Gazette letters 6/12/12

CUDDY POINT:'A scenic view of industry overlooking Cuddy Point, Stornoway by Morris Macleod.'If you would like to submit a picture to our Beautiful Islands feature email your images to: news@stornowaygazette.co.uk. Include your name, where you are from, where the picture was taken and what inspired you to take it, as well as any technical information about the picture.
CUDDY POINT:'A scenic view of industry overlooking Cuddy Point, Stornoway by Morris Macleod.'If you would like to submit a picture to our Beautiful Islands feature email your images to: news@stornowaygazette.co.uk. Include your name, where you are from, where the picture was taken and what inspired you to take it, as well as any technical information about the picture.
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Have your say

CREATE A NEW MACHAIR

Over a number of years I carried out a series of tidal erosion studies to the beach at Lionaclete.

Having seen ‘An Corran’ the spit from Lionacleit to Gualan Island disappear almost overnight I became convinced that the solution to stopping the coastal erosion was not to open the causeway but to block it.

The problem is that the tide generally runs a half hour ahead on the west coast from the east coast. Thus on the ebb the east has to wait while the west empties. Since building the causeway the water concentrates to the Benbecula side.

This creates an ebb flow that washed away ‘An Corran’, generating a river at the north of the causeway and allowing sediment to build in the rest of the area.

Stopping this river would allow sediment to build further and eventually over a period of 20-50 years, say, allow for a new machair to be formed between South Uist and Benbecula.

Evidence of this can be seen at Europie in Ness. Where the machair has extended by about a half a mile since the 1960’s. Despite some thousands of tons of sand extaction taking place every year.

There would have to be a re-examination of the arrangement of water flows at Loch Bee but I am sure an easy solution could be found to solve this problem.

The storm surge of 2005 would have happened anyway as was witnessed elsewhere throughout the islands and the causeway made little difference to what occurred. Photos taken in the 1950’s of previous storms, before the causeway was built, show this.

I suggested at the time of the study that this scenario be fed into the models but I think my voice fell on deaf ears. If not, what did these models flag up; I would love to know one way or the other. Is the point of a study not to investigate every scenario?

Instead of looking at the negative should we not look to the positive and see the tremendous asset we with the help of nature could create.

Kenneth Morrison, Stornoway HS12HH.

PERSONALISATION AGENDA

In response to Margaret Engebretsen’s letter (November 29th) I would like to say I agree totally with her comments about children’s enthusiasm, discipline, concentration and self-confidence.

It is not anticipated that any of these attributes will be diminished by changes in the delivery of teaching, if the Comhairle agrees to implement the options currently in the public domain for consultation. Pupils would not be denied the opportunity to excel in any subjects.

Secondly, I would add that the Comhairle is committed to delivering its part in the Government’s strategy on the personalisation of services, including the use and availability of direct payments, so that individuals can arrange to purchase their own community care services.

But appropriate assessment and governance arrangements are essential elements to safeguard the interests of the individuals concerned and to ensure that the Comhairle meets its obligations to account for expenditure of public money.

The Comhairle is very interested in and committed to the personalisation agenda. In fact, at this series of Comhairle meetings, a report regarding these issues will have been considered.

The report outlines how this key agenda, including direct payments, will be further developed in the Western Isles. The report is available on the Comhairle’s website.

Malcolm Burr, Chief Executive Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

SUSTAINABLE AQUACULTURE

Stewart McLelland’s Trump-like rant in last week’s Gazette was wholly inaccurate, and it is very worrying that the CEO of a company with such grave responsibility for the stewardship of the environment should refuse to address a single point of fact we raised in our press release.

Yes, we dare to question him on what his company is doing and what is happening at local fish farms, and instead of answering the points raised he opts to construct a smokescreen of personalisation and lame caricature that will fool no one.

Mr McLelland also knows that this campaign has never and would never engage in criticism of individual fish farm workers. They are simply following their obligations as employees to a standard set by management.

If Mr McLelland had even bothered to read the readily available information about this campaign group, he would have known that we do not want a cessation of the industry locally. But shooting the messenger rather than addressing the facts is clearly how he plans to avoid the awkward truth, and we can tell him straight, it won’t work. Only the sustainable production methods we propose will give his industry the chance of a long term future, and the means securing jobs, too.

His company signs up to a code of guidance on good practice in farm fish production, established by the industry itself, and does so in order to secure planning permission for new sites. But that code of guidance is both ineffective and, due to such factors as the rapid spread of disease and the ineffectiveness of treatments for infestations, impossible for fish farmers to implement.

The reality is that the biggest threat the fish farming industry in the Outer Hebrides faces is not from anti-fish farm campaigners but from its own unwillingness to adopt sustainable production methods.

There are viable alternatives to the open net systems his company uses and which, if adopted, will secure employment and give the industry a the chance of a sustainable long-term future.

Amoebic gill disease and other biological challenges prevalent across the industry are the biggest threat to the long-term future of aquaculture, and the industry itself will be responsible for the loss of jobs and the harm to the economy locally that will follow when it is forced to cease production.

Mr McLelland clearly thinks it is wrong for people to care about the impact his methods will have on the environment and the economy, but why should he care? When it all goes wrong here he and his Norwegian shareholders can do what fish farmers have done across the globe, and move on to waters anew without a single consideration for local jobs, the local environment, the local economy and the mess they’ll leave behind.

Peter Urpeth, Outer Hebrides Against Fish Farms

EASY TO CRITICISE

Supplying services and equipment to the Scottish aquaculture industry forms a significant proportion of our business. As a company we employ 220 staff, including six on Skye and five in Stornoway whose livelihood depends, in part on the salmon farming industry.

That is why we felt compelled to write in support of an industry worth well over £500 million in sales value and which, according to the Scottish Government, employs over 6,200 people in Scotland.

We have a lot of experience in the aquaculture industry and we know at first hand that it is well managed and responsible. It is also a much needed source of jobs in areas where there is often limited alternative employment.

MacGregor Industrial Supplies is based in Inverness, but the jobs in our sales units in Stornoway and Portree are largely the result of the business opportunities the aquaculture industry provides.

It is very easy for people to criticise the salmon farming industry, but the critics never offer alternatives in terms of jobs prospects for local people.

By expanding our business we have created employment opportunities in Skye and the Western Isles and in this we are not alone, looking at the broad range of suppliers who cater for this industry.

We are happy to publicly state our support for the aquaculture industry which is so vital for the Highlands and Islands.

John MacGregor, Managing Director MacGregor Industrial Supplies Ltd

CANNOT CHERRY PICK YOUR ‘SCIENCE’

Following Mr Rushworh’s response to the letters of both myself and Mr Dand, I felt I should make some comment. Mr Rushworth’s point of view is convenient for anyone who wants gratification of their point of view, as is his method of arguing. Contrary to his beliefs, I was not singling out creationists as using bad science.

Journalists sensationalise facts but politicians do exactly the same all the time. To some extent, the attitude is endemic. Most people cling to the politicians edited version of ‘science’ so that they do not need to change their attitudes regarding climate change. Creationists are merely one group among many.

Firstly, I find that deeply offensive to be called an ‘evolutionist’ as if it was some sort of religious belief. It is not. I am a scientist and that’s not a religion, either.

Mr Rushworth accused me of being short on data. This is a fair point but that was merely a function writing to a public forum in which I assume many of the readers would be as disinterested in a extensive list of evidence.

My address is supplied and anyone may contact me for an informed discussion.

Scientific method is such that you should describe all the evidence without regard to the way you feel things should be. I am reminded of an anecdote by Richard Feynmann of an event that occured during the Manhattan Project.

“Tolman, Compton, Rabi, Oppenheimer and others were discussing how to separate the uranium. I could see that Compton’s method was clearly right but we went round the table anyway suggesting different ideas. I was getting antsy thinking “why doesn’t Compton repeat his argument?” When we’d finished the chairman Tolman said, “Well it’s clear Compton’s idea is best. Let’s get to it.” That’s how science works.”

This is unpopular with a layperson who may feel they are being blinded by science if they get the full picture and that there is a conspiracy if they are not. This sets things up beautifully for the creationists, politicians, conspiracy theorists and journalists alike.

The way creationists and others argue against science is to behave like a defense lawyer, presenting only the data that supports their client, changing their arguments as real world evidence undermines their point of view and conveniently forgetting prior statements that have been proven wrong.

With regard a specific example stated by Mr Rushworth, I wonder just how complex something needs to be before he would choose to invoke an overturning of the universality of the laws of physics. Physics is not negotiable. The Second Law of Thermodynamics applies all the time, not just to the limit of a person’s comprehension.

Similarly, while it may seem difficult to explain how the eye may evolve to convert light into electrical pulses to the brain the public should rest assured that a complete understanding of descent with modification provides a full explanation of how this could develop.

More importantly, how the human eye could evolve with its light sensitive cells on the retina orientated pointing backwards into the skull, when any sensible designer would have the pointing out of they eye, the direction the light is coming from, like they are in an octopus, has its full explanation in evolution. Mr Rushworth’s explanation of ‘irreducible complexity’ suggests that the ‘designer’ made a mistake with our eyes but not the octopus.

There is no reason to invoke God as an explanation for the complexity of life unless you insist that the Bible must be interpreted literally.

Anyone is entitled to do this, of course and some do and hold it as a deep conviction. I suspect Mr Rushworth is one of them. However, if the Bible is your primary source of evidence, you may not cherry pick your ‘science’ and still call it such. If you want to talk evidence, you must consider it all.

There is no debate about this. That is just how it is and I will not be drawn further on this matter.

If you do this you must then accept that real world evidence is stacked heavily against the scriptures. I know several people who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible but accept the overwhelming evidence of science and that this is merely a test of their faith. I have utmost respect for this point of view.

At university, I studied physics, astronomy and geology alongside athiests, christians, muslims, hindus, sikhs and buddhists. Not one of them felt their beliefs may be compromised by science, the Big Bang Theory or evolution. I am constantly surprised that there are people who are.

R McCAFFERTY, Port of Ness, HS2 0TH

EDITORIAL - GIFT OF FOOD

The festive spirit of giving came early to Stornoway recently when the town’s Tesco store became a drop off point for a new foodbank for the area.

The reaction to the new project has been immediate and impressive with cage upon cage stacked high with food essentials to be passed on to people and families in need.

The Gazette first highlighted the setting up of a foodbank last month underlining a growing poverty issue in the Islands.

The fallout from the barrage of blows on the local economy and nationally is clear to see – businesses are struggling – people are laid off – public bodies are cutting their budgets (often meaning job losses) and the criteria for social security benefits tightens. Meanwhile fuel prices to heat your home and power your car continue to soar.

Many would criticise and query why a foodbank is needed when there is the safety net of social security, but in fact you don’t need much imagination to see how this could become an option for a person or family who has lost a job and is struggling to keep their home together.

If people would like to donate financially or food items they should contact the Foodbank organiserss at 37 to 39 Point Street, Stornoway.