Some Scottish News & Views #96

Issue # 96                                                                              Week ending 16th July 2011

Some Sydney Scots Australian News
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

Hopes of Generations Often Are Shouldered by Young Councillors by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal
There have been some amazing coincidences over the years involving people’s names.
Probably the best example I recall is the one from the late-1950s where a guy called George D. Bryson booked into a hotel in Kentucky. After checking in and getting his key for room 307, he asked if any letters had arrived for him. He was given an envelope addressed to George D. Bryson, room 307.  But it wasn’t for him. It was for room 307’s previous occupant, who was also called George D. Bryson. That’s true. Just google it and you will see various confirmations. The Brown Hotel in Louisville, if I remember correctly.

I happened to be just googling the other day and I don’t know what made me click on the name Angus Campbell.

Up popped a story announcing that council leader Angus Campbell was not going to stand for election again because he had too much on his plate. Well, I thought to myself, the top councillor at Western Isles Council had only hinted he may not stand again. That’s the sort of thing crazed, power-hungry politicians do when they are trying to gauge if they still have any support among colleagues or whether they should head for the exit.  In his case, obviously, he is only saying he may quit because he has a lot on his plate.  Didn’t think anything was that definite, though.

There was a statement from the conservative association saying they were not surprised because Councillor Campbell was such a busy fellow.

What on earth does the departure of our famously non-political council boss have to do with the Tories? Do we have actually have a conservative association here with spokespeople and stuff? Has the cove from the Battery signed up to Cameron’s lot.
When I checked further I discovered the Angus Campbell in question was not the Stornoway oil baron who is leader of our local authority. It was, wait for it, the leader of another local authority.
There are two of them? Yup. The leader of Dorset County Council has also been burdened all his life with the name Angus Campbell.  What are the chances of that? And both so, er, good looking. Uncanny. For people of their ages.

His council is trying to save £31.1 million. Same job, different figures.

I remember when my classmate Angus Campbell was elected. He was about the youngest there. It was going to be a new dawn in island politics because we all knew him as someone who wouldn’t put up with cliques and vested interests which had dragged the name of our local authority in the mud for so long.

The Free Church influence on decision-making would be reined in. We were all sure of the noble priorities which would be set by the fun-loving Angus. OK, that hasn’t quite happened yet for some reason. Must still be a work in progress.

The same is happening in Aberdeen City Council. No, not the Free Church thing but they have just installed the youngest council leader in Scotland. SNP councillor Callum McCaig is just 26.
I got in touch with him to see what made him tick - and also, of course, to see if there were any obvious comparisons with the still-youthful-in-a-poor-light council leader called Angus Campbell. The island one, not the Dorset one, obviously.

What does the new supremo like? Friends, family and food, he replied. Yeah yeah, that’s what every councillor says - except the fat ones.   What does McCaig really have no time for? He hates losing, he has no patience for long queues and he really detests those awful, annoying people who are always late for things. Wow, good answer.

Who in Aberdeen will now dare to be even a minute late for anything where the council leader is present when they know that deep down he will resent them for it and they will be unlikely to get his agreement for anything - ever?

Shrewdest political move of the week - if you discount Ed Miliband going from robotic geek to national agenda-setter in two days. Well done, both of them.

I bet our glorious leader will now wish he’d stamped his authority on the council in the same way he has on, for example, island fuel prices.  Callum McCaig also tells me he is a jogger. OK, I’ll just stop there trying to draw any comparisons with our top councillor.

Off-duty, the fit-like leader loves comedy and has been to the Edinburgh Fringe to see some very funny comics and some not so funny ones. I suggested he come and watch our licensing board in action if he wants to see off-the-wall goings-on involving some very unfunny people.
Despite the uber-teuchter name Callum, he tells me his people are from the south of Scotland although he knows the north and north-west through family holidays. His grandpa is in Tomich, down by Cannich, and he himself had a great jaunt to Gairloch with his mates after they left shool.   Not that long ago then, Callum.

He also tells me he doesn’t actually have another job. Running the council is a full-time thing over there in the north-east. Peculiar or what? Maybe that type of dedication will catch on here herr too one day. I don’t think so either, but that is what it should be - a full-time opportunity open to anyone whoever they are and wherever they are from.

Even here in Stornoway, we have tradesmen from all around the globe. We had some work done in Maciver Mansions last week by some tradesmen. The electrician’s name was Maciver and the plumber was a guy with the splendid surname of Nikpavlovich.  One of them is from here in Stornoway and other is from the far east.

Yes, Paul Maciver is from Bayble and you can’t get more east than that without getting your feet wet in the Minch.

Breakaway Church Holds First Services in the North
The historic first services of a new church denomination in the north of Scotland have taken place.
The tiny Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland (RPCS) was set up in Stornoway by worshippers who split from the Free Church in the aftermath of the row about introducing of hymns and music.  A small number, about 20, worshipped in the small Culrigrein meeting house at Manor Park, Stornoway, on Sunday.

The establishment of the Stornoway Reformed Presbyterian fellowship was a low-key split - the breakaway worshippers previously attended Stornoway Free Church.  Rev David Karoon, who quit the Free Church over its radical departure from exclusive unaccompanied psalm-singing, preached two services and will return next weekend.

Until June, the Reformed Presbyterians had fewer than 100 members in Scotland and only two churches, in Airdrie and Stranraer.  Mr Karoon, who hails from Singapore, is the former pastor at Arran Free Church.  Last year a unique Plenary Assembly decided to break the Free Church of Scotland's tradition of instrument-free, psalm-only singing. Some 200 ministers and elders voted 98 to 84 in favour at the historic forum in Edinburgh four months ago - the first since the denomination was created in 1843.

Scots Private Sector Continues its Climb
The pace of growth in the private sector economy accelerated in Scotland last month despite the uncertain economic outlook, research shows.  The latest Purchasing Managers Index from Bank of Scotland shows firms in both the services and manufacturing sectors made progress in June when the headline output index rose to 53.3, from 52.2 in May.  The index has now been above the 50 mark, which separates expansion from contraction, for six months running. The strong run will boost hopes that the downturn that occurred in the last quarter of 2010 was only a winter-related blip.  Bank of Scotland said the latest reading was above the long-run series average for Scotland.

Scottish Government ministers will likely take heart from the finding that service providers continued to expand activity “solidly” in the month, indicating that the key sector is recovering well from the downturn. However while firms in areas such as business services and travel, tourism and leisure expanded, financial services contracted for a second month running.  Ministers will probably be concerned to see that the increase in private sector activity is not resulting in the creation of jobs on the scale that Scotland needs. The deep cuts in public spending proposed by the Coalition Government are expected to result in a big reduction in employment in the sector. “With new business increasing only marginally for the second consecutive month, job creation stalled,” said Bank of Scotland.   Donald MacRae, chief economist at Bank of Scotland, said: “Marginal growth in new business and job creation suggest business is going through a ‘soft patch’ with subdued growth in the second quarter of this year decelerating below that of quarter one.”  Professor MacRae noted that input price inflation slowed for the fifth month running, but added: “Growth of purchase prices remained sharp primarily due to cost increases for fuel and utilities.”

Australia Bids to Lure Scots Staff
Skilled workers are being targeted as part of a recruitment drive to fill thousands of jobs in the booming economy of Western Australia.  The state, which has a growing energy industry sector, estimates it needs up to 150,000 skilled workers by 2017.  Areas for expansion include healthcare, construction, education and transport.  Peter Collier, a state government minister, plans to take the message to Aberdeen as part of a delegation on Wednesday. He said: "Working in Western Australia will give people the opportunity to develop skills that can be transferable back to their country of origin."  The delegation is also planning to visit London, Leeds and Dublin.  The state government says the economy there is facing a period of strong growth with long-term career opportunities in the mining and resources sector.  About £130 billion of resource and infrastructure projects are planned in the region, which aims to drive the country's economy.

Muslims Boycott Airport
Glasgow’s Muslims are boycotting the city’s main airport and choosing to fly from Manchester because of perceived harassment from counter-terrorism officers, it was claimed last night.  The allegations were made at a public meeting called to discuss concerns held by parts of the Asian community that powers held by police, ports and immigration officials to question travellers at travel hubs were abused, with travellers singled out solely on the basis of their race or skin colour.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill told around 70 people at Pollokshields Burgh Hall in Glasgow that Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 was a necessary tool in fighting global terrorism. He admitted there had been occasions when the powers had been used inappropriately, but said it was not deliberately used to target people because of their ethnicity.   But lawyer Aamer Anwar said some Muslims had become so disillusioned at the way they were treated at Glasgow Airport they decided to take their business south of the Border.  He said he would challenge police to deliver statistics on how much counter-terrorism intelligence had been delivered as a result of questioning travellers at the airport.  He said: “The questions are offensive, rude and intimidating in the way they are carried out. The police may like to claim they are collecting intelligence and they are like James Bond but I think they are coming across more like Austin Powers.”

Reports suggest ethnic minorities are 42 times more likely to be stopped under Schedule 7 at UK airports.  Mr MacAskill said: “It is quite clear incidents do occur that I think are inappropriate, and I regret that, but there is a reason and logic behind them (the use of powers).  People do have to be questioned about where they are going and yes it is not going to be me, it will probably be someone else from the Pakistani community given the nature of the flights and where they are going.”

Hunt is on for A Gardener to Join Canna Community
The island of Canna is looking for its latest new inhabitant, just four weeks after the arrival of a family of four boosted its tiny population.  This time, the community is seeking a green-fingered resident as they look for a professional gardener to complete the renovation and restoration project of Canna House Garden.  The post is offered by the Canna Community Association on behalf of the National Trust for Scotland, which owns the island, and will be funded on a full-time contract until the end of February 2013, with a part- time post thereafter.   NTS property manager Stewart Connor said: “We are especially keen to hear from people who would be interested in joining the community-managed vegetable and polytunnel project, and supporting our vision of at least semi-self sufficiency on Canna.  It is felt there is additional scope here to develop an income stream producing fruit, herbs and vegetables on a commercial basis for visitors to the island.

Salmond Visits Wave Energy Facility
A new generation of wave energy technology that can generate over twice as much power as existing machines is to be unveiled by the First Minister.  Wave energy developer Aquamarine Power will demonstrate the latest in leading edge hydro-electric technology to Alex Salmond when he visits the Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) yard in Methil, Fife where the 800kW flap for its new Oyster machine has been built.  Delivering 250% more power than the first Oyster, the new device incorporates design improvements, which will make it simpler to install and easier to maintain. A Scottish Government spokesman said: "This is an exciting time for Scotland's world-leading marine energy industry and today is another key moment in the journey to the commercial deployment of wave and tidal energy arrays that can harness the massive natural resources around our coast."

BP Invests £3bn in Oil Fields West of Shetland
Oil giant BP has announced plans for the £3 billion redevelopment of its Schiehallion oil field in the Atlantic frontier, west of Shetland, in a major boost for Britain's offshore industry.
The massive investment - the largest to be announced by a North Sea company since the Chancellor's controversial oil tax grab in the April Budget - will involve the replacement of the floating storage and production facility being used to extract oil from Schiehallion and the neighbouring Loyal field, 110 miles west of Shetland.  The current vessel has been operating in hostile waters since production came on stream in July 1998. Its replacement will be much larger - 270m long and 52m wide - and able to process and export up to 130,000 barrels of oil a day, and store in excess of one million barrels.  The two fields have already produced nearly 400 million barrels of oil and an estimated 450m are still to be recovered.

New European Fishing Rules May Cost 1,000 Scottish Jobs
Scottish fishermen's leaders yesterday warned that 1,000 jobs could be axed as a result of the radical reform of the controversial Common Fisheries Policy.  It's believed that the reform could also lead to the Scottish fishing fleet being cut by up to 20 per cent.

Ms Damanaki, the European fisheries minister, however, insisted radical change was needed, claiming that unless urgent action was taken to safeguard fragile stocks, the children of Europe would in future be seeing fish only in pictures.   Announcing proposals which could become law in 18 months, she said: "Action is needed now to get all our fish stocks back into a healthy state to preserve them for present and future generations. Only under this precondition can fishermen continue to fish and earn a decent living out of their activities."  Ms Damanaki warned that 75 per cent of all European fish stocks were still being overfished, with a third in a "worrying" state. She declared: "Our fleet is obese - and our efforts to slim it down with various incentives have been counterproductive. Too many fleet segments live on low profits, depend on subsidies for survival and are vulnerable to outside factors such as an increase in fuel prices.  Business as usual is not an option. According to our modelling exercise, if no reform takes place, only eight stocks out of 136 will be at sustainable levels in 2022. We cannot close our eyes any more. If we don't do it - let me be completely clear about it - our children will see fish not on their plates but only in pictures."

Ms Damanaki said: "The second thing we need to do for sustainability is stop waste: discards, which can amount to 60 per cent of catches in some fisheries, undermine all our data collection efforts and are morally and environmentally unacceptable."

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said the reforms would lead to a 20 per cent cut in the Scottish fleet's capacity.  He said: "That could mean a reduction of anywhere between 400 and 1,000 vessels, counting the small creel boats, and a reduction in employment of 1,000 people. That is completely unacceptable."

Mr Richard Lochhead, Scotland's fisheries minister, said he supported moves for a much clearer emphasis on fisheries conservation and a commitment to tackle the scandal of discards, but he warned of the danger posed by the (European] Commission's support for the international trading of fish quotas.  He declared: "There is a huge threat to Scotland lurking within these proposals because, alarmingly, the Commission is advocating an expansion in the international trading of fishing quotas. Selling quota to Europe's highest bidders will erode Scotland's historic rights, which in turn could spell doom for our fragile fishing communities."

Scenic Postcards Keep Villagers in the Picture
Postcards featuring a scenic image of Golspie are dropping through almost 800 letterboxes in the Sutherland village to keep people in the picture on improvements by Scottish Water.  The public utility has started to design a new strategic water main and storage tank to provide its operatives with an alternative way of keeping water flowing to customers’ taps during emergencies such as burst pipes.  The postcards encourage recipients to visit a dedicated website where updates on the work will be posted in the coming months.

Joanna Peebles, Scottish Water’s Communities Manager for the Highlands,  said: "Our customers in Golspie want to be kept in the picture and we want to assure them they remain a priority for investment. These postcards and associated website will help keep them informed."  In recent years Golspie has experienced a number of supply interruptions due to burst pipes. The new strategic water main, along with a new storage tank, will improve Scottish Water’s ability to maintain supplies while carrying out repairs to any bursts.  An arrangement has also been reached to store bottled water locally so that alternative supplies can be made available quickly during emergencies.

Trial Launched of Solar Powered Bin in City Centre
An innovative new bin has been unveiled in a litter hotspot in Inverness.  The Big Belly solar compactor bin has been placed outside the McDonald's fast food restaurant on High Street.  The solar powered bin has an internal compactor which means it can hold eight times more litter than the standard bins currently used in the area.  Highland Council is trialing the bin to find out whether it would be worth replacing all its 50 city centre bins.  The Big Belly bin will be emptied less by council staff because of its extra capacity and hopefully prevent rubbish being scattered across the street by birds and vermin because the slot for putting rubbish in is sealed off.  Inverness Provost Jimmy Gray is looking forward to seeing the results at the end of the four week trial.

Wee Problem Forces Council to Cut Back Trips to the Toilet
Councillors across the country are under financial constraints, but in the Borders they are even having the opportunity to spend a penny restricted.  One committee chairman has become so exasperated at colleagues taking too long on toilet breaks he has taken action to restrict the flow of colleagues from meetings.

While Jock Houston says his stance is essential to keep the council moving - if not fellow committee members - others say it is like being back at school.  Mr Houston, the planning chairman at Scottish Borders Council, has been keeping a watch on councillors' comings and goings since February when a committee member did not vote after leaving the chamber for eight minutes.  At the time just seven of the 13-member planning committee voted in a debate on Transport Scotland's bid to radically realign the A7 arterial road to Edinburgh, passing the plan 4-3 despite strong opposition.

Mr Houston said yesterday: "Since February, I have been checking my watch when councillors go and return and operating a two-minute rule. Up until the last meeting this had been complied with."  Now, a set time is agreed at the start of meetings for toilet breaks to avoid "random" trips to the smallest room.  Councillor Carolyn Riddell-Carre complained that the rule was reminiscent of being at school and having to ask permission to go to the toilet.  She said: "It's a long time to sit, not just for councillors but for the officers as well and they can't just say: 'Please sir, I need to go'. "  A council spokesman said : "As the planning committee is dealing with matters of a quasi-judicial nature it is important that it not only acts properly but also that it is seen to be acting properly."

Coastguard Stations Saved From Axe
Almost half of Scotland's coastguards are to be axed under drastic plans which will see two of the country's biggest coastal rescue centres closed.  The Clyde and Forth stations will disappear under controversial UK government plans, with local knowledge on Scotland's west coast in future to come from Belfast or Aberdeen.  However Stornoway and Shetland stations have been spared from closure after a re-think by the UK Government following high-profile campaigns against an original plan to shut three in Scotland.  But the other two, Forth and Clyde stations,  will be closed at some point between 2012 and 2014-15 as part of the overhaul announced by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in Westminster.

Ministers had considered leaving just one full-time station in Aberdeen while a second would operate during daylight hours in either Shetland or the Western Isles.  The Scottish Government gave a cautious welcome to the latest decision. Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "I am pleased that common sense has prevailed and the Secretary of State has listened to our views as expressed in the consultation and reconsidered these closures. However, I am disappointed to hear plans to close Forth and Clyde stations remain, given the importance of our maritime industry.  The Greenock-based Clyde station was the second busiest Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Scotland last year with 1,683 incidents to deal with. Fife Ness, covering the Forth, had 670 incidents. Both Central Belt stations were busier than Shetland, with 508, and Stornoway, with 623, which are both being retained. The busiest centre in Scotland was Aberdeen with 2,281.   Nationalist West of Scotland MSP Stuart McMillan said: "The UK government's determination to close Clyde is all about money and nothing to do with safety. The Clyde is an increasingly busy waterway with ferries, shipping, naval waterways, nuclear submarines, industry and tourist boats all using the waters."

Mr Lochhead also said he is disappointed that no update has been given about the future of emergency towing vehicles (ETVs). Funding for the service is due to be withdrawn from September. Angus Campbell, leader of Western Isles Council (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar), welcomed the "excellent news" for Stornoway station, but added his voice to concerns about ETVs.

Deadly Legacy of Dounreay Destroyed
Significant progress has been made in destroying one of the "most hazardous legacies" of Britain's 20th-century nuclear research programme, according to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).  A clean-up operation funded by the NDA has destroyed more than half of the 57,000 litres of liquid metal used as a coolant at Dounreay, the former nuclear power plant in Caithness.  Its reactor was shut down in 1994 and work to decommission the site has been under way since then.

The NDA's annual report states: "Dounreay has turned in an outstanding performance on the destruction of the sodium-potassium coolant, the largest single hazard left over from the fast-reactor research programme and the second-highest hazard on our estate."  A purpose-built chemical treatment plant destroyed the substance, according to the report. The metal was so radioactive that its removal is rapidly bringing down radiation levels inside the reactor.  Dounreay was the only place in Britain to use liquid metal instead of gas or water in cooling systems.

Fish Now Thrive in the Clyde
The River Clyde in Glasgow - once legendary for its filthy water - is now home to a vast range of fish species, according to environmental experts.  The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) found that despite the Clyde's long history of industrial use, it is now healthier than many realise.   During a Sepa study this spring, investigators found presence of shoals of perch and flounder, as well as sticklebacks, and migrating salmon stoats. There was also evidence of elvers and lampreys passing through the city-centre river.  Myles O'Reilly, a senior specialist scientist at Sepa, said: "It's clear that the river supports populations of resident and migratory fish even in the middle of the city."  A similar study on the River Forth found 14 different species of fish. Among the more colourful fish observed was a young tub gurnard, while scientists also caught a Sea Mouse, a marine worm found in the North Atlantic, the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean.

Revealed: the Murder Capital of Scotland
The region's tourism pitch describes it as an area with "a beautiful rural landscape and a rich history", but South Lanarkshire has a new, unwanted monicker - the murder capital of Scotland.  The area witnessed more killings in 2010/11 than the whole of Lothian and Borders sees in a typical year, and almost five times that of Grampian.  The 14 murders in South Lanarkshire's Q division over 12 months, which included culpable homicides, represented a 366 per cent rise on the previous year.  By comparison Lothian and Borders police typically see 12 murders a year - although that region, too, has witnessed a recent spike - while Grampian has risen from two to four.  Police admitted the murder levels in the division were "unprecedented".  A murder in Blantyre triggered the launch of a Campaign for Change by locals, calling for the restoration of traditional community values, better resources for young people, and tougher sentencing for violent crime, including mandatory jail terms for carrying a knife and a minimum of 25 years for murder with a blade.

Fuel Poverty Crisis Warning (See last weeks issue for an item on this subject and its one in which I and others can readily relate to in this country. Our charges have been increased again this month, which I think brings us in NSW to over 50% increase in the past few years - Robin)
Scotland is on course for “crisis levels” of fuel poverty with one in four struggling to pay their bills, it was claimed last night.  Nearly one third of all homes north of the Border are now classed as “fuel poor” when the cost of rising bills is set against family incomes, according to a Government report.  The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said in the report, which led to stark warnings from charities, that at the latest date for which figures were available around 750,000 Scottish households lived below the fuel poverty line.

This is where households spend more than 10% of their income on keeping warm.  Campaigners warned the situation could now be worse than revealed in the 2009 figures, released yesterday, and that 900,000 could soon be below the line due to recent rises. These were led by ScottishPower and Scottish Gas, which announced hikes of nearly 20% in gas prices and an increase of 10% to 16% to electricity tariffs.  Pressure groups called on the Government to continue to reduce costs, claiming the problem affected “every city, town and village”.   Lucy McTernan, chief executive of Citizens Advice Bureau Scotland, said “There can no longer be any doubt that fuel poverty in Scotland is approaching crisis levels.  “Scottish citizens advice bureaux have long reported that this is a growing problem. They see the real human misery that exists behind these statistics. This is a problem that requires political action.”

The Scottish Government has helped almost 200,000 households to reduce heating bills and launched boiler scrappage to help more than 6,000 people cut bills, but Age Concern Scotland said more needs to be done.  Scotland has the highest proportion of fuel poor homes out of anywhere in the UK mainland, almost double the number in England and greater than Wales, where a quarter of households are fuel poor.  Scots are more vulnerable to fluctuating energy costs because of the colder climate north of the Border, but face the same tariffs as those elsewhere in the UK.  A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is a disgrace that in energy rich Scotland people should be facing fuel poverty. Electricity and gas markets are not working for consumers. That is why we are seeking to maximise the use of Scotland’s natural resources of renewable energy.”

Human Remains May Be of 2,000-year-old Iron Age Highlander
The remains of what could be an Iron Age Highlander, who lived around 2,000 years ago, have been found during an archaeological dig in Caithness.  The human remains, which include a skull and bones, were found this week in the ruins of a broch at Thrumster, near Wick.  They were buried in a chamber in the wall of the historic building.

Dr Andy Heald, of AOC Archaeology, which leads the dig, said that it was probably the remains of an adult man, though further research was needed to determine that.  Radiocarbon dating is also needed to determine how old the bones are.  "At the moment we have no idea on a date. They could be 200 years old, or 2,000 years old," he said.  "There have been archaeological digs at this same site about 200 years ago and we know they found human remains then - and reburied them later.  It is therefore really hard to tell if this one has been here for all these centuries, and was buried in the Iron Age on the same spot as where we found it, or if it was reburied during the first dig, or sometime in the centuries in between. We know that at another Caithness site at Whitegate human remains, horses and even puppies were placed at a broch 300 years after it was abandoned."

Dr Heald said they knew for certain that the broch was 2,000 years old, but the site has been re-used in later times.  "The Vikings used it, for instance, just as the medieval inhabitants of this area," he said.  "If the remains really turn out to be 2,000 years old, it will be very interesting. It would help us understand the way people dealt with death in a pre-Christian society. It would show us that they buried them - or at least the skull - in or under the house.  We don't come across human remains that are this old that often, so it would make it a very special find.  When skulls were found in the 19th century people thought it had to do with cannibalism, which is just nonsense, or were war trophies.  Hopefully with new techniques we will be able to determine the sex and age of this person, and when he died, so we know if it is indeed an Iron Age hunter, or perhaps a medieval gardener."

AOC Archaeology and Yarrows Heritage Trust have been leading teams of 12 to 15 volunteers on the dig.  A broch - often described as "complex Atlantic Roundhouse" - is an Iron Age drystone hollow-walled structure of a type found only in Scotland.  Although most stand alone in the landscape, some examples exist of brochs surrounded by clusters of smaller dwellings.

MP Attacks 'Senseless' Cuts to RAF Bases
THE SNP has accused the UK government of preparing to make "massive and disproportionate" cuts to the RAF in Scotland, claiming that defence communities have been "treated appallingly"?.  A defence review has already spelled the end for RAF Kinloss, on the Moray Firth, with the cancellation of the Nimrod contract, while the fates of Lossiemouth and Leuchars remain uncertain.

An announcement on the future of Scotland's air bases is expected from Defence Secretary Liam Fox within days.

Westminster SNP leader Angus Robertson said last night: "Our defence communities are braced for bad news. They have been treated appallingly by the UK government throughout this process There is no strategic or defence reason why the Ministry of Defence should consider massive and disproportionate cuts to the RAF in Scotland while concentrating basing, spending and manpower in the south of England.  Given Scotland's geographic location and the increasing importance of the high north, it makes no sense for Whitehall to make swingeing cuts to capability, personnel and bases.  How can a cut of up to 74 per cent in Scotland be justified?"  Robertson added: "All our independent Nordic neighbours have similar strategic priorities and they maintain more airbases and aircraft. None of them is considering such a damaging course of action.  Despite being a maritime nation, we now have no maritime patrol capability at all, and the specialist base for this vital function at RAF Kinloss is being closed."

Nationalist Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said the defence and strategic case for retaining RAF Lossiemouth is compelling. He said: "Moray is uniquely facing a double RAF base closure, which would be an economic disaster.  The further reduction of air force personnel in Moray would have a devastating effect on the economy and society of Moray and the north of Scotland."