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Mains of Cowie - Not over yet
Madam- Those who were at the well-attended pre-determination hearing for Mains of Cowie will probably remember vividly the strength of feeling and the arguments put forward why this proposal, for many reasons, wasn’t the right one. The news that the developer has withdrawn his application will be welcomed by many. However, the devil is in the detail. Reading the statement of the developer’s spokeperson in last week’s Mearns Leader it needs to be noted that they have withdrawn their bid “for the time being“. It seems that the matter isn’t closed once and for all and that a similar proposal to build over one of Stonehaven’s most prominent beauty spots might be tabled any time in the future. Those who felt and expressed concerns about this application can’t breath a sigh of relief yet but will probably have to content themselves with a period of respite.
1 Willow Row
Stonehaven AB39 2RJ
Wind turbines - Ruthless promotion
Madam- Many of those involved – whether as councillors, campaigners or residents most directly affected – will greet today’s announcement by the Department of Energy and Climate Change regarding the imminent removal of subsidies for onshore windfarms with delight and relief.
Rural communities throughout the length and breadth of Scotland have spent the last decade battling to preserve local landscapes in the face of the intransigence of Scottish Government renewable energy policies and their ruthless promotion of onshore wind turbines. Aberdeenshire has suffered disproportionately and it should come as no surprise that the First Minister has chosen to describe the decision to bring forward the removal of subsidies from such developments as ‘perverse’. Well she would, wouldn’t she? Any challenge to the ‘green’ agenda undermines one of her key policies and the economics of separatism. Slightly disingenuous too given the fact the Holyrood has the power to decide to fund its own distinctive energy policies. Predictably, they choose to play the familiar ‘Blame Westminster’ card rather than fund the subsidies themselves.
Unlike the First Minister, many rural communities will, however, welcome the decision – one which has the democratic legitimacy of the UK as a whole. For years the SNP has ruthlessly their so-called ‘green’ policies by politicising the planning process in order to disempower local communities. Aberdeenshire’s infrastructure department has willingly – and wilfully - co-operated in this process while councillors have found it impossible to resist Holyrood’s will.
So it is interesting that those of us who used to believe in local democracy must look further afield for a more rational approach to energy policy – one which puts the will of local communities at the heart of local decision-making. Only Westminster-led Conservative policies can now effectively challenge the urban-based, centralist politics of the SNP. It remains to be seen whether Holyrood will be willing to devolve the same powers to communities in Scotland. I doubt it. Paradoxically, it is to the more ‘distant’ UK government which we must look to enhance local democracy and preserve the beauty of the Scottish landscape in our area.
D. E. Johnston
Waterloo - Stonehaven connection
Madam- After reading the article by Gordon Ritchie on Stonehaven’s Waterloo connection it reminded me of a meeting I had in Kirkton of Fetteresso Cemetery 20 or 30 years ago.
I was up there taking lichen and moss pictures and noticed a couple who were looking at all the gravestones with a lot of interest. We met up eventually and they said they were looking for the grave of a particular person - a William Duthie who had fought at Waterloo - as they were doing family history research and needed the information on the stone.
They mentioned that the gravestone had a cannon on it. They eventually found it heavily obscured by a plain tree which they had to cut back. I remember seeing it then and on another occasion I was up there for picture taking.
After reading the article today I went back up to the cemetery and found the gravestone again.
It says - “Erected by William Findlay, Farmer Bishop St. Portlethen, In memory of his uncle William Duthie, Late Sargent, Royal Artillery.
“Died at Stonehaven 1st Sep 1859 aged 73 years”
There are more names of other family members but no more detail about William Duthie.
There is no mention of Waterloo on the stone but that was what the couple said to me.
It is in the upper area of the graveyard on the right hand side as you come through the top gate.
Car parking - Response to Ali Brown
Madam- In response to Ali Brown’s letter regarding the former gas works site at the harbour (Mearns Leader June 19), I wish firstly to point out that he is misinformed when he says that Stonehaven Town Partnership was granted permission to convert the site into a car park (or anything else for that matter). STP has never been given any such formal permission.
Constructive discussions between STP, the Council and the site’s owners SSE have however been taking place over a period of time. SSE obviously have had to look at the options available to them but the possibility of the site being used as a car park is still being pursued and all of this takes time.
The frustration evident in Ali’s letter regarding the apparent lack of progress is understandable. It is perhaps inevitable that the process will be a lengthy one given that the present owners are one of the six big energy companies in this country, the piece of land in question is unlikely to be at the top of their property portfolio, and STP trustees are a small group of local volunteers.
Ali and others in the community who are interested in what happens to the site should be reassured that STP and the Council will continue their efforts to secure a deal with the owners which it is hoped will provide, as Ali says, much needed extra parking for visitors to and resident of the harbour as well as tidying up what is at present an eyesore.
Anyone interested in how this initiative is progressing should contact an STP trustee or one of their local councillors, visit stp.org.uk or attend the monthly meetings of STP trustees held on the fourth Tuesday of every month except July and open to the public.
Chair, Stonehaven Town Partnership
Fiscal autonomy - Scotland would be a shambles
Madam - I entirely agree with the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, when he indicates that the UK Government would reject John Swinney’s call for full fiscal autonomy for Scotland.
The Scotland Bill was signed by all participants to the Smith Commission, including Mr Swinney, giving powers to Holyrood, including the following: Control over Income Tax rates and bands; A proportion of the VAT raised in Scotland; The power to create new benefits in development areas, and to make discretionary welfare payments.
As Mr Mundell correctly states, amendments to the agreed powers, as demanded by Swinney and his cohorts, would effectively kill off the Barnett Formula, and would end the sharing of resources across the UK – a ‘full fiscal autonomy’ policy would be a shambles which would cost every family in Scotland around £5000.
So is it the case that John Swinney is becoming more daring?
When Alex Salmond was still in power, I do recall that a leaked memo from the Scottish Government revealed that Swinney was most concerned about Salmond’s economic policies and urged caution.
So what has caused him to change his views on the matter?
The indications are that Scottish oil receipts are reduced by about 34.5 billion.
The Institute of Fiscal Studies has indicated that an increase in Scotland’s deficit would be about 9.7 billion higher than the status quo under the present UK Government.
John Swinney’s new found confidence may be based on a sense of bravado after the SNP’s apparent success in the General Election.
As we all know he was not always as confident as the referred leaked memo from the Scottish Office at Leith revealed.
Also it must be remembered that over 55 per cent of Scots voted against independence in the 2014 referendum. Even in the more recent General Election, 1,456,029 Scots did not vote for the SNP, but because of our first past the post electoral system with 49.97 per cent of the vote the SNP took 54 seats in the House of Commons – not exactly representative of the electorate, but unfortunately in keeping with our ‘first past the post’ system.
However, since it is essential that we should stick strictly to our electoral system, we must also accept the recommendations of the Smith Commission to which John Swinney and all other parties were signatory.
I am fairly certain that many people in Scotland would just like to return to a less intense political scene, and just get on with their lives. – Yours, etc.,
Robert I. G. Scott