Arran Banner letters – week 17

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A heartfelt thank you

Sir,

Bill and Aileen McLaughlin, their daughter Fiona McMaster and grand daughter Kirsty would like to say a very sincere and heartfelt thank you to all those who came to our aid on Saturday morning.


A faulty camera battery caused a serious fire in the lounge of our Sandbraes home.

The Lamlash and Brodick fire crews were on the scene very quickly. Their courage, professionalism and reassuring compassion are beyond mere words. Each and every one of you was amazing and we cannot thank you enough. Ourselves, four guinea pigs and Dileas, the cat, are forever in your debt. It is a surreal experience to watch firefighters in breathing apparatus going into your home of 48 years with smoke pouring out the windows!

To the paramedics, Gwen and Dave, who were as always the epitome of calm professionalism and compassion, thank you.

To the hospital staff for looking after dad (again) for a few hours, thank you.


To David Boyle for coming so promptly on a Saturday to ensure the power supply was safe for us all, thank you.

To all the friends and neighbours for all the phone calls, messages and enquiries, thank you. They are all very much appreciated.

A special thanks to the special lady who brought us freshly made scones on Sunday, thank you. What a lift your kindness gave us all.

Thank you – these two small words do not begin to do justice to the debt of our gratitude to each and everyone for all the love, care and kindness we have received.

More than once last Saturday I was told: ‘Ach, we’re just doing our job’. That may be so but it just shows how many truly amazing human beings live amongst us.

We are forever in your debt.

Yours,

Bill, Aileen, Fiona and Kirsty,

Whiting Bay.

 

Time to start living again

Sir,

Last year, as the pandemic spread across the globe, the uncertainty of the entire situation brought the world to a halt. Understandably that was the only way to deal with such a new and unknown threat.

One year later, scientists and doctors have much more knowledge, a far better understanding of how it is spread and how it can be treated, and best of all, in the UK we are fortunate to have a highly successful vaccination programme.

That should be cause for joy, optimism, and relief. But it isn’t. Because here we are again, facing another summer of cancelled events, whether large or small, whether indoors or outdoors. Just about everything is cancelled, and we are expected to put our lives on hold for another year.

Last year, when all events were cancelled, we were told we could look forward to everything being back in 2021, bigger and better. And the general consensus was: ‘We understand, and we don’t mind. We look forward to seeing everyone again in 2021’.
But of course, the ‘we look forward to seeing everyone again in 2021’ has now become ‘we look forward to seeing everyone again in 2022’.

What will happen when it becomes clear, as it will, that the virus is still around in 2022? Viruses don’t just vanish, they are with us permanently. And this virus will be no exception. It will mutate to survive. And we will have the variants of Covid-19 with us for the rest of our days.

Life is never guaranteed, and should not be taken for granted. Who can say for certain they will still be alive next year? Or even tomorrow? Who knows for how long their nearest and dearest will still be around? That birthday missed, or family get-together postponed, may never happen. For many people it definitely will not happen.

Life is for living. And there is a vast difference between living and existing. At the moment, most of us are merely existing. Every minute of every day, our lives are ticking past. Time that we will never get back.

At what point do we say enough is enough? When do we get our courage back, take a stand, and start living again?

Yours,

Beverley Scott,

Whiting Bay.

 

Ferry questions for candidates

An open letter from the Arran Ferry Action group to all prospective candidates standing in the Cunninghame North ward and the West Scotland regional seat.

Sir,

We, the Arran Ferry Action Group, representing the majority of households on Arran,
have more than 1,300 supporters. Committed to the improvement of our lifeline ferry service, we are disappointed and angry at the serious deterioration of our ferry service in the last few years.

The ageing fleet of ferries serving Arran and the continuing delay of the provision of the MV Glen Sannox, which was due to become operative in 2018, have caused serious harm to Arran residents and business owners. The current ferry boats, due to their age, regularly break down and require sometimes extensive repairs.

Residents requiring medical treatment/care on the mainland have been unable to receive this often lifesaving care due to regular disruptions of the ferry service.

Business owners have been unable to obtain necessary equipment and workers in a timely fashion. Many residents, frustrated by the situation, have decided to leave the island.

Furthermore, the recently built ferry terminal at Brodick has been found to be improperly aligned, thereby causing additional disruption of ferry service.

This expensive terminal has proved to be difficult for elderly and mobility challenged residents and visitors due to the long, narrow walkway and the many steps to and from the ferry terminal. Two small elevators are totally inadequate.

While residents had strongly requested an escalator or other form of easier access to the ferry, their request was ignored. Many ferry users have fallen down the steps, with attending injuries.

These issues have been widely publicised in the media and are well known to Scottish taxpayers and ferry users. The recently published report of the Parliamentary Committee RECC has highlighted the poor quality of decision making by government officials and government bodies.

As a candidate for office in the May elections for the Scottish parliament, we are requesting your answers to the following questions:

1. What do you propose to do to ensure that Arran residents and visitors have a reliable and resilient ferry service?

2. Presently we have been informed that the Glen Sannox ferry may not be in operation until 2023. Furthermore, it is not clear when the Ardrossan Harbour development will begin and the estimation is that it will not be completed until 2024. Many have suggested that during the next several years the government should provide an alternative reliable ferry which would include the rental or purchase of a smaller boat or catamaran.

Would you support such a proposal?

3. The multi-MSP Rural and Economic Connectivity Committee (RECC) produced a 2021 report into the ‘catastrophic failure’ of the Ferguson Scottish ferry build project. Do you agree with the recommendations of that RECC ferry report?

4. Arran ferry users have been unable to obtain reliable information regarding timetables for the Glen Sannox and the Ardrossan Harbour development. There have been no community consultations since 2018 and our voices have not been heard.

How do you propose to compel government representatives to consult with the ferry users and take into consideration their requests?

Yours,

For and on behalf of the committee of the Arran Ferry Action Group.

 

Underinvestment in new ferries

Sir,

Tucked away in Kenneth Gibson’s election manifesto is a promise to provide a ‘quality ferry service’.

During Mr Gibson’s 14 years in office we on Arran have suffered countless ferry cancellations due to mechanical faults on ships long past their normal service life spans.

We are all aware of the stress and hardship such cancellations can cause through missed hospital appointments and missed family, and business commitments.

Now some very disturbing information has come to light in a national newspaper using Scottish government data.

It gives a detailed picture of all new vessels procured for Clyde and Hebrides routes since 1993. In the first 14 years – pre-devolution and up to the 2007 elections – 12 ferries with a combined tonnage of 33,350 were launched.

In the following 14 years, with the SNP in power at Holyrood, only five ferries with a combined tonnage of 16,188 entered service. Two of these account for most of the tonnage. They were built at yards in Poland and Germany, respectively. The other three small boats were built at Ferguson’s in Port Glasgow.

Under the SNP the total tonnage more than halved, and fleet replacement rates deteriorated even more spectacularly. It was one new vessel every 14 months between 1993 and 2007.

In the SNP era that rate of replacement has slowed to one every 33.6 months. With an average design life of 25 years, since the SNP took over in 2007, the time it would take to replace the CalMac fleet has stretched to an astonishing 86.8 years.

In February the government published its infrastructure investment plan to 2025/26. It includes £281 million of loans to CMAL for the procurement of more vessels.

Given that it’s costing a similar amount to complete the two unfinished Ferguson hulks years late, is that the kind of money needed to repair the consequences of the 14 years of underinvestment in new ferries?

Yours,

John Sillars,

Brodick.

 

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