Letters to the editor – 06.02.20

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Ferries and roads are crucial for islanders

Ferries and roads are our most important daily needs, apart from food.

Plenty has already been voiced by people with common sense about how they are getting worse by the week.

Roy Pederson, only three weeks ago, put forward an excellent plan for having two smaller ferries rather than a large vessel.

I was speaking with at least two ex-merchant navy men, who had extensive knowledge of the Western Isles seafaring, and both told me that the MV Pioneer, which sailed the Minch in the 1970s, was the best boat they had been on with CalMac, and that it would make the Barra or Uist crossing in a force nine.

New vessels ought to be built on the Pioneer model, with two smaller ferries for each port.

Now is the time to do the right thing, because ferries are vital for us islanders but we are given the cold shoulder.

Put roads and ferries, along with us islanders, first in line, every time.

Aonghas Eoghainn Mhoir , Uibhist a Deas.

Fish farming is damaging migratory fish stocks

There are numerous factors which have contributed to the collapse of migratory fish stocks, some which are still not understood. This majestic area was renowned for its plentiful migratory stocks.

I find it incredulous that marine farming seems to be developed with such lack of accountability on both the farmers’ part and local government.

I count 46 cages in Loch Etive from OSMaps satellite images. I find it surprising in these days of (supposedly) responsible environmental governance that such a concentration of farms is encouraged, and will presumably be increased. The rightful importance of local employment is often highlighted. I spoke to a local who said the tend to bring in their own workers.

The recent escape of thousands of rainbow trout is environmental pollution. Rainbow trout are an alien species. Are there significant fines for these polluters, which can then be put back into effective policing?

The televised footage of lorry loads of dead, presumably diseased, fish being discarded put me in mind of a comparison. If these were sheep, cows or hens, what would be the public and agency response?

Animals can be isolated but the need for the flow of sea water through cages prohibits that. The degree of accountability land-based farmers are expected to meet seems way and above that of marine farmers.

Farmed salmon have taken pressure off the wild stocks, but also created a market for itself. Has the undeniable yet  largely unquantified effect marine farming has on migratory stocks been explored? I doubt it.

And why are closed containment systems not being utilised? I believe the Scottish Government proposes to double the capacity of salmon harvesting. How anybody can argue against the detrimental effect fish farming has is beyond me.

It genuinely surprises me when there has been the collapse of migratory fish stocks of the magnitude there has been in this area, that governance appears so sterile. Loch Etive’s marine environment, I believe, is significantly polluted. Invasive escapees, chemicals from the drugs used and, of course, sea lice.

Alastair T Aitken, by email.

Community council wants footpath to be reinstated

We refer to two articles in The Oban Times of January 16. Connel Community Council (CCC) is delighted that the new build of rental housing units is complete (page two) but wish to point out that site works are not.

The contractor chose to divert a right of way footpath and, despite much correspondence over the life of the project, this has yet to be reinstated to an acceptable standard, with planning permission still required for one section.

CCC, a statutory consultee, has repeatedly encouraged Argyll and Bute Council officers ‘to assert, protect and keep open and free from obstruction rights of way’; a similar issue was previously reported by our colleagues at Tarbert.

A theme throughout has been poor communications between Argyll and Bute Council, CCC and the contractor; the many problems associated with this development could have been resolved more efficiently with meetings, preferably on site.

We are therefore pleased to note that the new chief executive, Pippa Milne, states (page eight): ‘Wworking co-operatively with other public sector organisations … community organisations and communities themselves is critical.’ We hope her message is received and acted upon by Argyll and Bute Council officers.

Roger Ashforth, secretary, Connel Community Council.

Cutting winter bus services would be horrifying

Argyll and Bute Council should have got bus drivers to hand out leaflets to people actually using the buses for their Islay service questionnaire.

I strongly disagreed with the question six which reads: ‘I would be happy to have an increased timetable during the summer months if this meant a reduced timetable during the winter months.’

My answer was more funding, not cuts, for lifeline bus services during winter months to suit the summer visitors. Any reduced winter service would be horrifying.

Many bus users are not in good health, and one is over 100 years old. I am told other islands have better bus services. A good way to push even more Ileachs off the island would be to reduce the winter lifeline bus service and a good way to increase ‘second homes’ for summer visitors from far off lands spending little in our economy.

Perhaps the council should reduce the number of councillors from 36 to 11. The small ward of Kintyre and the Islands has three, travelling about enjoying themselves doing the same job when one councillor would do. Why not setup up a Facebook page for each ward so constituents can post issues and get a quick ‘open’ response.

A bus user recently told me they visited the council office and couldn’t believe the heat. Maybe get staff to wrap up warmly and turn down the heating to 15 degrees in all council offices.

Colin M Campbell, Port Charlotte, Islay.