THIS week's readers' letters include your views on councillors' plans to 'meet and greet' local groups, on smart meters, on the future of the Vale of Leven Hospital and more.

To have your say on any local issue email your views to – please include your name, address and a daytime contact number in case we need to check any details at short notice. Happy writing...

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I WAS surprised to hear that there had been a ‘ meet and greet’ initiative launched by local councillors.

The Helensburgh and Lomond Highland Games received no invitation to attend any session, which I find disturbing. We bring in more visitors to the town along with the other Games in the area.

We are fully inclusive of local schools and clubs and gives a full day of entertainment. Is this a case of not being a chosen community group?

Sephton MacQuire (Chair, Helensburgh & Lomond Highland Games)

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Mr McLaren’s letter about smart meters (Advertiser Comment, September 28) refers to the compatibility aspect of these meters. Perhaps the following information may be helpful.

I received a letter from my energy supplier (not one of the “big six” but the one who has the highest rating by Which? Consumer magazine for customer service) inviting me to apply for a smart meter. As I have read numerous articles on the subject of first-generation smart meters, I phoned to ask my supplier when they would be supplying second generation meters.

I did not want to be supplied with a meter which would not be compatible with the Data and Communications Company (DDC) network which is to cover the whole of Britain.

I was advised to wait until the end of next January to apply for a smart meter as it was expected that second generation meters would be available from February. I shall phone to check that.

Which? magazine suggests that should someone who already has a smart meter and wishes to change suppliers, asks the new provider if their system is compatible.

I hope this information will help anyone thinking of applying for a smart meter.

Maxine Fletcher, Helensburgh

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The future of the Vale of Leven Hospital remains in the balance as all of the political and financial power is on the south side of the river with Paisley Royal Infirmary and Inverclyde. This year’s NHS Scotland budget saw £19 million going to Inverclyde while the Vale of Leven Hospital got £3.5m.

The decline of the Vale of Leven Hospital started with the Labour government of over 10 years ago. There was a policy to close A&E units across Scotland’s hospitals and the Vale of Leven unit was one of the casualties.

Since the closer of the A&E unit at the Vale of Leven Hospital all serious emergency cases have to go to Paisley. Ambulance staff responding to emergency calls make the assessment on the scene and the patient is taken to the Vale of Leven patient assessment unit if the injury is minor, or Paisley if it is more serious. Doctors at the Vale patient assessment unit make the same decision for walk in patients and minor injuries are treated at the Vale while serious cases are transferred to Paisley.

For the population of West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute this has serious consequences. 180,000 people face a long ambulance journey across the Erskine Bridge for treatment in Paisley. Any delay at the Erskine Bridge requires a detour through the Clyde Tunnel. The hard truth is that the political decision to close the Vale of Leven A&E unit has cost lives and will cost lives in the future. Everyone living north of the River Clyde is at risk.

Since 2007, the SNP Government has mismanaged NHS Scotland, first under Nicola Sturgeon as Health Minister and now Shona Robinson. There is no political capital left to reverse the decline of services at the Vale of Leven. Some local action is necessary. All of the protests have fallen on deaf ears.

Bold action is needed. I am therefore announcing the formation of The John/Helen Black Memorial Trust with the express intention of restoring full A&E services to the Vale of Leven Hospital.

The Trust will raise £500,000. The money will be used to hire five anesthesiologists. These medical specialists will provide 24-hour, seven-day coverage and the Vale of Leven patient assessment unit will become a fully staffed A&E unit.

The Vale of Leven Hospital will be independent of the RAH in Paisley and maternity services will be restored to the best level of professional practice.

£500,000 is a lot of money.

It represents £2.80 for every resident north of the Clyde at risk from the ambulance journey over the Erskine Bridge to Paisley.

In 2007/8, thirty five patients died as a result of a C-Diff outbreak at the Vale of Leven. Nicola Sturgeon was the health minister at the time. She delayed the official inquiry in the outbreak by five years and the cost of the inquiry was £10m.

Senior counsel to the inquiry were limited to £200 an hour and 40 hours per week. The lawyers were earning £8,000 a week from our local misfortune.

The conclusion of Lord Maclean’s inquiry was that we should wash our hands entering a hospital ward. Only a group of lawyers could take a total of seven years earning extortionate amounts of money to reach this obvious conclusion.

£10m would have supported A & E services at the Vale of Leven for 20 years.

The effort starts today. Let’s save the Vale of Leven Hospital!

John Black, Helensburgh (via email)

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I WAS very pleased to recently join the We Believe in Israel group which is the UK’s fastest growing pro-Israel movement.

‘We Believe in Israel’ has also launched a new network for the under 35s – Young We Believe in Israel. Incredibly ‘We Believe in Israel’ now has more than 16,000 activists campaigning for Israel across the UK after recruiting more than 8,000 activists in two years.

It is my belief that a pro-Palestinian stance has been unfairly dominant in the Scottish Parliament and this must change. Israel is a model of stability with the rise and fall of governments in the Middle East, the nation of Israel stands alone as a stable force in the region.

This is not just their battle against radical Islamic terrorism, but recognizing that Israel demonstrates a force of stability in their economy and in their humanitarian efforts.

With other regimes, it is often difficult to build lasting relationships due to the ever-changing tensions in the region. The nation of Israel has been a stable force for good in the region. Israel is the region’s only true functioning democracy and our United Kingdom’s most reliable ally in the Middle East.

As I have stated many times before as an active member of the Conservative friends of Israel group and now a member of the We Believe in Israel group I hope to see a continuation of closer working relationship with our United Kingdom and our long standing ally Israel.

Cllr Alastair Redman (Conservative, Kintyre and the Islands), via email

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Recently the country rallied behind our brave ex-service men and women as they once again represented our country and battled for gold at the Invictus Games in Toronto. It has been great to see our veterans getting the attention they deserve and shining a light on some of the issues they have faced since leaving the military.

If there is one issue that stood out to me at this year’s Games, it was mental health. I was so impressed by the number of athletes suffering from PTSD who stepped up and were willing to share their stories, which has not always been the case. People like Matt Neve, a 32-year-old ex-RAF driver from Wales, who talked about how sport helped his recovery and gave him a release from mental health issues he has endured for over a decade.

The RAF Benevolent Fund stepped in and provided Matt with his archery equipment, which gave him something to focus on other than his PTSD and helped him switch off mentally. Matt placed Gold at this year’s Games.

While Invictus has opened the door for many veterans with mental health issues, sadly there are still plenty suffering in silence.

Tuesday, October 10 was World Mental Health Day – another opportunity to encourage people to speak out about their mental health issues and get the support they need. This year’s theme was Mental Health in the Workplace. According to the Mental Health Foundation, one in five people in the workplace experience a mental health condition. The armed forces are no different.

At the RAF Benevolent Fund, the RAF’s leading welfare charity, we have been helping the RAF Family with mental health issues for many years. We have also long worked with and financially supported Combat Stress, the leading veterans’ mental health charity. More recently we have been working with Anxiety UK to address issues head on, providing a helpline, therapy sessions and self-help materials.

Our partnerships have been working: of those who have accessed Anxiety UK’s therapy services to date, 60 per cent have shown reliable recovery and 90 per cent have reliably improved their levels of anxiety, stress and anxiety based depression.

While there is still a stigma associated with mental health, the situation has improved drastically from my days in the RAF, when mental health was rarely mentioned. However, with campaigns like World Mental Health Day and the Invictus Games, I am confident that we will soon reach a point where people will no longer feel that they have to suffer in silence.

If you know of someone who might benefit from our support please visit: for more information.

Air Vice-Marshal David Murray (Controller, RAF Benevolent Fund)