Letters to the editor

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Muirburn knowledge
A revised Muirburn Code was launched on Friday September 22, aimed at providing up-to-date guidance for the people who manage Scotland’s moorlands.

The review was commissioned by the Scottish Government, and the work was undertaken by Scotland’s Moorland Forum, made up of stakeholders from across all areas of land management.

There are elements of the updated code which are undoubtedly an improvement. However, we are disappointed that additions to the document – not discussed by the Moorland Forum partners or working group – were introduced late on, turning what was planned to be a practitioners’ guide more into a list of what people should and shouldn’t do.

We have heard similar views from other stakeholders who genuinely saw this as an opportunity to get everyone who practices muirburn, as an important management tool, to do so to an agreed high standard.

If work on the supplementary material takes greater account of the working knowledge of those who actually practice muirburn, it may stand a better chance of getting the buy-in it seeks but we cannot be assured this will be the case.

We hope that there will be continuing support from the Scottish Government to continue the work that has been started.

On behalf of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association

Helping underpriviledged kids in Zambia
On behalf of ZamScotEd I would like to thank everyone for their continued support of our education project in Zambia.

Our September coffee morning raised over £500, which will help us to furnish the second classroom block of our secondary school on the outskirts of Lusaka – known as St Columba’s.

I think many are aware that for the past two decades, first as the registered charity Mthunzi and Lilanda Initiative and then ZamScotEd  – a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation – we have been supporting the education of some of the poorest children in Zambia.

There was no secondary school in the area and we had to send children off to schools all around Zambia. These were the former street children and local orphans cared for by the Mthunzi Children’s Programme.

But every year, around 40 children at the local elementary school were qualifying to go to secondary school and their families, often single mums or grannies looking after a clutch of children, couldn’t afford to do what we were doing for the kids rescued from the streets.

That’s when we decided to build St Columba’s – a very scary project to embark on, but somehow we’re getting there. The first classroom block has been up and running since January 2016 and a second block will open in January 2018. That’s why we need cash for desks, blackboards, and other schoolroom essentials, and as always, the people of Mid Argyll are helping us to meet our targets.

We have had funding from organisations such as Mission Scotland and individuals like John Lowrie Morrison, Jolomo, but we couldn’t meet our commitments without the generosity of our local community.

Thank you, everyone – please keep coming to drink our coffee, eat our cakes, and give a future to some very bright kids in Zambia.

You can see some of those children and hear their story on Youtube – www.youtube.com/ watch?v=n7X3l2ix_4E

Marian Pallister, ZamScotEd founder and chair

Royal Mail proposed strike
Your readers may have read about a potential strike at Royal Mail by the Communications Workers Union (CWU).

Our postmen and women have the best pay – and the best terms and conditions – in our industry. They do an amazing job in all weathers – rain or shine. Average pay is 45-50 per cent above the National Living Wage. None of that is changing. There are just no grounds for a strike.

Previous strikes at Royal Mail meant we let our customers down. Some of our major rivals today were actually established because of those strikes.

There really is no point shooting ourselves in the foot.

So, what’s at issue? On pay, we have made a very good offer. That follows a 10.8 per cent pay rise in the four years since privatisation. That compares favourably with the 6.4 per cent UK national average earnings increase over the same period.

On pensions, we know how important pension benefits are to colleagues. Our proposal would be by far the best pension scheme in the industry – and one that benchmarks well to other large employers.

Many of our postmen and women are in a Defined Benefit scheme – 63 per cent, in fact, compared to just 6 per vent of workers across the UK private sector.

We do need to change to a different type of Defined Benefit arrangement. That’s because every year it would cost us at least three times more than the cash we generate just to keep the existing pension open. No business could do that.

Royal Mail is a very good employer. We provide great terms and conditions. We are working hard to keep improving our services to customers in a very competitive industry.

There is no need to strike. We want to work with our postmen and women, our great ambassadors, to keep being the best delivery company in the UK.

Rob Jenson, Royal Mail Scotland Operations Director, Edinburgh

Real untapped talent
Disabled young people may be held back from getting on the career ladder, going on to further education or work-based training – because they fail to get the support or encouragement they need at an early age.

A survey of disabled people in the UK who had their disability at school revealed barriers to gaining employment, education, or training existed even at that age.

The Leonard Cheshire Disability-commissioned survey showed that half of 18-30 year-old adults surveyed said their teachers may have had lower expectations of them because of their disability. Around half also said they were not encouraged to go on to a course or pursue their chosen career.

At the age of 26, disabled people are nearly four times more likely to be unemployed.

Leonard Cheshire Disability is now launching a campaign to ensure all people who want to work have the opportunity to do so.
Opportunities to improve confidence, gain workplace skills or get a taste of different types of work appear to have been lacking for many.

Leonard Cheshire Disability’s new Untapped Talent campaign is calling on the Government to provide more support so that disabled people have the same chances to fulfil their potential as everyone else.

The charity believes a government pledge to close the employment gap between disabled people and others of working age is being undermined by a lack of vital help at critical stages in people’s lives.

More access to tailored programmes that address the obstacles experienced by disabled people, nurture talent and create new opportunities is desperately needed

The UK Government has pledged to get one million more disabled people into work but progress has been pitifully slow – meaning hundreds of thousands of disabled people who want to work are left on the side lines.

The employment gap between disabled people and the wider population currently stands at around 31 per cent.

Research shows that disabled people struggle to get support at various critical points in their efforts to get a job, access volunteering, or even stay in employment once they beat the odds. Often access to funding for basic provisions such as adapted keyboards or British Sign Language interpreters just isn’t there.

With the right support we know that disabled people can thrive in workplaces, bringing a wealth of talent and experience that businesses and other organisations benefit from enormously. Often this only requires relatively small changes to equipment or adaptations, or some support getting to and from work.

Sadly, all too often disabled people are being unnecessarily locked out of opportunities because this is not there or being cut. This is a huge loss to the economy and has massive impact on people’s lives.

We urgently need to increase the availability of programmes that can help unlock the potential of disabled people. These need to be flexible enough to support people whether they are just starting out or are affected by disability later on in their lives.

Neil Heslop, Leonard Cheshire Disability CEO