Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Window madness on the Isle of Bute

Cat window breakI seem to have been following this story – and its variants – regarding replacement windows, the council, listing (as in ‘listed building’), planning permission, and appeals for years.

And I have, as a quick search of the archives on this subject goes back to 2008, which probably means it started some time before then, and that is just when it began to hit the media.

At its simplest, the saga revolves around heritage legislation and the need for planning permission to be granted by the council before work can legally be carried out to modify a listed building. This leaves Bute hotel owners (and others) who want to upgrade their properties with uPVC double glazing (or any other modern window type) with a problem, as they can find that listing means they are obliged to replace like with like. In other word, if the building came with single glazed wooden frames, then that is what they must fit if replaced old worn out windows.

The same rules apply to any owners with listed properties, even private home owners.

The situation has become one of stalemate, with the owners reluctant to fit old style wooden frames, as they wish to upgrade their facilities to make the rooms quieter and warmer for their guests, but the council is standing by the rules and refusing planning permission for the newer and more efficient window, despite repeated applications, and even an appeal to the Scottish Government (also rejected).

There seems to be no way forward, even though the owners have the support of their neighbours, and a number of residents in favour of the new windows, the council appears unwilling to compromise.

Now, an online petition has been organised, together with a paper petition being made available in local businesses:

Bute House Hotel

We, the undersigned, disagree with the decision of Argyll and Bute Council to refuse planning permission for the installation of double-glazed UPVC windows at the Bute House Hotel in Rothesay. Following the Scottish Government’s dismissal of an appeal against refusal, we call on Argyll and Bute Council to reconsider its decision and to work without delay towards a solution which will address the urgent need for quality hotel accommodation on Bute, and be of benefit to the economy of the island.

Petition Bute House Hotel

Web site: Bute House Hotel

See also: Petition urges Bute House Hotel rethink – The Buteman

If you visit The Buteman’s web site, and just insert the word ‘windows’ into the Search Box which appears at the top right of their page, then you will be given a listing of the many stories which have appeared in that publication over the past few years.

Bute House Hotel can be seen below, and is the narrow white building on the right, on the corner of Rothesay’s Guildford Square, just inland of the harbour on the left edge of the pic, as captured by Zak’s Photo Galleries at during October 2013.


A response from the council appear later, published in The Buteman and available online:

‘We understand planning frustration’, says councillor – The Buteman

Argyll and Bute Council has apparently gone power mad

At the same time, a local builder working on a private home, which is NOT listed and therefore presumably NOT covered by the rules attached to that status:

John Morrison installed the windows in the property at 19 Battery Place last year, but has now been told Argyll and Bute Council will seek to take action against him unless the windows are removed.

Mr Morrison has hit out at council planning officials’ attitude towards conservation in Rothesay, pointing out that permission was retrospectively approved for UPVC windows at a neighbouring C-listed property in Battery Place – even though Mr Morrison’s own building has no listed status at all.

Council threatens Rothesay builder with action over UPVC windows – The Buteman

While the case of the hotel has to be resolved within the scope of the relevant rules and regulations which apply to listing, the action being taken against the owner of a property which does not fall under this category clearly shows that the personnel within Argyll and Bute Council are not competent to discharge the duties for which they are responsible, and need to be subject to some sort of audit and review which holds them accountable for their actions.

13/02/2014 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, council | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glasgow City Council heads for cover behind George Square fiasco

George Square lion

The things I have seen
George Square lion by Myrrien

One of the things that can be found in the history of Glasgow City Council is a strange tendency for its members to pursue their own desires in the face of opposition from the people of Glasgow, often amidst claims by citizens that council plans have been put in place without any consultation, or ignoring them if they have been heard.

Although I don’t pay a great deal of attention to such things (since the truth gets lost by those who like to play politics), we have had such things in the past in the form of the Go Ape story in Pollok Park, the handing over of management of museum assets to private companies (which seemed to upset many), the extermination of Paddy’s Market (to suit some trendy idea about art, possibly because it lay so near re-reborn The Briggait) and most recently, an announcement almost out of nowhere that the Glasgow’s George Square was to be subject to one of six possible makeovers, of which the council would make the final choice of the award of £15 million to the design it preferred, a choice not offered anywhere to the people of the city:

With no apparent choice in the selection of the six final designs (just invitations to view the final selection, or of the final design itself, it looked as if the people of Glasgow were set for a fight, and were planning various protests and rallies against whichever of the six designs was chosen for them by Glasgow City Council.

Basically, none of the six was acceptable – with things probably not appropriate for the Scottish climate being included (such as extensive water features), and some even appearing to require the removal of the statues which have been installed in the square over the years, and one calling for the central column in the square to be moved.

There was another gem released by the council in the days running up to the final decision – any overrun in the allocated £15 million project cost would be met by the taxpayer, not the council. Which might as well be interpreted as a licence for the winner to print money, with  no incentive to stay within budget… their money was guaranteed, and the council had protected its own pot.

Then, at the last moment, and just as the final choice was made by the council (why did they bother)… it was announced that NONE of the proposals would be used, although the council members had actually made their choice (well, why waste a free round of tea/coffee and sandwiches at the taxpayer’s expense) :

The design competition for a new square was won by John McAslan and Partners but the council said it would not be proceeding with the £15m contract.

Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson said: “The people of Glasgow have made it clear that they do not want a radical redesign of the square.

“They want the square to look better and be a place of which they can be proud – a place they can while away a sunny afternoon or get together and celebrate the big occasions in the life of the city.

“They also want us to keep the statues where they are, and they like the grass. However, they clearly want rid of the red tarmac. I am proud to say that I am listening to them.”

Cllr Matheson said the scaled-back refurbishment would be carried out in time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

He added: “Only if there is public demand thereafter, will we consider a radical change.”

The design competition to completely overhaul the square was announced by the council last year.

Earlier this month, six shortlisted designs were selected from a total of 35 companies which had expressed interest in the project.

The four British firms on the shortlist were Burns and Nice, Gustafson Porter, JM Architects and John McAslan and Partners.

They were joined by American firm James Corner Field Operations and Agence Ter from France.

Their designs have been on display at The Lighthouse for the past few weeks, where members of the public have been able to register their comments.

The judging panel comprised of David Mackay, MBM Architects Barcelona and Professor Andy McMillan, former head of Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art.

They were joined by David Harding, former head of Environmental Art, Glasgow School of Art, Geoff Ellis, director of DF Concerts and Cllr Matheson.

The technical advisor of the panel was Neil Baxter, secretary and treasurer, The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).

The panel’s decision had been due to be announced on Friday but was delayed after judges could not reach agreement.

Via: George Square redesign: Council drops radical revamp plan

George Square refurbishment announced

Instead, the £15 million will be spent on a facelift for George Square, including a fix for the so-called “Red Tarmac” that seems to have irritated so many Glaswegians by its continued presence on the square since the last time it was tampered with, and the place they knew and loved was generally ruined.

Speaking to STV News later, Councillor Gordon Matheson expanded on the initial news of the refurbishment:

“We’re also looking at ways to reduce traffic flow around George Square, too.

“We we still invest £15m but this is a major investment in George Square and, in the process, the grass will remain which is what the people have said that they wanted, the statues will remain — but we need to respect the history of George Square, too.

“We will introduce high-quality public realm and ensure that whenever there are major civic events taking place within the square, like the George Square Christmas light switch on, that all the requirements will be in place under the square so we don’t need to bring in any generators and all this sort of stuff.”

STV also included the following impression of the design that Glasgow City Council had chosen for the “New” George Square  redesign, produced by John McAslan & Partners which has offices in Edinburgh:

George Square redesign

George Square redesign produced by John McAslan & Partners which has offices in Edinburgh

I get the impression that rather a lot of Glasgow city councillors would have had to jump on their horses and get out of town if that had actually been created.

There’s no good reason the original green and pleasant city centre landmark could not have been retained much in its original format of many years ago, other than the need of a few councillors who probably went on one of those stupid ‘facilitating’ (by whatever name) courses, and came back brainwashed with some idea that they would be seen as failures, or weak and incapable if they made any sort of “no change” or “status quo” type of decision, and had been sold the line that “No decision is not an option”. The latter being a favourite of my Sales & Marketing director, who liked to fire anyone that did not keep making changes. His philosophy was that one had to make a decision, because “Even the wrong decision was better than no decision.”

One can only ponder on how much good Glasgow City Council could have done for itself had the lasting memory of this sham not been one of “How much money was squandered on meeting, proposals, dinners, refreshments, expenses, etc, etc, etc…” (not to mention hours that could have been better spent on council business), and not instead been the much sharper and welcome announcement weeks ago that the council had managed to amass £15 million from various saving initiatives, and was going to spend the money on restoring George Square as per the wishes expressed by many Glaswegian in recent years, and of taking the opportunity to improve the facilities available there.

Meh… Too simple.

21/01/2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Modern Orcadians might want to check on their MSP

Groundkeeper Willie Fox release via WPOne again, I seem to be forced into the arena of political madness as it seems the people of Orkney have an MSP who was keen to get his name in the media foe any reason, even if just to be pilloried. (I should write a political blog, it’s so easy – people just throw stories out to be collected.)

While the following major issue could, and should, probably have been dealt with through a few emails or a phone call, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur is reported to have lodged a Parliamentary Motion over the matter:

One of the most popular supporting characters from the hit US TV show The Simpsons has been revealed as hailing from Kirkwall.

The Orkney origins of Groundskeeper Willie, Springfield Elementary’s curmudgeonly janitor, will be divulged in an episode to be screened in the US later in February.

In the episode, flame-haired Willie is shown as a young Orcadian born of a ‘Doonie’ father and an ‘Uppie’ mother in a family torn apart by the rivalry of The Ba’, the island’s traditional festive football game.

The revelations came in an interview with Simpsons writer Rob Lazebnik broadcast on Radio Orkney on Thursday morning where he discussed the episode, titled The Daughter also Rises.

Following the announcement, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has called on Glasgow City Council to remove the character’s name from its website, where it is claimed Willie – whose full name is William MacDougal – is a famous Glaswegian.

Mr McArthur said: “We know that those with Orkney roots are to be found far and wide across the globe. It should come as no surprise then that the Orkney diaspora has even reached Springfield USA.

“I was concerned to note, however, that Glasgow City Council have made moves to claim Groundskeeper Willie as one of their own by listing him as an ‘alleged’ son of their city.

“In light of recent, incontrovertible evidence and to avoid any future confusion, I have written to the Leader of Glasgow City Council, requesting that they renounce the claim on their website, and in any other relevant materials.

“A Parliamentary Motion has also been lodged to this effect.”

Via The Simpsons: Groundskeeper Willie’s Scots roots revealed | Aberdeen and North | STV News

In the same report, Glasgow City Council replied:

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “We’re confused because Willie has previously described himself as being the ugliest man in Glasgow.

“Perhaps he is from Orkney, but like everyone else in the world who’s not Glaswegian, he just wishes he was. We’ve changed our website to reflect his new claim

As an apolitical creature, I really don’t know much about what duties an MSP is supposed to perform, but this is surely an utterly pointless and complete waste of Parliamentary procedure, whining about the fictitious genealogical background of an American cartoon character.

He MAY have had some sort of case to fight if GCC had denied the claim, and refused to change any reference it had to the character – but that didn’t happen.

He obviously has too much time on his hands – I’d be sending him for a few days holiday to consider his future if he worked for me (and placing some adverts about an upcoming vacancy in Orkney).

(The fuss was fine and fun – escalating the matter to Parliament was not.)

12/02/2012 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Commonwealth Games pit

Money changing handsOne of the things that I find even more depressing than watching the various builds for the Commonwealth Games trashing parts of historic Glasgow (to make way for useless facilities that will lie deserted once the novelty has worn off), is the fact that I won’t be around something like 10-15 years after this fiasco has left the city, and the tally is finally made to determine if the ultimate cost of staging this ego trip was a net financial loss or gain for the city.

While it all looks good, as planners plan and builders build, and there will be an influx of visitors and their money for a few days, if there are no long-term benefits of ongoing visitors in the following years, and the facilities are left to crumble and die, as they surely will, then unless the auditors are prevented from spinning the numbers by selectively losing costs and losses, and reporting only positive cash flows and the initial values of these supposed assets without depreciation, maintenance and disposal costs, then I can already predict that even if the places are lying as piles of rubble, the final account will present the 2014 games as one of the most profitable events to take place in Glasgow for years.

I know you’re laughing and shaking your heads at what I say here, but I suggest you print this out, stick it in your 20 or 25 year diary, and have a look then, at the audits and reviews of the 2014 games. Check, for example, the line items to see if the costs of increased crime, drugs, prostitution, and policing of the streets is included, or if the writers only list the nice things, the things they want you to know about, and brush the nasty realities under the carpet, in the hope that no one notices, or asks about them.

In the meantime, find some inspiration by having a look at this list of former Olympic Games’ sites around the world:

12 examples of decayed Olympic sites

14/08/2010 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , | Leave a comment

Bottomless Money Pit

At £400 million plus however many more millions have never come to light, the Scottish Parliament Money Pit building in Holyrood continues to gobble up cash.

Now, as if anyone actually needs to be told what it is, it’s to gain a nice, new, shiny, giant, granite, sign proclaiming its presence to the world. Costing a mere £20,000 for its initial installation, this will continue to cost us on a daily (nightly?) basis since it is also to be illuminated, so contributing to the capital city’s carbon footprint, and light pollution footprint too.

The place might soon be hidden behind signs, as it seems there’s already been a new stainless steel notice board installed near the entrance, to keep visitors informed.


There’s little better value when you look at how they keep the insides in order either.

The fiasco of last year’s Scottish Parliament and local government election judged that the voters had been considered to be ‘afterthoughts’, with 146,000 ballot papers being rejected when the vote counting machinery failed to be able to cope. The election cost itself was almost £40 million, and the company that failed to provide adequate equipment to do the job they were paid for still walked away almost £9 million better off than when they started. They should have got 50 p for job they did.

20/04/2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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