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OPEN LETTER TO LEADER

Dear Angus,

Please can I ask if there has been any partnership or collaborative working between three Islands Councils and Highland Council with regards to the pricing differential of supplying electricity to the Highlands and Islands applied by SSE.

If not, can I urge such an initiative to put forward a case on behalf of every household in the Highlands and Islands by each local authority and for this to be prioritised as a matter of urgency.

Fuel poverty levels in the outer Hebrides are at an unacceptable level and lowering the costs of electricity would be a step in the right direction in addressing the problem, I look forward to hearing from you,

Cllr. Gordon Murray

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar offices

CONTINUE IN AUSTERITY

Your correspondent last week from Bishopbriggs (Letters October 30th) although claiming no allegiance to any political party leaves us in no doubt of his Unionist credentials.

Their fear of losing Scotland and its considerable wealth comes through in the need to keep on trying to convince us that although we started out with half of the North Sea oil and gas just like Norway we are a basket case, so it would be worth asking why that should be, given all such powers over it, reside in Westminster.

He equates Scotland’s NHS with Ireland’s, yet we are a much wealthier country, and could continue to fund what we have now. There never was any risk to our health service.

Unfortunately the letter then starts to denigrate the SNP and calls Alex Salmond a liar and dishonest.

By this correspondent’s own admission they are of pensionable age and through polling statistics we know that at the referendum it was this demographic grouping who were the most ill informed in the argument.

This group in effect have said to the rest of the populace. No! You cannot build a better society, we won’t let you, and by the way you will continue to live under the coalition’s austerity, and you will continue to fund our pensions and benefits out of your current taxation for the rest of our lives. As a pensioner myself I disown these views and would be ashamed if I was thought to be a No voter.

Roddy Maclean

South Lochs

POWERS NEEDED

Following the Referendum, We have discussed with several friends actively involved with community politics in the Highlands and Islands as to what powers we expect to be devolved to Scotland,as well as our demand for the further devolution of powers to the Regions and communities within Scotland.

Firstly, Home Rule should mean just, with all powers transferred from Westminster to Holyrood, apart from Defence and Foreign Affairs - about which matters the Scottish Parliament should be fully consulted and involved.

If this is not acceptable, then we submit the following:

We need strong powers to improve Social Justice in Scotland and to be able to reduce the inequalities of Health as well as equalities of Education and Employment opportunities.

These powers need to be devolved further to local communities in the Highlands and Islands Region.

Including:

The Crown Estate - the full devolution of powers to manage the asset as well as to benefit from the revenues. These powers to be devolved to the Region and local communities in accordance with the agreed position of the five Highlands and Islands Councils of December 2011.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency - to be devolved so that a Scottish MCA could work with the SFRS, SAS and RNLI to provide a more effective Rescue and Emergency service in Remote and Island communities. We need

to return an Emergency Tug to cover the Minches to protect our marine environment.

The DWP to be devolved to negate the Bedroom tax (of relevance only to London) but also to allow a constructive link between benefit support and access to further education - especially to assist students with rural deprivation, transport and child care.

EU - the need to stay in and to be exempt from any right wing English in/out referendum. EU funding and regional initiatives have brought great benefit to our Region. Scotland needs a direct voice in all EU Agriculture and Fishery negotiations.

Energy- control of OFGEM to control transmission/ distribution lines, renewable incentives and energy costs.

Within Scotland:

NHS - the need to fully support rural health issues including RGHs and GP recruitment.

Land Reform and the mitigation of tax concessions for absentee owners.

Tax devolution to allow for Tax for services to be raised locally by Local Authorities. This will need a review to include Local Income Tax, Business rates, Property Tax and Land Value Tax

Dr Michael Foxley (past Leader of Highland Council, Board member of UHI,NHSH and SFRS) And Simon Fraser Isle of Lewis.

(also colleagues and friends from the Highlands and Islands)

NEW OPPORTUNITIES

For me, one of the highlights of the referendum campaign was when

Nicola Sturgeon debated against Johann Lamont in Stornoway Town Hall.

Since then, the membership of the SNP in the islands has more than trebled.

Now, after being nominated as SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon is set to

become Scotland’s First Minister in a few days’ time. I am confident

she is by far the best person to take our country forward.

Scotland is a different and more confident country after the

referendum. I am as disappointed as any Yes supporter that we didn’t

secure a majority for independence, but we now have the promise of

significant new powers for Scotland from Westminster.

Indeed, the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that these powers

would be “as close as a federal state as is possible” and a “modern

form of Scottish home rule”.

Knowing Nicola, I know she will work to hold Westminster to these

promises, and see that the signs of slippage we are already seeing

from some Labour and Tory politicians are addressed and halted.

I know too that Nicola will be a champion for many of the issues that

people in the islands raise with me, from fuel poverty to jobs and

petrol costs.

And her record as a Minister means she has the respect from MSPs

across the political divide.

That’s why I have backed her nomination for leader.

Of course not everyone agrees with each other in Scottish politics

(that’s what makes Scotland a democracy), but I believe Scotland and

the islands both now have new opportunities, with a new First

Minister, and a new political era for Scotland.

Alasdair Allan MSP

EDITORIAL - WAIT FOR NEW FERRY SERVICE

So the wait goes on for the new Stornoway to Ullapool ferry the MV

Loch Seaforth.

The vessel is currently in Germany for her final fitting out and is

due back in Scotland in the near future to begin crew familiarisation

and berthing trials.

But it could be December or even into the new year before she will be

available for service due to ongoing harbour works at Stornoway.

Earlier this year it had been widely reported that the vessel would be

starting service in September with no mention in regards to the

crucial berthing facilities at the harbour.

With the harbour works only beginning in April and expected to take

eight months it seems that a September start was never really on the

cards.

Now the vagaries of an island winter may push the start date back

again much to the disappointment of islanders.

If you would like to comment on or write a letter on this subject or

any other please contact me at: news@stornowaygazette.co.uk