The field in the foreground of Walter Baxter’s image was the site of the amphitheatre at the Roman fort of Trimontium, Newstead. Leaderfoot viaduct is in the background.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
INSULTING THIS ‘QUITE OLD MAN’
I refer to the article headlined “Girl power won’t win day at May 4’s council election” in your April 6 edition.
If Catriona Bhatia’s remarks have been quoted correctly, it would appear that the only group to be allowed to indulge in sexism and ageism are middle-class chattering liberals.
As one of the “quite old men” who is standing for election, I find her remarks grossly insulting.
In any other forum she would be the first to insist that selection should be colour, gender and sexual-preference blind. Why should the criteria for standing for election be any different? We live in a democracy, and anyone is free to throw their hat into the ring. It was their choice as to whether they did or did not.
The tenor of Ms Bhatia’s remarks insinuate that older men are stuck in the past with no vision for the future. Just because I am not in the first flush of youth does not mean to say I have no vision of what the future could hold for the Scottish Borders and the people in it.
It could be great if there was an overall strategy to improve our infrastructure and go out and sell our workforce as one of the most loyal and reliable in the UK, instead of the cosmetic projects on offer from the ruling administration to which she still belongs.
All told, over the past five years, the incompetence of this administration has resulted in the squandering of circa £3m on failed, ill-researched schemes, including £2.4m lost on the aborted plans for the waste disposal plant at Galashiels, and the £350k written off because of the relocation of the Great Tapestry of Scotland. Not really a record to be proud of.
I am told that Ms Bhatia does not intend to stand for re-election. That being so, may I suggest that she fades gracefully into the background and keeps her prejudiced remarks to herself.
(prospective candidate for
Galashiels and district ward)
SHINE SPOTLIGHT ON LOCAL ISSUES
I know there is heated debate in the national media as to whether we should or should not have a second independence referendum.
I recognise and respect the arguments being presented by both sides of this debate.
However, I do not think this issue should be used to decide which candidate we vote for in the forthcoming council elections. Whoever we elect, we are stuck with them for the next five years.
It will have no bearing whatsoever on whether we have a second referendum or not. It will not ‘send a message’ to Nicola Sturgeon or Theresa May. It will, however, have a major bearing on how well our money is spent and how well our local services are delivered.
I recently noticed one of our local parties promoting a petition against a second referendum on their Facebook campaign page. When I politely asked them if they could focus on local issues, they deleted my question and blocked me from commenting on their page.
This puts me off voting for their candidate in my district as I fear she will, if elected, be similarly unreceptive to reasonable questions posed by her constituents.
Can I urge all council candidates to encourage voters to view the upcoming elections for what they are – a vote on local issues, not a referendum on whether to hold a referendum.
QUESTION FOR THE INDEPENDENTS
After the council elections, every SNP vote will be trumpeted by Nicola Sturgeon as a vote for a second independence referendum.
Already the uncertainty of Separation Attempt 2 has caused the Scottish economy to contract while the rest of the United Kingdom is powering ahead.
We do not need the political bedlam of another two years of fratricidal strife. That will only harm the economy further.
You may love or loathe the Tories, but the Conservative and Unionist Party is a bulwark against separation and every vote for them is a vote to protect our place in the Union.
Similarly, Liberal Democrat and Labour candidates are mandated to maintain our place in the UK, the world’s sixth largest economy, which is keeping Scotland afloat.
The Unionist parties didn’t ask for independence to be on the agenda less than three years after it was said to be settled for a generation. But now that it is, the separation question will permeate all levels of politics.
Given that this is the case, then there is the question of the political affiliation of independent candidates. Councillor David Parker, for example, was unstinting in his support for the break-up of the UK in 2014.
I doubt he has changed his mind. But if so, perhaps he and other independents would let the electorate know before the vote how they stand on this crucial issue which Nicola Sturgeon has deemed more important than matters of domestic policy.
THEY DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT
I was not surprised to read MP Calum Kerr’s column, “Unlike the Tories, I am getting on with day job”, in last week’s issue.
Every time there is an election the Scottish National Party want to talk about anything other than the constitution or indyref 2.
The nationalists know that indyref2 will not win them many votes.
This time last year, in the run-up to the Holyrood elections, Nicola Sturgeon assured us that a vote for the SNP was not a vote for independence. Yet when the party pushed through its indyref2 motion in the Scottish Parliament a few weeks ago (albeit with the help of the duplicitous Greens), nationalists claimed that their victory in the elections gave them a mandate for it.
If they do well in the May 4 council elections, they will claim they have a renewed mandate for a referendum rerun – even though it is the last thing they want to talk about before the vote.
Mr Kerr criticises the Conservatives for campaigning against a referendum rerun, but they are only doing it because of the enormous damage Ms Sturgeon’s threats are doing to our economy.
Scotland’s economy shrank by 0.2% at the end of last year when the rest of the United Kingdom grew by 0.7%. Business confidence is far lower in Scotland than the rest of the UK, mainly due to the uncertainty caused by the SNP.
If the anti-referendum campaigns get Nicola Sturgeon to abandon her threats, they will be doing Scotland a huge favour.
AT A LOSS OVER LEAFLETS
I have received another council election leaflet from David Parker and following a quick look through, it seems to contain much the same information as the last one.
Then I realised, the ward is Leaderdale and Melrose, and this leaflet is his “Lauderdale Manifesto”.
Mr Parker must be producing more than one leaflet. One for here and one for the good people of Melrose and Tweedbank.
I wonder why he feels the need to have more than one leaflet. Are the facts of what he has achieved different? He’s promised us parking and pavements, what is he promising them?
Does he have to tell different things to different people to get elected?
You may think I’ve got something against Mr Parker – this is not the case. I’ve never even met the man in the last 10 years he’s been representing me on the council.
It just annoys me when I get a leaflet through my door filled with facts and promises that just don’t quite match up with what is happening on the ground.
West High Street
REACTION TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
I write in response to your article, published last week, on the lamentable decision not to reopen Innerleithen post office, despite Andrew Caldwell being willing to negotiate to take on the business in his premises.
It seems to me that the proposed mobile service for a population of more than 3,000 is totally inadequate, particularly since we all now are being encouraged to use the Post Office for our banking needs as well.
The reaction of the SNP politicians in your article seems very much too little, too late.
MSP Christine Grahame and Councillor Stuart Bell should have been jumping up and down on the desk of Post Office network operations manager Kenny Lamont well before this decision was taken – after all, it is hardly a surprise as the mobile van service was always an option that the Post Office could choose.
(Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for Tweeddale East)
GIVE LOCAL FIRMS A CHANCE
What a pity the Borders has no skilled workers left.
At at time of high unemployment in this region, I find it appalling that the council has to employ companies outwith the Borders to upgrade home insulation, bathrooms, kitchens etc.
Surely this work should go to local firms – and this would lead to higher and more skilled employment in the Borders.
STEER CLEAR OF SUBURBANISATION
Scottish Borders Council’s Floral Gateway Competition is to be commended in that any increase in community pride and cohesion is undoubtedly positive.
However, when it comes to the improvement of village ‘gateways’ or approaches, in the rural environment, a degree of restraint is in order.
Excessive expanses of closely-cropped grass adorned with ostentatious ranks of hybrid daffodils, for example, already blight much of our roadside rural environment. This suburbanisation of the countryside should not be encouraged – subtle planting of wildflowers native to the area, combined with well-timed, careful grass-cutting, would be far more appropriate.
As for the trend of strimming or rotary-mowing of approach verges on a weekly basis, it should be remembered that as far as roadside wildlife is concerned – from frogs to fledglings, bees to butterfly larvae – strimmers and mowers are nothing more than giant liquidisers.
The shrill, negative voices in last week’s edition are evidence that “Project Fear” is still alive and kicking – and this before an independence referendum has even been called.
The obsession – and only policy – of the Unionist parties seems to be: “No referendum!”
We have pensions under threat, financial institutions leaving Scotland, the “Vow” and the now widely-discredited GERS figures (produced first in 1979 at the behest of another Tory Secretary of State for Scotland, Ian Lang, to persuade Scots we were too poor and dependent on the UK to manage our own affairs).
In 1959, Malta was told via The Times newspaper “Malta cannot live on its own” and “their economy would collapse without British Treasury subventions. Talk of full independence for Malta is therefore hopelessly impractical”.
Sounds familiar? Malta is today described by the IMF and World Bank as “an advanced economy” and “a high-income country”. “Our Sovereign United Kingdom” has failed miserably to provide a stable economy for the benefit of all its citizens for decades, long before the creation of a parliament at Holyrood.
With real control over our own affairs, we would join the majority of small independent countries all over the world as a successful, progressive and welcoming country.
To those Unionists who criticise Nicola Sturgeon, I suggest they read the recent opinion poll conducted by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft on the approval rating in Scotland of party leaders: Ruth Davidson – minus 21%; Theresa May – minus 23%; Kezia Dugdale – minus 41%; Jeremy Corbyn – minus 51%; Paul Nuttall – minus 56%. Nicola Sturgeon, by contrast – plus 11%. So much for her popularity declining.
It is a pity Michael Wilson (letters, April 6) is “embarrassed at having to apologise for being Scottish”. In all my travels worldwide, as a proud Scot, I have found only empathy, respect, and a genuine liking and admiration for Scotland and the Scots. By contrast, rightly or wrongly, any criticism I have encountered has been of England and the English.
“Get on with the day job” is a phrase often bandied about – and should be levelled at a dysfunctional government at Westminster more than anyone else.
While Nicola Sturgeon was in the USA promoting a positive view of Scotland to the world, and returning with lucrative trade and business opportunities, Theresa May (apparently on holiday in Wales), Boris Johnson et al were – and are – struggling unsuccessfully to convince other world leaders that the UK is still a force to be reckoned with.
Perhaps they need to accept that post-empire, and particularly after Brexit, that the UK is no longer a highly-respected world power and concentrate on the “day job” – governing for the benefit of all its citizens, and not just a rich and privileged elite.