Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Glad there was never a chance to challenge any speeding fines

While I’ve no argument with the operating principles behind the various speed detection systems and methods used by the authorities to enforce speed limits, I do take issue with the attitude of those various authorities in their near obsessive belief, or perhaps policy, that they are absolute, are completely accurate in all circumstances, and that challenging them is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

While most people with a suitable background will understand that such system are accurate, that accuracy relies on a perfect operating environment, and perfect operators.

Need I say that in the REAL world, NEITHER of those criteria are satisfied in EVERY case.

I used to travel to North Wales regularly. The return trip involved travelling a long downhill road with a 40 mph limit. Then, I had a high profile German sports car that would cruise the Autobahn at 150 mph, and a radar detector because I knew I would be ‘picked on’. Coming down that hill, it revealed that, despite travelling at 40 mph, I would be ‘painted’ by police with a radar gun, regardless of the fact that I was being passed by other cars speeding down the hill.

It’s a pity that devices such as radar guns and speed cameras are administered by people unqualified to understand them technically, as they are seriously misled by the advocates of such devices, and the manufacturers of course, who promote such devices as being completely accurate. Sadly, that’s not the case.

There’s a good example of this mindset revealed in this quote which including West Mercia Police Chief Constable Anthony Bangham’s call for inaccuracy to be ignored:

Most police forces have a tolerance of 10 per cent plus 2mph above the limit before a speed camera ‘flashes’. So on a 30 mph road, a camera wouldn’t normally activate unless a car drove past at 35mph or above. Auto Express warn motorists that car speedometer inaccuracies make it difficult to measure how close to the threshold they are travelling.

However, last year, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead on road policing, Anthony Bangham – who is also chief constable of West Mercia Police which prosecuted Richard – called for the 10 per cent buffer to be scrapped. He also said speed awareness courses were being overused, and believes offenders should get fines and points on their licence instead.

Richard and Tim believe any such move would be deeply unfair given the potential problems with speed camera inaccuracies.

Man, 71, loses £30,000 of his son’s inheritance fighting a £100 speeding fine – but can the camera lie?

As noted in the opening, I’ve never had the need to challenge a speeding charge/fine, and I’m beginning to be glad I’ve been priced off the road., given the apparently growing proliferation and automation of such devices, and the apparent selective myopia of those administering them – ‘They MUST be right, if you were caught, you WERE speeding‘, end of story, no argument, no appeal.

The article referred to in the link is shocking, and confirms the worry I always had about the courts, police, and legal system, brainwashed by the manufacturers and advocates of speed detection systems with their claims of ‘perfection’.

Regardless of presenting a reasonable defence, the courts/authorities simply ignored it (my view as an accredited calibration signatory – I used to approve and sign fiscal calibration certification which could be presented in court as evidence).

The article includes a few examples of how these systems can report erroneous speeds of the subject vehicles, and, worse, how the systems themselves are poorly installed, with, for example, the supposedly ‘calibrated’ lines painted on the road (supposedly as a double-check or verification) not even being spaced accurately.

It’s a shame that we don’t seem to have progressed much further in removing operator error or bias from these systems today, than we were in the days of VASCAR, when systems also depended wholly on correct operating procedure for their accuracy, and careless operation of the switches used to set that system up on a piece of road could lead to it being inaccurate.



This system eventually proved to be so problematic, it was discontinued.

Note also the manufacturer’s accuracy claim (and even lack of Home Office Approval or testing) I referred to above – NOBODY with an interest, especially financial, should be allowed to verify such criteria.

Scotland: Police Halt Use of VASCAR Over Accuracy Concern
Police chiefs in Scotland, UK told not to use VASCAR to issue speeding tickets due to interference and reliability issues.


The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in Scotland issued a memo Tuesday recommending that VASCAR not be used to issue speeding tickets to motorists. Although the “Vehicle Average Speed Computer and Recorder” is a thirty-five-year-old technology and has been replaced in some areas by radar and laser speed guns, it is still commonly used in the UK and the US.

“Until such time that the matter has been fully investigated, a memo has been sent to officers asking them to use alternative speed detection equipment,” Strathclyde Police Chief Inspector Andy Orr told the Aberdeen Press and Journal newspaper.

VASCAR estimates speed by calculating the amount of time it takes for a vehicle to pass a given distance. The police officer operating the machine flips a switch when a vehicle passes a given point and then flips it again when the vehicle passes a second point. The machine then displays a speed on a small readout. Because the device appeared to depend more upon the skill of the operator to produce a reliable estimate, UK police authorities never required Home Office Approval or accuracy testing for the device. Instead, the VASCAR manufacturer insisted that the “quartz crystal” performed a self-test allowing the device to establish itself as an accurate instrument for measuring speed.

That did not turn out to be the case for UK officials who recently uncovered reliability problems while working to integrate the speed detector with new digital radios and automated number plate recognition (ANPR) systems. The same officials had already known about the possibility for radio frequency interference. A 2002 ACPO test registered interference any time a radio or cell phone was used within six-and-a-half feet of the VASCAR machine.

“There is a potential risk of interference to Traffic Law Enforcement Devices (TLED) such as VASCAR from Airwave Radios and GSM phones,” a Devon and Cornwall Constabulary memo dated August 19, 2008 explained. “Officers should not operate a TLED from within a vehicle in the presence of a GSM phone or Airwave radio that is switched on, unless a ‘Transmit Inhibit’ system has been enabled. Failure to do so may compromise the integrity of any relevant prosecutions.”

Now Scottish officials fear the possibility that lawyers will seize upon the unreliability of the technology to undermine past prosecutions and force refunds.

Source: Speed-trap device may be faulty, say police (Aberdeen Press and Journal (Scotland), 2/4/2009)

13/09/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Surveillance, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inverbervie Cold War Radar Station up for sale again

Last placed on the market back in 2010, Inverbervie CEW Radar Station is up for sale again.

Few details are given in the news stories relating to the offer, and when we checked the agent’s web site and searched it for details, the property was not listed – in fact, it only came up with one house for sale when we asked it for all properties in Scotland with no other criteria.

Back in 2010, offers over £250,000 were being sought.

Our summary notes:

In 1953, a Centimetric Early Warning (CEW) radar station was built on the headland. Five radar systems were installed to provided coverage of the North Sea and north coast of Scotland, and give advance warning of the approach of any potential threats.

In 1968, the station was taken over by the US Navy, and operated in conjunction with the major monitoring station based at RAF Edzell, a little over 10 miles to the west. Edzell closed in 1977, followed by Inverbervie in 1978.

The facility lay unused for the next six years, until 1984, when it was designated Reserve Headquarters for Group Headquarters and Sector Control at Craigiebarns, Dundee.

The station was finally closed and withdrawn from service in 1993.

The bunker lay unused for a further six years, purchased by the current (2007) owner in 1999.

Information recorded by RCAHMS identifies aerial photographs of the location dating from 1954, 1957, 1967, and 1973, all of which show a small T shaped building on the headland, set within an area if approximately 40 m x 20 m, assumed to be the roof of an underground structure, with related structures nearby. The underground structure is further described as lying beneath what appears to be a cottage, but is actually part of the structure’s domestic infrastructure, such as water tanks. The entrance to the underground facility is reported to be protected by a blast door, with the interior provided with artificial lighting and ventilation. While being locally rumoured to date from the 1930s, the installation is recorded as having been built in 1952, with further work carried out in the 1960s when the mezzanine floor was added.

More details and some interior shots can be found on our Wiki page.

Inverbervie CEW Guardhouse

Inverbervie CEW Guardhouse 2001 © Nick Catford

As always, our thanks to Subterranea Britannica for permission to reproduce their material.

28/06/2013 Posted by | Cold War, military | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Stealthy wind turbines evade radar

Blue radar dishOne of the real problems with wind power is the potential interference the rotating turbine blades can cause can cause to military and an aviation radar systems. This can cause problems with tracking aircraft within the vicinity, and cause false signals. By the time these are processed and presented to controllers, the information can be unreliable.

There are two potential approaches to dealing with this problem, which is currently putting many otherwise acceptable wind farm applications on hold. Apart from the simple reflection from the structure itself, wind turbines can produce significant ground clutter signals due to the constantly rotating nature of of their turbine blades.

The first approach has been developed by defence contractor QinetiQ and turbine manufacturer Vestas, and depends on the creation of stealth turbine technology, similar to that used by the military on stealth aircraft. By combining the techniques of radar absorbent coatings, and the use of similarly absorbent materials within the composite structure of the blades, it is possible to reduce the radar signature of the wind turbine to significantly smaller size and reduce its effect on radar systems.

The second approach is use sophisticated software applications to detect the characteristic interference signals associated with systems such as wind turbines, and use it to subtract that signal from data before it is presented to controllers.

While even combinations of such systems cannot completely eliminate the source of the problem in every case, the method will help to reduce the effects, and remove at least one potential objection.

There always remains a third alternative which has been used successfully in some cases, and that is to re-site the affected radar, so that the turbines are shaded from its view.

The Guardian’s environmental reporter eventually caught up with this development after a few days, and published a longer report, with an additional note observing that maritime radars suffer a similar problem with wave reflections and signals bouncing between offshore wind turbines and ships to create “ghost” signals.

26/10/2009 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, military | , , | Leave a comment


It’s not been a good week. First, the loss of a 20V 5 A supply threatened to knock us offline for an indeterminate period, and the best we had in the spares box was 15 V (albeit 30 A), it might have been possible to raise it, but risky given the possible operating margin. Remarkably, even though it was a sealed, switched mode supply, deciding there was nothing to lose, cracking it open (literally, as it was one of those sealed-for-life blocks) revealed a fault that had been there from day one. Second, although the time taken to fix the supply meant I didn’t have to move to the fallback PC (wouldn’t have happened anyway – currently too cold where it lives), it is still used every week for other duties. Had we had to depend on it, we’d have been out of luck, as this week saw it ‘die’, in so far as Windows decided to manifest a lockup-at-boot problem this particular machine had suffered in the past. There’s no fix, and it needs a Windows re-install to clear it – we know, we’ve tried all the fixes for similar symptoms as provided by MS in response to the errors found in the bootlog, none of them worked, not even a little bit. So, a close brush with coincidences that almost wiped us out until May, when it got warm again!

On a similar time-based theme, just before losing days to the above, we had resurrected our Tiree page, abandoned a few months ago as it was becoming too involved, and we didn’t have a model to handle the volume or type of data that it was throwing up as we dug around, and it is a most interesting place as far as its World War II past is concerned. Developments on some other pages since then have suggested how to handle the info, and we’ll hopefully get it tied up in the next week or so. Spending some time on this will now be of benefit, to finalise a method for tackling this sort of info in an organised way, as we have come across some similar info after coming across what appeared to be an isolated Coastal Defence radar station towards Scapa Flow. Digging around the archives revealed that we had found a Research Station, and that the position was actually one of a series of specially commissioned coastal radar intended to detect submarines approaching the Home Fleet moored in Scapa Flow.

If you’re familiar with HMS Royal Oak, then it’s worth noting that this defence was to the south and east, while the U-Boat that sank the Royal Oak had taken advantage of tidal conditions to defeat the blockships defending the fleet from the north west approach.

09/12/2007 Posted by | Site News, World War II | , , , | Leave a comment

Gin Head Radar

Yet again, wandering around some other sites of interest brought to light a site we were completely unaware of.

Gin Head lies on the south side of the Firth of Forth, to the east of Dunbar, and in sight of Tantallon Castle.  At its simplest, Gin Head was the site of a Chain Home / Chain Home Low radar station, part of the country’s World War II early warning system that alerted the RAF to incoming enemy aircraft. This system was such a well guarded secret that the Luftwaffe failed to recognise its significance – allowing the RAF to scramble its fighters only where enemy aircraft were actually attacking (much to their repeated irritation, as the RAF always appeared to be in the right place at the right time), rather than flying continuous sorties in the hope of being airborne in the right place at the right time, which quickly have stretched it to breaking point. The Luftwaffe did eventually realise the towers that carried the radar antennae were significant, but too late, and even when they did attack them (down south), although they brought the system down, they broke off the attack too soon, and the damage was quickly repaired, restoring the system. Failing to realise the true significance of the towers they had attacked, the Luftwaffe’s attentions were diverted elsewhere, leaving the system intact.

The radar station was extended in 1943 with the addition of a Research Establishment directly to its east. Although we have little information about the precise nature of the work carried out there, it was definitely used to test and develop radar systems for use by the Royal Navy, and to investigate captured German radar equipment. It played a part in the preparations for the D-Day landings in June 1944, when its facilities were used to test radio countermeasure equipment.

There’s little detailed information about the work carried out there, and it was taken over by Ferranti, now Bae Systems Avionics Ltd, at Crewe Toll, but was abandoned in recent years, and is now the subject of a planning application for conversion to domestic use.

Further detail can be found on our pages for the Gin Head Radar Station, and the Gin Head Research Establishment.

30/11/2007 Posted by | Naval, World War II | , , | 4 Comments


%d bloggers like this: