So the truth is out and, as those of us who fought the creation of the visitor centre at Urquhart Castle always suspected, the quango Historic Scotland never had any intention of building a “sustainable” development or honouring its pledges towards safeguarding our environment. It is all disappointingly predicable.
Back in 1999 Historic Scotland made an application to its sister quango, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, to dump 60 cubic metres of sewage into Loch Ness everyday via a treatment plant that differed from the one presented to the inquiry. Now they are back just a few short years later seeking the right to dump even more effluent into the loch’s fragile eco-system. Where is their argument that their concrete monstrosity has “sustainability” now? If we let them dump more pollution into Loch Ness today, then as surely as day follows night they will be back for another relaxation of the controls and then another.
In the late nineties I was actively engaged in the Urquhart Castle Action Group and my internet campaign on this website raised thousands of letters and signatures locally and around the world from people outraged at the plunder of such a beautiful site for nothing more than simple greed. Our worst fears were realised with the creation of the new visitor centre dubbed “a blot on the landscape” (and much worse) by many of the tourists who have actually been there and then sent feedback to my website. I hope that all the original supporters of the scheme now hang their heads in shame at what we see happening today because the spread of the internet means that newspapers such as your own and the Scotsman are now widely read around the world and stories about dumping sewage into such a well known Scottish tourist attraction are needed by the local tourist trade like a hole-in-the-head.
Given their track record and the incest and unaccountability within our quangos, I have no faith that SEPA will take a stand against Historic Scotland. Policy between such organisations is seemingly decided more by a “nod and wink” than anything else. We saw what happened when they all got together to support each other at the original public inquiry; then Scottish Secretary, the late Donald Dewar had already decided he wanted to get money for the exchequer out of Urquhart Castle (come what may) and duly appointed himself judge, with his own jury (the reporter) and presided over his own defence team (Historic Scotland) with his own expert witnesses (the National Roads Directorate, SEPA, SNH etc etc.). All are quangos and all are arms and branches of the Scottish Executive itself. Dewar was therefore (and very effectively) judge, jury and executioner in his very own kangaroo court.
I totally agree with Gordon Menzies (Chairman, Ness District Salmon Fishery Board) who is quoted in your story (10 June 2005), “[SEPA] should be bringing the other ones who discharge into the loch up to the highest levels - not reducing things to the lowest common denominator”. It is very clear that those of us who actually care about the environment around here must take action now to stop Historic Scotland from despoiling it and fortunately some new laws and tools exist to help us. For example, I have sent an application for a petition to be raised under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee’s e-petition rules. This calls upon the Scottish Parliament to “consider and debate the full implications of Historic Scotland’s request to The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) to relax controls on the amount of sewage it can dump into Loch Ness from its visitor centre at Urquhart Castle and, furthermore, to impose a permanent ban upon increases in all forms of pollution and/or emissions from the aforesaid facility, giving full consideration to the beauty and fragility of the loch and its surrounding ecosystems.” Please return to this webpage for updates about the petition and information about where you can sign it.
There can be no doubt that we will swiftly raise thousands of signatures and force our Parliament to act against this most real and reckless Loch Ness monster.