Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 354

Issue # 354                                                              Week ending 25th June 2016

Ruth Davidson Tears Into Boris Johnson As She Confronts Leave Campaign During Live Brexit Debate

The Scottish Conservative leader didn't mince her words as she came to blows with Boris Johnson over jobs and confronted Andrea Leadsom over Leave's 'lies'.  RUTH Davidson hammered blundering Boris Johnson on live telly last night (Tues) as she demanded to know how many jobs Brexit will cost Britain.  And the Scottish Conservative leader also humiliated fellow Tory Andrea Leadsom over the “lies” of the Leave campaign.  Davidson slugged it out with her party colleagues as she put the case for Remain in front of a boisterous 6000-strong audience at Wembley Arena for the BBC’s showpiece referendum debate.  In a performance that won her plaudits from across the UK, she teamed up with Labour’s London Mayor Sadiq Khan and TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady.  The trio took on Johnson, Leadsom and Labour’s Gisela Stuart, representing Leave.  Davidson – who is known to despise former London Mayor BoJo – got the first blow in over the impact of leaving the EU on the British economy.  “They haven’t told us how many jobs would be lost,” she told the audience. “They haven’t told us how long new trade deals would take. They haven’t told us how big the hit would be.  I don’t think that is good enough when you go to vote on Thursday.”  She added: “How many jobs will it be, Boris? How many?”  Davidson also attacked Johnson over contradictory claims about plans for Turkey to join the European Union.  But her biggest hit came later in the night when she insisted Leadsom had told a “blatant untruth” by claiming 60 per cent of UK law comes from the EU.  She said: “Thirteen per cent of our laws, according to the independent House of Commons library, that number is 13 per cent. In the last five-year Parliament it was four, it was four bills out of 121 that came out of Europe.  I think that there is a real question here.  You are being asked to make a decision that is irreversible, we can’t change, we wake up on Friday and we don’t like it and we are being sold it on a lie because they lied about the cost of Europe, they lied about Turkey’s entrance to Europe, they lied about the European army because we’ve got a veto over that.  They put these in their leaflets and they’ve lied about it here tonight too and it’s not good enough. You deserve the truth – you deserve the truth.”  Sadiq Khan branded the Leave campaign “Project Hate” because of its stance on immigration.  The London mayor skewered Johnson, saying: “Australia has double the immigration per person of Britain so don’t let the facts get in the way Boris. EU migrants work in our schools and our construction sector. Thank you.  Your campaign hasn’t been Project Fear. It’s been Project Hate as far as immigration’s been concerned”.  Johnson was often left floundering during the two hour debate hosted David Dimbleby.  In a desperate bid to bolster his Scottish credentials, he even cited a ban on exporting haggis to the US as a failure of the European Union. The point was factually inaccurate as the ban is actually due to US policy and is due to be reviewed.  But he did draw cheers from the crowd when he insisted it would be “bonkers” for the EU to impose trade tariffs on Britain after Brexit.  Johnson said: “I must say that I think that it was extraordinary to hear that we would have tariffs imposed on us because everybody knows that this country receives about a fifth of Germany’s entire car manufacturing output – 820,000 vehicles a year.  Do you seriously suppose that they are going to be so insane as to allow tariffs to be imposed between Britain and Germany?”  Hitting back, Khan claimed Vote Leave’s own chief economic adviser predicted manufacturing would be “eliminated” in Britain if it left the EU.  Earlier, the London mayor urged voters to “follow the evidence” and vote for Remain because families will be better off, prices will be lower, jobs more secure and workers’ rights protected.  Making his side’s opening statement, Khan said: “As a lawyer I learnt to listen to the experts and follow the evidence. Well the evidence is undeniable and all the experts agree – we are stronger, safer and better off in Europe.  Even those who want us to leave admit that it’s a big gamble and if there’s one thing you should remember when you go to vote it’s this – if we as a country decide to quit then we are out for good, there’s no going back.  Being outwards and looking at forming alliances is what makes our country so great.  So I urge you to make the positive and patriotic choice and vote Remain.”    Voters across Britain go to the polls on Thursday.

Outlander Linked to Boost in Scottish Tourism
Hit TV series Outlander has been credited with providing a boost to Scottish tourism, which has seen its fourth consecutive year of growth.  According to the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA), the TV series, filmed in Scotland, has aided local growth at sites such as Culloden Battlefield and Doune Castle.  Overall, Scottish tourist attractions recorded a 3 per cent rise in visitors, with a total of 6,246,846 tourists visiting sites between January and April - an increase of more than 200,000 the previous year.  Some of the largest increases in visitors were seen at Loch Ness by Jacobite, a cruise operator on the loch, and Edinburgh Castle, which saw rises of 21 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.  Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said: "Our tourism sector is of vital importance to the Scottish economy, and as these industry figures confirm, visitor attractions in Scotland are enjoying a four year period of sustained growth.  Many of our paid and unpaid attractions are reporting brisk business, which underlines Scotland’s place as a tourist destination that offers quality experiences and value for money.  More visitors coming through the doors help stimulate economic growth, supporting jobs and the companies that supply goods and services to the attractions."  The figures point to the fourth year of growth for Scottish tourism over the first four months of the year, with 2013 seeing an increase of 0.5 per cent, 2014 going up 6.1 per cent and 2015 seeing a boost of 3.4 per cent.  The ASVA figures came as organisers of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup confirmed a record crowd attended the event in the Scottish Highlands earlier this month.  Rare Management said more than 22,000 fans attended the event in Fort William, making it the best attended UCI World Cup in Scotland yet.  Following the event’s success, the UCI has confirmed that the Mountain Bike World Cup will return to the Scottish Highlands in 2017.  Event organiser, Mike Jardine, from Rare Management, said: “This year’s Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup has surpassed all of our expectations thanks to the biggest ever crowds, emotional farewells, stunning gravity action and of course the glorious weather."

Beer Festival Gives Charities £24,000 Boost
Three north-east charities are toasting success after an annual beer festival in Stonehaven raised £24,000.  Around 4,500 visitors flocked to Baird Park for the Midsummer Beer Festival over three days, where they enjoyed tipples from all over Europe.  The success of the weekend means the not-for-profit event, run entirely by volunteers, is now able to give £8,000 each to Stonehaven Sea Cadets, Home-Start Kincardine, and the youth development programme of Mackie FP Rugby Club.  Festival organiser Robert Lindsay said: “It was an incredible weekend with an incredible turnout – especially in what are tough times for so many – and we cannot thank people enough for coming along to support us.  It is down to them that three really great causes will benefit from so many people having such a good time. They turned the marquee into one huge, good-natured party for three days solid. Just standing watching so many people enjoying themselves, having a drink, a laugh, a dance, was just such a great feeling for all the volunteers who put so much into staging the event.”  The charities who will benefit were also delighted at the amount raised, with each of them providing the volunteers who manned the pumps during the festival.  Drew Lawson, sailing principal for Stonehaven Sea Cadets, said: “All our volunteers who worked on the bar had a great time – made even better by the £8,000 we will now be able to put towards our new headquarters.”  Richard Cochrane, mini/youth coordinator of Mackie FP RFC, said: “What a fantastic achievement from what has been a fantastic event for Stonehaven. This money will be a real boost for the development of young rugby talent here in the town.”  Cate Garrow, senior coordinator with Home-Start Kincardine, said: “Thanks to all the people who came along to enjoy the Happening we will now be able to support even more families in the Kincardine and Mearns with at least one child under five years old.”

43 Firefighters Sent to Combat Blaze At Aberdeen Property
More than 40 firefighters have been sent to combat a blaze which erupted at a property under construction in Aberdeen tonight.  The call was made to emergency services at around 9.20pm after flames were spotted coming out of the site on Inchgarth Road.  Police, fire service and the ambulance service all sent units along and the road was sealed off between Pitfodels Station Road and Westerton Road.  The fire service sent a total of ten appliances to the scene and 43 firefighters were forced to combat the blaze.  Guests came out of the nearby West Lodge Guest House and watched in shock as emergency services descended upon the scene.  Two ambulance units were called to the scene but it is understood that there were no injuries as a result.  A spokeswoman for the fire service said:  “We got the call at 9.20pm and sent six standard units to the scene as well as a height vehicle, a water carrier, an incident control unit and a welfare unit.  The fire is in one property which is under construction. There is no risk to any other properties and there was no one in the building at the time. There are currently 43 firefighters in attendance as it is a large building.  There has been nobody taken to hospital as a result.”  A police spokesman added: “We are assisting the fire service with a fire and have closed the road between Pitfodels Station Road and Westerton Road.

Historic Scotland Anger After Edinburgh Castle ‘Vote Remain’ Stunt
Historic Environment Scotland has hit out at campaigners who used Edinburgh Castle rock to project a “Vote Remain” message ahead of the EU referendum on Thursday.  The projection reading which was first shown on Tuesday night from 9.30pm, is one of a number of pro-EU messages that will be displayed on iconic UK landmarks ahead of the vote.  The Eiffel Tower, Warsaw’s Cultural Palace and Tate Modern in London are among the other landmarks displaying messages backing EU membership.  However, a spokesman for Historic Environment Scotland, which manages the castle, said: “We do not permit party political activity to take place at any of our sites.  Whilst Edinburgh Castle is often floodlit in a show of support for charitable causes and other such occasions, the projection onto Castle Rock yesterday evening with EU Referendum and associated political messages was carried out without the consent or support of Historic Environment Scotland.  We were not directly approached by the organisers behind this political stunt, however, we are now taking steps to contact the relevant parties involved.”  John Edward, senior campaign spokesperson for Scotland Stronger In Europe, said in a press release advertising the stunt: “Scotland is stronger, safer and better off in Europe.  A vote to remain is a vote for more jobs, lower prices, workers’ rights, stronger public services and a decent, tolerant country.  Remain is the positive choice for Scotland and the UK as a whole.”

£1m Renovation Plans for Aberdeen’s ‘William Wallace Cathedral’
An iconic Aberdeen cathedral where the left arm of William Wallace is rumoured to be buried could be set for a £1million refit.  Ambitious plans have been revealed to give St Machar’s Cathedral in the city centre an extensive makeover.  Under the proposals the historic church, which dates back to the 12th century, will have its iconic twin towers, roof, seating and stained glass windows all upgraded.  And a new multi-purpose space would be created along with toilet facilities and possibly a café.  The building, which is actually a high kirk and not technically a cathedral any longer, is rumoured to be where Wallace’s left arm ended up after he was hung, drawn and quartered in 1305.  After he was executed for his crimes against King Edward I the pieces of Wallace’s body were sent across the land as a warning over allegiance.  And the myth has persisted over the years that somewhere in the confines of St Machar’s the remains of his left arm is buried.  However, the building also boasts other tourist draws - including its unique heraldic ceiling which is coming up for its 500 year anniversary in a few years.  Minister at the cathedral, Rev Barry Dunsmore, said: “One of the outstanding features of St Machar’s is its unique heraldic ceiling dating from 1520.  The flat ceiling contains 48 heraldic shields depicting Scotland as a sovereign state with the states of Western Europe united under Pope and Holy Roman Emperor.  As the ceiling will be 500 years old in 2020 there are plans to celebrate this milestone in the cathedral’s history.  This led to the repair and development plans being called The 2020 Project.”  Plans are still at a very early stage with numerous hurdles to overcome before the project will start moving forward.  And the cost is likely to mean that grant funding will be needed.  Rev Dunsmore added: “Given that the cathedral is a Category A listed building surrounded by graves and set in a conservation area, there are numerous issues to be dealt with before what is currently a bold vision can become a reality.  The cost of the project is not yet known. It will, however, be beyond the means of the congregation alone.  With this in mind, an application is being made for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Place of Worship scheme.  The project will also rely on grants from public and charitable bodies and corporate and personal donations.”

Dumfries’ Cuckoo Bridge Retail Park Sold for £20.2m
The Cuckoo Bridge Retail Park in Dumfries has been acquired by property investor NewRiver Retail for £20.2 million.  The 130,000 square foot site, previously owned by British Land, is fully occupied and counts the likes of Dunelm, Homebase, KFC, Laura Ashley and Poundstretcher among its tenants. NewRiver said Cuckoo Bridge, the “dominant” retail park in Dumfries with 550 car parking spaces, benefits from its close proximity to the A75 and a 24-hour Tesco supermarket.  Property director Allan Lockhart said: “The acquisition demonstrates our ability to grow the portfolio through our carefully selected acquisitions in line with our focused business model.  This favourably located asset is well established in the local community, providing everyday necessities for the local population. Cuckoo Bridge presents excellent opportunities to generate attractive cash on equity returns by driving income and capital growth through the company’s active asset management and risk-controlled development.”  NewRiver said the purchase equates to a net initial yield of 7.05 per cent, with net rental income of £1.5m a year.  The Aim-quoted firm is led by chief executive David Lockhart, who founded Halladale, the Glasgow-based property investor and developer that was bought by Australia’s Stockland for £171m in 2007.

BBC ALBA Builds on Success
Further episodes of the popular BBC ALBA drama Bannan has been commissioned, it has been announced.  The filming of a further five episodes of the programme will give a significant boost to the creative industries in Scotland.  Funded by MG ALBA – the Gaelic Media Service - Bannan is filmed on the Isle of Skye and is produced by The Inbetweeners’ Chris Young and directed by Tony Kearney.  To date, 18 episodes have been filmed and the drama has proved to be one of the most watched programmes on BBC ALBA.  Announcing the new episodes at a preview screening at the Edinburgh Film Festival, Chris Young said: “As we host the premiere of the latest series of Bannan at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, there is no better way to celebrate the show’s continuing success than with this tremendous news. With these new episodes Bannan will be heading in an exciting new direction. Shooting starts in August so watch this space.”  As well as the new Bannan episodes, MG ALBA said its vision remains to ‘build on the success of the channel’. Launching its annual report in Edinburgh, chairperson Maggie Cunningham, said: “We’re delighted the channel enjoys very high levels of awareness in Scotland, offering both Gaelic speakers and non-Gaelic speakers unique programmes of interest and value. We continue to work on increasing our already significant impact on the independent production sector in Scotland, as we increase our expenditure on the sector and help create a culture of ambition and aspiration in our creative community and nowhere is this most evident than in our commitment to Bannan.” However, Ms Cunningham said the channel needs further investment to develop.  She said: “Our audience is over-reliant on repeat material and this is the most serious deficit in our service on BBC ALBA. In our discussions with the UK Government and with the BBC, we have made clear that an increased level of content is essential in service development and it is vital that elements of our content are a “must watch” for the younger Gaelic demographic.  We need a greater number of original programmes and a wider variety of content.  This is an ideal time to invest in BBC ALBA, with the renewal of the BBC’s Charter at the end of this year.  We have made strong representation to both the BBC and the UK Government over the past year. We believe that the BBC must make the same core commitment to BBC ALBA as it has done to S4C in Wales for the past 30 years, that is, a minimum of 10 hours per week of original BBC programming. For BBC ALBA, that means a commitment of an additional five hours per week.”  Donald Campbell, chief executive of MG ALBA, said: “In 2015-16 we made a significant investment in high quality new or original Gaelic production, with a spend of £9.9m generating 454 hours from 26 different production companies.  Of that, £8.6m was spent with the independent production sector. An economic impact report confirmed that almost 300 jobs result from MG ALBA’s activities, 40% of which are based in the Highlands and Islands.  Over the last year the channel has maintained a very strong performance. It is continually evident that the greatest demand is for new or original programmes.  With only 13.3 hours of first-run programmes on average each week – a repeat ratio of 74% - it was significant that the core audience increased their average weekly viewing time from 4.4 to 4.8 hours and the national audience from 1.7 to 1.8 weekly hours.  BBC ALBA was not exempt from the wider trends affecting linear television viewership, with average weekly reach in Scotland falling slightly to 15%, still well ahead of the benchmark expectation of 10%.  Online viewing of our Gaelic media content continued to face the double challenge of discoverability on a densely populated iPlayer and poor broadband provision in many areas of core viewership.  Many Gaelic-speaking communities still do not enjoy the necessary bandwidth or reliability required for the streaming of audio-visual content on the iPlayer.”

Court Move Sees Scots Bakery Banned From Using Bread Trays
They are the plastic containers used to transport millions of loaves of bread to supermarkets, corner shops and the catering trade across the UK every day.  But in the first legal move of its kind in Scotland, the ubiquitous bread baskets are at the centre of a legal challenge between an Edinburgh bakery and one of the giants of the industry.  Bakers Basco, which was set up by five of the UK’s leading plant bakers, has taken out on interdict against The Pine Tree Bakery over its continuing unauthorised use of the trays it supplies to the bread trade. The Polish bakery in the south of the capital has faced a number legal challenges for using the baskets without the facilities' firm's permission.  But now Bakers Basco, which supplies around four million of the Omega Baskets to Britain's bread industry, has secured a Perpetual Interdict, which effectively slaps a permanent ban on the Edinburgh firm from using its property.  The company, which often attaches GPS trackers to its baskets, had used its own dedicated asset recovery team tasked to recover the equipment.  Although Bakers Basco has taken action a number of times in the past decade against Pine Tree's owner Sebastain Sosenko for misuse of its equipment, this is the first time it has ever used the Scottish legal system directly to protect its members’ interests.  In May, its lawyers successfully applied to the Sherriff Court for an Interim Interdict banning Mr Sosenko from misusing their client’s equipment. They also asked for enforcement costs and legal costs to be awarded against him. The court ruled in favour of Bakers Basco.  And earlier this month the lawyers asked for a Perpetual Interdict against Mr Sosenko, which was granted on June 14th.  Once issued, Mr Sosenko will have 14 days to return the property. If he fails to do so, Bakers Basco said it would be entitled to send in Sherriff Officers to reclaim its property.  Steve Millward, general manager at Bakers Basco said: “This is not the first time Mr Sosenko has been caught using our members’ equipment without their permission; in fact, we’ve had to take action against him on numerous previous occasions. That’s why we have been forced to ask for a permanent interdict stopping him from using and abusing our baskets and other items.  Our recovery team tracked a sizeable amount of our equipment to The Pine Tree Bakery in Edinburgh and found that, despite the courts ruling in our favour numerous times in the past, he is continuing to treat other people’s property as if it were his own.”  The company said several million pounds’ worth of its bread trays and equipment were misappropriated every year "by third parties who have no contractual relationship with the bread manufacturers" and converted for other purposes.  Its products are used by over 20 industry leaders, including Allied Bakeries, Fine Lady Bakeries, Frank Roberts and Sons, Hovis and Warburton’s, to deliver bread to their customers.

Historic Battle Site to Be Turned Into Solar Farm

A historic battle site will be turned into a solar energy farm after council planners gave the go-ahead to the controversial proposals.  The decision, which will see the facility build in the Kilsyth Hills, was made despite objections from the local community council, the local authority's own archaeological service and its landscape wing.  The site includes the land where around 4,500 men are thought to have lost their lives during the Battle of Kilsyth between a Covenanter army and royalists on August 15, 1645.  The new farm will feature 50,295 solar panels over more than 67 acres of farmland, surrounded by fences measuring more than six feet high and CCTV posts.  Cumbernauld councillor and retired history teacher Tom Johnston was the only member of the committee to oppose the move.  He said: “The victor of Kilsyth, the Marquis of Montrose was one of Scotland’s greatest generals.  His tactics have been studied in military academies worldwide and some two dozen books have been written about him. It is my view that in one 30-minute planning hearing, the committee has trashed the battlefield of Kilsyth and destroyed the rural and scenic value of the Kilsyth Hills.”  The SNP politician said that the wider process saw a number of objections submitted, including from within the council itself.  He said: “Kilsyth Community Council submitted an objection on the grounds of visual intrusion across the hills.  The planning department itself objected, the council’s Archaeological service and North Lanarkshire Council Landscape all objected.  The proposal is against the council’s local plan and even Cumbernauld Airport objected.  And once the current rural character of the area is undermined by more solar farms, the council’s policy of keeping wind farms away from the southern Kilsyth Hills will be undermined.  We have 150 miles of suitable south facing slopes in the Ochils, the Campsies and Kilpatrick Hills so why use these hills?"  However, Kilsyth councillor Heather McVey moved the motion to grant the plan, which also had the backing of Kilsyth’s other councillors, Jean Jones and Alan Stevenson.  Ms McVey said that the development would be of great benefit to the town, not least because the project will create six permanent jobs as well as 30 jobs at the construction stage.  She said: “We have the opportunity to have the first non-subsidised panels connecting locally to the UK grid.  It’s a new opportunity for green energy and we need to explore alternatives to our reliance on fossil fuels."

First Blood to Campaigners As Government Issues 'No Housing' Rule for City Woodland
An inner city woodland at the centre of a long-running battle between residents and Scotland's largest council cannot be designated for housing, ministers have said.  In a major victory for the campaign to preserve the space in Glasgow's west end, the Scottish Government has ruled against the city council's plans to have the land set aside for housing. The move comes around a month before an expected public inquiry into whether the council can proceed with its attempts to sell the North Kelvin Meadow to developers for a controversial housing plan.  The Scottish Government's Reporter said the land at Clouston Street was "a highly valued open space which is well used and maintained by the local community, and which should continue to be safeguarded for that purpose". The Reporter added that its development for housing would be "in conflict with planning policies which seek to protect such areas".  Glasgow City Council has described the decision as "disappointing and surprising" but added that it would have no bearing on the forthcoming assessment of the sale of the plot for 90 properties.  But campaigners, who have been backed by high-profile figures including Frankie Boyle, leading children’s author Julia Donaldson and Children’s Commissioner for Scotland Tam Baillie, said they believed that given the move to move against the wood being designated a housing zone the Reporter looking at the specific application for the site was likely to come to the same conclusion.  On its social media site, the Children's Wood campaign described the move as "significant news and brilliant".  It added: "We've waited a very long time for this and it’s a great result. Well done all that have been campaigning and helping the land over the years.  In short, you'd expect both reporters to come to the same conclusion, as they both will be looking at the same facts. We and others will be making as strong a case as ever at the forthcoming hearing."  The Government Reporter had been responding to objections to the council's third instalment of its City Plan, essentially its blueprint for development over the next few years.  The land had been zoned for housing about a decade ago, in the first version of the City Plan, but later altered. The council had wanted it reverted back to land designated for development.  In summing up, the Reporter said: "Even in wet weather, when I conducted my site inspection, people were walking dogs and families were using the play space.  The site is clearly an area that is valued and looked after by the local community. The majority of representations and a petition seek to retain the site as open greenspace for the community. I recognise that the development of this site for housing would make a contribution towards meeting the shortfall in the provision of land for new housing in the city.  However, the land at Clouston Street is a highly valued open space which is well used and maintained by the local community, and which should continue to be safeguarded for that purpose. Its development for housing would be in conflict with planning policies which seek to protect such areas."

UK Population Tops 65 Million for the First Time
The population of the UK has passed 65 million for the first time after rising by more than half a million in a year, official figures have revealed.  Natural growth - more births than deaths - of 171,800 and net international migration of 335,600 helped push the number of people living in the country to an estimated 65.1 million as of the middle of 2015.  This was a jump over the year of 513,000, or 0.8 per cent, while the figures mean the population has increased by around 4.7 million in 10 years.  The Office for National Statistics said the rise over the 12 months to mid-2015 was similar to the average annual increase seen in the last decade.  Population change due to natural change is at its lowest level since the year to mid-2006, the ONS said.  Its report said: "The number of births has decreased on last year's figure and is below the average for the period, while there was an increase in the number of deaths since last year, partly attributed to flu outbreaks in early 2015."  Meanwhile, an increase in immigration (up 53,700) and a smaller decrease in emigration (down 22,300) both contributed to the increase in net international migration compared to that seen in the year to mid-2014.  International migration inflow is at its highest since the year to mid-2007, the ONS said, while outflow is at its lowest since comparable records began in 2002. The figures indicate that migration accounted for just under two-thirds (65 per cent) of the annual change.  In addition to the direct impact on the size of the population, current and past international migration also has indirect effects on the size of the population as it changes the numbers of births and deaths in the UK, the ONS report said.  Alp Mehmet, vice chairman of campaign group Migration Watch UK, said: "These figures confirm that our population is growing by around half a million annually - the equivalent of a city the size of Liverpool every year.  As the population grows beyond our capability to provide for it, pressure on housing, schooling, healthcare and transport will become ever more critical. This is unacceptable to the majority of the public who wish to see net migration reduced." England saw the biggest jump in population, with a rise of 469,700, or 0.86 per cent, to 54,786,300. The population of Scotland increased by 25,400 (0.47 per cent) to 5,373,000; Wales rose by 7,100 (0.23 per cent) to 3,099,100; and Northern Ireland was up by 11,100 (0.60 per cent) to 1,851,600.

Caithness Chamber's Call for Clarity
Business chiefs in Caithness are calling for clarity on the timetable for the disengagement from the EU and for information on how this new position might benefit businesses in the far north.  The plea comes in the wake of Prime Minister David Cameron decision to quit after the summer in the wake of the outcome of the referendum.  Caithness Chamber of Commerce say the guidance is needed so that firms can plan ahead, particularly in relation to trading with the EU. which is worth more than £11 billion to Scottish exporters.  Chief executive Trudy Morris said: “Our key priority now is to understand what this will mean in practical terms for businesses in the far north.  The announcement by the Bank of England regarding their readiness to intervene if necessary to ensure a stable economic environment will come as a great relief to many businesses, and we hope this will assist in providing a level of confidence in the coming weeks.  But the UK Government must as an early priority confirm our future trading agreements with the EU and other international markets, and it is highly important that the Scottish Government be involved in these discussions at every level to ensure the best possible deal for businesses both in the far north and in Scotland."

Marathon Man Ben Arrives in Caithness

An ultra long distance runner is calling on people in Caithness to turn out and support him as he passes through the county during his charity bid to run 401 marathons around the UK in 401 days. Ben Smith, from Portishead, Bristol, set off on September 1 of last year with the aim of raising awareness of bullying as well as £250,000 for the two charities Stonewall and Kidscape.  The 33-year-old aims to reach the county on Friday (June 24) and complete four marathons in Caithness before heading south again.  Caithness Amateur Athletics Club along with the North Highland Harriers and Wick Triathlon Club have helped him to identify marathon routes. Mr Smith will run his Wick marathon tomorrow, his John O’Groats one on Sunday, his, Thurso one on Monday and his Halkirk one on Tuesday. He is welcoming anyone to join him along the way.  His run is supporting Stonewall, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans equality charity, and Kidscape, which believes all children should be able to grow up in a world free from bullying and abuse.  His challenge has a website at www.the401challenge.co.uk

Wildlife Park Ordered to Close
The operators of the Black Isle Wildlife Park have been ordered to close the attraction after it was found to have serious deficiencies.  The decision was taken following a special inspection, instigated by Highland Council, and a report by a Scottish Government appointed specialist vet.  The Highland Licensing Committee today issued a a zoo closure direction which will take effect after the 28-day period for appeal has expired.  The council said it will continue to work closely with the operators to ensure the animals’ welfare and to re-house the exotic animals in appropriate establishments. The operators are aware of the vet’s report. The local authority carried out several inspections of the park at Drumsmittal, North Kessock, earlier this year following complaints by members of the public about issues relating to animal welfare and general maintenance.  After an inspection by council environmental health officer, accompanied by a council-appointed vet, highlighted a variety of welfare and husbandry issues, a further special inspection was carried out by a Scottish Government appointed specialist vet.  Findings of the special inspection and the specialist vet’s report indicated that the zoo was found to be seriously below the standards required for operators to be in possession of a zoo licence, and was non-compliant with a large number of standard conditions of zoo practice.  The specialist vet stated "that due to serious deficiencies found and non-compliance with most standard conditions, the inspection team cannot recommend that a licence continues to be in place for this zoo."

Battered PM Faces Calls for Speedy EU ‘Divorce’ Talks

Outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron faced increasing pressure to speed up “divorce” talks with the EU as Brussels made it clear it wants the UK out of the union as soon as possible.  Prominent Brexit backers in the Tory party also expressed concern about Mr Cameron’s plan to let the situation drift until he formally leaves Downing Street in October. Leading Leave campaigner and Tory MP Bernard Jenkin insisted it was unrealistic to wait until the autumn. “I think there is a problem just saying ‘right, we’re not going to do anything between now and October’ to address the European Union relationship, because they don’t want us hanging around and destabilising all their arrangements. They want certainty, and I think we should be able to do this more quickly,” he said.  The call chimed with the views of European parliament president Martin Schulz, who warned the EU would not be held “hostage” while the Tory party squabbled over its next leader.  Mr Schultz insisted that uncertainty was “the opposite of what we need”, adding that it was difficult to accept “a whole continent is taken hostage because of an internal fight in the Tory party”.  In a blunt sign of Britain’s new status in the departure lounge of the EU, it emerged leaders of the remaining 27 member states would meet to discuss the emergency situation without Mr Cameron present on Wednesday.  The move came as embattled Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was set to face down a growing wave of criticism against his role in the referendum with a speech on immigration and the consequences of Brexit.  Mr Corbyn has rejected calls for his resignation amid growing fury at his failure to galvanise the party’s traditional supporters to turn out for Remain as many Labour MPs express concern at the possibility of him leading the party into a snap autumn general election.  The Labour leader is facing a vote of no confidence from some of his MPs, with one senior source describing the mood within the party as one of “utter devastation”.  Former shadow minister Tristram Hunt told BBC Newsnight he was “not convinced” Mr Corbyn had the abilities to press the Labour cause in the looming negotiations with the EU on withdrawal.  After what some observers described as one the most significant days in British politics since the end of the Second World War, the Tory party was coming to terms with the ramifications of the pro-Brexit vote which forced Mr Cameron into announcing his slow-motion resignation, and saw SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon make it clear she was preparing to push for a second Scottish independence referendum.  Northern Ireland, which like Scotland, voted heavily to Remain in the EU, also saw calls from Sinn Fein for an all-island referendum with the Irish Republic on reunification.  With ex-London mayor Boris Johnson firm favourite to succeed Mr Cameron at the Tory helm, Labour’s Ken Livingstone attacked media “obsession” with the pair , which he said drowned out the real issues in the debate.” Meanwhile, ex-Labour PM Tony Blair’s former chief of staff Jonathan Powell floated the idea of a second referendum, telling BBC Newsnight: “It seems very unlikely at the moment, the EU saying no to it, the Brexit campaign saying no to it, but that is one option when we go forward and when people realise quite how ghastly the alternatives are.”  The Lisbon Treaty sets out a strict two-year timetable for withdrawal negotiations once a member state triggers article 50 and signals the intention to withdraw.