THE PROBLEM OF DEPOPULATION
In your issue of 4th October, ‘Down All The Years’, it stated that the population of the Western Isles in October 2002 was 26,502 – a fall of 10.5% since the 1991 census.
Now, in 1975, the population of Lewis and Harris combined was 26.470; this is approx. the figure for all of the Outer Hebrides for 1991. This shows a frightening decline and if this continues, these islands will become like St Kilda. What a great tragedy!
Eight or ten years ago I sent two letters, published by your newspaper, about the fall in population. I sent them at an interval of about 18 months (from one another). In both I suggested that Sandy Matheson be invited to assist in solving this very great problem. Well, I would suggest that again.
Mr Matheson is one of the most brilliant people in the Western Isles. He has the ability to set up projects to convince young people that they can acquire just as lucrative a living on the Outer Hebrides as they’d ever have on mainland Scotland, England or elsewhere. In their heart of hearts, none of these people really want to leave their own island.
Quite a number of those who graduate from Lews Castle College would be from the Western Isles but then migrate or emigrate to acquire a career. That’s a dreadful waste of the resources of an island group.
Some of those who study at this college would be from mainland Scotland, England and other places. They could be convinced that after they qualify, a career awaits them on these islands. This way, the population, instead of falling, would begin to rise.
An area’s greatest resource are its people. There’s still the opportunity to solve the problem but in a generation from now, it may be too late. To do nothing is to invite disaster.
Mr Matheson has done many outstanding things for his community. If he’s asked to come in on this, it may well be his greatest achievement.
Daithe O’Scannlain, Co. Cork, Ireland
IS THIS A DESPERATE SEARCH FOR VOTES?
Struan Stevenson, Tory member of the European Parliament (Gazette Letters 13 September) attacks windfarms being inefficient, outrageously costly, being paid for in our fuel bills, the cause of fuel poverty, etc etc, whilst ignoring the true facts.
Every penny of the subsidies being provided - £1 billion per year - are provided by his gaffer, David Cameron and his Tory Government in London. None of his claims stand up to examination.
For example, poverty in this country has nothing to do with wind farm subsidies but by the appalling gulf between rich and poor brought about by successive Tory Government policies.
State Pensions paid are amongst the poorest in Europe. Most importantly of all is the cost of electricity is directly linked to the wholesale price of gas in world markets.
Every single major source of energy on this planet has required subsidies from Governments. I am sure Stevenson must know that as well as giving £1 billion per year for renewables, the Conservative Government is also providing £2 billion per year, just to clean up the radioactive mess left behind by redundant nuclear power plants.
The Dounreay nuclear plant has already cost the taxpayer £14 billion (achieving next to nothing in its lifetime) and it will take another 300 years before the area will be declared safe.
If Mr Cameron eventually succeeds in getting someone to build his proposed new nuclear power stations, the French, the Germans and now the Chinese having turned the offer down – will he now ask the Russians who built Chernobyl to do the job?
To allow the operators to make reasonable profits will result in an immediate £150 hike in our annual fuel bills, independent analysts reckon the true figure will be at least double this.
One third of Scotland’s energy requirements are now provided by renewables and a recent report states that Scotland is well on target to reach its target of 100%.
Why, may we ask has Stevenson adopted this anti-wind farm stance when all the main political parties are in favour?
My suspicions are that as the Tories in Scotland are now more disliked than ever he hopes to attract the anti-windfarm voters to propel him back to Europe. A forlorn hope, I feel, as if many of his Tory colleagues have their way we will be out of the E.U.
John S. Jappy, Muir of Ord IV6 7UY
Parenting is a very topical issue at the moment. The Scottish Government has just published its national parenting strategy, which sets out what all the organisations working with families should do to help parents be the best they can be.
At CHILDREN 1ST, we know that providing the right support at the right time to families is crucial. Most parents want a listening ear, somewhere to turn to when they need a bit of advice, encouragement or information.
We want to remind your readers that’s exactly what ParentLine Scotland, the CHILDREN 1ST national confidential helpline and email service, does.
We deal with an average of 3000 calls per year on a range of subjects including difficult relationships with teenagers, separation and divorce, bullying, family relationships, kinship care concerns, money, postnatal depression and child abuse.
The service is not just for parents but also for kinship carers, grandparents, aunt, uncles, siblings or anyone with a concern for a child. People can call about any problem, no matter how big or small. Trained call takers listen and offer advice, support and information and tell you where to go for more help.
ParentLine Scotland can be contacted on 08000 28 22 33 or email email@example.com for support and advice.
Jill Cook, CHILDREN 1ST, Edinburgh
The fact that Iceland’s residents have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new Constitution, written by a Constitutional Council of 25 citizens who gathered feedback through social media, sets a potential example for an independent Scotland to follow.
And such a written constitution becomes increasingly relevant since the SNP’s conference vote for Scotland to assume NATO membership on independence, on condition that nuclear weapons be removed.
The process to draft a new constitution began after the country’s 2008 financial meltdown prompted calls for reforms. And the ballot included six questions written by the Constitutional Council, to which voters could either respond ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
In July 2011 the Constitutional Council presented its draft to Parliament. The text, consisting of 114 articles, has been put together with feedback gathered via social networking websites Facebook and Twitter.
News media have dubbed the new Icelandic basic law as the world’s first “crowdsourced constitution”. Initial results showed that 66% of participants voted in favour of a Constitution drafted by the Council and nearly half of the island’s 235,000 eligible voters participated.
As our nation debates the pros and cons of independence, a written consitution should be key for a newly independent Scotland and include a time-bar on the removal of nuclear weapons as a condition of NATO membership.
Alex Orr, Edinburgh EH10 4JT
WAR PENSIONS - DID YOU KNOW?
As an introduction to Remembrance Sunday you may consider it appropriate to remind your readership that organisations such as The Royal British Legion Scotland are here throughout the year to assist Veterans who are in need particularly at a time when so many of our servicemen and women are in various conflicts situated around the world.
In particular, we offer a free war pensions advisory and advocacy service which assists Veterans to claim a disablement pension or gratuity for injuries or medical conditions that have resulted and which are attributed to or aggravated by their former or existing military service.
Perhaps a little known fact is that you do not have to have served in a war to submit a claim.
Neil John Robinson,
The Royal British Legion Scotland
New Haig House, Logie Green Road
Edinburgh EH7 4HR
EDITORIAL - FOOD BANK
The reality of losing your job, or finding yourself under tight financial constraints was brought into sharp focus this week with the news that a food bank is being set up in the Western Isles.
Changes to the welfare system, fuel poverty, as well as the squeeze on other household essentials, mean that some of the region’s residents can no longer cope.
The move is a shocking one, as there is a perception that the kind of poverty which prompts such an organisation to be set up is more in line with large mainland cities.
However it seems that is no longer the case – in a developed country it is a scandal that its people cannot afford to feed themselves correctly – the causes of this should be examined by Government and tackled effectively. The poorest and most vulnerable in our society should not have to rely on the resources of charity.