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July 7, 2010

Community’s bid frustrated by govt bodies

In May,  the residents of South Kintyre voted in overwhelming numbers to support the community buyout of  the former MOD airbase on Machrihanish (67% turnout with 97% of those voting in favour).  But the community’s efforts to take ownership of this asset is being thwarted by a strange mixture of indifference and a lack of support – perceived locally as direct opposition -  from many of the public bodies involved.

Dear LPL

To be blunt, we have had a dreadful time at the hands of the SG and their emanations since we formed a group to try and achieve a community buy out of the airfield. We do not trust the authorities – corruption and asset strippers abound – and everything they have done so far has deliberately excluded any community involvement.

When MOD formally announced the sale in March 2009, they formed a “steering group” to progress the way forward. The formation of the steering group was announced at a public meeting at Machrihanish. It was to be MOD, Argyll & Bute Council, SG, HIE and Drivers Jonas (MOD’s consultants). Several people at the public meeting including me and 3 of our Councillors asked if there could be community representation and were told firmly “No”! So that was the start of a dreadful saga.

Extract from

Most of those involved in the company aiming to buy the former airbase for the community and to develop its sustainability, came together three years ago when they worked on a major airshow mounted there. The experience gave then a collective appreciation of the assets and the potential of the airbase.

Among their number are  experienced engineers with intimate knowledge of the airbase; a qualified pilot; an accountant with public and private sector experience; an office manager, farmers, an agricultural supplier; a forestry consultant; a secondary school teacher; a community worker; and the Convenor of Campbeltown Community Council.

There are men and women, young and old, working together in the common interest of a community on the brink of pulling itself out of a long decline.

MACC also has a resource yet to step forward in support – the members of an earlier team dedicated to trying to buy the site for Kintyre.

This is a defining moment in establishing whether Campbeltown has the will to rise as one to take charge of the opportunities for self-development so many parallel initiatives now offer. Whether or not the members of this earlier team throw themselves actively into becoming committed members of MACC  – as they must –  will be the measure of the ability of this often divided community to understand the need for change.

We unequivocally support community buy outs. We feel that they are the best possible route to growing and demonstrating a mature democracy. Local authorities, central government, enterprise agencies and the private sector  might usefully come together to establish an advice and support unit to guide through such initiatives – but that is for the future.

For now, Machrihanish Airbase Community Company is a skilled, experienced and honourable group of people coming together in the wider interests of the long term sustainabiity of their community. They need all the committed help they can get. It’s a big job but this initiative can work for the good of all.

It’s time for the entire community to play on the same side.

Standards in public life

Scotland is a small country. Like any small country it shows evidence of the long embedded  perspective that public service and the public sector together offer the key to the magic door of privileged opportunity and personal wealth-making.

If trust, respect and the assumption of integrity is to dignify  public life and the public sector, it is imperative that everyone involved in positions of authority, influence and potential patronage is nothing other than proper, selfless, objective, and transparent in their conduct.

Impeccable standards in public life are a sine qua non in a civilised s0ciety. Contrary practice does not validate a departure from this benchmark.

In this case we have had first-hand experience of flat lies issued by the Ministry of Defence at national and local level.

It denied, at HQ,  that it had offered the Machrihanish site, with all its considerable liabilities, to the Scottish Government for £1 – and then retired swiftly from this assertion when we informed them that there is documentary evidence to the contrary.

A Fife-based MoD area representative attempted to smear the local reputation of the Machrihanish Airbase Community Company (MACC) by telling the Chair of the Owners’ Association of Sound of Kintyre Homes that the MoD had had no written communication nor conversation with MACC on the matter of water and sewage service provision to these homes.

The (angry) Chair of MACC had the written evidence that proved the lie.

At one meeting, a women representative of the Scottish Government rudely told a member of MACC that ‘there will be no funding for you anyway’.  This raises the spectre of a decision prematurely taken – and on what basis? One can only hope that, in probity, this cannot be the case.

The Scottish Government’s Transport Department has hardly raised confidence in the propriety of its procedures in its  progressing of an unnecessarily expanded new lease for HIAL at Campbeltown Airport / Machrihanish.

The total picture we have uncovered in this morass is that the MoD cannot be believed and the Scottish Government cannot be trusted.

We’re used to ‘perfidious Albion’ but we expect more from our own. Moreover, we have been led to expect a great deal more from the SNP. The reality is that either the Scottish Government consolidates its commitment to the directions it promised or the voters will consolidate against the sort of change the SNP wishes to see.

The majority of voters must be persuaded that there is some point in their participate in what we call a democracy. Their interest in such engagement will shortly be registered.

If people are going to be ignored, patronised and abused anyway, why should they waste time, effort and public money simply to change the source of the abuse?

The devil for the SNP is the devil everyone already knows.

Previous episodes in the reports on the community’s investigations into this matter are here: