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Curtis Welsh framed the much-photographed Jedburgh Abbey with the stone sculpture at the riverside.Please email photographs, with a brief caption, to [email protected]

Thursday, 12th March 2020, 4:29 pm
Jedburgh Abbey

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

REDUCE RENTS TO RAISE HALL USE

We are increasingly told that loneliness is reaching epidemic proportions in society and can be as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

We are also advised that happiness can be enhanced by social interactions, however brief.

Social events in the Borders used to include coffee mornings, held in public halls. In Melrose, for instance, there was one on most Saturdays over the winter in the Corn Exchange to raise funds for local charities. They were well supported by all age groups, from babies in buggies to the elderly who could meet new people, catch up with friends, buy books and baking etc., and feel better for the encounter.

They were a great social service, did not cost much to attend and benefited local causes.

Since Live Borders took over the management of the halls these events have all but stopped. Rents were raised which made it uneconomical for charities and other organisations to host events, fitness classes and meetings, and other hall users also moved to more affordable accommodation, or stopped altogether.

The Corn Exchange in Melrose is rarely used (yet still employs a caretaker). I don’t think it is the only public venue which is now underused.

As a positive social service, why not reduce rents to encourage groups to meet again, increasing community interaction and wellbeing, and providing income for Live Borders?

Mary Douglas

Galashiels

COUNTRY TOWN PUB’S DOWNFALL

Thank goodness there is at least one councillor representing the Royal and Ancient Burgh of Selkirk who actually cares about her home town and the total neglect that we have endured over decades as far as our heritage, traditions and very existence are concerned.

Caroline Penman is very much the new kid on the block, and her decision to abstain from voting for either of the two proposals for Scottish Borders Council’s spending plans would be enough for her to win plaudits from fellow Souters. But to also stand up and be counted for the extraordinary decision to demolish the historic Cross Keys Inn in Market Place without any plans to replace it is in itself a bold and first sensible decision in this town for decades.

The Cross Keys was a well-run and profitable pub when it was privately owned, and that success was surely what made it a target for international property speculators like Pubmaster and Punch Taverns who bought it. It was that which caused the Cross Keys to – like its near neighbour, the equally-historical Queen’s Head Inn in West Port – fail miserably because the business plan of these banking groups was not best fitted for a small country town.

However, Scottish Borders Council and its predecessors had a huge part to play in the downfall and destruction of the Cross Keys which was frequented by Sir Walter Scott, Roger Quin, who wrote a lengthy poem about its charms, and generations of Souters.

Which local authority gave planning permission to take off the pitch roof and replace it with an 18-inch deep concrete monstrosity which was far too heavy for hot lime mortar walls which the building was erected with.

That extra weight caused huge strains on the outside walls, but then Pubmaster (or was it Punch Taverns?) was given permission by Scottish Borders Council around 2012 to “improve” the building.

That involved taking away the bow-fronted and stained-glass windows which gave the pub some character. They also allowed inside walls to be moved or removed.

Where were the planners? What happened to the clerk of works who used to be in charge of these jobs and who could have seen at a glance that what they were witnessing was simply destruction?

The Cross Keys building is a key part of Selkirk’s heritage, but it is also a key part in its infrastructure. There is a veritable labyrinth of tunnels underneath Selkirk, some of which may go back to the time of the first Kirk o’ Forest in the 12th century, or maybe even before. These are replicated elsewhere in Scotland and across the British Isles, and have been turned into a major tourist attraction.

Here in the Borders, history seems to count for nought and the present local authority would rather flatten everything and build concrete monstrosities in their place ... if they build anything.

More likely councillors would simply knock down this historic and well-used pub and leave a gap over what is supposed to be conservation area.

Worse than that though is the realisation that most of these “experts” at Newtown St Boswells have no idea whatsoever that these tunnels (or maybe even an earlier version of Selkirk) are over 30ft deep and the one which runs west to east along the south side of Market Place and High Street is certainly of that depth.

What happens if these people are actually going to knock down the Cross Keys without any proper and widespread investigation about the tunnels and walkways which are there? As the Cross Keys seems to have been the nerve centre of these walkways long before the town hall was built to replace the tollbooth some yards to the north, what are the implications?

There is every cause to worry that once the JCB digger takes out the Cross Keys, the town hall, which we are supposed to call Sir Walter Scott’s Courtroom, will simply fall into the void left by the demolition.

Who is going to pay for that? And who is going to pay back Selkirk Common Good Fund the £19,000 it was forced to hand over to complete the masonry work on the steeple as the costs for repair had been “underestimated”?

And as Councillor Penman points out, who is going to come up with plans to fill the gap, hopefully with a rebuilt pub which Selkirk needs more than just another committee room, run not by the council, but by a private company?

Remember all the red herrings about “dry rot” being the cause of the neglect? Who sanctioned the purchase of the building by this dreadful un-local authority, and who in their midst would not know that the centre of Selkirk, along The Water Row, has suffered dry rot since floors were built during the early 1900s without proper ventilation?

W. Kenneth Gunn

Selkirk

‘COMPENSATION’ CHALLENGE

I see that Lynne Craighead, coordinator for the Borders WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) women, has broken cover (letters, March 5).

It’s noticeable she and her sidekicks are still campaigning earnestly, albeit so far unsuccessfully.

Jeremy Corbyn tried to vote-catch late last year by saying a Labour government would “compensate” the WASPIs – but it didn’t garner him many extra votes, if any at all.

I recall him once before trying to garner votes by promising he’d write off student debt, to only after he wasn’t elected to Downing Street to claim he didn’t say such. I think the “compensation” would have fallen into the same category.

It’s a fact that most women born in the 1950s like myself (June 1953) don’t see any issue re pension inequality, and they, like myself, see the process the WASPIs are so against as being another one of equalisation with men. It was always men having to wait five years longer to retire that was in fact the issue.

I understand economics, having studied such via the Open University, and working out any form of “compensation” would be highly complicated and could take 10 years to produce a formula in the event such “compensation” is deemed necessary.

I challenge Lynne Craighead to tell us what the five most important pieces of criteria would be in assessing “compansation”.

Sally Mannison

Ladhope Drive

Galashiels

SAFETY FIRST SAVES LIVES ON OUR ROADS

You last week reported on another two tragic fatalities on Borders roads.

That should make us more safety conscious behind the wheel. We should follow road safety guidance which includes speed awareness, leaving a good distance between vehicles, anticipating the road ahead and being prepared for road hazards.

I never cease to wonder why motorists seem to think that because the speed limit on the A68 is 60mph they should regard that as a target to be met or exceeded. 60mph is 88ft per second. Queues of speeding cars tailgating one another are commonplace. Do drivers have time to react when the unexpected happens?

The carnage of badgers, deer and pheasants on the road speaks for itself. Remember that apart from taking a life needlessly, hitting an animal will damage your car, and for motorcyclists could be fatal. Any fool can drive fast enough to be dangerous.

The private car has never been more popular in Scotland because it offers personal freedom. Its latest advantage is to be seen during the Covid-19 crisis where drivers can be tested from the bio-security of their own vehicle, safe from infection, unlike public transport.

But while the car is truly marvellous, it can also be dangerous. Drivers have an obligation to think safety. Ca’ awa’, but ca’ canny.

William Loneskie

Oxton

GOD’S LAWS ARE FOOD FOR THOUGHT

The current outbreak of coronavirus seems to have started in a wet market in Wuhan, China, where live and dead animals are sold side by side.

The first rule of good meat hygiene is never have raw and cooked meat near each other.

It is believed the source was probably from bats, snakes or pangolins (reported by CNN).

In the Bible the Old Testament laws outline foods God decreed we should and should eat and not eat.

They are called clean and unclean.

The long list includes bats, snakes (crawls on the ground) and pangolins ( does not chew the cud). Readers are probably aware that pigs are also on the list as both Jewish and Muslim traditions do not eat from the pig.

We also see that our seas are in trouble, yet we still continue to remove and eat what I call the hoovers of the sea, notably lobster, prawns, shellfish and crabs – all of which do not have fins and scales and whose purpose is to clean the seas.

Read Leviticus 11 for the full lists of clean and unclean animals. God gave us these laws and I am sure there is a good reason for this.

Dug Currie

Kelso

AN OPPORTUNITY FOR TEACHERS

With the media virtually wetting themselves with excitement about coronavirus, the only surprise domestically thus far is that Scottish teachers have not yet decided on a nationwide schools closure.

With last winter having been a bit thin on the ground for snowflake days off, this is surely a serious missed opportunity.

Expect an “in the interests of protecting staff and pupils... blah... blah...” declaration in the coming days.

From the point of view of English Torydom, it’s the perfect distraction from the ever-deteriorating post-Brexit quality of life down there. After all, it’s foreign and they cannae do a thing about it.

Richard West

Inch Park

Kelso

TOKENISM WOULD NOT COME CHEAP

In attacking Clark Cross’s letter which very much doubts the utility of our participation among nations curbing only a minority of the world’s greenhouse gases output, your correspondents, Donald McPhillimy and the Hardwicks (letters, March 5) discount the negligibility of the impact of our tiny proportion of the planet’s total release of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Therefore, the UK, releasing a third of 1% of the Earth’s manmade CO2 – Scotland’s a 10th of that – could offer only virtue signalling.

Would that mere tokenism come cheap? No, at a cost of £3trillion or more by 2050 for net-zero carbon, or £100,000 per UK household, along with the imposition of riot-producing, drastic lifestyle changes, such a policy is obviously unacceptable, as even “Greenies” should agree.

Though we may all fear dangerous climate changes, the catastrophists’ previous warnings of dire climatic events such as unprecedented flooding, storms and human suffering have not yet materialised.

In answer to your corresponents’ demands for practical reactions to the claimed “climate emergency”, they might consider protesting in the USA, China, Russia, Middle East nations and others avoiding severe hazards to their economies and public order.

Or would such a response not be practical?

Charles Wardrop

Viewlands Road West

Perth

ROPEY WARMING EVIDENCE

There are a lot of bogus statements by your climate alarmist letter writers from Melrose (March 5).

Donald McPhillimy claims that “China, India and Japan are all making progress”.

Well, it appears that he can’t read data because BP statistics state that their combined CO2 emissions have risen every year since 2015, increasing from 12,515 MT (million tonnes) to 13,048 MT.

He also claims that the world is warming due to humans. I say that any evidence that the world has been warming in a significant way since the 1800s is ropey.

For example, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) recently stated that 2019 over the contiguous US was only “the 34th warmest on record”, and they wrote this in the small print at the bottom of a climate alarmist news piece.

He next claims that atmospheric CO2 has “passed the maximum caused by natural cycles”. Wrong again! The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) itself publicises a 2000 study lead-authored by Paul Pearson which states: “We estimate CO2 concentrations of more than 2,000 ppm for the late Palaeocene and earliest Eocene periods.”

Mr McPhillimy should note that all of my data comes from people who promote the climate agenda.

Geoff Moore

Alness

Highland

BETTER BEING A BIG FISH IN A LITTLE POOL

Donald McPhillimy should have been a politician since he is good at twisting facts to suit his desperate green agenda (letters, March 5).

He implies that I “almost single-handedly defeated the threats to the planet”.

He knows full well that I was referring to all the prophesies of doom which never happened and I gave specific examples, yet he refuses to apologise.

How will he, his Greener Melrose disciples and Mr and Mrs Hardwick tackle China and India which are still increasing their 36% share of global emissions and building hundreds of coal-fired electricity plants?

Donald McPhillimy welcomes the cancelling of the third runway at Heathrow. More “Inconvenient Truths”. China is to construct 216 new airports by 2035 and India 100 by 2024.

The UN said in 1988 that the Maldives islands would sink below the waves within 30 years, like the lost city of Atlantis, due to climate change. Well, the Maldives are building four more runways this year and the giant A380-airbus carrying 615 passengers is a regular visitor.

Never mind, Mr McPhillimy, it is better being a big fish in a little Greener Melrose pool.

I welcome their letters since it gives the opportunity to reveal more true climate change facts that they and the green zealots would rather be suppressed.

Clark Cross

Springfield Road

Linlithgow

A CLEAN SWEEP FOR CARLAW?

The popular Jackson Carlaw will be more successful than previous Scottish Conservative leaders and could beat Nicola Sturgeon next time due to her ruinous fiscal record.

After a possible vote of no confidence, she will depart, leaving a trail of fiscal destruction for others to rectify.

A new broom sweeps clean for the electorate, and sooner than later.

Paul Singleton

Gordon