Wednesday 10 February 2021

News from the Bracing Isles: Aggregate Gate

 The Bracing Isles - that archipelago off the north coast of Scotland, lapped by the Gulf Stream and enjoying an equable, maritime climate, with lots of fresh air that moves around rather quickly, has lots of rock.

Cliffs, sea stacks, something called geos,
standing stones hauled across all parts of the Bracing Isles by straining Neolithic religionists on rafts of seaweed, dragged with simmons (straw ropes) 
or just lying around the place.
The Bracing Isles constitutes a Local Authority area, the smallest in Scotland, to which 21 stalwarts are elected to serve their community. Politically, the Council is made up of 18 independent Councillors, two who are members of the Orkney Manifesto Group and one who is a member of the Scottish Green Party. Here they are, all dressed up nice:
Three women, 18 men. Like politicians everywhere, whilst serving their community, they also fight like rats in a sack. Last year they turned on one of their number and reported him to the Standards Commission for disclosing information regarding covid infection control preparations by telling people about it. This didn't go down too well with most of the others who are signed-up to the Code of Secrecy of the Bracing Isles Council. That's a tale for another day. Today, we focus on Aggregate-Gate, possibly Bin-Gate and Knock- down-the-Gravestones-Gate. 
In addition to the usual statutory duties undertaken by local councils, Bracing Isles Council owns a quarry. Here it is:
Usual stuff - cliff-like walls of exposed rock seams, pile of stuff in the middle and big diggers. The owners of the quarry, that would be the Bracing Isles Council (BIC) applied to itself, the BIC Planning Committee, for planning permission to extend the quarry to facilitate the production of more rock. The BIC Planning Committee turned down its application, concerned about the impact on the immediate environment, so BIC appealed the decision of BIC to Scottish Ministers, and busily set about sourcing additional rock to maintain its business operation pending the decision of Scottish Ministers. As previously stated, the Bracing Isles has lots of rock, and, unsurprisingly, two other quarries,
privately owned, extract this rock. Not wanting to give these competitors an advantage, despite the duty of local councils to support all local businesses equally, rather than favouring themselves (keeping up?), BIC sourced a handy supply of rock from Glensanda quarry, which occupies a remote location on the south coast of the Morvern peninsula, 253 land miles from Orkney. The quarry is not, in fact, accessible by road and the company runs its own fleet of ships to transport the aggregate by sea. BIC ordered 80,000 tonnes of aggregate.
They won't say how much they paid. Because it is "commercially sensitive".  Nor the shipping costs, nor the costs of the 4,000 20-tonne lorry loads to transport the rock from the port to the quarry. No doubt they got a bulk discount - you'd hope so, but it seems that a ton of aggregate costs on average, £73. So that would be £5,840,000, before transport costs. The Bracing Isles' local quarries could have supplied it. Or, had BIC not refused its own request to extend it's own quarry where there's lots of rock, it would have cost nothing other than the usual extraction and salary costs of existing employees. No wonder BIC is running a massive deficit.
Unsurprisingly, there's been a lot of fuss about this, on Radio Bracing and the local newspaper, the Bracecadian.  So much fuss that the temporary, interim, brought-out-of-retirement-for-the-job, Chief Executive, issued a press release. Here's an extract (it goes on for two pages, so you don't want to wade through that):
  • "We've been asked whether the correct tendering processes were followed?
  • Were local businesses approached to see if they could provide the stone we required?
  • How much is the stone and its transportation costing?
These are very important questions."
He then explains why he can't answer these important questions at this time - he wants the full facts, a review, an Audit and an external Audit before he could possibly comment. But he rounds off his press release by giving the critics of BIC a damn fine kicking:
"Colleagues have been vilified in a way most would consider to be a defamation of character....our staff deserve to be treated with dignity and respect....Kindness to each other is something our community is renowned seems to be missing...and is much needed in the difficult circumstances we are all living through as a result of the pandemic."
See what he did there? It is all Covid's fault. This is the same interim, temporary (etc) Chief Employee who gave a kicking to colleagues who clearly weren't deserving of dignity and respect when he described a couple of whistle blowers last year as "morally inept".

I'll tell you about BinGate and KnockdownthegravestonesGate another day. Harris wants a walk in the snow.



Mike said...

That council photo shows a distinct lack of diversity.

BTW what is all the rock used for?

Bungalow Bill said...

Hilarious. The Covid Defence is going to be deployed incessantly now. It was the virus, sir, wot made us all so mad and poor.

mongoose said...

That Mrs Fish, mrs i, seems to be tangled in a net. Is she going to be landed, do you think?

Doug Shoulders said...

The old respect and dignity trope has been in place for some time now.
Bus drivers, bank clerks and fish mongers to be communicate with as per the instruction front and centre.
A right shower, that lot. Reminds one of previous historical self interest group.
I’m sure they’d be sending their constituents off to the plantations if they had a chance.

mrs ishmael said...

The Bracing Isles, mr mike, is a diversity-free zone. Well, I suppose the three women on the council could be seen as a nod to diversity. But no darkies, ethnics, mossies, tinks or alternatively-gendered. Oh yes, the Bracing Isles has pockets of folk whose origins are outwith the British Isles. There's the family that run the Chinese chip shop and the family that run the Indian restaurant. And there's Frankie, who owns the Italian restaurant and every summer has an endless stream of beautiful nephews and nieces over from Italy to improve their English, waiting tables And the NHS - well, you know what they its like - allows in the occasional person of colour on a fixed term, interim, temporary, relief, zero hours basis when no proper white people are available to tend to the sick. Your true Bracing-Islesian regards anyone who cannot claim four BI grandparents as a ferry-louper, a transient and undesirable person, to be treated with suspicion, a potentially bad lot, coming here, taking our jobs, stealing our women, mingling their seed to dilute the gene pool, forcing up the prices of houses with their flash London cash. And that's just ferry-loupers from Scotland, England, Wales and N.Ireland. Weegies are as dodgy as Cockneys.(Well, be fair, they are.) Now, when it comes to foreign parts, Bracing-Islesians are plain bemused. The 9 year old dual heritage daughter of a chum visited one year. An absolute stunner, with tangled black ringlets, sparkling black eyes, darkly olive complexion, she was an object of charm and novelty to the B-I waitress in the tearoom. The waitress was, obviously, well accustomed to the looks of "black" inhabitants of North Ronaldsay. These are the descendants of Spanish sailors whose ship was wrecked on the shores of North Ronaldsay, one of the furthest-north islands in the archipelago, when the Scottish witches summoned up the gale that disrupted the Spanish Armada and saved England from invasion. Much good did it do them, as, when Elizabeth the First popped her diamond-encrusted clogs, her successor set about persecuting the Scottish witches - to be fair, he was equally even-handed in his persecution of English witches. No bloody gratitude. These "black" N.Ronaldsay folk have jet black hair and white skin, as their Spanish blood has been diluted with native mud down the generations. First time I saw a child of this ethnic group, in a school playground, she stood out amongst the dull gingers and mouse-browns, who all look as if they have been camouflaged to blend in nicely on a peaty, heathery bleak headland and I wondered at this startling contrast with an indigenous acquaintance. Ah, said my acquaintance,yon folk er frae North Ronaldsay. They're black.
So, the waitress so enraptured by the exotic good looks of my chum's daughter, tried to puzzle out where she might be visiting from. The waitress had a moment of illumination.
"Er you frae Madagascar?" she enquired of the child.
"Madagasca! Madagasca!" indignant shake of the black curls. "I'm from Birmingham."

mrs ishmael said...

The rock, mr mike, is used for the massive building progamme and for resurfacing roads. Since I have lived here, some 20 years ago (how did that happen?), we have been provided with some fine buildings: a fine replacement airport with a spacious Hall, big viewing windows to look at the planes, a cafe, bar,linocuts by a local artist depicting life in the isles; big new libraries in Kirkwall and Stromness; a large and beautiful replacement police station with cells that can be hosed down after Saturday nights; the harbour and pier-head development of Stromness, extensively re-imagined council buildings that link the old Grammar School and Paterson Church into a campus to contain council workers, officials and Councillors; a splendid new Academy in Stromness; an even more splendid Grammar school in Kirkwall with attached Arts Theatre; elegant replacement Halls of Residence for the boarders attending the Grammar School, two state-of-the-art replacement Care Homes and a third under construction, and the jewel in the crown, a fabulous new hospital, imagined in the shape of a curled mollusc, with an internal courtyard-garden and en-suite single-occupancy first floor rooms with french windows opening onto balconies looking down into the courtyard garden.
Then there's the house building programme - the countryside positively littered with homes with double-height windows looking onto rural or sea views, and bijou private galleries displaying the work of a positive army of creatives - potters, ceramicists, painters, silver workers, knitters; and the towns spreading onto surrounding farmland as more and more new houses are built.

mrs ishmael said...

I'm sincerely hoping, mr. mongoose, that Salmond will close the net on Sturgeon. She's a wily little thing, though and the evidence is thin. If Salmond gets his way and has his submission published in full, the evidence will suddenly get a lot thicker. Should he be able to prove to the Inquiry that he has been the subject of a witch-hunt by his successor, for the purposes of her political aggrandisement, that he has been the subject of baseless charges of sexual harassment and unwelcome sexual advances, the case against her may be overwhelming and she may lose popularity if revealed as a charmless political maneuverer and schemer. He did will in the Courts, winning his case and having costs awarded against Sturgeon's SNP - which, no doubt, will be paid by the Scottish Government - the two are not one and the same thing. You think that would have been enough to discredit Sturgeon and reveal her as the orchestrator of those charges for her political gain. But he has to prove the link, I suppose, and much seems to be resting on that meeting in her home that hubby didn't get home in time to witness. She'll be giving her evidence next week and, doubtless it will be exceedingly well rehearsed to prove that she acted only in the interests of truth,justice, and reluctantly.
As with Trump, I have no personal admiration for Salmond. How could one have? The interest lies in this massive tear in the fabric of the SNP, which might just wrench their grasping hands from the levers of power.