While Curtis Welsh was walking around New Belses Loch, Lilliesleaf, a pair of Canada geese appeared close inshore to proudly show off their offspring.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
TAKING SCRUTINY OFF TORIES’ RECORD
I’ve had lots of political literature through my door and it dismays me that the Tories seem so hung up on framing the general election as one about Scottish independence.
I fully understand why they want this – to take scrutiny off their record in Westminster and ignore the fact that Scotland voted 62-38% to remain in the European Union.
That behaviour has resulted in an unneeded election on June 8.
The Tories had their majority in the last Westminster parliament and won all the necessary votes to carry out their programme. They should have been focused on bringing this country together – resolving differences and obvious problems with Northern Ireland’s border, Scotland’s vote and the implications on the City of London and Gibraltar.
Instead of this, Prime Minister Theresa May has bullied her way to Article 50, ignoring all offers of compromise, and is driving headlong into a full English Brexit where she expects everyone to fall into line behind her.
May knows, once negotiations start, she cannot control the press abroad like she can at home, and that more potentially damaging information, such as the £70bn settlement with the EU, will come to light. Desperate attempts were made to keep this information from the public during the Brexit debate.
If this election is about anything it’s about Brexit and the kind of country we want to live in.
The Tory record on schools, prisons, health care, the environment, social care and soaring debt is so dismal they will do anything to avert attention.
They are using independence as a scare tactic to fool the electorate into voting for the party of Brexit.
The truth is independence was never intended to be the issue. After the 2014 referendum, the SNP made it clear that it would only become an issue in its own right if there was a sustained majority for it in the polls.
The only caveat to that was directed at the promise made to Scots that a No vote was the only way to remain in Europe (we now know that to be a lie). This clause was put in to protect Scotland and ensure we had a say in the type of country we would become when the facts were known. The clause was triggered by Brexit, not by the SNP.
A democratic vote in the Scottish Parliament has given us a chance to make an informed decision once the true facts of Brexit are known in 2018, and it’s only fair that we get to make that informed decision – whichever way it goes.
The Tories want to deny us that informed choice and tie us to a decision taken last June when we all know we were lied to and before the true impact of Brexit was known.
We have already seen the warning signs of what Brexit will entail for fracking, human rights and the NHS; and as the Tories rush to negotiate a US trade deal, they will sell off access to the NHS, which American corporations lust over.
THREAT OF ENGLISH INDEPENDENCE
In the past I have voted in general elections in London and Gloucestershire.
On every occasion I have voted for the candidate standing for the party of my choice. I have voted with the expectation that that candidate, if elected, will represent the entire electorate of the constituency to the best of his, or her, ability.
It never crossed my mind that I was voting for a candidate to “make sure England’s interests are protected” or “the voice of the English is heard” in a UK context.
And yet Nicola Sturgeon is urging Scottish voters to vote in this election with these interests (from a Scottish perspective) in mind.
She goes further, saying “we” must win this election for Scotland by voting SNP.
This is a UK general election. Had Paddy Ashdown urged voters to “win the West-Country” for the Lib Dems in the 90s, or Michael Foot campaigned for the winning of London by Labour during the 80s, we would, quite reasonably, have believed that they had taken leave of their senses.
Ms Sturgeon’s stance of protecting Scotland from the wicked Westminster Tories (and their potential Scottish “rubber stamps”) is similar to Alex Salmond’s position of fighting the “Westminster Parliament” or “the London Government” when he had his shot as leader (he couldn’t say “wicked Labour” because of a shared left-wing position).
Of course, the disparaging terms used by the SNP towards all things south are merely euphemisms for “English”, used to avoid charges of prejudice.
Should the current political situation in Scotland persist, with England being the continual butt of sniping from Holyrood and sneering from the Scottish benches at Westminster, the day will come when the English demand a referendum on the subject of English independence from Scotland.
Based on a variation of a well-known principle, it would probably, from the English perspective, “be better to have them peering in from the outside, than have them kicking up a perpetual stushie on the inside”.
Whilst the 40% of Scots who vote SNP would, most likely, welcome the independence of England, the other 60% will have had their future decided for them.
The nationalists often raise the (false) concept of a “democratic deficit”, where Scottish votes in Westminster or UK-wide referendums are outweighed by those of the rest of the UK. A true democratic deficit does exist – a slim majority of a total of approximately 3.5million Scots can vote to dismantle the UK, whilst 40 million-or-so voters in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have no say.
The Manchester terrorist attack reminded me of the 7/7 London bombings. I happened to be working in Melrose that day when a passer-by said, “Good morning, isn’t it a lovely day”.
I agreed, and added that the news from London didn’t look too good. The sharp retort was, “Why should I care what happens down there”.
I wonder in whose interests that man is voting on June 8?
Take a reality check, Nicola. The UK has enough enemies, both within and without. Uncontrollable climate change is less than a generation away. The last thing we need, now or ever, is more division.
LABOURING THE POINT
Last week’s letters pages contained many anti-Conservative missives.
Unfortunately, the authors then suggested we should vote in such a way that the Conservatives would win – electing Calum Kerr or any other SNP candidate will do nothing to prevent a Tory victory.
At the risk of repeating myself, the only way to defeat the Tories is if as many people as possible vote Labour.
Forget tactical voting – in my experience it rebounds on one. Electors can only vote in in the constituency in which they are registered and so the answer is to vote Labour wherever you are.
DON’T LIKE SNP, BUT WILL VOTE KERR
Recent unsavoury attempts by some of John Lamont’s supporters to suggest Calum Kerr hasn’t met nor helped constituents have blown up spectacularly in their faces.
Newspaper letters pages and social media have been flooded by people and organisations saying how much time and effort Calum has exerted on their behalf, and how many cases he has helped to resolve – 6,711, I believe (and him only elected in 2015). Particularly significant have been those who declare themselves political opponents of the SNP, but who will vote for Calum because of his dedication and determination to resolve issues on his constituents’ behalf, and his rate of success in doing so.
Last week’s Southern published a revealing letter from Betsy Barker of Nenthorn. Calum Kerr worked closely with villagers to (successfully) resolve a broadband issue. John Lamont attended a brief meeting on the subject – then tried to claim all the credit.
Clearly we should be very sceptical regarding Mr Lamont’s claims about his own activities.
And his political backbone? I recall during the recent council elections campaign a dignified protest against the rape clause by two women standing next to the Tory gazebo in Market Square, Galashiels, where Mr Lamont and Tory council candidate Euan Jardine were standing.
Rather than engage with the “protesters” in any way, Messrs Lamont and Jardine hung about for a few minutes, then folded up their gazebo and scuttled off. Not the stuff of champions.
The general election is a week away. With five years of a normal parliamentary term behind him, Calum Kerr’s position as MP for this constituency would be unassailable.
He is, as described in last week’s paper, an “old-fashioned, hard-working MP” who has gained the support of people of all parties and backgrounds across the Borders. He is also a very friendly, approachable person.
Above all, he is the kind of MP who will guard our interests and fight tirelessly for them – especially important as we move into such unpredictable times.
I have written twice to John Lamont during the last week or so in a (so far) unsuccessful attempt to invite him, before the election, to declare his support, or otherwise, for a number of Tory policies. Specifically: the disgraceful and cruel behaviour of the UK Home Office in deporting decent people from Scotland; the “rape clause”; ending the triple lock on pensions; cutting winter fuel payments to the elderly; cutting social care and imposing further austerity across the country, hitting the disabled, the poor and the vulnerable of our nation.
His response to date has been a non-committal and evasive “have you read the Conservative manifesto?”
So there you have it: an admission that Mr Lamont wishes to go to Westminster to serve as a lapdog for Theresa May, not for the benefit of Borderers, but to support punishing and retrograde policies which are against the interests of the majority of the Scotland people.
I have also asked Mr Lamont to justify his expenses at Holyrood, being double those of all other MSPs, including the First Minister, and leaders of the other major parties.
A resounding silence was the reply.
Keith Howell propagates a half-truth when, in comparing Teresa May with the First Minister of Scotland, he states in your letters page last week that “in subsequent elections… she [the First Minister] reassured us all that there would not be another referendum unless the people of Scotland wanted one”.
This convenient line ignores the clear statement in the SNP manifesto for the 2016 Holyrood election that “we believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will”.
That the First Minister fulfilled that manifesto commitment by taking the subject of a referendum to a vote in the Scottish Parliament – and winning its backing – does contrast with Teresa May who doesn’t seem clear on what she will commit to.
(Scottish Borders Council SNP group leader)
A BREXIT TRANSFORMATION
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is losing even more votes in Scotland – particularly in the fishing industry.
Landing fish in Scotland has fallen 40%, from 700,000 tons to 440,000. Although the number of registered vessels has fallen just a quarter to 2,015, three-quarters of these are small vessels that only fish inshore.
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermens’ Federation, says Brexit will “transform Scottish fishing from an industry worth less than £500m a year (landing prices) to one worth in excess of £1bn”.
So much for SNP claims last month of a “gigantic sellout by the UK Government”.
As the UK is way down the list of European fish consumption in 16th position, we don’t eat enough fish anyway.
Our fishing industry is innovative and can probably make us self-sufficient in the very near future.
Yet another example of lack of vision from the Republican Scottish National Party and its inadequate leader.
NO PLAN IN PLACE FOR AGRICULTURE
What plan is in place to ensure farming can continue in the Borders beyond 2020 when CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) grants come to a halt?
Well, if John Lamont’s Conservative party forms the next government, the answer is no plan whatsoever. Unprofitable farms will simply go to the wall and be absorbed into a few conglomerates capable of self-sufficiency, and in a post-Brexit trading relationship of serious trading barriers, challenges and high costs.
The SNP, by contrast, in the event of having the power to do so (given Theresa May’s indications to lessen Scotland’s powers, rather than increase them), has stated its commitment to provide a replacement for CAP and for as long as is necessary – meaning till farms are self-sufficient.
Party loyalty is all well and good, but if I was a farmer I’d think twice about where to put my ‘X’ on June 8 – I’d be voting SNP.
And what about fishing? Any celebration of freeing-up restrictions and limiting foreign access will be short-lived as the stench of our rotting, tariff-applied fish, held up at continental customs, wafts in our direction, smothering what’s left of the industry. The Tories have nothing in place there either.
In fact, the mantra of “strong leadership” falls flat on its face in consideration of Mrs May’s abysmal failure to have any influence on EU leaders where her Brexit priorities are concerned, as evidenced by the publication, last month, of the EU’s choice which ignores all of them.
As to the dream that none of this matters as the Commonwealth has been waiting all this time to come to our rescue, now that is straight from Tory ‘La-La-Land’.
NIGHTMARE OF THE TWO-CHILD LIMIT
Of many cuts the Tories have made to benefits – concentrating on hitting the most vulnerable in our society, rather than focusing on gathering vast sums hidden from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs offshore by the wealthiest – the cruellest and most far-reaching must be the two-child tax credit limit.
Eligibility for benefits is not a lifestyle choice, as has been suggested by Conservative Westminster candidate John Lamont – more than half of tax credit claimants are in work. These are people we all see every day, working hard in low-paid jobs, willing to put the hours in, but often on zero-hour contracts, trying their best to provide for their families – and they deserve better.
Limiting financial help to two children is in itself worrying – we seem to be hurtling headlong into an Orwellian dystopia.
These children are our future and they deserve the best start a civilised society can give them. Poverty should not be fixed or inherited – a child helped by the state to a decent basic start can and often will go on to do better.
A more common scenario, I imagine, to the harsh caricature of a single mum with a dozen grubby children is a working low-paid single parent with two children, legitimately claiming child tax credits, meeting and wishing to marry or cohabit with another single parent in the same situation.
What then? Will two people whose joint income hasn’t changed lose much-needed (often temporary) financial support for the children born after April 2017?
The rape clause, intended to be seen as a cushion to the harshness of the two-child limit, raises even more concerns.
A rape survivor has a fundamental right to anonymity and this has been swept away. A rape survivor has the right not to report the attack – again this has been ignored, and this violation of a woman’s body will be known to an uncontrollable (and untrained) line of people beyond the first handler of the form – benefits advisers. Even bank staff will be able to tell a tax credit amount larger than the two-child norm.
Rapists don’t just attack single women – they attack women in happy, settled relationships too.
Rapists don’t check that a woman hasn’t had sex with anyone else that month – a pregnancy from rape is not so easily differentiated from an accidental pregnancy.
What of accidental pregnancies – are they to be punished as profligate or reckless? Rape can occur within marriage – what then? The clause distinctly precludes any child whose mother is still living with the father.
This legislation, like so many Tory policies, particularly regarding helping the less fortunate, is full of holes and will be yet another nightmare for “clients” and government agencies to navigate.
Most importantly, the child who is named on that form runs the risk of finding out one day how they were conceived from a complete stranger, and that is reprehensible.
CONSERVATIVE GRAPH GAFFE
As the general election approaches, every day sees a fresh batch of leaflets and letters dropping through my door.
Every party has been listing what it intends to do if elected – but one grabs my attention more than others.
The Conservatives’ main focus is just to put down the SNP and go on more about independence than the SNP does. It all seems a bit playground name-calling and they should be spending more time stating what they intend to do for our country.
Their bar graphs are also way off on some of their media. This was picked up recently on a TV political show when candidate John Lamont was quizzed about his own leaflet with a very inaccurate chart on it. He looked like a little boy caught stealing apples from a tree, with his spluttering answer not even making sense.
Why not just own up to the reporter that it was wrong and behave like an adult, because his on-screen reply and body language did not made a good advert to vote for him?
FISH KILLING CAN’T BE JUSTIFIED
We, the ghillies and boatmen on the Tweed, object in the strongest terms to the actions of the Gardo netting station in killing spring salmon.
Whilst we release back into the water all the spring salmon we catch up to July 1 every year, as we have since 2010, Gardo net is killing all the salmon it catches, which (a) cannot be justified in pure conservation terms and (b) is directly contrary to all recognised scientific advice that killing spring salmon at current population levels is not sustainable.
We believe these actions by Gardo will seriously impact not only our own jobs, but also the jobs of many others in the Borders who depend on a viable 10-month salmon fishing season.
Nigel Fell (Boleside beat), Bob Harrison (West Learmouth), Arthur Elliot (Upper
Pavilion), Doug Tait
(Tweedmill), Jake Patterson (Upper Pavilion), John Eddie (Tillmouth), Mick
Charlton (Middle Pavilion), Kevin Wright (Milne Graden), Rod Dixon (Upper Dryburgh),
Matthias Viethen (Ladykirk), George Inglis (Lower
Dryburgh), Peter Lee
(Pedwell), Craig Duke (Upper
Mertoun), Edward Dodds (Drygrange), Kevin
(Gledswood), Ian Farr
(Bemersyde), Michael Farr (Rutherford), Colin Pringle (Makerstoun), Colin Bell
(Upper Floors), Ritchie
Donavan (Upper Floors),
Jonathon Mackereth (Lower Floors), Bryan Jewels (Lower Floors), Billy Jack (Junction), Pud Murray (Junction), Gavin Brown (Junction), Bob Jewels (Upper Hendersyde), John Kitchingham (Hendersyde),
Nigel Fenton (Hendersyde), Craig Walker (Sprouston),
Billy Williams (Sprouston),
Lee Craig (Carham), Bob Smith (Carham), Tom Davis (Lower Birgham), Ryan
Morrison (Lower Birgham), Martin Ritchie (Upper North Wark), Calum Manson (Lower North Wark), Richard Farr (South Wark), Patrick
Robertson (South Wark), Malcolm Campbell (The Lees), Paul Hume (The Lees)
FEARS PLAN MAY BE UNRAVELLED
Lorne Anton highlighted the enormous success of the Borders Railway and castigated those people who opposed it (letters, May 11).
With the new administration now in charge at Scottish Borders Council, my fear is that they will cancel plans to house the Great Tapestry of Scotland in the Borders.
Those who previously spoke against the plan ignored the undoubted benefits other great projects have already brought to Scotland.
The Falkirk Wheel and The Kelpies are a couple which come to mind – two projects which regenerated derelict industrial sites and have attracted visitors from all over the world. The financial benefits and employment opportunities they have brought to the area would not exist had the naysayers prevailed.
I do hope there are sufficient visionaries within the council who can see the benefits to businesses in Galashiels and the surrounding area that the tapestry will bring.
NO SYMPATHY FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME
I was appalled to hear that Scottish Borders Council has appointed Councillor John Greenwell as their Equalities Champion.
Perhaps councillors didn’t read his disgraceful letter, entitled ‘Hounding former British soldiers’, published in the Southern on the day of the council elections (May 4).
In his desperate bid for election, Councillor Greenwell advocated preventing alleged killers from facing justice, criticised the criminal justice system and showed no sympathy for the victims of crime.
It seems to me that he does not support the concept of equality under the law, which should not be a surprise as the Conservative party has a long and shameful history of discriminating against minorities.
I hope that the council will appoint a more suitable person to be Equalities Champion.
SEARCHING FOR MUM’S COUSIN
I wonder if anyone can help me.
I live in Canada and my mother lives in Australia.
My mother started a family tree, but gave up on it and asked me to give it a go.
I managed to discover that her cousin married in Hawick and every search bar I have used to try to locate her brings me back to Hawick. Her cousin is Vivien Russell Borthwick (nee Macdonald). She married John William Borthwick in 1962.
My mother’s maiden name was Faye (Euphemia) Murray.
GUARDING THEIR TRADE MAG
Setting aside my astonishment at the disrespect of Tony Reed in seeking to extol the virtues of another publication (The Guardian) in the pages of The Southern (letters, May 18), I find myself not in the least bit surprised at his, and other liberal establishment followers, intolerance of the merest criticism (even in jest) of their trade mag.
I can, nevertheless, sympathise with his gullibility. The organ he defends, so beloved of no-platform snowflakes, Rent-a-Mob, the wilfully naïve, and our country’s legion of self-loathers and perverters of the label “Democrat”, as well as the professional tuition fee deceivers, can, at a superficial level, also take in the misguided, but determinedly well-intentioned.
One well-wisher even sent me a copy of the publication recently. I’m sure, however, that they must have misperceived my lifestyle. In our home we have no need of it as we maintain adequate supplies of Andrex.
TRYING HARD TO LOSE ELECTION
In all my life, I have never seen a government try so hard to lose an election as the present Conservative one appears to be doing.
William W. Scott
St Baldred’s Road
HOPES FOR REGENERATION
I just wanted to say many thanks to the people who voted for me in the recent local elections. Unfortunately, on this occasion, it was not to be.
Can I also thank all the people who helped me deliver my leaflets throughout the region.
I would also like to say how privileged I was to represent the community over the last five years and, hopefully, the regeneration we all worked hard for will continue.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff at Scottish Borders Council for their help and guidance during my term of office.
Finally, to our new councillors, I wish you all the very best and look forward to working with you over the coming months.