This week’s pick of your readers’ letters includes CalMac boss Martin Dorchester on the company’s efforts to tackle teething troubles on the Rothesay-Gourock ferry service, Port Bannatyne resident Michael Judd’s reflections on the major drugs haul in the village last week, and a tongue-in-cheek tale of the generosity of postmen.
As always, to add your views to the debate on any of the topics raised, or any subject of interest to Bute, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on Monday at the latest - though as always, the sooner we hear from you, the better are your chances of seeing your views in print.
Please keep your letters as brief as you can, and remember to include your name and address for publication. We also need a daytime contact phone number in case we need to check any details at short notice, though this will not be printed.
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CalMac boss answers Bute ferry concerns
I would like to take the opportunity, through your columns to answer concerns that Bute residents have been expressing through various channels, including The Buteman, about the temporary Rothesay Gourock service while owners of Wemyss Bay, Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), carry out improvement work.
Running the service from Gourock is the best solution we have to providing a continuing regular service to Bute during this period ofdisruption.
This in an unavoidable inconvenience for everyone involved, and while we recognise that there have been teething problems in the first weeks of the new service, we are working hard to resolve these.
The main point of concern being raised with us is the angle of the passenger gangway at Gourock.
At Caledonian MacBrayne the safety of our passengers and crew is our number one priority, and I can appreciate that some passengers with restricted mobility may find the gangway daunting, particularly at high water.
Assistance is available both from port and ship’s staff and for those passengers that feel unable to tackle the gangway, access via the car deck and linkspan is available if they ask staff they will be happy to help.
We do not embark and disembark passengers via the car deck as the the norm because of time. To keep to timetable we need to board passengers via the gangway.
Gourock pier also needs to accommodate the Dunoon and Kilcreggan passenger ferry services as well, so our turnaround window for Rothesay is very tight.
There is absolutely no health and safety issue. The gangway’s maximum legal deployable angle is 30 degrees, The steepest angle we have yet experienced is 24 degrees.
We are also currently looking at a engineering solution that would allow us to use a lower access door at high tide which would address the problem completely, so we are grateful for the feedback - we do take pride in listening to our customers’ concerns.
Please be assured we are working to ensure that initial problems are ironed out very quickly to provide the reliable and comfortable service our customers should expect.
I would like to thank our passengers for their patience and understanding during this time.
Martin Dorchester (managing director, CalMac Ferries Ltd), The Ferry Terminal, Gourock
Port’s derelict buildings need attention too
The recent seizure of almost £1 million worth of drugs from a property in Port Bannatyne, as reported in The Buteman, is, surely, evidence that dereliction attracts elements of society we would rather avoid on Bute.
The Buckingham Terrace buildings in Castle Street have been derelict since long before I moved to the island three years ago.
Not only is the block derelict, the buildings are a danger to anyone unfortunate enough to have dealings with them.
Argyll and Bute Council, I feel, must take a good proportion of the blame. They have known about the state of the buildings for years and have done nothing.
Living directly over the road from the flats, I can attest that in bad weather the building loses slates and the cracks widen.
The then MP, Alan Reid, visited the area and the buildings some years ago, and made empty promises that something would be done to find a solution. Obviously none was found.
The number of cannabis factories that have been found in Port Bannatyne (and, let’s be honest, it is hardly a large place) shows what a magnet this dereliction is to criminals.
We in Port Bannatyne pay council tax the same as Rothesay, and whereas the latter enjoys the benefits of ‘regeneration plans’ and the like, we are left with crumbling buildings that not only look horrible but incubate drugs.
When is something going to be done? Where are the surveyors from the council? Why are the owners of these crumbling buildings not traced (a point which applies to Rothesay too) and told to put them right?
Why are there not any demolition orders on structures so dangerous that even the police have had an issue with access?
Let’s not sit around and wait for the next set of embarrassing headlines – please put pressure on the council to do their job and check every neglected building on the island to ensure it is not a danger.
And, whilst doing so, they should pass on details of suspicious buildings to the police so they can be more frequently checked so that drug farms do not take hold!
Michael Judd, 2/2, 15 Castle Street, Port Bannatyne
SNP can fix Argyll and Bute financial crisis
I refer to the mistakes in last week’s letter from SNP candidate Mr Moodie.
I didn’t get a vote on grants to Scottish councils. Only MSPs can do that.
Mr Moodie alleges that councils in England received a cut in funding of 25 per cent this year. The actual figure is 1.6 per cent.
He is also wrong when he writes that I “voted in the bedroom tax”. When the bedroom tax was “voted in” on October 24, 2012 I voted against.
The real scandal of this vote was that half the SNP MPs couldn’t be bothered to turn up.
Thanks to the powers devolved to Scotland by the UK coalition government, the SNP has full power over next year’s Scottish budget and doesn’t have to follow the austerity programme being adopted in England.
In contrast, the SNP dictates exactly how much money Argyll and Bute Council has to spend. I’ve no doubt the council administration could be streamlined, but no amount of efficiency savings are going to find the £9 million that the SNP have told them to cut.
I hope that our SNP MSPs won’t be like their Westminster counterparts and go missing when the vote comes on the SNP cuts in Argyll and Bute. I hope they will speak out against these cuts and vote against them if they fail to persuade their Government to change its mind.
The SNP is sitting on a £350 million underspend and so could easily find the £9 million needed to avoid any cuts in Argyll and Bute.
I’d be happy to sign a petition against these £9 million cuts. I hope that Mr Moodie will too.
Alan Reid (Liberal Democrat PSPC, Argyll and Bute), 136 Fairhaven, Dunoon
A tongue-in-cheek tale of ‘letter to God’
As a retired postman I thought I’d share a tale I found this week while clearing out some old boxes. Present-day ‘posties’ should take note that my tongue is well and truly in my cheek!
It seems there was a man who worked for the Post Office whose job it was to process all the mail that had illegible addresses.
One day, just before Christmas, a letter landed on his desk, simply addressed, in shaky handwriting, to ‘God’.
With no other clue on the envelope, he opened the letter and read this message. “Dear God - I am an 83-year-old widow living on the state pension. Yesterday someone stole my purse. It had £100 in it, which was all the money I had in the world, and no pension due until after Christmas.
“Next week is Christmas and I had invited two of my friends over for Christmas dinner. Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with. I have no family to turn to, and you are my only hope. Can you please help me?” The postal worker was really touched and put a copy of the letter up on the staff notice board at the main sorting office where he worked.
The letter touched the other postmen too, and they all dug into their pockets and had a whip-round. Between them they raised £96.
Using an official franked Post Office envelope they sent the cash on to the old lady, and for the rest of the day all the workers felt a warm glow, thinking of the nice thing they had done.
Christmas came and went. A few days later, another letter simply addressed to ‘God’ landed in the sorting office. Many of the postmen gathered round while the letter was opened.
It read: “Dear God - How can I ever thank you for what you did for me? Because of your generosity, I was able to provide a lovely dinner for my friends.
“We had a very nice day, and I told my friends of your wonderful gift - in fact we haven’t got over it, and our vicar is beside himself with joy.
“By the way, there was £4 missing. I think it must have been those thieving b******s at the Post Office.”
Danny Bowie, 11A Wyndham Park, Ardbeg