Politicians and their priorities

The proposed closure of courts in Duns and Peebles has created huge opposition among our political representatives, suggesting that this is an issue of central importance to the area and will have a huge bearing on future elections.

But last year’s closure of the Borders’ only abattoir generated comparatively little concern from our politicians – and I would urge the electorate to have a good think about what will have the greater impact upon their daily lives.

I don’t have the statistics, but would guess that the average member of the public may visit a court once in their lives – perhaps as a juror, victim of crime or as an accused person, yet would eat meat almost every day.

For those few visits to a court, some may have to travel further, but, on average, every stock animal leaves the Borders to travel about eight welfare and quality-reducing hours. Very few of these carcasses return to be sold in butchers’ shops and restaurants that valiantly attempt to supply local meat, with greatly increased transport costs and concerns about provenance and quality.

Those who appreciate eating quality meat are having to pay much more for it.

Borders Conservative MSP John Lamont believes the closure of two courts would lead to the “metropolisation” of this region.

But surely the fact that no one in the Borders or East Lothian can eat meat that didn’t have to leave the region was a much larger stride on the road to “metropolisation”.

The closure of just two courthouses would save the publicly-funded justice system £4million a year.

Abattoirs are privately funded and have been reduced in numbers in Britain from 1,000 in 1980 to 300 presently, largely as a result of throttling restrictions imposed by environmental health officers (the fastest growing employment sector in Britain), increasing abattoir expenditure in the supposed interest of improving animal welfare and food safety standards. Both have been greatly reduced, as the horse meat scandal highlighted.

The population of Scotland – thus the number of meat eaters – is now at a record high, while crime figures are the lowest they’ve been since 1974. Much routine justice is carried out via internet and postal communication, while almost all animals travel further alive than dead.

If a political candidate was to make the reopening of a small, publicly-funded abattoir a campaign priority, they would have my vote.

The creation of a “central justice centre” in Galashiels is a good idea. I only hope that existing court buildings are not demolished and the money saved redirected where it can be better used – towards an abattoir.

The old textile college building in Galashiels would have made a nice justice centre, before it was demolished at the bequest of our representatives to make a space for Tesco to sell us beef from afar.

We must think about who represents us and what their priorities are. Reduction in the level of crime is undeniably a good thing for all in the Borders, except perhaps for those who work in the justice system.

As a footnote, surely the best use of wind farm compensation revenue, other than subsidising the electricity of those whose home is most imposed upon, would be to subsidise an abattoir as it is generally farmers who live in view of windmills, not people of towns and villages where the community project money is spent.

An abattoir would benefit all – not least the stock animals reared.

Ben Douglas