A Predictable Response

Dear Editor,

Below, is my Oban Times Column of 06/07/17 in reply to James Laikie’s letter to this paper and his letter to the Oban Times.

“As I don’t wish to turn this column into the “Tiree Scalloping Weekly” I promise next week to be back to pleasant subjects like music, summer voyages and special people.

James Laikie’s reply to my piece of a few weeks ago was disappointingly predictable. Alongside some misinterpretation of my points, some fairly standard-type manipulation of my supposed opinions, some mistakes in analysing what I “appear to think”, an unfortunate tone, and reaffirming his lack of understanding, there were, however, some valid points.

There are, of course, many valid points on all sides of the scallop-dredging and wider marine-management issue and satisfactory resolution and a good future path will only come by engagement, education and compromise. The compromise of course must always come from all angles but small-scale, low-impact operators like Coinneach MacKinnon, whom James would like to see cease trading, should certainly not be bearing the brunt of the anti-scallop dredging campaigners.

The lack of knowledge and/or ability to differentiate between scales of fishing, types of ground worked and the vastly varying resulting impacts is a major problem with many anti-fishing lobbyists and this is displayed perfectly by Mr Laikie. To lump in this small one-boat business working on flat sand and gravel beds that have been harvested sustainably in this way for over 60 years with mass industrial fishing operations is very unhelpful for all sides and can be devastating to the lives of the individuals targeted. The jobs provided by this operation, as well as the knock-on economic benefits ashore and at sea may not be of significance on a national scale or to the Laikies, but to Tiree they are very important. Contrary to what Mr Laickie states, this issue has everything to do with “fragile island economies.”

The natural environment of the world and particularly that of the ocean is in a worrying state and action needs to be taken. Unfortunately, through ignorance and willful blindness, campaigners like the Laikies are wasting effort on easy but non-relevant targets. It is much easier to write a letter demonising a young fisherman on Tiree, than to take on big industry – fishing and otherwise – doing the real damage to the world’s oceans.

I would suggest that if Mr Laikie, as he claims, has the “utmost respect for Tiree’s fishermen….” then he might have engaged with them directly before writing letters of protest to local newspapers. Tiree is a small island and it would have been very easy to find out about the facts and individuals involved in his chosen subject of protest before putting pen to paper. If this courtesy had been shown originally then some column inches would have been saved and the fishermen – “sensible” or otherwise – referred to might have been more receptive to his views and he may have gained a different perspective on the issues.

I hope if James and Linda are on Tiree in the future when I am home we might meet over a meal of scallops to join in friendly debate. I will have sustainably dredged scallops from Coinneach and out of respect for their views I will offer them sustainably-dived ones. We may even ceremoniously swap during the evening and hopefully nobody will be eating parrot. “

Angus MacPhail

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