Gazette letters June 14th

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In responding to your invitation to comment on the latest and possibly final stage of the school closures debacle, while I am well beyond the age of school-age parenthood and not directly affected, but I do know two out of the four schools in question and I have been among the long list of dismayed observers of this unfortunate and drawn-out process.

Of course the time comes for any school to close, but the rationale for doing so and the process by which it happens should surely be based on the individual circumstances of the school and the community involved.

Yet, again last week, the echoing mantra continued, “The correct procedures were followed” and “The same consultation procedures were followed for all schools” - and therein lies the nub of this specific injustice. If all communities and all schools and all circumstances were identical, then such an approach may be appropriate and might even work.

However, in a living world, with organic communities and community-integrated schools, such a “standard” approach gives the impression, if not the evidence, of a “box-ticking” legalism which views consultation as a process to be endured and disposed of with as little inconvenience as possible.

“Consultation” is a process by which both parties discuss the subject under consideration openly, courteously, honestly, on equal terms and, even though with a direction of movement in mind, without predetermined conclusion.

It is not without significance that a 21 year old undergraduate who, as part of her business management course, chose to research and discuss the process as it affected one of the schools, very quickly formed the opinion that the consulting body had failed to enter into the most basic prerequisite of consultation, that of initially establishing a working relationship with the community involved.

Unsurprisingly, the whole sorry debacle ended up in the heights (or depths) of the judiciary, to be reconsidered by a system constrained to consider only “correct” and sterile adherence to legalistic “procedures”. However, tightly bordered legalism and sensible, considered logic do not always coincide and so these unfortunate communities and schools are now left to wait for the string to break, from which is suspended the political sword of Damacles.

It may be grasping at the proverbial straw to hope that the history of this unnecessary altercation might be an educational process through which a normal body would grow and mature, but unfortunately in this case, through the historic experience of the affected public, perhaps one can only wonder whether the straw may not continue to be rather fragile.

H. TAYLOR, Harris


My associates and I in the Laxdale Diamond Jubilee Street Party and Exhibition Steering Group and the Laxdale Community Association would like to place on record our profound indebtedness to the community of Laxdale to the wonderful and humbling response to our Diamond Jubilee Street Party and Exhibition celebration.

We were very touched by the contributions of baking from so many friends that poured in to the Laxdale Hall from 8 in the morning of June 4th onwards.

We would also like to pay tribute to Laxdale School for the enthusiastic way they embraced the spirit of the celebration, down to the efforts made in the costumes of both teachers and pupils.

The celebration was only part of a week- long series of Jubilee events and lessons at the School, which promoted citizenship and history appreciation most assiduously.

And, staying with youth, in a day when they are much maligned in the Press nationally, we would like to express our appreciation for our indefatigable team of young helpers, so smart in their Jubilee Big Lunch T-shirts, who worked unstintingly all day and into the evening in the kitchen and around the Hall, with continual good cheer.

With regard to the musical elements of the celebration, we would like to pay sincere thanks to Gavin Woods and the Nicolson Concert Band, Neil Johnstone and Oidhche Dhiciadain for their rousing and melodious contributions, which added such a soundtrack to the proceedings.

We are also most grateful to the Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Donald Martin, for being so willing to come along in the afternoon, and for the erudition and dignity of his speech on the podium.

The residents of Gearraidh Sgòth (Newpark) are also deserving of our thanks, for being supportive of the event from the very beginning, and for their co-operation with the erecting of the bunting to decorate the road.

We would also like to express our heartfelt thanks to all in the community who so willingly donated old photos and artefacts of Laxdale life for display in the Exhibition. The deep chord of reminiscence that the Exhibition has touched augurs well for an enhanced esteem of our heritage in the years ahead. Recording and conserving now, while there is still time, means that the narrative of our history can still be retained to inspire and influence the next generation.

Lastly, we would like to thank the many families who came out to the event, and those of every generation who mingled and renewed acquaintance. Social capital and resilience is built up by the fostering of the bonds between us, as Her Majesty’s long public service has encouraged. Your support has made us see the benefits and possibilities of organising future events and initiatives that cohere us one to the other.

Cha phàigh taing sibh.

Leis na dùrachdan,

MURDO MACLEOD, Laxdale Diamond Jubilee Street Party and Exhibition Steering Group Chair and Laxdale Community Association Secretary


The result from the Court of Session in Edinburgh is a major success for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in their determined effort to close the schools at Seilebost and Carloway together with the secondary departments at Shawbost and Lionel.

The members are to be congratulated as they have managed within ten years to further lay waste large tracts of rural Lewis and Harris – a feat that defied over a period of 746 years the might of King Hakon of Norway, King James’ Fife Adventurers, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and Benito Mussolini.

There is no need for me to name the honourable members, to a man and a woman they were all Islanders born and bred. I expect they will continue to sleep the sleep of the just in the sure and certain belief that they know better than the rest of us tiresome Maws.

What a pity we were and are not represented by the gallant fighters of the Nicolson Institute Girls Football and Rugby Teams who went to the mainland and won the Junior Scottish Cup at football and the Brewin Dolphin Bowl for rugby, titles open to all of Scotland. Well done girls your spirit, skill, determination and dogged perseverance is sorely needed nearer home.



In last week’s issue you reported that CalMac were carrying out a Consultation on Sabbath Sailings during the summer between Tarbert and Uig.

The closing date for this consultation is 15 June – just one week after the consultation was announced. This leaves people a very short time to respond and makes it impossible for groups to meet and respond.

When I eventually, after the third request, got the results of the Consultation CalMac carried out on the Winter Sabbath Repositioning runs, I was told: “There were 18 responses in favour and there were 9 objections – one of the objections was a petition with 78 names.” How is that for spin!

Only a few weeks ago, CalMac announced that due to the low uptake of the Winter Service they were not going to run a Summer service as it would not be viable. What has changed so remarkably in the interim? Either CalMac are trying to pull the wool over our eyes or they are in disarray.

The Lord, our Creator, gave us the gift of the Sabbath Day for our physical, mental and spiritual benefit. What right have we to deprive our fellow creatures of this blessing.



Perhaps I am one of the biggest critics of the exceptional high price of fuel in The Western Isles, but to see the boat which brings our fuel to this island anchored over night off Holm on Sunday late afternoon waiting to enter Stornoway Harbour I assume on Monday morning beggars belief.

I am fully aware of and appreciate different people’s views on what should and shoudn’t happen on Sundays.

The point I am making here is, and I would appreciate feed back on this issue is first and foremost the cost of that fuel boat being anchored overnight will be met by the end users yes people who rely on their vehicles here, surely this is not the way forward and I sometimes wonder how the fragile economy has lasted for so long.

I respect the religious aspects of Sundays on these Islands and would never do anything to cause resentment, but I know that some will say logistically that the harbour dictates when a vessel can and can’t dock, but it seems to me that this is not the case.

TERRY LESLIE, Point, Isle of Lewis.


It seems to me that marriage as we have known and understood it in this country, indeed as it has been known and understood throughout the world, is in some danger of being re-defined.

Despite input being made to the consultation process, my concern is that the Government will press ahead regardless.

The three main political parties are intent on re-defining marriage, with Nick Clegg of the Lib Dems a prime mover in the affair, utterly committed to the plan and determined that none will derail it.

To this end he intends denying his M.P.’s a free vote on the subject.

How hugely the Lib Dems have fallen in our estimation. Upon a time both they and the Liberals before them were regarded as a party of integrity and decency, and in consequence had huge support in the Highlands, but their policies now drag them to the gutter.

I think not many people these days honour God, and the present situation arises out of that.

So people ignore God and do as they please, but the fact remains and cannot be otherwise that God ordained marriage as a lifelong union between a man and a woman.