Some Scottish News & Views # 99

SOME SCOTTISH NEWS & VIEWS
Issue # 99                                                                   Week ending 6th August 2011

Some Scots Australian News
Comunn Gaidhlig Astrailia (CGA)  are holding their Sgoil-Earraich Nàiseanta (National Summer School) for 2011 from Friday 2nd - Sunday 4th September at the Australian National University in Canberra with accommodation at University House. The courses will be taught in the facilities at ANU's School of Music, thanks to the very kind assistance of Dr. Ruth Lee Martin.  Teachers will again include  Joan Mitchell, Ron McCoy, Seonaidh Rankin, Kristina Nicholson and Angus MacLeod.  Contact Rod McInnes at CGA on 04 0482 2314.

CGA have had a few start-ups with new courses and self help groups in recent months. The Institute of Celtic Studies (ICS), in conjunction with CGA will be commencing a beginners Gaelic course at their Newcastle, NSW premises. The course will be held from 2pm to 4pm on the fourth Saturday of each month from Saturday 28th August, 2011. The course will also be run in Sydney as two one hour sessions on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month, from 6pm to 7pm. This session of the course started last Thursday 28th July, but there are still spaces available.  Contact Graham Aubrey at ICS on 02 4929 1912 or Rod McInnes at CGA on 04 0482 2314.  In Brisbane, the self-help group running from City Library is going strong under Diane Lingard's leadership.

Janet MacDonald, member and Convenor of the Royal National Mod, has just told us that she will be in Sydney in November, hopefully we will catch up with what's happening with Gaelic in Scotland.

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.

Summertime and the Teaching is Easy - Love the Sirs and Misses by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal
No matter where you go at this time of year, they are there. Big-eyed, bushy-tailed happy people who you haven’t seen for ages. You know them but haven’t actually spoken to them for about a year. Now, who are they again?

Who are these exuberant, fondly-remembered people who, like bats, frogs, tortoises and ladybirds, have suddenly woken up and stormed back into your life?

Let me tell you. They are teachers. Teachers on their holidays.

Alive and full of the joys, they have escaped their hidey-holes and are now intent on seeing and being seen and populating the entire world for six weeks.   There is this great unseen community of educationalists who you just do not bump into most of the time but who are somehow living parallel lives in classrooms up and down the country. These teachers and lecturers look like us, they talk like us. That is the end of the similarity.

Locked in a mysterious state of part-hibernation, the entire profession becomes unsociable and distant to their friends for 46 weeks of the year dividing their time between classroom and bed then, come the end of June, bang, they are everywhere.  Suddenly, they are in the supermarket, in the pub, galloping down the street and playing in bands. They jump and scream, punching the air as if they have just been freed on parole from some penitentiary where they have been caged for many years. And, boy, are they happy about it.

It’s good to see them in the real world. Say hullo. Buy them a drink.

However, a word of warning. Although they now venture out into the sunlight, teachers are fragile creatures.   Whatever you do, don’t ask them why you haven’t seen them for yonks. That will just put a downer on things. All the paperwork, all the stress. They will suddenly look crestfallen. And don’t even think of lightening the mood by saying something like, och well, they have long holidays to make up for it.   Bad move. That will merely cause tears to flow. It will only remind them that their hibernation is a long one and that soon they must return to their workaday existence where they will toil as shadows lengthen and, months hence, shorten too.

This is their lot. This is ... Curriculum For Excellence.

I met some of them on Friday. The occasion was a fundraiser at Stornoway Golf Club for the planned horse and pony arena which, if all goes well, will be erected soon on the Lochs Road. When I wasn’t auctioneering, we were entertained by the Stornoway Big Band. Did you know about them? Why didn’t anyone tell me? They are somewhat phenomenal.  Musical director, and teacher, Gavin Woods whooshed, waved, pouted and swung them through their Rat Pack programme. We got I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Something Stupid, New York, New York and all that jazz.  It was the most surprisingy enjoyable evening I’ve had this year. OK, there was the night of Mrs X’s birthday when she gave me a present, but it was the best night which didn’t involve Swedish massage oil.

There were guest singers too. They weren’t all ones I knew but they included teacher Sineag and Gerry Blane, band member Calum Watt and Alan and Cath Fish, also a teacher, who caused ripples in my dram when she did My Way.   What a belter. She seems full of fun too - even for a teacher in July. I think if Cath was brave enough to drop the h from her first name she would be destined for giddy superstardom.

Teachers, lecturers, tutors and others who we disrespect until we mature are wonderful people. I certainly couldn’t do what they do. It would drive me nuts. I respect anyone with the ability, commitment and endless patience ensuring pupils make the best of themselves by encouraging them, persuading them, cajoling them and even beating them to a pulp with strips of hardened leather from Lochgelly until they are covered in red welts - or, even better, crimson blood.  What? They don’t do that any more? Aw, even less reason to be a teacher.

It’s all different now, apparently. Codes about this, that and the other which the kids and the teachers must follow. Many schools are now revising all their policies and making them tougher.  One island school had its new stricter dress code introduced by the headmaster at new year. The kids complied but in the first week it was three of the teachers who were kept in after class.

In my day there was a dress code too but it all came down to economics whether it was applied or not. One kid could cut his toenails without taking off his socks or shoes.
You have to feel sorry for teachers when they are made to do things because it is the policy of the council. Those overpaid people in the offices down on Sandwick Road are constantly dreaming up ways for the poor teachers to do more for less. At least, that is what the teachers who were sitting with me on Friday night were telling me. Maybe I’ll not mention their names, eh?

I do agree with them though. These hard-pressed souls have to stand there and teach stuff that is never going to be of much practical use.

For instance, I’ve never understood why so much of my time in the Nicolson Institute was taken up with having to learn algebra. I'm never actually going to go there.


Bike Crash Victims Identified by Police
Police have named two people who died after their motorcycle was in collision with a car on Saturday.  Emanuele Nico, 44, and his wife Liana Pinotti, 45, from Gavirate, Italy, were travelling on the A836 Thurso to Reay road at Drumhollistan in Caithness, at about 1pm.  Northern Constabulary said Mr Nico had been riding the motorcycle with his wife on the pillion.

School Pupils Bounce in to Stars' Keep-fit Craze
Scots schoolgirls are to be introduced to a new celebrity fitness craze, it was announced yesterday after the activity was hailed by stars including Madonna, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Courteney Cox, and Shakira.  
Clackmannanshire Council will be the first local authority in Scotland to offer pupils classes in "Urban Rebounding" when lessons resume after the summer holidays.  The craze - "a cardiovascular workout on a mini-trampoline" - is already huge in the United States, and has become popular in parts of England.  The council is training local tutors to introduce the workout to pupils Lornshill Academy, in Alloa, where classes will be held as part of the "fitness for girls" programme during PE lessons. If classes prove popular at the 1,100-pupil school, urban rebounding will be opened out to Alloa Academy and Alva Academy, and also clubs in the area.  A council spokeswoman said: "Our research shows many teenage girls do not enjoy team sports, like hockey or basketball, but would prefer to do fitness classes.  "Urban rebounding is a safe style of aerobics performed on a mini-trampoline. It provides a surprisingly challenging cardiovascular workout without excess stress on the heart, so is suitable for all fitness levels and ages."

Salmond Welcomes Renewables Role

Scotland is playing a leading role in developing the renewable energy sector across Europe, First Minister Alex Salmond has said.  French engineering company Technip has formally launched its offshore wind business headquarters in Aberdeen.  The First Minister said: "Technip is a world-leading project management, engineering and construction business that has built its reputation for excellence in the oil and gas industry, where it has been a major player in Aberdeen for decades.  Technip's decision to headquarter its European offshore wind business in Aberdeen signals the leading role that Scotland is playing in the development and deployment of leading-edge clean energy generation."

Technip has also established a partnership with Spanish firm Iberdrola, which owns Scottish Power, to develop offshore wind opportunities off the French coast.  Mr Salmond added: "The memorandum of understanding with Iberdrola - with its global offshore wind base in Glasgow - for developments off the French coast, underlines that the expertise being developed in Scotland can help harness not only the huge natural resources off our own coast, but the massive clean, energy resources around the world."

Minister for Gaelic Visits Sabhal Mor Ostaig
Professor Boyd Robertson, Principal of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI, welcomed Alasdair Allan MSP to the National Centre for Gaelic Language & Culture on the Isle of Skye recently, in his first visit as Minister for Gaelic.  The Minister, who is also MSP for the Western Isles, met with managers of the College and was given a tour of facilities and projects including national projects Tobar an Dualchais and Faclair na Gàidhlig and the multimedia and design company, Cànan, which organises the annual Film G competition.

The Minister viewed an exhibition by visual artist Ross Henriksen, who is coming to the end of a 3-month residency programme at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig supported by Creative Scotland, and he also met with parents and children from the local community who use the Gaelic childcare facility, Fàs Mòr.

More Pupils than Ever Pass Highers
Pupils across the country have received their exam results as scheduled - although thousands of them had already been notified of their grades a day early by mistake.  The results, which saw record numbers pass their Highers, were posted out to almost 160,000 students. The pass rate for Highers was 75.2%, up 0.5% on last year, said the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).  The Standard Grade pass rate remained at 98.5% and the Advanced Higher rate was 79.3%, up 1.8% on last year. Slightly fewer pupils sat exams this year, down 101 from 160,745 to 159,744.  More pupils did the new Scottish Baccalaureate qualifications, now running for the second year. Of these, science and languages attracted 174 entries. Last year's total was 138. The overall Baccalaureate pass rate was 80.5%, representing 68 passes and 72 passes with distinction.

For the first time pupils had to do a mandatory paper on Scottish history as part of their history Higher, which had questions on the wars of independence 1286-1328; the Treaty of Union 1689-1740; and migration and empire 1830-1939.

Warning About Tarmac Gangs
Trading Standards officers at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are warning householders about agreeing to unsolicited approaches from tarmac gangs that may be operating in the Western Isles.  A council spokesman said: “Householders need to be aware of the dangers of agreeing to unsolicited approaches from traders.  While some doorstep sellers are honest and legitimate, there are also some who target people who they feel will be easily fooled and intimidated.”

Tarmac gangs tend to operate in the following way – someone knocks on your door claiming to be working in the area and that they have some tarmac with which to surface your drive at a cut price rate.  They often state that they have been working for the council and have the tarmac left over.  The work done may be of poor quality and the final bills are often far higher than what was originally quoted. Experience has shown that a few months later, when there are weeds coming through the tarmac, the traders have vanished with little hope of finding them.

Coe 'Impressed' by 2014 Facilities
London 2012 chairman Lord Coe has said he is "impressed" with the preparations for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.  Lord Coe visited Glasgow, which will host the Games, to meet young athletes and Glasgow 2014 chairman Lord Smith.  One advantage of Glasgow's bid to host the Games was that 70% of its venues were already in place.

Lord Coe was also shown Strathclyde Park, a satellite venue for Glasgow 2014. The park in Lanarkshire already has an established international rowing facility and regularly hosts triathlon events but it will be upgraded to ensure "the best possible experience" for athletes and spectators.  The Commonwealth Games are on between July 23 and August 3 2014.

Lord Coe said having the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 Commonwealth Games in the UK was "an extraordinary opportunity" to develop the next generation of young athletes.  He said: "I'm here to look at some of the preparations for 2014 in Glasgow and that's important because we have a very close relationship as an organising committee. With the Commonwealth Games and that little event in London coming to fruition next year we really do have an extraordinary opportunity to encourage, inspire and drive more children into sport."

Inspiring Region’s Workforce
Young people across the Highlands and Islands are to be encouraged and inspired to take qualifications in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), thanks to Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).  HIE has been successful in its bid to secure a new 45 month contract with STEMNET, a national organisation that creates opportunities to inspire young people in STEM.   The new arrangements will see the development agency continuing to expand its successful STEM Ambassador programme and entering into partnership with UHI, who will deliver the STEM Schools Advisory Network.  There are now in excess of 500 STEM Ambassadors from more than 100 businesses and organisations in the Highlands and Islands who volunteer their time to inspire and enthuse young people, helping to bring STEM subjects alive through their own first hand experience.

These Ambassadors represent a wide range of companies across all STEM disciplines and at all levels, from apprentice engineers to chief executives. They act as a free resource to all secondary schools across the region and can help with classroom projects, lunchtime STEM clubs or by giving careers talks.  Janice Wallace, STEM Ambassador Coordinator from HIE said: “Many young people’s careers are influenced by the people they come into contact with and our Ambassadors act as positive role models for STEM subjects. They help to represent the many industries which rely on STEM skilled people and they show the great diversity of opportunities available within the region.”

Ian Leslie, Dean of Science, Health and Education said: “UHI has a key role to play in increasing awareness of STEM and the opportunities available locally. By reaching outside the classroom, teachers and lecturers collaborate across subjects, enhance and enrich the school curriculum, make links with the world of work, and use varied contexts to help young people relate school science and mathematics with their real-world experience of STEM.  “Effective and inspiring teachers, are vital to raising students’ enjoyment of, enthusiasm for, and achievement in STEM subjects and through our delivery of the STEM Schools Advisory Network we intend to support them in the best way we can.”

The contract, which runs from 1 July 2011 to 31 March 2015, covers the region’s 74 secondary schools in Highland, Moray, Argyll and Bute, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.

Government Urges Further Police Efforts
More can be done to make Scotland's streets safer despite a drop in recorded crime, the Scottish Government has insisted.  The number of recorded crimes dropped by about 15,000 in 2010-11 compared to the previous 12 months, according to figures taken from the annual reports of six police forces and statistical bulletins produced by the other two.  Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie said: "There is always more to do to make our streets safer. And with the evidence that putting more police on the streets has helped to cut crime we are prioritising the 1,000 extra police on our streets, tackling the booze and blade culture and expanding our cashback for communities scheme to ensure more of the money from crime goes to support our communities."

Mr Finnie, a former police officer who sits on the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee, added: "Four years ago, the Scottish Government invested in 1,000 extra police and put cash collected from criminals into supporting communities with activities for young people. That investment has paid off with crime rates hitting their lowest level for nearly 40 years."  All eight forces saw recorded crime figures dropping or remaining static. Scotland's largest force, Strathclyde, saw overall crime rates fall by 5% - from 322,583 in 2009-10 to 300,424 in 2010-11, while Fife saw an 11% drop in the same period.

Assynt's "Year of Archaeology"
The remote community of Assynt, in North West Sutherland, is embarking on an ambitious project in the hope of revealing the secrets of people who lived there in the past.  The project will run events exploring ‘Life and Death in Assynt’s Past’, and will carry out archaeological digs at three sites: a 6000-year old burial mound, a 2000-year old broch and a longhouse from 200 years ago.

Projects leader of Historic Assynt, Gordon Sleight said: "Until recently Assynt’s archaeology has been little studied and very few excavations have been conducted here.  To be able to engage in three major, professionally led, community excavations in one year is an amazing opportunity.   "Excavations on this scale are rare and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to our funders, (Heritage Lottery Fund, Leader and Historic Scotland) for showing such confidence in Historic Assynt and the Assynt community."

Local project officers have been appointed to help with the project. One of these, Brenda Gibson said: "This will be Assynt’s Year of Archaeology! We are lucky to be having all these opportunities to discover about our history, as this remote area of Scotland opens up its many-layered past for us all to see."  Gordon Sleight said: "Assynt is incredibly fortunate in the amount and quality of its surviving archaeology: one of the largest concentrations of Neolithic cairns in the whole of the UK around Ledmore and Borralan, and a beautiful coastline dotted with nine or more Iron Age farmsteads and defensive sites, of which Clachtoll Broch is not only the grandest but probably the most important such site between the North Coast and Skye."

A walk to the Clachtoll broch (leaving from Clachtoll beach car park at 3pm on Saturday (6th August) will launch the project, followed by an evening seminar event in Stoer Hall (7.30pm) at which Iron Age food and drink will be served. The public are welcome to attend.

Excavation and consolidation work at the Iron Age broch at Clachtoll will begin on Monday, 8th August and will run for three weeks. Further excavations will be at a Neolithic chambered cairn at Loch Borralan, Ledmore (29 August until 17 September), and a pre-Clearance longhouse in Glenleraig (26 September until 8 October). Other public events are being planned.  Mr Sleight said:"‘Visitors are welcome to the digs at any time between 9am and 5pm and there will be someone who can show them round. We're also looking for plenty of volunteers.  No experience is required and there are jobs for all abilities. There will be on site training for volunteers in a variety of archaeological skills."

John Barber, the archaeologist with AOC Archaeology who will be leading the work at the broch, said: "Life and Death in Assynt’s Past will build on the previous successes of Assynt’s Hidden Lives Project of 2009. Work on three diverse sites will permit great breadth of learning for the volunteers, and we are confident that this year’s findings will make a meaningful contribution to the archaeological record and to our knowledge of Assynt’s rich and unique past. AOC Archaeology Group is proud to be working with a community as committed and proactive Assynt’s."

Call for Action on Four "High Risk" Rail Crossings in Sutherland
A rail safety organisation is calling for action to improve the safety of four out of six open level crossings in Sutherland.   The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) is recommending that automatic barriers be fitted to the crossings at Brora, Dalchalm, Kinbrace and Lairg.  Investigators believe these crossings are amongst a number in Scotland where a crash between a train and a road vehicle is more likely to happen because of various factors.

Each of the four ungated crossings, which are controlled by lights alone, have been the scene of a collision between a vehicle and a train at one point over the past 12 years.  The most recent crash occurred at Kinbrace in April 2008 when local man Gordon Mackenzie had a lucky escape after the Land Rover he was driving ran into a train.  There have also been a number of other near-miss incidents reported at all four crossings.   The crossings at Brora and Lairg top the league table in Sutherland for the highest number of reported incidents - at 36 each in the time period from 1998 to January 2010.  Next comes Dalchalm with seven reported incidents and then Kinbrace with five.  The county has two other open level crossings, on the A897 at Forsinard and on an access road to Kirkton Farm, outside Golspie.

The statistics are contained in a recently published investigation by the RAIB into the safety of automatic level crossings.  The survey was prompted by a crash in Caithness in 2009 when three members of the same family died after driving into an ungated level crossing.  Network Rail has 115 automatic open crossings, 23 of which are in Scotland, with all but two of these located in the Highlands.   RAIB said that more than half of the country’s crossings, including the site of the 2009 crash at Halkirk, posed a high risk to drivers and should be fitted with barriers.   One of the factors thought make certain crossings a high risk is familiarity – crossings in rural areas are used regularly by the same drivers.

New Sainsbury's Store Opens in Nairn
The new £20 million Sainsbury's in Nairn opened its doors to the public on Wednesday.  Eager shoppers clutched baskets and shopping trolleys as the ribbon on the store — the first north of Aberdeen -  was cut.  Staff, dressed in kilts, welcomed the first customers through the doors of the new 25,000 sq ft store at 9am.  Store manager Raymond Barton (38) said he was looking forward to serving the community.  "It’s really exciting, I think the good welcome that we had while we have been in the community setting up the store has been superb and everyone is positive about Sainsbury’s coming to the town," said Mr Barton.

The Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo

Bicycle-propelled brass bands, a Royal Navy rescue mission and dazzling Highland dancers are just some of the many highlights of this year's Edinburgh Tattoo which will run from August 5 to 27.   The show focuses on the theme 'Of the Sea' while celebrating key anniversaries and Scotland's remarkable engineering pedigree.  On Friday night Nearly 9000 spectators packed into a new £16 million amphitheatre on the Castle Esplanade to christen the Aberdeen-built stands that inspired one of the key themes of this year's showcase, the triumph of Scottish engineering.  The Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards kicked off the extravaganza, emerging from the smokey castle drawbridge to usher in a mass ensemble of bandsmen, which included the well-received Royal Gurkha Rifles.  A rousing musical tribute was paid to the Royal British Legion Scotland, celebrating its 90th anniversary, before the stirring anthems gave way to a bizarre bicycle-mounted brass section, who circled the area in perfect formation without missing a beat.

Dressed in First World War military garb, the Fanfare Band of The Royal Netherlands Army Mounted Regiments comically negotiated the throngs of ground-level photographers - one particular snare-drummer steering entirely with his elbows - to create some heart-stopping moments with the (possibly deliberate) threat of frequent near-collisions.  But a flavour of Rio helped to ease any residual tension, with the samba beats of the Brazilian Marine Corps Martial Band conjuring a carnival atmosphere as the bandsmen precision -marched a formation to spell out Tattoo followed by the shape of an anchor - introducing the second theme of the night, Of The Sea.   Two Royal Navy commands then competed to transport a field gun and its equipment across the esplanade in the quickest time before The Royal Navy Counter Piracy Patrol mocked up a pulse-racing rescue of captives from a pirate ship.  A helicopter was projected against the castle ramparts and 'deployed' an armed force to capture the pirates and release the prisoners.

Later, a 60-strong Highland dance company - with a debut from the West Ulster Total Dance Group - choreographed a performance evoking the spirit of Scotland's fishing industry, which synchronised the music of the Gaels with the sound of the pipes.   The 900-strong cast massed together for a moving finale where they performed the National Anthem and Auld Lang Syne, against the castle backdrop illuminated with a lion rampant.

Double Gets Hole Lot of Attention
A pensioner has told how he beat odds of 67 million to one to strike two holes-in-one in the space of an hour.  Grandfather-of-five Joe Young said he felt like "Tiger Woods without the money" after his remarkable round.  The 73-year-old, who grew up in West Lothian and now lives in Australia, made the lucky strikes on Monday, at the Oxley Golf Club in Brisbane, bringing his total number of holes-in-one to five.  He said: "I wasn't doing very well and was on the verge of giving the game away because I was so bad.  The huge floods we had in Brisbane set our course back a little bit and the greens were pretty slick and I can't putt on fast greens.  But, all of a sudden, it just clicked. On the fifth hole, which is 156 metres, I hit a six-iron and it landed in the hole.  Four holes later, I was on the ninth and it was 120 metres and I hit a pitching wedge and saw that going in the hole.  I just couldn't believe this had happened when I had been playing so badly.  I don't think the people at the club could take it in, most of them were dumbfounded."

Mr Young started playing golf 40 years ago while he was living in Stoneyburn, Bathgate.  He became a member of Harburn Golf Club near West Calder, where he got his first hole-in-one in the 1970s.  He moved to Australia with his wife, Wilma, 74, and son Kevin, 38, in the 1980s following in the footsteps of the couple's two older sons, Ewen, 51, and Robert, 50, who had moved there in the 1970s.  Despite having previously clocked up three holes-in-one, with two of them at Oxley, he admits he is finding his new-found fame hard to believe.  He said: "We have had all the TV channels out and I've had calls from New Zealand and Canada. I have been on numerous radio stations.  I'm absolutely astounded by the amount of interest it's had."  Mr Young still has two brothers, John and Gerald, living in West Lothian, while his other brother William lives in Granton.

Scottish Population Hits its Highest Level Since 1970s
Scots returning home, longer life spans and rising immigration have helped push the country’s population to its highest level since 1977, new figures revealed yesterday.  Last year the population bucked the trend, increasing by 28,100 to an estimated 5,222,100 thanks to more births than deaths, migration and the return of patriots from around the world.

The figures come from the General Register Office for Scotland in its annual review of population movements, living habits and social trends. The population boosts come following Scottish Government drives to increase the labour force, particularly by eastern European incomers, and promote the country to those who had long left it behind. Registrar General for Scotland Duncan Macniven said: “Trends suggested the decline would continue and the population would fall to below 5,000,000 by 2010.  But over the past eight years, the number of people coming to Scotland has been higher than the number leaving, by an average of 22,800 per year.  Around half of those moving to Scotland came from within the UK.  Of the other 50%, who came from Europe and further afield, approximately one quarter were British citizens returning home.”

Further analysis shows there were 58,791 births registered in 2010, which represents a 12% jump over the past eight years.  This baby boom, comfortably outstrips the number of deaths, which totalled 53,967 last year, the second lowest-level since 1855.  Mr Macniven said: “The number of deaths has reduced by 4500 in the last 10 years while the number of births rose by 6400. This represents a dramatic alteration in the natural change.”  He added that “significant reductions” in the number of deaths from heart disease, down by almost one third, and strokes, which are down by more than one quarter, contributed to the changing population pattern.  Life expectancy in Scotland has improved in the last 25 years, increasing from 69.1 years for men and 75.3 years for women born around 1981 to 75.8 years for men and 80.3 years for women born around 2009.  

Mr Macniven was commenting on his last General Register Office for Scotland report on demographic change and retired on Friday.   Looking back on his eight years in post, he said: “When it comes to the long-term birth rate, we are trying to predict the future behaviour of people who are not born yet. We are also trying to predict how many people will come to Scotland from anywhere in the world. I thought the recession would have had an impact (on population figures) but it did not.”

Eight Arrests after £80,000 Drugs Raid
Eight people have been arrested by police following a drugs raid in Inverness.  Northern Constabulary said officers also seized £80,000-£90,000 worth of Class A and B drugs, believed to be cannabis resin and other substances, in the intelligence-led operation. A spokesman said five men and three women were expected to appear in court on Monday.

Hydraulics Hitch Leaves Motorists Stranded Aboard Island Ferry
A 20-minute crossing turned into a six-hour ordeal for a dozen motorists after technical problems hit the MV Loch Ranza.  A hitch with the hydraulics meant the ramp on the ferry was jammed and unable to unload vehicles on the Gigha to Tayinloan sailing in Argyll and Bute on Friday evening.  While foot passengers were able to get on and off the boat as extra sailings were put on to clear the backlog, the motorists heading back to the mainland were unable to get their cars off as the ramp would not budge.  And people wanting to take their vehicles over to the seven-mile-long island were unable to do so, as they faced the long wait at the Tayinloan pier for engineers to arrive from Glasgow to fix the problem.

Staff to Learn Gaelic Online
Staff working for public bodies will be able to learn Gaelic online using a new toolkit launched on Thursday.  The project was launched in Inverness in a new programme which forms part of a Scottish Government commitment to support the language  Western Isles MSP, who is also Minister for Gaelic and Dinny McGinley, the Irish Minister of State with special responsibility for Gaeltacht affairs, were present at the launch.   Each toolkit, developed by the Skye-based company Cànan, includes a series of generic introductory lessons, as well as personalised glossaries of useful phrases, and terminology specific to each organisation.

Alasdair Allan said: “I am very pleased to see bodies which are key to Scotland’s rural infrastructure working alongside Bòrd na Gàidhlig to widen opportunities to learn the language and about how it relates to the day-to-day work of the organisations.  We are determined to secure a sustainable future for Gaelic, and the involvement of public bodies with a strong presence in rural Scotland, particularly the North East, is key to moving forward.”  Dinny McGinley, the Irish Minister of State with special responsibility for Gaeltacht affairs, said: “This is an exciting and innovative programme that demonstrates the positive benefits that can accrue from public sector companies working together on a shared vision.  I commend all who were involved in developing this project and I have no doubt that there are valuable lessons we can learn from it in Ireland as we pursue the common goal of promoting increased awareness and usage of our native Irish language.”