Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 326

Issue # 326                                                      Week ending 12th December 2015

Why Kindness is Absolutely Not Always its Own Reward by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

‘Tis not the season to be miserable, people of the world. Jollity and merriment is mandatory for the next few weeks. You have to keep wishing happy things, keep eating, keep drinking and, of course, keep spending. Throughout all that you have to keep smiling because you are happy and even if you do not feel even a wee bit merry in the least, you have to keep smiling anyway. Have a happy Christmas or everyone will hate you. Geddit?

Most people, I am beginning to think after extensive research, actually hate the entire festive season because it disrupts their lives, empties their bank accounts and leaves them starting a brand new year feeling exhausted and completely out of sorts because they felt forced to cave in to what they feel other people want. But do they?

It is easy to misjudge what other people want - even when you are doing your best to be kind to them. A friend of mine has been telling me what happened in Glasgow when a popstar tried to be kind to a politician the other day. When she heard Duran Duran star and famously accident-prone yachtsman Simon Le Bon heaping praise on the First Minister at the SSE Hydro and saying he was a fan of Nicola’s she wondered what the heck was going on.

In the words of Le Bon himself, she wondered: “Is There Something I Should Know?” Since Kenny Everett waved big rubber hands supporting Margaret Thatcher and was ridiculed by the world, everyone knows that endorsing politicians is dangerous.

Le Bon has made a few miscalculations in his time. When his yacht Drum capsized during the Fastnet Race in 1985, he and his crew were trapped inside the hull for 40 minutes and nearly died. They were got out by a Royal Navy rescue diver. That diver was awarded the George Medal and until recently he lived here in Stornoway. Just a wee namecheck for you, Larry.

He could have said something about Labour leader Kezia Dugdale’s smile or the beguiling way with words of the Tories’ Ruth Davidson. Mind you that would all be really sexist if the ageing warbler had not then complimented the rumoured many fine points of LibDem leader Willie Rennie. See what I mean? What a minefield.

In reality, he should not even have mentioned any politicians at all. Still, no harm done, eh? Hmm, don’t know about that. My friend came home and immediately put her Duran Duran collection up for sale on an auction site. She is not anti-SNP, she tells me, but she just didn’t think her former hero was so dumb as to take sides. Oops a daisy.

Someone else who has been doing his best to be kind is Mark Zuckerberg. The boss and founder of Facebook, who has just had a wee babby with his missus Priscilla Chan, has been feeling so warm and squishy this Advent season that he has promised to give away some of his spondulicks. A million or two of their American dollars? Nah? Ten million? Nah. Only $49 billion or 99 per cent of their wealth.

Well, Zuckerberg had to make an effort. After all, Bill Gates of Microsoft and his wife have given away more that $28 billion and promise to give 95 per cent of what’s under their mattress. Despite all that, Zuckerberg is coming under fire with many critics already claiming it is just a tax wheeze. No pleasing some people.

It was that great thinker, the Dalai Lama, who said: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Maybe that’s what my wife was thinking last week as she strolled down Francis Street in Stornoway. She spotted a car trying to manouevre between two others and the driver seemed to be having some difficulty. The gallant Mrs X jumped to the rescue.

Immediately, she dashed out into the road and halted all the other traffic with an upheld hand and forward facing palm, just like that drawing in the Highway Code. Then, like some over-exuberant gendarme at a Paris intersection, she beckoned the red-faced woman driver who stared at her intently as she undoubtedly wondered about the Police Scotland budget cuts which had left this policewoman with no uniform. The poor wee woman was hesitant but complied with directions.

It took quite a bit of toing and froing but the unequivocal, and very loud, instructions from my missus did the job. Hurrah. Good deed for the day done. The smugness on Mrs X’s face was slung from one lug to the other. That lasted only until the wee woman driver timidly wound down her window, and whimpered: “Thank you for all your help, a ghraidh. But I was actually trying to get into that space.”

Funding Cut to Gaelic TV is ‘Cultural Vandalism’
The latest Budget statement from Westminster revealed more brutal austerity measures and the latest victim of the cuts is Gaelic TV.  The news wasn’t entirely obvious at first, but when the fine detail of Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement was picked over, it was discovered that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will no longer provide £1m a year to broadcaster BBC ALBA.  Donald Campbell, Chief Executive of MG ALBA said: “Naturally we are very disappointed by the loss of UK Government funding.  We continue to seek other ways for the UK Government to support Gaelic broadcasting and will be meeting with DCMS early next month.  The renewal of the BBC’s Royal Charter, expected in 2017, offers the best opportunity to secure long-term policy and funding commitments to Gaelic broadcasting and, as such, we are asking the BBC to increase their in-house programming contribution to BBC ALBA from an average of 4.4 hours to 10 hours per week.  The BBC is obliged by statute to provide 10 hours of high quality programmes per week to Welsh channel S4C, and the new Charter offers the BBC and the UK Government the opportunity to agree a similar commitment to BBC ALBA.”  In the meantime Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil has called on the Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell to use his cabinet position to reverse the funding decision. Mr MacNeil said: “The announcement that the UK Government is cutting all the funding it gives to Gaelic TV is staggering and it again highlights how out of touch Westminster is and unconcerned about Scotland.  At the same time as it has engaged in cultural vandalism in Scotland, the Tory Government is giving £150 million to museums in London.”  Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has also highlighted its concerns.  Chair of the Gaelic Committee, Cllr John A MacIver said: “It is very concerning that the Westminster Government is cutting all of its funding for Gaelic broadcasting.  The new channel, BBC Alba, has been very successful since it was established back in 2008 and it has helped to promote the language to a wide audience.  Thousands watch the channel every week with programmes, which are interesting and appealing, adding to the rich heritage and culture of the language.  We hope that Westminster will look at this again and understand the importance of the channel to Scotland .  Its quality current affairs programming puts its sister station to shame. Its budget is small beer, but its impact is huge. The removal of BBC Alba’s funding is spiteful and unnecessary.”  Angus MacDonald MSP for Falkirk East and Convener of Holyrood’s Cross-Party Group on Gaelic has also called on DCMS to abandon its plans.  Mr. MacDonald, said: “The decision to remove all UK Government funding for Gaelic broadcasting in Scotland will come as a major blow to BBC Alba and is yet another sign that Scotland is under-served by the public service broadcasting status quo.  BBC Alba serves an audience of 700,000 people across the country – far outstripping the number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland several times over.  While the BBC is a world-renowned broadcaster, it is currently under-serving Scotland. TV licence payers in Scotland pay in £335 million ever year – but just £35 million is spent on Scottish TV production. People will rightly ask why the UK Government is cutting funding for a successful public sector broadcaster in the midst of the BBC Charter Review. They should abandon these misguided plans, which will be detrimental to the development of the language and the Scottish creative sector.”

Scotland’s New Powers Should Be “Use it Or Lose It”, Lords to Hear
Scotland’s new tax and welfare powers should be devolved on a “use it or lose it” basis, the House of Lords will hear today.  If they still lie idle after three years they should be taken back by Westminster, Scottish Labour peer Lord Maxton will argue.  His party colleague Lord Foulkes will also call for a new Scottish senate, arguing an extra chamber is necessary to counter the dominance of the SNP.  The ideas have been submitted as amendments to David Cameron's flagship Scotland Bill, which will be debated by Lords later.  Meanwhile, in a separate move, there will also be a separate bid to halt work on the Bill, amid claims even ministers don’t understand it.  Agreed in the wake of last year’s independence referendum, the Scotland Bill is set to hand significant powers to raise or lower taxes and create new welfare payments to Holyrood.  Lord Maxton's amendment calls for those powers to be "repealed at the end of ... three years" if they still lie idle.  The call for a separate Senate, meanwhile, comes amid forecasts the SNP will win a landslide in next year’s Holyrood elections.  Lord Foulkes wants a new Upper chamber to the Scottish Parliament to act as a revising house., creating an extra 46 politicians, from across Scotland.  Following the uproar that followed the multi-million pound cost of the Holyrood parliament building, Lord Foulkes suggests the new chamber should sit in the old Royal High School.  He rejected the idea that the public would baulk at creating more politicians. He warned that the current single chamber system “drastically reduces the checks and balances needed in a mature democracy”.  He added: “There is increasing concern in the way Holyrood is doing things without a check. In Ireland they had a referendum to get rid of the senate and the people voted to keep it.”  Other amendments tabled by Liberal Democrat peers include calls for the so-called 'fiscal framework', which will govern the flow of money between London and Edinburgh following the transfer of powers, to be reviewed after five years.  Labour’s Lord Hollick, who chairs the influential House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, is expected to call for a delay in the Bill.

Some of the most successful small countries including Denmark, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and Norway only have one chamber. Just how does Foulkes suggest that a "Scottish Senate" could be gerrymandered to ensure the SNP would never have a majority there as well? That was the idea behind the Holyrood Parliament election system, and that worked out well !!!!. Perhaps this time all 46 will be nominated by the Labour Party, Scotland Branch?  Lord Maxton (are his old Labour relations turning in their graves as he sits in the House of Lords ? ) wants to force the hand of a devolved administration for petty political reasons - did he suggest that the power to vary income tax by up to 3p in the pound be used when Labour were in the driving seat in Edinburgh ? And Lord Foulkes - what more can be said about the man who has fed at the trough of Local Government , Westminster and Holyrood and the House of Horrors - now he wants a new trough for failed politicians like himself - a Senate !  The Scots should all be for it as long as he gets to play Julius Caesar on the Ides of March.  Foulkes is playing a silly game here and should be ignored.

Edinburgh University Buys Quartermile’s Surgical Hospital
The University of Edinburgh has bought the A-listed Surgical Hospital building at the city’s Quartermile regeneration scheme.  Designed by architect David Bryce, the striking building will be transformed by the university into an “interdisciplinary hub” that will bring together business and public policy to address “societal and environmental challenges”.  Rettie & Co acted for Edinburgh University on the purchase of the 120,000 square foot building, dubbed Q1, and director William Scarlett said the deal was a “win-win for both parties and for the city”.  The sale of the building will also enable Quartermile Developments to build a further phase of residential housing at the city centre site, along with proposed retail and public space on Middle Meadow Walk.  Quartermile managing director Paul Curran said: “This is an excellent opportunity for Quartermile and the city of Edinburgh. The Surgical Hospital is a fundamental part of our development masterplan of 29 buildings. It is a magnificent building which has always been used for teaching, so it is apt that its primary use will be for learning.  The new university development will integrate Quartermile with one of the world’s most highly regarded academic institutions, making our location a place where business, academia, retail and lifestyle converge.”  The project, one of Scotland’s largest urban regeneration schemes, is expected to be completed in 2018, providing 1,050 apartments – of which more than 650 are already occupied and another 150 currently being built. It will also include 370,000sq ft of Grade A office accommodation, 65,000sq ft of retail and leisure space and seven acres of open landscaping.

Street in Glasgow City Centre Closed After Part of Cinema Roof Blows Off Narrowly Missing Pedestrians
Police closed part of a busy street in Glasgow city centre after a section of a cinema roof blew off in gale force winds.  The sheet of metal crashed onto the pavement at the towering Cineworld complex in the city’s Renfield Street narrowly missing pedestrians and vehicles below.  It came as Scotland was battered by Storm Desmond with torrential rain and winds of up to 85mph wreaking havoc .  Nobody was hurt in the incident in Glasgow city centre and police were soon on scene to clear the area around the cinema.  Officers erected a cordon around the building to secure the area.  Pantomime goers waiting to get into the nearby Pavilion Theatre were also moved by police for their own safety.  The severe weather caused havoc for motorists across the country and also decimated the Scottish football card.

What the Highland School with No Teachers Says About Education in Rural Scotland
Strathconon Primary School in the Highlands has 22 pupils but will soon have no dedicated staff - and its fate tells the story of the struggle to staff schools all across Scotland's isolated rural communities.  The community of Strathconon glen is now desperately trying to find new teachers so their children can get an education. A request they put out on social media has already been shared thousands of times.  The school will soon be without any permanent teaching staff after the head left and a second full-time teacher is due to leave at the end of this term.  Efforts to find a new headteacher have so far proved unsuccessful and a temporary ‘cluster’ head – who is shared with other schools – has been appointed. There is one part-time temporary support teacher also at the school.  The search for another full-time permanent teacher and temporary part-time teacher was launched last week.  But with many rural areas in Scotland struggling to attract teachers to posts, parent John Hitchen - who has three sons at Strathconon Primary - turned to social media in an effort to attract attention to the school's plight.  His post on Facebook called 'Please help us find new teachers for Strathconon' with photographs showing the school, classroom, view and children participating in sports day has been shared more than 9,000 times within a few days.  Highland Council says it is hoping for a large number of applications for the posts, thanks to Hitchen's efforts.  Hitchen said he had only expected his post to be shared locally, but the interest and level of support had been “overwhelming”.  He added: “A lot of this is obviously because of an idealised sense of rural communities and idyllic childhoods – but it is a lovely school in its own right with a lovely set of kids.  The school has grown in recent years and has a really positive place in the community because of that. The children won't have the same stability with a supply teacher coming in every day.  The school is perfectly viable and just crying out for willing, committed and enthusiastic teachers to make the most of it.”  The nearest village to the Glen of Strathconon is Muir of Ord - around 16 miles or 40 minutes away. Hitchen said the primary - where pupils are taught in a single p1-7 composite class - was a "lifeline" school, as without it children would face travelling huge distances.  He added: "Beyond that, the school plays a very central role in the community. It is right in the hub of the very traditional working community in terms of rural Scotland. Glens are often depicted as deserted and with people leaving, but over the last decade Strathconon has been growing and becoming more vibrant. If the school wasn’t there I don’t think that would be happening."  It is far from the only rural school struggling to recruit teachers. In September, the leaders of seven councils - Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Highland, Western Isles, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands - held a summit on the issue amid concerns over high levels of unfilled vacancies and adverts failing to attract suitable candidates.  Highland Council currently has 12 rural primary headteacher posts, and one secondary post which have not been filled. advertised. The council said it was becoming more difficult to recruit to rural headteacher posts. Highland also has 12 teaching vacancies in rural primary schools and nine in rural secondary schools.

Scots Headteacher Commutes Via Plane to 3 Schools
A flying headteacher is running three of the UK’s smallest schools, commuting between them in Orkney by plane.  The schools  have a combined roll of 16 pupils.  The smallest of the schools, on North Ronaldsay, has just one primary age pupil and is an 18-minute flight from the airport near her home in Kirkwall.  Kate Evans, 59, is also the “linked headteacher” at Papa Westray, about 30 miles north of her home and with six pupils. Eday, a ten-minute scheduled flight from Kirkwall, has three girls and six boys.  The island-hopping scheduled flights, in an eight-seater Loganair plane, are the only way to manage the schools and keep them open for the communities they serve.  Winds, low cloud, fog, and technical problems can play havoc with her day and Kate sometimes has to resort to the much slower ferry services.  A typical day for her involves getting up at 5am to make the earliest flight from Kirkwall Airport, spending much of the day at one of her island schools, a video conference with the others, and back home by 7pm.  Kate said: “It’s a lovely journey. It’s weather dependent, sometimes I have to make a decision to stay overnight.You’re aware of the wind and the fog and hailstorms. What decisions the pilots are making is very important. “At the moment normally I would have at least four nights at home. If there’s something going on I’ll be out for a few days. “  Kate, said: “At 6:30 the drive to the airport, through a bright, calm morning – sparkling seas, contented livestock in the fields. There is a delay as the small plane (8 passenger) has ‘gone technical’ About an hour late, I set off on the 20-minute flight: a glorious way to commute - did I mention those sparkling seas?” On arrival, my smallest school is just getting started, our solitary pupil about to complete her ‘active start’ to the day. This sometimes means jogging outdoors, sometimes badminton, sometimes circuits – variety as important as routine when you are working in such isolation.”

Victory At Last At New Battle of Culloden
Plans to stop Culloden Battlefield – a war grave for thousands of Jacobite soldiers – from being swamped by housing developments has been approved.  A modern-day war at Culloden was launched after a 16-home development about 400 yards from the official site was last year granted by the Scottish Government, despite worldwide objections.  The 1746 battle covered a far greater area than where the official site, with an award-winning centre, is located.  Councillors have backed plans for an exclusion zone five times the size of the buffer currently protecting the battlefield.  They have approved a 2,423-acre exclusion zone, replacing the current 536-acre zone – effectively making it practically impossible for large-scale developers to build on a two-mile area surrounding the site.  It also means existing homeowners might will need to get planning permission for simple proposals such as erecting fences, altering window and doors, or even putting up a satellite dish.  The decision by the Inverness Area Committee, which still has to be ratified by the full council later this month, has been welcomed by conservationists. Terry Levinthal, director of conservation at the National Trust for Scotland, which manages the battlefield, said: “This is very welcome news, providing much needed additional protection for Culloden Battlefield.  This approach sensibly aligns the boundaries of the conservation area with what’s included in the inventory of historic battlefields, enabling much easier management and increased protection of the area for years to come.  It is fantastic for the future of this heritage site which has international significance.”  The new boundary will still allow small-scale developments, but end plans for any larger projects.  The row erupted last year when plans for a 16-home development at an old farm near to the site was granted by the Scottish Government, despite local objections. That project has still not gone ahead and a decision is expected soon on whether the developers will continue.  A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “A new conservation area for Culloden Muir near Inverness has been unanimously approved.  “This marks the final stages of the first formal review in 47 years to the existing conservation area of Culloden Battlefield which was first designated in 1968. “Removal of the former - and adoption of the new conservation area for the Culloden Muir Conservation Area will now be publicly advertised and Scottish Ministers will be formally notified.” Culloden was the site of the last pitched battle on British soil. It was where Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender, and his Jacobite army were defeated by government forces on 16 April, 1746, ending his claim to the British throne – and costing more than 2,000 lives.

Forth Road Bridge Put Up for Sale on Ebay
The Forth Road Bridge has been jokingly put up for sale on auction site ebay following Friday’s news that the link between Edinburgh and Fife will be closed for the remainder of the year. The prankster responsible for the cheeky advert was ebay user nicelgin, who posted the ad in the ‘For parts or not working’ section.  The page includes a photo of the bridge and a product description. It reads: “Approximately 50 years old. Used daily until midnight last night. Not structurally sound but has exceptional scrap value. “Buyer to uplift. It will have dismantled itself by auction end.  Only those silly enough to bid will not receive any financial return. I have no right to sell this and don’t legally own it.  “If bids are made, every penny will go to the charity of choice of the winning bid.  “I also have lilos and a ferry for sale.”  The ‘For parts or not working’ section on ebay is for items that do “not function as intended or is not fully operational”, which can be those that are “defective in ways that render them difficult to use”, “require service or repair” or those that are “missing essential components”.  At the time of writing the current winning bid is £60,100.  The auction will end on Friday 11 December at just after 5pm.  Early estimates have the thoroughfare being out of action until January 5 at a cost of £50 million to the Scottish economy.  Ebay user nicelgin was overwhelmed by the amount of views his advert received. And while he knows it’s unlikely anyone will actually pay money for something that clearly isn’t his to sell, he has offered the idea of charities receiving donations through the stunt.  He wrote: “There has been an overwhelming response to this advert which is slowly getting out of control.I will not hound or be hounded for what should be considered a bit of fun. With the view count sitting at 26,000 in 2 days, I am now going to work on something with you all. Scotland has been seriously disrupted by this but at the end of the day it is just an inconvenience. We don’t fall ill as a result but it is nearly Christmas. The likelihood of the winning bid actually handing over the money is very slim but would anyone like to help promote a justgiving page that money can be raised for two childrens charities that are close to each side of the bridge. Lets give something to the local charities that put up with our daily commutes.”

Mhairi Black Named University of Glasgow Alumnus of Year
SNP politician Mhairi Black has been named as the University of Glasgow’s Young Alumnus of the Year.  Black was elected as MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire West in May’s General Election while still a 20-year-old politics student at the university.  The “Baby of the House”, she is the youngest MP at Westminster since the Great Reform Act in 1832.  Black graduated in June with a first class honours degree in politics and received the award from the Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, Sir Kenneth Calman, at a special Christmas Dinner at Bute Hall. She said: “Just a few months ago I was in the same position as every other student, frantically trying to pull together my dissertation and make sure I was ready for my last exam. So to be receiving an award from my very own university is a huge honour and allows me to reflect on just how much my life has changed in the last few months.”  Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Anton Muscatelli said: “Mhairi has been a true ambassador for the University of Glasgow, demonstrating huge commitment to her final year studies at the same time as canvassing for election. Students and staff at the University of Glasgow have shown they can change the world – I am certain that Mhairi will make a difference to the lives of others as she strives to combat poverty in her role as an MP. I am also sure that she will be an inspirational role-model for other young people to engage in the democratic process.”

How the Fiddle Landed in Canada From Orkney
They sailed to Canada to hunt for minks and Arctic foxes and left behind, in the frozen North, the power of fiddle music.  More than 300 years ago, workers with the Hudson Bay Company arrived in Quebec and forged new relations with native Cree and Inuit with the help of the tunes that traversed the Atlantic.  It is thought that the violin had never been heard in Canada until then. Vast numbers of Hudson Bay staff were from Orkney, with Stromness the last stop on the way to Canada, where supplies and workers were collected.  Once there, the traditional tunes helped to make friends and dances between the two alien countries – with interpretations of the music still heard today.  Dr Frances Wilkins, a lecturer in musical ethnology at the Elphinstone Institute, Aberdeen University, has travelled to Moose Factory in the James Bay area of Ontario, to chart the cultural life of the Cree and the Scottish influence there in.  Dr Wilkins said: “You get a really strong fiddle culture amongst the Crees which came about because of these meetings with the Scots. It is still very much part of the culture.”  Fiddles still play a big part at Cree weddings where a form of Scottish country dance fills the floor.  Dr Wilkins added: “The Hudson Bay Company was based in London but Stromness was the last calling port, where they generally stopped to get water and other supplies. They hired many Orcadians as they found they were really good workers and used to a harsher climate. It was also cheaper to hire someone from Orkney than London.” At one point, four out of five servants of the Hudson Bay Company were from Orkney.  The last boat sailed from Stromness to James Bay in 1891 with the company, later using Montreal as a major base.  The running connection with the Scots may then have been lost, but what they left behind had in many ways already left its mark.  Dr Wilkins said: “There is no written evidence to suggest there was a fiddle tradition until these ships arrived. Until then, the culture was very much singing and drumming.  They didn’t speak the same language and they didn’t really much have much in common.  When the fur traders arrived, it was a way of socialising and a way of communicating. It was one of the really positive aspects of the encounter with the Europeans.”

SNP ‘Could Block Scotland Bill’ Over Cost, Warns Swinney
John Swinney has warned that the Scottish government could block the Scotland bill over fears that the package on extra devolution would cost Scots £7 billion.  The finance secretary issued the ultimatum as he held talks in London with UK ministers about how fresh devolution will affect Scotland’s £30 billion annual grant from Westminster.  New powers agreed after last year’s independence referendum by the Smith commission mean that income tax raised north of the border will go directly to the Scottish Government instead of the UK Treasury.  However, leading economist Professor Anton Muscatelli, principal of Glasgow University, has suggested the new arrangement could mean £7 billion of losses over 10 years, compared to the cash Scotland would have if it retained the current set-up.  A spokesman for Mr Swinney said the additional powers recommended by the Smith commission were not intended to lead to a reduction in Scotland’s budget.  The spokesman said: “Smith was absolutely clear that Scotland should’s budget should be no larger or smaller simply as a result of getting new powers.  The most important decision which needs to be made is how the block grants should work once we have the new powers.”

Scots University Considers Stripping Donald Trump of Degree
A Scottish university is “considering its position” in regards the awarding of an honorary degree to US presidential hopeful Donald Trump.  Current Robert Gordon University principal, Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, has been asked to strip the business tycoon of the honour in the wake of his comments regarding Muslioms being prevented entry to the US.  Thousands have signed a petition demanding the degree be taken away “with immediate effect”.  More than 4,000 people signed the online petition, claiming the US presidential candidate is guilty of “unrepentant, persistent verbal attacks on various groups of people”.  A spokesman for Robert Gordon University said: “Mr Trump’s honorary degree was awarded in 2010. Business and entrepreneurship are key areas of focus for the university, and Mr Trump is recognised for these activities (including his investment in the North-East of Scotland).  This award was made prior to the appointment of RGU’s current Principal, Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, who is considering the position. “He is totally committed to equality of opportunity and to respect for different cultures, values which are an important part of RGU’s ethos.”  The petition takes issue with the university’s association with the business tycoon throughout his campaign.

Prospect of Constitutional Crisis As Holyrood and Westminster Prepare for War Over Union Laws
Scottish ministers are gearing up for a constitutional war with the UK Government over controversial plans to curtail trade union rights.  The London and Edinburgh administrations are at loggerheads over whether Holyrood should have the right to give consent to provisions set out in the Trade Union Bill, which is being pushed through by the Tories in Westminster.  SNP ministers believe that aspects of the proposed law, which has been condemned by opponents as an ideological attack on workers' rights, directly impact on devolved responsibilities, meaning the Scottish Parliament should have the right to block it north of the Border.  However, UK ministers say that it focuses on employment rights and industrial relations - reserved to Westminster under the devolution settlement - and have insisted they will press ahead regardless of opposition in Scotland.

It leaves the two administrations in an unprecedented constitutional stand-off, with the Scottish Government hoping that Scottish Parliament lawyers will back up its position and that presiding officer Tricia Marwick will support a legislative consent memorandum that it laid at Holyrood. The feud opens up the prospect of a constitutional crisis, which could see the Scottish Government refuse to enforce a law in an area that the UK Government insists it has sole control of if it is forced through.  The Trade Union Bill, currently making its way through the House of Lords and yet to receive final approval in the Commons, would introduce minimum turnouts in strike ballots, allow employers to use agency workers to replace striking staff and end the so-called check-off system for collecting union subs direct from a salary. Strike organisers would have to wear armbands to identify themselves on pickets.  At a Holyrood debate last month, only the Conservatives supported the measures outlined in the Bill. At Scottish Labour's conference last month, a motion calling for the Scottish Government to withhold consent was passed unanimously, with many delegates openly advocating acts of civil disobedience to oppose it. A series of councils have also voted to ignore the legislation if it is passed.  A senior UK Government source said he believed the Scottish Government's position was "more about politics than the law".  He added: "On the legal side, it's pretty straightforward. If the UK Parliament passes a law on Trade Unions it applies in Scotland. But the Scottish public may not be impressed by that law. Then you enter the a discussion over what they want to do about it." A UK Government spokesman said: "The Trade Union Bill relates to employment rights, duties and industrial relations, all of which are clearly reserved matters for the UK Parliament under the Scottish devolution settlement."

New Figures Show Scotland Continues to "Punch Above its Weight" in Contributing to UK Economy
Scotland continues to “punch above its weight” in terms of its economic contribution to the UK, the SNP leadership has insisted, following publication of the latest output figures for 2014. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that Scotland at £23,102 had, outside of London and the south east of England, the highest Gross Value Added (GVA) per head of population of any region or nation in the UK.  GVA is calculated by adding up the income generated by resident individuals or corporations in the production of goods and services. Stewart Hosie, the SNP’s deputy leader and economic spokesman, said: “Today’s ONS figures show, once again, that Scotland continues to punch above its weight in its contribution to the UK economy.  The strong showing for Scotland is testament to the successful economic policies of the SNP Government from crucial infrastructure investment to vital support for small businesses.  This has resulted in record numbers of registered businesses in Scotland, increased productivity, growing value of international exports, and record employment.”  London’s GVA per person was £42,666, the south east of England £27,012 while the south west was £22,324, the west Midlands £20,086 and the north east £18,216.  Wales had the lowest GVA per person at just £17,573, Northern Ireland’s was £18,682 and England’s was £25,367. The UK’s overall figure was £24,616.  In 2014, GVA per head of population increased in all regions with the highest annual growth in London at 5.3 per cent and the lowest annual growth in Northern Ireland at 1.9 per cent. Along with the East of England, Scotland had the highest growth per person at 4.2 per cent outside of the UK capital.

Archaeologists Find Bronze Age Settlement on Orkney
Archaeologists have been left “stunned” by their chance discovery of a massive Bronze Age settlement on a beach in Orkney.  A team led by the Archaeology Institute at the University of Highlands and Islands found what is believed to be 14 separate example of bronze age houses at Tressnes, Sanday on Monday, amid appalling weather conditions.  It is thought that the find represents one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Scotland.  Professor Jane Downes, of UHI, who specialises in the Bronze Age, said she was stunned by the extent of the settlement area, which could have been home to Orkney dwellers between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago. She added: “This must be one of the biggest complexes of Bronze Age settlement in the Scottish isles, rivalling the spreads of hut circles in other parts of mainland Scotland.”  Professor Downes arrived as Tressnes with a team of archaeologists from across the UK to examine an eroding stalled cairn on the point.  As the team examined the spread of remnats, a large number of stone mattocks - similar to pick axes, were discoverd with stone bars, hammerstones and stone flaked knives then emerging.  A spokesman for the Archaeology Institute at UHI added: “Closer examination revealed sections of stone walls and uprights, which were clearly part of a house structure.  As the group continued walking along the sand, one after another, a series of Bronze Age sites were discovered.” The settlement appears to have been sealed beneath the massive sanddunes that characterise the approach to Tresness and a number are eroding beneath the dune complex.  The spokesman added: “It was the scale and density of occupation that really surprised the archaeologists as they proceeded along the ness. Not only are house structures present but working areas are also visible.”  There have been several recent finds which point to Bronze Age life on Orkney,

Dounreay Fuel Shipped to Cumbria
Dounreay has confirmed its first batch of unused fuel from its Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR) has been successfully transported to Cumbria. The next phase of the programme to de-fuel Dounreay and transfer shipments to Sellafield is under way.  The cargo is the latest fuel to be removed from Dounreay as part of a programme that started in 2001.  The safe arrival of the first of the fuel from the PFR follows the successful completion earlier this year of the first phase of transports of breeder material from the Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR) to Sellafield.  The DFR closed in 1977 and the PFR in 1994.  Alex Anderson, DSRL’s director of operations for the transport, said: “Each fuel move requires a great deal of preparation and co-ordination across the industry, regulators, government and police.  I’m very grateful to everyone who played their part in delivering this first consignment safely and securely.”

Final Section of Flagship Aircraft Carrier Sets Sail for Rosyth
The final 750-tonne section of the Royal Navy's second flagship aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, has set sail for Rosyth.  Engineers described it as a "major milestone" and said the Aft Island left BAE Systems' shipyard in Glasgow for Fife ten weeks ahead of schedule.  The section will now sail 1,335 miles around the south of England and up to the east of Scotland on a barge to reach Rosyth.  HMS Prince of Wales is the second of the new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers to be built for the UK after the 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth.  They are the largest British warships ever constructed and can be used for a range of military activity from war fighting to providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief.  The ships have been constructed in blocks at yards across the UK and are being put together in Rosyth.  Iain Stevenson, Queen Elizabeth Class project director, said: "This is a proud day for our employees throughout the UK as well as our partners in the Aircraft Carrier Alliance.  To see the final section delivered to Rosyth, ahead of schedule and to an incredible standard of engineering, is testament to the dedication, skill and ingenuity of all those working on the programme."  Defence Procurement Minister Philip Dunne said: "Our aircraft carriers, the largest ships ever built in Scotland for the Royal Navy, will help to secure the UK's interests both at home and abroad.  Our new F-35 Lightning II aircraft will fly from the decks of HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2018."