Your picture of the week

Part of the large colony of the unusual early spring plant White Butterbur, at the foot of Sprouston Glen near Newtown St Boswells
Part of the large colony of the unusual early spring plant White Butterbur, at the foot of Sprouston Glen near Newtown St Boswells

Dougie Methven took this image of white butterbur at the foot of Sprouston Glen, near Newtown St Boswells.

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

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

THE EROSION OF A VALUED WAY OF LIFE

I note that Scottish Borders Council’s Strategic Plan 2018-2023 is brimming with positive language about regeneration of this region as they “seek to develop areas of high demand and identified need across towns and rural communities”.

It isn’t easy to strike a balance between economic progress and development while trying to safeguard the traditions and values that we enjoy in the Borders.

All of us will be affected as councillors pursue their objective to build hundreds of new homes each year in order to provide affordable and social housing to cater for the 8.6% increase in population over the past 16 years.

Nobody can have failed to notice the significant increase in the volume of road traffic in recent times. This is a visible reminder that a valued way of life is being gradually eroded as village and town boundaries continue to expand and local identities are gradually smothered by creeping urban sprawl with the attendant demands on services. Witness what is happening to Galashiels, Tweedbank and Melrose.

On top of this there is the further and familiar threat to our landscapes and traditional way of life with the relentless proliferation of wind farms. The latest application for the massive 45-turbine factory near Teviothead brings the Scottish total of turbines awaiting approval to around 2,200, while there are already some 2,680 already in operation.

If some of the selective, highly dubious yet euphoric headlines are to be believed, this latter number is already supposed to be providing 109% of Scotland’s total energy needs. If this is the case, then why do those urbanised politicians in Holyrood’s ivory towers persist with this manic pursuit of wind power?

They profess to have Scotland’s best interests at heart, yet the odds are that the wholly justified, valid and familiar concerns of the army of objectors to the Teviotdale proposal will, like so many before them, be swept aside in yet another affront to democracy and our heritage.

This is not a plea for “aye been”. Progress should not be denied. If only the powers that be could learn to ca’ canny!

Neil J. Bryce

Morebattle

COUNCILS’ DECISION UNDER THREAT?

I read with some alarm that there are now attempts to overturn an agreement recently made by all seven local community councils affected by the Pines Burn wind farm development.

The seven came to a unanimous decision to allow Hobkirk Community Council to have a slightly larger slice of the compensatory pie on offer by the wind farm company to residents directly impacted.

The agreement to create eight equal shares, with two going directly to Hobkirk, was made after an impassioned plea by local community council member Donald Wilson about the downturn in the remote community’s fortunes, including the loss of the post office, closure of the village school and continued economic uncertainty in the area.

Invoking the community spirit unique to the Borders, members of the other six community councils rallied to his support and, according to minuted documents, it was unanimously agreed to allow Hobkirk an extra share. It was a wonderful example of community cohesion and the setting aside of local rivalries to help out those most in need.

I now hear that the new joint vice-chair of Hawick Community Council, Graham Marshall, wants to overturn the original decision.

I’m not sure of Mr Marshall’s background, but he obviously has a long-distance relationship with how democracy works.

You simply cannot overturn a previously-agreed decision – unanimous at that – because you don’t like the outcome.

We’ve seen with the recent shenanigans in Westminster what happens when you try and meddle with democracy.

To try and overturn a previously-reached agreement is a slap in the face to every member who took part in the three-year long decision-making process. It reveals a breath-taking arrogance to even consider such a move and also exposes complete contempt for those who set out on this democratic process back in 2016.

Yvonne Ridley

Bonchester Bridge

SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY

I am writing to make clear that Scottish Borders Council’s investment in rural recycling is the first of its kind in Scotland.

As many are aware, recycling in this region has always been something the teacher in us would say “must do better”, but with a reducing government grant and reductions across the board in what we can deliver, it has always been a subject on the back foot. When this comes to fruition, I will ask that everyone uses this service as it is just a pilot and so we need to demonstrate the requirement for recycling and protecting our environment.

So, I was in some disbelief when I read the Southern’s article stating that this was welcomed with “mixed emotions”.

The comments of Jedburgh Community Council chairman Rory Stewart were predictable, but they were certainly ill informed and disrespectful to the community which, in my conversations with townsfolk, are supportive. My concern is that this type of one-sided negativity will only serve as self-publication for certain individuals and actually do harm in the long run to the area we all love.

Mr Stewart, to quote Churchill, you do your worst – and I will continue to do my best.

Councillor Scott Hamilton

Ancrum

CAN’T WE CHANGE OUR MINDS TOO?

I was not surprised to hear that Borders MP John Lamont had changed his mind about supporting Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

It was only a matter of time before his judgement slipped from wanting the best for this region, and respecting our wishes, to doing what he felt was best to keep his crumbling Conservative party together.

So, if Mr Lamont can change his mind, then why can’t we? Why is he so opposed to a People’s Vote? – especially with the Westminster parliament clearly in gridlock over what to do next.

Mr Lamont says the Borders has had enough of Brexit. Correct. Now give us a chance to have our say and vote to remain in the EU. Don’t vote for deals that would make us poorer, please.

Brexit is a nightmare – but Mr Lamont’s reluctance to stop it is even more frightening.

Jonny Adamson

Tweedbank

PUBLIC VOTE WOULD BREAK DEADLOCK

With Theresa May’s Brexit deal yet again failing to get through the House of Commons and a delay to the date the UK is due to leave the EU, it is clear that we are simply lurching from crisis to crisis.

One wonders what good an extension will actually do, given the negotiating position of both the EU and the UK.

The UK is deadlocked, in terms of its people, parliament and cabinet, and the likelihood of any semblance of a deal that commands the majority of the House of Commons is unlikely. This is especially true given the deep divisions within the Tories, both Remainers and Leavers, as well as opposition from the DUP.

Given this situation, those like myself have long argued that a UK-wide referendum on the deal, a so-called ‘People’s Vote’, with the option to remain in the EU, is the only credible way to break this deadlock. For those who argue that this would damage our democratic process, I am not sure we can slump any lower than the situation we are currently in.

As David Davis, the former Brexit Secretary and an ardent Leaver, pointed out before the EU referendum: “If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy.”

There are few I know who voted for Brexit in the belief it would make them poorer, and it is up to the public to give its view on whether the deal, and more importantly its implications, are what it wants.

For once I agree with Jacob Rees-Mogg who previously supported a vote on the renegotiated settlement. A statement he now curiously seems to have forgotten.

The Scottish Parliament has led the way in backing a People’s Vote and now that we know the precise nature of the deal, it is up to the public to have its say.

Alex Orr

Marchmont Road

Edinburgh

CROSS-CHANNEL ASSISTANCE

If our present MPs had been in power in 1939 they would probably have sent ships to assist the German army to cross the Channel.

William W. Scott

St Baldred’s Road

North Berwick

COLLECTION CASH FOR POLIO CHARITY

As organiser of the Jedburgh High Street collection for End Polio Now held on February 22, I would like to thank all members of the public who donated.

A total of £173 was collected and, as there were no expenses, this sum has now been forwarded to End Polio Now.

Mr A. G. Rae

(executive secretary, Rotary Club of Jedburgh)

TAKE TIME OUT FOR EARTH HOUR

I’m writing to encourage your readers to join the thousands of people across Scotland, and millions around the world, taking part in the biggest event to protect the planet, Earth Hour.

It is taking place at 8.30pm on Saturday, March 30, and you can all get involved.

Climate change is already happening in front of our eyes here in Scotland. One in 11 Scottish species are endangered by our changing climate, including the beloved capercaillie, puffin and the white-beaked dolphin. Even small increases in temperature threaten many of the plants and animals that make Scotland such a wonderful place to live.

You can help by being a #VoiceForThePlanet and pledge to change an aspect of your life to live more sustainably. This could be switching to a green energy provider, turning down your washing machine to 30 degrees or going on a staycation. Whilst individually these changes may seem small, together they will have a huge impact and will help to reduce our environmental footprint.

Be part of this global moment by switching off your lights for an hour on Saturday, March 30, at 8.30pm and use the time to go stargazing, join a local nature walk or simply have a candlelit meal with friends or family. There are hundreds of Earth Hour events happening across Scotland – make your pledge to protect our wonderful planet, and find out what’s on near you, by visiting wwfscotland.org.uk/earthhour.

Why not share your pledge and your Earth Hour actions on the night by tagging #EarthHourScotland on social media, and join the millions around the world taking action to protect our planet.

Lang Banks

(director)

WWF Scotland

Jackson’s Entry

Edinburgh

ARE YOU THE UK’S MASTERMIND?

BBC TV’s Mastermind is currently scouring the UK to find contenders for its next series.

Do you, or perhaps someone you know, have what it takes to go all the way?

We will be starting our nationwide auditions in a few weeks, so it’s best to get your application in sooner, rather than later. To apply for the show, email mastermind.hth@hattrick.com to request an application form.

Rich Hinds

Hat Trick/Hindsight

Productions

PEOPLE’S POSTCODE LOTTERY BENEFIT

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the TV adverts for People’s Postcode Lottery, with that catchy song and ambassadors in red jackets knocking on people’s doors to give them cheques for thousands of pounds.

But did you know that players of People’s Postcode Lottery also support charities, raising over £404million for good causes across Great Britain since 2005?

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is the latest charity to benefit, receiving £1m just before Christmas – a wonderful gift to mark our 150th anniversary year.

I’m one of more than two million people living with sight loss here in the UK and I’m proud to be chair of a charity that does so much to provide practical and emotional support to people when they need it most.

RNIB is here to lead the creation of a world without barriers where people can be who they want to be, rather than being defined by the disability they happen to have. But we can’t do this alone.

With the funding RNIB has received from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we’ll be growing our Connect community which enables blind and partially-sighted people to share experiences, advice and information with one another. This is a great way to overcome the isolation that many people feel.

We’ll also be developing our award-winning Connect Radio station based in Glasgow and continuing our work to challenge the myths and misconceptions around sight loss.

We’d like to say a big thank you to all the players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Your support will make a huge difference to people affected by sight loss across Great Britain.

To find out more about RNIB’s partnership with People’s Postcode Lottery, visit www.rnib.org.uk/peoplespostcodelottery

Eleanor Southwood

(chair)

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)