Here is a roundup of this week's letters...


Why do NHS beds remain empty?

The closure of NHS beds in Ward 3 at Belhaven Hospital continues. They have now been closed since water quality issues were identified at the hospital in August 2022.

Although the chargeable care home beds at Blossom House (Ward 1) saw their residents return over a year ago, the progress on the water issues elsewhere on the site has been slow. 

It seems, from an update in January, that priority has been given to works on acute sites and thus the opening of Ward 2 as a community hub for therapists and vaccination centre has been delayed. 

This delay has impacted not only Ward 3, where the vaccination team has been based, but also the opening in Dunbar of the James Court Hub for Smart Assessment. Of greater concern has been the loss of provision of the NHS beds in Ward 3 for step-down, GP assessment and end-of-life care. In August 2023, discussion was ongoing with GPs about use of the beds. In January, an update said that the future use of Ward 3 was undecided as priority has to be given to staffing at East Lothian Community Hospital.

This news is a blow to the community. Residents have made it clear that they want care close to home. In the absence of beds at Belhaven, people have been cared for in Edinburgh and Haddington.

The latter is not easy to access without a car and, with a car, parking is difficult.
The continued closure of beds at Belhaven and Edington [in North Berwick] also affects bed blocking in the acute sector. If they were brought into use, patients could be cared for locally and free up beds in Haddington and the Royal Infirmary. They could be used whilst patients wait on care packages which are not easy to access. Overnight care is a particular problem, even for those with the ability to pay.

I know of people who would like to use Ward 3 for their very frail relatives. For some, the only choice is to pay for nursing home care but that, too, sees a shortage of beds in the Dunbar and East Linton ward and local people may have to seek beds in North Berwick, Tranent, Haddington or Edinburgh.

The situation also highlights broken promises on the future of Belhaven Hospital. In 2009, closure was averted and Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised new facilities. In 2018, Health Minister Shona Robison refused to commit £500,000 to upgrade Ward 2 because new facilities were to be developed. In 2020, there was the promise of new facilities at Belhaven and Edington. 

Much money has been spent on refurbishing the water supply system at Belhaven and yet the NHS beds remain closed to patients.

The Health Minister has questions to answer on why residents of Dunbar and East Linton cannot be cared for close to home when NHS beds at Belhaven Community Hospital remain empty.

Jacquie Bell



Flood defences

Last week, I took what was a difficult decision to vote against the progression of the Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme.

It was difficult because Musselburgh’s flood risk is real and I do not believe we have time to wait to address it.

The design includes many positive elements, including the possibilities for active travel, new public spaces and river restoration. Some previous Green concerns have also been addressed – notably the lowering of river defences since the Preferred Scheme of 2020; the commitment to upstream natural flood management through a new action in the local flood risk plan; the retaining of more trees by removing road space at Eskside West; and inclusion of more green and blue infrastructure.

In the meeting, we heard detailed answers to previous concerns about the impact of coastal defences on adjacent areas. However, the Dynamic Coast report on erosion raised many questions about whether the current coastal design really represents a holistic and proportionate response to the twin risks of flooding and erosion. Councillors had only been given access to a one-page summary of this report, so were unable to assess it in detail. We were also only given a summary of the Environmental Impact Assessment, which to me was wholly inadequate to be able to scrutinise the plans and decide on them responsibly.

I do recognise the effort and strength of feeling that went into the petition, but a pause was not possible under current funding rules. It also would not have addressed any of the concerns that individuals were contacting me to express.

The next stage of the design is an opportunity for objections to be heard formally. This is still part of the formal consultation process and gives a significant amount of leverage to those who engage with it.

Councillor Shona McIntosh

Scottish Greens councillor for Musselburgh


Petition invalid

I note that in Haddington many are up in arms about Domino’s pizza coming to the town.

I have a very good understanding of planning law and I’d like to impart sound advice to the so-called enraged protesters, especially ‘Concerned Resident’, who has started a petition.

Go throw it in the waste bin, as, under Scots planning law, the only way to formally object is individually, signed and with an address; I’m afraid petitions are invalid, full stop!

I wonder what’s stopping ‘Concerned’ from doing it the legitimate way?

And may I add that a new business creating competition to existing enterprises is not a valid excuse under planning law to object; as it is, the existing ones that sell pizza face competition with each other, and they seem to thrive!

In the Scottish Borders, Starbucks wants to build a drive-thru coffee shop, and the people of the said town are split as to whether it should go ahead. The objectors have only one argument against and it’s that it will create competition – but the local authority councillors have made it clear it is not a valid argument.

So to the objectors in Haddington, my advice is to study up on what they can legitimately object to and, if they find nothing, then forget it.

Domino’s moved into another town in the Borders recently but it has been warmly welcomed and so far it hasn’t damaged existing businesses; I’m sure it won’t in Haddington.

Andrew Heatlie



Tribute to John

On behalf of a number of former members of Haddington Star Football Club from season 1973-74, we would like to pay tribute to the club’s founder John Fyfe, who passed away recently.

John gave selflessly of his free time and energy in helping to found a football league for young boys in the late 1960s and in the management of Haddington Star Football Club. Together with his beloved late wife, Helen, he ensured that the club became a model of acceptance and support to any youngster who played for “the Star”.

Speaking with John not long before his passing, we learned that, as a matter of principle, no child ever had to pay to attend a training session or play in a match; he sought and gained support from local business and benefactors to fund the running of the club. This approach ensured that the door of opportunity for sporting and personal development was opened widely to us and we were able to progress into adulthood as better people as a result. At this last meeting, John was still able, at the age of 82, to entertain us with his tales and songs. He will forever live on in our hearts as a wonderful role model and friend.

In these days of low opportunity and dwindling support for young people, the role of volunteers is, sadly, more important than ever. John was the best volunteer of all and his Star now shines brightly above our county town. John hailed from Gorgie but it was in East Lothian that his wonderful legacy will endure.

Perhaps those responsible for the naming of new streets in Haddington could do worse than name a street after John Fyfe? He inspired us all with his energy, humour and support. We will always smile when we think of him.

Grant Laing and Alex Galloway


‘Plenty of dosh’

Jacquie Bell (letters, January 25) confirmed that no progress had been made on the Scottish end of the A1 since the dark days of the 1980s. We should, however, reject the depressing view of Scottish Minister Màiri McAllan that no money exists to upgrade this key route.

In 2016, expenditure on big road projects in Scotland was £502m, with Scottish Government income at £37,000 million.

This year, trunk roads are receiving just £12 million when income is £54,000 million. While the government’s revenue has risen by 46 per cent, the road budget has been slashed by an incredible 98 per cent.

Therefore there’s plenty of dosh sloshing around the Scottish Government. Our money is just being wasted on non-essential services and bloated bureaucracies.

For example, the budget of South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) in 2023/24 is nearly three times the size of the national roads budget. Nothing that organisation does can compensate for poor transport links. Its 141 staff members are all trialling a four-day week. Would there be any measurable impact on the local economy if they all worked a zero-hour week?

I was disappointed to learn from Jacquie that the A1 Action Group is now defunct, particularly when East Lothian has a tailback of professional politicians. Surely one of them could provide some leadership to recharge the dualling campaign?

Calum Miller

Polwarth Terrace



Big bin mistake

East Lothian Council’s planned reduction in green bin collections from once every two weeks to once every three weeks, while brown bin collections will be increased from once every four weeks to once every two weeks, is ill-thought-out.

Residents are to be invited to pay £35 per year for brown bin collections while green bin collections are to be cut.

During stormy weather, green bins could sit full and have their contents scattered through residential streets.

On the other hand, empty brown bins will be collected every second week, even though there will be limited garden material, especially during the winter months.

This is surely yet another example of the council’s poor decision-making and ineptitude in managing our local services.

Charlie Marshall

West Garleton

An East Lothian Council spokesperson said: “As signatories to the Scottish Government’s Household Waste Charter, we now provide local households with a weekly recycling collection service for a range of materials. Waste collected for recycling continues to increase while waste sent for disposal has reduced. The next stage is to implement the charter’s recommendation that a maximum capacity of 80 litres per week is provided for non-recyclable waste. Around 50 per cent of households use the garden waste service. This is not a statutory service and some councils have had an optional paid-for service for several years, or removed this completely. The service in East Lothian will be maintained but on an optional, paid-for basis. Changes were agreed as part of the council budget approved in February 2023.”