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

Posts tagged ‘BUTEC range’

Hydro,Fishing,Not Boat buying,Meetings and Dirty Dogs.

Two days of brain frazzling activity commenced yesterday morning with a trip out on the Varuna and putting a reconditioned fleet back together. Bit lumpy on the Bay so just decided to go back to the pier and take the other fleet on board and spent the rest of the morning and into the afternoon putting it together. Not terribly pushed to go out at the moment and a day like today was very pleasant,


shooting that fleet and hauling 6 others for a few prawns. Flat calm and bright sunshine at least for the morning.


Managed to put up some advertising for the Hydro Share offer,


call into the site to see how things were going.


It changes every day now with the work advancing at a rapid pace.


Roof now on and the boys getting ready for another concrete pour on Friday, I think.


Had a wee scout around for the next load of wood and Dougal came along, not too sure what he was scouting around for but he was up to his oxters in it.


This not long after posing primly beside the advertising just a half hour earlier.

Over the Hill yesterday, only stopping to take photos showing the breaking up of the Bealach.


Going to be sent to HC Roads Dept to see if they can carry out repairs especially as the numbers of punctures is rocketing. This summer, even on a part-time basis, I must have dealt with 20 odd hire car garage pickups with flat tyres. They no longer carry spares so the local garages are cashing in big time. To Kyleakin via Waterloo to see a boat. A boat that was for sale at a reasonable price and there was a suggestion of a wee shared buy in. The timing was probably at its worst as I have invested a fair bit in the Hydro but was still very interested. The offer came out of the blue but these are usually the best. Lovely boat but baulked at the state of the engine. although assured it ran well it looked very rusted up and connections, filter holders, pipes and especially the gearbox looked very tired. The main feeling I got was a little trepidation and not excitement so decided to turn the offer down. At my stage in life I want less expenses and just reckon I was not ready for a few more bills. It did fit in with a dream of travelling up and own the western isles but leave that for my dotage. Have neither the time or inclination to do that now.

Then onto a three-hour meeting to deal with the MoD Range expansion and various other fishing matters through a sub group meeting of our IFG. The IFG seems to be extended to cover the whole of the west coast and sub groups dealing with local issues will operate within this new structure.At least we are trying to improve conditions and the environment we are working in. Although there have been repeated requests to meet with the MoD/Qinetic and information about the Range expansion has been greeted with a deathly silence. All we have been given is a meeting in Kyleakin five days before the ” consultation” finishes. Usually these take twelve weeks to complete, not this one, only seven. And we are provided with as little facts as possible. Mind you speaking to employees and sub contractors we are not the only guys left out of the defence loop. Personally my main confers are increased powers on passage over the Range, the doubling of the no fish zone and the out er sea area no  longer being a right to fish but we can on “permission” of the MoD, which it seems can be withdrawn whenever they need/want to. Lots of work done by Marine Scotland on our behalf to show the dire economic effects this expansion will have on the local economy. Left the meeting non the wiser and a feeling of foreboding for the future. Maybe this was another underlying factor that prevented me from investing in another boat.

Back to today and after a day at sea, the only thing going wrong was my outboard would not start, it was up to the Inn for an easy evening shift. The upside of the row back ashore I was accompanied by at least a dozen seals as I made the shore of it. At the Inn the HighlandEco turned up and the turbine is now in the turbine house. Have to nip up and take a few snaps at the is latest development tomorrow in-between fishing and front of house. Good chat this evening with the guys and with SSE on site either this week or beginning of next everything is on schedule. This along with good news on a good-sized investment this evening things are ever so slightly less stressful.

With so much on, the invite to Galway in Ireland at the end of the month may have to be declined although it would be a great excuse to have a couple of days with some like minded people who think the same way I do about the fishing.

Range Expansion Going Ahead?

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.

Applecross makes Hansard

(Sunday)Many countries at the Inn on Sunday, including the Porsche club.


From Holland to South Korea and Moldova on the way. For such a wee place on the edge of Europe it never ceases to amaze how many countries pass through. Bikes, cars, buses and the odd push bike, only planes and trains missing and probably just as well. Busy lunch but really quiet afternoon, big improvement in the weather with people sitting outside. Aron is down the road standing in front of his ice cream-making machines catching up on the ice cream run last night caused by his exploits at the Royal Highland Show. The writing announcing his awards has improved.



The total awards were one gold two silvers and fourteen bronze, Aron winning eight of the fourteen. Good effort. Ably backed by his good lady when he was south.


Fishing on Friday was pleasant although slightly annoying with just about every end tangled with some one else. You just get these days now and again and some days it is the other way around. Still a few prawns about, enough to keep the Inn going although the squats are still proving a little elusive. Octopus


and the odd old squat only things on the go.


Planned to go out yesterday but a short but sharp headache kept me ashore, Got rid of it by mid day so went wood gathering with the dogs and very productive, with a full van load, just left overs from the clear fell and with little effort will keep our water and us warm over this winter. Saturday evening was the usual busy spell but allowed the Boss to take it a little easier and chatted to guests rather than working the floor. Food as usual spectacular.


Lots of regulars about and when you ask where guests are from you realise you know one or two in the company, Achiltiebuie and Ullapool in this case. This from the retirement group of health workers from around the area. One of them, an exhotelier comes across his exbarman who was staying the night upstairs. The small, small world of Applecross. The phrase on everyone’s tongue is “the nights are drawing in and the summer has not yet arrived this year”

(Wednesday evening) And at the end of another very busy shift with some staff stovies heading this way, still raining but not putting any one-off coming. Had lunch this afternoon with Sam and Caroline who lived here for a couple of years, Sam with ALPS and Caroline with the Community Company. Went up on the bike with Dougal and Eilidh. Lots of stops on the way.


Visitor Centre rebuild well underway


and the Filling Station has stabilised with only one failure in the middle of the night since the engineer’s visit.


Needed another stop for a bit of pointless bird chasing.




Pleasant and lazy at the Walled Garden. Had half planned a fishing trip but could not make the effort. Try and make up lost time in the next couple of hauls by adding a couple of fleets at the end of the days. Stovies replaced by a fine beef and chutney and followed by a couple of games of that fast scrabble. Every now and again some one is not having a good day and if you jostle him/her it rubs off despite trying to keep one’s distance. Spoils the shift and the reason for enjoying coming here. Usually it happens in the heat of the moment and heals in a couple of days. That is why I am fortunate to go out on the seas and clear out of the way.

Surprised by a wee post on my timeline saying Applecrosslife got a mention in Parliament on Tuesday evening. More importantly as part of a debate, Ian Blackford, our MP, while laying the background to his questions pointed out my scepticism over a genuine consultation and mention that despite claims to the contrary the expansion plans have already started at Sand. While a little nervous seeing the blog appearing in Hansard the questions are genuine and expose the MoD in their usual obsequiousness.

“When will the consultation start? Why has the consultation process not started? Who is responsible for commencing the construction activity? When the consultation starts, why should we believe that it will be meaningful if the construction work is already underway? Why is there a proposal to take the exclusion zone right up to the shoreline? Why are the expansion plans necessary? Let me also ask: who will be responsible for the consultation exercise? Who will conduct it and who will be consulted? Why is this important?”

And Ian ends his part of the debate by pointing out that the Coast only had a single track road installed as recently as the 70s and suffered serious depopulation prior to this. “In one way or another, people were cleared from Applecross-cleared from the land. I do not wish to see our people today cleared from the fishing grounds: history must not be repeated.”

(Thursday evening) And this evening coming in from the fishing I read in the WHFP under the banner Applecross work ” nothing to do with range expansion plans” I read some of the quotes coming from the minister and MoD and feel very unsettled. The MoD are to consult on changing the bylaw governing the exclusion zone by the end of the summer. I see an exact replica of the language used by the MoD when they first arrived in the area almost half a century ago. “The aim of these talks will be to investigate what options might be available that would allow some fishing to take place  at certain times within the revised water space” exactly what was offered in the early 70s when fishing was only going to be restricted from certain times in certain areas. And then we had to deal with an exclusion zone, extended and then the trawl free zone.

Probably what bothers me the most is that we have pretty good relations with RTB and comply with any operations they have on Range. Many times we and other boats have not hauled gear to enable the MoD to carry out their activities. The apparent disrespect they are showing at the moment is not helping future relations.

And the weather is still carp.

Surviving is Sometimes Enough

Trucking along without too much incident although it is taking quite a bit of effort to get round to doing “stuff”. In my case that is getting the rest of the creels out and the other jobs around the house and the garden. Have to say come Wednesday evening it was time to boot the behind and do the necessary whether I like to or not. It is sometimes handy when you work for some one else and you have to turn up whether you like it or not, so it was in a better frame of mind that I turned at the Inn to a relatively easy shift. Weather has not improved and that may have an effect on the slight dip in numbers wanting to eat out. Just Heather and myself out front and time passed quickly as we seem to work well together automatically looking after half of the Inn each and telling each other what we are doing. Boss is wiped at the moment with too much on so an evening off does no harm although she did spend a fair bit of it counting money. I will always say that the Inn is so important to the Applecross economy to the extent that it is almost too important. Having twenty five plus people employed by one employer with only two hundred people living here tells you there is a slight imbalance. But I suppose looking into an uncertain future means you tend to miss the present. Thursday evening was a little busier and spent a fair bit of time with the visitors from Inverinate, who knew far more about me than I did about them. Did not matter and among other things that came up in a “who do you know” conversation was Charlie’s passing away. He affected so many people and there is a genuine sadness in the area coupled with a strong sense of compassion. It is like everyone’s next door neighbour has died. It affects so many people in so many different ways and the numerous photos must have triggered memories about their own who are no longer here. He must have been in every community in his constituency and left his mark in each one. You wonder if that was his anti dote to where he spent the week down south. Speaking to him at one of the Applecross Games where he was describing one of the Lib Dem leaders, saying ordinary things to ordinary people when afterwards you thought that if the media got hold of them…….. And we touched on the alcohol consumption, but also in compassionate terms.  These evenings at the Inn pass quickly.

In between all this there is the small matter of catching a few prawns and that is done on a fine Thursday.


Also on Thursday there is a trial on but me picking up my buoy on Range did not affect any operations.


Take the gear east and shoot back along the line. The watch keepers know you do that and tend to be realistic when you drift in. The “investment” on the shore side of the Range expansion has already begun


which leads me to think that the upcoming consultation may be little more than a paper exercise. No one is going to tell me that everything is not in place and that this is not going to stop if a few fishermen complain their livelihoods are going to be adversely affected.

Friday not so fine.


Keeping them on the menu board and at one stage on Friday there was little chance of going out using the forecast but my new found “forcing” sent me out in flat calm grey damp morning to haul just a 100 pots before the wind strengthened and sent me home. Good result of this we enjoyed a grand squat fried rice in the evening, Son No3 being home to pick up pipes and head off to the continent to keep himself at Med School for another year. The grey morning, as long as you knew it is temporary, is beautiful in its own way. The quiet peaceful way everything looks,




distance becomes irrelevant. A post just seen sums up what many people are thinking looking out the window. It is almost the longest day and then we start planning for winter.


So a bit of wood collecting and setting the Filling Station up for a volunteer clean up and plant takes up the rest of the time I used up in the past on Netflix. Still even when the busy times have arrived there is still Dougal to take out for his jaunts. The other day the seals were showing a lot of interest in him,


possibly not in a way that he would appreciate. I am sure he would be a tasty morsel. And despite the general miserable weather we are getting glimpses of what the summer could be. As we walk the ditch at the side of the Camusteel road always has a fine showing of wild flowers. The colourful monkey flowers will be out in the next month or so. On the grey days, being on the north west coast the day rarely finishes the way it started. So to finish a wee bit of colour in the now mad garden. Only excuse is I am trying to make as bee friendly as possible.


MoD, Duplicitous in the Extreme

Good day yesterday, Friday, well productive anyway. Mainly an afternoon as we went out to the Varuna in preparation for the return of the Auk. I got a phone call in the morning asking for a fuel up so it was the bike and dogs to the Pier. Very quiet morning and almost went out despite the forecast. This was poor, and early as well, boats were back in by eleven so glad did not go out. Was on the Varuna to change the oil, top up the hydraulic tank and change the fuel filter. Generally do not like these jobs but they have to be done. Engine rooms and me not being a small chappie do not go well together. Had trouble getting the filter off and then getting it bolted back up. Usually a knack to these things and I usually find the hardest way to do them. Being scrunched up does not help. Anyway jobs done with half an eye on what was happening alongside as the Auk had turned up and Davie was in the water. He had three moorings to check so looking for the boxes was a handy addition for me. He had a good look before coming across them, hearing the whistle from the engine room, picked them up in the dinghy and then towed Davie over to the other moorings before finishing off my maintenance.

Relaxed weekend so far in that there was a little catch up with some paper work before going out to the Inn and having a surprisingly quiet evening.Lovely weather on the way up the road and stopped just before Milton to nip down to the water’s edge as it was bright and breezy.




Now ten o’clock and six people in the bar. Meals equally quiet especially with three out front and two behind the bar. It balances out over the year I suppose. Spent the last hour or so chatting to the Pitlochry couple before the Boss came back from the Ceilidh at the Hall. The Sunday lunch shift shot by as it was busy in the extreme. Weather between the showers,wintry ones, was cold but fine.


We were cruising along until two when the door open and stayed open for around forty people. The second sitting was rapidly underway. Before this I met Northumbrianlight https://northumbrianlight.wordpress.com in the form of Robin Down. We follow each other’s blogs and occasionally comment. They were on their way to Gairloch for his first ever book signing. A book just published called Golf in the Wild (a journey through time and place). I was given a signed copy and had forgotten I had contributed a small quote to it, not confident enough to put my name to it at the time, how things change. So back home and not too tired, aware enough to nip out and watch another shower race across the Sound with spectacular lighting


and with the new arrivals just messing about oblivious to what was heading their way.


So with the hydro back on stream with very tight deadlines and corners to not so much cut but go round very quickly the news from the MoD is making a few people nervous. My only source for the last couple of weeks has been the WHFP where the was an article that if remotely true spells big trouble for the local fishing fleet. At the moment it is hard to winkle the true nature of the future plans for the Range. We are only receiving information through the local paper and that is through questions asked of the Defence Minister, Phillip Dunne. At present we are not allowed to fish within an area of 26 square kilometres and this is surrounded by an out sea area of 56 square kilometres where there is no dredging or trawling permitted. The following reply raises serious concerns among the local fishermen and will undoubtedly take several boats of the water if allowed to proceed.

“The proposed by-law extension is for a single range area (around 110 square km) in which no fishing activity (including dredging or trawling) will be permitted, although this does include the possible creation of local agreements, that would permit controlled creel fishing or dive fishing in the area”. This map looks great to what is now being reported.



Already the MoD have said that there are no plans to double the closed area and now we find that this is true, they are planning a quadrupling of the area. Make no mistake what they say is controlled creel fishing means we will be denied access to a new Range. This is the history of the 70s repeating itself. “Don’t worry boys you will be able to carry on your fishing activities as before” then quietly in a couple of years we find we are excluded from carrying out our way of life on the basis of some spurious ‘national interest”, testing weapons we cannot ever use. What a crazy world we live in when men of power run roughshod over the little guys just keep their positions of power. Never has the phrase “Emperor’s clothes” meant so much to me. People playing dangerous games with similar people in other nations while the ordinary man is just cast aside, a casualty in some inconsequential power game. I find it bad enough seeing these sinister and useless vessels


plying the Sound but to think I may be watching them from the shore makes me angry. Also the way we are treated by the duplicitous way we are fed information and even misinformation. But this just seems so run of the mill nowadays that lying to the public is now an everyday occurrence. It really is such a mismanagement by man of such a beautiful part of the world. On a practical level I have about 90% of my creels in the proposed closure and so where do I and the other boats in my position go? I have also seen a map released by the MoD through a FoI request where lines are drawn which, if interpreted in a certain way would mean the end of any type of fishing on The Inner Sound. Just do not know what to believe any more.


So Much in a Couple of Days.

(Saturday evening)The weather is often a passing topic but the last couple of days have been special. Over 200mm of rain has fallen over the period and most of it horizontal. The ground is sodden with the only benefit of so much rain in the west you know it drains off really quickly. The rivers and streams are white water torrents. Unfortunately the two cows in the croft opposite look suitably miserable.


Even Dougal doesn’t rile them up just now. He likes to run up to them shouting, they ignore him and he wanders on, it’s a bit of a ritual and does not seem to bother them. If it was not a work night there would have been very little activity on Saturday. There were a few in with lots of fish but no prawns. Was getting excited about launching on Monday but watching the forecast, seen it deteriorate over the last twenty-four hours, so that has been delayed. Maybe Tuesday but not holding my breath.

(Sunday evening)AGM for the Company was held on Friday and there was a good and positive turn out. Alison put up a slide on her power point to show the absolute string of hassles, hurdles and obstacles that we have had to overcome to get to this stage. From 2008 to 2015 it is remarkable to see the difference in the landscape over the seven years. It struck home to quite a few people how hard it has been to jump through the many hoops and over hurdles.

2008                                                                                                                      2015

Renewables were to be bigger and better                                                      Down to micro schemes.

It was to be a simple export to the Grid.                                                        Due to SSE connections not being what they appeared to be

we are looking at using as much as we can for local power.

Generous FiTs to encourage community renewables                                  Regression of renewable tariffs mean tight deadlines

Banks willing to lend                                                                                          Now looking to Community Shares issue.

Benefit to export renewables onto Grid                                                         Higher income for local use,local buy in,community

resilience,carbon footprint reduction,lower fuel bills.

One of many Communities                                                                               Applecross one of just a few Communities at still battling on.

There was a good turn out and looking at the positive the majority are young and hopefully optimistic.



I think present and future politicians should look closely at the above list put together by Alison and try to work out a way that communities that try to help themselves survive, should be helped and not hindered. Not looking for handouts but help to get up on our own feet after centuries of patronage. Instead moving goalposts to fit bigger concerns are working against the smaller but viable concerns. On the drive to Inverness I am now passing renewable projects that are connected to the grid and making FiTs for the company that runs the Grid in the north, while if we want the grid upgraded to three-phase we have to pay SSE for the privilege of the upgrade. Energy is a national priority and as long as it is in private hands it will be used to raise profits for shareholders. Have some up beat music playing to counter the frustrations writing this. ( The fine Del McCoury Band) They once sacked Steve Earl from their band for swearing too much on stage. On the Community Broadband front we are still struggling to find out what is wrong at the Filling Station. Although I went to Broadford and all looked okay Sean is going tomorrow with mouse and laptop. The Filling Station is linked into there and may have a problem in the system there. We received a worrying phone call from Paul in Raasay which made our Broadband problems secondary, a fire broke out that had our broadband running through, result Lifeboat and Fire Brigade out all night, occupants okay but all their belongings lost and our cable burnt. While thoughts go out to the guys who lost practically everything Paul has worked a mini miracle and restored the connection which has put the north Coast and Rona back on. Best of Community Co operation as opposed to competition.

A wee bright spot has been the visit of Lateral North as mentioned before in the form of Sue and Graham. Due to work commitments I did not get as much of their company and chat as I would have liked and it is easier for them to explain their take on the future of Scotland and it is exciting. I have a Common Weal tee-shirt that says “Switch on the light and see what Scotland can do”, the same could be said for Lateral North. http://lateralnorth.com/projects/ . They packed and left in their little van as the weather was closing in.



And back to the gloom, this time the weather which has been atrocious, even by west coast standards. I nipped through to Inverness on Friday so missed out a fair bit of it but Saturday was just as bad if not worse although due to our topography we get away with minimal damage caused by flooding. The roads were under strain though with the usual reports of landslips on the Bypass, but more unusually on the side of the Cluanie Reservoir. Here it was just the neighbours that were looking miserable in their field of mud.

There was a bit of a pickup briefly today in the weather and I could not resist a wander down the shoreline,


cold but bright


and took a couple of shot of the breeze and an incoming tide.


Fine shift at the Inn, stretched for a couple of hours but pleasantly so with lots of lovely and complimentary people in. Although with the Boss away on Wednesday and a thirteen booked in on top of what looks like a nippy evening, challenged will be the operative word I think.

Now for the MoD, what I would say first of all is there is a Trial on this week and guys are already arriving, staying at the Inn and around. I take great care in whatever my views are that I do not personalise any issue that bugs me or feel strongly about. And that was evident with a long chat with Chris and Lee about the Applecross Community, they being up to work on the Trial. They are well impressed by the Community Spirit shown by most who live here. So nothing personal with any one who has differing views or employment, I take the same strange with mobile gear. The Range Expansion has moved on little. Only in as much as to report a CK meeting in Kyle in which he was given several questions to ask the MoD for clarification and the future plans. There are obvious differences of opinions locally about who is doing a good job in protecting the fisherman’s interests but the statements from the MoD worry me. We are assured that the consultation will not just be a box ticking exercise but the statements issued give more than a little cause for concern.

“The extension of the present BUTEC range (presently 82 square kms) off Applecross to 110 square kms – future closure periods will be governed by bye-laws.
· The local consultation will be conducted under the auspices of the MOD Defence Infrastructure Organisation – the lead individual / contact person has yet to be determined.”

My reading of the above is that the Range is going to be extended and then there is going to be a consultation, my understanding of a consultation is that it takes place before an action, even if it is a pretendy one. (Its the Dixie Chicks now, maybe not the best to enhance the mood)

And to keep with the general feeling of the moment there was a fine wee dog who arrived in Applecross a few short months ago, unfortunately Scratch had a short stay here, packed a lot in but left us on Friday and left a lot of people the sadder for it. Dog owners are a different breed when it comes to saying cheerio to their dogs.





MoD with Pants Down?

Well it seems to have hit the fan. Well played the WHFP and I would think there is more coming out this week although getting relevant information is the proverbial blood from a stone. How much is an arrogant attitude from an organisation that is barely accountable to anyone, or endemic secrecy, we shall never know. Various emails and letters, interviews and more meetings have taken place since the article broke the MoD out into the open. I have lots of niggling little thoughts about who knew what and when but at the moment have to cut across party lines to get as much support for the fishermen. We are severely lacking in contacts and information but one bit that has emerged is a letter sent to, but not received by Charles Kennedy, internal investigations in both sender and receiver offices. This gives us the info that the Rona Range is going to close down by the end of 2016 and going to be run from Kyle.Underwater equipment is to be moved nearer to Sand, no mention of the sea closures, and bigging up the £22 million investment. Importantly for me it confirms the shutting down of the manned operation in Rona with the loss of the remaining thirteen jobs on the island. There were twenty but there has been a run down in process with the ending of this operation and it also suggests the investment is part covered by the savings from moving the Rona operation to Kyle. There is always potential for a bit of local strife if it was portrayed that it was either fishing or MOD livelihoods at stake. This letter clearly states that there are Qinetic jobs going as a result of the Longterm Partnership Agreement. Anyone saying it is either Us or Them can forget it. The big hole in the information is there is not a mention of the Marine Closure, if not for the WHFP when were we going to hear about this? We are now told consultation will take place in June but we have already been told it has taken place with Highland Council and HIE. Were the Mod planning to close the area and use the HC/HIE consult as evidence that they have done their “consultation?” Inevitably what will happen, especially as there is an election around the corner, is the political point scoring and fair enough. I can see what I write going out there in different directions, but that’s life. I am now used to this happening. As I have said before because we have not been told anything I feel I have every right to speculate on the little we are told and the consequences of these proposals.

Tuesday morning saw me leaving for Town to do some badly needed dog shopping and call in at BBC studios on Castle Street. Helps to know who is asking the questions, won’t see it and it may not even be used but still worth doing. Run around town and then to Broadford to check a computer switch before attending a really good and constructive Meeting in Kyleakin on Tuesday evening, calm, intelligent and questioning. Genuine fear that this will be the last straw for more than one boat working the Sounds. To cut a long story short Duncan put together a succinct series of questions arising from the table queries and concerns.

1. Who was consulted in “the extensive review process? and can we see their responses?

2. Who do we speak to in the MOD and or Qinetic to open up a dialogue?

3. What are the rights on the Range, bylaws or other instruments controlling the areas?

4. Navigational and sailing implications regarding this proposed closure.

5. Does there have to be a full closure, agreements already in place between Rona and Torridon fishermen.

6. Meetings have to be held as soon as possible with appropriate people.

In all the correspondence and articles there is very little being said about the closure of the fishing grounds. The MOD are stating that the area has not been expanded without consultation and spokesman says “It is absolutely not true to say that the MoD has already doubled the size of the protected areas of Raasay Ranges……”. Both statements are true but meaningless. No fisherman is saying they have doubled the Inner Sea Area, I am saying the MoD are going to. And finally to all the people who have shown a genuine concern about the proposals to curtail and even stop generations of fishing in the Inner Sound I would like to pass on sincere thanks for the messages, likes and support in all forms. Maybe we will win this and carry on our efforts to make our fishery more sustainable.

Almost forgot, back home to an important Community Company Meeting, only twenty minutes late. Long day but would not change it for the world, that s why I do what I do, feels like a curse sometimes. But my abiding thoughts and feelings are that the Sanctuary is not an appropriate place to conduct warfare testing. It’s a place that people have found over the centuries, settled and made their ways in life. It’s had its conflicts but a traditional way of life is now seriously under threat.  Interesting weather to travel in and some fine sights to take one’s mind of the tenser thoughts. The top of Glen Docherty,


Garve watching the snow fall,


above Kintail


and of course across the Sound before leaving home.


Desecration of a Sanctuary.

Sometimes you just feel angry and then a little despair when you realise how little you matter in the grand scheme of things. Our local paper, the WHFP, published an exclusive on its front page letting us know that the Raasay Range is going to be doubled in size. That is the area called the Inner Sea Area which is a strictly no fish zone. In its current form it has the unintended consequence of an MPA and a conservation area. Now, if the expansion goes ahead this may be the last straw for some creel boats fishing the Sound, both beside and within the proposed closure extension. The anger comes from the fact that there has not been one iota of consultation with the local fleet, either through our associations and Marine Scotland. The despair comes from the inevitability that the closure may well go ahead. The grounds up for closure produces some of the best quality langoustines off the Scottish shores, second to none. Recently there has seen an upsurge in the lobster numbers and some prawn boats have gone creeling for lobsters. Squat lobsters and prime scallops also come from this area. £10s of thousands of pounds worth of seafood enter the local economy and this is threatened by this move of the MOD.


The fishermen who have gear in these areas will be directly affected but all the boats working the grounds around here will feel the consequences. Where are all these creels going to go? The grounds will be chock full of gear and we will be going back to the days when every second fleet of creels will be foul on our neighbours. A simple example of the effects of this proposed action, The Auk, a scallop diving boat, currently moored here, works these grounds during winter and early spring. While here she needs fuel and buys from the Applecross Pier Users Assoc helping us survive and keep our Pier solvent, skipper pops into the Inn so it is all circulating monies. Now she will lose 30/40 days that she fishes on these grounds.

Knowing a little of the history of the setting up of the Range from first hand and speaking to people who went to the meetings I have this feeling of foreboding that this is all done and dusted. The fact that the only discussions I have heard taking place has been between Qinetic and the MOD and this has only been about the date of the announcement confirms this view. The meetings that took place in the early 70s were conducted by naval officers sent up from Deep South and they promised that nothing they were planning would affect the fishing practices on the Inner Sound. The next meeting that took place two different officers would arrive on the scene to announce fishing restrictions, when pulled up about what was said at the last meeting they used the term, “we cannot vouch what was said previously”. And so it goes on to the extent I was told the experienced fishermen stopped going to the meetings as they no longer could take the disrespect. They were known as gentlemen and were not used to being treated in this way. When you are told it won’t matter too much as you take your creels ashore each night and the ground needed is only 15 mins from Kyle, it exposed the ignorance of the officers sent up to dissuade the fishermen of the  proposals.But you realise that plans were set in motion many years before, when you hear that the Hydro boys were puzzled by the size of the power cable that was laid into Sand five years before the first meeting with the fishermen was held in Kyle in the early 70s. Also told the specifications for the weight-bearing placed on the causeway at Kintail was as much as 200 tons. You can understand my cynicism. I don’t imagine for one minute that this has been planned in the short-term but like the seventies, we have to deal with long-term planning from the establishment, the difference this time the MOD are not dealing with fishermen who are trusting and may not be so gentlemanly. And to think over the years I have complied with just about all their wishes around the Range. Can safely say that my fishing has never held up or interrupted a trial and when requested have left gear unhauled at my cost in order for Trials to continue. Cooperation and partnership are a vehicle that goes in both directions. Would I rather see these on the Sound



or the static gear boys that have  a far more sustainable connection to their environment like generations before them.



So I feel free to speculate on the back of so little consultation and information. We do not even know who is a contact, who do you go to put your case to.  I am not interested in State secrets just being treated with a little respect. This news has been preceded by the rumours coming from the shore side of the operation. We have been hearing that millions of pounds are going to be spent on redeveloping Sand which looks as though this is linked closely to the offshore closure. Interesting to note that after Monty Halls left the veranda that was built for the programme had to be taken down as it had not planning permission. I don’t for one minute imagine Applecross Community Council will be dealing with any such planning decisions.No idea about what the building works are going to be, some saying it will be underground. At my worst moments I think Applecross is going to be turned into a Coulport type base. How out of character can you get for this peninsula, a Sanctuary where people come to enjoy, recharge and head back to their hectic lives in a better frame of mind. Who in their right minds would change such a Sanctuary into a Destination that provides a Govt with war materials and methods to kill? But that,  I am sure, has never crossed the Strategists minds. I sometimes feel as though I am living in a Farce, a dark one. Parting thought is something I read recently, it’s about time we get round to”socialising profit and getting private industry to stand on its own feet”. So much corporate business depends on public contracts and are priced accordingly. That’s it.

Applecross Games and Facebook GP campaign.

A windy day on Friday so that meant I was quite fresh for work at the Inn and it was needed. Although it was not quite as busy as thursday evening it was not quiet! Tonight’s little hiccup was the fryers went on a little go-slow as there were many fish and chips and fryer related orders going in mainly because guys were concentrating a little more on the liquid scene. Not being a drinker now it is amusing watching and dealing with fairly inebriated customers. When I stopped about 10 years ago I found it quite difficult as often the social scene does revolve around a few drinks but the knack is doing something other than sitting, watching people get drunk…ie working or organising. A very noisy bar with the main struggle serving the food around the good-humoured but boisterous audience. Bit scary at 8 o’clock when we were trying to seat a group of 20 but as usual it happened and with Jill and I were on the floor not 100% sure how. The result is always enthusiastic praise which is very rewarding. feel sorry for the grumpies who were in the other night but the follow-up to that was a couple got overcharged as I was bothered by them but happy ending the couple came back and I immediately recognised them and they got their refund before tucking into yet more wonderful food..

300 creels hauled on Saturday morning and a reasonable catch landed before going up to the Games. Another thought about the Fishing meeting on Thursday. We were regaled yet again about the detrimental damage that banning trawling can do to fishing grounds. Seems that the seabed in Broadbay of Lewis is full of starfish and empty scallop and razor fish shells and we “have the evidence to prove it” I suspect if this is the case there also is an argument to say that because there is trawling outside the bay is upsetting the ecosystem of the bay. Only supposition and we need the science to help us.I know there is video evidence of the BUTEC range where the seabed is in fantastic condition and there has been no trawling there since the mid 70s. Hopefully I will be able to change my opinion if confronted with data that did not support my beliefs.

Anyway off to the Games on the Campsite and passing the Filling station I saw a busy place. Applecross would be in a spot of bother if we did not have one, there is no doubt about that. I suppose most people would have to convert to diesel but the tourist trade would be badly hit, bikers especially.

The next photo is where the Games take place and is taken from the Broch site. One of the Broch entrances is showing on the bottom left of the picture and I can’t help thinking about the wee chaps who were here 1000 and more years ago and what they got up to. Timeless Applecross.

It is a busy little Games with a lot of effort going into organising and running it and raises a considerable sum for the community over the day, pipes,heavy events, and an opportunity for the Community Company to spread the word on our campaign to attract a new Doc to the practice.

Even the pipe major needs a moment of quiet contemplation.

I wonder if he could lift 300 creels in a morning.

By the time I arrived at the stall set up by Alison our Chair was in full flow explaining the importance of a GP to Applecross. It is nothing short of essential and Alison and Elodie have set a Facebook campaign in motion to make sure the information is out there and no stone unturned.Seems I am the administrator. I think it is an example of a new determination about the place that we are trying to halt the decline here. The membership of the Company grew by a possible five during the day which was a nice little sideline.

Back down to the Inn for another busy but not too frantic session. Found the bunch of local guys who came over amusing and 30 years ago I would have been there. Spotted quite a few by recognising their dads who were in school with me and it was reciprocated. This is one thing I like about living here, the eighty year old talks to and knows the eight year old. A five hundred pound kitty was shifted in two hours by the boys before Judith moved in to quieten things down. All was peaceful and they went off to dance to Rhythm and Reel in the evening. Saw them again next morning, subdued and eating lots of steaks and chicken for brunch. They are good lads and chatting to them you find out what they are up to and all are either studying or working. A busy shift but good despite the techy start to the morning involving bacon rolls. Mediating fails but all ends well before the shift started in earnest. There are lots of regulars who appear for the Games as well as numerous characters but once again its all over for another year.

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