This autumn view near Harestanes was captured by Ewan Dickson, from Morebattle.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
With reference to your recent coverage of the latest Scottish Information Commissioner’s (SIC) decision notice on the Scottish Borders Council (SBC)/New Earth Solutions (NES) fiasco, I think it only fair to point out that your article did not tell the full story.
The impression was given that commissioner Rosemary Agnew had agreed that the council should be allowed to retain its veil of secrecy over the “lessons learned” from the debacle which cost taxpayers millions of pounds and left the Borders waste management strategy in complete disarray.
But, in fact, while the SIC decided that conversations between local government officials at workshops should not be disclosed, she has ordered SBC to release sections of two documents containing organisational “lessons” from the council’s handling of the NES project.
In her written decision, Ms Agnew states: “The commissioner considers that disclosure of these ‘lessons’ are in the public interest, as they indicate that the council has evaluated its handling of the NES project and they demonstrate how this evaluation will be used to improve the management of future waste treatment contracts.
“The commissioner notes that the cancellation of the NES contract led to the council ‘writing off’ several million pounds of taxpayers’ money, and, in the circumstances, she considers that disclosure of the lessons learned during this process is in the public interest.” The council has been given until November 28 to supply me with the relevant information.
Another interesting ‘revelation’ contained in the decision notice was not touched upon in your news story. Apparently at some point during the four-year relationship between council and contractor, New Earth Solutions management requested an unspecified sum of money from SBC.
This is the first time this outrageous aspect of a deeply-worrying saga has come to light. So perhaps the council can answer the following questions which may have to form a further Freedom of Information request into the affair.
How much money did NES want? What did they want the money for? What was the reaction of SBC to the request? Did elected members debate the request? Was any money handed over?
According to Ms Agnew’s decision notice: “The commissioner accepts that this figure would have been confidential at the time when the money was requested, and the council has maintained that this sum should not be disclosed even at this juncture.”
SBC is no doubt relieved that Ms Agnew is satisfied that this information is not required in the context of my FoI request which asked specifically about lessons learned from a deal with contractors who were incapable of funding the project and whose technology was basically useless.
There are many facets of this catastrophe which remain clouded in secrecy. Two further SIC investigations are ongoing after SBC’s refusal to provide requested information.
Once they are completed the full extent of this disgraceful episode may become clear.
A problem much closer to home
In a court report which appeared in The Southern Reporter last month, it was said that a policeman had been racially abused because he had been addressed as being English.
Ignoring any expletives uttered by the offender, can it be presumed that if the officer had been addressed as being a Scot, no offence would have been committed? My guess is that the policeman spoke with an English accent and had his “assumed nationality” abused. Is this racial abuse?
Currently, I am aware that “we hate the English” is in common use in our local secondary school, prompted, as above, by an English accent. I only took this to be a form of bullying, but now it has been identified as racial abuse, perhaps Scottish Borders Council will implement a project to have it stamped out.
In the lead-up to the independence referendum, a person canvassing on behalf of the SNP, after failing to convince my wife to vote Yes, left with the words: “You lot come up here...’’. Again, my wife was identified by her English accent. Was this another potential case of racial abuse?
I hesitate to make a link between the above instances of anti-English xenophobia and grassroot support for the SNP, although in the case of the man canvassing for the SNP, this link was made very clear.
Contrast this with Borders MP Calum Kerr’s take on xenophobia in his regular column in the same issue of the paper. He is on fairly solid ground in his criticism of the Westminster government’s refusal to guarantee the right of EU nationals to remain in the UK after Brexit. This is a fairly shoddy Brexit negotiating chip.
It may, however, be easier to condemn xenophobia if one is living in the far reaches of the EU – e.g. Scotland. How would we react north of the border if there were thousands of folk landing on our shores, escaping war in Syria/Iraq, or dire political/economic conditions in Africa?
The Greeks are in this situation and are no doubt doing their humanitarian best, but their economy is shattered and it must be difficult for them.
I read that an independent Scotland would have a bigger budget deficit than that of Greece. Readers will recall that last year Greeks voted in an anti-austerity government, but, as we know, this government was bullied into submission by EU bureaucrats [and German bankers]. Thus, following its anti-austerity vote, Greece was rewarded with more extreme austerity, higher unemployment and a declining economy.
If the SNP manages to convince us to forego “Tory austerity”, one has to hope that an independent Scotland within the EU would be treated better than Greece. But would you like to bet on this?
Back on my original theme, I’m hoping that Mr Kerr will lower his sights and address xenophobia much closer to home.
Mr Kerr states that “diversity is a strength”. The southern area of Britain is unarguably much more diverse than the north, so that cannot be the reason we want to separate from folk with whom we have had a very productive union for the last 300 years or so.
The indigenous southerners are pretty much identical to us, ethnically and racially. So what actually is the problem?
It is normally “the economy”, but you have to be a brave Scot to dream we are not better off together.
So it comes down to education. Our history seems to have got stuck in Bannockburn. If we have any historical perspective, how can we kid ourselves that we are embracing diversity when our children, learning from their parents, are still able to confirm that “we hate the English”. And these English people are identifiable by their different accent.
This is a national disgrace. Mr Kerr, will ye no git yer heid roon this and sort it oot.
Taking Scotland to a dark place
Nicola Sturgeon clearly revels in her role as she strides the stage in pursuit of her dream – to break up the United Kingdom and deliver a critical blow to the English and Westminster.
Since Brexit the First Minister feels she must join the EU since the two issues are inextricably linked. One cannot have one without the other.
As she strives to achieve this, the people of Scotland must begin to realise that if she does succeed, she could condemn this nation to a very dark place indeed. This seems not to trouble her, since she has stated that independence transcends all – the economy etc.
For its survival as a political force, the SNP must achieve both.
Hence she does not discuss the ever-worsening state of the Scottish economy for good reason. She has no figures re the total cost of independence. Scotland has little chance of gaining entry into the EU after Brexit for reasons well documented – i.e. vetoes and economic standing etc.
But still, all talk is of separation and the EU. Can the nationalists somehow broker entry and go for broke for independence?
Will we be told the truth by the SNP as to its position, or will the people of Scotland be deceived? Deception is no stranger to the SNP. We had the promised oil boom to make Scotland one of the richest nations in the world. The British pound for Scotland was another.
Until now nationalists have never been questioned on any serious matters, but we are seeing this change. Now that the cracks are appearing, expect further vitriol from the SNP as it faces its foes.
The SNP’s fall-back is always to blame and attack others, and to drive independence to placate their avid followers. Letters to this column are showing that growing numbers are not seduced by the SNP’s rhetoric.
However, the whole of Scotland must awaken to the obvious peril of being out of the UK and the EU, with no chance of a return to the status quo. Even with Indy and in the EU, life could be very difficult for Scotland, depending on the terms of entry.
Only a massive vote/stance to remain in the UK will halt them. If not the nationalists could take the Scottish people to a very dangerous position indeed.
J. E. Payne
Circumstances have changed
I finished the last letter I wrote to The Southern in October with the question: “Do we believe that Scotland is a nation, with all that that entails, or has it been extinguished and absorbed permanently into the body of a greater British nationalism?”
Although there’s been no response in print, it’s a question I hope readers will ask themselves, as it seems to me that the ongoing debate over Scotland’s constitutional future consists of, not two, but three clear positions.
Firstly, there are those who (like me) consider Scotland to be a nation. We who live here have the right to determine our future, and, as is normal for nations, we should be able to collectively make the decisions that do so. We should be independent.
Secondly, there are those who also consider Scotland to be a nation, and agree that we should make our own decisions about our future. However, these folk believe that we are better remaining in the existing union with the rest of the UK.
Thirdly, there are those who do not consider Scotland to be a nation. We may have been once, but now the Scottish nation is dead – “extinguished”, as our Scottish Secretary, David Mundell, would say. The question of what decisions we might or might not make is irrelevant, as we have no right to make them.
These three viewpoints might very roughly be described as: 1. Scottish nationalist; 2. Scottish unionist; 3. British nationalist.
The interesting thing here is the extent to which positions 1. and 2. have more in common with each other than either have with 3.
Circumstances following the vote in September 2014 have changed the situation of both Scotland and the UK utterly, and those with viewpoints 1. and 2. may reasonably wish to re-visit that debate.
Do we have that right, or would readers agree with British nationalists that, as we have no nation, we have no right to debate our future at all?
Making a difference
Street Pastors have been active in the Borders since June this year.
During this time we have been out every Saturday night in Galashiels, listening, caring and helping those out enjoying the night time economy of the town.
As with any voluntary organisation, we could not function without the support of our volunteers, and also the many local businesses and individuals who continue to contribute with practical help and assistance.
Among these, I would like to thank the Galashiels Fellowship of Churches and various Churches throughout the Borders. Tesco in Galashiels for supplying us with various pieces of kit used on the streets and also the Co-op for supplying us with refreshments during training sessions.
The work of Street Pastors is ongoing, but together with our partners we are making a difference.
Street Pastors can be contacted at email@example.com
(co-ordinator, Borders Street Pastors)
Annual veterans’ dinner planned
The annual KOSB Association Cruickshank Dinner will take place on Friday, November 18, in the Buccleuch Arms Hotel, St Boswells, at 7 for 7.30pm. Regimental ties should be worn.
This is an All Ranks Dinner and is a male-only event. All serving and former Borderers, Regular, TA and ACF are welcome to attend, as are male guests.
If you have not already received a letter, please call the association secretary on 01289 331811, to give your name and address, so that the letter can be sent.
Charity’s plea to keep checking
Throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, there were constant reminders for women to check their breasts.
But although the campaign has ended, I urge your readers to remember that symptoms can occur at any time.
If you have any concerns at all, call Breast Cancer Care free on 0808 800 6000.
Breast Cancer Care