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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

At long last

Dick Manson resigns, and not before time.

But where is he off to, and how did he get another NHS position given his mishandling of the Western Isles? Incompetence rewarded?

Off course, he is close to retirement and will simply be boosting his final pension pot -- which as you will know is very generous to those in managerial positions.

No doubt there will be drinks all round tonight as the staff leave work.

Beauly to Denny

As a poster has noted, the Beauly to Denny pylons are going to a public inquiry.

To make my position clear; I long expected this to be the case, and I have only one small problem with this. When the Executive announced that Scotland was to generate more electricity from renewable sources, did no-one think about the infrastructure requirements to deliver this electricity? Obviously not.

The debate that we should have had - or more correctly the political decision that should have been taken - was that we will have renewables; they are likely to be sourced from the periphery (excuse that word, please); and btw there will be new cables running to connect to the grid.

At that point there could have been a more informed debate about renewables - which might have resulted in fewer wind turbines and more money into developing wave power, or maybe even old, unsexy, hydro.

However that is in the past.

Will it delay the LWP and BMP applications??? Almost certainly not, as as far as I know the developers have factored the Beauly-Denny Public Inquiry into their plans and are considering other ways of connecting to the grid. The obvious one is to run a cable to Hunterston, although that may not be the very best location, and other points may be being considered.

It is likely that Beauly-Denny PI will take years and years, and if there is a decision before the 2010 election I'll be surprised. A long subsea cable now looks highly likely, and if this is of suffcient size and capacity it may be an ever better outcome for the islands, as offshore developments could more easily be connected

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

You couldn't make it up...

From Sunday Times Scotland

IT MAY be the protector of wildlife but Scottish Natural Heritage has a problem. Its new £15m HQ appears to be giving some species the bird.

Some of them can’t see the glass-fronted building in Inverness, and are killed crashing into it.

Since its opening two months ago there have been several fatalities, including a greenfinch and a gold crest. Cleaners have been hired to remove the dead birds.

Staff have been told to leave lights on at night to reduce casualty figures but other measures are being considered, such as erecting cardboard cutouts of hen harriers to scare the birds away, or introducing a real bird of prey to act as a natural deterrent.

“Birds are flying straight into the glass and dropping down dead around the building,” said a Heritage member. “One solution has been to leave office lights on but others, such as reflective strips and cutouts of birds of prey, are being looked at.”

The building has solar panels to reduce electricity costs and gathers rainfall in an underground tank to flush toilets. It won an environmental award last year and was commended by Rhona Brankin, deputy environment minister.

Widespread use of glass is intended to make the building energy efficient.

But critics say designers overlooked the effect of so much glass on wild birds, which fail to recognise the reflections of trees or sky and fly straight into plate glass windows.

Amanda Bryan, chair of SNH’s north area board, said the matter would be investigated. “Every step will be taken to resolve the problem. Clearly, people will not be happy about this,” she said.

A spokesman for SNH said: “We are monitoring collisions at Great Glen House with a view to targeting the areas of greatest risk to birds and will look into mitigation options to prevent further casualties occurring. At a local level such mortality is highly unlikely to have any effect on bird populations.”

Doreen Graham, of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said: “Glass is a known killer of birds. A simple solution is to fit blinds which cut out the glare and can reduce collisions. That is something SNH may have to look at.”

Meanwhile, attempts to revive the great bustard, once Britain’s biggest bird, are floundering after most of those released into the wild were killed by foxes or crashed into power lines and fences.

Organisers of the project said last week that only 12 of the 55 birds imported as chicks from the banks of the River Volga since 2004 were still alive. They admitted that many of the ungainly 2ft 6in high game birds had died because radio- tracking devices fitted to them were too heavy.

The birds, weighed down by the transmitters, were weakened and then attacked by foxes. Others were killed on cables or fencing as they tried to gain height.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Health Board readmissions

Press release

Cllr Angus Nicolson has hit out at the deterioration in readmission rates in the Western Isles Health Board area as disclosed by the latest NHS statistics.

Said Cllr Nicolson, “The mismanagement of the Western Isles Health Board appears to have an adverse effect on patient mortality and this is a very worrying outcome. With readmission rates in Lewis having increased by up to 90% over seven years, it is clear that the impact of Board decisions have hurt those they are there to protect.”

“Talking to staff, I am constantly amazed at how they manage to cope with the pressures that are imposed upon them by management within such limited resources.”

“I trust that the new interim management will act immediately to focus on clinical priorities and bring the organisation back under control to deliver the level of service that the people of the Western Isles expect and deserve.”

“It is clear to any outsider that the lack of budgetary control is having a dramatic effect on staff morale and service delivery, and this destructive cycle needs to be stopped now!”


Notes for editors: The statistics can be found at which shows that readmission rates within 7 days were up from 2.2% in 1998 to 4.2% in 2005 (91% increase), and from 7.2% in 1999 to 10.6% in 2005 for readmission within 28 days (47% increase).

Friday, August 25, 2006


Last nights, the Civic Government Licencing Panel – which I Chair – decided to issue a 7-day licence to Viking Paintball, following the submission and consideration of a proper application.

A suitably outraged comment was created by a local journalist, even through it has to be taken in private in terms of Local Government legislation. Incidentally, the journalist knew it was happening, and the agendas were distributed to all the media outlets as normal, so it was hardly "secret".

Do I sound too defensive? Because, I ain't.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pentland Road

The Pentland Road windfarm development of 6 turbines has been “called in” by the Scottish Executive.  This means that they have 28 days to decide whether or not to have a public inquiry into the application and approval.

Although the Comhairle are the determining authority, as the Section 75 agreement has not been signed (I believe it is in the post), then we are unable to issue a consent to the developers.  That process is now to be delayed further.

This has implications for the community developments of similar size, such as the Point Power proposals for a near-by site.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Harris-Uist causeway

Anyone think that this is a bad idea???

(Sorry for wrong link previously)

Scottish Water

My Vice-Chair attended an important meeting with Scottish Water to discuss the restrictions being placed on new house building in the Western Isles.

This is something that has exercised the Comhairle for three years, and something we are no closer to resolving.

Scottish Water refuse to upgrade the sewers and SEPA refuse to approve septic tanks meaning large parts of the islands should have no new-build whatsoever.

Thankfully, the Comhairle look at each application on its mertits, and ignore Scottish Water or SEPA in favour of the local community, where appropriate.

Iain should give us an update at Committee tomorrow.


Isn’t every male a frustrated gamer??

Quake III had passed me by until recently – I had jumped from II to 4 for no very good reason.

I’ve just got into QIII, badly, but I’m enjoying every moment.

Bam!! There goes another political opponent. :-)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Birds can live with wind turbines

Letter in Independent

Sir: Donald P McDonald (letter, 15 August) is quite right in thinking birds are capable of avoiding wind turbines.

My father runs a farm in New Zealand with over 100 wind turbines on it. This farm shares its boundary with a reserve, home to many birds, some of which are native to New Zealand and therefore closely monitored.

He has just assured me that he is not faced with scores of dead birds over the farm, and this wind farm has been there about 10 years and is in fact still growing. I think the readers of your paper are being fed very inaccurate information about turbines and it is a real pity. He has never had to reduce stock numbers, another myth thrown about by the anti-wind-farm lobby.

If a grumpy old redneck from New Zealand can live with huge turbines, 14 of which are right outside his bedroom window and do not keep him awake, then I think it very odd that some people in Britain are so backward on this issue.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

A bridge to Uist (or Harris!)

The Scotsman has some good coverage of next week's likely debate in the Comhairle about the possibility of a causeway between Uist and Harris.

Personally I believe it is a wonderful idea, and one that we should have done on the causeways to Berneray and to Eriskay.

The challenge will be to have similar tidal schemes for the replacement causeways in Uist, and let's see if we can make ourselves self-sufficient in energy within the next few years. The challenge will be to get the Executive to stump up the cash.

Friday, August 18, 2006


We had arranged a special pick-up from the cleansing department to collect two old carpets that we had replaced*. So, as you do, we got together all the big things we needed disposing off and piled it all up together on Thursday night for the Friday morning collection.

Amongst the rubbish was a Dyson which had broken the previous week, and which we had kept hold of for uplifting.

On Friday morning we noticed that the Dyson had gone, “and good luck to someone if they can repair it”, we thought.

By Friday lunchtime the cleansing had been, collected the carpet and an old and knackered table, leaving the pavement looking spick and span.

Until, that was, mid-afternoon, when the would-be electrician returned the Dyson to the original spot, but with the cable unrolled. Whoever it was had obviously taken it home; plugged it in; and, tried to get it to work. When that failed (and why was it out with the rubbish if it was salvageable) they had the nerve to return it to us for disposal. I remain baffled by their behaviour, but I’ve decided to send it to Bethesda rather than the dump, to see what they can do with it.

* One firm in Stornoway now insists you remove your old carpet, empty the room and dispose of the old carpet and any off-cuts from the new carpet as part of their terms and conditions. “Health and safety” and “Insurance” being the supposed culprits.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


The best export from Iceland since the Sugarcubes and Bjork.

I have a child who gets up at any time between 5am and 7am, and until recently it was difficult to keep him quiet and entertained in the morning.

Thank goodness for Lazytown, which is a bizarre mix of slapstick fun and educational advice to eat better and take exercise. I’ve seen it through bleary eyes on a couple of occasions, and I have yet to understand what is going on.

A shortcut on the computer desktop allowed our eldest son to surf the Lazytown site in the morning. That was A Good Idea until he started singing along at full volume at 6:30am one morning.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


My blogging rate has slowed recently, due to the pressure of work.

We’ve just got new premises and this has been quite stressful to complete, and we hope to move within 6 weeks. Between sign writing, letterheads and all the utilities, it has absorbed a lot of time. On top of this we’re part of a consortium that has won a substantial public sector contract, and this is going to see a serious expansion in the business over the next few months.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Sometimes I am amazed at the statements attributed to me - 99% of the time I know better than to challenge them, but I know which I said and which I didn't. This week, there is one that is sooo obviously not by me; as some journalists have commented.


My mother comes in to report that baby and my father are sitting at the window watching the slaters fix the roof, whilst singing the "Bob the Builder" theme tune.

Bizarre image as this is, I know my father doesn't know the words or the tune, so he's making it up as he goes along!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Health Board

I saw it coming, I'm very sad to say.

According to the P&J, Andy Kerr is flying in tonight to warn of a possible merger with Highland Health Board. I warned about this away back when the public meeting was held in the Town Hall, but no-one seemed to heed the warning, least of all the Management who have continued to lose the confidence of the public.

I hope the threats do not materialise, but watch this space.


Older boy had chickenpox for the past two weeks, meaning no nursery, and lots of interim arrangements.  Youngest had small spots which threatened to become chickenpox but never did.  Until today.

The very last day of the incubation period and we have junior “join the dots” and ten days off nursery.  I know it is much better for the children to have it earlier, but why couldn’t they get it at the same time!!!

We’re having to split the working hours between home, office and crèche (where they will take kids with chickenpox), and it’s a bit of a challenge.

Incidentally, the infectious stage has passed when the spots come out, meaning that the baby was in nursery when he was infectious, but is now barred when he is not infectious.  No, I don’t understand either.

Monday, August 07, 2006


We decided to take the long weekend off. This was the first time that we have actually taken a local holiday, as normally we have to work. However, Little Teddies was closed for staff training and we made the most of the opportunity.

On Monday, we had a long lie and spent the morning with the kids around the house, with no worries or deadlines.

At 10am the doorbell rang once – and we decided to ignore it. On the second ring, we were toying with whether or not to answer it, but the kids made that decision by shouting upstairs to tell us there was someone at the door. I went downstairs after the third ring, assuming it must be important.

It was a constituent with an envelope full of papers relating to a committee decision to which he objected. Leaving aside the fact that it was a holiday; that he could have pushed it through the letterbox; or, he could have put it inside the open front door, I took the papers to read later.

Having read the fifty pages or so, it appears the complainant is objecting to the constitution of the committee, the qualifications of the professionals who gave evidence, and the bias of the council officer against him. Add into that a Data Protection Act request, and complaints about the matters disclosed and there is an almost incomprehensible mix of supposition, factual inaccuracy and sheer unpleasantness.

I must confess an interest, as the Chair of the relevant committee I come in for particular abuse, not least that before the meeting the objector had tried to discuss the matters with me, and then accused me of planning to run a meeting inherently biased against the objector.

I think that there were seven copies of this document circulated to the panel members, Comhairle officials and some others, and given it’s total irrelevance I’m sure they have all filed it in the appropriate recycling container.

Carbon audits

Carbon audits sound like A Good Idea until you look a bit deeper and realise that it is nothing but hot air. The theory of checking every single home to determine their carbon footprint and improve efficiency can only help in the battle against global warming, but not by much.

There are already a number of these schemes on the go, for instance Tigh Blath in the Western Isles, but they need substantial inputs of cash to fund the improvements. The biggest single help to keep houses warm in the Western Isles is to have a porch to shelter the house. Unfortunately, when houses are being funded by Communities Scotland (and that means every single new public sector house) they is no financial provision for a porch, defeating all other energy efficiency measures.

The simplest solution would be to tax ordinary tungsten bulbs very highly, and use that money to subsidise energy efficient bulbs. The only way to persuade many people is financial, and the simple tools are the easiest.

Before Tony Blair gets too far onto his high horse, perhaps he should reconsider flying to the Carribean giving the heavily polluting nature of air travel. Oh, and get Prescott to give up his Jaguars.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tommy Sheridan

Tommy Sheridan’s stunning victory in Court looks like it is going to be so pyrrhic as the SSP implodes. I can’t believe that they let it come to this, but they seem hell-bent on self-destruction, factionalism and a desire to settle scores for whatever reason.

I’m pleased for Tommy, or more accurately, I’m pleased the NotW lost. If I were Tommy I’d be watching my back for the foreseeable future as the NotW tries to pin something – anything – on him.

Bloody BT!

We had two telephone lines running into the house, and one was disconnected some time back and the number transferred to the office. So we have a live line and a disconnected line running from the same cable in the garden. The live line is in a poor location, whilst the disconnected line is in an excellent location.

We phone BT and ask them to swap the lines about, and to ensure that the broadband is not lost.

It doesn’t sound too complicated until we get a letter telling us that the live line will be disconnected on one date and the new line installed a few days later. A quick call to BT confirms they have completely cocked-up the instructions and believe that we are moving house and have flagged the change as such.

The next post brings a letter from BT Broadband to say that the broadband will be ceased on 2 August. A phone call to a call centre on another continent advises us that they cannot stop the cessation (even with a week’s notice) and it will have to be ceased and then a new installation will proceed.

Another few phone calls establishes that the phone service doesn’t speak to the broadband guys, and the whole process is unstoppable, once started, which is madness in the extreme. “It isn’t anything to do with me”, seems to be the refrain.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Health Board

I've always liked David Currie as a person, but he was placed in an impossible position by his colleagues in the Health Board who seemed to be running a different agenda which David seemed powerless to change.

The Executive need to take a stand and intervene – irrespective of what some people think of the reasons that Angus Graham and Angus McCormick launched the campaign – as public confidence in the Health Board was disintegrating.

In my view, it needs a good shake up to ensure that there is public support, belief and trust in those in the highest posts, and it needs to happen soon.

The danger is that we lose the Health Board and it is absorbed into Highland Health Board as part of a restructuring, which will be the worst possible outcome. I have warned about this for some time, and the statement from Andy Kerr makes me more worried.

We may distrust those who hold some of the senior posts at present, but we don't want to lose the responsibilities to the mainland.