Here are this week's East Lothian Courier letters.


The Memorial Garden in Cockenzie and Port Seton is one of the jewels in the village’s crown.
In a prominent central location opposite Cockenzie House, it is seen by all who enter the village from Prestonpans or from the bypass.
It has been admired by locals and residents alike and was highly commended by the judges from Beautiful Scotland when the village was entered into their competitions. It is used all-year-round by locals and visitors sitting enjoying their beautiful surroundings in summer and people walking through at other times.
The central focal point of the garden is the war memorial, which is surrounded by flower beds which are colourful throughout spring and summer. Last Wednesday, these flowerbeds were grassed over.
At the same time, the flower bed at the foot of Fishers Road was also grassed over. This action was undertaken without any consultation, not even with the community council or the In Bloom group.
We have assumed that it was done to save money. 
However, it is seen by the local community as an act of vandalism, significantly diminishing the character and beauty of the Memorial Garden and the village. It has caused outrage locally.
We realise that East Lothian Council has financial problems. However, the small amount of savings made by this action will pale into insignificance when the long-term impact is realised.
One of the East Lothian Council Plan’s outcomes is ‘that local businesses are thriving’. 
East Lothian relies heavily on the tourist industry. Visitors are attracted by the beautiful coastline and pretty villages.
Cockenzie and Port Seton has many visitors, coming to Seton Sands Holiday Park, to Cockenzie House, and walking the John Muir Way, for example.
Many comment on our beautiful public spaces. They should be kept beautiful!
A second outcome is ‘that East Lothian people can. . . contribute to a thriving community in a high-quality environment’. Cockenzie and Port Seton in Bloom volunteers have been doing just this for 26 years.
Any chance of continuing to achieve these outcomes has been reduced by this cost-cutting measure.

Sheila Chambers
Cockenzie and Port Seton in Bloom

An East Lothian Council spokesperson said: “We know that residents and visitors greatly appreciate landscaped areas and floral displays in the local area. We are grateful to everyone, including our staff and volunteers, who work so hard to ensure the community looks its best.
“As we have three gardeners with around 160 beds to maintain in the area they are responsible for, we have been looking at new options for how to best deploy limited resources at an extremely challenging time. There are a number of pressures on services which we are doing our best to manage.
“While the inner flowerbeds at the war memorial have been retained, grass has been laid at the location of the previous outer beds. Polyanthus have been planted at the war memorial for spring colour and these will stay as annual bedding.
“The bed at Fishers Road became obscured by the large utility box that was installed. The plan is to have bulbs planted and, where possible, wildflowers. Our expectation is that the benefits of this will become visible in the fullness of time. We also believe that this will lead to an improvement during future winters, as the weed growth associated with empty flowerbeds will be less apparent. We are very pleased to receive community feedback on this and are happy to engage with local groups to discuss ways of ensuring these areas continue to look fantastic for the benefit of residents and visitors alike.”


Third dead deer
Last Thursday, I came across a third dead deer in as many months on the short stretch of road coming off the roundabout at the end of Salters Road, Wallyford, and heading to Prestonpans (towards the golf course).
The poor thing’s body was horribly broken and bent where it lay, dumped on the verge.
Instead of the completely pointless flashing signs telling drivers, who clearly don’t care, that they are speeding (those sticking to the speed limits seem to be in the minority), why not put up one of those ‘deer’ warning signs? It would be much cheaper.
The speeding drivers clearly aren’t bothered about the safety of their fellow East Lothian residents or wildlife (frankly, on narrow pavements you feel you are likely to be sucked into the road by speeding vans and lorries) but it’s just possible they might care about denting their precious vehicles?

Amanda Baker


It was heartening to see the Scottish Parliament take a stand and back international demands for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. 
After a debate on November 21 a detailed motion to this effect was passed by a substantial majority. 
This is an attempted summary of what was agreed: Parliament demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the return of all hostages. 
Civilian casualties were deplored and the International Criminal Court should investigate the conduct of all involved in the conflict. 
Parliament declared solidarity with Scotland’s Jewish, Muslim and Palestinian communities. 
Antisemitism and Islamophobia were condemned along with all other forms of hatred. 
A two-state solution was endorsed as was the financial aid given to Palestinian refugees by the Scottish and UK Parliaments.
The motion passed with the support of all parties in the Parliament with the exception of the Scottish Conservatives. 
It was carried with 90 MSPs voting in favour, with 28 against. 
East Lothian MSP’s Paul McLennan,  and locally based Martin Whitfield both voted for the motion.

Noel Foy
Hope Park


Real pride
I am writing to congratulate Dunbar United on a magnificent performance on Saturday against Alloa – three divisions above them, of course – in the Scottish Cup.
The atmosphere was brilliant under the floodlights and they really took the game to their fancied opponents. 
Dunbar could easily have equalised at the end as they launched waves of attacks to save the game. The town should be very proud of their team after such a great run in the national competition.

David Shaw Stewart
Eastfield Steading


Long before dark financial clouds filled Haddington’s horizon, East Lothian Council had entered political bankruptcy. While blaming housing growth for the financial shortfall, our councillors were still ‘unanimously’ approving yet more homes in the county! Nobody made the case for development restraint until supporting funding was guaranteed. 
Last year, Councillor Norman Hampshire wrote to COSLA protesting at the £371m budget cut by the Scottish Government. When his signature hit the paper, alongside 31 others, he should have spotted an opportunity for service consolidation. Scotland has 32 local authorities with 32 separate bureaucracies covering at least finance, payroll, IT, procurement and facilities management.
When the Tories pushed unitary authorities on Scotland, it was imagined that councils would combine some services to reduce running costs. None have. 
We’re closing pools in Tranent because our nation is swimming with bureaucrats, all doing essentially the same job. The case for reform is overwhelming but Scotland’s political class is hiding.
The key problem with Scottish local government is that it isn’t local nor is it government. Rule from Haddington feels remote from Musselburgh. Real government raises most of its funding directly from the people it’s supposed to represent. Both the structure and the direct revenue-raising ability of our councils need dramatic reform.
East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian and City of Edinburgh Councils should all be merged into a new Lothian Region. That would reduce bureaucratic waste and bring wayward public bodies (like Scottish Enterprise, NHS Lothian, and the police) back to heal. A regional authority would deliver joined-up planning and act as a powerful bulwark against the centralising tendencies of Holyrood.
For the actual local stuff, town/burgh councils would better serve communities. 
Give them the resources to develop micro economies and high-quality services. Let the people of North Berwick, for example, get on with running their own town free from the dead-hand of Haddington. Localism is the way forward to revive our communities; first we need to refresh our politicians.

Calum Miller
Polwarth Terrace


Laptop promise
Michael Matheson MSP, the SNP Scottish Health Secretary, has lied to MSPs, his SNP leader Humza Yousaf and the public about the misuse of £11,000 incurred in roaming mobile charges during his holiday in Morocco. 
Having first allowed the taxpayer to pick up the tab, he also claimed that the costs were incurred on constituency business. Later, under scrutiny from other MSPs and the media, he came clean and  admitted the truth, namely that the costs were incurred by his two children watching football matches.
Apart from Matheson’s initial dishonesty and deception, one is bound to ask why did his children not use the laptops/tablets promised to every child by the SNP at the last Scottish Election at a cost to the taxpayer of £350 million?

Tim Jackson
Whim Road