Letters to the editor – 2.6.22

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Council should look at building own houses

As board chairperson of Argyll Community Housing Association (ACHA), I wanted to comment on your article relating to the housing crisis in the Oban Times (May 12).

There is clearly a challenge for affordable housing in many parts of communities in Oban and Lorn, including the island of Mull, which was my old ward when I was a councillor.

ACHA is currently developing proposals for five houses on Ulva, four in Dervaig, with the possibility of a further four in Java at Craignure and in Salen.

The article implied that something has to be done about resources. It is my understanding that resources are not the issue but the capacity of the council and its partners to deliver against the cash planning target for affordable housing provided by the Scottish Government.

In June last year, as an elected member, I was briefed that the Scottish Government new build allocation for Argyll and Bute was £19.5million for 2020/21, but less than £10million was spent. I was further advised that the allocated figure for the financial year just ended 2021/22 was £21.25million but it was unlikely that any more than £11million would be spent. If that outturn figure is correct for the year just ended, not much more than 50 per cent of the Scottish Government’s cash planning target allocation for affordable housing will be  spent in Argyll and Bute.

The reality from my position is that the issue is not one of a lack of resources but the ability to deliver on the ground. I have no wish to criticise housing associations who are currently building, they can only do so much, but I do think the council, as the strategic housing provider, has to widen its partner base and to look at how it can coordinate the delivery of much needed affordable housing better, and spend the resources that can be made available by the Scottish Government. This could involve bringing in new housing partners, looking at what is blocking current development, such as the position of Historic Environment Scotland, and perhaps more radically, could the council build again itself?
Roddy McCuish, chairman of the Board of Management, Argyll Community Housing Association Ltd

Praise for CalMac staff

Of late, most news involving CalMac appears to have items about new ferry costs, delays or communities concerned about the services provided and often comes across in a very negative vein.

Please could I, via the ‘Times’ offer a few words of praise to CalMac, in particular the front line staff what most travellers will meet on ferry journeys.

Having made several trips of late to different locations, all staff and crew were very helpful and friendly. I was very impressed how quick and efficient the disabled access was, having to use it on a temporary basis.

Whatever happens in the boardrooms and with committees regarding the future of CalMac ferry services, I for one am more than happy to travel knowing that the company has got it right regarding staff and customer relationships. Long may it continue.
Ernie Brittain-Dodd, Seil.

Open letter to Forestry and Land Scotland

I am writing regarding the planned clear-felling of a large area of woodland at Coille-Bharr. I am very worried about the impact of this on global warming, species decline and local businesses.

The planned clear-felling will…

Remove a valuable carbon sink: Research has shown that preventing the felling of just one hectare of existing woodland would avoid 100 tons of carbon emissions

Result in damage to forest floor: Modern felling techniques using heavy plant create lasting damage to the forest floor. Natural regeneration cannot occur under such circumstances or will take much longer.

Degrade the topsoil: Increased precipitation due to climate change is washing away the thin soils and their nutrients. Natural regeneration cannot occur under such circumstances or will take much longer.

Damage tourism and local businesses: This is a very real concern in an area that relies on seasonal tourism. Our visitors do not holiday here to view bare hills. The amenity and wildlife of Coille-Bharr plays a significant role in attracting visitors to the villages of Tayvallich and Crinan.

We are in a climate crisis in which the wholesale removal of forest plays a significant role. Allowing for natural regeneration of clear-felled plots or replanting saplings is not a solution due to the decades it takes for trees to become mature.

I am asking Forestry and Land Scotland not to proceed with the planned felling of coupe 22100 at Coille-Bharr at this time, and to seriously reconsider the damage to our climate and land that the Land Management Plan is instigating.

Humanity cannot afford ‘business as usual’, and we do not have time to waste.
Nick MacIneskar, Tayvallich.

Congratulations Mr Blue

I congratulate Mr Blue on his measured letter (Ferry Disertions) in your edition of
May 19. We endorse his view about new ferries and protected monopolies.

The ferry system at present is constraining the lives of islanders. Since your last edition there have been further disruptions to the services to the west coast islands which effect everyone’s lives.

However we must be cautious of the knee jerk reactions which automatically criticise
CalMac, yes, they do deserve criticism at times but they do the best they can with what they have in the form of vessels and perhaps more pointedly how they are instructed to run the service.

The main problem with our services stems from the cabal that is made up of CalMac/CMAL, Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government. A group with a lack of vision and willingness to accept that there needs to be changes to the present system.

Over the years there have been many ferry committees, community councils, community groups and councils that have vigorously asked for improvements and change. In most cases failing to alter much. Perhaps the only way to implement change is for the islanders to operate a few independent vessels themselves.

Do the aforementioned cabal worry, no, because they are smug in the knowledge that the islands do not have the capital to take them on. Can we change it, well if there are any institutions, companies or individuals who have the financial inclination to try and make improvements, to the services to the islands, we at the Islay and
Jura Ferry Co Ltd would be delighted to be part of that conversation.
Donald Ewen Darroch,  Islay and Jura Ferry Co Ltd, Isle of Jura.

Buck stops with Prime Minister

Sue Gray has now published her report into parties that took place in Downing Street during Covid lockdowns.

The report is damning for the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister was on television nearly every day preaching observance of the Covid rules, whilst at the same time allowing, and attending, rowdy parties in Downing Street.

It’s time for him to go. Lawmakers cannot be lawbreakers.

Failure to resign will cement the view that there is one rule for the powerful, and another for the rest of us. That would be toxic for our democracy and our reputation around the world.

Civil servants should not be left to carry the can. The buck stops with the Prime Minister.

Conservative MPs must act now to replace the Prime Minister. They either stand with the Prime Minister, or they stand with democracy. They can’t do both.
Anni McArthur, by email.