Councillors’ Orwellian overtures
I’m convinced I’m living in an Orwellian nightmare with Scottish Borders councillors saying they welcome residents’ involvement in decision-making about cost savings, but ignoring majority support in the recent council poll for stopping the Great Tapestry of Scotland building.
The council has also pressed ahead with removing trees at the tapestry site in Tweedbank, even though the decision is currently being reviewed by a scrutiny sub-group.
Also, our constituency MSP, Christine Grahame, has asked culture secretary Fiona Hislop to review the business case for the tapestry building.
The council budget lumps the tapestry costs with Business Gateway costs at £5.8million – a sure-fire method of disguising cost overruns on the tapestry project.
We are also told that 130 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs will have to go – this equates to more as the majority of these people probably work part-time. Forty of these FTE jobs are for classroom assistants at a time when the Scottish Government and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have pledged their support for closing the attainment gap.
Scottish Borders Council (SBC) also have to make savings of £30million by 2020. Almost 50% of our road network needs to be repaired with £80-£90million to be spent to meet even the minimum best-practice standard.
SBC has outsourced various departments and are planning to outsource others to save money.
Perhaps it is time we reduced our spend on councillors by reducing their numbers from 34 to 10.
This in itself would reduce the number of meetings and administrators currently supporting these 34 councillors.
From these savings we could send the remaining councillors on speaking plain English courses so we can avoid convoluted Orwellian speech in the future.
Time to scrap costly project
Unlike the Johnny-come-latelies to the independence cause – the apparachiks who would not be out of place in Brezhnev’s USSR – veteran nationalist Christine Grahame MSP is unafraid to speak her mind.
It’s a rare thing indeed when an SNP member opposes the party line.
The SNP party line being in this case that defined by Alex Salmond in “Borders Railway a blueprint for the future”, showing the Great tapestry of Scotland on a map of attractions even before councillors had heard of it.
So what Ms Grahame has to say should be listened to, especially when it is a statement of the obvious – “The business case for the tapestry building is flawed.”
But this was before Scottish Borders Council announced millions of pounds of cuts, including job losses. So now the case for scrapping this ludicrous project is overwhelming.
Why doesn’t Councillor Stuart Bell (and his chums on the SNP group) side with Ms Grahame and scrap this costly project now?
The obvious thing that concerns me about the Great Tapestry of Scotland is the name.
The phrase “trades description” springs to mind. It strikes me as an extravagant way of describing what is really no more and no less than a very worthy community arts project.
I have absolutely no intention of being rude to the many sincere and talented amateur artists who helped to put it together. I certainly applaud their contribution towards bringing Scottish history to life and I have no doubt that the tapestry will find its place in the scheme of things.
Yet I have to ask, is “great” really the right word?
Just for a moment, compare the tapestry with works by the giants of Scottish and international art which anyone can see in galleries within a few minutes walking distance of Waverley station. If we are talking about “greatness”, these are tough acts to follow.
I can’t help wondering if, by comparison, some of the visitors arriving at the new Tweedbank gallery, following a rail journey through the amazing Borders scenery, might just be a wee bit underwhelmed by the tapestry.
A ploy to fool the voters
I see Christine Grahame MSP is engaged in a cynical ploy to fool the voters at May’s Holyrood elections by taking a stance doubting the business case for the Great Tapestry of Scotland being sited at Tweedbank at considerable cost to Scottish Borders Council over 30 years.
Why now, I ask, well past the eleventh hour, so to speak?
Ms Grahame has no doubt woken up to the fact that due to her party’s SNP councillors backing the tapestry, there are going to be awkward questions for her and her Borders SNP colleague, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, at the hustings.
By asking the culture secretary to look at the business case, which will likely take until after May’s Holyrood elections, she can carefully sidestep the issue.
I can bet my pension that after the elections when the culture secretary comes back backing the business case for the tapestry, not a word will be heard from Ms Grahame on the subject.
People like myself are too long in the tooth to be fooled.
In any case, they are already clearing the site at Tweedbank, so it is fait accompli. David Parker’s administration at Newtown has no intention of turning from its decision to build the building to house the tapestry.
Spinning a yarn
Many will recall the colourful change that was made in Selkirk and nearby valleys in September last year.
Members of Souter Stormers (and Brigend Bombers) yarnstormed the area, knitting and crocheting arty creations in more than 40 locations. The group has formalised and is planning its next major project along with two other ancillary projects.
Do you knit, crochet, spin, felt? Would you like to join in the fun?
Our next gathering is at the RC church hall in Selkirk on February 13 (10am – noon). We would especially welcome some Yarrow Yarners from the Yarrow Valley.
In the first instance please contact Kay on firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is often said that a lie can go around the world before the truth has got its boots on.
This is particularly true in reports about the European Union, where coverage is often distorted by confusion and misinformation.
I would like to reiterate to your readers that the European Union has no plans to criminalise holidaymakers who act as Good Samaritans and rescue struggling migrants off the coast of Greece. It is somewhat disheartening that other news outlets are willing to suggest an organisation that has donated millions in humanitarian aid would give people no choice but to watch others drown.
Yes, the European Council conclusions should explicitly acknowledge that some actions have a humanitarian reason and should never be prosecuted or treated as smuggling.
However, the package is a work-in-progress, and acknowledges that trafficking is a growing problem.
That’s why it calls for member states to share knowledge and raise awareness on mapping criminal organisations.
Migrant smuggling is a serious form of organised crime, and we cannot simply accept that shoving families on an overloaded boat and leaving them to fate is a viable option.
There is a huge difference between migrants and refugees, which has also been glossed over by certain quarters.
I would respectfully encourage your readers to get in touch (email@example.com) whenever an EU story strikes them as suspicious, and I’ll be happy to give them the inside scoop.
(MEP for Scotland)
Coinciding with the Saltire Society’s 80th anniversary year and the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design in Scotland, our 2016 Saltire Society Housing Design Awards are now open for nominations.
This year’s judging panel is guest-chaired by journalist, writer and television presenter Kirsty Wark.
Now in their 79th year, the awards celebrate excellence and achievement in Scottish house building and place-making, and are open to owners, clients, architects, house builders and housing developers of all shapes and sizes across Scotland. Projects completed between January 1, 2014, and March 31, 2016, can be nominated for five different categories.
Anyone interested in entering now has until midday on March 14 to submit their entry and the awards ceremony will take place in June.
The Saltire Society
Freebies for middle class
Yet again the Scottish National Party leadership knowingly sets out to mislead the people of Scotland – this time in relation to Scottish Labour’s proposal to add 1p on tax.
Both First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her deputy, John Swinney, suggested the lower paid would be hit worst, whereas a number of think tanks and experts have looked at the detail and confirmed the proposal is progressive.
That is, it has proportionately bigger impact on the take-home pay of higher earners, and the least on the lower paid.
Will the First Minister and her deputy admit their attempted subterfuge, or is it acceptable for our leaders to simply ignore it when their attempts to misdirect people are exposed?
The real cost for the most disadvantaged in Scotland is the way the SNP let them suffer in so many ways as resources continue to be spent on vote-winning freebies for the SNP’s middle class supporters.
For the Scottish National Party it seems holding on to power wins over conscience every time.