Letters, November 20 2020


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Devolution one of Blair’s biggest mistakes

Boris Johnson is wrong when he claims allowing Scotland to have a devolved parliament was Tony Blair’s biggest mistake.

The decision to join the USA in the invasion of Iraq was Blair’s biggest error, a decision based on the ‘dodgy dossier’ that anyone with half a brain could see had no validity. It cost the lives of 179 British servicemen and severe injuries to many more but it made Blair a rich man, resulting from his popularity in America where many of my friends still think the sun shines from his posterior.

I would agree, however, that allowing the electorate in Scotland to vote in favour of devolution, was undoubtedly Blair’s second biggest mistake.

His motivation was to placate those crying for Scottish independence, following the discovery of North Sea oil, but the irony was that it led to a series of disastrously incompetent Labour/Lib Dem coalition governments.

These in turn resulted in the electorate choosing, in 2007, a minority SNP government, enabled by support from the Greens.

My letter would be far too long were I to dwell on all the areas of incompetence in Holyrood government since 2007, so I’ll confine my evaluation to education, upon which the future of Scotland depends.

In 2007, Salmond’s election promise was primary school class sizes of under 18 but, two years later, Fiona Hyslop changed that target to fewer than 25 pupils. That was just before Salmond sacked her and Mike Russell admitted smaller class sizes might not be possible before 2015.

Those councils that did enforce the limit of 25 only did so by refusing places to children whose siblings were at the same school.

The ‘attainment gap’ between children from poorer backgrounds and those from more affluent areas has continued to widen rather than diminish, as Nicola Sturgeon promised, while older students cannot find places at Scottish universities because these have to be allocated to foreign students, whose fees are a necessity to fund the universities.

Meanwhile, I hate to think what Scotland’s deficit is now. It was around eight per cent of GDP before Covid decimated so many areas vital to Scotland’s economy.

Doubtless, Alex Orr will remind me Scotland cannot legally have a deficit, but an independent Scotland could and it would prevent the dream of Scotland rejoining the EU from ever being attained.

Brian Gee, Carradale East.

More channels for Islay

In the recent storms, 12 houses at Bruach Gorm, Port Charlotte using the communal West Highland Housing Association satellite dish, lost half our Sky channels, including BBC 2 and STV.

As I write, it’s been 15 working days since at least three of us that I know reported the issue to West Highland, but not a word of a fix date.

The dish has done well for 13 years, but things degrade over time. I had an inkling this year there would be a dish problem and in the summer I bought a TV aerial kit for £16 – a lot cheaper than fitting a dish. I put the aerial in the loft and there is a good reception, with BBC 2 and STV back. It is storm-proof in the loft, though I was disappointed with the lack of channels from the Bowmore transmitter.

I Googled it and the mast is a Freeview Light and lacks channels other UK areas enjoy. I use Sky HD freeview channels but with Sky you have to navigate the TV guide through all the blocked subscription channels to find the one you want to watch. Via the Bowmore mast, the TV guide just lists the freeview channels, which is great.

Freeview said that there are more channels available on main transmitters than there is on relay transmitters, which play a vital role in providing more remote areas a TV coverage.

There are a lot of aerials on houses and I think Islay’s TV transmitters should get an upgrade to the same channels as other areas expect.

I will also raise this issue with those elected to improve our lives, including MSP, MP, council leader Councillor Currie and Councillor Horn.

Colin M Campbell, Port Charlotte, Islay.

Nominate a brave child

I think we all need a boost of positive news, so I would like to appeal to your readers to give a brave and special young person in your area the credit they deserve by nominating them for the 2021 WellChild Awards.

We are looking for inspirational children and young people who have defied the odds in the face of serious illness and the selfless nurses, doctors, brothers, sisters and friends who help care for them.

This is your opportunity to give them the recognition they deserve at a prestigious event regularly attended by WellChild Patron, The Duke of Sussex.

Nominations are open now so please get yours in before the closing date on Monday December 14 at noon. More information can be found on WellChild’s website or by calling 01242 530007.

Gaby Roslin, WellChild ambassador.