Category: The Craic

Spain Scraps “Golden Visa”

I realise it is not clever to comment on the politics of someone else’s country but here’s a slice of common sense from Spain where the “Golden Visa” is to be scrapped. Currently 500,000 EUR can buy any foreigner a sizeable home in that country, but enough is enough. Last year foreign buyers accounted for 15% of all house sales in Spain. Highest number on record. In the meantime in Spain as with my own country, there’s a housing crisis and every bonnie corner is up for grabs, second or third homes in some cases. The cash rich offloading before a Labour government comes after them? It is hurting young people the most in Spain as it is in Scotland. The BBC ran a story about young people in Spain living out of their cars in areas dominated by expats. How wrong! Though in the Scottish Highlands we are not far off that reality, particularly on Skye in summer months. In Spain the government has decided to do something about it.

“…in major cities that are facing a highly stressed market and where it’s almost impossible to find decent housing for those who already live, work and pay their taxes there…”

Reuters report prime minister Pedro Sanchez as saying.

Wealthy foreigners in Spain can no longer buy their right to remain there. This is great news. Those who live in a place and contribute to it should be rewarded, not the highest bidder.

Thought you cannot buy residency in Scotland the sentiment of redressing the imbalance should similarly be made policy there. My belief is Scotland would never follow suit, specifically in the Highlands where my feeling is the (totally inept) Highland Council´s long term plan is a form of Clearances Mk. II. If only the pesky locals would get out of the way of AirBnBs, Danish owned forestry, Norwegian fish farms, electricity pylons! If they do successfully run those who already live, work and pay their taxes back into the larger towns and cities it’ll probably make for a tidier countryside. Less decrepit schools and GP practices. Who cares about workers in the wee hotels and Inns – Japan has showed us how to do vending machines for practically everything anyway. Concentrate the spending in Inverness and some public conveniences on the public convenience that is Skye. More breathing space for the few, certainly, those who can certainly afford to hoover up such deals as a one bedroom home in Glenelg (not even Skye), offers over 220,000 GBP! There is no “Golden Visa” in Scotland, no right to remain can be bought. But certainly there’s a lot to be sold. Who is cashing in?

Scottish Fish Farm Losses: 30% of Farmed Salmon Perish in 2023

I’ve just calculated* that – in Scotland alone – over 30% of fish farmed salmon may have been lost in 2023. If my interpretation of recently published numbers is correct this is utterly disgusting. Representing a 5% increase in mortalities as compared to the recent trend of 25% mortalities. A news article published yesterday by the BBC highlights the unfortunate effect warming oceans are having on salmon (forced to live and die in their closed pens) no doubt climate will have an effect on any harvest. However, it is surely the job of the fish farmer to improve methods of husbandry and make changes to reduce mortality. Surely they work with climate scientists and know what’s coming? Throughout the 2000’s it was standard practice for Scotlands fish farms to run at 20% mortality. Now it seems, with much increased numbers of farms (over 200 in Scotland), newfangled feed and technology things are getting worse not better. This is outrageous.

I find it sickening. No one likes the idea of battery raised chickens. Its almost an unacceptable idea today. Mortality rates of up to 14% in those tiny cages, poor chooks! Shocking. Did you know the UK’s Red Tractor farm assurance scheme requires mortality rates for chicken do not to exceed 5%? We seem to think free range chickens are okay – veggies aside – and a 5% mortality rate would appear to be publicly acceptable. The miserable fish farm industry in Scotland has been running at 25% mortality over the last few years (according to Inside Scottish Salmon Feed Lots). If the industry projections and my calculations are anywhere near right, then statements I’ve heard down my local “we dumped eight tonnes of dead Salmon, just this morning!” (that particular employee put it down to a mistake with some “treatment”) might well be accurate. Totally rotten work. These are our lochs they’re playing in. I’ve seen the trucks rolling over the mountain from the fish farms, it is common knowledge in the Highlands that fish farms are a disgrace, the companies in charge are clearly not capable.

* Calculations
Projected production for 2023 was 187,725 Tonnes. This is from industry figures published in a report given to the government last year. Annoyingly they do not give us a number of actual Salmon so with a very large pinch of Hebridean sea salt I calculated the number like this…

First, I need to estimate an average weight of a salmon. Stated as 5.5-6kg according to this site and a Scottish Government report (from a few years back) concurs. A 2020 report on the Scottish Government website produced with Marine Harvest seems to indicate 5.5kg is pretty average weight for fish farmed salmon in Scotland. They are the major producer. The website All About Feed references 5.2kg as the average gutted weight. I decided on a low average weight of disgusting fish farmed salmon at 5kg.

5kg divided by 187725000 kg (projected production tonnage 2023) is equal to 38 Million fish. That means 38 Million is the apparent number of salmon farmed in Scotland, 2023. From the most recently published numbers we learn that a further 17 Million salmon did not make it to market. 17 Million lost added to 38 Million projection gives us 55 million salmon to begin with. This is in line with figures from 2022 where the number of smolts (salmon added to the farms as stock) was stated at just over 55 million.

BBC News reports 17 Million salmon lost in 2023. I calculate there were 38 million salmon that made it to market. 55 Million in total of which the losses equal 31%. It could be as much as a quarter of toxic fish farmed salmon was lost last year.

The Scottish Government report (Mortality+information+-+until+end+January+2024.xlsx) described in detail the average weight of the lost salmon and someone with more spare time than me could probably calculate the actual weight of lost salmon per farm, then remove this from projected or true tonnages when published for absolute accuracy. Huge numbers obviously.

It appears this is very bad news for the Scottish Fish Farm industry. Long may they rot at the bottom of their metaphorical pen. Those horrible eyesores that they are, which so nobly offer the wee inhabitants of the wee far off Highlands a pittance (I’m mocking the often used line; what else would people do in the Highlands? “we need the fish farms, we need the jobs”). Not one of my friends in the Highlands makes a living from fish farming. Nor have I been offered any salmon caught there since I was a boy. In lochs once full of native salmon, even in my childhood I recall the delight at seeing (or even taking a chance at catching) these plentiful beauties. They appear to be all gone. That was just 30 years ago. Toxic fish farmed salmon is all we have now.

Rising Tide

I heard about an exciting new programme from the Scottish Government in December. I’ve bemoaned the lack of affordable housing in the Highlands on my blog (here), it was whist researching relocation to an island off the mainland of Scotland I came across the new ‘Islands Programme’ and thought these (apparently) well funded folks might be able to offer incredibly well-timed support and practical advice;

…the £25.8 million Islands Programme, established to support the implementation of the National Islands Plan. This is a landmark strategy to improve the quality of life for island communities with 13 objectives, and over 100 specific measures to address: population decline.

I wrote citing difficulties establishing myself in the Highlands: up against security of tenure, lack of commercial property to rent. I wrote expressing intention to invest in a place and build my business. etc. etc. I wrote asking for practical advice: is there a fund I can apply to, what might the requirements be for young people – like me – who want to live on an island, can individuals apply / businesses? How can I take part? The headlines put out by their PR department read: “want to be paid to move to a Scottish Island”, tell me more.

No response was ever offered. The website of the department is now offline: – how disappointing.

‘Toxic’ Fish Farms

I made a reference to ‘Toxic’ fish farms in an earlier post. I thought I’d expand a little; thousands of fish in a cage does not make for a happy fish. It doesn’t matter if that cage is in a tank on land (where they should be) or situated in a picturesque Scottish Loch (where they currently are).

Fish in these cages/pens get diseases, the fish “farmers” (quotes indicate my raised eyebrow as farming equals husbandry) employ large amounts of chemicals to control such things as sea lice and other diseases. Talk to any fish farm employee (after a few) in any pub around here and they’ll tell you what happens when the dosage goes wrong; tonnes of dead fish. Literally tonnes. Eight tonnes was disposed of a few months ago according to a loud mouth employee in my local. I think he was trying to impress us with that number. Incinerated, according to him, by means of a contract with an Energy Company.

Some reading for you relating to toxic chemicals in Scottish Fish Farms:
For more news you can follow:

Anyway, it appears the chemicals used at the concentrations mentioned on those webpages is toxic. I refer to these toxic fish farms as such; toxic. I put a stress on the word toxic and those who were lucky enough to know Chris Main of Glenelg might want to apply that man’s own idiosyncratic accent to the phrase; miserable fucking fish farm jobbie.


Scottish Highlands: Dewildered & Depopulated

I met some university professors at the end of the summer on a tour of Scotland’s nature reserves. They’d read a lot of academic papers regarding how well this country was doing; reintroducing this and replanting that. Apparently Scotland is ahead of the game and fiercely proud of its re-wilding successes on the world stage. Sadly, what the professor of Wildlife Ecology at Oregon State University actually found here on his visit to the Highlands was, he described to me, a ‘dessert’. Aghast, he pointed out the gap between what he had read in academic literature and what was found in reality. The professors mean to come back with a group of students next year to analyse the disparity. Im hoping to help out.

I was embarrassed but I know it to be true, Scotland has been dewildered, I’ve been lucky enough to see real wilderness stretching from horizon-to-horizon abroad, I’ve seem managed forests too, you know life in balance when you see it. If we are to be honest, rural Scotland is quite a lot of: monoculture, sheep here, sheep there, sheep everywhere, empty villages (not counting the holiday houses), miserable toxic fish farms… this country’s natural state is in a bad way and hearing from the professors that our academics are proudly describing (questionable) successes is a little worrying. I think they must be dewildered!

As for the inhabitants: in a previous post I highlighted a recent report which contained the horrifying statistic: 80% of people in Lochalsh and Skye describe difficulty in finding a house in this part of the Highlands.

More bad news: in December Highland Council warned of the “significant risk” parts of the Highlands are being “drained” of people. Here’s the news article from the BBC. This again is obvious to anyone living in these parts.

When a representative from Highland Council visited Glenelg to speak at our Community Council (where I currently live) I made the point that the enormous increase in short-term lets (Air B&Bs etc.) must be the major factor, must be having a HUGE impact on the number of private rentals (long term lets) in the Highlands. The Council’s man completely refused to engage with my point. This once again is obvious to anyone living in these parts.

It is now my belief that this will be the fate of the Highlands. It’ll be: The Cheviot, The Stag and the Short Term Let.

More on that next time.

Lochalsh Community Survey / Action Plan

I spent a good while trying to track down this document, created by a community group in Kyle of Lochalsh. It represents the many concerns of people in this part of the Highlands in the 2020s. As you will see, people were most concerned about housing.

“The Lochalsh Collaboration was set up in May 2019 to consult the community on its priorities, write a community action plan based on those priorities and then work with partners to take action. Lochalsh Collaboration is made up of representatives of the seven community councils and community trusts in Lochalsh… etc.” – Survey Report Introduction



Here’s the Summary PDF. Also the complete Survey Report PDF and I have an archive of the Action Plan PDF too.

I hope no one minds me sharing this. thought it might be valuable to others in the future, respect to those who put the hours in.



Hardy Brothers of Alnwick – List of Fishing Rods

‘Principle Rivers of Scotland’, via

I’ve been looking into buying my first split cane fishing rod. During the research I found this handy list (down the back of the internet’s sofa). Thought it worth sharing as its not currently available elsewhere.

It lists a number of fishing rods produced between 1885-1984 by Hardy of Alnwick. Maybe this will be helpful to someone out there.

Download the PDF list here. Or continue to This Page to view the list in your browser. I’m afraid I don’t know the original source of this list, I cannot vouch for its integrity. Though the rod I am keen to own ‘The Fairy Rod’ is correctly listed along with some others I have seen listed online.


Skye Ferry BBQ & Fundraiser

On behalf of my fellow trustees of the Glenachulish Preservation Trust I would like to invite everyone to a fundraising BBQ on September 25th at 1PM.

At the Christopher Main Shore Station, The Original Glenelg-Skye Ferry.

Where the National Transport Trust will unveil a ‘Red Wheel’ in recognition of the importance of the Kylerhea Narrows crossing and the last manually operated turntable ferry IN THE WORLD – the M.V. Glenachulish. You’ll also have the opportunity to see our new information boards describing the history of the crossing and the importance of the Skye Ferry. Designed (with love) by yours truly!


Part of my first iBlog from twenty years ago.

Hello. It has been a while. I’m sitting at my screen waiting for files to migrate to a new server. Snow is falling outside and its covered the garden and the fields immediately opposite, a few hungry sheep are staring in the front. I can’t do ‘work’ as everything is metaphorically up in the air. What a good opportunity, I thought, to reinstate my blog. My name is Callum and I’m an internet user like you.

I made my first webpage using Microsoft FrontPage in 1998 with help from our formidable music teacher Mr. Carr. He was the first real life computer geek I ever met and although I had an inkling that I might like meddling with the internet he was instrumental in actually showing me how to log-on and get with it. I was 12 years old and it was during our School‘s ‘three day event’ when classmates could opt for mountaineering, horse riding, extra rugby or an educative trip that I chose to sit in front of a computer screen. Mr. Carr gave us a basic introduction to FrontPage’s WYSIWYG interface and then in a very hands-off way, let us get to it. He quietly sat behind a bank of monitors and punched away at the keyboard, no doubt updating the school’s website, offering limited design advise from time-to-time and outlining the process of publishing to a server. At the end of 72 hours I had published my first webpage online. The webpage was #ca0000 red and had a visit counter, that’s all I remember.

It was that summer that our family upgraded from a Macintosh IIGS to an internet-ready windows desktop. It was shaped like a stumpy, beige rocket. I cried real tears in the computer shop as they also stocked the brand new iMac in its delicious semi-transparent flavours, the sales person advised my parents’ that Apple was obsolete, where is he now? Nevertheless I was obviously very lucky that my parents splashed out on a multimedia PC, built in speakers, CD-ROM and wonderful dial-up capability. Wonderfully annoying dial-up; I can still hear my mother screaming from down the stairs, finding time-and-time-again the line engaged as I’d logged-on to update Encarta, download 4MB film trailers or surf I would continue to update my website too, picking up a little CSS and HTML along the way for the next five years. With my second paycheque I would buy a (already a modern classic) Bondi Blue iMac. My introduction to blogging was in 2003 with the software iBlog, later WordPress and the wonderful Kubrick theme by the ever helpful Michael Heilemann. His own blog was an inspiration and seemed to lead me into an internet of nice folk, people who cared and shared (mainly code and star wars). I sat in my bedroom in Aberdeenshire behind a bank of monitors, still living with my parents, published a plugin for WordPress (Starred Review), wrote film reviews and posted hundreds of photographs of me and my pals doing silly things. Now I feel nostalgic. 

Back to today, migration complete. I’ve been using SSH to connect to my old host via FTP and despite occasional network outages today in the frozen Highlands of Scotland it has been a success. Back to work. I’ll just write a quick introduction here. The snowing has ceased here, its a winter wonderland outside. Across on Skye I can almost distinguish the mountains behind more incoming white.

With this new iteration of my weblog I intend to write in a personal way about where my real life intersects with things I do here at the computer. The title of my previous blog was Meta Comment, expect more of the same. Here I’ll occasionally dump some code, link to something I think is clever, share some photography (which I create but ironically never print) and talk about myself. Welcome to my website.