I am disturbed by the recent autocratic statement of intent by the Western Isles Health Board to grant themselves ‘Lead Agency’ status with regard to home care of the elderly, whilst formally engaged in a governmental process with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and other stake holders.
They have been tasked to deliver, on an equal status agency basis, and improved home care service.
It does not augur well for the democratic process or the improvement of service delivery, if the W.I.H.B. consider that the proposal will increase accountability.
Isle of Lewis HS2 9BD
It was refreshing to read Hazel Mansfield’s challenge to the Reformed churches over their allegiance to the Westminster Confession of Faith (Gazette 6.2.14).
It’s hard not to feel that the Reformed churches are caught in a time warp because of this, for the Confession dates to circa 1646 but endorses scriptural material a great deal older.
I just wonder how sensible it is to give blanket acceptance to the Westminster Confession, thereby imposing on present-day believers two thousand year old customs from a race and culture so vastly different to our own. The way the Confession requires the Reformed churches to see the role of women would be an outstanding example of that.
Hazel Mansfield says it a lot better than I do. I would just plead for the kind of church that keeps pace with an up-to-the-minute 2014 God.
8 Drakies Avenue,
Last minute budget
This is not an easy time to be a local councillor. The Scottish Government has slashed the Comhairle’s budget by £5.48 million forcing cuts to local services.
In circumstances like this most councillors recognise the need to work together to find the best compromise which retains the maximum service level for our community.
This did require hard, and unwelcome, decisions. These decisions were based on extensive consultation and retaining, as a priority, essential services such as those for the elderly and the young.
At the same time services that were not centrally funded by the Scottish Government, like itinerant primary teachers, took the hit at no detriment to the education service.
This was not the thinking of the SNP group on the Comhairle. I think I would have some respect for their position if they too had sought the views of the electorate, or if they had engaged with the exhaustive process of coming to a decision on the budget.
They did neither. One year ago they produced a last minute budget which was released to the press before councillors received it. Their budget would have done more harm than good and was heavily defeated.
This year the same tactic was used. I received my copy of this year’s SNP budget amendment on Thursday shortly before the debate to set the budget.
The amendment in the names of Cllrs Gordon Murray and Rae Mackenzie had had to be hastily amended in the knowledge that the Comhairle budget already met certain of their aspirations.
They did not know this in advance because they had not engaged in the process.
The argument of the SNP rested on assertion with no evidence to back it. They exhibited a failure to recognise that the Scottish Government had made it clear that teacher numbers were to be strictly related to pupil numbers.
They used emotive phrases like ‘lifeline services’ when none were under consideration and made false declarations of loyalty to our staff.
On this last point, there is more knowledge and understanding and sympathy for the Trade Union movement in my pinkie than in the whole SNP group put together.
The SNP voted against the Budget presented by the Leader, who had spent a great deal of time with senior officers resolving issues of unintended consequence, seeking to help those in poverty and laying the groundwork for a Comhairle energy company.
In the evening at full council an amendment was moved by Cllrs John A Maciver and Kenneth Macleod.
They offered no argument in support of their amendment. Then Cllr Donald Manford, Leader of the SNP, moved an amendment which even he, it turned out, did not understand and he advanced no argument either. His amendment did not seek to change the Comhairle’s position on the Uist wind farms as had been trailed in advance of the meeting.
Why would they do that? Was it because they had issued press releases in advance of the meeting?
The SNP group are treating democracy with contempt. They are playing games when they should be considering the interests of the electorate. Shame on them all!
Cllr Angus McCormack
25 North Street
Isle of Lewis HS2 0AD
Tunnel to Skye
Congratulations for highlighting the need for long term planning in relation to transportation between the Islands and the mainland if we are to get more reliable solutions to our access problems.
It was significant that the leadership of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, who hosted the recent ‘Our Islands - Our Future’ consultation meeting in Stornoway and that your report referred to, accepted that the four year budget cycles they must adhere to will not deliver optimum solutions.
This is because short term financing is not capable of providing the capital required - it’s a bit like a house buyer getting a 4 year Mortgage !
We can deduce from the change in the pattern of the Jet Streams that safety limits for weather are likely to be exceeded more frequently in future, even with the advent of newer and more reliable ferries, resulting in more cancellations and the economic and personal havoc that these bring in their wake!
It is essential therefore that we plan for a weather proof access route as soon as this is financially and physically possible, and I estimate that if we commence long term planning for it now, links such as tunnels and/or bridges could be ready by 2030.
This would allow for the planning period and the 12 year budget cycle mentioned by the Convener, Councillor Norman MacDonald and could include external links such as a Skye tunnel for the Western Isles and, say, an Orkney tunnel for the other participants in the ‘Our Islands - Our Future’ initiative.
The main new awareness that emerged from the Stornoway consultation meeting is that IT CAN BE ACHIEVED, or as USA President Obama said to Gaelic speakers in Dublin not too long ago: “Is féidir linn!”, which translates as “We can do it!” or “ ‘S urrainn dhuinn!”.
Sean F O’Drisceoil
Isle of Lewis HS2 9QB