Gazette Letters 14.1.16

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In his letter in Stornoway Gazette (31 December 2015) DJ Murray, argued that we are not responsible for refugees from the Middle East.

I think it is much more simple, unless a coordinated effort occurs then the Middle East will starve.

It is not about ‘owing others’ or ‘defining responsibility’, or ‘what happened in the 1930’s, 1940’s or 1950’s’, etc.

It is direct and obvious, unless we organise and coordinate society, our world, life, and our future, then it will be us, our generation who watched while civilian population either dies from starvation, or learns how to kill to avoid dying of starvation, and this will have definite effects on how we all live.

It is about our active choice to help or not help. Where enough of us help, there is increased capacity in methods of helping, with increased information and better decision making, with more effective sharing and less waste, if not, if we do not act, then we will have to watch while a whole population falls.

This is not about ‘attitude’ or ‘privilege’, ‘impunity’ or ‘wealth’, it is about historically proven capability in all nations to use starvation as a tool of war, and by questioning refugee migration we aid the use of this weapon. ‘Economic migrant’ is the same as ‘cannot buy food’, and we need a better plan.

We need a plan to get accurate, effective information to make proper decisions; to get this information we need to require, ask for, acquire, and demand, statistics, showing real food availability, real issues and difficulties, the real terms of what people will need to do to maintain sustainable living standards, and how, who and when these need to be done.

This is not about racism or religion, it is about human life. Unless we coordinate more effectively we will all be affected, the real question is, ‘when’ not ‘if’; when will we reach out and act to share our bread, thus providing somewhere to go to, to work for, with the shared social faith of hope and future.

H Mansfield

Tong, Stornoway


I was left open jawed at the letter published (Gazette Dec 31st) from Donald John Murray, clearly not having any of this ‘season of good will towards man’.

He asked why we should help rehome the suffering of the Middle East when “the Arab States” did not help us after the world wars.

Using the people who were maimed in WWII, fighting a regime that was racist and anti-immigrant, to justify those self same policies, and to shun people of war stricken countries, I find unsettling.

I don’t know what help DJ would have liked from a region which had been colonised for centuries and in those pre-oil days was very poor - perhaps a huge chunk of their Meditaranian coast to rehome millions of Jewish refugees from Europe and Russia?

Besides this, the Middle East did not start the First World War, nor the Second. The Syria crisis was directly created by UK interference in Iraq and elsewhere.

Many of these people have lost their homes from bombs being fired by IS, by Assad, but also the UK. Would it not be fair to apportion some moral duty to help mitigate a tragedy we set in motion and in which we are still active?

Donald John claims they want to come to Lewis as economic migrants, to claim social benefits. They may well think the streets of Lewis are paved with gold, and have a photo of Shawbost tucked in their wallets, but I have doubts this is their driving factor.

I would ask him to Google the images of refugee camps in Syria where these people (after losing their home and seeing family and friends murdered, raped, and worse) are currently living in tents in the freezing cold and snow.

I am thinking this is not a ruse to get £60 odd per week, and some people might argue young families are in fact wanted in this part.

There was once a slave brought from North Africa to Europe, to serve a Roman Senator, who became a great playwright.

He wrote: “I am Human, and no other of the Human race is other from me”.

These people need aid, and many people on this island are prepared to give heart and soul into helping.

If one does not want to be amongst those people there is no gain in trying to stop others from giving their hand.

Gavin Macleod Humphreys



Peter Urpeth (Letters 31st December) continues to promote the myth that the Scottish Government wants to privatise the ferry service.

The truth is that, whatever the outcome of the forthcoming tender, the vessels and port facilities will still be owned by the Scottish Government. The ferries will NOT be privatised.

The tender is being carried out in accordance with European legislation, and Mr Urpeth claims that there is “compelling legal opinion” that a successful legal challenge can be made to it.

Really? Just who has expressed this “opinion”? Which law firm finds Mr Urpeth’s opinion so compelling that they are prepared to take the case on a “No Win No Fee” basis?

Nobody. That is because most civil law is based on precedence. And the precedent in this case was set in 2005 when the then Labour Government, after seeking the best legal advice that money could buy, claimed that a legal challenge based on the “lifeline” nature of the ferry service would not succeed. That is why it held the tender.

By not pursuing the lifeline service argument, the Labour Government killed off any chance of going down this route in the future. In other words the current SNP Government would have to demonstrate substantial changes since 2005.

The first question Mr Urpeth’s lawyers would face in court would be “what has changed since 2005?”.

If the Labour Government concluded that a legal challenge would be hopeless in 2005, then why should it succeed now?

I have enjoyed splendid service from Calmac (and David MacBraynes before it) since 1962 and will be delighted if Calmac wins the tender. However no-one should doubt that the tender is legally necessary and that it will be free and fair.

Dr David Wilson

Isle of Lewis


Having lived for several years both in Mallaig and South Skye, I have every sympathy with the Sleat Transport Forum in their concerns over the uncertainties surrounding the proposed summer timetable for the Mallaig-Armadale ferry.

Equally, and obviously, I sympathise with Mr Mitchell and the Harris party in the frustrations and difficulties in their journey home on January 3rd, as reported in his letter in the Gazette of January 7th.

I trust that in both situations there will be a satisfactory outcome to representations made to CalMac.

May I however offer a counterbalancing observation. When the country, and the Islands, were bracing themselves for Storm Frank, I noticed that rather than simply stating that the usual Tuesday sailings of the Tarbert/Uig/Lochmaddy ferry were cancelled, CalMac had brought forward a revised timetable.

The revision began at midnight from Tarbert, and was to be completed...was it with two crossings to Lochmaddy from Uig within the schedule? By around midday on the Tuesday, before Storm Frank came.

Admittedly nighttime sailings and onward journeys are not the most convenient. They are, however, preferable to no sailings. At least travellers and freight can travel.

If this revised schedule did in fact operate as the App on that occasion indicated it would, my simple point is that this an example of company and crew attempting to serve the community, and are to be commended for it.

An additional observation and suggestion might be permitted.

Among the factors to be considered in the Scottish Government’s decision on the tendering of the Clyde and West Coast ferry services, economic and the rest, a historical survey of services being revised to meet community needs, should be high on the list.

I feel sure that Gourock would be very willing to supply such!

Rev Dr Ben Johnstone.


Isle of Lewis


The Legion’s Scottish Poppy Appeal efforts this year collected £7865.74 around Lewis and Harris. This exceeds last year’s effort by over £300.

On top of this, substantial sums were collected by other organisations like the Army Cadets, the Army reserve, Martin’s Memorial Church and individuals Like Sally Avis who manufactured her own poppies.

On behalf of the Legion and Poppy Scotland I would like to thank all the retail outlets and other business premises who displayed the poppy boxes and cans and a special thanks to Katy and Donald Macdonald for overseeing the Harris collection and Douglas Watson and Francis Jefferson for their assistance in Lewis but most of all a big thank you to all who contributed and wore the poppy with pride. Once again the people of Lewis and Harris have done us proud.

Donnie Maciver

Scottish Poppy Appeal Organiser


Good news for islanders looking for affordable housing in the near future with the news that thirty-four new homes are being built in Lewis, as the Hebridean Housing Partnership (HHP) begin the next step of their housing programme.

The new housing will be built across three sites with 24 houses planned at Mackenzie Lane, Stornoway, six planned at Barvas and four at Habost in Ness, which is set to bring added vitality to these areas.

This continues an ambitious programme which has seen more than 350 houses built across our islands’ communities since HHP was established in 2006.

Affordable housing attractive to families is one of the key measures to promote the sustainability of the Islands.

Too often we hear of people moving away for jobs, but also due to lifestyle choices such as good housing and attractive and accessible facilities.

Budget cuts have often persuaded authorities to centralise facilities in order to cut costs, but for rural communities a successful future will depend on diversification.

If we centralise too much the cost won’t be so much to our pocket but to our communities.

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

Pictured is our image of the week sent in by reader Alasdair Macdonald of Uig outside the Woodlands Centre in Stornoway.