TOLSTOY summed up the present ferry disruption in the opening of Anna Karenina: "Happy families are all alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

Islands with a ferry service which is running to timetable are happy, but disruptions have different impacts on individual islands because of their different populations, remoteness, demography and business activity, and infrastructure.

Islay has a resident population of more than 3,000 and whilst being a popular destination for visitors is also very busy commercially, with nine distilleries in operation and two more at the point of construction. One must also consider the neighbouring island of Jura, which has its own whisky and gin distilleries whose only vehicle link is from Islay. It has separately been suggested that Islay has the largest per capita carbon footprint in Scotland

During this period of disruption – which commenced on September 11 – there has been a single additional sailing by the MV Isle of Mull (via Colonsay), and all sailings – bar one – to Port Askaig, so rendering the south of the island effectively more than one hour further off-shore.

During this time an announcement has been made by CMAL regarding which companies have passed the first assessment to build new ferries for Islay – but a great deal of emphasis has been on this not including Ferguson's rather than the acute need for enhanced services. But nor has there been mention of how the local infrastructure also needs upgrading and investment.

The MV Clansman may be 23 years old but is too large to fit either of the ports on Islay or the mainland pier at Kennacraig despite major works having been done at all three sites since the millennium – but it is able to use the pier at Colonsay, which has a population of around 200.

Inter-changeability of vessels and co-ordination of services was a principle behind the successful tender by Calmac for Clyde and Hebrides ferry services but often there seems to be little evidence of joined-up thinking – and this also applies to CMAL.

The two-organisations approach emulates the discredited and abandoned "purchaser-provider split" the NHS was formerly subject to, and whilst management of both should be scrutinised, the whole issue of management structure merits urgent parliamentary review.

Jean Knowles, Laphroaig, Islay.


HAPPILY, Alasdair Steven’s obituary of Pat Forrest, emeritus professor of surgery at the University of Edinburgh, recorded a long, well-lived, illustrious life and service (The Herald, 20 September).

Pat was my father’s generation and I first encountered him as lecturer and rather forbidding questioner of fourth-year medical students round a patient’s bed in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in 1974. My next substantive encounter was some 20 years later as a junior member of a (High) kirk session of which he was a senior. He was wise, friendly and delightful – but pithy with it.

One significant contribution among many was as mentioned, to chair the group which recommended beginning a UK-wide breast screening programme.

As a scientist and clinician he would have understood the more recent evidence which has put in doubt the benefits versus risks of that programme. As such, it is really important women know both the potential advantages and disadvantages of breast screening before deciding whether to attend their appointment or not.

Obviously it’s a major worry for many women and just getting the invitation letter can be stressful. Most women just want to know what they should do. But it is important that women understand both the pros and cons involved in breast screening and how it might impact on them. The literature sent out by post reflects this tension in words and illustration which should assist individual decisions.

Dr Philip Gaskell, Drymen.


ANYONE who seriously believes that we, or any of the schools we represent, either support or display "accentism" ("Let’s hear it for Scottish accents", The Herald, September 21, and "Revealed: How posh schools work hard to remove any trace of pupils’ Scottishness", The Herald, September 22) needs to spend five minutes in our office or one of our schools.

Debunking myths from the far side of world is not the same thing as promoting them, and cheap shots are cheap whoever they are levelled at. It does no service to Scottish families, or those who wish to travel the globe to learn alongside them, to seriously suggest that they wish to be in Scotland but not be part of it.

John Edward, Director, Scottish Council of Independent Schools, Edinburgh.


UNLIKE some of your recent correspondents, apparently (Letters, April 21 & 22), I have continued to wear a tie regularly during the pandemic, and not only when attending funerals – of which there have been too many for my liking. I prefer a half-Windsor tie knot, and as well as to funerals I wear a tie when attending appointments whether at surgeries, hospitals, dentists and the like, and now the occasional masked business meeting. It is a mark of respect on my part and I find that that respect is usually reciprocated.

A tie also has the added benefit of trapping body heat and, with winter approaching, that is certainly not to be sniffed at.

Alan Fitzpatrick, Dunlop.


MANY thanks to Eric Begbie (Letters, September 21) for his problem on the cost of 13 feet 6 inches of material priced at £2 13s 4d per yard. The length equates to four and a half yards while I recall that 13s 4d is two-thirds of a pound. In other words we have 9/2 times 8/3 which of course is £12. Not a pencil or calculator in sight. Nae bother to us old yins.

Brian Logan, Glasgow.