John McGuffie took this photo of a beautiful starry sky from near Coldstream looking towards Berwick, with the Aurora Borealis glowing green to the north and the moon rising in the east.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
I note with interest reference from our Conservative MP and MSP to their support of the reopening of Reston station in the Berwickshire News.
The Conservative administration on Scottish Borders Council (SBC), in its recent vision statement, has likewise given its backing, albeit vaguely, to a “facility at Reston”.
All well and good. But, in an attempt to firm up the SBC Tory commitment, I tabled an amendment to the vison statement at the last full council meeting. I called upon Tory elected members of SBC to use their influence on their Westminster colleagues to put pressure on Network Rail for firm timescales regarding preliminary work required, so that the reopening of Reston station can be on schedule for the early part of control period 6 (2019-24).
The amendment was defeated 19 votes to 11 – all Tory members voted against. Make of that what you will.
In contrast, Paul Wheelhouse, MSP and Scottish Government minister, at the recent meeting of Rail Action Group East Scotland (RAGES), reconfirmed his government’s commitment to Reston station and assured the meeting that the joint funding was secure – a meeting at which our Conservative MSP was notably absent.
Scottish transport minister Humza Yousaf is more than playing his part and is in ongoing discussions with Network Rail, which is a UK-wide organisation and, as such, is not under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Government.
It is well overdue for our Tory elected representatives to step up to the mark and do their bit.
(SNP councillor, East
I understand Universal Credit (UC) is to be rolled out in the Berwickshire area in spring 2018.
This new system sees two main benefits – unemployment and housing – combined into one new one – UC – which is paid in one single payment to the claimant.
I pity all those having to make this transition and I hope that local welfare rights and advice agencies are gearing up for the deluge of distressed and impoverished people who will be turning up at their doors.
When someone makes a claim for UC, they are automatically removed from all other benefits and they will have to wait for six weeks before they actually receive a payment.
There appears to be no logistical or rational reason for someone to have to wait this long – it is simply a choice made by this hard-hearted and cruel Westminster government.
The Trussell Trust has reported that some people referred to its food banks have to wait for up to 10-13 weeks and longer for their first payment because of further administrative problems.
How are people meant to survive? The government says claimants can ask for emergency payments to tide them over this period – but these are made at half the level of benefits and have to be repaid in full out of benefits.
To add insult to injury, if a claimant has an inquiry about their benefit application, the only way they can resolve this is to phone the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) helpline, which is charged at up to 55p per minute if called from a mobile.
Most poor people either have no phone or just a mobile in order to avoid landline charges. They can’t go into a job centre for help – that’s not the role of staff there – and people are simply advised to go away and phone. Phones for use by the public were actually removed from job centres a couple of years ago.
To add even further insult to injury, the government is currently implementing a programme of job centre closures throughout the UK, often in the most socially and economically-deprived areas.
In areas where the new UC benefit is already in operation, there are reports of huge increases in food bank use, rent arrears and evictions, with more and more people becoming totally destitute .
The Trussell Trust reports that food bank referrals are running at more than double the national average in areas where UC has already been put in place. It says that delays have led to increased debt, mental and physical ill health and homelessness, with people being left with no money for long periods.
It is obvious that that this cruel new system is causing financial hardship for vulnerable and low-income families and their children. It’s implementation is going to plunge millions of people in the UK into poverty – and this is a horror show that is coming to our area very soon.
I urge all those with any humanity and compassion to contact their MP and call for a stop to this injustice.
PEDESTRIANS MATTER TOO
Well done, John Wylde, for taking the authorities to task over the risks of excessive roadside vegetation obscuring road signs (Transport Matters, October 12).
And how about pedestrians? – we matter too. Many of us have to chance our lives on a daily basis, trying to cross our bendy rural racetracks with seconds to spare when fast-approaching traffic is hidden by trees.
BREXIT A RECIPE FOR SAFETY FEARS
Currently the quality and safety of our food are protected via food standards introduced by the European Union.
Unless Scotland becomes independent before Brexit and remains in the EU, we will lose this protection for our food.
After Brexit, if we stay in the UK, there will be no guarantee that protection for food quality will remain.
Producers will once again have a free hand to include all kinds of “artificial colours”, unspecified “preservatives” and “E numbers” without any obligation to detail these on labels.
FUNDING THE MONARCHY
Yet another inch forward for the republican Scottish National Party and its quest for the abolition of our monarchy.
The nationalists now seek the repeal of the Sovereign Grant Act 2011 (covering the amount received by the monarch each year).
In 2015, Sir Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse, said: “An independent Scotland wouldn’t help fund the monarchy.”
Nicola Sturgeon denied it and requested an apology.
Top marks now for Sir Alan – how right he was (proving no apology was necessary).
Nothing is more important to the SNP than independent power for the Sturgeon “family”, including the abolition of our monarchy. Nothing else comes close.
SPLASHING OUT IN DUNS
At the beginning of June I undertook to swim the length of the River Tweed (96 miles) in three months in my local swimming pool in Duns.
I was raising funds for a Scottish charity, Venture Trust, which helps people who have come upon hard times in their lives, often involving criminal justice. Through the work of the charity and activities it offers, it enables people to start to rebuild their own lives and help them to get back into society.
I would like to express my thanks for all the donations, support and good wishes of everyone who has followed my swim.
I am so pleased to say that I raised the amazing total of £1,826.93 (including gift aid). This is more than I had ever dreamt possible and I know it will go a long way to help support others.
I would like to thank, in particular, Kirsty Inkpen and her team at Duns swimming pool for allowing me to do this and all the people who swam with me throughout the challenge and on the last day.
GRANTSHOUSE CEILIDH CASH
Many thanks to all who supported the ceilidh on Saturday, October 7, which raised £340, with donations, for motor neurone disease research.
Thanks also to all those who donated food, raffle prizes and helped to make the night such a success.
Grantshouse Ceilidh Group
BAKE FOR THE ORPHANS
A coffee morning in aid of the Romanian Orphans will be held in the Masons Hall, Eyemouth, on Saturday, October 21, at 9.30am.
I am appealing for people to help out by donating baking and raffle prizes. Donations can be handed in to Peter Maltman or at the hall on the day of the event.
A DESTINATION FOR NORTH KOREANS?
Like the loving parent of a small child, Chancellor Philip Hammond is keeping from us the worst news about a no-deal Brexit, the likely consequences of which are truly horrifying:
Britain will become a cheap holiday destination for working-class North Koreans.
To defend our vital tourist industry and please our guests, restaurants will serve dog meat.
Children will identify as furry animals, and demand to be known as ‘Fido’ or ‘Tiddles’ – gender difficulties will be quite forgotten.
Illegal immigrants will form lawless camps to smuggle themselves out of the country. British citizens will masquerade as “illegals” in the hope of deportation.
We will be hit by 12 divinely-ordained plagues, but will lack a Moses to lead us out of bondage.
I comfort myself that all this will be our just desserts for wickedly voting to be a self-governing country.
STURGEON’S GESTURE POLITICS
Nicola Sturgeon says the SNP government will pay the “settled-status” fee for all EU nationals working in the public sector in Scotland, estimated at £65 each.
I too am supportive of EU citizens remaining in the UK if they so wish – but can Ms Sturgeon afford this?
The first two devolved taxes the nationalists have touched – landfill and LBTT – are both generating significantly less than even the SNP estimated.
Education and the NHS in Scotland are suffering from a decade of neglect by the nationalist party – they’re crying out for further investment.
It’s believed Gaelic signposting in Scotland has already cost us £26m.
Derek Mackay, SNP finance secretary, is eagerly racking up debt for us at the rate of £450m pa, and plans to carry on so doing.
Can we be sure the SNP has its borrowing and spending priorities right?
Is it really targeting support for the vulnerable and needy in our society as effectively as it could?
Or are gesture politics designed to drive a wedge between us and the rest of the UK more Ms Sturgeon’s priority?
CONSERVATION AND CULINARY RECIPE
October heralds the start of the pheasant-shooting season.
As this gets under way, there will be plenty of affordable, locally-sourced and delicious game meat available. Game meat is healthy, highly nutritious and delicious.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), the United Kingdom’s largest shooting organisation, works all year round to encourage people to try game meat.
People who shoot spend 3.9 million work days on conservation each year – the equivalent of 16,000 full-time jobs. Shoot providers spend almost £250m a year on conservation and shooting is involved in the management of two-thirds of the UK’s rural land area.
Try a roast pheasant, some tasty pheasant meatballs or a pheasant tikka masala. Ask your butcher about venison. For more information and some easy game recipes, visit www.basc.org.uk
(British Association for
Shooting and Conservation)