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Sarah Gulliver took this image of the winter sun setting near Tweed Horizons, St Boswells.Please email photographs, with a brief caption, to [email protected]
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
OBSTACLES ON THE EXTENSION TRACK
Not for the first time are the railway enthusiasts getting carried away about extending the line beyond Tweedbank.
Public finance constraints and the Jacobs report are simply ignored. The Holyrood government is struggling to manage its finances, and this will only get more challenging due to demographics.
So, there’s no spare £500m lying around.
The Jacobs implementability appraisal of the option to extend beyond Tweedbank to Hawick and/or Carlisle identified significant technical constraints and adverse environmental impacts. It also described such an extension as high cost. Finally, it stated that it could face opposition due the potential impacts on the natural environment.
Not a ringing endorsement; quite the reverse in fact.
The focus should be sorting out problems with the existing service which is neither reliable nor providing adequate capacity.
CONFIDENT OF PROJECT GO-AHEAD
Being a former employee at knitwear firm Peter Scott in Hawick – the 10 years that I spent there were 10 of the happiest years of my working life – nobody more than me wants to see the development of the building happen, bringing jobs and, hopefully, some prosperity to the town.
While the applicants claim to have submitted their proposal for housing in March, it was only registered in late April.
The applicants have always been aware of the need to undertake flood-risk assessment and to pay developer contributions ( unless they could make a case that this would make the scheme unviable).
To the best of my knowledge they still have not submitted a flood-risk assessment.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), being a statutory consultee, has objected to the application, so even if the council wanted to approve the application, it couldn’t. An objection from SEPA automatically means that it would have to be referred to Scottish Government ministers.
Although the applicants have been aware for many months that they need to submit this information, I am informed that they only submitted the case to waive developer contributions just before Christmas.
I think everyone wants to see this development happen and after speaking to planning officers on Friday afternoon – I contacted them after several constituents and townsfolk asked me about this matter – I am convinced that they want to see the building restored and brought back to life.
I understand that there has been increased dialogue with the developer and his agent to resolve the outstanding matters, and I think that everyone is confident that a positive outcome can and will be achieved once the technical issues are resolved.
(councillor for Hawick and Hermitage ward)
GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT CHAOS
In June 2018, I suggested a gardening sabbatical be adhered to by your weekly politically-motivated serial contributors.
Unfortunately it appears that no one heeded my advice, and the weekly tirade has continued unabated. And what have the thousands of words achieved? – basically nothing.
Nicola (Sturgeon) is no nearer to ascending to her throne, and the requisite monument depicting herself and her trusty selfie stick erected in Princess Street Gardens.
Strangely, she seems unable to acknowledge the irony that more Scots voted to leave the EU than voted for the SNP in the last election, and bizarrely pledges her allegiance to the crumbling Euro zone. This would appear to be a recipe for disaster if she ever achieved another independence vote.
Also, the SNP, in its apparent quest to ruin Scotland’s infrastructure, has managed to create chaos in every government department evolved from Westminster. Again, hardly a vote-winning ideology.
Finally, many words have been dedicated to Brexit which, unfortunately, Remainers, with their contempt for democracy and churlish behaviour, have managed to turn an already difficult constitutional problem into a long, protracted battle against the establishment and all its failings.
Hopefully common purpose will prevail, but I fear not.
So, basically, in a few words, that sums up what has evolved over the last few months – virtually nothing and all those hours spent over a hot keyboard have been wasted.
Unfortunately, I am fairly positive in thinking that the letters pages readers will be subjected to more endless opinions from both sides, and in all probability I will be the first person on the receiving end.
DOING THEMSELVES NO CREDIT AT ALL
It is absolutely outrageous that people are having to suffer hardship and starvation while rich Conservative MPs pussyfoot around, trying to decide how cheaply they can make the Universal Credit system work.
The reason the Tories are doing this is so that they can scrape together enough money to spend billions on nuclear weapons that we don’t need.
Surely it would be far better to look after the poor of the nation.
Scotland would be far better off as an independent nation, managing our own financial affairs. Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world per head of population, but most of the wealth goes straight to the Treasury in London. If we were independent, we would retain all of that wealth and be much better able to alleviate poverty.
ECONOMIC WITH THE TRUTH
Politicians of all sides like to present their record in the most favourable light, sometimes being rather economic with the truth in the process.
We should, however, expect a higher standard among those responsible for public finances. After all, it is our money they are talking about, so the least we deserve is honesty in how they are spending it.
It is therefore a very poor look for finance secretary Derek Mackay to blatantly seek to misrepresent the continuing cuts in the funding of our local authorities, claiming that they are actually increasing.
Councils estimate that their core funding is down by more than £250m, and this explains why the squeeze on critical public services continues. This will inevitably impact on our schools, despite SNP claims that education is a “priority”.
For many years now this SNP government has disproportionately pushed austerity onto councils, leaving more for SNP centrally-controlled populist pronouncements and giveaways which ministers hope will prop up support for them.
Mr Mackay continues to claim he has increased local authority budgets by disingenuously including in his numbers elements of funding which are not under the councils’ control.
We deserve better from the holder of Scotland’s purse strings.
INDYREF2 DEMAND WON’T BE MET
Nicola Sturgeon chooses her words carefully, telling us in a radio interview that she hopes to announce her “preferred” second independence referendum timing very soon.
In this she tacitly acknowledged what we all know – that whatever date prior to the 2021 Holyrood election the SNP leader may demand for a referendum, she won’t get it.
Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly told her and us that indyref2 is off the agenda while the Brexit process is ongoing – and judging by the current chaos in Westminster, the voting public are not going to obtain a clear view on what exiting the EU means long-term for some considerable time.
Then, once we have left and the transition period expired, our trading relationships with the EU and other parts of the world will emerge over a number of years, not according to Ms Sturgeon’s peremptory indyref2 timetable.
The reality is, as Ms Sturgeon is well aware, the earliest date indyref2 might take place is 2023 if – and it’s a big if – a nationalist majority is returned in the 2021 Holyrood election. Anything else is merely rhetoric.
SPEAK UP FOR SAFETY AT WORK
There will have been empty seats at Christmas dinner tables across the country last year because loved ones have departed this Earth too soon.
A multitude of reasons for that exist, but far too often in Scotland the reason is work-related: an incident or an illness, caused by work, has resulted in loss of life.
And it may not be the one empty seat.
Because my 26-year-old brother was engaged to be married when he was electrocuted at work.
So, it is not just him who we miss, but the amazing woman who was to be his wife, and the bouncing bairns they never got to have.
You could be forgiven for thinking that deaths in Scotland caused by poor work-related health and safety are few and far between. After all, the Health and Safety Executive told us that only 17 workers lost their lives last year. And in a country with a population of around 5.5m, that’s not that many, right?
But behind each one of those “statistics” is a family member. And it’s awful enough that 17 loved ones should leave for work, never to return home. But this is far from the whole story.
Because, it doesn’t “count” those who die in air, sea or rail incidents, it doesn’t count those who die on our roads while working.
It doesn’t count members of the public who die in work-related incidents, nor does it capture those for whom work is a cause of suicide.
When all of those individuals are taken into account, more than 130 workers die in work-related incidents annually.
And that still leaves us to add in excess of 4,000 people who die annually as a result of work-related illness, such as the cancers caused by asbestos or diesel emissions, or heart disease which has prolonged standing at work as a contributing factor, or the lung disease resulting from exposure to welding fumes, dusts or gases.
At Scottish Hazards, a charity committed to improving workplace health and safety, we want people to concentrate on speaking up.
We want you to think about your own workplace. Have you said at any point in this past year: “That’s an accident waiting to happen?”
If the conditions still exist that made you say that, we want you to pick up the phone to us, or drop us an email, and we can give you advice and support to help improve the situation. But don’t just think about your own workplace.
Think about the conversations you’ve had with your children, your partner or spouse, your parents or siblings. Do they feel safe at work? Is there anything they think could be done to keep them safer or healthier at work?
Phone us for advice which you can then pass onto them.
Because we’re sadly all too aware that people often don’t speak up because they are afraid for their jobs.
They fear that if they speak up, they will be labelled a troublemaker and could lose their livelihood. We don’t want any such fear to result in a loss which is even greater to bear.
Scottish Hazards can be contacted by email at [email protected], or on our adviceline number: 0800 0015 022, Mon to Thurs, 9am till 7pm, and Fri, 9am till 5.30pm. We can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.
Scottish Hazards trustee
RETRACTING FALSE CLIMATE CLAIMS
We are constantly being bombarded with prophesies of doom by the climate-disaster brigade, but the Global Warming Policy Foundation publishes verifiable facts, not computer-model scaremongering.
Global temperatures have dropped for the third year in a row. Antarctica is not losing ice, but gaining enough to offset losses in the west. The Pacific nation Tuvalu, which climate scientists prophesised would disappear beneath the waves, is actually getting bigger.
The BBC has been forced to retract its false claims that global warming is creating a greater number of hurricanes, with many more powerful. The number and intensity of US hurricanes has remained constant since 1900.
Corals can withstand another 100-250 years of climate change. Coral bleaching is a natural event that has gone on for centuries.
A catastrophic rise in sea levels is unlikely this century.
The National Geographic admitted that it was wrong to say that the polar bear it featured was starving because of climate change. Polar bear numbers have increased dramatically and they are not endangered.
Those who make a living from climate-disaster theories will not be pleased.