View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 23 March 2012

Friday 23 March

A beautiful sunny day, with no wind and no clouds. We managed 13C / 55F, which is very good for late March. The settled weather looks set to continue in the days ahead, with southeasterly winds bringing more mild air to the far northwest.

Tomorrow, there will be a march and rally through Stornoway to protest against the end of reduced ferry fares for commercial vehicles as of next month. In October 2008, the Scottish Government introduced reduced ferry fares to boost the local economy. The Road Equivalent Tarriff for commercial vehicles is being discontinued, meaning a steep price rise for their ferry crossings. Everything in these islands has to come in by ferry, and supplies all come in on board commercial trucks. The increased costs are passed on to customers and consumers (not necessarily the same people), and emotions are running high on the subject.

For those in Stornoway, the march starts at 1pm from the car park for the Nicolson Institute on Smith Avenue, with vehicles assembling at 12.15pm for a safety briefing by police. Pedestrians will assemble at the Mitchell Roundabout (by the Spar and the Macaulay Road Co-op) as well as the Porter's Lodge, and will join the march ahead of the vehicular cavalcade. The parade will continue through the town centre, concluding with a rally in Carnegie Square, outside An Lanntair on Kenneth Street.

Thursday 22 March

Nearly two years after I commenced transcribing the 1883 Napier Report into the condition of crofters and cottars in the Highlands and Islands, I am now on the home straight. The last batch, containing evidence taken at Edinburgh on 24 October 1883, will be waiting for me in the morning. There are 500 questions and answers left, out of 46,600 questions. The Commission went round the Highlands and Islands during a five month period, and took some distressing evidence, showing up breathtakingly arrogant and condescending attitudes - and in one case, reporting an estate factor to the authorities for neglect of his paupers. Concurrently, I am continuing to transcribe the 1912 Dewar Report, which will not take me two years; I have (so far) transcribed 40 out of the 85 pages related to the Outer Hebrides. Also awaiting me is the 1902 report into the condition of crofters and cottars, the successor to Napier's report.

I was relieved to hear that the siege in Toulouse, France, has come to an end. It was disturbing to learn that the individual, who died with guns blazing, appears to have been a well-connected islamic extremist. France is at the point where the UK was in 2005, after the London Underground attacks. I am not very conversant with the political situation in France, but am aware of ethnic tensions between the native French and the immigrant North African communities. The British government has worked hard to reestablish a rapport with its Islamic population; I think there are serious socio-economic problems in France, which need addressing urgently, as these create a fertile breeding ground for extremists of all kind.

There was a report of aurora borealis this evening, but when I went out to Mossend, I found myself in a mistbank - and no aurorae to be seen. Otherwise, it was a brilliantly sunny day and not cold at all, with the mercury at 12C. When I was at Mossend, the temperature was only just above freezing.