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Issue 63 - June 2016
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The Garden in May
 

Editorial

The Scottish Government has announced that after months of fraught negotiations, publicly owned ferry firm CalMac has beaten off a rival bid from Serco to win a £1bn contract to service the Hebridean and Clyde islands, including Arran, after pledging no compulsory redundancies.

It is worth looking back to what Mick Cash, General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) Workers, wrote a couple of years ago:

Lifeline ferry services are split into two contracts, one for the Northern Isles (north east coast to the Orkney and Shetland Isles) and the larger Clyde and Hebrides network along the west coast. In May 2012, then Transport Minister, Keith Brown, announced that the Northlink ferry services were to be privatised and Serco were to be awarded the 2012-2018 NorthLink contract and would receive over 27% (£53m) more than the public sector operator, CalMac, received for the previous 6 year contract.

And what has been the result for passengers and workers of this privatisation of Scottish ferry services? An instant attack on jobs and pensions, resulting in RMT taking the first industrial action on Northern Isle ferry services for over 30 years. Whilst the jobs could not be saved, the action was successful in persuading Serco to honour seafarers existing pension rights.

For passengers, Serco’s commitment not to raise fares before 2014 soon proved meaningless when a 2.8% increase for travellers between the mainland and the Orkney and Shetlands was announced, along with cuts to services without a whimper from the Scottish Government. Concessionary tickets for school parties and pensioners have also increased in price, along with a thoughtful interior re-design that prevents passengers from sleeping on sofas and charges them for using the toilet.

Private profiteers like Serco who have no record in maritime transport but are seeking to expand into all areas with guaranteed streams of taxpayer and passenger revenue, will currently be preparing their bids for the 27-route Clyde and Hebrides contract, operated at present in the public sector by CalMac.

The Scottish taxpayer has invested nearly £800m since 2000 in new vessels, repairs, maintenance and the ports and harbour infrastructure. New vessels are on order for the Clyde and Hebrides network and the Scottish Government’s Ferries Plan commits to expenditure of around £310m on specific projects to 2025. The private sector has no other motivation beyond profiting from these lifeline services and the decades of public investment in them.

Our Arran lifeline ferry service may not be perfect, but the Voice welcomes the decision to keep it in public hands.

 
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Kosmos

!A review of the music society concert by Alison Prince

Arran's music society goes from strength to strength in its provision of exciting and varied music. On Saturday, May 21st, Brodick Hall was packed for a performance by Kosmos, an extraordinary trio of breath-taking ability. Harriet MacKenzie on violin, Meg Hamilton on viola and Milos Milivojevic on accordion. The atmosphere in the hall became more excited as the players ranged freely through music from all over the world, from Scotland to Hungary, Greece to Brazil, flamenco to classical. Playing with no reference to written music despite the immense complexity of some pieces, their fluency and emotional charge never faltered, and the understanding between them allowed total freedom to improvise and extend. The skills were those of good jazz players, but with an underlying classicism that gave them extraordinary authority. As so often in these concerts, it was wonderful to see people becoming moved and excited by the music, and at the end, a spontaneous outbreak of drumming feet as well as applause and shouts brought them back for an encore. A truly wonderful night.

 

Corrie Film Club

!The film on June 12th at 8.00pm in the Corrie and Sannox Village Hall is Locke (Director Steven Knight, UK 2014, Cert 15)

Ivan Locke, a dedicated family man and successful construction manager, receives a phone call on the eve of the biggest challenge of his career that sets in motion a series of events that threaten his carefully cultivated existence.

Almost the entire film takes place within a BMW X5, which was driven down the M6 motorway on a flatbed truck for most of the time. Shooting took place in real time, and the filmmakers only took breaks to change the cameras' memory cards. Ivan Locke is the only character other than those who talk to him on the phone.

The critical consensus was: "A one-man show set in a single confined location, Locke demands a powerful performance – and gets it from a never-more-compelling Tom Hardy."

All are welcome to come and join us for this powerful film.

 
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Image - © Mandolinquents

Mandolinquents

June’s concert from Isle of Arran Music Society promises to be another treat. Mandolinquents is an instrumentally versatile group with a wide-ranging programme that should please most music lovers. The group is led by Simon Mayor, one of the world’s leading mandolin players, but he is also described “as a fine fiddler, guitarist, composer, producer and wit”. His co-stars in Brodick Hall on 18th June are Hilary James, a singer with a superb voice who also “pounds the mighty mandobass” (she paints too!), and guitarist Gerald Garcia. Gerald has conducted the National Youth Guitar Ensemble and toured with John Williams and Paco Peña. There will certainly be no lack of talent on show, and as for their programme, BBC Radio speaks of: "Folk, jazz, swing, Grieg, Rimsky-Korsakov, John Clare, Smetana - funny intros, wit and sparkle from this eclectic, virtuosic quartet.” So come along to Brodick Hall on Saturday 18th to enjoy a great evening’s entertainment. The concert starts at 7.30, seating is café-style at tables, and you may bring a bottle.

Tickets are available on the door on the night or in advance from Inspirations of Arran in Brodick.

 
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Arran Folk Festival

The 22nd Arran Folk Festival takes place this coming weekend, the 3rd to the 5th June. Here is a sample of the delights to come:

Friday 3rd June :

2 - 5pm - Welcoming Open Session, Douglas Hotel, Brodick, Free Admission

7:30pm - Concert, Brodick Hall. Tickets: £18.00
Featuring: "Talisk", "Claire Hastings", "Tim Pomeroy"

 

Saturday 4th June :

12 - 5pm - Open Session, Douglas Hotel, Brodick. Free Admission

7:30pm - Concert, Brodick Hall. Tickets: £18.00
Featuring: "Gillian Frame", "Tim Edey", "Mary Ann Kennedy & Finlay Wells"

 

Sunday 5th June :

12 - 5pm - Survivors' Session, Douglas Hotel, Brodick. Free Admission

 

In addition to the above programme, there are two workshops :

Sat.4th June:

Workshop - "A Really Big Sing"

This will be a singing workshop tackling some achievable songs and led by Gillian Frame (a singer and fiddler from Arran, best known for her work with Back of the Moon and Findlay Napier and the Bar Room Mountaineers) who is also one of the founding members of the Hidden Lane Choir - a women's choir singing a range of contemporary pop through to traditional material. With her distinctive style and range of influences, this workshop will be great fun covering really singable songs for all ability levels.
Brodick Hall
1pm - 2:30pm — Tickets: £5

 

Sun.5th June:

Guitar Workshop - with Tim Edey

We are delighted that Tim Edey has agreed to provide a guitar workshop as part of this year's Folk Festival.

Double BBC Folk Awards winner including "Musician of the year 2012", a virtuoso on over ten instruments and an international touring professional musician since the age of fifteen and current guest of The Chieftains touring lineup for the last 4 years, this workshop is for all abilities - beginner to accomplished and offers a rare opportunity to learn some valuable tips and tricks from a true virtuoso!

Brodick Hall
1pm - 2:30pm — Tickets: £10

The full programme and details of all the performers are available on The Arran Events website.

 

Eating Out on Arran

By the Mystery Muncher

There are many and varied places to eat on Arran, from the highest cuisine, through great pub meals to simple coffee shops serving homemade delights. Many of us know some of them rather well, but there are always new ventures, new chefs and new ideas, so this column seeks to expand readers’ knowledge of what Arran has to offer. Please send in your own suggestions for places to explore.

The writer, whose pen name ‘the Mystery Muncher‘ disguises his/her identity in order to avoid suspicion of favourable treatment, will seek to give fair and honest appraisals of meals taken - while their main qualification for this task is purely a love of good food. And all meals at own expense.

The Black Grouse at Blackwaterfoot is my starting point, because it offers adventurous, imaginative food and is not yet nearly well enough known. On a late May evening we arrived to find a warm log fire in the bar and an impressive array of modern gins. The welcome is friendly and warm in this family business – a restaurant offering ‘contemporary Scottish cuisine’, attached to Blackwaterfoot Lodge with its 5 rooms.

Dinner is served in the conservatory, light, comfortable and surrounded by green garden. Our starters were unusual, rather different from standard Arran cuisine, showing the hand of a chef who questions the conventions, finding his own expression. Cauliflower spring rolls, with crispy cauliflower and cauliflower coulis were pleasant enough, but the pork belly braised 8 hours, served with smoked potato croquette, apple chutney and date puree was superb, beautifully tender, a delightful mix of textures and tastes. Deconstructed kedgeree – local smoked haddock, curried leek risotto, pea and lime puree, topped with a poached egg – was equally surprising and delicious.

Main courses continued to challenge conventional expectations. Perhaps the star was the wild garlic crusted, locally caught pollock nestling on wilted greens within a moat of seafood bisque? Or was it the deconstructed (note the theme) vegetable crumble? This ordinary sounding dish was pronounced truly heavenly, an elegant mound of freshly cooked vegetables, asparagus, beans, carrots…. bound together in a subtle sauce and seeded with crunchy titbits. For meat eaters though there was no doubting that the star was in fact the venison dish, combining on one plate steak and a little pie, neat and crispy, with beetroot sliced and smeared. The venison – sourced on Arran of course – was pronounced perfect and so tender the knife fell through it.

Hard to follow this main course act, and perhaps the desserts needed a little work, while still offering unusual tastes and combinations. There was rhubarb and vanilla pannacotta, with poached rhubarb and pear and ginger puree, crumble and ginger ice cream. Light and delicious, perhaps a bit too heavy on the gelatine? The souffle du jour – an apple crumble soufflé – was a bold attempt and very tasty, but suffered a structural malfunction in the separating out of the soufflé. The accompanying toffee ice cream gained it forgiveness. Finally the chocolate and orange cheesecake, with crispy orange slices and orange sorbet, was ‘very nice’ – but in my opinion, the chef is too restrained with the chocolate. People who order chocolate desserts expect masses of dense chocolatey flavours – or is it just me?

These are tiny quibbles as the evening was one to savour and remember. No coffee machine, but excellent, strong and generous coffee in cafetieres were brought to the bar. The wine list is short and wide ranging, with weekly featured wines, some by the glass. Service is efficient and friendly. I cannot recommend the Black Grouse highly enough, and hope that many Arran folk will brave the trek over the String or round the coast to the West.

 

!Arran Coastal Rowing Club

Arran Coastal Rowing Club is growing fast. The first St. Ayle's skiff was launched after the Lamlash Splash in September 2015 and has been out on the water almost every week since then. It was even spotted at the Douglas Dook on New Year's Day in Brodick!

The crews are training hard and will be taking part in the Troon regatta on Saturday 4th June. A few weeks ago a crew from Largs and Troon visited and had a great days rowing in Lamlash together with some of the Arran rowers.

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The second skiff is under construction and should be launched this summer, so if you would like to try rowing in a skiff, please contact the club via the website or Facebook page.

 

Voice for Arran’s Founder Launches Her New Collection

Alison Prince, well kent face, founder of The Arran Voice and someone who over the years has been a driving force in just about every arts and community initiative on Arran, has a personal milestone this coming weekend: the launch of her new poetry collection. Having spent most of her life as a professional writer and with a host of publications to her name, over the last few years, perhaps as a way of taking stock of her busy and varied life and putting on record the wisdom that comes with increasing age, she has been concentrating on her poetry.

Luckily for all of us two publishers, Helena (Nell) Nelson of Happenstance Press and Hamish Whyte’s Mariscat Press, have taken the initiative to pull together her recent work as a collection. The result, ‘Waking at Five Happens Again’, will have its worldwide launch, as you might expect, on Arran. The event will be at 8 pm on Sunday 5th June at Whiting Bay Lesser Hall and promises to be rather special. As well as a preview of the poems there will be wine, nibbles, some music, and of course the chance to chat and buy some books.

It’s a free event open to all, so please come along, with a friend or a partner if you like, and pass the word on to anyone else you know who may be interested.

‘Waking at five happens again
and seems for the first time. The days
are numbered now so their component parts,
their nanoseconds, come as miracles,
shining.’

From ‘Newborn’ by Alison Prince

 

!COAST News

NEW MARINE DISCOVERY CENTRE AHOY!

From Manuela de los Rios, Communications and Administration Officer
COAST (Community of Arran Seabed Trust) Nature of Scotland 2014 Award Winners
Office: 01770 600656 www.arrancoast.com Scottish charity No. SC042088

It has taken 20 years of community learning, education, campaigning and research on Arran for the establishment of the first community-led No Take Zone in Scotland and the South Arran Marine Protected Area.

Our community believes now it is the right time to give more people the opportunity to feel inspired, experience and learn about our amazing marine environment and how to take care of it through our proposed Marine Discovery Centre.

After considering various sites, we decided the Lamlash tennis courts and pavilion that the Bowling Club could not sustain would be the right location for this community-led project. The purchase money will help keeping the Bowling Club’s assets and two of the four tennis courts for the village will be upgraded and maintained by COAST. Our research has shown that visitors think this a fantastic idea and over 80% of those interviewed would visit us once we are open!

We are delighted with the support received at the public meeting in April. It has been great to have had so many residents involved; sharing great ideas that we hadn’t thought of, voicing concerns we will attempt to address and shaping the proposal with us. There is still much to be decided, the new build is unlikely to happen before 2018 and COAST will be planning and developing content and ideas in collaboration with other community groups and individuals throughout the next few years.

The new centre will be structured in a way that encourages learning by doing, by making, by asking. Hands-on, interactive and changing exhibitions with input from the community will make this centre a dynamic and creative hub. Visitors will be able to engage in innovative and fun activities, work and learn alongside with marine scientists and enjoy exciting experiences. For example you could be going for a virtual dive in a small submarine, a guided snorkel tour or just marvel examining a whale skeleton or the interesting history of fishing and marine protection on Arran.

If you have any questions, want to share any ideas or help us design and deliver this project, please get in touch with us by email info@arrancoast.com , by phone 01770600656, or just pop in for a chat in our office at the Old Haybarn in Lamlash. We are looking forward to hearing from you!

 

Wildlife Rescue

The NTS Rangers on the island, and the Arran Natural History Society committee members, are often asked to come to the assistance of injured or lost wild animals that have been found by residents or tourists. Sometimes, sadly, nothing can be done; sometimes nothing needs to be done. But at other times the animal may need specialised treatment and ongoing care, and this usually means transporting the patient to the mainland and into the care of the dedicated team at Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue, based near Beith.

In such cases, knowing how to handle the animal correctly and how to give immediate first aid, such as rehydration, before it can be taken across on the ferry, becomes important. For this reason the Arran Natural History Society arranged for a group of society members and NTS Rangers to attend a training day in wildlife rescue at Hessilhead on the 6th May.

The day began with an illustrated presentation showing the main ways to handle and assist different animals, ranging from birds to large mammals such as seals and deer, with bats and hedgehogs in between.

Then we tried our hand at catching and holding swans (tip – make sure they are held in such a way that they can’t poo in your wellies!), and watched as the correct way to restrain a gannet was demonstrated.

The rest of the day was spent in the animal hospital, learning how to hold, rehydrate and feed a variety of injured animals including birds, bats and mammals, and how to check them for broken bones and other injuries.

To round off the day we met with two permanent residents of the centre, Baldy the bald hedgehog and MacDonald the very friendly fox (too friendly to be released).

A big thank you to the wonderfully dedicated team at Hessilhead for the training, and to ANHS for funding it. Voice readers can find out more about the work of Hessilhead at http://www.hessilhead.org.uk/ and can see there how to donate or otherwise contribute to the work of this very worthwhile charity.

 

Poem of the Month

Sonnet LVI
William Shakespeare

Sweet love, renew thy force, be it not said
Thy edge should blunter be than appetite,
Which but today by feeding is allay’d,
Tomorrow sharpened in his former might:
So, love, be thou, although today thou fill
Thy hungry eyes, even till they wink with fulness,
Tomorrow see again, and do not kill
The spirit of love, with a perpetual dulness.
Let this sad interim like the ocean be.
Which parts the shore, where two contracted new
Come daily to the banks, that when they see
Return of love, more blest may be the view;
Or call it winter, which being full of care,
Make summer’s welcome, thrice more wished, more rare.

 

Fast and Feast
David Underdown

Desire comes as a surprise, a quickening
of the senses: a curve beneath a blouse,
a fingertip, then that familiar thickening
of the blood no common-sense will douse.
If afterwards our moods subside again
and slip into the same too well-worn groove
we should not worry. Why try to feign
passion, as if there’s something we must prove?
For you and I, my sweet, know how to feast
and when to fast. The keenest appetite
comes from abstention: so wait while love’s yeast
leavens, from dull dough, bread that will delight,
and make, on perfect mornings, all sleep past,
the finest meal of all, breakfast – break fast.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 56 is one of the less well known of his sonnets and is generally seen as being among those addressed to a young man, the ‘fair youth’ rather than the ‘dark lady’. As part of a project to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death the poetry performance group Live Canon has just published a new edition of the sonnets under the title ‘154’. The book juxtaposes each sonnet with a modern version. It’s attractively produced and can be purchased either through the Live Canon website or through Amazon.

 

Book Reviews

Quicksand; What it means to be a Human Being, by Henning Mankell, Harvill Secker

!Henning Mankell is perhaps best known for his Wallander crime novels, set in the author’s home country, Sweden, and dramatized several times on television, including one version starring Kenneth Branagh. These thoughtful stories reflect many of the issues of modern Swedish, and European, life; the move towards less homogeneous societies, immigration, more broken families and more different versions of family life, increasing disparity between the haves and the have-nots, the effects of colonialism and the exploitation of the third world, racism and nationalism, and especially in the later books, an awareness of aging and increasing infirmity.

All these issues and more were important in Mankell’s life, a full and committed life that combined adventure, social and political activism, the performing arts and literature, and was shared between Europe and Africa. The University of St Andrews awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2008, for his “contribution to literature and his practical application of conscience.”

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The Swedish TV adaptation of Wallander
(Yellow Bird/Baldur Bragason)

In January 2014, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. This came as a surprise: a non-smoker for many years, Mankell had recently been in a car accident and attributed the pain he was suffering to the aftereffects of the crash – but, as he notes, in the opening pages of Quicksand, “The diagnosis was very clear: it was serious, possibly incurable.” In fact he died little over a year later, but in the period between diagnosis and death he wrote this book, a series of short essays on “what it means to be human.”

As John Burnside wrote in the Guardian, “Quicksand is an extraordinary book, mixing the intimate detail of memoir (the incidents from his childhood and early life are told beautifully, and with wonderful economy) with the moral beliefs of a man whose concern with social justice has dictated the pattern of his mature years. For Mankell, to treat life as a serious matter is a key element of what it means to be a human being. Serious people take responsibility, not only for their own actions, but also for their environment and for other creatures, whether living or as yet unborn. This is especially important for those of us who are lucky enough to live in places where every day is not a fight simply to exist.”

Although as Burnside says, there are descriptions of many incidents from Mankell’s life in the book, much of his personal life, which included four marriages, is excluded and Mankell perhaps thought of himself as not all that personally interesting, which is a pity since in the range of his activities and commitments he was a remarkable man. Indeed the contents of Quicksand range across early cave paintings, the lives led by ordinary African people today, the consolations of art and music, the effects of modern technology, and the intractable problem of safely storing nuclear waste for the next 100,000 years. The legacy we are leaving future generations runs right through this fine, serious, book.

Alan Bellamy

 

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, by Joanna Cannon, The Borough Press

!Joanna Cannon's The Trouble With Goats and Sheep is an extraordinary book. Written from the viewpoint of a ten-year-old girl, its insights are uncluttered by adult convention and sometimes heart-breaking. The girl's best friend is ill, sometimes seriously, other times not, and it takes an adult reader to realise that she has leukaemia, and her time will be short.

Aside from this, the somewhat claustrophobic small community is in an uproar of suspicion centred on a solitary man who is thought to have molested children. The two girls coast through this with lofty unconcern, more interested in the idea that the shadowy figure under the water pump, not always visible, may be Jesus. He becomes their private property, not shared with the dry minister of the church or with their parents, and their parallel universe has a beauty and gentleness that is conspicuously lacking in reality. Cannon writes with laconic clarity, deadpan humour and, as a doctor and psychologist herself, with great insight. It's a gentle book that packs a punch, and it will stay with me for a long time.

Alison Prince

 
Photo: © Invisible Edinburgh

Walking Round Edinburgh

Walking tours led by people who have been homeless have been launched in Edinburgh.

Speaking to BBC Scotland News, the group Invisible Edinburgh said the aim was to reveal a different side to Scotland’s capital city. The tours start in the Grassmarket, Castle Terrace and Middle Meadow Walk and each has a different theme and is tailored to the guide’s individual experience.

The themes are powerful women of Edinburgh, crimes and punishment, community sport and food and charity.

Zakia Moulaoui, 28, from France, set up the tours after getting the idea from a project in Greece where street vendors take people on walks. She told the BBC Scotland news website: “We have four guides at the moment but will be training up more in September.

“There is a homeless point to all the walks, which is personal to the guide, so for example the crime and punishment tour will tell you about Burke and Hare but the guide will also tell you about his own relevant problems with the court across the road with funny stories.

“The tours are a mix of old and new.”

More details of the walks, and of the group can be found on the Invisible Edinburgh website.

 

Glad Tidings for Sea Power Potential

The daily ebb and flow of the tides promise a renewable energy bonanza for countries such as Canada and the UK that have shallow seas and a steep tidal range.

By Paul Brown, The Climate News Network

Two countries with the highest tides in the world, Canada and the UK, both claim to be the world leaders in creating electricity from the tides. They are among a group of coastal states − including China, South Korea, the US and Australia − that are hoping to harness the enormous power of their local twice-daily tides to tap a new and reliable supply of electricity.

Unlike wind and solar energy, tidal power is entirely predictable. If it can be tapped on a large scale as a power source, it will provide reliable base load power for any grid system. There are all sorts of schemes in many countries, the most familiar being the tidal barrages that direct the ebb and flow of the tide through turbines to generate electricity.

Best known of these is the Rance tidal power station, which was opened in 1966 at St Malo, northern France. At 240 megawatts, it was the largest in the world for 45 years, until South Korea’s Sihwa Lake power station came into service in 2011, producing 254 MW.

But there is a new generation of tidal power schemes. They use undersea turbines, able to make use of the powerful tidal currents in estuaries and in relatively shallow water on continental shelves. Because water is far denser than air, the same area of turbine blade can produce four times more electricity than a wind turbine.

So far, 20 sites in the world have been identified where hundreds of underwater turbines could be deployed. These are in shallow water, where the tidal current moves swiftly and where cables can be connected to the onshore grid. The best sites are between islands or in other narrow stretches of sea where the tide flows strongly. Eight of these sites have been identified in the UK, and they could on their own generate around 20% of the country’s electricity needs – more than its 15 nuclear reactors are currently producing.

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Looking across the waters of
the Pentland Firth to the island of Hoy

In Canada, which has two coasts with many offshore islands, there are also many potential locations − enough to replace a dozen large coal and gas plants.

The stretch of water between the northeast tip of Scotland and the Orkney islands is probably the best place in the world to generate electricity from the movement of the tides. Several companies are already testing prototypes.

It is here in the Pentland Firth, Caithness, that MeyGen has begun work on building 61 undersea turbines − out of a planned total of 269 − that will make it the largest undersea power station in the world. In total, the scheme will generate 398 MW of clean power, which is enough for 175,000 homes.

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European Marine Energy Centre
Tidal Power test site on Eday
under construction

Another large-scale scheme has been announced in Northern Ireland, where the Fair Head project will begin building undersea turbines in 2018 to provide 100 MW of power. But, in one sense, Canada is already ahead. The Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia has the highest tides in the world. The Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy project already has undersea cables connected to the grid and four power companies with turbines of different designs, and has agreements to provide power for up to 10,000 homes.

With Canada’s vast array of offshore islands and its strong tides, the government has identified more than 100 possible sites, large and small, for undersea arrays. Small schemes could provide a steady power source for some of the country’s more isolated communities.

While there are still questions over the best design of turbine to generate the maximum amount of reliable electricity with the least maintenance, this is clearly a technology with a bright future. It also has the advantage over all other generating systems of being out of sight. The turbines’ design will depend on the strength of the tidal current and on the height they are placed above the sea bed.

There are also still environmental issues to be resolved − for example, the effect on marine life, and particularly the potential damage to fish and marine mammals. But, compared with wind turbines, the blades turn very slowly.

Because undersea arrays are limited to areas with high tidal flows, they could not compete with solar and wind power for a worldwide share of the renewable market. But for those countries lucky enough to have shallow seas and big tides the technology is expected to be a significant and long-term source of clean power.

 

Print articleReferendum on Europe

Sally Campbell writes a personal reflection on the European Referendum:

Previous United Kingdom Referendums

United Kingdom European Communities membership referendum, 1975, on whether the UK should remain part of the European Economic Community. (Result: Yes)

United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum, 5 May 2011. (Result: No, I voted Yes)

United Kingdom European Union membership referendum will be held on Thursday 23 June 2016

Why would I choose to vote Yes to remain in the EU in 2016?

I voted yes in that other referendum so long ago in 1975. Maybe because even then I could see that the world was changing and little UK needed to work with Europe in the coming years for economic and social reasons. We had lived in Germany, I had worked in the marine research station on Heligoland, and we had also lived in the USA. John with British Steel on Teesside was already working with the European Coal and Steel Community founded in 1951 on environment and health and safety. Since then the world has become more complex in terms of economics, money flows, banking, scientific research, connectedness in many areas of our lives, especially climate change.

As a marine ecologist/scientist I have witnessed the advantages of being part of a larger scientific community, sharing research and better visions for the environment for the future. The UK has been pushed into creating better water quality, conservation and sustainable fisheries. The Birds Directive, Habitats Directive, Natura Sites, now the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and Good Environmental Status with MPAs in Scotland and MCZs in England.

The fresh water and marine environments have benefitted from EU legislation over the past 40 years. Sustainability has risen up the agenda, in many areas and especially so in fisheries. Due in part to the collaboration of many European small scale fishermen, LIFE (Low Impact Fishers of Europe) is having an impact in Europe, so traditional power structures of the fisheries industry are changing.

But I know that many will vote, not with their logic and understanding of the advantages listed below but with emotional beliefs, particularly about immigration, fear of the future, and just wanting to shut the gates of the UK against all-comers. Brexit blames them for all our ills, be it overcrowded hospitals or schools, housing shortages, “stealing” from our welfare state. Figures show these to be largely false and as a society we benefit from their efforts in the UK, particularly young people, and from the many hundreds of thousands UK citizens working in Europe. All those Brexit ills could equally well be blamed on my generation, living too long, needing hospital beds once we are over 65, for longer, more costly interventions; further because we are living longer, occupying flats, houses etc that in a previous generation would now have been sold on. My family, the Chivers family, were immigrants from religious persecution in France in the 1700s, so I admit to an interest and probably prejudice in favour of immigrants! I do feel that as a UK we have all benefitted from the skills and hard work of immigrants, from the “Empire”, the Commonwealth, Europe, America and the Far East. We have always traded and shared with Europe and far flung places, as pottery in Iron Age Forts and Viking settlements show. The Middle Ages brought the Dutch to the east coast trading and settling. This is nothing new!

So I have put together many opinions and information that I think relevant to voting Yes. Please click on the "Print" icon at the top of this article to see the full text.

 

The Future of Renewable Energy in Scotland

Beverley Walker, BlueWind Consulting Limited
(This article is based on a presentation to the Arran Civic Trust in May 2016)

With Kyoto, the Climate Change Act and EU Directives being strongly adopted by Scottish policies, the renewable sector in Scotland has grown over the past 10 years into a thriving and exciting industry. However, the recent manifestos of the Conservative Government, who are currently focused on fracking and nuclear, have been said to have ‘decimated’ the renewable energy industry in the UK. Given the level of employment and investment made to renewable energy projects, particularly onshore wind, these cut backs would be most strongly felt in Scotland.

The Annual Scottish Renewables Conference

A visit to the Annual UK Renewable Energy Conference in Liverpool in Dec 2015 revealed a very depressed industry, with delegates walking around shaking heads and there was a general feel of doom and gloom over the whole 2 days, however the Annual Scottish Renewables Conference in Edinburgh in March 2016, was a complete contrast. Delegate numbers were high, the atmosphere was buzzing with optimism, and all of the seminars and topics were focused on new innovation and looking to the future.

Why was there such a difference?

Perhaps it is because Scotland is recognized as having close to the highest renewable potential in the world? Perhaps is the nature of Scots in adversity? Perhaps its due to the support for the industry that has been consistent from the Scottish Government? However in a large part it is also due to straight out economics and the Grid. This essential infrastructure has been set up to take energy from single major generating stations and pass it along long transmission lines to distribution hubs then to the consumers. In Scotland these have involved simple systems over very long distances. However, with the rise in large wind farms feeding in electricity from all around the country, as well as the increase in smaller scale inputs, the grid capacity in certain areas can’t really cope. Hence when we hear about wind farms being paid to stop generating…it is not the wind farm operators fault, it’s the fault of an old fashioned grid system.

Scotland is in an enviable position of now generating 100% of its electricity from renewable energy, and would be ideally placed to be generating income by exporting excess renewable energy to England (and overseas), if it wasn’t for the lack of capacity in the Grid connection. To resolve this problem, the major Scottish grid operators (SPEN and SSE) had already started to look at developing more local transmission networks, where the energy generated in a location, stays in that location. This move was happening long before the announcements of Conservative cuts to the sector. Therefore, and along with the support and drive for smaller scale community based renewables, Scotland is already on the path to developing these local decentralized networks in a subsidy free environment. For example, see https://piclo.uk/. (Piclo is currently a trial of an online service (and a phone app) which gives consumers the power to choose exactly where their electricity is coming from, be it a community hydro scheme, a locally-owned wind turbine or solar panels at a family farm. Piclo also allows renewable generators to sell directly to consumers who are local to them, or share their values)

The focus of the March Scottish industry conference was about addressing the problems and finding solutions to drive this transition forward. The presentations can be found https://www.scottishrenewables.com/events/sr-annual-conference-2016/

How are we doing?

The Climate Change Committee has just released their audit of the Climate Change Act, which compares how Scotland is performing in contrast to the rest of the UK.

See these links for the results of these audits:

Climate Change Committee 1    Climate Change Committee 2    Climate Change Committee 3

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, has said: “Scotland is leading the UK in its ambitious approach to tackling climate change and is to be commended for doing so. There is a lot of positive action already underway in Scotland, driven by both its vibrant renewable sector and its bold policy approaches. This must now be accelerated. New policies will be required to meet these ambitious but achievable carbon objectives. With these actions Scotland can continue as an example to the rest of the UK in its approach to address climate change.”

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Photo: Chinneeb

Looking to the Future

One of the largest issues raised at the conference was the current lack of a coherent energy policy from the Westminster Government. To keep within the emissions limits set by the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, and to stay on track to 2050, a number of new policies and clear long-term signals to investors are urgently required.

In order to meet the fifth carbon budget the following will need to occur:

By the 2030s around 1 in 7 UK homes are heated using low-carbon sources of energy, helping to reduce emissions significantly and drive further innovation in delivering sources of low-carbon heat.

By the 2030s, the majority of new cars and vans bought in the UK are fully or partially electric, removing a significant proportion of emissions from transport, improving UK air quality and potentially boosting UK manufacturing.

By the 2030s, the UK is largely powered by low-carbon sources of electricity, delivering power with emissions of below 100 grammes of CO2 per kilowatt-hour (compared to 450g today). Low-carbon options in the power sector are important to support emissions reduction in other sectors, such as transport and heating, as well as to reduce emissions from the power sector itself.

By the 2030s, insulation is installed in nearly all UK homes where it is cost-effective, reducing the cost of energy to households.

These objectives trigger a change in business opportunities, and it will be of interest to see the respective responses of the UK and the Scottish Government to these challenges.

 

Bridge Challenge

South to make five diamonds. West leads the ♠K.

 
 

Print CrosswordCrossword

by Episteme

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Across

1 A Lada restraining me goes into avenue (7)

5 Allays princess's skins which are timeless (7)

9 Rising Northern climb (7)

10 Painting school in which I see ens perhaps (7)

11 Rustic gage I make (5)

12 Build head standing (9)

13 Ardent mixture of sips I tour (9)

15 Noise from dye? (5)

16 These from paper? (5)

18 Cress Gael changes without style (9)

21 Clear loan crashes about the elbow (9)

24 Sláinte as tot is smashed (5)

25 Sons and gin sling aromas (7)

26 Lookouts that is toe (7)

27 Supple mixture of sun and promissory notes (7)

28 AIDS morass is tsetse borne (7)

Down

1 A cardinal leans over and softens (7)

2 Sea gas brew I lance (7)

3 Be around point to get translator (9)

4 Bean tree surrounds cave (5)

5 Article following Syd climbing on cola gives you indigestion (9)

6 25 of headless nine (5)

7 Teams of partners supporting damaged levee (7)

8 Son met up with another curving timber (7)

14 Zero love on book of egg making (9)

15 Outpourings of topless atheteses (9)

16 Noises around square moments (7)

17 Enzyme of twisted spire dividing opponents (7)

19 Pleases split ends (7)

20 Glossy fabrics sat above poetic evenings (7)

22 Music composed at north door (5)

23 Wat Tyler holds up fibrous band (5)

 

Answers for the May puzzle:

Across:
1 Academia, 5 Aspens, 9 Loosened, 10 Defers, 11 Epicenes, 13 Breeze, 14 Sly, 16 Sevens, 19 Civvies, 20 Operas,
21 Ane, 26 Aborts, 27 Edgebone, 28 Ibidem, 29 Filament, 30 Treaty, 31 Break-ins.

Down:
1 Allies, 2 Atonic, 3 Eleven, 4 Ibexes, 6 Skerries, 7 Exegetes, 8 Suspense, 12 Slovene, 15 Ais, 16 Sea, 17 Botanist,
18 Memorise, 19 Cattiest, 22 Edgier, 23 Retama, 24 Boleti, 25 Depths.

 

… and finally

Glow Worms Turn a New Zealand Cave into a Starry Night Sky

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