> Another encouraging example of grassroots action…
A new group is providing a day centre in Berwick for people with mental health problems after a charity previously running the service pulled out.
Newly-formed peer support group Northern Spirit was set up after a day centre service run by Mental Health Matters was abruptly withdrawn from the town, leaving many people who suffer various forms of mental health issues without this much needed retreat.
Run by a handful of volunteers, the group provides a day centre each Wednesday (10am-4pm) at Wallace Green for those suffering from health problems like depression and anxiety issues.
Around 15-20 people attend per week, and any new members are welcome.
“Our aim is to provide a similar service to those individuals that have been left without this vital retreat from daily life,” explained group secretary Andrew Bird.
“We are currently open one day per week but we hope to be able to increase this to at least two days in the future.”
With just one week’s notice that Mental Health Matters was withdrawing from the town, a group of volunteers scrambled to ensure that vital provision would continue.
“My father attends the group on the basis that he has mental health issues, and he has taken the role of chairman and treasurer,” Andrew said.
“I know how he felt about it being disbanded. I know how much it was affecting him and I had met a couple of other members and saw how they were trying to deal with it.
“We set up the group to continue the day centre and to show sufferers that there are still people out there that do care.
“We did not have anybody with any experience other than the fact that we have dealt with mental health issues, but now we have a fully trained councillor on board. She has volunteered and will be available at the centre for people to talk to.”
Northern Spirit is now trying to source vital funding to ensure it can continue to help people from north Northumberland and the Scottish Borders.
“We are a non-profit organisation and rely solely on income from donations and fund raising,” Andrew said.
“As with all organisations like ours we unfortunately have overheads, such as rental of the premises which costs £1500 every six months, and at present we need to raise funds to continue the service past the six month we have already managed to secure the funds for.”
If anyone has any fundraising ideas that could help, or would like to know more about Northern Spirit, go to northernspiritberwick.weebly.com or facebook.com/northernspiritberwick
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 21 Feb 2015
SNP politician Christine Grahame insists that she is serious about contesting the Berwick seat at next year’s General Election and says she has had “loads of supportive messages”.
The level of interest can certainly be verified by the Berwick Advertiser – over 4,500 read the story online in one day and a Facebook link to it received over 3,500 likes.
Ms Grahame initially came up with the idea of contesting the Berwick seat as a possible way to get SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon on to the national platform in the run up to the general election and taking part in the televised leader debates.
Last month the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky jointly wrote to David Cameron, Ed Milliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage inviting them to take part is a series of multi-platform party leader debates. The directors of BBC Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, sent out separate invitations to the main political parties in each nation to discuss setting up general election debates.
The Berwick seat is currently held by Sir Alan Beith who is standing down in May. First elected in 1973, he is the longest serving Lib Dem MP and, in 2010, he had a majority of 2,690 over his Conservative rival.
Ms Grahame told the Advertiser:
“I await consideration by the SNP of my proposal which is a serious suggestion to reflect the similarities between the requirements of Berwick and its near neighbours in the Scottish Borders.
“I would, as always, be campaigning to win the seat but would continue in my role as MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale.
“I know the good that devolution can do and would fight to bring this to Berwick and the north of England. In addition I believe we need to ensure that good cross border relations continue.
“My focus is, as always, on social justice and democracy which, of course, crosses borders.”
The Conservatives have the Berwick seat in their sights with the retirement of Sir Alan, and their candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan said this week:
“I believe that all voters should have the opportunity to vote for the person and party of their choice, and I know from my own doorstep canvassing, that there are some Berwick residents whose views resonate most closely with the SNP.”
Liberal Democrat candidate, Julie Porksen, was a little less welcoming of the idea of Ms Grahame as a rival candidate:
“For the SNP to stand a candidate in the Berwick constituency in order to get into the leader’s debates is a publicity stunt and does nothing to improve the lives of those living in north Northumberland.
“The real choice facing people here in the next election is between Lib Dem action on the A1, local health services, jobs and education, or the Tories whose policies, like regional pay, would do great damage to Northumberland.”
Jeremy Purvis, a Berwick native and former MSP who lost his Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale seat to Ms Grahame in 2011 and now sits in the Lord as Lord Purves of Tweed, said:
“It seems a remarkable move from someone who worked so hard to become a Borders MSP,
“If anyone was looking for evidence that the SNP is an anti-English party, then sending Christine Grahame to Berwick should do the trick.”
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 27 Nov 2014
One week from polling day across the border, Berwick is braced for problems ahead if there is a Yes vote for Scottish independence.
With opinion polls indicating that next Thursday’s referendum is too close to call, the establishment of a separate sovereign state north of Lamberton has suddenly become a realistic prospect.
Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith believes the result “could have profound consequences for Berwick and the Borders.”
But on a visit to the Berwick Advertiser office this week, Ayton-based Scottish government minister Paul Wheelhouse insisted cross-border ties would be largely unaffected by independence.
As media coverage intensifies and the referendum race enters the home straight, international journalists and TV news crews from around the world have been descending on Berwick in droves to gauge opinion in England’s most northerly town.
Business leaders in north Northumberland are waiting and watching with interest. Many of them fear for the future, but most are unwilling to comment publicly about potential problems independence would cause.
Sir Alan Beith, however, repeats Unionists warnings today about currency, border controls and cross-border public services.
“There might be Scottish pounds after independence, but their value would fluctuate below or above that of the English pound,” he writes. “It really would be like changing holiday money, but on an everyday basis.”
He also warns that border checkpoints could not be ruled out if Scotland opts for independence.
“If one of our two nations was in the EU and the other was not, border control would be necessary,” he writes.
“If the UK government had no confidence in the Scottish government’s immigration or security policy, border controls could become necessary.”
Sir Alan also believes cross-border public services would be put at risk.
He states: “It is quite difficult to overcome cross-border bureaucratic obstacles within a single state, but I believe it would be a lot more difficult across a boundary between two sovereign states.”
Mr Wheelhouse, acknowledges that cross-border concerns have been raised by voters on the Scottish side of the border. But the SNP politician, who says he often shops in Berwick, is confident existing arrangements between the Borders and Northumberland would be largely unaffected by independence.
“We have a good story to tell in terms of those relations, and the continuing nature of an open border,” he said.
“Different tax arrangements are common place across Europe in terms of cross-border working and there have been no problems there.”
He also believes an independent Scotland would “hopefully” be able to continue the current relationship between the two health services on either side of the border.
But many members of the public in the Berwick area are unconvinced.
Andrew Martin, 46, from Tweedmouth, fears for Berwick’s economy.
“If Scotland gets its own tax raising powers and decides to set taxes at a lower rate or reduce its own VAT, goods and service would be cheaper just a few miles to the north,” he said.
“Berwick has always been the communication hub for the north of Northumberland and the south east of the Scottish Borders. If things are different on either side of the border it causes a real issue.
“I don’t think the impact on north Northumberland has been properly explored.
“A Yes vote could benefit us on this side of the border. But a No vote and a new devolution plus arrangement could have a real impact.”
So Berwick would benefit from a Yes vote?
“It would really depend whether or not Scotland could raise the funds required to balance the books. If not, tax and VAT would go up. Alex Salmond looks towards Norway, but the have an income tax rate of 50% and a higher rate of VAT.”
Some small businesses in the Borders are understood to have already registered a new address in Northumberland to guard against the prospect of being entangled in red tape in the event of a Yes vote and the potential for economic problems in immediate aftermath.
But on the Northumberland side of the border, most business leaders are simply waiting and watching with interest.
Terence Pardoe is chief executive at Coastal Grains. Based at Belford, the co-operative stores and markets grain for members on both sides of the border.
“We have no view on it until there is a vote one way or another and then have to see what transpires and how it may affect us,” he said.
“If there is a Yes vote, there will have to be a period of re-organisation, and we do not yet know what will be involved in the transfer of centralisation. If there is a No vote, then the assumption is that nothing will change to affect the business.
“It would therefore be a waste of time planning something which we do not know how it will evolve.”
Very few business leaders are prepared to express their fears publicly. Indeed, one of the biggest employers in Berwick told the Advertiser this week that it was company policy not to comment about a “current political event”.
But the Scots who live in Berwick are happy to have their say.
Marion Black, 56, is a Scot who has lived in East Ord for 27 years. She would be undecided if she did have a vote. She also believes the potential implications for Berwick, if Scotland does opt for independence, have been exaggerated.
“I don’t think much would change,” she said. “We’ve had stories like this before. When free personal care for the elderly and free tuition fees were introduced under devolution, people said there would be an influx of people moving from Berwick to Scotland and that house prices would up over the border. But it never happened. The impact won’t be as big as people say.
“In the short to medium term, I don’t think independence would have a big impact.
“I love Berwick and I love living in Berwick. People don’t always move or change their life solely for economic reasons.”
“It’s nice in a way because I’m interested in the debate, but I don’t have the responsibility of making up my mind. My heart says yes, and my head says no. If I did live in Scotland I’d be torn.”
Stephen Hope was born in Edinburgh but now lives and works in Berwick. He is employed by his dad at the Sporran Gift Shop on Church Street, selling Scottish memorabilia to the tourists.
“Independence could be bad for Berwick,” he said. “But it would depend on the strength of the currency Scotland chooses to use. If it is a weak currency, though, the Scots would come over the border to do their shopping, so that might benefit Berwick. it is hard to say. But if I was up there I’d definitely vote No.”
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 13 Sept 2014
A North MP has launched a referendum battle bus to persuade voters in the Scottish Borders that “we are better together.”
Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham, in Northumberland, will set off on his campaign to save the Union on Saturday August 30, when the postal vote forms will be landing on the doorsteps of all Scots.
He intends to be in the Borders leading a team as they try to persuade the people of Border towns Jedburgh and Howick to stay before September’s referendum.
> I suspect they may mean Hawick, not Howick…
Mr Opperman is calling on members of every political party to join him on his journey up the A68 trunk road in a bid to keep the two neighbouring countries together.
“Every two or three weeks I have been going to Scotland to campaign for Better Together for the last six months,” he told The Journal. “I’ve gone from Aberdeen to Fife to the Borders to Dumfries and up to Argyle and Bute either speaking or debating, rallying or simply knocking on doors with the Better Together campaign.
> Really ? Hope he hasn’t been neglecting the people who voted him in… although I do tend to think that anyone who votes Tory gets what they derserve.
“I’ve campaigned with Labour MPs, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives all of whom have come together and put party politics aside to ensure that we keep the Union. It is important that people living in the Scottish Borders know that we do not want then to go. Saturday August 30 is an important date because it’s approximately 18 days before the referendum when postal votes will be landing on Scottish voters’ doorsteps.
“A huge proportion of the votes in the referendum will be done by post and we need to make this date a significant one.
“My proposal is to get as many people as possible who wish to come and campaign with the team from Better Together to travel with us from Newcastle, Hexham and wider Northumberland on August 30.
“This is cross party because the Better Together campaign does not take into account an individual’s political view, provided he or she is in favour of the Union.”
The Tory MP has long called for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom.
He said: “Scottish independence is not what I want. I am a passionate supporter of the Union, as are the vast majority of our constituents.
> But you’re not Scottish… what you want is neither here nor there ultimately.
If I was an undecided Scot, I think a bus full of English Tory MPs and other Little Englanders telling me what I should do would ensure another “yes” vote.
“The impact of Scottish independence would be a significant effect on cross-border trade, and there are real concerns amongst my businesses that independence will affect the financial state of the North East.”
Mr Opperman proposes to leave from Wentworth car park, in Hexham at around 9.30am on August 30. Those interested in being on board the referendum bus later this month should email the MP direct at email@example.com
> Or if you live in Hexham, you could email him and tell him to get his arse back and do some work for the people who elected him.
I’m thinking of starting a campaign to extend the Scottish border south to the Tees. That’d solve all these perceived lost business opportunities along the border.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 09 Aug 2014