Letters to the editor – 19.03.20

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Fortunate to have excellent local newspapers

We are fortunate that in the Lochaber Times we have a newspaper that excels in bringing good news to its subscribers as opposed to the coverage of TV and most national papers.

Last week, my wife Katie was unfortunate enough to lose her purse in Fort William. Within an hour of returning home to Ardgour, the phone rang with someone enquiring if they could speak to Katie Maitland. Her purse had been found in the toilet at Fort William railway station and it was returned to her on Thursday of this week.

I have told this story to a number of folk and each one has replied it is good that there are still good, honest people about. That is indeed true, but I am convinced that bad people are in the minority.

If the media had a desire to report good news, as the Lochaber Times
does, then our lives would indeed be enhanced.

John Maitland, Ardgour.

Effective work done to keep Rest open

I have to take issue with the latest press release (March 5) from Argyll and Bute Council leader Aileen Morton, in which she refers to the most recent closure of the Rest and Be Thankful in terms of a ‘sticking plaster approach’ taken by the Scottish Government.

Perhaps Councillor Morton should be reminded of the £13.3 million that has already been invested in landslide mitigation at the Rest and Be Thankful by the Scottish Government, which has prevented its closure on no fewer than 48 occasions since the programmr’s inception.

Moreover, Councillor Morton really does need to reflect on her grasp of basic facts when she asserts that the mitigation measures failed ‘yet again’, despite the evidence that this most recent closure occurred outwith the existing mitigation area, where harvesting operations by Forestry and Land Scotland and extreme weather conditions were contributory factors.

Instead of cheap political point-scoring, Councillor Morton should perhaps acknowledge the hard work of Transport Scotland, BEAR Scotland and Geo-Rope in keeping the Rest open and safe on the aforementioned 48 occasions.

Shonny Paterson, SNP Councillor for Lomond North.

Costs of councillors should be cut

With Islay’s winter lifeline bus service in the council’s crosshairs in its £9 million cuts, it encouraged me to look at Argyll and Bute 2018/19 councillor expenses, the latest published.

Councillor Alastair Redman, out of our 36 councillors, cost us a shocking £1,612 in meals claimed for, more than half claimed for by all 36 councillors at a £2,446 total which is a bit rich given Councillor Redman is a Tory whose party of austerity and Universal Credit (still to hit the majority) has driven the rise of charity donations to food banks to feed millions and millions more when Universal Credit is fully rolled out.

Councillor Redman once told me while campaigning that a number of councillors faced court action for not paying council tax yet he now spends the average council tax house bill on meals. I don’t think we should be subsidising councillors’ meals. If their salary is not enough, don’t stand for election.

My ward, Kintyre and the Islands, councillors’ meals claimed for were: Councillor Redman £1,612, Councillor Robin Currie £541, Councillor Anne Horn £11.

All 36 councillors cost us £825,972 in 2018/19 total expenses. That’s around £4 million between elections and could be better spent on more accountability, lifeline bus services, crumbling schools etc.

Colin M Campbell, Port Charlotte, Islay.

Appalling condition of trains to and from Oban

I really have to write about the lamentable state of rolling stock on the above rail route between Oban and Glasgow.

This is a vital rail route to the West Highlands for residents and visitors who support the important tourist industry. The problem has existed for a number of years as the rolling stock is by any standards well past its serviceable date.

Catering and a trolley service is at best sporadic, The journey is about three hours 15 minutes, one way, and on many occasions there is no catering available. Why not consider installing a vending machine on each train supplying food and drink?

Heating is very erratic and often fails. Likewise, toilet facilities appear to be frequently faulty. It clearly implies that these carriages are beyond their life expectancy. There is quite often only one toilet on the train, wholly inadequate for a three-hour-plus journey.

Passenger seating and capacity: some of the rolling stock was replaced with cast-offs from the central belt. The seats have the comfort level of sitting on an ironing board. The cleanliness of the floor coverings and seat upholstery is woefully inadequate.

During the tourist season, trains are sometimes overcrowded and passengers have had to stand for the whole journey.

The Scottish Government seems keen to get people to swap cars for public transport so why not make funds available for significant upgrades to be undertaken in respect of replacing the existing rolling stock? If investment is not forthcoming, then people will vote with their feet and perhaps with their ballot papers.

Many people travelling between Oban and Glasgow are carrying substantial baggage but the storage facilities are inadequate.

One glimmer of improvement which appears imminent is the proposed introduction of greatly increased bike and large baggage capacity on a refurbished carriage which appears to have seating for the bike users. I look forward to see how this works in practice.

Maybe ScotRail should offer winter travellers a free personal survival kit and in summer a generous endurance discount on the ticket price to compensate for poor quality of service and experience.

Having lived in Oban most of my life, there is a great feeling that, insofar as transport infrastructure is concerned, we are treated as the poor relation and asked to effectively put up and shut up.

Rob MacCallum, Etive Gardens, Oban.