Letters to the editor 04.04.19

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Highland Council is making climate change worse

There is no shortage of evidence on the rapid rate of climate change and its likely harmful impacts on all of us.

We all have to play our parts in reducing our individual carbon emissions, especially for the sake of young people, who have not made the mess, but will be ones who will have to live with it and attempt to the deal with damage. Young people themselves have paid attention to the evidence, as demonstrated by their global Friday school strikes, including in Fort William.

However, the major reductions in carbon emissions which will effect significant change need to come at a governmental and regulatory level. But Highland Council, far from acting in a responsible and forward-looking manner, seems to be going out of its way to sabotage the efforts of those trying to limit climate change.

The council is already enacting plans to dig up the peat bog on the Blar in Fort William, seemingly without having carried out any calculations of how much carbon this will release, in contravention of its national and international obligations. Peat bogs are especially important for storing carbon and extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and destroying them is particularly irresponsible.

Building houses and facilities for local people is an important aim, but not if it bequeaths to young people and future generations an environment wrecked by climate change. It is simply not fair on them to be so short-termist about planning decisions.

Anyone who wants to get Highland Council to do anything round here knows that the answer will invariably be that they don’t have enough staff and they don’t have enough money. However, when it comes to environmental damage, resources don’t seem to be a problem. Highland Council has already awarded a £2 million contract to dig up yet more of the Blar, on an area that has not even yet been confirmed in the new Local Plan as being allocated for development, and for which they have not received detailed planning permission.

Climate change isn’t just something we can ignore because it’s inconvenient, and Highland Council should be a force for good rather than deliberately making matters worse.

Susannah Calderan, Banavie, Fort William.

Students should not be protesting in school time

I am astounded that anyone (Letters, March 28) should find it praiseworthy that school pupils are protesting – in school time – no matter how worthy the cause.

Scottish educational standards are at their worst ever: of 34 developed countries, Scotland only ranks 24th in maths and 26th in reading. This is, or should be, a source of national shame.

Furthermore, some Scots universities provide remedial courses for domestic students to bring them up to the equivalent standard of overseas students.

Protest all you like but, please, not in valuable school time.

Catriona Kearney, Fort William.

Lateral thinking is needed to address Mull ferry problems

Reg Pedersen’ suggestion (Letters, March 21) for an all-weather Mull ferry service makes a lot of sense: maybe it is almost a no-brainer.

Regrettably, without some lateral strategic thinking on the part of those in charge, it stands little chance.

The history of state-owned monopolies is one of great reluctance to embrace radical change. When the islands’ ferry operation was recently put out to tender, it produced no perceptible changes and the status quo has continued, though this year, to be fair, the summer timetable did appear in print before the summer.

The current ‘partnership’ (Argyll and Bute Council/CalMac) seems very unlikely to sort out Craignure pier on its own, as it is only one piece of the jigsaw. Watching the Isle of Mull berthing at Craignure in a stiff north-westerly is a painful process as it struggles to avoid taking the pier too hard and demonstrates the need for action sooner than later.

A positive way forward might be for Mull to petition the Scottish Government to carry out a detailed comparison between these two options  for serving Mull: one, which is the least disruptive to CalMac’s operation but very expensive (£150m?), versus the other, which offers a more attractive service plus significant cost savings. It need not take too long.

James Harmer, Isle of Mull.

Breastfeeding is hard work but well worth the effort

I wish to thank Oban Phoenix Cinema for the showing of the film Tigers in March and also to thank The Oban Times and Oban FM very much for helping with the local publicity of this powerful and eye-opening film. Money raised has been sent to the NGO Baby Milk Action.

As the film exemplified, worldwide we allow giants like Nestle to dominate infant feeding who often violate internationally agreed marketing standards for breast milk substitutes, putting profits before infant health.

Corporate interests don’t operate in a vacuum though. ‘The buying public [of formula] is as responsible for creating, accepting and maintaining an artificial child-feeding status quo as are formula manufacturers themselves,’ says CEO of the International Breastfeeding Support Collective and member of the Scientific Advisory Committee La Leche League, France,
James Akre.

Author Allison Dixley explains in the book, Breast Intentions that ‘the number of mothers failing at breastfeeding and promulgating excuses strengthens the illusion of a generation of “broken-breasted” women and breast-evasive babies. Mothers succumb to an illusion how sizeable the biological probability of success really is.’ (Only 0.07 per cent of women
have a real lactational dysfunction).

‘Some women, perhaps more than we care to imagine, don’t quit breastfeeding as reluctantly as they would have you believe,’ Dixley says. ‘Rather, they have an implicit desire to quit. They then apply all kinds of strategies to manipulate events to this end. That way, they can quit, but at the same time keep up the appearance that they were victims of circumstance. The optimistic voices of breastfeeding advocates are being drowned out by the torrential noise of excuse-makers who vastly outnumber them.’ Hard to read for many, I’m sure, but I think it needs to be said.

Breastfeeding isn’t down to luck. For most, it is about determination, effort and commitment.

It is hard work and, unfortunately, it is a very under-valued but important occupation and contributor to public health in today’s UK society.

Valerie Cleave, Mid-Argyll.