Gazette Letters 27/9/12


I won’t be around in 2030, but the White Elephant II, the slow boat to China, or Ullapool, will be.

It is scandalous that this new-build is being engined with just economical running costs in mind, cutting a massive 15 minutes off the crossing. By the afore-mentioned date she will be huffing and puffing across the Minch, taking much longer than the promised two and a half hours.

£45 million is the estimated cost of this state of the art vessel. I don’t think there is going to be a swimming pool aboard, but just about everything else.

There is a feasible alternative. The Muirneag is being replaced next year. By what? Another Olympic Flame, another lame duck?

Spend half the £45 million on replacing the Muirneag with a new-build, basic car ferry for all vehicular traffic, not just HGV. Two trips a day, every day. With the remaining £20 odd million build two 200 passenger hydrofoils. Basic facilities, toilets and small snack bar/bar.

These vessels are capable of 35 knots, under 2 hours crossing. They could sail every four hours in high season, less frequently in winter. This is what our Council should be clamouring for, because if CalMac get their way, and they will, even our grandchildren will never see a crossing under two hours.

Donald Macdonald, Stornoway HS1 2SH


I refer to your excellent report about millions being spent on alcohol related harm in the islands (Gazette 13.9.12), and sadly the problem is as much in evidence on the mainland as it is with yourselves.

You quote the chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, Dr. Evelyn Gillan, who in speaking of the licensing system operating in Scotland says that licensing boards are required to consider the protection and improvement of public health when taking decisions about licensing. Dr. Gillan says that we need to make sure this principle is being put into practice, but it’s patently obvious that licensing boards aren’t putting the principle into practice.

Here in Inverness decisions made over the years by the licensing board in respect of opening hours of licensed premises have been absurd, and no other word for it, at every turn bending over backwards to assist both the licensee and the drinker. Either those who comprise the licensing board are a bunch of buffoons and wholly unaware of the magnitude of the problem, or they are protecting interests far removed from that of public health, but either way I would suggest that the Scottish licensing system stands in urgent need of review.

Keith Fernie, Inverness IV2-3RW


The Rev I.D.Campbell, Gazette columnist, continually takes flak from a couple of mainland, religious, wanabees. He keeps his powder dry but does he not realise there is a war on. G.B.Shaw tells us that ‘liberty means responsibility’. Surely responsibility necessitates a response also. I will reluctantly add a few more straws to Iain’s burden.

In last week’s column, Iain eulogises on the old Nicolson Institute, reminiscing about his old alma mater - the Nici can do no wrong. My schooldays in the Nicolson were the worst days of my life. I am sure that I am not the only person who feels this way. As I have said many times before, it was as if a Pandora’s Box of evil was poured into my desk. I ran the gauntlet of physical and verbal abuse for the duration of my schooling.

Teachers do not understand the effects of bullying unless they have gone through it themselves. They tug their forelocks and pay lip service to bullying legislation.

The only good thing about the new Nicolson is that hopefully there will be an epiphany - a phoenix rising from the ashes with parallel clear thinking, but I am not holding my breath.

Calum Wallace, Ness, Isle of Lewis


Thank you for your point of view article regarding the curiosity of a Martian landing in Lewis. As you will see from my introduction I am not of this earth. You may not be aware but Martians have been visiting your planet for many years (we are very curious), in fact your holy book, the Bible highlights unexplained visits, so this revelation shouldn’t be a surprise to you.

Thankfully, compared to humans, Martians are an advanced civilization. Martian historians have recorded that previous civilizations on Mars once professed religious beliefs - we too once experienced similar problems, similar doubts and similar criticisms of colleagues and other organisations.

In Martian history, this was known as our ‘Dark Period’ - when our peoples argued, were divided, fueled by mistrust leading ultimately to wars and death - all in the name of church and religion. As an advanced civilization our society has evolved into one that is based on mutual respect, shared values and beliefs based on universal truths - proven beyond all doubt. I’m afraid I can’t be of further help to you in your own personal somewhat misguided views (as you say, humans are indeed a strange lot) but I can tell you that if you ever visit Mars and live among Martians your confusion will dissipate - and you will truly see the light.

Thank you also for your invitation to visit one of your churches, however with such confusion, separation, and division that you suggest exists in these buildings, I’d rather not. And thank you for your airport tip - thankfully we don’t rely on security systems - why should we? Oh, and we can travel anytime, anywhere our inter-planetary time machines take care of that. Nanu Nanu...

A Martian (Phillip McKay) Crater 5,  Mars (West Lothian)


A heartfelt thank you for the Gazette’s recent excellent thread relating to The Church!

The Reverend David Campbell (Letters, 13th September) took us carefully through the history of Presbyterianism’s diversity, giving a noteworthy and helpful summary of the variety currently available.

The Reverend Shona Boardman (Letters, 23rd August) reminded us of the value of female ministers. We ought surely to recognize the central, vital role of females in Christ’s life on earth and in His discipleship since. Would anybody now be partisan enough to allege that Abbess Hildegard, for instance, was some misguided charlatan?

The Reverend Iain Campbell earns bonus marks for supporting Radio 4! In his scholarly and challenging column ‘Viewpoint’, he has often drawn our attention to the breadth of The Christian Church, despite its shortcomings, and to the richness of its miriad traditions.

Mr Keith Fernie (Letters, 13th September) highlights the repressive mores of 2000 years ago and the (still limited) progress since. The Bible is certainly infinitely more than a book and we must study it with the brains God gave us, rather than with the sledgehammer of context-deprived quotation and negligent literalism. Listen of course to those whom we believe to have been ‘called’, but not blindly, for we dare not claim that every pulpit utterance is inspired by The Holy Spirit. Even the most exalted human is fallible, and ultimately we must indeed be prepared to “deal directly with God” without reliance on any human mediator or invention.

Clearly then we are rich with godly people who care. So why do we obsess with our differences, doctrinal or behavioural, and ignore the de facto unity of The One Church?

By definition we are members of Christ’s One Church if we are Christians. Non-Christians too belong to The Creator and must certainly never be considered as His enemies, or ours. However, we don’t pull together! The divisive scourge of judgemental sectarianism is un-Christ-like and the narrowness of our perspectives can be corrosively acidic and bigoted. Isn’t it un-Christian to fire sectarian arrows, to bicker, bully, denigrate, undermine, deride, and to fight (or hide in) our own little corner? Aren’t we told to ‘love our neighbours as ourselves’, godly or otherwise, whoever they are?

Christ founded but One Church. Though we may refer loosely to Christianity’s varieties as ‘churches’, in reality they are only denominations – the term used by The Reverend David. It is a harmful and vain conceit for any denomination to feign pre-eminence, or, worse still, to claim to BE The Church, as if all others were at best sub-species, mistaken impostors, or in extremis, beyond The Church’s pale altogether.

If only we would see The Church as the magnificent diamond that it is, with its many glorious facets, each with its own special light from which we might benefit. To show its full brilliance, to reflect the peace and love of God, the diamond needs every facet!

The facets are the Denominations of The Christian Church. Up here they include Baptist, Orthodox, Scottish Episcopal, Presbyterian (x6), Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Methodist and House congregations; ‘Many Mansions’, worshipping God in their own ways. Even within each denomination there is rich variety – compare Glasgow C of S Cathedral with any rural C of S, Westminster Chapel with Free Churches here, St Andrew’s Kelso with Old St Paul’s in Edinburgh, Brompton Oratory or Pluscarden Abbey with Westminster Cathedral!

Perhaps it is manly to attack the ‘heretical’ facets with our sledgehammers. But what if others take their sledgehammers to our own ‘equally heretical’ facet? Surprise surprise, look what happens to that diamond! Couldn’t we admit, however grudgingly, that the likelihood of any one of us being altogether ‘right’ is negligible?

Could we not face up to our human fallibility, discard Pharisaical self-righteousness (moi?) and accept that we are simply trying our feeble utmost to worship God as fits our flaw-ridden understanding? Christianity is not a competition! On our journey we check, question and seek guidance, but let us never claim to ‘know’ that we are ‘right’. Merely to ‘tolerate’ others is to despise with postured superiority; let us prefer to respect and value their special insights, their particular ways and the light they might shine on our own darkness.

We don’t and can’t know it all, and we are accountable to God if we claim squatters’ rights to the high ground.

One Church, one glittering diamond, many glorious facets. No sledgehammer! Please? God bless!

Peter George, Harris


Much news coverage has been devoted to whether an independent Scotland would automatically be part of the European Union or would have to negotiate its entry (13th September)

Many EU experts and academics, such as Emile Noel, Secretary General of the European Commission, and European Court of Justice judge, Lord Mackenzie-Stuart, have already confirmed that Scotland is part of the territory of the European Union and the people of Scotland are citizens of the EU – there is no provision for either of these circumstances to change upon independence.

Both Scotland and what remains of the UK will both be successor states, with exactly the same status within the EU, not accession countries. And if the Unionists want to argue that Scotland would not continue to be a member, neither would what is left of the UK, as independence would lead to the creation of two new states, both in the same legal boat.

In addition to this there is now a new clause as a result of the Lisbon Treaty, conveniently forgotten by Unionists, that requires negotiation for a Member State to cease to be in the EU. We know from the Greenland precedent that negotiation is also required for part of a Member State to withdraw. Greenland became a member of the European Community in 1973 when Demark joined, despite the fact that it opposed membership. A referendum was held in Greenland in 1982, following home rule, which saw a majority vote in favour of withdrawal. This formal withdrawal took place in 1985 and was enacted through the Greenland Treaty.

Despite Unionist scaremongering all the evidence points to the fact that an independent Scotland will remain an integral part of the European Union and will not have to re-apply for EU membership.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh


Good news this week for island motorists as fuel retailer Gordon Diesel’s in Back have dropped the price of petrol and diesel by almost 10p per litre.

The news was warmly received by island motorists who routinely endure some of the highest pump prices in the country.

At the time of going to press, garage owner Gordon Maclennan was unavailable for comment so no further light could be shed on what had led to the move and whether he was able to secure a better deal from fuel wholesalers.

However it is hoped that other garages will follow on and that there may be the possibility of competition in the market.

There are expected to be developments to the story over the next week.