Your picture of the week
Reader Bill Calder supplied this image of autumn in Hawick’s Wilton Lodge Park.Please email photographs, with a brief caption, to [email protected]
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
OUR COUNCIL IS FAILING TO CASH IN
With Scottish Borders Council (SBC) continually crying out for additional funding, an obvious boost to its coffers has been overlooked for so long.
Anyone wishing to extend their property can currently do so without any increase in council rates, until such time as they sell that property.
So, if you wish to add two extra bedrooms and extend your lounge, you can enjoy your new extension without paying a single penny extra in rateable value. Any increase will only take place when you eventually sell your property, be it five, 10 or 20 years hence.
The buyers of your house, however, will be totally unaware that the “rate band” quoted on an estate agent’s brochure is probably years out of date and, sadly, they will only discover the increased rateable value after receiving a letter from SBC informing them of the rate increase.
How can this be justifiable, and why are councils so reluctant to change a process that deprives them of legitimate annual income (sometimes over many, many years), and leaves potential buyers completely oblivious to a rate increase that they know nothing about?
Surely a rate increase on an extended property should commence as soon as any extension has been completed. This certainly takes places south of the border, and is an accepted and sensible arrangement.
Why is it not so here, or is it just too logical?
SHOW US THE EVIDENCE, JOHN
As an avid user of Twitter and other social media sites to keep up to date with the latest goings on regarding Brexit and politics in general, I was a little puzzled on October 18 to see a tweet from local Tory MP John Lamont in which he said Borders constituents had changed their minds and were now wanting their MP to back the Brexit deal.
This was following a day out in Earlston where, Mr Lamont tweeted, he had evidence of overwhelming support from constituents to (brace for soundbite) “Get Brexit done!”, and this is why he’d be voting for Boris Johnson’s deal – even though he knows it will be bad for Scotland and, more importantly, the Borders in so many ways.
Like every other part of Scotland, this region voted to remain in the EU, so I don’t follow his logic.
I asked Mr Lamont to prove what he was saying. I then followed this up with another tweet asking him to use the Southern Reporter to show all of us the emails, transcripts of conversations etc. which led him to believe we want him “to back the deal” and get “Brexit sorted”.
I am still waiting for a reply (I’m writing this on October 23).
I didn’t expect a full-on explanation to my simple request. I know he has been busy of late, voting against what Borderers voted for in 2016, or voting to make sure Boris’s deal could be fast-tracked through parliament to avoid the full attention of MPs debating whether it is a really bad deal, or a really terrible deal, but an acknowledgement of some sorts would have been nice.
So here I am, writing to the Southern to help resolve this matter.
Mr Lamont, your constituents await your reply, the floor is yours.
Newtown St Boswells
SNP MSP AND DEMOCRACY
I see SNP MSP Christine Grahame (‘View from Holyrood’, October 24) is critical of Tory MP John Lamont’s support of the Westminster government’s efforts to obtain a deal on leaving the EU.
I sincerely hope that John Lamont would do exactly that, notwithstanding that he was a Remainer.
Those of us who voted Remain have to accept that, in accordance with democratic principles, the will of the people must prevail.
It would seem that Ms Grahame does not accept this principle.
David S. W. Williamson
The horrible death of 39 migrants in a trailer in Essex will make no difference to the large flows of them into Britain and continental Europe.
For most of the migrants the journey to Europe is a high-stakes lottery with an excellent chance of the large win of settlement here or elsewhere in northern Europe. For this opportunity each migrant, or their family, has paid thousands of pounds to smugglers and criminal networks.
Few of these migrants, other than Syrians, are the classical political refugees fleeing war and persecution. The vast majority are from the middle classes of the societies from which they come, and are seeking economic opportunities in Western welfare states at the expense of local taxpayers and workers.
We don’t know whether any of the 39 unfortunates had a plausible refugee claim or other protection issue, but we can say confidently that that was not their principle motivation for coming here, as to reach Britain they had to transit a succession of safe countries.
The only realistic way to stop needless deaths in the backs of lorries, in the Mediterranean and elsewhere in transit, is to have a strict policy of detention and return of all illegal migrants.
PROMOTING A RICH BORDERS HISTORY
I have enjoyed the continued reporting of the success of Scottish sidecar motorcycle team ‘Steve Kershaw Racing’, from Lauder, in your sports section.
They have been at the forefront of the sport for the past decade, not just north of the border with multiple Scottish championship titles at Knockhill and East Fortune, but in England as well, competing in the British Superbike Series, winning the three-wheeler championship in 2018 and twice runners-up in 2017 and this season.
They recovered from a major crash at Knockhill in 2015 which badly injured passenger Rob Wilson who had a year out, returning with new chair-man Stuart Clarke, from Penicuik, and have continued at the very top of this sphere of motorcycle racing.
With previous podium positions at Assen in the Netherlands and a regular annual practice/training week in France each March, they now intend to contest the world championships next year, albeit with a new passenger as Stuart has announced his retirement. They could quite easily emulate the late Jock Taylor from East Lothian who was sidecar world champion 40 years ago.
I have followed their progress via Steve’s supportive parents since 2010 from my domestic base in Kent and family home in Melrose, travelling by both car and a variety of motorcycles, and look forward to seeing them do well as members of the “Continental Circus”, the travelling band of motorcycle racers circumnavigating Europe to race at the likes of Le Mans, supporting the 24 Heures Moto Race that I attend every year and other lesser-known race circuits which make up the racing calendar.
I watched a programme on Channel Four last Saturday night about driving in the Borders with the two actors from ‘It shouldn’t happen to a Vet’ and there was a cameo appearance from Kershaw Racing. They also promoted the rich motorsport history of the Borders.
Stephen R. Harvie
LEADER’S LAMENT LIKE A STUCK RECORD
I had to laugh at SNP MSP Christine Grahame’s girn about ‘Conservatives not minding the wealth gap’ (Southern, October 24).
Perhaps she should look at the wealth gap of her party’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford MP.
This former Deutsche Bank executive is chairman of Golden Charter Funeral Plans for which he receives £3,193 a month for eight hours per quarter (and £1,500 per day should he be called upon to put in more hours), has shares of over £70,000 in Commsworld, receives over £10,000 a year in property rent, owns First Seer, a property company with fixed assets of £559,283, and has an investment portfolio managed by upmarket wealth management company Brooks MacDonald plc.
Yet he describes himself as “a simple crofter”.
Mr Blackford is an embarassment.
Whenever he stands up in the Commons to deliver yet another lament about how badly Scotland is supposed to be “disgracefully treated by this Tory government”, MPs groan. Others walk out as he continues to traduce the facts.
Mr Blackford’s constant refrain, like a stuck record, is that in every way “London” is taking wealth away from Scotland when the actuality is that without the UK government’s support, Scotland would go belly up.
Even with the Barnett formula bonus of £1,600 per man, woman and child, Scotland’s finances are deeply in the red.
Particularly worrying is the underfinancing of the Scottish NHS which is entirely devolved to the Scottish executive. Even though the Scottish NHS consumes 42% of the Scottish budget, Audit Scotland has said that it is financially unsustainable and will plunge to over £1bn in the red. NHS Borders has to make £12m of savings, but how many cuts can it take before it is taken down?
Mr Blackford and his cronies should stop shouting the odds about how poorly they claim to be treated and get on with looking after the needs and interest of the Scottish people, using all the powers which have been devolved to them, and which make Scotland a state within a state.
Scots and English are good people who are no different from each other and just want to get on with their lives together. In two world wars they fought to keep the banner of freedom flying high above these islands against a monstrous tyranny whose roots were in extreme nationalism, something we must never forget.
MISMANAGEMENT: WHEN WILL IT END?
While every now and then Nicola Sturgeon claims that education and Scotland’s NHS are her top priorities, in-between times she appears to spend all her energy on agitating for independence.
It is no wonder then that we have many missed targets on NHS waiting times, and our schools performance continues to lag behind other countries when we were once a world leader.
Now the Auditor General warns that Scotland’s NHS is “financially unsustainable”.
Where will this mismanagement and lack of proper focus end?
JUSTICE FOR THE DEMONSTRATORS
The cost of policing the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations is now at £37m and growing.
The demonstrators would not be so keen to take part if they were charged part of this cost and/or put in jail. It is taxpayers who will have to find this £37m, otherwise the NHS, education and other vital services would lose out.
Meanwhile the number of murders, stabbings and shootings continues unabated. Of the 1,828 demonstrators arrested, nearly 900 were given a conditional discharge. That is unacceptable. They should have been held in jail until they appeared in court with a jury made up of members of the public they stopped getting to work.
Now that would be justice.
FINANCING FIGHT AGAINST ARTHRITIS
Scottish Borders Versus Arthritis (formerly Arthritis Research UK, Melrose branch) has many thank-yous to express for some great fundraising over the past few weeks.
The Woll golf club had its annual tournament and fundraising venture, raising £215 for our funds. Ashkirk country dance group has sent us a cheque for £50. Then Sheila Irving had her ‘Open House’ at which she sold her fabulous hand-made greetings cards, gifts and other home-made items. This raised the tremendous sum of £500.
Our grateful thanks are due to all who organised these events, supported them and gave generously.
Up and coming events include the next meeting of the arthritis support group – featuring what’s available to help people who have arthritis – on Saturday, November 2, 11am-12.30pm in the Selkirk Community Shed, Goslawdales. Then come and visit us at our stand in Borders General Hospital on Thursday, November 7, 9am-5.30pm.
If you would like more information or have an idea to help with fundraising, please contact the branch secretary on [email protected] or leave a message on 01896 75404.
Without our supporters we would not be able to help with massive research projects, support those with arthritis and help with the fight against musculoskeletal conditions.
GRATEFUL TO EILDON HILLS RESCUERS
Could I express my grateful thanks to all those – especially the couple who found and looked after me – involved in recovering me following a fall near the Mid Eildon summit recently.
My recollection is a bit hazy, but the Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team, police and ambulance did a brilliant and cheerful job, followed by the best of care at Borders General Hospital.