Letters to the editor week 04

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Public pay the price for forestry operations

Sir,

Why have conditions on the A85 and A828 deteriorated so rapidly this winter (‘Public slam ‘shambolic’ and ‘disgraceful’ roads’, The Oban Times, January 11 )?

The weather has not been particularly inclement, but anyone travelling between Oban and Ballachulish will be only too aware of increased HGV traffic associated with clear-felling forest operations.

Not only are deep and dangerous ruts produced at the edges of the carriageway as lorries and buses travelling in opposing directions avoid each other, the carriageway is stressed and breaking up.

Connel is by far the worst, but look also at George Street in Oban – newly resurfaced only a few years back – and elsewhere en route to Corpach and Ardrishaig.

Although difficult, it would be sensible to use a cost-benefit analysis of forest products that also includes the costs of (a) road repair, (b) delay associated with road repair and (c) vehicle damage. These are borne in large part by the public.

Were they accounted for by the industry, either the price of a HGV road fund licence would increase dramatically to pay for road damage or the trees would be left on the hillside.

Professor Emeritus Ian Reid,

Ardconnel Road, Oban.

Phrase was from already published source

Sir,

In the interests of veracity, I feel I should respond to Cyril Bonnett’s comments (Letters, Thursday January 18).

In my poem, I was quoting from Mary of Unnimore’s evidence to the Napier Commission as related in Philip Gaskell’s Morvern Transformed (page 34). Mary, understandably, gave her evidence in Gaelic: I was quoting from Norman MacLeod’s rendering into English. He arguably used an anachronism; I was using an already published statement.

Incidentally, Iain Thornber in his article in The Oban Times of  Thursday  December 7, quoted the same phrase ‘Saxon shepherd’ from the same
source.

Michael G Kidd,

Ceann Pairc, Taynuilt.

 

Shocked by plan to cut to road safety unit

Sir,

I was shocked to learn that Argyll and Bute Council is to consider disbanding its road safety unit as part of budget savings for 2018-2019.

The unit formerly employed three officers but, as part of a saving exercise some years ago, has already been reduced to one full-time and one term-time officer.

The proposal is to remove this service completely and the council justifies this by stating: ‘Road safety information will be available through other organisations. This suggests to me that it does not understand the complexity  of how education and training is delivered.

The proposal also does not say which other organisation has the ability and skills to adequately replace council’s current input.

Having read Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue local plans, I can find no hint that they are ready to accept responsibility.

I believe the current unit plays an extremely active role in promoting road safety education for all road users across Argyll and Bute, and in particular our schools: today’s children are tomorrow’s drivers.

Although one death on our roads is one too many, casualty numbers have been steadily declining since 1970s. Indeed, recent reports show that fatal casualties have been reduced to fewer than one third of their peak in 1969.

This shows that current methods are working, and I cannot believe Argyll and Bute Council is willing to put this good news trend at risk. The council also has a responsibility to play a major role in road casualty reduction as contained in numerous publications, including Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2020, RoSPA National Road Safety Committee, Making Road Safety Count and the Road Traffic Act 1988 (Section 39).

While I appreciate councillors will have a difficult time deciding on where savings are to be made, I suggest that the small road safety unit should be retained, and the option be removed from the proposed cuts.

Carl Olivarius,

Road safety officer 1982-2009.

Private money is needed to support Ulva

Sir,

There is something very sad about watching any rural community fall out, but none more so than a close-knit island one. I am, of course, referring to Mull, which has moved with the times without losing its traditional values and, more importantly, been at peace with itself for generations.

The recent announcement that Cabinet Secretary for Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, may take the unprecedented step of supporting a small, unelected group in north Mull to launch a bid to buy the Island of Ulva and back it financially thereafter, is set to create deep divisions which will not be easily healed.

If this is what the Scottish Government desires, and I don’t believe it is, it runs contrary to a ballot recently taken by Mull’s democratically elected community council, which voted 7: 1 against the proposal.

Argyll’s MSP and MP should recognise the island’s local voice and relay this information to the cabinet secretary.

There are good and bad bosses, as there are in any business. Holyrood, in setting a target of one million acres of land into community ownership by 2020, has already made its point but Ulva is not Eigg and popular resident owner, Jamie Howard, is no Marlin Eckhard-Maruma.

Anyone on Mull with livestock knows there is no money to be made in farming these days, even with the EU subsidy. Sheep and cattle are about to disappear from the hills and forestry and all other grants must soon end.

What, then, of the North West Mull Community Woodland Company’s business plan, which reads more like a Christmas wish list?

With the aid of the Scottish Land Fund, it may find some of the £4.2 million to bid for the island  but where is the annual running cost, estimated to be in the region of £100,000, to come from? The answer is Joe Public who would be paying for this foolhardy experiment for generations through a tax hike.

There is only one hope for the future of Ulva, and that is for the NWMCWC to withdraw and allow private money to be poured into the island, thus enhancing its environment and creating far greater employment opportunities than Argyll and Bute Council or the Scottish Government ever could.

Public funding simply does not produce the goods, as the directors of another community-led buyout group have evidently discovered by asking the previous landowner to take back their estate.

Iain Thornber,

Knock House, Morvern.