVERT MEETINGS

In case you missed it (most of us), First Minister Nicola Sturgeon held covert meetings with both fund manager Black Rock and investment banker Morgan Stanley in America – and has all the signs of Sturgeon’s collapsed £10bn “Scottish shambles” Chinese investment non-deal.

There is “no comment” from all parties on the meetings, including the Scottish Government. Would it have something to do with the terrible fiscal situation by the Scottish National Party and a typical back-door attempt to soothe the nerves of major overseas investors concerned about the destabilising effect of the First Minister’s personal obsession with a second referendum. You bet. Why the visit?

Morgan Stanley employs 1,200 people in Glasgow and Black Rock 750 in Edinburgh.

No secrecy would be accepted if those organisations were to pull out of Scotland and people were to lose their jobs.

Statistics and figures say it all. Move out, First Minister, you have never been up to the job.

Paul Singleton

Gordon

MUST DO BETTER ON EDUCATION

With 700 teaching vacancies across Scotland that we are told could take three years to fill, it seems the priority that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claims to be putting to education is failing badly.

Attainment gap issues in education can hardly be properly addressed if the teachers are not in place. Large numbers of trained teachers cannot be found overnight, of course, but education has been the Scottish Government’s responsibility for 10 years now.

Equally troubling, shortages are occurring in heathcare with doctors, nursing and care staff shortages causing difficulties in some parts of Scotland.

The SNP has some big issues to deal with that no one else can credibly be blamed for.

How long before they decide that only by putting other obsessions to one side can they hope to make progress?

Keith Howell

West Linton

HOUNDING FORMER BRITISH SOLDIERS

I write to you over my concern about the never-ending hounding of our former British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the troubles from 1969 until the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland(PSNI) is re-examining every army killing in the fight against Irish terrorism – but not one by the IRA.

As an ex-serviceman who served in Northern Ireland and saw the handiwork of the IRA – the killing and maiming of soldiers and innocent civilians alike – it is a grave injustice that these terrorists are not also being hounded.

As the armed forces and veterans champion at Scottish Borders Council, I would like to call upon the UK Government to put an end to this continuous persecution of our former soldiers and allow them to enjoy their lives free from what can only be described as unjust persecution.

John Greenwell

Coldstream

SNP SET TO CASH IN ON BREXIT FIGHT

It seems pro-EU campaigner Gina Miller may give the SNP a proportion of the £300,000 she has raised to fight a hard Brexit, her aim being to support Nicola Sturgeon’s battle against the Tories on June 8.

Ms Miller may be forgiven for thinking the general election in Scotland is about the EU, but, as all who live here know, it’s much more about supporting or opposing the Green and SNP ambition to break up the UK.

Swathes of Scots apparently will vote Tory in June, not because they support a hard Brexit, but rather they believe the Tories will be the most effective in stopping the SNP holding indyref2 before 2020.

Perhaps Ms Miller is unaware Ms Sturgeon has spent 10 months using Brexit as a smokescreen for attempting another separation referendum. Equally, she won’t know that as recent opinion polls show we’re beginning to accept the inevitably of Brexit, Ms Sturgeon has started to tone down her pro-EU rhetoric.

One of Ms Miller’s most high-profile donors is Richard Branson. In 2014 Mr Branson was an outspoken critic of independence, highlighting as “catastrophic” the economic damage that would have ensued for Scotland had we not stopped the SNP back then.

Has Ms Miller, consulted Mr Branson on her plans to use his cash to further a cause he so vehemently opposes – Scottish separatism?

Martin Redfern

Edinburgh

MEGA-SCHOOL MAY HARM JEDBURGH

I was surprised that detailed proposals for the “single inter-generational learning campus” in Jedburgh were publicly exhibited last week at a point when political sensitivities and temperatures might be running high.

Obviously, persuading those with the purse strings to spend upwards of £30m on a new mega-school might be considered an achievement in itself, and reflect well on sitting councillors, but readers might wish to consider the following points:

1) The new proposal isn’t in the council’s recently-adopted Local Development Plan. This suggests it may not have been fully thought through by the powers that be.

2) It proposes the demolition of two primary schools and much of the Grammar School buildings – it must surely be more sustainable to retain, improve and invest in these buildings sited in the hearts of their communities? Why has this not already been done?

3) The new centralised facility is not only very large, but it’s relatively remote from much of the town – a historic burgh – and would result in even more vacant town centre sites and floorspace there while being more difficult to access for children and parents.

These proposals fly in the face of the Scottish Government’s ‘Town Centre First’ principles as well as, one imagines, the newly-announced Jedburgh Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme.

I appreciate that, post-election, there will be at least one further opportunity to consider the scheme rather more fully, and perhaps more coolly.

I hope that, with whichever candidates are selected by the wise electors of Jedburgh and District, folk will balance the need for community investment with the burgh’s economic and environmental requirements, and recognise that this large scheme, as proposed, has significant potential to damage Jedburgh’s already fragile, historic, town centre.

Charles Strang

Scottish Green Party candidate for the Jedburgh and District ward

LITTLE CREDIT FOR TORIES OR LABOUR

Last month, women from across the Borders met John Lamont MSP at his surgeries in Eyemouth and Duns to protest in very strong terms about the “rape clause”.

Two women in Galashiels held a silent protest about this clause, causing Mr Lamont to scuttle away.

So what is the rape clause? It allows exemption from the two-child restriction on tax credits which came into force this month. Under the clause, a woman gets tax credits for a third child only when she completes an eight-page application form, stating that her third child was conceived through rape.

We were outraged at the callousness and utter lack of humanity of putting an already-traumatised woman through such an intrusive process. We are certain that many women will not be able to cope with it, resulting in them and their children going without.

We told Mr Lamont about the damage that cuts to tax credits in general will do to the most needy in our society. It was pointed out to him that the Borders has the lowest household incomes across the United Kingdom. He was unmoved.

Three days later, newspapers were full of stories about the massive growth in food banks, with the numbers using them rising for the ninth year in a row.

Much of this demand and growth in human misery is a result of sanctions and of the total chaos which is universal credit.

This brainchild of Iain Duncan Smith (Tory) is set to replace most tax credits, child tax credit, working tax credit etc. So we can be sure that things are not going to get better and that another Tory government must be resisted with all our votes.

However, both these debacles – the rape clause and the shameful need for food banks – expose the fact that tax credits is a system that needs revision.

We have become so concerned about cuts to tax credits and the hardship this causes families across Scotland and the rest of the UK that we have forgotten who else they benefit.

Put bluntly, tax credits benefit bad employers, supplementing wages that are not enough to live on – just as housing benefits goes straight into the pockets of the landlord.

Tax credits, the brainchild of Gordon Brown (Labour) – I’m being even-handed with my criticisms here – paid for by taxpayers, lets employers, who may or may not be paying their full whack of tax or evading it, off the hook, keep profits and pay shareholders.

If we value people and families, if we say work should pay, then universal credit should be replaced by a basic citizen’s income and discredited tax credits must be replaced by a living wage, one that lets people work and live in decency, not anxiety or want.

Kate Duncan

Paxton

DAY TO CELEBRATE PEACE AND UNITY

On Tuesday, May 9, events will take place across the European Union (EU) to mark Europe Day, an annual celebration of peace and unity across the continent.

Thousands of people will take part in visits, debates, concerts and other events to mark the day and raise awareness of the EU.

Celebrations will naturally be more muted here in the UK, as we embark on the process of leaving the EU.

Because the UK is embarking on the Brexit process, however, does not mean we should not celebrate the EU and its achievements, the foundation of which the UK played a key role in.

The day is also known as Schuman Day, commemorating the historical declaration 67 years ago on May 9, 1950, by the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, which marked the first move towards the creation of the EU.

Being able to trade with our EU partners via a single market of over half a billion consumers, unfettered by tariffs and trade barriers, is also essential to many Scottish businesses.

Alex Orr

(policy adviser)

The European Movement in Scotland