MCofS Literary Competition 2014- 3rd Place

I was told a few weeks back that I had came 3rd in the 2014 MCofS Literary Competition with my short story Via Ferrata. I see that it has now been published online and you can read it HERE. It will possibly appear in a future edition of The Scottish Mountaineer Magazine.


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Kinloss SAR Closure- CONFIRMED

Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed that the SAR centre at Kinloss will be closed and operations moved to near Portsmouth. Full details are in the HERALD or on the SNP website. I had previously written of this in December when these plans were revealed. The practical applications of Better Together has seen SAR privatised, and assets stripped from Scotland to the point there is virtually nothing left. It’s time that the Scottish Government were given the powers over these areas to make sure Scotland has a fully functional Government funded SAR service for those who live, work and visit our remote areas and work in Scottish waters.

RAF Sea King Rescue helicopter

RAF Sea King Rescue helicopter




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The Airdrie Bimbler…

Regular visitors to this site will know of my long standing (if you’ll pardon the pun) knee problems. Recently these have combined with lower back problems, and this combined effort saw me walking in a very odd manner to try and alleviate the pain. Unfortunately this led to a problem in my hip… What with the knee bone connecting to the thigh bone and all, I developed an irritation of the sciatic nerve. My lack of mobility oudoors has led to a lack of activity on this site. As things improve (slowly) there should be more activity on here. At present I’m taking things slowly with VERY short walks and rambles, if I can get out at all. I managed a walk up Arthurs Seat last week, which was encouraging. Having said that as someone who was used to big hill days it shows just how far I am from full fitness. For now it’s physio, light exercise and tablets. Arthurs Seat

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Kinloss Search and Rescue Closure

Sunday Herald, 21st December 2014

Sunday Herald, 21st December 2014

In February 2013 I started an online petition opposing the privatisation of Search and Rescue helicopter services. At the time I was concerned that the movement of this service, which I believe should be free to all who need it and provided by the state, into the private sector would begin a process which would see the erosion of an outstanding service.

Skip forward 18 months and we can see the result. The UK Government has announced it is to move the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre in Kinloss to Hampshire. Another asset stripped from Scotland, the steady chip, chip, chip away at these services should be a cause for concern for everyone who may need to call on them. People living in rural communities, mountaineers and hillwalkers, fisherman, sailors, all of these groups at some point require these assets.

It is a subject which has united almost all of Scotland’s politicians. Today’s Sunday Herald reports that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to UK Prime Minister David Cameron asking him not to close the base at Kinloss. This letter was supported by Ruth Davidson, Patrick Harvie and Willie Rennie (Conservative, Green and Lib Dem). The leader of the Labour Party’s Scottish group, Jim Murphy refused to join them and did not sign the letter. There are some issues which should go above petty party political point scoring and this is one of them. I would urge everyone to write to their MP and MSP, of whatever party, and ask if they are supporting the closure of Kinloss ARCC or whether they against it. If they are against it ask them why, and politely remind them that in 2015 you have a vote to decide whether they remain in a job. After all, They Work For You.

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Airdrie Fracking Petition Update

Last week I started a petition calling for Airdrie and Shotts councillors to actively oppose any fracking application, and to put in place a ban on fracking within 2km of any inhabited dwelling in the same area.

A few days later I learned that there were two motions going before North Lanarkshire Council calling for a moratorium (virtually a ban) on fracking in North Lanarkshire. I joined with many others online and wrote to every NLC councillor asking them to support these motions and asking them to sign my petition. Barely a handful replied.

The vote itself was hijacked and rather than commit to a ban on fracking in North Lanarkshire, the Labour Party united against the Greens, SNP and independent councillors, and instead voted to call on the Scottish Parliament to ban fracking instead. North Lanarkshire had the chance to protect the people in this area and send out a message to other local authorities and the Scottish Government. Instead it played politics and passed the hot potato back up to Holyrood.

You can read into this what you you will. After the vote I was contacted by Labour Councillor Barry McCulloch in a reply to the email I had sent to all councillors. He wrote that

“NLC decided on a moratorium on unconventional gas extraction at its meeting yesterday and called on the Scottish Government to do likewise. I made a contribution to the debate and made my opposition to fracking clear to the meeting.”

This is an amazing email to have sent out, as it is patently untrue. NLC did NOT decide on a moratorium on fracking, yet I have a NLC councillor stating otherwise. As yet he has not replied to my email requesting clarification of this.

I also wrote to our elected representatives in Airdrie, Alex Neil MSP and Pamela Nash MP asking for their support in the petition. Alex Neil of the SNP replied that as Planning Minister he is not allowed to sign any petitions of this nature. As yet I have received no reply from Labour’s Pamela Nash.

Source: Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, 17th December 2014

Source: Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, 17th December 2014

Ms Nash used her column in the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser on 17th December to attack the SNP on fracking, while trying to pull the wool over constituents eyes about her own failure to vote against fracking on 8th December. There are some real big issues at risk here. The local environment is at risk. Health is at risk. Yet those with power to stop it, or even without power but with a responsibility to be seen trying to stop it, do nothing. Fudge, obfuscation, misdirection and in some cases outright lies. I’d love to know just why these tactics are being employed, but for now I’ll just have to be patient and keep pressuring our representatives to do the right thing.

In the meantime, I’ll keep watching the local press for applications for fracking related activities. Boreholes are a precursor to actual fracking. I’m told that unscrupulous companies try to slip their applications in over the festive season when the public are otherwise engaged. My eyes are peeled…

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Fracking in Airdrie- No Way!

FrackIn December 2013 the Entirely unelected House of Lords took the powers over energy back from Scotland as part of the Energy Act 2013. In July 2014 a number of licences were granted for fracking by the UK Government, something that previously had been completely blocked by the Scottish Government. These licences allow for (as I understand it) exploratory drilling to take place to identify suitable sites for the extraction of gas.

The vast majority of these licences are being granted in the Central belt of Scotland and Airdrie is right in the middle of the land which as been identified as the most viable.

This should be of particular concern to those in the villages surrounding Airdrie and Coatbridge. The likes of Plains, Caldercruix, Greengairs, Glenmavis, Salsburgh, Chapelhall amongst others were built on the back of the coal industry and are highly likely to be in areas likely to be targeted.

Fracking is, despite the words of those within the industry, unproven. The Scottish Government has not ruled it out and is watching closely to monitor the effects before making any judgement. The Labour Party abstained on the Infrastructure Bill on 8th December which effectively gave the Conservatives free rein to drive the bill through. The key to preventing fracking in Scotland now has to be ensuring that local authorities do not grant permission for fracking to begin. This is now the only stumbling block to widespread fracking across the country.

In New South Wales in Australia a 2km exlusion zone from any inhabited dwelling  has been agreed. Friends of The Earth Scotland are calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that this is introduced in Scotland. This would go some way to protecting much of the targeted areas not only from development but the effect of being in close proximity to sources of emissions.

I will be in Airdrie tomorrow (13th December) with a petition calling on all of our local representatives to put the health of the people of Airdrie and the local environment first, and to ask them to support the implementation of the 2km rule within the Airdrie and Shotts area. If you can drop by (outside Royal Bank of Scotland) we’d be glad to talk to you and hope that you will sign the petition.

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Loch Awe

When I was young I was a regular visitor to Loch Awe. I often fished here, always at the same spot, at the mouth of the Cladich River on the south side of the loch. A few weeks ago I came up by train to Dalmally, hoping to visit Kilchurn Castle at the head of the loch and afterwards to visit my old fishing spot.

Loch Awe, 1985-ish

Loch Awe, 1985-ish

Sadly recent heavy rain put paid to all my plans. The day itself was fantastic, bright and clear, and indeed had I been on the hills I’d have been delighted with the weather for the time of year. However the previous few days had seen horrendous rain, so much so that the River Orchy was now flowing through the trees and the loch had risen to such an extent that the route to the castle was under 3 feet or more of water.

The golf course is under there. I'd recommend a 5 iron and snorkel...

The golf course is under there. I’d recommend a 5 iron and snorkel…

The nearby golf course was no more than a series of isolated islands marked with limp, wet flags. Likewise the spot where I use to fish was now inhabited by fish. A week later the water still had not receded, and it may be a while before I can walk out to the castle again. I had to content myself with a cycle along the loch where I discovered a track, an old military road that looked suitable for the bike, but soon became very boggy. I’ll be back in better, drier weather with the mountain bike. When will it have dried out though?

Loch Awe and Ben Cruachan, October 2014

Loch Awe and Ben Cruachan, October 2014

Kilchurn Castle with Beinn Eunaich in the background

Kilchurn Castle with Beinn Eunaich in the background

Loch Awe 281014 (5)


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