WINTER PEAT STACK, BREASCLETE, LEWIS
The plumber who failed to turn up has been sacked. Having failed to arrive for four consecutive weeks, he contacted the builder yesterday to say he still wanted to do the job, but the price was now £1000 extra and he wanted paying up front. The sort of tradesman who gives cowboy workmen a bad name. He was told to sling his hook and the builder is now fishing around to find enough to do on the house until we find a new plumber.
This has all sent me into a depressive tail spin, but perhaps next week will be better. I've contacted two other plumbers, who may be interested, but they all have months of work and there is no reason why they should delay someone else's job to do mine.
Lots happening on the island just now. The application to build a windfarm of 181 four hundred foot turbines, covering a vast area of Lewis, was approved by the Western Isles Council some time ago and then sent to the Scottish Executive for a final decision. It seemed very unlikely that the Executive would refuse the application, because of the number of jobs it would provide during and after the construction phase and its contribution to achieving national renewable energy targets. All the more of a surprise then, to see it reported in the newspapers this week that the Executive has indicated that it is 'minded to refuse the application on environmental grounds'. A final decision has not yet been made though and the company behind the project, Lewis Wind Power, have been given 21 days to show why the windfarm application should not be rejected. This development would have a profoundly negative effect on the landscape and on the flora and fauna of the huge area of moorland on which it is planned to build the windfarm. It is highly likely that tourism, increasingly important year by year, will be badly affected if the construction of the windfarm goes ahead.
The vice chair of the Western Isles Council, who approved the windfarm initially, has now stated :
' Rejection of the windfarm will be a bitter blow for the WesternIsles. An opportunity to help us revitalise our economy has been lost. However, at least we now know the cost of environmental designations to the Western Isles - 400 construction jobs, 70 jobs at Arnish ( Fabrication yard near Stornoway likely to build some/most/all of the turbine towers)' 70 jobs associated directly with the windfarm, £6 million pounds per annum in community benefit, £4 million in rental payments'
Many people against the windfarm have disputed these figures and assert that supporters of the project consistently fail to look at other ways in which the economy of these islands can be developed. Whilst some of the jobs created will go to local workers, many of them will be given to individuals with specialist skills from all around the world, who will not be spending much of their income in the local economy.
Lobbying for and against this hugely environmentally invasive project has been intense during the last year or two and one survey result published suggests that approximately 50% of the local population are for the windfarm,with a similar percentage bitterly against it. Another survey claims that 90% of the population in the area affected by the windfarm are opposed to it.
There is support for smaller scale renewable energy schemes, including windpower, that would generate energy to be used directly by individuals and communities here in the Outer Hebrides. The current windfarm plan will export all of the energy produced to the mainland of Scotland and England and none will be used here.
Another thorny issue troubling Lewis is the Sunday ferry service, or lack of it. Petitions have been sent to the shipping company, Caledonian Macbrayne, (popularly known as Cal- Mac), requesting that a regular service be provided and a head of steam in favour of a Sunday ferry seems to be building up. It seems inevitable in the not too distant future that ferries will go to the mainland on Sundays from Lewis, but at present, the Lords Day Observance Society are fighting a vigorous campaign to prevent this happening.
Cal Mac are in a difficult position because they are going to upset either the pro ferry lobby or the LDOS, whatever they decide. The company announced last year that a decision on Sunday sailings would be made by last November, but that date was then moved to the end of January of this year and has now been deferred again to March. Cal Mac have stated that the delay is because -- ' We are going to take a well informed and balanced decision on the evidence and the economic arguments in front of us.'
Finally, a development on the illegal drugs front. These Islands have not previously had a major problem with drugs, although usage of cocaine, ecstasy, cannabis and amphetamines has been increasing year on year. Last week, following what the police have described as an 'intelligence led operation', a man from Lewis was arrested in a car after leaving the Skye - Harris ferry and found to be in possession of cocaine with an estimated street value of at least £70,000.
Not surprisingly, he is now in custody whilst the police make further enquiries. If eventually found guilty, his immediate future appears predictable and secure.
This seizure of cocaine is the largest drugs haul ever in the Western Isles to date, but it is unlikely that this arrest will deter others from trying to make their fortune in this manner.