Dougie Methven supplied this image showing dappled sunshine sparkling on the water where Ettrick and Yarrow Waters meet, near Selkirk.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
FAILING TO STAND UP FOR SCOTLAND
What a dramatic few days we’ve had in the no-man’s land between our two parliaments.
In particular, we’ve been lucky enough to witness the SNP walking out of the Commons when they were given just 15 minutes to give their input into the EU withdrawal bill.
In referring to that as a superficial stunt, the Secretary of State for Scotland and Borders MP David Mundell let slip the contempt that he has for anyone who attempts to stand up for Scotland. So exactly what does Mr Mundell do in his role at what was formally called the Scotland Office?
In television interview on Sunday, Mr Mundell said that he “wanted to bring forward agreed amendments”. In other words, so long as the amendments were in agreement with Tory policy they would be acceptable.
I find that entirely unacceptable from a minister whose job is to relay between the Scottish Parliament and Westminster in the best interests of the Scottish people.
In his statement on the Sewel convention released last Thursday, Mr Mundell said: “The EU (Withdrawal) Bill provides certainty for business and families in Scotland as we leave the EU. It fully respects both the spirit and letter of the devolution settlement.”
He was claiming that he was correct in overriding the convention because “these are not normal times”.
If I wasn’t 40 miles from the sea I could be forgiven for thinking about Barbossa’s pirate code that was more a set of guidelines than actual rules.
Mr Mundell would prefer if we all just capitulated and agreed to whatever the Tory government sees fit to do, nationally and internationally.
For example, what happens when we leave the EU and, in the Scottish Secretary’s world, the Westminster government was able negotiate deals on fracking, or food production, or NHS privatisation without the intervention of the devolved parliaments. The possibilities are horrific.
He is not proceeding in line with the spirit of the Sewel convention, but morphing it to suit his own party’s selfish policies and claiming that he does it in order to “create the UK-wide legal frameworks we need to protect the UK internal market” – in other words, to best serve the needs of large corporations and not the needs of the people who live, work and die here.
As Tommy Shepherd MP put it when questioned whether he thought that the Scottish Parliament should have a veto on any trade deals entered into with third countries by the UK, he responded: “The arrangements for UK frameworks as they’re currently on the table would give the UK government a veto and the right to impose its will on the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland devolved governments in these matters (eg. chlorinated chicken and privatising the NHS).”
We now know where Scotland stands. We are “not a partner of the United Kingdom (as we were assured in 2014); Scotland is part of the United Kingdom”. Therefore, I will join the crescendo of voices calling for Mr Mundell’s resignation, not just for his inability to do a good job for Scotland, but for his ability to do a very poor job for Scotland.
AN ASSAULT ON DEMOCRACY
Unless you are one of the 11% of people in Scotland who would happily see the demise of the Holyrood parliament, you must have been incensed by the assault on democracy in the Commons during the EU (Withdrawal) Bill “debate”, even if you are an ardent unionist.
Clause 15 of the bill concerns the seizing of 24 devolved policy areas by the Westminster government which should return automatically to Scotland after Brexit. They include important subjects like farming, animal welfare, fishing and the environment.
Fifteen minutes were allowed for this important section of the debate – 15 minutes; and not one Scottish MP from any party was called to speak.
The implications for the loss of these powers to Scotland are truly disturbing as they affect food quality and safety, fracking and health. If you think the NHS in Scotland is safe because it is separate from the rest of the UK, you are mistaken, because if a shoddy trade deal is done with the USA you must realise that they will want access to the whole UK NHS.
As for farmers and fishermen – any notion of a golden dawn after Brexit will only be retained by the totally naïve.
The refusal by Speaker John Bercow to allow a debate during Prime Minister’s Questions confirmed the utter contempt Westminster has for Scotland, so SNP MPs were quite right to walk out of the Commons en masse. And many Scots agree and are equally outraged as the SNP acquired more than 7,500 members since then.
If you have not been completely brainwashed by the British establishment media, then you must see that the only escape route for Scotland from the impending catastrophe is independence. Even the creator of the infamous “Vow” now realises this.
DECADES OF POOR PLANNING
It is understandable the difficulties UK ministers face trying to manage an NHS shortfall of 10,000 doctors and 35,000 nurses. We are now forced to employ these medical staff from non-EU countries. This policy raises profound concerns. We have adopted this policy as a short-term measure, but poorer developing countries will be deprived of their brightest and best.
This can also relieve UK ministers of continuing with indigenous Britons (and create thousands of new visas). This can create a free-for-all immigration Trojan horse with a huge impact on public services.
This problem has been caused by decades of poor planning.
Two thousand training places for nurses were cancelled by Nicola Sturgeon while she was health secretary (2007-12) and deemed “unnecessary”. Instead of childish posturing over Brexit, perhaps she could endeavour to solve this serious NHS problem in Scotland.
The First Minister seems to think that Scottish independence is more important than a nation’s health. Perhaps the vote next time will tell her a different story.
Reflecting on last week’s walk-out and stupid behaviour in the Commons by the republican Scottish National Party, and also on their original inauguration fiasco, these posturing attempts to destabilise the UK Government will only increase the resolve of Prime Minister Theresa May to finalise a hard Brexit and not budge against the futile attempts of Scotland’s First Minister (or anyone else) to fulfil the democratic vote of the British people.
PLAYING TO THE SNP FAITHFUL
No one should be under any illusions about the SNP’s primary goal with its latest antics in walking out during Prime Minister’s Questions at Westminster.
The grievance over Brexit powers is largely manufactured, by an SNP government determined to create a constitutional crisis when none is needed, in the hope of stirring ill feeling in Scotland.
The so-called “power grab” is not of any real concern to the SNP leaders, given they would happily give all the powers in dispute back to Brussels if they got their way and separated from the UK, only to re-join the EU.
Ironically, however, the recent SNP economic rethink points to a decade or more before Scotland could even contemplate applying for EU membership, so its independence offer would leave us outside the UK and EU.
Marching out of the House of Commons simply plays to the SNP faithful, while the rest of Scotland is left dismayed.
SCOTS ARE HELD IN CONTEMPT
It is surely clear now to all Scots , if it wasn’t before, that after the last few shambolic days at Westminster, Scotland and its people are held in utter contempt by all unionist MPs there.
Democracy Westminster style means Scotland and its people are ignored, and, like naughty children, are told to sit down , keep quiet and obey their “masters”.
It’s time to dissolve this one-sided corrupt Union, which, like Project Fear in 2014, is prepared to go to any lengths, tell any lies and break any promises to maintain its stifling grip on Scotland and its people.
The incompetent, bungling “Invisible Man”, David Mundell, continues to avoid all his responsibilities as our supposed Secretary of State. He let the cat out of the Unionist bag recently, announcing “Scotland is not a partner of the United Kingdom – it is part of the United Kingdom”.
If he had any dignity or self-respect he would do the right thing and resign immediately.
What has “aye been” is no longer good enough or acceptable, and the only option left to the people of Scotland is self-determination.
SUBSERVIENT TO ENGLISH INTERESTS
I was appalled at the wanton disrespect shown by SNP MPs to the Mother of Parliaments in pursuit of their narrow nationalism and at the support shown for this by the so-called Scottish Parliament.
Nationalists must realise that Mother Knows Best and that Holyrood always was, and always will be, subservient to Westminster and the interests of England and the UK as a whole.
Despite recent building programmes, Edinburgh still has a dearth of student flats and tourist accommodation. Perhaps this might be a more suitable use for the Scottish Parliament building than as an adventure playground for revolting Scots?
John Eoin Douglas
G00D WHILE IT LASTED
Well, devolution was good while it lasted.
Pity that not one of the Unionist MPs – Labour, Liberal or Whig – who all claimed to support it could bring themselves to vote against its removal last week.
A pity, too, that no Scottish MP was allowed to speak in the 15-minute so-called “debate” that sealed its demise.
SHOPS ‘LOOK AFTER THEIR BIT’
In an article entitled ‘Shopkeepers urged to go for clean sweep’ (Southern, June 14), the question was asked: “When was the last time you saw anyone outside a shop on Bank Street with a brush?”
My answer to this is – yesterday (June 13)!
Bank Street is probably the cleanest in Galashiels town centre (minus RBS).
I own Fountain News in Bank Street and shaKe shacK in neighbouring Market Street, and myself and my staff regularly clean and wash outside both premises.
My day starts at 4.30am, seven days a week, so maybe no one sees these actions, although these actions are carried out throughout any given weekday, so please feel free to pop down any Sunday when not only my staff, but staff from the Auld Mill pub sweep, mop and sometimes hoover (yes, hoover) ‘our’ bit.
I have not witnessed this being done by anyone else, although the council does litter-pick at times. I do not charge for mops, buckets, cleaning materials or electric – I do this because I am proud of Galashiels and proud to be a business owner.
Do not tar everyone with the same (invisible ) brush. Bank Street probably has the most percentage of local independent owners, and I am sure many more will agree that they too ‘look after their bit’ – we are not big wigs, we are the small fry proud to be here.
FREE EDUCATION COMES AT A COST
Richard Walthew takes the well-worn path of SNP activists who always say that things are worse down south, and in criticising me he says crime in London is much worse than Scotland (letters, June 7).
Leaving aside SNP failures in the NHS, Police Scotland, computer systems, education, crime and the economy, let’s look at why there is a shortage of doctors in the Scottish NHS.
Scottish and EU university students do not pay fees, whereas in England they do. The policy to give EU students free education has cost Scotland £1.5bn, with another £400m after Brexit.
There is, however, a cap on the number of free places for students for the various subjects.This means that in medicine only 2,816 Scots were accepted in the last five years and 13,896 suitably-qualified Scots were rejected. The other places in various disciplines were made available to fee-paying Asians and Africans.
In effect, Scotland is educating the rest of the world to the detriment of the Scottish NHS and other disciplines.
POOR SUFFERING FOR POLITICAL IDEOLOGY
Universal Credit (UC) was officially rolled out in the Borders last week.
Good luck to all the hard-working staff and volunteers in local CABs, or any advice centres, which may have been fortunate enough to so far survive the impact of Westminster government cuts.
If other areas of the country where this new benefit has been imposed are anything to go by, then you will be under siege from desperate people facing desperate situations, and with nowhere else to turn for help. How you will cope with the increased numbers, I simply dont know.
I would like to ask our MP, John Lamont, what planet he is actually inhabiting? He tells us this is a better system and that it will work. Pay attention, John.
The recent report on the implementation of UC from the National Audit Office (NAO) – hardly a left-wing propaganda outfit – has raised some serious questions and concerns. Five of the most devastating findings from the report are as follows:
1. UC is driving more people to food banks. Since the introduction of UC there have been huge increases in both the use of food banks (verified by figures from the Trussell Trust)and rent arrears. The watchdog said private landlords have become reluctant to rent homes to people on UC and so increased homelessness is yet another outcome.
2. It’s costing a lot of money to implement. The NAO said the system’s running costs are currently £699 per claim against an ambition of £173 by 2024. And it warned that UC may cost more to administer than the system it is replacing, which included job seeker’s allowance, tax credits and housing benefit.
3. It is taking far longer than expected. It should have supposedly become fully operational by October 2017, but it’s still reached nowhere like universal coverage.
4. A quarter of claimants aren’t being paid on time. In 2017, 40% of those affected by late payments waited 11 weeks or more for any money, and a fifth of those with late payments waited almost five months. No wonder the Trussell Trust reports increases in both physical and mental health among those food bank users with whom it works.
5. It’s entire selling point could be an empty promise. UC was sold on the basis that it would encourage people into work. However, the NAO has said “we doubt if it will ever be possible for the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) to measure if UC has increased the number of people in work”.
So there we have it – everyone and their dog, apart from the Tory government, knows that the introduction of UC has been an unmitigated disaster from beginning to end. But it’s gone too far and would cost too much to stop, so once again the poor have to suffer for the sake of political ideology.
FUMING OVER PHARMACY WAIT
One wonders what passes as management at Borders General Hospital these days.
For years the pharmacy has been understaffed. This has resulted in endless waiting times for generations of patients wanting prescriptions.
What do the management do to alleviate this problem? – nothing.
In a properly-run affair people would be rightly sacked for incompetence.
WAITING FOR LORDS APPOINTMENT
If there was any doubt that David Mundell is unfit for the job of Secretary of State for Scotland, it was surely wiped away given the events of last week.
Mundell repeatedly gave assurances and promises to bring amendments to the Brexit Bill related to devolved powers, but failed to submit a single one.
Then he assured us that there would be adequate debate and that Scottish voices would be heard and our concerns addressed. This turned out to be a one-man debate lasting 15 minutes where not a single Scot got a word in.
When questioned, his response? “Scotland is not a partner with the UK, it is part of the UK”. Gone is any shadow of the “union of equals” we were promised in 2014.
Now, despite four out of five parties in the Scottish Parliament voting overwhelmingly to refuse consent, we face the very real possibility that the UK will control powers over farming, fracking and fishing, to name just a few.
It is crystal clear that Mundell is not looking out for Scotland in any shape or form, but simply filling the chair and awaiting his appointment to the House of Lords where he can take more money for doing nothing.
Mundell must go.
PROUD OF THEIR ROOTS AND CULTURE
“I am a Borderer” – a declaration used by people here with pride on being introduced to incomers. It is a phrase I envy.
Although the south-east England accent must be a giveaway, the polite and welcoming Borderer will often ask where I am from, not realising it is with a slight sense of embarrassment that I reply: “From Surrey”.
The richness of dialects in the Borders makes my own voice sound boring because it is not just the born-and-bred Borderer who is proud of his/her northern identity: from Yorkshire, through Durham, Northumberland and Cumbria, and northwards to the Highlands and Islands, all manner of voices can be heard in the Borders, and all appear proud of their roots and their culture.
There is a great and glorious diversity of cultures in southern England, but, generally, southerners do not talk to one another and, whenever possible, they avoid eye contact.
How unlike the welcoming Borderers. The local shops, post office, surgery waiting room, pub, church – all are places of welcome for strangers. Queuing in a Surrey post office, the only chat you hear will be shared complaints about the queue. It is very different in my local Chirnside post office, which is a hub for local news in print and chat, every day of the week.
The Borderers’ culture of shared community and pleasure in their beautiful, unpolluted area of the UK could be imitated further south. Southern England also has beautiful countryside and a diverse culture, but the densely-packed population is stressed by long commutes, noise, light and air pollution, and over-stretched facilities. The cleaner air of the Borders is breathed by friendly people whose values include care for their communities, much of it detailed in this newspaper.
Many of those who live and work in the south have left their hearts in other parts of the UK and other parts of the world.
Borderers use the term ‘stay’ rather than ‘live’; ‘stay’ seems to indicate choice. And who wouldn’t choose, if they could, to ‘stay’ in the Borders?
PLEA FOR A PURGE OF POLITICIANS
It is the job of local government to provide basic services for Borders residents. This is not happening due to budget cuts (‘Kick cutbacks into long grass, council urged’, Southern, June 7).
We need to cut the size of local and national government in Scotland. This would free more money to cut grass, fill potholes in our roads and empty our bins.
When the devolved Scottish Parliament was set up, the Lib Dems did a deal with Labour and they got proportional representation (PR) at Holyrood. Instead of 32 MSPs, we have been stuck with 129 ever since. Each of us is represented by eight MSPs – one constituency and seven list. The list MSPs were picked by their party rather than the electorate.
Anybody know who they are or what they do?
The idea was that they would represent smaller parties in Scottish politics and provide balance. This worked for the first few parliaments, but then the electorate worked out the system and the SNP was elected with an overall majority which wasn’t supposed to happen in the PR system.
The Scottish Parliament costs £90m a year to house, feed and cloth the 129 members. This could be cut to £22m by getting rid of the excess baggage of list MSPs.
At local level, things are no better. Each local district is represented by three councilors. Who does what?
Slash the numbers by a third and use the money to cut the grass. The unemployed councilors could be offered a job in school libraries.
PRAISING THE WRONG COUNCILLOR
I note in last week’s Southern, in the article under the ‘Politics’ banner on page 17, you have made an error.
Drew Tulley complimented Councillor Harry Scott on his work arranging to have a hedge trimmed, not me.
I am happy to receive compliments for doing any job well, but will not take credit for the good work of one of my fellow councillors.
I am also rather bemused that recycling bins and hedge-cutting fall under a ‘Political’ heading.
(councillor for Galashiels and District)
COWTOWING TO THE EU LINE
At 11pm on March 29, 2019, we will leave the European Union.
Thus there will be no EU parliamentary elections in May next year. This will save the taxpayer over £110m in holding them.
But spare a thought for the financial distress this will cause our MEPs.
Figures from 2016 show their salary is 102,000 euros annually. Their general expenditure allowance is 4,342 euros a month. Their parliamentary assistance allowance (paid to staff helpers) is 24,164 euros monthly. Their personal travel allowance is 4,264 euros a year. And their daily attendance allowance is 306 euros each day they turn up for parliament.
I cannot even name my MEP. Can you?
I can name Norfolk MEP John Flack who raised a petition on Change UK to prevent the unnecessary slaughter of a cow called Penka, a Bulgarian cow in calf who wandered into neighbouring Serbia – a non-EU country, an act witnessed by Bulgarian border officials.
When peasant farmer Ivan Haralampiev went to return Penka home – and as a smallholder his cows are valuable, treated kindly and each has a name – he was stopped at the Bulgarian/EU border post and confronted by EU officialdom of the worst kind. The officials demanded numerous EU documents of Ivan about Penka. They wanted her common veterinary entry document (commission regulation EC282/2004), certificate bov-x, and documents pertaining to council directive 2004/68/EC.
Of these Ivan had none – he just wanted his cow back to her pasture.
Up the chain of command the matter went and unless Mr Flack’s petition is successful, Penka, due to calve in three months will be put to death. No wonder Mr Haralampiev is distraught and stressed.
Europhiles who praise the EU forget that it has morphed from a common market into a Byzantine organisation which is Kafka-like in its workings as it moves towards “a country called Europe”, with its own taxation, military, laws and diminution of individual freedom.
March 29 should be a national holiday as the UK celebrates taking back control of our laws, borders, coastal waters and future prosperity.
QUESTIONING THE ‘BREXIT DIVIDEND’
Claims by Theresa May that a co-called “Brexit dividend” will help pay for a boost to NHS spending in England worth £20bn a year within five years are highly disingenuous.
In this regards, the Tory chair of the Westminster health committee, Sarah Wollaston MP, is absolutely right in calling this claim “tosh”.
The UK will continue to pay into the EU through the transition until the end of 2020, and will pay £20bn of the “divorce bill” through to 2028. In addition, the UK Government has committed to keep EU funding for agricultural subsidies, research and development, and other key areas at the same level in the short term.
These are set figures, so it will be at least 10 years before any so-called “Brexit dividend”, if it were ever to materialise, is to be realised. Add to that, if the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts are accurate, the public finances are set to be £15bn a year worse off by 2021, equivalent to £300m a week.
Ms May must come clean over whether she intends to finance this increased spend through increased taxes, increased borrowing, or a combination of the two.
Interestingly, if taxes are set to rise, which they will clearly have to, it is staggering hypocrisy for the Tories to have attacked the Scottish Government’s boosting of the NHS in Scotland through progressive tax changes, and then look to hike taxes themselves.
COLOSSAL FAILURE OF ‘RENEWABLES’
Storm Hector brought an end to 14 days of extremely low wind conditions across the whole of the UK.
A website called elexonportal gives data at 30-minute intervals for the output of all metered UK wind farms. The maximum theoretical capacity of all these wind farms is 11,836MW (megawatts).
This data reveals the colossal failure of the “renewables” part of our energy system during the night of June 2. At 9pm, when solar energy dwindled, the total output of all metered wind farms was a lowly 382MW.
Overnight, this crashed to an astonishing 48MW by 10.30am next day.
Bear in mind that wind turbines which are not generating consume electricity from the grid to keep their systems operating. The total being consumed probably exceeded this 48MW.
The consequences of these events in a 100% renewable energy system wouldn’t just be that people couldn’t heat their homes or recharge their electric cars. Companies need energy to function, so jobs would be threatened.
A QUICK WORD OR TWO IN GERMAN
Schloss Roxburghe! Mein Gott!