Some Scottish News & Views issue # 347

Issue # 347                                                           Week ending 7th May 2016

Mistranslations Are A Worry in Marketing and in Prayers by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Getting your message across in another tongue is not easy. You have to be careful to convey the sentiment as well as the meaning of the actual words when you try and make them intelligible to another culture. That is why Donald Trump this week reckoned Vladimir Putin called him “a genius”. Hmm. Did he really?

Some media claim the Russian president said Donald John was “bright and talented”. What Vlad the Bad actually said was “yarkii” (яркий). Ah, that’s different. That means bright or even brilliant but not in an intelligent kind of way. As everyone knows, that means colourful, vivid or flamboyant. Well, that’s true. You are that on The Apprentice, DJ. But as a translator, you’re fired.

Translators must look for alternative meanings. Poor Pepsi translated: “Come Alive With the Pepsi Generation” into Chinese. They then found out it read: “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From the Grave.” And when Swedish vacuum maker Electrolux did its American campaign, it couldn’t figure out why everyone was hooting with laughter. Its slogan said: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”

Before I go any further, I must heap fulsome praise on that most august body that definitely does not suck, Western Isles Council. No, I don’t mean the councillors. Come on, I haven’t gone completely bonkers. There is, however, a department there which listens to the public’s concerns, sorts out the priorities and then takes prompt action.

I mentioned last week that a pothole was opening up above the Atlantic Ocean. The cracked tarmac on the Bernera Bridge was worsening and I felt sure that within weeks a road squad would pass that way and drop a dollop of the sticky black stuff. However, no sooner than this newspaper hit the streets, the technical services people swung into action.

When the Assets and Infrastructure section heard of the defect, they got to it. They played the theme tune of The A Team at full blast so everyone in the council HQ on Sandwick Road knew they weren’t to be disturbed. The leader of the A Team, Calum “Hannibal” Mackenzie, puffed on his cigar, scribbled a quick plan and got his resources together. Someone suggested the job should be left for a few days. Someone else with a lot of jangling jewellery like Mr T shouted: “Shut up, fool.”

The A Team of yore always went on missions in a black and metallic grey GMC Vandura van with a red stripe down the side and a distinctive rooftop spoiler. Our latter-day A Team hurtled across the moor to Great Bernera in a yellow Ford Transit with the words Comhairle nan Eilean down the side and a distinctive rooftop ladder. Job done, the team reported back to Hannibal who, on cue, took a deep puff and chuckled: “I love it when a plan comes together.”

No mistranslation there. As I was saying, it is not always easy to speak fluently in English when you have been brought up with just Gaelic. Such people get the serious heebie-jeebies when they have had to speak English in public. Spare a thought then for those for whom English is a second language who stand up and pray in front of a congregation.

D R Macdonald, well kent in these parts as the fund-raiser for the Bethesda Hospice in Stornoway, says the first time he did it, he was sweating buckets as he stuttered along simultaneously translating familiar Gaelic phrases in his head. Multitasking to the max.

He also told me of one elderly fellow called upon to do the same when conducting family worship in front of members of his own family. All of them were married to mainlanders so he had to deliver the prayer in English or they wouldn’t have a scooby what he was saying.

The problem was, like so many of us island drivers, he found himself in a hole. He got muddled up and could not recall the words to finish the prayer. His intention was to say something like: “Oh Lord, forgive us our sins. And all we ask is in Jesus’s name. Amen.” Panic. All he could think of were the Gaelic words. The English words had gone right out of his head. He probably wondered whether he should use Amen. It is a Gaelic word, obviously. Apparently, it is the same in Hebrew but in English ...? Er, well.

Should he risk it? Necessity being the mother of invention, he wound up his prayer to the Almighty with immortal words along the lines that he finished off many of his other important communications. He simply concluded: “Oh Lord, forgive us our sins.” Pause.  “Yours faithfully, Angus MacKay.”

Daily Flight From Inverness to Heathrow Launched After 18 Years

The first daily British Airways service between Heathrow Airport and Inverness for nearly 18 years was launched on Tuesday.  The new year-round service, which sees an inbound flight leaving Heathrow just before 10am and an afternoon flight from Inverness, has been widely welcomed.  Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is a very significant development for the Highland business community, not only in terms of increasing the connectivity between Inverness and London and the South-east of the UK, but also by making it much easier for Highland businesses to connect to their customers across the world.”  Inglis Lyon, managing director of Highlands and Islands Airports, described the launch of the route as a “historic moment” for Inverness Airport and the Highlands. He said:  “The Heathrow link will transform international access to and from the Highlands, making it easier for businesses to connect and overseas visitors to holiday in the region.”

Best of British Chugs Into Caithness

Trainspotters at Thurso and Georgemas Junction crowded the platforms to welcome one of the nation’s most famous steam engines to Caithness on its UK tour.  The Great Britain IX stopped in Thurso during its nine-day itenerary chugging the length and breadth of the country. The steam engine travelled from Inverness and arrived at Thurso at 2:20pm where it stayed for almost one hour 30 minutes before departing.  The train then stopped at Georgemas Junction for refuelling where it was welcomed by a huge crowd at the rural station before heading to Kyle of Lochalsh.

Contributions Welcome for Highland World War I Memorial Book
A Memorial book containing the names of over 174,000 people from the UK and Ireland who died in Belgium during World War I is being brought to Inverness.  The specially-commissioned book, entitled Assembly, is from the In Flanders Field Museum in Ypres and will be at the heart of a pop-up exhibition at the Inverness Museum starting tomorrow.  Visitors will be invited to search through the book to see if they recognise any names and write a story directly into it. The book, part of an exhibition touring the British Isles, will be displayed alongside five chairs from St Audomarus Church in Passchendaele – each representing the casualties from one year of the war. The exhibition, which also takes in Durham, Glasgow, Norwich and Dublin, will tour up until 2018 when it will return to Belgium. The chairs will be placed back in the church and the book to the museum where it will go on permanent display. Inverness Museum curator Cait McCullagh hopes people will be inspired to add their own contributions to the book which is in Inverness until May 5. “Whilst ‘Assembly’ is here in the heart of the Highlands, we are inviting all of our visitors to contribute to this especially commissioned book by writing, drawing and pasting their own commemorative messages,” she said.  “You may find a name included in the book that you recognise and you may write a story directly into the book about that person. We would also be really pleased to receive all stories connected with your families’ or communities’ World War I experiences.”  As well as stories, photocopies of photographs and original letters can also be added.  The work is the concept of Derbyshire artist Val Carman who was the first artist in residence at The In Flanders Fields Museum in 1999, and also worked in a commemorative residency in Passchendaele.  Ms McCullagh will also give a free lunchtime lecture at the museum on Wednesday as part of the Inverness Science Festival.  Accompanied by a reservist from 205 (Scottish) Field Hospital, she will outline the role of the military in advancing medical practice, in the field and in society.  The lecture has been inspired by the experiences of Private Murdo MacRae, who fought with the Seaforth Highlanders in 1914, and whose collection of convalescent craft is held at Inverness Museum.

Massed Pipe Band Fundraiser "Spectacular" and "Inspiring"

Spectacular and Inspiring are just two of the words used to describe Saturday’s fundraising massed pipe band extravaganza in Dornoch.  The event was held to raise funds for local youngster Dylan Davidson who was seriously injured in a road accident last year. And nine-year-old Dylan was at the head of the parade, flanked by his parents Kevin and Jean. And the man pushing Dylan’s wheelchair was Police Sergeant Peter Allan who has had a personal involvement with young Dylan.  It was Sergeant Allan who helped deliver the youngster at the roadside in Caithness nearly a decade ago and he was also one of the first on the scene when the youngster was knocked down on his way home from school in November.  Nine pipe bands took part in the parade at Dornoch Town Square.  East Sutherland and Edderton councillor Jim McGillivray said: "It was absolutely spectacular. The sight of the massed pipe bands coming down Argyle Street into the Square will live long in the memory.  The performance itself was excellent and was really well attended."

Ross Woman Finds Voice Again As Parkinson's Singing Group Takes Off
A Muir of Ord woman who suffers from Parkinson’s disease is one of a number in the Highlands who have been hitting the high notes in a singing therapy class to counteract a symptom of the condition.  Liz Nicol is one of a group, called Crescendo, taking part in a singing class for those with Parkinson’s. Symptoms may include tremor, slowness of movement, muscle stiffness and a weakened voice.  It was to address the latter symptom that a small group drawn from the 450 or so people in the Highlands who have Parkinson’s have been attending regular speech and language therapy sessions at the Centre for Health Science in Inverness.  As one of those Liz has no doubts of the benefits.  She said: “I sang many years ago in choirs.  I was classically trained but since taking Parkinson’s I have not been able to sing a note.”  She said that before her singing lesson she was “feeling sorry for myself” – after it, she said, she felt “totally uplifted” and “can’t wait for the next lesson”.  The group, which is led by a professional coach, have also been singing the praises of the class in a brief video put together by NHS Highland in advance of Parkinson’s Awareness Week.  Cathy Orr, North and North-east Scotland area development manager for Parkinson’s UK, explained: “Parkinson’s can be a very isolating condition, particularly if it affects people’s voice and their confidence in communicating with others. Singing is known to be beneficial for people with Parkinson’s – not only does it help them to project their voice, which is something they tend not to do in ordinary speech, but it is good for their cognitive skills, encouraging them to remember the words of songs.”  NHS Highland speech and language therapist Maggie Wallis, who regularly works with the group, added: “Singing is a great way of helping people with Parkinson’s to be more comfortable with their voices, and having group lessons is perhaps more fun than doing voice exercises on your own at home.”

Hopes High for River Ness Memorial As Workers Are Remembered
Hopes are high a memorial commemorating workers who have died or been injured in the workplace will be installed next to the River Ness within a year.  The project is being led by the Inverness and District Trades Union Council whose members gathered with civic leaders and politicians at Friars Shott in Inverness on Thursday to commemorate International Workers’ Memorial Day.  The location has been identified for the memorial which will bear the message, Remember the Dead: Fight for the Living. The project is also being supported by Highland Council.  Ness-side councillor Fraser Parr, who is also a member of the Trades Union Council, was among those who took part in yesterday’s remembrance event.  He acknowledged it had taken a few years for the memorial project to reach its present stage but believed it was now coming to fruition.  “I am almost 100 per cent certain we will have something tangible in place by next year,” he said.  Councillor Parr felt this week’s commemoration was particularly poignant coming in the wake of the verdicts of the Hillsborough disaster 27 years ago when 96 Liverpool FC fans died. “People went to a football match and never made it home, or did not come home in the same way,” he said the commemoration, which was open to everyone to attend, was an opportunity to remember that not everyone returned home from work. People have lost their lives or been horrendously injured – police officers, people in agriculture, forestry and fishing.This is about making people aware you should come home from the workplace in the same way you left the house that morning.”

Wind Farm Award for Cycling in the Straths
THE Mackay Country Community Trust has been awarded £1260 from SSE Strathy North Joint Community Fund for its Cycling in the Straths event.  It will take place at Tongue over the weekend of May 27-29.  The event was piloted in 2014 and proved a great success, drawing entries from across Scotland. Organisers report that entries are coming in from as far afield as Edinburgh and Glasgow and it looks set to be another fun-filled weekend of cycling and Mackay Country hospitality.  A varied social programme is also on offer and includes an art exhibition and musical entertainment.  Early arrivals can register on the evening of May 27 and sample the hospitality on offer in the local hotels.  For the main cycling event on the Saturday there are two routes to choose, which will take riders through some of the most beautiful countryside in Europe.  The longer route, the Strathnaver Challenge, will take cyclists on a 63-mile trip. Leaving Tongue, riders will head east to Bettyhill before going inland through Strathnaver to Altnaharra, and along Strathmore before heading back to Tongue. The Ben Hope Trial is shorter but still a challenging 46 miles with riders starting and finishing in Tongue on a circuit via Altnaharra and Strathmore.  Although the event will be timed, it is not a race. Both routes will give riders a challenge with plenty of chance to demonstrate cycling skills and stamina. It is expected that both routes will be completed in five hours.  Following the day’s cycling, riders can enjoy live music from talented Highland musician Davy Cowan in the Ben Loyal Hotel from 9pm.  On the Sunday morning there will be a fun cycle for all ages round the Kyle of Tongue. Melness Village Hall will also be hosting an exhibition by local artists and a barbecue.  All profits from Cycling in the Straths will be used to help local communities and causes throughout Mackay Country.

UK Voters More Worried About Break-up of Union Than Brexit
Double the amount of British voters are more worried about a second independence vote than leaving Europe, a new survey has found.  The BMG poll found that when comparing a split from Europe versus a split from the UK, 68 per cent voted independence from the UK as their “least preferred option” versus 32 per cent for leaving Europe.  This number shows that significantly more people are worried about the prospect of leaving the UK than they are about a Brexit. The poll, which surveyed 1,512 people across the UK, comes at a time when First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed that if the Scottish people wanted it, she would fight for a second referendum. On the campaign trail in Edinburgh, Nicola Sturgeon said that her position was “rooted in democracy” and that her political rivals were just frightened of a second referendum. But the leaders of the opposing parties have said it is disrespecting the outcome of the vote on September 18, 2014.  While the majority of Scots have backed staying in the EU, in England, it is more of a mixed bag. Nicola said that a second referendum could be triggered if Scotland is “dragged” out of the UK. Reacting to the BMG poll, a spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said voters “right across the UK were concerned about the prospect of Scotland being independent”. That was shown in a number of rallies, and a recognition that the UK needed Scotland as much as Scotland needed the UK.”  A breakdown of the poll showed that those who were keen to stay in Europe, that over half -56 per cent - also wanted to avoid a second Scottish referendum.  Undecided EU voters were against Scottish independence (71 per cent) and 73 per cent thought independence would be a worse outcome than Brexit.  A Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesman said the SNP would “do well to remember” that debate over the EU referendum “is not a proxy one for Scottish independence”, saying: “Liberal Democrats stand for Scotland remaining part of the UK and the UK remaining part of the EU.”  The SNP confirmed their stance that the democratic will of Scotland would be the only thing that would cause a second referendum. A spokesman said: “As we have made clear, the prospect of Scotland being dragged out of Europe against our will would almost certainly spark strong demands for a second referendum.”

A Short History of Scottish Parliament Elections, 1999-2011

If A week is said to be a long time in politics, then 17 years feels closer to an eternity. The political scene as it was on May 6, 1999 - the date of the first Scottish Parliament elections - is almost unrecognisable today.

1999: A New Parliament is Born
Scottish Labour has arguably never been stronger than during the 1999 campaign and its immediate aftermath. In Donald Dewar, the party had a leader widely viewed as the father of devolution - the man who secured a Yes vote in the 1997 referendum that paved the way for Holyrood.  The SNP, by far the dominant force in Scottish politics today, was not yet the slick electoral machine that would deliver an outright majority in 2011. But the Nationalists had overtaken the Tories at the 1997 General Election to become the third biggest party in terms of MPs.  Alex Salmond was entering his ninth year as SNP leader. His relatively high public profile far eclipsed anyone else in the party. Nicola Sturgeon was a Glasgow solicitor who had failed to win a Westminster seat at two previous elections and remained largely unknown outside of political circles.  The Scottish Liberal Democrats were enjoying life under leader Jim Wallace. The party returned 10 MPs in 1997, and played a key role in campaigning for devolution. David McLetchie was the Scottish Conservative charged with leading a party into a parliament many of its members didn’t want and would rather pretend didn’t exist. The Tories had lost all of their MPs north of the border and were facing years in the political wilderness.  The Scottish Greens were virtually unknown. Tommy Sheridan was the leader of a new left-wing alliance called the Scottish Socialist Party. Neither stood a chance of winning a constituency seat. But thanks to an unfamiliar electoral system being used for the first time, both would return MSPs on what was known as the list vote.  Labour won 56 seats, three of those via the list vote, but nine short of an overall majority. It agreed to enter a coalition with the 17-strong Lib Dems.  The SNP, with 35 seats, formed the official opposition. The Tories, strict opponents of proportional representation, returned all of their 18 MSPs via the list vote.  Robin Harper created history by becoming the first Green candidate in the UK to win election at a national level.  The 58-year-old teacher said: “Keir Hardie was elected at the end of the last century and the colour of his century was socialist. For the next century, the colour for the future of the world has to be green.” Alex Salmond, while disappointed his party failed to match Labour, offered a prophetic comment in the wake of the result. “We are seeing a step change in Scottish politics,” he said. “Firstly a step change for the Scottish National Party, secondly and perhaps more importantly a step change for Scotland.”

2003: A Second Term for Mcconnell
The first session of the new parliament was far from plain sailing for Labour, its biggest party. Donald Dewar died of a brain haemorrhage in October 2000 while in office. His successor, Henry McLeish, lasted a little over a year in charge before resigning over the Officegate affair. Jack McConnell was sworn in as First Minister in November 2001 and set about preparing the ground for the 2003 election campaign.  Despite leadership turmoil, the Lab-Lib Dem coalition could point to some key policy success stories, such as the introduction of free personal care for the elderly.  The SNP was now under the leadership of John Swinney following Alex Salmond’s decision to step down in 2000.  Labour’s vote share dropped and it lost six MSPs, but the party was still able to form a second coalition with the Lib Dems, who were unchanged on 17 seats.  The SNP had an election to forget. It dropped eight seats, leaving it with just 27 MSPs. Swinney soon faced calls to resign. The real story of the campaign was the success of smaller parties and independent candidates. The Greens returned a record seven MSPs via the list vote, and the Scottish Socialists six.  Three independent MSPs were elected: Dennis Canavan, Margo MacDonald and Jean Turner. John Swinburne, leader of the Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party, also became an MSP.  “For this second term, there will be no ‘business as usual’ or simply ‘more of the same’, said McConnell. “People are impatient for change and I am too.”

2007: A Close Run Thing
It was a case of third time lucky for the SNP in 2007. Alex Salmond was back as leader following the resignation of John Swinney, with Nicola Sturgeon as his deputy, and the party had a new found confidence. The shine of the New Labour years had worn off. The fall-out from the Iraq war and the timing of Tony Blair’s exit from Downing Street dominated the headlines in the run-up to the vote. Jack McConnell’s Holyrood administration was generally viewed as competent but uninspiring.  Despite problems at a UK level, Labour was confident it could cling on in Scotland. It was not to be.  The SNP edged home with 47 seats to Labour’s 46. Crucially, Salmond’s party also won the popular vote, giving it a clear mandate to form a government for the first time.  Initial discussions to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats came to nothing, and the SNP announced it would form a minority administration.  The two-way battle between the Nationalists and Labour squeezed out the smaller parties. The Greens were reduced to two MSPs while the SSP was wiped out. Only Margo MacDonald kept her seat as an independent.

2011: An SNP Tsunami
Many political pundits were far from convinced a minority government could survive a full four-year term - but the SNP proved adept at winning votes on a confidence-and-supply basis with other parties.  Opinion polls were initially encouraging for Labour and its new leader Iain Gray in the months leading up to the 2011 election. But by April, polls were firmly swinging back towards Alex Salmond’s party.  The scale of the SNP’s success took almost everyone by surprise. It won 53 of 73 constituencies, as well as returning 16 list MSPs, giving it an overall majority.  Labour suffered its worst election result since 1932, losing 22 constituencies to the Nationalists. It had to rely on the list vote for many of its 37 seats.  It was also a night to forget for the Lib Dems. They lost 12 seats and saw their share of the popular vote fall 50 per cent on 2007.  The Tories’ share of the vote also fell slightly and party lost two MSPs. The scale of the SNP’s victory meant it could now proceed with its core manifesto pledge - to hold a referendum on Scottish independence.  “Just as the Scottish people have restored trust in us, we must trust the people as well,” Salmond declared in his victory speech. “Which is why, in this term of the parliament, we will bring forward a referendum and trust the people on Scotland’s own constitutional future.”  Although the referendum ended in defeat for the SNP and the wider Yes campaign in September 2014, the constitution remains at the forefront of many voters’ minds as they head to the polls in 2016.

£150,000 of Drugs Recovered in Aberdeen

Crack cocaine and heroin worth almost £150,000 has been seized in police raids.  Two men aged 17 and 22 were also arrested by officers at properties in the Nigg and Torry areas of Aberdeen on Friday.  The drugs, which have a street value of £142,000, were seized following an "intelligence-led operation", police said.  The men are expected to appear at Aberdeen Sheriff Court on Tuesday.  Detective Inspector Stuart McAdam said: "We will continue to pro-actively target individuals involved in the sale and supply of controlled drugs in the north east of Scotland.  

What’s In A Name?
This article explores the history behind some of Scotland’s more unusual place names.  The names in Scotland reflect a myriad of influences and changing languages – Brythonic/Brittonic, Cumbric, Gaelic, Pictish and eventually English and Scots, to name but a few.  It can be difficult to determine the exact origin of some of the names that have since been “adopted” as a new language evolved, but some of the possible origins are fascinating.

Flemish in Friockheim
The village of Froickheim (pronounced Freek-um) in Angus translates literally as “Heather Home”, but from a mash of two completely different languages. “Froick” comes from the Gaelic “fraoch” for heather, but “heim” actually comes from the German for home! In the early 1800s, many Flemish weavers had moved to the village to develop the flax-spinning process at the mill, and they requested that their heritage and new home be recognised. The mill owner was only to happy to oblige, and in 1824 the sanction and charter was passed.

A Tale of Two Ballochs
There are two places named Balloch in Scotland (one near Inverness, the other south of Loch Lomond), but the two names are pronounced completely differently. One possibility for this is that the Inverness village comes from the Gaelic “Baile an Locha”, meaning town of the loch; whereas the Balloch south of Loch Lomond is said to come from the Gaelic Am Bealach – the pass.

Ecclefechan
One of the greatest-sounding Scottish place names, Ecclefechan, has a bit of a confusing history. The name actually pre-dates Gaelic and comes from the Common Brittonic language of the Old North (Northern England and Southern Scotland around the 5th century), which developed into Old Welsh, Cumbric, Cornish and Breton. In Common Brittonic, Ecclefechan meant “small church”, but when Gaelic swept through the area the belief arose that the name derived from the 7th century St Féchín of Fore – hence the local shortening of the name to Fechan.

Viking Connections
The name Dingwall comes from the Old Norse Þingvöllr, preserving the Viking connections to the town. It means field or meeting-place of the Þing (pronounced “thing”), which was an early form of governing assembly made up of the free people of the community. Here laws were made, outlaws banned and crimes paid for in cash or kind to the victims. Interestingly, the Gaelic name for Dingwall is simply Inbhir Pheofharain – “the mouth of the Peffery”.

Helens and Helensburghs
The hamlet of Mulig on the Clyde was reformed in 1776 to make way for Sir James Colquon of Luss’s new seaside resort town, Helensburgh, which he named after his wife Helen. Its Gaelic name is a literal translation of this: Baile Eilidh – town of Helen. Helensburgh also has a sister city in New South Wales. Originally Camp Creek, the Australian town was named Helensburgh to commemorate the Coal Mine’s manager, Charles Harper, who was originally from Helensburgh (Scotland) and whose daughter was also called Helen.

A Changing City
The capital city of Edinburgh was originally named Dùn Èideann, and this change reflects the linguistic influences in the region over time. “Dùn”, Old Gaelic for hill fort, became the Old English “burh” for stronghold. The origin of “Èideann” is a little unclear, but one suggestion is that it comes from the Gaelic “aodann”, meaning mountain face – which, as anyone who has seen Edinburgh Castle’s perch over the town will agree, is a very plausible explanation.

Galashiels Production Questions Our Local Dialect
Us Borderers are very in touch with the Scots dialect, although across our towns – from Melrose to Gala to Hawick – neither the twain are the same.  And we’re quite partial to some light-hearted mockery for our differences.  Why? Writer and performer Ishbel McFarlane asks: “Who owns language? Who appoints it? Who governs it and why? Why is it we put language varieties into a hierarchy? Why do we think a ‘language’ is better than a ‘dialect’? Why do people who would never discriminate against someone for the colour of their skin, openly discriminate based on their word choice?”  Her passionate, interactive, “yin-wumman” show celebrating the wonder of the Scots language is coming tae Galae during its spring tour of the country. The award winning O is for Hoolet (owl) presents a pile of fragments – collected stories, interviews, memories, characters and attitudes – to challenge and disrupt our expectations and prejudices about language and dialects.  By interrogating the history of Scots and the ways in which it is taught and subdued, the audience is invited to question the way forward for minority languages. The  Glasgow-based theatre maker portrays several historic Scottish figures and linguistic experts from Liz Lochead to Robert Burns. Audience members, prompted by a televisual bingo caller, read prompt cards addressing those famous alter egos and McFarlane at various stages and ages in her life. Isabel said: “Most of the world are essentially Scots speakers, people brought up using a language which is considered ‘lesser’ than the ‘real’ language of state. I want to encourage conversations about Scots language, and minoritised cultures.  I love to talk and, delightfully for me, talking is a vital part of the solution. The way we talk and the way we hear is the heart of the matter. This is a universal issue. I’ve had people come up to me after shows to tell me that everything I said applied directly to their experience of northern France, or urban Boston. We think we’re in a unique situation but we’re really not. Most of the world are essentially Scots speakers – people brought up using a language which is considered ‘lesser’ than the ‘real’ language of state.”  There’s intelligence, sly wit, and a lovely sense of humour in what she does, which especially fires up when she reverts to her own experiences, shape-shifting from the little girl whose friends “correct” her Scots into English, through to the discovery in university archives of a 1970s recording of her mother singing a Scots folk song.

Angus is Caithness's First Male Celebrant
Demand for humanist services in Caithness continues to grow and a photographer has become the county’s first man who can preside over secular weddings, funerals and naming ceremonies. Angus Mackay, from Latheronwheel, is the fourth person in Caithness to be registered to lead non-religious ceremonies in the far north. During his career as a full-time freelance photographer, the 51-year-old has been hired to cover a number of humanist weddings.  Always interested and impressed by how the services are conducted, he decided to train to become a celebrant after attending a relative’s humanist funeral.  He said: “The thing that appeals to me most about humanist ceremonies is the full emphasis of the service is on the life that was lived. Working as a photographer and having covered various humanist weddings, I was always really impressed with how personal and individual the ceremonies were.  I participated in a non-religious funeral for a member of my own family, and that’s when I realised how important it was that funerals were delivered with sincerity, respect and attention to detail, and that this can be accomplished in a non-religious ceremony.  It’s not a change of a career, but I see it as an addition to my existing career and I’m looking forward to it.”  Mr Mackay was encouraged to take on the role after reading that the Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) was looking for more celebrants based in the Highlands.  He joins existing Caithness-based humanist celebrants Kate Buchanan, Linda Smith and Penelope Hamilton. They last year revealed that they were almost fully booked for 2016.  They have also received a high number of bookings for 2017 and last year put out an appeal for people to consider following in their footsteps to help meet the growing demand for their services.  After meeting with them and attending family meetings and services, Mr Mackay decided it was something he wanted to be part of.  He went on a training course organised by HSS to become registered as a celebrant who can carry out humanist weddings, funerals and naming ceremonies. “I had met the ladies in the past through my photography work at humanist ceremonies,” he said.  “After holding talks with them, they tied into what I was thinking.  I went to the HSS open day, had a chat and went through the interview process.  I then received six days’ training on funeral service and naming ceremonies and I’m still receiving training to conduct weddings.”  Mrs Buchanan, who is HSS’s far north area ceremonies officer, said three new celebrants had recently been registered in the Highlands as part of their recruitment campaign.  She said: “It is great that we are increasing the amount of humanist celebrants available to conduct ceremonies in the Highlands. There is demand for non-religious ceremonies in the area and our team is growing to meet the demand.”

What Now for Inverness Castle and Courts?
Plans to build a £23 million state-of-the-art justice centre in Inverness will not be derailed despite a deal falling through on its preferred site, according to the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS).  The setback has emerged just two months after the court service announced plans to move from Inverness Castle – which is earmarked to become a major tourist attraction – into purpose-built premises next to Burnett Road police station by the summer of 2018. Bemused Inverness councillors are now demanding answers, although an SCTS spokeswoman insisted it was still committed to developing a new centre and did not anticipate any delays.  "The SCTS’s conditional offer to purchase a site at Burnett Road has been withdrawn as the conditions could not be met by the end of March closing date," she said.  "While we are disappointed not to be in a position to conclude the purchase, we remain in discussion with the site vendor to identify possible solutions and will consider alternative sites in Inverness.  We are committed to the delivery of a new justice centre in Inverness and the scoping work, centre design and engagement with partners continues while we seek to secure the right site."

Holyrood 2016: SNP Claims 'Historic' Win But No Majority
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has declared that her party has won a historic third victory in the Holyrood election - but it did not manage an overall majority.  The SNP won 63 seats - two short of a majority which it enjoyed in the last parliament with 69 seats.  The Conservatives are the second largest party on 31. Labour had a dismal night taking 24 seats - down 13.  The Scottish Greens are the fourth largest party with six seats, ahead of the Liberal Democrats who won five. The SNP would have needed 65 seats to have a majority, a feat it managed in 2011 despite the voting system being designed to prevent one party having overall control. There are 129 elected MSPs including:  73 constituency MSPs, one for each of the 73 constituencies.  56 regional MSPs, seven for each of the eight electoral regions in Scotland.  The  Holyrood elections use a mixture of first-past-the-post constituency seats, like at a general election, and proportional representation to select regional seats that act as a top up.