View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 27 April 2012

Friday 27 April

Still a cold day, but far less wind than yesterday. We did have more precipitation: hail showers. In spite of that, I maintain we had the best weather in the country. I have today continued the transcription of a 1902 report into the social conditions in this island at the time, and the focus of chapter 11 was on industries - particularly kelp.

Kelp is dried seaweed, which used to be harvested in huge quantities for the production of gunpowder. However, when the Napoleonic wars ended in 1815, the bottom fell out of the kelp market when a cheaper alternative, dried bird poo (guano), became available again. The cruelty for the west of Scotland was that landowners had amassed large numbers of people on the coastline to harvest kelp - people that were now surplus to requirement. Combine that, 30 years later, with the potato famine, and you have a stamped recipe for disaster.

Dutch society is known to be tolerant, but this tolerance is being squeezed with regards to cannabis. The coffee shops (where cannabis use is tolerated) are now no longer allowed to supply pot to people who are not Dutch. It really should be stressed that cannabis remains an illegal substance, but police tolerate the presence of the coffee shops, provided individual quantities do not exceed 5 grams (1/6 oz).
There are intermittent calls for cannabis to be legalised, or at least decriminalised, but I am strongly opposed to that. Cannabis can have profound effects upon the user, and in susceptible individuals could precipitate serious mental health problems, such as paranoia or schizophrenia. And I hate the stink.