The sun shone on Arran’s beaches and mountains in the second half of April, and residents and visitors alike enjoyed the island’s environment.
But in the wider world, the UN’s head of disaster planning warned that the world’s failure to prepare for natural disasters will have “inconceivably bad” consequences as climate change fuels a huge increase in catastrophic droughts and floods and the humanitarian crises that follow.
Last year, earthquakes, floods, heatwaves and landslides left 22,773 people dead, affected 98.6 million others and caused $66.5bn (£47bn) of economic damage. Yet the international community spends less than half of one per cent of the global aid budget on mitigating the risks posed by such hazards.
So, with elections for the Scottish parliament looming, the Voice asks which of the parties is giving due consideration to the linked disasters of climate change, habitat destruction, and out–of–control neoliberal economics? Which party is proposing policies radical enough to have some hope of improving the situation?
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One of the prime aims of the festival that celebrates the name of Arran’s Robert McLellan is to nurture new talent in the arts and nowhere is this more evident than in the annual poetry competition that is now in its tenth year. During the last few years the competition has established itself as one of the major literary prizes in Scotland and the 2016 competition is now in full swing.
One of the notable features of the competition is that the prize giving, usually the first main event of the festival, features a reading by the judge and is attended by most of the prizewinners. Many of the entries are international and this has meant that in recent years the poets that have come to Arran to receive their prizes have been from the Irish Republic, Italy and the USA as well as from all over Britain.
The judges are always top line poets. Both Simon Armitage and Scotland’s new Makar Jackie Kay have filled the post recently. This year judge, the poet, translator and short story writer David Constantine, follows this trend. He is a very fine poet – his latest collection Elder received rave reviews. He also sprang to prominence recently as the author of the short story that provided the basis for the acclaimed film 45 Years which attracted an Oscar nomination for one of its stars, Charlotte Rampling.
David will be presenting the awards at a special McLellan Festival event on the Isle of Arran on 26 August. As in past years, in addition to a first prize of £1000 there will be smaller prizes for two runners up and six commended poems. If you haven't entered already you have until 19 June to do so. Full details including a downloadable entry form are available here.
Alternatively you can just contact one of the organisers, Cicely Gill and David Underdown.
Those who particularly enjoyed the exciting recent concerts by Chambers and Haywood and Tim Kliphuis have another treat coming on Saturday, 21st May, when Isle of Arran Music Society are hosting the Kosmos Ensemble in Brodick Hall. Consisting of Harriet Mackenzie on violin, Meg Hamilton on viola and Miloš Milivojević on accordion, this trio are redefining classical and world music. Their repertoire includes music from North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, Russia, Hungary, Serbia, Romanian Jewish and Gypsy music, Greek Rembetika, Island (Nissiotika) music, Argentine tango, Brazilian samba, flamenco, Celtic and jazz traditions as well as contemporary classical music.
Phew! - a lively evening is assured. In the words of Richard Morrison, chief music critic of the London Times: “I've heard Kosmos several times now and love not just their unique mixing of Middle Eastern, East European and Western classical traditions but also their telepathic rapport, dazzling virtuosity, serious scholarship, intellectual curiosity and impeccable musicianship. I defy you not to be mesmerised.” Seating will be in the popular café-style at tables, and you may bring a bottle. So come along on the 21st for a swinging night out. The concert begins at 7:30, and tickets are available on the door or at Inspirations of Arran in Brodick.
The film to be shown on May 8th at 8.00pm is Leviathan, directed by Andrey Zvyaginstev (Russia 2014 - Cert 15).
This is a sober and compelling tragic drama set in contemporary Russia, in which a fisherman fights back when a corrupt mayor tries to seize possession of his ancestral home.
Do join us in Corrie and Sannox Village Hall for this fascinating film. Everyone is welcome.
Our Arran Artist for this month is Marvin Elliott. Marvin’s wood carvings and sculptures are a familiar sight around Arran (think of the Corrie seal!), and are also to be seen much further afield these days. The Voice caught up with Marvin in his well-known workshop in Corrie.
Marvin trained as a Land Surveyor in the Army and continued to work in that role after leaving the military. He was surveying for a pipeline in Iran when he had a stroke that left his left arm weakened. He moved to Orkney “as a hippy drop-out”, and one day noticed a woodcarving competition in a magazine he was idly leafing through. He entered and much to his surprise he won. A church in England saw his winning entry and commissioned him to carve a Madonna and Child for them in 1980. His first thought was “I can’t do that!” but he had a go and the remarkable result can be seen in the photograph below. This led to several more Church commissions, and before long his work was in demand all over Britain.
After ten years on Orkney Marvin was commissioned to make a series of animal sculptures for Arran Aromatics, just then opening in Brodick. Coming to Arran to work on the project, he found that he very much liked it here and has been here ever since.
Marvin says that the process is all important in the making of these works. The outward appearance, seemingly so spontaneous, is often, paradoxically, the end result of a long and laborious process and emerges over time from the natural form of the wood.
These days three-quarters of Marvin’s work is commissioned, and he has an order book that is pretty full for the next six months. He also has smaller pieces for sale in his workshop that are popular with visitors and tourists, and makes feature furniture pieces such as the glass-topped otter coffee table shown under construction below.
COAST have asked all local candidates and leaders of the main political parties for their views on effective marine management and the inclusion of coastal communities on marine decision making groups. Despite the commitment and achievements of grassroots communities like COAST, we are still not recognized as a legitimate stakeholder by some. This is the case of the Clyde Forum, now transforming into the Clyde Regional Planning Partnership, from which COAST have been excluded despite repeated requests to join their steering group.
The next Scottish Government needs to urgently address effective management of Scottish seas for the benefit of all. Our seas are, after all, a public asset and a national resource. The closed-shop mentality of Scotland’s Inshore Fisheries Groups (IFGs) is largely responsible for dividing communities instead of bringing them together as became obvious at the Holyrood demonstrations earlier this year. We can look elsewhere for good practice in marine governance, the IFG English equivalent, Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authorities, include a diverse and representative selection of marine stakeholders.
Industry-led marine management (including fisheries management) contradicts some of the main objectives of the Land Reform and the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill. These are to progress community ownership, strengthen community's voices in the decisions that matter to them and improve the processes of community planning.
COAST will be asking Marine Scotland about effective compliance, monitoring and public information and participation for the South Arran MPA. We envision a collaborative and adaptive approach in which communities, industry, scientists and government can plan, work and learn together while harnessing the potential benefits of our Marine Protected Area for nature and people.
Meanwhile COAST has unveiled initial plans for a Marine Discovery Centre in Lamlash. Almost eighty people attended a public meeting at Lamlash Golf Club on the 26th of April to hear about the proposal, which would use the site of two of the four tennis courts at the southern end of the village, and be done in conjunction with the Bowling Club.
Jim Henderson reports: “Coast and the Bowling Club have agreed an arrangement subject to planning approval to purchase the courts and pavilion, which would become the Coast headquarters.
Jim Sloss, chair of the Bowling and Tennis Club told the meeting that the club was considering closing the courts due to lack of assistance and funding. Until Coast approached with their proposal to retain and upgrade two of the courts, the Bowling club had been considering offering the area for sale for housing.
Coast presented their vision of having both indoor and outdoor facilities at the Discovery Centre. They would also consider taking over the area comprising the putting green, which is leased from Arran Estate, in order to establish a quality tourist attraction for Lamlash.”
After a number of questions were asked and various issues fully explored, the proposals were warmly welcomed by those at the meeting, and a vote was taken which showed overwhelming support.
By Pippa Downing (ACLI Project Manager)
Arran Community Land Initiative (ACLI) are supporting and encouraging low carbon living on Arran in the year ahead with the help of a grant from the Climate Challenge Fund (CCF). Enhancing projects already in progress on the 80 acres of Community Land in Whiting Bay, this grant will help us build on the momentum gained in our first year, grow the project and expand the reach into the wider community.
There will be three elements to the CCF work:
Growing will be a big feature on site, with Allotments to rent, a Community Garden for shared growing and relaxation and a Demonstration Allotment to use as an educational resource. There will be free courses on all aspects of growing to support growers not just on the site but anywhere on Arran. We hope to include permaculture and forest gardening along with traditional vegetable growing courses. All are welcome to join in and groups will be set up to offer opportunities for everyone to learn and enjoy growing.
Composting is also being developed and a demonstration site with various composting methods shown and courses to support the community using these at home. We will also take green waste to compost from local residents. As part of the project, waste in will be weighed to evaluate the reduction in carbon over the year!
Finally, Low Carbon Living workshops and talks are planned across the island to support everyone’s efforts to combat climate change and raise awareness of the issues. These are in the early planning stages and a full timetable will come out soon.
New ACLI employees will help with this project and we hope to mix learning, doing and lots of fun outdoors. If anyone wants more information or would like to join in, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us an email – email@example.com or see us on Facebook – Arran Community Land.
Following the “Save Hear to Help!” protest which was held on Wednesday 9th March at Brodick Ferry Terminal, the service has managed to secure funding to continue.
The news came too late for our last edition, but the dates for the next two clinics at Lamlash are on Tuesday 24th May and Tuesday 28th June.
The full list of all the clinics in the whole of Ayrshire until the end of June can be found here.
Nurdles are small plastic pellets about the size of a lentil. Countless billion are used each year to make nearly all our plastic products but many end up washing up on our shores.
Spills and mishandling by industry can mean nurdles end up at sea. Our planets oceans are now accumulating nurdles in worryingly large numbers.
Unlike large pieces of plastic marine litter, nurdles are so small that they go largely unnoticed. However scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about their effect on our delicate marine ecosystem.
A TOXIC COMBINATION
Nurdles attract and concentrate background pollutants like DDT and PCBs to highly toxic levels.
SMALL, SMALLER, MICROSCOPIC
Nurdles do not go away – like other plastic over time they just fragment into smaller and smaller particles.
EATEN BY ANIMALS
Like other plastics nurdles are mistaken for prey by many marine animals and seabirds and enter the food chain.
The Clyde Nurdle Quest aims to find the amount of nurdles around our shores, and volunteers on Arran are needed to look out for these pesky pollutants on particular dates during the next few months.
This photo shows the number of nurdles found in a few minutes last week on a short stretch of Lamlash beach by a small group of COAST volunteers
There is much more information about nurdles and about the quest at http://www.nurdlehunt.org.uk/ where you can also find out how to join in the search. Alternatively you can contact COAST at http://www.arrancoast.com/ to find out more.
Already a number of industrial companies around the Firth of Forth, where the nurdle quest has been running for a while, have changed their practices to reduce the loss of nurdles to the environment. Let’s see if we can have the same impact around Arran’s shores!
by Alison Prince
Seeing the pictures of the collapsed half-finished Kolkata overpass took me back very vividly to some time I spent there in a small hotel just by that very roundabout.
I've walked along that road.
Saw the overpass they were building.
A woman at a standpipe washed
her sari while still wearing it.
An unwinding of faded pinkish cloth,
a holding up of the end of it
to dry out in the sun,
a turning round, a re-wrapping.
And now, newspaper photograph.
The overpass collapsed.
Thirteen people killed.
A small addition to the cost.
The online journal Grist published an article by Bren Smith in February in which he describes how he has come to develop “Vertical underwater farming”, an idea that just might be of great importance for coastal and island communities such as ours here on Arran. He begins
“I’m a fisherman who dropped out of high school in 1986 at the age of 14. Over my lifetime, I’ve spent many nights in jail. I’m an epileptic. I’m asthmatic. I don’t even know how to swim. This is my story. It’s a story of ecological redemption.”
After many adventures and trying to make a living from the sea in a number of different ways, Bren’s brainwave was to create a sustainable low-impact vertical underwater farm:
“Imagine a vertical underwater garden with hurricane-proof anchors on the edges connected by floating horizontal ropes across the surface. From these lines kelp and Gracilaria and other kinds of seaweeds grow vertically downward next to scallops in hanging nets that look like Japanese lanterns and mussels held in suspension in mesh socks. Staked below the vertical garden are oysters in cages and then clams buried in the sea floor.”
“If you look for my farm from ashore, there’s almost nothing to see, which is a good thing. Our underwater farms have a low aesthetic impact. That’s important because our oceans are beautiful pristine places, and we want to keep them that way. Because the farm is vertical, it has a small footprint. My farm used to be 100 acres; now it’s down to 20 acres, but it produces much more food than before. If you want “small is beautiful,” here it is. We want ocean agriculture to tread lightly.
Our 3D farms are designed to address three major challenges: First, to bring to the table a delicious new seafood plate in this era of overfishing and food insecurity; second, to transform fishermen into restorative ocean farmers; and third, to build the foundation for a new blue-green economy that doesn’t recreate the injustices of the old industrial economy.”
The full text of Bren’s inspiring article can be found here. It is well worth reading in full. The article itself is a condensed version of Bren Smith’s 35th Annual E. F. Schumacher Lecture entitled Ecological Redemption: Ocean Farming in the Era of Climate Change presented in October 2015 and available online at http://www.centerforneweconomics.org/publications/ecological-redemption-ocean-farming-era-climate-change.
Meanwhile the Guardian has reported that Bren and his nonprofit company GreenWave have won the 2015 Fuller Challenge, one of the most important prizes in sustainability, worth $100,000, for his 3D ocean farming model, designed to address overfishing, mitigate climate change, restore marine ecosystems and provide jobs for fishermen. Announced by the Buckminster Fuller Institute, the prize is reserved for designers, scientists and students developing whole systems solutions to humanity’s most pressing problems. The Guardian article is at http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/oct/22/greenwave-ocean-farming-bren-smith-fuller-challenge-sustainability-climate-change.
Trade unions are calling for strong action on climate change, with policies to support workers affected in the switch to a low carbon economy.
Speakers from the STUC, PCS and UNISON called at the Scottish TUC’s Annual Congress for this fair switch to a low carbon economy. The meeting was organised by UNISON and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland.
UNISON Depute Convener Stephen Smellie said: “Climate change is a key issue for trade unions as the world seeks to stop the planet heating above looming dangerous limits.
“We urgently need policies in place to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celcius, preferably 1.5 degrees, in order to halt catastrophic climate change.”
A motion for debate at the Congress in Dundee noted that the deal agreed by world leaders in Paris in December did not include sufficient enforceable policy actions by governments to achieve this. Stephen Boyd, STUC Assistant Secretary, said: “Addressing climate change can deliver significant economic, social and environmental benefits to Scotland.
“Planning for a just transition means we involve all parts of society, sharing these benefits and supporting those whose jobs are affected, with education, training, skills and workforce development also crucial to delivering effective action.”
Cheryl Gedling, Acting-Vice President of PCS, said: “Our union was part of the official UK trade union delegation to the Paris climate talks, lobbying for support for a just transition and we supported the massive climate, justice and jobs marches in London and Edinburgh in December.
“Through initiatives such as the one million climate jobs campaign backed by PCS, it shows we can both cut carbon emissions and create jobs by investing in renewable energy, such as building wind turbines, in retrofitting homes to make them more energy efficient, and running an integrated transport network on clean fuel.”
Stop Climate Chaos Scotland Board Member Mike Robinson said: “The Climate Day election online debate saw the five political parties represented in the current Scottish Parliament questioned on their climate policies and plans for the next five years.
“The Paris agreement reinforced the fact that a safe, affordable future demands a more urgent and concerted effort to make homes warmer, transport greener and heat and electricity production renewable. And we need all politicians to be more accountable for the long term impact of decisions affecting all our lives.”
From Patricia Gibson MP, North Ayrshire & Arran
Following the Panama Papers leak, which lifted the lid on the elaborate tax avoidance techniques employed by wealthy individuals – including a number of world leaders – the Prime Minister was forced to issue a statement about his own financial affairs.
Initially, when questioned, Downing Street said Mr Cameron’s affairs were “a private matter.” The next day when asked if he had previously invested in his Father’s offshore company, he said that he “owned no shares”. Later that afternoon, the statement was expanded to emphasise that “the prime minister, his wife and their children do not benefit from any offshore funds”. By Wednesday, another statement said the Camerons will not benefit from offshore funds “in future”. On Thursday the Prime Minister was forced to admit he had, in previous years, benefitted from the offshore trust in question.
Given several opportunities to clarify his financial arrangements, the slippery way the Prime Minister chose to handle the situation raises an issue of trust. If he can’t be relied upon for a straight answer on this, on what other matters might he obfuscate? On top of that, the way he dismissed his £30,000 in offshore shares – as if it were small change – only goes to show out of touch with reality he really is.
Containing 11.5 million documents, it will be months before the Panama Papers can be fully digested and we gain a clearer insight in to the murky accounting arrangements of the super-rich. However, it should be remembered that this leak – the largest in financial history – only relates to one company based in Panama. What of other masters of the accounting dark arts operating in other offshore havens, such as the British Virgin Islands? Clearly these recent revelations are only the tip of the iceberg.
In recent years, many people have become wearily resigned to an assumption that wealthy companies and individuals can operate above or around the law.
Only two years ago, after being exposed in a tax avoidance scandal, Starbucks reported its first ever fall in UK sales, after 17 years, when customers boycotted the chain. The result? Starbucks completely altered its tax arrangements to pay £10million a year in tax – substantially more than the total of £8.6million paid in total in the preceding 14 years!
Likewise, tax dodging wealthy individuals should be subject to the law through investigation, exposure and enforcement.
In order to achieve this, it is essential that the UK Government works in partnership with other governments. The first step is having a robust set of tax laws in which loopholes are minimised and closed if detected. The SNP Government has already done so in preparation for the devolution of income tax. At UK level, authorities must be properly equipped to investigate wealthy elites, many of whom employ teams of accountants to make their money difficult to trace.
At Prime Minister’s Questions last Wednesday, SNP Westminster Leader, Angus Robertson MP, asked the Prime Minister why a mere 300 HMRC staff were investigating tax evasion by the super-rich, worth up to £70 billion when as many as 3,250 DWP staff are chasing benefit fraud worth £1.2 billion.
Whilst abuse of the benefit system should obviously be tackled, given the sums involved, surely it would be a more fruitful use of time and resources to crack down on those who are fabulously wealthy but chose not to pay what they owe?
To put things in perspective, the £70 billion in UK tax avoided every year is equivalent to more than double the entire Scottish Parliament's budget. Clearly, UK finances would quickly improve and the mountain of debt decline, if all with the means to do so paid their fair share.
Previous governments have failed for decades to adequately address this matter. It is time to walk the walk and not just talk the talk when it comes to dealing with both tax avoidance and tax evasion.
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, Penguin Modern Classics, £8.99
Capote is best known for Breakfast at Tiffany's, popular through its film version starring Audrey Hepburn. In Cold Blood is a very different book. Based on the true story of a Kansas farmer who, together with his wife and family, was murdered in 1959, it's a relentlessly gripping tale of how two young men who kill have been fired by a desire to do something – anything – to prove, at least in their own minds, that they are capable of an extraordinary act.
Published in 1965, In Cold Blood was an instant bestseller. Re-published as a Penguin Classic, it remains a compulsive read because of its unflinching stare at a mental state that any normal person is going to find alarming, pitiful or downright repellent, according to their own views and experience. In our own age where terrorism has a terrible attraction for inadequate and discontented people, this seminal book is newly becoming a 'must-read'. It's not fiction. It travels in close-up through the lives of two young killers through their background, their loves, their deepest desires and their terrible inadequacy.
Capote's day job was as a journalist with the New Yorker, and he writes with the punchy clarity of a good press man. His account of the careful murder of four members of the Clutter family is meticulous, but the book holds together because of a simmering anger about the way psychologically damaged people can get dragged through a criminal case with no real understanding of what is going on. Unputdownable. And thank God for Britain's gun laws.
Selected by David Underdown, who also writes the commentary.
The day the marks made sense
by Imtiaz Dharker
When my finger pushed at the marks
jumbled on a page and stumbled
on the word g i r l, when I found
that every scratch has its own sound
I said it in Scottish. girril
That was just the start. Words
made stories that flew out of books.
Buses had routes and I could
read them. Signs spoke to me
as if they had voices. I sent
messages, word came back.
Then the glass blue days began
and lived in my house as if
they would never crack
Imtiaz Dharker was born in Pakistan, grew up a Muslim Calvinist in a Lahori household in Glasgow, was adopted by India and married into Wales. From these diverse origins comes verse that is about transitions including, like this one, the transition we experience during childhood. It is taken from her latest collection ‘Over The Moon’ - beautifully illustrated with her own line drawings and published by Bloodaxe (2014).
East is in a no-trump contract. South having led the ♦A, North/South to make nine tricks.
A. If East drops the ♦K, South continues with the ♠Q to take three rounds of the suit. Next South advances the ♣Q (a play that could also have been made at trick two). West does best to win (otherwise South has several alternatives) and continue clubs to South's ♣A. South cashes the ♦Q and throws East in with a club. Having scored the ♠10, East is endplayed in hearts and does best to try the ♥9 or ♥J, won by South as cheaply as possible. A second heart goes to ♥K and ♥A but East is endplayed again, having to lead into the split tenace.
B. If East drops the ♦5, South continues with a low diamond to the ♦K. South plays the ♣Q on East's club return. West again does best to win and return the suit to South's ♣A. South cashes the ♦Q to triple-squeeze East. A spade discard means North's ♠7 will score when East is thrown in on a club after three rounds of spades. A heart discard gives North an entry on the fourth round to allow South to take both major-suit finesses. A club discard sets up South's ♣8 and can be followed by any card from South except the ♠9.
1 Don's made a mess with CIA (8)
5 Clasp ensures poplars are trapped (6)
9 Doles one out and freed (8)
10 Cop arrests damaged free delays (6)
11 Movie has seen changes of genderless words (8)
13 Easy when it's a Zephyr (6)
14 Oddly silly and furtive (3)
16 Tournament of threes and fours? (6)
19 In plain clothes, Vivace is confused with no ace (7)
20 Zero spare composed by Verdi? (6)
21 One starts all new exercises (3)
26 Suspends or bats about (6)
27 Rim and OS joint (8)
28 Cooked dime eats Bismuth in the same place (6)
29 Thread is hale about the Frenchmen (8)
30 Nurse unknown bond (6)
31 Burglaries are sin! (5-3)
1 Topless advances make friends (6)
2 Coin to become debilitated (6)
3 Double sided flat team (6)
4 Single bees about ten goats (6)
6 Rocks rock reeks sir (8)
7 Divorcees inject drug and get interpreters (8)
8 Cessation of anxiety? (8)
12 East European licks envelopes with no exercises (7)
15 Fish are in sundry starters (3)
16 Inside hearse anybody is dead perhaps (3)
17 Did Linneaus create tin boats? (8)
18 Learn, note and prosper (8)
19 Most spiteful actors retain square kipper? (8)
22 More nervous about eastern ridge (6)
23 Gunners hold-up friend for broom (6)
24 It has the Spanish former pupil lifting fungi (6)
25 Exercises in ascending. Hut 16 for example (6)
Answers for the April puzzle:
1 Elution, 5 Mustela, 9 Ada, 10 Trident, 11 Opine, 12 Tan, 13 Chelate, 14 Airlift, 15 Rat, 16 Recites, 20 Erector,
24 Feaster, 28 Dossier, 31 Ego, 32 Reamers, 33 Upstart, 35 Eel, 36 Erica, 37 Elevate, 38 Tai, 39 Dashers, 40 Abseils.
1 Enticer, 2 Unite, 3 Inexact, 4 Natters, 5 Magnate, 6 Scourge, 7 Elitist, 8 Abetter, 17 Eke, 18 Ids, 19 Eme, 21 Rho,
22 Cos, 23 Ode, 24 Forfend, 25 Acacias, 26 Thecate, 27 Resents, 28 Douleia, 29 Sestets, 30 Ratters, 34 Abaci.