Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 346

Issue # 346                                                         Week ending 30th  April 2016

It’s Time to Fix Potholes and the Mod Choirs’ Rules by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal Note: “Deanamh rudeigin mu dheidhinn” translates as “Do something about it.”

Something has to be done about the state of our roads. No, I am not a politician standing for election although that is exactly the sort of thing they will say - especially when they know they have no chance of winning any election that may be coming up.

Coincidentally, the Queen of Scottish Potholes, Ruth Davidson, whose other job is leader of the Tories in Scotland, has made extensive research into the state of our roads and has been looking into the black holes in government finances and in our roads.

Busy major roads, smaller B roads and even lanes are all crumbling with deep pits forming that will test even the most robust shock absorbers. Even pedestrians are not safe. The number of uneven, broken slabs in the pavements is also growing and proving to be a danger. No one is safe.

Ruth Davidson wants whoever forms the next Scottish government to set up a £100 million Road Maintenance Fund, with a pot of £20 million just for potholes. Ruth, here’s a thing. The next government could be yours. Could be. It’s possible. Maybe. You never know. Then again, I don’t think so. OK, not so likely. Probably not. Actually not possible. Scrub that. Yer money’s safe, blone.

Our government’s fiscal problems can be summarised as two very big issues. One is deficits and the balance of payments. The other is potholes and the balance of pavements.

The esteemed Automobile Association recently did research which shows that four out of five Scottish drivers say they had to swerve to avoid potholes in the last year. I’m surprised the AA’s figures are not higher. It must be much higher in the islands. They also said that only a fifth of motorists have ever reported one.

The problem is worse in Scotland than in the rest of the UK but, for some reason, most of us are far too shy to pick up the phone and grumble to the cooncil. Why are we so afraid to open our gobs when our cars are being thumped to pieces by uncaring governments led by people whose idea of road travel is gliding along in a chauffeured limo along specially-selected pothole-free routes?  Any democratic organisation should be grateful for the tip-offs and free advice.

Which reminds me that I was going to ask you if you saw that Irish choir on Britain’s Got Talent on Saturday?  The girls from the Presentation School in Kilkenny were fantastic. They made it an action performance as they swung and swayed and let the emotions of their Irish Gaelic songs flood out. It was really moving and got a standing ovation from a crowd that understood not one word.

Compare that with the Royal National Mod. Our own annual festival of music and songs of the Gael has categories for individual action songs in the junior sections but the wonderful choirs that compete all tend to look as if they have been force-fed a diet of sour milk. There are real joyful and talented characters in those choirs but the ridiculous outdated rules mean they are made to stand staid, strained and starchy. That is why choir competitions are staggeringly stale and stagnant - as honest Gaels, including many competitors, will privately admit.

Just saying. I thought I would mention it. It’s no biggie. Deanamh rudeigin mu dheidhinn.

Right, that’s enough free advice. The UK Government invests tens of millions in a specific pothole fund, but it is not currently the case in Scotland. If it was, it would ensure local authorities had sufficient funds to address the problem of potholes while saving them cash by cutting compensation pay-outs.

There is now even a pothole over the Atlantic. That’s right. One has appeared on the Bernera Bridge, that fine example of engineering which spans the channel from mainland Lewis to Paradise Island. A third of the way across, a pothole has opened up, about 40 feet above the Atlantic.

What a thump my van got going over on Friday. Amazingly, there doesn’t seem to be any permanent damage. No vehicle that I know of has ever had survived such a bang. Well, maybe the wee Nissan car that I had at the time when we were on honeymoon on Barra.

When I contacted our council yesterday to tell them there was a pothole on the bridge across the Atlantic I hope I did not alarm them as I explained the problem. The officer in charge of potholes asked: “How deep is it?” I told him that I didn’t know. He then asked: “Can’t you just look down into it?” I replied: “No, I’m afraid of heights.”

David Cameron Scraps Plans to Hit Holyrood Campaign Trail As His Approval Ratings Plummet in Scotland
The Prime Minister has scrapped plans to campaign in the Holyrood election, it has emerged. David Cameron will become the first UK party leader not to campaign in the closing stages of a Scottish Parliament election, prompting claims his presence would harm his party's chances on May 5.  Scottish leader Ruth Davidson confirmed the news – saying Mr Cameron was ‘busy’ - as her party stands tantalisingly close to a historic defeat of Labour, according to the latest poll.  The Survation survey put the two parties neck and neck but also indicated Mr Cameron's standing in the eyes of the public has nosedived in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal.  The Prime Minister's approval rating - the difference between those who believe he is doing a good job and those who think he is doing badly - plummeted from an already-poor minus 35 to a record low minus 46 in Scotland over the past month.  It has coincided with the leak of papers from a Panama law firm exposing how the rich and powerful have been able to use tax havens to conceal their wealth.  Damagingly, Mr Cameron was forced after a series of evasive answers to admit he had owned shares in an offshore fund set up by his late father. Speaking during a campaign visit to a buffalo farm in Fife, Ms Davidson said: "The Prime Minister is slightly busy at the moment. He's got the Queen's 90th birthday celebrations and he's also got a state visit from the US president. It's my name on the ballot paper so I will be handling the Scottish election."  She added: "As you can imagine, the SNP and our opponents generally like to do what opponents do and slag us off, but there is no correlation that I can see between any visits and any polling numbers. What we are seeing in the polls is us overtaking the Labour Party for second place."  The Scottish Conservatives have built their campaign around Ms Davidson, who is rated more popular than Labour's Kezia Dugdale. In her five years as leader, she has championed a more working class brand of Conservatism in a bid to distance the Scottish party from the Tories' elitist image at Westminster. A Scots Tory source insisted the Prime Minister was forced to scrap a planned visit because of diary commitments and it had proved impossible to find an alternative date.  Mr Cameron is expected to visit Scotland soon after the election, the source added.  The Prime Minister spoke at the Scots Tories' conference at Murrayfield at the beginning of March, when he urged supporters to "drape ourselves in red, white and Saltire blue".  However, he spent less than an hour at the event and was whisked away 20 minutes after he finished speaking. The latest Survation poll put the SNP way out in front with 53 per cent support in the constituency vote and 43 per cent in the regional ballot. Labour was on 18 per cent in the constituency vote, a point ahead of the Tories. In the battle for list seats, the Tories, on 18 per cent, were a point ahead of Labour. According to one projection, the figures put the Tories on course to win 22 seats to Labour's 21.

Comment -R
I am not surprised Mr Cameron won't show his face in Scotland prior to the elections.  There are fears that the UK government are backsliding on a pledge to provide a steady stream of orders for the Clyde after postponing/cancelling the Type 26 Frigates contract with BAE Systems yards on the Clyde resulting in 800 job losses according to the GMB union and looks like it will be done in England instead of Scotland. Its really hard to believe that his approval plummets. For something to plummet it has to have been high in the first place. The workers on the Clyde feel that were lied to. They were promised that a NO vote was the only way to safeguard MoD work on the Clyde. The betrayal is culpable, the lies political, and at the moment Scotland is unfortunately still part of the U.K.

Increased Cash for Scottish Genomes Partnership Research
The Scottish Government has recently announced £6m of investment for the Scottish Genomes Partnership (SGP), a cutting edge medical research collaboration between Scottish universities and the National Health Service.  The announcement follows on from £4 million investment that was announced by the First Minister for the Scottish Precision Medicine Ecosystem which will work closely with the SGP, and £3.5 million funds for industry-led projects in Genomic Medicine contributed by Scottish Enterprise.  The aim of the investment is to offer more rapid diagnosis to rare disease patients or a diagnosis where one hasn't been possible before. The SGP is a collaboration of Scottish Universities and the NHS capitalising on £15 million investment in whole genome sequencing technology by the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. The Scottish Government is contributing £4 million of the funding and the Medical Research Council, £2 million.  It is hoped that by combining knowledge of the whole genome sequence - or the entire genetic code - of patients and information from their health records, genetic diseases can be understood better and new ways to test, manage and treat these diseases devised. SGP will be using this technology for genomic research on rare diseases, cancers and Scottish populations, and to work with Genomics England on the diagnosis of patients in Scotland with rare genetic diseases.  The Scottish Genomes Partnership was founded following a £15m investment by the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow in January 2015. This initial funding enabled the Universities to partner with Illumina for the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment for sequencing human genomes. The equipment enables researchers and clinicians in Scotland to study the genomes of both healthy and sick people on a large scale and faster than before. Professor Anna Dominiczak, Vice-Principal and Head of the University of Glasgow's College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences said: "We are very pleased and proud to be a partner in the Scottish Genomes Partnership, and welcome this further investment into the future of precision medicine in Scotland. The SGP will play a significant role within the recently-established Scottish Ecosystem for Precision Medicine, which will co-ordinate clinical, laboratory and informatics resources and opportunities across Scotland.  Through collaborations like the SGP, and a partnership with Precision Medicine Catapult to lead the National Centre of Excellence, Scotland will be at the forefront of developing cutting-edge precision medicine technologies, with the aim to deliver the right drug for the right patient at the right time. We're extremely proud to playing a leading role in the SGP, and the wider Scottish Precision Medicine Ecosystem."

Combating the Glimmer in the Glens - From Whisky Casks to Designer Shades
Glenmorangie, the whisky brand owned by William Grant & Sons, is going into the optics business with a maker of upmarket sunglasses.  According to Glenmorangie's flowery announcement, "There is soul in wood: spirit, character - and the mysterious beauty of something that grows according to its own rules. To celebrate the wooden casks which help create Glenmorangie's unnecessarily well-made whisky, Glenmorangie has formed a pioneering collaboration with Finlay & Co., manufacturers of unique wooden-framed sunglasses. Designed and made in Britain, from Glenmorangie's own American white oak casks, the sunglasses are designed to display its unique grain and natural finish, then numbered and will have the option to be personally engraved for each customer. The sunglasses retail at £300 a pair - you might need a wee nip of whisky to dull the pain after writing the cheque.

Scottish Gold - Nearing the Jeweller's Window?
Scottish gold looks as if it is finally heading towards high-end jewellers after a mining company announced that it plans to start extraction in the early summer.  Scotgold Resources has been working on the development of the Cononish mine at Tyndrum for nearly a decade. It is now planning a processing plant where it will trial ore-processing in the hope of persuading investors to back a larger project. The company expects the gold it extracts to fetch a premium because of its scarcity.  Until now, Scottish gold has been used only for royal jewellery and found by a minority of gold panners - such as the Crown of Scotland.  A spokesman for Scotgold said that the development was exciting and that several jewellers had already expressed an interest.   "For them, to market something as being made entirely from Scottish gold is fantastic as it is quite rare," he said. "This is the most tangible development undertaken by the company since incorporation."  Scotgold said that its portable processing plant would treat about 2,400 tonnes of material over a six-month period and estimated that it could yield as much as 500 ounces of gold. This method, the company said, would be a low-cost way to prove the quality of the seams in the hills.  The separation process it intends to use does not involve chemicals, allowing the gold to be classified as ethical. Scotgold Resources is an Australian owned mining company - its Cononish mine is located near Tyndrum in Perthshire. The mine was first excavated in the 1990s but never opened for business when the gold price dropped to £200 an ounce. The gold price is currently around £850 per ounce.  Not everyone is convinced. Campaigners allege that waste products could have a negative impact on the environment.

Saltire Awards Should Be Scottish Alternative to 'Discredited' UK Honours System
Scotland should set up its own Caledonian alternative to the 'discredited' UK honours system, according to leading voices in the arts, literature and politics.  The new push to replace the UK honours system centres on making the prestigious Saltire Society Awards the basis of any Scottish alternative - a move the society supports.  Among those backing a new Scottish honours system are actors Elaine C Smith and David Hayman, writer James Robertson and the SNP’s culture spokesman at Westminster John Nicolson MP.  The calls came as respected writer and broadcaster Ruth Wishart delivered a keynote speech to mark the 80th anniversary of the Saltire Society – an apolitical organisation set up in 1936 to promote and celebrate Scottish culture and heritage.  Every year citizens are recognised by the society which hands out a series of awards for contribution to Scottish life, including the coveted Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun Awards, previously won by Donald Dewar, George Davie, Dolinna MacLennan, Robin Jenkins, George Mackay Brown and William McIlvanney.  The existing UK honours system is said to recognise people who have “made achievements in public life and committed themselves to serving and helping Britain,” according to the UK government website.  Twice a year the monarch names knights and dames and signs off on OBEs, MBEs and peerages.  The public can nominate individuals but the majority of nods come from government departments and in years gone by prime ministers have been accused of using honours for leverage and to stack the House of Lords with peers who will do their bidding.  Wishart – who turned down an honour when Tony Blair was in Downing Street - insists the system is “discredited” and her call that the Saltire Society Awards should be the alternative has been backed by the convenor of The Saltire Society Council.  Wishart said: “The UK honours system is now wholly discredited, still class ridden, and probably beyond repair...The honours lists continue to be littered with people given baubles for political ‘services...It’s also increasingly a vehicle for honouring celebrities; so much so that even the staunchly establishment Daily Telegraph was moved to suggest the latest list had been drawn up by Take A Break magazine."  She added: “We can’t fix this system in Scotland, but we do have the chance to set up our own under the auspices of the Saltire Society whose awards are apolitical and egalitarian.”  The Saltire Society Awards recognises excellence in engineering, literature, architecture and the arts after a public nomination process.  Crucially, the awards are not connected to any government department, political process or unelected monarch.  Actor Elaine C Smith said she would turn down “any honour with British Empire in the title”. Smith said: “I've always felt the honours system in the UK to be far from fit for the peoples of these islands. If you say that publicly - particularly as someone in the public eye - then it’s assumed that’s just because you haven't got one and therefore it’s not due to principle. Well, with me it’s all principle.”  Actor David Hayman said: “I wholeheartedly support the proposal that the Saltire Society Awards replace the morally bankrupt, discredited, empire-focussed national awards we have at the moment. The idea that the current gongs are stamped with the message 'For God and Empire' in the 21st Century is just too silly to contemplate.  Let us have our own awards that recognise the many good-hearted, selfless and brave people who dedicate their lives on a daily basis to helping others. They are the true heroes of our country.”

Warning to Hikers After Rescue Bid Stalled Because Climber 'Didn't Know Name of Munro He Was Climbing'
Hikers have been warned to prepare professionally for treks on snow-capped hillsides this Spring as a munro-bagger failed to direct rescuers to his position on a Scottish peak - because he didn't know its name.  The advice was issued following a spate of ill-equipped hillwalkers getting into difficulty on the Scottish ranges.  A 23-year-old hillwalker from London became stuck more than 2000ft up on a ledge on Bla Bheinn on Skye on Sunday evening. He took on the Cuillin Range peak using no more than a Google map on his mobile phone for orientation - before it ran out of power.  Lochaber and Skye Police praised the work of the Skye Mountain Rescue Team and a helicopter crew who came to the man's aid said it was all "entirely avoidable".  They tweeted: "Google maps on a phone with no charge, no map and a hopeful attitude are no mix for hills on Skye ( or anywhere!). Be prepared not rescued."  Last month Sara Albone, 28, was rescued from Ben Nevis after attempting an ascent while reportedly wearing summer clothes and carrying just a selfie stick.  The 28-year-old became disoriented and began to develop hypothermia after being caught in blizzard conditions while wearing shorts and trainers, it is understood.  She was found by chance while lost on the north face of the 4,400ft peak, where several climbers have been killed in recent months. The woman from Brighton later issued an apology and thanked the team that had to walk her off the mountain when cloud and driving rain made her unreachable by helicopter.  Despite the approach of May, forecasters say that summer will feel a long way off  as Scotland faces chilly Spring temperatures and snow thanks to a blast of Acrctic air. Neil Reid of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland warned that people can be lulled into a false sense of security when facing sea level Spring sunshine and weather conditions on hills and mountains across Scotland can vary radically from peak to peak.  He said that even now, walkers should still be looking at taking boot crampons - a metal plate with spikes designed for walking on ice or rock climbing - and an ice axe to provide extra stability and prevent slips.  "The message is that people should be prepared for what the conditions are in the hills and make an effort to find that out, in relation to precisely where they are going. "It's a case of proper preparation, check the forecast, and not just the BBC forecast after the news, you need the Mountain Weather Information Service which are very reliable. It's very easy to label people stupid in these incidents (when there are rescues) but usually it is ignorance, rather than stupidity."

Council Runs Out of Time to Decide on Wind Farm Bid
Controversial plans for a wind farm near Loch Ness will be decided on appeal by the Scottish Government after Highland Council ran out of time to determine the application.  Plans to site 10 turbines on Blairmore Estate near Kiltarlity were submitted in October by Druim Ba Sustainable Energy (DBSE), which previously applied for 23 turbines at the site. The original plans were refused by the Scottish Government in 2013 following a high-profile opposition campaign.  Under planning regulations, the revised application should have been determined by the council within four months but when it failed do so, the company – part of the French global conglomerate Louis Dreyfus Group – exercised its right to appeal to Scottish ministers. The application has attracted 379 objections from individuals and organisations including Kiltarlity, Glenurquhart, Kilmorack and Inverness West Community Councils and the Forestry Commission Scotland. There were 32 representations of support.  The revised application, seeking permission for 10 turbines up to 126 metres high, follows a radical review by DBSE in a bid to address the reasons for refusal of the previous application.  The company said the reporter’s findings and the minister’s decision formed a relevant part of the planning history of the site and was, therefore, a material consideration in the determination of this appeal.

Peatland Wind Farms 'Unlikely' to Hinder Carbon Capture
Scientists claim the presence of wind farms is unlikely to affect the ability of peatland to capture carbon.  Previous studies have established that clusters of turbines create localised microclimates, with slightly different temperatures and levels of humidity caused by the action of the turbine blades. The new study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, is the first to measure the effect on peatland, where the majority of Scottish wind farms are located. Researchers from the University of Glasgow, the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, Lancaster University and Tte Centre for Ecology and Hydrology placed a grid of 100 temperature and humidity sensors around wind turbines at ScottishPower Renewables’ Black Law wind farm in North Lanarkshire.  They found that, when the turbines were operational at night, they raised the air temperature by nearly 0.2°C and fractionally increased the absolute humidity. During the period when the turbines were inactive, the climate effects were absent. Susan Waldron, Professor of Biogeochemistry at the University of Glasgow’s School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, said: “It’s important to understand the effects of wind farms as they are projected to output seven percent of global energy production by 2035, with more than three-quarters of wind farm coverage on land. These effects are likely to be very small compared to the much larger effect that the changing of the seasons have on the temperature of peatlands.”.

Visitscotland Launches Second Version of Gaelic Language Plan
In the document, which covers a three-year period up to December 2018, the national tourism organisation details its commitment to the language it describes as “a fundamental part of Scottish culture”.  It comes after VisitScotland’s most recent Visitor Survey revealed that finding out more about Gaelic was of interest to a third of visitors to Scotland.  The Gaelic Language Plan sets out to fulfil VisitScotland’s duty to help deliver the objectives of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the National Gaelic Language Plan and to meet the duties laid out in the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005.  By doing so, VisitScotland hopes to encourage wider recognition of the unique and continuing contribution of Gaelic to Scottish life. It will also work with other public bodies and the Scottish Tourism Alliance with the aim of developing a strategy for Gaelic Tourism.  Through the plan, VisitScotland aims to support the use and learning of Gaelic within the organisation, and to promote it further through VisitScotland’s interaction with visitors, tourism businesses and stakeholders across Scotland and around the world.  The plan makes a clear commitment to demonstrate equal respect for Gaelic and English with regard to bilingual services and resources.

Salmond Corrects Cameron's Claim of 'Zero' Scottish Steel in Forth Road Bridge
Alex Salmond has hit back at David Cameron's claim there is "zero" Scottish steel in the new Forth Road Bridge - saying there is some in the girders.  The Prime Minister, who has come under fire for his government's treatment of the UK steel industry, made the comment came after SNP MP Marion Fellows accused him of viewing Scottish jobs as "expendable". Mr Cameron told to MPs that when it came to Scottish steel the replacement crossing contained "absolutely nothing". He said: "It is worth asking how much Scottish steel was in the Forth Road Bridge - zero, none, absolutely nothing, yes.  What a contrast with the warships that we're building, that of course we wouldn't be building if we had an independent Scotland. So we back the steel industry with actions as well as words," he added.  Later Mr Salmond corrected the Prime Minister in the Commons.  The former SNP leader told MPs: "I know that the Prime Minister would be incredibly anxious... to acknowledge that actually 45 per cent of the total orders of £540 million were placed with Scottish companies.  I know that the Prime Minister would want to correct the misleading impression there was no Scottish steel in the contract by acknowledging that steel from the Dalzell plate mill was in the girders at either end of the bridge.  And I fully understand the Prime Minister would want to acknowledge that the reason there was no Scottish bidder for the main sub contract was the closure of the Ravenscraig Steel Mill by a previous Tory Government in the 1990s removing our capacity to supply such steel."  The former First MInister also asked Speaker John Bercow to consider a "new innovative Prime Ministerial correction procedure" to give Mr Cameron the opportunity to "rapidly correct any misleading impressions he inadvertently gives".

Comment - R
Dear me.... Ravenscraig was shut decades ago. The Ravenscraig plant had one of the longest continuous casting, hot rolling, steel production facilities in the world before it was decommissioned. It was the plant that had it not been shut could have produced the steel for the fabrication of the components.  They also conveniently forget that at that time, Ravenscraig was the only profit making steel plant in the UK but the UK Westminster Government under Thatcher closed it down in June 24, 1992, symbolising the end of significant heavy industry in Scotland in  favour of a loss making English plant. I truly believe that Salmond is foolish to get sucked into this argument. The Scottish govt has a fiduciary duty to appoint contractors who can build the bridge, to the right specification and at the right price. It is not the govt's remit to stipulate that certain materials have to be sourced locally. When you go down that road, at what point does it stop and at what point do the costs spin out of control. So shortly there will be a bridge, built on time and under budget. That would not have been the case had the govt forced their contractors to acquire a % of the materials locally. Hence, once the decision is made and the budget agreed, politicians should stand back, which is what the Scottish govt did.

Was Scotland’s Darien Colony Doomed to Fail?
Scotland’s attempt to establish a colony in the inhospitable isthmus of Darien - modern day Panama - during the late seventeenth century is one of the most tragic episodes in Scottish history.  The ill-fated venture was a disaster. It cost the lives of around 2,000 Scots who had sailed to Central America in 1688 and 1699 to build a trading hub that would straddle two oceans. But the colonists had not prepared for the mosquito-infested jungles that awaited them on the arid spit of land the Scots named, New Caledonia. The failure of the colony left Scotland in financial ruin. Scots had poured £400,000 into the project in the 1600s which historians have estimated is close to £100billion in today’s money - about half the available national capital of the time.  This enormous loss played a major part in ensuring the eventual union with England in 1707. Could history have played out differently or was Darien doomed to fail?  While mismanagement and poor preparation are certainly to blame for Caledonia’s fall, there were many barriers obstructing the fledgling colony’s success.  “Darien was always going to fail,” says historian and author John McKendrick. He continued: “The Scots placed their colony at the most critical juncture in Spanish territory. “By the late seventeenth century the Spanish Empire was in decline but it was still a very powerful world power which ruled from northern Mexico to the tip of Argentina.  Spain was a self-contained empire it did not trade with other powers.  The Scots picked the worst place. It was in the heart of Spanish territory. It was the equivalent of the Russians having a military base 100 miles from Washington DC.”  The Spanish defeated the beleaguered colonists who were forced to leave Darien for the last time in April 1700. Despite Spanish aggression, many Scots at the time blamed the failure of the Darien dream on the English, “Then England for its treachery should mourn”, declares an eighteenth century Scots ballad.  At the time England’s colonies in the West Indies and North America were expressly forbidden to communicate and trade with the Scottish outpost. The Auld Enemy’s refusal to support the Scots was linked to foreign policy and England’s desire to remain allied with Spain. England’s Dutch ruler at the time, King William III, was determined to protect his homeland from France and the Spanish were central to ensuring its protection. But William was not just the king of England. Since the Union of the Crowns in 1603, Scotland and England had shared the same monarch. By refusing to support the Darien venture, William was denying aid to his own subjects. Scotland was in dire straits. Scots merchants were excluded from England’s rich overseas trade, poverty was rife and a series of bad harvests killed around a third of the population in the 1690s. The Darien disaster, in which around one-quarter of Scotland’s total wealth was lost, compounded Scottish woes.  But the loss of Darien left Scotland with more than just empty pockets says McKendrick. He said: “Darien had a profound psychological effect on Scotland. It robbed the country of confidence. It was a loss that would have been felt by everyone. Every Scot at the time would likely have known someone lost or known someone who lost money investing in the colony.”  Consequently Scotland’s landowners and influential citizens - many of whom would have been Darien shareholders - supported the Union of Parliaments in 1707, which provided a payment of £398,000 (a sum known as ‘the Equivalent’) as compensation for the Darien losses and provided much needed aid to the Scottish economy. The formal joining of the two kingdoms was far from universally popular however, and there were was an enduring belief that Scotland’s sovereignty was sold off in the Act of the Union. Robert Burns would later famously write about the Parliamentarians who signed the Act: “I’ll mak this declaration; We’re bought and sold for English gold- Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!”

Looking back down the centuries to the Darien episode with the abundance of knowledge we enjoy in the 21st century, it is all too easy to pour scorn on the Scottish pioneers for their naive folly. Yet was the venture really such a terrible idea?  “The Scots were on to something,” says McKendrick, “They recognised the potential that Darien had and indeed Panama would eventually become an emporium for global trade.”  In an ironic conclusion to the tale, Scottish descendants of the Darien expedition would play a role in the establishment of the Panama Canal.  When the colony was abandoned, the Rev Archibald Stobo of the second expedition was shipwrecked in South Carolina where he settled. Rev Stobo’s great-great-great-great-grandson was the future President Theodore Roosevelt, who at the turn of the twentieth century, played a significant role in Panama’s secession from Columbia and the construction of the Canal.  And so it is that a descendant of one of the Darien colonists would achieve where his ancestors failed and finally open “this door of the seas.”

International Piping Festival Set to Return to Glasgow

Glasgow’s International Piping Festival, Piping Live, is returning to the city in August.  The festival headliners will be unveiled today, for the world’s biggest week of piping, at the National Piping Centre.  Now in its 13th year, Piping Live! is expected to attract over 40,000 people from around the world, as well as over 5,000 international pipers to perform at 150 events across the city.  Some of the biggest names in traditional music will be performing this year, including RURA, Anxo Lorenzo, Ross Ainslie & Ali Hutton and the world famous Red Hot Chilli Pipers. Band performances will take place in George Square and on the steps of The Royal Concert Hall. The annual Pipe Idol competition and fan favourite, the International Quartets competition will return to the festival, while the Pipers Market’ will be back in George Square, providing the best fresh and local food and drink from across Scotland.  Roddy MacLeod, Festival Director of Piping Live!, said: “Bagpipes strike an emotional chord with people all over the world. There’s no other instrument that can make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck quite like the pipes. From major historical events, to personal moments like weddings and graduations, to shared moments of triumph like the Commonwealth Games or a cup final – bagpipes have set the scene for so many powerful memories at home and throughout the world.  This year’s line-up is all about celebrating the rich history and international diversity of the bagpipes while heralding the future with some of the most exciting new players in the traditional music scene.”  Ross Ainslie, performing at this year’s Piping Live!, said: “Piping has allowed me to travel all over the world and make a career out of something I love. Some of my earliest memories in piping were listening to Gordon Duncan’s “Just for Seumas” album on the way to practices with the the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band in Pitlochry and I’ve been completely inspired in the music since. Piping Live! is a great week for catching up with pals old and new.”

Double Success for Gaelic Radio At Media Awards
BBC Radio nan Gàidheal has been celebrating a double success after winning two awards at the Celtic Media Festival 2016 which was held in Dungarvan near Waterford and which came to a close last weekend.  Spors na Seachdain, the weekly Sports programme won the Best Sports category for its programme from the 2015 Island Games in Jersey, while Mire ri Mòir won the Best Radio Music category for its broadcast on the final day of the Royal National Mod 2015 held in Oban.  Marion Mackinnon, Managing Editor for BBC Radio nan Gàidheal said: “Winning these two awards is a real thrill, recognising as it does, the creativity and commitment of the presenters and the production teams as well as the very special connection they have with the audience.”  This year’s festival saw over 500 entries from throughout the different Celtic nations while the 2017 Celtic Media Festival will be staged for the first time ever in its history on the Isle of Man.

Archaeologists Find Church Where William Wallace Was Made Guardian of Scotland
The remains of the medieval church where William Wallace is thought to have been made Guardian of Scotland after defeating the English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge has been found by archaeologists.  Wallace and Andrew de Moray were given the title after leading a small Scottish force to victory over Edward I's large army in 1297.  A ceremony is believed to have taken place shortly after the battle in the Kirk o' the Forest in Selkirk and the remains of a medieval chapel have now been located in a ground study of the ruins of the Borders town's 18th century Auld Kirk.  Experts were expecting to find a 16th century church on the site but made a much older discovery.  Dr Chris Bowles, Scottish Borders Council's archaeologist, commissioned the geophysical study carried out by the University of Durham and the Selkirk Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme.  Dr Bowles said: "Ruins of the Auld Kirk date from the 18th century, but we knew this had replaced earlier churches on site from the 12th and 16th centuries.It has been widely acknowledged that this was the site of the Kirk of the Forest where Wallace was made Guardian of Scotland following his and Andrew Moray's defeat of the English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297.  We had been expecting the geophysics survey to uncover a 16th century church that we know to have existed and which was a replacement to the medieval church, but the only evidence in the survey is in relation to the medieval church. The association between Wallace and the local area is quite well documented, with Wallace using guerilla tactics to fight the English from the Ettrick Forest, and the Scottish nobles made Wallace Guardian of Scotland in recognition of his military successes.  Wallace went on to become the legendary figure he remains today."