Your picture of the week
Curtis Welsh took this image of Melrose Abbey late in the day, with the reflection of a fence creating added interest.Please email photographs, with a brief caption, to [email protected]
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
LETTING TORYDOM OFF THE HOOK?
I see that our now completely pointless council has convinced itself that it can no longer afford to maintain open spaces in Kelso that it does not actually own.
Once again a tiny pool of volunteers will be expected to stop The Cobby, Mayfield Riverside Walk and God knows where else from becoming overgrown, litter-strewn wastelands.
Scottish Borders Council’s cracked record of “unaffordability” is now really very tedious. Is there anything (apart from schools and kids) that it can afford?
It would be wonderful if, just for once, the over-promoted bean counters at Newtown, who appear to know the price of everything and the value of nothing, could extricate themselves from their foxholes.
An attractive townscape, a well-maintained road network, reasonable local bus services – all these encourage both locals and visitors to move about, and the latter group in particular spend money locally. When folk have a choice of holiday destinations, they will not visit a wasteland.
Most certainly the volunteers who pick up the jobs our local authority so abysmally fails to do derserve our praise and thanks in spades. But perhaps there can be a more cynical view here too – that they simply let Torydom and the education mafia off the hook by filling the growing void that our council convinces itself it cannot afford to fill.
Perhaps a council tax payment strike would bring them to their senses?
TOWNS’ UNIQUE SELLING POINT
The familiar landmark spire of St Aidan’s church in Galashiels is no more (Southern, April 4).
The use of the former church site for the building of affordable homes is not the worst possible outcome, but it’s a shame
that the old kirk could not have been converted for that purpose.
Where there is a will (and awareness), there is often a way. Everyone knows that.
These are tough times and money is scarce, yet even in purely financial terms the architectural heritage of our Borders towns is a unique selling point, most obviously in attracting tourism and investment.
I really hope this will be recognised – preferably soon – before it is too late.
TOO MUCH TIME ON HIS HANDS?
It is rather amusing to see John Lamont MP belatedly taking issue with ScotRail.
Christine Grahame MSP, a long-standing campaigner for the restoration of a railway line to the central Borders when he opposed it, has been doing all the heavy lifting on this issue, having raised it at First Minister’s Questions and tackling ScotRail boss Alex Hynes at a Holyrood meeting recently.
As Mr Lamont also takes up issues with NHS Borders – transport and health are devolved to the Scottish Parliament – I wonder why he fought so hard to leave Holyrood to go to Westminster, managing this on his fourth attempt. Perhaps he has too much time on his hands, allowing him to take his mind off his day job.
Better he devotes his time to making sure the Borders, which voted Remain, does not suffer from the failings of his party, and while he is at it, secures funding from the UK government for the English side of any Borders railway extension.
Were you at the Scotland v England rugby match on February 24 last year?
Former Deutsche Bank executive and now Westminster SNP leader Ian Blackford was. He accepted free tickets and hospitality amounting to £1,360 from Energy Law Unlimited.
Thinking of buying a funeral plan from Golden Charter Trust? Then MP Mr Blackford can help you out. He is chairman of Golden Charter and works part-time for the company. Very part-time. Eight hours per quarter for which he is paid £3,091 per month, and £1,500 per day should he be required to put in more hours.
Interested in communications? Again, Ian Blackford MP is your man. He is a non-executive chairman of Commsworld for which he receives the modest sum of £1,000 a month in addition to his shareholding worth over £70,000.
Fancy a week’s self-catering in Skye? Ian’s your man again. He receives over £10,000 per annum in property income from a house he owns.
The register of MPs’ financial interests is available online for anyone to check.
From the same parliamentary register I checked our own John Lamont MP. Mr Lamont’s entry is quite a contrast to that of Mr Blackford.
He has no financial interests at all. He is a non-practising solictor and a member of the Law Society of England and Wales, a trustee of St Abb’s Lifeboat Trust and a member of the Rail Action Group East of Scotland. That’s it.
EXITS CLOSED BY REMAINERS
Our wish in the 2016 European Union referendum was a political decision to leave – and leave only.
All other business will be served if and when Brexit is formalised. It would have been impossible to have voted for all the legal aspects due to its complexity.
We have a remainer Prime Minister and her remainer team, led by remainer Oliver Robbins (her senior adviser for Brexit), pretending to bat for Brexiteers and intent on leaving with her withdrawal agreement, including the single market and customs union, weighed heavily for the EU. All other exits for leaving the EU were closed by Oliver Robbins and the Prime Minister’s team.
Would we have had this horrendous situation if remainers had won the referendum?
Brexiteers will fight for their democratic right, regardless of Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, and are aware of the possible break-up of the United Kingdom.
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, should bear this in mind when calling for her independence referendum. All four nations must decide, as a United Kingdom, on separate calls for independence.
Current voting indicates the UK will continue as a sovereign state.
SCOTS REMAIN AS DIVIDED AS EVER
Polling for the new pro-independence ‘Progress Scotland’ think tank has delivered mixed results, with a majority indicating they do not want indyref2 in five years, but equally a majority saying there should be a new poll eventually.
Each side of Scotland’s big question will therefore find some positives for their preferred outcome.
Yet perhaps one thing we can all agree on is that Scotland remains as divided as ever following the 2014 referendum. The SNP, of course, remains determined to find a reason to rerun it.
If our First Minister could find a way to lift the threat of a second independence referendum for a while, at least beyond the next Holyrood elections in 2021, this would allow time for reflection on all sides, and would surely be good for Scotland.
This course might not be Nicola Sturgeon’s first thought in the light of Brexit turmoil, but it would be one that could serve to raise her standing across the spectrum of Scottish opinion.
THESE ARE TAXING TIMES FOR SCOTS
Scottish finance secretary Derek Mackay – he of no financial acumen – instituted changes to income tax rules meaning that from last Saturday anyone earning in excess of £27,000 north of the border will pay more tax than those in England.
Those earning more than £43,430 will pay substantially more.
That is not the end of it since taxpayers entitled to marriage allowance of up to £250 because their partner or spouse is earning less than the personal allowance will lose this cash if their income exceeds the Scottish higher rate threshold of £43,430. In England the threshold is £50,000.
So much for wanting to attract highly-motivated people to drive Scotland’s economy.
BORDERS CLOSEST TO MUSICIAN’S HEART
Dr G. Bernard Worrell Jr is to be honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award on Saturday, May 11, in Los Angeles, to be received by his widow, Judie Worrell.
The Borders was first to recognise Bernie Worrell for his service in music for Scotland’s historical culture, before his own country. The Borders and its people were the closest to Bernie’s heart.
Please publish this letter in his honour, for all the Borderers who have had the joy of meeting him, and hearing him perform live, as well as those who saw him during filming in 1980 through to 1986 here in the Borders.
I will be doing a special Bernie Worrell Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award night performance at The Savings Bank, Glasgow, on May 24.
HOT WATER FORECAST FOR URI
As Uri Geller has somewhat publicly claimed responsibility for causing the recent flood in the House of Commons, surely it would be rather difficult for him to bend his way out of paying were he to be sent the bill for rectifying any damage caused.
PROJECT SEEKS OUT VETERANS’ VOICES
Poppyscotland is on the lookout for veterans from every conflict since 1939 for an ambitious new project that will capture these precious stories in a series of interviews.
The Veterans’ Voices project, which is being funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Chancellor using LIBOR funds, will seek out veterans the length and breadth of Scotland in a bid to compile a definitive dossier of interviews to cover each and every conflict over the past 80 years.
Veterans’ Voices will be a unique resource of high-quality film archive of interviews with veterans living in Scotland of military conflict from 1939 to the present day.
Our ambition is to capture as many of these personal recollections so that their stories can live on.
The completed body of work will then be available to view on the charity’s learning website and made available to schools.
The short video clips will help the public to develop a better understanding and engage with veterans, and have greater appreciation of more recent and less well-known conflicts.
If you are a veteran and would welcome the chance to tell your story, please contact Veterans’ Voices researcher Hannah Uttley on 07833 750 937, or at [email protected]cotland.org.uk.
While all veterans are encouraged to get in touch, it is particularly important for the project that the interviews include a real social and gender mix.
(head of fundraising)
TO THE COCKER SPANIEL’S RESCUE
Can I please say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the person who lifted my black cocker spaniel, Millie, and took her to the Borders Pet Rescue centre at Earlston.
I don’t know who you are to thank you personally, but I am very grateful to you for your quick thinking and caring nature.