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31 July 2014
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Arnish Lighthouse

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There are two subjects that I have found to get the keyboards rattling: Sundays and Windmills. Just distilling the general drift of reactions on Windmills.

I have found generally that nobody is really in favour of having hundreds of wind turbines scattered across the Lewis moors. This position reflects feelings not just in the island but also beyond. The groundswell of public opinion in Northern Scotland as a whole appears to have moved local councils as well as Holyrood [Scottish Executive] policy away from large scale on-shore projects.

I am interested to hear comments like these, which keep coming back:

What do the islands contribute?
Why should the taxpayer bail them out?

In days gone by, the Outer Hebrides were great contributors of cannon fodder. Look at the Roll of Honour in Stornoway Library, look round the island's war memorials. More than a thousand laid down their lives in the First World War alone, for King and country.

There used to be a huge fishing fleet in Stornoway and other island ports. Not any more. The days of the Stornoway herring reaching plates in St Petersburg by request are long, long gone. There is hardly any herring left to fish for. Some would argue that foreign fleets have taken over, and are still trawling the seas empty. Very contentious statement, I know.

There used to be a Harris Tweed industry in the islands, which fell victim to shortsightedness and greed. The large scale weaving at the crofts has ceased, and the clickety-click of the Hattersley loom in West Side villages has faded into memory. Only the Blackhouse Museum at Gearrannan has one. The operator has few kind words about those that caused the demise of the industry.

So what have we got these days? Fish farming. Used to be good as well, but the closure of the processing plant at Scalpay is a bad omen for the industry. It could be argued that the Norwegian salmon producers are moving to take over the industry and taking it away from the islands. If only to remove an expensive link in their transport chain.

So, the local council thought it had found a crock of gold at the end of the rainbow, at the base of a windturbine. The Pairc Trust had a similar visions, of millions being generated by windpower for their disadvantaged area. I far from begrudge South Lochs its progress, I have stayed in the area for several months and have seen the state it is in. One of the comments regarding the Pairc buy-out spoke volumes. Nonetheless, those on Lewis whose opinion has been sought resoundingly said no to having the island turned into a windfarm, thankyou.

The history of the Western Isles is punctuated by emigration. One of my favourite Gaelic songs is Oran do Chaluim Sgaire. It is the song of a man who leaves the island in 1851, never to return. I may be wrong, but believe the loch at near the Bernera road-end carries his name. Many of the places that were once populated are now lying derelict. With a bit more commitment from those in power, this would not have been necessary.

In conclusion, the islands have got plenty to offer for the rest of the country. This is a disadvantaged area, if only because it's 40 miles from the mainland, and there will always be that stretch of sea to cross. The weather here can be pretty wild (as it is at time of writing, Saturday morning) as well. But with a healthy dose of good will and support, not just sacks of money, this could a prosperous area with a good future.

Erm, anybody in Holyrood reading this?
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 16:33


Actually I totally approve of windmills and having visited Harris and Lewis many times it woud improve the hinterland enormously. Is it peat or people? Having windmills would provide a secure economic base for the islands and should be encouraged. Tourists are not there for the boggy centre- they are there for coastal fringes and the history. Windmills in the centre would be great. COme on the windmills.

Jack from England

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