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The truths they don't want you to read....

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Look back in sorrow

Having been able to mull over the consequences of the likely refusal of the Lewis Wind Power scheme, I think it is time to review where we stand and to try to find a constructive way forward for the islands.

I haven't actually seen the letter from the Executive, nor do I have any idea what the response from LWP will be, but I don't see the Executive changing their minds, unless they have made a huge blunder in fact or in law.

Firstly, I think we should all be grateful that the decision has been taken quickly. The original suggestion from our MP that it go to a 'time limited public inquiry' was so ludicrous - mainly as there is no such legislative power to have such an inquiry - that he quickly, and quietly changed his position.

If there were such fundamental problems with any development on this site surely these should have been identified a long time back so as to save us all this uncertainty. And it would have avoided me and my fellow councillors spending two years of our time considering the application. And saving all the costs involved in the process.

We now need to understand just what the implications are for that area with the designations in place. Can any development take place, or is it effectively sterilised forever from all developments?

Someone asked about when the designations were brought in. They came into place in 1999 or 2000, just when I was first elected, and I clearly recollect being told by the SNH Officers that the designations would not prevent any development taking place. Cllr Angus Graham was very careful to ask that question more than once, and to check and recheck the answer, and with that assurance the Comhairle did not object to the designation. We were lied to.

There have been a number of attacks on the Vice-Convener over his support for the scheme, and it is fair to say that the Comhairle must now find alternative development options to bring forward. But the Comhairle cannot do this in isolation, nor can it solve all the problems with a wave of a magical wand.

The moor is now to remain as an important habitat for birds, so it is not unreasonable to expect the RSPB and SNH to make a major investment in the islands to attract visitors to this hugely important site. As far as I can ascertain, the RSPB spend pennies - other than an salary - out of the £70m annual income yet are able to pronounce to the world on the importance of the birdlife. Or is the role of the guardians to object and not build up an asset?

I am far from convinced that tourism is the future for prosperity. The vagaries of weather and exchange rates will leave us badly exposed to an unreliable stream of visitors. And without the critical mass to allow us to develop further facilities to attract further visitors, it is going to remain largely a semi-professional and low-level activity.

Finally, and most importantly, our parliamentarians now have an enormous responsibility to help attract employment to the islands. The public sector is bloated and growing, and without new entrepreneurs coming here development, incomes and prospects will remain in stasis, and the community will not grow. Simply saying NO to a proposal is not a long-term strategy. Whatever influence they may have needs to be brought to bear to force the Government(s) to recognise the fragility of the islands. And trying to take the Lewis chessmen back to Edinburgh will do not a single thing from the islands.

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

Afraid you are following into a familiar trap that is part of our problem - that there is some sort of magic bullet for our economic development and that it is up to the government or others out there to solve all our problems. No single things will or should be the answer - basket of eggs comes to mind - and that also applies to tourism but it is unarguable that tourism would make a much bigger contribution if people could get on and off the largest island 7 days a week. Responsibility for the prsesent state of affairs lies not with Edinburgh nor with CalMac but very close to home. And its not just tourists who would benefit - check the comments on this.http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Ferry7days/signatures.html We need a mixed economy and a mixed community that appeals to younger people - to achieve that we need a collective change of attitude rather than trotting out the same liturgy that the answer lies elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

As one former councillor remarked "you cannot put a spade in the ground on the moor without permission from SNH and RSPB". These two organisations really control the future development of the islands, rather than the Council. What does this mean for our model of democracy?

Forgotten of North Uist said...

Plan B? The Outer Hebrides could have had - and still can have - an IT-based part of the knowledge economy.

Angus: what do you prefer your kids to do when they grew up?

1. Work as low paid (competing against eastern europeans for pay) semi skilled labourers, bolting on turbine blades in a Lewis gale and occasionally falling off (it happens; for all modern health and safety laws, construction industry accidents are still unacceptably high). Little security, no prospects, low standard of living, and they'll need to learn Bulgarian, not Gaelic, to speak to their co-workers.

2. Go to University, gaining IT, knowledge-based and transferable skills, then choose to live back in the Outer Hebrides as they can use these skills, from here, in the global knowledge economy?

?? I know what I'll be encouraging my two youngest to do. Clue: it doesn't involve clinging to the top of a mast in a gale for little more than minimum wage, wondering what the Bulgarian for "Where's the ladder gone?" is.

To make 2. happen? The Outer Hebrides needs to play catch-up on broadband, having fallen badly behind the western world in the last 4 years. That means 8Mb (ideally 20Mb+) RELIABLE speed from ALL HOMES AND BUSINESSES as a minimum. Yesterday. It's that simple (or should be), and that's what the large majority of other, competing, people and businesses in the UK have. I note that BT are now planning trialling 100Mb broadband on the mainland. I read about it - slowly - through my dial-up Internet this morning.

While the Outer Hebrides has a wireless broadband system that is prone to the weather, and still does not extend to communities such as mine.

This week's excuse for no service to those on other islands "lucky" enough to have broadband: lightning strike on a mast! And whole towns, including mine, are still not on broadband. DESPITE PROMISES OF BROADBAND MADE IN 2004 AND REPEATEDLY SINCE. And millions of pounds of LOCAL FUNDING wasted.

Will this be reversed? I doubt it. Many members of the Comhairle are deliberately ignorant, distrustful and scared of anything to do with IT and the Internet. When their only plan for the future is based around poorly paid manual labour, while the rest of the UK and Europe moves towards highly skilled knowledge based jobs, it doesn't make for an attractive option for the next generation of Hebrides who dare to aspire to a decent wage and standard of living. So our leaders condemn the next generations of us locals to a low income, menial existance for their future.

Thanks for nothing, Comhairle. If only you'd been half as obsessed about the knowledge economy, the global economy, and modern ways of working as you are about wind factories. Shame on you.

Yours, four years without promised broadband in North Uist.

eyoop said...

God, the Scotsman is a poor read these days. It really has gone down the toilet. Being owned by the same lot that owns the Stornoway Gazette though, it's maybe not surprising.

Lovely quote on turbines from Councillor Archie Campbell "If you think of pound signs every time it spins – I think they are quite beautiful." That surely is one of those 'Did he really say that?' lines. I sometimes wonder if local councillors were put on this earth specifically to antagonise us lowly peasants. I hear that AMEC think of pound signs every time they spin too...

If councillors are so imaginatively bankrupt that the monstrous LWP scheme is all they can come up with, and are looking for ideas because the £20,000 or so we now pay each of them for being councillors isn't quite enough to stir their grey matter, then I think they could do a lot worse than get people back to working the land, instead of staring out their triple-glazed windows at a spinning turbine and thinking of pound signs.

There is an enormous amount of unused land, even the strips of moorland so beloved of AMEC beside the villages, that could be reclaimed from moorland and utilised for crop-growing, both for local use and export, without disturbing either environmental designations or the birds etc living there. Where human beings use the land itself considerately and wisely, nature itself generally benefits. Fruits, summer vegetables, winter vegetables in polytunnels, plant & tree nurseries...the list is only limited by the imagination (sorry councillors). I've had locally-grown food I bought in the outdoor market they have in Stornoway on Saturdays and it was fantastic quality. Why not expand this on a scale which will actually give people year-round employment?

Even formerly lush croft land is now disappearing under rushes, and eventually under heather as it reverts to moorland. This is a thoroughly depressing sight, as is going through the Lewis villages on a Saturday and seeing hardly anybody, not because there are no people, but because we don't work the land any more, preferring instead to stay in and watch soaps/movies/computer games all day (so relevant to our culture) and clog up our bodies with the carbohydrate-laden crap we're offered in our 'supermarkets'. We are being turned into a bunch of unhealthy battery-fed hens when we could and should be some of the healthiest people in Britain (as we once were). Our ancestors made the croft land the villages are built on viable for food growth by dint of sheer hard work, using only natural resources. Why shouldn't this be repeated on a larger scale, as we now have machinery to do the initial earthmoving? Plenty of work for contractors there.

I agree with you that tourism is not enough to sustain the islands. I find Stornoway a bit of a depressing place now, and in serious need of an injection of character: it has become 'a pale imitation of its former self', to use a cliché. I'd quite like to see some of the tourist-oriented shops, expensive restaurants and the odd pub or two right in the middle of Stornoway replaced by fruit and veg shops, etc. stocked with local produce and run by locals. And I'd like to hear more Gaelic spoken in the streets. Use it or lose it.

As for the LWP fiasco, you said "If there were such fundamental problems with any development on this site surely these should have been identified a long time back so as to save us all this uncertainty. And it would have avoided me and my fellow councillors spending two years of our time considering the application. And saving all the costs involved in the process."

Well, as councillors considering the application, surely it was your responsibility to find these things out for yourselves? The fact that you describe them as 'fundamental problems' surely says it all. When I first saw the application and read about the environmental designations on the land, not to mention the furore about the common grazings, etc. I thought, 'They'll never get that through in a year of Sundays'. The council is entirely responsible for the years wasted because a) it didn't listen to what islanders were telling them through a megaphone and b) it ignored/didn't adequately take note of the environmental designations on the land. I got the feeling at the time, especially on reading the reports in the Stornoway Greysheet, that this was done because of friction between councillors and RSPB/SNH and you all wanted to trade punches with each other, but that didn't help Lewis much, did it?

If indeed you got assurances that the designations would not prevent any(?) development going ahead, then I presume you got that in writing?
"...and I clearly recollect being told..." would count for nothing in a land court.

So, for the councillors who are so short of ideas, and the few NuLabour loonies who permeate this blog and seem to make it their life mission to do nothing except insult politicians of a certain persuasion personally, my own suggestions for the way ahead are:

1. Continue pressing for an interconnector with a view to installing wave/tidal systems when they are ready.

2. Approve only those wind turbine projects as are actually wanted by the communities involved, i.e. listen to the people for a change.

3. Reclaim moorland beside the villages for growing food and exportable 'green' things like plants/trees,etc., on a large scale but more sympathetic with the environment than the large industrial wind complex initially planned. The benefits from this will be much longer-lasting and healthier.

4. Lower business rates in the center of town for people who want to open small shops with what people really need rather than trinket shops. Encourage more outdoor marketing for those who want to sell crops but haven't the wherewithal to sell from a shop in town.

5. Knock some of the current councillors' wages back down because it looks like they're not doing their job properly despite the handsome pay rise.

6. Get the Sunday ferries going asap and deliver RET. The Loooord's Day Observance Society and their ilk have had their way for far too long and I know from experience that their actions are at least as much to blame for people leaving this island as any other factor such as lack of suitable employment. They've had their time and it has passed. It actually passed some years back but people are still reeling from the centuries of Presbyterian horror and haven't realised just what potential this place really has...but without industrial-scale wind complexes, thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with your rendition of the chain of events. It has taken far too long for this decision to come through and YOU as planning chief at the time should have realised YOURSELF the impediments standing in your way, in the shape of habitat directives, subscribed to wholeheartedly by the Comhairle. Blame yourself, Angus. Yes, you.

swampie said...

Plan B

Was thinking today when I felt empowered to go for walk - so where did I go - on the moor.

No birds, but lots of peat that's for sure, and 3 hours to think clearly (the moor does have its uses). Anyway back to plan B

It came to me what would bring families back, create hundreds of long term jobs, create construction jobs, fill B &B's, create a service industry. It would not upset RSPB/SNH. It would keep government happy. An all round winner. What an alternative.

I wont keep you in suspenders any more (with an orange in your mouth if your a Tory) so how about a prison.

A nice big one. One long road, one big prison out to the moor. Think of all the above. You escape you have to get off the moor, navigate past the mispelt Gaelic signs (sic) and then swim the Minch.

Peterheads economy blooms on it now fishing is going down the pan

I copyright this idea (no Angus you did not come up with it first) and if it gets the go ahead then we can all join the RSBP and live happily ever after.

By the way did no one read the text to these designations or did you just take someones word for it at a chamber power point seminar.

If it is the later I'd be sacking the legal team? You make it sound like a bunch of double glazing salesmen walked in and conned you. Is that how it was?

Anonymous said...

Angus said: "If there were such fundamental problems with any development on this site surely these should have been identified a long time back so as to save us all this uncertainty. And it would have avoided me and my fellow councillors spending two years of our time considering the application. And saving all the costs involved in the process."

I am told the RSPB/SNH/EU told you that 5 years ago - but you were so arrogant (council, not (perhaps) you personally) that you just kept going.

Blinkered by the AMEC spin?

Brian Wilson is rather quiet......no annual bonus for him me thinks.

Anonymous said...

Another website claims that:

"Some years ago Western Isles Council recommended the environmental designation of the special protection areas on the moorland. But its actions have resulted in the European Union now warning the Scottish Government that the planned wind farm would breach the legislation set up to safeguard such protected sites."

Is anyone able to provide some more information about this? It raises a couple of interesting questions:

1) Did the council recommend environmental designation?

2) If so, why? Was their any economic benefit from being designated?

I sincerely hope that those pushing hardest for the windfarms aren't the same individuals who pushed for designation - that would be quite embarassing.

As for the way forward, does designation rule out smaller, community schemes? Could these involve turbine construction at Arnish? Do the local communities oppose such schemes? And could the government assist by funding construction of such schemes (eg, by provision of long-term loans)?

Angus said...

I have no recollection of the Comhairle supporting a designation for that area, but it could have happened before my time. FoI request anyone?

If the moorland cannot be used for windfarms, then it will be sterilised for other uses. That means no Ness-Tolsta Road for instance, and the University of East London study (used by the RSPB) recommended no peat roads and restrictions on peat cutting.

The original 1998/9 plan was to have the turbines along a new Ness-Tolsta road where no-one would see them, but they had to be moved to the West-side due to the designation and (IIRC) on the advice of SNH and the RSPB.

Anonymous said...

You mention in your blog that you "clearly recollect being told by the SNH Officers that the designations would not prevent any development taking place", and that designation took place after this.

What was your role in the designations coming into effect? Were you in a position to object to them, but didn't?

Anonymous said...

Looks like the Comhairle well and truly shot itself on the foot!

Another failing of the Comhairle is that although it promoted the Western Isles as the home of renewable energy, it didn't identify sites that could be developed with everyone's agreement and it didn't take the community with it.

The Comhairle is so out of touch it's quite astounding.

Anonymous said...

Am I getting this right.

SNH have the power to force designations upon councils and communities no matter if they dont sign up to them.

Is that where we stand?

Anonymous said...

Regarding the loss of 400 jobs etc - is this of any relevance to Harris, the Uist or Barra. Why doesn't the Comhairle promote economic development that will benefit all of these islands. To those of us in the Southern Isles, maybe being controlled from the mainland rather than the Free Churchmen in the Stornoway Comhairle was preferable after all!

Anonymous said...

Been looking at the papers yesterday (it even made it onto the front page of the London based Independent newspaper yesterday) and on the web today and it seems everyone thinks it's been the right decision and all of the papers make reference to Calum and Alasdair having lost their seats because of their support for the Lewis Wind Farm. AMEC must be wondering why on earth they took Brian on board. He turned out to be a real asset!

Anonymous said...

So the SNP Scottish Government, SNP MP and SNP MSP all said 'no' to the Lewis Windfarm but the word in North Lochs is that your ex colleague SNP Annie is up in arms about the decision. So Annie's in tune with the Comhairle but not her Party. What's that all about?

Anonymous said...

Is it any coincidence that attemps are being made to return the Lewis Chessmen i.e you can't have a windfarm but you might get your chessmen back. That seems fair recompense....

From the BBC website.....

"The culture minister has visited the British Museum in London in an attempt to have the historic Lewis chessmen returned to Scotland".

Anonymous said...

Channel 4 are sniffing about. They are planning a new series

"Gordon's Island Nightmares"

He comes to an island, sees what it is offerring then reinvents it, sacking the hangers on in the process.

Lewis is the first show. Comhairle watch out.

Anonymous said...

I have been told that any chance of turbines on Stornoway Trust land is zero as they will be blocked by the airport.

I was told they have already blocked turbines in this area. True?

Silversprite said...

Happy birthday, troublemaker :-)

eyoop said...

Anon 11:07

"Am I getting this right.

SNH have the power to force designations upon councils and communities no matter if they dont sign up to them.

Is that where we stand?"



Well no, you're getting it completely wrong. The council agreed to the designations without pressure (much to their credit, they must have been environmentally aware back in those days).

So where we stand is that Comhairle nan Eilean have shot themselves in both feet with a blunderbuss, but of course objectors, the media, Islamic fundamentalists, Donald Trump's toupe, in fact anything and anyone but the council will get the blame. It wasn't us wot done it, Guv.

My understanding (maybe Angus will correct me if I'm wrong) is that the Sy Trust option (turbines south from Tolsta to Stornoway) was put forward after the initial Tolsta-Ness moor plan was rejected and that this 2nd plan also was rejected due to objections by SNH etc, hence the move to the west side. It's difficult to see where they could possibly go now in north Lewis, unless AMEC clears everyone out of Point and plonks them there?

Anonymous said...

"unless AMEC clears everyone out of Point and plonks them there?"

DJ wouldn't like that - then he might have to stay near his Point turbine, that he is convently planning to plonk behind Marybank.

If it is that good for Point - why not build it on Point?

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, Angus:

LWP now has '21 days' to try to save its moneyspinner.

Given the utter corruption of government at all levels, I have no doubt that in three weeks we shall awaken to find that the Lewis scam (net value to the British taxpayer: zero; net value to the environment: negative) will have sailed on through.

I expect the turbines to start spinning at, oh, just about the time Trump puts the finishing touches on his own moneyspinner over on the east coast.

Laudrup said...

If chessmen is what we are supposed to be getting instead of windfarms........... I give up.

Anonymous said...

Of course, even with LWP being given 21 days to save their proposal, it doesn't matter.

Why? Quite simply, the EU runs Britain now--over 80% of all legislation originates in the EU, and the EU has supreme jurisdiction.

The UK is de facto merely a province of the EU, and can do naught but submit quietly, as good little slaves, to EU laws.

In this case, the EU has an interest in preserving the peatlands, and there's not really anything that the Executive can do about it.

Nice, huh? Welcome to your cage.

turf bogger said...

It's strange how Ireland - an EU province a little over a hundred miles to the south - has never had any problems with EU legislation which is designed to be interpreted by each indivivdual nation. In Ireland they are 'cute' and see how they can have the legislation and still do their own thing. In the UK we have a British civil service still mired in the bog that was an empire and unable to bend with the wind so the EU legislation is applied to the letter of the law. 'I'm sorry it's not me it's Europe....' In fact it is poor interpretation of EU edicts so don't have a go at EU for the faults of our Sir Humphreys!

Anonymous said...

"We were lied to", you say.

That's a very strong, and potentially libellous, statement - I'm sure you wouldn't make it unless you had evidence to back it up.

Anonymous said...

A quick net trawl found this. Bet that delete button and shredding machine will be busy in days to come. So you weren't there Angus.


Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Development Services Committee 2/2/2000

Present: Mr Donald Maclean (Chairman), Mr Archibald K Campbell
(Vice-Chairman), Mr Donald M Mackay, Mr Malcolm J Macleod, Mr Donald
Macdonald, Mr Roderick Morrison, Mr James L Macarthur, Mr Alexander A
Macdonald, Mrs Mary Bremner, Mr Roderick Murray, Mr Ronald J Mackinnon,
Mr Norman L Macdonald, Mr Donald Manford, Mr Donald J Macsween

Item 19

Proposed Nature Conservation Designations: Lewis Peatlands DS61.0119*

The Acting Chief Executive submitted a Report concerning proposals to
designate the Lewis Peatlands as a Special Protection Area (SPA),
Ramsar Site and Special Area of Conservation. It was indicated in the
Report that the proposed designations reflected the fact that the Lewis
Peatlands formed one of the oldest and near natural landscapes in
Europe and also provided a unique habitat for a diverse range of
breeding birds of international importance. It was indicated that SNH
were consulting with a wide range of organisations, including Grazings
Committees, on the introduction of a Lewis Peatlands Management Scheme,
which would be a voluntary Scheme, in which Common Grazings Committees,
owner/occupiers, landlords, agricultural tenants or sub-tenants who
agreed to manage their land in ways which would maintain the special
habitat and wildlife interest of the Lewis Peatlands, could
participate.

The Report gave background information on the proposed nature
conservation site designations and intimated that the proposed
SPA/Ramsar Designated Area would cover 36% of Lewis, whilst the SAC
would cover 17%, the latter being wholly within the former. It was
emphasised in the Report that the proposed designations did not mean
that there would be a blanket prohibition on development activity, as
development would be considered in its wider socio-economic context,
although, any proposals for wind farms, afforestation and other
infrastructure projects would be likely to be more closely scrutinised
to assess their impact on the designated sites. It was stated in the
Report that SNH had requested the Comhairle to provide details of any
extant planning permissions and analogous consents which could affect
the proposed designated areas.

It was recommended in the Report that:

(1) the Comhairle broadly welcome the proposed Lewis Peatlands nature
conservation designations, noting particularly the emphasis on
management agreement incentives, consultation and local involvement
opportunities and the positive approach to future development
considerations;

(2) the comments set out in paragraphs 6.1 to 6.9 of the Report by the
Acting Chief Executive be used to form the basis of a response by the
Comhairle to Scottish Natural Heritage on the proposed Lewis Peatlands
nature conservation designations; and

(3) Scottish Natural Heritage be advised by the Acting Director of
Environmental Services of any extant planning permissions and analogous
consents which may affect the proposed Lewis Peatlands nature
conservation designations.

It was agreed to recommend that:

(1) it be delegated to the Acting Chief Executive, in consultation with
the Chairman, to respond to Scottish Natural Heritage on the proposed
Lewis Peatlands nature conservation designations, on the basis detailed
in the Acting Chief Executive's Report, and subject to any response
taking account of the views expressed at a meeting arranged by the
Scottish Crofters Union for 25 February 2000, to discuss the Lewis
Peatlands, with the response also taking account of the proposal that
the Lewis Peatland Scheme be extended to include areas not originally
included in the proposed site designations; and

(2) the Acting Director of Environmental Services be authorised to
advise SNH of any extant planning permissions and analogous consents
which may affect the proposed Lewis Peatlands NatureConservation
Designations.

It was further agreed to recommend that the Acting Chief Executive, in
consultation with the Chairman and Vice-Chairman, be authorised to
place an advertisement in the local press and make appropriate
arrangements, in consultation with the Scottish Crofters Union, for a
meeting scheduled to be held on 25 February 2000, at which the Lewis
Peatlands Scheme would be discussed.

The Committee unanimously agreed that, in accordance with the
provisions of paragraph 17 of the Scheme of Administration, the
Committee determine the above recommendation, relating to the press
advertisement and arrangements for the meeting on 25 February 2000, on
behalf of the Comhairle, under delegated powers, in light of the need
to have the matter dealt with prior to the next meeting of the
Comhairle, on the basis that the recommendation was not contentious and
did not breach a major policy position of the Comhairle.


Comhairle nan Eilean Siar 22/2/2000

PRESENT: Mr Alexander A Macdonald (Chairman), Mr Roderick J Murray
(Vice-Chairman), Mr Donald I Nicholson, Mrs Katie M Mackenzie, Mr
Norman M Macleod, Mr Malcolm J Macleod, Mr Donald J Macsween, Mr Iain
Morrison, Mr Finlay Morrison, Mr Roderick Morrison, Mr Donald M Mackay,
Mr Norman A Macdonald, Mrs Morag Munro, Mr Angus M Graham, Mr Archibald
K Campbell, Mr Ian M Macleod, Mr Donald Maclean, Mr George Lonie, Mr
James L McArthur, Mr Angus Nicolson, Mrs Mary Bremner, Mr Norman L
Macdonald, Mr Ronald J Mackinnon, Mr Alasdair G Macrae, Mr David
Blaney, Mr Angus Campbell, Mr Donald Manford, Mr Philip R McLean

COMMITTEES 8

The Minutes and Reports of Committees were submitted as follows which
were, unless otherwise indicated, noted with regard to delegated
functions and approved with regard to referred functions, except where
they had already been dealt with by the Comhairle:

Development Services (6) Minute of Meeting of 2 February 2000;

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:28--

You remarked that Angus' statement 'we were lied to', is 'potentially libellous'.

I'm not entirely sure that it is. Unless Angus asserts that a specific person did the lying, I'd expect that it's perfectly legitimate to claim that one was 'lied to' by an institution, especially if the facts seem to indicate that.

Part of the problem in British political culture, I think, is that folk walk in some fear of politicians, worried that they will be harassed if they make too much noise (as I'm sure has happened in some places and times, given the generally abysmal quality and lack of integrity of our politicians across the land).

If politicians want a reputation for honesty and integrity, let them act in a way which warrants it. To be frank, the political culture is in disrepute precisely because backdoor deals are so common, politicians fail to follow their own guidelines, laws are ignored at whim. See the latest on Browne's comments re. Wendy Alexander for an example of why the average citizen is so suspicious of our government.

Government at all levels is widely perceived as corrupt, crony-ridden, in hock to special interests, and utterly unconcerned with the average citizen. Not to mention 'arrogant', 'elitist' and 'filled with substandard twits'.

Until this changes, comments like those Angus made are understandable--and for all we know, he's right.

It's not up to Angus to defend his assertion, but for government to prove that they acted with opennness and honesty. Let us remember: Government is OUR servant, not the reverse.

Angus, I hope this doesn't complicate matters for you!

Captain Swing said...

Just loved the idea of a prison.

It start to make me think about what other industry we could attract. My first thought was offshore wind generation. Why not put a few turbines either side of the Braigh, plenty of room, water not to deep etc. Shame about the view for all those ghastly developements going up along the coastline of Back, but hey ho, upsetting local residents has never bothered the Council before.

But my really brilliant idea is to build a nuclear power station. I reckon there is just enough room on the coast between Tolsta and Ness. Obviously this proposal would fly in the face of the current incumbents at Holyrood, but I think I have a way round this. We declare a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) (remember Rhodesia?)The Council could then set up a company Western Isles Nuclear, (WIN) and off we go. None of this namby pamby Megawatt generation, think big, Gigawatts. Just think of the jobs that would be created both during the construction and operation. These jobs many of which will be highly skilled should provide suitable employment for our offspring that we take great pains to educate to a level where there are no jobs suitable for them without them having to leave the island. So there you have it, lets go nuclear!

I think both of these ideas should find favour with our 'Power Mad' Council. If the offshore option is taken up the Council should be able to generate enough funds, and to lull Holyrood into a feeling that all is well in the Islands and then hit them with UDI when all the plans for WIN have been put in place. This really would be a WIN win situation.

MadEddieH said...

Personally I'd be a lot more in favour of a nuclear power station on Lewis than an industrial windfarm.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:41

Great idea. When it goes into meltdown the prevailing SW wind will give the Shetlanders and their windfarm our "community benefits"

Angus re the 8.15am post. Looks like windfarms were flagged way back. Looks like you did rubber stamp however.

Embarassed?

Angus said...

Anon 10:20, I'm not embarassed, just angry, that...

It was emphasised in the Report that the proposed designations did not mean that there would be a blanket prohibition on development activity, as development would be considered in its wider socio-economic context,although, any proposals for wind farms, afforestation and other infrastructure projects would be likely to be more closely scrutinised to assess their impact on the designated sites.

Did not mean what we thought it meant when we signed up.

Anon 8:15 I have a copy of the bound sets of minutes, so no amount of shredding will hide the facts.

Anonymous said...

Angus:

This appears to be the nub of the problem:

"that the proposed designations did not mean that there would be a blanket prohibition on development activity, as development would be considered in its wider socio-economic context..."

However, under EU Directive "79/409/EEC" (note that this antedates the establishment of the 'EU', and is subsumed into EU legislation), 'member states' agreed to establish 'special protection areas'.

What does this mean? Quite simply that SPAs are an area of 'EU competence', having been established under an EEC/EU directive, and as such the EU has final authority on their use and development.

And THAT is the issue: the Council attempted to act unilaterally without asking the EU for its guidance. If the Council had done so, it could've saved itself a lot of time and taxpayer pounds, since the EU could have adjudicated the proposal.

In essence, in this case the Executive is NOT the final authority; the EU is, and the failure to recognize this fact (though your opponents did, early on, and made no secret of their plan to appeal to the EU should they need to) wasted a lot of time and effort.

The EU is supreme in this regard; not 'the Western Isles', or 'Scotland', or even the UK.

In future, it'd be best if one went straight to the source of real power--Brussels--and clarified the EU's stance before proceeding with any project proposals.

Anonymous said...

MWT wined and dined the EU at the Caberfaidh a couple of years ago I believe. Surely the Comharlie missed a trick there.

They must be rolling about in their crofts with laughter at recent events.

Anonymous said...

One for Stornoway Trust to consider

http://www.swampsoccer.co.uk/

Perhaps the organisers would consider moving to the bogs of Lewis for this prestigous event

Anonymous said...

MWT wined and dined the EU at the Caberfaidh a couple of years ago I believe. Surely the Comharlie missed a trick there.

They must be rolling about in their crofts with laughter at recent events.

Agreed. On any given issue, it's always prudent to identify where the real authority lies, and to keep that organisation friendly. Sounds like MWT did a great job.

Not only that but it sounds very much as if it would've been illegal to build the wind farm without crofters' consent, and the latter were preparing to file suit to protect their rights.

Sounds like the Comhairle really messed this one up.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11.30

That shin-dig was hosted by LWP, and Stornoway Trust and the Comhairle did presentations to EU Commissioners and then hosted a dinner at the Woodland Centre.Try
www.lewiswind.com/news/downloads/1187796751.pdf

for details.

Angus said...

Before anyone asks, I never went to any of the LWP meetings specifically so I could not be accused of taking sides in the debate, before I saw the application.

My only meetings with LWP and BMP were in the Council Chamber, other than meeting Kevin Murray out in town on a very few occasions.

eyoop said...

"It was emphasised in the Report that the proposed designations did not mean that there would be a blanket prohibition on development activity, as development would be considered in its wider socio-economic context,although, any proposals for wind farms, afforestation and other infrastructure projects would be likely to be more closely scrutinised to assess their impact on the designated sites."

Seems perfectly clear to me and not a cause for anger or confusion, but maybe for better reading glasses for councillors? Has anyone including SNH said that there is a total blanket ban on any development? Something on a sane scale, truthfully described, and supported by the islanders may well have gone through virtually unchallenged.

Anonymous said...

"If there were such fundamental problems with any development on this site surely these should have been identified a long time back so as to save us all this uncertainty. And it would have avoided me and my fellow councillors spending two years of our time considering the application. And saving all the costs involved in the process."

I roll my eyes!

The problems with this site would have been expressed sufficiently clearly during the scoping exercise and pre-application consultation with statutory consultees, such as SNH, for AMEC to understand that any application for a super wind farm on this site was likely to fail. Only the 'wide boys' of the wind farm world would pursue such a proposal all the way to a planning application. It seems that AMEC really had pulled the wool over councillor's eyes! I used to work on wind farm projects across Scotland so I can assure you that the developers would have been making jokes aplenty about how easy it was to influence CNES cooncillors!

Anonymous said...

"Something on a sane scale, truthfully described, and supported by the islanders may well have gone through virtually unchallenged"

Hopefully this is the case and we will see new plans in the near future.

The shear size of these things and their location not too mention all the infrastructure that was to be left behind when they were no longer (if ever) any use was enough to put anyone bar the council off.
Why is it when we get a chance of economic growth it has to be the biggest and most destructive options. Nuclear waste, Super Quarries, largest turbines and windfarms in europe. The paranoid may suggest that these were always false hopes and non starters.

Anonymous said...

http://www.managenergy.tv/me_portal/mst/_vi_wm_300_en/982/989/index_player.html

Presentation made by Angus Campbell to Managenergy Conference during 2005.
Some obvious issues are raised. I'll leave it for others to comment on them inc' reference to SPAs.

Anonymous said...

http://www.managenergy.tv/me_portal/mst/982/index.html

Sorry, above link not working. Try this, then scroll to "Energy in the Western Isles of Scotland", click and you're there.

This week, a presentation is being made to this years seminar and any presentations should be available later. Comhairle are represented.

Anonymous said...

http://www.managenergy.tv/me_portal/mst/982/index.html

Try this link instead.
Comhairle are represented at this years seminar, held in Belgium, this week.
Any presentations made should be available later.

Anonymous said...

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2008/01/31114457

That will rub the salt in the wound

Angus said...

Above post: link isn't fully visible.

Go here to see a windfarm that was approved despite the Council opposing it.

Prizes for anyone who can determine the logic in the policy......

Anonymous said...

if i lived near it i would be dead against it. The area is spectacularly beautiful and does not need a farm of this size blotting it.
Couldnt help noticing that there are a third of the number proposed for here,on average 60ft smaller, yet still twice the size of most of those that already are operating. They are sited in a much smaller area and not strewn accross miles and miles. They would require 25-30 km of new road compared with the 141 km required here.

Anonymous said...

Could we not cluster any future turbines where the Arnish ones already are i.e in and around Arnish and its industrial estate. By my judgement you could get another dozen or so there, it isnt designated and not near habitation.

Stornoway Trust would benefit,as would Camcal, but surely they could come to some financial arragement with other communities to stop them being built else where ie Pairc, Eisgein, Harris etc.

Keep them in one area is what I say

Anonymous said...

Eigg on all our faces.

Anonymous said...

surely the Eigg scenario is the way forward.

produce power for yourselves - not export