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19 January 2002

PARENTS and motorists were given a ray of hope this week when members and representatives at the Bute and Cowal Area Committee agreed that steps must be taken to improve the present shortfalls of the area’s gritting.
A decision has been taken to help Area Roads Manager Alan Lothian find the best way to cover all roads needing gritted within his budget and also to take the matter to the council’s Strategic Policy Committee to get them to assist the Area Committee with its problem of resources, as it has inadequate resources to allow it to grit properly.
At present there are three priorities for gritting. Priority one covers the strategic and main routes, including the A815, A885, A886 and A8003. Priority two covers routes serving fire stations, main bus routes, steep gradients, local danger spots, other A class routes, access to school gates and local concentrations of employment. Priority three covers B class routes, local distribution roads, access to isolated communities and all other public roads.
Priorities one and two are to be gritted within two hours of work starting at 6am, while it has been deemed that priority three routes have less traffic on them.
In applying the above strategy it can be the case that completion of the priority one and two routes infringes on the timeframe required by school transport departing from remote locations not already covered by these routes.
Treatment of the remaining routes will, when resources and conditions permit, follow on from the first actions, but this cannot be guaranteed to be in time for every vehicle journey. At the locations concerned only a few passengers or pupils are inconvenienced by delays due to winter conditions.
Parents of children at Colintraive and Glendaruel said: “We are obviously pleased that the members have now realised that there is a problem. They now appear to have stopped undervaluing our children’s lives or their education’s.
“Ten children travel on the bus to school from the Colintraive area and they all have a right to a life and an education!”
When asked if the budget for winter maintenance had been cut this year, Alan Lothian said: “We have not made cuts, but we have taken measures to ensure that we do not overspend.”
It has also been revealed that a lifeline route, the road between Glen Lean and Colintraive, has not been treated on occasions, in particular over the festive period.
And it has been claimed that to grit additional routes that are not deemed a priority will cost in the region of £27,000.
Councillor Douglas Currie said: “Routes must be gritted to ensure the safety of everyone using them and we have got to find the money to do this!”
Chair of the Area Committee Councillor Dick Walsh said: “We have to get the gritters starting earlier to ensure that routes are treated before people need them. It may mean that verges are not cut or fences are not painted so that we can cover the additional costs of winter safety.”
He added: “However, it is up to residents on unadopted roads to treat their own roads with the grit bins provided.”
In response to the fact that emergency vehicles may have difficulty reaching houses that are not on priority routes, Mr Lothian stated that the council would assist the emergency services if it were required, while Councillor Walsh admitted that there may be times that these homes cannot be easily reached!
Trunk roads within Argyll and Bute are the responsibility of Bear Scotland, while all other routes remain the responsibility of Argyll and Bute Council, who, due to the Scottish Executive awarding BEAR the trunk roads contract, now have to pay 100 per cent of their winter maintenance costs.

FURTHER industrial action could be on the cards for Caledonian MacBrayne ferries in the Clyde after wage negotiations broke down last week.
The company stated it is disappointed that talks aimed at securing a wage settlement with officers in the Clyde area broke up without reaching agreement. The talks, which lasted three hours, took place last Thursday.
The Clyde officers are members of the National Union of Maritime, Air and Shipping Transport (NUMAST), which confirmed that officers in the Western Isles had voted overwhelmingly to accept the company’s pay offer for the next two years.
The breakdown of talks on the Clyde is centred on the union’s demand that talks on parity with Western Isles’ officers be concluded by January 31. This was part of the original offer of settlement, which was made in October and rejected by NUMAST.
The company believes that it is not now possible to achieve this outcome in the time available and that discussions on parity could take several weeks to resolve.
The company and the RMT union agreed at Christmas that parity for ratings in the Western Isles and Clyde can be achieved by April 2002, on a self-financing and mutually agreed basis and also that there would be a one hour cut in working hours for Clyde pierhands.
Lawrie Sinclair, Managing Director, Caledonian Mac-Brayne, said: “CalMac is extremely disappointed that the Clyde officers have decided that they will ballot for industrial action.
“Their colleagues in the Western Isles have just shown how reasonable and acceptable the offer is by voting 70 to three in favour of the deal. Parity involves complex issues and NUMAST themselves recognised this in October 2001, when the January 2002 date for completion was originally set at NUMAST’s request.
“I sincerely hope that anyone faced with a ballot on this issue now will take serious note of the damage done to the company by the last strike at Christmas. I hope that NUMAST members will recognise the implications of what is being asked of them and look to their colleagues in the Western Isles for an indication of how the wage settlement should be considered in the best interests of everyone, but most of all our customers.”
CalMac has reaffirmed its willingness to continue talks with NUMAST in a bid to avoid the need for a ballot on industrial action.

LOCAL Councillors at a Dunoon Community Council meeting this week admitted Argyll and Bute Council have struggled to deliver services due to underfunding and stated there is nothing in the local authority’s capital budget to buy back Dunoon Burgh Hall.
Members of the public had declared the Burgh Hall should be made a priority, by the council and saved, with the Community Council asked for their support on the matter.
However, Dunoon Councillor Dick Walsh stated that the Council don’t have the money to carry out the community’s wish.
He explained: “I would like to see the Burgh Hall saved and maintained as a hall, but we don’t have the money to do it and it is up to the association”.
A planning application for the conversion of the hall to flats and office space is currently being considered by the council’s planning department.
A petition against such a conversion continues to gather public support, however, Councillor Walsh, who is also chairman of Bute and Cowal Area Committee explained that councillors are constrained when determining planning applications.
He said: “With planning applications there is a legal obligation to be gone through whether we like it or not.
“If councillors go against the recommendations of planning officers and an appeal is made which upholds those recommendations then the council would have to pay out compensation”.
The Community Council concluded that they wish to see the building kept as a public facility and would be making an objection to the Council’s Planning Department about the proposed conversion of the hall.
Bute Housing Association are inviting the public to view their proposals for the Burgh Hall and their other development at Edward Street on February 8 between 12 noon and 4 p.m. at Dunoon Burgh Hall.

MEMBERS of Innellan, Toward and Dunoon Old & St. Cuthbert’s are set to decide the future of their congregations this Sunday when they vote over the proposed linking of these congregations on the retiral of the Rev. Pat Lang at the end of 2003.
It has been revealed that a shortage of Ministers within the Church of Scotland is the main reason and not a question of finances.
Innellan and Toward have been without a Minister for the past nine months, but it is hoped that a Minister will soon be installed. The plan is that this Minister will add Dunoon Old & St. Cuthbert’s to the charge at the end of 2003.
In the event of this Dunoon Old and St. Cuthbert’s would revert to the High Kirk, while the name of the Charge would be South East Cowal and the name of the congregations would be simplified to Innellan, Toward and Dunoon; High Kirk.
All three churches would still be used for services every Sunday, with Inverchaolain hosting a few services throughout the year. There is no suggestion of closing any of the churches.
In addition to this some form of Ministerial assistance would be required and funded by the congregations. The Minister and ‘Assistance’ would share the task of preaching and pastoral work, with secretarial help.
The Rev. Evie Young, who is Convener of the Parish Re-appraisal Committee, said: “The three congregations will vote on the proposed linking and the Presbytery of Dunoon will then decide what is the next step, having due regard to the opinions of the congregations.”
“All three churches will take part in seeking a new minister who, initially, will serve Innellan and Toward (who have been linked for the last 20 years). When Dunoon Old & St. Cuthbert’s becomes vacant, the 3-way linking will take effect, known as “deferred linking”.
The congregation of Dunoon Old & St. Cuthbert’s numbers approximately 445, with 40 elders, while the comparative figures for Innellan are 148 members with nine elders. Inverchaolain and Toward have 116 members and 10 elders.
The office bearers for these churches voted as follows: at Innellan, the Session voted two for and five against, the Board voted three for and eight against; at Inverchaolain and Toward, the Session voted seven for and none against and the Board voted nine for and one against; and Dunoon Old & St. Cuthbert’s Session and Board voted unanimously for.
The three congregations will meet separately in their own place of worship on Sunday, following their morning service. After presenting the Basis of Deferred Linking and the Guidelines, and allowing questions and discussion, the person conducting the meeting will ask members of the congregation to vote on (a) the Basis of Deferred Linking and (b) the Guidelines.

PEOPLE in Argyll will soon have the chance to take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch - the UK’s biggest and longest running garden bird survey. Open to everyone, you do not have to be a bird expert or even have a garden!
The survey, run the RSPB, aims to find the most commonly seen garden birds and to see if and where species like the house sparrow are declining. Run since 1979, The Big Garden Birdwatch was one of the first surveys to show a fall in song thrush numbers in our gardens.
To take part, all you have to do is to spend one hour counting the birds that visit your garden or local park over the weekend of January 26 and 27 and send in your results. All schools in Argyll have also been invited to join in.
The Big Garden Bird-watch in Argyll last year found chaffinch to be the most common garden bird in line with the results for Scotland as a whole. But, unlike the rest of Scotland, Argyll blackbirds displaced starlings from the number two spot!
Throughout the UK, over 50,000 people took part in last year’s survey and it is hoped that many more will be involved in the 2002 event.
Jonathan Osborne, Youth and Volunteers Manager for RSPB Scotland, said: “The survey was hugely popular last year with over 2000 people taking part in Scotland. We hope that everyone who enjoys birds in their garden will be able to take part in this year’s survey, adding valuable information to our knowledge of the status of Scotland’s garden birds”.
To send in your results online, visit the RSPB website, where the survey form will be available from early January until February 28.
Alternatively, Big Garden Birdwatch packs can be obtained by writing to: Big Garden Birdwatch, RSPB Scotland, Dunedin House, 25 Ravelston Terrace, Edinburgh EH4 3TP, or by phoning 0131 311 6500.