Thursday, 7 January 2010

Lawrie Sinclair of CalMac to Retire

Lawrie Sinclair, Chief Executive of the David MacBrayne Group, which includes ferry operators CalMac Ferries Ltd and NorthLink Ferries Ltd, has announced he is to retire from his post at the end of June 2010.

Prior to its major restructure in October 2006, Mr Sinclair had been Managing Director of Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd since 2000, and oversaw its separation into Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd and CalMac Ferries Ltd. He then led the company’s successful bids to provide lifeline ferry services for both the Northern Isles and the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services contracts. His contract was due to end in April 2010, but he has agreed to extend it by a few months to manage the handover to his successor.

David MacBrayne Chairman, Peter Timms, said: “For the last 10 years Lawrie has successfully steered the company through some of its most challenging times, and has done much to transform it into a modern commercial business which puts the needs of its customers first.”

Lawrie Sinclair said:”My time with CalMac has been one of the most challenging and rewarding times of my life, and I leave with very mixed feelings. However, I do believe that as we approach the retendering of the contracts for both the Northern Isles and Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services, the time is right to pass the baton onto someone else to take the David MacBrayne Group forward.”

Prior to joining CalMac, Lawrie enjoyed a successful career in shipbuilding and repair, culminating in being appointed Managing Director at three different yards from 1981 to 2000.

Peter Timms added:”The search for Lawrie’s successor will begin immediately with advertisements being placed in the national media from this week.”


Date: Saturday, 16 January – Friday, 22 January 2010

Title: Spòrs/SPL - Dundee Utd V Hibs

Join the House of Sport team for the SPL 90, sports action, news and interviews.

Transmitted: Saturday 16th January 2010
Time: 20:00

Title: Alleluia!/Spiritual Music & Verse

Màiri MacInnes sings Psalm 118, Norrie MacIver sings Mu Choinneamh Cathair Dhè, Iain Campbell gives a personal account on the role religion plays in his life and Mary Smith reads from Carmina Gadelica. Presented by Iain MacKinnon.

Transmitted: Sunday 17th January 2010
Time: 19:30

Title: Tormod/Norman MacLean - A Life

The Highland superstar that never was: acclaimed Gaelic comedian, singer, writer, piper and alcoholic Norman Maclean talks about his life to accompany the recent publication of his autobiography. A moving tale of the struggle to live between the two cultures of Gaelic and English.

Transmitted: Monday 18th January 2010
Time: 21:00

Title: Soillse - School on the move

Instead of going away to school, children of the tribe of the Evenka in remote Siberia have school brought to them.

Transmitted: Wednesday 20th January 2010
Time: 21:00

Title: Spòrs/SPL - St Johnstone v Hibs

Join the House of Sport team for the SPL 90, sports action, news and interviews.

Transmitted: Wednesday 20th January 2010
Time: 22:00

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


We expect that the severe weather will continue for many days to come, and it is therefore important that pedestrians and drivers take extreme care at this time.

Although Argyll and Bute has not experienced the severe snow seen in the Highlands and the Borders, we still have sub-zero temperatures during the day which leaves the road surface temperatures very low.

All our main roads are open, but a number of our secondary routes have had to be closed due to sheet ice. Our gritters are currently unable to get to these locations to treat them.

On Mull, the B8073 road between Ensay and Kilninian near Calgary and also the C46 Glen Bellart road between Salen and Dervaig are both closed.

We are making all reasonable attempts to get these roads open as soon as possible but the current weather conditions make this task difficult.

Many of the side roads throughout our area are still treacherous, but these will be treated when resources permit. We treat our main strategic roads first to ensure that traffic can move between our main centres of population. Pavements continue to be tricky but when resources permit these will be re-treated.

It is important when travelling that you give yourself much more time to make your journey. It is not possible in these weather conditions to expect all our roads to be free from ice and snow. You should drive at speeds appropriate to the road conditions.

Councillor Duncan MacIntyre, the Transportation Spokesperson has thanked the winter maintenance staff for their continued input during some of the worst weather our area has had in 30 years.

“The weather has been terrible but our winter maintenance staff have continued to provide an excellent service, especially over the festive period when they have ensured that all our main roads have remained open,” he said.

“I wish to personally thank the staff for their significant input at this time. Indeed, the co-operation from the public is also appreciated and we hope this will continue. The poor weather conditions are going to continue and I would ask that all drivers and pedestrians take care at this time.”

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


NFU Scotland is urging the farming and rural communities in Scotland to keep pulling together as the big freeze shows little signs of abating.

Sub-zero temperatures and snow showers are set to continue this week and beyond. With almost all of the countryside blanketed in snow and ice, the Union is encouraging all farmers and rural dwellers to offer assistance to fellow farmers and neighbours during this difficult time.

NFU Scotland Chief Executive James Withers said:

“All farming and rural families will now be affected by the growing list of problems that this long-running spell of snow and frost is creating. For those lucky enough to be able to keep on top of the daily chores of feeding livestock and thawing water pipes, we would urge them to spare a thought for fellow farmers and neighbours who may be struggling.

“With many rural roadways blocked with snow and likely to remain difficult to pass for the next few days, the situation is becoming increasingly concerning. For some, the simple offer of clearing roadways, helping to feed stock or even assistance with supplies of food or fuel for the house will be a welcome lifeline in this challenging weather.

“The farming and rural communities have a great track record on offering help and support to those around them in times of adversity. This prolonged cold spell is testing everyone’s reserves but I know that farmers will still find time to check on those around them that may be in need of some help.

“The Scottish Government has been in touch with us about the difficult conditions around Scotland and we have been receiving reports from our farmers and Regional offices across the country on the deteriorating weather picture. We will continue to help where we can.”


NFU Scotland has heralded the publication of the UK Government’s vision for food production in the UK as welcome recognition of the growing importance that farming will play in meeting ambitious targets in the future.

Food 2030, launched by Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs at the Oxford Farming Conference, sets out the UK Government’s view of food production in 20 years time. The Scottish Government’s food and drink strategy, titled ‘Recipe for Success’, was launched in June 2009.

NFU Scotland Chief Executive James Withers said:

“We have long advocated that a strong, successful farming sector is the cornerstone upon which politicians can base any strategies that look to tackle the growing number of concerns centred around future food supplies and sustainable production.

“Food 2030 may be the first food strategy to emerge from a UK Government in more than half a century, but it represents welcome recognition that a joined-up food strategy is urgently required and that farmers and growers are a key part in delivering it. The UK vision mirrors much of what the Scottish Government published in its 2009 strategy for Scotland’s £10 billion food and drink industry and it is important that both administrations work together to deliver for the sector.

“Agriculture is arguably facing its greatest ever challenge. By 2030, it must provide the nutritional requirements for a growing global population by increasing food production by 50 percent. However, it must produce more food from less land, use less water, reduce its usage of energy and fertiliser, and continue to cut greenhouse gas emissions....all within the next 20 years.

“History has shown us how responsive agriculture can be so I have no doubt that these future challenges can be met. However, the resilience and ingenuity of the agriculture industry must be matched by Government investment in education, skills, science and renewables. The Defra plan for 2030 sets out that framework but it will be judged by farmers on delivery.

“Food 2030 also recognises that all parts of the food supply chain have responsibilities. A fair supply chain, which rewards progress, rather than reduces margins for those at the production end will be critical. The Tories used a platform at the Oxford conference to confirm their commitment to the creation of an Ombudsman to police relationships in the grocery sector. That is most welcome and we hope that this provides the necessary impetus that would allow the UK Government to come to the same conclusion and accept the Competition Commission’s recommendations on this matter.”


Jim Mather, MSP, for Argyll & Bute, has welcomed the statement from Dr Brian Keighley, the Chairman of the BMA Scottish Council, indicating support for the Scottish Government's proposals for the minimum pricing of alcohol as yet another indicator of the need for the opposition parties who continue to oppose the policy but have no constructive suggestions to make to tackle the problem of the misuse of alcohol.

Jim Mather said,

"Dr Keighley's intervention on behalf of the British Medical Association Scotland (BMAS) is welcome and timely. The problem that we have in Scotland with alcohol misuse is alarming and the negative and oppositionist approach of what the BBC is pleased to style "the main parties" to the Scottish Government's proposals is particularly dispiriting.

The scale of the problem is beyond dispute : 42,000 alcohol related hospital discharges per annum,1,500 deaths per year, soaring rates of liver cirrhosis, the eighth highest per capita consumption in the world and a £2.25 billion annual cost to public services and lost productivity. Personal costs and family misery cannot be quantified.

Minimum pricing is not a cure all, a silver bullet, but part of a wider move to educate and deter and control the abuse of alcohol. Minimum pricing will not affect average and responsible drinkers but will challenge retailers who target customers with cheap booze offers.

Support for minimum pricing is broad based and growing- the police, health professionals, the licenced trade, the British Liver Trust and the four Chief Medical Officers across the UK have all indicated approval. All political parties must get behind that consensus and back a policy that will save lives, cut crime and help to improve the quality of life. Continued opposition on party lines looks increasingly irresponsible and indefensible."


Jim Mather Argyll & Bute MSP, is pleased that three groups in Argyll & Bute; Bute Credit Union (£8,800), Islay and Jura Community Enterprises Limited (£7,440) and Saturday Art Club, Isle of Bute (£2,350) have been successful in applying to Awards for All; the joint awards programme set up to help small groups whose income is less than £20,000 per annum.
It involves the Big Lottery Fund, the Scottish Arts Council and sportscotland.

Jim Mather said:

Behind each of these awards are people who are committed to making the effort on behalf of their communities and identifying how to improve the services they provide. Such as:

" Alex Gibson of the Bute Credit Union, who in realising the vision for updated financial computer equipment, made the case under the 'People have better and more sustainable services and environments' criteria of the Awards for All grant, thus securing the £8,800 required for this project.

In fulfilling 'People have better chances in life; and 'People and communities are healthier' Gary Scott of the Mctaggart Leisure Centre was awarded £7,440 to provide leisure, arts and music activities for disadvantaged and disabled children on Islay and Jura.

Anne Cassidy of the Saturday Art Club on the Isle of Bute has secured £2,350 to enhance the whole Art Club experience which fulfilled the 'People have better chances in life' aim of the Awards for All.

They, and their teams, are good examples of work done continuously in Argyll and Bute by local groups taking the time to identify appropriate sources of funding and producing a case to justify the money required, in this case, bringing a total of £18,590 to the Argyll and Bute economy. They deserve our thanks and admiration. Well done indeed."


A combination of global challenges and domestic politics will set the agenda for Scotland’s agriculture industry in 2010, according to NFU Scotland.

Speaking at its traditional Christmas media briefing, NFUS President Jim McLaren highlighted the importance of climate change and food security in shaping policy debates at a Scottish, UK, European and global level. These issues will be to the fore in the talks over the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which will develop significantly in 2010.

Closer to home, a UK general election will provide the opportunity to ensure farming and food issues remain high on the political agenda. Furthermore, the debate on future powers of the Scottish Parliament will move up a gear and give the industry a chance to debate the right constitutional arrangements for farming.

NFUS President Jim McLaren said:

“Whilst Copenhagen has proved a false dawn in delivering a world-wide, legally-binding agreement on tackling climate change, the debate on how industry and society addresses this challenge is only going to increase in intensity.

“Scotland’s world-leading emission reduction targets for 2020 and 2050 are very much at the forefront of our minds and we believe agriculture has a huge opportunity to position itself as a key deliverer of those targets. The inherently sustainable nature of much of our production can be bolstered by further moves to increase efficiency, which will lead to further emission reductions. On top of that, our potential to deliver on renewables needs to be grasped and the industry will be developing its climate change strategy as a top priority next year.

“Next year will also see the first formal ideas emerge from the European Commission on the future shape of the CAP. We have engaged early on this issue in Scotland and the views of more than 1000 of our members at nation-wide meetings, combined with the countless others contacting us separately, has been key in identifying the big issues. Farmers in Scotland ultimately want their efforts rewarded fully by the market. But, in the ongoing absence of that, a simple support mechanism, which supports sustainable food production and environmental stewardship is crucial.

“The position of the UK Government, driven by Treasury, on farming support has flown in the face of Scottish views and the mainstream European view for many years now. With a general election in the offing, we must take the opportunity to try and change that position, by emphasising the huge benefits the UK will continue to reap from an efficient food production industry. With food and energy security back in the spotlight, it would be short-sighted to cut agricultural support in a short-term attempt to shore up battered public finances.

“As 2010 moves on, and the current Scottish administration seeks support for holding a referendum on independence, there is another useful opportunity to debate the right constitutional arrangements for agriculture. We plan to help our members reach their own view on those issues by highlighting the pros and cons of the different constitutional options.

“There are few certainties looking at the year to come. However, I am crystal clear that nation’s agricultural industry - as a provider of food and energy security, a key vehicle for addressing climate change and the foundation of a £10 billion food and drinks industry – should be back in the spotlight for all the right reasons.”

McGrigor holds talks with crofters in Parliament

Highlands & Islands MSP Jamie McGrigor last week held talks with representatives of the Scottish Crofting Foundation. Jamie also attended the bi-monthly meeting of the Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Crofting. The recently published Crofting Bill was a main topic of discussion. Other items on the agenda of the Cross Party Group included requests for regulation and control of wild geese which are devastating crofters' crops in the Uists, in Shetland and elsewhere and calls for the compensation to be paid in other areas other than the island of Islay for damage by geese.

Commenting on crofters’ continuing concerns about the requirement for registration of all crofts in the Crofting Bill, Jamie said:

“ Since the IACS maps are perfectly good and should show boundaries, the townships should be able to get together and base maps on the IACS maps and existing deeds rather than start again with a completely new process which could well cause disputes and disagreements and of course be costly to crofters. When I took my Bill through Parliament for a Scottish Register of Tartans the status quo of what was already registered was accepted and it was decided only new applicants would have to pay for registration. Whilst there is obviously a difference, I think the Scottish Government should follow the same principles and adopt the status quo from the townships so as to speed up reforms which can actually improve the life of people on the crofts.”

Referring to some of the other issues Jamie discussed, he added:

“ Crofters from Shetland called for a derogation from the electronic identification of sheep which is an unnecessary blight on all farms and crofts in Scotland. If this directive becomes law I would certainly support a derogation for Shetland and other island areas which have a very good health scheme and identification record already.

“ The ongoing saga of the Bull Hire Scheme was also raised, along with the suspicion that the Scottish Government's much-vaunted theory that this scheme goes against EU state aid rules is in fact not true. This the more so because the de minimis regime has been upgraded from 3000 euros to 7500 euros which would allow a Bull Hire Scheme to be put in place without any problems. I hope the Scottish Government will now take this on board instead of taking away a scheme which has benefited crofters and the quality of their cattle stock for more than a century.

“ On the issue of sea eagles, I understood a petition would be coming forward from a crofter in the Highlands asking for measures to defend livestock from sea eagles or any other predator. It appears that compensation has been paid to farmers and crofters in Mull and Wester Ross but there are many areas where lamb losses have taken place and no compensation is available; this seems unfair. I have nothing against the sea eagle but it will also be at risk from unlawful killing unless crofters are allowed either to defend their livestock or be compensated for its loss. If these powerful carnivorous birds are being set free in Scotland, it is necessary to take heed of the consequences in an honest manner.”


Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the principal public body promoting and developing Gaelic, has submitted an Action Plan to Scottish Ministers detailing its proposals for an acceleration in the number of people learning and using Gaelic and also more effective use of existing resources and structures.
In the summer of 2009, during visits to a number of events and organisations throughout the Highlands and Islands, the then Minister for Gaelic, Michael Russell MSP, emphasised the need to take radical steps to motivate more people to learn Gaelic and to address, as a priority, the issue of creating a new generation of Gaelic speakers. At a meeting with Bòrd na Gàidhlig in Inverness on 20 August 2009, the Minister asked the Bòrd to draw up a new Action Plan for Gaelic which would focus on rapid and realistic initiatives ensuring the wise and more effective use of existing resources and structures.
The Action Plan “Ginealach Ur na Gàidhlig” is the outcome of discussions between the Bòrd and Gaelic organisations representing the community, and delivery agents already involved in key areas of Gaelic development.
Arthur Cormack, Cathraiche (Chair) of Bord na Gaidhlig, said: “The Minister asked us to identify £600k additional funding within existing budgets to channel towards additional acquisition projects, to examine current delivery mechanisms we have in place and find more effective ways of using current funding to increase speakers and to find ways of supporting councils to increase the numbers of Gaelic speakers through work in schools. This Action Plan has tight, simple and achievable aims. It is about taking practical and urgent steps to increase the number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland and it aspires to ambitious outcomes. It focuses on five key areas: Parental Support, Promotion, Adult Learning, Education (0-3) and Education (3-18), offering strategic actions within affordable financial parameters and clear timeframes. This Plan supports the National Plan for Gaelic 2007-12 and the requirements of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, reprioritising resources and actions to produce an incremental increase in language acquisition. It will act as a bridge between the current National Plan and the next one.
Securing the future of a language cannot be achieved overnight or in a short timescale. This Plan puts in place some strategies to accelerate the growth in the number of Gaelic speakers. Key to encouraging the learning of Gaelic is an understanding of what motivates people to learn and positive attitudes towards the language must be fostered. Whether it is a matter of national pride, a sense of history, a desire to better understand the place-names of Scotland, helping children do their homework, understanding the words of a learning a language as a pastime or to secure employment, our aim is to make the learning of Gaelic attractive and accessible. Bòrd na Gàidhlig wants Gaelic speakers to help with this task. Gaelic speakers who have spoken the language all their lives have a great deal to contribute to the richness and quality of the language as it develops and is spoken by all.”
There are five Priority Action Areas in the Plan with specific actions, outcomes, costs and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) detailed under each. Other Actions that may take longer to achieve are also suggested. Delivering this Action Plan will be Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s priority for the period January 2010 to June 2011.
The 5 Priority Action Areas are:
Details of the proposals contained in the Action Plan will be made available following discussion with Ministers and Bòrd na Gàidhlig hopes to be able to begin work on the outcomes of these discussions early in the New year.
Mr Cormack said: “I am hugely encouraged by the work done by staff at Bòrd na Gàidhlig and the Interim Support Management team in recent months. The submission of this Action Plan, on time and with ambitious targets, along with the fact that we have completed the tasks we set ourselves in employing new staff to ensure that the Bòrd itself is fit for purpose, is a major step forward. I am bitterly disappointed with criticism directed at individuals involved in this process by others who should know better. The Bòrd now has a range of possibilities to work on with a full complement of staff in place for the start of the new year and I believe that will make it a much more reasonable task to find a new CEO to lead the organisation at the start of the year as we had always planned.”


The approved version of a document designed to guide and inform anyone with an interest in Scotland’s longest and deepest sea loch and its surrounding coastline has now been launched.

The Loch Fyne Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Plan was approved by Argyll and Bute Council last month – following extensive consultation with all stakeholders - and adopted as supplementary planning guidance.

In addition, the Council has developed a marine version of its ‘LocalView’ online mapping system, which allows access to the Loch Fyne ICZM Plan through an interactive web-based mapping tool.

LocalView allows maps of Loch Fyne to be viewed at different scales, displaying individual layers of information which have influenced the plan’s policies and recommendations.

Different activities and interests can be identified in specific locations, and links are provided to individual sections of the ICZM Plan where guidance on future use and development, including policies for the development of aquaculture, can be viewed.

Councillor Robert Macintyre, Argyll and Bute’s Spokesperson for Economy, Environment and Rural Affairs, welcomed the Plan’s launch.

“The coastal area of Argyll and Bute is one of our prime assets. It provides a unique resource from which present and future economic, social, and environmental well-being can be derived,” he said.

“It is a living and working environment, home to a large proportion of our population, and hosts a great diversity of industrial and recreational activities, each playing an important role in the area’s economy”.

Councillor Macintyre stressed that the ICZM Plan complements the Argyll and Bute Development Plan (Structure and Local Plan), and will be a significant piece of guidance for the use and development of the coastal zone of Loch Fyne over the next five years.

“It is designed to assist decision-making in relation to development proposals, help minimise conflicts of interest and guide future investment,” he added.

“The policies and recommendations have been formulated after reviewing the current use of the area and identifying key coastal management issues and development opportunities.

“Underpinning the entire process has been extensive consultations with local communities, stakeholders and relevant and competent authorities. Our aspiration is that this plan will be used by these same groups and organisations, to guide sustainable management of the coastal and marine resource in order to secure the future of both the natural environment and the economic needs of the communities which are dependent on it.”

The ICZM Plan can now be viewed or downloaded from the Council website at Hard copies and CD copies will be available in the New Year.

The project has been funded by the European Union, Highlands & islands Partnership Programme, Scottish Natural Heritage, The Crown Estate, Argyll & The Islands Community Economic Development Programme and Argyll and Bute Council.