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Alistair Milne's image shows the Yarrow Valley in frost's icy grip. Please email contributions, including a brief caption, to [email protected]
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Under Westminster management, we are reportedly in a dire economic situation with a £15bn “black hole” paralysing our finances.
Why is Scotland is failing so badly under Westminster management, and in what way is this an argument for continuing under Westminster management?
Scotland is one of a number of countries of a broadly similar size in northern Europe. Our independent European colleagues appear to manage their affairs very well. They regularly appear at the top end of the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI).
Norway topped last year’s list, with the Netherlands second, Switzerland third, Denmark (this year’s “happiest country in the world”) fifth, Iceland seventh, Sweden eighth, Ireland ninth and Finland 10th. The United Kingdom was placed 13th.
Could we also manage our affairs as successfully as this if independent? If not, why not?
Consider HDI ‘winner’ Norway. It shares a long border and has many cultural links with Sweden.
Should Norway abandon independence, dissolve its parliament (maintaining a devolved body for certain domestic purposes) and send its MPs to the Rikstag in Stockholm where, as a small minority, they would try to influence economic policy, foreign affairs etc. for Norway?
Would Norway be better governed as a result?
Does the fact that Norwegians don’t seem particularly minded to do this mean that they are anti-Swedish?
Is it better for a nation to manage its own affairs, or is it more sensible for it to vote overwhelmingly for one programme of government and then send representatives 400 miles and more south to sit as a small minority in another parliament where they have no power to implement that programme?
If you believe Scotland is best kept under Westminster control, these are questions to which I would be interested in hearing answers.
While not true of all politicians, it does seem that many suffer a form of political Tourette’s syndrome.
You know they are saying bad things because their lips are moving – and if not lying, then being economical with the actuality.
Tories do this quite openly because they know that their utterances will not be challenged by the right-wing media (which is most of it), the BBC or indeed by those whose job it is to challenge them, the supine Labour opposition. So it is down to local newspapers such as the Southern Reporter and some reliable internet sites to give voice to those who disagree with the wisdom according to Westminster.
In his latest piece of “SNP Bad” from wannabe MP, Conservative MSP John “welfare claimants make a lifestyle choice” Lamont, is the claim that house building per annum has fallen since the SNP was voted into power in 2007 (View from Holyrood, December 1).
What he didn’t, and wouldn’t mention, is that after the massive financial crash in 2008 the construction industry went into virtual hibernation across the whole UK. Thousands lost their jobs and the industry is only just beginning to recover.
If the Westminster Tory government had not been ideologically driven to impose its counter-productive policies of austerity onto an ailing Britain, our financial position now could be so much stronger.
If instead of bailing out the casino banks, Labour, coalition and now Tory governments had invested in building and infrastructure, Britain might actually be reducing the deficit.
For those who will no doubt question my claims, just look up what the government of 1945 did in a bankrupt Britain.
REPLACEMENT FOR THE LABOUR PARTY
I was heartened by Paul Nuttall’s election as Ukip leader.
Firstly, Mr Nuttall’s success gives a clear and credible answer to the existential question: what, after the Brexit referendum, is Ukip for?
There is real need for a political party to represent working class people, now that Labour has reduced itself to little more than a virtue-signalling middle-class cult. The success of the SNP suggests that replacing Labour in England and Wales is a realistic aim for Ukip.
Secondly, the new leader is likely to bring an early end to the infighting and factionalism. Paul Nuttall commands the support of Ukip’s MEPs, as deputy leader he was close enough to Nigel Farage to bring Farage loyalists with him and, by his astute early appointment of Patrick O’Flynn MEP, shows he intends to bring those close to Douglas Carswell MP and Suzanne Evans back in to the fold.
Thirdly, Paul Nuttall’s championing of an English parliament shows that he recognises the need to rebalance our constitution to take account of devolution to the Celtic parts of the UK.
British politics can only benefit from Ukip mounting a challenge to a Labour party which, under Jeremy Corbyn, seems to be stuck in a 1970s university sociology department.
RAISING MANY QUESTIONS
The Electoral Commission has given its initial recommendations about the Scottish Government’s draft bill for a second independence referendum.
In due course it will need to recommend a change to the question posed if the government moves ahead with its plan to ask the same question as last time.
Ahead of the EU referendum, the commission conducted extensive research into the implications of various approaches to posing a question, with the Westminster Government originally suggesting ‘Should the UK remain in the European Union’, requiring a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer.
The conclusion of the commission analysis was that the question needed to be reframed on a more neutral basis, requiring a ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ answer, which the UK Government accepted. This ensured that neither side was gifted with the positive response.
Anyone tempted to wonder if this makes much difference should recall how the SNP made the “negativity” of its opponents during the 2014 Scottish referendum a fundamental plank of the ‘Yes’ campaign, clearly made easier by forcing the ‘No’ side to argue for the negative answer.
Alex Salmond managed to engineer the eventual accepted question that was asked in 2014 by proposing an even more biased question initially with its leading introduction, namely ‘Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?’.
When the Electoral Commission recommended this be adjusted to ‘Should Scotland be an independent country’ and this was accepted by the UK Government, Mr Salmond knew he had won the first round of the referendum by getting a question that would help him portray the SNP as being on the positive side of the argument.
The commission has made clear it will want to comment on the “intelligibility” of the proposed second referendum question – even if it is the same as last time.
Its recommendations about the EU referendum question stated that this “intelligibility” meant more than just the understanding of the question and included proposing reframing a question to improve its neutrality.
All who value fairness in democracy will watch this issue with interest.
COLD-SHOULDERING THE SCAREMONGERS
To the surprise of academics from the University of Reading, the logbooks of Captain Robert Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton show that more than 100 years ago there was remarkably little difference in the extent of sea ice floating round Antarctica than there is today.
Antarctica contains 90% of all the land ice on the planet and over the past 50 years has been getting colder and adding more ice. Nasa reported that Antarctica has been adding 112 billion tons of ice every year between 1992 and 2001, and 82 billion tons every year between 2003 and 2008.
This rather dashes the claims by Al Gore in his scaremongering film, “An Inconvenient Truth”, that melting ice would cause oceans to rise by 20ft and drown many of the world’s great cities.
He should rename this film “A Convenient Lie”.
NEWTOWN’S CHRISTMAS TWIG
If there is a Cruelty to Christmas trees organisation, Scottish Borders Council’s Newtown HQ should be reported for the poor little tree erected beside the war memorial.
It should have been left to grow for at least another year.
Last year’s tree was beautiful, but this little thing won’t need many lights – perhaps that the idea, saving money on electricity!
GUARDING AGAINST CUTTING COSTS
As an airline shareholder, I have been following the current railway industrial dispute in the south of England with some interest.
It seems the bone of contention between unions and management is the safety function of guards – a function which the employers claim is used so infrequently that it doesn’t make economic sense to retain.
In terms of passenger mile per accident, this is undoubtedly equally true when it comes to airline cabin staff.
If Southern Railways are successful in their bid to cut costs in this way, can we look forward to the UK airline industry being able to similarly save by replacing trolly dollies with recorded announcements of “Brace, Brace”?
John Eoin Douglas
LADIES WHO LUNCHED
Children 1st Melrose Action Group held its annual Ladies’ Lunch at Burts Hotel, Melrose.
A successful hamper raffle, surprise bag raffle and donations raised £2,495 for the charity.
Anna O’Reilly, from Children 1st, addressed the ladies as to current developments in the Borders and throughout Scotland.
The committee would like to thank all who attended the lunch, those who made a donation and the businesses in Melrose who generously contributed.
(secretary, Children 1st Melrose Action Group)
KELSO AUCTION DINNER
On behalf of St Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Kelso, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all who supported our recent successful auction dinner in Ednam village hall.
Your generosity is very much appreciated.
Preb. Bob King
POPPY APPEAL IN MELROSE
Could I thank the collectors and shops in Melrose who took part in this year’s Poppy Appeal.
We managed to raise a great total of £2,656.47.
(area organiser for Melrose)
A huge thank you to everyone who supported my daughter’s fund-raising coffee morning on Saturday, November 26, at the Royal British Legion, Jedburgh.
You helped her raise an amazing £513.50 towards her trip to Kenya next summer. This was made up of £102.50 from the sale of quiz sheets and £411 from the coffee morning itself.
PROVIDING THOSE ‘EXTRA’ THINGS
As chairperson of Broomlands Primary School Parent Council, I would like to thank everyone who has supported us in 2016, and everyone who attended, or was involved in some way or another in making our Christmas Fair on Friday, November 25, a huge success.
We received many donations for our Christmas raffle and stalls from parents, supporters and businesses from within and around the Kelso area, as well as further afield – far too many to mention individually, but every single one was much appreciated by the parent council, school and pupils.
The fair is one of our main fundraising events which help us provide those “extra” things for the children’s benefit. However, its success can only be achieved by the help and generosity of our numerous supporters and helpers.