Gazette Letters 01.05.14

Emma Stark from Preston is currently on holiday in Lewis visiting her grandparents. She sent in this image saying: "The picture was taken at Tolsta Beach at 8.45pm. I took the picture as it was such a dramatic sunset and I do not get to see sun sets like these on the mainland."
Emma Stark from Preston is currently on holiday in Lewis visiting her grandparents. She sent in this image saying: "The picture was taken at Tolsta Beach at 8.45pm. I took the picture as it was such a dramatic sunset and I do not get to see sun sets like these on the mainland."
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Step into unknown

There has been no shortage of SNP activity recently with the visit to Lewis of the Scottish Cabinet. If this visit leads to more powers devolved to the islands, then all to the good; however I fear that this visit has more to do with the Independence Referendum than the governance of Scotland.

Is it not interesting that breaking a 300 year plus relationship with the rest of the UK is not seen as negative? Is it not strange that arguments as to why it would be a good idea to remain in the UK, or arguments giving reasons why it is not in our interests to leave the UK, are met with scorn and dismissal rather than counter arguments?

What the SNP is asking us to do is step into the unknown. The notion that their White Paper answers questions is laughable.

I thought I might try and see if the SNP White Paper held the answer to a matter that concerns me greatly - taxation. So I found the reference to taxation, and was not surprised to find that apparently taxation was to be fairer and simpler.

I then read on to find out how this was to be done but I find that we are not to be told of the SNP’s ideas on taxation until their manifesto for the next Scottish Election! So we are to take them on trust!

During the time the SNP have been in power they made one attempt at reforming the tax regime with a Local Income Tax, that was quickly abandoned since it could not be made to work and they settled for a freeze on Council Tax.

The freeze is guaranteed until the end of this parliament. What then? It certainly is not sustainable. One thing that will be true is that by then £5.6 billion in taxation will not have been collected.

This amount of money could have built a great many houses. It could have gone a long way to alleviating fuel poverty.

It may help to put all this into some perspective if we consider that when the freeze was introduced in the Outer Hebrides in 2007, a Band D tax payer saved 69p per week.

Personally I am comfortable being part of the UK. I know it is not perfect, far from it, but I wish to see improvements for everyone in the UK not just in Scotland. That takes time.

There have been major improvements in the UK since the end of the Second World War - my lifetime. The general standard of living for the bulk of the population is so much better now than when I was ten years old.

In 1953 on Kenneth Street, Stornoway at least 350 people lived crammed into buildings, with no hot water, sharing toilets, no electricity and few home comforts.

Now there are around 30 people living on Kenneth Street in good conditions and the families who lived there in 1953 live in new housing all round Stornoway.

The same situation happened throughout the UK. It still does. It happens for Geordies, Cornishmen, Welshmen too.

I am, too, happy to be a member of the European Community. Again a most imperfect organisation but there has been no European-wide war in my lifetime. That is a big plus. Working closer together is my preference.

Angus McCormack

Council Offices

Sandwick Road

Stornoway

Isle of Lewis

Explanation of his views

The endeavours of Councillor McCormack to mislead the public know no bounds. He tells us he is an Independent Councillor yet he has very strong association with Labour Party policies.

Last year he prevented the Council Audit and Scrutiny Committee from discussing the changes to school buses while blaming others for misleading the council.

On inter-island flights, he voted to cut them to the detriment of the people in the Uists, Benbecula and Barra. He then followed this up by blaming the SNP Group who opposed the cuts. Just recently he totally misrepresented the SNP Group’s budget proposals.

He now suggests that Independence is a step into the unknown. What he fails to tell us is that remaining within the Union is a far bigger step into the unknown, a step into a black hole.

At least the SNP have tried to outline the economics of an Independent Scotland, while the three main unionist parties tell us very little about their plans for Scotland if we opt to remain within the Union.

In fact, there is very little they can agree on. No doubt Councillor McCormack will decline to answer some questions as usual.

Why does Councillor McCormack like many other NEW Labour Tories support right wing policies created to meet the needs of the fat cats in the south-east of England?

New Labour have made it clear that they will not be reversing the Tory policies which are putting more and more people into poverty.

Sadly, how does he justify his Tory values by increasing council tax for already hard pressed islanders? This is while promoting Westminster policies that allows the rich and corporate businesses to deliberately evade their share of the tax burden.

As we have only experienced 40% of Westminster welfare cuts, maybe Councillor McCormack can explain why he believes that the poorest in our society should be left to carry the weight of New Labour’s banking fiasco?

Westminster has sold out Scottish fishing within the EU so that rich English farmers benefit from substantially high EU subsidies. Maybe can explain why our fishermen are paying this hefty price?

With the NHS in England well on the way to being privatised, how does he see the people of these islands affording health care insurance policies? We will be forced down the same road.

Crofting grants have suffered through Westminster negotiating the poorest settlement within the EU for agriculture subsidies of this nature. How does he see this as a positive policy?

Councillor McCormack tells us he does not want the abolition of poverty in Scotland if it cannot be replicated across England.

He is happy for Scottish people to live and die in poverty because this is happening in England where Westminster is ignoring the suffering. Maybe he can tell us why it is okay for south-east England to be prosperous at the expense of every other region?

These are just a few of the questions which Councillor McCormack and his colleagues in the Better Together lobby need to answer. To date they have totally ignored them.

Archie Harper

27 Shulishader

Point

Isle of Lewis HS2 0PU

Observations from debate

I’d like to share some observations on the recent debate between Yes Scotland and Better Together in Carloway.

The meeting was chaired by Angus Macdonald. Brian Wilson and Alasdair Morrison spoke for one side, Alasdair Allan MSP and Gordon Maclennan for the other.

I raised a point, perhaps not very eloquently, about the lack of protection afforded in England against the political consensus which has emerged in recent years: that free market economics has to dominate every aspect of life, compared with the consensus in Scotland which has been significantly less pervasive.

When pressed by the chair I pointed to Nicola Sturgeon’s call for working people to reclaim the Labour party.

Brian Wilson’s retort was to label me as a Trotskyist, as if the mere mention of the word ‘socialism’ warranted such a response.

The Scottish Socialist Party was rubbished in his reply, evidenced by electoral results and by association with Tommy Sheridan.

Let me be clear Sheridan helped to make the SSP as a force in Scottish politics but he also destroyed it on his way down.

The SSP activity in the Western Isles was never about electoral success, it was about keeping ideas alive that people like Brian Wilson once subscribed to in the days when he too campaigned against Trident in the Clyde.

Being socialist has much more to do with the principles upon which his party was founded than any Russian revolutionary, including Trotsky. For example; it needs to be pointed out that the Western Isles SSP played a major role in the reduction of ferry charges, not quite Road Equivalent Tariff but a big step in that direction.

Alasdair Allan spoke confidently and clearly about the advantages of an Independent Scotland, not in the same terms as his associate Dennis Canavan perhaps, but I wouldn’t expect him to.

The SNP have earned their credentials as a social democratic party, a status that Labour has lost due to its capitulation to Thatcherism and big finance in the city of London.

Scotland has its identity as a separate nation and unlike Brian Wilson I believe that a better world is possible. It’s time for Scotland to untie itself from Westminster rule in order to set that example for others to follow.

Genuine democratic socialism still presents the best alternative to the rule of Finance Capitalism amid decaying democracy.

Real internationalism starts on the basis of free independent nations coming together, not on the basis of old worn out empires signing treaties.

Joanne Telfer

5 Lios Na Glibe

Carloway HS2 9AU

Failings and ditherings

Your report on the exodus of Kirk members from Stornoway High made interesting reading, and in my opinion the membership did well to vote with their feet.

With both patience and tolerance exhausted it’s small wonder this exodus occurred. Since 2009 when homosexual minister Scott Rennie was inducted to Queen’s Cross Church, Aberdeen, successive General Assemblies have done nothing but compound the Kirk’s failings and ditherings.

In the matter of homosexual clergy the Kirk hasn’t a clue where it’s going or where it wants to be. Former moderator Albert Bogle’s absurd proposition, adopted by last year’s Assembly, that Kirk congregations be allowed to appoint homosexual clergy if they so wish, was for many the last straw.

We read that on Biblical grounds the Kirk continues to oppose homosexual union, or at least that was its position as of last week, yet sees nothing amiss in a homosexual clergyman occupying its pulpits, or a homosexual clergyman living in a church manse with his male partner.

What kind of credibility attaches to thinking like that?

Keith Fernie

8 Drakies Avenue,

Inverness IV2-3RW

Not democracy

The faricial decision making of this council is manifested yet again in its granting of the Castle project to an outside developer, and yet we all hear how committed they are to ‘local’ causes. What utter rubbish!

Changing the nature of the development, as it was put ‘quietly’, goes to show the secret mentality of those involved in these matters.

Would anyone else get away with changing their development proposals ‘quietly’?

No, certainly not, this self same council would see to that, yet, they can do it?

Is this a sign of a council that is open and transparent? No, far from it.

No, these are not our Islands, they are ruled and dictated by those who, it seems, can do as they please, and are answerable to no-one. This IS NOT democracy.

Donald Morrison

7 Macallum Place

Stornoway