Dh’fhaodar saoghal ùr a thighinn leis a’ chabal mara, le Murray MacLeòid

“Ruigidh each mall muilleann”, mar a tha an seanfhacal ag ràdh, agus gun teagamh ann an suidheachadh a' chàbail mhara tarsainn a’ Chuain Sgìth, ‘s e each a bh’ ann a dh’fheumadh a thìde a ghabhail.

Chaidh còig phròiseactan a cheadachadh gu lèir
Chaidh còig phròiseactan a cheadachadh gu lèir

[English-language version below]

Bha slighe dhuilich agus fhada ann – còrr air fichead bliadhna agus cuid a bha an sàs ann nach eil còmhla rinn an-duigh. Ach, tha an ceann-uidhe a-nis air a ruighinn, mu dheireadh thall.

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Gun a dhol a-steach dhan a h-uile car is tionndadh is briseadh-dùil a bh’ ann – agus bha gu leòr dhan sin ann – gach uair a shaoileadh duine gun robh e a' fàs faisg, nochdadh duileaghdas ùr a choireigin airson a chur air ais a-rithist, mar bhruadair às nach gabhadh dùsgadh. Cha robh an umhail, ged a bha cuid a’ smaoineachadh nach fhaiceadh e solas an là.

Ach, an t-seachdain ’s a chaidh, dh’fhoillsich an riaghladair Ofgem gun tigeadh an càbal air adhart, a’ ceangal nan eilean ris a’ Ghriod Nàiseanta agus a nì cinnteach gum faigh cumhachd ath-nuadhachail a thoirt tarsainn a’ Chuain Sgìth agus a dhachaighean dhaoine air feadh na dùthcha.

Mar a shaoileadh duine, ‘s e pròiseact mòr a tha ann, agus cosgail. Tha e cuideachd gu bhith feumach air ceangal thairis tìr, bhon an iar, deas air Ulapul, gu ruige faisg air Inbhir Nis, airson coinneachadh ris an loidhne mhòr a tha a’ ruith sìos gu deas.

Bha an argamaid gu lèir a’ crochadh air gu leòr a phròiseactan a bhith anns na h-eileanan airson dèanamh cinnteach gum b’ fhiach na thathas a’ dol a chosg air, le trì tuathanasan-gaoithe ann an Leòdhas aig a bheil cead foirmeil agus an dùil ri tuilleadh.

An uair sin, thàinig an naidheachd mu phròiseactan mòra aig muir – dhà dhen sin faisg air Leòdhas – agus bha argamaid, a bha làidir co-dhiù, a-nis nas treasa buileach. Le sin, rinn Ofgem an co-dhùnadh air an robhas a’ feitheamh.

Tha an càbal mara tarsainn a’ Chuain Sgìth am measg còig phròiseactan airson am bun-structur ann an Alba a leasachadh gu mòr agus a bhios na cheum mòr air adhart ann an a bhith a’ dèanamh feum de chumhachd ath-nuadhachail.

Thuirt ceannard Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Paul Steele, “gur e seo an leasachadh eaconamaigeach as motha a thachair sna h-Eileanan Siar”.

Ged a tha e duilich a dhol às àicheadh sin ann an dòigh, tha “ach” mhòr ann an dèidh sin. Cha do thachair càil dheth fhathast agus ged a tha geallaidhean gu leòr ann, ‘s iomadh gealladh a tha air a bhith ann roimhe.

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Tha e a’ coimhead coltach gun tig an càbal air adhart agus na tuathasan gaoithe às a dhèidh, le buannachdan a thaobh obraichean, ach tha fhathast mòran ri dhèanamh a thaobh dè na buannachdan maireannach a gheibh na coimhearsnachdan eileanach.

Chaidh fàilte mhòr a chur air an naidheachd, ach cha deach leis a h-uile duine agus cuid fhathast a tha an aghaidh nan tuathanasan gaoithe agus mar a tha a’ mhòr chuid dhe na prothaidean a’ dol ann an cunntasan banca companaidhean mòra eadar-nàiseanta.

Ann an saoghal far a bheil prìsean àrd na cumhachd a’ cur ris an staing anns a bheil an eaconamaidh, tha cruaidh fheum air cumhachd ath-nuadhachail san dùthaich seo fhèin.

Ma gheibhear air cothrom na Fèinne a thoirt dha na coimhearsnachdan far a bheil a leithid a phròiseactan stèidhichte, ‘s dòcha gum bi sinn dha-rìribh aig starsach saoghal ùir nas beairtiche. Tha cruaidh fheum air, agus tha an t-each bochd feumach fois.

English-language version:

There’s an old Gaelic saying that goes: “The slow horse will reach the mill.” Granted, it doesn’t have the same impact in the less descriptive vernacular of English. Maybe just think: “Slow and steady wins the race.”

Still a bit dull compared to the original, but in the context of the major Western Isles electricity interconnector project, quite valid. After a long journey of some 20 years, last week came the final breakthrough that it will, indeed, go ahead. The riches await; the prize beckons; the bounty carried by the horse ready for the grist of the mill, to stretch the metaphor that bit further.

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To say it’s been a long journey is a bit of an understatement. Without delving into every twist and turn, each time it seemed to be in sight, a new revelation – or, to be more accurate, unexpected regulatory hurdle – would appear to push it back, like an unending recurrent dream.

For the uninitiated, the 1.8 gigawatt inter-connector is simply a big sub-sea cable that will link the islands to the National Grid to enable large amounts of renewable power to be exported across the Minch and to the homes of consumers throughout the country.

It is, as you might imagine, a huge undertaking and a costly one. It also requires a major link overland from the west coast just south of Ullapool over to Beauly near Inverness, to link with the main supply route south.

The entire case rested on there being enough consented projects to ensure the massive financial outlay was viable; in the case of the Western Isles, two major windfarms in Lewis with others in the pipeline.

Then came the ScotWind offshore round of applications, with two sites earmarked off Lewis, and a case that was already strong – if being somewhat frustrated – suddenly became indisputable. And so regulator Ofgem suitably followed with formal approval. It is one of five major projects in Scotland announced to enable a new generation of renewable energy power.

Western Isles Council leader Paul Steele said the Minch interconnector was “the most significant economic development ever to take place in the Western Isles”. While it’s hard to dispute that, there is a significant caveat: it’s still all based in the realms of potential and possibilities.

While it looks almost certain now that the cable will go ahead and the consented schemes to follow, bringing with them a much-needed boost in terms of jobs, there is still much to do to ensure that “potential” is turned into real economic transformation on the ground, in terms of long-term benefits for the communities affected.

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The decision has been widely welcomed in the islands, but not universally so, as there still remain pockets of resistance to wind turbines damaging the aesthetics of the landscape and allowing large multinational companies the lion’s share of the profits.

In a world where energy costs have fuelled a cost-of-living crisis, the need for a new generation of renewable power is undeniable. All that remains is for the communities which will have to live with these projects in their vicinity to secure a fair proportion of the benefits. Only then will we really have signalled the start of a new brave world.

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