Your picture of the week

A seasonal image of snowdrops by the River Tweed at Old Melrose, by Melrose
A seasonal image of snowdrops by the River Tweed at Old Melrose, by Melrose

Curtis Welsh snapped these snowdrops by the River Tweed at Old Melrose.

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

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

WHY NOT ASK THE SBC TAXPAYERS?

Your recent story highlighting the sickness epidemic at Scottish Borders Council (SBC) stated that stress was a predominant cause.

This surprised me, as I’m convinced that most of the policies which have emerged recently must have been reached with the assistance of recreational drugs being allowed to waft through council offices.

We are bracing ourselves for numerous cuts to our local services, all of which will affect our quality of life.

Yet not content with the Great Tapestry of Scotland fiasco and the decision to spend millions on the purchasing of land, it’s been announced that SBC is to spend £16m on iPads for schoolchildren.

I think the whole idea is ridiculous and – with breakages, losses, thefts, plus sales on eBay – will cost a lot more than the figure stated.

But, casting my reservations aside, why buy iPads, the most expensive make available? For a fraction of the cost the council could buy a make with virtually the same capabilities.

Basically, the reason is that SBC is publicly funded and has a bottomless pit of public money to fund all these grandiose plans. This is made obvious in its recruitment policy, where there is a vacancy for a social work team leader on a salary of £3,374 per month, plus the best pension entitlement available anywhere.

The same position in the private sector would merit half that figure, yet councillors are considering cutting bin collections to save money when the men out in all conditions are paid very poorly in comparison to their counterparts in council HQ with all the perks, including flexible hours and working from home.

I appreciate that running and trying to balance the books in a service as large as SBC must be a daunting task, but when virtually half of our council tax is spent on staff pensions, staff recruitment should be kept to the absolute minimum and pay and conditions based on what is received in the private sector.

With every household in the Borders regularly receiving the council newsletter, which basically blows its own trumpet by emphasising what it has achieved, why not enclose a returnable questionnaire, asking if council tax payers would prefer weekly waste collections – including garden waste – plus flower beds and grassed areas maintained to a good standard, or the proposed purchase of iPads? The feedback could be very interesting.

Mr G. Holford

Hawick

DISPUTING ‘WORLD CLASS’ CLAIM

Does council leader Shona Haslam seriously expect us to believe that 6,500 iPads issued as ‘free gifts’ to all Borders secondary school pupils (and, in due course, to all primary pupils) will, as part of the local authority’s “Inspire Learning” programme, “make our schools world class”?

Yes, they will certainly encourage even more mindless social media chat, provide the ideal bullying accessory, as well as making porn sites readily accessible – all this while the already-stressed teacher might be trying to discuss Newton’s Laws or explain how to solve quadratic equations, this in what we are led to believe is too often an atmosphere lacking discipline.

Of course, it’s perhaps the intention to ban their use in the classroom?

We do still have teachers after all.

I may be living in the dark ages, having retired from teaching in the Borders over two decades ago, but at least I can claim some experience in world education (15 years international-type schooling).

In fairness, I will say that after failing to persuade the then Scottish education authorities to introduce electronics as an additional academic subject, rather than (or even ‘as well as’) computing science, I (and many now-successful former 1980s pupils) are grateful that then Kelso High School rector Alastair Johnston and former PT physics John Weierter did have the foresight to allow me to introduce (English) Associated Exam Board ‘O’ Level Electronics.

This was a highly-innovative move (possible the first of only a few schools in Scotland) and supported by our local electronics industries.

One of the practical requirements was for each pupil to design (not copy from a magazine), build and test a different piece of electronic equipment. Even now I can’t believe how successful they were – from a Geiger counter to a capacitance tester, single-wire control of car electrics etc. etc.

Sadly, for reasons outwith my control, this electronics course was dropped, and some 30 years later, and unless I am wrong, there is still no formal, stand-alone electronics course available in Scottish schools.

I understand that as of 2017, there is now no electronics qualification available in English schools.

The country is crying out for young people with inquisitive, enquiring minds – people with innovative ideas.

Our daily lives are controlled by practical electronics, not by computers (or ‘digital toys’), which are only one form of electronic tool.

Shona, if you can convince me that dishing out ‘freebie’ iPads will produce these “world class” scientists, engineers, technologists etc., I will apologise – but I fear you’ve a hard job ahead.

André Saunders

Kelso

MEASURES ARE JUST A SPIT IN THE WIND

Re the comments by Clark Cross regarding global greenhouse gas emissions (letters, February 21).

While there is no denying that the climate is changing, the assertion that 97% of scientists concur that humankind’s activities are the main cause is totally misleading. The question that was asked of them was phrased in such a way as to elicit a desired response.

This was a technique that the Scottish Government tried to use in the 2014 referendum in an attempt to conjure up a ‘Yes’ vote for independence. With revolutionary zeal, ministers have chosen to act as standard bearers to help save the planet by embracing this misleading, so-called consensus.

In one sense they have been successful, having reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 48% over 1990 levels. This has primarily been due to an approximately-equal combination of wind and nuclear energy generation.

This unswerving dedication has, however, created the highest actual density of wind power in the world. Only China and the USA have more in terms of numbers.

The other major Scottish Government policy aimed principally at combating climate change is to plant up to 15,000 hectares of trees per year by 2025.

Although environmental benefits are cited, the main purpose is that they will act as a carbon ‘sink’. This is a puzzling decision because the Forestry Commission says that “tree planting can only ever play a very small part in climate change mitigation”.

Nevertheless, our bonnie banks and braes that have for generations been the domain of hill farmers, the unsung custodians of the countryside, will be replaced by a lifeless twilight world of coniferous forests that will in any event take decades to capture meaningful volumes of carbon.

Greenhouse gas emission reductions have recently stalled due principally to the transport sectors. The days of the internal combustion engine are surely numbered.

However, the sudden lurch to electric options with their label of “zero emissions at source” may well sound utopian, but it is misleading because, as Mr Cross points out, it takes little or no account of serious hidden environmental costs and associated emissions in the mining and processing of the resources for battery manufacture. Nothing is heard about their limited lifespan or the lack of adequate recycling facilities for the potentially vast numbers of spent batteries.

Considering the fact that Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions amount to just 0.15% of the global total, these draconian measures, laudable though they may seem, are extreme and expensive overreactions that amount to no more than a spit in the wind.

The wise words of the late Hans Rosling, author of the highly-acclaimed book ‘Factfulness’ come to mind: “Fear plus urgency makes for stupid, drastic decisions with unpredictable side effects and climate change needs systematic analysis, incremental actions and careful evaluation.”

Neil J. Bryce

Morebattle

VOTE ON FACTS, NOT FAIRYTALES

Holyrood is currently debating the Climate Change Emissions Reductions Targets Scotland Bill.

Germany has spent more money on renewable energy than any other European country. Electricity generation from wind and solar between 2011 and 2017 rose from 70 to 147 TWh (terrawatt hours, source BP), yet over the same period its CO2 emissions increased from 761 to 764 million tonnes.

France’s electricity generation from wind and solar between 2014 and 2016 rose from 23 to 30 TWh, yet its figure for greenhouse gas emissions intensity of energy consumption went up from 82.8 to 85 (source europa.eu).

I implore MSPs to base their votes on facts and physics, not fairytales.

Geoff Moore

Alness

Highland

ROT SETTING IN AT WESTMINSTER

It looks like the magic money tree is still bearing fruit.

The Westminster government found £1bn to allocate to Northern Ireland to buy the support of the Democratic Unionist Party and avoid defeat in parliament.

Now, facing costs of Brexit of around £37bn, it can still find £1.6bn more to allocate to Brexit councils in England, needed to buy the support of MPs in those areas, predominantly from the Labour party, to vote for Theresa May’s deal. These funds could be better used to support our beleaguered public services.

In the past we had rotten boroughs, now we just have a rotten government.

Pete Rowberry

Duns

LYING TO THE PENSIONERS

During the 2014 independence referendum, many pensioners voted ‘No’ – and it is understandable why.

Put simply, we were lied to. We were told that our pensions would stop after a ‘Yes’ vote – a disgraceful lie proven so by a written statement from the Department of Work and Pensions that pension payments would continue, just as they do for pensioners living in Spain or France.

Pensioners were told that we would be unable to easily visit relatives in England; this in spite of the Common Travel Area which allows citizens of the Irish Republic, a foreign country, to travel within the UK without needing a passport. Why would Scotland be different?

There were many other lies, but pensioners are intelligent folk and will not be hoodwinked again.

We know what a wealthy country Scotland is and indeed the UK. So why is it that pensions are scandalously only 29% of average wages when in the 27 other EU countries it averages out at 50%? The average wage in the UK is about £30,000 per annum, so a state pension of £15,000 would be much fairer than the current full pension of around £8,700.

Once an independent Scotland is reaping the full benefits of its economic capacity and potential, pensions will increase to the EU average, or even higher.

I can’t wait, how about you?

Richard Walthew

Whitsome Crofts

Duns

REFERENDA NOT ALWAYS THE ANSWER

In Scotland we have learned the hard way that referenda do not always deliver what they promise, namely a clear and lasting answer.

This is particularly the case when we have a Scottish government that chooses only to accept referendum results that give what it considers to be the right answer.

Asking a question for an informed electorate to deliver an opinion on can be considered a shining example of democracy. Yet those unhappy with the result can soon claim the people did not understand what they were voting about, that times have changed and agitate for a rerun.

Those calling for a ‘People’s Vote’ say they simply want to give democracy a chance. But what if, as seems likely, another vote delivers a result that is finely balanced, with nearly as many against as are for, whatever it is we are asked about Brexit?

Politicians do not have an easy job, but it is their task to help us navigate these difficult moments in our history. Passing the hot potato back and forth between parliament and the people is not a good look for the process of democracy, particularly if the result simply shows the people are as deeply divided as their politicians.

Keith Howell

West Linton

CLINGING TO A PART-REMAIN DEAL

There are two people responsible for endeavouring to cling to a part-Remain deal regarding Brexit and therefore failing to deliver the democratic referendum Leave vote of the UK.

They are Prime Minister Theresa May and Oliver Robbins (her senior, unelected, diehard Remainer mandarin adviser on Brexit) who has been undermining her from the beginning of transactions. and we can also add the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.

Now is not the time for capitulation, but solid nerve to go in with a no-deal Brexit without compromise. You will win the end-game and the unswerving respect of the electorate for putting an end to a two-year nightmare.

Stop playing for more time beyond March 29 and get on with it – no compromise means no deal (and leave your resignations on the way out).

Paul Singleton

Gordon