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Caithness News Bulletins Elections 2003

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Highland Council Candidate - Wick Ward
Bill Mowat - Scottish Labour Party


The Election of a Councillor for the Wick ward (number 7) of the Highland Council takes place on Thursday May 1st, 2003, between the hours of 7:00 am and 10:00 pm at the Boys Brigade Hall, Henrietta Street, Wick, the same date and time as the Scottish Parliament poll.

As an experienced local politician, with 16 years previous service as an elected Caithness councillor on the Highland Region, I am proud to have been chosen as your official Labour candidate for Wick at the May 1st election for the coming four years (2003/2007).

The ward covers much of the original Royal Burgh area on the North side of the River, as well as the nearby villages of Ackergill, Staxigoe and Papigoe.

As your prospective Councillor I will be your direct link to the Party of Government at all levels.

I can thus represent you directly not only in the Council, but work in conjunction with colleagues serving in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh and as MPs in Westminster.

I personally know Ministers at both these levels of Government and I can invoke their help for personal problems that might otherwise be difficult to solve. More importantly as your elected Labour councillor I can ensure that community issues vital to the future of Wick are placed firmly on the political agenda.

This spring we are marking the 200th anniversary of the choice of Pulteneytown and the building of Wick Harbour as a major base for fishing, while in a few month's time the Golden Jubilee (50 years) of the siting of the nuclear station at Dounreay will be celebrated.

These establishments, which have underpinned the economy of Caithness for 200 years, did not happen by chance. In both cases local politicians from the Party of Government put forward cases stong enough to be decisive.

Four generations of my own family worked at the herring out of Wick Harbour, chosen because the then local MP (who doubled as Provost of Wick) was able to persuade wealthy individuals such as Bill Johnstone, a.k.a. Sir William Pulteney, 'the richest man in the British Empire' to invest their money in the company behind the project and also to obtain substantial public funds for the constuction of homes in the 'new' village, its fish-curing area, and harbour.

In the case of Dounreay, the then local Conservative and Unionist MP, Sir David Robertson (whose forefathers were in the Wick fishing trade) was able to persuade the ruling Party of the day to choose his constituency. He obtained enthusiastic backing from the Caithness Councillors of the time, who were able to deal quickly and efficiently with key matters such as planning and housing.

This area is on the cusp of a multi-billion pound concept on a similar scale to the above two ... harnessing the tidal streams of the Pentland Firth to produce pollution-free electricity on a vast scale to produce perhaps half of Scotland's needs (about ten times the output of Dounreay's now-closed PFR).

This entirely predicable electricity source ...unlike winds and wave-power, the tide streams never fail ... will happen, as no Government of any advanced country can afford to ignore such a vast potential for ever.

But the technology for extracting the massive amount of power by underwater generators, fixed out-of-sight beneath the wave-level and giving adequate clearance to all shipping in this important international trade route is still in its infancy, but experience of offshore oil and gas convinces me that a start can and should be made in the coming decade.

The idea is not new, it was stated publicly as long ago as 1947 by socialist pioneer and man of letters George Bernard Shaw. During the 1980s as a Caithness Councillor I played a key part in getting the Department of Energy interested enough to commission a full-scale study under the Energy Technology Support Unit which published the findings as 'Tidal Stream Energy Review' in 1993, quantifying this world-class power resource for the first time.

The goal is great, as there is world-wide interest in harnessing tidal currents.

But it is vital that Caithnessians, especially the younger generation, rise to the exciting challenges, which are probably no more exacting that those required to deal with Dounreay's notorious 'active' Shaft, which the Labour Government is pledged to empty and make safe in the near future.

The Caithnessians have proved themselves to be amongst the most inventive small communities in the world over the generations, but without an adequate local input of technologicial and engineering skills, the main plaudits and profits will sail away elsewhere, leaving only relatively menial jobs for Caithness individuals and companies.

As your local elected Councillor from the Party of Government, I will do my utmost to ensure that this does not happen, especially by inviting the best brains in the field to set out the specific challenges facing us to ensure that maximum local advantage arises from this God-given benign natural resource here on our doorsteps.

I know many of you welcome the high levels of employment that Labour policies since 1997 have brought to Caithness, but are concerned that most of the jobs have gone to the West side of the County.

Although the jobs are welcome, daily transport costs for Wick residents can make a substantial dent in individual or family budgets.

I will work very hard to encourage local individuals and firms to the Council-owned Airport Industrial Estate and suitable 'inward investment' where possible, in co-operation with Caithness & Sutherland Enterprise, the Government's local jobs agency. I want to draw on the expertise of locally-born persons who have made their mark in research or business elsewhere in the UK and abroad and actively seek their help.

The Council is directly responsible for many things that affect day to day life ... many of you live in Council houses, parents sent their children to Highland Council schools and drive on Council roads, while others use public transport such as buses, often subsidised by Council taxpayers.

The Council has a key planning role ...I studied the subject as a student and then served 16 years on the Highland Region's main planning committee and I am confident of my abilities there.

Many parts of Wick are attractive, even beautiful, but I am aware of the concerns about the continuing downbeat appearance of part of the High Street and its environs. I intend to do my utmost to address this long-standing problem in conjunction with property-owners and others to bring new residential life back to the area, using best examples from other small towns as a model.

I believe that there is still much potential to be realised at the Airport and I will work with other individuals, public agencies, and companies to see improvements through.

The Council has a remit to help provide sporting facilities and I favour an all-weather pitch for Wick, which I will work with others to try to achieve at an early date.

Shortage of affordable housing is a real concern to some younger or single constituents and I will scour all possible ways in which new properties can be built/acquired/converted to meet this need.

Social work services, such as 'home-helps', 'meals on wheels' for older residents, and facilities for persons with 'special needs' are important and I will listen carefully to any suggestions from you for improvements/ fine-tuning.

I want to work closely with those of you involved in voluntary sector bodies, which add such richness to local life and I will try and meet all leaders in this field at an early date.

My early background was in tourism, with a company I formed with my brother three decades ago being the principal locally-owned player at John O'Groats. I am pleased that the public-private sector partnership that I helped to establish at Gills Harbour has brought thousands of extra visitors to Wick, rather than Thurso.

I regard anything that enhances the East side of the County as being good for Wick, its main service centre, and will give encouragement to all suitable projects.

While tourism will never be our major industry, some public facilities are not up to international standards and I will help address this problem.

Most people feel that Council Tax rates are high enough, without the substantial increase that a separate Council for Caithness (and/or for Inverness), would cause, so I will resist this costly concept.

I have first-hand knowledge of the shell-fishing industry. The key live 'vivier' trade to Spain began when two merchants took immediate advantage of the results of a joint Council/SeaFish Industry exercise that I initiated during the 1980s.

High-tech employment using local skills from North Sea Oil is important and we have two world-class companies on our doorstep to whom I will give active encouragement. Other engineering jobs are a bedrock of the local economy and I was pleased to play a part in the revival of the Caithness flagstone trade in the early 1990s.

The Labour Government's investment of 4 billion in decommissioning Dounreay will ensure that it continues to be a major workplace for years to come, although employment now is probably near its peak. Despite some management errors over the years, the UKAEA has always had my support.

I firmly believe that the election of a Councillor from the governing Party can and will make a real difference to Wick, and I therefor invite your support.

I urge you to mark your Council Election ballot paper MOWAT X on May 1st.

Taken From Leaflet provided by Bill Mowat