Your picture of the week
Peter Dalgleish bagged this image on a walk around Melrose and Gattonside.Please email photographs, with a brief caption, to [email protected]
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
DON’T FALL FOR IT, GALASHIELS
Last week a press release came out urging owners of shops and business premises in Galashiels to sign up to a business improvement district (BID) scheme in the town.
It said Selkirk had already signed up for one and that it was a success story.
That isn’t quite true, and it should be noted that although a scheme was mooted for Selkirk which would have been the smallest in the UK, it has hardly managed to taxi to the end of the runway yet, and indeed half of the town’s business premises, mainly in the lower end of the burgh, voted wholeheartedly against it.
Such were the percentages from the previous industrial area of Selkirk, along Dunsdale Road, Dunsdalehaugh and streets around the area, that the folk who were pushing for the BID case excluded them from the voting process and the steering committee decided to push ahead with fewer than 60 businesses and shops in the town centre – less than half the size of the original “smallest scheme in the UK”, and even then the estimates showed that less than 20% of those voted to go ahead with the scheme.
So, what is in it for businesses in Selkirk and Galashiels if they fall for it?
On top of business rates, business investment loans and day-to-day expenses, each and every shop or trading unit is expected to lay out an extra levy which can be from just under £20 per month to a whopping £110 per month for a locked-in scheme for a minimum of five years.
That’s from £200 to £1,300 each year, or up to £6,500 for each shop.
Who made up the prices and who decided that this would happen?
Certainly not the majority of shops in Selkirk who, after four years of “regeneration”, for the most part paint and plaster, and two solid years of “streetscape” which has left Selkirk with nowhere to park a tourist coach, even if they wanted to come to a Market Place which looks more like a cul-de-sac in Milton Keynes than an 18th or 19th century Scottish rural market area, with Scottish Borders Council determined to destroy a historic and iconic public house and replace it with a plastic box of a library.
Selkirk already has a library bequeathed to her by Thomas Craig-Brown, historian and mill owner.
Of the steering group little is known and there appear to be no published minutes of any meetings when, presumably, votes were taken. A company was set up from this, with only three directors, although the legal minimum is five. Again no minutes, no transparency and no democratic process that I can see.
There is a signed petition going round Selkirk which has more than 50 names of businesspeople who want nothing to do with BIDs.
Which shop in Selkirk or Galashiels can afford to pay an extra £6,500 to Scottish Borders Council?
That is the body which is now sending out BID levy reminder notices to shops and shopowners who never voted for it in the first place.
There is a warning on the unsigned letters that failure to pay a monthly amount will make the full amount payable immediately or they will be taken to court, with added charges for that.
Some businesses in Selkirk and Galashiels are only just managing to make ends meet without paying a BID manager up to £8,000.
Hawick, the biggest burgh in the Borders, threw this out and so should every other town across this forgotten part of Scotland where we have no proper roads and we never see a street-sweeper.
IN DESPAIR OVER DISCIPLINE
The long, hot summer days have left us, autumn is here, and another school session is well under way.
What will this session hold for pupils, parents and teaching staff in Borders schools? I wish I could say it was looking positive.
According to what I’m hearing from many teachers, Scottish Borders Council’s department for children and young people is encouraging all teachers to deal with behaviour and disciplinary issues within their own classroom. Normally, teaching staff have always been able to find support with such issues from their department head or senior management team.
Information is also reaching me that head teachers are being discouraged from suspending/sending home pupils who are causing behaviour problems.
Can this really be true? In the past it could be a common occurence for pupils to be suspended, and then re-entry into the school community was conditional on an interview between head teacher and parents, where parents were made aware of the deviant nature of the behaviour and encouraged to support the school in seeking improvement.
Suddenly, it seems sanctions are being taken out of the hands of our teachers and head teachers, with nothing to replace them. If all this is true, this will make teachers more isolated in their classrooms than ever before.
And what of newly-qualified teachers? They have not had the chance to build experience in the art of maintaining classroom discipline. They need support to build their confidence in their new profession. Instead, it would appear that any potential support is being taken away from right under their feet.
The council seems to be saying that negative sanctions are to be replaced with positive reinforcement.
But such a policy is unworkable. Praising pupils and encouraging good work and behaviour is laudable, and most teachers employ these tactics to get the best out of most of their charges. But, unfortunately, all of our schools have a hard core of pupils who do not respond to kid-glove treatment.
Are teachers’ hands now to be tied by the council at the very time when they need proper sanctions, for the benefit of all.
The legacy of this policy is clear. The corridors of Hawick High School have recently been patrolled by police constables, and one wonders if they still are. Is this happening in other schools too?
Threatening behaviour in classrooms and corridors may lead to some of our pupils being in fear of attending school, and to increasing amounts of our teachers being absent because of stress. We now have a situation where it may be entirely possible that children or members of staff may be very seriously hurt.
Teachers, under their contract of employment, are forbidden to write to newspapers without council permission, but parents are, of course, entitled to question the local authority about the standards of discipline within their child’s classroom or school.
Many of my teaching friends report that they are demoralised by the current levels of misbehaviour, are facing increased stress and are concerned for the behaving majority of pupils in their classes.
The message I am receiving loud and clear from teachers actively engaged in the profession is that they have very little faith in the council to enforce a reasonable standard of discipline within our schools.
NO MORE FREEBIES UNDER SEPARATION
Eric Falconer and other nationalists could save themselves a lot of time in writing anti-British letters (October 4 and passim) if they just said “Britain bad”, “SNP good”, “end of story”.
Mr Falconer attacks John Lamont and distorts what the MP said about the new influenza vaccine, Fluad.
Mr Lamont correctly pointed out that because of the SNP executive’s incompetence, most over-65s in Scotland will not get the Fluad vaccine this winter, unlike over-65s in England.
John Lamont is well known throughout the Borders as a conscientious and hard-working MP who will assist his constituents over a wide range of issues.
Mr Lamont is honest, decent and trustworthy, and merits respect. I would not be surprised if he eventually becomes Secretary of State for Scotland.
As last Saturday’s march in Edinburgh shows, Scottish nationalism has morphed from a political movement to a cult. Flags, not facts. Facts don’t get a look in.
What are the facts?
Every Scot – man, woman and child – has more than £1,600 spent on them compared with England. It is only because of this money that all the freebies which the SNP claims for its own can be afforded. Separation would end this cash.
Scotland is already in the red by £15bn, thanks to the SNP’s profligacy, and the nationalists would not only have to terminate the freebies, but hike VAT and national insurance, and slash spending on the NHS, police, education and transport to prevent the state going under – as Royal Bank of Scotland would have gone under when Fred Goodwin (Alex Salmond’s chum) led it to disaster if it hadn’t been bailed out by the Bank of England.
A vote for independence is a vote for chaos and impoverishment.
I conclude by asking a question of Mr Falconer.
One of the leaders of the SNP, if not the most important leader in its history, is Alex Salmond. Mr Salmond has a regular programme on the Russia Today TV channel, a Putin propaganda outfit. The same Russia which is a Mafia-like state, which uses poison to kill its opponents, and is suspected of 14 unexplained deaths in the UK, a state where life expectancy has plunged, where living standards and environmental protection are minimal, but which has a huge nuclear-armed military and an aggressive foreign policy, including hacking attacks on democratic elections in the West.
Does Mr Falconer approve or condemn Mr Salmond’s appearance on RT? And if he condemns it, what does this say about Alex Salmond’s judgement and all that he has said about independence?
A STRONG HAND IS NOW REQUIRED
It seems we are forever waiting for someone in government to have the courage to make a clean break with the European Union and Brexit.
We also have the Irish problem with 312 miles of border that nobody really wants and a remedy for a conclusion is urgently required.
It is common knowledge that this border has been used by Irish republicans in the south for years to smuggle arms, tobacco, diesel and drugs. In my opinion, the fear of upsetting Sinn Fein/IRA is the main reason the border problem has not been settled.
The £1bn bribe to Northern Ireland by the Westminster exchequer hasn’t worked because Stormont has been deserted, and northern and southern Irish MPs have been acting like school children.
It is proven that modern technology can run the Irish border the same as anywhere else.
It now requires a strong hand from Westminster to control the Irish and Scottish republican nationalists who are hindering Brexit and are intent on independence at any price, and the break-up of the United Kingdom.
In my youth I had the honour of working with ex-World War Two test pilots in the early years of Heathrow airport on the then new Viscount aircraft (1957). Some of my colleagues were badly burned from battle, but nothing could hide their obvious bravery and stoicism.
What would they make of today’s politicians?
POOR VIEW OF TOWN IS GROWING
For countless years residents and visitors alike have enjoyed the wonderful panoramic view of Kelso as seen from the height of Maxwellheugh.
This was celebrated in 2000 by the construction of the Millennium Viewpoint (designed and crafted by the late Denys Mitchell) at the top of Bridgend steps, and has been a popular attraction ever since.
However, recently the foliage which borders the Tweed at this point has grown to such an extent that the iconic 1803 Rennie Bridge, which is such an integral part of the view, all but disappears.
It is more apparent during the winter, but this is little consolation to the summer tourist.
Can it not be possible to undertake some judicious pruning which would restore the view to its original splendour?
ST AIDAN’S COULD YET BE SAVED
I wish to make yet one more plea for St Aidan’s Church, Galashiels, which is threatened with imminent demolition.
Despite its deterioration, I understand that there is still a possibility that it could be repaired, restored and converted into some other kind of use, religious or otherwise.
Galashiels is a picturesque, typically Scottish town with attractive, 19th-century architecture. It deserves to be well maintained and preserved.
I might also appeal to all of you who have a faith to join me in this call to rebuild one of God’s symbolic houses on Earth. The state of our abandoned churches all over the country reflect a nation which, sometimes, seems to have turned its back on God our Creator.
I have the sense that this is why all of us are so bewildered and don’t know where to turn, and that includes our leaders who are supposed to be wise.
Why don’t we, as a nation (and perhaps the whole world) humble ourselves and confess to God through our Lord Jesus Christ that we cannot manage without Him and need His help and advice? We might be pleasantly surprised.