This week's Advertiser letters page includes views on what European countries can learn today from the Islay convoy disasters 100 years ago, and ill-mannered young people who are 'holding us all to ransom'.

To have your say on any local topic, just email your views to with 'Letter' in the subject line of your message.


It is now a hundred years since two ships, SS Tuscania and HMS Otranto, bringing troops and supplies from America, were sunk in separate convoy disasters in World War One. Ships travelled in groups or convoys for protection from enemy submarines and aircraft.

The Tuscania was torpedoed by a U-boat and the Otranto collided with another ship in a storm. The disasters happened near the Isle of Islay, just a 120 miles from Helensburgh. The Islay islanders managed to save many of the passengers lives but hundreds of young American soldiers were drowned.

The Tuscania was also carrying 36 million bullets and it is interesting to conjecture that if just one of those 36 million bullets had reached the Western Front in WW1, it might have killed a certain corporal Adolf Hitler and so prevented WW2.

Ships are, to this day, still being used to bring food and supplies to embattled countries but can be stopped by submarines and aircraft as in WW1 AND WW2. Currently Yemen is the blockaded country facing famine and starvation.

Countries in Europe realised this from hard experience and learned that it is better to be self sufficient and prepared in case there is another war. The answer was today’s European Union.

R.L. Mackie


I hope that I am man enough to apologise for the mistakes I make.

A few short weeks ago you published a letter in which I castigated the Scottish government for introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol. What good was that going to do for the health of the nation, I asked?

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, although the new legislation only took effect as of Tuesday, May 1, the Scottish Government has already been able to reduce the hospital bed stock by nigh on a whopping one thousand beds.

And things get even better. The innovative policy by which class numbers are bumped up to thirty means that yet more massive savings can be effected by closing schools and getting shot of superfluous teaching staff.

Roll on independence.

David W. Weir

Macleod Drive, Helensburgh

I travelled to Glasgow from Helensburgh on the 5.26pm train on Tuesday 1st May.

Before sitting down I passed a young man with his feet on the seat opposite. I said nothing but pointed to his feet, whereupon he moved them to the floor. I sat down, chatted to my companion and noticed that the feet had gone back up. I asked him to take them off the seat, as other travellers had to sit there. He moved them down.

Meanwhile there were four or five young people playing music so loudly that everyone else in that carriage was subjected to it. My companion and I moved further away from the noise.

When the ticket collector appeared we mentioned the feet on the seat and she told us that she had asked him to take them off the seat. That was the third time of telling.

The young people responsible for the noise had been asked for their tickets, but as there were none forthcoming they were asked to buy them, whereupon they refused.

The ticket collector seemed powerless to make them, or to put them off the train. Are we all going to be held to ransom by ill-mannered, arrogant young people?

A. Johnston


I welcome the contributions of Michael Thornley, vice-chair of the Friends of Geilston, and Fiona Baker, chair of the Friends of Hermitage Park, to the debate on the future of Geilston House and Gardens. However, I must disagree.

The National Trust Scotland (NTS) is not a friend of Geilston. Since they accepted ownership of the property in 1991, they failed to maintain the roof of the house. An asset became a liability and would cost £2 million to restore to its condition when NTS took over.

The furniture has been in storage in Leith over the past nine years at a cost of £90,000. And by a legal sleight of hand, the endowment of £2.9 million is now part of the NTS General Fund. NTS ownership has cost the property £4,990,000.

At the Cardross meeting, there were no indications that the interaction between The Friends of Geilston and NTS has been positive. NTS seeks to pass ownership of the entire property to a community trust with the exception of the two front fields.

I understand that this is a daunting prospect for the Friends of Geilston who would become the board of the Geilston Trust. But I see this as essential for the survival of the property. Joint ownership by two bodies with radically different views and priorities cannot work.

Given its history regarding Geilston, the NTS is in a weak bargaining position. They must pay to restore the house and they cannot retain possession of the two front fields.

They must account for the £2.9m endowment given by Miss Elizabeth Hendry to maintain the house and gardens. The new Geilston Trust will pay one pound for the property, the best investment they will make. An investment in the people of Cardross and the area.

Articles in the media this week have highlighted the importance of parks and green spaces in our mental and physical welfare. Savings to the NHS were estimated at £111 million.

Geilston is no ordinary park or green space. It is a jewel of the Victorian art of the garden.

A walk in a garden of this quality lifts the spirits, gladdens the heart and puts the world’s problems into perspective. Sit on a garden bench surrounded by nature supreme and you connect with the meaning of life. This magnificence needs some tender love and care.

Did that gym membership you signed up for after the New Year inspire you to new heights of health and fitness? Consider becoming a volunteer at Geilston. A low cost alternative to the sweat and pain of the gym!

John Black

Woodhollow House, Helensburgh

On Saturday we start Christian Aid week with a Fayre in the Parish Church Hall at 10am. Over the week there are many events, including a sponsored swim and a football tournament for the local schools.

But the work that produces the biggest reward for the Christian Aid Partners is the house-to-house collection. This is steadily getting less every year because of the ability of the church members to get around all the houses and flats of the town and area.

But if we are to help our global neighbours rise out of poverty and natural disaster we know we must do our very best.

This year our collectors may find some of you are angry about the accounts of deplorable behaviour from a group of individuals which has undermined the work of humanitarian organisations.

Please don't let the actions of a few individuals prevent you from helping provide vital support to people in places such as Haiti.

Help us help communities in 36 countries around the world transform their lives.

Rev Paul Jupp

Helensburgh Churches Christian Aid Committee

When I decided to try and lose weight I did not realize how alert one has to be.

I felt that the best way would be to buy low calorie pre-prepared meals. I was attracted by the offer of ‘3 for £10’ at the UK largest department store with food outlets.

Slimmers beware! While the counters are awash with signs promoting the 3 for £10 offer the shelves are stacked with items not part of the deal.

It is only at the checkout that one discovers that the promotion does not apply as some items are not at discount price. Is this a deliberate attempt to exploit customers trust? When I lectured in retailing many years ago I may have answered, ‘Yes’.

One of the products I purchased is called, ‘Count on Us’. I shall certainly be counting the prices carefully in future.

Finlay Craig


The recent report by the Resolution Foundation think tank recommending that Inheritance Tax (IHT) should be scrapped and replaced with another system demonstrates how it is a “marmite” tax.

Those who like it see it as a way of redistributing wealth. Whereas those who hate it view it as an additional tax paid on assets on which they have already paid income tax, or perhaps previously paid IHT when it was inherited.

During the tax year which ended in April, the Government collected just over £5.2 billion in IHT, an increase of 7 per cent from the previous year. Looking back to the depths of the recession in 2009/10 the IHT raised was just under £2.4bn. The IHT collected has more than doubled in the last eight years and is well in excess of the previous high point, £3.8bn, in 2007/08.

One of the undoubted reasons for the increased IHT paid has been the freezing of the 'nil rate' band, the first part of an estate on which there is no IHT. It has been fixed at £325,000 since 2009 and is scheduled not to change until 2020.

However as house prices continue to rise, even with the introduction of the residence nil rate band, the amount of IHT payable by even modest estates will continue to increase unless action is taken to increase the nil rate band.

As with all taxes careful planning can pay dividends but as the wealth gap appears to be increasing there is bound to be political tension between those who wish to see IHT, or a replacement for it, address and redistribute the wealth gap and those who believe that an individual should be free to pass their wealth on as they think fit, with minimum state intervention either by way taxation or restrictions on the ability to direct who receives their estate.

With the Office of Tax Simplification reviewing IHT, the next few years are therefore going to be interesting in the wealth tax arena.

John McArthur,

Head of Tax, Gillespie Macandrew