Forward-thinking fogey backs rail

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As a retired teacher, described by B Turnbull as an old fogey representing Hawick on Scottish Borders Council, I hope you will allow me to respond to last week’s letter from him.

He seems to assume that a retired person cannot be forward thinking. Not so at all. We have to have totally open minds if we are going to improve Hawick’s economic situation. Our knitwear mills seem to be doing somewhat better at present, so the most visible signs of a problem are the empty High Street shops.

The world has changed and successful shops will be the ones that withstand, or, like butchers, are not encroached on by internet shopping. The councillors have placed emphasis on improving Hawick’s central area. There is ample parking, there are places to sit and linger, bus services are being supported and shopkeepers are being encouraged to apply for shop-front and new business funding. We need these shops filled to bring vitality back to the High Street.

At the core of Mr Turnbull’s argument is a demand for a rail service. I am totally supportive of any move to bring rail tracks back through Hawick. Notice “through”. I can make a case for the lines to go southward as well, to Carlisle and beyond. Employment opportunities in both directions, with visitor traffic for the Borders coming in return.

I will argue for the bus pass to be acceptable for rail journeys as well, to allow a clear choice. However: 1. These rail tracks should be capable of handling freight traffic, such as timber. 2. We have to be able to offer serviced industrial sites in the town and not simply accept a future of commuting.

New councillors might bring a miraculous turnaround in the economic situation. One problem could turn out to be, however, that only the retired or others with time at their disposal could meet the seven-day-week demands which councillors face in working for their constituents and in taking their share of the Borders-wide duties expected of them!

Ron Smith

Scottish Liberal Democrat Councillor for Hawick and Hermitage ward