John Harrison was out for a drive with his wife and dog when he took this photo of St Abbs Head from The Crescent, St Abbs.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
ECONOMIC STUDY PETITION PLEA
Even if you care nothing for grouse shooting and don’t live on or near a grouse moor, you are still affected by them – not least because of the public subsidies they receive.
Over 10% of Scotland is managed for grouse shooting and the most intensive element of that, driven grouse shooting, has been implicated in the loss of wildlife, the illegal persecution of predators, especially birds of prey, and the despoliation of landscape through the creation of bulldozed tracks principally to transport shooting clients.
Leeds University’s EMBER report showed that muirburn, the rotational burning of heather to provide red grouse with optimal habitat, lowers water quality in streams flowing through grouse moors and may exacerbate flooding by reducing peat soil’s ability to hold water. It almost certainly does no favours for freshwater angling.
As well as pointing out that a few species of waders can do well on grouse moors, a regular defence in the face of controversy is that grouse moors create rural jobs. As they require employees, they certainly do, but are they driving away other forms of employment in the hills that would create more employment and make the them a better place for wildlife, residents and visitors?
No country in the world outside of the UK has driven grouse moors, not one in spite of the fact the near identical willow grouse is distributed across northern Europe, Asia and America. That should be very telling, especially as some such as Norway appear to have considerably healthier rural communities than we do.
Lots of questions need answering.
There is a desperate need for a comprehensive, independent economic study of driven grouse shooting in Scotland to see whether or not it is actually helping rural communities or not. At present there is none, which is a national disgrace. That’s why I have drafted a petition to ask the Scottish Government to commission one.
If those currently telling us that driven grouse shooting is vital for local communities believe that, then they should have no hesitation in signing it.
A valid study would be politically neutral and quantify all relevant issues, including possible contribution to or alleviation of flooding, use of public subsidies, alternatives in the form of eco-tourism etc.
A proper economic assessment should have been carried out years ago – we need one now.
For all our sakes, can your readers please sign http://www.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/PE01663
SINGLE-ISSUE AND NEGATIVE
I would like to start by offering my heart-felt thanks to all those who turned out to vote for me in the Scottish Parliament by-election in the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire constituency on June 8.
After a short campaign, foisted upon us all by Theresa May’s ridiculous decision to call a general election in the midst of Brexit negotiations, I was delighted to have polled the highest SNP vote ever in this constituency.
I would like to congratulate Rachael Hamilton on her win and wish her, and the other candidates – Sally Prentice and Catriona Bhatia – all the best for the future.
Rather than the negative single-issue campaigns from the other parties, I am proud to have been at the forefront of a positive campaign that focused on the SNP’s achievements in government over the last 10 years. These include protecting the most vulnerable people living in the Borders – those who often can’t speak up for themselves, ensuring our young people can attend university regardless of how wealthy their parents are, free prescriptions, free bus passes, extending good quality nursery education, providing free school meals, to name just a few.
I have been involved in many campaigns over the years and I cannot remember any that have been so full of energy and enthusiasm from the SNP point of view, or indeed one so negative from the opposition.
I’d like to thank our local activists and volunteers who, despite lethargy from the recent council elections, turned out in their droves to support me and our wonderful Westminster candidate, Calum Kerr.
I have never been a candidate before, and never thought I would be one, but I could no longer stand by and watch an increasingly right-wing Tory government punish the most vulnerable people in Scotland.
The very people the Tories are targeting are the ones who need a strong voice to stand up for them and that is what I will continue to fight for.
After a general election notable for the single issue relentlessly purveyed by the Unionist parties in Scotland, but still with a majority of SNP MPs, I had decided to set my pen aside for a while and get on with some gardening.
However, a letter from John Smithson in last week’s Berwickshire News pleading for a rest, but only from those of us seeking an independent Scotland, has prompted me to put down my trowel and confirm that no, we haven’t gone away, and the Yes movement is still highly motivated and ambitious for independence. We are from all levels of the community and from all political parties, and we are among you.
So 60% say “no” to another referendum? Well it all depends how the question was framed in the poll, doesn’t it?
If I was asked “do you want a referendum now?”, my answer would be “no” – but I do when the time is right. That is the position of both the Yes movement and SNP.
The monster that is Brexit is just over the horizon and the horrors it brings could change many a mind.
So sorry, John, we are not going back in our box just yet.
FLAGGING UP DEATH OF INNOCENT FOLK
This week Scottish Borders Council will be flying a defaced Union flag from its buildings as a prelude to Armed Forces Day on Saturday, June 24.
We are expected to show our support for the armed forces.
Sadly, there is little worth supporting. Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya lie in ruins, and the UK is still bombing Syria at the behest of the USA. Meanwhile, innocent people are being killed on the streets of Britain in revenge attacks which the security services warned about in 2003.
The armed forces should not be blamed for the disastrous failures in the Middle East.
The blame lies with the politicians who instigated and supported the unnecessary attacks. Also, those politicians must bear responsibility for the revenge attacks on UK soil, and the erosion of our civil liberties.
Borders MP David Mundell has consistently supported government policy in the Middle East and must be held to account. As a new MP, John Lamont is not responsible for the tragedies. However, in the Scottish Parliament in 2013, he made excuses for the invasion of Iraq and I fear he is another warmonger.
If we want to live in freedom, in a peaceful and prosperous country, we should not support belligerent politicians.
GETTING IN A FLAP OVER ROYAL FLAG
Driving through St Boswells last week, I spotted the Scottish Royal Banner flying proudly in the breeze over a prominent corporate building beside the A7.
My immediate reaction was one of surprise as when I left the house the Queen had been occupied with her guardsmen in London and I doubted that she would be nipping up to the Buccleuch Arms after the ceremony for lunch.
It must be the First Minister and Holder of the Great Seal down for a weekend break, or perhaps the Lord Lieutenant on a visit. Might it be the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland meeting up for lunch? More likely to be the Lord Lyon, King of Arms, I decided, probably stopped off for a pie and a pint. These are, after all, the only bodies that can legitimately fly the royal flag.
As there was no immediate hubbub in the car park to indicate any of these happenings, I had to conclude that the ensign was there purely as an indication that the howff was open for business and if this was the case, the flying of the said banner is strictly illegal.
It may be that the co-owner of the establishment and who is also our new MSP is possibly not acquainted with our quaint customs and does not wish to use the Saltire in case she gets associated with the nationalist movement.
If she does not wish to fly the Saltire of Scotland, which would be perfectly legal, the only alternative is to break out the Union flag.
CHILDREN CAN BE A LONG-TERM BENEFIT
The fact that the new Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, is the gay son of a Hindu immigrant father shows how much the Irish Republic has changed in recent decades – and yet I can’t help feeling strong misgivings.
Like the three most important politicians in Europe – Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May – and all bar one of the Scottish party leaders, Mr Varadkar is childless.
Politicians have a notorious tendency towards short-termism and looking no further than the next election.
Parenthood, on the other hand, encourages people to look to the long term. How many of us have heard our parents say, or as parents ourselves said: “I worry about what sort of world we are leaving to our children?”
For example, would a German chancellor with children have thrown the country’s borders wide open, so that in a single generation Germany will be transformed from a European Judeo-Christian nation in to a bi-cultural multi-ethnic one in which European culture, laws and morals are all subject to permanent challenge by an ever-growing section of the populace who reject our Western values?
None of this is to say that a person can’t be childless and yet be a fine leader – counter examples are not difficult to find.
However, Europe’s increasingly childless governing elite is reckless, intellectually sterile and out of step with normal people, for the majority of whom parenthood is central to their life experience.
DAVIDSON MUST TREAD CAREFULLY
Ruth Davidson has clarified that the Scottish Tories won’t split from the main UK party – but does her EU position, in any case, distance her from Prime Minister Theresa May?
The possibility of an autumn election means Ms Davidson can’t risk losing ground. If SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon finds a face-saving way to retreat – temporarily – from indyref2, Ms Davidson will need more than anti-independence on which to campaign.
Does Mrs May’s preference for a hard Brexit makes her increasingly toxic?
Ms Davidson apparently supports single market access and doesn’t share Mrs May’s anti-immigration stance. While the Scottish Tory leader’s softer Brexit views chime well with many here, Ms Davidson will have attracted many euro-sceptic votes on June 8.
Ms Davidson must remain principled. However, if she uses her 13 Westminster votes to pressurise Downing Street into pursuing a softer Brexit, she should tread carefully.
Without a special fisheries deal, such a stance will lose her support, particularly in north-east Scotland where her party holds several seats which, with a resurgent Labour party, may be difficult to replace elsewhere.
The Scottish Tory leader may well distance herself from a perhaps fatally-wounded Mrs May, but Ms Davidson holding an EU position deemed credible by the majority of Scots will be crucial to the Scottish Conservatives’ long-term survival.
MEMORABLE CASTLE VISIT
On behalf of my daughter, Isla, may I take this opportunity to thank A Heart For Duns committee who recently ran a very successful film night showing Beauty and the Beast.
Along with this, everybody in a very busy Volunteer Hall was entered into a raffle to win a private viewing around Duns Castle and afternoon tea for 12 people – Isla was the winner of this wonderful raffle prize.
My daughter and 11 of her friends and family have since visited the castle, spending a lovely afternoon being shown around and having tea with Mr and Mrs Hay.
We all had a super afternoon which I’m sure will remain in the memories of all 12 concerned for years to come.
I also wish to thank Mr and Mrs Hay, and Mr Findlay for providing nine children and three adults a very enjoyable and informative afternoon.
Isla and Elaine Gourlay (and friends)
MOWER BOUGHT WITH GRANT
Ayton and District Bowling Club thanks all those involved with the Greencote Drone Hill Community Fund, especially the panel which awards the grants and Foundation Scotland who administer the process.
The grant awarded to the club has enabled the purchase of a new mower to replace the one which has served the club since its inception in 1983. Let’s hope this one lasts as long.
Ayton and District Bowling Club