I was shocked to learn this morning that a young man of 24 died in a collision on the A859, Stornoway to Tarbert road, at the turn-off for Arnish Point. Five other people were taken to hospital with injuries, one of them was seriously hurt. My sympathies go out to friends and family of the deceased. A report on this incident will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal. Because of this, and on account of the on-going investigation into the cause of the collision, I cannot stress strongly enough that it is wholly inappropriate for me or anyone else to speculate.
Road conditions in Lewis at the moment appear to be atrocious (I'm off island at present), and I was severely critical of the council in yesterday's post. I think we want to bear in mind though, that the lack of gritting in the island is not wholly to blame on Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. It is not customary for me to stand up for our council, but on this occasion I am turning my fire on a higher authority: the Scottish Government. One of the sources of income of any council in Scotland (or indeed the UK) is the council tax. The Scottish Government has not allowed councils in Scotland to raise council tax bills since the current administration came to power in 2007. The result is that council budgets have grown tighter and tighter, and cuts are having to be made.
Cutting back on gritting is a bad choice and I maintain my criticism of the Comhairle for that. However, the council tax freeze appears to have been a populist move on the part of the Scottish Government and I'm sure everybody will have relished in the non-elevation of their council tax bills since '07. I wonder if that joy will continue, now that we're all slithering along roads and pavements, either on foot or in vehicles - because the council no longer has the funds to do the gritting.