Walter Baxter took this image of Lowood House, beside the Tweed near Gattonside, during a Scotland’s Garden Scheme open day.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
MP FRAMING THE SNP BAD AGENDA
It was interesting to read the piece in last week’s Southern about our local MP, John Lamont, regarding the state of NHS infrastructure in the Borders.
I realise he is new to the job, but would have thought his experience as an MSP would have taught him the easiest way to get an answer is to simply ask a question. Framing this as a Freedom of Information request makes it sound like it was some dark secret, hidden by government.
I’m pretty sure if he’d simply asked the same question in the normal fashion, the relevant department would have been happy to supply the information required.
I think it’s worth pointing out, from other reports I’ve seen, that this was not Mr Lamont asking the question on behalf of his local constituents – this was the Tory party submitting a request for the whole of Scotland. I have to ask, was a similar request made in England and Wales, or is that different as the NHS down there is under a Conservative administration?
Mr Lamont then proclaimed operations had been cancelled and the ventilation system was a factor, apparently without bothering to get any facts on the matter.
The Borders General Hospital medical director simply said that none had been cancelled as a result of ventilation problems. He further stated that other items listed as high risk had already been dealt with in the previous financial year and there was an ongoing programme of maintenance and upgrading.
The question here is why did Mr Lamont not bother asking what effect any of the issues reported were having first before making statements? Is it simply because stating problems were identified and being dealt with would not make the SNP government sound quite so bad, and he wouldn’t score any political points?
Between the NHS issues and his stance on public sector pay and other issues, it’s becoming clear that, as with the other dozen Scottish Tory MPs, Mr Lamont is a puppet representing Westminster in Scotland and continuing their quest to try and get at the SNP government in any way they can.
Has Theresa May set them a mission to retaliate for the hard time she gets from SNP MPs at Westminster?
As with all puppets, I thinks it’s only a matter of time before Mr Lamont’s strings get so tangled his constituents recognise he’s not working properly and he ends up on the shelf.
West High Street
CASH NEEDED TO MAINTAIN SUPPLY
I am writing after reading your article which detailed the Borders farm businesses receiving six-figure sums in subsidy in 2016 (Southern, July 6).
Without any context or explanation as to what these figures represent, it is not obvious to your readers what this money is supporting and why it is needed.
The steep, downward spiral in farm incomes is placing huge financial pressure on Scotland’s farmers and crofters. Latest statistics from the Scottish Government estimate that average farm incomes have decreased by 48% in the last year alone, leaving farming families a return of £12,600. The downward slide in farm incomes, since a peak in 2010/11, has seen a devastating 75% fall over five years.
The Scottish Government states that when converting farm income estimates to hourly income for unpaid labour – such as farm owners, family members and business partners – the income generated from almost two-thirds of farm businesses wouldn’t have been enough to meet the legal minimum agricultural wage for paid workers.
Whether producing livestock, crops, milk, poultry, pigs, fruit or veg, farmers and crofters continue to face rising input and compliance costs, declining market returns and an erosion of support payments that are conspiring to threaten the very existence of many. These support payments mean that our consumers will not see any interruption to food supply on the supermarket shelves, even though it may not be economic to grow the produce at current market prices.
A profitable and buoyant farming industry is the glue that holds rural communities such as the Borders and the rural economy together.
Scotland’s food and drink sector is flourishing and is now worth £14bn, but the primary producer’s share is decreasing year-on-year.
All we ask for is a fair return for our produce from the supply chain. Others within the supply chain are able to make a decent margin, but they are nothing without the high-quality raw materials we provide them with.
On top of all of this, there are several farm businesses in the Borders who made a claim in June 2016 and are still yet to receive a penny, while the vast majority have only received a percentage of what they should have.
It is important for consumers to understand that farmers receive subsidies so that you can continue to eat and enjoy home-produced, high-quality, high-welfare, local produce at a minimal cost.
CONDEMNING THE REST TO AUSTERITY
As the “someone” referred to in Christine Grahame’s column in last week’s Southern, I felt I should respond.
Ms Grahame holds the view that revenue from North Sea oil, over the past 40 or so years, would have been better used by a Scottish government than by that of the United Kingdom. It would have been better to have enriched the five million people of Scotland, rather than benefit the 55million people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
She believes that revenue from a natural resource, found off these islands, and exploited using the skills and capital of the UK as a whole, should have been used to benefit the few, rather than the many. She would happily have condemned the “Rest of the UK” (her phrase) to 40 years of austerity.
Thank God the City of London didn’t take that position – without that revenue, the rest of the “Rest of UK” would likely have been reduced to medieval levels of poverty.
What the SNP member for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale demonstrates is all that is wrong with nationalism – of any stripe. Her clear belief in furthering the interests of what she perceives as her own nation to the detriment of others reveals her to be little different from any UKIP supporter, any Little Englander Tory, or any Trump-style proclaimer of “America First!”
Christine is clearly unhappy with the result of Indyref1, so she wants Indyref2. Similar to me, she was disappointed with the Brexit result, but rather than accept it as millions have, she supports Nicola Sturgeon in wanting a special deal for Scotland.
If Harold Macmillan were to whisper in her ear from the grave, no doubt he would say: “Democracy, dear girl, democracy”.
TIME FOR PRIDE IN OUR TOWNS
As we Borderers and people visiting the area already know – the Borders is a great region. The towns have their own unique identity, traditions and history. The countryside is breathtaking and awe-inspiring in equal measure, and Borders people are some of the most friendly and welcoming in Scotland.
On the downside, I have noticed for many years – and I am sure other people have too – that there is a real problem with dog fouling and litter, in particular in Galashiels and Hawick. I live in Galashiels and have previously resided in Hawick, so have seen the problem for myself.
Take a walk along the public paths of these towns and you will see some are like minefields of dog dirt, and litter is strewn everywhere. This is not because of the lack of bins – they are provided – and even if they were not, that is not an excuse to leave dog dirt or litter behind.
The sad fact is some people are just not bothering to tidy up after themselves – they are letting down their towns and the Borders in general. I understand Scottish Borders Council has hired litter wardens, some people and councillors have bravely spoken out publicly about this problem, and there have also been local initiatives in these towns – for example, litter-picking sessions – to try and tackle this problem, which is to be welcomed and applauded.
Sadly, the problem is very much still there. I must say that I and other people I know do not seem to notice a problem with dog fouling and litter in other Border towns, at least not on the scale as it is in Galashiels or Hawick.
I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to the people in these towns who do not tidy up after themselves to take some pride in their town and think about the consequences and negative impact on people, the look and reputation that this problem has on the Borders overall.
Mark G. Kettrick
It is great news that Scotland’s economy avoided dipping into recession, not least because moving into a downturn can itself further undermine business confidence.
With the latest quarterly figures instead reflecting positive growth, we must hope this now becomes a trend of improvement that continues into the foreseeable future. There is definitely no room for complacency, as Scotland still lags well behind the UK over the last year and two-year periods, and various trade organisations have been reporting activity across Scottish businesses as generally flat.
Alex Salmond chose to react with mock outrage that the figures were better than some had expected, saying that a range of economists, the BBC and the press in general had been too quick in contemplating the worst with their critique of the SNP. What various of them had been warning about was that keeping the threat of a second independence referendum hanging over Scotland compounds the uncertainties that already exist with Brexit, and that Scottish business confidence can ill afford that.
Wherever you stand on Brexit, it is hard to argue that we have much choice now about having to deal with finding the optimum route to leave the European Union.
The point about indyref2 is that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had an opportunity to create a period of certainty on this issue until at least the next Holyrood elections in 2021, but she chose not to.
Those commentators that so upset Mr Salmond were hardly suggesting something very extreme, by proposing that when it comes to major constitutional change, one thing at a time is not an unreasonable stance.
Mr Salmond’s attempts to stir grievance over this, with his repetition of the “talking down Scotland” slur for just about anyone who does not accept the SNP’s preferred view of events, suggests classic diversionary tactics on his part.
One of the most disturbing trends of our time is the influence of the political left among the education establishment.
In the run-up to the general election, 68% of teachers questioned online by the respected TES (Times Educational Supplement) said they intended to vote Labour, with only 8% backing the Conservatives.
Teachers are bound by the 1996 Education Act to offer a “balanced presentation of opposing views”. A total of 1,300 head teachers now earn more than £100,000 per annum.
How much longer can teachers abuse their position of trust and be reminded of their duty to be impartial?
All this can be a Corbyn-style indoctrination of children for the future generation. Then God help us all.
SINGLE MARKET SUPPLEMENT
I am unsure if David Laing truly did not understand my point the week before, or if he chose not to (letters, July 6).
If the former, I apologise. I thought I was perfectly clear that when I wrote, “We all knew what we were voting for”, I was referring specifically to leaving the single market, and not to life, the universe and everything.
I notice he did not respond to my point about the disingenuity of those who claim we can stay in.
Also last week, we read another entertaining letter from Alex Orr where he lauds Estonia, the new president of the EU, with “the responsibility for driving forward the EU’s work”. That is the point. Estonia’s job is to press on with greater and greater integration.
I voted ‘No’ to the EEC in 1975 and ‘Leave’ last year because I did not wish to join a United States of Europe, or a rich man’s club. Leaving the EU – an anti-democratic tool of greedy, selfish bankers and corporations – does not mean we cannot co-operate with our fellow Europeans when it is clearly in our and their interests, it means we can follow a path we choose.
Mr Orr mentions Estonia’s centenary of independence, but not that that country has surrendered it by joining the EU. This is no surprise as, despite me asking on more than one occasion, he has never answered the question, “What is the point of voting for independence if you wish to join the EU?”
POWDER BOMB MARRED PARADE
My wife and I enjoyed the Jethart festival fancy dress parade until someone threw a powder bomb which hit my wife on her eye. We were both covered in pink powder.
As a result, we had to go to Borders General Hospital to have her eye examined. We were there for three hours, but fortunately there was no damage to her eye.
The cardigan my wife had on had to be taken to the the cleaners, who are hopeful they can clean it.
I know no malice was meant, but it could have been a lot worse if the powder bomb had hit some of the children who were standing beside us.
I hope whoever threw the bomb reads this letter and realises how dangerous the outcome might have been.
MARIE CURIE COLLECTION
The Kelso Fundraising Group would like to thank everyone who contributed to the collection for Marie Curie at the recent Aberdeen Angus World Forum Borders Day held at Springwood.
The sum of £1,168 was raised.
BENEFITS BLOW OUTRAGE
I was appalled to read how a pensioner’s Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was cut because she could not name the doctor who diagnosed her 67 years ago.
Betty Whyley, who contracted polio when she was only six weeks old and now lives with the late effects of the disease, could understandably not remember the name of her doctor from when she was just six weeks old.
Mrs Whyley received a letter from the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) which informed her that her PIP claim was disallowed because she left her form incomplete.
This is a frankly outrageous decision and leaves me wondering how many other people are being shamefully denied the support they desperately need.
As CEO of the British Polio Fellowship, I see our support services team providing our members with daily support to challenge and overturn such arbitrary, insensitive PIP assessments. With over 120,000 polio survivors in the UK now struggling with a debilitating new medical condition – Post Polio Syndrome (PPS) – we need to reach more of these people to ensure they are receiving the correct benefits and additional support available.
Anyone who has had polio and is experiencing any such benefits injustices should contact our support services team on 0800 043 1935 or visit www.BritishPolio.org.uk
Ted Hill MBE
WORTH THE PAPER IT’S WRITTEN ON
This month marks four years since consumer choice campaign Keep Me Posted was launched.
Keep Me Posted was started to challenge companies who push their customers to receive electronic communication without their consent, sometimes without their knowledge.
Our research has proven that it is easier to assess your financial health when you receive paper statements (75%) compared to (48%) electronic statements.
Thanks to valuable information and feedback we have received, we have been able to persuade parliamentarians, large corporations, service providers and banks that everyone should have the right to receive their financial information in the format that is easiest for them – be it text, paper, email or a combination of all three.
As a result, 29 service providers, including a number of high street banks, have been awarded the Keep Me Posted Mark of Distinction in recognition of their commitment to consumer choice. This means that millions of people across the country can rest assured that they will not be forced to receive electronic communication or penalised for requesting a hard copy of statements or bills.
I am incredibly proud of what the campaign has achieved over the past four years. However, the battle is not over – we must continue to fight to ensure that our rights are honoured by companies. We ask your readers to do the same.
Let us know your experiences by writing us at: FREEPOST KEEP ME POSTED.
(chair, Keep Me Posted)
WHICH WAY WILL NICOLA JUMP?
As the unconstitutional or “advisory” referendum on Catalonian independence looms in the autumn, how are Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP establishment to react?
Will Ms Sturgeon adhere to the long-held SNP position and unequivocally support Catalonian separatism? Already Gordon MacDonald has submitted a Holyrood motion, supported by 16 fellow SNP MSPs, to welcome the referendum, despite it being held against the Madrid government’s wishes.
Or will Ms Sturgeon attempt pragmatism?
She mustn’t provoke the Spanish government.
If Scotland were ever to become an independent country, attempt to join the EU and overcome the legion of hurdles necessary to be considered a suitable candidate by Brussels, Ms Sturgeon would require the support of every EU country.
Spain, while willing to accept a legitimately-independent Scotland, is suspicious of Scottish separatism.
Presumably Ms Sturgeon will once more try to balance the demands of her dyed-in-the-wool supporters, while not further alienating the majority of Scots, increasingly dismissive of her indyref2 obsession.
What matters to her above all else right now is rebuilding her indyref2 case – and criticism from Madrid would be damaging.
The SNP’s long-standing allies in the Catalonian separatist movement should prepare themselves – publicly at least – to be dumped.