Tanya Dougal sent us this photo of a young woodpecker at her garden bird feeder.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
SIGN OF SPENDING PRIORITIES
No doubt many of your readers have noticed the mushroom-like proliferation of absurd yellow signs sprouting on lamp-posts across the region, warning of dire consequences if Borderers are selfish enough to park outside their own front doors on the day that the Tour of Britain bike ride passes through (Sunday, September 3). They are simply everywhere.
If folk want to watch sweaty cyclists sporting plastic bananas on their heads whizzing past, I guess that’s up to them.
But it’s ironic that our allegedly cash-starved local authority finds the money for a truly ludicrous level of over-provision of signs for an inconsequential sporting event, but is incapable of basic maintenance of our roads.
Routes full of potholes and broken edges abound, and road markings at potentially dangerous junctions are usually all but illegible.
There is an increasing trickle of successful, but not well publicised, prosecutions across Scotland in cases where motorists have taken action against the highway authority for the consequences of accidents caused by failure to maintain a safe road network. This is a legal obligation that conveniently induces corporate amnesia in councils across Scotland.
No doubt with the darker nights and winter weather that will be upon us shortly, there will be another crop of accidents because of our broken and unmarked roads, and no doubt local authority legal departments will spend thousands contesting resulting legal actions.
Just as with planning departments wasting money arguing about the precise design of shop signage and other irrelevancies, and with the squillions spent replacing schools that 50 years ago would have been deemed perfectly adequate, the spending priorities of the claimed paupers at Newtown (council HQ) get ever more bizarre.
Unaffordability is a myth, defined to suit the political exigencies of the time and the relative power of different professional and interest groups claiming council money and time.
That is why education and planning always claw their way to the top of the greasy pole.
No point in worrying about social care – old folk in care and vulnerable groups dinnae vote.
SEEKING A MEETING PLACE
A group of us have formed a men’s shed in Duns.
It was started in February and, so far, we have a constitution, committee and bank account.
But what we don’t have is a place to start any form of helping others to fulfil the need to do something with their hands and brains. We urgently need some place large enough to turn into a workspace where the men of Duns and district can meet for a few hours to use practical skills and any other skills they have, or to just have a blether, cup of coffee or tea – even a game of dominoes or cards.
I appeal to anyone who can help us find suitable premises to contact Duns and District Men’s Shed, care of the Volunteer Hall, Duns, or email me at small3602@gmail .com
AVOIDING THE RESERVED ISSUES
Before the general election I wrote to this newspaper asking why John Lamont was seeking to be elected as a Westminster MP given his apparently good work representing the Borders at Holyrood as an MSP.
I studied all his circulated election literature to seek an answer to this question, but nowhere were there any references to his opinions on issues specifically reserved to Westminster – e.g. foreign policy, international aid, climate change, social security and especially Brexit. Consequently, I had no idea where he personally stood on any of these and other critical matters.
Since his election I have read all his pronouncements and comments, as reported in the Berwickshire News and other newspapers.
I have heard from him – usually critically – about local broadband provision, NHS Borders (e.g. mental health provision), the Scottish educational system, the Borders Railway, the Scottish economy etc. All of these are important matters, but they are those devolved to Holyrood.
Mr Lamont’s opinion is of no interest to me as it carries no more weight than that of anyone else.
So I attended my local constituency surgery and asked my now MP specifically about two Westminster issues.
The first concerned the scandal of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a nation whose version of Islam has provided the philosophical undergirding for “jihadi” terrorism and which is responsible for the present terrible humanitarian crisis in Yemen. It appears Mr Lamont had not really thought about this and seemed to have no understanding of this issue.
The second concerned his ideas about Brexit. What was his own position – as opposed to the official party line – about hard/soft Brexit, continuing farm subsidies beyond 2020, devolving farm and fishery issues to Holyrood?
Sadly, however, after his MSP colleague had intervened twice about these reserved matters on which I had no need or desire to hear her contribution, the surgery time was up – 25 minutes was the maximum allocated to answer four questioners at this stop – so the dynamic duo sped off happily to discuss potholes and bus services at the next village.
All Mr Lamont’s constituents have a right to know where he stands on so many major issues facing the UK Government and Westminster parliament – only then can any of us properly hold him to account at the next election.
SCOTLAND IN THE FIRING LINE
“North Korea seems to think possessing a nuclear weapon makes them safer. In fact it’s the opposite. Having a nuclear weapon makes them a target…”
This was said without any irony by Philip Hammond, Conservative MP, then Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in February 2016.
Faslane, where Britain’s nuclear submarines are based, and Coulport, where the weapons are stored, are only about 30 miles from Scotland’s most populated city and conurbation – Glasgow.
If there was an attack or major accident, millions of people would be killed in the subsequent firestorm.
Anyone entertaining the selfish notion that they would be quite safe here in Berwickshire should disabuse themselves of that illusion.
Some will recall how great swathes of Britain were affected by the fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear explosion – and it is some 1,300 miles from us.
Another worry is that nuclear convoys drive through the Borders on the A1 and A68.
If a foreign power launches a nuclear attack on Scotland, we’ll all be annihilated. If Britain effects a first-strike nuclear attack, we’ll all be annihilated.
So can anyone explain to me the benefit to us of having this so-called “nuclear deterrent”? They don’t deter hijackers, suicide bombers or vehicle rammers. So just what is the point of these WMDs (weapons of mass destruction)?
But it’s not just the obscenity of the weapons, it’s the ridiculous amount of money which is going to be wasted on the replacements. Billions which could solve so many social problems – such as housing, the NHS, education, poverty, the emergency services and so on.
What an inheritance for future generations.
CREAM TEAS AT BURNMOUTH
On behalf of Burnmouth RNLI branch, I would like to thank all who came along and supported our recent Sunday afternoon cream teas in the village hall.
Thanks also to those who donated baking, raffle prizes etc, and helped in any way on the day. Your loyal support is very much appreciated and we can’t thank you all enough. The amazing total of £744.47 was raised for this worthy cause.
MAKING NUMBERS APPEAR TO ADD UP
Following publication of the latest official GERS analysis of Scotland’s public expenditure and revenue, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon continues to argue that the imbalance between what Scotland spends and earns can be put right by independence, but avoids explaining how.
Meanwhile, deficits are all somehow the UK’s fault.
She ducks responsibility for the previous overly-optimistic projections of where Scotland would be if it had become independent, saying many forecasters had not predicted the sharp fall in oil prices, conveniently ignoring that back then industry experts like Sir Ian Wood were warning that projections of the scale of oil reserves and revenues were being overstated.
Equally, she hopes we forget that SNP insiders like Alex Salmond’s ex-adviser, Alex Bell, have since confirmed what we all suspected, namely that the figures were knowingly pushed to the outer limits of credibility to simply make the numbers appear to add up.
But all of that is history. The £13.3bn deficit for last year points to the scale of challenge facing Scotland if it chooses to break away from the rest of the UK and put itself at the mercy of the European Union in meeting its entry requirements.
Nicola Sturgeon admits that for independence to work we need to get the deficit down from 8.3% of GDP to the 3% that most accept as being sustainable. Yet she gives not a word of credible explanation as to how such a turnaround could be achieved.
The SNP hopes it can put such a negative spin on Brexit that people will be less shocked when the full reality of independence at any cost is eventually revealed.
THE FUELLING OF UNFOUNDED FEARS
I really didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at William Loneskie’s letter – “On the road to radiation risk”, August 17.
Laugh because it was so inaccurate, or cry because he probably believed what he was saying was true.
Put simply, the UK Government does not plan to scrap all petrol and diesel vehicles in 2040.
If Mr Loneskie had bothered to actually read the proposal, it was to stop selling new petrol and diesel vehicles from that date. He’ll be able to run any Land Rovers or Subarus he buys before that date for as long as he likes, although the likelihood of higher road tax and availability of petrol or diesel might make that more difficult.
Lithium ion batteries full of poisons? Yes, they are full of lithium.
If he is so worried about the range of batteries and the time taken to charge them, why not go down the hydrogen fuel cell route. Quick to fill, longer lasting and already in use in several bus fleets and other commercial vehicles. Have a wee look at companies like ITM which manufacture both the cells and the plant that produces hydrogen. Hydrogen technology has moved on a bit since The Hindenburg.
As to Mr Loneskie’s fears about electromagnetic radiation, I hate to increase his fears, but it’s all around him constantly. While the electromagnetic spectrum includes gamma rays and X-rays, it does also include visible light and radio waves.
Not really sure what radiation Mr Loneskie thinks batteries emit. As far as I can see, The Renault Scenic has a starter motor, not a starter battery, so puzzled at the response he got from the manufacturer.
I also note he is concerned about work going to Germany or China, but is happy enough to buy a French car.
As to the effects on hearts, I take it he also proposes taking the batteries out of folk’s pacemakers.
‘GREEN RELIGION’ V ‘THE DENIALISTS’
I see the anti-green brigade were out in force (letters, August 17).
My head tells me not to respond to William Loneskie and Clark Cross, but my gut, as if I had been presented with a pair of cream doughnuts on a platter, wins out.
Both correspondents suggest I am a member of a religion. Initially, as a confirmed atheist, I found this a trifle hard to swallow, but giving it a second thought I rather warmed to the idea.
A religion based on the belief that man-made, carbon-based emissions will alter the atmosphere to the detriment of life, the founding fathers (and mothers) of which creed are the 98% of scientists working in the relevant fields sounds rather attractive. Of course, we’ll need a god. I don’t suppose we can just choose one, so maybe Darwin and Dawkins can fight it out. Every god needs an antithesis – I imagine him as large, golden, breathing fire and brimstone, and inhabiting a huge, white, house.
If the “green religion” is based on a creed supported by nine out of 10 scientists, then the non-believers – those following the minority, must, by definition, be members of an obscure sect. Let’s call them “The Denialists”.
So far, so good, but then Clark Cross spoils it all by posing the question: “SNP, by any chance?”
Well, that’s just going too far. To save lengthy explanations, I refer Clark to my series of letters pre-election, in which I exhorted the Borders electorate to vote for the only credible unionist candidate. This stance is not necessarily evidence of Conservatism – what it does show is a distrust of the combination of nationalism and socialism.
Sarcasm, they say, is the lowest form of wit. What they don’t say is that it’s never the most appropriate.