Walter Baxter sent us this image of the old burial ground at Crailing.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
GIVE GOVERNMENT FOOD FOR THOUGHT
I was heartened to read at the weekend that the Scottish Government wants to take steps to tackle childhood obesity and improve health.
Among other suggestions, it has been muted that improvements in school meals would help to encourage better eating habits and result in better health. It seems a simple way forward would be to provide universal free, nutritious school meals to all children, from nursery to high school.
Food poverty for families is an increasing concern, as we have seen here in Peeblesshire by the rise in demand for emergency parcels at the food bank.
Having a nutritious meal in the middle of the day would help alleviate some of the anxiety for families on low incomes.
In a recent study it was found that poorer households spent almost twice the proportion of their household income on food and drink compared to wealthier ones. Food that is sugar and fat rich is a forced choice for those on poverty wages or benefits.
Finland had a bad diet and poor health record compared to Scotland until it decided 70 years ago to provide universal free school meals. One of the long-term benefits of positive intervention in Finland has been significantly-reduced rates of heart disease over the last 30 years.
As a retired teacher who witnessed the correlation between hunger and learning, I would advocate that free, healthy school meals should be an important element of the Scottish Government’s health and education strategies.
DANGERS OF MAY’S POWER GRAB
Because it has not been widely reported in the mainstream media, many of your readers may not know about the Westminster power grab.
When, or if, Britain leaves the European Union, all those powers which are not reserved to Westminster should return to the devolved governments automatically. But clause 11 (now 15) of the UK Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill states that some important competencies will be arbitrarily seized by Westminster for up to seven years before being returned to the Scottish Parliament.
Everyone should be concerned because these seized powers include agriculture, environment and fishing. If this happens it means important protections which Holyrood has put in place for Scottish citizens can be eroded by a Westminster government seeking trade deals with countries not in the EU and which have much lower standards than Scotland enjoys.
The Scottish Government saw the dangers in clause 11 right away and has vigorously campaigned against it. Faced with intransigence from Prime Minister Theresa May’s administration, the Scottish Government introduced a bill refusing consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill. It was approved by the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties. Only the Conservatives voted against.
Everyone should be worried about this power grab because it has implications for food quality, genetically-modified crops, fracking and fishing. Even our publicly-owned NHS will be under threat of privatisation because the Americans will not agree to any trade deals without access to the whole UK NHS.
STURGEON BLAMED OVER STAFFING
Following my letter published last week entitled ‘Training places cancellation’, the following new information is of extreme relevance.
In her first speech at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies said: “The reason we have so many vacancies is because of short-sighted cost-cutting in past years.”
Theresa Fyffe, RCN director for Scotland, said “Our results highlight the enormous public concern that there is for the lack of numbers of nurses working in the NHS Scotland, and the ability of patients to receive care as and when needed.
“Two years ago Scotland’s First Minister made a commitment at RCN congress to legislate for safe staffing levels. The public must have confidence that the NHS used by them and their loved ones are staffed to a safe level.
“That 75% of people in Scotland don’t believe this is the case shows that the time is right for safe staffing levels to be set out in law.”
A Scottish Government spokesman stated: “NHS staffing has increased to a record high and 2,600 additional training places will be created by 2021.”
All these problems were personally created by Nicola Sturgeon between 2007-2012 as health secretary because 2,000 nursing training places were “not necessary” and subsequently cancelled. Now, because of her gross incompetence, we must wait (at least)until 2021.
Nothing is more important than the NHS and public opinion will make sure at the ballot box that the First Minister delivers on what are, so far, false promises.
A CASE OF WHAT NICOLA WANTS
The SNP leadership claims that Holyrood’s rejection of the EU Withdrawal Bill should strengthen the case for independence.
Yet First Minister Nicola Sturgeon continues to not be drawn on whether this, in turn, means a second independence referendum is more likely, saying people would have to “wait and see”.
Just now she prefers to simply hold the threat over the UK Government, and indeed the people of Scotland, who, in the majority, do not want a referendum rerun.
Nicola Sturgeon loves to mock opponents who mention their concerns about a further independence referendum, but is fairly blatant as she regularly stokes that particular fire.
There once was a time when the First Minister used to reassure us that there would only ever be a second independence referendum if it was clear the people of Scotland wanted it.
Now it seems she has adjusted that promise to simply mean it will happen whenever she wants it.
MEMORIAL’S VITAL ROLE FOR YOUNG
As the nation marked the 75th anniversary of the Dambusters raid on the night of May 16, many of your younger readers may have wondered if commemorating events from the Second World War is still relevant today.
My answer would be very simple; it is as relevant today as it has been over the last 75 years.
One has only to see how young people flock to the side of George ‘Johnny’ Johnson (last British Dambuster) or Mary Stopes-Roe (daughter of Barnes Wallis, inventor of the bouncing bomb used in the raid) to understand how important these national treasures are to them and our country.
My father, Sergeant Robert Henderson, flew 42 operations with Bomber Command during the war as a flight engineer, many with Flt/Lt David Shannon, including the famous dams raid in May 1943. His brave, selfless service, along with that of the 132 airmen who joined him on the raid that night, should never be forgotten.
What is we sometimes forget is that 53 young men were killed during sortie, leaving 53 families grieving. Their ultimate sacrifice has created the legacy of freedom which we enjoy today, and for that alone they should always be remembered.
That legacy took a more tangible form when, in 2012, the Bomber Command Memorial was unveiled in Green Park, London. Funded by public donations, it stands as a tribute to those brave bomber boys and a symbol of the high regard in which these men are held.
This memorial is vital for generations of young people to understand the foundations on which the freedoms they enjoy are built.
It is important to remember that night, for all of those families whose lives were changed forever, and for all members of the RAF who continue to face danger to protect us. They are safe in the knowledge that, should the worst happen, the RAF Benevolent Fund will be there to support them and their families.
Although my father survived the war, he died while serving at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, in 1961, aged just 40; I was 15 years old at the time. The RAF Benevolent Fund, the proud guardian of the Bomber Command Memorial, stepped in to support my mother and me, funding my continued education and ensuring I had the best start in life.
The RAF Benevolent Fund has also opened a Book of Gratitude for members of the public to send their messages of thanks and tributes to Great Britain’s last surviving Dambuster.
Visit https://www.rafbf.org/book-gratitude to leave your message.
SNP NEEDS TO CHANGE CHANNELS
It’s unsurprising Glasgow’s “quality” bid to become the new headquarters for Channel 4 is “audacious” and I’m sure most in Scotland will be rooting for that city.
It’s welcome bid is backed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Secretary David Mundell.
However, can a UK-wide broadcaster seriously consider investing heavily in Scotland which would, if Ms Sturgeon achieves her life’s ambition, become a foreign country?
The SNP establishment’s threat to break up the UK is very real while a nationalist Holyrood majority remains. Yet Ms Sturgeon blithely dismisses this as an irrelevancy.
Would a French national broadcaster consider Brussels a suitable HQ location? Would an Ireland-wide broadcaster set up in Cardiff?
Yet this is, in effect, what’s proposed if the SNP were to succeed in partitioning the UK.
If Ms Sturgeon seriously supports Channel 4 investing north of the border, then the SNP should cease agitating for another independence referendum. That would be the best boost Glasgow’s bid could receive.
HUNTING FOR STROKE HEROES
I write as a proud supporter of the Stroke Association and now a judge for the prestigious Life After Stroke Awards.
I’m inviting your readers to nominate their stroke heroes and celebrate the courage and dedication shown by stroke survivors, carers and volunteers in overcoming the challenges following a stroke.
In November 2016 I had a stroke.
I was one of the fortunate ones. As a result of my wife’s quick-thinking I received excellent treatment and with the help of many people, I’ve made a good recovery.
Stroke has a massive and sudden impact. It affects us physically and emotionally.
The charity is currently looking for nominations for the 2018 Life After Stroke Awards. Winning an award is an incredible experience, but it can only happen with your nomination. If you know an inspiring stroke survivor, or person who supports stroke survivors, enter them for an award today.
The closing date for nominations is May 31. Please make your nomination by visiting www.stroke.org.uk/lasa.
A very big thank-you to all who supported the recent plant sale in The Wynd, Melrose, in aid of Arthritis Research UK when £560 was taken on the day.
Everyone was so generous and, at the end, most of the plants had been sold. All the gardens – both near and far – will, I hope, be looking spectacular. A great way to celebrate the Melrose branch’s 45th anniversary.
The branch now moves on to celebrating the achievements of Beth Duff with her dog, Jess, and their sponsored challenge to walk 5K a day for 45 days, culminating at Mellerstain tomorrow (Friday) with a cheque presentation to the branch chairman.
The keynote event for the 45th anniversary will be the open gardens at Carolside, Earlston, on Sunday, June 24.
This is a rare occasion to visit one of Scotland’s finest private gardens – walled rose garden, riverside walks, teas and coffees, with home baking on the lawn.