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

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Back to reality

Back in the office after two weeks on the beach, and what a shock to the system it is to see two weeks of mail, email and letters pushed through the letterbox.

Still, the batteries are recharged and we are raring to go. At least until the tans fade.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Happy constituent

It’s satisfying being able to help a constituent, in this case with a problem relating to their parent’s graves. The person is upset at the apparent collapse of the graves, but a quick enquiry discovers that there has been water lying on the grave, and not being properly drained.

Matter solved, and everyone pleased. Special thanks to the DSO for their prompt attendance – as usual.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Home, sweet home

Straight from Gothenburg, it is off to the Faeroes for a KIMO Board meeting.

Atlantic Airways is definitely the most liquid airline I have ever flown with. On responding to the request “Would you like a drink sir?” my request for a beer was met with contempt and I was asked if I wanted a real drink! Bar service was constant, free and continued until the plane was on the very last stages of the final approach.

Being outside the EU, duty free went like wildfire on the plane, with one crew member exclusively dealing with packing the duty-free into plastic bags. It seemed that everyone was buying 800 fags and a couple of bottles of something – I realised why when I saw the prices at the bar in the hotel.

1 beer, a whisky and a cup of tea cost £20!

Had very important meetings with the Faeroese Environment Minister, their Fisheries Department and with their climatologists, and we came aware much more aware o the importance of the climate on the future viability of the Faeroe Islands. The Gulf Stream is vitally important (of course) but the melting ice-caps are even more so. Apparently, although the ice-caps are shrinking in surface area, there are growing in height, so that the total mass remains broadly constant. It is the interaction of these two elements that will determine the future – and no-one seems able to predict the outcome.

The Faeroes are attractive, but the people are uncompromising smokers, with seemingly everyone having a cigarette whenever they can. Thankfully, they did respect the non-smokers amongst us and went outside when they could. The food was delicious, with fish in every variety and taste that you could imagine.

Now I am back in Glasgow airport, having been away from home for six days, and my I am so looking forward to getting back. You forget just how extremely tiring travel can be, especially when there are very important meetings at every location.

Thankfully – apart from the holiday – no more foreign travel planned until September, with the KIMO AGM in Sweden. I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and sitting my own desk for a few months.

Most importantly, I’m looking forward to seeing my wife and children, who must almost forget what I look like!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Fishermen screwed again

What an outrage yesterday, as the Governments pile more red tape on top of an unworkable structure in the name of the environment.

The bureaucrats have decide that all fishing boats must comply with the Port Waste Reception Facilities legislation. In other words, all vessels of every size must account for all the waste they produce s if they were a liner or a ferry. The sheer impracticality of it all is amazing, and the NGOs can all see that it will lead to the fishermen throwing waste overboard, rather than try to record the creation and disposal of every single item.

Failure to comply and keep proper records can result in huge fines, so it is highly likely that the fishing boats will simply record in arrears to balance the books, and get rid of the rest.

Thankfully, the Netherlands see this problem and add the caveat “if practical”, and then bind the other countries into funding a waste management scheme if the PWRF legislation doesn’t work – as it won’t. Once again, the UK is keep to pile the red tape up, and only under pressure does it relent and support a voluntary scheme as an option; although I expect to see the compulsory scheme implemented with undue haste and then abandoned.

In Stornoway we have set up a free collection service for marine waste, encouraging the fishermen to put debris from the trawls into skips, and this is definitely the way forward, not compulsion.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Final day

The third day of the conference was very intense, with KIMO having significant input into the shipping section.

We had some noticeable successes such as the acknowledgment of a liability by ship-owners on the loss of containers. This had been stubbornly opposed by some of the countries previously, but now it is part of the declaration.

A serious set-back on the transportation of nuclear waste from Sellafield to Sweden, with the UK “red-lining” any possibility of the mandatory use of “Best Available Technology” on the ships. This seems baffling at first, as the nuclear industry already claim to use BAT. It is just that they don’t want be forced to do so, and have the absolute backing of the UK in doing so.

A lot of manoeuvring involving Norway, the rewording of motions and some compromising, a water-down motion goes through. However, we are happy, as for the first time ever there has been an agreement that nuclear transportation is an issue to be considered by the Ministers.

We leave the conference tired, drained, but by and large happy. We’ll have to review the final declaration in due course, but we have taken some large steps forward in protecting the environment despite the UK Government who seemed to support big business above all.

A mad dash to the airport lies ahead and I’ll probably see more of Gothenburg during the taxi ride than I have all week.

Update: 6/6/06
The Shetland Times reports some of KIMOs successes at the meeting

Update: 7/6/06
The final declaration is available here in Word format.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Day 2

Day 2, and we didn’t get to bed until 2am when the negotiations finished, not so much in the spirit of compromise, but in desperation to get this over and done with.

One major issue got thrashed out by the Heads of Delegation this morning, and the Secretariat are preparing the revised paperwork for the negotiations to start at about 11am. They managed to provide parts 1 and 2 of the agreed latest draft, but the introduction and part 3 will have to wait. Just as well, as it a nightmare to read through and make sense of.

The fishing Ministers arrived in a great flurry of self-importance – except Ben Bradshaw, who is detailed on “Parliamentary Business” which appears to be code for “I’m being sacked in the reshuffle”. Poor Ross Finnie wanted to be here, but wasn’t allowed to by Westminster, and now the Scottish fishermen are unrepresented. It appears that there are a number of issues where they would need to have a say, but there is no-one to represent them.

The latest draft is still jammed full of caveats, conditions and options and yet more appear at every moment.

Some of the NGO’s are jumping up and down at every occasion, especially Seas at Risk, and as this is really not KIMO’s area it gives me an opportunity to review the process and the attendees and make some comments and observations. That comes next.

Stephen Ladyman MP turns up to cover for Ben Bradshaw, and puts in a very good, if uncomfortable, performance on the shipping issues.

By the end of day 2, the fishing has been done to death, and I don’t feel much better.

Next we go out for dinner, and a change to mingle and lobby. I sit beside the senior Civil Servant in the Shipping Division and discuss Tanker Traffic in the Minch, nuclear shipments from Sellafield and much else besides, and then lobby his boss and Stephen Ladyman on some of the issue for tomorrow. It is clear the UK is going to stonewall, and we are going to have difficulty moving them. However, there are many other countries that have more concern for the environment, and we lobby them too.

Back to the hotel late that evening, and early to bed, as the Shipping matters start very early tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Day 1

My suitcase arrived late last night!

Today is spent arguing with the Heads of Delegation about whether the wording of the Draft Declaration is acceptable. The process is bizarre, but given the number of parties involved it is probably the only way to make it work.

The original draft has been substantially rewritten and we are now faced with a huge number of alternates for specific paragraphs. It is as if countries actually read the declaration for the first time after it was drafted and have now decided to redo entire sections. Trying to keep track of where we are in the document, and merge in the written changes that are appearing left, right and centre, together with verbal interjections is tiring. Chairing this must be a nightmare, and it shows.

Country A: “If we change para x to this, then para y should come out, and para z will need to be changed”. Country B: “We want to change para x to something else …”

By mid-afternoon I am drained, and we haven’t got through a quarter of the paperwork.

We break for a snack at 7pm, and it looks like we will be going at this until midnight at this rate.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Travel to Sweden

I left Stornoway at lunchtime today to attend the Council of Ministers of the North Sea Commission in Gotenburg, and arrived in my hotel at 10pm minus my luggage. My flight from Copenhagen had been cancelled and I was able to get onto the earlier flight, but my luggage never made it.

I’m sitting in my hotel room with my laptop; and emergency overnight kit from SAS and the desperate hope that the suitcase will be waiting for me tomorrow morning. There is almost nothing to see out of the hotel window, as it is long dark, and I cannot identify what I am looking at, apart from a football stadium(?) off to my right, which is bathed in light.

I’m knackered, lonely and stressed about tomorrow, and there is not even a minibar in the room. The booze prices here are horrendous, as I remember from my last visit in 2004, so it perhaps just as well.