Letters to the editor 14.03.19

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Being let down by a discriminatory care system

I feel care needs is a very important topic at the moment as the government is making cuts to a care system that is already in need of more help and more funding.

I am writing about the system or lack thereof for people under the age of 65 needing nursing care in Scotland. Argyll and Bute has no nursing facilities that will accept someone under 65 unless there is a weekly ‘top up’ of more than £400 from families.

My mum, who is under 65, is now at a stage in her illness that she really should have 24-hour nursing care and because of this we have been trying to find somewhere mum can go that the government is still willing to pay for.

I feel we are being let down by the system. We would have loved mum to be closer to home, but I know this isn’t always possible but for anyone under 65, but to not even be considered is disgraceful. They are considering sending my mum home and putting a bigger care package in, and I appreciate the work to try to help but this isn’t going to be a long-term solution.

My mum – and I’m sure there are others – will have to have a nursing home soon but I feel like we don’t have any options.

I think the system for assessing care needs should be based on medical grounds alone. Why should someone under 65 not be entitled to the same level of care as someone over if they are in need of the same care?

Tammy McKie, Tobermory, Isle of Mull.

Hard-pressed people are subsidising an inefficient council

The local authority can claim a 4.79 per cent rise in council tax is below the maximum as it saves £1 in £480.

But it is a kick in the teeth for many people. Average pay rises are around 2.6 per cent so after paying tax, a pay rise cannot cover half the council tax increase. People cannot afford to subsidise an inefficient council so it must save cash on unnecessary things.

Instead of personally attending meetings, councillors and officers can use online conferencing using the system developed by UHI/Argyll College. As well as saving hundreds of thousands a year in expenses, it will also free up more time for people. And democracy will be improved with all of these webinars available online for residents to watch.

The council has shed unnecessary staff but there are huge amounts of cash available to save. There are too many under-used buildings which cost megabucks to heat, clean and maintain. So relocating some staff and selling off buildings to raise capital to reduce debt interest makes solid financial sense.

Whatever the Brexit outcome, austerity will be with us for decades as money continues to flow to the Far East from Europe. So please can the council play its part to help the wallets of both residents and businesses?

Mike Foster, Sannox, Crannaig a Mhinister, Oban.

Extra funding for winter maintenance was a priority

In a letter to The Oban Times on February 21, Councillor Jim Lynch quite rightfully stated that ‘as a serving member of the current administration, I am well placed to use my influence to deliver for Argyll’s rural communities’.

He was, of course, referring to a previous article that was printed in The Oban Times in which I was campaigning to get many roads in my council ward gritted more often and at more appropriate times.

On that matter, I am delighted to have played my part in making sure our council administration will be funding an extra £500,000 for winter maintenance across Argyll.

While this extra £500,000 will not placate all of the challenges facing our road network in the winter, it is a massive step in the right direction.

I was, however, disappointed that on the same day Mr Lynch’s letter was printed in The Oban Times, in which he stated that ‘he fully supported my views that rural communities across Argyll and Bute deserve the same level of service’, he then voted for an SNP budget amendment that would see Argyll’s winter maintenance cut.

Councillor Alastair Redman, Kintyre and Islands ward.

A Better Ferry Option for Mull

Last week I had the honour of addressing the Mull Community Council who are extremely concerned about a proposal by Transport Scotland/CMAL to carry out a major reconstruction of Craignure ferry terminal at the staggering cost of £78 million. This proposal was to enable berthing of a large £75 million Glen Sannox class ferry.

A key concern is that the mainly single track Mull roads are not able to handle the sudden arrival of 130 cars in one go. The proposal includes a huge reception building to hold 1,500 persons (over half the Mull population) which the community council believe to be both unnecessary and wholly out of scale with the rural setting in which it would be located.

An alternative and more cost-effective proposition based on Scandinavian practice was discussed whereby a main vehicle ferry service would be provided by two 80 car, 400 passenger capacity double ended ferries, providing an hourly service in summer, with a single vessel giving a two hourly service in winter from 7am-8pm. This would enable year-round commuting between Mull and Oban, a facility that is not available at present. The vehicle ferry service would be supplemented in summer by a 250 passenger fast 35 knot catamaran to cover day trip foot-passenger peaks and could also connect Oban with Lochaline, Lismore and Tobermory.

With a ferry new build programme under way in Norway, new and good second hand vessels of these types will be available for sale or lease as of 2020, as follows:

•      80 car, 400 passenger open water double-ended ferries for £3m to £7m depending on age, configuration, etc.

•      200 – 300 passenger fast catamaran for £4m to £6m

It was noted that to enable safer berthing at Craignure, some extension of the existing structure would be required plus general maintenance at an estimated cost of some £10 million. Thus a more frequent, flexible and economical ferry service could be provided between Craignure and Oban for a capital cost of some £30-£35 million as compared with the circa £150 million scheme proposed by Transport Scotland/CMAL. The community council unanimously endorsed the alternative proposal outlined above.

It was suggested that if large sums of money were available for misguided ferry terminal projects of the £78 million kind currently proposed by the powers that be for Mull and elsewhere, it would be better spent on more cost-effective ferry solutions, with the remainder earmarked for our struggling health and education services.

Roy Pedersen
8 Drummond Road, Inverness

Hydro schemes will help people who live in glens survive

In response to the letters in this week’s Oban Times against the Glen Etive Hydro Schemes I should like to make the following reply.

I am a member of the Glencoe and Glen Etive Community Council as well as chairwoman of the Glen Coe and Glen Etive Community Company. My husband’s family has been here in Glencoe since 1936 and he went to school in Glencoe Village.

The remit of the community council is to represent the small communities who live in these two glens and I should like to take this opportunity to respond – on my own behalf – to the objections to the Hydro Schemes planned in Glen Etive raised by people and groups who claim to have a “vested interest” in our glens.

I would like them to consider that there are people who actually live and work here – all year round.

We do not have the luxury of the services that people who live in urban areas have.  The community benefit which these schemes generate may enable us to invest in a few of the things that people who do not live in remote glens take for granted as their right.

We are happy that our glens are seen as beautiful (as indeed they are) and I understand that people love coming here to walk, climb and camp to get away from the noise and stress of urban living.

However, I would ask them to reflect on who comes to their rescue when they get into difficulties on our hills?  It is the local Mountain Rescue Team manned by local volunteers  – unpaid – who turn out day or night in all weathers to help.

Who is left to clear up the rubbish when the campers and other visitors leave? There are no public toilets in Glen Etive and off the road the glen is littered with small piles of toilet paper covering up their messes, as well as a pile of litter.

The people who live here do the clearing up because they love their glen and hate to see the mess that gets left. The council has no money and the NTS who own part of Glen Etive have no spare manpower.

Our mountains and glens should not be regarded only as playgrounds for urban population – theirs to treat as they like. We who live here love our glens and would never support any scheme that will ruin our home environment.

Indeed we have agreed with the developer of the schemes in Glen Etive that each family who lives in the glen will adopt one of the hydro schemes, monitor the installation and reinstatement of the ground, and report on the progress to the developer and the community council. This is best done by people who live here all year.

VisitScotland promotes the Highlands vigorously with pretty pictures and flowery words and tourists flock to our ‘wild lands’. But this in itself creates problems for us – the people who live here.

Our long single-track roads cannot cope with the traffic. The passing places are seen as convenient places to park and in the summer are mostly full with campervans making driving an obstacle course. The verges have been totally destroyed. The Highland Council have no money to deal with this.

This is a problem – not just in Glen Coe and Glen Etive but in most of the remote areas in Scotland where small communities of people live.  Only this week it is reported that the population of Caithness has fallen by 21 per cent.

If it becomes impossibly difficult to live in the remote areas of Scotland more people will leave. Many of the younger men are already forced to work away from their families during the week, but they need to know that their children are schooled, their own parents can, if necessary, go into a local care home and that reasonable services are available for their families while they are away.

Do these people who object to progress in our glens really want these areas cleared of residents? Do they really want our tourists to come only as day trippers from Edinburgh/Glasgow/Inverness in buses with piped commentary?

Because if no one lives here, that will be all that is left.

These areas have had a myriad of designations imposed on them by the ‘powers that be’, without any consultation with the people who actually live in these places and with no thought of what the consequences might be for them.

‘wild land’ is not a designation as reported in the press and on social media – it is part of the Scottish Government’s NPF3 policy and guidance only.

My plea to people who are attempting to interfere in what goes on in our glens is, please, show some respect for the people who live here – anyone is free to wander anywhere in Scotland and we respect your right to do so.

You need to rid yourselves of your 21-century Highland Clearances mindset, because that may be the unintended consequence if you deprive these remote areas of schemes that could provide the means to their survival.

Victoria Sutherland
Torren, Glencoe.

Climate protection starts at home

I am shocked that primary school children are being seduced into these ‘strikes’.

Primary schoolchildren should not be turned into political pawns for anyone’s pet project. If these children are so concerned about the environment they could be walking to school rather than using mum and dad’s taxi service, turning off their mobile phones, tablets etc, and picking up their rubbish.

I am extremely tired of seeing sweet wrappers, pop cans, chewing gum, fast food wrappers, etc, strewn across the countryside.

It is well enough documented that plastic is a hazard to wildlife, birds can get their heads stuck in pop cans, and some of the wrappers may, to a bird, resemble a delicious treat. Furthermore, discarded food waste can entice mice and rats.

Climate protection starts at home with small steps.

Joanna Godfrey
Spean Bridge