Town needs real jobs for real future

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In my humble opinion, the last thing Hawick needs is another multiple discount retailer. The town has far too many multiple retailers and the death of the High Street will be the result.

If our political leaders had an ounce of common sense they would do their best to get manufacturing and wealth-earning employment into the town. A town where 60 per cent-plus are employed in the public sector and the rest are generally employed in minimum wage zero contract businesses will never survive.

The town and county councillors of 80 years ago would never have allowed this to happen. The blame for the decline and demise of Hawick and the Borders can only be attributed to the councillors and parliamentarians who are supposed to represent the region.

Of course, voters must also shoulder the blame for allowing such people to gain power in the first place.

Whenever criticism is levelled at Scottish Borders Council and Hollyrood, the usual retort is you’ve got Streetscape.

Streetscape is nothing but window dressing and a covering up of the cracks. Half the shops are empty. It’s real jobs that don’t need topping up with benefits that are needed, not bringing in multiple retailers whose workforce has to draw benefits to be able to live. The towns that are thriving nowadays are the ones that have kept their individual shops and businesses alive.

The councils of 150 years ago built town halls (that would probably cost £10million nowadays) without milking everyone with taxes. They collected rubbish and ashes every day; kept the streets clean, and policed and supported the enterprises of the towns.

Today, councils all over the UK are at war with the public; treat the public with contempt; increase taxes and charges wherever they can; and employee three times more people than needed.

Most modern councillors I have known have no experience of running a business, a profit-and-loss account or administering anything other than a public sector quango. Perhaps we should make it law that councillors have specific qualifications, credentials, experience and training. It is unfortunately a fact that politicians can talk until the cows come home but they couldn’t run a booze-up in a brewery.

Unfortunately, there appears to be a core of people in Scotland who think that jobs; any jobs, is what is needed. Jobs in the public sector simply drain the public purse.

Some jobs are needed in the public sector but, in my view, that sector is bloated and unproductive. Jobs in the retail sector are generally minimum wage and zero hours which have to be subsidised by the public sector. It is crazy that huge firms such as Sainsbury, Morrisons, Lidl and Aldi don’t pay their staff a living wage and, in effect, get a subsidy from Her Majesty’s Government for employing people on a non-living wage.

It is also madness that, in Hawick, multiple shops pay £10 per sq ft per annum rates and the High Street shops pay £100. The multiples use more resources, create more traffic, and take up more space, yet SBC gives them a discount to employ people on a wage which is not a living wage!

We need more vision and thinking out of the box to save Hawick. In my opinion, the town is ideally situated to generate enough electricity for its inhabitants and its businesses. Wind, water, heat pumps and bio digesters could easily generate all the town needs.

Stobs is an ideal site for such industry and that could be combined with timber-processing factories where the waste goes into the digesters. If the site was owned by, say, a public company where all the towns inhabitants are shareholders as well as some investors, it could be run on co-operative lines. The electricity generated would be discounted to residents and businesses in the town, therefore all the profits would be reinvested in the town, I am convinced that would create work and real jobs. Free or discounted power and reduced rates is a powerful incentive for manufacturers.

Much more needs to be done to generate tourism. heritage, horses; walking/rambling; fishing/shooting; knitwear can all be bases for tourists as well as, of course, steam railways; indeed any railway!

Looking to the countryside, we import cranberries and blueberries from Canada, Chile, Argentina, Spain and Poland, when they could be grown on Border hills. Last year, the UK consumed 55,000 tonnes of the berries but only 20 growers in the UK produced 1,500 of these tonnes. At £1,000 a tonne farm gate price, we are not talking about small businesses. Relatives of the commercial varieties grown are native to Scotland and the moorlands of England.

Likewise, there is a colossal world demand for rose hip products. The extracts are very beneficial foods and medicinal products and the husks and seeds when made into pellets are ideal for horses and provide the horse with vital micro nutrients and vitamins that benefit bone and muscle development. The world demand for rose hips is 50,000 tonnes per year and 85 per cent come from Chile. Ironically, one of the best roses for hip production is our native Scotch Rose or Burnet, Rosa pimpinellifolia.

The future of Hawick is in townsfolk’s hands and a future strategy can be put together by Hawick people without the need for expensive consultants who politicians seem to always demand. All that is needed is a leader; a group; and the first stage is to put a SWOT analysis together showing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats in any future plan, action or inaction.

From that exercise; a future can be planned in detail and executed with conviction.

George Thorburn