After watching George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, deliver his third budget, I was amused at his deliberations.
Having examined thoroughly the corpse of the once thriving economy, at one time the greatest economy in the world, he stated that the one thing it needed was growth! I could have told him that in 2008 if he had asked me, and I didn’t even have the benefit of an Eton education!
Here we are, five years into the recession, with a nil growth, triple dip “zombie economy”, and it is so painfully obvious that the Westminster government’s policies are not working! This was a golden opportunity to try something new and daring, something that they have not done before. Why not reduce or remove VAT for one year and kick start the retail side of things, help the hard pressed shoppers and see what happens?
Why not reduce or remove fuel duty and give transport and hard pressed motorists a boost? At the moment, whatever we pay for a litre of petrol, a staggering 80 pence goes to the chancellor in tax for every litre sold!
I don’t think new ideas like this will be happening anytime soon, not when you have zombies in charge!
BARRA “NO MORE”
Question: When is an Obligation to provide a Public Service, no longer an “obligation?”
Answer: When it’s a “Life-Line” inter-island air service from the Isle of Barra to the Isle of Benbecula.
Definition of “obligation”: (n.) a moral or legal bond, tie or binding power: that to which one is bound: a debt of gratitude: a favour; (law) a bond containing a penalty in case of failure.
It appears we’re now staring in apoplexic dismay at the latter definition and having to accept an outcome of “…a case of failure”. Future travel arrangements will soon become rather problematic for all Health Board professionals and patients, contemplating all options, one being rather more costly flying from Stornoway to Glasgow to Barra (return).
Blame Game - The Comhairle have voted, in fairness, after an extensive period of consultation: our MP and MSP blame the Comhairle; our SNP Government blames Westminster; the SNP group of councillors who didn’t participate in the democratic process of consultation blame the Comhairle; the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament have deliberated … and will continue to consult, take evidence, and deliberate for months, if not years, to come.
The PSO Contract with the provider Loganair has been terminated and the service which has operated since 1975 will come to an abrupt halt next Friday. Our forefathers had a vision, quickly enacted - on 19 August 1975 the council minutes referred to the proposed inter-island air service, and a couple of months later they mentioned the inaugural flight of the Loganair service.
Scottish Government Action
“The Scottish Government has indicated that air PSOs …are a matter for local authorities”.
Question in Scottish Parliament:
Question S4O-01851 - David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Lab) Date Lodged 20/02/2013: To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has to review the number and range of public service obligations for fragile air services in the Highlands and Islands.
The Minister for Transport and Veterans (Keith Brown): The Scottish Government currently supports three PSO air services from Glasgow to Campbeltown, Tiree and Barra… but we have no further plans at this time to review the number and range of air services subject to a PSO in the Highlands and Islands (ie Barra – Benbecula)
The cost of the air subsidy on the Barra to Benbecula route is reported as being £148,000 (five days per week service). Pro rata, presumably about £90,000 for a three days per week service, although bums on seats may be more on a less frequent service, and therefore less subsidy required.
The Barra plane service is presently co-ordinated with the connection to the Benbecula to Stornoway service, which is reducing from next month to a three-day weekly service.
I have said elsewhere, and in correspondence with the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretaries, that the Barra/Benbecula service should also be maintained on a similar basis, for many obvious reasons. This is the least we can do to maintain a vital air link with Barra and to honour faithfully a long-standing, unimpeachable “obligation” to our friends and neighbours.
It will not have escaped the notice of many island citizens that the cost of present litigation in the Court of Session between the Comhairle and the SNP government on the vexed issue of closure of rural schools is running at a figure in excess of £100,000 and the QC’s meter still ticking. What a waste of scarce public money, for whichever public agency has to pay the final legal bill.
The Proclaimers should be asked to write another verse to their much acclaimed “Letter from America” – Barra no more. In addition, the Vatersay Boys and Runrig should be composing their own versions, preferably in Gaelic, with due respect observed towards the sensibilities of our political masters. This may contain the words, suitably translated: “A plague on all your houses”. Other comments on a postcard please.
Andrew Walker, Isle of Benbecula
In his autobiography published in 2002, the former Bishop of Durham David Jenkins tells how he was “repelled by the narrow-minded dogmatism and arbitrary authoritarianism of so much Christian discourse and behaviour”.
When I read the letters from your correspondents the Reverend David Campbell and Donald Morrison (Stornoway Gazette, 21 March) I see exactly what Bishop Jenkins meant.
Alistair McBay, National Secular Society, Edinburgh EH3 8EJ
UNFIT TO RUN A TAP
It seems that Comhairle nan Eilean is not the only place where people have problems with those who are meant to serve them.
I, and a growing army, also have serious problems with the Scottish Government at Holyrood and Mr Alex Neil MSP, who is currently their master bulldog over the consultation document in the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill.
In his ministerial foreward he boastfully states: “The Government has announced that we will proceed with the introduction of same sex marriage and the religious registration of civil partnerships. This followed a consultation in 2011 which received over 77,000 responses – the largest ever carried out by the Scottish Government.”
Nowhere in this document, or any other, does he state that the Scottish Government also received the highest number of formal objections to these mergers which the wise people of Scotland quite clearly do not want.
Mr Neil flagrantly omits the most significant statistic from the 2011 findings. Of the total number of 77,508 responses, some 65 % unambiguously voted against any change to the definition of marriage. In other words “no” was the majority answer of the growling public. Is it me, or do MSPs have to stand in a queue outside Specsavers to have their eyes tested, or is it a language problem with their English?
What MSPs are doing, in not listening to what the people of Scotland are loudly saying about these unions, is both disgraceful and undemocratic. For the Scottish Government to unashamedly march forward, without the support of the people they represent, leaves them guilty of gross political immorality.
With the consultation process now ended, I hope that the Scottish Government will now finally listen to the increasing numbers who are calling for the same-sex marriage proposals to be finally scrapped.
Having considered them in the first place one wonders as to how on earth such a wacky Government can decently think of independently running a nation like Scotland. Our grand little country deserves better than that. If they are crying out to oust Councillors at Comhairle Nan Eilean on Sandwick Road, a greater ousting is promptly needed at the Scottish Parliament building in Holyrood Park. Members there are not only unfit to run a village corner shop, they are also unfit to run a tap.
Mr Donald J Morrison, Inverness, IV2 3HT
MAKE A STAND
7 April 2013 will see the Holocaust Martyrs’ & Heroes’ Remembrance Day in Israel, an area visited recently by President Obama who spoke to encourage a more broadminded approach to peace talks between warring neighbours. Every day on the News we find reports of vicious brutality, and see horrific pictures of what man is capable of doing to his fellow beings in nearly every region and nation. It is vital to learn from episodes such as the Holocaust experience and to recognise how these situations can bubble under the surface, can get out of control, and can eventually explode into hatred and violence, if unchecked.
This coming week sees the celebration of Passover – a time when Jews remember their deliverance from such tyranny many many years ago. We also see the celebration of Easter – a time when Christians remember that most famous of all Jews, and their deliverance from a different kind of tyranny still available today to those who seek it.
Ken Maclennan’s letter (Gazette March 7, 2013) made interesting reading regarding support received in Stornoway for the Holocaust Memorial Day event exhibited there and subsequently learning that part of that exhibition would tour Scotland during the coming months; and plans were already in place for a visit to the Scottish Parliament last week. I wonder how it was received.
So, recalling the phrase, “Remembering the past, Reshaping the future” what can we do to make a stand against violence of this kind, towards any nation, race or religion, anywhere? Individually, very little. But we can write to our politicians expressing our points of view and asking them to speak up on our behalf. And we can talk to one another about it, and we can meet up with like-minded people to see if any action can be taken. And we can support exhibitions like Ken Maclennan’s – well, it’s a start.
27 January 2014 is already marked in the diary for next year.
Lyn Lowe, Isle of North Uist HS6 5DZ
Angus MacNeil is perfectly right in declaring that it is not the ‘MP’s role to rubber stamp decisions a council makes, regardless of consequences to communities’. There are times when conflict between the two is a necessary part of the democratic process. Each has their own priorities and interests to defend – and sometimes, too, a little heated discussion is necessary to achieve the different ends they seek.
However, there are times too when an MP also has a responsibility to do some – what he loftily dismisses as - ‘cosying up’ to the Council in the interests of the community they serve. Rather than portraying that process in such a disparaging way, I would describe this as considering the needs of constituents and co-operating with one another to meet them as far as possible.
The basis of this, as in any human relationship, is honest and direct communication. In the interests of clarity and transparency, both laudable attributes that he himself insisted upon throughout his notable ‘Cash For Honours’ campaign, can I ask once again the questions put to him in my recent letter to the Gazette? ‘
I am aware, for instance, that my local MP, Alastair Carmichael has regular meetings with councillors both in Orkney and Shetland and assists them in many ways. Does he follow this practice? I am conscious too that Mr MacNeil’s predecessor, Calum MacDonald MP consulted with the council regularly, facilitating and hosting meetings with UK ministers and others for council delegations over the years. The issues they covered included BCCI, fish farming, crofting, development and many other matters. Can I ask Mr MacNeil if he has ever done this? If so, how regularly during the time since he was elected? How often, for instance, in the average year?’
No doubt he will perform his customary ‘role’ of the Artless Dodger when asked questions like these, indulging, perhaps, in a few more gentle musings on the subject of Lorraine Kelly and ‘Woman’s Own’. (We were all entertained by that!) I think, however, in the interests of his constituents, especially the hard-working and industrious MSP, and everyone else who has the welfare of the islands at heart, people should be provided with answers to a much more important matter than that.
To slightly adapt the words of Alex Salmond, the First Minister and leader of Mr MacNeil’s party, ‘It is said that to govern is to choose – but even more fundamental than that is to choose how you are represented’.
Donald S. Murray, Shetland ZE2 9EY
EDITORIAL - LOSING £8.5 MILLION
The fallout from a Westminster Government desperate to balance the nation’s finances is about to take its toll on fragile communities such as the Western Isles.
Since their return to power in 2010 the Tories have been pushing hard to cut costs in order to halt the economic free-fall the country has been undergoing over the last few years, and the push to slash benefits is the latest attempt to stem the country’s financial bleeding.
However their efforts have led to criticism that they are administering the wrong medicine, with a still ailing economy. This is especially true in the Islands which will see a massive £8.5 million lost from our local economy due to benefit changes – it’s a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.