A sea of fog extended from the Eildons to the Cheviots when Walter Baxter captured this scene from the summit of Eildon Mid Hill.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
As Theresa May and her wee coterie of barmy Brexiteers sink ever deeper into la-la land, the surreal tone of the No. 10 propaganda machine gets ever more bizarre.
Why on Earth will the EU do anything other than make Brexit as painful as possible for England?
Economically, politically, socially and culturally, England is irrelevant in Europe. It contributed nothing to the EU in 42 years of membership.
Even before the trade barriers go up, inflation is rising and will surely be in double figures by the end of the year. The cost so far of Brexit in terms of collapse of the pound, loss of business deals and employment and education openings closed off is already astronomical – although we will never, of course, be told the true figure.
But I see that at least 230,000 jobs are going in the financial services sector alone, and that is but the tip of one of the many unemployment icebergs that England faces. Those young folk not smart enough to get out before B-Day will surely be left to fight like cats in a sack for the few remaining low-paid jobs that might still exist in the failed pariah state that will soon be England.
And all this is to say nothing of the environmental, contractual, social and employment safeguards that EU law provides and that May will gleefully hack away once B-Day arrives.
The only thing I still find odd is that anyone was surprised by the result. It’s really awfy simple.
The equation goes something like: “Take the most backward and racist political entity in Europe, pose a question at a referendum where the thinly-disguised sub-text is, ‘Do you really hate all foreigners?’, and, hey presto, a predictable response”.
The English voted in droves for what will turn out to be their political, economic and social Armageddon. We should not offer sympathy – the smart ones will get out and the rest deserve everything that is coming to them.
BREAKING UP OF THE FAILING EU
Katya Adler’s BBC documentary, “After Brexit: The Battle for Europe”, on the failing EU should be compulsory viewing by all who have a stake in Scotland’s future. It is still available on the BBC i Player.
While the SNP at Westminster, perhaps guided by leader Angus Robertson’s Austrian background, is so servile that the party’s MPs sing the EU anthem in the Commons, the reality across Europe is that people are sick and tired of EU dictates, the failed euro project, acquiescence in globalisation, mass migration from Africa, mass unemployment in southern Europe and the EU’s Byzantine complexity, where a lift to see one of its bureaucrats arrives at floor five-and-a-half in its Brussels complex.
Already the EU is breaking apart. The Viseograd group of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic meet together before EU committees to define common policy. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, has already breached EU rules by installing a 140-mile razor wire fence to keep Middle East migrants out. Common sense tells you that allowing millions from Africa into Europe will change European culture and society beyond recognition.
And yet should the SNP achieve its nightmare of an independent Scotland within the EU, it will have open borders, allowing limitless immigration from countries like Somalia.
In Italy, the government’s referendum was defeated by the Five Star Movement which rejects EU policy and wants Italy to leave the EU. The euro has been a disaster for Italy and already plans are being dusted off to reintroduce the lire. Factory closures in the south of Italy because of globalisation speak for themselves. Italian banks are on the brink of collapse.
In France, Marine Le Pen, of the Front National, explains that the concepts of political left and right have been replaced by globalisation and anti-globalisation. Globalisation means that multi-nationals have the power to move where labour is cheap and tax regimes favour them.
In Greece further austerity inflicted on its people by the European Central Bank will likely force it to be the first country to leave the failing euro.
In Germany, Martin Schulz, former president of the European Parliament, once described as behaving like a concentration camp guard by ex-Italian premier Silvio Berlosconi, now challenging Angela Merkel for Chancellor, warns of the possible collapse of the EU. This from someone who has been at the heart of the European project for decades.
And then we have the EU’s answer to Dr Strangelove, Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgium PM and career politician who thinks that the EU’s problems will be solved by a deeper and closer union of the member states, driving them towards a country called Europe, with its citizens paying taxes direct to Brussels, and the ultimate exponent of a European army and defence force separate from NATO. This is the politician who will front the EU’s negotiation team as Britain moves swiftly to leave the sclerotic organisation.
As Ms Adler says, there may not be an EU soon for Britain to leave. Or for the SNP to worship.
SINGLE MARKET IS NO SOLUTION
Just like First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Calum Kerr MP, in his column published on February 2, was being disingenuous by saying Prime Minister Theresa May wants a hard Brexit.
But that is precisely what the majority of British people voted for. Throughout the referendum campaign the Leave side was asked if leaving the EU meant leaving the single market – the answer was invariably “Yes”. There is no surprise about that and no alternative to leaving the single market.
The Remain people keep talking about staying in the single market, but everyone knows that would mean accepting all the current rules such as total freedom of movement, subjugation to the European Court of Justice, to the Orwellian European Arrest Warrant, the inability to negotiate our own trade deals and accepting atrocious deals like TTIP, with its investor courts which hand government over to American corporations. Oh – and paying a small fortune for the privilege.
See what I mean about disingenuity?
As for Richard Walthew’s wishful thinking that large numbers of Scottish Remain voters will vote for independence because of Brexit (letters, February 2), the likelihood is remote as, for many people, the two issues were separate and, besides, a third of SNP supporters voted Leave.
In addition, the EU is in a bad way economically, has made it clear that Scotland could not join for a long time, if at all, and if Scotland was to be admitted, the EU would demand even greater austerity and insist that it joins the hopeless euro.
In the 40-odd years since I and the vast majority of the SNP voted “No” to the EEC, I have been unable to find one member of that party who could answer the question: “What is the point of voting for independence if you are going to be in the EU?”
WHERE WE WANT SCOTLAND TO GO
I enjoyed the letter from Graham Holford in last week’s Southern in which he referred to Richard Walthew’s observation that there are three distinctive groups involved in the independence debate.
Indeed there are – British nationalists, Scottish nationalists (“nationalists” simply believe in a nation’s right to govern itself) and Scottish unionists (the “floating” voters).
Mr Holford, despite his claims, exemplifies the “heart-over-head” British nationalist who would never vote for Scottish independence, no matter how well we might do, or how badly we are currently governed.
A UK national debt of more than £1,800,000,000,000 (and rising), a trading deficit in the billions and an imminent step off a hard Brexit cliff – these things pale into insignificance compared to the absolute requirement that Westminster govern us. Were Mr Holford a passenger on the Titanic, he would be unconcerned about the ship’s excessive speed, icebergs in the vicinity or the competence of the captain. The only issue of any importance would be whether Titanic was flying a proper British ensign at the stern.
Two key points lie at the heart of this debate, and are entirely about governance. The Scottish Assembly was given no strategic economic power in 1999. All key economic and fiscal levers remained reserved to Westminster. The Scotland Act of 2016 doesn’t significantly change that.
Despite Scotland’s potential, British nationalists never tire of telling us what a poor financial situation we are in. If we take them at their word, then our economy is in this mess after years of Westminster management. This, apparently, is an argument for continuing Westminster management.
We are surrounded by small countries who run their economies and societies very well – Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland, Iceland and Finland. Why do they constantly insist that Scots could not also run our country successfully?
These are not questions for Mr Holford who, as an emotional nationalist, has made his mind up already.
But for other readers, let’s contemplate what we actually have, and what kind of society we could create for ourselves and our children, if only we in Scotland had the power to take our country where we want it to go.
THE RIGHT TO SEE GRANDCHILDREN
Myself and fellow campaigners are fighting for the right of grandparents to see their grandchildren.
There are thousands of grandparents who, through no fault of their own, are refused contact with their grandchildren. This is totally unacceptable.
The law has not been looked at since 1995. This is a disgrace. We need the law changed now.
There has been too much talking around tables, but no action.
The situation also affects fathers – and children need fathers, mothers, grandparents and other family members. Grandchildren are missing out on so much.
Because of the current situation, many young men are committing suicide – even grandparents are dying of a broken heart.
I am in contact with grandparents and fathers all over the United Kingdom. It breaks my heart to hear these stories. We will continue to stand outside the Scottish Parliament every month until the law is changed – and I have a lot of people who are depending on me. I will not let them down until justice is promised and the law changed. In the end it’s the children who suffer.
We would like access and the right to see our grandchildren before it’s too late, as many of us are suffering from ill health.
I am not a charity. I do this from the heart as I am going through the same heartache.
My husband and I have been at this campaign for nearly two years now. But it’s going to be more heart-breaking Christmases, birthdays, Easters and summer holidays until the law is changed.
Anyone who wants to add their support, or just find out more information about this campaign, can email me at email@example.com, or visit my Facebook page – Issy Shillinglaw Grandparents Rights.
CHALLENGING ‘ALTERNATIVE’ FACTS
In response to facts and comments about seals and salmon contained in a letter from Miles Browne which you published on February 2, I will attempt to clarify the matter for your readers.
The Blakeney Point grey seal colony, Norfolk, has only existed since 2001 (25 pups), so the growth in pup numbers is a natural progression from zero to whatever the optimum population is for this site.
Using the Blakeney figures as a reference, Mr Browne interpolates that the Farne Islands seal pup figures may have similarly increased from 25 to 2,000 over the same time period. Indeed, he states that no count occurred on the Farnes in 2001.
While it is heartening that Mr Browne keeps up with the times in that he has clearly embraced the fashion of using “alternative facts” when the actual facts are inconvenient, the truth is as follows:
The Farne Islands is the world’s most studied seal colony, with science-based counts taking place annually since 1952. Pup numbers in the early 1970s were running at about 2,000, dropping to just over 1,000 in 2001 and recovering to just over 2,000 in 2016.
Mr Browne is correct in asserting that seals eat salmon.
Seals are opportunistic carnivores, feeding on any creature small enough that comes to hand. They are unlikely to often expend unnecessary energy chasing one of the fastest fish in the sea.
The proposal that Atlantic salmon numbers drop when seal numbers increase is unsupported by any scientific evidence. To take a parallel example, over the past century Baltic fish stocks have collapsed, and at the same time the Baltic grey seal population (same species, but a distinct population) has reduced from 100,000 to 7,000.
Action to save Tweed salmon needs to be based on science, not on folklore and fishermen’s tales.
As for livestock being allowed into rivers, Mr Browne’s implied criticism of the Tweed Foundation is misplaced in this instance. Research clearly shows that access to the river by cattle is detrimental to the river ecosystem, with serious implications for successful salmon spawning and parr survival.
Established practices are not necessarily wise – who today would support the once-widely accepted practices of discharging sewage, farm waste or mill effluent directly into the river?
It would be unwise for the Tweed salmon industry to ignore wider public opinion and go forward with a campaign against native wildlife.
The Farne and Blakeney seals attract many thousands of visitors annually, and millions of viewers on programmes such as the BBC’s Springwatch. It is quite possible that the seals add more to the sum total of human happiness than the Tweed salmon.
For the game-fishing community to characterise iconic wildlife species as vermin, as I have heard, could well prove to be a public relations disaster.
SCRUMMING DOWN ON TRAIN TRIP
Earlier this month, my family and I travelled on the 10.01 train from Tweedbank to Edinburgh to watch Scotland play Ireland at Murrayfield.
We were pleased that there was ample parking available at that time in the morning, but surprised to find that when the train arrived there were a significant number of passengers who had joined the down train in Galashiels to ensure that they were able to get a seat. There were more passengers than seats and so a considerable number had to stand in the aisles and entrances.
Unfortunately, perhaps due to overcrowding, the brakes failed and so everyone was de-trained at Eskbank, and after a wait of about an hour the following train arrived. This already had passengers standing and so became even more overcrowded when the delayed passengers boarded. All the aisles were jam-packed, the entrances were similar and the toilet in one carriage managed to accommodate six adults. What a disgrace. If there had been any medical emergency it would have been impossible to render any assistance. If the train had to make an emergency stop there would have been a significant number of crush injuries to those standing in the aisles.
To have this degree of overcrowding must be a breach of health and safety regulations.
We arrived at Waverley some one hour and 20 minutes late.
The return journey was no better with delay due to disruptive passengers, overcrowding, toilets unusable due to overflowing and a number of passengers being drunk and vomiting. Clearly not a pleasant journey and one quite unsuitable for young children.
On both the trip to and from Edinburgh there was no checking of tickets, either on the train or at either station.
In any event, it would have been impossible for any staff to pass up and down the train due to the aisles having passengers packed in like sardines.
I welcomed the opening of the train connection to Edinburgh, but clearly there are significant problems with the management of this line. ScotRail should be brought to task and required to provide a better, safer and more reliable service for the Borders.
Surely it should be possible to:
1) have more carriages available at times when there is a predictable increase in passengers, such as international rugby matches;
2) limit the number of passengers to ensure that they can travel in safety;
3) have on-board staff to control disruptive passengers;
4) check toilet facilities at regular intervals;
5) ensure that trains arriving in Tweedbank do not have passengers who have boarded in Galashiels for a subsequent onward journey to Waverley.
The Borders Railway is a great asset, but it needs greater management input and control.
Alex M. Davison
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In addition to the veterans – average age 86 – we welcome family members as associates, some of whom spent time in Trieste as children.
Photographs and memories are published in a quarterly magazine and further information is available on the association website. The 2017 annual reunion will be in Cardiff over the weekend of March 17, 18 and 19.
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A QUESTION TO TAX THE ELECTORATE
Just how costly will Tory-run councils in Scotland be if they get the chance to run local authorities this May?
It’s a question many should ask, considering the history of Tories and taxes. They may claim they are for low taxes, but recent behaviour shows they say one thing to get votes and another once safely elected.
In the 2010 Westminster election, they promised VAT wouldn’t increase. But less than two months later, they increased VAT to 20%. The Conservatives also introduced a pasty tax, granny tax, caravan tax and bedroom tax – none of which was indicated in their plans for government before they were elected.
But their latest wheeze to talk down Scotland is to claim that it’s more expensive than England. Really?
Council tax in Scotland hasn’t increased since 2007. In England it has increased by 21%.
In Tory-run Surrey council they threatened to increase it a whopping 18%, subject to a local vote. The cap on council tax increases in England is nearly 5%. In Scotland it is 3%.
And let’s not forget it was the Tory-led Moray council that proposed increasing council tax by 15% last year.
At no point did the Tories say before they were elected that they would bring in such increases.
In Scotland, since the SNP came to office, prescription charges were cut and then abolished in 2011. In that time, prescription charges in England have increased from £6.65 in 2006-07 to £8.40 in 2016-17 – a 26% increase.
In Scotland tuition fees have been abolished. South of the border they are at £9,000 a year – a 200% increase since the SNP came to office.
In Scotland water rates will be an average of £357 for the next year. The current average charge – even before next year’s rates are set – is £389 in England and Wales.
There are also no tolls in Scotland since we abolished them on the Forth and Tay bridges in 2008. Meanwhile, in England and Wales there are 23 tolls on roads, bridges and tunnels, with charges as high as £6.70 for a single trip on the Severn Bridge or £11.50 for the day in central London.
The Tories think they can con the voters by pretending they’ll lower taxes when experience shows they will increase them when elected.