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

Monday, July 31, 2006

Nuclear waste

I spent most of the morning waiting for the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management to post their final report on the website. It was due at 10:30am, but didn't appear until much, much later. Thankfully the local media were able to source a copy, and I was able to read and comment on it early.

It is now there for all to see, but the basic recommendations which are relevant to the Western Isles are:

  • Deep disposal (now known as geological disposal, as the actual site may be shallow) is the preferred option
  • The chosen locality should follow an invitation from the local community based on agreed materials to be disposed of
  • The materials should be stored close to the chosen locality in the interim
  • The minimum amount of repackaging should occur

The Government should consider alternative methods of disposal, such as retrievable canisters as part of the process

I surprised myself by agreeing with most of the recommendations, which seem eminently sensible, and have two excellent knock-on effects:

  • The Western Isles isn't going to issue an invitation
  • There is no suitable locality for interim storage

I've urged the Government to accept the recommendations in full, and then immediately rule out the Western Isles as possible sites, but more than that, we need to ensure that nowhere in Scotland is used as a nuclear dump. Beyond that, we need to ask why nuclear in the first place, and instead invest heavily in renewable energy (see posts passim).

All in all, a well written Committee report that avoids controversy whilst making solid recommendations.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Lazy Sunday afternoon

We spent this afternoon sitting in the garden watching the children play, accompanied only by a chilled bottle of Italian white wine. The day was lovely and it was without doubt one of the hottest days of the year, so far.

How do we know that? Simple, we both got slightly burned after only two hours, although thankfully the children were unaffected.

The forecast for the rest of the week is poor, but hopefully it will clear up by the end of the week, as we're thinking of closing the office for a weekend off.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Justice must be seen...

How about this for a fair trial:

Saddam Hussein told the chief judge he rejected the lawyers appointed by the court to defend him.
"Your honour, I refuse to appear before this tribunal, but this tribunal can do as it wills," he added.
Judge Abdel Rahman responded: "Your lawyers were informed of the hearing and they chose not to come, despite the fact that they have billions of dollars and sit in a neighbouring country, where they incite violence."

And, of course, the Americans cannot see how this will end by creating a martyr and a hero to the resistance.  This trial has moved from farce to embarrassment, and no right minded person can believe it is fair.  The likely outcome might be right, but that still doesn’t make it fair.

Madness, sheer madness

It is utterly abhorrent and disgusting that the US is using UK airbases to transport weapons to Israel.  We have seen the UK roll over supinely and allow the transfer of suspects from country to country to allow them to be tortured, all under the disguise of “extraordinary rendition”.

Now the US are using us as a landing strip to allow them easy transportation of weapons to a military hotspot where the third world war could easily kick off.

Compare the US attitude to those who are supplied by, or supply, North Korea, and the hypocrisy stinks.

This must be stopped now, and for ever.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Business in Uist

Sue and I had business in Uist over the weekend, which allowed us to spend the weekend in the newly refurbished Langass Lodge. Wow!

The new building is spectacular and the quality of the food was amazing, as always. The building was only just open and the website doesn’t have pictures of the extension blending into the hillside. The use of heat from the bedrock is an innovative technique and it will be interesting to find out just how much money it saves.

We had a fabulous time seeing our clients throughout the islands, and the only downside was getting bitten by clegs on the way to Poiball Finn (the standing stones beside the hotel). We had intended to go on a long walk before dinner, but five minutes was all we could stand.

We got back to the hotel to find Niall opening the scallops he had dived for that day, and we knew what we were having for dinner.

We drove back up on the Sunday, using the ferry from Berneray to Leverburgh, which was full of tourists and almost no locals. Where were the tourists going? Did they have accommodation booked? Where the hell do you get a cup of tea between South Uist and Stornoway, other than on the ferry?

Friday, July 21, 2006


I’m standing outside my car on a glorious Friday afternoon having my lunch before I go to see my next client.

I’m in Uist on business, and the weather is absolutely fabulous, and likely to get even better for the North Uist Games this afternoon.

The only downside is a prevalence of clegs (“horseflies”) where I have parked. I haven’t seen them for a long time, and I react very badly to their bite, so I’m going to have to move in a wee while to find a better spot, and a wireless connection to post this.

I’m parked on the Dunganachy to Reuval road watching the plane land at Balivanich, and seeing helicopter manoeuvres all around the place. I can see my clients at their house, but I’m still half an hour early, so I’ll sit in the sun for a while longer.

I feel very privileged to be able to come to Uist and Barra so regularly, and really appreciate the scenery.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Journalists on a junket

I spent two hours on Monday meeting with some guests of the RSPB.  They were in Lewis to hear the RSPB Scotland view on the wind farm proposals and the Comhairle were graciously allowed to come along and make a presentation.

Along with Archie Campbell, Chair of Sustainable Development, we explained to the hand-picked and sceptical journalists how we had come to our decision and the implications for the islands – both good and bad.

This all happened in the “Community Room” at An Lanntair, which obviously doubles as a sauna.

To be fair, the RSPB were there to do a hatchet job on the application, and we were there to do a hatchet job on the RSPB.  It was somewhat heated, but never, ever, rude or offensive.

One London journalist suggested that the Comhairle had already made up its mind behind the scenes before the vote on the planning application was taken.  He was soon disabused of that notion, and his lack of knowledge of the Western Isles was quite staggering.  However, he did acknowledge that, and was prepared to seek more information before announcing his ambivalence on wind farms.

I’ve searched in vain for any press reports since the journalists went home on Tuesday night, so it looks like they came away with no story.

Visit Hebrides

As an ocassional poster to the Virtual Hebrides website - usually having a go at the anti-wind farm brigade, and them having a go back - it was a lively (and sometimes unruly) site of great benefit to locals and visitors alike.

Update 20/7/06: It's back, so the "loss of postings" was perhaps not as terminal as we were lead to believe. The original blog is below in italics, but is now way out of date.

I have a look most mornings just to see the gossip, but couldn't get in yesterday or today. Thanks to a tip-off from ADB I've just realised that the board has been taken down and I hadn't noticed this.

This is absolutely outrageous. There had better be a damn good reason.....

There had previously been some *editing* of the posts by System Admin, creating a false trail for some of the discussions, so at least this is the most honest type of edit :-) but to do away with the whole board takes some chutzpah.

If you want to complain, go here (link removed 20/7/06) and add a comment to this post.

Alternatives are and here. I only block the offensive and libellous, and don't cut anything that I've let through.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Kim-Il McConnell

So the Americans have been spying on Scottish politics and seem to rate Scotland as being progressively more left wing as the years pass.

Now, I'd hardly place Jack McConnell up there with Kim-Il Jung of North Korea; and not as dangerous as Col Qadaffi; and hardly as nasty as the Ayatollahs.

Indeed, I'd place Jack somewhere between the Teletubbies and the Tweenies in his threat to world peace.

The Yanks - being Yanks - take it very seriously, and will continue to monitor events. So, no dissent over there, please, or we may join the axis of evil; which now seems to cover most countries that aren't actually brown-nosing Bush.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Clean islands

Isn’t it a wonderful accolade that the Western Isles have been named one of the cleanest places in Scotland.  I’m personally very pleased that all the hard work done by the Comhairle, and especially the Environmental Services Department has finally been recognised.

Second best --- that’s just fantastic.

Let’s just try and keep the islands clean and tidy.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Tommy Sheridan, again

The Herald reports that Tommy Sheridan was “incandescent” with rage yesterday.  Just how bright a shade of orange did he go?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Nuclear folly

It was inevitable that the Government would come out in favour of nuclear - at the third attempt - padded out with some "green" credibility.

Would you prefer an windfarm or a nuclear power station or a nuclear dump in your back yard? They are going to have to go somewhere and you know that we are soooo remote as to be irrelevant to Westminster.

Carbon sequestration is a potentially dangerous idea, unless the geology is absolutely right. I understand that shale may provide a stable surface substance, but that soft rocks will dissolve to produce acid and vast caverns underground, which shoulds like another environmental disaster waiting to happen.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Tommy Sheridan

What is he playing at? (and who was he playing with?)

Surely he is not that stupid to have seen this bad publicity coming, and realised the folly of his legal action. It might be good fun for the rest of us to see "Mr Clean" caught with grubby extremities, but it signals the end of Tommy as a serious politican.

Why do so many politicians have this drive to take ridiculous risks and get involved in unreasonable behaviour, and think that they can get away with it?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Shetland ferries

We often hear Labour crowing about how much subsidy Calmac receives from the Executive.  Alasdair Morrison regularly adds revenue subsidy i.e. to support fares, to capital subsidy i.e. to build the boats, to come up with a wonderful figure.  He claimed the subsidy for the entire operation was £20m in 2001, £27.9m in Dec 04 (Col 12673), whilst the BBC reported it was £15m in 2000.  About £3m of that appears to be on the Gourock run in an attempt to drive Western ferries out of business – which is of course of great benefit to the Calmac directors, as they go to collect their fat salaries at Calmac’s Gourock HQ.

Now, we all know that Alasdair is starting to see the light (as an election looms) and modestly suggesting the extension of the Air Discount Scheme to ferries.

To put everything in perspective, it has just been announced that the Calmac run to Shetland is getting £31m per annum in subsidy, which is more than for the entire rest of the service covering the whole of the Western Isles.  Indeed the service received £71m after it hit financial trouble.  Trouble that is for everyone but the bank that leased the ships to Northlink, and made a killing q.v. train leasing.

We should be standing up and screaming for a proportionate level of support for these islands and aiming for RET on these routes.  If Shetland can get it, when they have other ferry and air services, why are we being so modest in our ambitions?

Incidentally, the same BBC report has Alasdair Morrison refuting any suggestion of the Calmac services going out to tender.  

Friday, July 07, 2006

Renewables supported

Renewable energy is finding political support, apart from the nuclear de-generators in Downing Street.

It is good to see Alex Salmond portray a vision of Scotland being entirely free of nuclear and using renewables to build a carbon-neutral future, even if the specifics are somewhat vague.

The tone of the argument suggests that renewables – wave, wind, tidal and solar – could become a major (party) political issue at the next election, and my view is that this can only help public understanding of the debate.  I say, “Bring it on, and make it cerebral and not emotive”.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Stornoway Harbour

The harbour clean-up is proceeding apace.  This is wonderful news for all users of the harbour, especially in advance of the Festival, and I am delighted to have played my own small part in this.

Discussion Board

I know that some reader have seen that I have had to take the discussion board about Little Teddies down due to offensive, libellous abuse aimed at me, my wife and my children.

Whilst we were on holiday the same individual who caused this blog to be moderated posted freely using four letter Anglo-Saxon words on a board designed for parents of young children.

Stupidly, they left their IP addresses all over the site and these have been passed to both the Police and the individual’s employer for further action.

There was a mischievous link, and thanks to the friends who expressed their understanding of the situation.


Google ads are wonderful. This link appeared on the blog, despite me holding contrary views. Still, every click though earns me pennies to oppose these numpties.

Hebridean Celtic Festival

Today saw some wonderful post. As sponsors of the Hebridean Celtic Festival, we received our tickets for all three nights together with an invitation to the Friday night drinks.

We’ll be there enjoying the atmosphere again, and if it can topVan the Man last year, so much the better. See you all there!

New addition

We’ve been adopted by a stray cat that was padding around town on Saturday night.

It was all skin and bones, so we took it home and fed it and then let it out.  Only it wants to stay with us, and is putting Lily’s nose out of joint.  The two of them are having a battle about dominance, usually in the middle of the night, leaving a trail of fur through the house.

The cat is a beautiful chocolate colour and is obviously a stray used to living on the mean streets of Stornoway.

The children were allowed to name her and came up with “Little cat”, which had the virtue of accuracy and simplicity but was hardly suitable.  We vetoed “Lucky”, and overruled the naming process to call her “Bourneville” – aka “Bourbills” in the children’s’ vocabulary.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


The weather has been unseasonably nice and we have managed to have a barbeque for the past two nights.

When the kids come home from nursery we have slapped some food onto the grill and sat in the garden watching it cook.

The children have been out all day in nursery, and another hour in the sun leaves them tired (and grumpy and fractious) and ready for bath and bed. It is such a pleasure to sit outside after a day in the office, and relax and let the stress lift.

Nuclear power?

Call me a cynic, but prevarication about doing anything about climate change has given Tony the opportunity to claim that nuclear is the only option.

It is like not calling the Fire Brigade to you house until the blaze is totally out of control, when you call the demolition squad: “I’ve changed my mind in light of the full extent of the fire.”

This is, of course, the third (or fourth?) energy review in this decade, but none have actually led to anything being done. Vacillation to avoid taking a decision is never attractive.

In this case, Tony seems to be saying that renewables are out and nuclear is in. So where is he planning to dump the waste, or will we need another twenty or thirty reviews to decide that over the next century?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Cheaper ferry fares??

What modest ambitions our MSP has.

RET is the only option to really regenerate the islands. In Norway it is part of the basic infrastructure for remote communities to ensure that the inhabitants are not disadvantaged.

However, Alasdair’s limited ambitions are further constrained by the Executive. With the Calmac routes out to tender, a fundamental change in pricing (and consequently volumes, as Alasdair hopes) would undermine the tendering process. The Executive need to get Calmac privatised before the elections next year and anything that affects this won’t happen.

One of my Comhairle colleagues recalls discussing RET with a then senior member of the Calmac Board. Calmac were opposed to RET because it would mean that “too many people would travel on the vessels”. The implications for tourism, the economy and the size and speed of the boats are obvious to all. It is just that Calmac wanted to see the smooth planning for the operation of the fleet unchanged by things like an economic boom.

With a mindset like that, is it any wonder the HQ is in Greenock and passengers are treated as an impediment to the movement of the ships.

Nuclear weapons

This excellent analysis by Prof Paul Rogers of Gordon Brown's recent pronouncements on the need to have nuclear weapons neatly shows up the warped logic being used to justify this massive expenditure.

I remember a university trip to NATO HQ in the early eighties where the military justification for targetting the major cities, such as Moscow, was that the Generals and Politicans will have moved elsewhere. It was important not to strike any significant military infrastructure so that military communications remained intact and that the military didn't panic.

I was deeply impressed with the quality of the NATO proceedures which allowed me to walk out past the security checks with my security pass still intact. I think I still have it somewhere.

Apple snail

The apple snail is “hiding”.

At least, that is the euphemism of the day. It is actually “sleeping with the fishes”; lying on its back with its one foot in the air; it is an ex-snail.

We tried to get a replacement on Saturday – they all look the same don’t they? – but the pet shop won’t have any until Friday, so the snail will have to carry on hiding until then.

It was too big to flush down the toilet, so I had to sneak it out of the house whilst the kids were busy and dispose of it in the garden. It will provide a meal for a bird, but I’ll have some explaining to do if the kids find the shell.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


We went to Eleven at the Caladh Inn (formerly known as the Seaforth) last night for the buffet meal.

The prices have been upped from a very reasonable £9.95 to £13.95 per head for two courses.

I know some people helped themselves to umpteen servings, but the new regime involves the prompt removal of dirty plates and cutlery.  You need to pile your plate high, first time around, and although the quality is good, the huge price hike has made us think twice about going again.