This week’s bumper crop of your letters to The Buteman includes views on the council tax, Bute Community Power’s controversial Auchintirrie wind turbine application and the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland, among much else.
To have your thoughts on any subject of Bute interest published in our next print edition, email firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on Monday at the latest - though as always, the sooner we hear from you, the better are your chances of seeing your views in print.
Please keep your letters as brief as you can, and remember to include your name and address for publication. We also need a daytime contact phone number in case we need to check any details at short notice, though this will not be printed.
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Unprofessional reaction of BCP’s chair
I write in response to your article in last week’s edition reporting BCP chairman Jim Osborne “hitting out” at objectors to the first two large wind turbines proposed at Auchentirrie.
Mr Osborne’s comments were made on the basis that opponents of the Auchintirrie project are misinformed, or are objecting with “non-factual information”.
I would suggest that Mr Osborne’s outburst is at best, unprofessional, particularly as the chair of a community company, and at worst, arrogant, in his view that whoever disagrees with him must be wrong or stupid.
I attended the Bute Community Council meeting, so ably chaired by Grace Strong on June 17, and was both impressed by the integrity of some community councillors and embarrassed by the lack of understanding of others about what a “declared interest” was.
The ‘misinformed’ were in this case, very clearly on the ‘for’ side.
First the siting of these turbines is based solely on the opportunity given by the owner of Auchentirrie farm -not by carefully considering where best they might have been sited. The site that has been chosen is therefore one of the most visually toxic on the island in terms of the siting of turbines.
It is understood that Mount Stuart Trust is not in favour and would therefore not be offering other sites.
As objectors, we do understand that BCP is a not-for profit company - albeit in collaboration with the landowner, a private developer - along with any backers he may have - and a potential four hundred per cent return for the £1 BCP investors (which I assume they would donate straight back to the ‘community’.)
However the inclusion of the word ‘community’ is disingenuous. BCP represents a very small minority who routinely use historic misrepresentative figures and approval percentages with happy abandon.
Maybe not misinformation, but certainly spin; BCP’s statement that Historic Scotland had “withdrawn” its objection, regarding Barone Fort, forgot to mention that a group of prehistoric sites are in the immediate vicinity of the turbine development. But Historic Scotland cannot object on that basis since these are not Scheduled Ancient Monuments. They told me only the council has jurisdiction in this respect.
I take Mr Osborne’s point that cuts will affect services on Bute- as they will everywhere else - but the irony of taking the first step in changing a unique historic landscape into an industrial one is hard to avoid.
It is the unspoilt nature of this island which is its greatest asset, and such developments will kill that particular goose - thus placing the island in an even more perilous state.
If BCP thinks Bute’s salvation lies in perpetuating a handout culture - basically public money returning by a circuitous route - they are very wrong.
However, should they wish to go down that road, I suggest that they look at a longer game.
The same power generation, and more, would be available, if MountStuart and other parties were agreeable, by reinstating the Minister’s Dam and installing a hydro-electric scheme (easily over 0.5 megawatts).
The ingenious historic infrastructure is largely still there and can be reinstated while at the same time, expanding the fishery and maybe even Thom’s Cuts as a major conservation project.
This would enhance the landscape, other business opportunities and show real imagination, rather than the ‘quick buck’ Klondyker approach.
The power house would be about the same size as domestic single garage. Such schemes can go on for many decades, with occasional upgrading.
Still don’t fancy that, BCP? Here’s one then: join with another developer on an off-island site already blighted. It doesn’t have to be here to get the same financial return.
Jim S. Mitchell, St Ninian’s Cottage, Straad
Ending freeze would have a limited impact
Regarding Eleanor Black’s letter last week, I would like to say first of all I have not had any email or letter from Eleanor since I responded to a letter and subsequently visited her when she lived in Ardbeg, which was some years ago. I reply to any resident of the island and my contact details are as follows - Isobel.email@example.com, (01700) 503493 or in writing to the address at the foot of this letter. I should also point out that there are only nine councillors in the SNP group on Argyll and Bute Council at present.
Regarding the council tax which was the substance of her letter, the council tax represents only 15 per cent of council revenue. The other 85 per cent comes from the Scottish Government, which has increased the amount to councils to make up for the freeze in line with what could have been raised by an increase in the council tax. The Scottish Government at present cannot raise its own money, and gets most of its income from the UK Government - and as this sum has been cut the Scottish Government has less to give to councils. I think most people would not want to, or be able to, pay the huge increase in council tax which would be necessary to fund councils if there was a reduced amount coming from the Scottish Government.
I will pass on the concerns in the letter to Michael Russell MSP since they relate to devolved matters, and also to Brendan O’Hara MP, and will arrange for an appointment at the next available surgery I will also approach Nicola Sturgeon.
Councillor Isobel Strong (SNP, Isle of Bute), Lilybank, Glebelands, Rothesay
Age of responsibility in Scotland
At what age is a child in Scotland legally responsible for his or her actions? Believe it or not, at the ridiculously low age of eight years old!
At this tender age, it is possible to be given a criminal record that will stay with you for the rest of your life and likely to destroy your future prospects.
In the rest of the UK it is set at ten years old - still far too young, in my view, for a child to have the capacity to make decisions or understand the full consequences of their actions.
The UN Commission on the Rights of the Child sets the ‘absolute minimum’ age at 12 years old - a full four years older than here in Scotland.
It is time to revisit this outdated law of the age of criminal responsibility and for all Scottish MSPs to vote to amend the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, as proposed by the Liberal Democrats’ justice spokesperson, Alison McInnes.
Ms McInnes has put forward amendments to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill and has written to Justice Secretary Michael Matheson on the issue.
If you believe that the law is woefully outdated, please contact your local MSPs and ask them to support the age recommended by the United Nations.
We certainly do not have a liberal Scottish Parliament. Only a few weeks ago the Parliament lowered the voting age for 16 and 17 year olds for Scottish and local elections But the SNP-dominated Parliament, refused to give the same voting rights to young people held in penal establishments.
Let’s do the right thing by our young people.
Ursula Craig, Rossarden, Shore Road, Cove
Community council’s vote on turbines
In last week’s issue, you reported that Bute Community Council had voted to object to the planning application for two wind turbines at Auchintirrie, and gave details of how community councillors voted.
Although I personally support the application, I abstained in that vote, as you reported. The reason for this was that the role of the community council is to convey to the planning process what it understands to be the view of majority opinion in the whole of the community that it represents.
My reading of the evidence available to the community council was that Bute opinion was, where not indifferent, equally divided between for and against, so that the community council should neither support nor object. A vote for that option was not allowed.
The evidence available to community councillors was as follows.
Comments to Argyll and Bute Council’s planning department from Bute residents were 70 supporting the application, and 71 objecting to it.
Comments sent to Bute Community Council prior to the meeting were 28 asking for support for the application and six for opposition.
At the meeting, the members of the public present voted seven for support and 18 for opposition.
Combining these two sets of public comments to the community council gives 35 for support and 24 for opposition.
At the meeting on June 17, community councillors gave reports on their conversations with members of the public, which are summarised in the minutes of the meeting, available in the library and at the Bute Community Council website.
Of 15 such reports, only six BCC members said that they had found a majority wanting the community council to oppose the application.
Five said they had found both for and against, or indifference, two said a majority for support, and two said nothing.
Mick Common, Park Cottage, Upper Quay St, Port Bannatyne
Thank you to Apple Tree Nursery staff
I would like to say a massive well done to Apple Tree Nursery for yet again another great event [graduation] but sadly this was our last event at the nursery.
Our graduation gave us a great send off and I’m sure my fellow pre-school friends would agree it was amazing. As Apple Tree said, we came into pre-school as strangers and left as friends. But we won’t forget the ones we left behind. Good luck at big school everyone.
So I would like to say a massive thank to all the staff, past and present, for a great four years at Apple Tree Nursery.
We will miss you all.
Kaleb Rutherford, 27 Bryce Avenue, Rothesay
Latest donations to CRUK on Bute
On behalf of the local committee of Cancer Research UK, I would like to thank the following for their recent kind donations. In memory of Jessie Miller, from the family - £20 In loving memory of our mum, Jean McKirdy, from the McKirdy family - £50 Customers of: Ritchies fish shop - £25.10; Co-operative, Bridge Street - £37.21; Cellar No. 1 - £26.68; Electric Bakery - £19.16 Saved pennies - £2.10.
Fiona Martin (donations secretary, CRUK Bute branch), 4 Caledonia Walk, Rothesay