Letters, April 16 2021


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Clarity and parity needed for island communities

Open letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The rest of Scotland has had two updates on the easing of lockdown restrictions, but island communities remain in the dark.

This is deeply disappointing.

Following the first announcement on March 16 about plans to exit lockdown, I wrote to the Scottish Government highlighting the questions and concerns of island communities which have been left unsure, uncertain and completely unable to plan for the future – unlike the rest of Scotland.

I was able to meet with Aileen Campbell MSP, in her role as Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, within a few days and set out the need for fairness and clarity for our islands in terms of updates about changes to restrictions.

However, even after the second announcement on March 30, there was still no update for our islands. And now, more than a week later and despite updates in the interim about the reopening of schools, they’re still waiting – and it’s not acceptable.

Like everyone else, islanders are desperate to know when they can reconnect with family and friends. Island businesses are equally frantic to know when and how they can make plans for the weeks ahead.

But, unlike everyone else, our islands are at a complete disadvantage. They still don’t know what is happening, or when. They deserve better. The Scottish Government needs to respond to our islands’ call for clarity and let them, like the rest of the country, start to think and plan ahead.

Robin Currie, Argyll and Bute Council leader.

Looking out for nature

Now in its 42nd year, the Big Garden Birdwatch is a chance for people of all ages to count the number of birds that visit their garden helping the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to build up a picture of how they are doing.

This year, more than a million people across the UK, including more than 78,000 in Scotland, took part, counting 17 million birds.

The event, held over the last weekend in January, revealed the house sparrow held on to its number one spot. But 10 out of the top 20 bird species showed declines in average numbers in Scotland compared to last year.

Starlings remained in second place, but numbers were down 14 per cent compared to 2020. Goldfinches saw the greatest decline in Scotland’s top 10, falling four places from sixth position last year, with reported numbers 47 per cent fewer than 2020.

I am absolutely delighted with the number of people who have taken part, making it the biggest year ever for RSPB Scotland.

This has generated a massive amount of data which will help our scientists with important conservation work, but it also shows how many of us have turned to nature after what has been a difficult 12 months.

We need every voice raised to stand up for nature. The wildlife that brings us so much interest and solace is now just a fraction of what should be there.

Big Garden Birdwatch has shown that people across Scotland have a real passion for their wildlife. We now need government to take the global leadership, policy and legislative opportunities open to it this year to reverse the decline and restore nature.

Anne McCall, director of RSPB Scotland.

Protect your dog from theft

It’s no exaggeration to say that when a dog goes missing or is stolen, it is heart-breaking.

Dogs for Good has put together some tips to reduce the likelihood of your dog being taken.

  • Keeping eyes on your dog is still the best thing you can do to keep him or her safe. Using your phone is a huge distraction and thieves know that.
  • Is your garden secure? Did you lock the gate? Keep an eye on your dog when they’re outside.
  • Don’t leave your dog outside shops. You wouldn’t leave your wallet or handbag unattended, so don’t leave your dog alone.
  • Tinted car windows are a relatively cheap way to keep what’s in your car less visible to prying eyes.
  • Where possible, keep your dog away from the side of the road when walking.
  • If your dog has poor recall, ‘social walks’, on the lead around your area are fine. Give your dog plenty of opportunities to sniff and look around and they’ll feel the benefit.
  • Look for safer, free-run locations where you’ve got clear sight of your dog.
  • Used correctly, extendable leads are a good halfway house between a lead walk and a free run.
  • Try altering your route and, where practical, the time you walk your dog.
  • Walk with someone else. Even with the current restrictions, you can still take a walk with someone else as long as you keep a safe distance apart.
  • Make sure you’ve got plenty recent photos of your dog clearly showing identifiable markings.
  • Make sure your dog has been chipped and that you keep any changes to your details updated with the database.

If the unthinkable happens and your dog is taken, remember, you are not alone. There are plenty online groups and pages offering guidance and support. DogLost is an excellent charity which provides a free lost and found service.

You should also notify police, dog wardens, vets and local rescue centres.

Chris Muldoon, operations officer, Dogs for Good.

A cuppa for dementia care

Tables for Dementia UK’s annual cake and tea event, Time for a Cuppa, have been reset.

Dementia UK is the only charity dedicated to supporting the whole family through dementia specialist Admiral Nurses.

The charity’s annual fundraising event takes place between May 1 and May 8.

Since its launch, it has raised more than £1 million with the support of fundraisers, Dementia UK staff and celebrities.

One of the highlights of last year’s event was celebrity supporters dressing up as much-loved characters to recreate tea party scenes from the world of film. Phyllis Logan was Mary Poppins, music producer Naughty Boy was Jay Gatsby, Emma Barton was Holly Golightly and Jess and Natalya Wright were Alice in Wonderland and the Queen of Hearts.

Families with dementia have been adversely affected by lockdown for just over a year now. Care home visiting restrictions, the closure of support and respite services and the resulting social isolation and loneliness have disproportionately affected people living with dementia and their family carers.

Whilst Time for a Cuppa will be slightly different this year, we know dementia support is needed more than ever. We are so grateful to all our fundraisers who will be whipping up treats, enthusiasm, funds and who are giving their time for others – in a socially distanced way of course – in what will be a special and important Time for a Cuppa.

For more information about Time for a Cuppa and how to host your own tea party with our free fundraising pack, visit the dementiauk.org/timeforacuppa webpage.

Dr Hilda Hayo, chief Admiral Nurse and Chief Executive Officer of Dementia UK.