Take a long-term look to the future

Hawick High Street.
Hawick High Street.

Next week I shall be attending the Scottish Government’s meeting to discuss the challenges facing the town after the closure of Hawick Knitwear and other recent job losses.

I certainly welcome this gathering after I raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament, but was disappointed that the minister hasn’t agreed to my calls for a specific longer-term task force. I hope this will be the first initiative of many to discuss the future of Hawick. A single meeting isn’t going to reverse what has unfortunately been a long-term trend, both in the town’s textile industry and also on High Street.

I intend to listen closely to businesses and will come to the meeting with my own ideas, which I hope the minister will closely consider. As I’ve said before, Hawick needs a long-term plan to support the textiles industry and rejuvenate High Street. We need a radical and coordinated new direction for the town.

Dog Fouling

Dog fouling has to be one of the most common causes of complaint which come across my desk. It’s a particular problem in Hawick – as someone who runs a lot in the town, I know how annoying it is to come across dog mess on the pavements, streets and in the park.

But it’s not just a nuisance, it is also a health risk, particularly when children are playing outside.

The Scottish Government has increased the fine for irresponsible dog owners from £40 to £80, which is good news. It sends out the message that you must clean up after your pets, and if you don’t you risk real punishment.

Unfortunately, this change won’t make a single bit of difference in Hawick, because the SNP-led council doesn’t have any wardens to hand out fines. Not a single fine has been dished out in the past two years.

I understand the council is looking at reintroducing wardens, but it also needs to ensure that when fines are imposed, they are paid. Unfortunately, when there were wardens in Hawick, fines were routinely ignored and more than half remain unpaid. There is little point in handing out fines if so few are actually paid and until that changes, people will continue to think they can get away with not cleaning up after their pets.

Flooding Update

I’ve been disappointed by the Scottish Government’s slow response to last year’s flooding we had in Hawick.

It took too long to announce grants for businesses and residents who suffered damage and my calls for an accelerated flood defence scheme for the town have been, so far, ignored. We’ve waited too long for a flood-prevention scheme for Hawick and this needs to be up and running sooner rather than later.

Now that the news coverage about flooding has died down, it is all the more important to keep up the pressure.

The latest news to emerge is that despite all the hype surrounding the Scottish Government’s announcement about flood relief spending, all the money has come from the UK Government.