Letters to the editor – September 3, 2021

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Power to make decisions


Ireland – what a confident, really well-resourced country it is.

In contrast our UK has had the weakest economic recovery of any country in north-west Europe since the 2008 financial crash, with our citizens having the lowest wealth per head.

The UK’s weak economic recovery stands in stark contrast to Ireland, which has seen a massive increase in GDP per capita of 37.8 per cent – six and a half times that of the UK, over the same period.

In addition to Ireland, the UK has also fallen behind Luxembourg, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Belgium, France, and Austria.

An analysis from the House of Commons library, using International Monetary Fund data, revealed the UK had the lowest growth in GDP per capita of any country in north-west Europe between 2009 and 2021, at just 5.8 per cent.

Now, 13 years on from the financial crash, it continues to have the lowest wealth per head of any country in northwest Europe.

On average, independent countries of Scotland’s size or smaller have seen an average increase in GDP per capita of plus 20.6 per cent, an increase of three and a half times that of the UK.

They all have the power to make their own decisions.

Tricia Grey, Ayefyne, Lochgilphead

Homelessness and mental health support


There is no question that the pandemic has had a real impact on people’s mental health right across the country.

We’ve had the anxiety and uncertainty around the virus itself coupled with isolating, being separated from loved ones and missing out on the daily interactions we probably took for granted before.

For people experiencing homelessness, all this has come on top of having nowhere to call home.

Working as part of a team of clinical psychologists at homelessness charity Crisis, I see at first-hand how people facing homelessness are disproportionately affected by mental health issues. Many of these are linked to previous and devastating trauma and are only made worse by the circumstances they are forced to live in.

Part of our work at Crisis is to ensure our clients have the psychological support they need to establish a life away from homelessness. Keeping this going through the pandemic has been a real challenge and Crisis staff have been finding all sorts of creative solutions.

In the early days of the pandemic our coaches worked rapidly to provide phones, tablets, laptops and data to our clients who needed it and adapted our services, including our psychological support, so we could provide a continued lifeline over the phone and online.

With lockdown and restrictions now eased, it is a relief for our clients to feel less of the added mental pressure that we’ve had from the circumstances of the last year and for face-to-face support to be more of an option again.

Whether in person or online, all our work is only made possible by the fantastic people and organisations who support us, meaning we can continue to help people across the country to leave homelessness behind for good.

On behalf of Crisis and the thousands of people we support each year, we would particularly like to thank the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, across Scotland and elsewhere, who have helped fund the vital work of our clinical psychologists in such difficult times.

Peter Oakes, lead clinical psychologist at Crisis

Unfit-for-purpose Islay ferries


Recent disruptions with our ferry service from Islay to the mainland have once again shown us just how much we depend on a fit-for-purpose service with reliable, newer vessels in operation.

Unfortunately this is currently not the case as our ferry fleet has been underfunded for many years, if not decades, as a result of decisions made by urban-centric central government.

Our frontline CalMac ferry crews and port staff are hard-working and an asset to our island and mainland communities, however they can only work with the tools they have at hand.

The 36-year-old MV Hebridean Isles is one of the oldest in the state-owned fleet and while it was no doubt good in its day that day has passed a long time ago. Problems with our Islay ferry service have also been exacerbated with the continued poaching of one of our ferries in the summer months for other areas that CalMac operates in.

On numerous occasions, distillers on Islay said they were facing major problems in transporting whisky to the Scottish mainland because of a capacity crisis on the ferry links.

The feeling amongst many of my constituents is that it is we on Islay, Jura and Colonsay who always end up getting a raw deal.

This simply cannot be allowed to continue.

Councillor Alastair Redman, Kintyre and the Islands ward 

Opening the heritage careers door


Thanks to funding from the Scottish Power Foundation, an Argyll and Bute scheme is offering young people a new route to gaining employment and skills in heritage.

Heritage Horizons, run by the Culture, Heritage and Arts Assembly, Argyll and Isles (CHARTS), and Argyll and Bute Heritage and Museums Forum, aims to address the issue of an ageing workforce in the heritage and museums sectors by offering skill-building opportunities for young people.

The project will work with Argyll heritage venues in areas of high unemployment, developing 14 accredited placements for young people. Participants will discover traditional building skills, learn how to guide visitors, or ‘takeover’ the social media accounts for a museum: all with the aim of improving their future employability.

The project, which runs until May 2022, has three main strands of work: providing work experience placements for young people aged 18-30 who will study for a Trinity College Arts Award; accredited workshops and events; and a series of school visits.

For more information, contact project co-ordinators Kirsty MacNab (South Argyll) at kirsty@chartsargyllandisles.org or Pamela Campbell (North Argyll) at pamela@chartsargyllandisles.org.

Seymour Adams, Culture, Heritage and Arts Assembly, Argyll and Isles Board