LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
GREED HAS KILLED OFF THE HIGH STREET
‘There’s no quick fix, regeneration manager warns?’ (Southern, January 30).
There is a quick and permanent fix – abolish business rates and watch businesses flood back.
The current situation is utter madness. That’s why Galashiels High Street is 90% charity shops – they are exempt.
It’s not rocket science. Greed has killed off the high street.
I have spoken to many former shop owners and I hear the same thing – it’s the business rates, they are suffocating.
The tapestry centre, although positive for the region, won’t bring life back to the high street.
It can’t – not when businesses can’t afford to operate.
The Rookery tattoo studio
WHERE DOES THE BUCK STOP?
I have something to say about the way Scottish Borders Council (SBC) is being run.
Firstly, I direct this part of my letter to local MSP Christine Grahame.
The council is laying the buck for its budget cuts at the door of your government. What is your response to that? Are you cutting SBC’s budget?
The second part is directed to council leader Shona Haslam.
Could it be that the problem is not in the size of the budget you get from Holyrood, but the manner in which you spend it? Is it true that while you are cutting front-line services and jobs, you are splashing the cash on non-essential projects? – and we all know what they are.
Or could it be that some among the SBC management team don’t have the skill or experience their job demands? The fact the council has to be propped up by an army of expensive consultants and lawyers might suggest that.
Also, we, the electorate, elect 34 councillors to represent us all. However, as soon as the election is past, an executive committee of 11 councillors is elected and they make decisions while the other 23 can only look on, have no impact or vote.
So, to Christine Grahame and Shona Haslam, I have set the stage for you to speak up. Please let us hear both sides of the argument about council funding and who carries the buck for the state of the region.
SBC ROBUSTLY CHALLENGED
Spending £140,000 on compensation for damage from potholes could, more reasonably, be spent paying contractors to fill potholes before they do damage.
And as for the assertion that Scottish Borders Council operates a “robust” process for inspecting and repairing its roads, we who pay for them would like to know exactly what “robust” means when potholes, in this case marked with a cone, remained open and unrepaired for a month.
There is something very wrong with this council’s way of thinking about roads maintenance, and it desperately needs scrutiny.
ELECTRIFICATION THE ANSWER
Occasionally, a letter which stands out from the rest is published – and last week the one by Robert Miller-Bakewell was just that and spot on about the idea of extending the Borders Railway beyond Tweedbank.
He advocated improving what there already is – at the 2015 Campaign for Borders Rail’s annual general meeting in Stow, the man who headed up the project, namely Hugh Wark, said that if he had to do it all again he would have electrified it.
Despite MSP Christine Grahame saying the “campaign is rock solid”, which has been misinterpreted by certain parties in their tiny minds to mean there will be a railway to Carlisle, there is not one even miniscule shred of evidence it will ever get built, which is why First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was cautious on her recent flying visit to Hawick.
The railway badly needs electrifying which could be achieved without closure – any work to dual the line would mean likely a year’s closure on safety grounds, which would not be acceptable.
There are plenty of false prophets hanging around trying to make desperate people believe an extension of the line is a dawdle, when it isn’t.
I believe eventually, maybe within 15 to more than likely 20 years, the line will reach Hawick.
But the other 50 miles southwards is a non-starter as end-to-end traffic would be minimal as it’ll always be far quicker to go via Carstairs from Edinburgh to Carlisle and vice versa.
It’s a pity there aren’t more people like Mr Miller-Bakewell around who can see the bigger picture and not just what some want to believe is achievable when it is not.
MOVE NOW, BRITISH NATIONALISTS
As British nationalists smell Scottish independence getting closer and closer, it was inevitable that someone would make the ridiculous demand that the Border counties should be allowed to stay in the Union.
As wealthy Unionists nervously feel their wallets, they would selfishly drag their less-fortunate fellow citizens into a country where people pay £9 per item on a medical prescription, university students enter the workplace with a £30,000 debt, there’s restricted free child care (30 hours p/w in Scotland), an NHS in meltdown and many other essentials which people north of the Tweed do not pay for.
May I suggest to British nationalists that they move south now before Brexit causes property prices to surge, the Scottish government makes offshore tax havens inaccessible and paying fair taxes cannot be evaded or avoided. Their houses will soon be filled with desperate families fleeing north, as many have done already.
May I also comment on the ill-considered remarks made by Alan Gordon who insults half the Scottish population because they voted the wrong way – not the best course to win hearts and minds (letters, January 23).
So instead of slandering the “tribe of idiot sheep”, my recommendation to Mr Gordon is to turn his intellect to a campaign of reform to the outdated first-past-the-post voting system, and complain to the Daily Mail about its inaccurate reporting. This bible of right-wing newspaper readers is the most sanctioned in the UK, followed by the Sun and Daily Telegraph.
It is so unreliable that online encyclopaedia Wikipedia refuses to use any of its content, which is not very fair to Mail readers.
THE COLOURFUL KELSO BAKER CLAN
I wonder if any of your readers are able to help me with my research of the Hossack baker family from Kelso.
My great-grandmother, Agnes Jane Hossack, was born in 1861 to Charles Hossack, a baker in Kelso, living in Horsemarket, and Betsy Dickie, originally from Sprouston.
She married my great-grandfather, Thomas Gardner, a tinsmith from Dunbar, and although my grandfather, Walter Gardner, was brought up in East Lothian, he moved to Dundee where he was a fishmonger and raised his family there.
We had no contact with my grandfather’s side of the family, yet the Hossacks, Charles and Betsy, plus their 14 children, eight of whom are known to have survived into adulthood, were a formidable clan. Some continued as bakers in RT Hossacks.
The early Hossacks led a colourful life with Agnes Jane’s father, Charles, and his brother, Simon, having regular run-ins with the law.
Simon was twice sentenced to seven years deportation for assault and robbery, but due to a shortage of ships, spent both sentences on a prison hulk off Portsmouth. Interestingly, his second offence was against the same individual he had been deported for robbing seven years previously. Charles was variously found guilty and not guilty of minor robbery charges, including stealing five stones of flour in 1859.
I know the famous broadcaster and reporter, John Pearson Hossack, was the nephew of my great-grandmother, Agnes Jane, and that his father, Andrew, had continued in the bakery business in Kelso.
I am wondering if anyone has information on or photographs of the bakery, or information on Charles Hossack and Betsy Dickie, and the descendants of their children.
After a career in teaching I now run a catering company with my partner and find it interesting that there was a history of bakers before me, given my love of bread-making. It would be good to find any recipes that they used to try and continue them within the family – especially their Tweed Bannocks and Traquair Spiced Cake.
I travelled around all the known addresses and haunts of the Hossacks over a few days last summer, but was disappointed that the Hossack bakery no longer seemed to exist.
8 Mid Row
SPELLING OUT SOME HOME TRUTHS
Again more letters last week in the Southern on climate change, and derision and sarcasm expressed for those trying to raise awareness on this subject.
China and India are mentioned (not for the first time); apparently they have huge carbon emissions, and do nothing (which is not true) – so why should we here in Scotland, with our small population and modest emissions, spend precious resources to change our ways?
Look around your home. Who made your mobile phone, your TV, your solar panels, your T-shirts and underwear? Take their carbon footprint into account in production and transport, then emissions for Scotland, per head of population, are very similar to China, and many times higher than India or Brazil.
We live in a joined-up world. Each of our actions matter, even very small ones. All A Greener Melrose and other green groups around the Borders are doing is to try to communicate this simple truth.
And this is why Greta Thunberg is an inspiration to millions. She is a rare individual who is not only able, but also willing to say how things really are. And she simply stands up for what she knows, with complete integrity.
Climate change and the destruction of our living environment are real.
As you read this today, Australia is still burning and Scotland alone has lost around a quarter of its native animals and plants over the last 15 years.
Yes, it is difficult to admit this; and that there is no simple solution, and that this will not go away; that the longer we wait, the worse it gets and that great difficulty lies ahead. And yes, there might well be riots in the streets, but they will not stop the droughts, fires and floods.
How can we be with such a truth?
Deep acknowledgment of the urgency of this situation surely has to be the first step; we deny it at our peril. This is something we all can do. The next step will follow.
This coming November, Glasgow will be hosting the COP26, a huge international conference on climate change. In its time, Scotland gave the world some of its finest innovators, engineers and thinkers. Would we not wish now for Scotland to offer every ounce of ingenuity in its collective power, so that it may lead by example in the difficult negotiations which lie ahead?
St Mary’s Place
APPEARING TO BE IN DENIAL
I so wish that other correspondents on the subject of climate change are right and I am wrong.
That climate warming has been going on for a long time, it’s natural and we really don’t need to worry or do anything about it. And that we are such a small part of the problem, if there is one, that our actions won’t make any difference anyway. Relax folks, pass along, nothing to see here.
I’m afraid that I, the “boss man of Greener Melrose”, and “Greta the Great” are not making it up.
The science is quite clear. The trend beyond the background variation is that CO2 and global temperatures are increasing as a result of human activities. The world which our children and grandchildren will be living in will be much less pleasant than the present unless the world community takes drastic action over the next 10 years.
The world community includes us. When I write that our contribution will be small, but significant, I believe that Scotland’s innovation skills and natural resources will see us punching above our weight. And that means new green jobs.
Now, I realise that being the bearer of bad news is not popular. I’m sorry.
The majority now realise that the threats are real and that we have to act. That realisation is a form of grief. I know, I have been through it. People react to grief in different ways. One of the stages of grief is denial which has to come before acceptance and moving on.
I’m afraid that some of the people who write to this paper appear to be in denial and feel the need to share that with others. It’s as if, if enough people agree that climate change, species extinction and the running out of resources aren’t real, then the problems will go away.
I’m afraid that’s not true. We all need to waken up, take action and force our governments to take action. With that comes hope and hope is what we need. Hope and determination.
THE CARBON OFF-SETTERS
The rise of organisations that claim to offset carbon emissions for the jet-setters is just another illustration of the truths behind the climate business.
It is firstly an outlet for the perpetually-annoyed chattering classes, and, secondly, a money-maker for wide boys. Are the carbon off-setters registered and regulated? Is what they do quantified?
Thirdly, it is another of the many schemes used by the would-be ruling elite to keep us in our place while they do what they wish, and we do their bidding to save the planet. What higher ideal for a humble citizen could there possibly be?
And finally it is divisive, so that it weakens society and opens the door for Marxists, whose aim is to collapse the western economic system.
5G NETWORK – A QUESTION OF TRUST
You wouldn’t ask an electrician or a plumber to do major work in your house if you had doubts about their trustworthiness.
Why should it be any different when the work is our 5G network and the contractor is Huawei?
Also, if your friend warned you about a tradesman or contractor, you would be all the more certain not to use them.
NO CONCEPTION OF TOLERANCE
Like the Taliban and countless other oppressive regimes, Glasgow City Council believes that its proper function is to vet the religious views aired in its area of control.
Preventing American Christian Franklin Graham from speaking at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) is an egregious attack on freedom of speech and a worrying sign that our tradition of open democratic society is under threat.
Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Green Party, once again headed the campaign to shut up anyone he disagrees with. He has no conception of tolerance, only the sure and certain conviction that everyone who diverges from his one true truth needs to be eliminated from public debate.
Mr Harvie’s extremism can easily be understood as a textbook case of authoritarian political extremism.
What is harder to fathom is the bizarre phenomenon of Christians who broadly share Mr Graham’s orthodox Christian views voting for the Scottish Green Party.
The Scottish Family Party