Gazette Letters 21.1.16

NHS-24 failings

Sunday, 24th January 2016, 7:18 am

The Western Isles Carers, Users & Supporters Network (WICUSN) on 26th November 2015 through an open letter in the media asked WI NHS Board to inform the public of what steps they are taking to address the failings within NHS 24.

May I say at this point that this issue is entirely independent of the issues raised in Harris about inadequate ‘Out of Hours Service’ which we are being assured has been resolved, no doubt the people of Harris will be monitoring.

In his response to the media in November Dr Burns said ‘I do not know about the Tolsta case.....’.

This we find astonishing even if he missed the item previously in the media telling of this family’s dreadful experience when the ambulance was recalled a few miles from their home surely someone in the WI NHS Board would have read it and considered it worthy of raising at Board level.

WICUSN now asks that since Dr Burns and others in the WI NHS Board have been made aware of this incident that they make public the action they have taken to investigate and address this issue and the action taken within NHS 24 to ensure this never happens again.

Nationally, concerns have been expressed about the efficiency of NHS 24 and a review is being undertaken it is therefore vital that all failings are reported to them and investigated by them and those holding the review.

WICUSN members are very disappointed that there has not been a full response to their open letter.

Jinty Morrison



Bhaltos shame

Limited space prevents a detailed history of the protracted and tortuous progress of the Bhaltos Outdoor Centre project in Uig, Lewis.

Suffice to say that it has taken less time for a newly- erected one hundred storey high World Trade Centre in New York to rise from the ashes of tragedy and destruction than it has taken the Western Isles Council ( Comhairle ) to succeed only in raising false expectations about their planned one storey Bhaltos Outdoor Centre, that has yet to get off the ground

Nevertheless, there were grounds for renewed optimism recently when a number of ‘ Construction Site – Keep Out’ signs appeared around the former school building, which on demolition was to have provided the site for a new outdoor centre overlooking Cliff Bay.

If I said that a typical day on this construction site begins with a handsome well-groomed fellow called Murphy climbing onto the perimeter wall to better eye the local birds,most people would agree that it is no different to any other building site in the country.

This picture is somewhat misleading,however, when I disclose that ‘ Murphy ‘ is my next door neighbour’s very personable tomcat and the local birds are of the feathered variety, who dig for worms in part of Murphy’s extensive stalking and hunting territory

Nor is this the only only activity taking place on this busy construction site: rabbits,mice,spiders and the occasional otter all carry out their daily tasks in an industrious manner.

This hive of activity builds to a climax in the late afternoon when some boisterous sheep gatecrash the site to gain access to the grazings within.

This undisturbed animal activity is possible only because of the complete absence of human beings on this alleged building site.

Niether will they be required anytime soon, as the local building trade are unaware of any construction contract having been awarded by the Comhairle, or of current design plans for a structure to be erected at Bhaltos .

Indeed, the Comhairle has now belatedly admitted that it is no longer in a position to proceed with the proposed new Bhaltos Outdoor Centre, because it has either spent or lost the time-dependent funding that was previously available

Their designating the immediate area as a Construction Site at the very moment it was decided to cancel any construction work is a fitting culmination to this continuing ineptitude which saw the Comhairle previously commissioning architects to design a new outdoor centre after stating that sufficient funding had been secured to proceed with the building work.

These plans were displayed to the local population,who were then mislead into expectations of an imminent start on construction work.

This missed opportunity does not effectively represent the wishes of the dwindling local population and there is speculation about the concealment from public scrutiny about the management of the Bhaltos Outdoor Centre project which would likely embarrass a wasteful and incompetent Comhairle.

Meanwhile, back at the deserted Bhaltos construction site a focused and agile Murphy goes in for the kill, putting to shame much of the human involvement around the aborted Bhaltos Outdoor Centre project by showing them how to do something competently and cleanly. Miaow!

Iain M Macdonald


Good service

Councillor McCormack (Letters Jan 6th) seems to be under the impression that the Scottish Government runs Loganair.

Loganair, as a commercial airline, operate their services in an open market where any other airline can compete – and where no other company appears to be interested.

There are no subsidies for everyday operations and therefore the Scottish Government has no more influence upon them than on any other company. What the Scottish Government does is pay half the air fares of island passengers. This is being done despite the fact the UK is cutting the Scottish Block Grant has by £4bn..

For Cllr. McCormack to suggest that the Scottish Government should provide a private company with free aircraft is missing the point, which is that the company themselves need to provide a more reliable service. All efforts need to focus on making them do that.

Cllr. McCormack was prominent in the Western Isles Council decision to axe the subsidy for inter-island flights. This decision affected the operational strategy for the airline and reduced traffic volumes which therefore required fewer planes.

He may wish now however to focus his efforts on getting a good service from Loganair, rather than trying at every opportunity to shift the blame onto the Scottish Government, for what are rather obvious political reasons.

Archie Harper

Isle of Lewis HS2 0PU

Proposed cuts

If the proposed cuts to the Library cafe and the Bus Station go ahead, amongst other cuts, Stornoway will soon become a ghost town, this Council is taking the most vibrant places and very heart out of the town centre.

I most certainly don’t ever want to see them having more power, they are doing a very good job of dismantling things just the way they are.

It beggers belief how short sighted their views and ambitions are.

Strange, no proposal on cutting back on their own expenses?

Donald Morrison


Important record

On the 21st of January 1940 the HMS Exmouth was torpedoed by a German submarine in the North Sea. All the crew drowned including, sadly, several men from the Islands. One of the crew on board was my Uncle Hector from Tolsta Chaolais.

My grandfathers, Uncles, all Lewis men, all Macdonald’s, (Ballantrushal and Tolsta Chaolais) served in the first and second world wars, but the only one not to return home was the youngest, Hector Macdonald at 22 years of age.

My father Murdo Macdonald was unable to serve due to an eye injury he sustained while fixing the engine of a bus at the top of the Clisham. (Not forgetting the role of my wonderful aunts Peggy and Mary, cooks at the Lewis Hotel and Fisherman’s Mission for many years).

As with a lot of families, those who served rarely spoke in detail of the war, I suppose too many sad memories. I therefore had little background information on my Uncle Hector until I started to research old copies of the Stornoway Gazette.

The following is an extract from several articles I found on line and in the Stornoway library: “We all mourn the loss of Seaman Hector Macdonald, familiarly known as “Hocky” forth son of the late Alexander Macdonald of 10 Tolsta Chaolais, who was lost on the HMS Exmouth.

“He was one of three brothers, all called up in July last year for the King’s Review. A lad of outstanding popularity, a marked favourite of the village, he was well liked by all who knew him, both young and old, not only in his native village, but in many parts of the district. Words cannot express the feelings of his grieved mother, brothers and sister, who when looking forward to his safe return received the news of his tragic death.

“His death at the age of 23 is a heavy blow to his widowed mother, who recently lost her husband and youngest son”.

Tributes for the War Memorial – 1939-1945. Stornoway Gazette 2nd and 9th February 1940.

The Gazette is an excellent source of information about our Island families and of past events that are truly fascinating. I have learnt about the only Uncle I never met via these tributes. It is so important for our community to record, remember and ensure that future generations are able to read about a community who stood fast in faith and hope in some of the most difficult moments in our past.

Tina Burgess (Macdonald)



Public consultation meetings have been taking place across the Western Isles this week as Comhairle nan Eilean Siar seeks to gather feedback on 31 budget choice proposals before they go on to set the local authority’s budget for the next two years.

With millions being cut from local government funding everyone understands that this is no easy task and the lengthy list of 31 choices - even if all are approved - will still fall short of the savings which have to be made to balance the books going forward.

Some of the choices are particularly unpalatable with suggestions of a decrease in road maintenance and the closure of the Stornoway bus station generating many comments against, but perhaps the single most unwelcome proposal has been the suggestion to discontinue specialist teachers for art, music and P.E from the Islands’ primary schools.

For parents this is a step too far and many fear that their children’s education will be badly harmed if this particular proposal is allowed to go ahead.

It is a topic that has sparked wide debate and this week the Gazette highlights the opinion of a successful musician, sportsperson and artist in our feature on pages 8 to 9 to underline what a bad idea this is.

It has been suggested that there may be a solution for this particular budget choice, we can only hope that this idea to retain these specialist teachers in Island schools whilst making the savings needed, comes to fruition.

If you would like to comment, or write a letter on this topic or any other, contact me at: [email protected]

Our picture of the week comes from reader Phil Rowe who sent us this striking winter scene of a snowy Stornoway.