Utility pledges action after power cuts hit valley

Richard Scott, Cacrabank, Ettrick Valley. Trees fallen on powerline. Power cuts
Richard Scott, Cacrabank, Ettrick Valley. Trees fallen on powerline. Power cuts

ALTHOUGH most of the Borders escaped the recent gale-force winds relatively unscathed, a rural settlement in Selkirkshire, not for the first time, was left without electricity.

And “powerless” is how Ettrick Valley farmer Richard Scott aptly described his feelings after multiple trees crashed into a power line at the height of the storm, leaving his community without electricity for the next 22 hours.

Mr Scott, who lives at Cacrabank, just off the B711 road from Tushielaw to Hawick, is angry and frustrated because it was the fourth time in just three weeks that he and his 13 neighbouring households on the road to Redford Green have suffered a similar fate.

The first strong winds of winter on November 27 saw the residents left without power when a sitca spruce, part of a plantation at West Buccleuch Forest, struck the nearby cables.

ScottishPower engineers have been ubiquitous in the area since that incident. Having repaired the pole-linked line, they were called out two days later when another fallen tree caused a disconnection. And three days later they were back – clearing away another fallen tree and repairing the line.

Mr Scott told us: “This sticking-plaster approach is becoming beyond a joke and all the residents are very concerned that this will just keep on happening. It’s early days in winter and more windy conditions are predicted ... yet we all feel at the mercy of the elements and powerless to do anything about it.”

TheSouthern contacted forestry managers Tilhill, whose spokesperson said that, around six months ago, an approach had been made to ScottishPower to switch off the power to allow that section of trees to be cleared.

“Under health and safety legislation, because the trees are so close to the power line, we cannot begin felling while the line is still live,” said the spokesperson. “The ball is therefore in ScottishPower’s court.”

A spokeswoman for the utility said: “There have been talks about this unsatisfactory situation which will require a co-ordinated approach, with the power being disconnected during the harvesting work and generators supplied to the affected households during this period, which could take over a week.”

There was, however, some encouraging news last week for Mr Scott and his neighbours with local MSP Jim Hume announcing he had secured an assurance from ScottishPower that the issue would be resolved.

Mr Hume told us: “There has been a problem with trees falling against the power line which has caused loss of power for residents.

“This is hugely frustrating for the community and the recent high winds have certainly been a factor.

“It’s also a worry for those residents who are elderly and vulnerable.

“I have taken up their case and ScottishPower has now given me an assurance the problem will be fixed and the firm is in the process of making arrangements to have the problem trees removed.

“I will be keeping in daily contact with ScottishPower to ensure the appropriate work is undertaken and to ensure the long-term future of the security of the supply.”