Lessons from the flying vet

A NUMBER of people took exception to this column yesterday for questioning the way Sark’s government is behaving over the vineyard expansion and vandalism issue and felt the tone was unnecessarily hostile.

A NUMBER of people took exception to this column yesterday for questioning the way Sark’s government is behaving over the vineyard expansion and vandalism issue and felt the tone was unnecessarily hostile.

After it was written, however, two further threads emerged that supported Opinion’s central concern, that evidence was building that challenged Chief Pleas efficacy as a credible body.

The first was the Seigneur’s implication that there were no law and order problems until Sark Estate Management arrived. The second was the frankly unbelievable admission from the head of the Agriculture Committee that no concerns had been raised about the vine plantings in case they were ‘misconstrued’.

This places SEM in the position of being vandalised, protested about and possibly being legislated against for not only doing nothing wrong but doing something the authorities chose not to say was causing offence.

It is no way for government to operate, any more than it would be right for the States of Guernsey to harass a business here over unspecified – but legal – activities.

SEM’s PR may be lacking and its MD’s newsletter deeply offensive to many Sarkees but even when the flying vet Maurice Kirk was making life hell for the Guernsey authorities, officialdom had to be seen to be unbiased, even-handed and proportionate – no matter how it might have felt.

Sark is right to fear becoming a ‘company town’, the same as Guernsey would. It could legislate to prevent any business from abusing a defined, dominant position but it cannot be seen to be waging a retrospective war against a legitimate operation.

This is important for Sark itself. Operations in the name of Chief Pleas are seen as out of step with norms of good governance. It is on the radar of the Ministry of Justice. It has had much coded advice from Lord McNally.

A senior civil servant has been parachuted in to ‘assist’ in every possible way yet Sark has refused to tell Guernsey Police how many people are licensed to hold firearms or what weapons they possess.

Everyone is willing Sark to succeed and to remain special.

But it can do so only in the context of a changing world and, to date, it is not helping itself.

Comments for: "Lessons from the flying vet"


You at least got this right....

"SEM’s PR may be lacking and its MD’s newsletter deeply offensive"

..but that was all.

You will have to do rather better if you are to wriggle and justify the journalistic vandalism that you performed yesterday. Instead you are continuing the same subjective and innuendo-laden onslaught today.

Is that any sort of press complaints process on Guernsey?

The entire premise of the SEM was that it could fly in the face of 450 years of experience and make money by forcing changes on Sark that undermined the very essence of Sark, against the wishes of the majority of islanders. Never mind that the lawful holder of the fief has been dispossessed by dogmatic diktat as crudely as any aboriginal or native American tribe.

As someone noted elsewhere, Beaumont's big mistake was not to put on an eagle feather head dress or paint his body with ethnic design. Had he done so, the world's celebs would probably flock to protest on his behalf.

Of course a tourist business on the scale envisaged by the SEM is not sustainable without fundamental change to the Island's way of life.

Even if you don't realise it sitting in Guernsey, the electors know it - and voted accordingly.

The vines are experimental - the SEM paid advisor said as much when he described last years derisory crop as a "laboratory" vintage. In all these circumstances, Chief Pleas is duty bound to try and restrain further fundamental distortions of the economy and ecology without proof of sustainability - and especially now that Delaney has thrown his toys out of the pram once more.

GP credibility remains at rock bottom amongst most of the Sarkese who know a "free press" when they see one. Right now, the GP might as well publish under the SNL banner.


It's good of you to draw the parallel with Maurice Kirk - but there seems to have been precious little learned from that process about dealing with "difficult" people that would relevant here. Just imagine how much more horrible that job would have been if Mo has been backed by billionaires...

Jen Moss

"Sark has refused to tell Guernsey Police how many people are licensed to hold firearms or what weapons they possess."

Well - I believe there are a couple of old guys with a battery of functioning canons - and there must also be a considerable supply of explosives such as gunpowder involved.

But otherwise, why should Sark tell Guernsey anyway? Are you lot planning an invasion to liberate us from the SEM - or vice versa? After the tone of recent opinion and comment, I don't think we would put it past you lot!


I have a theory as to why they refuse to tell the Guernsey Police how many firearms are held in Sark ... it's because they haven't got a bloody clue

Why should they tell anyway? Well if someone does get shot by accident or on purpose who are you going to call eh? .. who are you going to call!


Bearing in mind that the SEM/SNL seems to find out anything that is allegedly confidential on Guernsey, they are quite right not to let on.

Maybe Sark learned a lesson from WW2 - if there might be an automatic rifle, shotgun and a pistol in a securely locked cabinet in every Sark residence, it would oblige unwanted invaders to think twice.


Totally unbelievable whoever wrote this.

So evidence is building that Chief Pleas is lacking efficacy as a credible body - 28 conseillors elected for a population of around 600, - roughly one counseillor elected for every 17 people. Or are you saying that those 28 are incompetant, and the electorate imbecilic

So you found the Agricultural Committee failure to protest about the first 12 field plantings of vines in case they were miscontrued unbelievable. Ah now conseillors are expected not to be even handed and impartial, they should have protested against the first plantings.

Reading this article was like reading the Sark Newsletter - but at least if made clear to Guernsey and Sark readers where the Guernsey press stands.

(now I wonder if this comment will be edited!)


Who remembers the French bloke who tried to take over Sark with a machine gun back in the 80s/90s??

I think he was overpowered by the SAS trained drinkers in the Mermaid.


It's covered in Sark's wikipedia entry.

André Gardes was sat on a bench fiddling with his AK47 when the constable nicked him.

Maybe he came back loaded with vine plants instead?


Still no name on the opinion piece.

Cast adrift

I never thought I'd say it but I think the best thing would be for Sark to be cast adrift by Guernsey and let them fend for themselves. This constant whingeing and refusal to accept the 21st century is getting so tiresome, let them go back to the "good old days" if they want to, and let them deal with their own policing, health, defence, political and judicial matters. It would then become crystal clear to all just how backward the place is, which is evidently how most of them like it. Quite how they'll survive financially is questionable, but that will be down to them to sort out, not Guernsey.


It looks like some Guerns are getting increasingly jealous of Sark's autonomy.

This echoes the discussion over Frau Merkle's arrogant comments to Cameron about the UK leaving the EU. Analysis shows small independent island states INVARIABLY do better than conglomerate federations.

The great benefit of power blocks like the EU is the ease with which career politicians, civil servants and their pensions can get lost in VAST budgets that can never be properly accountable. It also suits global corporations and the wealthy who always seem to run rings around the sort of modest intellects that float to the top of these political dinosaurs.


Sark is already autonomous from Guernsey isn't it? It has its own government and finances itself. I don't see what is to cut adrift?

I like the good relationship we have with each other.


Yes, Sark is notionally independent, but is still "meddled with" by any minor jobsworth on Guernsey or in the Ministry of Injustice that finds it hard to accept that an island of just 600 is really able to handle itself without their meddling interventions.

Although subsequently overshadowed by Crowe, the excellent Beith report (http://bit.ly/aXtFPo) said that Sark was being over-obstructed by Westminster and buried in irrelevant and officious trivia. And that has only got worse since.

Sark's best move would appear to be to go for FULL independence before more time is wasted on pointless and irrelevant process and form filling. Then introduce a 20% tax on all ugly property worth more than £3m; and charge £1m PA for a licence to print a weekly newspaper for distribution on the Island.

Do your homework..

Cast adrift.. please do check you have a clue what your talking about before posting comments,,, Sark does not receive a penny from Guernsey,, We pay for everything here, health, policing, education, so there is nothing for Guernsey to "cast adrift"...

And unlike Guernsey we are in the black ...


I don't get the hostility here. It's an opinion piece, a point of view from the paper.

The issue is whether the facts support the conclusions drawn.

For most Guerns, SEM's lack of judgement and sensitivity in going about its operations is one thing; the extablishment's reaction is quite another.

State sponsored repression is always ugly



"State sponsored repression"

What are you going on about?

I think you have made the point that the GP needs to take more care - your opinion seems to have been received from the misleading GP comment.

Or is any action of a democratically elected government now to be known as "State sponsored repression"? In which case, I have a few thousand more crusades for you...