Tag Archives: politics

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’.

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.”

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 michael.russell@snp.org

Group formed To protest Tiree Array

No other proposed Array in Scotland, or Europe for that matter, will have such detrimental impacts on its proximate community

Taking into consideration all aspects of Scottish Power Renewables ( SPR Iberdrola S.A.) proposed wind farm, in-shore to Tiree, and following protracted discussion with many stakeholders ,we have concluded that Tiree’s interests may be well served by the formation of a “ NO TIREE ARRAY “ campaign group.

We feel that the decision to place such an Array on the Skerryvore reef, and in-shore to Tiree, is based on commercial gain, with scant regard to the environmental, and socio-economic impacts on Tiree. Such disregard sets a very dangerous precedent for all Scottish coastal Communities.

The ‘NO TIREE ARRAY‘ campaign group is not an anti-renewables or anti-green energy campaign. On the contrary we support these aims. Tiree is faced with a so-called offshore wind farm comprising between 180 and 500 turbines, up to 180m high, as close as 5km from the shore. The impact ratios of the proposed Array are extreme. No other proposed Array in Scotland, or Europe for that matter, will have such detrimental impacts on its proximate community.

artists rendering turbine view from Sandaig

Artist rendering of view from Sandaig

Despite many requests to do so, SPR has refused, so far, to present any montages of the visual impact Tiree can expect from this Array. In most people’s minds, off-shore means out of sight is out of mind. This certainly was UK government’s intention in the 1990’s, when it began to derive its off shore legislation. The DTI has stated out of sight to be more than 24km off shore. Scottish National Heritage has stated, that such is the nature of the Scottish Seascape, the Scottish equivalent should be beyond 35Km. Scottish Power Renewables (Iberdrola S.A.), and maritime renewable energy companies in general, have acknowledged that research and development is in process, to place wind farms in deep water, away from coastal communities and the coastal environment.

OUR OBJECTIVES AND STRATEGY

  • * To persuade Scottish Power Renewables( Iberdrola S. A.) to adopt ,in full , their own R&D goals, and delay the planning process in all regards to the Tiree Array to place it, and any other proposed Array development, with similar detrimental impacts , OFF- SHORE , i.e. 35Km from the proximate community.
  • * To require all associated construction, support, maintenance, operational infrastructure, and personnel associated with any wind farm array development in waters off Tiree, be placed 35km from Tiree’s shore. We require that these operations do not, at any stage, interface and or impact in any detrimental manner, with Tiree’s unique community, culture or natural environment.
  • * To lobby developers and strategists, of any proposed or existing strategic legislation, to derive any such legislation from the community level upwards.
  • * As we expand the ‘Objective Issues ‘we will openly communicate them to all of our supporters and interested parties. This will ensure we are mutually, and consistently, well informed to secure our primary objective i.e. STOPPING the destruction of Tiree’s community, culture and natural beauty.
  • * We will consider legal action, as, when, and if appropriate.

“We do not inherit the land from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”
All are welcome and encouraged to support us

For further Information go to www.no-tiree-array.org.uk Alternatively Contact: Karl Hughes (220070), Robert Trythall (220646), Ranald Noel-Paton (220613), Phillippe Pierrisnard

* DTI “Guidance on the Assessment of the Impact of Offshore Windfarms”

The preceding was presented to An Tirisdeach, and does not necessarily represent the views of the publisher

Reid & Hay Welcome Fuel Duty Cut

Alan ReidAlison Hay

Alan Reid, Liberal Democrat MP for Argyll & Bute, and Alison Hay Scottish Parliamentary Candidate welcomed the announcement by Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, that a 5p per litre cut in fuel duty would be piloted in the Inner & Outer Hebrides and the Northern Isles, subject to agreement from the European Union.

Alan Reid said:
“This cut in fuel duty will help the fragile economies of the Argyll Islands. I have long campaigned for a reduction in fuel duty in remote communities. If the pilot is a success, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t, the scheme should be extended to the Clyde Islands and remote communities in mainland Argyll”

Alison Hay said:
“This would be a tremendous boost to the economy in Argyll & BUte. We have so many island communities that depend on the use of private vehicles for travel and this will help keep the cost of living in these communities down. I hope that the scheme could be moved quickly on by the EU and that it could be extended to include remote mainland areas in the future.”

A similar scheme operates in France, Portugal and Greece, so the EU should have no objection to its introduction here. Here on Tiree, the price of a litre of diesel is 142p and petrol 140p compared to the national average of 118p and 115.2p respectively.

Tiree High School :: Staff Cut Update

books

It was an indication of the concern felt by all islanders, that despite the shortness of notice, over 130 people attended the hastily called public meeting to discuss the cuts to the number of teachers at Tiree High School and possible implications this might have.

Head Teacher, Myra MacArthur explained that the cuts have had to be made in the years above Pre 5 and after discussions with the staff they had identified where 2.2 teachers could be lost and the effects of this.

One teacher from the primary department will not be replaced when she leaves and no-one will be taken on to fill in for the French teacher whilst she is on maternity leave. The teacher of Physics will work four days per week, and there will be a newly qualified teacher “in training”. As at the present there will be no Gaelic taught to learners in primary and the teaching of the Upper Gaelic Class will be shared between the teacher in training and existing staff. Next session there will be no French offered as a subject course.

Obviously in a small island school the loss of a member of staff has implications through the whole school;
in this case remaining teachers will all face changes to their roles, the English teacher will spend two days in Primary which means losing 2 days from secondary. There will also be a loss of management time from the Primary & Secondary Depute Heads’ schedules.

the school will do everything possible… with the staff it has

Miss MacArthur stressed “that the school will do everything possible to provide the curriculum and width of learning with the staff it has. Argyll & Bute council need to make these spending cuts, they’re happening everywhere, we have to decide how best to spend the money available and where to make cuts. Although we have expressed our opinion of this we must now make the best of the situation.”

Steve Thomson on behalf of the PTA said this week; “The response from Islanders has been great, councillors are listening to what has been said, we are waiting for a group of Councillors and Officials to come to Tiree to explain their policy. Having such good support will make a difference to meetings with the council. We must maintain the core curriculum – formulas that are applied to mainland schools don’t work on small islands.”

The date of the next meeting will be arranged as soon as conveniently possible, let’s hope as many people will turn up again to continue to show support.

Alan Reid MP’s Flying Visit to Tiree

alan_angela

Mr. Alan Reid MP flew over for the day to Tiree on Wednesday 23rd September to hold a Surgery at the Council Offices.

Despite posters and advertising in the An Tirisdeach, it was a quiet morning and it would have been easy to think Tiree had no issues to raise with their Westminster MP. Also, due to Tiree’s extreme weather at the beginning of the week, the Modern Studies schedule was scuppered and Mr. Reid’s visit to Tiree High School was cancelled.

“The issue on everyone’s lips”

This gave Mr. Reid plenty time to be interviewed by An Tirisdeach before heading off for a late lunch at the Cobbled Cow, and then on to Ruaig to look at the turbine site as well as the two new builds at Caoles which have generated so much verbal indignation.

Our interview began with Mr. Reid stating that the “issue on everyone’s lips” was the camper vans that have increased due to the new RET system introduced this year. Although tourism is important to the economy of island life, it is argued that the camper vans add nothing to the economy and are frequently seen as detrimental to a fragile environment.
Andrew Montgomery, factor of Argyll Estates has had his own negative experiences with some of the drivers of camper vans who are insensitive to island life, and he is not alone as Mr. Reid stated: “the comments I have had from people have been mostly negative.” However, as the summer season is now over this is an issue that will come to the fore again next summer.

“Ill thought out regulations”

Mr. Reid’s opposition to the Draft Crofting Reform Bill has been well documented, he simply stated “ The proposed regulations are ill thought out and it will be extra red tape to no good purpose. The Scottish Government has to agree a sensible way forward with crofters that will give crofting a sustainable future. That is not apparent in the current Draft Bill.”

Inevitably the state of Cal-Mac ferries was discussed and Mr. Reid added to previous comments: “I receive regular and justified complaints that the winter sailings to Tiree & Coll are too few. I cannot stress enough the importance of building a fleet that would be reliable. The money has to be found.”

“It’s a disgrace that the firestation lacks basic facilities”

The plight of our firefighters also came up. “It is a disgrace that the fire station lacks basic facilities. It must be a priority to install them. Firefighters risk their lives to protect the local community, the least one can do is provide them with decent facilities. I will be keeping an eye on how this progresses.” The unregulated shenanigans of the bankers and the thorny subject of MP’s expenses also came up, but lack of space in this issue means these subjects will have to wait until issue 452.

Vital Day Service Continues

councillors_mary_roddyCouncillors Mary-Jean Devon (Oban South & The Isles) and Roddy McCuish (Vice-Chair of Oban, Lorne & The Isles Area Committee) show their delight at the letter sent by Ann Austen Service Manager of the Social Work Departmment in response to the Day Service / Lunch Club’s letter to her Department.

Councillors Roddy McCuish and Mary Jean Devon held a surgery at Tiree Business Centre on Monday 7th Sept. Top of their agenda was our much cherished Lunch Club which is known as the Tiree Day Service.
Councillor Devon showed An Tirisdeach the letter which said “Sincere apologies for the manner in which people were notified of the intended closure of the Day Service. We will re-assess the situation over the next four months.” The Lunch Club were given assurances that the Club would be up and running by the 11th of September.

“We will be doing our utmost to keep this vital service”

Councillor Devon confirmed that this crucial service will run as normal until a consultation takes place. Councillor McCuish added ” Coming over here today can only endorse what Ann Austen said. It was handled poorly and having seen the facility for myself along with my colleague we will be doing our utmost to keep this vital service.”
Both councillors were unanimious in their unequivocal support of the Day Service, aware that the Lunch Club and Craft Class helps, amongst others, the elderly and the vulnerable. “We would encourage islanders to contact their councillors with any concerns regarding the island. We knew nothing about the situation until Mrs. MacCallum contacted us and we are thankful that she did.

“Sustaining communities in fragile rural areas is a big priority for us”

We will be more than happy to help continue this crucial service. Sustaining communities in fragile rural areas is a big priority for us, and we are committed in our support of islanders for these essential services.” The councillors pointed out that they can only act on information they receive and are keen that islanders keep them informed of issues that affect our community. Both councillors are aware that the problems islanders face are often unique to island life and do not always have a mainland equivalent.

Draft Crofter’s Reform Bill

tractorA public meeting on the Draft Crofting Reform Bill scheduled for June, finally took place on the evening of Monday 13th July at Tiree’s Rural Centre. The meeting was lively and reasonably well attended.
Unavoidable reasons meant Chairman A. Innes and Vice Chair P. Boyd of the Scottish Crofting Foundation were unable to attend. However, An Tirisdeach asked the Honorary Secretary Mary Mackinnon to comment on the meeting which lasted for two and a half hours. “The draft Crofting Reform Bill, currently out for consultation is far from what the crofting communities need. It is a great disappointment to crofters who are already facing anxious times. The Bill just cannot be accepted and must be rejected now. It is so far from what is needed. I could see from the audience it was enough to make one speechless.”she said.
The civil servants who presented the draft document were keen that crofters made their thoughts known so future legislation could take their views into consideration.
Senior Civil servant Richard Frew who presented several aspects of the Bill told An Tirisdeach “ We need to address absenteeism & neglect and we want people to stay positive with the possibility of good changes.”

Alan Reid M.P. Writes for An Tirisdeach

Water is one of life’s essentials which we tend to take for granted. It always comes as a shock when we turn on the tap and find the pipe is empty.
The recent disruption in the supply to 75 houses on Tiree showed that Scottish Water’s procedures for coping with a fault in the island’s water supply were not up to the job. I have written to their Chief Executive asking for an explanation of why the fault occurred and why their contingency plan wasn’t up to the job. I have asked them what their revised plans are should disruption to the island’s supply happen again in the future. I will let your readers know Scottish Water’s response.
My home is on the Cowal peninsula, so when the ferries go off, there is always an alternative route to connect the rest of the world to us. However, for islanders this is not the case and reliable ferry services are essential. The disruption to services at the end of May because of a mechanical failure on the Clansman highlighted the absence of back-up vessels. With an ageing CalMac fleet, there is clearly a risk that mechanical failures will become a more regular occurrence. Since the new agency Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL for short) took over responsibility from CalMac for commissioning new vessels, the ordering of new vessels seems to have dried up. I have written to Scottish Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson about this and urged the Scottish Government to invest in a modern fleet for CalMac.
Following concerns raised with me by fishermen about the siting of the planned offshore windfarms in prime fishing grounds, I wrote to the Crown Estate. I’ve received a reply from Ian Pritchard, their Head of Offshore Operations. In his reply, Mr Pritchard says that there is still to be a great deal of consultation and data gathering before any final decision is take and writes, “I would anticipate site boundary changes and/or mitigation measures to be adopted as a result.”
Two controversial proposals out for consultation are the Draft Crofting Reform Bill and the Council’s proposals for Care of Elderly. I would be interested in hearing people’s views on these or any other subjects.
I will be visiting Tiree later on in the summer as part of my annual constituency tour.
If anyone would like to see me during my visit, please contact my office.
I am always interested in hearing from constituents and can be contacted at my constituency office, 95 Alexandra Parade, Dunoon PA23 8AL, Tel 01369- 704840, Fax 01369-701212, email reida@parliament.uk
Alan Reid MP 20 July 2009

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