Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 352

Issue # 352                                                              Week ending 11th June 2016

Put Your Name on the Dotted Line to Keep the Big Dummy by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Wallowing in ignorance and quite clearly exaggerating and inventing scenarios to support their own shoogly stance as well as having pretend infighting to try and interest people is just not working. No, I am not talking about Donald Trump but the EU referendum.

Despite my ancestors’ fight for democracy I shall object by abstaining and start a petition calling for the whole thing to be run again - but properly. Oh no, what am I saying?  There are so many petitions nowadays. One has been put together asking that Parliament should sit on Saturdays and that it should be a normal working day for MPs. That one must be going down really well in the north of Scotland.

There has also been one calling for a halt to plans making it a criminal offence to not pay back your student loan and also one asking that car insurance companies be stopped from “ripping off” under-25s off with high prices. As the parent of a student, I think these are absolutely magnificent … Oh heck, wait a minute.

Why should I support unwashed, smelly students’ attempts at cheap living if that means the premiums for my little red van are going to go through the roof? They would if that juvenile nonsense was pushed through. Students, huh. Spotty oiks that they are. They dunno they’ve been born, the lot of them. Grrr, don’t get me started. Deep breaths now. I must remember what the doc said. And relax.

There is even a petition to keep a certain dummy at a butcher’s shop in Inverness. I need to tread carefully here as I know quite a number of aproned cleaver wielders so I should emphasise that I am not referring to any of these guys. Not even you, Ali, the chief chop chopper-upper at that classy banger and marag vendor in Church Street, Stornoway.

It’s about the dummy that has stood outside the butcher Duncan Frasers in Queensgate since I was a lad. The dummies at Highland Council tried to get rid of it claiming it was an obstacle on the footpath. However people in the Highlands and Islands like dummies and will do anything to keep them where they can see them. I’d better not provide my examples as I would like to keep this job but readers will be able to fill in the blanks for themselves.

Things went from daft to farcical for butcher Duncan Fraser when customers began to get upset and the council was forced to admit it had got something wrong. Er, in fact it had messed up everything. It had suggested a hoarding or an advertising sign was a hazard without explaining why.

Then, wait for this, the council sent letters with incorrect contact details - for the council.  Someone had failed to update the details on the threatening letter template. If the jobsworths had deliberately tried to show themselves up as dummies, they really could not have made a better job.

Fizzing Duncan Fraser is in no mood to back down now. He told me yesterday that the support from the public had been tremendous and no way was he giving in. Duncan also said that in the 34 years they had the dummy they had never quite got round to giving him a name. Unlike Calum Angus, the dummy’s almost identical cousin in Ullapool.

Calum Angus was almost chopped up too because of penpushers at Transerv, the body that should be busy fixing potholes and wiping down road signs with damp cloths. One day in 2009 when they had nothing better to do they decided that Calum Angus was an obstacle on Ullapool’s West Shore Road. That struck a hollow note with Ullapuddlians and those who pass through the gateway to the sparkling gems that are the Hebrides.

There were complaints to politicians and pleas began from those who wanted to see him again. Things went to another level when there was a petition to bring back The Ullapool One. After many months of pressured negotiations, the butcher just lifted the 7ft hollow fellow onto his step. Hurrah. Transerv had to back off with their tails between their legs. Serv them right, I say.

Meanwhile, the EU referendum campaigners were out in force on Saturday here in Stornoway. A cruise ship, the Magellan, arrived in port as the Brexiteers were out in force. I spoke to a foreign gentleman in the afternoon who said he was apprehensive when he and his friends disembarked. He said: “When we crossed over into the town centre, the first thing I saw was a sign saying Leave. We thought the locals were trying to tell us something.”

Radical Scottish Episcopal Vote Paves Way for Same Sex Marriage...And Clash with Church of England
It is one church separated by a border - but this week Anglicans in the Church of England and in the Scottish Episcopal Church face falling out over the issue of same-sex marriages.  In the progressive corner is the Scottish Episcopal Church - in effect the Anglican church in Scotland - which is preparing to vote for clergy to be allowed to carry out same sex marriages. Meanwhile, its southern neighbours, the Church of England, is on the reactionary side, opposing any such move.  Members of the Scottish Episcopal Church will be asked if they back a change to canon law which currently states that marriage must be between a man and a woman, at the Church’s General Synod in Edinburgh on Friday.  The presiding bishop of the Church said if approved, it would be the latest step in a gradual progression towards making the Church more inclusive.  However Most Reverend David Chillingworth acknowledged it would create a schism with the Anglican Communion, an international family of churches which has the Church of England as its 'mother' church and the Archbishop of Canterbury as its spiritual head.  He said there was the possibility the Scottish Episcopal Church could even face sanctions from the Anglican Communion, similar to those imposed in January this year on a liberal US Anglican church after it permitted clergy to hold same-sex marriages. The US Episcopal Church was banned from representation on key bodies and from voting on certain issues for three years.  Chillingworth, who is Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane, said: "The Anglican Communion matters greatly to us and is also interwoven with our history - so to be out of step with the Anglican Communion is a really serious issue for us.  But every church and every province of the Anglican Communion will one day have to address these issues of human sexuality. At the moment we may find ourselves somewhat out of step, but taking the long view I think others will address this issue.” A revised canon law on marriage which takes out the reference to a man and a woman will be read for the first time at the Church's General Synod on Friday, before members of each house of the Synod – comprising of laity, clergy and bishops - vote by majority whether to back it.  If approved, the issue will be discussed over the next year, before a further vote takes place at the General Synod in 2017, which would require a two-thirds majority in each house to pass.  Chillingworth said a particular concern during the process was maintaining the unity of the church, adding: “As with every church there are people who don’t just disagree with this movement, they actually think it is wrong.  In the case of something as fundamental as this, simply adding up the votes and declaring the winner doesn’t resolve the issue. You therefore have to work out how you are going to move forward as a church holding together while people believe these very different things.”  Meanwhile the United Reformed Church, which has 50 churches in Scotland, will also vote on the issue of same sex marriages at its UK-wide General Assembly in July.  If a resolution is passed by two-thirds majority, it is expected Scottish clergy will then be able to opt to become a celebrant for same-sex marriages.        

Free Surfing In Edinburgh
Free wifi is to be rolled out across Edinburgh city centre from this summer.  Edinburgh Council has signed a 10-year contract with intechnologyWiFi, which said residents and visitors would have access to free, high-speed internet connectivity.  The programme has been funded by the UK government as part of its SuperConected Cities programme which saw more than £5m awarded to Edinburgh. It will be installed and operated at no cost to the council.  Frank Ross, City of Edinburgh Council's digital champion, said: "This is great news as everyone will be able to get free access to the latest information on their favourite apps and websites while they are out and about.  It will be particularly beneficial for the millions of residents and visitors who enjoy our festivals each year.  This project is central to the council's plans for growing the city economy, and encouraging residents and visitors to stay longer and increase their spend."  Natalie Duffield, intechnology WiFi CEO, said: "In providing seamless, 24/7 internet connectivity to residents and visitors out and about, our network solution will make it second-nature for people in the city to live more connected lives, including accessing live news as it breaks, finding out 'what's on' in real-time, or booking a meal or a bed for the night using the latest offers and promotions available."

How Much is the Coffin in the Window?
Death and taxes come to all of us and a group of Elgin ladies wanted to challenge the reticence that surrounds the end of life with an educational event. Jane Duncan Rogers and Kate Clark had planned three days of talks and information sharing - and put a willow coffin in a shop window to publicise the event.  The coffin was a taboo too far - other businesses complained. The coffin was withdrawn from view and the whole event was then cancelled. Ms Rogers said: "We put it in the window because we thought it would be attractive for people to look at. It's a beautiful work of work of art. In retrospect we could have been a little bit more sensitive, not everybody thinks like us. That's why we were doing it in the first place though."

‘No Political Will’ to  End Catholic Schools
There is no “political will” to question the value of the 366 Catholic schools in Scotland, according to the church’s new head of religious education.  Barbara Coupar, the new head of the Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES), also claimed Catholic schools should be a place “for children to become friends with Jesus”.  Ms Coupar, who took over the job with the Scottish Catholic Church last month, said the place of the schools was secure and there was no need to be “defensive”.  But her comments were criticised by the Humanist Society, who claimed they were evidence of the ongoing discrimination at work in faith schools. Ms Coupar said: “I’m certainly getting the impression that there’s no political will among the mainstream to question the worth of Catholic schools – everybody sees the value of them. Catholic schools should be centred on an opportunity for children to become friends with Jesus.”  She stressed that this should not exclude pupils of other faiths or none.

Anyone For A Kind of Sporran

Jen Cantwell from Forres had been making sporrans out of recycled materials for friends when she saw the work of a Howie Nicholsby, contemporary kilt maker, and thought ´I could do that.´  Now she produces a range of upmarket sporrans and accessories, using a range of unconventional materials. She particularly favours Lorica - a hardwearing leather substitute form Italy.  In her time, Jen has used recycled motorbike jackets and inner tubes from bikes supplied by her mountain cycling partner.  Her business - Sporran Nation - is attracting more attention thanks to the showbiz stars who are fans of Jen's wares. Alan Cumming, the Scottish actor, and Sir Chris Hoy the cyclist are proud owners of the Forres product. The sporrans have been seen at Hollywood's Academy Awards, courtesy of Oscar winner Mark Andrews. The innovation continues with Jen using a newly acquired tattoo machine to personalise her sporrans. Jen says: "Tattooing on leather is almost the same as tattooing on skin, the same inks are used, the same tattoo machines, the same needles and it takes the same time to tattoo on leather as it does on skin. After a lot of experimenting I´ve adapted some of the processes so that they work better on leather. "

BP Commits to Staying in North Sea for 40 Years
BP has delivered a massive jobs boost along with a commitment to stay in the North Sea sector for the next four decades.  The energy giant has vowed to create 534 jobs with two large-scale projects to the west of Shetland.  Installation of the modules for its Clair Ridge platform and the imminent arrival of the storage vessel Glen Lyon has been hailed as a “once in lifetime” double win for the region.  Combined they are expected to unlock one billion barrels of oil over the next 40 years.  And in a vote of confidence for the struggling industry, BP boss Mark Thomas said: “This is our home. This is where BP has matured and we feel this is our backyard.”  It is good news for the oil and gas sector which has been driven down by plummeting oil prices over the past two years, leading to fears that the industry could collapse.  More than 65,000 jobs have gone with more redundancies in the pipeline across the sector due to numerous projects being put on hold.  Operators have slashed costs as profit margins have dropped significantly over the past two years.  However, Mr Thomas said BP classed the west of Shetland as a “growth opportunity” and an area the oil and gas firm wanted to invest in.  The new jobs are linked to the hook-up and commissioning of the two projects with the work expected to last 18 months.  He added: “It’s nice to give a little bit of economic stimulation to the north-east.  The region could use it right now. And there are some very high quality resources available, so we’re getting top notch people to come out to do the construction for us.”  The oil and gas company cut 600 jobs earlier this year.

Britain Will Go to the Polls Next Month for the EU Referendum

The European referendum is so far one of the worst political debates we have ever endured and there is no sign of it getting any better in the few weeks left before polling day.  It might not hit the lows predicted when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton go toe to toe but it still leaves a lot to be desired.  The academic Philip Cowley has compared the referendum to a rotten game of football “with little skill, in the pouring rain, on a Tuesday, but there still has to be a winner”.  There are good arguments for Remain and Leave. Remain can make the case for EU co-operation, the advantages of the single market, the EU’s contribution to peace, prosperity and democracy across the continent, and the importance of stability in an uncertain world.  Leave can also make a case. Europe is the only continent in the world bar Antarctica not experiencing economic growth.  The EU is a declining bloc as a share of world trade (30 per cent in 1980, now 17 per cent); the bureaucratic consensus decision-making makes it slow and it has been unable to deal with recent crises around Greece and immigration.  What kind of non-debate are we getting? Megaphone diplomacy, Armageddon threats and a birdbrain history of Churchill versus Hitler.  Some claim Churchill as a Brexiteer, while Boris Johnson has signed up Hitler, along with Napoleon, as avid Europeans.  Both sides are telling porkies. Remain have said leaving the EU would trash the economy, raise the prospect of a technical recession and reduce living standards.  All of us could lose £4300 per household per year, while house prices could fall by 18 per cent. Central to these alarmist projections has been the debased role of the UK Treasury, who have already been down this route in the independence referendum.  Leave are on shaky ground. The constantly-used figure of the UK sending the EU £350million a week is wrong.  They have adjusted their campaign battle bus to the figure of £50million a day but that is wrong, too. These figures are net and don’t count the UK rebate or the money we get back from the EU.  Then there is immigration. Remain say the UK controls its borders, which is at best a half-truth. The UK is not part of Schengen but cannot restrict EU nationals coming to the UK.  Leave have gone for broke on this. They have raised the prospect of Turkish membership of the EU, which isn’t going to happen any time soon. They have used the threat of 79million Turks having the right to come and live in the UK, when only seven million have passports.  Ian Botham said the UK population could reach 100million, when it is now 64million.  But then again, lots of the Remain side, and Labour in particular, cannot bring themselves to say there is any limit on the immigration figures or that the 330,000 net who came in last year is unsustainable each year in the longer run.  Both campaigns are saying that we, the people, are powerless in the face of elemental forces more important than us.  That’s a dispiriting message but, as journalist Gary Younge said this week, the debate has become reduced to a Tory internal one about “fundamentalism of the nation” (Leave) versus fundamentalism of the market” (Remain).  So many issues are being left untouched in this. The losers in this campaign so far have been the British people, democracy and political debate. Between the siren voices of Remain and Leave, there is little space for the millions of don’t knows and a little light and ambiguity.  There isn’t the huge gulf between Remain and Leave often portrayed. The UK is not going to become an enthusiast for European integration if we vote to remain. However, Leave could have consequences for Scottish independence and the Northern Ireland peace process.  There is even the prospect of a Remain vote being won by Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish pro-European votes, overriding an English Leave and beginning to unravel the UK from England.  Just don’t expect our political classes to talk about such things. Too many are happy to let confusion reign.

Tourist's 'Nessie' Video Shows Humps Moving Through Loch
A film captured by a holidaymaker of an image moving across Loch Ness is causing waves of interest among viewers, including respected long-time Nessie investigator Adrian Shine. Tony Bligh, of Dublin, captured the short piece of film while visiting the loch for the first time on Wednesday.  Taken about noon from the Wellington layby on the A82, it shows a series of equidistant humps moving through the water in unison.  "I was at the top of the steps when I noticed something out on the water about three-quarters out," said Mr Bligh, who started filming it with his camera.  Mr Bligh, who also noted there was a boat about 400 yards away, said there appeared to be four to five humps, about 6ft apart, which moved together. "It was quite long," he said. "The humps were consistently the same length apart. I don’t know what it was. It was very unusual."  Mr Bligh, who was with a friend, Annie Hawkes, showed his film to staff in VisitScotland’s Inverness office. "They were really excited by it," he said. "It is interesting everyone who has seen it on my telephone."  They include Adrian Shine of the Loch Ness Project which gathers scientific information on the loch’s ecology and the potential for a monster.  But rather than confirming the image is, indeed, of Nessie, Mr Shine maintained it was an optical illusion created by the wake of a boat.  "It is a particularly good example of the effect that a reasonably high boat wake can make. It shows how powerful this illusion could be. It produces a line of very solid looking humps."  However, as he headed home to Ireland, Mr Bligh remained unsure of what the film revealed, especially given the uniformity with which the "humps" moved.  "I am tending towards the wake of a boat – I am an engineer and I am on the side of logic," he said.  But of one thing he was certain - the attraction of Loch Ness.  "It was gorgeous," he said. "And I really enjoyed Inverness. It was a really pretty and interesting place to visit."

Why the Boys Brigade is Still with Us Today
Many men of a certain age in Scotland can rhyme off three numbers from their youth without giving it much thought: their first car's registration, their mother's Co-op dividend number, and their Boys' Brigade company number. In my case DYS270C, 18/572, and 237th Glasgow. The car will have been compacted years ago - it was a Hillman Imp so it will never be mourned. The Co-op is still there, it just doesn't mark up your divvy any more. And the BB company closed through lack of recruits.  So it was with some nostalgia, and also some trepidation, that I attended the annual presentation of Queen's Badges, the Boys' Brigade's top honour, at the City Chambers in Glasgow last week. Are there any BB companies left these days, and has it not become hopelessly old-fashioned? So with some relief I can impart the good news - the Boys' Brigade still thrives in Glasgow - not in the numbers it once had, but it is still one of the most active youth organisations around. In fact there are 20,000 members in Scotland with 62 companies still operating in Glasgow. A few new companies have even been started in recent years.  Of course it has been a struggle at times. There is so much competition for young people's time that keeping companies going is never easy. Recruiting officers to run them is also a challenge. But it doesn't seem to get Glasgow Battalion chief executive Jim McVean down. In fact he argues that the percentage of teenage boys involved in the BB stands at just over 5% which is not a huge drop from its peak. There are many parents keen for their offspring to be involved as they know that in the competitive jobs market, attending and achieving goals in the Boys' Brigade is going to enhance their young ones' CVs. And then there are boys who just want to play football. The BB, founded in Glasgow of course by Sir William Smith in 1883, have been doing it for years. "We have one of the oldest football trophies in the world," says Jim McVean. "It was made in 1886 and has just been repaired. One of the lions rampant broke off. I didn't drop the trophy, it just came off in my hand. It was repaired by the same silversmiths who made it so they were delighted to see it."  But I have to check my nostalgia - it's not all about football, drill, and going to church. Says Jim: "Being linked to a church is still part and parcel of the organisation, but church attendance by the boys is not very high. Drill is also less popular." So what has taken its place? Well at the City Chambers ceremony there were 90 teenagers from the Glasgow area receiving their certificates from guest of honour Lord Haughey. There is the physical side - going on expeditions, running, cycling, even parkour - the running over roofs and walls pastime - and, yes, playing football. There is a skills element. Five of the boys have learned to play the ukelele. Some do baking. One took a course in joke writing. And there is the voluntary service in the community element where the lads have given their time in charity shops, hospices, old folks homes, and at the BB's junior sections. As one of the Queen's Men, as the teenagers receiving their certificates are called, explained: "You help others and make new friends at the same time."  Even old-style camping has changed. Instead of having a static camp with a dozen large tents for a fortnight, many companies elect instead of send teams on two-day challenges carrying two-man tents where they face a series of physical or mental contests against other companies. What? No peeling potatoes for 50 people? They don't know that they are missing.  Naturally, as an old BB corporal, I'm judging their deportment as they go up for their certificates. Many snap out a brisk salute to Lord Haughey, others salute as though it is not much more than a polite wave of the hand. Somehow the more relaxed style suits the age we live in. "And they have it easier than in my day," I hear myself mutter. Their hats no longer have white stripes that need to be carefully brightened with tennis shoe whitener. Not do their belts require vigorous buffing with Brasso before going on parade. Probably not a bad thing.  Lord Haughey - Willie Haughey - is a Gorbals boy who began an engineering apprenticeship at the age of 15, started up his own air conditioning business supplying cooling equipment to pubs, and now runs a facilities management company with a £400m. per year turnover. He told the boys that while not a BB boy himself, he regarded himself as an honorary member as his pals would sneak him into BB sporting activities. He said he couldn't imagine as a teenager what would happen to him in the years ahead, but he knew that the confidence they had already gained from the activities they took part in would help shape their futures. It was an important stage of their lives when they should have ambition, goals and aspirations. However if their only goal was to become a millionaire then they would fail, he said. But if they tried to be the very best at what they undertook then they had a chance to become a millionaire.  I thought of his sage advice as the crowd of proud parents and grandparents belted out Will Your Anchor Hold, the great BB hymn. "When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain, will your anchor drift or firm remain?" Which I think was Lord Haughey's message. If you anchor yourself in some decent activities as a teenager then your life won't drift so much. So it was cheering to think that the BB is still relevant today, helping to put structure into young people's lives. I swear I walked with a straighter back as I recrossed George Square afterwards.

Comment - R
Oh m-e-m-o-r-i-e-s!! memor-ies,  blessed(??) Memories

SNP’s Angus Robertson Warns of Scottish Independence Bid in Event of Brexit Vote

The issue of Scottish independence within the EU has “not gone away”, the SNP’s leader in Westminster Angus Robertson has said.  Mr Robertson made clear that the independence debate will be revived if Scotland is taken out of the EU against its will in the June 23 referendum, though he insisted he did not want the nation to take this path to sovereignty. Speaking at Hewlett Packard Enterprise offices in London, Mr Robertson called for a “positive” campaign for Britain to remain in the EU, rather than an approach which would see the UK stay on as a “surly lodger”.  Warning that the campaign was “at a turning point” with polls suggesting a growing likelihood of a Leave vote, Mr Robertson said: “Now more than ever, we need to hear the positive case to remain in the European Union, because it is not good enough to squeak a victory and stay in the EU and remain a surly lodger. The issue will not go away.  As a supporter of Scottish independence within the European Union, I can assure you that this issue has not gone away, especially with the potential outcome of Scotland being taken out of the EU against the wishes of Scottish voters.  I do not wish for this route to Scottish sovereignty, as I would prefer to remain within the EU together with our friends, neighbours and key trading partners in England, Wales and Ireland north and south. Scotland can and will make constitutional progress regardless of the EU referendum. What I do wish for in three weeks of positive campaigning are the strong messages around jobs, prosperity and security that matter to us individually, as families, as communities as countries.”  Mr Robertson said that support for the EU among Scottish businesses was “overwhelming”, with 68% saying they back Remain, according to a Scottish Chamber of Commerce survey.  Firms based in the EU are the ultimate owners of 42% of the more than 2,310 foreign-owned companies in Scotland, which between them employ around 314,000 people with a combined turnover of £90 billion, he said.  Scottish businesses “know the benefit of accessing a single market made up of over half a billion people and offering tariff free trade”, said Mr Robertson.  He added: “But Scotland is not just an exporting nation. In four out of the last five years, Scotland has been the most successful of all the nations and regions of the UK outside of London in attracting foreign direct investment, according to Ernst and Young’s attractiveness survey 2015.  Europe is not perfect, but it was never meant to be. One of its founding fathers Robert Schuman proclaimed in that famous 1950 address; ‘Europe will not be made all at once, or according to one single plan, rather it will be formed by taking concrete measures which bring about real solidarity’.”

Nicola Sturgeon Surges Into Forbes' Most Powerful Women List
Nicola Sturgeon has stormed into a list of the world's most powerful women, with the First Minister the second highest-ranked female from the UK behind the Queen.  The Scottish First Minister and SNP leader has made it into the ranks of the World's Most Powerful Women as compiled by US business magazine Forbes for the first time.  Ms Sturgeon, who is the first female to hold the role of First Minister, enters at number 50 on the global list, which includes 51 women from the United States but just six from the UK.  German chancellor Angela Merkel tops the list for the sixth consecutive year, making it the 11th time in total she has held the number-one spot.  She is followed by US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, with Janet Yellen, chair of the US federal reserve, ranked in third - up one from the 2015 list. Two more Americans take fourth and fifth spot - Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and General Motors chief executive officer Mary Barra respectively.  US First Lady Michelle Obama is the 13th most powerful woman, according to the rankings, which consider influence, media presence, money and success at implementing change.  There is no mention of Samantha Cameron, wife of Prime Minister David Cameron, who is also an ambassador for the charity Save the Children and who has a consultancy role with luxury leather goods manufacturer Smythson.  The Queen is the highest-placed British woman on the list, with her ranking rising from 41 last year to 29 in 2016.  The other British women who make it on to the list are Bank of England deputy governor Nemat Shafik, who is know as Minouche, at number 59, Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner at 68, Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief of the Economist, at 78 and chair of the Wellcome Trust, Eliza Manningham-Buller, who is a new entry at 88.  A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Forbes most powerful women list recognises the importance of the office of the First Minister and the heightened international profile of Scotland as a nation, as well as the influence of the First Minister in debates about both domestic policy and international issues such as human rights, climate change and the EU referendum."

Broons and Oor Wullie Stamps Released to Mark 80th Anniversary
Oor Wullie and The Broons are replacing the Queen on special sets of stamps to commemorate the comic characters' 80th anniversary.  The famous faces first appeared in the Sunday Post 80 years ago and are now featuring on the limited-edition run of first-class Scottish saltire stamps along with catchphrases.  Julie Pirone, Royal Mail director of external relations, said: "Ask anyone who spent their childhood in Scotland and they will tell you how they grew up with Oor Wullie and The Broons.  Opening your annual is still a Christmas tradition which has been handed down through generations of Scottish families. We are delighted to be celebrating these iconic characters with their own sets of stamps in their 80th anniversary year and hope that they will bring back some happy memories for everyone sending and receiving mail with them."

More Scots Buy Their Homes Outright Now Than A Decade Ago

More people are buying their homes outright with numbers of sales registered with a mortgage down by more than a third in a decade.  It comes as house prices in Scotland have risen by 20 per cent in l0 years taking the total value of the residential sales market to £148.2bn.  The Registers of Scotland's property market report, which details the trends in the land and property market over the decade’s peak years, said rises came even in the wake of the economic downturn.  There was a drop of 36.9 per cent in the number of sales being registered with a mortgage.  The total number of sales registered with an accompanying mortgage was 78,814, down from 124,837 over the decade stretch.  The average annual volume of residential sales per year was 95,662.  Kenny Crawford, RoS director of commercial services, said the Scottish property market is a significant contributor to the economy north of the Border.  He said: "In 2015-16, the total value of residential sales alone was £16.7 billion.  We’ve also seen an increase in average house prices over the decade, up 19.7 per cent between, from £139,207 to £166,624."  The RoS 10-year property market report draws data from every property transfer in Scotland, including those that do not include a mortgage, making it claim to be the most comprehensive property transaction report in the country.

9 years of a successful SNP government has enabled more people to buy homes without a mortgage. What's not to like about That?

MoD ‘Must Come Clean’ Over Delays to Clyde Frigate Contracts
The Ministry of Defence “must come clean” over delays to a major shipbuilding contract that unions claim put Clyde shipbuilding jobs at risk, the former head of the Royal Navy has said. Lord West of Spithead, the former First Sea Lord, said there was “not enough money in the MoD” to start construction of Type 26 frigates on schedule, and warned the risk of a gap in the Royal Navy’s capabilities was “bloody dangerous”.  Giving evidence at the House of Commons Defence Committee, the Labour peer accused the UK Government of “being economical with the actualité” over the likely two-year delay to the start of construction on the frigates, which had been due to begin this year.  Unions and the SNP accused the government of failing to honour promises made during the Scottish independence referendum when news of the delays emerged earlier this year.  The managing director of frigate contractor BAE Systems refused to speculate on when the construction would begin, insisting they are still in “detailed negotiations with the MoD”.  Lord West told MPs any delay in replacing the Royal Navy’s 19 ageing frigates and destroyers would mean the Royal Navy’s strength would be “grossly inadequate” to respond to global threats and incidents. The UK needs as many as 30 frigates and destroyers, he told MPs. “If you’ve got one of something, it can only be in one place. Lots of things happen around the world, and you need one of something in all of them,” he said.  Asked by SNP MP Douglas Chapman whether there were “any technical or design problems that necessitate that delay in the production,” he replied: “There’s almost no money available this year, and we are really strapped next year. The Government aren’t coming clean about that.”

Comment - R
The initial UK westminster "order" for 13 Frigates ( just weeks before Indyref1 ) may as well have been an "order" for 113 Frigates....or 1013 Frigates.  The promise of 13 frigates, became 8 frigates after the "NO" vote was secured by the London parties.  The 8 Frigates then became ZERO, but then who in London really cares, as it's only the gullible Scots. Even the most gullible now know that this "order" was nothing more than a scheming, conniving and deceitful LIE by the Better Britnat Together, as part of their "Say Anything to Save the Union" in the Independence Referendum campaign.

Kabul Mission Soldiers Parade Through Ayr After Returning Home

About 400 soldiers from the Royal Highland Fusiliers have paraded through Ayr to mark their return from operations in Afghanistan.  Locals came out to support 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland on their homecoming parade through the South Ayrshire town.  The troops were deployed in Afghanistan from July last year to April as part of the UK's commitment to Nato's mission in Kabul.  Lieutenant Colonel Graeme Wearmouth, Commanding Officer 2 SCOTS, said: "It was a tremendous honour for the battalion to parade in Ayr and thank the local community for its ongoing support.  "As the Kabul protection unit, 2 SCOTS' primary mission was to protect Nato advisers and other personnel striving to advise and mentor the various Afghan security institutions which are so critical to Afghanistan's future success."

Dog Walkers Urged to Be Wary of Adders After Surprise Find
A Dog walker had a close encounter with the only venomous creature in the UK when he went out for a stroll in the Caithness countryside.  Richard Scrivener was shocked when he found a female adder on the banks of Loch More near Westerdale while taking his dog out for a walk.  The snake proved no threat to Mr Scrivener or his labrador as neither of them attempted to provoke it while it was curled up in the grass.  Animal charity representatives in Caithness are urging dog owners to be careful and not to approach adders which are said to be prevalent across the county. Mr Scrivener, who runs Rare Breed Goats at Latheron, said the snake could have posed a threat if it had been disturbed.