Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 324

Issue # 324                                                 Week ending 28th  November 2015

Maybe Musical Youth Played Scotland’s Anthem in 1982 by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

In the new Bond film Spectre, James again sips that certain vermouth. This time it is dry vermouth with Polish vodka and brine, known as a Dirty Martini. Is he right in the head? I always thought that Martini was as vile a drop as any that my cat had squirted in the garden. Whether shaken, stirred or merely kind of shoogled about, it has always tasted yuck.

Now I know why. It goes off a month after it is opened. After that, all vermouth tastes rotten. Not a lot of bar staff know that. Nowadays it is not so popular so the opened bottle is often on the shelf for many months. An expert in the bar trade tells me that poor staff training means that very few of us, even if we have the 007 lifestyle, can ever get a good vodka martini.

Wine goes off after a few days. Just try leaving some Irish cream liqueur open for a few weeks. You’ll need a peg on your nose. I was also surprised to learn that sherry goes off. I know houses in Bernera where a wee tot is dished out at the New Year bells and the bottle isn’t touched again until Jackie Bird pops up with Phil Cunningham 12 months later.

So Martini is not popular because it sometimes tastes bad and it sometimes tastes bad because it is not popular. It used to be the the tipple to swig anytime, anyplace, anywhere. Except in Scotland. Is it me or does the word vermouth not give you the heebie-jeebies? I have this image of a mumbling drunk wobbling up Sauchiehall Street slurping from a bottle of vermouth and threatening to knock every tooth oot yer mooth.

Meanwhile every mooth is asking about another referendum to see if we want independence or are happy to keep the ties with the Auld Enemy. It is in the nature of things that any push for change will gather an intertia that just keeps it rolling along.

Is the plummeting price of crude oil from the countries who have the real say in our lives enough to slow down that push towards independence. If it does happen, it will throw up all kinds of constitutional questions. Will we call ourselves a republic, a state, a nation - or all three - or something else?

Why not just the kingdom of Alba? That would mean having a king or queen and, frankly, that Nicola blone is busy enough. If we decide on a monarch of sorts, we could be a principality like Liechtenstein. Or if we promote one of the Scottish dukes, a grand duchy like Luxembourg. Which duke though? I don’t know really them. Look, we have a Duke of Rothesay. Maybe him?

It says here that he is also the Duke of Cornwall and his main job is hanging about waiting because he is heir to the throne of Great Britain. Oh heck. No, we can’t have him. Ah, here’s a fellow. Torquhil Campbell, the 13th Duke of Argyll and current householder at Inveraray Castle. It says he is captain of the Scottish elephant polo team.

That’s like saying he is the Scottish Astronaut of the Year. Why had I not heard that we had a jumbo-borne polo team? Still, it sets the fellow apart. Now what does it say is Torquhil’s job? Oh look, he promotes whisky. That’s it. He is exactly the kind of fellow we need to run our wee Caledonian duchy. Our new anthem could be: “Pass the duchy on the left-hand side.”

Or maybe we would be happy to be called just a common-or-garden country. But, if we do that, what will we call our to person - the personification of our emerging nationhood? We must not make any errors when it comes to deciding such important constitutional matters. Everything must look and sound correct and proper. After all, if a king rules a kingdom and an emperor rules an empire, who rules a country?

If we get independence, James Bond will be a foreign agent. Will we still wonder if he only drinks Martini because of the posh way it is served? There is a tale of one cove who went into a bar in downtown Stornoway and ordered one in a proper glass with all the garnishes. Then another and another. After each Martini, he took the olives from the glass and put them in a jar. When it was full of olives, he got ready to leave. The barman asked him what that was all about. “Ach,” he slurred, “the cailleach sent me out for a jar of olives.”

Review Reveals Final Bill for Replacing Trident 'Could Hit £41bn'
The cost of replacing Trident has soared according to a government-ordered review which also sparked fears of job losses on the Clyde.  The price of building four replacement submarines for the ageing nuclear weapons system has risen from £25 billion to £31bn.  But defence chiefs have also set aside an extra £10bn in a contingency fund, meaning the final bill could be as high as £41bn.  Previous estimates have suggested that the overall cost of the decades-long Trident successor programme will eventually be up to £167bn. But these have been based on the £25bn figure.  The Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) also raised the spectre of job cuts in Scottish shipbuilding after ministers committed to build just eight new frigates there - not the expected 13.  Ministers also unveiled plans for nine new Boeing P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft, to be based at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, and an additional two Offshore Patrol Vessels. But the review also signalled big cuts ahead as the Conservative government seeks to slash £11bn from the defence budget.  A third of the land owned by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is to be sold off, including potentially bases north of the Border, and one in three civilian staff will be sacked. The SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson rounded on David Cameron over the rising costs of Trident, asking the Prime Minister: “How expensive does it need to be for this Government to realise it’s a super-expensive vanity project that does not deter?”  Defence sources said that the increase was in part linked to inflation – as the earlier figure had been calculated in 2011 - and "more realistic" pricing.  There was also confusion as Downing Street suggested that MPs may be denied a vote on the final decision to replace Trident. The SNP  accused Mr Cameron of "betraying" Scottish shipbuilders.  Brendan O’Hara MP, the SNP's defence spokesman, said: "It will not be forgotten that the UK Government promised 13 would be built – a cast iron guarantee. The UK government has today confirmed a 40 per cent cut in that pledge."

Scottish Government Will Not 'Willingly Co-operate' If Trade Union Bill Passes
The Scottish Government will refuse to "willingly co-operate" with new legislation governing trade union activity and industrial action if it is passed at Westminster, the First Minister has said. She launched a fresh assault on the controversial legislation as she delivered the annual Jimmy Reid Memorial Lecture at Glasgow University.  "The UK Government's proposed Trade Union Bill, as well as being wrong, is based on a world view that I simply don't recognise," Ms Sturgeon said.  It sees the relationship between employers and trade unions as one of conflict rather than co-operation.  It doesn't reflect public opinion here nor does it reflect the reality of industrial relations here. It offers illiberal solutions to a problem which simply doesn't exist in Scotland."  Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would continue to call for laws governing trade unions to be devolved to Holyrood.  It will also continue to press for Scotland to be exempted from the Bill, or for a legislative consent motion to be required for it to become law north of the border.  The Scottish Parliament has already rejected it, Ms Sturgeon said.  The Bill contains proposals to restrict time spent on union activities, ban the mechanism where members can pay for their membership through their salary, and allow employers to call in agency workers when employees go on strike.  "The entire Bill is driven by dogma and ideology and an attempt to undermine the trade unions, not by any underpinning evidence," Ms Sturgeon said.  "We will do everything in our power to frustrate, undermine and to stop this Bill being enacted.  But if it is passed and its provisions do apply to Scotland, let me tell you the Scottish Government will not willingly co-operate with it."

Scottish Councils Warn 'We Cannot Take Any More Pain' As Osborne Prepares to Unveil Further Cuts

Scottish councils today warn they face a half billion pound squeeze next year as George Osborne prepares to unveil his most far-reaching cuts yet.  The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) predicted his announcement would lead to “severe” reductions in vital services that would affect the most vulnerable in society.  The highly-respected financial think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), meanwhile, warned that since 2010 Mr Osborne will have presided over the deepest public spending cuts in UK history.  Yesterday Mr Osborne announced plans to spend an extra 30 per cent on the UK’s counter-terrorism budget, but failed to rule out major cuts to police funding, as the Conservatives tried to get on the front foot ahead of Wednesday’s spending review.  The Chancellor claimed that the cuts process had gone “smoothly”, despite reports of rows with the Home Secretary Theresa May and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.  He has told unprotected departments to prepare for spending reductions of between 25 and 40 per cent of their budgets.  Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney has delayed his own budget to see the details.  Cosla’s finance spokesman Kevin Keenan said;  “Scottish local government is already facing nearly half a billion pounds of spending pressures for next year and this is before George Osborne or John Swinney even have their pencils out,” he said.  He warned that for the sake of communities across Scotland that he hoped neither of those pencils were “particularly sharp”.  “Because Scottish local government and the communities we represent cannot really take any more pain,” he said.  Paul Johnson, the IFS director, warned that the cuts would lead to huge changes in the shape of the state, which he predicted would become restricted largely to providing basic pensions and health care.  When the latest announcement is added to the cuts over the last five years, he said, “we have never had anything like it”.  Mr Osborne yesterday refused to be drawn on his plans for welfare cuts. He suffered a humiliating defeat in the House of Lords earlier this month when peers voted down his proposals to slash working tax credits.  Home Secretary Theresa May had been reported to be in eleventh hour negotiations with the Chancellor over reductions to her budget after senior police officers warned major cutbacks would leave Britain vulnerable in a major terrorist attack. But Mr Osborne predicted that the changes in counter terror funding would help “make sure we can deal with marauding gun attacks”.  Both the SNP and Scottish Labour have written to Mr Osborne to protest at his plans.

Edinburgh Napier University Professor Teams Up with Diageo to Develop A Whisky Barrel That Keeps the Angels' Share
A university team that helped develop arguably the world's most efficient whisky barrel is raising a glass after winning a prestigious royal award. Cutting edge technology was used to create a whisky cask that minimises loss through evaporation during the all-important maturing process which should be at least three years but can take decades.  Up to a fifth of a cask of whisky can be lost during maturation - known as the angels' share - but Edinburgh Napier University's Centre for Timber Engineering helped develop a barrel that minimises this yet does not compromise the quality of the spirit.  Exactly how effective the process is will take a total of 10 years - the full test period - to establish, although early indications are that the intervention that involved meticulous examination of the behaviour of wood - no glue is employed in the traditional processes which are being religiously maintained - will greatly reduce evaporation.  But while still maturing itself, this project and others including the athletes' village for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 have secured the university the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its internationally acclaimed work in timber engineering, sustainable construction and wood science. Professor Abdy Kermani said that after working with experts at drinks giant Diageo, waste through evaporation is being reduced significantly.  He said: "We were approached by Diageo to have a look at the 'angels' share.  We worked using the existing cask and improved that so that the reduction was at an absolute minimum."  He said while it "may not secure him entry to heaven", the innovation his team helped create will bolster the £5bn Scotch whisky industry that supports 40,300 UK jobs.

Demands for Scotland to Set Up Inquiry Into Undercover UK Police Operations

Campaigners have demanded that the Scottish Government launch an inquiry into the secret activities of an undercover Metropolitan (London) police officer who infiltrated protest groups north of the border.  Activist Jason Kirkpatrick said notorious ex-Met officer Mark Kennedy’s spying on protesters at the G8 in Gleneagles was extensive and suspects he tampered with his group’s media work during the 2005 global summit.  However, he believes his concerns will be not heard at the Pitchford Inquiry – set up by the UK Government to investigate undercover policing – as the judge-led probe only relates to England and Wales.  Kirkpatrick’s claims are backed by up fellow activist Ellenor Hutson, who told MSPs earlier this month that she had worked alongside Kennedy at the G8 when he was the so-called “transport coordinator” for protestors.  It is also understood that one of the intimate relationships Kennedy had with a female campaigner took place during the G8 and is the subject of legal action.  A cross-party group of MSPs has now called on the Scottish Government to launch its own inquiry into the undercover policing scandal.  Kennedy – who was known as Mark “Flash” Stone - pretended to be an environmental activist for seven years from 2003, but was really an undercover officer for the police service's National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU).  He and other officers infiltrated protest groups before his double life was exposed by political activists.  Home Secretary Theresa May has tasked Lord Justice Pitchford with investigating the NPOIU and the Special Demonstration Squad, which allegedly spied on the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.  However, May said the Inquiry would focus on “undercover police operations in England and Wales”, which excludes Scotland.  Kirkpatrick, who now lives in Berlin, had a five-year friendship with Kennedy which included staying at each other’s homes.  The campaigner played a key role in liaising with the media during the G8 in Gleneagles, while Kennedy organised transport for the activists.

SNP Attacks 'Anglo-centric' Inquiry Into the Future of TV

The SNP has attacked a major inquiry into the future of public service broadcasting claiming it is “weighted heavily towards southern England”.  The 'Future for Public Service Television' inquiry is led by Labour peer and former deputy chairman of Channel 4 Lord Puttnam and a team of experts who appear to have little or no experience of Scottish media.  Based at the University of London, the inquiry will examine the challenges facing broadcasters, including budget cuts and the migration of a younger viewers to digital platforms.  The ‘Advisory Committee’ - accused of being too 'anglocentric' - will provide guidance on how best to frame the remit, along with a separate ‘Broadcast Panel’ said to be “composed of leading industry voices”.  However, only one member – former Executive Chair of the Edinburgh International TV Festival, Tim Hincks – appears to have worked north of the border.  As part of the inquiry, events will be held in order to examine “critical issues in the culture, economics, institutions and creative practices of the contemporary television environment”. But all of the events arranged so far are to be held in London, according to the ‘A Future for Public Service Television’ website.  Meanwhile, there appears to be no Scottish representation on any of the panels, with the chair of Arts Council England and a University of Sussex professor among the speakers.  The SNP’s culture, media and sport spokesman at Westminster, John Nicolson MP, who is a former BBC journalist, said: “There is a vigorous debate going on about the future of the television industry in the UK, but everyone accepts that public service broadcasting has a key role to play. Good quality, well informed commission is vital.  I am therefore surprised to note that none of the principle organisations nor people appointed appear to have any Scottish experience. It is important that Scotland's voice is clearly heard and not overlooked in a review which seems to be weighted heavily towards southern England.  If this inquiry is to provide an accurate picture, Scotland must be represented fairly.”  The Scottish Government’s culture minister, Fiona Hyslop MSP, urged those leading the inquiry to widen the scope to take in Scottish views.  She said: “Scotland is being under-served by the BBC. The BBC receives £335 million licence fee income for the BBC from Scotland, but the current spend in Scotland is under £200m, with only an estimated £35 million spent on Scottish TV production for Scotland.  Through the Smith Commission, the Scottish Government has a formal role throughout the process of BBC Charter Renewal for the first time and is working hard to ensure that all of our stakeholders’ voices are heard.  The people of Scotland have been very active in this debate, and through a broad range of consultations - from the UK Government green paper, to the Scottish Parliament, to the BBC Trust, to our own stakeholder events – there has been a wide range of opportunities to make their views known. It would be helpful if the inquiry considered this as part of their work.”

Westminster Accused of Failing to Protect Scottish Waters From Russian Spy Ship

The UK government failed to adequately protect Scotland from a Russia spy ship capable of monitoring and cutting vital underwater internet cables, the SNP has claimed.  The SNP blames plans to spend £167 billion on replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system for depriving conventional defence systems of the money they need to ensure that the UK is kept safe.  The defence minister, Penny Mordaunt, has revealed that a British naval fleet meant to escort Russian ships through UK waters was not deployed when the Russian research vessel, Yantar, sailed up the east coast towards Norway on 24-26 October.  Instead Yantar was tracked by a single offshore patrol vessel, HMS Severn, because ”it made the most operational sense”. Mordaunt, however, kept further details secret in order not to “prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces.”  According to US naval officials, the Yantar has two self-propelled submersible vehicles capable of observing and cutting cables miles under the sea. As well as being seen around the UK, the boat was tracked last month by US forces as it moved down the east coast of America on a visit to Cuba.  The SNP MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, Douglas Chapman, asked Mordaunt whether the “fleet ready escort” followed the Yantar when it was in UK waters. In a parliamentary answer, the minister said that the escort “was not activated on this occasion, but remained available at high readiness”.  Chapman, a member of the defence select committee, said this was unacceptable. “Defending the UK’s sovereign territory is the most basic role of the military, and I’m afraid to say in this instance their response has been inadequate,” he told the Sunday Herald.  He pointed out that the Nimrod marine patrol aircraft that could have tracked the Yantar were scrapped in 2010. “The ability of the armed forces to track what is happening both above and below the surface of our seas is not what it should be,” he said. As we approach the main decision for the replacement of Trident, we are very concerned that the UK government’s strategic priorities are all wrong. Spending a potential £167 billion on a weapons system which is of questionable operational value in the current security climate is unjustifiable when we are unable to adequately defend our territorial waters.”  UK ministers are expected to publish a new Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) tomorrow. The SNP is arguing that the country is facing a “defence credibility gap” because of years of cutbacks and plans to waste money on Trident.  The Ministry of Defence (MoD) stressed that it was “false” to suggest that the Yantar wasn’t tracked. “The Yantar was monitored throughout her passage in UK waters by the Royal Navy warship HMS Severn,” said an MoD spokesman.  John Ainslie, co-ordinator of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, pointed out that the UK and the USA both deployed research vessels in support of their nuclear submarines. “Yantar is based at the headquarters of the Russian Northern Fleet at Severomorsk,” he said. “It would be reasonable to conclude that one of its functions is to support Russian nuclear submarines.”

Highland Stop on Suu Kyi’s Long Road to Victory
The sleepy town of Grantown-on-Spey seems far removed from the tumultuous events of Burmese politics and the painful struggle for democracy led by one of the world’s most charismatic politicians.  But a matter of days after Aung San Suu Kyi led the National League for Democracy (NLD) to a famous landslide victory in the Burma election, Grantown residents are launching a campaign of their own to recognise their town’s unique connection with the legendary peace campaigner.  It is a little known fact that the Highland settlement was once home for Suu Kyi – long before the award of her Nobel Prize for Peace and before she was imprisoned for 15 years for speaking out against the Burmese dictator U Ne Win.  In 1975, Suu Kyi and her late husband Michael Aris, the British academic who specialised in Tibetan and Himalayan studies, spent about a year in Grantown. Suu Kyi stayed on the outskirts of the town in a house called Clachnastrone owned by her husband’s father John Aris and his stepmother Evelyn. The couple, who had met while they were both studying at Oxford University, and their eldest son Alexander retreated there so that Michael Aris could work on his PhD in the quiet surroundings of the Cairngorms.  Although she kept a low profile during her Highland sojourn and had yet to become the internationally renowned figure she is today, Suu Kyi made quite an impression on the locals, some of whom can still remember her vividly. In the wake of her triumph in Burma’s first openly contested election for 25 years, the people of Grantown now think their town’s connection with her should be commemorated.  Nessa MacKenzie, one of her closest friends in Grantown, believes a plaque should be put up on the house where she once lived. Suu Kyi was in her late 20s and was always with her eldest son Alexander, who was then a toddler when MacKenzie first met her. MacKenzie was in her late 40s and had three sons: Graham, then aged eight, and twins Stuart and John, who were then six. Suu Kyi did not have a car, so MacKenzie would help out with lifts.  Their families often picnicked together in the Speyside countryside, and in the evenings the two mothers attended sewing classes. “Suu was the best in the class,” MacKenzie recalled. “She lived here for a year and she used to come back after that to see her in-laws after her second son Kim was born. She was serene, had great presence and she was very beautiful. It would be lovely to see a plaque on the gate of the house. I am sure it could be done.” Sharon Hamilton, who lives in Clachnastrone today, said: “We do know about the house’s history. I have got three girls and to think that someone like that lived here is quite inspirational. In fact, when one of my daughters was asked to do a school project on someone who had inspired her, she chose Aung San Suu Kyi.”

Owl Down – Send A Chopper!
What to do when an exhausted owl touches down on a North Sea oil platform? The short-eared owl hitched a ride on a helicopter back to Aberdeen and was then taken on to the Scottish SPCA's rescue centre in Fishcross, near Tillicoultry in Clackmannanshire.  Rescue Centre manager Colin Seddon said: "The owl is doing great after his lengthy flight. Providing all is well he will be released within the next few weeks." The SPCA rescue centre reports that the number of short-eared owls being seen recently is much higher than usual - possibly as a result of birds being blown off-course by the spell of high winds and gales that have been sweeping in from the Atlantic.

Loch Lomond's Cameron House Hotel Changes Hands Again in Deal Worth Up to £80million

The five-star Cameron House Hotel on the banks of Loch Lomond has changed hands for the second time in just a year.  The award-winning resort has been sold by QHotels, owner of the Westerwood hotel and golf resort in Cumbernauld, to the American investment firm that owns the Belfry golf course near Birmingham.  QHotels had only purchased the hotel from the De Vere group last November.  It is understood KSL Capital Partners has paid between £70 million and £80 million for the 132-room property, which has two courses, a spa and 184 timeshare lodges. Cameron House, which comprises a golf club, spa and a Michelin-starred Martin Wishart restaurant, was once a regular haunt for the Scottish national football side, and has played host to many celebrity weddings.  KSL had been seen as a likely bidder for Cameron House and De Vere's other golf venues when they went on the market last year.  It was also one of the unsuccessful bidders for Gleneagles when it came on the market for around £150million earlier this year.

Runrig to Stage Edinburgh Castle Gig in 2016

Celtic rock band Runrig are to thrill their fans with a summertime return to the scene of some of their greatest triumphs, Edinburgh Castle.  The Scottish group, who have had more than 30 years of global success with their unique sound, a mix of traditional Gaelic folk music and contemporary rock – will perform at Edinburgh Castle in July. Runrig’s frontman Bruce Guthro said: “There are few better backdrops for any band, on any stage, anywhere in the world than at Edinburgh Castle.  It is an amazing venue and is always a special gig.”  Keyboard player Brian Hurren added: “I can’t wait to get the sounds and the emotion of the studio recordings transposed into the context of the live show. It was a very special album for us all and the live tour will be no exception.”  The band said they are “delighted” to be making a return visit to the Castle’s Esplanade, a stage they have graced so many times over the years. It is a venue in which both band and audience feel “very much at home,” said a spokesman for Castle Concerts.  The Esplande will provide the perfect backrop for the group’s summertime Story tour. The album, of the same name, will be Runrig’s last studio album.  Barry Wright, director of the Castle Concerts, announced the July 23 event – which will take place during the 2016 Edinburgh Castle Concert series. “Runrig are Scottish legends,” Mr Wright said. “Over the years we have taken them from Stirling Castle to the banks of Loch Lomond, from Orkney to Hawick, from Benbecula to Dumfries. There is no part of Scotland that Runrig don’t reach. We are delighted to be welcoming them back for a record breaking sixth appearance.”  After the end of their 2010 tour Runrig made the decision to take time out, allowing band members to concentrate on individual projects.

The Lion Rampant.... Royal Flag of Scotland
Although the national flag of Scotland is the blue and white 'Saltire', the Scottish people also have a second, very different, flag which is called the 'Lion Rampant'.  The 'Lion Flag' is often considered the unofficial national flag and referred to as the 'Royal Flag of Scotland'. The 'Royal' term applies because this flag historically, and legally, belongs to the monarchy (or royalty) - more specifically to a King or Queen of Scotland.  As there hasn't been a Scottish King or Queen since the 17th Century, it now belongs to Queen Elizabeth II. It's a more colourful and dramatic flag than the Saltire, and may be a little more memorable because of that. The term 'lion rampant' actually refers to the positioning or attitude of the lion. A rampant lion is shown as a profile of a lion standing upright (on one or both hind legs) and the forelegs are raised, claws unsheathed, as if to strike.  For me, the fierce and battle-strewn history of Scotland makes this the perfect symbol of Scottish pride!  It seems that the rampant lion design was first used as a symbol of the Scottish kingdom by King Alexander II (1214 - 1249 AD).  It appeared as a coat of arms on one of his seals in 1222, and also later, on a seal of Alexander III. It was referred to as the 'Arms of the Kingdom (or Dominion) of Scotland'  But historians believe that the lion rampant may have appeared even earlier than this, being adopted by King William I (aka 'William the Lion') 1143 - 1214 AD, as part of the design of his heraldic banners/flags used in battle. At this time it may have been called 'The Lion of Bravery'.  Before the lion appeared as a Scottish heraldic symbol, there's a record of a royal standard featuring an even more exotic, mythical, animal... the dragon! A dragon symbol was used on a royal standard, by King David I during battle as early as 1138. Officially (and historically) the 'Lion' Flag is only allowed to be flown by a monarch, and today it is traditionally flown at royal residences when the Queen is NOT in residence. There are also other officials, such as the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Lord Lyon King of Arms and the Royal Regiment of Scotland, who are allowed to fly this flag.  According to an Act of Parliament, passed in 1672, it is an offense for any private citizen or corporate body to fly or wave this flag, so they're not a part of the every-day Scottish scenery.  Unofficially though, it's often thought of as the 'Second National Flag of Scotland' and you'll generally see hordes of them in the hands of sports fans at national (and international) football and rugby games.  Although this is technically illegal, there doesn't seem to be any official objections to these displays of patriotism because King George V gave permission Lion Rampant flags to be waved by the public during his Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1935.  BUT, if anyone wants to fly one from a flagpole or building they do still need to get special permission!

SNP MP in Bid for 'Scots Votes for Scots Laws'

The fight for "Scots votes for Scots laws" has been taken to Westminster as the SNP called on the Government to hand over more power on devolution to Scotland.  Angus MacNeil used a Ten Minute Rule Motion in the House of Commons to launch a bid to get more decision-making powers for the country.  He set out a plan to amend the Scotland Act 1998 to establish a mechanism by which the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and a majority of members representing Scottish constituencies may jointly determine further powers to be devolved to Scotland.  He told MPs: "This House has decided there is a need for English votes for English laws - Evel - and now, to keep modernising the House of Commons, where the SNP are always keen to play a constructive role, but more importantly to put Scotland first, it is now time to have Scots votes for Scots laws."  The SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar said "Westminster has failed Scotland" on the issue of devolution.  It is time to move to a point beyond where the crumbs are promised from the table or we plead for crumbs from the table instead to where we are given the keys to the larder, to where Scotland's powers have been deposited since 1707," he said.  "So that in line with the Prime Minister's words, Scotland can choose to take the powers, fulfilling the PM's solemn promise broadcast to Scotland just eight days before the referendum: All options of devolution are there and all are possible.  This was the premise on which the Scottish people voted for the other option to 'Yes'.  It was not a 'No' vote because remember, by the time of the vote the 'Three Amigos' as they were dubbed in Scotland, galloped from this chamber to Scotland and the referendum was between 'Yes' and 'lots of powers' - even a vow thrown in and/or as close to federalism as possible."  Mr MacNeil said his plan would allow "Scotland to move forward as the Scottish society sees fit" and free it from the "ball and chain of continued Westminster failure".  His Ten Minute Rule Motion was adopted by the House without opposition and will now progress to its second reading.  However, without the support of the Government it is unlikely to ever become law.

£130k Drugs At West End Home
Cannabis farmers transformed a large detached house in the west end of Greenock into a giant drug factory – complete with more than 300 illegal plants.  Two Vietnamese growers – who are today facing jail over the illicit venture – had secretly cultivated a crop worth up to £130,000 before their elaborate operation was uncovered by chance.  The man and woman – aged 61 and 57 respectively – were ‘startled’ when police swooped on the Finnart Street property, because they initially couldn’t hear anything above the drone of their propagating equipment.  Greenock Sheriff Court heard how offenders Bang Van Hoang and Ngo Thi Loan were amongst the plethora of plants and tending to them as officers watched them before moving in and making arrests.  The pair were only found out because a landlord, who wanted to carry out an eviction and change locks over non-payment of rent, stumbled upon the farm during a visit to the house. Procurator fiscal depute Pamela Brady said: “The landlord and the locksmith made their way upstairs and heard voices on the upper level.  Both saw equipment which looked like it would be being used for the cultivation of cannabis. They made their way back downstairs and phoned the police.”  The court heard how Van Hoang and Thi Loan had created the 320-plant indoor farm at 61 Finnart Street on the first floor of the property and also within the attic space. An array of sophisticated electrical equipment – including heat lamps, fans, filters and flumes – was used to help produce enough cannabis to make more than 4,300 individual £30 street deals.  Internal doors and windows had also been sealed-up in a bid to stop the any pungent aromas from the cultivation escaping outside, the attic had been sectioned off for separate stages of the growing operation and an area was set aside for drying harvested cannabis.

100 Jobs for Ferguson’s Shipyard
A major jobs boost for Ferguson’s shipyard in Port Glasgow was announced by Deputy First Minister John Swinney.  One hundred jobs are to be created and a further 125 safeguarded as a result of a £1m grant from Scottish Enterprise.  Mr Swinney said the Regional Selective Assistance grant would boost the number of full-time jobs at the site from 150 to 250.  He was visiting the yard, pictured, a year after a taskforce helped to find a buyer for the company and save it from administration. The funding will help contribute to Ferguson Marine’s £12m refurbishment of the yard and the purchase of new equipment.  The last commercial shipbuilding company on the Clyde was bought last year by Clyde Blowers Capital, owned by billionaire Jim McColl.  It has an order book of £110m, including a £97m order for Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) to build two dual fuel ferries, the largest commercial vessels to be built on the Clyde since 2001. Mr Swinney said: “Commercial shipbuilding on the Clyde has a long history, and it is important that we continue to support this vital industry. This grant will enable the company to further invest in the site, which will create jobs and help ensure our shipbuilding industry continues to have a sustainable future.  Since Clyde Blowers took over the company, they have done a fantastic job of turning it around, and I am delighted to visit their premises to see just how much progress has been made.”

Outlander Show ‘Too Intense’ for British TV
Outlander author Diana Gabaldon believes the hit series based on her multi-million selling books may be too extreme to ever be shown on mainstream television in the UK.  The American writer has said that the makers of the show were unable to find a broadcaster willing to screen an uncut version of the programme. Dubbed Scotland’s answer to Game of Thrones, Outlander’s first series regularly featured graphic scenes of sex, torture, rape and violence.  Ms Gabaldon, who has been in Scotland to help make an episode of the third season, said she had heard from “various sources” involved in the show that its content was “too intense” for British television. She spoke of her dismay after being told that the only way the show could have gone on air in the UK was if significant cuts had been made and dismissed suggestions that the cost of screening Outlander had been too prohibitive. She said the team working the show, which has only been available on Amazon’s streaming service, had refused to compromise on either its content or the length of each episode.  Ms Gabaldon also said that she was “surprised and astonished” that Outlander had been snubbed in the recent Bafta Scotland Awards. She suggested that there could have been prejudice against the lavish production in the judging process. Ms Gabaldon was speaking ahead of an appearance at Stirling Castle with the historian and author Neil Oliver. Outlander is the biggest single inward investment in Scotland’s film and television industry and is widely credited with boosting the value of productions shot in Scotland last year to a record £45 million. A warehouse in Cumbernauld has been converted into a vast studio complex where the show has based, while the cast and crew have gone on location around the country for the filming of the first two series. However Outlander’s UK-based fans were left furious at being unable to see the show in the UK after it was launched in the United States last and was snapped up by broadcasters around the world. Many British fans were forced to watch the show illegally until it was available via Amazon Prime at the end of March. It went on to become the streaming service’s most popular show.  Ms Gabaldon, whose appearance was part of the annual Book Week Scotland celebration, has spent several weeks in Scotland after being asked to write the script for an episode for the forthcoming season.  She said that it was “very disappointing” the show had still not been aired by a British broadcaster. “I would love for people to be able to see it on mainstream television. People have been asking me about it for a long time. What I’ve heard from various sources is that it wasn’t that they couldn’t find a channel that wanted to show it, but that they couldn’t find a channel that would show it either uncut or at its normal running length. In other words that they thought it was too long and perhaps had material that they thought was too intense. Money wasn’t the issue. Either it was prejudice or inadvertence. It was filmed here, it had a Scottish cast and crew, and Scottish locations. It couldn’t have been more Scottish.”