Thursday, 19 May 2011

Pester power

Over the past 5 months, a vociferous and concerted campaign has been waged by people up and down the UK, not least in Stornoway, against government plans to reduce the number of coastguard stations and staff. Two demonstrations were held in Stornoway, on 31 January and 19 March. Today, the Transport Committee from the House of Commons came to Lewis to hear views of interested parties on the plans for the MCA. On the same day, the UK Transport Secretary announced that the plans were to be downgraded.

I believe that MCA staff would be supportive of changes in their organisation, if they were shown not to degrade the service offered - or better, improve it. However, making cuts purely for financial reasons is sheer lunacy, and there is an awful lot of people who agree with that. It is pleasing to see that after a lot of noise, those who make the decisions do listen and are thinking again.

Well done, MCA staff.
Well done, all who supported them in their struggle.

So far.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Changed townscape

Anyone who has ever driven off the Isle of Lewis ferry at Stornoway will be familiar with the sight and smells of the shellfish processing plant, which fronts onto the corner of James Street / Shell Street, opposite the fuel depot office and the Health Board offices. Over the past few weeks and months, this brick red building has been demolished, changing the townscape of Stornoway. With the below images, I chronicle the disappearance of the building.
23 November 2007
23 November 2007
24 March 2011
24 March 2011
4 April 2011
4 April 2011
From the ferry terminal - 20 April 2011
20 April 2011
View from Shell Street - 12 May 2011
View from Shell Street - 12 May 2011
View from the ferry terminal - 13 May 2011
View from the ferry terminal - 13 May 2011

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

How things are in the Lews

On 5 July 1867, the Glasgow Herald published an article with the above title. It touches on several aspects on life in the island. I copy the opening lines - things appear to have changed little, it would seem. Further parts of the article are being copied on the Pentland Road blog, showing that this was most definitely written 144 years ago.

You would scarcely believe what a primitive state of things is to be found lingering in this most northerly of the Hebrides. Of course, I don’t refer to Stornoway, which is a great centre of civilisation here, and is believe by the natives to stand precisely in the centre of the universe. In point of fact, it is a thriving little place, very much like any other Scotch town of its size. The houses are much the same as in the South, though building is very expensive here, the stone, wood, lime, everything almost, having to be brought by sea. The people are enterprising, intelligent and hospitable; the merchants trade and over-trade in a style that leaves nothing to be desired but money; and captivating young ladies exhibit the latest fashions in the streets and in the beautiful grounds that surround the Castle where dwell Sir James and Lady Matheson, the Emperor and Empress of the Lews, who generously leave the grounds open to all.

Monday, 9 May 2011


Within the next five years, the population of Scotland can expect a referendum on independence. The Scottish National Party (SNP) have gained a majority in the Scottish Parliament, and their primary aim is an independent Scotland.

It is interesting to look back over the past twelve years or so to follow the trail of consequences that has led to the current juncture. A referendum on devolution in 1999 led to the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament. The voting system for the Parliament had been designed so that no party could be expected to gain an overall majority.

In 2007, the SNP came to power following an election which was so poorly conducted that 110,000 Scots were effectively disenfranchised. This was the result of a badly designed ballot form, which people couldn’t make head nor tail of. It lead to a 10% rate in spoiled ballot papers, a percentage that normally runs at around 0.1%. In my opinion, that election should have been re-run. However, the result stood.

In 2010, the UK general election was a hung parliament, with no one party in overall control. However, in the run-up to the election, party leaders had engaged in three prime-ministerial debates. The participants included the leaders of Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. The latter party went on to lose seats at the polls, but ended up being kingmakers, projected to a higher status by the TV debates. The Lib Dems chose to get into bed with the Conservatives.

This coalition is proving impopular, with the junior partners (the Lib Dems) taking the rap for the unpopular cuts in public services. This was reflected in last week’s poll in Scotland, where the Lib Dem voters defected en-masse to the SNP; Labour and the Conservatives also lost, again to the SNP - leaving the latter with a majority of 4 in the Scottish Parliament.
Whilst I am in favour of further devolved powers to the Scottish Parliament, I am against full independence. I am even more against independence in view of the adversarial nature of the SNP’s stance towards England.

I will go so far as to point to several instances in recent decades, where bringing up grievances from the past (the Battle of the Boyne (1689) in Ireland, and the Battle of Kosovo (1389) in Yugoslavia) has had catastrophic consequences. I would hate to see the Battle of Culloden having similar consequences.

It is highly unusual for this blogger to dabble in politics, but this issue is too important to ignore.

Sunday, 1 May 2011


Windfarms certainly are money-spinners. Operators get paid for the electricity they generate. The BBC reports that operators were recently paid for stopping their windfarms, as the output outstripped the capacity of the electricity grid. That is a classical win-win situation.

I also seem to remember that the three windturbines on the Grimshader Road are capable of outperforming the local grid here in Lewis. And more windfarms are proposed for this island? Something has just become really clear to me. Whether they work or not, a windfarm will always make money. But not for us consumers - and the mirrors and beads that are proposed in the guise of community benefit are risable.