Category Archives: Letters To The Editor

An Open Letter To The Community

Dear all,

…the cycle continues until there comes a day when there is no secondary education on Tiree

I have been a member of the Parent Council and PTA for the last decade. The one issue that has consistently risen over that time has been the funding and security of the Music post. I do not need to tell anyone who truly knows the island how important this post is. Tiree continues to produce musicians of national renown thanks to the commitment of Joyce MacInnes and the Music Club, We now have the opportunity, through our community turbine, to secure this post and have a post which reflects the time required to ensure all our children, primary and secondary, have an opportunity to access music from an early age.

I have discussed this with parents, the education authority, Trust Directors and the wider community. As time is moving on and I want to submit a formal application to the Windfall, I need to ensure that this proposal has the majority support of the community. As a community we have to take a spoonful of reality where our school is concerned. If we do not intervene to enhance the post it will be advertised at 0.5, a half-time post!

The proposal involves a partnership with Argyll & Bute Council with the personnel management of the process handled by them. I am not naïve and I am sure there will be negotiation to ensure we receive the best possible outcome for our children by part funding the post.

Now, before the cry goes up about funding teachers posts, here is my argument. We have a small roll of secondary children – this year it is under 30. This is one of the reasons that we have fewer subject choices. Less children equates to less teachers which equates to less subjects. This will not change until the roll rises. There begins a cycle – parents not satisfied with the choices for their children, the educational experience becomes limited because of the system and structure of the educational model… Already I am hearing of parents choosing to educate their children elsewhere, therefore when these children go the school roll drops further, so we have even less teachers and even less subjects, and the cycle continues until there comes a day when there is no secondary education on Tiree and Argyll & Bute Council did not even have to discuss closure because we managed to do that all by ourselves!!!!!

We are not talking about a huge amount of money. In relative terms that means we are looking for 7.5% of Tilley’s earnings. The comments people have contributed have been very thought provoking.

One comment is that we have plans, funded by Tilley, for new buildings and expansion of existing buildings, yet as a community we are happy to send our children to one of the worst buildings on the island.

Another comment was that we should not fund teaching posts until the school is restructured. What I have learned, often painfully, is that trying to introduce new ideas into an entrenched system is similar to trying to swim up Niagara Falls!!! The structure of the school will be changed because there is a move away from the traditional model.

The comment was made that if we fund one post we may end up funding other subjects. Where does this stop? Well, we have to start somewhere and if the outcome of funding teachers is that we may end up with a school that attracts families and even becomes a centre of excellence, then why not?

If you support this proposal please drop in at the surgery, stop me on the road, and tell me your views.

Kate MacCallum

In Appreciation

letter to the editor

As someone privileged to have been kindly invited to attend the recent celebration at An Talla of the legendary Tiree sea Captain, Donald MacKinnon of Heanish, I would like to thank all concerned, in particular Angus and Mary MacLean, whose untiring efforts and hard work made this memorable event possible, Lloyd and Robin Pitcher who travelled all the way from Australia and made a wonderful and informative presentation on the related families, Dr John Holliday, An Iodhlann and An Talla for their valuable support, and the 60 or so attendees on the night who came to pay homage to a famous son of their Island.

My wife and I – neither of whom have any connection with Captain Donald MacKinnon of the fast tea-clipper TAEPING – or Tiree, although both originally islanders ourselves, were captivated by your beautiful Island and the hospitality of its people – a big thank you everyone – moran taing!

Angus and Frances MacKinnon Troon, South Ayrshire and Eriskay, Western Isles

RET Concerns

letters to editorLast week it was reported in An Tirisdeach that RET will be made permanent for Tiree; what was not in the report was that, with this announcement came the shocking news that commercial vehicles will be included.
This will mean lorry fares increasing by as much as 55%; this in real terms means an unavoidable significant increase on the price of goods brought from the mainland for the people of Tiree and Coll. If the eligibility criteria for the volume discount scheme used for commercials prior to RET is changed to allow Tiree hauliers to qualify the increase will be reduced to 33%, better but still totally unacceptable.
The savings from RET over the last 3 years, have allowed island hauliers to keep delivery costs stable in the face of escalating operating costs (such as fuel, insurance, maintenance, CPC training etc.). Removal from RET will make haulage costs unmanageable. We must campaign to get this decision reversed. Neither the hauliers nor our customers can bear such an increase and if nothing is done there is no doubt that this will seriously impact on the haulage, crofting, fishing and construction industries on Tiree and Coll as well as putting up the cost of delivering general goods to the island’s residents including fuel and groceries.
If you would like to help us lobby for commercial vehicles to remain in the RET scheme let us know and we will give you the appropriate contact details.
Iain MacKinnon I A MacKinnon Haulage


Tiree and the proposed Wind Farm

letters to editor

Dear Sir –

I have recently been enjoying the beauties of Tiree but I live in Chile in South America where recently many major installations for providing energy of different kinds have been carried out by foreign firms.

Without wishing to appear jingoistic, I think it is important to consider the fact that foreign firms may not have the same involvement and concern for the natural beauties of a location in which they are usually working for a fairly short-term project with immediate profits, and no residential or long term interest in the preservation of natural beauty.

In Chile a large dam was built by outside investors in an area of tourism and natural beauty. After about ten years it ceased to function well because of silt and rocks which are a natural part of the rivers there, so another is planned. The company who put in the first dam made their profits and left. A gas pipeline was next installed through the Andes from Santiago into Argentina, against great local opposition and bringing much upheaval and destruction (though more short term since it was buried in the ground). It was deemed essential to bring gas to Santiago. After less than 5 years of functioning Argentina had no gas to sell to Chile and it lies empty.

Now a tremendous hydroelectric scheme is about to begin and will certainly drain a beautiful valley – the only resource for the 6 million Santiago inhabitants who wish to leave the capital for short trips at weekends. There are said to be many incalculable probable consequences. All these schemes are funded entirely or in part by foreign investment – Spanish, North American and Canadian among others. The failure after a few years does not affect their profits which are linked to building and installation. The local opposition is often reduced by promises of jobs and investment in the locality. The fact has been that apart from a few unskilled jobs and some lavish spending to ensure local support beforehand, the main jobs are filled by labour brought in from outside. Meanwhile tourism, which is the mainstay and almost sole source of employment in these particular areas, is expected to gradually wither and perhaps die as the countryside is either ruined by drought from having the water taken from higher up the mountain valley, or covered by water in the case of dams, or by immense pylons with other schemes in areas of natural beauty.

I hope that the experience in Tiree will be a better one. I think it is important to try to find out the unexpected consequences of any major impact on a place and its environment as well as the obvious ones.

Yours,
Rose Deakin, Santago, Chile

RE: update #13

letters to editor

Dear Editor,
I am writing to you in reply to the “Argyll Array Project Update No 13.”

Visual Impact Vs Socio-Economics.

I find it hard to believe that no one at SPR has highlighted any connection between the visual impact and a negative impact on the Socio Economic situation on Tiree. As we all know tourism brings a significant amount of sustainable income and related employment to the Island.

After speaking to tourists over the summer period, many of them value the peace, unspoiled scenery and rural environment that makes Tiree such a unique holiday destination. How does SPR intend to convince us that tourism will not be affected by the erection of this unprecedented sized wind farm so close to our shores? Will any spin off benefits merely fill the void caused by the negative impact of the development? How many people may become unemployed through a decline in tourism? Perhaps rather than another non-committal response, SPR might give us some firm assurances about how they intend to address and reassure us on this particular matter in the very near future.

Visualisations.

While SPR prefers to dismiss or undermine anyone who questions the accuracy of the visualisations they recently produced, I would still like to seek further assurance on this topic.

Some worrying points are that their images were taken at a time of day when the light was most favourable to hide the impact of the turbines. Information from the Met office confirms that later in the same day the visibility was greatly superior.

I also noted that in none of their visualisations did any of the turbines appear in the foreground. All of the turbines appear on the the horizon or further away. The picture taken from Sandaig has a turbine at 6 km distance but it appears on the horizon, however a conservative estimate of the height from which the picture was taken puts the horizon at 10 km away. Is this a deliberate mistake by SPR to reduce the visual proximity of their development?

Although the visualisations in their present form may be shocking to many, can SPR actually convince us that the reality will be no worse? SPR’s is, to date, unwilling to publish these visualisations on their website (after numerous requests) this along with the disclaimer which seems to appear on most SPR publications to the community (relieving SPR of any legal responsibility on their accuracy) does nothing to reassure me.

Personal Viewpoint.

Although throughout this letter I have expressed my own personal point of view I would like to make a comment on the ‘Updates’ in the An Tirisdeach from the SPR Representative.

In the last update I felt that rather than feel like I was getting factual responses from SPR, I was reading the personal opinions from the SPR Representative. I believe it would be more beneficial for those of us who are closely following the developments, to feel like comments and feedback are being addressed directly from the senior management at SPR and information in the An Tirisdeach is coming directly from ‘ the SPR decision makers’ too.

Speculation from the SPR Representative on issues like the ‘ main view’ of public reaction to the visualisations, I believe should not be made in this official capacity when the community is hoping for accountable/factual responses from SPR instead.

Finally, the first item in the “Update” is a desire from the community to see something in return for any negative impact. Indicating that most people are expecting that that wind farm is going to have a negative impact on the island.

The worrying fact is that in the same section SPR Representative says, “we are committed, however, to responsibly discussing potential benefits with the island as soon as they are identified”. On this basis, is this an admission that presently SPR does not currently see any guaranteed benefits for the Island as some of us already fear?

Best regards,
Adam Milne

Speed Kills

letters to editor

Unfortunately Constable Tanner’s message in the local paper about the speed of cars in Crossapol missed out an important detail.

At the time of the message two families had lost 5 cats in the past 18 months after the cats were struck by vehicles and killed. Sadly, last Friday, yet another beautiful cat was killed just past the council offices on the Scarinish side.

I don’t believe the drivers are not seeing the animals. Speed is definitely the killer – the poor creatures don’t have a chance. If any driver does strike a domestic pet, he or she should have the decency to stop and try to find its owner.

I would ask Constable Tanner to look again at doing something to address the problem of vehicles being driven at excessive speed on Tiree roads – specially going through villages.

Sheena Berlie.

Regarding The Array

letters to editor

I am writing this to express my concern at the way in which the proposed Tiree Array is being forced through the consenting process. It alarms me that Scottish Power Renewables want to get consent to develop their project before they actually release the details of what they are planning. I find it hard to believe that they have got as far as they have with their research and planning without being able to give us the least bit of information on what they are going to do. The “Argyll Array Project Update No8-May 2011” only reinforces the point that they are intent in keeping us in the dark until they get consent.

I find it strange that the government would even consider giving them consent without having detailed plans from them. How can individuals, group etc make any sort of informed decision without even the most basic facts. I have spoken to a lot of people who are undecided about the project and will make their minds up when they have some more facts. The harsh reality is that there will be no facts until Scottish Power Renewables have got their consent and by that time your views will count for nada. The time to make your mind up is now before it is too late, and in light of the fact that they are not disclosing any information you have to say no. It is up to us to force the hand of this huge multinational company by saying no now and force them to come clean as to what they have got planned.

When you look at the groups that make up the master planning process you have to question some of the motives and who is actually going to be there to look after the interests of Tiree and surrounding areas. It is obvious how SPR want the planning to go, least amount of cost and hassle to them. Highlands and Islands Enterprise have poured millions and millions of pounds into the turbine factory in Campbelltown. Argyll and Bute council have invested a reported £12 million into Campelltown harbour to make the turbine factory. The Crown Estates are the body that will be taking the money for effectively renting out the sea bed to the developer and are set to make millions from wind farms.

Scottish Natural Heritage have indicated in a document on offshore wind farms that they believe wind farms should be at least 35km offshore to reduce the visual impact on Scotland’s pristine seascapes, however SPR and other developers have ignored this advise and carry on regardless. So that leaves the Trust to represent the views of the people of Tiree. No disrespect to the Trust but in light of the bodies they are up against their voice will be lost at the negotiating table.

I would be very grateful if SPR could clarify what the possible implications of the Argyll Array would be on public services. In earlier scoping documents they stated that they did not intend to invest any money in schools, medical facilities or roads on Tiree as this was the responsibilty of local government. So would it be fair to assume therefore that the Array will have a negitive effect on public services?

It has also been reported that if SPR were forced into paying a levy on generated power this money would by default be paid to Argyll and Bute council. How much of this money would filter its way down to public services on Tiree and how much get swallowed up by A+B’s budget deficit? It would be very helpful if SPR could clear up this issue before any more rumours start.

Now is the time to say no. If we wait for any clear facts and information from SPR until we take a stance it will be far too late. Until they have set promises in stone we as a community have to say no. If the Array is going to go ahead we can only maximise any compensation by fighting. Remember there is a big difference between compensation and benefit and until SPR can prove otherwise this development is not going to bring any benefits to the island.

Adam Milne, Crossapol, Tiree


Hannah Brimelow’s recent letter about the Tiree Array offers wise advice from someone who knows at first hand how things work in the world of high finance and giant corporations.

As she points out, while the island is mulling over promises from Iberdrola, there are deals being done and consents being pursued. Once consent is granted, there will be no practical way to stop the developers from ditching those promises and riding roughshod over the island’s wishes.

So the message from Hannah is that there is effectively only one way for Tiree to have any control or influence over what will happen to it, and that is by coming out in opposition to the granting of consent. Without that opposition the island has no worthwhile authority to make demands.

Whether for or against the Array, I expect most of us would want to force Iberdrola to put the island’s best interests up there alongside its own corporate profit. If we think that they are doing that already, I fear we may be mistaken.

Peter Isdell-Carpenter, Milton.


Dear ma’am
The No Tiree Array (NTA ) Group is formalising its membership, and has drawn up its Constitution. This is essential to take NTA forward as a consultee within the Licensing and Consenting Process. For full details go to www.no-tiree-array.org.uk , then click on “Constitution” in the main Menu.

The membership donation is £1.00 . To make this donation via the website simply click on the ” Paypal Donation ” button, and follow the instructions. You do not require a PayPal account to process this payment.

For those without internet access and/or would prefer to make a donation by cheque then please do so by making your cheque payable to:- No Tiree Array and send it to me at the address below.

NTA has a provision in the Constitution for “sympathisers ” who for all sort of reasons may not wish to become a member but wish to register their support. NTA requests that where there is more than one potential member in the same household, that they make separate donations. That way NTA will be able to keep an accurate membership list.

NTA has, to date, been funded by its founding core members. Your donations will , amongst other initiatives,allow NTA to produce a quarterly newsletter, and upgrade its website. We look forward to your support of NTA .

Yours faithfully, Robert Trythall , Aird, Cornaigmore

History Repeats?

letters to editor

Dear sir,
Further to the letter from Duncan Castling, he certainly paints an horrific picture. How much notice should we take? I have the advantage of being able to remember Tiree 70 years ago.

There were quite good roads, the RAF built many of them. I wonder if the building of an airfield, and Camps, and being overrun by workers brought many complaints about the destruction of an idyllic way of life. At that time to buy a stamp it was necessary to walk from my grandparents Croft in Ballevullin to Cornaig, there was no road. Incidentally my Mother and her siblings had to walk to Cornaig, every day, to go to School.

There was no electricity. That was finally acquired after the war when the RAF generators became available for the local population. There was no water supply other than from wells. The water had to wait until much later when, oddly enough, one of my friends from University, was the Engineer. It was about his first job after graduating. We graduated in 1962.

No doubt all of those developments reduced the desirability of Tiree as a place to stay, or did they? I could go on, but suffice it to point out that the window that Sorley MacLean used to look through, was boarded up, not because of development but because of the lack of it, the land was needed for sheep, and for outsiders to visit and enjoy the remoteness.

Change must happen, anywhere that is not changing is dead. we must be very careful about resisting while not rolling over and allowing developers a complete clear hand. Lets hope we can find a champion like the wee Town Clerk from Lerwick, I’m afraid I can’t remember his name, who got such a good deal from the Oil Companies. It is possible and can help the community.

from; Alasdair MacArthur

Oh What A Night

letters to editor

To quote the old Elvis Presley song “Oh what a night, oh what a night it really was, such a night”

Thanks to Ian Smith and Eilidh MacFadyen for organising the fabulous concert on 21st May at An Talla. Two and a half hours of top class entertainment, and all for the price of less than 2 pints of beer! That is what I call value for money!

To the Tiree Piping Society, keep up the good work to promote music in the island. To those who entertained us, Thank you , Thank you, Thank you.

John Gunderson

If x then…

letters to editor

The inhabitants of the Island were initially said to be ecstatic. Their roads were being regularly repaired and widened. No delays now waiting in ‘pockets’ The improvements had sadly eaten up some of the pretty picturesque houses and machair due to road straightening, but it was for the greater good wasn’t it? Coping with the needs of heavy vehicle maintenance traffic to the airport. In reality only the few remaining sheep had not been compensated.

The airport had been dramatically upgraded and everyone agreed that this must be better for the Island. It had been improved so much to satisfy the needs of the fleet of 12 heavy helicopters. They were required to cover the maintenance and breakdowns on the huge turbines. The runways had also been extended to permit larger jet planes to land the manpower and materials. It was a bit noisier than the old airport but hey, that was the price of progress.

The Gott Bay Harbour had been a bit of a shock for many older residents to cope with. It all seemed a bit cluttered with all the temporary pontoons and docking areas for barges. Offloading the consumables and fabricated parts required to keep the turbines operating. Sadly the bay was now getting a little bit polluted due to shipping and transfer spillage, but experts had said it would settle down hopefully in the future and most of the seals and wildlife had moved away anyway.

The High School sadly closed a few years ago in a cost cutting exercise. Possibly due to the fact all the new workers come to the Island on short term contracts living in the temporary accommodation providing all the needs a migrant workforce requires. The swimming pool and sports complex are still only available to the workers despite objections from the local residents. To many people It did look a bit like the old RAF camp, but that was due to the security requirements. Unfortunately the promised employment had created a bit of resentment when it was finally realised that all the well paid work required specially trained and qualified personnel. Some of the remaining Islanders did work on the camp security and general maintenance, but it had led to many young people just deciding they were better off on the mainland.

The fishing industry is still fighting a legal battle for compensation following the access restrictions on the West of Tiree and the alleged pollution from Gott bay.

The supermarket had been initially extended and carried a much more varied selection of food. But when the tourists stopped coming it became unsustainable and had to close. The surfers followed the wind to other untouched island beaches. Residents now agree that there is less unemployment as everyone who can leave and work has left the Island. The indigenous population is predominately elderly and retired.

The biggest problem behind it all was the turbines. No-one had anticipated that the the power of the sea could be so destructive and violent as the climate changed. Nature proving again that it was ruled by chaos and unpredictability. Planned failure rates went out of the window and greater maintenance was required. The weather prevented access and reduced output as the turbines spent increasing periods of time shut down and awaiting repair. Then the unthinkable happened, turbine blades were sheared off in some of the most violent storms the Island had seen in a hundred years. The debris field resulted in an exclusion zone to all shipping. Currently one third of the five hundred turbines are either shut down or only capable of operating at reduced capacity due to malfunctions. The undersea cable is currently broken again and awaiting another costly repair. It was probably this that finally caused the the two main contractors to finally file for liquidation.

Solicitors acting for the crown estates are looking at many years of profitable litigation sorting out the aftermath. While a legacy of engineering problems obscures the view that no-one now has the incentive to resolve. The current government considers the project an expensive embarrassing failure and has cut all grant funding to the Island in a cost cutting exercise, as few voters live there anyway.

“There’s a board nailed across the window I looked through to see the west,
and my love is a tall tower forever a bright warning of treacherous passage.”*

Duncan Castling, Sandaig

*From the poem “Hallaig” by Sorley MacLean

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