IF ever there was an ill-conceived plan regarding our tourism in the Highlands it is the proposed licensing of privately-run B&Bs.

Far from making more properties available for local buyers it is on course to do the opposite. Not that many years ago the government of the day was, through its agencies, giving grants to those building houses in the Highlands to add another bedroom to their new-build homes.

The reason was that these were to be used for B&B, the object being to bring in further revenue which would stay in the area. In doing so it also, in many cases, put properties in a higher council tax band which could then be utilised for the good of all concerned.

Now many of those who received that grant aid are in the retirement bracket but are still living in the homes that they built in their younger days. Many of these people still do B&B but to a lesser degree which still enables them to remain in their homes.

These people are not making a fortune, more often than not much less than the tax-free allowance given by the Government. The hassle involved in applying for their licence has already seen many of this generation giving up doing B&B and the implications of this are not looking good.

First, as I was recently told while attending the opening of the Wester Ross salmon fishing season, some of those giving up B&B were considering selling up and looking for smaller properties. This in turn would release some of their capital, but also enable them to outbid youngsters for any smaller property which came on the market.Without affordable starter housing our younger generation will leave, causing a demographic nightmare in the future.

Secondly, as for their own property, as we have only too often seen here in Ardnamurchan, that will be purchased as a second home by wealthy buyers from down south who contribute little to either the local community or local economy. In fact they often do the complete opposite, causing both ill feeling and divisiveness within small communities.

These second-home owners and their families, when they do visit, arrive with their Chelsea tractor loaded to the gunnels with all the supplies needed for the duration of their stay. The small local shop is lucky to sell other than an odd pint of milk to these visitors. On the other hand an elderly local couple are likely to buy necessities from the local shop, including what they serve up as breakfast to their B&B guests.

We have seen many small local shops close over the years and this folly could exacerbate the problem of rural depopulation. The fragile rural economy and its infrastructure, from available tradespersons to transport, can only be damaged by this licensing proposal, which also smacks somewhat of 1984 Big Brother SNP.

Surely if a B&B has been operating for years without a licence it doesn't need one now. Is it beyond the mental capacity of our politicians to leave a working mechanism alone?
Prof Eric McVicar, Strontian

Shameful neglect of the south

ANDY Maciver ("The prize awaits Anas Sarwar – if he's bold enough", The Herald, February 24) writes that "people want significantly more power to be exercised closer to them" but does not mention the failure of all parties at Holyrood to implement their pledges over the Wightman Bill to devolve powers from Edinburgh to local councils.

At least the rural North has a Highlands and Islands Board, a pledge to dual the A9 and the A96, has two national parks and received SNP support for a Green Port north of Inverness whilst Labour has pledged that the North as well as the West and the East will be regions of the revamped NHS.

For the rural south there is nothing – not a single crumb from Edinburgh and not a murmur from any SNP politician south of the M8. No board equivalent to that in the North, no dual carriageway for the A75, no national parks (yet Wales, with half the population of Scotland, has twice the number of national parks) and not a single Green Port yet Stranraer is one of the busiest ports in Scotland. Why does Anas Sarwar ignore the South of Scotland within the revised NHS structure. Is it to be handed over to Carlisle?

Time for every political party to redeem their pledges to the people of Scotland over the Wightman Bill and recognise that voters in the rural South are still part of Scotland.
Ian Moir, Castle Douglas

Fifteen-minute cities a pipedream

FIFTEEN-MINUTE cities sound like a great idea ("Conspiracy theory standing in way of vehicular progress", The Herald, February 24) but I fail to see how they can succeed in these straitened times.

The range of services and facilities that might be desirable, indeed necessary, if it is to work are the very same services and facilities that are disappearing all around us. Shops are closing at a faster rate than ever. Libraries, Post Offices and bank branches are closing. Even cash dispensing machines are going.

The village near where I live no longer has a GP surgery. Many people have no access to an NHS dentist or any dentist at all in some cases. Swimming pools, community centres and other leisure facilities are closing. Even pubs and restaurants are closing. Most public toilets have already closed.

How can this trend be reversed? Where will the money come from to fund this utopian dream? Will cash-strapped councils fund leisure facilities?

The concept might well work in very affluent areas where there is no shortage of disposable income but I fear that it can be nothing more than a pipe dream for less privileged communities.
David Clark, Tarbolton

Paper trail is necessary

REGARDING the correspondence on paperless bus tickets (Letters, February 21 & 23), if no ticket is issued then the passenger does not know what destination was being input. This means that an unscrupulous bus operator could enter a destination further than was requested hence then claiming more subsidy than what was due.
Jack Gray, Dunoon

Latin teaser

A PROPOS the current letters on past Latin classes, my first Latin lesson at Our Lady’s High, Motherwell, saw Mr McConville ask us first year boys to translate what he wrote on his chalk board: Caesar ad sum iam forte. Unsurprisingly, none of us 12-year-olds could do the business.
Tommy Boyd, Cumbernauld


Letters should not exceed 500 words. We reserve the right to edit submissions.