Stornoway Gazette Letters 21/3/13

This image of Tolsta Beach on a crisp Sunday afternoon was sent in by reader Claire Scott. 'If you would like to contribute your photos to our Beautiful Islands Feature, email: Include your name, where you are from, where the picture was taken and what inspired you to take it, as well as any technical information about the picture.
This image of Tolsta Beach on a crisp Sunday afternoon was sent in by reader Claire Scott. 'If you would like to contribute your photos to our Beautiful Islands Feature, email: Include your name, where you are from, where the picture was taken and what inspired you to take it, as well as any technical information about the picture.
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A person or two, although no more than that, seem to be of the misguided impression that an MP’s roll is to rubber stamp whatever decisions a Council makes, regardless of the consequences to communities.

In that they are very much mistaken. In my book, the needs of the people and the community come long before cosying up to the Comhairle. However, I will of course happily work with the Comhairle when they are acting in the best interest of the community.

On Air Services, Comhairle leader, Angus Campbell, disappointingly finds everyone out of step on the axing of air services, except the Comhairle, despite being in receipt of extra money in their settlement from the government for flights. When everyone else is out of step, perhaps the Comhairle may find the humility to think again.

Crucially, Mr Campbell has confirmed in his letter (7th March) that the six Uist councillors did indeed vote, (and there was only one vote at the Comhairle affecting flights), for the budget that axed nine flights to Benbecula, five flights to Barra and four flights to Stornoway.

Some people, understandably, believe that the Comhairle will not be axing the flights and think it is an impossibility with such short notice, but as we can see from Mr Campbell’s letter, the Comhairle will end the flights at the end of the month with nothing publicised to help travellers and the economy struggling with axed routes or indeed any thought of timetable knock on effects.

It is saddening, that the 40 year’s work of linking Hebrideans, north and south, started by the late Rev Donald MacAulay and the late Fr Calum MacLellan, as Convener and Vice Convener, in the first Comhairle, could be ruined so thoughtlessly.

Further thoughtlessness was displayed by the needless swipe taken at the very likeable TV personality, Lorraine Kelly by the Council for visiting our islands!

This was unfortunate and I am sure a more hospitable Hebridean view will win out. Especially, as Lorraine was very popular with Airport Fire-fighters and the Barra Lifeboat crew.

Not only that, she wrote an article in Woman’s Own magazine encouraging people to visit our islands, all good publicity and at no cost to us. I hope, on reflection, that the Comhairle will record its gratitude and join me in hoping to see Lorraine Kelly here again soon.

More thought could have been given to what it could mean for mainland routes if civil servants in Edinburgh followed the latest excuse of the Comhairle for wielding the axe.

Namely, that when a ferry route is carrying 20 times a same-directional air route that the air route support should be axed.

Given all this, surely on the issue of any meetings, the first duty the Comhairle Leader and his colleagues, who voted to axe these air services, should be to go as a group to the voting public in all the islands affected to explain their decision to the communities affected.

Angus Brendan MacNeil MP, House of Commons


I wanted to write and thank all of the people who took part in the recent Parliament Day in the Western Isles. It was your involvement, interest and energy which helped to make Parliament Day such a great success.

The Parliament Day initiative is at the heart of the Scottish Parliament’s engagement strategy for its fourth session. It is an initiative designed to take the work of the Parliament out to local communities across Scotland, bringing Parliament closer to the people it represents. 

During my visit to the Western Isles, I was struck time and again by the strong sense of community which exists and the willingness of people to volunteer and help those they live and work with.

It is this sense of community and the enthusiasm and interest in the work of the Parliament which made the day such a success. I know that my MSP colleagues on the Public Petitions Committee had similar experiences during the day.

I would like to thank all of our hosts for their generous support of our event. It was wonderful to meet such a wide variety of local people during the Parliament’s time in the Western Isles. Councillors to community groups and young people all gave our MSPs and staff a very warm reception.

If you didn’t manage to catch us on the day, don’t forget that you can always visit us in Edinburgh, if you are able to, or follow us online, where you can watch live debates and meetings as they happen, as well as catch up on all the latest news.

We have all brought lasting memories of our time with you back to the Parliament and my sincere thanks once again to everyone who helped to make the Parliament Day so interesting, informative and enjoyable.

RT HON Tricia Marwick MSPRICIA MARWICK MSP, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament


As a tourist of the Western Isles over 30 years I have found that since the RET fares came in CalMac ferries to/from Scotland have become full to capacity and beyond capacity causing delayed or diverted journeys for travellers in Spring/Summer season.

This causes me (and others?) significant problems on the Oban – South Uist run and often have to divert on to the Oban – Barra run then Barra-Eriskay at extra costs.

I fortunately visited Vatersay before the causeway went in, these days Vatersay is submerged with tourists and signs saying to keep off the dunes, don’t go here/there, gates to the beach chained up etc!! Likewise on Barra the picnic area near the airport is closed off, and parking on a nearby stone storm beach blocked off etc.

So why this overcapacity? Well on routes Tarbert-Uig, Uig-Lochmaddy the summer/winter weekly sailings average 10 each way, yet on the Winter Oban-Barra runs its three rising to nine in summer, while the Oban-South Uist remains four winter/summer.

This trebling of the Barra run causes an overcapacity of tourists travelling via Barra which then increases useage of the Barra-Eriskay route, no doubt increasing profits for CalMac because travellers who want to travel to Oban-South Uist have to divert due to no increase in the summer number of CalMac sailings of four.

I can not see any advantage for residents on South, North Uist and Benbecula in only four summer sailings to Oban, the only winner is the monopoly operator CalMac who have increased travel via Eriskay.

When I put this to CalMac they responded: “Every aspect of our services including routes, timetables are dictated by the terms of the Government contract to which we operate and we cannot change any of these without consulting with local communities and Scottish Ministers.”

Would residents and tourist of the Western Isles please comment! How about CalMac charging the same fare on Oban/Barra/Eriskay route as the Oban/South Uist route?

Peter White, Sunderland SR3 3SY


The words ‘African worship’ in last week’s Gazette immediately captured my attention. I read with interest Iain D Campbell’s column on his recent visit to South Africa, and appreciated him sharing his experience of a culture far from our own.

The column touched on the different forms of worship he experienced in church services. Much the same as in most of our own island, the form of one service included psalms sung without musical accompaniment, whereas another service varied in style.

In the area of worship there are two extremes which we should avoid. Firstly, we should remember that external conformity to a particular form of worship does not guarantee a right heart before God.

The Pharisees paid great heed to the externals but omitted the weightier matters of the law. Secondly, we should remember that what we feel in our heart is no reliable guide to the rightness or wrongness of the form of worship we choose. Even for believers, the heart is deceitful above all things.

Questions about the form of worship are not about the styles that Africans or Scots may prefer. It is not about the styles which would be more aesthetically pleasing or culturally acceptable in particular contexts.

The question is how God has commanded us to worship Him. Scripture teaches, in both the Old and New Testaments, that God Himself determines how He ought to be worshipped. God who sees and knows our hearts has left us guidance in Scripture about the external forms He expects us to use as we worship Him.

Specifically, the New Testament form of worship God has commanded is the exclusive use of the book of Psalms without the accompaniment of musical instruments.

Although exclusive psalmody is not widely held to in the Church as a whole today, it has been the majority position throughout the history of the Christian Church.

This includes the time of the revivals, when our island was at its spiritual height. Exclusive psalmody is also experiencing resurgence in places far from here with cultures very different from our own, in countries like Malawi, Sri Lanka and China. We ought to worship God in spirit and in truth – with a right heart and the right forms – and by God’s grace seek to encourage others to do likewise.

Scott Maciver, Stornoway HS1 2LD


I am studying a BSc Honours in Sustainable Development (Rural) at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), Lews Castle College campus, and I am also a Student Member of the Institute of Economic Development (IED). As I am at the dissertation stage, I hope you will be able to help me with a survey.

I am looking for a range of opinions on the capacity of remote rural communities in the Outer Hebrides to develop sustainable plans and administer the anticipated residual income and benefits from Community Renewable Energy Projects.

Please help by spending a few moments of your time to complete this survey, which is for research purposes only and will remain confidential and anonymous. 

The survey is available through the following site:

Thank you in anticipation.

Fiona Knape, UHI Student


Another feather in the cap of the Islands tourist industry could be on its way with plans revealed this week about a project to develop a new marina in Tarbert.

The project would see up to 30 vessels accommodated at the site and has been warmly welcomed by local businesses.

Tourism is a vital industry in the Islands and it is good to see projects such as this one being taken forward. Let’s hope that funding for the project will soon be forthcoming.