Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 348

Issue # 348                                                               Week ending 14th May 2016

Bring it On, Ruth ... Sturgeon Slaps Down "Over-reaching" Tory Leader
Nicola Sturgeon yesterday set the tone for the new parliament by slapping down Ruth Davidson for “over-reaching” and saying the SNP manifesto will be implemented in full. The First Minister wasted no time putting the Tory leader in her place by saying the SNP had won a “very clear and unequivocal mandate” to deliver its policies, despite the party losing its overall majority at Holyrood.  Sturgeon delivered her defiant message as she gathered with SNP MSPs at the Kelpies near Falkirk ahead of the 63-strong group’s first meeting.  After emphasising the breadth of the SNP’s win - more than one million votes cast and every seat won in six of Scotland’s seven cities - she said it was clear that people had endorsed the SNP’s plans, and she did not need to build a consensus in parliament to deliver them. She said her opponents were divided on many issues, adding that she would work to find common ground “not so much because I have to do it but because I want to do it”.  In a newspaper article yesterday, Davidson, the new opposition leader, said the SNP’s minority government meant Sturgeon “cannot simply click her fingers and propose another independence referendum if and when she wishes", adding the parliament was "now equipped to ensure that a fresh SNP drive on independence can be halted in its tracks".  But Sturgeon warned Unionists not to sound the death knell for independence, given the Greens' six MSPs stood on a manifesto supporting a petition on whether to hold another referendum, meaning a majority of MSPs, 69 of 129, were still in favour of independence.  She said: “It’s also the case that the SNP won the election and the Tories, although they had a good night in the election, they didn’t win the election.  Ruth Davidson should perhaps be careful of overreaching herself. I have been very clear that Scotland will only become independent when a majority of people in Scotland want to be independent.  We should respect the will of the people at all times, and that applies not just to the SNP but to other parties as well."  Although the SNP now returns to minority government, Sturgeon said it was a very different picture compared to the 2007-2011 parliament, when it was the largest party by a single seat.  The SNP now had more MSPs than the Tories (31), Labour (24) and the LibDems (5) combined, she pointed out.  Asked about Davidson’s claim that the SNP has no mandate to demand a second referendum on independence, the First Minister said: ‘The Scottish Parliament has a majority of MSPs who support independence – the SNP, obviously, but the Green Party also support independence, their number of seats went up. There’s an independence-supporting majority in Parliament.”  Senior SNP sources said the Tories had failed to understand the implications of replacing Scottish Labour, the party that anchored the No campaign, as the opposition at Holyrood.  With Labour no longer a credible political force, and the main opposition party in Holyrood now linked to Westminster austerity cuts, the path to independence would be clearer, not harder, one source said.

Holyrood 2016: the Story of An Election Why the SNP Spells Pain for the Tories
It may not have been a 'punch-the-air' type of victory, but it was still a remarkable win.  Nine years into office, a time when most parties would be hiding under the desk at the thought of an election, the SNP polled 46.5 per cent of the constituency vote and 41.7 per cent on the list.  The constituency vote was up 1.1 percentage points on 2011, the list vote down just 2.3. The upshot: an SNP MSP in 59 of Scotland’s 73 first-past-the-post seats, an increase of six. In Glasgow, once the bedrock of Scottish Labour, there was a repeat of the wipe-out seen in last year’s general election, with Pollok, Maryhill and Provan all falling to the SNP.  “We haven’t beaten Labour in Glasgow, we’ve replaced them,” Nicola Sturgeon said.  It wasn’t just a Glasgow phenomenon. The SNP took every seat in six of Scotland’s seven cities. Only Edinburgh resisted, with single LibDem, Labour and Tory wins.  The SNP also broke through the one million vote barrier in constituencies, a first for the devolution era.  But so many seats meant the SNP got only four top-up list MSPs, down 12. The resulting total of 63 gave the SNP double the 31 MSPs of the Tories, but two short of an outright majority, and six shy of the 69 MSPs won in 2011.  After the result, the Tories were quick to claim Scotland had passed “peak Nat” and the SNP were moving into their twilight years in office.  But if just 360 people in Dumbarton and Edinburgh Central had switched to the SNP, the party would have won two more seats and achieved a second majority of 65. It was very close.  Sturgeon now has a mandate to govern as First Minister, but will need horse-trading to get her budgets and legislation through Holyrood.  The direction of the SNP campaign was set by the referendum.  The huge surge in members and funds after the No vote, and Sturgeon’s presence on the national stage during the general election, meant the party was well-prepared for the fight.  After Sturgeon appointed John Swinney her campaign director last September, he led “weekly review” meetings at the SNP’s Edinburgh HQ to develop messaging, ground operations and social media. Deputy SNP leader Stewart Hosie was tasked with preparing the manifesto.  When Holyrood dissolved in late March, the meetings became daily, starting with Swinney calling in from his home in Blairgowrie at 8.30am and often several times a day after that.  The party tracked the public mood through Activate, a computer database constantly updated with doorstep canvassing data, as well as through internal and public polls.  It was, naturally, a safety first campaign. A governing party was always going to stress continuity over change, reassuring voters rather than asking them to take a punt.  The cautious approach to tax summed it up, with income tax and council tax tweaked a little, but not much. This, to the SNP’s private delight, enraged both Left and Right, condemned by Labour and the LibDems as too timid, and as punitive by the Conservatives. “That puts us smack in the middle ground,” said one government source. “That’ll do us fine.” The SNP’s instincts on tax proved far better than Labour’s. Kezia Dugdale might have pleased Labour members by vowing higher taxes all round, but most voters balked at it.  It was also a presidential campaign. Again, not surprising given Sturgeon’s massive personal approval ratings.  “It was a very deliberate strategy for us,” said Swinney. “We decided to focus very much on the strength and capability of the First Minister, her popularity with the public, and to use that as a means of engaging with the electorate.  Every day we would also go through a policy proposition designed to show where our commitments lay and what our priorities were. We’d be setting them out to members of the public under the umbrella of ‘elect Nicola Sturgeon as your First Minster’ and ‘Both votes SNP’. I would say it was a policy-rich agenda.”  Throughout the campaign, the SNP was confident it was at a steady 45 per cent in the polls. It was enough to secure a win, but jitters remained about getting an overall majority.  In previous elections, the Unionist vote split among the three opposition parties. But in 2016, thanks to a very focussed campaign led by Ruth Davidson and Labour wobbles on the constitution, that tactical Unionist vote flooded to the Tories. The LibDem and Labour gains in Edinburgh Western and Southern were other examples.  One of the factors helping the LibDems, Tories and Labour win seats in Edinburgh was a concerted drive to harvest postal votes. The SNP had almost no postal vote operation.  “Postal votes are just something we’ve never really done,” said one SNP campaigner. “We’ve always gone for a Get Out The Vote (GOTV) operation on polling day instead.”  But on polling day, Activate crashed for most of the morning, hampering the GOTV effort.  However the big picture is far more positive for the SNP - thanks, ironically, to the Tories.  Davidson’s was not the only party wanting to see Labour crushed on May 5. The SNP are even more delighted at Labour’s fate.For while opposition leader may be Davidson’s dream job, it is also a dead end one. Unless Scotland’s political outlook changes utterly, she will never progress to First Minister.  In any foreseeable electoral contest between the SNP and the Tories, the SNP always win.  A Labour opposition leader might one day be seen as a putative FM, but not a Tory one.  Labour's destruction after it sided with the Conservatives in the No camp showed Davidson’s party remains remarkably toxic.  One SNP source said his party can’t wait for First Minister’s Questions to become a clash between the SNP’s record at Holyrood and David Cameron’s cuts at Westminster. So the Tories may yet rue what they wished for. In pushing Labour into a ditch, they have removed one of the bulwarks protecting the Union they were elected to preserve.

While the SNP did not get the majority it wanted, this was still a very good result. The SNP had to bring down Labour in Scotland, it had to marginalise the Lib Dems - and, crucially, it had to expose the Tories to the cold winds of reality, where Ruth Davidson is not given an easy ride for the policies of the Tories at Westminster, which also impact on a reluctant Scotland. Now, the battle lines are drawn, as it always had to be. I wouldn't worry about boredom with the politics in Scotland following a third SNP win, because everything is about to kick off again very soon, as the independence campaign gets underway again, but in a different way.  With Labour marginalised, the No camp is now synonymous with the Tories and the choice facing Scotland's voters when IndyRef2 comes along will be stark: an independent social democratic Scotland, or continuing in union under a malevolent Tory government at Westminster. I have little doubt about which choice the Scots should and indeed will make.

Strathmore Estate Sold to Danish Billionaire Povlsen
It is confirmed that Danish businessman Anders Holch Povlsen has added Strathmore to his North West Sutherland portfolio of Loyal, Kinloch and Hope estates

‘Must Highland Scotland Bear the Responsibility for Saving the Planet, to the Extinction of the Hill Farmer and the Crofter?’
It would seem that the ecologists have a special interest in “wilding” the North West Highlands to help save the planet from climate change.  In an interview Mr Povlsen’s representative for his Wildlands Ltd, states that they are “trying to redress the overgrazing that has gone on for 200years”. They also find the proposal to have a satellite launch base on the Melness ground contrary to their philosophy. It would appear that they wish to “wild” their extensive lands to have an attraction for the “upper end” of the tourist market. This presumably will not bring any trade to the local people. His condecending tone in answering the questions put gives little hope that the local people will have any benefit from their plans.  A recent article in the Active Outdoors magazine, by Mr Alan Watson Featherstone, states that “the land in the Highlands has been reduced to a minimally-productive biological condition and is held there in a paralysed and static museum like condition”. This it would appear is due to cutting down of forests, hunting of large animals to extinction and over grazing by sheep and deer.  This would seem to fit in with the ideas of Mr George Monbiot who previously expressed the opinion that hill farming is a threat to the environment.  Six generations of my family have lived and worked on the land in Sutherland and treated the land and the wild life with respect. We have worked hard to sustain ourselves and produce food for the wider populace. Now it appears that crofters and hill farmers are a threat to the environment.  To the east we have RSPB reinstating the “flow country” where trees were cut down to provide bog lands for the preservation of birds. Now to the west we have the wilding lobby who remove the sheep and the deer, block the hill drains (and possibly plant some native woodland), with a view to introducing wildlife some of which would be large predators.  We have suffered the removal of people to allow wealthy land owners to farm sheep. We have seen large tracts of land blanket-planted with conifers so the wealthy could gain tax benefits. Now we see a monopoly in land ownership by a foreign national to “wild” the land and possibly gain the benefits of subsidies from the EU and the bodies that support “wilding”. Are the oak forests of southern England to be reinstated to allow wild boar and deer to roam freely or must Highland Scotland bear the responsibility for saving the planet, to the extinction of the hill farmer and the crofter?

Caithness on List of Banned Flags At Eurovision - Along with ISIS
The new county flag of Caithness has been banned from the biggest music contest in the world along with flags of disputed territories and terrorist groups.  A leaked list from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) revealed on the Ericsson Globe website flags which have been banned from being displayed during the contest in Stockholm next week.  The banned list includes the flag of ISIS, as well as flags of disputed territories including, Crimea, Nagorno-Karabakh, Northern Cyprus and Palestine.  The list includes all local, regional or provincial flags - which includes the flags of Scotland and Wales, as well as Caithness, Orkney and Shetland.  Contest organisers have said only flags representing the 42 nations competing along with nations recognised by the United Nations can be flown. The European flag and the rainbow flag representing the LGBT community are permitted to be flown during the contest.

IMF Warns of Brexit Causing Mortgage Rises As Tory In-fighting Hits New Heights in Campaign

Mortgages could rise and house prices fall if Britain left the European Union, the IMF has warned, as the Tory in-fighting over Brexit ratcheted up with Sir John Major saying the likes of Outers Michael Gove and Boris Johnson should be ashamed of their “mischief-making” over immigration.  Jeremy Corbyn, speaking at a “Remain and Reform” rally in London, is due to say that a future Labour government would “work to raise employment standards throughout Europe to stop the undercutting of wages and strengthen every worker in Europe”. Just a day after Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, issued a stark warning that Brexit could lead to recession, Christine Largarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, repeated it and described the consequences of Britain leaving the EU as ranging from “pretty bad to very, very bad”.  At a briefing in the Treasury to unveil the global finance body’s regular report on the UK’s economic outlook, Ms Lagarde claimed Brexit posed a "significant downside risk" and could see interest rates "rise sharply". She said the prospect of Brexit was causing "anxiety around the world".  Withdrawal from the 28-member bloc would result in a "protracted period of heightened uncertainty" for the UK with a likely hit to output and "sizeable" long-term losses in income, the IMF assessment said.  It added that global market reaction to a Leave vote was likely to be "negative and could be severe".  The global finance body’s intervention in the In-Out debate sparked a forceful response from the Vote Leave camp, which accused it of trying to “talk down Britain”.  Tom Harris, the Scottish Vote Leave chief, said: "The EU-funded IMF, at the request of David Cameron, is trying to bully the people of Scotland.”  Lord Lamont, the former Tory Chancellor, decried the “daily avalanche of institutional propaganda,” which, he said, was becoming “ludicrous and pitiful”.  The Scots peer accused important institutions of becoming “politicised” and making “blood-curdling forecasts”.  Meantime, the level of rhetorical in-fighting within the Conservative Party hit new heights when Sir John unleashed a furious attack on leading Brexiteers.

Highland Gunners March Through Inverness
Troops from the Highland Gunners marched through the streets of Inverness as part of a series of events to mark the 300th anniversary of the Royal Regiment of Artillery.  Members of the 19 Regiment Royal Artillery, known as the Highland Gunners until 2012 when they became the Scottish Gunners, took part in the procession from Glebe Street to Inverness Castle.  Among the group was the first female soldier and youngest person in the British Army to qualify as Pipe Major.  Lance Bombardier Megan Beveridge, 21, originally from Inverkeithing in Fife, led the pipes and drums during the parade.  She started playing in Inverkeithing Pipe Band when she was just nine years old and, on completion of her training at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate in 2011, requested to join the Highland Gunners.  Culloden and Ardersier councillor Roddy Balfour, a member of Queen’s Own Highlanders Regimental Association and Highland Military Tattoo committee, then took the salute of the regiment at the castle, before a reception was held at the Town House.  The march was held as the Royal Regiment prepares to celebrate its 300th anniversary on May 26.  The regiment traditionally recruited from the Highlands, although in 2012 its name was changed to the Scottish Gunners after the axing of the 40th Regiment Royal Artillery, known as the Lowland Gunners.

Scotch Whisky Sector and Minister Unite on Brexit Opposition
More than £1 billion of Scotch whisky exports to the single market could be at risk from any Brexit vote in the European Union (EU) referendum next month, the government and industry chiefs have warned.  The warning comes ahead of a visit by Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss to the Glenkinchie distillery, near Edinburgh, where she will discuss with industry executives and the Scotch Whisky Association the challenge that would be posed by a vote to leave the EU.  The meeting, which will be seen as choreographed ahead of next month’s vote, is being billed as a way for Truss to “hear first-hand” how important the EU market is to a £5bn a year sector that supports 40,000 UK jobs.  Speaking ahead of the visit, Truss said: “Europe has a taste for Scotch and the industry will do better if we remain in the EU because whisky producers have hassle-free, easy access to the Single Market of 500 million people.”  The Minister claimed that a vote to leave on 23 June would be a “leap in the dark” for the food and drink industry, the UK’s biggest manufacturing sector, and with Scotch whisky accounting for a quarter of all food and drink exports.  Truss added that Brexit “could lead to years of negotiations on new trade deals – with no guarantees at the end. Our thriving Scotch industry and the wealth it brings us all through jobs and investment will be stronger, safer and better off within a reformed EU”.  The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said: “The EU single market provides common standards on labelling, certification and licensing, creating a level playing field which makes overseas trade easier for highly regulated industries such as alcohol.” Glenkinchie, home of the famous malt, and supplying brands such as Johnnie Walker and J&B, is owned by Diageo, Scotland’s biggest Scotch whisky producer, employing 4,000 people at 50 sites. Ivan Menezes, Diageo’s chief executive, reaffirmed his support for Britain in the EU. He said: “Diageo – and specifically our Scotch whisky business – benefits greatly from the UK’s membership of the EU and we strongly believe that we should remain within that union. The Single Market gives us a level playing field and open access across the EU, while the EU’s clout in international trade helps to open up new markets with agreements favourable to the UK, reducing tariffs and resolving trade disputes. This drives significant value for us and the wider Scotch whisky industry, sustaining jobs and growth at home.”

Conservationists Fight to Stop Pylons “Degrading” Culloden
One OF Scotland’s leading conservation charities has expressed deep concern over “unacceptable” proposals to construct 50-metre high electricity pylons close to internationally acclaimed landmarks such as Culloden battlefield, the Clava Cairns, Castle Fraser and Leith Hall. The proposals are part of SSE PD’s second-stage consultation Beuly-Blackhilllock-Kintore Reinforcement project.  In his letter to Lesley Dow, project liaison officer for SSEPD, Mr Skinner wrote: “It is unacceptable that in case of Culloden, if this project goes ahead there will be no less than three large overhead lines passing through this glen within a mile or so of each other. This is not something we can support.”  Mr Skinner advocated underground cabling, writing: “Without these protections, the enjoyment of our nationally and internationally valued landscapes will be damaged, with all the consequences that follow. Superficial assessments of costs, without recognising the public value at stake, will lead to the wrong decisions.”  The battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746 was the last battle fought on mainland Britain. The site has conservation area status and there is also a proposal for it to be long-listed as a potential World Heritage Site. A spokesman for Scottish Hydro Electric (SHE) Transmission, a subsidiary of SSEPD, said: “In order for the lights to stay on SHE Transmission needs to upgrade the electricity network in the north of Scotland. We do everything we can to make sure this is done in a cost effective way, while being sympathetic to the natural environment.  We have held over 20 productive consultation meetings as part of the Beauly, Blackhillock, Kintore project and we take the opinions of the public and statutory bodies seriously.”

Last Clyde-built Turbine Steamship Begins Journey Home to Glasgow
The last Clyde-built turbine steamship has begun its journey home to Glasgow from the south of England.  The TS Queen Mary is being towed from Tilbury Docks in Essex to the River Clyde where she was built and launched more than 80 years ago.  Her return home follows a lengthy campaign by a newspaper and Glasgow charity Friends of TS Queen Mary - led by Robbie Coltrane - who fought a two-year battle to rescue the ship.  They secured more than £300,000 in donations which paid for essential repairs to make her seaworthy again.  The vessel left her berth at Tilbury shortly before 3pm today.  The steamship's return will be the first time she has been in Scottish waters since 1985 and comes thanks to ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne, who once owned the vessel, making the final donation which made it possible to bring her home. Robbie Coltrane, said: “It’ll be absolutely fantastic to have her back where she belongs."

Royal Bodyguards Shoot for Peebles Silver Arrow
The Queen’s Body Guard for Scotland, the Royal Company of Archers, will be visiting Peebles on Saturday 14 May for the traditional Shoot for the Peebles Silver Arrow.  The Shoot will take place in Hay Lodge Park at 3pm following a civic luncheon for the Archers and other guests in the Tontine Hotel hosted by the Convener of Scottish Borders Council (SBC), Councillor Graham Garvie.  The Royal Company will then march to the Shoot from the Chambers Institution at 2.40pm. They will be accompanied by the Peebles Ex-Servicemen’s Pipe Band. Councillor Garvie said: “The Silver Arrow dates back to at least 1628 and has been shot for by the Royal Company of Archers since 1796. The 2016 Shoot is the 24th occasion on which the prize has been shot for. The Shoot at Peebles now takes place every six years in rotation with the Royal Company’s three other country prizes at Biggar, Selkirk and Montrose.”  The Royal Company of Archers is the official body guard to HM The Queen when she undertakes ceremonial duties in Scotland. The Royal Company has some 400 members of which about 60, usually those living in Scotland, are shooting members. The date of the Company’s founding is obscure but it was certainly in existence in 1676, when its constitution was first set down in writing. It was granted formal recognition by Queen Anne in 1704 and in 1822, in the reign of King George IV, was appointed the King’s Body Guard in Scotland.  The Peebles Arrow was originally one of the Silver Arrows offered as a prize by a number of Scottish Burghs in the days when archery was in danger of being overtaken by the popularity of firearms and gunpowder. It appears to have been first shot for in 1628 and was probably open to all comers. Only four 17th century medals remain attached to the prize, so it may not have been competed for often. On 12 July 1784, the Provost of Peebles took the Arrow to a ceremonial dinner to which he was invited by the Royal Company of Archers and as a result the Peebles Arrow became one of the Royal Company’s regular prizes. It was first shot for by the Royal Company on 3 June 1796 and is now competed for every six years in rotation with the Royal Company’s other prizes at Biggar, Montrose and Selkirk.  The shoot takes place at a range of 180 yards with archers using traditional wooden long bows and wooden arrows. Archers shoot in pairs, each archer shooting two arrows at an ‘end’ alternating with his partner or ‘Buttie’. After they have shot they move to the other end and repeat the process. All arrows which hit the target (or ‘clout’) score two points each. If no arrows hit the ‘clout’, the winner of an ‘end’ is the archer whose arrow is nearest the centre of the ‘clout’ and this scores one point.  The shoot for the Peebles Arrow consists of a maximum of 12 ‘ends’. If at the end of the competition there is a tie for first place, one more ‘end’ (a ‘prize end’) is shot to decide the outright winner.

Economy Minister Post to Be Created in Cabinet, Nicola Sturgeon Says

Nicola Sturgeon will create a new role of economy minister who will be solely responsible for supporting growth and engaging with businesses.  Ms Sturgeon revealed she will uncouple many of the responsibilities carried out by the finance secretary in previous parliaments to free up time to focus on Scotland's new tax and welfare powers.  In her first major grilling from journalists since the Scottish election, Ms Sturgeon also unveiled her desire to make government more accountable to opposition leaders, MSPs and the public.  She called for First Minister's Questions to be expanded to 45 minutes to allow more time for backbench questions, revealed she is sympathetic to the idea of loosening government control over the appointment of committee conveners and expressed a willingness to compromise on her more divisive policies.  Ms Sturgeon said she has three overarching priorities for the next term of parliament: an "iron focus" on public service delivery and reform, jobs and the economy, and "progressive politics", during the first of what is intended to be monthly press conferences at Bute House.  She said: "When I announce the new cabinet next week, I will, for the first time in the SNP's term in office, separate responsibility for the economy from the responsibility for finance.  I intend to appoint a dedicated cabinet secretary for the economy. His or her time will be focussed entirely on supporting the economy and engaging intensively with business to make sure that we do everything possible to stimulate growth, boost productivity and help protect and create well-paid jobs.  There will also, for the first time, be a dedicated finance secretary responsible for the government budget and for the introduction of the parliament's new tax and welfare powers." Stuart Mackinnon, a spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, said: "With a host of new tax powers coming to Holyrood and a slew of data suggesting Scotland's economy is under-performing, the First Minister is absolutely right to separate the finance and economy briefs in her cabinet.  We're especially pleased that the economy portfolio will include speaking up for business. Smaller firms from Kirkcaldy to Kirkwall will be reassured that a political heavyweight is making the case for them at the seat of power in Scotland."

Metal Detectorist Who Found Biggest Treasure Find 'Sidelined'
The metal detector enthusiast who found the biggest Viking treasure haul in Britain has criticised the Crown's handling of the "priceless" discovery.  Ayrshire businessman Derek McLennan, who unearthed the Galloway Viking Hoard in 2014, said he has been sidelined by the Crown's Treasure Trove Unit and Historic Environment Scotland and so far he has received nothing for the find.  He criticised the organisations for shutting him out of the process including refusing to allow him to be present to view related excavations.  While he said the reward for finding artefacts is usually 100 per cent of their value shared under agreement with the landowner - which here is the Church of Scotland - he claimed he has yet to receive even a receipt for some of the items.  The Queen’s & Lord’s Treasurer Remembrancer under the Treasure Trove Unit places found items with museums and only once this is done is a payment made.  A further delay could come as the cost of the hoard which it is claimed will be kept together when it is finally placed could be restrictive.  A spokesman for the Crown said the correct process for valuing and placing treasure trove has been followed.  Mr McLennan, who runs a not-for-profit company promoting responsible metal detecting, said he was disappointed to have been sidelined at the unveiling of one artefact.  He said: "It was massively disappointing to be excluded from further discovery such as viewing the emptying of the Carolingian vessel and the lack of information being made available to me as the finder."  Mr McLennan , who wrote an article in The Searcher magazine, said the Crown should live up to its code of practice to "promote and reward the honest, law abiding detectorists who do the right thing".  He said: "All I ever wanted was for good things to come from this discovery ... unfortunately, I am still waiting."  Under Scots law all portable antiquities of archaeological, historical or cultural significance are subject to claim by the Crown through the Treasure Trove system and must be reported.  More than 100 items wer found in the mystery cache including six silver Anglo-Saxon disc brooches from the early 9th century, a silver brooch from Ireland and Byzantium silk from around modern-day Istanbul.  Mr McLennan added: "At the present time the artefacts within the hoard may be getting valued, but I have no idea when, or if, this is indeed taking place."

Living the Dream After Trip to USA
Rising stars from Inverness had a chance to see where their music could take them when they met a successful Scottish musician in America.  Four-piece band Lional played at showcase event MUSEXPO in Los Angeles and were surprised to be greeted by Snow Patrol singer and guitarist Paul Wilson.  Born in Kinlochleven, Lochaber, Mr Wilson shot to fame with the Chasing Cars band and now produces music in the Californian city and attended the event to listen to his fellow Highlanders.  “Paul Wilson being there added a fair bit of pressure,” said singer and guitarist Joshua Mackenzie.  “He came to chat to us which was really nice and came to see us play.” Mr Mackenzie and his bandmates Russell Montgomery, Ross Haddow and Gordon McKerrow, played twice during the showcase, despite only spending two and a half days there.  “It was an amazing experience although it was a bit of a whirlwind because we weren’t there for long and did two gigs during that time,” added Mr Mackenzie.  “Both of them went well and we got a really positive reaction from the crowd.  We  have  been told  there will be a few different things coming off the back of this so we’re really hopeful.”  Lional was formed in 2013 and describe themselves as an indie-noir band. They have achieved airplay on national radio and have been likened to Interpol, Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand.

Tongue Hill Fire Brought Under Control
A wildfire on Sutherland’s north coast has been brought under control, according to firefighters. The blaze broke out on Tuesday night in the Ben Blandy area, near Tongue. Flames quickly raced through around seven square kilometres of hillside.  Scottish Fire and Rescue Services (SFRSA) said more than 20 firefighters had been deployed to fight the blaze.  A spokesman described said the situation had been made more difficult because of the "sweltering conditions."  Temperatures earlier in the week reached around 20C in the area.  A spokesman said the fire had been reduced to about two square kilometres by yesterday morning but crews were remaining at the scene in order to dampen hot spots.  The fire service said the incident had not posed a threat to property or livestock.

Syrian Refugee Families to Come to Alness Within Next Few Weeks
Highland community planning partners have confirmed that they are now ready to receive four Syrian refugee families to the Highlands in the next few weeks.  A working group of officers and volunteers from The Highland Council, Police Scotland, NHS Highland, and Highland Third Sector Interface have been putting final preparations in place for housing, education and health support for the families.   Local residents, parents and community group representatives are being invited to a community engagement event in Alness, aimed at local residents, parents of school pupils and local community organisations among whom the refugees will be coming to live. The purpose of the event is to allow local people the opportunity to learn more about the refugee crisis and the cultures of the people re-settling in their community. It will also give the community an opportunity to ask questions and identify ways in which they may wish to provide a warm welcome and support to the refugees over the coming months.  Training has also been organised by the Scottish Refugee Council for front line support staff and volunteers on welcoming and working with Syrian refugees.   Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson said: “I am pleased that we are now ready to welcome the first Syrian refugees to Highland. Along with our partners, we have identified the Alness area as the best suited location in which currently available housing, schooling and health support can be provided together with shared and accessible interpretation services.”  Supt Ross McKillop Police Scotland said: "Highland and Islands division, as part of Police Scotland, is committed to assisting Syrian refugees integrate safely and successfully into communities in the Highlands.   More than 370 refugees have settled in Scotland so far and we are delighted to play our part in welcoming the families to Ross-shire. We're fortunate to serve some of the safest communities in the country and will continue to focus on our top priority of keeping people safe - whatever their culture, race or religious beliefs." This is the first re-settlement of Syrian refugees in Highland. The Highland Council has agreed with COSLA to take up to 25 - 30 families over the period of the national re-settlement programme, subject to the confirmation of available housing.  The Home Office and Department for International Development are covering the cost of re-settling refugees across the UK.

Clydebank Set for £3.5m Marine Training Facility
A new £3.5 million training facility for marine and offshore workers is expected to attract up to 5,000 people a year to Clydebank when it opens this autumn.  Work is now underway at the hub next to the Golden Jubilee hotel, and will include classrooms, a training pool, helicopter underwater escape and a full fire training ground complete with helideck.  The facility, the first of its kind in central Scotland, will be run by Clyde Training Solutions, a newly-established subsidiary of privately-owned Clyde Group.  Hillington-based Clyde Group provides recruitment, training and travel to the marine and other industries.  Managing director Joyce Downie said: “This is an ideal place to base ourselves and, once complete, we will be able to offer a comprehensive syllabus under one roof.  The jobs created will range from training assistants, customer care to quality control. We also aim to source many of the elements for running the centre from the local area.”  Patrick McGlinchey, West Dunbartonshire Council’s convener of infrastructure, regeneration and economic development, added: “The council is committed to improving economic growth and employability across West Dunbartonshire and this exciting new development will play its part in helping to deliver this aim.  This major development also welcomes the oil and gas industry to Clydebank and offers a first-class accessible service to industry workers living in Scotland’s Central Belt and Southern regions.”

Ken Macintosh Appointed Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer
Ken Macintosh has been elected as Scottish Parliament’s new Presiding Officer and immediately pledged to bring about reform at Holyrood.  Mr Macintosh will now resign as a member of the Labour party after beating off competition from his former colleagues Johann Lamont and Elaine Smith, as well as Tories John Scott and Murdo Fraser in a vote at Holyrood.  The contest went to a third vote which saw Mr Macintosh prevail with 71 votes, while Mr Fraser took 31 and Ms Lamont got 26 votes. Ms Smith and Mr Scott had been eliminated in earlier rounds.  Mr Macintosh was immediately congratulated by Nicola Sturgeon and the other party leaders as he made his way to the Presiding Officer’s chair following this afternoon’s vote to replace the outgoing post holder Tricia Marwick.  The 54-year-old, who lost out to Kezia Dugdale in the Labour leadership race last year, said Ms Marwick should take “pride” in the distinction she has served as an MSP over the past 17 years. He added: “And pride to that she had the courage as Presiding Officer to begin the process of Parliamentary reform - a process I would be honoured to follow in her footsteps.”  The new Presiding Officer wants to see a shake-up of Holyrood’s much criticised committees amid concerns that the SNP majority in the last Parliament saw them dominated by Nationalists and meant criticism of Alex Salmond’s Government was tempered.Mr Macintosh hailed the new intake of MSPs, which he dubbed the “class of 2016.”  He added; “On a personal level, the energy, the enthusiasm, the optimism with which you have filled this building already in the few days you have been here has invigorated me, it has refreshed this place and reminded us all of the opportunities that the Scottish Parliament offers us to make a better Scotland.”

MG ALBA Appeals for ‘Firm Commitment’ to Programme Making
MG ALBA has welcomed the commitment to Gaelic broadcasting in Scotland published in the White Paper on the BBC Royal Charter and appealed for a firm commitment to be made in the renewed Charter to enable BBC ALBA to build on its success.  The White Paper, which will form the basis of the Charter to be renewed prior to the end of 2016, states that the BBC should maintain its commitment to Gaelic language broadcasting through its partnership with MG ALBA.  MG ALBA (The Gaelic Media Service), which operates BBC ALBA in partnership with BBC Scotland, said the pledge was a welcome step in recognising BBC ALBA’s achievements but a major challenge lay ahead in securing its future.  The BBC currently contributes around 4.5 hours of original programming per week to BBC ALBA. In comparison, it is required by Parliament to contribute 10 hours per week of original programming to S4C, the Welsh language channel.  MG ALBA is seeking the same 10 hour commitment to be enshrined as part of the charter review process.  Maggie Cunningham, chair of MG ALBA, said: “The value of Gaelic language broadcasting has been rightly recognised but if BBC ALBA – which is now firmly part of the Scottish broadcasting landscape – is to progress and prosper we need more original programming.  There is widespread recognition across the political spectrum that the creative industries in Scotland will get a significant shot in the arm from us producing more programmes. BBC ALBA has been an outstanding success but audience deserves a more complete service and that means fewer repeats and more original programming.  In the coming months and weeks we will continue to strive to build support for an unequivocal commitment to be made to a minimum number of hours of programming for BBC ALBA and we urge all interested parties to support this aspiration.  We remain extremely grateful for the support we have received from the BBC, Scottish and UK Governments and want to take the success of BBC ALBA to the next level.”

Allan Takes Oath in Gaelic
Western Isles MSP, Alasdair Allan, has been sworn in as MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, taking his oath in Gaelic.  This followed the Kirking of the Parliament in St Giles Cathedral on Wednesday evening, which Dr Allan also attended.  Along with his SNP MSP colleagues, Dr Allan wore the white rose of Scotland. The rose has been worn by SNP members as they are sworn in at Holyrood since the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999, and is a reference to Hugh MacDiarmid’s poem “The Little White Rose of Scotland”.  Mr Allan commented: “Like a number of my colleagues, I took the oath in parliament in Gaelic. Oaths and affirmations were given in Scots, Doric and Urdu depending on the background of many of my fellow SNP MSPs, showing the diversity of the Parliament an
d Scotland itself.”