On verge of economic revolution
For the past 10 years I have been working on community-owned energy in the islands rather than engaging in the delights of party politics. In that time seven community wind farms have been built at a cost of £40 million, the biggest commercial investment ever in the Western Isles.
These projects will together distribute £2 million a year into community benefit funds (a far greater sum than that promised by the large developer-led wind farms, incidentally).
The islands are now on the verge of an economic revolution. Building the next seven schemes should be a lot easier than the first, and I believe that it is perfectly feasible to aim for 100 MW of community energy by 2021, delivering £10 million a year into community pots.
To put that in perspective, that is a greater income than the Shetland Oil Fund. It can make our islands one of the richest parts of Britain.
Unfortunately, the policies being put forward by some of the parties at this election will remove that opportunity for ever. In their blind denial of climate change, the Conservatives have pledged to remove all subsidy for onshore wind farms.
Although wind farms are rapidly becoming more efficient, 40% of wind farm income still comes from government support. Without it, no more will be built, which of course, is the Conservative’s intention.
The SNP, on the hand, pledge support to renewables and they have provided valuable start-up funding from Edinburgh. But their overriding aim is what they call Full Fiscal Autonomy. Unfortunately, although most British wind farms are in Scotland, 90% of the government support for them comes from south of the border, from a ‘green levy’ on all UK electricity consumers. Full Fiscal Autonomy means either that the levy on Scottish consumers will have to increase five-fold – impossible to contemplate when we are fighting fuel poverty – or else the subsidy will have to shrink. If the latter happens, there will be no £750 million inter-connector project to the islands and there will be no more community wind farms. To make that point is not negative politics, it is simple maths.
Only the Labour party is committed to maintaining the UK renewable funding that we need to take advantage of the opportunity that community energy offers to transform the economic situation of the Western Isles.
It will be a hundred years before an economic opportunity like it comes round again. This really is an election where the future of the islands is at stake and where every single vote will matter and I therefore appeal to islanders to vote for Alasdair Morrison and for a Labour Government.
Former MP for the Western Isles
Issues of great concern
Your correspondent Archie Harper in letters column (Thursday April 23rd) criticises Labour Party candidate Alasdair Morrison for raising issues that are devolved to Holyrood, whilst on the same token the leader of the party he supports has not got a single seat or candidate south of Hadrians Wall.
Yet, the SNP and its leader has interfered in Westminster issues to a much greater extent, I presume he will tell Ms Sturgeon to stick to Scottish issues.
Surely any candidate has the duty to raise any issue that is of great concern to the electorate he or she is standing to represent, or is Mr Harper writing from a party script and attempting to suppress the freedom of speech itself, after all, a resolution was passed at their conference earlier this year to restrict party supporters from criticising other party members.
Mr Harper then goes on to tell us about austerity, when the SNP Government in Holyrood has created more austerity in Scotland than necessary by a £244 million underspend over this financial year.
The biggest underspend in the short history of the Scottish Parliament and double that of last year.
A fraction of this underspend would have abolished foodbanks, bed blocking in hospitals, provided more home carers, and classroom assistants.
No doubt this underspend was a deliberate party political act to blame Westminster for the cuts and hoodwink the Scottish public during the referendum.
I think Mr Harper needs to retune his harp, pull different strings and perhaps learn a different tune. May I suggest ‘O’er The Hills And Far Awa’ and follow the SNP Press Officer Dr. D.C. Wilson who disappeared during most of the election campaign.
Isle of Lewis HS2 9DW
Over one hundred thousand Scottish families have had to depend on food banks over the past year.
It is expected this will rise to over one million people over the life of the next parliament.
As the UK is one of the wealthiest countries in the world this is scandalous. Labour MP’s joined their Conservative friends to vote for another additional £35 billion cuts to the public purse.
When you consider that the Western Isles Labour Party candidate is concentrating his election pledges on Holyrood policies, it begs the question why anyone should vote for him.
We need someone like Angus Macneil who is fully focused on Westminster matters, not someone who is abdicating their responsibilities and focusing on matters he cannot influence.
Margaret Ann Macleod
Isle of Lewis
Marine Protected Areas
I am greatly disappointed in the negative and rather dismissive stance by some over Marine Protected Areas.
A great deal of work has gone into these proposals at the European level of government and at the Scottish level. A substantial amount of careful scientific investigation has gone on and wide consultation.
The idea of Marine Protected Areas is to provide a respite for the seas to regenerate; rare species and commercial species get a chance to grow and then expand their numbers into non protected areas.
Many other peripheral maritime countries in Europe, recognising the problem of failing seas, have already set up these areas, and they are now paying off.
Just recently for example I saw one in operation off the Ligurian coast of Italy.
Our northern waters provide for the renewable harvesting of white fish, shellfish, oyster farming and salmon farming; all of these renewable and sustainable industries depend on healthy seas.
Orkney KW15 1J
I share the view of Rev. David Robertson that the Scottish Secular Society in its various campaigns and petitions is pursuing an anti-Christian agenda.
I have studied the posts and online comments of the Scottish Secularists and am in no doubt that they are not really a “secular” campaigning group at all but an atheistic pressure-group, hostile to Christianity.
If they were frank about this, they might win more respect from me, albeit I disagree with their atheistic views.
Their founder thinks that religion may resemble “fascism” and that the sooner churches are “sidelined”, the better. That seems to be the true level of tolerance of these secular campaigners.
Mr Angus Logan
North Berwick EH39 4LS
Due to a family bereavement last week we are now going unexpectedly to the mainland this May weekend. We are going on Friday morning on the Isle of Lewis by car.
My husband is staying over on the mainland for business and I was going to come back over with my four children on the Loch Seaforth.
I have just tried to book the Citylink bus on Monday afternoon from Inverness to Ullapool. Apparently there is no capacity. I phoned Citylink who say they have no plans to put on a second bus.
Surely at this time when only a passenger service is only being provided from Ullapool it has to be assumed that most passengers will be relying on public transport.
During a peak holiday period an extra bus should be put on. Is the Loch Seaforth restricted to carrying the 60 or 70 passengers the bus can carry? I have looked online for other bus companies but none are obvious.
I feel really disappointed with Citylink and feel that once again islanders are being penalised.
Isle of Lewis
Editor’s note: See our online story ‘Tourism hit hard by ferry disruption’ with a response from Citylink about this issue
Given a hearing
Before the Referendum last September, PM David Cameron asked the Scottish people “To lead the UK and not to leave it”.
Now, all the Unionist Party’s who were in bed with one another during the referendum are panicking at the thought of Nicola Stuirgeon /SNP aking Westminster up on their offer by having a strong voice representing the Scottish people at the UK Parliament.
There is no such thing as Scottish Conservative/ Scottish Labour or for that matter Scottish Liberals. They are all Westminster Unionist Party’s and only answerable to their ‘beaks’ in the House of Lords who are too often an affront to democracy.
After 300 years of direct Westminster rule, surely, is it not about time that the voice of the Scottish people was given a hearing? We wait with baited breath !
Buckie, AB56 4NT
EDITORIAL - LAST WEEK OF CAMPAIGNING IN THE ISLES
In the last few weeks the Stornoway Gazette has offered the parliamentary candidates striving for a seat at Westminster a platform to air their views about a variety of topics, including: the two pence electricity surcharge and fuel poverty; the economy and transportation; foreign policy and Europe.
This week the candidates give their general address to the public to persuade you to vote for them (see page 10).
In addition many of the topics being discussed have actually been issues which fall under the remit of the Scottish Government and there has been arguments back and forth about whether candidates should focus on these matters where they could have no direct influence.
The public have also been keen to contribute their views and our parent company Johnston Press has set up a website called WhatMattersToMe which showcases hundreds of short videos of people from across the UK - including the Western Isles -sharing their views on the issues which are key for them in the election debate.
From this Monday Twitter promoted the hashtag #WhatMattersToMe.
Searching and following the hashtag will offer an overview of sentiment across the nation, highlighting the local and national issues that really matter to people ahead of the election.
No matter what the polls say the result at the ballot box is the only one which matters.
The Stornoway Gazette will be covering the count from the Lewis Sport Centre next Thursday evening and into the night, keep updated via our website: www.stornowaygazette.co.uk
If you would like to comment, or write a letter on this topic or any other please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org