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