Your picture of the Week

There was a significant wind chill blowing when I took this photo at the Three Brethren summit last month.
There was a significant wind chill blowing when I took this photo at the Three Brethren summit last month.

Walter Baxter reported an unsurprisingly significant wind chill while capturing this image at the Three Brethren summit, north-west of Selkirk.

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

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

GRANTS BETTER SPENT ON THE NHS

I understand that large areas of the Border hills are to be planted with conifers.

There are generous grants to promote this activity. But why should wealthy landowners be paid for intensive plantations which will not yield any benefit for 40 years, when the NHS is in desparate need of more money now?

To refer to intensive conifer plantations as a “forest” is a misnomer, useful for gaining misguided popular support.

A traditional forest is of fairly low intensity (in the past, mounted nobles would hunt deer through them), with a range of different tree species, the undergrowth harbouring a rich variety of plants, animals and birds. Harvesting (which may not be clear felling) would be every hundred years or so.

The flow of streams and rivers within the forest would be moderately constant, and their inhabitants would benefit from the variety of plant and insect life along their banks.

Intensive conifer plantations offer none of these environmental benefits. Being closely planted, it is difficult to walk between the trees, let alone ride a horse between them. The darkness at ground level means that there is no undergrowth, so little in the way of plant, animal or bird life.

Streams tend to become acidified spate rivers. Present-day harvesting requires huge machines, which make vast quantities of silt on heavy ground in wet conditions. This causes deterioration of river bed quality for many miles downstream.

So why is this activity being promoted with what is ultimately public money? It would be better spent on the NHS.

John Curtis

Bonchester Bridge

TIME TO LEAVE THE 19TH CENTURY?

Last Thursday I was walking with my Labrador near Lauder when the dog followed her nose and came on 11 pheasants which had been shot, tied together with twine and dumped, like so much rubbish – killed for “pleasure”.

Over the last few weeks, The Southern has featured coloured spreads on the Jed Forest, Duke of Buccleuch’s Hunt and Lauderdale hunts. As I recall, two members of the Jed Forest hunt were convicted of illegal hunting last year.

The latest opinion poll shows 84% of the electorate opposed to fox hunting, including 80% in rural areas. After the general election last year, surveys showed that the Conservatives lost thousands of votes with their pledge (now scrapped) to give MPs a free vote on repealing hunting legislation.

On January 4, The Southern reported on hare coursing near Duns and Gifford, the cruel killing of hares by lurchers or greyhounds which rip the animals apart. Five men were arrested and charged. A wildlife crime officer described hare coursing as “brutal” and “senseless”.

The same could be said for shooting and hunting.

Is it not time the Borders moved out of the 19th century?

William Loneskie

Oxton

MORE DISRUPTION AHEAD FOR SOUTERS

It is with great sadness and no little anger that I have learned the line the Tory Selkirkshire by-election candidate and supporters are advocating for Selkirk’s future.

They were out in force to canvass support in the town centre last Saturday morning and outline their vision for the future of Selkirk.

It involves no bypass, despite the majority of townsfolk wanting one; the demolition of the Red Cross shop to allow faster and easier road transit through Selkirk; and the demolition of the soon-to-be-redundant Royal Bank of Scotland branch and creation there of a ‘lorry stop’ to encourage passing trade.

All this after a great deal of thought, time, money and planning has gone into trying to improve the Market Place for users and traders alike. For the last six months and predictably for some time to come, Selkirk has put up with a great deal of disruption, and the shopkeepers have lost about 75% of their trade and income as a result.

So the Tories wish to inflict further disruption on the people of Selkirk.

The Red Cross demolition idea was discarded as vandalism and unacceptable increased pedestrian danger over 20 years ago, and we still suffer the disfigurement of the Market Place that the world sees by a betting shop replacing the former post office.

This was because the Tory councillor of the time said it was better to occupy any empty buildings than leave one empty. The former betting shop in the West Port now lies useless and unoccupied, which seems to be a prime example of senseless planning.

There is little one can do to avoid further Tory crassness except to vote in the forthcoming council by-election for anyone except the Tories.

It would appear that the safety, health, welfare and comfort of Selkirk folk is less important to Tories than increasing their numbers at Newtown St Boswells. It is very sad.

Lindsay D. Neil

Hillside Terrace

Selkirk

SPEAKING OUT CAN COME AT A COST

A couple of your correspondents make much of claims that letter writers are being “organised” by what one describes as a “virulently right-wing anti-independence organisation” (letters, January 11).

A conspiracy theory certainly helps cast those who do not agree with you in a bad light, particularly if you can suggest they are acting in secret.

As one of those targeted by this ‘revelation’, here is my side of the story.

Of course, for talk of a conspiracy to get traction, it ideally needs some grains of truth.

So, I do indeed write letters to the press, and am critical of the SNP government. I know others who do likewise and we do let each other know if we see each others’ letters appearing in the press.

Given that I favour Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom, it is unsurprising that I also support Scotland in Union, an apolitical group that promotes Scotland’s positive place in the UK.

All of that is true. The rest of the conspiracy theory is not.

I have never met with anyone else to decide what to write, nor been told what to write, or encouraged anyone else to write on a particular topic. As it happens, regular letter writers have a recognisable style of their own, and letters page editors would simply not publish anything they thought was not self-generated.

The only “organisation” that has occurred among those I know is after the event, namely with letters that are published being shared with others. I have also shared some of my published letters and other articles publicly through my blogging website, www.nupateer.com

In part that sharing is about encouraging each other, because speaking out against the SNP, in general, and independence specifically, can often come at a cost.

This can range from at a low level, respondents in newspapers focusing less on what you have said, and more on personalised attacks, through anonymous abuse and intimidation in the post and social media, up to and including death threats.

The purpose of this is clearly to silence critics of Scottish nationalism, and in part what motivates me is to not give in to this pressure, wherever it comes from.

I cannot speak for Scotland in Union, as I am only a supporter, but to accuse them of being virulently right-wing is plain daft, as any fair-minded person visiting their website would see. Their supporters come from across the political spectrum and indeed their current chief executive was previously a Labour MP.

One of your correspondents claims I and others are “masquerading” as members of the public, and both refer to aspects of secrecy.

In fact I am not a member or employee of any political party or any other kind of organisation, so the only thing I can claim to be is a member of the public. As for that ‘secrecy’, it seems to me to be a funny kind of ‘secret’ group whose members have their name and address appearing regularly in the press with letters publicly expressing their opinions.

Keith Howell

West Linton

NATIONALIST PROPAGANDA

Shock horror! A small number of individuals writing about constitutional matters to newspapers are loosely connected to one another and, in a Scotland torn in two by the question of independence, choose to be a wee bit circumspect (letters, January 11).

Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon’s extensive, taxpayer-funded spin doctor team continues to deluge the media with nationalist propaganda. Journalists joke about the sheer volume of press releases SNP spin doctors churn out each day, while failing to whitewash over the nationalist establishment’s lacklustre management of Scotland’s public services.

Rather than the SNP effectively supporting hard-pressed front-line professionals, the efficient management of our NHS, education system and police service is subjugated to the dissemination nationalist dogma in the pursuit of Sturgeon’s teenage independence dreams.

What matters more? That a handful of members of Joe Public often write to newspapers? Or that indyref2-obsessed SNP spin doctors swamp us daily with separatist propaganda?

Plus, your readers are told in your letters column how wrong it is for some comfortably-off individuals to support pro-UK causes.

Presumably it is equally wrong for the lottery-winning Weirs to have given a staggering £8m to the SNP and its independence movement since 2011? And for billionaire Brian Souter, chair of Stagecoach, who funded a campaign to keep the anti-gay Section 28 (Section 2A) in law, to have, in the past, made massive donations to the SNP and its campaign to break up the UK?

I wonder, is there an opportunity for one or two of your correspondents to acquaint themselves with the expression ‘people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’?

Martin Redfern

Edinburgh

MISLEADING STATISTICS

We have all got used to the BBC and mainstream media quoting misleading statistics about NHS Scotland – Sarah Smith’s recent “mistake” being the most glaring.

However, I would have thought better of The Southern. In its front-page headline last week about patients waiting 12 hours, the damage has been done, since many readers won’t read further.

The article then goes on to use the misleading quote of “patients forced to wait over 12 hours to be seen”.

Much as I sympathise with the plight of the 13 patients involved, and in an ideal world this would not happen, they are a tiny fraction of patients that Borders General Hospital has had to deal with this winter.

My main complaint, though, is the constant use of the phrase “to be seen”. This is a down-and-out lie intended to slur our Scottish Government, but merely insulting the hard-working NHS staff.

The four-hour target is set from when a patient registers at reception until they are analysed then treated, and sent home or admitted to a ward.

I doubt very much if anyone waits more than 15 minutes to “be seen” by a triage nurse who will then route the patient according to need.

Often this process will include taking blood samples and having them analysed before suitable treatment can be started. This obviously extends the wait, but I, for one, would rather wait that extra hour than be given the wrong treatment.

Please, Southern, raise the level of your reporting.

Joan Brewer

Magdala Terrace

Galashiels

DECEIVING THE READERS

Whenever I write a letter to you, it comes from the heart because I am passionate about the subject – usually independence.

They are written without reference to any other individual or group, or in collusion with them, and I take full responsibility for the content.

Some of your better-informed readers may have heard about a pressure group called Scotland in Union, and I think its agenda is fairly obvious. It is far from a grass-roots organisation as it seeks its funding within the gentlemen’s clubs of London, and its list of funders is heavy with members of the aristocracy, wealthy and elite. They do not rattle collecting tins on high streets.

Within this very well-funded group is a letter-writing circle; they coordinate and support each other’s letters to newspapers.

They wanted their activities kept secret and it remained that way until a recent leak. The question is why? Are they ashamed of their covert deception? Are they trying to reverse the growing support for independence?

Well, yes, that much is true, but it’s not working.

However, I believe the real reason they wished to stay below the parapet is that if the general public discovered they were being deceived via the letters pages of newspapers, they would lose all credibility.

May I repeat a comment I’ve made before.

We independence supporters know that any false claim we make will be pounced on by a largely hostile media, whereas any old lie the Unionists claim will go unquestioned.

So when you read seemingly genuine Union-supporting letters in your newspaper, do so with a very jaundiced eye. Caveat emptor (buyer beware).

Richard Walthew

Whitsome Crofts

Duns

HOW CAN WE HALT RIP-OFF PRICES?

Fellow Borderers must feel as aggrieved as I do at rip-off fuel prices here in comparison to the Lothians.

Last week, at the Sainsbury’s Straiton store in Midlothian, petrol was 107.9p and diesel 112.9p. Yet, just a few hours later, at the company’s Kelso outlet, I noticed the prices were 121.9p and 124.9p respectively.

How is this justified and what can we do to bring parity?

Sainsbury’s argument will no doubt be transport costs. Rubbish!

A pint of milk, a bag of crisps, a pack of pasta will be the same cost at each store.

The product will be transported to Kelso, like fuel, on the road on a lorry, so why isn’t there a huge percentage difference? Simple – fuel is an easy out.

What can be done by you, me or anyone else to stop this rip-off in the Borders?

We are among the lowest paid in Britain, so why are we being penalised?

Ian Lauder

Kelso

SURRENDERING TO BRITISH RULE?

Paul Singleton shows his true colours as a British nationalist/monarchist when he says “we” should “reclaim southern Ireland as it was part of our United Kingdom” (letters, January 11).

He is so obsessed with the monarchy and assumed supremacy of his United Kingdom that he ignores the truth – which is that many countries all over the globe are glad to be free from British (English?) subjugation and exploitation. They are content to make their own way in the world.

Does he also seriously believe that, for example, America, India and many other ex-colonies of a failed British empire (who fought and died for their freedom) should once again surrender to British rule?

PS: I was most interested to read about the highly-dubious Scotland in Union campaign and its coordinated, secret letter-writing campaign – most revealing , but not really surprising.

J. Fairgrieve

Gordon

BROADBAND BARRIER

The Royal Bank of Scotland justifies its closure of branches because customers “prefer to bank online or by phone”.

Does it not appreciate there are many areas in the Borders where broadband access and speed are incredibly slow, if not non-existant.

I live in such a place and my mobile phone only works on one side of the kitchen table.

The Royal Bank of Scotland should contribute towards the promised rollout of high-speed broadband, or at least keep branches open until all its customers have access to it.

Mary Douglas

Glendearg

Galashiels

THE NEXT RBS CLOSURE STEP?

Could the many people who represent us ask the dominantly publicly-owned RBS when it is their intention to close the Galashiels, Peebles

and Kelso branches?

C. John

High Street

Melrose

FROM SERIAL TO CEREAL...

Unlike your correspondent Lintie Gibson (January 11), I actually enjoy “serial letter writers”.

Perhaps I should declare an

interest. Even as I draft this letter on my messy breakfast table, I am surrounded by packets of porridge, Weetabix and cornflakes.

Douglas Hunter

Harestanes

Ancrum

WARNING FOR REPUBLICANS

“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind” – Einstein.

“Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception” – Orwell.

Take note, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and other Scottish republican nationalists, for the mirror is directed at you in this royal sovereign democratic United Kingdom.

Early Brexit will bring new opportunities and a much bigger picture to the UK, and nationalism will be forgotten and ameliorate all that has gone before. Bring it on.

Paul Singleton

Gordon

GRATEFUL BARNARDO’S

I want to thank your readers and our supporters for their continued commitment to Barnardo’s Scotland.

Many of readers have taken part in a host of challenge events and raised funds through, sweat, perhaps a few tears and sheer determination. Others have supported events as volunteers, and without this army of support we simply wouldn’t be able to function. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our charity, supporting fundraising, working in our services and shops.

By donating and shopping in our store in Selkirk, your readers have helped our local services, as the profits from retail go directly to support the charity’s work with some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged children and young people.

And, finally, our thanks to you for helping to raise awareness of the work we do in the local community.

Martin Crewe

(director)

Barnardo’s Scotland

Edinburgh

TIME TO BOX CLEVER

Am I being cynical at about retailers’ support for compulsory plastic bag charging?

Apart from the few companies who claim to donate this income to charity, the rest will be laughing their way to the bank.

More to the point, would they allow customers to use the empty cardboard boxes in which products have been delivered to the shop? My local supermarket used to have piles of these freely available at the checkout and plastic bag use was minimal as a result.

Nowadays, these have to be disposed of by retailers at vast cost – surely far better for them to be taken home and disposed of by customers as domestic waste at no cost to traders.

John Hein

Edinburgh