Your picture of the week
Recent gales have caused chestnut trees to shed their fruits. Photographer Curtis Welsh said: 'This image, shot near St Boswells, I entitle '˜Chestnut Minefield', which in close-up resembles a spiky minefield with plenty of autumn colour.'Please email photographs, with a brief caption, to [email protected]
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
PUBLIC SCRUTINY NECESSARY
I am quite astonished at the response you received from a Scottish Borders Council spokesperson regarding data protection for applicants for taxi and private hire licences.
The suggestion that “the need to protect the personal data of the applicants outweighs the public interest of knowing if taxi licence holders have previous convictions”, as reported in your October 4 edition, frankly beggars belief and shows a total lack of comprehension of the the law concerning data protection.
Applicants should be advised that their application will be subject to public scrutiny as it is necessary to ensure that the public can be assured that they are safe to use this public service. By granting a licence the council is providing an assurance that it has acted with due diligence to ensure that the public are not placed at risk, especially so as the service will be used by unaccompanied individuals who may be vulnerable.
To suggest that personal data must be protected come what may was never the intention nor a requirement of the Data Protection Act.
Potential applicants should be clearly advised that full disclosure will occur should they proceed to apply and that any hearing of the licensing committee will be in public. To do anything less could provide grounds for the local authority to be held liable for any unacceptable behaviour of the licence holder.
P. A. Matthews
ROUNDABOUTS ROULETTE IN GALA
I have lost count of the number of times I have almost been wiped out while negotiating either of the two roundabouts at either end of George Craig Bridge in Galashiels.
Last Wednesday a woman, more intent on lighting her cigarette than paying attention to the road, sailed out without stopping, no indicators, and cut right across me, causing me to brake sharply.
Maybe our local police could station one or two officers close by these roundabouts and observe?
There seems to be more and more drivers who either do not know how to negotiate a roundabout and use their indicators, or who simply can’t be bothered, or don’t think the law applies to them.
Glenfield Road West
BIDDING TO REGENERATE TOWN
I write in response to Kenneth Gunn’s letter (‘Don’t fall for it, Galashiels’, October 11).
His letter contained his views on the Selkirk business improvement district (BID) scheme – I would like to clarify how the BID for Galashiels project has been developed.
I have been involved with BID for Galashiels since its inception when the chamber of trade and Energise Galashiels Trust worked together to secure funding to develop a BID for the town. I sit, in an advisory capacity, on the BID steering group.
Other steering group members represent the town’s independent retailers, service providers and national retailers.
As background, the BID model is recognised as a key tool in town regeneration and is underpinned and bound by Scottish Government legislation.
A BID is established only after businesses located in the BID zone are canvassed and polled. Eligible businesses are asked to vote ‘yes’ in support of a costed five-year business plan. Following a successful ballot, a BID company is formed, with all businesses in the BID zone eligible to apply to join the board of directors. The BID company charges a levy to enable it to deliver projects and services outlined in the BID business plan. The local authority simply collects the BID levy on behalf of the BID company.
The boundary of BID for Galashiels and rates of levy have been set by the steering group. BID for Galashiels has set a levy which its believes to be fair and reasonable. For many town businesses, the rate of levy will be £195pa, equating to just over 50p a day. For properties with a rateable value of more than £10,264, the levy will be charged at 1.9% of the rateable value, with properties between £1,315,790 and £1,800,000 being flat-banded at £15,000pa. The levy will generate close to £190,000 pa. The BID company will seek to enhance this funding with additional leveraged monies and in-kind support.
The Galashiels business plan is ambitious and comprehensive – full details are available from www.bidforgalashiels.co.uk.
One aim is to increase footfall to and spend in the town’s retail businesses. BID for Galashiels was able to demonstrate that it is well equipped and able to achieve this when delivering Galashiels Goes Extreme as a pilot project in August. The day brought an estimated 6,000 people to Galashiels. Visitor feedback showed that 86% of respondents visited retail outlets in Galashiels, spending between £5 and over £50. Estimates are that tens of thousands of pounds were spent in the town on the day, 90% of visitors reported that they were inspired to visit Galashiels again and 99% would attend future events.
With a ‘yes’ vote in November, BID for Galashiels will make a real and sustainable impact on the regeneration of our town.
Michael M. Gray
(chair, Energise Galashiels Trust)
FREE PEE PLEA TO COUNCILLORS
So, Scottish Borders Council’s paying toilets aren’t paying.
No surprise there. All women – especially young women with small children and old women with weak bladders – haven’t time to faff around with 10p pieces (which the machine often spits out). So they use the toilets in cafes, shops and clinics instead, as I do.
Scottish Borders Council, please consider freeing up this essential facility again.
KEEPING ELDERLY ON THE MOVE
My mother, Margaret Stewart, has matched my donation of £4,000 to help Gala Wheels keep their service running for the wheelchair-bound in Galashiels and surrounding area.
In later life, particularly into your 80s and 90s, with increasing mobility problems, it becomes difficult to participate in local communities and activities.
Gala Wheels helps people to travel and stay involved, and I would like to appeal to your readers to give what they can to help Gala Wheels towards maintaining the freedom of the elderly and disabled in the area.
My mother, now unable to get in and out of a car, relies on Gala Wheels to take her to various venues and maintain contact with the outside world, otherwise she would be sitting looking at four walls and waiting for her next carer to arrive.
The drivers are all volunteers, but the cost of fuel, insurance and replacement of the buses is substantial – the last vehicle has just gone out of service, having done more than 164,000 miles.
MONEY DOWN THE DRAIN
Here we go again – the first heavy rain and the Lowood Bridge floods.
Last Friday night there were two council workmen and two policemen trying to clear the blockage.
Many people are wondering why, when the bridge was closed for so long and all that money spent repairing it, that nobody thought to improve the drainage.
I live in the East Midlands, but was born and educated in Edinburgh.
Earlier this month I spent a few days in Melrose and played golf at Torwoodlee golf club. On the board of past captains I noticed that in 1900 Ernest Gardiner held the position. That is also my surname.
My father, James Stirling Gardiner, was born in Galashiels in 1914 and I believe lived in a house named Gordonbank. His father, James Gardiner, owned the drapery business in Victoria Buildings and died in the 1920s and was buried in Galashiels cemetery.
Beyond that, we know little about my grandfather.
I wonder if any of your readers could provide any further information about my grandfather and possibly confirm if Ernest was a relative.
59 High Street
WESTMINSTER IN CONTROL
When comparing the economic situation in Scotland with England, what your British nationalist correspondents do not seem to have grasped is that they are comparing chalk with cheese.
Westminster has control over all the levers of the UK economy – money supply, income tax, VAT, corporation tax, interest rates, vehicle excise duty, and all the other complicated and indecipherable fiscal powers.
Holyrood has only a tiny fraction of fiscal powers within which to manoeuvre and spend its limited allowance where it is most effective.
Out of the billions Scotland remits to the London treasury, only a portion returns via the Barnett formula.
Constrained as it is, the SNP government has introduced incredible policies which are helping thousands of people every day. What it could do with the full panoply of economic powers is beyond our wildest dreams – but the people of Norway could tell you.
These gentlemen (and they are invariably men) criticise almost everything about the country they live in, but cannot tell us anything beneficial to Scotland about the Union. There are 197 independent countries on the planet – are British nationalists seriously claiming that Scotland cannot be one of them?
SNP SILENCE OVER PUBLIC FINANCES
Despite continued noise from SNP leaders as they strain every sinew trying to link Brexit to indyref2, there is silence from them over just how they would intend restructuring the public finances of an independent Scotland to meet EU joining criteria, or indeed how long that would likely take.
The SNP Growth Commission report effectively side-stepped the issue. Even assuming the commission’s heroic growth projections were achieved, it is probable that it would be over a decade before our finances were ready to meet EU tests. Even then, Spain and other EU countries, concerned about their own existing or potential separatist movements, will be loath to encourage those who might break up their countries, so would likely block our entry.
The reality is that if the SNP had got its way in 2014, we would quite possibly have been left out of the EU for an indefinite period. As the SNP continues to agitate for an independence referendum re-run, there would again be no guarantees of when we might secure EU membership, if ever.
Instead, the proposition from Nicola Sturgeon and her leadership team is that we leave ourselves stranded out of both the UK and the EU, all to satisfy the SNP obsession with portraying the UK as bad in every way compared with its vision of a nationalist nirvana.
DANGEROUS AND UNPRINCIPLED
In the interests of brevity and my own sanity, I will keep my reply to last week’s protracted criticism of myself by William Loneskie very short.
In response to the one relevant point which I may have detected
in his letter, I did say specifically that John Lamont “is perfectly entitled to legitimate criticism of Scottish government and/or NHS procedures where appropriate”.
What Mr Lamont is not entitled to do, as he did in his column published on September 27 and
in subsequent press releases, is to use his position to undermine the vital flu winter vaccination programme in the interests of attacking the Scottish government.
That is both dangerous and unprincipled.
He should know better, but I genuinely don’t think he actually does.
STEPPING OUT FOR CHILDREN LST
On September 16, Eleanor Wood and I completed the Edinburgh 24-mile kilt walk, raising a superb £945 for Children 1st.
We would like to thank our many supporters with a special mention going to Ella Purves who raised £300 from her missing-link word quiz. The winners of that quiz were Mrs Robertson, Millfield, and Mrs Wilkinson of Peebles.