LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
FISHERMEN MOST TAKEN IN BY LIES
For more than 40 years, Britain has benefited from being a member of the democratic European Union.
It’s not perfect, but no system of government is. However, over those years, while Britain has paid millions into the EU, we have also received millions back. From farmers to crofters, from bridges to railways, from rural grants to urban redevelopment – all have benefitted from EU finance.
But what now? Where will the Brexit enthusiasts be when the storm really hits?
Already shoppers will have noticed prices going up; continental manufacturers are turning away from British component makers; doctors and nurses are thinking twice about coming to work in the NHS; bankers and other financial services are deserting London and Edinburgh.
All this and more before Brexit negotiations have even started.
It is claimed that there were groups of people in particular who voted for Brexit.
Pensioners – will we be happy when we realise our pensions are losing value by the week with a falling pound, and the triple-lock mechanism abandoned? Farmers – well, OK, those who farm the rich lands of Scotland might not lose out too much, but what about the farmers on marginal and hill land who rely on subsidies to survive?
Perhaps the group most taken-in by Brexit lies were fishermen. They seem to think they are going to take back control of the seas again. It’s not going to happen and they should listen to one of their own.
Among other warnings, retired skipper John Buchan, of Peterhead, said: “In my view, it’s not tariffs that will make life really difficult for (fish) exporters, it’s the other barriers the EU put in place for third countries – added bureaucracy, expensive certification processes and, above all, long customs delays.”
Without the EU markets, what will the fishermen do with all their new-found bounty – “discards” will seem like a golden era.
This unnecessary general election on June 8 is not about independence, as some parties keep telling us, it’s about the future for you and your family, and all the families round about you. Vote for a civilised and compassionate party, one that will do its best to protect us from the financial firestorm Brexit will bring.
BORDERLINE DEBATE HOTTING UP
It may be a bit unfair, but it seems the so-called Conservative and Unionist Party is allowed to have two different general election manifestos – one for Scotland and one for England and Wales.
In other words, Scotland can do things differently when Theresa May and Ruth Davidson say so.
But surely the fact that their party needs to produce two equally-cruel and austere documents in the space of 48 hours means their “precious Union” is already fraying at the seams.
For example, John Lamont and Rachael Hamilton, their candidates here on June 8, are now able to tell pensioners in Coldstream, Sprouston or Burnmouth they will be able to hang on to their winter fuel payments. But a few hundred yards away in Cornhill, Carham and Lamberton respectively, Tory hopeful Anne-Marie Trevelyan will (hopefully) be telling voters in the Berwick constituency they stand to lose their annual £100 windfall.
According to Ms Davidson, the separate policies are justified as Scotland has a colder climate than the rest of the United Kingdom. She hasn’t told us what the temperature difference is between Coldstream and Cornhill or in other neighbouring communities on either side of the national boundary.
Perhaps weather girl Carol Kirkwood could help!
If ever there was a cynical ploy to practically buy votes in Scotland, then this has to be it. I prefer to believe that the likes of Scottish Secretary David Mundell, Ms Davidson and all of the Tory candidates in marginal Scottish seats were horrified when Mrs May unveiled her plans to punish the elderly in that former Halifax textile mill. Rapid back-tracking was the order of the day.
After all, I recall during the 2014 referendum campaign that Conservative supporters in the Borders were warning old folk their pensions would be slashed if they voted for Scottish independence. It was simply another desperate tactic to frighten a vulnerable section of the electorate.
This time round the Tories have shot themselves in the foot on winter fuel payments and the planned removal of the triple lock on pensions.
Perhaps Mr Lamont and Mrs Hamilton can persuade us OAPs that their party has our best interests at heart. I, for one, will take some convincing.
ALL OUR EMPLOYEES ARE VALUED
I would like to respond to Kate Duncan’s letter published in last week’s paper.
Ms Duncan wrote that the Borders has the lowest average household income across the UK – yet is then querying the value of four more new jobs in this area, which will subsequently increase income in the new employees’ households?
The question was asked if these four new jobs will pay more than the minimum wage. Everyone working on our farm is valued and has a permanent contract of employment – and not a zero-hours contract. They are paid the National Living Wage or above, have a workplace pension and receive holiday entitlements.
I believe we pay our team a fair remuneration for their efforts.
As Ms Duncan then states, Berwickshire is indeed prime agricultural land. But has she considered that all farm buildings, the road network and each and every house – including her own – has been built on this land for generations to support food production, job creation and the rural economy in this area?
In my opinion, farmers must evolve to meet consumer demands. In this case, free-range eggs, which means that the chickens have to range on farmland.
If Ms Duncan has a better location for me, I would be delighted to hear from her. However, I suspect there may be an element of Nimbyism here?
Ms Duncan then touches on the planning application “for a sympathetic development of a derelict steading development in the village of 12 new homes”. She is incorrect in stating this development is in the village – it is in fact in the middle of our farm. We surround and border the site on two sides with our north farmyard and general purpose farm building.
It is our belief that there would be an unacceptable level of conflict between our existing farming operations in this yard and the proposed steading development right next door. This position is supported and endorsed by the environmental health team of Scottish Borders Council which is being recommended to refuse the application on this basis.
Finally, to imply that my husband and I are destroying communities is surprising – I think the converse is true.
Not only are we creating employment, producing food and supporting local tradesmen and businesses, we have been delighted to sponsor a number of groups over the past few years, including Chirnside Chasers, Berwick Ladies Hockey Club, Duns Golf Course and Duns Junior Tennis Club, which all bring people and communities together.
In your May 11 edition, an article stated that plans had been drawn up for a third hen shed at Hutton Hall Barns.
There are already four sheds to the east of Hutton Hall Barns and two sheds to the west, one recently approved. These are the accumulative result of Border Eggs and MacLean Eggs, one and the same “family-run farm”.
It is interesting that of the previously-mentioned four sheds, most are actually within the recommended regulatory 400 metres guideline.
This latest application would bring the total number of sheds to seven, not the three stated in the article and, in turn, bring the total number of birds to well over 100,000 encircling the Hutton Hall Barns community and impacting severely on their quality of life.
The article also states that the recently-approved second unit sparked objections. These totalled seven, including the community council, not five, as stated in the article. The principle grounds of objection summarised by Scottish Borders Council amounted to 23, 16 of which came from the community council.
The article also omitted to add that the community council’s role is to both represent and support Hutton Castle Barns residents who were there before the encircling sheds and industrial-scale farming arrived.
(secretary, Hutton and Paxton Community Council)
INFECTING THE TORY PARTY HOST
Last week saw one of viral attacks by persons unknown – and not just in the NHS.
UKIP is a pernicious virus, dreamt up, again by persons unknown, and backed financially by who knows what? Its purpose was to infect the Conservative party host and to change its political stance ever rightward, further right possibly than Team Thatcher?
The chances of a UKIP candidate winning a Scottish constituency seat in Holyrood or Westminster, however, are zero.
But they don’t need to. The UK-wide Conservative Party has adopted most, if not all, of UKIP’s dodgy policies, and according to The Guardian, many of the BNP’s policies as well.
Brexit will be proved, eventually, to be a disaster and the chances of a “good deal” are zero, with Team Theresa leading the real “coalition of chaos”, viz. Davis, Fallon, Duncan Smith, Johnston, Rudd.
We already had an effective MP for our constituency – Calum Kerr. He wants to get back to his day job, holding the Westminster government to account, especially with such difficult times ahead. He deserves your support at the ballot box.
Bill Gardner MBE
HOMING IN LIKE VULTURES
“Your home is at risk if you don’t keep up repayments on your mortgage” – that’s the common, and very frightening, refrain we’re used to.
However, now it’s also at risk if you do.
According to the Conservative manifesto, to which John Lamont and his fellow travellers are signed up to, in the event you require social care in later life and are a bit strapped for cash, they’ll take your home as payment.
However, John’s mates, like vultures in a Sir David Attenborough documentary, won’t swoop until they’re sure you’ve taken your last breath – a breath most likely arrived at prematurely, given the exasperation of seeing no return on a lifetime of paying into a system you were led to believe would be there for you in your hour of need.
And what a blow for your offspring trying to cope with bereavement on the one hand and the prospect of homelessness at worst on the other, or seeing their hoped-for inheritance surrounded by ‘For Sale’ signs, courtesy of John and his Conservative party.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be like this. You can do something about it, regardless of whether you’re a born-and-bred Scot, or an incomer drawn here, not only by the lush scenery, but by progressive policies that provide you with free prescriptions, free education, free elderly care and a whole lot more – all of which, with the exception of the lush scenery, is opposed by John Lamont’s party where they have power.
We surely have a duty to protect what we have from Tory scavengers who “know the price of everything and the value of nothing”.
How you vote on June 8 matters.
Something you often hear in the Borders is our Conservative candidates being described as “nice” – as if somehow the things their party does has nothing to do with them, and they should not be judged on the record and policies of that party.
I can think of a lot of words to describe the Tory party – and “nice” is not one of them.
Our Tory candidates support the cuts in essential services such as fire, police, ambulance, prison, probation, the justice system, social services, libraries, education and health.
The Conservatives have trashed the green economy, permitted fracking and cut support for offshore wind.
They have encouraged the widening gap between rich and poor.
The vulnerable and less well off suffer zero-hours contracts and minimum wages, while the UK’s billionaires increased their total wealth by £85bn in the last year, according to the Times Rich List. They have cut capital gains, inheritance and corporation taxes, while homelessness and food banks multiply. They cannot provide decent services for the mentally ill or support for damaged service veterans, but can afford Trident renewal, illegal foreign wars, support for the arms trade and grammar schools.
And doing all this while increasing the national debt to levels the Labour party only ever dreamed off.
Our Tory candidates have supported and want to represent a party that introduced the Rape Clause, the Dementia Tax and sanctioned the most vulnerable, where the worst affected have been women and children.
Even if our local Tory candidate was raised locally, always waves and says “hello”, sorted a problem for you – it’s his extremely well expensed job, after all – or went to school with our Jamie, we have to judge by action, not appearance.
Given the devastating effect of Conservative policies on the poor and vulnerable of this country, by what twisted interpretation of the English language can you call Tory candidates “nice”?
ON THE POLITICAL MERRY-GO-ROUND
How can anyone believe that local Conservative politicians have the best interests of their communities and citizens at heart?
First we had John Lamont, a self-claimed “hard working” MSP, jumping ship yet again in a fourth attempt to secure a seat for himself on Westminster’s green benches in a general election no one needed or wanted.
The move is undoubtedly being made to further the political career of Mr Lamont at the expense of the electorate he is meant to serve.
The Scottish Parliament by-election caused solely by Mr Lamont’s resignation will cost taxpayers several thousands of pounds, so perhaps John should be sent the bill.
Then we had Rachael Hamilton, a list MSP for the Tories, giving up that role in an attempt to become, er … an MSP. No doubt that move will also be sold to us as benefiting the Borders. Aye, right.
By forfeiting her list MSP status, Mrs Hamilton conveniently creates a space in Holyrood for Conservative Michelle Ballantyne, whose job as her party’s group leader on slightly-dysfunctional Scottish Borders Council is obviously not important enough.
And yet Mrs Ballantyne put herself forward as a candidate at the May 4 local government elections, even though she knew she’d have to stand down within a matter of weeks to take her seat in Holyrood. That will mean yet another by-election for the long-suffering, worn-out voters of Selkirk.
The Borders Tory merry-go-round is a shining example of musical chairs without the music.
ASSUMING HIS LIFE IS RUINED
Last month in the local press I saw a letter from Pieter van Dijk urging me to cast my vote in the forthcoming election for John Lamont, citing various reasons for doing so.
I immediately noticed several inconsistencies and in a spirit of goodwill I replied, pointing these out to the aforesaid.
I little realised the consequences of my action – Mr van Dijk hit back (letters, May 12) with a double whammy, accusing me of “hyperbole” and “assumptions”, and may just have ruined my life.
Up till now I have been generally known in Selkirk as “that old guy who hands out SNP leaflets”, which was a fairly harmless description and I was tolerated in town.
Not any more. In the Co-op I heard the first of the whispers: “Look, it’s him, the hyperbolic assumpionist.” I moved quickly to escape, but I could hear the chatter increase behind me as I made for the checkout. Before I could get there, two ladies buttonholed me and asked me if I could do a private consultation to help them stop smoking – I realised their mistake and pointed out gently that I was not a hypnotist. They were not totally convinced and as I left hurriedly I distinctly heard: “Stuck-up old sod”.
Things have got steadily worse since my condition has become more widely known and I have since been asked to speak on hyperbolic assumptionism at such diverse groups as the local historic society, the Women’s Institute and the Boy Scouts’ Parent Association, and I have heard the Young Wives’ Group are looking for me.
I have taken to mainly going out at night and have purchased dark glasses and a ‘hoodie’ for daytime use.
There have been good moments though.
On phoning for a consultation with my doctor when I told the receptionist I was suffering from a bad case of hyperbolastic assumptionism, I was quickly given an emergency appointment. It is also a sure cure for those nuisance phone calls from India – I told the young eastern person that my computer was indeed malfunctioning and looked like it was suffering from H/A. He asked what that meant and when I enlightened him he went very quiet, said he would “consult his line manager” and hung up.
A firm of accident solicitors was quite interested, though only for a while. I am waiting to try it out on the home improvement callers and am confident they will take me off of their list when I ask them if they can advise how to get rid of it.
So there it is, my life is ruined, my reputation trashed and all because Mr van Dijk, a 79-year-old volunteer for Mr Lamont (his modest description of himself) wrote a poorly-researched piece to a local paper and I was foolish enough to tell him he was wrong. At the age of 84, you would think I would have known better.