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Newsweek Scotland: Lessons from the past

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Derek Bateman Derek Bateman | 14:37 UK time, Friday, 24 June 2011

Selkirk Riding

Selkirk Common Riding

I'm just back from the Borders where there was the usual passionate support for Selkirk Common Riding but where I found five hotels or bars in the area closed down. Sadly only one bar with meals appears to be operating (part-time) in either the Ettrick or Yarrow valleys... That's not likely to appeal much to early summer visitors. But it's a sign of economic reality these days. And I'm linking that idea to the industrial relations war looming over pensions.

The government set out its attitude to this issue early on and put a wedge between public and private sector and that's exactly the ground the unions now seem to be ready to fight on. Are they being manoevered like the miners before them? On the other hand what does say it about you if you don't stand and fight for your pension? That's like fighting for your family's future. We'll debate that with the unions and business.

It's also related to the EU bail-out of Greece which really hasn't sorted things at all and could merely be delaying a national bankruptcy. But that would threaten other debtor countries like Ireland to whom British banks have lent mind-numbing amounts. If those money-lenders who like to call themselves "the markets" see that countries being bailed out have no EU guarantee after all, they will start upping the interest charged to Ireland and Portugal. Spain may also be dragged in...Don't think this isn't relevant to us. We hear the Greek view and get the feeling in Dublin.

We reprise our discussion of a couple of months ago when Ming Campbell (who drops the Sir at weekends) and John McDonnel the independently-minded Labour MP wrestled with their conscience over intervention in Libya. The Gaddafi thugs were on their way and threatening to go room to room for rebels. Ming said on balance we should go in. John, partly with Iraq in mind, opted for No in the full knowledge of what that might mean for innocent citizens. Neither was a happy man. Well, what are they saying weeks later. Have they changed their minds?

With the Edinburgh trams story turning into a parable for our times - hubris, self-aggrandising, too much process not enough common sense and a furious populace - we ask:How did they manage to do it a hundred years ago? The comparisons are a little embarrassing. It was the same generation who build the stone mansions that became hotels of note in the Borders and which, despite all our modern advantages, lie silent today. Lessons from the past, perhaps. Join me tomorrow at 8.


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