Curtis Welsh captured this image of a misty December dawn at Sorrowlessfield Farm, Earlston, with the Black Hill as a backdrop. Please email photographic contributions, with a brief caption, to firstname.lastname@example.org
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
LANDED WITH A WHITE ELEPHANT?
So, the Great Tapestry of Scotland is going to be located in Galashiels.
What a pity Scottish Borders Council didn’t see sense earlier and listen to those of us (a great many of the electorate) who suggested that option once we learned that, despite legitimate protest, we were landed with it.
Councillors would do well to respect our opinions – we make more sense than they do and can better see what would benefit the area.
What a lot of time and money has been needlessly wasted on the whole sorry project – the expensive, unrealistic business plan and the unnecessary felling of trees at Tweedbank (which we will now be told cannot be replaced due to lack of funding) to name but two. Another reality check is now required for us all to see – an itemised explanation of how it can cost £6m plus (and I’m sure it won’t come in on budget) to convert a site that size. I suggest new estimates are asked for so that more reasonable tenders may be procured.
I also hope that realistic long-term attendance figures for the tapestry are kept and published. Nobody I have spoken to considers it to be a “world class attraction” and would not pay £10 to see it when it has been on show for free across Scotland.
I fear we have been saddled with yet another white elephant against our wishes at the cost of essential social services which would better serve the needs of Borderers.
BORDERS’ UNIQUE TOURISM POTENTIAL
I am encouraged by council leader David Parker’s point that the proposed tapestry centre in Galashiels “will have a massive transformational effect” on the wider Borders region (Southern, December 29).
I admit that in the past I have wondered if the tapestry could be a sufficiently heavyweight attraction in itself to support the high hopes being invested in the scheme. Yet at the same time there is absolutely no doubt that Scotland, and especially the Borders, has a unique potential to benefit from a massive international cultural tourism market.
The Borders is more than beautiful scenery. Think of the things we sometimes take for
granted, yet visitors love – unspoilt old towns and villages, ancient architecture, festivals, sport, arts, including music, etc. That stuff is potential gold dust, yet is so frequently undervalued.
The tapestry is an attempt to keep our cultural narratives alive.
The new year is a good time for planning and creative out-of-the-box thinking. It would be good to hear readers’ ideas of how the new Galashiels centre could be really made to work as part of a Borders-wide cultural tourism strategy.
CLINGING ON TO THE EMPIRE IDEOLOGY
What a singularly-depressing clutch of anti-Scottish letters in last week’s edition.
I can only assume that they were written by disconsolate Englishmen who find themselves on the wrong side of the border, desperate for the British Empire not to shrink any further.
I will not even attempt to counter the wild claims made in those letters, which are simply a continuation of previous missives from the same writers, and can essentially be condensed to the mantra that “Scotland is too wee, too poor and too stupid” to be independent. They obviously refuse to countenance any alternative to regressive Westminster rule which might upset their morbid complacency.
Rather than sowing their bile through your pages, may I suggest they write to the Daily Mail where their letters will be well received.
PS: As result of the letter you printed on December 22 about the Social Bite project, a few people have contacted me requesting further details, especially folk without access to the internet. They have shops in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh where the address is 131 Rose Street, EH2 3DT; phone 0131 220 8206; email email@example.com
MSP’S SCOTOMIZED INTERPRETATION
I am very grateful to John Lamont MSP for taking the time to reply to my letter which was published on December 22.
I thank him for altering his claim that “fewer than one-in-three Scots support a second independence referendum any time soon” to the more factual “only 31% of Scots want the Scottish Government to campaign for independence during the next two years”.
An important distinction, as the poll respondents he refers to were not asked if they supported a second referendum, only whether or not they thought that the Scottish Government should campaign for one.
Mr Lamont was also good enough to present evidence for his claim that recent polling shows “a greater shift of people moving away from supporting independence in the light of the Brexit vote”. Of the two YouGov polls which he refers to in order to evidence this assertion, neither factually make any mention of the result of the Brexit referendum in their questions and both only show very marginal changes in voting intention.
Instead of celebrating this as some kind of vindication of Brexit, he might take the time to consider the impact of his party’s Brexit shambles on the hundreds of his constituents who are EU nationals, their families, co-workers and the local businesses who rely upon them.
However, I was particularly grateful to read Mr Lamont’s evidence for his laughable assertion that “Ruth Davidson is now twice as popular as Nicola Sturgeon”. Mr Lamont presents the leaders’ approval ratings from the December YouGov poll as evidence of this.
I congratulate Mr Lamont’s party on the high approval rating of Ms Davidson, which I personally have no problem with, but the poll he refers to asked respondents how they rated Ms Davidson as leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, and in a separate question how they rated Nicola Sturgeon as an incumbent First Minister. A completely different question.
Like many, I think Ruth Davidson may be excellent at doing her current job – however, I certainly would not like to see her as First Minister. Neither, it would seem, would the overwhelming numbers of respondents to the same poll who indicated their intentions to vote for Ms Sturgeon’s party again at the forthcoming Holyrood elections.
Mr Lamont’s somewhat scotomized interpretation of the respective party leaders “popularity” forgets that Nicola Sturgeon leads a party with 117 elected MPs and MSPs in office, whereas Ruth Davidson leads a party with only 31.
FORCING THE ISSUE
In his Christmas message, John Lamont MSP suggested readers “spare a thought for the brave men and women in our armed forces and the great sacrifices that they are making for us” (December 22).
Since the UK’s disastrous interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have ended, there has been no need for bravery or great sacrifice.
Perhaps Mr Lamont could explain to us why we should be thinking of the armed forces during a Christian festival?
Nicola Sturgeon started the year as she means to go on, with a New Year message including demands on Europe that she knows neither the UK or EU can agree.
The point of this is revealed in the messages from the leaders of the three main Scottish opposition parties, each hoping we can put division behind us and stop all the agitation for a second independence referendum. Sadly, it seems there will be no chance of that if Ms Sturgeon gets her way.
BRAW TIME WAS HAD BY ALL
Now that 2016 is past, we would like to take this opportunity to thank a great many people for all the support extended to us during our time as Braw Lad and Lass, particularly the executive council for all their encouragement and good advice.
We really appreciated their hard work on our behalf and hope we did not try their patience too far at times! Our thanks are due also to the many volunteers who gave so much of their time to make the Gathering such a success, the people of Galashiels who turned out to support us, all our friends and neighbours in Gala and Clovenfords and, of course, our own families for their kindness and generosity during what was the best time of our lives.
The lead-up to the big day was hectic to say the least, but it all fell into place. It was great visiting all the other Border festivals and riding over our amazing Borderland, making many new friends and memories to treasure.
We send our thanks also to Suzanne at Kailzie Stables for providing our mounts for all the events, delivering them on time and beautifully turned out, each with their own personalities. We all had our own favourites. They deserve a well-earned rest now before it all starts again next year.
The Braw Lads’ Day was amazing – the crowds cheering and the sun shining. Everyone enjoyed a great day which passed too quickly. We have to admit we were very reluctant to have our sashes removed in the evening.
In November, we were both honoured to be asked to lay a wreath at the war memorial on Remembrance Sunday. Only last month, we had great fun appearing briefly in the pantomime.
Finally, a very big thank you to our principals for 2015 and 2014 – Cameron, Abbie, Gavin and Alice – who never failed us in their support. There was lots of fun, laughter and quite a few tears – special memories.
Now, as we look forward to meeting this year’s Braw Lad and Lass, and following them on the big day, we hope you have had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Mark Hood and Alex
(Braw Lad and Lass 2016)
Now that 2016 is behind us and the dust is settling, it is high time the Playfair-Hannay family acknowledged the skills and efficiencies of Borders firefighters.
Their professional attention certainly prevented our recent catastrophe at Clifton-on-Bowmont from becoming a total disaster.
Our thanks are also due to the many neighbours and friends who rallied round and helped us on that dreadful Friday morning, and indeed the whole day. The support in word and kind is so very much appreciated.
The Playfair-Hannay family
The A9 Safety Group recently published a report showing that fewer drivers exceeded the speed limit in the 21 months since speed cameras were introduced between Dunblane and Inverness.
Fatalities were down by 43% and serious injuries by 63%.
These statistics are to be welcomed. What is not to be welcomed is the continuous and monotonous press releases from WWF Scotland director Lang Banks. He must trawl the press for stories to comment on and thus raise his profile.
This time, “speed cameras are also a cost-effective way to reduce climate emissions” and “reduce air pollution and meet our climate targets”.
I would remind him that WWF stands for World Wildlife Fund. I would also remind him that Scotland, with a miniscule 0.13% of global CO2, is irrelevant. China is responsible for 29% of global emissions increasing as it opens a new coal-fired power station every day.
Can I suggest that Lang Banks sets up WWF China and goes there to issue his press releases?