Curtis Welsh snapped this bit of spring colour while walking beside the River Leader near Earlston.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
STARVED OF INVESTMENT
The Southern is to be congratulated for highlighting the disgraceful state of our roads.
Take the A697, for example. Through Greenlaw and Coldstream it resembles a crazy patchwork of bumps and ridges. In other places where the patching is at the roadside edge, it has broken away, resulting in potholes. This is supposed to be an A class road.
Or take the A68 north of Earlston. What a mess. Then there is the A7 with its dangerous bends and broken surfaces. And how come the A9 is being dualled while much of the A1, which carries much more traffic, is still single carriageway with a poor safety record?
Alas this is a national problem, not a local one. Although Britain is the sixth wealthiest country in the world, it ranks 23rd for road quality.
Why is this? Simply because the billions snatched from the road user in fuel duty, road fund licence and VAT on the purchase of vehicles and fuel has been used for decades on non-road investments. While billions have been spent on the privatised railways – most run, like ScotRail, by foreign state-owned companies – road investment has been minimal.
Meanwhile, even more punishment is being handed out to the motorist in supposed green policies by people like Chancellor Philip Hammond and Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
As a result of the false demonisation of the hard-working diesel engine, diesel sales have slumped – even though the modern diesel is a clean-burning power unit and new technology now available will cut NOx (nitrogen oxides) to minimal levels. Jaguar-Land Rover – currently 90% diesel – has already laid off 1,000 workers.
And if you are lucky enough to be able to afford a new car over £40,000 on which you will pay £8,000 VAT to the UK Government, Hammond will sting you for thousands more in road tax. Does all this tax go into road improvement? What do you think?
It’s not just potholes, it is the actual quality, or lack of quality, of the road surface. Even motorways like the A1(M), the M6 or the A74(M) have stretches where ear defenders would be advisable.
Yet we can make smooth roads. Amey has shown that with the resurfacing of several miles of the A68. So why can’t all our roads be re-surfaced to a quiet standard? There are no regulations in place to ensure that road roar is eliminated from road surfaces. There should be.
In his ‘Transport Matters’ column published last week, John Wylde refers to the iconic Class 43 ex-British Rail locomotives (Intercity 125s) coming to Scotland for service on the privatised northern routes.
These marvellous locomotives were introduced by British Rail Engineering over 40 years ago, and are still the fastest diesel trains in the world, with a speed record of 148mph. They are proof that when British engineers are given support they are the best in the world. The same applies to roads.
Give our road engineers the tools and they will do the job.
THE ACTIONS OF A TORY USURPER
Regardless of one’s stand on a future independent Scotland, I believe that everyone must be as horrified as I have been by the recent antics of Borders MP David Mundell who has blindly rattled his party’s chains to the media and public.
Westminster’s stubborn refusal to concede any ground to the Scottish Government is an indication of the contempt that the Tories have for the mandate given by an overwhelming majority of the people of Scotland.
Of course, I refer to the majority in favour of the devolution settlement itself and not the small majority of the 2014 independence referendum.
In spite of this, Mr Mundell is failing in his responsibility to represent all of his constituency and Holyrood.
We now have the bizarre situation that, regardless of whether the Scottish Parliament agrees or not to the seven years of impotency offered by the UK Government, we will have devolved powers lost to the bog of a post-Brexit Westminster.
These are hardly the actions of a protector, but of a usurper whose quest to fulfil his own narcissism is his primary goal.
If those who voted for Mr Mundell thought that he would somehow look after their needs, they will need to reassess that decision and hope that they are still able make amends via the next UK general election.
The elusive “third way” that Mr Mundell made a vague reference to may as well be a mythical creature equal to Nessie in its talent to disappear and reappear at will.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, on the other hand, continues to put up an encouraging defence, along with other political leaders, to salvage whatever she can from Brexit, in spite of having been accused of using it as a vehicle to independence by naysayers. The attractiveness of that proposition is seductively wafting the Borders, regardless of the SNP leadership’s silence on the independence issue.
However, in the meantime, I am stuck with a Scottish Secretary (Mr Mundell) who will barely raise a whisper against his boss, Prime Minister Theresa May, and the uncomfortable thought that I can do nothing to stop Westminster’s barbaric repatriation of all EU powers and the resulting dissolution of the only mechanism in opposition to Tory rule on these islands.
NO SLAM-DOORS OR ARCHAIC TOILETS
I was pleased to see John Wylde’s ‘Transport Matters’ piece in your May 3 edition about our refurbished InterCity trains that will enter service later this year.
He concluded his column: “It is very much hoped that this is misinformation”.
I am pleased to say that it is. When our InterCity trains enter service they will bring a step-change in travel between Scotland’s seven cities – and there won’t be a slam-door or archaic toilet in sight.
Our customers will benefit from faster journeys, more seats and better services. As part of that, our customers can look forward to fully-refurbished trains with an on-board buffet offering an enhanced selection of food and drink.
We’re sure that Mr Wylde will want to share this good news and join us for a trip when the train enters service. We can’t wait to show him how we really are building the best railway Scotland has ever had.
WINDRUSH PROVES TORY TOKENISM
David Mundell claims that “the Conservative party has a strong record on diversity in Cabinet”, including “the first LGBT Cabinet member” (Southern, May 3).
The first Cabinet minister to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender was Chris Smith who served in the Labour government of 1997-2001 as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. He was also the UK’s first gay MP to ‘come out’ in 1984, and in 2017 he received the ‘Pink News’ lifetime achievement award.
While Mr Smith (now Lord Smith of Finsbury) was campaigning for LGBT equality, in 1988 the UK Conservative government introduced “Section 28”. This was the only anti-gay legislation passed in Europe since the Nazi-era.
In 2000 the Scottish Parliament repealed the legislation – but no thanks to David Mundell who voted to “keep the clause”.
Since then Mr Mundell has shown a much more enlightened attitude towards LGBT people. However, the Windrush scandal shows that diversity in the Conservative Cabinet is no more than tokenism.
SNP CHEATING THE ELECTORATE
Instead of wasting everyone’s time (and taxpayers’ money) visiting China to “boost Scottish exports”, the republican Scottish National Party is now finding an easier way to cover its tracks.
In 2011 the SNP set a target to increase the value of Scotland’s international exports by 50% by 2017, using 2010 as a baseline. Scottish Development International and Neil Francis, interim managing director, conceded the target had not been reached.
Not to worry though. Why? The Scottish Government simply shifted the baseline back a few years to 2006 and reported exports up to 2017 increased 53%. This is far worse than party spin – it’s cheating the electorate.
This matter is another reason to pass a vote of no confidence in First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (not to mention her failure on the NHS, education and taxation). However, information received is that SNP members at Holyrood and Westminster are afraid to vote against the Sturgeon ‘family’ as they exercise so much power and would lose their jobs. Where else will they earn in excess of £60,000 (and the same again in support allowances) with no qualifications?
On another Westminster matter, it’s time to remove some unelected Remoaner mandarins, including Sir Jeremy Heywood (Cabinet Secretary) and Olly Robbins (personal adviser on Europe to the Prime Minister), for trying to stop Brexit and the democratic vote of the people of the United Kingdom due to their personal damaging interventions.
The Prime Minister has enough problems without this pair of comedic Remoaners – but the show will go on with or without them. The Brexit stone has started rolling. Nothing will stop it now.
SCANT REGARD FOR VOTERS’ MESSAGE
SNP deputy leader candidate Julie Hepburn joins those voices calling for a second Scottish independence referendum earlier rather than later.
Yet in calling for another referendum during this term of the Scottish Parliament, which ends in May 2021, she displays scant regard for the message voters tried to deliver in the 2017 general election when the SNP lost 21 of its seats at Westminster. She also turns a blind eye to the continued majority in opinion polls for remaining in the UK, and the even greater majority that do not want another referendum any time soon.
If First Minister Nicola Sturgeon does decide to seek another vote during the next three years, the likeliest outcome is that the UK government will say she must wait until the outcome of Brexit is fully understood which, in all likelihood, will be after the 2021 Holyrood elections.
Ms Hepburn says she believes that would all but “guarantee” independence and claims: “We have a mandate to hold a referendum, and I have no doubt that we will hold that referendum.”
Does Ms Hepburn mean to suggest the SNP would proceed without the agreement of the UK government? If she does, independence supporters will find themselves on their own at the ballot boxes in a vote that would be rendered meaningless.
SEEKING SOUTERS’ SUPPORT
Selkirk Regeneration Company, together with a fact-finding group called Creetown Associates, is assisting a group of ‘shedders’ to try to create a community shed in Selkirk for a multitude of purposes, including a shed following the Men’s Shed idea, but for all-comers.
We think the right place is the former social work building at 14-18 Chapel Street.
To do this we need to show that there is community support for the idea and we are handing out leaflets/questionnaires to gauge local opinion. The shedders are taking over the pop-up shop at 1 Tower Street in Selkirk tomorrow (Friday), from 9am-6pm, and asking passers-by to answer some short questions.
We ask everyone to support this as a benefit to the community and give us their ideas.
(director, Selkirk Regenaration Company and Selkirk
PLEA TO RETURN RESEARCH TOOL
Can I possibly take up a few inches of your columns to ask Selkirk folk if they can help me?
I was given a small, hard-back book by my grandfather which I used over many years as a reference book to local history and loaned to many people, including practically all incoming members of the clergy who arrived on Souter soil with limited knowledge of our history.
The book has a maroon cover and is entitled, ‘Selkirk, her Church, her School and her Presbytery’, and was written and compiled by the Rev. John Sharpe who was the first minister in Heatherlie Parish Church.
Sadly, I never asked anyone to sign for my personal lending library and the publication seems to be stuck in someone’s bookcase or archive, presumably in Selkirk.
It was never a valuable publication and may have even been funded by the researcher minister from his own pocket. However, it is of value to myself as a reference book and also because it was a gift from my grandfather.
If anyone out there has a copy, or even my own copy, I would appreciate it as a tool for research.