Your picture of the week
Curtis Welsh was out and about near Hume Castle on a beautiful winter’s day – frost-covered bales complementing a clear blue sky.Please email photographs, with a brief caption, to [email protected]
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
TREES OFF THE COUNCIL AGENDA
After all the controversy over the application to build a hotel, drive-thru coffee shop and petrol station on a site next to the Melrose roundabout, was it really necessary to clear fell all the lovely trees there, that helped screen the ugly corrugated tin sheds that are now clearly visible?
You would think that on the edge of the Eildon and Leaderfoot national scenic area, the need to retain some of the raised ground and woodland area and incorporate it into the landscaping and layout of a new development would be self evident – a condition for the application to be approved?
In a climate emergency, retaining trees and planting even more of them seems to have slipped off the Scottish Borders Council agenda.
Perhaps the lost trees are to be replaced with new-build retail and hospitality developments that are zero-carbon energy efficient, and have attractive architectural merit and pleasing design features? In your dreams, bonnie Borders!
What’s in store is a run-of-the-mill collection of ubiquitous units identical to those that can be seen alongside every motorway in the land. Does nobody believe in beauty any more?
Oh, and why a new petrol station when in a year or two we are all to be driving electric vehicles?
Come on council planners – ‘#playyour part’ in the climate emergency.
WE’RE SHELLING OUT FAR TOO MUCH
Recently it was reported that 70 million eggs were thrown away last year because of ‘sell by dates’; and as I have not seen this figure refuted since then, I am taking it that the figure is correct. With a UK population of 66.44m, that represents one egg and a bit per person, or about five eggs for a family of four; doesn’t sound too bad.
However, to produce these eggs we need about 233,000 hens with a lifetime feed requirement of some 12,000 tonnes. This will need 4,000 acres using about 1,000 tonnes of fertilizer. There are other items such as sprays, crop drying etc. to be taken into account and, of course, 5,800,000 egg boxes are made and destroyed.
All this – including egg distribution – requires transport, much of it to and from the farms and so having to be done by lorry with a consequent need for fuel and tyres. Add to this the power to mill the feeds, produce the fertilizer and the housing needs of the poultry, and there is a substantial environmental cost, and all this from just one egg per person per year.
And this is just a start. If you look at the total ‘household’ food waste, the figure is staggering. It is estimated that 2m tonnes of food are binned because it is a bit ‘off’ and a further 1.2m tonnes because we buy too much. You can add to this the environmental cost of simple things like buying sliced and plastic-wrapped bread.
If you look at the WRAP website you will see that household waste far exceeds manufacturing/retail waste. Despite this it is the manufacturing/retail industries which get the blame.
I suspect that politicians and environmental campaigners are too afraid to call for restraint on personal indulgence.
You now add the tonnes of clothing bought, but never worn, or worn, but once, and also the need to have a new outfit for this or that season to be in the fashion, as dictated by the fashion gurus.
Thus the daily environmental assault that you, dear reader, have made is considerable. So we now have environmental crusaders demanding that we curtail many pleasures of life, or offering over-simplistic remedies without any thought to the downstream implications rather than putting forward practical ideas on what we can do to help.
After the war we had rationing of food and clothes, and while no one would want to go back to that, we learnt not to waste. We did not over eat, there wasn’t the food, and clothes had a longer useful life.
We walked more as the car was not the universal essential, indeed not available for many. The result was that obesity was not the problem it is today and costing the NHS many millions of your money in taxes.
So the slogan should be ‘Eat less, buy sensibly, walk more, thus save the NHS and so need less tax’.
PLAYING FAST AND LOOSE WITH LIVES
After four long years of trying to get Scottish Borders Council’s road safety team to listen to my concerns about speeding in Langlee Drive and failing to get them away from the lyrics of the song, ‘We shall not be moved’, I concede defeat.
The team have won – but I only hope it doesn’t turn out to be a hollow victory.
I say to speeding drivers using Langlee Drive, you are playing Russian roulette with people’s lives, and with Russian roulette there is only one outcome.
If you get caught speeding you get points on your licence, upping insurance costs, plus a hefty fine. If you cause a fatal accident, then the consequences don’t bear thinking about.
A RIGHT-WING HORROR SHOW
Today’s general election will be the 13th in which I have voted – and I have never been more afraid of the result.
Over the past few years I have watched in horror as the Conservative party, under the cover of Brexit and backed by billionaire newspaper owners, has moved further and further to the right, with extremists like Jacob Rees-Mogg, Dominic Raab and Priti Patel in the Cabinet itself. And these are not the wailings of an old lefty, but an opinion shared by Kenneth Clarke, Dominic Grieve, Michael Heseltine, John Major and many others.
I am genuinely fearful of the damage these ideologues (led by Boris Johnson, whose primary concern is Boris Johnson) will do to the fabric of our country and the lives of younger people especially.
HANGING ON TO THE SUBSIDY SCOTS
William Loneskie (letters, December 5) lists the names of other letter writers he disagrees with, myself included, and asks: “What is wrong with these people?”
Well, I can tell him “what is wrong with” this person.
Firstly, SNP and independence supporters are not necessarily the same thing. With independence, Scotland would at last have a government it voted for with all the powers it needs to move our country forward into the future – whatever colour that government happens to be. The voters will decide.
It is clear that Scotland could, and should, run its own affairs in a way that benefits all of its citizens, instead of being dictated to by Westminster governments we haven’t voted for. These governments – Tory and Labour (and Lib Dems ) – by dint of sheer numbers adopt policies which may suit the needs of England, but disregard with contempt the unique needs of our nation.
Immigration is a classic example. England has decided it is full – Scotland is not – and but for the nasty “hostile environment” policies operated by the Home Office who deport good people from our country, we would be in a position to boost our working population, welcome people from Europe and the rest of the world who, by paying their taxes, contribute to our economy and enrich our culture.
Mr Loneskie then goes on to warn voters to “be careful what they wish for”.
If he and his fellow Unionists truly believe that England subsidises Scots to the tune of £1,968 per person, I challenge him to explain why they are so desperate to hang on to such a drain on English resources. The truth is he really understands (but chooses not to admit ) that England relies on Scottish taxes to help fund the multitude of vanity projects south of the border.
Quoting his statement: “We are all better together under the flag of the Union – a flag which has come to represent freedom, courage, integrity and trust.”
Aye, right! Try telling that to all the countries world wide who have won independence from Great Britain.
SOLD SHORT BY THE CONSERVATIVES
Food banks. Failing schools. NHS in crisis. No affordable homes. Zero-hours contracts. Expensive railways. Unacceptable care for the elderly. Child poverty. Universal Credit failure. Rising crime. Local councils starved of cash.
None of these problems have been caused by the EU or Labour party. They are a result of the austerity policies introduced and maintained by the Conservatives under David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, and supported, to an extent, by the Lib Dems during their time in coalition.
Every working person in the UK, from a dustman to a doctor, must recognise that we have all been sold short by a succession of right-wing Tory governments.
In a damning 2018 report on the impact of austerity on human rights in the UK, the UN, represented by Philip Alston, accused Tory ministers of being in a state of denial about the impact of policies, including the rollout of Universal Credit, since 2010. He accused them of the “systematic immiseration of a significant part of the British population” and warned that worse could be yet to come for the most vulnerable, who face “a major adverse impact” if Brexit proceeds.
He said leaving the EU was “a tragic distraction from the social and economic policies shaping a Britain that it’s hard to believe any political parties really want”.
The report slams the government’s austerity programme, with criticisms of “shocking” rises in the use of food banks and rough sleeping, falling life expectancy for some, the “decimation” of legal aid, the denial of benefits to the severely disabled, falling teachers’ salaries in real terms and the impoverishment of single mothers and people with mental illness.
Alston said austerity had “deliberately gutted” local authorities, shrinking library, youth, police and park services to the extent that it was not surprising there were “unheard-of levels of loneliness and isolation”.
The UK, which it is now clear will be broken up if Brexit proceeds under the mendacious Johnson, is urgently in need of change for the better.
If you vote Conservative you will only help to perpetuate the inequalities and the social and economic injustices we have all witnessed over the last 10 years.
POVERTY STATS SHAME US ALL
Sometimes words become devalued by overuse. Throughout this election campaign the phrase “living in poverty” has cropped up, yet seems to have lost any impact.
I would ask readers to reflect on what “living in poverty” actually means. It means a mother sending her children to school with no breakfast or proper clothes or shoes; it means an elderly lady unable to heat even one room in her home; it means a teenage girl sleeping on a pavement in sub-zero temperatures.
The current figures for poverty in the UK should shame us all.
Yet we live in a rich country – one where huge companies and billionaires avoid paying their fair share of tax while the poorest are hit with punitive sanctions and demonised in the press.
The Scottish government has done its best to ameliorate the worst effects of Westminster’s (Tory and Lib Dem) austerity measures, but does so with one hand tied behind its back.
So I would urge people to consider those less well off than themselves and the best way to help them when casting their vote.
TIME TO REIN THE NATIONALISTS IN
During the run-up to today’s election, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon chose to ignore the faltering state of education in Scotland’s schools, council cutbacks and the serious state of Scotland’s economy.
There’s also the serious depletion of Police Scotland and Scottish NHS scandal.
In fact the record of all matters of government in Scotland have been hidden carefully behind the smokescreen of Brexit and the sacred cow, independence.
Ms Sturgeon is on record as saying that independence is the most important issue, by far, for the SNP. Many people are right to feel exasperated at her stance since her tactic is to use this election as a mandate to press for independence. There is feeling in the Borders that independence is a step too far. Many are realising that it is her dream, not theirs.
The economic case is extremely risky. The Treasury in London – far from being the ogre painted by Ms Sturgeon – partly funds the Scottish economy as drawn up through the Barnett Formula back the late 1970s. At present it funds each of the 6m people in Scotland to the tune of £1,600 per year as part of the block grant sent north of the border. The Treasury also funded, in 2017/18, a sum of £700m to cover a shortfall from the income tax raised in Scotland as part of the devolution agreement.
An independent Scotland will lose all funding from the UK. It would have to be funded from elsewhere.
The SNP must be reined in and brought back to reality. The people must use this election to stop them in their tracks before it is too late.
NHS SELL-OFF CLAIM IS FAKE NEWS
According to Eric Falconer and Jane Roberts (letters, December 5), Boris Johnson will sell off the NHS to America.
This is malicious fake news. It would be electoral suicide for the Conservatives to do that, even to a degree, and both the Prime Minister and US President Donald Trump have said categorically it is a non-starter.
Perhaps your correspondents should look closer to home.
The NHS in Scotland is completely under control of the Scottish government which must take responsibility for its funding shortfall. In an opinion poll conducted by You Gov and published on December 5, Scots were asked if the NHS had got better or worse in the last five years, or stayed the same. Fifty per cent of those interviewed said it had got worse, compared with 31% who said it had stayed the same and only 7% said it had got better. And 52% said the current Scottish government was handling the NHS badly.
Near the end of October, Caroline Gardner, the Auditor General for Scotland, published a report which warned that the NHS in Scotland was well on the way to becoming unsustainable with a shortfall in funding of £1.8bn within three years. The cuts which NHS Borders has to make, of £12m, however severe, are small compared with that huge sum.
SNP supporters must realise that cuts do not equate to progress.
CANDIDATES ON A DIFFERENT COURSE
Today (Thursday) Borderers go to the polls in one of the most important elections in living memory.
We are not merely voting for how we are governed. Potentially at stake are the futures of the UK (in or out of Europe) and Scotland (in or out of the UK).
The Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk seat has a fascinating electoral history.
For decades it and its predecessors were a Liberal stronghold, represented by the likes of David Steel and Michael Moore, with the Conservatives, who took the seat from Labour in 1983, as main challengers. The 2015 election produced a shock when Calum Kerr (SNP) trounced Michael Moore with a 25% increase in vote share against a similar loss for Moore, but only narrowly beat John Lamont (Conservative). In the 2017 snap election the SNP lost ground across the country and Lamont swept to an impressive 11,000 majority.
In 2019 the favoured candidates are again Kerr and Lamont. The major issues are Brexit and, perhaps to a lesser extent, a potential second independence referendum. Neither has any certainty of outcome and the election is therefore hard to call. In such circumstances it is interesting to go beyond party issues and to look at the individuals in relation to the major issue – Brexit. I have corresponded with both of them on the matter.
Both candidates voted Remain in the 2016 EU referendum. Since then, however, each has followed a very different course.
Galashiels-born Kerr continued his campaign against Brexit. Asked to justify apparently ignoring the result of the 2016 referendum, Kerr replied: “Any Brexit, but in particular a no-deal Brexit, will seriously damage the UK in general and Scotland in particular. The Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk constituency will be no exception. It is the duty of MPs to act in the interests of the country and their constituents, not to follow blindly the results of an advisory referendum.
“Furthermore, both the constituency and Scotland voted to remain in the EU by a considerable margin. It is also abundantly clear that the promises made to the electorate in 2016 which formed the basis of the vote to leave were entirely false and that the leave campaign indulged in illegal practices to assist their win.”
Although in government, Lamont’s party has become split on the issue, having campaigned for Remain and now trying to implement the opposite. Lamont himself has followed the government line that “we must respect the result of the referendum”, and with the exception of voting against Teresa May’s deal the first time it was presented, has voted with the government on every occasion.
This is questionable behaviour from someone who campaigned for Remain. The first duty of an MP is to act in the interests of the nation, the second to act in the interests of his constituents.
Every published economic assessment demonstrates that Brexit will seriously damage the interests of both.
After repeated requests, Lamont is unable to name even one advantage which the policy he now supports so doggedly will bring, to country or constituency. The result must be respected at any cost.
And the cost he is prepared to pay is not merely financial, crippling though that will be. He, a lawyer, shows a stubborn disregard for the law by continuing to express the view that the initial prorogation of parliament “was (an) appropriate and reasonable step”, even after being declared unlawful by the Supreme Court.
According to NFU Scotland, farmers who see Brexit as having a negative impact outnumber those who view it positively by five to one – in a no-deal scenario that rises to nearly six to one. Thirty-five per cent of Scottish farmers have low or zero confidence in the longevity of their businesses post Brexit.