For Whom does the Wind Blow?

67m wind turbine located in Hatston, Kirkwall, seen from an unusual vantage point.
A 67m wind turbine located in Hatston, Kirkwall.

Orkney is a windy place and can generate more power than it needs from its many wind turbines. Unfortunately the energy distribution network is not set up to take advantage of this. There is currently no easy way to export surplus electricity, and the price tariffs energy suppliers impose on consumers penalise people living in rural areas. Renewable energy has changed the way power is generated and distributed, but this is not taken into consideration.

Despite an over-abundance of renewable energy, Orcadians pay some of the highest energy prices in the UK, and Orkney suffers from the highest rate of fuel poverty in Scotland. The Scottish Government does not have control of energy policy – that is reserved to Westminster.

Incumbent MP for Orkney & Shetland, Alistair Carmichael, did not manage to solve this problem, even whilst a cabinet minister in the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition government of David Cameron.

Cameron famously dismissed renewable energy as “green crap“, and this may be some indication of how much the average English Tory cares about the problems of rural Scotland. However, the fact is a small number of land-owners have made a lot of money from it.

Vestas V52 850kW wind turbine located in Burray, with a pink sky.
Vestas V52 850kW wind turbine located in Burray, Orkney.

In the summing up of his 2015 trial for lying to his constituents about his role in a smear campaign against the First Minister of Scotland, Alistair Carmichael was described by the judges as a “blatant liar” who was “at best disingenuous, at worst evasive and self-serving”. He narrowly avoided charges with the defense that a personal lie is different from a political lie, thereby proving in an electoral court that lying is an acceptable part of a politicians job (!)

What a fantastic precedent that turned out to be.

A turbine and gorse blowing in the perpetual Orkney wind.
Another windy day in Orkney.

These pictures accompany an article by Fiona Grahame for The Orkney News entitled Affordable Energy? Mind the Gap. This article was first published in iScot magazine and can now be read online.

For Whom does the Wind Blow, energy policy being reserved to Westminster? Cartoon depicting Alistair Carmichael MP blowing a paper wind turbine. Pen, ink & gouache, 2019.
For Whom does the Wind Blow? Pen, ink & gouache, 2019.

Last Call for Life on Earth

Last Call for Life on Earth

Last Call for Life on Earth is a cartoon created to accompany an Orkney News article published in iScot magazine in 2019.

It is my belief that we all need to think about our impact on the environment, and take urgent steps to reduce our individual carbon footprint. The way of life we in “The West” currently enjoy, which people all over the world understandably aspire to, is simply not sustainable. If we don’t change our ways the future looks bleak for the human race (to say nothing of the rest of life on Earth).

The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic has caused a slowing of global energy demand and largely put a temporary halt to unnecessary luxury travel. According to a study published in Nature, this only means humanity is destroying the environment we all depend on to live at the same rate we were in 2006! This was recently compared on The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe to gently squeezing a hose – it does practically nothing to stem the flow of water (i.e. CO2).

Permanent systemic change is needed. Unfortunately people keep electing politicians who don’t even believe climate change is a problem, and who often have vested interests in doing nothing about it. On top of that everyone wants their SUV and a holiday in the sun.

Hell mend us all.

Last Call for Life on Earth -The Grim Reaper takes the tickets of holidaymakers boarding a plane at Kirkwall airport.
Last Call for Life On Earth. Pen, ink & watercolour, 2019.

HMS Pheasant 1917

HMS Pheasant 1917

HMS Pheasant was an Admiralty M-class Destroyer based in Orkney during WW1. Due to its strategic importance, Scapa Flow was the main base of the British Grand Fleet during both World Wars.

In the early hours of the 1st of March 1917, HMS Pheasant exploded with the loss of all hands. It had only recently been launched, on 23rd of October 1916. It is thought that the ship hit a mine.

Only one body was ever recovered, that of Midshipman Reginald Cotter, who was still alive when pulled from the water and is now buried in the Lyness Naval Cemetery on Hoy.

Drawing of HMS Pheasant, an Admiralty M-class Destroyer, with a mine
HMS Pheasant, chalk & charcoal on watercolour, 2019.

What happened to HMS Pheasant was virtually forgotten until a maritime survey conducted by Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA), the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and SULA Diving located its remains off the coast of Rora Head, Hoy.

The background of the ship’s 89 strong crew is a slice of early 20th Century society in Britain. The men were from varied cultural backgrounds. There is currently no memorial to them, and many of their relatives never found out what happened. Since writing about the subject for The Orkney News, Fiona Grahame has been contacted by some family members, and has been uncovering their often remarkable stories.

A documentary about this tragedy, to focus on the lives of the individual crewmen, is currently in pre-production by The Orkney News team. We are seeking financial backing to take this project forward – if you are in a position to help with this, please get in touch via the contact form on this site or

This project follows on from our animated telling of the Orcadian Woman’s Suffrage Society, A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm, which will shortly be showing at the Scottish Short Film Festival at the Art School in Glasgow, on Saturday 27th of July. Tickets are for the film festival are available from A trailer showcasing the short films to be featured can be viewed on YouTube:

black and white photograph of Rora Head, Hoy
Rora Head, Hoy.