Letter from Edinburgh 25.07.08

THE AULD eans have dispensed with the dishwasher. Last weekend – that is the weekend we had in July which felt like October – the young eans were required to do the post dinner washing up. There was the usual quota of moaning, or as Radio Orkney would put it, if you want a moan pleep or groan, then tune into the sound of teenagers being asked to do the washing up. This reached a crescendo aimed at the oldest ean who was responsible for removing the dishwasher on the basis that it wasn’t necessary for two people. At that point one teenager said to the other, “Oh for goodness sake, think of the polar bears!” That was thank­fully a bit of a show stopper and the dishes got washed … and even dried. The environment won!

Being at home allows a leisurely perusal of the day’s newspapers but only after catching the ferry to Lerwick to buy them. I alighted on a piece in the Scotsman this week on Edinburgh City Council’s proposal to introduce a charge for cars and other vehicles with higher carbon emissions, while lowering the cost of parking permits for cars with lower carbon emissions. There has been a predictable uprising with motoring organisations arguing this is another tax while the city fathers and mothers say it is designed to encourage people to buy lower emission producing cars i.e. a greener and more likely smaller vehicle. I contemplated what will be a lively city debate while driving around Bressay on Wednesday night – quite the most beautiful evening of the year so far. Or as one crofter at Noss Sound put it, “do’l be enjoying wir summer da night!”

Silage making Bressay style is in full swing. In days of yore we finished at 5.30pm and started again at 8 the next morning. Nowadays, with a damp and misty forecast, the forage harvester runs into the night and with spotlights and strips in the silo, well into the night. With every window in the house open due to the fine weather, the noise of horse power on Wednesday could be heard for some time.

What a difference then between the needs of tackling inner city congestion, queues of traffic, the school run and air quality problems, with that of an island.

By all means tackle the car in the city. But don’t clobber everyone at the same time. The UK Government, and this is true of administrations irrespective of their political colour, has a real problem dealing with anything other than exactly the same policy across the whole of the UK. Just look at their abhorrence to a fuel tax rebate for islands despite the strength of argument in its favour. Worryingly, Edinburgh is adopting too many of the same traits which is ironic given a Nationalist govern­ment. So one of the biggest chal­lenges, but one which is essential to win, is to champion a diverse approach. One that accepts that you might do and tackle things dif­ferently in different parts of the country.

Tavish Scott MSP


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