Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 327

Issue # 327                                                 Week ending 19th December 2015

How Can We Ban That Donald Trump When He’s Just A Maw? By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

By the time you read this Major Tim Peake will probably have had his first kip on the International Space Station where he will be lodging for a few months. It is quite an undertaking being away from friends and family where up is not necessarily up and down is usually up as well as living in an airless atmosphere.

And there’s a lot of excitement down Perthshire way. Well, Tim’s wife Rebecca is from Comrie and it is so nice for people living in a particular area to have a real live connection with someone who is doing great things - things that are just out of this world. That could even be me as, but for a twist of fate, my wife could easily have been an astronaut because she knows her way around a vacuum.

These astronauts train hard and Tim spent a couple of weeks as an aquanaut in a research station under the sea. National Aeronautics and Space Administration says it is so they can get to used to life in a confined space and “the practicalities of doing what we all take for granted”. I think what NASA means by that is spending a penny and stuff like that.

Despite the science and technology they are immersed in, astronauts are a bit superstitious and follow bizarre rituals. They wet the wheel of the bus taking them to the rocket. It has been a tradition since Yuri Gagarin, the first man in outer space, did it. He was a nervous cove. Another tradition is astronauts have a breakfast of champagne before they go. That’s probably why we cannot have an international space programme in Scotland. Not with our breathalyser limits.

“Where are you going, sir?” “The launchpad at Great Bernera, thatsh where.” “What speed do you think you were doing?” “Dunno, mate. About 17,000 mph. Ish, give or take.” “Right, I’m taking you to the station.” “Excellent. I need to go to the International Shpace Shtation anyway because I left my fagsh there the last time. Lishten, lishten to me, you’re my besht pal ...”

Still, we Hebrideans have our own proud connections to people who are a bit out of this world. One is a multi-billionaire. He may be the next President of the United States. But as every wannabe townie who has a mother or father from outside the town of Stornoway knows full well, he is a maw. Even if he doesn’t actually know it himself yet, Donald Trump’s people are from the far side of a cattle grid.

That monicker was the only easy way to define who was what when, at the age of 11 or 12, they reached our esteemed seat of learning, The Nicolson Institute. If they were from the Stornoway sides of the cattle grids at Marybank, Laxdale, Plasterfield or, in the case of the Point road where any grid had long since been rattled to rust, Sticky’s Mill, they were townies.

Trump’s mum Mary Ann was from Tong, miles past Laxdale. Now Nicola Sturgeon and maybe Theresa May want to consider banning him from the UK. Is that really necessary? Tong people, particularly, have always needed a virtual entry visa to the town. Everyone knew they were loud and troublesome. We ignored them. It was ever thus.

Coincidentally, Tong may be one of the best place to have a sneak peek at Tim’s spacecraft, the Russian-built Soyuz TMA-19M, which he shares with two other fellow fliers. The rest of the country is likely to be swathed in cloud but a gap over Broad Bay is expected to widen to allow us to see it pass over en-route from Kazakhstan.

One veteran in Shawbost with a bit of an inferiority complex and a long memory is not so happy about it and says he has no intention of going out with his telescope to see if he can spot the rocket. It is all because he had enough of that kind of treatment when he did his national service. He snaps: “The last thing that I want is another posh Army officer type looking down on me.”

All this talk of Tim Peake up on the ISS has brought the subject of space travel very close to all our minds. On Saturday, I witnessed a terrible row in the supermarket between one of the fruit and veg staff and a young lady who seemed very surprised to see him there. She claimed that he had deceived her when he told her he was an astronaut. “Naw,” he said sheepishly, as he looked up from arranging the lettuces, “I just said I worked with rockets.”

Inquiry Into Future of Public Service TV Under Fire for Ignoring Scotland
The Future for Public Service Television inquiry indicated last month it would hold an event in Scotland to elicit opinion, after the SNP claimed it was "weighted heavily towards southern England". Scotland’s Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said the inquiry should immediately "take account of Scotland's views".  But nothing firm has so far been arranged leading to concerns that Scotland's voice will not be heard when the UK government produces its white paper on BBC charter renewal due in early 2016.  Last month in answer to criticism the inquiry team said they would be delighted to work with and take evidence from, amongst others, the Scottish Culture Secretary. However, Hyslop has still not been contacted.  The inquiry is led by Labour peer and former deputy chairman of Channel 4 and Oscar-winning film producer Lord Puttnam and a team of experts who appear to have little or no experience of Scottish media. It will run parallel to the debate around the future of the BBC.  BBC director general Tony Hall is looking to make savings to meet the £700m cost of free licence fees for the over-75s, taken on by the BBC after its latest funding settlement.  Submissions to the inquiry posted on the A Future for Public Service Television website, so far, have all been from English commentators.  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 inquiry team say they expect to hold between eight and ten events between now and June 2016.  Des Freedman, professor of media and communication studies at Goldsmiths, University of London who leads the inquiry alongside Lord Puttnam, said that although they plan to hold an event in Scotland, nothing has been arranged yet.  Freedman said: "We agreed at our last Advisory Committee meeting to organise an event that dealt specifically with the issue of television's relationship with all the nations of the UK.  We are still in discussions with potential hosts and have not yet set a date for such an event which we intend to hold in Scotland. We would not normally approach individuals - such as politicians and broadcasters - until we have had confirmation of hosts and venue but, as we have previously said, we would be delighted to work with a range of Scottish voices on relevant questions and will be contacting Fiona Hyslop as soon as we are in a position to inform her of the details of our event."  The Advisory Committee - accused of being too 'anglocentric' - was set up to provide guidance on how best to frame the remit of the inquiry, along with a separate Broadcast Panel said to be “composed of leading industry voices”.  Only one member – former executive chairman of the Edinburgh International TV Festival, Tim Hincks – appears to have worked north of the border.  Hyslop said she was concerned that inquiry leaders appear to think they have plenty of time to engage with Scotland.  "With the UK Government’s white paper due in early 2016 the inquiry must take account of Scotland’s view on BBC Charter Renewal now," she said. “Scotland is being under-served by the BBC and has the right to expect something truly radical from the charter review process.  The BBC receives £323 million licence fee income from Scotland but spends under £200 million on BBC Scotland, with only an estimated £35 million spent on indigenous TV production for Scotland. BBC Scotland must have control over a much more representative share of the licence fee collected in Scotland, which could see an additional £100m available for production in Scotland, supporting an estimated 1,500 jobs and contributing around £60 million to the Scottish economy.  “Through the Smith Commission, the Scottish Government has a formal role in the BBC Charter Renewal process for the first time and we are working hard to ensure all our stakeholders’ voices are heard.”

Seaweed Saviour of Scotland's 'Black Land'
Tossed up onto Scottish beaches by the tonne, seaweed is finding a place at the table thanks to the fashion for foraged food. But it could also play a vital role in returning acres of abandoned farmland in Scotland to production, according to new research. Ecologists from Scotland's Rural College and Edinburgh University have been studying some of the UK's remotest farming communities, the talamh dubh or "black land" crofts on the east coast of North Uist. Parallel ridges on hill sides on North Uist are remnants of old agricultural systems that the ecologists believe could be used to increase productivity on land that is now largely unused. And seaweed could prove a key ingredient in the process.  Crofting counties of the North West Highlands and Islands of Scotland make up 16 per cent of land in the UK.  Today, 375,000 people and five million sheep live there, yet the area imports 95 per cent of its food.  Between the 14th and 18th centuries, however, the area was home to over half a million people and was 90 per cent self-sufficient in food.  To find out how best to return some of this land to production, the researchers combined modern science with traditional detective work, collecting community memories and Gaelic words, and poring over historical documents and old photographs. According to lead author Dr Barbra Harvie of SRUC: “Most of this agricultural land has lain abandoned for more than 60 years and local knowledge of how to manage it is rapidly disappearing. By interviewing crofters, we are gleaning vital knowledge before it is lost forever.” The studies also involve some hard graft. She said: “After researching historical crop rotations we have replicated these in the field by hand-digging ridges and hauling seaweed from the coast.” Their results show that local and historical knowledge is vital for reinstating this kind of farming, that modern agricultural machinery cannot be used, and that seaweed is a useful and sustainable addition to the system. "We are looking at the science behind it," Dr Harvie said, "to try to explain why it's worth using again."  The agricultural system that used to be in operation in North Uist has fallen out of use with the land given over to sheep.  Re-using this abandoned land for agriculture could have major benefits in both agricultural and ecological terms, Ms Harvie believes.  She added: "The ecological impacts of recultivating abandoned croftland are minimal compared with the carbon footprint associated with importing food from the mainland. Returning even some of these abandoned croftlands to agriculture could help alleviate some of the issues of food security and a return to higher levels of self-sufficiency in these remote, less-favoured farming regions of the highlands and islands."  Seaweed has been gaining a reputation as something of a "superfood" in recent years, although it has been gathered for food in Scotland, Ireland and Wales for centuries and has been a food source in Asia from at least 600BC. It is renowned for its high protein content. But the ecologists also believe this natural resource so abundant on the British coast can also be hugely useful in crop cultivation. The ecologists from SRUC and Edinburgh University are now hoping to further their research by investigating what makes seaweed so good for the soil.

Scotrail Trains ‘Carrying Twice As Many Passengers As Seats’
Scotrail’s acute shortage of trains has been laid bare in off-icial figures which show that its busiest services carry more than twice as many passengers as there are seats.  The revelation comes as the operator is being stretched to the limit by having to switch carriages from other routes to run longer trains between Fife and Edinburgh because of the Forth Road Bridge closure. The dearth of trains means some commuters elsewhere in Scotland have had their rail service replaced with buses, while trains on other lines are running less frequently.  These include trains on the Falkirk Grahamston-Glasgow line being cancelled until January.  The rolling-stock crisis comes hard on the heels of the opening of the Borders Railway in September, whose popularity caused overcrowding that forced ScotRail to add carriages from elsewhere. Weary commuters will have to wait two years for the first of two new ScotRail train fleets to arrive, and it expects to get only seven more trains in the interim.  The 08:29 from Milngavie to Edinburgh is ScotRail’s busiest service, with 380 passengers crammed onto the 183-seat train between Westerton and Glasgow Queen Street.  However, the crush may now be even greater, because the figures were compiled nearly a year ago and passenger numbers are growing at around  3 per cent a year. ScotRail is carries 93 million passengers annually, with the total nearly doubling over the last two -decades.  The figures, provided by the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency under freedom of information laws, showed the busiest service in the east is the 07:09 from Dundee to Edinburgh, with the 272-seat train carrying 398 passengers between Inver-keithing and Edinburgh Haymarket.  In East Lothian, 266 people are jammed into a 198-seat train from Wallyford to Edinburgh, which starts in Prestonpans at 08:05.

Scots Family Get Engagement Ring Back After 43 Years
An engagement ring lost on a Scottish beach 43 years ago has been found by a metal detector 11 miles away and reunited with the daughter of the owner.  The engraved gold signet ring was found by treasure hunter George Taylor on a beach near his home in Carnoustie in Angus. Bearing only the inscription Russell and Kathleen 6/8/51, the 55-year-old fire training school technician set about trying to trace the rightful owners.  He launched a Facebook appeal with no success and was out of ideas until his friend Liz Neish used her genealogy skills to look for couples with the same name. After weeks of searching she found a couple, Russell and Kathleen Gordon, who had married a year after the date on the inscription and George managed to track down their daughter Alex Jones.  The 61-year-old remembered the day her dad lost the ring on a family day out at St Andrews beach in Fife and was amazed to hear it had turned up 11 miles away across the River Tay.  Ms Jones from Balmerino said that the 9 carat gold ring belonged to her father, Russell Gordon, from Pittenweem, and was bought to mark his engagement to his Irish sweetheart Kathleen Moore.  Her dad’s career as a Merchant Navy chief engineer took him away from home for long periods and she remembers the family outing when the ring was lost. Ms Jones’ parents have passed away, but with December being the anniversary of her dad’s death she said it was an emotional and astonishing surprise. She added: “It is in such good condition and after so many years it is just amazing that it has come back to us. We are really, really thrilled to have it back and it is just so kind of George to go to all the trouble to find us.”

Christmas – Scottish Facts
Festive facts in the spirit of the season put yourself to the test with this collection of weird and wonderful Scottish Christmas Facts. How many did you know?

1. Robert Louis Stevenson, gave someone a very unusual Christmas present – his birthday! Just three years before his death in 1894, Stevenson learned that the daughter of Henry Clay Ide, the US commissioner to Samoa and his personal friend, was upset with the timing of her own Christmas day birthday. He wrote to twelve-year-old Annie Ide enclosing a mock legal document that transferred his November 13 birthday to her. He said that he had no further use for it and he believed that she would make a much better day of it.

2. If you’re always leaving your festive shopping to the last minute, maybe you should move to the island of Foula in the Shetlands. Christmas here is celebrated two weeks after everyone else! The tiny community of around 30 people still adhere to the Julian calendar which was introduced by Julius Caesar in 46BC. Their Christmas is January 6 and their New Year, January 13.

3. Whilst the invention of Christmas cards is generally attributed to an Englishman John Calcott Horsely, who designed them in 1843, he was actually pipped to the Christmas post by Charles Drummond of Leith, who sent New Year greeting cards to people in 1841. They proved so popular that the notion of sending seasonal cards took off. The concept really blossomed with the invention of the adhesive stamp – another Scottish gift to the world, courtesy of James Chalmers of Dundee.

4. A man from Ayrshire had to be hospitalised after eating too many Brussels sprouts at Christmas in 2011. The traditional vegetable contain lots of vitamin K which promotes blood clotting. However, this counteracted the effect of anticoagulants the man was taking for a heart problem. Doctors were baffled at first but eventually realised that too many sprouts were to blame. Happily, the man’s condition stabilised after the diagnosis.

5. Andrew Carnegie the Scottish self-made steel tycoon and his multi millionaire friend, John D. Rockefeller sent each other joke Christmas presents. Rockefeller sent Carnegie a cheap cardboard waistcoat to make fun of his poor childhood. In return, Carnegie sent a fine whisky to Rockefeller, a devout Baptist and teetotal.

6. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations were the site of the Guinness World Record for the largest country dance. 1,914 people danced Strip The Willow at the ‘Night Afore Fiesta’ on 30 December 2000.

7. The steak pie became the national New Year’s dinner dish in Scotland because families were too busy to cook and bought big steak pies from their local butcher instead. Last year, bakers, Malcolm Allan made a record 200,000 pies just for Hogmanay. Stacked one on top of the other, they’d measure 1,237 times the height of the Kelpies!

8. Santa may come from the North Pole, but the world’s first department store Santa was a Scot. James Edgar was an Edinburgh-born emigrant who owned a department store in Massachusetts. He never forgot his own humble beginnings and every Saturday morning he would stand on the roof of the store and throw pennies to the local children. At Christmas 1890, he decided to dress up as Father Christmas and walk around his store handing out gifts. After his first appearance word soon spread and families would flock to see him, coming from as far away as New York. Demand was such that he had to hire another person to share the role with him. The following year hundreds of stores across America copied his idea and installed their own Santa.

9. Tina Sergbine from Fife can wrap a Christmas present in under a minute and she wraps well over a thousand during the festive period. Tina is an Amazon super-wrapper. She gets through 4-5 rolls of sticky tape every day. Unfortunately, she doesn’t do house calls.

14. In Dundee until the mid 1970s the traditional first foot gift was a herring wearing a dress! The fish could be bought at stalls in town and the fancier the frock, the better with many wearing crinolines or dressed as brides. The herring was then hung above the front door where it was meant to remain until the following year.

Donald Trump's Turnberry Golf Club 'Will No Longer Host Open' Amid Controversy Over Remarks
Turnberry is no longer believed to be under consideration for hosting The Open following a series of controversial remarks made by owner Donald Trump.  Golf's governing body, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, is understood to have privately decided the course is no longer eligible to host the tournament after the American billionaire's comments "about Muslims, Mexicans, Chinese and women, among others" received widespread condemnation.  Trump Turnberry has hosted the British Open four times and awarding it a fifth was rumoured to be only a formality.  The new chief executive of the R&A, Martin Slumbers, had been expected to endorse Turnberry as a venue for the 2020 Open.  But Mr Trump's comments believed to have caused a serious risk the competition could be boycotted by both sponsors and players should it be held at Turnberry.  More than 550,000 people have signed a government petition calling for Trump to be banned from the UK.  Since Trump’s controversial demand for Muslims to be temporarily banned from entering the US following an Islamic State inspired mass shooting in San Bernardino, he remains the Republican frontrunner in the race for the White House. But it is understood that the R&A was first alerted to Trump's contentious views in June when he described Mexican immigrants as "rapists."  One unnamed R&A member reportedly said: "Those who forecast worse would come, including warnings from our American cousins, have been proved correct."  But it is believed the R&A has not ruled out the possibility of Turnberry ever hosting the event again, though it appears it may not for as long as it is owned by Trump. The property tycoon bought the Turnberry resort in April last year from the subsidiary owned by the Dubai investment group chaired by Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum. It was renamed Trump Turnberry and a £200m upgrade was promised.

Trial Adjourned After Witness Refuses to Give Evidence Without A Veil
A Racial abuse trial has been halted after a key prosecution witness refused to give evidence unless she is allowed to wear a full face veil.  Richard Hynd's trial in which he is accused of threatening and making racially offensive remarks to two women near to Dunfermline Central Mosque and Islamic Street was due to begin yesterday.  However, the court was told that an 'essential' Crown witness, who is understood to be an Imam and wife of one of the alleged victims, would only take to the stand if she could wear the Niqab.  Mr Hynd's defence lawyer Alexander Flett said she was not prepared to remove the item of clothing to allow her to be identified by the court.  His 50-year-old client has pleaded not guilty to acting in racially aggravated manner towards Amanat Hussain Shah and Sayyeda Ruqaya on July 18 this year. It is alleged that Mr Hynd, of Woodmill Crescent, Dunfermline, shouted, swore and acted an aggressive manner, uttered threats and made racially offensive remarks.  Mr Flett added: “When asked if she was prepared to remove the veil for identification she said no.  “I’m not aware of a single case in the United Kingdom where a witness has been allowed to give evidence wearing a veil. This leaves the Crown in a difficulty and I’m not sure how the Crown can address that.” The solicitor said since being made aware of the situation he had been researching the topic via news reports on the internet. He reiterated that he believed there had not been a case in the UK where a witness had given evidence while wearing a veil.  Mr Flett said he appreciated that the court would need time to consider what could be a “volatile” issue.  Sheriff Craig McSherry said he found it “extremely hard to understand” why the matter had not been raised before the day of the trial.  Mr Flett cited a European Court of Human Rights finding that there was “no human right to be veiled at all times.”  He pointed that anyone wearing a veil would have to remove it at passport control or to have a photograph taken for a driving licence.  Depute fiscal Louise Ward confirmed the female witness in question was at court. She said she was viewed as an “essential” witness.  The sheriff said, “If that’s her position in order for the Crown to have evidence from her there would have to be decision from the court.”  “It’s a question of respecting the witness’ religious beliefs against the interests of justice and the interests of the accused Mr Hynd.”  The case was adjourned until February.

I’m struck dumb (quite a feat) at the arrogance of the lady in question.  In Scotland there is one law for all.  If she still refuses to obey the court, this is surely contempt of court. Wearing a burqa is not a religious edict and can be perceived as a defiant gesture and the wearer, contemptuous of what is considered acceptable in Western societies.  I am yet to see any convincing evidence that the teachings of the Qu’ran require women to cover their faces. It is a matter of cultural choice, rather than a religious imperative (such as the prohibition on eating pork products).  When women come to Court to testify in the Middle East, they are required to remove their face veils.  This topic is constantly dogged by innuendo and allegations of ethnic discrimination but just who is discriminating against whom or what and for what valid reason?

Alex Salmond Calls Donald Trump A 'Three-time Loser'.
They were once good friends as Alex Salmond backed US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's controversial £750 million golf course.  But the 'special relationship' between the keen golfers soured over plans for 11 wind turbines to be built off the Aberdeenshire coast, adjacent to the Trump International Golf Links at Menie.  The row has now reached a new low after the UK Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge to the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC).  Following the announcement, the former First Minister took delight in branding Trump a "three-time loser" after he had also lost legal actions previously in the Scottish courts.  The MP said Trump had damaged the economy north of the Border with his "unacceptable behaviour."   The course was approved by Mr Salmond's SNP Government in 2008, after a controversial public local inquiry. However, their relationship collapsed after ministers backed the project.  The Gordon MP added yesterday that the billionaire had "at best postponed and at worst jeopardised" a £200 million economic boost from the offshore project.  Mr Salmond attacked Mr Trump for failing to live up to promises on the economic benefits of the Aberdeenshire course and for denying Scotland the chance of hosting the Open Championship at his second Scottish course at Turnberry in South Ayrshire following controversial comments on Mexicans and Muslims during the US presidential race.  The MP said: "He has failed to meet the claims he made for the Menie estate golf complex.  He has created a fine golf course but it does not even have a permanent clubhouse at present, far less the claims of thousands of jobs and billions of investment.  He has submitted further plans this year but we are now seven years into the project with very slow progress.  By his unacceptable behaviour he has condemned Turnberry, one of the outstanding golf courses on the planet, and the scene of two of the greatest Open Championships since the war, to Open Championship oblivion.  There is no way the R&A will go near the Ayrshire course while Trump is in charge. As a result, Scotland stands to lose the £100 million economic return from a Turnberry Open. This delay in the offshore wind demonstrator is deeply damaging to Scotland's hopes of being on the cutting edge of that new technology."  The government ditched Mr Tump as a business ambassador last week. He was removed from the post with the Global Scot network after comments made during the presidential campaign suggesting the US should bar Muslims. He was also stripped of an honorary degree by Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.  Yesterday, Mr Trump came under further sustained fire from his rivals in the firth Republican Presidential TV debate in Las Vegas.  Former Florida governor Jeb Bush told him to stop trying to "insult" his "way to the presidency."  Meanwhile, Scotland's energy minister Fergus Ewing said he was pleased the court had "unanimously found in our favour" but the Trump Organisation deemed it an "extremely unfortunate" verdict and added it would "continue to fight" the proposal.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "Trump should now stop wasting everyone's time and give up."  WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: "This result is great news for Scotland and for all those interested in tackling climate change and creating jobs."  Patrick Harvie, joint leader of the Scottish Greens, said: "This crucial project has been delayed for too long by one rich climate change denier. This is the latest rejection for an irrational bully whose brand is increasingly toxic."

Cameron Could "Rip" Scotland Out of EU, Says SNP, As Merkel Kiboshes His Reform Plans
David Cameron could “rip” Scotland out of the European Union against its wishes, the SNP has warned.  It came as Germany’s Angela Merkel stymied the Prime Minister’s attempt to slap a four-year ban on migrants receiving in-work benefits ahead of today’s key Brussels summit. Hours before the last Prime Minister’s Questions of the year, Sir John Major, whose own party leadership was undermined by bitter internal rows over Europe, said “flirting with leaving” the EU was very dangerous and against the UK’s long-term interests.  He also stressed that so-called Brexit would mean a “high probability that Scotland would have another referendum and leave the United Kingdom”; this, argued the former PM, would leave the UK fractured and damaged. Sir John’s words were picked up at PMQs by Angus Robertson, the SNP leader at Westminster, who asked Mr Cameron if he would take the advice of one of his predecessors and stop “flirting” with Brexit.  The Prime Minister replied: “What I will be doing is getting the best deal for Britain; that is what we should be doing.  This Government was the first to cut the EU budget, the first to veto a treaty, the first to bring back substantial powers to Britain. We have a great record on Europe and we will get a good deal for the British people.”  Noting how a poll this week showed there was a strong majority in Scotland for staying in the EU – 46 per cent to 33 compared to 40/40 across the UK – Mr Robertson said Mr Cameron had failed to give any guarantees that Scotland would not be forced out of the EU by the rest of the UK.  “Does he have any idea of the consequences of taking Scotland out of the EU against the wishes of voters in Scotland?” asked the Moray MP.  The Tory leader, to cheers from his own side, declared: “This is a United Kingdom and this is a United Kingdom issue. Why is the right honourable gentleman so frightened of listening to the people and holding this historic referendum, passed through both Houses of Parliament in the past week? I say get a good deal for Britain and then trust the people.”  But later the SNP leader at Westminster added: “David Cameron said he would be heartbroken if the people of Scotland voted to become independent and begged Scots not to vote Yes. Yet we now have the very real possibility that Scotland might be ripped out of the EU against the wishes of the Scottish people, which flies in the face of the everything Scots heard from the No side during the Scottish Independence campaign."  Elsewhere, his colleague Alex Salmond, the former First Minister and now the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman, said Brexit would "certainly" amount to the kind of "change in material circumstances", which Nicola Sturgeon had suggested could provide the trigger for a second independence referendum. Mr Cameron will sit down with his 27 EU counterparts to have his first substantive political discussion focused entirely on his reform agenda over dinner.  UK Government sources described it as “an important moment”, noting how since the General Election in May there had been more than 100 meetings with EU counterparts involving the PM, Chancellor George Osborne and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.  While they insisted Mr Cameron “remains confident” he could get a deal on all four of his key aims, the most crucial – the proposal for a four-year ban on in-work benefits for EU migrants to Britain – was proving the most difficult.  Indeed, having been cold-shouldered on the issue recently in central Europe, the PM has received a potential fatal blow for his reforms after Mrs Merkel said, that while Germany wanted Britain to stay in the EU, she stressed: “We don't want to and we won't call into question the core principles of European integration. These include, in particular, the principle of free movement and the principle of non-discrimination between European citizens."

It's Party Time At Migdale
John Macdonald and his band from Rogart proved such a hit with the patients and staff at last year’s Christmas ceilidh at the Migdale Hospital in Bonar Bridge that preparations are afoot to repeat the performance.  Flyers have already been posted on the hospital’s two wards – Strathy and Kylesku – inviting patients, relatives, visitors and staff along to dance or sing along to the Rogart-based group.  The ceilidh will take place in the 10-bed Strathy dementia ward, but patients, their guests and staff on the similar-sized Kylesku GP ward can also enjoy the festive fun.  Senior charge nurse Debbie Sutherland said: “John Macdonald and his band played for us last year, and it went really well – so well, in fact, that we decided to ask them to come back and play for us again this year.”  In the run-up to the event, staff have been putting up Christmas decorations on the wards and patients are being encouraged to join in and help out if they can. Patients will also be able to choose their party clothes for the day. And I’ve already spoken to the cook about what refreshments and nibbles we could have,” said Debbie.  She added: “All the staff have said they are going to come in, even if it’s their day off. They get to wear their Christmas tops and jumpers, so it will be all relaxed and good fun, like last year.”  And the music won’t stop there. In addition, children from Bonar Bridge and Gledfield primary schools are being invited to sing for the patients in the run-up to Christmas.

Scottish Herring Fishing Industry Avoids Blow in Brussels Talks

Scotland’s £3million-plus herring industry escaped a severe blow at the end-of-year fishing talks in Brussels last night.  Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead – as part of the UK negotiating team – persuaded ministers from other EU member states and the European Commission not to follow scientists’ advice for a zero catch of the fish west of Scotland.  A total of 22 Scottish boats have west of Scotland herring quota, all working out of Fraserburgh, Peterhead or Lerwick.  Scotland’s allocation for this year totalled 10,000 tonnes, which was caught during August and September.A proposal to lump two separate herring fisheries into one would have meant no fishing at all for herring west of Scotland.  This was despite the stock in northern waters, where the north-east boats operate, being in good health.  While the value of Scotland’s herring catches is small by comparison to mackerel – worth £195million last year – Mr Lochhead said it was an important win for a fishing fleet that was once dominated by boats catching what became known as the “silver darlings”.  He added: “We have agreed to take further evidence from scientists in 2016… and rescued the concept of having a distinct TAC (total allowable catch). It means we have some breathing space to work on the quota.”  Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association chief executive Ian Gatt welcomed the move but said the herring fishers now faced a period of uncertainty until a decision on their quota.  Mr Gatt added: “The fishery is important to the fleet… and brings employment to the Scottish processing sector during the latter part of the summer.  Without this production there are no jobs for factory workers as there is no other ready source of replacement tonnage.  In our experience, when fisheries are closed it is extremely difficult to get them opened up again.”  A small number of sprat boats working out of Mallaig would not have been able to fish at all if ministers had signed up to a zero TAC for west coast herring.  They usually catch a small quantity of herring as by-catch alongside their target species.  Mallaig and North West Fishermen’s Association chief executive Tom Bryan-Brown said the herring threat, though averted, was “another example of how the legislation on zero (white-fish) discards could cause immense damage to fishing businesses that are prosecuting a sustainable and valuable fishery.”

New Social Enterprises Add £1.7 Billion to Scotland

Scotland is a world-leading nation when it comes to social enterprise, having a fairer and more inclusive way of doing business.  Over 200 new social enterprises are formed each year in Scotland, with over 5,000 currently in business. They provide over 112,400 jobs in Scotland and contribute approximately £1.7bn to the Scottish economy.  These statistics were unveiled by the first ever census of social enterprises, which has revealed that they are a thriving and growing business community.  Social Enterprise Scotland said it allowed them to have a clearer direction for the future, and a better indication of where to direct business support to make messages clearer when talking to the public, media and politicians.  60 per cent of these social enterprises have a woman as their most senior employee, with 68 per cent of them paying at least the Living Wage, if not more.  26 per cent of all social enterprises are found in Glasgow or Edinburgh, but surprisingly 22 per cent of them are located in the Highlands and Islands.  Fraser Kelly, chief executive, Social Enterprise Scotland: “2015 has been the year for moving forward with a vision and strategy for social enterprise for the next ten years. Key support organisations working in social enterprise have come together in partnership to develop a brand new vision, working with the census results, to focus minds and take us to the next stages.  As we look forward to 2016, we have a unique opportunity to raise our collective profile and influence the policies of the next Scottish Government.  As we look back over the achievements of the past year, it’s worth remembering that social enterprise is about creating a new type of economy and society that benefits us all. Social enterprises are not just about helping certain excluded groups in society, social enterprise is good for everyone.”  Rachael McCormack of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, speaking on behalf of the project steering group, said: “This excellent report confirms the scale and vital contribution of social enterprise to society and to the economy in the Highlands and Islands and to Scotland as a whole. Social enterprise is a business model that helps tackle social issues, promote equality and achieve sustainable economic growth. These are the reasons that we attach so much importance to social enterprise and are working with social entrepreneurs to strengthen leadership, innovation and the business dimension of their enterprises. Working together in this way will help achieve our shared ambition to grow the social enterprise community year on year.”  Alex Neil MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights, The Scottish Government, said: “Social enterprises are making a real difference to the lives of people in our communities and have a major role to play in our drive for social justice. This census shows they are embracing the principles of fairness and equality with more than two thirds of social enterprises paying at least the living wage and with women taking on senior positions in 60 per cent of these organisations. We look forward to working with the sector in the period ahead.”

Welcome to Decision on Lews Castle Development

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has welcomed the decision of the Court of Session on a judicial review into the tendering of the hospitality contract for the Lews Castle Development in the Outer Hebrides.  Lord Tyre accepted the Comhairle’s case that the claim against the tendering award had not been made timeously and has dismissed the claim by Kenman Holdings at the first stage. Kenmans did not submit a tender for the contract.  Cllr Angus Campbell, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Chair of the Lews Castle Project Board, said: “The restoration and development of Lews Castle is hugely popular and will provide a major economic boost for the islands when the museum and the luxury hospitality development opens next year.”