Letters to the editor – 10.9.10

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Good reasons for creating a West Highland Council

There are many reasons to support Councillors Andrew Baxter and Ben Thompson in their calls for smaller local authorities (Lochaber Times 27 August): clearer democratic accountability; policies that better fit the area; flexibility and a more nimble approach to crises.

We see smaller local authorities in other countries working together to gain economies of scale in procurement and these days back-room functions could be shared with staff working from home for more than one employer. Big isn’t always better.

Over the decades I have been involved in four campaigns to upgrade the A82. Lochaber councillors have often been unanimous in pressing the Highland Council (and the Highland Regional Council before it) to back action for the A82, only to find the matter on the Roads Committee agenda with their Inverness-based colleagues voting their campaigning priority as: A9 south; A96; A9 north then the A82. The section of the A82 from Tarbet to Fort William also passes through local authorities centred in Stirling and Lochgilphead, so the few local councillors along the length have similarly struggled to gain political backing for campaigns.

By comparison, we see Argyll and Bute Council campaigning vigorously for major improvement at the A83 Rest and be Thankful. We certainly need a West Highland Council.
John C Hutchison, Fort William.

Inverness should have own budget for sake of Highlands

With reference to your lead report in last week’s Lochaber Times, I wholeheartedly agree with Councillor Baxter’s assertion that the Inverness Council is eating up the finances of the Highlands. For a city expanding at the rate of Inverness not to have its own budget separate from the Highlands seem crazy to me.

Tourism is roughly 10 per cent of Scotland’s economy, about £11billion, in the Highlands it is 30 per cent of our economy and growing, and yet the A9 arterial road to the east is being duelled to Inverness whilst the A82, the main road linking Skye, Kyle, Oban, Fort William, Fort Augustus, and which has some of the most iconic visitor attractions – Loch Lomond, Glencoe and Loch Ness –is a nightmare to travel.

The amount of development in Inverness is truly astounding and we should be pleased about this, but at the same time it hard to see any real development in the rest of the Highlands.

The northern 500 has brought a huge amount of new visitors to us but we haven’t sufficient budget to give them toilets.

There is something wrong with the balance of funds and for the Highland Council to set up a budget committee that will only meet in private is just wrong.
Ian Sykes, Torcastle, Fort William.

Closures of public toilets is so 18th century

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought we lived in the 21st century, not the 18th!

Closing public toilets is a disgusting proposal on so many levels.  Oban, and the rest of Argyll, is an all-year-round tourist destination, not just a summer one, and they expect certain facilities, of which toilets are one.

With regards to toilets in ‘commutable distance’, which ones are nearest the one at Ganavan when it is closed?  The nearest to the North Pier if they are closed?  If you are on foot, or have young children, or have a medical condition like Chrone’s disease, this is simply not acceptable.

It wasn’t said, but I get the feeling that the council thinks visitors will be able to use the facilities in hotels and businesses. Do they think these businesses would be happy to have people traipsing in, then out again if they don’t stay there or purchase items?

The alternative is people either soiling themselves, relieving themselves in public spaces, or stop visiting the area altogether, which would not do the local economy any favours. Instead of closing toilets, more should be provided.

I’m a regular visitor to Oban and I have mobility issues, and yes, when I have to go, I have to go! Oban is wonderful wee town, but it’ll become nothing more the a open latrine if these proposals happen.
Mr R Jackson, by email.

Speeding in Kilmelford

I am writing to the Oban Times, something I rarely do, because I am so concerned about the speeding through the village of Kilmelford.

My letter consists of two parts, both parts applying equally to drivers/riders of motorcycles, cars, motorhomes, vans and trucks.

To the motorists who drive through our village at or about the 30 mph limit I say thank you. To the motorists who persist in driving at speed through our village this part is for you.

There is a large number of you who seem to have difficulty in travelling slowly through
Kilmelford which is actually only 800 metres long, so from start to finish it would make a difference of about 30 seconds in travel time between driving at either 30 mph or 60 mph.

Whilst very few of you drive at excessive speed through Kilmore, Kilninver, Kilmartin,
Ardfern, Connel, Benderloch or Taynuil, you consider it acceptable to drive at 40, 50, 60 and, on a few occasions, in excess of 60 mph past our homes. You obviously have no regard for the law, our safety, your own safety or that of the many pedestrians on the road or pavement.

You all know the law, and the fact you are breaking it, proven by the occasions when a hi-vis vest is hung in a strategic position or when anyone stands on the pavement in hi-vis you all slow to the limit. You cannot say that you have not seen the signs as, in the 800m of roadway where the speed limit applies, there are 36 road signs, one of which is illuminated, depicting the 30 mph speed limit. If you cannot see that number of signs, to borrow a well know retail phrase, ‘you should have gone to Specsavers’ and you should consider whether you are safe to drive at all.

I hope I do not see any replies to this letter trying to justify exceeding the speed limit as there is no justification unless you are a member of a Blue Light service on the way to an incident.

the people in Kilmelford, behave like responsible motorists and abide by the law.
David Millward, Kilmelford.

Wearing masks on ferries

I was surprised that there was no enforcement of indoor mask wearing on our ferries to Skye, then Uist and back again.

Around a third of people were not wearing them and staff, of which there were lots, did nothing when going round, despite announcements saying it was a mandatory requirement.

There is little ventilation in lounges and so this puts communities and passengers at increased risk of infection.

Many people wear masks to protect others but a significant number didn’t. Sure not all of them were exempt?  I spent a lot of time outside to get away from potential risk. I asked a few people to wear them but many didn’t seem to care.

Caz Perry, Science teacher, Sheffield.

Paradox of virus

The paradox of this virus and how it is perceived by politicians, and by health specialists is that many politicians and others with a commercial and monetary interest in ‘opening up our communities to the tourist industry seem to have taken the risk of spreading the virus deep into the rural communities of the Highlands and Islands.

From playing safe for three months, they now see fit for many, many thousands of visitors from areas in the UK – where the virus must be widespread and mostly hidden by asymtomatic individuals – to visit.

The virus almost certainly will manifest its presence in communities where the Feb to July cases were almost non-existant.

Graham Noble, Kinlocheil.