Your picture of the week

A hint of autumn beside the River Tweed near Newstead.
A hint of autumn beside the River Tweed near Newstead.

Curtis Welsh captured a hint of autumn beside the River Tweed near Newstead.

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

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

CONSULTATION AND COSY CONSENSUS

The Scottish Government’s smacking ban consultation is now open.

For those unfamiliar with the processes of the Holyrood parliament, allow me to elucidate.

Well before any consultation process begins, the government ensures that a plethora of organisations supportive of its stance is in receipt of state funding. These “independent” voices are then poised to pop up enthusiastically endorsing the proposed policy. If such organisations are thin on the ground, tax payers’ cash can be deployed to set up a few new ones, whose sole purpose is to tell the government what it wants to hear, with the rest of Scotland listening in.

The ultimate manifestation of this stratagem is the TV clip showing a representative from a sock puppet charity agreeing with a government minister, giving the illusion of a government listening to independent opinions.

So, how does this play out in the consultation process? Being flush with cash and resources, state-funded organisations can respond with great detail and at length. It may be repetitive drivel, but the sheer volume of comment justifies the invitation of a representative of an organisation to appear before the appropriate parliamentary committee.

For example, when feminist issues are under discussion, panels comprised entirely of women from taxpayer-funded feminist organisations are invited to address a committee.

Lacking any state funding, groups opposing the smacking ban will respond as well as they can, but they are a tiny group of resistance fighters facing a vast national army.

Having thus skewed the process so heavily in their own favour, the cosy Holyrood consensus can be maintained while ignoring the majority of the population.

I hope that the purpose and operation of the consultation process is now clear. I’m starting to complete our response to the consultation now – more in hope than expectation.

Richard Lucas

(leader)

Scottish Family Party

Bath Street

Glasgow

A SUBJECT OF SERIOUS CONCERN

I would like to make a correction to the remarks attributed to me in last week’s edition of the Southern Reporter, in the article entitled ‘I don’t want my wife and daughter sitting in a taxi driven by a flasher’.

At no time during the interview with the reporter did I use the term “flasher”, which I deem to be an emotive term in the context of what I was hoping to convey, and I am disappointed that the paper, by misquoting what I said, tried to sensationalise a subject of serious concern to my constituents.

During the interview with the reporter I further stated that, despite my misgivings about the issue of taxi licences to certain individuals, I was more than satisfied with the robustness of Scottish Borders Council’s procedure for revoking the licences of those convicted of serious offences. I specifically asked that this be included in the piece, however, it was omitted.

Harry Scott

(councillor for Galashiels and district)

SEEKING NOMINATIONS

The EBDA Award, which is one of the oldest community awards in the Borders and north Northumberland, and now in its 42nd year, recognises innovation, skill and enterprise in the area in which the old Eastern Borders Development Association was so effective in promoting regeneration during the 1960s and 1970s.

The 2017 award was made jointly to the Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival and Cornhill Village Shop, but the shortlists and award winners in recent years have included other local businesses, community groups, voluntary organisations and individuals.

Nominations are invited from organisations and individuals in the EBDA area for the 2018 award. It will be made to a person or organisation who, or which, through skill or effort, has made an outstanding contribution in social, economic or environmental fields in the 12 months up to November 30, 2018.

Further details of the award and nomination forms may be obtained from me on 01289 382541 or from the EBDA website at www.ebda.btik.com.

The closing date for nominations is December 8.

Edward Cawthorn

(hon. sec.)

MP FEARS SETTING A PRECEDENT

Interviewed on STV’s Scotland Tonight programme about his concerns over possible Scottish National Party backing for a People’s Vote on Brexit, SNP MP Pete Wishart once again treated us to a rendition of his angriest-man-in-Scotland routine.

Some of his outrage was about Scotland’s treatment over the EU referendum result, which he claimed has seen us “ignored and disrespected”.

Of course he is not referring to the actual vote in 2016, which was about the UK’s place in the EU. Instead he was talking about the referendum that the SNP has reimagined for its own purposes as having been about Scotland choosing EU membership over the UK.

He is also troubled about a People’s Vote on Brexit setting a precedent for a confirmatory vote on the terms for Scotland leaving the UK if the SNP was ever to secure backing for independence.

He rather gives the game away with this concern, realising that any rewrite of the 2013 White Paper on Scotland’s Future would likely be just as full of wishful thinking and unrealistic assertions as its predecessor, including fanciful favourable terms for leaving the UK. This would likely be found out in the detail of negotiating a departure deal with the UK, so the SNP would then risk paying the price in any vote to confirm the terms.

Essentially, Mr Wishart is pointing out that when it comes to getting its own way, for the SNP leadership, honesty is unlikely to be the best policy.

Keith Howell

West Linton

DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCES

I have been struck by concerns from those supporting Scottish independence that backing a “People’s Vote” on holding a referendum on any Brexit deal would set a precedent in the eventuality of a vote for Scottish independence.

It should, however, be noted that the circumstances are completely different.

Then Prime Minister David Cameron announced the date for the EU referendum in February 2016, with the referendum itself held on June 23 that year – a mere four months later. The referendum campaign amounted to a matter of weeks, trying to get across what were often highly-complex issues, against a background of half-truths and disinformation. Remember the £350m on the side of a bus and spending irregularities?

When it came down to it there really was no clear idea of what Brexit actually meant, with those campaigning for Leave promoting often-contradictory views. The electorate were effectively presented with a blank sheet of paper, acting on blind faith as to what Brexit meant.

Contrast this with the Scottish independence referendum, with the date of the referendum announced in March 2013, some year-and-a-half before the actual vote. This gave the electorate the time to fully debate the key issues. In November 2013, the Scottish Government published ‘Scotland’s Future’, a 670-page White Paper laying out the case for independence and the means through which Scotland might become an independent country.

Contrast this with the Brexit campaign.

While one can share the concern of some in the SNP, it should be noted that the circumstances for the “People’s Vote” are very different from what may happen with an independence referendum. It should also be noted that such a vote is backed by the majority of SNP supporters.

Ultimately, the public has a right to change its mind – that’s democracy. Many did not know what they were voting for when it came to the EU referendum and I doubt many voted to make themselves poorer, with the continuing negative impact on our economy and society.

Alex Orr

Marchmont Road

Edinburgh

LET WESTMINSTER HANDLE THE CASH

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has presided over numerous increasing policy divisions.

Her main consideration is to run Scotland as an opposition party to all things Westminster, and ignore anything else except independence.

Her most important problem right now is NHS Scotland and her government’s decision to “write off” £150m of debt owed by Scottish health boards. This “cleaning the slate”, as health secretary Jeane Freeman mentions, follows a warning from Audit Scotland about the sorry state of some health boards that have received large loans from Hollyrood to plug funding gaps.

NHS Tayside, for example, is currently running a debt of £45m, plus £17m forecast for this year. The baby-box scheme (devised by Sturgeon) will waste £45m by 2021 and could have been put aside for the NHS and clearing some serious debt.

To get more funds in the Scottish exchequer, we need to reduce income tax and all business taxes that the incompetent finance secretary, Derek Mackay, has burdened us with.

Economist John McLaren estimates NHS Scotland will face a funding shortfall of £400m and could reach £415m per year until 2023.

Because of high tax policy, signalling desperation and lack of moral virtue by Sturgeon and the Scottish Government, fiscal matters should now be handled directly from Westminster or Scots will have to pick up the tab – again.

Paul Singleton

Gordon

SO GRATEFUL TO THE INCREDIBLE BGH

Could I say a huge thanks to ward 9 staff at Borders General Hospital – nurses, health-care assistants, domestics, doctors etc. – for the wonderful care they have given my son, Martyn, over the last few months.

Martyn has complex additional needs and, due to a major operation, has been confined to a hospital bed since January 30.

The BGH is an incredible hospital right on our doorstep and we are so lucky they have some of the most amazing staff there. Martyn and myself (and family members) were shown the most amazing kindness, care and support from ward 9 – dining staff, hospital radio, etc.

These staff members work incredibly long, tiring hours, yet still had time to give us the extra care and help we needed.

It takes a long time for my boy to get used to and accept new people, but we both have made some incredible friends from what could have been a difficult time.

Wendy Thomson

Whitefield Crescent

Newtown St Boswells

ANCESTORS’ RED CROSS ROLES

On Sunday, November 11, the people of the UK will commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War.

The British Red Cross has a near-150-year history of supporting people in the UK during times of crisis and, between 1914 and 1918, more than 90,000 people volunteered for the organisation, working as voluntary aid detachments (VADs) in auxiliary hospitals at home and overseas. Most of these volunteers were women and included such notable figures as the author Agatha Christie, campaigner Vera Brittain, Wimbledon champion Lottie Dod and suffragist Sophia Duleep Singh.

However, the vast majority of First World War volunteers were ordinary women, and men, who cared for the wounded and sick, drove ambulances and acted as clerks, cooks and storekeepers. They gave dedicated, compassionate and skilled humanitarian service at a time of national crisis, and the role of women during the war, in particular, led to significant social change with women, driven by their war experiences, seeking greater opportunities in the workplace and securing the same voting rights as men in 1928.

Given the sheer number of people who volunteered as VADs during the First World War, it seems likely that many of your readers will have ancestors who gave service during the conflict. And, today, thanks to the popularity of genealogical websites and TV programmes like Who Do You Think You Are?, many are keen to trace their family trees and better understand the lives and war-time roles of their ancestors.

Traditionally, much of that focus has been on the men who served, and in hundreds of thousands of cases, lost their lives on the front line.

Now, however, your readers can use our new online VAD database to find out if their ancestors, especially female relatives, performed a civilian role during the war.

Searchable by name, location and occupation, the database includes service records and, in some cases, photographs. Anyone can access the website at www.vad.redcross.org.uk and potentially discover new and illuminating facets to their family history.

Dr Alasdair Brooks

(British Red Cross heritage manager)

British Red Cross

Moorfields

London