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

Posts tagged ‘CES’

Kishorn Cradle.

Any one who thinks being a director on a community company is for status think again. Another meeting tonight to discuss tenders and for me a really difficult decision with many implications. I for one am not taking what we are doing lightly and as we are encountering problems every step of the way it is a tribute to the Board and our LDO that we have not thrown in the towel. I know we are in a privileged position living where we do and doing what we do but we are trying to keep our community sustainable. There is a certain amount of risk in doing this but we are learning and getting used to this as we progress projects. This is going to be our biggest challenge and may cause a few sleepless nights at the Schoolhouse and other abodes. The effort so far has been huge and we have had lots of support from many people at HIE, CES and now LES to get this far and that is despite de minimus problems, financial and time constraints. Luckily the season has not kicked off properly so the Board meeting five times already this year has not impinged too much on personal work levels, going to be difficult during the summer. Can see Netflix not getting much of a look in soon.

Really enjoyed my shift at the Inn on Thursday evening, a lot easier with Joe behind the bar and fewer, but noisier customers. The hen party had a wee introductory session this evening up on table D while the Sheffield troops were on the Big Table. Not a lot in-between but some conversations were special and connections made chatting about health care and Israel. You can talk about anything at the Inn with people you are comfortable with. Time flies by and before you know it another meeting starts. So early home after the Board meeting and a bit of Netflix before out like a light on the couch.

Friday morning saw us running to stay still. Although do not do time very well the tide waits for no man. Landed some fine prawns for the weekend, watched some eiders on the Bay


and then straight back down the road to throw some stuff on to the pier and steam South to the Kishorn Yard. Passing Ardban,






a little cloudy but started to brighten up as I steamed up loch Kishorn.


Met the Bella Jane who came off the cradle and was heading back over to her home port of Elgol.


Was on time to catch the tide,


ease into the cradle and tie up.


Boys came out to put the strops under her and ashore for a coffee.


Then back out to some badly needed cleaning.


Managed to hang in for a couple of hours before walking up the Hill for home, lift from Alan so back in plenty of time. Unfortunately there was hardly any tide so Ewen did not get back before seven. By this time the Inn was in full swing. Six of us on but not a problem, even the LDOs. Everyone well fed and the goodbyes to Sheffield done, he IS going to retire, wandered down to the noisy table at the end and after community engagement it was politics with every subject through to nuclear disarmament. Good going debate and passionate but gradually got repetitive and with an Old Poultney it was off back up the road for them, another few hours animated discussion ahead. Animated,


more animated.


There were many quotes of the night, one of the best involving Kyle but not to be attributed to anyone as mildly rude. ‘Twas a fine start to the weekend. A grand sunset earlier in the evening.


Many times the colours seem to improve after the sun dips behind Raasay.


So good to see the sun setting just to the south of Dun Caan, portent of Spring.


Land and Water.

Alison was invited to a meeting of the Scottish Affairs Committee held in Inverness, the subject being land reform. Sounded really interesting and if nothing else I have learned about Chatham House Rules, under which conditions the meeting was held. Seems one can use the information from the meeting as long as you do not reveal the identity or the affiliation of the speaker. Here goes, no names or areas and generalisations all round but it still sounds fascinating all the same. Tenant farming featured large in the discussions with some fairly grim statistics. Interesting how land owners get around various legislation by giving out 364 day leases so hold the tenant in their thrall. One of the results of this is there is no grant money available to the tenant as they generally need five-year leases to comply with grant stipulations. Result is a continued degradation of the farm that is being tenanted. Also a story of a farm that is now surrounded by derelict farm buildings of the now defunct farms, derelict because of a completely disinterested landlord, with the result that the PO and shop was closed with the school in danger. There was interest from people wanting to work the farms but there were no leases available. There were submissions from a biodiversity point of view showing how the mono culture of red deer was so detrimental to the environment across the Highlands. These Committees meet to hear the problems and there may be amazing stories out there to counter this evidence but interestingly enough there was constant reference to the Scandinavian land models. Seems there are few ecology based jobs to the east as the smaller landholdings are worked and bio diversity is regarded as important to those that live and work the land.  Always aware they may have their own problems but when you hear that Danes can buy up a Scottish estate, pay no tax in this country, but are taxed in their own country for land they own here, sort of crazy one thinks. Land tax?? In our circumstance the most worrying case was stated by a community group who were constantly struggling to survive and it was suggested almost that it was too late, with so few people of a young enough age still in the area to turn the decline around. Sometimes when the mood is not as it should be you remember many more people staying in the community and far more children in a two teacher school. Often feel we have built up a false sense of security based on one industry….tourism. However over night things can change and the horizon can look so different, here it would be the reopening of the Kishorn Yard. Yesterday, all I did was go to the shop.


Today we met up with Duncan and Mick from Highlandeco and Felix from CES and it was certainly absorbing and so much to take in. As I was heading up to the Inn to discuss hydro could not help seeing the result of all the overnight downpours. The little stream, Alt na Chriche,


that was part of the first desk top study that can produce 50kw was flowing well, as was “our” stream.


Any one that says being a director is a status symbol should have been there today. So much community level information and decisions to make but it was very uplifting to hear about the possibilities of using local power from a local green source and not giving up despite of the set backs we come across when dealing with the likes of SSE. Just a thought that crossed my little brain ….would it not be good to convert a company like SSE to putting the common good/weal in front of maximizing profits for shareholders. This would not mean they cannot make a profit but change the direction of their headlong plunge down the road of continually augmenting their assets and profits year on year. Back to the theme of lots of little energetic companies, like Highlandeco instead of these over large oligopolies that suppress fragile communities because there is not enough profit for them to bother with. So our discussions revolved around preaccreditation of FITs, CAR licence variations, the size and out puts of the turbines, control systems and generators. The loss 5% in the value of our FITs if we change the size in the future offset by the increased power sales by using the extra generated power in the vicinity of the turbine. How to set up the local power net work. The incentive for people to sign up, long but interesting conversations.


The meeting was broken up by lunch during which I went down to the Bay with Dougal and Co,



having put them in the car as I had taken them up alongside the bike. Big winkle picking tide, hard, but strangely satisfying work.


Evening and the dogs are happy but no where to sit. And now it is another storm to sit through.


Happy at the Inn.

A hard day yesterday, but with the weather breaking today a recovery couple of days are on the cards. By rights I should have taken another fleet of creels ashore to wash but life is for living. An autumn day and the fire is on. No way is the washing going out today. With some bad weather forecast for the week-end catching some langoustine yesterday hopefully would mean they are on the menu board till the weather clears up on Mon/Tues. Managed 300 up before it got a little lumpy but not before I caught my tea for today.




With a strong SE to NW drift in the water just now it is hard work keeping the creels out of the Range. To the east there are three boats gear coming west as well and you just have to go back to original positions and hope you do not shoot over their gear, sometimes you do but it is not an option to move. Some of the prawns caught on the edge of the Range are usually amongst the biggest you see and one or two really catch the eye.


Fish pie on the cards. Ling, smoked haddock and squats with cheese sauce, new potatoes and peas. That should set me up for the evening shift. Promises to be a hard one for front of house as the weather looks a bit shabby for eating in the garden. Mark”The Catman” Newton headed off Sat morning on his reconditioned scooter and was last seen heading around the Bay chugging along into the teeth of a SW strong wind and fairly horizontal rain. Best of luck. Although it was back on Wednesday it took a couple of days to get all the bells and whistles back on.


One customer, Guinness, the border terrier, will be happy to see him go as the cats were very anti dog and Guinness used to getting his way got a big shock when they both appeared from under table 9 scratching and spitting.


And no it is not Christmas at the Inn but just running low on the wine cool bags and are using the unseasonal ones. Afternoon continues after a walk with Dougal and Co at Ardhu, before going out for some langoustine for the Inn, fish pie lived up to expectations and then of up to the Inn. Good and really happy shift. The weather stayed showery and windy and the only guys outside were the dedicated smokers. Evening went with only a few people waiting for a short time and we had table 8 available at 20 to 9, first time for a long time. Mel and Steve were in with Jenny, Grants of Speyside,! and Angela from Alba’s An La. Judith, not being up on the Gaelic TV scene did not realise we had a television “personality” in our midst. Chatted quite a bit to them at the end of service as Mel used to be with CES and helped us immensely in getting our hydro scheme to where it is now. She was saying there are not many community schemes so far advanced with financing and building the next steps. She had been offered a highly paid job in the private sector paying lots of dosh but turned it down purely on life quality grounds…there are a few left that cannot be bought and sold. Good wide-ranging discussion mainly about land issues, lots of Scandinavian comparisons, and Angela commented on the fact there does seem to be a lot going on for such a small community of people. Chat got around to Steve asking me what my job was and I found it hard to describe which I reckon these are always the best ones. At one stage, saying how great it was to “work” at the Inn I told him to listen and there were people chatting animatedly at all the tables and then I told him that all the tables in view these people had not met each other before this evening and that is the magic of the Inn and Applecross….if you let it work on you.

Finally Joe wandered up telling me a sweatshirt he saw on the way out of the Inn with the logo, “Happiness is having a horse and a rich Dad.”

Why are Minutes Sooo Important?


It is hard to capture the east wind that whipped out of the moorings for three days now turned to a northerly breeze blowing and although able to fish have decided to take it easy and catch up a little ashore. Started work on  some new ex fish farm float raised beds on the east side of the garden that still looks very scrappy due to lack of digging. The last three evenings have been taken up with lots of meetings and that means minutes. I am only involved directly in taking the Community company ones and know that it is time-consuming and fairly tedious and if read by some people in Applecross usually wrong even if they were not at the meeting. A very strange phenomenon as I thought they were a minute of the meeting and how could anyone who was not there know if they were not accurate. Working back, last night we had a discussion about the previous meetings minutes brought up by some one who was not there about inaccuracies and the theme was really about use of words. The minutes were deliberately moderated to try to ease a tricky situation but for some people who did not know the background they were still too forceful. Do you write minutes that honestly show up some very silly actions or in a small place try to be low-key and hope solutions are found to the problem. I thought the second was in place. A previous night ‘s meeting there were comments about minutes and the ACC’s minutes were brought up at a meeting where we did not even discuss or approve minutes for the meeting we were in. Crazy place I live in, but would not live anywhere else. My take on minutes are that hardly anyone reads them twice unless they disagree with them and then they just fade away. I remember reading a cyclist forum when there was a little contention about road closures and the Council’s minutes were read by people not from here that did not know the place and were only read to ridicule the place and people, You canna win, and as long as you know that it does not really matter. The ACC Board Meeting was a two-hour agenda of full on actions, two of our new employees attending and giving us a breakdown of what is, and going to happen, regarding energy and broadband. The Hydro Scheme is going really, really well and CES are very excited about our progress. There is more interest and enthusiasm outside the community at the moment but maybe as building starts people will realise that what is happening is pretty momentous for the community. Work on the toilets is under way as well and they have been surveyed and we now have an architect on board with old Applecross connections. I think some of the current angst is we are going through a period of change and it is quite unsettling, possibly with referendums on the horizon and so much disinformation out there it is making people who want a quiet life uneasy. So it was with this unsettled feeling with which I set off this morning heading south for a change with Dougal and family.


A simply stunning day to sort the jumble in the head. A walk in Applecross must be the equivalent of an hours meditation. Looking across to Ardhu will the Skye hills in the background was jaw dropping. Had a Scandinavian feel about it.


Walking round the Caman there are almost always herons working the edge of the tide. Have to get my teleconverter as they are very wary birds.


Further round the Ardhu flock are put on a Dougal alert.


At the end of the road after a wee chat with Wendy, sitting out in the sun with the barn to her north, the view across to Ardban catches the eye.


Back home after this five-mile meditation things are in a better place and a shift in the Inn did the rest of the healing. Lovely evening with every one seeming to enjoy themselves. All but one room full and the Jane and Veg crew in. Met up with a couple on a celebratory tour of the highlands after graduating as medics. Eating a fish and chips at the end of the shift chatted some more to them and mentioned that a couple of boys were so different from the other two and Flick said that was like she and her sister and I mentioned twins I knew from just north of Oban who were so different, one being a medical student and the other being very “arty’ and had not decided what to do yet. Next thing was that Flick turned to Gary and mentioned that was like guys they knew and mentioned a couple, Pat and Fedor…..turns out we were talking about the same twins and they had just graduated with Lizzie last week. “Strange scenes in the gold mine” as we used to say. It seems quite strange talking to a couple for the first time in your life and finding such a close connection. Pat and Fedor sold us the schoolhouse fourteen years ago. The Applecross Inn, “ya canna beat it”. I obviously tried to recruit them to stay and work here as we have GP problems again with Dr Dan being offered a position in Kazakhstan that he could not refuse. So this started as a moan about people moaning about minutes and as usual ends up realising that we live in such a beautiful part of the world that these moans are meaningless. We also had a visiter from Raasay staying with us last night and they have the same problems over there about their minutes and agendas. Makes you feel less picked on.

Long way round to Kyle.

A couple of days off for a bit of man flu so not too much to report on events here. We are just about mid-winter and should really be doing a bit of mid-winter hibernating but that cannot happen until all the paper work is caught up on. Underway but lots to do and with this in mind it was off to Kyle and a visit to both banks with some success. Headed up to An Arcsaid to drop something off to my Mum’s but could not stop as I did not want to give everyone my bug. Hill is blocked by 7 foot snow drift and is being filmed by the follow-up Channel 5 prog that was on last spring about winter conditions. A very opportune way of saying to the world and Highland Council how important this line of communication is to the community and its economy. Going to Kyle by the Coast road is not the best way to get there as you head away from your destination for the first half hour of your journey. A call in to Shieldaig for a really good massage and an interesting chat after.  A thought crossed my mind on the way home and it was connected to some thing that I said at the CES interview when talking about living in a small community. I have always said that you need far greater social skills to live in a small place as everyone knows everyone and you have such a small pool of people few to choose friends from. I realised that the only thing wrong with this is that we only think we know each other. There would have been many raised eyebrows if today’s post treatment conversation had been overheard. It is fun sometimes having views attributed to you by people who have not crossed your path for several months but still seem to know what your thinking is on certain subjects. These trips out, I usually find tiring especially if the Hill is closed but although there were only a couple of sunny moments they were enough to brighten the day’s journey. Looking across to the north of Attadale coming into Lochcarron on the way you could help but admire the majesty of the scenery. And going up Shieldaig Glen in the early afternoon looking across the wee lochan, not a bad place to set up home.



A Week and a Day

A gap between the last but one post and two posts in a day is explained by my computer going away to the doctor for a week and getting a drive mechanism replaced and a good clean up in the bargain. Something I have normally never done is make little headings of what goes on and even I am surprised at what one can pack into a week and a day.



Working back from this morning when I nipped out to the boat to get some prawns for a customer, who was heading back to Findhorn, I could not help but stop and take some snaps of a beautiful morning, the Waysgoose is the only pleasure boat left on her moorings as all the others are ashore for the winter at Kishorn and looking across the  bay to Camusterrach and beyond….yep it will do. A place to live for. Today’s shift was fairly uneventful but still met a guy who is involved in controlling deer numbers for the Forestry Commission, a French teacher, a pub owner from Killin and Joan was in for her 91st birthday lunch. Finished the shift with a magnificent venison casserole cooked by the boy. Only trouble is one is prone to sleep for a couple of hours after that. Yesterday was full on as the morning was taken up by chopping logs and then getting a call to pick up the computer from Kyle. Bit cheesed off by having to drive over the Hill for this but the scenes were simply magnificent and it was almost worth the trip for the scenes alone..




Just had to stop on the Hill to take it in both at the Slips and again on the other side below the Cioch Nose. I know several mates who have gone up there but for me it is just for looking at. Don’t need the extra thrill of going on it. Another stop was needed driving above Auchtertyre and looking across to the south-west at the hills in the low slanting sun, just tingling scenery and not a lot else matters in the moment.

IMG_0986So it was back to the Inn for the evening and Donalda’s birthday party. This meant a mini bus of Kyle and Dornie people coming for a meal and a bit of craic. Our little problem was how to get everyone seated where they wanted but as usual it all worked out. The meal went like a dream as usual with only the one mistake of an extra haggis instead of a missing garlic mushrooms, but kitchen quickly to the rescue. The evening was what life is about, Ian Ruariadh on the pipes,Donalda and Johnny’s daughter on the box with Sandy surprising everyone with a tune as well. After the meal was cleared and the banter got going it was good to reminisce about the fishing, growing up, fathers now gone, the early Applecross Games visits and by the end of the evening knowing who everyone was. Great to see all leaving happy and content having had a good night out and knowing the Hill was clear so the drive back was safe and not too long.

Thursday involved another trip out, to Kyleakin this time to give blood. Seems O negative is what everyone can take although going by recent events over here I would not be surprised if a few people would refuse mine!!! Managed a couple of days out fishing this week but crashed on friday….maybe as a result of giving blood the day before. Had a chat with John as usual when giving blood and bit of banter about the recent press attention. Interesting to hear everyone’s take on what has happened based on what they have read and heard.

Tuesday involved a busy old day with me dropping Dougal and his mum at the vet where as a result of a couple of operations there will be no more little Dougals. Then through to Inverness, visit to legal chaps and then off to CES in Dingwall where I was interviewed by Amy for the Applecross hydro scheme as a case study for other groups. All the progress and problems so far and as always it is good to talk through these matters with guys from the outside and getting objective but helpful views are always good. Went off to visit my aunt Sybil who is in Dingwall now and still smart as ever coming up to 90.Reminds me of a story told to me years ago about my uncle Robert who was teacher here for many years and was well-respected but old school/ no-nonsense. A young pupil was asked to point out where Australia was on the globe atlas they used to have and he, not having a clue, randomly pointed to anywhere and this turned out to be roughly Skye. Robert then took him by the ear and showed him where Australia really was and then led him to the window and pointed out to where Skye was and then back to the globe. Picked up Dougal and his mum from the vet and off home, both looking a bit sorry for themselves.



The Community Company news keeps on coming with a housing surgery held at the Hall sponsored by the Community Council and, although you think you know the problems we are facing there is always a doubt, but as it turned out it was one of the busiest surgeries in recent times there is no longer any doubt we have a housing problem. Still does not mean that we aim to build a 100 houses!!! The CBS announcement was last week and it is now official that Applecross has been chosen as one of the six communities in Scotland to find ways to increase broadband width. The fact that we have set up a pilot scheme was a factor in winning this position. This week coming Alison is off to Edinburgh to make a presentation to the Transport Fund for a Community Company funding package to rebuild the Coal Shed pier and keep timber lorries off the north Coast road. Another funding package will be announced this week as well.

In amongst all this activity was a pool competition where the highlight was Roddy “Rocket” going down in the second round to Laura of Camusteel. Quiz competition was held after the steak night, fantastic rib eye,stuffed mushrooms and surf and turf…you canna beat it.

On the political front, a strange letter appeared in our local magazine which was unfortunately unsigned. It did not make much sense but as this is an a positive upbeat post I’ll leave that to another time. I have actually found it quite humourous with much irony in the whole situation, talking about “The Unconsulted”, but more later. It’s Match of the Day now and then back to books. Dougal has recovered and is bouncing again.

Company AGM showing there is Applecrosslife.

The Community Company AGM took place tonight with 45 people attending, with another 8 apologies, at the Community Hall. With all the speculation, rumours, press attention, there was a degree of tension among the directors and LDO. This had been dissipated somewhat by our meeting of the previous evening where we arranged and organised the AGM meeting. We have never claimed to be greatly interested in the area of governance but know it is very important.Looking round the Board of fishermen,chefs,hoteliers child carers,engineers and craftsmen and now a life coach no one has that interest but help was offered from the floor. The evening began with a showing of the CES video Alison and I had seen on the second morning in Perth celebrating 10 of Community Energy Scotland. It showed different communities around Scotland,volunteers all working with the same aims in mind, all wanting to increase the resilience of their communities, all wanting to make them a better place for every one to live in. Judith, as Chair, then presented her report and you did realise what an impressive year we have had, the Community Broadband Scotland has been announced and this coupled with our other funding should ensure decent broadband for the whole of the Applecross peninsula and maybe include other communities nearby. More on that when press embargoes are lifted. This project in itself will open up possibilities for home working that would have been unthinkable with half meg band width. The Filling Station is still a success although the volunteers know the onerous task it is to keep it working. If we had a decent software system it would be so much easier to run. It still functions about 95% of the time but needs rebooting on too many occasions and we will never know how many sales we miss out on when the system crashes and we are not told about it. We have not had it signed over yet as we have not accepted that it is fit for purpose. Gilbarco are still working on a solution and this will be a relief when supplied. Climate Challenge Fund has been used successfully over the year mainly to progress the Hydro scheme to the lease signing and planning stage. The Company is now working on applications which hope to reinstate The Coal Shed Pier with Highland Birchwoods and Prince’s Countryside Trust for funding for a support worker to look after the elderly. The LDO report followed and the fact that it lasted over 45 minutes showed how much has been achieved and also how much has to be done so this community can survive healthily into the future. Similar problems are shared among all the communities we are getting to know,problems of housing, income generation, declining school roles and everything I have mentioned before and will do again. The talk was also very innovative in that all the problems have a solution,they must have. Things like our rubbish grid means we will find ways of using the electricity locally through storage or usage. Hydrogen storage for domestic heating and/or transport. Funding will be sought for the little ground that may be available to us at Toscaig Pier and the Surgery for units and/or housing in keeping with needs in both areas. Growing and producing quality Applecross branded products must be a way to strengthen this community and there was chat about how to engage with the younger people’s needs. New rules concerning food waste means that in vessel composting needs to be looked at very seriously in rural parts and that is an area we are planning on a community level. The meeting ended with a question and answer session and was surprisingly short but as so much information was put out, there was much to digest. The only myth that was brought up was the 100 houses the Company were going to build and this was despite our LDO telling us how difficult it was through out all the rural areas concerning the provision of accommodation, how difficult it is to build one. Only two community housing projects are being built in the CAM area, Helmsdale and Iona. So hopefully the fact we were not planning 100 houses in the first place and the problems of building them has put that one to bed for a while but I make no excuse for wanting more people to live here. Would n’t it be nice to be able to pick a five-a-side football team or a netball team and travel to other schools to play.I am old enough to remember an full football team coming over by boat to play Kyle in a friendly. Now our footballers from Camusterrach have to go to Kyleakin to play their football. The LDO pointed out that a doctor had dropped out of the last round of recruiting interview because she did not know how small our primary school was and how difficult it was going to be to find decent accommodation. Does not matter how young or old you are that should ring very loud warning bells.

So it was off to the Inn for a coffee and chat about the meeting and it was very positive. It is never about winning and losing ,there is enough of that going on in the Middle East with horrible consequences and without demeaning any of the horror over there I have felt pretty bad over the past few weeks about some of the reactions here locally. I would be a fool not to have learnt a huge lot more about this community over the last 7 weeks and I think I have. I have managed to keep my views and backed them with,what I think are decent enough arguments, and been reasonable and respectful even to those who have approached me. It is now a time for people to reflect over the winter months what they want for THEIR community. Their was a reflective view from the north coast last night at the Inn concerning the recent petitions and signing etc and how the first one was turned down flat, the status quo one, and how the next one had to be reworded in such a way that the community as a whole could have signed it. As this was in reaction to the LAS campaign, that must mean to me that there is change in the air. People’s evolutionary thoughts about their own community do not go away even if campaign’s come and go and I think we need campaigns like we have just had to concentrate people’s minds and so we do not just fade away as a community. One spokesperson on the CES video said just that. I take heart from the reaction recently in that this community is alive and well and looking to the future for their old and young folk. One of the conversations at the Inn concerned Finbar in that he would no longer need to come for his pint of guiness as he would be able to have that at home and be able to be on skype with his new broadband connection as he had his pint via laptop. Dancing with the girls may prove a problem later in the evening though.

To finish when we got home an email was waiting for us from a young member of the community which did not need any comment but made us smile and think it is all worth it.

“I just wanted to say that was a very interesting meeting,so many exciting possibilites……There is no good reason why Applecross cannot be a thriving community. Especially when there are so many intelligent,practical and forward/sideways thinking people here.” As Meg Ryan said “Yes, yes, yes” Probably a few more yeses but you know what I mean.

Struggle to find the Applecross photo of the day but realised it was the leaf and the picture of the sycamore tree to show the colour and vibrancy of the community despite it being autumn going into winter. We have a future and it is ours.

Community Energy Scotland and a moan.

Going to write some of this before going to work as it may be slightly negative but will be cathartic to get it of my chest. Came back early this morning, between 1 and 2 am having driven up from Crieff after a great meal and company at Yanns. Fantastic French Onion soup and Pork Fillet. Good catch up with an old acquaintance who many years ago visited my scallop farm, he ended up going around the world being a fisheries consultant. Interesting road between Crieff and Dunkeld, lots of right angles, but  suspect it is a beautiful part of the country and wish I had driven on it during daylight hours. Had an enthusiastic and engaging two days at the CES conference at Perth where there are so many like-minded people working in their own communities to try to turn round the decline statistics. In the west we have so much untapped renewable energy that could be the income generation that can reinvigorate remote communities. The conference began with Fergus Ewing and the CEO of SSE saying their piece. I find that attendees are very frank about the problems communities come up against and they include our problems such as very poor grid connections and access to the energy sources. To be quite honest it is pretty amazing we have come so far going by some of the other stories told. But no-one seems to be despondent, frustrated yes, by the issues that are out with their control. Things like national policy and privatised DNOs and generating companies. The second day had parallel sessions where we found out about the next stages of our scheme, when and what to insure, who to go to for finance, where you find that due diligence is as much for us as it is for a multi million pound scheme. There was a “fun” announcement at the start where every one thought it was Obama’s reelection but it was about the news that the inhabitants of Scalpay had voted to join The North Harris Trust in an exciting future. There was a really interesting talk about alternative uses for the generated power as we can produce more than we are allowed to export, Local use and hydrogen production are two options worth looking at. There must be employment potential through this development and not at the lower skill end. Here’s hoping that alongside the broadband improvements which means some people can move to the area with their employment in tow there will be direct employment through the activities of the ACC and that is what it is about. This should be sustainable as there will be income streams created as each project comes to fruition. The initial grant to set up the project, whether it be broadband or some other the idea is sustainability is fundamental to the venture. These grants are a national investment given to communities to look after themselves. Our communities are as valuable to the people who visit as those that live here. We do seem to need to get a fix of nature to keep some sort of life equilibrium. And Applecross does seem to have a special quality  about it that many people are able to tap into. This investment of grants to my mind is the cheapest way to keep these communities as working viable units as opposed to empty wilderness areas. The WHFP has again pointed out the imbalance between the declining west coast and the prosperous east. A brilliant last sentence sums up the article, “(the statistics) show the east of the country is growing fat on the children of the west.”

Coming back from such a positive two days and you really look forward to coming back to your own home,the next day when you catch up with the rumour mill your head does go down a little. I do sympathise with people who seem to be discontented and through this discontent have such a negative outlook on life and people who carry out community work. I suppose people who, rightly or wrongly, feel threatened have to find a reason to justify that fear. I have taken a video back from the conference with the intention of showing it at our AGM to show the inspiring work other communities are doing to either build hydro or wind units. Luckily for me they have had to overcome the same problems that face us in Applecross now and in most cases they have succeeded. But when you are surrounded by scenes like these and have vibrant conversations with people who live here and care about the future then for a while all is well and the discordant notes fades away.

“Meitheal” and a short fishing day.

Bit of a strange day. Went out this morning on a flat calm sea with a sunrise on the Cuillin hoping to get round as many creels as daylight would allow. Working out on deck getting ready for the first fleet looked up as I felt a sudden breeze from the north-west and before getting to the buoy it had settled into a steady force 4, at least it felt like that. This coupled with a small leak on one of my hauler return pipes and plates that are getting worn meant a stop start motor on the hauler with the rope starting to jump off. There was a short nasty motion coming across from the north of Rona and it did not take me too long in deciding to head for home to land the 3 kilo at the Inn and not do too much for the rest of the day.

On the way out I was listening to Andrew Marr’s Start The Week and in particular to Michael Ignatieff and Mary Robinson. I find many items I hear relate to situations at home. Although you hardly ever hear politicians in power talking about how things are not going to continue to improve in a materialistic vein for the foreseeable future Ignatieff tried and was fairly well shot down for his attempts while involved in Canadian politics. Mary Robinson is always worth taking time out for and was really interested to hear her talk about “meitheal”, the Irish equivalent of “ubuntu”. She described it as a co-operative labour system in rural parts of the country where groups of neighbours help each other in turn with farming work, such as harvesting crops. They in turn receive so the heart of the concept is community unity through co-operative work and mutually reciprocating support. It is a response to social need and she went on to say how the Irish lost this notion going through the madness of the Celtic Tiger Era where buying and showing off the latest gadgets and making as much money in as short a time as possible became all-consuming. They are now going back to this in times of financial distress. It would be great to think we would have this “meitheal” as the driving force of our communities rather than growth economies whatever they mean. I believe that the crofting system was based on this and it is sad to see that it has broken down here, difficult to resurrect but not impossible and things like community broadband will help.Systems put in place for the benefit of all.  As long as we have our establishment in place I suspect we will not be allowed to go to far down this road as it would be  a threat to current status and wealth.Another interesting theme from the program was that you must continue to listen to people and opinions that you do not agree with and this prevents you becoming polarised in your own views, something that is happening across the water in the presidential campaign. You hear views that do not seem to be very well argued but are held all the same. Something that made me smile was the comment that fanatics do not have a sense of humour and living in Applecross I find humour and not taking yourself too seriously is an essential ingredient of life up here.

So it is off to Perth early tomorrow morning to the Salutation Hotel for the CES AGM and catch up with other communities and compare our trials and tribulations with them. Maybe they will not seem quite so overwhelming.

A community day out.

Today it was off to Strathpeffer for a community day out. We always wonder if these days are worth the effort and a day off work but this one was ok. There were several people we know who were there, agency employees and other community councillors. The subject was how to spend the money that was accruing to communities through mainly outside developed wind farms. This was not directly connected to Applecross as we are developing our own and it is hydro. It nevertheless interesting to see how other communities deal with the large amounts of money now coming in to fairly small population centres. A purely personal observation but I only found one speaker inspiring, an employee form CES who worked up in Orkney who stated the community owned facilities had more worth to the communities involved as they had put all the effort into building it and thus had more pride in the results. Also the money earned would be put to good use as it had been hard-earned. Although there is nothing wrong in developer money going into affected communities for me it would not have the same meaning. Maybe this is just splitting hairs. These events are great for meeting new people of similar minds, guys who are positive, who faced with problems try to fix them and warn other people about the mistakes they have made. There is a genuine network out there which helps communities to help each other and avoid each others mistakes.

Only down side of the day was we ran out of petrol yesterday evening. I was hoping the delivery would have come in on the Tuesday but it was not to be. Even worse was the news today the delivery did not turn up  due to a brake down on the way over. It bothers me that it was avoidable in that I should have ordered fuel a couple of days before I did, but as they say in France “c’est la Vie”.

On the way in to Strathpeffer we talked about Applecross especially as we had a Board meeting last night and all our problems and possible solutions were fresh in our heads. All the agenda items of Hydro,grant applications,broadband provision, elderly care/support worker, work units all have employment prospects but all have one serious problem for us to overcome and that is one of access to land and in particular affordable housing.It came up later in the day but enterprise is one of the solutions to places like Applecross. Until there is a solution to this problem then it is going to be an uphill struggle, not insurmountable but harder than need be to sustainably develop our community.Thinking out of the box and using enterprise I think is definitely the way ahead for places like Applecross to survive and even better thrive. There are a lot of interested visitors at the Inn wanting to know how the community functions out with the obvious tourist industry. I often have a chat with some one about the fishery or the community work going on and later in the evening some one else brings it up saying they overheard what I was saying and lots more questions are asked. I find it great that so many people want to know more than the superficial.

Coming back to work at the Inn after a positive day away you cannot help but be in good form, front of house is easy on nights like these. You hopefully entertain the customers as well as giving them some sort of insight into the way you live. It was a gentle service this evening so it was good to speak to everyone, the German bikers, the French couple, the Wiltshire business travel agent and our first Malaysian of the year. They just keep coming.

Todays venue took place in the beautifully refurbished Spa Pavilion. It was good to meet up with  the Strathpeffer ladies who are on the Social Enterprise course as well as James who was facilitating the event.

A little tale from the Inn to finish. When Judith’s ex was behind the bar one evening he got into a conversation with “Legs” one of our local worthies now sadly passed on. The discussion for some unknown reason gravitated to breakfasts to which Legs stated that he had a Talisker in his porridge every morning  but some mornings he would think “ah f*** the porridge”

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