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

Monday, April 30, 2007

Odds on a victory

The Bookie has Labour ahead; I have the SNP by a nose.

Donnie, I'll put a £100 on Alasdair. Each way.

It's going to be very close.......

Windfarms - a referendum?

Alastair Allan is to "press" the relevant Minister for a referendum on the Lewis Windfarms, if elected.

(1) Whatever happened to the promise that there would be a referendum? It never appeared in the manifesto, and is clearly NOT a commitment.
(2) To change the planning rules at this stage will give a clear opportunity for AMEC to seek a judicial review, which they will undoubtedly win, stopping any referendum.

Not so much a promise as a weak aspiration, undermined by his own party.

Nor a "neverendum", more a "neverhappenum".

The only party promising to stop the windfarms are the Tories, everyone else agrees that the law is ... er ... the law, and must be abided by. At last Alasdair Morrison has had the good grace to admit that the Council's position on this - as I repeatedly expounded - was correct, and the candidates have all been wrong. Just for the record, I've told candidates of every party that they were wrong.

Fjord Seafoods

Continuing speculation over the future of Fjord.

Will it still be a going concern when I return from holiday? Sadly, I doubt it.

Now, let's make sure that the fish farm lease can be "nationalised" by the Comhairle and re-issued to people within the local community.


Angus on holidayTomorrow sees the family leave Glasgow for warmer climes, but typically it is unseasonally sunny as we leave this afternoon.

I intend to join the prolific May Day in Greece just after we land, and when you see the film of rioting I'll be the peely-wally one with a half-brick and a push chair.

The children have been busy learning some simple phrases such as Καλημέρα (good morning), (please) and
(thank you). This evening they will learn how to persuade a judge to grant bail for their father and purchase super-strength tranquillisers for their mother.

I'll be thinking of you all as I blog from beside the pool, with an ice cold beer. I'll be keeping a close eye on the election results, and no doubt will have a thing or two to say.


This morning on Isles FM, I heard possibly the most uninspiring reason for voting SNP on Thursday.

"It's only going to be a change of administration."

Well hold me back, but I doubt that that will have the voters cheering in the streets and storming the barricades to demand Scottish Independence. That is the bland middle-management speak learned at countless seminars so as not to scare one's customers and epitomised by Nu Labour in 1997 when they promised to stick with the Tories economic plans.

As the Corries sang, "But we can still rise now, and change the administration in Scotland to be less London-centric whilst we develop our comprehensive people-facing economic strategy and probably hold a multi-option referendum in four years time, one of the choices of which will be an option for independence, but without suggesting in any way that this might include any element of republicanism, and subject to a satisfactory financial settlement between Edinburgh and London."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Storàs Uibhist

South UistAs you may have seen from press reports, something seems to be badly wrong in the South Uist community company.

Having been on to this story a few weeks back, following a tip-off from a concerned resident, I've been making a few enquires and a few FoI requests. Knowing my luck, the documents are going to get here whilst I'm away and someone else will run with the story.

The position of Chief Executive remains unfilled, and a second advertisement has been published. Is it true that a very highly qualified individual was identified at the first advertisement and despite an excellent interview was not selected?

The resignation of two directors - who are very highly thought of in the community - one of whom I know well, and for whom I have the highest regard and respect, indicates all is not well. I'm caught between a rock and a hard place of not doing down the community, but not wanting to see anything that might not be in the best interests of the community as a whole allowed to be pushed through.

I understand that legal letters have been sent to the former directors which have effectively gagged them on pain of serious legal consequences, which leads one to ask, "Is that in the best interests of the community as a whole?" I haven't got the answers, yet, but when I do I'll let you know.

In the meantime, if anyone wishes to forward any information to me - with a promise of total confidentiality - I'd be most grateful.

Election leaflets

I'm repeatedly being told that, in a fit of piety, one candidate has had his election address reprinted and is redistributing it.

Although in common with most leaflets he put his name with "1" beside it to indicate that he was asking for your first vote in a multi-member ward, he has decided that to do so in some way suggests that he is equal to Jesus Christ who, of course, is the first.

I'm not mocking his religion, just the complete lack of common sense which suggests that anyone things that the individual concerned could have any kind of Messianic Complex, or that by asking for a vote he is in any way being heretical.

If anyone can get me a "before" and an "after" leaflet, I'd love to see them.

It is going to be some patter at the doorsteps: "I'd like you to vote for me with a number higher than that which you use for the second vote you cast, but not one that is not a singleton. The number shouldn't be unity, the sole member of set {0} in the von Neumann representation, nor e. It shouldn't be it's own factoid, nor the first two members of the Fibonacci sequence, nor the value of sine at π/2. Finally, under no circumstances would I expect you to vote for me using the value of -12."

Presumably when this person goes to vote on Thursday then he is going to vote "2,3,4,5" rather than dig an even deeper hole for himself?

Toilet malfunction

A fabulous story reaches me about a toilet malfunction in one of Stornoway's most salubrious licensed establishments.

The Clachan Bar, a long time haunt of fishermen, drunks, underagers, drunk fishermen, women for whom the low intensity lighting is a blessing, drunk underagers fishermen, and Stornoway's foremost live music venue for youngsters, was rebuilt following a devastating fire in April 2003.

It appears that during the renovation, some of the sewerage services were accidentally blocked or never connected, and consequently have been backing up for some time. The patrons and staff have been noticing a smell that was getting worse for some time, other than that emanating from some of the patrons, but it was put down to the pipes backing up at high tide - the same problem as the Crown often faces.

Initial investigations discovered that the sewage had been seeping under the floorboards, but further investigations found that the sewage had been backing up in the cavity wall, and I was told that it had reached "as high as the jukebox on the wall".

This whole scenario prompts all sorts of questions. I did notice that the downstairs public was closed yesterday and the upstairs bar was - unusually - open. A massive insurance claim will no doubt follow, but it gives a whole new meaning to the expression "a shit pub".

Journalists: read the copyright notice at the bottom of the page, before you lift this as an "exclusive". ;-)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Wireless network

wireless networkI spent a disproportionally large amount of time last night and today getting the domestic wireless network up and running.

"Be up and running within 30 minutes of taking it out of the box", it enticingly and misleadingly promised.

We already have a domestic network, with the three computers wired together and a spare cable for the occassional times I need to connect the laptop to the home broadband. I say three computers, but the oldest machine has suffered a terminal(?) hard disk failure and is currently with our techy guy for fixing.

The office network, which is both hardwired and wireless, had been set up by self-same techy guy, so I was pretty much in the dark, albeit using the same brand of USB adapters and router to perform the same function.

Machine 1, which remained hardwired throughout, was a doddle, and it really was under 15 minutes between connecting the USB adapter and getting on line. Admittedly, that was about 1 hour after I took the router out of the box, for the second time. The first time it took me an hour to get the cabling sorted, and then I had to stop and revert back to the original system as there were some pressing needs to get on-line (Ebay etc etc.)

The second time, I wired everything to everything else on Friday night, and found neither broadband (hardwired) nor phone (cordless) were working, and incoming calls weren't coming through. Spaghetti junction under the desks, and behind the table, and around the phone sockets quickly (hah!) told me that I had plugged everything in to the wrong sockets, the wrong way. A simple piece of engineering demonstrated that the reason the phone wasn't working was (1) because the phone cable was now connected to a disconnected/spare phone cable that didn't connect to the outside world , and (2) the phone power source was disconnected. One hour, some swearing, and a large glass of wine soon sorted that situation.

The second computer, which is the same model as the first with a few extras, resolutely refused to connect, despite repeated attempts to install and connect the USB adaptor. Tonight I solved the problem. The simple slogan is: RTFM. Read The F Manual. I got the install disks from the office and it worked at the next attempt. Secured, encrypted and connected. Now to annoy someone else, wirelessly.

Not gagged, just discrete

I didn't appear on the Isles FM Hustings programme last night for reasons of discretion.

I was running late - due to work commitments - and arrived at the Castle Grounds as the introductory speeches had finished. I then heard Angus Graham's question, and then my name being bandied about, and decided that whatever I was going to say could appear to be bitterness, or sticking the knife in, so I turned about and went home.

Just as well, as when I and my family get praised by my old bosom buddy Angus Graham, then I wouldn't have been able to keep my face straight. Alasdair Morrison also quoted my analysis of the impact of a national Local Income Tax (sic) on the Western Isles, and I noted that no-one quibbled with the figures. I think I heard myself described as a member of the Labour Party by Alasdair Allan, which nearly had me falling off my chair, but perhaps he was referring to someone else, and the moment passed without clarification.

End result: score draw, but I wish I was here for the Unison hustings on Tuesday night.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Council elections - Angus Campbell got my first vote, for the dedication, time and effort he has put in to delivering the best to the Western Isles. He has quickly become an elder statesman of the Comhairle, and has a huge degree of respect from his colleagues.

List - I was going to vote SNP, but the current crude attempts to gag meScottish green Party (and the persistent attempts by senior members of the local party to smear me) have persuaded me not to support any SNP candidates.

Having reviewed all the manifestos, I've decided to vote Green as they support independence and have sensible joined-up policies on the environment and renewables.

I hope that they are successful both locally and nationally, as it is vital that their input into the Climate Change debate is heard.

Constituency - I knew that I wasn't voting SNP for their lack of a sensible policy on renewable energy and their willingness to give away our potential to develop offshore wave and wind without asking anything in return. However, the following quote for Alex Salmond gave me pause for thought:

"The construction of a series of tidal, wave and wind energy projects which, we believe, will put the Western Isles in the forefront of European efforts to develop renewable energy resources of the kind we have in more abundance here than in practically any other region on earth."

Excellent idea, allied to a clear commitment. Pity that was what he said on 3 March 1992. Compare that to the current manifesto:

"In government the SNP will make the creation of an EU wide green energy research centre a focus of our external affairs efforts in the EU. The centre, which we propose should be based in Aberdeen, would allow us to build on decades of offshore energy expertise and the proximity to some of the world’s most promising renewable energy locations - from Peterhead and the North Sea for carbon capture and storage to the Pentland Firth, described as the Saudi Arabia of tidal power."

There you have it: the past 15 years of Tory and Labour Governments have systematically deprived us of the best conditions to develop offshore power. Alternatively, the vehement opposition of (some of) the local SNP to on-shore wind power has lead to us losing the opportunities for wave and tidal. Exactly, what I feared would happen.

Compare another promise from 1992: "We will be introducing Road Equivalent Tarriffs on island ferries..." with the manifesto "... we will undertake a pilot project on RET to the Western Isles ..." Anyone who deals with the public sector in any context will recognise the wriggle room in the latter promise. 'Pilot projects' have a limited lifespan, and with no promise of early introduction (merely an early study!) this has been kicked into the long grass until just before the next election.

For the first time ever, my vote has gone elsewhere, to someone who lives in the islands and mentions the need for economic development of the Western Isles in their election materials.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


I'm back on Isles FM tomorrow as a pundit, following the hustings programme from the Lews Castle College. No doubt my acerbic comments may attract some complaints, but I sincerely hope that they come AFTER the programme and there is no repeat attempt to gag me before hand.

Rumour of the day... that I have a new job in the renewable sector and this is why I am standing down from the Comhairle.

There is no substance whatsoever in this story.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The election addresses

I received the balance of the election addresses today, along with my postal vote. Decisions, decisions. Here's my (maximum of) ten word summary of each election address, in no particular order.

Tory (constituency): I'm nice. Who is Thatcher? Help save my deposit.
Tory (list): Vote Tory, or it is your fault.
LibDem (constituency): I'm local and not called Alasdair. We ran the Executive.
Scottish Socialist (list): We promise utopia. Tommy Sheridan is a b@$tard.
UKIP (list): Europe is BAD.
Solidarity (list): Comrades: suntans and utopia. Down with the running-dogs of capitalism.
Labour (list): We can cure cancer. *
SNP (Constituency): Don't mention any policies.
Labour (Constituency): If it wasn't for me the sun wouldn't shine every day.
SNP (list): What good are policies when you have a personality cult?
Green (Constituency): Idealistic and anti-globalisation.
LibDem (list): No, really, we did run the Executive.
Scottish Christian Party (list): The future is the past. Working mums go home.
BNP (list): Would be cuddly skinheads.
Senior Citizens (list): Make life better for pensioners. Don't ask who's paying.

* This is genuinely what they are implying. Labour claim that the smoking ban is their first stage of a plan to cure cancer. And we thought that they were just politicians.

St George's Day

Now, no-one can call me anti-English (or xenophobic in any way) by the wildest stretch of the imagination.

However, on Monday night our MP seems to have gone way over the top - indeed one could say he has almost gone native.

This photograph from the St George's Day National Banquet at the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall Palace shows him parading behind an English flag and wearing a Labour Red Rose.

It may have been a charity event, and it may have been necessary to sit through a speech by John Major, but it surely would be better to actively try to promote St Andrew's Night and Burns Suppers throughout Scotland first.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Self destruct

According to yesterday's Herald, the Iranians are refusing to return the top secret portable computer systems which form the Xeres network. This network is "mission essential" and Xeres is "top of the range" kit.

Anyone know why they didn't just throw the computer overboard when they were captured? Instead, the Iranian are reverse engineering the secrets out of it.

So, not content with allowing themselves to be captured due to inadequate military cover; losing top-secret equipment; then cracking under the vicious torture of being called "Mr Bean" and having one's ears flicked; the returnees are hailed as heroes and allowed to sell their stories to the press. What is going on?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Being pampered

facial, face maskI explored my metrosexual side this afternoon, when I went for one of my occasional treats at Body & Sole, for a facial and a massage.

(Don't bother with the predictable jokes)

I can thoroughly recommend the experience, as I left relaxed and refreshed and ready for my holiday next week. I've no idea what solutions, compounds and potions where rubbed in, but they still smell lovely and have left me feeling perky and raring to go.

The massage really hit the spot, as all the swimming in the Scotsman Hotel had left my shoulders aching and tense, probably because I am totally out of shape. Just for the record, we didn't pay anywhere near the published rates for the room, as Expedia came up trumps, again, at about 1/3 of the normal cost.

The election

boredum, dull, politicsI keep waiting for the campaigning to spring into life, but I suspect the politicians are preferring to say nothing, rather than say anything wrong (or right!). As a spectator sport it is dull beyond belief, and that apathy is definitely flowing though into the local electorate.

Because I speak to so many people during a working day on business and for other reasons, I get a lot of feedback about where the election is going, so I'm going to give my personal summary of where I think the constituency election has reached.

I'll start with the easy ones first... and all comments are subject to change when I see the election addresses.

Dave Petrie (Con)
Invisible. Will be lucky to keep the vote that the Tories had last time. Main pitch: "We're not as nasty as we used to be".

Ruraidh Ferguson (LibDem)
Invisible. Should have been in with a good change of increasing the LibDem vote by attracting disillusioned Labour and SNP votes. Possibly hoping for a good outcome at the Comhairle elections as being the best result possible. Deeply underwhelming and missing a great opportunity.

Alasdair Allan (SNP)
Invisible. Unknown to vast sections of the community almost all voters. Even, fellow attendees at St Columba's Church simply don't know who he is. In a twist of synchronicity, the Minister probably won't be voting SNP for other reasons. An open goal is in great danger of being missed as avoiding the public replaces handshaking as an electoral technique.

Alasdair Morrison (Lab)
Almost invisible. Facing the double hurdle of being the sitting MSP and the Labour candidate, Alasdair appears to be sleepwalking to losing. In line for a 'good kicking' (c) Tony Blair just for being, he appeared resigned to his fate until late last year.

My conclusions
Tory and LibDem may save their deposits, but only due to either a low turnout or voter disillusionment with the main contenders. Either way, they will be far back also rans.

My reading of the situation is that both Alasdairs and both parties have each lost at least 1,000 votes, and possibly even more. Morrison for anti-Labour reasons; Allan for not being local or known; and both for the low profile of their campaign.

I would place Alasdair Morrison marginally ahead at the moment, partially because of the advantage of incumbency (which he has definitely not used to his advantage) and partially as the labour voters who turned to Rev Hargreaves in 2005 are being fairly successfully wooed back.

The SNP have the national swing behind them, but they are not seeming to push this in any way.

But, and it is a BIG BUT, I think an enormous number of people have yet to make up their mind about who to vote for, despite what they might profess to telephone canvassers. Certainly, it is more than I have ever experienced, with committed Labour and SNP voters both expressing their doubts and despairs. In my view, the election will be won or lost - not in the last week - but as voters enter the polling booth and have to cast their votes and either party could have a 2,000 majority. I think the outcome might be to within a few hundred votes, but I can't call it yet.

My decision day is just around the corner, when the postal vote comes.

Last duty

I have just finished my last formal duty as a Councillor, chairing the Local Biodiversity Action Plan steering group.

Amongst the topics being discussed and taken forward was the development on local nurseries to produce native woodland stock. The entire stock of 25,000 stems per annum has already been pre-sold for use on the island.

We were also told about three sites that are being trialled for small-scale (domestic) biomass projects using a mix of alder, sycamore, poplar and willow to determine the viability of different sites and different ground conditions in a long term project that might take seven to ten years to produce any result. The trees will be planted to what are effectively lazy beds, indicating that our ancestors knew how to look after the ground and encourage development in a sustainable way - something we must learn from.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Away again

Work takes us both away this weekend, with an important meeting with a large client in Edinburgh. Consequently, the blog may be a bit slow over the weekend, unless I can log on with my palmtop.

I was stopped in the street yesterday by an acquaintance who works on an oil rig in Norway. Two of his colleagues on the rig asked if he knew me. One is from Glasgow and one from Norfolk, but they are both clients of the firm, and very kindly recommended our firm to this Sy lad for the preparation of his Norwegian Tax Returns.


After barely a fortnight of trying, the midget is now fully potty trained and thoroughly enjoys the experience of being a "big boy" like his big brother.

He no longer strips himself down early in the morning and pees in the bed, which makes for a lot less washing.

However, at 7am this morning he lobbed himself out of his cot and wondered into our room carrying a large stuffed toy. This looks to be the new trick.

Time to move him into a proper bed before he hurts himself.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The next Labour candidate?

Before the Holyrood elections are even complete, the likely Labour candidate for Westminster (and there's a kiss of death) is heading towards the starting block.

And a strong and very good candidate he is too, if I haven't just killed his chances dead. No doubt his nomination is being held until the outcome in May is known and either (1) a lamb is sought for the slaughter, or (2) a potentially crowded field has to be trimmed.

Don't bother trying to fish for the name. No matter how hard you trawl, I'm not saying.

Bridge to Pairc

The proposal to bridge Loch Erisort has long been an ambition of the people of Pairc to reduce travel times and improve accessibility to the rest of the island.

The plan by Nick Oppenheim to build such a bridge is, of course, extremely welcome and will prove to be a very valuable addition to the infrastructure in the Western Isles.

Pairc causeway

Artists impression

Nobody should be under any illusion that this is purely altruistic, as it will be necessary to transport the wind turbines, should planning permission be granted by the Executive.

However, it is part of the community benefit which the Comhairle has fought for, and is indicative of the sort of opportunities and the developments which the windfarms could bring.


Shane McGown, pogues, teethWhat is it about going to the dentist that turns you back into a little child again?

Despite huge advances in technology, techniques and customer service, the sheer terror doesn't dissipate as you approach the chair.

And then, afterwards, the instruction to clean your teeth properly with (possibly) a demonstration from the dentist. Thank goodness that's over for another six months.

I understand the waiting lists in Lewis are now down to under twelve months, and with a 'cunning plan', the new management team intend to shorten it even further.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Food miles

It is excellent to see that Western Isles Health Board have signed-up to the sustainability principles of the Scottish Executive. This involves mitigating the food miles - or to put it in old fashioned language - buying locally.

Applying these principles to all services delivered to the public sector should give more opportunities for local suppliers to bid for and win public sector contracts. For too long price has been the sole determining factor, and quality has come a poor second. Finally, it looks like the tables might be turning.

Lost for words...

Thanks to a regular correspondent who advises me that ...

"Apparently the word coming out of the SNP has been that Angus has been "completely unreasonable" not for not standing , but for getting them to expel him by pretending he was going to stand !"

You couldn't make it up.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Windfarm policy (3)

The best until last.

Whatever one thinks of windfarms, there is one undeniable truth: the energy companies are prepared to pay substantial sums to use the land in Lewis to increase their profits.

We, as a community, are on the cusp of enjoying substantial sums for the exploitation of our land.

Statement 5: If the developments are prevented - by a political decision - then the Government should compensate the people of the Western Isles for taking care of the land for the benefit of the people of Scotland. Any politician advocating refusal of the planning permission should also be offering equal compensation to the communities for the new responsibility for looking after the land.

In essence, the people of Ness and Barvas - whatever their views - should be arguing for the same thing: £10m per annum for the next 25 years either from the developers or the Government. Any politician seeking election who is offering to give away these economic rights is costing you £5,000 per annum or about £125,000 in total, and is not even pretending to represent the best interests of the Western Isles.

We have two weeks to force every political party into that corner.

Travel chaos

If it wasn't bad enough that the airport is understaffed, just think of the pressure this situation puts onto the poor one individual who is the Air Traffic Controller.

If he doesn't feel 100%, does he come in to work and try and land planes when he is perhaps very ill? Or, does he stay at home and be single-handedly responsible for the closure of Stornoway Airport?

How long before he goes off with stress, and the airport is in even more difficulty?

Moral dilemma

I've only had to delete one comment in the past six months (other than two which were entirely infantile swearing). A great many of these comments have been personally insulting to me and/or my council colleagues as a body corporate.

It's what happens when you are in the public domain; you are rarely - if ever - off duty. I've just done eight years of it, and I can tell you it is very wearing, but comes with the territory.

The previous post on "Polling Cards" (which I have just suspended - not deleted) included some rude comments about a candidate in the coming elections. I'm going to decide whether to delete the comments, or let them stand later.

Rather than censoring the postings, I'd rather give people a right of reply and let them shoot their critics down in flames.

My problem is that a previous blog posting attracted a threatening (but ultimately empty) lawyers letter in an attempt to gag me.

Unfortunately, in order to fully explain the situation, I'll have to place some more information into the public domain, and I'm not sure about the correct way forward.

Decisions, decisions.

Update 10.40am : phone call wanting me to disclose the identity of those who were making comments (Answer, I can't and I wouldn't). Complaint about my website hosting these *defamatory* comments (Answer, I don't host them, Google do). Perhaps I need to place all the facts garnered through FoI requests into the public domain, but I suspect that this isn't what was intended either.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Polling cards

Holyrood, Comhairle and political partiesI got my polling card today, which has thrown me into ever more of a dilemma about who to vote for. I'm desperately reading the manifestos to see who might have some policies I agree with. I know who I'm not going to vote (since you ask, hypocrites, idiots and those without coherent policies - and I mean that in the nicest possible caring and inclusive way) for in some of the ballots, but that doesn't really help.

As I'm away on polling day, I'm also applying for a postal vote, which has to be in by Wednesday.

So far, I've had two Council leaflets and two Constituency leaflets through my door. One of the four has been inspiring and interesting, whilst the other three are tedious and hackneyed. I fear I am going to have to vote for the ones I dislike least, which is better than not voting, but not by much. A large number of candidates have been in to see me with their leaflets either prior to printing or just immediately after. Very flattering for me (and, please, I am no guru) but also quite difficult when they are competing in the same ward.

(update) The polling card is actually misleading as it tells me I have "3 votes". Actually I have up to 8 votes in 3 polls. Cue more spoilt papers.

The whole Holyrood campaign is one of tedium and the parties not really trying (as far as I can judge), with everyone trying to get by on their reputation - or who they are NOT - rather than anything positive, and I find that demeaning and irritating.

Perhaps I'm just getting old and sensible. :-) But perhaps the picture says it all.

Jaded and jealous? No, just glad to be out of the fray.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Stornoway Tapas

rioja grapes, possiblyLast night we had an excellent meal in Stornoway's only Spanish restaurant, the "Corner Tapas" (700101 if you want to make a reservation).

The food was excellent, with a Lewis twist(!) to the Spanish dishes. Chorizo and blackpudding was one of my mains, washed down with an excellent bottle of white Rioja between us.

There was no attempt to make us think we were in a pavement cafe on the Barcelona awaiting the overthrow of Franco, but a well thought out appeal to the locals to try something different. Us 40-somethings were much impressed by the music playing through the speaker system; Talking Heads, Sugar Minnott and Nina Simone amongst others.

We will definately be going back soon.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

SNH wrong - shocker!

So, SNH got it wrong about the Uist hedgehogs when the said that they would never survive transportation to another location. Remember the furore when they were to be shot? Then given fatal injections?

Now, I don't hold the welfare of hedgehogs high in my priority list, and certainly not as high as the very excitable Ross Minnot of Advocates for Animals.

Just for clarification Advocates for Animals is nothing do do with representation in the higher courts for a killer dog, or a Niseach sheep selling crack at the fank, but appears to be an organisation which believes that animals have exactly the same rights as humans.

With rights come responsibilities, and until I can get an ASBO against next doors cat for shitting on my lawn, the balance is unfairly tilted.loonies for animals

according to Advocates for Animals, they stridently believe that, "DEMOCRACY means … giving EVERYONE a voice" which seems to involve allowing dogs to vote, according to the picture on their website (right). Sorry, but until Fido tidies up his own shit and pays Council Tax, he's not getting on the electoral register.

These are the self-righteous townies who want to stop the Gugas being taken; want to stop deer culls; and want to stop seal culls irrespective of the effect on humans.

Anthropomorphism is a horrible condition which results in well-meaning liberal vegetarians* thinking that a pig/sheep/fox is more important than the human who tends, nurtures, and then carefully eats the beast.

The 'trendies' who name (pet) animals and then refuse to eat them (after having them sent for slaughter) have their place. It's just not in the rural community. Friends are not kept in a paddock and fed grass (unless you are Cynthia Payne), they are herbivores who are staying for lunch. Your lunch.

Anyway. my point before I rambled was; if SNH got it wrong about the hedgehogs, who is to say they didn't get it wrong about the Lewis Peatlands and blocking the Ness-Tolsta road because the birds might suffer?

* I like vegetarians. Most of my favourite lunches are of beef or lamb.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Gagging - again

Further to my previous post, about being gagged by the SNP on Isles FM, I thought the matter was closed.

Not so. Yesterday the format was changed to three pundits to give more varied "comment"Angus Graham on the events of the week. Last night the Chair of the Western Isles SNP phoned the host of the show to complain about the third guest, my old friend and colleague former Councillor Angus Graham, who was "unacceptable" to the local SNP. As it turned out Angus Graham was not invited onto the show, but nevertheless the SNP obviously have a list of which commentators are "fair" and which are "unfair" i.e. those who will parrot the SNP line and those who will not.

Today, they have launched a concerted campaign to have me removed from tonight's programme on the grounds that I might say something they don't like.

I gave the benefit of the doubt last time, but this is definitely too far and too much. Just who is approving this censorship, and why is free speech under threat in the Western Isles?

Am I on the programme tonight? Wait and see on 103.0FM!

Local Income Tax

I'm all in favour of a local Income Tax as I think that it has many advantages and the disadvantages and loopholes can (fairly) easily be closed. What seems to be A Bad Idea is a National Local Income Tax. Let me explain, with some numbers based on how it will affect the Western Isles.

But first, some background. A local Income Tax is a simple addition to your Tax Code based upon your home post code. So, for example, if you are an employee your Tax Code will be changed to recover the appropriate additional tax, and the self-employed will have a change to their tax assessment at the end of the year. The mechanisms are all in place - the taxman has your post code and employees will see "/s" on their coding notice if they live in Scotland but their employer is in England.

The following are the Council Tax bands for the Western Isles for 2007/08.
Property value Band Council Tax 2007/08
Under £27,000 A 682.67
Up to £35,000 B 796.44
Up to £45,000 C 910.22
Up to £58,000 D 1,024.00
Up to £80,000 E 1,251.56
Up to £106,000 F 1,479.11
Up to £212,000 G 1,706.67
Over £212,000 H 2,048.00

The level of the Local Income Tax is perhaps 3%, perhaps up to 7.5% depending upon who you believe, so I did the calculations up to a level of 10%, and compared it to the Council Tax Band.

Household taxable
3.0% Band 5% Band 7.5% Band 10.0% Band
£10,000 300 A 500 A 750 B 1,000 E
£15,000 450 A 750 B 1,125 E 1,500 G
£20,000 600 A 1,000 D 1,500 G 2,000 H
£25,000 750 B 1,250 E 1,875 H 2,500 H
£30,000 900 B 1,500 G 2,250 H 3,000 H
£40,000 1,200 E 2,000 H 3,000 H 4,000 H
£50,000 1,500 G 2,500 H 3,750 H 5,000 H
£60,000 1,800 G 3,000 H 4,500 H 6,000 H
£70,000 2,100 H 3,500 H 5,250 H 7,000 H

What this shows is that if your total household income is £20,000 and the Local Income Tax is 3%, then you are better off. With a LIT of 5%, then you are better off if your house is Band D or above. With a LIT of 7.5%, then you are worse off unless you live in a Band H house.

Why does this come about?

Simple, because the Council Tax in the Western Isles is so low, a nationally set LIT will result in us subsidising the areas with the highest income and highest Council Tax. This was not what was intended, and certainly not what I gave my support to, and promises to penalise the Western Isles, again.

That's all before I can tell you a very, very easy way for the rich to avoid the worst effects of LIT.

Amended 13/4/07 to change "household income" to "Household taxable income" in the interests of clarity.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Manifestos compared - renewable energy

I'm reading the various manifestos and comparing their policies on renewable energy. Someone has to wade through the turgid prose and vague and vacuous statements to get to the root of what is being said.

This is a generally excellent document that ignores the stupid suggestion of a referendum on planning matters, other than the deliberately vague statement "We will involve all of Scotland in the preparation of extensive and effective clean energy legislation" (p29) which is a legal requirement for a national strategy anyway.

Excellent promises on energy saving and a zero-waste Scotland (although the Comhairle already do much of what is promised) and which are pretty much replicated by all the parties, with one exception.

The commitment to current legislation is confirmed, which means that the existing windfarm proposals will be considered as they stand, and the long overdue prospect of a new strategic planning framework for renewable energy is clearly stated (p31). Opponents of windfarms are thrown the prospect of "an early review of planning", which is simply a way of kicking it into the long grass for the duration of the next parliament (p33).

But there are down sides. Renewable energy development is to be based in Aberdeen and wave and tidal power focussed on the East Coast, rather than the West, where the potential is much, much, higher. This is a serious threat to the economy of the Western Isles and hugely undermines what the Comhairle have been trying to achieve over the past eight years (p32).

Overall 7/10. Must try harder to represent the whole of Scotland.

A much more wordy publication, it appears to have been put together by a less 'trendier' design agency than that used by the SNP, but one with verbal diarrhoea. Elementary mistakes, such as repeatedly referring to CO2 rather than CO2 make it a disconcerting read for those looking for informed comment.

As with the SNP, there are pledges to incentivise and encourage individuals to act 'green' but there are the added explicit targets of 50% of all electricity generation to be from renewables by 2020 (p68). Although, there is no word of how these will be achieved.

There are loads of vague promises to make sure the polices are integrated between refuse collection, recycling, encouraging public transport, improving building standards and ending fuel poverty. All very well and good but still a bit wooly and vague.

Overall 6/10. Too much wiggle room. Good ideas flawed by a lack of specifics.

Less professional than the other two, the manifesto for the environment is apparently a wholly owned subsidiary of Nicol Stephen. Very solid commitment to 100% renewable energy from wave and tidal (p32) without the worry of having to specify how these (as yet) unproven technologies will actually come anywhere close to delivering the promised 12.5% reduction in emissions by 2010 (p30). A rock solid commitment to micro-generation (p32+34) i.e. wind turbines on every roof, but no explanation of how this will fit with planning law in conservation zones. This was an SNP policy recently, until this very question was asked.

An aspiration to see wave generation in Scotland by the end of 2007 (p36), without any explanation of how this will happen, or even if it will work. What happens if it doesn't? More money, less money, or a new policy?

Big on small measures, such as changes to the VAT regime, to encourage participation. These are admirable in themselves, but hardly earth-shattering. VAT changes require Westminster to approve them, but even then I think that this is illegal without a rewriting of the Treaty of Europe. The Canary Islands have no VAT because the Spaniards wrote that into the accession document. If the LibDems can do THAT, then lets make the Western Isles duty free for petrol.

Overall - ideas 8/10, deliverability 4/10. It's good to be in opposition, when you will never have to implement your policies.

The entire policy appears to be: "At other times, government interference has manifested itself in the inappropriate placement of on-shore wind farm developments designed to meet central objectives made in Edinburgh. We will place a moratorium on all locally-opposed wind farm developments pending a National Location Strategy for such developments. This will complement our proposals to incentivise other forms of renewable energy, like tidal power and biomass."

Good, a central policy and strategy. MWT should note that the Tories are the only party to promise an explicit moratorium on windfarms (current or prospective is unclear).

Just realised that the policy would also stop local community schemes, if some of the community objected.

Overall 3/10. Must try and stop being all things to all men.

At this point your correspondent was hospitalised with post-manifesto dementia.

Renewable energy - manifestos

Having reviewed the manifestos, it appears that every party claims to be very keen to support renewable energy in every form, whether it is wind, wave, tidal or solar. A few also support nuclear, but they're not in the running anyway.

Reviewing as many candidates statements as I can, I have yet to find a single candidate who is actively advocating renewable energy for their particular area. Indeed, most seem to be actively against any and every proposal for their particular ward or constituency.

If anyone can identify a candidate asking for renewable energy to come to their area, then I'll be happy to give them the due publicity.

It strikes me that everyone is paying lip-service to renewables and no-one is prepared to actually DO anything in their area.

Trade deficit

I see that the UK Trade Deficit continues to hover around £4bn per month.

As we all know, a deficit is a bad thing. A very bad thing. That no country should contemplate, (and BTW it's not Labour's fault that Scotland is in deficit).

As we all know, to resolve the UK Trade Deficit Gordon Brown is planning to merge the UK with France as soon as he is anointed as majestic lizard king later this summer. Or not as the case may be.

Deficits are not inherently bad. Indeed, economic deficits can be essential at time. They cannot go on for ever without some compensating adjustments. Everyone agrees about that. Except, it seems, in the case of Scotland.

Perhaps someone can explain why?

A journalist writes....

Mr Duncan Ross
National Secretary

You will recall how the membership of longstanding SNP stalwart Councillor Angus Nicolson in the Western Isles was terminated by you recently for indicating that he MAY stand for Western Isles Council as an independent. In fact, it has emerged that he is NOT standing for council at all.

However, we obserbvers of the political scene are absolutely shocked to see another well-known and longstanding island SNP activist IS standing as an independent. As you are undoubtedly a party of fairness and would want to see that fairness put into practice, will Angus Nicolson now be reinstated and the actual person who is deliberately defying your authority and flouting your rules be summarily expelled without leave to appeal, as Mr Nicolson was?

I could obviously only take your failure to promptly respond and explain these apparent glaring double standards as an indication that the SNP is in reality a dark place where favouritism and turning a blind eye are the norm and where justice and fair dealing is something that only lip service is paid to.

Being gagged

I pulled this post as it appeared that the information communicated to me was incorrect. I then made some comments based on a misunderstanding, but I'm not too big to correct it. The threat of legal action was based on a confusion between comments made yesterday and last Friday, but the substance of the comments was as I indicated in the original post.

The programme was pulled due to the nature of the mostly anonymous calls being received by the volunteers at Isles FM. The Managing Director of Isles FM, Ann Moqbel, said, "Isles FM is a community station which wants to reflect all points of view and be a vehicle for that. There were many calls to the station which were aggressive and nasty to our volunteers. Some were anonymous. I will not have our volunteers intimidated in that way. We hope to have the pundits back on Friday."

It is clear that someone somewhere is running a nasty political operation. Whether it is the SNP or Labour pretending to be SNP supporters to discredit them, I don't know, but it is certainly very aggressive. There is a decidedly nasty streak running through some of the postings on some local internet forums (fora?) which seems to be more interested in gagging those with certain views, rather than debating points.

I have let virtually every posting onto this blog (one was cut to the an inappropriate link), insulting or otherwise, and I will continue in the same vein.

Gagging dissidents is never a good idea. It is better to defeat their arguments. That is democracy.

The original posting from last night is below:
I was supposed to being on Isles FM tonight as a "pundit" discussing the election campaigns. Because I was not standing again, I am totally free to speak without any right of reply, as is my colleague Callum Ian MacMillan - the former Labour Group Leader on the Comhairle.

About two hours before the programme was to go on air, I discovered that the SNP had threatened to take out an injunction to prevent the programme taking place on the grounds of "bias". Now this is true, really true, but apparently I was unacceptable, the journalist who was chairing the programme was unacceptable, but the former Labour Group Leader was acceptable. Yes, read that again. And again!

Sorry, but the brave new Scotland does not need censorship, a restriction on the right of free speech, or commentators who are obliged to toe a particular line.

Is this what the SNP represents? If so, count me out. I've publicly advocated voting SNP on the list (but not the constituency) for well known reasons. This behaviour crosses the boundary between democracy and dictatorship as far as I am concerned, and I hope it is totally, completely, and utterly withdrawn immediately or I will not be able to tell anyone to vote SNP anywhere.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Captain StupidTony Blair has said "in hindsight" the navy's decision to allow sailors held captive in Iran to sell their stories to the media was not a "good idea".

Stop press: Blair confirms that bears poo in the woods and that Pope believed to have religious views.

My Future Plans

Am I standing again?


About a year ago I told my family and my closest political allies that this was my intention, but that I intended to keep the decision secret - irony of ironies – to stop the Labour Party putting someone up in my ward, and to give the SNP a better chance of having a representative elected.

My reasons for doing so are quite simple: I have a young family, a thriving business, and I was trying to remain highly active in the Comhairle. Something was going to give, and the multi-member wards proved to be the final straw. I knew that I wouldn't be able to give enough time to the new bigger ward.

I don't want to do any job badly, and I have made my choices – my family and my business – before politics.

I never had any intention of standing as an independent Councillor or MSP in May, and to ensure that I didn't bend to pressure from friends and political acquaintances, we booked a holiday quite some time ago to ensure that we are away on polling day. That is why I talked about a “Thoughtcrime”, in a move which was startlingly politically inept, ill-timed and quite obviously a crude attempt to silence me.

One of my reasons for delaying the announcement was to deal with some matters arising through KIMO of which I am International President, and to ensure that my international colleagues were told first hand and could make the appropriate arrangements to replace me.

The last eight years have been fantastic, and I hope that I have done my bit to improve the governance of the Comhairle and represent my constituents, but all good things must come to an end.

It is a sabbatical, not a farewell, and when our children are older, I'll Be Back!

The blog continues, so if anyone elected on 3 May wants to send me information....

As Enoch Powell said: “All political careers end in failure.” Mine wasn't a career, more a vocation.

Boom and bust

I read today that mortgages at 6 times income are now available.

Those of us with memories of the last property 'bust' will remember the sudden spiral of lending ratios followed by a sudden collapse of house prices, negative equity, and a total loss of confidence in the Government. This lead - inexorably - to a change of Government in 1997.

Is history repeating itself? I think it will, within the next two years.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


tagineFor Christmas I got the present of a hand-cast pottery Tagine to vary and improve my cooking skills.

I've been practising over the past few months, and I can thoroughly recommend the purchase of one to every aspirant cook.

They are cheap, easy and convenient, and the food is aromatic, savoury and moist, and even I have yet to burn anything.

Tonight: lamb chops. Fry an onion and place in the bottom of the tagine. Seal the chops (or neck cuts) and place on top of the onions. Add some water, to half cover the lamb. Add sweet potatoes (ordinary spuds are not as tasty) and a sliced pepper, and cook at 160C for 2 hours or so. Add sultanas and almonds (mixed nuts) 5/10 minutes before the end, and serve.

Wash down with a nice red wine.

Tabloid journalism

I've just finished reading "The Name of the Rose" by Umberto Eco. It is the one major novel by Eco that I had not read, and I was desperately trying to shed the memory of the movie (and especially Sean Connery playing a Geordie in a Scottish accent) so that I could come to the novel afresh.

As a professor of semiotics, Eco is an expert in meaning and creating (mis)understanding with excellent use of language to confuse, obscure and entertain.

I think I missed much of the skill as the excessive use of Latin somewhat hindered my understanding. Not even our teacher, Cicero, was able to (metaphorically) beat the language into my head at school.

However, the exquisite use of language to hide the truth is something that politicians tend to be well versed in.

The tabloids lied to the girls. Is anyone surprised? The families would have been well advised to stay quiet and ignore the mistakes, rather than stoking the flames again, as I think that this will simply give the story "legs".

But why was the location misreported, and in such a way as to make it easily deniable? Simple; it was to hide the role of the source and start people looking in the wrong direction. The fact that the apology didn't deal with this will just cause more questions to be asked, rather than closing the matter off.

So why am I bothered? Self-interest. I became "collateral damage" thanks to this individual leaking the story, and I don't like that in the slightest.

Story closed, until I get an opportunity to "restore the balance".

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Is there actually an election going on somewhere???

It's oh so quiet, apart from Calum MacDonald pressing the flesh on Cromwell St.


I've just finished reading and digesting the proposal from SHETL for the subsea cable from Lewis to Ullapool. What follows is my opinion, and is not a Council position, and it is probably subject to a lot of further information, so it may yet change.

The SHETL proposal seems to make sense as presented, with the routes clearly justified and rationalised.

But these weren't the questions I was being asked by a poster to this blog. The questions were two fold, and I will try to answer both as completely as I can.

"Why do we need two inter-connectors?"
"If we can get an inter-connector for the Eishken windfarm, why do we need LWP at all?"

The first underlying problem with the SHETL application is that it assumes that the Pairc community windfarm will proceed, and the entire justification is built around that. The Pairc community scheme is on at scoping stage, and is probably at least one year away from consideration by the Comhairle (and then on to the Executive).

The second underlying problem will be whether the community scheme gets supported by the Comhairle or not. When the original applications from LWP and BMP came in, virtually together, we discussed the implications that these applications would have for other potential applications that we thought might be in the pipeline.

At that time (and this conversation was based on the original applications and not the final reduced versions) there was a view in the planning department that the three applications together would be overwhelming on the landscape, and that was a view with which I concurred at the time. Until Planning have sight of the Pairc application, I don't know if this will hold true, but it certainly was a serious concern. In essence, we thought that any two of the three "big" applications were acceptable with modifications, but three was too many. I know many will say one is too many, but I am explaining the process.

The third problem is the pylons. LWP made one combined application for the windfarm and the connection to Arnish, and the Comhairle have requested that the Scottish Executive require all cabling to be below ground. SHETL are applying for pylons, on behalf of two third parties, and this is likely to be even more contentious than the actual windfarm.

Problem four is that the connection is into the Beauly-Denny line. IMHO, it is likely to be five-ten years before any decision is taken on that connection, and any approval is likely to be fraught with objections, conditions and further applications.


The cable that SHETL propose will meet the expected capacity of 600MW from Eishken, Pairc and the other community schemes that have requested a connection. LWP have not requested a connection from SHETL, as they obviously have other plans.

Bear in mind that any future developments, such as wave or tidal will need capacity, and that SHETL are restricted by OFGEM in providing capacity to applicants, and not are not allowed to create capacity for future developments. Further, like any good business, SHETL want the energy to go through their grid on the mainland so they can have the income, rather than what is best for the producer.


In my view, the end game is as follows: Beauly-Denny (and Ullapool-Beauly) is going to be held up for too long, and the subsea connection to Ullapool will never happen.

LWP are going to run a private cable to Hunterston or Cumbria, as an entirely private enterprise, which will not be regulated by OFGEM as to overall capacity or the sale of excess capacity to others.

This cable will have enough capacity for LWP to offer the spare capacity to Eishken and everyone else to subsidise the cost to LWP and to provide the islands with enough capacity for future developments of the West Coast.

In summary, I expect that we will have one cable and that will be the LWP one. I would also expect SHETL to dispute my analysis, as they have to make the business case.


This position is one I have been adapting over the past three years, as the situation has changed. It may turn out to be wrong - Beauly-Denny might get approval next year - but in my view it is the one with the highest probability.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Isles FM

I was invited on the "pundit" slot tonight to replace Alasdair Nicholson, whose family had suffered an unfortunate bereavement.

It was an interesting knock-about evening with my old adversary and friend and neighbour, Callum Iain MacMillan.

The funniest part was after the programme when we saw the "complaints" file. "Unbalanced", "unfair" "why didn't you have xxx on?" were some of the comments. Somewhat hysterically, the comments came from a husband and wife of a certain political persuasion (and very close to a certain candidate), and to try and disguise the connection he had given his mobile (which we recognised) and she had given the house number (which we also recognised). If you are going to stand for Council and be successful, you need to be smarter than that.

Tax Returns

It may only be the first day on the new Tax Year, but I've already managed to get my first Income Tax Return submitted and accepted by the Inland Revenue.

I know everyone is supposed to be on holiday, but when it is your own business....

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Lie detectors

So Benefit Cheats are now to be rooted out using "voice-risk analysis software" to identify suspect claims.

This re-announcement of a 2005 policy position is somewhat undermined by David Blunkett's claim at the time that it was "crackers". Especially given that David Blunkett was the Works and Pensions Secretary at the time.

The entire technology is dubious at best, but there is a simple way to give the public confidence in the process.

Let's wire up one of these pieces of "voice-risk analysis software" in the House of Commons and watch it perform. Or worse still, run the Party Political Broadcasts through it and watch it explode.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Harris Tweed

The industry is bought by John Haggas of Yorkshire, and we all breathe a sigh of relief that it is secure.

Release that breath.

Now single-width looms are to be phased out and the mill in Shawbost is closed. Some of the competition were bought up at the same time (no doubt in a very nice deal for them) and the capacity closed, and the building put up for sale.

Anyone who had any doubts about his intent (and I was one) need only look at the incorporation of the company Harris Tweed Scotland Limited (number: 05987374) on 2 November 2006 with a Registered Office at Haincliffe Road, Keighley, Yorkshire, where Brook Taverner are headquartered.

I would guess that this is the new parent company for the Kenneth MacKenzie group of companies, and the ability of the HTA to prevent a Yorkshire company using the trademark protected name, shows just how toothless the body actually is.

The future? Like too many of our assets, they have been sold to off-islanders to exploit mercilessly, with profits going elsewhere and with the weavers - once again - getting the shitty end of the stick.

As the product range is "slimmed" (read: slashed, with no investment in anything other than the bog-standard, mass produced, unexciting range for the aspirant generation with no interest in tradition) the skills will be lost, and the industry will chug along doing nicely, but without any real prospect of significant growth. I'll almost guarantee that profits will rise in the short-term as risk and the range drop, but that in the medium term the industry is doomed.

Someday I'll recount HIE's role in making this happen in the guise of "rescuing the industry".

Local shops for local people

John Kirriemuir in Berneray has an excellent analysis of the difficulties of shopping in these islands, and trying to balance the desire to spend your money in the community in which you live against the constraints of supply.

We all try to buy locally, but some products are not always available, and other times the choice just isn't what you want. I get a lot of my wine direct from Italy at £3.33 a bottle, and it is excellent quality, direct from the wineyard. I've never used the omnipresent Tesco for deliveries to the islands, and I'm vaguely depressed to see they deliver here.

The serious message is that if we get faster and more frequent ferries then the opportunity for what economists call "leakage" will occur. In the wonderful, big, bad world of the very near future, why go to the Stornoway from Ness, when Tesco will deliver to your door? I look forward to part 2 of John's cathartic self-expose, but worry that Ardmaree Stores may blackball him.

The above photo was taken at M&S, Taransay.

Party politics

It's been a real week for party politics, and it is only Wednesday.

On Monday morning (at 7:15am!) I had a one-man deputation at our door asking me about "rumours" and "stories" he was hearing inside a certain political party. After some questioning, it turns out to be the usual rubbish, so I have to explain why the individual is repeating it.

I've also had a very serious approach from another political party to stand as constituency MSP. After a very enjoyable lunch, where we agreed on many issues, and talked out the other areas, we parted with it very clear that I was not his man.

Next, I see a posting reminding me that "no-one is bigger than the party". Actually, my view is that any party is simply the sum of it's parts i.e. the members, and when members feel excluded then there are obviously issues that need to be resolved, or any party stops being representative.

Finally, according to tomorrow's Gazette (!) I invalidated my membership by standing as an independent. Have I actually submitted papers yet? As I suggested, this is a thoughtcrime.

This "revision" of the position is intriguing, given that none other than Angus MacNeil's assistant, Kenny MacLeod, is planning to stand as an independent in Ness. I am sure that readers can think of other council candidates who breach the same rules.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Planning permissions

The Comhairle have confirmed that neither Party have applied for Change of Use permission, and that both need this permission before they can use DD Morrison's and Lewis Carpets as election offices.

How many times have I been approached by constituents complaining about the time required to get Planning Permissions; about the need for Planning Permission in the first place; about conditions put in place; or, how to appeal against an Officer's decision? Countless, but these rules are in place for a reason. My business has had to go through them twice recently.

So why do some think they are above the law? Is it a case of one rule for political parties, and one for the rest of us?

Political parties should have to apply for planning permission
and abide by the legislation like everyone else
Who do they think they are?
Bloody chancers!
Damn right
They make the law, they shouldn't have to obey it too. That's a bit much to expect.
See Results

Let the public decide!

Windfarm Policy (2)

I know I haven't completed Statements 1-3 yet (I'm renaming them from "policies"), but I am having some difficulty in trying to ensure that all the disparate views are pulled together in a coherent form.

Mainly, I've just been short of time.

I think part 2 might be easier, and I have deliberately not used provocative language. Supporters/opponents can insert "very", "extremely" and "slightly" as appropriate.

Statement 4: There will be the potential for significant economic benefits for the Western Isles, which must be weighed against the impact on existing economic activity and the impact on the environment.

Radioactive Waste Management

I've just been invited to the Scottish Council's Committee on Radioactive Waste Management launch next Friday in Dundee.

This is major step forward in bringing Councils into the consultative phase, with the imminent prospect of the onshore disposal of nuclear waste, for example at Rosyth or at Faslane.

Hopefully, this will allow a greater degree of democratic oversight of the entire process. With the complexity and importance of these issues, the Comhairle will need to be regularly involved in the entire process.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Going green

As this BBC report identifies, the UK energy policy has been thrown into disarray by "clarification" over the need to reduce energy consumption.

This affects every single political party who is signed up to both the EU and the Renewables agenda.

Ask the candidate, Tell us how you are going to achieve this????

Sunday, April 01, 2007


I find the attitude of political parties to the breach of laws worryingly ambivalent. Some of their supporters seem to find the breaches acceptable, indeed comments on some of my other postings seem to indicate that they cannot see anything wrong with the situation.

Am I in the minority who believes that the law is there to be obeyed, not observed in the breach? Perhaps it is my professional training or possibly my position as a JP (until later this month), or possibly just a sense of what is right and what is wrong. Maybe I'm just old fashioned and out of touch.

I see that the LibDems are also in breach of the Data Protection regulations, with their leaflet offering to store your data and keep you informed about their policies.

It struck me, and not for the first time I admit, that neither Labour nor the SNP seem to have obtained planning permission for the change of use of retail premises into (election) offices. If either party wishes to email me and confirm that they have the requisite permissions, I'll be happy to publicise the fact, failing which I find myself in the unenviable position of having to report the apparent beaches to the planning department for which I have responsibility (until later this month).

This take into clear perspective the different approaches of local and national politicians. The former has a very clear set of guidance, with full disclosure, everyone else knowing your business and the Standards Commission hanging over one's shoulder with the risk of you being hung out to dry for the tinniest misdemeanour. The later seem oblivious to the responsibilities under legislation on the basis that "everyone else is doing it", which seems to me the worst possible excuse. Which brings the process further into disrepute and begs the question of why we expect so little from them, and let them away with so much abuse of the system.

A weekend at home

How lovely it is just to have a quiet weekend at home for once.

As last night was the end of another (successful) financial year for our business, the directors held a board meeting in a very nice restaurant to plan our strategy for the coming year. And very nice and convivial it was too.

Just to make sure the weekend was a stress-free as possible, we decided that this was the weekend to start potty training the midget. So yesterday him and I went to Woolies and returned with his first pair of pants - Bob the Builder, not Scooby Doo or Power Rangers.

So far, only one slight accident, but numerous, uncountable numbers of visits to the toilet. All of which encouraged older brother into competing for the toilet space. Why do they both want (demand!) to use the same toilet, when the other one is free?

Only one tantrum - and that was when he was refused a glass of wine with his lunch.

I wouldn't change it for the world.

Update 17:30 - did we have an elephant in the bathroom leaving a "present" on the floor? Midget duly admitted responsibility.