Borders freelance photographer Stuart Cobley captured this spring image of Fogo Parish Church.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
I’ve only met John Lamont once, back in 2015 when he was canvassing for votes in the election he lost to Calum Kerr from the SNP. Seemed like a nice bloke.
I do, however, have some serious questions for him in relation to the general election on June 8.
If it’s been such “a great privilege to serve the people of the Borders in the Scottish Parliament for the last 10 years”, why is he quitting with more than four years to go after only being re-elected as an MSP in May 2016? Does he hope the constituents he is abandoning in the areas which overlap between MSP and MP constituencies will not notice and continue to support him?
This is his fourth attempt to become an MP. What is the great attraction to London over Holyrood?
What will being an MP do for him and, more importantly, his constituents, that he can’t do as an MSP? One of 650 rather than one of 129.
If, as he says, “I will always put local people before party politics” and “...my approach to this important job (MP) will be exactly the same as it has been”, why change?
I think the voters would appreciate answers to these questions.
West High Street
THE REAL CUCKOO IN THE NEST
In times gone by, the missive from Peiter van Dijk last week might just have been put down as delusional rubbish, but in today’s hysterical reporting terms, it must surely now go into the “fake news” file.
If Peiter had just taken a few seconds to check his facts he would have quickly realised that it is John Lamont who is the real cuckoo in the nest down here. He would have found that Mr Lamont originated from Kilwinning, which is no small distance from Peebles where Calum Kerr first saw the light of day, and where he was educated and where he resides.
As to the holding of surgeries, I believe Calum has an office in Galashiels which, and here I hesitate to drive home a patent truth, is in the Borders.
The rest of Peiter’s facts are just as confusing. A thousand surgeries since John was elected? Wow! That is a lot of surgeries in the timescale Peiter quotes.
It may be that Mr van Dijk is in the job market and is seeking some kind of employment from the Tory candidate to his election team. I fear if the rest of the reasons he gives us to vote for John are as solid as his research into his personal history, I would advise him to look elsewhere.
Oh, and one other thing Peiter, do not mention the fact that John is a Tory too much – according to his hoardings, he prefers to keep that quiet.
DISCUSSION WAS NOT CONSTRUCTIVE
After reading the article entitled “‘Rape clause’ protesters target MSP’s surgeries” in last week’s Berwickshire News, I must have been at a different surgery to John Lamont.
It was hardly “a constructive discussion”, as he would have us believe.
When asked what would happen to women who couldn’t fill in the detailed eight-page form and had to ask for help from the agencies the Westminster government has supposedly appointed to administer this part of the Rape Clause, Mr Lamont’s reply to the women gathered at the surgery was: “Well, they will go without the money then, won’t they.”
None of us could believe the callousness of his reply.
He was asked how much this would cost to administer – would it cost more to administer than they would save?
We were told by our MSP that we would have to find that out for ourselves as he didn’t know.
There were many questions asked at his Eyemouth and Duns surgeries – unfortunately there were no helpful or constructive answers given by Mr Lamont.
He made patronising comments to some of the women who told him their personal stories. One woman asked if he could put himself in the shoes of a women who had been raped. Could he imagine what it would be like to discuss such an awful happening in their lives to a stranger in the hope of getting money for that third child born of rape? Would he like them to have to fill in this kind of form?
He just toed the party line and, like his party, he couldn’t have cared less.
How could anyone vote for a Tory government when they treat the most vulnerable in society like this to save money?
The solution would be to go after the Conservatives’ friends running big companies who pay hardly any tax to the Exchequer. Go after people who hide their money in offshore accounts and pay no tax on it.
We ordinary folk are hounded for £63 tax, as I was because I give to several charities out of my pension. Ordinary folk are happy to pay their fair share as long as everyone else does the same.
It’s time the Tories sorted out the tax system and closed the huge loopholes, so that companies and the rich can’t say that what they do is perfectly legal.
Why should these women and those who have to claim benefits carry the burden of Tory mismanagement of our economy any longer?
Wake up, Scotland and the rest of the UK, before it’s too late.
LITTLE CREDIT FOR TORIES OR LABOUR
Last month, women from across the Borders met John Lamont MSP at his surgeries in Eyemouth and Duns to protest in very strong terms about the “rape clause”.
Two women in Galashiels held a silent protest about this clause, causing Mr Lamont to scuttle away.
So what is the rape clause? It allows exemption from the two-child restriction on tax credits which came into force this month. Under the clause, a woman gets tax credits for a third child only when she completes an eight-page application form, stating that her third child was conceived through rape.
We were outraged at the callousness and utter lack of humanity of putting an already-traumatised woman through such an intrusive process. We are certain that many women will not be able to cope with it, resulting in them and their children going without.
We told Mr Lamont about the damage that cuts to tax credits in general will do to the most needy in our society. It was pointed out to him that the Borders has the lowest household incomes across the UK. He was unmoved.
Three days later, newspapers were full of stories about the massive growth in food banks, with the numbers using them rising for the ninth year in a row.
Much of this demand and growth in human misery is a result of sanctions and of the total chaos which is universal credit. This brainchild of Iain Duncan Smith (Tory) is set to replace most tax credits, child tax credit, working tax credit etc. So we can be sure that things are not going to get better and that another Tory government must be resisted with all our votes.
However, both these debacles – the rape clause and the shameful need for food banks – expose the fact that tax credits is a system that needs revision.
We have become so concerned about cuts to tax credits and the hardship this causes families across Scotland and the rest of the UK that we have forgotten who else they benefit.
Put bluntly, tax credits benefit bad employers, supplementing wages that are not enough to live on – just as housing benefits goes straight into the pockets of the landlord.
Tax credits, the brainchild of Gordon Brown (Labour) – I’m being even-handed with my criticisms here – paid for by taxpayers, lets employers, who may or may not be paying their full whack of tax or evading it, off the hook, keep profits and pay shareholders.
If we value people and families, if we say work should pay, then universal credit should be replaced by a basic citizen’s income and discredited tax credits must be replaced by a living wage, one that lets people work and live in decency, not anxiety or want.
HOUNDING FORMER BRITISH SOLDIERS
I write to you over my concern about the never-ending hounding of our former British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the troubles from 1969 until the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland(PSNI) is re-examining every army killing in the fight against Irish terrorism – but not one by the IRA.
As an ex-serviceman who served in Northern Ireland and saw the handiwork of the IRA – the killing and maiming of soldiers and innocent civilians alike – it is a grave injustice that these terrorists are not also being hounded.
As the armed forces and veterans champion at Scottish Borders Council, I would like to call upon the UK Government to put an end to this continuous persecution of our former soldiers and allow them to enjoy their lives free from what can only be described as unjust persecution.
CHIRNSIDE COFFEE MORNING
Further to the article in your district news section regarding our coffee morning in Chirnside community centre on April 22 – we raised £373. A big thank-you to the people of Chirnside who turned out.
Berwick and eastern Borders branch of the MS Society
NATIONALISTS AND A FLOCK OF SHEEP
At the forthcoming general election, hopefully the electorate will look at what, in 10 years, the SNP government has achieved – virtually nothing.
A flock of sheep do not bleat as much as the SNP does – it seems incapable of seeing what needs to be done.
NATIONALISTS’ FINANCIAL FOLLY
It’s been quite a confusing past few days trying to follow what Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond are attempting to sell to the electorate in Scotland.
Firstly, Ms Sturgeon says the general election isn’t about a second referendum. Then Mr Salmond states that an SNP majority would mean that a second referendum would take place. Who’s actually in charge of the SNP? Ms Sturgeon or Mr Salmond? Or are they just saying anything to get our votes?
There’s also the farming subsidies that Calum Kerr was going on about in last week’s issue (I don’t normally read his articles, but as we’re leading into the general election, I thought I’d just see what he’s promising us – taking into account he’s achieved nothing to date).
The Chancellor has promised that whatever UK farmers receive in subsidies from the EU (it’s only the money that we pay in coming back), they’ll continue to receive these whilst the Tories are in power.
However, taking into account that if Scotland ever becomes independent, the country won’t be in the EU and won’t be allowed to join due to the £15bn deficit which hangs round Scotland’s neck – thanks to the SNP government.
This means that farmers in Scotland won’t receive any subsidies from both the UK Treasury or the EU. This therefore is a no-brainer for farmers and their decision in the general election.
Mind you, I was told that a farmer from quite near Chirnside who supports independence, when asked where the money would come from to run Scotland, stated: “Don’t worry about that, it’ll come from somewhere.” Sounds like he should be heading up the SNP finance team.
There was also a letter in the Berwickshire News last week from a gentleman from Foulden Newton who was having a go at John Lamont for resigning his seat at Hollyrood to fight for our constituency in Westminster.
Like a lot of people, he forgets that when Mr Salmond lost the 2014 independence referendum, he went off in the huff and resigned his position as First Minister. He then won a seat in the UK general election and became an MP whilst still an MSP. Two salaries at the same time – pretty good going if you can get it. Should have kept him in his pink champagne.
With all elections, we the electorate become very important to the candidates. They tell us what they’ve achieved for us and what they’re going to achieve if re-elected.
As I’ve stated previously, Mr Kerr will just do what he’s told by the SNP in Holyrood – this is exactly the same with their local councillors. In the 10 years that the SNP has been in power, we now have Police Scotland (which is underfunded and is now cutting recruitment) with one Chief Constable who was selected because he’ll do as he’s told. NHS Scotland is underfunded, education is underfunded and they’ve closed our courts and police stations due to cuts.
Ms Sturgeon, of course, blames the UK Treasury for these cuts. But because she takes us for fools, she doesn’t mention that Scotland, if it ever became independent, wouldn’t receive anything from the UK Treasury. Bang goes over £24bn smakeroos which Scotland receives from the UK Treasury.
Perhaps Mr Kerr, when he’s out electioneering, will tell us how this black hole will be filled. Higher taxes? Scotland is now the highest taxed country in the UK – with more to come.
For all those Scots who are under 30, it would appear that an independent pensions expert has stated that the Scottish Government wouldn’t be able to afford to pay them a pension. Part of the reason for this is that per head of population, Scotland will have more people of pensionable age and less of a workforce due to the lack of work.
Mind you, that won’t bother Ms Sturgeon or her husband who pull in over £300k per year and have gold-plated pensions. So much for austerity.
South Cheviot View
In case you missed it (most of us), First Minister Nicola Sturgeon held covert meetings with both fund manager Black Rock and investment banker Morgan Stanley in America – and has all the signs of Sturgeon’s collapsed £10bn “Scottish shambles” Chinese investment non-deal.
There is “no comment” from all parties on the meetings, including the Scottish Government. Would it have something to do with the terrible fiscal situation by the Scottish National Party and a typical back-door attempt to soothe the nerves of major overseas investors concerned about the destabilising effect of the First Minister’s personal obsession with a second referendum. You bet. Why the visit?
Morgan Stanley employs 1,200 people in Glasgow and Black Rock 750 in Edinburgh.
No secrecy would be accepted if those organisations were to pull out of Scotland and people were to lose their jobs.
READER MAKES A SURGICAL STRIKE
Incredibly, our absentee SNP MP, Calum Kerr, not only lives outside the constituency in Cardrona, but has not held a single surgery for his constituents since he was elected by the sixth smallest margin (328 votes) across the UK in 2015.
He typifies the arrogant and cynical attitude of the SNP, whose MPs and MSPs are controlled like automatons by Central Belt Command HQ – obsessed by a second referendum to the point of abdicating all duties for mature and responsible government. They only have one economically-suicidal policy and will say or do anything to achieve it.
Contrast this with John Lamont MSP, who has held more than 1,000 surgeries in every part of his constituency since being elected.
The only way to rectify this unacceptable situation is to vote for John Lamont as our next Westminster MP on June 8. Do not split the pro-UK, pro-sensible economic policies vote among the minor parties in this traditional first-past-the-post UK-wide election.
INCREASED RISK OF DISEASE
A few weeks ago I turned 57, placing me firmly in two risk categories for prostate cancer.
I’ve recently starting working with Prostate Cancer UK and I’ve come to learn that as a black man over 50, my risk of the disease is double that of a white man the same age.
That’s why I’m supporting Prostate Cancer UK’s Stronger Knowing More campaign and I’m urging all your black readers to do the same.
DAY TO CELEBRATE PEACE AND UNITY
On Tuesday, May 9, events will take place across the European Union (EU) to mark Europe Day, an annual celebration of peace and unity across the continent.
Thousands of people will take part in visits, debates, concerts and other events to mark the day and raise awareness of the EU. Celebrations will naturally be more muted here in the UK, as we embark on the process of leaving the EU.
Because the UK is embarking on the Brexit process, however, does not mean we should not celebrate the EU and its achievements, the foundation of which the UK played a key role in.
The day is also known as Schuman Day, commemorating the historical declaration 67 years ago on May 9, 1950, by the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, which marked the first move towards the creation of the EU.
The EU gives the freedom to live, study, work or retire in 27 other EU countries, and many millions from the UK have taken advantage of this. EU migration to our shores has in turn benefitted our economy and society. Being able to trade with our EU partners via a single market of over half a billion consumers, unfettered by tariffs and trade barriers, is also essential to many Scottish businesses.
The European Movement in Scotland
Labour MP Yvette Cooper was cheered in the Commons by her party and the SNP when she said no one could ever again believe a word Prime Minister Theresa May says.
This was because Mrs May performed an election U-turn and called a snap election.
Ms Cooper may recall that she promised in 2015 to take a refugee family into one of her two houses. We are still waiting.
It will also be recalled that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, attacking Westminster for not taking in more Syrian refugees, made a similar high-profile pledge to take a Syrian family into her home. The Scottish public are still waiting.