Letters to the editor – week 51

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Lack of investment in housing is not good news

Argyll and Bute Council is presenting its updated housing plan as good news (The Oban Times, December 13), but I am disappointed at the low level of investment in affordable housing being provided to Argyll and Bute by the Scottish Government compared with 10or 12 years ago when annual investment in housing was well over £20 million.

If we look back to 2006, funding was £21.9 million. When we compare that with the 2018/19 allocation of £16.1 million, it can be seen that this is a massive cut of more than 25 per cent. Where we would expect the council to be receiving much more for housing from the Scottish Government than it did 10 or 12 years ago, we see that the next two years are not much better with allocations of only £17.1 million and £18.2 million, well below the levels of funding the council received in the past.

Because of these ongoing cuts in investment for housing from the Scottish Government, the council was informed that it would have to contribute £1.9 million each year for the next three years from its the Strategic Housing Fund.

As this fund is council taxpayers’ money, I informed the council that I believed it was unacceptable that council taxpayers across Argyll and Bute were having to subsidise affordable housing to the tune of almost £6 million due to the cuts in funding for affordable housing from the Scottish Government.

The spin that the Scottish Government puts on this is to say that it is now putting funding into building council houses. What it does not say is that it is taking funding from housing associations to do that. Even the council should not be spinning this as good news.

Councillor George S Freeman, Ward 9 – Lomond North.

Figures for flu immunisations were inaccurate

Search as I might, I cannot find a correction or retraction from Councillor Alastair Redman regarding the erroneous information on comparable flu vaccination uptake figures in Scotland and England, published in his letter to The Oban Times on November 29.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that he repeats, parrot fashion, the words of his interim leader Jackson Carlaw, who was himself reprimanded for the use of false claims over vaccination numbers during FMQs on November 22.

For the sake of clarity and for Councillor Redman’s information, I can do no better than quote the First Minister’s remarks to Mr Carlaw: ‘The figure of 51.7 per cent for over-65s in England was published by Public Health England related to the week ending November 11. As you will surely have been aware, the figure of 39 per cent for over-65s in Scotland, published by Health Protection Scotland, was for the week ending October 28.

‘In the simplest terms, you erroneously compared Scotland’s position with that of England two weeks later. The October 28 figure for England for over-65s was in fact 33.8 per cent – below that of Scotland.’

She added: ‘In order to assist you in ensuring this error is not repeated, you may wish to be aware that the latest uptake figures for the week ending November 25 for Scotland and England for over-65s have been published by Health Protection Scotland and Public Health England. The latest comparable figure in England was 62.5 per cent, lower than the rate in Scotland of 63.3 per cent.’

Furthermore it would appear that the scare stories being repeated by the Tories regarding a shortage of vaccine at some surgeries was also found to be false.

I sincerely hope elected officials take seriously their responsibility to be accurate and truthful in public discourse especially in matters of the health of vulnerable groups.

Colin Morrison, by email.

Rural Argyll’s broadband and mobile phone coverage

I was happy to meet with officials from Ofcom in Kilmory recently to discuss the need to expand 3G, 4G and 5G coverage as well as dramatically expanding super fast broadband throughout the Kintyre and Islands ward and wider Argyll.

Many statistics on rural broadband coverage are misleading as they use raw numbers of households that have access to better mobile coverage and faster broadband rather than landmass.

This means that the providers can give a decent (but not perfect) service to a few of Argyll’s largest towns and claim that the majority of households in Argyll and Bute are covered.

As so many of my constituents know all to well, islands, villages, farms, crofts and individual households outside of these larger towns slip though the net and sadly continue to go without.

There is no true market solution to all of rural Argyll’s broadband and mobile phone coverage challenges, which is why we will need to see large-scale investment from the increasing central belt-obsessed Scottish Government to correct this imbalance.

I will continue to relentlessly lobby for better mobile and broadband coverage for my council ward and the rest of rural Argyll.

Councillor Alastair Redman, Kintyre and the Islands ward.

Views expressed in letter show worse side of nationalism

I was interested in the views expressed in letters (The Oban Times, November 29) in that I have a similar background being of a smilar age, born in England and resident for many years in this great country, and we both voted to remain in the EU referendum.

However, the ‘no such thing as society’ statement by Margaret Thatcher is forever being dug up by the Tory-bashers. When I heard this statement many years ago I understood it to be about personal responsibility, not selfishness, and that there is not a separate societal and ‘other’ view.

My main point, though, concerns the statement that on moving here, he found ‘Scotland to be much more congenial, culturally and politically, having a level of personal and public consideration and humanity generally more lacking south of the border’. I am not doubting, of course, that this is his personal experience, but it is exactly that and we must acknowledge that some people’s experience may be different.

People and organisations with the attributes he so admires are prevalent everywhere and it is not the prerogative of Scots to be ennobled in this way.

No doubt there are some born and brought up in Scotland who find these admirable qualities where they now reside in England, or wherever, which they did not find here.

Patriotism is much to be admired and for  those who desire it, it is a laudable goal, but this letter just showed the worst end of Scottish nationalism.

Ian Johnson, Stirling.