I cannot share Mr Walsmley’s enthusiasm over the nine new Special Landscape Areas in the region – and I, too, having been in tourism for all my working life, “genuinely care about the countryside”. I also care for the wellbeing of the local people whose future is inescapably linked to the economy of the region. I feel obliged to remind him and his conservation group that the Borders economy is in deep recession and was long before the sub-prime mortgage scandal. In fact it has been on the decline for probably 20 years or more. It is not long since the Salvation Army were handing out food parcels in Hawick, we still have a cloud hanging over the Barrie’s jobs and still have the lowest average wage in the country.
The creation of more “Conservation Areas” at a time like this is unwise to say the least and probably a poor use of resources given our economic problems. To heap even more rules, regulations and petty bureaucracy on the shoulders of those wishing to create businesses, develop businesses or simply diversify businesses in order to create jobs is only helpful to those who do not wish to see any rural development or at least wish to discourage it. I, for one, cannot applaud that. Mr Walmsley states that SIAs will “ensure a legacy we leave our children….one that will encourage them to live and work in, and visit, this special part of of world” – they might visit but as for encouraging people of working age to move, stay or bring up families here, these “conservation” ideals will not do so. Our youngsters will move out and head for the cities for work and the Borders will be so much the poorer for their having done so.