Since the Labour Party’s banking fiasco, councils up and down the country have had to make difficult budget decisions. Our own council here, in the Western Isles is no different. What is disappointing to many people, is the way the majority of our councillors paid little heed to the SNP group’s budget proposals.
Their proposal if adopted would have protected jobs and our inter-island flights. The retrograde decision on inter-island flights will have a negative affect on external investment across the whole of the Western Isles. When trying to attract investment, a community’s infrastructure is critical.
Of the seven Southern Isles councillors, only Donald Manford voted to retain the existing air services. For the other six councillors to irresponsibly vote against their communities beggars belief.
Too many of these ‘Independent’ Labour councillors put their party politics before the people they represent, in an attempt to discredit the Scottish Government.
When I read a press article from former Labour minister Brian Wilson condemning the SNP Group and supporting the cuts, it is clearly evident that the whole budget decision was a Labour Party ploy.
All of the councils across Scotland are claiming that they are a special case and that they deserve more money from the Scottish Government. I have no doubt that in many cases there is some justification in their claims.
Unfortunately, since Labour gave our money to the bankers and the rich, the settlement from Westminster has been severely cut to accommodate the losses. While we are funded by Westminster, the Scottish Government (including future Holyrood Governments) will have little money to address such requests.
When looking at the settlements received by councils across Scotland, the amount given to the Western Isles was much better than that received by any other council. We are unlikely to see an end of these austerity cuts until we regain the levers of government by voting Yes to independence in the 2014 referendum.
Archie Harper, Point, Isle of Lewis HS2 0PU
STAND SHOULDER TO SHOULER - ‘NO CHANCE’! I read in the Stornoway Gazette last week that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s, Angus Campbell, wants me to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the Comhairle administration on their ill thought out cuts in flights to Stornoway, Benbecula and Barra Airports. The short answer is, “No Chance!”
In the same way as I did not stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the Westminster’s Labour Government when they threatened cuts, to take over 200 jobs out of Hebrides Range in Uist despite Scotland not getting its share of defence tax money spent in Scotland.
Also I would not stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the next Westminster Government of the Tory/Liberals who threatened to close Stornoway Coastguard with the loss of 20 odd jobs. I fought against these cuts.
It’s ironic that the majority of councillors at Comhairle nan Eilean hope to succeed with damaging cuts where others have failed. The message that the Comhairle administration is, probably unwittingly, sending out, is that transport subsidies do not matter.
If civil servants in Edinburgh were to be as reckless with our air transportation network as the Comhairle, we could see reductions in the level of ADS support, reductions or complete removal of some flights to the islands, as it would be only following the Comhairle’s lead. Not to mention the Post Office and mail planes.
The charge against the cuts was led by two Stornoway Councillors, the SNP’s Rae MacKenzie and Gordon Murray who presented an alternative balanced budget, deemed competent by the Comhairle Chief Executive and the Finance Director.
This would have seen no cuts for two years and in the meantime a restructuring at the Comhairle to protect front line services for the public. Doubtless they also understood that less people travelling to use services in Stornoway weakens services currently present in their wards.
Staggeringly all six councillors in Uist voted to cut services to their airport! A cut of nine flights a week! As Benbecula Airport now loses more flights than any other airport I have been asked many times in the last fortnight, why have they done this? After much thinking I really can see no rhyme nor reason as to why elected representatives when asked to vote on matter affecting their community, have so willingly gone and cut their own throats.
Pilots on the Twin Otter tell me that if they do not fly to Benbecula from Barra that they will have to carry 400 lbs more of fuel weight. This will probably mean two less passengers each way.
Did councillors know this before they engaged in economic vandalism? It is going to be more difficult for merchant seamen to locate in some of our islands as a result of drastically reduced travel options.
Again what thought was given to the effect on schools and health services? A nurse in Barra has told me that we are looking at the probable end of the possibility of blood transfusion on the island due what she described as “lunacy” from councillors.
Some in the council have imagined that while dismantling part of Scotland’s air network and “pockling” the cash, that the government will come in and give yet more money to develop more air routes on the west coast. Do they think the Transport Minister was born yesterday?
Some even naively thought the Health Board would fund 40% of the flights between Stornoway and Benbecula - goodness, even if they could do that they would face an immediate cut to the Health budget if they demonstrated so much excess that they could use spare health money to subsidise transport services the council had dodged out of.
Whatever the trap of thinking amongst the majority of councillors reminds of a similar episode in the late 1980s, when there was reluctance by the then council to build a road to Rhenigadale in Harris as not many people lived there.
Eventually, it was pointed out that the whole island case for extra funding at many levels is based on rurality, remoteness and disadvantage. Thankfully sense eventually prevailed and Rhenigadale got its road.
This time we have a spectre of thinking akin to a motorist who throws away his starter motor from the car engine on basis he only uses it for five seconds every trip and it is not cost effective. Eventually it dawns on the motorist of the interdependence of all the car components on the other. Let’s hope councillors see the damage they are doing and quickly amongst our communities.
Angus Brendan MacNeil MP
CRIMINALISE ALL SIN?
Having read the various “viewpoints” of Messers Campbell and Campbell, two ministers separate in identity and name in two different Island denominations, I really wondered why any true Christian church on earth would not wish anything less than “criminalise” everything that has the ugly stamp and stain of sin upon it.
Society does it when we violate its laws. When we commit a crime we become criminals and are criminalised for doing so. Why should it be anything less when we violate God’s laws? Every sin that has been outlawed in society, needs desperately to be recriminalized, not decommissioned like the boats in Stornoway harbour when they become old and rusty.
Following the shameful approval of same-sex marriage by 400 dizzy MPs in Parliament recently, I couldn’t help but notice the onslaught of ridicule, mockery and scoffing comments hurled at everyone who has, and rightly so, opposed this decision, and who continue to disapprove of these bizarre unions.
Despite the “ayes” of MPs they have brazenly ignored the 640,574 signatures, presented to them by the Coalition for Marriage campaign group, of those not wishing to redefine marriage. This is both disgraceful and undemocratic. There is no question that the UK Government is guilty of gross political immorality. Whatever anyone says, the sanction of these relationships is a deeply serious matter and will have inevitable repercussions for Christians, at least those of them who are genuine and not counterfeits.
Sincere Bible believing Christian will always disapprove and condemn sin, whatever name you give it: adultery, murder, fornication, drunkenness, lying etc.
The absolute truth of God’s word can never be altered or distorted about what it unambiguously states about it. God cannot be edited. The practice of sin needs to be repented of, the same as any other sin, and the only way to receive forgiveness is through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly, our society does not rely on the Bible for its moral truth. Instead it relies on humanistic and relativistic morals upon which it builds its ethical structures, as we’ve all been an eyewitness to of lately.
Although true marriage can never be redefined, it is damaging and destructive to see British MP’s trying to slaughter it through its equality agenda of political correctness. People forget that something like this already happened in the UK, at an unimaginable, scandalous and tragic cost.
In 1966, when Parliament was debating a bill over the Abortion Act, Mr David Steele, the architect of the abortion law, said: “It is not the intention of the promoters of the Bill to leave a wide open door for abortion on request.”
I don’t need to tell any Stornoway Gazette reader how wide this door has opened. Since the Act became law in 1968, 7.5 million abortions have been carried out throughout the UK (up until the end of 2011), 98% of which were for “social” reasons. This has been at least 98% of “abortions too far.”
Recently Education Secretary Michael Gove shelved his flagship plans to scrap GCSEs, admitting they were a “bridge too far”. Hopefully members of the House of Lords, along with all our dizzy politicians, will yet have the humility, decency and common sense to see that these same-sex knots are a “marriage too far”.
Donald J Morrison
Inverness, IV2 3HT
NORTHERN SOFTIES REPLY
With disbelief I read Alexandra Kingston’s letter, ‘Northern Softies’ (Letters, February 21st).
I spent all of August and the first week of September on North Uist, wearing shorts, a tee-shirt and flip-flops every day bar one wet day. I had no need to double-up on any clothes.
I recommend North Uist to Alexandra Kingston.
Graeme Longmuir (Rev)
LOOKING FOR OLD FRIENDS
I and my friend Ken Millar (wee Kenny) wish to contact any friends from Stornoway that knew us during the period from the mid 1970s until mid 1980s in order that we may meet in Stornoway.
Ken was a Tower Crane Operator and I was on the concrete squads slipforming.
Ken is trying to find the whereabouts of Alastair Campbell a fitter on night shifts and is hoping they get together for old times sake and also any Banksmen, Slingers and Riggers too, whilst I would like to see anyone that knew myself then during that time. We are not getting any younger and would appreciate anyone contacting us in order to arrange a reunion in Stornoway.
16 Cae Mawr, Llandudno,
Conwy LL30 2EW
01492 870638 (home); 07531076981 (mobile)
Ken Millar, Edinburgh,
EDITORIAL - DECROFTING ISSUE
With a hold on decrofting owner-occupier crofts now in place the Crofting Commission effectively has its hands tied until mistakes in the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 are corrected.
The legislation itself has been described as a “bag of nails” by Labour MSP Rhoda Grant, who says she will not be surprised if more mistakes come to the fore in the future. For the sake of crofters let’s hope that no more surprises are uncovered.
The Western Isles has a tradition of tenant crofters – limiting the effects this mistake will have locally – but it is essential that this is sorted out quickly. The last thing needed in any of Scotland’s Crofting Communities is a hold on house building due to such mistakes, which could make mortgages even harder to come by for younger generations.