Some Scottish News & Views #100

SOME SCOTTISH NEWS & VIEWS
Issue # 100                                                                    Week ending 13th 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, 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.

It’s Important to Remember That You must Always Use Both Hands by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal
If a man is rowing a boat a long way, why is it necessary for him to take off all his kit? That’s an interesting question but, to be honest, not one I’d devoted much time to considering. Not so some people in this house. For Mrs X and her pals it has been the question uppermost in their minds for months since they began to figure out the practicalities of rowing across a big, wide pond.

Their debate, of course, was prompted by Niall Iain Macdonald, the gallant fellow who is planning to row from New York to Stornoway next summer. Mrs X had been reading about Ben Fogle who found fame on Taransay in the Castaway 2000 reality TV show. He and James Cracknell also rowed across the Atlantic a few years ago. Later, they revealed they did it in the altogether. It was all to avoid chafing, apparently.

Sitting there day in, day out pulling on the oars, it would not be long before fabric rubbing the same bit of skin would cause a little redness. It wouldn’t have been very practical to stop rowing every time they felt a little itch somewhere. They couldn’t even use one hand to row and another to rub the painful area. Always best to use both hands to row. If they’d used one hand, they’d just have gone round in circles. Good advice for life that; always use both hands.

Fogle and Cracknell’s account of how it was necessary to strip off to avoid serious injury got some people thinking. What was Niall Iain going to do to avoid sore, red bits? Will they – I mean he – not get sunburnt? What if …?  I was delegated to ask him.

Turns out Fogle and Cracknell took a more southerly, shorter and sunnier route while Niall Iain is taking a more-northerly, chillier path through the waves. So the vest stays on. And the long johns, the anorak and much else. Well, the disappointment here was immense. Mrs X had been all set to order copies of the unedited DVD.

Which reminds me of another well-edited disc. It is called 37 Seconds and is a comedy from the media production house known as Mac A Noonoo. That’s the trading name of Billy Matheson, who’s written fine observational comedy for Gaelic TV and stand-up.

TV is limiting with all its rules about not upsetting this special interest group or that faith group. In 37 Seconds though, Billy, who writes, edits, directs, produces and acts just lets rip with no Broadcasting Standards Commission to worry about. Though you have watch points on the box, no one has to buy a DVD if they don’t want to so you can be as rude as you want, especially if you produce your own DVD.

That’s why 37 Seconds, which also raises cash for a local good cause, is rightly marked adult-themed content. Because, golly, that’s what it is. Right from the get-go, a shocking, deadly sketch about the alleged bitterness between the Free Church and the Free Church (Continuing) sets the tone. They get both barrels, as do Glaswegian neds, the medical profession and English toffs. It is as a posh cove from Englandshire that one of his co-stars, who revels in the splendid name of Iain Maciver, comes into his own.

The sketch, which so appropriately for the theme of this column is called Use Both Hands, where Iain is a thirsty Hooray Henry who comes across a well is my absolute favourite. Not only does it have the best punchline but Iain’s depiction of a snobbish Sassennach being encouraged by a pair of scoundrel crofters to drink from the watering hole into which their sheep plop is a beautifully-crafted classic.

Yet another example, as in real life, of a situation where the grittier more-descriptive Gaelic is much funnier than mere bland English. You may think the word plop is concisely descriptive but it’s nothing like as evocative as the Gaels’ shorter alternative – and which Billy uses to great effect.

At this point, any non-Gaelic speaking readers will have completely lost my drift. I shall embarrass you for your ignorance no more. Just try and keep up – and try not to think about what happened in that well. The third player in 37 Seconds is also a surprise hit. Calum Macdonald, best known in these parts as a sensible Isles FM presenter of Celtic music, shows great passion in the scenes as an aggressive drunkard confronted by a boiler-suited superhero with lethal laser eyes.

Often, it’s the outtakes that crown a good comedy DVD. There would have been many to choose from with this mad crew, but look for the one with Calum being zapped by the beam from Mac A Noonoo’s extraordinary eyeballs which blasts him into a pile of palettes causing them to tumble knocking seven bells out of him.   There’s a little of that Hollywood-style Computer Generated Imaging involved but you have to watch it several times to appreciate Calum’s shock and pain for the sake of his art as he lies there dazed wondering what day it is.

So, a final warning. Although it is available in the classier shops in Stornoway, 37 Seconds is not for everyone. The language is sometimes on the ripe side of fruity and if you’re going to let your granny watch it, you should cover her ears.  To make sure she hears nothing at all, I suggest you use both hands.

Big Brother Comes to Bowmore but Locals Prove Camera-shy
With its rolling green hills and sweeping white sands, Islay is a picture of peace and tranquillity.  But Big Brother has finally arrived on the island with the installation its first police-monitored CCTV camera.  Beaming down over Bowmore, the new spy camera is a joint initiative by Argyll and Bute Council and Strathclyde Police.  The move was prompted by repeated acts of vandalism, including broken windows, graffiti and fires at the public toilets - before and after their recent refurbishment as part of a £300,000 regeneration project in Bowmore.

Bowmore resident George Rhind claims the camera is unnecessary and completely out of character in such a small, remote community.  The island is only 25 miles long and is home to just over 3,000 people.  Mr Rhind said tourists visited the island to get away from prying eyes.  Reflecting the views of many locals, he said: "This is just another piece of urbanisation that has been imposed on the village and I think it's a step in the wrong direction.  There have always been minor acts of vandalism carried out in the village of Bowmore for as long as I can remember, and I am now 70.  In a community like this, if the police are worth their salt it doesn't take them long, by one means or another, to find out who is responsible for acts of vandalism."   However, a Strathclyde Police spokesman said: "This is a close-knit community and people would not want to report the people responsible, but now they don't have to because it would be on CCTV.  Islay is a lovely place, the crime is very low and people are disappointed that it has come to this. But the council requested that the cameras were put up and monitored because the public toilets were being vandalised ".  That vandalism has now stopped. The police spokesman added: "The camera has been fantastic, it's a good deterrent, it has done what it is intended to do."

Floods Can't Dampen Music Festival Fun
The officer in charge of policing a Highland music festival praised revellers for their behaviour as the final night of the festival passed without serious incident.  Northern Constabulary said the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival at Beauly, near Inverness, lived up to its reputation as a family friendly event with the vast majority of the 14,000 fans on their best behaviour at the event.  Event Commander Chief Inspector Jim Neil said: "Despite the weather, which closed in around midnight, festival goers remained in high spirits throughout.  The rain has caused campsites to flood and there will be some challenges in terms of emptying the site."  Police said there were only a handful of disturbances at the event, with just two people arrested for scaling the perimeter fence.

End of Cavalry, Dragoons to Be Merged with Infantry (another one bites the dust -Robin)
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, one of Scotland's oldest regiments, is to be merged with the infantry, marking the demise of the British Army's cavalry after 350 years.  Under new plans being drawn up by military chiefs, the cavalry will no longer operate as an independent force and will instead by restructured and combined with the infantry into a "combat capability directorate", according to a leaked army document.  Senior officers fear this will mean the demise of famous regimental names such as the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the King's Royal Hussars, which are likely to be split up into squadrons and incorporated into infantry battalions.  

The cavalry, which long ago swapped horses for tanks, is one of the oldest of the forces, dating back to the Civil War in the 1640s.  The history of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards stretches back to 1678, and the regiment had a prestigious role in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when Sergeant Charles Ewart captured the Imperial Eagle of Napoleon's 45th Regiment.  The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are currently based in North Germany, as part of the 7th Armoured Brigade, the Desert Rats, where they are equipped with the Challenger 2 main battle tank.

Murder Probe Into Death of Teenager in Flat
A murder investigation has been launched after a teenager was killed at a flat in N.Lanarkshire. The 19yr-old, Leslie Barry, was killed in a "senseless attack" at the property in Kilsyth.  Police said they were called to the flat in the town at 12:45am after reports that a man had been seriously injured in an incident. After a post-mortem examination yesterday, the death is being treated as murder.

Private Sector Shows Further Growth
Private sector output expanded for the seventh consecutive month, according to analysis by the Bank of Scotland.  The latest survey suggested growth picked up in July, compared to the previous month.  Higher activity was found in manufacturing and services - but overall growth was still down on the UK-wide average.

Donald MacRae, chief economist at the bank, said: "This is the seventh successive positive PMI (Purchasing Managers' Index) this year and a welcome one, suggesting that the private sector of the Scottish economy grew, albeit modestly, in July.  Higher activity was prevalent across both manufacturing and services sectors and for the first time in three months, activity in all three service subsectors also increased.  For the sixth consecutive month, cost inflation within the private sector economy eased, yet output prices rose at the fastest rate since April. New export orders increased for the ninth consecutive month, particularly due to new orders from Asia.

Gaelic School Students Celebrate Success in ‘Pilot’ Maths Exam (This is the old Woodside Senior Secondary School in Glasgow which has successfully been turned into a total Gaelic school - I wonder if they kept our old school motto Fortitudine Vincaemus” which seems most appropriate now - Robin with a nostalgic sigh)
Students at Scotland’s largest Gaelic school were yesterday celebrating their results following the landmark decision to translate exam papers into the language for the first time.  Higher candidates were able to sit mathematics in either English or Gaelic following the Scottish Qualifications Authority’s decision to expand the number of subjects it offers in the language. Standard grades in geography, history, maths and modern studies are already translated into Gaelic.  The move was welcomed by staff and students at Glasgow Gaelic school, where pupils were previously forced to undertake exams in English – despite being taught the subject in Gaelic since the school’s launch five years ago.

Three students who excelled in the current round of examinations were 16-year-olds David Mackenzie and Morris Kelly and 17-year-old Ruairidh Morrison, who all achieved top grades in Higher Maths.  Ruairidh said: “I used the Gaelic paper. I found it easier because Gaelic is an easier language for me.”  David added: “It’s helpful for students and can make things a lot easier to understand. Future pupils should definitely have the option.  It gives you a bit of support if you’re having a mental block doing it in English then you’ve always got the option there of the Gaelic.”

Glasgow Gaelic School head teacher, Donalda McComb, said: “They are taught the terminology in Gaelic but they are also familiar with it in English.  And because it’s totally immersion from primary into secondary they will have been taught maths in Gaelic from primary 1, so are very familiar with the use of certain concepts.  This is probably a pilot year to see how we got on with the Higher course and it looks as if it’s been quite successful.”

An SQA spokesman said the roll-out was part of the authority’s “strong commitment” to Scotland’s Gaelic-speaking community.  He said: “This year Higher Mathematics was added to the offering. This expansion is one of SQA’s Gaelic Language Plan commitments.  SQA maintains a strong commitment to the Gaelic language. National Qualifications for Gaelic (Learners) and Gàidhlig are available at all levels from Access 3 to Advanced Higher.  We’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of the candidates from the Glasgow Gaelic School who performed splendidly. They have got their just reward after a year of committed study.”

Crime Gangs Crippled by Novel Tactics
Scotland’s elite crime- fighters carried out crippling “disruption” operations against gangsters more than once a week last year.  The Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) said it had caused turmoil in the underworld with a series of 59 schemes to undermine the nation’s 360 organised crime groups.   SCDEA officers harried gang front companies and seized nearly £1.3 million from the working capital of criminals – far more than ever before – and frustrated deals to buy guns and drugs at the 11th hour.   The agency also arrested 195 people, including 73 of the “most harmful and dangerous” criminals in the country, securing convictions that ended in a cumulative jail sentence of 275 years, a new record.  But its director-general was yesterday proudest of the new armoury of disruption techniques – the kind of backdoor schemes that were used to prosecute Al Capone for tax evasion rather than banditry in prohibition-era America.

The agency worked with a range of public regulators to frustrate organised crime groups trying to launder their cash through businesses in industries such as the taxi trade and security industry.  But it also launched operations – excruciatingly irritating for gangsters – that meant they could not lease high-end cars that raise their status.  Deputy Chief Constable Gordon Meldrum, the SCDEA’s director-general, said: “Disruption is the name of the game for us. It is what we focus on. It is what we are measured on and it is what is really, really important to us.”  Previously the SCDEA had to live up to targets for seizing drugs. Now it simply counts the number of disruptions it was supposed to carry out. It has far exceeded its target for 2010-11 of 30 such operations.  Mr Meldrum explained: “If you think about it logically, if we know organised crime is involved in a deal to bring drugs back in to Scotland and we know they are leaving Scotland with a big bag of cash, why would we let them do that?  Why would we run the risk of letting them leave the country with the money and let them bring back the drugs just so we could seize the white powder as a measure of our success?”

At face value, last year the SCDEA seized less drugs than in previous years. Its headline figure was just over 80kg, well-below old targets of 300kg.  But that comparison is meaningless, said Mr Meldrum, because the changing nature of drug imports means the substances seized were far more potent than the old hauls.  Speaking of the 80kg grabbed last year, he said: “They are very high purity and – at a very conservative estimate – would very easily have achieved over 400kg of street- quality drugs.”  Despite a record seizure in the English port of Southampton, most narcotics make their way into Scotland in small batches of high-purity product. It is then bulked out – or cut – with adulterants.  A real measure of the success of Scottish and UK operations is just how weak a lot of the drugs now seized in Scottish street operations are. The average purity of heroin, for example, has fallen from 30% two years ago to just 6.7% now.  Cocaine, which Mr Meldrum believes is now Scotland’s favourite drug, has purities of under 5%.

Elderly Evacuated by Red Cross as Flooding Hits North-East
Dozens of residents were forced to evacuate their homes on Monday after a swollen river threatened to burst its banks following torrential rain.  Householders in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, were urged to leave their properties as a precaution due to the risk of flooding, and the Red Cross helped elderly people to safety from a care home in the danger zone around the Meadows area of the town.  Flood warnings were still in place for several areas of the north-east of Scotland. The Met Office said the rain that has been battering the North-east was petering out, but warned fresh downpours would hit the west coast later in the week.

Red Cross rescue teams helped 46 elderly residents to safety from The Meadows care home in Burnside Road as the swollen River Deveron rose dangerously high.  Eight volunteers using an ambulance and three specialist patient transport vehicles ferried residents to other care homes in the area and to Huntly's Jubilee Hospital. Another 50 properties in the Meadows area were at risk from flooding, and residents were urged to seek safety in a rest centre set up by the council in a school.  Aberdeenshire Council's Marr area manager, Les Allan, said: "We should emphasise that at this stage this is purely a precautionary evacuation and there is no serious flooding on the ground as yet. But this could change, and we want to work with residents to be as prepared as possible for any eventuality."  The council was continuing to monitor water levels in Turriff and Kintore, two other areas that have been causing concern.

Vincent Fitzsimons, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency's duty hydrology manager, said most of the flooding problems had been around Angus, the North-east and the Moray coast.  "Scotland experienced a large amount of rain over the weekend and we saw an increase in river levels across the north and south-east because of that. One of the most intense periods of rain was in the North-east in the early hours of Monday morning," he said.

Villagers in Last-ditch Talks over Lack of Out-of-hours Medical Care
Residents in a remote part of the Highlands held talks on Monday night over a looming problem of out-of-hours medical cover.  People living in five villages on the Ardnamurchan peninsula have been told there will be no on-call service operating after 5pm from February, when one of two district nurses based in Kilchoan retires.  If no alternative is put in place, 250 people will be affected in the village and in Glenborrodale, Portuairk, Sanna and Kilmory.  The nearest emergency cover is at a GP practice at Acharacle, at least 40 minutes away along a single-track road, or at an ambulance station at Strontian, about 50 minutes away.

Call to Scrap 'Cruel' Island Tradition of Annual Gannet Cull
The traditional harvesting of young seabirds in the Western Isles could be scrapped following protests by animal rights campaigners.  Gannet chicks, or guga, have been collected for generations on the island of Sula Sgeir 40 miles north of Lewis, where they are considered a delicacy.  The Scottish SPCA said the annual guga hunt should be banned and Scottish Natural Heritage, which is responsible for licensing the event, said yesterday the issue will be discussed during a review of its licensing functions over the next year.

The hunting of some seabirds is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act but special licences are granted to hunt guga with a condition that the birds are humanely killed.  An SNH spokeswoman said there were around 9,000 pairs of gannets on Sula Sgeir in 1984; slightly more than 10,000 pairs in 1994 and around 9,000 in 2004.  "This was all in the context of the guga hunt, leading us to conclude that the hunt in its current form is sustainable," she said.  "We will be reviewing our licensing functions over the next 12 months during which this issue will be considered in more detail. Any recommendations arising as a result of this work will be implemented with immediate effect."   Supporters of the hunt say there is no difference between catching fish and catching seabirds, as long as it is done in a sustainable and safe way.

Highlanders’ Epic Canadian Trail Brought to Life
Forced to leave as part of the Highland Clearances, a group of 94 people embarked on an epic journey to lay the foundations of one of Canada’s largest cities some 3600 miles away from home.   The 200-year-old bond between Winnipeg, the provincial capital of Manitoba, and an empty Highland glen in Sutherland is poised to become even stronger over the next two years as an ambitious project aims to give life to those who had to leave the Strath of Kildonan in 1813.

The Timespan Museum in Helmsdale will use cutting edge digital technologies to develop a Clearances Trail to tell the story of the home they left and share it with their descendants in Canada.  Timespan has been awarded £45,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £22,407 from Museum Galleries Scotland to develop the project.  By next May it is hoped the trail will be ready with software applications on smart phones and tablets, taking visitors back two centuries to the places where the settlers had lived.  Project manager Jacquie Aitken said there had already been interest from Canada.  “We have heard back from the Scottish Heritage Council of Manitoba, who are very interested in working with us to promote the project and explore new opportunities to commemorate the contribution made by the people of Kildonan to the development of Winnipeg,” she said.

She said she looked forward to working with the Canadians. “There is still a lot we have to learn about what happened when the Kildonan people arrived in North America, but there is a lot their descendants don’t know about their life in the Strath.”  Just 94 people left the Strath of Kildonan in 1813 in the face of plans hatched by Patrick Sellar to move them to the inhospitable north coast to allow the “improvements” ordered by the House of Sutherland as people were swapped for sheep.  They endured an Atlantic crossing only to have to have to build their own cabins near the Hudson Bay, as winter was closing in.

The following spring they began their 1000 mile journey, walking hundreds of miles in single file and often in rudimentary snowshoes.  They suffered sickness and snow blindness, carried boats and canoes round waterfalls, rowing and paddling against river flows south to what is now Lake Winnipeg and on to the Red River area – where the Earl of Selkirk, a Scottish nobleman who owned a significant stake in the Hudson Bay company, had promised them land.  Professor Jim Hunter, the Highland historian, said yesterday: “It was arguably the worst and most demanding journey ever made by any European emigrants to North America.”

Lochhead Slams Crown Estate’s Property Deal
Rural Affairs secretary Richard Lochhead and the leader of Highland Council have criticised the Crown Estate over a deal with an offshore property company involving a joint venture that does not have to publish accounts.  Critics described the latest evidence from economists Margaret and Jim Cuthbert as “extraordinary” and further proof of the urgent need for the reform of the Crown Estate Commissioners.   Mr Lochhead said: “This revelation offers yet another reason why the Crown Estate in Scotland must be devolved and made accountable to Scotland, with local communities benefiting directly from Crown Estate revenues.  We need transparency and accountability in the management of public assets – something which is painfully lacking with the Crown Estate Commissioners (CEC), who can even sell off the seabed without any requirement to consult the Scottish Parliament.”

Dr Michael Foxley, leader of Highland Council, said: “I totally agree with these concerns. What is shown here is extraordinary.  This is a prime example of why drastic reform is required. The revenue, benefits and management of this public asset have to be completely transparent.  Both the revenue and resource have to be devolved, not just to the Scottish Parliament, but from there down to the Highlands and Islands.”  Professor James Hunter, the historian and former chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: “This is just one more piece of evidence that makes the case for root-and-branch reform of the Crown Estate and shows that in a Scottish context it is vital for the Scottish Parliament to control the revenues it earns.”   The Cuthberts were critical above all of the fact that this £100m loan by the CEC without any ministerial oversight appeared to breach at least the spirit of the 1961 legislation governing the body managing Crown land and property.

Arrests Made over 'Riot' Posting
A teenager has been detained by police in connection with a Facebook message allegedly inciting others to riot, following public unrest in several cities across the UK.  The 16-year-old was detained at 12.40pm on Tuesday following an operation by Strathclyde Police in the south side of Glasgow.  The message, allegedly inciting others to commit acts of disorder, was posted on the social networking site, and is understood to have been reported to the police by concerned members of the public.  Police said there was no intelligence to suggest there is any trouble planned in the area, and officers will continue to monitor the situation.  Meanwhile, Tayside Police confirmed an 18yr-old man was arrested in connection with Facebook entries encouraging others to show up in Dundee city centre with weapons to riot. The force said it had taken "robust and proportionate action" and was following positive lines of inquiry to identify others who may be inciting people to cause public disorder. The teenager is due to appear at Dundee Sheriff Court.

Scottish police officers have been deployed to areas in England following rioting across that country.  David Steele, a spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos), confirmed that officers were posted to the Midlands and north of England.  He said equipment and vehicles, as well as extra manpower, have also been sent from all eight of Scotland's forces.   Mr Steele said: "This involves all of our forces, not just one. The situation is being constantly monitored between the Acpos and colleagues in England and any further assistance required will be given careful consideration."

Cameron Vows to Learn from Scotland over Riots
David Cameron has vowed to use the work of police in Scotland in tackling gang crime as a blueprint for forces south of the Border to prevent a repeat of the riots that have caused devastation across England.  During an emergency session of Parliament, the Prime Minister indicated police and politicians would look to the example of the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) in Glasgow in order to thwart the street gangs which he said had been “at the heart” of this week’s disruption.  Mr Cameron said there was evidence street gangs, “mostly composed of young boys, mainly from dysfunctional homes” had been behind the co-ordination of the attacks on the police and the looting that followed.  He said: “I want us to use the record of success against gangs in some cities like Boston in the USA and Strathclyde Police in Scotland – who have done this by engaging the police, the voluntary sector and local government. I want this to be a national priority.

The VRU was established in 2005 by John Carnochan, a detective and former hostage negotiator, and intelligence analyst Karyn McCluskey with a view to creating a new approach to combating violence. Police work with community groups, health agencies, educational organisations and social workers to reduce offending.   In the past two years alone, its Community Initiative to Reduce Violence has resulted in a near-50% drop in violent offending among gang members engaged with the project.   Ms McCluskey, co-director of the VRU, said “It’s lovely to have this recognition but it’s been a long hard slog and we still have a long way to go.”

Strathclyde Police Chief Superintendent Bob Hamilton said the force has been ahead of the curve in addressing the impact of social media in organising gang violence.  However he stressed the different dynamics of gang violence in the west of Scotland, adding that what has been successful for Strathclyde is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach for other forces to adopt. He said: “In Strathclyde our gangs are primarily involved in territorial and recreational violence fuelled by alcohol. We’ve no issues with gangs being involved in the drugs trade, which is something organised crime gangs are into. I’m not being critical of forces south of the Border, but sustained activity here has been beneficial.”

Council 'Complacent' over Gaelic School Site Damage
Council bosses have been accused of "complacency" for letting a school which has been earmarked for Edinburgh’s first dedicated Gaelic primary fall into a serious state of disrepair.  Education chiefs recommended in June that the city should open the new school in the former Bonnington Primary in Leith instead of expanding provision within the current Gaelic medium education (GME) unit within Tollcross Primary.  Just a few weeks later, it emerged that costs of bringing the building back into use as a working school had shot up from £1.6 million to £3.6m, jeopardising the whole project.

Jennifer Wright, of Gaelic group Comann nam Pàrant, said: "It is very sad that a council -owned listed building has been allowed to deteriorate so dramatically in one year." Roland Reid, secretary of Leith Central Community Council - which supports the creation of a dedicated Gaelic school in Bonnington - said: "I'm slightly sceptical about the increase in costs. Looking from the outside, it doesn't seem as bad as the survey would suggest."

New Point School Handed over
The new Point Primary School was formally handed over, on time and on budget, on Wednesday by the main contractor FMP to the facilities management company FES FM who are now responsible for maintaining the building and school grounds.  The new school replaces ageing facilities at Bayble, Knock and Aird Primary Schools and will open to pupils for the new academic term on 18th August, following which the remains of the old Bayble School will be demolished to construct a new all weather synthetic sports pitch.  With two of the six WISP facilities now complete, Sir E Scott School remains scheduled for completion in December 2011, West Side Primary School in March 2012 and finally the Nicolson Institute and Daliburgh Primary Schools in July 2012.

Lights Down to Save Money
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will be reducing the islands’ street lighting by one hour in a bid to meet energy targets and save money.  Last February, as parts of its budget setting exercise, the authority decided on a reduction in the number of hours that road lighting would be lit across the islands.  The plans is now to reduce the lights that are currently lit only part of the night by a further hour and that no lights outside an agreed area around Stornoway would remain light all night (dusk to dawn).  As a result of these changes, the Comhairle’s energy consumption will reduce, as well as its C02 emissions, and with the added potential for illumination fittings to last longer, savings will be made to operational costs.   The decision was taken following consideration of the feedback and suggestions from the various community meetings that were held across the islands towards the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011; and is in line with actions that many other Scottish councils are taking to reduce their operational costs.  As some communities will be aware, work has already commenced in Lewis on implementing the reduction in lit hours and it is hoped that the majority of lighting sections across the islands will be working on reduced lit hours by September.

Rare Find at Brora Salt Work Excavation
The excavation at the site of one of Scotland’s oldest surviving salt works on Brora’s Back Shore, dating to c1600, is in its second week and more discoveries have been made about the oldest building in Brora.   The excavation has been funded by Historic Scotland and managed by The SCAPE Trust, based at St Andrews University, and locally by Clyne Heritage Society. There has been fantastic local support and volunteers have travelled from all over the Highlands to take part in the dig, including members of the North of Scotland Archaeological Society. The dig has proved a major attraction for the many visitors walking along the shore.

Undeterred by the weather, midges and a recent bout of minor vandalism at the site, the excavation team have made great progress and have moved several tons of sand and rubble to reveal the rest of the old salt store house.  The discovery of the week was an external staircase which must have led up to an upper floor and a further exciting find was broken bits of very thin window glass dating to the early 1600s. This is a really rare find for this part of the Highlands and shows there must have been at least two windows high up in the walls.  The next step is to reveal the floor of the building, last walked on nearly 400 years ago, where we should uncover many more artefacts.

Brilliant Start to Thurso Gala Events
Thurso Gala had “one of its best opening nights ever”, according to committee chairwoman Doreen Macleod.  She said there was a good response from the public, the weather was favourable and the atmosphere was great when the event got under way.  The gala’s organising committee, Thurso Town Improvements Association, put on more activities this year and that seemed to go down well with the large crowd.  There were four floats and “loads of foot collectors” said Mrs Macleod, who explained a new category may have to be introduced next year for crafted items.

The highlight of the evening was the crowning of Gala Queen Hannah Paterson, who was accompanied by her attendants, Kirsty Rollinson and Emma Munro, along with flower girls Poppy Cottam and Erin Dunnett and pageboy Eadan Ross. The crowning ceremony was conducted by last year’s queen, Chloe Smith.  Guest speaker for the event was local Highland councillor Willie Mackay while Caithness FM’s Bob Johnson was MC.

8,000 Pipers Set Their Sights on World Title
Glasgow Green will be alive with the skirl of the pipes this weekend when it plays host to the 2011 World Pipe Band Championships.  More than 8,000 pipers and drummers from 16 nations will be taking part in the event nicknamed "The Worlds".  The event, which has 230 pipe bands this year, has been associated with Glasgow for nearly 70 years and attracts thousands of spectators. Among those taking part is a pipe band from Christchurch, New Zealand, who had many instruments, uniforms and their practice hall destroyed in the earthquake which hit the city in February.  The Canterbury Caldedonian Society's band, the Cale, initially thought they would have to cancel their appearance, but donations and sponsorships allowed the trip to go ahead.

Judge Calls for Peace in Church
A judge has urged two factions created by a split in the Free Church of Scotland to make peace after a 20-year feud.  The comment came as three judges upheld a decision rejecting a claim by the breakaway Free Church (Continuing) group to the ownership of a church and its manse. The row dates back to the schism that followed allegations of sexual misconduct against a senior figure in the Free Kirk in the 1980s.  Rev Donald Macleod was cleared after a trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court but continuing bitterness among some congregations led to the formation of the FCC in 2000.  Since then there have been a number of disputes about property. One centred on the occupation of Broadford Church in Skye where the minister, Reverend Allan MacIver, was part of the breakaway group.

On his retiral in 2007, the Free Kirk sought to re-take the Broadford church and manse but Reverend John Morrison and others in his congregation tried to hang on to the Broadford property. They lost a Court of Session action and the legal arguments continued until yesterday when they lost an appeal.  Three judges issued a written ruling running to 116 pages dealing with the arguments based both on law and on church doctrine which they had heard.  One of the judges, Lord Drummond Young, noted that in modern housing estates there were churches shared by different denominations.  “May I, in conclusion, respectfully suggest that this is a case where such an arrangement might be reached?” the judge wrote.

A spokesman for the Free Church said: “We are very thankful and relieved that the judges in this case have ruled in favour of the Free Church of Scotland so decisively. With reference to Lord Drummond Young’ suggestion about sharing property, we have always been and continue to be open to all helpful proposals and indeed, in some areas, sharing already takes place regularly.”

Shell Fighting to Stem Spillage from North Sea Oil Platform
Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell on Friday night was battling to stem a leak at one of its North Sea oil platforms.  The fault came to light at Shell’s Gannet Alpha base on Friday afternoon when engineers noticed that oil was being lost from a tear in a flow line running between the platform and one of its subsea wells.  The affected well was shut down and pressure in the flow line was subsequently reduced while engineers put a fix in place to mend the hole, which the company said had “stemmed the leak significantly”.  However, the flow line was still being monitored for signs of spillage on Saturday morning. Shell has declined to say how much oil may have been spilled from the Gannet Alpha platform, although it said the platform had remained operational during the incident and continued to draw oil from its other subsea wells.  A clean-up vessel has been dispatched to the location of the spill and a plane is monitoring the water for accumulations of oil on the surface that could affect wildlife.