Cameron McNeish is a Scottish wilderness hiker, backpacker and mountain walker and a respected commentator on outdoor pursuits.

Give us peace at Balloch on the Bonnie BanksDrumkinnon 25

McNeish CameronI sincerely hope that together we can convince the National Park Planning Board and the Scottish Government that there are some things more important and vital to our nation than land grabs for big commercial developments.

I find it shocking that Scottish Enterprise can simply take public land, land that has given pleasure to local residents and visitors over a long period of time, and sell it to a commercial development company whose prime function in life is to make more money for itself, with little regard for the people of Balloch and of Scotland.

I am well aware that the proposed development will not be based on the unfortunate Flamingo thing in Yorkshire but there is no guarantee that such amusements will not be introduced in the future here on Loch Lomondside.

My main contention in this unfortunate proposal, and my main target for criticism, is Scottish Enterprise.

SE owns the Riverside site on behalf of us – the people of Scotland. It now appears that SE will not only lease this land to Flamingo Land but may well sell it.

And they propose to do this with no consultation with the local community or the wider public. If this sale takes place then there is no guarantee that in the future Flamingo Land might well decide to build dozens of houses or worse, create another of their amusement parks.

It is time Scottish Enterprise walked away from this potentially disastrous agreement and consider for a moment how best they could work with the people of Balloch to develop this area in a way that will benefit them, and not commercial shareholders.

I have no doubt many will raise the issue of jobs. I accept there is a need for new jobs in this area but what kind of jobs will be on offer here? And you can bet your bottom dollar that the better paying jobs will be taken by people from outside this area, leaving the crap jobs, the poorly paid jobs, for the locals. People of Balloch and Alexandria, you deserve better than this.

My mother lived here in Balloch for a number of years and my late step-father was born and bred here. His name was Walter Faickney. Some of you might remember him. I suspect he’ll be turning in his grave at the thought of this land grab. As will my old mentor, the late and great Tom Weir. He loved Loch Lomond with a passion. Let’s not spoil it with an unnecessary development that is driven by nothing but commercial greed.

My God, what are we doing to Scotland? It sometimes seems to me we are ripping the soul out of our nation, tearing up our natural resources, those elements that have made Scotland world-renowned and have given us our culture, our arts, and our identity.

And for what? To try and appease the unquenchable thirst for profits from businessmen who have absolutely no other interest in Scotland.

Look at Trump and Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire; look at the proposals for developing a unique system of sand dunes near Dornoch into yet another luxury golf course. And a bloody Tennis Academy near Bridge of Allan, a tennis academy that disguises a luxury home development and another bloody golf course.

We don’t need luxury golf courses or luxury houses. We need homes for ordinary people and we need areas like this here on Loch Lomondside where ordinary people can breathe God’s pure air and enjoy some space.

I hope this potentially disastrous proposal gets kicked into the long grass where it belongs.

Saor Alba.

Cameron McNeish

No economic benefit to Balloch, says Helensburgh economist

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0032.JPGProposed site of Flamingo Land at Balloch, Loch Lomondside.

As an economist and business studies graduate, I was interested to see just how much money Flamingo Land might bring to the area should their proposed development at Loch Lomond become reality, so I took a look at their annual accounts online.

(You can do this yourself by searching “Flamingo Land accounts 2017” then clicking on “Filing History”.)

The accounts make for interesting reading. Flamingo Land (in Yorkshire) made a profit before tax of £1,335,504 last year.

There are four company directors, three of them with the surname Gibb and one Mrs D.M. Pullins.

Between the four of them, these directors paid themselves “emoluments” (bonuses) of £1,301,255 last year. The highest paid of them personally received £827,779.

A second point stands out: one of Flamingo Land’s three most profitable activities last year was catering.

The standard business model for this kind of development is to encourage visitors to stay inside the complex, spending their money at the company’s own restaurants and shops and maximising their profits. Hence the various restaurants and eateries proposed in the Balloch plan.

Let’s not be naïve; yes, Flamingo Land will make a lot of money. But the Gibb family are not coming here to enrich us or our area; they are coming to redirect a tidy slice of our local business revenue into their own pockets.

Many who would have chosen local hotels and cafés will instead stay inside the theme park; money that would have been spent locally will leave the area entirely.

Jonathan Hargreaves, Helensburgh

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