Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 322

Issue # 322                                                     Week ending 14th November 2015

How I Turned Mary Berry's Great Fish Pie Into Cement by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

If you’re about to have your breakfast, you may want to leave reading this until later. It is all about my shock at discovering what actually goes into haggis and the international restrictions on trade which have resulted from that. No, it’s not the restrictions that could put you off but the ingredients.

Still with me? Excellent but don’t complain if you come over all unnecessary and don’t feel like that second sausage.

Just after a poor sheep was despatched to the great grazing in the sky, my dad would fetch that same old tin bath that my brother and I were plonked in after church on Sunday nights in front of the roaring fire. Pater would then start the operation to remove the innards. No, not ours. The poor departed sheep’s. Do try and keep up.

With steam wafting off it, the bathload of squishy bladders and tube-like parts was taken in the bath between ma and da to the shore where they would clean the stomach and intestines with a scrubbing brush before rinsing them out in the chilly bit of the Atlantic at the end of our croft.

Back in the house, everything was divided up and heaped onto large dishes. Kidneys and liver in one, intestines in another then the one with the congealing wibbly-wobbly fat. In the centre of the creaking kitchen table would be a big basin of crimson blood.

And there we had all the ingredients to make the most wonderfully tasty and most adored of breakfast foods, and in posh restaurants the only accompaniment for a starter of scallops, the humble black pudding - Stornoway-style but the homemade version. Maybe now you can understand why we always used to say to visitors that the recipe for black pudding was very simple. Turn a sheep inside out and cook.

Meanwhile, the sheep’s head would be cut in two, sawn from the top of the head to between the nostrils. Each half-head had one eye to see you through the week, one ear and one cheek. The half-heads were then tossed into the fiery stove with the legs where they would singe and stink the house out before being retrieved with tongs.

With eyes gouged out but the tongue, brains and ears left intact, they were then boiled up for the most greasy soup you have ever had in your life which was followed by a main course of the rest of the blackened bits with spuds and carrots. Yum. Actually yeah, yum-yum.

Just because something does not look appetising does not mean it isn’t tasty. As I am into cooking now, I was flicking through recipes and came across Mary Berry’s Three-Fish Pie. Pah, nothing to it. I can do that. With my salmon, smoked haddock and cod caught, landed and brought home from the supermarket, I set about it with gusto.

As the leeks were frying in the butter, I realised the sauce called for white wine. I wasn’t going to go shopping again in my apron so I found half a bottle of red. Ach, that’ll do. The sauce immediately turned a most attractive shade of purple. Waow. So I began planning writing to the dear old TV chef to suggest giving her famed pie a twist.

Sadly, after 40 minutes in the oven at 180C, the sauce had turned a grotesque grey. The same grey that pours out of a cement mixer. It was edible though and even Mrs X gave her rival at the hob compliments for the taste. Then I took her blindfold off. I may not be troubling Mary Berry’s mailbox any time soon.

My point about the slaughtered sheep is that I don’t remember what we did with the lungs. Maybe they were thrown in the sea because I don’t think we ever used them. Which is why I was a bit taken aback to learn chopped lung figured in the haggis recipe. That apparently is why Americans gave it the chop too. They won’t allow it in.

Donald Trump can’t get even a morsel whern he becomes dewy-eyed and thinks of his Stornoway roots. So now we may have to change the recipe to make it more like, well, black pudding. Why not leave out the lungs and substitute an ear, a cheek or half a tongue? Delish.

The restrictions on haggis are now really worrying me. Something has to be done. With my experience long ago of making black pudding, I may have to try and come up with my own new recipe for haggis. The problem is that I am not exactly sure what it entrails.

Scotland Bill Backed by MPs in Crucial Commons Vote
Plans to give Holyrood substantial new powers over tax, welfare and abortion have cleared a historic Commons hurdle.  MPs backed the Scotland Bill, which now goes to the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber boycotted by the SNP. There was also controversy when MPs were given a maximum of just six hours to debate dozens of amendments to the Bill, including about 100 laid by the Conservative Government.  The Scottish Secretary David Mundell told MPs the legislation “put “beyond doubt” that the “Vow” made by the three pro- Union party leaders in the run-up to last year’s referendum had now been delivered. But the SNP rejected that claim and called for extra powers, including over holding a second independence vote. Conservative MPs voted down that suggestion while Labour abstained on the issue. Labour sources said the party’s position on any future independence referendum was to back the “current partnership” of Edinburgh and London working together. The Scotland Bill follows the cross-party Smith Commission, which was set up to look at further devolution in the wake of ‘No’ vote. Under the plans, Scottish ministers would have control over almost all of income tax and as well as the ability to create a new Scottish welfare system. The Scottish Parliament could also only be abolished after a referendum, in an attempt to guarantee its permanence.  The power to decide legislation on abortion was an 11th-hour addition to the bill as part of a deal between the SNP and Tory Governments. At one point during the Smith negotiations Labour had threatened to walk out if the issue was included. In the end the parties agreed that it should not be included in the official agreement although “further serious consideration” should be given to its devolution.

Mr Mundell said: “The Government’s amendments will strengthen the Scotland Bill’s provisions and clarify its delivery of the Smith Commission Agreement. With that done, it will be time for Scotland’s political parties to work together to make the new powers a success for everyone in Scotland.  The amendments put beyond doubt the bill fully delivers the Smith Commission agreement.”  He rejected the SNP’s demand for full fiscal autonomy as “not in the interests of the people of Scotland”.  A series of amendments tabled by the UK Government aimed at clarifying and strengthening some sections of the bill were approved.  These included control over abortion law and enhanced power over welfare, including the ability to top-up any cuts to tax credits made by the UK government.  But amendments tabled by opposition parties were rejected.

Sutherland History File by Malcolm Bangor-Jones
By the acquisition of the lands of Farr from Lord Reay in 1718 the last major block of land in Strathnaver had fallen into the hands of the Earls of Sutherland. Lord Strathnaver, however, gave possession of the lands to Donald Mackay, a grandson of the first Lord Reay who had previously possessed Eriboll. The arrangement between Strathnaver and Donald was known as a wadset and enabled Strathnaver, who was short of funds, to pay for the purchase. The complexities of the wadset reveal much about the nature of landholding at this period.  The contract was signed in May 1719. In return for a loan of some 15,258 merks and four shillings Scots (about £848 sterling) Strathnaver granted Donald possession of the lands of Farr, Kirtomy with its mill and mill lands, and Swordly, as formerly held by John Mackay of Kirtomy. Excepted was the mill of Farr and associated lands and some lands held by the minister.

Donald was freed of taxes including his share of upholding the kirk and kirkyard dyke (though this does not prove that there was a kirkyard dyke). He was given the “priveledge of his Lordships woods for Cutting and Carrying away Timber For upholding the Houses” and was given the power to act as baillie, in other words to convene baron courts.  Donald was to grind all corns from the lands (excepting seed and horse corn) at Strathnaver’s mill of Farr and to pay multures or mill dues to Finlay McRorie, the tacksman of the mill and uphold a “proportionall part of the Dams of the Said Milln”. He did not have to pay any dues for the corns growing on the Mains of Kirtomy.  The arrangement was to last until 1738 when Donald was bound to leave the houses “in ane Sufficient habitable Condition”. There was a special provision over the house on the Mains of Kirtomy which was the principal residence on the lands. To avoid any disagreement over the condition of the house it was agreed that it should be valued at the outset and again in 1738 by four “Honest Skilfull men”, two to be chosen by each party.  Donald was to ensure that his tenants performed their expected services “att the water works upon the River of Naver as others in that Country Doe”, mainly repairing the cruives or fish traps, and in carrying timber for Strathnaver. He was also to send men for eight days annually to the works at Breckachie in the heights of Kildonan.  Donald was not to enjoy possession of the lands for long. A month prior to agreeing to the wadset he had signed over to his son Donald all the lands and goods he possessed at his death. He died in 1719 or 1720.  The heir, Donald, was very young and his uncle Robert Mackay was appointed as his tutor. Robert was subsequently known as the tutor of Farr and indeed was referred to as The Tutor by Rob Donn. Robert was living at Kirtomy in 1729 but later moved to Scourie.  When Donald attained the age of 14 he appointed Patrick Mackay of Scourie as his curator. Robert continued to manage Donald’s affairs until 1737, clearing his accounts partly with Donald and partly with Patrick — presumably until Patrick emigrated to Georgia in 1732.  In 1737 William Earl of Sutherland agreed to “prorogate” or extend the termination of the wadset until 1747. By 1744 Donald enlisted as a Lieutenant in the Scots Regiment of Colonel de Villegas in the Dutch army. He had made up his title to the lands of Farr and in June at Dendermonde, in Belgium, he made a disposition of his estate to himself, whom failing Captain Hugh Mackay his uncle, whom failing Robert, his former tutor, whom failing the heirs male of the body of his sister Jean Mackay, the wife of John Mackay of Borgiemore.  Donald died in 1745, possibly at the Battle of Fontenoy. His uncle Hugh succeeded to the lands of Farr, only surrendering his lucrative wadset to the Earl of Sutherland in 1760.

Wick Hotel's James Bond-themed Charity Ball Raises £4000
A James Bond-themed charity ball staged in Wick has raised thousands of pounds for local causes.  An event at Mackays Hotel marked the launch of the latest Bond movie, Spectre, while raising money for Simpson’s Memory Box Appeal, Wick lifeboat and Caithness and Sutherland Women’s Aid. Guests, dressed up like stars for the evening, were treated to a four-course meal, live entertainment and a Bond special “shaken not stirred” Martini. Through their generosity and that of local businesses which donated raffle and auction prizes, the ball raised over £4000 to be split equally among the three charities.

Government Proposes New 'Southern Scotland' Region for EU Funding
The Scottish Government has proposed creating a new administrative region called Southern Scotland which could affect how hundreds of millions of pounds of European Union money is distributed.  European statisticians currently divide Scotland into four large regions - Eastern, North Eastern and South Western Scotland plus Highlands and Islands - to inform regional policy development and determine regional funding.  EU funds - which amount to around £670 million in the latest seven-year spending round - are distributed based on productivity per head in each region.  The Scottish Government has now proposed creating a fifth region which would cut the size of South Western Scotland by over a third - stripping out around 833,000 people and combining them with 113,000 from Eastern Scotland.  The new Southern Scotland region could comprise around a million people from the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire and North Ayrshire council areas.  The Scottish Government is inviting comments on the proposed changes, and advised that they could create "statistical issues".  A consultation document states: "Boundary changes cause a discontinuity in the series and make it difficult to determine if a change in the statistics is due to a change in the geography or a change in the character of the area.  The statistics supplied to the EU at Nuts (Nomenclature of Units for Territorial Statistics) regions are used to formulate regional policy initiatives and to determine regional funding allocations and eligibility.  Any changes to the boundaries of Nuts regions will impact on the statistics used in these policies and which areas are affected by these policies.  941 million euro (£670 million) of Structural and Investment Funds were allocated over seven years from 2014 to 2020 to Nuts regions in Scotland. Changing the boundaries of these regions may, in the long term, affect the levels of support different areas are eligible for, as Structural Funds are distributed based on GDP per capita in each region and changing the boundaries could change the figures."

Second Lochinver Restaurant Makes it Into Michelin Guide
Colin Craig and Lesley Crosfield, who established and have run the Albannach Hotel in Lochinver for twenty-five years and won plaudits — including a coveted Michelin star every year since 2009 — for the quality of their restaurant, have had their Caberfeidh Restaurant and Bar in the village’s main street added to the famous French company’s Eating Out In Pubs Guide 2016.  The partners, who share the cooking in the hotel, purchased The Caberfeidh two years ago, after deciding they should acquire a second, more democratic arm to the business, so to speak, where they could continue with the high standards and original ethos of the hotel, but open it up to a larger audience. “So the prices are actually considered very reasonable,” explained Lesley Crosfield. “There is a choice of menu which we don’t have here in the Albannach; they take children; dogs can be in the bar but not in the restaurant; you can choose a time to eat which you can’t here.”  It was a very pleasant surprise to find the Caberfeidh in the latest edition of the pubs guide, she said. “We certainly hoped that our own ethic, our own approach to how food should be sourced and presented and cooked at the Albannach, would eventually attach itself to the pub because the same thing applies. And our very good chef — Liam McVey — that we’d head-hunted for that purpose, he knows what our standards are, he cooks to them himself and he understands the need for this town to have a place that deals with local produce in a sensitive and creative way. Liam is local, and his girlfriend who runs front of house is also local, and we’ve made a real stab at recruiting local first and then filling in the gaps from elsewhere. In the Caberfeidh we have a sort of tapas-style menu, The two places connect well; they belong together. They’re in the same ownership, under the same umbrella and operating to the same ethos.” One of the benefits of being under the same umbrella is the two restaurants share many of the same suppliers, the raw materials for the kitchen carefully chosen for their freshness and high quality.  The Albannach and Caberfeidh are housed in buildings around 200 years old. “And they’re our favourite date of architecture in this region,” said Ms Crosfield. The Albannach building was a typical West Highland croft house in the beginning, though not when the present owners came to it. The MacKenzies, who built it in the early 1800s, added to it after making money in a cash crop in the West Indies in the late 1800s.

Hughina Gunn: the Last of the Legends
On my last visit to Skerray, looking over the valley to Tubeg, it saddened me to see the house of my old friend closed and shuttered. Hughina Gunn (“Hughag Clashnastruag”), who passed away aged 90 earlier this year, was the last of a line of legendary Skerray characters. Whilst many of her contemporaries left the village for all corners of the earth Hughag dedicated her life to the land, the peat, the hay and the sheep. She was, indeed, a true daughter of the soil.

When Portobello Had A Human Zoo As An Attraction
The Marine Gardens opened in Portobello in 1909 and attracted visitors from all over the country.  The Edinburgh Marine Gardens were advertised as “one of the most notable outdoor attractions” in the city when they first opened to the public on the 31st of May 1909. The plan to build the gardens followed the hugely successful Scottish National Exhibition held in Saughton Park which had attracted over 3.5 million visitors the year before. Ambitious local entrepreneurs spurred on by the 1908 exhibition’s massive popularity decided that its beautiful pavilions and grand halls could be preserved and relocated to a more permanent site. The Marine Gardens were located on thirty acres of coastline immediately west of King’s Road, Portobello. Admission on day one was 7d and included a return rail journey from Waverley. An astounding three quarters of a million visitors flocked to the Gardens in the first year.  The Empress Ballroom, the largest of its kind in the city at the time, was the main building of the complex. It was joined by an auditorium which played host to daily all-star variety acts. Scotland’s biggest roller-skating rink was another key feature and was hugely successful. The rest of the park boasted a broad mix of attractions including Bostock’s Circus and Zoo, The Marine Cinema and Theatre, a scenic railway, ornamental gardens with a Hampton Court-inspired maze, a sports stadium and various other amusements.  One of the more peculiar attractions was the Somali village inhabited by seventy natives shipped over from Africa. The Somali natives lived in a small compound of mud huts and were paid to perform mock fights with spears accompanied with “uncouth cries and the beating of tom-toms”. Their purpose was simply to provide exotic entertainment to the park’s visitors. Although it is incredibly hard to imagine today, such human-zoos were all the rage across Europe during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.  During the First World War, the park was closed and a great number of its buildings demolished as it was converted for use by the military as a temporary barracks. The Marine Gardens eventually reopened but many of its attractions were gone for good. Along with the ever popular ballroom, the sports stadium had been retained and was briefly used by Leith Athletic as their home ground. A bumper crowd in excess of 20,000 would witness Leith Athletic lose 3-0 to a Jimmy McGrory-inspired Celtic at Marine Gardens in 1931. Speedway motor-cycle racing also attracted large audiences with an impressive 34,000 in attendance at a World Championship match in the late 1930s.  Following the arrival of the Second World War, the area around Seafield Road was utilised once again by the military. The old ballroom, amusement park and sports stadium were removed and the Marine Gardens as an entertainment complex was lost forever.  In 1962 Edinburgh Corporation Transport opened the Marine Garage bus depot on the site which exists to this day. All remaining buildings were demolished in 1966 and there is now no evidence left of the once immensely popular Edinburgh Marine Gardens.

A Tribute to the Fallen
Poignant tributes were made in memory of our heroic war dead took place across the isles. Ceremonies were held to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. At the Lewis War Memorial a massive number braved the wind and rain to pay their respects on Remembrance Sunday, with a service led by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Rev Dr Angus Morrison.  Wreaths were placed by army, navy, RAF and merchant navy representatives, as well as by representatives from the emergency services: coastguards, police and fire service.

Sunday Trading: SNP Calls for Safeguards on Shopworkers' Wages
The SNP called on ministers to come up with firm proposals to safeguard shopworkers' wages if Sunday trading laws are relaxed - as the Scottish National Party claimed to have forced ministers to put policy put on hold.  Westminster leader Angus Robertson said an SNP threat to help vote down the reform appeared to have prompted the Government to consider criticisms before seeking parliament's approval.  Downing Street denied any U-turn, saying it was considering the results of a consultation before setting out its next steps "in due course" as planned.  Pressed on whether the Government had dropped plans to put the issue to a vote within days, the Prime Minister's official spokeswoman said: "We have been clear on what the process is."  Chancellor George Osborne outlined proposals in the Budget earlier this year that would devolve powers to set Sunday trading rules to local councils and mayors.  Currently large stores and supermarkets can only open for six hours on Sundays.  The SNP was convinced by shopworkers' union Usdaw that retailers would fund extra opening hours by cutting the wages paid on Sundays across the UK.  It indicated yesterday that it was ready to join forces with Labour and around 20 Tory rebels to block the changes amid fears they could drive down the wages of workers in Scotland, which already has Sunday opening.  Mr Robertson said: "We are very pleased that the UK Government now appear to have pulled their plans, fearing defeat in the Commons. It is vital that the Government now goes away and brings forward firm proposals for safeguards and guarantees to ensure shop workers are not left worse-off following any changes to Sunday trading.  The SNP are supporters of Sunday trading - we think in principle it is a good thing - but we are clear that it should not be happening on the back of often low paid shop workers in Scotland and throughout the UK."  John Hannett, general secretary of Usdaw, which opposes relaxation, said: "The Sunday Trading Act is a great British compromise, which has worked well for over 20 years and gives everyone a little bit of what they want. Retailers can trade, customers can shop, staff can work; whilst Sunday remains a special day, different to other days, and shopworkers can spend some time with their family."

Councillors Reach Decision on Controversial Jetty Plan for Jacobite Cruises
Jacobite Cruises’ plans to extend its jetty at its new Dochgarroch base have been approved at a meeting of the south planning applications committee.  Council officials recommended approval of the proposals which will mean a new jetty replacing the existing pontoon.  Objectors claimed the jetty would be too close to Dochgarroch Lock and could cause a hazard, a loss of tranquillity and available moorings and lack of toilet facilities. Supporters said there was no evidence of an impact on the character of Dochgarroch after two seasons of cruises from the base.  However, approval was recommended because the application is in line with the development plan.

Young People in Sutherland Proud of Their Community - More Positive Than Those in Other Areas
A new survey into the attitudes and aspirations of young people indicates those taking part from Caithness and Sutherland are strongly connected and proud of their local community.  The perceptions of the area’s young people highlight a number of positive findings. This includes data suggesting more than half of those taking part wish to stay locally – significantly above the regional average.  More than three in four are also proud of their community and young people think it is a good place to bring up a family. Higher than average rates of community involvement and engagement exist than the regional average with 38 per cent of Caithness and Sutherland young people taking part in community volunteering activities.  The proportion of those committed to leaving the area (22 per cent) is also much lower than regionally (39 per cent) – and the research indicates young people feel safe and consider those who remain there lucky to be able to do so. Compared to the regional average, young people in Caithness and Sutherland are more optimistic about life in the Highlands and Islands in the future.  The report commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) investigated the views of 15 to 30 year olds. It was carried out due to concerns about young people moving away from the region and sought their attitudes and aspirations on a range of subjects. These included educational and employment opportunities, housing, transport, digital connectivity, arts, culture and leisure as well as community views.  Other highlights indicate young people in Caithness and Sutherland rank access to further/higher education above the Highlands and Islands average in making the region a more attractive place to live, work and study. Awareness of UHI is also higher than average and the new Inverness Campus came out favourably in terms of contributing to career aspirations and education-business research links.  Opportunities for career progression and creating a good range of employment opportunities are seen by Caithness and Sutherland’s young people as the most important priorities in making the region a desirable place to live, work and study. Roy Kirk, HIE area manager for Caithness and Sutherland, said: “A strong sense of community is a vital cornerstone in the social and economic development of any area. It is therefore encouraging that so many young people in Caithness and Sutherland value this as a key element in the area’s attractiveness.  It was recently announced that 10,000 homes and businesses in Caithness now have access to next generation broadband with many more planned in the near future. In Sutherland, services are already available in Dornoch, Embo, Golspie and Brora.  This increase in broadband connectivity provides a major boost for young people who value good access to digital services. The improvement of the digital infrastructure also makes a difference to the viability and growth of businesses and number of new business starts. In turn, this offers greater potential for a more diverse jobs market to emerge.”

Broadband Connection Across the Islands
The roll-out of fibre based broadband on the Outer Hebrides is reaching out further to Harris, Scalpay and N Uist over the next six months.  The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) project is progressing ahead of schedule with parts of Back and Barvas already able to order the new high speed services.  Additional connections will start coming through for some in Point and Shawbost within weeks.  Work will continue in these areas and the partnership project being led for the region by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is reaching out further between now and the Spring to places including Ness, Callanish, Leverburgh, Lochmaddy and Scalpay. This stage will draw in a further 2,000 homes and businesses to the new network. Many will see connections available by the Spring.  Fibre broadband enables multiple users in a home or business to access the internet, download and share large files at the same time at download speeds of up to 80 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20 Mbps.  As the higher speeds become available, anyone interested in signing up for fibre-based services should contact their broadband service provider.  The coverage forms part of a three year £146m investment, funded by the Scottish Government, the UK Government, HIE and private sector partner BT, with engineers from BT’s local network business Openreach delivering the project on the ground.  Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, said: “The Digital Scotland rollout has now passed more than half the homes and business premises currently included in our plans for the Highlands and Islands and it’s fantastic that our engineers are now reaching into some very small, rural communities, which have so much to gain.  We’ll continue to work hard to maintain the great progress to date and bring fast fibre to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.”

Tax Man Delivers Devastating Betrayal to Scotland by Plans to Cut More Than 2,000 Jobs
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs want to replace 17 sites with just two in Glasgow and Edinburgh which will see staff numbers fall from just under 8000 to somewhere between 5700 and 6300.  The proposed cuts were met with shock last night as the need for the HRMC’s Scottish jobs was one of the key themes of the Better Together campaign to keep Scotland in the UK during last year’s independence referendum campaign.  Embarrassingly, Labour leaders Ed Miliband and Jim Murphy both campaigned for a No vote by stoking fears over the loss of the work had Scotland voted ‘yes’.  SNP deputy chief executive Shirley-Anne Somerville remarked last night: “Remember how all those HMRC jobs were only safe if we voted no? Maybe not.” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today called for urgent talks with Prime Minister David Cameron on the impact of the so-called modernisation programme.  She focussed on the job cuts at First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood, but avoided trying to make a political point.  She said: “People will clearly be very concerned about this.  People in different parts of Scotland work hard day-in, day-out to provide the services that HMRC give to the public, so I think we need to see from the UK Government a willingness to discuss these proposals in much more detail.” Tax offices will shut from Aberdeen and Inverness in the north to Irvine in the south.  Around 130 jobs will go in Dundee while a further 650 in the city will be transferred to the Department for Work and Pensions.  Other centres are being shut in Bathgate, Livingston and Glenrothes.  HMRC will close most of its existing offices in Scotland by 2020-21, with final changes by 2026.  Jobs are being shed across the UK, with more than 100 offices shut and replaced with regional hubs in England.

Rare Number Plate From Old Banger Bought for £200,000 At Auction in Ayr
Crowds gathered at auctioneers Thomas R.Callan in Ayr to see the town’s first ever car number plate – AG1 – go under the hammer.  The 1924 relic was bought by a determined phone bidder from the Midlands.  Auctioneer boss Michael Callan said: “When the hammer went down at £200,000 there was an enormous cheer.  It was a phenomenal price and the number plate is our highest selling item ever. It was a day to remember. The auction galleries were crowded, with many potential buyers and spectators forced to watch from outdoors.  The bidding started at £60,000 and with a sea of hands the bidding reached more than £100,000 in only a minute.”

Viking Link to the North East of Scotland
Their exploits are more linked to the Northern Isles and the west coast of Scotland, with monasteries raided, islanders murdered and gold and silver plundered.  But new research - and a clutch of archaeological finds - has now suggested that the North East may not have escaped the fury of the Norsemen afterall. Academics at Aberdeen University have been working to fill the “blank space” of Viking activity in Aberdeenshire and Moray, with written history barely touching on the area so far.  Using finds recorded through the Treasure Trove system and the input a team of metal detectors in the North East, a picture of possible Viking activity in the old Pictish Kingdom of Fortriu during the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries is now emerging. Dr Karen Milek, senior lecturer in archaeology at the University of Aberdeen, said: “We tend to think of Viking activity in Scotland as linked to the Northern Isles or the raids on monasteries such as Iona.  We have such a good understanding of Norse culture from the Atlantic coast but no one has been talking about the North East.”  A number of areas of interest around Forres, Buchan and Elgin have built up, largely due to “stray finds” of ringed pins and metal pieces - such as boot spur and little bell, that was possibly worn by an animal. A lone bead found in Aberdeenshire almost certainly has Scandinavian origins.  She said: “These are not excavation sites, these are just stray finds but when you start to put them together , they do show areas of Viking contact and areas of Viking presence. It could be trade contact with local Picts, for example, or it could be that the Vikings were really just passing through these areas. Whatever it is, it is really interesting for us.”  At least 11 ringed pins have been discovered in the Forress and Buchan area, which are thought to have been manufactured at a Viking settlement in Dublin between 900 and 1100.  A ‘bulls eye’ bead found in Aberdeenshire, which had been incorrectly labelled in a museum as being of Iron Age origin, gave another pointer to Viking activity, Dr Milek said She added: “I have found identical beads on a site in Iceland and they date from around the 10th Century. They were worn around the neck and traded throughout the Viking world. They were not made in Scotland, but in Scandinavia.” Dr Milek said the best evidence of Viking activity was at Clarkly Hill, south of Burghead, where several metal items, including the boot spur, a small bell and points from strap ends, have been found.

Scottish Parliament Election Poll: SNP 58% | Labour 24%
Fifty-eight per cent of Scots intend to back the SNP in the constituency vote at next year’s Holyrood elections, according to a new poll highlighting the gulf between Nicola Sturgeon’s party and Labour.  The survey published by TNS also showed that Labour’s new leadership team of Jeremy Corbyn and Kezia Dugdale is struggling to attract support. The struggle facing Ms Dugdale was shown by statistics indicating Ms Sturgeon is liked by more Labour supporters than their new Scottish leader. Of the 1,034 adults over the age of 16 questioned, 58 per cent of those who expressed a preference said they intended to vote SNP in the constituency section of the May 2016 elections, an increase of two percentage points on the previous month. Labour gained three points to stand at 24 per cent, with the Conservatives on 12 per cent (unchanged) and the Liberal Democrats on 4 per cent (minus two percentage points).  In the regional vote, 52 per cent backed the SNP (unchanged) with 25 per cent for Labour (+2), 11 per cent for the Conservatives (unchanged), five per cent for the Liberal Democrats (-1) and five per cent for the Greens (unchanged).  In the poll, TNS also asked people to rate five party leaders – Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Tory Leader Ruth Davidson, Prime Minister David Cameron and UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – on a scale of 1-10, where 10 was “like a lot” and 1 was “do not like at all”. Perhaps more surprising than Dugdale’s low recognition is that 30 per cent of respondents said they have not heard of Ruth Davidson.  Among the five leaders, only Sturgeon was liked by more people than disliked her.

New Debfibrillator Unit At Lochmaddy Arts Centre
As part of its Corporate Giving programme, Scottish Fuels, local supplier of heating oil and lubricants, which is owned by Certas Energy, demonstrated charitable spirit recently by donating a defibrillator unit to Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre in Lochmaddy. The unit will be hosted in the Taigh Chearsabhagh Public Toilet which will be accessible to everyone that visiting or passing by the Centre.  The donation supports the goal of Certas Energy’s charity partner, the Oliver King Foundation. The Foundation was set up to raise awareness of Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS), which is caused by heart rhythm abnormalities.  The risk of death from SADS can be significantly reduced with the rapid use of a defibrillator – a portable piece of equipment – to restart the sufferer’s heart.

Paisley Showcases Famous Textiles As it Bids to Be Crowned UK City of Culture
A £56 million plan to create a national museum of textile and design in a town famous for its historic mills has been unveiled.  It is part of Paisley's bid to be named UK City of Culture 2021 and involves creating a hub to build links with national museums, international institutions and local art groups.  The proposals focus on building on the town's historic textile and weaving industries, which created the Paisley Shawl and the famous Paisley Pattern.  A £500,000 "cultural pot" is to be established to support community projects, while t he architecture of the town and buildings such as the 12th-century Paisley Abbey will also be promoted under the plans. Renfrewshire Council leaders believe the regeneration of the culture sector could help support 250 new jobs and bring £88 million to the local economy.

Top Award for Wick Scientist
A Caithness businessman has just returned after picking up a major scientific award at a ceremony in London.  Professor Iain Baikie, the founder of Wick-based KP Technology, was presented with the Swan Gold Medal by the Institute of Physics (IOP). It is awarded to recognise an outstanding contribution to the application of physics in an industrial or commercial context. Mr Baikie is believed to be the first Scottish-based winner of the award, named after Joseph Swan, the inventor of the incandescent light bulb.  He received his medal at the annual IOP Awards dinner in the Lancaster Hotel in London and was accompanied by his wife, Elena. He said: “This award confirms that commercially our relative geographical remoteness is an obstacle that can be overcome and it continues the Caithness link with innovation in science and technology. Many of the guests were from very eminent research institutions so I was delighted to learn that our firm, and our products, was known by name. However, few realised that Caithness was our base."  The citation describes the worldwide impact of KP Technology as  “astonishing”. The company’s customers have included NASA, CERN nuclear research centre in Switzerland and the European Space Agency as well as leading universities and blue-chip companies in 35 countries. The firm, which has a £1 million turnover, picked up the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2008 and the Queen’s Award in 2013.

Scottish Haggis Could Be on American Menus by 2017 After Washington Summit Agrees to Lift the Ban
Haggis could be back on America menus within 18 months after getting the thumbs up from the US Government today.  The news comes after a campaign and petition, led by Scotland Now, to lift the US export ban on Scottish haggis.  Thousands of people on both sides of the Atlantic have already signed our petition.  Now a week-long offensive by Scotland’s Food minister Richard Lochhead to lobby officials in Washington looks like the end is finally in sight for the long-running ban. They have now confirmed draft rules, to be published next year, which will pave the way for Scotch Lamb and haggis to be back on US tables by 2017.  Traditional Scottish haggis has been banned since 1971 because one of the key ingredients – sheep's lung – are prohibited.  "We know that around 10 million US citizens claim Scottish heritage so we have a ready made market with them and with Scots at heart ." said Mr Lochhead.  It is likely that imports of Scottish-made haggis will require a 'tweaked' recipe which excludes sheep's lung, but haggis producers believe a specially made haggis for the Scottish market will satisfy purists.