Gazette letters May 3rd

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Welcome to MS Nurse

In response to the front page article the Stornoway Gazette of 12 April headed: ‘MS Nurse for Isles appointed but campaigners express disappointment’, we would like to totally dissociate ourselves, as representatives of the majority of those with MS in the Western Isles, from the remarks made in this article and from its unhelpful and critical tone.

Firstly, we would like to welcome Rachel Morrison to the post of multiple sclerosis nurse for the Western Isles, to assure her that we are delighted that she has been appointed and that we very much look forward to meeting and working with her.

Secondly, the reference in the article to a Band 6 nurse being appointed rather than a Band 7 is both incorrect and unrealistic. Although initially unclear to many of the MS campaigners, we have learned from one of the most experienced MS nurses at the Southern General that any nurse nationally who is appointed to an MS specialist nurse post will automatically enter at Band 6. There is therefore no question of this post for the Western Isles being set at Band 7.

Thirdly, we applaud the positive and encouraging remarks made by Mr Donald White, Chairman of the Western Isles MS Society, in relation to the appointment of an MS nurse for the Western Isles. We would also like to thank the MS Society Scotland and the Western Isles Health Board for their commitment to this appointment and their proposed strategy for the development of neurological services in the Western Isles.

The time for ill-informed and negative comments has passed. We are extremely happy that an experienced and committed nurse has been appointed to this specialist post and most warmly welcome her.


Not in harmony

It’s very apparent our Local Authority is not in harmony presently. The fact that most are trying to outwit each other on a political agenda is the problem, when the real onus should be on ‘serving the people’ and not the political machine.

However, and more to the point all councillors should pertain to be ’guardians for the greater good’ and have a sure code and a footing of ‘values and principles’ in their lives and agenda.

Presently, and to that effect, we have a flawed procedure, which is not really serving the people.

Looking along the list of hopefuls it’s a feeling of same tar, same brush, to a large degree and I am of the belief that not only are we seriously short of leaders in the local area, but nationally as well.

By leaders I mean people who can bring people together, instead of ‘flying banners ‘ and also have a backbone to say what sets of values and principles they stand for in their daily lives [hopefully that will include the Creator ] and if not, the house is definitely built on sand!

In closing I wish Councillor Morag Munro a very happy and blessed retirement ,well done good servant, a servant not just of men, but also of the Lord.

Wishing our new set up in Stornoway every blessing and harmony with hope and liberty for all, and not contention and strife.

Please be big enough to just serve the people, stop being silly or playing at being politicians just get on with doing the right thing for the right reason.


A lesson from the U.S.

With the UK economy slipping into a double-dip recession it is clear that the current austerity medicine being prescribed by the Coalition Government is killing the UK economy.

The fall in growth by 0.2% in the first quarter of this year followed a 0.3% fall in the last quarter of 2011 indicates that, over the course of the last year, the UK economy effectively stalled, recording no growth at all, with only Italy performing worse among the G7 nations.

To date the budget deficit has been reduced by £11bn, but £9.5bn of this is due to public sector cuts and painfully little due to any stimulus to the economy.

What is desperately needed is capital spending, not capital spending cuts. A lesson can be learnt by looking at the US economy where increased capital spending has led to increased employment and economic growth.

In the UK’s current economic circumstances austerity is not a viable path to stability, growth and jobs. The Coalition Government must urgently change course or the UK economy will be consigned to a prolonged period of stagnant growth and high unemployment.

ALEX ORR, Edinburgh

Major challenges

Our Islands face major challenges and the next Comhairle will have to work harder than ever before to defend and improve the quality of life for everyone across the Islands.

There remains great potential for the Islands to benefit from renewables production of all kinds. It is imperative that we maximise the benefits for the communities across our islands in terms of income, jobs and other community benefit.

The Comhairle has started proposals to trade in electricity which would have an aim of providing cheaper electricity for our Island communities and would go a long way to reducing fuel poverty in the Islands – currently the highest in the UK.

Similarly, we need to take forward proposals to transfer Crown Estate revenues to local authorities where the money can be spent for the benefit of coastal communities.

What we do not need are environmental designations being imposed upon the Islands such as is happening around Barra and which are proposed for the Minches. These designations prevent development and prevent jobs.

Of equal importance to the economy in sustaining our islands and its population is decent housing.

As I see it there are three priorities in this regard:

To continue to lobby the Scottish Government to return the level of grant available to build social housing and support first time buyers to as close as possible to previous levels to enable us to provide suitable housing to retain young families in the Islands.

To continue to lobby the Scottish Government to open up the rules on Private Sector Housing Grant to allow more access to what used to be a flagship initiative to improve homes on the islands and allow older people in particular to be comfortable in their own homes for as long as possible.

To implement the Comhairle Mortgage Guarantee Scheme to enable more people to access loans by the Comhairle agreeing to share risk with a lender. The terms are due to be reported to the Comhairle in June 2012.

The Comhairle has managed its budgets in a prudent fashion over the past five years and has avoided the widescale compulsory redundancies seen in other local authority areas.

Public sector jobs such as those in the Comhairle and the Health Board are vital to a small economy such as we have in the islands. However, in order to protect those jobs the public sector agencies need to look at how the respective agencies can work together, efficiently and in the most economic manner.

The next Comhairle will have to be vigilant in defending what we have. Attempts to close the Range in the Uists and the Coastguard service are examples of how Government is looking to save money at our community’s expense. We must continue to guard against such penny pinching exercises.

Similarly, we must make the case to reverse the moves that have been made on our transport services. The Air Discount Scheme and Road Equivalent Tariff have been undoubted success stories. And yet we have recently seen the partial dismantling of both schemes.

I am proud that the last Comhairle continued to put more real money into Home Care each year over and above inflation.

One of the most, if not the most, difficult issues we dealt with in the last Comhairle was school closures.

I know that almost all Councillors thought long and hard about the schools issue but at the end of the day we had to consider what was right for pupils and parents across the islands. The result has been that 46% of our pupils will be in brand new, state of the art schools come next August. This includes the new Nicolson Institute which will be a flagship educational facility for the islands and indeed for the north of Scotland.

The Comhairle is on course to build a total of six new schools across the islands, on budget and on time. This is an unprecedented achievement for the Islands. Whilst the creation of six new schools was our priority, the schools building programme provided the added benefit of injecting an additional (ie in addition to the Comhairle’s normal building programme) £20m into the local economy, and creating over 100 local training opportunities in the construction industry over the life of the project.

The next Comhairle will offer the opportunity to continue to develop educational facilities and, following discussions with the Parent Council, I believe the priority should be to continue to develop and improve Stornoway Primary.


Looking for relatives

I hope the Gazette’s readers can help us to find out more information about our island relatives.

I am trying to trace relatives that live on Benbecula but I do not know their name or address.

All I know is that two ladies from Benbecula contacted my sister in Brora last summer and they were looking for people related to my Grandmother as they were compling a family tree.

When we were researching our family tree we came across a sister of my Grandmothers that nobody had ever heard mention of, her name was Elsie or Elise and I think that these two ladies are her descendants.

Elsie’s parents were Catherine McDonald and James Stewart and they had five daughters.

Isabella born 1878 who lived in Brora and her husband was killed in the first world war. Catherine, born 1880, married and immigrated to Canada. Margaret born 1882 immigrated to Australia. Donaldina born 1886 known as Dolly lived in London and did not marry. Elsie born 1888? relatives who live on Benbecula.

As far as I know the family lived in Craig Scorrie near Beauly.

I am the eldest granddaughter of Isabella who married Robert Edwards and had four children. My name is Pat Wall and my daughter is Sheila.

PAT WALL, Canada email: