Some Scottish News & Views # 98

SOME SCOTTISH NEWS & VIEWS
Issue # 98                                                                             Week ending 30th 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 www.blackheathchoirfestival.weebly.com.

Thank Goodness I Am Trained to Keep My Head in Any Emergency by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal
Quite how the police haven’t been round here to deprive me of my freedom to write this, I’m not sure. Having come close to setting fire to a certain Stornoway hotel, it is fair to say that I have been slightly concerned that, by now, I would have my collar felt and be slung in a cell on a charge of fire-raising.

It was an accident, your honour.

As the cops are obviously a bit slow off the mark, I can get my excuses – sorry, the true version of events – in first. We were out for a scoff in the Western Isles’ top inn on Saturday evening to celebrate my brother-in-law’s birthday. It was a big one for Duncan with an 0 in it. So we had pudding and everything.

Everyone was in great form. Duncan’s brother Peter was in top form. He was winding up the waitress with his obsession with perfection demanding to know what was fresh and what was from the freezer. She assured him his carrots and broccoli would indeed be absolutely the freshest available.  After that he decided to order a cold drink with loads of ice. Peter shouted after the poor girl: “And make sure it’s fresh ice. Don’t bring me any of that frozen muck.”

With all that going on, I must have somehow become a bit distracted. For some reason, I didn’t notice that I’d put down my menu too close to a tea light – a tiny candle-type thing which posh places like the Caberbeidh Hotel, which is where we were, put out to create a lovely romantic atmosphere.

At one point I think I noticed tiny flames licking round the base of the ice bucket. Ah, I thought to myself, how delightful. It is thoughtful wee touches like the tea lights that really add a lovely, warm ambience to the entire celebration. It was Mrs X, sitting next but one to me, who raised the alarm. A model of decorum, she did her best to ensure there was no panic or stampede when she spotted the flames.

Her first whisper asking if I knew there was a fire on the table was, I thought, her idea of a joke. Oh be quiet, I really have not had that much to drink. Stop mucking about, I told her firmly. She persisted. I turned and discovered my menu was indeed on fire and the flames by then were eating in towards the middle. Gosh. How did that happen?

By now red-faced and looking ever so slightly concerned, my beloved began to hiss questions at me. What was I thinking? Was I going to call the fire brigade? Why was I was just sitting there just looking at it?  She was very controlled. The screaming came later when she got me home.

What my wife had obviously forgotten was that I have been highly-trained to deal with such threats and dangerous situations. I was in the ATC, you know. Flight Lieutenant Norman Maclean had taught me everything he knew about tricky situations. I merely needed a few seconds to coolly assess the danger and the modus operandi before I sprang into action. Unfortunately, the implementation of plan A didn’t quite work. Trying to blow out the tabletop fire merely fanned the flames into a veritable furnace which then blew back and singed my left eyebrow. As I gasped for breath again, an airborne red-hot ember rose from the flaming menu, came straight at me and flew up my nose.

Despite the inferno in my left nostril, I remembered Norman’s instruction to stay calm at all times. It had also been drilled into me not to cause a scene. So I made sure that the other partygoers were blissfully unaware that, while they may have thought it somewhat odd that I had taken to shovelling copious quantities of Bailey’s ice cream into my mouth, little did they know that I was in fact spooning it into another orifice to cool things up there. Meanwhile, with my other hand, I calmly scooped ice and cold water from the bucket to dowse the now-blazing menu. Job done.

Then, throwing my napkin over the blackened, sodden tablecloth and piles of ash, I leaned over to Aeneas Maclean sitting opposite and said: “Now, what was I saying?” Most of them had noticed nothing out of the ordinary. Master mariner John Shaw had continued his tales of funny people in far-off places uninterrupted, and my sisters-in-law Joey and Annie Mary continued their tales about when they were young in Harris. Ach, James Bond would have been proud of me.

Only Peter’s wife, Catherine, noticed that my quick-thinking had undoubtedly saved the landmark hotel from a terrible disaster. I tiptoed out of the dining room before manager Tom and his staff started tidying up and have been waiting for the knock on the door since. Afterwards, Catherine asked me what had happened. Nothing, I said. It was just an unfortunate accident which could have happened to anyone. I had it under control the whole time, I assured her.

Maybe it was me, but I felt she hadn’t quite believed me. I hoped she didn’t think it was negligence on my part that had caused the hotel to be nearly burned to the ground.   “Hmm,” she said, in that strange tone that certain women have when they don’t believe you. “Bet you won’t be writing about that in the Press and Journal, will you?” Me? I said. No, certainly not. I’m far too modest to do any such thing.”

Argylls in Line to Become TA Reserve Unit
One of Scotland's most famous regular army units is set to be turned into a Territorial Army reservist battalion as part of UK defence cuts.  The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who have just returned from a tour of Afghanistan, are among the frontrunners for conversion as the British Army cuts the number of full-time battalions to cope with reduced budgets.

Despite its illustrious military history, the Argylls - currently 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (5 Scots) - could be one of the casualties in the 17,000 reduction to the number of regulars in the army announced last week by Defence Secretary Liam Fox.  At a briefing at the Ministry of Defence on Monday, just hours before Fox made his announcement to parliament, it was made clear that the cuts to regulars would probably involve the most junior battalions in the army's regiments.  The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders is under threat as the fifth and most junior by age of the regular battalions in the RRS.

Factors against its survival as a regular unit include the light armour infantry battalion being based in Kent, as it would have to be moved north of the Border to become part of the new Scottish mobile brigade which Fox also announced on Monday.  Sources have also suggested that The Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 Scots), which is currently based in Germany, is also under threat of being turned into a reservist unit as the government looks to make reductions.   The battalions would not be disbanded, but they would be a target for voluntary redundancies, with other full-time soldiers who did not wish to leave the armed services deployed to fill gaps in other regular units.  They would eventually become Territorial Army (TA) units in their own right while retaining the cap badges, so deflecting accusations from veterans' groups that the battalions' heritage was being destroyed.

Last week, while announcing an increase in the size of the TA, which will make up 30 per cent of the 120,000 total size of the army, Dr Fox also told MPs privately that he is "focused on keeping cap badges" despite the cuts.  Former SAS commander Clive Fairweather, who yesterday stepped down as an honorary Colonel in The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, has said he has received briefings which point to the two battalions either being scrapped or moved over to the TA.  "Given the increase in the TA, there is a very good chance they will turn one or two into TA battalions - thus avoiding a humongous row about the loss of famous names," he said.

The Royal Regiment of Scotland (RRS)  was formed in 2006 and given new regimental colours last month by the Queen. It is made up of seven battalions comprising the Royal Scots Borderers, the Royal Highland Fusiliers, originating in 1678, the Black Watch, founded in 1725, the Highlanders, the Argylls and two existing TA battalions: 52nd Lowland and 51st Highland.  The Sutherland Highlanders date back to 1760 but amalgamated in 1881 with Princess Louise's Argyllshire Regiment to become the Argylls.  The Highlanders originated in 1778 as the Seaforth Highlanders, raised across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and later amalgamated with the Gordon Highlanders. In 1994, what was then the Queen's Own Highlanders merged with the Gordon Highlanders. It is now also part of the 7th Armoured Brigade, mainly based in Germany.

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders has a long and distinguished history of valour and first gained fame for its courage during the Crimean War.  The battalion was formed from two Highland regiments, the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders and the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders in 1881. Both were renowned in their own right, with the 93rd gaining fame as the 'Thin Red Line' at the Battle of Balaclava, in the Crimean War, when it repelled advancing Russian troops.  The 93rd also won six Victoria Crosses in a single day at Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny of November 1857.  In the First World War, it was involved in operations in Passchendaele, Gallipoli and Palestine, among others, while in the Second World War its 1st battalion fought in the Western Desert in Africa and the Italian Campaign. In the past decade they have deployed to Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hebridean Jewellery Firm Is Sold to its Employees
South Uist-based Hebridean Jewellery has been sold to its employees, after founder John Hart decided to retire, and now plans to ramp up online sales, particularly to the US.  The deal secures the future of the company and around 14 jobs, and will preserve important design and manufacturing skills in the Outer Hebrides.  Hebridean Jewellery, which was founded by Mr Hart in 1974, manufactures sterling silver and gold jewellery, with designs from the Pictish and Celtic periods through to the new “Millennium” range.  It is based in Lochdar on South Uist, where all manufacturing is undertaken, and also has retail premises at Stornoway on Lewis and Portree on Skye.

After three-and-a-half decades of trading, Mr Hart and his family wanted to retire but were determined to secure the future of the business in the local community, and the jobs of the staff. Many of the staff have worked with Hebridean Jewellery for more than 20 years.  While considering the options, Mr Hart attended a conference on employee ownership hosted by Co-operative Development Scotland, part of public sector-funded Scottish Enterprise.  After additional advice and support from employee buy-out specialist Baxi Partnership, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Hart family decided employee ownership offered the ideal solution for all parties.  A funding package of bank lending and vendor finance was put in place to enable the employees to buy the business.

Coalition Accused of Forgetting Scotland
The Tory-LibDem Coalition was accused of forgetting about Scotland, after it emerged that an England-only body had been “awarded” almost a third of places for talented immigrants wanting to work in the UK.  Ian Davidson, the chairman of the Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee, queried the choice of Arts Council England as one of the endorsing organisations.  The scheme is designed to allow the brightest and best in the fields of science, humanities, engineering and the arts to work in the UK.  Of up to 1000 places available over the next year, Arts Council England has been awarded 300.   Mr Davidson, the Labour MP for Glasgow SW, has protested against the decision and written to Damian Green, the Home Office minister, and Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary. The other bodies “awarded” places, according to the UK Border Agency, are The Royal Society, 300 places, The British Academy, 200, and The Royal Academy of Engineering, 200.

Bloody Battle of Harlaw Marked, 600 Years on
The 600th anniversary of one of the bloodiest battles in medieval history was commemorated in the north of Scotland on Sunday.  The Battle of Harlaw was a clan battle fought on 24 July, 1411, just north of Inverurie in Aberdeenshire.  Its anniversary was marked with a private service followed by the opening of a monument site to members of the public.  The Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Peter Stephen, and Aberdeenshire provost Bill Howatson attended the ceremony, held at the Battle of Harlaw monument near Inverurie.  They were joined by members of clans that took part in the battle, one of a series fought during the Middle Ages between the barons of north-east Scotland against those from the west coast. Dean of Guild Fred Dalgarno formally inaugurated the 40ft-high monument, after which Brigadier John Macfarlane read an excerpt from An Incitement to Battle, written in 1411.   The 12th-century battle was fought over competing claims to the Earldom of Ross by the Duke of Albany and Donald, Lord of the Isles.  The service formed part of Aberdeen's Tartan Week, which sees a number of events arranged to commemorate the Battle of Harlaw.

Lights Out for Hogmanay Party 30 July 2011
Scotland's biggest city has announced that it is ditching its official Hogmanay party this year because it is too expensive.  Glasgow City Council has said that instead of the usual New Year party in George Square, it will instead host a "family day" with music, ceilidh dancing and the Glasgow Bonspiel curling tournament.  The council also said it would work with the city's restaurants, bars and clubs to organise festivities  Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson said: "At the moment we are being asked to justify spending £34 of public money per head on an event which just isn't delivering value and indeed received a fair amount of negative feedback last year. This is on top of the £19 ticket price we are asking the public to pay.  Contrast that with the free fireworks display in November which costs the council just £1.50 per head, or the hugely popular Christmas lights switch-on which costs £6 per head to stage

MoD Says Island Missile Range Will Be Used for next Five Years
The UK’s largest missile range will remain in use for at least the next five years, the Ministry of Defence confirmed.  The Hebrides Range provides nearly 200 jobs in Benbecula, North and South Uist and St Kilda and its closure would have affected 20% of the working population of the Uists.    QinetiQ, the private contractor running the Hebrides Range for the MoD, had wanted to move the command and control centre for missile firing from the islands to its base at Aberporth in South Wales in an effort to save £50 million. But a huge local campaign was launched to persuade the Government the plan made no economic or social sense.  The last government was persuaded to keep it in September 2009. Following the Strategic Defence and Security Review last year, a feasibility study was conducted which has confirmed the need to sustain the site’s vital long-term capability.  So the present Government has now decided to invest in its modernisation, securing its future for five years.

The Hebrides Range has the largest area for the live firing of rockets and missiles of any UK range. It provides a safe and secure environment for test, evaluation and training for air, sea and ground launched weapons. The range was established in the 1950s and includes a radar station on St Kilda.  Peter Luff, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, said yesterday: “The Hebrides Range is the largest facility of its kind in the UK and provides a vital testing capability for the UK’s air defence weapons systems, which are currently being used on operations in Libya.

Lottery Boost for Bannockburn Experience

It was the scene of a defining event in Scottish history that propelled the nation down the road to independence from England.   Now the site of the Battle of Bannockburn is set to become home to a £10 million visitor centre, after the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) backed plans to transform the run-down site.  Its backing means the new complex will be ready in time for the second Year of Homecoming celebrations, which the Scottish Government is planning to coincide with the 700th anniversary of the battle in 2014.  However, it also means the new facilities will be much more ambitious than originally envisaged, while extra improvements to the battlefield site itself will be carried out.

Better promotion of Bannockburn is promised to link it with historic attractions nearby, such as Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument.  The existing Bannockburn heritage centre, which dates back to the 1970s, will be demolished to make way for a new complex, which will offer visitors a virtual flavour of the bloody confrontation between the Scots and the English.  The HLF pledged £3.69m towards the project - being jointly pursued by the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland - which is being sensitively designed to blend in with the Stirlingshire landscape.  The Scottish Government had already ringfenced £5m for the project, which has won the support of opposition politicians, due to the outdated nature of the current facilities.

It is hoped the new Bannockburn complex, will emulate the success of the updated visitor centre at the Culloden battlefield, which won plaudits for having a minimal impact on the landscape.  Backers say the new centre will offer an "immersive digital experience" thanks to cutting-edge interpretation facilities, with visitor numbers predicted to soar from 65,000 to 100,000 in its first year.  The HLF yesterday hailed the battle as "one of the most significant fought on British soil".   Colin McLean, head of the HLF in Scotland, added: "The Battle of Bannockburn inspires artists, writers and political thinkers worldwide, and is intrinsically linked to Scotland's national identity.  This project will take the visitor experience to a new level. Bannockburn will be re- established as a significant tourist destination and valuable education resource."

The Battle of Bannockburn, fought over two days in June 1314, saw the armies of Robert the Bruce, outnumbered almost three to one, defeat Edward II in one of the crucial episodes that led to the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.

Festival Behaviour Wins Police Plaudits
Police have praised the behaviour of revellers at the Wickerman Festival after low levels of crime were recorded.  Officers reported a "handful of minor offences" at the event. They seized illegal substances, valued at around £3,500, at the festival in East Kirkcarswell near Dundrennan in Galloway.  A total of 63 people will be reported to the procurator fiscal on suspicion of possessing drugs

'Six Weeks to Save Scots Local Policing'
Councils have launched a campaign against a single police force, warning the Scottish Government's plans amount to "little more then a centralising power grab".  They argue the proposed merger will cost £230 million, the equivalent of 7,600 officers.  The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) is urging people to write to justice secretary Kenny MacAskill and First Minister Alex Salmond voicing their opposition.  It also plans to hold a conference to build momentum as the campaign, "Six weeks to save genuinely local Scottish policing", moves towards Mr Mac-Askill's decision, expected in September.

The Scottish Government is considering whether to have one force, a regional model or stick to the status quo of eight constabularies.  Mr MacAskill claimed responses to a Scottish Government consultation had "strengthened" the case for a single force.  However, Cosla argues that 90 per cent of respondents were opposed, while seven of Scotland's eight chief constables are also against, or at least "unconvinced by the case" made.  In an open letter, Cosla's president Pat Watters and community safety spokeswoman Barbara Grant wrote: "The most recent Scottish Government business case shows that Scotland would have to spend a whopping £230m (equivalent to 7,600 police officers] in start up and restructuring costs for a single force.  This £230m spend is the minimum if they have got every single detail correct - all evidence suggests restructures cost at least 150 per cent to 200 per cent more than estimated."  They added: "This ill-thought through obsession with a single police force will costs hundreds of millions of pounds, thousands of jobs and sadly, damage to community safety."

A single force has been strongly opposed in Grampian and the Highlands, by the Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish Police Federation, representing rank and file officers, which voted to oppose it at its annual conference. Martin Greig, convener of Grampian Joint Police Board, said: "There is no evidence whatsoever that this structure will lead to efficiencies. On the contrary, a force run from Edinburgh will damage policing in the north-east."  It is the latest example of Cosla's willingness to stand up to ministers.  John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said councils were concerned about centralisation.  "Don't be surprised when councils are against moving powers to Edinburgh," he said. "At the time of devolution there was a long-standing debate that Edinburgh might try to seek more powers for itself."   The Scottish Government defended its position. A spokesman said: "The budget cuts from Westminster mean that we must change the way we do things precisely in order to protect community policing.  "The projected long-term savings under a new structure are up to £154m a year, every year."

General's Leaked Letter Warns 5,000 Additional Soldiers Could Be Laid Off
A senior army chief has warned of a fresh wave of redundancies that will wipe out entire battalions and regiments, a leaked letter to commanding officers has revealed.  General Sir Peter Anthony Wall, Chief of the General Staff (CGS), said an additional 5,000 soldiers will be made redundant on top of the 7,000 the government has already announced.  That, he revealed in the leaked letter, would lead to an "inevitable" new redundancy programme and the "disbanding" of battalions. Gen Wall said he regretted the "sobering" impact that this news would have on troops and their families.  He wrote: "Regular army manpower will be cut more steeply, with an additional reduction of 5,000 over and above the 7,000 already in progress as a result of the SDSR. This takes the army to around 90,000 by 2015."

A senior Scottish MP claimed that the UK's defence capability was being cut in a "savage fashion", with army chiefs said to be furious that the UK government has reneged on a deal to keep the numbers in place.  The news came after the Defence Secretary Liam Fox announced that RAF Leuchars will become an army base, with Lossiemouth in Moray becoming Scotland's only air base.

General Wall, in his letter to all commanding officers, revealed a change in the UK government's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) and said that the resources available mean "some significant changes to the original SDSR provision for the army, including significant cuts".  General Wall wrote: "The additional manpower cuts are now being scoped but will inevitably require a further redundancy programme.  Although the detailed planning is not yet complete we must assume that these reductions will require the further removal of formed battalions and regiments from the force structure, including the combat arm."   The emergence of General Wall's warning is the latest in a string of leaks involving the Ministry of Defence.  It comes weeks after Prime Minister David Cameron told commanders to stop questioning the government's military commitments, saying: "You do the fighting, I'll do the talking."  The letter was written after Dr Fox announced that army numbers were to be reduced to about 82,000 - but not until 2020.

MP Welcomes Tug Progress
Western Isles MP has welcomed the news that the Department of Transport is considering an extension to the contract of the Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV) on the West Coast of Scotland.  Speaking after Mike Penning MP met in Inverness with meet campaigners on the issue Mr MacNeil, said: “Only last week I called for Mr Penning to meet with campaigners from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Highland Council on issues surrounding the continuation of the ETV on the West Coast of Scotland.  I am pleased to hear that the Shipping Minister has travelled to Inverness to meet with the representatives of those concerned. As I suggested last week if those involved got round the table a better understanding would emerge.  As a result of this, The Department of Transport is now considering an extension to the current contract period until the next financial year if another solution can be found.  Clearly, I am pleased Mr Penning moved so swiftly to meet in the Highlands, however, concerns will remain for the longer term amongst those who are concerned about maritime safety on the seas close to the Hebrides.”

Ancient Secrets Submerged Around Western Isles
Ancient forests, lost landscapes and artefacts from life in the islands thousands of years ago could be found underwater.  Archaeologists Dr Jonathan Benjamin and Dr Andy Bicket were in Stornoway on Monday to give a talk on the potential for discoveries here in the Hebrides. They want the public to help them identify possible sites of interest which could be explored.

Speaking in the Comhairle Chambers, the experts from Wessex Archaeology, who have worked on projects around the globe, are hoping to begin a community engagement.  Dr Benjamin said they were interested to hear from those with local knowledge.  “Really, what we are going to be doing now, is a community-engagement, initial phase of what will become a pilot study to help identify potential in the Western Isles for this topic.  We have not yet identified sites underwater in the Western Isles, however we have reason to believe that there are areas that could be interesting for prospection.  We think there may also be knowledge on the islands that could inform our research (ie. people who know of areas where cultural or natural features, such as submerged forests, may exist).

The islands are of particular interest to the team as they have some of the best potential due to the irregular shoreline and the potential for headlands and islands to form as a consequence of changing sea level.  For most of prehistory, the sea levels were much lower than they are today, in the last 10,000 years archaeologists have calculated that there may have been up to 10 km of land lost off the west coast of the Outer Hebrides.   Submerged sites can offer preservation conditions rarely encountered on land. With advances in underwater exploration technology, many submerged landscapes have become accessible to archaeologists and there is a growing awareness of the potential for underwater archaeology to transform our knowledge of the human past.

Gaelic Filmmaker Fund Established
Budding youth filmmakers who speak Gaelic have the opportunity to share a new pot of cash to help them train.   Almost £40,000 of funding is on offer, comprising a £25,000 grant from Bord na Gaidhlig and £14,100 from the Scottish Government.  The fund is for skills training for entrants to the 12 to 17-year-old category in this year's FilmG competition.

FilmG is MG ALBA's short-film competition, launched in 2009, which aims to uncover talent for development on the Gaelic digital channel BBC ALBA and to produce content for the internet.  First Minister Alex Salmond announced the funding at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the Gaelic college on Skye.  He said: "The workshops provide young people with many of the experiences and outcomes outlined in the Curriculum for Excellence, including enhanced skills in literacy, language, numeracy and the expressive arts.  FilmG offers an opportunity to build confidence, social awareness and help realise individual talents."

Eco-lodge Gets Green Light from Court
Plans for an eco-tourism project in the Highlands appeared to be back on track after a judge lifted a court order granted to a millionaire neighbour.  Escape Lodge Ltd has secured planning permission from Highland Council for an eco-lodge and thatched houses to provide 20 guests with "immersion in nature" in Dundonnell Glen, near Ullapool.  The plans were opposed by the Eilean Darach Estate - formerly owned by Nicholas Crawford, of Jersey - and by lyricist Sir Tim Rice, who owns another estate nearby. Mr Crawford raised an action in the Court of Session in Edinburgh, suggesting that parts of his estate could suffer from surface water flooding.  He was granted an interim interdict in May to stop Becky Thomson, the businesswoman behind Escape Lodge, from implementing the planning permission in a manner which adversely affected his property. Yesterday, Lady Smith lifted the interim interdict

Stubborn Osborne Stirs Memories of Thatcher
George Osborne has warned he is “not for turning” after disastrous growth figures increased pressure on the UK Coalition to develop an economic Plan B.  The Tory Chancellor evoked Margaret Thatcher’s rallying call, also on the economy, as he insisted yesterday he would stand firm in his cuts programme.  It came as the Coalition was forced to deny claims of a rift between Downing Street and the Treasury over the weak results.  Ministers narrowly avoided having to explain away a contraction in the economy, which would have reawakened fears the UK was slipping back into recession.  The figures suggested there had been little growth over the last nine months, prompting economists, industry leaders and opposition politicians to step up calls for a new recovery plan.  Labour accused the Coalition of “choking off” the recovery with last year’s VAT rise and spending cuts.

The official GDP figures show the economy grew by just 0.2% in the three months to June. The rise was down from 0.5% in the first quarter of the year – which had merely cancelled out a 0.5% contraction in the economy in the previous three months, leading to accusations the economy was “flatlining”.  The figures were released as a new poll by ComRes showed more than half of British households were now more worried about their personal finances than they had been three months ago.   The Chancellor said: “I’m absolutely not for turning in this sense … if we were to borrow more most people would think ‘these people have gone absolutely mad’.”   The famous phrase was used by Mrs Thatcher at the 1980 Tory party conference when she resisted pressure for a U-turn on her own tough economic policies, telling delegates: “You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning!”

New Plan for Affordable Housing At Culloden
A further 15 affordable homes are to be built in Culloden following a deal with developers O’Brien Properties Ltd.  A contract, under the National Housing Trust initiative (NHT), which aims to provide local affordable housing, has now been signed.  The NHT initiative, led by the Scottish government and Scottish Futures Trust, will see developers and local authorities jointly funding the purchase of newly-built homes so they can be made available for rent at below market rates.

Scottish government secretary for infrastructure and capital investment, Alex Neil, welcomed the announcement saying the trust will deliver dozens of new homes in the Highlands, secured for very little taxpayers’ money, support jobs and stimulate construction in response to the recession.  "Clearly the NHT has inspired confidence. Councils, developers and housing associations have risen to the challenge and embraced this approach as one that can help ease housing pressures locally," he said.

Plane in Engine Drama
A passenger plane carrying 37 people has managed to land safely despite one of its engines shutting down in mid-air.   Emergency services rushed to Stornoway Airport on Lewis after receiving a call just before 3pm on Wednesday.  The plane, a Saab 340 operated by the airline Flybe, departed from Glasgow and was flying over The Minch when its crew reported the fault.  Passengers reportedly said both the pilot and crew had dealt with the emergency well, after the plane landed with just one working engine.

Could this Be the Latest Nessie Sighting?
A holidaymaker who has been looking for the Loch Ness Monster for 45 years believes he may have at last captured the elusive creature on camera.  William Jobes was walking along the Abbey footpath in Fort Augustus with his wife Joan when he spotted what appeared to be a head bobbing above the water 200 to 300 yards from the shore.  "I got a wonderful shock," he said. "I have actually been coming up to Inverness for the past 45 years and I have never seen anything like this before."

Quickly grapsing his camera, the retired 62-year-old from Irvine in Ayrshire managed to take a single picture before the "head" disappeared under the surface. However, to his delight a dark, hump-like shape broke the waves and he was able to take more photographs. Mr Jobes is convinced it was not a seal or piece of wood.  "To be honest I know the difference between a piece of wood or a particular animal," he said. "I immediately did think it was a seal but it’s head was like a sheep."  However, veteran Nessie hunter Steve Feltham, remains sceptical, although he admits the hump photograph cannot be immediately explained and is worth further investigation.  "The river comes out there and something large could have come down the river and flowed out there," he suggested.  Mr Jobes’ is the second potential sighting of Nessie so far this summer. Last month Foyers shop and cafe owner Jan Hargreaves and her husband Simon believe they caught a glimpse of the creature.

Raigmore Hospital Gets New £2 Million Machine to Treat Cancer
Raigmore Hospital in Inverness is to be the first hospital in Scotland to receive a new £2 million advanced radiotherapy machine which will treat tumours faster and with more precision.  The hospital is to receive the new Variun TrueBeam linear accelerator machine which is more technically advanced at the beginning of September and patients will be treated using the machine by the middle of next year.  Two linear accelerator machines are already in use at the hospital and the new machine will replace the older of the two

Holiday-makers Feared for Their Lives After Becoming Trapped in Stroma Sea Cave
A group of English holiday-makers feared for their lives after becoming trapped in a sea cave during a sightseeing tour from John O’Groats   All 10 escaped unscathed following their 90-minute ordeal on the uninhabited Pentland Firth island of Stroma.  Along with the two crew of the rigid-hulled inflatable tour boat, they clambered out on to the top of the cave from where they were rescued by lifeboat.  After landing back at Groats, members of the party recalled their fear that they would be drowned as the 11-metre-long vessel was battered against the sides of the cave in a two-metre swell.  The five couples, all in their 50s and from the south of England, had booked an hour-long pleasure trip on the NorthCoast Explorer, which set out at 2pm. They were about three-quarters into the cruise when the boat entered a cave at the Gloup to the west of the island.

The alert was sounded by the crew, with an RAF helicopter from Shetland scrambled, along with Thurso lifeboat.  A nearby yacht, Gulan, also stood by, ready to help.  The chopper arrived on the scene but by then the lifeboat was there and had launched its Y-boat to pick up the group, two at a time.  Liz Helling, a businesswoman from Wendover in Buckinghamshire, said: "The lifeboat men did a great job in getting us off as it was a good four-to-five-feet drop to the small inflatable which was bobbing about quite a bit." Mr Sherrington, a lieutenant colonel in the Royal Engineers from near Newbury in Berkshire, believed a tragedy had been narrowly averted.   He said: "What I was worried about was if the edge of the boat went underneath one of the jagged rocks, it could easily tip over, given the swell that was running. I was really worried whether we were going to get out alive."

Visitors Crowd into Revamped Museum
Thousands of people have visited the National Museum of Scotland on its day of reopening following a £47 million refit.  The first hour on Friday saw 5,905 people walk through the doors of the new attraction and by closing time, the museum released a statement which said 22,071 visitors had passed through its doors during its grand opening. It said the normal daily visitor figure was around 2,500, and the highest figure recorded in recent history was 7,500, during the exhibition Dinosaurs Alive! in 2006.  The "highly ambitious" transformation of the listed Victorian building in Edinburgh's Old Town took around three years to complete.  More than 8,000 artefacts from the museum's vast collection were on show in the new galleries, with 80% of them not having been displayed for decades. Visitors can tour 36 galleries, 16 of which are new, exploring nature, science and global cultures.

The original building, designed by Francis Fowke, opened in 1866 and was inspired by London's Crystal Palace. Bosses say the makeover has restored the former Royal Museum in Chambers Street to its original glory and created "one of the world's great museums".  The new space also has a gallery for international exhibitions, interactive displays, a learning centre and a new street-level, stone-vaulted entrance hall.  Scotland's tradition of producing some of the world's leading inventors, entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists is reflected in the various exhibitions throughout the gallery. Key objects include Sir Alexander Fleming's Nobel Prize medal and a marble statue of James Watt. The tallest display object is a 37ft totem pole carved in 1855, while the oldest object is a meteorite dating to the creation of the solar system around 4.5 billion years ago.