Letters, May 14 2021


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Election thanks and congratulations

I would like to thank everybody who voted for me in the Scottish election and the many people who helped my campaign.

I congratulate Jenni Minto on her election and wish her well in her job of representing the people of Argyll and Bute at Holyrood.

Alan Reid, Dunoon.

Open letter to Transport Scotland chiefs

The following is an open letter from John Gurr, chairperson of the Rest and Be Thankful Campaign group, to Transport Scotland’s chief executive, Roy Brannen, and director of roads, Hugh Gillies, in response to a follow-up email following a meeting held with officials from the transport agency last month. 

Dear Roy and Hugh,

I am writing in response to an official Transport Scotland (TS) email to the Rest and Be Thankful (RABT) Campaign on April 27 2021, where you have sought to answer several questions posed by us at our meeting with your officials and in subsequent emails to you both. We are hugely disappointed by this response and its apparent contradictions.

We asked for a permanent solution within the next three years. The email states: ‘We are not waiting for anything and are pushing on with work at pace’, yet your actions since the August landslide have only created delay.

Creating 11 options for consultation in November 2020, this, we believe, is a time-wasting exercise. Five further options for consultation in March. We strongly believe there are only three real options, with studies on these completed in your 2013 report. Conducting a geological survey which will take eighteen months to complete, a process that could have started last August, assuming you had not conducted such surveys in 2012.

We have asked for temporary use of the forestry road, away from the threats posed by landsides. It also states: ‘We were clear without that information we are not certain the forestry track in its current form is safe for use.’ Yet we would argue you already have a Transerv report produced in 2012 by Balfour Beatty and Mouchal Services Ltd for TS which suggested the forestry road could be upgraded in 10 to 12 weeks. How did Transerv arrive at this conclusion without a study of the ground conditions being done in advance?

This situation should be considered a safety, economic and social emergency, cutting through the red tape of consultation and delay. It further declares: ‘We understand first-hand the delay that can be caused by procedural challenge…there needs to be a careful balancing of accelerating development and procedural risk in order to ensure that we do not end up in the courts.’

While we understand the need for the right balance of speed and consultation, we think the safety risks, costs incurred by business and damage to the economy of Argyll, should create the conditions for emergency action, delivering what should be a simple road realignment. This is not HS2, we are not asking to blight the countryside, or people’s homes, you do not have whole communities ready to challenge fixing the crisis at RABT.

What we want cannot be worse than the damage already inflicted on the hillside without consultation. If you fixed the Rest, we will all be thankful.

The following questions still have not been answered in TS’s official reply or in recent press statements:

  • If the next landslide, or subsequent diversion along the equally inadequate A82, results in a fatality who will be held accountable?
  • Who is responsible for the social and economic impact on the people and businesses of Argyll while we wait another 10 years for something permanent to be done?

We are business people and understand the need for safe environments, effective procedures, timely management, and cost control, but what we have experienced over the past year does not give us confidence you will address the concerns we have.

We are not looking for you to defend your approach, what matters to us is the action taken to bring timescales down and resolve the problem within the next parliament. We are simply asking you to rethink your approach, look at how your team can cut through this ‘business as usual’ process and appoint someone who can find a way to realign two kilometres of the A83 safely within the next three years.

By challenging your approach, we are hoping to see that after nearly a year of delay and diversion, there is a recognition of the cost impact to business, the significant safety concerns, and that this will continue to blight Argyll as a place to live, work, and invest in until a permanent solution is delivered.

We will be working with the relevant politicians post elections and will continue to campaign for a change in approach. We would be happy to discuss what can be done to overcome any constraints you have to deliver a solution quickly and resolve the crisis at the RABT.

John Gurr, chairperson of the Rest and Be Thankful Campaign.

‘Once-in-a-generation’ chance to end need for food banks

We stand at a once-in-a-generation crossroads.

Earlier this week, a thought-provoking poem, ACCEPTABLE? by the Anonymous Mother – judged for needing a food bank to feed her child – started a nationwide debate about whether the world’s fifth richest country should need food banks to feed children.

This conversation needed to happen as our food bank crisis has become critical.

Last year food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network handed out 980,000 emergency food parcels for children in the UK. This surely cannot be acceptable.

However, fate has given us a rare opportunity, as history shows us that the best time to create a brighter future is after times of great darkness.

The pandemic has been the most devastating event to hit our country since the Second World War, but it also brought out the very best of our nation.

We recognised our real community heroes, we protected the vulnerable, we didn’t stand by when kids went hungry.

But now, as we prepare to wake up from the pandemic nightmare, millions of British families still cannot afford food on their table.

As the Anonymous Mother poetically says – it doesn’t need to be this way.

In 1945, Britain woke up to its new dawn at a similar crossroads – go back to the old broken way, or use this golden opportunity to make things better.

That great generation chose hope, and created a better, fairer society for all – including founding the NHS.

This pandemic has been our generation’s darkest hour. This is now our new dawn, our choice. Will we choose the old broken way, or use this golden opportunity to eradicate hunger in the UK?

I urge you to do just one thing today, and that is to seek out the poem that started all of this, and reflect.

If, afterwards, you agree with me and the hundreds of thousands of other supporters of the Trussell Trust, that we can do better, join us as we collectively create a ‘hunger free future’.

Len Goodman, supporter of the Trussell Trust.