Letters to the editor

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Tourism togetherness needed

Sir,

As chairman of the Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance and as a director of Port Ban Holiday Park, one of the few paid up members of VisitScotland, I am writing to express the concern of both organisations at the announced closure of a number of local tourist information offices.

Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance (HoATA) stepped in to attempt to fill the gap left by the closure of the Lochgilphead tourist office a few years back by setting up a manned information point, now with the help of the Argyll Book Centre in Lochgilphead.

We are in no doubt manned information points are essential in Inveraray, Tarbert and Campbeltown.

The VIP programme set up by VisitScotland to recognise tourism businesses in the area as information providers is not an adequate substitute. There must be a suitable – if not better – replacements for these offices in place before they are allowed to close.

Community heritage centres such as the Atlantic Centre on Luing are great models, indeed, Tarbert had one not so long ago. VisitScotland must reserve some of the savings made by the closures to fund the replacements.

Local tourism businesses which are not members of VisitScotland or HoATA (or the Kintyre and Gigha Marketing Group and similar organisations) should recognise that part of the blame for the proposed closures lies with them.

I hope they will recognise that a communal effort is necessary and I invite interested businesses, organisations and individuals to contact us to negotiate with VisitScotland and plan for the future.

Jonathan Sheldrick, Kilberry.

Amazed and saddened

Sir,

I was amazed and saddened to learn that the tourist information offices (iCentres) in Campbeltown, Tarbert and Inveraray as well as Dunoon face closure, leaving just an office in Oban, Mull, Islay and Rothesay.

Information may still be gleaned from established businesses which are volunteering (is this the right word?) to provide information, no matter how busy they may be, to visitors – not all of whom operate tablets, mobile phones or whatever. The ones who do use this technology are often amazed to find signals cannot be received in some glen, though quite easily in Princes Street, Edinburgh, or Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow.

I agree wholeheartedly with Ian MacIntyre, Tarbert, a former member of the Mid Argyll, Kintyre and Islay Tourist Board set up with 14 others by the Highlands and Islands Development Board in the late 1960s. I was its chairman from 1970 to 1992, when these boards started being swallowed up by larger boards which, in turn, were swallowed up by what is now known as VisitScotland.

I was fortunate in having as our tourist officer Lachie MacKinnon, ex Fleet Air Arm and RAF, a squadron leader with the high decoration of DSO. But even more importantly he was a native of Islay and very knowledgeable on rural matters and problems. Kintyre was always a bit of a problem – great farming and beautiful scenery, but overshadowed by resorts like Oban.

I have never understood why, for instance, at the Corran, Lochgilphead, there is no sign indicating the Kintyre Trail whilst, quite rightly, there is a sign for Kilmartin Museum.

VisitScotland closed the Lochgilphead office years ago. That office was virtually at a crossroads between Oban, Kintyre and Inveraray. This closure cannot have been helpful to Kintyre, nor to Crarae Gardens and Auchindrain Museum.

The ‘i’ in iCentre stands for ‘information’ and it is a pity visitors may be deprived of some of the things they are looking for.

As for Dunoon, served so well by the late Ian Taylor and his splendid tourist officer Ian Clayson for so many years, one can see green shoots of new development there. This is surely not the time to close the iCentre, though possible a better site could be found for it.

Much discussion should take place with VisitScotland and the bodies in Argyll who run tourism these days.

Times have changed, but those who are advocating these changes will not be hit financially in the way some businesses are almost certain to be.

Niall Iain MacLean, Inveraray.

Bonfires and hedgehogs

With bonfire night fast approaching, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) is urging people to build bonfires on the day they are to be lit to save hedgehogs and other wildlife from appalling suffering.

If material is stored on open ground in advance of having a bonfire, it is crucial to dismantle it and move it to another spot just before lighting. Ensure it’s moved to clear ground – never on top of a pile of leaves as there could be a hedgehog underneath, and not too close to pampas grass which can ignite easily and is another favourite spot for hedgehogs.

If a large bonfire must be built in advance, protect it whilst building by putting some chicken wire, at least one-metre-high, all the way around the bottom. This should be held in place with stakes and the wire should slope outwards at an angle to make it difficult to climb, as hedgehogs are good climbers.

In case you have missed anything, light the fire from one side only and keep people away from the unlit side so that any hedgehogs can hopefully escape.

If, while building a bonfire, it is left unattended for a time it is imperative to check for young children, hedgehogs and other animals, including family pets, before lighting.

As hedgehogs tend to hide in the centre and bottom two feet of the bonfire, check by gently lifting the bonfire section by section with a pole or broom. Never use a spade or fork as these can stab them. Using a torch will help to see and listen for a hissing sound, as this is the noise they make when disturbed.

If hedgehogs are found, take as much of the nest as you can and place them in a high-sided cardboard or plastic box with plenty of newspaper/old towelling. Ensure there are air holes in the lid and that the lid is secured firmly to the box.

Wear garden gloves so as not to get human smells on them and to keep them calm as hedgehogs are easily stressed – also, it protects your hands from their spikes. Put the box in a safe quiet place such as a shed or garage well away from the festivities, offer specialist hedgehog food, meaty cat or dog food and water.

Once the bonfire is totally dampened down, release the hedgehog under a hedge, bush or behind a stack of logs. Going to an official organised fireworks display is a far safer option for both humans and animals.

Fay Vass, chief executive, BHPS.

Fantastic sum raised

Sir,

Mid Argyll Hospital staff thank everyone for attending, donating baking and raffle prizes and giving generously at the recent Breast Cancer Pink Day/Macmillan Cancer Support Pink Day.

This proved an extremely popular day again this year and the fantastic sum of £2,100 was raised.  This will be split equally between the two charities. Thanks are extended to the Co-op for donations and to John Frier, who supports this day.

Staff at the Argyll and Bute Council offices in Manse Brae added to the total by hosting their own coffee morning in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support and raised £340.

Thanks are extended to them from the Macmillan committee.

Kathleen Young, Lochgilphead

PIC:

Pink was the theme at a packed fundraiser in the hospital. no_a44Macmillan01