Lorraine Sharp’s photo of last week’s strange ‘Saharan Sun’ was taken near Fogo.
Please email your photographic contributions, with a brief caption, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
SCOTS SHOULD FEAR ‘POWER GRAB’
It is becoming clearer by the day that politicians at Westminster see Brexit as a heaven-sent opportunity to keep to themselves most of the powers due to be returned from the European Union when Britain leaves.
Many of these powers, however, relate to issues that are already devolved to the Scottish Parliament and to the Welsh Assembly.
People in Scotland should be concerned about this naked “power grab”, and should be helping to prepare the ground for this country to become independent. Only in this way can we hope to remain in the EU – as was the wish of a majority of Scots in the EU referendum – and retain the benefits of EU membership, including all the powers that brings to the Scottish Parliament.
MP GOES INTO HIDING FROM VOTE
Universal Credit looks wonderful on paper.
However, the harsh reality of its introduction would have seen many Borders families suffer spectacularly, since many would have to wait as long as 10 weeks for their first payment – a situation made worse by taking place in the run-up to Christmas.
Recognising the delays and errors in implementation, Labour recently forced a vote in the Westminster parliament on a motion to call a halt for reconsideration before the nationwide roll-out of Universal Credit.
Borders MP John Lamont and his Tory colleagues failed to vote for a pause in a scheme that would leave so many with so little. He, by his absence, failed to either support his own party’s flagship welfare policy or to protect his constituents from a chaotic scheme which would impoverish many.
What will our Tory MP do to protect his constituents from the problems which may be caused by the introduction of Universal Credit to the Borders?
Why did he hide from a vote to delay until roll-out can be done efficiently?
LOCAL TORIES AXING HELPLINE
When Alison Currie wrote her moving letter (Berwickshire News, October 19) about the inhumane introduction of the Universal Credit programme, she would not have known that the Westminster government had been shamed into removing the 55p-per-minute claimants would have to pay for phone calls to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) helpline. This is only fair as calls to report suspected fraudulent benefit claims are free.
At the same time as the roll-out of Universal Credit, the Conservative-led Scottish Borders Council is axing its own helpline just when it will probably be most needed.
As far as many people are concerned, the plight of unemployed, disabled, sick and homeless people is all of their own making. Not until they themselves are thrust into penury due to unforeseen circumstances will they appreciate the trauma that dealing with the DWP can cause. Anxiety, stress, hunger, mental breakdown and suicide have all been the result of policies enacted by Theresa May and her cabinet of millionaires.
If you wish to alleviate the hardship some families are suffering, please contribute cash or goods to your local food bank.
AN UNFORTUNATE LEAD ADDITIVE
The press officer of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) recently wrote to every local newspaper in the UK, extolling the culinary delights of shot pheasant, and the conservation benefits bestowed upon the countryside by the pheasant-shooting industry.
The idea that the annual introduction of up to 40m non-native, omnivorous birds, substantial in both size and appetite, could possibly be of benefit to endemic wildlife defies common sense.
Pheasant poults, intensively reared in large, open-air enclosures, are classified legally as livestock, and on that basis licences to kill otherwise protected birds of prey are now issued by Natural England (GOV.UK). Once the poults are released, they undergo a magical morphosis into wild game birds, although as they are not yet able to fend for themselves, extensive feeding and protection is crucial.
Of course, their continued survival in the wider environment necessitates a widespread slaughter of genuine native wildlife, conveniently rebranded as “vermin” by the shooting industry.
As for our brave pheasants – during the (usually short) time they enjoy between being weaned off their supplementary grain and being converted to road-kill pate, or ending up at the wrong end of a shotgun blast – they spend their time vacuuming up countless small specimens of native wildlife: young lizards, froglets, freshly hatched skylarks and the like, as well as vast quantities of wildflower seed and invertebrates (otherwise known as songbird or grey partridge food).
By “conservation” the BASC can only mean the conservation of the pheasant from poult to plate.
Once on that plate, pheasants appear to make good eating if properly cooked – tasty, low in fat, free range – you know the drill.
Unfortunately, they also tend to come with added lead, which is why they don’t often appear on supermarket shelves. The Food Standards Agency (GOV.UK) says, unambiguously, that the frequent eating of lead-shot game is a health risk.
Wine, vinegar and tomato-based recipes are particularly risky – lead dissolves in acid – and ingested dissolved lead is stored permanently in our bones. Damage caused by lead poisoning is not easily reversible. Symptoms of low-level poisoning include irritability, dyspepsia and hypertension.
Fortunately, pheasant meat contributes less than 0.1% of all bird-sourced meat eaten in Britain. Those pheasant aficionados putting themselves at risk of lead poisoning are a tiny minority of the general population – those feeding it to their children or unborn babies need to think again.
The shooting industry, similar to the climate-change-denial industries, tends not to trust science unless they have commissioned it, interpreted it, and presented the result by press release. All those pesky ecologists, climate scientists and government food advisers are, after all, just so-called experts.
Let’s forget all that inconvenient truth: anyone for pheasant meatballs? .... anyone?
A ROBOTIC WELCOME AWAITS
How misguided is the decision to close Kelso’s VisitScotland tourist information centre.
Even though we know the town well, my family and I regularly dropped into the centre for fresh guidance and to buy guide books, maps, souvenirs etc. It was a friendly and attractive resource.
VisitScotland, in its wisdom, says we now must use our smartphones to access information online. Apart from the coldness of that facility, is it quite ignorant of Kelso’s poor mobile phone and even worse internet services?
On a recent tour of the Outer Hebrides, where mobile connections are even worse, I found local information centres to be invaluable. And visitors from all over the world appeared to share that view.
There is no substitute for friendly face-to-face contact with a knowledgeable professional. Robots offer a poor welcome to strangers.
DON’T SPARE THE ROAD
I am appalled at the Scottish Government’s ill-considered intention to ban the reasonable chastisement of children by their parents.
In my school days, corporal punishment was a way of distinguishing the sheep from the goats.
It was only the brightest kids who realised that if an adult hit you, they had lost the argument and that you could continue what you were doing that had attracted their ire, but with more discretion and care to avoid detection.
The thicker bairns, on the other hand, never made this connection and usually responded compliantly to a good belting.
Since the tawse was abolished in Scottish schools, we have seen generations of feral children growing up into ill-mannered and loutish thugs. The few decent parents who attempt to do what schools used to do will now be deprived of a viable means to control their lumpen offspring.
And intelligent kids will miss out on a valuable lesson about adult psychology.
John Eoin Douglas
The EBDA Award, one of the oldest community awards in the Borders and north Northumberland, now in its 41st year, recognises innovation, skill and enterprise in the area in which the old Eastern Borders Development Association was so effective in promoting regeneration in the 1960s and 1970s.
The 2016 award was made to St Abbs Independent Lifeboat Committee, but shortlists and winners in recent years have included local businesses, community groups, voluntary organisations and individuals.
Nominations are invited from organisations and individuals in the award area for the 2017 title.
It will be made to a person or organisation who, or which, through skill or effort, has made an outstanding contribution in social, economic or environmental fields in the 12 months up to November 30 this year.
Further details of the award and nomination forms may be obtained from me on 01289 382541, or from the EBDA website – www.ebda.btik.com. Closing date for nominations is December 7.
YOUNG FOOTBALLERS NET CASH BOOST
On behalf of Duns Juniors Football Club I would like to thank all those who helped in any way towards the success of Saturday’s fundraising coffee morning held in the Duns Parish Church halls.
Thanks go to all those who baked, donated raffle prizes and helped on the day. Thanks also to all those who came along to the event and helped us raise the excellent sum of £545 - a huge boost to club funds!
treasurer, Duns Juniors FC
FUNDRAISER FOR ORPHANS
A coffee morning in aid of the Romanian Orphans was held in the Masons Hall, Eyemouth, on Saturday, October 21, when the sum of £291 was raised.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to everyone who helped in an way to support another coffee morning.
DIGGING IN AT RESTON
Following a busy weekend at Reston’s Riverside project clearing scrub and improving access in preparation for our ‘Big Dig’ community tree-planting day on November 25, Reston Community Company Ltd would like to say a big thank-you to all the volunteers who gave up their time.
We can only hope the restorative powers of bacon butties prove just as effective on the 25th, and we’ll have the arboretum planted in no time!
chair, Reston Community
WIND POWER CLAIMS ‘DISTORTED’
The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) has lodged a formal complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) concerning a poster campaign for offshore wind at Westminster tube station, claiming it is a deliberate attempt to influence MPs, peers and other decision-makers.
The organisations behind this advertising all have financial or anti-fossil-fuels interests.
The posters claim that “the price paid for electricity from offshore wind farms has fallen by 50% over the last five years”.
Dr Benny Peiser, director of GWPF, said: “The claims in this campaign are some of the most blatant distortions of the truth that I have seen in pro-wind advertising”.
Those funding the advertising include Dong Energy, GE, Scottish Power Renewables, Siemens Gamesa, SSE, Vattenfall, Greenpeace, Marine Conservation Society and WWF.
An impressive array against ASA, but ASA shocked Friends of the Earth (FoE) earlier this year by heavily censoring FoE over its scaremongering anti-fracking leaflet.
If this GWPF complaint is upheld, the charities involved should lose their charitable status.