Your picture of the week
Broom provided the colour on a rather dull day when Curtis Welsh captured this Kelso riverside image.Please email photographs, with a brief caption, to [email protected]
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
RESIDENTS MORE AWARE OF REALITIES
Are the “economic impact studies” carried out by “independent consultants” (Southern, May 23) all they are cracked up to be?
Financial and planning departments at Scottish Borders Council seem to be very easily
persuaded by them (at vast cost, I suspect) – the latest claim being that the proposed 71-bedroom budget hotel in Tweedbank will be full every night. How do they work that out?
I suspect the existing accommodation in Melrose is not occupied every night and you don’t see people wandering around Galashiels looking for somewhere to stay. Where are all these people going to come from? – like the 50,000 who are going to flock to see the Great Tapestry of Scotland each year.
We should be told how these figures are reached and justified.
Apparently “independent consultants” predicted that charging for the use of one of the area’s public toilets would provide an income of £15k per
annum – oddly enough, the figure is only £4k and it will now be privatised. Lots of people objected to the charges being introduced and, yet again, the public has been proved right.
It is time we were consulted and listened to – residents are far more aware of the realities
than consultants jetted in from outside.
TAX AVOIDANCE QUESTION
I wish to respond to comments reported in the Southern last week which were made at the meeting of Scottish Borders Council on May 16 by Councillor Mark Rowley, the administration’s member for business and economic development.
Councillor Rowley, in reply to a question from Councillor Davie Paterson regarding the purchase of Lowood Estate, is quoted as saying: “As a public authority, the council was required to provide the information requested by Mr Farquhar. The information has been publicised in a way that, in our view, and my own personal view, is entirely inappropriate.
“The council believes that private individuals, in this case the Hamilton family, should not be subjected to this level of scrutiny on how they conduct their entirely personal financial and legitimate tax affairs which is a matter for them.”
This statement referred to the information I had received in response to a Freedom of Information request disclosing that the recent transaction over the sale of Lowood Estate involved the payment of £9.6m being made by Scottish Borders Council to two companies based in the Cayman Islands.
This is a most unusual situation considering that money we pay in taxes was going directly into offshore funds that do not pay any UK tax to help support our public services, the NHS or the defence of our country.
In these circumstances my intended scrutiny was aimed at the council and not the private individuals alluded to by Councillor Rowley.
From what was said at the same meeting, it is surprising to note that councillors hitherto had no knowledge of this sensitive matter. In the interests of transparency and in order to gain assurances that the rules of best value were followed throughout this transaction, elected members may feel it’s in the public interest for them to ensure this matter receives further scrutiny.
The council paid £9.6m for Lowood in what appears to have been a private deal which was free of competing interest. In these circumstances the district valuation officer was required to fix a value for the estate.
Although the valuation figure has never been disclosed publicly, it has been stated that the sum paid was in excess of that. If this is the case, the reasons for paying over the district valuation officer’s value and the amount involved should be ascertained.
Over and above the £9.6m, it has also emerged that the council agreed to pay all the seller’s fees, thus raising the total cost of this transaction to £11m. This appears to be an unusual and generous arrangement, and the reasons for it should be explained.
In certain circumstances there is a risk that this could be interpreted to be an act of aiding and abetting tax avoidance, therefore assurances should be sought by elected members that safeguards were put in place to prevent this.
Andrew I. Farquhar
FEEDING MESSAGE OF DEMONISATION
When the Nazis gained power in Germany, concentration camps were not their first policies.
Propaganda and demonisation of minorities came first, and with tight control of the media they fostered discrimination and hatred within the general population.
When then Chancellor George Osborne stood up in the Westminster parliament and denounced the unemployed, disabled and sick as skivers, shirkers and scroungers, the die was cast. His message of demonisation was amplified by a supplicant press and state broadcaster.
Sadly the tactic was successful, with many examples of people in wheelchairs being attacked and desperately sick people dying by the thousand after being assessed as fit for work by the Department for Work and Pensions.
A covert programme of extermination is not necessary – it can be achieved by stealth.
I experienced an example of this callousness when the group I am in organised a coffee morning in Eyemouth to raise funds for local food banks. A woman arrived at the door of the venue, but when she discovered the event was to support people in need, she said “they deserve to suffer” and left.
Democracy is under threat in the UK, especially in England. Ugly far-right groups such as the English Defence League, Britain First, Traditional Britain Group, European Research Group, UKIP and the Brexit Party are pedalling messages of hate.
The defining characteristic that members of these groups share is an inherent, deeply-ingrained ignorance; an inability to see the person beyond skin colour or religion.
Scotland has an escape route from this frightening, dystopian future – and we should seize it before it’s too late.
Supporters of Scottish independence simply want a better and fairer society, and whatever you may think about the thousands of people who have marched for independence over many years, not one has been arrested for violent behaviour.
All the foul language, obscene gestures and direct attacks have come from Union Jack-waving louts.
LABOURING THE PARTY POSITION
I am sure most of us who took an interest in last week’s European Parliament elections would have been surprised just how well the Brexit Party and Liberal Democrats did UK-wide, as well as the SNP in Scotland, compared to the dismal performance of Labour and the Tories.
The reason some parties did so well was because their policy on Brexit was clear and concise from the beginning of the campaign.
We can put the Tories’ terrible performance down to a divided party at Westminster and Ruth Davidson’s attempt (once again) to make it all about stopping the SNP holding another Scottish independence referendum.
But Labour are the real losers in this election. They went into a campaign with no clear policy on Europe – leave or remain?; for or against a “people’s vote”?
I still do not know, and many millions of Labour voters all over the UK did not know either. That is why many of their life-long supporters walked away and voted for someone else.
In Scotland they lost David Martin, who was the longest-serving MEP in Britain. Even he said that Labour’s policy on Brexit should have been clearer.
This is a plea on behalf of myself and members of the wider electorate who read this newspaper, and who also do not have a clue what Labour’s Brexit stance is: can a Labour member or supporter who knows the party’s position on Brexit send a letter to The Southern Reporter and tell us? – because the Labour leadership don’t seem to know themselves.
Mark G. Kettrick
WARNING FOR THE REMAINERS
To quote Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Take note, Remainers in social media, including the Guardian newspaper, BBC and RT TV.
You do your worst and we will do our best, for we are now on the defensive for Brexit. We are the inchoate who will cleanse the Augean stables. We will cast millions of votes for the Brexiteers and our sovereign United Kingdom. We are the silent majority who have watched politicians change sides for their own embellishment.
We watched a democratic referendum vote in the UK nearly dissolve into obscurity because Prime Minister Theresa May and her Brexit chief adviser, Oliver Robbins, were irrevocable Remainers.
Our new Prime Minister and cabinet ministers must all be Brexiteers and for no deal, thus ensuring an agreement.
Remainers can voice their objections from the back benches of Westminster.
Soon First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will be calling (again) for independence.
Information received indicates that at that time all four nations of the UK will be invited to vote, for independence threatens the longevity of our sovereign UK and effects everyone.
A SPECIAL SUNDAY
June 9 has been designated Street Pastor Sunday, when churches and communities are asked to remember the work of street pastors both locally and further afield.
Street pastors have been operating in the Borders since 2016 and June 9 also coincides with our third anniversary. The week before will also be our 200th patrol, with teams out in Galashiels and Hawick on the Saturday night, listening, caring and helping. As one of 282 initiatives, we would invite local churches to remember street pastors in their prayers that day.
Prayer material is also available by contacting [email protected]
As part of the Christian community, Borders Street Pastors look forward to continuing to serve the people of the region throughout the summer months and beyond, and wish everyone a safe time during the many events coming up in the Borders.
Borders Street Pastors
PARTICIPANTS OFTEN ‘AMBUSHED’
John Eoin Douglas’s equivalence (letters, May 23) between ITV’s screening of the Jeremy Kyle Show and sporting events such as boxing and motor sport is a false one.
In the latter boxers and drivers are strictly regulated by their governing bodies who issue licences, rigorously enforce the rules, and ensure participants are fit and qualified to compete.
Participants fully understand the risks, are highly trained and skilled, and often have spent many years preparing for their events.
By contrast, participants in the Jeremy Kyle Show, according to former guests and employees, were wholly unprepared (indeed actively misled) for what often resembled an ambush or a session in the Colosseum.
Any impartial observer could see that many guests were vulnerable, ill-educated or, most worryingly, mentally ill. Far from being helped or supported, they were ruthlessly exploited for profit and damaged by the experience.
The terrible – but not unexpected – climax of this travesty was the apparent suicide of a guest earlier this month.
After 14 years this vile show has finally been axed. Good riddance and may we never see its like again.
Marie Claire Dibbern
ARMED FORCES INFO APPEAL
I write to enquire whether, among your readers, there is anyone who lost a family member, friend or colleague serving in the armed services, from 1922-1939, and whose family and home were in Glasgow or Lanarkshire at the time of death.
Since that time, of course, families may well have moved elsewhere.
This request for information is for the purpose of commemorating the deaths of those serving in the armed forces during the period 1922-1939. All information provided will be treated in the fullest confidence both by myself and South Lanarkshire Council to whom the information will be conveyed and who will contact all respondents.
Should any reader wish to communicate with myself, my contact details are at the end of this letter.
Alternatively, he/she may wish to get in touch directly with the chief executive of South Lanarkshire Council by writing to Council HQ, Almada Street, Hamilton ML3 1AA, or by phoning the council bereavement services on 0303 123 1016.
J. E. Allan
(East Kilbride History Society)
94 Franklin Place
phone: 01355 225845 or