Your picture of the Week

A cast metal painted road sign at Maxton
A cast metal painted road sign at Maxton

Curtis Welsh noticed this cast metal painted road sign at Maxton, harking back to a different era.

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

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

GET ON WITH THE LOCAL DAY JOB

Sir, – A few weeks ago I stood as an independent candidate in a Scottish Borders Council by-election caused by the resignation of a Tory who took her seat in the Scottish Parliament.

I didn’t win, but I stood because I firmly believe that national politics and political parties have no part to play in what used to be “local” government.

I didn’t realise it was going to take such a short time to prove me right, but in the past fortnight the ugly spectre of political interference in local issues has again raised its head.

Councillor Stuart Bell (SNP) has registered his anger at the administration that took over from his on the local authority and accused them of “walking by on the other side of the street” and pretending that Brexit will not affect the Borders.

Councillor Bell has this in-built desire to prove himself a willing and loyal follower of Nicola Sturgeon who believes that we in Scotland should pretend that the vote to leave what we joined as the Common Market never actually took place, and that somehow Scotland should be a bit like Brigadoon and disappear into the mists for a hundred years at a time until all the bad people have gone away.

Whether we like it or not, the EU referendum was run on a UK-wide basis of which Scotland is still a part. I don’t like that bit either, and would have preferred it if we had won our own independence referendum with a strong mandate in 2014 – but the fact is we didn’t and we all have to live with that for now.

Councillor Tom Miers (Con.) is not much better than Councillor Bell and accuses the Peeblesshire member of “mischief-making”.

Well, nothing can be more mischief-making than Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson instructing her party members to concentrate on Scottish independence. Her party manifesto, even for local authority elections, seemed to mention little else, and the local Tories have fallen for it.

Local government, which used to be far more local than now, but is still supposed to be about local issues, would get on much better with local voters if it stuck to the job in hand.

An English-based national newspaper asked in a banner headline last week in a lead-up to English local council elections if dustbins were more important than Brexit.

I would have to say in answer to the question. “yes, they are”. That is what local councils are supposed to deal with. Bins, street sweeping, road maintenance, primary and secondary schools, and local services such as libraries, public halls, sports fields, swimming pools and looking after the population of every age from birth to over 100.

That is local government and the quicker our councillors realise that posturing about national issues puts off the electors the better it is for our communities, here in the Borders and all over Scotland.

Before the destruction of true local government during the early 1970s, Scotland was represented at international events and even in treaties by a legislature which contained the Convention of Scottish Royal Burghs so that local input and local needs were recognised as part of the country’s very being, and the reason that Scotland had been recognised and admired by the entire world.

These benefits for local people and local representatives were harried by politicians of every persuasion until we were left with a local government which is at best a far-distant relation of what we used to see, and at worst puppets of national government.

Of course the SNP members want independence – that is what their party was set up to deliver, but Tory members must always remember that the word ‘Unionist’ in their groups have nothing to do with mainland Britain, but exclusively refers to a United Ireland or otherwise. So let’s get back to basics and ask our councillors to concentrate on the day job which is to provide the local services to the local population. – Yours, etc.,

W. Kenneth Gunn

Halliday’s Park

Selkirk

TORIES COVERING THEIR BACKS

Sir, – Reading Rachael Hamilton’s column in last week’s Southern, I realise that the Tory party do actually have the brass neck to intend attacking the SNP for standing by its arguments on the single market and the EU, after Scottish Tories ditched theirs.

Readers will recall Ruth Davidson’s high profile during the EU referendum campaign, passionately highlighting the “disaster” that would ensue if Britain left the EU. Just after the referendum she publicly emphasised the absolute necessity of staying in the single market. Readers may also recall Rachael Hamilton, John Lamont and Ruth Davidson voting solidly in favour of staying in the EU (including the Common Fisheries Policy) at Holyrood on May 25, 2016.

Now all that has been thrown out. No surprises there for anyone used to the cynical, untrustworthy manoeuvres of the Tory party.

But it seems they have decided to take dishonesty to a new level, as witnessed also in the previous week’s column by John (those are my principles ... if you don’t like them, I have others) Lamont. Mrs Hamilton says the SNP must be “booted out” for arguing the case she and the others were making less than two years ago.

They are simply trying to cover their backs for their complete sell-out of fishing in the transitional Brexit deal.

This must be the most unscrupulous, sneaky, shady, shameless, slippery, disreputable piece of perfidious, unprincipled, fraudulent political two-timing I can remember in a lifetime of voting. Dearie me! Do they really take us for such inattentive fools? – Yours, etc.,

Eric Falconer

High Road

Galashiels

CASTING OFF THE EU STRAITJACKET

Sir, – I refer to the article, “Council take a suck it and see line on Brexit”, in last week’s edition.

There is much rhetoric surrounding Brexit with phrases such as “crashing out”, “cliff edge”, “hard Brexit”, “soft Brexit”, etc. – all meaningless and confusing.

None of it describes the process which is the Westminster government renegotiating the agreements which exist between the UK and the European Union.

What perplexes me about the argument presented by the SNP is its desire to cast off the shackles of the UK Government, but be willing to don the straitjacket of the European Commission.

The text and presentation of the motion put forward by the SNP at a council meeting was as pessimistic as you could get, based on predictions of government bodies which have yet to get them right.

The motion completely ignored an economy doing reasonably well, employment at an all-time high, continuing foreign investment in the UK and the pound being at the level it was against the US dollar pre-EU referendum. It also ignored Scottish Borders Council’s last economic bulletin which indicated business confidence rising in all sectors other than tourism, where factors other than the EU are mainly responsible.

Countries do not trade with each other – people and companies trade with each other, and invest. Those traders and companies worth their salt will be evaluating risks and foreseeing opportunities with a determination to continue business. There will be similar work ongoing in Europe.

In addition, trade unions representing workers in BMW, Skoda, Fiat or other industries which depend on exporting to the UK will not allow their jobs to be threatened because EU commissioners in Strasbourg (an unelected oligarchy) wish to punish the UK and create a situation where tit-for-tat import tariffs are imposed on what they produce? The commissioners, with their protected fat-cat salaries, may think so, but I doubt that governments presiding over high unemployment will wish to inflict yet more pain on their already-suffering populace.

Significant risks are emerging within the EU. Among them multi-million pound frauds involving European grant money (our money) in some former communist bloc countries, and nationalist-leaning governments defying and questioning the right of the commission to dictate how they should form their domestic laws or conduct foreign affairs.

The commission, in turn, threatens financial penalties on those member countries who do not conform to its interpretation of “the rule of law”. It is also wasteful – e.g. squandering upwards of £130m each year moving its parliament and civil servants from Brussels to Strasbourg for four days every month to satisfy the vanity of the French government.

In the Borders we have a chance of real betterment after generations of being neglected by all central governments. If managed properly, the City Deal, the Borderlands initiative, the establishment of a South of Scotland Enterprise Agency and the slim chance of the Borders Railway being driven through to Carlisle promise a brighter future.

Rather than asking the UK Government to supply meaningless information about what may or may not happen, every Scottish Borders Councillor should be focusing on and asking what opportunities might be had when these initiatives begin to gain traction.

The UK has been a trading nation for many centuries, and leaving the EU straitjacket should hold no fear. Let us trust those forward-thinking traders and companies to forge new relationships across the world, unfettered by a bloated monolith sinking in its own inertia and infighting.

Whether we stay within the EU or leave, there will be risks to manage, but there will be opportunities to be grasped.

Politicians are seen as leaders in their communities and it is their duty at national and local level to be positive and focus on the opportunities, to stop talking the country down and do their best for the people they represent. – Yours, etc.,

Harry Scott

(Independent councillor for Galashiels and District,

Scottish Borders Council)

SOLD DOWN THE RIVER BY TORIES

Sir, – I must confess it’s not often that I trouble to read the column by Rachel Hamilton MSP as I always find it a bit heavy going, far too polemical.

But last week Rachael’s claim – it’s a current mantra of the Tories – that the SNP supports the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) needs to be tackled, and I’m the woman to do it.

Naughty, naughty Rachael. The fact is that the SNP has never supported the CFP, but at least if we had been an independent nation we would have had a say in it, like the Danes, for example, who, post-Brexit, still want to fish Scottish waters – and probably will.

Now why do I say this? Rachel was probably a child when the Tories sold Scotland’s fishermen down the river for entry to the European Economic Community, as it was then.

But don’t take my word for it – secret papers released after the 30-year ban tell how the Scottish fishing fleet was betrayed by the Tory government all those years ago to enable Britain to sign up to the controversial CFP.

Prime Minister Edward Heath’s officials estimated that up to half the fishermen in Scottish waters – then 4,000 men – could lose their jobs, but the decision was taken to go ahead with plans to sign up because it was believed that the benefits to English and Welsh fishermen would outweigh the disadvantages in Scotland.

In a memo dated December 11, 1970, on negotiations to sign up to the CFP, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (DAFS) conceded that the policy would lead to a “weaker and less-efficient national fleet”. A DAFS briefing note warned: “In short, at present it is much easier to see the drawbacks for our fishermen likely to be involved in the Common Fisheries Policy than to be at all positive that there will be benefits to offset, let alone outweigh them.”

My apologies for the length of this letter, but with that track record do we really believe that the saviour of Scotland’s fishing fleet is the Tories?

Yes, there are not many benefits to growing older, but remembering what really happened and why our fishing industry was hung out to dry, and by whom, is one of them. – Yours, etc.,

Christine Grahame

(MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale)

LITTERING THE HILLSIDES

Sir, – With reference to last week’s report on the proliferation of wind turbines in the Borders hills, might the collective noun for such machines be possibly “a litter of....”. Yours, etc.,

C. John

Birch House

Melrose

JEDBURGH STREET COLLECTION TALLY

Sir, – As organiser of the street collection for ‘End Polio Now’, held on March 16, I would like to thank all members of the public who donated in Jedburgh High Street.

A total of £176.16 was collected on the day and, as there were no expenses, this sum has been forwarded to ‘End Polio Now’. Yours, etc.,

Mr A. G. Rae

(executive secretary, Rotary Club of Jedburgh)

LEGACY MUST BE MAINTAINED

Sir, – Like Jim Clark, I was born in Fife, but spent my early years during the war in Berwickshire.

I started school at Chirnside primary in 1944. Jim, four years older than me, was already a pupil. I can say that I was at school with Jim Clark – however, I was a wee boy, while he was a big boy.

I cannot say I knew the boy nor the man.

Last weekend was a glorious one for Duns and Chirnside. Doug Niven, of the Jim Clark Trust, and Annette Scobie and Linda Gray, of the Chirnside Common Good Association, with their respective armies of volunteers, are to be congratulated on a magnificent effort.

I can’t think of another public personality who would generate such affection, admiration and memories 50 years after their death.

Jim Clark won the world driving championship in 1963 and 1965. In 1965 he did not drive in the Monaco Grand Prix as he was off winning the Indianapolis 500.

He was known around the world for his superb driving ability.

During the 1960s grand prix drivers did not earn millions driving in Formula 1 and had to supplement their income by driving in other races when there was no Grand Prix. Indeed, Jim Clark died in a Formula 2 race at Hockenheim on April 7, 1968 – a race outside the Formula 1 world championship. He never forgot his Border roots.

In life and death, his accomplishments have brought people from around the world to Duns and Chirnside. The Scottish Government and Scottish Borders Council must support the efforts of local volunteers.

Clive Chapman, son of Colin Chapman, was astonished at the memorabilia laid out in Chirnside Community Hall. These treasured items told the tale of the symbiotic relationship between his father and Jim Clark. Colin Chapman was a genius at designing a racing car, and Jim Clark was a genius behind the steering wheel. Together they conquered the world.

These treasures must not be allowed to be scattered to the four winds after the event. They deserve to be on display in Chirnside where visitors can share Clive Chapman’s surprise and wonder. This is particularly important during the time the Jim Clark Room in Duns is closed for remodelling and expansion.

People will continue to arrive in the area wanting to share in the reflected glory of our own timeless world champion.

The various levels of Scottish Government should make sure these visitors are properly entertained and educated during their visit. – Yours,etc.,

John Black

The Scottish Jacobite Party

Helensburgh

DISTASTEFUL AND INAPPROPRIATE

Sir, – Am I alone in finding MSP Rachael Hamilton’s intention to “kick the SNP out of government” (Southern Reporter, April 5) distasteful and inappropriate language for an elected member?

It is for us, the electorate, to vote governments in and out of power through the ballot box.

For my part, the aggressive tone of my elected representative’s remarks certainly do not endear me to her, regardless of her (or my) political views. The use of such language demeans her, her party and, by association, politicians in general. – Yours, etc.,

David Bethune

Marion Crescent

Selkirk

REELING IN THIS FISHERMAN’S TALE

Sir, – Reading your ‘Looking Back’ column (March 29), I was intrigued by the 1993 story of the “shark trout” of St Mary’s Loch.

I say “intrigued” – it would be more accurate to say I detected a slightly fishy odour.

Ignoring the ‘red herring’ of the correct scientific name for the dogfish family – Scyliorhinidae – I consulted a well-known search engine. Not to check shark trout – that I knew would be a waste of time – but to check Thursday 25 years ago. Hey presto – April 1, 1993.

This fisherman’s tale may have got away back in the day, but now it’s been well and truly reeled in. Who was responsible for attempting to bait the gullible into swallowing this codswallop, hook, line and sinker? Personally, I blame the Scottish Tories, those running dogs of Westminster imperialism. As we know from your letters pages, they are responsible for all things perfidious occurring in Alba.

As for “lived during the Plastocene epoch” – I ask you! If anything, we are just entering the Plasticene epoch – the period of geological time in which mankind succeeds in burying all life on Earth under metres of packaging detritus. – Yours, etc.,

Christopher Green

Eckford

DRUGS WOULD SAVE EVEN MORE LIVES

Sir, – Breast Cancer Now recently welcomed the news that Scotland is leading the UK in unlocking access to cheap off-patent drugs that can help save lives from breast cancer.

Bisphosphonates are low-cost, widely-available drugs used to strengthen the bone in osteoporosis and other conditions – which research shows can also be used to reduce the risk of breast cancer spreading to other parts of the body, where it becomes incurable.

It is a great first step that breast cancer patients in Scotland, who are identified as at high risk of recurrence, will now be able to access these drugs.

However, we think even more women could benefit.

If all post-menopausal women diagnosed with primary breast cancer were given these drugs, one in 10 breast cancer deaths could be prevented – and the NHS would also save money in the long-term.

In the south-east of Scotland Cancer Network alone, if all post-menopausal patients with primary breast cancer were offered bisphosphonates we estimate that almost 30 deaths from breast cancer could be prevented, and around £170,000 could be saved by the NHS, per annual cohort of patients.

We hope that the Scottish Government will consider offering bisphosphonates to all women who could benefit – to make the most of this opportunity to stop more women dying from breast cancer. – Yours, etc.,

Lawrence Cowan

(Scotland manager for Breast Cancer Now)

Leith Walk

Edinburgh