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Issue 43 - August 2014
Page visits:
A summer holiday in Norfolk.


We are much encouraged these days to regard grabbing stuff for ourselves as the proper thing to do. Taking is normal. Giving means chipping in for charity and putting coins in collecting boxes. But the truth is, the big need is for generosity of time rather than of money. Arran has a massive spread of activity, from concerts and art shows to activities of every kind, but all of them depend on the few people who get stuck in and help.

This voluntary under-current of activity has always seemed a reliable system, but things are changing. Arran’s ever-increasing arts and entertainment field has grown to the point where it undoubtedly needs a professional administrator - and yet this does not invalidate the huge value of ‘mucking in’. Voluntary help is the biggest single factor underlying the island’s famed reputation for friendly willingness, and adds immeasurably to the richness of life for those who live here. So this is an appeal. Please, don’t shrug off a request to help with teas or put up posters. It can’t always be someone else.

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Poetry at the McLellan Festival

David Underdown sends us details.

The McLellan Festival will get off to a flying start on Friday 29th August when award winning poet Michael Laskey will read from his own work and introduce the winners of the McLellan Poetry Prize. Michael is widely regarded as one of Britain’s most intelligent and insightful poets, with a gift for transforming the familiar, even mundane, into something significant.

Michael will be leading a workshop the following day, Saturday 30th August, in Corrie Hall, 11am to 4pm. Home made soup will be provided at lunchtime. The theme will be ‘the poem as time machine’ and it is open to everyone. The charge, at just £10, is an astonishing bargain. Contact David Underdown on to make a reservation.

On the following Wednesday, 3rd September, there will be an evening with the ‘April Poets’ in Brodick Bar. The April Poets are Mike Barlow, Carole Coates and Ron Scowcroft, a Lancaster based poetry collective that hosted Arran poets earlier this year. With contributions from local poets and singing group Vivace, this free event promises to be a lively evening. Thanks to Ian McFadzean for use of the Brodick Bar, which is establishing itself as a fine venue for poetry events.

You can find out more about Michael Laskey at or hear him on YouTube:

The details of all the events throughout the McLellan Festival can be found here.


A Horse for Every Man that Died

This is the title of a new play by Cicely Gill which has been commissioned by the National Trust for Scotland at Brodick Castle, A strange title for a play you might think - but in 1914, eighty horses were shipped off from Arran to the First World War battlefields. This number eerily corresponded exactly with the number of men from Arran killed or ‘missing in action’ during that war.

!Amongst the many events commemorating the centenary of the carnage that was WW1, this is Arran’s own play about the people who lived here and the way their lives were changed for ever by a situation over which they had no control. The action of the play is based on events that really happened to Arran people during the conflict. At times very funny, it is at the same time a touching memorial to those who served and died.

The play is funded by the North Ayrshire Legacy Fund through Arran Theatre and Arts Trust, which is collaborating with Brodick Castle on the project. It will be performed in the Community Theatre, Arran High School at 7.30 on Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd August as part of The McLellan Arts Festival. Tickets £8.00 from Book and Card Centre or online

Cicely writes to say she has only just been able to catch up with rehearsals of her play, due to other commitments. She says, “It was lovely to see the enthusiasm of everybody - especially the young people. The play requires each of the 12 actors to do more than one part and they dealt well with this, as well as standing in for members of the cast who couldn’t make it because of having to work. Heather was her usual skilled, encouraging self and it was great to watch her making suggestions and them taking them up, both parties doing this so gracefully.”

The actors include Wallace Currie, Finlay Murchie, James Mutch, Ceilé Swinton-Boyle, Robert Ingham, Molly Hodkinson, Iona Flewitt, Alan Nichol, Campbell Seaton and Sarah Cook.

The details of all the events throughout the McLellan Festival can be found here.


South of Arran now an MPA

Just a week ago, on July 24th, the Scottish Government confirmed that the south of Arran is now a Marine Protected Area (MPA). The Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) worked long and hard for this, and are much to be congratulated. Even better news is that the whole network of 30 MPAs has been accepted as a protected area, where rare species will be able to live and breed without the constant danger of destructive dredging fishery.

Arran’s MPA aims to protect and restore sea grass and maerl beds as well as many other sensitive habitats and species which have functional importance as fish nurseries and breeding grounds. Like much of the Clyde and Scottish inshore waters, Arran’s marine ecosystems are being severely degraded by destructive fishing practices such as scallop dredging and bottom trawling.


COAST Manager Andrew Binnie said, “This is a real testament to the people of Arran and our supporters and partners further afield. It is encouraging to see the Government beginning to show the sort of leadership the Clyde has long needed. Marine Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage deserve praise for designating the Arran MPA as part of the Scottish MPA network. However, there is still much to be done.”

COAST plans to continue campaigning for rigorous management measures for the entire MPA, not just patchwork areas as currently proposed Throughout the process COAST and the Arran community have advocated the complete exclusion of scallop dredgers and bottom trawlers from the MPA in favour of more sustainable fishing methods such as scallop diving and creeling.


Beautiful Bugs thrill Whiting Bay

On Wednesday, 9th July, the Ugly Bug Ragtime Three played a programme of highly inventive yet completely classical jazz that left their Whiting Bay audience in a state of rapture. The group’s self-mocking name gave no hint of the fine musicality that explored and extended well-loved old tunes, finding new depth of feeling in them while always staying within the known underlying theme. The three players, on this occasion sticking to the classic combination of clarinet, guitar and bass though each is a multi-instrumentalist, handed the structure of the music to each other like one of those conversations that begins, ‘Do you remember …?’ and ends in new understandings and imaginings. Yes, we remember, and it was like this, wasn’t it.

Duncan Findlay, with consummate guitar skill, would take the tune over from John Burgess’s fabulously fluent clarinet and newly expose the inventions that John had packaged into it, then Andy Sharkey would in turn open up its structure on string bass and give it yet more meaning. In each pair of skilled hands the music found, not merely decoration, as is common in many lesser groups, but a new sense of what the tune was about and what it really meant. Even such a modest little number as South, consisting of a basic four lines, developed and explored the nostalgia that is laconically locked into it.

Jazz, as all its aficionados know, is more than just fun. It has something to say about endurance and hardship and love, and the three players often found between them an understanding that touched on sheer poetry. When at last they launched into Monty Sunshine’s classic, Petite Fleur, everyone in the hall was wrapped in the joint emotion of those initially thoughtful phrases that come to such an anguished yearning in the middle eight. It was not for nothing that the audience clapped and stamped and shouted after the final number for just one more, for nobody had been left unmoved. When at last people went out into the still-light evening, they took with them an experience that had been sheer magic.


Amour - Corrie shows a film about love

On Sunday August 10th, Corrie Film Club shows a film called Amour that raises searching questions about the nature of love and the duties it may be seen to impose. Written and directed by Michael Haneke, Amour won the Palme d’Or in 2012 at the Cannes Film Festival - a second dazzling success for Haneke, following his astonishing Caché (Hidden). Emmanuelle Riva, who won the Best Actress award, was 85 years old when Amour was released, and the exploring of love between two people nearing the end of their lives is deeply - some may say, disturbingly - perceptive.

Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), are retired piano teachers, in their 80s. One morning, Anne suffers a stroke, quite silently. Georges at first thinks she is playing a prank on him - but when she comes round and is unable to pour herself a drink, he realises that something has happened. Anne undergoes surgery for a blocked carotid artery, but the operation goes wrong, leaving her half paralysed and confined to a wheelchair. She makes Georges promise he will not send her back to the hospital, and he gives her this assurance willingly. One day, she tells him she does not want to go on living.

!Their daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert), comes to visit. She wants her mother to go into residential care, but Georges feels he cannot break the promise he made to his wife. He employs nursing staff, but fires them after he find that one of them is mistreating Anne. The underlying, unspoken story becomes more tense and more heart-breaking as he looks ahead and knows what he must do.

One day, he sits beside Anne and tells her a story of his childhood that calms her and makes her smile. Gently, he picks up a pillow and presses it over her face, telling her that he has freed the pigeon that was trapped in the room. Afterwards, he goes out to buy flowers. Much later, firemen break down the door to find Anne’s body, dressed with care, lying in the midst of an opulent bower of withered blossoms.

The film raises hard questions about euthanasia, and about perceived duty. It has provoked outrage from those who feel that bringing death is always an act of murder, though many others have found it almost unbearably moving and affirmative. But its title is unquestionably right. Amour is a film about love.

Corrie Film Club showings are free of charge, though contributions to the hall’s running costs are always welcome. The screening begins at 8.00 pm, and all are welcome.


Patrick Harvie in conversation

Scotland’s Green MSP arrived at the High School on Tuesday, July 29th, looking relaxed and easy although he had just cycled from the ferry terminal to Lamlash. The open dining area was pleasantly full of people, grouped informally round tables, and John Bruce, Arran’s councillor, introduced the evening as ‘a conversation’ - which, indeed, is just what it was.

Patrick spoke briefly about his viewpoint, making clear that the Green stance is essentially practical, though far-reaching. The world’s energy resources will not last forever, and we must look carefully at the management of what is left of our fossil fuels, while developing sustainable new ones. Our view of economics needs to shift from the over-riding profit motive to a more equal balance. Consensus, Patrick agreed, is not an easy path, but common agreement and an ability to work together are vital if we are to construct a sustainable future. Questions were put and points of view exchanged, often touching on what Scotland’s future will be after the referendum. Whether independent or not, Patrick felt, Scotland is going to need an intelligent, open-minded approach to policy-making, with human priorities receiving wider consideration than the crude profit motive that currently holds sway.

Many of the older listeners present were reminded of the visionary politics that fired imagination in their youth, while younger ones nodded in agreement at the hands-on practicality of what was being set before them. As Patrick cycled off to his modest B&B, people were left smiling and curiously tranquil. It had all seemed to make such perfect sense.


Poem of the month

selected by David Underdown, who supplies the footnote. As seems fitting, the featured poet is Michael Laskey, who will be appearing at the McLellan Festival on Friday 29th August, in Brodick Hall.

On My Own

By Michael Laskey

I don’t waste any time over lunch,
I eat it in the kitchen standing up.
Bread, off the bread board - no plate -
with whatever’s in the fridge, hard cheese,
some scrapings of hummus, a tomato,
a lettuce leaf or two broken off.

But with you almost always fresh bread
I’ve fetched first thing - a small
granary, an organic or a cobber -
I ring the changes, surprise you
with rollmops, an avocado, last week
artichoke hearts. And then, my favourite,
salad, in our wide open wooden bowl -
rocket, cos, webbs, whatever’s
going or I’m growing, with cucumber,
olives, tomatoes, and on a good day
sweet chargrilled peppers I’m peeling
when you drive in, still ragged from work,
and before we sit, settle yourself
by picking us some mint, whisking up
one of your thick mustard dressings.

Like so many of Michael Laskey’s poems ‘On My Own’ is rooted in familiar domestic routine. It is easy to read but hints subtly at the universal, how we respond to our fellow humans, and the rich pleasures and mysteries of companionship. Michael will be appearing live on Arran later this month. The poem is taken from ‘The Man Alone: New and Selected Poems’ published by Smith/Doorstop Books.

The details of all the events throughout the McLellan Festival can be found here.


Women For Independence Arran

Anne Bruce sends us this report

Isobel Lindsay and Nicola McGarry spoke about the Scottish Referendum and the importance of a YES vote at a busy meeting of Arran’s Women for Independence in the High School on 25th July.

The speakers represented two ends of the spectrum, the exuberance of youth and the wisdom of experience, but they had in common a passionate belief in Scottish independence: and a background in politically active families. Isobel Lindsay needed no introduction to many members of the audience, as she has been a doughty political campaigner and peace activist for many years. Her abhorrence of nuclear weapons is deeply felt, and for good reason, as her father was one of the soldiers who entered Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped there in 1945. She still has the melted bottle he brought home. Isobel highlighted the fact that nuclear convoys driving through cities and villages in England and Scotland (the last time only 2 weeks ago) are a prime target for terrorists, with potentially horrific consequences, and maintained that the money saved by Scotland by getting rid of Trident could be put to far better use, and that England too would benefit greatly by not renewing Trident at a cost of many billions.

Natalie, who studied Law and International Government Diplomacy at university and is now employed in the public sector in Glasgow, has gained a name as a political commentator and activist. Convener of Glasgow SNP, she was the SNP candidate in the 2014 Cowdenbeath bye-election, she is a regular contributor to STV’s Scotland Tonight programme. She spoke about why independence will be so important for Scottish women, who have borne the brunt of many of the Westminster government’s welfare reforms. Scotland has not had the government the people voted in for most of her life, and this democratic deficit in itself is a strong argument for independence. Natalie emphasised that voting NO is not a vote for the status quo, but instead for managed decline, with Scotland’s separate health and education services under threat of being ‘standardised’ to match the increasingly privatised model in the rest of the UK. Even the Human Rights Act is not safe from reform by the UK Conservative Party.

The audience enjoyed the opportunity to pose questions and discuss the issues, and gave both speakers a warm and enthusiastic Arran welcome.


New York Supreme Court rules that towns can ban fracking

Hard on the heels of David Cameron’s determination to give fracking companies the right to drill under private property, New York’s Supreme Court has taken a 5-2 decision allowing towns to set up zoning laws that exclude fracking companies.

Karen Moreau, representing the Petroleum Council, insisted that the real losers were private citizens and landowners who wouldn’t be allowed to receive payoffs from the gas companies to drill on their land - a money-based judgement that left many people unimpressed.

In fact, no fracking is currently occurring anywhere in the state of New York. Six years ago, the governor suspended the activity altogether until research could address potential safety issues, and these have not yet been addressed. But with this latest ruling, towns can ensure their ‘no fracking’ zoning rules will stay on the books regardless of what the state government ultimately decides.

Localised fracking bans cannot, of course, fully protect communities, as water contamination deep underground does not respect town borders. The new legislation recognises this, and says that a town permitting fracking next to a town that has banned it will face the consequences.


Save the Children Family Ceilidh

Friday 22nd August in Shiskine Hall

7.30 p.m.------10.30 p.m.

Buffet Supper

Adults £8.00    Children £3.00


Helsinki heads towards being a car-free city

The capital of Finland has always been a vibrant and interesting place, but within the next ten years, it plans to do away with car-ownership. Instead, it will have a travel nework that works by smart-phone, combining small buses, bicycles, ferries and, where necessary, car-hire. If you want to go somewhere - supermarket haul, concert, out-of-town trip - all you will have to do is enter your destination into an app and the system will plan the whole thing for a simple and inexpensive payment. It will show you the easiest combination of, say, bus, bike and ferry, and if you need a car it will arrange where to pick one up.


In Glasgow, say, such a proposal would be very unlikely to catch on. Devoted to the instant freedom of our own vehicles, the smartphone alternative must seem a bit way-out - but then, car travel in Finland has never been a very attractive option. Wild reindeer collide with cars very frequently. Northern Finland alone has an annual figure of 3,000 to 4,000 reindeer-related collisions every year. The reindeer is a much bigger, heavier animal than even the largest stag you may encounter on a Scottish moor, and seems remarkably devoid of any traffic sense. In some places, they’ve tried painting their antlers with fluorescent glow-in-the-dark pigment, but it doesn’t seem to curb their suicidal instincts. In view of all that, the smartphone and a state-run transport plan could seem an attractive alternative.


Bee good news

!Friends of the Earth and other scientific bodies have been campaigning frantically to save our bees from wipe-out through the use of neonicotinides - and for the time being at least, they have won. On July 4th, Syngenta withdrew its application to use banned pesticides in the UK.

The US government is still trying hard to force farmers around the globe to purchase Monsanto GM seeds, but the resistance has been determined. In El Salvador, farmers have been working with the government, alongside NGOs like the Mangrove Association, to provide certified natural corn seed for thousands of Salvadoran farmers. The program has been ongoing for more than five years in the country, and is continuing to expand. The high-quality seed they produce is adapted to the specific soil and climate conditions of their country and makes good sense both agriculturally and economically. However, the US government continues to push Monsanto’s GM products on the government of El Salvador.


Cattle Mustering Down Under

by Heather Gough

Having lived almost half of my Arran life in the South End I thought I had some idea of what farms look like. But that was before visiting Australia. In that extraordinarily vast country farms cover thousands of acres and cattle are herded by helicopter!

We didn’t experience that but we did visit a friend’s farm near Canberra which was 4000 acres - small by his neighbour’s standards - and were invited to help muster his cattle. A modest herd of 250 head.

It meant an early start and a substantial breakfast before boarding the battered, work-horse of a pick up truck, standing on the back, bumping along the dirt track roads holding on for dear life to the roll bar above the cab until we arrived at the mustering point, the metal yards, which we would call pens. From the yards, as far as we could see in every direction was the land belonging to our friend and here we could see a few hundred yards distant, in the near paddocks (fields to us) the farm manager, Kevin and his grandson, Toby who were already bringing in with quad bikes the first of the herd - beautiful sleek black Aberdeen Angus cows. (What must it have been like in the days of horses?)

I suppose I have always harboured a secret longing to ride a quad bike so when Kevin invited me to sit behind him as he set off to bring in the second batch of cattle I was delighted.

And how exhilarating it was, roaring up bumpy ridged hillsides, leaping across ditches and sploshing through muddy streams. I held on to Kevin for dear life and thought it more exciting than any Alton Towers ride!

There is serious effort involved of course and it took several sorties under a blistering sun to bring in all the cattle from all the paddocks and then 2 or 3 hours to organise the “cut-out” for market before we could retire into the shed for our welcome “tucker”.

Sobering after all this exciting experience for us was, of course, the fact that these magnificent and compliant creatures were being sent to market. More conflict in the Land of Oz.


Why I will vote “NO”

In a recent edition of “The Voice for Arran”, it was noted that while “The Voice” was attempting to maintain a relatively neutral stance on the forthcoming referendum, it was admitted that the bulk of articles on the referendum were favouring the “YES” campaign. It then invited comment from the “NO” side. I wish to take up this invitation to explain why I will vote “NO”.

I will start by stating I am born in Scotland, of Scottish parents and grandparents. I was educated in and have lived and worked in Scotland all my life, so my being a “Scot” is not in question.

Let me first briefly look at Scotland’s history.

Until the arrival of Kenneth MacAlpin in the mid 9th Century, Scotland as such did not exist, but was rather an area occupied by various different tribal, and linguistic groups, some of whose territories extended across what would pater be the Anglo-Scottish border. Roughly from the late 9th Century, Scotland existed as a more or less distinct political entity until 1603, when the Union of the Crowns took place, followed a century later by the Union of the Parliaments.

Why bother with this piece of ancient history? My point is that for the 10,000 or so years since men recolonized Britain after the last Ice Age, Scotland as such only existed for under 800 years, a very small part of our history. It is that very limited period of history that we are being asked to revert to by the YES Campaign. Would the YES Campaign allow the Northern and Western Isles to opt back into the Norse period of their history? (The Scotsman recently carried a letter from a Shetlander proposing exactly this, if we vote “Yes”). Or the Borders to choose its Anglo-Saxon past as Northumbria? Why are we so desperate to separate from the other members of the British family, when, for example, Germany, which has been a “united kingdom” for less than two hundred years yet its component “nations” seem to function very happily together.

Also, Scotland’s own history seems rather more distinguished by failure than success, with occasional notable exceptions like Robert Bruce, much of whose background was Anglo-Norman, and who might be considered, depending on one’s view of history as an opportunistic “Robber Baron”, or a forsworn traitor, or a patriot. No, pre-Union Scotland was not a particularly prosperous or successful place.

On the other hand, Scotland’s history as part of the United Kingdom seems rather more of a success story. Not all the time, and with many problems also – but few countries can boast continuous uninterrupted prosperity and success. The Scottish Enlightenment, the growth of Scottish commerce and industry all occurred once Scotland was part of the bigger unit that is Britain. Much of Scotland’s prosperity came from access to the “English” colonies, which became available to Scottish business interests. Perhaps one of the YES/SNP themes which grates with me is the cry “It’s Scotland’s Oil” conveniently forgetting the benefits Scots have had from England’s colonies and Empire. Sharing resources goes both ways.

Lest you think I have a rosy-eyed view of British history, I have not. Britain has made many mistakes, as have all nation states, but on balance, I think we British have more to be proud of in our history than many other nations. I am quite comfortable to be British and look back on my country’s achievements with some reasonable pride, without ignoring its faults and failures. I cannot say that I am particularly proud of Scotland’s history or, with a few notable exceptions, what it achieved as an “independent” nation.

Let us now look at the current “Independence” debate.

The Economy

No good or convincing economic case has been made by the “YES” campaign that an independent Scotland will be economically more successful than it would be as part of UK. Indeed, there are very strong grounds to suspect that exactly the opposite will be the case. Scotland already has an unhealthily high proportion of employment in the public sector. That will be a drain on the economy in a small, independent country, which will also have to set up from scratch many new public sector facilities – DVLA, embassies etc. - which will further drain our resources

Many businesses have already expressed doubts about the economic prospects for their operating in an independent Scotland. Do we really want to lose our private employers?

Geographically, Scotland is on the periphery of Europe. By becoming separate from rUK, we will become even more peripheral, and that brings great economic risks. If business wants more immediate access to its major markets, it will leave small, peripheral Scotland. And jobs will go too. The tax base will be reduced too. The banking crisis of a few years ago would have been much more catastrophic for a small independent country like Scotland.

Political changes within a new Scotland may also have a harmful effect on our economy. We may not automatically become part of the EU. This will immediately adversely affect our trading links with EU countries, even if only on the short term. If we do become members of the EU, the conditions of entry will be different from those enjoyed by UK, and will be less favourable to an independent Scotland.

If our immigration policy is different from rUK, there may be restriction on cross border movement, with damaging implications for our businesses.


We are assured by many in the “YES” campaign, that independence will bring a much fairer, more just society. There is precious little evidence to justify such a claim. Indeed, much of the evidence from SNP rule in Scotland over the past few years would suggest the opposite. Free prescriptions for all may sound fair, but many people can afford to pay for prescriptions, while costly cancer drugs are denied to those who could benefit from them. Is that fair? Local democracy is frequently overruled by the centralist SNP administration. How fair was the provison of university tuition fees for all students, except for those from other parts of UK? Among the bedfellows of the SNP “YES” campaign are some far left political groups. The far left has a very poor track record on fairness or justice – unless Gulags and mass execution of dissenters count as fairness and justice.

The Campaign

From the start, the “YES” campaign is such to make me ashamed to be Scottish.

Alex Salmond’s offering the vote to 16 and 17 year olds is disgraceful and irresponsible. What maturity of thought can such youngsters have? And, with the SNP’s new “Named Guardian” Bill awaiting consideration, these 16 and 17 year olds are still deemed to be “children”. The “Yes” response is that “it was a democratic decision”. But since the SNP had an outright majority, and the opposition could not vote against it without immediately alienating the youngsters, the decision was shameful and opportunistic.

The claims made by the “YES” Campaign are little better than lies.

Alex Salmond, as principal spokesperson has assured us that, on a variety of issues, everything will be plain sailing. Contrast that with Churchill’s offering the British people “blood, sweat and tears”. Churchill may have been a “wicked Tory”, but at least he was honest about what lay ahead.

A Currency Union with rUK. Mr Salmond presents this as “automatic” and “common sense”, but the British politicians of all parties state that this is unlikely.

Immediate membership of the EU. The Yes campaign states that this will be smooth, immediate and automatic, yet a number of senior Europeans have cast doubts on this.

Sharing of institutions with rUK. While the Yes campaign assures us that many UK-wide institutions will be shared after Independence, that is most unlikely. UK Government departments will relocate in rUK. If Scotland wants a DVLA, for example, it will have to create its own, at our expense.

We will be England’s “new best friend”. That depends more on England’s attitude after Independence. It is also hypocrisy, since there is a strong element of “anti-English” within the Yes Campaigners, and the fact that they deny it exists is a further lie. (anyone reading the letters section of our national newspapers will recognise that there is a strong anti-English element among many Yes supporters).

The abuse of any individual or group questioning the “YES” views. The Yes Campaign’s response to anyone questioning any of its assumptions and predictions is to attack the person, not offer a reasoned counter argument. So when George Osborne (and Ed Balls, Danny Alexander etc) stated that a currency union was not acceptable to rUK, the Yes response was “Bullies”. SNP ministers have even threatened academics with dismissal for expressing views opposed to the Yes line.

The fact that “Yes” campaigners question the “patriotism” of those who disagree is a very worrying feature. The last group who applied the “not true patriots” were the Nazis in Germany.

The hypocrisy of “Independence within Europe” is laughable, were it not so serious. The Yes side complain about a “remote” Westminster government, but Brussels is even more remote. And a small member state like Scotland would have far less “independence” than the larger UK. The problem of the dominance of a large capital city is not unique to UK. Many countries have the same problem.

Much of the Yes Campaign is aimed at emphasising the differences between us Scots and our neighbours, specifically, the English. This again is a false claim. Scotland is a diverse place, as are England, Wales and Northern Ireland. An urban Scot from Glasgow has more in common with his counterpart in Newcastle, Birmingham or Belfast than he has with a crofter in Lewis. As a classical music lover, I have more in common with an Engllsh concertgoer than I have with a Gaelic Mod or T in the Park attender. And they in turn have more in common with an Eisstedfod or Glastonbury fan. Indeed, in a recent conversation with a Borderer, I was told the Borders folk, on both sides of the Border, regarded themselves firstly as Borderers, sharing a common heritage across the BorderThe UK has a rich, diverse , and largely successful history and heritage, and we Scots are part of that.

The Future

From its inception, the Yes Campaign has been nasty and divisive. Whatever the result, it will have caused serious damage to our relationship with the other parts of UK. It will also cause festering resentments within those in Scotland who lose the vote. It has been based on highlighting perceived grievances, differences between Us and Them, how We are better, kinder, more caring than Them. As such, the whole secession campaign is inherently an evil one.

I have serious concerns about the future of an independent Scotland’s economy. Scotland is a small, peripheral country, with a limited home market, an oversized public sector employment. As mentioned earlier, a number of important companies have already expressed doubts about remaining in a new separate Scotland.

A recent survey suggested a sizeable outmigration of people from Scotland in the event of a Yes vote. These emigrants are most likely to be from the higher bands of earners – and tax-payers, which again does not augur well for Scotland’s tax base.

There remains the possibility of Scotland being, for a time, excluded from the EU, which would damage our trading links with EU members.

Similarly, with our near-lunatic reliance on windfarms, our energy prices will rocket, rUK will not be obliged to purchase our “green electricity”, operating costs for industry will rise, and we become even less attractive for inward investment.

What will happen as regards previously shared institutions like BBC? If Scotland is no longer part pf UK, the BBC may well physically relocate out of Scotland. There is already evidence that the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra would be disbanded, as Scotland would not be part of rUK.

If rUK’s interests are different from Scotland’s, then rUK will pursue policies in its own interests.

There have been no straight answers to what happens to our pensions, and our investments if Scotland has a different currency, and different fiscal policies from rUK.

I strongly suspect that the many “bribes” offered by the SNP administration in recent years – free prescriptions, bus passes, RET etc.- may well be withdrawn once we find we can no longer afford them. But as long as they secure a Yes vote, they will have served their purpose.

There are faults and flaws in the way UK is governed, no-one can deny that. I see no evidence to suggest we, as a separate little country, would do things any better. Together, the different groups in UK have remained together, and UK is greater than the sum of its parts.

Judging by the way the current SNP administration has abused power, I have serious doubts about the future of democracy in an independent Scotland. Local democracy has been ignored, the impartiality of the committee system has been compromised, the Civil Service has been politicised. Even the presiding Officer is a “Yes-woman”. All this suggests that there is a strong element of “totalitarian” mentality in the current SNP government, and that will not change with independence. Indeed, the plans to appoint of a State-appointed guardian for each child in Scotland suggests we are already on the way to an intolerant, totalitarian state.

One point remains. If we vote “Yes” and it brings poverty and misery to Scotland, the only people we can blame are ourselves – not the English, not the Tories, not Thatcher. I will vote “No” because I do not want to set in motion a movement for economic and social disaster for Scotland, nor do I wish to become “a foreigner” to my English friends and relatives, because, despite what Alex Salmond says, if we become independent, they will be foreigners to us, and even more so, we will become foreigners to them. If we vote “Yes”, this will be a divorce, and divorces can be painful, messy and bitter. If we choose no longer to be part of the UK family, we can expect no favours from rUK.

Douglas Hamilton


Fauré Requiem for McLellan Festival - rehearsals

Local singers will join with the talented students of the Royal Northern College of Music for a performance of the Fauré Requiem on Sunday 7th September, as part of the McLellan Festival. Any singer wishing to take part should note that rehearsals will be on Sunday afternoons in Lamlash church hall, 24th and 31st August. Diana Hamilton adds that there will also be one on Wed 3rd September, probably in the evening, and a further one either on Sat or Sun before the performance.


Bridge Challenge

Can South make three no-trumps when West leads the ♦4?


Isn’t All This Bloody?

!Birlinn pick this title for their newly-published anthology of writing from the First World War, edited by Trevor Royle. It’s a book that reaches out to grab you with casual truth from whatever page falls open, and surprises are close-packed. John Reith, later the founding father of the BBC, writes of a train journey from Scotland to London, with horses and men destined for shipping to the battlefield. One aged nag died in the night, and they hauled the carcass out at Newcastle and left it on the platform, despite protests that the London express was due in shortly and the nice passengers would be shocked. Sir Harry Lauder writes with raw reality about the death in battle of his only son. Eric Linklater, knocked out by a machine gun bullet, fumbled for a field dressing when he recovered consciousness but could not undo it, so stuck the whole thing over the wound, held in place by his tin hat. Saki (H.H.Munro) writes about the birds whose lives continued in battle conditions. ‘Affection for a particular tree has in one case induced a pair of magpies to build their bulky, domes nest in the battered remnants of a poplar of which so little remained standing the the nest look almost bigger than the tree …’ Charles Hamilton Sorley notes that a field gun ‘sounds like an old cow coughing’. Rebecca West visits a cordite factory where she is instructed to put on rubber shoes in case a friction spark should blow the place sky-high.

Every page of this marvellous book is filled with direct, utterly human reality. The voices, all of them dead now, are as alive as ever, and the comic, appalling pity of war comes over with a direct, simple impact. It is all bloody, indeed, but the reality of the thing must never be forgotten.

Isn’t All This Bloody? Edited by Trevor Royle. Birlinn Books, hardback, £14.99, ISBN 978-1-78027-224-5.


Nurdles murder seabirds

by Sally Campbell

Sally Campbell writes to correct the impression that plastics become nurdles when they break down. This term refers only to the industrial lentil sized pieces that are made into plastics for consumers. Plastics break down into microplastics when the degrade.

Nurdles are plastic pellets about the size of lentils. They are the basic component of nearly all our plastic products, and when plastics degrade at the end of their manufactured life, they go back to being nurdles. Vast numbers of them end up in the sea, where they can carry toxic pollutants. Sea birds, which reasonably assume that anything found in the ocean is edible, mistake them for fish eggs, which they resemble, and gobble them up. Nurdles accumulate in the crop until the bird starves to death.

Clearly, we need to reduce the amount of plastic that goes into the sea, but the opposite is happening. The number of plastic bags given out by supermarkets in the UK has risen for the fourth consecutive year to an annual consumption of 8.3 billion. A 5p charge is due to begin in Scotland this autumn, and Wales, which began charging last year, reports a 96% reduction in single use plastic bags. Our Arran Co-op offers an ever-renewable heavy-duty plastic carrier for a one-off charge of 10p, so it should not be difficult to stop using the thinner ones.

Ineos, the petrochemical giant based at Grangemouth on the Forth, is already a large nurdle producer, but it has just received financing to invest in Europe’s largest ethane storage tank, importing shale gas from the USA. Gas, like all petrochemicals, underlies the production of nearly all our plastic products. You can see the results on

Just a year ago, Ewelina Agnieszka Zajac reported in her MSc Dissertation for the University of Glasgow that microplastics predominate the Firth of Clyde sediments. The highest abundance was observed in the vicinity of harbours and estuary mouths, and there was a massive accumulation of nurdles within the Inner Clyde estuary. A million seabirds are estimated to die each year from eating plastic (see:

Near Plymouth Sound in Cornwall, volunteers clean the beach every month. Last month they carefully counted every piece of litter, and this was recorded on a film called The Big Pick . You can see it on YouTube. In just 6 minutes, it shows how they picked up 576,664 pieces of plastic from a section of beach about the size of a doubles tennis court. 401,230 of them were nurdles, but the film shows an astonishing haul of larger items, including shoes, shotgun cartridges, paintbrush handles and a toilet seat. There are also 4.8 million pieces of Lego drifting around in the sea, after 62 containers of Lego bits were lost overboard in a storm.

Human beings are the only creatures producing waste that nature cannot digest. Couldn’t Arran buck the trend and become a plastic-free island? Modbury in Devon and Overton in Hampshire have already done exactly that, and it shouldn’t be too difficult. Plastic wasn’t invented until just after WW2, and older people say they managed fine before that.


Print CrosswordCrossword

by Dave Payn



 1 Spear I had found in river (7)

 5 Girl to take to court (3)

 8 Curse former lover and her mangy vile pet! (9)

 9 Watched European capital not in conflict (6)

10 Dismiss Edward VI (caught) (5)

11 Green light for Indian state summit (2-5)

12 Boy gets Walt drunk (6)

14 Ode can confuse clergyman (6)

17 Spice Sweeney’s Jack stuffed into a couple of ducks (7)

19 Condition of glasses? (5)

21 Carrier reverses, note (3)

22 A different, vital take on being articulate (9)

23 Dry, damaged button on top left hand of keyboard (3)

24 Quickly coming to northern Lancashire town (7)


 1 Article on yours truly; the point? (5)

 2 Suggest the little urchin told porkies (7)

 3 Celebration about electronic issue (5)

 4 Wet gin cocktail produces spasm (6)

 5 Watch attendant’s infiltration (7)

 6 Come up with letter for 5

 7 Alas, we deny part of this country (6)

12 Poor loner consumes rum (6)

13 Adaptable compound of salt and ice (7)

15 Dispenser of revolutionary soup? (7)

16 Gather cigarette? (4,2)

18 Those liable to alter mindset (5)

19 Guilt has altered yours truly (5)

20 Polish Charlie? (5)


Answers for the July crossword

1 Chinese, 5 Timer, 8 Imp, 9 Mardi Gras, 10 Know, 11 Inventor, 12 Spell, 14 Suite, 17 Admitted, 19 Cent, 22 Derring-do,
23 Ere, 24 Phase, 25 Tonight.

1 Click, 2 Improve, 3 Emmy, 4 Errand, 5 Triceps, 6 Merit, 7 Reserve, 12 Stand up, 13 Latrine, 15 Iceberg, 16 Weight,
18 Maria, 20 Theft, 21 Down.



by Zabdi Keen of Arran’s paragliding school “Flying Fever”

We have been having a fantastic time paragliding this summer on Arran. We were visited on the 28th July by three students we had trained whilst in Nepal; from Australia, New Zealand and Scotland. They had a fantastic days paragliding above Catacol and, at the same time, we had one student completing their pilot course whilst another started on his first day by getting a taste of flight with the tandem.

On the 16th and 17th August the Arran Paragliding Competition is taking place as part of the Scottish Nationals series.


AVA Summer Show

Arran Visual Arts Summer exhibition in Lochranza and Catacol Village hall was a varied show once again. The AVA workshop stall was sporting three delightful creatures made at a Paper Pulp workshop with Mhairi Corr. Snowy The Dog by Tom McNeish, was a real character with his red collar and The Elephant’s Child by Lucy Cartledge, a beautifully decorated elephant concealing the Kolokolo bird. Did you spot it? Then there was a wee white mouse by Alison Barr to complete the display.

The ‘Art in Mind’ stall attracted a lot of interest, as this weekly Art Group demonstrates its terrific artistic development and growth both in photographs of the group at work and in many member’s exhibits. Emily Gilson’s dramatic Lochranza abstract impression is one example as was Nigel Hunter’s vibrant Lochranza Scene.

John Earle’s Oliver Hardy puppet made everyone laugh and wonder where Stan Laurel was. He looked the part and when you wound the handle, he walked the part too! In contrast, John’s After Retirement oil painting was exquisitely detailed and reminded one of an old master.

On the craft stand, Pam Pott’s sea china necklace and earrings displayed on a vintage teapot and entitled Just my cup of tea and her mixed media Storm in a teacup were both clever and quirky.

Barbara Rawlin’s Fading Light, Arran, was reminiscent of many a fantastic night sky seen recently, and Masako Ritchie's untitled piece could well have evoked a Japanese sky, with such a delicate touch.

The 530 people who visited the exhibition over the week, were asked to vote for their favourite piece. The Peoples’ Prize was won by Patsy Keen with her sensitive portrait of a mother and child. Iona Robert’s Tollcross, Edinburgh was the second most popular, both very professional representations of their subject.

The family workshops were very successful with both parents and children enjoying a range of activities from clay modelling to felting, spinning to painting landscapes and butterflies. AVA is very grateful to its willing artist members who encouraged the children in the different media, and hope to make these sessions a regular feature of their exhibitions.