This week’s crop of readers’ letters includes views on CalMac, the West Church, the threat to school librarian services in Argyll and Bute and the forthcoming arrival of Syrian refugee families on the island.
As ever, 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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What are SNP hiding on ferry tender?
Your recent interview with CalMac’s MD, Martin Dorchester, was interesting. I certainly agree with Mr Dorchester that the SNP should not award the tender purely on price, but quality should be the main criteria. Of course, we are all critical of CalMac at times, but I would much rather try to influence a public monopoly than a private monopoly. For that reason it would be best if the contract stays with CalMac.
Next May the Scottish Government will announce whether or not CalMac is to be privatised. The decision by the SNP to keep back this important announcement until just after May’s Election is very concerning. What are they hiding from us before polling day?
Living in Dunoon, I am only too well aware of what happened to our CalMac ferry service. Before the last Scottish Elections, the SNP said they would announce details of that contract after polling day, but kept saying that they were “committed” to the continuation of a vehicle service.
Shortly after polling day they produced tiny passenger-only boats, known locally at the “bathtubs”. That’s Dunoon’s experience of what the SNP say before polling day and do afterwards.
I fear they are keeping back bad news for the whole CalMac network.
Alan Reid (Lib Dem PSPC for Argyll and Bute), 136 Fairhaven, Dunoon
Too late to save West Church steeple now
Having just read the latest selection of letters on the West Church situation, I feel the need to exasperatedly bang my head on my desk in written form over the debacle.
It’s been there for the last 40 years, rotting gently, growing various types of flora all over the stonework, and looking particularly fetching when they flower.
Unfortunately, the pretty things that have been ignored for the last four decades by the people of Rothesay have destroyed the mortar holding the thing together, and it is now unsafe.
Only now do the people sit up and wail, gnash their teeth and beat their breasts in anguish over the fact that the spire is only fit for demolition.
Where were the protests about the state of it 20 years ago when something could still be done about it? Where were all the petition signers then?
What qualifies people to override the results of the official inspection? Are the 350 signatories and the CIC going to go along to the site and hand over the money required to do the dismantling and rebuild?
The opinions of those saying the spire was unsafe prior to the official inspection were opinions based on just taking one good look at the spire, and seeing the trees growing out from between the stones.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a tall, slender structure with 40 years of neglect, trees growing out of it and mortar visibly crumbling and missing is going to be a tad on the unsafe side.
The official inspection showed that one of the pinnacles is completely detached from the structure and just perched high up on the spire awaiting one good gust of wind from the right direction.
It’s all well and good living in Mountpleasant Road and saying how safe it is. It’s not going to affect anyone there if the thing actually does come down on its own, is it?
It’s time to stop this nonsense and let the experts get on with something that should have been done a long time ago- making the building safe to be around.
If that means ripping it down, well, tough. If you wanted it kept, you should have thought of it sooner.
Margaret McKenzie, Stratford Road, Hall Green, Birmingham
Serco scrapped ID card rule
I was disappointed to read in a recent letter published in The Buteman, that one of your readers thinks Serco “imposed the compulsory presentation of photo identity cards”.
This could not be further from the truth.
When Serco took over the contract in July 2012, the requirement to carry ID was already in place under its previous operator, NorthLink Ferries, part of the David MacBrayne company which owns Calmac Ferries.
One of the key decisions we made early on was remove this requirement to allow visitors and islanders to board Serco NorthLink Ferries and travel more freely.
The move saw the services to Orkney and Shetland fall into line with other domestic ferry services, and has since helped boost tourism to the islands by allowing people to make unplanned visits.
We made the announcement following our consultation with the Scottish Government at the Orkney Tourism Group Industry Conference in November 2012.
Jonathan Riley (Serco CHFS bid director), Marshgate, Doncaster, South Yorkshire
Bute welcomed this stranger I read in ‘The Observer’ last Sunday an article about the Syrian families coming to Bute. It brought back memories, for I lived in Ardmory House, Ardbeg, as a tenant of Mr Jimmy MacMillan from 1961 to 1963 when I was commanding the Submarine Attack Teacher at Port Bannatyne. They were two of the happiest years of my life, and I made many friends, many of whom must have pre-deceased me. My two daughters went to Rothesay Academy and one of them was featured swimming in an advert for the swimming pool. Finally, my son was born before we left. I have the dubious role of token Sassenach in a family, all of whom are Scots by birth or descent. As a Christmas gift, and in memory of happier times, I should like to make a donation to those looking after the Syrian arrivals in the hope they will find Bute as welcoming to the stranger as I did.
Tony Whetstone, 17 Alverstoke Court, Church Road, Gosport
Communities hold the key
I was moved by the response of your local community, and the words of The Buteman editor, on the Syrian refugee crisis and the arrival of 15 families on the island.
In such a time of crisis, local communities like yours hold the key to providing the safety and support required to provide refugees fleeing terror with a place to call home.
Through your willingness to support 15 Syrian families you have shown the leadership needed to inspire others, using both your words and actions to truly make refugees welcome.
Jane Waterman (executive director, UK and Senior Vice President, Europe and International Rescue Committee), 3 Bloomsbury Place, London
Please show compassion to families
Having lived in Rothesay for most of my life and having had first hand experience of moving to Bute with my father, mother and younger brother and knowing how warm and welcoming island residents are, I would like to imagine that our Syrian families will be extended the same warm welcome.
However, putting to one side the misinformation one encounters on social media, on several occasions during the past week I have had the misfortune to overhear conversations in the street which made me both ashamed and a little angry.
So might I go on to correct some of the views I have heard expressed?
1. Finance for the housing and settlement of our Syrian families does not come from Argyll and Bute Council but from Westminster’s overseas aid budget. It has been spent as intended and would not go elsewhere.
2. The only housing crisis we have on Bute is that of too many empty houses. We have a declining population.
3. Our Syrian families will be given no more and no less than any other homeless persons.
4. Our Syrian families have all passed rigorous Home Office vetting procedures via the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme and have been granted the legal right to settle here. They are amongst those most severely
traumatised by the war.
5. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has said there were multiple checks inplace for those set to arrive in the UK.
In closing I might add that these families are fleeing exactly the same level of violence we saw unfolding in Paris last Friday nightand would doubtless join us in condemning what happened.
I’m sure the people of Bute will show compassion, kindness and understanding when welcoming our families.
Michael W. Spear, Battery Place, Rothesay
Say no to school librarian cuts
It sounds tedious, but it’s surprisingly easy. And it might just make a huge difference.
Why not add your voice to Argyll and Bute Council’s public consultation on options for budget cuts? The deadline for this is December 31.
Go to www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/planningourfuture and click on the link to the survey.
I am going all the way to category 4: ‘stop to save’. This is where you’ll find the option to stop employing librarians in Argyll and Bute’s secondary schools.
Sounds relatively painless (except for those unfortunate employees), doesn’t it? After all, surely anyone can shush kids and organise books?
No, no, and no again. This option would damage the education of every single youngster in Argyll and Bute secondary schools.
Secondary school librarians provide support for independent learning in all areas of the curriculum. They help young people learn how to learn: skills those youngsters will need to be successful in any future job, career or education.
They provide access to computers for the many who do not have access to the internet at home; and they are there to help them learn how to use them for learning.
Librarians make sure that all young people have a safe place to read, to daydream, to think creatively, to be challenged. They put the right book in the right child’s hands at the right time.
A cut to qualified school librarians is a cut to all young people’s opportunities. Please click the “strongly disagree” box on the on-line consultation.
Please talk to your local councillors about this short-sighted proposal. Please make sure that Argyll and Bute Council knows that this option is not an option for our communities.
Jenny Des Fountain, 2 Creagan Villa, Tobermory, Isle of Mull