TAC 27 May-Jul96

TAC 27 Index

and they call it democracy...

Thanks to Edie Horton and Kevin Clark for keeping us up to date with the latest intrusive Hydroboard proposals. These have been widely publicised in the glossies, but are roughly as follows. Not content with the planned damming of Loch a'Bhraoin mentioned in TAC26, the intention is now to "develop" the Badachro river system, ie three large lochs immediately to the north of Beinn Alligin: Lochs Gaineamhach, a'Ghobhainn and a'Bhealaich. This would require all manner of heavy equipment and roadbuilding, with the loch-levels being raised by between 1m and 2.5m and a "partially buried" pipe connecting with the Dubh Loch / River Kerry system to the north. (Note the word "partially". For all the assurances that the pipe would be hidden beneath peat, this is doubtless typical doublespeak - akin to "substantially all" in the Railtrack sell-off. What odds on the pipe being invisible for more than, say, 20% of its length? By the same token, the planners could be deemed "partially honest" and "partially ethical".) A 244m2 x 6m turbine house would be built on the southern shore of the Dubh Loch (ie a somewhat larger structure than your average bothy), with a 3k metalled road running beside Loch Bad an Sgalaig to link with the A832. During the nine months of construction, trucks, bulldozers and helicopters would be much in evidence, with temporary worker accommodation appearing between the upper two lochs. Yet this time, not even one extra longterm job would appear, the scheme ultimately being overseen by the same bloke who deals with the existing Loch Garbhaig / Victoria Falls setup.

There would of course be incalculable disruption to both the human and the wildlife populations. Residents around Badachro and neighbouring Shieldaig have been assured that "a percentage" of water would still flow down a compensation pipe beside the Abhainn Braigh-horrisdale - ie its natural direction. This, however, is unlikely to fulfil all the needs of a long hot summer such as last year's. Wildlife would have an even harder time: no fun for the eagles, divers, otters etc.

Ironically, all this is part of a government scheme to generate so-called "green energy", with the 2.1 megawatts being bought by the Hydro at a guaranteed price, having been paid for by private investors but topped up by centralised subsidies. As usual, the "free market" proves nothing of the sort: public money ending up in private, grabbing, hands.

The initial proposals were advertised only in the tiny Ross-shire Journal for 26/1/96. As Edie says, this is reminiscent of The Hitch Hiker's Guide, where public plans for the hyperspace bypass were displayed in a locked basement bearing the sign "Beware of the Leopard". The date for objections lapsed at March 11th, but was extended to April 8th because of poor advertising and misleading information. Clearly this date has now passed, and by the time this magazine appears there may well have been further developments (but hopefully not of the concrete type). It is, however, still well worth making your voice heard at the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department, Victoria Quay, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ and/or the Highland Council Planning Department, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness IV3 5NX. Copies of any objections could also be usefully sent to the MCofS.

The way the hydro situation is going - and will definitely go if the Tories win the coming election - is also well shown by the fishing situation on public reservoirs. The latest newsletter of the Scottish Campaign for Public Angling tells how on 1st April 1996 the old Regional Council control over such fishing rights was switched to three quangos. In other words, whereas any complaints re access etc previously found their way onto the desks of publicly-elected officials, this is now no longer the case.

Déjà vu: the northern branch of the Minigaig is now being challenged as a right-of-way, ie the path over Sron na Gaoithe to Ruthven Barracks. More on this next time, but if you've walked this lovely stretch - as has your Ed - please contact both TAC and the Scottish Rights of Way Society, John Cotton Business Centre, 10 Sunnyside, Edinburgh EH7 5RA. Also more next time on the outcome of the 15/4/96 announcement that wild camping on the Clachaig Flats will cease (TACs passim). For first-up info, contact Alison Bell at the NTS regional office, 01631-570000.

TAC 27 Index