Windfarms and the Ayrshire Elections
The issue of Windfarms in Ayrshire continues to be a talking point and Cllr. Hugh Hunter a Conservative councillor with South Ayrshire Council argues in his blog that the move by Labour Councillors on South Ayrshire Councils Planning Committee on 3rd April 2007 to reject the recommendation of South Ayrshire Councils planning officials to formally object to the planning application for a Windfarm at Dersalloch Hill, east of Straiton was cynical and calculated for its electoral impact.
In a previous post we noted the position regarding various Ayrshire windfarm applications and in particular that North Ayrshire Planning Committee had unanimously rejected an application by Renewable Energy Systems Ltd to build a controversial windfarm near Largs, Ayrshire.
Councillor Hughes, noting the refusal by South Ayrshire Council to object to the Dersalloch Hill windfarm application, argues that;
I can only assume that political expediency was the reason. If the windfarm goes ahead then Scottish Power will channel some funds into the Straiton and Maybole area. The Labour party are looking for votes in that area and presumably believe that the promise of Scottish Power cash will sway the voters. I suspect, andThe objectors to the windfarm express concern that the Turbines will interfere with radar for nearby Prestwick Airport but it is hard not to conclude that the objections are also founded on a degree of Nimbyism. Every windfarm application that is made seems to be objected to. We showed in a previous post that Ayrshire will not be immune to Global Warming effects - so what is so bad about windfarms when seen in that context? - assuming the concerns about radar interference can be dealt with.
hope, that they are sadly mistaken.
Scottish election Polls
More widely on the election front the election Polls by and large still show the SNP in out in front although the poll results have been more mixed.
One poll forecast a double-digit SNP lead over Labour while another forecast a Labour lead.
Overall they still seem to be showing around a 5% SNP lead which would translate into approx:
SNP 50 (27 Constituencies, 23 Regional)
Labour 43 (31 + 12)
LibDem 18 (12 + 6)
Conservative 15 (2 + 13)
Green 2 (0 + 2)
Independent 1 (1 + 0)
What seems clear however is that this SNP lead does not necessarily translate directly into support for Independence as the polls have suggested that support for separation from the Union falls quite someway short of support for the SNP.
Whether the Scottish public are really set for the turmoil that Independence would bring remains to be seen. Nevertheless even if the SNP vote is in large part a protest vote that is what we will get if they are returned as the largest party. One certainty is that if the SNP is running the executive they will seek every opportunity available to them to create political conflict with Westminster.
Where was Alex Salmond?
Alex Salmond hasn't shown his face much in the last week with no press conferences and as far as we are aware no TV appearances. It seems likely that his strategy has been to pocket the Poll leads and not to risk any chances of gaffs and stumbles which would throw this away. However scrutiny of both the SNP and Labour will increase in the coming week with the launch of their manifestos.
The real details of the debate will then begin and it will be interesting to see if the SNP "Braveheart" emotional appeal stands up to practical scrutiny and if the Scottish electorate have the appetite for the political and economic instability that will come with the process of gaining independence.
Labour polls business leaders
The message of the potential turmoil that Independence would bring was reinforced by the bosses of Scotland's top 25 companies who said they believe independence would be bad for the economy.
According to the poll for the Labour Party, 76 per cent of non-PLC firms think breaking up the UK would hit Scotland in the pocket. 88 per cent felt they would face problems having different currency and regulatory systems from England.
Danny Masterton home in Muirkirk and talks about Iran captivity
Meanwhile in Muirkirk,Ayrhire, Danny Masterton the marine freed by the Iranian regime was enjoying a pint in his local pub and talking about his 13-day hostage ordeal.
Danny, 26, said he feared he would be killed after being blindfolded and handcuffed against a prison wall in Iran.
"It was the most terrifying moment of my life. I thought my time had come and just waited for the bang."
Danny Masterton was one of seven Marines and eight sailors who were held hostage after being snatched by Iranian gunmen while patrolling Iraqi waters.
He revealed that he and his comrades were threatened, repeatedly interrogated and held in prison cells for almost two weeks before their release.
Danny arrived home in Scotland late Friday night and first visited his mum Christine, 51, who is recovering after an operation.
" Everything feels so surreal. I can't even remember the first words to my family. I'm just so relieved. People are stopping me in the street and telling me how glad they are I'm home. It's just wonderful because there was a point when I thought I would never see home again."
Danny and his colleagues were doing a routine inspection of a ship in Iraqi waters on March 23 when they were taken hostage by the Iranians and accused of illegally entering Iranian waters. The kidnapping sparked an international crisis.
But according to Danny;
"We were never in Iranian waters, we were 1.7 nautical miles from their waters, inspecting an Iraqi boat, when we noticed two boats speeding towards us. Our captain told us to disembark the Iraqi ship quickly because I think he smelled trouble. I was still aboard when the Iranian boats arrived. They were full of men armed with machine guns, and one had a handheld rocket grenade on his shoulder. Two of them boarded our boat and took over the controls. We were herded on to our boat and taken into Iranian waters."
"At this point I was still quite calm. I thought we had been taken by mistake or that it was just a huge propaganda stunt. When we docked about an hour later, we were all blindfolded and packed on to a bus and driven about an hour to a hideout.We were kept together in a room, where we experienced our first interrogation. We were told to give our names and ranks."
"No physical violence was used but we were told if we didn't admit to breaking Iranian law, we would be jailed for espionage. We spent that first night very much in silence."
The following day their hands were tied behind their backs and they were blindfolded before being loaded on to planes and flown to an airport near Tehran.
"We were pushed out of the planes and lined up against a wall while our hands were still tied and we couldn't see a thing. This was the first time I started to get seriously worried but then I heard flashbulbs and one of the guys, who could see under his blindfold, said the Iranian press were taking pictures of us. It was all about the Iranian authorities making themselves look good."
"We were then put on to a bus and driven about 50 minutes away to a prison-type building. Once again we were lined up against a wall, and I became convinced we were facing a firing squad. All I could think about was my family and all I could hope was that they would send my dead body home and not drag it through the streets or bury it in a hole in the ground somewhere. We stood like that for 15 minutes before a blanket was placed over my head and I was led away."
"The next thing I knew, the blindfold was torn off me and I was blinking into the sun. I had been in the dark for so long that everything felt really bright and I could hardly see. Then I realised one of our captors was taking pictures of me. I was in some sort of cell and my boots and belt were taken from me. My military uniform was stripped off and I was given a pair of pyjamas."
"The cell was tiny, about 8ft by 6ft wide, with a stinking carpet and two blankets. There was a barred window above me and I could see two trees through it. As the days went by, I realised we were going to be kept apart and all we could do was wait to be fed or questioned."
Over the next 13 days Danny was quizzed three times.
"Once again I was told that if I didn't admit to wrongly being in Iranian waters, I would be jailed for years for espionage. Our captors were determined to get me to admit I had been in the wrong and forced me to record a video saying so. I agreed to do this, but only on the condition I used the words 'according to Iranian evidence'. I don't know how many times the others were questioned but I know some got it worse than others."
"All I could think about was my family back home and my mum who had not kept very well. I don't want to talk about what is wrong with mum but she is getting better."
13 days after their capture, Danny and the other sailors and Marines were dragged from their cells, blindfolded and taken to a government building in Tehran. They were forced to watch the Iranian president address the world over the crisis.
Danny managed to dodge him Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the Iranians cynically tried to pressure the captives to shake hands with him.
Danny said: "A translator was telling us what the president was saying. We were elated when it emerged we would be going home. We were wary and aware that we might not be able to trust anything the Iranians said."
Danny celebrated his release at The Crown bar in Muirkirk and his sister Sarah, who works behind the bar, said: "We're all just delighted. It's a dream come true."
His Dad said: "My family would like to thank everybody for their kind wishes and support. Daniel is fit and well. He and his colleagues have been through a very difficult time after their wrongful detention. I have nothing but the highest praise for them. They are very brave people who have served their country well."