Category Archives: Letters To The Editor

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

Revisiting Island X

letters to editor

M Macarthur (letters, April 15th) paints a rosy picture of “the island of X” receiving spin-off benefits from an inshore windfarm.

Why do we have to imagine “the island of X”? Wind turbine generation has been around for decades, so there must surely be many remote communities enjoying these compensations. And there must be members of these communities who would tell us they felt that the huge environmental cost was worth paying.

If there is no real example like this, then the people of Tiree are right to be suspicious.

Yours faithfully
Simon Laird, Brock

The Future?

letters to editor

Picture the scenario. It is a few years down the line. S P R and the government have mistakenly thought that N T A represented the entire Tiree community and have cancelled the proposed wind farm off the coast of Tiree. Instead they have built one off the shores of the island of X.

The inhabitants of X are ecstatic. They now have good roads. Their High School has been upgraded and now offers a wider choice of subjects. They have twice daily sailings from their new pier and twice daily flights from their upgraded airport. The fishing industry is prospering due to the increased numbers of fish attracted to the area by the warm water surrounding the turbines. They have excellent leisure facilities including a swimming pool. The supermarket has been extended and now carries a much more varied selection of food. The population has increased making the island altogether more vibrant. There are top graded hotels and restaurants. Tourism has increased due to all the facilities. There is no unemployment.

This was the injection the island of X needed. But what of Tiree? They can only look in envy at the prosperity enjoyed by the island of X. Tiree has lost out!! They have missed the opportunity to liaise with the government to bring prosperity their way. Young folk are leaving and the decreasing population is becoming more elderly.

Tiree will remain the peaceful haven that those who move there desire. But it will be in a time warp.

M Macarthur

Artistic Turbines

letters to editor

Thank you Robert Trythall

At last a visualisation of the proposed wind farm from Sandaig. I love wind farms and believe it would be good to have our very own environmentally friendly outdoor art installation, which would also provide renewable energy.

The turbines remind me of work by famous artists such as Anthony Gormley, Giacometti and Tinguely. They are quite beautiful. I wish we could consider a more detailed visualisation with coloured turbine blades e.g. pink (as in Sweden) or shiny/sparkly to prevent harm to birds.

The nuclear disaster in Japan should be a reminder that more renewables are now necessary. They are the only alternatives and the argument ‘not in my back yard’ is not acceptable. Any argument against wind farms pales compared with nuclear installations.

Ulrike Rawson

Thanks From SNP Candidate

letters to editor

I am writing to ask if you might include in the next issue my thanks for the welcome and hospitality I received when I was on Tiree.

I had of course visited before – when I was Environment Minister – but it was good to be able to come back as the SNP Parliamentary Candidate.

I had a lot of important issues raised with me and I would intend, if elected, to hold a surgery from time to time on the island as well as making myself available from my constituency office to tackle problems and help local people as they require.

Having spent five years living on Benbecula – and have a wife from North Uist – I know a bit about island life and as I have lived for almost 20 years in Glendaruel I am also up to speed on Argyll & Bute concerns.

Regards Michael

Michael Russell MSP Scottish Parliamentary Candidate for Argyll & Bute

Broadband Concerns

letters to editor

I am writing looking for support on what to do next concerning broadband connection in Balevullin where my home is. I recently returned to BT who said they could cover the area – this was not to be the case.

I had enquired about Tiree broadband by the way, only to hear there was a waiting list etc. and I do not wish to use Sky services.

What I heard about Balevullin, and then heard that other areas have been told the same, was that if we got together 15 signatures our request might be rewarded with an improvement to lines etc. To this end if anyone in the Balevullin / Hough area (or nearby) wants to sign up can you let Lorna MacDonald know on 220 642. BT has since told me that it is up to the local council and BT Openreach about where lines are upgraded.

My appeal is for guidance about how to resolve this more quickly than waiting for 15 signatures. Please do make contact on pearlhbrown{@} as I am most frustrated by this rather antiquated approach to remedying something that may or may not work.

This episode has had its lighter moments though. The old BT landline to the house is so poor that I gave up trying to discuss the issues with BT and decided to wait until returning to London;
Also I innocently said to Lorna ‘give me you email address so that we can keep in touch’ – we both laughed! And then finally at the airport I was asked if I have checked in on line – I wish I thought silently.

Yours sincerely Pearl Brown

Questions About Array

letters to editorDear Sir,
I have been reading with concern about the Tiree Array and as a visitor to Tiree for the past twenty years I hope you
do not mind if I use An Tirisdeach to ask a few questions as I am now more confused than before with more
questions than answers so would welcome any and all comments to a few simple questions.
Firstly on the subject of vested interests in this project I can understand how this project primarily benefits a Spanish
developer, Scottish Power Renewables, and the Crown Estates but I am not certain I understand whom else are
beneficiaries as the one extremely important group that under current legislation have absolutely no entitlement to
any compensation or any rights whatsoever are the good people of Tiree.
2 What measures are planned to protect the people and heritage of Tiree from the inevitable human impact on its
fragile Island community and heritage, exactly how many people will be moving to the Island and will they bring
children for the school and new permanent residents or is it proposed that there is just a fleet of transitory migrant
workers to build and maintain the wind farm. Will MacLeod’ s have a new Polish food section as does our local
Tesco’ s to accommodate the islands’ new guests.
3 Transport is always an issue in the islands and Cal-Mac often struggles to service the people and businesses of
Tiree as it is, so how will Cal-Mac cope with the hugely increased demands for freight and people for the new Array.
Will they build a new ferry, build better facilities or inevitably just struggle on with more delays, cancellations and
problems for the beleaguered residents, businesses and visitors of Tiree. How will the roads cope with the huge
increase in demand, or can I assume of course that Argyll council is ready, willing and just waiting to repair, restore
and rebuild the islands’ roads, very much as they do today.
4 If the Tiree Trust is the definitive representative voice of the whole island community I am not certain I
understand why full trust membership is limited to only full time residents, surely all those that own land on the Island
including holiday home owners who have a large financial stake on the Island should also be allowed some level of
5 As the development is deemed offshore, the people of Tiree apparently absolutely have no right to be consulted,
have absolutely no right to any compensation and are thus entirely reliant on the goodwill of a Spanish developer
and any promises of the Scottish Government to protect the interests and future of the Island and its people. I can
find no comments online from SEPA or SNH, the two institutions whose apparent primary function is to protect and
look out for fragile environments and communities like Tiree. Nor can I find any comment from the Duchy of Cornwall
whose leader has been very vocal previously about onshore wind farm developments.
The Tiree Trust and other groups are working hard and doing a great job to highlight individual issues and keep
everybody informed but might it be time for a local referendum of all concerned people including residents, nonresident
landowners and even the greater readership of An Tirisdeach to establish the wishes and concerns of the
people and friends of Tiree.
6 Whilst I fully support renewable energy, the question is at what cost. Tiree fishermen will lose significant fishing
grounds, Crofters disruption to their livestock and grazings, Visitors will hardly want to stay at Turbine View and if
history is correct the developers will bypass the local businesses to use national hauliers and suppliers, and
islanders with have to compete for jobs with the partners of the temporary residents.
7 – What will be the legacy of this project as it only has a proposed working life of some twenty years and
notwithstanding the damage to the community and heritage of Tiree will the island and the seas around Tiree be
littered with post wind farm wrecks, derelict buildings and general debris to add to the visually highly attractive legacy
of the last transitory residents from the last war.
Finally I would like to remind everybody that this is an election year so until the 5th May is the only time if you are
very lucky you might just get an MSP to talk to or listen to you, though good luck on that one.
Angus Barlas

Concerns Over Tiree Array Survey

letters to editor

Dear Sir – Confusion over SPR’s “flawed” Tiree Survey

The recent questionnaire that was completed by many islanders and others has come in for heavy criticism. No Tiree Array (NTA) has taken professional advice on Scottish Power Renewables’ (SPR) questionnaire, and the conclusion is that the questionnaire appears to be so incompetently designed that the results may be corrupted and inadmissible. The only way for SPR to find out the island’s real issues is to conduct a survey, yet the survey’s questionnaire has already decided what the issues are!

With regard to question 7, the questionnaire tries to find out what concerns people have about the Tiree Array. There appear to be serious mistakes in the way the question is asked. The list is made up of arbitrarily selected items (eg noise, impact on business, disruption from the construction) covering only 10 of the things that might matter to residents. For instance, not one of the items touches on the cultural, community, or way- of- life impacts of the project. The one item in the list that comes anywhere near to this is “potential social effects of the windfarm”, which is then explained as “e.g. newcomers to the island”! Although a space exists for “other”, (I.e. you can add an issue that is important to you but not on the list), you are only allowed to give a view on three including “other”. Suppose there are more than 3 which you are concerned about? Tough. SPR have evidently decided for themselves that these ten plus one are the issues, and that 3 is the most that anyone can have strong feelings about.

Professional researchers know that the correct way to find out what people think and feel about something is to offer them a range of responses that they can chose from. We have all received surveys at one time or another, and we are used to this sort of question: “Please tick one box to indicate how you feel about xyz”. And then the boxes are labelled something like “very happy” “quite happy” “neither happy nor unhappy” “quite unhappy” “very unhappy”. It is done so that you learn how strongly the person feels about something. The SPR survey ignores this basic rule of research. Naively, it simply asks ”What are you most concerned about? Tick a maximum of three”.

These worries about the Tiree survey have been repeatedly brought to the attention of every one of SPR’s directors. SPR have replied that “your suggestions will be incorporated into any further questionnaires”, thus effectively acknowledging their mistakes. You might think they would therefore withdraw or re-run the survey. But no such luck. We have even offered to help them with experienced research advice. Again, no luck.

The frightening possibility is that SPR see nothing wrong in collecting, publishing and relying upon allegedly corrupted and invalid data, yet SPR want us to believe that their “consultation process” is transparent, thorough and professional.

To quote from the Guidelines of UK Renewables, of which the Regulations and Markets Director of Scottish Power is the Chairman, “These methods (gathering information, opinion surveys,…questionnaires….) only gather information in response to the questions asked; they may miss opinions or concerns that are not asked about”. Why is this error so important? SPR will publish the results, not just to the islanders, but to the government, to Marine Scotland, to the media. They will presumably use the results as evidence of what matters most to local people about the Tiree Array. Depending on the results, they may even claim that only one , two or three issues are matters of concern to locals, or that “even these only mattered to x% of the respondents”. Far from gaining true insights into people’s worries – which in reality appear to be widespread, wide-ranging, and very major – they will reduce everything to a handful of items that they can then fix or smooth over. And they can quote this allegedly incompetent and invalid survey as proof that they have taken care of what we wanted.

Why should we care? This survey is not independently assessed, but is part of delivering SPR’s promised “consultation with stakeholders”. It will be used to help shape the outcome of the biggest and potentially most disastrous happening in our island’s history. Nothing questionable must be allowed to influence that outcome. We will continue to challenge SPR to be honest and professional. So watch this space.

Robert Trythall, NTA

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