Saturday, December 31, 2011


How can i write an end of year review when there are 4 hours left to go ? when my take on things is flailing about and flipping from one moment to the next ?

Do you ever get up really early before the weather has woken up ? Here surrounded by mountains and loch, with lots of wet and stormy weather this last couple of months, the wind blows night and day...except for a brief moment between the two where it pauses, still, to take a deep breath and rest. Its the same with the tide changes, the water seems to relentlessly push and nag its way in and out, except for when at the tide turns and then there is a pause. The wind will drop, a strange stillness descends, the land and sea take that deep breath, the sea birds will call out in the silence, everything stops, until a gust of wind signals the ripples and rhythms to start again, pushing in and out dancing to the moons cycle. 

Well I’ve been waiting for that in-take of breath between the old year and the new. In that darkness and cold which seems to drag for weeks, that time between Yule, solstice, Christmas, new year and folks going back to work, sometime in that slurred dragged out sluggish frustrating period of hibernation and feasting i expect some stillness to reflect. A pause to see where we have been and where we are going.
Suil air ais- Suil air adhart, consider the future- reflect on the past.

But so far there has been no pause, the wheels seem to have sped up if anything!  I crave a lull, some space, peace, silence to make sense of it all, but no. So who am i to fight it ?

Looking back at last years review of 2010, ‘stress, no money, worrying about how to make a living, how to afford to do art, how to reconcile my art, time and money issues’ well no change there, that’s the review i would have written this morning...again.

 but things have changed this year, new threads are getting woven into the glittering celtic tapestry, new chaotic cycles started turning, i keep meeting inspirational people, which is new. I’m getting dragged back into community & local life which i’d turned away from after being burnt by some toxic committee’s, having had a lack of support during tough times and wasted too much energy trying to achieve things locally and hitting head against a brick wall of entrenched negativity ( evidence item number 1 – read any local community council minutes ) . But I’m a great believer in giving second chances and forgiveness, and also reviewing the evidence, ‘did i do wrong?’, ‘ was it a little bit me?’ ‘ did i create that situation?’. So while the last couple of years have been focused on getting away from lochcarron, and getting out into the big wide world, I’m now finding projects which seem to be worth some effort locally again. That is not to say that a big thrust of this year has been about internationalism and cross-cultural projects, and i am ending the year with Siberia, Scythia and Russia again very much in mind.

This year has felt more open with possibilities, more unexpected and unpredicted events. Some have had very unexpected outcomes. I am happier i suppose when things like this happen, it fills me with hope and optimism. When things are constricting, negative, difficult and there is no money to make any change or difference, it’s good to be able to believe that the unexpected can happen. And it does. There must have been many lonely years by myself up the glen with small children that nothing happened, no spark, no magic, no matter how i pushed and pulled to make things happen, I’d go years without meeting anyone new, just work worry work, just getting by and getting slapped down for not conforming, or having a low income.
Financially now we are even more broke than before.  But there is no way I will let something like money get me down ( well of course it does really ! ), the whole world is facing an economic crisis, and i figure people like me who have lived outwith consumer fads and greeds for years, have a role to play in illuminating the way forward with non consuming based solutions. Folks laugh and comment on my 30yr old patchy trousers, but ha! Another year of the con-dem government and all the cool kids will be wearing them!

 It’s been most surprising watching a whole new generation switching onto protest, to examining why capitalism is failing, why our current lifestyles are not sustainable, why we need governance that is truely democratic and accountable to the people. More and more people are picking up the themes that only outside minority cranks like me have been banging on about for 25+ years, community land ownership, scottish independence, recycling, repairing stuff, non oil based alternatives, locally produced food, trade and barter, traditional skills, crafts, the need for a fairer more creative and vocational education system, nurturing local culture, minority languages, social inclusion, a social based not capital based economy, permaculture, communities.. this is an endless list of hippy nonsense that i’ve sat quietly on for a long time. But its great to see the concepts being discussed in the main arena at last, and bright young things picking up the banner and running with it.

In the early 90’s there was a thing called ‘phantom treeplanting’, you’d see it discussed in reforesting scotlands magazine ‘ the treeplanters guide to the galaxy’ some of my illicitly planted trees hand grown from local seed, are nice big mature trees now. Nowadays the same idea is called ‘guerilla...’ rather than phantom, we’re starting to see guerrilla art and crafts across the world ( see also street art ), guerrilla gardening even. People are bypassing the rules, regulations and money, going out there and doing things, because they are good things to do.
This is sort of what my work is, i don’t really earn a wage from my labours, but it is the right thing to do, it does influence others, it does have a positive impact, and somehow we get by. It is hard to keep the faith but this year I’m meeting others working on the same premise, working on arts projects, community projects , woodlands projects, social enterprise projects, independent galleries, etc- people ignoring the state funding tick-box hoop-jumping culture people just getting on with it, because it is the right thing to do. This is the way forward through local and global austerity, people working together, just doing the right thing.
where do I go with my art in all this ? perhaps there will be a lull, a pause, a deep breath tomorrow and i’ll get some clarity to write about art stuff that i did in 2011 and where the path may head next? Perhaps things will still be wild and crazy, swirling like our Westerly gales.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

a light in the darkness

So I hope you all had a good Yule? I hope those of you who find Yule/ christmas difficult got through it all okay. The light follows the darkness. 
During the Christmas break everything stops, everything retreats back to the home, the family or the alienated solitude- No work, no comfort of routine, no bustle. For the lucky ones feasting, laughter and family fun. For others the sense of being on the outside looking in, aspiring to some idealised candle lit fairy tale around a christmas tree. 
My adaptive life philosophy is a sort of pessimistic optimism, i expect nothing, its no big deal, but then it's all up to me anyway. Nothing is a great foundation on which to build enjoyment and pleasure in every little details, anything above nothing is a bonus.
As it happens Christmas day was family fun. The other trick with expecting nothing is also to expect the unexpected, to be open to everything, to believe that anything can happen. If you watched Derren Browns recent programme where he 'tricked' a whole town into believing in 'luck', you'll know what I mean. We make our own luck by being open and receptive to chances, amazing opportunities, open doors. Problem is that when an open door slams shut in our face or traps our proverbial fingers, we can lose this openness and trust... and in my case this year, in getting burnt, i lost confidence in my own senses, intuition, feelings and thus lost the muse in the process. But some you win some you loose. One project turned into a sudden dead end where i was left feeling exploited and discarded like some dodgy Christmas jumper when the novelty runs out. Luckily before i had time to mope & wallow the TV cameras arrived & wham bam abracadabra I was in the middle of this autumns massively exciting community project.  I had no idea my other project would end in tears, but likewise I had no idea the treehouse project would actually happen, and it did. 
A pause for thought would have been nice, but a star appeared and is shining the way in the winter darkness again, I don't know why, what for, where to, or if its a good idea to follow it, but its art, who am i to argue.

Friday, December 23, 2011

t'was the week before christmas

So it's that silly time of year again. its been less white and snowy that the last couple of years which is a shame as i love the ice & snow colours, instead we have had a massive deluge of rain the last week which has bought down a rock face on the south side of the loch, this is a fairly regular occurance. enough rambling about the weather!
art and crafts ? I've been frantically making things for presents, which i can't show until after they've been received, here is some tablet ( a traditional Scottish sweet with is 300% sugar ).
This will be a particularly handmade, recycled and second hand christmas. Not only because its the right thing to do, ethically, politically and environmentally. But because its been a particularily austere year, I laughed off the economic crisis thinking people as low down the economic food chain had nothing to loose anyway. But of course that was just my idealistic optimism at play, there just hasn't been enough money to cover everything. But i'm not going to moan and complain as this is the choice i make by being an artist, and living remote rural, if i wanted a decent salary i could stop doing all the community projects, comics projects, published work, exhibitions, educational stuff and get a job at a local fish farm. Its not really a choice is it? So a handmade consumer free Yule it is for us lot.
I didn't really know that i have an obsessive streak, tenacious yes, but I am informed that my paper-chain making is indeed obsessive. Normally all scrap paper gets sorted and reused or recycled, of course. So the stuff that was due to be shredded for the guinea pig bedding turned into a paper-chain, and then every christmas card envelope gets added on ( stamps go to charity of course ) . Its that ethos of using what is to hand with the minimum energy and transportation, it turns out if you cut the envelopes carefully into loops no glue or staples are needed. The chain is now all over the house and spreading down the walls... why do i start these things ??

meanwhile I have a comic strip of Brian Boru to colour
a comic strip for Bayou Arcana,
a book project with Rich to draw,
a comic convention to organise-

Talking of which, Here is the e-card i did for Hi-Ex;
Hi-Ex has a new shiny website designed by Mike at Miniman web design ( my lovely cousin ) & new shiny poster artwork by Tanya Roberts. We got a mention on the BBC news online this week and the Forbidden planet blog.

Then for my own e-card i did something more Vicky/ Balnacra Arts style;

I've got another couple of things in the go and a mountain of introspective wonderings bubbling under in my head about where i'm going art wise after one heck of a weird year. No doubt i'll write some over indulgent navel gazing pontificating over the next week or so. When everything is shut for the festive period its hard for me to continue the usual displacement activities of work work work, and with Richmond away seeing his family & those long dark midwinter nights, I will have to face up to some ART.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Costume Life drawing class

IT was a dark stormy night across the North. I'd spend the day in town, visiting family & attending a work meeting. dashing through the puddles to Dingwall's lovely warm and welcoming community shop, The Greenhouse. I didn't expect anyone to turn up for this experimental art session. But they did!
First to model was gorgeous Laura, who'd bought a great bag of props and frocks.

these are just my scribbly sketches.

Then The Greenhouse's Dave tried out his fab Elf costume, the wardrobe to Narnia will be coming to the Greenhouse very soon, it sounds fantastic!

Here's my scribble of superhero elf Dave.
and here's Rob's drawing of me in a floppy hat.

It was great fun and a very relaxed and inspiring drawing session. Artists like me would love to sit & sketch people out & about in public, all those interesting features and figures, all those crazy clothes. this was a great chance for us all to indulge in just that. It was also really nice that everyone got a change to sit. It's reminded me that i need to draw more often, how fast one gets rusty!

Thanks to the folks who came along and thanks to the Greenhouse for hosting this.

We'll definitely do this again. get in touch if you'd like to be kept informed of dates, times and places. My e-mail is pottery at balnacra dot com

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Treehouse programme on TV

so after all the hype, meetings, marketing, workparties, blogging , tweeting, photographing, organising, discussing... it was finally time for the TV programme to be shown. Many of us don't have TV or Sky tv at least, plus we thought it would be nice to have a community get together to watch the programme, as building communities is what this is all about. So the Carron Restaurant kindly stepped in and hosted an event. The owners Michelle and Peter have been involved all the way through the project and did a wonderful supper in aid of the woodland fundraising group. Somebody on-line commented about us having a tight-knit community, which i suppose we don't often realise as 'familiarity breeds contempt', and when you've known people for decades, well we just learn to muddle along together ..or not. But this treehouse has certainly helped, i wouldn't have imagined an event like this happening before.

there is an official Treehouse website here.
and official facebook page here.
The programme is currently being repeated on Sky channels.
It can be seen on line here ( if you are registered with sky ?).
I've blogged about it from the outset in a personal capacity.

It was quite a story, we wondered how it would look on TV, how it would be edited, what would go in and what cut out. I was rather nervous. I don't mind talking in front of camera's and doing interviews, i suppose i've just done it a lot over the years, so I know it is no big deal. Today's news is tomorrows chip paper. Nobody likes the sound of their own voice ( well not most normal people ), nobody likes to see their own photograph, I am no different, but somewhere along the line I just gave up worrying about it. Its a bit like 'feel the fear and do it anyway' . So does it sound convincing if i explain its a lack of ego rather than a big ego is why i end up in front of cameras and such like? Sometimes one has to step up. It doesn't mean i was looking forward to seeing the results! I was of course excited to see the process of building the treehouse. I was one of the few folks that the production team had asked to stay away from the build so that we'd get a genuine surprise at the end on camera.

The restaurant was packed out with lots of people from the village and surrounding area, our local district councillor, representatives of various community groups, landowners, community councillors and a lot of the people who'd been involved with the whole project. Just before the programme I was asked to say a few words on behalf of the Kirkton Woodlands and Heritage Group who are the umbrella community organisation in charge of the Treehouse. I really hate public speaking! especially after a glass or wine and with no time to prepare. Watching TV is weird for us, watching TV with villagers rather surreal, watching TV with the very villagers and ourselves on the TV... that was just mad! Exciting, emotional, inspiring, embarrasing, just plain all out weird.

( I took photos of the screen I hope Sky don't mind all images copyright Sky 2011 )
Charlie arrived by boat, Young Dougal Murray driving it looking all serious. We were cynical about this scene, as we do have a perfectly good road to the village ( as long as its not snowy, flooded, or blocked by landslide or blown down trees like last week ) . However we all felt this loch boat scene was great as it showed the village in the context of the loch and what a stunning place it is to live, but also how remote we are geographically.

Lochcarron looking lovely. The treehouse is equidistant between the village of Lochcarron and small hamlet of Strathcarron, so there might be a little confusion there, the area is Loch Carron, after the Loch, and further up Glen Carron. Kirkton woodland sits behind the village of lochcarron.

 George looks over my drawing of the proposed Treehouse with Charlie on site.

One of the expert build team who worked day & night against all the odds to get the Treehouse done.

Two of the local volunteers who worked on site all week, and on subsequent workparties...
and look ! via the magic of television Dr Murray was there two places at once. ( is to too weird if i point out that the good Doctor birthed two of my children ? yes, Iseabail and Talitha, village life is very strange )

and here we all after the big reveal. Richmonds surprised face was very funny. I was determined not to cry, because once i start.......

and here it is, that's myself Rich and George on the balcony. It was so beautiful all lit up that night, with the river underneath, the stars above and bats flitting about the lights. very special.

and here's me, waxing on a little. But its okay if i get big headed this wee village soon cuts through any such nonsense!
Here is a very happy & relieved looking Alex, who worked so hard with Charlie in designing and building this very wonderful structure. It was a pleasure to meet these guys & watch them doing their thing.
And there it was completed in only 5 days.
Here it is now. The canvas awning has been taken down for the winter. We're waiting for a couple of small snags to be fixed, sticky doors things like that . When the building warrant is signed off we can start taking bookings for events. We're going to do a course of craft and rural skills classes in the new year, music events, weddings, photo shoots, meetings, retreats, you name it. All proceeds will go into the fund to purchase our local woodland. Perhaps this is the first of many special buildings in the area? who knows what we can achieve? I'm a great believed that if you aim high and dream big, anything is possible.

 A massive thanks to the crew & production company. To Kristine our local development officer. To all the volunteers, to the folks who've followed the whole project with interest.
 Thanks to SKY for the images above from their programme. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

3 night power cut.

Day 3 of the hurricane bawbag power cut.
Thursday the 8th a bad storm raged across Scotland, the north west didn’t suffer as much damage as other places but the storm reached hurricane levels in some parts with gusts of 165mph. The lights had flashed on and off so I made sure and backed up my computer work, cooked a big pan of risotto, gathered candles , lighter & torch, then sat back and enjoyed the news reports and humours internet banter all day. The scots labled the hurricane bawbag, which is scots slang. Twitter was full of couthy scots humour, a video of a trampoline rolling down a street went viral “ oh my gawd oh my gawd trampoline ! “.
locally the road to the south which goes to skye and south was shut, the railway line is still closed as a landslide when across the line. The only other road to Skye from the east was closed when a lorry blew off it. Most of the mobile phone networks went down.

Then at 6pm the power finally failed. Its been a few years since we’ve had a big long power cut. My 18yr old daughter doesn’t remember anything like this before.  I get very frustrated that we are so reliant on main utilities like electricity, Our home heating system is terrible and an on-going issue as I have been in communication with my housing association landlords for years to do something about  the poor repair of the house and old unaffordable heating system. We generally use a calor gas heater anyway and need to sit in blankets in the evening, so no change there.

Evening 1, we sat and chatted by candle light, I had enough torch batteries to sit and rag weave while we chatted, I’d also done some machine sewing of some crafty things earlier so I could do some candlelight hand finishing if needed. I’m not very good at sitting idle, especially when a tonne of work awaits me on the computer. But evening 1 wasn’t too frustrating, quite pleasant really, we cooked supper of toast on the gas fire and went to cold bedrooms early. The wind had died down and a big full moon was shedding some light into the night.

 I was woken from weird dreams at 1.15am by Ish in s state of terror as she’d been lying awake by candle light and heard something big moving on the roof and against her window. Confused and shaking off dreams I fumbled in the moonlight to grab torch and pull boots on over my pyjamas and wondered about in the snowy moonlight looking for the monster. You know in those stupid horror films when the female goes alone into the dark to investigate & you shout at the screen ' don't be stupid ! ' , well i did just that, except i don't watch horror films & reality isn't like that. Ish stood in the kitchen with a big knife. It was pretty freaky though as Ishies terror had passed onto me, that is a mum's duty. I didn't find a monster, but instead a cat, a blown over bush and weird wind gusts making things creak and groan. I lay awake with Ish in the cold & dark on a listening brief for endless hours of darkness guarding the place. The dog helped out, his ears pricking at each strange creak of the timber house.

Friday- Rich went to work later that usual once it got light, the storm had calmed the east road was clear. I got organised, built a wee stove outside out of my Raku kiln gas burned and some kiln shelves & fire bricks. Boiled water to wash dishes. made a campfire place by the house back door to cook on, hand swept the floors. Sat & did crafts and work while the daylight lasted. by about 2.30pm I needed candles to see clearly indoors to work. The only firewood we have is soggy rotting sticks from trimmed trees in the garden. We used the gas burner as a flame thrower to get the fire going. Ish got busy & cooked up fishcakes from the defrosting freezer, baked potatoes & fried up rice- we had no tin foil so we used foil pie dishes out of my recycling cuboard. It was all a bit cremated but great. we sat around in the moonlight & enjoyed the silence, ignoring the hail & snow flurries.

But the nights were so long.
I thought i'd have social networking and work withdrawal symptoms, i didn't. I normally can't sit still, especially not in silence, but when forced to it was fine, nice even. Ish was really fed up with it, but we sat & played ridiculous verbal games to pass the time. One candle went rogue and as i jumped out from the tight blanket cocoon to put the flames out I cricked my shoulder. At that point I was getting fed up with it, a wee dram would have helped numb the pain, cold and campfire smoke sore lungs, but with all those candles, generators and dodgy camp stoves in use around the village i figured i better say on call & stay very sober. Of course the power outage also meant that the Fire station radio & comms system had run out of power, but nothing we could do about that until the power re booted.

Saturday Morning. one half of the villages power was back on, the place was buzzing with Hydro electric vehicles working like mad to put it all back together. I managed to briefly get on line via my phone before the signal went down again. It was disappointing to see that there was nothing exciting happening out there, a few nice messages of support and a plethora of e-mails as usual adding to my task list, Vicky can you do this, Vicky can you do that. Well for once, no I couldn't. It was a bit of an eye opener.

What was nice was how folks were out on the street talking to each other, checking up on neighbours, children out playing football. We were offered cooking facilities from someone who's power was back on. I loved that there were no street lights, the sky at night was beautiful. I loved the idea of all that energy NOT being consumed. But we would only be a day or so from things getting very difficult. It was a real worry for the elderly folks. It reminded me of living in our last house, how the constant battle to stay warm damaged health, fingers and toes. It was also, like everything else- a money thing, those with money could rush out & buy gas stoves, lanterns and gadgets, run generators etc. Those without couldn't. I was having to start rationing car diesel as the local fuel pumps wouldn't work & my tank was empty, i didn't have enough to drive to anywhere with a garage where the power was on. I had enough for about 3 or so more runs up and down the village only.

Luckily by Saturday the Fire station power was back on, so i headed down there to reboot the systems and charge things up. We all had hot showers, and microwave porridge there, I felt remarkably cheered up after a bit of hot food & a wash!

Again at home the new routine of sweeping and boiling water outside, keeping busy to keep warm. enjoying being active instead of slave to the computer desk. I scraped as much snow together as i could to fill the melting freezer. Then settling into sew again in the gloom & candle light. My parents power was back on so we headed over there in the evening, all going red, chilblained and blotchy in the unfamiliar heat! and then at 7pm we got the messages via facebook that the power was back on all over. hurrah!

It was an interesting shift in perspective & reminder of what is important. I hate that we rely on utilities like electricity and fuel. It are only a few days away from suffering and chaos if one or more of those go, or the roads get blocked again. Our whole society is unsustainable, unpractical and teeters on a set of vulnerable consumer assumptions. I wish i had engineering skills and could build and invent just we need out of junk. We joke about the zombie Apocalypse, but its not the zombies that will get us when things go wrong, it's the cold, the dark and injustice. We need stronger more resilient communities, communities where people muck in together and help each other, communities which use local resources and can adapt to whatever the climate, weather, parliaments or economy throw at us.

a useful lesson.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Tea for Two ( and a few more )

We went to an art opening at 'The Schoolhouse Tearoom' Dornie last night. For those of you who don't know the local area, this is Dornie;

Being used to the low turnout at our local events we were rather astonished by the fact that at somepoints there wasn't event room to get more people in the door at this opening! Brilliant, a great change to catch up with lots of artists and interesting people who live over that wee hill from us.

Congratulations to Mary and her team of busy helpers on putting together such a great show and lovely opening night. There was musical accompaniment provided by 'The Renewables' Donald MacKenzie and Harvey. Donalds contribution to the art show was my favorite there.
The theme of the show was 'Tea for Two', many artists had found this a challenge, it was to be on a 30cm box canvas, It was great to see so many different interpretations of the theme from a range of people, schoolage contributors, amateurs and professionals. a lovely and inspiring show! Here is my contributuion again.
 i couldnt get a photo in sitchu- too many people!

Meanwhile other news in brief;
  • My partner Richmond ( who's writing so many books, comics, scripts & articles at the moment I've lost track ) and I run The Highlands International Comic Expo, Hi-Ex. we took a break in 2011 to pursue all our other projects but we're back! a new website is up ( many thanks to Miniman web design for much patience and help) , the tables are selling out the guest list is building!
  • I have done my first drawn comic strip in what seems like ages, its out now in Something Wicked comic & i'm pleased with the way it has printed.
  • I will be working on the colours for a new comic strip on the life of Irish King Brian Boru, it will be published in the New Irish anthology 'Lightning Strike' . This story has been written by our Richmond & drawn by the very talented Cormac Hughes. The enthusiasm behind this project is great, though I am starting to feel a little old and the whole team look to me like they are twelve years old. But then so do many doctors and police... i am old. oh dear. perhaps working with these younglings will keep me from mentally seizing up too much?
  • aaaand there is loads more going on but that will do for now ! Thanks readers for your patience and continuing interest!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Soup and Solidarity.

The 30th November was a national Strike day for many of the UK's public sector unions. Workers who are the back bone of this country have been vilified by the press and government. Nurses, teachers, bin men, support workers, nursery workers, firefighters etc have already had a 2year pay freeze, George Osborne announced on the 29th that we would be facing another freeze then a 1% cap on pay over the next years. This on a 15% inflation ? Public sector workers have also seen recruitment freezes, offices and workplaces shut, and increase in workload, job insecurity. 

Our communities are feeling the cuts in closure of childcare places, cuts in benefits, the rise in VAT, inflation, soaring fuel costs.

The strike was primarily about pensions, on top of the above the Westminster Government wants public sector workers to pay more contributions ( up to 17% of wages in some cases !! ), to work 5 years longer, and to get less of a pension in the end. The tabloids and government are lying when they say that the tax payer is paying for public sector pensions, that the private sector is paying for it. The public sector workers pay for their own pensions. The government wants to basically tax those pensions, which are essentially deferred wages- this is to pay back some of the deficit that was incurred by the bankers bail out. If the top corporations in this country paid the taxes they owe ( such as vodaphone ) it would wipe out the deficit. Why then is the public sector being targeted for massive and terrible cuts? Because the Conservative party ideal is, and has always been to do away with the public sector and leave everything to the freemarket. The freemarket will not put of fires, nurse the elderly or educate our children.

I am a rep and lay official in the Highlands and Islands Fire Brigades Union. It is a very difficult job. I have an impossible geographical area to cover, anyone reading the local papers would know that things are not all running smoothly in Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue service. Due to the cutbacks all 8 Scottish Fire and rescue services are getting amalgamated into a single Scottish Fire and rescue service. Consultations are currently running as to how 8 completely different brigades can become one. It is going to be a long difficult road. As an active rep I also have difficulties as we all know what happens to people who put their heads above the parapet. 
I work along side a Brigade FBU committee to try and protect our firefighters and the communities they serve. The FBU is affiliated to the Scottish Trades Union Congress, and that in turn to international Trade Union movements. We share common principals of working methods, ideals and ethics. Our workers rights will not be at the expense of another workers rights. We, in the trade union movement ARE 'in it together'. Now against the cuts of the coalition government we are also in it together with community groups, charities, campaign groups, faith groups and independent community members.

The FBU didn't ballot to strike with many of these other unions. We have all worked together to combat the pension changes. FBU and 5 other unions took the Government to court over the plans to change the way pensions are uprated from Retail Price Index(RPI) to Consumer Price Index (CPI) which currently would devalue all our pensions by over 15%.We expect to hear the outcome of this legal challenge within the next 6 weeks. 
As well as the coordinated campaigns like this we have negotiated each of our complex pension schemes independently. Negotiations have generally got no-where. However the FBU managed to present the government with some hard evidence about the specific Fire brigades pensions, which got them back into negotiations, and agreeing to Not set 'cost ceilings' - this means some flexibility about the size of pensions cash within which the terms need negotiating. ( stay with me I know the technical stuff is dull but its important to contextualise the rhetoric ). So because we are still in negotiations we did not ballot our members. This doesn't not mean we won't as and when required. Nor does this mean that we don't fully support the other striking unions.

Myself and my FBU Brigade Chair were at a training event recently talking about how to show support for the striking workers. Calum came up with the genius idea of taking Soup and sandwiches around the picket lines. Which is just what we did!

Myself & my partner Richmond drove through early from the west coast & met up with lots of other Firey's and control staff who were off duty or on holiday that day, at the Inverness Fire station. flasks were filled, rolls were filled, crates loaded into vans & off we went about and about looking for picket lines to support. This was all funded by independent generous Firefighter donations.

another thing to note, according to the news, press and Government, picket lines are scary places where people are violent and bullying. this is a LIE. I recommend anyone to go on a protest march or visit a picket line. you will find friendly normal people, a great atmosphere of solidarity and passion for protecting their workplace and fellow workers.
We received a brilliant and warm welcome from all the lines we visited. The teas, coffees, and soup was just the thing for a freezing morning!

late morning everyone congregated together to march past MP Danny Alexander's Office, he is current Chief Secretary to the Treasury and implementing coalition Government policies which are causing dismay in his constituency area.

We then marched across the Bridge and to a Rally at the Mecure Hotel - this is the largest , if not only March I've ever seen in Inverness and is testament to the strength of feeling. Other events were held up and down the country. 2 million people were out. Among the media attacks on the strikers there was actually pretty good and fair coverage on the STV news. Rich was interviewed on camera but it wasn't shown you can just see my flag for a nano second at one point.

At the Rally we were on hand with more filled rolls & soup, It was brilliant! folks snapped them up & we just ran out at as the last person filed past. There will be more action both through the courts, in the negotiating rooms and out on the streets. Until the Government starts listening to the people of this country over the bank bosses and corrupt corporate leaders we have a massive fight ahead.