At Random with Martin Laing

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Hot topic

A press release landed in The Oban Times email inbox last week that trumpeted the opening of a new control centre for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

It said: ‘A highly-trained team of control firefighters who provide a voice of reassurance at times of emergency will continue to keep communities safe – thanks to a new £2.5m investment for the north of Scotland.

‘The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s skilled Operations Control personnel are the ‘unseen front line’, responding to calls from the public and quickly mobilising firefighters to assist.

‘They will now operate from a new, state-of-the-art operations control for the north of Scotland.

‘The purpose-built facility at Dundee …’


Since when was Dundee in the north of Scotland? Surely it would have been better to locate such a control centre in Inverness or Fort William.

Police Scotland have been justifiably lambasted in recent times for a number of mistakes, attributed to the centralisation process that has resulted in a lack of local knowledge.

I’m a huge admirer of all our ‘blue light’ services, but how is someone on Tayside supposed to have any knowledge of communities in the north of Scotland?

Where is our university?

Another press release that ruffled my feathers last week was sent to us to highlight The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide.

This guide ranks all of Scotland’s universities in various categories, including excellent teaching, student experience and graduate job prospects.

The guide claims to be a comprehensive assessment of our universities and ranks the 14 in its list according to its various criteria.

The only problem is there is not a single mention of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

Not very clever.

Brilliant treatment

I had occasion last week to visit Lorn and Islands Hospital in Oban for a surgical procedure.

I cannot praise highly enough the treatment I received from the people there. From arrival to departure, I was dealt with by a very professional team.

I didn’t get everyone’s name so apologies to those I am missing out, but my thanks go to Louise, Aileen, Alistair and the others for making my stay as comfortable as it was.


As we report this week, a big-hearted pair of local residents decided to ‘brave the shave’ to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Nancy MacDonald and Allan Mckechnie took turns to shave each other’s heads as part of the fundraising initiative.

One spin-off benefit is that the event also raised awareness of support provided in Oban for people suffering from cancer and their families.

Oban Library has a wide range of cancer information and holds a drop-in session from 2.15pm to 4.15pm every Wednesday, with volunteers present to listen to worries or concerns and offer free confidential support.

Well done to Nancy and Allan for their selfless gesture.