Some Scottish News& Views #95

SOME SCOTTISH NEWS & VIEWS
Issue # 95                                                                           Week ending 9th July 2011

Some Sydney Scots Australian News
Macquarie Presbyterian Church on Sunday 3rd July saw Coisir Ghaidhlig Astrailianach take part in a Tartan Day Service to a very warm and appreciative congregation

Coisir Ghaidhlig Astrailianach will be singing at a Clans Kirking of the Tartan Service at 9.30am in St Lukes Presbyterian Church, Lord Street, Roseville, Sydney on 31st  July.   Clan Societies will be parading their banners and the Pipes & Drums of Knox College will play in the grounds at 9.15am and after the service. The Service will be followed by A grand morning brunch & sausage sizzle All are welcome.

Coisir Ghaidhlig Astrailianach has been accepted to sing with 30 other choirs at the Blackheath Choir Festival  during the weekend of 26-28th August. for details of the festival please Contact 0437 255 816 or have a look at www.blackheathchoirfestival.weebly.com.

Liam Gallagher Has Proved to Me That I’m Master of the Universe by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press and Journal
Is it me or what? A number of unlikely developments have come about recently which I had an instinctive feeling would happen.  For instance, at the moment, I keep thinking there must be some kind of a sentence where you could use the word ‘if’ twice, one after the other. I just can’t think of it just now.

It seems that no matter how outrageous the concept, if I get that wee niggling feeling in my tickly bits that it could happen, it actually does.  It doesn’t happen straight away, of course. It’s almost as if, if I wait long enough, some of the things that I want to happen just do.

I remember thinking years ago that if some of our great musicians quit the booze, we could have truly greats of British music again. I was thinking of Oasis because I thought they hadn’t achieved what they could do because they were always legless. Maybe they will clean up their act, I said.

Everyone scoffed at me. Like that is going to happen, they sniggered.

Guess what? The rudest half of Oasis was on TV the other night saying he’s been off the hard stuff since New Year and is feeling good. He’s working better than ever. His music won’t be as unpredictable, as in your face or as loud but … hey, just forget it. Just have a couple of wee drams, cove, for old times, eh?

Seriously, this sort of thing keeps happening to me. I get some wacky idea in my head about something which is very unlikely to happen and which is rubbished by everyone and then, after a while, it just happens. Am I a prophet?

Two years ago, I wrote about my encounter with a thrusting Labour minister called James Purnell. He was up in Stornoway because of his work and pensions portfolio and was sorting out weavers’ payments. Or somebody was and he was scooping up the credit, as ministers do.
Yet, while I know New Labour apparatchiks have a tendency to be a bit sleek and shallow, the guy Purnell seemed on the ball. He appeared to be genuinely interested in a whole lot of aspects of life up here - and not just when my recorder was switched on either. We talked of many things over the Cabernet Sauvignon, including Marina MacSween’s amazing fish-shaped pastries and the plight of crofters in general.

He wondered what a real crofter looked like and, just then, in walked George Gawk, in his dungarees and wellingtons. When I pointed him out as an example of a self-sufficent stockholder, the minister of state was deeply shocked.  He took one look at the Gawk and vowed that if he ever became premier he would definitely do something about people like that.

For people like that, surely, minister?

Sadly, I didn’t catch his reply because the fins of yet another haddock-shaped culinary creation by Mrs Macsween had become embedded in his windpipe and I had to wallop the minister for works and pensions violently across the back to ensure he lived to claim his own state handout.
Afterwards though, I thought he was the kind of positive person we need running this country. He would, I felt sure, soon replace Brown and I think I wrote that without any doubt he was our next prime minister.   Soon after, he and Gordon Brown had a falling-out, he called on Brown to quit and then Purnell himself had to toddle off into the sunset. Oh well.
Now there is speculation that he is to make a dramatic comeback to rid the country of Red Ed.  Miliband Jnr’s dire TV performance the other day in the interview about the public service strikes, in which he answered five different questions with the same answer, has got the party frantic.

They now realise they desperately need someone else - but who? Someone who can hold a conversation without looking and sounding like a robot would be nice. Which is why some of the top Labour people have been phoning up Purnell and asking him round for a nip and a nibble - but no fish-shaped pastries, obviously.  They want him to stand in the next by-election, the dalek Miliband will given the old heave-ho and Purnell could be leader by Christmas. And my prediction will come to pass - albeit a year or two behind schedule.

The other side of the coin is that I may not be foretelling the future at all. What if I am actually controlling it? I may, in some very strange way, be able to control what’s happening - just by thinking it. Yeah, that’s it.  

To the disgust of Mrs X, I foretold that Andy Murray wouldn’t win Wimbledon. Need I say more?

It’s early days but I am beginning to think that I could control world events without me having quite realised it. Until today. Just think of the power I now have. If I think that my lottery numbers will come up, I bet they will. Soon.

Ach, why bother with the lottery when I have these amazing new powers? If I just think that the bank will credit my account with a million pounds, it just will. I just know it.  Hmm, that would be wrong but I’m not a very good criminal. When I stole a dictionary from Roddy Smith’s, the newsagents, when I was 11, I couldn’t sleep until I sent them postal orders for three times what it was worth.

Petty crime is very annoying. It takes place even here in Stornoway. We became victims ourselves two weeks ago when someone made off with some washing from the line out the back.  I know it was only Mrs X’s frillies but I would like to make a direct appeal to the thief to have a heart.  Keep that pair of bloomers if you want but you could at least return the 40 pegs that were holding it up.

Lifeboat Rescues Stuck Climbers
Two climbers had to be rescued by lifeboat in the early hours of Sunday morning after getting stuck half way up a 200ft-high sea cliff in Wester Ross.  The man and woman got into trouble around midnight and their two climbing companions phoned for help. Coastguard rescue teams from Achiltibuie and Ullapool were sent to the scene at Meall Garbh between Ardmair and Rhue.  It was also decided to launch Lochinver lifeboat.   However instead of attempting a rope rescue with the Coastguard teams, the stranded pair managed to climb back down to the sea where the lifeboat's smaller 'Y' boat collected them.

Price Rises 'Increase Fuel Poverty'
Fuel poverty is defined as spending 10% or more of household income on domestic fuel bills.  Almost 170,000 extra households could be forced into fuel poverty if Scottish Power's price hike is replicated by the other suppliers, Labour says.   The new figure was revealed in answers to parliamentary questions from the party.  Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure Alex Neil said as of 2009, 770,000 households were estimated to be in fuel poverty, however, if recently announced price increases by Scottish Power were replicated by other suppliers, up to 169,000 more households could suffer.   Last month Scottish Power announced an average 19% increase to gas customers and 10% for electricity customers from August 1.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "There has been good progress on improving the energy efficiency of Scotland's homes but, time and again, the Scottish Government's efforts to lift people out of fuel poverty are being undermined by high fuel prices."  The spokesman added that Mr Gray's claims about the Scottish Government are wrong: "The Scottish Government's universal home insulation scheme's budget has actually been increased by 25%, from £10 million to £12.5 million, and is helping people right across Scotland."

Anger Over British Gas Price Hikes (and now another company in a profits grab - Robin )
MPs and charities have called for Government action after British Gas announced it is putting up the price of both gas and electricity.  The company, which trades as Scottish Gas north of the border, announced that it will increase gas bills by an average of 18% and electricity bills by 16% from August 18.   Angus MP Mike Weir, the SNP's energy spokesman, said: "There is a limit to which people can keep absorbing massive energy price increases like this. The UK Government has a duty to step in.  Scotland is an energy rich nation, yet energy bills for Scottish households climb month after month. Until there is a top level review of the domestic and international energy market, domestic customers will continue to suffer. UK ministers also have to take action to help businesses avoid being crushed under the weight of these additional costs."

Labour Glasgow Central MP Anas Sarwar accused British Gas of attempting to bury bad news by announcing its price hikes amid a storm over phone hacking.  He said: "To announce massive hikes in energy prices minutes after David Cameron began delivering a statement about the phone hacking scandal is a clear attempt by British Gas to bury bad news. It's bad enough that they're pushing gas and electricity prices up by as much as 18%, but to release this information to the public amid a media storm is a cynical move."

Glasgow 'Powerhouse' Must Target Private Investors, Says Commission
Research from the Glasgow Economic Commission, a group set up after the recession involving business leaders such as Weir Group chief executive Keith Cochrane and Tesco Bank boss Benny Higgins, recommends that a new "private-public leadership body" be established to co-ordinate the economic development efforts of the city council, Scottish Enterprise, the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and other organisations.  The commission, which has been working on the study for eight months, recommends that particular attention should be paid to attracting low carbon industries, engineering, design and manufacturing firms. Other key sectors should include life sciences, financial services and tourism, the group said.

The commission was chaired by University of Strathclyde principal Jim McDonald and also involved Bailie Liz Cameron of Glasgow City Council and Ian Curle of the Edrington Group. McDonald said Glasgow stood "at the cusp" of reshaping its commercial and business profile. "Glasgow can now reshape itself, in a partnership between the public and private sector, to build jobs, build wealth creation, and build new industries that play on the international stage," he said.   He argued that the city had undergone major transformations in the past, such as its move from an industry and trade focus to financial services and retail, and a private-public body would help steer the next stage of its economic development.  The report recommends a number of "alternative funding" options to drive economic growth, such as tax increment financing (TIF) - a complex form of funding involving future business rates - and using public land to incentivise private investment.

Patients Are Put At Risk, Say Highland First Aiders in Walk-out
First-aid volunteers working in a remote Highland community have claimed patients are at risk due to a lack of emergency ambulance cover.  The West Ardnamurchan "First Responders" scheme - under which local people are trained to provide first aid while health staff travel to the scene - has collapsed after nine of its ten members quit in a row with the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS).  Rosie Curtis, chairwoman of West Ardnamurchan Community Council, confirmed yesterday that the area's scheme had folded after a mass walk-out of members on Tuesday.  

Mrs Curtis, one of those who quit, said members were "sickened" by what they saw as the SAS's determination to use them as a free alternative to a fully professional service.  But the ambulance service said First Responders were always used to enhance the local service, and never to replace it.  Mrs Curtis said: "West Ardnamurchan's First Responders are determined not to be exploited by a Scottish Ambulance Service which is hell-bent on saving money instead of providing proper 24-hour 999 cover. So we have resigned.   "Following NHS Highland's decision last December to withdraw its district nurses from 24-hour emergency cover, the ball has been in the ambulance service's court to find some way of delivering their statutory obligation to be on-scene within 30 minutes of an emergency, yet they keep talking of using us First Responders to hold the fort until help arrives.  "In a remote area like Ardnamurchan, this is downright dangerous, as the nearest ambulance is a minimum of 50 minutes away, and can take as long as two hours to get here.

A Big Thank You From Sollas
The North Uist community of Sollas was celebrating their win of £60,000 from the Jubilee People’s Millions at the weekend which will bring new life to the old Dunskellar School.  As communities across the Western Isles watched many schools close their doors for the last time at the end of last week, the success story in Sollas will surely bring hope that these buildings can continue to remain part of community life.  Taigh Sgire Sholais was set up to take forward a project to renovate the building into a community hall which was fit for purpose.  Having closed in 2002, the building was gifted to the community in 2004 but was in a desperate state of disrepair.   The community first raised £17,000 to repair the roof of the building but needed more funds to continue with the project to carry out extensive repairs and alterations at an estimated cost of £120,000.  With local fundraising over the last seven years and with assistance from Community Energy Scotland, Comhairle nan Eilean siar and HIE, the community had secured half the cash needed.  The remaining £60,000 from the People’s Millions is such a relief to the committee.

Crown Estates Announces £230m Profit and Will Retain Power
The Crown Estates Commission has defended its record in Scotland after announcing yesterday a £230.9 million profit collected from property it runs across the UK.  The commission is currently under pressure from the SNP to devolve property in Scotland to the Scottish Government or to local communities.  Control of the seabeds up to 50 miles out in Scottish waters is one of the top three economic demands made by the SNP ministers who want to make use of the asset to maximise revenue from wind and tidal power.  But Chancellor George Osborne has suggested that he would prefer to devolve the Crown Estates across the UK to local communities.  The total sum of the profit made in Scotland is due to be published in two weeks, but all profits currently go directly to the Treasury.

It is understood that the Scottish Affairs Select Committee is planning to recommend that the Crown Estates property in Scotland should be devolved to communities and bypass Holyrood altogether.  Committee sources have also made clear that they believe the commission has been "high handed" in the way it treats communities and has had more concern about profit than benefiting local areas. However, the UK profit of £230.9m from the commission, which acts as an arms length manager of the property for the government, has added fuel to SNP demands that the powers be devolved to the Scottish Government.

Angus MacNeil, SNP MP for the Western Isles, said: "The announcement of these record profits reinforces the case for devolution of the Crown Estate so that Scotland can manage its own marine assets for the benefit of our people.  The Scottish Government has the lead role in exploiting Scotland's considerable potential for renewable energy - including responsibility for economic development as well as both land-based and marine planning. Yet it is the Crown Estate Commissioners who grant leases for offshore projects and there is no obligation on the CEC to work in partnership with our economic development bodies."

Outcry As Scots Cities Miss Key Green Target
Scotland’s largest cities are failing to meet the Government’s target for recycling waste and the country is now lagging behind England and Wales, according to official new figures.  Half of Scotland’s councils – including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and Highland – are falling short of the green goal and their poor performance has been condemned by environmental groups.  

The Scottish Government set a series of targets to boost recycling in 2008, aiming to achieve 40% in 2010, 50% in 2013 and 70% in 2025. In 2009, when the Environment Secretary, Richard Lochhead, launched his plan for a “zero-waste Scotland”, he stressed that “we need to reach 40% by the end of 2010”.  But figures released by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) reveal for the first time that 16 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities have missed this target.  The big cities, which generate the most waste, did particularly badly. Glasgow only recycled 23.8% of its rubbish, one of the lowest rates in Scotland, with Aberdeen managing just 30% and Edinburgh 31.6%.

The average recycling rate for all Scottish local authorities – 37.8% – has also fallen behind the rates achieved south of the Border. The latest figures show that English local authorities are recycling 39.7% of their waste, while municipal waste recycling in Wales has reached 40%.  Local authorities, however, pointed out that despite problems, they had increased waste recycling in recent years. “Glasgow has always faced challenges in improving its recycling performance due to the nature of housing in the city,” said Councillor Jim Coleman,  “We have seen year-on-year improvement in our performance targets thanks to the various initiatives introduced,”  Councillor Robert Aldridge, the environmental leader at the City of Edinburgh Council, said that tenements made recycling more difficult. He added: “In spite of this, our recycling rate continues to increase year on year and will continue to grow.”  The Scottish Government pointed out that its targets were for the whole country, not just for local authorities. A spokeswoman praised the “excellent progress” that had been made.

Gangs Project Helps Reduce Violence
A scheme to tackle gangs has almost halved the level of violent offending, according to police.  Latest figures from the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV) show violent offending by those who signed up to the initiative reduced by 46%.  The project, set up by the joint police and government body known as the Violence Reduction Unit, started in the east end of Glasgow in 2008 and was extended to the north side of the city in 2009. To date, 400 gang members have signed up.

Chief Inspector Robert Stevenson, who works in CIRV, said the project appears to be twice as effective as other attempts to tackle gang violence. "Traditionally police have responded to gang violence with enforcement led techniques," he said. "We've been doing that for 70 years in the city, and yet here we are in 2011 and we still have the same embedded problem in communities.  What we do is offer the gang members a choice. We say to them, you be in a gang if you like, if that's your support network and that's where your friends are, but if you continue to cause harm to one another and cause harm to your communities then we know who you are, we know who you fight with and we know what weapons you're carrying, and we will do everything we can to put you away from the community for a significant period of time.  But here's a choice. Currently you are unemployable the way you are living your life. Come and work with us. We'll put you through personal development and employability programmes in the hope that in the long term you'll get a stable employed lifestyle."

Mr Stevenson said experience has shown that gang members who use the service go on to recommend it to other gang members, fostering a sense of trust between police and the gangs. CIRV's second year report shows a 46% reduction in violent offending amongst participating gang members, compared to 25% amongst non-cooperative gang members.  Weapons carrying among CIRV clients has dropped 85%, compared to 53% amongst non-clients, while overall, there has been a 12% decrease in total violence in Glasgow East compared to a 1% increase in Glasgow South where CIRV does not currently operate.

Probe Launched After Men Found Dead
An investigation has been launched after two men were found dead at an address in the Touch area of Dunfermline on Sunday evening.  Detective Inspector David McLaren, who is leading the investigation for Fife Constabulary, said: "We are in the very early stages of an investigation and at this time we are treating the deaths of these two men as unexplained. The identity of the men will not be released until next of kin have been informed.   Elsewhere, a 34-year-old man died suddenly at an address in Cooper's Court, Ellon, Aberdeenshire.  A spokesman for Grampian Police said: "Grampian Police can confirm that inquiries are being made into the sudden death of a 34-year-old male reported to the police on Saturday.

Missing British Soldier Found Dead
A British soldier who went missing from his base in southern Afghanistan has been found dead with gunshot wounds, the Ministry of Defence said.  Prime Minister David Cameron, who is in Afghanistan, was said to be "deeply saddened" after the body of the serviceman, from The Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, was found after a massive manhunt.  He had been reported missing from a military checkpoint in the early hours of Monday morning, and Taliban groups have claimed responsibility for killing him.   Downing Street sources said the Prime Minister was "deeply saddened" by news that the soldier had become the British armed forces' 375th fatality during the decade-long campaign.

Decisions Made Over Military Bases
The Government has taken decisions over which if any UK military bases will close, Defence Secretary Liam Fox has said.   Speculation has raged over the futures of bases up and down the country, including RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, home to two squadrons of Tornados.  Dr Fox told MPs the findings of a review would be revealed in the near future.  He was answering a question from the Scottish National Party's Westminster leader Angus Robertson.  

JK Rowling Drops the Man Who Conjured Up Her Millions
The Edinburgh-based author has ended her association with Christopher Little in a move which has shocked the publishing industry.  He has been dubbed “the man who conjured up Rowling’s millions”. But today it is the costs not the cash that Mr Little will count, as he ponders a future without his most famous client.  Ms Rowling has parted company with Little and his firm, the Christopher Little Literary Agency. In doing so, she has severed a 16-year working relationship which has proved one of the most profitable the book world has known. The author’s current personal fortune is estimated at £530 million and she is, by any yardstick, the world’s most popular author.

Rowling-watchers and publishing industry executives alike will be particularly interested in the split with Mr Little coming just weeks after the unveiling of Ms Rowling’s new website, Pottermore. A collaboration with Sony, it launches in October and will contain a wealth of material the author wrote but did not use in any of the seven Harry Potter novels.  Providing the technical expertise is digital agency TH_NK, in whose London offices The Blair Partnership is currently based. Mr Blair and Ms Rowling worked on the website together.

Access to Pottermore will be free. Tellingly, however, the site will be the only place fans can buy the Harry Potter novels in e-book form. Rowling’s arrival on the e-book scene has been late in coming but greatly anticipated as the form increases in popularity, and publishers and agents scramble to accommodate it. Speaking at the press conference announcing the launch of Pottermore, the 45-year-old author admitted she had only recently had her eyes opened to the potential of electronic publishing.  “Very recently, for the first time, I downloaded an e-book and it is miraculous, for travel and for children,” she said. “I feel great about taking Harry Potter into this new medium.”  

Landing Lights Smashed on Airstrip (You get vandals everywhere- Robin)
Vandals have smashed landing lights on an island airstrip which is often used to take people to hospital.   Three lights on Ashaig Airstrip on the Isle of Skye were broken with stones, said police.  The 24-hour facility is mainly used to evacuate patients in need of specialist medical care to the mainland.  Northern Constabulary said the lights, which allow the airstrip to be used while it is dark, were smashed between 12.30pm on Thursday last week and 9.30am on Saturday.  Police are appealing for any witnesses to come forward

Treasures From the Vault
On 5km of shelves, in a nondescript building in the Gyle area of Edinburgh, sits the financial records of our nation.  At the official archive of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), a dedicated team of five archivists maintains a watchful eye over what constitutes an alternative biography of Scotland. Here the temperature is a steady 16C, humidity is 50 per cent and the lighting low, so as to best maintain these treasures for posterity.  For the historians, academics and ordinary members of the public who visit each day the archive is an Aladdin's Cave.  While the RBS archive stays cool and dim to protect its contents, it has recently stepped into the spotlight's glare by putting a range of historical documents on public display for the first time. In partnership with the National Library of Scotland, RBS has set up a new exhibition entitled The Key of the Universe: Scotland and Darien 1695-1707.

It was from the ashes of the disaster of the Darien Venture that RBS was born. Scotland's attempt to set up a trading company to rival England's East India Company, to be based at the isthmus of Panama, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Scots colonisers and the near bankruptcy of the nation. As a consequence of the site's abandonment in 1700, the Scots Parliament agreed seven years later to the union of parliaments – but the parliamentarians and Scottish nobility were granted financial compensation in recognition of their losses.  In Scotland, a group of fund managers was appointed to administer these payments from the new parliament of the United Kingdom. They discovered that they had spare money to invest and decided to set up a bank. After petitioning King George I for his approval, they received a royal charter in 1727 and established The Royal Bank of Scotland.  As a result, RBS has possession of many of the oldest documents related to the Darien venture, including the Records of the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies, its record books, its first minute book and letters from colonists who travelled in hope to the New World, only to be greeted with disappointment, despair and, for almost 2,000, death.

As does the story of RBS itself, to judge by the fascinating array of letters, files and other items it has gathered up over almost three centuries of business.  In the early days after its foundation in Edinburgh with just eight members of staff, its older rival, Bank of Scotland regularly tried to put it out of business by hoarding RBS banknotes and suddenly presenting them for payment, in the hope that they would lack the necessary gold and so be forced to close.  In 1745, John Campbell, the bank's chief cashier, whose personal diary is in the archives, was forced to move funds and precious records into Edinburgh Castle when the Jacobites arrived. The bank was also forced to pay a large sum to Bonnie Prince Charlie – used to fund the Jacobite march on England.   Explore the RBS archive items online: http://www.rbs.com/about-rbs/g2/heritage/rbs-history-100.ashx

Transport Axe Sparks Fear for Beachview's Future
Highland Council is axing the minibus services it provides for adults with learning disabilities to attend its day care centres in Sutherland and Easter Ross.  The door-to-door service to the Beachview Centre in Brora and the Isobel Rhind Centre in Invergordon, is expected to cease by the end of August.  Families are up in arms over the cost-cutting measure which could leave some vulnerable adults unable to access day care.  The move has also sparked fears over the future of the Beachview Centre.  Dornoch residents Gordon and Clementina Lindsay, Stafford Road, look after their autistic nephew Iain Corkendale (26) who attends both Beachview and the Isobel Rhind Centre.  Mr Lindsay said: "No transport, no clients, no Beachview. It is obvious where they are going."  He suggested the move was a "back door" way to shut Beachview and force users of the service on to the new Self-Directed Support (SDS) system which is favoured by the government but is optional.   

English Demand Say on Future of Scotland

Almost half of English people oppose Scottish independence and want to have a say if Scots vote to control their own affairs, a new poll shows.  The findings kicked off a furious row after the chairman of the polling company suggested it showed there was no such thing as “Scottishness”.  Asked about the company’s findings, Andrew Hawkins said they could add weight “to the argument “Scottishness” itself is specious, that Scots are simply those who live in the northern-most part of Great Britain.”

Stewart Hosie, the SNP’s Treasury spokesman, said the comments were “outrageous”. He added: “To suggest there is no such thing as Scottishness, and by definition no such thing as Scotland, is an extraordinary statement and one which seems based on nothing more than individual prejudice.  It is also a suggestion which should anger all Scots whatever their political views. Scotland is unquestionably a nation, regardless of people’s views on the country’s constitutional future.” Alex Salmond has always insisted a decision on independence is one for Scotland alone and there is no role for English opinion. However, there have been calls for other parts of the UK to have a vote.  Academics have also suggested a separate second referendum could be needed, potentially on both sides of the border, to agree any “deal” done on separation

On an English referendum, the poll reveals an almost even split in public opinion. Almost half (45%) think a vote should be held in the rest of the UK if Scotland backs independence, but almost the same number, 47%, say that there should be no such vote. Just over one in three support a separate Scotland, almost the same percentage as Scots who were questioned in a survey last month.  On Scottish independence nearly half (48%) also oppose the idea of a separate Scotland, almost half as many again as the 36% who support it.  However, there are also a significant number of “don’t knows”, 15%, who say they have not made up their mind.

Despite complaints from English MPs that Scotland receives too much money from central Government more than half of those asked thought that a standalone Scotland would make no difference to England’s affluence.   Those from higher social classes were more likely to oppose an independent Scotland, the poll also reveals. Women were also more likely than men to think that England should get its own referendum. One in three of those asked (36%) think that England itself should be independent, while 57% were opposed to such a move.

World’s First Gaelic Speaking Teddy Ready to Hit Shops
A soft and cuddly bear that teaches babies, toddlers and children 33 words in Gaelic, is set to be a great Christmas stocking filler in Scotland this year.  A must-have for all toddlers and a great aid to any parents wishing to give their children a start in the Gaelic language, this colourful new bear will be available from November.  At the press of buttons on ears, paws, feet and tummy this new toy speaks lots of colours, numbers and shapes in Gaelic.

Stornoway-based children’s publisher Acair Limited have received a grant from Bòrd na Gàidhlig to develop the first Gaelic-speaking toy. Suitable for children aged six months upwards, the 12 inches tall teddy is the first step for Acair into the toy market.  The teddy bear features the voice of 3 year old Iona MacLean from High Borve in Lewis.  The Gaelic speaking teddy bear will be available from November 2011, but will also be previewed at this year’s Royal National Mòd in Stornoway in October.

Comhairle Chief to Be Part of Commision on Rural Education
The Commission set up by the Scottish Government to examine rural education will be chaired by Sheriff David Sutherland who regularly sits in Stornoway Sheriff Court.  Chief Executive of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Malcolm Burr will also be a member.  The Commission is tasked with examining both how the delivery of rural education can maximise the attainment and life chances of young people in rural areas, and the link between rural education and rural communities.  The Commission will also review the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 and its application and make recommendations on the delivery of all aspects of education in rural areas.

City Street Hit by Flash Flooding

Homes and businesses have been hit by flash floods after heavy rain in the Scottish capital.
Cars were seen floating down the road in Balcarres Street in Edinburgh as water levels rose.
Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue said that it has been overrun with calls reporting flooding from around 3pm onwards on Friday afternoon.  It has brought in high-volume pumping appliances from the Borders to help clear the excess water.