Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Has somebody noticed Scotland’s dark skies?

50% tourism increase by 2015It’s two years since I noted Galloway Forest Park wins Dark Sky award.

To me, given the Scottish Government’s edict of a 50% increase in the amount collected from tourists, issued a few years ago (and I think seldom referred to nowadays – other than by me, it’s a regular in this Blog), this is something unique, and which should have been jumped on as an asset, and relatively valuable USP (unique selling proposition).

But it wasn’t, at least not in any obvious way in those past two years – opportunity lost.

So called Dark Skies Tourism may be small, but it doesn’t take much to cater for enthusiasts. They bring their own equipment, which can be as simple as the naked eye, as dark skies mean that a lot can be seen compared to anywhere near a light polluted city or urban environment. What they really need is just a little organisation, hotels and guest houses that don’t make an issue of, or have silly rules about guests leaving and returning during hours of darkness. I’ve stayed in a few odd places with odd rules in the past, hopefully a thing of the past and they are all gone now, but nonetheless, for dark sky observers, it would be a disaster to land in such a place.

Light pollution

It’s not too clear, but the clip from a NASA view of the night-time Earth does show the notable difference between the north-west of Scotland, and the rest of the country.

The BBC recently made a short film on the subject:

BBC News – Dark skies tourism boosts Scottish economy

At the same time, it also covered the matter of light pollution, and referred to the annual Star Count:

BBC News – Light pollution: Is there a solution?

See also:

International Dark-Sky Association

Organisation of parties to suitable viewing places in the deserted north-west of Scotland might not be a bad idea either. I used to tour the area in search of specific historic locations, and to save time would often travel at night. Being something of an insomniac, I could make the most of daylight to explore, without wasting daylight hours on travel. However, one thing that often stopped me in my tracks was the simple act of filling my car with petrol. Sorties into some areas meant ending my days prematurely as I could only travel 300 miles on one tank of fuel. Since petrol stations are both rare in such areas, and run to shop hours (usually shut before 6 pm), trips into dry areas had to be planned to reach one before it closed, or I had to give up before running out of petrol. Seriously.

On more than one occasion, if I had been held up on the road, I had to park up in a small village and sleep in the car, waiting for the local petrol station to open up in the morning. Hard to believe for city folk used to 24/7 fuel supplies, but if I could not fill up before 6 pm, I could only go as far as the remains in my tank allowed until thing opened up the next morning – and a spare gallon in the boot didn’t help much. Id have had to go a lot further than that to get to a 24/7 garage, and I had them all logged in my GPS. This was a few years ago, so I can only assume things are even worse now, given the various media stories of more and more petrol station closures in the north as the price rises and sales fall.

Even though it seems to be missing opportunities, the numbers seem to show that visitor numbers to Scotland are rising…

However, it also warns that a closer look at the number shows that while they may be on the increase, they are not bringing in the new money the decree call for, as the rise is in staycations (people choosing to holiday at home), while the number of overseas visitors is actually dropping.

Maybe they have discovered the advantages of the staycation too.

BBC News – Rise in Scottish tourist numbers

January 21, 2012 Posted by | Civilian | , | Leave a comment

Clipper ship cradle about to set sail for Scotland – 28 October 2011

We’ve been following the fate of the unfortunate clipper ‘City of Adelaide’ for some time, both here and in the Forum, see: The Carrick or City of Adelaide is laid to rest.

Most people around Glasgow know the vessel as ‘The Carrick’ from its days moored on the River Clyde, where it lay between 1923 and 1989. Unfortunately, it also sank there on  more than one occasion, and ownership eventually passed to the Scottish Maritime Museum. During the period 1992/1993, the remains were moved to a private slipway adjacent to the museum, and a number of scenarios followed, including the proposed deconstruction of the remains, and demolition. Fortunately, the latter option was deemed not to meet the requirements of deconstruction, which would have seen a proper historical record made of all parts and construction methods found.

There are more detailed listing of various incidents and proposals regarding the decaying vessel as it lay neglected in Irvine, and many of these were noted in the Forum thread mentioned above, and we will not be trying to list them here. Please refer to the thread for more information, if desired.

We also have two past Blog entries relating to the City of Adelaide:

June 1, 2011 – City of Adelaide is still rotting away in Irvine

January 4, 2010 – City of Adelaide rots while authorities dither

The Forum followed more current developments, including this article from August 31, 2010 – Culture Minister announces plan to save City of Adelaide/Carrick with Australian bidder

I had largely forgotten about things after this, as there did not seem to be much happening.

WRONG!

It seems that the wheels had indeed been ‘set in motion’ following the Scottish Culture Minister’s announcement, and I just found the following Media Release from the latter part of 2010, which I am pleased to be able to reproduce in full below:

Clipper Ship Cradle About to Set Sail for Scotland

Media Release

28 October 2011

The project to return the world’s oldest clipper ship, the ‘City of Adelaide’, to Port Adelaide will reach another important milestone tomorrow with the completion of the base of a giant 100 tonne steel cradle. A ceremony at Gillman will herald the completion of the cradle base that will support the clipper during its transport from Scotland to Australia. The cradle base has been pre-assembled for integration checks and will be shipped to Scotland in a week’s time.

Valued at $1 million, the cradle has being jointly donated by over a dozen Adelaide and SA regional firms. The ceremony will take place at Samaras Structural Engineers who have donated both labour and materials to the project and will be marked by the cutting of a ribbon by Senator Don Farrell, a staunch supporter of the project and the descendant of a clipper ship captain.

Senator Farrell said “This is an excellent project that helps to mark South Australia’s 175th year. South Australians should be proud, as I am of the collegiate spirit of the engineering firms from across the State that have combined forces to build the cradle. The ‘City of Adelaide’ is an icon of the foundation era of Australia’s social and economic history. It is one of only four surviving sailing ships in the world to have transported emigrants from the British Isles to any destination and will be the only surviving sailing ship in Australia to have brought migrants here.”

Senator Farrell, George Samaras, the General Manager of Samaras Structural Engineers, Creagh O’Connor, the Chairman of the City of Adelaide Preservation Trust, and a group of supporters from the Trust and other donors will also attend the ceremony.

Adelaide firms Aztec Analysis and Bown Contracting and Drafting have designed the cradle so that it can be built over multiple South Australian sites, and then shipped to Glasgow in shipping containers for assembly underneath the ‘City of Adelaide’. The clipper and cradle will then be rolled onto a barge for transfer to a deep port, where it will be transferred onto an ocean-going ship for the voyage to Australia.

Background

The ‘City of Adelaide’ and the ‘Cutty Sark’ are the world’s last two surviving clipper ships. Built in 1864, the ‘City of Adelaide’ is the elder of the two. It made annual runs for a quarter-century from London to South Australia carrying thousands of UK and European migrants. In Australia today, a quarter of a million living descendants can trace their origins to passengers that sailed on the ‘City of Adelaide’.

The ‘City of Adelaide’ currently sits on a slipway in Scotland and its owners, the Scottish Maritime Museum, are being evicted from the site. With few options, they called for tenders to demolish the ship. The City of Adelaide Preservation Trust lodged a bid to ‘demolish’ the ship by taking it to Australia in one piece. Late last year the Scottish Government announced that the Australian solution was the preferred bidder.

To date 75% of the project costs have been funded through contributions from Scottish Government, Adelaide City Council and Port Adelaide Enfield Council, as well as public and corporate donations. The South Australian Government is contributing land to display the clipper at Cruickshank Corner in Port Adelaide

Legend

From left to right, then top to bottom, the details of the above images are as follows:

  1. Parts pre-fabrication at Samaras Structural Engineers at Gillman. Photo by Richard Smith.
  2. Cradle fabrication at MG Engineering at Port Adelaide. Photo by Richard Smith.
  3. Cradle fabrication at MG Engineering at Port Adelaide. Photo by Richard Smith.
  4. Finished cradle components at SJ Cheesman Engineering at Port Pirie. Photo by Richard Smith.
  5. Cradle integration assembly at Samaras Structural Engineers at Gillman. Photo by Richard Smith.
  6. Laser-survey silhouette of ‘City of Adelaide’ on cradle. Cradle design by Aztec Analysis; cradle detail design and graphic by Steve Bown.
  7. The transportation cradle.  Cradle design by Aztec Analysis; cradle detail design and graphic by Steve Bown.
  8. End view of transportation cradle and silhouette of clipper. Cradle design by Aztec Analysis; cradle detail design and graphic by Steve Bown.
  9. Colourised (real colour) laser survey scan. Laser survey and graphic by Headland Archaeology, Edinburgh.

via Clipper Ship Cradle About To Set Sail For Scotland – 28 Oct 2011 | 2011 News.

Update for w/e Friday 27 January 2012

We received the following update:

Hot off the press from an Adelaide paper last week.

2 containers with 40 tons of steel for the prefabricated cradle have arrived at Irvine.  3 more containers comprising the rest of the cradle should arrive this month.

The ship can be carried onto a river barge, taken into deep water and loaded onto an ocean-going ship which will carry it to Port Adelaide.

Update for w/e Friday 10 February 2012

This was later found to have been reported earlier by the media in Irvine:

THE historic Carrick clipper ship will be ready to leave Irvine for Australia before the end of March, according to campaigners in Oz.

That’s when the Save the Clipper City of Adelaide Preservation Trust expect a giant 100 tonne cradle which will transport the vessel Down Under will be in place.

The first two containers of prefabricated components of the cradle arrived in Irvine on Friday.

The last three containers, each carrying 15 to 20 tonnes of cradle parts, are due in late February.

The trust proposed four years ago that the ship’s recovery to Adelaide be the major project to mark South Australia’s 175th birthday but they still need to find funding to ship the vessel abroad.

The plan is to roll the 150-year-old clipper and cradle onto a barge for transfer to a deep port, where it will be transferred onto an ocean-going ship for the voyage to Port Adelaide.

Via Carrick ready for the off – Irvine Herald. Dated January 13, 2012.

January 20, 2012 Posted by | Appeal, Lost, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The black web sites of January 18, 2011, explained

The real reason some sites went black on January 18, 2011…

Some of the cats fell out of the internet:

funny pictures - The internet
see more Lolcats and funny pictures, and check out our Socially Awkward Penguin lolz!

January 19, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Waterstone’s big big apostrophe sin

ApostropheThere are some grammatical errors that are understandable, but after noting a number of comments about Waterstones (or Waterstone’s) repeated attempts at rebranding, I’m left wondering what sort of accountability a bookseller has, as Waterstones (or Waterstone’s) seems to think that the correct use, or not, of an apostrophe in its name is not something to take seriously, or deal with consistently.

I have to confess that after reading numerous other blog entries, and the discordant opinions of many ‘experts’ in the area, I have emerged confused, rather than wiser, after reading them all together with the logic behind them.

In fact, rather than come down in print in this blog in favour of one version or the other, I’m abstaining. Not because I don’t know how to apply the sometimes troublesome little apostrophe, but because I am not a mind-reader, and do not know the intended meaning of the presentation of the word as the corporate front.

However, I will express one clear and distinct opinion…

To merely drop the apostrophe on the basis of its inability to be included in a web url is NOT sufficient reason.

That makes Waterstones (or Waterstone’s, or maybe even Waterstones’ in this case) offence no better than that seen in the case of the Greengrocer’s Apostrophe – or should that be Greengrocers’ Apostrophe?

What are Greengrocers’ Apostrophes?

The apostrophe is confusing enough for normal people who don’t write much and therefore don’t gain much experience in handling it.

Organisation such as Waterstones (or Waterstone’s) who are ‘in the trade’ should be helping to make things clearer,  not muddying the water by using non-grammatical criteria to define their use of the little helper.

I can’t even boycott them, as I would not be seen dead inside a shop that has so many waste-of-skin celebrities through its doors, signing books they have allegedly written.

January 18, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Residents of Scalpay have say on community buy-out

IslandWhile it’s not the sort  of full sale of an island we have noted on past occasions, it is notable that the residents of a village on an island have the opportunity to have a say in a community buyout.

Residents of a Hebridean village are being given the chance to have their say on whether to take over the running of their own village.

Scalpay landlord Fred Taylor has offered to give his 300 tenants control of their own land free of charge.

He says he has no plans to sell the land to anyone else and would retain the island if its residents decide not to take it from him.

Island residents to have say on community buy-out

Mr Taylor, who inherited the island from his father ten years ago, says the residents could set up their own community trust or join the larger neighbouring community estate managed by the North Harris Trust.

The Scalpay Community Land Steering Group is in discussions with Western Isles Council to hold a public ballot early in June.

via Island residents to have say on community buy-out | Highlands & Islands | STV News.

Earlier beginnings

The story began about a year ago (2011), when it was reported that the Islanders may get their island for free.

January 17, 2012 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Port Bannatyne – the view from above

It’s not often you can find something good in something bad, and while the Isle of Bute might have suffered somewhat at the hands of the recent high winds, one of the consequences was the need to ship over some seldom seen hardware to the island, in order to effect repairs.

Clearly not put off by the idea of hanging around in an open platform dangled from a hook on a crane – haven’t these guys discovered ‘cherry pickers’ – Zak took to the air and provided a set of pics taken from the sky above Port Bannatyne.

I wonder if I would jumped at the offer? I don’t have a problem with heights, but hate being on anything at height that’s not secure.

Click on the pic below to be taken to the full gallery for this little adventure – views I suspect have not been seen before, and won’t be seen again, for a while at least:

Port Bannatyne aerial

Port Bannatyne aerial collection © Zak

January 16, 2012 Posted by | photography | , , | Leave a comment

The daft world of politics

I seldom dip into pure politics, point at particular items that are politically motivated, and don’t intentionally promote any political views here, but occasionally I see things that are so bad they deserve a mention.

The first is the spoof Downfall clip on YouTube, presumably some don’t want this seen, so here it is…

I would say that compared to most other spoofs of the original, the new words laid over it barely rate a scot of 1 out of 10 – but that’s probably because the creator was trying to make some sort of political point, instead of raising a laugh. It’s also hard to believe someone lost their job over this rubbish.

I’ll be interested to see what my mere posting of the spoof attracts in the Comments section, as this posting takes no political side. I neither applaud nor decry it, merely point at it, and observe the rubbish script. Some Downfall spoofs merit a rating of ROFL, this sad effort barely manages :-)

Godwin’s Law

Godwin’Law states “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”

The above seems to have brought Godwin to the ‘real’ world:

ALEX Salmond is under pressure to withdraw controversial remarks he made about a senior BBC adviser who he compared to a high-ranking Nazi Party official following a row over the exclusion of the First Minister from a rugby broadcast.

Mr Salmond used the term “Gauleiter” – the name for a regional Nazi party leader – to describe BBC political adviser Ric Bailey after the SNP leader was blocked from appearing on a sports show ahead of the Six Nations clash between Scotland and England at the weekend.

However, Mr Salmond was accused of making an “ugly smear” and of “bully-boy tactics” by opponents for using the term, after his invitation to appear on the show was withdrawn at the eleventh hour on the advice of Mr Bailey because of “heightened tensions” over the independence referendum.

Via Alex Salmond under fire for Nazi jibe at BBC adviser – Politics – Scotsman.com

Having been an online victim of Godwin myself – such is the joy of moderating and administering various web sites and forums – all I will offer by way of comment is the observation that when one want to make a comparison, or insult, there are plenty of other terms than can be used, and which do not have clear Nazi implications.

‘Out of context’ my a***.

In addition, it’s a ridiculous excuse and an insult to the reader’s intelligence to suggest that someone’s whose stock in trade is public debate would use such a term without knowing exactly what it meant – and then try to use ‘plausible deniability’ to get away with it.

A tale of RET misinformation

I was about to have something of a more serious poke at a politically motivated person.

As regulars probably know, I tend to avoid mentioning ferry services as there are some seriously motived people with their own agendas out their, and they don’t take criticism kindly.

However, I did see some politics that hit pretty low last week.

An island blog reported:

However, when Bute wasn’t named specifically in the Scottish government’s plans, Argyll & Bute MP Alan Reid claimed the SNP had no intention of rolling the scheme out to Bute, saying: “There is no commitment to bring RET to Bute.

“All RET schemes have started at the beginning of the winter timetable in October. Arran starts October 2014. There is only one more October before the end of the parliament. Why did the Scottish government not say that RET would come to Bute in October 2015?

“If a Government gives a date for the implementation of a specific commitment, you can generally believe them. This is not the case here. We still have to fight for this.”

That would appear to be a categorical and well researched revelation by Argyll & Bute MP Alan Reid.

Apparently it’s not, and it’s just some political points-scoring, and based on misinformation – he does not even appeared to have bothered to check what he has said.

This was left to the Blog site, which did the responsible thing, and checked with the people who are responsible for RET:

ButeBites contacted the Scottish government for clarification on whether RET would come to the island. Transport Scotland’s Colin Grieve said: “You may be aware that the SNP’s 2011 manifesto contained a commitment to “continue the
Road Equivalent Tariff on the current routes, and look to roll out to the Argyll and Clyde islands in light of the Western Isles pilot”.

“I can confirm that these plans include the introduction of RET on ferry services to Bute (Wemyss Bay-Rothesay and Colintraive-Rhubodach) within the lifetime of this parliament.

“In addition you may be interested to know that contained within the Scottish Ferry Service Draft Plan recently published for consultation is a proposal to enhance the Colintraive-Rhubodach service, running the service through to midnight, thereby extending the operating day.

“The intention would be to include this proposal as part of the next tender for Clyde and Hebridean Ferry Services in 2013. The Draft Ferries Plan is out for consultation until 30 March 2012, and we would welcome your views on it.”

We have to be grateful that ButeBites at least knows how to research a story before publishing.

Scottish Ferry Services: Draft Plan for consultation. Publication Date: 21/12/2011.

Bute Bites

The bottom line

Given the two (or now threee) stories above, who did something that was serious enough to merit losing their job, or resigning after they were found out?

(No wonder I keep away from politics – I’d never get anything useful done! And I do also have to admit to assuming that all I have quoted above is correct, as I am not taking the time to check it.)

January 15, 2012 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

No more Taste of Bute

Steak and knifeIt’s never nice to see news of a business cease to trade, but when it looks as if it was a successful one, and that success might be one of the reasons, that makes the news even sadder.

Taste of Bute began back in 1999, with a view to marketing premium beef and lamb from The Plan Farm and to encourage other island producers to participate in a joint marketing venture. That it was still around, until the end of 2011, suggests it was doing something right. In 2008-09 the operation developed into the creation and sale of smoked meat, fish and cheese, and three additional staff were taken on in 2010 and 2011 to help run the expanded business.

However, it looks as if existing commitments on the farm, and the unfortunate increase in bureaucracy, regulations, procedures, that are associated with growing business which provides food to the public overwhelmed the operation.

I come from a non-food business background that was steeped in documentation and procedures, and that took me into quite a few food factories where I saw their detailed operations, and even though I was well-versed in such things, looking at the sort of regulations they had to keep on top of on a daily basis was… scary.

The owners have given their own account of the closure here:

Plan Farm – Taste of Bute – Smoke House Closure

Via: ‘Taste of Bute’ shuts up shop – Local Headlines – The Buteman

January 14, 2012 Posted by | Civilian, Lost | , , | Leave a comment

Personal locator beacons become legal for use on land

Rescue helicopterIt was interesting to see a raft of news items report that a device I was given a ‘poke in the eye’ for identifying as NOT being the device the BBC identified as the hero of a rescue story back in 2008 - We know where you are  – has now (four years later) become legal for use in in the UK since January 12, 2012.

Previously, personal locator beacons (PLBs) had been restricted for use at sea and by aircraft crews.

Now, climbers and hillwalkers may use them legally.

The police across the UK are the co-ordinating authority for all land-based search and rescue incidents. Deputy Chief Constable Andy Cowie is the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland lead on Search and Rescue, whilst Deputy Chief Constable Ian Shannon is the lead in England and Wales.

In a joint statement, they said:

‘This legislative change will allow members of the public to use handheld PLB devices on land anywhere in the UK which when activated, will send a Distress Alert message that will be picked up by satellite and relayed via the UK Mission Control Centre (UKMCC) direct to the authorities.’

‘The UKMCC, co-located with the Air Rescue Co-ordination Centre (ARCC), currently at RAF Kinloss, will receive, process and verify co-ordinates for activations before informing the relevant Police Force via the Force Operations Centre.’

‘The Police Service has been at the forefront throughout 2010-11, in planning these changes and colleagues in Police Forces across the UK are fully aware of the changes in legislation. We have worked with the Ministry of Defence, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, the Department for Transport and OFCOM to get the necessary protocols in place to deal effectively with a PLB activation.’

‘Mountain and Lowland Search and Rescue Teams are busy all year round’ they added, ‘and if we can take advantage of today’s technology to help manage and minimise the risk to rescuers and help speed up the whole rescue process, in an emergency, there is no doubt we can save lives that might otherwise be lost. It will also help reduce the burden on volunteer rescue teams and searchers across the UK. Satellite coverage is much wider than mobile coverage and we have to take advantage of that.’

If you are considering purchasing one of these devices please remember the following:

  • The use of a PLB should be as a last resort for use when ALL other means of self-rescue have been exhausted and where the situation is deemed to be grave and imminent, and the loss of life, limb or eyesight will occur without assistance.

See more here:

Personal Locator Beacons – change in the law – North East Wales Search And Rescue

BBC News – Personal locator beacons cleared for use on land

Land approved emergency beacons ‘could save lives’ | Scotland | STV News

January 13, 2012 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act

SpyI like to keep an eye on developments arising from the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act (FOISA). Most of the mentions that make the news of any sort are fairly mundane, and not really worthy of comment, being little more than griping by twisted individuals who have nothing better to do than dream up some sort of obscure, mischievous, and time-wasting enquiry, and then go whining to the world when they get a knock-back.

While such knock-backs are not a worry, there are instances – substantiated by prosecutions – where people wilfully amend official records in order to prevent their disclosure under FOISA.

Of concern is a statement made by the outgoing Scottish Information Commissioner that the time the authorities are devoting to such prosecutions should be doubled, or more. Kevin Dunion said that the current six month period within which action must be taken is inadequate and must be doubled, or changed so that authorities have six months from the discovery of an act to take action, rather than six months from the carrying out of the act. “In most cases it will only become apparent that an offence has been committed as a result of investigations into an appeal which has been made to the Commissioner” he said in his report .

The Scottish Information Commissioner also outlined a recommendation that future incumbents of the post should have the power to “seek affidavit evidence or conduct formal questioning under oath“. He said this would help the Commissioner to conduct investigations and “secure unrecorded information”.

Additional bodies to be held accountable

The outgoing Scottish Information Commissioner also said that the public should be given the right to make FOI requests for information stored by bodies that work on behalf of public authorities, not just the authorities themselves. Under FOISA only ‘listed designated’ bodies are subject to the laws set out in the Act, and although the provision exists to add organisations to this list Scottish Ministers have yet to exercise this option since the law was enacted in 2002. He said:

“No additional bodies have been designated since FOISA came into force and this calls into question whether Scottish rights to information will keep pace with the change in delivery of public services, and whether those spending public funds can be held to account at an operational or local level.”

Last January, Scottish Ministers decided against adding organisations such as leisure, sport, and cultural trusts established by local authorities to the list of designated bodies subject to FOISA. The decision was taken following a consultation on the issue which also meant that private contractors that run prisons or build schools, hospitals or roads under private finance initiatives (PFI) are not required to disclose records when requested.

In November of last year, a number of organisations were added to the  list of ‘designated’ public authorities subject to FOI laws in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), together with the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland (ACPO), and the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), were added as a public authority under the Freedom of Information (Designation as Public Authorities) Order 2011.

On the surface at least, Scotland seems to be lagging in an areas where it is generally thought to lead.

January 12, 2012 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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