Friday, 22 December 2006

Notes from a largish island

<![CDATA[ Compared to the rest of the country, we're getting off lightly. Today sees some mist and drizzle, but no fog. Temperatures at time of typing a very respectable 11C / 52F, which are on a par with Kirkwall and Lerwick. The ferry appears to be sailing normally, leaving the half hour delay this afternoon to one side. Makes a change from all the disruption earlier in the month due to high winds.

One of our weekly publications, the Hebridean, has had its last copy printed this week. It will be amalgamated into the Stornoway Gazette. This writer sits here puzzled, as I wasn't aware the Gazette was overly interested in matters in Skye. If I want to read Skye-related news I'll read the West Highland Free Press, as I've done for more than 10 years.

I will give my considered opinion that the Free Press is a wee bit too much pro-windfarm, and not writing in tandem with local opinion. Of course I'm on about the Lewis windfarm that nobody wants. The Free Press know my stance on this and even had the guts to publish a nasty letter from me some time back, berating them for abandoning their motto "The Land, The People, The Culture". In their own homeground (Skye), they have taken sides (pro-windfarm) in the saga surrounding the Edinbane windfarm. I'll leave it to blogger Skyemartyn to fill us in on that one.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everybody in the Scottish Islands a very happy Christmas and best wishes for 2007. Similar wishes go out to readers in parts near and far.

Below image courtesy ]]>

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Delivery charges - continued

<![CDATA[ It goes back 11 months - January this year - when I wrote about excessive delivery charges to the Highlands and Islands.

Today, five MPs are reported as expressing outrage over this practice. In principle, any item below 25 kg in weight can be dispatched using Royal Mail (Parcelforce) at a flatrate fee, related to weight, not destination.

I am fed up with reading terms and conditions from companies, stating delivery "Mainland UK" only. Our counterparts in the Channel Islands have the same problem. As I said above, there is NO justification for surcharging. It shouldn't matter whether you live in SE.1 or HS.1 - the Royal Mail will deliver.

In January, I appealed for people to contact their local trading standards office with examples of his practice. I am glad that this is now being taken on board by MP's, and look forward to a speedy change. ]]>

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Industrial Lewis

<![CDATA[ Lewis Windpower has announced that it has downsized the proposed North Lewis Windfarm to 181 turbines. This is a further reduction from the original size, as mooted in 2004, of 234 turbines. Consultation is presently scheduled to take place over the Christmas and New Year holidays. The public buildings where the documents pertaining to the proposals are located will be closed for much of the time. An extension to the consultation period is being sought.

Above map is taken from the BBC Scotland newsreport. and shows (in blue) the turbines that have now been deleted from the LWP plans.

I was shocked to hear the MSP for the Western Isles taking a stance in favour of this major development, whereas there is a sizeable proportion of islanders who are opposed. This percentage runs at anywhere between 50 and 80% The MSP has claimed that a certain number of turbines are needed to justify the inter- connector, a big word for subsea electricity transmission cable to the mainland. It sounds as if the islands are not properly represented at Holyrood, if the MSP is not prepared to stand up for the majority of his constituents in Lewis, who don't want this windfarm.

Secondly, the Keighley, Yorkshire, based businessman John Haggas has taken over the Harris Tweed industry, or at least 95% of it, with a view to reinvigorate it. The Shawbost mill, part of the KM Group, is earmarked for closure. The Parkend mill is also part of the deal, reportedly.
Harris Tweed can only be called such if its manufacturing processes wholly take place in the Outer Hebrides, and are subject to the Orb trademark requirements.
The industry has been in the doldrums for ten years, following its implosion in the 1990s. I sincerely hope that Mr Haggas will put the Harris Tweed industry back where it belongs: as a major industry for the Outer Hebrides, with a firm, community backed weaving base. ]]>

Monday, 4 December 2006

Arnish Fabrication Yard

Tables Turned

<![CDATA[ At last we were the navel of the universe. A low-pressure system sitting directly overhead, so the sun was out and little wind yesterday. Mind you, 100 miles away at Tiree, they were holding on to their ferry terminal. And 250 miles away our poor tanker, the Border Heather, found the power was no longer with her. She had to be towed into port after her engine failed.

It also bugs me when a gale is forecast for our neck of the woods, because the BBC weathermen give it a cursory glance. The Met Office just about may issue a severe weather warning. Last year, on November 11, they didn't until the tiles were flying off the roofs here, and as a result the captains of the Muirneag and Isle of Lewis ferries thought they could just sneak across the Minch. Nope. Muirneag took 18 hours to complete the crossing, nearly putting into Torshavn on the way. The Isle of Lewis came close to discharging its passengers and cargo at Cromor I believe.

Going back to the point I was going to make, there was going to be a gale in England. Oh cor blimey. Stern-faced weathermen on the BBC. Weather warning splattered across the Met Office website a week in advance. OK, it was severe, I am led to believe. But can we have a bit of equality here, I mean we are just as equal as our cousins down south, thankyou.

959 mbar