Important that people speak out
‘POWER to the people’ is an expression we have heard a lot since President Donald Trump’s inaugural speech on January 20 and again during Prime Minister May’s recent visit to Washington.
Excuse me, but people power is not new. It’s been around since the 5th century BC. It’s called democracy and, when it fails, it is usually the people themselves who are to blame.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Highlands and Islands where there is a tendency to sit back, criticise and think it is someone else’s duty to speak up. For example, never in the recorded social history of this area has there been such a lack of interest in the way we are governed.
As a result, councils are being led, not by elected members, but by salaried officials who don’t have to go near a ballot box. Worse still, many electors won’t even bother to vote.
Little wonder there is now a culture, unknown a generation ago, that doesn’t encourage people to put their heads above the battlements or even ask questions for fear of being labelled troublemakers.
The Roman government of old kept the populace happy by distributing free food and staging huge spectacles known as ‘bread and circuses’. Today we might call it ‘dumbing- down’.
There are exceptions, particularly in some parts of the Inner and Outer Hebrides, where the martial spirit hasn’t quite fled yet.
John Lorne Campbell of Canna used a threepronged process to good effect when he was dealing with officialdom. Firstly, state the problem; secondly, provide the solution; and, thirdly, say what you will do if it isn’t remedied.
Nearer home there is a battle to keep a quarry out of Glen Creran. Whether you approve of the quarrying industry or not, it has been refreshing to watch such a highly- organised campaign unfold through a series of informative advertisements in the pages of
The Oban Times. It is a pity more local communities with genuine grievances don’t follow suit instead of sitting on their hands.
Every parish has its problems and frustrations. In Appin there is outrage about cattle rampaging through a new woodland scheme causing untold damage to one of Argyll’s most important medieval church sites.
It should have been protected by Forest Enterprise and Historic Scotland during the planning process but it wasn’t and not a hand is being raised against it locally.
A few weeks before Christmas a representative from NHS Highland visited Lochaline to tell us that for the first time in 150 years, we should no longer expect to have the services of a full-time doctor.
We were informed there was no money to pay for locums and out- of- office hour cover, no dedicated accommodation for a new doctor and that the 350-patient practice would prove too stressful for any future single-handed GP.
We were assured our needs would be covered by voluntary first responders and that NHS 24 would handle emergencies. As the staff in NHS 24’s distant control centre often misdirect casualties to Oban or Campbeltown hospitals because they think their accident and emergency wards are the nearest to Morvern and not Fort William, we were as unconvinced as we were puzzled why the health board had recently sold their GPs’ houses in Lochaline and Salen, Sunart.
Despite the magnitude of the proposals they were accepted with humour and without demur by the few who bothered to turn up – although rather less so when it had sunk in.
Other Morvern grievances which would be helped with a bit of public lobbying include lack of progress in upgrading BT’s broadband system; urgent repairs to sections of the only public road into Lochaline which has been damaged during the construction of several private hydro schemes; free vehicle crossings on the Corran ferry for residents and council tax payers on the peninsula; a more reliable and constant mail delivery service routed through Fort William instead of Oban; and, more urgently, a massive and unprecedented cull of an ancient strain of wild red deer in favour of a proposed rewilding scheme. There are many more.
It is refreshing to read that Scotland is to be exempt from Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 contained in the Leveson Enquiry that is being proposed south of the border.
Press regulation is devolved to Scotland and Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has confirmed the Scottish Government has no plans to introduce statutory measures to persuade Scottish print media to sign up to a state-approved regulator.
If Section 40 is voted through by Westminster and eventually finds its way into Scotland, it will threaten investigative journalism and freedom of the independent press with local newspapers, such as The
Oban Times, having to bear the costs of a court case whether they are in the wrong or not.
In the words of Martin Luther King Junior: ‘History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamour of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.’
Wild deer should not be destroyed for maverick rewilding schemes.