This image of the imposing Hermitage Castle, near Newcastleton, was taken by Borders freelance photographer Stuart Cobley.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
WIND FARMS THREAT TO TOURISM
I would like to make clear that as an individual who runs a business solely reliant on Borders tourism, I strongly object to the current crop of wind farm applications – notably the imposing Birneyknowe development which will dominate the beautiful Teviot valley where my business is based.
After 30 years in the antiques business, which suffered greatly laterally due to changes in the market, I took the decision to make a career change. We now run a successful ‘Glamping and Holiday Let’ business on the outskirts of Minto, close to Denholm.
Over the last three years we have welcomed families from all over the world who are simply astounded by the unspoiled purity of our landscape, an area most admit they knew nothing about.
Their stay is an educational one also as they learn about one of our biggest industries, the woollen trade, and how it contributed to make this region successful throughout the world, as well as experiencing sustainable living.
As our woollen industry is now so depleted the Borders has potential to find new ways to survive, the potential from tourism is to some extent still untapped and the economic benefits are sky high.
Over the last few years I have polled all my guests to discover their thoughts on the ever-increasing threat of wind farm development in the area, and would it affect there decision to holiday in the here?
Given that most people who decide to make the pilgrimage to the Teviot valley are often walkers, cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts, the response has been extremely conclusive.
More that 90% of over 900 people I have asked have stated that the reason they decided to holiday here was because of its unspoiled and uninterrupted landscape, accessible from areas like the north of England, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Of all the guests I have spoken to, 90% also said that excessive wind farm development would affect their decision to holiday here – most were appalled that such schemes would ever be considered within such beautiful landscape.
Small community-cash intensives and funds set up by energy firms, luring as they seem, are counter-productive. These will not benefit the area as a whole, only a select few living within our villages and towns, and to limited effect. I also find the way the energy companies prey on low-paid communities offering cash bonuses unethical and wrong!
I want to insist that we think very carefully about how we proceed with the onslaught of current applications and think about a more long-term approach to the future of the Borders.
Tourism is a multi-billion pound business which will directly benefit everyone who lives here, however remote, and these financial benefits will grow, generation to generation, and encourage real growth and investment. It will also safeguard the future of so many self-employed families who are investing their life savings into new businesses reliant on visitors to the area and, more importantly, it will help curb the amount of clever young people who leave the Borders in search of work and careers elsewhere.
If Birneyknowe wind farm and others are given the green light, I might as well shut my doors tomorrow.
RAILWAY EXTENSION OF LIMITED BENEFIT
The magic money tree cult continues to attract new adherents.
Without even waiting for the results of a feasibility study, Scottish Borders Council has been seduced into support for extending the Borders Railway.
A project of this scale would hijack infrastructure spending across the Borders for a decade, with no benefit to significant parts of the community. Neither Berwickshire nor Peeblesshire will accrue any benefit; indeed, any benefits, and these will be open to intense scrutiny, would be concentrated in just three of the council’s 11 wards.
Carlisle’s enthusiasm for reinstating the southern stretch of the line has nothing to do with altruism. Rather, it wants to attract retail spend away from Hawick. Combine this with further increases in the online share of retail spending then the outlook for Hawick retail with a railway extension would be even grimmer than it already is.
By contrast, it’s absolutely right to support the reopening of Reston station to serve Berwickshire. It’s an ideal small-ticket project building on an existing dual-track line, unlike the dysfunctionally-designed Borders Railway.
AN ASSERTION BEYOND PARODY
Only a few short weeks after Scotland’s information commissioner roundly condemned Scottish Borders Council (SBC) for consistently refusing to release highly-sensitive and potentially-embarrassing information I had requested from them, Audit Scotland has concluded that our local authority “conducts its business in an open and transparent manner”. It is an assertion I regard as being beyond parody.
SBC may have indulged in a two-and-a-half-year campaign of secrecy to hide the costly errors they made over their failed £80m waste management contract. And I’m in possession of dozens of documents and electronic correspondence which suffered at the hands of council censors and their endless supplies of black ink.
But Scotland’s public spending watchdog must have either failed to read the evidence of the cover-up which I sent them on a regular basis, or they chose not to believe what they were being told.
Whatever the reason, the financial monitors from on high have included a glowing testimonial to the council’s openness in a newly published audit of SBC’s 2016/17 accounts.
As well as top marks for transparency, the local authority has convinced Audit Scotland’s financial experts that lessons have been learned from the negative way they handled my series of Freedom of Information requests on the waste treatment project fiasco, and “improvements have been adopted”.
According to the audit report – paragraph 79 – “there is evidence from a number of sources which demonstrate the Council’s commitment to transparency”. Apparently, members of the public can attend council meetings, minutes of meetings are readily available on the local authority’s website, and the council also makes its annual accounts available online.
But all of the above aids to transparency are the norm in every local authority throughout the land. Access to meetings has been part of local government statute since at least 1975.
What the Audit Scotland declaration does not say is that councils can decide to pull down the shutters of secrecy at any time during a meeting and move into private session.
The same “lessons learned” mantra was trotted out by Audit Scotland after their agents, KPMG, audited the waste treatment debacle.
And I was told by SBC when I began investigating that topic in 2015 that all information would be withheld until at least 2021.
Just as well the Scottish information commissioner thought differently.
ENGLAND – A FAILED PARIAH STATE
Gratifying and amusing as it is to watch the disintegration of English Toryism, one must not forget the appalling costs that England’s racist electorate is imposing on us all in Scotland.
The cost of the Brexit act of self-destruction already runs into hundreds of billions – thousands of lost investments, a worthless currency, huge increases in the cost of imports, lost educational and vocational opportunities for young people... the list is endless.
All this translates into inflation which will surely be in double figures by the year end (although official statistics will no doubt be fiddled), the deportation of millions of eastern European workers leading to crops rotting unpicked in the fields, hotels and restaurants closing by the score, public transport and the health service decimated as key workers are sent packing. This is to say nothing of the Brexit bonfire of progressive social, environmental and cultural policies that Theresa May’s happy band of xenophobes cannot wait to put to the torch.
And factor in too the hundreds of millions being forked out to consultants and civil servants to orchestrate the final sinking of the “S.S. Racist”.
We are all set to pay a truly massive price for England’s racist polity over the coming months, years and decades. But it’s clearly worthwhile to get rid of a few pesky Poles or whoever who come here to work hard, have families, start up businesses and generally contribute positively to their local communities – sorry, I meant to say scrounge off our (increasingly threadbare) welfare state.
And May’s barmy army continues to fall apart as Europe looks on and laughs. You dinnae need to look as far as Asia to see a real failed pariah state. There’s one under our noses just the other side of Carter Bar. Truly the well-deserved laughing stock of Europe.
We need to get out from under the English imperialist yoke as soon as we can.
Events in Catalonia just now suggest that such a divorce may be a lot quicker and a lot bloodier than unionist dinosaurs want to believe.
BACKTRACKING UNDER WAY
It is hard to deny that the Scottish Parliament has been of great benefit to the country.
Right from the beginning it has proved a magnet for new businesses across Scotland, especially in Edinburgh. One reason for this success has been the parliament’s focus on people rather than profits, though it has obviously taken care of them also.
While the Scottish Government has limited powers devolved to it, particularly in financial matters, it has exercised those powers prudently within Westminster’s financial constraints.
However, as a result of Brexit, I wonder how many people are aware of the legislative responsibilities which are likely to be stripped away from Holyrood – all 111 of them? These include areas of agriculture, the environment, justice and civil life. Cumulatively, the loss of these powers could lead to a reduction in food standards (GMO anyone?), a diminution of environmental protections and a reduction in renewable energy progress.
I know some of your readers will be reaching for their pens, accusing me of scaremongering and ignorance. After all, hasn’t David Mundell promised a powers bonanza for the Scottish Government, though I believe a judicious back-tracking is quietly under way. Time will tell.
BURNS AT HOME IN EUROPE
William Loneskie, writing about the “arrogant and intransigent” Brexit negotiator (confusingly, this appears to refer to Michel Barnier rather than David Davis), quotes from “Is There For Honest Poverty” by Robert Burns to support his position (letters, September 14).
I don’t know if he has ever read to the end of that poem, but he might be quite surprised by the last two lines:
“That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.”
Burns was a fervent supporter of the French Revolution, and he saw himself as someone who was, to paraphrase our Prime Minister, at home in Europe. In that respect, Burns remains representative of our nation today, where 62% of voters in Scotland and 58.5% of those in the Borders wanted to remain in the European Union.
I fear that discussion of the attitudes of Burns towards the other union that occupies our discussions lately would be even more surprising for Mr Loneskie.
Bruce E. Baker
LET’S GET SERIOUS OVER RENEWABLES
I see yet another correspondent stating that we don’t have enough electricity generation to power electric cars.
Yes, that is correct – today. He does switch from asking how Scotland will generate enough power to UK requirements, but he does helpfully tell us that we would need another 16,000 wind turbines. Not quite sure where the figure came from given the range of sizes or why they would cost “mega-billions”. Nice to have a target though.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but here goes. The oil will run out. There, I’ve said it, although I suspect it’s not a surprise to most of your readers. Oil is a finite resource and will run out. It may be 10 years, it may be 20 or 50 years – there are many opinions – but it will run out.
Now is the time to start getting serious about renewable power generation – wind, solar, hydro (including tidal) – and methods of storing that power such as hydrogen generation for those times when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. The big advantage of renewable energy is, well, it’s renewable.
I suspect your correspondent would be one of those in years to come who drives to his local garage to fill up, only to be told the last gallon of petrol on the planet was sold earlier that day. He would then rush home to write to The Southern (and several other papers) to complain that the government had known about this for years, why didn’t they plan ahead and why didn’t they do something about it earlier?
West High Street