Letters to the editor – week 13

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Glencoe hydro scheme surprise

In response to Victoria Sutherland’s article in the Oban Times last week (she is member of the Glencoe and Glen Etive Community Council and her husband is the chairman), I was amazed how she is so in favor of ruining  our scenery and historical sites with hydro schemes when, a few years ago her husband, Alistair Sutherland, who was chairman of Glencoe Action Group (against the NTS development near Inverigan), had a letter in the newspaper (09/02/01): “Inverigan…is a site of national importance…we simply do not understand how that body, of all organizations, can contemplate desecrating this historic site.” That is right…desecrating this historic site!

Inverigan, where the community council are supporting Allt Fiodhann hydro scheme, is the site of the Massacre of Glencoe and is one of the main reasons tourists come to Glencoe. The tourists also visit Glencoe for the natural beauty.

No thorough studies have been done of archeology, wildlife and wildlife environment. The NTS display boards on the footpath to Inverigan and other footpaths nearby tell visitors about the wildlife in the Inverigan area. There is not a dividing line between Inverigan and the proposed hydro scheme site which would prevent wildlife movement, therefore the wildlife habitat in the proposed scheme area would be damaged and the wildlife would be displaced.

What is the point of having SSSI areas, NSA (National Scenic Area), SNH, PAWS (Previous Ancient Woodland Site) areas? When it comes to hydro scheme development, all is ignored in Glencoe and Glen Etive.

The site of the proposed Allt Fiodhann turbine house is said to be one of the sites where MacIain’s (chief of the clan Macdonald) son lived. Next to Inverigan burn (Allt Fiodhann) is where nine MacDonalds were murdered. Others ran for their lives over the hill where the proposed  water supply pipe is going, which was an ancient forest and is now a PAWS (Previous Ancient Woodland Site) area.

Allt Fiodhann (Inverigan) burn is a very small burn which nearly dries up in the summer. I looked after the water supply for the campsite when the Forestry Commission owned it.

The NTS has since built their visitor centre beside the campsite and had large storage tanks to hold the water but they had problems with the water and had to drill a water well and to change the water supply to another stream.

Is it worth it to spoil such a historic site and special scenery for a small hydro scheme which will only work some of the year. Why destroy the environment to “save” the environment?!

Regarding the mountain rescue team mentioned in Victoria Sutherland’s  article, I was a member for over 20 years and we volunteered to help people who needed help because all the members of the team were climbers or just enjoyed being in the mountains.

I am all for hydro schemes in concealed areas, however not in sensitive areas, historical areas or scenic areas etc., and not in a “free for all” just as the feed-in-tariffs are about to end.

With more than 11,600 objectors against the Glen Etive hydro schemes, the government bodies should take notice and stop this “free for all”. The landowners, the developers and the investors who are involved in the Glencoe and Glen Etive proposed hydro scheme developments must think they have won the lottery without buying a ticket!

Peter Weir
Glencoe

Attempted Clearance by any other name

Last week it took me five days to travel 15.8 miles on public transport. That gives an average speed of 0.1 mph. On the positive side, that is twice as fast as the average garden snail.

Admittedly this was because I became storm bound on the Isle of Coll in transit to Tiree and had I not taken a car with me, there is the chance I could have progressed by air. Then again had CalMac not been forced to take MV Clansman off her usual route so that one of the Outer Hebridean ferries could go in for refitting, there is a very good chance that the Monday service would have been able to run normally. MV Lord of the Isles was standing in for Clansman and she cannot cope with docking in more severe weather.

CalMac do the very best they can with the inadequate fleet of ferries they have and one can only admire the effort they put in to keep us islanders connected. If only the same could be said for the Scottish Government, which is charged with making sure CalMac has the ferries it needs at all times, and Argyll and Bute Council with their failing attitude to the Oban/Coll/Tiree air link.

I believe I was the only person that voted in favour of a proposed causeway between Coll and Tiree all those moons ago when there was a consultation. There was a little more public money about in those days but nowadays the council seems utterly opposed to further investment in their islands, particularly Coll and Colonsay.

Our local governers are apparently trying to relegate Coll’s designation to ‘shipping hazard’ and it looks as if they will finally succeed in cutting the Oban/Coll/Colonsay/Tiree air link by the way they are handling the service contract tendering. This is an attempted clearance by any other name and those public servants culpible should really be known to us so that we can thank them personally; I am bored of reading ‘a council spokesperson’ in the Oban Times. Name, rank and number from now on please.

The Oban–Coll-Colonsay-Tiree air service was built at the council’s own instigation, tailored to suit its own miscalculated expectations of a regular direct link to Glasgow.

The future appears to be the ‘temporary’ shutdown of services and thereafter the service will be intentionally diminished to an undersized white elephant that nobody can rely upon and that will finally be the excuse to close it for good.

The new airports at Coll and Colonsay and the enhanced airport at Tralee were officially opened in August and September 2008. The project was funded to the tune of just over £9 million.

The then council leader at the time, Dick Walsh said: ‘This marks the official opening of this wonderful new facility which will be a major benefit to the people of Argyll and Bute. We are confident that the Argyll Air Services will support economic development in the area as well as attracting more visitors. In addition, this transport option will enable island children attending Oban High School to take advantage of our special scholar flights and fly home regularly.’

Of course we have not forgotten how the air service was threatened with closure at the last/previous discussion and contract renewal. This ‘temporary cancellation of service’ is potentially the forerunner of a similar unfortunate game, so forgive me if I am a little sceptical but one must be watchful of Argyll and Bute Council just in case they seem once again to inadvertently and unintentionally engineer the service to fail.

We are continually told that the UK has the sixth best performing economy in the world – odd then that we cannot afford a properly connected transport system within our own borders?

Peter Isaacson
Coll

Cruise passenger levy would help finance rural resources

I was very upset lo learn that my beloved Tobermory has missed out on a fair share of a recent national government hand out. Indeed, the whole of Mull, other islands and  mainland rural areas all desperately need massive additional resources to cope with the most welcome upsurge in tourism.

Take as an example the port of Invergordon, where it was reported last week that 109 liners with 180,000 passengers are due to berth this year.

Daily, we hear complaints about lack of toilets, the congestion on remote roads, scarcity of coach and car parking areas etc. A bedroom tax is one solution but cumbersome to administrate. An additional option which would be much simpler would be a £10 per head cruise passenger levy.

Once appropriate legislation was put in place to allow this to happen, each cruise ship would simply transfer the appropriate sum to the local council’s Cruise Levy bank account on arrival in each port. No need to count how many passengers go ashore – simply use the total number of passengers on board.

The income could statutorily be used only for tourism related expenditure and could not be subsumed into the council’s overall budget. Equally, national government would not be permitted to reduce financial support pro rata to councils.

Tour buses from cruise ships do generate some local income but much of the profit feeds directly back to the cruise lines. They need our countryside and attractions every bit as much as we need them.

Hundreds of cruise ships now visit ports across Scotland so income would accrue to a wide range of rural councils who are all currently struggling to provide tourist facilities. In addition, long- suffering locals in the busiest areas could put forward proposals for the improvements they felt were most necessary to protect their quality of life.

Multiply the £1,800,000 from Invergordon across the rest of Scotland’s cruise ports and we could permanently produce enormous benefit for rural communities at minimal administrative expense.

Alasdair Maclean
Nairn

Flooding

I have been visiting many parts of my council ward that have once again had their roads flooded due to lack of proper drainage.

While it is essential to see more Tarmac put on our crumbling roads, these repairs will not last long if our roads keep getting flooded.

I have raised this matter with our roads department.

Councillor Alastair Redman
Kintyre and Islands ward