This view of Maxton Kirk surrounded in fresh spring colours was supplied by Curtis Welsh.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
THE WEALTHIEST SHOULD COUGH UP
For many years I was a youth and community worker, working with less-affluent communities and supporting people living in them to find ways of dealing with issues affecting them.
I have been retired for five years and when I look at the situation of the most vulnerable and powerless in our society today, I feel as if I am living in a totally different universe, let alone political climate.
Their situations have changed so much for the worse as a direct result of Tory government policies that I simply despair for the future of those less well off in the UK today. These policies are specifically targeting the poor, the sick and the disabled to deal with the deficit which has tripled under Tory governments since 2010 and which now stands at an incredible £1.73bn.
Why not recoup this money from the wealthiest in our society – the huge corporations who either avoid tax or negotiate their own tax deals, and who are benefiting from substantial corporation tax cuts; the off-shore companies weasling away their huge profits, free from scrutiny; the wealthy and super rich benefiting from from income tax and inheritance tax cuts.
What kind of a society are we now living in, where the poor are being so exploited and the rich are profiting and increasing their wealth at such an alarming rate?
I was shocked to recently discover that any single person under the age of 35 claiming housing benefit is now only entitled to the equivalent single room rate, which means a room in a shared house. A 34-year-old adult not thought deserving of their own accommodation.
Although the majority of people in receipt of housing benefit are unemployed, there are large numbers in low-paid employment and on zero-hours contracts – a deliberately-constructed form of employment which may be of advantage to some employers, but which only brings instability and stress to workers.
Poverty these days is no longer simply the realm of the unemployed and the workless. And then there is the horrendous increase in food bank use, thought by certain Tory politicians to be a “lifestyle choice”.
The Trussell Trust estimates that over a million food parcels were given to people in crisis in 2016/17, and this does not include figures for non-Trussell Trust outlets. There were 66 food banks when David Cameron came to power – now there are approaching 450.
Homelessness has doubled since 2010 and there are currently over four million children in the UK living in poverty, many from working families. This figure is set to rise by a further 50% by 2020.
The sick and disabled are, on average, £30 per week worse off as a result of benefit cuts and changes, and more than 50,000 disabled people have had their specially-adapted vehicles taken away by the government as they transfer from Disability Living Allowance to the controversial Personal Independence Payment Plan.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that between December 2011 and February 2014, more than 4,000 people died within six weeks of being found fit to work following a work capability assessment.
The list of injustices just goes on and on, and there are far too many to list here.
We all need to ask ourselves what kind of a country do we want to live in and vote with our consciences on June 8 for a fairer and kinder society.
SNP TALK – BUT DON’T DO THE WALK
I saw SNP candidate Angus Robertson on TV the other night. He was his usual confident self – looking rather self-satisfied, I thought.
He seemed to have heard a rumour that the Westminster government (as was) had a rather mean-spirited attitude to immigration in comparison to the SNP’s open-hearted approach.
Considering the time Mr Robertson has spent in Westminster recently, it is surprising he has not noticed that London is the immigration capital of the world. It is a city built and created by immigrants. Remember the Romans? Multi-cultural London is one of the many things they did for us. Indeed, it would be reasonable to claim that more Londoners can claim a non-English heritage than there are people in Scotland.
London has the largest French community outside France, for example. The London Scots, Irish and Welsh have their own named institutions. The Jewish community, who fled 19th-century east-European pogroms and the Nazis, is both large and integral to the character of the city. The list of immigrant communities matches the number of countries in the world.
As Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson pointed out on the same programme, Scotland has 8% of the UK population and yet only absorbs 4% of current immigration.
The SNP may talk the pro-immigration, inclusive talk – they have yet to learn how to walk that particular walk.
By the way, what happens on completion of Brexit with regard to the charging of EU students, or will it just be the English who continue to pay?
As far as the SNP is concerned, it’s “Hypocrisy rules – UK?”
ANGLO-CENTRIC PRESS OUT OF TOUCH
It was interesting to see the Anglo-centric press predicting that other EU nations would follow that sad country’s lead in pursuing extreme right-wing nationalist polices and electing populist xenophobes.
During 2016, in a slew of elections for assemblies and presidents across Europe, social democratic, green and progressive candidates and parties gained, for example in Austria, where a Green party candidate became president – all largely unreported by the “Britishist” media.
This year, we were told firstly that the Dutch would return a majority of right-wing anti-EU parties to power. That, too, did not happen – and the Dutch Green party gained substantially.
Ah, but wait, surely the French hate foreigners as much as we do and will elect Le Pen as president. Not only did they fail to do so, but M. Macron’s victory was overwhelming. The Front National is dead in the water.
All of which takes us back to the notion of England being the most backward, arrogant, isolationist and xenophobic polity in Europe.
Those millions of Brexiteers south of the border have no idea what is coming down the track at them. Hyper-inflation, mass unemployment, scores of protective laws in all areas of life hacked away, the collapse of transport, health and other service industries as all those pesky eastern Europeans are deported, crops rotting in the fields because there is no one to pick them. To say nothing of all the educational, training and social travel opportunities that will be closed off to young people (who largely did not vote for the Brexit bonfire).
And Theresa May still thinks the EU will “do a deal”. The EU could not care a jot about England, a country that has spent 42 years whingeing. And why should they? All she will get from M. Juncker is a “take it or leave it” deal – she has no bargaining chips.
Happily, growing devolutionary powers in Scotland protect us from the worst of this, but to really get out from under, we need independence. Then we can shut out the English with a Trump-style wall and they can enjoy the foreigner-free Utopia they so crave.
I wonder how many of those Brexiteers will still think that the racial purity they drool about is worth the economic, social and cultural meltdowns. No doubt they will vote for more of the same next month in their droves. Lemmings and cliffs spring to mind.
I was interested to read Alex McKie’s letter (May 11) in which he states he would find it embarrassing to handle a copy of the Guardian.
Is this because of the content, or because of it’s “blue top”? I wonder if he has ever read a copy.
It seems to me it is more level-headed than newspapers using headlines which are dubious in the extreme.
However, it is important that we all read newspapers of whatever persuasion as this is not possible in many parts of the world.
In another part of his letter he accuses supermarket staff of apathy, whereas I have always found them helpful when I needed assistance.
Maybe he should purchase his newspaper at a proper newsagent. I can give him an excellent example – Browns in Kelso where all the newspapers are laid out well and therefore one’s choice is easy to find.
POOR QUALITY OR SLANTED REPORTING
It’s hard to believe what’s currently happening in Scottish politics, no matter which side you come from.
Most national mainstream reporting is controlled by five or six media corporation/moguls, or by the often poor quality, or slanted, BBC.
With Facebook or Twitter you choose your own version of events, but at least you can get diversity of views on the Rape Clause, nurses, police, veterans using food banks, electoral funding fraud, getting on with the day job etc.
It’s also hard to believe that the Moon causes tides on the Earth and that both of them are spheres. But they are. Scientists have proven it to the satisfaction of thinking people. I’d like to think all voters were thinking people who demanded proof before giving anyone their vote.
Theresa May and Ruth Davidson have not proved anything. They produce no data, just mantras to justify their right to lead Scotland and the rest of the UK over a big, hard Brexit cliff. They haven’t a clue what’s at the bottom of that cliff.
In fact, both Mrs May and Ms Davidson made a better job of backing up their assertion that Brexit was bad. See last year’s YouTube.
In Gulliver’s Travels terms, both have changed from being “big endians” to “little endians” between breakfast and lunch. How can you trust politicians who change ends so easily?
Their unfair and futile attempt to deny Scots the right to a referendum to decide what kind of country and culture Scotland is to become will be their undoing.
In the coming general election, if you are a Labour voter, don’t give any Tory candidate your vote lightly.
If you are a fisherman, or a farmer, ask all parties how a hard Brexit (or even a no-deal Brexit) will affect your livelihood when grants are withdrawn and market tariffs cut exports and increase costs.
This election will affect our futures and our children’s futures, more than any other in living memory. We are all, I’m sure, agreed about that.
Bill Gardner MBE
CONSERVATIVES ON MANOEUVRES
John Lamont stands down as an MSP to stand as an MP, Rachael Hamilton stands down as an MSP to stand as, well, an MSP. It must be a Conservative thing.
I did search The Southern to see if Mr Lamont gave answers to the questions I asked about why he wants to go to Westminster instead of Holyrood and why being an MP is better than being an MSP, but couldn’t see his reply. I still think the voting public would be interested to find out.
I wonder, given Theresa May’s personal agenda and need for power, if Mr Lamont still feels he would be an effective voice for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk? Would he just be making up numbers while Mrs May makes all the decisions?
It must be even harder for Mrs Hamilton to promote her policies given Ruth Davidson seems to change her mind on things depending on what she thinks people want to hear.
The only consistent mantra for both is: “No to indyref2 – send the SNP a message”. It’s just a shame that neither the general election or by-election are anything to do with independence. That’s for a later date, still to be decided.
Whatever you might think about the SNP, Calum Kerr has been a perfectly good MP, working for local issues and deserves the chance to continue with the work he started two years ago.
Gail Hendry has a strong political background, would be an effective addition to the Scottish Parliament and work tirelessly for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire.
West High Street
MP WAS VERY HELPFUL
I totally disagree with recent criticism expressed in your letters pages of the SNP’s Calum Kerr, where he is said to have “not held a single surgery for his constituents” since being elected as an MP.
I met him in December last year to complain about the desecration and theft of metal from British warships sunk during the Battle of the Java Sea in 1942 where entire ships have disappeared – HMS Exeter, for example, with only HMS Electra being left intact on the sea bed.
Mr Kerr was very helpful when I met him in his office in Galashiels – and it was productive when he wrote a letter to the Ministry of Defence about the matter (and provided me with a copy). It was also a pleasant experience in his constituency office, which was warm and not in some draughty village hall.
He also listened to me very carefully and was genuinely interested in this naval matter.
LABOURING THE POINT
Last week Eric Falconer urged people to vote SNP to “keep the Tories out” – but, as in the last general election, voting SNP resulted in a Tory government.
For decades we in this part of the world were urged to vote Liberal/Liberal Democrat “to keep the Tories out”. Look how that turned out – voting for David Steel did not save us from the ravages of Thatcher and in 2010 the Lib Dems jumped into bed with the Tories.
It is a fact of political life in Britain that a vote other than Labour is a vote for a Tory government.
If you are poor, old, young, sick or work in the public sector, the only party that will fight for you is Labour. Forget the media rubbish about Jeremy Corbyn and St Theresa, look at the manifestos, look at the policies of the two potential governing parties and you will see who has your interests at heart.
Ian Davidson is Borders-bred, knows the problems faced by this constituency and has the experience of representing a constituency that had many similar problems. He is well known and respected in Labour circles, and would be a hard-working and influential voice for us in parliament, with access to Downing Street should Labour win.
THE ANTI-SNP ALLIANCE
The SNP determination to put divisiveness first is ironically encouraging a drawing together of those opposing it, with people choosing to tactically support those in each constituency best placed to keep the SNP out.
So, in Edinburgh South, people across the political spectrum who support Scotland’s positive place in the UK can vote tactically for the hard-working and effective MP, Ian Murray of the Labour party. Similarly, the same spread of the electorate can choose to vote Conservative in the Borders constituency of Scottish Secretary David Mundell, who has so consistently stood up against the SNP, while in East Dunbartonshire, Jo Swinson, of the Lib Dems, will garner support from an equally wide spectrum of opinion as she seeks to win back her seat as an MP.
While these candidates will still consider each other as opponents, the SNP obsession with imposing an independence referendum rerun on us is enabling the electorate to target its support constituency by constituency to favour the leading anti-SNP candidate.
ASSUMING HIS LIFE IS RUINED
Last month in your newspaper I saw a letter from Pieter van Dijk urging me to cast my vote in the forthcoming election for John Lamont, citing various reasons for doing so.
I immediately noticed several inconsistencies and in a spirit of goodwill I replied, pointing these out to the aforesaid.
I little realised the consequences of my action – Mr van Dijk hit back the following week with a double whammy, accusing me of “hyperbole” and “assumptions”, and may just have ruined my life.
Up till now I have been generally known in Selkirk as “that old guy who hands out SNP leaflets”, which was a fairly harmless description and I was tolerated in town.
Not any more. In the Co-op I heard the first of the whispers: “Look, it’s him, the hyperbolic assumpionist.” I moved quickly to escape, but I could hear the chatter increase behind me as I made for the checkout. Before I could get there, two ladies buttonholed me and asked me if I could do a private consultation to help them stop smoking – I realised their mistake and pointed out gently that I was not a hypnotist. They were not totally convinced and as I left hurriedly I distinctly heard: “Stuck-up old sod”.
Things have got steadily worse since my condition has become more widely known and I have since been asked to speak on hyperbolic assumptionism at such diverse groups as the local historic society, the Women’s Institute and the Boy Scouts’ Parent Association, and I have heard the Young Wives’ Group are looking for me.
I have taken to mainly going out at night and have purchased dark glasses and a ‘hoodie’ for daytime use.
There have been good moments though.
On phoning for a consultation with my doctor when I told the receptionist I was suffering from a bad case of hyperbolastic assumptionism, I was quickly given an emergency appointment. It is also a sure cure for those nuisance phone calls from India – I told the young eastern person that my computer was indeed malfunctioning and looked like it was suffering from H/A. He asked what that meant and when I enlightened him he went very quiet, said he would “consult his line manager” and hung up.
A firm of accident solicitors was quite interested, though only for a while. I am waiting to try it out on the home improvement callers and am confident they will take me off of their list when I ask them if they can advise how to get rid of it.
So there it is, my life is ruined, my reputation trashed and all because Mr van Dijk, a 79-year-old volunteer for Mr Lamont (his modest description of himself) wrote a poorly-researched piece to a local paper and I was foolish enough to tell him he was wrong.
At the age of 84, you would think I would have known better.
JED’S PASSION FOR EDUCATION
Having read the letter (May 4) by Scottish Green Party candidate for Jedburgh and District Charles Strang regarding proposals for an inter-generational campus in Jedburgh, it was no surprise to learn that his voter share was 4.5% of those cast in the local election.
Mr Strang failed to connect with the electorate he sought to represent in relation to recently-published plans for the new campus. He didn’t recognise that townsfolk of Jedburgh have an overwhelming passion for education. This is fuelled by a desire to turn prospective plans for a people-centred learning establishment into reality.
Why shouldn’t the people of Jedburgh have an educational environment that gives our children the opportunity to further enhance their potential, and why wouldn’t the town grab this once-in-a-lifetime chance to change the lives of so many, both young and old? The consultation period for the recently-published plans is now in place and it’s vital that the people of Jedburgh and surrounding area back this 100%.
Surely any candidate seeking to represent our district would know that concerns exist about current facilities at the grammar school as well as both primaries, and that better provision of education for all ages is required in the town.
Furthermore, the proposed site is within easy walking distance of the majority of households in Jedburgh and certainly not “remote”.
The proposals for the current school sites would bring further housing development opportunities and job creation to Jedburgh which, in turn, would help stimulate the town to reach its full potential.
Duns, Eyemouth and Earlston have seen fantastic new facilities in their towns, Kelso will have the opportunity to share in the experience this August.
Jedburgh waits patiently, and will continue to vote for those who share their beliefs in order to see their dreams become reality.
May I thank all those who voted for me in the recent elections for Scottish Borders Council.
I express my gratitude for all the messages of support and encouragement I received leading up to the election, and for the messages with good wishes which are still coming in. I would also like to thank SBC staff at Springwood Park for their help and guidance, and also to the police and security teams for ensuring our safety.
Finally, a big thank-you to all my family who have supported me on what, and continues to be, an interesting journey.
I answer to no political machine, and will serve the interests of my constituents above all else. I consider it a great honour to have been elected to represent, and hopefully, improve the lives of the people among whom I live.
z I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Leaderdale and Melrose for putting their trust in me and voting for me to represent them as their councillor.
z I wish to thank everyone in Leaderdale and Melrose who have placed their trust in me for the next five years.
I promise to work hard for everyone in the ward and deliver my campaign promises over the next five years.
Ruth and I have been so humbled by everyone’s support and good wishes. A special thank-you to Jim Torrance, who worked enormously hard on my behalf.
Kevin Drum (SNP) and Tom Miers (Conservative) were newly-elected councillors for Leaderdale and Melrose. Congratulations to both of them and I look forward to working with them.
Finally, I was sad that Iain Gillespie was not re-elected. He has worked hard and I wish him the very best for the future.
z On May 4 I was elected by the residents of Galashiels and District to serve on Scottish Borders Council.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who supported me during the campaign and everyone who voted for me.
I promise to repay your faith in me and work hard for the benefit of this area and the people living in it. I also offer commiserations to those who were not elected and thank those that represented the area in the past for their years in service.
Finally, congratulations to all elected councillors across the Borders. Let’s work together to make this region a wonderful place to live.
z May I take this opportunity to thank all of those who supported me in the council elections – I truly appreciate the trust which you were prepared to put in me.
My thanks also goes to all in the democratic services team at Scottish Borders Council for the skillful and friendly way in which the whole process was conducted.
z I would like to say a huge thank-you to the voters in Selkirkshire for re-electing me.
It has been a huge honour to be your councillor and I have loved working with the community and all the individuals who I have been able to help and support over the last five years, and it was very moving to receive your support at the ballot box.
Unexpectedly, as a result of the consequence of the resignations of some of my colleagues, I have been asked to take up a seat in the Scottish Parliament and I also want to thank everyone who has sent me messages of support and encouragement to take up the seat.
I am committed to serving our communities in whatever capacity I work.
z I am honoured to be elected as a councillor for Hawick and Denholm, and I would like to express my gratitude for the support given to me by my electoral agent Gail Hendry, MSP Paul Wheelhouse, MP Calum Kerr and all the fantastic SNP team.
But I would most like to thank the people of this ward who have placed their faith in me. I promise to work hard to repay that.
I have listened to folks’ concerns and I am determined to address them and local issues.
Working with community councils, community trusts and supporting local projects is fundamental, as is holding regular surgeries to identify and respond to these concerns.
Now, as elected councillors, we have to work together as a team for the betterment of everyone in our area and I know that my fellow councillors have the same aim.