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

Posts tagged ‘MOD’

The Sanctuary, the Place to Breakdown.

At last, my fishing career is back under way. An early start, up around five, and on board by six and off out to the Bay. Not a huge amount to report apart from a breeze from the south-south-east combining with little 6/7 creels fouled ends making the day hard work.



Traffic on the Sound as usual, must have seen he camera as got a blast of their horn on the way past,


as were the very awkward foul ups. But the fishing was a little more productive than it has been of late and the 300 creels produced enough to put the Langoustines comfortably back on the menu till I get back out on Monday.

One of the reasons for the early start was meeting up with Rob and Ian in Shieldaig to check out if there was much to do about the MoD expansion plans. A pity that there was a wedding afoot locally as the only guys to turn up were three from Applecross. Was a bit of an effort to get there a little late but glad I did. One wonders what you can do if the MoD decide they want your livelihood but you have to try. Otherwise complaining in the pub only becomes irritating if that is all one gets around to doing. Information gathering was the order of the day and to say that our way of life is at stake is not an exaggeration. Interesting to be shown some FoI MoD maps that show the extent of their interest in the Sound. The southern line is well to the south of current Range edges and if this is what is planned for the future then fishing will be a thing of the past in Applecross. As it is the “map” that has been circulated recently has caused a lot of consternation with the local ranks with enquiries launched as to how this has been made public. One speculates that it does hold a level of importance, that it was not meant to make it into the public domain. The puzzle amongst the fishermen is why does it show the closure up to the shore, leads to one or two wry comments about practising groundings. The Americans have also been mentioned as a possible further commercializing of the Range. Managed a wee political chat about land reform and deer management before making it back around the North Coast,


picking up a few slabs of herring on the way and back home in time to catch the best of the Scots trying yet again to beat the English at Twickers.

The Inn in the evening and fairly busy it was too but remarkably relaxed. Find there is little point in spinning. You get far more done with a bit of thought rather than rushing about looking busy and not achieving much. Today (Sunday) was a little different in that there has been a staff shortage for a few days now and it catches up a little in small ways, the condiments run low for example. Things that are done when there are enough around to do the extras to make everything run smoother. The great thing about the last couple of shifts has been how pleasant and appreciative everyone has been, possibly the glorious weather has been a factor. Today was wall to wall sunshine on the way to work




and again on the way home where several stops and a walk with Dougal and Eilidh allowed me to wallow in a fine sunset.


These dogs are so good at getting you out to enjoy some fine sights.




Just now it was a little wander under a starry night black night.The busy day was not helped by a pretty brisk headache but only the Boss knew and asked when it was peaking. Made it through and it did not develop. Kept at bay through necessity and helping a couple who had a breakdown above Keppoch. It is easy to help people and after a couple of trips to the car, a few phone calls at the Inn and finding a room at the Hostel, I left them fairly satisfied with the “problem” of having a puncture on the Hill. They were sitting outside watching the sun sinking behind Raasay sipping some white wine and wondering what to have to follow their lunch of scallops. Hire cars with no spare wheels are just daft as repairing tyres that are split does not work and the expense of calling out the local garage surely does not justify not carrying a spare. I am working on the basis that if I breakdown outside Applecross some one we have helped here will pass by and tow me home. If that never happens I will be content with the fact that I have helped some one out and they appreciated it.

A wee footnote from the previous post is I was informed the gulls that I thought were feeding were indeed doing that but were at the outfall of the Russel Fish Farm. Not quite as natural as first thought. So the feeding took a different form. Cannot beat local knowledge.

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.





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.

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