Your picture of the Week

Earlston church
Earlston church

As winter tightens its icy grip, a reminder of the autumnal colours we enjoyed just a few weeks ago, courtesy of Curtis Welsh’s image of Earlston Church.

Please email photographs, with a brief caption, to southern-letters@jpress.co.uk

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

DEPRESSING READING

As someone who approaches life determined to make the most of whatever opportunities come my way, last week’s letters pages made extremely depressing reading.

We had 428 words from J. Fairgrieve who derided Paul Singleton for being “optimistic” for the future of the United Kingdom, now that Brexit talks are taking off.

Now he doesn’t “do” optimism, so, at great length, came up with numerous, self-perceived reasons to be classed as downright pessimistic. Then, finally ending his tirade, he unsurprisingly advocated that “independence” would be our only saviour.

By now, totally depressed, I read the 445-word letter from Richard Walthew.

I was treated to another tirade of how Brexit was going to be a disaster, the end of the world was nigh, etc.

Again, to solve all these problems, “independence “ was the only answer.

Do these people spend their entire lives, along with your Cleggs, Cables and Blairs, praying for Brexit to fail?

Can they not comprehend that any failure will indirectly impact on Scotland, and going cap-in-hand to a dysfunctional European Union is just a dream too far?

In closing, can I urge them to try, for once, to think positive, support the majority and hope it’s a success for all of the UK, and not wish for failure.

Graham Holford

Hawick

BREAKTHOUGH DAMAGES FM

Whatever First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says in public, the positive Brexit news won’t assist the SNP’s principal raison d’etre – agitating for another independence referendum.

The FM, with her purely domestic remit, must sit sidelined watching, along with the rest of Europe, as Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, puts his arm around Theresa May, describing the Brexit breakthrough as a personal triumph for the Prime Minister.

The SNP leader denounces as “total capitulation” Downing Street’s achievements, whereas both sides, most media commentators and every reasonable human being recognise compromise as necessary in successful negotiations.

It seems a new relationship may well evolve, with the United Kingdom following the European Union’s single market and customs union rules, while not being a formal member of either – not too far off what Ms Sturgeon maintains she seeks. Or does she, in fact, want the UK to fail in securing a ‘soft’ Brexit, so she can use such failure as an independence lever?

Mrs May might not be the canny politician Ms Sturgeon is, but she seems to have managed here, as at the general election, to inflict en passant political damage on Ms Sturgeon and her teenage independence dreams without really trying.

Martin Redfern

Edinburgh

CAMPAIGN HAS MUCH SUPPORT

Richard Lucas and his Scottish Family Party are clearly unhappy with Scottish schools, the Scouts, the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign and Stonewall; and they seem to care little that “some LGBT kids are bullied” (letters, November 30).

Perhaps Mr Lucas and his party do not realise that LGBT kids have families?

The TIE campaign claims that 90 per cent of LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex) people experience homophobia, biphobia or transphobia at school, and 27 per cent have attempted suicide as a result of bullying.

Bullying can destroy lives, and these are horrendous statistics.

The TIE campaign is supported by the Educational Institute for Scotland, Scouts Scotland, the National Parent Forum Scotland (NPFS) and other organisations.

The Scouts website says: “No one should experience bullying and we welcome any reform that will make Scotland a safer place for our young people to grow up. The TIE campaign reflects our Scouting values of integrity, respect, care, belief and cooperation.”

NPFS chairwoman Joanna Murphy has said: “The NPFS believes that an education system that is inclusive and free of prejudice is a right that every single pupil should enjoy, and so we are pleased to announce that we are supporting the TIE campaign, which aims to improve the health and wellbeing of young people in our schools.”

Richard Lucas and the Scottish Family Party should stop pretending that they care about families in Scotland.

Alastair Lings

Tweed Road

Galashiels

DISENGAGING WITH HUMANITY

It would seem the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) wishes to abandon Borderers.

Maybe Borderers should think of abandoning RBS.

When are the ivory-tower directors of RBS going to realise that when they choose to cut the umbilical chord they actually disengage with humanity?

C. John

Birch House

Melrose

STRUGGLING TO IMPLEMENT LAW

The Holyrood education committee is right to insist on further scrutiny of the guidance that will go with the controversial named person scheme legislation.

Parents across Scotland are understandably suspicious of this unwarranted intrusion into the lives of all families in pursuit of supporting the small minority of children who are genuinely at risk.

The biggest problem with the Scottish Government’s blanket approach to this topic is that hard-pressed professionals among the thousands of head teachers, health visitors, midwives and guidance teachers forced to become named persons will struggle to implement the law with consistency. Some, concerned at failing in their new legal duties, will err on the side of caution and go too far as they interfere in the lives of perfectly normal families, but where these new ‘experts’ judge there might be possible well-being issues.

The guidance documentation that they will all be working to will be critical and indeed should be written into the legislation itself. The fact that as the law is written there is such scope for dubiety that an accompanying ‘handbook’ is required, does not bode well for this latest version of the law avoiding another round of court challenges.

Clearly the SNP does not have the courage to admit it has got this badly wrong. We must hope that it remains tied up in trying to overcome legal obstacles long enough that an eventual change of government will at last allow this ill-conceived idea to be dropped altogether.

Keith Howell

West Linton

A CONTROLLING INTEREST

Alex Salmond and Kenny Mac -Askill are old innovators of the republican Scottish National Party (since 1979).

Together, and later with Nicola Sturgeon, they have always been far-left, extreme Scottish nationalists, bent on destroying any other political party of the day that threatened their cosy existence.

But now things are changing. Conservatives are getting very close to power in Scotland and Labour are following behind – one or other could seize that power at the next election.

Salmond has never forgiven his defeat in the Gordon constituency and has found a possible alternative for his attention-seeking control.

Via a Norwegian activist who is a 20 per cent shareholder of Johnston Press, which owns The Scotsman newspaper, he has applied for the position of chairman. Much more power here than his obvious obscurity before in Westminster (and plenty of room for SNP media republican bias), plus his new TV programme on Russia Today, a station founded by Vladimir Putin for Russian propaganda purposes.

Sturgeon is well aware of Salmond’s attempt (now as a non-elected politician) to make a name for himself elsewhere – but why Russian TV?

Because their politics are almost identical to his extreme, left-wing, anti-monarchy republicanism. The perfect platform to attract young minds in Scotland for the next election (Sturgeon will have this in mind).

This is a much more powerful position than being First Minister, because he has no constituents to please every five minutes and can run “The Alex Salmond Show” (maybe as a comedian).

Paul Singleton

Main Street

Gordon

TIPSY GHILLIE V BOOZY BOATMAN

I read recently in The Southern Reporter that the White Swan pub in Kelso was to be renamed The Tipsy Ghillie.

I find this a rather odd choice of names as theTweed does not have ghillies – it has boatmen.

Perhaps The Boozy Boatman would have been a better choice.

Francis Smail

Horncliffe

Berwick

SEEING YOUR WAY TO HELPING BLIND

With Christmas just around the corner, the season of goodwill and generosity is well and truly upon us.

But with a seemingly never-ending Christmas shopping list, it can be hard to find the money to donate to a good cause.

This Christmas, however, there’s a way of supporting the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) that won’t cost you a penny. All you have to do is collect used stamps from your cards and parcels. Your old stamps will be recycled and transformed into much-needed funds to help even more people with sight loss access the information, support and advice they need.

And with millions of cards and parcels sent in the run-up to Christmas each year, why not ask your friends, family or work colleagues to get involved as well?

Simply visit www.rnib.org.uk/stamps or call 01413 289357 to request your pre-paid envelopes. You’ll then be able to send your stamps off to RNIB in the post.

Amanda Holden

(RNIB supporter)

ANOTHER SNP DISASTER

Another waste of taxpayers’ money at Police Scotland has been highlighted by Auditor General Caroline Gardner.

Audit Scotland said that a number of financial transactions authorised by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) were “unacceptable and did not represent a good use of public money”.

Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick was paid £18,000 in 2014 to relocate to Scotland, and an additional £49,000 last year.

The SPA also paid her “benefit in kind” tax liability of £40,000, plus National Insurance of £13,000.

She acted in good faith at all times.

The Auditor General was critical of the SPA management so why was John Foley, who was in charge of SPA during the many problems, given an early retirement payment of £43,470, plus £56,666 in lieu of notice, since there were “a number of instances of poor governance and poor use of public money” during his watch?

Where has Michael Matheson, the SNP Justice Secretary since 2014, been during all these Police Scotland problems?

Police Scotland is yet another SNP disaster.

Clark Cross

Linlithgow

LISTING FOR EX-RAF FOLK

Regular readers of the letters columns of this newspaper will recall the insertion of a recent letter of mine, explaining the camaraderie of those who had served in the Royal Navy.

I told how this could be relived at the various reunions held around the country, and that these were listed on the www.rnshipmates.co.uk website under ‘Reunions’.

Well, thank you to all of the local newspapers who published my letter – you have certainly scored and made a lot of ex-servicemen think back again.

They have emailed me on royalnavyreunions@gmail.com and the secretaries of various associations have contacted me. Consequence? – A lot more reunions are listed. I can see a lot more old shipmates re living their past experiences.

But that is not all. Following a request about a reunions listing for those who have served in the Royal Air Force, there is now one available by email.

Not many on it at present. So – ex-RAF? – let’s have those reunions emailed to me on royalairforcereunions@gmail.com – date, which association, where and who to contact.

Mike Crowe

Sandown

Isle of Wight

WEATHER-BEATEN SCOTRAIL

It’s deeply disturbing that ScotRail last week cancelled all services on the Far North and West Highland lines in advance of Storm Caroline.

The company has been making much recently of investment in new rolling stock and motive power, but it seems that this has been misplaced. In the days of steam haulage, such precautionary cancellations in advance of forecast weather never took place.

Instead of flimsy modern engineering that dare not be allowed out of the shed in the wrong sort of weather, ScotRail should be placing bulk orders for tried and tested steam locomotives like the Flying Scotsman for which blueprints are readily available.

John Eoin Douglas

Spey Terrace

Edinburgh

EVAPORATION OF PASSING TRADE

Rightly, there has been much talk about the proposed bank closures by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

However, back in October, the Bank of Scotland closed its branches in Newtown St Boswells, Lauder and Coldstream.

The effect on regular bank users like myself has been quite huge. Not only have I got to make a weekly trip of over 16 miles to pay in the gallery takings, the passing trade which I used to get from people going to the cash machine has completely evaporated.

Ok, they have a mobile branch, which comes twice a week, but at completely the wrong times for me to be able make use of it. And that does nothing to improve my footfall.

In some of the other small towns that are about to lose their banks, this will have a similar impact on the local shops and small businesses.

I don’t suppose the bankers in their corporate headquarters have ever even given that a second thought. So what are the 60% of customers that still used the branches supposed to do? – Yours, etc.,

Ian Oliver

Tweedside Gallery

Tweedside Road

Newtown St Boswells

PRESENTATION AT COFFEE MORNING

Through your paper, I would like to thank all who attended the Burnmouth village hall coffee morning on Saturday, December 2.

This also included the presentation of my British Empire Medal by the Lord Lieutenant of Berwickshire, Mrs Jeanna Swan.

Unbeknown to me, my name has been put forward for this honour by several people over the years. Sadly, some of those are no longer here with us to see the result of their efforts.

A heartfelt thank-you goes to all those involved. I am overwhelmed to have received this honour for various things I’ve been involved in locally over the years. I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.

Thanks to Burnmouth community council, Burnmouth village hall committee and Eyemouth lifeboat crew for the lovely flowers, and to Dominic for his present. Finally, I thank all my family and friends who have supported and helped me through a very difficult year. – Yours, etc.,

Margaret Driscoll BEM

Upper Burnmouth

‘MILLION MIRACLES’ ARE IN SIGHT

I am writing to let your readers know about Sightsavers’ ‘A Million Miracles’ campaign. It aims to fund a million cataract operations that will restore, save and protect people’s sight in some of the poorest parts of the world.

I visited Madhya Pradesh, India, in July with the Sightsavers team to see how the campaign and its funding is being put in to action. I saw adults and children being assessed in health clinics, having cataracts surgery and at home following treatment.

It was an amazing experience to see lives being restored with such simple treatment which comes at such a low cost.

I am asking members of the public to donate to the Sightsavers cataract work and help reach the final miracle – £30 can enable an adult to have a cataract operation.

Money raised from this appeal will be matched by the UK Government, pound for pound, until January 9. The matched funding will go towards Sightsavers’ projects in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Visit www.donate.sightsavers.org/smxpatron/uk/donate.html to donate and support the work of Sightsavers. – Yours, etc.,

Melanie Sykes

(ambassador, Sightsavers)

NO CONSENSUS AMONG SCIENTISTS

Several climate studies were released in the run-up to last month’s global climate conference in Bonn.

These studies allege that human civilisation will suffer catastrophic consequences if the world warms by more than a couple of degrees.

Yet historical and scientific documents strongly suggest that civilisations actually collapsed when the environment became colder. For example, the Roman Empire thrived during a climatic period called The Roman Warm Period, and later collapsed when the climate became colder.

Two important questions are: is the world on a dangerous warming trend, and, if so, is it caused primarily by human activity?

The warmists want us to believe that there is a consensus among scientists and scientific papers, and that the answer to both questions is “yes”.

But there is no consensus. Many studies suggest that any warming that we are experiencing just now is neither special nor extreme, and is just due to natural cycles of warming and cooling. There is no shortage of evidence published by scientists that the climate can and has changed due to a whole variety of factors, particularly changes in the sun, the Earth’s orbit and ocean circulations.

For example, I recently read some work by eminent American meteorologist Roy Spencer. His opinion is that while greenhouse gases do cause some warming, the portion of the warming due to them is not dangerous. The main cause of the warming is most likely to be an ocean circulation called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, in his view.

Developing renewables will have no effect on that. – Yours, etc.,

Geoff Moore

Alness

Highland

POURING SCORN ON 68-SECOND SAVING

Transport minister Humza Yousaf said closing the Queensferry Crossing for repairs would be worth it because the speed limit can be raised to 70mph from 40mph.

The bridge is 1.7 miles long. It takes 153 seconds to cross at 40mph, and 85 seconds at 70mph – a saving of 68 seconds. The 2 hours 10 minutes to get across the bridge from Stonehaven on a journey at the end of last month would have been 20 minutes less without the queue to get onto the bridge. A 68-second improvement is neither here nor there. – Yours, etc.,

Allan Sutherland

Stonehaven