Gazette Letters 11.6.15

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Horse issue

Having read the letter contained in your columns (Gazette letters 6.6.15) regarding the public funds being spent on maintaining the welfare of the Connemara pony owned by Stephanie Noble, I would be in isolation if I regarded myself on being the only person in these islands who doesn’t know that this local authority and possibly every other local authority in the country has a remit and perception to spend public money on what is often regarded as matters of complete inconsequence, and unfortunately this is a matter that will possibly never change due to the structure of such administrations.

However, there is an underlying problem here that quite frankly needs to be exposed as to what is the cause of such financial squandering.

The owner of this animal lives in a semi-detached house in what was commonly known as a council housing scheme, but with the majority of the properties now in private ownership, and the small areas of unfenced ground in the vicinity being common grazing.

When this animal appeared and the residence of the owner was converted to part stable, I can honestly say that this was the inauguration of what has now become a national scandal, with the incident being reported in the national media.

Now, will anybody reading this letter even consider converting the sitting room area of your house into a stable?

With a family in residence in a privately owned property attached to your house would you not consider it a matter of common decency to approach them, and the other residents in the area and inform them of your intentions, and furthermore inform the local authority of your intentions and secure permission regarding health and environmental issues?

Bearing this in mind, would any council officer consider allowing such a matter to be given permission for the owner to proceed with NO consideration to the residents in the immediate area, and just to be in complete confidence of their decision, first discuss it with the local councillors and consider their opinion.

This is the main and general consensus of the local population of the area, that permission was granted with scant, little or no regard to the opinion of local residents.

The residents of this street and surrounding area are now in a situation where their property has obviously been devalued, and instead regarded with some degree of humour in comments of where they live, let me tell you this is no laughing matter.

There have been numerous comments about the welfare of the horse and no one can deny it was cared for, be it in a right or wrong manner, but this issue is not the fault of the horse, the animal cannot comment, this is purely a situation caused by human decisions and a complete disregard by an individual for neighbours and the surrounding community.

What the final outcome is going to be will be interesting, there are rumours that the animal may be coming back.

If this is the case, will this be the local authority presuming that things will be different and that they are perceived to have done their work and issued the owner with new rules that must be adhered to, considering that we the residents in a meeting with council officials and local councillors could not be told what inspections or surveys had been carried out on the property prior to the animal being stabled within.

With financial constraints on councils nowadays I wonder what human decision awaits the poor horse now.

D. Macleod


Isle of Lewis HS2 0LA

Sad and grieved

Having read with interest Rev Angus Morrison’s reflections on the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and noting the good things the Church is involved in I was saddened to read of Mr Morrison’s comments on the debate ‘regarding ministers in same-sex relationships’.

He speaks of ‘grace and restraint’ marking the contributions on both sides and the sense of regret that ‘as a church we are divided on this matter’

How can there be grace spoken of describing any support on such a matter.

He also highlights a comment made by someone else that ‘this is not a debate between those who love Scripture and those who do not.’

Is Mr Morrison serious! Does he really believe that? When the Word of God is clear and without dubiety as to what constitutes marriage and who should be preaching the Word, how can he or anyone else who claims to believe the Bible accept such statements?

In his position as Moderator how much more it would have been to God’s glory if he had made a stand and said loudly and clearly “Thus saith the Lord”

All true Bible believing men and women would expect that if it is what he really believes.

Sad and grieved.

Rev K Macdonald

Scalpay HS4 3YB

Crofting census

Murdo MacLennan of the Crofting Commission speaking on the BBC’s Aithris na Maidne is deluded in his appraisal of the Crofting Census returns.

This exercise in spin invokes the spirit of what made trust in public servants a farce back in the Tony Blair era.

Are the Crofting Commission seriously expecting the general public to believe that the glens and islands are alive with boiler-suited, cherry cheeked crofters busily scything away making the environment a happier place? Furthermore are they expecting us all to believe that this pastime is economically viable?

The spokespeople who front these spurious press releases are themselves hardly qualified to be speaking on the matter.

Take the Environment Minister (with a remit also for crofting) Aileen McLeod, a career politician born in East Kilbride and living in Lanark. Has she even set foot on a croft?

The Commission’s own chief Executive Catriona Maclean lives in the comfort of Inverness. What is her practical experience of crofting?

Yet these are the people providing us with the positive message on an 85% return rate on the crofting census. What is to happen therefore to the 2,500 croft questionnaires that were never returned?

Mr MacLennan did not appear to be able to answer that when interviewed. Nor was he able to explain the purpose of this census beyond what the Government are obliged to do anyway.

Is the real reason that the Commission had lost their way completely and were relying on their own records which were decades out of date? However they now have their pieces of paper back and there is no need for them to check anything.

Bizarrely the Commission twist the census responses into an Orwellian statement packed with output figures and manipulated statistics.

They state that 87% are currently resident on their croft yet they do not outline that their definition is someone who can live up to twenty miles away as the crow flies. Or that the same person might submit returns for several crofts.

Their headline figure however is that 97% actually use their land for some purpose or other. Why on earth would you state otherwise! Again they only have the form fillers word for this.

Angus Macdonald


West Lothian EH54 9AH

Great North Run

Runners wishing to be part of Meningitis Now’s team at this year’s Great North Run need to hurry along to sign up for their guaranteed place.

Our places in the 13.1 mile run on Sunday 13 September – the biggest and best half marathon in the world – are running out fast, and those wanting to join in the fun have until the end of June to sign up.

By running for us you’ll be helping to fight meningitis with every stride and move us one step closer to our vision of a future where no one in the UK dies from meningitis and everyone affected gets the support they need to rebuild their lives.

Sadly, meningitis and septicaemia continue to affect thousands of people in the UK and kill more under-fives than any other infectious disease. Help us fight back on all fronts by funding research to eradicate the disease, raising awareness and supporting survivors.

To find out more and sign up email

Zoe Clarke

Events Fundraiser,

Meningitis Now,

Fern House,

Bath Road, Stroud,

Gloucestershire GL5 3TJ

Health concerns

British men are notorious for their reserve when it comes to discussing health matters, and Men’s Health Week (15 - 21 June 2015) is a perfect time to start talking.

Men can be especially shy about issues below the waist and behind the toilet cubicle door. While difficulties like constipation can be the result of stress, poor diet or certain medications, changes to bowel habits can sometimes be indicators of more serious problems.

It’s very important that men take control of their health and are more open when it comes to talking about concerns.

In my 40+ years working with people in the health arena, I’ve found humour can be a great way to start a conversation about issues we might find embarrassing.

‘Stand Up / Sit Down’ is a new short film from Dulcolax, featuring four of the UK’s brightest, up-and-coming comedians cracking jokes about the ‘poo taboo’ and discussing men’s reluctance to talk about not being able to ‘go’.

You can watch the film at, which also includes information and a free bowel health App.

Shared experience is so important in feeling confident to talk and I hope this film helps men to recognise, act on and discuss any bowel health concerns they may have.

Professor Alex Gardner

Chartered psychologist and psychotherapist

5 Offord Street

London N1 1DH

EDITORIAL - People power on high flight prices

A tidal wave of people power has brought the issue of flight fares to and from the Islands on to and rocketing up the political agenda.

Nearly 12,000 people are now supporting a Facebook campaign to lower fares, which despite the benefit of ADS to islanders are still prohibitively expensive.

The issue shows clearly how a lack of competition in a commercial setting is bad news for the consumer, in the case of flights to and from the islands, airport infrastructure deters other operators from entering the market and with no other choice islanders must continue to use the only service available.

This week the company, who operate services to the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland on behalf of Flybe, said they operated the flights at their own commercial risk without any subsidy from the Government.

This is true enough but what are Government doing to ensure flight prices are fair, and therefore the ADS scheme (which the public purse supports to the tune of £6m) is having the intended impact and benefit to islanders?

Back when ADS was first proposed for the islands one of the questions put to the powers that be was ‘What is to stop the operators putting their prices up’, there was no answer on that point then, perhaps we will get an answer on this point now.

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