Steam was taking the strain when Curtis Welsh saw this Scottish Railway Preservation Society tour heading down the Borders Railway past Bowland earlier this month.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
DON’T LECTURE THE EU, MRS HAMILTON
Rachael Hamilton MSP claims that the backstop for Northern Ireland is “undemocratic, it is not what the Irish or Northern Irish want” (‘View from Holyrood’, August 8).
The backstop in the EU Withdrawal Agreement is a guarantee to avoid a hard border in Ireland, and to protect the peace process. A Sky data poll in February found that 79% of people in the Republic of Ireland supported the backstop. A LucidTalk poll in Northern Ireland in December 2018 indicated 65% of people there supported a special status, in other words the backstop.
Mrs Hamilton then instructs that “the EU must ensure that its member state, the Republic of Ireland, is not forced to adopt a hard border” and claims the UK is “looking to seek practical solutions, such as technological interventions along the border”.
Mrs Hamilton should not be lecturing the EU. It is for the Conservatives and other Brexit-supporting parties to come up with a workable and safe solution to the Irish border. She should acknowledge that ex-Prime Minister Theresa May worked hard to find alternative arrangements to a hard border, but none are practical.
Next Mrs Hamilton attacks the Labour Party and has her usual dig at the Scottish National Party.
Neither of these parties are to blame for the Brexit-mess created by her party.
Mrs Hamilton should stop using the ‘View from Holyrood’ column for spreading misinformation.
RABBLE ROUSERS’ CHEAP SLOGANS
Paul Singleton (letters, August 8) has committed a further string of disconnected and inaccurate comments to your correspondence column.
He demonstrates a total lack of understanding about the causes of the Stormont suspension and then produces a bizarre parallel with the current Scottish government, accusing the present administration of “blocking a deal with the EU”. He then continues to blame it on fear of Sinn Fein, which is not actually a Scottish political party.
There was nothing democratic about the 2016 referendum, which was based on lies and misrepresentations by the present PM, his cronies and the Brexit rabble rousers with their cheap slogans.
If Singleton sets such store by the result of that referendum, he would do well to note the overwhelming proportion of us Scots who wish to stay in the EU. It’s not very democratic to force our nation to leave against its will.
The behaviour of the Tory Westminster administration in recent years has been such that many folk in Scotland would now prefer to remain within the EU rather than as part of the UK.
The patronising suggestion of direct rule from London sticks in the craw. Attitudes have hardened as the Brexiteers have polarised Britain and turned new sectors of the Scottish public towards independence.
(Ms) S. Reed
TIME TO TAKE AWAY NATIONALISTS’ KEY
It’s not a game of poker which Westminster parliamentarian Remainers are currently playing – it’s the future of their constituents who voted for Brexit via referendum in 2016.
Remainer MPs not able to come to terms with this democratic choice should face a vote of no confidence, as a decision has been made collectively by each constituency across the UK. Brexiteers voted to leave the EU only. No other decision had to be made.
Brexit has not shone a kindly light on our parliamentarians in both houses and some radical changes need to be made, namely to reduce member numbers by 50% (and we still wouldn’t miss them). The House of Lords (although our greatest establishment) is regarded as the best club in the world and has been too comfy too long.
Brexit is also being used by Scottish and Welsh nationalists as a tool for personal power. A possible direct-rule contingency is planned to solve this problem. Nationalists are now preparing to drive into a one-way street with no chance of return.
Time to take away their key – or lose our sovereign United Kingdom forever.
PM RECRUITING POPULAR SUPPORT
Am I the only one getting fed up with Westminster politicians making promises that they never keep and announcing policies without any evidence that they will succeed?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that he intends to double the length of prison sentences and to increase police powers of stop and search.
Studies have shown that the greatest deterrent to crime is not the length of punishment, but the likelihood of getting caught. Figures show that only 4% of robberies were solved in England and Wales in 2017, compared with 9% in 2013. Overall detection rates during the 1960s were around 45%. In 2018 they had reduced to only 9%.
Prisons do what they can but, at best, they do little to reduce re-offending rates and, at worst, are a classroom for criminals to perfect their skills. Community service and restorative justice, where criminals are more likely to face the effect of their crimes, and make restitution to those affected, are not soft options.
Prison should not be used in the vain hope of reforming criminal behaviour, but only to lock away those who are likely to pose a significant risk to society.
Stop and search has failed in the past.
Criminality in areas with high numbers ethnic minorities decreased quite dramatically when these powers were restricted, and at the same time detection of crime improved. Minorities felt more able to cooperate with a police force more understanding about the needs of their people, without fear that members of their community may be unfairly targetted.
The extra 20,000 police officers announced by Mr Johnson will take around three years to recruit. Even then this will not compensate for the 20,564 police officers lost to the force since 2010. English police forces are also likely to lose around 20,000 officers through retirement and natural wastage over the same three-year period, so it is possible that police numbers will still be at the all-time low levels that they reached this year.
To treat these complex issues with such simplistic solutions, designed simply to recruit popular support, does nothing to help either those investigating crime or its victims.
SOLUTION TO SAVE SCOTTISH LABOUR
The recent fallout between Scottish Labour and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell over a second independence referendum is another episode in the excruciatingly-painful demise of the Scottish Labour Party.
If the Scottish Government, Scottish Parliament and Scottish people (according to the recent Ashcroft poll) are now in favour of a second independence referendum, how can Scottish Labour argue against it? Surely it’s the next logical and democratic step to take?
Edinburgh MP Ian Murray’s response to John McDonnell’s recent comments that Labour won’t stand in the way of a second referendum sums up the hypocritical and illogical stance of Labour in Scotland today.
Mr Murray, in an interview with Radio Scotland, said that Labour is an “internationalist party founded on a vision of solidarity”. He conveniently forgot to mention that the founder of the Labour Party, Keir Hardie, also fought for Scottish home rule.
Mr Murray happily promotes the need for a second referendum on Brexit, but vehemently opposes one on Scottish independence.
Scottish Labour is failing to realise that Brexit and Scottish independence are the biggest political issues of our times. If they could combine the desire of the majority of people north of the border to stay in the European Union with the growing numbers who want Scotland to determine its own future, they might find the means of their resuscitation in Scotland.
More importantly, they would find themselves on the right side of rationality and democracy.
FAR FROM BEING A BENIGHTED NATION
Is there no end to Richard West’s ravings (letters, August 8).
At least his favourite target – Scottish teachers – was spared this time.
Instead we had an unhinged polemic about England being a “benighted country”. We were told that England “faces mass unemployment”, that immigrants are “leaving in droves”, there are “racial sterotypes”, the NHS “will end”, and that Brexit will bring “economic and social Armageddon”.
What are the facts?
Unemployment is at a record low. Immigration is considerably higher than emigration – 258,000 more people chose to live in the UK in 2018 than left.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet is the most diverse in history. Some examples: Boris has Turkish ancestry; Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, comes from a Czech Jewish family; the family of Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, hails from Uganda and India; Sajid Javid, the Chancellor, born in Rochdale, is the son of a Pakistani bus driver.
Boris Johnson has given the English NHS an extra £20bn, of which millions will come to Scotland under the Barnett formula.
This formula gives every Scot – man, woman and child – an extra £1,600 per year in public expenditure over England.
UK inward investment is at a record high. In recent days, for example, Hitachi Rail announced investment of an extra £400m at its huge plant at Newton Aycliffe, which employs 7,000 people. BMW has chosen its Oxford plant, employing 4,500 people, to produce the new electric Mini. Indian-owned Jaguar-Land Rover has built a new battery manufacturing plant at Hams Hall, and is investing billions in its flagship XJ model which will be built at the famous Castle Bromwich factory.
Meanwhile exporters thrive. Bombardier in Derby has just won a £2.4bn contract to build a new monorail in Cairo.
Mr West’s solution to this “doom” is, of course, independence, though he does not mention that Scotland is already £10bn in the red, that only 43% of adults pay income tax and that if independence should happen a decade of super-austerity would lie ahead.
So, would I like to live in England?
No. Not any more than I would Edinburgh. England is hugely overpopulated, traffic congestion is horrendous and house prices sky-high.
Scotland in the Union is the best of both worlds.
GALA CEMETERY MAKING THE CUT
Last week I had a meeting at Heatheryett cemetery in Galashiels with Craig Blackie, from Scottish Borders Council’s parks and cemeteries department, and Councillor Sandy Aitchison to discuss the terrible state of the cemetery.
However, during the meeting an operator was cutting the grass with a ride-on cutter and another operator was strimming.
This is the tidiest I have seen the grass this year, and I have taken photographs of this and will keep doing so. The previous photographs I took were of a sacred burial ground with overgrown grass, and flowers and plants killed off by the liberal spreading of weedkiller. Hopefully, we won’t go back to this unacceptable situation.
I thank both men for meeting me.
TOO RELIANT ON WIND FARM POWER
We have just had two worrying glimpses of the future to which current energy policy is leading us.
On Friday, power cuts caused by problems with a large wind farm and power station effected up to a million people across England, causing travel chaos as some railway stations and airports lost power.
It is concerning that the National Grid needed to protect itself by cutting power to some electricity consumers, rather than being able to switch in power stations that were on spinning reserve.
The underlying problem can only get worse as we continue to decommission both fossil fuel and nuclear power stations which can provide base-load electricity. Increasingly, we are relying on the expensive and wildly-variable output from wind farms. The inevitable consequences are that power outages will get bigger and more common, while electricity also gets much more expensive.
In a few years’ time, economic necessity will force us to reverse the current energy policy and start building new power stations. As a stop-gap measure, we may well be forced to hire floating nuclear reactors from the Russians. The first of these, the Akademik Lomonosov, is currently being towed through the Arctic Ocean on its way to Chukotka in Siberia.
Do we really want a floating Chernobyl tied up at Leith?