Gazette Letters: 5-3-15

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Expect Scottish Government to listen

Despite public inactivity from local politicians and attempts to stifle debate supporters of Lionel School S1/S2 provision remain focused on saving their school.

I welcomed the interest from our MP and MSP to engage with the parents since the Comhairle voted, by a casting vote, to cease the provision of S1/S2 in Lionel at the end of this school term.

However, all seems to have gone quiet which seems to suggest there will be no formal public stance taken by either before the submission deadline. I am disappointed but not surprised by this. I also fail to understand why both of them did not engage in dialogue with the Comhairle from the very outset on this.

It has also emerged that the Comhairle chairperson at the public meeting held in Ness on 30 September 2014 told the ward councillors present not to speak at the meeting as it would not be appropriate (see story page 6).

All of this kind of behaviour going on in times we are constantly being told of openness and honesty from those who make decisions regarding our futures.

The Scottish Government must, and will, consider the arguments carefully before reaching their decision, in fear of going against its Commission on Delivery of Rural Education document that was published in 2013.

The Scottish Ministers may issue a call-in notice only if subsection (2) below applies.

(2)This subsection applies where it appears to the Scottish Ministers that the education authority may have failed—

(a) In a significant regard to comply with the requirements imposed on it by (or under) this Act so far as they are relevant in relation to the closure proposal, or

(b) To take proper account of a material consideration relevant to its decision to implement the proposal

The supporter’s arguments are strong, well thought and legitimate. There is a strong belief that this appeal will be successful but not because of the efforts from the individuals I would expect but from the dedicated parents and supporters of the school.

I for one am fully behind their efforts and have submitted my own full responses in support of retaining S1/S2 provision and I expect the Scottish Government to listen to the parents and back them.

Alistair MacLennan

Forthcoming Councillor for An Taobh Siar agus 

Poll Tax

Many of us will recall how the Scottish people were used as ‘guinea pigs’ for the purpose of PM Margaret Thatcher’s system of taxation a year before her venturesome idea to extend her form of community charge across England and Wales.

By forcing this dreaded Poll Tax on Scots on 1st. April 1989 and later in England / Wales in 1990 she did not expect the eventual outcome.

As expected by many, this resulted in a non-payment campaign and rioting on the streets of London. Thousands ended up at court for failing to pay and eventually in 1993 the Poll Tax was abolished.

All Poll Tax arrears in England/Wales had to be collected by 1999. Thereafter all the debt

due to English / Welsh Councils was squashed, while Scottish Councils could claim Poll Tax debt up until 2013.

In 1990 as many as 275 in London refused to pay and Councils were faced with a deficit of

£1.7Billion. Councils in Scotland also had much the same difficulty and this resulted in Council expenses being more than what they were collecting.

Hence the sensible reason to confine the dreaded Poll Tax to the bin after 20 years.

Donald J. Morrison,


Care Beds

A Freedom of Information request to NHS Western Isles regarding bed occupancy at Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh and the status of the designated eight continuing care beds, came back last Friday with the following information: “There are no continuing care beds at Uist and Barra Hospital.”

So, there we have it, all the brou-ha-ha about cutting beds from 29 to 16 (by 44%), with flexibility to increase to 20 beds, does not really relate in any significant way to cutting the number of acute beds, but rather to discontinuing the historically agreed provision for those patients with long-term and chronic medical conditions (see story page 11).

Such patients may be defined as those who would traditionally require Nursing Home type care, as many of the patients who previously occupied beds at the Lochmaddy Hospital (28 beds), closed down in 2001 when the new hospital opened in Balivanich.

Whilst I am not really in favour of those with long-term conditions being cared for in a hospital setting, and don’t disagree with this decision, I am very much concerned that no discussion has proceeded with the Local Authority, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, to ensure that alternative provision is in place before these 8 beds are removed and without any consultation whatsoever with the affected communities.

The Comhairle is responsible for the provision of residential and community care services. In my estimation NHS Western Isles will save about £3/4m per year by not providing eight continuing care beds in Uist and Barra Hospital.

Under the terms of the Scottish Government “transformational agenda”, shifting the balance of care, this money should be redirected towards the provision of appropriate care in the community, including residential care. Perhaps the old Lochmaddy Hospital can be utilised for this purpose?

NHS Western Isles has responded in an excellent article in the local press on this subject by saying that “the hospital is not included in the plans for joint working between the Health Board and the Comhairle”.

This makes a mockery of integrated health and social care strategic planning as we move forward.

The Health Secretary, Shona Robison MSP must now intervene, as I have already asked her to do in a letter of 2nd February.

Andrew Walker

By-Election Candidate, Ward 2

Isle of Benbecula