letters – week 6

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Ardhattan Parish Church

Thank you to all who joined us for the final communion service and the service to mark the close of the church on January 27, 2019.

It was lovely to see a busy church.

Special thanks to the Reverend Bill Gray and Reverend Dr Rodrick Campbell for leading the services, and to Norman Nicholson for his uplifting music.

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow?

Ardhattan Parish folks

Icy roads

I have been hearing from many of my constituents on Islay in regards to the gritting of our local roads. There is no doubt in my mind that our front line roads men are hard working and have the same concerns about ice on our roads as everyone else. That said they can only do as they are ordered by our council’s central management.

I have received very worrying reports from numerous fellow Ileach’s that school buses and cars across many parts of Islay have struggled to stay on the roads leaving many pupils scared by the time they reached school.
Our council has recently failed to grit the roads around Loch Gorm, Gruinart, the Oa, Ardbeg and Artalla early enough, this is despite school buses and cars on these routes each day before 8am.

Our island’s diligent and professional school bus and car drivers start driving at 7.15am every morning, so if the gritters don’t start until 7am our road’s department just can’t cover the roads before traffic is on them.
On many occasions over the last couple of weeks I have received complaints that the roads have not been gritted at all despite locals being told otherwise be call handlers on the mainland.

My constituents are justifiably demanding that in the future these decisions should be made locally. It is essential that we allow our front-line roads men on the island to use their own initiative and common sense.

Unsafe icy roads are as unacceptable in my council ward as they are in the more populated parts of Argyll. Our council must do all that it can to see that the more rural and isolated parts of Argyll are not provided with a substandard service.

Councillor Alastair Redman – Kintyre and Islands ward

This tourist tax is not too costly to implement

Taking a wider view on where our local councils can seek income to support and develop tourism infrastructure, I propose a £10 per head cruise passenger levy the easiest and most lucrative way money can be raised.

Once appropriate legislation is put in place to allow this to happen, each cruise ship would simply transfer the appropriate sum to the local council’s Cruise Levy bank account on arrival in each port. No need to count how many passengers go ashore – simply use the total number of passengers on board. After all, the council has to provide infrastructure and facilities in case all passengers want to go ashore.

The income to each council’s Cruise Levy bank account could statutorily be used only for tourism related expenditure and could not be subsumed into the council’s overall budget. Equally, national government would not be permitted to reduce financial support pro rata to councils.

Before anyone says such a charge would put off cruise passengers and the cruise lines, let me give you an example of what passengers are happy to pay. Last year a part day trip from Invergordon to the city end of Loch Ness then on to Culloden and Cawdor Castle cost passengers £180. For a 50-seater bus for one relatively short trip that was an income of £9,000, a significant part of which would be profit to the cruise line. Multiply that by the huge number of buses that service a large ship in a single day and it is easy to see that the cruise lines need our countryside and attractions every bit as much as we need them.

Cruise ships now berth at a large number of ports across Scotland, so income would accrue to a range of rural councils who are all currently struggling to provide the facilities they would wish to have for tourists and long suffering locals in the busiest tourist areas could put forward proposals for improvements they felt were most necessary to protect their quality of life.

Cruise ship numbers and sizes are increasing year on year. We should grasp this opportunity to enhance our communities with minimal administrative expense.

Alasdair Maclean

4 Househill Gate, Nairn

Are we killing Scotland?

Environmental depredations come in many forms, all of which are linked directly or indirectly, to making money. There is no doubt that sectors such as  forestry, and to a lesser extent aquaculture, make a significant contribution to the Scottish economy (over £1 Billion in forestry in 2015). But there is no gain without pain, I’m afraid.

So come here, Mr Environment, and give us all you’ve got. Yes, it will hurt a bit, but really, it’ll be worth it…for me at least.

I am not an ‘environmentalist’, and let us be brutally honest, we generally don’t care about effects we can’t see, do we? So it was with some dismay that I recently took in the view of the hillside of Barnluasgan (famous for our beavers) because it appeared that several thousand of these animals had been busy overnight. The hillside, previously brimming with lush green trees, was now utterly bare as far as one could see. Of course, even I realised that beavers had not done this. No, it was a much more destructive mammal. One that operates heavy machinery but is less inclined to operate common sense.

My first thought, no actually my second thought, was ‘What are our tourists going to make of this when they round the bend to see the set of The Martian?’. My first thought was unprintable.

Land management is an amazingly civilised term and conjures up images of Tweed-suited rangers, carefully going about their business. The truth is far less picturesque, so when upon making a politely incandescent query to Forestry Commission Scotland (I think I may have used the term “bomb site”) and being told that part of the reason was to ensure ‘slope stability’, I simply sagged with relief.  Thank goodness, because for a moment there I thought it was just about making more money.

I once thought that cutting down forests in large swathes was bad. Don’t we actually need them to stop erosion and leaching, absorb CO2 and provide some habitats? So cutting down trees in an area well known for heavy rain, delicate ecosystems and in a warming world does not seem particularly clever. I was further confidently informed that native trees will start to grow on the scorched hillsides through ‘natural regeneration’. Perhaps a big sign saying ‘All hazel trees this way’ would help?

Our world is in a precarious state. Overpopulation, over-consumption and over-warming are all contributing to a bleak future. Let us use Scotland’s resources, but wisely. If you must expose our hillsides to the elements let us see some bigger investments in bringing in alternatives quickly. And for goodness sake, please don’t tell me, ever, that it’s actually a good thing.

Nick MacIneskar
Tayvallich
Lochgilphead