Tag Archives: Argyll

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’.

Community Councils Notice Of By-Election

Election Day – 26 June 2014

  1. An Election is to be held for the return of Community Councillors to constitute the undernoted Community Council within the Oban, Lorn and the Isles area of Argyll and Bute. Tiree AA53
  2. Persons wishing to represent their Community Council must reside in the community council area and be named on the elector register for the community council area in which they are standing. A candidate’s proposer and seconder must also be named on the electoral register and reside in the same community council area.
  3. Nomination papers must be lodged with the Depute Returning Officer, Kilmory Headquarters, Lochgilphead PA31 8RT on any day except a Saturday or Sunday after the date of this notice, but not later than 4.00pm on Monday 26 May 2014 and withdrawals of persons nominated must be intimated at the same address not later than 4.00pm on Monday 26 May 2014.
  4. Nomination forms may be obtained from the Depute Returning Officer at the addresses below or can be downloaded from the Councils website, www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/elections or e-mail elections@argyll-bute.gov.uk

Kilmory Headquarters                                 The Business Centre

Lochgilphead                                                    Crossapol

PA31 8RT                                                           Isle of Tiree PA77 6UP

 

Sally Loudon, Returning Officer, Kilmory, Lochgilphead PA31 8RT

Letter To The Editor

letter to the editorThe photographs from Nàdair Thiriodh of Crossapol taken in December and again in March (An Tirisdeach 566) are a timely reminder of how vulnerable the machair dunes are to extreme weather conditions. The most damaging of the winter’s storms on 3 January 2014 was caused when low pressure drew in very strong winds and a tidal surge of about a metre on top of the high spring tides. These are the very same conditions that caused the lethal floods in East Anglia in 1953.

Walking the beaches the day after the January storm was a sobering experience. Ten years ago, when I was studying oceanography and climate change for an OU degree, the forecast was that such events could be expected once every 200 years. More recently it has come to be understood that higher ocean temperatures will cause storms to be more powerful and more frequent. We have seen what that will be like this winter. If we care about the machair we must also care about climate change. It is right that we should ask Argyll & Bute and the Scottish Executive what they are doing to protect the machair. In return they could reasonably point to their ambitious renewables strategies as contributions to achieving a low carbon economy.

We have seen the formidable spin machine of No Tiree Array in action in recent weeks as they stamp on any sign of opposition. Tiree has much to fear from climate change and how we respond to the challenge of renewable energy is much too important to be left to a single issue pressure group that feels no obligation to listen to the community or to consider the wider context of what they campaign for.

The Argyll Array may have gone away for now, but there will be other renewable opportunities for Tiree such as a re-engineered array, wave generation or building on the success of Tilley with an ambitious community owned project. It is time to hear from others in the community. For example, is it the settled will of the majority on Tiree to refuse to play any further part in implementing the Scottish Executive’s renewables strategy? If we are unwilling to make our own contribution to this strategy, what right have we to ask others to help protect our machair?

It is to be hoped that the new community council will be an opportunity for a more democratic discussion of issues in which single interest groups are not the only voices heard.

Bill Welstead, Taigh Allamsa, Baugh

Tiree Ranger Service – Winter Storms and Tidal Surges

beach_erosionThe tourist season is almost with us. Yes it is March already and the Easter Holidays are only a few weeks away. What will they find when they arrive?

I guess we are all fed up with the wind and rain that seems to have plagued us incessantly since November and have left the machair a flooded quagmire. Along with this winter storms and tidal surges have devastated the dune systems around the island. It is roughly estimated that the equivalent of three to four years normal erosion has taken place in the matter of a few months. It will take years for the damage to rectify naturally, but we can all help to prevent further damage.

Some areas of dunes are no doubt unstable and in some areas war time materials have been unearthed. Both of these pose a potential for accident and potential injury. So what can you do to help?

  • ?Be careful where you walk – try to avoid dune edges and exposed wartime material
  • ?Watch where you park. Stay back from the dune edge which may be undercut and likely to collapse
  • ?Try not to access beaches by walking down dune fronts but by using established tracks
  • ? If accessing beaches with vehicles please use tracks that are already established
  • ?If you are crofting and need sand/shingle please take this from as close to the sea as possible rather than at dune fronts or behind dunes to give dunes a chance to re-establish themselves
  • ?If you have friends or visitors coming to the island in the next few months please ask them to follow the advice given above.

The devastating erosion to Tiree’s dune systems has been raised with Scottish Natural Heritage and Argyll & Bute Council to see what, if any, actions we can take to protect and prevent further damage to our dunes. I will keep you informed in future editions of An’Tirisdeach of how this progresses. Above are pictures of Crossapol in December and March, which show the stark differences from before and after the storms.

Speaking Out For Argyll and Bute’s Island Communities

Roddie McCuishArgyll and Bute councillors are continuing to speak out on behalf of the area’s islands communities and are pressing to become more involved in a national campaign for more recognition of the unique needs and status of Scottish islands.

Argyll and Bute Council leader, Roddy McCuish, was joined by Islay’s Councillor Robin Currie at the Our Islands, Our Future conference in Orkney on Thursday 19th September. The conference was part of a campaign for greater powers for Scotland’s islands launched by the Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney local authorities.

At the conference, both Councillor McCuish and Councillor Currie made a robust case for Argyll and Bute Council to be involved in the campaign’s steering group and in future discussions. Their attendance at the conference followed an initial motion in June this year from Councillor Currie and his Mull colleague Councillor Mary-Jean Devon. The two isles councillors were supported by fellow elected members in their call for discussions with the three councils so that Argyll and Bute’s 23 inhabited islands could be included in a strong campaign for greater powers.

Speaking after the Orkney conference, Argyll and Bute Council leader Roddy McCuish said:

“We are extremely supportive of what our fellow councils are doing and there is certainly a robust case for Argyll and Bute Council, with its 23 inhabited isles, to be around the table in discussions about our islands and their future. There is strength in numbers. It was a very important conference and I am pleased that my colleague Councillor Currie was able to join me there. There is widespread support across the council chamber for a stronger voice for Argyll and Bute’s islands which have very specific and sometimes complex needs, and we hope that people are beginning to listen.”

BKSA Wavemasters – 16th To 21st September 2013 – A First For Tiree

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABritish Kitesports is the National Governing Body for the sport of Kitesurfing and is bringing the Wavemasters 2013 to the Isle of Tiree for the very first time.

The competition, now in its 8th year, has come to Scotland mainland however has never come to Tiree.

Kitesurfers use surfboards and kites to ride the waves and score points to advance in the competition in a knock out format. The kites are water re-launchable and if they go down in the surf will pop into the air again. Riders try and get the longest and biggest waves to score highly in their 7 minute heats.

We are excited to come to the Isle of Tiree and sample the wind and waves it has to offer to make the week a memorable one – top riders from across the UK will be coming. Defending their titles are Scots George Noble from Fraseburgh and Kierra Alwood ( now residing in Norwich).

The competition starts on the Tuesday and runs through to Saturday at various beaches on the island depending on the wind direction.

2011 Census Provides Worrying Results


europe_populationThe latest results from the 2011 Census in Scotland provide the greatest level of detail so far and show that the population living on islands in Scotland increased by 4 per cent since 2001. It is not a uniform picture as some islands have seen large increase whilst others have seen decreases in their population. For Tiree the worrying statistics show that there was a 15% decline in the population from 2001 to 2011, with the total number of people present on census day falling from 770 to 653.

The 2011 figures contrast sharply with the statistics for all Scotland’s inhabited islands, which together saw a population increase of 3.97% over the ten-year period from 2001, from 99,739 people to 103,702. The population of Orkney increased by 11% over the ten year period. The 3.97% increase in island populations is slightly lower than the 4.6% rise for the population of Scotland as a whole.

Other islands which saw a decrease in population included Arran (a fall of 8.25%), Great Cumbrae (a fall of 4.04%), and Bute (a fall of 5.13%). MSP Michael Russell has called for the council to hold a summit to address the decline. Mr Russell said;

“All the figures from the census for Argyll & Bute show a declining population across the area – on the islands and on the mainland and although some other islands are losing population too – most notably the southern part of the western isles – our area of Argyll & Bute is losing population faster than any other local authority area. That decline must be halted. I have raised the issue of rural and island renewal with the Council on many occasions since I became MSP in 2011 and these statistics confirm once again that this is the most urgent problem they have to address. I am therefore asking the Council to convene a population summit in the autumn with all interested parties including Government, HIE, the NHS, Transport Scotland , local communities and the private sector in order to develop a clear and coherent plan that can reverse this decline.”

Tiree (Argyll) Array Consents Application remains Indeterminate

no tiree arrayThere has been confusion as to when SPR may make its Consents Application.

In mid April, in unrelated correspondence between NTA and Marine Scotland (MS), it emerged that MS was expecting SPR’s consents application in the second half of 2014. This was manifestly wrong. In the ensuing correspondence between MS/NTA/SPR, David Walker (Iberdrola’s Development Director Offshore Business) advised NTA, on the 26th April as follows:-

Thank you for your email, our CEO has requested that I clarify on his behalf. We have separately responded to Marine Scotland on the same matter, however I can confirm that following the suspension of the Argyll Array development in 2012 we will review our future plans in late 2013 and therefore cannot advise any planned date for the consents application until that time when detailed scheduling will be reconsidered.

However, in last week’s Oban Times in an article headed “Major West Coast Offshore Wind Farm Developments Face Delays” an SPR spokesman stated;-

SPR is currently reviewing data…. These reviews are being completed with a view to submitting a planning application to the Scottish Government towards the end of 2015..

Consequently NTA reverted to David Walker to ask him if anything had changed since his 26th April clarification. He replied (20th May) as follows:-

Nothing has changed in the last 3 weeks since my email and any date for consents applications remains indeterminate.

Basking Shark tracked 2000 miles to Canaries

Basking Sharks

Basking Sharks off Tiree - Image:Wild Tiree

A Basking Shark has been tracked over 2,000 miles from its summer feeding and mating grounds off the west coast of Scotland to the Canary Islands off Africa.

Until recently scientists thought the world’s second largest fish headed to the deep Atlantic to breed, but an innovative tracking programme which began last year found that eight sharks swam south after leaving Scottish waters and one travelled as far as the island chain popular with holidaymakers. Some of the sharks tagged off islands such as Tiree and Canna lost their tags in less than a month but Cailleach – all the sharks were named by the public – managed to transmit for 138 days on its epic voyage.

Scientists on the project say the findings are important because they help identify marine areas in which the sharks need to be protected and also give clues to where they breed. The basking sharks were tagged in the Inner Hebrides, a hotspot for the species, with consistently large numbers sighted there during the summer months. In Gunna Sound, between the islands of Coll and Tiree four times as many basking sharks have been recorded per hour than anywhere else in the UK. In total, 20 sharks were tagged by scientists from Scottish Natural Heritage and the University of Exeter, as part of the £147,000 project to find out more about their life cycle. Eight were tagged for the public to follow online – and more than 40,000 logged on in the first few weeks alone. The other 12 were also fitted with the £1,500 devices, which will detach after 280 days and transmit all their data – including the diving behaviour of the sharks.

Marine biologist Dr Lucy Hawkes, of the University of Exeter, said “Nobody’s had much luck in keeping a tag on a basking shark for very long before. There are problems tracking such an enigmatic species. They have thick skin and we used a surgical dart just below the surface of the skin – but due to the nature of their size etc there is no real opportunity to check how well the tags were on. But by quite a long way we have got more information about the behaviour of basking sharks than before. We now know they head due south from Scotland not due west. This is important because until 1994 basking sharks were hunted, so if they are heading to places like the Canaries we need to have conversations with other governments about conservation measures. We just don’t know much about basking sharks – we know nothing of their reproduction cycle, where they calve, their gestational period. Nobody’s even seen a juvenile basking shark. This project is telling us many new things but it’s principally about distribution of the species. It could give some clues to where they may calve, which could then be the subject of further research. We are now waiting for the other tags to be released after 280 days to analyse that data. For instance, we suspect that basking sharks perform extraordinarily long dives – we know nothing about their diving behaviour – and this should help us find out.”

Dr Matthew Witt, of the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute, said: “Although they have captured the public imagination, we actually know relatively little about how basking sharks live. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to find out more about the movements and lifestyles of these fascinating creatures. This is a hugely challenging project – not least because we are at the mercy of the weather and sea conditions, but the results will prove invaluable in our quest to uncover the secrets of these giants of the sea and help to protect them.”

The results may have significance for renewable energy developers who want to build windfarms off the Scottish coast. A £7 billion plan off Tiree is in a vital mating ground for basking sharks. Scottish Power Renewables is looking again at the scale of the scheme because it is inside the sharks’ mating area. Campaign group No Tiree Array want the area recognised as a marine nature reserve for basking sharks.

Scottish Ferry Services Plan 2013-2022

The recently announced ten-year Ferry Plan was made public in late December with Transport minister Keith Brown saying:

“The long-term future of ferry services in Scotland is vital not only for Scotland’s economic well-being but also for the people in our island and remote communities.Having concluded an extensive consultation which saw over 2000 responses… we are laying out how we will expand and improve ferry services across Scotland. Despite the substantial financial pressures placed on us by Westminster, we are determined to make good on our promise to deliver improved ferry services on a progressive basis and the final ferries plan will be our cornerstone in doing just that.”

The new plan impacts upon Tiree in three ways:- Service; RET; and Fares. The full document is available on-line but An Tirisdeach has included the elements relevant to Tiree here.

Coll & Tiree Service Provision

Assessment of Current Service Provision

Our routes and services needs-based assessment tool allows us to make an evidence-based assessment of current services for Coll & Tiree. The key difference between the current and model service profiles is the number of sailing days during the winter time-table period.The model service profile requires a daily service from Coll & Tiree during the winter period.

Future Service Provision

The Draft Ferries Plan consulted on the requirement to improve the number of sailing days in the winter period, with a commitment to extend the time-table to six operating days per week. The commitment was subsequently welcomed, although very few responses were received from residents of Coll & Tiree. Representation was also made, mainly from Mull residents, about the possibility of a limited number of sailings calling in at Tobermory.

Short term – winter 2013/14

Currently The Clansman provides an all year service for Coll & Tiree. The service is augmented during the summer time-table period with Lord of the Isles (LOTI). The difference in sailing days between the summer and winter time-table periods is because of the availability of these two vessels in the summer, as opposed to one vessel during the winter time-table period, as she is used as a relief vessel when the larger vessels in the fleet are rotated through their annual refit programme. The proposal for the winter of 2013/14 is to deploy the Isle of Arran to ensure a two-vessel service for Coll & Tiree during the winter period. The operational impact of this decision will be to provide an additional sailing day during most of the winter time-table period (the current winter time-table will apply during the annual 4 week refit period for the Isle of Arran).

Longer term – commencing 2016

In the long-term the Isle of Arran will not be available during the winter time-table period for this route (it will be deployed on the Firth of Clyde). The proposal for the new Oban-Craignure service during the summer period will see two vessels operate on this particular route. One of these vessels will be deployed during the winter time-table to Barra, Coll & Tiree to enable the improved level of service to continue to be delivered. At this time we will also consider what services may be offered to improve the level of provision within the new time-table.

Coll & Tiree Road Equivalent Tariff (RET)

Commitment

RET for passengers, cars including small commercial vehicles, and coaches to become a permanent feature on routes to the Western Isles, Coll & Tiree.

Additional RET concessions

Commercial vehicle length – extension of definition of commercial vehicle from 5m to 6m.

Hay & Livestock – Returning lorries carrying hay or livestock travel free when empty, other than a charge to cover pier dues.

Shellfish – an exemption to the weight limit for Light Goods Vehicles less than 6m in length, carrying live shellfish, to allow them to qualify for non-commercial vehicle rate.

Large Commercial Vehicles

At the completion of the RET Pilot Study on the Western Isles, Coll & Tiree, Scottish Ministers were persuaded that there was not a compelling case to retain RET for commercial vehicles. Recognising the financial implications of such a decision for hauliers, a transitional protection scheme is currently in place for commercial vehicles on the Western Isles, Coll & Tiree.

A study on freight fares is currently underway on the Western Isles, Coll & Tiree economies. The findings of this study will be used to inform future fares policy for commercial vehicles. Our intention is to first consider the findings and then set up a working group to take this forward and will consult with key stakeholders as we do this.

Future RET formula

Our Draft Ferries Plan indicated that further work was required around the precise rates for RET. We have now carried out this work and have set an updated RET formula. This formula has been applied to the pilot for Islay, Colonsay & Gigha and steps will now be taken to introduce this to the Western Isles, Coll & Tiree.

EDITOR’S COMMENT

Service

The new plan has committed to providing one extra sailing per week by deploying Isle of Arran to run alongside The Clansman in the short term, and a vessel from the Oban-Craignure route alongside The Clansman in the longer term. However, the plan itself recognises that this only partially meets the Scottish Government’s own Needs-based Assessment, which recognised a need for daily winter sailings! Are people on Tiree happy with an increase to five winter sailings per week or do they believe that there ought to be a daily ferry throughout the year? Alan Reid MP said: “The Ferries Review is disappointing for Tiree and Coll. The draft review had stated that the Scottish Government wanted to move to a service that operates for at least six days per week during the winter period, but the Ferries Review will only give one extra sailing. Tiree & Coll will only get sailings 5 days a week for most of the winter and still only 4 days during a 4-week period. In this day and age six sailings a week is the minimum acceptable service and I will keep supporting the campaign for this.”

RET

The plan details how the Scottish Government has provided an interim protection scheme for Coll & Tiree to reduce the impact of the removal of RET from commercial vehicles. It outlines the ongoing study on this decision on our island economies and commits to the establishment of a working group and consultation process once this study is completed. The Editor believes that it is essential for Tiree to be properly represented during this process. Tiree must have its voice heard so that we do not then suffer the financial implications of hugely increased haulage fares. An Tirisdeach will be reporting on this process on a regular basis and welcomes comments from the community.

Coll & Tiree Fares

The Press and rival politicians have jumped on the announcements of these new fares calculated by the updated RET formula, which links fares to the cost of travelling an equivalent distance on land. The average increase will be 8.2% for passenger, car and small commercial vehicle fares, and there will be a cap of 10.6% across all routes.

Transport minister Keith Brown said: “the update reflects the current costs of driving a car. The additional revenue generated by applying the updated RET formula for passengers, cars and small commercial vehicles will be reinvested in commercial vehicle fares, in order to reduce the impact of the removal of RET for commercial vehicles on services to the Western Isles, Coll & Tiree.”

Labour infrastructure spokesman Richard Baker said: “It has taken over two years to publish this ferries plan, but now it has finally been revealed, Ministers are seeking to alleviate the effect of their regrettable and damaging decision to scrap RET for commercial vehicles on routes to Coll, Tiree and the Western Isles, but are doing so in the context of fare hikes across the routes which will be damaging to the economies of island communities.”

Argyll & Bute MP Alan Reid said, “These inflation busting ferry fare increases of up to 10.6% are daylight robbery. The SNP are robbing islanders with 10% ferry fare rises. The SNP’s excuse – that the price of petrol has risen – is pathetic. According to the AA, the price of petrol has only gone up by just over 1% during the past year.” As one on-line commentator noted: “Whatever the basis used to calculate fares, it is not ‘Road Equivalent Tariff’ – that would be 45p per mile for a passenger vehicle. So, the 63 miles from Oban to Tiree should be £28.35 (£0.45 x 63). In fact, it is £56.75 – double what an RET fare should be. All fare reductions and discounts are welcome, of course, but it is wholly misleading to call the current scheme a ‘road equivalent tariff’ system.” However, if the Scottish Government is true to its word and does indeed reinvest the revenue from increased fares into helping to pay for offsetting the removal of RET for HGVs on Western Isles, Coll and Tiree ferries, then for once Tiree might actually benefit.. Chris MacRae, the Freight Trading Association’s head of policy for Scotland said: “We welcome the announcement of the Ferries Plan, and particularly the recognition that the impact of the removal of RET for HGVs must be mitigated. Freight and HGVs are a vital part of ensuring the viability and economic stability of island communities. The working group that the Scottish Government commissioned is reviewing the study into the impact of the removal of RET for HGVs. This report is due soon, so recognition that the effects of removal of RET for HGVs need to be mitigated is welcome news. What we need to see going forward is evidence-based policy making.”

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