Friday, 27 June 2008

Gibson highlights Highland and Orkney flooding dangers

News release
Immediate release


Highlands and islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has accused the MET Office of endangering Highland communities due to a lack of high tech monitoring of heavy rain fall.

MR Gibson's accusation came during a debate in Parliament about flooding yesterday (Thursday 26/06).

In the Debate it was pointed out that 95% of England and Wales are covered by a high resolution radar which warns about extreme weather that could cause flooding. In Scotland that figure is falls to barely 50%. Those area which are not covered include the Highlands, Moray and Orkney.

Mr Gibson said it was time for Scotland to take control of forecasting extreme weather….

"High resolution radar is a matter for the Met Office, which we do not control, and it has also been a matter for the Ministry of Defence. It is now necessary for us to have the debate with London, in the joint ministerial committees, to decide on funding. We should be looking to catch up, because we were left out in the past as being less important. We are equally important, and it is essential that we are able to catch up. We need to have an overall body, and SEPA is that competent authority, but each local authority has to be tasked to do things. I ask that when the bill is presented, we get a clear steer on how to fund radar."

During the debate Mr Gibson also related serious flooding that has taken place throughout the Highlands and Islands in recent years and the lessons that still needed to be learnt from them.

One incident he spoke about was in his own village of Evanton...

"More and more building has taken place up the hill in Chapel Road, Teandallon Place and Swordale Road, which has meant that the hard concrete and tarmac makes a natural course to carry the waters down. As we heard a parliamentary statement on the floods, we were looking at pictures of the floods at the bottom of the street. Preparation involving flooding equipment, deeper drains and so on will take vast investment, and in small villages such as Evanton there will be major disruption, as there would be in cities. However, the same houses are being flooded time after time. Such villages deserve to be saved from having to face that again."

Another was the flood that engulfed the home of Gartymore Crofter Margo MacGregor in October 2006 he said….

"Margot MacGregor suddenly saw water flowing past her kitchen window—it was 20ft deep, rather than the burn that normally passes her house. That was frightening for her, and in future we will probably not allow people to build croft houses in such areas."

"The culvert became blocked by branches, trees and bushes that were taken down by the flood, and the water flooded over the main A9, washing away about 50yd of the railway bed. It took an enormous effort to convince the police to close the A9, because of the huge diversions that were required. I was able to convince them that Network Rail should get a two-hour window four days later, on a Sunday afternoon, to begin the process of lifting the railway."

Photo: Margo McGregor's home area (house off photo to bottom right)

"That incident highlights the lack of co-ordination, starting with the way in which we manage culverts and ensure that people do not dump bushes and trees into water courses. Landowners have to be more careful about keeping water courses clear. That example shows that people need to be much more geared up to do the routine maintenance that could cut out the problems."

After the debate Mr Gibson commented,

"There is broad agreement between the parties that long-term planning to cope with flooding is a must. But it is essential that the services we do not yet control in Scotland, such as the high resolution radar should be funded as a matter of urgency from the coffers of the London Government. Rural Scotland does not deserve a second class service through lack of appropriate investment."


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