Gazette Letters 23.10.14

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Our picture of the week was taken by Stornoway Gazette journalist Eric Mackinnon, who took this shot of a Hebridean traffic jam after finding the entire road blocked by curious sheep in South Lochs.

If you would like to contribute your photos to our Beautiful Islands feature email: Include your name, address, where the picture was taken and what inspired you to take it, as well as any technical information about the picture.



In R L McCallum’s letter (Oct 16th) he admits to being fearful about Scottish independence and accuses Alex Salmond of misleading the people re the NHS and that post independence there would be no NHS.

He states that his fear was because those seeking independence would, and I quote, “get their hands on this country without the moderating influence of the UK parliament”.

Surely he must be aware that the NHS in Scotland is a fully devolved matter and has been managed by the SNP government at Holyrood for the past seven years.

Despite budgetary constraints during that time NHS Scotland has managed to deliver an outstanding service and the SNP has delivered a balanced budget for each of those seven years.

Compare that with the horror story that the people of England have had to endure with NHS England.

The top down reorganisation and reform started by Andrew Lansley, and who has now belatedly been removed from his post, has caused chaos and put that service in jeopardy with a reported £30 billion deficit in NHS finances.

A report has been produced by the think tank Reform, and co-authored by a former Labour health minister, suggesting that all in the UK should start paying a £10 monthly NHS membership fee plus up to £75 a night “hotel costs” for hospital stays.

There are also reports of Conservative and UKIP plans to charge for GP appointments. Many people in England have had to wait up to four weeks to get a GP appointment.

The SNP is the only UK party with a substantial working majority and the opinion polls continue to show that they are well ahead after seven years in power.

That is because they have shown competence in government throughout that period and have delivered on their promises resulting in free prescriptions, free personal care for the elderly, free eye tests, free tuition fees etc, bridge tolls abolished, RET scheme for ferries to the Western Isles, major projects, e.g. the new Forth Crossing, on time and under budget, resulting in a financial saving and enabling an early start to the A9 upgrade.

Compare that with the sheer incompetence of the present UK coalition government and the prospect of a Tory/UKIP coalition next year.

I am also fearful for the future, not for myself, but for my children and grandchildren and all the other young people of Scotland who aspired to something better by voting Yes, and do not deserve to be held back by our generation, the ‘Baby Boomers’, who on the whole lead fairly comfortable lives.

When Mr McCallum refers to “ the moderating influence of the UK parliament” does he mean the discredited, self-serving, war mongering, poor and disabled battering, vainglorious, British establishment?

Margaret E. Hicks

Point, Isle of Lewis


Earlier this year Mr MacRitchie from Skigersta wrote an excellent letter to your paper on the subject of crofting. Predictably that letter went un-noticed by the readership but I would like to now add my thoughts on this subject.

Despite the positive media spin issued by the Crofting Commission and others it does not take much to examine that this system is hopelessly failing.

The Crofting Commission and others blame all the problems of crofting on a group called ‘Absentees’, a derogatory label relating to anyone who is deemed to live over 32km from their croft.

The image created by the Commission of the hated ‘Absentee’ is of course one which they equate to neglect. However, any purposeful use the ‘Absentee’ uses his land for is conveniently ignored by the Commission bureaucrats in order to give the illusion that the land should be re-claimed for sustainable use.

Their solution is to strip the ‘Absentee’ of his tenancy in favour of a ‘Local crofter’. This ‘Local crofter’ could very well be someone living in a completely separate district never mind village and already working several other crofts!

This ruling is what creates decay, reducing remoter districts to wastelands while echoing the conclusions of Frank Fraser Darling’s studies from sixty years ago about land deteriorating into wet deserts.

Then like now these warnings are completely ignored as unpalatable by self-serving bureaucrats who are not qualified to be making decisions on land-use.

The issue of multiple tenancies often go hand-in-hand with the convenient 32km ruling but there is a further question to be posed: Who are the aspiring young crofters looking for land? Do they even exist? If so then why are there so many multiple tenancies?

State subsidy and benefits create nothing but poverty and the hectares of deteriorating land, neglected drainage and broken fences are testament to the utter failure of this system.

I have to ask myself the question what would those who had to make use of the land to survive think of the present situation?

My fore-fathers in West Uig had to literally create arable land from scratch. They toiled relentlessly over their scraps of land merely to survive.

If they could have hired the Brahan Seer to inform them of the deterioration and play-time that has become of that land they created they would be utterly devastated.

You must excuse my interpretation of the facts as I am but a simple country boy who was brought up on a croft. I therefore have no academic background in reading about crofting from books or debating the subject with gentlemen in tweed suits and clean brogues.

My only experience of crofting has been limited to the practical skills of land-use, animal husbandry and the communal township life of my youth.

Angus Macdonald

Livingston, West Lothian EH54 9AH


Rev Dr George J Whyte, Acting Principal Clerk to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland wrote (Church Response 9/10/14) “Finally, the Church of Scotland is not drifting from the teaching of the bible on various issues... we remain fully committed to scriptures as the central written witness to the Word of God”.

However , ministers of the Church of Scotland are not required to affirm that the Scriptures are the Word of God.

There is a fundamental difference between this affirmation and the position stated by Dr Whyte.

Mr Lindsay MacCallum

Ross- Shire IV17OUJ


The Comhairle are this week highlighting two instances of the Westminster Government’s shortfall in allowing the Western Isles to take advantage of its renewable energy resources.

Steps have been taken forward with the announcement of plans for more electric car charging facilities, the use of which will decrease the isles’ carbon emissions.

However, the news of GDF Suez pulling out of a windfarm project and the bringing to light of Westminster’s inaction regarding the isles’ use of its own renewables sees the Comhairle fighting on two fronts.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has spoken of his attempt to raise the isles’ energy issues in the House of Commons in January, but there is still no sign of the isles being able to use its own renewable energy, and the transportation of energy to the mainland market is also a major stumbling block to the region’s renewable potential.

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