Gazette letters 26/7/12


I have been intrigued by the fact that while up in South Uist recently it was made clear to me by members of the community that the decision to demolish the local school and replace it with another one at the cost of £10 million pounds, after recently spending £1 million pounds on re-slating its roof, was neither wanted nor needed by the community who are quite content with the one already there following its upgrading. Sounds fair enough considering I spent a week teaching in there and was able to make some qualitative judgement on that.

The other very puzzling aspect of it all is that the contract to build several schools in the Western Isles, stretching from Lewis to South Uist, was awarded to a contractor from the North of Ireland who are also contracted to provide its upkeep for the foreseeable future. Coincidentally, Uist Builders, who provided necessary employment all over the Outer Isles went under around the same time. So I am just a bit nosey and want to find out how the tendering process operates within Comhairle nan Eilean in the Western Isles and why the local council should allow a major contractor based in their own area to go out of business.

How can any council, that represents a fragile community, argue that this was a proper and responsible decision? It would seem that the local community were not consulted in a proper manner. Did this decision ‘tick the box’ for the Comhairle to show the community (or people who they might consider to be of even greater importance within the Government) that they have ‘done their bit’ for South Uist and this will get them get ‘off their backs’ for a while.

To make mis-management of resources even more farcical, Ceòlas, whose main thrust is the one-week festival that brings people in to South Uist for that period, have already had the results of a feasibility study announced. The recommendation was that a broch, looking like the one in Mousa, Shetland, be built as a music centre/college/Gaelic Cultural Centre etc for around £12 million.

The Daliburgh school is of course not appropriate because it ‘has to be’ knocked down to form a modern landscaped car park because the Feng Shui is not right for the new school that is built behind it. There does not have to be a ‘has to be’.

From present trends there would be few pupils attending this centre from the island itself and so provide a sort of ‘Heritage site’ in the midst of the ‘Reserve’ of the Outer Hebrides. There is no provision anywhere for doing up the old buildings and little provision for a future population.

But then, we won’t need the native population, because everyone will be queuing to get into the place to learn Gaelic and ‘go native’ for a couple of weeks in their urban year. Ethnic tourism is one of its titles but as one of the impressionable locals admitted, Gaelic might be the sacrificial lamb that, providing you do not mention it as a Gaelic project specifically, will get the project accepted. Is this because the ‘Gaels’ are getting enough money thrown at them already? Or do I detect something more underhand?

Have we become immune to wasted investments provided money is being spent - and image is more important than reality?

Can anyone offer any insight into this?

Allan Macdonald, Edinburgh EH7 4DG


I was interested by your report and pictures on the Benbecula Fun Day held recently in Balivanich and organised by Benbecula Community Council and Benbecula Community Association.

As you state, the event was a great success at Winfield Park, and enjoyed by all. I was present for a time that afternoon to witness a lively performance by young Uist band, Valstrome, one of the fine acts staged under the auspices of An Radio.

The music was, admittedly, very loud, but we had the spectacle of Valstrome front-man, Dylan Macphee, strutting his stuff on stage with rockstar-like persona, within a matter of yards from a family home in Winfield Way (V in the Park?).

Valstrome currently performs cover songs ‘liked by people’, so Dylan Macphee tells me, so hopefully one day their own song-writing potential will flourish and they may go to the places Norman Maclean predicted, for the front-man in particular, in another journal last year.

An Radio, I understand, will initially broadcast four hours daily, with hourly slots during the morning, noon, drive-time and evening. A request show will go out on Friday evening at 8pm so that listeners can perhaps tune-in to An Radio following the Gaelic requests on nan Gaidheal.

These are indeed anticipated, if not exciting timeS, for the radio listening population from Berneray to Eriskay, and here’s to local development officers in North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist for their efforts in bringing our radio station to fruition.

Iain Frew, Benbecula


Dear Editor, you have asked for views regarding the public consultation meeting.

I did not attend the public meeting regarding the new ferry, why would I waste my time and fuel, when all the major decisions have been made.

I am disgusted that the contract to build the vessel has been awarded to a German shipyard. The 42 million pound contract would have been far better spent boosting the Scottish economy; the Clyde shipyards also have a proven track record for quality, design and reliability.

As for the journey time, it is a lame excuse to cite cost of fuel. The Sea Cat (Condor) (Twin Hulled, Hydrofoil) vessels on the Poole to Guernsey route sails almost double the distance (99 miles) in four hours, and in waters that are just as challenging as the Minch. Using that kind of vessel a new Ferry would cover the Stornoway to Ullapool route in no more than two hours.

The number of bars, provision of shops, restaurants, and gaming machines will be decided by market forces (and have probably already been decided).

The only thing we might have a say on, is the naming of the vessel, I am more than willing to attend a meeting to discuss that.

Carey Lye, Isle of Lewis


I am a disabled person who has visited relatives on Isle of Lewis reuglarly for the past eight years.

In the past CityLink Coaches would load up our luggage in Inverness and we would pick it up at the ferry terminal in Stornoway, saving us the stress and strain.

This year however CityLink decided in their wisdom that they would no longer provide this service and the only assistance we could get was from Calmac, but this was limited.

Unfortunately the day we had booked to travel was the 3rd of July and due to mechanical problems the ferry did not run.

Thus we were left in Ullapool, with no where to stay or go. Thr Tourist Information Office found us accomodation for the night in a B and B. The trouble was that it was at the top end of West Street which meant we had to drag our cases uphill.

The following morning we caught the ferry to Stornoway but assitance onle went as far as dumping our luggage within the ferry door and we were then left to our own devices.

Fortunately the man on the ferry doors when we got to Stornoway, did take our bags into the ferry terminal.

Going back we found that Lochs Coaches were doing the same service that City Link used to provide, and we must say that they were excellent, delivering us all the way to Inverness without having to handle our luggage.

We love Lewis and wish to return often, but services provided by Calmac and Citylink are doing no good whatsoever for the Island.

Thank heaven for the local firms such as Lochs Transport, they certainly made life a little easier than our inbound trip had been.

Thank you Lewis we love the place and think that the big firms are not giving you the treatment that you deserve.

Norman Rowlston, Doncaster DN6 8JE