Your picture of the week
Allan Pettigrew saw a deer while walking through Bowmont Forest, south of Kelso.Please email photographs, with a brief caption, to [email protected]
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
As the poppy police put away their wee red flowers after another remembrance season, I ponder the point of it all.
Practically, the British Legion now equates to little more than social clubs with cheap beer.
As for the political message, more and more folk are coming to understand that it is little more than an arm of The Establishment glorifying imperialist carnage.
The sale and wearing of red poppies is declining all the time – increasing numbers of white peace poppies are being sold and now you can display your true humanity with a purple poppy in recognition of animals who suffer in mankind’s periodic outbursts of genocidal madness.
Watching a largely-ignored poppy stand on Waverley station earlier this month, I wondered if the same folk will be there in 2045.
As I have said before in these columns, if we made the same effort celebrating the NHS as we do glorifying war we would be much nearer to becoming a half-decent society. We are getting there; the NHS is now feted in a way which starts to recognise its value – something English Tories hate.
The remembrance industry has stopped being the sacred cow it once was when any criticism of the poppy police was regarded as high treason.
But, as a society, we have a way to go, and the BBC even further.
EXTINGUISHING A PRIMITIVE ACTIVITY
Should we not, in the 21st century, reconsider our attitude to fireworks displays?
After all we are more and more concerned about protecting the environment in which we live. Fireworks do not enhance the environment; they damage it.
They cause air pollution and noise pollution, and result in littering. They frighten domestic and wild animals. Their explosions cause flashbacks with servicemen who suffer from post-traumatic disorders. Fireworks displays place an unnecessary burden on the emergency services. On November 5 crews responded to 338 bonfire incidents across Scotland.
It seems that every village has to have its own night-wrecking display to celebrate the failure of an attempted Catholic terrorist plot in 1605 – paid for by the taxpayer in one way or other. And parents are badgered by their offspring to buy bigger and costlier every year for their own garden mayhem.
Edinburgh “prides itself” in being able to compete with the waste of London and Sydney in propelling tons of explosives into the night sky at Hogmanay. This is not something to be proud of.
Far from reducing in number as knowledge advances, these exercises in waste appear to be on the increase. There is even a fashion now for high-end weddings to have a fireworks event (£5000 up in smoke). The word “celebrate” has morphed into “explode”.
Surely the time has come for thinking people to take a step back and examine whether the supposed pleasure brought by this primitive activity is worth the degradation and harm it causes.
STAND BY YOUR PROMISE, JOHN
Earlier this month – on November 6 – a landmark was reached when the retirement age for men and women was equalised at 65.
However, the fact that men and women are now equal in this respect makes little or no difference to the problems that women born during the 1950s face as they approach retirement.
The WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaign has always supported the equalisation of the state pension age.
However, reports show that males have five times more in their pension pots than females at 65, and that far more women than men will be totally reliant on their state pension. This substantiates our stance that 1950s women are, and will continue to be, worse off financially when they reach retirement age, and have therefore been hit especially hard by the failure on the Westminster government’s part to give them sufficient notice of the increase in their state pension age.
It’s clear that the effects of state pension age equalisation weren’t looked into thoroughly, either in 1995 when the age for women was increased from 60 to 65, or in 2011 when it was accelerated for both men and women to 66. Equalisation is not simply just about the age you reach retirement, but also about your ability to accrue a full state pension entitlement, and generate a private pension, to have any hope of security in retirement.
WASPI women had significantly less opportunity to do either and are now facing the consequences. We are having to fight a battle about laws passed in 1995, but not communicated until 14 years later, and whose effects were further exacerbated in 2011.
We urge younger women to ensure that they will achieve the equality in pensions denied to 1950s females.
We continue to ask the government to meet us to consider what fair transition can be provided for the 3.8m women born in the 1950s affected by the lack of notice to the change in their state pension age, and for our MPs to support their constituents.
“People before politics” was your promise, John Lamont. Please stand by that promise.
RELYING ON ENGLISH IMPORTS
Once again England powers ahead in the energy field as drilling starts in Cornwall to exploit geothermal energy, only days after the first fracked gas flows in Lancashire.
Meanwhile, in Scotland we are becoming increasingly reliant on Goldilocks wind – too slow, so little or no electricity is generated; or too strong, in which case the turbines have to be disconnected and money paid out for them not producing electricity.
Exactly the same drilling technology is used in exploiting geothermal energy, fracking for shale gas and recovering oil from the North Sea. Furthermore, Scotland is not short of the appropriate geologists, engineers and technicians – they have been working out of Aberdeen for decades.
It is high time for a complete rethink of Scotland’s energy policy. Expensive part-time electricity, backed up by imports from south of the border, is no basis for energy security, economic growth or, for those in favour of it, independence.
UNIONIST VISION OF ‘BETTER TOGETHER’?
I was amused, but not really surprised, to read in last week’s edition Paul Singleton’s latest ridiculous and arrogant assertion that Scotland’s finances “should now be handled directly from Westminster”.
Perhaps he also believes that I should hand him my wallet, let him spend my money as he sees fit, and gratefully accept whatever he decides to give me back, to spend on my own needs.
Is this his Unionist vision of “Better Together”?
HOPE AND HELP IS AT HAND
It’s good to see the spotlight shine on bullying during Anti-Bullying Week each year, but it can be overwhelming if all we are faced with are hard-hitting statistics and desperately-sad stories.
Bullying is frightening – it can have serious long-term consequences, but there is a message of hope.
Since the 1980s Kidscape has transformed the lives of children and families through our free ZAP workshops that teach practical skills to stand up to bullying behaviour, and our advice line for parents and carers. We have also trained tens of thousands of teachers to recognise bullying and take decisive action to stop it.
Bullying is not inevitable. Help is at hand.
SUPPORTING YOUNG PEOPLE
Let’s Talk Associates (LTA) is a not-for-profit group of professional and qualified counsellors, coaches and therapists based in the Borders.
Its mission is to support and help people who require specialist help.
As well as private paying clients, the organisation aims to provide awareness and support to groups and individuals within the region where they cannot gain access to support from medical and other support teams, and where they cannot afford private consultations.
In order to achieve this, LTA is raising funds, in this instance specifically to help young people (ages 12-25). One of the sources for the funding is a crowdfunding campaign which was launched earlier this month (https://chuffed.org/project/time-to-think).
(on behalf of Let’s Talk
BRIDGES BETTER THAN WALLS
It’s been interesting reading coverage of Emmanuel Macron’s warning of the rise of nationalism in Europe – his highlighting that “patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism”.
By these comments the French president also looked further afield, referencing Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump – but, for some, the president at least in part reminds us of our own home-grown nationalists, such as Nigel Farage and Nicola Sturgeon. Their supporters appear genuinely to believe their brand of nationalism is inclusive and embracing, not divisive and alienating.
Perhaps the French president’s comments may encourage the Scottish nationalist leader to pause, even for a moment, in her drive for yet another referendum north of the border. Maybe she’ll reflect on how nationalism has divided Scotland with, sadly, its ability to turn us against one another – family member against family member, friend against friend, neighbour against neighbour and co-worker against co-worker.
Bridges are invariably preferable to walls.
SYMPTOMS: SPREAD THE WORD
Around 784 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year in the United Kingdom and, tragically, one in four people won’t survive for a month.
Three in four won’t survive for a year, making pancreatic cancer the quickest-killing cancer.
Despite being the cancer with the worst outcomes, many people are unaware of the disease and the devastating impact it can have.
Today (Thursday) is World Pancreatic Cancer Day and I urge your readers to find out more about the disease and spread the word about its symptoms.
An increased awareness of the symptoms – which include tummy and back pain, indigestion, itchy skin or yellow skin or eyes, unexplained weight loss and oily floating poo – could lead to more people being diagnosed at an earlier stage.
The earlier people are diagnosed, the earlier they can be treated and it may increase their chances of being eligible for life-saving surgery.
Your readers can find more information about World Pancreatic Cancer Day at www.worldpancreaticcancerday.org, or seek support from myself or one of my colleagues on the Pancreatic Cancer UK Support Line (Freecall: 0808 801 0707).
(Pancreatic Cancer UK
LABOUR LEADER WORD PERFECT
While others have been quick to criticise Jeremy Corbyn’s sartorial choices, what I found most telling about the Leader of the Opposition’s presence at the Cenotaph in London on Sunday was that he was the only politician singing ‘Oh God Our Help In Ages Past’ without having to refer to the hymn sheet.
John Eoin Douglas
EQUAL PAY ANSWER
Female staff at the BBC have lodged claims that they are being paid less than men doing the same job.
The public are paying these salaries through the £150.50 licence fee.
The solution is simple – take the woman’s salary, add on that of the man, and divide by two – equality with no additional costs to the licence payer.
If the man does not like the reduction, he can go elsewhere – if he can – and if the woman getting the large increase is not pleased, she can do the same. They would not be missed.
SO PLEASED WITH THE POSTER
We would like to publicly thank Artbeat for the eye-catching poster it has designed for the Hawick Christmas Tree Festival in Trinity Church from Friday, November 30, till Sunday, December 3.
Artbeat is one of the four charities chosen to benefit from the £2 entry charge for adults. Avril’s Trust, Escape Youth and the Hawick Saxhorn Band are the other beneficiaries.
(on behalf of the organising committee)