Walter Baxter took this shot of the standing stones on Brotherstone Hill, near Smailholm, just before sunrise.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
TORIES TAKING RISK WITH FOOD QUALITY
Robert Scott’s letter printed last week is long on rhetoric and short on facts.
He states that Chancellor Philip Hammond has promised the farming industry continued equivalent support post-Brexit when no such assurance has been given. Quite the opposite is the case.
The Tory UK Government will retain legislative authority for agriculture in a power grab which will take control away from the Scottish Government. Westminster’s going to scrap direct support, preferring to risk our food quality and security by allowing imports from countries with dubious production and welfare standards which are currently subject to high tariffs. As Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg confirmed, these tariffs will be “swept away”, opening the floodgates for imports.
The Tories refused to put Protected Geographical Indication safeguards for Scotch beef and lamb into the recently-concluded Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which could lead to markets, hard-won over many years, being lost to Scottish producers.
If Scottish farming receives any support at all post-2020, it is highly likely to be ‘Barnetised’, which will cost our industry, and the Borders region, millions of pounds.
The NFUS is alert to the dangers and fighting hard for a fair outcome for farming, but has no real power in the face of a rampant Tory government desperate to secure trade deals with whoever it can.
The Tories are trying to frame the general election as a proxy mandate for a second independence referendum. It isn’t. This general election is about protecting Scotland’s interests in the new reality of our non-EU status, outside the single market and at the mercy of a Westminster administration whose track record towards our industry is nothing short of calamitous.
Calum Kerr has demonstrated his absolute commitment to the rural economy in Scotland and the Borders. Will a Tory MP stand against his own party’s determination to sweep away agricultural support in an effort to secure a good deal for farming? I very much doubt it.
CUTTING THROUGH SMOKE AND STEAM
Perhaps the greatest success story in recent years for our region has been the Borders Railway.
It has promoted growth, regeneration and inward investment, improved community pride and confidence, created social benefits in education and employment, reduced congestion and emissions, and promoted social inclusion.
The person in the Borders who stood out most in his opposition to the return of the railway, with the exception of the long-forgotten Borders Party, was ex-MSP John Lamont.
While the Liberal Democrats and Labour chuffed and puffed up the hill in support of the railway, the SNP government cut through Mr Lamont’s smoke and steam and, with Scottish Borders Council, delivered the railway.
Mr Lamont was the man who said the railway was a complete waste of money and that very few people in the Borders wanted it, or would use it. What say you now, Mr Lamont? An admission perhaps that you got this totally wrong? I doubt it.
Thank goodness there were those in the Borders, the council and SNP government with the foresight, wisdom and intelligence to bring the railway back to the central Borders. Lamentable John Lamont was not one of them. Poor judgement of economic need and public mood doesn’t look good on his CV.
(former chair, Campaign for Borders Rail)
POLICY-FREE, VACUOUS DRIVEL
I’m still not sure why the Conservatives tried to turn the Scottish council elections into a referendum on whether we should have a referendum.
From the north of Shetland to the Borders, Tory leaflets came through doors saying next to nothing about roads, education, social services or whatever, but that their councillors would insist Scots shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions over our country’s future – a particularly unwise move in light of the pig’s ear the Tories are making of Brexit before negotiations have even started.
The trouble with this strategy is that when you lose the elections by the kind of margin the Tories managed, it becomes clear that voters have rejected your “no referendum” pledge, and impossible to sustain the line that it’s not wanted.
There was a hugely-increased vote for the Tories, but it did not come from previously SNP or Green voters.
The Tory vote came predominantly from ex-Labour voters (with Liberals and Independents also losing ground) who can tolerate an economically-illiterate government which attacks the most vulnerable in society and undermines environmentally-sustainable policies, so long as it waves a British flag.
At 431 seats to the Conservatives’ 276, however, the Scottish National Party won the council elections by a landslide.
What does this mean for the surprise general election next month, brought to you by the party that insists that national votes are destabilising, except for the ones it decides to call itself? Well, the leaflet from John Lamont (making his fourth attempt to ditch Holyrood and get off to Westminster) contains only one policy statement. You’ve guessed it – he’s “opposed to a second independence referendum”.
With so much currently at stake for all our futures, surely folk won’t vote for policy-free, vacuous drivel like this? The next year or two are going to be the most critical and potentially dangerous that most of us have experienced.
We are fortunate to have a principled candidate called Calum Kerr who, as one of the group of SNP MPs, consistently described as the hardest working in the Commons, has been tireless in his efforts on behalf of people in this constituency since his election.
There are good reasons why it’s been 52 years since we last had a Tory elected here. Let’s not turn the clock back.
WHO HAS THE OBSESSION?
The Tories got another five council seats in the Borders.
I must admit I was not really surprised given their campaign. From leaflets and boards outside polling stations, it seemed to be based on “send a message that we don’t want a second referendum”.
Tom Miers’ number one priority for the Borders is, according to his leaflet, “oppose the SNP’s obsession with a second independence referendum”. Not really sure that counts as council business, but that’s what he said and not sure who has the obsession.
The Tories just appealed to the section of the voting population who are currently opposed to an independence referendum. There was barely a mention of local issues.
Interesting, though, that it didn’t impact on the total number of SNP councillors – still nine.
I take it we will now have to wait until Theresa May tells Ruth Davidson what to do, and she passes the message on about what council policy in the Borders will be.
They will be pleased, though – they now have 15 votes they can count on if there is ever another referendum. As far as I know, councillors only have one vote in elections and referendums – exactly the same as the rest of us.
West High Street
CRITICISM AND CHRISTINE
As I write this two days after the council election results were announced, it is unclear who will be a part of the adminisration at Newtown.
But one thing I am certain of, if the nine SNP councillors are not a part of the new adminstration, Christine Grahame Grahame MSP will publicly criticise the running of Scottish Borders Council.
From 1999 to 2012, she picked fights with, firstly, Drew Tulley, then J.R. Scott and also David Parker, who all headed up the council in these 13 years.
Since May 2012 when her SNP mates formed a core part of the council’s adminstration, Ms Grahame never publicly criticised any aspect of the council’s work or policies.
CONTINUING TO DO AS HE IS TOLD
John Lamont’s surprise, opportunist decision to stand down as an MSP with more than four years to go “serving my constituents” in an attempt to win a seat at Westminster (having failed on three previous occasions) tells us all we need to know about his personal ambitions.
Rather than “putting local people before party politics”, he obviously sees his future as another Tory MP attempting, unsuccessfully, to support a dysfunctional, divisive Conservative government at Westminster, which prioritises whatever is in England’s interests, while the rest of us should simply accept things and keep quiet.
A quote from the “greatest-ever Briton”, Winston Churchill, states: “Any nation which does not defend itself deserves to be crushed” – something all Scots should be aware of.
Mr Lamont’s support for the “Rape Clause”, the disgraceful treatment by the Home Office of good people from other countries who have made a valuable contribution to Scotland and working people, including nurses, who increasingly have to rely on food banks to get by, and a long list of other UK policies not in Scotland’s interests is shameful – and at Westminster he would continue to do as he is told.
His announcement reminds me of the only occasion when, as a constituent, I spoke to Mr Lamont’s office to ask two questions – why his expenses as an MSP were more than double other MSPs, and what was his view of the investigation into the actions of Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson re postal votes.
Unfortunately, Mr Lamont would not speak to me personally, but I could clearly hear the person fielding the call ask: “Do we have a position on this, or will I just get rid of him?” Well, I was duly got rid off (without answers).
So much for “serving his constituents”.
Incidentally, Paul Singleton’s letter, published last week, criticising First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s visit to America to encourage much-needed inward investment to Scotland, shows staggering hypocrisy.
This is a repeat of the carping claims and negative comments from the pro-union parties at Holyrood which were the cause of China pulling out of a potential multi-billion pound investment in the Scottish economy.
For “covert meetings”, “secrecy” and “no comment”, he need look no further than Prime Minister Theresa May and her approach to Brexit negotiations as a prime example of how not to do diplomacy.
IT’S WHAT PEOPLE DO THAT COUNTS
Jim Gibson (letters, May 4) is great on hyperbole and assumptions, but light on facts and accuracy.
Should I be surprised? No, it is what one hears almost daily from the SNP.
Was John Lamont born in Kilwinning? I have no idea, but surely what matters is what Mr Lamont has done as an MSP for his constituents and will continue to do when he is elected as a MP.
Cuckoo in the nest? By Mr Gibson’s logic the SNP has a few and I list two – Nicola Sturgeon, born in Irvine and not in the constituencies she has represented; Alex Salmond, born in Linlithgow far from his constituency of Gordon.
Mr Gibson may dispute the number of surgeries held by Mr Lamont, but maybe he can tell us how many more than none were held by Calum Kerr? Will it approach Mr Lamont’s numbers?
Peebles – which I know well, having lived and worked there for almost 30 years – is, as most people know, not in the constituency which Mr Kerr represented and which I hope will fall to the Conservatives.
Mr Gibson ignores the points I raised – like Scottish education which was once renowned as one of the best in the world. Now, after 10 years of SNP government, it has dropped from 11th to 23rd in reading, from 11th to 24th in maths etc. This can all be found in the International Student Assessment survey run by the OECD. No doubt it is all the fault of Westminster.
Mr Gibson does not refute my points about the economy, the deficit, the cost of the past referendum and a possible future one which the SNP (with the help of their Green friends) got through the Scottish Parliament only recently.
As to Mr Gibson’s assumption that I might be looking for some kind of job with Mr Lamont, how wrong he is there too. At my age – 79 – I do not look for jobs, but volunteer for causes I believe in – like the No campaign, not another costly referendum, against the intrusion in family life by the named person legislation, a good Brexit and a thriving Scotland inside a prosperous UK.
As to Mr Gibson’s last point, I think it is highly unlikely that any constituents are unaware that Mr Lamont is a Conservative candidate – Mr Gibson certainly knows it.
Pieter van Dijk
A PRESSING ISSUE FOR ALEX
I read other quality newspapers in addition to the Southern Reporter.
In recent times, however, I have found that those I want to buy have often been concealed, on the newsstand, under copies of issues of the less intellectually demanding press.
The effect is to give the impression that the desired papers are sold-out, when actually they are just hidden and can only be retrieved by reaching beneath the aberrant interlopers.
Supermarket staff, crippled by apathy, are, of course, unable to police the situation, but fortunately, those responsible haven’t yet worked out that there are other far more embarrassing and offensive publications than the “Red Tops” which could be used to hinder access.
There are several humiliations which I know that I could survive – but I could never get over being seen, in public, handling a copy of The Guardian.
HISTORY OF KILLING COVER-UPS
John Greenwell bemoans the “hounding of our former British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland” by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) who are “re-examining every army killing ... but not one by the IRA” (letters, May 4).
He is wrong to claim the PSNI is not investigating terrorist murders, and he should be aware that there has been a long history of the UK state covering up killings by soldiers.
Probably the most notorious was “Bloody Sunday” (1972) when the Parachute Regiment killed 14 innocent people on the streets of Londonderry. In 2010, David Cameron apologised for the atrocity, saying: “You do not defend the British Army by defending the indefensible.”
In 2013, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary reviewed the operation of the PSNI Historical Enquiries Team (HET).
They found “HET, as a matter of policy, treats deaths where there was state involvement differently from those cases where there is no state involvement. State involvement cases appeared to be treated less rigorously ... these practices may seriously undermine the capability of the HET to review cases in order to determine whether the force used was or was not justified in state involvement cases, and to the identification and punishment of those responsible”.
The HET has now been replaced by the Legacy Investigations Branch. A new independent Historical Investigations Unit was agreed in 2014, but it has not yet been created.
Meanwhile, the UK state still withholds information from legacy inquests in to the killings.
Councillor Greenwell should spare a thought for the surviving families and friends of innocent people killed in Northern Ireland. His claim that the alleged killers are suffering “never-ending hounding” and “unjust persecution” is an insult to the justice system.
In my view, John Greenwell is not fit to serve as Scottish Borders Council’s armed forces and veterans’ champion.
RESCUED HEIFER DOING WELL
We would like to thank fire and rescue service members from Kelso and Galashiels who attended the rescue of a young heifer stuck in boggy ground at Hoselaw Loch on Monday evening, May 1.
The rescue took several hours in very difficult conditions. Everyone was incredible and determined to get the animal out safely.
Special thanks to Tom and Rachel from Galedin Veterinary in Kelso.
The heifer is doing well and no worse for her ordeal.
Alan, Sarah and Kevin Trotter
A huge thanks to all who took the trouble to vote for myself last Thursday – particularly those in country areas who had to get into a car to do so.
z I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Hawick and Denholm for their support in electing me on May 4.
The smooth running of the electoral process was a credit to the council and its staff.
To my fellow candidates, thank you for conducting campaigns without rancour.
z I would like to express my deep gratitude to all those who voted for me in last week’s election in Melrose and Leaderdale.
I feel honoured to be elected to serve in this ward and will do my best to reflect the views and concerns of residents – whatever their political views – in the council chamber and beyond.
z May I, on behalf of myself and Tom Weatherston, thank the residents of Kelso and District for re-electing us as their representatives on Scottish Borders Council.
We are honoured that they have again decided to put their trust in us and we promise that we will continue to work hard on their behalf and to be a strong voice for the whole district.
z A massive thank-you to the more than 1,000 people who gave our candidates your first vote in the local council elections, and to the several thousands of you who voted us as their second and third choice.
We have thoroughly enjoyed meeting you at the street stalls in Jedburgh and Peebles, and while we have been out leafletting in towns across the Borders.
Finding out what matters to you by listening to you, and from the surveys you completed, helped us to focus our campaign on local issues.
We look forward to continuing to work in our local communities, from Eyemouth to West Linton to Newcastleton, and everywhere in between, over the coming months and years.
Best wishes from candidates Catriona, Charles, Kevin, Kate, Colin, Pauline and Barbra.
Scottish Borders Green Party