Curtis Welsh’s image of what’s left of Melrose station, which closed 50 years ago, contrasts with much recent talk about extending the Borders Railway to Hawick and beyond.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
BUMPING INTO FAST DRIVERS
Why do Scottish Borders Council officers spend time and money to go to great lengths to deny local people small changes that would enhance their environment, and yet fail to find the time to maintain those assets such as roads which are of significance to many?
To argue that speed bumps in Langlee Drive, Galashiels, are not justified because the average speed of traffic is below the statutory limit misses the point: it is the fast drivers whose speed needs to be controlled, and will be controlled, by simple speed bumps.
Speed is also a genuine issue on the A701 at Mountain Cross, where the electronic speed indicator, which is so effective at slowing traffic, has been broken for months, and the inability of the council’s roads department to fix it is baffling.
J. E. Pratt
SPRAY CANS AND RAIN DAMAGE
I agree totally with your Comment headline last week – ‘Let’s battle on to save our Scottish history’.
The article may have been prompted by renewed concern for all historic buildings following the Notre Dame fire, but you also expressed concern for Scotland’s own heritage after a series of vandalism attacks on ancient monuments.
A little online research suggests that the damage was possibly mainly graffitti, which is certainly not to be condoned, but it’s sadly not the very worst problem.
As recently as last January, the National Trust for Scotland appealed for funds to repair Robert Burns’s Cottage in Alloway. It’s bewildering to me that the iconic birthplace of our national poet had seemingly been allowed to get to the stage where the fabric of the irreplaceable 18th-century building where the bard was born was in serious danger from rain damage.
I don’t think that the main threat to Scotland’s heritage is morons with spray cans.
FED UP OF WAIT-AND-SEE POLICY
I am sure most of us who have an interest in current affairs would have seen Nicola Sturgeon once again announce to the Scottish Parliament that Scotland should have another independence referendum – this time by 2021.
However, the First Minister yet again said we should wait and see what happens with regards to Brexit negotiations, making no mention of an actual date, failing to mention how and when she would set out how to achieve another referendum, and how she was going to challenge the Westminster government’s undemocratic decision to deny Scotland this.
The writing is clearly on the wall and has been for some time – Scotland will be leaving Europe against her will, we are leaving Europe with no deal and we once again have a Tory government that Scotland did not vote for.
I am a lifelong SNP supporter and a passionate supporter for Scottish independence. There are many, many people within the SNP/Yes movements, and I am sure a large part of the Scottish electorate, who, by a majority, voted at the last Scottish and Westminster elections for pro-independence parties who are fed up with Ms Sturgeon’s policy of wait and see what happens and maybe we will have another referendum.
Now more than ever Scotland must have the opportunity to decide her own future and, yes, Scotland did vote ‘No’ to independence back in 2014, but so much has changed since then.
Mark G. Kettrick
SNP BIGOTRY AND OBSESSION
Can the SNP government explain why leaving a bureaucratic and highly-restrictive European Union after 45 years is a bad thing, while being obsessed with leaving a 300-year-old union with whom we undertake over five times more commerce and from whom we receive massive annual subsidies via the Barnett formula (£1.16 per 97p spent on every English person) is a good thing?
Scotland has largely been spared the cuts and austerity applied “down south”. And why must we suffer endless divisive referenda, justified by any convenient excuse (eg. Brexit, Boris or SNP-whingeing being ignored) until the SNP gets the only result it will accept?
Of course, the ideal situation would be to remain in both free-trade unions (the UK and the EU); however, like it or not, a narrow (4%) UK majority voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum. That is democracy – why can’t the SNP accept it?
In our 2014 independence referendum, the margin to remain part of the UK was far greater (10%), but the SNP has never accepted the result of this referendum either? The 2014 outcome did not concur with their relentless anti-English bigotry and obsession to destroy the UK.
The nationalists crave absolute power, whatever irrevocable collateral damage would be done to Scotland’s economy. They could never fulfil their “six tests” for a new Scottish currency and would have to rely on UK sterling forever.
By now we must have realised that all constitutional referenda are socially divisive and deeply damaging. Having witnessed the tension and abuse meted out in Scotland between 2012-2014, from which we have never recovered thanks to the SNP forever picking at the scab, those responsible for the Brexit campaign and referendum must have been aware of the social consequences, whatever the final result.
Pre-2104 and pre-2016, both Scottish and English nationalists resorted to blatant economic lies, intimidation and even violence (remember the experiences of Jim Murphy MP and worse, Jo Cox MP). Such strategies have long been part of the playbook of nationalist groups throughout Europe (e.g. in Ireland, Spain and Germany) and the world. Nationalism and/or extreme religious sectarianism (Sri Lanka, Ireland) have been invoked to justify almost all human suffering and misery throughout recorded history.
Embarrassingly, in the 20 years since devolution, and more especially during 10 years of SNP-control in Edinburgh, Scotland has sunk in UK and international standards of education, policing and health care. Despite endless huge Barnett subsidies from the UK Treasury, and imposing the highest rates of property sales and income taxation in the UK, the SNP continues to waste vast amounts taxpayers’ money on vanity projects or failed businesses (eg. Prestwick Airport) to woo their voter heartlands.
Prior to the 2014 referendum, the Great Tapestry of Scotland was simply another failed pro-nationalist propaganda stunt by Alex Salmond, for which we now have to provide financial support.
The evidence of their narrow-minded obsession is all around us.
BELLY-UP PROSPECT FOR SCOTLAND
Before the 2014 independence referendum, the SNP said that Scotland would “share” the pound sterling with the UK in a “currency union”, which would have meant interest rates and monetary policy being set by the Bank of England.
That was a non-starter because the bank said it would not underwrite the Scottish economy.
Now we are told after this “once-in-a-generation” vote that a second attempt should happen within two years and Scotland should set up its own currency, either in the first term of the new parliament or any time up till 10 years thereafter.
With an unsustainable fiscal balance of £16bn, that idea is unsustainable because Scotland does not have the cash to back a new currency in the international markets.
A new currency – the groat, Scottish dollar or bawbee – would immediately devalue against the pound, making everything we import much more expensive and any asset – from pensions to property – worth much less. Its effect on Edinburgh’s vital financial centre, which manages billions of assets in pounds sterling, would be catastrophic.
Professor Ronald MacDonald, professor of macroeconomics and international finance at Glasgow University, has said that following the introduction of the new currency, “any debt repayments, such as those on mortgages and credit cards, that remain denominated in sterling would rise sharply. Since it is likely that state pensions would be re-denominated into the new currency post-independence, their value would also be worth less”.
The SNP executive has shown little financial acumen in balancing the books all the years it has been in office. Without the largesse of the Barnett formula, giving every man, woman and child £1,600 a year extra over England in public expenditure, the country post-independence would go belly up.
The latest wheeze by the Holyrood nationalists is to ban all waste going to landfill and take it in lorries to be processed south of the border – at a cost estimated at £1bn to the taxpayer.
It must be admitted that they are rather good at blowing other people’s money on unhinged projects.
UNWELCOMING COLONIAL POWER
Passing recently through Edinburgh Airport, I spotted, with some amusement, another example of the squillions of pounds that the government of the occupying colonial power is spending pandering to racist elements of its electorate.
Our friends at Border Farce have plastered much of the arrivals area with gigantic signs welcoming you to “the UK Border” (not the UK mind, you’ll be lucky indeed – or perhaps unlucky – to get that far). These signs helpfully explain the five hoops through which you must jump afore you can board your bus, tram or taxi and actually visit Edinburgh.
And these hectoring placards are, of course, in English only.
Other European countries’ airports have “Welcome to” signs and possibly adverts for local hotels and other tourist services. Not Theresa May’s dystopian pariah state.
Perhaps the English resent Scotland’s success at attracting overseas visitors – precious few bother with England now, and rightly so.
Yet another reason, if it were needed, to get out from under.
PLAYING INTO THE PM’S HANDS
Why is the Westminster parliament allowing Prime Minister Theresa May to stall the Brexit deadlock?
She is still feigning to get her withdrawal deal through parliament in time to cancel EU elections on May 23. But it was missing from the April 25 list of legislation to be considered by MPs this week and, due to its urgency, undermines the integrity of the United Kingdom.
The powerful 1922 committee should find a legal opportunity for another vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister due to its priority and importance.
Unless Brexit is agreed soon, we are playing into the hands of the Prime Minister and her senior Brexit adviser, Oliver Robbins, who are solely responsible for endeavouring to get us to remain in the EU.
Our failure to do so could allow the Labour party and UK nationalists to come to power next time, with all its negative implications.
We must stand together and see that this does not happen, or face the consequences for our nonchalant approach.
We are at present in the unfortunate position of having the Labour, Conservative and Scottish National parties with their worst leaders in living memory. Therefore Brexit must be settled before European Parliament elections take place in this country on May 23, or this will inflict problems for generations to come, both politically and historically.
Surely Brexit can be solved without involving the Queen, Her Majesty can dismiss the Prime Minister, who serves at her pleasure, and ignore a general election. Seemingly nothing is impossible.
UK MUST BECOME ‘MORE EUROPEAN’
I was struck by the recent report from think tank IPPR on the need for the UK to become “more European” in its approach to public spending to end austerity.
The report found that UK government spending amounts to 40.8% of GDP, but the average stands at 48.9% for similar European countries.
It noted that the UK was ranked the lowest for inequality, and was one of the lowest for poverty and child poverty rates.
It is increasingly clear that the social devastation caused by the austerity agenda in the United Kingdom is too great and cannot go on. More than four million people a year are now using food banks. Homelessness has more than doubled.
And poverty rates have been growing once again, with a fifth of the UK population, including one in three children, now living below the official breadline.
There is now overwhelming evidence that austerity has done significant damage to our economy. Our neighbours in Europe have long embraced a less austere state that is more active in addressing social challenges.
Raising public services investment in the UK to 48% of GDP would mark a return to pre-2010 levels, and spending on health, education and social security would increase by £1,800 per person annually, according to the analysis.
Of course these European countries also pay significantly higher taxes. But given that they experience, on average, lower levels of poverty and inequality, and consistently outperform us in terms of health, education and life satisfaction, this may well be a price worth paying. Furthermore, contrary to predictions, this doesn’t appear to come at the expense of economic growth, or alongside particularly higher levels of debt.
We need a fundamental shift in our approach to investment in this country to deliver high-quality social and child care, a life-long education system, 21st-century healthcare and a properly-funded benefits system.
The irony is that while we may be leaving the EU, in other ways we must become “more European”.