At Random with Martin Laing

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Threat to tourism

Concerns were raised in The Oban Times last week about a crisis building over recruitment in the town’s hospitality sector.

Allan McKie, an experienced senior figure in the industry locally, voiced his worries about a problem which looks likely to worsen as Brexit gets closer. That is because many of the people working in the sector are EU nationals from different countries. With Brexit looming, their status here will become less certain and many will leave the UK.

There is apparently already a shortage of staff in Oban for many hotels, pubs, restaurants and other outlets.

And with the new 80-bedroom Premier Inn hoping to open next year, it seems the crisis could reach perfect storm proportions.

For an area which relies so heavily on tourism for its economic well-being, this is a very serious problem.

Where our local hospitality sector businesses are to find the number of workers required to staff their operations remains in doubt.

Allan McKie was quite right to flag up the problem at this time. I sincerely hope someone can come up with a solution to make sure the industry is adequately staffed.

Noised up

While I am on the subject of tourism, we also reported the worrying story of a couple from Peebles who cut short a holiday in Oban – their third of the year here – because of the noise coming from the generators supplying power to the new pontoons.

The new transit berths at the North Pier are a cracking addition to the town for the marine market and have been widely welcomed by the vast majority of people.

The location of the pontoons is part of what makes them so valuable a development. Yet it seems it is also what is causing the problem.

Their proximity to a number of hotels and self-catering units is apparently a cause for complaint from visitors.

Admittedly, this is a temporary situation as the generators will only be in place until Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) connects the pontoons to a a mains power supply.

As mentioned already, given the importance of tourism to Oban, it is vital SSE completes its mains connection as quickly as possible.

Welcome development

I’ve written a number of times criticising the British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office for its inadequacy in securing the freedom of Connel ex-paratrooper Billy Irving and the other five British men jailed in India.

So it is welcome news a number of celebrities have joined the campaign to put pressure on the authorities to do something – anything – to have them returned.

The intervention of Simon Gregson, who stars in Coronation Street, and John Bowe, of Emmerdale fame, brings new momentum to the cause, which can only be a good thing.

It is not long ago that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson pledged to leave ‘no stone unturned’ in his efforts to have the men freed.

Since then, though, there has been nothing. Our national leaders should hang their heads in shame.

What do you think?

Write to me at or The Oban Times, Crannog Lane, Oban, PA34 4HB.