Difficult weather at the end of last month pushed farmers into extending the better working days – here is sowing taking place on a Sunday evening at Bewlie Farm, Lilliesleaf. Curtis Welsh supplied the image.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
WOMEN’S FIGHT CONTINUES
Another year on and I am again setting off to join thousands of other 1950s-born WASPI women from across the country to demonstrate at the Tory party conference.
It is heartening that the all-party parliamentary group now has so many Tory MPs who are listening to us and are finally grasping the reality of the heartless injustice inflicted upon this group of women who had the misfortune to be born in the 1950s. Many have worked all their lives since the age of 15 and expected to get their pension at 60, as so many did before.
However, legislation was passed in 1995 to change this and bring women into line with men and retire at 65. WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) are not against the equality of men and women’s pension age and there would have been few problems with this if women had been told about the change and they could have prepared for it.
As it was, no letters were sent out for 14 years. These were sent to the first women who would be affected by the changes, but then the letters were stopped. Why? Because the government had seen what an easy target these women were and decided to save even more money by making things even harder for them by increasing the age still higher.
Letters to the women born from 1953 began to be sent out in 2013. I received my letter dated January 21, 2013, sometime in February, just 18 months before my 60th birthday informing me of the five years and 11 months increase to my State Pension Age (SPA).
I had retired from self-employment and closed my business of 11 years some two years earlier when my husband accepted early retirement and we had moved to the Borders.
There are thousands of women in dire circumstances through no fault of their own. Women who have worked hard all their lives and paid into the system all that was expected of them. Through various circumstances of ill health, bereavement, caring for sick and elderly family, divorce and redundancy, they now find themselves without any income.
Government minister Guy Opperman’s answer to this – they should retrain in suitable jobs and are eligible to apply for an apprenticeship!
This fiasco and unfairness of not even informing women about the changes is compounded by the actual timetable of the changes themselves. The 1995 changes were presented as a five-year increase in SPA gradually introduced over a 10-year period. With no further information, thousands of women, like myself, were led to believe that this would be a six month increase year on year – wrong! Someone born in 1954, expecting to get their pension at 62, would in fact be well over 64. The further changes in 2011 added on another 18 months, making a total of six years.
We can help anyone who has not yet contacted their MP or made their complaint to the Department of Work and Pensions. Can I also urge everyone to sign the new petition launched last month by MP Grahame Morris – https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/200088 – asking for fair transitional arrangements for 1950s-born women. This petition has already reached 64,000 signatures in a matter of weeks, but the target we need to secure a debate in parliament is 100,000.
More information about our campaign is available at firstname.lastname@example.org
RESENTFUL OVER PRIVATE PAYMENT
I was not surprised to see on your front page last week that landfill figures are still high.
Before the demise of the green bin collection, my black bin only needed emptying about once in two months.
Now, as instructed, I am putting some garden waste into this bin. As I have a large garden, I am having to pay a private collector to dispose of the rest. I feel very resentful about this.
I suspect many others are in this situation – hence your headline.
UNDERSTANDING THEIR FRUSTRATION
Regarding your front-page report headlined “‘Thugs’ hit us with sticks, say cyclists” and a witness claiming that they “looked like farmers” (September 7), I denounce violence in any form, or manner.
However, farmers in general have had a terrible time getting the harvesting done this year.
One can only sympathise with their frustration, having to dive in between showers, which have been almost every day. We have seen combines working in the fields well after midnight – all praise to them.
Too many townies are trying to disrupt normal countryside life, and events such as the Tour o’ the Borders should be held at less disruptive times.
Farming, a costly business, provides our food. Events such as recently are mainly for glory-seekers and some offer big money prizes – I know what I consider most important.
FAR FROM REASSURED
Reading Sandy Brydon’s interesting report last week, “UK sheep population to be insured against lynx”, reminded me that there is a real possibility that plans will go ahead to release lynx into the Kielder Forest region, in reality affecting both sides of the border. The obvious questions are, why, and, who will benefit?
Seemingly, lynx are powerful creatures capable of killing deer. I am not reassured by provision to extend insurance cover “to attacks on pets and humans”.
It is pleasing to report that Yarrow Terrace in Selkirk has two visible pavements again after thick ivy was removed from the wall on the east side – and this after visits by three local councillors earlier in the year.
This is arguably the busiest road in the town after it reverted to two-way traffic and we were told it would be too expensive to leave the one-way system.
Traffic now is often clogged up – lorries, buses, cars, motorcyclists, pedal cyclists, not helped by increasing numbers of parked vehicles – and I just wonder if any council officials or councillors have been along the street to see the situation for themselves.
At least we have our pavement back as two are required for the safety of pedestrians – thanks to Kevin Crawford and his enterprising colleagues, and not the council.
Atholl and Frances Innes
FAR RIGHT RISE INEVITABLE
Democracy abhors a vacuum, so, given the existing parties’ neglect of a huge slice of German public opinion, the rise of Alternative for Germany (AfD) was inevitable.
Much of the UK media seems intent on portraying AfD as dangerous extremists, and an ill-considered and aggressive strain is indeed apparent within it.
When views are excluded from mainstream political debate, they develop outside the restraining influences of common decency and ugly aspects can develop unchecked – especially when constantly goaded by identity politics from the left. It requires intelligence and a strong value system to clearly articulate opposition to mass immigration without opposing immigrants.
Critics of Islam must steer clear of attacking Muslims. Valuing a uniting sense of national identity need not involve denigrating other nationalities. Celebrating the manifold achievements and benefits of Western culture must not shade into racial superiority. Pride in the achievement of our ancestors must not exclude those of other lineages from national identity.
Of course, one can navigate this minefield with impeccable finesse and still be accused of racism and xenophobia, to name two of the less hysterical charges.
There are signs of a stirring of far right extremism in Scotland, and across Europe, so we should not expend our lexical ammunition indiscriminately.
Scottish Family Party
PATHETIC TORY RESPONSE
One cannot fail to have been moved by the scenes of violence in Catalonia, as Spanish forces attacked unarmed voters.
Whatever the view on Catalonia’s right to hold such a vote or not, the response by the Spanish national government was brutal and excessive, leading to 844 people being injured. The sight of people being dragged from polling stations by baton-wielding police and the disabled being attacked in wheelchairs has no place in a modern western democracy.
One cannot praise highly enough the calmness, humanity and bravery of the Catalan people when faced with such acts of violence.
What is deeply disappointing is the muted response from the international community which – bar a few exceptions such as German leader Angela Merkel, Belgian premier Charles Michel and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – has been largely silent.
While the European Union may argue that this is a domestic situation, in the past it has been willing to act in such matters. In 2000, for example, it imposed diplomatic sanctions on Austria when Joerg Haider’s extreme right-wing Austrian Freedom Party entered the government.
The Tory government in London is so morally bankrupt that little more was to be expected than the pathetic response from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office when it referred to Spain as a “close ally and a good friend, whose strength and unity matters to us”. There was no condemnation of the violence, but the UK Government is so weakened due to Brexit that it requires every scrap of support it can gather, even if it means turning a blind eye to such obvious brutality.
One suspects that if there was any doubt previously over Catalonia’s desire for independence, the actions of the Spanish state have pushed it well and truly down this road.
IT’S TIME CAMERON CONFESSED
To the great relief of the world’s stock markets, Angela Merkel defied the expectations of her critics in this country and won an historic fourth term as German Chancellor.
Despite all the dire warnings about Le Pen in France taking the French out of the European Union too, the trading block is here to stay. The EU has received two massive endorsements from the French and German people within the last 12 months.
Isn’t it time for Dave Cameron to confess he was just trying to hold the Tory party together with his referendum and he should never have put us all through this expensive waste of time?
Nigel F. Boddy
HELPING HANDS FOR CHILDREN
On behalf of the Borders Children’s Charity (BCC) committee, I would like to thank everybody who has supported the charity through our 50th anniversary year in 2016/17.
I am also pleased to reveal that the BCC has recently been awarded the greatest honour available to a collective of volunteers in the UK – the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, an award described as the MBE for voluntary groups. As well as winning this award, the charity has also benefitted greatly from increased fundraising in recent years. As a result, the Borders Children’s Charity has been able to award £48,723 in grants to benefit local children over the past financial year.
The charity is still staffed entirely by volunteers and over 99% of every penny raised goes directly to help children in the Borders in physical, financial or emotional distress.
We are very grateful to those who provide ongoing support to the charity. These include individuals, schools, community groups, and local and national companies. We are also indebted to the healthcare, social work and education professionals who request assistance for children from the BCC.
The charity’s work is as vital now as it was when the charity was founded. The committee would not have been able to achieve all that it has without support from communities across the Borders.
It is with great pleasure that I hand over to Suzanne Mulholland, our new chair, and wish her and the charity all the very best for the coming year.
MONEY FOR MENTAL HEALTH CHARITIES
May I thank everyone who supported the Depressed Cake Shop/Walk-A-Mile event at the Volunteer Hall, Galashiels, last Saturday.
People gathered for the walk, to drink tea, eat cake and chat openly about mental health.
Thank you to my volunteer helpers, bakers, musicians, walk leaders and mental health advisers who made this event such a success. We raised an amazing £880.
This money will go to Inspiring Life: Evie Douglas Memorial Fund which donates to local mental health charities, support and activity groups.