Comrie and Crieff: Perthshire
We are concerned about the health risks, the costs, and the capacity of TETRA to provide effective police communications.
Comrie TETRA hits the news: Campaigners alarm at health survey results
Three important meetings in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, 22 and 23 February, with Prof. Olle Johansson, Karolinska Institute.
The Tayside police area needs 57 TETRA masts for Airwave. It has 54 consents and O2 Airwave promises to erect temporary masts where it cannot gain consent. Part of the reason for the hurry is the need to police the G8 Summit at Gleneagles in July 2005. (They cant do it without Airwave? Tayside Police disagree with O2.) More likely (and here is a prediction for you) is that Gleneagles will become the paradigm for the essential success of Airwave, without which the UK and its international visitors would be in grave danger. Shall I write the O2 press notice now? Or shall we wait? One hopes that peace will reign at Gleneagles because of good security forces and good planning rather than just a better communications handset.
Well, a few weeks on from the event, still no press release on the Airwave website. Which is odd, because this South African selling exercise is clearly O2 Airwave PR: how to use the London bombings to sell the benefits.
G8 Update: Airwave in Scotland actually failed for six hours on the day of the big G8 demonstration. So thats why no press release then?
Regarding unwanted masts: Broughty Ferry out on the Firth of Tay in Fife, O2 Airwave has publicly pledged to build a temporary mast, with or without planning permission. Well, nothing new there, then.
Meanwhile, to the west of Perth lie Comrie and Crieff. The Highlands being somewhat hilly means that for Airwave to reach the nooks and crannies where the police rarely venture, requires quite a few masts in those places where the hills least get in the way. So true to form for precaution and regard to health, antennae have been added to Crieff Hydro (left), and 500 yards from the school in Comrie. To the south TETRA is on the roof of Gleneagles hotel. Only from the diligence of local residents have Airwave masts been caught in the planning process, whilst concerns as to their safety and suitable location are even discussed. The Highlands are scattered liberally with masts now, and the visual intrusion is very noticeable. (Expect postcards to continue to use old photographs from now on!)
Now heres an interesting deception to add to the scenario: Chief Inspector David Tonks of Tayside Police can reveal that: the masts we are contracting mmO2 to install are also contracted not to pulse, if they do they are outwith our specification. Anyone care to take the same measurements as we have elsewhere? It is hardly likely that they are any different!
In January, Comrie established CAT: Comrie Action on TETRA, and held a public meeting. In April, a 600 signature petition was submitted by CAT to the Scottish Parliament, and this has been supported by Comrie Community Council, calling for a halt to masts until the effects on local populations are known.
Dismay was therefore felt in Comrie when TETRA antennae were added to the existing mmO2 mast at Lechkin Farm, Comrie. Following discussions between CAT and local landowners, Drummond Estates, Aberuchil Estate and Dunira Estate have turned down TETRA until the safety issues are properly addressed and satisfied.
On August 30, 2004, CAT held its second public meeting, to address progress before the mast was turned on, provide more information and decide on further action. Attending the meeting were independent scientist Barrie Trower (author of the original report on TETRA to the Police Federation), Mark Ruskell MSP, Bradley Borland a radio amateur and TETRA campaigner from Fife, and Andy Davidson representing TETRAWATCH and the experience in Sussex and the Southern English Counties. Ray Weldon, a communications manager from O2 Airwave was the only pro-TETRA representative willing to attend, though the NRPB, the Home Office, the police and TETRA-supportive scientists were all invited. Barrie Trower presented the current case for the concerns over TETRA (his recent update paper represents some of the substance of his presentation).
The balanced scientific position presented by Barrie Trower was welcomed, as were the actual experiences from Fife and Sussex, and a good deal of sound discussion took place. However, the real downside of the meeting was the off-hand and arrogant announcement by O2s Ray Weldon:
Hands up who has been getting headaches and skin rashes? The mast was switched on, on Friday at 4pm, and it is permanently on.
The local press reported that residents were gob-smacked, and the local councillor was furious that no notification had even been considered. We get the planning permission and we just do it, said Ray Weldon. But his remark? Doesnt it just imply that for all the thousands of consistent reports from across the UK, they are all lies, psychosomatic suggestion and false? Andy Davidson presented the case of Felpham as an crystal clear example of why this is not the case. Clearly sensitivity and consultation are not in the O2 vocabulary.
Speaking after the meeting, Mark Ruskell MSP said:
In view of the uncertainties which have been raised about the possible health risks associated with TETRA, I was frankly appalled by the indifference displayed by the O2 Airwave company representative towards genuine concerns and health questions raised by members of the public.
It is clear that with the universal rollout of this technology, the public throughout Scotland are being used as guinea pigs in a huge uncontrolled experiment. This is simply unacceptable.
Secrets and security?
When it was pointed out to O2s Ray Weldon that parts of the Scottish Parliment building were not covered by Airwave, he replied that whilst there wasnt actually an antenna on the top of the Parliament building (very sensible: do the MSPs get more choice then?), most of the Parliament was covered from other buildings that could not be named. Oh well, I suppose we shall have to look on the Sitefinder website instead, or read the This is O2 Airwave sign on the installation. But what value is this secrecy, and how safe can this leave the Airwave network? As Andy Davidson set off back to Sussex, he knew TETRA was on in Comrie; he can feel them all as a physical sensation, and the Strowan Road two miles away was telling him just that.
TETRA at Lechkin Farm, Comrie.