Your picture of the week
Curtis Welsh took this image as the sun rose over a frosty landscape, with Peniel Heugh monument standing out in the crisp air.Please email photographs, with a brief caption, to [email protected]
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
IMPROVE WHAT WE HAVE ALREADY GOT
It’s simplistic and wrong to argue, as Simon Walton and others do (Southern, January 23), that the encouraging rise in passenger numbers fuels the case to extend the Borders Railway beyond Tweedbank.
Surely the first priority should be to ensure that the existing service achieves and sustains much better levels of reliability and capacity.
Too often trains are cancelled. There are regular examples of inadequate capacity, particularly during the Six Nations, Edinburgh Festival and run-up to Christmas. Separately, there’s the inexplicable continuing discriminatory treatment of Stow.
To claim that “the momentum for an extension is unstoppable and is gathering pace” is not only cobblers, but has an evidence base more normally associated with a claim by US president Donald Trump.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, on a visit to Hawick in November, referred to “complex issues”. She was trying to dampen expectations because even a government that believes it can walk on water and deliver the implausible is clearly aware that any Borders Railway extension is a dream too far.
As someone who rarely agrees with the First Minister, on this occasion I believe she’s spot on – perhaps even understated.
Let’s concentrate on improving the existing transport infrastructure in the Borders, including the existing service to Tweedbank.
DEMOS IN THE STREETS WARNING
Of all the recent letters arguing about climate change, I prefer the one from Neil Bryce (January 23).
It is factual and I liked his comment: “What is needed is a calm and staged evolution from the fossil fuel era.”
Contrast this with the contributions from Donald McPhillimy, boss man of A Greener Melrose, who thinks his merry little band can influence the world. I suggest they stick to clearing up litter.
Our politicians declare a climate emergency because schoolgirl truant Greta (Thunberg) the Great says so. Strangely enough, she has not preached her sermon to China, India and the many oil-rich countries, and perhaps she should take a slow boat to China.
Politicians are banning petrol and diesel vehicles, and gas for heating and cooking; but renewable electricity is four times the price of gas, so even more fuel poverty.
Where will the extra electricity come from? What will happen on cold windless days? What will the rich owner of an electric car do?
The SNP, in its quest to have “the best emissions reduction targets in the world”, will bankrupt Scotland, while wiser nations will do nothing.
Once British people belatedly wake up to what is going on there will be demonstrations in the streets, as President Emmanuel Macron found out. When the Yellow Vests rioted over green taxes on fuel, he capitulated.
May I answer the over-optimistic letter from Donald McPhillimy which you published last week?
He says A Greener Melrose can play “a very small, but significant part” in global warming.
“Small” and “significant” are diametrically opposed. He states that people are living “in peace with each other”. Read the papers, Mr McPhillimy.
Turning to the talk given by Robin McAlpine, of Common Weal, and his statement that “Scotland can become carbon neutral and lead the world out of the current climate emergency.”
He is paid – by unwilling taxpayers – to spout this garbage and has a first-class seat on the climate gravy train. I hope, Mr McPhillimy, you asked him how much he earns.
Did no one out of 60 people have the courage to point out to Mr McAlpine that Scotland has a miniscule 0.13% of global emissions while over 70% of the world are doing nothing?
As for Mr McPhillimy’s comments on COP26, he must be wearing green-tinted glasses since with 90,000 people expected, as opposed to the previous 25-year average of 30,000, there will be three times the hot air, three times the unnecessary emissions and three times the whitewash.
CLEARING A WAY TO HARRY’S SPOT
I have three photographs taken in Mervinslaw and Falside Forest, not far from what used to be the deer farm.
Two were taken in September 2017, and the other one showing a beautiful view of the Cheviots, now that there has been some felling done, taken earlier this month.
There is a small memorial plaque to forest ranger Harry Jackson and a couple of silver birch trees planted by his family.
Many years ago there used to be a path kept clear to a board, if I remember correctly, placed by the Forestry Commission in memory of Harry. It stated, among other information, that this view was Harry’s favourite.
By 2017 the view was all but obscured by pine plantations and to find the place I had to fight my way through thick ferns and other growth. There were several fairly ancient juniper bushes around there, some of which appear to have survived the tree felling.
I hope the Forestry Commission will preserve these bushes, erect another lasting memorial notice about Harry and reinstate a pathway to this beautiful, peaceful spot.
My late wife and I regularly walked the nearby forest tracks and it would be lovely if it were to be maintained as one of the viewpoints for which our Border countryside is so famous. A gap would have to be left if the area was replanted, but that could add to the beauty if carefully planned.
FOR MOST, NOT A DAY TO CELEBRATE
As Brexit day looms, it’s worth giving some thought to what we will be losing.
For young people especially, doors that allowed them to live, study and work without hindrance in EU countries will be closing.
We will no longer be part of discussions and decisions in the EU – rule-takers now, with no say in the rule-making process.
This time next year we may be clearer about the reality of any trade deals. It will be a number of years before the full impact on our society and economy is felt.
Leaving the world’s largest trading group to go it alone, a small state off the north-west coast of Europe, is, to put it mildly, not without its risks, especially as Westminster is still sending out mixed messages about its objectives.
Having been a citizen of Europe for the greater part of my life, I cherish that identity.
For most of us in Scotland, January 31 is not a day for celebration.
LOOK TO THE LEFT AS WELL AS RIGHT
Remembering the Holocaust will always be salutary.
We must never underestimate the capacity for evil that lurks within human nature.
Commemorating the Holocaust need not entail accepting the creation myth of the EU, however. Though rarely explicitly stated, the implication is often that Nazism shows what can emerge when a nationalistic state elects the wrong leaders, therefore a supranational body is required to dilute national allegiances and restrict the power of national governments.
Of course, an alternative narrative is that the evil of Nazism was defeated by patriotic democratic nation states
Ultimately, it is utopian to believe that any political structure can be immune from corruption.
Also, we now have generations growing up with appropriate revulsion at the horrors of Nazism, but virtually no knowledge of the evils of communism. If the political spectrum is seen as ending in atrocities on the far right, with no equivalent danger on the extreme left, then a naive belief can take root that left is good and further left always must be better.
Hitler’s mass slaughter in the cause of deranged racial theory was exceeded by communist regimes in their pursuit of absolute equality. Any fair-minded person should wish to reflect on both.
Scottish Family Party
LETTER GRATUITOUS AND INACCURATE
What is Prime Minister Boris Johnson trying to do?
I read his response to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s formal request for powers to hold an independence referendum in Scotland.
Mr Johnson was predictably against allowing people living in Dumfries and Galloway and the rest of Scotland from voting to determine their own future. So far, no puzzle.
His letter finished with a statement that it was time we all worked together to unleash the United Kingdom’s potential. This is where the puzzlement comes in because Mr Johnson felt it necessary to insert a paragraph specifically criticising the work of the Scottish government in key areas, including the health service, over the last 10 years.
So he was saying that Scotland’s democratically-elected government, responsible for a measurably-better performing NHS than the increasingly-privatised one in England, and vastly better than those in Wales and Northern Ireland, is, in fact, not very good.
This paragraph, whether it comes from Mr Johnson or his adviser, Dominic Cummings, is gratuitous and inaccurate, and insults the Scottish government, all who work in the health service north of the border and indeed all our citizens. It was totally unnecessary.
The Prime Minister is keen to harp on about defending the Union, yet agreed to separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK by keeping it in line with EU trade and environmental standards, thus necessitating a border in the Irish Sea.
He now feels the best way to keep Scotland in the Union is to insult Scottish voters who elected a government to serve us in devolved areas such as health and social care.
If you haven’t read the letter, I would urge you to do so. If Mr Johnson’s aim is to keep the UK together, then gratuitous and inaccurate criticism of our government, presumably driven by party-political point-scoring, is a very puzzling way to go about it.
It is clear that Boris Johnson is indeed a one-nation Conservative.
With the refusal of consent for the EU Withdrawal Agreement by governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, that one nation, it appears, is England.
CASE FOR SNP COUGHING UP
In your editorial last week you ask who will foot the bill for the COP26 climate junket in Glasgow.
Given that the SNP administration never ceases to tell us that it is “a world leader in fighting climate change”, there is a good argument for the nationalists to put their money where their mouths are and meet the £200m bill for policing. That is unlikely given the state of Scotland’s finances.
Can I suggest therefore that every delegate and government representative to this event should pay a levy? With 90,000 expected to attend, a levy of £25 per attendee would meet the cost of policing.
Furthermore, other disruptive events such as nationalist marches or Extinction Rebellion demonstrations should also have to pay their policing costs.
COST OF GETTING RID OF A LOSS-MAKER
Jamie Greene, Scottish Conservative shadow transport secretary, asked SNP transport secretary Michael Matheson whether the Scottish government remained committed to the memorandum of understanding it signed with Heathrow in 2016 supporting a third runway at the UK’s largest airport.
Mr Matheson said then that Heathrow “will potentially bring significant job creation and investment opportunities to Scotland”.
Is there a connection between loss-making Prestwick airport, which is in hock to taxpayers for about £50m? (and is Scottish government-owned).
It appears to finally have found a buyer and is thought to be Glasgow airport and Heathrow parent Ferrovial, after years of dithering by the Scottish nationalists.
Is Prestwick set to be the Scottish logistics hub for an expanded Heathrow? Is Nicola Sturgeon about to support the most un-carbon neutral public infrastructure project in the UK as the price for ridding the SNP of its massive loss-making albatross?
It is only right and correct for Scotland’s First Minister to let us know if she has joined the dots of agreement yet and, for once, remove her secrecy?
SPEEDING UP THE DEGREE PROCESS
With Scottish student debt more than doubling under the SNP and now standing at £5.5bn, it’s high time for a complete rethink of higher education.
The benefits of studying medical and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects are self-evident. Similarly, a case can easily be made for courses in law, accountancy or something else vocational.
But why are our universities turning out large numbers of graduates in near-pointless humanities subjects such as politics, geography and sociology?
Also, why do Scottish universities take four years to teach a student to first-degree level, when English universities can do it in three, and the private University of Buckingham can, by putting an extra term in the summer vacation, do it in two?
The solution starts with fewer students doing quicker degrees which lead to productive careers. In a smaller higher-education sector, public money will go further, and it would be possible to support students more generously.
BOOKLETS HELP YOU GET BACK ON TRACK
The beginning of a year is a time when TV programmes and newspapers contain articles about getting back in shape after Christmas – eating more healthily and taking more exercise.
Many of your readers will have diabetes, so this is particularly important for them, but they also have to manage their medications as well as their diet and exercise.
Our booklet, ‘Diabetes – Everyday Eating’, will help people to get back on track with their meals and provides inexpensive menus. There are 28 days of menus which help people to know what they can eat, rather than what they can’t.
We also have a booklet, ‘Diabetes and Exercise’, to help people with diabetes. We hope these booklets will make living with diabetes a little easier.
We are happy to send your readers a copy of ‘Diabetes – Everyday Eating’ and ‘Diabetes and Exercise’ free of charge. They just need to contact us on 01604 622837, e-mail [email protected] or write to IDDT, PO Box 294, Northampton NN1 4XS.
InDependent Diabetes Trust