Your letters to The Buteman: February 19, 2016

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This week’s selection of readers’ letters includes contrasting views on Argyll and Bute Council’s budget settlement, a ‘thank you’ message from the Bute In Bloom community group and thoughts on ex service personnel and refugees.

To add your voice to the mix, email by 5pm on Monday for inclusion in the letters page of our next print edition.

Please supply your name and address for publication, and also a daytime telephone number in case we need to check any details at short notice (though the latter will not be printed).

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Lib Dems to blame for council cuts

I don’t normally reply to former MP Alan Reid’s fantasy politics letters, which appear with regularity in all the local newspapers in Argyll and Bute. However his assertions in The Buteman last week about the Argyll and Bute Council budget process cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.

Mr Reid may remember - not least because it cost him his seat - that the Liberals were in coalition with the Conservatives at Westminster from 2010 to 2015. They supported the wholesale slashing of budgets to local authorities in England and the monies coming to the Scottish Government (from which Scottish councils have to be funded) were also severely cut. None the less, having learnt nothing, in Argyll and Bute his Lib Dem colleagues are still in a local coalition with the Tories and still driving austerity budgets that damage local people and local prospects . The Liberal Democrats, the Tories - and the sole Labour councillor - all voted for the cuts that the council is now making. The SNP did not and that is the reality of what is happening at Kilmory.

This decision was made despite the very large levels of funding for Scottish local government which have gone on being allocated by the Scottish Government whilst honoring its promised to ensure that council tax did not rise. Many of us remember the double digit increases in council tax before the SNP came to power at Holyrood in 2007.

The latest budget settlement for local councils was tough but fair and John Swinney was keen to see the process of negotiation as one which drove much needed structural change in Scottish councils. Nowhere is that more necessary than here in Argyll and Bute where, as Audit Scotland has pointed out recently, there has been little or no attempt by the current administration to find ways of delivering services in new and more effective ways.

However instead of taking that route, the Lib Dem/Tory administration, supported by Cllr Walsh’s little group of ‘independent’ councillors brought forward a damaging hotch-potch of cuts which targeted the most vulnerable and excluded from consideration budget lines such as councillors’ costs and senior staff salaries.

The final outcome is a little better than the original proposals, but is still very damaging. Local opposition forced some essential climb downs and in addition I have been working with the council leader and chief executive to help them develop ways of changing what they do which can attract new support from the Scottish Government. That ‘Rural Regeneration’ initiative was referred to by the council leader in his budget speech and may help to lay the foundations for a better future.

That will depend, however, in getting the Lib Dems and the Tories - the parties that believe in austerity and are still making local people thole it - out of administration in Argyll and Bute in the same decisive way as the Lib Dems were removed from Government in the UK.

Michael Russell MSP (SNP, Argyll and Bute), 81 Argyll Street, Dunoon

Charity begins at home

I read with interest every week that here on the island we have many empty one bedroomed flats.

Why if that is the case are the local councillors not contacting the Salvation Army and Shelter to offer a home to the many members of the army forces, male and female, that are living on the streets?

These are people who have been out and have experienced many awful things in the name of war such as seeing friends and colleagues killed and maimed for what?

There are many families here who have had sons and daughters who have served in the forces. We also have SSAFA and the Royal British Legion here that could help, so why are we not looking to help them get back on track and become part of our local community?

Or is it the cynic in me that makes me thing because the local council have not been offered any money by the government that so many people who went out and fought in wars that nobody wanted are being ignored and not offered any help?

Julie Scarff, 63G Castle Street, Port Bannatyne

Good budget news for Bute

I’m very pleased that, despite all the spending cuts the SNP Government instructed the council to make, councillors have managed to find the money to plug the shortfall in the Pavilion refurbishment work. Well done to local councillors, Len Scoullar and Robert Macintyre.

I’m also pleased that Ardencraig Gardens and nursery, the Esplanade floral display and the Fyne Futures recycling collections will continue.

It’s good that most of the education cuts have been avoided, although disappointing that the SNP cuts have forced some job losses in our schools.

One shocker from the SNP proposals was their plan, backed by our local SNP MP and MSP, to cut half a million pounds from the roads budget. Our roads are in a terrible state and would become far worse if local councillors had agreed to this SNP plan. Fortunately they refused to back it.

Alan Reid (Liberal Democrat candidate for Argyll & Bute), 136 Fairhaven, Dunoon

Continuing success of Bute In Bloom

It gives me great pleasure and pride to confirm that Bute In Bloom, representing Rothesay and the island of Bute in the Beautiful Scotland competition for 2015 and winning five major awards, including the Rosebowl, has been selected by the Royal Horticultural Society to represent Scotland in ‘Britain in Bloom’ in 2016.

This selection is not only a great honour for the island, but also acknowledges the support of local individuals, traders and organisations for Bute In Bloom’s efforts - not only in 2015, but in the preceding years too.

In 2015 there were 13 different categories in the Beautiful Scotland competition, ranging from cities, small cities and large towns down to small villages and even ‘wee villages’.

Bute In Bloom’s entry was in the section for coastal towns with a population of less than 12,000 people. As your readers may recall, our entry won the Dave Kerr Trophy for the best coastal town in the competition, and also the scheme’s Community Involvement Award - and then went on to receive the contest’s top overall prize, the aforementioned Rosebowl.

From the 13 sections in last year’s Beautiful Scotland competition, only five entries have now been selected to represent Scotland in this year’s Britain in Bloom finals. In addition to Bute In Bloom, once again in the category for coastal towns with a population smaller than 12,000, the only other Scottish finalists are Aberdeen in the city category, Perth in the ‘large town’ section, Dufftown in the ‘large village’ class, andHaddington in the ‘town’ category.

Bute In Bloom will compete in the ‘small coastal town’ section alongside Filey from Yorkshire, Mablethorpe in Lincolnshire, Newcastle in County Down, Silloth-on-Solway in Cumbria, St Brelade in Jersey, Lytham on the Lancashire coast, St Pierre du Bois in Guernsey and Tenby in south Wales. Apart from our outstanding Esplanade floral displays and Ardencraig Gardens, one of the most important aspects of Bute In Bloom’s success last year was winning Beautiful Scotland’s community involvement award.

This section of the competition is growing in importance every year, so if anyone feels they would like to help Bute take part in not one but two competitions this year - Beautiful Scotland and Britain In Bloom - we would love to meet you. Hopefully by working as a community we can build on last year’s success!

Iain Gillespie (secretary, Bute In Bloom), 37 East Princes St, Rothesay

Thank you to Bute Arts Society

My husband and I would like to thank Bute Arts Society for the great work they do in bringing such talented musicians to the island. If you have never been then you really are missing a treat as it just seems to get better!

On Friday, February 12, we struggled to take the slippers off and venture out into the cold - even so near to us. Thank goodness we did as The Northern Lights Wind Quintet were a joy not to be missed! We had everything from farmyard animals to instruments conducting conversations, a little tap dancing and a lot more besides.

It was simply superb and we were all reluctant to leave but every one of us left with a huge grin on our faces - it wasmagical!

It’s a lot of work for the Arts Society committee who are to be commended for the varied and wonderful programme that they bring to us each season. Thank you.

Mhairi & Peter Lingard, 6 Trinity Court, Rothesay

Cancer Research UK thanks

On behalf of the local committee I would like to record my grateful thanks to the following for their recent donations to Cancer Research UK:
In memory of our sister, Sylvia McGreal, from Isobel, Helen and Joan - £30;
In memory of my dad, George Mackay, from Lynnette Kisa - £15;
In memory of Janet Irving, from Margaret Christopherson and family - £15;
From the collection taken at Eva Macdonald’s funeral - £300;
Customers of Flick’s - £127.50; Co-operative store in Bridge Street - £51.69; Electric Bakery - £42.91; High Spirit Co. - £14.81; Londis - £26.06; The Card Shop - £39.67.

Fiona Martin (secretary/treasurer of Bute branch of CRUK), 4 Caledonia Walk, Rothesay

Thank you to CarePlus

I would like, through your newspaper, to thank the office staff and management of CarePlus for their assistance when my daughter Agnes broke her foot and was incapacitated, but mostly I would like to thank the girls that came into my house and helped me at short notice.

If it was not for them I don’t know what I would’ve done. I could not have managed.

They went beyond their duty. I appreciate that. Please thank them for me once again.

Mary Tait, 6 Broadcroft Lane, Rothesay