Following MP Angus B MacNeil’s contributions to public debate is like playing a strange game of Trivial Pursuit.
There are his contributions to the House of Commons where he spends time musing on the strange notion of a Christmas carol for animals. (Check it out!) There are his various press releases where he hails the fall of 0.5% in the unemployment figures as some sort of triumph for the Scottish Government instead of - what it is more likely to be - a minor, statistical blip.
He even deprives a member of a ferry crew of work by announcing in an eccentric and unnecessary press-release that passengers should book their buses ahead of arriving on Ullapool quay. (Mind you, in this, he is doing a little better than his colleague, Dr Allan who merely ‘writes a letter’ when the onshore employees of Cal Mac are threatened with a 25% cut in their pay. Who knows? Perhaps he is helping to obtain a job for Mr MacNeil when his Westminster career has mercifully come to an end.)
In short, Mr MacNeil has a remarkable talent for sweating out the ‘small stuff’ or acting the pantomime horse, while failing in the serious side of his very well paid job as an MP, to communicate with the electorate about the major issues that directly affect our lives. With baited breath, we wait for any statement about the recent announcement on the continuing delay in the sub-sea cable across the Minch which is likely to have a much greater (either negative or positive) effect on the unemployment figures in the Western Isles than the 0.5% he trumpeted.
We wait, too, for any response to the concerns of the Outer Hebrides Commerce Group and their legitimate view that RET discounts on routes to the Western Isles have been binned by the SNP.
He also still has to provide any statement explaining why – unlike the vast majority of MPs and MSPs throughout the country – he is not in contact on a regular basis with the elected councillors of the Western Isles, leaving even the members of his own party Group exposed and uninformed. (We understand that, remarkably, only one meeting with the Council has ever occurred since he was elected to office – and that one, equally abnormally did not occur at the bequest of any of his constituents but of an outside concern. Would Mr MacNeil care to explain why this occurred…? )
His behaviour was particularly bad during the recent review of local authority spending cuts demanded of the Council by the Scottish Government. What is even more extraordinary is that, after his display of irresponsibility, he then pointed his finger at the Council and accused them of being to blame for making the wrong sort of budget savings.
As Mr MacNeil may recall, the counter used to play Trivial Pursuits resembles a cake in which different coloured segments are ‘filled’ as the game continues.
In Mr MacNeil’s case, this is certainly significant. He is more than a little guilty of having his cake and eating it!
Donald S. Murray, Quarff, SHETLAND ZE2 9EY
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 UK 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.
Angus Macleod, Co-ordinater Parkinson’s Hebrides, Garrabost, Isle of Lewis
Councillor Manford’s recollection of the budget amendment proposed by his colleagues differs somewhat from the reality (Gazette letters April 18th)
The amendment was actually based on cutting jobs, cutting economic development, cutting the ward fund and using over £2m of the Comhairle’s balances. This last move would have been imprudent to say the least. We already know there are pressures on the budgets for future years and that we will have to find further millions of savings.
Any proposals for restructuring the Comhairle’s organisational structures would not have saved any money at all in the current budgets.
Anyone who wants to see the reality of the amendment put forward by Cllrs. Rae Mackenzie and Gordon Murray can read it here: www.blogserver.cne-siar.gov.uk/wp-cnesleader/
Angus Campbell, Comhairle Leader, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis
HOUSE OF LORDS
I write concerning the £8.7m Scottish taxpayers pay to the 100 or so Scottish Peers every year. The House of Lords are an unelected body and are given the gift for loyalty to the predominately English House. However, there is no accountability to the people of Scotland and I therefore propose that the Scottish Peers are invited to Holyrood and questioned with an All Party Committee of MSP’s, and thereafter a vote if we wish to keep them.
In these hard times £9m would be better spent on the poorest of people and I have written to my MSP on this issue.
WJS Todd, Stirling
WHAT A LEGACY!
I am sure that most Scots would love to better themselves one way or another with the many opportunities that an independent Scotland would provide.
We will be given that choice next year and it is our duty to make the right choice.
Would you vote for the status quo and agree with the proposals of the Westminster Labour Party to make Scotland their ‘Treasury cash cow’ by making Scotland a ‘World Centre of Excellence’ for the disposal of highly dangerous nuclear waste from other countries that do not wish having this ticking time bomb on their own doorstep?
What a legacy to leave to future generations in what was once ‘Bonnie Scotland’!
Donald Morrison, Buckie, AB56 4NT
STROKE – THE SILENT KILLER
Earlier this month Baroness Thatcher passed away after suffering a stroke. She was just one of the 150,000 people who have a stroke each year in the UK – that’s a shocking one person every five minutes. In fact stroke is the third biggest killer in the UK.
But the people who survive strokes often end up with permanent disabilities. More than 250,000 people in the UK are living with severe disabilities caused by a stroke. Many stroke survivors find it extremely costly and difficult to organise a break - even for just a few days - because of their complicated care needs. As a result, around a third of all people with disabilities have never been able to take a break since they became disabled. This means that their carers are also in desperate need of relief and run the very real risk of becoming disabled themselves.
I work for Vitalise, a national charity providing essential respite breaks for people with disabilities and carers at our accessible UK centres. Each year we welcome thousands of people with disabilities and carers to take much-needed breaks with us. They often tell us how important respite breaks are in their lives. Just one short week a year can make the difference between coping and despair, between just existing – and really living.
But we couldn’t do what we do without the generosity and compassion of our supporters and we urgently need your help.
If you would like to make a donation to our essential work, information about our essential breaks, or details about how to volunteer for us, please call us on 0303 303 0147 or visit www.vitalise.org.uk.
Colin Brook, Vitalise, London N1 0QH
EDITORIAL - FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
Legislated in 2000, the Freedom of Information Act was created to allow the public the ‘right of access’ to information held by public authorities.
Around 120,000 request are made each year nationally, 60% of which come from private citizens, journalist requests accounting for 20% and businesses 10%.
As with many local authorities, Comhairle nan Eilean Sair welcomed the law’s introduction as a means to offer a more open and transparent view of council work.
Yet, implementing the Act’s mandates, and ever-increasing number of requests, takes time and man-power – aspects which have been put under increasing pressure over the past few years through, in part, cost-cutting measures at the Comhairle.
The island authority is trying its best in tough times, and residents, businesses and journalists can be rest assured that the council is set to improve the manner – and more importantly the time-scale – in which FOI requests are taken and answered.