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Melrose Xmas lights 2016
Melrose Xmas lights 2016
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Curtis Welsh took this long and seasonal exposure image of Melrose’s Christmas lights. Please email photographic contributions, with a brief caption, to southern-letters@jpress.co.uk

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

POINTING FINGER AT MANKIND

I cannot let Bill Quarry’s dismal article on Tweed salmon management, which appeared in your November 24 issue, pass without comment.

Salmon were wiped out in many rivers by pollution. These local extinctions took off in the 18th century and proceeded apace during the industrial revolution.

The recent collapse of remaining salmon populations such as that in the Tweed is easily explained by industrial fishing at sea (of both salmon and their prey species) and modern methods of industrial farming and forestry.

The enormous volume of silt running off autumn-ploughed riverside fields is a serious problem, as is the abstraction of river water during times of drought, when the river eco-system is already under severe stress. Not only do silt and oxygen depletion kill salmon and their eggs directly, they also devastate the invertebrates upon which the food-chain depends.

Climate change is also having an effect as salmon, along with some of their prey species, can only breed in waters that fall within a very narrow temperature range.

Mr Quarry is clearly obsessed with predators.

He arrives at a figure of 600,000 Tweed salmon eaten every year by 10,000 seals. The number of seals active in a 25-mile quadrant north-east of the Tweed estuary, the area through which the Tweed salmon are likely to migrate, possibly approaches 1,000. Mr Quarry’s 25-mile radius includes the Farne Islands’ seal colony which lies to the south of the migration route.

Accepting Mr Quarry’s unsubstantiated claim that 20% of the seals’ 5kg-per-day diet is salmon, but factoring in that the salmon run is seasonal – let’s say they are running for 20% of the year – the calculation of 1,000 seals x 1 kg x 73 days = 73,000 kg of salmon can be made. Using Mr Quarry’s implied average weight of 6kg, this equates to approximately 12,000 salmon – so his 600,000 adult spawning salmon is reduced to 12,000, but let’s not stop there.

On what basis does he claim all salmon in his 25-mile radius for the Tweed? Most salmon migrating to rivers further south will run the gauntlet of the dreaded seal, through these waters.

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that one in six salmon were destined for English rivers. Mr Quarry’s 600,000 have been more than decimated, they have been reduced to a likely maximum of 10,000.

Mr Quarry is at it again with the fish-eating birds. There are 1,000 of them and they each eat 10 fish a day, he claims.

Actually, it all depends on size. One substantial eel, for example, or a brace of plump grayling, 20 miller’s thumbs maybe and, yes, trout, parr and smoult.

Mr Quarry’s figures tell us each bird accounts for at least eight salmonoids a day – an unsubstantiated claim made in the full knowledge that “salmonoids” includes trout and also grayling, a fish that has in the past been treated as “vermin” by the game-fishing fraternity.

To sum up, mankind – that’s you, dear reader, and me and all the rest of them – will be responsible for the extinction of the Atlantic salmon as a wild animal before the end of this century, not the innocent predators with which it co-evolved over millions of years. In fact, the pressures of the natural environment and competing species contained within it produced the Atlantic salmon as we know it.

Put simply, without its predators, there would be no salmon.

Who are we to choose which species to eliminate in a vain attempt to save a “game” species, a commercial asset, which is merely one of tens of thousands of species we are driving to extinction as we do our best to destroy the very biosphere upon which our own survival as a species depends?

Christopher Green

Eckford Hall Farmhouse

Kelso

TELLING ONLY HALF THE STORY

Clark Cross (letters, December 8) is correct in reporting that NASA has observed an increase in Antarctic ice over the period 1992-2008, resulting from a long-term increase in snowfall over the last 10,000 years.

Unfortunately, he only tells half of the story.

The same report states that the rate at which the ice is melting is also on the increase. As a result, “if the losses (of ice) from the Antarctic Peninsula and parts of West Antarctica continue to increase at the same rate they’ve been increasing for the last two decades, the losses will catch up with the long-term gain in East Antarctica in 20 or 30 years”.

In other words, the 10,000-year trend of increasing ice in Antarctica will be reversed, and it will start to decrease. This is already happening in Greenland, where the ice sheet lost one trillion tonnes of ice between 2011 and 2014, and nine trillion over the last century. The effects of global overheating can also be clearly seen in the, frankly horrifying, loss of Arctic sea ice.

The facts are stark: research shows that the CO2 level in the atmosphere is increasing steadily, that average global temperature is rising, Arctic sea-ice cover is reducing and sea levels are rising. These are all related and will continue to a disastrous conclusion for humanity unless we dramatically reduce our burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – within the next decade or so.

That will require a rapid shift to renewable energy sources right across the globe. Countries like China, Scotland, Cost Rica and, yes, even the USA are showing the way. Other changes, including moving towards low-carbon transport, and improving energy efficiency in homes and industry will also contribute.

These changes are already under way, led by governments and forward-looking industries, and must be supported by us all. There is no use burying our heads in the sand, believing half-truths and pretending that all is well.

Mr Cross would do better to direct his extensive letter-writing capabilities towards our politicians, encouraging them to take increasingly-ambitious steps to combat climate change, rather than undermining their efforts with partial information.

David Bethune

Marion Crescent

Selkirk

TOO MUCH DOOM AND GLOOM, CALUM

We could all do with some good news and it was abundant in last week’s Southern Reporter.

The announcement from Scotrail that an extra 4,000 seats will be made available on the Borders Railway championed the front page, followed by a statement from Eildon Housing Association that more affordable homes are going to be built in the Borders.

Further good news followed with the completion of Selkirk’s £31.4m flood-protection scheme and a pledge of a further £29.2m for the scheme in Hawick.

However, the icing on the cake had to be the news that Jedforest BV has been granted permission to build a new £40m brewery, creating 50 jobs and boosting future tourism.

On a personal note the strong dollar since Brexit has almost trebled the turnover of my small business, allowing us a competitive edge to export to 15 different countries, and we have just signed a distribution agreement with a company in France to handle all our sales in mainland Europe.

What I could really do without is reading Borders MP Calum Kerr’s continual whining about austerity and doom and gloom. Perhaps he should get off his backside and start talking to some real people, rather than cocoon himself in his party politics.

The Borders is a great place to live and offers fabulous opportunities to new and existing businesses.

If Mr Kerr has nothing positive to say, I propose he should say nothing at all.

Mick Bell

Market Place

Selkirk

NO ONE SHOULD BE ALONE

I write to welcome Age Scotland’s newly-launched campaign, ‘No one should have no one at Christmas’.

With figures outlining that more than 50,000 older Scots will spend Christmas alone, it is welcome news that the Scottish government has also announced a national strategy to tackle loneliness.

Loneliness is an issue all-year round and our team of dedicated volunteers ensure more than 1,000 of those aged 75 and over who live alone enjoy social contact at least once a month through our much-loved and treasured free tea parties.

The figures from Age Scotland highlight once again there is much more potential to expand our tea parties in Scotland and this is something we are working very hard to do that. To make that happen we need to identify and reach out to those living alone, and we would once again like to encourage the public and other agencies to help us find these people.

We also need more volunteers to offer just a little bit of time once a month.

Morna O’May

(head of service – Scotland)

Contact the Elderly

FAILING OVER DEVOLVED POWERS

My perception of regular contributor Eric Falconer is of a man combining the literacy of Sir Walter Scott, and the facts and figures of Einstein.

He is also able to express his views without the rabid aggression usually associated with nationalism. This combination usually makes for interesting reading, even though I have to admit many of his theories go over my “heid”.

So to his letter published last week in which he highlighted his perceived view of Westminster’s mismanagement of Scottish affairs.

This assumption rather perplexed me as I’m convinced that many years ago, at huge cost, a large ugly building was constructed in Edinburgh to house the devolved Scottish Parliament. This, I’m sure, still operates today and is led by a wee woman who travels the world, collecting air miles

Also, I’m led to believe this institution was given the mandate to oversee our taxation, police, NHS, education and virtually every other facet of life in north of the border.

If the Scottish government is not capable of carrying out this task, which is becoming abundantly clear, I fail to comprehend how Westminster can be at fault.

I await a complex explanation.

Mr G. Holford

Hawick

MOVING AGAINST THE MONARCHY

The 79 Group (formed in 1979) wanted to set up a Scottish socialist republic. The removal of the Queen as Scotland’s head of state was one of its founding principles.

The group has strong links with Irish republican party Sinn Fein and was invited to the Scottish Assembly.

Alex Salmond was main spokesman for publicity at the time and sought great militancy, including civil disobedience. In 2014, Kenny MacAskill (then justice minister) suggested there could be a referendum on scrapping the monarchy if Scots voted Yes in the independence referendum. To this day First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has always avoided, when requested, to deny a republican Scotland.

Paul Singleton

Gordon

PUTTING UK BREAK-UP FIRST

Are the European Greens so bereft of talent that they’re obliged to ask the leader of an opposing political party – Nicola Sturgeon – to speak at their recent Glasgow conference?

Ms Sturgeon supports Heathrow expansion and intends to slash Air Passenger Duty to increase flights into Scottish airports – both significant environmentally-damaging initiatives.

The Greens endorse First Minister Sturgeon’s independence agenda, yet if oil prices hadn’t collapsed, she would still be weaving a narrative of an independent Scotland on the back of a North Sea fossil fuel economy.

Or is the reality that, for European Greens, environmental concern now plays a poor second fiddle to breaking up the United Kingdom?

Martin Redfern

Edinburgh

PUPPIES FOUND ALIVE AND WELL

Our two Cairn Terrier Cross Miniature Poodle puppies went missing from their home in Kelso on the morning of Thursday, December 8 – and after 51 torturing hours were found alive and well.

The support from everyone was overwhelming, with hordes of people searching.

The heart-breaking story of the puppies’ disappearance was ‘shared’ by more than 132,500 people on the Berwick Animal Rescue Kennels Facebook page alone.

Everyone has been so wonderful and we cannot thank them enough, especially Lynn who found the puppies.

Nicky and Michael Taylor