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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 23rd September 2000
Issue No 198

Estate Owners Opposition to Loch Conservation Plans

A row erupted recently over conservation plans which it claimed could pose a serious threat to the Skye economy.

Dunvegan Estate fears the proposed designation of parts of Loch Dunvegan and Loch Snizort as special areas of conservation (SAC) in recognition of their seal populations threatens visits by cruise ships and local boat trips. It also places a question mark against long term plans by the estate to develop a ferry terminal at Dunvegan. However, Government agency Scottish Natural Heritage maintains that designation would in practice have little effect on activities in the lochs, and could even prove an additional touris attraction. This is the latest in a number of disputes between locals in the Highlands and Islands and SNH over conservation designations. The Skye site, which includes the Ascrib Islands, is proposed as one of a network of SACs across Europe known as Natura 2000, aimed at protecting the continent's environment. Estate manager John Lambert said: "Once this is in place it will sterilise Loch Dunvegan and surrounding areas for future development. "I'm amazed SNH officials have engaged in discussions with us before asking Environment Minister Sarah Boyack to put Loch Dunvegan forward as an SAC." Mr Lambert admitted he had recently ordered SNH officials Frank Fortune and Stephen Varwell from his office, saying: "I found it incredulous that they could recommend designation to the minister without first consulting us. "Designation will I'm sure affect the boat trips organised by the estate to view the seals, and I fear it could affect the cruise ship market we have built up over the years. We've had as many as 30 cruise ships visit Loch Dunvegan and Dunvegan Castle in a year, some of them carrying 600 to 800 passengers. That's a lot of revenue." Mr Lambert also expressed concern that SAC designation would kill long cherished proposals by Dunvegan Estate that the Skye ferry terminal serving Harris and the Uists be relocated from Uig to Dunvegan. He revealed that visitor numbers to Dunvegan Castle had fallen last year. "To date we're down 8,000 on last year and we'll be lucky to get 100,000 this year. The tourism market is in downward freefall and designation could affect vital activities still further," he said. SNH spokesman George Anderson said the Scottish Executive had in June announced a number of sites it wished SNH to consult on for possible designation. He said: "That's what we're now doing for this site, but Mr Lambert threw our officials out and refuses to consult with us. We're disappointed that the estate has taken this approach. Our doors remain open and we hope it will change its mind and begin talking to us again, so we can allay any fears it may have in detail." Mr Anderson said there were already several designated areas in the country, where tourist boats sailed in close proximity with seals, with no problems whatsoever. He said: "It would surely be a tourist boost to market and area as one of seal conservation." On the cruise liner issue he stated : "There's nothing to suggest there should be a problem in that respect." Referring to ferry terminal suggestions, he added: "It's highly unlikely that seal designation would scupper such a development were it proposed, though as far as we're aware Loch Dunvegan is not in the front running for a terminal."


Iron Age Skeleton Find

A skeleton found near a village cemetery in the Western Isles is now thought to be 2,000 years old. Detectives were called in when archaeologists studying bones and other items, recently exposed by severe coastal erosion at Barvas machair came across the almost complete skeleton. Dr Mary Macleod, Western Isles Council's archaeologist, said the skeleton was estimated to date from the Iron Age. She said: "We have found a lot of artefacts in the area which allow us to make fairly detailed estimates of its age. "For instance, the person whose skeleton this is had not had a Christian burial, and the other items, including pottery, are from the Iron Age period." She said that the erosion of the sanday soil on the machair, caused by waves and gales from the Atlantic, meant entire dwellings, walls and a variety of bones were now being uncovered on the west coast of Lewis. Dr Macleod said that if the Barvas site was carefully uncovered and developed, it could become a place of major archaeological significance. A similar Iron Age settlement of several small houses was found in Bosta in 1996 by archaeologists from Edinburgh University.

Red Kite Scheme Success

A record number of red kite chicks have been successfully reared through a programme to re-establish the birds in Scotland it was announced recently. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Scotland said that 39 pairs of red kites laid eggs this year, of which 32 nested in the North and seven in the Central Scotland area. Some 84 chicks were fledged, pushing the number of chicks reared since the re-introduction programme to more than 300. RSPB regional ornithologist for North Scotland, Colin Crooke said: "It has been another record year for kites in Scotland. "The number of chicks reared has been unprecedented, and I was thrilled to see and photograph a brood of four chicks. "I have been working on the project since it began in 1989 and this is only the third brood of four that I have seen." RSPD red kite project officer for Central Scotland also welcomed the success of fledging red kites: "The steady progress that has been made is great testimony to the very many people who have helped the project."


Dram Delight

Caley Thistle football players were in high spirits recently as they each received a bottle of Tomatin whisky, specially numbered and labelled to commemorate their historic 3 - 1 Tennents Scottish Cup win over Celtic last season. Club chairman David Sutherland received the first bottle from a limited batch of 5,000 while Steve Paterson and each Jags player also picked up a bottle, calligraphed with their own autograph on the label. Mr Sutherland showed his delight when he said: "Tomatin have been very good friends to this club and we congratulate them on their initiative and we hope the special whisky is a real winner." Meanwhile, Jags boss Steve Paterson seemed equally pleased when he said: "This is a very special keepsake and I', sure our supporters will make this a popular product. "The lads are grateful to Tomatin for their support and wish it very well." The whisky has gone on sale at various outlets throughout Inverness, including Caledonian Stadium.

New Capercaillie Tracks

Two concerts by Celtic band Capercaillie were among the highlights of the recent Gordon 2000. In the splendour of the Castle Arena next to Huntly Castle, thousands of fans listened as the band unveiled songs from their eagerly awaited new album. Released earlier this month, the album is called Nadurra, which is Gaelic for 'naturally'. Ticket holders to Gordon 2000 had access to the arena and were able to enjoy the sound of Capercaillie for no extra charge. It was only the second time the band had played in the UK this year, although a full tour is planned for the autumn to promote the new album. Originally from Argyll, the band has been credited with being the major force in bringing traditional Celtic music to the world stage. The band has released eight award winning albums over 16 years, including the soundtrack to the hit film Rob Roy, which starred Liam Neeson.


Historic Tug in Inverness

A working piece of maritime history was berthed at Inverness recently when the tugboat Cunard Golden Cross completed its voyage along the Caledonian Canal. The world's first diesel geared tug and the last surviving vessel of her type, the Golden Cross has another claim to fame as the ship which accompanied the Royal Yacht Britannia on its first and last voyages. At the time, the Golden Cross was the most powerful and tightest turning rescue tug in the world and was picked to accompany the Britannia in 1953 to showcase British technology, current skipper Stuart White explained. The Clyde built Golden Cross was then used as a tug by the Royal Navy before performing the same duties with cruise line Cunard, escorting some of the world's best known liners, such as the Queen Elizabeth and QE2. Despite such distinguished service, in 1996 the owners decided to scrap her and she was left on a sandbank. "She was rescued after an Oriental actress discovered her and was aghast to find out that this piece of history was about to be lost, so she organised people to help her save the ship," Captain White said. "The Queen found out about her and made her the official escort for her final voyage to London, so that was her supporting Britannia on the first and last voyages." The vessel is now supported by her own charitable fund and sails around the ports of the UK with a crew of volunteers from the Royal and Merchant Navies.

MacPherson Games Gathering

About 2,500 spectators enjoyed the Newtonmore Highland Games and Clan MacPherson rally recently. Clan Chief Sir William MacPherson led a march of about 100 clan members armed with swords. Highlights of the games were the Scottish Heavy Events Championship, won by Mark MacDonald from Dumfries. The Craig Dhu hill race was won by Andrew Wright of Inverness Harriers. Other stars of the games were John Dunlop from Peterhead, who won the men's 200m, 400m and 800m races, and Leslie Clarkson of Inverness Harriers who triumphed in the women's 100m, 200m and 400m events. The North of Scotland Haggis Eating Champion was Eddie Harrigan from Newtonmore. The games chieftain was Sir Thomas MacPherson.

Charity Event

Advertising executives Elaine Campbell and Pauline Grieve were walking on air recently to help raise funds for Childline Scotland. Stepping off the side of the 110ft high Raigmore Hospital tower held no fears for the intrepid duo. They were part of a brave team of volunteers who abseiled off the top of the building to raise hundreds of pounds each for the Childline charity.

Political Roundup

Equipment Boost Welcomed

News that Raigmore Hospital in Inverness is to receive new dedicated MRI scanning equipment to help diagnose and plan treatment for cancer in the Highland and Islands area has been welcomed by Labour MSP Maureen Macmillan. The fund allocation to Highland Health Board, announced by the Health Minister, has been made possible due to the earmarking of 30 million for new equipment in Scotland announced by the Scottish Executive in July. Maureen Macmillan said: "I am very pleased that health minister Susan Deacon has decided to give the fight against cancer such a priority in this, especially in view of the fact that Raigmore and health boards in the Highland and Islands area are to benefit."

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Cloudy/widespread rain. Drier/brighter later. Winds fresh/strong S-SE. Temperature 13c to 18c.
Saturday Night
Cloudy/rain risk in the W. Dry and clear in the E. Winds fresh S-SE. Temperature 9c to 14c.
Sunday
Mainly dry with sunny spells. Cooler with freshening winds. Risk of showers/drizzle at times.
Monday
Becoming more settled in the W with rain confined to the hills. Showers or longer spells of rain in the E.


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Caledonia



This is Caledonia ( Caley for short ) A Ness-Scape family member and mascot. She is a White German Shepherd. Caley has decided to take over the editing of Nessie's Loch Ness Times, and she's sure she'll make a good job of it. What do you think?

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