View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Picture post - week 12-15 December

The low sun always provides for colourful images in December

We went to the Braighe on Sunday (12th), but the tide was in

Picture post - 16 December

Another wintry blast - at low tide

The birds are having a hard time

This fishing boat, the Buckie-registered Sustain, ran aground on the east coast of Harris, and was escorted to Stornoway for repairs after the Coastguard dropped pumps on board to keep her afloat.

Coast not guarded

The UK government is proposing to axe a number of coastguard stations along the coast of Scotland in order to save money. Under current thinking (if there has been any thinking involved with this plan at all), only the station at Aberdeen would operate 24/7, with either Lerwick or Stornoway kept as a part-time (daylight only) cover. The other stations, at Clyde and Forth, would be shut permanently.

I’ll go so far as to describe that as sheer lunacy. This is typical bureaucratic pen pushing, a scheme dreamt up by someone in an office in central London, who does not have an inkling what goes on north of the proverbial Watford Gap.

Two fifth of the UK coastline covered by only ONE station? The very stretch of coastline that can experience the severest weather in the country? Today has already seen the Coastguard in action off Harris, with the helicopter (also potentially up for sale) dropping off pumps on board a leaking fishing vessel, and the RNLI lifeboat escorting it into Stornoway. Without Coastguard facilities present, things might have been coordinated from Aberdeen, but with all respect to the Coastguards there, they are unfamiliar with the vagaries of the Outer Hebrides coastline. And without a helicopter, the crew of the fishing boat would have been in dire straits, if not in danger of their life.

Thursday 16 December

A sharp downturn in temperatures has seen a rapid succession of snow showers rattling through here all morning. The mercury is now around zero and the strong northerly wind makes it very unpleasant outside.

Down in Benbecula, a plane has overshot the runway on landing, but nobody was hurt. The Benbecula - Stornoway - Inverness service is quoted as delayed on the Stornoway Airport website.

Out at sea, a fishing boat had to call for help when she started taking on water, which her own pumps could not cope with. The Coastguard helicopter flew out to the waters off Stockinish, East Harris, and dropped off an extra pump. Meanwhile, the RNLI's lifeboat Tom Sandersen has set off for Harris to escort the vessel to Stornoway. I am monitoring the horizon for her reappearance, and expect the fishing boat to go up the Goat Island slipway for repairs.

A former government minister has said that all illicit drugs, e.g. cocaine and heroin, should be legalised in a bid to address the problems caused by illicit drug taking. I think that is short-sighted and populist. Substances like cocaine and heroin (diamorphine), as used by drug abusers, are harmful and potentially lethal. The same goes for the group of compounds that come under the amphetamine banner. The major problem for society is caused by the fact that the addicts have to fund their habit, and a sizeable proportion do so by resorting to crime. The illegal drug trade is an international problem, which should not be tackled in this way by one nation on its own.