Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…


Block police man white capPast experience means I get off the road if I see the “white bunnets” of the traffic police anywhere near me – they’re just far too keen.

Dumfries & Galloway is a nice quiet place to enjoy the scenery, but it looks as if the motorways are best avoided.

I also usually suggest that drivers who stare at their SatNav, disengage their brains, and follow instructions to drive off the edge of a cliff or similar, deserve whatever they get – I didn’t think cyclists deserved the same, since they’re much more vulnerable, and likely to be killed or injured by such silly behaviour. Guess I was wrong on that count, and they don’t look where they’re going either, and get into trouble as a result.

Cyclist fined and given penalty points

Jamie Barton, 34, from Essex, was pulled over by officers after straying onto the A74(M) motorway near Gretna. He was given a £60 fine and three penalty points even though he was not driving a car. On a charity ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats, he was given the penalty within minutes of crossing into Scotland.

He explained: “I had just crossed the border. I was following a sat nav and had my head down. I didn’t realise it was taking me onto the A74(M).”

He said he had been on the motorway for just a few minutes when he pulled over.

“They spent about 30 minutes with me in the car. They seemed intent on giving me the biggest penalty,” he said.

Cyclist not fined and not given penalty points

Mr Barton questioned why he had penalty points added to his licence when he had not been driving a motor vehicle.

A spokesman for Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary said on Tuesday: “In reviewing the case it now appears that incorrect procedures were taken in the issuing of this ticket and as such this has now been cancelled.

“The matter will not be taken any further by the force.”

The force explained that Mr Barton had been removed from the motorway by its officers because of the “clear dangers that were posed by someone cycling on a busy lane of a fast motorway”.

Ch Insp Phil Stewart, operational commander for the Dumfries division said: “The force received numerous calls from concerned motorists about the cyclist on the busy motorway and our traffic patrol officers attended and removed him from the danger that he had put himself in.

“The matter is now closed and the force wishes Mr Barton a safe and successful conclusion to the remainder of his charity cycle”.

Mr Barton had been on the road for four days when he had his brush with the law. He hopes to raise £2,600 for a disabled five-year-old and a hospice she attends.

He said he had only been cycling for a few minutes when he was stopped, and was following a sat nav when he accidentally strayed onto the motorway.


Someone must be wrong here – how did the force receive “numerous” calls if Mr Barton is correct in his assertion that he had been cycling on the motorway for a “few minutes”? It’s hard enough to get one person to pick up a phone and report a crime, or grass, let alone “numerous” people.

Did the A74(M) come to a halt as “numerous” concerned motorists pulled over to make their calls, or did the police turn a blind eye to the numerous offences being committed as the concerned motorists deemed the sight so worrying that they considered their own fine and penalty points (for using a mobile phone while driving) worth it? And please, don’t say “hands free” – I watch cars pass me all day containing drivers with a mobile phone clamped to their ear, and not giving a damn as the chances of getting caught are slim.

Were the traffic police officers involved – officers we are usually told are specially selected, trained, and qualified – disciplined for their error?

If the officers were themselves guilty of following “incorrect procedures”, have the procedures now been corrected, or have the officers been subject to a period of retraining to ensure they to not make the same mistake again?

If Mr Barton is correct in noting that it took the officers 30 minutes to process him, then what was the 30 minutes spent on? How long does it take to lecture a cyclist, and write out the penalty? As he wasn’t driving a car, there was no time needed to check his licence, insurance, or documents – since he didn’t have any need of them – and it seems unlikely that he would have given a false name, and wasted their time.

I shall continue my practice of getting off the road as quickly and inconspicuously as possible when I see “white bunnets”, especially if my natural paranoia suggests they appear to be following me.

19/07/2009 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Not so forgotten trenches

shovelOn the anniversary of Armistice Day, the BBC ran a news item about the Forgotten trenches of Word War I, and while it’s true to say that not many people are aware of their existence, I hope anyone paying attention to items posted in here, and more importantly our Main Site, might just be part of the few that are.

We’ve never featured any of the practice trenches around Scotland on their own, but thanks to the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), and its reports on many of the military training areas we’ve researched, we learned that many of these area, and sometime the accommodation camps that dotted the country, were used for practice trenches, and not just during World War I.

In reality, there were probable even more than reported, as we’ve had the odd email from locals who’s memories have been jogged by reading one of articles, and they’ve mentioned the trenches left behind.

While this could be an ideal subject for the online aerial imaging services offered by Google and Microsoft, especially as their high resolution coverage across the country increases, the sad reality is that most of these areas have been absorbed in development, or ploughed out of existence.

Unfortunately, the only one I can remember as I type is Stobs Camp, a World War I and II training area in the Scottish Borders dating back to 1903, but none of the online imaging services cover the area at the moment. There is also Dundonald, but that camp belongs to World War II.

11/11/2008 Posted by | World War I, World War II | , , | Leave a comment

Poor education

Sad to say, I’m one of those that is not particularly impressed by modern teaching, or some of the supposedly “clever and advanced” methods being employed. Without getting tangled in minutiae of any specific technique, these seem to have more to do with promoting the careers of those who invent them, than of advancing the methods used in teaching.

Perhaps a simpler example would be served by the example of driver training nowadays, which appears to me to more interested in teaching new/young drivers in the best methods and techniques to use in order to pass the driving test, rather in in teaching them how to drive. Maybe if those in control realised this and shook the system up, we’d have better new drivers, instead of producing people who can pass their test, but are scared to drive on a motorway, or have any respect for speed limits or other road users.

These thoughts have been triggered by a couple of identical email received today, which I thought at first were spam, but realised were in fact serious after checking the content and address source. The sad thing about this enquiry was that it claimed to have come from a second year design student at a Scottish university, studying interior design. The gist of the message was a request for linoleum samples, which they wished to evaluate as part of a project.

I’m afraid I’d have to rate this project at an “F” before going much further. Surely anyone that’s going to send out enquiries has a duty to make sure that they carry out at least a minimal amount of research on those they are going to contact, and eliminate anyone that is unlikely to be of assistance, or has nothing to do with the subject concerned.

Quite how Secret Scotland come to be seen as a potential supplier of linoleum samples is hard to see, unless we are looking at someone who has simply searched the net for anyone that has ever mention “linoleum”, and compiled an unverified list of contacts for samples – and we did write about the Nairn factories in Dundee once.

If I had done something like that as part of a project, I know my tutor wouldn’t have suffered my carelessness lightly, and I’d have gone home that night knowing I had done wrong.

I’d like to think the same would happen here – it’s a good lesson to learn from, but nowadays, I suspect instead of being told they made mistake, they’d be told it was a good try, if not well directed – so as not to discourage them. I think that’s wrong, you shouldn’t beat people about the head with their mistakes, but they gave to be told their wrong when they’re wrong, not patted on the back lest they be offended, upset, or discouraged.

There’s a sad pattern that I’ve noticed in here, as I get the occasional query, or “fact” that needs to be corrected – the trend is for kids and students to take the correction with bad grace (have I upset the invincibility gene?), while those who are older tend to go with a thanks for the correction or update.

Aw… I’m just too old-fashioned.

16/10/2008 Posted by | Civilian | , | Leave a comment


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