Gazette Readers Letters 13.11.14

FIND A WAY FORWARD

Like almost everyone in North Uist, I was shocked and disappointed at the recent decision of the Scottish Government to refuse planning permission for North Uist Development Company’s wind turbine plans due to an MOD objection.

This project would have raised up to £450,000 a year for much-needed community projects throughout North Uist and Berneray. It seems to be an opportunity lost for our community. On the one hand we suffer from depopulation, demographic imbalance, fuel poverty and lack of opportunities and employment for our young people in particular. On the other hand we have this enormous wind resource just waiting to be tapped into – and we know from other communities’ experiences that exploitation of renewables can make an enormous contribution to local prosperity and economic development.

However the MOD has been reluctant to engage with the community on this issue and lift its blanket ban on wind turbines within most of North Uist.

We are therefore left as virtually the only island community which is unable to profit from its renewable energy resources.

I was interested to read the recent press comments from Donald John MacSween, chair of the Point & Sandwick Development Trust in Lewis, about spreading the £1m annual benefits of the Beinn Ghrideag wind farm throughout the islands.

This is great, but does it mean that North Uist folk need to go up Lewis with a begging bowl? Maybe it should mean that those communities which are not able to develop their own wind resources because of MOD objections are able to claim some sort of compensation.

Since the objection to the North Uist turbine was concerned solely with the Range radar, rather than the Air Defence Radar at Cleatrabhal, I hope that the MOD will now sit down with NUDC, the Comhairle and other stakeholders to try and find a way forward.

If we are going to tackle some of the problems which are affecting our community currently, renewable energy development has got to be part of the way forward.

Ada H Campbell

Isle of North Uist

STORNOWAY PORT AUTHORITY

I must take issue with the Stornoway Gazette [6/11/2014] when it says of Stornoway Port Authority that “Under the Government’s Guidelines the SPA should be transparent in its plans and practices, although it is run as a private business”.

The Stornoway Port Authority is emphatically NOT and never has been a private business either legally or constitutionally.

Throughout its 149 years of operation the Stornoway Pier & Harbour Commission and Stornoway Port Authority’s raison d’etre has been to manage, regulate, maintain and improve the Harbour for the benefit of its Stakeholders.

Stornoway Port Authority [SPA] is one of around 100 “Trust” Ports in the British Isles. They can range in size from small ports like Stornoway, Inverness and Ullapool etc to major ports like Dover and Aberdeen.

Trust ports are independent statutory bodies, governed by their own local legislation and, run by independent boards, appointed in an open process involving its stakeholders, who manage the assets of the trust for the benefit of stakeholders.

There are some parallels to private trusts, where a fund, or property, is owned and managed by one party for the benefit of another.

In that context the stakeholders of the trust, in whose interests the trustees work, are clearly and definitively identified.

Trust ports operate in a commercial environment with no direct public funding (but do access very significant capital grants for projects like lifeline ferry piers, slipway improvements, pontoons for fishermen and leisure users etc) and compete in the market with private and local authority ports as well as other trust ports.

There are no shareholders or owners and profits are reinvested in the port to the benefit of the stakeholders.

So, who are the Stakeholders? The stakeholders of a trust port are varied and numerous and some are often intricately bound up in the port’s operation, perhaps as users or employees of the port.

In the trust port context the stakeholders do not have a direct financial investment in the port in the way that shareholders do in a private company. It is essential to view any benefits in the round and not purely as monetary gains.

The Government publication Modernising Trust Ports – A Guide to Good Governance described a trust port as ‘a valuable asset presently safeguarded by the existing board, whose duty it is to hand it on in the same or better condition to succeeding generations”.

This remains the ultimate responsibility of the board, and future generations remain the ultimate stakeholder.

So, who are the Stakeholders (its “owners” in effect) in Stornoway Port Authority?

Port Users- Fishermen, Ferry Operators, Ship Owners, RNLI, Leisure Craft owners etc

The local community- Every one in Lewis and arguably Harris.

Local and regional economies and authorities

Port employees including Trade Unions

Related interest groups

Local and regional businesses.

Perhaps this information will be useful for those who are genuinely interested in Stornoway Harbour and its wellbeing.

John J Maclennan

Stornoway

GREEN ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS

It was just another segment in the news page portal which read ‘Since the National Grid forecasts a drop in the spare capacity of electricity generation from 7 per cent to 4 per cent, we must prepare for possible blackouts this winter around the country’.

Difficult information for most to accept given the onset of winter, yet not a shred of information as to why there should be a reduction in spare capacity in the National Grid, should there have been “allowed” a rational and public debate detached from political and big business vested interests, we would have arrived at the conclusion that electricity and green energy production is used as a tool by big business and political vested interests.

What in the world can possibly explain the facts that we as an island community are straining at the bit to realise our part in the development of green energy potential contribution to the country’s grid system when we learn of yet another large potential wind farm developer has decided to withdraw their input and investment from the island because of the blinding indifference by SSE.

And unless there was a discussion in some remote boardroom to replace the copper with gold in the mythical interconnector cable, how in the wide world do SSE come up with a figure of almost a billion pounds for a 45 mile subsea cable - little wonder potential investors in green energy are moving on.

However, there remains a very serious debate to be had among the good, honest and clever people on the island, no more advice please - just action.

If you are comfortable with the denial of a generation to take advantage of gainful employment through green energy initiatives, turn off and look away, otherwise workout a citizens group action against this injustice.

SSE can turn the lights off whenever they decide and put up the price of electricity, but they would do well to remember the Poll Tax, and we the public will only take so much of political or big business manipulation.

Having paid into the National Grid over the last 80 years we should have every right to be included in a detailed account of how a figure approaching a billion was arrived at for the interconnector subsea grid cable, and why do SSE appear to be set against large green energy developments on these islands?

Ian Martin

Stornoway

EDITORIAL - AUTHORITY SHOULD BE ‘TRANSPARENT’

Another week and another resignation is announced by the Stornoway Port Authority (SPA) in a brief to- the-point statement, which consisted of no more than 70 words.

It seems the Port Authority have decided that a wall of silence is the best way to handle any criticism, questions and concerns from whatever source whether that is from stakeholders, the media, or unions, I wonder if the politicians - Highlands and Islands Labour MSPs Rhoda Grant and David Stewart, who are planning to meet with stakeholders will have any more success?

Information sourced by the Gazette from the Government’s guidelines on trust ports last week described that the SPA should be ‘transparent in its plans and practices’.

With more than a few questions currently on the table the board needs to be dealing with these in a timely manner in order to make sure it complies with these guidelines.

As port operatives are nearing the end of their contracts in November another problem may also be looming in regards to ongoing work at the harbour, let’s hope the SPA can get into gear and start clearing up its backlog of issues before the situation gets any worse.