Friday, 24 July 2009

New report makes Nigg more vital than ever

A FULLY functioning Nigg yard in which to build and service offshore structures and vessel is all the more important with the publication of the The Power of Scotland Renewed report compiled by energy analyst Garard Hassan.

This says that by 2030 Scotland could be powered solely by renewable energy (with energy left over to export).

I am delighted that Enterprise Minister Jim Mather has been drafted in to help end the deadlock. Jim's energy and ability to identify problems and come up with solutions has marked him out as an outstanding minister.

A renewables revolution would undoubtedly shift the focus of Scotland (even the rest of Europe) northwards. However that revolution needs to be backed up by serious funding which would help put the infrastructure in place and support the burgeoning industry.

Yet that simple common sense approach is finding no favour with the Labour UK Government. Their recent action in blocking Scotland from accessing additional funding to drive forward the renewables programme is nothing short of scandalous.

Last week the UK treasury forbade the Scottish Government access to a £150 million fossil fuel fund which can only be accessed by Scottish Ministers for the purpose of renewable energy promotion.

It is a frustrating situation as their action put at risk a dynamic and prosperous future for the Highlands and Islands.

This action will do nothing to help Ross-shire or others areas of the north and west.


A LOCAL hotelier contacted me recently with an idea on how to boost tourism numbers and improve environmental management.

From November to February tourists numbers are down and the main business is from those who shoot and fish. Red deer and salmon are a natural resource yet access to them is limited.

However the introduction of a universal gaming licence could help remedy that.

A licence could work along these lines. For example the licence could cost £150. A limit could be set on the amount of game/fish taken in a day. The hunter\fisher would be accompanied and instructed by a trained gamekeeper and the landowner would receive a bounty, say £50 for a deer, or £10 for a salmon.

This could result in more tourism, boosting local trade, and ensuring better land and game management.

A radical, revolutionary and original idea? No. It happens in Canada and most of our European neighbours.


THE incident of the Marco Polo has raised a number of questions. I am sure that better co-ordination of public agencies will accrue following the outbreak of the winter vomiting bug.

However, that said, it is incumbent upon the owners of the ship to act in a responsible manner. Unless health services and other interested parties are aware of the full facts then it is difficult for them to act in an appropriate way with appropriate speed.


LAST week I wrote to Patrick Harvie MSP (convenor of Holyrood's transport committee) asking the committee to make a submission on the consultation to the National Express rail services' franchise calling for the safeguarding of the Highland Chieftain service from Inverness to London.

UK Government Ministers have failed to give cast iron guarantees that no service will be cut or downgraded on the line. However, there is to be a public consultation on the future of the franchise.

Therefore I would urge business users and commuters who use and value this direct route to make their voices heard and make a submission to the consultation for the continuation of this excellent service.

Any further loss of direct routes to the Highlands would be a blow to the accessibility and connectivity of the area.

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