Frozen Bothwell Water, near Cranshaws, demonstrates the sub-zero temperatures Berwickshire shivered through last week.
This image was supplied by Lousie Renton, Duns. Please email photographs, with a brief caption, to firstname.lastname@example.org
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
QUESTIONS FOR THE UNIONISTS
It was gratifying to learn that Graham Holford (letters, December 14) not only took the time and trouble to read my letter, and that of Richard Walthew, both published the previous week, but to actually count the number of words in each letter.
However, as usual, it is disappointing, but perhaps quite revealing, that neither he, nor Paul Singleton, to whom my original comments were directed, felt confident enough to deny or refute our criticisms of the current Unionist government at Westminster and its policies with coherent argument based on fact – perhaps because that is impossible to do. The only argument they seem to have to put forward is: Union Good – Independence Bad.
After being accused of “being pessimistic”, may I therefore invite him to lay out his optimistic and positive view of the United Kingdom, and explain to your readers in what way Scotland benefits from this relationship?
In the interests of brevity, I refrain, on this occasion, from listing the many, many, decisions taken at Westminster which run counter to the interests of Scotland and its people of all nations who choose to live and work here.
I could just as easily list all the positive reasons why Scotland, with full control over its own decision-making, could be a successful small independent nation like most small independent countries all over the world.
I conclude by challenging Unionists out there to let us all know: (a) how does Scotland, and the people who live here, benefit from being part of this dysfunctional Union? and (b) if Scotland is such a drain on UK finances, as we are always being told, why are Unionists so desperate to maintain control over us?
SNP CAN’T TAX ITS WAY OUT OF TROUBLE
There are good arguments for taxation to boost investment in public services and wealth creation, but a tax is only beneficial if it increases revenue and doesn’t affect growth.
Sometimes increased tax can give the opposite result during economic downturn (called a Laffer Curve). Figures compiled by the Scottish Government and Scottish Retail Consortium over the past eight years show spending in retail grew 0.5% in Scotland and 2.2% in the UK. Also, 7.5% of shops have closed in Scotland against a 1% rise in the UK.
Retail is Scotland’s largest private employer and has suffered a higher tax burden than in England during the SNP’s decade of ruinous “power.”
Chancellor Philip Hammond is now saying business rates in England would rise in line with the consumer price index measure of inflation and the Scottish nationalists’ finance secretary, Derek Mackay, should be advised to follow the same path.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon should get rid of her inadequate finance secretary and use some of the £2bn given to Scotland by the Westminster Exchequer and help toward payment for big items like education and the NHS.
You can’t tax yourself out of trouble if your government’ fiscal housekeeping isn’t sound – only precipitate disaster.
CLOWNS LEFT – JOKERS RIGHT
When one looks at the fallout from the draft Scottish budget, I am reminded of the line in the Stealers Wheel hit: “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right”.
While the Conservatives cry crocodile tears about a so-called ‘Nat Tax’, Labour say the government hasn’t gone far enough. This puts the SNP neatly stuck in the middle of the two. Not a bad place to be, dare I say.
Modestly increasing taxes for higher earners, but also cutting them for the very lowest, delivering a more progressive tax system, will be welcomed by most. Indeed, polling has shown that a significant majority of Scots support the idea of gradual increases in tax, with higher earners paying more and lower earners paying the same or less than they currently do.
No one earning less than £33,000 a year will pay any more as a result of the budget. That’s 1.8 million people, amounting to 70% of taxpayers, while 1.4 million of Scottish taxpayers earning less than £26,000 will pay less than if they had lived elsewhere in the UK.
Overall, these tax changes will raise £164m, allowing the Scottish Government to ‘reverse’ real-terms cuts to Scotland’s resource budget.
Critics have often decried the lack of use of fiscal powers afforded to the Scottish Government, its cautious approach in delivering a ‘progressive’ agenda. Now we have significant divergence with the rest of the UK.
Of course, what people say to pollsters about paying more tax and what they do in practice can be two different matters. This is about to be put to the test.
A QUESTION OF TRUST
The SNP administration’s budget is critised by all sides.
From the left by Labour’s Richard Leonard, who believes it doesn’t go far enough to address the lamentable state of Scotland’s public services, and by the Conservatives’ Ruth Davidson, who is angry with Nicola Sturgeon breaking her 2016 electoral promise not to increase the basic rate of income tax. Each could be correct, but, I suggest, both are missing a more important point. The larger question is: why should we trust the SNP with yet more of our hard-earned cash?
After a decade of the SNP managing our public services and despite the generous Barnett Formula, according to OECD reports, our education system is in a spiral of decline and now ranks in performance below that of Estonia.
The SNP’s own NHS waiting times targets are routinely missed. There’s a GP funding crisis with 800 additional GPs needed.
Seemingly there’s chaos at Police Scotland and the wisdom of its merger with British Transport Police is widely questioned – except by the SNP establishment.
Possibly some wouldn’t mind paying a little more tax if we had confidence in the ability of the party in government. However, based on the nationalists’ record in power, I have zero faith in the SNP to deliver on its promises simply because we’re paying more tax.
PRESENTATION AT COFFEE MORNING
I would like to thank all who attended the Burnmouth village hall coffee morning on Saturday, December 2.
This also included the presentation of my British Empire Medal by the Lord Lieutenant of Berwickshire, Mrs Jeanna Swan.
Unbeknown to me, my name has been put forward for this honour by several people over the years. Sadly, some of them are no longer here with us to see the result of their efforts.
A heartfelt thank-you goes to all those involved. I am overwhelmed to have received this honour for various things I’ve been involved in locally over the years. I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.
Thanks to Burnmouth community council, Burnmouth village hall committee and Eyemouth lifeboat crew for the lovely flowers, and to Dominic for his present. Finally, I thank all my family and friends who have supported and helped me through a very difficult year.
COME CLEAN, ASIA AND AFRICA
I was astonished to read that 90 per cent of the plastic waste in our seas came from 10 rivers in Asia and Africa. This was kept quiet.
From reports in the media and from the Green brigade, one could be forgiven for thinking that the UK is solely responsible for all the world’s environmental damage.
It needs to be made clear to Asia and Africa that all foreign aid will be suspended until they clean up their act.
By all means divert some foreign aid to set up waste management equipment and strategies, but by UK workers so that taxpayers’ money does not vanish down a black hole.