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Last tree standing at a site midway between St Boswells and Jedburgh.
Last tree standing at a site midway between St Boswells and Jedburgh.

Last tree standing at a site midway between St Boswells and Jedburgh.

Alex McSorley supplied the image. Please email photographs, with a brief caption, to



I had hoped that MSP Rachael Hamilton’s piece on NHS Borders would offer some constructive criticism (Southern Reporter, December 13).

Instead, the article had some inaccuracies, misleading statements and omissions.

It is inaccurate to place the blame for the performance of NHS Borders on the SNP.

The SNP does not hold a majority in the Scottish Parliament.

It is misleading to state that NHS Borders “missed cancer treatment targets” when, in fact, targets were exceeded.

But what is most glaring are the omissions.

There is no acknowledgement of the effects of Brexit or Universal Credit which are the main sources of NHS Borders’ ills.

The Audit Scotland report, ‘NHS in Scotland 2018’, issued in August 2018, states: “The pressures facing the NHS continue to intensify.

Financial pressures such as drug costs, a backlog of maintenance and the use of temporary staff are predicted to continue in future years.” And: “EU withdrawal will mean additional challenges, including recruiting and retaining staff and procuring vital supplies such as drugs.”

The uncertainty of the treatment of EU citizens post-Brexit has resulted in many of them leaving the NHS. Vacancies must be filled, but often the only option is to use temporary staff at a higher cost than full-time employees. Naturally, this is a disincentive to existing workers who feel unfairly treated and resign, creating more vacancies.

Cheaper drugs do not equate to improved treatment.

I agree that there may be cheaper alternatives, but since the announcement of the Brexit referendum result, the pound has continued to lose its value. Therefore, drugs procured abroad now cost more.

The Audit Scotland report, ‘NHS Borders 2017/2018 Annual Audit Report’, also warns of the “significant uncertainty about the detailed implications of Brexit”.

The report cites three main concerns: “Workforce – the extent to which changes to migration and trade policies are likely to affect the availability of skilled or unskilled labour.

Funding – the extent to which potential changes to funding flows are likely to affect the finances of the organisation and the activity that such funding supports.

Regulation – the extent to which potential changes to regulation across a broad range of areas overseen at the EU level are likely to affect the activities of the organisation.”

The article also fails to address the impact of the Westminster government’s austerity measures.

The UN rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights reported that: “Even while devolved authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland are frantically trying to devise ways to ‘mitigate’, or in other words counteract, at least the worst features of the government’s benefits policy, ministers insisted to me that all is well and running according to plan.”

With a fifth of the UK population living in poverty, there is an obvious disconnect between the Westminster government and reality. The Scottish government is, as the UN report stated, trying to mitigate the effects of Universal Credit, but these measures cost money.

The additional burden on NHS Scotland from the impact of malnutrition-related illnesses cannot be ignored. These cases may be more urgent than others, in which case the long waiting time performance target cited in the article will be negatively affected.

Rachael Hamilton is right to voice her concern about the state of NHS Scotland. Her prime responsibility is the health and wellbeing of her constituents, but she does them a disservice by trying to gain political advantage, rather than being open and transparent about the main source of NHS Borders ills.

Jeff Price



At last – some light at the end of the tunnel.

True common sense looks likely to prevail.

As one national newspaper commented: “It would be intolerable if parliament did not honour the Brexit referendum destroying the vote of millions of people already cynical about today’s politicians.”

Prime Minister Theresa May then risks Downing Street with the Marxist nightmare scenario of Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon.

This is not democracy with two lightweights running the United Kingdom, it is tantamount to the beginning of civil unrest and the possible end of the UK.

A bill restoring Scotland’s parliament after 300 years was unveiled in Glasgow in December 1997.

What a waste of time and public fiscal funds.

If one nation in the UK gains independence, then we are no longer united.

With or without Brexit, a referendum of agreement of the four nations must be held on the same day to finalise a solution.

An extremely serious situation for us all. Public opinion shows at present a large vote for the continuation of the UK.

Only Scotland’s request for independence will start the ball rolling towards a Marxist state. Hopefully democracy will show otherwise.

Paul Singleton



Labour MP Fiona Onasanya has been found guilty of lying to avoid a speeding conviction, prompting the party to suspend her and urge her to stand down as an MP.

She is unlikely to do this voluntarily and lose her £77,379 salary.

She returns to court this month to be sentenced – this could result in a jail sentence of between four and 36 months.

If it is over a year, then she would be disqualified from membership of the House of Commons. If under 12 months, she can remain as an independent MP and collect her £77,379 until the next election on May 5, 2022 – a total of £258,000.

Who says crime doesn’t pay?

Clark Cross



One of my annual highlights, the Queen’s Christmas Day broadcast, was ruined for me this year by widespread advance publication of its contents. Leaking details of the broadcast was once virtually a hanging offence, but it seems that this is now actually a duty of palace officials. Next year, it would be nice for Her Majesty’s remarks to come as a total surprise.

John Eoin Douglas



That the SNP Holyrood administration wants immigration to be devolved is nonsensical.

A major proportion of immigrants entering the UK via Scotland would head straight for England, irrespective of whatever constraints Holyrood tried to put in place to force them to remain north of the border. 14% of the population of England are foreign born, compared to 7% in Scotland. There is, of course, freedom of movement across the UK, yet migrants have chosen to settle here in much smaller numbers. Unless the SNP is planning significant financial incentives to encourage migrants to settle in this part of the UK rather than elsewhere, then a separate Scottish immigration policy is surely a non-starter.

Martin Redfern