Wind farm by back door?

A few years ago, at a big meeting of locals in Bernera Community Hall, a large majority voted against community participation in a possible wind farm on the island. A subsequent private proposal to erect turbines at Kirkibost drew a protest petition with 98 signatures and was eventually halted by the Scottish Government over concerns about the view from the Callanish stones.

Now the threat of a windfarm on Bernera is back. The Great Bernera Community Development Trust, currently dominated by wind-turbine enthusiasts, has persuaded a majority of islanders to vote for a ‘community buyout’.

This means that the Trust will probably be running the island soon.

As its own documents acknowledge, few local people can give up many hours of time to serve on this Trust. It may thus remain unrepresentative of majority views on turbines.

In the buyout campaign the voters were sweet-talked with plans about tourism, fisheries development, better paths, etc.

When turbines were mentioned at all, euphemisms such as ‘green energy’, ‘renewables’ and even ‘community windmills’ were used.

The campaign was conducted with the slickness normally associated with wind-farm developers. The long-term intentions of the Trust, revealed in its business plan (available ‘on request’), were not widely publicised.

Ecodyn’s preliminary study into ‘renewables’, commissioned by the Trust but not widely circulated before the vote (only three copies were available at a public meeting), indicated that up to four large turbines could be situated on Bernera within five years.

One could be a 44 metre-high monster (bigger than an A320 Airbus) placed just behind the Community Centre on a ridge affording beautiful views and frequented by walkers. It would tower over the centre of the island and be visible for miles. Planning permission for three other turbines near the site already exists.

And after the first five years? The Trust’s ‘business plan’ contains one crucial sentence. In a section headed ‘longer term financial strategy’ it states: ‘The Trust intends to develop one main income stream in the longer term through the delivery of a renewable energy project.’ One wonders how many people would have voted for the buyout had they read this!

The Comhairle’s planning process has historically offered little protection against wind-turbine encroachment.

The Scottish Government is reluctant to intervene and, as large turbines proliferate on the island, at first gradually and insidiously, it will eventually no longer be able to use the argument that further development will be detrimental to the relatively unspoiled outlook from the Callanish stones.

This could then open the way for private developers to move in on a large scale.

D. E. Michael

Great Bernera,

First past post system

Prior to the last election we were told by both Gordon Brown and David Cameron that a coalition government/hung parliament could only bring disaster to the country and that only a strong majority for either Red or Blue was the way forward. Regardless of your thoughts on the policy of the existing government there is no doubt that the current government functioned in terms of passing policy and I would have thought that as a country we are certainly no worse off than we were in 2010.

Whilst this obviously contradicts the myth that coalition governments don’t work, it also illustrates that a check is provided to the dictatorial style of politics pursued by both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, where they both effectively bypassed parliament and pursued individual, not necessarily party agendas.

Goodness only knows the oppressive measures that David Cameron would have introduced had he not been reigned back by his coalition partners.

As the election beckons we are again bombarded with much hot air and hypocrisy regarding coalitions as both local and national politicians tells us who they will or won’t play with.

The reality of this can be seen in the various coalition administrations throughout Scotland.

The City of Edinburgh is a Labour/SNP Coalition, East Ayrshire Council is an SNP/Conservative Coalition and South Ayrshire Council is a minority Conservative Council in partnership with Labour.

Given our outdated first past the post version of democracy the political parties will have no choice but to work with whatever the electorate gives them. If this then leads to a Labour/SNP coalition it could at least be argued that there may be one socialist in the cabinet.

The first past the post electoral system has for years benefitted the Westminster elite, along with the main two political parties. It is now somewhat ironic that they are the very ones complaining that a very small percentage of Scottish voters could hold the balance of power and unfairly affect policy throughout the rest of the UK.

This just again serves to highlight that our parliamentary system is elitist, outdated and centralised. One can only hope that the new powers to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament will provide a catalyst for reform throughout the rest of the UK.

I was pleased to see that Mark, our Tory representative, unlike other candidates, appears to be now focussing on issues relevant to Westminster.

I do think however that it is disingenuous at best for him to claim that raising the tax threshold was Tory Policy, this was a Liberal Democrat Policy delivered as part of the Coalition Government.

However he is more than welcome to take credit for the Bedroom Tax which was indeed Tory policy and despite Liberal Democratic objections, pushed through Government.

Ruaraidh Ferguson


No benefit

People who boast must expect to attract a degree of scrutiny which they might otherwise avoid. So I doubt if it was terribly wise of Angus Brendan MacNeil MP to draw attention to the frequency and nature of his Parliamentary contributions. Fortunately, access to the House of Commons Library is not required in order to check claims against reality. The excellent web-site www.theyworkforyou.com carries everything that is reported in Hansard and confirms that Mr MacNeil’s name has appeared on 1,657 occasions over the past five years.

However, further scrutiny reveals that several hundred of Mr MacNeil’s “interventions on behalf of his constituents,” as he describes them, involve him saying nothing at all.

These are generally the more sensible ones. The most frequent entry against his name is: “Angus MacNeil rose….”.

His favourite technique is interrupting other people’s speeches. I found one example where the diligent MP for Goole had secured a debate on “mobile phone coverage in East Yorkshire and Lancashire”.

Mr MacNeil chalked up nine interventions including three of “Angus MacNeil rose….”; one “Good on you”; one “Will the Hon Gentleman give way?” and one “The Hon Gentleman is too young for that”. Scarcely a day’s work to be proud of!

In one short debate, he interrupted other speakers 23 times, including seven “Angus MacNeil rose…”.

This may be great fun between tweets for our easily amused MP but it brings absolutely no benefit or enlightenment to his constituents. In contrast, Mr MacNeil hardly ever makes a speech of his own, which involves stringing a few thoughts together.

The ‘theyworkforyou’ web-site goes all the way back to 1935 so it is possible to examine the contributions of previous MPs for the Western Isles – compare, contrast and weep! I noted that Donald Stewart, in his 17 years as an MP, chalked up 1465 “name-checks” – fewer than Mr MacNeil boasts of in five.

I wonder how many of the SNP old guard in the Western Isles, never mind the electorate as a whole, think that we are better served by an MP whose only claim to fame is that he keeps “rising” in order to interrupt people, and very rarely says anything of substance about the many needs of the Western Isles.

Donald MacKinnon


Funeral service

Re your interesting piece on the divergent claims made by parties involved in the funeral dispute at the Free Presbyterian church in Miavaig, surely one of the oddest claims was made by the FP Moderator Allan MacColl, who maintained that Church of Scotland ministers say and do things at funerals that Free Presbyterians find contrary to scriptural principles (Gazette 19.3.15).

This is concerning to all of us I’m sure, for when we ourselves depart this life, and lest any of us should inadvertently find Church of Scotland ministers conducting our funeral services, it is surely incumbent on Rev. MacColl to give us the low down here and now, and to tell us what things these clergy say and do ! We shall then be better placed to make our arrangements, but we shall be in a state of some vexation until his response is forthcoming.

Keith Fernie


PHOTO: Chris Murray sent us this striking image of the MV Isle of Lewis and Stornoway Harbour framed inside the view from Lady Matheson’s Monument in Lews Castle Grounds.