The police commander, Chief Inspector Colin Gough, responsible for local policing in Lochaber faced questions from councillors at the area committee this week. My concerns about police numbers in the area, the failing of the non-emergency 101 number and the frequent closure of the counter at Fort William police station have all been previously reported.
On this occasion I focussed on other issues affecting the area:
Glen Etive Camping
Following the meeting I called to discuss the unacceptable and anti-social behaviour by “festival” campers along Glen Etive, the police promised some high profile policing in the area. This caused concern from some public bodies, worried that is the wrong welcome to visitors. I disagree. It sends a clear message to people that you are welcome to visit Glen Etive, you are welcome to enjoy camping there, but only if you behave responsibly. Police followed up that promise with a proactive response stopping cars entering the glen, reminding them of their responsibility to leave no trace. I am glad to get a commitment that this was not a one-off following recent media coverage, and that we will see further policing from the outset of the next tourist season.
Councillor Ben Thompson questioned the low number of speeding motorists being caught in Lochaber – just 90 in the first quarter of this year. He believes this is because the new trunk patrol group based in Fort William is still not fully operational. Of course, speeding is not the only cause of accidents in the area. Bad driving is a huge factor. That’s why I asked whether the various road safety campaigns and initiatives focus on poor overtaking. We all see drivers overtaking on double-white lines or round corners with poor visibility; more can be done to highlight the danger of this behaviour. Whilst Councillor Thomas Maclennan focussed on the need to get a new 3D road accident camera, used after fatalities, based in Fort William. We currently have to wait for the equipment to come from Dingwall, significantly delaying accident investigations, meaning longer road closures than elsewhere.
Large cycle events
It’s staggering that the organisers of the massive 800-strong cycle charity event, heading from Land’s End to John o’Groats in mid-September never made a formal approach to the local police about the event. Yet, groups of fifty cyclists, setting off at three-minute intervals, will head up the A82 inevitably causing traffic chaos alongside Loch Lomond, Loch Linnhe and Loch Ness. Along these sections it’s often difficult to overtake a handful of cyclists let alone large numbers. Chief Inspector Gough stated, local police are opposed to the event, but it can go ahead as it does not require a licence.