Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 330

Issue # 330                                                 Week ending 9th  January 2016

Maybe You Can Improve Any Song with An Islay Sound by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

One of the nicer things about New Year is having someone give you something that you didn’t expect. Just a taste of something new. At this time of year, we sometimes wake up with that annoying ailment known as pringlemouth but when you are in and out of people’s houses some kind person will have an unusual tot of something new for you to get rid of it.

It may be something like an Irish whiskey that a neighbour has put aside or someone may rustle up a cocktail that seems to be the most refreshing thing you’ve ever tasted until your legs go weak. A few hogmanays ago, someone thought I should try something called Long Island Ice Tea.

I live in the Long Island of Lewis and Harris. I like ice. I love tea. This, I thought, would be the ideal alternatives to boring old Tetley’s. I’ll have two - no sugar or milk, please. Hmm, tea in a tall glass. This is gonna be great. Slurp, slurp. Burp.

Long Island Ice Tea is not tea at all but five types of strong spirits with lemon juice and a syrup. Boy, is it strong. A few sips were enough to make me sing songs with made-up words that just flowed into my head. Did yon Bob Dylan really sing: “The ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind ...”

This year I was offered a wee Caol Ila after the bells. To say this 12-year-old malt is peaty is not enough. If you can imagine being up to your waist in a peat bog while gently licking the wet tairsgear that had just been used to cut a slab of winter fuel, you get some idea how peaty it is. It was divine. It was warming. It was diluted peat.

I have never actually licked a peat iron but after a couple of tots of the dram named after the Sound of Islay, I decided to make a sound myself joining in with Skipinnish on BBC Alba’s Hogmanay show. I thought my words to Balaich an Iasgaich were much better after I had a few sips.

Maybe Prince Charles had a wee Caol Ila before he sang The Bonnie Lass o’ Fyvie. It was on that TV show on Monday where Ant and Dec were following him around because they need something to do between introducing dogs that win talent shows and watching people eating bugs in a jungle. HRH took pity on them and let them follow him around. He set up the Prince’s Trust to help such rascals.

McPartlin and Donnelly are getting on a bit now but the pair were very informal because previous interviewers have been so deferential it turned people right off. They took the mickey wondering how they would address him and asked in a shop he was visiting if they had a future king size bed. Later on, they and their missuses had a bit of a noisy sesh on the free champagne just across the corridor from HRH when they all stayed over at the prince’s wee but and ben, Dumfries House.

No one expected the prince to burst into song but when he was gently tutored to sing along to The Bonnie Lass o’ Fyvie, he not just mouthed the words silently in case they are not right, as everyone does at the Royal National Mod for instance, but he could be heard singing.

There’s many a bonnie Jean in the streets of Aiberdeen
But the floower o’ them aw lives in Fyvie-o

The Duke of Rothesay, as he is in these parts, did not pronounce Aberdeen like a newsreader does. Nor did he say “the flower of them all” in his best received pronounciation either. And he stuck the mandatory O onto the end of Fyvie. It all sounded as if there had been previous shindigs at Dumfries House, or maybe Balmoral, where he had let down his hair and given it laldy. He could be fae Kincorth. I could have sworn I heard him mutter: “Fit like yasel, quine.”

If HRH had a drop, it was just enough. If one has too much, all the good is undone. On the other hand, when you have some left over after the festivities, it is while the weather is still cold that you should put it to good use. It is very cold here now. I need to take a break to warm up. I’ll finish this column when I have warmed up.

ah, tat is beter. have yoo notised tat the censumpshen of to mucch Whiski can mack you tink yoo kan tipe reely goood.

Christmas Decorations: When to Take Them Down and What is Twelfth Night?

They're a central part of the festive season's celebrations, but there's a lifespan for decorations and it's coming to an end.  In the run-up to Christmas Eve, there's nothing more handsome than the proud Christmas tree in the corner of your room, festooned with twinkly lights.  But now we’re back to work and school, the sagging branches are looking a bit sad, admit it.  It’s probably lost most of its needles and is more of an annoyance, taking up space rather than brightening up the room.  You may have already taken it down, but the tradition, since Victorian times, is to remove decorations on Twelfth Night.  When is Twelfth Night? Depending on which faith you follow it's either January 5 or January 6, and the last day you should keep festive decorations up.  A day sooner or later is considered unlucky, and if not removed on Twelfth Night then they should stay up all year.  Until the 19th century though, people would keep their decorations up until Candlemas Day on February 2.  Why is it unlucky?  January 5 is observed as the last day of Christmas festivities - the eve of the Epiphany.  In the past it was believed that tree-spirits lived in the greenery – such as holly and ivy – that people used to decorate their homes.  While the festive season provided shelter for these spirits during the winter, they needed to be released outside once Christmas was over.  If this custom wasn’t followed, greenery would not return and vegetation would not grow as a result, causing agricultural problems.  Even though Christmas decorations are now less about foliage and more about baubles and tinsel, many people still adhere to the superstition.  Do all countries follow this tradition?  No, as there is disagreement as to whether January 5 or January 6 is actually Twelfth Night, but January 6 is the day of the Epiphany.  This is the Christian tradition that tells us Jesus was born on December 25, but the Magi didn’t actually arrive in Bethlehem with his presents until January 6.  Christmas tradition used to tell children that if you took down your decorations before January 6, the wise men might not be able to find their way - as Christmas lights represent the Star of Bethlehem.  A number of countries in Europe follow the January 6 tradition, including the Germans, Poles and Czechs.

'Imperial' BBC is 'Treating Scotland Like A Colony' From London
The BBC has been accused of behaving like an imperial power and treating Scotland "like a colony" ahead of a showdown between MSPs and the corporation's director general. Industry representatives and academics yesterday called for an increasingly federal structure at the corporation in evidence to MSPs.  It would see more power over spending licence payers' fees and commissioning devolved to BBC Scotland, which would then produce more content specifically for Scottish viewers.  John Archer, a former Head of Music and Arts at BBC Scotland, launched an outspoken attack on the way the corporation is run, comparing its position north of the border to a colony of the British Empire in the 1940s.  The owner of Hopscotch Films, who was representing Independent Producers Scotland, told the Scottish Parliament's culture committee: "Essentially in Scotland for broadcast production we are chronically underdeveloped. We are subject to the imperial power of London, we are a colony and we're in the position Churchill was after the Second World War when he said we can't let the colonies rule themselves, we have to control them.  We deserve better. I don't think the BBC in London get the new Scotland. I think we need a radical change and shift in emphasis. I don't think we need any quick fixes, we need something that is bold. We need the equivalent - or better - of the Scottish Parliament in Westminster, we need some freedom.  The money raised in Scotland should be spent from Scotland, Scotland should decide what is made here. Money gives power in broadcasting and the ability to say yes is all important. Nobody at BBC Scotland can say yes to a network production. That's just terrible, we deserve better and we should imagine better for Scotland."  The committee is examining charter renewal of the BBC, and follows tensions between the body and the SNP over its coverage of the independence referendum. Thousands of protestors marched on its headquarters in Glasgow days before the vote following allegations of bias, while a row between Alex Salmond and former BBC political editor Nick Robinson has rumbled on.  Nicola Sturgeon and the culture secretary, Fiona Hyslop, are pushing for the BBC to decentralise decision making and budgets to Scotland, with the SNP favouring new TV and radio channels dedicated to Scottish content.

Comment
Not only is there a huge problem with the BBC. There is also a problem with BBC Scotland. But one of the problems with BBC Scotland is it genuinely has no control over what it does. Get some major event in Scotland like the Referendum, the Commonwealth Games, and BBC London "parachutes in" its own luvvies to cover the event, because clearly the BBC Scotland lot aren't competent to tie their own shoelaces, let alone cover Scottish events.  So you get these people who don't know their Peebles from their Penicuik, their Leith from their Lake of Menteith, their Strathaven from their Stra'ven, their Milngavie from their Monmouth.. Their ignorance of the natives of this wasteland far north of Watford is paramount and, indeed, in High Definition. Federalise the BBC and give BBC Scotland absolute control over its budget, its programs, its coverage, its editorial policies, and it instantly removes half the reason the SNP will, quite rightly, whinge and moan and complain about the biassed useless BBC.  There you go at a stroke, half the reason for the dreadful appalling Nationalists and cybernats moaning and groaning, will be removed. Everyone's a winner! Including Scotland as a whole.

"People Can Buy A Carving Knife in Tesco But A Sgian Dubh Online is Unacceptable..
A former Loch Ness tour guide has accused internet giants eBay of discriminating against Scotland after they suspended his account for selling sgian dubhs.  Tony Harmsworth decided to sell four kilts, jackets and associated Highland dress accessories after losing 40lbs and finding they no longer fit him.  Bids on the online auction site were in the hundreds of pounds when he was emailed to say his account had been suspended and threatened with closure for trying to sell what was deemed a dangerous weapon.  “People can go out and buy a carving knife in Tesco but a sgian dubh on eBay is deemed to be dangerous,” said Mr Harmsworth.  “You can also buy these Japanese samurai swords on eBay, they are razor sharp and huge. It’s such discrimination against Scotland.  I argued with them and managed to get my account back to sell the kilts but now I’m left with six of these beautiful things in a drawer.  People abroad want them but I can’t sell them.”  Sgian dubh is Gaelic for black knife and the blade was originally used for eating and preparing fruit, meat and cutting bread and cheese.  It is now worn as part of traditional Scottish dress tucked into the top of the kilt hose with only the upper portion visible.  Mr Harmsworth was brought up in England but has lived in Drumnadrochit for many years.  He co-founded the Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Centre and later ran two award-winning guided tour businesses, Secret of the Loch and Discover Loch Ness.  Now retired, he has most recently turned his attention to writing a book outlining a comprehensive history of the loch called Loch Ness Understood. “I don’t think it should be considered a weapon,” he added. “It has a small blade but it is not what you would call sharp.”  The sgian dubh is legal to carry in Scotland when worn as part of traditional dress.  Knife laws changed in 2009 stipulating that any blades longer than 3.5 inches must be licensed as they are considered offensive weapons. Sgian dubhs generally, including the ones Mr Harmsworth tried to sell, are this length or less.  The new law was introduced to clamp down on knife and concealed weapon culture but the tradition of carrying a sgian dubh in the top of the sock was started as a courtesy to reveal a concealed weapon. Inverness kiltmaker Duncan Chisholm, who runs Chisholm’s Highland Dress in Castle Street and has been involved with the family business for more than 55 years, said he disagreed with eBay’s stance but was not surprised.  “It seems to be the way things are going,” he said.  “I can see the reasoning. They are being careful because they maybe are not aware of the tradition However, personally, I feel my kilt outfit is incomplete if I don’t have the sgian dubh.  The good ones cost around £200 or £300 and tend to be passed down so it’s not usually the thing people want to just pick up or sell on.”  The online auction website did not respond to requests for comment. An investigation by a national newspaper last month found that a number of dangerous weapons including stun guns, pepper spray shooters and bladed knuckledusters were being sold on Amazon.co.uk disguised as other items.

Small Isles of Scotland: A Short History of Rum, Muck, Canna and Eigg

Known as the Small Isles due to the name of their parish, these four islands lie in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland.  Muck, Eigg, Rum and Canna each boast their own rich history and are often named as some of the most beautiful parts of the country to visit.
Muck
Muck is the smallest of four main islands in the Small Isles and part of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Although boasting some of the most beautiful beaches Scotland has to offer, Muck can also take a real battering from gales blowing in from the Atlantic. The history of the small island has its ups and downs.  In 1588 when a Spanish galleon was wrecked in Tobermory Bay, encouraged by the Campbells, Sir Lachlan Maclean of Mull employed Spanish sailers and mercenaries that survived and let them loose on islands belonging to the MacDonalds. Muck was burned, pillaged and destroyed.  But by In 1773, when Samuel Johnson and James Boswell passed by the islands it was enjoying a prosperous time in its history, which Johnson narrated in his book A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland. He wrote at the time: This little Island, however it be named, is of considerable value. It is two English miles long, and three quarters of a mile broad, and consequently contains only nine hundred and sixty English acres. It is chiefly arable. Half of this little dominion the Laird retains in his own hand, and on the other half, live one hundred and sixty persons, who pay their rent by exported corn. What rent they pay, we were not told, and could not decently inquire. The proportion of the people to the land is such, as the most fertile countries do not commonly maintain.  Unfortunately for the island, its riches soon came to an end, when in 1828 the kelp market collapsed and 150 islanders were shipped off to Nova Scotia during the clearances in Scotland.  The island was then purchased by Captain Thomas Swinburne RN, who started a fishing industry, as well as renting land for sheep farming. Purchased by the MacEwans in 1896. The family is still the principle owners.  Electricity in the island is provided by two wind-powered generators installed in 2000 and schoolchildren from the island were taught in a corrugated iron shed until 1992, when the Highland Council agreed to fund a new school.  Over 80 species of sea birds nest on Muck.
Eigg
Until the 16th century, Eigg was called Eilean Nimban More - island of the powerful women.The island was part of the Norse empire, but seized by the MacDonalds. Robert the Bruce granted official title to MacDonald of Clanranauld in 1309.  The winter of 1577 is known as one of the most brutal in the islands history, if stories are to be believed. A fight broke out between rivals the MacDonalds and MacLeods resulting in nearly 400 MacDonalds hiding out St Francis Cave. The MacLeods, who were from the Isle of Skye, eventually tried to smoke them out using brushwood fire and every MacDonald is said to have suffocated and died. The cave is still known to locals as ‘Massacre Cave’.  Later in its history, the MacDonalds of Eigg supported the Catholic Jacobites in the 1745 rebellion.  The islanders sold Eigg to Dr Hugh MacPherson in 1829 and were victim to minor clearances.  Scottish writer Hugh Miller visited the island in the 1840s and wrote in his book The Cruise of the Betsey published in 1858, the islanders of Eigg as “an active, middle-sized race, with well-developed heads, acute intellects, and singularly warm feelings”.He described seeing the bones of adults and children in family groups with the charred remains of their straw mattresses and small household objects still in Massacre Cave.  Sir Walter Scott was so disgusted to hear that skulls and bones of the dead were still stacked there, that he started a fund for a Christian burial, which resulted in their removal.  In 1975, Keith Schellenberg, a Yorkshire farmer and sportsman and his wife bought Eigg for £265,000. Following their divorce the islands was put up for sale and Shellenberg re-bought the land for just under £1million. He sold it on to a German artist in 1995.  It was purchased by the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust in 1997. Eigg now generates virtually 100 per cent of its electricity using renewable energy and boasts around 130 species of bird annually. The island has breeding populations of various raptors including golden eagles, buzzards and long-eared owls.
Rum
Rum is the largest of the Small Isles, and the 15th largest Scottish island.  Despite being inhabited by only about thirty or so people, Rum was one of the earliest places of human settlement in Scotland.  Rum passed from the Norwegian to the Scottish crown in 1266 and was attacked and plundered by Sir Lachlan MacLean and his mercenaries in 1588 and 1695 and became part of the Macleans of Coll in 1695. Throughout the 12th and 13th centuries, the islands was owned by many Scottish clans.  James Boswell and Samuel Johnson met with MacLean of Coll at Talisker on Skye during their 1773 excursion to the Hebrides. Boswell reported that: After dinner he and I walked to the top of Prieshwell, a very high rocky hill, from whence there is a view of Barra, the Long Island, Bernera, the Loch of Dunvegan, part of Rùm, part of Rasay, and a vast deal of the Isle of Skye. Col, though he had come into Skye with an intention to be at Dunvegan, and pass a considerable time in the island, most politely resolved first to conduct us to Mull, and then to return to Skye. This was a very fortunate circumstance; for he planned an expedition for us of more variety than merely going to Mull. He proposed we should see the islands of Egg, Muck, Col, and Tyr-yi. In all these islands he could shew us every thing worth seeing.  In a dark period of the island’s history, the beginning of the 19th century saw extreme poverty and overcrowding on Rum, which resulted in over 300 islands being cleared and out and ‘persuaded’ to move to Canada and America between 1826 and 1828 - leaving only 50 islanders behind.  By 1831 the population had risen to 134 thanks to the introduction of sheep farming and in 1845 owner McLean sold the island to the Marquis of Salisbury. For much of the 20th century the name became Rhum, a spelling invented by the former owner, Sir George Bullough, because he did not relish the idea of having the title “Laird of Rum  Its economy is now entirely dependent on Scottish Natural Heritage, a public body that manages the island.
Canna
Tiny Canna currently has a population of just 12 and is the most westernly of all the Small Isles. It is owned by the National Trust for Scotland.  The islands became part of the Kingdom of Scotland in 1266 under the Treaty of Perth and power was passed to the Macdonalds of Clanranauld. Like other Small Isles Canna was victim to the destruction by Sir Lachlan Maclean’s mercenaries in 1588.  In the aftermath of the Jacobite Rising of 1745 a Royal Navy vessel arrived and the crew demanded 20 cows from the islanders,  Canna was sold to Donald McNeil in 1827 and several clearances followed his death in 1848.  The post-clearance population is recorded as 57 in 1881. Since 1981, the island has been run by the National Trust for Scotland. There is virtually no crime on Canna, but the island suffered its first robbery in more than 50 years in July 2015 when sweets and woollen hats were taken from the community shop and no money left in its honesty box.

Donald Trump Threatens to Withdraw £700m Scots Investment
Donald Trump has warned he will withdraw £700 million of investment in his championship golf courses in Scotland if he is banned from the United Kingdom.  The US presidential hopeful threatened to end his plans to pour more than £200m into the Turnberry resort in South Ayrshire and £500m into the Trump International Golf Links outside Aberdeen.  Mr Trump was reacting to an online document signed by more than 500,000 people calling for the billionaire businessman to be outlawed from coming to the UK.  The petition was set up after Mr Trump said there should be a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims coming to America, a remark which received widespread condemnation.  Later this month MPs will debate the petition, which notes that Britain has “banned entry to many individuals for hate speech” in the past.  A statement released by the businessman’s New York-based company said: “The Trump Organisation has plans to invest more than £200m into the development of the iconic Trump Turnberry resort, located in South Ayrshire, Scotland.  Our work there has been widely supported by the local community and created hundreds of jobs for the region.  Over the coming years, we intend to further develop Trump Turnberry and invest millions more at the site, creating sustained economic growth for South Ayrshire and Scotland.  Additionally, we have plans to invest £500m towards further development at the 1,400-acre Trump International Golf Links, Aberdeen, which has been consistently rated the best Modern Golf Course in Great Britain and Ireland by the prestigious Golfweek magazine and many others in the global golf community. Any action to restrict travel would force the Trump Organisation to immediately end these and all future investments we are currently contemplating in the United Kingdom.  Westminster would create a dangerous precedent and send a terrible message to the world that the United Kingdom opposes free speech and has no interest in attracting inward investment.  This would also alienate the many millions of United States citizens who wholeheartedly support Mr Trump and have made him the forerunner by far in the 2016 presidential election. Many people now agree with Mr Trump that there is a serious problem that must be resolved. This can only be achieved if we are willing to discuss these tough issues openly and honestly”.  Trump’s statement urged people to sign a counter petition entitled Don’t Ban Donald Trump from the UK, which last night had just under 40,000 signatures. The counter petition will be debated with the original by MPs on 18 January.  Mr Trump’s views have already seen him stripped of his Robert Gordon University honorary degree and Nicola Sturgeon withdrew the tycoon’s membership of the GlobalScot network.  His views on Muslims entering America have made it increasingly unlikely that the Open Championship will return to Turnberry while he remains the owner of the famous seaside course.  Last night a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Mr Trump’s recent remarks have shown that he is no longer fit to be a business ambassador for Scotland and the First Minister has decided his membership of the respected Global-Scot business network should be withdrawn with immediate effect.”

What is ’Little Christmas’ and Why Do Some Highlanders Celebrate It?
January 6 is widely known as the Feast of the Epiphany - but it’s also known as Little Christmas, or Là Challuinn in Gaelic.  Under the Julian Calendar, Christmas Day was celebrated on January 6.  The feast day is celebrated on December 25 under the Gregorian Calendar in use today. But the eastern tradition of celebrating the birth of Christ on January 6 can be traced back prior to the creation of the Gregorian Calendar by hundreds of years.  By 1500AD, eastern churches celebrated Christmas on January 6 while their western counterparts chose December 25 - even though the Julian Calendar was being used by both.  Traditionally the end of the Christmas season, January 6 was, until the year 2013, the last day of Christmas holidays for schools in Ireland.
Là Challuinn
In the Scottish Highlands, the name Little Christmas, or Nollaig Bheag in Gaelic, is applied to New Year’s Day - which is also known as Là Challuinn, or Là na Bliadhna Ùire.  The Epiphany is known as the Feast-Day of Kings (Là Féill nan Rìgh).  But the Transalpine Redemptorists, who lived on Papa Stronsay in Orkney, celebrated Little Christmas on the twenty-fifth day of every month, apart from December 25, which is celebrated as Christmas Day.  Some Scottish Highlanders still observe the traditional celebration to this day.  The day is also referred to as Women’s Christmas, or Women’s Little Christmas, in Ireland, particularly in Cork and Kerry.It is so-called for the tradition of Irish men taking on the household duties for the day, while women hold parties or go out with friends and female relatives to celebrate the occasion.

Black Pudding Gains ‘Superfood’ Status
Once the centrepiece of a hearty breakfast for the hardworking crofter and disparaged as part of the unhealthy fry-up the health benefits of Stornoway’s black pudding were often ignored. But in 2016 it has finally found its place amongst the superfoods of quinoa, kale and black beans as the newest addition to a balanced, healthy diet.  Clean eating of natural foods has been hailed as the way forward for all of us and processed food often gets a bad press, but the humble black pudding has bucked this thinking, with its benefits such as filling protein, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron which is needed to make healthy blood cells, it is expected to become increasingly popular in 2016 amongst health conscious foodies.  The news can only be good for the Islands’ Stornoway black pudding producers and the town’s Charles Macleod Butchers has reported it has seen postal demand for its famous delicacy increase substantially over the last few days, perhaps due to this new superfood tag. Lorna Maclennan, director of the butchers’ shop in Stornoway, said: “We have had a surge in the number of people ordering their black puddings direct, January is usually quiet, but we have had 100 orders with more coming in all the time.” Yet Lorna revealed that the growth of the product has been an ongoing since black pudding achieved European protected status in 2013, following a campaign by four island butchers.This protection means that the black pudding can only be described as from Stornoway if it is made in the town. Lorna revealed:“It’s been an ongoing trend since it got PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status, as people know it is a good quality product, she added: “It’s been a staple on the kitchen table throughout the Hebrides for many years, it’s now good to see its benefits being recognised.”  The shop supplies to all over the country including London and Sheffield.  In fact such is demand that the business is in the process of expanding to create a stand alone factory due to be complete within the next few months.

A New Malt is Born in Harris
The Isle of Harris distillery – Scotland’s newest whisky distillery – is bringing in the New Year by celebrating the filling of its first casks with Scotland’s newest single malt.  The first production of The Hearach single malt flowed from the distillery’s copper stills just before Christmas and the 561 litres produced have now been filled into casks 1, 2 and 3 of what is sure to become a very long line.  The Isle of Harris distillery based in Tarbert only opened its doors on September 24 and since when the team has been working hard to prepare its first whisky production.  Just eight years and two weeks after he founded Isle of Harris Distillers Ltd, Anderson ‘Burr’ Bakewell, Chairman and Founder, turned up the steam to the stills and the first raw spirit was born.  Now that ‘new make spirit’ has been filled into the first casks, they will lie in the distillery’s warehouse for years of quiet maturation, in what is a hugely significant milestone for the company.  “We opened the distillery in late September with what was really a family affair for the whole of the people of Harris including the biggest ceilidh the island has ever seen and now we have even more to celebrate with the production of our first spirit,” said Simon Erlanger, Managing Director.  After a well-earned rest over the festive period, production manager Kenny Maclean and the distillery team – known locally as the Tarbert Ten – will work to adjust their methods to ensure the ‘new make spirit’ has the character the Company is looking for.  This period of ‘spirit optimisation’ will continue until the distillery’s Nosing Panel, half of whom are local volunteers, is satisfied that the ‘new make’ has the potential to turn into a great malt.  Then, the distillery team will fill the first run of 200 casks which have already been bought by private individuals, each one with a story to tell, each owner connected in a special way to the Isle of Harris.  Many of those first 200 casks have been purchased by islanders and will be part of the island’s own story.  This first batch of The Hearach will now sleep in its BuffaloTrace bourbon barrels through many years, permeated by the elemental Harris climate, to develop into what it is anticipated will be a fine malt of character and distinction. But what The Hearach’s final character will ultimately be is in the hands of the gods – the extraordinary reality of creating a new whisky is that no one can absolutely say what it will be like until the period of maturation is over.  There may be some hints, though. Anderson Bakewell was the first to ‘nose’ the new whisky as it emerged from the still.  And his verdict?   “Rather good! Both fruity and floral, peardrops and gentle peat smoke, sweet and a little oily.”

20mph Speed Limit Gets Green Light for Edinburgh
Controversial plans to impose a 20mph speed limit across most of the Capital will be rolled out from this summer after only 54 objections were lodged.  Around 80 % of Edinburgh’s roads are set to be affected by the scheme, which won backing from councillors last year.  City chiefs have revealed phase one of the project – which will cover the city centre from Queen Street to the Meadows – will be brought into play from July.  The initial proposals were met with a groundswell of opposition when they were announced last year, with more than 6000 people liking the Say No to 20mph page on Facebook and upwards of 2700 signing a petition calling for the decision to be reversed.  But despite this early backlash, the council’s citywide consultation on the issue, made public, received only 86 responses. Of these, 54 were objections – with only 27 indicating they supported the plans.  Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader, said: “Introducing 20mph in residential streets, shopping areas and the city centre will undoubtedly improve safety and that a relatively low number of people objected during the formal consultation demonstrates the public’s acceptance of and, indeed, support for, 20mph limits.” Edinburgh’s 20mph roll-out is the first of its kind in Scotland and will be implemented in six phases over 24 months, with the entire city set to be covered by February 2018.

New Police Scotland Chief Phil Gormley Sworn in
The new head of Police Scotland has been officially sworn in, praising what has been achieved at the force but insisting there is “still more to be done”.  Phil Gormley, former deputy director of the National Crime Agency, has taken over as chief constable from Sir Stephen House, who stood down at the end of November after three years in the job.  Following a ceremony at Tulliallan police college.  The appointment was made on the recommendation of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and was approved by Scottish ministers.  Over the course of his 30-year career, Mr Gormley has been deputy chief constable of West Midlands Police and a Metropolitan Police commander. He was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in 2012.  Sir Stephen, who oversaw the merging of eight forces to create Police Scotland, stepped down at the start of December amid criticism over a number of high-profile issues including stop-and-search and the force’s handling of the M9 crash near Stirling last July that left two people dead after officers took three days to respond.

Glasgow Secondary Named As One of the Top State Schools in the Country by Society Magazine Tatler

Society magazine Tatler has featured two Scottish secondaries among its list of the top 20 state schools in the country.  The magazine has named Jordanhill, in the west end of Glasgow, and Broughton High School, in Edinburgh, in the rankings for the first time.  Jordanhill, which has one of the most affluent catchment areas in the country, is Scotland's only state-funded self-governing secondary school and regularly tops the school league tables.  Broughton High School, in north Edinburgh, is home to the City of Edinburgh Music School and the SFA Football Performance school.  Edinburgh councillor Paul Godzik, said: “Broughton High School is a fantastic school with first class facilities, especially with regards to music, dance and sport. For one one of our schools to be recognised in this way once again demonstrates the high quality of education being provided by the City of Edinburgh Council across the capital."  Tatler, which is more usually associated with features on society parties, luxury holidays and top restaurants, publishes its state school guide for the third year.  Previous Scottish entries have included James Gillespie's School, in Edinburgh.

Probe Launched After Laser Pen Shone At Passenger Plane Approaching Airport
A green laser pen was pointed at a plane coming in to land at an airport, prompting a warning from police about the dangers of such incidents. Officers received a report about a laser having been shone at a passenger plane as it approached Inverness Airport at around 5.30pm.  The laser shone at the aircraft, which had departed from Stornoway, is thought to have come from the Inverness area.  Police Scotland said in a statement today: "The use of a laser pen in this manner is extremely reckless and such use could have catastrophic consequences for the person distracted - who in this case, was the pilot of an aircraft - in addition to passengers and the general public. We would urge people in possession of these type of devices not to misuse them in this manner and remind people that matters such as this are taken very seriously by both Police Scotland and the Scottish Courts."

A History of Scottish Words: Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a city of contrasts and differences, and that extends to the dialect of its residents. Just as the Old and New Towns radically differ in style, so do the accents and vocabularies of the city’s residents.  In upper-crust areas such as Stockbridge and Morningside, residents pride themselves on their flawless diction and restrained vocabulary. While the more refined areas of Edinburgh channel the spirit of Miss Jean Brodie, it’s the likes of Leith and Tollcross that offer the more interesting slang.  Leith in particular is a hotbed for interesting words and phrases, with the work of Irvine Welsh key in bringing the area’s language to the fore.  The likes of Trainspotting and Filth are written almost entirely in Welsh’s Leith dialect, with some exciting and interesting turns of phrase used along the way.  Many Edinburgh words have their origins in the Roma language, traditionally spoken by travelling people in southern Scotland.  Some of the sayings are a little choice for these pages, but we’ve collected a few here:
An Edinburgh Glossary
Embra - Edinburgh
Baffies - slippers
Bampot - mad; idiot
Barry - fantastic or great
Bunker - worktop, kitchen counter
Cheesing: happy
Chum - join on a journey (Chumming a friend doon the road)
Cludgie - toilet
Deek - look at
Dinnae - don’t
Feart - afraid of
Foostie - stale
Gadgie: usually used to describe a man or boy who engages in loutish behaviour.
Radge - crazy or uncontrollable (A person can either be a radge, or ‘go radge’)
Reeking - drunk
Scoobied - clueless (Scooby Doo is rhyming slang for clue)
Shan - a shame, or disappointing (A bad day at work could be ‘well shan’)

Lewis Singers Join the Choir for Latest Release
The National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCoS) Girls Choir is releasing a new CD with its patron, international mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill, and pianist Philip Moore, featuring the first ever recording of Michael Head’s (1900-76) song-cycle Snowbirds.  As well as music by Head, Only a Singing Bird includes works by Gary Carpenter, Ken Johnston and Stephen Deazley, with the music’s rich emotion and drama being brought to life by NYCoS National Girls Choir’s effortless singing.  This is the ensemble’s third album on the Signum Classics label conducted by Christopher Bell and was released today (January 8th) coinciding with the 20th anniversary of NYCoS itself.  This newest release also features singers from Lewis with the voices of Caitlin MacKenzie from Vatisker and Elizabeth MacKenzie from Eoropie joining the other NYCoS members.  The National Girls Choir was formed in 2007 for singers aged 12-16 years. Membership is granted by annual audition and is open to girls who are born, resident or studying in Scotland.  The choir meet annually at Easter for a six-day residential course working on high quality vocal coaching, musicianship training and full choir rehearsals with highly qualified staff who are experts in their fields.  Talking about the new release mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill said: “This is a beautiful collection of songs. I have very fond memories of performing some of Head’s pieces at singing competitions when I was younger, and this gave me a chance to revisit them whilst being involved with the incredible voices of the National Girls Choir. They are fantastic ambassadors for singing in Scotland.”  The central song-cycle, Snowbirds, demonstrates Head’s passion and proficiency for sensitive and effective word setting. It comprises seven songs based on the 1919 publication of the same name by Brahmin poet Sri Ananda Acharya. Alongside this are the composer’s most popular works, The Ships of Arcady and The Little Road to Bethlehem.