Aladdin Insulated Mug

Twenty years ago you couldn’t move for Aladdin insulated mugs. They were ubiquitous. If you went into a petrol station or outdoor store they were on sale. Made of lightweight plastic and foam…

Source: Aladdin Insulated Mug

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Letter to Planning Minister Kevin Stewart/ Protect the People of Caldercruix

Kevin Stewart MSP

Dear Mr Stewart,

Recently a planning application (15/00428/MIN) which had been rejected by North Lanarkshire Council due to the overwhelming objections from the local community and from politicians of all parties, was appealed by the company submitting the application. Despite the case having been clearly made by objectors that this development had serious health risks to the local community, that the increase in heavy traffic would have a detrimental effect to the environment, and would pose a risk to cyclists in particular, and that there was the possibility of a ground structural fault being disturbed which would put the public using the Lilly Loch in mortal danger, the Scottish Government Reporter has seen fit to override all these people and to grant permission to the company to begin operations.
I say begin operations with good reason, as it is my understanding that the company presented the case that it wished to continue operations at the quarry, even though operations ceased there in 2012, 4 years ago! If this is the case it is a blatant misrepresentation of the facts, and I would request that you use the powers available to call in this application and to rule in favour of the local community who have solidly rejected this project.
If I understand correctly, no other village in Scotland is sited in such close proximity to a working quarry of this type. There are no reasonable grounds for this to be allowed to go ahead and the people locally are strongly of the opinion that their SNP representatives and the Scottish Government have let them down badly on this. Your government would not permit fracking to take place so close to a community where people live and work, where new homes are being built. Are the children expected to grow up in the shadow of a quarry which will pour dust into their lungs on a daily basis, from morning until night? The health and welfare of the people of Caldercruix must take priority over the greed of big business, and I am calling on you to do the right thing, call in this application and consign it to the bin.

Yours faithfully,

James Cassidy

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The North Lanarkshire Walking Festival: Salsburgh to Hillend Walk

Walking from the Blackhill Transmitter to Mid Bracco

Walking from the Blackhill Transmitter to Mid Bracco

The first ever North Lanarkshire Walking Festival was held this weekend (there are still walks to take place tomorrow) and I was invited to lead one of the walks. I chose a walk over the high ground from Salsburgh via Blackhill Transmitter to Hillend Reservoir.  We took in three lochs along the way and and also the remains of a farm dating back to the early 1700’s.

As well as being joined on the walk by one of the NLC Access team, Hayley Andrew (not forgetting her colleague Mark Palmer, without whom there would have been no transport) I was delighted to host a number of walkers from across Central Scotland, none of whom had walked this stretch of the country before.

While the weather was a bit of a let down in that the lack of visibility meant I couldn’t show off the amazing views from Blackhill, it certainly wasn’t as bad as it could have been and it didn’t seem to detract any from everyone’s enjoyment of the walk.

If those attending this years events help spread the word about just how enjoyable they found it then I’m sure next years event will be twice as successful!

*For those who joined me on the walk and who are visiting looking for the directory of Rights of Way, hover your mouse over the AIRDRIE WALKS tab above, then move to RIGHTS OF WAY, then select the relevant Right of Way.

Map of the route taken

Map of the route taken

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Hillend Quarry: Scottish Government Overrule Local Community

wp-1474823992748.jpgI received a letter from the NLC planning department the other week confirming that the decision to block the application to reopen Hillend quarry had been overturned by the Scottish Government reporter, and that no challenges to this process would be considered, other than on legal points.

Last Thursday night (22nd September) a public meeting was held in Caldercruix Community Centre, hosted by the community council and chaired by Billy Main, to discuss if there was a way forward with any type of challenge.

Alex Neil MSP explained how the planning process worked which was most helpful. Neil Gray MP then confirmed that he had received a letter from North Lanarkshire Council who confirmed that they were exploring legal grounds for an appeal. Councillor Alan Beveridge asked Mr Neil if he had contacted anyone at Scottish Government level on this issue, specifically the planning minister, and he stated that he had not.

Bizarrely a proposal was then made that the assembled group should send a message to North Lanarkshire Council requesting them to explore grounds for a legal appeal, and this was agreed upon, though it seems to have escaped everyone’s notice that Neil Gray had already confirmed they were doing just that anyway.

Residents had previously campaigned outside the headquarters of North Lanarkshire Council before the council voted against the development, and the idea of another protest was raised. Even though North Lanarkshire Council SUPPORT the residents and are trying to find legal cause for an appeal, the meeting was steered to holding it’s protest outside NLC headquarters! If I understand this correctly the only person who can now call this in and override the decision is the Planning Minister, Kevin Stewart.  Considering that this has now moved to a position where only ministerial intervention can change anything I pointed out that the right and proper place to hold any protest was outside Holyrood. It’s also easier to get to from Caldercruix!

Billy Main and the community council are doing their bit and while I am not sure that this will have a successful outcome, I think they will give it their all to take this as far as it can go. The arguments have been made, and made well. It’s now up to Kevin Stewart MSP to take these arguments on board and do the right thing.

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The North Lanarkshire Walking Festival 2016

wp-1473730052070.jpgThe first ever North Lanarkshire Walking Festival will take place from Friday 23rd September to Monday 26th September 2016.  There are a great variety of walks taking place to suit a variety of fitness ranges and interests; short low level walks, historical walks along the Antonine Wall, nature walks and more.

Towards the trig point

I’ve been asked to lead a walk, you can join me on Saturday 24th September for my “Three Lochs Ramble” from Salsburgh to Hillend Reservoir. Taking in Roughrigg Reservoir, the Lilly Loch and finally Hillend Reservoir, this is a challenging walk over rough ground using old railway lines, core paths and rights of way to explore one of my favourite areas for walking locally. Transport is provided from Airdrie to the start and from the finish, so booking is essential.

All the details can be found online at the NLC Website where you will find links to the programme and to a pdf copy of the leaflet above, which you can pick up a copy of in many local authority buildings such as Airdrie Leisure Centre or Airdrie Library.

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The Shetland Tidal Array: Time To Halt Land Based Turbines

Letter to The National, 31/08/16wp-1472732308690.jpg

The connecting of the Shetland Tidal Array to the grid is one of the most momentous events in recent Scottish history and rightly took pride of place on the front page of The National on Tuesday. Having seen some of the companies who were exploring this field sink financially (and those failures were celebrated by many a unionist) this should be welcomed as it puts Scotland at the vanguard of this technology. For too long companies have been happy to throw their money into cheap, easy and unreliable land based wind turbines; the excuse always being that wave power is still in development and is not yet viable. That day is now here; it is fully developed and it works, so now is the time to put an immediate moratorium on land based turbines. Only a few weeks ago the Court of Session overturned a previous decision which will now see 67 turbines installed in the Monadhliath at Stronelairg, a shocking decision which calls into question the Scottish Government’s attitude to protecting our wild land. To allow the irreversible industrialisation of our mountains to continue for private profit when we have been handed a 24 hour, 365 day a year reliable power source which will operate “as long as there is a moon orbiting the earth” would be an unpardonable folly. If there is a cheaper and easier return for investors then they will follow the money and wave power will languish in second place, despite it being the superior technology, and it will take government intervention to make them move away from wind and into tidal. The Scottish Government should for once actively encourage the energy companies to move their activities offshore, rather than their profits, which would be a welcome change.

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Lesley Riddoch Access Article in The National

Here’s an interesting article on land reform and access by National columnist Lesley Riddoch, and my letter in response.

Article LIVE or SAVED

Dear Sir,

Lesley Riddoch makes some very good points about Scotland’s lagging in the fitness stakes despite Team GB’s medal haul. Of particular note was when she observed that Norway has 43 national parks to Scotland’s pitiful 2, but at present I’m not convinced that is entirely a bad thing. In my view our national parks should be part of a national strategy to encourage people to enjoy the outdoors while allowing them to exercise their access rights to the full. We only have to look to Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park (LLTNP) to see that is not the case. 

In 2011 wild camping, a right enshrined in the Land Reform Act 2003, was banned on part of the eastern side of Loch Lomond. The national park pushed for this ban and spokesman Grant Moir stated at the time that they had no plans to extend the ban to other areas of the park. Fast forward five years and they have already broken that vow, having had legislation passed which will create a series of “Restricted Zones” where the access laws which Lesley acknowledged arrived around 50 years after progressive Norway’s, will be suspended and camping will be banned for the ordinary visitor, though notably these restrictions do not apply to the land-owners or their chums. 

The West Highland Way, Scotland’s premier long distance footpath which attracts hikers from all over the world, has some 29 miles within the boundaries of the LLTNP and bizarrely around 19 miles of this will be in the Restricted Zones!

What we are seeing in LLTNP is the privatisation by stealth of a healthy and growing outdoors lifestyle, and if there’s anything more likely to deter ordinary people from accessing the outdoors it’s by pricing it out of their reach, and all under the threat of a £500 fine if you so much as camp where you shouldn’t.

In the 1920’s and 30’s many people from the industrial heartlands of Scotland, such as the iconic outdoorsman Tom Weir, would take to the hills of Loch Lomond and Arrochar, camping by loch-sides, sheltering in caves and under old army capes, trying to escape the horrendous conditions and grinding poverty of the cities. Almost 100 years on we haven’t progressed at all if we are about to allow those rights to be criminalised, sanitised and privatised. The LLTNP could be the jewel in the crown of Scottish access, where like in Norway, people are encouraged to visit, where they can be educated in good practice and where they can grow and flourish. If the Scottish Government wants Scotland to be a fitter, healthier and happier place it would be a good start by ensuring that our two existing national parks have at their very core the charge to protect and strengthen our access rights, and that they remain open and accessible to all. That would be a small start which would still leave us trailing behind Norway, but in my view theirs is a path worth following.

Yours,

James Cassidy

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