The 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