Playing politics with poverty

As Scotland’s only Conservative MP, David Mundell has no doubt developed a thick skin.

Yet he could be forgiven for feeling a little sore at people hurling abuse at him in the streets of Dumfries when all he was doing was showing support for the Trussel Trust’s latest foodbank opening.

He was taking the time to talk with and learn from those who deal with the issues of food poverty on a daily basis. He has done similar things for many years, of course, taking an interest in any private, public or third-sector initiative that is for the benefit of the people of his constituency.

But, as Scottish Secretary, it seems David Mundell is viewed as a target for those who want to play politics with poverty. Many of the protesters were nationalists and would no doubt have happily cheered First Minister Nicola Sturgeon if she had been there.

This is despite the fact that of the very substantial resources at the disposal of the Scottish Government over the course of the SNP’s eight years in office, no more than token amounts have been directed at overcoming poverty.

Instead, much of its budget is directed into populist and vote-winning universal benefits that give to those who can well afford to pay for themselves, as well as those who truly need help.

The nationalist activists barracking David Mundell on the streets of Dumfries were grandstanding, just as they see the leaders of the SNP Government and their MSPs and MPs doing on a daily basis, as they are always ready to pick up on an excuse for blaming someone else or creating an exaggerated sense of grievance against all who do not share their agenda.

Poverty is a complex and stubborn problem. Easing it requires determined government action, ideally with support from all parties, plus the efforts of charities and the public at large.

It does not help that process to play politics with the positive steps that individuals and organisations take to try to help, no matter who they are.

Keith Howell

West Linton

Union law

High on the Tory agenda

The proposed changes in trade union law will affect thousands of people in the Borders who work in health, transport and other vital services.

The plans would result in unions finding it difficult to take part in industrial strike action because a 50% ballot would be required. Members could be arrested for picketing and employers would be able to bring in agency staff to counter the strike.

The proposed changes are largely ludicrous and it’s clear that dismantling the unions is high on the Tory agenda.

Barrie Cunning

(secretary, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

constituency Labour party)


Different rules next time

If, as ex-SNP leader Alex Salmond says, there’s going to be another independence referendum, then its parameters must be quite different from that held less than a year ago.

The UK Government, expecting to win by a large margin, handed the SNP all it wanted as regards the timing of the plebiscite, the question and the democratic mandate to make it law.

Next time those parameters will be quite different. A simple majority of those voting for such monumental change cannot be considered to represent the democratic will because that could result in separation forced by a minority of the Scottish people. This is too big an issue to be decided by a few hundred votes. It is not a parliamentary election. It is totally different.

A majority of the electorate must be required for independence. Either that or the majority of those voting to effect change should be set at 60%.

Furthermore, all regions of Scotland must be required to vote in favour of separation before that could happen. It would be totally wrong for the electorate of the Borders and of Dumfries and Galloway to vote to remain part of Britain, but to be forced to leave the UK by the urban voters of Glasgow and Dundee, of whom they have little in common.

A precedent has already been set by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon demanding that in the EU referendum all the countries of the UK must vote to leave the EU before that can happen.

In addition, the questions of currency, EU membership and defence must be settled long before any referendum can be considered.

William Loneskie


Balanced approach

One of the things I enjoy about The Southern is the balanced way in which voices deferential to UK unionism vie regularly with calls for Scottish secession and independence.

As the Scottish debate evolves , it’s a pity the big daily papers don’t follow your lead sometimes.

Douglas Hunter



Antediluvian nonsense

I have, until now, found the farming and wildlife coverage of The Southern, through the regular columns of Corbie and Halidon, to be informative, trenchant, often gentle and sometimes entertaining. In short, a most pleasing little read.

Norman Latimer’s excellent letter (“Refugees need compassion”, Southern, July 23) focused my mind on the question of why Borderers are now subjected to the xenophobic, Anglocentric rantings of Carola Goodman Irvine? Perhaps her racist, outdated and bitter world view will find some resonance in the English Tory shires (where, I understand, she lives), but not here.

The week before last, it was refugees, last week it is a combination of the EU, Germans and Chinese who are to blame for all her ills and those of the farming world generally.

If I want to read this sort of twisted, spiteful intolerance, I can take the Daily Mail and be reminded which set of foreigners the establishment wants me to hate this week and why.

Can we please be spared any more of her thoroughly nasty antediluvian nonsense? I am sure she has a sufficient receptive audience down south, otherwise, as they say on the letters pages of Private Eye magazine, I may be forced to cancel my subscription.

Richard West

Inch Park


local press

Reporting the good and bad

I write to express my gratitude and admiration for the local press who bring up-to-date news on a weekly basis and report on the goings on within the council and politicians elected by Borderers.

It is always a treat to read local news without the bias shown in national papers. Their philosophy has always been “never let the truth get in the way of a good story”, whereas the local press have worked with the utmost integrity and impartiality, reporting on the good and bad.

As I am leaving the Borders after living here for the last 44 years of my life and moving to Blyth in Northumberland, I felt it proper to record my admiration for the local press before I go.

Reporting on issues where I was involved as a trade union official to get the “other point of view” across, to indulging me in your excellent letters column on a regular basis is appreciated, and shows democracy is alive and kicking for Borders people.

I would only hope that our electorate continue to challenge decisions that are not within the scope of natural justice or in our best interest, and keep drawing attention to these matters within the columns of your letters pages. It does no harm to keep them on their toes.

Rab Stewart

Roberts Avenue




off target

SNP health secretary Shona Robison informs us Scottish A&E department targets have been met.

This is undoubtedly a great tribute to hard-pressed teams in our hospitals.

But let us not forget the SNP reduced the target from 98 to 95% of patients being seen within four hours – and this has taken 100 weeks to achieve, plus it’s the holiday season when demand decreases. The 98% target hasn’t been reached for 300 weeks. It’s vital for all of us the SNP ensures staffing levels are appropriate before next winter.

The nationalists have been responsible for our NHS for eight years. There’s no blaming this one on Westminster.

Martin Redfern



Corporation cull overdue

The BBC has taken over responsibility for funding TV licences for the over-75s.

James Heath, the corporation’s director of policy, claimed that this move would “reduce the BBC’s income by £725million a year” and suggested that the over-75s might like to voluntarily pay for a licence to plug this hole.

The BBC is overstaffed and its highly-paid executives would never survive outside it. The BBC “stars” are paid more in a year than most people earn in a lifetime.

For years they and others have avoided tax, aided and abetted by the BBC, by having their fees put into limited companies which only pay corporation tax of 20%, instead of the highest personal rate.

A cull of personnel and programmes is long overdue.

Mr Heath, and those earning in excess of £100,000 a year, should lead by example and voluntarily reduce their salaries by at least 5%.

Clark Cross

Springfield Road



What about farm animals?

Another rally to ban fox-hunting, or at least not to relax the rules.

How these people can consider themselves animal lovers when they will have gone home to meals prepared from chicken, pigs or cattle, which have been kept in the most despicable, crowded conditions and never in their short lives seen any natural sunlight.

What is so special about the fox to these people when they ignore the ill-treatment of millions of farm animals.

William W. Scott

St Baldred’s Road

North Berwick

Charity shop

Margaret Kerr Unit cash

We, the undersigned trustees of Charity for Care, the shop in Bridge Street, Kelso, which was set up specifically to raise money for the Margaret Kerr Unit at Borders General Hospital, would like to thank the residents of Kelso and all other Borderers who have supported our shop in the last few months.

We are also most grateful to the 26 volunteers who have given so much of their time and energy to making the shop such a welcoming and attractive place for us to raise such good money.

Since we opened on February 2, we are pleased to be able to report that we have sent a total of £25,000 to the Margaret Kerr Unit. The money will go, via The Difference, the fundraising unit at the hospital, towards facilities to help families and friends of patients, coffee-making facilities, comfortable overnight beds in the rooms and other useful additions, which normal funding is not able to supply.

We trust that the Borders community will continue to support us in our endeavour to help the unit, which is and has been a haven for so many local people at such a difficult time of their lives.

Eilean Hogarth

Jim Mackie

Pam Newington

Greta Hall


Those who didn’t return

The Royal British Legion Scotland (RBLS) is planning a service to commemorate the ending of the war with Japan.

This will be held in the Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh, on August 15, commencing at 2pm.

The service will be followed by a reception at the City Chambers, hosted by the Lord Provost.

It is hoped that as many people who survived that conflict and who are holders of the Burma Star or Pacific Star, or their widows, or family descendants, will be able to attend and remember those who did not return.

Anyone wishing to attend is requested to contact either Helen Henderson (h.henderson@legionscotland.org.uk) or John Lau (j.lau@legionscotland.org.uk) by August 5 to obtain invitations.

Donald Stokes

(RBLS Border area secretary)


Heartfelt appeal

I am writing to ask you and your readers to join me in supporting the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) Schools events.

You can take part in physical activity that is fun, rewarding and heart healthy. The activities will raise money for your school, as well as contribute to life-saving research into heart disease.

I am urging schools in Scotland to take part in a sponsored Skipathon or game of Ultimate Dodgeball in aid of the fight against heart disease.

These events promote the importance of maintaining a healthy heart through regular exercise, while raising funds for the BHF’s life-saving work into the fight against heart disease. The scheme also allows schools and youth groups to keep 20% of the money they have raised, which they can put towards new equipment and resources to benefit their children.

Last year, BHF’s school events raised over an amazing £711,221. This year, we want to top this total – and with your help we can.

Heart and circulatory conditions are responsible for nearly 15,000 deaths in Scotland each year – that’s more than 40 people every single day.

We are asking people to sign up today and help the BHF continue to save lives.

To find out more and to sign-up, visit bhf.org.uk/schools-event.

Beth Tweddle

(Olympic gymnast)


Grateful chief steward

I would like to thank landowners, farmers, Police Scotland, BSARU, Galedin vets, stewards, supporters and all involved in the successful running of this year’s rideouts.

Dougie Veitch

(chief steward,

Kelso Civic Week)