Walter Baxter took this image of the Leader Water, near Redpath, from a vantage point on the Diamond Jubilee Path.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
QUESTIONS FOR THE UNIONISTS
It was gratifying to learn that Graham Holford (letters, December 14) not only took the time and trouble to read my letter, and that of Richard Walthew, both published the previous week, but to actually count the number of words in each letter.
However, as usual, it is disappointing, but perhaps quite revealing, that neither he, nor Paul Singleton, to whom my original comments were directed, felt confident enough to deny or refute our criticisms of the current Unionist government at Westminster and its policies with coherent argument based on fact – perhaps because that is impossible to do. The only argument they seem to have to put forward is: Union Good – Independence Bad.
After being accused of “being pessimistic”, may I therefore invite him to lay out his optimistic and positive view of the United Kingdom, and explain to your readers in what way Scotland benefits from this relationship?
In the interests of brevity, I refrain, on this occasion, from listing the many, many, decisions taken at Westminster which run counter to the interests of Scotland and its people of all nations who choose to live and work here.
I could just as easily list all the positive reasons why Scotland, with full control over its own decision-making, could be a successful small independent nation like most small independent countries all over the world.
I conclude by challenging Unionists out there to let us all know: (a) how does Scotland, and the people who live here, benefit from being part of this dysfunctional Union? and (b) if Scotland is such a drain on UK finances, as we are always being told, why are Unionists so desperate to maintain control over us?
The Scottish Government’s Brexit Minister, Mike Russell, has once again displayed his ability to wring the maximum amount of grievance out of any exchange of views with the UK Government.
His latest bout of mock outrage relates to just how many of the 111 powers returning to the UK under Brexit will come directly to Scotland, rather than via Westminster to enable appropriate UK-wide frameworks to be put in place.
Of course this would all be a non-issue if, for one moment, the UK Government could trust the SNP to act in the interests of the UK as a whole on these matters.
Instead, Mr Russell and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have made clear from the moment the EU referendum result was announced that the SNP will use Brexit to try to undermine the UK in any way it can.
While we cannot know exactly what has been said in the discussions with the UK Government, it appears Scottish Secretary David Mundell has suggested powers could indeed come direct to Scotland, presumably because these do not so obviously threaten the UK single market, while others will have to be developed into UK frameworks first.
Mr Russell pretends he has not heard this, and prefers the idea of the SNP Scottish Government having the whip hand over agreeing all the necessary frameworks, effectively enabling them to hold the UK Government to ransom on sector after sector in which it is critical that the UK single market is protected.
Whatever the eventual outcome, the one thing certain is that the SNP will still be ‘outraged’ by it.
TRADITION MUST NOT BE SACRIFICED
The “Great Tapestry” is set to find a home in Galashiels.
Surely anything that increases awareness of Scotland’s history, and encourages cultural tourism and economic regeneration, deserves every support. I hope it will succeed.
At the same time we can’t lose sight of the fact that the thing that makes our Borders towns historic is old streets and buildings. Modern works of art, such as the tapestry, will no doubt in time be judged on their merits.
An old street in any country is a time machine, almost a virtual reality experience. Scottish towns are not always as showy as the great cities, but they do reflect the lives of the folk who have lived there and they preserve something totally unique to our country for the benefit of locals and visitors alike. It is sad to lose connections with the past.
Surely it would be possible to restore the former Poundstretcher building and houses in Sime Place to create a home for the tapestry without sacrificing the traditional character of Galashiels?
EXCITED OR UNINTERESTED?
So it will be spring 2020 before the “Great” Tapestry of Scotland will finally be on show in Galashiels.
Presumably the “Great” Tapestry is in secure storage somewhere, protected from the hordes of visitors who, in unrestrained excitement, might otherwise break down doors just to secure a glimpse of the iconic work.
Just a thought – perhaps I am wrong – maybe people have neither noticed that the tapestry has not been seen for years, nor do they care. I know I do not.
SNP CAN’T TAX ITS WAY OUT OF TROUBLE
There are good arguments for taxation to boost investment in public services and wealth creation, but a tax is only beneficial if it increases revenue and doesn’t affect growth.
Sometimes increased tax can give the opposite result during economic downturn (called a Laffer Curve). Figures compiled by the Scottish Government and Scottish Retail Consortium over the past eight years show spending in retail grew 0.5 per cent in Scotland and 2.2 per cent in the UK. Also, 7.5 per cent of shops have closed in Scotland against a 1 per cent rise in the UK.
Retail is Scotland’s largest private employer and has suffered a higher tax burden than in England during the SNP’s decade of ruinous “power”.
Chancellor Philip Hammond is now saying business rates in England would rise in line with the consumer price index measure of inflation and the Scottish Nationalists’ Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay, should be advised to follow the same path.
Nicola Sturgeon should get rid of her inadequate Finance Secretary and use some of the £2bn given to Scotland by the Westminster Exchequer to help toward payment for big items like education and the NHS. You can’t tax yourself out of trouble if your government’s fiscal housekeeping isn’t sound – only precipitate disaster.
CLOWNS LEFT – JOKERS RIGHT
When one looks at the fallout from the draft Scottish budget, I am reminded of the line in the Stealers Wheel hit: “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right”.
While the Conservatives cry crocodile tears about a so-called ‘Nat Tax’, Labour say the government hasn’t gone far enough. This puts the SNP neatly stuck in the middle of the two. Not a bad place to be, dare I say.
Modestly increasing taxes for higher earners, but also cutting them for the very lowest, delivering a more progressive tax system, will be welcomed by most. Indeed, polling has shown that a significant majority of Scots support the idea of gradual increases in tax, with higher earners paying more and lower earners paying the same or less than they currently do.
No one earning less than £33,000 a year will pay any more as a result of the budget. That’s 1.8 million people, amounting to 70 per cent of taxpayers, while 1.4 million of Scottish taxpayers earning less than £26,000 will pay less than if they had lived elsewhere in the UK.
Overall, these tax changes will raise £164m, allowing the Scottish Government to ‘reverse’ real-terms cuts to Scotland’s resource budget.
Critics have often decried the lack of use of fiscal powers afforded to the Scottish Government, its cautious approach in delivering a ‘progressive’ agenda. Now we have significant divergence with the rest of the UK.
Of course, what people say to pollsters about paying more tax and what they do in practice can be two different matters. This is about to be put to the test.
A QUESTION OF TRUST
The SNP administration’s budget is critised by all sides.
From the left by Labour’s Richard Leonard, who believes it doesn’t go far enough to address the lamentable state of Scotland’s public services, and by the Conservatives’ Ruth Davidson, who is angry with Nicola Sturgeon breaking her 2016 electoral promise not to increase the basic rate of income tax.
Each could be correct, but, I suggest, both are missing a more important point. The larger question is: why should we trust the SNP with yet more of our hard-earned cash?
After a decade of the SNP managing our public services and despite the generous Barnett Formula, according to OECD reports, our education system is in a spiral of decline and now ranks in performance below that of Estonia.
The SNP’s own NHS waiting times targets are routinely missed. There’s a GP funding crisis with 800 additional GPs needed.
Seemingly there’s chaos at Police Scotland and the wisdom of its merger with British Transport Police is widely questioned – except by the SNP establishment.
Possibly some wouldn’t mind paying a little more tax if we had confidence in the ability of the party in government. However, based on the nationalists’ record in power, I have zero faith in the SNP to deliver on its promises simply because we’re paying more tax.
KEEP OUT OF ANY KOREA CONFLICT
It is highly likely that in the next six months the United States of America will go to war with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
I would urge every elector to ask their Member of Parliament to press the government not to involve Great Britain in such a war, not even to the extent of lending moral or logistical support.
Indeed, Prime Minister Theresa May should handle the situation in the same way that Harold Wilson dealt with the Vietnam War.
SINGING THE PRAISES OF HELPERS
On behalf of the Rotary Club of Melrose, I would like to thank all those who supported the parade and carol singing – especially those businesses and organisations who either sponsored or supported our fundraising efforts, without whom it would be impossible for us to stage the event.
To the Co-operative Society and all at the local store, to Abbey Wines, Ochiltree and Provender Fine Dining for providing generous raffle prizes, and to the Ship Inn for providing refreshments for Melrose Pipe Band, and to the band members who turned out on a cold night to lead the parade.
Finally, to the Langlee Community Choir and St Boswells Concert Band for leading the carol singing, and to Melrose Primary School for its support in distributing all the information.
David J. Dalglish
Rotary Club of Melrose
SELKIRK PUB PHOTOS APPEAL
May I ask if any of your readers have access to pictures, old and new, of the outside and inside of the Cross Keys Inn in Selkirk’s Market Place.
Could they send them to me as I would like to mount an exhibition and possibly a history of this much-loved, and at the moment much-missed, hostelry which has graced the centre of the Royal and Ancient Burgh at least since the 19th century.
Scottish Borders Council acquired it about three years ago and thought it could be used as some kind of extra entrance to our town hall by bashing a hole through the wall of Sir Walter Scott’s Courtroom.
I wonder if the people who advised the council forgot, or maybe didn’t know, that the town hall is a Grade A listed building and breaking through walls is a definite ‘no’ in that kind of architecture. The local authority, maybe to hide its embarrassment, then announced that “The Keys” was to be knocked down as it had dry rot and was leaning over anyway.
Well, half the High Street and Market Place has had dry rot at some time, and in the Italian city of Pisa they actually attract tourists as they have a leaning tower.
The tale of the demolition seems to be on the back-burner, but before the powers-that-be go any further, can we mount an exhibition about the place which poet Roger Quin called “the best wee pub on the border”.
The council needs planning permission and a building warrant before it can do anything, as well as seeking conservation area consent before yet another loved local icon disappears in a pile of dust.
The local authority doesn’t need an extra entrance into the town hall or courtroom as the pictures in the ‘A. R. Edwards Photos’ book clearly shows. Fleshmarket is and was a street which passes by the side entrance – ideal for disabled access when they remove the 1960s concrete steps.
10 Halliday’s Park