Ewan Dickson captured the Cheviot Hills covered in snow with this image taken from near Morebattle.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
SO MUCH FOR A UNION OF EQUALS
I had to chuckle when I heard Prime Minister Theresa May and Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson talk about economic division and uncertainty caused by another independence referendum.
These are the same individuals now dragooning Scotland out of the European Union, against its will, leading to exactly that.
In the run-up to the last independence referendum we were told that Scotland should be leading – not leaving – the UK, that the UK was a union of equals. When Mrs May came to Scotland and met First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in July last year she commented that negotiations with the EU over Brexit would not start until there was an agreed UK position involving the devolved administrations.
Fast forward nine months and a hard Brexit is to be pursued, with no agreed UK position and the diminished prospects of a Brexit dividend in the shape of more powers for the Scottish Parliament.
So much for Scotland leading the UK and this being a partnership of equals.
The next independence referendum, however, must be much bigger than simply the EU question. There is a clear democratic deficit, with a UK government with one Tory MP in Scotland doing what it wants, whatever the wishes of the Scottish people. With the Labour Party in disarray, this scenario is not likely to change for some time.
Ultimately, what the Brexit vote highlights is the more fundamental issue of who we want to make decisions for us and what sort of country we want to live in. Do we want decisions about Scotland made at Westminster, or do we want all decisions about Scotland made at Holyrood by a government we have elected?
We now have the chance to take control of our own destiny – a golden opportunity. Let’s have the confidence to grab it with both hands.
NOT EXACTLY A SOCIALIST NIRVANA
In his column (March 2), Calum Kerr MP described the UK as “one of the richest countries in the world”.
This begs the question, why would we want to leave one of the richest countries in the world?
He claims we need to leave the UK so we can stay in the EU.
So we will leave a UK that hands us back £1,700 more for every person than we put in. We will give up free trade on three times the exports we have with the EU to stay in it so that we can be another small, insignificant part of the European Union and pay billions for the privilege.
That is if we are allowed to join the EU as our deficit is worse than Greece and we would need to save billions to reduce this to a level acceptable by the EU.
Meantime we would have to create our own currency (the Pound Sturgeon, I would presume) before we are allowed to use the euro which also needs backed by billions.
Councils are stripped to the bone, the devolved NHS is not going particularly well, so where do we make the cuts?
Severe austerity, rising unemployment, border guards. Not exactly the socialist nirvana the SNP purported to before indy 1.
Someone mentioned in a letter that you must be a nationalist or a unionist. That is not true. I am proud to be Scottish (if a bit embarrassed every time I see the SNP talking on national TV), but I am also proud to be British.
USE YOUR HEID, NOT YOUR HEART!
Like Richard Walthew (letters, March 2) I am not prepared to gamble the future of the next generation on a mere whim.
With 8.3% of the population, Scotland raises some £53.7bn in taxes (7.9% of total UK revenue), but manages to spend some £68.5bn, or 9.1% of total UK Expenditure. We are thus spending £12.6bn or almost 25% more than we earn. Worse even than Greece.
Agriculture and forestry, despite the vast use of land, only contribute a little over 1% of GDP and even if a dramatic increase were possible this heavily subsidised industry would contribute little to deficit reduction.
Lumbered with more than half the UK’s wind farms and related subsidies and a 90% share of the estimated £24bn North Sea decommissioning costs through tax breaks, this will be another drain on Scotland’s income. With an 8.3% share of the UK’s £1.7trillion national debt and a similarly large vast unfunded liability to provide 2/3rd final salary pensions to Scottish public sector workers, the liability would affect many generations.
Just to reduce the current account deficit would require vast tax increase or cuts to public services or both. I wonder what the highly-educated students at our top universities would do faced with higher tax bills, particularly as at some Scottish students only make up 40% of the university population.
With many of the 18,000 top rate taxpayers in Scotland in highly mobile industries like finance, raising more tax would just mean more raids on ordinary folk.
I suspect our finance minister Derek Mackay, who has no qualifications, let alone any in finance or economics, hasn’t a clue and is so happy to peddle the myth of the promised land.
The SNP, despite having had a great opportunity over the last decade to prove that they are capable of running a country, have failed miserably. At least we all got to see how bad it could be.
PROTECTING INTERESTS OF UK
The SNP’s worst nightmare is that the UK government do a good job in negotiating an acceptable Brexit deal with the EU, on trade as well as other matters.
So of course when Theresa May speaks of the prospect of additional powers coming to Scotland as they are returned from Brussels, the SNP’s reaction is to fabricate outrage.
The SNP’s pretence is that as powers over agriculture, fisheries, the environment and other matters return from Brussels after Brexit, it could only be in Scotland’s interests if they are delivered in their entirety to Scotland. The reluctance on the part of the UK government to simply accept this, is to protect the interests of the whole of the UK.
While the UK government seeks to protect the interests of everyone across the UK, the SNP focuses on finding ways to undermine the UK.
One seeks to bring us together, the other to tear us apart.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH IN BORDERS
I fully support Jack Ponton’s critique of wind farms (letters, March 2).
When the wind doesn’t blow they don’t work. They have damaged the environment. They have industrialised wildscapes. They rely totally on subsidies paid for by the taxpayer. Developers get rich on the back of energy bill payers. Wind machines (they are not turbines in the engineering sense) are mostly foreign made, and they are mostly foreign owned.
When Torness and Hunterston close, Scotland will be totally dependent on imports from England instead of only part of the time.
The SNP government’s obsession with meeting EU green targets will result in blackouts.
Even if Scotland were to cut its CO2 emissions to zero it would not make one iota of difference to climate change.
Scottish Borders Council should say “Enough is enough, not one more wind machine will be built in the Borders”.
A HEAVY-HANDED APPROACH
On a recent visit to Jedburgh cemetery, I was appalled to see a number of headstones had been taken down and laid across the grave.
In the older part of the cemetery, headstones have been cordoned off and the council is busy taking the tall ones down. These headstones are so old – 18th century – and epitaphs unreadable, so why take them down?
The reason the council gave was that the memorials were unsafe – i.e. when you go and pay your respects they just might fall down and kill you. Most of the memorials are upright and with robust foundations. Ones that are leaning over and of a height that is unsafe should be taken down. In the old part of the cemetery the headstones are so old that there will never be people tending the grave as they are probably not around.
This heavy-handed approach is probably the result of a health and safety directive. Parts of the cemetery look like a bomb has hit them. What a disgrace.
HELP PRESERVE HISTORIC BUILDING
One of the things that all Selkirk people will agree on is that they would like to see a more commercially successful town, one with a greater appeal to visitors and a more attractive burgh altogether.
Many projects are already working along those lines and with those aims in view.
Recently, with Scottish Borders Council help, we tried to put together a group of volunteers to exploit the unique history and secure the preservation of the Auld Kirk, both its place in Scotland’s early independence and the building itself.
It is important that Selkirk people realise that these aims cannot be achieved by magic and that their help, on behalf of the royal burgh, is needed.
From an admirable response last month which drew some 30 interested individuals together, another meeting in late February attracted only eight people.
If we don’t manage to get a group of willing and interested helpers together, the Auld Kirk will revert to what it has been for years – a rather uninteresting and deteriorating ruin surrounded by fallen gravestones with an interesting past which it is difficult to visualise or get a handle on.
Last year, a geophysical survey of the interior of the Auld Kirk revealed what looks like the footings of a mediaeval chapel. This accords with what we know from historical records and may be the first clear indication of the site of the Kirk o’ the Forest where Sir William Wallace was appointed Guardian of Scotland.
It is presumed that a church was established in Selkirk at roughly the same time as the monastery was established in (Old) Melrose, around 650AD. By the time of the 12th century founding of Selkirk’s abbey there was already a church in Selkirk separate from the abbey church.
The findings at the Auld Kirk last year brought more into focus the possible site of a kirk where Wallace’s guardianship ceremony took place. Perhaps we have found where it was.
We need to mobilise as many helpers as possible to develop the Auld Kirk, enhance its appearance, publicise it and possibly investigate the site archaeologically (without upsetting the residents!).
More importantly, we need the help to preserve and make another corner of the Borders worth visiting.
Work by contractors will start shortly to re-erect fallen and disturbed grave stones and to secure the crumbling walls but there are many more jobs for volunteers and not all physical!
Wallace had the guardianship of Scotland thrust upon him – let’s see if Selkirk can manage the guardianship of just the Auld Kirk.
There will be another ‘round table’ meeting in the County Hotel on Tuesday, March 21, at 7pm.
Please attend and be willing to volunteer help.
Dr Lindsay Neil
FOOD BANKS BENEFIT
Huge thanks to the audiences at Innerleithen, Selkirk and Duns in February, for coming along to the free Community Film screenings of the award winning film, ‘I Daniel Blake’ with donations for the local food banks.
The films, organised by the We are all Daniel Blake Community, and sponsored by UNITE the Union, allowed over 300 people to watch the film for free.
The local CAB attended the events and gave advice and support to audience members. One disabled moviegoer from Duns told me, ‘I have been so worried about recent changes to benefits I am too frightened to be reassessed, but now I know I can get help from the Citizens Advice Bureau.’
The food banks were overwhelmed by the generosity of the audiences, and said ‘This is what it is all about, local people helping local people. We wish there was no need for food banks, but are grateful people recognise the need and respond to help those in crisis’.
As a result of watching the films, it was highlighted people can get sanctioned for up to 13 weeks, with no money for food or basics, several people have put themselves up for advocacy training/helping people appeal against DWP sanctions and helping at local food banks.
A huge thanks to the organisers and helpers at all events.
NEW BLOOD DONORS AT KELSO
We would like to thank everyone who helped with the blood donor sessions when we visited the Tait Hall, Kelso on Sunday and Monday, February 26/27, 2017.
A total of 315 volunteers offered to give blood and 287 donations were given. There were nine new donors.
We are grateful for your help.
Pancake Day Tea success
The recent annual Pancake Day tea at Priorwood Court, Melrose in Aid of Arthritis Research UK, after some late donations were received, raised a stunning £242. This was a very happy occasion enjoyed by everyone.
Our grateful thanks go to all those people who attended and helped to make this such a convivial afternoon.
Melrose Branch Chairman