Some Scottish News & Views #106

Issue # 106                                                              Week ending 24th September 2011

Some Scots Australian News
This is a blatant commercial directed at those who might not have been contacted by other methods and as a reminder to the rest.  A ceilidh will be run to help out a Scots organisation that has been running for almost 30 years.  It’s a fund raiser for the Australian Gaelic Singers.  Those of you in organisations know only too well that it takes money to pay liability insurance and the other running costs so necessary these days.  While Coisir Ghaidhlig Astrailianach (Australian Gaelic Singers)  performed at a number of functions this year, they were regarded as charity events so didn’t earn anything - but we need money to pay our bills so we have decided to run an End of Year Ceilidh which will take in our usual break-up function. We don’t want anything for nothing and if you come along we can promise you an afternoon of great entertainment at minimal cost in the Old Church Hall, Myrtle Street, Rydalmere at 1.30pm for a 2.00pm start on Sunday 4th December.  Cost is $15.00 per ticket, with children under 13 admitted free,  or contact Ron Kennedy for ticket bookings on (02)9874-7742 or email him on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

The Reason I Do Not Want to Sit on the Fence is That it Really, Really Hurts by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

They are sharp and horrible and have caused me terrible pain and misery.  I’m not actually talking about my in-laws - well, not this time. What I am talking about has had me agonisingly trapped by my shoulder, by my hand and one even came close to ripping off my undercarriage when I fell on it while straddling a stile in my rush to get to a beach.

The wretched instruments of torture of which I speak are, of course, our fearsome island fences. If there’s one thing guaranteed to bring tears to my eyes it is recalling that particular humiliating episode down at Coll Beach a few years ago when I was left dangling on the most penetrative barbed wire on which I have ever rested my wee pink bits.

And something equally painful happened on South Uist as well.  Trying to get a better position to take photos of that pod of ill-fated pilot whales which had ended up in Loch Carnan, I thought I’d go up the road and climb the hill.  Just one problem. There was a sturdy fence barring the way and no gate for miles. Oh no, it had vicious-looking barbed wire all along it. Ach, no bother, I can tackle any fence after what happened to me in Coll.

I never learn.

This time, there wasn’t even a stile. So I had to drop the camera over it first and begin my ascent. What I didn’t plan for was that I was fairly high up the hill so, just as I was getting my leg over, I was hit amidships by Hurricane Floraidh. A sudden wind swung me back like a weather vane slamming me against the groaning fence post.  In situations like this, the kindly advice of physics teachers like Mr Robbie, Mr Campbell and Mr Mackay come flooding back. For any non-scientific readers, kinetic energy is best explained by showing how it is changed to and from other forms of energy.

For example, I was using chemical energy provided by the sausage and black pudding I had at the Dark Island Hotel to climb that fence at my chosen velocity. That movement had to be maintained with enough oomph to overcome air resistance and friction. So, the chemical energy was being converted into kinetic energy, the energy of motion, but that kind of process is never completely efficient and was also producing heat and sweatiness on certain parts of my anatomy. OK so far?

The law of gravity meant I’d acquired a whole shed-load of even more kinetic energy and, by swinging back too far, had run out of options for transfer.

Meanwhile, my right leg was still partly over the barbed wire and being dragged back over the by-now bloody pricks. Yeeeouch.

By the time I became completely dislodged and fell to earth, the pain was so intense I didn’t even notice my head bouncing off an ollack and rolling into the swamp.  Kinetic energy, of course, can be passed from one object to another and when I passed it to the fence post it went all wibbly-wobby and undoubtedly was thereon transferred by way of local terrestrial tremors.

That’s kinetic energy.   See? Science is so interesting when you have a tutor who has personally experienced what could otherwise be boring, theoretical situations.

A bonus was that, as I eventually came to my senses, I realised there was no one around to witness my downfall. So no one could get offended if I let rip with the most fearsome oaths and curses about the usefulness of fences, the properties of barbed wire and my lessening affection for bewildered marine creatures. Who’d have thought that loudly proclaiming unspecified doubts about the parentage of pilot whales above a Uist sea loch was an effective stress reliever? Worked for me, I tell you.

Mind you, that was probably because this was South Uist and I was far away from the influence of the Free Church or the Continuing for the feelings of guilt at stooping to profanity to be sufficiently

I have to say I’m intrigued by a competition launched by a tradesmen’s website called Get Off The Fence. They are looking for get nominations for the biggest, best, ugliest or most ridiculous fences. Whether they are fabulous or very bad, they want to feature them.   Fences serve so many purposes, they say, including keeping out unwanted intruders, marking clear boundaries between neighbours and affording you privacy when you’re enjoying some time in the garden. They think it’s time to celebrate these brilliant boundary markers and fantastic fences which, while doing so many other things, actually brighten up our day.

Yeah, right.

One gets the impression it is more about poncey garden fences more than jaggy-topped livestock ones but, hey, a fence is a fence.  The blurb says Britain’s got millons so they acknowledge that not all are going to be that great. Some may be faded, splintered, too small or too tall, they expect. Whatever the reason, they are asking the public to get off the fence and name and shame the worst offenders.

I think I could win this, you know. If I took them to those fences in Coll and Loch Carnan that are not just ugly to look at but capable of inflicting deep and lasting injury to innocent people, they would have to be impressed.  No lily-livered lawn border or terrible trellis could beat my entries.

Because I took photos before I applied the ointment.

Highland Toffee Hits a Sticky Patch as Iconic Sweet Faces End of the Line
For nearly nine decades it has enjoyed sweet success, as generations of schoolchildren savoured the sugary concoctions dreamt up by a Perthshire herdboy in the lean years following the First World War.  But now, the fortunes at one of Scotland's most famous confectionery brands have turned sour, putting at risk the future of the Highland Toffee bar, as well as nearly 200 jobs.

New McCowans Ltd, the makers of the iconic chewy bar, have called in  the administrators amid growing concern its candied legacy could be near an end. The largest independent confectionery company in the country, with plants in Stenhousemuir and Broxburn, announced that administrators Grant Thornton have taken over the running of the business.  The manufacturers have endured a troubled existence of late, despite upgrading its production facilities. Annual accounts filed with Companies House for the 13 months to 31 March 2010 show that despite a turnover of £8.42m, it sustained losses of £2.38m, adding to losses of £1.97m it endured the previous year.  The company went into receivership six years ago before a rescue deal was struck. A little over 12 months later, however, it called in the receivers again, yet was able to continue.

Along with Highland Toffee bars - originally called the Penny Dainty and affectionately known as 'coo candy' because the wrappers feature a Highland cow - the firm's product range includes a host of sweets beloved by Scots of all ages, including Pan Drop mints. It sells more than 140 million chew bars a year.  Fiona Wilson, owner of The Sweetie Stop, a chain of confectioners specialising in old fashioned sweets which has branches in Morningside and Dunfermline said "I'm shocked that the company's gone into administration, it's horrendous news for Scotland. I sell an unbelievable amount of Highland Toffee, my customers send it to relatives in Canada, Australia, and all over the world."  The origins of the Highland Toffee bar can be traced back to 1922 when Crieff-born Andrew McCowan founded his firm in Stenhousemuir, making treats such as tablet over an old coke burner.

Schools out Forever at St Kilda

The final entry in the school log book is succinct but poignant. "Today very probably ends the school in St Kilda as all the inhabitants intend leaving the island this summer. I hope to be away soon."  Two months later - on 29 August 1930 - the final 36 inhabitants were evacuated from the archipelago when their existence in the remote outcrop finally became impossible.

The last word on the islands' school was written by the Rev Dugald Munro, the local missionary and teacher, who was one of the residents who signed the petition three months earlier urging the government to let them leave.  His entries and those of other teachers at the school, are now available online, providing revealing glimpses of early 20th century life in the most remote part of the British Isles, lying 41 miles west of Benbecula in the Atlantic.  The virtual logbook, along with that of the school in Mingulay, an island south of Barra abandoned in 1912, is the result of a partnership between Tasglann nan Eilean Siar (Hebridean Archives) and the National Records of Scotland.

By the time it was abandoned, St Kilda had been inhabited for about 4,000 years. But population decline began in 1852, when 36 people emigrated to Australia, and in 1912 the archipelago was hit by food shortages and the following year by an outbreak of influenza.  In 1901, the school log records a roll of 24 pupils. It notes they struggle with English and are referred to as "backward", but almost all spoke only Gaelic when they went to school.

Entries highlight the harsh realities for island children, including severe storms, frequent outbreaks of illness and the need to abandon lessons to help with everyday chores.  Gathering hay, planting potatoes, cutting peat, shearing sheep and washing tweed all led to the school being closed on different occasions.  Similarly, there were no classes when children were needed to catch fulmars - the abundant seabirds which formed part of the island diet.

The arrival of a boat bringing mail and vital supplies also meant children working into the early hours of the morning helping to unload provisions. In March 1920, the teacher notes a boat bringing the first mail since the beginning of January, and in May 1921, a trawler arrives with school books ordered the previous autumn.   In 1922, St Kilda's population is recorded as just 73, with 15 pupils attending the school, but by March 1930 the roll is down to eight Three months later Scottish Secretary Tom Johnston visits "in connection with the evacuation" and on 27 June, the final log entry is made, although Rev Munro notes proudly, "attendance perfect for last week".

The Mingulay log book, covering the years 1875-1910, notes the school had 30 children when it opened, but their progress is hindered, it says, by the cold weather and lack of proper accommodation. One entry records the teacher's stock of coal for a fire being "exhausted". David Powell, project manager and archivist with the Hebridean Archives, said: "The window into the past of these rural remote communities is fascinating and, as we were all school pupils at some point, is something we can all connect with in some way."  George MacKenzie, Registrar General and Keeper of the Records, who heads the National Records of Scotland, said: "We are delighted that our conservation and digitising expertise has helped the Tasglann bring them to a worldwide audience."

Seabed May Never Be Free from Nuclear Plant Waste
The seabed around Dounreay nuclear plant may never be completely cleared of radioactive particles, Scotland’s environmental watchdog has said.   Thousands of particles of irradiated nuclear fuel are believed to have been dispersed from the Caithness plant in the 1960s and 1970s and so far around 2300 have been recovered from the seabed.  A 2km fishing exclusion zone was put in place in the seas off the plant after the discovery of 34 particles on the seabed in 1997 and shortly afterwards the board of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) recommended the seabed around Dounreay should be returned to a “pristine condition”.  But according to a Sepa statement issued yesterday, officials have accepted this may not be achievable. A spokesman said: “It is now widely accepted that a literal return to a pristine condition is a far from simple or even achievable concept.  “Trying to achieve it might also cause more harm than good; there is the potential that ecosystems may be destroyed on trying to get to something which does not pose a significant hazard.”

Most of the particles are thought to be fragments from aluminium-uranium radioactive fuel rods which were being reprocessed at Dounreay and should have gone to storage pools with other waste awaiting solidification. Instead, they ended up in the drains and went into the diffuser system.  In 1997, at the time the exclusion zone was first enforced, no legislation covering radioactively contaminated land was in place in the UK.

Sepa’s radioactive specialists are now recommending remediation of the radioactive contamination as far as is practically achievable but says this can only be done when it will do more good than harm to the wider environment.  Some believe the radioactive particles are still coming from the plant and critics of the Dounreay operation said there were doubts over whether the dispersion of particles had come to an end.  Lorraine Mann, one of the leading critics, said: “What Sepa must do first is to assure themselves absolutely that the particles are not still emerging and I don’t think they can give that assurance.”

In 2007 the UK Atomic Energy Authority, then responsible for Dounreay, was fined £140,000 for allowing the release of the particles and dumping radioactive waste.  Later that year it was agreed that up to £25 million would be spent retrieving particles using a remotely operated vehicles to scour the seabed area.  A total of 481 particles have been recovered onshore, primarily from the Dounreay foreshore and nearby Sandside beach, which is open to the public.   In July, it emerged that one in 10 radioactive particles that were recovered from the seabed near the nuclear power station could pose a significant health risk to humans. A total of 350 particles of nuclear fuel were discovered in just nine weeks.  Provisional test results indicated that around one in 10 – a total of 38 –is large enough to be a “significant” risk to humans.

Third Sponsor Announced for Games
A professional advice firm is the third sponsor to be announced for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.  Ernst & Young have signed a deal with the Glasgow 2014 organising committee to become the official professional adviser to the Games.  The announcement was made by First Minister Alex Salmond and Glasgow 2014 chairman Lord Smith, marking the opening of the company's new offices in the city centre.  Arthur Young, one of Ernst & Young's founders, was born in the city in 1863 and was later educated at Glasgow University.  He set up Arthur Young & Company, before it merged with Ernst & Whinney in 1989 to create Ernst & Young.

Lord Smith said: "Ernst & Young is a fantastic addition to the Glasgow 2014 family, and bring with them unparalleled expertise in professional services.  By becoming an official supporter for the Games, they have made a strong statement of their support for this country by investing in what will be a truly outstanding Games."  Earlier this month, law firm Harper Macleod was unveiled as the first official sponsor of the Games. Recruitment firm Search Consultancy was also announced as a sponsor last week.

Government Brings in 'Public Health Levy'
Large retailers who sell alcohol and tobacco will be hit with a "public health levy" to fund the Scottish Government's budget plan.  Finance Secretary John Swinney announced the measure as part of a wider three-year spending review, showing a real-terms reduction of £1.6 billion between this year and 2014-15.

The tax proposal was welcomed by small business leaders but described as "illogical" by critics.  It follows an earlier failed attempt to set a wider tax on out-of-town retailers in Scotland to raise about £30 million.  The Scottish Government estimates it can bring in £110 million over three years by imposing the new levy through a business rates supplement.  Mr Swinney also announced a further one-year freeze on public sector pay - including the wages of government ministers.  And he warned that pension employee contributions will have to be raised for teachers, NHS, police and fire schemes unless the UK Government changes its own plan for increases.  Mr Swinney told MSPs that his spending review falls at a "defining moment" against the backdrop of a fragile global economy and "savage reductions" from Westminster.  But he said the Scottish government is committed to preventative spending measures, designed to set a long-term course.

A 'Criminal' Waste of £40m Say Angry MSPs
More must be done to tackle the "staggering" waste of up to £40 million a year in the criminal justice system, including cutting reoffending rates, MSPs have warned.  The public audit committee discussed the findings of a report by Audit Scotland in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday.   Giving evidence to MSPs, the Auditor General for Scotland, Robert Black, admitted the public must "wonder what is happening" to create such inefficiency.  Hugh Henry MSP said: "It's clear that huge amounts of money are being spent - nearly £1 billion a year - and outcomes' success is questionable."

In particular, Audit Scotland highlighted a failure to drive down re-offending as a barrier to reducing the £857m bill - which does not include the majority of police costs - for the criminal justice system in 2009-10. Mr Black said: "You do stand back, as a citizen of Scotland, and wonder what is happening in the system. And it is very difficult to tell because it's complex and so many agencies are involved."  He added: "Re-offending is a continuing problem. It is a sad statistic that two-thirds of people new to prison in 2009-10 had five or more previous convictions.  There was £81m spent by criminal justice bodies directly on services to reduce reoffending - less than 10 per cent of spend. Agencies are definitely trying to tackle this but it's a very difficult and pervasive issue."

In 2009-10 the average cost of a prisoner place for a year was £31,703. Delays to cases when witnesses fail to appear, or professionals are not fully prepared, cost about £10m, with late decisions not to proceed adding up to £30m.  Mr Henry, the committee's convener, said it was a "staggering amount of waste."   Prosecutors said it is sometimes in the public interest to halt court proceedings, even if this leads to greater costs. A Crown Office spokesman said: "There are several scenarios that cause a decision not to proceed further to be made.  We cannot ignore new evidence or the effect on a case of a witness changing their statement or proceed if the accused or a key witness fails to appear."

The Scottish Court Service warned some savings are not attainable.  Eleanor Emberson, chief executive of? SCS, said: "From the estimates identified within the Audit Scotland report, we need to separate the genuine potential savings from those costs that are unavoidable in a fair system of criminal justice."  Figures out last month showed the number of people reconvicted within a two-year period has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade.  However, at 42.4 per cent, the latest figure was just 0.2 per cent lower than it had been ten years earlier.

Housing Boost for Helmsdale
Helmsdale has received a welcome boost with the news that funding has been made available to build affordable housing in the village.   It is thought to be the first time in around 40 years that the village is in line for affordable housing.  Highland Council, in partnership with the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust, has been granted £110,000 by the Scottish Government towards the construction of four two-bedroomed homes.  The funding has been awarded from the government’s Innovation and Investment Fund.  A site close to the Helmsdale Medical Practice at Rockview Place has been earmarked for the new housing.  News of the grant aid was broken at meeting of East Sutherland and Edderton Ward Forum, held in the village on Tuesday night.

NW Will Play Part in Largest Military Exercise in Europe
Huge areas of Scotland’s skies and coastlines will be dominated in the first two weeks of October by the biggest military exercise in Europe, as the Navies, Air Forces and Armies of 14 countries test their combat skills – with the Far North playing a part.  Organised by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, the exercise has taken on huge strategic, operational and tactical importance as it backs up the training required for the all-too-real action in Afghanistan and Libya.  Exercise Joint Warrior (JW) is a UK wide, tri-service exercise conducted in the spring and the autumn of each year, and is assessed as the largest tactically focused exercise in Europe.  The second of this year’s JW exercises will take place between Monday, 3 October, and Monday, 17 October.  The impact of military operations in Afghanistan and Libya continues to limit national and multi-national participation levels in JW.

Military air participation is consequently noticeably reduced but includes UK C130 Hercules, VC10 and TriStar Tankers based at RAF Brize Norton, Sentry E3D based at RAF Waddington, Tornado GR4 from RAF Marham, Typhoon from RAF Leuchars, and on the multinational side, a detachment of German Tornado ECR aircraft detached to RAF Leuchars, up to 10 Maritime Patrol aircraft (MPA) from US, Canada and France, all based at RAF Lossiemouth, and French Rafale participating from their home base in France, for a bilateral training opportunity with Tornado GR4s from RAF Marham.  Limited night and weekend flying will be undertaken from RAF Lossiemouth supporting UK and multi-national Navy elements on the exercise.

Throughout areas of North West Scotland there will be preparatory training for deployment of UK unit elements of the Joint Ground Based Air Defence unit, 1 (UK) Division, 3 (UK) Division and the Royal Air Force Regiment.   In addition there will be core training of Allied elements of the Swedish Air Defence Regiment, the Dutch Marines and the United States Marine Corps Forward Air Control units being supported by UK Fast Jet and Intelligence gathering platforms.  To meet the participating nations’ training needs, JW facilitates a very broad range of crisis and conflict scenarios. These will include counter insurgency, state sponsored terrorism, counter narcotics and piracy and state-on-state conflict situations, all of which facilitate quality collective training opportunities for JW participants across the Air, Maritime and Land environments.

Live firing serials will integrate Naval Gunfire and land based mortars in the Cape Wrath areas.  Some of the JW exercise areas overlap environmentally sensitive conservation zones, which contain a wide variety of marine wildlife, sea bird breeding grounds and protected fauna and flora. Furthermore, the farming, fishing and tourist industries are important economic activities, which benefit from the natural beauty and relative isolation of some of the exercise areas.  Close working relationships with landowners and key national stakeholders, combined with engagement with local communities, ensure that appropriate environmental mitigation procedures are put in place and adhered to.

Barclays Pull out of Scottish Open
Barclays has pulled out of sponsoring the Scottish Open - held for the first time this year in Inverness.  The tournament moved to Castle Stuart, near Ardersier, after being held for the previous 15 years at Loch Lomond.  The bank, which has been the sponsor since 2002, has blamed "market forces" for its decision.   The European Tour announced it will be seeking a new sponsor for the Scottish Open and the event, celebrating its 30th anniversary next year, will keep its prime July date in the week preceding.  The Open Championship on The 2012 European Tour International Schedule.

World Number One Luke Donald won the title at Castle Stuart Golf Links, with a closing 63 – the lowest round of his European Tour career – to claim his second successive title in Europe after his BMW PGA Championship victory earlier in the year.  This year's tournament had to be reduced to 54 holes because of disruption caused by heavy rain.

Castle Stuart Golf links partner Grant Sword remained confident today that a replacement sponsor could be found.   “Following the successful move to Castle Stuart in Inverness this year and the universal praise received from the players, media, and spectators alike, Castle Stuart Golf Links is looking forward to working closely with The European Tour and a new sponsor in the coming years,” he said.  George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “We thank Barclays for their vision and leadership. We respect and understand that their decision was based on market factors following a hugely successful partnership that has lasted almost a decade."

MSP Calls for Greater Control of Fishing Industry
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan, on Thursday joined calls in the Scottish Parliament for the regionalisation of fishing policy and for control of the industry to be moved away from Brussels.

Speaking following a debate on the Common Fisheries Policy, led by Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead, Alasdair Allan commented: “Every fisherman I know is quite rightly utterly fed up with the European Common Fisheries Policy, and its failure not only for fishing industry, but for the marine environment, which it often claims to be seeking to protect.  “Today the Scottish Government made clear that the time has come for fishing policy to be regionalised and for fishing nations to be left to manage to industry in their own countries. In particular, the Scottish Government will oppose any idea of an international trade in fishing quotas, which could see Scotland’s fishing industry sold off to Europe’s highest bidder. Scotland urgently needs a seat around the negotiating table in Europe on these and other matters.  I welcome the fact that the Scottish Government is leading this debate in parliament and making a clear statement on Scotland’s behalf that the Common Fisheries Policy is failing and it is time for fishing nations to manage this vital industry on their own behalf.”

Commons Apology Over Western Isles 'Slur'
An SNP MP said he has received an apology from the Leader of the Commons over an online petition which contained "offensive and defamatory" comments about the Western Isles.
Angus MacNeil said Sir George Young wrote: "I am sorry that the e-petition which made offensive comments about the Outer Hebrides was allowed on to the site by departmental moderators."  It added: "The petition should not have appeared on the site, as it contained material which was both offensive and defamatory."

The petition, created on 17 August and posted on the UK government's e-petition site, read: "All rioters and looters from the recent troubles in English cities should be banished to the Outer Hebrides for five years.  "This would be much, much, cheaper than keeping them in expensive prisons, saving the taxpayer money. Five years of being forced to live in the Outer Hebrides with none of the comforts of English city living e.g. running water, electricity, decent food, culture and shopping, will put them on the straight and narrow, and frighten them not to riot or loot again. Many local people there look after sheep part-time, so they can earn a small amount of extra money looking after rioters and looters as well."

TV Plea by Survivor of Helensburgh Fire Attack That Killed 3
Detectives investigating the triple murder of a man and his two children said they have had a "positive response" following an appeal on the BBC's Crimewatch programme.  Thomas Sharkey, 21, died after the family's flat in Scott Court, Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, was deliberately set alight in the early hours of Sunday, 24 July. His eight-year-old sister Bridget died on route to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.  Six days later, their father, Thomas Sharkey Snr, 55, died of pneumonia at Glasgow's Royal Infirmary, caused by smoke inhalation.

Strathclyde Police said more than 20 calls had been received since the appeal aired on Thursday night, which featured an emotional plea from Mr Sharkey's wife Angela, 46, who was the only family member to survive the blaze.  Mrs Sharkey, who was not well enough to be told of her family's deaths until almost two weeks after the fire, said: "I have no idea why anyone would want to do this to me and my family. It's just so unfair they're gone."  Police said the additional information they had received would be followed up by detectives leading the inquiry.  However, they are still trying to trace three men seen in the area at around the time the fire broke out, who they believe could be "key witnesses".

Three Cases of TB Lead to Offer of Screening (who said this was eradicated - Robin)
Hundreds of hospital patients and staff and nursery children have been offered screening for tuberculosis after three cases of the disease were discovered by doctors.  NHS Lanarkshire said they had been notified of a person who has tested positive for TB, and after tracing their contacts, two further cases were identified in the same family.  One of them has been a patient in hospital and 119 patients who came into contact with the person are being offered guidance and advice, as are staff.   Another works at a nursery in Blantyre. The 175 children and 28 staff there are being offered screening as a precautionary measure, in line with national guidance.

All three patients with TB were said to be doing well and responding to treatment. NHS Lanarkshire said it was not releasing the name of the hospital or nursery involved.  Dr Josephine Pravinkumar, consultant in public health medicine, said: "The risk of transfer of this infection to people who have been in contact with a case is low and the risk of people developing active TB disease is even lower.  It is not easily passed from person to person, and even prolonged contact does not necessarily mean the infection would be contracted.  However, in line with Scottish guidance we are offering screening for close contacts as a precautionary measure."

Council Leaders Moot Festival Ticket Tax Plan to Ease the Burden on City
Council leaders in Edinburgh want festival-goers to pay more for their tickets to help ease the burden on the taxpayer for the city's hosting of major events.  The idea is the latest to be touted under long-held plans for a "festival tax" or "tourist tax", which the city council wants to see introduced.  Senior councillors believe money added on to ticket prices, hotel bills and meals in restaurants could be ring-fenced for the authority, which currently ploughs more than £4?million into events such as the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe and the capital's Hogmanay celebrations.

However, such a move has already been ruled out by Edinburgh's new marketing boss, while festival promoters and hoteliers are fiercely opposed to measures they believe may put off potential visitors.  The council's plans to introduce a "bed tax", first floated more than ten years ago, were dealt a blow five years ago when the Scottish Government ruled out supporting such a scheme.  But that has not deterred the council from exploring alternatives, such as a voluntary scheme for festival-goers, or a levy, similar to the one paid by firms inside the capital's "business improvement district" which covers Princes Street and George Street.

Senior figures at the authority are frustrated that the council sees little benefit from the £261m the city's 12 major festivals are believed to generate for the economy every year.  The council has revived plans for a festival tax just weeks after the new chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh, a firm set up by the council to promote the city around the world, warned there was no appetite for similar schemes.  But council leader Jenny Dawe said: "I have heard the argument made for putting a very small percentage on to festival tickets and that could even be done on a voluntary basis. If people buy online, for example, there could be a box to tick to put in a small percentage. If people know that it will go towards improving venues there is generally no objection.  Given the public sector is under increasing pressure with reduced budgets and increasing demand, it is worth looking at different ways we can raise money for things like the cultural sector."

'Final Plea' over Coastguard Threat
An MSP will make a "final plea" to the UK Government over the planned closure of Scotland's busiest coastguard station. Stuart McMillan, SNP MSP for the west of Scotland region, is to speak at a rally in Greenock, being held in protest at the decision to close Clyde Coastguard as part of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat cuts.  The proposals would see the end of operations at the station in the next four years, with responsibility for the waters being divided between centres at Stornoway and Belfast.  Forth Coastguard, based in Fife, is also set to close, with responsibilities for the area's waters being shared between Aberdeen and stations south of the border.

With just 13 days to go until the end of the consultation period, Mr McMillan said: "As the clock ticks the people of Inverclyde and all over the west of Scotland are becoming increasingly aware of just how serious this is.  We can only hope that the Westminster Government pays attention to the specialist needs of our rugged coastline which has some of the busiest waters for tourists and most significant shipping channels for trade anywhere in the UK.  I got involved in politics to try and help people, not to put people's lives into danger, and putting people's lives into danger is exactly what the UK Government proposals will do if the cuts are made.  The support for Clyde Coastguard has been fantastic and it's good to receive backing from those in Belfast expected to pick up Clyde's work with no extra resources.  I find it impossible to believe that the people behind these proposals have looked into the possible loss of lives when there is a delay when there is a call out from Belfast or Stornoway?   And there is no substitute for local knowledge. Not only will the teams from the other centres be stretched if they have to look after Clyde's huge and busy area but they won't know the coastline the way the team here do."

Last Updated (Sunday, 25 September 2011 02:57)