Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 342

Issue # 342                                                                 Week ending 2nd April 2016

Not That I Am Forgetful But Has Anyone Seen My Mobile? By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Don’t talk to me. Just don’t. I am far too stressed to put up with any nonsense from anyone. The last few days have been nothing short of horrendous for me and the last thing I need now is to make small talk with the likes of you. Seriously, all you have to do is pick up your newspaper or go to your computer and expect me to try and cheer you up? Really?

Why am I grumpy? My life is encapsulated on my mobile phone. It is where my diary and reminders are. My shopping list, my contacts list, my health checker, my emails, my invoicing and accounts system, and even ideas for this column. I even use it to make phone calls. Three days ago that stupid piece of over-priced technological junk went missing and my life is falling apart.

Yes, I know I can send emails from my computer but I cannot put reminders on my list when I am halfway round the Lews Castle grounds. When I get an idea, I have to put on my list or I’ll forget. Like many people I completely rely on my phone to remind me to do things. If I had it now, I would be putting a reminder on it to look for my phone. Oh wait ...

Of course, I rang my phone. The sound must be off. Not a beeg from anywhere. Telling someone that you have lost your mobile sort of switches off their brain. They will come out with stuff like: “Do you know when you last had it?” “Was it turned on?” “Are you going to report it to the cops?” Aye, aye and aye.

Wait. Technology may yet help me find my AyePhone. I have just remembered the missing device has a tracking app on it which lets members of this family know where I am and where they are. At the moment, it says my missing phone is right here at home. Nonsense. I have searched under the bed, in the van and in the shed. Oh heck. I have not been through the rubbish. It could have fallen into a wastepaper basket and the bins are about to be collected. Yuck, I am not rummaging there through dog’s doo-doos.

When I finish writing this, I will have to push our wheelie bin up the street, round the corner and into the middle of Stornoway. I shall stop at the well-known landmarks on the tracker like Argos and the dole office. I will borrow someone else’s phone to call Mrs X and ask her if she can see my binful of ashes. If she can, I really will have to go through the sardine tins, the empty cans of beer that no one can remember swigging and, of course, the doggy doo-doos.

Guess what? I took a break from writing this and I googled how to find a lost mobile like mine. It said to just go to the iCloud thingummyjig. Press Find My Phone. It should override everything and make the phone beep loudly. And it has. The darned thing was right here in my desk drawer under some bills. Phew, that was grim. It was like losing  child - a child that has the contact details for everyone I have spoken to in years.

Mind you, I know I’m not the only person who has been having problems with phones. I have been hearing about a man from Aberdeen who was up here on business recently. He had broken up with his girlfriend and was feeling lonely. On his way in from the airport, he asked the taxi driver if he knew of any girls who might want to spend time with him. And yes, he did.

The driver knew a good-time girl he had taken to parties here and there. He scribbled the number. When he got to the hotel, the businessman decided to give her a call to see if she was free. Gingerly, he picked up the phone and dialled the Stornoway number. He pressed: 70 ... “Hello,” a woman answered. He told her he was alone and feeling really blue and wondered if she was free that night.

Before she could answer, he got a bit carried away, adding: “After dinner, we will walk in the moonlight and I shall shower you with kisses and then I’ll take you back to the hotel and we will make beautiful music together. What do you think of that?” The voice replies: “That sounds really, really lovely, a bhalaich. But I’ll still be working on reception and you need to press 9 for an outside line.”

Scotland's Top Anti-terror Cop Speaks Out About Security Concerns After Brussels Attacks
The head of Scotland’s anti-terror squad has revealed that police are actively tracking groups of Islamic extremists north of the border.  Assistant Chief Constable Ruaraidh Nicolson said his officers are keeping close watch on “pockets” of suspects feared to be planning terrorist offences in Scotland. Leading members of Scotland’s Muslim community also expressed fears about the risks of radicalisation.  The head of organised crime and counter terrorism for Police Scotland spoke out about security in Scotland after terrorists linked to the so-called Islamic State group detonated suicide bombs in Brussels which claimed the lives of 31 people.  Nicolson warned that a similar attack “could happen anywhere” but insisted the community engagement approach employed by his officers means the risk is less likely in Scotland.  Despite this, several young Scots have been radicalised by Islamic extremists in recent years. Would-be terrorist Mohammed Atif Siddique, of Alva in Clackmannanshire, was jailed for eight years for terror offences in 2007. Glasgow schoolgirl Aqsa Mahmood became known as the “Jihadi bride” after travelling to Syria to marry a militant in 2013. And Abdul Rakib Amin - who moved to Scotland with his family when he was ten-years-old and was schooled in Aberdeen - appeared in an IS recruitment video before he was killed in an RAF drone strike in August last year.  Nicolson said: “Of course we’ll have pockets [of extremists] like everywhere else...It is something we monitor and we make sure it doesn’t manifest itself into causing difficulty which we need to stamp out at every opportunity.  My task is to look across the whole of Scotland. It would be easy to say that in the population densities we’d have more...but the important thing is knowing and understanding what’s going on and actually having interventions where we need to have interventions.” Police Scotland, like the rest of UK security and law enforcement, is operating at a “severe” threat level, meaning an attack is “highly likely”.

Hundreds of Floral Tributes Laid Near Spot Where Glasgow Shopkeeper Asad Shah Was Killed
A steady stream of people arrived at Minard Road in Shawlands on Easter Sunday to pay their respects.  Mr Shah, 40, was found seriously injured near his store in the area at 9pm on Thursday and was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.  Hours earlier he had wished Christians a happy Easter in a social media post, and he had previously appeared to speak out against violence. A 32-year-old man is expected to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court tomorrow in connection with Mr Shah’s death.  The Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, the Very Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth, used his Easter sermon to condemn the killing.  He said: “A Muslim man in this city was killed this week soon after wishing Christians a happy Easter…such wickedness has no place in our city.  Death will not have the last word. Let the love of God warm every heart in this city, Muslim and Christian Glaswegians alike. And let that love show forth in new ways, that this city may flourish.”  Mr Shah was a member of the Ahmadi movement, a minority denomination of Islam which is denounced by some orthodox Muslims.  Police confirmed the man they arrested after the death of Mr Shah is a Muslim and officers said the attack is being “treated as religiously prejudiced”. Mr Shah’s family have spoken of their “heartbreak” after the killing and said they fear for their own safety.  A family member, who asked not to be named, said: “We have been advised by the police not to speak about it, particularly about our names and locations, because there is a security threat.”  There is only one place of worship for the 500-strong Ahmadiyya community in Scotland – the Bait-ur-Rahman Mosque in Glasgow’s west end.  Imam Daud Ahmad, 60, who is the spiritual leader at the Mosque, indicated that there are divisions between different Muslim denominations.  He said: “They hate us because we have brought a message they cannot digest. You know, everybody in the country is free, but it doesn’t mean somebody should be murdered.”  Glasgow Central Mosque issued a statement which said: “This type of criminal behaviour is abhorrent and unacceptable and the Mosque stands shoulder to shoulder with all communities in order to eradicate this kind of intolerance from our society.”  Glasgow-based human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, who is a Sunni Muslim, offered condolences to Mr Shah’s family and added: “I proudly stand with my brothers and sisters of the Ahmadiyya community to say not in our name.”  Around 500 people joined in a silent gathering in Shawlands on Friday night, with some laying flowers at a sign on the ground which said: 'This is not who we are'.  First Minister and local MSP Nicola Sturgeon, who was in the crowd on Friday, tweeted afterwards: “Moved to be one of hundreds tonight as Shawlands united in grief for Asad Shah and support for his family.”

BBC ALBA to Move Up the Channel Listings
BBC ALBA is set to move up the electronic programme guide (EPG) listings on Sky, Freesat and Freeview.  Some viewers may have to retune their equipment to update their on-screen programme guide if changes are not picked up automatically and it is unlikely that programme recordings will be affected.  Margaret Mary Murray, Head of Service at BBC ALBA said: “BBC ALBA has steadily moved up the EPG channel listings since it first aired almost eight years ago and now enjoys prominent positions across each viewing platform.  The enhanced listings offer great accessibility for audiences across Scotland to enjoy the channel’s rich and diverse programme content.”  BBC ALBA has been successful in attracting both Gaelic and non-Gaelic viewers, with factual documentaries, popular lifestyle series, music and events coverage, as well as live sports coverage being amongst the most popular genres on the channel. The regular daily schedule of local, national and international news and current affairs content also continues to attract audiences.  New and exciting programmes have been introduced across all genres including the channel’s new drama, Bannan, popular children’s TV programmes including Ceitidh Morag and Ben & Hoilidh, to new sports coverage over the past year including live curling and orienteering championships. Key strands of the channel’s offering remain including Trusadh documentary series, popular music show Port and long standing children’s series ‘Dè a-nis?’.  Programmes on the channel are also broadcast for learners of Gaelic and those interested in Gaelic language and culture.  Over 22 production companies produce programme content for BBC ALBA, contributing to and stimulating Scotland’s creative industries.

Royal Regiment of Scotland to Celebrate 10th Birthday
The Royal Regiment of Scotland has revealed plans to mark a decade since it was formed. The Regiment, which comprises six battalions and one independent company of combat infantry soldiers following a restructure, turns 10 today, but the milestone will be celebrated in Edinburgh next month.  A new exhibition, organised with National Museums Scotland, marking its first decade of operations will be officially opened in the National War Museum in Edinburgh Castle and a thanksgiving service will be held at the Canongate Kirk.  The Regiment will also exercise the freedom of the city, with a parade down the Royal Mile on April 22.  Major General (Ret'd) James Cowan, the Regiment's senior officer, said: "Since the Regiment was formed in 2006 our soldiers have deployed almost continuously on operations around the world, so the Regiment is now building its own proud history as we head into the future.  Over the course of hundreds of years Scottish infantrymen have fought with courage.  "That has not changed. If you look at the stories behind the many combat honours for bravery under fire that Royal Regiment of Scotland soldiers have been awarded over the past decade, including 13 Military Crosses and one Queen's Gallantry Medal, it is very humbling."  The Regiment is founded on the heritage of 14 historic Scottish Infantry Regiments.

Scots Feel Benefits of Smoking Ban
The smoking ban which came into force ten years ago today has saved Scots from breathing in more than half a tonne of toxic material, according to new research.  Health campaigners joined researchers to look at what a decade of smoke-free pubs and restaurants, and other public places, has meant for the adult population.  Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland worked with academics at the University of Aberdeen on the calculations.  They said second-hand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemical compounds, at least 250 of which are known to be toxic or to cause cancer.  Of particular concern are the smallest particles, called PM2.5, which are invisible to the human eye but can linger in the air for hours and travel deep into the lungs. Detailed measurements before and after the smoke-free legislation showed these levels inside pubs decreased by 86% when smoking was moved outside.  The team said that using existing knowledge of how much air adults breathe and how much time they spend in a pub, this means the change in the amount of PM2.5 breathed in can be totalled over the ten years.  The researchers said that taken as a whole, the adult Scottish population has inhaled at least 600kg less of these tiny toxic particles because of smoke-free pubs.  Dr Sean Semple, of the Scottish Centre for Indoor Air at the University of Aberdeen, said: "Scotland's introduction of smoke-free public spaces was one of the most closely-studied pieces of public-health legislation ever, allowing us to look very carefully at the impact it had.  We have known for many years that second-hand smoke is harmful, but I don't think anyone predicted just how much benefit smoke-free places would deliver.  This calculation shows that over half a tonne of toxic material would have been inhaled by the population over the past 10 years if Scotland had not taken this bold step.  This is a cautious estimate that takes account of the slow improvement in air quality that may have occurred if the law had not been introduced. And of course the benefits will have been substantially greater for bar workers or waiting staff, who may spend 40 hours a week in such environments."

Bid to Smash World Water Speed Record on Loch Ness
Iconic Loch Ness could become the testing ground for a dramatic bid to smash the world water speed record.  Nigel Macknight is aiming to hit 350mph with the Quicksilver craft and beat the 317.58mph mark set by Australian Ken Warby nearly four decades ago.  And he is considering using what was the scene of a world water speed attempt tragedy to put the boat through its paces.  Famous British racing driver John Cobb died on Loch Ness in 1952 when a flaw in his vessel’s bow caused it to collapse and nosedive.  The 52-year-old’s boat, Crusader, was travelling at more than 200mph when it crashed.  Mr Macknight has spent thousands of hours over the past 28 years designing and building his turbofan-powered “superboat”.  His world record bid will take place on Coniston Water in the Lake District within the next two years.  But before that he will have to run the 40ft, 3.5-tonne vessel elsewhere as no testing is allowed on Coniston. And he revealed that Loch Ness is “a possibility”. He said: “I am confident we can break the record. When a record has stood for the best part of 40 years, it’s more likely to be beaten. Technology has moved on a lot in that time. You have to have respect for the danger, but I don’t think you go through what you are doing with too many nerves because getting the boat designed and built has been a huge job, consuming thousands of hours of my life.”  The challenge of breaking water speed records was pioneered in the UK by Malcolm Campbell, who was the first person to top 300mph on land and subsequently broke the water speed record four times prior to World War II.  He died in 1949, but his son Donald took over his father’s mantle and broke the water speed record seven consecutive times using the famous Bluebird model.  Donald attempted to break the record for an eighth time in 1967 as he knew the Americans were catching up in the water-speed race, but tragically died in his attempt at Coniston water.  Within six months of his death he was proven right, when a team of Americans broke his record of 276.3mph. Since Ken Warby set the new record in 1978, two attempts have been made by American drivers, in 1981 and 1989, but both ended in tragedy.

UKIP in Chaos As the Party Struggles to Meet Official Deadline for Declaring Holyrood Candidates
UKIP's Holyrood election campaign has been plunged into chaos after it emerged the party is struggling to meet the official deadline for declaring candidates.  Scottish leader David Coburn insisted candidates would be selected by the party's ruling National Executive Committee. He was unable to say when the process would be completed.  But said UKIP's Holyrood hopefuls would be unveiled at a campaign and manifesto launch event in Edinburgh on April 7 - six days after the Electoral Commission's deadline for nominations.  The Holyrood election on May 5 has caused deep splits in UKIP ranks north of the Border.  Some polls suggest the party is poised to make a breakthrough at Holyrood, winning regional seats, which are elected by proportional representation, for the first time.  But some members were furious to receive an email from party director Paul Oakden which confirmed that Mr Coburn would draw up lists of candidates for final approval by the NEC.  It sparked accusations the MEP would seek to install his own allies at the top of the party's lists of regional candidates, giving them the best chance of being elected. Mr Coburn last night denied he was hand-picking candidates.  The Electoral Commission's deadline for candidates to deliver their nomination papers is 4pm on April 1.

First Official Jewish Tartan Unveiled
Jews around the world with a love of all things Scottish will now able to dress in an official kosher tartan.  The distinctive blue and white design was created by Mendel Jacobs, the only Scottish-born Rabbi living north of the border, and has been registered with the Scottish Tartans Authority.  The tartan, featuring distinctive tones of navy and burgundy, is a kosher non wool-linen mix which abides by shatnez - the Jewish law prohibiting the mixture of wool and linen in garments.  “A friend of mine told me about a Polish tartan and a Sikh tartan had been registered, so why not a Jewish one?” said Mr Jacobs, from Glasgow. “Jews have always enjoyed a positive relationship with Scotland. It’s one of the few countries where there is no history of persecutions.  There are also a lot of Jewish ex-pats around the world with links to Scotland.”Mr Jacobs worked with Mike Wilson of the Scottish Tartans Authority to finalise the design. “I chose blue and white as the colours of both the Israeli and Scottish flags,” he said. “The central gold line represents the gold from the Ark in the Biblical Tabernacle and the many ceremonial vessels. The silver is to represent the silver that adorns the Scroll of the Law and the colour red is for the traditional red Kiddush wine.”  Jews have been living in Scotland since at least the late 17th century. The majority of Scottish Jews today are descended from immigrants who arrived in the late 19th century, mainly settling in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Patients Reassured Over Macduff Medical Move
Patients have been assured that closing two existing Banffshire medical centres and moving them to an enhanced practice at Macduff will provide a "resilient service".  Aileen Wilson, primary care development manager for Banff and Buchan, moved to allay any fears for patients registered with the Banff and Gamrie practice at two public sessions in Gardenstown and Banff last week. Macduff Medical Practice will take over responsibility for providing medical services to Banff and Gamrie patients from April 13, which will see the surgeries in Banff and Gardenstown closed.  With one GP at the Macduff and Gamrie practice soon to go on maternity leave this would have left the practice with one part-time GP, which NHS Grampian said was "not a clinically safe position". Macduff Medical Practice will increase from two to three GPs from April 13 and is also set to secure additional locum GP assistance. The practice has already employed a full-time practice pharmacist who is able to help patients with medication queries and minor illnesses.  Dr Chris Allan, a Turriff GP and deputy clinical lead for Aberdeenshire, said the recruitment problem was affecting urban and rural practices across Scotland. He said the proposal for Macduff to take over the Banff and Gamrie patients would provide a more robust service. The Banff and Gamrie practice has around 3200 patients who will switch to Macduff, taking the total patient list there to more than 6000.

Highlands and Islands Could Be 'Soft Option' for Islamic Terrorists Planning UK Attacks
A leading police officer has claimed the Highlands and Islands could be a soft option for Islamic terrorists planning attacks in the UK.  The vast area has 10 airports, railway stations, ports attracting cruise liners with thousands of passengers, a nuclear establishment and the oil and gas industry, leaving no shortage of potential targets in an area that stretches from Unst to the Vatersay and from John O’ Groats to Glencoe.  Chief Superintendent Julian Innes, the area’s divisional commander, had launched a campaign to increase the need for vigilance before last week’s terrorist attacks in Brussels.  He said: “The Highlands and Islands covers one sixth of the land mass of the UK, a massive geography.  But in the last couple of years we have been recognising that it may be seen as an easy place to come to commit terrorist activity. We have to recognise the national infrastructure we have here, particularly in Orkney and Shetland with the oil and gas industry.”  As long ago as the IRA campaigns of the 1970s, oil rigs were talked of as possible targets, and the need for security addressed. Mr Innes said that continues.  He said: “Security is quite tight round the oil and gas industry. But there is no complacency. In the emergency planning world we are constantly discussing, trialling and testing in response mode,what we would do if something significant happened; how we would deal with it.”  The nuclear facility at Dounreay overlooking the Pentland Firth was also long seen as a possible target. So was the Ministry of Defence’s HMS Vulcan establishment next door where Royal Navy submarine nuclear propulsion plants were tested.  Mr Innes said: “Dounreay is policed by the civil nuclear constabulary and Vulcan is managed by the MoD police. There is always an armed presence on these sites given the risk. Dounreay is in a decommissioning phase, but there is still nuclear material there and as long as there is, there will be an armed presence.”  But other new possibilities have emerged. Scottish ports are set to enjoy a record year for cruise liner business with passengers projected to top 500,000 for the first time, with most landing at ports in the Highlands and Islands from Shetland south to Oban and the Cromarty Firth.  Mr Innes said of this influx of foreign visitors: “That raises issues for us because some of their targets we have seen across Europe, including Belgium, have been specifically in and around where people gather in crowded places. We have that in the Highlands and Islands every time a cruise liner comes into one of our ports.“But we also have it in the Eastgate Centre in Inverness, where we have a lot of people going through on most days of the week.”  He said that it was worth noting that radicalisation was very easy across the internet, going into individual homes anywhere in the world.  But the police have also been looking at themselves even in the most remote outposts. He said: “The threat to police officers in the country is quite high just now, so we have upped security at all our buildings and establishments.”  The thing is that up here we tend to know each other, so we have perhaps not always been as good at signing people in or checking IDs. But we have now raised our game significantly. That’s just to make sure we don’t miss the obvious.” They have also been briefing other organisations “Not to cause alarm but just to raise awareness and to put some simple steps in place to ensure that if the worst was to happen to use here, we would be prepared for it. We have been talking to the University of the Highlands and Islands, the four local authorities (Highland , Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland), the Fire Service , the voluntary sector, and the health board. This has been well received by these partners, and not seen as alarmist.”

Kelvingrove Summer Concerts to Feature Van Morrison, Idlewild, Primal Scream and More
One of popular music's most beloved singers, Van Morrison, is to perform at a series of summer concerts in one of Scotland's most famous parks.  Morrison, who celebrated his 70th birthday last year, is to be one of the key acts of the Summer Nights series at the Kelvingrove Bandstand in the Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow's west end.  Now in its third year, the concerts, arranged by Regular Music, will take place across two weekends in August.  The gigs at the recently renovated venue in the heart of the park will take place from August 4-7 and from 11-14. The line up for the first weekend includes Van Morrison, the Scottish band Idlewild, the Super Furry Animals and Lloyd Cole and The Lepards as well as Justin Currie and his band. The second weekend begins with Primal Scream, the Electric Honey Sessions, Eddi Reader and guests including Kris Drever, and will conclude with singer Will Young. The events are being organised with an official partner, Birra Moretti, who will sell beer and Italian street food.  Gates will open each night at 6pm.  The bandstand has been revitalised in recent years as music and performance venue.  It can hold 2500 attendees and in 2014, in time for the Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow, underwent a £2m refurbishment after falling into disrepair for several years.  The first Summer Nights events featured Alison Moyet, the Waterboys, Steve Earle, Squeeze, Capercaillie and Teenage Fanclub.  The 92-year-old B-listed bandstand has built by the Glasgow Corporation Parks department in 1924.  However, the bandstand closed in 1999 and fell into disrepair. Before restoration, its condition was described as "critical" on the Scottish Buildings at Risk Register.It is one of the few bandstands in Scotland within an amphitheatre. The bandstand's revamp was carried out by Glasgow Building Preservation Trust in partnership with Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Life, with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Historic £1m Bonnie Prince Charlie Painting Acquired for the Nation
For more than 200 years it hung in genteel obscurity, a historic image of one of Scotland's most important historic characters.  Now an "historic" painting of Bonnie Prince Charlie by one the greatest Scottish portrait painters, worth more than £1m, has been acquired by the National Galleries of Scotland.  It has been hung for some time in, its former owner, the Earl of Wemyss and March says, in a "dark corridor, seen by few" in Gosford House, just outside Edinburgh. Allan Ramsay's 18th century portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart is now part of the national collections due to the Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) of Tax scheme. Once described as the "lost" Bonnie Prince Charlie portrait, it was brought to light by the art historian Dr Bendor Grosvenor. The discovery was featured on a BBC 2 Culture Show special, The Lost Portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie, two years ago.  It was painted a year before his defeat at the Battle of Culloden and is the only portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie painted in Britain.  It has now formerly been transferred to ownership by the galleries from the Wemyss Heirlooms Trust - it was last exhibited in Edinburgh in 1946.  The amount of tax settled by the acceptance of the portrait, through the AIL system, is £1,122,838.33.  The painting will be displayed in Gallery 4 of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh as a centrepiece to the gallery's collection of Jacobite art. The Estate Duty for which the painting has been accepted in lieu of is that arising from the death of the 11th Earl on Wemyss, nearly 80 years ago, in 1937.  The present Earl, also known as Jamie Neidpath, or James Charteris, said: "The Wemyss family have always appreciated its excellence, but it has usually hung in a dark corridor, seen by few. We therefore welcome the decision of HMRC and the Scottish government to acquire this painting for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, as it will now be accessible to millions of viewers, who will thereby be enabled better to appreciate the nuances of personality of this iconic figure in Scottish and British history." The portrait is thought to have been created at Holyrood in Edinburgh during Bonnie Prince Charlie’s short time in the city at the height of the Rising, by Ramsay (1713-1784).  Ramsay was born in Edinburgh and studied in London, Rome and Naples, before returning to Scotland in 1738. The portrait was used as a prototype for painted and engraved versions, which were employed to promote the Jacobite cause.  The Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme allows those who have an inheritance tax bill to gift significant items to the nation and "satisfy" more tax than by selling items on the open market.

Scotland's Genealogical Archive Shut Down Due to IT Virus
One of Scotland's most popular archives of genealogical information has been shut down due to a computer virus.  The ScotlandsPeople search rooms at the National Records of Scotland, in Edinburgh, has been hit by the severe IT issue and have been closed.  The ScotlandPeople centre, the largest historical search facility of its kind in Scotland, is at General Register House in Princes Street.  A National Records of Scotland spokeswoman said: "Our ScotlandsPeople search rooms are closed on 30 and 31 March because of technical problems.  "Other search rooms and online services including the ScotlandsPeople website remain available as normal.  Updates are available on our website."  It is understood that the computers have been affected by a virus - and have not been the victims of a hacking operation.  The virus was "quickly and completely contained".  The virus only affected a small section of the family history search facility, a statement said.  A statement added: "National Records of Scotland continues to fulfil all statutory duties.  The registration service is not affected by this issue."  Neil Fraser, partner of genealogists and international probate researchers Fraser and Fraser, said the IT failure has caused significant problems for researchers.  Fraser and Fraser regularly appear in the BBC1's Heir Hunters TV program.  He said that the company was "at a loss" at how to research with access to the search rooms curtailed.  Mr Fraser said: "The centre is the home of all Birth, Death, Marriage and Divorce certificates and census records.  These are used by thousands of researchers and members of the general public daily.  Birth certificates are vital to enable people to apply for passports, used as ID and can be used as proof in court.  Fraser and Fraser have permanent staff based in the centre and are at a loss about when they will be able to gain access to the records."

Scottish Hydro to Close All 37 Shops in Scotland
SSE has announced it is taking the difficult decision to close its 37 remaining Scottish Hydro Electric shops in Scotland, along with its associated online shop.  The retail shops sell electrical and white goods and are predominantly sited across the north of the country. SSE has entered into consultation with its 119 employees affected by the planned closures and will discuss possible redeployment within the SSE plc group. It aims to avoid redundancies wherever possible, although if this is unavoidable, enhanced terms will be offered to affected employees during the consultation process. Stephen Forbes, SSE Director of Domestic Retail, said changing shopping habits and more customer choice mean the shops have now been loss-making for a number of years.  He said:  “Customers’ shopping habits have changed considerably since these shops were first opened with more and more people shopping online, especially for larger electrical items.We know some of these shops have been on local high streets for a long time so we did not take this decision lightly but footfall and sales have reduced considerably and there is, unfortunately, no realistic prospect of that long-term trend reversing. Our priority is to ensure our colleagues are fully supported during this time and we will work to redeploy staff within the SSE group where possible.”  All 37 shops and the online shop are expected to be closed by May 15.  SSE employs around 6000 people across Scotland.

RAF Lossiemouth Prepares for Exercise Joint Warrior
RAF Lossiemouth is set to host a small contingent of international Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) and F-16 fast jets for Exercise Joint Warrior which will take place from April 11-22. Exercise Joint Warrior is a tri-service and multinational exercise conducted in throughout the UK during the spring and the autumn every year. There will be significant activity around the north of Scotland. Nationally, the exercise will involve more than 31 warships and submarines, 60 aircraft, and a total of around 6500 personnel from the 14 participating nations.  This year RAF Lossiemouth will be hosting MPA aircraft such as the P3 Orion, Atlantique and the new P-8 Poseidon which is planned to be based in Moray.  RAF Lossiemouth’s Typhoons will also take part in the exercise alongside a detachment of Turkish F-16s.  Flight Lieutenant Guy Radcliffe, the exercise operations officer at RAF Lossiemouth, said: “The hosting of these exercise participants will involve every section at RAF Lossiemouth.  In order to facilitate each visiting units’ individual requirements for the Exercise, planning has been ongoing since last year to ensure that we are ready. It will be an extremely busy fortnight for the Station and the airfield itself.  Particular challenges will involve working with different coalition countries, operating large aircraft from an airfield which is set up for much smaller, fast jets and fitting it all around RAF Lossiemouth’s own ongoing high operational tempo and essential training.” The aircraft from Canada, Germany, France, Norway, Turkey and the US will begin arriving at RAF Lossiemouth in the weeks leading up to the exercise.  All crews will be staying in local hotels. Normally RAF Lossiemouth operates its flying programme from 8am to 11pm but during this exercise some night flying may take place outwith this period. There will be some departures and recoveries during the weekend but these should be single aircraft moves and will mostly take place in daylight hours.  Engineers will service the aircraft as they land and prior to departures and this may take place between the hours of 11pm and 8am but all steps will be taken to minimise the associated noise. The visiting aircraft may have a noticeably different noise pattern from the Tornados and Typhoons usually based at RAF Lossiemouth.

The Scottish Government is the Most Trusted Government in the European Union
Earlier this week, the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey found that 73 per cent of respondents trust the Scottish Government – compared to only 23 per cent who trust the UK Government. When compared to a study of trust in national governments across the EU, analysis shows that the Scottish Government is the most trusted in Europe – with significantly higher trust levels than the nearest challengers in Finland and Denmark, who trail behind Scotland at 60% and 55% respectively.  The study also shows that trust in the Scottish Government is more than twice the EU average of 31%.  Commenting, SNP MSP Bruce Crawford said:  “It’s no surprise that trust in the Scottish Government is three times higher than trust in the UK Government in Westminster – considering Scotland is so often governed by Tories we’ve rejected at the ballot box.  But that the SNP Government is the most trusted in Europe is testament to our extraordinary record of delivery in office – and the fact that people know that we will always stand up for Scotland.  Just last month Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney saw off an attempt by the UK Government to cut Scotland’s budget by £7bn – it is crystal clear who can be trusted to work in Scotland’s best interests. We’ve made real progress in government since 2007 – and we’re determined to build on that. As we approach May’s election, we are asking the people of Scotland to put their trust in the SNP for an historic third term and to re-elect Nicola Sturgeon to continue standing up for Scotland as First Minister.”

Concerns Growing Over UK Westminster Government's Commitment to Unlocking Green Power Potential of Scotland's Islands
A major scheme to unlock the green energy potential of Scotland's islands is at risk, industry leaders have warned, amid growing concerns the UK Government is preparing to ditch promised subsidies.  Industry insiders have warned time is running out for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to clear its plans with Brussels.  At stake is investment in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland potentially running into hundreds of millions of pounds.  The development of large scale wind power schemes on the islands would also help Scotland meet ambitious green energy targets and pave the way for future wave and tidal schemes.  A string of major wind farms on the islands have been approved but cannot go ahead because the transmission infrastructure to export the power to the mainland does not exist. Previous attempts to provide extra subsidies, to allow generators to build suitable transmission cables, have fallen foul of EU state aid rules.  Last year, Prime Minister David Cameron gave a commitment to resolve the issue but DECC remains in talks with Brussels.  Industry insiders have been told an agreement has been reached informally but that DECC has so far failed to make a formal bid to go ahead with the subsidy scheme, known as the Remote Island Wind Contract for Difference (CfD).  The delay has prompted fears the UK Government is preparing to scrap the plan. Unless a deal is struck soon, the islands will miss out on the next round of Government-backed green power contracts.  A source said: "Our concern is that DECC no longer wants to go ahead with this. The suspicion is the UK Government is looking to renege on its commitment to find a solution and connect up the islands." Earlier this month, a Scottish Government report said win power could be worth £725million to the island economies over the next 25 years.  It estimated that schemes in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland could generate five per cent of total UK energy demand by 2030.  In the Western Isles alone, schemes that have already been given the go-ahead would create 700 jobs during the construction phase and up to 150 permanent posts.
They would generate £7million a year in community benefits. Angus Campbell, the leader of Western Isles Council, said: "We are really concerned. "If this falls through, the whole of the renewables programme in the Western Isles will be completely lost."  Niall Stuart, chief executive of industry body Scottish Renewables, said: "The remote island CfD was designed to overcome the massive grid charges faced by electricity generators on Scotland’s islands, and to ensure that renewable energy projects have a fair chance of proceeding.