Gazette Letters 29/11/12

Heather in full bloom earlier this year. Photo by Dods Macfarlane.
Heather in full bloom earlier this year. Photo by Dods Macfarlane.


Having had the privilege of talking to numerous people throughout the Sgir’ Uige agus Ceann a Tuath Nan Loch ward, no issues have come up more often than what is happening to our schools and our elderly.

I would like to make it clear that I am totally opposed to the unfair and savage cuts the Comhairle administration are trying to foist on the vulnerable of our island.

If elected I would strive to find a fair budget, where the people who need help the most are not penalized.

Among the specific things I am determined fight for are:

To restore free bus travel to and from school for the Children, taking this away was a terrible decision;

To retain specialist teachers in our schools, so that our children can continue to have a quality education;

To make sure that care and concessions for the elderly are not cut;

To look into setting up a scheme to buy and sell heating oil at reduced prices, we should all have the right to basic things like heating our homes;

To fight to keep all the schools within the ward open without shared headteachers;

To ensure proper road gritting of roads in the winter;

To demand that island jobs are protected.

I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who stand up for our children, our teachers, our schools, our pensioners, and the most vulnerable in our islands. In troubled times like these they need protection, not persecution.

John N. MacDonald

SNP candidate, Sgir’ Uige agus Ceann a Tuath Nan Loch


In his letter to the Stornoway Gazette of November 22nd, Donald Manford, writing about the budget proposals, claimed that I and my “Labour Cohort” had already identified what is to be hit and that we would hit the most vulnerable first. Nasty stuff- but probably to be expected, given the fact that prior to the last election, Donald and the rest of the SNP candidates were confident that they would secure a majority and would now be running an SNP-led Comhairle.

Having failed to achieve that goal, the SNP group is in some disarray and has chosen to take no part in the members’ individual scoring of projects, though they failed to indicate their intention to walk away from their responsibilities during the timetabling of the budget meetings and the agreement of procedures.

The latest decision of the SNP group is to present themselves as the Opposition in the Comhairle, though that may simply manifest itself as opposition to the Comhairle.

Donald also suggested in his letter that I should speak to my Labour Leader in Edinburgh. I am happy to speak to Johann, - after all, she hasn’t had to apologise to Parliament for presenting the wrong statistics as others have and she hasn’t been harrassing college Principals.

Cllr. Archie K Campbell

Comhairle offices, Stornoway


I recently attended a musical evening at the Nicolson Institute, where children of all ages and abilities from several Island schools sang and played a variety of instruments.

Their expertise ranged from beginner to Mod medallist, but common to all was enthusiasm and pride in their effort.

These children have had to discipline themselves to concentrate, to learn, to practice, in order to produce an acceptable performance.

They have had to develop the self-confidence to perform in public. No doubt if it was possible to have a display of art work or of sporting skills, the same qualities would be evident.

None of this would be possible without the enthusiasm and dedication of the tutors and teachers of these specialist subjects, and yet the Council wishes to remove them. To deprive our children of the opportunity to participate and perhaps excel in non academic subjects which should not be considered specialist in the first place, is to deprive them of a rounded, broad spectrum education.

Similarly, the Council would appear to wish to deprive opportunities to those young people over school age who have additional social and educational requirements.

After training and experience on the mainland Roland Engebretsen and his wife, Rebecca, returned to Lewis and set up Macaulay College, which provides a programme of activities which encourages these young people to have meaningful and fulfilling working and social lives.

But despite support from people in the field who have direct contact with the young people, and from their parents, their efforts have been blocked by disinterest, misinformation and bureaucratic inefficiency.

This is a facility described by one parent as ‘manna from heaven’. Without financial support from the Council Macaulay College and places like it in our community will close.

As with the children in mainstream education the Council will deprive another sector of our young people of the opportunity to achieve their full potential.

Do we not pride ourselves on the Island as being caring and compassionate? Has our standard of education not been the envy of other areas in Scotland? We should not lower our standards. Our children and young people are our priority.

Margaret Engerbretson, Stornoway


I write in reply to letters from R McCafferty and Martin Dand responding to mine of 8th November. Sadly, they both repeat common evolutionist errors and gambits.

One starts by saying he is a scientist, the other by saying he is a science teacher. The first also assumes that my beliefs are based on faith rather than science and are therefore not susceptible to reason. These are claims to scientific superiority which are unwarranted.

It happens that I am both a scientist and a science teacher. It is also the case that, like them, I was an evolutionist for most of my life, but then moved to creation as a result of reason and evidence.

Nobody should assume a monopoly of scientific integrity. We all have to debate on the evidence.

R McCafferty goes on to appeal to the “wealth of evidence for evolution”, as is always done, without presenting anything solid or convincing.

These frequent appeals to “great scientists” or “vast evidence” is all that most people get to hear, and is what convinces them.

Few look at the evidence critically and in detail, and so do not realise how thin it is.

There is also, implied in what the author says, the usual assumption that science is unique among human endeavour in being completely free from bias, dishonesty or other agendas. Why should it be? Scientists are human, not super-human.

To go into a little detail, both authors mention the fossils with regard to the intermediate forms, both claiming the existence of some intermediates, even though only a few are cited and even these are disputed by others.

What neither does is to address the statement Darwin himself made, that if evolution were true there would be “innumerable” intermediate forms in the fossil record.

It is worth restating here that Darwin got around these missing fossils through his “belief” that they would be found.

Thus, he propounded his theory in the face of the evidence rather than with the support of it. In this he was not acting as a scientist but as a man of faith. Evolutionists have faith too!

Looking further at the evidence cited by R McCafferty, he tries to put aside the Second Law of Thermodynamics by stating that a sandcastle might arise naturally because energy is available from the Sun.

Indeed, such low-level order may appear, and pass, due to energy flows; but there is a qualitative difference between the high-level order of living things and a pile of sand.

High-level order cannot come about without the input of information and the use of that information by an intelligent process.

This is another area where evolutionary theory falls down. It is, in a sense, a derivation of the school-book definition that the Universe is “all the matter and energy that exists”.

In fact, the Universe does not consist only of matter, measured in grams, and energy, measured in joules, but also of information, which is measured in bytes and is therefore a unique and fundamental quantity.

High-level order only exists in the presence of information, and information is itself, by definition, highly ordered.

The evolutionist claim that the vast amount of information in biological systems (six gigabytes in human DNA alone) is created by a flow of energy is unsustainable.

Information needs an intelligent source, and it is only with this that the remarkable phenomenon we call life, and its’ interplay with the Second Law, takes place.

And the view that beneficial mutations produce this information does not fit the bill; even if one mutation in a thousand were beneficial (optimistic) it would be swamped by the nine hundred and ninety-nine that were not.

Martin Dand, in his letter, confuses micro-evolution and macro-evolution, a confusion which has always been at the heart of evolutionary theory.

Micro-evolution, or variation within a species, does occur on a large scale. All it requires is a selective reduction of the information on the genome.

Macro-evolution, which means one species evolving into another, on the other hand, would require a massive increase in genetic information, so it is not valid to extrapolate from one process to the other, as evolution does.

To back up his argument on macro-evolution the author cites a variant mosquito evolving in the London Underground; but this is a simple case of micro-evolution.

He also cites antibiotic resistant bacteria, but here again it is the case that the information to provide the resistance was already there in some bacteria, which had a competitive advantage in certain environments, notably hospitals.

No new genetic information has been produced, and the bacteria have not evolved into anything but bacteria; another simple case of micro-evolution, not Darwinian macro-evolution.

The same author also mentions the eye in regard to “Irreducible Complexity”, stating that it actually is reducibly complex, and therefore possibly formed by step-wise evolution.

However, even if it could have happened we have no fossil evidence for it, so at best it’s a “might have”. But one should consider the complexity in detail.

For example, a single photon of light hitting a retinal sensor triggers a cascade of thirteen chemical reactions to produce a single electron to travel up the optic nerve to the brain. Seriously complex!

And why should the optic nerve, or the brain, or the retina, or any of the other structures, exist anyway?

The reality is that we truly are dealing with an irreducibly complex structure, (one among thousands) which cannot therefore have a step-wise evolutionary origin.

Happily there is one sentiment expressed by R McCafferty with which I can fully agree. He said: “I do object to faith based beliefs being pressed upon others while erroneously claiming to have a sound scientific basis to do so.”

However, I think he had creationists in mind when he said it. I apply his principle to everyone.

Keith Rushworth, Marvig HS2 9QP


The doom and gloom of looming budget cuts, expected to hammer local services, brought a swell of public interest this week when the Chamber of the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar offices became packed out with people looking for information and keen to have their voices heard, as part of the Local Authority’s public consultation exercise.

However satisfactory information at the meeting was judged to be thin on the ground with many frustrated about the lack of reasoning behind why some services were in the firing line and woolly plans for proposed changes.

Comhairle members and staff seemed to be ‘caught on the hop’ by the popularity of the meeting despite the fact that the Southern Isles had drawn a large crowd to their meetings last week.

The last consultation meeting is to be held at the Ravenspoint Centre, Lochs on December 4th, perhaps officials will be better armed with information, so the public can make informed points and possibly offer solutions.