DCSIMG

Berwick’s unique position is debated

Top table: Mike Williamson,  Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Jim Herbert, Lord Purvis of Tweed, and Paul Wheelhouse at the Granary YHA which hosted a debate over the Scottish Referendum and how it would effect Berwick Upon Tweed

Top table: Mike Williamson, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Jim Herbert, Lord Purvis of Tweed, and Paul Wheelhouse at the Granary YHA which hosted a debate over the Scottish Referendum and how it would effect Berwick Upon Tweed

The possible impact of an independent Scotland on Berwick was debated on Sunday night at the town’s youth Hostel.

The debate featured South Scotland’s SNP MSP Paul Wheelhouse, Conservative candidate for Berwick Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Purvis of Tweed and Mike Williamson, a Trades Union activist.

Local historian Jim Herbert chaired the discussion, which featured questions from the 100-strong audience.

The main concerns were prospects for jobs and investment in Berwick. Ed Swales asked what could be done to protect the town’s interests given so much of it’s retail income originated in Scotland.

All four panellists stressed the need for further and better investment in terms of jobs and infrastructure, but the prospect of a different taxation system north of the border was still a worry.

Mr Swales followed up with a warning.

“Berwick is in the bottom three areas in the country for wage per capita,” he said. “If we are thinking about whether corporation tax in Kelso is going to be two per cent higher, we won’t be in the bottom three but will have fallen off the scale.”

Another flash point was the future provision of cross-border health services. This followed a plea from Linda Pepper, who works with patients, for transport services on both sides of the border to be “sorted out”.

“There is historical cross-border co-operation,” she said, “but patient transport services won’t take people from the English side to the BGH or from the Scottish side down to Wansbeck.”

Mr Wheelhouse warned there had been a lot of “scaremongering” about the impact of independence on healthcare, but repeatedly described future systems as being ‘pragmatic’.

“It won’t be like the USA, people will get the treatment they need,” he said, emphasising that at present, the only aspect of Scotland’s NHS controlled from Westminster is its funding.

Mr Wheelhouse and Ms Trevelyan later clashed over Tory party guarantees to transfer income tax control to Scotland in the event of a ‘no’ vote in September.

 

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