Some Scottish News & Views issue # 353

Issue # 353                                                 Week ending 18th June 2016

Ex-holyrood Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick Turns Down Honour
The Scottish Parliament’s first female presiding officer refused to be nominated for a honour from the Queen saying she would be “a hypocrite” after a lifelong opposition to the honours system.  Tricia Marwick, who retired from parliament before the May elections, said being elected as an MSP and serving as presiding officer was “recognition and honour enough”. She said: ” I was asked last year by a senior politician if I would allow my name to go forward for an honour when I stepped down at the recent Scottish Parliament elections. I understand that the UK government wished to ensure that the first female presiding officer was recognised in the Honours list. I declined.  I do not criticise those who accept an honour. That is a matter for each individual and I understand the great joy and pride it can bring. However, it is not for me. I would be a hypocrite to now accept an honour when I have opposed the honours system all my life. Further, in recent years it has become devalued by some of those who have been recipients.  I have had many meaningful honours in my life. To be one of the first MSPs when our Parliament was reconvened in 1999, to be elected as MSP for my home constituency of Central Fife and then to serve as the presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament. That is recognition and honour enough for me. I have no need for further rewards or honours.”

Calls for Review of Crofting Law
There are growing calls for crofting law to be amended to resolve the row between the national body overseeing the system, and local crofters on Lewis.  It follows reports that member of the Crofting Commission had resigned amidst claims that he was unhappy about the way the body was handling the dispute about the running of two common grazings on the island.  The commission sacked two Lewis grazings committees in Mangersta and Upper Coll, over their failure to distribute revenues to shareholders, investing it in local funds instead.  Other crofting communities expressed their concern over the commission’s actions, and many feel that absentee crofters who are shareholders, should not benefit. There have been warnings the row could undermine the whole crofting system, but the commission has been adamant that crofting legislation demands that shareholders are paid.  Senior figures in the commission met members of the Western Isles Council’s Crofting Joint Consultative Committee in Stornoway.  Committee chairman Uisdean Robertson, said afterwards the meeting had concluded certain key points:  “Common Grazings Committees are allowed to retain appropriate funds in common grazings accounts to carry out planned works on common grazings. This is an important clarification from the commission and will help reassure common grazings committees.”  He said that all present from the council and the commission had agreed “that legislative change is urgently required" as well as greater transparency The council would work with partners “to press for an early review of the legislation,” he said.

Perth to Bid for Stone of Scone to Come Home
Scotland's Stone of Destiny, on which the monarchs of England and the United Kingdom have been crowned in Westminster Abbey since the 14th century, could soon be on the move again.  Next week the members of Perth and Kinross Council will be asked to approve a formal request to the Commissioners of the Regalia of Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland that the stone by taken from Edinburgh Castle and moved to Perth to sit at the heart of a new £20m cultural development in the city.  The proposal is included in programme of development that will be put to the council for approval next week and which follows its decision to support a bid to be UK City of Culture in 2021. Papers to be published on Thursday will outline a capital spending programme to transform Perth Museum and Arts Gallery, one of the oldest purpose-built museums in Britain, and to create a major new visual arts venue. A number of city centre sites will be among the options put to councillors and The Herald understands that one of those is the B-Listed Edwardian Town Hall, which has been mothballed since 2005 when Perth Concert Hall opened. Councillor Ian Miller, leader of the council, said yesterday: "My view is that the Stone of Destiny, brought to Edinburgh to mark Scottish Devolution, is a major part of Perth's place at the ancient roots of Scotland's story. The ancient Kings of Scotland were crowned at Scone Palace, with the Stone bearing witness. I will therefore be asking all councillors to support my motion to formally request consideration by Historic Environment Scotland and the Commissioners of the Regalia for the Stone of Destiny to come to Perth." The newly-amalgamated quango is likely to take an advisory role in the decision, which will rest with the four Commissioners of the Regalia, who are also responsible for the Honours of Scotland, the Scottish Crown Jewels. The Stone is currently housed with the Crown Jewels in Edinburgh Castle, having been brought there on St Andrew's Day 1996 in the run-up to the constitutional settlement that re-established a Scottish Parliament. The Commissioners are Lord President of the Court of Session, Lord Gill, Lord Justice Clerk Lord Carloway, Lord Mackay of Clashfern and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.  The real Stone of Destiny, or Stone of Scone, has long been an important symbol of Scottish independence, having been taken south by Edward I to Westminster Abbey, its supposedly ancient origins as the coronation stone for Scots kings and queens claimed as spoils of war. Built into a chair in the Abbey, the current Queen was the last monarch to be crowned sitting on it, in 1953. On Christmas Day 1950 it had been stolen from the Abbey by four Scottish Nationalist-supporting students – Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, Kay Matheson, and Alan Stuart – and was recovered from Arbroath Abbey in April 1951 and returned to Westminster. A year before the 1997 Referendum on Scottish Devolution it was then returned to Scotland, with the stipulation that it be transported south when required for Coronations.

Farmer Devastated After Gun Rampage Leaves 100 Sheep Dead
A Shetland farmer has told of his devastation after nearly 100 of his sheep were shot by a group of young men on a gun rampage.  Allan Ridland, who has been farming at Punds, Voxter all his life, said his life has turned into “hell on earth”.  Police in Shetland have issued an urgent appeal asking for anyone with information to get in touch.  Speaking to Shetland News the 68 year old farmer said he was not the only one who had livestock killed over recent months.  At least five other crofters in the area had also suffered losses, he said, adding that the total number of sheep shot dead was about 120.  Ridland said that since March last year, 97 sheep have been shot dead on his land, mainly lambs, but also ewes and hogs.  He also had two cattle shot, with both animals suffering severe injury.  “It is only in this last month that I started tying all this together,” he said.  “Initially I thought somebody was targeting me personally, but now I have come to the conclusion that this is a form of vandalism whereby some individuals get some sheer and utter enjoyment from seeing something dying.  Anything that moves gets shot. That’s the truth of the matter.”  Ridland recalled one evening when he came home after visiting someone in Lerwick to find 27 baby lambs and their mothers slaughtered.  “It was carnage, absolute carnage, they were one, two and three days old. You wonder who can do something like that; psychopaths really.  I am actually frightened to go out now, in case I meet them,” he said.  With his farm located next to the Voxter Outdoor Centre and a popular plantation of trees nearby, he said it scared him to imagine what else could happen.

Brown Rice, Porridge and Weetabix Could Prevent Early Death, Study Finds
Eating whole grains – such as brown rice, oats and Weetabix – could prevent an early death, research suggests.  Experts at Harvard found just one 16g serving per day of whole grain cuts the risk of dying from any cause, heart disease or cancer. And, they argued, the more whole grains people eat, the bigger the benefits.  Their analysis of studies showed that for every single serving (16g) of whole grains, there was a 7% drop in risk of death from any cause, a 9% drop in death from cardiovascular disease and a 5% drop in the chance of dying from cancer.  When three servings (48g) was eaten daily, people had a 20% lower chance of dying from any cause, a 25% reduced risk of a cardiovascular death and a 14% reduced chance of dying from cancer.  The research was published in the journal of the American Heart Association.  A slice of whole grain bread acts as one serving, while two Weetabix (37.5g) is just over two servings. Half a cup of cooked brown rice or 100% whole grain pasta also count as one serving.  Experts agree that people do not eat enough whole grain foods and fibre.  The recent Eatwell Guide published by Public Health England (PHE) says people should consume 30g of fibre per day from fruit, vegetables and whole grain foods.  Currently people only consume around 19g of fibre per day – less than two-thirds the recommendation.  Previous studies have shown that whole grains can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.  In the latest analysis, 12 studies were included from the US, Scandinavia and the UK.  The combined studies involved 786,076 men and women and included 97,867 total deaths, 23,597 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 37,492 deaths from cancer. Qi Sun, a ssistant professor in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, who led the research, said low-carbohydrate diets that ignore the health benefits of whole grains foods “should be adopted with caution”.  He said they may be linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death.  “Based on the solid evidence from this meta-analysis and numerous previous studies that collectively document beneficial effects of whole grains, I think healthcare providers should unanimously recommend whole grain consumption to the general population as well as to patients with certain diseases to help achieve better health and perhaps reduce death,” he said.  Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Unlike in the US, the UK doesn’t have specific recommendations for the number of portions of wholegrains we should eat every day, but we do have a recommendation on the amount of fibre we should eat. Wholegrains are a great way of increasing the level of fibre in our diets and, on average, our intake of fibre is not meeting guidelines.  Choosing brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, wholemeal or granary bread instead of white and swapping to wholegrain breakfast cereals like porridge are all simple ways to help us up our fibre and wholegrain intake.”

MSP Speaks in Parliament in Norwegian to Celebrate Nordic Links
Western Isles MSP, Alasdair Allan has contributed to a debate commemorating the Western Isles’ Viking links.  It was a first for the Scottish Parliament, in that Alasdair Allan delivered his speech in Norwegian.  Dr Allan was participating in a member’s debate, initiated by Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser, marking the 750th Anniversary of the Treaty of Perth.  The Treaty ended military conflict between Magnus VI of Norway and Alexander III of Scotland and recognised Scottish sovereignty over the Hebrides and the Isle of Man. Alasdair Allan commented: “I was pleased to be able to speak in this member’s debate to celebrate a historical event which has had such profound implications for the Western Isles and for Scotland.  As an admirer of Norway, and a hesitant learner of Norwegian, this seemed like the perfectly opportunity to deliver the first Norwegian speech of the modern Scottish Parliament.  The Western Isles were the central issue in the Treaty of Perth. “Innse Gall”, one of the Gaelic names for the Western Isles, means ‘the isles of the strangers’ and refers to the fact that the strangers – in this context a euphemism for Vikings – had exerted political control over the islands until the treaty.  While the Treaty ended Norse rule over the Hebrides, as we know, it did not sever the many connections that exist between the two places. These are most obviously exemplified in the islands’ Norse place names and in the famous Lewis chessmen.  This was a very welcome opportunity to celebrate the long, productive and very amicable relationship between Scotland and Norway, and in particular, to commemorate the islands’ central place in the story of Scotland.”

Nicola Sturgeon: Leave Campaign is An Attempted Coup by Right-wing Tories
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today warns a vote to leave the European Union risks placing Scotland at the mercy of the most reactionary Conservative Government in modern times. Urging Scots to vote to stay in the EU, she describes the Leave campaign as an attempted coup by the right of the Tory party. Scotland would be in the firing line from those who want to scrap workers’ rights and cut public spending the SNP leader, who has been accused of 'risking' a Brexit by criticising the Remain campaign, says.  But the Leave campaign yesterday insisted that there would be more money for the NHS and hard-pressed drivers if the UK left the EU. Campaigners also pledged that all those who currently receive EU grants, such as farmers, would not lose out. But opponents accused the group of writing cheques that only governments could guarantee.  Ms Sturgeon’s intervention comes after a series of polls suggest that the Leave campaign has a significant lead with just over a week. Ms Sturgeon has said: “The time has come to brand the ‘Brexit’ campaign for what it is – a bid for a right-wing Tory takeover of the reins of power in the UK.  The people leading the case for a vote to leave the EU are on the right of the Conservative Party and will take an ‘out’ vote as their signal to make their power grab complete.  Make no mistake – a ‘Leave’ win would be a victory for politicians who actually believe George Osborne and David Cameron are moderates, and it would leave Scotland at their mercy.”  She warns that outside the protections offered by the EU “Scotland would be left vulnerable to the most right-wing Tory Government in modern history.”  She adds that there should be no doubt in Scots minds, if Leave wins "then Scottish workers and family budgets will be in the firing line.  Scotland needs to send as strong a message as possible that we reject this right-wing Tory agenda entirely – and the only way to do that is for people to vote in big numbers to stay in Europe"

Massive Anniversary Year in OZ
2017 is going to be a HUGE year in Glen Innes. Not only is 2017 the Silver Anniversary year for the Australian Celtic Festival, it is the 10th Anniversary of The Triquetra Medallions and the 5th Anniversary of the Australian Celtic Music Awards. These are all impressive milestones and we are looking forward to one of our busiest years ever. We expect a record number of Visitors to Glen Innes May 4th to 7th next year, so do plan your Festival weekend early.

Judo Star's Parents Thank Public for Saving Daughter's Life
The parents of Commonwealth judo star Stephanie Inglis have thanked the public for helping to bring their injured daughter back home to Scotland.  The 27-year-old Inverness born judoka continues her recovery from a serious motorbike accident in Thailand just over a month ago.  More than £305,000 has been raised on a JustGiving site set up by childhood friend, Khalid Ghelan.  This money has been used to cover her healthcare costs and allowed her to be transferred from an international hospital in Bangkok to Edinburgh.  Ms Inglis arrived at Edinburgh Airport in an air ambulance on Monday afternoon and was then taken to Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital.  She was being treated for a serious head injury and various infections, including pneumonia, when in Thailand.  Ms Inglis had been teaching in Ha Long, Vietnam when the accident happened last month.  Her dress became tangled whilst on a motorbike taxi and she was thrown to the road at high speed.  Doctors initially gave her a one per cent chance of survival but she has battled back and continues to show improvements everyday.  At a media conference in Edinburgh her parents, who live in Daviot, near Inverness, thanked those who have helped to bring their daughter back to Scotland.  Her mother, Alison Inglis, said: "When the money started coming in we were blown away. Every donation, every post shared, everyone of you has saved her life.  "She would not be here if it was not for you.  They would not do anything in the hospital without you signing for it. Every day we have lived in fear, we couldn’t eat, we couldn’t sleep, we couldn’t talk.  We knew we had to get her back because the fear was if we ran out of money then the treatment would stop.  They are still running tests. It is too early to say what they are expecting but it's looking good and we are confident."

Gin-credible £140k Raised!
The first gin produced by the Dornoch Distillery Company is set to flow within weeks after the brothers behind the project raised an incredible £140,000 through crowdfunding.  Simon and Philip Thompson sold packages ranging from £50 to £2000 in the remarkable scheme – with a list of goodies in return on a sliding scale.  The crowdfunding has been so successful that it even attracted people from North America, Japan, Israel, Asia as well as all over Europe.  Now the company’s first product, organic gin, is set to flow at the end of August, or beginning of September. All of DDC’s products will be organic – initially, because of its specialist nature, the main ingredients will come from suppliers in England, though eventually the brothers hope to find a local farmer for the malting and grow their own cereals. For the venture, the brothers are turning the 135-year-old former fire station on Castle Close into a micro-distillery making artisan gin and whisky. Other spirits such as vodka and rum are also set to flow in the future.  Along with their parents, Colin and Ros Thompson, the brothers run the Dornoch Castle Hotel.  The 47 square metre, stone and slate former fire station is in the curtilage of the hotel and was used for storage purposes. Conversion work is nearing completion.  Simon and Philip share a passion for spirits and have built up an expertise in the whisky industry. They travel across the globe attending whisky festivals and holding whisky tours and tasting sessions.  Dornoch Castle last year became the number one rated whisky hotel in the world on influential website  The brothers said that they have spent years researching the new project and have already legally conducted experimental distillations. Their ethos is to produce a top-end product totally from scratch in the ‘old style.’  But even the £200,000 project’s crowdfunding success surprised the pair. Those who bought the higher packages also get some of the first experimental samples – and the chance to give feedback.  "The crowdfunding response was amazing and we are very humbled by it," said Philip, 32.  It was quite incredible where the support was coming from – it was global. We set out with a £70,000 target and we doubled it. In fact we reached £70,000 in just ten days.  It is like the wine and craft beer revolution – people are getting bored with things that are industrially made. Suppliers are also getting bored. We want to go back to how things were and create a good product from scratch and be honest with people. We cannot be another gimmick product – we have to have a philosophy and we do. The market is flooded with incredibly average products – ours will be special and organic. We will be creating something beautiful with longevity.  We are designing a versatile set-up so that we can make any kind of spirit. The aim is quality over quantity."  The brothers anticipate producing 35,000 litres of alcohol per annum – including 22,000 litres of white spirits, with the rest high-quality single malt whisky.  They plan to export, given the level of interest already, but also plan to have it available in the UK, and especially locally.  The family believe the distillery will work well with the hotel and the Carnegie Courthouse project and will bring an economic boost to Dornoch.

Sorley Maclean Plaque Unveiled in Plockton
A plaque paying tribute to the years internationally acclaimed Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean spent in Plockton has been erected in the village.  An unveiling ceremony took place yesterday, where the plaque has been installed on the wall of the Old Schoolhouse.  The late Mr MacLean was headmaster of Plockton High School between 1956 and 1972. Born on the island of Raasay, off Skye, his upbringing was rooted in Gaelic culture and in its rich song tradition.  Plockton and District Historical Society decided to put a plaque up due to the number of questions people who visit the village ask about Mr MacLean.  Mr MacLean’s remaining daughters, Ishbel Mackay and Mary Ross pulled back a curtain to reveal the tribute. Mrs Ross said after the ceremony: “It is lovely that he is being honoured in this way. As my sister was saying today, he would be fairly surprised at it himself. There was a great turn out of people, many of whom we hadn’t seen for a long time.”

Councillor Suspended by SNP for Alleged Racism Sues Her Accuser
A councillor who was suspended by the SNP in a race row has launched a six-figure defamation action against her accuser.  Julie McAnulty is suing a former colleague who claimed she referred to “Pakis” in the party.  Ms McAnulty, who now sits as an independent councillor in North Lanarkshire, is understood to be seeking more than £100,000 in damages from activist Sheena McCulloch.  Official notice of the case appeared on the calling list of the Court of Session this week.  The legal action is the most dramatic twist so far in the so-called 'Monklands McMafia' feud that has bedevilled the SNP in Lanarkshire.  The power struggle involves an old guard associated with Richard Lyle, the MSP for Uddingston & Bellshill, pitted against a new intake of activists close to Phil Boswell, the MP for Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill.  Ms McAnulty previously worked for Mr Boswell, while her accuser works for Mr Lyle.  The turf war between the two factions became so intense, with accusations of bullying, intimidation and dirty tricks, that the SNP recently commissioned a former private detective to investigate it.  SNP National Secretary Patrick Grady also suspended the Coatbridge & Chryston branch, saying “a culture of mistrust” had created a “toxic” environment in which “the level of discord is intolerable”.  Ms McAnulty was suspended in February after Ms McCulloch complained to SNP headquarters about an alleged conversation in a car in July 2015.  Ms McAnulty’s suspension led to her removal from the SNP’s Holyrood candidate list in Central Scotland, and means she cannot currently stand for re-election as an SNP councillor in 2017.  Supporters of the 45-year-old music teacher and church organist claim she is the victim of a smear campaign that has damaged her reputation and derailed her political career.

Military Wives on Song in the Big Apple
Highland singers surprised New Yorkers when they formed part of a flash mob in Times Square.  Six members of the Military Wives Choir joined up with more than 100 women from branches across the UK to sing at Carnegie Hall.  But they did not stop there and burst into impromptu song at various times throughout the trip, even on the plane.  The members, Tracey Walsh, Claire Turner, Aimee Beattie, Sheila Lall, Nanise Qalobulaiwasaikabara and Shelley Gill also performed at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, where Broadway hopefuls sing as they wait tables.  After four days in the Big Apple it was time for the main event and the choir took to the stage of the world-famous Carnegie Hall.  “I looked around the prestigious concert hall, I was determined to give it my all and leave with no regrets, and that’s exactly what all 126 of us did,” said Ms Walsh, chairwoman of the Inverness Military Wives Choir.  “It was phenomenal, we couldn’t stop smiling. At the end, the audience gave us a standing ovation and we did an encore of Stronger Together where we all linked arms and swayed in unison, it was a truly magic moment.”  Ms Walsh also thanked everyone who donated and helped raise the £1800 required for each singer to go.  The performance received high praise from critic Jeffrey Williams, who wrote a feature for New York Concert Review.  He said: “These ladies are all heart and it shows immediately. They are giving their all and loving every single moment. The audience was completely won over, and in spite of my best efforts to remain the hard-nosed, emotionless critic, I was won over as well, in about 20 or so seconds.”  One of the singers, Aimee Beattie, said it had been the trip of a lifetime.  “My New York experience has been phenomenal,” she said.  “To perform in the famous Carnegie Hall is something not many people from the Highlands can say they did so I’m very proud to be able to say I was there on stage with five of my best friends.”

Stagecoach Fined After Caithness Bus Lost Wheel
Stagecoach have been fined £10,000 after one of its buses lost one of its wheels while on a run in Caithness.  Scotland’s traffic commissioner Joan Aitken imposed the penalty after finding the bus firm guilty of failings with its maintenance regime.  The incident took place on Thursday, February 4 when the bus was travelling on the A836 Castletown, with only the driver on board when the wheel fell off.  Mrs Aitken said the loss of a wheel was not a reasonable excuse for disrupting a local service.  A Stagecoach spokeswoman said: “We accept the Traffic Commissioner’s decision.  We have clear policies in place which require more stringent maintenance standards than legal requirements.  Following this highly unusual incident, we have taken action to ensure our high standards of safety are being maintained.”

Major Boost to Far North Economy As Nigg is Awarded Beatrice Contract - and Helmsdale May Benefit Too
The far north is set for a new “wind rush” jobs boom.  A major contract involving an 80-turbine offshore wind farm has been awarded to the Nigg Energy Park fabrication yard on the Cromarty Firth - but with Helmsdale also earmarked as one of the ports set to benefit. The site, owned by Global Energy Group, joins Wick Harbour in Caithness in securing work on the £2.6bn Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (Bowl) project.  The turbines are to be installed about eight miles off Wick.  Construction of the wind farm, which involves companies SSE and Siemens, is expected to start next year - with the far north region expected to widely benefit.  Leader of The Highland Council, Councillor Margaret Davidson, joined Paul Wheelhouse, the Business, Innovation and Energy Minister, and senior officials from SSE, Siemens and Scottish Renewables at Nigg on Wednesday to witness the signing of the multi million pound contract.  The Highland Council has been a partner with SSE in their open4business initiative since it was established to raise awareness of the supply chain and procurement opportunities that exist with SSE.  It is also one of three standing members of Nigg Skills Academy which plays a key role in realising the training and employment potential of workers to the engineering and energy industries so the Highlands can be well placed to benefit from the opportunities that any major development presents  Councillor  Davidson said: “The Highland Council’s programme places the highest priority on sustainable economic growth and economic recovery which is why over the years we actively campaigned for the redevelopment of Nigg Energy Park and invested directly in it and other strategic industrial sites across the Highlands. In addition to the announcement for Nigg today, the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm project has created more opportunities within our communities including the £10 million operations and maintenance facility at Wick harbour and, with Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd plans to develop an offshore wind site in the Moray Firth, I am sure the associated energy and business services will bring benefits to other Highland ports including those at Inverness, Invergordon, Helmsdale and Scrabster.  The news today couldn’t have come at a better time as we, like other areas across the country, are seeing a downturn as a result of the lower price of oil, but this is extremely good news for not just the local area but the wider Highlands and for the highly skilled workforce we have now and the new workers that will be trained to support and sustain the emerging renewables industry in the future.”  The Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) also welcomed the announcement.  Regional director for the Highlands and Islands, Fraser Grieve, said: "Today's announcement of Nigg's involvement in the Beatrice Offshore wind project shows the positive economic impact that this major development will have on the region over the coming years.  Nigg, and the wider Cromarty Firth, has much to offer and this agreement is not only a boost for the Global Energy Group but will benefit the supply chain through the area."  Lindsay Roberts, senior policy manager at renewable energy industry group Scottish Renewables, said: "The contract signed today will help breathe new life into this Highland port.  Scotland's offshore wind industry has huge potential for both our economy and our environment, and it's great to see Nigg reaping the benefits.  As other wind farms with planning consent in the Scottish North Sea begin to develop, agreements like this will play a key role in securing benefits not just for communities on the east coast, but for the whole of Scotland."

Orkney’s St Magnus Festival Turns 40 this Weekend
Friday, June 17 sees the start of the St Magnus Festival in Orkney, the highlight of an incredibly diverse diary of annual cultural events.  This year’s St Magnus Festival – the 40th anniversary event – starts today, Friday, June 17, and runs until Sunday, June 26. Founded in 1977 by a group including Orkney’s distinguished resident composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, the festival has grown from small beginnings into one of Britain’s most highly regarded and adventurous arts events. It offers a unique combination of world-class performance, community participation of the highest quality while the ancient landscape and atmosphere of Orkney at midsummer make a very special setting and helps attract audiences from near and far. Though musical events are at the heart of the artistic programme, the festival also encompasses drama, dance, literature and the visual arts.  The 40th celebrations include 40 new artworks, some of which are public art, and birthday premieres of 40 new pieces of music featuring a range of styles and performers, including works for children, voices, solo instruments, ensembles and orchestra.  It is also a time of commemoration as we remember composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, aka Max and founder of the festival, who died in March this year. Max’s music is featured throughout the programme, including a tribute concert on June 23, and the premiere of a 40th birthday commission written for the school children of the Isle of Sanday.  Artistic director, the composer Alasdair Nicolson, said: “I have had a lot of fun planning ways to celebrate our first 40 years – this summer’s programme is vibrant and varied and true to the spirit of the festival from its start. The 40th festival is a major milestone and we are so proud to look back over the fascinating and impressive array of international artists who have appeared. One sad commemoration, but we hope also celebration, will be performances to mark the life and work of festival founder and composer, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who sadly died earlier this year.” The programme includes: Teatr Kinika Lalek’s giant and beautiful marionette circus; festival poet John Gallas; the BBC Symphony Orchestra; Voces8; Florilegium. who celebrate their 25th birthday; Danish Sinfonietta; musicians from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland; Stockholm Chamber Brass; Hebrides Ensemble who also celebrate their 25th birthday; Sirocco Winds; cellist Robert Irvine; and Joseph Middleton’s ensemble Myrthen.  The festival’s birthday present is a new Steinway concert grand piano, bought through fundraising. It will be used at concerts including Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Alexei Volodin under the baton of Alexander Vedernikov on Wednesday, June 22, in the Pickaqouy Arena in Kirkwall. Alexei Volodin appears in piano recital on Friday, June 24, at 8pm in St Magnus Cathedral. Another highlight is a visit from the Biggest Marionette Circus In The World. Polish puppeteers Teatre Klinika Lalek bring to Orkney beautiful, life-sized elephant, giraffe and lion marionettes which are operated by nine puppeteers. The animals are joined by tamers, strongmen, acrobats and clowns in virtuoso performances of delightful make-believe musical animal stories directed by Wiktor Wiktorczyk with music by Antoni Gralak. The festival features three operas, several new works and world premieres – full details of these can be found on the website: Venues include St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall and the Italian Chapel. In addition, a festival club at The Girnel, Kirkwall, will be open from 10pm each night with live music events both Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Tickets for the festival range from free of charge up to around £25.

Disney Singer to Open Moray Festival
A Gaelic songstress who performed the theme to an acclaimed children’s film will launch a Moray arts festival later this year.  Singer Julie Fowlis will mark the beginning of the six-day Findhorn Bay Festival on Wednesday, September 21 with a show at the St Laurence Church in Forres.  The North Uist native is best-known for singing the theme song in Disney Pixar’s 2012 release, Brave, and she has also been nominated for several leading national folk singer awards.  She will play alongside Moray flautist, Uilleann piper and composer Calum Stewart and the Nairn Gaelic Choir during the musical evening.  The 36-year-old said: “I’m delighted to be coming to the festival, and especially to be collaborating with local musicians and singers.  I love the idea of performing in the beautiful setting of St Laurence Church in Forres.”  The singer has appeared on the BBC’s Jools Holland Show and counts comedian Ricky Gervais and pop star Bjork among her famous fans.  The first Findhorn Bay Festival, staged in 2014, attracted almost 13,000 visitors across its 65 different events.  Organisers are hoping to replicate that success by scheduling an eclectic mix of attractions.  The programme will place a special focus on conservation and environmental projects, as well as celebrating Moray’s architecture by lighting up town centres in various vibrant hues.  Festival director, Kresanna Aigner assured prospective guests of a “spectacular six-day celebration of arts and culture” across the biennial extravaganza.  She added: “It will showcase artists of national and international renown, and our opening concert demonstrates the quality of our programme. There is a range of creative talent from near and far participating in this second edition of the Festival – there will be something to inspire everyone.”

Armed Police on Scotland’s Streets to Rise by A Third
Police Scotland is set to increase its number of armed officers by a third amid concerns over a Paris- or Orlando-style terrorist attack.  The force will train an additional 124 firearms officers, 90 of whom will go on patrol with armed response vehicles (ARVs) – a 33 per cent increase on the existing 275 ARV officers, who would be “first responders” in the event of an attack.  The remaining officers will be trainers or specialist firearms officers assigned to high-risk sites across the country.  Assistant Chief Constable Bernie Higgins said the force had been developing its plans since January 2015, and stressed the increase was not in relation to a specific piece of intelligence.  But he said there was “a catalogue” of recent terrorist attacks, including those in Paris and Brussels, and the gun attack at an Orlando nightclub last weekend which served to highlight the growing risk.  He said: “There is no specific known threat to Scotland and this increase is not a response to any direct intelligence, but we must play our part in ensuring the safety and security of the whole of the UK.  It would be dangerously complacent to think that Scotland is any less at risk than the rest of the UK and this move helps enhance our response.  The current firearms deployment model in Scotland was developed in 2013. Much has changed, especially around the threat from terrorism, but also our understanding and assessment of criminal access to and use of firearms.”  Mr Higgins said it would be spring or summer of next year before all the new firearms officers are in place.  He said officers would be deployed in places where the force is “currently vulnerable”.  Following the Paris attack in November last year, the Scottish Police Federation called for more armed officers, saying Scotland was “woefully under-equipped, under-resourced and under prepared” to deal with a similar incident.  In April it was announced police forces in England and Wales would train an extra 1,500 firearms officers at a cost of £143 million.  Police Scotland will spend about £3m on equipment for the newly-trained armed officers funded by the extra £100m they received for counter-terrorism in April.  Justice secretary Michael Matheson said: “The vast majority of Scotland’s police officers are not routinely armed and we have made an unequivocal commitment that that position will not change.  Of our 17,317 police officers only a small proportion have standing firearms authority to carry weapons.  This will now increase, but will still represent a small percentage, fewer than one in 40 officers.”