Ian Abernethy supplied this image of the old lint mill bridge at Ancrum.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
TIME TO FACE UP TO EVERYDAY ISSUES
With all the fuss created by Brexit and Donald Trump over the last few weeks, I am sure our leaders in Holyrood are rubbing their hands with glee.
Why? The reason is that it detracts from problems people are facing every day.
My list starts with social housing rent – now more than eight times what it was during the 1980s. The tenant has nothing to show for it – unable to sell and make any profit. Without a cap being imposed, these rents will continue to rise, pushing even more into poverty. No matter that a house may be old and damp, the rent is worked out on how many bedrooms a property has and property market values for that area.
These rents need to be capped with immediate effect, and each property needs an independent, thorough inspection.
The same is happening with private accommodation. Rent in this sector also needs to be capped with immediate effect, and the Scottish Government needs to scrutinise both private lets and housing association properties, with rents reduced accordingly.
The abolition of the bedroom tax proposed by the Scottish Government is well overdue and will be welcomed by many tenants. Hopefully, it is not replaced by another tax, but I remain sceptical.
Old houses cost more to heat, pushing people into fuel poverty and, along with job losses and benefit sanctions, forcing some to use food banks.
Our public services are being cut, with more cuts to come this year.
In the lesser-used areas of the Borders (unless a person happens to live there), the state of the roads are bad, with cracks and potholes, and a lack of road painting. Council fences look ‘tired’ and neglected, again through lack of proper funding. The days when a road cleaner come round with his sweeping brush and barrow are very much missed.
I heard on local radio that the Galashiels job centre is moving to High Street premises currently occupied by Dorothy Perkins and Burtons. This will look nice – just down the road from the proposed Great Tapestry of Scotland site! A person will be able to sign on, then nip across to view the tapestry (which, by the way, deserved a place in Edinburgh Castle), presuming a jobseeker can view it for free.
I also heard on the radio that in Scotland the “boom” in living standards was over. For most ordinary Scottish people, they probably did not notice the “boom” had even arrived.
Please, Scottish Government, get involved in everyday living standards. Please stop talking about building “affordable” housing, please not another independence referendum and please not whether the Borders should or should not have superfast broadband. By next year I will be seriously having to rethink whether to keep the superslow broadband at all because I would rather be warm and have food on the table.
I end with a poignant quote from sun-gazing.com: “We were all humans until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us and wealth classified us.”
TAKING AIM AT ROD FISHING INTERESTS
I was interested in the letter from Miles Browne in last week’s edition, in which he links the huge increase in seal numbers with the drastic decline in wild salmon stocks – and, of course, he is quite right.
A recent programme on Border Television highlighted the thousands of seals that now live on the more inaccessible part of the Berwickshire coast, where a few years before there were none.
Back in the 1970s I was involved in talks trying to avert the closure of the small salmon netting stations which operated a few miles apart, all round the Scottish coast. The situation was that the proprietors of the lucrative rod fishing beats on the rivers wanted to put those coastal stations out of business because they believed that this would increase the numbers of salmon being caught on the rivers and so substantially increase their profits.
It is a matter of history that they succeeded in firstly closing those coastal netting stations and then they and their cronies in the House of Lords managed to close the river netting stations also.
But instead of leading to an increase of salmon numbers caught by rods on the river, the rule of unintended consequences kicked in and the salmon numbers caught on the rivers declined even faster. This was because in those practical and primitive circumstances which prevailed in rural Scotland 40 or 50 years ago, almost every coastal netting station had an old .303 rifle and practically every seal that showed its nose on the beat was shot as a matter of routine.
When the greedy rod fishing interests put those hard-working and closely-regulated coastal netting stations out of business, that intensive and largely-unnoticed cull of seal numbers ceased and the whole balance of nature along our coast has been changing irreversibly ever since.
No longer regulated, the seals have been multiplying year-on-year for almost half of a century, so that now they are not only decimating the wild salmon stocks, but their voracious appetites are destroying the smaller fish that whole colonies of sea birds have always depended on.
Every time I read of the rod fishing interests blaming fish farms and everything else under the sun for the drastic decline in salmon numbers, I hear a murmured chorus of long-dead salmon netsmen in the back of my head saying: “Hell mend ye.”
HARASSED BY NOCTURNAL HUNTS
Living as I do in a rural area, I accept that I will inevitably come across men (mostly) roaming around with loaded guns, either on organised shoots or lamping foxes and deer.
However, I would like to know what the policy is for informing people who live in close proximity to these shooting destinations.
I am asking because we have shoots and lamping on a regular basis just yards from our home, and not once has anyone knocked on our door, or put a note through our letter box, to tell us what is happening.
If we were informed just a bit in advance, then we could go out for the day or, as in the case of lamping, be prepared and keep our animals in.
It is lamping which has caused us most distress over the years. I have lost count as to the number of times I have been woken up in the dead of night, heart pounding, to the sound of shots going off so close to the house that the windows rattle, along with my nerves. As well as the shots, lights have been shone directly in through our windows – including the bedroom – which I must say is just plain rude.
I understand that hunting and shooting is an integral way of life in the Borders, and although I don’t agree with everything that goes on, I believe in treating people with respect.
Perhaps next shooting season myself and others affected will be afforded the same.
YES, IT’S A CASE OF HEART OVER LOGIC
Your letters pages last week made interesting reading.
Firstly, Richard Walthew said there apppeared to be three distinctive groups involved in the independence debate.
I feature in his first group, being never to vote for “a self- sufficient Scotland, no matter how convincing evidence of the wealthy country it would be”.
This assumption was made on the same day that the GMB union warned that Scotland is on the brink of an economic and employment crisis, going on to predict 160,000 job losses, chronic manufacturing decline and biting austerity. This prediction, coming from an organisation which hates the Tories probably as much as the SNP does, must have some substance.
So I request Mr Walthew to highlight his “convincing” evidence to the contrary.
The second group are “people who have placed hope above fear, have studied the assets which Scotland has, which will ensure a prosperous future in an independent country”. This epitomises the stereotype Yes voter, ignoring logic and voting with their heart.
The third group are depicted as the undecided, who, in his mind, are moving towards a Yes vote.
I beg to differ. Why would anyone vote Yes, unless they vote with their heart?
We would lose the Barnett formula, which has given us more income per household than any other UK country. Also, we would be in limbo outside the EU, with little chance of joining, even if it doesn’t implode after the UK escapes.
Where would we get the money to fund the SNP’S giveaways? Alex Salmond intimated during the 2014 referendum that welfare benefits could increase after a Yes vote – if benefits were likely to be squeezed, I’m sure voters in inner-city Glasgow and Dundee would soon change their minds.
All these facts would lead to an increase in the No vote.
The majority of the electorate know that whatever powers Westminster allocates to the SNP, it will never be accepted as enough, so the nationalists’ posturing is becoming embarrassing. For the sake of Scotland’s future, it’s time they acted like grown-up politicians and ran the country as best they can, considering their limited comprehension of what it entails.
Secondly, our local MP, Calum Kerr, had his usual pop at the “Daft Tories”.
In this enlightening article, he, as usual, cast doom and gloom on any proposal presented by the Westminster Government.
One gem was that Brexit is about breaking links we’ve enjoyed for decades. Obviously, independence from England is classed differently.
But his total dislike of the Tories might not be self-serving if he wants to retain his lifestyle in Westminster.
His election was basically unforseen. The local Lib Dems, unlike the rest of the country, were loyal to a well-liked MP, Michael Moore, giving him a sizeable vote. Conservative John Lamont also received a sizeable vote and, obviously, Calum Kerr a slightly more sizeable vote.
The result was a shock, but rectified at the Scottish Parliament elections when Paul Wheelhouse tried to emulate his success. The Lib Dems decided that voting Tory was preferential to having another SNP zealot – and Mr Lamont won with an increased majority.
So if, which appears likely, Mr Kerr becomes a one-trick pony, his best chance of holding onto the champagne lifestyle could be to reinvent himself as a True Blue.
SHAMBOLIC STATE OF AFFAIRS AT BGH
During the last 15 months I have had to visit, on a regular basis, St John’s Hospital in Livingston, the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh and Borders General Hospital, and have and have had very different experiences with regard to car parking.
At St John’s there is a dedicated parking area free of charge for anyone with an appointment, at the Royal Infirmary you have to pay, but so far I have always found a space, while at Borders General you just cannot get parked at all.
I have arrived just before 9am to find all of the car parks full, including the one at the cricket pitch, so who are all of these people at that time as they are certainly not visitors? And after that time it is just hopeless.
On my last two visits I have had to park outwith the hospital grounds on a muddy verge and then walk in, and the time before that I parked in a car park – not in a bay, but not obstructing anyone – and came back to a ticket on my windscreen for £90.
There is also the problem of air pollution as any time you are in the car parks there are several vehicles driving around in low gears looking desperately for spaces that are not there.
As for the residents of Darnick, they must despair as the village is full of parked cars all day on a road not suitable for this purpose. Also, what must it do for the value of their houses? – not much, I suspect.
Perhaps an answer would be to charge for parking which would probably free spaces, though it is a sad state of affairs if you have to pay to attend a hospital, either as a patient or visitor.
I have no idea who the councillor is for this area, but it is high time something was done to create more parking spaces – a far more important task than supporting the exorbitant cost of housing the Great Tapestry of Scotland in the Borders.
Finally, last month I witnessed an elderly man with his wife in a wheelchair having to walk from outside the hospital grounds as he could not get parked in any of the car parks – what an absolute shambles.
MOVE WOULD SAVE US MILLIONS
With the Department for Work and Pensions moving out of New Reiver House in Galashiels, is it not worth looking at that as a location for the Great Tapestry of Scotland?
There’s plenty of parking and it’s a town-centre site, close to the railway station. Plus it would save us – the local public – millions of pounds.
Thomas R. Beattie
CHANGE OF AGM VENUE
The Berwick branch of the KOSB Association has had to change the venue for its AGM.
It will now be held in the KOSB Association headquarters, The Barracks, Berwick, at noon on Saturday, February 18.