Gazette Letters - 15-1-15

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I refer to the comments by T Kirkland regarding the recent aircraft incident at Stornoway Airport, published in the Gazette on 8 January.

We cannot comment on the issue of refunds, or the alternative measures put in place to transport passengers off the island, as those are matters for the airline.

However, to answer the wider point, many UK airports much larger than Stornoway have only one fixed wing runway – in the event of a similar incident, those airports would almost certainly have ground to a complete halt.

Stornoway, on the other hand, was able to use its second runway and get flights back in the air within a relatively short period of time. I think that should be a matter of pride for the airport and for the island, rather than a cause for criticism.

We are grateful to passengers for their patience and understanding, and a number have come forward to thank airport staff for their efforts, which is much appreciated.

There was, inevitably, some disruption following the incident. However, the use of the second runway enabled us to keep disruption to a minimum. Without it, the airport would have closed, with all flights cancelled until the aircraft was safely removed from the main runway.

I want to pay tribute to the many airport and airline staff, some of whom volunteered their services, and the emergency services personnel who responded to this serious incident in a prompt and professional manner. They worked hard, in extremely challenging circumstances, to prevent the complete closure of the airport, which would have resulted in much greater disruption affecting many more people. They are a credit to the local community.

Inglis Lyon,

Managing Director

Highlands and Islands

Airports Ltd

Knee Jerk

When I read Alasdair Morrison suggesting that Alasdair Allan and Angus Macneil support his insincere idea for further ferry fare reductions, it indicates that he is struggling to find policies to support his candidacy. Mr Morrison was so opposed to the likes of RET he was extremely vocal about it, criticising it at every opportunity.

What has changed now? Does he realise he was wrong and is now making atones for supporting cheaper fares for the Northern Isles while ignoring his own constituents when MSP.

The price of oil affects most of our daily finances, why is he not pursuing cheaper bus fares, lower haulage costs, grocery bills etc. The price of oil has always fluctuated, yet he has never made any suggestions of this nature before. When fuel prices on these islands were way over the top he never acknowledged the problem.

Our former New Labour MSP shows a major lack of knowledge about business finances and economics. We all know that this drop in oil prices is temporary and as usual will fluctuate.

This problem is not unlike the currency issues faced by organisations who trade in more than one country. They don’t change their prices to reflect exchange rate variations, they set a pricing strategy for the forthcoming year and try to maintain it.

There is no doubt that CalMac have done this for their fuel costs and when the oil prices are high they absorb the costs.

Like many others, I support cheaper travel costs to and from the islands. There are times when you have to be realistic and establish if the savings are practical. Knee jerk reactions are costly. By tying ferry fares to oil prices there will be a need for another tier of bureaucracy within CalMac to monitor it which will have to be paid for through ticket prices.

Has Alasdair Morrison given this proper thought ? If so, he will be able to tell us if any, the potential savings for travellers. I look forward to reading about these detailed benefits.

It is difficult to take Mr Morrison seriously on this when you consider the reluctance he and his party have had in the past towards what New Labour would consider a universal benefit.

New Labour have never supported the likes of RET in the past for the Hebrides and the Clyde. At the last Holyrood election they were forced to support RET for the Western Isles, but were opposed to rolling it out to other islands.

Archie Harper


Isle of Lewis

Airport Chaos

I refer to the letter from T. Kirkland (SG 8/1/15).

While I use airlines and airports relatively infrequently by modern standards and cannot claim the knowledge and expertise of your esteemed correspondent, I have flown in and out of Stornoway Airport moderately often over the last 60 years, perhaps averaging 3 flights per year. About 200 in all. So very few.

Nor can I compete with Kirkland’s expertise in comparing Stornoway with other airports. I have been in and out of Karachi and Lahore airports a mere 20 times or so each; I have tried Tashkent on some 16 occasions only; Belem in Brazil only 4 times; Beijing also only 4 times; and Dushanbe only twice. On balance, Stornoway is my favourite, although closely tied with Dubai.

As a Hebridean born in the first half of the last century from parents who remembered the Wright brothers, I am unable to comment definitively on questions revolving around an airport having two equally functional runways or on the balance between manual versus “high-tech” screening of passengers. But I do know that the issues are very complex indeed.

I did however appreciate the security guard at Stornoway Airport who one day insisted on combing through my briefcase. “It contains only boring academic books” said I. He replied to me sadly: “You should not think of it in that way, Mr Smith. That is what I thought when I was young. And that is why I have ended up in this job.”

We can all get frustrated at airports at times. But, on balance, I am glad to be away from the era when British European Airways wound up the propellers of an ex-WWII Dakota in Stornoway and pointed it in the vague direction of Balivanich, Tiree and Glasgow.

Iain Smith


Where is the honesty?

I was very interested by the letter submitted by one Alex Orr, Edinburgh (Gazette 08/01/2015), in which he slammed the Labour Party on the ‘absolute shambles’ it now appears to be in, for instance, in their opposition to the Scottish Parliament’s laudable introduction of free school meals for Primary 1 to 3 classes in Scotland at a cost of £95 million.

Orr also blasted Labour’s priorities over their renewal of support for the replacement of Trident to the tune of an astronomical sum of £100 billion. Jings! Crivens! Help ma Boab!. I wholeheartedly agreed with your erudite correspondent.

The most distasteful thing, for me, in this instance, is that some members of the Labour Party who once opposed Trident, describing it as a significant politicising experience in their conversion into left wing politics, now support it, as on many other issues upon which they once clamoured their soap boxes to campaign against. Unforgivable?

These people also derided career politicians, only later to become of that ilk themselves as far as I can ascertain.

In my naivety I would like to pose of them one simple question, and even allowing for the fact that people do change: where is the honesty in all this?

Iain Frew


Repentance and reformation

It seems (Sty Gazette 8 January) that the Church of Scotland continues to defy and undermine the word of God by inviting Presbyteries to vote on whether to allow congregations to appoint ‘gay’ ministers. The church is not a political entity and ought to know that the Bible, the word of God, is its operating manual and no law is paramount to that.

Who does the Church of Scotland think they are when they freely give Presbyteries and Congregations the opportunity to vote on whether they should accept ‘gay’ ministers? Any church that brazenly, and bizarrely, fancies it can decide on what is acceptable or unacceptable in the perfect word of God has lost its very right to be called a church. 
The truth has to be formally recorded about the Church of Scotland. It is a disgrace and a sinful blot on our nation’s spiritual landscape, and shame on it. The scandalous evidence of its reputation is in the public domain for all to see.

God will not be mocked when church commissioners, and 1,391 Presbyters across Scotland, dare to poke fun at all that is sacred and change the truth of God into a lie.

What is desperately needed more than anything else, both in the heart of the Church of Scotland and in the heart of every other Scottish church that has turned its back on God’s word is repentance and reformation.

Mr Donald J Morrison


Plenty of money

Week in, week out, we are told by the Scottish Nationalists of all the things they would do if only wicked Westminster would give them the money. Every failure to meet commitments is blamed on someone else.

We now learn that the Scottish Government underspent by an astonishing £444 million in the last financial year. This information was sneaked out just before Christmas and efforts by a journalist to obtain a detailed breakdown were only successful due to Freedom of Information legislation.

During the period in question, the SNP sought to make political capital out of issues like the bedroom tax and foodbanks. It is now clear that they had plenty money at their disposal to protect people from genuine hardship but chose not to use it.

Here in the Western Isles, additional funding is urgently needed to counter fuel poverty, improve our roads and provide decent childcare facilities, to mention but a few. All this could have been achieved from the small change of the underspend.

The Crofter Housing Grant Scheme has been relentlessly cut to the point where only 33 applications succeeded last year, at a cost of just £600,000. Why are such cuts taking place, even in the most minor budget headings, when huge amounts of money were left unspent?

The SNP’s underspend confirms that Holyrood is well funded, even at a time of austerity, largely due to the Barnett Formula. Alex Salmond now wants to bargain it away in exchange for the extreme uncertainties of dependency on oil revenues.

All this is about the political manoeuvring of the SNP while seeking to create grievance and division between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Ealasaid Macdonald