Stornoway Gazette Letters 2/5/13

Spring is here! This image was taken by 15 year-old Greg Macintyre from Glasgow when he was on a recent trip to Benbecula.'If you would like to contribute your photos to our Beautiful Islands feature email: news@stornowaygazette.co.uk. Include your name, where you are from, where the picture was taken and what inspired you to take it, as well as any technical information about the picture.
Spring is here! This image was taken by 15 year-old Greg Macintyre from Glasgow when he was on a recent trip to Benbecula.'If you would like to contribute your photos to our Beautiful Islands feature email: news@stornowaygazette.co.uk. Include your name, where you are from, where the picture was taken and what inspired you to take it, as well as any technical information about the picture.
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WANT TO HEAR FROM MP AND MSP

The Western Isles Constituency Labour Party (WICLP) notes that our local MP and MSP have spoken at last about the RET fuss the SNP created.

Instead of accepting responsibility for this debacle, Mr MacNeil attempts to shift the blame on those who allegedly benefited from it, saying that they are the ones who allowed ‘an unfortunate ambiguity to arise’. Dr Allan tries to distance himself from ‘the Government’ on this occasion, ignoring the fact that he has a major role in the way that body handles its affairs.

Rather than uttering weasel words, it would be better if Dr Allan and Mr MacNeil accepted responsibility for the cack-handed way in which this entire affair was handled and offered an apology to the Outer Hebrides Commerce Group who have been maligned unjustly in this matter over the last year.

Instead, we have an attempt by both the MP and MSP to duck, dive and dodge all responsibility for this matter. And a failure, too, to communicate with the community they were elected to serve. The inordinate length of time taken to publish this report underlines this.

They still have to comment though on the huge pay cut they want to inflict on some CalMac workers.

The WICLP now also notes with deep concern the SNP Government’s plan to close island courthouses.

The SNP wants to shut them and make all people involved in court cases travel to the mainland or use video links.

Ten out of the present 49 Sheriff Courts and seven Justice of the Peace courts will close in January 2016 under proposals approved by SNP Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

This is despite the fact that the country’s Sheriffs’ Association has described his scheme as ‘fundamentally flawed’ and ‘not feasible’.

Even the SNP Education Secretary Michael Russell MSP has declared that the loss of this service ‘will add to the hardship of island communities and – potentially – their depopulation’. He has approved these closures however; a betrayal of his constituents on the islands of Argyll and Bute.

Has Dr Allan MSP for the Western Isles allowed his loyalty to the SNP once again to outweigh his local duties and the welfare and employment of the people of his constituency?

The Western Isles Constituency Labour Party demands that our locally elected SNP parliamentarians Angus B MacNeil MP and Dr Alasdair Allan MSP issue a statement immediately clarifying their stance about SNP plans for island Courthouses to close, and what they will do to safeguard jobs and fair justice in their constituency.

MATT BRUCE, Chair of Western Isles Constituency 
MR MURRAY’S COMMENTS

Mr DS Murray is continuing with what is becoming a rather odd obsession with our MP. His statements are wide of the mark and untrue. As leader of the SNP group of councillors, I am in contact with our MP and MSP regularly.

Strangely, I am told that when Mr Murray meets Mr MacNeil in person, he is courtesy personified but when hiding behind a keyboard, Mr Murray is transported into a raging demagogue.

I think with the fine weather approaching, it might be useful to take up walking in the evenings to help overcome this sad obsession which is turning him into a laughing stock of the islands.

DONALD MANFORD

Councillor Barraigh, Bhatersaigh, Eirisgeigh agus Uibhist a Deas

LABOUR’S HYPOCRISY

It is with some astonishment we read the Labour party’s hypocrisy regarding RET.

In the Western Isles, during their time in office, they told the people that they couldn’t help with ferry travel and fares, as it would be seen as showing favour to the Western Isles. When the Scottish Government introduced RET, the Labour Party still claimed that it was unfair on the Clyde and other west coast ferry services.

What is more breathtaking, is when we see what the Labour Party and the independent Labour Councillors really think of lifeline services in the Islands, for it was they who voted to sever flights to the Southern Isles, and all the chaos that has followed that decision.

There was a phrase used by the Labour Party to sum up RET, and those five words will forever haunt them - “the economics of the madhouse”.

Behind almost all unfair taxes, like the bedroom tax, and at the root of every economic crisis, we find the Labour party, their leader Ed Miliband has even gone on record saying: “Are our problems so deep that NOBODY can actually make a difference to them?” My emphatic answer is yes.

Well he should know, as it was his party that took us to where we find ourselves today, we now also have the man who piloted us into the economic abyss telling us we are “better together”!

RET is here to stay for cars, small commercial vehicles and passengers in the Westerns Isles. RET has been rolled out to the Sound of Barra and Sound of Harris, and will be rolled out to other routes throughout Highlands and Islands by 2016.

With more cuts coming down the line from Westminster, the only way to protect, and improve our services, is to take matters into our own hands and vote Yes in 2014.

JOHN MACDONALD, Convener Lewis and Harris SNP

PARKINSON’S AWARENESS WEEK

Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological condition for which there no cure. The symptoms, usually characterised by a progressive deterioration in movement functions, are controlled as far as is possible by various medications.

Research by Parkinson’s UK, the leading U.K. Parkinson’s charity, has indicated that there is a general lack of understanding of the condition which has led to many instances of people with Parkinson’s being treated badly. The primary purpose of Parkinson’s Awareness Week is to raise awareness of this problem.

Our support group, Parkinson’s Hebrides, ran the local campaign and we were quite taken aback with the level of awareness that already exists locally judging by the number of folk who stopped by our display stalls at the hospital on Wednesday and at Tesco on Thursday, who had a grandparent, parent, relative or friend who had or have Parkinson’s.

It was also evident by the generosity of the folk who contributed to our collection tins where over £400 was received in contributions.

Some of these funds will be retained locally to cover group expenses with the remainder forwarded to Parkinson’s UK to help with their work in providing support to individuals and groups, and research into this harrowing condition.

We wish to thank Ospadal nan Eilean and Tesco for allowing us space in their premises and all who took time to talk to us, took the information leaflets we were distributing and donated money.

Moran taing.

ANGUS MACLEOD, Co-ordinater Parkinson’s Hebrides

FUTURE OF KIRK

What a curious letter from correspondent Hazel Mansfield, who maintains that the exodus of ministers from the Church of Scotland to the Free Church has to do with emphasising cultural rights rather than attaining international development goals, with a piece about women’s rights thrown-in for good measure (Gazette 18.4.13).

The exodus Ms. Mansfield speaks of has not a thing to do with any of the foregoing, but is entirely a consequence of the Kirk’s General Assembly of 2009 backing the induction of openly gay minister to a charge in Aberdeen.

This Assembly decision drove a coach and horses through the Biblical position on homosexuality and caused many ministers and congregations to consider whether in conscience they could continue in membership with the Church of Scotland.

Some have already abandoned the Kirk and others may well follow, which in large measure will depend on the line this year’s Assembly takes on homosexuality when presented with the report it belatedly commissioned on the subject in 2011, and which report has been two years in the making and is now complete.

If ministers and congregations hoped this report would unequivocally back the Biblical position on homosexuality against all comers, it’s pretty clear now from media coverage that it doesn’t do that. Rather it will play directly into the hands of those of the Assembly who go with the world’s side rather than God’s side. The Kirk’s future is in very unsafe hands.

KEITH FERNIE, Inverness,

ERECT STATUE TO MAGGIE

When I owned my pub ‘The Whaler’s Rest’ (Stornoway) I had my own labelled whisky and called it ‘The Whalers Dram’. The whaling theme being because of our island connection with whaling in Antarctica and especially Leith Harbour, South Georgia.

I sent the first bottle to Baroness Thatcher in July 1999 and thanked her for saving my old whaling station and indeed the Falklands from Argentina. It was on our whaling station they landed on in the pretext of collecting scrap metal.

They were, I am pleased to say, removed pretty quickly by Baroness Thatcher and her Her Majesty’s Royal Marines. As it happens there it is 50 years this year since those gallant band of men affectionately known as ‘The Whalers’ last fished from South Georgia.

I also thanked Baroness Thatcher for saving us from that scoundrel Arthur Scargill during the miners strike and from the Unions during the demonstrations at Wapping against News International and the Murdoch Press. I happened to be part of the thin Blue Line during those extremely nasty and dangerous demonstrations.

I received a reply from Baroness Thatcher and if she was still our Prime Minister Alex Salmon and his useless cronies would run a mile and thankfully would keep running.

Abu Qatada would long ago have been taken to Jordan by one of her many Conservatives in the islands. Baroness Thatcher was the finest Prime Minister since Churchill.

She was honest which more than we can say about our present lot. The Council should consider erecting a statue in her memory in Perceval Square.

JOHN ‘Jock’ MURRAY, Gress

EDITORIAL - PROMOTING THE ISLANDS

We are just coming into the busiest time of the tourist season and with a little bit of luck the weather will soon smile on us to enhance the visitor’s experience.

This week we have featured several articles on subjects which could play a beneficial part in attracting tourists: the work being undertaken by the Outer Hebrides Tourism

Association is highlighted on page seven; the broadcasting of the ‘Night Owls’ radio show live from the Cabarfeidh Hotel on Monday is sure to help attract visitors from the

North of England where the show is most popular; and our page eight feature on the brilliant new BBC wildlife series ‘Hebrides - Islands on the Edge’, the series is bound to

persuade more people to travel to our shores.

In these times of economic strife let’s hope these various strands of promoting the Outer Hebrides hits the mark and the 2013 season breaks records on the tourism front.