Friday, 29 May 2009

Once upon a time in the Western Isles

Living on a small, rainlashed, windswept, and bible-bashed island, it’s easy (especially on days when all three persist at once) to forget you are not the only one with such problems, and not even on the only island where they exist.
I was touched by a letter in this week’s National Secular Society Newsline from one Elma MacLeod. She’s a wee bit stressed, and I can’t blame her.
I thought the least I could do is reprint her letter, in the hope someone might send her a helicopter hidden in a bible…or something!
Elma writes:

"Finally – The Western Isles has appeared in Newsline. I had a telephone conversation with you last year about the local council here and its Sunday policies.
Now Caledonian MacBrayne is being attacked by the local hooligans from the Lords Day Observance Society. You told me that you could help with some publicity to expose the intolerable situation that goes on in these islands regarding the religious stronghold of a very vocal, aggressive and quite frankly bonkers minority. Please, please help us now. This needs to be told to the whole country.
British soldiers have died in the Middle East while trying to liberate a people from intolerance and religious fanaticism. We, here in the Western Isles of Scotland, are not allowed to swim in the local pool on Sundays, we are not allowed to play golf on our local golf course on Sundays, the cinema is closed on Sundays and we are not allowed to travel to another town across the minch for a day out with the family on Sundays. An official from the local Lord's Day Observance Society, the Rev I D Campbell said last week "no one has the right to come and go off this island as they please". This is not right. We need help. All we ask is a few basic leisurely pursuits.
The Western Isles Council behaves more like the Vatican than a local authority in a small island town. The councillors have lost sight of their actual role. Instead of being public servants, they behave like public masters. The council has its own laws and makes up its own commandments. The 11th commandment actually originated in Lewis and it is "thou shalt not take thy children to any of the local council run green areas on the Sabbath otherwise one of the local councillors will come out and cut thy football with a knife." Is there anything you can do? Please help – it's nearly Sunday Arrghh!!"

Poor woman. Living on the Western Isles sounds like being trapped in a lift with George Bush and Billy Graham - forever.

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