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

Posts tagged ‘environment’

Blood Doning, Roads and Fishing Talk.

Sitting in Inverness Railway Station wondering if I wait for the next train which comes in over two hours as no message and no partner coming off the instructed to meet train. A remark and a small curry beckons. It’s been a “fun-filled” couple of days, going back to Tuesday in fact when I set off over the Hill to Kyleakin to give blood. All by appointment means you get seen to as soon as you arrive, the only trouble is arriving at the right time after travelling fifty odd miles. Building up a strong distaste for the needle in the arm bit but as I have benign blood, no antibodies, so any one can have it, it’s better that some one gets it….I can always make more. The weather has taken a turn for winter and although cold and windy it is not unusual being called the lambing or cuckoo snows. The Bealach was looking good

but there was not a flake of snow on the road, it being well cleared.

Unfortunately the road continues to deteriorate and more photos going in to the HC Roads Dept

coupled with the news that RBS are no longer sending a bank van to Applecross due to “health and safety concerns over the route” into the peninsula. We had a very helpful visit from Richard Green who is hoping to be re-elected as one of the councillors in Ward 6 and interesting to see how disturbed he was at the state of the Bealach in places.

(Well that was all at the Station) and Alison turned up on the next one so no need for the mobile, till the next time. With all that is going on at sea and on land currently, waiting an extra hour or so in a van is little hassle. The day had started at 5.15am to get out to the Varuna for some langoustines for Loch Ness Inn. They were duly boxed and put in the back of the van to be delivered in the afternoon. The morning was to be taken up with The Inshore Fishing Conference. Made it in time, just, and heard Fergus Ewing’s opening speech. There was not too much about us in it and it seems a page and a half was missed out that would have made it more relevant to the static gear boys. Have thought for years that we have our politicians and audiences the wrong way round. The politicians should be in the audiences and listening to what is being said rather than telling us about policy and then heading off out the door while the real stuff goes on. I was a bit nervous most of the morning as I had been asked to go onto a panel. I had thought that it was in one of the workshop breakouts but it turned out to be in the main auditorium. Just as well I did not know that until half an hour before. Went to the Norwegian workshop but was slightly off focus for me and it was all about science and compliance rather than down to earth inshore fishing.

So it was off to the Main Hall for the last session before lunch and home. After an intro from  knowledgeable Brexit lawyer/facilitator, Daniel,

and a wee intro from the three of us it was Q and As and I can only go by the reaction and it did seems favourable from what a few people told me afterwards. I tend to go onto automatic pilot a bit when in meetings and this was a first for a panel. Seemingly I sort of butted in and got everyone talking about Inshore Fishing rather than Brexit and went on a little ,mild, I thought, rant about it was the fishermen catching the fish being the main reason that there are not fish in inshore waters. Must have touched a raw nerve with an Avochie fisherman as he asked an awkward two parter but luckily I had enough knowledge to answer it. I appreciate the comments afterwards and just relieved that I did not make an idiot of myself. Now have a researcher, Cardiff University getting in touch and been invited to another Conference!!. Part and probably the most important part, of these gatherings is meeting people and information collecting. The most striking conversation I had and related to the recent ridiculous dredging in Lochcarron. I was listening to a diver telling me how it was and the day it all changed for him. Lucrative diving off Gairloch, enough to be able to afford a rather smart car, which partly due to personal circumstances and good fishing he could now afford. He remembers that day so well as he was on the phone ordering the car and turning round the headland he saw three dredgers circling on the ground he had just come off. He then gave a before and after description of how the sea bed had waves of sand which were protecting the marl beds and above that in shallower waters were the flame shell reefs. On Monday back in the water and all flattened to desertification levels where only periodic visits from dredgers can now fish there. The whole marine eco system has been degraded to this level now up and down the coast to the extent that divers only find small patches that the dredge cannot get into. The whole reason for me being on the panel was to give a different view on how we treat our environment, catch less treat the catch and the environment better and receive a greater economic return. Not “rocket science” as a previous member of our community used to say with much regularity. There should have been more fishermen there but the forecast had Friday as the best day of the week

after the northerly gales at the beginning.

I am a strong supporter of the SCFF

and in turn appreciate the sterling work our officials do,

one of the few organisations which does not advocate the status quo for its members all the time. Thanks to Sally for the photos and encouragement.

Then it was down to the Loch Ness Inn with the still live

and kicking langoustines. Some larger ones going down now to try to keep supplies going more uninterrupted.

The fishing has tailed off dramatically but the weather has kept some of the visitors away and the day’s fishing on Thursday saw through the weekend. Good weather, an easterly breeze with lots of sunshine for the week,

despite the lack of langoustines bodes well for a pleasant but tiring spell. So leave the land side for another day as we are in-between responses and to last night’s sunset to leave you with.

There Has to be a Better Way

Sometimes the law really is an ass, especially when it does not protect the environment from people who believe they can act with impunity just because it is legal. That was the response from the skipper when it was suggested that he was destroying a flame shell reef where no one had towed dredges for over twenty years. “Its legal until September”, Bertie’s response was “we can’t protect all the flame shell reefs” It is an attitude that is going to have to change or we will be left with nothing to protect. The ploughed field and the I’ve dredged for scallops for 50 years there no longer are arguments that hold much water. The towing of dredges over ground reduces it to sand and gravel and yes if it is left for a year or two there will be a few scallops back on the ground but little else. A couple of videos taken before and after shows the beauty of an underwater eco system where flame shells build nest and literally hundreds of organism live in and around this naturally built reef. https://www.facebook.com/subseatv/?fref=nf&pnref=story “With one sweep of a bottom trawl all this would be gone”. And that is what happened last week. The video showing the stunning sea life that we all depend on is now devastated. I am not exaggerating as this is what it looks like now. https://www.facebook.com/george.brown.9822/posts/10211469161757411?pnref=story As you can see there is a huge argument going on with dredgers comparing the damage to ploughing up a field of grass to grow wheat. Also suggesting the veracity to the videos are to be questioned. Knowing the people involved that is a non starter. Mono cultures do not work too well on land either. I will be sticking to creeling for the rest of my days as I could not go through the Thin Red Line of accepting and getting used to the destruction of the environment to “make a pound”.

Every where you haul creels you haul live fish, crabs, shrimps, starfish, octopodes, cuttle fish and even the occasional lobster to the surface. You are surrounded by sea birds and occasionally by dolphins and see the odd whale in the distance. The live unwanted life is put back over the side. I cannot imagine sorting through a deck full of writhing sea life that comes up from a dredge or trawl just to land a few inferior langoustines, throwing dead, dying or crippled animals back over the side. I have been fortunate to have only done this for two weeks of my fishing life way back in the early eighties. The sooner we understand that we cannot keep degrading the marine eco system to such an extent that only a few inshore trawlers and dredgers can survive the better for all of our coastal communities. MPAs have been set up and seemingly the ones to the south have already been dredged through as there is little Marine Scotland Compliance can do to protect them. They have been set up to protect features but I would recommend that far bigger areas be set aside from mobile fisheries and only allow static or passive fishing methods in these fragile inshore breeding waters. These waters have only been trawled for one generation so calling this a traditional fishery is stretching that definition too far. All fisheries have to be heavily regulated to fit what the environment can give, not what we can take.  I am only talking about inshore waters and have no knowledge of how the shoals function offshore. Only note that fish numbers in the creels dramatically decreased from the 90s onwards and I do not think the creels fishery is the cause of that.

On a happier note signs of a renewal of crofting in Toscaig continues apace with several crofts now being worked. Maybe this autumn my own will finally restart.Made it down the road with a few willow which went into the ground to replace a broken fence. While I was down I took a wander onto one of the latest ventures https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=applecross%20croft from which these fantastic tulips came from.

The byre which used to have hens and cows with a couple of lambing ewes in it has been completely restored, now with a little stove in

while Sara weaves away.

Changed days on the croft.

Back to the fishing and on a more cautionary note I am seeing more and more langoustines with new eggs

 

and now believe that they spawn at different times of the year, whether that is due to warmer waters or a stock mentality of trying to reproduce as they are under pressure who knows. They still go back over. But one of the pleasures I have is seeing tiny life on the ropes or seeing minuscule squats on the deck having fallen through the creels mesh, seeing mermaid purses

on the creels or squid eggs, just seeing the continuation of the cycle of life while hopefully not disrupting it too much to make a living.

 

 

Whooper Mayhem and HydroProgress Continues.

Sunday saw my routine come back to a semblance of normality although I was emailing photos at half one in the morning for Alison’s presentation at The Rural Parliament on Tuesday. It was a fine morning for fishing and there were some boats on the water in the Bay but none from Applecross. Although now of the Applecross men are church goers we still do not leave the moorings out of deference to the older, traditions of Presbyterianism. I remember reading about how culture and local traditions can often help the sustainability of stocks. Off the coast of Ghana they did not fish on Tuesdays and got me thinking about the old days here when the fishermen did not want catch lobsters on the Sabbath so left the creels open on the Saturday and so they were not baited up till the Monday, thus the unintended consequence of resting the grounds for at least two. I am sure there was a competitive element then but suspect it was not as severe as now. Best fishermen catch the most in today’s thrusting economic world not as it should be…. The best should be the ones who can make a decent living while allowing the environment they catch from to thrive. The Guianese fish stocks are now depleted and mobility of populations along with the introduction of Christianity, Islam and “civilisation” are some of the suggested causes. Pulling the fisherman into a more competitive, cash orientated society, away from their previously natural state. Along with not fishing on Tuesdays they put back certain types of fish and would not fish at certain times of the year. Science has confirmed these were practises that enabled them to live within their environment, although these methods were based on adherence to beliefs in gods of the sea and rivers.

Back to Sunday and cycling along the Lochside noticed the whooper swans were a bit agitated,

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more of them than usual

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so there may have been a bit of territory protecting going on.

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It was a lovely morning

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and some of the snow was still hanging about.

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Inn was reasonably busy and the split shift passed fairly quickly. Clouded over briefly but noticed a fine end to the day just south of Dun Caan.

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Then a wander down the shore with the dogs after hours in the still hour before midnight. Because there is so little human activity you can hear everything from the lapping of the water to the occasional grunt or snort from a seal.

Monday saw me up at the Hydro site,

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and a little bit of organising a key to fit the turbine and generator. Possibly the American and metric being the problem. Ewen has the key and a couple of mil is to be skimmed off. Bit of a muddy glaur, enough rain to make it fairly unpleasant underfoot. It was a pulling cables through day and got “roped” in for a bit..

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Most of them are already across the river

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but there was a tough one to pull through from the Campsite. Broke the rope just coming towards the end but sorted yesterday and all the cables through now with the help of a little fairy liquid. With the cables not going through the ducts straight away the ducts ended up with a few waves in them making it more difficult for them to come through. Everything is going ahead and making for the deadline date with backup in place and meters ordered for the last week. I am probably more stressed than the boys on site but maybe due to the delayed paperwork I have to catch up on. Also keeping an eye on storm warnings as that affects the SSE program.

Busy enough again at the Inn with all rooms occupied and most tables used. Coming across again and again people who were going to invest in Apple Juice, so if we needed a secondary issue fairly confident that there would be uptake especially with low-interest predictions in the near future. It is not that we have a low profile now with Alison sharing a platform with Nicola Sturgeon yesterday at the Rural Parliament, telling the conference about our hard won successes and hurdles we face.

 

Introspection before a Farewell.

The best thing about working on your own is working on your own. So when I get up on time on Wednesday morning, just a little less concentration and energy than usual, a wee snooze on the couch before heading out at ten. No crew man to phone up five times between seven and ten when you change your mind about whether you go out or not. So made it out for ten and as my shift had been changed to the previous evening at the Inn there was no pressure on coming in. The northerly breeze did that for me but not before hauling 300 creels for a few small prawns. The weather for the last couple of days has been fantastic,

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bright blue skies and only an afternoon breeze to cope with. Fairly routine time going through the fleets of fifty creels, with only the company of gulls

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and at most two bonxies along side waiting for their feed of bait.

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As always, good to get to sea where although the work is hard the mind can be elsewhere, like four decades ago. The very day humdrum of grabbing the stopper, opening the creel, emptying it, rebating and stacking before turning the Varuna round and finding a space to reshoot the creels happens to a rythym that is so natural you do not notice it. It is only broken by an interruption, a tangle or something unusual in the creel like an electric blue wrasse,

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a change of engine note that alerts you of a problem. The radio can take you across the world or close to home. Whether it is Peruvian endangered rare animals or floaters voters, voting conservative, scared of the new wave of marauding Scots descending from the North today it mostly is of my teenage years playing football every night on Douglas Park, one of my claims to fame is that I have played football with and against Bertie, still playing at a young 62. It used to be golf with Jimmy Beaton and Andrew “Plumber”, often accused of “gardening” while playing a ball out of the bracken on the wee golf course at the back of the Plock, now sadly no longer there. My hole in one at the 3rd made it to the WHFP. Being part of the victorious Balmore team that won their only trophy, the Macleod Cup, meant a very hazy end to that evening. By this time I was getting adept at climbing in and out of my bedroom window, luckily on the ground floor. The life of sport and attending weekend dances was combined with going to series of communions in the locale stretching from Portree and Broadford in Skye to over here in Applecross, taking in Plockton and Lochcarron on the way. Although at the time disliking these attendances looking back I have little regret and they all form part of one’s make up. The right-off of a mini van on the back road to Balmacara has its balance in spending three and a half hours on a church pew on a sabbath communion morning watching two “tables” taking place, the second in gaelic. Many of these participants are no longer with us. The travelling communicants such as Lachie Mackinnon, Donald Mackay or John Mackenzie, men of huge presence, and even some of my football friends such as Ian Munro, sadly passed away too young all make me smile and appreciate the age I have lived through. Over the years it has become more and more apparent that the reasons I smile or feel uplifted are to do with people, actions to help and nothing at all to do with possessions or money. That is to say I do think I am extremely fortunate in everything we have but it is not the driving force in my life. The other night at the Inn hearing a couple from Quebec say how welcome they felt, almost like being in their own front room, is what it is about. They were chatting to Austrian, Flemish and Dutch on their neighbouring tables. That is what under lies the success of the Inn not turnover or increasing business or cutting costs. Catching ten stone of langoustine is not the buzz anymore but being able to be on the water and catch them while appreciating everything around you is far more important. Maybe this is why I hardly notice if the fishing is “good” but the weather and general well being is more important. If a table is not ready to sit at there will be one and that really is all that matters. Possibly this all relates back to the formative years of my parents and although I have not gone down the route of absolute faith but carry a certain spiritual optimism in a in a world that is full of pessimistic outcomes, the biggest being that of environmental abuses that may well come back to bite us.

So the introspection done and dusted life continues as does the broken weather. The first two days of the week were poor with strong winds from the south although making for the Registrar in Kyle meant I would not have been to sea anyway. Cutbacks mean it was not Lochcarron and made me think that there are serious consequences for the continuous cutting back of services. Not affecting me as I can jump into a car and head to Kyle, but imagine a eighty year old spouse who needed to register for an imminent funeral and it is a difficult and unnecessary problem. Called into the Yard and made arrangements for the cats head to be sorted, needs straightened and strengthened sometime next week and a visit to Dave and Maggie’s for a wee catch up. Shift change on Tuesday from Wednesday which suited as pots hauled over the two days meant a good break on Wednesday evening. A walk in some beautiful light

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with the sun dipping down on the northern half of Raasay.

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Dougal and Eildh

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loving the run out to The Ardban track. On the bike as I had walked enough across the deck all day. Sunset awesome from so many different angles

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and the low sunlight is everywhere.

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Often looking round you catch the best. So with everything in place, I hope, tomorrow I am off to Ardelve and Balmacara to bury my mum but not her’s or my dad’s memory. She is free now.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

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cold but bright

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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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.

Changin’ Scotland and It Is.

That was some three days, even for here the variety was something. Had made it to bed after a shift on Thursday coming back from Contin and was shattered but in a good way. Friday was taken at a run although part of that was making sure I had finished a post for putting out on Saturday. Contin did look good and it was thanks to the pooches that I made time to see above and over the mists. Lovely weather  on Friday morning

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and managed everything, all the menial stuff, the washing, dishes etc, in time for making it up to the Bealach summit

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to watch the sun dip behind the Cuillin.

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One of the jobs I had earmarked for the day was to feed the bees but when I went over to see how they were doing they were busy flying and saw some pollen coming in as well.

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Extra ordinary in the last days of November how pleasant and warm it is. So although I had forgotten a couple of things in the rush it was worth it for the scenes taking place out west. After catching up with Alison at Garve we all made our way to Leckmelm to get the nest ready for later and then off into Ullapool to grab something to eat and get into another Changin’ Scotland. Calling in at the Ceilidh Place we were immediately chatting to all sorts of revolutionaries and as a result missed the start of the evening. Finding the right venue and not reading the programme did not help.

Back to Leckmelm and a night spent trying to keep Dougal off the bed. It was at floor level due to a big relative’s recent visit and Dougal thinking he was still on his Contin holidays made the most of it. Another late arrival at the Village Hall, this time due to fishing, bee and wood chat at the lodgings. Missed the start of Matt Qvortrup’s talk on Referendums. Really interesting and then it was Prof Adam Tomkins, some one who I had followed on twitter to see and read about another view. Had to stop after the Vote as I found him just a bit too harsh. Fair play for him coming up this way as he was in a definite minority view. There really was some good behind the scenes descriptions of how the Smith Commission has worked to get its proposals out but he did appear to lose it somewhat when he described all Glasgow’s secondary state schools as not fit for purpose and dipped even deeper into tribal party politics saying the English education system was wonderful alongside his eulogy of Mr Gove. Got a brilliant rant from a retired Glasgow teacher at the coffee break. Sent by his wife to apologise for his language later in the morning, unnecessary but great to chat with people from around the country. Although the afternoon was absorbing and thought-provoking, listening to the likes of Jeane Freeman, David Greig and Kathy Galloway among others, the evening was beckoning with Tom Smith, Lateral North, Andy Wightman and Dr Jim Hunter.

Kathy Galloway began her talk with an extra ordinary tale. Bill going through Parliament on Friday with cross party support to prevent revenge evictions. That is, tenants, who complain to their landlords about housing conditions being evicted for their troubles. the Bill failed to go onto the books because it was talked out of time…..by two Tory MPs ……and you felt the room already knew what she was going to say next…..two Tory MPs who were landlords. If I did not declare an interest at a CC meeting and did not leave the room I would be out on my ear. The point I take from this they are now so arrogant they do not seem to care who sees or knows what they do now.

Tom Smith showed a power point full of imagination of what could happen in Scotland in the future…..nothing was deemed impossible, an example being that Scapa Flow could be the maritime hub for the whole of western Europe. A cracking example put forward by Tom was of a Danish architect who decided it would be a good idea to build a swimming pool above a supermarket using the wasted heat to warm the pool. Not only that he put in a diving board that allowed the divers into the supermarket. So shoppers in the fruit and veg aisle were passed by divers inside the glass enclosed pool. Got me thinking about lots of seagoing ventures that could be feasible in the scheme of things. It is not long since the western seaboard was connected by sea routes and that brought to mind an earlier discussion about remoteness. Remote is a relative term and where you are determines how remote you are. London is remote from Applecross. The world map on the wall of the Inn shows Applecross as the centre and threads from all across the world coming to Applecross. Millennium ago the first settlers inhabited the centres of “civilisation” and these were the coastal fringes of an impenetrable and wild hinterland. Stopped for dinner at the Ceilidh Place where we had the good fortune to sit with Jim Hunter and as the meal went on great exchanges of stories took place.

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He is now working on a book about the Sutherland Clearances and was telling us about the bounties paid out to “hunters” for eagles heads etc. Showing how the people lived on the land alongside the natural inhabitants and the diversity of wildlife that existed then. Not rosy by any means for the people but far better the denuding and degradation of the Highlands that took place over the last 200 years. The Scottish Govt’s programme has poor landlords in its sights and rightly so. Why should so few people hold sway over so many in a modern democracy? Why should the amount of land any one person can hold not be capped? Why can individual wealth not be kept under control. All these accumulations of power, wealth and property are ultimately detrimental to the surrounding environment. I equate these actions to my own life style, the constant striving for growth in the fishing industry inevitably leads to stock extinctions and a degraded eco system and as such should be controlled for the benefit for everyone. At Leckmelm the right of fishermen to fish to extinction was decried as it affects the non fishing community. As regards the degrading of the land and sea we are all in it together. Feels good to be amongst the revolutionaries. Meanwhile Dougal and Eilidh were given frequent walks and he, in particular had his moments meeting Douglas Fraser’s Sam and had a great wee mess about. One not so good moment nipping off in the dark to roll in the foulest rotten fish he could find. Result of that was a swim in Loch Broom. The end of the evening was interspersed with lots of chat about potential future opportunities for people and communities across the Highlands, but there was a wee stop for a snap.

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We decide to head down the road as work commitments meant a full on day for Sunday for both of us. On the way down the road Jim Hunter’s mention of Angus Macrae of North Strome reminded me of hearing him in Assynt. I had the good fortune to have been invited up to take part in a Radio programme by Lesley Riddoch and towards the end of the recording Angus stood up to say how proud he was of the Assynt crofters in their buying of the Estate and he hoped this would be the start of a repopulating of the Highlands. He then went on to describe such an evocative picture of driving home in the dark from Inverness across the northern Highlands and seeing the lights back on in the Glens, keeping him company on the way home. So different from now when you can travel for miles in total darkness. Maybe the new reforms that are proposed may help Angus’s vision to be fulfilled.

I can only end by saying it was a privilege to have been in such company and that includes the whole week, ranging from the community leaders in Contin to the politicos, journalists, activists and the good people in Ullapool. One can only hope that the efforts of Gerry Hassan and Jean Urquhart can be rewarded in the continuing of this great weekend. Today was hard graft, a 10/11 hour stint, but rewarding at the Inn but rest now for a day’s fishing may be on the cards for tomorrow.

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