Some Scottish News & Views #104

SOME SCOTTISH NEWS & VIEWS
Issue # 104                                     Week ending 10th September 2011

Some Scots Australian News
The only thing of note that has been reported is the depressing roll call of various members of different Caledonian and Clan Societies passing away.  This passing on of the old Guard continuously reminds us of the frailty of the human condition and I wonder and fear for the future of all Caledonian, Clan and Celtic Societies in this ever-increasing multicultural nation of ours.  Och I’m just feeling gloomy at so many that I was acquainted with passing on.- Robin


When You Have Your Own Shop or Hotel You Just Never Know Who Could Walk in byIain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

I went into the bank the other day and I asked them to check my balance. The teller came up and pushed me. It just shows you how easily people can take things the wrong way.


In a clothes shop in Stirling a friend of mine from Ness – let’s call him Mr Macdonald because that’s his name – went to look for a t-shirt. On the wall was a hastily-scrawled sign. It said: “Take one garment at a time, please. Due to cubicle refurbishment, come to the manageress’s office if you want to try it on.” Sadly, his intended was with him at the time so he never did take up the offer – at least that’s what Mr Macdonald tells me.


With a business like a shop or a hotel you never know who’s going to walk in. I’m thinking now about the mysterious guy who popped into the Kintail Lodge Hotel in Glenshiel last Sunday. Obviously a biker, he wasn’t too keen to take off his helmet at first. There was a bit of a lunchtime session in the hotel at the time. No, not that kind of session – that only happens in the islands. This was a wee ceilidh with a band called Fiddlelore, three New Zealand girls who play Scottish fiddle.   Paul Ibbotson was on the bar and there are no flies on him. When the helmet came off, he quickly thought the cool dude with the sunglasses looked a bit like Brad Pitt. Nah, it couldn’t be. Not up here in the back of beyond, he thought.


When the shades came off, eagle-eyed Paul was in no doubt. The shades were back on though when Pitt came and ordered a pint and something to eat. Wonder what he had.

Let’s see what’s on the bar menu on the Kintail Lodge Hotel website. He probably had the Thai-style Loch Nevis mussels steamed with chilli, coriander and coconut milk. Yum. Or maybe it was the duo of locally-smoked salmon and Salar salmon with salad leaves, capers and brown bread? Lovely. Just right for a Hollywood superstar. Come on then. What did he have?


A coronation chicken sandwich. A what? A chicken sarnie. The cheapskate. I’m sure Kintail Lodge would have rustled him up a caviar doorstep with oodles of expensive salad if he’d asked. This was uber-posh Glenshiel, after all. Coronation chicken. Pfft. Paul tells me Pitt didn’t sit far away from everyone else but he did sit so most people had their backs to him. Most of them swaying to the sounds of Fiddlelore didn’t notice the star of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was behind them tapping his feet to the music. Then, suddenly, there he was … gone.


He’d slipped out but someone who knew it was him loudly asked if everyone knew who had been sat there eating a sarnie was Brad Pitt. No, the actual Brad Pitt. Honestly. Look, that’s his crusts from the corrie chicken. Look. His lips touched that.


The girls swiftly wiggled out into the car-park before the great man could clamber onto his big throbbing machine and roar off into the distance. He even posed for a few photos and said thanks for the wonderful grub. Don’t mention it, Brad. ‘Twas just a sarnie.


“He was great with the staff and said thank you. He was feeling a bit jaded after the long hours filming the zombie movie in Glasgow and he was keeping it low key,” says Paul. Low budget as well, by the sound of it. Chicken sarnie, eh? Well, I never.


You must have a good budget for shop signs or they can mislead. One single lady came from Germany to Stornoway last year looking for a son-of-the-soil husband. She thought her luck was in when she found the Lewis Crofters premises. “There are crofters here but they are not actually for sale,” a member of staff said patiently as she was ushered towards the door.


It was very embarrassing for her but a shop sign is often no indication of the wares inside. When I was in Glasgow recently, I thought I’d go into the city centre to buy some sturdy footwear for tramping through the Castle Grounds. As always, I kept bumping into people I knew. Although most of them were in the Free Church, they were quite happy to go for a few pints in the big, anonymous city. There are all these wee pubs off Argyle Street where no one is going to see them – except other Wee Frees in a for a sneaky tipple. We had quite a few that day.


Too many, in fact, because it was late afternoon and the shops were about to shut so I had no time to go up to the usual shops I go to in Sauchiehall Street. I was starving as I had forgotten all about the lunch. Maybe it was my strong Stornoway accent but I had no luck getting a quick bite. They wouldn’t give me a chicken vindaloo – even though the shop was called Currys. And when I asked for a pair of Doc Martins in the shop simply named Boots, they just looked at me funny.


See? Shop names are very confusing. They can give you completely the wrong idea about what’s inside. If only I could be sure that Mrs X would forget to read this, I would tell you all about what happened before they slung me out of the Virgin Megastore.


A Fresh Flock for Adultery Minister

A minister suspended over an affair with the widow of a parishioner whose funeral service he conducted is to be given a second chance with a new congregation.  The Reverend Mike Erskine’s relationship with Lesley MacGregor shocked the close-knit linked parishes of Crail and Kingsbarns in the East Neuk of Fife when it came to light in August last year.  The Church of Scotland has given him leave to preach again after he served a one-year suspension following the scandal.   Former parishioners have expressed mixed feelings about the possibility of the Eton-educated minister receiving a new ministry elsewhere.  One parishioner, who asked not to be named, said he was “very surprised” by the decision. He added: “He won’t get another charge [parish] in the [St Andrews] presbytery.”  However, one of Mr Erskine’s supporters, Crail and District Community Council chairman Jack Jarvis, said most local people would “wish him well”.

The widow, according to friends, was someone who found solace in a caring minister respected by many in his parish. Mr Erskine, said by supporters to be married only in name, was removed from his post, suspended by the Church of Scotland and stripped of his manse, ministry and stipend.  Church officials acted immediately when contacted by churchgoers angry he had betrayed his wife of 23 years. He was subject to a fast-track disciplinary hearing because of the magnitude of his offence in the eyes of the Kirk.  There has been speculation Mr Erskine could resume his career in a neighbouring presbytery such as Dundee.  A Kirk source close to the case said Mr Erskine had “completed his term of suspension” and that it was expected the presbytery would agree to return his preaching certificate.  A Church of Scotland spokesman said: “Michael Erskine cannot return to full-time parish ministry unless he has a preaching certificate granted by the Presbytery of St Andrews. We understand the presbytery will discuss this matter at their September meeting.” A spokesman for the presbytery declined to comment

End in Sight for Forth Bridge Paint Job
It became a metaphor for a job without end. But the mammoth task of painting the Forth Bridge is about to be completed - and it shouldn't need done again for at least two decades.
Painters are set to finish work on the iconic structure in December - ahead of schedule - after toiling for ten years at a cost of £130 million. It is hoped the paint job will last for more than 20 years.  

Network Rail, which maintains the 121-year-old crossing, said the work would end the "modern myth" that painting the bridge would never be finished.  It is hoped the contract will be completed on 9 December, with a celebration event to mark the end of the refurbishment due to take place next March.  That will see the removal of unsightly scaffolding, which has been attached to the bridge for most of the past decade.  David Simpson, route managing director for Network Rail in Scotland, said: "Since 1890, the Forth Bridge has been a working monument to the genius of British railway engineering.  Over the last decade, the bridge has been restored to its original condition and its new paint will preserve the steelwork for decades to come.  The current restoration work has been ongoing since 2002 but, owing to years of under- investment during the 70s and 80s, the scale of the job was initially unclear. Now, with scaffolding being removed and the final sections of painting being completed, we're confident that job will be finished before Christmas."

The paint being used on the bridge is the same as is used on North Sea oil rigs and is expected to last for at least two decades.  However, workers will be required to carry out touch-up jobs from time to time to maintain the most exposed sections.  The current job requires contractors to erect scaffolding that is screened off from the elements before old layers of paint applied over the past 120 years are removed using an abrasive blasting technique.  Steelwork requiring maintenance is then repaired before the new paint is applied in three protective layers.  The expression "like painting the Forth Bridge" refers to a task that takes so long it needs redoing almost as soon as it is finished.

AC/DC Fans on a Highway to Kelvingrove
For those about to rock, it will offer a unique insight into the Scottish roots of one of the world's biggest bands.  Organisers of an acclaimed exhibition celebrating Australian rockers AC/DC have secured a treasure trove of personal documents and memorabilia that document the band members' early years in Scotland.   Curators of the show, who hope to attract tens of thousands of rock fans to Scotland's biggest city, have secured priceless material from Scots collectors.  This includes childhood photographs of guitarists Angus and Malcolm Young while they were growing up in Glasgow in the early 1960s, the brothers' emigration papers to Australia, and a leather jacket and letters belonging to Angus-born Ronald Belford 'Bon' Scott, the group's original singer.

To mark the significance of its five-month run in Glasgow, the entire show has been renamed from AC/DC: Australia's Family Jewels to AC/DC: Scotland's Family Jewels, with a large graphic of Australia swathed in a saltire.  The exhibition, which has been approved by the band, will open at the city's Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum on 17 September. The only European date as part of its world tour, and will remain in Glasgow until 12 February.  The show is the brainchild of Tim Fisher, manager of curatorial and exhibitions services at the Arts Centre in Melbourne.  He visited Glasgow two years ago to secure a loan of material from avid Scots fans for the event and sealed an agreement with Kelvingrove.  He said: "It is very significant that the show is coming back to the band's 'homeland' to the extent that we are re-badging the exhibition. "I had always thought that if the exhibition could go anywhere it had to be Glasgow.  We have sourced material from a Glasgow collector, and the exhibition already contains a fairly large amount of material from Glasgow, including emigration papers for the Scott and Young Families, and music projections of performances at the Apollo in 1977 when AC/DC with Bon Scott were at their absolute peak."

Though they are generally thought of as an Australian band, three of AC/DC's founding members were Scottish. The Young family came from Glasgow's Cranhill area, emigrating when Angus was eight and Malcolm ten, while Scott's parents left Kirriemuir for a new life in the southern hemisphere when he was six.  Dr Neil Ballantyne, museum manager at Kelvingrove and project director of the exhibition, said: "It feels like we're bringing the band home. The group has very strong links with Glasgow and Scotland as a whole, and the renaming of the exhibition shows we claim AC/DC as much as the Australians do."

Universities Rank in World Top 100
Three universities in Scotland have once again been ranked within the top 100 in the world. The University of Glasgow leapt 18 places from 77 to 59 in the latest QS World University Rankings.  A spokesman for the institution said it is the highest ranking the university has ever received since the records began eight years ago. He also said it confirms Glasgow as being in the top 1% of institutions in the world.  The University of Edinburgh also moved up two places, from 22 to 20.  And while the University of St Andrews in Fife dropped two places to 97, it remained in the top 100.  The University of Cambridge ranked first for the second year in a row  The QS World University Rankings questions academics and employers and rates universities worldwide on areas including research, teaching standards, graduate employability and international work..

New Gaelic and English Dictionary
A new Gaelic and English dictionary covering the professional language of local government and business has been launched on the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar website.  Containing over 7,500 headwords, the new dictionary has been produced by The European Language Initiative (TELI) in collaboration with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the Highland Council.  The dictionary can be accessed on the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar website (www.cne-siar.gov.uk/gaelic/dictionary.asp) and is available in e-book and PDF formats, free of charge.

Yes Voters Take Lead in New Independence Poll
Support for independence has moved ahead of opposition to Scotland’s breakaway from the UK for the first time in more than three years, and for only the second time since a series of polls on the issue began exactly four years ago.  The number against independence is the lowest in any of the polls to date. The number unsure how they would vote, at 23%, is at the second-highest level, which will let both sides claim there is all to play for.

James Mitchell, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said: “It will encourage the Prime Minister to engage with this issue more seriously. Devolving responsibility to Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary, may have been the wrong devolution for the Prime Minister to have backed.  It demonstrates that even before we see the full force of public spending cuts – which Scots are likely to blame on Mr Cameron’s Government – there is growing evidence of dissatisfaction with the status quo.”

The Scottish Government has again taken the Cabinet around the country for roadshows and has published demands for extra powers through strengthening the Scotland Bill. The Coalition was painfully slow off the mark in recognising the dangers to the Union posed by an outright majority for Alex Salmond.  In recent weeks a group comprising Mr Cameron, his deputy Nick Clegg, Chancellor George Osborne, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and Mr Moore was formed to combat this.  The attack on independence at the annual CBI Scotland dinner in Glasgow on Thursday was the first skirmish in the new war.  But on Wednesday the First Minister will present his programme for the next Holyrood session against a backdrop of seriously wounded Opposition parties, the two biggest of which have lame-duck leaders.

In each of the 10 polls, TNS-BMRB has asked the same straight agree or disagree question on the premise “that the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state”.  Chris Eynon of TNS-BMRB said: “It does provide a stark measure of how attitudes towards independence per se have moved since the SNP first came to power in 2007.” He added: “The decline in opposition is reflected more in a shift to ‘undecided’ than to ‘support’, which is perhaps not surprising. It would be a major change to move from opposing to supporting independence over a short period.  What this does suggest is that resistance is being challenged and more people are being encouraged to reconsider their opposition to independence.”

Ipsos Mori, polling last week, had Labour adrift of the SNP at Holyrood by 21 points (49% to 28%) while even for Westminster the SNP led Labour by 42% to 33%.  On Mr Salmond’s personal performance 62% were satisfied, while 28% were dissatisfied.  An aide to Mr Salmond said: “Clearly, the attacks on independence in recent days from the Tory and LibDem UK Government – far from making a positive case for the Union – have backfired badly.”

Plenty of Appetite for Maximum Devolution
The SNP’s stunning victory in May’s elections had little to do with its support for independence.  But, as today’s poll confirms, those who jumped to conclude that this meant there was no appetite for more devolution were wrong.  A consensus has built up in London, encouraged by commentators with scant understanding of Scottish politics or public opinion, that the SNP’s victory could be ignored as it did not signal support for constitutional change. This poll will shatter that ill-informed complacency.  It will encourage the Prime Minister to engage with this issue more seriously. Devolving responsibility to Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary, may have been the wrong devolution for the Prime Minister to have backed. By virtue of his office, Mr Cameron is a key figure in debates on Scotland’s constitutional status. The Government he heads will, after all, be the focus of pro-independence forces.

The poll does not mean independence is inevitable. But it demonstrates that even before we see the full force of public spending cuts – which Scots are likely to blame on Mr Cameron’s Government – there is growing evidence of dissatisfaction with the status quo. Things can only get worse.   Mr Cameron might be tempted to try to polarise debate, forcing Scots to decide between independence and the status quo. He will now know that such a strategy would be a huge gamble. He should be aware that the most likely outcome of a referendum in which three options – independence, devo-max (for lack of a better term) and the status quo – are on the table would be victory for the middle option. It may not be the first choice of either the Prime Minister (or First Minister for that matter) but his second preference – but it is the first preference of most Scots.  The referendum is still a few years away. Mr Salmond and his Ministers have hardly begun to campaign, focusing instead on everyday concerns, leaving their opponents to appear obsessed with the constitution. The SNP will be more than a little comforted by the trends in public opinion.

It Is Far from Clear What Benefits There Are from Staying in the Union - An Opinion Item
The latest messages of doom and despair in the speeches of Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and Treasury Minister Danny Alexander contribute little to a debate on “Strong leadership needed in defence of the Union”  These two Scottish MPs represent what is left of the Liberal Party, a core policy of which for more than 100 years has been home rule for Scotland. Yet now that they are finally in power – if only on the periphery – they seem to argue that Scotland is incapable of ruling itself, raising fears about financial instability and economic decline if the nation was independent. Their lack of self-belief is echoed by the presidents of the CBI and Scottish CBI. The CBI used to be an apolitical organisation, but its new name could be Conservatives Bashing Independence.

The case for continuing the Union seems to be based on what is perceived to be the negative aspects of independence, and I am not aware of the positive case being made for the Union, and for Scotland remaining in it as a very junior partner. What do we gain by being ruled by a parliament in Westminster dominated by more than 90% of MPs elected from other parts of the UK, many of whom have little interest in, or knowledge of Scotland?

Why is it good to be dependent for all our public income on an annual handout decided by the London Treasury, having handed over all our tax revenues? How do we benefit by being subject to interest rates, immigration policies and much else designed to meet the problems of London and the over-heated south-east of England?  There must be some benefits of being in the Union. What are they? It is not me that Scotland is too small to stand alone or that we could not manage our own affairs. Countries of similar size and populations like Norway and New Zealand seem to manage quite well, and many of the former USSR states with far fewer natural resources than Scotland have survived becoming independent.

From a different viewpoint, what benefits does England gain from being in a union with Scotland? Judging from articles in the London-based press, the general view seems to be that we Scots are heavily subsidised by English taxpayers who would be delighted to be rid of us. So why is a Conservative-led UK Government with only one seat in Scotland so determined to hang on to Scotland within a lop-sided Union?

Danny Alexander’s claim that Scotland would inherit a “catastrophic” level of debt on independence is laughable, especially given the state of the UK’s finances.  Government and Expenditure Revenue Scotland (GERS) 2009-10 figures show that, including a geographical share of UK North Sea oil and gas revenues, Scotland contributed 9.4% of UK public sector revenue and received 9.3% of total UK public sector expenditure, including a per capita share of UK debt interest payments. Scotland therefore generated 9.4% of UK tax with 8.4% of the population – the equivalent of £1,000 extra for every man, woman and child in Scotland.

And we know that Scotland’s oil and gas resources represent a trillion-pound asset base – worth more than 10 times Scotland’s share of a UK debt built up by successive Westminster governments.   Scotland has now been in a stronger financial position than the UK as a whole for each of the last five years, and with the official GERS figures showing that Scotland contributes more to the UK exchequer than it receives in public spending, it is the UK that is in a ‘catastrophic’ economic situation and is holding Scotland back.

Scots University to Charge English Students £36,000
A top Scottish university is to offer the most expensive degree in the UK after announcing annual fees of £9000 for students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  The decision by Edinburgh University means students from the rest of the UK will pay £36,000 for a four-year degree. By comparison, the total cost of a degree at Oxford and Cambridge, regarded as among the best in the world, will be £25,000 from next year.  Heriot-Watt University, in Edinburgh, also announced fees of £9000 a year yesterday, although the total cost of a degree will be capped at £27,000. Aberdeen University has already announced fees of £9000 a year, capped at £27,000.  The news comes just weeks after Michael Russell, the Education Secretary, said he expected Scottish universities to show restraint in setting fees, with £6375 a year quoted as a competitive figure.

Officials from both Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt argued that new bursaries introduced alongside higher fees would alleviate the burden for poorer students from the rest of the UK (RUK).  However, there was an immediate backlash from academics and students, with particular anger directed at Edinburgh University’s “staggering and ridiculous” fees.   Mary Senior, Scottish official for the UCU Scotland lecturers’ union, said: “We are disappointed that Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh universities are to set fees at the highest level, leaving students paying more to study in Scotland than even in England.  Though Edinburgh is offering bursaries, most students won’t qualify for these, so only the wealthiest will consider Edinburgh an option.  Our worst fears that most Scottish universities will ignore the minister and charge the highest possible fee have come to fruition.”

Graeme Kirkpatrick, depute president of NUS Scotland, said: “A £36,000 degree is both staggering and ridiculous. This is nothing less than cashing in on students from the rest of the UK. Universities in Scotland seem to think they can charge anything they like, and that students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland will still come here to study regardless. The reputational damage this could do, not only to Edinburgh, but to the whole of Scottish higher education, should not be underestimated.”   However, officials from Edinburgh hit back, saying half of the additional income raised through fees would go towards bursaries to support poorer students from the rest of the UK, up to a maximum of £28,000 per student.

The need to alter the fee level paid by students from the rest of the UK to study in Scotland was prompted by changes to university funding brought forward by the UK Government.  Because institutions were allowed to charge up to £9000 a year in the rest of the UK, the Scottish Government decided to allow universities in Scotland to charge similar fees to prevent Scotland becoming a cheap option. Higher education in Scotland is free to Scottish students.  The charging of fees was also seen as helping to close the funding gap between Scotland and the rest of the UK because of the additional fee income being generated south of the Border.

Group Wins Funds for Gaelic Training
Adults in Assynt who are keen to learn Gaelic have received a big boost as a result of the local Gaelic organisation winning funds for training which they are distributing to local people, writes Mandy Haggith. Còmhlan Gàidhlig Asainte has received funding from Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Commun na Gàidhlig to support the revival of Gaelic in the community, where  few people still speak the language.

Earlier in the year, the opportunity for support for Gaelic learning was advertised locally and people were invited to submit applications. Bursaries towards a wide range of courses of study were offered, including support for evening classes in Lochinver and Stoer, and week-long residential courses on Lewis and Skye. The application forms also asked what the lucky recipients would do in return to encourage the development of Gaelic in the community.  James Graham, well known in the area as Mod gold-medal winning Gaelic singer, has been helping to organise the distribution of the funds. “We can’t always be reliant on funding to support Gaelic so we wanted to try to create a system to make it sustainable. So we asked people what they could give back to the community. Once the funding has run out, what happens after that? That was the thinking behind it.”


About twenty people have been successful in their applications. Some of these are taking Ulpan classes in one of the two courses that are running in Stoer and Lochinver, in collaboration with Assynt Learning and Leisure. These classes seem to be going from strength to strength. They are attended by a mixture of incomers and people who were born in the area, some of whom had older family members who spoke Gaelic. Often if a Gaelic speaker married someone who did not speak Gaelic then it was not spoken much in the home, and so the children grew up without being able to speak the language. Yet, by overhearing grandparents or aunts and uncles speaking and because the song tradition has always been strong in the area, these children still had some exposure to the language( I can well and truly relate to all of this - Robin). James Graham, who is one of the Ulpan tutors, comments that often these students actually know a whole range of expressions and colloquial turns of phrase and they can remember the local way of speaking and thus pronounce their Gaelic with an Assynt accent. This helps the whole class to learn a more authentic Gaelic.

£40m Cocaine Smugglers Caught after Courier Turns Supergrass
A drugs gang responsible for smuggling up to £40 million worth of cocaine into the UK was caught after a courier turned supergrass.  The gang was importing massive amounts of cocaine from Spain into Glasgow, Prestwick and Newcastle airports through a Colombian connection between 2007 to 2009. The drugs were then distributed in the Glasgow area.  The ringleaders were Keith Blenkinsop and Lindsay Harkins, who sewed the cocaine into suitcases in Barcelona and used couriers to bring it into the UK.

Over a two-year period the gang flew out to Spain with suitcases full of euros and came back with two kilos of cocaine at a time. The route was discovered when one of the gang's couriers, David Harbinson, was caught with some counterfeit £20 notes and blurted out details of the drugs operation to police. On Thursday, at the High Court in Glasgow, Blenkinsop,  from Annan, Harkins, from Helensburgh, Andrew Burns, from Helensburgh, Robert Dalrymple, from Gretna, and James Elvin, from Clydebank, were all convicted of being concerned in the supply of cocaine in Scotland, England, and Spain.  The court heard that despite the massive size of their operation, the gang managed to remain completely under the radar of the UK's drug enforcement agencies. The gang was snared because a teller in a Marks & Spencer bureau de change in Carlisle noticed counterfeit notes among a bundle of Sterling that Harbinson wanted to change into euros.

Harbinson turned supergrass and gave evidence which put his former associates behind bars. He has now been placed on a witness-protection programme.  He told advocate depute Iain McSporran, prosecuting, that the gang had a direct connection to Colombian drug barons. Harbinson said that Blenkinsop and Harkins masterminded the operation and the other accused were couriers paid to take euros to Spain and bring back drugs.  The gang exchanged so much Sterling into euros that Blenkinsop's local post office won an award for the amount of currency it sold.

Wind Farm Plan May Mean 188 Turbines in Lairg Area
A community council chairman has described the development of windfarms in central Sutherland as the "afforestation of the 21st Century."  David Walker, chair of Lairg Community Council, was speaking in advance of a public consultation in the village next week by SSE Renewables.  The power company, a division of Scottish and Southern Electricity, is seeking to build a second windfarm in the area at Glencassley.

The Lairg and Rosehall area has been identified by Highland Council as a preferred zone for windfarm development.  So far six power companies have set their sights on central Sutherland and, if they all get their way, eight windfarms containing in total over 188 turbines could be a distinct possibility.  All eight windfarms are presently at different stages of development with only one operational, two under construction, one awaiting a planning decision and four, including Glencassley, at the scoping stage.  They are on sites to the east side of the River Cassley and, if built, would form a chain of turbines over approximately 25 kilometres in length.

National Museum a Smash Hit with Visitors
Roughly the equivalent of Edinburgh’s entire population, or 500,000 people, has passed through the doors of the city’s newly reopened National Museum of Scotland in fewer than six weeks. Organisers described the figure as “staggering”.   Bolstered by a boom in stay-cationers, foreign visitors and festival-goers, the museum clearly needed the 50% additional public space its £47.4 million refurbishment created.  Now on show are 8000 objects, 80% of which can be seen for the first time at the museum, which also unveiled 16 new galleries.  It wasn’t just the museum enjoying a boom. Edinburgh Castle, Scotland’s top tourist attraction, welcomed 205,832 visitors in August, the 8% rise on last year making it the highest number of paying visitors to the castle in a month since records began.  The museum reopened to the public on Friday, July 2, after a three-year redevelopment. A spectacular opening ceremony on Chambers Street was followed by nearly 6000 people passing through its new entrance in the first hour of opening. In all, 22,000 visitors packed the museum on opening day, and the 100,000 mark was reached in just six days.

Non-Gaelic Viewers Boost Ratings for BBC Alba
Gaelic-language TV service BBC Alba has seen its audience soar by at least 100,000 since the channel was made available to viewers in Scotland on Freeview in June, it was claimed yesterday.  The estimated 40 per cent rise in viewing figures came as the Gaelic channel unveiled its schedule of new programmes for the autumn. They include a documentary series on the maternity unit at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness and a series on Highland veterinary surgeons working at the Blair Drummond safari park near Stirling and the Highland Wildlife Park.  Margaret Mary Murray, the head of service for BBC Alba, said "A significant number of viewers are non-Gaelic speakers and what we find is that Gaelic speakers and non-Gaelic speakers view the channel in different ways. Gaelic speakers tune in to BBC Alba primarily for news, current affairs, entertainment and drama when we are able to offer it. They use the channel like English speakers view BBC1 or ITV1. The three subjects that pull non-Gaelic speakers in are documentaries, music programmes and sport."

The Leuchars Air Show must Go On, So It's Chocks Away for 2012
The fate of RAF Leuchars as a frontline base may have already have been sealed, but organisers of its annual airshow are hoping this weekend's celebration will be its greatest yet. The government's controversial strategic defence review decided that the Fife site would no longer be an airbase and move to become an army barracks.  But the organisers of today's show at the Fife airfield are determined that this year's air spectacular will be the biggest and best ever staged as a celebration of 100 years of military aviation in north-east Fife - a proud heritage which began in 1911 when a balloon squadron of the Royal Engineers set up a training camp in Tentsmuir Forest.

A crowd of 50,000 is expected to descend on Leuchars this morning to watch the only Battle of Britain Air Show still being staged in the UK - and the second largest non-sporting outdoor event held every year in Scotland.  Heading the impressive array of aircraft will be the eight top guns of the RAF's famed Red Arrows aerobatic display team, who will be making their first public appearance in Scotland in the skies over Leuchars since the tragic death of team member, Flight Lt John Egging, 33, killed last month following an appearance by the pilots at the Bournemouth Air Festival.  But the highlights of the air show will be the historic flypast by the last airworthy Vulcan bomber, restored by volunteers at the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, and the appearance of the Dakota and the iconic Spitfire and Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight based at RAF Coningsby.

RAF Leuchars first staged a "Battle of Britain at home day" on 20 September 1947 when the show attracted 4,000 spectators. And Sqdn Ldr Greenhowe said the air show remained an important way for the service to thank the members of the public - both locally and further afield - for their support." He added   "It's the second largest public event in Scotland after T in the Park and certainly the largest air show in Scotland and, along with Jersey and Guernsey, the last air show dedicated to the Battle of Britain."  In addition to the appearance by the Red Arrows, the show will also mark the only appearance at an air display in Britain by the flying aces of the French aerobatic team, Patrouille de France.

At £200 a Round - Donald Trump's 'Best Golf Course in the World'
Donald Trump has unveiled images of what he has promised will be the "world's greatest golf course", now nearing completion after six years under construction.  Ahead of tee-off in July next year, the images show the 13th, 14th and 18th holes all in pristine condition in the spectacular protected dune system of the Menie estate, in Aberdeenshire.  The course is the centrepiece of his plans for a £750 million resort and luxury housing development, next to one of the most environmentally sensitive stretches of Scottish coastline.  It has been carved through a 2.5 mile stretch of coast which he dubbed "the Great Dunes of Scotland".

The project has been dogged by controversy, with planning rows and protests from local residents.  However, Trump International Golf Links Scotland announced the finishing touches are now being put in place.  It also revealed that golfers planning to play Menie will pay up to £200 for the privilege - £50 more than the green fees announced for next year at the Old Course at St Andrews, the home of golf.  Fees have been set at £150 ($A228) for a midweek round and £200($A303) for a weekend. But golfers who can prove they live in Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire will receive a discount - playing midweek for £120 ($A182) and £160 ($A243) at the weekend.

Gale Force Wind Warnings Issued
Hurricane Katia is currently near Bermuda but is expected to work its way across the Atlantic (Nasa/AP)  Hurricane Katia could bring gale-force winds across the Atlantic to Scotland by Monday, forecasters have warned.  The hurricane, which is moving from Bermuda, is expected to result in stormy weather and gusts of up to 75mph, although no official severe weather warnings have yet been issued.

Forecasting provider Meteogroup said it is still too early to predict the effect the hurricane would have on the country's weather.  Forecaster Andy Ratcliffe said: "By the time it gets across the Atlantic, it will be the remnants of Hurricane Katia.  We're still a little uncertain on the exact track of its path, although it looks like the centre of depression will be in the vicinity of Scotland."  Katia is the second major hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season and was rated as a category four hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale at its peak.  The scale rates hurricanes from one to five, with five being the strongest.