Some Scottish News & Views #105

SOME SCOTTISH NEWS & VIEWS
Issue # 105                                                             Week ending 17th September 2011

Some Scots Australian News
In response to my gloomy outlook for Caledonian & Clan Societies - I’m very pleased to post the following two items.  The first is from Brian Hornig in Queensland and he says;
“I have a real positive feeling as I pen this, a feeling I have not had for a long time. There is a surge of interest and, a feeling of determination within the Celtic Community just over the past few months that has not been there for the past 6 - 8 years. A splash in the pan? I don't think so

Pipe-Major Doug Thoresen, O.A.M., D. Urr., and I were invited to present the trophies and awards for Solo Piping and Drumming at the recent "Queensland Pipe Band Championships", conducted by the Ipswich Thistle Pipe Band.  We were both encouraged by, not only the increase in entries, but also, the standard of playing. As an old Drummer, I was most impressed by the number of young people playing, a number being young ladies, and by the advancement of the drum settings they were playing.  Also at the "Queensland Championships", Life Membership Awards were presented to a number of people, and a "Posthumous Award" to the family of the late "Trevor Warnock". A "Posthumous Award" was also presented recently at the "Celtic Council of Australia - Queensland Branch - Awards Night". Congratulations to all recipients, again, these people have worked tirelessly, over many years to further our Celtic Heritage, and it is only fitting that they be acknowledged in a suitable way.   I am extremely pleased to note that "Posthumous Awards" are now being presented. I have campaigned for years on this subject, to see it finally implemented. We should never forget those who went before us, who gave us the organisations and traditions that we have today. We carry the torch that they ignited and, it is our responsibility to see that it does not dim or, be extinguished”.

The second item is from Canberra regarding the Canberra Highland Gathering
On Saturday 8 October, the Canberra College of Piping & Drumming will host the first Scottish Highland Gathering held in Canberra for 30 years.  The Gathering will be followed by a traditional  Ceilidh at the Canberra Burns Club.  College President, Athol Chalmers, believes that hosting a Highland Gathering as an important part of the charter the College has set itself. The College intends to make the Gathering an annual event.  “The College has been in existence for 15 years and has to date been primarily a teaching organisation. So to tackle an event such as this is a big step up for us. However we feel that this event, which will include the ACT Pipe Band Championships, is consistent with our goal of promoting piping and drumming, and indeed Scottish music and culture generally, in the Canberra region” said Mr Chalmers.

The event is being held at Kambah Oval (Kett St, Kambah), starting at 9.00am and going through to 5.30pm.  Entry to the day is free. “We want this to be a family friendly day where Scots, those of Scots descent, and those simply interested in Scottish music and culture can come along and join in the festivities for little or no cost.  The Ceilidh night held afterwards in the Burns Club will feature music by Cassidy’s Ceilidh, performances by Scottish guest artists Jim Kilpatrick MBE (16 times world snare drum champion) and Stuart Liddell (multiple piping gold medallist), and the first “Drumming for Drinks” freestyle percussion competition ever held in Australia. Six of Australia’s top pipe band percussionists, each joined by up to 5 other musicians, will battle it out to be the audience vote winner and receive cash and other prizes up to the value of $2000.

The Uig Chessmen Belong Here on Lewis But What Can We Do to Keep Them Here? By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Since April, a procession of people wound their weary way up that hill.
Heads down, they trundled up forsaking even the charms of the Carlton Bar. They were all following patiently-explained directions for the Isle of Lewis Chessmen at our museum in Stornoway.

Most got it wrong. Told to keep going up Francis Street and it would be on their left just before Matheson Road, the dozy walkers would always turn into Lewis Street, the last turn-off.  On that street, the bewildered culture vultures and archaeology addicts soon spotted the courthouse and, convinced they had finally found Museum nan Eilean, made for there in their endless search for something ancient and interesting.

In fact, some of them did find a couple of old treasures in there. However, the sheriff and the procurator fiscal don’t count so the visitors were ejected and told where to go.

The curtain twitchers of Lewis Street used to wonder just how popular were the little men from Uig round the corner in the museum. In fact, I have found out that no less than 20,000 visitors have been to see them since the exhibition began at Easter.

It’s now ending although the chessmen can be seen for a final day at Uig Museum tomorrow. You should go. If you’re reading this in some distant wilderness, like Aberdeenshire, you may just make it with a wee tailwind from Hurricane Katia.

The Isle of Lewis Chessmen are probably the one thing around the world that this wee island is known for - apart, of course, from intolerant sabbatarians. It must be nearly 14 or 15 years since they were last here. So on Saturday I decided I would go along for a decko before they are spirited away to be wrapped up and stuffed into someone’s drawers in the British Museum for another 15 years.

So I got up and asked Mrs X if, by any chance, she wanted to see the chessmen. Her ears pricked up straight away, she threw down her knitting and she had wheeched me out the door before I could squeak that I was still in my wincyette pyjamas.

Actually, there were one or two fibs there. Mrs X doesn’t knit and I don’t wear any jammies, wincyette, nylon or knitted. I only said that in case my auntie Kirsty Ann read this. She’s always telling me to wrap up nice and warm if I’m going out. In fact, she’s always telling me to wrap up, period.

It’s a great wee exhibition. Not only is it fantastic to see the wee Uigeachs in the flesh - OK, in the walrus ivory - but it is really informative. There are cards and wallcharts with the most fascinating facts clearly explained.

Did you know, for instance, that there is nothing certain about where the chessmen were actually found? Oh, it may indeed have been by Uig Sands but it may also have been at Mealasta, a fine beach up at Breanish. In fact, let’s be honest about this; it wasn’t properly recorded at the time so it could have been anywhere in the parish of Uig.

It could even have been on Great Bernera, a charming wee island to the northern boundary of the parish, and a place I happen to know. I have often experienced the call of the ancients there myself. That’s when I had to go in for my tea.

The point is that these 91 ivory pieces are a big draw. They should be permanently based on Lewis - ideally Bernera, but we would be open to negotiation - because they would be a real help to the fragile economy of these islands.

Back in the mid-1990s, when we had councillors who had a bit of bottle, there was an attempt to have the whole caboodle kept here. Of course, the British Museum and the National Museum of Scotland, kept arguing there would be no proper security here because they were uninsurable and CCTV was still in its early developing stages where, even close-up, all faces captured on video looked like fuzzy snowmen.

People like then-councillor George Lonie, a man of principle if ever there was one who is due to do well if, as I hear, he stands for the Scottish Socialist Party, would quiver with rage at the thought they would have to be handed back. How I remember the despair in his voice as he asked the packed Criterion: “Whit are we gonnae dae? I jist dinnae ken masel’.”

Someone shouted we should kidnap the wee coves. That was probably his councillor colleague Callum Ian MacMillan. He was always full of bright ideas. The suggestion brought the house down. They heard the roars of “We’re right behind youse” and “Let’s dae it the night, lads” as far away as Charles Morrison & Sons Ltd, a supplier of paint, pots and pans.

The raid to liberate the chessmen didn’t happen however. If only George Gawk, who after long deliberation was chosen to lead the expedition, hadn’t been dipping his sheep the following morning, who knows what course history would have taken.

So worried were the museums that the rebellious Leodhasachs would sober up enough to seize the chessmen that the museums flew up a couple of security guards to escort them back down south. That actually happened.

Now the chessmen are in Uig Museum for a final few hours tomorrow. Of course, I would never suggest kidnapping anyone or anything but I just wonder if the intrepid Gawk has a few hours free ...

'The Perfect Swarm' Sees Midge Count Rise 1,200% (OUCH!! Run for your lives- Robin)
Midge numbers soared to nearly 12 times more than in 2010 in parts of Scotland this summer thanks to a dry April followed by a wet May.  Loch Ness saw the highest total in the annual Scottish midge forecast service report, with 1,684,800 recorded - up 1179 per cent.  The other four major traps around Scotland also showed big rises. Galloway Forest recorded more than a million midges and was up 542 per cent. Ardgour Peninsular increased by 454 per cent, Border Hills saw a rise of 146 per cent and Strathspey doubled its count in 2010 with an increase of 102 per cent.

The world's leading expert on the insects said the summer weather conditions could not have been better. The warmest and driest April on record was followed by wet and damp conditions the next month - just as the midges hatched.  "It was perfect conditions for midges - in fact some would say the perfect swarm," said Dr Alison Blackwell.  Dr Blackwell added that the spate of wildfires that scorched large parts of the Highlands and Islands earlier this year and the harsh winter had "little effect" on midge numbers.  "They are pretty adaptable in surviving all kinds of conditions as we have seen," she said.  "The larvae bury two to three inches into soil. They know how to survive. They've done it for thousands of years. The only good news is that their numbers are now dropping off."   The Scottish tourism industry has been estimated to lose about £286 million a year because of the insects.  A previous study also found many tourists said they would not return to Scotland at the same time of year because of midges.

Experts Hail Pictish Royal Monastery Find
Aerial photographs showing a faint line in fields around a village in Highland Perthshire have mystified archaeologists for decades. Crop marks in the village of Fortingall, famous for its 5,000-year-old yew tree, seem to indicate an ancient boundary long since buried and forgotten.  Now an archaeological dig may have uncovered the secret: the site is believed to have been a royal monastery dating from the time when the Picts were converting to Christianity more than 1,300 years ago.   Dr Oliver O'Grady and a band of local volunteers opened up two exploratory trenches to reveal a wide bank faced with large upright stones that may have once stood as high as two metres.  O'Grady believes the bank to be the remains of a Pictish monastic enclosure, also known as a vallum monastery, possibly dating somewhere between the 6th and 8th centuries AD. "It's in a beautiful state of preservation," said O'Grady, "and one of the best upstanding pieces of Pictish archaeology that I've ever seen.  I am blown away by what we have found in what is only the second Pictish monastery to be excavated to any great extent in Scotland. Hopefully this research will shed some more light on what really is a black hole in Scottish archaeological investigation."

The discovery supports existing evidence of an early Christian monastery at Fortingall. The village church contains a monk's hand bell and fragments of early Christian grave markers with Pictish designs.  Definitive results from the dig, carried out by the Breadalbane Heritage Society, still await radiocarbon dating, but as well as the monastic enclosure, the archaeological team found the remains of a substantial Pictish road passing though one of the enclosure's main entrances. A geophysical survey carried out within the enclosed area indicates the remains of a major settlement with many internal divisions and possible dwellings.   "It just shows how important the ancient monastery at Fortingall must have been," said Neil Hooper, chairman of the heritage society. "It is so much more significant than anyone previously thought."   O'Grady, who previously led excavations at Scone Palace, thinks that Fortingall could have once been a major cultural and religious centre in the Celtic world. "Early Christian monasteries were important sites for the development of intellectual life in Scotland," he commented. "They are likely to have been focal points for trade, metalwork and crafts as well as for prayer."  Slag deposits were found during the dig, a clear indication of metal-working in the monastery.  As well as working with iron, the Pictish people are remembered for their very fine silver and gold brooches.

Early Christian monasteries may have also been important political centres during a period when the Pictish people were being gradually assimilated by the Gaels into the kingdom of Alba.  "I am beginning to see this more on the scale of a royal monastery," said O'Grady. "A venue where links between dynasties were forged through marriage, or even where inaugurations were held to affirm royal power."

A single glass bead with three red ringlets and a green herringbone motif, embedded in the surface of the Pictish road, proved to be the star find of the Fortingall excavation. Dr Ewan Campbell, senior lecturer in archaeology at the University of Glasgow, has identified this as a 6th century Anglo-Saxon bead. "It is very unusual to find an Anglo-Saxon object in Scotland at this early date," Campbell commented.  If the bead's age is verified, it would mean that the monastery was contemporary with the lives of the very first missionaries who brought Christianity to Scotland from Ireland.  St Columba founded the monastery in Iona in 563 AD to introduce the Picts to the Gospel on the West Coast. St Adamnan, Columba's biographer and the abbot of Iona from 679 AD, has long been associated with Fortingall in place names and legend.

The discovery of a prehistoric flint scraper by Dr O'Grady's team suggests that the origins of the site at Fortingall could be even older. Christian missionaries may have built on a prehistoric monument centered around the famous Fortingall yew.   The tree, believed to be between 3,000 and 5,000 years old, is considered the oldest tree in Europe and may well have been a focus for pre-Christian worship. There are records of it being venerated in seasonal festivals well into the medieval period.  Measured in 1769 with a circumference of 16 metres (52 feet), the Fortingall yew fell victim to souvenir hunters and local youths who lit Beltane fires at its base. The tree has since been protected by a high wall. "The yew alone makes Fortingall a site of national and international interest," said O'Grady. "It gives us an unbroken link straight back through the Middle Ages to the people of the Iron Age."

Art School Criticised for Plan to Introduce £9,000-a-year Fees
Student leaders have criticised Glasgow School of Art after it became the latest institution to announce it would charge undergraduates from England, Wales and Northern Ireland £9,000 a year for their degree.  The prestigious art school, whose alumni include the likes of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, John Byrne and Alasdair Gray, joined Aberdeen University and Heriot-Watt in saying no student would pay more than £27,000 for a four-year course.  However, students from the rest of the UK who want to study architecture will pay a total of £45,450 for the six-year course.   Professor Seona Reid, the GSA's director, said: "We have aimed for fairness and parity in the cost of studying in our disciplines in equivalent institutions across the rest of the UK, whilst seeking to ensure that the impact of the new fees regime does not have the unintended consequence of reducing the income available to GSA from 2012."

Airline Plans to Expand with 50 Jobs
A total of 50 new jobs are to be created at Glasgow Airport following expansion of the airline Jet2.com.  The company will have a third plane based at the airport from summer next year to increase capacity on its flights.   Jobs include pilots, cabin crew and ground staff, as the number of seats available from Glasgow Airport rises to 500,000.  The company is celebrating its first year at the airport today.  Steve Heapy, chief commercial officer of Jet2.com, said: "Our first year at Glasgow Airport has been tremendously successful.  "Adding new destinations demonstrates our commitment to growth in Glasgow and we aim to continue to add routes that reflect our customers' holiday choices. "

Ambitious Renovation Plan Sees Old Town Given A Modern Twist
Plans for a thriving new quarter that would breathe life into the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town have been unveiled.   An ambitious scheme featuring restaurants, flats, shops and offices is proposed for a series of historic buildings within side streets that link the Royal Mile with Cockburn Street and Market Street.  Part of the plans will see Roxburgh Court become a courtyard, featuring outdoor dining for a cafe/restaurant.

Proposals were first lodged for the site in 2006 but have stalled following a series of complications. Now Beaghmor Property has lodged its own plans for the site which slightly vary the planning consent granted in 2007 and reduce the number of residential flats from around 80 to 11.   Its plans have been adapted to sit alongside a 200-bedroom hotel, to be run by German firm Motel One, upon which work has started.  Chris Stewart, chief executive of the Chris Stewart Group and a director at Beaghmor, said: "It is all about getting uses along the closes and the idea is that it will completely regenerate them and get them looking fantastic, with businesses and residences right the way up."  The proposals include the creation of 18 serviced apartments, 11 residential apartments, a restaurant and 585 square metres of office space.

Storms Batter Scotland
Thousands of rail passengers and motorists suffered travel misery as large swathes of Scotland were battered by the tail end of Hurricane Katia.  Winds of more than 85mph and torrential rain disrupted train services and caused road closures while a number of ferry services were cancelled on Monday.

People living near the west coast found themselves in the eye of the storm, a less fierce version of the hurricane which brought New York and Philadelphia to a standstill earlier this month.  The storm is expected to pass to the east today, but flood warnings remain in Argyll and Bute, Ayrshire and Arran, Central Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway, Skye and Lochaber, the west coast and the Western Isles. There were particularly high river levels on the River Tay and River Earn.  A gust of 73mph was recorded in Bishopton, Renfrewshire, and 85mph at Glen Ogle in Perthshire.   Trees were uprooted and tiles ripped from the roof of properties, and coastal areas, such as Largs and Saltcoats in Ayrshire, were lashed by huge waves. Power lines came down in the Dalbeattie area of Dumfries and Galloway, leaving many homes without power for several hours.

Edinburgh Castle was closed to the public after the owners, Historic Scotland, feared visitors would be injured by flying roof tiles or flagpoles. The Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh were also closed.   High-sided vehicles were banned from the Forth Road Bridge as well as the Erskine Bridge over the Clyde, the Tay Road Bridge in Dundee and the Friarton Bridge in Perth and Kinross.  The storm intensified as the day wore on catching out many commuters as they attempted to get home from work.  Fallen trees forced the cancellation of a number of rail services. Trains from Glasgow Central station to Largs and Ardrossan had to stop at Kilwinning, while buses replaced trains after a signal failure at Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute. Fallen trees also brought trains to a halt at Gourock, Falkirk, Bishopton and Lugton.

Illegal Alcohol Find ‘One of the UK’s Largest Seizures’
A quarter of a million pounds worth of illegal alcohol has been seized in a raid in Glasgow.  Officers from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) took the illegal alcohol and dismantled an alcohol relabeling factory after a two-day operation and have claimed the seizure is one of the largest in the UK.  A Glasgow man has been charged with evasion of duty following the discovery last week.

HMRC officers raided a container storage yard, an off-licence and a private address on Wednesday and Thursday and seized 81 pallets of beer, wine and spirits. The alcohol is worth more than £250,000.  It is understood the liquor was destined for the export market and had either never left the UK or gone out and been returned.  The export labels were removed and replaced with false ‘duty paid’ labels.  A raft of off-sales in Glasgow were recently reported to the city’s licensing board over selling spirits for which duty had not been paid. Alcohol smuggling costs the taxpayer £850 million a year in unpaid duty.

EC Approves Fuel Discount Proposal
Proposals for a motor fuel duty discount for people in remote island communities have been approved by the European Commission.  The UK Government scheme is intended to deliver a five pence per litre duty discount on petrol and diesel.  It will cover all islands in the Inner and Outer Hebrides, Northern Isles, the Islands in the Clyde and the Isles of Scilly, the Treasury said.  The UK Government must now get agreement from member states for the scheme to proceed.  A Treasury spokesman said: "The European Commission decision is a positive step towards delivering cheaper fuel to remote island communities. The UK Government is working to secure the final agreement of member states and get savings at the pump as quickly as possible."  The initiative is a pilot scheme for remote islands, where pump prices are particularly high compared to mainland areas because of the high costs of transporting and distributing fuel to them.  The European Economic and Financial Affairs Council will also have to give approval.

Ishbel Macaskill Tribute Night (Wish I could be there- Robin)
A Tribute night to the late Ishbel MacAskill will be held as part of the Mod nan Eilean Siar 2011 programme of events.  The concert, which will be held at An Lanntair in Stornoway, will take place on Tuesday October 18 2011, and follows on from the success of the Memorial Concert held at Eden Court in Inverness in June 2011.

Ishbel, a native of Point, sadly passed away at her home in Inverness earlier this year. She was a true ambassador of the Gaelic language and culture; and the local organising committee of this year’s Mod are arranging a special charity evening of music and song to celebrate the life of Ishbel in the island she loved, where she spent her formative years.   Convenor of the Mod nan Eilean Siar organising committee, Alex MacDonald commented: “Ishbel made her debut performing at the fringe of the 1979 Mod in Stornoway and went on to become one of Gaeldom’s finest singing exports.  “The Inverness concert was a very special evening and far from being a sombre affair was a true celebration of her life. Ishbel was an international ambassador for the Gaelic language and sang at venues in various locations throughout the world from Australia to America and many points in between.“She sang at numerous internationally acclaimed festivals including Celtic Connections in Glasgow, the Celtic Colours festival in Cape Breton and The World Festival For Island Cultures in Jeju Island South Korea. She had a unique and powerful singing voice with an intensely emotive quality which captivated her audiences, wherever she performed.”

He continued: “She was an outstanding Gael who very was proud of her Gaelic roots and Gaelic heritage and culture in particular. She was passionate about Gaelic and promoted the language, not just through singing, but also through her acting and involvement in Gaelic projects such as the Fèisean movement.  “Her singing repertoire was vast, as was her knowledge of Gaelic songs and this was reflected in the memorable way she came across on the stage in whichever international arena she was appearing. Ishbel was a wonderful, warm hearted woman who brought Gaelic to the world stage in a way that will be difficult to be replicate” An announcement of the artistes performing will be made nearer the time and tickets priced at £10 will be available from An Comunn Gaidhealach in Perceval Square.

'Nessie' Spotted Going for A Dive
A fish farmer could not believe his eyes when two unexplained ‘Nessie-like’ humps appeared from below the surface of Loch Ness.  Jon Rowe, from Lewiston in Drumnadrochit, was working at Dores Fish Farm when he decided to take a picture of a stunning rainbow.  However, after taking the picture, something unusual caught Mr Rowe’s eye.  "It wasn’t up for a long long time," said 31-year-old Mr Rowe. "It was a really large dark shape and I’ve not seen anything like that on Loch Ness before."

Asked if he believes it was the elusive Loch Ness Monster, Mr Rowe said it is a possibility as he does not believe it was a buoy or a mooring as it is in the wrong place and ropes would be visible in the water.  "I think it’s interesting, that’s how I take it and I would like the photo to be checked," said Mr Rowe, who took his snap on Wednesday at 8.30am.  However, Adrian Shine, from the Loch Ness Project based in the Loch Ness Centre in Drumnadrochit, cast his expert eye on the picture along with his colleague Dick Raynor.

He believes one possible explanation for the photo could be that it was two black throated diver birds captured diving for prey or emerging after a dive."It’s an interesting picture," said Mr Shine. "My colleague Dick is a skipper at Urquhart Bay and last week he spotted two black throated divers which are quite big and they have white undersides which you can see in the picture," said Mr Shine.  Previously there have been two possible sightings of the Loch Ness monster with white undersides.  But Mr Shine said if the birds were diving, which they often do in pairs, then it would explain their disappearance beneath the surface of the water.  However - the question still remains.

Police Cadets Aiming to Help People Enjoy A New Start in the Highlands
Northern Constabulary’s latest batch of recruits have embarked on a rewarding path which will help people in the Highlands rebuild their lives.  For part of the recruits' cadetship is to provide support to a local charity and New Start Highland has been chosen as the beneficiary.    New Start Highland is a local, social enterprise which helps people who are either experiencing periods of vulnerability or are on low income. It then helps them to set up a new home. New Start Highland also helps people get back into work and maintain a tenancy.  The cadets will be responsible for raising money for New Start Highland through fundraising events, such as a quiz night being held at force headquarters in September. They will also undertake a range of volunteer duties such as learning how to repair white goods so that they are re-usable, painting and decorating homes for new start tenants and working in the charity’s fundraising shops.

Isobel Prall, enterprise officer for New Start Highland, visited force headquarters recently to meet the organisation’s latest volunteers and she welcomed their involvement.  She said: "We are delighted with the support we are getting from Northern Constabulary and in particular the cadets. They will have the opportunity to achieve a real sense of fulfilment by helping and contributing to the community - socially, economically and environmentally."  Learning and developing manager Catherine Palmer said: "The cadets are undertaking the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award as part of their cadetship and we are pleased that for the volunteering section they have chosen to support New Start Highland."

Longest-ordained Minister Dies Aged 103
A veteran cleric who last year was recognised as the longest-ordained minister of the Church of Scotland since the Reformation has died a few weeks short of his 104th birthday.  The Rev Tom Donn, who was ordained in Stornoway in 1932, died in a nursing home in Inverness.  On 2 May last year, he broke the previous record set by the Rev Alexander Rae Grant, former minister of West Cults, Aberdeen, who was ordained on 20 November, 1923, and who died, aged 104, in 2001. Mr Donn, who was from Govan, was educated at Glasgow's Bellahouston Academy, Glasgow University and Trinity College, Glasgow.

MP MacNeil Slams Prime Minister for ‘Stupid’ Scotland Remark
Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil has reacted with astonishment after Prime Minister David Cameron branded the opinion of 68% Scots expressed in a poll last week as ‘stupid’.  Referencing the ‘State of the Nation’ poll, conducted by Angus Reid and published in last week’s Sunday Express, which found that 68% of Scots believe that North Sea oil revenue should be allocated to Scotland; SNP MP MacNeil asked the Prime Minister if he agreed.  David Cameron said the question and answer were “stupid”.

Commenting, Mr MacNeil said: “I was astonished that the Prime Minister laughed at the hopes and aspirations of seven out of ten Scots.  “Of course, the London-led party politicians are quite happy to pocket the money from Scotland’s oil. But whilst they ignore the will of the Scottish people their poll ratings reach new lows.  This cavalier conduct by the Tory/Lib Dem Treasury over increased taxation without consultation in the North Sea underlines that the oil and gas industry is too important to be left in the hands of the UK government. “No wonder our opponents are on the run when they want Westminster to keep control of this important job creating industry,” he added.

Call for Radical Reform of Crown Estate
A call for the radical reform of the way the Crown Estate functions in Scotland has been made by Community Land Scotland, representing Scotland’s community landowners. As well as calling for change to make the Crown Estate more accountable to Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament, Community Land Scotland make arguments for even more radical change, calling for locally accountable community land owners to take over the control of appropriate assets currently managed by the Crown Estate.

There are further calls for the statutory duties and powers of the Crown Estate to be changed to allow them to contribute to economic and social development of local areas, and not simply extract rents and dues.  Speaking on the submission of evidence to both the Scottish Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament and the Scotland Bill Committee of the Scottish Parliament, David Cameron, Chairman of Community Land Scotland said, “It is time for radical reform of the Crown Estate and part of that reform needs to empower local communities to take control of appropriate assets the Crown Estate currently manage, and manage those assets alongside the communities land based assets.  Today communities which have bought their land control some 500,000 acres and are using ownership of that land to promote greater economic opportunity and a sustainable future. Community land owners are land managers, energy producers, housing developers, forestry entrepreneurs, broadband providers and tourism operators, and there is no reason why they could not also control the inshore marine assets that adjoin their land.  All the evidence is that local community owners would bring enterprise and flair to utilising the marine assets around them, using income to invest locally, creating more local economic opportunity, where currently the Crown Estate extract rents and put little back..”

Tug of War Breaks out as Hopes of Saving Emergency Vessels Are Sunk
Campaigners fighting to save two emergency tugs reacted angrily yesterday to confirmation that the UK government intends to scrap them.  Contracts for the emergency towing vessels (ETVs) - the Anglian Earl in the Minch and the Anglian Sovereign off Orkney and Shetland - are due to end on 30 September.  The shipping minister, Mike Penning, has indicated he will consider extending the contract for the tug operating from Stornoway by up to six weeks if a working group can demonstrate alternative future funding.  But in a response to a Transport Select Committee inquiry, the Department for Transport (DfT) said it continues to believe that responsibility for ensuring the operational safety of ships is a matter for the commercial shipping industry in partnership with the tug and salvage industries. It said: "The government has had to take difficult decisions as part of its wider strategy to reduce the fiscal deficit, and it is simply not appropriate for the taxpayer to underwrite a responsibility on operators."

The DfT said the waters off the Shetland and Orkney can be reached within reasonable time by tugs that operate at Sullom Voe or by vessels that service the offshore industry to the west of Shetland.  It said the situation off the Western Isles is different because no suitable commercial tugs operate in the area. However, it is up to the working group to respond to the challenge of having an ETV continue without government funds, it said.  Yesterday, Angus Campbell, leader of Western Isles Council, maintained that plans had already been outlined to the government for alternative funding to come from Crown Estate revenues, the Ministry of Defence and the Scottish Government.  However, he said only central government, and not local authorities, could put these into practice. He said: "It is disappointing that the minister does not seem to recognise the case we have made. We have clearly outlined possible sources of funding for the provision of emergency tugs but we will emphasise these avenues to the minister."

The working group is also to carry out its own risk assessment into the loss of the vessels in the hope of getting the contracts extended.  Shetland Island Council's convener Sandy Cluness dismissed the possibility of emergency towage cover being provided by the council's tugs based at Sullom Voe. He said: "This is clearly a non-starter. The government seems to be missing the point that our tugs are not ocean-going vessels.  Although there's no question our tugs would help a vessel in distress, the fundamental issue here is that they are not equipped to cope with the range of shipping that we have passing through Shetland's waters."

MPs have also expressed concern at the government's refusal to continue the two Scottish tugs which each cost about £3 million a year to run.  Committee chair Louise Ellman said: "I am very disappointed that the government still intends not to renew the contract for emergency towing vessels.  These vessels protect our shores from pollution and we are not convinced that suitable commercial alternatives exist."  The committee has previously said scrapping the tugs is "unwise and short-sighted" and was "quite literally inviting disaster".   It said savings made by ending the contract would be wiped out by just one major accident.

Scottish Banknotes
The UK is one of the few countries in the world where the issue of bank notes is not restricted to the Government and/or its Central Bank. In Scotland, there is a continuous tradition of producing bank notes since 1695. In recent years, some of the Scottish banks have produced some colourful banknotes to commemorate special occasions, including the Queen Mother's 100th birthday on 4 August 2000 (which included references to her Scottish roots in the design) and the 50th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002.  The days of bank managers playing golf with important customers may be in the past, but the connection between banks and golf have been perpetuated with commemorative banknotes for the 250th Anniversary of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and another paying homage to that golfing great Jack Nicklaus.  On a more serious historic note there has also been a banknote marking the 700th anniversary of the crowning of King Robert the Bruce,  issued on 25 March 2006, followed up in 2006 by a banknote linked to the Commonwealth Games held that year in Melbourne, Australia.