Readers letters March 29th

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Population decline

As readers have been invited to give their views on the ever growing problem of the Isles economy and how its future is being perceived I personally believe that jobs are the main issue.

Unless some kind of scheme is forthcoming very soon to allow young people to acquire property with an interest free loan, or a very low rate loan, to enble them to compete when a suitable house becomes available we have not much hope of any survival with people staying on the Isles.

This would also be good for the Gaelic language and its true culture, as presently we are under siege in both our spiritual and cultural lives.

Having said that, it is also very apparent that the services that were once very localised like the Daliburgh Hospital, the local primary schools, the vetenary in South Lochboisdale and various grocery shops etc, have all gone due to the lack of children and animal numbers in those same areas; but principly due to the severe drop in larger family numbers.

And as life is generally a matter of supply and demand, and I do not know of any way you can legislate on people having a lot more children than at the present average, it looks like people have also had a hand in the current situation.

People vote with their feet and that is very easily seen with money and resources being spent on wordly items rather than on securing the future spiritually.

Here lies our big problem, it’s Good versus Evil. It’s wordly goods versus spiritual matters. Sadly it looks like the wordly stuff is gaining momentum. I often wonder if God is really sending us a message when he is not sending us the blessings we always expect to come to us: jobs, schools, medical, ferries and other services when we still worship the wordly goods/idols more than Him!

‘The choice is ours’ MR A CAMPBELL, Isle of South Uist

Campaign hijack

A few months ago I attended a demonstration against high fuel prices outside the Council Offices in Stornoway.

I was asked by Calum Ian MacMillan if I would sign a petition he was organising for fair fuels.

As Calum Ian is a Labour activist, and I am an SNP supporter, I asked him to assure me that this was not a Labour Party petition, which he did. I then signed the petition, as did several other SNP people including Alisdair Allan MSP.

Recently I watched a video from the Fair Fuel Campaign which featured Calum Ian himself and several other Labour activists.

One of them was going on and on about Alasdair Allan not doing enough (in his opinion), while waving that very petition which we had all signed.

This attack on Alasdair Allan, Angus MacNeil, the SNP and the Scottish Government went on for the rest of the video, which was more like a political broadcast for Labour than a fair fuel campaign.

I was furious that the campaign for fair fuels had been hijacked by people for their own narrow electioneering purposes, letting down all of us who have been trying to do something about this problem for a long time. This campaign was our only chance to speak as one island voice.

Their attacks on the SNP and its representatives are also misguided, for two compelling reasons:

Firstly, our MP and MSP have been tireless in their efforts to get to the bottom of high island fuel prices, and it was their work over many years that finally led to the new 5p fuel derogation being introduced.

This was despite several years of being ignored by Labour Chancellor (and occasional islander) Alistair Darling.

They have also held several meetings with Scottish Fuels management and persuaded the UK government to launch an investigation into potential fuel price profiteering in the Highlands.

Secondly, fuel duty, VAT and competition law are all matters reserved to the Westminster Government, and the Scottish Government has no control over them.

The boys in the video should have been complaining about the Lib/Dem coalition’s, slow pace of activity in these areas, and their own Labour Government’s failure to do anything at all while they were in power in London.

They should, of course, be complaining about the inaction of their own ‘independent’ Labour councillors.

What a terrible shame it is that the fair fuel campaigners have let us all down like this. I would urge them to change tack now and make this campaign inclusive again, before it is too late. This issue is far too important to the islands for them to divert it to their own narrow aims.

I fear, however, that the ‘independent’ Labour candidates for the new Comhairle have already decided to use it as a electioneering tool, and it is already too late to rescue the campaign from their clutches. I dearly hope that I am proved to be wrong. SUSAN DUNCAN, Stornoway

Chess event

After last year’s successful Simultaneous Chess display with Grandmaster Dr Colin Macnab, we have the opportunity of repeating the event this year with the current Scottish Champion Keti Grant, a woman Grandmaster, possibly on a Saturday in late July or early August.

Funding is of the essence and we have been promised ‘in kind’ support for the venue and advertising from An Lanntair.

We have to find the other costs of the fee, travel, food and accomodation. Approx £500.

At present, I am pursuing this possibility through the auspices of our chess club.

However, like chess, if at first you don’t succeed you sometimes need an alternative plan.

If our current endeavours don’t come to fruition, is there a chess aficionado out there who would like to support our worthy cause and perhaps participate.

Thank you. My Email:

ericblair103@btinternet.com

CALUM WALLACE, Ness

Concern about fares

As one of the largest private sector employers in Harris, we are desperately concerned about the impact of this week’s massive ferry fare increase.

I was very pleased to join the marchers at Saturday’s protest and delighted that all of our islands were so well represented at what was a remarkable articulation of islanders’ outrage at this ferry tax.

Tourism is hugely important to the economy of the islands. Many in Harris have invested heavily to improve facilities and make the visitor experience more enjoyable. We are in direct competition with the Highland west coast and particularly with the Isle of Skye, who have no ferry fares at all as a cost to their businesses – let alone huge hikes in already expensive fares. Indeed, in the case of Skye, they have had their bridge tolls abolished altogether.

We welcome RET on domestic vehicles which has increased numbers travelling to our islands but all of the supplies required to service them once here of course come in on commercial vehicles – up to six pallets a week in the height of the season for our own business.

It is at this point that we feel at a distinct disadvantage as visitors’ feel that everything is a lot more expensive and with these further increases we will be simply less competitive still. It will threaten the viability of many businesses. All we are asking for is a level playing field.

It is a direct hit on families and businesses and it will also stifle future investment now that we have learnt that another 50% increase will be imposed next year. The Government has to listen.

ANGUS J MACLEOD, Isle of Harris

Opposition leader’s unjustified complaint

Last Thursday at Question-Time, Labour Party leader Johann Lamont blamed 1st Minister Alec Salmond for nursing staff actions at the Royal Alexander Hospital for their failure to provide blankets to two of their elderly patients.

It has now been confirmed that there was no scarcity of warm bedding at the hospital at the material time . For the Labour Party leader to raise this issue at Parliament is purely opportunist and derogatory to our excellent Scottish Health Service, and only highlights their own lack of constructive ideas at the time of recession.This matter should have been addressed through the Health Secretary MSP Nicola Sturgeon.My late father was a patient on many occasions at the Royal Alexander and always found treatment there exemplary. Over many years whilst on duty as a Strathclyde police officer I was responible for whatever actions I deemed necessary to take ; certainly not the Chief Constable as Ms Johann Lamont seems to infer.

Donald J. Morrison, Buckie