I was shocked and disturbed to read of the financial basis on which the “Loch Seaforth” has been secured by the Scottish Government. This opens up entirely new questions which are of intense interest to this community, not just in the short-term but for many years to come.
It will be outrageous if Ministers continue to deny us the essential information about the terms on which Caledonian MacBrayne have been made mere sub-tenants of the Lloyds Banking Group, in respect of the vessel which is to serve Lewis for the next 20 years. Is it not more than a little ironic that an SNP government have sold our maritime tradition to a bank based in the City of London?
The structure which has been created is undoubtedly intended to make privatisation easier. The public is not intended to care who the “sub-tenant” is, so long as the colours of the vessel remain the same. But who will be crewing her? On what terms and conditions? Who will provide the cover when she breaks down? I doubt if Lloyds Banking Group will be much interested in ten years time!
Something very precious to these islands is in the process of being dismantled and the separation of public sector operator from private sector owner of a CalMac vessel is a massive step in the wrong direction. I call on the MP and MSP for the Western Isles to tell us what they know about this deal and whether they support it.
We also need a public campaign to keep Caledonian MacBrayne as a single entity devoted to the service of Hebridean communities and not to the enrichment of London bankers.
Isle of Lewis
I see that the inability of the Western Isles Labour Party election candidate to listen has not changed since his time as an MSP. If he had been listening last month he would have heard SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon tell the electorate that there would be no SNP - Labour coalition after the May election if no party wins overall control. It is disappointing to find someone who wishes to represent us at Westminster is unable to keep up with real time events.
We would be better served if he could explain to us how he hopes to pay for the dedicated schools, the arts, ferry services, changes to the NHS and all the other things that he and his party moan about? Obviously he has forgotten that Labour and Tory MP’s together have just voted for another £35 billion of cuts which will increase significantly over the next five years.
Simple economics tell us that you can’t maintain services never mind improve or introduce new ones while slashing the money to pay for them. Just like when he was an MSP, all rhetoric with no action.
Isle of Lewis
I notice with interest that, Mark Brown, our Tory candidate has become increasingly concerned as to the continuing policy of centralisation being pursued by the current SNP Government in Holyrood.
This is no doubt the very thing that would keep a prospective Tory candidate awake of an evening and indeed it is commendable that this concern stretches to the potential impact on the Western Isles.
Alasdair Morrison, our Labour Candidate, also takes issue with the Scottish Government, this time in terms of their leasing agreement with Cal Mac, no doubt the very stuff to make a Labour candidate see red.
Both Mark and Alasdair have, as concerned citizens of the Western Isles and Edinburgh, every right to highlight these issues and no doubt the population of the Western Isles and Edinburgh will sleep easier because they have.
However both of these issues are the responsibility of the Scottish Government and have absolutely nothing to do with the job both Mark and Alasdair are applying for, perhaps the missives would have been better described as having been sent by “Perturbed from Point” or “Exasperated from Edinburgh”, rather than as prospective Westminster Parliamentary Candidates, because if elected as MP they will have absolutely no influence over the issues that appear to have caused them both such angst.
I was recently sent some party briefings listing the various policies from the Lib/Dem manifesto of 2010 which they had either completely, or partially, achieved.
The interesting thing about this list was that of the 25 or so policies listed only 7 of them had any direct effect in Scotland. The others related to issues which were quite rightly directly devolved to Holyrood, such as education and health.
Given the SNP’s record in Holyrood they are an easy target in certain areas, and whilst both Mark and Alasdair raise valid points which do merit discussion perhaps this discussion is best left to the MSP’s and others who can actually bring influence to bear.
At a time when we have the electorate engaged in politics to an almost unprecedented level perhaps our time would be better spent capitalising on this by discussing those issues over which we, as the prospective MP for the Western Isles, can actively have an influence over and not muddy the waters with topics that whilst important in themselves are actually completely irrelevant to our prospective remit?
For example the need to raise the levels of income of the people of the Western Isles and in particular those who are the least well off in our communities.
An issue that the Liberal Democrats have already helped address by delivering on our promise to raise personal tax allowances, an achievement that has provided benefits to all UK tax payers and particularly the less affluent in our society.
Isle of Lewis
Better and Fairer Society
It hardly seems believable that it has only been four months since Johann Lamont did her famous U turn and virtually admitted that her better together campaign was nothing more than a confidence trick to the Scottish electorate, well evidenced by her description of her Westminster colleagues as political dinosaurs and that they treated Scotland as a satellite office of the ruling Labour Party in Westminster.
This duplicitous behaviour – in the name of politics of course - surely was the start of the demise of the Labour party in Scotland but there was more to come when one of those political dinosaurs from Westminster, Jim Murphy, was elected as the new leader of the Labour Party in Scotland.
Mr Murphy took on the job just a few months ago, yet his tenure has been nothing short of a catalogue of gaffes and disasters which culminated in his statement that, on election, the Scottish Labour Party would abolish the Bedroom Tax though his trusty advisers had neglected to inform him that the financial measures had already been taken by the Scottish Government to bin such a hateful tax in Scotland.
Interesting to note that John MacTeman – Murphy’s Chief of Staff – recently described Maggie Thatcher’s policies as “changing the economic structure of the country for good” - try telling that to the mineworkers, steelworkers and car manufacturers whose lives she systematically destroyed.
Labour MP’s keep trudging out the same tired message that voting for Labour in Scotland will avoid another Tory government yet quietly ignoring the indisputable fact that voting 40 Labour MP’s into Westminster in 2010 made no difference whatsoever.
Apparently, the Westminster dinosaurs are so concerned that Scotland will have a bigger voice in Westminster that they are even talking about a Labour-Tory coalition.
On the 100th anniversary of the death of the founder of the Labour Party James Keir Hardie, I would imagine there will be some turning in the grave.
So there we have it, in May do we vote for a discredited Labour Party led by Jim Murphy – a man who is in favour of spending £100 billion on upgrading our nuclear weapons situated only a few miles from Glasgow, who voted for the illegal war in Iraq, who wishes to side with the Tories in favour of further austerity cuts, a man who stumbles from one crisis in leadership to the next. or do we vote for the party led by Nicola Sturgeon who works incredibly hard to make Scotland a better and fairer society.
I trust that the Scottish electorate will no longer be misled and realise that the more MP’s we have in Westminster after May will result in Scotland having a much greater influence in our own affairs.
John G Mitchell
Isle of Harris
As the General Election campaign proceeds with claim and counter-claim by the old Parties, there are vital issues conveniently ignored as to exactly where 75 per cent of the British Governance is coming from under dictatorship from Brussels.
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Reforms are becoming ever more convoluted to such an extent that Britain’s countryside in time will be virtually and EU State national park.
With the combination of the SNP Government enacting new land reforms, such as land tax, local income tax in place of council tax, the breaking up of family farm partnerships, forming new property and land holding trusts and common buyout schemes of land and estates, together with EU CAP Reforms, this then becomes tantamount to State land nationalisation.
With all incentives for enterprise to flourish crushed by State intervention, Mr Salmond’s admiration for Russian President, Mr Putin’s communist regime imbues the Scottish Electorate with no illusions where SNP’s true agenda of subjectivity and complicity with Brussels left-wing socialist policies are predicated.
Only by UKIP’s policy of withdrawing from the EU can Britain obtain control of its resources for the benefit of its people and country, inasmuch as he who travels alone travels the fastest, without the dead hand of the EU.
Philip A. Anderson
(P.P.C. UKIP for Ross, Skye, Lochaber constituency)