Letters to the Editor – 8.7.21

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School dress code

Well, that’s the end of term and this story goes away for now. So my timing is terrible, but I just became so irritated at the ‘doubling down’.

A recent letter from the Parents Council backs the school’s policy and adds its own spin by (rightly) criticising negative comments against the school. But both the head teacher, Mr Bain, and the Parents Council have not addressed the principal objections to the enforcement of ‘no bare leg’ and ‘no tights unless black’.

This is the comfort of the girls. Bland statements about ‘financial help is available’ miss the point. So does proclaiming how ‘inclusive’ the school is.

And in my opinion, the weakest argument for the school policy: ‘Most pupils and parents are in favour’. Inclusivity, anyone?

‘I would like to thank the pupils, staff and the parent representatives for their unanimous support of the school and our school rules’, writes Mr Bain in a letter to parents on June 11.

I am NOT in favour and I believe my daughters should be able to attend school bare-legged or in (moderately) coloured stockings without trouble.
Peter Mackay, Oban.

Small business needs support

It was interesting to see Angus MacDonald (Business professor calls for axing of Highlands and Islands Enterprise – 24.6.21) apparently endorsing the findings of Professor Ross Brown in his report The Next Start-Up Nation undertaken for Reform Scotland, and in particular, that Scotland is not sufficiently entrepreneurial.

To me, being entrepreneurial is being creative, taking risks and bucking the trend, or as Oxford University puts it: ‘being entrepreneurial doesn’t mean you have to start a business…it just means being innovative, creative, resourceful and adaptable’.

In the 18 years I have lived here I have seen a great deal of entrepreneurial spirit, with people finding imaginative ways to generate an income, support their community or create a business, with very little help or support from industry or government. On this point I wholeheartedly agree with both gentlemen – Highlands and Islands Enterprise should most definitely be axed; since 2012 it has increasingly focused on large businesses with the capacity to become huge, driven by SNP government policy and increasing centralisation. SME’s (small and medium enterprises, generally considered to be those employing between 25 and 250 people) get some support, if they can demonstrate ‘ambition for growth’, which translates to a cast-iron strategy for employing a minimum of 50 people and generating a multi-million pound turnover, ideally through international trading, within two years. Any business that does not want that doesn’t get a look in. Micro-businesses – those with just one or a few employees get no assistance beyond access to a few training courses courtesy of Business Link.

I spent five years working to get support for micro-businesses through Made in Lochaber, and it was a soul-destroying time. Even our local Chamber of Commerce isn’t interested in supporting us, preferring to focus on lavish lunches and high-class meet-and-greet events for CEO’s and executives with time to network.

When you’re running your own business taking a day off means not being paid, which often isn’t possible. Why must a business be large to be meaningful? We are quick enough to criticise people who live on benefits, but provide very little assistance to people who simply have the ambition to get off benefits and support themselves and their families – surely this ambition should receive just as much attention and support?

We pay our taxes too, and contribute to the greater economic good. And some of those businesses will have the interest in and capacity for growth. The sort of proposals suggested by Professor Brown should be implemented to improve the lives of all of us in Scotland regardless of the independence debate. Scotland, the Scottish and people living in Scotland are very entrepreneurial, but they need support to match their needs, capacity and ambitions, not to be castigated if they don’t aim to create the next multi-national conglomerate.
Joanne Matheson, Acharacle.