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YOUR VIEWS: Creative thinking required to save Highlands rural classrooms


By Gavin Musgrove

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Gergask Primary School in Laggan is to close unless there is an unexpected U-turn.
Gergask Primary School in Laggan is to close unless there is an unexpected U-turn.

Once again we hear of a school closing, Gergask Primary School in Laggan, and so depleting the resources that keep a community alive.

At the same time we hear of the need to squash more children into the Newtonmore site.

It is crazy. A district in France, spread along river like the Spey, was determined to keep communities thriving.

Instead of closing some schools and overcrowding others it came up with a sensible solution.

The different primary school years are spread across the small schools.

Yes, it means children being bussed to school when for that year they are based in another village. However, these villages attract young families and there is far more space for the children in school.

Surely in Highland Council we can lead the way in being more creative about developing thriving communities and providing more space for learning without closing yet another school?

Jo Cumming

Glentruim.

* * *

A huge no to new Scottish national park ‘gravy train’

I find it astonishing at this time of serious budget constraints to find out that the Scottish Government seems to be determined to create at least one more national park.

No money for the A9, NHS or affordable housing but plenty money to burn on more green vanity projects.

The current Cairngorms and Lomond parks are not at all popular with the people who have to live in them, especially rural workers fearing for their futures because of park objectives.

These are objectives they have often not been consulted about, policies which will affect those with no safety net when they lose their livelihoods and homes.

So many of the original promises made 20 years ago have been forgotten – promises exactly like those now being made in the consultations for the new national park right now.

For the Cairngorms the annual budget for 2023-24 is £13.7 million. About half of that goes on staff salaries and running costs (c. £6.7m) and a third on peatland restoration (£4.3m) – the latter a scheme to make rich land owners richer and to allow companies to offset carbon emissions instead of reducing them, funded by the taxpayer.

I can only see less than £500,000 going in to tangible assets that might make visiting or staying in the national park better.

So for that large multi-million pound budget we just get an extra layer of bureaucracy – especially in planning – and then the pleasure of being told what to do by a bunch of expensive, academic, desk jockeys with little local connection or empathy, indulging their desire to implement vanity projects that will not affect them or their descendants.

A few carbon schemes here and their won’t save the world but they will see the end of our world as we know it – our local cultural heritage, our way of life.

The local people, especially around the Highlands, do not want this waste of money and would far rather see these budgets (if the Scottish Government has spare cash) spent on things like community owned affordable housing projects, where they would be far better value to the taxpayer and those local people who struggle now to find a home.

Rural workers do not want any more national parks but with the current consultation process they do not seem able to object and have their thoughts heard.

They certainly do not have an appetite for a second round of consultations, wasting more taxpayers money than has already been spent on the sometimes covert and flawed first round. Their opinion is a big firm no.

I do wonder if the newly-formed Cairngorms Crofters and Farmers might not feel so neglected if they actually had an agricultural officer to serve their needs and actually consult?

But it would seem at this critical time in relationships he is on ‘gardening leave’ or something similar, running road shows and consultation events for a new Lochaber National Park, much against the will of many locals.

However, a few councillors seem to be in favour because they are maybe looking at the c. £9,000+ a year they will receive from taking their seats on the national park gravy train.

I urge everyone concerned to write to all of their MSPs immediately, to explain that national parks are not good value for money – 20 years’ experience show they are not good for local people and communities – and to explain that if the government persist with this tack they will lose lots of rural votes in the next elections, Westminster and Holyrood.

Name and address supplied

* * *

Importance of site for wildlife sadly ignored in go-ahead at Aviemore resort

The Small Scabious Mining Bee. Picture: BSCG.
The Small Scabious Mining Bee. Picture: BSCG.

A controversial ‘major’ planning application for 25 holiday lodges and associated infrastructure in Aviemore, for hotelier Donald Macdonald, was approved by the Cairngorms National Park Authority, by a single vote (‘Osprey special lochan visitors’ and ‘Lodges backed by very slim margin’, Strathy, February 1).

The local conservation group is among those recognising that the proposal threatens valued public green space and habitats supporting some of Aviemore’s remarkable wildlife which is a feature of the Cairngorms National Park.

Despite the site being within an ‘Important Area for Invertebrates’ and close to Craigellachie National Nature Reserve renowned for its invertebrate interest, no invertebrate survey for the development was required by the Cairngorms National Park Authority.

The CNPA also failed to recognise the importance of the grassland: even at this time of year it is plainly apparent that the 3.2 hectares site supports grassland with prolific Devil’s Bit Scabious.

This is the food plant of one of our rarest bees, the Small Scabious Mining Bee (Andrena marginata), and an important late season flower for many pollinators and other insects.

To their credit the local community watchdog Aviemore and Vicinity Community Council were among the objectors to the development.

Frustratingly for those keen to see properly informed decision making, the park planner’s report to the board did not include pertinent elements of the community council’s reasons for objection.

Among disappointing omissions were concerns about capacity, over-provision and reducing the amenity and quality of experience for path users.

The AVCC letter thus refers to the impact of ‘another large scale visitor development’ with 162 bed spaces, when local infrastructure is already ‘stretched beyond capacity’ with restaurants and other services ‘struggling to meet demand’.

Commendably, Kenny Deans (elected community representative for Kingussie, Newtonmore, Dalwhinnie and Blair Atholl), voted to refuse the development, in line with the community council and local objectors.

However, Badenoch and Strathspey’s other elected community representatives and both Highland councillors voted to support millionaire Donald MacDonald’s plans.

This was so even for Lauren MacCallum, the community representative for the Aviemore ward, (although her entry on the CNPA’s website states she is ‘passionate about our communities in the park and believes they have the answers to the many challenges we face, and those solutions need to be championed’.)

The Strathy report referring to ospreys makes mention of two lochans on the site one of which has been stocked consistently for 12 years and is recognised as a key osprey feeding location for both local breeders and birds on passage.

Unfortunately technical issues impaired the sound quality of the planning meeting for those following it online.

In BSCG’s presentation at the meeting reference was made to NatureScot’s most recent advice on disturbance to ospreys (https://www.nature.scot/doc/naturescot-research-report-1283-disturbance-distances-review-updated-literature-review-disturbance#Osprey,+Pandion+haliaetus).

Quoting this authoritative source, BSCG explained that ospreys vary in their ability to habituate (not ‘invitiate’ as reported in the Strathy) to human disturbance.

We hope this clears up any confusion.

Gus Jones

Convener, Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group

Nethy Bridge.

* * *

Future cost of global warming could hit 18% of world GDP

Charles Wardrop and Neil Bryce (Strathy letters, January 11, December 28 and 7) claim that the £3 trillion cost to achieve UK net zero emissions by 2050 will be a waste.

UK net zero cost estimates range widely.

Civitas withdrew its estimate of £4.5 trillion because of errors.

Montford put the cost at ‘£3 trillion and counting’ for The Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think tank ‘deeply concerned about the impact of climate change policies’.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent body set up by the Government, estimates it as £16 billion per year, a figure endorsed by the HM Treasury’s 2020 Net Zero Review; that would be less than £0.5 trillion for the 30 years to 2050.

These estimates are uncertain.

The ‘do nothing’ base, in calculating these costs, is a hypothetical future of no global warming. Choosing this baseline has a big effect on estimates.

Also, economies move on: technology develops, as do products and services; these affect estimates for both ‘do nothing’ and doing something. Much of these ‘costs’ are investments that will give benefits such as energy efficiency (Skidmore ‘Missions Zero’).

The full effect of the net zero transition on our economy is its impact on UK GDP (CCC 2019 ‘Net Zero’).

That impact on UK GDP by 2050 is likely to be small, less than one per cent of GDP, or even a net benefit (HM Treasury Net Zero Reports 2020 and 2021).

With GDP growing at 1.4 per cent per year, even a one per cent hit would delay our income growth by less than a year.

But cost estimates, and even effect of the transition on GDP, leave out the future damage that global warming would cause.

Swiss Re in ‘The economics of climate change’ estimates the effect on world GDP at between 11 per cent and 18 per cent.

The claim, that tackling global warming is a waste of money, is meaningless without comparison to the alternative of not tackling it.

The cost of global warming is the bad news, perhaps even 18 per cent of UK GDP as we are well connected to the world economy.

Hannah Ritchie states the good news in ‘Not the end of the world’: we can have a liveable future and stop global warming, if the world ramps up the transition to net zero.

Dermot Williamson

Kincraig.

* * *

Let travel series host Simon Reeve be your guide to climate challenges

Simon Reeve can currently be seen on TV travelling through the wilderness of Patagonia at the foot of South America.
Simon Reeve can currently be seen on TV travelling through the wilderness of Patagonia at the foot of South America.

No, Geoff Moore I did not suggest that global warming could lead to food shortages, it was the independent worldwide IPCC – ie. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that correctly suggested it.

In fact Geoff and other deniers of climate change will find that my thoughts are governed by evidence and hard statistical facts gathered from a wide range of field experts and independent world organisations.

I never see that from their letters.

Since last century serious climate change has been accelerating throughout the world.

I would urge people to view the current BBC programme ‘Wilderness with Simon Reeve’, where in Patagonia in South America vast glaciers are disappearing causing in turn floods, drought and fires. The series is available on iPlayer.

Surely we must nurture and save our beautiful planet for future generations.

Finally my answer to Charles Wardrop’s question is that Scotland has always been great, especially with its fine world contributions, as it moves towards independence.

Also a big hurrah to the honest and courteous Jim MacEwan for urging all to ‘trust climate experts and not flat-earthers’!

Grant Frazer

Newtonmore.

* * *

‘I’ll go green but only on one condition....’

If the UK could harness all the hot air from Roy Turnbull’s numerous letters the wind turbines would never stop turning. (Letters, Badenoch and Strathspey Herald, February 1).

What Mr Turnbull and other correspondents looking at climate life through green smoke and misted mirrors ignore is that most of the world’s politicians are lying as they rapidly increase their use of fossil fuels to drive their economies.

Some recent headlines.

India is doubling its coal production and China is about to build 43 coal-fired power plants and 18 coal-fired blast furnaces.

There are 2425 coal-fired plants in the world.

According to the International Energy Agency, the US is now producing a record-breaking 13.1 million barrels of oil a day.

The US, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Canada and Iraq produce and export more than 50 per cent of the world’s crude oil.

Once Mr Turnbull persuades the wayward countries to drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions then I will eat less meat, fit an expensive heat pump, shut off my gas supply, endure the pain of public transport, no longer take foreign holidays and re-mortgage my home to buy an electric car.

Clark Cross

Linlithgow.


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