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Leaderfoot viaduct
Leaderfoot viaduct

Gordon Stocks supplied this image of Leaderfoot viaduct.

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

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

DESIGNED TO FOOL SOME SCOTS

Predictably, since the publication last week of the latest GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) figures, the Unionist jungle drums have been beating.

Among the many critical voices are Rachael Hamilton MSP and Keith Howell (Southern, August 31).

These figures were first produced by the then Tory Secretary of State at the behest of Tory PM John Major and, since then, have done exactly what they were designed to do – i.e. fool some Scots into believing we were too weak, poor and incompetent to manage our own affairs, and convince us we were dependent on the “broad shoulders” of the UK and Westminster for our very survival.

Put simply, these figures pretend to show how much money Scotland raises in tax, and how much money it spends on services.

However, these figures deliberately fail to mention at least couple of things:

1. Taxes on Scottish goods which happen to be exported from places in England are counted as English; 2. Taxes from Scottish pensions, in many cases, are also counted as English, thereby appearing to reduce the income which Scotland raises – by significant amounts.

But, even more importantly, the expenditure column includes a whole host of items which Scotland (as part of the UK) is forced to pay for by way of a per-capita contribution.

To list a few: Trident renewal, HS2 railway, Palace of Westminster renovation, Home Office, London tube stations, Buckingham Palace restoration, Scotland Office, Whitehall Civil Service, House of Lords etc. etc. etc. – amounting to countless billions of pounds. This money could be better used in Scotland, by us, on our priorities.

The newly-opened and internationally-acclaimed Queensferry Crossing is a perfect example of what we, as a nation, are capable of. This was built under budget and without any funding from the UK.

Under the current system (while we are tied to the UK), the Scottish Government continues to do its very best to mitigate the shameful austerity measures imposed by Theresa May’s divided and dysfunctional government – unbelievably supported by Labour – which targets and punishes the poor, weak, elderly and disabled in our country. We can surely do better than that.

With independence, Scotland would be in a position to make its own choices on how its money is spent, for the benefit of all its citizens, and operate a welfare system and immigration policy, for example, which suit our needs.

Finally, I ask again the question I have asked often before (to which I’ve never yet received an answer): If Scotland is such a drain on UK finances, as Unionists continually claim, why are they so desperate and determined to hold on to us?

Answers to this page, please.

J. Fairgrieve

Gordon

FIGURES FAILING SCRUTINY TEST

Reading Rachael Hamilton’s column last week’s was predictably depressing.

The GERS figures she was trumpeting are coming under more and more scrutiny as their inadequacy in measuring Scotland’s actual financial position becomes clearer.

Entered against Scotland’s accounts is a loss in UK oil revenue since the price crash of 2015 of £23m. This is not great news, but then we find that, in the same period, with roughly the same amount of oil, in the same sector of the North Sea, selling in the same international market, Norway made a profit of £29bn.

You can’t begin to assess our actual financial position without considering how much of our resource base is being completely mismanaged. You also need a sound basis for both analysis and projection, but again, separate figures for Scotland’s economy are, for the most part, unavailable. Westminster does not bother to collect this information, and publishes its annual GERS report based largely on estimates.

The really depressing aspect of Mrs Hamilton’s column, however, was not her views on the SNP or independence, both of which she is fully entitled to hold and bore us with on a fortnightly basis if she wishes.

It was the intellectual laziness involved in simply parroting figures without question because they appear to support her view that the country she purports to represent is a complete basket case, totally reliant on continuing largesse from our southern neighbour.

There is a well-known saying from the Bible: “Where there is no vision, the people perish”. With “vision” like that of Mrs Hamilton, what hope have we got?

Eric Falconer

High Road

Galashiels

PULL ON SCOTLAND’S PURSE STRINGS

Last week, Rachael Hamilton MSP was banging on the big GERS drum, playing the same tired tune that Scotland is an economic basket case needing to be shored up by the UK.

Why does she bother? GERS is widely acknowledged to be a piece of guesswork, drawn up not from data collected north of the border, but extrapolated via figures from the UK as a whole.

And just to remind Rachael, limited and distorted as this picture is, it is a distorted picture of a Scotland whose decision-making processes are seriously limited by Westminster, not an independent Scotland.

Scotland’s “deficit”, for example, said to be 8.3%, includes contributions taken directly by Westminster for our share of expenditure on things that a Scottish Government might not have chosen – such as Trident, illegal or ill-judged wars, HS2 (which will never reach Scotland) and London’s CrossRail.

Perhaps the UK Government might rein in its excesses if it didn’t have Scotland’s contribution.

Scotland’s income, down this year, could be very different once independent. Replace Westminster’s relaxed attitude to tax avoidance and tax havens with meticulous regulation; replace its heavy bias in favour of wealth and big business with a progressive remit to reduce the ever-widening inequalities; re-institute local tax offices to ensure rigorous scrutiny of tax affairs, then see the economy grow.

Independent Scotland’s expenditure might be very different too. While Westminster has given vast tax breaks to oil and gas companies, it has cut subsidies to renewables to the extent that a 95% slash in investment is projected by 2020. Scotland might well prefer to support firms pursuing clean energy, generating quality jobs in new technology, where Scotland currently leads the way.

As it is, Westminster’s reckless, big business-driven policies will inevitably lead to carbon emissions targets being missed by a long way – and the consequences of man-made climate changes are now surely impossible to ignore. And customers won’t benefit from lower prices when energy from renewables is expected round about 2025 to be cheaper than energy from fossil fuels.

(An oil-related aside – Unionists weep crocodile tears about Scotland’s falling oil revenues. Note, though, that Norway, a comparable oil-producing nation, saw its revenues fall about 40% when ours fell by 99%, and generated £17.684bn, while the UK Government managed only £43m in its last published tax year.)

It’s surprising to read in this context that David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, said: “It is vital we grow the economy and we want to work with the Scottish Government to achieve that”, while doing his best to scupper it with the Tory combination of subsidies to rich oil companies and austerity cuts to the poorest.

To protect its citizens against the full effect of “welfare reforms”, the Scottish Government has spent £400m, “reforms” it would not have voted for, “reforms” imposed by Westminster.

Better together? Do the research, Rachael. It’s about more than GERS.

This Tory Government does not govern for the benefit of all of its citizens. It’s given us a massive growth in food banks since 2010; the scandal of ever-rising homelessness; the shame of shoddy Grenfell Tower; zero-hours contracts; a dangerously-underfunded public sector, schools, NHS, police, etc.

It’s a government which is remote, uncaring and removed from scrutiny.

We need a government we can trust and hold to account if it lets us down, can “pebble wi’ stanes”, in Holyrood, not Westminster.

Kate Duncan

Paxton

A NATION FISCALLY BANKRUPT

Scotland only represents 8% of the UK population.

Of this total, only 60% max are of voting age.

Every person in Scotland costs £1,750 per annum more than England and is payable by Westminster. Scotland’s current debt GDP is nearing £14bn.

Where is all the money for Scotland’s independence coming from? Fiscally, Scotland is bankrupt and in need of tender care. This will not come from an incompetent Scottish Government.

Looking at the much bigger picture, the UK has always worked better together, particularly in banking and business. To break up the existing system just to appease a minority of irrational Scottish nationalists is not the answer – we must work together as usual to increase the UK’s strength. Only this way can we compete in a much fiercer and competetive world. Brexit must be in place as soon as possible and be as successful as the stock market is now showing.

If a second independence referendum was called tomorrow, voters across the UK would go against an independent Scotland. It is not just people north of the border who would need to answer the referendum question as the result affects us all.

Scottish independence will never happen. Why? The Scottish exchequer will never prove to have the finance.

It all comes down to fiscal ability in the end. It’s what makes the world go round.

Paul Singleton

Gordon

POWERFUL ARGUMENT

I would like to apologise to Christopher Green for suggesting he was a SNP supporter when he now confirms he is not (letters, August 24).

For me to associate him with the failures of Police Scotland, the NHS, education and much more is unforgivable.

However, my main question remains unanswered.

Where will the electricity come from for electric cars, electric trains and cooking and heating when gas, which supplies 37 to 43% of our electricity in the UK, is banned?

The SNP-dominated Scottish Government has shut coal power plants and is determined to shut down nuclear, thus relying on unreliable wind and hoping the sun will shine.

The UK Government is equally stupid with its grandiose plans to decarbonise when the rest of the world continues to burn fossil fuels to grow economies.

America and China are ignoring the Paris Accord and they, together, are responsible for 44% of global emissions. The UK’s 1.3% and Scotland’s 0.13% are insignificant.

Pursuit of insane climate change legislation at Holyrood and Westminster will lead to power failures and lasting damage to the economy.

Clark Cross

Linlithgow

CONSULTATION ON SCHEME’S FUTURE

Transport minister Humza Yousaf has launched a consultation on the future of the national concessionary travel scheme.

The Scottish Government wants to hear views on the options to safeguard the longer-term sustainability of the existing free bus travel scheme, and on providing free bus travel to young modern apprentices to support their travel costs. The plans to provide young modern apprentices with free bus travel will initially be tested in a pilot scheme in 2018.

Mr Yousaf has confirmed that everyone who already has a bus pass before any changes come into force will continue to have access to the benefits of the scheme.

The consultation will be available via the Transport Scotland website until November 17.

Matthew Millar

Transport Scotland

PLEA TO FILL IN LANGUAGE GAP

Is it not time for the Southern Reporter to introduce a new

competition?

Any suggestions from locals as to what the collective noun for the current collection of Border potholes should be?

C. John

Birch House

Melrose

A SIGN OF SAFETY FIRST, MR WEST

I wish to reply to Richard West’s letter of August 31 (‘Sign of spending priorities’), as he does appear to be a bit of a killjoy.

I realise that everything is not right in this world, though living in the beautiful Borders is great compensation, but there surely are times when we need to enjoy events that are unusual, but well planned.

I refer to the Tour of Britain which had the privilege of spending time in and around Kelso on last Sunday.

Mr West seems upset by all aspects of the event, particularly the plethora of safety signs colouring our streets.

These are necessary for the safety of cyclists and spectators, and the large numbers have made us all aware, including Mr West, that something is up. It surely is better to overdo safety, even though there is a cost, than to have accidents.

I understand our roads are far from ideal and investment is required, but surely we all need some relaxing fun.

Tony Reed

Sutherland Gardens

Kelso

SEPARATING OPINION AND FACTS

Firstly, let me reassure your readers I do not intend to get into a weekly war of words with William Loneskie, but his latest letter in the Southern (August 31) deserves a reply.

I cannot decide if his statement that “serious writers” like himself “face replies from others” – like me, I suppose – is arrogant or rude, or both, but I’m sure Mr Loneskie will correct me on that.

I commented on his original letter (August 17) as it was just plain inaccurate. I am strongly of the view that Mr Loneskie should be able to express his opinion – I would never question that – but when he tries to support that opinion with stuff that is plainly wrong he must expect comments. The Westminster government does not plan to scrap all petrol and diesel cars in 2040, for example.

His attempts to use a string of vaguely-connected, and some inaccurate and irrelevant points to try and make a coherent argument to support his opinion, in my view, warrants a reply.

Mr Loneskie’s arguments are all based on the current situation regarding electricity generation etc. and takes no account of what is likely to happen over the next 23 years when the government proposals take effect. Twenty-three years ago, the most common electric cars were probably Scalextric – things have moved on since then and will move on again.

I’m not sure why Mr Loneskie thinks I’m confused at the difference between a 12v starter battery and ones used in electric cars, and what exactly is the relevance of the fact they weigh 250kg?

For clarity, I have an honours degree in natural science with biology and environmental science, and my son, who also read his letter with amusement and a large amount of concern, has a masters degree in electrical and electronic engineering.

Maybe Mr Loneskie should take his own advice from his letter (August 17) and leave all this to the engineers and scientists.

David Laing

West High Street

Lauder

CROSS-DRESSING AND CHILDREN

The manic march towards the dissolution of all sex differences continues.

Gender dysphoria can be a debilitating and overwhelming mental health problem.

Almost all parents aim to help their children grow into their biological gender identity. Whatever their personality and interests, a secure sense of being of their actual sex is a foundation for emotional well-being. Sex-specific clothing is one means of inculcating a healthy sense of maleness or femaleness.

John Lewis now seeks to undermine this.

Its decision to label dresses as for “Boys or Girls” might play well to fashionable gender ideologues, but will undermine parents and potentially harm children.

Sooner or later a boy in John Lewis is going to ask for a dress. Mum might say that dresses are really for girls. Boy will argue back that John Lewis evidently disagrees, and therefore feel aggrieved at Mum’s stance. Instead of forgetting about it, the boy may then determine to persevere in his curiosity. Cross-dressing is not a good road for children to go down.

Can the decision-makers at John Lewis confirm that they would be perfectly happy if their young son decided to wear a dress? I doubt it very much.

Richard Lucas

(Scottish Family Party)

TREMENDOUS TURNOUT FOR RUN

Overwhelmed is the best word to describe the turnout on August 27, both from bikers and spectators, for the Steve Hislop (Hizzy) charity run.

It was a lovely morning and a great route enjoyed by over 300 bikes.

For the 15th year the memory of Steve and the Hislop family was remembered in style, not only for the Hislops, but also for John Dobbie and those who have been touched by the terrible illness known as motor neurone disease (MND).

I am sure Steve, Garry, Sandy and John would have been speechless if they could see the crowds that turned out in Berwick, Hawick and many other places along the way.

A special mention to Tommy Riley and his family – Tommy passed away suddenly in April and the donations from his funeral went towards MND at the family’s request as Tommy followed the run each year. This was a very generous £1,350. The total raised for MND is a stunning £4,880.28 – thank you to every one of you who took time to donate to this year’s charity.

I also wish to thank the marshals who volunteer to help with the run every year – it takes a lot of time and planning to make it enjoyable and safe for everyone involved, not to mention the fact they have to wear a pink T-shirt! Also, to everyone on Denholm Green, from parking marshals to the ladies with tickets, serving refreshments and everything else that magically happens.

Wendy Oliver

Margaret Hislop