LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
A QUESTION OF VALUE FOR MONEY
We all know the saying, “value for money”, but are we getting value for money from our council tax?
Do you think – at a time Scottish Borders Council is spending millions of pounds on land not deemed worth the money, on a tapestry no other local authority or the public wants and millions on iPads for schoolchildren – it should be reducing front-line services such as cemetery maintenance, day centres for the elderly and recycling plants, with jobs also being cut? I know I don’t.
I believe a council exists to provide and protect frontline services, and jobs – not spend millions of pounds on unnecesary, unwanted projects.
Councillors, where are your voices?
MOURNING DEATH OF A NEWSPAPER
The death of a newspaper is always a sad event, but when that newspaper (Selkirk Weekend Advertiser) is in your own town then it is a bitter blow.
And on this occasion it leaves an even more bad taste in the mouth because this was a local newspaper which people looked up to and revered for at least four generations which began in the 1800s and carried on until last week under various guises.
Selkirk was, at one time, almost as famous as Dundee, maybe not for jam and jute, but when it came to newspapers, journalism and printing, we were very much to the fore with a trade which employed many people.
The Selkirk Saturday Advertiser, just the latest to go, had as its neighbours the Selkirk Advertiser which came out on a Friday and where also the Hawick Free Press was printed. The Southern Reporter was another truly local newspaper, also published and printed, in the High Street, and down at Linglie Mill we also had Scottish Prepared Papers which employed at least two shifts with presses turning night and day to produce bread and butter wrappers.
My own upbringing was with Walter Thomson at the Saturday Advertiser and woe betide anyone who referred to it as “the Wee Paper”. The Walter I knew was the third generation of the family to edit the weekly paper and was my first boss. Of course, the world, or at least the world of rugby, knew him best as “Fly-half”, the best print journalist in Scotland who used his nom-de-plume at The Sunday Post.
Going into the print and journalism world was a mind-blowing experience. When I crossed the threshold of 71 High Street I didn’t quite know what a compositor was, but learned the ropes over the standard eight-year apprenticeship. Being a small firm, I believe I got a wonderful start to working life and the adage was ‘if you are going to be in the trade, then you have to learn the whole trade’. That was said and that was meant, and I was trained to be a compositor, printer, journalist and pretty often the person who met the printing customer and discussed what they wanted.
The death of a local newspaper denies the town or city of its birth another avenue of life and learning, but more than that it destroys the heritage and legacy that wrote the records and the way of life for almost two centuries in Selkirk.
Of course the town and the Thomson family are not unique. Think back awhile and remember Bobby McNairn of the Hawick News, think of the Stewart family who had the Selkirk Advertiser above what is now McCuddens newsagents, think of Wattie Easton, Jedburgh, and the original Mr Smail, who owned the Kelso Chronicle, or John Dawson with the Kelso Echo.
We hear nowadays of “fake news”. That is a symptom of modern and devil-may-care society which has come along with Facebook and other social media for which there seems to be no limit.
Newspapers were born to inform and educate, as did the printing trade which was itself born in the cellars and lodges of the Church during the Middle Ages, but which seems today to have little or no place in society.
As we remember with sadness the passing of another bunch of periodicals and informative literature, let us never forget the aforementioned people involved in their production, as well as Freddie Johnson and his family who produced the excellent Falkirk Herald. These were newspaper people who knew their trade and protected their reputation.
What a pity that it all has fallen into a pit of accountancy where numbers are more important than the written word.
W. Kenneth Gunn
(formerly of the Selkirk
VAST SUMS WASTED ON VANITY PROJECTS
Business incompetence, jobs for the boys, or simply buying SNP votes in the party’s heartland?
Any or all explain the economic black hole at Prestwick Airport, yet another SNP-inspired Scottish government act of mismanagement. Already bankrupt, redundant and irrelevant, the airport was purchased by the SNP in 2013 for £1 and has been paid-for by Scottish taxpayers (already the most heavily taxed in the UK) ever since. It owes £38.4m and is losing £7-8m a year.
Only a handful of Ryanair flights use it (doubtless encouraged by quiet, backhand SNP incentives). It employs 315 staff (280 of whom are described as “operational” – what are the others doing?) with an annual staffing bill of £9.4m. Nice non-work if you can get it!
Further naïve and misguided SNP policies have killed off the mid-to-high-end housing market in Scotland due to punitive and unjustified rates of stamp duty (10% on any property valued over £330,000), far above the rest of the UK. Moreover, while the SNP financial wizards bribe the lowest paid with a paltry £20 drop in their annual income tax bill, median and higher earners now suffer ever-increasing income and council tax bills as rates rise and thresholds do not (e.g. 41% on earnings over £43k in Scotland compared to 40% on earnings over £50k in England).
And why inflict this? Per capita, Scotland receives billions of extra pounds from the UK Treasury compared to England or Wales. Do they not understand that the wealth-generating entrepreneurs and higher-earning professionals will simply leave Scotland, resulting in a lower tax take?
The SNP wastes vast sums on vanity projects, endless indyref nonsense and lavish international trips for Nicola Sturgeon to have her ego stroked, commits political mischief and undermine the UK government at every opportunity.
Meanwhile Scotland lags further and further behind in productivity, education, policing and NHS standards.
Our only remaining assets are tourism and iconic scenery. Sadly, the former has declined by 50% in the Borders over the last decade and the latter is being systematically destroyed by urban philistines via SNP government-approved wind farms.
House prices in this region fell by 2.6% in 2018, the greatest drop in Scotland.
Wasn’t the Borders Railway supposed to breathe economic life back into our region? Instead, I suspect it has further emptied our high streets as Borderers now travel to Edinburgh to shop, eat out and party hard. Travel back on the last (“Prosecco”) night train at your peril! Something for you to look forward to, Hawick. Such an outcome was never rocket science.
On a grander scale, London’s pull has had a similar effect on surrounding dormitory towns with rapid transport links.
And seriously, are 50,000 visitors a year going to come to Galashiels to stare in awe at Alex Salmond’s “2014 Great Tapestry of Scotland” – in your wildest SNP propaganda dreams, Nicola.
Your correspondents Robertson and McPhillimy (letters, June 20) misrepresent my position on climate change.
I am not “a denier”. In my letter of June 13, I wrote, “the climate has always been changing and always will”, which is what I believe as a geographer.
But there are far more reasons for climate to change than anthropogenic warming: solar activity, the movement of ocean currents such as El Nino, volcanic eruptions such as Mt Pinatubo which actually lower temperature because they reflect sunlight, and Antarctic winds, for example.
Satellite measurements over the last 40 years show global warming at 0.13C per decade, while there was actually a warming pause between 2000 and 2015. The year 2016 was a warm year because of a strong El Nino effect. Since 2016, average global temperatures have declined.
Tide gauges around the world show an increase in sea level of 1mm to 1.5mm a year. Polar bear numbers have actually increased from 10,000 in the 1960s to 40,000 now.
Hardly reasons for declaring a “climate emergency”, and alarming our children to fear for their future. Definitely not “climate chaos”. As for “97% of scientists agreeing” with anthropogenic warming as the cause of climate change – poppycock!
Trying to meet a UK target of net-zero emissions by 2050 will cost over £1 trillion, reduce GDP, and severely increase energy and transport costs, hitting the poorest members of society the most. With around 1% of the world’s global emissions, why should we do that when China, the USA and India emit 50% of the world’s CO2 and have no targets at all?
And where is the electricity coming from for all the homes which have to replace gas and oil heating with electricity, electrifying the railways and the vehicle fleet, producing vast quantities of hydrogen for trains, and introducing electric aircraft? Only this month the Royal Society of Edinburgh warned of the shortfall in Scotland when Torness and Hunterston close.
Furthermore, the claims made for decarbonising technologies are unproven. Battery-driven tractors, anyone? On battery storage of electricity from wind farms, Emirutus Professor of Engineering at Edinburgh University, Jack Ponton, has said there is “no possibility that any existing storage technology can handle the intermittency of wind generation and make it effectively dispatchable”.
Roberto Valvassori, head of the European association of auto suppliers (CLEPA), has outlined just how small the impact of electrifying our car fleet on CO2 emissions would be. Europe creates a 10th of global CO2 from all sources, but only 7% of global CO2 emissions is caused by cars and light vans. If Europe electrified its car fleet overnight, only 0.7% of global emissions would be cut. And if the figure included the energy input of recharging EVs, much of which is supplied by fossil fuels, that would drop to 0.4%.
Greenpeace sent its ship, the Arctic Sunrise, to block Transocean’s rig heading for the Vorlich Field in the North Sea in flagrant defiance of international law. It wanted to stop oil production, yet the Arctic Sunrise is powered by a diesel engine. ‘It’s not what we do, it’s what we say that counts’ should be the Greenpeace motto.
One wonders why government continues to pander to these people whose ultimate aim is to undermine the present economic and social system and build a new one in their image.
A MENDACIOUS DISTORTION OF TRUTH
The hearts of Donald McPhillimy, Brian Robertson and Lesley Robertson might be in the right place, but their closed minds clearly prevent them from getting a grasp on reality (letters, June 20).
Contrary to the assertion that I accept that humans have been the major contributory factor to climate change, I have previously stated with clear good reason that while there has been some anthropogenic influence, it has been at a minimal level of around 20%.
They also persist with the same old line about the 97% scientific consensus, conveniently disregarding the fact that it has been shown to be nothing more than a mendacious distortion of the truth. Science should be a continuous process of even-handed, open debate. However, if something is repeated often enough then people will grow to believe it.
These contributors should also have realised by now that those who hold opposing views, who they like to refer to as deniers (I prefer the term realists), freely accept that the global temperature measurements indicate a marginal increase (0.8 degrees Celsius) over the past century and that the CO2 concentration has risen by 120 parts per million over the past 270 years. This, however, is not creating the hugely over-hyped “climate catastrophe” proclaimed by the likes of Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May.
The statistic that 13% of man-made global emissions emanate from agriculture does not imply that this is insignificant, but when set alongside the remaining 87%, any marginal reductions that the industry may achieve in the future will have a negligible mitigating effect. Carbon dioxide actually promotes more vigorous plant growth.
It is a statement of the obvious that farmers feed the world, but is it appropriate that good agricultural land should be given over to growing crops for lubricants and bio-fuels rather than food?
What is the magic formula that Mr McPhillimy possesses that can make steel from electricity rather than coal? Is he aware that global coal production has risen by 4.1% over the past five years? For the foreseeable future, until technology perfects the manufacture of a new wonder material such as graphene (300 times stronger than steel), then coal and steel will remain inextricably linked.
Adherents to veganism, who can boast a fourfold increase over the last four years, no doubt have personal ethical and health reasons for their choices, and some may also labour under the delusion that their actions are going to help to save the planet. Their food choices, such as heavily water-dependent almonds from California with a 10 inch annual rainfall, is seriously depleting underground aquifers there as well as creating the need to truck in millions of bees to pollinate the trees. There is also the huge demand that veganism has created for quinoa, avocado, asparagus, chickpeas, soya etc. which is driving poverty and scarcity in developing nations, depriving people of their staple diet while also contributing to serious deforestation in many parts of the world and adding significant food miles.
Neil J. Bryce
RENOWNED CENTRE OF LEARNING
Thank you, Rory Stewart, for setting the record straight concerning the saga of the naming of the new Jedburgh school (letters, June 13).
I suspect that although Scottish Borders Council requested name suggestions from the public, the local authority had already decided on certain restrictions. I assume these were not publicised at that time (I was away visiting family on the other side of the world and only found out about the suggestion opportunity on reading the ‘Jed Eye’ after my return).
We now know that council officers dictated the shortlist of names for our town’s new school and, thanks to the efforts of our town and community councillors remonstrating with these officials, the word ‘grammar’ has been included in one of the options.
Jedburgh folk, including incomers like me (36 years a resident), respect the historic heritage of our royal burgh. Jedburgh has had a renowned centre of learning for over eight centuries and there has been a Jedburgh Grammar School for five centuries. Surely this heritage is worth maintaining.
Yes, the new school is more than just a ‘school’ in the narrow sense of the word, but its main function is to educate – in the widest sense of the word. It is the next phase in the evolution of ‘Jed Grammar’.