YET again we have an article suggesting that a tourism tax would negatively impact on the tourism industry ("Now is the wrong time to foist a new tax on the Scottish tourism industry", The Herald, November 17).

A charge of one or two pounds a day pales into insignificance compared to the room rates charged by hotels in this country with demand-led pricing mechanisms seeing prices more than double when "events" are scheduled.

The prices charged often bear no relation to the quality of service with even so-called budget chains tripling prices when they perceive demand. Look only to Edinburgh during the Festival for examples of exploiting visitors or in Glasgow when events are scheduled at the Hydro. Hotels could easily absorb a tourist tax of a pound a night with no need to pass the charge on to visitors.

Countries with developed tourism sectors generally charge a local tourist tax and this does not deter visitors. The tax would help local authorities to provide services such as street cleaning and ease a little the burden on council taxpayers facing challenging times in terms of increased taxes and council tax charges.
Bill Eadie, Giffnock

Outsider's view of the ferries

I HOPE you will allow an outsider to join the CalMac ferry debate.

In February I arranged a holiday for Glasgow and then on to Arran for June. At this stage I was unaware of the ferry debacle but subsequently saw much leading up to it. My fears were unfounded and I really loved my whole experience until the night before I was due to return.

My ferry was cancelled due to "adverse weather conditions". I rebooked a later ferry, but come the morning that was cancelled too. It was now impossible to contact the port and people were advised to turn up in person; I was a foot passenger, alone, with luggage, in bad weather. I bit the bullet and paid for an extra night's accommodation; I believe only one crossing happened eventually that day. I lost a day's work, lost my flight and took four trains to return home. Although the weather was bad, I would assume that newer ferries would be more fit for purpose.

I would love to say that I would recommend to all a trip to Arran and am planning a new adventure to another island. Sadly not, until there is reliability over the ferries. Whether or not a newer ferry would have left port on that day, I experienced the disruption in only a small part that the islanders must be experiencing constantly. My heart goes out to you.
Lin Williams, Bristol

• PERHAPS the unintended consequence of the deployment of the 34-car ferry Loch Frisia on the Oban to Craignure route will be the realisation that a live-aboard crew is not required. The 75-car Pentalina also operates without a live-aboard crew and is available, fully MCA-compliant, for some 60% of the ultimate cost of Loch Frisia.

The suggestion that, at 14 years old, the Pentalina is too old is risible given the age of the CMAL fleet. Such a purchase would provide a service more than twice as effective when one vessel service was required. Unfortunately, due to considerations of draft and seaworthiness Loch Frisia is unsuitable for any other route.

What a mess. For how long will the Scottish Government permit CMAL to squander our money?
J Patrick Maclean, Oban

• IN his very reasonable letter of November 18 Ian Gray suggests returning the Orcadia vessel to service between the mainland and Arran. It's a fair theoretical point. However, the notion that this would be a temporary measure until Ferguson Marine delivers either the Glen Sannox or Hull 802 requires a level of optimism I simply do not possess.
Laurence Wade, Ayr

A trip to otter terror

I READ with great nostalgia Jack Rickeard's experience of a flight to Barra ("Isle Seat: Aviation fan's delight as he gets 'solo flight' to Barra", The Herald, November 17).

In January 1993, I was required to fly to Tiree in my capacity as a social worker. I needed to stay overnight as there was insufficient time to conclude business before the 19-seat Otter aircraft returned to Glasgow.

Arrangements were duly made for a flight, accommodation and hired car which would be at the Tiree air terminal. So far so good.

Unfortunately, the night before my morning flight, there was an 90mph-plus gale, which had only slightly abated the following morning.

Despite air, rail and ferry crossings being cancelled, I fancied myself made of stern stuff, stiffened the sinews and turned up to board the tiny prop shaft Otter which was the only thing flying out of Glasgow Airport.

There was only one other passenger on the flight, an extremely nervous-looking insurance assessor going out to assess the previous day's storm damage.

We were greeted by the jaunty and nonchalant pilot and navigator, who looked 14 and 13 years old respectively. Welcoming us aboard, they said it was going to be exciting. The insurance assessor did not look convinced.

As Jack Rickeard noted, there is no separate cockpit door, so sitting looking over the shoulder of the pilot I had a bird's eye view during the flight. The journey was bumpy to say the least, the hired car was a rust bucket and I was advised by the supplier to hold on to the door any time I opened it or the door would be blown off.

The wind speed factor increased in intensity during the night and although the hotel was of stone construction, it vibrated noticeably to the extent that I lay on the bed fully dressed in the event of an emergency evacuation.

On the return journey the next morning, I again sat looking over the shoulders of the same aircrew and eventually spotted a strip of concrete ahead and below which appeared to be moving rapidly up and down and from side to side. It was, in fact the Otter which was performing these aerial acrobatics and not the strip of concrete, which I realised was the runway.

On disembarking from the plane the crew bid me good day and added that it had been "jolly good fun" and hoped that I had enjoyed the experience as much as they had. The insurance assessor, when reaching the last step off the plane, fell to his knees and kissed the ground and staggered off, muttering "never again".

Eat your heart out, Jack.
Ann Ross McCall, Glasgow

Pennie treat

ANOTHER fine column from Lennie Pennie regarding the setting and acknowledging of boundaries ("Never forget the importance of setting your boundaries ("Never forget the importance of setting your boundaries", The Herald, November 19).

She is a very welcome addition to The Herald, a breath of fresh air.

Eileen Michael, Paisley


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