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Anthony J.C. Kerr "A Man of Letters"
Chapter Seven


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 German assistant).

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 to buzz.

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 Glasgow Herald
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.


4th October 1985 – The Glasgow Herald
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.


October 1985 – Berwickshire News/East Lothian Courier

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 week.

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 Elections.

"Victory at 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 Scotsman


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 among them.

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.


8th January 1986 – The Glasgow Herald
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.

Because Governments 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 further.

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.


20th February 1986 – The Southern Reporter


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 their function.

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 another £50,000.

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


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 him.

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.

Moreover, our 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 have.

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.


2nd April 1986 – The Berwickshire News
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


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 jobs.

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 season;

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 vandalism.

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 moving on.

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 them.


25th April 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 soil.

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.



2nd May 1986 – The Hawick News


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 tender.


Author’s note: on the letter of 2nd May:

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 platform.

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 Hawick News


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 more controversial.

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 account.


15th November 1986 – The Hawick News


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 important.

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 stag.

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.


1st May 1986 – The Southern Reporter


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 present.


23rd October 1986 – The Southern Reporter


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 content.

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.


2nd 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.


12th August 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.


11th November 1986 – The Border Telegraph


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 cent.

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 Revenues:

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 revenues.

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 Border Telegraph
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.


11th December 1986 – The Southern Reporter


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 eject.

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.


24th December 1986 – The Scotsman
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 normal situation.

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 without documents.

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 about democracies.

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 level.

The elitist, 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.


30th December 1986 – The Glasgow Herald
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 road.


Part of a Team, Regional Elections 1986



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