Some Scottish News & Views #103

SOME SCOTTISH NEWS & VIEWS
Issue # 103                                                     Week ending 3rd September 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 on 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.

My Shame As I Shot RAF Warplane Doing That Historic UHI Inauguration Flypast by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Our network of North Scottish colleges waited many years to be awarded a charter to properly call itself a university. Many moons ago they were dubbed the University of the Highlands and Islands. We thought it does what it says on the tin.


Then someone pointed out that it wasn’t a proper uni yet and wouldn’t be until it began handing out proper gongs. Calling it a uni without the ability to award degrees would just be ridiculous. That would be like having a proper local authority in a democratic country which only did things which were approved by a tiny, extremist, religious minority. Absurd. Could never happen here.

So they scratched their learned heads and wondered how they could quietly drop the word university. They needed to demonstrate their emphasis on rural studies and renewable energy. So it became the College of Rural and Alternative Power Studies. Wonder why they dropped that.  Then they said let’s tell them that our new name is just UHI. We’ll use that until we can call ourselves the real thing. Many sneered and said, look, these guys can’t even spell uni. So UHI, or Unconfirmed Hallowed Institution, it has been.

That all changed this year when it was awarded the full status of Uni of the Hi and I. They had a shindig to celebrate with everyone splogged up in their academic robes. Slightly spooky it was - like being on the set of The Wicker Man.

The highlight was the flypast on Thursday. Despite the defence cuts, the RAF found an under-used Tornado GR4 jet at XV Squadron in RAF Lossiemouth to fly slowly over the 13 UHI sites. In Stornoway, it was due at a quarter to one, sorry 12:45 GMT, sir, and hundreds of students and staff trooped outside to witness this magnificent historic event. I had my camera set on rapid shooting.
Supposed to just zoom over from Invershneggie in 10 minutes, that was the problem. Tornado jets don’t do slow. It suddenly appeared and I grabbed the camera to follow it in the viewfinder as it roared high over my head but I overbalanced and ended up flat on my back, camera still clicking away.   Thankfully, the assembled academic masses never witnessed my humiliation. They too were craning their necks following the Tornado as it descended to practice bomb Sulasgeir.

Using acronyms instead of proper words isn’t new. I remember when Great Bernera got rid of its bulls because they were chasing post vans, a man came from town to attend to the forlorn Friesians and the sombre Shorthorns.

I’ll always remember how my parents used to simultaneously furrow their brows when I, an inquisitive nine-year-old, used to ask who was the cove in the big rubber apron going into our byre.
“He’s just the AI man, that’s all. Now finish your porridge.”

So what did he do, I kept asking. AI? What did AI stand for?

“Nothing. He just goes to talk to the cows, that’s all. And AI doesn’t stand for anything interesting, does it, father? You tell him. You should be the one telling the boy about that sort of thing.”
Why should Dad be the one to tell me the man in the apron in the byre wasn’t there to do anything but talk to the cows and that AI didn’t stand for anything at all? It didn’t stack up. Then I heard Dad saying they would have to pay him to whisper these sweet nothings to Buttercup and Sooty.

OMG, I thought. That must be Dr Doolittle in our byre. Wait till I tell them in school tomorrow. They’ll never believe it.  But they did, because Doolittle had also been doing nothing much to speak of in their byres.  Many years later I found out what the letters AI actually stood for. I was shocked even then but at the age of 34 I tried not to let on I knew what Doolittle was up to in our byre. Up to his elbow, by the sound of it.

Acronyms are also a brilliant way to communicate difficult unpalatable facts to people who don’t want to listen. I had a serious problem myself recently after I installed new software on my computer. I read and reread the manual but it still wasn’t working right.

There was obviously something wrong with the computer or the software as I was convinced I had done everything the book said.

In desperation, I called a certain computer geek I know. Having been the first person to tell me a spreadsheet was not a duvet for a double bed, I’d maintained a degree of respect for his vast knowledge.

He somehow connected his computer many miles away to mine in Stornoway. Then he hummed and hahed a lot before eventually telling me he’d found a serious malfunction.

See, I said. I’d told him there was something wrong, didn’t I? Was it hardware or software, I asked.
Neither, he’d decided. He was going to have to come to see me. This was all down to a severe case of PEBKAC.

Er, excuse me. We’ll have less of that kind of filthy talk on the phone to my house. I told him straight.   Oh, that’s the name of the problem? Sorry, I thought you were just being rude to me. So what is PEBKAC? Is there a cure? Will it cost much to fix?   It was, he told me patiently, an engineering acronym.

And it stands for Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair.

Energy Giant Sparks Anger As it Says No to Burying Power Line
Scottish Power has ruled out burying its section of the controversial Beauly to Denny power line - revealing it would cost £278 million.  Long-awaited proposals by the energy giant to lessen the impact of the huge line through Stirlingshire have dashed the hopes of campaigners who want it buried out of sight.    A report by ScottishPower, says burying the line would not only cost the taxpayer £278m but delay its construction by three years.  When the cost of upkeep of the line is taken into account, along with the impact of paying compensation to generators not able to connect to the grid for an extra three years, the price rises to £316m.

Instead, the company is proposing measures that include painting four pylons in particularly sensitive locations so they blend in with the background and planting bushes and trees.  That would cost £1m, on top of the existing estimated £40m cost of building ScottishPower's 12-mile section of the line.  Campaigners, who argue the entire 400kV line should be buried, have described ScottishPower's proposals as a "tragedy" and "flabbergasting", and they have vowed to fight on.

ScottishPower, which submitted its plans to the Scottish Government yesterday, warned that if ministers did not approve them by the end of the year, it would miss its target of building the line by October 2015.  On top of the cost of building the line itself, the power giant claims that, from that date on, the taxpayer would end up paying an extra £1m a month in compensation payments to generators, such as wind farms, that were unable to connect to the electricity grid. These are known as constraints payments.  ScottishPower is responsible for just 12 miles of the 137-mile power line upgrade, most of which is being built by Scottish and Southern Energy. The overall cost of the line has previously been estimated at between £300m and £600m.

ScottishPower has been embroiled in wrangles with the local community for the past year over how to mitigate the impact of its section of the scheme because of the fragile landscape in the Stirling area.  Campaigners and Stirling Council argue the towers, which will stand up to 217ft tall, will destroy the landscape and have insisted the line must be buried underground.  ScottishPower argues that it has a duty to choose the most economic option for mitigating the impact of the line, and burying it would be too expensive.  It has now drawn up a report, the Stirling Visual Impact Mitigation Scheme, analysing the costs of every option in a bid to persuade the Scottish Government to approve its proposal.  This involves planting shrubs to disguise the pylons, painting two pylons grey to blend with the sky and two green to blend with the Ochil hills, and burying a section of a smaller secondary power line.

ScottishPower said its evaluation concluded that any undergrounding of the main 400kV line "cannot be justified on the grounds of cost, technical difficulties and very limited environmental benefits".  The company said undergrounding of any section of the 400kV overhead line would lead to a delay of between two and three years, given the need for further planning approvals.

Ministers will now consult Stirling Council on the scheme for 30 days. The local authority is expected to reject the proposals and a decision will then be made by the Scottish Government.

MEP Struan Stevenson said: "What ScottishPower are proposing to do is the cheapest and easiest one for them to say that they have done their utmost to ameliorate the impacts of the Beauly-Denny line, which is just utter nonsense."  He accused the firm of wanting to "drive giant pylons and overhead lines past some of the most iconic parts of our landscape, like Stirling Castle".  He added: "I think it's a great tragedy. ScottishPower should be forced to pay more attention to our landscape and underground the most sensitive sections of this power line."   Dennis Canavan, convener of Ramblers Scotland, said: "If that is what ScottishPower is proposing, it is a totally inadequate response. Planting a few trees and painting a few pylons will not prevent the desecration of the superb landscape around Stirling, including the Ochil Hills, the Wallace Monument and the Sheriffmuir Battlefield. The entire Beauly-Denny power-line proposal must now be revisited, especially as the UK government has launched a review which is likely to lead to future wind-turbine developments being switched from on-shore to off-shore.

Tartan Trendsetters Journey from Tain to Milan
A Highland company is taking the fashion world by storm with the launch of its tartan designs in a Milan department store next month.  Textile and ceramics firm ANTA, based in Tain, Easter Ross, which uses designs almost entirely produced in Scotland, has been handpicked as the flagship brand on the top floor of the Excelsior store, in Galleria del Corso, in the Italian fashion capital.  ANTA was chosen as one of a handful of British firms after Excelsior's buying team trawled the UK market to find high- quality, contemporary design.

Highland Police Backed
People in the Highlands and Islands have given an overwhelming show of support for their police force at a time it is under threat from moves to create a single Scottish service.
According to the latest biennial community consultation survey, 90 per cent of residents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with Northern Constabulary and 97 per cent stated they feel safe where they live.  The survey showed the public wants to maintain a local approach to services and facilities, as well as being provided with local information.  More than 9,000 households across the Highlands and Islands were surveyed with a 33 per cent response rate. The top three concerns continue to be road safety, alcohol and drug abuse and anti-social behaviour. The survey found a rise in the number of people wanting tougher sentencing.

By Royal Appointment, A Head Gardener for Balmoral
The Queen wants a new head gardener for Balmoral.  The successful applicant could land themselves a home a stone's throw from the Royal Family, with the option of a cottage at Balmoral available with the job.   A job advert posted on Balmoral's website says: "The successful applicant will be expected to supervise the maintenance of all garden areas at Balmoral Castle.  Applicants should be experienced in all aspects of gardening and be capable of meeting the high standards required at this important property.  Applicants should be self-motivated, capable of working with minimal supervision and should have good management skills, including personnel management.  The position offers an attractive remuneration package, including accommodation and other benefits."

The Balmoral gardens on Royal Deeside were started under the supervision of Prince Albert and have been expanded and improved by successive members of the Royal Family.  The estate now boasts vegetable and flower gardens, rose gardens, herbaceous borders and summer beds.  A large kitchen garden added by the Duke of Edinburgh is harvested between August and October, when the royals are in residence.  During royal visits, the successful applicant's skills are likely to come under close scrutiny from the Prince of Wales, himself a keen gardener.

Songbirds Turn Their Backs on England... to Thrive in Scotland
Songbirds that are suffering a mass decline south of the Border are thriving in Scotland - with some species doubling in number.  Whereas in England numbers of tree pipits have halved in the past 15 years, in Scotland they have gone up by 51 per cent.  And house martins have increased by 114 per cent in Scotland, but declined by 15 per cent in England, the new annual Breeding Bird Survey shows.  One in three willow warblers have died out south of the Border but the species has soared by 21 per cent in Scotland.  And cuckoos are causing ornithologists serious concern in England, with six out of ten disappearing since 1995, whereas in Scotland the population is stable.

Experts believe the differences could be due to Scotland having more wilderness where the birds can thrive.  Another theory is that conditions in Africa, where each of the birds spends the winter, might be having an impact on survival. Birds from Scotland may migrate to parts of Africa where conditions are better than those to which birds from England migrate.  However, Professor Jeremy Wilson, head of research at RSPB Scotland, believes factors closer to home are more likely to explain the trends.  "The fact that we are seeing differences in Scotland and England suggests that, unless they are wintering in different parts of Africa, there might be differences in the breeding grounds in England and Scotland that explain the changes.  Maybe climate change is improving conditions in Scotland and making them worse in England. We don't know if this is the case but there are some interesting grounds for investigating why these birds are doing better in Scotland."

Kate Risely, Breeding Bird Survey national organiser at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), agreed conditions in Scotland were more favourable.  "Scotland has a far lower human population than England," she said. "There's a lot more wilderness and you might think a lot of species would prefer a less managed habitat."

Swimmers Fail to Reach Skye but Vow to Make a Splash next Time
Saul Hindson hauled himself into the boat and collapsed in a soaking wet, breathless heap worn out but most of all heart-crushingly disappointed.  He and the rest of his Little Minch charity swimmers had given it their all and were within four-miles of touching land in Skye when a severe weather warning forced them to call time on their heroic efforts.

The Stornoway seven had taken to the sea at Rodel, Harris, late on Thursday night to swim the 13 miles to Skye before touching land to swim back – all in the name of charity.  But even before they set off their hopes began to unravel with a mix of weather concerns, sea sickness and darkness ganging up on the pals who had raised more than £4,000 for Cancer Research. They had planned to cover the 13-mile stretch in half-an-hour relay stints but when four of them, Chris Baker, Fraser Millar, Andrew Johnson and Tariq Hussain, were left wiped out by sea-sickness it mean Saul and two other swimmers, Colin Macleod and Rodney Jamieson, were forced to do longer swims in the choppy Little Minch.

It had been a near eight-hour sea adventure for the gang who had a couple of near misses with a nosey whale and an oblivious yacht who were subsequently introduced to the Pirates of the Hebridean.  Despite losing more than half the team to crippling sea sickness the remaining trio were confident of finishing the job until the weather warning came in of rising gales which took the wind out of their sails.  Hindson though has vowed they will finish the job they started and raise even more cash for the Cancer Research coffers next year where they will use the experience of their first attempt to reach for Skye.

It was pitch black when the boys entered the water off Rodel Pier in Harris and Hindon says conditions were idyllic and dream-like which fuelled their hope that it would be an adventure to remember.   The swim team had practiced hard for their marathon Minch crossing with a host of trial sea swims around Lewis and Harris but their well-thought out plans sunk when half the team were left out of action due to sea sickness.

“We had estimated about ten-hours each way for the swim which is around 13-miles in a straight line but it is impossible to swim that way with the tides and swell so it is more like 15 or 16 miles each way instead,” began Hindson.  “The sea began to get a little choppier as the daylight came in but although it was getting a little worse it was never bad enough to make us want to stop.  But then the forecast came in for a Force 6 which we couldn’t risk with a rib or a kayak in the water.  We had a Lifeboat crew member on the swim team and also another in the boat so we had to heed to their advice as they clearly knew the dangers of the forecast and we had to stop.  The weather warning was for a Force 6 to come in anytime in the next 12-hours and it proved right as I was on the boat which travelled from Rodel to Stornoway and when we reached Scalpay the boat was almost surfing the waves so to be out in that in a rib would have been far too dangerous.”

Tributes Paid After Death of Bagpipe Legend
Tributes have been paid to one of the world’s greatest bagpipers who has died following a long illness.  Officials from the world of Scottish music offered their condolences after Glasgow-born Pipe Major Alasdair Gillies passed away on Friday. The 47-year-old, who was the last pipe major of the Queen’s Own Highlanders, won numerous awards for his solo piping performances, including two gold medals from the Highland Society of London.

His wife Pauline also paid tribute to him, saying that her husband was a “really good man”.  Mrs Gillies said: “Alasdair was such a warm, funny guy, I can’t even begin to put it into words. He was just a really good man.  Mrs Gillies added that a post-mortem examination was being carried out and the funeral would take place in Ullapool as soon as it had been concluded.  Roddie MacLeod, principal of the National Piping Centre, also recognised the piper’s achievements and claimed many of them would never be surpassed.  He said: “Alasdair’s death is a big loss to the piping community. He was very highly regarded and was very prolific in prize-winning.  He won the Northern Meeting competition in Inverness 11 times, which is just unparalleled and will likely never be beaten. He was just such a fantastic musician and most definitely one of the best pipers Scotland has ever seen.”  Mr Gillies was born in Glasgow and brought up in Ullapool where he was taught to play the bagpipes by his father.

Shetland Leader and 13 Councillors Cleared over Wind Farm Plan
The convener of Shetland Islands Council and 13 councillors have been cleared of a conflict of interest over links to a trust behind a £680 million wind farm.  They were reported to the Public Standards Commissioner for Scotland earlier this year after the council approved the Viking Energy wind farm project.  Thirteen councillors are trustees of the Shetland Charitable Trust, which has a 45 per cent stake in the project while the 14th councillor named in the complaint, Allan Wishart, is the project co-ordinator for Viking.  Stuart Allan, the Public Standards Commissioner for Scotland, dismissed the allegations in a judgment issued yesterday. He said: "I found no evidence of impropriety in the council's original decision to invest in the wind farm project which appeared to hold out a considerable prospect of exploiting renewable energy potential for the benefit of the community and in meeting longer term renewable energy aims."   The complainant's name has not been disclosed.

Move Over, Cape Canaveral, Cape Wrath's the Place to be
Scotland could be the centre of a space-age "gold rush", as commercial companies declare the country an ideal launch pad for sending satellites into orbit.  It is predicted that within five to eight years, it will be commercially feasible to site a "space port" somewhere along the north coast.  Already, two UK rocket companies are researching the options for creating small spacecraft to carry payloads of hi-tech satellites, weighing only 5kg (11lb), into orbit.

According to rocket consultant Rick Newlands, advances in miniaturisation has meant these "nano satellites" are now commercially viable and the demand for launch pads will follow. "Nano satellites are a very new thing. They're small and they're cheap, so if something goes wrong and it gets lost, it's not such a heartache," he said.  "It's early days, but there is a bit of a gold rush going on just now around nano satellites. Every university department and small company is producing them and we expect that market to increase greatly."

In the UK, there are two companies manufacturing small satellites, including Glasgow-based Clyde Space. It produces satellites that start at £25,000 for a basic model, rising to £500,000 for the most complex one.  Mr Newlands said there was now serious demand for a European launch site for this sort of technology and that Scotland was perfectly placed to deliver. "One of the most lucrative orbits that you could put satellites into is sun synchronous - where the satellite passes over the same point at the same time every day. It's very useful for monitoring satellites, looking for global warming, examining the sea, crops and some astronomy as well. Scotland is extremely well-placed to put satellites in sun synchronous orbit. Apart from the Faroe Islands, there is nothing much beyond the north of Scotland, so as long as you don't fly over them, you're free until you hit the Arctic ice, which makes it very safe for launches."

Scotland Pumping out Even More Co2 Despite Vow to Halve Emissions
Greenhouse gas emissions increased in Scotland last year in spite of the government's ambitious climate change targets, preliminary data has revealed.  Scotland's emissions rose by 9 per cent in 2010, according to statistics from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).   The CCC warned a "step change" was needed in implementing measures to cut emissions, if Scotland was to meet its targets, which are among the most ambitious in the world.  Environmentalists said it was "depressing" and called for more action from the Scottish Government.  Scotland has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent by 2020, but the CCC said if current trends continue, this target will not be met.  The particularly cold winter in 2010 was largely blamed for the rise in emissions - due to an increased need for heating - as well industry beginning to pick up following the recession.  The preliminary data suggests emissions rose more in Scotland than in the UK as a whole (2 per cent), Wales (5 per cent) and Northern Ireland (7 per cent).

Law Society Will Give Details of 'Crooked' Lawyers to Detectives
Police have warned corrupt lawyers to expect a "tap on the shoulder" after signing a deal with the Law Society of Scotland.  The agreement will give the Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) access to information that might usually be restricted by human rights or data protection laws.  The SCDEA is investigating 291 "professionals", including lawyers, accountants, property agents and surveillance experts, who help crime gangs conduct illegal activity.

Corrupt lawyers have been on the SCDEA's radar for some time, but the launch of the new information-sharing protocol signals a new focus on stopping criminals laundering dirty money.  Gordon Meldrum, director general of the SCDEA, said: "My view is, whether you are a lawyer or anyone involved in the financial world, if you are a professional knowingly assisting criminals then you need to stop, tell your professional body and await the outcome. The reality is, if you are in that position, no matter how good you think you are, you need to keep looking over your shoulder. You have no idea how close the SCDEA, the Law Society of Scotland, or another professional body is to tapping on that shoulder."

The SCDEA estimates there are 4,500 members of 360 serious and organised crime gangs currently operating in Scotland.  Between ten and 12 of those use "professionals", typically to conceal their money or their criminal activity.  The help might involve providing advice for criminals on complex house purchases or business deals. It could be about how to avert detection, or a professional could omit to report unaccountable funds to Proceeds of Crime legislators.  In some cases the lawyer's conduct might not be criminal in itself, but may fall below the industry's code of conduct, which could put them in trouble with the Law Society of Scotland.  Cameron Ritche, society president, said the flow of information would go both ways and the society was keen to get information on errant members and stressed any lawyers under scrutiny were a small minority of its 10,600 members.

£5m of Cocaine Seized after Ship Docks from Colombia
Cocaine worth £5 million has been seized from a merchant ship that arrived in Scotland from Colombia, the has revealed.   UK Borders Agency (UKBA) search teams and divers, along with police from the Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency (SCDEA), raided the foreign-registered boat at Hunterston Quay in Ayrshire yesterday.  They found 10kg of cocaine destined for the streets of Scotland. However, the UKBA said no-one had been arrested or detained in connection with the bust.   It is one of the largest seizures of cocaine in Scotland and is a further success for the SCDEA in its war against drug traffickers. Last year, the agency seized 80.5kg of Class A drugs and has put greater focus on using intelligence both from home and abroad

Next Year's Local Mod to Be Held in Wick
One of the direct benefits hoped for following Caithness's successful hosting of the Royal National Mod in October last year, was an increase in the frequency of the Caithness and Sutherland Provincial Mod being hosted in the county.

At the Annual General Meeting of the various committees representing the Caithness and Sutherland Mod, held in Bonar Bridge on Saturday, a proposal was put forward to increase the frequency of Caithness hosting the regional festival which attracts visitors each year.  The proposal was accepted and as a result the county will host the event next year in Wick.  It was further agreed that Caithness should host the festival bi-annually thereafter, with the possibility of Halkirk being the next county venue in 2014.  The Caithness and Sutherland Provincial Mod was last held in the county in Thurso in 2007 and eight years previously in Wick in 1999.

Chairman of the organising committee for the National Mod in Caithness last year, Raymond Bremner said: "We are delighted that the committees of the north area have agreed to the proposal to host the festival more frequently in Caithness.  Many people involved in the Mod both at national and regional level and those who visited the National Mod in Caithness have been full of praise for the county and the local people.  The county has hosted the regional festival only twice in the past 20 years.  With the regional festival being hosted in the county every second year now, the increased visitors and economic benefit for the local area can't be underestimated."

The announcement follows confirmation that Feis Ghallaibh (The Caithness Feis), an organisation created as a result of hosting the National Mod in Caithness, is increasing preparation to represent the county at this year’s National Mod in Stornoway in October.  Many local youngsters and parents will be attending, with the youngsters taking part in competitions including folk groups, a junior choir and soloists.  Caithness will also be represented at a fund raising event in Stornoway this weekend along with other representatives of the north including Wester Ross, Inverness and Lochaber.

NHS Communication Strategy Out for Consultation
Communication plays a vital role in every area of work within NHS Western Isles, and the organisation is committed to ensuring that both internal and external communication is high quality and effective.  To ensure the Board achieves this aim, members of the public are being encouraged to contribute to the review of the Board’s Communication Strategy, to highlight any areas for improvement or make suggestions for change.  The reviewed Communications Strategy is currently available for comment. The aim of the Strategy is to develop a culture of effective two-way communication at all levels; and the Communications Strategy details the methods used to communicate both internally and externally.  The Communication Strategy sets out a number of key objectives, which range from increasing public understanding and awareness of developments, issues and decision-making; to ensuring equality issues are actively considered in all communications outputs and activities.  The Strategy is supported by a comprehensive Action Plan which details the actions that will be progressed to achieve the communications objectives.

Could a Sea Eagle Mistake Young Child for Prey, Ask Gamekeepers (Sound familiar?)
A furious row has erupted between Britain's leading bird charity and Scottish gamekeepers over claims that sea eagles could mistake young children for their natural prey.  The Scottish Gamekeepers' Association (SGA) called for a public inquiry into the impact of the controversial reintroduction of the huge birds of prey in Scotland after a Perthshire clergyman reported last month that he had been attacked by one of the raptors while trying to protect his prize-winning goose.  The SGA said yesterday that the incident had fuelled fears of further aggressive behaviour by the birds and prompted the association to raise concerns about the safety of reintroducing the species.  The Very Rev Hunter Farquharson said he was "traumatised" after the sea eagle left him with a head injury and a slashed shirt during the attack at his home in Abernethy.

The suggestion that sea eagles might not differentiate between small children and their natural prey was dismissed as "alarmist nonsense" by RSPB Scotland, which has been helping lead the sea eagle reintroduction programme since it began more than 25 years ago.  Last month 16 sea eagles - dubbed "flying barn doors" because of their rectangular-shaped wings that can span to 8ft - were released from a secret location in Fife by the RSPB in the latest efforts to restore the UK's largest bird of prey.  A spokesman for RSPB Scotland declared: "It is the worst kind of alarmist nonsense to suggest that sea eagles might soon be preying on children for food.  This species has lived cheek-by-jowl with humans for centuries in large conurbations without incident in Norway and right across east Europe to the Caspian Sea.  The reintroduction project has been undertaken with the full support of the Scottish Government and the statutory conservation agency Scottish Natual Heritage."

£89m Technology Centre Plan in Place
Plans for a world-leading research and technology centre for Glasgow have been submitted to the city's planning department.  The £89 million Technology and Innovation Centre at Strathclyde University will bring together 850 academics and researchers.  The application was submitted after consultation with staff, students and the community.

£100k of Cocaine Seized at Aberdeen Station
Two people have been arrested after police seized cocaine worth £100,000 at a train station.  British Transport Police and Grampian Police officers arrested a 30-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman after they found the drugs on Thursday night at Aberdeen train station in Guild Street.   Police said the drugs were seized at around 11pm.

Amateur Treasure-hunter Stumbles upon £1/2million Hoard
An Iron Age hoard of gold, unearthed by an amateur treasure hunter, has been highlighted as the major discovery of a host of "outstanding finds" from Scotland's past which have been allocated to museums over the past year.  The dramatic discovery of the four golden neck ornaments - known as torcs - near Stirling has resulted in the rewards being made through Scotland's Treasure Trove Unit (TTU) leaping from just under £11,000 in 2010 to £483,702 this year.  The majority of the reward money - £462,000 - went to David Booth, the chief ranger at Blair Drummond Safari Park, who found the valuable pieces of 2,000-year-old jewellery, hailed as one of the most important hoards of Iron Age Britain.  He discovered them in a field near his home, buried six inches beneath the surface, using a £240 metal detector.

The ceremonial neck pieces have already been saved for the nation and are on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.  Catherine Dyer, who is responsible for claiming objects for the Crown under the law of Treasure Trove as the Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer, said the annual report of the TTU showed that 2011 had been an outstanding year for finds in Scotland.  She said: "The report confirms that this has been another magnificent year, with some outstanding finds being reported, preserved and displayed in breathtaking museum collections around Scotland.  Every artefact recovered tells us a story of life in Scotland through the ages."