Borders freelance photographer Stuart Cobley snapped this image of St Mary’s Church in Hawick.
photographic contributions, with a brief caption, to firstname.lastname@example.org
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
IT’S FOR THE SCOTS TO DECIDE
I assume from Paul Singleton’s letter last week that although he does not actually say so, he supports the political status quo in this country, with the Queen as Scotland’s head of state.
If that is indeed his view and clear vision for the future, it is one of several valid competing possibilities which will be settled in due course by democratic process.
My own view is straightforward enough.
I think Scotland should have its own head of state and government. Whether our head of state is a constitutional queen, king, president, arch-duke or whatever, is up to the Scottish people in all their creative diversity to decide.
The important thing is that they are based in Edinburgh as permanent symbols of Scotland’s status as an ancient and independent nation.
It is intolerable that Scotland is ruled not only politically, but also symbolically, from the capital of a larger neighbouring country, no matter how friendly.
VILLAGE FOR THE HOMELESS
This letter is an appeal to all your readers who have a heart and concern for anyone less fortunate than themselves.
So I suggest that any ardent supporters of the current Westminster government should stop reading now.
At this time of year there are many calls on our charity, from desperate refugees fleeing Syria to Berwickshire families relying on foodbanks to survive.
There is a business-cum-charity based in Scotland which I believe is well worthy of our support – Social Bite has cafes in large towns, and they not only plough all profits into good causes, but also employ homeless people, giving them a sense of purpose and self-worth once again.
Now if any hard Conservatives have read this far, I imagine they are rolling their eyes and denouncing another leftie bleating about people who are just skivers and scroungers.
Homelessness can befall anyone for a variety of unforeseen reasons – redundancy, divorce, mental illness, eviction, or even working people simply not being paid a living wage.
This year Social Bite want to go a step further – they hope to raise £500,000 to create a village for homeless people. Having a secure roof to sleep under is often the first step on the road to becoming a confident member of the community again.
The project already has some high-profile supporters, but you also can help. If you would like to donate or learn more about the organisation, go to www.socialbite.co.uk.
And by the way, I am generalising with my political comments above, because I know there are many Conservatives who do give to charities.
POLL POSITION QUESTIONED
MSP John Lamont refers to “recent polling” in his column of December 15, although he does not reveal which recent polls he is referring to.
I have had a good search online and can find no recent polls which present the results he quotes.
The last YouGov poll on these issues was published on September 1 and presents rather different findings.
Mr Lamont suggests: “Fewer than one-in-three Scots support a second independence referendum anytime soon.”
The question posed in the YouGov poll was: “Would you support or oppose holding another Scottish independence referendum before the UK leaves the EU?”
I trust Mr Lamont will be able to tell us which poll posed the question he quotes.
Mr Lamont also cites polling revealing “a greater shift of people moving away from supporting independence in the light of the Brexit vote”.
The September YouGov survey polled 1,039 adults, of whom 430 voted Yes in the 2014 independence referendum and 526 voted No.
The YouGov poll asked them: “If there was a referendum tomorrow on Scotland’s future and this was the question, how would you vote? Should Scotland be an independent country?”
Excluding Don’t Knows and Wouldn’t Votes, 87 said they would still vote Yes and 11 previous Yes voters had changed to No. Seventy-nine No voters would still vote No and 12 previous No voters had changed to Yes.
Little evidence of a “a greater shift of people moving away from supporting independence” there.
But Mr Lamont’s claim that there is polling showing that Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson is now twice as popular as Nicola Sturgeon is of particular interest, as these results are frankly laughable.
Which poll was that I wonder? I trust Mr Lamont will clarify his source in his column soon.
SCOTLAND FARES MORE FAVOURABLY
It is interesting to note claims by the Scottish Conservatives and various commentators that Scotland will become the “highest taxed part of the UK” due to it not replicating the UK Treasury’s tax cut for higher earners.
This means that those taxpayers in this bracket will pay an extra £314 more than those in the rest of the UK.
It should be remembered, however, that this relates only to income tax and when it comes to other taxes Scotland fares considerably more favourably than the rest of the UK.
For example, average band D council tax in England is £1,530, compared with £1,149 north of the border. While the average water and sewerage charge in England is £389, in Scotland it is £351.
In addition to this, what tends to be forgotten are Tory “stealth tax” proposals, including prescription charges and university tuition fees. Prescription charges, currently £8.40 in England, are highly regressive and a tax on the sick, and the imposition of university fees of £6,000 would see a graduate on an average full-time salary paying 4p more in tax on every pound.
In Scotland, air passenger duty is also set to be cut by the end of this parliamentary term and business rates have also been cut.
The key issue here is not just to examine income tax alone, but to look at what impact the burden of all taxes is.
When one looks at the bigger picture it is clear that it is the Conservatives whose “stealth taxes” would become deeply damaging economically and it is more than little disingenuous to describe Scotland as the highest tax part of the United Kingdom.
CAN’T BE TRUSTED TO GOVERN
In 2007 the SNP came to power determined to show they could handle the responsibilities of government.
But after the last five years of the SNP government putting securing independence above all else, our public services have paid the cost.
From education to health, from police to transport there have been major problems, due to poorly-implemented reforms, ill-judged reorganisations or cuts in resources, leaving services incapable of properly meeting demand.
By the final weeks of 2016, with the latest reports of falls in education standards, the Scottish National Party government has proved it cannot be trusted to govern Scotland effectively.
FATHER OF THE MODERN BREED
Brilliant news about the Dandie Dinmont Discovery Centre opening next year in The Haining, Selkirk.
I’m sure it will create a lot of interest for the declining breed.
However, I was disappointed that my ancestor from my Telfer side, James Davidson, has not been given the recognition of being named father of the modern breed. James Davidson (alias Dandie Dinmont, 1764-1820), who lived at Hindlee Farm, Southdean, Roxburghshire, was the owner of Pepper and Mustard, characters in Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Guy Mannering.
SEXISM CHARGES OFTEN MISPLACED
Nicola Sturgeon’s thinly-veiled criticism of Donald Trump as an offender against gender equality was predictable.
The secular liberal moral lexicon is slim, so such charges of sexism are often misplaced.
It is not sexist for a man to make derogatory remarks about a woman’s appearance. It is rude, ungentlemanly and infantile.
It is not sexist to purport to use women for mere sexual gratification. It is a failure to observe the proper boundary of sexual expression: mutual, committed, exclusive, loving relationship.
It is not sexist to suggest that one’s power and influence render people unable to resist one’s sexual advances. It is selfish at least, abusive at worst.
If Mr Trump were gay and made such objectionable comments about men, what would that make him?
Homophobic? Anti-men? Sexist?
Progressives call Donald Trump “sexist” because they have devalued the currency of conventional sexual morality and are left with no charge to bring beyond their ubiquitous accusation of “sexism”.
STEPPING UP TO THE PLATE
In a bid to improve road safety, 95,000 camels in Iran have been given licence plates.
In view of the number of UK cyclists ignoring the Highway Code, causing accidents and riding off unidentified, should cyclists not also be fitted with licence plates?
I suppose this suggestion might give them the hump.
2016 is Cubs100, the centenary of the Cub Scout movement, and I was lucky and proud to be ambassador for their monumental birthday party held last Friday.
It’s been an incredible year, with trips, fundays and camp-outs.
For 100 years, Cub Scouts have been helping in their communities and this year was no different. Through our “A Million Hands” project, Cubs in the Borders have been helping to make their community a better place to live and work.
I also salute volunteers in this region for their dedication to giving Cubs the chance to experience big adventures and take part in activities that could be life-changing.
I would like to thank everyone who came along and supported the Christmas lights switch-on event in Selkirk.
It was a huge success and, hopefully, something we can build on for future years.
I would also like to thank everyone who baked, donated time as well as money, knitted, pom-pomed, went up a ladder, held a ladder, made refreshments, played an instrument, sang a song, played bingo, raced a duck and supported the Selkirk illuminations this year.
We will, of course, be looking for volunteers to help with the take-down on Sunday, January 8, at 10.30am in Market Place – anyone wishing to get involved, please come along. A public meeting will also be held later in January to discuss the 2017 fund-raising calander – again, anyone who would like to get involved, please get in touch.
SEEING THE WAY FORWARD
I am appalled to learn that the Scottish Parliament intends to spend nearly £2million on new light fittings to replace those scarcely 12 years old.
Surely in these days of economic austerity it would be prudent to source more affordable luminaires from the local branch of IKEA?
Or does SNP support for other nationalist movements mean that we must eschew durable Swedish design in favour of dearer inferior illumination from Catalonia?
I wonder if your readers can shed any light on this matter?
John Eoin Douglas
Older people’s charity, the Royal Voluntary Service, would like to say a huge thank you to players of People’s Postcode Lottery in Scotland for helping us to tackle loneliness and isolation this festive season.
It’s because of their support that we are able to offer Christmas lunches and events for older people, match up more Good Neighbours volunteers, run community transport schemes, and offer social activities such as dance clubs and craft groups.
Royal Voluntary Service