Jim Dodds captured this view of St Mary’s Loch on one of the many sunny summer afternoons we’ve enjoyed this month.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
SMOOTH ROUTE TO A BETTER FUTURE
The Borderlands Growth Deal should focus firstly on improving road links between the neighbouring counties on either side of our open border.
The A1, A697, A68 and A7 are vital arteries carrying much commercial and private transport from Scotland to England and vice versa. Yet they leave a tremendous amount to be desired.
The A1 is Britain’s longest and most important road, carrying thousands of vehicles, yet it is still single carriageway for miles. Why is it that the A9, which carries less traffic, is being dualled, while the A1 is not? Dualling the A1 has been promised for years, but nothing appears to be happening.
It would be difficult to decide which of our main roads has the poorest surface.
The A1 is coated with a stone-chipped top coat which causes much road roar – like the others. Travelling through Greenlaw or Coldstream on the A697, you have to negotiate humps, bumps and manhole covers.
This is the 21st century, but the smooth roads of the Borders are a thing of the past.
I can remember the first time I drove onto a “new” stone-chipped surface on the A68 – I thought something was wrong with my car. Think of that stretch north of Earlston through the woodlands, for example. It is coarse and broken up and now subject to potholes.
How bad do things have to get before they are repaired? John Loudon (“Tar”) McAdam would birl in his grave! No wonder there are so many 4x4s in the Borderlands. Credit where it is due – Amey has done a fine job of resurfacing the A68 on the short sections where it has managed to do so. Think of the stretch just north of Lauder – a lovely smooth surface – for half a mile.
No one expects the Borderlands initiative to take away the dangerous blind summits or the sudden bends on the A68 as it wends its way from the Edinburgh city bypass to Darlington. But surely it is not too much to ask to have our main highways resurfaced to a smooth and good standard?
Meanwhile, the exponents of the Borders Railway, which is used by a minority of Borderers, continue to demand more millions for further extension of this non-freight operation. Of course we would like to see a railway from Edinburgh to Carlisle – and run under a nationalised British Railways, not Abellio’s foreign state operation. But let’s have our roads brought up to standard first.
There is also the tourist attraction aspect. Since the far north of Scotland was promoted as North Coast 500, an extra 29,000 visitors have been attracted to the region. If we had smooth, quiet roads from Northumberland and Cumbria to the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway, think what that would do for tourist traffic.
ALL DATA MUST BE CONSIDERED
I read with interest Les Wallace’s letter in your June 15 issue exhorting readers to sign a petition calling for “a comprehensive independent economic study of driven grouse shooting”.
Mr Wallace says no other country has driven grouse moors. He fails to say Britain contains 70% of the world’s heather moorland. It is, in fact, rarer than rainforest and British red grouse cannot exist without it. Management of heather enables grouse to thrive and is the precise reason driven grouse shooting takes place in Britain and nowhere else.
He describes driven grouse shooting as “intensive”, referring to Leeds University’s EMBER muirburn study. EMBER is only one such study; a longer, robust, 10-year study by DEFRA is currently underway.
We must surely base the future management of uplands on all reputable data, rather than the results of one study.
In fact, muirburn – the rotational burning of heather for a continuing supply of nutritious young heather – was not invented by gamekeepers. Fire is one of man’s oldest land management methods and still used worldwide. In Scotland, farmers, shepherds and gamekeepers all burn heather. The Victorians said “shepherds light the fires and gamekeepers put them out” because sheep management tends to require bigger, and grouse management smaller, fires.
Far from contributing to a “loss of wildlife”, keepered moors have at least five times more bird life than unkeepered moors. The benefits of moorland management have been repeatedly studied and documented; uncontrolled predators cause at least 40% of ground-nesting birds to fail.
Mr Wallace suggests grouse shooting prevents other forms of employment, but gives no example of what might replace the 2,500 full-time equivalent jobs and £100m value it generates. In Britain, 40,000 people take part in grouse shooting annually and the average day brings together 40 people.
Our uplands provide 70% of our drinking water and are our biggest carbon store – peat upland stores 20-40 times more carbon than woodland. And yet they have been declining at a catastrophic rate.
In the 1940s, 60% of Scotland was semi-natural vegetation. By the 1970s this fell by 35% due mainly to government subsidies encouraging forestry and farming. By the 1980s, sheep had trebled and 90% of all Britain’s new forests were planted in Scotland.
Much heather upland has been lost to afforestation and sheep farming. What remains is under threat, because the only land use which relies totally on heather is grouse shooting, and only 26% of Scotland’s remaining heather is managed for grouse.
If there is to be a “comprehensive economic study”, it should be into all upland use, rather than focusing on Scotland’s declining grouse moors which represent such a small proportion of our uplands.
CONCERN OVER VILLAGERS’ SAFETY
Every Sunday during the summer months, six to eight motorcyclists roar through this village at well over the 30mph limit.
This has often been reported to the authorities, but nothing done about it.
The riders are heading towards Coldstream anytime between 2-4pm.
I have no objection if any of these motorcyclists “come a cropper” – it’s a free world, after all. But would it not be more considerate for any of them to have a little more care for villagers’ safety, or is that too much to ask?
DIVISIVE AND UNCARING
Never before have I seen in the Southern Reporter a letter so divisive as that of Otto Inglis (June 22).
He started by saying he has “strong misgivings” about the gay son of a Hindu immigrant being appointed Taoiseach in the Republic of Ireland.
Later, in a heavily-loaded question, he asked “would a German chancellor with children have thrown the country’s borders wide open, so that in a single generation Germany will be transformed from a European Judeo-Christian nation into a bi-cultural multi-ethnic one in which European culture, laws and morals are all subject to permanent challenge by an ever-growing section of the populace who reject our Western values?”
He declines to mention that the borders were opened to help 80,000 refugees from war in Syria. His claim that these refugees could change the culture, law and morals of a country of 81 million people “in a single generation” is idiotic.
If Mr Inglis intended to mislead or scare people, I hope his plan failed.
In his final sentence his description of a “childless governing elite” as being “intellectually sterile” is thoughtless and uncaring.
WE KNEW WHAT WE WERE VOTING FOR
Ex-Prime Minister David Cameron, the straw man, advised current incumbent Theresa May to talk to Labour about Brexit. Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson said much the same.
However, Brexit is not a matter for negotiation between British political parties, but between the UK Government and the European Union.
I detest the Conservative party, but I am sick and tired of Remoaners talking about a “hard Tory Brexit”. It is a hard EU Brexit. Did no one listen to what came out of Berlin, Brussels and Paris during the referendum campaign? Junker and Co. said: “Leave means leave.”
To be fair, all the leading Leave campaigners, when asked if leaving the EU meant leaving the single market, answered: “Yes.”
We who voted Leave knew what we were voting for.
The likes of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and others who say we can/should stay in the single market are being disingenuous. If we stayed, we would have to accept all the current rules such as total freedom of movement, the inability to negotiate trade deals of our own, subjugation to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the Kafkaesque European Arrest Warrant, all of which the majority who voted in the referendum rejected.
The latest stushie about EU citizens in this country is another example of the Remoaners’/EU double-speak.
We are told that the government offer is too late, but the press ignores the inconvenient fact that it was German leader Angela Merkel and the rest of the EU who refused to discuss the matter before the triggering of Article 50.
Likewise, the EU wants its citizens in Britain to be subject to EU law and the ECJ.
Can you imagine the reaction of, say, the United States if we demanded that Scots resident in America be subject to Scots Law? Preposterous. It seems “Leave means leave” is applicable only when it suits the EU.
As for the “divorce bill”, we owe a contribution to the pensions of British former commissioners and other EU employees, plus one or two ongoing projects. Nothing like the ludicrous figures spouted by the EU president.
Is it too much to hope for that the British media keep a sense of perspective and a little journalistic integrity when reporting this matter?
SAINT STEPPED OUT IN NORTHUMBRIA
I was pleased to read that the recent “Walk with St Cuthbert”, organised by Channelkirk and Lauder Church, was a success and enjoyed by so many.
However, your English correspondent (“An Englishman steps out on the path of St Cuthbert”, Southern, June 22) queries the route of the official St Cuthbert’s Way between Melrose in Scotland and Lindisfarne in England.
In fact, during St Cuthbert’s time (634-687), the concepts of Scotland and England barely existed and this whole area was part of the Kingdom of Northumbria.
Cuthbert was converted to Christianity at Old Melrose by Boisil, an Irish monk from Iona, before eventually moving to Lindisfarne.
FAR FROM ‘KEEPING US SAFE’
Armed Forces Day is fairly new, created in 2006 as “Veterans’ Day” and renamed in 2009, copying the American model.
The displays and events on this day seem to promote a view of war as family entertainment, normalising violence and encouraging young children to pose with guns.
It is not a charitable event and is sponsored by the UK Government with the stated purpose of showing support for the armed forces – and by implication, for the decisions to deploy them.
It is no criticism of individuals who serve in the military to note that, in recent years, politicians have been too willing to use armed force to intervene in other countries, in particular Iraq, without thinking through the consequences. The result has been a spreading destabilisation which, far from “keeping us safe”, has made the world a more uncertain and dangerous place for us and for millions of others.
UK QUESTION FOR CHRISTINE
In her column (June 22), MSP Christine Grahame asks: “Why should the UK have a better deal with the EU outside rather than in?”
I couldn’t agree with her more – and that’s probably a first.
I take this opportunity to ask Ms Grahame: Why should Scotland have a better deal with the UK outside rather than in? Answers in your next column please, Christine.
My heartfelt thanks to the many local people who were so supportive of my electoral efforts in recent weeks.
It was an honour and a privilege to stand as the Labour candidate in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale in the general election.
Although my party did not win the seat, we increased our vote share while, nationally, we had an excellent night. Throughout the campaign it was the kindness of friends old and new which kept me sustained and in good heart.
South Sudan relief effort
Mosaic would like to thank all who attended our afternoon concert on Saturday, June 3, in St Andrew’s Church, Kelso.
We raised £500 for famine relief in South Sudan.
RENEWING FRENCH CONNECTION
Earlier this month, my mother and I began a “birthday trip” to Scotland via a remembrance trail in Hawick.
My mother is 80 and instead of finding a present which would end up on a shelf, I decided to go with her to Scotland. The reason was not only to try to “be a good son”, but for her to recall a much earlier visit – a three-week stay at a penfriend’s in Hawick in July 1952, part of an exchange programme with the French city of Lisieux.
All my life I have heard and read about this stay via old books, tourist leaflets, pictures, mostly in black and white, carefully stored and treasured.
When I told my mother that we were travelling to Hawick and other places in Scotland, she quietly copied on her newly-bought guide book the address of her pen friend: 53 Cheviot Road.
Deep down, she hoped for a reunion with the past. She revisited her trip diary. She was 15, words of a country girl from Normandy, coming from a modest village life.
Driving straight from Edinburgh airport, we went to Hawick, chasing the past. Cheviot Road is now different from that of her memory, of course.
One person not standing in front of 53 Cheviot Road was Myra Douglas.
If Myra is still with us, she should be 80 or 81.
Would there be any way to call on your readers and try to reunite two young girls at heart, two friends from 1952?
WHAT A WASTE OF TAXPAYERS’ MONEY
This week, unbelieveably, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will set out her plans on indyref2.
The Scottish electorate has shown (many times) that they want another referendum like a hole in the head.
Only the Sturgeon “family” don’t get this due to personal ambition.
The only way to stop the SNP is via the ballot box or an SNP vote of no confidence in the First Minister in parliament – that won’t happen because MPs won’t want to lose their jobs so early in their careers. Where else can you earn £65k per annum doing nothing constructive and with no qualifications?
Highest-paid MP in UK? More than the Prime Minister? You guessed it, Nicola Sturgeon on £151,271 per annum. What a waste of taxpayers’ money for someone responsible for a £15bn deficit against Scotlands GDP last year and the worst record for education and NHS ever.
It doesn’t stop the world going round (yet), but pinch me and I’ll wake up.
FLYING SCOTTISH ECONOMY FLAG
The recent passing by Holyrood of legislation establishing a new tax to replace air passenger duty in Scotland is to be welcomed.
The bill to create Air Departure Tax (ADT), which will come into force from April 2018, paves the way for the Scottish Government to fulfil its commitment to cut the levy in half by the end of this parliament, ahead of abolishing the charge altogether “when resources allow”.
UK Air Passenger Duty (APD) is the most expensive tax of its kind in Europe and profoundly impacts on Scotland, acting as a barrier to our ability to secure new direct international services and to maintain existing ones. Attracting investment is now more crucial than ever as we embark on Brexit negotiations.
The reduction and ultimate abolition of APD in Scotland will have two key impacts – first, some international routes which are currently marginal and therefore not flown are likely to become viable. Secondly, there is likely to be a price reduction for the consumer on domestic flying and the real possibility of additional frequencies. Research indicates that halving APD will create nearly 4,000 jobs and add £200m a year to the Scottish economy by 2020.
Without action, Scotland could lose out on nearly one million passengers every year, costing the Scottish economy up to £68m in lost tourism revenue every year.
APD is a tax on Scotland’s ability to compete with the rest of Europe, and our economy is footing the bill in lost jobs and lost opportunities. Addressing this will provide key advantages for both passengers and the Scottish economy.
UNSUITABLE FOR OUR SOCIETY
The recent tragic death of a Polish van driver at Calais as a result of the violent action of migrants seeking to reach our island brutally illustrates how bizarre our immigration and asylum policy is.
The driver was lawfully on his way to Britain to contribute to our economy and society, as millions of other eastern Europeans have been doing in recent years.
By contrast, the migrants who caused his death had crossed two continents unlawfully and were willing to use violence to get in to our country.
As indicators of unsuitability for admission to our society, repeated unlawfulness and dangerous violence are hard to beat. And yet had these highwaymen – and I use that term advisedly – reached Britain we would have had to entertain asylum and protection claims from them, and even if those were rejected, they would have been unlikely to have been returned to their own country.
This, of course, assumes that they bothered to apply for asylum – they might very well have chosen to disappear into the black economy in one of our major cities (the Home Office estimates illegal immigration to be of the order of 150,000 people per year).
We need a government with the will to implement firm and speedy legal processes, ensuring the deportation of all unlawful migrants.