Allan Pettigrew saw this heron while walking beside the Teviot on the outskirts of Kelso.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
MORE PAY IS NOT THE WAY FORWARD
While respecting the views of Councillor Stuart Bell, I have to take issue with his assertion that we should pay our councillors more and, in that way, hope that we can attract better, more experienced and able people to represent us at council level in the Borders and possibly all over Scotland.
I can only speak about what I know and that is the local scene where we must, at this moment in time, have the worst council that has ever represented the electorate in this beautiful part of Scotland.
It is difficult to understand why any of us actually pays council tax when one considers that we get little or nothing for our money. No roads swept (it is now over four years since we even saw a man with a brush in his hand sweeping our weed-covered street in the centre of town); little or no road repairs with potholes having overtaken the amount of road that is still there; traffic allowed unabaited to park in dangerous junctions, either on double yellow lines or on pavements with no penalty in place to stamp out the anarchy.
In Selkirk we have a primary school hemmed in by four roads which was opened for pupils in 1881, yet the former Selkirk Public School at Knowepark isn’t even on the list of “to-does”, while this local authority spends millions on iPads for pupils in every school in the Borders. Equally, there are no plans to modernise the Selkirk High School infrastructure which was put in place during the 1950s, yet this blinkered council, which can only see certain towns, ignores us and we don’t even make it into road signs directing tourists to our ancient royal burgh.
Paying councillors more wages will further encourage the laziness which seems to invade public services already and further encourage even more of the “part-time” councillors who cannot possibly work for the people who voted them into office for any more than four days per week as they all seem to have other interests, such as a business to run or a farm to work at getting grants for.
Councillor Bell should maybe remember that the Thatcher poll tax was not the first time that Scotland was treated like a guinea pig.
In 1974 a Westminster government decided that town and county councils should be done away with, ending the “local” in local government. It was a bold move and so it was decided that not all of the UK should go at once, but “let’s see how it works in Scotland before we take any rash decisions”.
Of course, it didn’t work and hasn’t worked in any of its guises, and so England still has its town and county authorities with many more decisions taken democratically close to where the people are.
There is little or nothing left of local democracy in Scotland and it is high time that our politicians saw that. The distant unitary councils which took over from districts and regions which earlier sank the town councils is totally undemocratic and looks like heading even further from the voter. Witness the number of “arm’s-length companies” hired to run council services such as caring for the elderly, sports and library services, bin collections, waste management and roads maintenance.
No, Councillor Bell, a rise in salaries for councillors, or indeed for what is left of a management service, at Scottish Borders Council is not and can never be welcomed. Much better to get local communities and unpaid elected councillors back to represent their towns because they love their own patch, and do away entirely with salaries of £30,000-plus for a part-time add-on job which never seems to live up to the public’s aspirations.
W. Kenneth Gunn
BLOOMING GOOD IDEA FOR SBC
I would like to make a suggestion to Scottish Borders Council (SBC) which will not only save money, but enhance this region’s countryside.
The council is always bleating about the need to save money, and yet every year it continues with the cutting of mile upon mile of roadside verges for no gain.
It is a waste of machinery, manpower and time. There is no evidence that cutting roadside verges makes them safer, instead it exposes huge amounts of discarded litter and, more importantly, destroys valuable wildlife habitat for insects, mammals, plants and birds, something the local authority ignores.
SBC should take a leaf out of Rotherham council’s book and contribute to nature. Rotherham sowed eight miles of roadside verges with wild flower seeds which now flourish with a wonderful area of colour, attracting bees and other insects, and saving the council £25,000 in cutting costs.
Just think what SBC could achieve if it adopts this practice.
It’s about time our council became a little bit more ambitious and imaginative in its attitude towards our beautiful Borders countryside.
MEMORIES OF WALTER THOMSON
Thank you for printing Kenneth Gunn’s timely and heartfelt tribute to the dying breed of local paper and to that classic editor, Walter Thomson (letters, June 27).
He was not only Kenneth Gunn’s first boss, he was mine too. In the early 50s, I got half-a-crown a week as after-school office boy. I delivered print orders in the main, but was also introduced to page layout and the psychological juxtaposition of editorial matter and adverts.
However, his lasting lesson came by example.
One day he was in casual conversation with my mother at the door. It went on for some time. The next we knew it appeared in meticulous detail in that weekend’s Selkirk Saturday Advertiser.
That taught me never to flourish a notebook and to retain quotes by sound of voice and phrasing in the equivalent of photographic memory. This stood me in good stead as a roving reporter in Europe, Asia and North America, and as a Fleet Street sub-editor – I never mastered shorthand, and tape recorders then were large, clumsy and effete.
Incidentally, when on the West Lothian Courier, copious copy from me appeared in Freddie Johnston’s rival paper because I produced too much for my allocated space in the Courier. I like to think Freddie Johnston would have supported his editor who told his reporters: “I don’t want to know where all this is coming from...”
After all, passing on local news trumps circulation contests.
ENGLISH FAMILIES SEEKING SANITY
It is quite understandable that there are many people who still believe Scotland cannot be a fully self-supporting country.
After 300 years and more of blanket propaganda relentlessly indoctrinating Scots about their poverty, from childhood education to manipulated news in both print and broadcast media, it’s hardly surprising.
But many people are changing: they question the veracity about Scotland’s mythological inadequacies and they do not immediately throw away leaflets, but ask themselves: “Is there something in this?”, and then do their own research.
More and more people are doing this, especially since the EU referendum and unbelievable chaos since. With each Westminster blunder and Brexiteer utterance since 2016, the support for Scottish independence has gone up, now standing at between 49% and 53%. With every prospect that Boris Johnson will be the UK’s next prime minister, the polls can only show further support.
May I conclude with a quote from social media I read recently?: “As an Englishman in England, I can only gaze across the border and marvel. If you saw the madhouse this joint has become, the bile, the venom overheard in pubs, I’m astonished support for Scottish independence is not unanimous by now.”
This reflects a growing pattern of English families moving to Scotland seeking the sanity afforded by our Scottish government.
UK BREAK-UP CLOSER THAN EVER
The break-up of the United Kingdom is closer than it has been since its inception in 1707.
Westminster and, in particular, Boris Johnson may try and “do a deal” for another independence referendum with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Independence would greatly relieve Westminster of the billions of pounds sent each year to the Scottish exchequer, much of which has been wasted and mismanaged by the Scottish nationalist government.
This, of course, will weaken the United Kingdom and prompt further calls for independence from the Welsh and Northern Irish governments. We should rid ourselves of 50% of Westminster and nationalist government MPs – we wouldn’t miss them because not one has produced a solution to Brexit.
Remainer Oliver Robbins, chief Brexit adviser to Theresa May, is personally responsible for three years of Brexit chaos. He is has reported landed a senior position in London’s Square Mile. The establishment will want to look after Robbins instead of, due to his lacklustre Brexit performance, firing him.
Both he and the Prime Minister have a great deal to answer for. People in power are mostly free from reprisals because they know so much about so many. Shoot the monkey and the organ-grinder will still go free.
Our United Kingdom has come to an historic period in time. Only for their own gratification will the First Minister and Scottish nationalists accept independence and eventually blow away 312 years of sovereign history and united achievement second to none
Only four nations voting together can form a fair and just conclusion – for there is no road back from independence, and that affects us all.
WE HAVE A GLOBAL RESPONSIBILITY
I can understand the desire to deny that changes are happening to our climate and that our life choices have been and still are responsible.
It would be much less stressful to my own life if I could forget it so I could fly to my favourite area of Spain, use my car to travel in the Borders where there are no buses and so on.
However, Geoff Moore (letters, July 4) suggests an experiment – one that I can claim to live by some extent (I know others).
I live in a house which is carbon neutral because we had to build it ourselves.
Ah, the bliss of walking about in a solar-warmed house with no fossil fuel heating and free hot water, and more or less free electricity. So come on Persimmon and other volume builders – do it for everyone (it’s not expensive).
I do eat some meat – about 0.75kg a month, which is locally raised whether it’s lamb, beef, pheasant (free) or venison culled to protect trees. Is that bad or good enough I wonder?
And nowadays I can do without imported fruit though weaning myself off tea and coffee is harder (but we will all probably have to). And it all helps me live within my pension as well. What could be better?
I do feel we have a global responsibility. After all, we have historically benefited most from the causes – industrial revolution etc. OK, climate change is far bigger and more invisible to lucky us in Scotland, but it is happening and never mind who in the world are bad guys, the impacts are already affecting us.
Personally, it’s still a process of recognising my limitations, doing what I can where I can and continuing to pressurise our elected representatives to make climate change adaptation easier and mainstream for us all and all over the world. Just do a little – it does all help.
IN DENIAL AND COMPLACENT
Deary me, two more climate-change deniers, in the shape of Clark Cross (Linlithgow) and Geoff Moore (Alness), want to join in the conversation about climate change.
It makes me wonder if there is a national network of these people scouring the local press, waiting for an opportunity to pick up their pens in denial.
Their argument seems to go like this – climate change is pretty unimportant, other economies are bigger than ours, therefore we should be complacent and do nothing, and if the world suffers climate breakdown, so be it. Complacency is king.
This is wrong in several different ways.
Climate breakdown is real and the trend is alarming.
The Arctic is melting, sea level is rising, several European countries have seen record high temperatures recently, and wild fires are larger and more damaging.
Secondly, we are not alone in trying to tackle it. All of the countries of the world, apart from Trump’s America, signed up to the Paris Accord to keep global temperature increase below 2 degrees, and preferably 1.5 degrees.
Each country has to find its own way and, admittedly, some are struggling to balance international commitments with national pressures. They will be held to account, both by their own citizens and global pressure. The UK is showing leadership, quite rightly as we pioneered the Industrial Revolution.
There are many green jobs to be created and new opportunities to be set against the costs.
All of Earth’s inhabitants have to take responsibility for this existential threat and not to be complacent. Every light turned out when it isn’t needed, whether in Selkirk or Beijing, contributes to the chances of our survival as a species.
The last thing we need is climate-change deniers telling us that our efforts are futile.
Dig Currie (Kelso) looks to the heavens for salvation. He could assist his creator by also taking practical action on the ground, such as planting a tree for the future.
ASSEMBLY RERUNS AHEAD?
It is rather unfortunate for ex-Labour MEP David Martin, who is chairing the SNP’s new Citizens’ Assembly, that just as he is trying to assure people that it will operate impartially and free of Scottish government interference, a senior SNP MP comes along and gives the game away.
Joanna Cherry is not in the least coy about saying that this new body will be the “perfect way” to boost independence. In other words, it will be like previous SNP national conversations and consultations on a variety of subjects, whereby only the SNP’s preferred outcome will be listened to, and all else ignored.
Presumably if the Citizens’ Assembly fails to select independence as the solution to all our problems, the SNP will expect rerun assemblies until such time as they do give the ‘correct’ answer.
CASH FOR CHRISTIAN AID
This year’s Christian Aid Week raised £2,953.15 in the Galashiels/Clovenfords area.
I would like to thank people for their generous response to the annual appeal, thus supporting Christian Aid’s mission to relieve the misery, hardship and deprivation caused by war, conflict and disaster worldwide.
Galashiels Christian Aid Group