Gazette Letters May 17th

Luskentyre CLEARED

Luskentyre beach, Harris, has been named as one of the world’s top beaches by an influential travel magazine.

However, there is no mention that the whole population of the area was brutally cleared in 1839 by the tyrannical landlord the Earl of Dunmore.

The British government approved of this Clearance as they authorised the use of armed troops and baton wielding police to assist the landlord to evict unarmed men, women and children.

The five local men who led the determined resistance to the expulsion were arrested and imprisoned without trial.

Many of the descendants of the evicted Harris crofters are now domiciled in Australia, Canada and the USA. The Clearances were short-sighted and unjust and resulted in the Highlands becoming the largest man made desert in Europe.

Today the empty glens and deserted beaches in the Highlands and Islands are cenotaphs to the native population who were evicted and exiled.

DONALD J MACLEOD, Aberdeen AB22 8WY

REDEFINING MARRIAGE

It was gratifying to note that the Gazette’s internet poll last week returned such a large percentage in opposition to the Scottish Government’s plans to redefine the legal position on marriage.

In this matter the law has remained virtually unchanged since Lord Penzance gave his ruling in 1866 that marriage is ‘the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others’.

The problem with polls, however, whether internet or otherwise, is that they disguise the fact that moral issues cannot be decided by majority.

Right and wrong cannot be judged on a show of hands. The morality of marriage requires a higher standard, and it is the standard God gives us in the Bible: a man must cleave to his wife and they become one flesh.

If the biblical position on marriage is forfeited, and the law redefined, then what is to stop us legislating for polygamy, or for marriage between siblings?

I hope that the Scottish Government will make it a matter of conscience to legislate for what is right, whatever clamour there may be to change the law in this instance.

The consequences of redefining what marriage means are unthinkable. But I hope too that the Christian people of Scotland will make it a matter of prayer and concern that the issue has been raised at all.

(REV DR) IAIN D CAMPBELL, Branahuie

STRAYING LIVESTOCK

I am glad to see the police have decided to raise public awareness to straying livestock, “following a number of near miss road incidents in the area and a number of calls from members of the public” (Police files Stornoway Gazette May 3rd 2012).

I am also glad to read that it is the responsibility of crofters and livestock owners “to have livestock appropriately penned”.

I think it is safe to assume that sheep are the most serious threat to road-safety in the islands and that it is highly irresponsible of any crofter to allow his livestock to wander at liberty on the public highway, especially when both sides of the road are fenced off.

Apart from the dangers to motorists, and especially motor cyclists, there is also a health hazard from sheep faeces and tick-bites, an issue that should be given strict attention by the Environmental Health Department.

I have for many years highlighted those dangers to various departments including the Police, the Crofters Commission, Grazings Committee, and the Environmental Health Department at the Comhairle, also through the columns of your newspaper.

All my attempts have been to no avail and always seem to be treated with apathy or contempt.

Several serious and fatal accidents have already happened on Highland roads in recent weeks and months involving motor cyclists and I have no doubt that this is another one just waiting to happen, I have no wish to state in a follow up letter “I told you so”.

Many tourists visit these Islands throughout the year and are not used to the road hazards in the islands, a case in point being the recent accident to a family visiting Harris.

No effort should be spared to prevent any further accidents, to use the old adage “prevention is better than cure” but there is no cure for fatalities.

ANGUS MACLEOD, Tolsta Chaolais

ACCOUNTABILITY

Now that the dust of the election has settled and the structure of local government for the next five years is in place, let’s raise a query! How can we, the electorate, make informed choices which candidates will actually represent our interests because that’s what we think we’re voting for?

In the run up to this last election, there was no information available to us about sitting councillors’ record of attendance at meetings – once elected they could have been a.w.o.l. from Comhairle meetings for the whole term for all we knew. Neither was there much information out there as to how they had all voted on the issues of the time.

Election leaflets, although looking good, had little meat and some aspiring hopefuls produced neither leaflets nor themselves at the doors!

Where’s the accountability? Comhairle Meeting Minutes give attendance figures but when and where are they available to the public?

Even if available, making sense of them is hard work unless the reports that were before councillors are there, too.

Is the level of public information about Comhairle nan Eilean’s performance going to stay at this level for the next five years?

A. MACKINNON, Uig

WARD SIZE

Page six of last week’s Gazette showed pictures of the motley crew making up the new Comhairle (only three lady members!)

I am sure we all wish them well in the daunting tasks facing them.

Page six also showed the map of the ward boundaries, the make-up of which is to say the least bewildering.

The three members in Point, the three members in Loch a Tuath and the four in West Side/Ness can go from one end of their ward to the other in about 20 minutes, or less.

Spare a thought, then , for Ward four ( Uig and North Lochs) which, like Point, has three members.

This ward covers Airidhbhruaich, Balallan, Laxay, Keose, Soval, Leurbost, Crossbost, Ranish, Grimshader and up to the Arnish road end.

No, that’s not all - it covers Achmore, Lochganvich, the whole vast area of Uig/Bernera , Garynahine, Callanish, Breasclete, Tolsta Chaolais , Doune Carloway, Carloway (I’m not sure about Shawbost).

It doesn’t make sense how those boundaries were decided (ward three Harris and South Lochs is an equally absurd set-up).

How does the Comhairle expect the constituents in ward four to get the same level of attention from its three members (who, I know, will give of their best ) as that afforded to Point constituents from their three members - it is impossible.

And don’t let me go down the road of asking why Stornoway has eight members!

No wonder areas of North Lochs have been neglected. I invite members from other wards to take a drive into Grimshader, Ranish and Crossbost - drive carefully because some of those roads are the same as they were 60 years ago.

That is only one example of deprivation. I also invite some (or all) of the eight members in our neigbouring ward (Stornoway) to attend our next meeting of North Lochs Community Council on 29th May at Sgoil nan Loch to pledge their support for the three members in ward four - they need support.

DONALD MACKENZIE, Achmore, HS2 9DU

WARD REPRESENTED EQUALLY AND FAIRLY

Firstly can I thank all the people who voted for me. I hope to justify the faith they have placed in me and do my best to serve my ward.

May I assure Martin Taylor that all three councillors , despite their geographical location, will ensure that Berneray North Uist and Benbecula will be served equally and fairly to the best of their abilities.

Lastly can I thank Martin for his kind words and wish him well in the future.

NEIL BEATON, North Uist HS6 5ED

WORKING FOR GOOD OF COMMUNITIES

As newly re-elected Councillors we would like to thank the people of Stornoway South for giving us the honour of being your representatives on the Comhairle over the next five years.

We would also like to thank the many individuals and organisations who helped out during our campaigns. Your help is much appreciated.

We would like to assure the public that as your representatives we will work on behalf of all people in the ward and the wider Western Isles for the good of our communities.

Cllrs -ANGUS CAMPBELL

CHARLIE NICOLSON

ANGUS MCCORMACK

Comhairle, Isle of Lewis

ENCOURAGE MOTOR HOMES

I write to let you know that we hired a motorhome in August 2011 and did a Hebridean Island Hop from Lewis to Barra.

We had the most amazing holiday and after several more conventional holidays on Lewis in the past have decided that a motorhome is definitely the way to see the Islands as the weather ceases to be a problem.

We write to encourage planners, local business people and ordinary residents to do everything possible to encourage motorhomes to the Outer Hebrides as they can bring so much revenue to the islands.

We understand that there was some coverage in the local press last year expressing the view that motorhomes did not contribute to the local economy.

We therefore want Islanders to know that in addition to the cost of our Cal Mac expenses, we spent over a thousand pounds whilst on the islands which benefited all the communities we passed through.

We enjoyed our Hebridean holiday so much that we have invested in a motorhome of our own so that we can return to these beautiful islands again.

We therefore encourage you to continue to welcome motorhome users and consider their needs in planning future services.

ALASDAIR and WENDY MURRAY, Angus, DD7 6LQ