Letters to the Editor – 28.1.21

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Thank you to key workers

May I through your columns extend my thanks to key workers who, for nearly a year, have gone more than an extra mile to make sure the people across the length and breadth of Argyll and Bute have had access to health services, safe roads, all kinds of food, whether from shops or restaurants and takeaways, and the so many ‘unseen’ services which we are learning not to take for granted.

I am also heartened to see the community spirit whereby neighbours and friends continue to shop, collect prescriptions and phone those who have found themselves alone during this pandemic.

The Scottish Government, Argyll and Bute Council, local third sector groups and so many individuals have rallied round to collaborate and support others…I am proud to be part of this community.

Perhaps Councillor Redman could remember this, rather than disappointingly nit picking during the most difficult weather conditions when many of us were out salting and gritting paths, lanes and pavements as he called into question the ability of those who were already at breaking point to work longer hours, be more organised or just get the job done.

As part of the community and as an elected representative of a powerful body – the local council, in fact a member of the administration of that council – I’d rather see him leading by example like many of his fellow councillors do rather than sniping from the sidelines.

I’d like to especially commend Councillor Jim Lynch who has been working on the ground to find out what his community challenges are and has gone about finding solutions without taking to the papers to tell us what he is going to do in the future.
Joy Cameron, Benderloch

Motivation required over vaccinations

Instead of relief or complacency because vaccination has commenced locally, the question that needs to be answered is ‘When will this urgent vaccination programme be finished?’

Rightly or wrongly, the government’s priority order of vaccinations puts over 80s at the top of the queue. At 82+ and still not vaccinated, I want to be vaccinated now because I want the over 70s, which includes my wife, to be done urgently, the over 60s which includes my nephew, the over 40s which includes my son, the over 18s which includes many other relatives, and everyone over 18 vaccinated urgently because the dangers from delays are devastating.

And it can be done in days. As Professor Sir John Bell, adviser to the UK’s vaccine task force, who brokered the deal with Astrazeneca to produce the Oxford Vaccine currently being used in Scotland, stated (The Times 9.01.21.): ‘The NHS has the theoretical capacity to immunise everybody in five days if they want to, but I don’t get the sense they are really motivated.’

Covid should be treated like an invading enemy, he suggests.

Israel has already vaccinated 25%+ of its 9 million population – almost half the population of Scotland – even though it only started some three weeks ago and is scheduled to complete its vaccs programme on March 23, co-incidentally my 83rd birthday.

In my own experience during the Birmingham University Medical Centre Smallpox outbreak (August 1978), the whole of Birmingham, including me, was vaccinated in three weeks. Throughout the UK, various parts have already achieved speedy vaccinations. Extraordinary things have been done because people were really motivated to do so. Argyll and Bute in days would not be an extraordinary achievement if the motivation was there. I am sure it is.

The essential ingredients to speedy vaccinations are to maximise TIME for these, vaccination CENTRES, VACCINATORS, NO WASTAGE. The coronavirus destroys 24/7. Our response must be beyond normal GP surgery hours and go 24/7 or at least local supermarket hours (8am-11pm). Vaccinaiton centres, beyond surgeries.

And AVOID WASTAGE of left-over vials of vaccine by having standby patients on call.

I hope by this week’s Oban Times (January 28), people in Oban and Argyll and Bute will have been successfully vaccinated. It can be done. The local economy, the education of local children need it to happen. Vaccinations do not need to be vexing, if the motivation is there. Lockdown started on my 82nd birthday 23.03.20. May I hope it and the vaccination programme will have finished before my 83rd.

Tom Dolan, Taynuilt.

Vaccination push

Recently at First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon conceded that she will miss her target to vaccinate 560,000 Scots by the end of January. Under questioning from Ruth Davidson, Ms Sturgeon finally admitted that all over-80s would not get the jab until February 7 a week later than the SNP previously claimed.

GPs say they could be delivering the vaccine far more quickly, but the SNP are failing to get supplies where they are needed. The vaccine is our key weapon against this virus, so the Scottish Conservatives will continue to push the SNP to pick up the pace and meet their targets.

Vaccines are our best route to reducing restrictions, returning life closer to normal and rebuilding Scotland’s communities.

Councillor Alastair Redman, Kintyre and the Islands.

An open letter, dated January 15, from Argyll and Bute Council leader Councillor Robin Currie to Alister Jack MP, Secretary of State for Scotland – Argyll and Bute’s Seafood Sector Sustainability

Dear Alister,

In the weeks since the UK left the European Union, I have been contacted by numerous Argyll and Bute residents and businesses who share my very deep concerns about the future sustainability and, indeed, the survival of our vital shellfish and fishing sector.

The seafood sector is a vital component of our already-fragile regional economy and is now hit by the inability, virtually overnight, for producers and processors to get their time-sensitive products to market or to customers.

If allowed to go unresolved, this sector is likely to disappear, badly affecting Argyll and Bute’s overall recovery and future growth.

Fish and shellfish from Argyll and Bute are high quality products of international renown.

The industry has been a mainstay and a major employer in the area for many decades, sustaining not only the local economy but making a significant contribution to the Scottish and UK economies.

I am now hearing from long-standing fishing families, newer start-up businesses and companies employing hundreds of people that, if urgent action is not taken, they will have to close their doors for good.

This would be devastating for Argyll and Bute, where the sector comprises many single-family operated vessels, smaller fleets and artisan producers as well as some medium to larger enterprises.

As a council we are doing all that we can to support these businesses and prevent this imminent disaster.

Our officers are working behind the scenes to assist and are in constant discussions with the Scottish Government to reiterate the critical need for the commercial hubs to operate smoothly, ensuring that the right processes are in place to help businesses get their goods to their customers.

We are also speaking to Argyll and Bute producers to help them navigate these new processes and to issue all the necessary paperwork where appropriate, so that these valuable products reach buyers.

Delays on both sides of the border have already seen valuable products being lost, together with valued customers who are seeking their produce elsewhere.

Very urgent action and assistance is needed now from your government in order to prevent this traditional Scottish industry sector from disappearing altogether.

Most urgently of all, getting products to market must be streamlined, simplified and speeded up.

These products need to be prioritised over products with longer shelf lives – if the situation is allowed to persist then very many companies will have no choice but to give up, costing jobs and much-needed revenue to the treasury.

In addition to improving processes and the speed of delivery here in the UK, these businesses, so vital to Argyll and Bute and Scotland’s economic recovery and future success, need your government to negotiate urgently with its counterparts in Europe to identify and resolve the delays in allowing fresh goods to arrive in and then to progress on to customers.

I cannot state strongly enough that these actions are needed now. More is required, though, in the medium and longer terms, to help this beleaguered industry to get afloat again and regain some buoyancy.

Producers and customers need reassurance that future supplies will be prioritised and to regain confidence in the industry through dedicated marketing and investment where possible through the £100m fisheries fund your government announced following the publication of the agreement.

Our seafood sector desperately needs Government to take action to secure its survival. Please do what you can, urgently, to avoid its demise.

Robin Currie, Argyll and Bute Council leader