Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 323

Issue # 323                                                 Week ending 21st  November 2015

Abigail Brought Back Happy Memories of Shawbost Dances by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

When there is a right root-ripper of a gale whizzing across the Atlantic Ocean, it was so thoughtful of them to call it Abigail. While she is chucking your bins about the garden, sinking your boat and flinging your slates at your neighbour’s car, it is so comforting to think that the particular hooley concerned has such a delightful name.

If you are reading this in Ireland or New Zealand, by hooley I mean a strong wind. The other day I learned that hooley does not signify anything to do with wind strength in either of these two countries. A hooley to a Kiwi or a Paddy is a get-together, a ceilidh or just a party. A right ripper of a party, obviously.

The Met Office decided to give big storms a person’s name “to raise awareness of the weather”. That’s what they said. So if we call it a Force 10 gale or even a hooley, no one cares? Those boffins with their heads in the clouds at the Exeter HQ of the Met Office seem to think if they call it Abigail or Barney, or Angusina, that blast which whistled through these parts causing power cuts on Monday night, we will drop everything and batten down the hatches.

Abigail indeed. That’s nice, as that Irish housewife who turns up in repeats on BBC1 most weeks often says. Abigail is far more appropriate in the native language of the Hebrides and Olde Alba as a name for a particularly strong gust up your kilt. The phrase “What a gale” in Gaelic is “Abair geile”. When that is uttered in the manner of a fast-talking Hearach, for instance, it is very similar to Abigail. Coincidence or what?

Which reminds me to ask if anyone on the windy west of Lewis is missing a boat because of Abigail? If so, I think I know where it is - or at least where it was. Mrs X was out and about taking photos of storm scenes early on Friday morning and, down at the shore at Bragar, she spotted an open boat drifting out in the boiling brine. As she quickly set up her camera, the ill-fated vessel was being washed onto the jagged rocks near the cemetery and was being pounded by the breakers rolling right in from Rockall.

Abigail was merciless. Like so many of the West Side dames I used to see at dances in nearby Shawbost Hall, she kicked, she spat and she howled. She decided that bucking boat was going down. It was reduced to matchstick-like fragments which then bobbed forlornly about where a once-elegant, shapely, white-hulled boat of 15 to 20 feet length had proudly piddled about just 10 minutes earlier.

It could have broken loose anywhere on the west of Lewis but, if you are missing just such a fine craft, my missus has photos and video of its sad demise which may be useful for your insurance claim. Won’t cost you much. Seriously, it won’t cost you anything at all.

If they are looking for a name for the next big storm, I have a great suggestion. It doesn’t sound very ladylike but how about the next cyclone is named after a blone called Lady Colin? The full-blown tantrums of Argyll’s own Lady Colin Campbell on I’m A Celebrity ... must put her in the running. Can anyone ever beat her rant to Tony Hadley after she had to do the washing up? She whined: “I have five tiaras.”

Why five tiaras when Lady C seems to have only one head? She went on the survival show for funds for roof repairs to her castle in Sussex, Well, she could sell a tiara or two. She is also there to lose weight as she’s been trying to slim for 20 years. Tucking into fare like that yucky Spanish Vom-lette is truly disgusting way to do that but a course of WeightWatchers is not that expensive really. Far less than a tiara, for example. Just saying, Lady Colin.

The personification of natural events like storms is really weird when you think about it. We had Abigail last week and now her weaker brother Barney is causing waves, cancelling our ferries and putting the lights out. The latest scientific thinking is that they are connected and that the storms plan their own course because they sort of communicate with each other.

Really? How on earth do they work that out? That just sounds too far-fetched for me. After all, what would a big storm say to another smaller storm? Maybe something like: “I have my eye on you.”

Scottish Police Issue Warning As They Probe Religious Hate Crimes in Wake of Paris Attacks
One of Scotland's top police officers has issued a stark warning to Scots that hate crimes against people of the Muslim faith will not be tolerated.  A number of arrests have been made during incidents that appear to have happened in response to the shootings and suicide bombings in Paris on Friday night.  Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone of Police Scotland said: "Police Scotland have investigated instances of crime since the events in Paris on Friday that have been motivated by religious hatred. These crimes have been both online and in public. Arrests have been made.   Police Scotland will not tolerate any form of hate crime and I urge everyone across the country to continue working together to ensure that no one feels threatened or marginalised." Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingston commends the force's increasingly diverse workforce.He is also asking any victims of hate crime, or anyone who has witnessed anything to make their concerns known to police.  Police Scotland say they are working alongside other forces in the UK to help the investigation into the attacks and to reassure the public that the security services are doing all they can to prevent further terrorist attacks.

Sir Walter Scott Letter Confirms Inspiration for the Heart of Midlothian
A handwritten letter by Sir Walter Scott which reveals the real-life inspiration for one of his most famous characters is due to go under the hammer later this month.  It is already known that Jeanie Deans, the central character in Sir Walter Scott’s The Heart of Midlothian, was based on the true story of Helen Walker, who walked barefoot from Edinburgh to London to plead for her sister’s life.  The autographed letter confirms Scott’s inspiration and the genuine piece of literary history is being sold by Nottingham auction house Mellors and Kirk.  Auctioneer Nigel Kirk said: “Scott received an anonymous letter informing him of the story of Helen Walker who walked barefoot to London to plead with the Duke of Argyll for her sister's life after she was accused of murdering her own infant.  The letter provided the inspiration for the plot of the Heart of Midlothian, perhaps Scott’s most famous best seller and one that is generally regarded as the finest of Scott’s Waverley Novels.  Scott used Helen Walker’s story as his inspiration and this letter - which is known to Scott scholars - provides the genuine evidence and for this reason it is historically extremely important.  I expect there to be a great deal of interest in this letter, from both collectors and museums.”  The letter which is dated March 5, 1830, was written to the Rev Dr David Dow, of Irongray in Dumfries and Scott talks about the construction of “a simple monument” to Helen Walker.  She died in 1791 and, as a gesture of gratitude Scott paid for the production of a memorial alongside her grave in Irongray churchyard.  The letter, which is valued at between £200 and £300, is being auctioned on November 26

Military Able to Order Crown Estate Land Grabs Even After Control Devolved to Holyrood
The UK defence secretary will be able to seize parts of the Crown Estate against the wishes of Scottish ministers even after control of the assets are transferred to Holyrood, it has emerged.A draft memorandum of understanding, which sets out the terms of the new relationship between the UK and Scottish Governments following devolution in the area, gives the Ministry of Defence power to extend existing agreements with the Crown Estate and take over new parts of the land for defence purposes, even if the measures are opposed from Edinburgh.  Following last year's referendum, the Smith Commission recommended that management of the Crown Estate north of the border, which includes a large property portfolio, half the coastal foreshore and almost all the seabed, should be devolved.  However, it also stated that an agreement should be drawn up between the administrations to ensure that transferring power was not "detrimental to UK-wide critical national infrastructure," such as defence capabilities.  The draft memorandum, which will be discussed this week by a Holyrood committee, makes clear that the UK defence secretary will retain significant power over the Crown Estate in Scotland, with waters used extensively by Trident submarines.  Under the deal, he or she will be able to extend existing agreements between the Crown Estate and the MoD, force through new agreements or even override existing deals with third parties if the UK Government decides that there is an "overriding public interest" in doing so for reasons of defence or national security.  The provisions in the draft memorandum have been included despite the UK Government already having powers to intervene if actions of the Scottish Government are seen as potentially harmful to defence interests.

Andy Wightman, a Green Party candidate at next May's Holyrood elections and land reform expert, said: "This complicated approach to Crown Estate devolution is unnecessarily convoluted, the draft order is riddled with inaccuracies and errors, and the Scotland Bill still fails to devolve the revenues of the Crown Estate. A process that could have been simple and straightforward has been hijacked by the Ministry of Defence and by an acquiescent Crown Estate Commission."  It is understood that the MoD was uncomfortable with transferring control of areas such as the Crown Estate and employment law to Holyrood, fearing Scottish ministers could use their powers creatively to interfere with its operations including the Trident nuclear deterrent. Crown Estate land in Scotland includes the base for the UK's entire submarine fleet, including its nuclear arsenal, and is also used for intelligence gathering and testing military hardware.  Documents released under Freedom of Information legislation revealed that during the Smith talks, the MoD requested that the term "anything which impacts on the operational effectiveness of conducting defence business should be excluded" be included in the final report. It also raised concern devolving health and safety law may lead to "different priorities, goals and potentially also different inspections" if regulation was controlled by Holyrood, which "could have implications for the delivery of defence outputs, including the nuclear deterrent."  Both the SNP and Scottish Labour oppose renewal of the nuclear deterrent, with three quarters of MSPs voting in favour of scrapping Trident in a recent vote.  A UK government spokesman said: "The Crown Estate transfer scheme will include protections for defence, supported by a complementary memorandum of understanding between the UK and Scottish Governments.  The Crown Estate in Scotland is key to delivering strategic capabilities for the defence and security of the whole of the UK. These defence capabilities need to be protected to secure future use of the Crown Estate in Scotland, given the unpredictable nature of future threats to the UK."

Comment

So much for the "most powerful devolved parliament in the world". That didn't last long, did it?I notice that Greenland, a devolved country that is part of the Kindgom of Denmark, has real Devo Max. Also Greenland is not in the EU, whereas Denmark is in the EU.  They are taking the micky when they keeping repeating that mantra. It is certainly the "most powerful devolved parliament in the world of Westminster". Those MPs clearly don't get out much e.g. go to Greenland, Quebec, Basque region in Spain, Navarre region in Spain, Sicily in Italy etc. All have much, much more autonomy and power than the Scotland Bill allows.  Those interested in other devolved parliaments that are more powerful than Scotland will be after Smith should google "asymmetric federalism".  

Inverness Shows Solidarity with France Following Terrorist Attacks

The Highlands have joined the millions across the world to honour those who lost their lives in the Paris terrorist attacks at the weekend. The national flag of France is flying at half-mast at Highland Council’s headquarters and Town House in Inverness.  City landmarks, Inverness Castle, Inverness Cathedral and Ness Bridge will also be floodlit in the French tricolours. Leader of Highland Council, Cllr Margaret Davidson, expressed her sympathies, on behalf of the council, with the people of France.  She said: “All of us will be thinking of those who died in Paris, those who lives and bodies have been shattered and all their families and friends. The Highland Council will be honouring them in several ways. We held a minute’s silence at 11am on Monday together with the rest of the nation and millions of others across Europe. We will also be flying the French flag at council offices across the Highlands.”  She added: “This touches all of us. We now live our lives in the shadow of the threat of terrorism. We need to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious to the police, whilst it is imperative we continue to live our normal lives without allowing terrorism to shatter our freedom and the values we hold dear.”

Plans to Bring Back Primary School Janitors
Plans have been approved in principle to give all primary schools in Highland a janitor.  The education, children and adult services committee rubber-stamped the new scheme yesterday. Funding has not been committed but is expected to be allocated when the council sets its budget in February.  If members agree to fund the changes it will mean all primary schools will be allocated a named member of janitorial services staff.  An individual member may cover more than one school. The allocation is based on the size of the school roll.  Under the proposals, the 43 schools which currently do not have a janitor, and the other 70 which receive a peripatetic service or shared service with a neighbouring school, will get a weekly allocation of janitorial support.  In his report to councillors, Brian Porter, head of education resources, said the arrangement would take the burden off head teachers who are, in the main, responsible for the premises at present.  He said it would allow head teachers to focus on learning and teaching while delivering an equitable service to all primary schools.

Launch of Gaelic Comic
The upper primary classes of Stirling Gaelic Medium Unit at Riverside Primary School will host the launch of the second of the Arctic Ring Comics published by Perthshire-based Gaelic publisher Dualchas na Cloinne during Book Week Scotland later this month.  The children will receive a free copy of the comic, publisher Leslie MacKenzie will talk to them about the comic, its making and its Arctic background and they will take part in a short comic making workshop to learn how to make their own comics.  Now, in the 21st century, we are coming to realise what the indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic have known for centuries - that the world of man and nature can only exist in a balance of mutual respect.  One tribe in particular, the Nivkh from Eastern Siberia, created a beautiful story that tells how the little titmouse bird was able to save the world and make it habitable for us all – humans and animals.  This story has now been published in comic form.  Animator Leslie MacKenzie collected the story while exploring Arctic myths for a Northern animation series with Finnish and Estonian partners.  Comic script-writer Rich Clements rewrote it in comic form.  Well-known writer, teacher and singer Gillebride MacMillan translated the story into Gaelic and talented artist Shona Shirley Macdonald has made the beautiful illustrations.

Royal Scottish National Orchestra Moves Into New Glasgow Base
Scotland's national orchestra has relocated to its new home in Glasgow city centre. The construction of a purpose-built rehearsal and recording facility for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) and a new 600-seat music auditorium beside it was completed last month. Bosses have described the development on Killermont Street as a "world-class" base for the orchestra.  The auditorium at the Royal Concert Hall, beside the RSNO centre, has a number of features designed to boost the acoustics of the venue for both rehearsals and performances. The base is equipped with foyer spaces for audiences and visitors, and a music library for the orchestra's archive to ensure access for research, practice and performance.  It also has private practice and small ensemble rehearsal rooms as well as administrative and technical offices for the orchestra, including stores for its equipment.  RSNO chief executive Dr Krishna Thiagarajan said: "The new home is truly a world-class facility for Scotland's national orchestra, to efficiently and effectively build its reputation and increase its capacity to connect with communities across Scotland and the entire music-loving world.  To accomplish this, we ran an extremely successful campaign and we are grateful to our RSNO patrons, our corporate and foundation supporters as well as Creative Scotland, Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government to make this project a reality.  Together we have delivered a bespoke rehearsal and recording space, exceptional education and learning facilities, and a valuable recital venue, providing a key addition to the country's cultural venues."

Rosslyn Chapel Remains Reburied in Church Grounds
The remains of three skeletons were found inside Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian - which featured in Dan Brown's best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code - when work to the heating system required floor slabs to be lifted.  Radiocarbon dating of two of the skeletons indicates they could have been buried in the mid-15th century, possibly around the same time the chapel was being constructed.  It is thought the two skeletons were male and that at least one of them had undertaken heavy or repeated physical activity, with well-developed bone surfaces at the sites of muscle insertions.  Bones that had previously been disturbed were also found in the chapel precinct, with these dated back to between the 15th and 17th centuries. Again, these are thought to be the remains of an adult male.  The AOC Archaeology Group in Midlothian carried out the excavation and analysis of the bones for the Rosslyn Chapel Trust, with the bones then prepared for reburial in line with guidance from Historic Environment Scotland.  Lindsay Dunbar, fieldwork project manager, AOC Archaeology Group, said: "Opportunities to work at such a world-famous and iconic monument as Rosslyn Chapel come along rarely, so it was with great anticipation that AOC undertook the archaeological monitoring during the construction of the new visitor centre and works at the chapel. The discovery of both disturbed and in situ burials was especially exciting given the limited amount of excavation necessary within the chapel to complete the conservation works.  AOC was allowed ample time to complete the full excavation of the burials and the good preservation of the human bone allowed full osteoarchaeological analysis to be completed.  Whilst it is unlikely that the burials represent the clergy, it is clear that to occupy such a space within such a small chapel means that these burials are of people important to the chapel."  Ian Gardner, director of the Rosslyn Chapel Trust, said: "The analysis provides valuable information about the age of the remains but, inevitably, questions remain unanswered about the identity of these men and their roles here.  Today's ceremony to reinter the remains was simple but a very fitting way to return them to Rosslyn Chapel."

Scottish Government Demands Answers Over Possible £30 Million Funding Cut to Big Lottery in Scotland

The Scottish Government has called for clarity over fears a £30 million cut to Big Lottery funding in Scotland would have a devastating impact on charities and force Holyrood ministers to reduce spending on sports and the arts.  The leader of Scottish charities' umbrella organisation, the Scvo, Martin Sime, has said the sector is concerned about proposals to cut UK Government money for the Big Lottery Fund from 40 per cent to 25 per cent. It is expected this would leave the organisation north of the Border virtually unable to commission new work as existing commitment would take all the fund left. Now John Nicolson, Scotland’s Culture, Media and Sport spokesman, has written to the fund's director Jackie Killeen asking for clarity and for her to give details of the impact such cuts would have on charities and support groups.  The former BBC journalist said: “The motive behind the reduction of the Big Lottery Fund’s budget is to use those funds to help mitigate cuts to art and sport.  This is a very concerning move as the Big Lottery Fund should supplement not replace government funding. Furthermore, it comes at a time when the charity sector is already strained by austerity as demands for charitable support rises and income continues to fall.  Meanwhile, a Nationalist MSP submitted a motion for debate in the Scottish Parliament, condemning any such move by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to reduce money earmarked for the Big Lottery Fund in Scotland.  SNP MSP Mark McDonald who has condemned the UK Government over the reports in his motion, pointed out that the fund supports thousands of charities and community groups in Scotland through £75 million worth of funding.  He added: "For the UK Government to even consider cutting its funding at a time when vulnerable people are needing help more than ever is reprehensible – and shows how out of touch the Tories are with Scotland’s people and communities. If these planned cuts come to pass, they will be devastating for the charities which so many people in Scotland are relying on in the face of the Tory austerity agenda."  On Tuesday, Mr Sime said the idea of making the cuts was 'desperate' and would put Scottish ministers in an impossible position. The UK Government has not commented.

Long Life Predicted for Sullom Voe Terminal
The future is looking positive for Sullom Voe terminal, with a projected life until 2050. Speaking at a meeting of the harbour board, infrastructure chief Maggie Sandison said that she and council convener Malcolm Bell had met the BP chief executive and senior management in London last week, and now a “much better understanding” existed between the two sides.  Mrs Sandison said it was clear that BP had a long-term commitment to the terminal, which was part of BP’s “strategic planning” up to 2050. The meeting had been “extremely positive”, she said, BP was committed to working closely with the council.  The fears that Shetland had been frozen out of recent talks about Quad 4 and Schiehallion were unfounded, it turned out, as different parts of BP, such as the exploration and terminals, did not communicate.  The Clair field west of Shetland was coming on stream and replacing the North Sea business, Mrs Sandison said, and in an effort to extend the life of the east of Shetland operations, charges were being lowered for this business, while charges were being increased for west of Shetland.  However, for the first time ever, Sullom Voe harbour is facing a loss and tanker charges will have to rise sharply.  Mrs Sandison said the projected loss in March next year would be £1.3 million, due to the fall in oil price and fewer tankers using the terminal.  The harbour was in a “state of flux” and the losses would have to be built into next year’s harbour dues, which is likely to mean harbour dues being increased by “more than 50 per cent”.

Scottish Government Refuses Permission for Two Highland Wind Farms
Energy minister Fergus Ewing said the Scottish Government had turned down a bid for a 22-turbine wind farm at the Sallachy and Duchally estate in Sutherland, along with a 23-turbine development at Glencassley estate, by Lairg, also in Sutherland.  Both developments would have an impact on an area of wild land while the Sallachy wind farm would also affect the landscape of the Assynt-Coigach national scenic area.Mr Ewing said: "The Scottish Government's policy on wind farms strikes a careful balance between maximising Scotland's huge green energy potential and protecting some of our most scenic landscape and wild land area. We have been clear that wind farms can only be built in the right places and Scottish planning policy sets out rigorous steps to ensure wind farms are sited appropriately and sensitively.  I have considered these applications fully and recognise the efforts made by the applicants to mitigate the potential impacts of the developments.  However, I have refused permission as the proposals would still have significant and unacceptable landscape and visual impacts in the local areas, and these are not outweighed by any wider policy benefit."

Boat Sinks After Three Divers Are Rescued by Kyle Lifeboat
A Ross-shire lifeboat crew rescued three divers but was unable to save their stricken vessel which sunk after it run aground on rocks in Loch Kishorn on Sunday afternoon.  The volunteer Kyle of Lochalsh RNLI crew was alerted to the incident by Stornoway Coastguard just before 2.30pm. The lifeboat arrived at 2.50pm at the entrance to the loch to find the 35ft diving vessel Sabre 2 aground on rocks, with the tide receding. The lifeboat crew took one diver onto the lifeboat while the other two stayed on the casualty vessel to check for damage. After discussions with the divers, the decision was made to remain on scene and wait for the tide to flood and the boat to re-float.  After the tide had turned at 4pm, one of the lifeboat crew went on board the casualty vessel and a tow was established.  The boat started taking on water as it floated free from the rock and the lifeboat’s salvage pump was used.  However, it was clear the water was too much for the pump to cope with and the Sabre 2 began to list to the port side in the choppy seas. The diving vessel was overcome with water and sank two minutes later.  One of the crew said: "The vessel did not appear to have been damaged by the rock, however there must have been significant damage to the underside of the hull, because once it began to float free from the rock, it only took a couple of minutes for the boat to go down."

Scottish Government Under Attack for Free Childcare Promise

Education secretary Angela Constance has been attacked by a parents group for failing to provide answers on the Scottish Government’s ambitious childcare promises. Fair Funding For Our Kids campaigners said a meeting with Ms Constance had left them “frustrated and angry”, because she did not even have “ballpark figures” on the “most basic facts”.  At the meeting, the parents group wanted to receive detail on Nicola Sturgeon’s promise to double free nursery entitlement of every three and four-year-old by 2020. The First Minister has pledged an expansion in free childcare if the SNP are voted back into power next year. The Scottish Government’s pledge is to double childcare provision to 30 hours a week for all three and four-year-olds and vulnerable two-year-olds.   Council nurseries, private nurseries and childminders currently provide the government-funded childcare all three and four-year-olds and some vulnerable two-year-olds already receive.  Jenny Gorevan, of Fair Funding For Our Kids (Glasgow), said: “The First Minister is right to put childcare at the heart of next year’s elections. But right now the Scottish Government says it guarantees 600 free hours childcare per year to every three and four-year old and we estimate as many as one in five kids are missing out”  A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The figures estimated by Fair Funding for our Kids assume nothing will change between now and 2020 to deliver this increase in funded hours and fail to take account of Scotland’s 5,500 childminders.  They also assume that doubling the hours of free childcare available will mean that we will need to double the number of childcare places. This is not true. We can reassure parents that preparations are well under way to deliver this massive expansion of 1,140 hours.”

Nicola Sturgeon Backs 2016 Female Entrepreneur Conference

A conference to drive greater growth among female-led companies is set to take place in March next year, including Scotland’s first-ever pitch competition for women entrepreneurs, and backed by  Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.  Investing Women Angels, Scotland’s only female business angel group, launched the two-day event yesterday. Its aim is to boost the progress and scalability of women-led companies in Scotland and help more female entrepreneurs realise their full potential.  Sturgeon is to deliver a keynote speech at the inaugural two-day Ambition and Growth event and will announce the winner of the Accelerate Her competition. The contest is run in partnership with Edinburgh Napier University’s entrepreneurial hub Bright Red Triangle, and will see six finalists make their business case to some of the country’s most successful female entrepreneurs and business leaders at the Dynamic Earth event.  Jackie Waring, chief executive and founder of Investing Women, said: “Scotland has a deep pool of talented women brimming with brilliant ideas but for a variety of reasons only a fraction realise their full potential.  She said the event “aims to address this unhealthy paradox and showcase these talented women”.  The headline sponsor of the event is Standard Life, whose head of business marketing and communications is Susie Logan. Stephen Ingledew, its managing director of customers and marketing, said it is “a great opportunity for us to support our community of women investors and business owners”.

Cannabis Worth £420,000 Seized in Police Raid in Glasgow
Drugs worth more than £400,000 have been seized by police after a raid in Clydebank. Officers searched premises at Clydebank industrial estate, Hamilton Street, at 5pm on Tuesday and recovered 420kg of cannabis.  A 19-year-old man was arrested in connection with alleged drugs offences.  Officers said the haul was worth £420,000.  Detective Chief Inspector Calum Young, from L Division CID, said: “This is a significant recovery of controlled drugs which followed an intelligence operation in the Clydebank area.  Our operational activity continues and this seizure simply underlines our commitment to target and disrupt those who seek to engage in the supply of controlled drugs.”

Top Economist: New Powers Deal Could Cost Scotland Hundreds of Millions of Pounds
One of the country's leading economists has warned Scotland could be left hundreds of millions of pounds worse off as a result of the financial deal that will underpin Holyrood's new powers. Professor Anton Muscatelli, the principal of Glasgow University, said the so-called "fiscal framework" around the Scotland Bill now going through Westminster was "arguably even more important" than the powers the new legislation will transfer.  He said Scotland could be hundreds of millions of pounds worse off within a matter of years depending on the mechanism chosen to reduce Holyrood's budget allocation from Westminster.  The fiscal framework was due to have been agreed this autumn but the Scottish and UK governments are still thrashing out a deal. Although it is UK Government legislation, the Scotland Bill must be rubber-stamped at Holyrood before it comes into force and both Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney have threatened to block it - delaying the devolution of extensive tax and welfare powers - unless the financial deal is "fair". They have been accused of planning to stall the powers in a bid to prevent SNP plans for tax and welfare becoming the focus of next May's Holyrood election.  However, Professor Muscatelli's comments reveal the potential impact of the fiscal framework.  In a conclusion that will be welcomed by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, he said: "The clear demand for more powers cannot come at any price."  The Scotland Bill will make the Scottish Government responsible for raising almost all income tax in Scotland - worth £11billion last year - which will then form a large part of its £30billion-plus budget.  The Scottish Government's budget allocation from Westminster, known as the block grant and based on the long-established Barnett Formula, will be reduced accordingly.  In the first year after the income tax powers are introduced, the calculation will be straightforward.  But it is understood the fiscal framework talks have hit a stumbling block over how to calculate the deduction in future years to take account of inflation.  Professor Muscatelli argues one of the suggested mechanisms, indexing the adjustment to Scotland's population share of changes to income tax revenue in the rest of the UK, would "penalise" Scotland.  He said Scotland's share of income tax was lower than its share of UK population and added: "This means that even if Scotland matched UK economic performance and grew its tax revenues by the same rate as the rest of the UK, the amount deducted from the block grant would always be larger than the revenues collected from tax.  Within three or four years, the Scottish Budget could be hundreds of millions of pounds lower as a result, and this loss would grow over time."  He suggested an alternative system, linking adjustments to the block grant to per person changes to income tax revenues in the rest of the UK.   Under a "no detriment" rule, the fiscal framework is intended to ensure that neither Scotland nor the rest of the UK lose as a result of decisions taken on the opposite side of the Border.  The cross-party Smith Commission, whose recommendations formed the basis of the Scotland Bill, agreed that Scotland should reap the benefit if Holyrood's policies increased tax revenues and lose out if receipts dropped.  Professor Muscatelli added: "Discussions around the fiscal framework are necessarily complex. However, it is important that the correct decisions are taken, as the risks to Scotland’s budget are potentially significant." A Scottish Government spokeswoman said discussions over a "fair adjustment to the block grant" were continuing.  She added: "Without a new framework that is fair to Scotland, ministers have been clear that they will not recommend that Parliament approves the Scotland Bill."

Nicola Sturgeon Repeats Threat to Block New Scotland Bill Powers

Nicola Sturgeon has repeated her threat to block Holyrood's new powers after a leading economist warned the deal could cost Scotland hundreds of millions of pounds.  Speaking during First Minister's Questions, she welcomed comments by Professor Anton Muscatelli, who said the financial deal underpinning the new Scotland Bill could "penalise" Holyrood.  Prof Muscatelli, the principal of Glasgow University, argued the so-called 'fiscal framework' was "arguably more important" than the package of new tax and welfare powers the legislation will devolve.  He said: "The clear demand for more powers cannot come at any price."  His remarks followed a similar warning from the Scottish Trades Union Congress, which warned the new powers could become a "poisoned chalice" if the financial deal was unsatisfactory.  Ms Sturgeon said Professor Muscatelli and Grahame Smith, the general secretary of the STUC, were "credible, independent voices that should be listened to".  She told MSPs: "We will only support a legislative consent motion on the Scotland Bill if there is a satisfactory and fair fiscal framework agreed between the Scottish and UK governments.  Nobody could reasonably expect any government to say anything else."  The Scotland Bill, which has passed through the House of Commons, will give Holyrood control over income tax and a £2.5billion welfare budget. Talks over the fiscal framework are continuing. The deal was due to have been concluded this autumn but the two governments have been unable to agree on the mechanism for cutting Scotland's budget when its new tax-raising powers come into force.  Although Westminster legislation, the Scotland Bill must be rubber-stamped at Holyrood.  If MSPs refuse, it would block the new powers indefinitely.

Comment
If Scotland raises income tax above the UK rate by 5% then that 5% should stay wholly in Scotland.  But that is not yet agreed by Westminster. Also, if Scotland funds additional benefit payments through a higher income tax rate, those payments may be taken into account by Westminster as income with the effect of reducing tax credit payments. End result, our deserving poor are no better off despite us paying more tax for the explicit purpose of helping them, and Westminster saves on tax credits at our expense. Neither of these situations, and they are only two of many possibilities, can be acceptable to any reasonable fair-minded person, and unless equitably addressed within the Fiscal Framework should, and I hope will, be rejected by Holyrood.  I am not suggesting that either of these, or any other suchlike scenarios, will come to pass but the possibly of Westminster trying to enforce an inequitable agreement on Scotland must be borne in mind.

Sarah Smith Named As BBC's First Scotland Editor
The BBC has appointed its first Scotland editor to help bring "more in-depth analysis and context on big stories" north of the border to UK audiences. Sarah Smith, who recently presented current affairs programme Scotland 2015 on BBC Scotland, has been appointed to the new post and described it as a "very exciting opportunity".  Ms Smith started her career at BBC Scotland and went on to work for Channel 4 News before returning to the corporation to front Scotland 2014 in the run-up to the independence referendum.  Her new role will be based in Glasgow and is expected to start in the new year.  The BBC said the new role will "help reflect the re-alignment of UK politics following the general election in May" when the SNP won 56 of Scotland's 59 seats.  The main purpose of the job is to provide enhanced coverage and analysis of significant Scottish stories for a UK audience through the Six and Ten O'Clock News, the Today programme, the radio bulletins and the BBC News website.

Glasgow Named in Top 20 Holiday Destinations by National Geographic Traveller
Glasgow has been named alongside New York, the Seychelles and Bermuda in a list of 20 top holiday destinations.  The 2016 National Geographic Traveler list names 20 "must-see places" around the world and Glasgow is highlighted for its art, architecture and music.  The magazine said the city is "scrubbed up and gleaming, Glasgow flexes cultural muscle, artfully burnishing its industrial cityscape".  The Riverside Museum, Buchanan Street and King Tut's are mentioned in the article and tourism bosses hope it will encourage an influx of new visitors to the city. Amy Alipio, features editor of National Geographic Traveler, said: "Glasgow landed on our list for 2016 because it's one of the most exciting cities in the world right now. But fans the world over know that it's the city's unrivalled music scene that really embodies Glasgow's energy and swagger."

Edinburgh Hogmanay Security Review After Paris

Senior officers have insisted there is no specific threat to the capital’s festivities, which attract around 150,000 people to the city centre over new years.  However Police Scotland said although people should not be alarmed there was still a need for vigilance because of the current “severe” threat of a terror attack in the UK. Thousands of tickets have already been sold around the world for the three-day programme, which is worth more than £40 million to the economy.