Independence letters

Not the time or place, your lairdship

The use of the Braw Lads’ Gathering by James Pringle, Laird of Torwoodlee, to advance his personal opinion on the independence debate is an absolute disgrace.

He was host to visitors who came to celebrate the very best of Galashiels and he subjected them to a one-sided diatribe which they may or may not have agreed with, but had to listen to.

The implication that the Gathering could be cancelled if the vote does not go the way he wants is mind-boggling.

Here in the Borders we take our traditions and culture seriously. But the days of touching our forelocks to hereditary lairds and following their dictates are long gone.

The Gala Day celebrations will continue, regardless of his unfortunate and intemperate speech. No matter what opinions were held by the official party visiting Torwoodlee, it was neither the time nor the place to lecture guests on personally-held views on the referendum.

Derek Philips


A borderline case from 2021

It was September 18, 2021, on the Scots-English border at Carter Bar.

An official in the uniform of Borders Police Scotland (Bopos) waved my car into the customs area. He snapped his fingers, pointing to where I had to park. Even after just two years of the new Scottish state, the Bopos were known for their arrogance. I tried to keep my feelings under control as I looked at the man’s uniform.

On his peaked cap was the motif of crossed swords over thistle, and on the upper sleeve were shoulder flashes showing a black lightning bolt over the Saltire.

“Cut the engine. Where have you been? Where are you going? Anything to declare?” he demanded. There was no “Sir”. The accent was Glesca, the tone sharp.

“Carlisle. Oxton. Nothing at all, officer,’’ I replied, glancing at the CCTV cameras and the high-spiked fencing.

“Oxton – never heard of it. I’ll just give you the once-over anyway,’’ he replied, motioning to a colleague who was armed with a holstered handgun. They opened the tailgate and rummaged among the luggage.

How much had changed in just a few years, I thought. From the democratic system of accountability of the local bobbies of Lothian and Borders Police to an armed centralised force under a Chief-of-Police. And now border guards!

My reverie was abruptly halted by a triumphant cry as one of the Bopos pulled out a bottle of Talisker from the boot. My heart sank – I’d forgotten all about it. I waited for the inevitable.

“Avoiding Scottish import duty is a serious offence! We’re cracking down on unhealthy lifestyles anyhow. How much did that bottle cost you in Carlisle?’’

“Thirty-nine pounds. I’m sorry, officer.”

“Well that’s £339 now – you know importing whisky into Scotland is strictly controlled.How do you want to pay? In euros or Scots pounds?”

I suddenly felt cold in the rising wind, and looking to the east I could see another of the border watchtowers under construction.

William Loneskie