Your picture of the week

A silage crop being harvested  at New Belses Farm, Lilliesleaf.
A silage crop being harvested at New Belses Farm, Lilliesleaf.

A silage crop being harvested at New Belses Farm, Lilliesleaf. Curtis Welsh supplied the image.

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

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

PRAISE IS A PLEASANT CHANGE

It is good to read a letter praising NHS Borders as a change from the usual whingeing by our local politicians.

So I welcome Robert Dickinson’s letter as his experience has always been the one my wife and I have shared.

On that note, may I volunteer to write Rachael Hamilton’s pieces which seem to be a fortnightly moan about the NHS – it might free up time for her to do something constructive. I could also write Paul Singleton’s letters which can be distilled down to boring variations on a theme of ‘SNP/independence bad’.

Richard Walthew

Whitsome Crofts

Duns

DEADLY PROBLEM IS MAN-MADE

Picture this. Ninety-seven per cent of the world’s scientists conspire to create an imaginary climate emergency, with the collusion of the majority of European governments, including car manufacturers and several energy providers, only to be exposed by a plucky retired geography teacher from Oxton (William Loneskie, letters, June 13).

There can be absolutely no doubt that human activity has increased earth temperatures above pre-industrial levels. Furthermore, air pollution – a deadly, man-made problem – is responsible for the early deaths of some seven million people every year, around 600,000 of whom are children (source: United Nations).

Presumably this lucky resident of Oxton is uniquely spared the effects of climate change and air pollution?

Professor Brian Robertson and Lesley Robertson

Hawick

FARMERS UNAWARE OR OBSTINATE

Neil Bryce (letters, June 6) seems to agree with me that global temperatures have risen and humans have been a major factor in this.

He must therefore agree that there is no point in giving a platform to the dwindling band of climate-change deniers in the name of balance.

We can argue about how fast these changes are, but what is certain is that they are coming, unless we take drastic action.

What is more interesting is his claim that agriculture produces ‘only’ 13% of global greenhouse gas emissions – 13% of a very large number is also a very large number. All the world’s aeroplane flights produce ‘only’ 2% of the total, for comparison.

Many commentators have said that one of the most effective ways to reduce our carbon footprint is to go vegan. Whilst I personally am not prepared to do that, I have certainly cut back on meat in recent years. Many others are going the whole hog (sic).

The farming industry is either not aware of its huge impact on climate change and the degradation of habitats worldwide, or is obstinately refusing to change. There are honourable exceptions, of course, and Neil Bryce may be one of them for all I know.

In the following letter, Dig Currie also focuses on global warming and ecological disaster.

He is scathing about the growth in plastic water bottles. I have some good news for him.

A new scheme called Refill has recently come to the Borders. Cafes, pubs, restaurants and businesses are being encouraged to become Refill Stations with a sticker on their doors and featured on a handy app.

A thirsty traveller is welcome to fill up their water bottle with tap water for free. Our tap water in the Borders is superior to most bottled water. The traveller benefits and the business owner benefits as some of the travellers will make a purchase while they are there.

This scheme is already reducing the 1bn plastic bottles which Scots get through every year. It’s a win/win/win solution.

Turning to William Loneskie (letters, June 13), it’s hard to know where to start with this self-confessed climate change denier (a rare breed): “The climate is doing just fine.”

So I’ll start with the one point I agree with, amongst all his hyperbole, that it is indeed foolish to import subsidised North American wood chips to burn in Drax power station. Instead, Drax should be closed as other contemporaneous coal-fired power stations have been.

Keeping fossil fuels in the ground does not mean that we return to medieval lifestyles. Renewables are already powering Scotland’s economy for days on end and new technologies are being developed to use the abundant wind, hydro, wave and tides, even sunshine, with which our nation is blessed. Storage systems are being developed to get over the intermittent flow of wind power. On a Portugese island, electric cars are being used as rechargable batteries to release energy when it is needed. Just one small example.

Turbines do need steel, but steel can be made using electricity and doesn’t need coal. Coal is so 20th century. Gearbox oil can be made from sustainable vegetable products and doesn’t need mineral oil.

Leave fossil fuels in the ground. We don’t need them and we can’t afford to burn them.

There is a bright new future out there if we embrace change and decarbonise our economy, driving down the use of fossil fuels and establishing great forests to absorb carbon, then keeping it locked up in long-lasting timber products.

Scotland can be world leaders in this green future and has already taken the first steps. We all need to be part of it primarily by consuming less stuff which we don’t really need, flying less and eating less meat.

I’m afraid William Loneskie only offers denial and business as usual.

Donald McPhillimy

(Greener Melrose)

Leaderdale Crescent

Earlston

INTEGRITY AND PROFESSIONALISM

I am writing to address some points raised in your article titled ‘Developer to appeal against knockback’ which appeared in the May 30 edition.

Scottish Borders Council rarely takes the step of a Letter to the Editor in relation to articles on planning matters. However, I must express my concerns about the accuracy of this article and the lack of opportunity offered to the council to respond to the claims and allegations made by the applicant.

Without that right of reply, readers will have been left with the impression that an individual named officer was guilty of unprofessional behaviour, because at no point did the article give any clarification or comment from the council. I see little excuse for personalising the allegations by naming the case officer, particularly without first checking the facts, when the decision was made not by one officer, but on behalf of the council.

I have considered the planning application in question and am satisfied it was handled in a fair, unbiased and professional manner.

The officer’s report is a robust assessment of the proposed development, taking into account planning policy and third-party representations, which concluded that the proposed houses are not appropriate for this site. I do not disagree with that view.

The fact that the applicant is unhappy with the decision does not make the handling of the application or the conduct of an individual officer inappropriate.

The allegation that the report is “muddled and full of errors and contradictions” is not substantiated by any reference to the officer’s report itself.

In fact, only four words were quoted from the case officer’s report, the remainder being unchecked commentary from the applicant.

The spokesperson for the applicant states that the case officer “could not even be persuaded to come and walk over the site to properly assess the context”. Yet site images taken by that officer are available to view and were used in the assessment of the application. Neither is that accusation consistent with written confirmation from the applicant refusing to meet the case officer on site.

The council’s planning officials pride themselves on their integrity and professionalism, and I am in no doubt that the correct decision was made in this case.

It is not uncommon for applicants and their agents to disagree with the planning authority’s decision, particularly where an application has been refused, but as reported in your article, the applicant does have the right of an appeal through the local review body.

Ian Aikman

(chief planning officer)

PARTY CHIEF ISSUES ALERT OVER SNP

The recent European Parliament elections saw the Liberal Democrats come second across the UK, securing more than 20% of the votes, and beaten only by the new Brexit Party, which gained a little over 30% vote share.

The question for voters now is whether this split in the electorate will transfer into voting intentions for Westminster. A YouGov poll published at the end of last month suggests it will.

When asked, ‘If there were a general election held tomorrow, which party would you vote for?’, the Liberal Democrats came top with 24% of respondents saying they would vote Lib Dem. The Brexit Party came second with 22%, followed by Labour and the Conservatives on 19% each.

Seat predictions based on the YouGov data, however, suggests that for the Borders, the stripping away of votes from Labour and the Conservatives will put the SNP in the lead to win the Westminster seats of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale; and Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats sparring for second place.

Voters in the Borders, particularly those who want to see the SNP have less influence at Westminster, therefore need to think carefully about their future voting intentions. The Conservatives and Labour are in serious, potentially-terminal decline, while the Liberal Democrats are breaking through.

If you are dismayed at the rise of populism and nationalism, then now is the time to back the Liberal Democrats.

John Ferry

(chair, Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale Liberal Democrats)

Craigerne Crescent

Peebles

EU NOT A BANKER OF LAST RESORT

Politicians across the spectrum continue to imagine they can somehow use Brexit to get their own way.

Nicola Sturgeon’s comments following her latest visit to meet senior EU figures in Brussels clearly are intended to suggest that an independent Scotland would be readily able to become a member of the EU. This is now a critical plank of the SNP’s rationale for breaking away from the UK.

It is perhaps unsurprising, given the continued uncertainty over Brexit, that our First Minister keeps making her case in this way.

What is disappointing, however, is her failure to provide any honesty around what it would take for Scotland to meet EU joining criteria, and just how long we might be adrift from the UK and the EU in order to achieve this.

Scottish finance secretary Derek Mackay has recently struggled to explain how, even with the current funding arrangements, Scottish public finances will deal with the looming £1bn budget shortfall over the next three years being projected by the Scottish Fiscal Commission. Without the benefit of block grant funding from the UK, an independent Scotland would initially undoubtedly face having many billions of pounds less annually.

The EU will not be willing to become our banker of last resort until our public finances have been fully restructured to provide a sustainable level of deficit.

Why is Nicola Sturgeon not admitting that it could take a decade or more to meet EU joining criteria, as projected by her own growth commission, and that along the way many of the universal benefits upon which the SNP’s popularity has, in part, been built would be at risk, or otherwise taxes raised to pay for them?

Keith Howell

West Linton

CAN’T COME TO TERMS WITH VOTE

Why does Boris Johnson hedge his bets with his parliamentary colleagues on a no-deal Brexit?

Even he, one of the most able of our politicians, (pretends he) doesn’t get it.

We are a democratic country and a democratic decision was made on Brexit with the referendum of 2016. A complete break from the unelected mandarins of the European gravy train was the vote of the United Kingdom.

So then, are we to listen to Remainers on the losing side who cannot come to terms with a democratic vote? Are we to listen to Remainers in Scotland, namely First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who “wants to kick the can down the road” and irresponsibly use what is left for ammunition for an independent Scotland?

Politicians can procrastinate as long as they wish, but the democratic vote will always shine in their eyes to blind them. Even the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Brexiteer Ruth Davidson, is a Remainer for the benefit of her constituents to cement her position.

We must remember that all nations of the UK have voted toward a Brexit result and will be set in stone by October 31 this year. The finality will be dependent on the next Prime Minister.

To change our sovereign UK in any way would be like changing one note in a Beethoven piano sonata – unthinkable.

Paul Singleton

Gordon

SPRING PLANT SALE SUCCESS

The recent spring plant sale held at Dawyck Botanic Garden was a great success, resulting in a record income which will be used in the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Small Projects Fund.

The Friends of Dawyck Committee would like to thank all who supported the event by either purchasing plants or bringing some for sale.

We will be holding our autumn sale later in the year, the date of which will be advertised nearer the time and we look forward to your continued support.

Friends of Dawyck

Committee