Mark Kettrick took this image of Pack Bridge, Stow, while on a cycling trip.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
EU REASONS FOR THE UK REMAINING
Failed politician Nick Clegg, who took his Liberal Democrat party to the verge of extinction and lost his parliamentary seat, thinks he has the right to overturn the democratic will of the British people – and the media keeps on giving him a platform.
I have seen this Remoaner on TV at least twice in recent days. One would think he would have the good grace to disappear into obscurity. Mind you, this is a man who crawled into office and claimed that it was what the people voted for. No, the people in 2010 voted for a minority Tory government.
However, Clegg is not the only person telling lies about Brexit.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, among others, claims the British government is holding up Brexit negotiations. Rubbish!
I have not and never will vote Tory, and look forward to Borders MP John Lamont losing his seat at the earliest possible opportunity (you can only play the ‘vote for me to stop indyref2’ card once, John), but I know where the blame lies.
The European Union does not want Britain to leave for three reasons:
1, It wants our massive budget contribution to continue;
2, It wants to continue to sell more to us than we buy from it;
3, The EU wants to discourage other countries from leaving.
That is why the EU is delaying the talks. That is why it is demanding ridiculous amounts of money from Britain – £40bn, £60bn or £100bn – when the most we owe is £9bn (if that).
Incidentally, I am still waiting to hear from Ms Sturgeon or any other SNP supporter what is the point of voting for independence if you are going to join the United States of Europe.
A DESTINATION FOR NORTH KOREANS?
Like the loving parent of a small child, Chancellor Philip Hammond is keeping from us the worst news about a no-deal Brexit, the likely consequences of which are truly horrifying:
Britain will become a cheap holiday destination for working-class North Koreans. To defend our vital tourist industry and please our guests, restaurants will serve dog meat.
Children will identify as furry animals, and demand to be known as ‘Fido’ or ‘Tiddles’ – gender difficulties will be quite forgotten.
Illegal immigrants will form lawless camps to smuggle themselves out of the country. British citizens will masquerade as “illegals” in the hope of deportation.
We will be hit by 12 divinely-ordained plagues, but will lack a Moses to lead us out of bondage.
I comfort myself that all this will be our just desserts for wickedly voting to be a self-governing country.
Universal Credit (UC) is currently being rolled out.
This new system sees two main benefits – unemployment and housing – combined into one new one – UC – which is paid in one single payment to the claimant.
I pity all those having to make this transition and I hope that local welfare rights and advice agencies are gearing up for the deluge of distressed and impoverished people who will be turning up at their doors.
When someone makes a claim for UC, they are automatically removed from all other benefits and they will have to wait for six weeks before they actually receive a payment.
There appears to be no logistical or rational reason for someone to have to wait this long – it is simply a choice made by this hard-hearted and cruel Westminster government.
The Trussell Trust has reported that some people referred to its food banks have to wait for up to 10-13 weeks and longer for their first payment because of further administrative problems.
How are people meant to survive?
The government says claimants can ask for emergency payments to tide them over this period – but these are made at half the level of benefits and have to be repaid in full out of benefits.
To add insult to injury, if a claimant has an inquiry about their benefit application, the only way they can resolve this is to phone the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) helpline, which is charged at up to 55p per minute if called from a mobile.
Most poor people either have no phone or just a mobile in order to avoid landline charges. They can’t go into a job centre for help – that’s not the role of staff there – and people are simply advised to go away and phone. Phones for use by the public were actually removed from job centres a couple of years ago.
To add even further insult to injury, the government is currently implementing a programme of job centre closures throughout the UK, often in the most socially and economically-deprived areas.
In areas where the new UC benefit is already in operation, there are reports of huge increases in food bank use, rent arrears and evictions, with more and more people becoming totally destitute .
The Trussell Trust reports that food bank referrals are running at more than double the national average in areas where UC has already been put in place. It says that delays have led to increased debt, mental and physical ill health and homelessness, with people being left with no money for long periods.
It is obvious that that this cruel new system is causing financial hardship for vulnerable and low-income families and their children. It’s implementation is going to plunge millions of people in the UK into poverty – and this is a horror show that is coming to our area very soon.
I urge all those with any humanity and compassion to contact their MP and call for a stop to this injustice.
AN UNFORTUNATE LEAD ADDITIVE
The press officer of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) recently wrote to every local newspaper in the UK, extolling the culinary delights of shot pheasant, and the conservation benefits bestowed upon the countryside by the pheasant-shooting industry.
The idea that the annual introduction of up to 40m non-native, omnivorous birds, substantial in both size and appetite, could possibly be of benefit to endemic wildlife defies common sense.
Pheasant poults, intensively reared in large, open-air enclosures, are classified legally as livestock, and on that basis licences to kill otherwise-protected birds of prey are now issued by Natural England (GOV.UK). Once the poults are released, they undergo a magical morphosis into wild game birds, although as they are not yet able to fend for themselves, extensive feeding and protection is crucial.
Of course, their continued survival in the wider environment necessitates a wide-spread slaughter of genuine native wildlife, conveniently re-branded as “vermin” by the shooting industry.
As for our brave pheasants – during the (usually short) time they enjoy between being weaned off their supplementary grain and being converted to road-kill pate, or ending up at the wrong end of a shotgun blast – they spend their time vacuuming-up countless small specimens of native wildlife – young lizards, froglets, freshly- hatched skylarks and the like, as well as vast quantities of wildflower seed and invertebrates (otherwise known as songbird or grey partridge food).
By “conservation” the BASC can only mean the conservation of the pheasant from poult to plate.
Once on that plate, pheasants appear to make good eating if properly cooked – tasty, low in fat, free range – you know the drill.
Unfortunately, they also tend to come with added lead, which is why they don’t often appear on supermarket shelves. The Food Standards Agency (GOV.UK) says, unambiguously, that the frequent eating of lead-shot game is a health risk.
Wine, vinegar and tomato-based recipes are particularly risky – lead dissolves in acid – and ingested dissolved lead is stored permanently in our bones. Damage caused by lead poisoning is not easily reversible. Symptoms of low-level poisoning include irritability, dyspepsia and hypertension.
Fortunately, pheasant meat contributes less than 0.1% of all bird-sourced meat eaten in Britain. Those pheasant aficionados putting themselves at risk of lead poisoning are a tiny minority of the general population – those feeding it to their children or unborn babies need to think again.
The shooting industry, similar to the climate-change-denial industries, tends not to trust science unless they have commissioned it, interpreted it, and presented the result by press release. All those pesky ecologists, climate scientists and government food advisers are, after all, just so-called experts.
Let’s forget all that inconvenient truth: anyone for pheasant meatballs? .... anyone?
SELKIRK SCHOOL DELISTED?
Doesn’t Selkirk figure in any list at Scottish Borders Council?
When I was on the council there were plans in motion to replace Knowepark Primary School in Selkirk with a new build, hopefully somewhere near to Goslawdales and Selkirk High School, but I would accept it anywhere.
Knowepark, originally Selkirk Public School, was built when Queen Victoria was a slip of a girl and on a site which is bordered by Curror Street and Anderson Road on both sides, and Bleachfield Road, a busy bus route, on the southern edge of the location. It is on a steep gradient, has no car parking if you were to use all the available ground as playground, as it should be, and even deliveries of school meals present a hazard to pupils.
It is no wonder that it has been twice on the list for total resiting and replacement as it is quite clearly not fit for purpose and was built in the late 1800s when school rolls were much smaller. The original single-storey part off Curror Street was added to, becoming a two-storey building early in the 20th century and followed much later by the bit that houses a school hall-cum-gymnasium, the rest being made up of semi-prefabricated outbuildings which were supposed to be in place as temporary accommodation.
How, when this school, whose staff work tirelessly to provide a great education in what is the largest primary in Selkirk, can it appear that Knowepark has once again dropped off the list of schools to be replaced?
We have a new Kelso High School under way to replace a building constructed during the 1960s – a century after Knowepark; we have grandiose plans to knock down every school in Jedburgh and build a campus for learning from age two to 18; now a newly-elected SNP councillor in Hawick wants to replace that town’s high school in Buccleuch Street too.
Selkirk has waited since 1934 for an A7 bypass promised as part of plans for a motorway network from Scotland to England.
Are we to wait for ever to replace a Victorian school, and will we have to wait for another half-century to replace Philiphaugh primary too?
PEDESTRIANS MATTER TOO
Well done, John Wylde, for taking the authorities to task over the risks of excessive roadside vegetation obscuring road signs (Transport Matters, October 12).
And how about pedestrians? – we matter too.
Many of us have to chance our lives on a daily basis, trying to cross our bendy rural racetracks with seconds to spare when fast-approaching traffic is hidden by trees.
FUNDING THE MONARCHY
Yet another inch forward for the republican Scottish National Party and its ongoing quest for the abolition of our monarchy.
The nationalists now seek the repeal of the Sovereign Grant Act 2011 (covering the amount received by the monarch each year).
In 2015, Sir Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse, said: “An independent Scotland wouldn’t help fund the monarchy.”
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon denied it and requested an apology.
Top marks now for Sir Alan – how right he was (proving no apology was necessary).
Nothing is more important to the SNP than independent power for the Sturgeon “family”, including the abolition of our monarchy. Nothing else comes close.
STOP GRUMBLING AND DO SOMETHING
Having ventured to my first Scott’s Selkirk earlier this month, I was very much entertained by Sir Walter Scott’s court case dramas in particular.
It’s also not every day you witness a performing goat in the town’s High Street!
I was sorry then to read in your sister title, the Selkirk Weekend Advertiser, last week that attracting volunteers for the event is an ongoing problem.
Far too many people are quick to complain about not enough happening in our towns and, in the same breath, criticise the activities which do go ahead.
They clearly don’t appreciate the amount of time and endeavour even a small event takes to organise.
May I challenge these grumblers to make an effort, get involved in Selkirk’s local groups and organisations, and actually contribute something to their town? They will feel better for it.
BREXIT A RECIPE FOR SAFETY FEARS
Currently the quality and safety of our food are protected via food standards introduced by the European Union.
Unless Scotland becomes independent before Brexit and remains in the EU, we will lose this protection for our food.
After Brexit, if we stay in the UK, there will be no guarantee that protection for food quality will remain.
Producers will once again have a free hand to include all kinds of “artificial colours”, unspecified “preservatives” and “E numbers” without any obligation to detail these on labels.
QUICKER WAY TO EASE FUEL POVERTY
Rather than spend many years and significant amounts of British taxpayers’ money setting up a headline-grabbing not-for-profit Scottish energy company, I have a suggestion for Nicola Surgeon.
Her ambition to tackle fuel poverty is sound – after 10 years of the nationalists in power, 250,000 Scots live in extreme fuel poverty.
A faster and more efficient approach would be for her to direct her extensive team of taxpayer-funded spin doctors to mount a high-profile, ongoing campaign to encourage consumers to switch energy tariffs and/or suppliers. This is a key reason why so many in Scotland struggle with their fuel bills.
This approach may not have won Ms Sturgeon rapturous applause at the SNP conference, but it would have a more immediate impact on the lives of ordinary Scots.
A FREE RIDE FOR THE WEALTHY
I recently read a letter where the writer boasted that he had an electric car, was able to get free electricity at his local authority charging points, that he had received a government grant and that he could park in the charging points for free all day long.
Now there is the suggestion that local authority lamp posts are converted to include charging points. Free again, no doubt. Electric cars are far more expensive than petrol and diesel ones, yet owners get a grant of up to £5,000. They do not pay any vehicle tax, unlike the majority on the roads.
Thus the wealthy individual is being subsidised by council tax payers, income tax payers and road users.
As the number of electric vehicles, charging points, an updated Grid and other essential infrastructure grow, then the burden on these taxpayers will be unsustainable.
It is a travesty that those who can afford these vehicles are being subsidised by the majority who cannot.
I note with interest reference from our Tory MP and MSP to their support of the reopening of Reston station in your sister title, the Berwickshire News.
The Conservative administration on Scottish Borders Council (SBC), in its recent vision statement, has likewise given its backing, albeit vaguely, to a “facility at Reston”.
All well and good. But, in an attempt to firm up the SBC Tory commitment, I tabled an amendment to the vison statement at the last full council meeting. I called upon Tory elected members of SBC to use their influence on their Westminster colleagues to put pressure on Network Rail for firm timescales regarding preliminary work required, so that the reopening of Reston station can be on schedule for the early part of control period 6 (2019-24).
The amendment was defeated 19 votes to 11 – all Tory members voted against. Make of that what you will.
In contrast, Paul Wheelhouse, MSP and Scottish Government minister, at the recent meeting of Rail Action Group East Scotland (RAGES), reconfirmed his government’s commitment to Reston station and assured the meeting that the joint funding was secure – a meeting at which our Conservative MSP was notably absent.
Scottish transport minister Humza Yousaf is more than playing his part and is in ongoing discussions with Network Rail, which is a UK-wide organisation and, as such, is not under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Government.
It is well overdue for our Tory elected representatives to step up to the mark and do their bit.
(SNP councillor, East
KILT WALK SPONSORSHIP
Margaret Mills and Eleanor Wood would like to thank all for the sponsorship received for completing the 26-mile Edinburgh Kilt Walk on September 17.
Our total going towards Children 1st was £800 – £242 of this was generated through Ella Purves’s quiz sheet to identify long-distance walks.
As always, your kindness and generosity is greatly appreciated.