The ruling Conservative and Unionist party along with their partners in crime(Independents) at Scottish Borders Council(SBC) are trying to emulate their counterparts at Westminister in bringing hardship and misery to majority of its residents. The Tories are good at cuts and just like a skilled butcher, can cut to the bone! The last few weeks have been a roller-coaster of bad news for residents in the Borders.
Last year around mid-October, I raised an issue online about the loss of librarians at Peebles High School. Unfortunately this opened a can of worms that put our local elected councillors in a tight spot. What was then revealed online by concerned parents, staff and pupils made me realise that parents in particular were not aware of the situation and that libraries were being automated by SBC. Anyone who wishes to see the full background story should only visit the local Facebook page W4 as it’s all Local library documented in detail. What was appalling about the whole situation was the complete ignorance, and shoddy comeback to try to cover-up the situation. The issue was covered in the national press and highlighted the incompetence of councillors passing the buck and in one case blaming the previous administration. This excuse was immediately shot down by the general public as that’s why they were elected instead!
Speaking to me on anonymity, staff and parents have clearly explained the shambles at Peebles High school library which lacks professionally trained librarians to guide students in accessing resources to facilitate their learning. First year students were no longer getting introduced to library functions like in previous years. The library is in utter chaos due to high noise levels and mostly being used by older pupils, which unfortunately discourages the younger ones to come and make use of the facilities. The current self-scanning system does not work according to plan on most days, while books have to be scanned either way i.e. in and out, do the books then miraculously go onto the right shelves? Maybe it’s a system that works like the Harry Potter films where books appear and disappear by magic! If that’s the case then I am very impressed and applaud SBC councillors in the ruling administration for a job well done.
The pilot scam that was run without publicity and within a short time scale this year, proves that the powers that be were caught out last year, due to their sheer arrogance when this paper exposed the undemocratic and bullying methods used by its leader and elected councillors to silence the truth. SBC has maintained that the new ‘volunteer-led’ system is working and was introduced in response to ‘what pupils wanted’. Who have they spoken too? And where is the evidence of the pilots and all the consultations that they seemed to have completed? Secondly why do they run consultations at the last minute and with very little notice given to the general public?
Parent volunteers are replacing qualified librarians, so will iPads replace teachers?
Published in the Peeblesshire News on 19th July 2019.
Climate change will never be on the agenda until corporations and governments get their act together to introduce radical and far reaching policies that transcend national boundaries. We now know the actual threat to life on this planet and we are still tinkering at the edges. Scotland is leading among the nations of this islands in terms of harnessing power through renewables and investing in non-fossil fuel technologies. Since the SNP came to power in 2007, they have made considerable progress in this direction. This all happened thanks to the Greens, who supported the SNP in keeping it in power but also having far reaching influence by supporting the government in framing and introducing green policies that would put Scotland ahead in achieving its carbon emission targets. A lot of work is happening behind the scenes and we should be grateful for the Greens as without them, the SNP would just be another political party with no real policies apart from Independence!
In 2008, after the initial euphoria settled of the SNP win at Holyrood, the government launched the Climate Challenge Fund (CCF). This fund was to help communities across Scotland reduce their carbon footprint through developing innovative projects locally. The focus was on energy, food, recycling and travel. So far over £104 million has been awarded to more than 1000 projects all over Scotland. We at You Can Cook were beneficiaries of this fund and in 3 years successfully set up the first edible organic training garden in Scotland. Over 400 people benefitted every year for 3 years in a row since 2015. An achievement unsurpassed till date. As I was writing this column we received news that the ‘edible garden’ got funding through the localities bid fund. Hurray!
We used over 80 per cent of recyclable materials to build the garden from scratch. We expanded the project into Walkerburn Primary School and supported over 150 homes in the area to grow their own food. We also took on allotments at Traquair on a 5 year lease to be handed to 4 families from the area. Through this funded project we worked in partnership with LIVE Borders to supply the libraries with over 400 books on climate change, cooking, growing, environment and the planet. Finally at the tail end of the project we ran a pilot with Scottish Borders Council to save gardening tools from going to landfill. This is now a standalone project still running and going strong and is being replicated throughout the Borders.
So it beggars belief that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who made a statement at her Edinburgh party conference a few months ago to tackle climate change head-on, reduces the budget of CCF by £2.5 million in the current financial year! Only 22 new projects were funded compared to 50-60 new projects in previous years! Also, SNP MSPs voted with other parties against a Scottish Green party motion calling a climate emergency too! So what is really going on?
Politicians have no excuse anymore!
Published in the Peeblesshire News on 5th July 2019.
I received a lot of positive feedback about my previous column as many were not aware of the statistical anomaly of the population vis-à-vis the UK as a whole and how the three kingdoms of Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland would always be outgunned and outmanoeuvred by English MP’s in any UK elections. The SNP won 28.4% of the share of the vote in the Scottish Borders, up by 7.7% since the last European elections while the Conservatives came third behind the Brexit Party winning 18.9% of the votes, down by 11.6%. Overall the SNP got 37.84% share of the vote, up by 8.85%, while the Conservatives managed to get 11.61% share of the votes, down by 5.61% and coming fourth overall in Scotland behind the Brexit Party 14.83% and Lib-Dems 13.89%.
Finally, Borderers are waking up to the lies and chaos perpetuated by the Conservatives whereby they fought the last council elections under the “No 2nd Independence Referendum Banner” and the European elections too! These two elections had nothing to do with the Independence vote and I am so glad that local people in the Borders are seeing through the mis-information and lies peddled by the current ruling administration at Scottish Borders Council, Ruth Davidson at Holyrood and MP David Mundell. The Lib-Dems did fairly well in the UK wide elections getting 20.3% of the votes, up by 13.4% and behind the Brexit Party that got 31.6% overall coming on top. People are fickle and seem to forget the past record about the Lib-Dems. This is the party which jumped into bed with the Conservatives in 2010 at the first opportunity of grabbing power to form a coalition that went on to ruin the lives of millions of families, working class, disadvantaged and disabled citizens of this country. Young university going students in England were betrayed too by the false manifesto promise of abolishing tuition fees, which they renegade on once they got the power!
Last week’s Peeblesshire News had a letter from John Ferry, Chair- Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale Liberal Democrats who is worried that the ill-informed voters of the Scottish Borders will vote SNP in any future Westminister elections and in order to not be dismayed by the ‘rise of populism and nationalism’ should back the Lib-Dems! Of course some may vote Lib-Dem again if they want the next elected government to be a coalition of the Brexit Party and Liberal Democrats! A distinct possibility if there is no majority and The Brexit Party makes huge gains in seats in the Westminister elections. Remember, the Lib-Dems could have formed a coalition in 2010 with Labour but chose the Tories, the exact opposite of their beliefs, so don’t be surprised if they do the same again. This time around the Lib-Dems will finish the job they started in 2010 by selling off the NHS to America, renewing Trident missile systems in Scotland, reducing the Scottish governments budget to pay for these weapons of mass destruction and most probably completely remove the benefit systems that this country fought so hard to set up to provide its citizens with a safety net in times of ill-health, unemployment and economic hardships.
Never forget the liars and con-men/women who are playing with our lives to benefit themselves, their cronies and the rich corporations.
Published in the Peeblesshire News on 15th June 2019.