Gazette Letters 31.7.14

Point reader Ronald MacAlpine took this lovely sunrise image, very early one morning, at Tiumpan Head lighthouse
Point reader Ronald MacAlpine took this lovely sunrise image, very early one morning, at Tiumpan Head lighthouse

Stay in UK

We are two ordinary people born in the north of England in the 1950s, not economists or constitutional experts, and now live not far from the Scottish border.

The thought of Scotland possibly separating from the UK saddens us, rather as if part of our extended family were to announce that they were distancing themselves, didn’t want to be part of the family any longer, and would no longer join in get-togethers and celebrations.

Scotland has a very strong international identity, in no way overshadowed by being part of the UK.

Please don’t forget that lots of people in England, particularly Northern England, did not vote for David Cameron’s party. It would be sad if dislike for the current British Government and cabinet, which does feel very English and southern at the moment, were to influence Scots in this major decision; we feel it would be better to look at how the current union could be improved in all areas.

The strong feelings behind sporting loyalties may influence some. Our English family and friends who are football supporters naturally cheer for England; but if England isn’t playing they will be hoping one of the other ‘home’ teams win, so would happily be supporting Scotland.

We are led to understand that this is not reciprocated north of the border!

So: we have no economic arguments to put to you, partly because economic forecasting has been repeatedly shown to have too many variables to be reliable.

We can understand many of the historic influences and the disaffection with Westminster but would just like to say please vote no to stay all together as the United Kingdom.

Linda and Winston Collinge

Bridge End Cottage,

Cumbria, CA4 9QG

Protect USO

David Richardson of the Federation of Small Businesses has rightly stressed the absolute importance of the Universal Service Obligation to Royal Mail services in the Highlands and Islands.

As Mr Richardson points out, even with Royal Mail privatisation, the USO remains “and it obliges the company to collect and deliver letters and parcels to all corners of the UK at the same price and for the same number of days a week”.

The key phrase in this quote is “to all corners of the UK”. About 80 per cent of Scottish mail is delivered outside of Scotland and vice versa. Therefore a Universal Service Obligation that only covers Scotland is of relatively little use to most of us.

Alongside the need to protect the USO from unfair competition on the part of firms which cherry-pick profitable business in cities, the other urgent threat to Royal Mail services and the USO comes from those who are advocating a Yes vote in the referendum.

This would create two separate mail services, north and south of the border. We do not need to look far for proof of what would happen – the Royal Mail, even under public ownership, treated the Republic of Ireland as a “European” destination with prices to match.

It costs far more for a much slower service to post a letter from the Western Isles (or even from Northern Ireland) to the Republic as it does to post one within the United Kingdom.

In spite of being pressed repeatedly, the MP for the Western Isles while claiming to defend the USO has refused to address that crucial point.

I looked to the Scottish Government White Paper on Independence for guidance but found that, in the absence of an answer, the issue has simply been ignored. The document which was supposed to give us “all the answers” carefully avoids the difficult questions!

Defending the USO is, of course, a huge issue – as Mr Richardson points out – for small businesses which rely on the Royal Mail for delivery of their goods. But it is of equal importance for the large number of households in the Western Isles which shop by catalogue and internet from firms in other parts of the UK which use the Royal Mail for deliveries.

We have fought for years against excess charges imposed by mail order firms and haulage companies on island destinations. One result of Scottish independence would be to remove the last and most important defence against that behaviour – the Royal Mail’s USO which extends “to all corners of the UK at the same price”.

It is another very good reason to vote “No” on positive grounds – to protect the UK-wide USO!

Matt Bruce

Chair, Western Isles 
Labour Party


Isle of Lewis HS2 0PN

Festival thanks

The Hebridean Celtic Festival Trust (HCF Trust) would like to thank all who helped with the staging of this year’s annual event.

We are grateful to the national and local funding organisations; Creative Scotland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and PRS for Music Foundation for their support towards HebCelt 2014.

In addition we extend our thanks to CalMac and staff, Duncan MacKays & Co, DR MacLeod (Stornoway) Ltd, Lucid, 999Design, Cala Hotels and staff, Co-operative Membership and staff at the local Co-operative Superstore, Lewis Car Rentals, Carhire Hebrides, Breedon Hebrides, Reefnet, Scottish Water, Scottish & Southern Energy, HI-Scot Credit Union, the Clean Squad, all staff at An Lanntair.

Stornoway Trust for permitting us to use this fabulous setting and grounds staff who work so hard to prepare it.

We also wish to thank the general public for their forbearance whilst the festival occupied this special area.

We also wish to thank the many other local businesses that assisted, local media for their support and the many individuals and community groups in Lewis and Harris who help in a myriad of ways to bring this event together.

We’d also like to thank most sincerely all who accommodated our Boomerang project participants who travelled from the far reaches of New Zealand and Australia and became immersed in our culture.

All were made to feel so at home through the hospitality extended in Garenin, Carloway and Breasclete and by the civic reception held by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Our thanks also to the Police, Scottish Ambulance and Fire Service, and volunteers from the Coastguard, First Responders and the local Macmillan Cancer Care committee for ensuring the event was carried off in a safe manner.

We wish to say a special thanks to the town businesses who came up with some fabulous ways to decorate their shop windows demonstrating the tremendous local support for the festival.

This is a reflection of the many ways our island community reaches out to offer a welcoming hand making HebCelt a most special experience.

The HCF Trust work extremely hard to ensure that the festival continues to reflect the range of quality music being produced at home alongside that of the many international artists bringing music tinged with contemporary traditional, rock, indie-folk and world influences.

None of this would be possible without the commitment of our fantastic HebCelt volunteer teams.

We thank you all most sincerely and look forward to celebrating our 20th anniversary next year. Mark the diaries for 15 – 18 July 2015.

Caroline Maclennan

On behalf of the HCF Trust