Artificial and astronomical lighting, in the form of street lamps and star trails, combine to illuminate Chirnside. The image was captured by villager Elizabeth Berry. Please email photographic contributions, with a brief caption, to
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
I had the unfortunate task of helping to arrange a funeral at the beginning of December.
As the deceased’s parents and brother were buried at Lennel cemetery, we arranged a meeting with a member of Scottish Borders Council to inquire if there was a possibility of the burial lair being close to the deceased’s parents.
When we arrived at the meeting, the grave digger had marked out about six lairs which were at the bottom of the cemetery and a good distance from where we had hoped for the new lair.
We asked if there were no lairs available nearer to where we wanted, only to be told that these were all that was available. We were shown a chart showing all the lairs in the cemetery and they all had names attached to them. Obviously, a lot of the lairs have been what I would describe as booked in advance, and therefore there were many lairs without headstones etc.
I read in the December 8 edition of your newspaper that a council spokesman said they were continuing to try and develop a new burial space in Coldstream, and were considering the use of the footpaths, or one could be offered other council sites.
Do councillors not think that once they fill in the paths etc., then whenever a new burial takes place in a reserved lair, then the grave diggers have to drive their diggers over other lairs, leaving tracks etc. on the lairs. This, I feel, is very disrespectful. I would like to ask if this situation occurred in some of the other Borders towns, would councillors be happy that their relatives’ graves were being damaged.
I have been told that an area of land had been made available for a new cemetery, but the council could not find the funds to build the perimeter wall. I also note that in the same article the money that had been set aside for a new cemetery has been withdrawn.
I have also noticed during the past few months that all Scottish Borders Council seems to be interested in is the Great Tapestry of Scotland (which only some of the councillors seem to want) which should be mounted in Scotland’s other monstrosity, the parliament building at Holyrood. Recently, the council has managed to obtain funds to renovate an old building in the middle of Galashiels to display this item – I wonder if that is where our cemetery money has gone.
I think councillors should remember that there is life outside Galashiels, Selkirk and Hawick, and remember the other Borderers who also pay their rates etc.
After all, Coldstream is the first Border town visitors see when they travel by road from England to Scotland.
I know that our local community council has been pursuing this situation for some time, but I don’t think it has been informed of any developments regarding what I would say is a matter of urgency. I hope our own elected councillors and MSP start to inject some effort into a new cemetery for our town of Coldstream.
After all – excuse the pun – this is a very grave situation which concerns all.
SPENDING CUT LESSONS NEEDED
Last month, you headlined a £9m funding gap that Scottish Borders Council (SBC) had convinced itself required another round of spending cuts.
No doubt the usual soft targets will be hit – more cuts in bus services, no more environmental improvements in towns, the pathetic amount of road maintenance that is carried out will be reduced to a trickle, more old folks’ homes closed, more reductions in care for the disabled and disadvantaged. One could almost write the press release now.
Meanwhile, massive capital and current expenditure on education will happily sail on, gobbling up an ever-greater proportion of SBC’s cash. If councillors and officials looked at all spending demands in a balanced way, a simple top slice off this huge budget of, say, 5% could put everything right.
But no chance of that. We must achieve absurd class size targets – when I was at primary school in the late 1960s our class roll was routinely around 45.
We must have new schools everywhere – throughout my school career, we did fine with additions to the then existing buildings. But never mind, we’ll have a massively-expensive new clutch of schools, with SBC in financial hock to developers for decades to come, which will actually be used for less than half a year.
Once again, economic reality is suspended when the endless demands of education have to be met.
VANITY PROJECTS IN SE ENGLAND
It seems a little more than ironic, if not downright hypocritical, that Paul Singleton (letters, January 12), in criticising Richard Walthew, seems to be suggesting that only he and those who happen to share his views are entitled to a “democratic right to their opinions”.
In a previous letter, he invites us to “Bless Queen Elizabeth II”, as head of the British Empire, and suggests that we in Scotland are better off in some way as part of this shambolic, dysfunctional United Kingdom without telling us why.
Vast, eye-watering sums of taxpayers’ money are being spent on vanity projects in south-east England – refurbishment of Buckingham Palace, Palace of Westminster renovations, HS2 railway project, Hinkley Point power station, London Tube system, etc., etc. (without considering the massive costs of replacing Trident which Scotland neither needs nor wants).
All of this, and much more, convinces me that we in Scotland would be much better making our own decisions about our own future, and the kind of country we want to become.
Democracy and the freedom to express an opinion are for everyone, and, in my view, opinions are more convincing when supported by facts, or they are all too easily dismissed as entrenched dogma.
INSTILLING LIBERAL VALUES
I’m grateful to Mrs C. Sharwood-Smith for drawing my attention to Nicola Sturgeon’s declaration that she will defend “liberal democracy”, and for her statement that “a liberal places free speech above offence” (letters, January 12).
I worry that Ms Sturgeon may have difficulty in persuading her colleague, Joan McAlpine MSP (South of Scotland), to adopt liberal values.
In August 2016, Pastor Angus Buchan was banned from speaking in Galashiels on dubious grounds, but continued his tour elsewhere.
Ms McAlpine had no clue what Mr Buchan was going to talk about during his tour, but that didn’t stop her website describing Mr Buchan as a “homophobic hate preacher” and claiming that he said homosexuality was a “disease” that could be “cured”. A comment on her website which asked for evidence to support her allegations was deleted.
Unfortunately for her, Mr Buchan never mentioned homosexuality at his events in Dumfries and Hexham, or in Ireland, and a columnist in ScotsGay magazine said Mr Buchan’s “level of homophobia is no greater than most churches in this land”.
Ms McAlpine may have a “zero tolerance approach to homophobia and bigotry”, but she needs to be honest with the electorate, and must be prepared to discuss issues in a sensible manner.
I do hope that Nicola Sturgeon can instil liberal values in her party and in the country.
WE COULD LEAD, NOT LEAVE THE EU
There is more than a hint of irony that as Scotland, along with the UK, prepares to leave the European Union, the island of Malta, with a population less than that of Edinburgh, has just taken over the EU presidency.
The presidency is responsible for driving forward the European Council’s work on EU legislation, ensuring the continuity of the EU agenda, orderly legislative processes and co-operation among member states.
This is the first time the island has held the presidency and during the next six months will focus on six key areas – migration, single market, security, social inclusion, Europe’s neighbourhood and maritime sector. In other words, leading the EU.
Interestingly, Estonia, with a population of less than 1.4m people, around a quarter that of Scotland, will take over the presidency in July.
During the independence referendum, the Better Together camp claimed that the only way to guarantee Scotland’s place in the EU was to vote to remain in the UK. Indeed, Scotland was to “lead the UK”, not leave the UK.
But times have indeed changed since September 2014 and we are, despite these assurances, heading for the EU exit. Of course, we could have the best of both worlds – part of a single market with the rest of the UK – as promised to Northern Ireland in its relations with the Republic of Ireland – and still members of the EU.
For that to happen requires the confidence, as Malta and Estonia have demonstrated, to take full control of our own affairs and be the masters of our own destiny – leading, not leaving the EU.
WHO’S GOING TO PICK UP THE TAB?
Finance secretary Derek MacKay’s responses to Holyrood finance committee questions on his plans for 2017-18 reveal much about the SNP’s tactics on the nation’s finances.
When it comes to new powers for Scotland, the party plans to make full use of borrowing powers, yet it will make practically no use of new tax-raising powers.
Scottish National Party government ministers can borrow and spend to suit themselves, safe in the knowledge that the rest of the United Kingdom will fill the fiscal funding gap, currently to the tune of £9bn.
Yet First Minister Nicola Sturgeon keeps forgetting to mention who will pick up the tab on these missing billions if she succeeds in breaking away from the United Kingdom over Brexit.
One thing is for sure – it will not be the EU.
‘BIG KNIT FOR VET KIT’
I am writing to ask readers who enjoy knitting to support SPANA’s ‘Big Knit for Vet Kit’ fundraising campaign this January and February.
SPANA is a charity that provides free veterinary treatment to sick and injured working animals in developing countries across the world.
We are calling on local knitters to make Duncan the donkey, Hattie the horse, Oscar the ox or – new for 2017 – Emma the elephant, and get sponsored while they stitch.
The free knitting patterns can be ordered from www.spana.org/knit, or by telephoning 020 7831 3999.
Working animals do the jobs of tractors, trucks and taxis throughout the developing world, and are relied upon by many of the world’s poorest people for their livelihoods.
However, without SPANA there would be no veterinary care available for so many of these animals. SPANA is only able to carry out its work thanks to the generous donations we receive from the public.
(head of community and supporter care)
Coldstream Twinning Association would like to extend huge thanks to everyone who came along to support our recent coffee morning.
More than £260 was raised, kicking-off our fundraising for the next time our friends in Bennecourt visit following their successful trip last summer.
The association’s annual general meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 25, in Coldstream Community Centre Connect Cafe. This is open to anyone and we would welcome new committee members, or anyone just looking to find out a bit more about our association.
Finally, the dates for the next twinning visit to France are Friday, October 6 to Saturday, October 14, 2017. For more information, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org