Letters to the editor 30.01.20

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Global warming? It is a familiar tale of woe

The Arctic Ocean, we are told, is warming up. Icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot according to a report to the Commerce Department yesterday from the USA consulate in Bergen, Norway.

Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers all indicate a radical change in climate conditions and unheard of temperatures in the Arctic regions. Exploration expeditions confirm that scarcely any ice has been met with as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes. Soundings to a depth of 3,000 metres show the gulf stream is very warm.

Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stone, the report continues, while at various points many well-known glaciers have entirely disappeared.

Very few seals and no white fish are now to be found in the Eastern Arctic, though massive shoals of herring and smolts, which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal feeding grounds. Within a few years it is predicted that, due to ice melt, the sea level will rise and flood a number of cities.

Information from the Washington Post, November 2, 1922 – 98 years ago.

Iain Thornber, Knock House, Morvern.

SNP government has its priorities all wrong

At the UK general election in December, I voted SNP for want of anything better. I have two concerns regarding my choice.

The first involves the list of embarrassing fiascos under the oversight of the SNP: two unstable flagship hospitals; structurally dangerous schools; the failures of Police Scotland; the destructon of important sites of natural heritage by golf-made US playboys; expensive tram disappointments and ferry provision; et al.

Such a litany indicates a lack of coherent management by our SNP controllers and I wonder if, instead of putting all their wits to the task of gaining independence, they might do better focusing their energies on tackling these dangerous and costly blunders.

My second worry is the urge for independence is also given priority at the expense of concentrating on the climate crisis. Glasgow will be hosting the UN climate summit in November. Unless Glasgow intends to follow Madrid’s pathetic stalemate, our representatives need to address ecocide with the verve and commitment currently being wasted on a sideshow.

J C Hanlon, Taynuilt.

Argyll and Bute council and health service are letting islanders down

In light of a recent press release regarding Coll’s air service to Oban, perhaps it is time to address one (of many?) elephants in the room – SINA (Special Islands Need Allowance).

Using census figures, and excluding islands connected by road to Scotland’s mainland, Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles have around 75 per cent of the island population but, according to a press article, receive 85 per cent of the funding.

A ‘very small island’ has a weighting of 50 per cent in Factor A (the first part of the calculation) and is classed as an island with less than 875 residents. There is a huge difference between an island of 800 and one of 200. The first gets a national chain as their local shop, and the economies of scale that come with that, thus keeping the prices lower. The other can only have independent shops that often get no bulk buy discount and have large delivery bills. One has several flights a day to Glasgow, and the other is struggling to maintain an air link with Oban. This classification in itself may need to be reviewed.

More concerning, the second part of the calculation, Factor B, gives additional funding to the three unitary authorities that have no mainland foothold – Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles. Orkney and Shetland have their own mainland. They even refer to it as ‘the mainland’. Each has multiple high schools, a hospital, council offices, MOT centres, and more. In fact, residents of Orkney and Shetland mainlands may have access to a wider range of services than the residents of Coll can access even after taking a lengthy boat trip to Oban.

A recent television programme showed how Shetland hospital can video link with Aberdeen hospital, allowing a consultant to remotely view your ‘oscopy’ and provide a face-to-face diagnosis without the patient ever leaving Shetland. Even the Western Isles have access to better services than many of Argyll and Bute’s islands due to high school education and several mainland flights per day from various ports.

It’s clearly time that SINA is reviewed. The need to leave the island to access maternity services, MOT services, secondary education, affordable housing and a host of other public and private services should all be part of this calculation. These services are, after all, the difference between being able to sustain an island population or seeing the population go in to (possibly) irreversible decline. It is also time to ensure the ‘island’ authorities with their resident councillors, do not have a louder voice than the many, small Argyll and Bute islands that are seeing an alarming depletion of public services and employment, and are achieving little to no voice while the local and national politicians use their plight for political point scoring.

It’s not all the fault of SINA though. The council and the NHS are not using technology that is now readily available, and some of which they already have, to provide services more efficiently.

A number of council employees should be able to work remotely giving them the option (and an adequate salary) to set up home on our isles. Our medical practices should have access to better diagnostic tools and video-conferencing appointments with consultants in hospitals, which could help avoid unnecessary trips off island (paid for by the NHS).

It’s not rocket science. Let’s move with the times, make genuine efficiencies (rather than creating highly paid jobs just to talk about it) and start serving the islands properly.
Alison Jones, Isle of Coll.