Scotland’s Nostalgic Future


“And the droll thing was, for a’ they misca’d Gleska, and gret about Clachnacudden, ye couldna get yin o’ them tae gang back to Clachnacudden if ye pyed the train ticket and guaranteed a pension o’ a pound a week
”.
Neil Munro ‘Erchie’

Sir Edward MacCall: “probably the greatest Social Pioneer of all-round Scottish development in the first half of the 20th century.”

So, as I was saying before last week’s word count so rudely cut me off, we know most of the negatives around developing and repopulating much of Scotland outwith the Central Belt.

We have an abundance of hills and mountains; we can’t build villages or towns near them, like they do in err Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, and Slovenia or even that little known country to our East, Norway.

The moors are too wet, so the likes of modern day irrigation won’t drain water away from peat bogs like it does in similarly soggy states. If only there was some sort of futurised mechanical digger and engineers who could fathom a way to cut channels and divert water running off the hills. Not that such a plan could be allowed to interfere with the magnificent bio system that helps to cultivate Scotland’s joyous Culicoides impunctatus aka the midgie…

In conversations following last week’s missive, there’s been some positive engagement with friends and foes, virtual and yer actual, on how the many Scotland’s, get a shift on, with improving the country.

A genuinely positive article on Highland regeneration came out this week in Spain’s La Voz de Galicia with comparisons between depopulated Galicia and the Highlands, where the population has apparently grown by 22 per cent over the last fifty years, still a small dent compared to how many folk we’ve lost. Highlands and Islands Enterprise come in for some circumspect praise, apparently there is no similar agency in Galicia. Most importantly the author believed the key to successfully regenerating the Highlands, lies in the changed mentalities of a ‘Do-it-yourself’ philosophy and the importance of rural pride.

You may have seen the #naestraw campaign, which started last year with the pupils of Ullapool primary school persuading café owners/pubs/hotels even CalMac ferries to replace plastic straws with paper ones, thus reducing the number of plastic straws that end up in our oceans and contribute to the harming our wounded planet.

There has been a welcome and gradual change in approach as to how we treat our environment. Here in the North, there are regular beach cleans and fishing boats often bring back bags of plastic waste they harvest from the sea. It has started with the youngsters, and the outlook I’d say, has a distinctive rosy tinge to it now.

There’s been much suggestion of reforestation. Trees combat carbon emissions; they have value commercially and employ quite a few folk operating the most amazing machines. Witness the recent project in India, where 800,000 volunteers planted a whopping 49.3 million saplings in one day, nearly 50 million trees in one day. All as part of their commitment to the Paris climate deal.

I recently watched an episode of the TV show about the Galloway Forest. Other than enjoying the rawest Galloway Irish tongues on display (without subtitles) I marvelled at Ozzy, the tree planter, who reckoned he’d easily planted over a million trees in his 20 years with the Forestry Commission.

Imagine a confident optimistic Scotland, where emulating just 1 per cent of India’s effort, wasn’t cynically jeered at. Could 8,000 Ozzy’s plant 493,000 saplings in one day? It’s happening on a smaller scale in the people’s republic of Yorkshire, where Taylor’s of Harrogate; the tea company, are sponsoring the planting of one million trees over the next five years.

I suppose it would be too much to ask Secretary for the State of Scotland, David Mundell, to demand of his cabinet bosses that they help to offset our collective Scottish carbon footprint, garnered from our extracted gaseous fuels, by adding a small fraction of one percentage to oil and gas taxes? These funds could go in some small way to perhaps recreating some of the massive northern temperate rain forest that was lost when north Britainshire provided timber not just for the British Navy and Lord Nelson’s flagship ‘Victory’, all 2,000 mature oak trees of it, but also the charcoal required for the blast furnaces and forges of the Industrial Age.

We’re in a new shinier Industrial Age now, with the business world finally catching up to one of our greatest assets, renewable energy. Scotland, as if you didn’t already know, was the world leading force in hydro power.

The North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board was created by Scotland’s best ever Secretary of State, Tom Johnston (a socialist whose legacy is mostly ignored by Scottish Labour today) and made real by the almost forgotten genius of Scottish engineer Sir Edward MacColl (see above). Johnston appointed MacColl as his Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive. MacColl built hydro-electric schemes across the Highlands including Pitlochry, Cruachan, Glen Affric-River Beauly, Breadalbane, Loch Sloy-Loch Awe, Glen Garry-Glen Moriston, Strath Conon and Loch Tummel.

In short, this dynamic duo brought sustainable energy to the vast majority of Scotland and created the greatest infrastructure programme Scotland had ever seen. It still remains so.

MacColl encouraged the use of stone, both for hydro-electric power-station buildings and staff houses. Strangely enough they’re all still standing. If anyone from the Scottish government ever reads this, do look into the longevity of materials being used in building the current slate of hydro dams, you might not like the answers. Sir Edward was interested also in the possibilities of the gas turbine, and of developing the production of peat for briquetting and for power-station fuel. In the biography written about him in 1956, it was said:

“We are accustomed to think of Edward MacColl as THE Scottish Hydro Electric pioneer. He was in reality, perhaps the greatest Social Pioneer of all-round Scottish development in the first half of the 20th century.”

Sir Edward MacColl remains a victim of that perpetual Scottish trait; the prophet ignored at home, whose work is revered by his peers around the world.

We now live in the age of turbines, on shore, off shore, even underwater. We have turbines dependent on tide and wave, solar and biomass. We’re hoaching with new ways of creating sustainable energy.

As the High street bailed out banking corporations, have been slow to invest in renewables and ultimately turned their backs on the communities who founded and funded them, rural communities are now exploring alternative routes to fund the use of their natural assets and feed into the national grid.

At the end of this month, the widespread community of Coigach, a few miles North of Ullapool, plan to release an investment bond on their community owned wind turbine. The offer to investors is a guaranteed 5 per cent annual return on their investment. Working with, jings, I can hardly believe I’m typing this, an ethical bank, committed to environmental sustainability, Triodos.

If only one of those fleeing banks, you know, the ones that want to leave mums with prams and folk in wheelchairs struggling to get into mobile banks, had an ounce of the integrity of Triodos.

Perhaps, this is yet another opportunity for community empowerment, work with credit unions and install banking facilities in local community hubs. Naturally, expansion could come to include mortgages, salaries and investments, you know like banks used to do.

I suspect that this micro management and ownership of community assets is in harsh reality, the likeliest way that the Highlands are going to reverse the stasis created by the (non-genocidal) clearances and the conversion of common lands into the lair of the privileged sporting classes. Community empowerment, despite our elected and pensioned bureaucrats, is perhaps the best model to work with.

Somewhat ironically, at the other end of the Coigach single track road (with passing places) from Achiltibuie, one finds the 17,000 acre sporting estate of one Paul Dacre. Mr Dacre, is the editor of the Daily Mail, possibly the greatest contributor to the rise of racism and bigotry this country has known since Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech.

Mr Dacre, a most ardent Brexiteer and Europhobe, has installed his own personal hydro-dam on Langland’s estate, scarring the hill above Strathcanaird. Characteristically, he managed to conveniently pocket some hundreds of thousands of Euro from with his particular approach to milking the EU cash cow. It is estimated that his hydro dam will add somewhere between £15 and £20 million to his personal fortune. Bless.

Dacre apparently paid £2.45 million for the 17,000 acres of his Langwell Estate. I wonder how many more millions it would have cost him for a comparable sized sporting estate in Hampshire or Surrey?
Incidentally, the Munro quote at the top, is an example that although many missed Grannie’s Hielan hame, the lack of jobs and opportunity were, as now a major disincentive to returning home.

Comments (27)

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  1. George Gunn says:

    Good article, Ewen. Sometimes I do not think those in the South of Scotland understand just what the land question means to all of Scotland. The sporting estates in the Highlands are a crime against the Scottish people. They ensure that poverty is prolonged. Up on the north coast of Sutherland a Danish millionaire grocer is evicting people from their houses and shutting down their livelihoods even as we speak. He would not be able to own and use land in this way in his native Denmark. “Britain” is the place where if you have enough money you can do what you like. The politicians in the SNP have to have a long hard look at themselves over this. There is no reasoning with landowners. Their land holdings should be taken off them and the potentially arable ground redistributed to people who are prepared to work it. Scotland needs more people. The Highlands are empty and this is why. Highlands and Islands Enterprise are part of the problem.

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      I don’t think that’s true of all of us, George. As someone of Borders descent, I understand very well the importance of the land question. In his Central and South East Scotland Plan of 1949 (produced at about the same time as Frank Fraser Darling’s ‘West Highland Survey’), Frank Mears highlighted the scale of depopulation in the Southern Uplands and its devastating social and economic consequences. The Ettrick Shepherd, James Hogg, was in the thick of it in 1803. Buccleuch Estates are busy elbowing tenant farmers off the land in pursuit of forestry grants right now. The land question is of importance for the whole of Scotland.

      1. Ewen McLachlan says:

        Hi Graeme, in defence of George, I presume he meant that at this latitude, everything South of Perth is the South of Scotland….

        I recall a talk Tom Devine gave in Dumfries a few years back, when he surprised locals by talking about the impact of the clearances across the South from Arran to Berwickshire. A lot of the Borderers ended up in Canada, as is memorably spoken about in the play Bondagers, with an imagined life in Saskatchewan being held up as a paradise.

        1. Graeme Purves says:

          I wasn’t seeking to attack George! But here’s a good quote from James Hogg based on the experiences of his journeys in the Highlands in 1802, 1803 and 1804:

          “I anticipate with joy the approaching period when the stigmas of poverty and pride so liberally bestowed on the highlanders by our southern gentry will be as inapplicable to the inhabitants of that country as of any in the island.”
          ― James Hogg, Highland Journeys

          1. Ewen McLachlan says:

            Oops. Sorry, the Internet! Thanks for the Hogg quote.

    2. Ewen McLachlan says:

      Thanks George, I was somewhat perplexed to read that Povlsen apparently pays more tax in Denmark on the land he owns in Scotland, than he does here. If he eventually ends up beating Buccleuch as Scotland’s largest private landowner, he’ll automatically replace him as Europe’s largest private landowner…

      Oddly enough the combined acreage of Povlsen, Buccleuch and Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen the lego billionaire is dwarfed by the 1.4 million hectares managed by Forestry Commission Scotland and owned by the Scottish government.

  2. Alasdair Macdonald. says:

    Ewan McLachlan,

    An excellent idea. One of the problems is, of course, that because of the economic model that is now dominant, the lack of a people’s history of Scotland being taught in schools and an increasingly mendacious and rabid media, many people have convinced themselves that huge chunks of Scotland are wildernesses about which nothing can be done. It is a self-submitted colonisation.

    What you need to do, is as Professor John Robertson is doing with his ‘Talking Up Scotland website, is to join others, including Bella, in regularly disseminating good news stories about what IS happening in Scotland and what is relatively quickly achievable with a bit of will.

    At Holyrood, we really need the MSPs to crack on with land reform. There is a clear majority for this across SNP, Greens, LibDems and Labour. It is not an easy task, not least because of the deterioration of the Land Register and will be viciously opposed by the landowners, with People like Mr Dacre and his baleful publication in the van. We need to make progress on a National Investment Bank. We need to get high speed and reliable internet and mobile communications in place. And we need to be able to transmit cheaply electricity produced by renewables to the communities nearby. Energy is a classic example of a ‘rigged market’, which is designed to benefit the SE of England.

  3. John Stuart Wilson says:

    “I suppose it would be too much to ask Secretary for the State of Scotland, David Mundell, to demand of his cabinet bosses that they help to offset our collective Scottish carbon footprint, garnered from our extracted gaseous fuels, by adding a small fraction of one percentage to oil and gas taxes?”

    Perhaps you had forgotten the stance of the Scottish Government?

    John Swinney calls on George Osborne to reduce tax for the oil and gas industry
    15 February 2016
    The Deputy First Minister has written to the Chancellor asking him to consider a package of measures to support the oil and gas industry in next month’s budget
    https://www.holyrood.com/articles/news/john-swinney-calls-george-osborne-reduce-tax-oil-and-gas-industry

  4. Graeme Purves says:

    Whereas Norwegian small farmers, who owned their own land, were content to remain in rural areas combining subsistence agriculture with income from whatever other economic opportunities came along.

  5. Dougie Blackwood says:

    Spot on. We do need local communities to be encouraged, to stand up for what the want and need. Our Scottish government has it’s heart in the right place but it is too timid. Replace the council tax with a land value(or rental if you prefer)tax; those that own and benefit from the land of Scotland should be contributing to improve it, not milking it for all they are worth.

    Make it uneconomic to hold on to land on to that is not being productively used. In that way we can gain enough building, crofting and farming land to kick start our economy out of the ” Aye been that way” mentality into the dynamism and business friendly culture we all want.

  6. Ewen McLachlan says:

    “Some 60,000 Chinese troops have been deployed to plants trees in an extended area around Beijing roughly the size of Utah”

    For those unfamiliar with the size of Utah, the island of Ireland (north and South) is exactly the same size, 32,500 square miles.

    Rather than posting ideas of a militaristic conscription, imagine a recruitment drive using army logistics and volunteers to undertake such a task in Scotland…

    https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/j5bjvx/china-soldiers-trees-planting-beijing-pollution?utm_source=vicenewstwitter

  7. Howie Whyte says:

    For a good grounding in the history of The people who built the dams, The Late Emma Woods book, The Hydro Boys. Is the best and most interesting Historical account of a time when hope of a better future seemed possible.

    1. Ewen McLachlan says:

      Hi Howie, it’s a great book. The entire building of the Hydro’s is an amazing story, and probably the last time Scotland was really innovative with regard to improving infrastructure. If you think about it our transport infrastructure is Victorian and our roads go back to Wade or even the Romans!

      1. Howie Whyte says:

        Ewen you made me laugh our Croft is on an Edmund Burt road, author of letters from the north of Scotland who never mentions midges dispite commanding a road building red coat company for many seasons where now man fears to tread, also I crew a boat on Loch Ness , that Georgian marvel. Nothing as modern as your Victorians blots our views. Respectfully Howie.

        1. Ewen McLachlan says:

          Arf!

      2. Alf Baird says:

        “our transport infrastructure is Victorian”

        Ewen, this is also true of Scotland’s major central belt seaports on Tay, Forth and Clyde, the latter serving the bulk of Scotland’s population and today owned by offshore private equity funds who tend not to invest in new infras (and nobody knows who really owns them). All these existing ‘docks’ are mostly Victorian and hence obsolete and we have not seen any major ‘new’ public or private port investment since the 1960’s. What is left of Scotland’s trade today depends on access via southern English ports, which is expensive and with land transport suffering from congestion. The Scottish Government seems yet to realise that international trade (and hence economic growth) depends on having access to advanced and competitive seaports, of which Scotland has neither where it really matters – i.e. Forth and Clyde. I doubt the SNP ‘Growth Commission’ will even consider seaports or shipping connections, with its major focus on issues such as currency. See: http://reidfoundation.org/2016/01/sort-out-our-ports/

        1. Ewen McLachlan says:

          Traditionally we looked to the East, particularly our somewhat tempestuous membership of the proto-EU, Hanseatic League. Scots merchants had business and political links embedded in Baltic/Scandinavian cities. I think it was Stockholm, where there were a few seats reserved for Scottish traders, such was the influence and importance of the trade they brought.

          You’re right Alf, the ports are in unknown hands and lacking in investment, other than retail or residential development. I don’t think the ferry between Rosyth and Zeebrugge even runs today, I’m pretty sure it closed as a passenger ferry but limped on as a freight ferry for a while. IIRC it was down to lack of passenger interest. 24 hours at sea versus congestion from South of Preston all the way to Dover…

          1. Alf Baird says:

            Ewen, passengers flocked in their hundreds of thousands to the Rosyth-Zeebrugge ferry, just 16/17 hours steaming time to Flanders and access to most continental markets. There was insufficient cabins on the boats to cater for peak demand and this despite relatively high prices. The ferry operation was profitable but the operator simply got fed up with the private port owner constantly putting up port charges, plus there was insufficient land given to the ferry at Rosyth to cater for more freight traffic. This is what we get with the Tories privatised self-regulating port ‘authorities’, i.e. easy money monopolies for offshore private equity ‘financial engineers’. The UK is the only country to privatise all three key aspects of seaports – land/property rights, operation, and regulation. Most countries only permit the private sector to operate cargo handling activities in what is still mostly state-owned and regulated port land – for obvious reasons. Scotland’s trade and economic growth is held back by our urgent need for port reform. Let’s hope the SNP Growth Commission notices! I served my time as a Shipping Clerk working for ‘Leith, Hull & Hamburg Steam Packet owner Gibsons/Currie Line, and we were also agents for many lines such as Royal Netherlands Steamship (KNSM) and Iceland Steamship (Eimskip). Most of these operations ended due to lack of investment in the major Scottish central belt ports needed to cater for the more modern and larger ships introduced since ‘unitisation and high port charges. Compared with port infrastructure in Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Finland, Estonia, Poland etc etc, Scotland is actually a much less developed nation, so it is rather obvious why our trade performance (outside whisky) is lacklustre – i.e. we are simply not competitive, due to poor infras, high energy costs, and as Jim McColl stated to economy committee, neither do we have a substantial state National Investment Bank helping to support trade like all these other nations enjoy. Easy to fix I would argue, just needs some political will at Holyrood to properly ‘drain the swamp’ left by the Tories and their ‘offshore’ banking ideology.

  8. Ewen McLachlan says:

    Alf Baird

    Thanks Alf, that’s a great summation of the situation, I had never considered that the sailings ceased due to port charges. At the time, I presumed it was operator costs versus profit.

    Your mention of Whisky is important, given the sheer amounts we export every year I wonder how it gets transported to foreign markets? Presumably it’s driven to southern ports like Liverpool and Folkstone or do we still use the Clyde and Rosyth?

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Ewen, whisky in containers is either sent by rail to major ports in south of England (Felixstowe, Southampton, London Gateway), or shipped via Grangemouth by feeder to continental ports such as Rotterdam and Antwerp for transhipment to global markets, smaller volumes via Greenock to Spain. I believe the port charges and box handling rates at G/mouth to be high, but so are rail/intermodal fees to the south – so either way Scottish trade is penalised by monopoly suppliers. Plus G/mouth is way upriver involving extra steaming time/cost, and as the port was built originally as a canal port during Victorian times and is shallow/draft constrained, there are limits to the size of ship that can be handled there. UK rail freight is also increasingly congested and costly.

      I have researched potential for and advocated an entirely new European gateway port facility for Scotland to be built on the site of the ex power station at Cockenzie, ideal for continental ferries and for large cruise ships which are unable to berth in the Forth just now due to lack of a decent port, and public bodies are looking at this now. In my view such a new and modern port is imperative if we are to see Scotland’s international trade expand and economic growth in future. Unfortunately our policymakers tend to have little idea of seaports, or of global shipping, nor maritime policy, and hence how to facilitate trade and economic growth. They need to better understand the fundamentals, and also appreciate why our current trade is constrained (e.g. via outdated ports, high port charges, monopoly suppliers owned by offshore equity funds etc).

      1. Dougie Blackwood says:

        It is imperative that we improve the capacity of ports in Scotland. We have Greenock and Hunterston on the Clyde but they are not well sited to suit European trade. Scotland’s government took over Prestwick airport and that is entirely sensible but we need to address the requirements in the east.

        I had not thought of Cockenzie or other places along that bit of coast. Is the water deep enough close to shore for a successful port? I do not know the east coast and when you look at ocean terminal in Leith you wonder whether something ready made and possibly expandable might be better. I understand about the commercial rip off people that have hands on the tiller but it might be more cost effective to buy them out and develop a working port as part of national infrastructure in readiness for future use. Leith used to be Edinburgh’s docks and one wonders whether it could be again.

        1. Alf Baird says:

          Dougie, Leith is hopeless for modern shipping, too shallow and has a small lock entrance, so no use for larger ships, plus congested on the landside so freight will not use it. At Cockenzie there is sufficient water depth not far from shore which basically requires a long pier, standard for modern cruise ships and also for cruise-ferries. Good rail and road connections there and the existing coal ‘bund’ site is also helpful for any freight traffic.

          Re Hunterston – I worked on a study for Clydeport to create a large container port at deep-water Hunterston prior to their acquisition by Peel Ports, owner of Liverpool and other ports in England. Peel then quickly dropped the Hunterston idea and put their investment into a new container port in Liverpool, despite the latter not having enough water depth, and requiring a very large dredge to allow big ships in on the tide, much of it paid for by George Osborne (i.e. us). So another example of Scotland losing investment due to business takeover here.

          There is clearly a need to develop major strategic port infrastructure on Forth and Clyde, however thus far there has been little interest from Holyrood or from Scottish Government and their advice on economic growth invariably seems to ignore major seaports (and hence trade). There is a large £350m new port development started at Aberdeen(!), which is probably 15 years too late given offshore trends (and what the offshore ports at Stavanger, Esbjerg and Eemshaven built 15 yrs ago), and is hardly a suitable port as far as serving 80% of Scotland’s population located 100 miles in central belt is concerned. Had Scotland a national maritime/ports policy we would surely have prioritised development on Forth and Clyde to remedy the mostly Victorian outmoded ports that remain there, the latter today owned, exploited and self-regulated! by offshore ‘funds’. Without decent ports trade will not/cannot flow. And yes, a maritime policy for Scotland has been prepared (I had a hand in it) and covers all this and much more……but whether we see any action remains to be seen….nothing in the budget or policy pipeline, it appears, so far, so penny yet to drop as far as ports, trade or economic growth is concerned.

          1. Dougie Blackwood says:

            Thanks Alf. This thread has been a revelation.

            Let me ask about the practicalities of running a cruise ship port and freight on the same site. Normally cruise boats come in early morning and leave in the evening; it there was a pier built would it not need to be an enormous thing to allow sufficient space for freight handling on the same site?

            We are thinking ahead into a time when Scotland might be running it’s own affairs. Have you looked at Crombie pier? It is owned and run by MOD and is big enough for navy freighters to use and is normally used as a parking berth between operations. It may be that it would become redundant in the event of independence and fall to be the property of the Scottish Government. The old ammunition depot that it served is, I believe, no longer active due to the proximity of Grangemouth.

          2. Alf – I am largely with you on this – tho9ugh living very near Leith docks I am woken by (very) large ships berthing, so am confused by your statement about Leith being useless – maybe its a matter of scale?

            I would imagine there being scope for ferries routes to Europe and Scandinavia as well as haulage and containers, so maybe there are two different port needs?

            There is also a growing issue about cruise liners and what they do and dont bring to the city / local economy. I have heard rumours of environmental reports being unable to identify the source of water pollution in the Forth and the suspicion being that liners ‘discharge’ on entry.

            Anyway – lots of questions and lots of potential here I think.

          3. Alf Baird says:

            Dougie, Thanks for that. The low ‘air-draft’ of the rail bridge prevents large cruise ships or even some cruise-ferries from getting beyond Queensferry, hence Crombie Pt, or Rosyth, or G/mouth is of little use to larger commercial ships of today.

            Ed, there is currently no port on the Forth capable of handling large cruise ships alongside, so they have to anchor off Hound Point usually, or simply sail on to other places where proper piers are provided. Modern ports tend to have full waste reception facilities ashore, but you can’t do that for ships anchored offshore, which might explain what you suggest may be happening. Neither can large ships ‘homeport’ here, i.e. do turnarounds where thousands of tourists and crews leave and join a cruise and where the ship is ‘stocked up’ ready for its next voyage – that is where many of the real economic impacts arise and it all passes us by due to the lack of decent port infrastructure.

            You may hear/see the odd ship at Leith, either in for lay up, repair, or handling low value bulk commodities, but the docks are mostly empty. Even in the 1970s when I worked there as a ship agent the port was considered obsolete and increasingly avoided by ever larger ships that did not appreciate the restricted access via what is a shallow dredged channel and a relatively small lock entrance by today’s standards, nor the high port fees and the need to hire expensive tugs. I have suggested previously that the city should take over/CPO Leith/Granton and redevelop for leisure craft, housing, commerce etc and let the people rediscover their historic harbour, as has been done in hundreds of similar obsolete docklands globally, which is often the largest single land bank in the city. Edinburgh can’t afford to leave it mostly derelict and undeveloped for ever. But at the same time, we need to do as most other countries have tended to do long ago and that is to build a new and different type of marine terminal so that we can accommodate evolving shipping technologies. We have failed to do this especially in central Scotland where 80% of Scots live and our international trade potential is held back because of that.

          4. Alf Baird says:

            Dougie, re freight and cruise activity on the same site. Large ferries nowadays don’t spend long on the berth, usually just a few hours. Everything is quickly driven on/off, freight and cars etc. Outbound freight traffic is waiting on the landside for the ship to come in, so that is where some acreage for storage is needed, plus sorting for onsite rail/intermodal connection. The ‘dwell’ time of freight (trailers, containers, trade autos etc) tends to be very short, which means that a relatively small space can handle large volumes of trade a year, i.e. £billions in value. A single ‘multipurpose’ pier could for example handle a large cruise ship and a large cruise-ferry simultaneously, plus a few smaller boats. Such a new European ‘gateway’ port at Cockenzie could handle half or more of Scotland’s international trade in goods (£10-20bn) and become a major facility for growing tourism. The cost? A similar new pier in Kirkwall cost under £40m, about the same price as a calmac ferry. The cost of the port is really not that much at all, it is the impact on the wider economy that really counts. If for example such a port could increase Scottish trade by say even a modest 10%, then that would add several £billion and tens of thousands of jobs in the wider economy. This is why ports are described as ‘engines of the economy’. But without decent ports and decent shipping connections that are necessary to develop trade, what we see is what we get, a struggling zero growth economy going nowhere fast.

  9. Dougie Blackwood says:

    What an enlightening thread!

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