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

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

South Uist - what can be done?

The business relationship between Heb Energy and Storas has totally collapsed, with the deliberate release of confidential, leading to adverse - and very personalised - media comment.

As with many things, there are often other underlying issues about all these matters, but why are many Uisteach thinking fondly of the old estate owners, compared to what they see today? Why are so many telling me that they cannot raise their heads above the parapet for fear of real or perceived retribution?


Huw Francis
Chief Executive
Storas Uibhist
Isle of South Uist

9th August 2010

Dear Huw

Thank you for your letter dated 6th August 2010. There are issues regarding the letter which concern me greatly. These are namely;
  • You hand delivered a copy of the letter to me at my house in Bornish on the evening of Friday 6th August.
  • On Saturday 7th August, I was informed that a copy of the letter had been issued to all the members of SnBM.
  • A copy of the letter was sent by recorded delivery on Saturday 7th August.
  • My permission was not sought before this commercially sensitive letter was made public, although you had the opportunity to do so, when hand delivering it. You also have my mobile number, telephone number & email address. Who authorised this to be done?
  • The Directors of the estate were not consulted before the letter was made public.
  • The Directors of the estate were not given a copy of the letter before it was made public.
  • To date, no other matter of a commercially sensitivity nature has been made available to all members simultaneously. Who authorised this change in procedure?
  • At our meeting on Thursday 5th August, you (Huw) were quite clear on the following;
    • Community Members are members of SnBM.
    • The Directors are accountable to the members on SnBM matters
    • The members are not members of South Uist Estates.
    • SnBM and South Uist Estates are two separate organisations.
    • SnBM holds all the shares in South Uist Estates.
    • The Directors are not accountable to members regarding South Uist Estate matters.

The above meant that when I asked you about what leases have been granted by the Directors of South Uist Estates and what standard securities over assets have been granted by Directors. (This was in order to compare commercial terms with my own proposals). You replied that the Directors of South Uist Estate are not answerable to the membership for their actions, because they are members of SnBM and you are a member of SnBM.

  1. All estate dealings of a commercially sensitive nature must now be dealt with in the same manner, past & present. I look forward to viewing all the information on all leases, bank loans obtained by the estate, all standard securities granted by the estate and all commercial contracts entered into by the estate, being sent to all the members, in the same manner as you dealt with my commercially sensitive proposal.
  2. You seem to have forgotten that I am effectively an ‘inward investor’ to the economy in Uist. Simply because I live locally should not mean that you are free to treat me in this shabby and unprofessional manner.

The way in which this matter is being handled by the estate serves to underline the unprofessional approach, which we have come to expect. If you fail to understand the most basic concept of ‘commercial sensitivity’ then all your dealings must be in constant jeopardy.

It is clear that you personally failed to apply for the grid connection on behalf of your employer and are trying every method to cover up this failure. My development will not be put at risk simply because you were incompetent.

I insist that this letter should be posted onto the Storas’ website by Tuesday 10th August 2010.

I made you an offer on 17th February 2010 and I have yet to receive a reply. It is noticeable that the Chairman has chosen not to attend any meetings with me to date.

I urge Angus to attend the forthcoming meeting on Wednesday 11th August 2010 at 11.00am, which we agreed on last Thursday.

Considering that the estate is being offered £150million, in return for very little, you have an unusual approach to dealing with the whole issue. Your actions to date do not appear to have been in the best interests of your employer or the estate, to secure the deal which will ensure the estate’s future.

I await your reply by 9.00pm tomorrow.

Yours sincerely

Calum MacMillan


Cynicus said...

Where is the champion of anti-landlordism Brian Wilson to help the crofter against the system?

Oh yes, he's writing the letters for Storas and calling the meetings and which his opinions and instructions are ratified.

Anonymous said...

The curious ensemble of would be circus ringmasters - Brian Wilson, Calum MacDonald, and Alasdair Morrison - have exerted a malign influence on the 'community'.

This has been compounded by having a CEO who is both arrogant, incompetent, and agreeable to the most odious treatment of an island community that has ever been seen. Add to that a Chairman and ex vice chairman who hold the community in contempt.

Throw in an office staff who are out of their depth and you have the perfect recipe for disaster.

...forgot to add the numpties from WIE who are also in the mix.

You could not have imagined that we would be in the current mess when the buyout was launched three years ago.

Anonymous said...

Yes but they were all voted back in again.

Anonymous said...


Good point, but you have forgotten the Mugabe clause which changed the constitution to allow this to happen.

As David Buckland said during his impromptu speech deploring the behaviour of both the board and WIE at the EGM " ...even Putin had to take a break from office..."

The one saving was that the Iochdar Richeleau was voted out, much to his complete astonishment.

Also, the whole Storas management style is held in such contempt that those who could be possible candidates will not touch it with a bargepole.

Who would join an organisation which is perceived to be working against the community?

Anonymous said...

What can you get for an investment of £6 million in a 'community buyout?

1) Flagship golf course still mired in a legal dispute

2) Wind farm project in a total shambles.

3) A £20million fantasy scheme for a deep water pier that has all the hallmarks of being another Arnish

4) A community that has been subjected to legal threats by the 'community' management team.

5) A CEO who has been pestering commercial leaseholders to return existing leases in order that they may be 'reviewed'

6) Eye watering sums paid to lawyers and consultants - figure believed to be about £750K

7) Sureties given over to the banks on parts of the island.

Step forward HIE and the other grubby figures in the background; you are to be congratulated on achieving a community which is wholly disenfranchised with what has been dumped on it, and is becoming increasingly nervous with what may lie ahead.

Anonymous said...


You left out a CEO who is the proud possessor of a glowing cv which includes.

1) No estate management background.

2) No man management skills.

3) No legal background.

4) No discernable commercial development background

5) No empathy with an island community

6) No negotiating skills

However, he has the grace to be the plaything of what he perceives to be his masters, and no I don't mean the islanders that form the core of the community. The locals are only to be used, abused, and exploited.

Let us hope this list gets included when the cv is next updated. I take it that by that time the six years that was spent as a babysitter will have been erased or perhaps reinvented as 'a period of interactive cognative dissonance'.

Why did this clown end up in a job that paid £50k per anum and who appointed him?

Anonymous said...

Angus: what are the possible scenarios which face the community should the banks pull the plug and the current level of support through public funding - as is expected - dries up?

While Storas appears to be in a bit of a mess I have no doubt that it is a question which is equally relevant to other community buy outs.

Anonymous said...

But wasn't there a huge turn out that voted them back in again?

Anonymous said...


The manipulation of 'news' by Brian Wilson through his crafting of press releases and articles supplied to the Free Press and Herald is worthy of a closer examination for any student of Orwellian tactics.

If you were not aware of the barefaced thuggery practiced by Storas on the Uist community, the apparent ceaseless toiling of the Storas board would indeed be worthy of commendation.

Unfortunately, Wilson only ever focused on the spin which would make Storas pronouncements and actions palatable to the funding bodies who are required to keep the show on the road, and to the gullible who do not question the implications of a management team that is out of control.

The bitter irony is that the former natural champion of most west coast communities - step forward Brian Wilson - is now conniving with the Storas board to suppress any form of initiative by islanders.

There is no forum where the locals can meet with the board and discuss any issues of concern. Given that there is an almost pathalogical use of lawyers and threats of land court actions by Storas is it any wonder that possible dissent is stamped on.

This underbelly is one which you will not see if you swallow the eulogies penned by Wilson and have not come into contact with the hard fist of Storas. Martin Bormann would have been proud of his valiant efforts.

So, no surprises that the public face of Storas is that of 'plucky islanders'

Anonymous said...

Good thread...God, how Brian Wilson and his ilk must hate blogging and the internet! Amidst the dross, it has so much more truth in it than the West Highland Free Press!

Anonymous said...

A quick trawl through the Storas board minutes reveals a rather curious matter, the chairman absents himself when matters arising over discussion regarding renewables are on the agenda.

The cynical money is on Storas now being used as an updated version of that old chestnut, the IDP scheme; of which our esteemed chairman was administrator.

When can we expect to see the delighted surprise on his face when he realises ' oops, I appear to have awarded myself a windfarm'

(I couldn't have done it without the aid of my old chum, Brian)

Anonymous said...

It was confirmed today by no less a person that the welsh git that the letter to shareholders was written by Wilson

Anonymous said...

The rather strange processions from Uist to Edinburgh now begin to make a bit of sense with the pupeteer having been publicly exposed.

I have to admit to a certain mild curiosity when Storas took up the cudgel over deep water piers, provision of ferries, defence strategy, education policy...and any other stray item which could be used to try and have a public kick at the current Scottish administration.

Storas has been sadly used and manipulated by Wilson, his cronies, and a bunch of complicit directors.

Pity that this sorry lot couldn't focus on the day to day administration of a crofting community and give some support to the various individuals who show some entrepreneurial flair.

Dr Evadne said...

I hear on the grapevine that Brian Wilson is weedling his way into the affections of the Pairc Trust. What a laugh it would be if all these so called community windfarms end up in the hands of large organisations such AMEC? Then they could join them all up and make one big windfarm. Surely Brian must now have his sights set on the Arnish debacle or the Bridge Community centre.

Anonymous said...

The great reforming MacLandlords of the 21st century have arrived, be afraid, be very afraid!

Anonymous said...

Dr Evadne,

Laugh?... I can only weep.

Jamie Smith said...

Sadly, all these comments would have far more credibility if their posters had the strength of their convictions and didn't hide behind anonymity. It's quite laughable, and frankly cowardly! Have a go by all means, but at least have the balls to back-up your spurious tittle-tattle.

Anonymous said...

Did Brain Wilson also write this Jimmy Reid Obituary in Guardian. If so he'll be spinning in his grave at his write-up being done by a champagne turncoat socialist like Brian Wilson. Wilson has become everything this great man stood against.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jamie Smith

I am very touched by the faith you have in humanity, sadly, mine was eroded over the course of many years and bitter encounters with individuals who have been elevated to positions where they can excert a malign influence in pursuit of their own personal agenda.

It is reassuring to find an person who thinks that to pen their name to a comment on a blog such as this will not suffer repercussions.

Imagine for a moment, if you will, that you had written anything critical of Storas and then had to go cap in hand to them for a plot of land or a lease. Dear oh dear, what a surprise awaits you. They are already on record for with-holding these to locals who have not stood on the party line.

In addition, these comments are appearing precisely because there is no forum for open and constructive dialogue with the Storas board. Unless of course you count an AGM where they appear with their lawyers in tow as an opportunity for community discussion.

Be under no illusion that should you dissent from their pronouncements you will be publicly savaged.

Look back at the treatment given to David Buckland, Hamish Fraser, the Askernish crofters, Andrew MacKinnon, etc. All of this is on record; so, please think again before you mock anonymous "tittle tattle'

Yours etc,

Ann Onimouse

Anonymous said...

Maybe someone wants to suggest to Huw he moves to the new Galson Trust job up to a canny £33k. He might take the pay cut?

They seem to want to build a Golf Course and Wind turbines against the crofters wishes too and are running a business not a community.

That should all be familiar to him.

Jamie Smith said...

What rubbish Ann Omimouse. We are not talking about Saddams' Iraq, Stalinist Russia or Pol Pot's Cambodia - we are talking South Uist. Frankly, all these victims who claim harsh treatment if they out themselves while airing their views deserve everything they get. In fact, their victimhood is just a smoke screen to make some sarcastic commentary. Nothing will change so long as people hide behind, snidey, anonymous sarcasm. So, again, I say grow a pair and do something more constructive about it. Far too easy to do what you are doing, far too easy to play at being a victim and far too easy to hide.

Anonymous said...

Jamie Smith,

You don't know how wrong you are. Or maybe you do?

Wait for the book. It'll show the consequences of raising your head above the parapet of island politics...

Anonymous said...

Dear Jamie Smith

I hope your mother is ashamed of you, and I can only excuse your behaviour by assuming that you were brought up in the darkest regions of Harris.

What a salacher, expecting a good woman like myself to 'grow a pair'

I have tried various creams and poitions to eradicate the odd bit of facial hair, and my indulgence in Charley Barley's guga marag is entirely innocent. And never would I expect a side effect such as you suggest.

When you have a wee moment from your obviously busy schedule it might be worth your while to reflect and have a look at the way Storas reacted to a report in the Am Paipear which was not to their liking. Now this publication is not a scurrilous rag such as The Peoples Friend, or the Womans Own, It is only the wee Uist paper which reports on the local goings on.
The report on the EGM was actually extremely mild in relation to what in fact was said at that meeting, and the report on the wind farm proposal was also accurate.

Now, when the reaction from Storas is to try and suppress the local newspaper, and try and effect the removal of journalists and editors,
I am sadly afraid that we are indeed slipping back to a time when the dissenters were expelled.

Brian Wilson, who was quite comely in his youth, should stop and reflect on the debacle in which the 'community buy out' is now engaged in. Personally, I find it tiresome to have the word 'community' so roundly misused by those who have no feeling whatsoever for the aspirations of the locals in Uist, Harris, Lewis, and elsewhere.

I have to stop now as the postman is just pulling up and I am expecting the latest Autumn edition from both Oxendale and J D Williams. The sight of the young men in their combinations (page 54- 63) is enough to put a Grimsay lass off her porridge.

Best regards, (and stay out of the sunshine as it doesn't seem to agree with you)

Ann Onimouse
(spinster, still hopefull)

Anonymous said...

Mr Smith

I can only imagine you are in a job from which you cannot be sacked and at a stage of your life where you no longer have ambitions such as a house site or business. Otherwise you must surely be aware of the delicacy of free expression in a small community. I must admit, using anonymous as a handle does stick in the craw a bit, but when I get to thinking about who I might be inadvertently winding up and how it could affect me in the future, I think I'll stick to anon anon.

Anonymous said...

Jamie Smith- Surely you realise that without anonymity most of these posts would vanish?
Anybody who thinks otherwise is displaying either astonishing arrogance or total naivety.
Or both.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know or care who Jamie Smith is. I don't. He may as well be calling himself Mr Strudel Banger. Does he even live anywhere near where we live? And who really cares what he thinks about us!

Jamie Smith said...

Neither naivety or arrogance nor too much sunshine, plus my mother is very proud. Again, for the record ladies and gentlemen, you'd honesty think you were dealing Stasi style secret police and the threat of being rounded up at dawn to be sent to forced-labour camps.

It's South Uist, and I really, really wish people would just have the courage of their convictions and say what's needing said. There are so many forums for doing so,and it's all too easy to be anonymous.
Dare I say, perhaps the reason that none of the other news outlets have covered this story (Wilson's free sheet, the well-intentioned , but amateur Paipear and the ridiculous Hebrides News aside) is that there is really nothing to report apart form the perceived injustices and intimidation of a paranoid, anonymous few?

Anonymous said...

Dear Jamie,

Your arrogant comments show that you are completely divorced from the reality of living in a rural community.

One of my good friends of many years in South Uist attempted suicide a few years back. The root? He put his head above the parapet and made accurate public comments, in a reasonable manner, about a local political situation.

And that's when the harassment, slighting, comments about himself and his girlfriend, started. As well as the loss of his only source of income under extremely dubious circumstances.

If you think there no repercussions from saying the wrong things - or even just the right things - then you are either a deluded fool, or the most naive person on these islands. If, in fact, you do live here. Either way, your comments disgust me.

Anonymous said...

Dear "Mr Smith"

You are right, of course. In theory there is no real reason for being anonymous or "Ann Onymouse". And yes, perhaps there is a healthy dose of paranoia. But the option is not whether or not to be anonymous. It is whether to post and contribute to an open democratic debate or sit and seethe. I prefer the former.

There was a time when it was very difficult to protest, and the channels available were few and each had their own dangers and pitfalls. Those who felt they were wronged by the clearances could do practically nothing. Those who raided land felt that civil disobedience was the solution.

But now we have anonymous posting. It is not illegal, dangerous or malicious. At least, nothing I have seen would be actionable. And surely anonymous posts are better than no posts at all. After all, you seem to be reading them.

Anonymous said...

I have just been passed a copy of the Free Press which was published last weekend. I note that Brian Wilson confirms being at '...a meeting I attended in South Uist last week.'

Why have the non board attendees and their role at the monthly meetings not been included in the minutes which are published on the Storas website.

More pertinently, why is a has-been labour politician attending meetings which affect the South Uist when no members of the community are able to attend?

Who has paid his expenses to attend?

What vested interests does Wilson have in windpower? (declared?)

Or even, why cannot the minutes of Storas meetings be published within a few days of the meetings taking place. I noted recently that these same minutes were not put on line for six months, and only appeared immediately prior to the 2010 AGM.

Wilson and the Storas board use the term 'community' rather freely, when it convenient for them. In the main, the community is merely a tool for a very few individuals to pursue a private agenda.

Take the £20M Lochboisdale Port of Entry scheme for instance. This folly has not come about through agitation from within either the fishing community or those involved in the tourism sector.

The fishermen would welcome a wavescreen to be built between the existing pier and the round head dolphins, and perhaps deepening the existing pier in front of the tourist office. The tourism sector would gladly welcome joined up thinking on the ferries to the mainland, by that I mean the Barra, Eriskay, Lochboisdale, and Lochmaddy ferries.

However, for the above situation to even reach the discussion table would involve one crucial aspect, which, given the track record of the 'community' representatives is somewhat unlikely.

Wilson's long term involvement in manipulating the Storas board (a couple of whom happily go along with him) into confrontation with Cal Mac, the current Scottish government, SSE, Councillors, and any other institution which can be publicly derided over their reluctance to entertain the 'plucky islanders' is quite astonishing; but not, on reflection, surprising.

Why do the Storas board have to have such a sorry band of carpet baggers (sorry, that should have been consultants) slithering along in their wake? Do they not trust the locals with whom they have resolutely refused to engage. Preferring instead to rifle the pockets of the Big Lottery, HIE, and other unsuspecting dupes to pay out a fortune in 'consultancy' fees.

Problem is that for small achievable goals to be met there would have to be real and meaningful discussion; not public attacks - on those with whom they should be working - in the 'Free' Press.

Anonymous said...

Having personal experience with Storas (not positive) I feel they are working alone & not with the community. They do not have the communities interest at heart - they have spoken down to me & have left issues unresolved however have spoken about it with all the staff who have spoken to me about my situation personally. It was with great hope the community supported this buy out however with so many issues coming up for individuals - publically and privately - no one wants to go against them - not only for our own future but for our children & grandchildren too who may need assistance from Storas regarding crofts/leases etc. My true belief is that they are a very unprofessional organisation who could potentially damage this community if they have not done so already. Can so many people (who ae actually in the community) be wrong!

Anonymous said...

I publicly spoke out against one community estate. Within 48 hours 5 calls for my resignation had gone to my employer from Directors of said community body. So much for freedom of speech.

Anonymous said...

Step forward those with a interest in AMEC, Virtual Utility Ltd, and Pipsa Energy. All those not clad in Harris tweed underwear (industrial strength) may sit down.

Jamie Smith said...

Again I have been accused of arrogance and naivety and on what grounds? That I happen to think anonymous postings solve nothing. In fact they do far worse; they perpetuate a sense injustice and can easily be dismissed as bitterness, paranoia and jealousy.
There is little evidence from the press, radio, elected representatives, etc. that there is any truth to the anonymous allegations and cries of serious mismanagement that proliferate the online, anonymous message boards. I certainly do not believe that all of these platforms available to air concerns are in thrall to Storas. Every councillor, every journalist, every radio bulletin, are they all part of a conspiracy that is intimidated by the Stasi style actions of a community landlord?
Not to put too fine a point on it, are you telling me that Wilson, MacMillan and their Lieutenant Francis are so powerful they have stitched up every conceivable avenue of public dissent? I would instead offer a view that people such as Wilson and MacMillan create as many enemies as friends over a career, and if there was substantial bullying, mismanagement and wrong-doing there would be a queue of people falling over themselves to stick the boot in!
Then I might even suggest if you have a former energy minister on your doorstep and a long term advocate of community ownership, it would seem only natural to build a relationship with that person, who cares if you like him or his politics.

The last two public meetings of Storas were very well attended; you’d think this an ideal, public forum, where strength in numbers could air these allegations of bullying and mismanagement. A public forum that was attended by the local press, yet little dissent or questioning was aired or reported.

The same directors who are accused of intimidation, serious mismanagement and bullying are still overwhelmingly elected by a secret ballot of members. Again, if people wish to remain anonymous what better way of doing so in a secret ballot or are these same secret ballots rigged?

To end, at no point have I said Storas are perfect or above question. Personally, I feel they could do much better, but I will never subscribe to any theory that maintains that Storas are Mugabe style thugs, who run rough shod over a whole community when there is very little evidence to support such a theory.

Anonymous said...

The Askernish crofters were forced into a corner by the Storas lawyers, the final humiliation was the insitence that the 'management agreement" be registered under the 5.3 section of the 1993 Crofting act.

Can any of the Iochdar crofters confirm that the agreement that they are being persuaded to sign contains a similar clause?

For the uninformed, the landlord can register a 5.3 agreement against your croft tenancy with the Land Court.
The implication being that should you at some point in the future have second thoughts about the agreement that you have entered then I'm afraid it's too late to change your mind.

More worryingly, your tenany may be at risk if you are perceived by the landlord as being in breach of agreement conditions.

Have a look at Brian Wilson / Airtricity on any of the google sites. Oh dear, the stakes for the Uist crofters, and those of Pairc have suddenly escalated.

Why is Wilson calling the meetings and now dictating the response from the Storas Uibhist board?

Declaration of interest? shome mishtake surely.

Tam said...

Its a shame that the word "community" is so often hi-jacked these days to give the go ahead to initiatives and organisations that do not have the well being of the true community at heart.
One quango type organisation in Glasgow has been known to refer to the local people as "stock" while another so called professional speaking of the community in relation to a proposed development uttered 'you don't ask the frogs for permission when you are draining the marsh". This is the mindset we are up against.
Lets start taking a more active role in reclaiming our communities in service of something greater than short term economic profit. The current economic system is breaking down, unfit for purpose and dying out so now's the time.
Lets reclaim the word "community" and start to live it in reality.

Anonymous said...

'you don't ask the frogs for permission when you are draining the marsh"

I love this, and it sums up the new 'estate' order completely. One of the biggest mistakes was in the community company model developed by HIE/government? i.e. the rotation of a quarter/third of directors each year. This has lead to stagnation, where there is no chance of the incumbents being replaced except through a sustained strategy maintained over years. Those who would challenge the status quo face one, two, three or four years in severely hostile territory in the hope that the board might change complexion eventually.

How many are going to do this when you are up against people who have private vested interests even if it is only maintaining their own ego. And lets face it have a life of your own.

The "privatised" community that we see in the community trusts is a hideous nulabour mutant. Cull it!