WHAT a breath of fresh air Lesley Riddoch is in our dour and sullen society. Her piece on Thursday (Why I said we need a new party ... but only after independence, October 17, 2019) says it all and thank goodness that someone in her position can see the malaise that not only Scotland but sadly the SNP, has managed to get into.

Probably, or maybe definitely, this country needs a new party fighting for our sovereignty and our Independence and our future. She is absolutely right to point out the disparity between ourselves and Norway with what we used to have as real local government completely taken to bits and a regional, and very remote, system taking its place. We must never forget that this decimation of our country took place as “an experiment” from Westminster because no-one in that place liked or trusted town and county councils. This was because they couldn’t wield control on them and in many areas of Scotland, especially the rural areas, there was no party politics at all but simply local folk standing as independent councillors in independent councils, without any financial reward but driven on for their individual love of their surroundings.

Nothing about what took its place, in two variations, has any democratic process built into it and things like planning especially has no democracy at all and no local input by local people who actually “count” in the political sense, but who do care for their town, their village or their countryside. There is little democracy elsewhere in the 30-odd region-based councils which we have now and even the skewed voting system assures that no local voice is heard or even, in many cases, manages to get elected.

We haven’t all forgotten that this was an “experiment” and one that the English parliament saw almost immediately, couldn’t work. So they ditched all plans to extend to the areas south of the border but left Scotland with a broken system almost from day one. Yes folks, England still has its town and county councils, but we are lumbered with just 32 area councils whose members have little power, who are elected by a system of proportional representation and have multi-member wards.

We live in a postcode lottery where if you are lucky then you may have at least one councillor who actually cares about your street lights and road sweeping but chances are you don’t even have that.

My own burgh is in the latter category and amazingly ... well, maybe not amazingly ... the population of Selkirk somehow got stuck at somewhere just below 6000 in 1958 and is still at the same level even although we almost weekly see plans announced for 200 to 400 homes in other towns across the Scottish Borders. At the levels seen elsewhere Selkirk’s population should be around 11,500 but we must have been very evil in some long forgotten century and it seems like we can’t get permission to expand and in the process save our shops, save our schools and maybe get help in filling our potholes in what little we have in the name of cart-tracks that have to pass for highways.

I can sympathise with these folk in the Western Isles, but every time we hear the phrase starting ... “problems with the rural economy” we just know that the next two words are going to be Highlands and Islands. What about us? The Scottish Borders is actually in Scotland too and should be the gateway for two-way traffic to and from England and Europe. Alas the A7, the A68 and even the A1 are administered by Transport Scotland, answerable only to Holyrood but ineffective anywhere but in that place of Scottish Government and also, of course, in Glasgow.

I once asked why the A7 trunk road was not even on the list for upgrade to motorway or, at least, dual carriageway. Christine Graham scolded me that a mile of motorway outside Glasgow costs the same as a mile of motorway somewhere between Edinburgh and Carlisle. Christine I have always counted as a friend, but you might think that an elected MSP representing at least part of the Borders may have a little more concern for the folk who have voted for her over a 30-year span.

Yes, the SNP managed to get us back a wee bit of the Waverley railway line between, closed by Labour in 1969. But sadly the Borders Railway is single track and only runs for a 30-mile length and ends up in the back of beyond between Melrose and Galashiels. If it isn’t double-tracked, electrified and extended to Carlisle station, then it is doing very

little to attract business or people to settle in this southern outpost of civilisation. Keep up the good work Lesley and get us back our democracy. If that takes a new party then so be it. I want independence as much as I did long before I joined the SNP and subsequently left the party. I remember what our local MP David Steel did to the Liberal Party by inviting a bunch of Social Democrats in to destroy the integrity of a once great party. Sadly, I believe that getting all those disaffected folk who jumped ship almost in the same direction later and joined the SNP are having the same effect.

Yes, I wish for and pray for an independent Scotland but I also believe that that would be unsustainable inside the EU. Let independence mean independence and have none of this jumping out of the England frying pan into the European fire.
W Kenneth Gunn