Gazette Letters 27.02.14

Mr John J Maclennan captured this cracking image of boats berthed at Stornoway harbour taken from a 'sealeye' view
Mr John J Maclennan captured this cracking image of boats berthed at Stornoway harbour taken from a 'sealeye' view

Reaping the consequences

It is now official. There are 105 MSP’s in the Scottish Parliament who do not know the difference between what is morally right and what is morally wrong.

This was disturbingly witnessed on February 4th when a Bill to redefine marriage in Scotland was shamefully passed in a final vote at Holyrood.

Black Tuesday will be forever recorded as one of the saddest and darkest days in Scotland’s history when 105 morally sick politicians in Edinburgh formally applauded and approved same-sex marriage. One can hardly believe that our grand little nation has sunk to this way of thinking, acting and legislating. How have the mighty fallen.

If that wasn’t sickly enough there was more to follow, when a series of amendments to the Bill were tabled, including one calling for recognition that a belief in the traditional view of marriage should be deemed worthy of respect.

Readers will be appalled to learn that these amendments, which would have provided greater civil liberty protections, were all voted down by the majority of MSPs. Quite unbelievable.

In passing this Bill politicians have ignored public opinion, snubbing the morally correct view of their own constituents whilst disregarding the findings of their very own consultation document, which showed 65% opposed to any definition of marriage.

Alex Neil, the Scottish Health Secretary who was instrumental in the bill’s passing, said it was “one of the great historic days of the Parliament”, adding that the legislation sends out a message about “the new Scotland we are creating in the 21st century.”

It certainly shouldn’t surprise us that God’s Judgments are upon our nation at this time.

Over the past few months, from John O’Groats to Land’s End and from Cape Wrath down to the White Cliffs of Dover, heavy rains, large waves and gale force winds have wreaked havoc, chaos and devastation across Britain.

Severe flooding has brought many communities to a virtual standstill, with thousands of homes affected and countless properties destroyed.

With all their emergency forecasting alerts, the weathermen are predicting worse is to come. They only need to look into their Bibles to have their predictions confirmed. We are reaping, and will further reap, the consequences of our moral degradation as a society. God will not be mocked.

Mr Donald J Morrison

85 Old Edinburgh Road

Inverness, IV2 3HT

Intellectual property

Recently I had a philisophical discussion about ‘intellectual property’ with a fellow aspiring writer. I maintained that when you read a book; listen to the radio; or see a programme on television; that that input becomes assimilated into your brain and becomes part of your own intellectual property.

This is a crucial debate when you consider the writing profession. I further maintain, that you should be able to reproduce this information at will. My late Geography teacher from the Nicolson Institute would return our homework with the refrain “plagiarism laddie, plagiarism!” I did not have an answer for him then but I do now - to copy a paragraph is plagiarism - to uplift a page is research.

I wonder what’s the current status of IP for students who can pass of brilliant essays, downloaded from paid sites on the Internet, as their own.

Calum Wallace

3 North Dell, Ness

Democracy - or what ?

During the referendum discussions, the question is often aired in the Press and TV as to whether the Scottish people will be £500 better off – worse off – or what.

What a ridiculous question. At best it is fodder for the media – at worse it is a gross insult to the Scottish people that such a unique constitutional question as to whether Scotland wishes to reap the benefits of self-determination carries with it some form of price tag.

Surely the more reasonable question we should ask ourselves is whether we believe that Scotland has the means, the desire and the potential to at least maintain our standard of living / job prospects / pensions and /or hopefully further develop them.

This contributor passionately believes that Scotland has that ability and vision to take the next logical constitutional step in being responsible for their own destiny and take this proud nation forward.

We should be well aware of the fact – as put eloquently by Angus Robertson MP– that there are twice as many pandas in Scotland as there are Tory MP’s – ONE Tory MP in Westminster representing an entire nation for the last 13 years yet we are ruled – by and large - by a Tory government?

People have fought, are fighting and will continue to fight world-wide for their basic democratic right to self-determination.

We now have this opportunity to influence our own destiny through the ballot box. We continue to suffer Westminster legislation by a party who attracted less than 20% of the Scottish vote – what an insult to democracy in Scotland.

If any further illustration of this iniquitous situation is needed we should look no further than the imposition of the “ Bedroom Tax “ where 91% of Scottish politicians voted against this ridiculous piece of legislation.

No heed seems to be given to the overwhelming feeling of antagonism to this tax by the vast majority of Scottish politicians and their constituents but we have to witness John Swinney having to plead the case - cap in hand - for extra borrowing powers from the Department of Works and Pensions to reverse this perverse tax.

The Scottish Tory and Labour Party (now strange bedfellows ) conspire against Scotland in this referendum debate and along with Westminster would have us believe that the oil boom is over.

Far from it, there are serious Scottish Government initiatives to improve recovery rates and drilling incentives especially in more challenging conditions.

Let us not sit back this time and watch those revenues being squandered.

Reuters reported ( January 2014 ) that each and every one of the 5 million Norwegians are now Krone millionaires as their Oil Fund has reached the giddy heights of 5.1 trillion Krone – that is equivalent to around £100,000 for every man woman and child in Scotland to invest in Scotland’s future. Now, this is food for thought

John G Mitchell

Ceol na Mara

7 Direcleit

Isle of Harris HS3 3DP

lews castle

The regeneration of Lews Castle has been a long-standing ambition of the Comhairle and its partners. The vision to bring this iconic building back into operation through a mixed-use heritage and hospitality scheme has been well publicised over many years.

The support of the community and the potential of the project to deliver significant long term benefits across the islands were major factors that enabled the Comhairle to secure over £9m of external funding for the project, an exceptional level of support.

These elements make this a unique project and, ironically perhaps, also explain why the Comhairle had only limited success in attracting serious interest from the private sector in the early stages of the project. It was clear from discussions with potential investors that the small scale of the development, the requirement for public access to the Castle and the adjacent museum and archive were seen as issues that would affect the viability of an exclusive hotel development.

It is vitally important to understand the whole context in considering the current proposals for the development of the upper floors of the Castle. It is also important to understand that the operation of the upper floors and the ground floor public rooms - which will provide public facilities, including a café, open to all visitors and a range of outstanding rooms for functions – are linked and are part of the hospitality opportunity the Comhairle has sought a private sector partner for.

Two separate procurement exercises were undertaken over the past three years in order to attract a private sector partner. Indeed, from the outset the tender documentation made clear that although the potential for hotel use had been identified, other commercial options would be considered. The exact nature of the private sector proposals for the upper floors was always going to be market-led.

The first process resulted in a proposal for a small 4-star hotel and a preferred bidder was identified. Unfortunately, the preferred bidder later withdrew and the Comhairle recommenced the procurement process. Following a review, the hospitality element was reviewed by the Project Board. The hotel concept (4-star minimum) was retained, whilst also allowing the market to propose other high quality accommodation models, such as serviced apartments and self-catering, the latter required to be 5-star. The Comhairle agreed to a second tendering on the basis of a Report considered in public on 6 September 2012.

In both procurement processes, the Comhairle met its legal obligations in full, by advertising through Procurement Contracts Scotland and the Official Journal of the European Union.

In response to the second procurement process the Comhairle received one proposal from an international leisure operator. I can confirm that the proposal for the upper floors is for luxury accommodation with 26 bedrooms and nine living/kitchen spaces which allow for self-catering if required. The accommodation also allows bedrooms to be let as conventional en-suite hotel rooms. The restored ground floor of the Castle will feature a dedicated reception space for guest check-in and the operator will operate the museum cafeteria and shop. The public rooms will provide an outstanding venue for weddings, conferences and other celebrations. The proposal will create up to 30 direct jobs.

The recent positive press publicity regarding the growth in the tourism sector, with Lewis and Harris being named as the best island destination in Europe and the opportunities arising from the new Tourism 2020 Strategy suggests that there are significant opportunities for expansion of the tourism potential of the Outer Hebrides. Doing nothing with the upper floors of the Castle is not an option. Using the opportunity to support further growth as well as adding to the quality and diversity of the existing product is an imperative to realise the full economic benefits of the Lews Castle Museum and Archive project.

I would point out that the Comhairle is still in discussion with the preferred partner and operator. There is still a significant challenge to fund the development of the upper floors and to finalise the details of the commercial package.

Malcolm Burr

Chief Executive

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar