Letters to the editor week 10

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The real facts of the renewables debate

Sir,

Over recent times there has been comment and speculation about the future direction of renewables in the Outer Hebrides. Much of this comment has had little regard to the factual position in which the Outer Hebrides finds itself.

It may be useful to outline some of the key facts around the present position. These facts are as follows.

Both the distribution and transmission network in the Outer Hebrides are at full capacity and therefore no further connections are possible – including connections for community generators.

The UK Government has created a new technology category called Remote Island Wind to allow developers in the Scottish Islands to compete in the 2019 Contracts for Difference auction.

Contracts for Difference are now the only support mechanism for wind and other forms of renewable energy generation.

The 2019 Contracts for Difference auction will require generators to demonstrate they have planning consents and a grid connection offer in place.

Only generators with these planning and grid consents will be able to compete in the auction.

The only developers who hold the appropriate consents are Lewis Wind Power and Forsa Energy.

If both these organisations are successful at auction, it will provide the required certainty for the electricity grid owner to invest in a new grid infrastructure to the Outer Hebrides.

New grid infrastructure, for the foreseeable future, is therefore dependent on a successful auction outcome.

The only way that new grid and a renewables industry will emerge in the Outer Hebrides, in the foreseeable future, is if Lewis Wind Power and Forsa Energy are successful at auction in 2019.

By extension, the only way the additional generators (including community generators) will be able to connect, in the foreseeable future, is if Lewis Wind Power and Forsa Energy are successful at auction in 2019.

Calum Iain Maciver,

Director of Development, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Measured debate is needed on rewilding

Sir,

While Iain Thornber (‘Big predators for the Small Isles?’, The Oban Times,
February 15) is perfectly entitled to his views on rewilding, he does the debate no service by introducing his piece with references to ‘wacky characters’ and ‘quirky schemes’, describing rewilding as ‘the latest fashionable wheeze’.

Rewilding is a term first used in 1990 and a concept that was evolving long
before (perhaps since the 1960s) and has been applied to schemes in North
America, Europe, Africa and Australia (Wikipedia).

Whether or not it is a conservation strategy that is applicable or appropriate to Highland Scotland is a debate worth having, but talk of ‘freaks an follies’, ‘self-delusionists’ and wacky, absentee landowners is to polarise from the outset.

The removal of black rats (which Mr Thornber describes somewhat fondly as ‘rare’) from the Shiant Isles is an RSPB-led project to protect and restore populations of ground-nesting seabirds by eradicating an invasive, non- native species that consumes the eggs and chicks of native birds.

It follows similar, successful projects on Ailsa Craig, Ramsey and Lundy and is not, as Mr Thornber seems keen for us to believe, simply a scheme hatched by an old Etonian landlord to ‘ease £900,000’ from RSPB and SNH in pursuit of his personal passion for rewilding.

Mr Thornber writes emotively of the slaughter of hundreds of deer that he says will result from rewilding, but, as he knows, the killing of deer has been a fact of Highland life for a great many years, and culling is carried out by deer managers to prevent overgrazing and protect the overall welfare of the herd.

The Scottish National Deer Cull regularly claims more than 100,000 deer
annually (SNH). Rewilding, as I understand it, would seek to strike a more natural balance between deer and forest. Certainly, talk of the ‘sacrifice’ of a
deer that has ‘lived in the area for the past 10,000 years’ is deceptive and sensionalistic.

Mr Thornber’s characterisation of rewilding as ‘blanket woodland … guarded by lynx, wolves and bears’ is to present an extreme scenario which, I believe, is the vision of few and has little chance of coming to fruition. It is certainly not something that will simply ‘slip through’.

Yet rewilding as a concept need not be scary as Mr Thornber paints it. An
article in The Guardian (July 3, 2017) points to examples in coastal and riverine areas of the Netherlands and the restoration of saltmarsh, reedbed and insect-rich grassland in England.

In the Highlands, the concept might well be extended to include the reinstatement of larger, better-connected, more natural areas of habitat in which the already present pine martens, red squirrels, wildcats, beavers and capercaillie flourish. What is warranted is sober, measured debate, not sensationalism and a condescending tone.

CS Whyte,

Dunblane.

Grateful thanks to The Oban Times

Sir,

In January, The Oban Times drew attention to the fact that Argyll and Bute Council had included disbanding its Road Safety Unit as a budget saving option for next year.

As you may be aware, this was rejected at the council’s meeting on February 22 and I am sure this was, in part, due to the level of response by the public.

For this reason I would like to sincerely thank you for helping to save this essential service.

Carl Olivarius,

Retired road safety officer, Argyll and Bute Council.

Sad times for Fort William Football Club

Sir,

I am writing from a perspective of someone who no longer lives in Lochaber, though I still have a major part of my heart in Fort William and when I heard that Colin Neilson had died, I knew it would be a very sad day for Fort William Football Club. Colin  was truly the heart and soul of the club.

I also was saddened to hear that the directors of Fort William Football Club had resigned and that no one has come forward to take their place and that this special place for so many youngsters could cease to exist.

This is so tragic for all your young, fit and keen footballers and future football players. I know how onerous the task must be but surely among you retired fit men, and should I say fit women, there must be some who can help keep these boys active, ambitious and away from the drug scene.

It would be so calamitous if this football club was allowed to die, especially as there is so much fresh hope for the town of Fort William in the new venture for the aluminium company.

Can no one persuade the directors to continue their good work if some other good citizens would give up their time to support them in the many roles that encompass the running of the club?

Please do not let the young, keen, fit and healthy boys in your town down – you should be so proud and encourage them.

Pauline Radcliffe,

Late of Corpach, now Aberdeen.

Thanks for help after suffering a fall

Sir,

My husband had a nasty fall in Oban on Wednesday February 28 close on the heels of very serious illness (sepsis and pneumonia) in hospital two weeks ago.

This was all rather alarming and not a pleasant sight for passers-by as there was blood. A lot.

However, I would like to thank the kind gentleman who assisted and called the ambulance, as well as the staff of Bossards bistro, who took us in until the paramedics arrived (who were also brilliant) and other folk around who offered help, tissues and so on.

The good news is that he had no broken bones and after thorough medical checks and patching up seems to be OK.

Thanks again to the good people of Oban.

Amanda Chadderton,

Tayvallich.

Despairing of the attitude from Stagecoach

Sir,

I am writing in despair of Stagecoach’s ‘if it doesn’t pay, close it’ attitude to its operations in and around Fort William and Lochaber.

I have had many happy holidays in Lochaber and I have used the buses provided by Highland Omnibuses and its subsequent offshoots. These have provided vital links throughout Lochaber and its adjoining districts.

This attitude from Stagecoach will do damage to communities. Perhaps another bus firm would be able to step in to keep services going. I hope so.

In this current age when we are all aware of the environment, something needs to be done, especially when traffic congestion is on the increase.

John Hughes,

Ormesby Grove, Wirral, Cheshire.

Office was closed for reasons of staff safety

Sir,

Royal Mail is disappointed that your newspaper tweeted about the Oban delivery office being closed early on Wednesday February 28.

The office closed early because of the severe weather warnings issued and because mail was unable to get through to Oban as a result of the exceptionally difficult weather further south. It was also to ensure that staff could travel home safely in case further bad weather arrived in the area.

Our postmen and women in Oban and its surrounding areas are out delivering and continue to deliver throughout bad weather. We make no apology for trying to ensure the safety of all our workers travelling to, from  and around Oban.

Scott Sneddon,

Operations manager, Royal Mail, Port Ellen.