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Bedroom tax

What will Labour do?

I read with interest MP Russell Brown’s comments on the vile and callous bedroom tax. While I welcome the Labour Party’s announcement it would scrap the bedroom tax, it has been a long time coming.

I note his concern for the “thousands of people in our region who are choosing between paying their rent and putting food on their family’s table”. Unfortunately, the vast majority have got to put food on the table, resulting in them falling into rent arrears. The very fact that they are receiving housing benefit indicates they are living below the poverty line. Tenants are now receiving intimidating letters demanding arrears payment or they will face the prospect of Notice of Proceedings (NOP) to evict them.

As I am sure he is aware, I have been pursuing a “no eviction” policy in our region and, with the assistance of the Labour group and other political groups on the council, I got the council to ratify that it has a no eviction policy in respect of the bedroom tax at last week’s full council meeting. The council is now to meet with the directors of the registered social landlords to hammer home the council’s no eviction policy.

Mr Brown should also be aware that there are statutory pre-action requirements in place which the RSLs are legally obliged to follow before serving NOPs to evict. I hope he will agree with me that these requirements do not go far enough but understand the council is also to reiterate these pre-action requirements to the RSLs and to impress on them that they are compelled to conform to these before they serve any NOPs. I sincerely hope my dear friend and comrade Jackie Baillie’s private member’s bill to amend Section 16 of the Housing Scotland Act will be passed in the Scottish Parliament, thereby ruling that there will be no evictions in Scotland as a result of the bedroom tax.

I ask what action Mr Brown proposes to take at UK level to mitigate the effect of the bedroom tax? I ask that he puts forward a motion to the Labour Party insisting, as part of its announcement to scrap the bedroom tax, that it includes in its manifesto that it will introduce an amnesty for all those people who fall into rent arrears between now and the general election.

Willie Scobie,

Non-aligned councillor

Pheasants

Treatment of birds is cruel

October 1 marked the beginning of the four-month pheasant shooting season. Around 40 million of these birds are intensively reared every year using industrial hatcheries, cages, sheds and, finally, release pens to provide feathered targets for guns who commonly pay £1000 a day. Because of the enfeeblement that results from being reared in captivity, it is estimated that around half of the birds die before they can be shot down. They perish from exposure, starvation, disease and predation or under the wheels of motor vehicles.

These factors make pheasant rearing the very opposite of efficient food production. In fact, figures from the shooting industry itself show that it costs more than 13 times as much to rear pheasants and get them airborne than the shot birds will fetch retail.

Large numbers of farmed pheasants inevitably attract – and probably boost the populations of – predator species such as stoats, weasels, foxes and members of the crow family. Gamekeepers label them as “vermin” and kill them with guns, traps and snares. Species ranging from badgers to cats and dogs – and protected birds of prey – are also caught and killed. Shooters, additionally, blight the landscape by discharging thousands of tons of toxic lead shot every year.

The production of birds for sport shooting has been banned in Holland. For powerful animal welfare and environmental reasons, we should follow its lead.

Andrew Tyler,

Director, Animal Aid,

The Old Chapel, Bradford Street, Tonbridge,

Appeal

Tell me your life stories

I have recently been 
commissioned by Fresh Starts for the Arts and the Wigtown Book Festival 
to search out stories and tales from Dumfries and Galloway.

Ancient folk stories have been well recorded and well written about: contemporary ones, that is from the past 50 or so years, less so, though anyone who has had an ear open in street, pub, shop or cafe will have heard them. We’ve all told stories and heard stories of unusual, surprising, inspiring and larger than life things and people.

This region is rich historically and continues to throw up unusual events and unusual individuals. My job is to collect material from across the region which will amuse, surprise and confirm in people’s minds the continuing 
diversity and rich character of the region we live in.

The project has only been going for one week but I’ve already received a lot of information I intend to follow up. If you have stories or tales to tell you can contact me at steamboatsmcmillan@hotmail.com or leave a message at the project blog: http://greatgallowaytalehunt.blogspot.co.uk/

I hope to hear from you!

Hugh McMillan

by email.

Language

Scots is on 
rise again

It is good to see figures being produced for the first time from the 2011 census on the number of those speaking Scots. Now that we know that 1.54 million people speak the language and where they are located, we can begin to plan how to support communities of Scots speakers and encourage these communities to value their language and pass it on to future generations.

After centuries of neglect it is time for action to be taken to safeguard the language for the future and we are calling on the Scottish government to draw up a Charter for Scots outlining how the language and its dialects can be supported more effectively.

Children are the key to the future health of the language and we’d like to see new efforts being made to encourage innovative projects aimed at creating a sense of pride and self-worth among Scots speaking school pupils.

For centuries the Scots language has been at the heart of our culture. It has helped define us as people and has been one of the key outlets through which we have expressed ourselves artistically and creatively.

Scotland without the Scots language would be a pale imitation of itself and we must do all we can to encourage and promote it.

Michael Hance,

Director, 
Scots Language Centre, 
A K Bell Library, Perth.

Help

Who wrote this song?

Could anyone help me with the name of the writer of the song “Come by the Lovely Hills of Galloway”?

This song is sung to the tune of Highland Cathedral. If anyone can help please contact me.

Bill Welsh,

Dumfries Male Voice Choir, 01387 255578.