Your picture of the Week

Cowdenknowes House, Earlston, with the Eildon Hills as a backdrop.
Cowdenknowes House, Earlston, with the Eildon Hills as a backdrop.

Curtis Welsh took this frosty image of Cowdenknowes House, Earlston, with the Eildon Hills as a backdrop.

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

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

SCUPPERED BY ‘SNOWFLAKE DAY’

Sir, – Last Thursday my milkman delivered my milk during the early hours of the morning as usual, the butcher’s van arrived at the normal time, the postlady made the mail delivery on time, despite treacherous pavements in this street that the council cannot be bothered to salt, and I attended an appointment at the local medical centre.

All of the staff there had seemingly fought their way through the blizzard of golf ball-sized hailstones, plagues of frogs, or whatever other absurd meteorological horror we had been required to believe in the previous day’s weather “forecast”.

The link between these seemingly-routine and unconnected activities is that those delivering these services managed to work normally despite some snow.

Not so teachers, of course, who predictably awarded themselves the first “wrong kind of snowflake” day of 2018.

Ironic, is it not, that a medical centre dealing with frail and elderly people can continue to function while teachers seemingly fear getting their shoes wet. Doubly ironic that the weather forecast and daft “amber” alerts were, as is so often the case, complete rubbish and no more snow fell overnight. Indeed, the day turned out to be almost spring-like.

When will someone call this profession to account? British weather forecasts are, on average, mildly accurate about 40 per cent of the time.

But it suits the educational establishment to believe any prediction of snow, rain, wind or whatever so that they can claim to be protecting the wee ones.

I remember walking to school through deep snow down south, and to a more distant secondary school travelling on buses that carried on running along snowy roads.

I recently read a BBC report claiming that teachers worked on average between 55 and 60 hours a week. Really, I thought, somewhat incredulous until I noted at the end of the article that the figures came from a “survey” by teaching unions. Here’s to the next “snowflake day”. – Yours, etc.,

Richard West

Inch Park

Kelso

KEEPING THE OPS SHOW ON THE ROAD

Sir, – I would like to compliment management and staff at Borders General Hospital for their outstanding commitment to travel to work on the morning of January 17.

I was one of about a dozen people who attended the admissions ward – we seriously thought that our ops would be cancelled due to staff not being able to get in because of the road conditions.

However, as the hour passed, more and more staff turned up – some were even collected by 4x4s. The processes were put in place and all ops went ahead. Every member of staff I spoke to had a story to tell, of having to dig their cars out, getting help to shove their cars out of the snow, leaving home an hour earlier because of the road conditions. I am sure that the other patients who attended that day will join with me in saying a big thank-you to all BGH staff for their gallant effort in getting to work. – Yours, etc.,

Kenny Oliver

Cliftonhill

Kelso

UNSYMPATHETIC ATTITUDE

Sir, – I was less than impressed by the attitude and reaction of the Pavilion Cinema, Galashiels, when I cancelled a reservation. On Sunday, January 21, I had reserved two seniors’ tickets for the early evening showing of ‘The Darkest Hour’.

However, by early afternoon it was obvious that the heavy snowfall was likely to continue for some time, making it a potentially-hazardous journey by car from Hawick.

Consequently, I called the cinema to cancel this reservation and request a refund to my debit card. I was told that no refund was possible and the only option was to reserve seats during the following 11 days.

Since my visitor with whom I intended to attend the show was not due to return until mid-February, I requested a delay until the weekend of February 9, 10 and 11. I was told, in no uncertain manner, that this was not possible.

So, no refund and no delay to choose an alternative booking. What kind of customer service does this show?

I had a perfectly valid reason for cancellation owing to the extreme weather conditions, but that did not persuade the management of the Pavilion Cinema to reconsider their unsympathetic attitude.

Will I consider attending this establishment in future? I very much doubt it. – Yours, etc.,

John Ian McLean

North Bridge Street

Hawick

WHY SHOULD WE BE PAID LESS?

Sir, – During the 2017 general election, Labour produced a leaflet comparing wage rates in the Borders with the Scottish and United Kingdom averages, and with neighbouring constituencies.

Now, with the Selkirkshire by-election coming up, we can see that the figures have changed – but not in a good way.

The latest statistics from the House of Commons library and the Office for National Statistics give the following levels of median gross weekly pay (with previous figures in brackets): Hexham £690 (550); East Lothian £600 (560); Berwick £560 (520); Scotland/ UK average £550 (530); Midlothian £540 (500); Dumfries, Clydesdale and Tweeddale £510 (500); Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk £490 (480).

People in the Borders still get paid less than in all neighbouring areas, and less than both the Scottish and UK averages – and the gap is getting bigger when it should be getting smaller.

Before voting, people in Selkirkshire should consider if the Conservatives at Westminster or the SNP in Holyrood are doing enough to help the Borders. After all, why should Borderers be paid less? And why is Labour the only party raising this issue? – Yours, etc.,

Ian Davidson

(Labour and Cooperative

candidate 2017)

BETTER TO LEAVE UK THAN EU

Sir, – Any hopes that a new year would bring a new priority for our MP, John Lamont, have been dashed as he has once again continued with his obsession with IndyRef2.

After his election to Westminster Mr Lamont promised to get on with the day job of representing the Borders – instead he has started off 2018 with reasserting that all he is thinking about is IndyRef 2.

The reality is that the European Union is one of the biggest international markets in the world and separation from it will make separation from the rest of the UK look like a walk in the park, and will be significantly more damaging to businesses north of the border, our economy and ultimately how we fund public services.

The constant threat of Brexit, despite lower taxes in Scotland, is one of the reasons our economy is growing more slowly than it could.

While Mr Lamont was an MSP he spent countless hours debating the merits of Scottish independence and far too much time on issues that the Scottish Government had no control over, instead of issues that were a priority for most Borderers.

Now he is at Westminster he has continued to attack and blame the Scottish Government over issues reserved to Westminster and over which the Scottish Government has no control.

Regardless of one’s politics, the threat to our textile, farming, food, drink and fishing industries from Brexit is very real. Brexit also means that EU infrastructure funding due to be available to our region will no longer be on the table.

The Tory government at Westminster seems to be preparing us for ‘No Deal’, which was always the reality of the situation of a ‘Best Possible Deal’ (I am reminded of the late Kenny Everett’s catchphrase, ‘All in the best possible taste’ – which generally meant far from it!).

This means delays and tariffs on anything going to EU countries, which could ruin some of our businesses. A new report from Skills Development Scotland is predicting fewer jobs in the Borders by 2027 than there are now as a consequence of leaving the EU.

David Davies, the UK Brexit minister, announced under questioning that no impact assessment on UK business had been done. No large business or local authority would contemplate radical changes without performing this type of assessment first – making it up as you go along is not acceptable.

It appears that not having a clue about the consequences of Brexit has been turned into some kind of perverse merit at Westminster.

As an example, despite being assured previously by our Tory MPs and MSPs that devolved issues such as fishing and agriculture would remain with Scotland, Westminster is now going to take control over EU regulations and decide later what, if any, will be devolved – perhaps much in the same way as millions in EU farming uplift payments intended for Scottish farmers have been retained by Westminster, or indeed the EU fishing subsidies which are largely distributed to ports in the rest of the UK, despite over 60% of the UK catch being landed in Scotland.

We have been told repeatedly that Scotland cannot remain in the single market, yet this appears to be exactly what Westminster are arranging for Northern Ireland, along with retention of their EU passports.

There is a great parallel here with the Borders and Northumbria/Cumbria. Are we also expected to believe now that a UK Government sending representatives all over the world in a desperate attempt to get trade deals would not trade with an independent Scotland, or at least one that is still within the EU single market?

Will the Westminster dummy really be oot, along with all the toys in the pram? – Yours, etc.,

Andy Anderson

Cockholm Crescent

Stow

MOTIVATED BY UTTER PARANOIA

Sir, – Scotland in Union (SiU) writers Keith Howell and Martin Redfern made extensive responses (letters, January 18) to points raised by R. P. Toolis and me about their secret letter-writing group.

Both replies illustrate why constructive discussion on constitutional matters is so difficult these days.

Mr Howell insists there is nothing secret about their activities. Really? SiU director Alastair Cameron told Messrs Howell, Redfern and the others on November 10 last year that they “must not advertise the existence of the group”, which should only be “mentioned, verbally, in a safe environment”. If that’s not secret, I don’t know what is.

Neither response deals with the group’s purpose, which is to flood the press with letters and “influence journalists”, giving them “confidence to write pro-union/anti-SNP articles”.

Everyone has a right to correspond with the press, but an attempt by a secret, politically-motivated group to flood letters pages and try to manipulate journalists into writing sympathetic articles is certainly worth highlighting.

However, more disturbing than their defence of their activities was the content and tone. Mr Howell, failing to deal with the actual issues raised and then denying a whole list of things he hadn’t been accused of, was off to the land of “personalised attacks”, “abuse” and “death threats”.

Arise, bold Sir Keith, no longer furtive writer of multiple letters on the wonders of British nationalism but, clad in the armour of St George, the brave slayer of northern dragons that breathe fiery, dangerous slogans like “I think it’s probably best to allow folk that live in Scotland to make decisions on key issues that affect us”.

Then there was Mr Redfern’s defence of his doughty band of wealthy, privileged individuals fighting off the “separatist propaganda” that “swamps us daily”. I have had a look for this “separatist propaganda” right across the media – the Daily Mail, the Times, the Scotsman, the Herald, the Daily Express, the Daily Record, the Telegraph, the BBC, ITV – and I must confess I am unable to find it. Multiple letters from Messrs Howell and Redfern, certainly, but no “separatist propaganda” whatsoever.

I have often wondered what motivation and energy levels it takes to write constantly to vast numbers of different newspapers every week, and also what the average reader of the Buenos Aires Herald or the

Shanghai Daily makes of Mr Howell’s trenchant criticisms of “this SNP government”, or Mr Redfern’s praise of “this wonderful union”.

I had not, until now, appreciated the power of the utter paranoia which appears to motivate both writers. This no doubt means we will be treated to many more missives on the joys of British nationalism from the Southern’s (and hundreds of other newspapers’) most popular (and not so secret any more) correspondents. – Yours, etc.,

Eric Falconer

High Road

Galashiels

SALMOND AND STURGEON ON LIST

Sir, – Trump, Kim Jong-un, Putin, Erdogan, Le Pen, Farage: what do these names have in common?

Of course, they all relate to individuals whose following is built on simplistic, raw nationalism. They all aim to put their countries first.

I don’t mind admitting that none of them is to my political taste. Indeed, I fear the more powerful among them are putting all our futures at risk.

Personally, I would add the names Salmond and Sturgeon to the list. Can any readers explain, from a Scottish nationalist perspective, why I shouldn’t? – Yours, etc.,

Christopher Green

Eckford

EXPENSIVE AND INEFFICIENT

Sir, – Why, since Scotland receives the highest level of mainland UK taxpayer financial support per capita, are we also to become the most heavily taxed part of the UK?

The answer is blindingly obvious. Profligate, misguided overspending; second-rate weak leadership; and gross economic mismanagement by the minority SNP government and its Trotskyist Green puppet masters in Edinburgh.

Scotland receives and spends £168 more per person on its NHS, yet has dreadful health statistics by any international measure. We also suffer major failures in our 95% NHS targets (only 78% of A&E patients seen within four hours between December 25 and January 1), despite only 683 additional A&E patients being registered compared to the same period in 2016.

Quite simply, the SNP government has utterly failed to recruit, train and maintain adequate numbers of GPs, consultants and nurses. Delays in access to a GP mean everyone rolls up to A&E, no matter how minor their ailment.

As in England, totally inadequate social care facilities mean “bed blocking” in hospitals, causing log jams all the way back to A&E and to ambulances which wait for hours to deliver true emergency patients. And finally, gross senior mismanagement of holiday staffing levels and rotas, despite knowing that the peak season of alcohol-related accidents, flu, acute illnesses etc. was upon them.

The SNP also wastes vast sums of UK taxpayer money on “free” tuition (sic) for all Scottish-domiciled students and any smart EU-based student who wishes to exploit this windfall.

The nationalists pour further taxpayer funds down the drain installing Gaelic signage that few can read or care about. They fund nationalistic vanity or propaganda projects such as the “Great Tapestry of Scotland” (in 2014, of course), then abandon them when their “Yes” result didn’t happen. They pour bottomless subsidies into failed white-elephant businesses such as Prestwick Airport and many others in the largely welfare-dependent SNP-voter heartlands.

The SNP also provides massive taxpayer-funded subsidies to energy companies and landowners to build grotesque, inefficient and unreliable wind turbines, access roads and bridges, and giant pylons over our most iconic and unspoilt upland landscapes – Scotland’s only remaining scenic asset.

Nationalists respond lamely to media and single-issue group pressures to block any reliable and proven technology that could actually improve agricultural efficiency, or increase energy efficiency and security, such as new nuclear or gas-powered stations with zero or low carbon emissions.

They ignore all sound scientific evidence and advice, and feebly fail to challenge orchestrated environmentalist letter campaigns against using safe and regulated technologies such as unconventional gas extraction to research and exploit the natural resources that may lie under our feet. Hypocritically, they prefer to see fracked gas imported from the USA, with the high carbon emissions required to ship it here.

How long will INEOS, Scotland’s last major industrial employer, remain in such a politically hostile, anti-technology environment?

As a repatriated Scot, all this is an acute embarrassment, heart-breaking and makes me ashamed.

Scotland was once internationally renowned as the home of scientific, economic and cultural enlightenment and reason, of excellence in education and the pursuit of knowledge and technological progress. Now we are dictated to by self-interested, second-rate, bigoted and narrow-minded hypocrites who would see Scotland lie in economic ruin in order to satisfy their obsession for personal power through independence as a failed, welfare-dependent and unsustainable economy while being controlled by unelected EU bureaucrats.

What could be worse? All of the above, with a far-left Scottish Labour government in cahoots with the Greens, I guess. – Yours, etc.,

Michael Wilson

Clovenfords

PRESENTING A UNITED FRONT

Sir, – The latest YouGov poll suggests the SNP’s agitation since the EU referendum result, trying to link Brexit and the case for Scottish independence, has failed.

With those wanting another vote on independence falling to just 36%, and the likely voting intention if a vote were held, showing support for independence at just 43%, the message seems clear.

While some wavering ‘No’ voters might be won over by Nicola Sturgeon’s claims that only the SNP will give Scotland the relationship with the EU that it needs, it seems more previous ‘Yes’ voters see the flaw in separating from the UK, only to then try to tie us to the EU’s ever-closer union project.

The great majority of those who rejected separation in 2014, whether they subsequently voted ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ in the EU vote, continue to support keeping our positive place in the United Kingdom. – Yours, etc.,

Keith Howell

West Linton

COCHRANE STILL CASHING IN

Sir, – It beggars belief to learn that Carillion’s interim CEO, Keith Cochrane, is employed as an adviser to Borders MP and Scottish Secretary David Mundell at the Scotland Office.

In spite of the shambles of construction giant Carillion, he is reported to be still collecting his £750,000 salary till the middle of next year. He also picks up £300 of taxpayers’ cash for each meeting he attends at the Scotland Office.

Mr Mundell and his Tory masters must do the right thing by the people of Scotland and dispense with the services of Mr Cochrane. They need to send a clear message that there is no place in Scotland for the opinions and advice of someone who participated in the collapse of Carillion which left thousands of small businesses and workers without jobs or pay.

PS: The silence of the BBC and pro-Union media on this matter is shameful. – Yours, etc.,

J. Fairgrieve

Gordon