CONTRIBUTION BY GRAHAM FLEMING: ROXBURGH
AND BERWICK S.N.P. TEVIOTDALE
For those of us who are
unfamiliar with the Borders, Teviotdale, stretches across most of the
county of Roxburgh, enclosing of course, the river Teviot. This
commences above the hamlet of Teviothead and terminates at Kelso where
it merges with the river Tweed which meanders on through the Merse of
Berwickshire and down into the sea at Berwick.
The Teviotdale district
ward is a very large territory including Denholm, Ancrum, Bedrule and an
area round Hawick (excluding the town itself). The ancient family lands
of Turnbull, Elliot, Kerr and Scott are represented in the ward, names
which are now generously scattered throughout the Borders and appear in
large numbers throughout the new world.
The ward's wealth is
mainly generated from the land and tourism, and has a high level of self
employment, from its many farmers to its craftsmen these combine to form
a very vibrant small business community.
When the sitting
councillor for Teviotdale decided to step down in the autumn of 1985,
the executive of the Roxburgh & Berwickshire Association of the
Scottish National party decided at its monthly meeting to contest. The
shortleet for the candidacy included Anthony J.C. Kerr from Jedburgh
just outside the ward. Anthony, who possessed the best qualifications
for the job was duly elected to represent the Party and I was adopted by
the Association as the Election Agent.
The campaign throughout
was very intense especially with Anthony out every day and I with him
would be out most nights. The early spadework was mainly done by
Anthony, myself, Andrew (Anthony's eldest son) and Gabriella (Anthony's
Assistance in the
campaign built up throughout the three weeks with a lot of Anthony's
many friends throughout Scotland giving some of their time, and some of
those who could not, sent financial donations making it an extremely
well financed campaign and it even made a profit as the funds to be
spent are restricted by law in local council elections.
The party's by-election
buffs, from all parts of southern Scotland turned up throughout the
campaign and the local members living within the ward were well co-ordinated
by Constituency activists. The teamwork at the end of the campaign was
magnificent as the S.N.P. locally for the first time in years had began
People were sporting the
party colours throughout the ward which I doubt had seen any political
activity like that for a long time if ever at all. Our sole opponent
stood under the Independent banner and was hoping to reap the
Tory/Liberal votes as he did so. With Roxburgh & Berwickshire voting
over 90% for the English Unionist parties at the last election, the
local Independent candidate should have walked into the seat, streets
ahead of any S.N.P. candidate.
As the canvass returns
began to pour in, in the last few days of the campaign, right across the
ward it was becoming clear that the S.N.P. were making massive inroads
into the Unionist vote. Anthony's hard work against the odds in the last
seat for the S.N.P. was paying big dividends. Surprisingly the best
canvass returns were in the rural areas and around Hawick, S.N.P.
support was running well over 70%.
The final result could
not have been closer with 48% voting for Self-Government and 52% for the
Independent candidate with an 18 vote majority.
Anthony and I were
bitterly disappointed at coming so close to victory. Personally I think
Roxburgh District Council at the time could have done with the wisdom
and intellectual ability of Anthony in its council chambers. I have yet
to come across a better authority on the European Economic Community in
Scotland than Anthony, and I very much doubt I ever will. Anthony knew
of the many economic and political benefits a Free Scotland would have
working with true democratic European states instead of being an
economic and political nothing as it is at the moment.
But the campaign with the
Tweedbank by-election that same Autumn where the S.N.P. took the seat in
a three way fight with 35% of the vote, had united the party right
across the Borders. Six months later most branches in the area fielded
one or two candidates in the regional council elections for the first
time, making us easily the most active political party in the region.
The S.N.P. in these contests won 43% of the politically cast votes in
the Borders and shook the Independent/Tory Establishment who controls
the Region to the very core.
The moral of the
Teviotdale by-election is that a moderate National Party with quality
candidates can win votes (and eventually seats) in areas of Scotland
that once were thought barren for the S.N.P. The policies of self
determination and self government are the only ones which will help
Scotland progress in this world. Anthony knew that and gave so much of
his time, energy and life to that, I hope when the Scottish Parliament
comes the people of Scotland never forget the people like Anthony who
always strived for the best.
22nd May 1985 – The
Letter to the Editor
Stewart Lamont might have done well to
let the Pope complete his tour of Benelux before passing judgement on
it. For a variety of reasons, Holland is highly untypical of the
Catholic church as a whole, and a considerable amount of opposition and
protest was to be expected.
The main reason, I think
(but you may have Dutch readers who will correct me) is that Dutch
society was until recently organised on a tripartite sectarian basis,
with Catholics, Protestants and Neutrals (non-religious) living in quite
distinct communities. Not only politics but nearly all aspects of daily
living, except work, were arranged on sectarian lines. As a result the
wrench for a Catholic who "lapsed" was far greater than it
would be in this or most other European countries, and people who could
no longer accept Catholic doctrine or moral rulings felt obliged to stay
within the Church, as dissidents but as Catholics still.
Here I think the feeling
tends to be that many of us feel the standards set are in practice too
high - in any event we can't or won't comply with all of them - but we
are still glad that JP2 is around proclaiming them in his loud, clear
and confident voice, and telling us what the score is. We would not wish
him to be otherwise than as he is, a captain with a firm hand on the
tiller, and that is why he gets such a tremendous reception nearly
everywhere he goes, and those who really think he is asking for too much
quietly drop out.
This said, I have some
difficulty in following Frank McNairn. I agree with him that the
translation of the Consecration formula is incorrect; the English for
"et pro multis" is "and for many", not "and for
all men", which may sound more Christian but is not what Christ
actually said. On the other hand, the omission of "mysterium fidei"
restores the Scriptural text, and I do not see how it opens the way for
a Freudian or Marxist interpretation. Of society, I am not sure when
these two words were interpolated, but I am fairly sure the doctrine of
Transubstantiation itself is considerably older and does not depend on
them. Perhaps one of the clergy could enlighten us, as theology is a
minefield into which I seldom venture.
I may say that, while I
definitely prefer the Tridentine Mass, and would like to see it restored
at least as a legitimate option within the Church on the same basis as
the various Eastern Rites, I see absolutely no need to link this with a
variety of socio-political issues, as Archbishop Lefebvre and others
have done, and indeed regard such a link as highly counter-productive.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
4th October 1985 – The
Letter to the Editor
Convener Meek may be right in stating
that a majority of Scottish Tories, living east of the Atlantic-North
Sea watershed, are not greatly concerned about the fate of Gartcosh. By
the same token, over 90% of UK Tories live in England, and they are not
greatly concerned about Scotland. They wouldn’t want to lose it –
that would make them feel part of their country had been amputated, and
they would no longer have the use of our oil to alleviate the worst of
England’s economic and social problems, and head off the threat of
massive unrest. But so long as they keep it under control they do not
care whether it prospers or languishes.
Iain Lawson is at least beginning to see
the harsh reality, the arithmetic of democracy, in a British unitary
state, is heavily weighted against Scotland – the more so as this
country contains relatively few seats which Labour could take from the
Tories or vice versa. General Elections are normally decided elsewhere,
unless the outcome is very close.
In the circumstances there is little Mr
Lawson can do for Scotland – or for himself – by remaining a
card-carrying Tory. If he feels that loyality to his party can stretch
no further, and that his country and his personal integrity are both
more important, I do not think he can be blamed.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
October 1985 – Berwickshire
News/East Lothian Courier
COLDSTREAM S.N.P. TOLD "SCOTLAND BEING DISMANTLED"
The importance of making
it clear 'that Scotland still exists' was stressed by Mr Anthony J.C.
Kerr, who is to contest the Teviotdale by-election for S.N.P., last
Speaking at a meeting of
Coldstream Branch within a few hours of lodging his nomination papers,
the candidate commented as follows:
"Though local issues
are important - and on these I consider it my job to listen as much as
to speak - this election is being fought on national issues as well. It
is imperative to make it clear that Scotland still exists, for it is
only when the Scottish National Party is doing well that the Westminster
authorities begin to sit up and take notice.
"Our country is
being dismantled brick by brick. Our steel industry is threatened with
destruction. Our farmers, who have suffered heavily from the disastrous
summer, are neglected by a Government which feels it can ignore
everything north of the Hull-Manchester motorway. Our schools, once
Scotland's pride, are being starved of the resources they desperately
need, and this at a time when Scottish oil pays the bill for all of
Britain's 3,300,000 unemployed, and not for those of Scotland alone. Our
local radio station may disappear so that the BBC in London can afford
prestige projects such as the purchase of "Dallas" which we,
as viewers, could see just as easily on the other network.
"It is time to call
a halt to this, and to sound the warning loud and clear. The voters of
Tweedbank have already sounded a first powerful blast of the horn. Now
Teviotdale will follow, if we all pull our weight as a team and make the
most of this opportunity, and then we can go on to take Liddesdale as
well, and continue with increasing momentum into next year's Regional
Tweedbank was achieved by thorough preparation, by deploying an
exceptionally large workforce for a District contest in the Borders, and
by speaking to as many local voters as possible. We intend to go on as
we have begun," he concluded.
1st November 1985 – The
DISTRUST OF PURE POLITICAL DOCTRINE
I do not wish to enter
into a lengthy argument with fellow-Nationalists. For a start I have
better things to do, and the S.N .P. has better things to do. Enough to
say that their sense of priorities is not the same as mine. The S.N.P.
is not an ordinary political party like all other parties. Its basic aim
of national independence is not simply a major component in a Left-wing
package deal. It is the actual purpose for which we exist. Everything
else is secondary, and I would not personally accept that the items
specified by Mr Bell and Ms Burns are necessarily more important than
others which they have omitted. Some of them are certainly major
components of party policy, like our commitment to full employment, but
that is not necessarily a "Left-wing" attitude. Many Tories
also regard the present high level of unemployment as morally and
socially unacceptable, and have said so publicly - Heath and Gilmour
Others are in my view
negotiable and would have to be negotiated when we achieve independence
and perhaps before for example the party's attitude to NATO. My own view
on this issue is that a referendum should be held once we are
independent, and in this referendum I would vote for staying in,
provided the non-nuclear option remains open.
The fact is that, like
other major political parties, we have so much policy that nobody can
possibly be expected to accept the lot. In theory, the membership card
says that we do; in practice it is common knowledge that a reasonable
amount of dissent is acceptable, provided one is absolutely firm on
independence itself and on the basic democratic decencies which means,
for instance, that we do not sign on terrorists, Communists or Fascists
as members, and expel them if and when they are found out. Loyalty to
Scotland is what counts.
I therefore think it
entirely legitimate to sign on the South Cunningham Tory executive, Iain
Lawson and anyone else who belongs within the democratic tradition and
comes to the genuine conclusion that Scotland is a nation and as such
ought to be free. I am equally willing to sign on Socialists - other
than Militant members and the like - who come to the same conclusion.
What matters is that
Scotland's cause must go forward. Purity of political and social
doctrine is irrelevant and I have an instinctive distrust, shared by a
majority of the electorate, for those who place a high value on it.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
8th January 1986 – The
Letter to the Editor
Dr Lawson has written
with the dignity and forbearance which one rightly expects from men of
his calling, Not being a minister, I might have been even more
outspoken. In any event he is absolutely right in pointing out that
defence - normally a responsibility of the Federal Government in any
federal state - could not safely be left to Westminster in the light of
the disgraceful imbalance of the recent shipbuilding contracts. Nor, I
think, could foreign policy, which implies the right to take decisions
on peace or war, and decisions which tend to increase or diminish the
risk of war. The only realistic alternative to the Union as it stands is
national independence: federations only work on a multi-state,
multi-provincial or multi-cantonal basis, where there is no majority
component having the same preponderant weight as England in the UK or
Russia in the USSR.
Furthermore, the present
Union was negotiated under very different conditions at a time when the
Government played a far smaller part in the lives of most people and
communities than it does today. Even so, all the available evidence
shows that Scottish public opinion, in so far as it was aware of what
was going on, was overwhelmingly opposed to the surrender of national
sovereignty. Within the Scottish Parliament itself, despite the
temptation of the Equivalent Grant and other personal inducements, the
majority for Union was some way short of what would be considered
necessary for a constitutional amendment in most countries with a
constitution; indeed there was no majority at all if those entitled to
vote, but abstaining or absent, are also taken into account.
intervene more, tax more and spend more, the fact of not having our own
Government and Parliament is a greater disadvantage now than it was in
1707, and it is a disadvantage which is tending to increase even
Whether Dr Lawson's son
and the other eight Gartcosh marchers will in fact be received by Mrs
Thatcher has yet to be seen. My impression is that they may be admitted
to her tied cottage, simply because they have walked a long way, but
that she won't tell them a great deal they did not already know, i.e.
once her mind is made up it stays made up and nobody can alter it.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
20th February 1986 – The
INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURES AND PREACHING ‘A JOB FOR THE CLERGY’
It should have been clear
to Mr Iain McGregor ("Southern Reporter", February 13) from my
earlier letter, that I am not a "humanist" in the modern
sense. I take the view, however, that preaching and the interpretation
of Scripture are the clergy's job, and I would not attempt to usurp
It is also my view that
politicians, whether professional or amateur, should refrain from
quoting Scripture in support of their political opinions, and think this
healthy prejudice is very widely shared.
This said, I have re-read
the first few verses of Romans 14 both in Lorimer (Scots) and in the AV
(English). Both versions make it clear that St Paul was rebuking the
local congregation in Rome, or some of its members, for not getting
their priorities straight.
The first generation of
Christians were mainly converts from various Jewish sects (principally
Essenes or Pharisees) and from marginal supporters of Judaism known as
"God-fearers," plus a minority who had been Gentiles with no
Jewish connections. They tended to bring their previous background into
the new church with them; thus the Essenes were teetotalers and
vegetarians or near-vegetarians, and the Corinthian Gentiles, or some of
them, had a rather permissive attitude towards sex.
Those who had been
Pharisees were apt to think that people had to become Jews before they
could be accepted as Christians. Not being a Biblical scholar, I will
not go into all the details, but St Paul had to spend much of his time
resolving problems which arose from these different attitudes and from
the intransigent behaviour of those who held them.
I take this opportunity
of commenting briefly on Councillor Squair's remarks about my recent
court case. Very little ratepayers' money was spent, or
"wasted," because Roxburgh District Council is insured against
lawsuits. Even if it were not, the amount involved would only run to a
few hundred pounds. By way of comparison, the Teviotdale Leisure Centre
cost £1M., and the extension to the District Council offices was
originally supposed to cost £ l00,000 but has since escalated by
The Sheriff Principal
decided that each side should bear its own costs, on the basis that I
had a reasonable case for going to law, though not a sufficient case to
win. It seems that if the period of closure had been a little longer,
and if somebody actually prevented from voting had shown up, the
decision might well have gone the other way. I think this will encourage
Returning Officers throughout Scotland to take greater care to ensure
that polling places stay open throughout the hours required by law and
advertised to the public, and I have thus rendered a small but useful
service to democracy.
Depending on who stands
in the various Regional divisions in May, the voters could have another
opportunity to choose between Mr Squair and me. We will then see if his
remarks have done him any good.
March 1986 – The Southern Reporter
POLITICS AND RELIGION
TOGETHER COULD PROVIDE ‘EXPLOSIVE’ MIXTURE
I accept Iain McGregor's
view that right and wrong do play some part in politics. However most
political issues have more to do with feasibility and a balance of
advantages, and attempts to see right and wrong in all of them devalue
the concept itself, making it less credible on the rare occasions when
it should be invoked.
He may also have
oversimplified the Scriptural basis of our civilisation. As a historian
and a linguist, I see certain problems which may not have occurred to
All the Scripture we
laymen have is a translation or a retranslation, i.e. Hebrew into Greek
by the authors of the Septuagint and Greek (Old Testament translation or
New Testament original) by Coverdale in the late 16th Century, revised
by the King James Committee a generation later. Catholics use a
"retranslation" which goes through St. Jerome's Latin; in
spite of this additional step, however, it is not necessarily less
reliable, because he probably knew more Greek than Coverdale or King
James and his colleagues, while Latin was generally much better known
than Greek when the Douai and Authorised Versions were produced.
This has resulted in
various misunderstandings: thus Douai and the A.V. both have "Thou
shalt do no murder" or words to that effect; otherwise there is a
contradiction with the rest of the Law of Moses, where the death penalty
is prescribed for a wide range of offences and the various animals which
may or may not be killed and eaten are specified.
intellectual and spiritual heritage - in effect our civilisation up to
the point where we take over and improve or degrade it - includes
important non-Christian components, mainly Greek or Roman; Celtic and
German/Scandinavian. Individual civilised persons may have been
influenced by these components to greater or lesser extent. Conflicting
values are to some extent involved, or at least a different set of
priorities, so that offences against a largely pre-Christian and
unwritten code of honour and conduct may be regarded, in some social
circles or in entire societies, as more serious than some breaches of
Christian morality. In effect, most Christians are less Christian than
most Jews are Jewish, and considerably less so than most Muslims are
Muslim. But there is also some convergence between these various
systems, so that we cannot always be sure how we came by the values we
As regards healthy
prejudices, Burke defines them in his writings, though I cannot quote
him accurately. Basically he sees them as views for which a moral or
intellectual justification exists, but is not normally invoked. People
having made up their minds that these views are in fact correct, or
having been brought up that way, simply decide to hold on to them and
ignore all to the contrary. If this justification does not exist in the
first place, however, they are not healthy.
As for my own
candidature, I am standing on a political and not a religious platform.
The fact that I hold the faith which I hold and go to church most
Sundays, is part of my background, shared with many others here. It is
not my reason for taking part in the election or for putting forward the
views and policies which I will put forward. I am very much against the
idea of "religious" parties in our type of society, though
they may be justifiable elsewhere, for instance where the State
apparatus itself is actively anti-religious.
Since very few people to
my knowledge would support such parties here, I need not put the case
against them in detail, beyond saying that where religion and politics
pull in the same direction they tend to intensify each other. This makes
contact between people of different beliefs at best strained and
unnatural, as in Holland and in Glasgow within living memory, and at
worst, explosive, as in the Lebanon. It’s not our way in the Borders
and I would not like to see it develop here.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
2nd April 1986 – The
Letter to the Editor
I can understand Nick
Godwin's feelings, but the issue of the anti-apartheid boycott is not as
simple as it looks. I understand that opinion among South Africans of
all races is divided to some extent, and it could be argued that, by
depressing the South African economy, one merely makes it more difficult
for firms out there to provide more and better jobs for Blacks,
Coloureds and Asians. There is also the small matter of consumer choice
at this end.
Nobody is obliged to buy
South African products, and many people systematically avoid them. But
if individual shoppers feel they can buy them with a good conscience,
shopkeepers are under no obligation to stop them.
A further aspect is that
there are many other political regimes, throughout the world, to which
various people may legitimately object. There are those, for instance,
who will not buy Jaffa oranges, because they feel that Israel is unfair
to its Arab minority. Others may boycott anything that comes from a
Communist country, and the late J. Edgar Hoover would not even let his
chauffeur make a left turn with his car. Others again might refuse to
buy Iranian carpets because they loathe the Ayatollah. They are entitled
to their feelings and to their personal choices, but they do not have to
force them on the rest of us. If they all did, some shops would begin to
look rather bare.
Finally, if the option of
buying South African fruit (for instance) is not available, there is no
virtue in not buying them. There simply isn't a choice to be made.
April 1986 – The Southern Reporter
TOURISM IN THE SCOTTISH BORDERS – TIME
TO UTILISE ASSETS TO THE FULL
As the S.N.P.s Regional
Council candidate in the Hermitage Division, I support the call by the
Borders Tourist Board (Southern Report, April 3) for more action by the
Scottish Tourist Board. But the STB itself is an important and valuable
institution, and the Party will resist current Government proposals to
remove its decision-making powers.
Tourism must be
recognised as an investment - not only as a source of revenue but also
as a source of seasonal, and more importantly, of permanent full-time
It also constitutes an
indirect advertisement for our industries and their products, and for
the industrial possibilities of this region. European and American
businessmen come here as tourists, for instance, and may see the
advantages of starting a factory here, if they are thinking of starting
one somewhere; or they may buy some of our textiles and recommend them
to their friends back home.
While we commend
initiatives taken by the Borders Tourist Board and others, we consider
there are a number of ways of using assets within the Borders which are
currently ignored, or whose use could be improved, for instance:
The encouragement of more
families to register their available accommodation during the tourist
Packaging of day trips
(including those using public transport). This should be linked with the
packaging of other aspects of Borders culture and interest (cf. Scottish
Borders Woollen Trail) for easier access by the paying public. As one
very simple example, the possibility of public visiting Riverside,
Mansfield Park and Netherdale in summer may never have been explored,
and the Borders sevens tournaments could themselves be more widely
advertised to early-season tourists.
The establishment of an
all-year conference centre. As a professional interpreter and translator
I have a vested interest in this possibility, but this does not, of
itself, make the suggestion invalid.
At the same time, the
S.N.P. would seek to guard against the less desirable elements in
commercial exploitation of the environment, such as litter, erosion, and
Since, however, the
future of tourism in this region lies mainly with the passing trade
rather than with "static" holidays of the kind people take in
Mediterranean resorts, there is a further suggestion I would like to
make to the Scottish Tourist Board.
Now that the STB is
allowed to promote Scotland directly abroad, one could envisage it
selling vouchers similar to those issued by the Soviet "Intourist"
organisation, but serving only to pay for accommodation and for meals,
without actually guaranteeing the accommodation.
As a first step, I would
propose two kinds of vouchers, worth £10 and £20 respectively, and
purchaseable abroad in local currency at the rate of the day, or a
conveniently close equivalent (e.g. $15 and $30; 30 and 60 Swiss francs,
35 and 70 DM).
The £10 voucher would
just about cover a night's stay in most B & B establishments, with
possibly a small excess to be paid in cash at the time. The £20 voucher
would cover bed and breakfast in many hotels, plus an evening meal in
some of them, again possibly leaving a slight excess to be paid at the
time. These vouchers would only be valid in Scotland.
Since in fact the Borders
are at the end of a reasonable day's drive (or motorbike ride) from
Harwich or London, and of an easy run from Hull docks, people who have
bought them would probably want to spend a night in this Region before
What deters many tourists
from coming to Scotland is the fact that they have already spent all
their money in London, Oxford and Cambridge, and Stratford-on-Avon.
If, however, they have
already bought their STB vouchers, they might as well do something with
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
1986 – The Hawick News
There may be food
surpluses now, though millions of people in the Third World aren't aware
of them. But they won't last for ever. They will run out when supporters
of phosphates run out, compelling a return to the traditional rotation
of crops and perhaps even to the occasional use of fallow the rest the
In the circumstances,
agricultural land should not be turned over to industry or housing
unless this is absolutely essential. In the case of Burnhead Farm this
absolute necessity clearly does not exist. No company has so far
indicated that it wants to build a factory there and will not go
anywhere else. It is simply a matter of having a greenfield site
available if and when somebody wants it. We have no guarantee that this
"somebody" will in fact turn up: all we know is that an
existing farm will cease to be viable.
It seems to me that there
are a number of derelict factories which could be demolished and
temporarily landscaped to provide acceptable sites for possible incoming
firms. There is also the Lynnwood scheme (now Liddesdale Crescent) where
houses are being systematically boarded up as existing tenants leave.
Once they are all away, this site also could be razed and landscaped to
await industrial development. The advantage of these sites - apart from
the fact that they do not encroach on existing farms - is that they
already have a useful infrastructure.
Compulsory purchase is
also something which should be used only when absolutely necessary. It
is an infringement of personal freedom and an aggression against the
life style of its victims, which may be justified in an emergency, but
not simply as a matter of convenience, and should not be treated as a
routine administrative procedure.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
S.N.P. CANDIDATE FOR HERMITAGE
2nd May 1986 – The Hawick
I am surprised to learn
from Janus that there is an election in "Teviotdale Ward". In
fact the present contest is in Hermitage Division which combines
Teviotdale and Liddesdale.
All three candidates
belong to political parties, lord Minto is standing as a "Border
Independent" but sits as a Conservative and not a cross-bencher at
Westminster. Mr Squair is a Liberal at Regional level but an Independent
at the District which some people may find confusing. I am a member of
the Scottish National party and do not claim to be anything else.
As for the unopposed
Councillors, Janus seems to have forgotten that whole categories of
people are debarred from standing with many others who legally could
stand finding it impracticable for a wide variety of reasons. As a
result, the pool of available and willing candidates is quite small.
Possibly it should be widened, for instance by allowing local teachers
to stand but if elected, debarred from voting on their own salaries or
working conditions, in the same way as building contractors may be
Councillors but cannot vote on contracts for which they have submitted a
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
Author’s note: on the letter of 2nd
Lord Minto made it clear over the phone
to my father that he sat as a cross-bencher at Westminster. He did not
answer the question as to where he stood on policy issues, whereas my
father made his political affiliations clear by standing on that
Mr Squair who contested the Regional
Elections as a Liberal later joined the Tory/Unionist Club in Hawick
along with another former Liberal Mr Jake Irvine.
Whatever else my father achieved as a
candidate and agent, he was honest and straight with the electors – a
rare commodity in local politics.
19th December 1986 – The
POLITICS IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT
I am not sure whether the beer is better
at the Tory club or whether it closes later. In any event I am willing
to believe Councillor Squair when he says that his motives for joining
it are social rather than political.
However, I am under the
impression that applicants for membership have to sign a general
declaration of support for the Conservative Party and that by joining
the club and drinking there they contribute to party funds anyway.
Perhaps Councillors Rory Hamilton or George Turnbull could enlighten us
as their political stance is not in doubt.
As regards the general
principle of politics in local government, it seems to me that local
authorities frequently have to take decisions which are, to some extent,
influenced by political considerations. For instance, whether to keep
rural schools open or improve the amenities in one or more urban
schools; whether to give preference to local and in any event Scottish
contractors and suppliers, provided they put in a reasonable bid or go
more less automatically for the lowest tender; whether or not to fund
various groups and causes, some unquestionably worthy, others perhaps
Local electors are, in my
opinion, entitled to know how their Councillor is likely to vote (or
abstain) on such issues, and the Party label gives some indication of
general philosophy if not of a specific line in every case. A candidate
who belongs to a Party but does not wish to be bound by its directives
every time has, of course, the option of standing without a Party label
but mentioning his or her personal affiliation in the election address.
I think this is only fair to the voters who may wish to take it into
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
15th November 1986 – The
Regardless of the merits
or otherwise of field sports, Mr Richard Course should be aware that
there are people in the Borders who don't like somebody in London
telling them what to do. I have no deep feelings on the matter either
way, though I have swung marginally in favour of fox-hunting since the
Tories announced their prospective candidate for this constituency.
There are too many other issues which I see as more immediate and more
However, I cannot help
recalling that man has been a hunter as long as he has been human and
that he developed his specifically human characteristics and skills for
that purpose in the first instance. It may not be a very good idea to
let some of our more primitive abilities and techniques waste away
altogether - thus the draught horse may well come back into his own when
petrol and fertilisers run out - and a case for the retention of hunting
skills could well be made on that basis. If this argument is valid, I do
not think an artificially laid scent is a real substitute for a fox or a
I leave fuller debate to
those who are better informed. Enough to say that nothing would move me
to vote Labour in this constituency or any other, and that the election
will be decided on other issues. What is possible is that the hunt
saboteurs who look like Labour supporters even if many are not, are
probably more of a help than a hindrance to Mrs Thatcher. But nothing
again, not even Mr Course's arguments would make me vote Tory. Scotland
is more important.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
1st May 1986 – The
TIME RIPE FOR INTRODUCTION OF RURAL BURGH COUNCILS IN BORDERS
I will not comment on the merits of the
dispute between ex-Provost Gordon of Jedburgh and some of our other
Community Councillors, since I had better things to do than attend the
meeting at which it came to a head.
This episode, however, is
one more bit of evidence against the present system of local government.
When we had a real Town Council, with power to collect real money and
take real decisions, this sort of thing would never have happened. I
know, because I sat on it, and there are other ex-Councillors who could
bear me out.
A powerless talking shop
inevitably develops a certain pettiness and over-concern about trivia,
which one does not find in a body with a job to do.
I personally think the
Town Councils should come back, and alongside them, covering the
landward areas, there should be Rural Burgh Councils, with similar
powers but occasionally sharing officials: thus Teviotdale and
Liddesdale, the two halves of Hermitage, might each constitute a Rural
Burgh but would probably share a "Town Clerk" who would be a
solicitor practising in Hawick or Jedburgh.
Once the Town Councils
are restored and the Rural Burghs are set up, the District Councils
would become redundant, and such of their functions as do not go to
these smaller Councils would be transferred to the Region.
To save an excessive
amount of voting, Regional Councillors would then be indirectly elected,
as the County Councillors from the Burghs were under the old system,
that is, each of the Rural Burghs (and the smallest Town Councils) would
send its Provost; Jedburgh, Kelso, Peebles and Selkirk would send the
Provost and Senior Bailie, and the two largest Burghs would probably
have four Regional Councilors delegated in the same way.
Until such time as the
Town Councils are reactivated, and the Rural Burghs are set up alongside
them, I am opposed to the proposed merger of Tweeddale and of Ettrick
and Lauderdale Districts, for the reasons given by Marshall Douglas. It
takes decision-making even further away from the local people than at
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
October 1986 – The Southern Reporter
‘NO WAY’ S.N.P. WOULD SUPPORT PM’S
Anybody can sign "OAP"
and supply a name and address. The general public gets no chance to
check their credentials, and letters such as "OAP's" (Southern
Reporter, October 16) must be judged on their author as well as their
I cannot, of course,
speak for the Liberals or the SDP. I can and do speak for the S.N.P., as
its constituency press officer, and there is no way we would join Mrs
Thatcher in her anti-Communist crusade. Nor is there any way I would
tear up my union card as a member of the world-wide International
Association of Conference Interpreters.
There are many reasons
for the decline in Britain's prosperity and political and moral clout,
which in my opinion, started with the failure of the Eden (Tory)
Government to see the Suez operation through to a finish, though the
seeds of decay were present much earlier, and were already discerned by
Kipling in his "Recessional" hymn of 1897. Communist
subversion, I would suggest, is one of the least significant.
Since Tory as well as
Labour Prime Ministers have presided over Britain's continuing and
deepening failure, with Eden's loss of nerve, Macmillan's pursuit of
national pleasure, rather than national greatness, Heath's surrender to
inflation and Thatcher's socially divisive policies, I think "OAP"
has made out a far better case for opting out of the British set-up,
which has been our party policy since 1929, rather than joining forces
with the present or any future Tory leaders.
I also think the
anti-Communist crusade is largely bogus. Tory politicians need Communism
as an enemy, to make themselves credible as a lesser evil; Tory
financiers need Communist countries to invest in - and I suspect, some
of them have invested very heavily in Eastern bloc industries - because
those countries are largely strike-free, with a minimum of human and
industrial rights, so that, although their productivity is low, their
wages and costs are even lower, and there are considerable profits to be
made through a business partnership with Soviet and satellite regimes.
We will not forego our
objective - Scotland's freedom - to join in this charade.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
September 1986 – The Glasgow Herald
Letter to the Editor
If we accept, with R.B.
Mackenzie, that God is supra-national, there is very little to choose
between the Scots, the Ancient Greeks and the Jews in terms of their
national contribution to mankind and its civilization as a whole.
The question of whether
the Jews, from the Fall of Jerusalem to the establishment of modern
Israel, could be considered as a nation, is one which is open to
argument. As the late Professor Joad might have said, it all depends on
what you mean by a nation. As a rule, a nation has a State, unless it is
temporarily submerged in one or more others, as we are and as the Poles
and Irish were for considerable time. As a rule it also has a language,
which the Jews have always done even if most of them did not use it
except to pay; but it may have more than one, like the Swiss and
ourselves, and be a nation still.
The real test is the
existence or otherwise of a distinct sense of identity, generally
coupled with distinctive institutions of some kind. On both counts the
Jews qualify, and so do we; so did Ancient Greece although it consisted
of a multiplicity of States, most of them very small.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
1986 – The Border Telegraph
As Burke said nearly 200
years ago: "Where there is no necessity to change, there is a
necessity not to change." If it suits the Post Office to retain the
old county names - towards which many of us still feel a sentimental
attachment - I am not going to argue with them.
In fact since this is the
county town of Roxburghshire, I normally give my address as simply
"52 Castlegate, Jedburgh," when writing to people in this
country, and as "52 Castlegate, Jedburgh, Scotland" when
writing to people in England and other foreign countries.
I also translate this
country's name as appropriate (e.g. Ecosse, Schottland, Escocia, etc),
and, as a Nationalist, I never put "UK", "Great
Britain" or anything similar after it. All my correspondence seems
to arrive and in the circumstances I think my address is adequate.
What is possible is that
the postcodes are largely a waste of time and the mixture of letters and
numbers can be confusing: A Continental-type all-figure code might be
preferable, placed before the name of the town or village. I also think
the drastic reduction in the number of separate postmarks was a mistake.
These also had sentimental value, helping towns and villages to retain
their sense of identity. In addition, they could be useful to the police
in some situations.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
November 1986 – The Border Telegraph
CASE FOR INDEPENDENCE
Mrs Finlay-Maxwell cannot
be allowed to get away with her latest statement. A Secretary of State,
whether in London or Edinburgh, and a Scottish Select Committee, are no
substitute for a Government and a Parliament of our own, responsible to
the Scottish people alone. The Secretary of State may be given some
scope to make regulations, and no doubt he reminds the Cabinet of the
Scottish dimension, but at the end of the day he is part of a larger
team and has to implement and try to justify the policies which they
determine. The select Committee and the inappropriately named Scottish
Grand Committee, are purely advisory bodies, with its secure English
majority the British Government is under no practical obligation to
abide by their advice.
As for the costs of
independence versus the cost of dependence, the Tory prospective
candidate has grossly over-simplified the equation. We may well get more
than our fair share of education, social and roads expenditure, and pay
slightly less than our share of income tax and VAT, but there are other
important elements to be considered.
1. The general cost of
running a Central Government:
These include Parliament
itself, the salaries, expenses of and perks of MP's and the much heavier
costs of running the various Government departments and paying a vast
number of Civil servants, some quite highly paid. On the basis that
Scotland gets the costs of running the Scottish office - and the
salaries and allowances of Scottish MPs and peers, we may receive five
per cent and probably much less while paying around nine per cent.
2. The Defence Budget:
In a sense Scotland gets
more than her share of Service pay, because about 15 per cent of
Services personnel are Scots but few of them are stationed in this
Country; the vast majority are in England and overseas. On the other
hand, defence contracts which together cost much more than Service pay
and directly or indirectly provide more jobs, are overwhelmingly placed
in England. At a rough estimate we contribute nine percent and receive
back six percent or possibly less.
3. The Foreign Office:
Most of its budget is
spent abroad. In return, foreign countries spend part of the
corresponding budget in the UK, overwhelmingly on Embassies in London,
and on a very small scale on Consulates, a few of which are in Scotland.
As foreigners generally
expect the British to be English, and preferably well-spoken English,
the Foreign Office recruits relatively few Scots. Hence Scotland's
material share is three per cent or less against a cost of nine per
The immaterial side is
difficult to calculate, some people get a kick out of being represented
as part of a semi-major Power by British Ambassadors and Consuls -
others, myself among them, would prefer to be represented as a nation in
her own right, though a small nation, by Scottish diplomats in
establishments which fly the Saltire instead of the Union Flag. But it
does appear to me that the present British Embassies and Consulates do
less for Scottish industry than we could achieve with diplomatic
missions of our own.
4. The Loss of Oil
How much we lose depends
on how much we think is ours in the first place. Slightly different
figures will be arrived at if we draw the line between Scottish and
English sectors due east from Berwick, and if we draw it by continuing
the general direction of the Border (South West to North East) until it
meets the Norwegian sector at Ekofisk. By the first definition all the
oilfields are Scottish at present, though some may be discovered in the
English Sector by the second definition, which is possibly fairer. Three
or four oilfields are English. Either way the oil revenues generated in
the Scottish sector amount to more than all the direct and indirect
taxes paid in Scotland, and are enough to carry all of England's
unemployed as well as our own.
5. The Loss of Head
Offices and Head Office Jobs:
There is a tendency for
English firms to buy up Scottish ones. When that happens, because it is
convenient for the Head Office to be close to the Government and to the
City, top management moves to England, and so do the research and
development and marketing sides. The production side may remain in
Scotland for a while because it is expensive to shift all the machinery,
but if any retrenchment takes place later, the Scottish jobs will
usually be sacrificed first, assuming the firm has one factory in
England already as well as one in this country. Since the management, R
and D and marketing jobs tend to be the better paid ones, the Scottish
economy loses out, and this incidentally is the main reason for Scotland
paying slightly less than her share of UK taxation, exclusive of oil
Tories are fond of
trumpeting the costs of independence. The costs of dependence are
conveniently ignored. I hope this will help to set the record straight.
19th November 1986 – The
Letter to the Editor
I can well understand the
uneasiness which is felt by some Langlee residents, regarding the
proposed take-over of their Community Centre by Jehovah's Witnesses.
My impression is that the
Witnesses, in addition to holding rather peculiar religious beliefs, are
decidedly hostile to social contact between believers and unbelievers.
There is some Scriptural support for this attitude, and "Do not
teach your children the way of the heathen" could doubtless be used
by Fundamentalists as an argument against allowing Protestant children
to learn such "Romish" languages as French, Spanish and Latin,
but on the whole people do not think in those terms in our day and age,
whatever their religious faith or lack of it.
I therefore go along with
Councillor Lumsden's view that the sale of the Community Centre should
be reconsidered by the Regional Council as a whole. This would also give
more time for the submission of alternative bids. For instance, it might
make sense for the mainstream Christian Churches in Galashiels and
Melrose to get together and jointly purchase the building, using it for
their own purposes but also making it available for suitable uses by
other groups and organisations within the community.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
11th December 1986 – The
LOW-LEVEL TRAINING FLIGHTS ‘MUST BE KEPT DOWN TO MINIMUM’
I write in support of
Councillor Scott's demand for an official inquiry into the Craik
aircraft crash ("Southern Reporter," December 4), with the
result produced a lot faster than the MoD are likely to give us the
outcome of their internal inquiry.
They are clearly playing
for time - it does not take a year to find out what went wrong, and
what, if anything, can be done about it.
As you may recall, I also
wrote to you following on the Bowhill crash a few years ago.
That incident was in a
sense even worse, in that it involved an Ecuadorian pilot, who had no
obvious need to train in Scotland, while Ecuador, as a developing
country, has no need for supersonic warplanes: the activities of the
Ecuadorian Air Force are more likely to involve counter-insurgency and
anti-drug operations, for which small aircraft with a narrow turning
circle and a low stalling speed are best suited.
At least the Americans
are our allies, and have good reason to fly Jaguars and the like.
I am, in fact, under the
impression - but others may correct me, if they are not debarred by
Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act from public comment on such
matters - that the pilots of these aircraft, on low-level high-speed
training flights, do not actually control or attempt to control their
machines. This is done for them by complex devices which sense obstacles
in front of them and react within milliseconds if not microseconds.
The laws of random
chance, however, dictate that such devices must fail once in a while;
the aircraft will then crash and the pilot will be killed, unless the
malfunction occurs at a height and in a form which give him time to
These same laws further
dictate that the aircraft will occasionally crash on to houses or
vehicles and people.
This being so, it makes
sense to keep such exercises down to a minimum.
I would suggest that
Americans, although they are our allies and therefore more justifiably
involved than Ecuadorians, have ample space to train in their own
country, while developing countries are wasting their scarce resources
on status symbols, such as supersonic warplanes and should not be
encouraged to do it - even if somebody in or near London makes a profit
out of their vanity.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
24th December 1986 – The
Letter to the Editor
Sydney Wood has a valid
point when he states that an "ex-independent" country such as
Scotland has an even greater need of history teaching than one in a more
It may be that there is a
convergence of interests between Tory Unionists, on the one hand, and
trendy egalitarian Socialists on the other. Both regard effective
history teaching, in a Scottish context, as subversive and dangerous,
though for different reasons.
From a Unionist
standpoint, regardless of party, and from a Tory standpoint in
particular, the danger is that it may convince young people that
Scotland is a nation and therefore ought to be free, and that it coped
in the past and could cope now. Partly to offset this risk,
"Scottish" history textbooks often stress the negative aspects
of our past, in particular the feuds and murders which were never on
such a massively destructive scale as the Wars of the Roses in England
or for that matter the Wars of Religion in France, even taking the far
smaller size of our country into account, and our economic troubles in
the last decade of freedom, from Darien to the Treaty of Union, which
they almost inevitably try to put across as beneficial to both nations.
The greatness of Wallace
and Bruce of course cannot be denied, but though few try to deny it, the
textbook writers tend to skip lightly over many other remarkable men -
some of them kings such as Alexander III, James I and James IV, others
being thinkers such as Duns Scotus and Michael Scott, others being
poets, and others again soldiers who lent their swords to countries
other than Britain (Russia and Sweden being the principal beneficiaries
along with France). Achievements such as James I's humane legal ode,
following on his return from English exile, and James IV’s First
Education Act, seventy-odd years later, are readily overlooked. It would
never do to encourage us to take too much pride in our own country.
From a left-wing
standpoint, which I can understand though I do not share it, history in
general, whether Scottish or British, has other drawbacks. At its most
effective - in the form of "straight" history as distinct from
"Social" history, and taught as a continuum from Marathon,
Caesar's landing in Kent or the Roman invasion of Scotland to the
present day, it tends to be an elitist subject and taught by men to
boys. There is no way to get around this problem: it is inherent in the
nature of the beast. Despite the activities of a few queens and
empresses, and one teenage female general, commanding a largely Scottish
army for the Dauphin of France, society has been fairly consistently
male-dominated from 1000 BC or earlier until our own time. It may not
have been so earlier on and the Amazons, if they existed (as I think
they probably did), may have been a last remnant from an older and more
equal order, fighting back against the male take-over which seems to
have occurred some time before the Trojan War. But that period is not
well documented at all, and historians cannot or will not function
Over the period which is
reasonably well documented, that is, for the Western world in general,
the last 3000 years, society has not only been male-dominated, but in
general dominated by a fairly small number of males - kings and nobles,
the clergy, and in some societies a burgher patrician class (Greece,
Republican Rome, medieval towns, Holland). History books are therefore
generally written about them and about what they did, and those who are
known to us by name rather than simply as part of the crowd almost
invariably belong to this minority. There are a few exceptions,
important because the emergence of Democratic ideals in the eighteenth
century was partly due to such survivals, or to new democratic
communities coming into existence under "frontier" conditions,
their practical example blending with the lessons of Classical studies,
but on the whole history is not democratic because most of it is not
History is also very
largely about people who were individualist rather than collectivist in
outlook, because that is what gave them the extra motivation which got
them into the textbooks for doing something noteworthy. It is not
exclusively about such people, but its general drift, at least as taught
at secondary school level, is certainly in that direction. Therefore
left-wingers often regard it as ideologically unsound; the Marxist
interpretation cannot be put across effectively short of university
individualistic and largely macho ethos of history, at least when taught
in the way that is most likely to make it memorable, is something which
some people cannot stomach at all. Others accept it because we cannot
know where we are going unless we know where we are coming from; others
again identify with it to greater or lesser extent. In any event it can
be corrected to some extent by the way other subjects are taught. But
here the Socialists may be serving the Tory interest. A nation which is
not prepared to have an elite of its own is liable to fall or remain
under the control of somebody else’s, unless geography is very much on
its side as in the case of the medieval Swiss cantons.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
30th December 1986 – The
Letter to the Editor
I am not surprised by the response from
William Carver and Alastair Macfarlane to my letter on random breath
testing. They evidently hold the view that there are things one is not
allowed to argue against whereas I take the view that, except in the
rarest of circumstances, there are two sides to most questions, and
sometimes three or four.
In this particular case,
as in many others, one has to balance safety against quality of life. I
live in a small town, but within sight of open fields, and I may perhaps
understand rural conditions better than those who live and work in a
purely urban or suburban environment. Any approach to total road safety
which involve not only random breath testing but several other measures
which between them would restrict the rural or semi-rural lifestyle to
an unacceptable extent - an upper age limit of 70 for all drivers, a
total ban on motorcycles about 150 c.c., a general speed limit of 40
m.p.h. on the open road, closure of all ungritted roads whenever there
is black ice about. Even then, some accidents would still occur.
If we take the view that
the State is entitled to protect people against unnecessary health risks
- and this view is implicit in the seat belt legislation - it would be
possible to go much further in other directions, for instance by banning
package holidays abroad on the basis that they increase the risk of
AIDS, skin cancer and many other complaints, less serious in themselves,
but still costing the NHS quite a lot of money, and taking up thousands
of hours of medical and nursing time.
Somewhere along the line,
the concept of acceptable risks and acceptable casualties has to be
taken on board, unless we want to live in a society as restrictive as
Albania, where there are no drunk motorists because nobody is allowed to
own a car.
Breath-testing of people
who appear to be breaking the law in other respects is, I think, an
acceptable compromise, and it might be a good idea for their cars or
motorcycles to be tested immediately at the same time: in addition to
unfit drivers I suspect there are quite a lot of unfit vehicles on the
ANTHONY J.C. KERR