LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
FAILING TO PUT BOTH SIDES
As a reader who prefers to be given a clear view of political events, I feel that the article by MSP Rachael Hamilton (‘SNP should stop punishing the Borders’, March 8) to be somewhat one-sided.
Firstly, she criticises the Scottish Government for new income tax rates without mentioning that, in the low-wage economy of the Borders, more than 70% of her constituents will pay less tax and that extra revenue will likely be spent within this region’s economy.
Secondly, she accuses the Green Party of being out to ruin our society, but fails to mention the extra £171m that it was able to negotiate from the Scottish Government to the benefit of our local authorities. Scottish Borders Council gained an extra £3.5m, which I’m sure it found useful.
Lastly, Rachael Hamilton praises Scottish Borders Council for its budget and commitment to the future. This is fine, although she does fail to mention the 3% increase in council tax which will also help to fund the authority’s plans.
We are grown-up, intelligent people who deserve to be given the fullest information from our elected representatives. Every article does not have to be an election pamphlet.
CALLOUS AND STUPID OWNERS
The harrowing pictures (Southern, March 8) of ewes hurt in a dog attack were bad enough, but I suspect that many farmers see worse.
The usual word “irresponsible” just doesn’t cover the callous stupidity that causes such crimes – they are not “accidents”.
Normal dog owners are animal lovers, but, very clearly, these people are not.
FLAGGING UP THE ISSUE AGAIN
Some months ago I noticed the Lion Rampant flag flying in tandem with the Union flag over a hotel on the A68 in St Boswells.
I wondered, given the regulations governing the flying of this flag, who could be staying at the hotel?
I hazarded a few guesses in a missive at the time to your letters pages. Could it be the Queen? The First Minister perhaps, or maybe one of Scotland’s Lord Lieutenants? Possibly it was the Lord High Commissioner of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland?
It might even have been the Lord Lyon himself. These are the only persons permitted to use the standard to indicate their presence.
The regulations are quite clear in this matter: “Its use by other, non-authorised persons is an offence under the Act of Parliament 1672 cap. 47 and 30 & 31 Vict. cap. 17.” Any unauthorised use is a matter for the procurator fiscal. This is not a national flag and its use by citizens and corporate bodies is entirely wrong.
Purely by chance I recently met a gentleman who had complained to the Lord Lyon about this very case and had been assured that the fiscal had been notified and would be taking action. He heard nothing further and eventually contacted the fiscal and was told that no action would be forthcoming.
If this is true and no action will be taken against people, organisations or public bodies who decide to fly this flag, should the public not be informed of this decision? What is the point of rules and regulations if they are not carried out when someone transgresses?
The flag still flutters over the hotel.
WESTMINSTER ‘VANITY PROJECTS’
British nationalists, of whom Michael Wilson (letters, March 15) is a classic example, seem blissfully unaware of the rank hypocrisy and irony expressed in his latest anti-Scottish Government tirade.
Since he is so fond of (selectively) quoting Winston Churchill, let me throw another Churchill quote at him: “Any nation which does not defend itself deserves to be crushed”.
Defending its citizens against punishing austerity measures which deliberately target the poor, elderly, weak and disabled is exactly what the Scottish Government is having to do, using the limited powers it has been grudgingly handed by Westminster.
On taxes, 70% of taxpayers in Scotland are paying less as a result of the progressive budget passed recently at Holyrood, not more.
Mr Wilson’s description of the Green Party as “a tiny cabal of cronies” more accurately describes the DUP who, after a £1bn-plus bribe, agreed to prop up his failed Tory Government at Westminster.
As for “vanity projects”, let me again list just a few of the many from Westminster (costing billions) – the Palace of Westminster renovations, HS2 railway (not coming to Scotland), London tube stations and rail links, Buckingham Palace restoration, Trident renewal (which Scotland does not want or need), the outdated House of Lords, vastly-increased funding for the Home Office and civil service (to deal with the disaster of Brexit, which Scotland voted against), etc., etc.
These are all being paid for, in part, by Scottish taxpayers for as long as we are shackled to this incompetent, arrogant and divisive UK Government – a government we did not vote for.
As usual, the old chestnut about Scotland being subsidised by the English taxpayer is trotted out and, predictably, is unsupported by any facts or financial data.
And as for “losing our 300-year-old democratic voice at Westminster”, don’t make me laugh. Unionists do not know the meaning of the word democracy.
PS: The Tories need to answer serious questions about the amount of Russian money they are happy to accept and where it comes from.
NATIONALISTS BY ANOTHER NAME
To quote, in part, one of your recent correspondents: “The London government appears to be set on dragging Scotland out of the EU against the wishes of the Scots.”
Without wishing to repeat the blindingly obvious (and I say that with total sincerity), the vote was a UK referendum, not a Scottish one. Scotland is only in the EU as part of the UK, and the wishes of any part of the UK (Scotland or London, for example) are irrelevant to the overall result.
Scotland will need to become independent in order to apply for membership of the EU, and the success of such an application is not a given. I hold the view that independence will be achieved eventually, and that outcome will be as bad for the Scots as Brexit will be for the Brits.
Clearly, I voted “remain” in both referendums.
The nationalists will win the day because a referendum of this nature is a one-way gate – if you keep trying it, one day it will let you through, but not back again.
Of course, the Brexiteers have much in common with seekers of Scottish independence. They both refer constantly to their own version of history, they are both keen to desert benign and beneficial unions, and they both described their opponent’s referendum campaigns as “Project Fear”.
Brexiteers are just nationalists by another name. The similarity extends to both “leave” campaigns.
Remember £350m per week for the NHS?
Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Iain Duncan-Smith, et al – they just ran “Project Fantasy” as far as I’m concerned, and the same will apply to Indyref 2, if Alex Salmond’s 2014 promises about oil revenue are anything to go by.
Nicola Sturgeon, Salmond and their Green friends (and I’m as green as the next man – no pun intended) will issue a referendum manifesto drenched in “greenwash” and full of more contradictions than one could shake several sticks at.
They will promise to revive the CO2-emitting oil industry, while becoming the greenest nation on the planet. They will join the EU, but remain wedded to sterling. They’ll allow free movement of EU nationals, but keep an open border with England.
Last, but not least, they will promise to work within the EU fishing regulations while protecting Scottish fishermen and providing all pensioners with a free fish supper every Friday.
Inevitably, a majority of the Scottish electorate will eventually fall for Nicola’s sales pitch, just as a majority of UK voters fell for Nigel Farage’s. It just goes to show that you can fool most of the people some of the time.
CALLING STURGEON TO ACCOUNT
During her time as health secretary (2007-2012), bad decisions by Nicola Sturgeon have caused chronic shortages of nurses and midwives across Scotland.
These numbers have soared since 2011, prompting claims that the First Minister, who cut training places while in charge of the health portfolio, must take responsibility.
“Between 2009-2012, the number of training places for nurses and midwives in Scotland was slashed by more than 20%, and health boards cut more than 2,000 nursing jobs,” according to the Royal College of Nursing Scotland.
This was a spectacular error of judgement and increased pressure on over-worked medical staff and let waiting patients down. Ms Sturgeon should account for this scandalous situation without delay (please don’t hold your breath in the meantime).
KEEPING SUPPLY CHAIN INTACT
In the recent unprecedented snowfall, Morebattle villagers came out in great numbers, showing real community spirit, clearing paths, running messages and making sure neighbours were all safe.
At the centre of all this activity was the village shop. Thanks must be extended to Ann Brown and her staff for working tirelessly keeping supplies moving. This recent situation emphasises how important our village shop is to the community.
Thanks must also be extended to Stuart McNulty, our local butcher, who worked hard to maintain an excellent supply of fresh meat through a difficult week and also to Alan Thomson who continued to clear and grit our paths/road.
Shop Steering Group
HOUSING BENEFIT FOR UK CITIZENS
While Theresa May’s actions against Russia will have the commendable result of reducing our expenditure on profligate diplomatic missions in the light of the expected tit-for-tat response to her expulsion of Russian diplomats, I fear that she really has underplayed her hand.
Whereas immediate nationalisation without compensation of all Russian-owned property in the UK might lead to a temporary downwards blip in the London property market, selling these assets off by auction could largely finance the costs of Brexit.
It would also allow United Kingdom citizens to pick them up at a substantial discount and prices would soon rise again, even without further government subsidy of the rental market by increased housing benefit.
John Eoin Douglas
PUTIN’S ‘USEFUL IDIOT’?
As diplomatic tensions grow between the UK and its Western allies and Russia, Alex Salmond insists no one tells him what to say on his Russia Today show. Arguably so.
Yet does he seriously think if he expressed the same highly-critical views of Russia regarding the chemical attacks in Salisbury as shared by Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon his Russia Today show would continue to be aired?
MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton’s description of Mr Salmond as Vladimir Putin’s “useful idiot” springs to mind.
PROTECTING OUR PLANET
I’m encouraging readers to join the thousands of people across Scotland and millions across the world taking part in the biggest event to protect the planet, WWF’s Earth Hour – at 8.30pm on Saturday, March 24. This year, make a #PromiseForThePlanet and change an aspect of your life to live more sustainably. This could be switching to a green energy provider, refusing plastic cutlery with takeaway food or buying a reusable coffee cup. Individually, these changes may seem small, but together they will have a huge impact and help to reduce our environmental footprint. With almost 50% of species at risk of local extinction if global temperatures continue to rise at the current rate, this year’s Earth Hour is focusing on the need for us all to play a part in protecting our planet – for people and nature. By working together, we can show we care and are willing to take action to ensure –that species such as polar bears, elephants, tigers and marine turtles, to name but a few – will still be around for our children and grandchildren. Take part on March 24 and make a promise to protect our planet at wwfscotland.org.uk/earthhour.
(tennis player and WWF
HAVING THE BOTTLE TO TAKE ACTION
David Attenborough once quoted an experience when he was filming Blue Planet II.
He said: “We’ve seen albatrosses come back with a belly full of food for their young. You think it’s going to be squid, but instead it’s plastic.”
On reflection, this seemed very distant to me. It was someone else’s problem. What did I care about seas choking with plastic on the other side of the world. Even if I did care, I could do nothing about it.
But, as usual, my curiosity got the better of me once the idea began to settle.
Then came a well-known search engine to the rescue with a deluge of images and information that seemed to confirm my suspicion that my lonely voice would be like a whisper at a Def Leppard concert (for those of you who don’t remember, they are an English rock band from the 70s who didn’t so much as tickle the senses, but slammed them to the floor and stamped on them for two-and-a-bit hours).
Anyhow, I discovered that, far from ignoring the problem as I had done, there are lots of people out there who are tackling it and, often, in an ‘insignificant’ way. So, I thought that I’d share with you some of those ways without any aim or agenda, if only to touch people like me and poke them just enough to break their stride as my own was.
Kate Forbes (MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) started a campaign called ‘The Final Straw’ which has so far been successful in removing plastic straws from catering in the Scottish Parliament. It has also paved the way for several other organisations to follow suit, particularly once a viable alternative has been found for certain levels of physical abilities.
I took a small step here and signed her petition (https://www.finalstraw.scot/).
There is also a group called ‘Plastic Free – Edinburgh’ which is looking at different ways that we can change our home habits (https://www.facebook.com/PlasticFreeEdinburgh/). Some of the ways that they suggest are: changing our toothbrushes to biodegradable bamboo ones, using toothpaste in a jar rather than the traditional plastic tube, fabric covered in beeswax instead of cling film and using loose tea rather than teabags.
The first few seem quite difficult for me, but my mother still uses loose tea, so I think that it might be time to invest in a strainer, or at least make sure that I use the biodegradable teabags rather than the plastic ones.
Finally, I came across a group from Bristol called ‘Refill’ (https://www.refill.org.uk/) who have started schemes across England and Scotland where the idea is that shops commit to provide free access to people to refill their water bottles. This idea is the most appealing for me because my wife and I have ‘Droopy Dandelion’ in Innerleithen High Street.
As you’re probably aware, Innerleithen has a great many people who visit to sample the terrific local attractions and outdoor activities. Thus, the last thing that I’ll do is aim to start a ‘Refill’ scheme in Innerleithen and hopefully encourage other businesses to do the same.
My eyes have begun to squint. Maybe as I take a step here or there I’ll finally be able to look back at my journey, wide-eyed and see only footprints rather than the trail of discarded plastic water bottles or cotton buds as it is now.
REGISTERING HIS ABHORRENCE
I was horrified to read your article last week about Ryan Mania and his hunting activities.
I had no idea. I always thought he was a ‘local lad done good’, winning the Grand National, a Braw Lad.
There are still people out there who enjoy such a ghoulish act as fox-hunting. They actually appear to enjoy watching a living animal being torn apart by a pack of dogs.
It is utterly horrific that these people actually get some sort of pleasure out of this very distasteful act.
Is it not about time that we placed these people on some sort of register, if they are caught participating in such sordid activities?
They really should be named and shamed. You might find you have one living on your street.
I urge people to join the march for foxes in Edinburgh on Saturday, March 24.
It’s time to crush these hunts.
THERE’S STILL MORE TO BE DONE
I am urging Borderers to get involved in the National Autistic Scotland’s biggest fundraiser, World Autism Awareness Week (March 26-April 2).
In the seven days leading up to World Autism Awareness Day (April 2), we are encouraging schools, workplaces and individuals to take part in activities to raise money and autism awareness. Whether it’s taking part in a bake sale, sponsored walk or wearing an onesie, there are plenty of ways in which you can get involved.
Around 58,000 people in Scotland are autistic and although we’ve come a long way in raising awareness, there’s still more to be done until everyone understands autism.
Our research found that although 99.5% of people in Scotland have heard of autism, just 16% of autistic people think it is understood in a meaningful way.
We want to increase understanding of the condition – which affects one in 100 people – in order to tackle this issue and build more compassionate communities.
Autism is a lifelong, developmental condition that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.
We want to close the gap between awareness and understanding so that Scotland can become an autism-friendly nation.
Free fundraising guides can be downloaded from www.autism.org.uk/waaw.
The National Autistic Society Scotland