Letters to the editor – March 19, 2021

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Glaring Scottish digital divide

Sir,

The fact that the SNP has produced a new digital strategy document will come as little consolation to residents of the Highlands and Islands, who would struggle to download it even if they wanted to.

The SNP has left the Highlands and Islands in the digital dark ages.

The 2016 SNP manifesto committed to deliver superfast broadband (R100) to every home and business by 2021. This has comprehensively failed, with ministers refusing to discuss completion dates. A December 2020 report logged an average download speed of 2.06Mbps in Glen Shiel. That is 134 times slower than Scotland’s fastest street.

The pandemic has exposed the glaring digital divide that exists between rural and urban parts of Scotland.

Scottish Liberal Democrats want our remote and rural communities to be great places to live, work and study.

That’s why we are setting out new proposals to put power in the hands of local community managers and prioritise investment in catch up zones to ensure that everyone has access to the digital services they need to prosper.

Alan Reid, Scottish Liberal Democrats lead candidate for the Highlands and Islands

Know ovarian cancer symptoms

Sir,

Cancer continues to claim lives regardless of the pandemic.

As resources within the NHS are stretched to their limits, charities like Target Ovarian Cancer need your help more than ever before. Please help us raise awareness and raise funds. Whilst we are all fighting coronavirus, Target Ovarian Cancer is putting the needs of women with ovarian cancer before all else.

In 2010 my mother, the actress Marjie Lawrence, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer just three weeks before she died. Had we and her doctors been aware of the symptoms, Marjie might be alive today. If diagnosed at the earliest stage, nine in 10 women will survive. But two thirds of women are diagnosed late, when the cancer is harder to treat.

This March, for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, I’m writing to ask your readers to take just two minutes of their time to learn the symptoms and spread the word to their families and friends.

The main symptoms of ovarian cancer are: persistent bloating, feeling full or having difficulty eating, tummy pain, and needing to wee more often or more urgently.

If you believe in a future where every woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer has the best chance of survival, please show your support and visit www.targetovariancancer.org.uk/March

Sarah Greene, Target Ovarian Cancer Patron

Return of communal worship

Sir,

We welcome the latest announcement from the Scottish Government that communal worship can potentially resume from March 26 with the possibility of up to 50 people in attendance, assuming physical distancing of two metres can be in place.

Christians are Easter people; we live with hope in all circumstances, and the church will be providing guidance to congregations to help them ensure that buildings are re-opened in a safe and responsible manner.

While some congregations will adopt a cautious approach regarding the reopening of our buildings – and others won’t have the practical means to do so – everyone will be very glad at this news and will already be looking forward to how most appropriately to celebrate Easter 2021.

In whatever we do, we’ll be remembering that the God who raised Jesus from the grave has been faithful to us throughout the whole of this last year.

Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland

Argyll and Bute’s democratic future

Sir,

The first Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland has submitted its final report to the Scottish Parliament, with its 60 powerful democratic recommendations aimed at improving the wellbeing of Scotland’s people and governance.

I personally would have loved to be a participant in this new democratic exercise, meeting and sharing with, speaking and listening to, a wide range of our people, many very unlike me and with very different perspectives, opinions and lived experience.

To be informed by a range of expert, evidence-based perspectives, to explore and discuss implications and reservations, and to move towards a rough consensus on a range of key questions that will affect ourselves, our children and grandchildren, and that will shape the future of our country – that’s the exemplar of the active, responsible citizen of 21st century Scotland.

There’s a climate assembly also currently working towards its conclusions, and I await its recommendations with interest and anticipation.

Recommendation six of the first assembly is: ‘That in order to ensure that citizens can make informed decisions in relation to rebuilding their communities the Scottish government and parliament should: establish community-based citizens’ assemblies to assess what is happening in our communities (including the effects of Covid-19), identify gaps and recommend actions, including through digital technology, that can bring people together and make our communities more inclusive.’

We have a Scottish election coming up in May, and I hope to see a good turnout as a good majority of Scotland’s electorate, from age 16 upwards, make sure to vote in this most critical exercise of our moment of power and responsibility.

Subsequently, I hope to very soon look forward to a renewed interest in local democracy, as an Argyll and Bute Citizens’ Assembly debates and decide the shape of Argyll and Bute’s future for the coming decisive decade.

Perhaps that future will include enhanced interest and participation in some version of our current powerless and voiceless community councils.

Mary MacCallum Sullivan, Ardrishaig