Letters to the Editor – 10.12.20

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Fear for forest ecosystems

We worry about the potential for damage to our delicate forest ecosystems and toss and turn at night about ancient Kilmartin Glen being permanently removed to extract sand and gravel (‘Row over Kilmartin Glen quarry extension’​).

Yet the few of us who worry about Argyll’s future in the face of climatic uncertainty have little hope of real and lasting change in how agencies like Forestry and Land Scotland (FALS) ‘manage’ our environment.

FALS is about to begin forest removal in Knapdale as part of its Land Management Plan (including at Sites of Special Scientific Interest) and has submitted multiple planning applications for many kilometres of forest track to be built: I would urge people to go and look at some of the damage already inflicted in order to really appreciate the scale of ongoing ruination and to decide for themselves whether Forestry and Land Scotland really is competent to do this without a lasting contribution to landscape degradation.

I am not against forest management, but it must be done properly and with care; I don’t believe FALS will do either.

Nick MacIneskar, Tayvallich.

Let’s not turn on each other

In these challenging times we should not turn on each other. I am sure Scottish Water can speak for themselves but they are ordinary workers trying to put food on the table for their families and are not operating outwith the protocols agreed by the Scottish Government.

The last time I looked, water was an essential service, and back in June the Scottish Government worked very closely with the wider construction sector on protocols for getting construction and civil engineering projects back up and running.

While the Scottish Water project is a £2.7million investment to improve much needed facilities, the article is silent on the £6.3million ACHA external wall insulation project on site in the town at the moment. This project is providing much-needed employment for 90 workers and I am sure local businesses will know how much is being spent in the local economy from accommodation, food, fuel and so much more. This project tackles the scandal of fuel poverty.

Covid-19 and irrational scare-mongering should not get in the way of people’s and communities’ needs. The construction sector has gone through rigorous health and safety checks and protocols regarding Covid-19. The workers on the ACHA contract are largely operating externally in the open air but where, on occasion, access is required to a property, that is done in a coordinated and safe way. The Oban Times, in recent weeks, has quite rightly praised the town’s resilience and innovation in the face of Covid-19. We should not allow that good work to be undermined by trying to encourage turning on those who are simply trying to make a living for their families and supporting the town’s economy.

Alastair MacGregor, Chief Executive, ACHA.

Prayer can bring peace

We know there are many people having a difficult time during this pandemic, who are suffering from anxiety, fear, despair, and depression. Might I suggest that there is only one sure antidote to this situation and that is prayer – it can do wonders!

The person who prays sincerely from the heart will encounter an inner peace, even joy. You don’t have to be ‘religious’ or of a certain religion. We are all God’s children because He created each one of us individually and if anyone who seeks him sincerely in prayer God will answer that person, who will experience ‘the peace that is beyond all human understanding’ which, of course, is God coming to live in their heart.

Even if you are a non-believer or doubt the existence of God, you can always say, ‘God if you are there please come and help me’, Give it a go – and, of course, dipping into a Bible will enrich your prayer enormously.

Calum MacFarlane-Barrow, Dalmally.

Embrace open debate

I would not like to disappoint Tom Adam by not responding to his letter, especially as it is about me. Unfortunately, Mr Adam’s research has failed him. I am not a consultant working for the salmon farming industry and certainly not a hired gun.

My background is 100 per cent aquaculture. For the last twenty-five years I have been supplying retail market data to a variety of seafood companies including some that farm salmon. My focus is how can we increase fish consumption amongst the British public.

In 2010, I was invited by the Chief Inspector of Billingsgate market to speak at an event at Fishmongers Hall to discuss interactions between wild and farmed salmon. I was asked as a personal favour because arranged speaker was unable to attend.

Although, this was not my subject, I thought it went well until the Q&A when the mainly angling audience turned into what I can only describe as a group of football hooligans. They were abusive and aggressive demanding that I admit that salmon farming was responsible for the declines of wild fish. This pricked my interest because their view of salmon farming was so different to mine and this led me to start privately researching the subject. I continue to do so today. No one pays me to undertake this work.

Over the last ten years, I have found major discrepancies in the narrative put forward by the angling sector. What is most interesting is that I have tried extensively to speak to these organisations to discuss my findings. They refuse to meet, which is surprising given they claim to want to safeguard the future of wild salmon and sea trout.

When I see claims about salmon farming that are incorrect, if I have time I do respond as Mr Adam has observed. I am sorry if Mr Adam, like the angling sector, doesn’t want to hear the other side of the story.

Mr Adam highlights a scientific paper from Norway published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science and said that I must be aware of their findings. Actually, I attended an ICES meeting in Copenhagen which considered these very issues and where I met some of the authors of that paper. Interestingly, they weren’t very happy to have their findings challenged. They do rate escaped salmon as the highest threat but much of their findings are based on mathematical models rather than actual hard data.

I would like to give a very simple example from the same paper as to why I have reservations.

Which would Mr Adam consider a bigger threat to the wild salmon population; a mathematically estimated 39,000 salmon deaths or the confirmed deaths of 135,413 salmon? My view would be that the loss of 135,413 fish to a salmon population must be a much greater threat to its viability than those estimated from a mathematical model, yet the scientific paper claims that the loss of the lower number is the much bigger threat, even though they cannot prove that one fish died, let alone 39,000. The former is their unproven estimation of salmon deaths due to sea lice. The much greater number is the number of fish killed by anglers and this is not considered a threat at all.

Mr Adam should not be frightened about open debate but should embrace it.

Dr Martin Jaffa, Callander McDowell.