Category Archives: Letters To The Editor

Rubbish Dumping

I read with interest the Tiree Community Council update published in issue 659.

With regard to the paragraph on rubbish dumping and refuse collection, there is indeed a problem which has to be addressed.

The suggestion however that a commercial uplift for all holiday houses be made compulsory is inequitable. Not all second home owners let their homes and it is the multiple let properties which cause the problem.

Graeme Lees, Greenhill.

Ultra Marathon Kindness

I’ve just returned from running the Tiree Ultra and wanted to thank everyone on Tiree for being such incredible hosts.

Of course huge thanks to Will, and every member of his team who made it happen, stood out in the wind and rain to marshal, cheered us on and welcomed us back with such enthusiasm. I was also lucky enough to be the recipient of kindness from many other people on the island – when my bike fell apart 5 minutes after getting off the ferry, a gentleman whose name I didn’t catch kindly picked me up from the roadside and drove me to Millhouse Hostel.

David at the hostel went back to fetch my bike and gave it a good enough fix that I didn’t have to abandon it.

Neil, who just happened to be driving the right way at the right time, drove me back to the hostel after the run, and then gave me a lift to the ferry the next morning, which my weary legs were hugely grateful for!

Thanks of course to the landowners who let 200+ muddy feet tramp across their land and many other people who I probably haven’t even thought of but who helped it all happen. The ultra showcases not just the incredible natural beauty of the island, but also its amazing people – thank you!

Sue Gyford

A Predictable Response

Dear Editor,

Below, is my Oban Times Column of 06/07/17 in reply to James Laikie’s letter to this paper and his letter to the Oban Times.

“As I don’t wish to turn this column into the “Tiree Scalloping Weekly” I promise next week to be back to pleasant subjects like music, summer voyages and special people.

James Laikie’s reply to my piece of a few weeks ago was disappointingly predictable. Alongside some misinterpretation of my points, some fairly standard-type manipulation of my supposed opinions, some mistakes in analysing what I “appear to think”, an unfortunate tone, and reaffirming his lack of understanding, there were, however, some valid points.

There are, of course, many valid points on all sides of the scallop-dredging and wider marine-management issue and satisfactory resolution and a good future path will only come by engagement, education and compromise. The compromise of course must always come from all angles but small-scale, low-impact operators like Coinneach MacKinnon, whom James would like to see cease trading, should certainly not be bearing the brunt of the anti-scallop dredging campaigners.

The lack of knowledge and/or ability to differentiate between scales of fishing, types of ground worked and the vastly varying resulting impacts is a major problem with many anti-fishing lobbyists and this is displayed perfectly by Mr Laikie. To lump in this small one-boat business working on flat sand and gravel beds that have been harvested sustainably in this way for over 60 years with mass industrial fishing operations is very unhelpful for all sides and can be devastating to the lives of the individuals targeted. The jobs provided by this operation, as well as the knock-on economic benefits ashore and at sea may not be of significance on a national scale or to the Laikies, but to Tiree they are very important. Contrary to what Mr Laickie states, this issue has everything to do with “fragile island economies.”

The natural environment of the world and particularly that of the ocean is in a worrying state and action needs to be taken. Unfortunately, through ignorance and willful blindness, campaigners like the Laikies are wasting effort on easy but non-relevant targets. It is much easier to write a letter demonising a young fisherman on Tiree, than to take on big industry – fishing and otherwise – doing the real damage to the world’s oceans.

I would suggest that if Mr Laikie, as he claims, has the “utmost respect for Tiree’s fishermen….” then he might have engaged with them directly before writing letters of protest to local newspapers. Tiree is a small island and it would have been very easy to find out about the facts and individuals involved in his chosen subject of protest before putting pen to paper. If this courtesy had been shown originally then some column inches would have been saved and the fishermen – “sensible” or otherwise – referred to might have been more receptive to his views and he may have gained a different perspective on the issues.

I hope if James and Linda are on Tiree in the future when I am home we might meet over a meal of scallops to join in friendly debate. I will have sustainably dredged scallops from Coinneach and out of respect for their views I will offer them sustainably-dived ones. We may even ceremoniously swap during the evening and hopefully nobody will be eating parrot. “

Angus MacPhail

Dredging up Island Anger?

We were shocked by the hurt and anger – made very clear in your pages – that arose from our letter about finding a Orkney-registered scallop dredger in Milton Harbour.

One Tiree fisherman took it as a “patronising… personal attack“. It wasn’t intended as that, at all, but we nevertheless would like to apologise to him for the “cheek”. As long-term visitors, we have huge respect for all who make their living on Tiree, by land or by sea, and some idea of how difficult that can be.

It’s also true that, given the damage wrought over decades to banks in the Hebrides by big scallop dredgers, one small one isn’t going to make much difference now. Not so long ago, island boats would go out to the Scarinish banks to long-line for flat-fish, ling and even cod. That’s not possible, in part because of the dredging. But as Frazer MacInnes pointed out in his letter, we can’t turn the clock back.

Another fisherman wrote a lengthy attack on us, on ignorant tourists who question things and indeed on most marine science, in the Oban Times, which you also printed. This is the response that we’ve sent to that paper:

Angus MacPhail did a lot to illustrate the desperate PR problems of modern commercial fishing with his article “A Threat to Fragile Island Economies”. It firmly told off a tourist who dared to question scallop dredging for arrogance, ignorance, superciliousness, narrow-mindedness and a lack of education. Well… at least Mr MacPhail was listening. I’m that tourist.

With my wife, I wrote a short, polite letter to Tiree’s excellent An Tirisdeach newssheet where we questioned the arrival of a scallop dredger (from Orkney) at a Tiree pier. I had family links with Tiree, friends who are fishermen, and we have been visiting for many years. Along with all of marine science I know well enough what devastation the dredgers have wreaked there and around Britain.

Sadly, many small-scale fixed-gear fishermen and divers throughout Argyll and on the Clyde (where we live) have long been too nervous to speak up against this uniquely destructive fishing method. Someone needs to.

But Mr MacPhail says tourists cannot. We don’t have a right to do anything except take in the view. He ignores the fact that we are fishermen’s customers and that we are also tax-payers who subsidise commercial fishing – not least the improvement of fishing piers at Tiree and elsewhere. Mr MacPhail goes on. Marine science on dredging is not credible (if he disagrees with it). Britain’s most eminent professor of marine and fishing policy is simply “manipulating data” to support his “anti-fishing agenda”. There should be no Marine Protected Areas – fishermen can police themselves. Our view on dredging – which echoes that of the Marine Conservation Society, Scottish Environmental Link, Marine Stewardship Council, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and others, all science-based – is mere “moral posturing”. Sounds a little like Mr MacPhail pulled up Donald Trump in his trawl.

It’s not funny, though. This industry that has always shouted down those who dare voice concerns about a resource that belong to all of us. If Britain’s fishermen had proved good custodians of the sea and its contents over the last century, we might trust them a bit more. You only need follow the news to see how big scallop dredgers shamelessly flout the rules on gear and environmental protection – and we find out only about those that are caught.

This is little to do with “fragile island economies” – most large-scale scallop dredging is about big East Coast companies, big profits and a workforce many of whom are from abroad. I have the utmost respect for Tiree’s fishermen and all people across Scotland who make their living from the sea and land in a sustainable way – and I know many who do. I would suggest Mr MacPhail curb his temper and takes a measure of the width of his own mind. Don’t we all want pretty much what his father would have wanted – a healthy sea, recovering stocks and a fishing industry with hope for the future?

Dredging Response

In response to the tourists, James and Linda Laikie’s, cheeky letter which was a personal attack on me, my fishing boat Venus 11 K574 and type of fishing.

I find it very weird that people choose to holiday in a place and write a very patronising letter to the local newsletter complaining about the locals way of life when they should be enjoying themselves!

“The sensible folk like the Tiree fishermen”. That obviously implies that me trying to diversify and grow my business to be more multipurpose, i.e., creels and clams, is not sensible. Doing this gives me different fishing options at different times of year. Working mobile gear makes it easier for me to work a more structured week to be able to get more time ashore with my young family. Also I can tap into the very abundant resource that lies not even a mile off the shore in some places round the island, which for the last 20 odd years has been left to visiting boats from other parts of the country.

Scallop dredging is not a new thing on Tiree!! People often get carried away with this word ‘Sustainable’, and are very naive when it comes to listening to extremist conservationists, scientists and the like. Everything is sustainable if you look after it! If fishermen take all the stock off one bit of ground then there will be nothing left for next year. It is in our best interests to look after our own waters and the stocks within them. After all it is not just this year that we have to sustain our catches, but for the rest of our careers and that of the people coming behind us whether that be sons, daughters or new entrants.

This year we have opted-in voluntarily to increase the minimum sizes of the shellfish. Fishing is quite similar to crofting in some ways. You have to look after the ground to reap the benefits. Crofters turn the ground, sow crops and fertilize so they have sufficient food to keep livestock through the winter. Scallop dredging has been happening around the coast for decades and is very sustainable in its current state.

“Hand dived scallops are all that anyone who cares about the sea and its creatures should eat” – I hate to tell you but around 2% of the UK scallop fishery is caught by divers, the remaining 98% caught by dredges. Divers simply cannot supply the demand on their own. We all care about the sea and its creatures, but we also have to make a living. In my view conservation is best left to the stake holders of the ground and people who know then area.

In places like Tiree the weather is very much a form of natural conservation. When is it going to be time to start conserving the people and their way of lives?? Very soon every wee creature and organism both ashore and at sea will be conserved but there will be no people left in these areas to work them or contribute to the local economies.

For some more information look on the Fishing for the Truth website. This covers all types of fishing. http://www.fishingforthetruth.co.uk/environment/scallop-fishing

Well, when I eventually find the Parrot referred to in the Laikie’s letter I will be sure to offer him/her a tasty, sustainably dredged Tiree scallop to enjoy.

Regards

Coinneach MacKinnon

Skipper/Owner of Venus2 K574

Dreadful Dredging

Dear Editor,

How sad we were, on a recent visit to Milton Harbour on Tiree, to see an Orkney-registered scallop dredging boat tied up to the pier.

We do hope this supremely destructive form of fishing hasn’t been taken up by sensible folk like the Tiree fishermen and divers whom we’ve met over many years of visits.

Hand-dived scallops are all that anyone who cares about the sea and its creatures should eat. Ploughing up the seabed for them is – according to Professor Callum Roberts – like cutting down a forest to catch a parrot.

 

Tiree and Coll proposed Special Protection Area (SPA)

proposed_spaWe would like to draw people’s attention to the below proposed SPA around Tiree and Coll and the possible implications for Tiree’s economy.

Having met with four SNH representatives and one from Marine Scotland in Oban at the end of August we have concluded that this is an ill thought, under researched and un-necessary designation that appears to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. There has been no direct consultation with local marine stakeholders other than a token open day after the plans had been drawn up and submitted.

Unfortunately the less information that is given to the public, which is clearly one of their strategies, the easier it is to force designations like this through the back door. The proposal gives no clear indication of what management measures may be brought in should the designation go ahead. Any answers to our questions on this were preceded by the words, “we think”, “maybe”, or “possibly”. Not words which fill you with confidence when planning the future of your business.

Sadly the track record of SPA’s, SAC’s, and MPA’s that have already been designated round Scotland have been forced through with complete disregard for local views and concerns while consistently changing management measures once designated.

Two of the few success stories on the Island in the last twenty years have been Fishing and Watersports/ Marine Tourism. Two industries that this proposal could ultimately have grave implications for by bringing in needless management measures.

We urge people to read through the documents on the SNH website and submit a response at – http://www.snh.gov.uk/protecting-scotlands-nature/protected-areas/proposed-marine-spas/coll-and-tiree/ Highlighting their concerns at the lack of local communication, local consultation and disregard for the people and the Islands economy.

The consultation closes on the 26th September 2016.

Neil MacPhail, Coinneach MacKinnon

A Testament to Hard Work

letters to editor

Dear Madam

Following a most refreshing and enjoyable holiday on Tiree, I wanted to write to you to congratulate everyone involved in the very successful A’Bhuain celebrations which took place over the last week. This really was a fantastic event and its success is a testament to the hard work that the members of the organising committee and the local community have put in over several months. Everyone we spoke to expressed just how much they had enjoyed A’Bhuain, how well organised it was and what a fantastic range of events and activities were on offer. We really had a fantastic time. It is always great to visit Tiree and especially so when there is the opportunity to join in such an interesting and well-run community celebration which is brought about by the hard work, dedication and commitment of local people. I hope that all those involved have now had a chance to rest and relax after all their hard work, and please accept my thanks and congratulations for your efforts which mean so much to people who live on the island and in whose hearts Tiree holds a very special place.

Le gach deagh dhùrachd,

Dick Walsh Council Leader

A Memorable Event

letters to editor

Can I kindly use your paper to thank the committee of A’ Bhuain and everyone else who took part to make the week such a wonderful success. From the Church service on the Sunday to the sound of the pipes saying goodbye to the Clansman on the Saturday. Words cannot express the pride one felt at the sterling work that had gone on behind the scenes to bring such a feeling of satisfaction to everyone there .The air was full of laughter and happiness all week. The lovely lunches put on by the various organisations only served to make the place more friendly than ever. The fantastic opening ceremony with Gordon Connell and others especially the children was a great start for the week. The talks the outings, the concerts and ceilidhs added greatly to the enjoyment. And of course the weather!! Over the past 50years of my musical career I have been in lots of venues all over Britain even Windsor Castle. NONE OF THEM BEAT A’ BHUAIN! It even surpassed the Mòd!! I was proud to have been invited to take part and SO proud of you all WELL DONE. Mòran Taing Ethel NicChaluim.

Open For Business?

letters to editor

I can’t help feeling that Michael Russel MSP’s comments on the A83 Rest and Be Thankful (R&BT) stretch sound rather worrying.

It is all very well to deflect saying that “the key message must be that Argyll is open for business” and that “anyone who gives a different impression will do damage to the area” but does he really imagine that the almost weekly media reports we have heard and read throughout this winter concerning the closure or partial blocking of that road are somehow damaging to Argyll or in any way hushable? Hokum, it only damages those who govern while the road fails to deliver. Business people in Argyll and serving Argyll are not daft and will not believe the A83 is “open for business” when their vehicles physically cannot get through, especially when we have all recently witnessed the alternative route closed simultaneously thanks to flooding.

But this does not close Argyll, it is just an irritating nuisance caused by lack of proper management and investment. The reality is that a protective tunnel in the Alpine style, designed to shed all subsequent landslides and protect traffic should have been funded from the start. The only reason this did not happen, according to Keith Murray the Area Manager for Transport Scotland who wrote to me recently, was that “The (tunnel) option was, however, rejected for further consideration, since similar benefits can be achieved with other options in the study at lower cost and with a lower potential environmental impact.” He also went on to use the seemingly mandatory “Argyll remains open for business” mantra so perhaps he has been advised by the incumbent political propaganda department.

There are several important points that need picked up from these statements. The unfit for purpose situation we are forced to tolerate at the R&BT is the result of cheap scrimping by governing politicians, much the same as the Forth Road Bridge maintenances that were reportedly timeously missed, except that the Argyll – Glasgow connection clearly matters less in our governers minds than the Fife – Edinburgh connection. You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, nor can you protect the A83 traffic with a mesh net and the injured people in the two vehicles caught in the most recent landslide are thankfully living proof of that fact. ‘Similar benefits’ to those that would be afforded by the construction of a permanent tunnel cannot in fact be achieved by the more affordable methods currently adopted. Fact. Also, nobody gives a tuppeny hoot, in a world where the Chinese buy over forty thousand new cars every day, whether the cheaper R&BT options currently plumped for come at a “lower potential environmental impact”. Fact. Providing a permanent, fail-safe solution to the everlasting landslide problem at the R&BT is a practical problem that no politician can solve.

This is a matter for a top drawer engineer and the only action the politicians and high ranking civil servants need to take is to make sure the required funding is in place for the real solution to be built. I think we all now know that the more skilled and successful the politician, the less we can believe what they want us to believe. We can only hope they come to their senses before we vote them back out of government.

 

we don’t want fewer closures, we want no closures

Note that both Michael Russel and Keith Murray are keen that we should be impressed by the amount of money that has been spent on the cheaper options effected to date. Mr Russel states “over £40 million on the A83 so far – there were fewer closures than previous years”. Well the winter’s not finished yet. And Mr Murray “over £48 million maintaining the A83 since 2007 -this includes £9 million at the R&BT”. Surely not much in an era when we can spend £776 million on the controversial Edinburgh trams and £414 million on a questionable new building for the Scottish parliament? The trouble with that line of argument is that many of us don’t believe the cost saving really will achieve anything worthwhile in the long run and we don’t want fewer closures, we want no closures. That will require the expensive tunnel option, then the A83 will really be ‘open for business’.

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