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August 12, 2015

Peace dividend from Cold War

Much of the Cold War was played out away from the gaze of the general public. But dotted around the country’s coastline, the MoD had established a number of low key facilities from which its spying and surveillance work were carried out. One such base, at a remote West Coast location, was used to track Soviet subs. Now, with East-West relations (relatively) well thawed, the community are looking to cash in on a long awaited peace dividend.


Findlay Mair, Scotsman

A FORMER Cold War surveillance station on a remote Scots island is set to be transformed into a place where tourists can listen to the sound of whales singing.

Locals are also hoping to set up a dark skies space observatory at the old radio and radar installation which was set up at Aird Uig, Isle of Lewis, 60 years ago.

The site was part of Nato’s early warning system against Soviet submarines and aircraft, but the Ministry of Defence has no further use for the derelict buildings on the 84-acre clifftop site.

Today, locals at Gallan Head voted in favour of a community buy-out to purchase the station as a first step in their bid to transforming the site.

They hope to place a hydrophone in the sea to pick up the sound of whales. They also hope the revamped station will boost the local economy.

The community was asked: “Do you support the Gallan Head Community Trust’s aim to purchase the land known as MoD, Aird Uig?”

Only 29 people were eligible for the vote, which passed in a landslide vote of 21 to two, with a turnout of 79 per cent.

Martin Hayes, the chairman of the Gallan Head Community Trust, said that he was thrilled with the result.

He said: “We’re absolutely thrilled, the result is what we expected but we can now crack on and start preparing to change it.

“We’re trying to buy a small 84-acre piece of land from the MoD which is the most north-westerly point in the UK.

“Once we do that we’re going to need to tidy it up a bit because it’s a bit of a mess at the moment which is a shame since it’s such a nice scenic area of the country.

“It’s a fabulous place to watch basking sharks, whales and birds.

“It’s something that we’ve wanted to do for years but it’s only been in the last year that we’ve been told that the MoD were selling it.

“I think it’s something that will appeal to a lot of people – particularly those who love nature, the outdoors and RAF history.”

The station’s two long distance radars used to track enemy ships lurking around the Icelandic gap or rogue Eastern bloc warplanes intruding over the north of Scotland have been dismantled.

It also had a low frequency transmitter which sent covert messages to Royal Navy submarines shadowing suspect vessels in the Atlantic Ocean.

It is estimated that it will cost between £1 million to £2m to convert the site into an observatory centre.