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21 November 2003

THE FINAL SOLUTION
THERE was no shortage of gaffes from the platform party at the Memorial Hall in Strone at Wednesday’s public meeting, but surely the most amazing blunder came from Mr Brian Hooper of the Ministry of Defence, who ended a lacklustre presentation by describing the plan to dump waste from old submarines as “The Final Solution’ — a phrase notoriously used by Hitler to describe what was to become known as the Holocaust.
The meeting, part of the consultation process to discuss options under the ISOLUS programme to dispose of radioactive waste from redundant nuclear submarines, started off with perhaps three-quarters of the hall filled with members of the public – until a local woman, Melina Kennedy, pointed out that the date in the advertisement placed in the Observer was wrong, and that in these circumstances the meeting was unconstitutional and should be abandoned.
The chairwoman, Doctor Jane Hunt from Lancaster University, said that this was the fault of the paper, which prompted a heated exchange with the Observer’s editor, who had paperwork to prove that this was not the case.
Ms Kennedy continued to demand that the meeting be reconvened on the advertised date, which the chairwoman said was not possible, at which Ms Kennedy and a large number of people left the hall.
Doctor Hunt read out a letter from MEP Neil McCormick, who was in Brussels and unable to attend, but took the view that the Coulport plan should be resisted on moral, legal and economic grounds, a view that was to be echoed and expanded upon in the course of the meeting by the local MP Alan Reid and the Argyll and Bute councillors at the meeting, Cllrs Walsh, Marshall and Thomson.
The initial presentation was made by Mr Hooper, the MoD’s project manager, and was largely devoted to the technology of nuclear submarines, and problems associated with their disposal.
He accepted that universal approval on siting for the waste was unlikely, what was being sought was ‘optimum acceptability’.
Bob Perrit spoke on behalf of Babcock, which operates the former naval dockyard at Rosyth, and is pressing for the Coulport site as a storage facility for ‘intermediate nuclear waste’.
It was, he said, the best military site available. The material would be packaged in boxes and would be totally safe to transport. It would remain there until a new national repository was built in around 2050. A ‘ball park figure’ he said, would be 200-240 four metre square boxes. They would be regularly inspected by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate.
However, when he explained why the waste could not be left at Rosyth, he got into deep water.
Since Babcock had lost the refit contract at the base, they were now redeveloping it for non-military use. When he said that the company had agreed with the local authority in Rosyth that the waste would be disposed of elsewhere, he was asked by Cllr Bruce Marshall if Argyll and Bute said ‘no’ would Babcock go elsewhere, he merely reiterated that the company was ‘honouring an agreement in Rosyth’– which provoked cries of anger from the hall
It was obvious that members of the public had done their homework, and it was equally obvious that neither Mr Perrit nor Mr Hooper was providing answers which were satisfying them.
However, if a demolition job was done on the Babcock case, the man who did it was unquestionably Helensburgh councillor Eric Thomson, who drew on his own personal experience as the former Commodore at Faslane Naval Base, to dissect and destroy every argument produced by the promoters of the Coulport scheme.
He flayed the MoD, pointing out that 97 per cent of nuclear waste was civil and only three percent military. It should all be regarded as civil and the Scottish Executive should be involved. He was equally scathing of Babcock, accusing them of shedding crocodile tears, since they were contractors for Rosyth, Faslane and Coulport and what they were proposing to do was blatantly commercial.
He challenged them to reveal how many other sites they had looked at and dismissed their claim that Coulport was a nuclear site. “It’s a Z Berth,” he said, “It doesn’t generate nuclear waste – what you are proposing to do is to put nuclear waste into a Greenfield site.”
Councillor Thomson sat down to a storm of applause and foot-stamping.
The MoD and Babcock were left in no doubt of the feelings of the people of Cowal – it could fairly be said that on Wednesday night it wasn’t just the Scotland eleven that was “sent homeward to think again.”


WIND TURBINE WINDFALL
The construction of a wind farm in Glendaruel is set to provide a cash boost to Glendaruel and Colintraive for the lifetime of the farm.
The communities, which span the area from Loch Striven to beyond Dunans Castle will receive £21,000 a year for the next 25 years.
The cash will be paid into a trust fund for charitable, recreational, and environmental purposes. The fund will be administered by two members of the community council, a third member elected from the community (Alex McNaughton) a representative from the farm’s operator, Scottish Power, and the Argyll and Bute councillor for Strachur, Cllr Douglas Currie.
Mr James McLuckie, who is chairman of Glendaruel and Colintraive Community Council, said that he expected the trustees to hold their first meeting very soon. “There will be a public meeting which will give the trustees the opportunity to get a feel for the public view, and also give them the chance to explain to the public how the fund will function.
“My own personal view is that this gives us the opportunity to think long-term. While there is also a place for funding small projects, this gives us a real opportunity to finance schemes which wouldn’t otherwise have been possible.
“It can be used to provide the cash for big, long term projects, and to attract matched funding to pay for them.”
Mr McLuckie said that the cash should not be seen as a means of funding ‘wish lists’. I would expect that anyone in the community looking for funding would provide detailed paperwork to support it, and that other sources of funding should also be explored – for instance, lottery funding – to ensure that the trust isn’t being used for cash which could come from elsewhere.”
He pointed out: “For example, there is an ongoing debate about playpark provision in Glendaruel. “There was one, but it closed down through lack of maintenance,” he explained. “However, there are perhaps 20 children at the moment who might want to use it. The problem with this sort of thing is the cost of maintenance and insurance, and I certainly believe that Argyll and Bute Counci have a role to play here.”
Mr McLuckie described the cash as “a huge bonus” for the community, which has less than 200 households.
When completed, Glendaruel Wind Farm will have 35 turbines each capable of generating 850kw. The road network to the farm is in place, and the foundations are almost complete. The first turbine is expected to be in position in early December.


STORMY WATERS FOR CALMAC
Calmac’s ‘sheltered water’ ferry Coruisk is not exactly endearing herself to travellers on the Dunoon-Gourock route.
One angry commuter came into the Observer office last Wednesday complaining that the vessel had arrived ten minutes late into Gourock and took so long to turn round that she was fully 20 minutes late by the time she arrived at Dunoon.
“It’s simply not good enough,” said Christine Williamson, of Valrose Terrace, Dunoon. “This ship’s schedule is supposed to be part of an integrated transport system. Her passengers are missing connections for Glasgow and Helensburgh at one end, and bus connections for Ardentinny at the other.
“When a ship is running 20 minutes late on a 20 minute journey it’s fair to ask if she is up to the job.”
Mrs Williamson also condemned passenger access to the ship’s accommodation, saying: “Because of the height of the superstructure the gangway is much steeper than it is on the ‘streakers’ and after getting up the gangway passengers still have to negotiate a steep staircase to get to the accommodation proper.
“The accommodation is lovely if you can get to it.”
A CalMac spokesman defended the ship, saying that people with mobility problems could access the passenger accommodation via a lift from the car deck. He also disputed the claim that the vessel had been 20 minutes late, claiming that she had been ten minutes late at one point, but had made that up later.
However, the following day the ship broke down.
The ship was en route to Dunoon on Thursday when an emergency light indicated that there was a problem with the vessel, propeller control system. The engines were shut down and switched over to emergency control. She returned to Gourock where passengers and vehicles were transferred to another ship.
She has had a far from illustrious career since entering service in August on the Mallaig-Armadale running into rocks within days and damaging one of her propulsion units.
The ship is similar to the design long-favoured by rival Western Ferries, but is larger and much more expensive. Western’s most recent addition cost £2m, but the Coruisk, which came from the Appledore yard in Devon, cost a reported £7.5m. Critics of the vessel have also asked why the passenger accommodation has been mounted so high in the superstructure, unlike Western’s ships, where passengers are accommodated at main deck level.
Jim Mather, MSP, (SNP - Highlands & Islands) Shadow spokesman for Enterprise and the Economy, has written to the Managing Director of Caledonian MacBrayne seeking information about the problems encountered by the latest addition to the CalMac fleet.
Mr Mather said: “I was fortunate to be present during the summer on the inaugural CalMac trip out of Mallaig on the brand-new MV Coruisk. I was greatly impressed then by the vessel and disappointed to learn of her subsequent problems.
“Since her transfer to the Clyde to fulfil winter timetable services she has encountered other difficulties and I am told that she has had problems aligning to the linkspan at Dunoon Pier and wallows in a steep sea.”
He added: “I know that some new vessels experience teething problems but there is a feeling in Dunoon that the ships that are selected for the Dunoon/Gourock service seem to encounter more difficulties than most. Plans are proceeding for the installation of breakwater facilities at Dunoon and that is fuelling the hope that vehicle services are secure from the town’s historic pier.  I sincerely hope that the problems that the Coruisk has had are past now and that she will have many years of effective service before her.
“Meantime, I have written to the Managing Director of Caledonian MacBrayne to seek assurance that everything possible is being done to both improve the Coruisk’s reliability and overcome the docking and alignment problems.”


WAR MEMORIAL UNDER THREAT
REMEMBRANCE Sunday is a time to reflect on the contribution people made to this country in times of war, and last weekend, a Remembrance Service was held on Sunday at the Lazaretto Point War Memorial attended by ex-service people and residents of Sandbank and its surrounds.
The War Memorial was erected in the 1920s, funded by local subscriptions in remembrance of those who fell in the First World War. Memorials to those lost in subsequent conflicts have been added, including the loss of six submarines.
Over the years it has become a familiar landmark on the shores of the Holy Loch and is set to gain even more exposure as it is strategically placed on the entrance to the National Park.
However, unless action is taken the Lazaretto Point Memorial is doomed, for it is being undermined by and in under threat of collapsing into the sea.
Sandbank Community Development Trust has been attempting to put together a rescue package to prevent this happening. It has been partially successful in obtaining funding and has a fully developed plan which can be put into operation as soon as full funding is achieved.
Sandbank Community Development Trust spokes-man Peter Galliard explained the position. “We have already been promised grants of £25,000 but they are dependent on Argyll and Bute Council coming up with the remaining £15,000. The situation is that if we do not have the promise of that balance by the end of December then we will lose all the funding we have already attracted for the project.
“Time is of the essence in this project, as it is possible it may not survive another winter without action being taken.”
Local MP Alan Mr Reid said: “Having seen the situation for myself it is clear that urgent action is required to stop the war memorial falling into the sea. If nothing is done, not only will the war memorial fall into the sea, but in a few years time it could be the road as well. It would be terrible if the war memorial were to fall into the sea for want of £15,000.”
The Trust would welcome any contributions toward the cost of saving this Memorial. The plan includes increasing and making safer access to the memorial and the immediate beach area which is the best access to the Holy Loch for bathing and leisure. Anyone interested in contributing in any way to the preservation of the memorial should contact the Trust on 01369 701202.
A council spokesman said: “We have been approached by a local community group asking for permission to carry out maintenance work on the War Memorial. We have indicated that we have no objection to this as long as the work carried out is up to tolerable standard.
“We have not been approached regarding funding for this project. If we are it will be judged for approval on its individual merits by the area committee.”


CONFERENCE TOLD: “WE’RE GETTING THERE”
RAISING awareness of domestic abuse and changing the public perception of blame from the victim to where it rightly belongs the perpetrator - was one of the primary aims of the second conference of the Argyll and Bute Partnership Against Domestic Abuse (ADA) which took place in The Royal Marine Hotel in Hunter’s Quay last Thursday.
A resolution at the last conference to seek a greater involvememt from young people was evidently successful, for a high percentage of the delegates who packed the room at Hunter’s Quay were teenagers of both sexes and they were there, as one delegate pointed out not because they were victims, but because they wanted to play a role in stamping out the sort of conduct of which children are all too often the victims.
Partnership chairwoman Isobel Strong outlined the issues which had beeen identified, among which were the need for increased refuge provision, ongoing funding, raising awareness of the problem, and influencing the criminal justice system.
The important thing was to build on what had been achieved last year, she said, and issues to be addressed included looking at finding ways to give children and young people the opportunity to take part in the creation of strategies.
ADA would be working with other agencies with the aim of educating the perpetrators of domestic violence and providing support for the victims.
Argyll and Bute Women’s Aid had increased outreach and refuge provision; the organisation now had seven refuge spaces but was hoping to increase that by a further five.
Chief Superintendent ‘Mitch’ Rogers explained that the geography of Argyll and Bute brought its own problems and these were issues that the force had sought to address. The way domestic abuse had been handled had been changed in January this year, when three separate units were combined to form the Family Protection Unit. The main theme of this unit was child protection ensuring that children were brought up in a safe environment.
Keynote speaker Heather Coady, of Scottish Women’s Aid continued the theme of the conference emphasising the vulnerability of the young. To make her point she showed a video animation which highlighted the way youngsters react in circumstances of abuse an evocative combination of children’s drawings and speech bubbles which had thought-provoking messages ‘don’t ignore me just because I’m small’ and ‘listen more loudly’ being two examples.
The Scottish Executive, said Heather, were taking notice of the campaign, and over £200k had been made available for more support work. However, there were only 80 child support workers in the whole of Scotland, which was nothing like enough 100,000 children suffer from violence in the home every year.
The issues were graphically illustrated by two dramatic productions. The first, The Quiet Girl, performed by Dunoon Grammar School pupils, illustrated how easy it is for youngsters to misintepret the position of domestic violence victims. Another presentation used imagery to explode the myths surrounding domestic violence, covered by a veil of secrecy, which could only be swept away by recognising the reality behind it, and exposing it.
The message said Heather, was: “Are we listening?”
The answer was “Yes but we have a long way to go.”