Thursday, 30 July 2009

When will they ever learn?

In July 2007, an experimental project to discover more about the cultural behaviour of Golden Eagles began when an Eagle chick, named 'Alma' by the project, was ringed and fitted with a GPS transmitter. Since then many people have followed Alma's progress on the internet through the website run by legendary conservation trailblazer Roy Dennis - The Highland Foundation for Wildlife
Now, after two years of tracking Alma, followed by thousands of interested people on the internet, Alma has been found dead - poisoned in Glen Esk, Angus. In this single despicable and criminal act, someone, for whatever unknown motive, has destroyed two years' work, the season before Alma was due to mate. This is the second Eagle poisoning in Scotland this year. Some firmly believe that these incidents are the work of rogue gamekeepers, still living in the dark days and determined to preserve the grouse population for the delectation of the wealthy; some that it is the work of farmers who still believe young lambs are the target of this aerial Monarch of the Glen. It is easy for accusations to fly around - but perhaps the very fact that Alma was being tracked will help to narrow down the circumstances sufficiently to point the finger toward the guilty party. The project subsequently ringed two other chicks, Angus and Tom. Sadly, Angus's transmitter failed, but Tom's is still going strong and you can watch his progress on the website. Perhaps some of you may be sufficiently inspired by what the Foundation does to decide to make a donation. I know I will, in memory of Alma. And I will continue to hope that Tayside Police will aprehend the culprit(s) and achieve a successful prosecution.
Where have all the Eagles gone, long time passing
Where have all the Eagles gone, long time ago
Where have all the Eagles gone, Poisoned victims every one
When will they ever learn, When will they ever learn.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The Money Merry-Go-Round

Our local newspaper, the Strathspey and Badenoch Herald, has a regular column entitled 'Foolscap' - a collection of disconnected jottings with a humourous edge that as often as not, pokes fun at local worthies, but occasionally produces the odd real gem.Such was the case this week, with the tale below ....

A TALE for our times. One day a wealthy tourist arrived in a small town, let us call it Nethymore.

He walked into the only hotel, laid a £100 note on the reception counter and went to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one.

The hotel proprietor took the £100 note and ran to pay his debt to the butcher. The butcher took the £100 note and rushed to pay his debt to the pig farmer.

The pig farmer took the £100 note and ran to pay his debt to the supplier of his feed and fuel. The supplier of feed and fuel took the £100 note and rushed to pay his debt to the town's 'lady of the night', who in these hard times had given her "services" on credit.

She ran to the hotel to pay off her debt with the £100 note to the hotel proprietor to pay for the rooms that she rented when she brought her clients there.

The hotel proprietor then laid the £100 note back on the counter so that the wealthy tourist would not suspect anything.

At that moment, the rich tourist comes down after inspecting the rooms, picks up his £100 note saying that he does not like any of the rooms, and promptly leaves town.

No one earned anything. However, the whole town is now without debt, and looks to the future with a lot of optimism.

And that, dear reader, is how our Government is doing business today – and possibly a leisure company near you.

There's no denying foolscap's story made me smile - definitely better than reading the news. But, of course, the flaw in the argument is that the hotel keeper didn't actually get to keep the £100 note, so he is still out of pocket. So the paradigm here might just be that the hotel keeper in this story is you and me - the taxpayer. The banks still pay their executives big bonuses; the Westminster crew continue to fiddle the books; companies get rescued; like the transfer market in football, the money just keeps moving round - and the fatal flaw is that it's our money, but there's precious little chance of our getting it back, whilst the dole queues continue to grow. How much would we give for the rich tourist - a one G Brown Esq - to take his money and leave town?

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Every Party's Got Numpties

We all like to think that the political party we live and die for can do no wrong, and everybody in it is totally brilliant; quite beyond criticism. Truth is, of course, that it's never like that, and the concept that everybody's perfect is obviously unsustainable. Sometimes, when there's a difference of opinion, it's on something that matters and affects people's lives and aspirations, but sometimes, sadly, it just gets silly. So here we are, in the middle of the midsummer silly season, and SNP MSP Sandra White has lodged a motion condemning the level of coverage of the Ashes Cricket series in Scotland. On TV last night she described it as 'wall to wall' coverage. I can only assume that someone in her home has been watching it ball by ball on Sky Sports (like me). Apart from that, the only coverage has been highlights nightly on Channel 5, and some (limited) coverage on the 'national' news channels in the sport section. Never mind that twenty eight thousand Scots play cricket; never mind the host of teams up here in the North of Scotland Cricket League, like Forres St Lawrence, who I used to play for; never mind the famous Freuchie - kings of village cricket; never mind that Scotland have taken their place on more than one occasion in world cup limited over tournaments, and will surel;y continue to do so. But the real point is that this is simply wrong-headed woolly thinking on an issue that in the grand scheme of things simply doesn't matter. It's a totally daft motion that serves no useful purpose at all. There's a much bigger issue in the discussion on whether or not Scotland should have our own public service television broadcaster - an independent Scottish BBC - something many of us passionately believe in, and an issue I have made the case for on BBC's own 'Newswatch' programnme. This is something that does matter, for as long as we continue to be given 'the news, weather and travel where you live' in a five minute slot on breakfast TV, a mere half an hour each early evening and five minutes late at night, our television persona will always be that of just another UK region and we will continue to be fed "National" news like that this morning on the crisis facing England in the cost to older folk and their families of personal care - which, of course, is not an issue in Scotland at all, or the ballyhoo about O and A level results weeks after our young folk have had theirs. I could go on and on.... And then of course, there's that gatuitous and overblown phrase "our Scotland correspondent" so beloved of BBC news editors. Nice to know we deserve one then.... But to confuse public service broadcasting with commercially motivated satellite channels that viewers pay to subscribe to simply clouds the issue and devalues the real argument and to pick on cricket when there's so much more to genuinely complain about is just plain numpty.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Closing the A83

Most folk would, of course, naturally regret the deaths of two servicemen when their Tornado crashed into a hillside in Glen Kinglass, above the A83 near Arrochar. There is, of course, very little left of the aircraft, and access to the crash site is pretty much only by helicopter. Yet for all that, the A83 - the main artery to the area around Loch Fyne, has been closed and remains closed today. The diversion that is in force is a seventy five mile detour. The damage this does to the tourism industry in the area is immense. It is hard to imagine that this closure is for any other reason than the convenience of the investigating services. It is certainly nothing whatever to do with the security of the crash site - years ago, I was involved in keeping the crash site of a Jet Provost secure in Shropshire - I know what's involved. No amount of restriction of public access will bring these aircrew back - but if the A83 is not opened again soon, businesses that suffered a while back due to the landslide that closed the road may this time simply not survive.