Borders freelance photographer Stuart Cobley sent us this view kooking along the River Tweed at low levels towards the centre of Coldstream.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
SECOND BEST NOT GOOD ENOUGH
The announcement by the Scottish Government that it intends setting up a south of Scotland enterprise agency to cover the Borders is welcome.
However, the launch document is thin and leaves all the important questions unanswered.
How much money will this new organisation have?
Will it be new, additional, money, or just a cut-and-paste from existing council and other organisations’ budgets?
What will it be allowed to do?
Will the new agency be able, with new resources and powers, to have as much impact as Highlands and Islands Enterprise? If not, why not?
Will it be independent, run by people whose first loyalty is to the Borders, or will it be subservient to a strategic board based in Edinburgh?
I fear that the Borders, and Dumfries and Galloway, are being offered very little and that while it is better than nothing, it is neither as powerful as we need nor as well funded as we deserve.
What the south of Scotland gets should be, at least, as good as the Highlands and Islands gets, and not second best.
And, finally, why will it not be up and fully running until 2020? The two councils, Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders, should be congratulated for putting forward a scheme by which the agency could be up and running in six months. Why was this rejected?
Everyone knows the Scottish Government wants to have a referendum on independence before 2020.
Whatever your opinion on this, everyone can see that the setting up of an enterprise agency for us will become a low priority and simply get swept aside and ignored in the grand battles over independence .
The Borders deserves better – an enterprise agency with real powers and new money. When do we want it – now!
(Labour candidate for
Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk at 2017 general election)
ELITE AVOIDING AUSTERITY
Paul Singleton (letters, June 29) is quite right to be concerned about what taxpayers’ money is spent on – but, as usual, the bias and inconsistency of his argument is clear for all to see.
Perhaps he could attempt to justify the £1bn bribe (with more likely to follow) which Prime Minister Theresa May and her cronies (including John Lamont and the other new Scottish Tory MPs) have gifted to the DUP so she can hold onto power a little bit longer.
This grubby deal does absolutely nothing for democracy.
I will say no more about the DUP, other than that they, with their outdated and illiberal views on a whole range of subjects, and alleged connections to paramilitary groups, are not the kind of people I would care to spend any time with.
Has Theresa May found the long-lost and fabled “money tree” she told us did not exist, when she and her acolytes voted recently (shamefully, amid cheering and applause from the Tory benches) to restrict public sector workers to a 1% pay increase?
These are the very people – doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers, armed forces and others – that we (especially recently) all depend on in times of crisis.
At the same time we learn MPs are getting 11%, the Queen 15% and military top brass 20%.
It seems austerity does not apply to everyone – especially the elite.
RUNNING ON EMPTY SHOPS
Railway enthusiasts continue to bombard us with statistical nuggets of success, not least the tourist data.
Meantime, the painful negatives are being ignored.
Retailers are bearing the brunt of the pain. First, Galashiels – now, Melrose. In the past two years, empty shop fronts have become a common feature in Melrose whereas previously there was always someone ready to move in.
Politicians need to take an holistic approach rather than recycling the lobbyists’ propaganda.
SMALL EU NATIONS MAKE THEIR MARK
It is more than a little ironic that as Scotland, through being part of the UK, prepares to leave the European Union, Estonia, with a population around a quarter that of Scotland, took over the EU presidency last Saturday (July 1).
The presidency is responsible for driving forward the EU’s work, ensuring the continuity of the EU agenda, orderly legislative processes and cooperation among member states.
During the next six months this will focus on key areas, including single and digital markets, the energy union and closer integration of eastern partners into Europe. It also wants to focus on the promotion of e-solutions and the information society in EU policy areas.
Interestingly, Estonia’s prime minister, Jüri Ratas, has declared that Brexit is not a priority for the presidency, a sign that the EU is moving on from Brexit, with bigger issues to deal with.
Estonia, which next year will celebrate its centenary of becoming independent, takes over the EU presidency from Malta, an island with a population less than that of Edinburgh.
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.
Times have indeed changed since September 2014 and we are, despite these assurances, heading for the EU exit door.
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 be an EU member.
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.
Nicola Sturgeon reminds me of the First World War generals in their ivory-tower chateaux after the Somme, reviewing the 450,000 British
casualties and deciding “we must do it all over again”, with the inevitable outcome.
The SNP lost 476,918 votes in the last election.
The suggestion by some that Holyrood could, in some way, block the great repeal bill is nonsensical.
The objective of the great repeal bill is to transfer legislation from the EU into UK law; whether or not this attracts the approval of the SNP Holyrood government is irrelevant.
Holyrood’s consent will only have any significance in relation to devolved legislation, but again, whether Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP establishment object or not, all legislation will transfer out of the EU.
What is likely is that the reach of Holyrood’s legislative authority will then be further extended, with fisheries and agriculture potentially being devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
But further devolution is a double-edged sword for Ms Sturgeon.
She, of course, must be seen to want increased powers for Holyrood. Yet her worst nightmare is that Scots become satisfied with a powerful devolved parliament within the comfort blanket of the UK – and the case for independence is perceived as even more flawed than back in 2014.
CONTINUING TO GROW A DECADE ON
On Wednesday, June 14, Friends of Kelso Library held an afternoon tea party with poetry and readings in the Library Garden.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of the garden which was created following the 100-year celebrations of Kelso Library. Margaret Riddle, and Keith and Terry Cavers were among some special guests who represented the groups and organisations involved not only in the creation of the garden, but for obtaining the grants required to make this garden the beautiful tranquil area it is today.
The tea party was a fundraiser for Friends of Kelso Library who support the library with time, skills and energy, provide the Saturday newspapers and maintain it. The monies collected this year will help us to continue to supply newspapers on a Saturday which we have provided for the past 10 years. Thanks to all who took contributed.
Thanks also to Charity Begins At Home for its very generous grant this year which enabled us to revamp the garden.
Friends of Kelso Library
As MSPs left Holyrood to head off on their summer holidays, the Scottish Government quietly issued the results of its consultation on the draft referendum bill.
Clearly the hope was that no one would notice, or care enough about, its contents to comment.
The original consultation document was published in October last year, remaining open for responses for three months until January 11. The questions posed in the document were structured to not include any of the fundamental issues that SNP ministers would rather not hear about. Views were not sought therefore on the wording of the question to be used in a second independence referendum, nor indeed on whether it made sense to hold another so soon after the last one.
The report analysing the results of the consultation reveals that 22% of the 7,198 valid responses commented on matters not included in the consultation paper.
Whilst the independent company asked to prepare the report admits that the main theme of these unsolicited comments was “the principle of holding another referendum on Scottish independence”, it gives no further details, saying “it was not within the scope of this project to conduct an analysis of these comments”.
This was presumably because of the remit given to it by the Scottish Government.
Public money and resources in the shape of civil servant input has gone into this tawdry attempt at misinformation, masquerading as a proper public consultation exercise.
In a year’s time, Nicola Sturgeon promises to tell us her specific plans about an independence referendum rerun, predicting it will happen before the next Holyrood elections in 2021.
What will limit the misuse of the Scottish civil service in that process if independence continues to be treated by this government as transcending all else, including the requirements of good governance?
I am one of a group of people who, about six months ago, set out to relaunch Pensioners for Independence (P for I) – one of the pro-independence groups that existed before the 2014 referendum, but subsequently seemed to disappear from the radar.
We now have active P for I campaigning groups in Edinburgh and Lothians, and in Glasgow and west of Scotland, and are keen to set up similar groups based on the other cities in Scotland and eventually to spread our influence into more rural areas.
If any of your readers would like to know more and be kept informed of progress, they are invited to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P for I
Edinburgh & Lothians
FAR FROM ‘KEEPING US SAFE’
Armed Forces Day is fairly new, created in 2006 as “Veterans’ Day” and renamed in 2009, copying the American model.
The displays and events on this day seem to promote a view of war as family entertainment, normalising violence and encouraging young children to pose with guns.
It is not a charitable event and is sponsored by the UK Government with the stated purpose of showing support for the armed forces – and by implication, for the decisions to deploy them.
It is no criticism of individuals who serve in the military to note that, in recent years, politicians have been too willing to use armed force to intervene in other countries, in particular Iraq, without thinking through the consequences. The result has been a spreading destabilisation which, far from “keeping us safe”, has made the world a more uncertain and dangerous place for us and for millions of others.