Letters to the editor 11-9-14

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Setting the facts straight for councillor

Yet again, someone feels the need to have a go at teachers. This time it is the turn of Councillor Tom Weatherston saying “Kelso parents feel misled over school week changes” in the Southern Reporter (Thursday, September 4).

In case he is unaware, it is very common practice in many professions to work condensed hours, i.e. four longer days and one shorter or even free day.

Teachers now work four longer days and in secondary have to teach five periods out of a normal seven on Fridays – not that short then!

The asymmetric week was not imposed by teachers, that was the will of Scottish Borders Council. Those in charge of education did, indeed, say that teachers could use Friday afternoons for development, training and collegiate work, but this was not discussed fully.

Teachers’ contracts are such that they have the right to agree to dates for this as a whole school staff. Many have exercised this right and chosen a time after school instead of Friday afternoons, but are still completing the required hours.

Surely, we should be supporting our very hard working teachers instead of denigrating them. It is no mean coincidence that pupils in Scottish Borders do well in national exams. This is down to the hard work of both primary and secondary teachers who nurture our children throughout their school lives to develop their full potential.

This is no easy task and it is made even more difficult by having your morale sapped by people who either don’t know what they are talking about or should know better.

Shame on you Councillor Weatherston. I feel a big apology is due and I suggest you speak to those who make education policy at Scottish Borders Council and get your facts right.

Joy Snape



No choice but Tweedbank

I have no doubt that much will be said and written about the bringing of the Great Tapestry of Scotland to the Borders and more specifically about its location and cost. Why not Galashiels, Hawick or Selkirk? Who is going to pay for the building? Does the initial report not say that most visitors will come by car so why does it need to be at the end of the railway?

The public will be told that elected members examined a thorough business case before making the decision to spend your money on this venture. However, business cases usually present options and make recommendations based on comparative benefits and detriments. Not in this case, this is an exercise in one-option, take it or leave it vanity politics.

Alex Salmond and David Parker have announced that the tapestry will reside in Tweedbank and no other options will be put forward. As the opposition we will protest, as in deed we did at the last council meeting in June. However, Cllr Parker’s administration (the SNP, Liberals and the Independents) will do as they are told and support the proposal without question or murmur for fear that they will be removed from administration – no wonder people are disillusioned with politicians.

Michelle Ballantyne

Conservative Councillor for Selkirkshire/Leader of the Opposition


Hawick not on tourist radar

There are two arterial roads through the Borders, the A7 and A68. Travelling north on the A68, I was surprised that there are no direction signs encouraging the traveller to the Home of Scottish Knitwear, Hawick.

Hawick has, as I see it, three attributes – beautiful countryside, its people and knitwear to attract the tourist and potential investment.

Why, therefore, has the Scottish Tourist Board not insisted that a roadside sign, on probably the busiest route, the A68, been erected to invite the traveller to visit and start their knitwear journey of discovery?

The old adage ‘the more you tell, the more you sell’ . So come on, get the direction signs up and if there is already one there, it must be poorly displayed as I missed it.

Stuart Miles

Prudhoe, Northumberland


Bygone Borderlands

May we through the pages of your newspaper thank all those who helped before during and after last week’s Bygone Borderlands event at the Haining.

A special thanks to the players from Selkirk Rugby Club for helping us erect and dismantle the Marquees on what was a very busy weekend for everyone.

Haining Volunteers


KAOS charity fundraiser

KAOS Musical Theatre Company would like to thank everyone who supported the charity at their fundraising Band Night, which was recently held at the Cross Keys in Kelso.

The night was a lot of fun and a great success. The money raised will help to go towards putting on our next show, The Addams Family, in March next year.

Don’t forget we are always looking for new members to join. Thank you again for your support.

On behalf of the KAOS 

RNLI collection success

On behalf of the committee of the Hawick and Denholm branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, I would like to thank all those who helped to make our Flag Week, from August 11-16, such a success.

During the week we raised £1,415.04 and without all the help from our collectors and donors in Hawick and Denholm such success would be impossible. Over 80 per cent of all that we collect is spent on saving lives, both inshore and at sea. Our lifeboat crews are all volunteers and they do appreciate the generosity of those supporters who live quite a distance from the sea.

Giles Passmore

(Flag Week Convener)


Carbon free future is hot air

Electricity generated from coal without carbon capture and storage (CCS) will be banned in the Liberal Democrats’ general election manifesto.

Germany is building 30 new coal-fired plants, of which three will burn “dirty” lignite coal. There are 19 lignite coal-plants planned or under construction in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, Poland, Romania and Slovenia. China and India are burning coal. There are 2,300 coal-plants worldwide, of which 620 are in China.

All are using coal to provide cheaper electricity. There are coal reserves for 109 years.

The average lifespan of a coal-fired power plant is 40 years, so CO2 will continue to be released for decades with not an operational CCS facility in sight.

The hopes of the Liberals for a carbon free future seems to be “hot air”.

Clark Cross



Privatisation of NHS Scotland

The NHS in England is being dismantled as a service provided by public bodies and is increasingly provided by privately-owned health care companies such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Care.

In time, any reductions in funding for NHS services in England are likely to feed through to a devolved Scotland via the Barnett formula or whatever ultimately replaces it.

Funding of the NHS in Scotland aside, the greatest risk to 100 per cent public provision of healthcare services comes from what is called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the fruit of long-running negotiations between the European Union and the US over trade liberalisation.

One of its fundamental principles is that services, including state services, should be open to private competition from US multinationals. According to Ignacio Garcia Bercero, the EU commissioner with responsibility for TTIP, health services in Europe will be opened to private competition, but only where privatisation is already established. In other words, where there is an existing state monopoly, foreign companies cannot sue the government in question for unfair competition.

Conceivably, by this measure, Scotland within the UK could expect to be exempt from any tampering by US multinationals by way of EU trade agreements, but it would require Westminster to seek and secure an exemption, on our behalf.

The UK Health and Social Care Act, first three pages, abolished the need to provide free healthcare in NHS England at the point of use and opened the UK system to TTIP because it explicitly introduces a private market in health provision in England. After a No vote, private providers and insurance companies may argue that, since Scotland is not a sovereign state but a region of the UK, it cannot be exempted from competition for provision of health care services and as such US multinationals may well force their way into the NHS in Scotland.

As the UK has made the NHS in England TTIP compliant, it seems possible, even likely, that the Scottish system will be seen as an unacceptable anachronism in a unitary state.

Given Westminster’s refusal to seek EU clarity on Scotland’s position post Yes, given Ruth Davidson’s failure to convince colleagues in London to devolve air passenger duty (APD), given Nick Clegg’s abandonment of tuition fee pledges, given the concealment of the McCrone Report in the 1970s by the Labour Party, are the people of Scotland right to expect that Westminster would be willing to act on our behalf to save something we are clearly keen on safeguarding? I’m not holding my breath, I’m voting Yes.

I don’t want to see this in Scotland, which is one of the reasons I will definitely be voting Yes, and I would suggest that all people in Scotland who want to preserve our current NHS should vote Yes.

Alistair White


Sweating the small stuff

So much of the referendum debate has focused on the big issues – what currency we will use and how stable it would be and whether our economy can be sustained by the working population.

But what of the smaller questions which would affect so many of us? I have asked (and asked again) and have had no answers.

My car has a UK number plate. Who will pay for my car to be relicenced in Scotland and who will pay for my new number plate? I hold a UK driving licence. Who will pay for my new Scottish driving licence? I hold a UK passport. Who will pay for my new Scottish passport to be issued? Either directly or indirectly – I will end up paying for all these and more.

And it is not just the cost of the number plate or passport, it is not just the cost of the driving licence. We will all have to pay for the systems to test for, issue and record these things – whatever they say, nothing comes for free.

Having been told, so emphatically that big, single-management organisations are so much cheaper to run – PoliceScotland springs to mind here – we are now being asked to vote for doing just the opposite. And it will cost us more – every single one of us. How much more is the question we all have to ask.

How can we make the right decision on September 18 without knowing how that vote will affect us as individuals or as a society?

Frances Pringle

Torwoodlee, Galashiels

No going back, why would we?

Let us go for independence. We have put up with years of neglect from the Westminster government who seem determined to constantly become involved in foreign affairs at the expense of their own people.

Scottish people and English people do have loads of rapport and connections with one another and that will continue, but we need to look to the future and safeguard our country.

At the next election, we need to be free to vote in a government that works for Scotland and is answerable to the people of Scotland.

I have been told by potential no voters that there will be no going back. My answer is ‘Why would we want to?’

Jane Seth

St Boswells

Offering Ally a piece of advice

Ally Entwistle in her piece 04/09/14 makes reference to how she uses her British passport, ‘out of my way’.

Setting aside the fact that this type of behaviour will not endear her to other fellow travellers, I would suggest she would not wave her British passport, as she suggests, in certain countries around the world. Holders of US, Israeli and British passports are more likely to be picked out by terrorists first if they are unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Also, she does not seem to be aware of the current arrangements that exist between countries in the EU.

If the UK does not have a diplomatic present in a country, the one where her teenagers got drunk and lost all their belongings, the EU country that does have a presence there would be able to help them.

Obviously it would help if her teenagers sobered up first before they knocked on the front door of the particular embassy, even the French one.

I hope this helps Ally to stop ‘swithering on’.

Donald Wallace