Gazette letters June 21st

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New RADIO STATION

I was pleased to learn that Ofcom had recently granted a transmission licence for the proposed new Uist community radio station (An Radio), with temporary premises already identified in Balivaich beside where I reside.

This I understand was one of three such licences granted throughout the UK, with a further three rejected including one for Inverness.

I do hope that the funding application the LEADER programme is successful in order to develop the necessary infrastructure. Meanwhile it seems that many ideas have already been received by the radio project team including one from the writer that could perhaps involve a show dedicated to the late Roland ‘Buster’ Pearson, with my own chosen music as the initial programme on ‘Legends’ of the Rock Music Industry.

The indeed legendary Buster was housebound due to haemophilia, but courageously he edited the Radio Caroline magazine ‘Monitor’, and his devoted carer, the late Jeanne Cyra and I were once close friends through many letters to and from their South Benfleet home. Caroline reached ‘Loving Awareness’ as opposed to ‘Defensive Awareness’, a philosophy which our planet could well do with adopting at this present time if you ask me!

I wish the Local Development Officers in North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist who have been driving the project, along with the members of Uist Radio Ltd all the best in their efforts to bring ‘An Radio’ to fruition. Right on!

IAIN FREW, Benbecula HS7 5LQ

SCHOOL CLOSURES

The chronology of actions, and counter-action, in the matter of school closures, leaves me feeling utterly despondent in terms of the undoubted impact of both psychological and emotional damage now being inflicted on the children and families caught up in this maelstrom of decision-making.

The report by the CEO of the CnES to today’s Education Committee, refers to these critical time-lines:

14 January 2011

Scottish Ministers confirmed that closure would not be permitted, for varying reasons, in respect of the four schools.

8 February 2011

Chief Executive requested to seek Senior Counsel’s Opinion on the legal aspects of Scottish Ministers’ determination, and the possibilities for Judicial Review of these determinations.

29 and 31 March 2011

Education and Children’s Services, and Policy and Resources Committees, and the full meeting of the Comhairle, note the terms of Senior Counsel’s Opinion, authorise the Chief Executive to seek further discussions with Scottish Government and, in the event that these discussions were not productive, delegate authority to the Chief Executive, in consultation, to instigate proceedings for Judicial Review.

19 July 2011

Petitions for Judicial Review lodged by the Comhairle with the Court of Session.

13-14 March 2012

Hearing of the Comhairle’s application for Judicial Review before Lord Brailsford, in the Court of Session.

6 June 2012

Lord Brailsford’s Opinion issued.

Over 16 months have elapsed since the original decision of the Scottish Ministers stated that the closures of the four schools would not be permitted.

I fail to understand how it took nearly four months from CnES Committee decisions on 31 March 2011, to 19 July 2011, for the Petition to be lodged with the Court of Session.

Another eight months then passed until the Judicial Review (13-14 March 2012), and then another three months until we have a legal decision from his Lordship, which we hear is subject to appeal by the Scottish Government by the 27th June, and which the CEO of the CnES may then challenge! Has this process no ending in sight?

From the most recent report to Committee:

“7.4 It is recommended that authority be delegated to the Chief Executive to take such further incidental actions as may be necessary to conclude the action and, in the event that an appeal against Lord Brailsford’s decision is lodged, to defend any such appeal, following discussion with the Leader, Convener, and Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Education and Children’s Services Committee.”

Do our elected Members, Officers, and those of the legal fraternity have any consideration towards, or understanding of, the untold psychological damage now being inflicted on the children still being educated at the four schools in question now again threatened with closure (or perhaps not)?

When you start digging a hole it is sometimes pertinent to a consider when you should stop digging and consider all of the consequences, for all parties concerned.

I get the distinct impression that the Comhairle is now so deeply and obstinately entrenched in its stand-point, that it is now only about ‘winning’ or ‘losing’, and that the children being educated, and their parents, and of course all the teachers, are mere bystanders, left more perplexed than ever.

I recommend that the parents of children in the schools affected should now consider a formal complaint to Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Tam Baillie, on the grounds of ‘corporate abuse’.

They find themselves, through no fault of their own, in a never-ending intolerable legal wrangle, which will inevitably adversely effect their social, educational and psychological well-being, now and well into their future adult lives.

ANDREW WALKER, Isle of Benbecula HS7 5QR

DRIVING CONCERN

On Friday 16th June I was on one of my very infrequent visits to Stornoway I went into the Information Office to ask where I could have a new battery fitted to my watch and was directed to Smiths Jewellers on the lower section of Church St.

On making my way up Church St. on the left hand pavement I was suddenly astonished to see two cars coming down toward me with their offside wheels on the pavement, which at a guess is barely a metre wide.

So with my back to the wall I waited till the two cars and their respective wing mirrors passed me. A few steps further on and I had to repeat the exercise. Then another one.

Cynically perhaps, but maybe they thought it was better to risk hitting a pedestrian than to risk scraping along the three parked cars in that section of the street at the time.

It’s occurred to me since, that anyone coming out of one of the shops backwards, to close the door behind them, could suddenly turn round and walk into a moving car on the pavement.

We are always told pavements are for people when it comes to cars parking on them for example, but at least parked cars cannot hit pedestrians. In these days of increased health and safety issues it would be interesting to know if the Comhairle or the local police condone or just ignore such practices.

RONNIE McCORD, Isle of Harris

DIAMOND JUBILEE

I had the honour and pleasure of representing the Western Isles at St Paul’s Cathedral, last Tuesday for the National Thanksgiving Service as part of the Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Consequently, I was unable to attend the many and varied local Jubilee events which were held throughout the Western Isles.

Her Majesty’s wish that the Diamond Jubilee would be “an opportunity for people to come together in a spirit of neighbourliness and celebration” was certainly fulfilled within our communities as evidenced by the widespread media coverage of the Jubilee beacons, street parties, exhibitions and tea parties to celebrate the sixty incredible years of dedicated loyalty, duty and commitment given by Her Majesty The Queen.

As we know, the Western Isles holds a special place in the Queen’s heart and there is close affinity between Her Majesty and our islands.

The response by the various uniformed organisations, and particularly the Scouts Association and the Army Cadet Force Units, together with the Comuinn Eachdraidh, Residents Association, Hall Committees, Community Councils and many others, was a fitting tribute to Her Majesty’s outstanding service whose sense of duty, wisdom and values we acknowledge and treasure.

I would like to place on record my deep appreciation, admiration and profound thanks to all groups, individuals and communities throughout the islands who participated in our local commemorative events over the past two weeks.

The celebration of a Monarch’s Diamond Jubilee does not occur very often and few of us will have the opportunity of experiencing another Diamond Jubilee during our lifetime.

It was, therefore, a great privilege for me to convey the following message to Her Majesty on this special occasion, on behalf to the residents of the Western Isles:

“As Your Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant for the Western Isles, it is my immense honour and pleasure to convey the warmest congratulations and sincere good wishes of the residents of our islands on the joyous occasion of Your Diamond Jubilee.

We join the nation and the Commonwealth in wishing Your Majesty a most memorable and enjoyable Jubilee Year and hope that you may reign over us for many more years to come.”

ALEXANDER MATHESON Lord-Lieutenant.

Stornoway HS1 2RW

BIG STINK

Once again the ‘sewage’ from West Camp and the HIA terminal building has created a disgusting pong over Balivanich. It has even penetrated the shops and houses. We are smelling the bacteria which appears on the air after a visiting unit uses the residential and messing facility belonging to the MOD.

I have reported this problem over the past ten years by involving Scottish Water and SEPA. Scottish Water advised me that they are not responsible, but Thames Water are the managers of the MOD facility – obviously without success.

A few years ago the pipe on the shore was renewed to try and solve the outflow problem, but this, alas, did not prove successful.

I believe the MOD should be forced by SEPA to link up with the local sewage treatment plant and have their waste processed along with the rest of Balivanich and abandon the pumping of raw sewage onto our beach for evermore and allow the residents some peace from the horrible smell.

Holiday visitors are hard enough to encourage to come here and one wonders what it is doing to our health, especially the youngsters playing outside during this great spell of weather. It is now time for Community Health, SEPA and Environmental Health to show a bit of muscle and get the courts to force the MOD’s hand.

M. TAYLOR, Balivanich

Editor’s note: SEPA have indicated the ‘sewage’ smell is in fact from rotting seaweed.