Readers’ Letters - 22-1-15

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Shocking state 
of affairs

I wonder which one of the regular apologists for the SNP will take to the public prints to explain why we do not have two ferries on the Stornoway Ullapool route and why our island is going to be without an adequate ferry service between April and June.

A shocking state of affairs which even Mr Archie Harper and the SNPs recently appointed press officer David Wilson will have difficulty explaining. I do hope that your paper will hold our MSP and MP to account over the unacceptable situation we find ourselves in.

Donald MacKinnon

Arnol

Isle of Lewis

Croft building grant scheme

The publication of the Scottish Government’s delayed consultation on the future of the Crofter Building Grant Scheme is welcome.

However, its proposals will be met with disappointment by those who have a concern for the long term future of crofting and the sustainability of our remote and rural communities.

It is clear from the proposals that the Minister and her civil servants have no real feel or appreciation of the impact a properly funded scheme could have across the Highlands and Islands.

Its impact would have multiple economic and social benefits from stemming depopulation, attracting young families into communities and boosting the construction industry and other businesses.

The proposals in this consultation do nothing to address those critical economic issues.

A £6,000 rise in the building grant from the present £22,000 to the proposed top rate of £28,000 is a derisory sum.

Since the last increase in the grant ten years ago this small rise is already negated by the significant rise in the cost of building a house especially in the Western Isles where costs are some 25 per cent more than the mainland.

For those who doubted there was a desire on the part of Scottish Government officials to slowly do away with this scheme entirely, they need not look any further than the proposal in this consultation to change the improvement grant aspect of the scheme which sees it almost cut in half.

The present improvement grant application states applicants for example in the Western Isles can qualify for “40% of costs of the improvements up to a maximum of £22,000”. The consultation proposes “40% of the proposed £28,000”.

If for example you were making improvements of £50,000 you would qualify for 40% of that cost which is £20,000. However, under what is proposed if you were making improvements for the same £50,000 you would qualify for 40% of the top rate of £28,000 and receive £11,200.

That represents a significant cut of almost a half in the improvement grant at a time when there are a high number of croft houses that could be upgraded into modern quality homes.

If we want to tackle the highest levels of fuel poverty in the country cutting this improvement grant doesn’t contribute to it.

Properly funded this scheme could be the best model for social housing and address the issues of deprivation and fuel poverty.

There are many other aspects of the proposals that require further comment and I would urge all with an interest in improving this scheme beyond what is proposed by the Government to respond to the consultation by 31 March.

Councillor Donald Crichton

Back

Isle of Lewis

God’s friends

I was glad to see Rev. Iain touching on the Charlie Hebdo affair (Gazette 15.1.15). What a hellish thing to happen, quite literally, and what a dreadful price paid by the editor and staff.

It seems to me that to lampoon religion is no bad thing, indeed religion deserves to be lampooned.

I recall the late Dave Allen being something of a master in that department. So far as I am aware he was no cartoonist, but his jokes and sketches did truth a considerable service.

He exposed in religion that which was absurd and ridiculous, and then as now there’s assuredly no shortage of material to choose from. In this he was God’s friend.

And as for cartoonists, their drawings can make plainer statements in defence of truth than a thousand words, which makes them God’s friends too.

Keith Fernie

Inverness

Why was 
inter-connector not built?

So Matt Bruce of the Labour Party (letters 8th January) thinks there is a contradiction between the SNP’s policy on wind farms and the hard work by Angus Macneil MP on trying to get the inter-connector built.

Not so. The SNP strongly opposes Labour’s plan to cover much of Lewis with hundreds of massive turbines, destroying the environment, wrecking the tourist industry, damaging the value of homes and covering carbon-absorbing peatlands of global significance with millions of tons of concrete, simply to make profits for a handful of wealthy businessmen with no tangible benefit for islanders.

The SNP Government was right to refuse the plan in 2008.

A chilling implication of Matt Bruce’s letter is that, if Alasdair Morrison is elected this May, this windfarm application could be revived and the fight to stop it would have to be waged all over again.

On the other hand, the SNP supports the installation of much smaller wind turbine developments serving community organisations, small businesses, tourist and social facilities, schools, homes and crofts.

These are much less intrusive than Labour’s plan and, crucially, would allow ordinary islanders to make money by exporting electricity if the inter-connector were to be built.

In total, they could generate more than enough electricity to justify the cost of the inter-connector.

However the ideal time for the construction of the interconnector was the early 2000’s when the strike price was higher and before Labour’s mismanagement of the economy damaged the prospects for a UK Government subsidy.

The strike price has been cut to £95/Megawatt-hour by the Tory Government, and will be reduced further to £90 from 2017. It is these issues of the strike price and the subsidy on which our MP is lobbying UK Government ministers.

The early 2000’s was when Alasdair Morrison was the Labour MSP for a Labour Government in Holyrood and Calum Macdonald was Labour MP for a Labour Government in London. One of our neighbours was even the Energy Minister in London. So why was the inter-connector not built? Did Alasdair Morrison sit on his hands for eight long years and achieve nothing?

Dr David Wilson

Press Officer, Lewis 
branch SNP

Isle of Lewis

Holocaust Memorial Day

On Holocaust Memorial Day, on January 27th, hundreds of thousands of people will gather at over 2,400 events across the country to mark 70 years since the liberation of the Nazi’s most notorious killing site Auschwitz-Birkenau.

These events will allow people to come together to remember and honour the millions killed in the Holocaust and in subsequent genocides.

Candles designed by award-winning sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor will be lit at 70 special commemorations around the UK and at Auschwitz itself symbolically linking them on this important anniversary.

It is vital that we all remember and reflect upon the horrors of the past, and honour those who survived.

Many survivors will be speaking about their experiences at events in schools, in cinemas and local communities.

By hearing, seeing and sharing these powerful stories and memories, we are challenged to confront all forms of hatred and discrimination wherever we see them.

Play your part by attending a local event (see our local event details on page 7)

Olivia Marks-Woldman

Chief Executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

Making a difference

With the start of 2015, many people will be making their New Year resolutions and planning to make a difference, either for themselves or for others.

Whatever the reason – be it getting fit, participating in a sporting event, signing-up for a once-in-a-lifetime challenge, or supporting one of our national campaigns – National Doughnut Week or Humphrey’s Pyjama Week - The Children’s Trust would love to hear from you.

The Children’s Trust is the UK’s leading charity for children with brain injury, helping them to make the best recovery possible after a serious accident or illness.

The Children’s Trust has lots of fundraising activities taking place during the year.

We have places available in many famous running events –including half and full marathons - and would love to hear from runners who would like to run for us in the Great North Run, the Great South Run, Brighton Marathon, other regional runs or the Virgin Money London Marathon.

For those of you who are enthusiastic about taking on a special challenge, an 18-day Everest Base Camp Trek should tick the box!

Alternatively, if you are looking for a special event that will appeal to supercar enthusiasts and offer lots of entertainment for all the family, then The Supercar Event, held at Dunsfold Park – home of the famous Top Gear track - on 20th and 21st June is an event not to be missed.

For further details on all The Children’s Trust’s fundraising events this year, visit: www.thechildrenstrust.org.uk

Katie Roberts

Head of Voluntary Fundraising

The Children’s Trust

www.thechildrenstrust.org.uk