Letters 9-5-13


Most popular candidate lost out

The result of the Leaderdale and Melrose by-election has highlighted a significant deficiency in the use of STV (Single Transferable Vote) in a single-vacancy election.

The Conservative candidate topped the poll, but when the losers were eliminated one by one, the Conservative was overtaken by the Borders Party who eventually won at the sixth stage. If an elector votes for a losing candidate, that elector then becomes entitled to cast a second vote, perhaps a third and so on. Is this democratic and equitable?

What must be particularly galling for the Conservative candidate is the fact that had this been the normal three-councillors- per-ward election rather than a single-vacancy by-election, she would have sailed home as the first candidate to be elected – indeed she was the only candidate who exceeded the quota at the first stage.

STV was brought into local government because it introduced an element of proportional representation. In this context it has some merit.

Where, however, it is used in a one-vacancy election it can result, as happened on this occasion, in the non-election of the most popular candidate and the election of a candidate who can only be described as the candidate least disapproved of by the electorate. This is somewhat negative and hardly a ringing endorsement of the ultimate winner.

Is it not time for the legislators to limit STV to multi-member wards, leaving first past the post as the optimum system for single vacancies?

David S. W. Williamson


No big party machine

I would like to thank those who voted for me in Thursday’s by-election, and I apologise to those electors who did not receive a copy of my election flyer.

Leaderdale and Melrose ward covers a vast area and UKIP does not have a large party machine behind it.

We have a talk this evening (May 9) given by leading economist Professor Tim Congdon at The Salmon Inn, Galashiels, at 7pm, followed by the inaugural meeting of UKIP Scottish Borders – please feel free to come along.

Sherry M. Fowler

Magdala Terrace



‘Better off’ Scots

In reply to Peter Heald (letters, May 2), I did not really pose the question: “What has money got to do with freedom?”

If Peter rereads my letter, he will see that this was a quote I used to explain my own sentiments. The originator of the quote made it long before European Unions or euros were ever thought of.

I believe in independence first and foremost – and I make no apology for that. I am also not as simple to think that we will go into an independent Scotland without the fiscal and currency situation sorted out.

The original “Jedburgh question” was posed by Leslie Rose in relation to the statement that in an independent Scotland we would be some £900 a year better off. Note the words “better off”. Leslie tried to be clever and ask some Yes campaigners in what currency the said sum would be paid, as if we would all to get a sporran full of money annually.

The pros and cons of the currency debate will go on for some time yet and I am sure a solution will be found before referendum day. If the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man muddle through with the pound, I’m sure we will as well.

One thing that will not change this Yes voter is the dire predictions of Bullingdon boys Cameron and Osbourne, and the constant stream of scare stories emanating from the BBC and their tame “experts”.

I seem to remember the same experts queuing up to tell us about the weapons of mass destruction. I do not remember them warning us about the financial meltdown which scuppered the countries mentioned by Peter Heald.

There are 320million people in 23 countries using the euro, Peter. A couple of them are in real trouble, but is the euro to blame? I think tax avoidance and naked greed has caused much of the chaos.

Over the years Scotland has produced many world-renowned economists and I’m sure that we will get things right and be that £900 “better off !”

Jim Gibson

Bleachfield Road



Non-pecuniary interest

Sherry M. Fowler, unsuccessful UKIP candidate in the Leaderdale and Melrose by-election, claimed in her letter last week that I was quite erroneous in my suggestion that she would have to declare an interest in wind farms if she joined the planning committee.

She stated: “I have no vested interest in wind farms, which is the vital point.”

Actually, the vital point is that members of the planning committee have to declare two kinds of interest – pecuniary and non-pecuniary. A pecuniary interest is a financial one, such as working for a wind farm company or one of its agents, owning shares in a wind farm company or one of its agents, owning the site of the proposed wind farm, having a household member with some kind of financial interest in the proposal etc.

I take it that this is what Ms Fowler means by a vested interest.

A non-pecuniary interest is one which a member of the public might reasonably consider would mean that a councillor could not give a planning application a fair, impartial and objective hearing.

It could in Ms Fowler’s case be membership of an organisation, pressure group or party which promotes or opposes a particular wind farm or wind farms in general.

In her letter to The Southern last week, which she signed as a UKIP member, she thanked me for highlighting “the fact that UKIP policy is for no more wind farms”.

If that’s not a non-pecuniary interest, I don’t know what is.

Jock Houston



Spending decisions

I think there are some seriously-misleading statements in your front-page story about rural schools (Southern, April 25).

Grant Aided Expenditure (GAE) is a mechanism used by the Scottish Government to help it distribute funding to local authorities. As such, it does not determine the level of provision in absolute terms, only in relative terms. Nor does it determine the council’s allocation of its funding – that is a decision for council members.

The total amount of funding being distributed will not change if GAE indicators vary. As such, GAE is independent of the spending decisions and policy choices of each local authority, and this is why the council does not take GAE into account when making its spending decisions. In essence, GAE is used to measure relative need, the council decides how to address that need.

To suggest that a particular school “brings in” a certain amount of GAE funding is absurd. The primary and secondary indicators influencing total GAE are many and varied, and change on an annual basis for each service and for each of the 32 Scottish local authorities.

Consequently, the ability of the council to influence GAE is very limited. At the end of the day, GAE is merely a mechanism which allows the Scottish Government to allocate a pre-defined level of national resource to local authorities based on measures of relative need and is independent of councillors’ spending decisions.

Patrick Fagan





I’m researching resistance units formed during the early days of the Second World War.

Using the purposely-vague name Auxiliary Units, this was actually a cover name for a resistance network that covered the whole of the UK.

Individuals were recruited locally by Regular Army intelligence officers and civilian group leaders who were given a local rank of captain or lieutenant and sworn to secrecy by the Official Secrets Act.

This was all conducted by word of mouth and potential individuals carefully vetted. Training consisted of weapon handling, night navigation and demolitions, as well as other skills associated with this clandestine type of warfare.

Three battalions were formed. One covered all of Scotland down into Northumberland. Most members were in a reserved occupation and came from a wide and varied background, mostly country folk that included farmers, estate workers, blacksmiths, ghillies and the odd poacher.

Operating from underground hides constructed in secrecy and known as Operational Bases (OBs), they would work in six or eight-man cells and were tasked with causing as much mayhem as possible to the movement of German occupation forces.

A Borders HQ was established at Monksford House stables and all patrols operating in this region were commanded by Major Peter Forbes.

If readers have information, photographs, anything, no matter how small or trivial, it could help in placing missing pieces of the jigsaw and build a picture of the units in Scotland. I would be grateful if they would get in touch with me.

David Blair

54 Younger Gardens

St Andrews

Fife KY16 8AB

(01334 470599/07731353871;



Democracy came first

The Reverend John Grover makes the following claims for Christianity in his letter of May 2:

z The Christian church is responsible for “our schools, hospices and hospitals, the abolition of slavery”;

z It is “as vital to education as science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship”;

z “Kindness, generosity, forgiveness, peace and love” are Christian virtues”;

z In the same vein he asks “where would our culture be without the ... gifts of Christian teaching?”

Reverend Grover seems to believe that his particular god and religion is responsible for all that is good in the world, to the exclusion of any other religions, or to the endeavours of mankind.

Democracy was developed in ancient Greece long before Christianity.

Having elected councillors manage our education service is in keeping with democratic principles. I hope these councillors will seek sound advice from specialists when necessary.

However, there should be no places reserved for religious proselytizers on the education committee. Similarly, there should be no places reserved in the House of Lords for the 26 bishops of the Church of England.

Christianity has been on decline since 1633 when the Roman Catholic Church imprisoned the astronomer Gallileo.

It’s time our political institutions caught up.

Alastair Lings



Information appeal

The large structure outside Kelso Town Hall is a combined table, seat and planter made of Scottish whinstone.

Discreetly placed above it, in the hall window, is an information panel headed “Proposed street furniture”. It includes an artist’s impression of the finished item with a wooden slatted seat, the name of the artist linked with the Kelso Town Centre Stakeholder Group, a date – March 2013 – and the initials S.B.C.

Presumably the idea is to replace the existing benches and planters in Kelso Square with a number of these. However, it is not clear if this item is the first of the design already decided upon or whether we, the general public, are being invited to comment upon the design?

I would assume the latter as the word “proposed” means “put forward for consideration”.

If that is the case then where is the information welcoming the views of Kelso folk, and to whom do they send their comments? There is no postal address, email address or phone number given?

Sarah Dixon



Wonderful BGH staff

We were amazed by the wonderful support offered by our friends in Lauder during and after John’s stay in Borders General Hospital for his hip operation.

We received so many phone calls and messages, and generous and thoughtful gifts – from shortbread to an ice loll! All this helped us through a worrying time.

John is now walking well without pain and looking forward to his 90th birthday.

Thank you also to the wonderful hospital staff who ensured his safe recovery.

Elsie and John Manson, and Helen Morton



May I thank everyone who supported the Poppy Scotland coffee morning in Denholm village hall on April 27 when £411 was raised.s

Myself and three other family members are walking the Caledonian Challenge next month and are aiming to raise £1,000 for Poppy Scotland.

Janet Ross


Melrose collection cash

We would like to thank the people of Melrose for their support of our recent house-to-house collection which raised more than £775.

Thanks are also due to those who helped with the collection. This will go towards the £27million needed each year to maintain research projects into arthritic conditions, of which £13million is spent in Scotland.

I. King

(secretary, Melrose branch, Arthritis Research UK)