Mike Robb is the Scottish Labour Party Candidate for this Constituency.

He has a degree in Physics from Edinburgh University and has worked in the software and electronics industry for most of his professional career. Mike runs his own UK-wide IT Consultancy Business from Inverness. Mike lives in Muir of Ord, with his wife Gwen who is a nurse. They have two grown up sons. His priorities are jobs for young people, getting more houses built, protecting the NHS and building an economy that's works for us all, not just bankers.

Our environment is a precious thing. For all of us wherever we live but especially here in the Highlands. Protecting that environment against factors local, national and global is vital.

We all have a role to play in that, whether as environmental activists, single issue campaigners, community groups or politicians, elected or aspiring!

I believe that climate change is happening and that we need to intervene at many levels to avoid its worst effects. In responding, we need to be led by science and not by vested interests or dogma.

On energy, we need policies that are science based and that provide safe, secure and reliable sources. Energy needs to be affordable and reliable as well as renewable.

We need to do much more to tackle the use of energy in terms of how we use it as much as how we produce it. Home insulation projects, innovative area heating schemes and getting people out of cars and onto energy efficient public transport are key.

Wind farms have a place in the mix. But I am steadily coming to the conclusion that the scale and pace of industrial wind farm developments is much more about the benefits to landowners and international energy companies than it is to the environment or to local communities and consumers. Like so many things in our society, the benefits are for the few whilst the costs are picked up by many ordinary families.

Fuel poverty is a real issue in the Highlands. We need sources of energy which don’t damage the planet but which allow the most vulnerable in our communities to heat their homes without fear.

On transport, we need a better balance to cut fuel-based emissions. The use of a car will never be any more than an essential in most parts of the Highlands, but there is so much we can do to ensure there are environmentally positive alternatives in as many places as possible. Train and bus timetables that join up; frequent, affordable rural bus services that recognise the value of providing an alternative to cars. The private sector may not be ready to provide this and we should be ready to look at public ownership again. We need to dual the A9, but we also need to invest in the rail link to Inverness to make it an attractive alternative to driving cars and lorries up and down the A9. And as a cyclist, I’d like us to invest in making it “safe and easy” to cycle to work in as many places as possible.

Sustainable farming, fracking, green procurement, getting the balance right in the Cairngorms between environment and tourism are all topical issues which I look forward to debating

Mike Robb
March 2015

We have asked our candidates for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey for statements on the environment prior to our Environmental Hustings on Friday 3rd April 7pm in Aviemore. This is the first reply, which is from Edward Mountain, Scottish Conservative:

"As a farmer and rural surveyor I have a very keen interest in how we use our environment. Prior to the meeting I would like to highlight just two local issuses:

Water:
The Spey is a hugely important asset that all those within the Strath rely on. It not only provides our household needs but it also provides water for the distilleries and agriculture and it is also a recreational resource. We should also not ignore the fact it is home to many iconic species including salmon, pearl water mussels, otters, kingfishers to name but a few. However the management of this river is conducted in a piecemeal way, by at least three different agencies, that has resulted in the habitats and water quality and quantity being diminished.

Energy:
Our green energy policy in Scotland is deeply flawed. Sadly political posturing has resulted in a policy that often benefits the few but burdens the majority. Basing a policy that relies on wind factories is also deeply hypocritical and damages our landscape. We must review the policy to ensure safety of supply and a balance of provision.

I believe there are many other issues and look forward to discussing these on 3rd April. I look forward to seeing you all there.

Best wishes

Edward Mountain"

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The Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group (BSCG) has released a report by the James Hutton Institute, released under a freedom of information act request, that suggests there has been a 50% decline in Freshwater pearl mussels in the River Spey over the last 15 years.

The report says scientists had identified pollutants, such as high levels of phosphorus from detergents, fertilisers and human waste, as being the cause of the harm, with the worse affected area being in the vicinity of Aviemore.

BSCG are concerned that the proposed building of thousands more homes in the Cairngorms will put the rare species at greater risk.

Dr Gus Jones Convener of the Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group (BSCG) said: "It looks alarmingly as if the Spey’s pearl mussels are in free fall. If pearl mussels are to have a future in the Spey it is vital that current pollution standards are improved immediately. We hope this timely report will be a wake up call that radical action is urgently needed if Scotland is to save the Spey’s pearl mussels. The report reveals that pollution levels are already exceeding safe limits and yet thousands more houses are planned in Strathspey, further impacting on water quality."

Roy Turnbull (Vice convener) of Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group added: "The pearl mussel decline follows the building of about three thousand houses in Strathspey in the last thirty years. Yet the national park plans to allow thousands more houses, which would increase the pollution of the Spey."

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Letter in Strathy 22 May 2014.

Dear Sir,

Interesting differences have emerged between the Cairngorms National Park Authority and Highland Council over the application to build 58 houses in School Wood, Nethy Bridge.

The CNPA, in its Landscape Report, dismisses the development site as “pine plantation woodland”, whereas the HC Forestry Report correctly states, “ the site is contained within woodland which is listed in the Ancient Woodland Inventory as Long Established semi-natural origin” and continues, “This is sadly not a development which would co-exist with woodland, this is a development at the expense of woodland”.

With the lack of any self-build plots and the cramped nature of the housing proposed it is hardly surprising that Nethy Bridge Community Council reports, "There is now a greater antipathy in the village towards the development as it currently stands."

Representations can be made until 29th May to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. See: http://www.eplanningcnpa.co.uk/online-applications/ with 2013/0119/DET in the search box.

Roy Turnbull, Torniscar, Nethy Bridge.

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Sir – Your correspondent Ian Miller, (Letters, 27 February), repeats some of the many misleading or false statements put about by those determined to deny the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-induced global warming.

He starts by asserting that “the Antarctic is cooling”. That is not correct. The Antarctic Peninsular is warming rapidly (nearly 3C so far); Western Antarctica is warming at about 0.1C/decade (Steig et al, Nature, 2009) and the vast East Antarctic has experienced slight cooling in places and warming elsewhere. The overall trend is one of slight warming.

Mr Miller continues by misnaming the Intergovernmental (not International) Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and wrongly attributes to it responsibility both for global temperature records and “computer models”, when the IPCC has no research function and merely collates and reports the findings of others.

Mr Miller also belittles the (correct) average global temperature increase thus far (0.8C).

But projections from the IPCC warn that such temperatures could rise almost a further 5C by the end of this century if we continue with the unrestricted burning of fossil fuels.

For comparison, average global temperatures during the depth of the last glaciation, when Strathspey was buried in several thousand feet of ice, were just 5C cooler than at present. A rise of 5C would be catastrophic.

Mr Miller is also misinformed in claiming that “World temperatures have not risen in line with ... computer models and have remained broadly flat”.

Firstly, there is no statistically significant evidence that the long-term trend of rising global temperatures experienced since the mid-1970s has changed. Secondly, unpredictable factors like solar variations, volcanic eruptions and El Nino/ La Nina episodes are well able to explain short term variations in surface temperatures. Thirdly, over 90 per cent of the extra heat caused by the increase in greenhouse gases is absorbed in the oceans, which exhibit continued warming.

Mr Miller is also confused about the terms “global warming” and “climate change”. The former refers to the increase in heat in the atmosphere/ land surface/oceans, whereas the latter refers to the corresponding change in climate.

If Mr Miller thinks the term climate change is new, he might ponder the meaning of CC in the IPCC, founded in 1988.

Mr Miller is also incorrect to claim that human actions cannot affect the jet stream, alterations in which are thought to be responsible for the UK’s recent extreme weather events.

The jet stream results from the temperature gradient between the Arctic and the tropics. Human caused warming of the Arctic has reduced this gradient and the unusual behaviour of the jet stream is thought to be the result.

Human-induced global warming is real, is continuing and is potentially very dangerous. No amount of confused denial can alter those facts.

Roy Turnbull, Torniscar, Nethy Bridge.

 looking-S-to-the-northern-settlement-boundary-of-Aviemore-from-the-Granish-proposed--go-kart-site-300
View looking South across the site proposed for a Go Kart development showing in the background the current Northern edge of the Aviemore settlement boundary that this development could help undermine.

Sir, Colin Bain (Strathy letters, January 16) has questioned whether a go-kart development at Granish could pave the way to unleashing further northward expansion of Aviemore beyond the present settlement boundary.

He cites land uses such as the nearby batching plant as deterrents. However, the farmland location is in attractive countryside, enjoys outstanding views, and is situated further from round-the-clock noise of the A9 than such upmarket developments as High Burnside where houses are being marketed at up to nearly half-a-million pounds.

When it comes to the decisions over the potential for future housing and landscaping in the Granish area, it seems likely to be the interests of other powerful players, not the views of Mr Bain, which will count.

The planning application document for the gokart proposal does not include Mr Bain’s name.

Rather, it shows that the landowner is Reidhaven Estate; the applicant is the Granish Farm Partnership represented by well-known developer Allan Munro; and the application form is signed by David Keith of Bracewell Stirling Consulting.

The same parties are involved in the nearby caravan site proposal at Granish, where the Cairngorms National Park Authority have approved reception, farm shop and manager’s accommodation, and 33 caravan pitches, etcetera.

All of these parties are involved in housing developments locally and they may well continue to press for further developments in sensitive countryside in the future.

Already Reidhaven Estate is pushing the Cairngorms National Park Authority to include new housing in Grantown on the Mossie in the new Local Development Plan, on an area where the town’s community council has expressed the desire to have a local nature reserve.

Yours etc, Gus Jones, Convener, Fiodhag, Nethy Bridge, PH25 3DJ

 

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