Letters to the editor: February 26, 2016

What do you think? Contact us with your views on this article by emailing news@buteman.com
What do you think? Contact us with your views on this article by emailing news@buteman.com

This week’s letters to the editor include discussions on the upcoming election, support for ex-servicemen and women, and views on the cuts to school librarians.

Response to MSP’s letter

Clearly Michael Russell MSP is very worried that I will take his seat from him in May, otherwise he would not have spent his time writing such a long letter attacking me in last week’s Buteman.

Mr Russell has ignored certain facts. The block grant the UK Government gave the Scottish Government this financial year is higher than it was the year before the SNP came to power.

This is even after taking inflation into account. If the former Labour/Lib Dem coalition could manage with this amount of money, so could the SNP.

On April 1, the Calman proposals come into effect. The Scottish Government becomes responsible for half of income tax in Scotland. Since we will pay this tax direct to the Scottish Government instead of to the UK Treasury, of course the block grant from the UK to the Scottish Government gets cut.

Despite Mr Russell’s protests about this in his letter, the SNP voted in favour of this new system.

The SNP set the Scottish rate of income at 10p in the pound for next year. They also set other taxes, such as council tax and business rates. No longer is the Scottish Government totally dependent on a block grant from Westminster. Scotland still gets a good deal.

For example, due to the Barnett formula, if the SNP were to set all tax rates at the same level as they are in England, they would have over £1,500 more to spend per person than the UK Government spends on the same services in England.

The SNP cut Argyll and Bute Council’s grant by 4 per cent, more than the Scottish average of 3.5 per cent. They also give Argyll and Bute Council less to spend delivering services to islands than they give Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.

Remember the SNP actually won the last council elections, but found running the council too difficult and threw in the towel. In contrast, Liberal Democrat, Tory, Labour and Independent councillors all worked together and produced a budget under very difficult circumstances.

The Lib Dem/Tory/Lab/Ind budget couldn’t avoid reducing some services. The SNP Government’s cuts made this inevitable, but the council managed to avoid the worst of the proposed cuts and found extra money for Rothesay Pavilion.

The Lib Dem/Tory/Lab/Ind budget found an extra half a million pounds to repair our awful roads. The SNP councillors backed by Mr Russell voted against this.

In his letter Mr Russell claimed to support the council’s rural regeneration initiative. Sadly, the SNP councillors, again with Mr Russell’s support, voted against this.

When I was an MP, I didn’t hesitate to vote against three-line whips if I thought my party was in the wrong. In contrast Mr Russell supports his party in treating Argyll and Bute unfairly compared to the rest of Scotland.

If I were the local MSP I’d be on my feet in Holyrood all the time complaining about this unfair treatment and making a strong case for change.

That’s why Argyll and Bute needs a new MSP on May 5.

Alan Reid (Liberal Democrat candidate for Argyll & Bute)

136 Fairhaven, Dunoon

Ex-service support

I would like to respond to the letter from Julie Scarff regarding homeless veterans. The Legion is non political and non religious and does not get into debates which detract from our aims of helping veterans and their families.

Upon learning of the amount of empty properties on Bute I contacted Soldiers Off The Streets to see if they knew of anybody who needed help. I have also repeatedly sent this message out on our Facebook page, but as yet we have not had a single reply.

Yes, there are ex-servicemen sleeping rough, but I suspect that is mostly in London. Just last week one was supposedly living rough in Ayr but despite many attempts to contact him nobody can.

It is a sad fact that there are people posing as veterans when in fact they are not (sometimes known as Walts, after the character Walter Mitty).

The Legion and SSAFA locally both offer a lot of help to the ex service community and we are grateful to the people of Bute who support our efforts

David Boe, Chairman of Isle of Bute Royal British Legion Scotland

Deanhood Place, Rothesay

Alan Reid’s election leaflet criticised

I have indulged in politics for more than 50 years but have rarely been so gobsmacked as I was when I collected my post this morning to find another astounding leaflet from Alan Reid.

He, of course, is going on about the appalling ferry service from Dunoon. Sadly however I have several cuttings from our local paper in which various Liberal Democrat figures, such as Nicol Stephen as transport secretary and George Lyon MSP, when they were in government in Edinburgh, promising new vehicle carrying ferries to Dunoon - and, in particular, when our linkspan was being built, a front page statement from our then MP Alan Reid “guaranteeing” two new vehicle carrying vessels. Oops.

But what bowled me over was a front page graph suggesting that in Argyll and Bute the LibDems were the only realistic opposition to the SNP’s Michael Russell.

To illustrate this he has used the result of last year’s Westminster election - contested in a very different Argyll and Bute constituency which, unlike at Scottish Parliament elections, includes Helensburgh and Lomond.

He should of course have used the last Scottish Parliament election result for a correct comparison. At that the SNP’s Michael Russell gathered 13,390 votes with the Tories and Labour in second and third places with less than 5,000 votes each and the LibDem coming in with 3,220 votes. Some might judge his leaflet, in that respect, to be a deceit.

Since that point five years ago the LibDem vote has steadily further collapsed and I can’t see any prospect of an improved position for them in May.

Perhaps Mr Reid can have his future leaflets printed on a more absorbent paper that could be put to better use.

Dave McEwan Hill

1 Tom Nan Ragh, Dalinlongart, Sandbank

Librarians’ loss will hit schools hard

I would like to say how disappointed I was that the SNP budget proposals were not accepted by the council administration whose plans are to axe school librarians. Much of the school work for Curriculum for Excellence requires pupils to do individual projects where the pupils can be guided by the librarians.

It is also a quiet place where pupils can do their work outside the classroom and pupils on the autistic spectrum can find it easier to concentrate.

In Rothesay Joint Campus there is an ongoing project involving access to some of the Mount Stuart archives and this would not be possible without the school librarian.

Similar work is going on in other Argyll and Bute schools who will miss their librarians just as much.

It will definitely affect children’s education and I can see the situation where people don’t miss things until they are gone.

On another matter raised in last week’s issue, where the letter from Julie Scarff berated the councillors for not doing anything to help ex- service personnel with housing: for information, the council does not have any houses as they were all transferred to ACHA, which is a registered social landlord (RSL), in 2006.

Fyne Homes which is also an RSL has houses in Bute and there are many private landlords.

I have the greatest respect for people who have served their country in the armed forces and if any of them are ‘living on the streets’ here I will try to help but I have not heard of this actually being the case on Bute.

Cllr Isobel Strong

(SNP, Isle of Bute)

Lilybank, Glebelands, Rothesay