Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 351

Issue # 351                                                                   Week ending 4th June 2016
How to Gatecrash the Very Best School Reunion Party by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

We were happy watching the telly at home when we heard music from a party nearby. You know how it is. Suddenly you get in the mood to boogie. It was a bit like that last Friday when the strains of music from the golf club wafted across Bayhead and in our windows.

Mrs X remembered there was a 50th reunion party on. The wine in our bottle was gone and the golf club was just a hop, step and a jump away. Should we go? The problem was that everyone there would have an invitation and would be about, well, 50. It so happens that I am just, er, a year or two more than that. Would they sling us out? Probably.

Herself is closer to their age and could get away with it. Maybe could pretend to be someone who had been in the Nicolson Institute for a year. I would say: “Don’t you remember me? No? That’s funny I was there for most of first year. Sat beside you, in fact.” Then, after making sure my inquisitors were not from Carloway, I would claim to be Donald Macleod from Carloway who moved to Inverness.

Back then, every second boy in school was a Donald Macleod from Carloway. When families moved away it was always to Inverness. I would then slink into a corner and gulp down oceans of free vino until I was incoherent and unable to explain why no one recognised me.

“Excuse me, what’s your name again?”  “Again. Thatsh my name. Again. Let me tell you shumshing. I shink I really, really love you.” That would ensure they would quit bothering me. You know something? If I had a pound for every girl that found me unattractive while wobbly at a party, they would soon find me attractive.

I decided not to go after a cruel remark by Mrs X that I would have more chance of getting in if I claimed to have been a teacher. I was so wounded and sad at how the world has changed since the 1970s.

For instance, have you noticed how bold sheep are getting now? They will stand in the middle of the single-track road and you can toot your horn as much as you like but they will not move until they are good and ready. They just aren’t so scared of us humans any more. In fact, they look down their snouts at us as if we drivers are the ones in the wrong. Oi, woolly. You never heard of the Highway Code?

I recently heard of a house in Castlebay on Barra where a demanding ball of wool headbutts the front door every day until she is fed. The occupiers are concerned if they don’t put out pieces of bread and the occasional bit of Swiss Roll that their front door will be reduced to firewood. They have given in to the bullying sheep.

How things have changed. South Uist wags used to say Barra was a place where men were men and the sheep were nervous. Not now. You can’t drive round Barra without a chippy Cheviot jumping out at Tangusdale and threatening to crumple your bumper.

One flock went on the rampage in a Welsh village after eating a pile of leaves dumped on the side of the road. Reports say that one got inside a bungalow in sleepy Rhydypandy in the Swansea Valley and “made a mess”. Help ma boab. Really?

It is thought the leaves by the roadside which the Welsh sheep ate were dumped cannabis and the Welsh sheep were on the waccy-baccy. A man called Pete Humphries helpfully explaned: “Those sheep have been on grass for years.” Yes, Pete. Thanks.

Councillor Ioan Richard called the police after he received complaints about spaced-out sheep terrorising villagers. The raucous ruminants were charging into people homes and getting knocked over by cars as they stumbled around. That used to be common behaviour for certain people in Stornoway on a Saturday night - but sheep? Well, we haven’t seen much of that yet.

All this talk of how different things are nowadays left me feeling very sad. I couldn’t go to the reunion party and I was feeling so sorry for myself. After all that wine, I waddled off to the loo. A while later I heard Mrs X shouting that she had found something unpleasant on the bathroom floor.

She was ranting and raving and saying: “What are you like? What will you be like in 10 years? You’re too young to be wetting the bathroom floor.” Yay, I thought. At last, something I am too young to do.

Kirking o’ The Tartan
What is The Kirking of the Tartans?  Historically, the story is quite varied. The popular legend goes as follows:   On July 25, 1745, the young Prince Charles Edward Stewart, “Bonnie Prince Charlie” returned from exile in France and landed in Scotland where he began to enlist the Highland Clans for an unsuccessful attempt to dethrone George II of England and to restore the Scottish throne to the Royal House of Stewart.  Following the defeat of the Jacobite cause at Culloden in 1746, the Act of Proscription was enacted on 1st August 1746  — to subdue the vanquished Highlanders — prohibited  the wearing of any sign of the Tartan, forbad any speaking in Gaelic, outlawed Scottish music, dancing, or the playing of the pipes.  Severe penalties of 6 months imprisonment for a first offence and transportation for a second offence were handed down before the Act was finally repealed in 1782. The Highlanders subsequently hid pieces of tartan under their clothing and brought them to church for a secret blessing or kirkin’ at a particular point in the service by the minister.  During the 36 years following the Disarming Act of 1746 when the Hanovarian English government strictly enforced this ban, however during the Sunday service Highlanders would touch the hidden cloth when the minister gave the benediction, thus rededicating themselves to God and their Scottish heritage. A curious wrinkle in this legend is that many people in Scotland don’t know this so-called “history” about the Kirkin’. It is difficult to find an unbroken line of history tracing the practice back specifically to this origin in the mid-18th century. A more recent and better documented version of the story is that this began as a Scottish-American custom:  The Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans service was created or “revived” during World War II by Reverend Peter Marshall, perhaps best known by the biographical book and film A Man Called Peter — who was originally from southwest Scotland and at one time pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. In 1947 he served as Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. In order to encourage Scottish-Americans to sign up to fight on behalf of Great Britain, Peter Marshall recreated the Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans ceremony to try to instill pride among Scottish-Americans in their Scottish homeland. The ceremony was at that time held in Presbyterian churches of Scottish heritage across the US. Today, the celebration is not limited to Presbyterian churches, but is found in Episcopalian, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and other denominations across the world. Now, in present day celebration, the Highlanders patriotism, faithfulness, and strong independence are remembered by the displaying of tartans and public parade of the clans to the sound of the bagpipe. While often celebrated on Reformation Sunday,  the last Sunday in October, Kirkin’s are also celebrated at other times of the year.  In Sydney NSW the Scottish Australian Heritage Council will once again present the annual Kirkin’ O’The Tartan at the historical Hunter Baillie  Presbyterian Church in Annandale on Sunday June 26th from 10.00am.  Reverend Peter Dunston will once again officiate at this Service which draws many people with Scottish connections and interest to join in the service. Coisir Ghaidhlig Astrailianach (Australian Gaelic Singers) will also be taking part in delivering specially selected Psalms and a hymn in Scots Gaelic.

Queensferry Crossing: Engineering Ingenuity Helps Bridge the Gap
A milestone has been reached on the new Queensferry Crossing as the road links to the north shore for the first time.  The final segment of deck was put in place which means that the bridge’s north tower is joined with the north approach viaduct into Fife.  However, highly complex work is now starting to ensure a smooth ride for drivers who will use the new £1.3 billion crossing when it opens.  A Transport Scotland spokesman explained the two sections of deck are not yet level.  They said: “At present the deck fan from the north tower is lower than the viaduct deck, with a 300mm gap between the two.”  This 300mm gap will be levelled by counterbalancing the tower deck with a further deck section at the south end of the fan and then attaching and tensioning the stay cables to the deck unit.  There is then a complex technical process of fine tuning the various temporary loads the superstructure faces during construction before the 300mm gap will be fully closed later in the year.  It comes only two months after the north viaduct was fully launched as engineers completed the complex task of pushing the structure of the viaduct out across the new bridge’s distinctive v-shaped piers on the north side of the Forth.It was called one of the most technically challenging operations of its kind ever performed by Michael Martin, the project director for the Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors consortium. A massive total of 6,300 tonnes of steel and concrete were pushed out 230 metres, which in itself was a significant feat of engineering.  But what made it even more tricky was that the consortium building the bridge had to slide the edge of the moving structure down two ramps to raise its front edge by two metres.  This allowed them to pivot it over the top of one of the two support piers as it moved forward above the firth, so that the viaduct was at the correct position to match the emerging deck fanning out from the north tower.  Mr Martin said some of the best engineers in the world had used ingenuity to design and build the structure and devise the method of safely launching it into position.  “This is the kind of work being delivered on a daily basis right across this amazing project,” he added.  It is due to open in December.

Witches and Arches: Weekend of the Arts in Dundee
Remembering Witch’s Blood, a community performance featuring a 40-strong live choir, headlined the third day of events at Dundee’s Design Festival.  Witch’s Blood, a community performance first seen in the city in 1987, was reincarnated for an immersive ‘trailer event’ which provided a taste of the full story, due to be performed next year.  The promenade piece, based on William Blain’s book of the same name, took the audience around the atmospheric West Ward Works, blending contemporary life with the past in an edgy performance.  The production also featured live singing and virtual music, creating a fragmented narrative to set the scene for next year.  Alan Lyddiard, who directed the ’87 version, said the production was an “eerie installation”.  “It’s a beautiful taster. It’s really about taking what happened 30 years ago and looking to the future,” he said.  “It’s fiction that melds with the memories. It’s full of fragments, echoes and memories.”  Alan, who is also one of the directors for the reimagined piece, has been joined by some of the performers from the original production as well as brand new cast members.  Some participants are also the grandchildren of those involved in the 1987 version.  The community production has worked with around 100 people, 50 of whom appeared in three performances last night.  Organisers are hoping to bring the full scale production to life in July 2017, 30 years after its debut.  Elsewhere, artists Claire Dow and Olivier Grossetete were bringing the past into the present as part of the Ignite Dundee festival.  They have been preparing for today’s construction of a cardboard Royal Arch, which will be 14 metres high and 14 metres wide.  The crowdfunded project raised £2,770 – the same amount spent on building the original structure in the 1800s.  Members of the public are invited to come along and help build the arch, which will be made of 1,200 cardboard boxes, in Slessor Gardens.  The structure will then be demolished on Sunday at 1pm, reflecting the real arch’s destruction in 1964 to make way for the Tay Road Bridge.  Olivier has created similar People’s Towers all over the world, but this is the first of its kind on Scotland’s east coast.

Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum: Seven Facts You May Not Know
With more than a million visitors visiting annually, it's fair to say Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is one of the jewels in Glasgow's cultural crown. Since 1901 this red sandstone palace has taken pride of place by the banks of the River Kelvin, and today showcases the city's treasures to more than a million people a year.   A Recognised Collection of National Significance, Kelvingrove is the most visited museum in the UK outside of London, thanks to its extensive and varied collections.  From the work of Dutch Masters and French Impressionists , to a celebration of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and artifacts from ancient Egypt, the building shelters something for everyone under its be-steepled roof.  We've gathered together some of the slightly more esoteric facts you may not know about the museum.   It was funded in part by a celebration of Glasgow's achievements during the Industrial Revolution  When Glasgow hosted the International Exhibition of Science, Art and Industry in 1888, the main aim was to draw the eyes of the world to the city's many accomplishments in those fields. But it was hoped enough money would be raised to help fund a museum and art gallery. With nearly six million visitors attending what would be the biggest exhibition ever outside London, a profit of £43,000 went a big way to covering the costs of what would become Kelvingrove.

It is NOT built back to front
One enduring city legend is that the building was constructed the wrong way round, prompting the architect to leap to his death from one of the towers. Unsurprisingly this is not true. Interestingly Charles Rennie Mackintosh actually submitted a design for the building. Glasgow's most famous architect was rejected however in favour of Sir John W. Simpson and E.J. Milner Allen's Spanish Baroque vision.

It was damaged during World War II
In 1941 a bomb was dropped on Kelvinway, causing extensive damage to the museum. More than 50 tons of glass was shattered, plaster casts in the Sculpture Court were marred and the organ was rendered unplayable. Luckily most of the museum's valuable works had been housed in secret locations across the country.

The museum's Spitfire is not from World War II
One of the museum's most noticeable attractions, the aviation icon did not serve in the conflict it is most associated with. A Mark 21 model, Spitfire LA198 served with the 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron between 1947 and 1949. Today it hangs in Kelvingrove's West Court

Glasgow owns the copyright for one of Dali's most celebrated works
It's no secret the museum is home to the world famous Christ of St John of the Cross, the Dali masterpiece that has been described as the most enduring vision of the crucifixion painted in the 20th century. But not everyone knows that thanks to the astuteness of Dr Tom Honeyman, Director of Kelvingrove Art Gallery between 1939 and 1954, the painting was bought not just for less than the catalogue price, but along with the copyright for the work. Though the initial outlay (£8200) was high enough to cause protest from Glasgow School of Art students, who wanted to see the money spent on Scottish artists, today the dream-inspired religious work is estimated to be worth more than £60 million. Dr Honeyman is remembered today with the Honeyman Memorial Garden in the adjacent park.

The organ pipes are fake
Kelvingrove's organ recitals are hugely popular, with several performances, such as a tribute piece following David Bowie's death, having been seen around the world online. But not many know the pipes in the public eye are non functional.

The museum is home to a colony of bees
Since 1959 Kelvingrove has kept bees. The building's hive allows visitors to see the lifecycle of bees and look at how they make honey, as well as seeing the structure of the hive in detail.

Australian Family in Scotland Win Deportation Reprieve
An Australian family who were due to be deported from Scotland on Tuesday have been given a last minute reprieve.  The Brain family, who moved to Dingwall in the Highlands in 2011 on a visa scheme which has now been cancelled, will be allowed to stay until August but will not be permitted to carry on working.  While the decision allowing them to stay has been welcomed, SNP MP Ian Blackford has called on the Home Office to urgently rethink the decision not to allow them to work, claiming the family, Kathryn and Gregg Brain and their seven-year-old son Lachlan, will struggle to survive until August without pay.  Mr Blackford said: "I find it utterly incredulous that Home Office minister James Brokenshire has decided to extend the Brain family's right to stay in their home in Scotland but refused to grant them the right to work.  How does he expect Kathryn, Gregg and Lachlan to make ends meet until the beginning of August while the UK government refuses to allow them to work?  Both Kathryn and Gregg have secured jobs in the local area, which would benefit the local economy and allow them to continue the enormous contribution that they have already made to life in the Highlands.  What's more is that Kathryn's job for GlenWyvis Distillery is a role aimed at increasing funding for the start-up company which will in turn drive up investment and create more jobs in the Highlands.  The Tories must urgently rethink this unfair and pigheaded decision - it cannot be right that a young family should have to live with such uncertainty and worry to continue to stay in their home."  The Brain family originally moved to Scotland under a scheme designed to boost the diminishing Highland population, however the scheme was withdrawn a year later.  They were recently told that they were at risk of deportation, prompting a campaign, led by Mr Blackford and Kate Forbes MSP, urging the Home Office to allow them to stay.  Mr Blackford said he received an email at 5.45pm on Monday granting them leave to remain until August 1 but refusing them the right to continue working. The family's plight has attracted a lot of attention in recent weeks, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon writing twice to Home Secretary Theresa May, but receiving no response, and SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson raising the issue with George Osborne when he stood in at PMQs.  Mr and Mrs Brain and Lachlan, originally from Brisbane in Queensland, also met with Ms Sturgeon at the Scottish Parliament last week and received her backing for their campaign to stay. The First Minister said: "'The government changed the rules before these people had a chance to benefit." SNP lawmaker Kate Forbes added: "The government apparently is trying to regulate immigration but what they are actually doing is alienating and deporting the very people with the talent and the skills that we need in Scotland. These inflexible rules are a blunt instrument."  A Home Office spokesman confirmed that the family have been granted leave to stay for another two months, however he refused to confirm whether or not they are able to work.

Comment-R
It's about time Hollyrood had a say over Scottish immigration, What if the Scottish government said "NO !"we are not going to support your demand that they leave, What then?. Send in the tanks?! I would go further and demand the Scottish Government read a riot act of its own to Westminster. Nicola Sturgeon met with this family last week. The Home Office is well aware of the political debate on this matter here, and involvement of senior politicians up here. That they then come up with a solution like this, and after a job offer was given to them, is a scandal. To say you can stay 2 more months, but have absolutely no rights in the meantime, no money, no car, no nothing, is utterly despicable. It is long past time for the Scottish Government to get tough with the London tory regime. They are being way too timid. Everything from the Bedroom Tax to Trident, and now this. Cameron should remember he has only one MP of his Party up here. The only reason Ruth Davidson is bigger than Labor at Holyrood is the woeful incompetence of the Kezia Dugdale team, and their total lack of policy on anything. Davidson is there by default. Not because she has any great support in Scotland. And she and her crowd delude themselves if they think otherwise.

Times Columnist Dismisses SNH Reply to Questions
In a hard-hitting column in The Times, Scots journalist Magnus Linklater took Scottish Natural Heritage to task for the replies they gave to questions put to them by Am Bratach last month.  In the May edition of Am Bratach, in a story revealing the sale of Strathmore Estate to the fabulously wealthy businessman, Anders Holch Povlsen, we posed five questions to SNH, pertinent to the new owner’s plans for the estate.  Mr Linklater wrote: “The questions Am Bratach put to the national conservation agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, were direct and sensible: were they happy with the policy, how would this affect traditional employment in the area, what would the impact be on other estates that carried on stalking and fishing in the traditional manner?  Mr Linklater, who came across the article while on holiday, was not impressed by how the Scottish Government’s natural heritage quango dealt with the questions. “SNH not only avoided the questions,” he wrote, “it put out instead a statement of bureaucratic impenetrability, ending with the bland paragraph: ‘We expect all deer management activity to be carried out in line with best practice guidelines, which are widely available and on our website.’  He continued: “It is this kind of high-handed approach that so irritates people in rural areas who are trying to make a living. The assumption that an undeviating national policy cannot take account of local concerns, and that those who protest against it are simply stirring up trouble, means that in the end the trust on which an organisation like SNH has to depend, is lost.” The main theme of Magnus Linklater’s piece entitled “Time for the SNP to do some ganging aboot’ was the lack of interest exhibited by political parties at election time on issues that matter in parts of the country far from centres of power.  Magnus Linklater went on to suggest that the notable successes of Orkney and Shetland LibDem candidates in last month’s Scottish parliamentary election was down to the candidates concentrating on local rather than national issues.  “The LibDems have, not surprisingly, hailed this as evidence that they are back on course in Scotland,” wrote Linklater. “It is probably safer to say that this was an island way of asserting its identity. In Orkney, the general view is that the SNP is a highly controlling party, its focus mainly on the Central Belt, and that the individuality of far-flung places in Scotland is low on the national agenda.  It is a message that Nicola Sturgeon should take to heart,” he suggested.  “Crossing to the mainland, and spending time in Caithness and Sutherland, we heard about issues that never surfaced in national manifestos but affect peoples’ lives far more directly than the big-picture policies of the mainstream parties.  For instance, I doubt if Am Bratach, the lively ‘news magazine for the North West’, figures high on the reading list of SNP ministers. It should.”

Eagerly Awaited Rob Donn CD Goes on Sale
Lovers of Gaelic song listening to the BBC may have heard a track or two from “Drine: the Songs of Rob Donn” broadcast in the last week or two. The story of the album began when the audience in a jam-packed Skerray Village Hall was invited (and responded enthusiastically) to pre-order the CD on the back of an outstanding weekend, mainly held in Melness, marking the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Durness bard. It was a courageous decision by the singers and musicians who, on behalf of Taigh na Gàidhlig Mhealanais (Melness Gaelic Centre), renewed the public’s acquaintance with the work of the masterly songsmith at audio-visual shows in Glasgow, Portree, Scourie and Skerray.  The singers and instrumentalists — James Graham (Lochinver), Catriona MacLeod (Strathnaver), Rhona Sutherland (Dalchalm), Carol Anne Mackay (Strathy) and Suzanne Houston (Golspie) — augmented by “guest” appearances from Durness-born brothers, David and Willie Morrison, young Duncan MacLeod (Bonar Bridge) and Marsaili MacLeod (Catriona’s sister) — were as good as their word and, now, two-and-a-half years after they took Rob to Celtic Connections and two years after Skerray, the CD is on sale for £13.25, including postage, at www.amazon.co.uk and www.bratach.co.uk. We understand that local shops are also being asked to stock the album.  The CD was produced by Iain MacFarlane, recorded at his Old Laundry Productions studio at Glenfinnan, and mastered by Gordon Gunn at Studio D, Tannach, near Wick. The CD cover design is by Mike Garden of BirnamCD Ltd using a line drawing of Ben Hope (in Strathmore) by Debasis Biswas.

New Song to Be Released by Art School Choir As it Recovers From Devastating Fire
A new choral work inspired by the devastating fire which damaged one of the most famous buildings in Scotland is to be released to raise money for the Glasgow School of Art. Written by writer and broadcaster Muriel Gray and Jamie Sansbury, the founder and music director of the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) Choir, Light Through Tall Windows is performed by the GSA Choir.  It will be released as a CD single in early 2017 and its proceeds will go to the ongoing Mackintosh Campus Appeal.  The music, which will to raise money for the £51m restoration, will also be available through the choir's website as a digital download.  The work will be recorded later this month in the Mackintosh Library, a key part of the building that was gutted by the fire.  Ms Gray said: "That we’ve been granted permission to record it in the library itself is thrilling and daunting in equal measure, and it’s something that each and every choir member will never forget."  The GSA is undergoing some significant changes in its city centre campus, expanding to the former building of Stow College as well as refurbishing and re-opening the Mackintosh Building following the fire of May 2014. Ms Gray, also chair of the GSA, added: "I first joined the GSA Choir when rehearsals were held each week in the stunning Mackintosh lecture theatre - the very place where, as a student, I used to shift uncomfortably during lectures.  We took it for granted that we could make music as well as art in that lovely space below the library, and that we would always be able to do so. The devastation of the fire left us reeling in shock.  Like most people that the GSA had fostered, the choir’s response was to try and create something positive out of it."  Mr Sansbury said the fire had been an emotional and traumatic event.  He said: "If you haven’t studied or worked here it is hard to understand that the Mackintosh Building is so much more than just walls, a roof and windows.  The ‘Mack’ was, and always will be, the heart of the GSA…something we all love and of which we are enormously proud. "This piece is an attempt to set down, in a more tangible way, the joy the building instils in students and staff at the School, the enduring enlightenment it represents, and the impact that has upon them for the rest of their lives." He added: "By recording in the library in its damaged state, we hope that some of the sounds of the city will be audible in the background of the finished recording: the irony of course is that although the piece is called 'Light Through Tall Window' there aren’t any windows in the library just now."

Golspie High School and Local Golf Club Help Protect Brora Terns
Nesting terns on the coast at Dalchalm north of Brora are being protected by RSPB Scotland in partnership with Highland Council, Brora Golf Club and Golspie High School, by the erection of signs and fences.  Alison Searl of RSPB Scotland has expressed delight at the way a Highland community has come together to protect one of Scotland’s most charismatic seabirds, the Arctic tern.  She said: “Arctic terns have nested at Dalchalm for many years. For the past decade RPSB Scotland and partners have worked to increase the likelihood that tern chicks will be successfully reared and fledged here.  We have erected signs to warn walkers and dog owners that they are approaching nesting terns and have maintained a series of fences that are intended to help people to avoid walking into the tern colony.  This year we were grateful to be joined in our efforts by 4th and 5th year students taking the Rural Skills Course at Golspie High in collaboration with the Forestry Commission Scotland.  The pupils braved driving sleet to help with erecting signs and mending and extending the fences.  We hope that these measures will guide people away from the top of the beach and encourage dog owners to keep their pets under close control while they are enjoying the beach at Dalchalm.”  Arctic terns are amazing travellers. They winter in the Antarctic and return to northern Scotland in late April/early May to nest on sandy or shingle shores. They can be identified by their small size, forked tails and dainty flight. They are mainly white with some grey and have a black cap and blood red beak and legs.  Terns are ground nesting birds but this makes their eggs and chicks easy prey for other birds and animals while their nests can be swept away by high tides. Unintentional disturbance by people and dogs can lead to nests being abandoned with the loss of eggs and chicks.     

Eight Sutherland Beaches Receive New 'Excellence' Award
Eight out of 12 Highland beaches to receive the accolade of winning a Scotland’s Beach Award, are in Sutherland. Environmental charity, Keep Scotland Beautiful, on 31 May announced that the 12 beaches have been recognised for the high standard of facilities they provide to visitors - from keeping sand litter free to providing excellent information and clean facilities.  The Highland beaches have, for the first time ever, received the prestigious Scotland’s Beach Award - a newly launched accreditation for beach management in Scotland.  Celebrating some of the best managed beaches in the country, Scotland’s Beach Award has been introduced as a quality benchmark for the provision of facilities to visitors along Scotland’s coastline - from toilet provision to maintaining beautiful promenades and secluded bays.  Focussing on local environmental quality, the award is designed to complement the work currently undertaken by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency on bathing water quality.  The award aims to encourage the enhancement of all Scottish beaches and to improve the economic and aesthetic value of the coastline for local communities and visitors alike. The Sutherland beaches to be recognised are:
Achmelvich Bay;  Brora Beach;  Dornoch Beach;  Durness, Sango Bay ;  Embo Beach ;
Golspie;  Melvich;  Strathy Bay.   The other four Highland beaches are:  Nairn Central;
Portmahomack;  Shandwick Bay;  Loch Morlich.
Derek Robertson, Chief Executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: “This brand new award focuses on the local environmental quality of Scotland’s beaches - from litter free sand to the provision of information for visitors. Beaches are an important asset to communities and their economies. As a year round facility, it is vital that our coastlines are maintained to the highest standards and continue to attract visitors from near and far.”  

Getting Ready for the Western Isles Bible Conference
A Welsh speaking Minister with connections to Harris is due to preach at the annual Western Isles Bible Conference which takes place, God willing, in Stornoway next weekend.  The Conference, which is hosted by the Stornoway Congregation of the Free Church (Continuing) is due to run from Friday 10th to Sunday 12th June. This year’s speaker is Rev. Dewi Higham. Born and brought up in South Wales, his father, Rev. Vernon Higham was a Presbyterian Minister who along with many evangelicals left the Welsh Presbyterian Church (the Calvinistic Methodists) in the 1960s and 1970s due to the growing liberalism prevalent in that Church. After training and working as an architect for some years, Mr Higham sensed a call to the Ministry.In 1993 he was ordained and inducted into a Welsh language church at Tregaron, West Wales. For five years from 1998 to 2003 he was assistant pastor at Heath Church (Cardiff) where his father was the Minister. Since 2003 he has been Minister at the Tabernacle Cardiff. His wife Mairi hails from Inverness, but her mother was a native of Stockinish, Harris. They have one daughter who is a fluent Welsh speaker and is also learning Gaelic. Mr Higham delights in reverent yet joyful worship, and especially in preaching Christ and him crucified.  Following in the footsteps of the earlier generations of Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, such as Daniel Rowland and Hywel Harris who knew days of revival and blessing, his longing is to see the Lord at work not only in Wales and throughout the nations and to that end he labours in the Gospel.

Nine Rescued From Fire on Yacht Off Shetland
Nine people have been rescued from a life raft after their yacht caught fire.  The Coastguard was alerted to the sailing boat in distress south west of Shetland on Thursday morning. They broadcast a mayday call and the yacht crew were picked up by a support vessel in the area. Aith RNLI Lifeboat and the Coastguard search and rescue helicopter based at Sumburgh attended the incident at around 10.30am.  A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokeswoman said: " All nine persons on board have been safely accounted for after the support vessel picked them up from a life raft after they abandoned their sailing vessel after it caught fire. The support vessel is currently making its way to Scalloway Harbour."

Bank of Scotland to Issue Plastic £5 Notes

A new, more durable £5 note will enter circulation across Scotland in October.  The banknotes are made entirely from polymer - a form of plastic - meaning they are less prone to tearing than paper ones, and they will be released by the Bank of Scotland on October 4.  The first polymer banknotes entered circulation in Scotland in March 2015 when Clydesdale Bank issued two million notes to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Forth Bridge. Slightly smaller than the existing £5 notes in circulation, the new notes will reuse the existing Bank of Scotland £5 design, with the front retaining the portrait of Sir Walter Scott. A new security  feature has been incorporated in the form of a transparent window which changes colour as the note is moved and tilted.  Philip Grant, note signatory and chair of the Scottish Executive Committee, said: "Bank of Scotland has been issuing banknotes for over 320 years and I am proud we are continuing to innovate with the development of our new polymer £5 note. Polymer is cleaner, more secure and more durable than paper and will provide enhanced counterfeit resilience, while increasing the quality of Bank of Scotland notes in circulation."  All existing paper Bank of Scotland £5 notes will gradually be withdrawn following the issue of the new note, but any in circulation will continue to hold their value and be accepted at shops, banks and cash payment machines.

Military Tattoo's Wellington Tour Generates £23.5m for City
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has generated an estimated 50 million New Zealand dollars (£23.5 million) for the city of Wellington.  The post-event figures published by Business and Economic Research Limited come after the "military spectacle" performed in the New Zealand capital for four nights in February, selling 82,000 tickets.  Scottish tourism could also receive a boost on the back of the event after 41% of Wellington audiences said they would be "inspired" to make the journey to Edinburgh to see the show.  VisitScotland chairman Lord Thurso said: "We are incredibly lucky to have the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo as an established annual event in Scotland.  Every year the Tattoo delights and inspires visitors from around the world by showcasing Scotland's heritage and talent.  The event has incredible visitor footfall during August and to witness its success as it tours the world is simply marvellous.  It has earned its stripes as the greatest show on earth."  The Tattoo, which generates £77 million annually for the Scottish economy, returns to Edinburgh Castle on August 5.

Mull Councillor Says Expected Ferry Move Would Be ‘Devastating’ to Island
Mull councillor Mary-Jean Devon has spoken out about the recent news that Caledonian MacBrayne is expected to return the MV Coruisk to serve the Mallaig to Armadale route. The ferry was redeployed to CalMac’s Oban-Mull route a move that was welcomed by Mull residents. She said ‘The Coruisk has been a game-changer for Mull. It would be devastating to see the resource taken away from us. We are an island community, we need ferries to keep us connected to the mainland; they are a lifeline service. If CalMac take the Coruisk away from us and don’t replace it with a vessel of similar size and durability then they’ll be cutting our lifeline, which is totally unacceptable.  The Scottish Government claims to be committed to island living and to enhancing island communities and it points to its evolving islands legislation as evidence of that commitment. It seems to me, if this move is anything to go by, that our leaders in Edinburgh and simply paying lip-service to the needs of island communities.  Skye has a bridge to the mainland; it is no longer an island. I find it utterly baffling that our extra ferry should be taken away from us, an island, where we have no other travel options, and given to Skye, an extension of the mainland.’