This summer evening image of Galashiels’ Burgh Chambers and war memorial was captured by Mark G. Kettrick.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
EXTENDING THE SUBSIDY SUPPORT
Newtown and Eildon Community Council is the latest adherent to the Magic Money Tree myth (“Village pleading case to be put back on track”, Southern, August 3).
Barely a week passes without the Scottish Government pleading poverty. As the Borders’ voters have resoundingly rejected the SNP, why should scarce financial resources be diverted away from other parts of Scotland where the SNP seeks to outbid Labour in spending other peoples’ money?
The business case for the Borders Railway has always been shaky, and often “supported” by claims of jobs created over the next two decades. Regularly ignored is the damage to Borders retailers.
Extending the railway would be very disruptive to Melrose, Newtown and, in particular, Hawick as the route has been extensively built over, including the A6091. Replacing the infrastructure and public buildings built over the past four decades would be a significant cost.
In the unlikely event that there’s some capital funding for Borders infrastructure, then overdue repairs/improvements to the A7, perhaps including a Selkirk bypass, make much better sense, in my opinion.
Finally, generally ignored in any discussion about Scotland’s railways are the recurring operating subsidies.
Regional railways require a subsidy per mile per passenger in excess of 30p. The Borders line’s highly-tidal flow from Tweedbank to Edinburgh and back (packed at peak times, but low utilisation otherwise) exacerbates this. So every single journey from/to Tweedbank likely carries a subsidy of £10-11.
An extended Borders Railway would be even more subsidy dependent.
ON THE ROAD TO RADIATION RISK
Christopher Green (letters, August 10) typifies the green brigade who have so badly misled our politicians over many years.
He criticises Clark Cross for saying engineers and scientists should be in charge – I’m with Mr Cross on this one. The green agenda is a form of religion.
The electrification of the UK’s car fleet by 2040 is the latest in a serious of green blunders. The government proposal to electrify the entire car fleet, which should have been put out to consultation, will require the equivalent of 10 Hickley Point nuclear power stations to supply enough electricity.
The quoted range of electric vehicles (EVs) is the most favourable range – range will be halved in a Scottish winter with heater, headlights and wipers all on. Plugging in and uncabling is a chore, and recharging takes up valuable time. A new network of sub-stations and connection points will cost billions.
Modern internal combustion engines have minimal emissions, the technology is tried and tested, and the lifespan of a diesel and petrol car is double that of an electric vehicle which will be scrapped when its battery gives out after 6-8 years because of the expense of renewing it. The facts are that 75% of all Land Rovers ever built are still going strong, while 99% of all Subarus built in the last 10 years are still on the road.
How “green” is it to scrap vehicles, and I may add, how difficult is it to dispose of lithium-ion batteries which are full of poisons?
The UK produces millions of internal combustion engines for use at home and for export – some very fine engines indeed. Do we really want to shut down our engine plants and replace them with Chinese or German-sourced battery power plants? Nissan is selling off its lithium battery plant to GSR Capital of China.
There is also the health and safety aspect. If a large battery is burst, the consequences can be horrific. And no studies into the health risks of being adjacent to the electromagnetic radiation (EMR) in EVs have been carried out.
When Renault brought out the first Scenic I bought one so I could take my bike in the boot. I found that when wearing my heart rate monitor in the car - which I used normally on the bike, it stopped working. Manufacturer Sigma confirmed by letter that this was caused by electromagnetic radiation from the car’s starter battery which in that model was under the floor – just where contemporary EVs have their lithium-ion battery back.
Given that electrical signals in the body control heartbeat, and problems with the body’s electrical system cause arrhythmias and so on, what will the effect be of EMR on cardiovascular and other systems being adjacent to large battery packs over long periods of time?
POSING POWERFUL QUESTIONS
Christopher Green chooses sarcasm as his response to my daring to ask where the electricity will come from to charge millions of electric cars (letters, August 10).
Greens tend to do this when their green religion is questioned.
I, however, will provide information for your readers to decide for themselves.
Mr Green believes that both battery and photo-voltaic technologies will have advanced before 2040 – but wind turbines have produced electricity surplus to requirements for 20 years, yet no battery storage, just an off switch.
Solar his solution?
Southern Solar, Mark Group and Climate Energy have all closed their doors, leaving over 1,400 out of a job. Renewables Solar (UK) has been placed in administration, owing £48.6m to creditors who will get nothing.
Gas currently provides between 37 and 43% of our electricity.
Why am I saying this?
Quite simply, because of the UK’s reckless emissions reduction pledges in the Climate Change Act means drastic measures are needed.
The government intends to phase out gas for heating and cooking by 2050. So new electric cookers, new electric heating and costly new electricity infrastructure.
Perhaps Mr Green can tell us where this additional electricity and money will come from in addition to that needed for electric cars.
He gloats that English cars could be powered from Scottish electricity. SNP by any chance?
Vehicle numbers: Scotland 2.6 million, UK 36.7 million, Europe 251 million. But the world has 1.2 billion vehicles, growing to 2 billion by 2035 – and the majority will be “dirty” diesel and petrol in countries unconcerned about climate change.
Electric vehicles in the West will not “save the planet”.
Truly the lunatics are running the Westminster and Holyrood asylums.
ACCENTUATING THE POSITIVE
Tourism is booming in Scotland in spite of much negativity from the usual quarters.
Visitors come to see our stunning scenery, historic buildings and experience our growing reputation for fine dining. Many people return time and time again because they meet friendly Scots who are enthusiastic about their country.
Walkers alone bring over £1.2bn to the Scottish economy, and walking is a growing activity for thousands of tourists.
With some imaginative planning and political will, the Borders could be great walking country, from the Merse to the Lammermuirs with a variety of walking experiences; but an interlinked network of marked paths is required first.
Tourism is a major industry for Scotland, bringing in millions of pounds every year and boosting our economy. In fact it is the life-blood of some remote areas with little other income.
Perhaps if we were all a bit more positive in our public comments about Scotland, many more tourists would be attracted to our shores.
SINN FEIN FUNDING FARCE
Before November 2005, Sinn Fein had no access to public funds from Westminster because of refusal to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen.
Due to a weak Labour government, the rules were changed to allow them to cash in.
What did they spend the money on?
Their own personal interests (as expected). The late Martin McGuinness, a former IRA chief, claimed £97,000 in one year. In total, the five Sinn Fein MPs, including Gerry Adams, trousered £1.3m in allowances.
All for not taking their seats in parliament and taking advantage of a huge amount of public funding. It’s time to bring this wasteful farce to an end.
But don’t expect any objections from their republican friends – Comrade Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon and the Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones. All three are at present “working” with Irish premier (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar regarding the Irish north-south border and Brexit.
I am sure it will not be to discuss eradication of existing borders to form a united kingdom. No chance – it’s the last thing they wish for. They will only rest when the United Kingdom becomes a total republic and our monarchy eradicated.
HARDLY A TROOPS ‘WITCH-HUNT’
Paul Singleton wants action taken to “bring murderous republicans to justice” (letters, August 3).
Perhaps he thinks that the brave men and women of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and other UK police services were wasting their time during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, from 1969-1998?
Mr Singleton also bemoans “the witch-hunt of British troops involved in The Troubles”.
Tragically, the army was responsible for the deaths of 148 civilians, including blatant cases of murder. Just five soldiers have been convicted of the murder of civilians – hardly a “witch-hunt”.
We would not tolerate the murder of innocent people in Scotland by soldiers, nor should we tolerate murders elsewhere in the UK or wider world.
The letter published last week from your prolific contributor, J. Fairgrieve, certainly plumbs the depths of hypocrisy.
He berates a previous contributor, Paul Singleton, for a letter concerning Northern Ireland, which I missed, possibly because of being on holiday. He then goes into full SNP mode, blaming, as usual, Westminster for every perceived grievance fabricated.
This rhetoric by the nationalists is normal procedure, and to be expected, with the usual punchline being if we were independent all these problems would be solved.
Having written this tirade, however, he ends his letter by expressing his delight that Mr Singleton, on this occasion, refrained from blaming the Scottish Government for anything. If this is not hypocrisy, what is?
TORIES’ BIZARRE TARGET
With Ruth Davidson being put firmly “back in her box” over immigration by the Prime Minister’s number two, Damian Green, this neatly puts well and truly to bed the claim that the Scottish Conservative leader has some influence within the portals of power in London.
Ms Davidson is right in her call for a debate over the UK Government’s ridiculous target to reduce net migration to less than 100,000.
While the amount of pensioners in Scotland is expected to rise by 28% over the next 25 years, worker numbers are only increasing by 1%. We therefore face an ageing population, but only marginal growth in the working-age population, yet all that seems to concern the Tories is achieving a bizarre arbitrary migration target that was set in 2010.
In the run-up to the EU referendum, senior figures in the Leave campaign, such as Michael Gove, promised increased powers over immigration would come to Scotland, with the introduction of a points-based system, should the UK vote to leave the EU. These pledges, like many others that were made in that campaign, have been predictably quickly forgotten.
Scotland desperately needs an immigration system that caters to the challenges we as a nation face, and while Ms Davidson may be calling for such a debate, absolutely no one within her own party is listening.
CADETS’ CAKE STALL CASH
On behalf of 1716 Roxburgh Squadron of the Air Cadets, we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped and supported us with the cake stall at Borders General Hospital on Friday, August 11.
We raised £477.15 for cadet funds.
(chairman, 1716 Roxburgh Squadron)
So, August 12 has come and gone. Sturdy men in tweed (averaging 85 kilos) sallied forth to gallantly blast hot lead through startled grouse wearing only feathers, and weighing in at a maximum of 850 grams.
Glorious? I suppose that’s just a matter of opinion. Peter Glenser, of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, certainly has strong opinions on the matter – so strong indeed that in a letter published in last week’s Southern he characterised people holding opinions different from his own as “extremists”.
To me, and I imagine to most people, this term brings to mind the balaclava, the Isis flag, or neo-Nazi insignia – not law-abiding British citizens signing moderately-worded petitions or writing letters to local newspapers. Mr Glenser’s ill-advised use of hyperbole is shameful – his association should review his suitability to be its chairman.
As for the “myths and propaganda”, let’s examine those put forward by the aforementioned chairman, starting with the last, the inane statement that “grouse moors are internationally-protected habitats, rarer than rainforest”.
This rusty old cliche` is wheeled out regularly by commentators on both sides of the debate. I take it they mean that heather moorland managed for grouse-shooting covers a smaller area than rainforest.
So what. Let’s take another man-made habitat, albeit one that doesn’t involve intensive management of wildlife – the English water-meadow. Did you know they’re rarer than savannah?
Again, so what. Comparing totally-unrelated habitats is pointless – it only serves to demonstrate an ignorance of the bigger environmental picture.
Were moors currently managed for driven grouse-shooting to become unmanaged overnight, some species of wildlife would benefit. Some would be depleted, but not on a global scale. The landscape would change, but not necessarily for the worse.
However, the loss of the world’s rainforests will have an immediate, catastrophic impact on the global climate.
“Gamekeepers create outstanding habitat for many rare and endangered birds – such as lapwings,” Mr Glenser tells us.
Lapwings are predominantly birds of lowland pasture, threatened by the loss of habitat due to modern agricultural practices. The modest increases in lapwing numbers on managed grouse moors will do little, in the long term, to offset the loss of their primary habitat.
Mr Glenser, selective, as usual, with the facts, does not mention the long-term decline of dozens of managed-moorland species, from plants and invertebrates to apex predators.
Were he able, with hand on heart, to truthfully say “gamekeepers create outstanding habitat for endangered moorland species, such as hen harriers and golden eagles”, he would be almost deafened by applause from pragmatists, including the RSPB, critical of the practices inherent in the driven grouse-shooting industry.
This scenario would be dependant on a culture-shift in the grouse-shooting community – primarily an acceptance of lower bags as the norm with the experience of being out on the moor taking precedence over the magnitude of the slaughter. This would bring the shooters in line with deer stalkers and salmon anglers who already, on the whole, demonstrate admirable restraint.
Gamekeepers would need to be as qualified in respect to ecology and biodiversity as they presently are expert at disposing of diverse species of wildlife up to the very limit of what is allowed by law.
To round up, a few facts about the grouse, scientifically known as Lagopus lagopus. This species has a world population of around 40 million, distributed around the tundra region of the northern hemisphere from Ireland east to Labrador.
Its diet is varied – invertebrates, shoots, berries, etc. Its normal population density in suitable habitat is up to 10 per square km. The British red grouse, making up less than 1% of the global population, is merely a colour variant of the species, trapped south of the optimum latitudes by glacial retreat.
On moorland managed for grouse by burning, wildlife control and the supply of medicated grit, the population density can be 20 times higher than the unmanaged norm. This density results in problems with disease, but is deemed necessary to maintain the financial viability of the grouse-killing industry.
Shockingly, over 99% of the world’s grouse (Lagopus lagopus) get along just fine without assistance from gamekeepers.
SALUTING TIM’S STEPS AND SACRIFICE
I am writing in response to your inspirational article, “Tim will walk 500 miles and then 500 more” (Southern, August 3).
I stammer and have never heard about one single person doing something so great to raise awareness of stammering.
Tim Bell deserves an infinite amount of praise for this scheme.
It does not surprise me that the chair of the British Stammering Association (BSA) would walk the length of the country to have this ongoing conversation about stuttering. It reminds me of the song, “The Dangling Conversation”, on the famous 1968 Simon and Garfunkel album, Bookends.
The BSA is a dynamic and proactive organisation that helps UK stammerers in so many ways.
Here is North America we have The Stuttering Foundation (www.stammeringhelp.org) which is famous for its website that gives out numerous and diverse free resources for stammerers of all ages. All a person needs is access to a computer to access the resources.
I hope that there is much BBC coverage of Tim Bell’s historic walk. I salute him for this great personal sacrifice that will no doubt go far, far more than the length of Britain in terms of helping people who stammer.