Gazette letters 18/10/12


The U-turn by the Labour Party in Scotland regarding universal benefit policies will have a significant detrimental affect on the people of the Western Isles if they are ever elected into power. The abandoning of socialist policies will see means testing as a way of life for many people here on the islands.

Complex forms, along with a strict criteria will see many people worse off with the most vulnerable having endless problems. Those who are successful will receive much less than is currently available. These New Labour proposals are designed to please the voters of Middle England and the rich.

When Labour was last in power in Edinburgh, our council tax rose on average by more than 7% per year, far greater than peoples wages. Increasing council tax by Labour is not about saving services or jobs, it is about increasing the tax burden on ordinary people.

Labour’s proposals for care of the elderly would put many of our elderly people at risk. South of the border bureaucratic red tape and the lack of funding has left care of the elderly in a state of chaos.

Those who are caught up in this are the most vulnerable and are unable to fight for their rights. We are one of the richest countries in the world and it is unreasonable for New Labour to want to abandon the elderly at a time of need.

The removal of bus passes is just unthinkable, how many of our elderly depend upon their passes to get out and about? Many of our elderly are already struggling with poverty, why is New Labour wanting to make their position worse ?

If the government was to introduce means testing for prescriptions, it would cost twice as much to manage the programme than what is currently being spent. Why do they want to waste money?

The cost for island students studying at university would increase by up to £36,000 per person. When you consider that our young people are already heavily in debt before starting work, this would put further education out reach for many of them. Going to university would be more about having money than ability.

Former Labour Councillor Professor Arthur Midwinter, chair of the group entrusted by Johann Lamont and Margaret Curran to lead the investigation into Scottish expenditure, has said that every cost will be scrutinised down to the last penny. This puts all island benefits under the microscope.

The current economic situation is down to New Labour’s inability to run the country. They now want to push the burden for their errors onto the shoulders of those who are least capable of carrying it and least able to complain.

Archie Harper, Point HS2 0PU


Last week’s Gazette carried an article on the possibility that the Scottish Government may go to consultation on plans for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

Three areas in the Western Isles have been identified as possible MPAs.

Your readers will not have been surprised to learn that RSPB Scotland is in favour of Marine Protected Areas.

With many species of seabirds in sharp decline we could hardly be otherwise.

However your readers may well have been surprised to learn from a “spokesman” of the Comhairle that the RSPB has “shown scant regard for the economic welfare of the people of the Islands” and “we have the RSPB trying again to pressurize the Scottish Government into taking action opposed to the wishes and interests of local communities”.

To the charge of lobbying the Scottish Government to take the interests of nature and wildlife into account we certainly plead guilty.

There are plenty of other organisations lobbying the Government to take the opposite view and we feel someone has to provide a voice for nature.

To the charge of not taking into account the welfare or wishes of local communities we take exception.

RSPB Scotland has worked for decades in the Western Isles alongside local communities to help preserve the islands’ amazing wildlife and traditional forms of agriculture. We employ several local people up and down the islands.

We promote the islands to tourists and provide facilities and activities at our Balranald nature reserve for visitors. We assist crofters to access funds through the Scottish Rural Development Programme. We are the lead partner for the Conserving Scottish Machair Life project which is, likewise, generating significant investment for the local economy.

We believe that it is imperative to provide a sustainable future for our wildlife and the communities which live alongside it. We may from time to time have honest disagreements with other organisations on how best we can do this.

But throwing around unsubstantiated brickbats and making aspersions about the motives of others is no way of finding the best route to that sustainable future.

Dr Pete Mayhew RSPB North Scotland


In response to Mr Keith Fernie’s letter of 11/10/12, I recognise the angst he must feel about not getting answers to his questions. When you go to the well, you expect to quench your thirst, but the source of this font of knowledge has not been forthcoming.

Writing is cathartic, and in this ‘season of mist and mellow fruitfulness’, the precursor to the Christmas festival, he may well reap the harvest he desires. In the final analysis, Keith, rest assured: ‘The tree can be recognised by its fruits.’

Calum Wallace, Ness HS2 0SW


A big THANK YOU from Save the Children Stornoway Branch to everyone who came to Saturday’s Ultimate Dance Challenge in Laxdale Hall; especially Kirtsie Anderson, An Lanntair’s Dance Development Officer, who organised the event and danced for five hours.

Around £400 was raised by those who took part. Thanks to the adults, tiny tots, toddlers and young people of all ages who boogied for a good cause.

Thanks also to the dance community who came along and spent some of their Saturday taking us through our paces - including Dannsa Eileanach, Clare Wilson, Sharon Mackinnon, Lynn Maclean, Kayleigh Nicolson and Jayne Macleod.

Save The Children, Stornoway Branch


I’ve been admiring photographs sent by readers, which you show on page four, under the title ‘Beautiful Islands’.

As a photographer, I’d like to suggest that those who send them state in the caption the type of camera used, the make of film, if they weren’t using digital, the ASA number, the F stop and shutter speed. If a tripod was used, that could be stated.

This would be a unique opportunity for readers to acquire a technical knowledge of photography.

Daiti O’Scannlain, Co. Cork, Ireland


The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union has, of course, been met with much cynicism.

There is however some need to pause and reflect on where Europe stood six decades ago when the European Coal and Steel Community, the precursor of the EU, was founded.

Here lay a continent that had been destroyed by the Second World War, with over 50 million dead, a war that came only two decades after the ending of the First World War.

The EU ensures that states co-operate peacefully, instead of through bloodshed, and the creation of the Single Market and the free movement of goods, capital, services and people has made us richer than we would have been without it.

It is often difficult to remember this as we endure the deepest recession in the EU’s history and rising Euroscepticism, which includes the UK.

The EU is not perfect, far from it, but it represents the most successful experiment in international co-operation in human history, a project that saw peace replace war, and something it does no harm in being reminded of.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh EH10 4JT


Has anyone any used/unwanted dolls clothes and toys, crochet or knitting patterns they don’t use anymore as my daughter is leaning to knit and crochet and we are finding these really hard to find. Thank you.

J. Fischer, 1 Hillcrest, Thirsk, North Yorks YO7 4JJ