AS a Helensburgh resident who lives in Colquhoun Square, I would like to vent my anger in regards to the market being held in Colquhoun Square on Saturday (there was also one held a few weeks ago).

The company that puts the stalls together did not finish until 11.45pm on Friday, which I find despicable considering the amount of residents living in the square.

I can’t believe that Argyll and Bute Council have allowed not one but two markets to be held in Helensburgh recently when we have the highest rates of positive Covid cases in Argyll and Bute.

Are the stall holders really bringing necessary items to the town which can’t be bought in our local shops?

Seemingly there was a butcher who had travelled from Perth. Is he really allowed to travel that distance? He also may have taken much needed business from our two very good local butchers.

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This is just one example.

When information about the market was posted a few weeks ago on a local community page on Facebook, it was said that no one would be allowed in the market without a face mask.

Well, I would say only around a third of people had masks on.

I do not find it to be the right time to have a market anywhere during the Covid virus.

Are there any other towns in Argyll and Bute that are having markets? Or is it just our town that is enticing locals to meet in larger numbers than should be the case, and traders to travel from other areas in Scotland?

Ian McQuire

Colquhoun Square, Helensburgh

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The Advertiser contacted Stall Hire Scotland, which holds the licence for the Colquhoun Square market, for comment on Mr McQuire’s letter, and were referred on to Vivien Dance from the Helensburgh and Lomond Chamber of Commerce.

Mrs Dance said in response: “One year on from when the first case of Covid-19 was found in Scotland, there is no doubt that all types of businesses have suffered from the devastating impact of the virus and the measures which have had to be taken, setting the saving of lives in conflict with livelihoods.

“It distresses all of us in business that shops remain closed in our town and we all empathise with the fact that it is still really tough for many of them and we look forward to trading again with them in the not too distant future.

“The comments from the resident, who has chosen to vent his anger on a business that is legitimately trading and running the market in the square on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, are not shared by many local businesses nor residents, but we all understand that any opinions that are expressed about our town will generate mixed responses.

“The Chamber of Commerce was the body that actually initiated regular markets in the square and a few years ago agreed that the licence for this venture be transferred to Stall Hire Scotland.

“Since then this business has consistently provided the regular market, in all weathers, and have delivered one of the objectives of the revamp of the town square, that it should be used for such events.

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“The Saturday market is very popular and brings footfall to the town which has a knock-on impact on our local shops.

“For example, the owners of many of our shops who are allowed to be open told me today that they benefitted from extra customers on Saturday, all of whom were enjoying the fact that there was a bit of normality in the town with the market there as usual.

“The issue of whether the market should be in the square just now should be taken up with the Scottish Government. The market is trading within the current regulations. The market is licensed, it is Covid compliant, it is risk assessed, it is checked regularly by the local authority to ensure this is the case.

“For example, last Saturday an environmental health officer made what is a regular visit to the site and raised no issues with the organisers.

“On the anger over non wearing of face masks by members of the public, the Government has not made it compulsory for everyone to wear face masks outdoors, just the same as when people are queuing outside local shops – some are masked, others are not.

“Personal choice on masks in open spaces is within the current regulations and this is reflected by the market customers as they move between stalls.

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“All the traders who take a stall are complying with the current regulations and this is confirmed in the paperwork they are required to submit.

“The criticism of the lateness of the hour in erecting the stalls on Friday evening needs some clarity but is understandable. The erection of the infrastructure which involves banging and noise was finished by 10pm and the stall covers, which is a quiet operation, were put on after that, after a delay to let the wind settle.

“However, a representative from Stall Hire Scotland confirmed to me today that if this is of concern to local residents, they will finish by 10pm and leave other work to the next morning, as the company is keen to ensure that the good relationship they have enjoyed for many years in Helensburgh continues and is mutually beneficial.

“The market is not enticing people to meet in unsafe numbers. It really is grossly unfair to accuse local residents of risking the lives of others by visiting the market.

“As with all activities at the moment the majority of the population are following the rules, being considerate and doing their utmost to keep others around them safe so we can emerge from this nightmare of an existence as soon as possible.

“Thankfully, the latest data is beginning to show that we are making real progress towards beating this deadly disease, and then everyone who wishes can resume their contribution to the town, in the same way as some are able to do just now in line with regulations.”

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I WAS surprised and somewhat dismayed to read your article in last week’s Advertiser on the proposed forestry development in Rhu and Shandon.

Contrary to your report, the predominant species, Sitka spruce and Douglas fir, proposed to be planted on the sites in question are not “native”.

The proposed planting is just another area of blanket forestry, with only a very small nod to the environment in the form of a few truly native trees.

The Government guideline of 35 per cent native species has been ignored in favour of more “commercial” species which have been shown to be detrimental to biodiversity.

Also ignored have been the objections raised by Rhu and Shandon Community Council and residents who have been denied the basic courtesy of a reply.

Maybe it’s time we all listened to the likes of Sir David Attenborough and “put a value on nature that goes far beyond money”.

Michael D’Arcy

Via email

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AFTER this devastating year of lockdowns and Covid-19 pandemic we are faced with the challenge of catching-up a whole generation of schoolchildren. For the last 12 months they have suffered from a lack of socialisation, been fearful of touching, warned not to kill their grannies, and deprived of friendships.

Is it any wonder that we risk many of our children struggling with mental health problems?

We must do all we can to help our children and the education system bounce back stronger and more resilient.

How can we expect most teachers who have been working tirelessly throughout the lockdown to just jump back into school as though nothing has happened?

They will need support, additional resources and funding like never before.

Most people think they have working knowledge of teaching, but now sadly realise how stressful it is to cope with having their own children at home trying to re-educate themselves in maths, English, history, geography, the sciences and the myriad of other subjects now covered.

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Some parents are fortunate enough to be able to provide computers, access to broadband and have sufficient education themselves to somewhat cope. Many others have been less fortunate.

We must all strive to rebalance the situation and ensure the Scottish Government addresses the inequality of resources and ensures that teachers and health workers can access all the funding required to make the future bright for all our children.

We also need our communities to engage with children, teachers, schools and education experts to help support an acceleration in learning and physical and mental development for these impacted children.

They say it takes a village to raise a child – well, we need both a step-change in funding and that village more than ever!

Henry Boswell (Liberal Democrat by-election candidate in Helensburgh and Lomond South) Darleith House, Cardross

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