View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Monday, 17 February 2014

Images of Point

And after a backlog of posts and a lot of political ramblings, I thought I'd restore some calm to Atlantic Lines with some images of the Point district (An Rubha), located between 4 and 11 miles east of Stornoway. I took these in May 2010.




New Garrabost

Break away - and you become foreign

Another thought on the issue of the independence referendum. If Scotland decides to break away from the United Kingdom, it becomes an independent, autonomous country. In other words, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, will become a foreign nation to Scotland. Wouldn't you think? So why are the supporters of independence so determined to hold on to the pound sterling, which is being regulated from the capital of a foreign country? OK, there are plenty of countries around the world who have Queen Elizabeth II as head of state (such as Australia and New Zealand). Why are the supporters of independence so worried for the business prospects of a foreign country, so worried that they want to hold on to the pound sterling, to spare them the inconvenience of exchange rates?

It was put by a political commentator on the BBC this afternoon that the exchange of views between Mr Osborne (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) and Mr Salmond (the leader of the Scottish National Party, who seek to gain independence) has moved into the uncomfortable territory of questioning the trustworthiness of the SNP leader.

Sunday 16 February

Quite a nice morning out here, but now cloud is starting to bubble up. A shower would appear to be possible, but certainly not as frequent as yesterday. What did I say? Here is one of those sneaky showers that can get you thoroughly soaked in the islands, and the sun just keeps shining. The Met Office advises that a frost is possible tonight. Our freight ferry, the MS Clipper Ranger, passed the Mull of Kintyre just before midday today, and will be at Ullapool after midnight tonight. Our regular passenger ferry, the MV Isle of Lewis, remains in drydock at Birkenhead. It is rumoured to be back here on Wednesday.

I tend to get ratty when I hear all that pompous talk about climate change causing the extreme weather we've seen this winter, and the last couple of winters. Climate is measured over a period of 30 years, and as the saying goes, one swallow does not make a summer. Agreed, there is evidence of global warming, the polar ice cap is getting smaller every year, and this will have an impact on our climate in the long run. Last November, there was this extremely strong tropical cyclone at the Philippines, which could have had an impact on the jetstreams across the Pacific and the Atlantic, certainly. Let's take the long view here - and please, spare us the cr*p from certain quarters that suggest that divine (lowercase intentional) retribution for legalising same-sex marriage brought us these conditions. The Big Guy above doesn't give a hoot who loves who and how - as long as they do.

Very nice afternoon out here, but with a chilly wind. Went for an amble round Sandwick Cemetery, finding a number of interesting gravestones.

Saturday 15 February

It is most unusual, to have cars parked bumper to bumper for several hundred yards along this street. It turns out there was a very well attended funeral in a church down the road. I don't know who the deceased was, but custom dictates that the coffin is carried from the church by all male mourners in turn. A dignified way of paying respects, and I disappeared from my vantage point for the duration.

It's actually not too bad in between the showers, which are not heavy but make you thoroughly wet. Much better than the ravages wreaked on the south of England, which has taken a battering through the night. My sympathies go out to the family of the cruiseline passenger who died on board MV Marco Polo, when that ship was struck by a big wave in the England Channel; and to the family of the hapless motorist whose vehicle was crushed by falling masonry in London. The Hebrides has the reputation for bad weather; it's the south of England that's had its unfair share of it these last few weeks. A reprieve looks set to be on its way.

Continuing my trawl of Stornoway-related WW1 casualties courtesy CWGC. A steady trickle of new additions, which were somehow missed in the Roll of Honour, War Memorials and other sources - and who definitely turned out to be island lads. So far, there are about a dozen.

Went for an amble in the Lews Castle Grounds this afternoon, but was plagued by showers - and not just of rain. Hail clattered down as I crossed the Bayhead Bridge. Went up the Stornoway Golf Course, then down the new path to Strawberry Hill, skirting the quarry. Returned by Lews Castle.

I'm pleased to report that the MS Clipper Ranger has left dry-dock on the Wirral and is headed north. She is due into Ullapool at 2 am on Monday morning. The MV Hebridean Isles, meanwhile, has left Stornoway and is currently docked in Oban.

Friday 14 February

Fairly calm here, with a few showers about, but only a few degrees above freezing. Looking at the weather charts, it won't be getting warmer in a hurry, we're just above the frontal systems that continue to bring wind and rain to southern England. Valentine's Day? Why wait until February 14th before declaring your feelings to that special person in your life? There are 364 other days in the year to do that, and you won't be feeding the greed of the retailers!

Thursday 13 February

After a very wet night, the sun is starting to peek through the clouds. No, we did not have any strong winds to speak of, being at the centre of the low pressure system that wreaked devastation across northern England and Wales. Things did brighten up in the afternoon, but we never lost the showers. Could have been so much worse, though. The freight ferry, MV Hebridean Isles, is back on duty, and went out with a load of trucks at around 1pm.

Wednesday 12 February

A cold grey morning in the Western Isles. Far more of note is the red warning for 80-100 mph winds in west Wales and northwest England later today. We will just about miss the worst of those winds, although the Highlands will get a dumping of snow.

The curse of the Muirneag strikes again as MV Hebridean Isles slammed into pier number 1 yesterday. We now do not have a freight ferry, although the Heb Isles is supposed to be fixed this afternoon.

A rescue going on today, the final outcome being that the fishing vessel "Fearnot" (from Peterhead) was taken into Stornoway by Stornoway RNLI lifeboat Tom Sandersen (see pic below).

Checking the weather reports in the afternoon, and the deep depression that is going to bring very high winds to Wales and NW England is currently over Sligo, Ireland, with a pressure of 955 mbar. Meanwhile, a gust of 91 mph was measured at Shannon Airport, and 110 mph off the south coast of Ireland. Gusts in excess of 90 mph are also being recorded along the west coast of Wales.

And we had snow amidst a moderate easterly breeze. I don't envy the people in west Wales their hurricane force winds, Aberdaron was getting 81 mph gusting to 107 mph.

Scottish independence and the EU

I have been watching a speech by Scotland's First Minister on the issue of the impending independence referendum, a speech that left me with profound misgivings. I disagree with Mr Salmond's ideas, and I am glad that I am in a position to do so.

Yesterday, EU president Barroso stated that Scotland would have to apply to join the EU after the eventuality of independence. Whether that is the case or not, is not the object of my post. Mr Salmond suggested that Mr Barroso's intervention should be read as not being prepared to accept the outcome of the referendum. Doing that, in my view, is wrong and misleading. I also find it profoundly disturbing that there is no acceptance of the rejection of the idea of a currency union by the leaders of all major UK parties. Yes, it's very clever to play the parties out against each other, that's basic political campaigning. But what happens, after the poll in September, there continues to be rejection by all partyleaders? No answer to that. My attitude remains unaltered. The Scottish National Party has been in existence for 80 years, and been in government for 7 years. During all that time, and particularly since 2007, they have not given thought to any substantive policies related to running a country. Whenever any issue is raised, there is an unhealthy scrabbling for a policy, and usually one that backfires spectacularly. I hope the Scots turn out to be as canny as they reputedly are.