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

Posts tagged ‘SCFF’

“Away tae f**k ye”, Walls Everywhere

After a busier than expected shift at the Inn but still quiet, bit of banter about fillet steak, whether one was enough, an early night for a quick pack and hitting the road for Edinburgh on Thursday morning. This time for another fishing meeting. Quick nip up to the accountants with more papers before catching the train south. Sleep a lot on trains so short journey and arrived in plenty of time for meal and a few red wines. I always compare food to back home and when away realise fully how fortunate we are in Applecross. What probably used to be half decent food is now shown up to be really quite poor. The wine flowed just a little too freely and the morning part of the meeting had a bit of a recovery mode under way. I seem to be misjudging this alcohol lark, having read recently that the dry time between New Year and Burn’s Night is called the Scottish Ramadan.  Head of Marine Scotland was there for part of the morning.


Couple of local issues, seems prosecuting trawlers who tow away gear is going to remain almost impossible but there may be a closure of the Inner Sound to most mobile boats and set up a Community fishery. So some good maybe. Very frustrating to listen to civil servants saying they will help and take the fishery forward but when it comes to micro managing the gear conflict they wring hands. There was a prima facie case inside the Crowlins a couple of years ago and the punishment could be seen as a deterrent but Marine Compliance stated there was not enough evidence and that was without interviewing anyone involved in the incident. So maybe not a lot of movement there although there is a case slowly edging to court in the near future on the east coast. Although the proposed closure on the Inner Sound is not a complete closure as the boys from the south have taken a step back and included local mobile boats it is a step in the right direction and if done with permits and monitoring the closed area for improved stocks or otherwise. You keep going to these meetings and wonder sometimes what the point is but when you hear about the perilous state of the European fisheries you do not want to go down that road. Also there is a delegation invited over from Norway this Spring to the Inshore Conference at Inverness. Invited by Marine Scotland and will be good to hear what they have to say, having a four mile no mobile limit around their shores. Cracking cod and saith industry as a result.

So then it was onto Glasgow by train. A city that I am learning to like a lot with all its contrariness. The taxi driver was extremely suspicious of the address I gave him as it was in Townhead. Did not mean anything to me but he reckoned it was a rough run down council estate. Turned out fine and think it seemed more students than anything. Our first AirBandB did not get off to a good start mainly due to lack of mobile phones in the Macleod family. Spent a couple of hours waiting for Mohammed to turn up but it turns out he had already instructed us what to do by email that morning. Found out soon enough and Tom Russell was next on the list. Brilliant concert full of banter, humour and great music. Immense lyrics and finished with his now so prescient song, “Whose going to build your walls?”, written ten years ago. Think it was becoming a bit of a burden to him but it involves a great sing along. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9bgmi0I5hY. Next morning it was down town and Glasgow shows her many sides. Opposite on the door step is an empty bottle of Buckfast.


As we head down past the tower blocks on a beautiful morning we hear the band,


at first we thought Orange but it was  of the Irish persuasion.


As we were passing the Tower block we heard a scream of “Away tae f%*k ye”.


We just cracked up although living with that may not be quite so amusing.


The marchers certainly looked serious enough. In fact I did feel a little intimidated taking a few photos but got away with pretending to be a tourist. Into town, passing a beautiful mural,


lunch and back to the BandB for a quiet afternoon before the evening’s entertainment.

The Storm,Old News.

Well, it was forecast and it came with gusto around 6pm. It is old news as the expected power cut kicked in around 7.30pm and no interweb. There would have been all round surprise if there had not been a cut. Went over the Hill with the intention of getting the Varuna ready for a launch sometime this year but decided on the other side as my day was going to involve painting the keel it was not really worth the bother of carrying on. All looked relatively peaceful from the bottom hairpin, always like the etchings of the light snow cover,




I stopped to watch the waterfalls go back up the Hill and then wandered over to have a closer look.


This weather is awesome and the shrieking noise of the wind tearing up the gullies exhilarating. Did not linger as although windy the full force of the storm was yet to hit, but long enough to lose a tourie, an SCFF one no less. Nipped round to the other side of the Bay


and then home. Took the dogs out for a short wander when I saw the Auk coming in, the fact they were out was quite something. Did not get the camera on them before they headed into the moorings.


A trip down to Toscaig and the wind growing all the time,


before heading up to the Bay and watched from the Inn.


The Bay, between 5 and 6 turned into a cauldron of white water.


The squalls were ripping in


and lifting the sea so you could hardly see the dark greens and blues.


All was seething white.



Awesome to watch and easy to be thankful you were not on it. I doubt the Varuna would be able to hold her own if she was under full throttle. The fence if not already gone would never have with stood this onslaught.


Wonderful nature.

Today, well that’s for tomorrow…………

The Common Weal and Amazing Music.

Left about fifteen minutes late due to the Filling Station again.Rebooted it three times to no avail and the trip to Inverness was a little quicker than I would have preferred. Weather on the Hill not bad but you would know it was winter.




Stop off into Fraser Auctions to pick up a rams head poker and made it to the AGM just after its start, missing very little.

As I am writing this a day later in Glasgow it has been great to look back on such a varied and really positive day. A couple of down sides in Inverness was hearing about the squid fishery on the East coast catching lobsters, fetching a poor market price as they are either dead or dying. Also many of them are prime females carrying berries, you do despair. The other downer was hearing about a Gairloch trawler towing of Barleyport with an Irish skipper and Romanian crew. Coastguard called up for tow as they had their own net and some one’s creels in his prop. He should not have been there as it was closed and of course he is destroying some one’s livelihood while he is at it. We suspect no prosecution and that allows these bullies to carry on. Another story of an email threat from a scalloper seemingly ignored. The threat was I am coming to tow and shift your gear or I will shift them for you. That is a breach of the peace but again nothing done. And it is always the same story, we are not all bad but there is always a rotten apple….easy solution is to bring back the three-mile limit, it used to work and can again. The meeting was extremely positive despite these idiots. There has been a huge amount of work done to get the Federation to where it is now. Financially healthy and now a voice that government listens to, and hopefully doing something about our problems. We did not have one before, it remains to be seen if they carry out any of our wishes. Managed to get a bit in about Applecross Community Company and our problems regarding Di minimus with the broadband. It was Richard Lochhead, himself , who brought the subject of broadband up. I was not just spraying the minister with problems. Did manage to bring up local government or lack of it as well and suggested for some people Independence would just be moving power from London to Edinburgh. Good to hear a politician who is in power try to explain his policies and aspirations. Got a bit of a buzz to hear him bring up the Common Weal. Bit of hilarity when one of the representatives wanted more fishermen and their voice being heard at the Inshore Fishing Conference being held in Perth. He wanted fewer people with Fairisles and beards, at which point most of the room looked across and saw a beard and a lopi, it was a close run thing. The guys mentioned something not complimentary about trawling and got several different kinds of laugh.

AGM photo 3

We had a good wee session on berries as well and again the three-mile limit. Great to hear a buyer’s view on berried langoustine and lobster. Very few buyers talk the way James Cook does. Alistair was telling us about his own experiments on returning prawns to the seabed and catching them again, proving survival rates are high and it is worth returning the berries. James  sounded like he wanted to be buying sustainably caught produce in the years to come and was not into a short-term cash in. Good to know he is treasurer of the Federation. Fishermen from all round the coast of Scotland were there today and although we we did not agree on every thing we did not fall out over anything and were a lot stronger by the end of the meeting. It was accepted that there were different problems in different areas where the solutions are going to be locally worked out solutions.

So then it was just a case of meeting up with Alison and trucking off down the A9 in the wind and rain, getting to the hotel with half an hour to spare, into the taxi and to the Oran Mor. Absolutely stunning music followed. Shelley Morris opened with lots of loving stories about her own life as an Aborigine in the Northern Territorries. Sweet lady with a strong and emotional voice. Seems she was up for Aussie of the year but came to Glasgow instead. She was a perfect lead in to Raghu Dixit. What a night, warm, loving, personal and self-effacing and his music stunning. With both Shelley and Raghu there was a common double theme, the first part was where is the sun and the second which gave you a little pride in where you are from. They told us several times about the warmth of their welcome and reception, both touching their chests in appreciation. Good to feel one comes from a part of the world where friendship and acceptance is important. Headed back, pizza, and kip. One thing is not missed back home  is fast food outlets……mind you the Inn is pretty fast. Back home now but glad I wrote some of these posts on the Ipad as I have already forgotten so much of a packed exhilarating weekend.

Inspiration in the Rain.

Driving west of Achnasheen in the lashing rain at 10.30 last night on my way home from Ullapool the old head was brimming full of conflicting thoughts having just come from Ullapool via Inverness. Often think of Angus Macrae of North Strome saying very eloquently about how he wanted to see lights in the dark glens keeping him company for the way home. Fourteen hours earlier the day started as usual with Dougal and Co heading out for their first jaunt of the day and a quick breakie. Unbeknown to them it was going to be a longish day for them as Alison was away to Arisaig to a little gathering of LDO guys who are going to talk about what sounds like boring things such as di minimis rules on grant funding. These items sound boring but are going to be critical in the ongoing work within our communities. For me and the Dougal crew it was off to Inverness and an IFG meeting at Great Glen House. Set off in good time but came across a wee problem in that the van coming down had a bit of a brake problem, alright for me but not for the van as, although missing me, ended up securely in the ditch.


To cut an everyday saga short half an hour later they were pulled out and everyone’s day continued. Not a cross word was said and all were just concerned with sorting out the accident. Slightly hairy moment when the van shot out across the road and up the opposite bank. Only in the ditch for half an hour, good Applecross help.


Ended up being twenty minutes late for the meeting but it was fairly interesting despite itself. There is still a feeling that we are not being listened to very well….the opening up of the west coast grounds to squid trawling and this strange hardship fund that is only designed to compensate poor trawler men for not catching enough prawns this year are two very bad examples of badly thought through policy from above. As often happens the chat over the lunch sandwiches elicit the most interest for me. Brief chat with Richard but longer one with Nick and Beth about data collection and luckily it turned out that Beth’s phd was done on nephrops in Torridon and we had a good chat about the survival of returned berried langoustine. If I was told by the scientists that it was a pointless exercise I would be so disappointed but would have to change my practise. Fortunately for me there is no known science that tells me by returning the berried female is detrimental to the returned one or the fishery as a whole.

After a wander about the buildings with Dougal,


a look across to the south of the growing town,


a trip to the Dog shop and Wholefoods, it was back on the road to The Strathpeffer Pavilion.  On the way into Strathpeffer I had to stop as a field, with no apparent reason to me, had hundreds, possibly thousands of birds landing and taking off on the land.




Important purchase of two tickets for the Treacherous Orchestra gig on the 25th of April. Bit strange as I do not what I am going to do this afternoon, dogs check out the Pavilion http//strathpefferpavilion.org/ grounds, a chat and catch up with Andrea, a lovely bowl of  potato and leek soup and up to Ullapool. Mid afternoon in the Highlands means the lights are on early.


Stopped in at Leckmelm but no lights on. Plenty of time for a fish and chips sitting on a bench across from the pier on a windy and cool november evening in Ullapool. This is living the real sensations of life up here.


The mutts got plenty of exercise and had a good night-time tour of the wee town, little surprised how many houses had no lights on. Lots of reasons, I am sure, but hope second houses was not one of them.

So to the Ceilidh Place and Lesley Riddoch. www.lesleyriddoch.com/blossom-book-tour.html Huge amount of informative chat and ideas about the Scottish nation, how we seem to view ourselves, how for some reason we listen to people who tell us we cannot do it ourselves. Many comparisons looking across to the Scandinavian countries and looking at energy or banking whether it be Norway or Germany. 41 energy companies in Germany and in Sweden the price of energy went down due to the 2008 crash, obviously because there was lots of spare capacity about, but in our energy rich country what happens….the opposite. We do have a lot to learn from other people and countries and have to cast off the “it won’t work here attitude”. Interesting statistic from Norway when they passed a law giving landowning Norwegian men a vote in 1814, 45% qualified. In 1832 the same happened in Britain and 5% qualified. We have suffered inequality for centuries. I do not have the mindset of wanting more so do not understand it but those who have vast lands and wealth their whole existence seems to be occupied in either growing or at least keeping it. A little of this came out at the IFG meeting when one of the organisation representatives became quite shirty when it was suggested that a more equal share of a quota was suggested. It was the “hard work” ethic that was introduced and the example of some one wanting a croft you do not go to the big farmer and take some of his farm for the crofter. Looking at it another way what he was really arguing for is the farmer to have more than his needs while the potential crofter is to have nothing. How we address this growing problem in our society is going to be crucial, but we either accept the present situation or look at way to redress the imbalance. These imbalances were created with the full backing of changes in the law in the past by those who directly benefited, maybe now it is to be redressed. An interesting example Lesley put forward was the impoverishment of the quality of the land over centuries of overgrazing and told us about a small project carried out by Ron Greer and Derek Pretswell www.andywightman.com/?p=3291. But more importantly was the project that involved planting of 100,00 hectares that would now be a community asset and Dunkeld, Birnam and surrounding area would be carbon neutral. Failed because they did not have the right “qualifications” for the project. Their Loch Garry project counted for nothing despite them taking land that was sour and turning it into a rich soil structure now supporting lots of wild life habitat. Planting lupins was one of the keys in returning nitrogen back to the depleted soil. Met a teacher who is involved with the Ullapool St Ayles skiff and a great chat about the community aspects of this. It will happen here.

Struggled to leave as I knew, as usual, there would be good craic after and would have to use one’s brain in keeping up a banter with these guys. So after many offers of Highland hospitality from Jean, the offer of a room to a flask of coffee for the journey home, had to be turned down and I made my escape, but not before meeting Noel outside and having a chat about fishing, SCFF www.scottishcreelfishermansfederation.co.uk/ and MPAs before turning down yet more offers of a place to crash.

So there I was driving through the rain with everything in overdrive, not the van as I followed a police car for twenty odd miles at a respectable distance and speed. Inspired, but knowing the huge problems of community work, realising that no matter what you do you will always be criticised, but aware that you are fortunate to know  some amazingly kind and considerate people. This with the Finlay Macdonald Band on the Ipod made for a “short” journey home.

And that is how I finished my day with a brief political/land /nation discussion, the good fortune we have to live in such a place amongst wonderful people. So important never to lose sight of this amongst all the hassles and carp of daily life.

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