Letters: marriage

Hostile to opposing beliefs

Her remarks exhibit the kind of hostile attitude that will erode the civil liberty of those who believe in traditional marriage.

If this is the opinion Councillor Bhatia holds on chaplains, what about teachers who disagree with gay marriage? Are council employees, who hold differing views to her own, afraid to let their own views be known?

After all, within a so-called democracy, as far as I am aware, it is not a crime to express a different view to that held by others. Indeed I am led to believe that especially within schools, councils etc. diversity is to be welcomed.

Those who hold forth the right to same-sex marriage on the grounds of discrimination must be careful not to discriminate against those who hold opposing beliefs.

Kathleen Espie

Fountainhall

I write in response to comments by Catriona Bhatia regarding her fears for the content of what school chaplains may include as they speak in assemblies etc (Southern, March 14).

At the risk of sounding as threatened and paranoid as her, and others, who so vociferously oppose all who differ from them on the subject of redefining marriage, I want to ask where this leaves the civil liberty of those who believe in traditional marriage.

In my experience as a teacher in schools across the UK (including a Catholic school) I have been aware of the positive and beneficial influence the chaplain brings to a school when that relationship is allowed to grow with headteacher, staff and ­pupils.

Catriona Bhatia’s example of Christian observance at Christmas giving a chaplain the opportunity to voice opposition to gay marriage has to be so far- fetched as to beg the question of why she would accept any Christmas input in schools at all.

Olive Bell

Allanton

We still have a legally-established state religion in Britain which is Christianity/Anglicanism.

Schools are supposed to adhere to that – many with tacit public and governmental consent ignore it. In any other area this would lead to legal process.

A school chaplain has to exercise his or her duty as a priest towards his flock who are the schoolchildren and possibly staff members. He cannot be controlled by a head teacher as to the content of his approach and teaching on moral matters – that would make a travesty of the job and he may as well not be there at all.

The implication is that the personal views of the head teacher, who is a lay person in this respect, or those he is influenced or directed by, would be imposed on the chaplain.

Throughout the priesthood there are guidelines from their denomination which the ordained clergy must follow, but their presentation and sermonising is in accordance with their own understanding and character.

The risk of losing this freedom of conscience, religion and expression – a right under the Human Rights Act – is a deep concern of those who oppose gay marriage, who fear that teachers’ chaplains and some parents will not be allowed to express their beliefs freely and be forced to toe the line that because gay marriage is legislated for, it must be right and should be promoted.

Judging by Councillor Catriona Bhatia’s remarks, it looks as if their concern is justified.

Aline Hay

Duns

Catriona Bhatia is, of course, entitled to her personal view that the current meaning of marriage in Scotland should be fundamentally changed.

But the vehemence of her recent reported efforts to ensure that no dissenting view should be expressed within our schools must be a cause for concern for anyone who values civil liberties here in the Borders.

Our chaplains (and indeed teachers and other public servants) can be trusted to behave responsibly, and with personal and professional integrity.

Hamish Goldie-Scot

Coldstream

The pre-emptive proposition of segregation of religious celebrants in Borders schools by Councillor Catriona Bhatia is astounding.

It brings shame to the region and typifies the council’s ignorance of equality issues. She can not and should never be allowed to monitor what religious persons preach.

I am scared of her equation that if she can’t control it, she bans it. How democratic of her.

Religious education, communicating it to the community, is a basic human right.

The next step will be to ban religious people from educating.

This is sickening and a serious abuse of the human right to religion, free speech and objection.

Graeme G. M. Gillon

Selkirk

Since when was it OK to limit someone expressing their views?

A teacher can express a view that they think a particular religion is wrong.

It is interesting to watch how viewpoint persecution changes over time.

In history there have been times when Christians, then gays, then Jews, then ethnic minorities, etc. have been persecuted – and it often starts with limiting freedom of speech.

Can we protect one group from prejudice by being ­prejudiced against another? Surely anything that is 
good can stand up to criticism. Political opinion is open to criticism, so is religion, why should homosexuality be ­exempt?

Our heroes of history are those who spoke up against what they saw was wrong. If gay marriage is good, it can take a bit of criticism.

James Maybury

Selkirk

I share Councillor Catriona Bhatia’s concern that school chaplains may preach on issues such as gay marriage.

There has been an alarming increase in religious fundamentalism in recent decades, and students in state schools need protection from indoctrination.

The council’s revised religious observance policy provides scant protection to pupils, merely allowing parents to see the written agreements between headteachers and chaplains.

With the greatest respect to headteachers of Roman Catholic schools, I cannot imagine them challenging the edicts from Cardinal Keith O’Brien or the Pope.

As a first step, the council should require all chaplains to sign a declaration that they will not preach, teach or otherwise discriminate against students and staff of minority groups.

Alastair Lings

Galashiels

FOOD

Needs of

the hungry

The average UK household’s annual food bill was more than £100 higher in 2012 than in 2011, putting a strain on overstretched household budgets.

In poorer countries, where people often spend most of their incomes on food, price rises have an even greater impact, forcing millions to go hungry. One of the reasons prices have been rising so rapidly is that banks and hedge funds are pouring millions of pounds of speculative money into food futures markets, pushing prices beyond the levels dictated by supply and demand.

Access to food is a basic human right, and banks should not be allowed to play havoc with food prices. New legislation to limit food speculation is on the table at the EU, but George Osborne and his Treasury colleagues have so far blocked tough controls.

We must demand that our politicians put the needs of hungry people, at home and abroad, before the profits of investment banks.

Helena Richards

Allanton

LITTER

Spoiling the look of Hawick

This region is a great place to live and Borders people are the most kind, generous and friendly people you will ever meet and I must say that I have always had a soft spot for Hawick, being such a lovely place with rivers, architecture and the surrounding countryside.

Since arriving recently to live in the town, I have become aware of one thing in particular that spoils the look and perception of the town. I have noticed that when the pupils from the high school leave the school grounds to buy their lunch in the town, the wrappings, bottles and tins left over are usually discarded – not in the bins provided, but dropped on the streets.

Over the past few weeks I have sent a letter and two emails to Hawick High School, inviting the rector to join me on a walk round the town to see this problem first hand. I have not received a reply.

I am aware the school has taken measures to address the litter problem, but have seen no real progress.

I have recently become a member of Hawick Community Council and intend to use that forum to ask questions and to try and deal with this most serious problem.

Mark G. Kettrick

Hawick

DEBT

A price

worth paying?

On reading last week’s article headed “Council defends £21m interest repayments”, I learn that our local authority considers its current outstanding debt of £195million – paid for by a £21million annual loan charges budget – is “affordable”.

As one of the hard-pressed council tax payers providing the cash which helps service that debt, I beg to differ.

Of course everything in life is affordable if you can pay for it with other people’s money. But that £21.3million pot to cover interest and the principal on capital debt works out at £58,356 per day, while the council’s actual repayments made in 2011/12 (£12.679million) are equivalent to £34,736

per day.

The UK’s local government debt mountain has continued to grow at an alarming rate, even during the long years of recession and austerity which have followed the great crash of 2007/2008. The point has surely been reached when these multi-billion-pound debts will never be paid off.

Outstanding sums owed by public bodies across the country to the Government’s Public Works Loans Board (PWLB) in 2012 totalled £62.6billion, compared with £53.6billion in 2011. The Scottish totals were £8.403billion and £7.953billion respectively.

According to statistics recently made available by the Scottish Government, the 32 local authorities north of the border between them spent just over £592million on statutory repayment of debt in 2011/12.

Both nationally and locally these frighteningly impressive levels of expenditure could be put to much better use by supporting services which have had to be cut to make the debts “affordable” in the first place. Yet it appears those in charge of delivering local services are prepared to defend annual spending of £592 million just to keep Scotland’s local authorities from going bankrupt.

Is this a price worth paying?

Bill Chisholm

Jedburgh

CLOSE CALL

Society seeks your views

As part of the process of re-paving Kelso’s Bridge Street under the Townscape Heritage Initiative, it was suggested that stones could be inset into the paving to indicate the names of the closes running between Bridge Street and Abbey Row.

However, no one seemed to be sure what the names should be.

Kelso and District Amenity Society was approached to look into this and come up with ideas.

Our researchers have failed to discover any firm evidence of old names, but have made the following suggestions – Spread Eagle Wynd or Close, Jock the Box Close, King David’s Lane and Kirkyard 
Close.

These ideas have been taken to the stakeholders’ group which liaises with Scottish Borders Council on the town centre developments.

It was suggested that, before a final decision was made, we ask the people of Kelso for their views and would be delighted to hear from anyone with information or ideas.

Kathleen Binnie

(secretary,

Kelso and District

Amenity Society)

Cairnbank

Sprouston Road

Kelso

(email:

kbinnie@onetel.com)