Curtis Welsh captured honeysuckle in full bloom, against an Eildon Hills backdrop.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
A QUESTION OF PRIORITIES
I cannot believe that members of the current regime at Scottish Borders Council are so blinkered that they don’t see the possibility of blood on their own hands in the very near future.
The cutbacks that this body is involved in have seen some pretty dire consequences already, and the programme seems never-ending.
It is not acceptible to see play parks threatened with extinction, and even before that, to see most of them reduced to hay fields rather than acceptable leisure areas.
It is not acceptable to see cemeteries and burial grounds reduced from once-loved places of reflection and commemoration to something resembling where a farmer would cut silage.
It cannot be acceptable to see unswept pavements and roads with weeds growing up between paving stones and kerbs, and to see an almost total lack of drop kerbs where a wheelchair or even a mother with a pram can safely cross the street.
The council must rate as the worst in Scotland, if not Britain, for this lack of care for those who need to cross streets, especially with indiscriminate and illegal parking apparently unseen by councillors.
Road maintenance is almost at zero and no wonder staff in what used to be the best DLO in Scotland are taking industrial action, not just about a cut in their pensions and overtime, but the fact that there seems to be nothing in the way of progress to guarantee that their department will actually exist next week or next year.
But surely it takes the biscuit when we hear the councillor in charge of roads agree with his colleagues that we should no longer see our major roads properly maintained and serviced during the winter months, and pavements won’t be gritted anywhere until after around 8am as it costs too much to have the personnel in their depots and ready to go out by 6am.
What about staff from other industries getting to their work? What about NHS staff who have to get to their work morning, noon and night, and will run the danger of serious injury or worse in an effort to get to the surgery or operating theatre to tend commuters caught on frosty roads and icy pavements caused by this council?
The idea that a few thousand pounds may be saved by cutting the hours of service at Newtown St Boswells is in stark contrast to the “wonderful” plan to buy land for the outlay of £15m at Lowood Estate next to Tweedbank to build houses and factories on.
Although with the money already sent to the owners in the Cayman Islands, there is still no guarantee that a legal challenge won’t stop the grandiose plans without a single bit of building allowed on this beautiful rural corridor along the banks of the Tweed.
It is also in stark contrast with the daft scheme to bring the Great Tapestry of Scotland to Galashiels at a cost of £6m after every other local authority in Scotland has turned it down and 90% of Borderers are against it.
It is in stark contrast to spending £3m on turning a disused road bridge near Lindean which is now not on a highway and rebuilding it as it was to turn it into a footbridge which could have been built like the one in Selkirk between Bridge Street and South Bridge Street for a few thousand pounds.
The plan to issue every pupil at secondary and primary schools with an iPad is commendable, but at what price?
This council apparently cannot afford to replace a primary school in Selkirk which was opened in 1881 and while the staff work wonderfully, Knowepark is incapable of modernisation or expansion – it needs a total replacement on a site which should include playgrounds and sports facilities, both of which are impossible to put on the present site.
Isn’t it time that someone on the council actually woke up and saw that the authority is heading over the cliff,a phrase that is so bandied about when referring to national politicians?
I haven’t yet seen the balance sheet which shows where all the money saved in “cutbacks” goes and the dwindling services we are supposed to get from our council tax. Can we please have sight of that account to see where our money is being spent or hoarded in some secret reserve, because it all looks one-sided to me.
Get your priorities right, councillors.
W. Kenneth Gunn
A CUT IN STANDARD OF SERVICE
This letter is addressed to people like myself who have family and friends interred in Borders cemeteries.
The scenario is this: you have, for many years, paid a gardener to cut your lawn and strim round your flower beds. He has always made a neat and tidy job.
However, one day he comes to you and says instead of cutting the grass and keeping the garden tidy every fortnight, it’s now going to be monthly. He will be charging you more and instead of strimming round your flower beds, the gardener plans to liberally spread weedkiller which will kill off your flowers and plants. What would your reply to the gardener be?
Sadly, that’s what is happening regarding Scottish Borders Council’s parks and cemeteries department, with cutbacks in amenity maintenance.
Why should those responsible keep their jobs if, like the gardener, their standard of service is being severely constrained. I say they should be treated the same.
Finally, with anger and disgust growing towards the parks and cemeteries department, I believe a campaign to get respect returned to those interred should be launched, and I would definitely be part of it.
TALKING CRAP ON SCOTTISH FINANCES
The comments by John Lamont (‘View from Westminster’, August 29) on the GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) figures are quite disingenuous.
Firstly, the Scottish government does not have a budget deficit.
The legislation that established the Holyrood parliament expressly forbids the Scottish government to spend more than it receives, but as long as Scotland is part of the UK it is expected to accept responsibility for its ‘population share’ of the deficit incurred by the London government.
Secondly, Mr Lamont is comparing chalk and cheese.
Scotland’s current finances cannot be compared to those of an independent Scotland.
The GERS figures include large items of expenditure north of the border by the Westminster administration that an independent Scottish government would not spend.
For example, an independent Scotland would not spend huge amounts of money on renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system.
Nor would it be spending its population share of the enormous – and ever-increasing – cost of the London crossrail project that will not benefit anyone in Scotland, or of the enormous – and growing – cost of the HS2 railway.
These are just a few examples of how an independent Scotland would be better off and would not have a deficit.
Richard Murphy, professor of practice in international political economy at City University in London, who has made a special study of the GERS figures over the years, has often said that they should be re-named CRAp – Completely Rubbish Approximations.
BORIS BREXIT ONLY CHOICE ON MENU
Over the past three years, many Brexit definitions have emerged – a hard Brexit, a soft Brexit, in/out of the customs union/single market et al.
Now it seems there is only one option – the Boris Brexit.
Mr Johnson says he wants a deal, but is that achievable in only a few weeks? Equally important is what does the deal he seeks look like? How does it differ from Theresa May’s? We haven’t been told.
However, one thing is becoming clear.
Many on opposite sides of the remain/leave debate are unhappy about the actions of the new government and the apparent eroding of the normal democratic process.
Surely the time has come for calm, rational discussion and debate, to achieve a consensus within the country rather than the imposition of the prime minister’s own narrow view.
A “no deal” option was not on the referendum ballot paper in 2016.
Ettrick, Roxburgh and
SNP’s DOUBLE OR QUITS APPROACH
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants us to believe that the latest Brexit machinations at Westminster mean independence will become “completely inevitable”.
Yet this assumes the people of Scotland will welcome the SNP’s double or quits approach to constitutional uncertainty.
Whatever is finally delivered out of the Brexit process, I doubt Scotland as a whole will share the SNP’s enthusiasm for yet more discord and division.
LITTLE LOVE OFFERED TO RUSSIA
Andrey Pritsepov, Russia’s consul-general in Scotland until last weekend, was asked if he had any disappointments during his term of office.
He replied: “Scotland’s inability to grasp the business opportunities presented by Russia.
“I have been discussing this issue with Scottish companies and authorities for quite a while and mention trade between Russia and countries with similar populations and territories.
“For example, with Norway the bilateral trade exceeds $5bn, Denmark $7bn and Netherlands more than $18bn.
“Trade between Scotland and Russia hardly exceeds $250m.”
When asked about his working relationship with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, he answered: “I’ve never met her.” When asked if he has requested a meeting, he replies: “Yes, several times.”
This is incredible and unacceptable from a First Minister who is leaving a trail of business, health and education confusion, and increasing daily the largest gross domestic product (GDP) deficit and taxation system in Europe.
DOSE OF REALITY PRESCRIBED
Donald McPhillimy said that I “mocked Greta Thunberg and other young people who are concerned about the state of our planet, accusing them of hypocrisy” (letters, August 29).
I did not use the word “hypocrisy”, but now see that it is a fitting description of those who preach the gospel according to St Green, but rack up emissions on their world travels.
Recently Elton John paid carbon money for the flights taken by Harry and Megan as though that somehow cuts emissions. Then, of course, we have the luvvies, the actors who fly in to climate change rallies, say a few green words and fly out again.
The numerous dresses the women actors wear creates emissions similar to that of a small country.
I will not descend to the level of abuse shown by Mr McPhillimy, but ask him if he has an electric car, does not use gas for cooking or heating, and does not take foreign holidays.
He says of me that “a little humility would be a more appropriate response”.
I would suggest that he needs a dose of reality as the majority of countries are still burning fossil fuels and driving 1.2bn petrol/diesel vehicles and increasing their emissions whilst Scotland, with 0.13% of global emissions, thinks, like Mr McPhillimy, that Scotland can save the planet.
INVITE TO TRACK DOWN SOME CASH
Search and rescue (SAR) charities across the country are being invited to apply for grant money to help train their volunteers.
The UK Search and Rescue Volunteer Fund, managed by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), is part of a 10-year programme to assist SAR charities with a wide range of training. In the past, money has gone towards teaching flood-rescue techniques, and technical training for search and rescue in difficult locations throughout the United Kingdom, in caves, mountains, waterways and at sea.
Eligible organisations may be new or well-established, provide 24/7 search-and-rescue activities, and show they are authorised to operate by the relevant authorities. Collaborative bids from regional groups of local SAR organisations are encouraged.
Full details and eligibility criteria can be found on the CAF website under ‘UKSAR Volunteer Training Fund’. The deadline for applications is September 23.
Charities Aid Foundation
St Bride Street
HELP FOR THOSE ON HARD TIMES
In 1901 John Murdoch left the entire residue of his estate in trust.
Its purpose was to relieve those who had fallen on hard times and shown a sympathy in the pursuits of science.
Murdoch appointed four trustees in his will – the professor of physics, chemistry and geology at the University of Edinburgh, and a trustee with a background in finance. Convention has remained and the successors of each office have continued to assume the trusteeship.
Today the Murdoch Trust makes awards totalling £30,000 each year, providing support to people in many ways.
For example, financial assistance with transport, furniture and home repairs, purchase of computers and equipment, grants towards wellbeing, winter fuel costs and rental arrears.
Who can apply?
z Individuals over the age of 50;
z Organisations whose purposes align with those of the trust.
Full details of the grant scheme and how to apply can be found on the charity’s website: www. http://www.wssociety.co.uk/charities/murdoch
The deadline for applications this year is Thursday, October 31.