Gazette Letters 13/12/12

GOLDEN EAGLE STROLL:'Reader Caroline Briggs captured this striking image on a walk to the golden eagle observatory in North Harris, she said: The walk was lovely in the sun but I failed to see the eagles!'
GOLDEN EAGLE STROLL:'Reader Caroline Briggs captured this striking image on a walk to the golden eagle observatory in North Harris, she said: The walk was lovely in the sun but I failed to see the eagles!'


I assume that all initiatives ever put in place by our Local Authority for the care and protection of our elderly are well researched and costed to ensure that a smooth operation be delivered to the client. But ‘Home Care’ seems to me to draw negativity from many angles when the subject is broached and from most players in its field.

I suppose the question I really want to ask is: ‘Why are there so few home carers and when you are looking for one there are none to be found?’ Surely the role of Home Carers in our society today is as important as that of hospital staff who are there when required.

My next question obviously is. Is the system working? and if not why not? I know the system works well for those who are fortunate enough to have a carer. I am not even calling into question the capabilities of the carers, or for that matter those who operate the system.

It’s the system I’m not sure about that is capable of delivering on time and when required the services to those for whom it was intended.

In our caring society today is four weeks and even longer acceptable for an elderly person to be in hospital, who are well enough to be in their own home and bearing in mind the risks that unnecessarily prolonged hospitalisation may bring to them.

In the wake of this crisis lies escalating NHS costs, but more importantly the lack of holistic well-being and independence for those who require Home Care service.

In order to save the credibility of this much needed and important service to our community, the planners and policy makers - whoever they are - must urgently reassess the need and deliver accordingly.

If more staff are required to make the service one which will be ready and waiting for their next client then so be it. Re-appraisal takes time but what can be done today to ease these frustrations?

Torquil Macleod, Stornoway HS1 2QR


I write in defence and praise of voluntary and statutory organisations who provide care, advice and support to vulnerable people and  who, for reasons of confidentiality and respect for their clients,  are not able to defend  themselves against specific allegations made against them.   

This results in very one-sided articles appearing  in newspapers, as was the case in your last issue with regard to someone being allegedly detained in a care home against her will.  

The factual comment from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar should have been the end of the matter.  Was this an example of the facts not being allowed to get in the way of a good story?

Morag Munro, Harris

*Editor’s note - It is the job of the press to question bodies when concerns are raised by the public and that is exactly what happened in the case of this story.

Although we were unable to gather specific answers to our questions because of confidentiality, information which may have explained the circumstances better, that doesn’t mean this story was of no merit.


Much controversy was generated by last month’s lecture visit to the Western Isles by eminent evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins.

Many ‘divine creation’ believing Hebrideans viewed the invitation to the atheistic ‘God Delusion ‘ author as inappropriate and highly provocative.

On the contrary, I believe Professor Dawkins invitation was very fitting and appropriate because both he and his more virulent island detractors share a common trait in the belief they have a monopoly on the truth.

Though Professor Dawkins is undoubtedly a gifted communicator possessed of a formidable intellect, he’s also a fallible human being. Our history is littered with ‘ truths’ of former times spoken by very learned sages which have since proven to be false.

Professor Dawkins ‘God Delusion’ eloquence could eventually add to that discarded litter.

Is the universe and our human race an incidental result of a cataclysmic cosmic explosion, or were both instigated by the intelligent divine creator revealed in the Bible? This is a profoundly difficult question to conclusively answer for many people, myself included. Others are at liberty to decide for themselves which explanation to believe.

However, Professor Dawkins not only knows the correct answer, but goes one step further by claiming that those who disagree with his explanation are: “Ignorant, stupid or insane”.

Having had the privilege of knowing many kind, tolerant and intelligent Christians of sound mind, his description is one I don’t recognise. But perhaps the Professor may have been somewhat carried away by his own verbosity; he is not so much anti-Christian as anti-religion in general.

Whether or not we agree with Professor Dawkins, we have to admire a refreshing honesty rarely seen in modern day public life. Where the cowed majority tow the politically correct line of least resistance.Richard Dawkins views are clear and unambiguous, and bring into sharp relief the mixed messages coming from our churches, riven by disagreements, rifts and divisions.

There are presently ten different church denominations ministering in the small Western Isles community. Further schisms could yet result from contentious issues simmering under the surface of an already fragmented Hebridean ecclesiastical landscape.

Though all churchgoers regardless of denomination profess to follow the same biblical Messiah, there are some who obviously believe themselves superior in the pecking order of divine favour.

Why else should they feel a continuing need to segregate themselves from their fellow Christians?

Each denomination is convinced of the infallibility of their own interpretation of the Bible, while everybody else is sadly mistaken.

Our churches’ often conflicting interpretations of the Bible must lead any reader still dealing in the undervalued currency of common sense to the inevitable conclusion that they cannot all be right.

And yet, all ten denominations insist they are preaching the undiluted ‘Truth’.

I’m sure their are many confused people outside the church who may be receptive to the Christian faith but seek their salvation elsewhere, reluctant to get involved jostling for position in energetic pew jumping across denominational boundaries.

Iain M. MacDonald, Uig


R. McCafferty in his letter for the 6th December edition continues to argue against a Designer of life.

In that letter he gives only one piece of scientific evidence against a designer, namely the claim that the retina in humans is somehow wired ‘back to front’ unlike that of the octopus.

The idea is that because the light sensitive retinal pigment is behind a layer of cells, the vision is compromised and it is a poor design. Richard Dawkins makes the same claim rather forcefully in his writings.

Firstly: the vision of humans is much better than that of an octopus, which does not need such good vision. The vision of an eagle (which has the same orientation of retinal layers as a human) is of course vastly better.

Secondly: research has now shown without any doubt that the layer of cells in front of the light sensitive retina actually enhances vision by channeling the light and removing distortions due to scattering and chromatic abberation.

DR. Anthony Latham, Harris

* Editor’s note - the Gazette has been pleased with the strength of response to the Dawkins lecture, which also led to a Creationism versus Evolution debate over the last few weeks. However I believe the time has come to draw a line under these subjects to enable other debates to flourish.A ROAD TO REMEMBER

The role of Sir James Matheson in the opium trade has increasingly been well -documented over the last 50 years or more, not least in the recent and excellent BBC programme presented by Brian Cox.

If the name of “Savile” is (quite rightly) being extirpated from public property across the UK, perhaps the time has come for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to rename “Matheson Road” in Stornoway.

While the Stornoway Gazette must play a neutral position on this issue, conducting one of your excellent vox pop surveys might be illuminating i.e. ‘Do you think that Matheson Road in Stornoway should be re-named?’

My personal preference would be to call it “Sandy Matheson Road” to celebrate one of the most distinguished Stornowegians of my time.

Iain Smith, Glasgow


The Gazette runs a feature on page 12 this week which advises local motorists about car maintenance and planning journeys ahead when faced with harsh winter road conditions – wise precautions.

And planning ahead to combat ice on our roads and keep traffic flowing safely also needs to be considered by Western Isles Council, as according to islanders this week, the gritting of our roads could be better managed. With many miles to cover the Local Authority has put in place a priority system of road gritting, focusing on the most essential roads first, but it seems that this is not working well enough and a call has went out for a review of the gritting policy.

However, it may be that change could come slowly with the possibility that the policy may only be reviewed in February – at the tail-end of winter. Let’s hope that Comhairle can in fact react to the public’s concerns in this matter much more quickly and put in a place a gritting policy that doesn’t slip up.