Gazette Letters 17.10.13

Jenny Morrison sent in this image of taken on a  walk out to Filiscleitir Chapel, Ness. To contribute your photos to our Beautiful Islands feature: email:
Jenny Morrison sent in this image of taken on a walk out to Filiscleitir Chapel, Ness. To contribute your photos to our Beautiful Islands feature: email:


The hypocrisy of the Labour Party is mind-boggling. List MSP Rhoda Grant, who apparently represents us somewhere, somehow, said even a limited rise in RET fares would damage the islands’ economy: “Removing RET was damaging island communities”, she complains, then adds: “The eye watering increases of the last two years and this further increase (now reduced) does nothing to mitigate the damage this has done,” and that the government should: “Reinstate RET for commercial vehicles now. This is the only way to get the island economy working again.”

In other words, she was concerned that the Government might increase commercial fares to the level which existed under the last Labour government when, according to her own words, the absence of a full RET was clearly, “damaging island communities,” and its introduction, “the only way to get the island economy working.”

Mr Wood of the Labour front, OHCG, states: “RET shouldn’t have been done away with in the first place...We’re trying to encourage growth in the (Western Isles’) economy and RET proved that was possible.

“If RET were removed, it would take £1 million out of the economy.”

If this is so, why did the Labour Party not introduce RET when in power between 1999-2007? Perhaps Mr Wood might also estimate for us how much its absence drained from the islands in those eight years.

Nevertheless, it’s extremely gracious of Mrs Grant and Mr Wood to acknowledge publicly that, in 2007, the incoming SNP government energized the islands’ economy by introducing RET, something which her own party had dismissed for eight years as unworkable, unaffordable, etc.

Even now, consideration of this topic lies buried in one of Johann Lamont’s so-called committees, which never meets and is a well-practised political artifice to bury bad news till after any election.

Then it might be safe for her boss, Ed Miliband, to deem many SNP policies unworkable/unaffordable, hence vote-losing, like: RET; the council tax freeze; elderly care; free eye/hearing tests; free bus transport for seniors; and to order his hapless Scottish puppet, Mrs Lamont, to ditch them immediately when, if ever, he is in power.

Stuart Rankin, 28a Callanish.


As many of your readers will be aware, young people in Scotland are still taking up smoking at an alarming rate.

Research conducted by Cancer Research UK has estimated that nearly 20,000 young people in Scotland are taking up the smoking habit every year, that’s 55 young Scottish lives put in danger every day.

With the vast majority of regular smokers - over 70% - beginning smoking before the age of 18 and with around 50% hooked before the age of 16 it is clearly important to make tobacco products less attractive to children and young people. And recently at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg we welcomed the passing of draft legislation aimed at addressing the crucial responsibility that we have to protect young people from the marketing tactics of the tobacco industry.

The Parliament backed a proposal for all cigarette packs to carry a health warning covering 65% of their surface and that fruit, menthol flavours and small packs should be banned.

In order to attract a new generation into the lethal habit, the tobacco industry has included additives and flavourings in tobacco products aimed to encourage new smokers by masking the unpleasant taste, adding a characterising flavour and making it easier to inhale.

Slim cigarettes and lipstick or perfume-style packets are being targeted at girls and young women by creating an impression of glamour.

The new legislation is not a case of dictating to the Scottish consumer what they can or cannot buy but to oppose the tricks of the industry to mislead the young.

We want tobacco products that look and taste like tobacco. We believe that the prevention of tobacco-related disease in Scotland’s next generation must be our primary concern when it comes to regulating tobacco.

David Martin

Catherine Stihler

Members of the European 
Parliament (Scotland)


Councillor DJ MacRae wants to know why our MP and MSP have not been turning up to meetings of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in Stornoway.

The answer is perfectly simple: They are not members of the Comhairle and have no more right to attend meetings than any other unelected member of the public.

Mr MacNeil and Mr Allan are representing the Western Isles at the House of Commons in London, and at Holyrood in Edinburgh, where they both are doing a very good job according to the people of these islands, who re-elected them both with hugely increased majorities in 2010 and 2011

Given that council meetings are convened during the week, and that our elected representatives are in their respective parliaments, fighting on our behalf, at the same time, it is physically impossible for our MP or MSP to be in two different places at the one time.

Is Cllr MacRae suggesting the council convene on Saturdays or Sundays?

A more relevant question is why Councillor MacRae has failed to attend 12 of the 31 Comhairle meetings since he was elected in May 2012?

A quite staggering 40% of Comhairle meetings where his chair was empty.

What the ordinary person in the street will find distasteful is the fact Mr MacRae is getting £16,000 + per year despite his non-attendance.

It has to be asked why Councillor MacRae expects Mr MacNeil to make a round trip of 1,500 miles for meetings which he is not obliged, entitled, or able to attend, while he himself finds it too difficult to travel from Shawbost to Stornoway?

John MacDonald

Convener SNP Lewis & Harris

EDITORIAL - Demand for English Medium pre-school

The lack of English medium pre-school eduation in the Harris area is highlighted in our front page story this week, with a family who want to access English medium for their child having to make the long journey to Lochs daily.

It is surprising to learn that in some areas of the islands there is only Gaelic Medium available - great that there is such a demand for Gaelic - but it is still surprising that there cannot be a mixed provision.

The Comhairle may now take the step to survey parents in the Harris area to see if there is a demand for English Medium in the area.

With more and more people choosing to live in the Islands (many would argue that the only reason we have sustained our population in recent years is because of incoming residents) perhaps we need to make sure that the services we do have in place provide for all, that way we will not put off new potential islanders - especially those with young families coming to live and work here.

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