Letters to the editor

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Confused development plan

Sir,

Argyll and Bute Council has recently published a consultation on the next Local Development Plan which seeks to promote a vast new national park covering Argyll’s islands and majority of the western seaboard.

The council’s rationale is to grow our tourism industry; the new park perhaps bringing a brand focus to some of the UK’s finest land and seascapes, much of which is already protected within National Scenic Areas.

Whilst economic development to sustain our declining working population in rural Argyll is necessary and laudable, there are significant dangers in surrendering local control of our communities to a new national park authority.  The UK has 15 national parks, and since 2002 part of Argyll has been incorporated into the Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

Underpinning all these parks is the ‘Sandford Principle’: ‘National park authorities can do much to reconcile public enjoyment with the preservation of natural beauty by good planning and management, and the main emphasis must continue to be on this approach wherever possible. But even so there will be situations where the two purposes are irreconcilable… Where this happens, priority must be given to the conservation of natural beauty.’

What this means in practice is that the conservation of landscape trumps all other considerations, regardless of any socio-economic factors. At worst, such a policy leads to a ‘Brigadoon’ desertification of economic opportunity. At best it makes business development, including tourism, much harder and more expensive within the park area and its surroundings.

Essentially the creation of this national park would remove discretion, balance and local accountability from the planning and development process. A narrow agenda of conservation risks frustrating economic development and job creation – further accelerating rural depopulation.

Regardless of the safeguards the council might introduce in the hope that it could sweeten the national park pill, the Sandford Principle is rightly not optional, and its application across a much wider area is not the answer to rural Argyll’s economic and population woes.

The council should choose its development tools very carefully.

Irrespective of motive, the misguided and inappropriate application of a new national park to promote tourism poses a real danger to the socio-economic sustainability of Argyll’s most fragile rural communities.

James F Lithgow, Ormsary

Poppies not political

Sir,

I write in response to a letter published in a recent edition of the Argyllshire Advertiser in which an attempt was made to put forward a case for displaying the white poppy.

Would readers cast their minds back to the stance made by the football fraternity who stood up to the ruling authorities as they attempted to ban the wearing of poppies – claiming the wearing of the red poppy was not recognition of sacrifice and bravery and that it was a political statement?

Now, by putting forward claims by those supporting the wearing of a white poppy, we will have succeeded in making this issue political.

Is there never going to be a year when the reasons for the poppy appeal get hijacked?

Name and address supplied

Lochgair promises

Sir

We received the following thank you message from someone who attended our Auction of Promises on October 28: ‘What a great evening! Well done and many thanks to The Lochgair Association committee for all your hard work in organising this hugely successful event…a lively, sociable evening with lots of laughter. Just what we all needed after such a wet, miserable day.’

When we came up with the idea of an Auction of Promises we were not sure what the response would be. Thanks to our 20 donors and the generosity of our bidders, once all the promises have been delivered this one off event will have raised over £1,000  in aid of funds to improve the village’s facilities.

As well as this, the auction has demonstrated that a tiny village like ours has an incredible range of skills and knowledge to share with other folk.   Our beautiful setting makes Lochgair ideal for watersports, and not surprisingly ‘sailing instruction’ and ‘Lessons in knot, splicing and whipping’, ‘training in open canoeing’, and ‘a day sail’ were popular offerings. Some of the highest bids were for group offerings such as ‘a day of pre-festive activity updating ancient Christmas decorations’.

On the same theme a fun lot was ‘help with writing and delivering Christmas cards’.  A last minute lot ‘a delicious authentic Thai meal of your choice served at a waterfront property’ raised the most money from two single bids.

Even the auctioneer got lucky with her bid for ‘an opportunity to try out a Kinesiology treatment’ provided by Starlight Therapies.

Can we thank everyone who came along and filled our little hall to bursting point.

Even if you didn’t win the bid of your choice, thanks for your support.

The Lochgair Association

Model show appreciation

Sir,

Thank you to everyone who supported the Mid Argyll Model Show, held in Ardrishaig Public Hall on the last weekend in October.

People came to display and to sell models from all over, including places such as Campbeltown, Oban, Dunoon, Falkirk, Stirling, Ardrishaig, Lochgilphead and many other parts of the country.

Local businesses such as shops, garages, hairdressers and many others donated to a huge raffle, and I want to express our appreciation to them for their support.

On display were models of boats, planes, cars, buses, cranes, wind turbine sites and pictures of local bygone scenes.

After the show the sum of £800 was raised and will be split equally between Mid Argyll Hospital and Lochgilphead MS Centre.

A big thanks to all who made it happen.

Alan Ross (Goldie), Lochgilphead

Tea and entertainment

Sir,

I would like to thank everyone who came along and supported the PACT Group afternoon tea on Friday November 3.

As always, people were extremely generous and I would like to say a special thank you to Alex McPhee for entertaining us with his accordion.

Councillor Anne Horn, Tarbert

No opposition

Sir,

The bi-annual Convention of the Highlands and Islands was in Oban on Monday October 30, with a range of high-profile Scottish Government ministers speaking at the event, including Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP.

The event, which seeks to ‘strengthen alignment between the Scottish Government and member organisations’ excluded opposition parties, despite its aim to connect the Scottish Government to local groups.

It is extremely disappointing that the Scottish Government chose not to invite any opposition politicians to attend the event.

Whilst apparently being open to the public, there was no information advertising the event on the Scottish Government website, which instead only carried the details of last year’s event in Inverness. The whole thing smacks of the type of closed shop exercise that we have all come to expect from this centralised SNP government, which is clearly only interested in parroting party political messages rather than having a genuine, cross-party conversation about the future for the Highlands and Islands.

I have written to the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Keith Brown MSP, to make my concerns clear.

Perhaps if the Scottish Government is keen to engage with local groups, then next time it will extend an invitation to local politicians from all parties to join in the conversation.’

Donald Cameron MSP

Building for future

Sir,

The Chancellor must take bold action in the forthcoming Budget to improve access to finance for SME builders if he wants to tackle the housing crisis.

If the government wants to solve the housing crisis, it must address the access to finance issue that local housebuilders continue to face. The Chancellor needs to commit to underwriting loans from banks to small house builders to get finance flowing into our sector once more.

Nearly a decade after the financial crisis, difficulty in accessing finance remains a major barrier to small house builders increasing their delivery of new homes. Indeed, the Federation of Master Builders’ 2017 House Builders Survey showed little signs of improvement in this picture and if anything suggested slight deterioration in lending conditions. Assessments of lending conditions to SME developers were down slightly from 2016, the first fall in this measure since 2013.

These difficulties make it much harder for existing SME house builders to flourish and grow and deter new firms from entering the market. This has resulted in a less dynamic house building sector that is less able to expand to build the homes we need.

If local housebuilders are to build Britain out of the housing crisis, the Chancellor must use the Budget to pull as many levers as possible in order to enable more finance to reach SMEs. One thing the Government can do is act to reduce the capital costs of lending to this sector for smaller specialist lenders. The initiative announced last week by the British Business Bank to extend its ENABLE Guarantee to house building by striking a deal with United Trust Bank is welcome.

This type of Government action, because it pushes down the capital costs of lending to SME builders, will allow lenders to do much more of this. The Chancellor needs to back this initiative, encourage its expansion and explore all other options to reduce the risk and costs to banks of lending into this sector. If the Government wants to meet the ambitious housing targets it has set itself, it will need to ensure the long-constrained SME housing sector can once again access the finance it needs to meet the challenge of tackling Britain’s housing crisis.

Brian Berry, chief executive, Federation of Master Builders.

Real jobs for bankers

Sir,

So, massive redundancies are forecast to occur in the London banking sector as a result of Brexit.

Good, I say.

These overpaid bankers will now be available to fill the socially useful, albeit low paid, agricultural jobs shortly to be vacated by Brexiting Eastern Europeans.

John Eoin Douglas, Edinburgh

 

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