Your picture of the week
Surrounded by autumnal tints, Sherpa, a rather drookit Border collie, on his daily morning walk beside the Tweed at St Boswells. Curtis Welsh supplied this image. Please email photographs, with a brief caption, to: [email protected]
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
A KEY FACTOR IN ECONOMIC GROWTH
The groundhog-day saga of Jedburgh’s town centre “scaffolding eyesore” continues.
Studying Joseph Anderson’s report last week, I can understand the frustration of the people who are trying to solve the issue. No doubt, as ever, the problem is basically financial.
However, in another somewhat larger town, hundreds of miles south, the Big Ben Westminster clock tower is also “shrouded” in scaffolding, as anyone who watches TV news may have noticed. Of course, I don’t believe that Big Ben’s tower is at any risk whatsoever of demolition. Why would anyone want to spoil the historic architecture of London, upon which its tourist economy depends? Some things are just worth spending some money on.
Meanwhile political parties are talking about “ending austerity”. Hopefully soon, more resources will be ring-fenced for protecting the unique heritage of the Borders, obviously a key factor in growing our local economy.
TRASHING A WAR HERO’S LEGACY
I note Scottish Borders Council (SBC) is shouting from the rooftops about the three parks designated for a UK-wide World War I commemoration honouring the memories of soldiers who fought and died in conflict.
Duns Park, Wilton Lodge Park in Hawick and Lower Green in West Linton have been named as Centenary Fields by the charity Fields in Trust which, according to the council, means they will remain available as “recreational spaces for the community in perpetuity”.
This is all well and good, but the council has been known to go back on its word. For instance, the trustees of World War I hero Captain Ralph Palliser Milbanke Hudson gifted land to the local authority back in the 1920s on the understanding it would be used for free burials for the parishioners at Hobkirk Parish Church.
This legacy had been duly honoured by councils for nearly a century until 2016 when the generous legacy was axed. What sort of way is this to honour a war hero?
Chair of Fields in Trust’s Scotland committee, Brian Samson, has congratulated SBC over the parks initiative, saying all three are “now included forever in our programme to commemorate World War I”.
I wonder how long “forever” will last this time around? Deputy council leader Sandy Aitchison reflected poignantly: “My own father and his brother left Stow to fight in France. They were fortunate and came back, but both after long periods in hospital, having been seriously wounded.
“I therefore have a personal reason to applaud this initiative, which will mean our local communities will always have somewhere for play, take part in sport or have a quiet moment of reflection.”
Sorry, councillor, but these sound like weasel words to those of us who are part of the campaign group FoR, Friends of Ralph. Captain Hudson paid the ultimate price for his country and SBC has trashed his legacy and disrespected his memory.
Now is the time to resume the free burial service for locals at Hobkirk and honour the sacrifice made by Captain Hudson.
OFFERING A HELPING HAND
There can be few of us who are not aware of alcohol in some way or another, especially at this time of year.
The impact of alcohol dependency is often most keenly felt by the family and friends of the alcoholic. Al-Anon Family Groups exist to provide local support to those affected in some way and help them cope with this devastating illness.
In the Borders, the Galashiels Al-Anon Family Group is taking the opportunity during Alcohol Awareness Week (November 11-17) to highlight the support that is available to local families affected by problem drinking. In partnership with Borders General Hospital, we are providing two information opportunities.
The first is tomorrow (Friday) in the canteen and the second will be on Sunday, November 17, with a stall in the main corridor of the hospital. There will be a range of free information leaflets and possibly opportunity to talk to local members.
Like Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon works on a basis of confidentiality and anonymity.
The Galashiels Al-Anon Family Group meets weekly (8-9.30pm) at St Peter’s Church and anybody is welcome to join. There are no fees or dues, as groups are self-supporting through voluntary contributions. Further information is available on 07709 948205.
Galashiels Al-Anon Family Group
TRUSTEES SEEKING NOMINATIONS
The trustees of the EBDA (Eastern Borders Development Association) Award invite nominations for the 2019 award to a person or organisation within the eastern Borders or north Northumberland who, or which, through skill or effort, has made an outstanding contribution in social, economic or environmental fields during the past 12 months.
Over the past 43 years, the award has gone to individuals active in their communities, village hall committees, voluntary organisations and all manner of small, medium and large businesses based in the area. Last year’s award was made to Jarvis Pickle Ltd of Eyemouth.
Nomination forms are available by emailing [email protected]om, or by phoning 01289 382541. The closing date for nominations is Sunday, December 8.
E. O. Cawthorn
FOCUS ON JOURNEY TO PROSPERITY
Week after week I read false messages about Scotland’s paucity in the local press, admittedly from just a handful of probably embittered souls, and probably also members of a once-secret letter-writing clique.
It was therefore uplifting to watch a short documentary about Norway’s journey from gaining independence in 1905 as a desperately poor country to the fabulously wealthy country it is today, with the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. With a population virtually the same as Scotland, it enjoys a very high standard of living and has some of the happiest people in the world, in spite of the high taxes they pay.
We can only look upon Norway and indeed the Republic of Ireland with envy, because Scotland could so easily enjoy the same ranking. It would take just a few more old and new Scots with the courage, vision and faith of the Norwegians and Irish to turn this already wealthy country into a powerhouse among nations.
If you would like to see this film, it’s called ‘Nation Norway the twin nation’ by Phantom Power films and may be viewed on YouTube.
TRANSATLANTIC TRADE DEAL FEARS
Well, here we are after all of two years since the last general election.
So, what do we do? The only thing I can say is that you must vote in accordance with your honestly-held views and judgement.
Please, do vote. Recent history tells us that people, your great-grandparents and their parents died and suffered to achieve the right to vote, especially for women and working men. Whatever your views, please don’t besmirch their memory and sacrifices by shrugging and ignoring this with the lazy and easy cop-out of: “Why bother, what’s in it for me?”
What’s in it for you is that you can use the next few weeks to read, study, inwardly digest and come to a reasoned decision as to where you place your cross. The outcome is especially important for us north of the border as we read that the powers of the Scottish Parliament, especially with regard to the NHS, could be diminished and reincorporated within Westminster, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently declared in the Commons.
This election is UK-wide and on UK issues. However, we will not be able to avoid the issue of Brexit. Indeed, the Prime Minister is making his position of “leave at all costs” the focus of his pitch.
A major feature of this ambition is a trade deal with the USA – and they have made it absolutely clear that any deal with the UK will be on their terms.
If we consider agriculture, American food standards permit chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef, whereas processed foods are permitted to contain a certain degree of mouse, rat and other droppings, maggots and insect fragments. Also, any disputes are decided on their terms as determined in their trade contracts, so forget about UK “sovereignty”.
With regard to the NHS in any deal, of course the USA is not going to buy the English NHS like a sack of spuds, but will demand access to contracts to further fragment the English NHS into a myriad of contracted services competing with each other. The warning signs are that such access to contracts could similarly be imposed upon Scotland.
There is little information as to what the USA is eager to purchase from the UK other than what they already do. A one-way street methinks, with unknown consequences for Scottish agriculture, horticulture, farming and whatever else.
One outcome of the general election would be that if Boris Johnson is returned by the overwhelming weight of English votes, we in Scotland can say goodbye to our enjoyment of freedom of movement throughout Europe. Also our musicians, creative artists, architects, accountants, engineers, bricklayers, plasterers, plumbers, joiners; indeed anyone who wishes to travel, work, love, settle within Europe as of right with reciprocal health treatment, again as of right, will have this denied to them.
I am 77 years old and remember a time when travelling within the Continent was difficult. I recall the Berlin Wall going up in 1961 and coming down in 1989.
Please, please don’t elect to go back to those days which I fear PM Johnson, even in ignorance, may encourage, along with a fear of foreigners, or perceived non-English/British, whoever or wherever they may be.
QUESTIONS OF CONSCIENCE
Recent correspondents to these pages have criticised David Mundell (and all of Scotland’s other Conservative MPs) for ignoring the wishes of his constituents when it comes to Brexit.
I actually have no problem with that as I believe MPs should first and foremost vote according to their conscience.
What I do take issue with is that Mr Mundell is on record as saying that Brexit would harm his constituents, yet he voted for every “deal” brought before parliament. How does that square with his conscience?
He describes himself as a unionist, yet voted for a deal that essentially hives off Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK (and will damage Scotland, in particular, economically). Again, how does that square with his conscience?
The obvious conclusion is that Mr Mundell votes neither in the interests of his constituents nor according to his conscience, so one has to question what his motivation is.
LIB DEM HORSE IS ALSO IN THE RACE
I was disappointed to read the headline, ‘Election looking set to be two-horse race’, in last week’s Southern.
Is this because the Tories have repeatedly told us that it will be?
In 2014 Borderers voted overwhelmingly against Scottish independence and, two years’ later, voted to remain in the EU.
In what is likely to be the most unpredictable election in many years, the local electorate ‘look set’ to reject the chaos that both the Conservatives and SNP have offered and, in what was until recently a proud Liberal heartland, throw their weight behind excellent local candidate Jenny Marr.
CONFRONTED BY HOBSON’S CHOICE
Voters should reject the false options offered to them by Conservative canvassers in Peebles and elsewhere in our constituency over the past week.
The Hobson’s choice presented to me and many other residents on our doorsteps was to support either Boris Johnson’s English nationalist party or to back Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish nationalist party. Both are advocating paths that will see Scotland leaving the European Union, with the latter hoping to reapply later.
I noted with interest that David Mundell’s leaflet made no mention of Mr Johnson or Brexit.
There are at least two other parties standing candidates here. The argument that they cannot win is only made true by those who would vote for them, but do not.
In general elections from 1983 up until 2005, the Liberal Democrats held the old seat of Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale. Throughout the same period, Labour held the old seat of Clydesdale. As recently as the 2010 general election, these parties each won more votes than the SNP in our current constituency.
I urge voters to choose whom they actually want rather than being coerced into putting their cross next to a least-worst option. If we all do so we may be pleasantly surprised by the result.
COUNTING THE ABSTAINER MAJORITY
Why does Nicola Sturgeon and her SNP supporters continue to claim they represent the 5.5m people of Scotland?
There are 4.3m voters in Scotland – 1,661.191 voted to remain in the EU, 1,018,322 voted to leave and 1,700,000 abstained. Therefore, mathematically, the abstainers are the winners, not the SNP. Northern Ireland’s remain vote was 442,332, with 347,547 going for leave. But abstainers won, 471,109 not voting.
England and Wales both voted to leave. England had just over 35m voters and 6.9m abstained. Leave won the vote with a majority of just under 2m. Wales had 2.2m, more than 500,000 abstaining. However, the leave vote had a majority of 82,000.
There is no indication that a majority of Scots favour another referendum, let alone independence. SNP supporters are really not that interested in independence in itself. If they were, why would they wish to remain part of the EU?
Many are just anti-English and there is an intolerance of religion within the party. One of the reasons why Ms Sturgeon avoids attending SNP marches is because there are saltires and placards bearing the words ‘Tory Scum’ – the very same Tory government that sanctioned the independence referendum in 2014.
Labour, SNP, DUP, Lib Dems and all the other remainers who refuse to accept the result of the 2016 EU referendum have held this country to ransom for over three years. They and will do everything possible to sabotage the coming general election in order to stop Brexit and defy the will of the majority of the people in this country.
If the Labour party is assisted, manipulated and by foul means allowed to win next month’s election, this country will be ruled by a bunch of despots who have no respect for democracy. The UK would be bankrupt within a year. Brexit would be destroyed, along with the Union, and this country would be lawless.
I have supported Labour for most of my life. I did at one time vote for Alex Salmond and the SNP.
However, the current political situation in this country reminds me of the anarchy and political and social breakdown in African politics.
There is only one way the people who voted for Brexit and those who do not want to break up the Union can balance the scales – vote Conservative.
OUR ‘ABSOLUTELY OUTRAGED’ FM
Our First Minister is not happy again. Indeed, Nicola Sturgeon is “absolutely outraged”, this time about not being invited by broadcasters to join Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn in a general election debate.
Or is it because the Prime Minister says he has no intention of agreeing to another independence referendum? Or maybe just because opinion polls suggest the majority of us still do not want to leave the UK?
Either way, this is not the first time Nicola Sturgeon has been outraged. In fact it seems she has been “absolutely outraged” at least once a week since Scotland chose not to agree with her back in 2014.
Being outraged about everything to do with the UK, continuing to agitate to break up our country, but at the same time ducking responsibility for all the things the Scottish government manages to get wrong, must be very wearing. It perhaps explains why the SNP government has struggled with the powers it already has.
Ironically, if the SNP gets its way on leaving the UK, it then plans to give so many powers back to Brussels. Scotland would then become a bit-player in the EU’s ever-closer union project, in the strangest further twist in the SNP’s proposed path to so-called self-determination.