Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 343

Issue # 343                                                            Week ending 9th  April 2016

Why Ronnie Corbett Couldn’t Take His Wife Back to Barra by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

So farewell to Ronnie Corbett. The wee Scottish giant of comedic talent has had the last laugh and we are left with memories of our own childhoods, a time when he and “goodnight from him”, were on the box almost every week.

Just about everyone watched them. Not because of their Twitter following or their appearances on Comedy Central but because they were really funny. The big one, Ronnie Barker, was the writer who could pen a sketch in a few minutes that would have everyone falling about.

I remember being ordered by my editor to go to cover the opening of a new garden centre in Croydon, where I then worked. When I got to Shirley, not some Surrey-based floozy but the name of a place, I discovered the ribbon was being cut by Ronnie Corbett. So strange not seeing him in a box in the corner.

After the formalities and the inevitable references to fork handles were over, he and wife Anne stayed for drinkiepoos. He asked what part of Ireland I was from so I gave him a blast of Great Bernera Gaelic and put him right. He was intrigued and told me he spent a happy time on Barra in the mid-1950s.

One of his earliest film parts was in Rockets Galore, the sequel to Whisky Galore. Not a great piece of work, he admitted, because it was “done on the cheap” with the same locations and mostly the same actors and himself as Drooby. However, Ronnie loved Barra and the locals he met. He told us fondly of his trips to the white sands of Vatersay and over to South Uist and the occasional partaking of wee drams. He didn’t actually mention if he swam out to the wreck of the Politician for them.

Anne chided him for promising to whisk her off to the Hebrides but always being too busy. He would try “soon”. Maybe he did manage it. I don’t know. He never liked a public fuss so it may not have been too easy for him, at 5ft 1in, to stride up and down Main Street in Castlebay in disguise.

If so, he may have come over with everyone’s favourite ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne which is getting rid of its stuffy heedrum-hodrum approach to promoting itself, the north and west of Scotland and the mouthful that is Road Equivalent Tariff. It is finally getting down with the kids. Hurrah.

In the most po-faced way possible, the BBC explained this week that CalMac hopes to attract younger customers with a new “edgy” social media campaign dubbed “The Eejits”. It then added helpfully: “In Scots, eejits means idiots ...”  Get away.

There was me thinking people travelled on CalMac ferries simply because they needed to get somewhere - like an island. So I’m intrigued with this new notion that seeing an edgy eejit on Facebook would make anyone between 18 and 35 change holiday plans and jump on a ferry. I can’t wait for the Return on Investment figures.

Eejits was actually coined in Ireland though it may be uttered along Sauchiehall Street with popular phrases like young buck, as in a young man. In Scotland, buck is often extended to buckie, not to be confused with the Moray port of Buckie or even Buckie, the nickname for Buckfast. That is a medicated wine made by religious people in Devon - so that’s alright then. The Benedictine monks are based at Buckfast Abbey and their vino medico is popular in Lanarkshire where people tend to fall ill regularly, as they often get walloped across the head by people taking that particular medication.

Should the ferry operator with Mac already in its name not latch onto that buzz from the recent vessel name suggestion RRS Boaty McBoatface instead of using boring placenames for its boaties? It should make the first name change right away by rechristening one of its big steamers. I’ve got one. How about the MV Finlay Finlaggan?

Some passengers may need a dram to get used to such a name for their conveyance. However, since Ronnie Corbett was on Barra there have been many developments in the islands with new distilleries opening up or soon to open making gin and all kinds of whisky. We have a wee brewery in Stornoway too.

However, it is beer made in huge factories on the mainland that I am worried about. Scientists say there are too many female hormones in the water causing beer bellies and moobs. I’m certain there are female hormones in some brews. When I drink too much of them, I talk utter nonsense and I can’t do parallel parking either.

Islamic Extremist Issue Death Threats Against Scotland's Top Human Rights Lawyer

Scotland's leading human rights lawyer has received death threats from Islamic extremists over his calls for unity within the country's Muslim community.  Though unable to give details due to an ongoing police investigation, Aamer Anwar said the threats came from individuals who have taken issue with his call for Muslims of all backgrounds and denominations to stand up together against Islamic extremism. Anwar said he did not wish to go into 'the specifics' of the threats against him, but said he "presumed" they came from Islamic extremists.  Anwar's call for unity followed terror attacks around the world including in Brussels and Lahore, as well as the killing of Asad Shah, a Scottish member of the minority Ahmadi sect within Islam.  Divisions which have opened up in recent months between would-be reformers of the Glasgow Central Mosque (GCM), including Anwar, and its more conservative leaders, were put aside on Thursday when they shared a public platform with leaders of the Ahmadi community in a public show of unity.  The event, largely brokered by Anwar with support from Police Scotland and other community leaders, took place against the backdrop of allegations that GCM leaders had links with Islamic extremists – which they have vehemently denied.  The lawyer - who has taken on a number of high-profile cases, including representing the family of murdered Indian waiter Surjit Singh Chhokar, the case of Sheku Bayoh, the Fife man who died in police custody, as well as a number of terror suspects - described the threats against him as "the final straw".  "Over the years I have been subjected to all sorts of serious threats which I have deliberately avoided talking about publicly," he said "But this week was the final straw, being made to feel that my life was as at risk and I should be silent because I have a young family - this is not how I want to live my life."  Threats on his life have been made by phone and text. He has also received swathes of abuse on social media, with posters accusing him of waging "a vendetta" and "smear campaign" against the Mosque in an attempt to shut it down. In other tweets from a now closed account using an image of the recently executed Pakistani extremist Mumtaz Qadri as its profile pic, he was accused of being a "kuffar", or non-Muslim.  He said: "When you walk out of the house and give your children a hug and a kiss, you do find yourself wondering, 'is that the last time I'll see them?' I did that the other night because I was scared. In my head I thought anything could happen and to live with that is extremely difficult."  He also made an urgent call for abuse of others leading muslims including Imam Maulana Habib Ur Rehman - who has been accused of sending a Whatsapp message showing his support for Mumtaz Qadri – to stop. The religious leader has insisted his comments were taken out of context, and on Friday Police Scotland confirmed that they are no longer investigating.  Anwar added: "The fact is that there is an empathy between me and the Iman because in fact I was horrified by the abuse that he too has received. There are a small number of individuals who claim they are against extremism, then want to attack and violently abuse an individual - that is nothing to do with Islam. Words can incite violence, can cost lives."  He welcomed GCM's "courage and responsibility" in coming together to show a united front against extremist on Thursday.

Comment - R
'Extremists' in any guise, are the non-thinkers in society, who do not possess the ability to see beyond the spoon-fed indoctrination presented by those who believe to be blessed with a superior comprehension of their own misguided beliefs.  'Death threats' are par for the course of the basic indoctrinated hard of thinking.  Sadly, the free thinkers - and those of a tolerant open mind - are subjected to this type of threat. The Muslim community in Scotland has been at times abused in open forums and by individuals, quite rightly these practices have been highlighted and castigated by right minded, liberal, free thinking members and leaders of Scots society. When the Muslim communities in both Scotland/ England stay silent on extremism issues within their own communities they appear to endorse and embrace these backward practices. Why aren't the illiberal blasphemy laws of Pakistan up for debate or even name checked in Scotland?! And again why isn't MSP Humza Yousaf screaming from his soapbox in favour of Anwar who has taken an extremely brave position. It would be a travesty if Yousaf was putting votes before principles.

Scots Brexit Campaign Hit by Damaging Labour Snub
A major effort to step up campaigning in Scotland for a Leave vote in the EU referendum has been hit by in-fighting between Brexit supporters.  Vote Leave, which is widely seen as the frontrunner to become the official Out campaign group in the June 23 referendum, will launch its Scottish campaign tomorrow.  But it will not be giving a platform to Labour Leave, the group set up by Euro-sceptic Labour MPs and members.  Instead, Labour Leave has chosen to support a rally in Glasgow on Thursday organised by Grassroots Out – Vote Leave's main rival to become the officially designated Leave campaign organisation.  The snub comes as Vote Leave and Grassroots Out (GO) seek to make their presence felt in Scotland.  George Eustice, the Conservatives' Euro-sceptic fisheries minister, will visit Peterhead as part of the Vote Leave campaign.  Tomorrow Jim Sillars, the former SNP deputy leader, will use the Scottish Vote Leave launch to call on Nationalists to back Brexit.  GO, meanwhile, has Ukip leader Nigel Farage as the star speaker at its rally on Thursday.  Tensions have surfaced as the two camps compete to become the official Leave campaign.  The Electoral Commission watchdog has until April 14 to name the lead Leave and Remain campaigns, which will then fulfil equivalent roles to Better Together and Yes Scotland in the 2014 independence referendum.  Sources said Labour Leave's backing for GO raised questions over how closely it could work with Vote Leave if the latter goes on to head the Out campaign.  The breakdown in relations could hamper efforts to persuade Scots to vote to leave the EU.  Campaign strategists believe support for the EU is "soft" among many Labour voters and see them as a key target in the campaign.  Labour Leave was originally closely allied to Vote Leave but has now established a Labour GO offshoot working with Grassroots Out.  Both are run in Scotland by Nigel Griffiths, the former Edinburgh South MP.  In the battle to become the main Out campaign, Vote Leave is seen as the 'establishment' grouping.  It is chaired by Labour MP Gisela Stuart and includes in its inner circle Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and the former Labour MP for Glasgow South West Ian Davidson.  The director of Scottish Vote Leave is Tom Harris, the former Labour MP for Glasgow South.  GO, which presents itself as a more populist, grassroots movement, is led by a cross-party group of politicians including UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

Comment - R
The voters of England are going to take the UK out. Reading the above makes me begin to think Scotland's voters will help that happen. Post-Brexit things are going to get really interesting.

Well on the Way to Renewable Scotland
Figures released this week show Scotland generated the equivalent of more than half its electricity needs from renewable sources in 2015, surpassing the 50% target set by Ministers. Based on the latest consumption figures from 2014, renewables now generate the equivalent of 57% of Scotland’s power needs.  The statistic, published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, means Scotland is now more than halfway towards its target of producing the equivalent of 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.  Jenny Hogan, Director of Policy for Scottish  Renewables commented this week: “This is another important milestone for our industry.  There is still a huge amount of potential for future growth, if the industry is given the right backing by government.”  Ms Hogan warned there is doubt over how achievable the next target is.  She said: “Despite having enough projects in the pipeline, recent changes to government support, and hold ups in the consenting process for offshore wind farms, have set us on a path to fall short of the 2020 target.”  These approximate statistics will be confirmed once consumption figures for in 2015 are available later this year.

Coastal Catastrophe is Looming for Scotland Due to Reliance on Just One Boat

A leading campaigner claims an “environmental coastal catastrophe” is looming because of Scotland’s dependence on a single emergency tug.  Former Highland Council leader and serving board member of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Michael Foxley has made a plea to the UK Government to reinstate a second Scottish tug amid widespread fears that the north will have no such vessel after September.  The retired GP has warned that it was simply a matter of time before the north of Scotland suffered a major coastal incident. “Hopefully it will not involve loss of life,” he said.  “But it will have catastrophic implications for the economy and the environment of the west coast.”  Until 2011, the UK had four emergency towing vessels (ETVs), one each stationed in and around the northern isles, the Western Isles, on the Cornish coast and in the Dover Strait.  Financial cuts left the one vessel – Herakles – in and around Orkney covering both the northern and Western Isles.  The decision was part of the comprehensive spending review package announced in October 2010, based on the UK Westminster Government’s judgment about “the balance of risk of pollution in the event of a maritime accident”.  The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) recently secured funding to extend the current ETV contract for the single Orkney vessel. But the cover is due to expire on September 30.  It is consulting with stakeholders in Scotland while exploring “alternative options” which might allow the maintenance of an ETV capability without the use of public funds.  Dr Foxley said: “The Orkney tug is not remotely doing the job it used to do. When there were two tugs, the one in Stornoway was fully manned and out in The Minches, so it would shadow hazardous cargoes such as nuclear shipments. If there was anything the coastguard was concerned about it would react to it. Under the current set-up, the crew take time to mobilise. It’s no longer ‘rapid response’. It’s a long way from Ardnamurchan or Barra when the vessel is in Orkney. The waters of The Minches and the Pentland Firth are some of the most hazardous in the UK. There have been at least six incidents in the last five or six years in The Minches.”  A spokeswoman for the MCA insisted that maritime safety was a priority.

Crime Gang Planned to Raid Glasgow's Burrell Collection and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
An organised crime gang that planned to raid museums in Glasgow have been jailed for up to six years and eight months.  The group plotted to steal up to £57 million in rhino horn and Chinese artefacts in a series of museum raids.  Dubbed the Rathkeale Rovers because of their links to the Irish town, they targeted high-value objects in a string of break-ins, including at Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum and Durham's Oriental Museum in 2012.  The gang also carried out surveillance of the antiquities housed at the Burrell collection in Glasgow’s south side and Kelvingrove museum in the west end, but were stopped by police before they could act.  It is understood that the men visited Glasgow in March 2013 to carry out a "recce" of both the Burrell and Kelvingrove, which contain collections of rare china, artworks and other artefacts from the Far East.  The Burrell's Chinese exhibits are said to be of "outstanding significance", and make up the biggest single group of objects in it's 9,000 piece collection.  Police uncovered the gang's visit as they trawled through phone and vehicle records as part of their exhaustive investigation into the gang's activities.  It was made to size up the most valuable piece and lay the groundwork for a later raid to be carried out by other members.

North Uist Knitter is Secret Star of TV Yarn Outlander
Costume designers working on time-travel television drama Outlander have been sourcing items from a knitter living in North Uist.  The Emmy-award winning team who create costumes for the cast of the popular series discovered Flora Kennedy’s work on Etsy, the online shop for amateur crafters, and placed an order.  Kennedy’s Inner Wild items, “inspired by Scotland’s mythology, ancestral territory and rugged landscapes”, have been worn by star Caitriona Balfe, as well as other lead characters in the series based on Diana Gabaldon’s bestsellers.  The first item on Kennedy’s Etsy site which caught the attention of costume designer Terry Dresbach was the hand-knitted Sassenach capelet and sleeves now worn by Balfe, who plays Claire Randall. Selling at £67, the shrug’s care instructions include “wear while enjoying wild adventures”. Kennedy, 50, who lives in the village of Sollas, said: “The order came on the site and I saw the address was the Outlander studio so I realised straightaway who it was from. Then the costume buyer telephoned me and said ‘Terry loves the garments you’ve got in the shop’.  “Then more orders came in for the Caledonia Shrug also worn by Claire, Celtic mitts and 60 different sock leg warmers for the clansmen.”  Kennedy, who was taught to knit by her mother, has now received orders from Outlander fans in the US, Canada and Australia as well as the UK. “I felt wildly excited and absolutely astonished because I love Outlander and had read it 15 years ago. I was living in New Zealand at the time and it was a bit of ‘my homeland’. I just absorbed it and I can see now how my knitting was somehow influenced by all the mental images in the writing. Kennedy said she takes a “free knitting” approach, meaning she knits intuitively, but she has latterly taken to writing down what she has done.“I felt a real sense of obligation to provide knitwear for Outlander fans who contacted me so had to work out how to do repeat designs. People used to laugh at jumpers knitted by grannies but are now craving that sense of something being made with love,” she added.  Dresbach said: “I was looking for Scottish artisans to add texture and local aesthetic to our costumes. I wanted to reflect the country and its people, its colours and textures. Ms Kennedy was one of the artists we chose, as her work reflected those qualities beautifully. Her colours and textures are quite beautiful.”  Dresbach added: “In this business we are often asked to capture a culture that is not our own.  I feel it is very important to include people who actually are of that culture, in any visual representation that is trying to be accurate. It is their story, and they should be included. I am from America, I am representing Scottish history and it is essential that it be a Scottish view. I am also a big believer in buying local.”  Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “The fact Flora’s fantastic knitting designs are being showcased to an international audience is not only terrific news for her business, it also demonstrates the fact the show’s producers have gone to great lengths to try to capture real elements of Scottish culture and heritage.”

Wood Group Acquires Australian Engineering Firm SVT
Energy services provider Wood Group has hit the acquisition trail again with the takeover of an Australian engineering business.  Aberdeen-based Wood said the purchase of SVT Engineering Consultants (SVT) marked a “significant step” for the Scots company in providing a global vibration, dynamics and noise engineering service line. SVT, a privately-owned company with its headquarters in Perth, provides piping and rotating equipment vibration, noise, integrity engineering and asset integrity services.  The company was formed to pioneer the application of sound and vibration technology in the Australian resources sector. SVT’s client base now covers the onshore and offshore oil and gas market including liquefied natural gas, as well as the mining, power and utilities sectors.  The value of the acquisition – the latest in a string undertaken by Wood Group – was not disclosed.  Managing director Stewart Wharton will continue to lead the 110-strong team of personnel across SVT’s offices in Perth and Brisbane and the business will operate within the Wood Group Kenny division.  Bob MacDonald, chief executive of Wood Group Kenny, said: “Australia is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of minerals and is on the cusp of becoming the world’s largest LNG producer.  SVT builds on our asset integrity management service line as part of our strategy to enhance our vibration, dynamics and noise capability to support the operational phase of Australia’s LNG and mining infrastructure for decades to come. SVT is a natural strategic fit augmenting, yet broadening, our existing spectrum of specialist technical services to the energy, industrial and renewable markets, where we have an industry leading capability.”  Wharton added: “Joining Wood Group means we can offer our specialist services to an enhanced global client base and we look forward to being part of the company’s international network.  The depth of expertise Wood Group has in vibration, dynamics and noise, including specialist tools and software for data analytics, will open up new opportunities for our services.  We are focussed on solving difficult problems in the oil and gas, mining and utilities sectors and we share Wood Group’s culture and values which strongly emphasise safety.”

We'll Keep You Safe... Unstable War Memorial on the Move.
One of the most iconic war memorials in Lochaber will soon be on the move.  The life-size statue of a soldier on top of a granite plinth is a familiar site to everyone who uses the A82 near Ballachulish.  But the amount of water running down behind the landmark monument from the hillside and the increase in traffic on the A82 have affected its stability. And the majority of locals agree that the memorial should be moved to a safer position in the heart of the village itself.  Ex-serviceman, Mel MacAskill, has been involved with the project for several years.“It has taken a long time, but we have to make sure we tick all the boxes,” said Mel.  “We have held two public meetings, the last one a few weeks ago, and the vast majority of locals want to see it moved.  It will be positioned opposite the drill hall as the ground is owned by the army and they are quite happy to have the war memorial there. As it will be in the centre of the village, it will be much easier for people to have access to it and to hold parades on Remembrance Sunday.The army has also offered to help us move the memorial by supplying manpower and machinery, but engineers will oversee everything to make sure it is all done properly.”  Mel (64), who was chairman of Ballachulish Community Council until he stepped down two years ago, said the monument – which was erected at the end of World War I – is just two yards from the busy road. “The traffic on the A82 is only going to get worse. The war memorial is a landmark and some people actually stop their cars right in front of it which is asking for trouble,” he said.  “We will be applying for grants as the estimated cost of moving the memorial will be around £120,000. There are a lot of family names on it covering both World Wars which mean a great deal to people in the village.”

£15,000 for Sutherland Communities

Sutherland and Edderton members of the Highland Council have set aside £15,000 of funding to let local communities decide for themselves what projects are needed in their area. Whether you want to organise a club for young people, a healthy living project, a crime prevention idea, a lunch club for older residents, or a community arts project, the only limit is your imagination. To apply for between £100 and £1500 for a project the proposer must submit the application before 6pm on Friday, April 22.  If the idea fits, the community will vote to decide which ideas to fund at an event to be held on Saturday, May 21, in the Community Centre, Main Street, Lairg, starting at 10.30am.  At the event the proposer will be invited to talk about the idea to the community. Those in attendance will then vote on all the applications and a decision will be made on the day.  Chairman of the Sutherland county committee, Councillor Graham Phillips, who sits on the local steering group said: “This is an intriguing experiment, trying out a new way of funding local projects. I hope we will discover unexpected ideas, especially the sort of small project that wouldn’t normally think of applying to the Ward Discretionary Budget.”

How Much Land and Property Does the Church of Scotland Own?
It may be challenged by shrinking congregations but the Church of Scotland remains one of the country’s most significant land and property owners in the country. The Kirk’s portfolio contains around 4,000 ecclesiastical buildings and 12,500 acres of glebe land - originally for the use of ministers- and has a capitalised value of around £515.8m.  This is up more than £10m on the year before.  The General Trustees, the church’s main property corporation, owns 1,366 churches, 201 separate halls and 842 manses and has the largest collection of Listed Buildings in Scotland.It also owns a further 1,000 properties such as retirement homes for ministers, retreats and social care centres.  The Kirk described itself as a “substantial” landowner in a report to Scottish Government on land reform last year - and also a “unique” one given that its buildings directly benefit the communities it serves.  The report said: “The Church...not only owns properties and land throughout the length and breadth of Scotland but the vast majority of landholdings are relatively small and there is already a direct local and community connection and benefit between the land and for the purpose for which it is used.”  Money raised from the sale of redundant properties goes to help congregations keep their existing churches and halls going.  Trustees get a 10 per cent levy on sale proceeds from church property, a portion of which is paid into the Central Fabric Fund which distributes grants and loans to churches in need of repair and improvement. These add up to around £3.7m a year.  The largest portion of sale proceeds go into the Consolidated Fabric Fund - worth some £49m - which is also used for improving old properties or building new ones.  A Kirk spokesman said Church properties were sold for a variety of reasons, such as following the merger of two churches or when an ageing manse was sold to make way for a more energy efficient home for a minister.

Region’s Digital Transformation
The software and business services provider Agilisys has signed a contract with CGI to deliver services as part of CGI’s contract with Scottish Borders Council, supporting the council’s ambitious digital transformation programme.  The new partnership is set to create 200 new jobs and inject over £100m into the local economy.  The announcement follows CGI’s contract signing with the City of Edinburgh Council in August 2015, where Agilisys was also named as partner.  The Edinburgh contract was the result of the City of Edinburgh Council’s Public Sector Partner procurement, which allows other local authorities, the Scottish government and health agencies to procure similar services.  Scottish Borders Council is the first local authority in the country to take this procurement route.  As part of its role in the programme, Agilisys will deliver a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution, which will replace the council’s current Finance and HR systems. They will also implement the Agilisys Digital platform, which offers citizens self-service access.  Louise Ah Wong, transformation director at Agilisys, said: “Working closely with CGI and Scottish Borders we will enable simpler and more accessible digital services for local citizens, whilst also transforming vital back office functions, to enhance mobile working practices.”  The 13-year contract with CGI will provide the council with technology to deliver customer services and streamlined systems.  In addition, CGI will unbundle six telephone exchanges in the Borders which will provide new high-speed broadband initiatives.

Rare First Edition of Shakespeare's Plays Found in Scotland

It is one of the rarest and most valuable books in the world, viewed by collectors as being akin to the Holy Grail.  And now the number of Shakespeare First Folios known to exist has risen by one, after a copy was found languishing on the bookshelves of Mount Stuart House on Bute. The First Folios are the original collection of 36 of the bard's plays, published in 1623 shortly after his death by two of his contemporaries.  Only 750 were ever produced, and just 233 were known to have survived before the latest version was unearthed in Scotland.  Among their pages are the original texts for plays such as McBeth, Julius Caesar, The Tempest and Twelfth Night and others, and it is only because the Folio was published that they have come to audiences down through the ages.  Only one other copy is believed to reside in Scotland among the collection at Glasgow University, and last one to be sold at auction fetched a price of £2.5 million. Alice Martin, Head of Historical Collections at Mount Stuart House, said that the find was "hugely exciting" and that it had been kept under wraps until it could be fully verified. The First Folio was listed among the stately home's collection, but had never been authenticated and few believed it was an original copy. Ms Martin said: "I've been working here about a year and I kept walking past it on the shelf, but I didn't think for a minute it could be a first edition. Then one day I got it down and started going through it, and I began to think 'wait a minute, this might be real after all'." The Folio, which is split into three volumes and bound in goatskin, was passed on to Emma Smith, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Oxford University, who undertook painstaking research and was able to authenticate it as a first edition. It is believed that the volumes were the working copy of Isaac Reed, a well-connected literary editor working in London in the 1700s, which became part of the Collection at Mount Stuart House in the 19th century. Professor Smith said: "This is an exciting discovery because we didn’t know it existed and it was owned by someone who edited Shakespeare in the 18th Century.It is an unusual Folio because it is bound in three volumes and has lots of spare blank pages which would have been used for illustrations.” It is hoped that the The Folio will be the first of many significant discoveries in the Bute Collection at Mount Stuart, which is being catalogued. The collection was put together over 600 years and includes landmark works of British portraiture from the 18th and 19th centuries, Italian masterpieces from the 16th century, and Dutch and Flemish Old Masters.

Nicola Sturgeon Confirms Plans to Scrap Air Passenger Duty in Scotland

Charging UK travellers one of the highest aviation taxes in the world "simply doesn't make sense", so air passenger duty (APD) will be scrapped in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has pledged. The SNP leader unveiled her plans to make Scotland "open for business" and confirmed her pledge to halve APD and ultimately abolish it.  APD was introduced by Conservative chancellor Kenneth Clarke in 1993 as a revenue-raising tool and doubled by Labour chancellor Gordon Brown in 2007 to encourage a reduction in air pollution. Ms Sturgeon said removing it will "dramatically increase Scotland's international connectivity and boost our tourist industry".The SNP has also pledged to maintain the small business bonus throughout the next Parliament, connect every household to superfast broadband by 2021 and triple the number of exporting advisers in Scotland. It will fund new innovation and investment hubs in London, Dublin and Brussels to attract inward investment and improve domestic access to new markets and investors, and increase apprenticeships in engineering, design and technology.

Shock Over Carbisdale Castle Sale Shambles
Hopes of an imminent economic recovery for the Kyle of Sutherland area have been shattered with the announcement that the sale of Carbisdale Castle has fallen through.  Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA), which ran the castle as a hostel until its closure in 2011, revealed on Friday that it had ceased its negotiations with Aberdeen Capital Ltd.  It is understood that SYHA had a number of concerns, including the length of time it was taking to conclude the deal. The castle is to go back on the market. Aberdeen Capital Ltd was proposing to invest millions to turn the historic building into a five star hotel, creating up to 90 much needed jobs.  News that a developer was interested in purchasing the grade B listed Carbisdale first emerged in April last year.  Edinburgh based architects Michael Laird Ltd were commissioned, along with public relations company Holyrood PR, and became the face of the project.  Public meetings were held at which the ambitious plans were unveiled and the prospect of scores of jobs was dangled before the Kyle of Sutherland communities.  The potential purchase was heralded as a boost for an area which has suffered severely from the closure of the castle, which attracted 20,000 visitors a year, and the destruction by fire of the Falls of Shin Visitor Centre. However the proposal hit a significant hurdle when the tiny community of Culrain objected to the developer’s interest in a parcel of Forestry Commission woodland surrounding the castle which had been earmarked for a garden. The small community’s opposition pitted local people against each other with accusations that Culrain stood in the way of a deal that held immense benefit for the whole area. After a flurry of activity and publicity, all went quiet and months have since gone by with no word of how the castle sale was going.  The silence was finally broken when SYHA issued a statement which read: “SYHA has now ceased negotiations with Aberdeen Capital Ltd to purchase Carbisdale Castle for development as a five-star resort hotel.  This difficult decision has been taken after protracted and complex negotiations and more recently as a result of growing concerns as to the likelihood of the sale ultimately being achieved. SYHA intends to place the castle back on the open market at the earliest opportunity to find another suitable purchaser.” Community leaders have voiced their disappointment and concern but also pointed out that the Kyle of Sutherland area has recently attracted millions of pounds in grant aid for a new youth hub and to rebuild the visitor centre at the Falls of Shin as well as to regenerate the centre of Ardgay. Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust manager Helen Houston said: “It is unfortunate that the sale of the castle is not to go ahead.  However since the Scottish Government had agreed in principle to the sale of Forestry Commission land with the castle, it may now make it a more viable purchase for a new buyer.”

Liberty House Formally Takes Over Tata’s Scottish Steel Mills
Work could get under way again at two Scottish steel mills in August after metals firm Liberty House formally took ownership of the Dalzell and Clydebridge plants.  Sanjeev Gupta, executive chairman of the Liberty House Group, said a “new era” for the industry had begun as a result of the deal.  Six months after the struggling Indian conglomerate Tata Steel announced it was mothballing the two sites with the loss of 270 jobs, it handed the keys for them to Liberty House. At the Dalzell plant in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, a flag with the Tata logo was removed and replaced with one bearing the name Liberty Steel.  With the Scottish Government having played a key role in the deal, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and enterprise minister Fergus Ewing both watched the ceremony.  Afterwards, Ms Sturgeon urged the UK and Welsh governments to step up efforts to save the giant Port Talbot steel works in South Wales. Tata will begin the sale process for that site – which is the largest steel plant in the UK – on Monday. Liberty House has been involved in talks with Tata about the future of Port Talbot but Mr Gupta would only say these were at an early stage, adding: “There is a lot of work to do, it is early days there and it is a massive undertaking.” The future of the two Scottish plants was secured last month thanks to a back-to-back agreement which involved the Scottish Government buying them from Tata Steel and immediately selling them on to Liberty. Ms Sturgeon said: “If there is any learning or experience we have got here that can be brought to bear in trying to secure a future for Port Talbot, we will happily share that.  If there’s anything at all that could be done it should be done. Steel is too strategically important an industry to allow it to go to the wall.  We all want to see the same kind of hopeful future for Port Talbot as we’re seeing for the Scottish plants today.”

Welcome to Harris Tweed Weavers

The Harris Tweed Weaver’s Association has extended a warm welcome to the latest intake of new weavers into the Harris Tweed industry.  The Horshader and Tolsta Community Trusts have supported the training and obtaining of looms for seven new weavers in their respective areas with the agreement of the Association, The Harris Tweed Authority and local mills.  In 2014 it was felt that the numbers in the weaving workforce was under strength and with careful management an increase in trained weavers would be beneficial. Today, the newly enhanced workforce is perceived to be able to meet 100% of the mill’s orders with some degree of flexibility for increases in demand for Harris Tweed cloth over the next few years.  There are now 184 working double-width looms in the islands and the Association hopes that as older weavers retire these machines will be passed on to younger weavers allowing for a gradual reduction in the average age of the workforce.