At Random with Martin Laing

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Pointless inquiry

It is impossible not to feel sympathy with the MacAlister family, whose son and brother Scott died when the fishing boat he was working on, the Speedwell, foundered and sank in April 2013.

Scott’s father, Peter, and brothers, Andrew and Glen, have been campaigning since to have a meaningful investigation into the circumstances that led to the tragedy. They could have been forgiven for thinking they had achieved just that when it was announced that a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) was to be held.

They have, quite rightly, slammed the hearing – which began on Monday of this week – for being futile.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said before a shred of evidence was examined that the owner of the vessel would be given immunity from any potential prosecution.

Quite how any investigation can set such parameters before it has even started is beyond me.

The MacAlisters have also been told that no attempt will be made to recover the Speedwell to see if there were safety or seaworthiness issues which could have contributed to its sinking.

Again, surely that should constitute an essential part of any probe into what happened?

The MacAlisters had spoken of boycotting the FAI, believing it to be a smokescreen to blame Scott for what happened and thereby draw a line under the events that took place that day.

As I said, I find it impossible in the circumstances not to agree with that sentiment.

Brilliant Oban
What a fantastic weekend it was in Oban. There was simply so much going on that it was hard to know what to focus on.

The town was absolutely buzzing – as it has been, in fairness, for weeks, despite not yet being the high season – with the fabulous Oban Live festival, the Oban Provincial Mòd and the Rotary Club Am-Am golf competition.

I have to confess that I did not make it to any of the Mòd events but I was at Oban Live on both Friday and Saturday, and played – like a three-legged donkey – in the charity golf day.

But the joy wasn’t limited to just the organised big-ticket events. All over Oban there was live music, with hotels and pubs hosting impromptu as well as scheduled gigs, as well as al fresco performances in the streets.

The atmosphere was amazing, even if the weather was a little less than we might have wished for.

As ever, these splendid occasions could not have happened without the incredibly hard work of a select band of people. I tip my tile to them all. You could not have done it any better.

Campaign push
As readers will know, we have been campaigning hard for most of this year for improved safety on the A85.

If ever this urgent need was evident, it was thrown into the sharpest relief last week when there was a serious accident at Achnacloich, followed by another near Kilmore and then a third at Connel bridge.

All we have asked for is easily done and is three-fold: double white lines between Oban and Connel, a reduction in the speed limit to 50mph on that stretch and the creation of a proper lay-by at Pennyfuir cemetery to allow for the safe drop-off and pick-up of people visiting graves.

The view has been put forward that the road itself is not inherently unsafe but that accidents are caused by bad driving.

That may be so but – and it is especially manifest during the tourist season – stopping dangerous overtaking manoeuvres is the single most effective way to prevent the carnage continuing.

Yes, some drivers will continue to be idiots but most will adhere to the lower speed limit if it is clearly displayed, and most understand that double white lines are not to be crossed.

None of the drivers involved in the trio of incidents last week was killed, though one has suffered multiple injuries (and I wish him a full recovery). However, it was only down to sheer good fortune that no-one died.
The option of doing nothing is not acceptable.

What do you think?
Do you have something you want to share? Let me know by writing to me at The Oban Times, Crannog Lane, Oban, PA34 4 HB, or by email to