A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

A Bit Gloomy.

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Went off to Strathcarron Monday morning to catch up with the Strome Bypass saga. Was late due to the weather, kept pulling over and watching the ever changing rays coming through the clouds.

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It was fairly interesting although things began to wilt by lunchtime. It was universal and I was quite surprised at that as there were many professional meeting goers there. There is a long and fairly tedious process that the Highland Council have to go through if they go on to seek funding from some other source. they have to go through all possible options and put them up against agreed objectives and whittle them down to options that will be costed and then built…..maybe. During the meeting I could not help recalling a conversation with Morris over the weekend when he mentioned he was in the Faroes and said the infra structure even there was vastly superior to ours and when I was in Norway up in the Lofotens, they built bridges to communities that were smaller than Broadford. Also in Lombardy where we went through tunnels in very sparsely populated mountainsides. For a rich little country we do not do the infra structure very well. I do like the option over the Strome Narrows, but I hasten to add I do not live there or the detail has not been set down on paper yet. For Applecross it is the best option and the west would be so much closer, at least until we start going by sea again. The journey over the Hill took far longer than normal as I had to stop taking a wee photo round the next corner.

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Although windy, the light was playing its usual tricks.

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On the way past noticed a new wood store at the Smithy…definite signs things are changing here, using more of our natural resources, not in quite the same scale as Lombardy but getting there.

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Yesterday, another dark day with bright spells between the squalls. Lightened up the day with a look at the Celtic Connections line up and probably will go down on two consecutive weekends as some of the music is ace. Also discovered that Lesley Riddoch is speaking at the Ceilidh Place in Ullapool and it will be up there on Friday, albeit after an IFG meeting in Inverness. So Dougal and Co will be well-travelled that day as Alison is off down to Arisaig and Jill and Kenny will be in Dumfries. Dougal takes his family to Inverness and Ullapool could be a post on its own. With the miserable weather on the go and purely coincidentally I thought the Highland cattle next door were not looking their happiest, knee-deep in glaur. Sure enough in one of my frequent trips out the gate to get another barrow load of chopped wood there were two out on the road. They had pushed over a strainer and got out through the gate.

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Clever beasts and to be frank the two of the four that were out on the road looked well up for a jaunt. Felt a little sorry for them putting them back into the “field” although they are Highland cattle and they may used to it.

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Hard enough being a fisherman….crofter/fisherman looking out the window just now, a step too far for me. In many ways it shows the slow break down in the crofting system where it is now individuals becoming small holders rather than townships coming together on several occasions throughout the year to help the township in shared tasks. There was never a golden age but I do remember back in the 60s/70s the fank gatherings were, although hard work, happy community gatherings where genuine laughter was heard.

Last night it was a quiet Community Council meeting, a little gloomy again, started with a no crime in the area report but notice that there are plans to close Lochcarron, Kyle and Dunvegan police stations. Maybe get the crime report more active. With a brief chat about the pier, establishing as the CC guy on the ALPS Management Group that opinions are far too diverse in the community to offer any cohesive advice to the best solution. Sounds like a cop-out. Then on to a strangish discussion about an issue that has been rumbling on in the community for over a year, our community bus is off the road, easy to get it back on the road in a technical sense but is turning out to be very difficult to achieve. Another letter and prospect of another meeting and hopefully……. It is approaching the end game with several people trying all sorts of ways to resolve the problem. It is not really a conflict but more a brick wall. Frustrating in the extreme and very hard to write about it.

Another very relevant local problem that has reared its head is di minimis totals that the community companies have to deal with. What this means basically is this is a method to prevent State Aid distorting the competitive markets. We came across it when receiving funding for from CBS to set up the community broadband network in Applecross. Who in their wisdom decided we were in competition with is beyond us. It is not as though BT are going to supply us with anything more than the half meg we have already. It does seem just an easy option for those to say that it is di minimis rather than sit down and work out the actualities. Read a cracking email from this morning that puts the problem really well.  It detailed a local supply that barely goes outside the immediate area and the funding could be declared di minimis due to another company doing the same trade in another country with no intention of supplying this locality.What we seem to be missing at the moment are people in positions who are looking at rural problems and actively finding positive ways around those issues that arise due to unintended consequences. The problem with di minimis is there is a cap of 200,000 euros which lasts over three years and that can and is a severe restriction on some communities development while in no way affecting any competition rules in the outside world. Interestingly public funding for a nuclear power plant can find its way around this while it looks as though our anchor community organisations may be caught up in it. How silly is that, How on earth, by helping our communities, do we impinge on the competitive world.

Interruptions this morning were Dougal, the Mobile Library

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and a group phone call/skype from the guys running the Travelling Tales project. On the bike in a very wet gale to the Inn later for the evening shift. Even Dougal is not greatly keen on a day like this. So now minute writing and a vitamin D capsule should see me through to work.

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