Curtis Welsh’s image of a sunset near Lilliesleaf produces a strong outline to trees on the horizon.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
SERVICE PROVISION SORELY LACKING
The success of the Borders Railway has exceeded expectations, which is great, but service provision and quality is too often sadly lacking.
Trains are frequently cancelled without explanation or a very weak one – “We are on a tea break”, a crew told assembled passengers at Tweedbank one day, so that train was cancelled at short notice.
Last week I joined the first cheap-day return train of the day at Stow. It was made up of just two carriages and people had been standing from Galashiels – we had no chance of a seat. It was not a pleasant journey, crowded with no air-conditioning and by the time we reached Newtongrange a couple with a buggy could not find space to get on at all.
The mid-afternoon journey back was no better. Again a two-carriage train (we had walked past many empty carriages to reach it), people stood from Edinburgh and the toilet was out of order. It stank and people were forced to travel next to it through lack of space.
I seem to remember we were promised new and more carriages, but they have not appeared and we are paying full fare for the privilege of travelling on a sub-standard service.
It is surely not beyond the wit of Scotrail planners to realise that during school holidays train travel will be very popular, particularly off-peak, so more carriages are needed at these times.
Last night (Saturday), when visiting friends at Fountainhall, a four-carriage train went up towards Edinburgh practically empty – two would have done then.
Is it too much to expect better planning of trains and staff to ensure we get a reliable service which meets the changing needs of travellers and is comfortable?
A BRIGHT FUTURE ON THE ROAD AHEAD
Clark Cross, in his contribution to the struggle to determine the future survival of the Earth’s biosphere, wrote: “Politicians listen to the green brigade, when they should be listening to engineers and scientists” (letters, August 3).
As a born-and-bred member of the green brigade, I felt a duty to respond.
Mr Cross correctly pointed out the obvious fact that the universal introduction of electric vehicles will result in the loss of existing taxes on fossil fuels. He provided the (equally obvious) answer by suggesting a tax on road usage. By 2040, all cars will be driver-less and their movement tracked. Tax by mileage, monitored by satellite and computer, will be the norm.
At present we are effectively taxed by mileage through fuel taxes – in future we will be taxed by actual mileage.
As for “engineers and scientists”, they managed to transition us from horse to steam and internal combustion, so they should have no problem with fossil fuel to sustainable electricity – younger engineers and scientists, on the whole, seem less sceptical about climate change (and more so about Brexit) than their seniors, so I’ve been told.
By 2040, both battery and photo-voltaic technologies will have advanced, along with the efficiency of electric engines. It is likely that the national vehicle fleet will be “painted” with a photo-voltaic surface – 20 million solar panels combined with an equal number of efficient batteries, collecting and storing solar energy throughout the day, should obviate the need for a large number of extra wind turbines.
And what an opportunity for Scotland to supply sustainable power, from wind and water, to English cars.
By 2050, motorists, from Lima to London, Los Angeles to Linlithgow, will plug in and wonder, if they give it a second thought, did people really used to pour petrol into a tank, burn it and exhaust the emissions into the very air their children breathed?
When Clark next writes on this subject (night does follow day, after all) I hope he finds himself in a more thoughtful and reflective mood than his default combative and, dare I say it, Cross, mode.
I assume he is not a great fan of recycling, but I will end with a recycled and amended slogan: The future’s not bright if the future’s not green.
END OF THE GREEN DREAM
The Digest of UK Energy Statistics covering 2016 has just been released – and it’s been a poor year for renewables.
Wind generation fell by 7.3%, even though the number of wind turbines rose by 13%. Hydro generation fell by 14%, even though the number of small hydro schemes rose by 20%. Solar in the UK is a joke because while it theoretically had 33% of total renewable capacity, it generated just 12%. Wave power generated nothing after tens of millions of public money has been wasted on it.
Luckily, gas power rose from 29% of total generation to 42% to fill any gap.
The green dream of falling electrical demand due to “efficiency” has come to a halt and indeed has been in reverse for two years running.
This all proves that renewables can’t be relied on.
TORIES PUTTING PEACE AT RISK
It is disappointing, but not entirely unexpected, that Paul Singleton (“Fearing IRA retaliation”, August 3) declines my invitation to respond to questions posed in your July 27 edition.
For some reason, he chooses instead to raise an issue from more than 40 years ago.
Violent acts committed by the IRA, DUP supporters, or indeed the British Army, can not be condoned in any way. A relatively fragile peace has endured in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement and power sharing was introduced, and the UK Government has a moral duty to be seen to remain completely impartial and neutral on Irish politics.
After the dodgy deal (and that £1bn bribe) with the DUP, in order to cling onto power, and its attitude to Brexit and an Irish border, without listening to all parties involved, the divisive, weak and wobbly government at Westminster is in danger of putting this delicate peace at risk.
Michael Gove recently declared that Denmark (and other European countries) will continue to have access to Scotland’s fishing waters after Brexit, without any consultation with the Scottish Government (despite fishing being a devolved matter ). This is only the latest in a long line of examples by an arrogant, but desperate Tory government disregarding Scotland’s views in an attempt to hold its divided party together. Scottish fishermen have been betrayed.
Independence is the best way to ensure that all decisions about Scotland’s future are taken by people with the interests of Scotland at heart.
These matters raise serious doubts about the Tories’ ability to govern the UK fairly for the benefit of all its citizens, and are more of a threat to peace and stability than any events from the past.
Here’s a thought – maybe England should become independent, govern itself, go its own way, and the rest of us can do the same.
Finally, I am pleasantly surprised that Mr Singleton, on this occasion, was able to refrain from blaming the Scottish Government for anything – a first for him – but I won’t hold my breath.
CHOOSING THE UK OVER THE EU
In the aftermath of any election, opposing sides like to try to interpret the result in their favour, even if some have seen their share of the vote and numbers of seats won fall significantly.
The report of post-general election analysis by the University of Manchester is revealing, not only for what it says about how previous Yes-voting supporters were more inclined to abandon the SNP if they also favoured Brexit. It also points to how people might split if First Minister Nicola Sturgeon decides to risk calling a second independence referendum before the next Holyrood elections in 2021.
The research found that four out of 10 voters who chose the SNP in 2015, but also voted for Brexit, then went on to vote for other parties in the 2017 snap general election. This contrasted with nine out of 10 previous SNP supporters remaining loyal to them when they had voted to remain in the EU.
Yet since June of last year, the First Minister has assumed that collectively Scotland will feel sufficiently strongly about not wanting to leave the EU, that they would be prepared to leave the UK to try to achieve that.
The outcome in the general election suggests that of the balance of previous No and Yes voters prepared to change their mind, more will choose the UK over the EU, if that is the stark choice they are given.
The SNP might hope to stir sufficient grievance over the course of the Brexit negotiations to reverse this position, but as yet for the SNP, the ‘EU at any cost’ tactic appears likely to lose it more supporters than it will gain.
SHOOTING A SHOT IN THE ECONOMIC ARM
With the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ just two days away, it is predictable that anti-shooting extremists have stepped up their campaign of myths and propaganda.
But they are not being honest with the public; they are slinging mud in the hope some sticks and ignoring sound evidence.
The truth is that managing our uplands for shooting has benefits for conservation, preserves marginal upland communities and puts healthy, nutritious food into the market.
Grouse shooting is worth an estimated £100m to the economy each year and supports more than 2,500 full-time jobs. In turn, grouse shooting benefits pubs, hotels and other local retail outlets. In the uplands, this can mean the difference in viability for fragile rural communities.
Heather moorland is an internationally-important habitat and 75% of it is found in the UK. This habitat is uniquely precious, with 90% of grouse moors located in national parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Gamekeepers create outstanding habitat for many rare and endangered birds – such as lapwings – which is why the majority of grouse moors are internationally-protected habitats, rarer than rainforest. Without shooting, they would not exist.
While August 12 is the iconic first day of the season, it is obvious that the benefits of grouse shooting are present all-year around.
(chairman, British Association for Shooting and Conservation)
CROSSING SWORDS OVER OPENING
Dyed-in-the-wool nationalists are airing their republican sympathies online by demanding “Queen Nicola” (I jest not) should open the new Forth crossing, not the Queen (Elizabeth, that is).
That the Queen is head of state and that she will perform the Queenferry Crossing opening ceremony 53 years to the day since she opened the Forth Road Bridge count for little. If you’re a passionate separatist, your focus is division, as represented by the SNP and its leader, Nicola Sturgeon, not continuity and heritage.
The majority in Scotland are more circumspect: Ms Sturgeon’s personal popularity has nose-dived on the back of her UK break-up obsession, combined with the SNP’s lacklustre management of Scotland’s public services.
CHALLENGES FACED BY CARERS
Do your readers know that there are 6.8 million carers in the UK, and every day another 6,000 people take on a caring responsibility?
Unpaid carers face huge challenges, providing care for disabled or older loved ones. According to our own research, a third of carers have never had any significant time off since they started caring.
I work for a charity, Revitalise, which provides respite holidays for disabled people and carers at three accessible UK centres, and we’re appealing to the nation on BBC Radio 4 to ask for more support for the nation’s unsung army of carers. Our appeal will be presented by writer and comedian Arthur Smith, who is a vice-president of Revitalise.
Arthur talks about his own experience as a carer for his mother, Hazel, then goes on tell the story of Mavis and Colin, who recently benefitted from a respite break with Revitalise, which helped sustain their relationship. Mavis and Colin have been married for 56 years. When Mavis developed MS in her 20s, Colin gave up work to care for her, but was himself diagnosed with dementia in 2002 and Mavis is now his carer.
The appeal will be broadcast on August 13 at 7.55am and 9.26pm, then repeated on August 17 at 3.27pm.