Thursday, 31 July 2014

Spectre of loneliness haunts the Borders

We're drifting into solitude at an alarming rate...or at least that's how it seems, according to a stark set of figures just published by the National Records of Scotland.

I found it a shade depressing to be told that within Scottish Borders Council's territory there are currently 20,054 dwellings with an entitlement to a single adult discount on council tax bills, which means only one grown up lives in each of those homes. The figure represents 35.1% of all the 57,097 occupied properties in our region, and in many instances there wont be another human being of any age in residence.

So more than one in three of us may already be struggling with or enjoying a solitary existence with the prospect of another 10,000 Borders households joining the ranks of one-person 'family' units between now and 2037.

I've always been a bit of a loner, so perhaps the prospect of rattling around in my own wee house - should it come to that - scares me less than it might some other folks. For many frail elderly people the thought will be horrendous, and for the public services tasked with caring for the lonely in their burgeoning number of individual houses a raft of issues is already drifting over the horizon.

The latest demographic picture for the Borders shows we had just 43,473 households in 1991. But between 2003 and 2013 the number spiralled from 48,543 to 52,934 (an increase of 4,391 or nine per cent). The situation is no different nationally...a combination of divorce, dysfunctional families, a greater desire on the part of youngsters to find their own space, and radical lengthening of life expectancy have combined to create those thousands of extra households.

We're experiencing a parallel rise in the number of dwellings spread across the Borders; there were 51,279 in 2001, now the total stands at 57,097 representing an increase of 4,770 (nine per cent) in 12 years.

National Records of Scotland's local authority tables tell us 53,122 of those properties are occupied, 2,826 are vacant, and a further 1,149 are classified as second homes.

Sheep and rugby country continues to be a popular target for the wealthy in search of a holiday bolt hole or a chance to make a fast buck with an investment property. The number of second homes went up from 1,032 in 2012 to 1,149 in 2013.

For the record, the report provides a breakdown of the number of dwellings in each council tax band. In the Borders 63% of dwellings are in the A-C tax ranges, 21% have D-E bandings with 16% ranged between F and H. Ninety-three per cent of our dwellings are occupied, 4.9% are vacant, and two per cent provide second homes.

But how those 20,000 "dwellings with a single adult discount" stood out for me. One wonders do lots of their occupants hardly see a soul? Does someone check regularly to make sure those single residents are OK?

The forecasters warn (as if any warning was needed) that less than 25 years from now 488,200 people aged 65 and over are expected to be living on their own in Scotland, an increase of 51% compared to 2012. The statistic is the equivalent of the entire population of Edinburgh, and if the percentage increase is mirrored in the Borders well over half of us will be living solo by 2037.

All the lonely people...where do they all come from? Let's at least spare them a thought.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Time to deliver for "The Borderlands"

So Westminster's Scottish Affairs Committee has embarked on yet another parliamentary journey in a bid to find the golden key which might unlock the door to investment and prosperity for an area they're now calling The Borderlands. It's probably the twentieth such initiative by various shades of government over the last 50 years, and I fear the report which will inevitably follow will soon be gathering dust.

Why can our national government not just channel some major industrial projects into the Borders, Dumfries & Galloway, Northumberland and Cumbria (yes, those four areas could be proposed as a joint enterprise and development board if the evidence to the committee proves favourable) thereby reversing the investment drought? It would save everyone's time and short circuit the need for more Borderlands initiatives.

It is many a long year since any significant new job creating ventures were lured into the area. And it is to be hoped the decision makers are not relying solely on that much-vaunted railway of ours for our future well-being.

But at least the recent claims in these columns that the Borders in particular suffers badly from the loss (in 2008) of its Local Enterprise Company and the accompanying annual budget of £10 million has been recognised by the Committee and will be given due consideration. Last year's £175,000 worth of Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) from Scottish Enterprise equated to the establishment of just 24 new jobs. This time round we didn't receive any RSA from Scotland's development agency whose priorities have always lain elsewhere.

There may be some concerns that none of the MPs who sit on the Scottish Affairs Committee in Westminster actually represent Borders constituencies. But hidden away in the Register of Interests submitted by Glasgow MP Ian Davidson, the committee chairman, there is a particularly assuring piece of information . It reads: "Half share of a house in Galashiels". That'll do nicely!

The investigation (written evidence is invited by September 1 2014) will try to establish the full impact of the flawed decision taken six years ago to dismantle the network of local enterprise companies, and examine how best the situation might be rectified (rescued more like). One idea would be to give the Borderlands its own enterprise authority along the lines of Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE).

South of Scotland has the highest rate of people with multiple jobs in the whole of Scotland. A significant number of people are in low paid, part-time employment and have to rely on at least two separate jobs to make ends meet. The urgent requirement now - as it has been for half a century - is to lure sufficient volumes of good quality employment in manufacturing or the public sector to keep the region's most talented youngsters interested in staying here.

In the words of the committee report: "The issues affecting those in the south of Scotland, such as the crucial connection between infrastructure and economic growth, the economic and social fragility of isolated communities, and the centrality of tourism to the regional economy, are directly comparable to many of the issues faced in the Highlands and Islands, and could be dealt with similarly."

Should that be the approved prescription for the economic development of southern Scotland then an almighty rethink on the distribution of enterprise money will be required. HIE currently has an annual budget of £75 million and a staff of 250 beavering away on the Highlands' behalf. In 2013/14 alone grants to local businesses totalled £30 million, generating £120 million of investment. There's currently no indication of how much Scottish Enterprise spends in the Borders and Dumfries & Galloway on an annual basis, but it will be a pittance when compared to their Highlands largesse.

How different the situation might have been for the Borderlands had that level of yearly investment been available from 1965 when HIE was established. The first negative fault lines in the Borders economy also started to show in the 1960s, but we had to wait another 25 years for our own enterprise company. Eighteen years after that they took it away even though the economic plight remained critical.

The delivery of a powerful agency with ADEQUATE financial backing to prime economic growth would be welcome...can the Scottish Affairs Committee deliver?

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Violent, bloody and lawless: or was Sir Walter having us on?

The publication next month of a new version of Walter Scott's 'Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border' will provide we Borderers with yet another opportunity to analyse and agonise over our region's troubled past.

It was Sir Walter who, almost single-handedly, gave the Border lands their sometimes unwanted reputation as a lawless, blood soaked medieval wilderness where murder, kidnap and blackmail were daily occurrences as the brutal family gangs of reivers went about their evil business.

Nowadays our American cousins run DNA tests on each other to determine whether they may be descended from those clans of rapists, pillagers and cold-blooded killers.

Scott's 1802 minstrelsy, produced after he collected dozens of ancient ballads, songs and tales of derring-do during a 'pilgrimage' through the Border Counties, was seized upon by historians. The minstrelsy was key in shaping the perceived way of life for cowering hordes of locals in southern Scotland during the late Middle Ages, and that version of events has been with us ever since.

No doubt times were hard, and a fair amount of killing and maiming took place in those far off times. But we may never know whether the myths and legends surrounding the Border Reivers were based on fact or fiction. Were they villains or heroes? It probably doesn't matter.

The Edinburgh edition of the minstrelsy is a 600-page critical work written jointly by Sigrid Rieuwerts, of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, and Katherine Campbell, Department of Culture & Scottish Studies, Edinburgh University.

We are promised: "One hundred poems and songs, many of them containing fascinating narratives of death, murder and abductions". Well I did warn you!

The blurb for the book continues: "It reveals the roots of Scott's impact on Romantic perceptions and on the creation of an imagined Scotland."

But there are academics out there who challenge and refute the word pictures portrayed by the minstrelsy. In Approaches to conflict on the Anglo-Scottish Border in the late 14th century, Alastair Macdonald, of Aberdeen University, discusses the alleged violent reputation we still nurture today.

He writes: "The concept of a violent and uncontrolled society on the Marches is most certainly the dominant image of the region in the later middle ages. This is the image consistently portrayed, for instance, in works aimed at non-academic audiences.

"A recently published tourist map of the Borders contains the following statement (from the perspective of c.1600): 'for six centuries up to that moment this troubled buffer zone...rang to the clash of steel, the thunder of hooves and the screams of bloody murder'".

Mr Macdonald goes on to ponder where this image came from. He concludes: "Like much in the historiography of the Anglo-Scottish Borders, the turbulent image of the region owes much to the influence of Sir Walter Scott. The romantic vision of Scott and James Hogg has proved remarkably enduring and has much to do with the still dominant approach, even in academic work, to the medieval Anglo-Scottish Marches."

So make up your own mind. Were our forebears wild and wicked heroes as depicted by Sir Walter and Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd? Or were they just ordinary, run-of-the-mill folk whose landscape was no more tarnished by violence than any other part of medieval Scotland?

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Winners and losers in Borders business stakes

The number of new companies being formed in the Scottish Borders fell by more than five per cent last year while the United Kingdom experienced 7.6% growth in business start-ups during 2013.

And the situation was no different in the first quarter of 2014 with a one per cent reduction in business registrations locally between January and March against a national increase of 11.8%.

The figures from Bristol-based Dupont Associates, a company which helps people set up limited companies, illustrate the need for a significant increase in entrepreneurship and risk taking if our region is to improve its prosperity and create additional private sector jobs.

During 2013 a total of 368 new companies were formed in the Borders. Duport's figures for the second half of the year when we were told Britain's economy was expanding at a breathless rate, show 164 businesses were started in our region - 18.4 per cent fewer than in the same six months of 2012. Meanwhile there was an 8.9% increase in new companies across the UK between July and December 2013.

There was some brighter news on company failures with 200 Borders businesses dissolved in 2013, 7.8 per cent fewer than the previous year. So at least there was a net gain of 168 names on the register at Companies House. But it is impossible to estimate how many jobs have been created by these welcome new additions to the Borders business scene.

A further 53 companies went to the wall in the first quarter of 2014, 3.6% fewer than in the equivalent three months of 2013. It is encouraging to see an improvement in the overall survival rate of local businesses.

The report from Duport shows the average age of Borders company directors is 47.3 years (as of 2013). But the percentage of directors below the age of 25 (6.2%) is much higher than the national average of just 3.9%. At the other end of the age scale a mere 1.9% of directors are aged over 65 while the national statistic stands at 4.2%.

Some sections of Borders society may be surprised to learn that one third of the region's company directors are female (33.6% to be exact) and that is well above the UK figure of 26%.

An earlier article on this site highlighted the apparent lack of investment in the Borders by Scottish Enterprise. In particular not a penny in Regional Selective Assistance came our way in 2013/14.

If the Borders economy is to be developed through the expansion of locally formed new businesses then the Duport figures surely prove more investment and support is urgently required.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Brainwashed or brain dead? The choice is yours

A copy of the Summer 2014 edition of Scottish Borders Connect found its way into the Not Just Sheep and Rugby office today. It's full of positive spin from our local authority, but may be over-stepping the mark with its strap line 'YOUR COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER'. I hardly think so!

No doubt by this time every household in the Borders will have received their free copy of SB Connect, a publication which appears three times a year and enjoys a 56,000 print run. Our local weekly newspapers would bite your hand off for circulation figures of that magnitude.

SB Connect, launched in 2003, and costing council taxpayers up to £39,000 a year in production, print and distribution costs, is the work of the council's Communications and Marketing team. A message on page two of the current edition proclaims: "Our aim is to bring useful information to your door about the Council and its services to give you the opportunity to engage with us".

I'm sure many readers of SB Connect have issues they'd like addressed. But none of them are likely to feature in a "newspaper" which only portrays the sunny side of local government life.

The sixteen pages packed with public relations puffs and happy smiley photographs of council staff and elected members also offer disgruntled punters the chance to have their say on plans to transfer museums and other cultural assets to a Trust. Don't waste your breath, it's a fait accompli.

There's also a brief feature outlining work being done to streamline the Council's corporate management structure. We are told: "The Council is now in a period where there is a significant focus on developing effective partnerships, integrating areas of service and increased joined up working with community planning partners". Translate please!

There's plenty more of that brand of gobbledegook in our so-called Community Newspaper. And given the completely baffling material in a number of recent Council reports maybe it's time our councillors commissioned the Plain English Campaign on a consultancy basis to cut through the unfathomable jargon.

The issue here is why do we need SB Connect when so many of our media outlets are prepared to print or broadcast council press releases verbatim and without question? Apart from one notable exception, there is little evidence of investigative journalism being alive and well in this part of the world, more's the pity.

Meanwhile, despite widespread opposition and noisy protests from residents in all parts of our region over the withdrawal of garden waste collections earlier this year, SB Connect admits the decision to make green wheelies redundant was 'very difficult', and reveals how the council's waste and recycling team provided advice to more than 300 people and organised the free delivery of home compost bins. The remaining 55,700 households are expected to cart their lawn clippings and other green waste to the nearest Community Recycling Centre.

And for those of you who may have misgivings about the proposal to spend up to £5 million on a new building at Tweedbank to accommodate The Great Tapestry of Scotland, SB Connect appears to be softening us up for the inevitable.

According to the paper: "The Borders is in line to host one of Scotland's greatest works of art and a remarkable telling of the country's story". And that's before a £40,000 business case from consultants has even been tabled.

It seems we have a choice: a) Be brainwashed three times a year by SB Connect; or b) Adopt a brain dead posture and allow the council to do exactly as it pleases. Surely there has to be a third option out there somewhere.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Rediscovering "The Footplate Poet"

"There's blood on his hands, there's a stain on his soul,
This arch fiend of despots enacting death's toll"....

The strength of feeling in those lines of poetry written a hundred years ago in condemnation of the German Kaiser as the First World War spread across Europe summed up the sentiments of every community in Britain who watched as their young men left home for the battle front.

Thomas Grey, the man who penned 'The Kaiser', was a retired train driver from Berwick-on-Tweed. He became known as The Footplate Poet, his prolific output of poetry gained him national recognition before his death in 1928 although for decades he has lain virtually forgotten in an unmarked grave in Tweedmouth cemetery.

Now, thanks to painstaking research by Galashiels author Harry Scott, The Footplate Poet's role in wartime Berwick has been brought back into sharp focus. About a dozen of Grey's works feature in Harry's book 'Berwick-on-Tweed - For King and Country' which paints a vivid picture of life in the town and district between 1914 and 1918.

It was while digging for nuggets to include in what was to become his second published work that Harry discovered Grey's powerful verses, and eventually the Borders author was able to make contact with some of the poet's descendants.

Harry explains: "The book tells of the mood of patriotism which swept through all levels of Berwick's society at the outbreak of war. There was a strong feeling of optimism too that the fighting would soon be over, but that hope faded with the ever growing casualty lists and deaths as the conflict dragged on."

'For King and Country' has many stories of how the people of the town and district coped with wartime restrictions, and is illustrated with photographs of those who served their country as well as sketches drawn to encourage local lads to join up.

The scourge of alcohol abuse in Berwick during the war, and the attempts of the authorities to combat and deal with the problem also feature in the book.

As local historian Jim Walker, from Spittal, writes in a foreword to 'King and Country': "This book does not attempt to explain or glorify war, nor does it allocate blame, but rather it records how one town, Berwick-on-Tweed, and its citizens were affected by the ghastly horrors of the 'Great War'".

Harry writes of incidents in the town which reveal the hazards and risks caused by armed soldiers mingling with the civilian population, and there are tales of the heroism of Berwick's servicemen alongside accounts of suffering as they lay wounded on the battlefield or in military hospitals. British prisoners of war describe the cruel and inhumane treatment meted out by their German captors.

For those who would like to learn more about The Footplate Poet, and at the same time enjoy a well researched work containing generous helpings of fascinating information, printed copies of the book, priced at £9.99 and/or a Kindle download version costing £5.99 are available via

Friday, 4 July 2014

Your local authority's accounts - everyone should read them

Scottish Borders Council's unaudited accounts for 2013/14 posted on the authority's website yesterday without a fanfare or even an accompanying press statement, provide us long-suffering council taxpayers with a mass of information about the activities of our elected councillors and staff.

The document extends to 88 pages disclosing a range of spending from the cost of the latest 40 early retirement packages to the salaries of the top brass, the huge sums of money which will be needed to pay for three secondary schools built under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) system and the financial performance of the region's eight Common Good Funds.

Despite the mouth-watering agenda outlined above I very much doubt whether more than a few curious, dedicated anoraks will bother to pore over the tables and accompanying narrative. So perhaps a few 'highlights' chosen at random might persuade you to take a closer look.

The council's revenue expenditure on services during 2013/14 totalled £254.6 million. But spending cuts of £6.3 million were achieved, the council tax freeze continued for a seventh year, and balancing the books in the years ahead will provide "a significant challenge".

David Robertson, the chief financial officer, writes: "The operating environment for the Council continues to be very challenging with financial and economic influences such as welfare reform, increasing demands on services, low interest rates and cost pressures from pay and price inflation all affecting the Council’s finances. The Council despite these challenges remains financially sound and well placed to serve the people of the Scottish Borders in future."

The remuneration report - a section of the accounts dealing with salaries and pensions of councillors and officials - shows 96 employees earned £50,000 or more last year while sixteen senior councillors (apparently we need that many) were paid a total of £341,214 compared to £305,263 in 2012/13.

Those 40 exit packages mentioned earlier cost us a total of £1.063 million. Two of the deals were in the £100,000 to £150,000 bracket and between them totalled £239,558 while the largest individual package added up to £162,874.

The controversial use of PPP/Private Finance Initiative schemes by UK public authorities to fund schools, hospitals and other expensive capital projects is already well documented with massive repayments due over the coming 20-30 years.

Scottish Borders Council entered a PPP agreement in 2006/7 for the provision of three new schools in Eyemouth, Duns and Earlston. The latest accounts show the outstanding sums still due - liability and service charges of £225.660 million plus interest payments of £41.142 million. That adds up to a grand total of £266.802 million. One wonders how those figures compare with the actual value of the three schools.

I hope that by now you're getting an appetite for the document under discussion as I'm running out of space and cannot hope to cover other stuff such as the financial condition of the 289 Trust Funds and endowments, administered by the council and worth between them £2.491 million or the Common Good Funds with combined assets of £9.733 million.

Why not take a look for yourselves and see what we're paying for?

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Are one in eight Borders kids below the poverty line?

Charities and pressure groups expressed their combined anger and frustration this week when figures from the Department of Work & Pensions seemed to suggest an extra 30,000 Scottish children had been "pushed into poverty". Independent assessments suggested they could be joined by up to 100,000 more by 2020 as a result of cuts to the welfare budget.

The poverty line is drawn much higher these days than it was in Dickensian times, during the Great Depression of the 1920s or in post-war Britain when virtually everything was rationed and living conditions in some areas were appalling. Yet we are told by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) that 3.5 million children or 27% of the total are poverty stricken in the UK in 2014.

Before discussing the position in the Scottish Borders a definition of modern day poverty might be of assistance. If a household's income is less than 60% of the average UK average then it is considered to be living in poverty.

A single person living on less than £128 per week; a lone parent family with two children with less than £264 per week; or a couple with two children living on less than £357 a week. All of these are classed as living in poverty as they have insufficient funds to make ends meet.

In Scotland 870,000 people, including 200,000 children are included in so-called Households Below Average Income.

The CPAG provides a detailed analysis of child poverty in Scotland, including statistics for every local authority area, every Westminster parliamentary constituency and even every council ward. In the Borders the numbers range from 8% in Tweeddale to 25% in Hawick & Denholm. The Borders total, given as 2,937 represents 13% of the region's youngsters, the equivalent of almost one in eight below that poverty line.

The information for each of the Borders council wards reads as follows: Tweeddale Wast 166 (8%); Leaderdale & Melrose 197 (8%); Tweeddale West 176 (8%); Selkirkshire 180 (10%); Mid Berwickshire 241 (12%); Kelso & District 226 (12%); Hawick & Hermitage 184 (13%); Jedburgh & District 250 (15%); East Berwickshire 331 (16%); Galashiels & District 493 (18%); and Hawick & Denholm 501 (25%).

These local numbers and percentages are no worse than the returns from other parts of Scotland, and in many cases they are a good deal lower. But campaigners like CPAG warn there is no room for complacency and a great deal needs to be done if the proportion of kids living in modern-day poverty is to be reduced.

The politicians will, no doubt, put their own spin on the statistics depending on the level of priority they attach to the issue and whether they admit the problem even exists.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Cut and run...with loads of cash

The significant cuts in public expenditure ranging from road sweeping to defence of the realm by politicians who decided we could no longer afford to pay for them are already leaving an unwanted imprint on the Borders landscape.

I'm particularly brassed off by the lack of verge cutting and hedge trimming adjacent to our highways and byways by trunk road contractors and council workmen. Many untended roadsides are an overgrown mess where six-foot high hemlock plants thrive untamed, and sight lines at junctions are marred by overhanging branches and waist high grass. An utter disgrace.

The nation's carriageways themselves require hundreds of millions of pounds worth of attention, thanks to a backlog of repairs and maintenance which lengthens by the day. More than 40 per cent of the vital Borders roads network needs care and attention, but the money simply isn't available and a few bawbees devoted to pot-hole repairs isn't the answer.

Do we really want to see our public services bleed to death then fade away to nothing? The trouble is no-one seems to be standing up for the organisations which are meant to serve taxpayers and deliver the services we require and deserve. At the same time many of our councillors appear to find difficulty in identifying the electorate's priorities, preferring to squander resources on vanity projects rather than concentrating on the basics.

But while budgets are decimated and the quality of services is left to spiral downwards into the 'barely acceptable' category, I've always wondered where the vast sums come from to fund voluntary redundancy packages and early retirement golden goodbyes. After all this is money paid up front to deliver alleged savings sometime later. I'm yet to be convinced.

I don't suppose many people noticed there was a recent meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) in Selkirk when members received a report from its quaintly titled Director of People & Development detailing the latest statistics on voluntary redundancy and early retirement.

Police Scotland, which came into force (pardon the pun) in April 2013 with the amalgamation of all Scottish constabularies, soon realised it was so short of money that police station public counters had to close and virtually all traffic wardens found themselves surplus to requirements.

But even in the short time span since its birth Police Scotland has spent £21.2 million on exit packages. The report showed the authority's National Voluntary Release Panel had met on 24 occasions to review 890 applications to leave the service. I assume the majority of requests have come from traffic wardens and civilian support staff.

The document suggested about 780 offers had been accepted which works out, on average, at £27,179. But the SPA was assured the generous reduction in the payroll would result in annual savings of £20.2 million.

In the course of Scottish local government's financial year of 2012/13 the bill for 1,996 departures was an eye-watering £89.393 million. No fewer than 369 individuals cut deals in excess of £80,000 and 297 of those settlements exceeded £100,000.

Our own local authority in the Borders parted with £8.506 million for 416 packages in the five financial years to 2012/13, and has allowed for a further £4.7 million to cover the cost of future voluntary redundancies and early retirements up to March 2018.

If the size of these packages could be scaled back by say 20 or even 10 per cent across the public sector then maybe we could afford to get those roadside verges manicured and keep a few more offices open.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

What happens to your disposable income?

Here's a mind boggling statistic for you. I worked it out all by myself. There appears to be £883,390,008 worth of disposable income sloshing around the bank accounts, hip pockets and money boxes of the Scottish Borders each year, according to a new report from the Office of National Statistics.

"So what?", I hear you yell, for that was pretty much my reaction when my eyes first lighted on the figures for Gross Disposable Household Income (GDHI). Well apparently statistics like these provide a fairly accurate indication of how local economies are performing, so we'd better take a closer look. The Borders figure for 2012 was £16,748, so keep that in mind.

It is only fair to supply readers with an idiot's guide to disposable income at the outset. I wouldn't like you to think as I did that all of this spare cash was waiting to be frittered away on stag parties, a day at the races, or a trip to Brazil to watch England being stuffed at football.

The statisticians and analysts who prepared the latest collection of figures - call them killjoys if you must - describe GDHI as the total amount of money each household has available for spending or saving after the tax man and the Natural Insurance lot get their respective pounds of flesh. It represents the total amount we have to spend on everything, including housing, utility bills, food and other essentials.

By the time you've settled the rent or mortgage, paid for your gas and electricity, and set the supermarket tills ringing there is unlikely to be much leftover for the pleasures of life.

Nevertheless, between 1997 and 2012 the level of disposable income for each of the 52,746 households in the Borders improved by 88.9%, well above the Scottish average of 74.8%. Here's hoping you feel both prosperous and satisfied with £16,748 at your disposal, and at least be grateful that the Borders figure is almost £500 above the Scotland median of £16,267.

After all we only have a very small distance to travel up the GDHI scale to catch up with the UK average of £16,791, and the Borders easily outstrips Northern Ireland (£13,902) and Wales (£14,623).

We feature ninth on the list of 32 Scottish local authority area figures topped by affluent Edinburgh on £19,107 and tailed by not so affluent Glasgow at £14,161. It means the citizens of Edinburgh have, on average, 35% more disposable income than their counterparts in Scotland's largest city.

The area which has seen the largest increase over the last 15 years is Orkney where households were £10,500 or an impressive 141% better off in 2012 than they were in 1997. Glasgow is at the bottom of this league too with an increase of just £5,500 or 63%.

Here in the Borders multiply £16,748 by 52,746 (number of households) and you get that mighty sum of £883,390,008 mentioned in line one of this post. Here's hoping you're spending your share wisely!