Letters to the editor 12.03.20

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We should avoid farmed fish products

Your report (The Oban Times, February 27) is headlined: ‘Objectors up in arms over fish farm plan.’

Of course we are opposed to SEPA’s intentions to greenlight bigger fish farms in our inshore waters.

The sandy beach at Ganavan is already under plenty of pressure. We really do not need even bigger salmon-farming pens at the Dunstaffnage site in the mouth of Ardmucknish Bay – or anywhere else.

This was the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s first recommendation in its Report on Salmon Farming in Scotland, published in November 2018: ‘If the [salmon farming] industry is to grow, the committee considers it to be essential that [the industry] addresses and identifies solutions to the environmental and fish health challenges it faces as a priority.’

I acknowledge some improvements. However, nearly 15 months after the report was published, we are facing the planet’s biggest man-made environmental and humanitarian crisis. And still the loyalties of our politicians seem to lie with big corporations, whose interests have for far too long been focused on the interests of greedy shareholders. Politicians and multinational corporations continue to show a lack of care and concern for our environment that verges on the criminal.

In view of the many and well-documented worldwide risks that fish and crustacean farming pose to wild fish and crustaceans, and to inshore waters, we would do well to avoid all farmed fish products, including salmon.

Margret Powell-Joss, Oban.

Correcting curious economic arguments

I am responding to Jeff Darby of Kilmore’s letter (February 27) with its somewhat unusual grasp of economics.

First, contrary to his comments, Scotland runs and continues to run a substantially higher fiscal deficit than the rest of the UK. In the fiscal year 2016-17, it was of the order of 8.3 per cent of GDP (Scottish Government figures quoted in their own Growth Commission paper chaired by Andrew Wilson). The UK fiscal deficit was of the order of two per cent in this period.

The gap is crudely filled by the Barnett formula. It is therefore simply not true to say that Scotland subsidises England. There is nothing either peculiar or sinister about the Barnett formula; it is a social solidarity payment to areas of higher need which results in redistributive levels of public expenditure vis a vis tax revenues from richer to poorer areas.

Mr Darby correctly points out that Scotland is one of the richest areas of the UK, a tribute one might think to the redistributionist effect over time of Barnett enhanced public expenditure and a sign perhaps that Scotland is hardly discriminated against in UK terms.

So why, then, do we need enhanced levels of public expenditure vis a vis the UK? The answer is simple. To maintain universal services in a country half the size of England with a tenth of the population simply costs more.

Scotland is not a ‘small’ country. It is, in fact, a big country with a small population. It needs more roads, more cables, more train tracks, more transport links simply to achieve the same results as the rest of the UK. At the moment this expenditure burden is shared across a unitary state. An independent Scotland would have to shoulder it on its own.

Mr Darby notes projects such as HS2 from which Scotland receives no benefit. Central governments of whatever hue have a regrettable love of large expenditure projects on their doorstep. When one travels, as I do, on the spanking new Queensferry crossing or on the vastly enhanced Glasgow/ Edinburgh link and then arrives at the broken and woefully underinvested transport links of Argyll, one cannot but wonder if the UK Government has spawned a little imitator in Holyrood?

It is deeply to be regretted that Argyll and Bute Council cannot take up some of the slack but its own budgets have been part of the 4.7 per cent real decline vis a vis the overall Scottish Government budget which, coupled with increasing central directions as to how funds should be spent, has done such huge damage to councils’ abilities to fulfil their statutory responsibilities.

Perhaps a confrontation of the hard fiscal realities of independence might make for a more honest debate on its merits or demerits.

Hugh Andrew, Newington Road, Edinburgh.

Needs of Western Isles are being ignored

It comes as no surprise that the money allocated by the government is not going to be used for the benefits of us islanders, and indeed it has now and in recent years come to the point that the general public have lost all trust and faith in both the council and the health board.

It is apparent that they simply do not pursue the local folks’ wishes. Good examples are the dental services and the botched game that’s being pressed on to the good folks of Barra, who have seen through the proposed misty mire.

My mathematics tell me that a blind eye is upon an out of order situation here and that no proper action has been taken to have quotas put on the numbers that swamp our isles annually.

If there are two campervans blocking our access, it means we are being severely compromised as to where and when we go anywhere.

Gaelic language education and even our way of life have suffered much due to politics and to the degree it is now toxic to our lifestyle and welfare.

We are constantly being ignored, and now have lost any confidence in the people who are supposed to be taking care of us on these Western Isles.

Aonghas Eoghainn Mhoir, Uibhist a Deas.