Black-faced sheep near Megget Water, photographed by Evelyn Grierson.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
ENGLISH COUNTIES CASHING IN?
Once again I am left wondering if our local Tory political representatives are capable of discussing anything without being deliberately misleading.
The Borderlands deal, about which we’ve been hearing for months, is now a reality. It is to be funded with £85m from the Scottish government and £260m from Westminster.
Rachael Hamilton, rightly, welcomed it in her Southern column last week. However, she could not resist having a dig at the Scottish government, complaining about the “narrow-mindedness” of Nicola Sturgeon, saying that Ms Sturgeon thought the deal was “all about Scotland” and that “Northumberland and Cumbria were a mere add-on”.
Mrs Hamilton forgets, I think, that First Minister’s Questions is televised, and anyone watching knows that her characterisation of Nicola Sturgeon’s answer was inaccurate.
What Ms Sturgeon pointed out, to my surprise I must admit, was that Westminster’s announcement only promised “£65m new funding from the UK government for the Scottish areas of the deal”.
Can Mrs Hamilton clarify therefore whether this means that £195m of Westminster’s money is being ring-fenced for Northumberland and Cumbria?
In addition, the UK government is proudly pointing out that it’s also spent £102m on a housing infrastructure fund for Carlisle, and so Westminster’s total Borderlands funding is actually £362m – which would mean £297m for the two English counties, and a mere £65m for the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.
I have no objection whatsoever to Northumberland and Cumbria being given government funding, but I had thought that the money being made available in this deal was for everyone equally.
Is this actually not the case? Is Westminster regarding the Scottish side of the border as a mere add-on?
Was Mrs Hamilton disappointed when she heard of the funding breakdown for this deal, learning how badly short-changed her own region was going to be?
Did she and her colleagues lobby for more?
Are they making representations that Westminster should, at the very least, match Scottish government funding in the deal?
Or are they doing nothing of the sort, but merely looking for some frivolous, distasteful way they can try to blame the SNP?
I imagine, like myself, the vast majority of your readers despair at the ineptitude of our governing parties.
At Westminster and its ridiculously-expensive Mickey Mouse equivalent, Holyrood, millions are spent pandering to the egos of our so-called representatives, the majority who have absolutely no interest in tackllng the fears held by the common people.
Leaving Brexit aside, possibly the biggest concern of Joe Public is the continuous rise in crime across the UK, and the lack of action by the bodies put in place to control it.
Personally, I find it extremely frustrating that these extremely well-paid public servants, collectively, have not got the imaginative mindset to devise an answer. Here, from a simple layman’s perspective, is possibly a straightforward cost-effective solution.
Although employing more police would obviously be beneficial, and if they left their cars even more beneficial, it’s pointless apprehending the criminals for them to be freed by the courts to reoffend. This is usually blamed on a shortage of prison cells and leads to the increased use of community service orders which, basically, regular offenders treat with utter contempt.
So rather than spend billions building new prisons, take out of mothballs some of the numerous ex-military bases scattered around the UK and use these for the majority of offenders, who only serve up to two years, using barbed wire, plus ex-military personnel and their canine friends, to provide security. This would enable the present supposedly high-security jails to house the more serious offenders.
Admit defeat on rehabilitation – it’s costly and rarely works. Instead, ensure prison is an unpleasant environment to be in, which offenders are extremely loath to return to. Simple measures like stopping access to social media, blocking phone signals, one Freeview TV per 50 inmates, a healthy menu and lights out at 10pm would be classed as draconian by the modern generation.
Also, ensure that all jail terms are served in full – no automatic half reduction for not complaining if their steaks aren’t cooked to their liking, and if they misbehave add time on.
No doubt the tiny minority of liberal do-gooders will baulk at supposed breaches of human rights, but it’s time to make a stand against these insufferable egomaniacs. The rights of the law-abiding should be of paramount importance, overriding the rights of criminals.
Next, the present epidemic of knife crime should be tackled robustly, stop and search encouraged, and if caught carrying a knife, an automatic one-year jail term imposed; using a knife, a minimum of five years’ detention. And, as with every other life sentence, you leave in a box.
None of the above measures, if properly instigated, would be prohibitively expensive, but would ensure that we, the public, can see a genuine attempt to eradicate crime is being made. Simply put, if criminals are locked up, they can’t reoffend, which is a far too common occurrence in today’s society.
Unfortunately, with the calibre of the majority of today’s politicians, I feel even simple solutions are outwith their capabilities.
Mr G. Holford
A DANGEROUS PRECEDENT
There has been much well-informed deliberation since 2016 by all seven of the community councils affected by the Pines Burn wind farm development.
After considering the unique and somewhat gloomy forecast facing the residents in the catchment area of Hobkirk Community Council, it was agreed to divide the compensatory fund into eight equal shares, with two going directly to Hobkirk (since the district will be the epicentre of 25 years of serious disruption).
The decision to give Hobkirk an extra share was made thanks to the support and goodwill of all our colleagues on other community councils who acknowledged, despite their own challenges, that Hobkirk is in an unenviable economic position. We have been left struggling after losing our only school, post office, and the right to free burials in the local graveyard.
I am deeply disturbed that there are attempts by elements of Hawick Community Council to overturn the original decision. This is not how democracy works. The very idea that the original idea can be overturned is a most dangerous affront to democracy as it implies the original vote was meaningless.
Reversing the decision could also set a dangerous precedent as it would surely mean that every previous decision ever agreed by community councils could now be overturned or rejected as incoming members arrive with different viewpoints.
THE LAUGHING STOCK OF EUROPE
With even the Daily Mail admitting that the English are now the laughing stock of Europe, can things get any worse down in the Land of Fear and Hate?
Whether there is a Brexit deal or not, and when and if that might be settled really makes no difference. England is doomed to riots, food shortages, massive frontier delays, medicine running out, hyper-inflation, the demolition of all environmental, worker and consumer protections and, in pretty short time, total anarchy.
The current pathetic ad campaign about how to cope post-Brexit is like those 1960s public education films that advised sticking brown paper on your windows in the event of nuclear war.
England has no future post-Brexit.
HONOURING THE 2016 RESULT
When negotiating legal deals, “always make them irrevocable before signing” was the good advice given to me in the past.
It seems we are in a different situation with Brexit.
Policy Exchange, the influential think tank of the Tory party, has commissioned three legal experts – Professor Guglielmo Verdirame, Sir Stephen Laws and Professor Richard Ekins. On Brexit they have concluded that “safeguards and assurances do provide the UK with ample legal comfort and considerably more than seems to be understood by many”.
Nor should Tory MPs hang onto the tail of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). If the Tory European Research Group was to fall in line, it is not difficult to envisage the DUP clambering on board.
The way forward is to disagree with the Prime Minister’s deal and, according to the previously-mentioned legal experts, go for a no deal, the only deal that honours the democratic result of the 2016 referendum.
It is also time for the Scottish and Welsh First Ministers to get us over the “red lines” and show solidarity towards the United Kingdom, instead of their own small world without the bigger picture.
ANTI-DEMOCRATS ON THE MARCH
Of the 751 members of the European Parliament, 73 represent the UK – 9.7%.
How much influence has our country had in that parliament in the past 45 years? Precious little.
Given the arithmetic and the fact that the founders of the EU and their successors have been toiling ceaselessly for a United States of Europe, something Britain has never been in favour of, do those anti-democrats who marched in London and elsewhere last weekend calling for the revoking of Article 50 really believe that saying we have changed our minds and wish to stay mean we will have any influence at all?
We will be told to sit in the corner, shut up and take what you get.
The EU fanatics in Brussels, Berlin and Paris have humiliated our Prime Minister time and time again, expressed total contempt for the UK, and demonstrated total disdain and hatred for our democracy, while at the same time lusting after our money and fishing grounds.
I find it incredible that anyone, no matter how they voted in 2016, can even imagine that we will receive any consideration if we were to remain in the bloc. Because of the actions of fifth columnists in Westminster, the Civil Service, the media and big business, Britain is already a laughing stock in the eyes of the majority in the European Parliament.
Can you not picture the smirks on the faces of Guy Verhofstadt, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker every time a British MEP stands up to speak in Brussels or Strasbourg?
SNP’S LETTER OF COMPLAINT
The SNP’s depute leader, Keith Brown, and its leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, have submitted a joint letter of complaint to the BBC bemoaning its news coverage.
The nub of it seems to be that they are displeased that the SNP’s propaganda is being given insufficient airtime. The creation of the new BBC Scotland channel seems to have done little to deflect the SNP’s deep sense of grievance about everything British, including the broadcasting organisation that carries its name.
Just as some in the SNP consider independence the answer to any problem, so there are those who will never be satisfied with our public broadcaster until it is called the SBC.
‘ADVICE COULD NOT BE FAULTED’
In your very full and otherwise accurate report of my suspension (technically instituted while being investigated) by the Liberal Democrat party, there was one important mistake.
It is not true that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) “admitted that charges should have been brought against Cyril Smith years previously”. On the contrary, in its 2012 review, having had access, unlike me, to all police records and allegations against him, the CPS concluded “the advice that had previously been given could not be faulted (given the law and guidance in place at the time)”.
May I just add that I am grateful for all the messages I have received locally, as well as nationally.