Thursday, October 20, 2016

Refugees at Calais / Airport / Train infrasture - my thoughts

I was pleased to turn on the news tonight and see that finally clearing the camp at Calais is happening with the UK permitting unaccompanied children who have family in the UK to settle in the UK.  This is a significant step in the right direction - but why stop there - take a giant leap of faith and take all 10,000 in the camp.  This would greatly enhance our international standing and restore our faith in humanity which has taken a battering over recent years.  If the Germans can do it ...

I feel sure that Scotland could accommodate a significant number especially over the winter. In the Highlands, the cold would ensure that these people eventually return to their country - not all asylum seekers, refugees and economic migrants will want to stay here permanently.  The University of the Highlands and Islands is likely to have places where people can upskill or maintain their skills so that they can return to their countries at a later date if they wished to do so.  And it is important that people go back skilled such as judges, doctors, teachers, plumbers, builders, computer techies etc.

The person who moves a mountain starts by taking away the little stones.   The children are the first step - please keep going.

I now retract my statement that Theresa May is rascist and have to say Well done for starting the process seeing children as just that, now if you can see nurses, teachers, footballers, musicians, shop keepers, mums, dads, uncles, brothers, aunts, sisters, grandparents, disabled etc that would be another small stone moving a mountain.




On airports [and trains] politically should this be EVEL and English only EXCLUSIVE debate on Heathrow/Gatwick third runway or should it be UK level politics and INCLUSIVE debate from all MPs.

I throw this into the ring because Scotland needs to develop Prestwick Airport and there are probably other airports around the country that need to be developed as a priority over a third runway at Heathrow or Gatwick which may mean that that runway is no longer necessary.  If for example Prestwick was developed then traffic could come the otherway from the North of England and North of Scotland.  Other airports around Scotland probably need developed further.

London has Stansted, City, Gatwick and Heathrow and the Channel Tunnel as well as Luton airports. Why would anyone going London to Paris not use the Chunnel as there is little point in lugging a suitcase out to a London based airport and lugging it into Paris from Charles De Gaulle when you can go door to door by train.  So maybe greater use of all 5 airports is necessary rather than another runway especially if domestic traffic does not need to go through Gatwick or Heathrow at all.

For example, I went to a Human Rights Conference in Berlin in 2008.  I flew Germanwings (excellent by the way) from Edinburgh to Cologne to Berlin as a return ticket which cost £140.  Another person attended the Conference from Edinburgh as well and he flew Easyjet: Edinburgh to Geneva to Berlin for £25 - I  don't know if that was return.

Under no circumstances did it make sense flying from Scotland to Europe to use Heathrow or Gatwick and that is probably true of most domestic flights to Europe.

Up here in the Highlands we now have a Heathrow link, but we also now have a Schipol link via Inverness airport.  So it probably does not make much sense to fly through Gatwick or Heathrow other than for an international flight and probably nearer airports such as Manchester or Birmingham or even Glasgow would be a preferred option.

Which brings me to Donald Trump and Prestwick Airport.  He has rightly pointed out why would he fly into Heathrow when he can fly to Prestwick.  This makes the case for this airports strategic development as an international airport for Scotland that would stop the need for traffic to 5 London airports including Gatwick and Heathrow from Scotland or almost.

This then makes it significant that a UK airport strategy is necessary looking at domestic and international flights in order to justify - even on environmental grounds - a third runway, when smaller airports need to be developed in preference to or first in time.  An airport strategy might mean you don't need a third runway at Gatwick or Heathrow at all, but you still need to develop airports across the whole of the UK.

In the Islands the cost of getting from the Island to Aberdeen, Inverness or Edinburgh Glasgow on top of a domestic flight probably needs to be looked at as well as in Cornwall, Devon, Brighton and even Norwich.  By developing smaller airports per head of the population you would be taking cars off the road as congestion around Gatwick (a route I know about) is horrendous when going to Brighton from London and return.

Maybe a survey of incoming and outgoing passengers from Luton, City, Standsted, Gatwick and Heathrow and the Chunnel needs to be done to find out where people are travelling from or going to in the UK - it might be an eye-opener to show two things (a) the congestion on roads and environmental impact and (b) that airport development needs to occur at smaller nearer the passengers travel destinations to actually take congestion off Gatwick and Heathrow.  You need to make the case why would you fly Gatwick or Heathrow or any of the other London serving airports? especially given my Berlin example above.

Its not all about the flight path noise and homes.

The question is Gatwick or Heathrow a necessary improvement to airport infrastructure or at all?

Lastly, holiday brochures could usefully be specific to the local airports.  For example some brochures fly Gatwick and Heathrow perhaps Manchester and maybe Glasgow but not Inverness or Aberdeen or Prestwick.  If I am starting my journey from Inverness then I am going to use the local or nearest airport rather than Gatwick or Heathrow - that Berlin example again.  Why are UK holiday brochures wasting paper telling me about flights in Gatwick and Heathrow when they should be telling me flights from Scotland if not Inverness.  Similarly people in Cornwall presumably have the same problem or they go Gatwick or Heathrow!


Trains - I was opposed to HS2 as a transport scheme again because I think it is a UK inclusive issue - do we really need it.  I have spoken to a couple of MPs, MSPs and some green activists recently at a hustings earlier in the year and have changed my mind somewhat - yes it is a good idea.

But first I would like to see a transport policy that looks at our 18th, 19th and 20th century train infrastructure and superimpose on top of it a 21st century infrastructure.  This could mean tweaking a bit of track hear, linking another bit of track there, removing a link somewhere else first before doing HS2.  This would mean smaller projects taking 10, 20, 30, 45, 1 hour off journey times just by using 21st Century technology.

For example, a person suggested to Nicola Sturgeon at a hustings a year or so ago, that there is a need for a 22 mile piece of track from Fort William to Dalwhinnie which would connect the north west of Scotland to Inverness and to Glasgow or Edinburgh to London.  All that was needed was 22 miles of track - where in the grand scheme of things is that going to happen.  From Fort William they could do infrastructure to Ullapool to Bettyhill to Thurso and link back down to Inverness via Wick.  The chances of that ever happening is probably zilch.  But 22 miles of track is a possibility.  A lot of traffic would come off the road and tourism would receive a huge benefit.  There is definately a case to be made.  But I am wondering how many other rural areas just need a wee bit of track as a link from A to B to C and that could shave off 30 minutes of journey time or indeed 2 hours re Dalwhinnie to Fort William by road as an example.

So whilst I do consider HS2 is necessary - I would not necessarily start HS2 at London, but more northerly and cut journey times.

The reason why I was opposed to HS2 was because I could not see a reason why Scottish people would use it to go to Heathrow when they can fly.  I could not make the case for it, but Scottish money will presumably go into the project.  Further I thought taking lorries off the road as haulage and sending them by sea down the Ports would be a better option, but I now consider upgrading the train transport system would effectively do the same thing.  It was even put to me that dualling the Inverness Perth line would be a good idea, but a train can only be on one piece of track at anyone time - so it would be a good idea but not necessary.  Sending trains down the track at night would be a good idea and this probably happens already.

So whilst I  am happy to see HS2 go ahead, I would prefer the Government to do a proper transport all encompassing with bells and whistles train survey and transpose a 21st century map on our old infrastructure to see if a tweak here and there could not achieve the same result of 30 minutes lobbed off a train journey first.  I would also like to see all of the UK surveyed as a train infrastrure project and money allotted accordingly.  It should not all be about the south.


I am hoping they sorted out the issues with Hinchley Point and the need to do due diligence properly.


On Donald Trump and his golf course problems - have a round of golf with the local Mens Shed.  On going round the course, every time you see the Windmills think what about some trees or a statute or a tea or wee dram hut or pavillion/folly with a pot of environmental questions in it to discuss everything but the windmills as a pitstop.  Might make for an interesting round of golf and you might learn something, ie block out the view if you dont like it by supplanting another view rather than antagonise the locals,


To round off - Theresa May is doing really rather well at the moment - well done.


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