With over thirty years fishing on The Inner Sound of Raasay behind me I hoped to have many more to look forward to, I now believe that is in doubt. First rumours that something was in the air emerged last year when a question was asked in Parliament by the late Charles Kennedy MP, alongside some mislaid emails, coupled with a map leaked to the local press. The map caused a lot of consternation among the static gear fishermen working the Inner Sound as it would seriously impact on our livelihoods. From then on till the recent revelations on Thursday we have had little consultation with the MoD/Qinetic about their plans. We have been met with denials concerning the map, fudged answers in Parliament and the promise of a “consultation”. This was to take place at the end of June and then at the end of the summer.
The local fisherman’s Association called for a meeting with Qinetic in the summer after reports that three fishermen were contacted and met with on an individual basis. This was granted and I “gate crashed” this meeting through asking via our Community Council for any information regarding future plans. The only relevant new information was a conformation that the map may well be right. We were shown the planned placement of the new hydrophones on the seabed both to the north and south of the existing “no-fish zone”. One absurdity that emerged from the meeting was the excuse that the fishermen were not contacted as Qinetic did not have our contact details, and they are charged with running a Range that has torpedoes and Tridents on it and they cannot find our contact details!!
I have watched events, rumours and speculation for over a year and have found the treatment of fishermen who have worked the Sound over the last three or four decades to be disrespectful in the extreme. There seems to be little or no acknowledgement of other marine users livelihoods and there is a strong feeling locally that what the MoD want the MoD gets and if any consultation does take place it will be nothing more than a paper exercise. What are we to consult on, the plans are laid, the Long Term Partnership Agreement in place and major works already well underway at the base at Sand.
The language is so similar to that used by naval officers in the 70s, who travelled up the length of the country to reassure fishermen that there would be no loss of grounds and their livelihoods would not be affected in any way. Every meeting the fishermen attended a different set came up and could not confirm any previous commitments that were made and so we ended up with byelaws restricting creel fishing from an inner sea area and mobile sector from the outer area. Seems the same is happening again.
This planned expansion is going to seriously limit crab, lobster, langoustine and scallop fisheries to the extent that it will directly stop about six boats fishing. They will have to move elsewhere, affecting another twenty to thirty boats and putting huge pressure on the surrounding fishing grounds. Worst case scenario is that several boats may finish their fishing careers.
I live in Applecross, who’s Gaelic name is a’Chomraich, which means Sanctuary. In medieval times, people on the run from the law or feuds, if they made it inside the six mile ring of stones, had the sanctuary of the monastery. The last thing I want is to see this beautiful part of the world, this sanctuary, become a navy testing base for Trident and other pieces of warfare, build a reliance on defence public funding, which can be withdrawn on the whim of a future government, while the traditional industries have been decimated to make way for this futile industry.
Wrote the above on request for an internet newspaper, may or may not be published, but might as well post it as an update to what is happening at Sand and as it has made the national press again as notice for changing the by-laws has been given. This means that Westminster can go ahead and expand the Range by Act of Parliament. The consultation has been announced to the press yesterday after the notice to change the by-law. And so it goes on. By coincidence on one of my trips up the road with Dougal and Eilidh, I saw the dredger that is working on the cable duct at Sand sheltering in the Bay
from a stiff northerly breeze.
I always find it easy to disassociate my grumps from the people involved, whether Sand workers, employees, trawlermen. There is never any point in personalising disagreements. The construction workers at Sand are often in the Inn on the way home and we have good banter.