This week’s crop of readers’ letters in The Buteman includes views on brightening up Rothesay, the crisis facing Scottish farmers, Argyll and Bute Council’s budget, the EU referendum and more.
To share your thoughts on any subject of local interest, email firstname.lastname@example.org 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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‘A bit run down’
Just an observation - when walking about Rothesay town centre, with Easter tourists hopefully flooding to our lovely island, surely to goodness shop keepers could afford a tin of paint to brighten up their shops outside?
I am fed up with people saying Rothesay is “a bit run down”!
Jim Barbour, Montague St, Rothesay
‘SNP is failing rural Scotland’
There is a growing crisis affecting our rural economy in Argyll and Bute and the rest of Scotland which is being starved of half a billion pounds worth of funding because of the SNP government being unable to organise a payment system that delivers our farmers their farm payment on time.
A system that I might add that has run up a cost so far that is 75 million pounds over budget and still does not work.
Payments to our farmers were supposed to be made by December yet as we head into March our farmers are still going without.
This new payments system has been a shocking failure with some of our farmers being forced to use their bank account overdrafts and sell off some of their livestock in order to make ends meet.
If this problem was affecting urban areas of Scotland we would see a much more urgent response by the central belt obsessed SNP government to their failure than we are getting now.
The Scottish government must act now and stop making excuses.
Argyll and Bute and the rest of rural Scotland deserves better than this SNP administration.
Alastair Redman, 23 Shore Street, Portnahaven, Islay
Thanks from dialysis group
Bute Kidney Patients Support Group would like to advise that fund-raising over the past five months has been extremely successful.
Many thanks to everyone who supported us in any way - keep up the good work and look out for lots of events during the next few months to support the campaign.
Gift Aid: £178.90
Collecting cans: £873
Money pledged: £17,000
W. A. McFarlane (secretary of BKPSG), c/o Woodburn, 27 Marine Place, Rothesay
SSAFA has ‘no knowledge’ of homeless on Bute
The recent letter expressing concern that ex Services personnel were sleeping rough on Bute puzzled me as we in SSAFA have no knowledge of this and it is an area where we are well placed to help. I have made inquiries, not only relating to Bute but to all of Argyll as well.
We have been unable to find anyone falling into this category and we have no record of any other agency contacting us at any of our five locations across the county advising that such a case exists. However no system is foolproof, so, if your correspondent has knowledge of such an individual they should encourage them to make contact either with me or Kevin Bye at Bute Advice Centre (tel 01700 502784).
David Anderson (chairman, SSAFA Argyll and Bute), 19 Craigmore Road, Rothesay
Celebrating second anniversary
Two years ago Bute Oasis opened not knowing how it would be received or indeed if the local community would be willing to furnish us with donations of goods, which we hoped to sell to raise enough funds to keep us open.
We needn’t have worried, as it turns out the people of Bute are a compassionate and generous lot, and we are often overwhelmed by their kindness. We thank you all for your continued support.
When we started we consulted with OSCR (Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator) and we were advised that our enterprise would be better suited to being set up as a not-for-profit organisation. We were also fortunate to team up with Bute Advice Centre who continue to support us and give useful benefits advice to many of our food bank users who wish it.
In the two years we’ve been operating you have helped us raise £49,989 which has paid all the shop’s expenses (no wages) and has kept us stocked with food for anyone who is struggling. So far 2,195 food allocations have been made, not including the 167 Christmas hampers delivered over that time.
As well as thanking all of you, we would also love to thank all of our volunteers - both past and present - who make it all work, especially our manager Debbie McClean. You all work so very hard and at times it’s not easy .
So here’s to you all, and to the next two years.
Angela Callaghan (founder, Bute Oasis), Argyle Street, Rothesay
It is remarkable that £10m of cuts to Argyll and Bute Council services and jobs have attracted so little comment. However, there are some key points of difference that are worth highlighting.
The SNP amendment would have put £1.4m more into education than the administration budget. The SNP are clear that good quality education is an absolute priority for our children to fulfil their potential and to attract new young families to the area.
The Administration thought hanging baskets more important than school librarians. Hopefully this cut will be reversed after the public outcry as the council has enough spare cash to pay for school librarians nine times over.
The confusion of the Administration is shown by them setting aside £1.5 million in a fund to attract more jobs and people to Argyll but setting aside £3.5m in a fund to make hundreds of council staff redundant.
Councillor James Robb (SNP, Helensburgh Central), 27 Redclyffe Gardens, Helensburgh
‘My vote went up last year’
Mr Hill, in his letter last week, alleged that the Lib Dem vote in Argyll and Bute has “collapsed”. In fact my vote went up last year. The reason that I lost to the SNP was because the Tory and Labour votes both collapsed and the SNP was able to leapfrog into first place.
Of course, SNP supporters like Mr Hill want people opposed to another independence referendum to vote Tory or Labour in Argyll and Bute, rather than Lib Dem.
That’s because I am the candidate best placed to overtake the SNP. Michael Russell MSP’s letter attacking me the previous week showed that he is very worried that he will lose his seat to me.
Regarding the Dunoon ferry, Mr Hill has clearly forgotten that the Liberal Democrats lost the 2007 Scottish election and so were unable to put into effect the promises we had made. The SNP won that election. Then they broke the promises they had made to the people of Dunoon of two new ferries.
Alan Reid (Liberal Democrat candidate for Argyll and Bute), 136 Fairhaven, Dunoon
EU franchise rules ‘racist and archaic’
(Copy of a letter sent to David Cameron PM from Jean Urquhart)
Since the announcement of the EU referendum, and the confirmation of the franchise for this referendum, I am increasingly contacted by constituents asking if it is true that they will be unable to vote, and why. These are fellow EU citizens, now resident in the United Kingdom, and I am unable to offer them a reasonable explanation as to why they have been denied the right to take part in this democratic process.
That this government seeks to extend voting privileges to expats, tabling a Votes for Life Bill to abolish the 15 year rule, yet refuses citizens living and working here in the United Kingdom the right to vote, suggests that your values are based purely on ethnicity. It sends a message that it does not matter if you are no longer contributing to the British economy, even if you haven’t stepped foot in Britain for years, you were born here and that gives you a privilege. And to those who pay millions each year into our economy, those who fill thousands of jobs, our nurses, our teachers, our doctors – even our politicians in the case of my colleague, Christian Allard MSP – are they to be treated as lesser citizens? Many see this rhetoric as inherently racist and archaic.
Because of our relationship with the European Union there has never been a need for EU citizens to apply for British citizenship, yet they now face discrimination because of their ethnicity.
I have written previously, on behalf of my constituents and as Convenor of the Scottish Parliament Cross-Party Group on Poland, appealing for you to reconsider and amend the European Union Referendum Act.
I understand that it is now too late now to change the franchise for the upcoming referendum, but perhaps, for the sake of all those EU citizens who call the United Kingdom home, you could offer an explanation as to why you seek to alienate them from this process.
Jean Urquhart MSP (Independent, Highlands and Islands), M3.20, The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh
Argument over British sovereignty is ‘naïve’
The argument by those such as Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and fellow ‘Brexiters’ that our independence from the EU will see our full sovereignty restored is naïve in the extreme.
It is not a case of being sovereign or not being sovereign, as this concept is relative. If one refuses to pool sovereignty a country in fact has potentially less sovereignty as it has limited control over trading arrangements, pollution, the cleanliness of its seas, migration or terrorism.
The UK is already subject to some 700 international treaties and member of a number of international organisations. As a member of the UN, WTO, NATO and the IMF for example, we share our sovereignty, infringing on our national self-determination. But through this approach we have influence and maximise our effectiveness.
As a member of the European Economic Area, Norway for example is the 10th largest contributor to the EU budget and is bound by the rules of the single market without any say in the decision-making process.
Many ‘Brexiters’ see the Norwegian model as one they would like to go down, but Oslo has to adhere to all the EU’s product standards, financial regulations and employment regulations, enacting 75 per cent of EU legislative acts. A UK choosing this track would, in other words, keep paying, accept rules from Brussels without having any influence on them, and would remain committed to the four freedoms, including free movement.
For those wanting true full sovereignty there is only one nation that I can think of that is truly sovereign, and that is North Korea.
Alex Orr (policy adviser, The European Movement in Scotland), 2 Walker Street, Edinburgh