Your picture of the week
This pair of swans on the Teviot at Springwood, Kelso, were keeping a close eye on bankside anglers. David Laing supplied the image.Please email photographs, with a brief caption, to [email protected]
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
WHY HANG ON TO THE SCOTS THEN?
William Loneskie (letters, October 11) warns us that there will be “no more freebies under separation”. He also places great importance on “facts”.
Pity he plays so fast and loose with them, or more kindly, he simply cherry picks which ones that suit his purpose.
He’s more or less right about £1,600 more spent per head on Scots than on English (more goes to folks in Northern Ireland).
But Scots don’t get all that money to spend on things we choose. Because Westminster spends much of it for us on things most of us might not want very much. Like Trident.
Like a civil service based in London. Like HS2, Jubilee Line, Hinkley Point, etc. Very expensive things that bloat the economy of the south of England and London and so do us up here not one whit of good.
He mentions the “chaos and impoverishment” that will come with Scottish Independence. No need to wait for that. Brexit is rushing us down that very road.
So much for taking back control, whatever that meant, when clearly any control will be given to the rapaciously-rich profiteers like Jacob Rees Mogg, and the pharmaceutical and private health companies in the US, just waiting to gobble up the NHS.
Let me end with a question for Mr Loneskie, for him to ponder, privately, not to answer.
Why, if Scotland is such a drain on the wealth and goodwill of England/UK, are they so desperate to hang on to us?
GROUP CRIES FOUL OVER ADVICE FAIR
We would like to clarify the situation regarding the participation of the Borders WASPI group in MP John Lamont’s pensioners’ advice fair in Kelso’s Tait Hall on November 8.
WASPI is a non-political group which has support from MPs of all parties in Westminster, MSPs at Holyrood and councils throughout the UK.
Mr Lamont invited in excess of 50 local groups and organisations to participate in the fair.
Despite having been questioned, written to and visited on numerous occasions by constituents seeking advice and support regarding the impact of the lack of notice about changes to their state pension age, he chose not to include the Borders WASPI organisation among the advice groups who were invited.
The WASPI group only became aware of the advice fair on September 22 at our group meeting. I made enquiries about it from Mr Lamont’s office and received a reply from Ross Sanderson, his chief of staff, stating that they had had such a good response that they were unable to accommodate any more stalls. He offered to put us on the ‘waiting list’, but commented that there were quite a few people on that already.
He also said that he would make sure we were invited next year if the fair is held again.
I was disappointed and annoyed that after having been in contact with Mr Lamont since his time as an MSP, both as an individual and coordinator of the local group, that he had not invited us to attend the fair. He replied that it was the first fair he had organised and he simply used the list of the groups that other MPs had used at similar events in other parts of the country.
I had never been to the Tait Hall, so was curious to check out its facilities and capacity. I discovered there was a meeting room also within the building and booked the room at our own expense as I knew it would be helpful for anyone affected by state pension age delays who attended the fair to come in and speak to us.
We were very dismayed to then find out via a local councillor that the event was being postponed.
I spoke to the Tait Hall to see if we could also change our booking, but was told that the entire building had been booked out for the whole day.
I called Mr Lamont’s office and spoke to Mr Sanderson to see whether, with all of this added capacity, there would now be room for us. He was most unhelpful and insisted that our motive was to disrupt the advice fair by drawing people away from the main hall.
Given that the vast majority of people attending the fair will already be in receipt of their pension, I was unable to follow this logic. Most of the women affected by the six-year increase to the pension age are still having to work, are caring for family members or perhaps in poor health themselves.
It is regrettable that relations between the group and our MP have broken down to this extent. Mr Lamont has clearly stated to many of us he will never support our cause at Westminster, despite his election slogan of ‘People before party politics’.
We have rebooked the meeting room at the Tait Hall for Tuesday, November 20, for a drop-in information session (11am-2pm), and will continue to provide advice and support to many of the 7,100 women and their families in the Borders who have been impacted by the lack of notice to the changes to their state pension age.
Our next monthly meeting is on Sunday, October 28, from 10am-noon, at the Newtown Community Wing, Sprouston Road, Newtown St Boswell. All will be made most welcome.
Lynne Craighead and
(coordinators, Waspi Scottish Borders Group)
A PRICE WORTH PAYING FOR TORIES
I was intrigued to read Paul Singleton’s ringing endorsement for Brexit and his championing of sacrosanct sovereign United Kingdom (letters, October 11).
It may have escaped his notice that 77% of English Conservatives would be happy with Scottish independence as a price worth paying for Brexit, likewise the collapse of the Northern Ireland peace process.
So not very much sacrosanct about the precious Union in their eyes.
Every little helps, as they say, so a big thank-you to the Brexiteers for doing their bit for Scottish independence.
The 62% in Scotland who voted to remain want a grown-up relationship with Europe and its people, not one based on exceptionalism and nostalgia.
But do keep up the good work, Paul.
TIME TO LEAVE THE EU TOTALLY
David Davis, former Brexit secretary, comments: “The cabinet committee that governs EU negotiations has barely met since July. Other cabinet members have been excluded from briefings and decisions.”
Brexit is one of the most fundamental decisions that government has taken in modern times. It is time for cabinet members to exert their collective authority. The authority of our constitution is on the line.
Two names responsible for this situation include Prime Minister Teresa May and her senior Brexit civil servant adviser, Olly Robbins, who, as Remainers, are hell-bent on getting a Chequers-type deal through the back door.
It is time for our United Kingdom to leave the EU totally and give us complete freedom from these unelected pen-pushing mandarins (and £39bn remains in our exchequer).
Also this process will maybe terminate republican pressure element in Ireland and Scotland to gain independence and, in time, the abolition of our monarchy.
OUR TURN TO SHOW COMPASSION
This November marks 80 years since Britain demonstrated its great humanitarian spirit by helping 10,000 child refugees escape Nazi persecution through the Kindertransport, while other countries just stood by.
Today, tens of thousands of child refugees in Europe and across the world still need safe passage. Children continue to live in horrendous conditions, where death, disease and people-trafficking are ever-present risks. Our country has a proud record of helping those in desperate need.
Today’s Westminster government has a responsibility to offer child refugees sanctuary, just as it did 80 years ago.
I am asking our councillors to get behind the ‘Our Turn’ campaign, run by the charity, ‘Safe Passage’, and Lord Alf Dubs, himself a child of the Kindertransport. The Our Turn campaign hopes to convince the government to resettle 10,000 children over the next 10 years and is asking councils to make pledges to provide places for the children, if the government provides the funding. We can rescue 10,000 children if every council takes just three children a year.
Our country has a proud tradition of welcoming child refugees fleeing persecution. The Kindertransport efforts were driven by a huge amount of public goodwill and I believe we still have that same public support today.
Eighty years on, it’s our turn to show the humanitarian compassion of the Kindertransport to today’s child refugees.
I was rather bemused by the rank hypocrisy of a tweet from the UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, commenting that we “must not forget the heart-breaking in Yemen”.
It should be noted that the UK has nearly doubled the value of arms sales to countries on the government’s own list of human rights abusers in the past year.
This includes sales to Saudi Arabia, currently embroiled in a bloody conflict in Yemen against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The conflict has seen thousands of civilians killed and millions left in need of aid. It has been estimated that these arms sales totalled £1.13bn.
UK-made fighter jets and bombs are currently playing a central role in the Saudi-led destruction of Yemen, and the government and arms companies have failed to monitor or evaluate how this deadly equipment is being used.
Given the impact they are having, there should be an immediate suspension of arms exports by the UK government. What Yemen needs is a ceasefire, a political settlement and food aid, not more bombing.
The rank hypocrisy of the UK government and Mr Hunt – happy to cry crocodile tears over the loss of life in Yemen, while actively selling arms which are creating such hardship – is truly appalling.
WINDFALL WILL BOOST CAT CARE
Cats Protection is delighted to have been selected as a beneficiary of the People’s Postcode Lottery.
With over £340m raised for charities to date and three million players in Britain, this is a fantastic opportunity for the charity and the 200,000 cats that it helps every year.
People’s Postcode Lottery players will be helping Cats Protection’s homing and volunteering work throughout Scotland, England and Wales to the tune of £1,027,744.64.
The money will support the charity’s vital rehoming and volunteering work, funding hands-on roles such as cat care assistants and volunteer team leaders.
These roles play an active part in caring for unwanted or abandoned cats and kittens.
Volunteer team leaders support volunteers to provide the best possible cat and adopter experience at the charity’s adoption centres, while cat care assistants are responsible for day-to-day hands-on care for the cats. This includes feeding and providing enrichment, as well as administering medication and giving additional care to those cats that need nursing.
(director of operations)
National Cat Centre
RISING TO THE CHALLENGES
This week marks Scotland’s first Care Experienced Week, providing a chance through a series of events to celebrate all those who have been in and left care.
We cannot underestimate the contribution these individuals make to our society. Not only the around 15,000 currently in care, but all those who have left.
The challenges many of them have faced is immense. Only six per cent of those who are care experienced go to university and nearly half will suffer mental health issues. Half of the adult prison population are people who lived in care when they were growing up.
Worst of all, a young person who has been in care is 20 times more likely to be dead by the time they are 25 than a young person who hasn’t.
Every young person should have an equal opportunity to succeed in life, no matter their circumstances. We should celebrate the progress that has been made, allowing many of our young people who grow up in care to do great things in life.
As highlighted, there are, however, still many challenges facing young people who are care experienced, and their opportunities are all too often not the same as other young people in Scotland.
The care system must and can do better by our most vulnerable children and young people.
We need to create a system that puts love for the children it cares for at its very heart. That is why the current independent review of Scotland’s care system is to be greatly welcomed.
So let us use this first Care Experienced Week to celebrate the achievements, not only of those who have had a positive care experience, but to shed a light on those who struggle, and use this to press for more support for these uniquely vulnerable individuals.
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition
(Tom McGhee, chairman, Spark of Genius; Duncan Dunlop, chief executive, Who Cares? Scotland; Stuart Jacob, director, Falkland House School; Niall Kelly, managing director, Young Foundations; Lynn Bell, CEO, Love Learning Scotland)