Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 355

Issue # 355                                                          Week ending 2nd  July 2016

We Have Two Ears Because We All Should Listen Much More by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Some parts of my missus’s body are not what they were. I mean her ears. She insists  nothing is wrong with her hearing and her problems are only when she is concentrating on something else. She gave our friend Cameraman a lift last week after he had been out in his boat. Always considerate for others, he asked her if she could smell fish. She replied: “Of course. F.I.S.H.”

A lot of people hear things but that does not mean they are actually listening. The members of the Shadow Cabinet hear people saying that, post-EU referendum, this is a crucial time for the Labour Party, to stand stoutly together. Sadly, they are not listening. They are concentrating on something else - getting rid of leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Poor old Jeremy is hearing 40-odd former shadow cabinet colleagues telling him to get lost but right now, as they debate a no confidence motion in him, he is not listening. Nothing will have changed by the time you read this. Votes of no confidence are meaningless and are just for show. In other words, it is all about humiliating JC. Nothing will change.

What the rules actually say is that 51 MPs must put their heads above the parapet and nominate a potential successor and a vote must be taken. No one is even talking about doing that because - well, is there anyone else in the Labour Party up to the job? Nobody wants to nominate anyone in case they get the blame for proposing a leader who turns out to be another catastrophe. The Tories don’t have that problem. They all love blundering Boris. For now, anyway.

Anything else except a direct nomination by the Labour members is pointless, silly, wasting our time. It does make us think about the Labour Party but meanwhile Boris Johnson is about to pad down Downing Street in his Hush Puppies and, as he pats down his windswept blond locks, he will let himself in the back door of Number 10.

Twenty years ago he was the ultimate thorn in the side of Blair and Brown. Recently he was shown to be frugal and principled. Nor is he tempted by the low hanging fruit that is the disreputable parliamentary expenses system as less-scrupulous MPs squeal they are simply taking their entitlement under the rules. Not their fault. How many times did we hear that?

JC’s entire annual office expenses claim recently was for a single printer cartridge. And a cheap compatible one. Total cost £8.85. The MP in the next office claimed thousands - and more than £100 for cartridges for the same kind of printer. Jeremy did not demand his entitlement but just what he needed to do his job. Respect.

He was the one who championed human rights even when other elected members went flaky in the face of over-the-top press campaigns. He was at the top of his game. He was respected, and feared, because Jeremy had a mind like a steel trap. Unfortunately, it was a trap which was left out in the rain and is now very rusty.

Meanwhile, the stand-off continues. When JC does blink, as he will when he realises that he would rather be somewhere else. He doesn’t drive so he will have to stay at home. He doesn’t take a dram, so he will just play with his beloved companion. No, not his wife, Laura, because like Postman Pat, Jeremy has a black and white cat. It’s called El Gato. What a wonderful exotic name, I hear you say. It’s actually Spanish for, er, cat. He previously had another cat called Harold Wilson.

Of course, the next party leader is standing by JC. That’s what sensible heirs do - they rise above it all and do not get their own hands dirty by stabbing the beleagured king about to be dethroned. So when John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, is asked whether he will allow his name to be put forward, he will seem unambitious, untainted and as loyal as El Gato and Harold Wilson.

JC will eventually have to listen to other people and allow his name to go on the P45. I have to something about Mrs X’s hearing problems. I took her to the doctor the other day. Well, I was worried in case she had an inner ear infection. After all, what use would she be to me if she did not hear me asking if dinner was ready. The doc was very patient, sat her down and asked her to describe the symptoms. She replied: “Well, they're a yellow cartoon family and the wife, Marge, has blue hair.”

'Zero Credibility' Farage Slapped Down for Mocking Prospect of Indyref2
The "zero standing" and deep unpopularity of Nigel Farage will lead to a surge in support for independence, Nicola Sturgeon's official spokesperson said last night hitting back at the Ukip leader over claims the SNP Government did not want a second referendum in Scotland.  In a blistering attack on Farage, Sturgeon's spokesperson accused the Ukip frontman of seeking to "lay down the law" to Scots over independence after he said that a second referendum "was not a goer" in the aftermath of the Brexit vote in England and Wales.  The First Minister's spokesperson went on to say that Farage lived in a "fantasy world" after the Ukip leader claimed there was less backing for independence now then there was on September 18 2014. Sturgeon's spokesperson then warned Farage not to lecture the Scottish electorate after he also claimed there was no appetite for a second independence referendum, despite the prospect of Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its will.  Farage was also slapped down after he suggested the Scottish Government did not have a legal right to hold a fresh vote on leaving the UK and would be forced to seek Westminster's permission to stage such a process.  In an exclusive interview Farage said the SNP would lose if it sought to hold another referendum on independence and would be defeated by a higher margin than the last vote, when 45 per cent of the electorate supported the Yes side. "There's no point, as they'd (the SNP) lose it", Farage said when asked about the prospect of another vote on independence, which Sturgeon has stated is now 'highly likely'.  The energy and enthusiasm that there was in 2014 for separatism isn't as strong now," he claimed, adding: "At the moment they do need UK parliamentary approval to do it.  When asked if such permission would be denied, Farage said: "It's not a goer and frankly I don't think she [Sturgeon] would want it."  However, Sturgeon's spokesperson said the Scottish electorate had decisively rejected the Brexit campaign, that included a Ukip poster unveiled by Farage showing a long trail of migrants lining up to travel to the UK.  The spokesperson added: “People across Scotland have voted overwhelmingly to reject Nigel Farage’s narrow agenda and instead to endorse Scotland’s future as a European nation.  So he is living in a fantasy world if he thinks the result of the EU referendum is likely to do anything other than increase support for an independent Scotland within Europe.  Mr Farage has zero standing and zero credibility north of the border, and if he tries to lay down the law to people here over independence or anything else he will quickly discover just how deeply unpopular he is in Scotland.”  Former Scottish Secretary Lord Forsyth, who served in John Major and Margaret Thatcher's governments, also claimed that holding an independence referendum would harm the popularity of the SNP.  The Tory peer suggested that in the aftermath of a Brexit an independent Scotland would be a similar position when it came to applying to join the EU as nations such as Turkey and Albania.  Meanwhile, David Coburn, Ukip's MEP for Scotland, said he would seek to gather support for a legal challenge to any second independence referendum, if the SNP government sought to hold such a vote in defiance of Westminster. Coburn said: "They'd be on pretty dodgy ground as they have no mandate for this."

"Former Scottish Secretary Lord Forsyth, who served in John Major and Margaret Thatcher's governments, claimed that holding an independence referendum would harm the popularity of the SNP." Does Lord Forsyth not know what has happened to SNP membership since 19th September 2014? Is he really that divorced from reality????  Lord Forsyth isn't in a position to know anything or do anything. So his opinion means nothing. The reaction of Cameron, the Bank of England etc was all very interesting. They have no choice, its not in their interest to cause disruption. All the threats about currency, trade etc, were exactly that, empty threats. When it comes to it, Nobody wants to make life difficult or uncertain. As for Farage, he can have his 5 minutes in the sun. So let the Scots press on and lay the foundations for an independent Scotland.

Plans for £100m Overhaul of Glasgow's West End and Waterfront
Plans to spend over £100 million on major projects for Glasgow’s Waterfront and west end have been released, with work to begin within 18 months.  The schemes include a further pedestrian bridge over the Clyde, close to the site of the Transport Museum, an overhaul of the centre of Govan to exploit its proximity to the new "super hospital" and direct links between the district and the Glasgow University area.  It is hoped the finished projects will complete the works along Glasgow’s Clydeside, some 30 years after they became a development priority.  The projects are bankrolled by the pioneering City Deal, which saw both the Scottish and Westminster governments commit to over £1 billion for the Glasgow metropolitan area over the next two decades to boost economic activity.  The budget for the raft of work is £114m, with over one-quarter of the cash going into Glasgow via the deal. The current economic forecast by local councils of the return for the City Deal investment will deliver is an increased GVA for the economy of Clyde Valley area of £264 million a year by the mid-to-late 2030s.  But two years after the deal was signed by both governments and eight local authorities, question marks persist over the pace and deliverability of the vision. One source said the councils were still “largely at the shopping list or nice ideas stage where nice drawings are a bigger factor than economic analysis”.  Westminster and Holyrood can veto plans if their viability does not stack up.  As well as a new bridge connecting Govan, at Water Row, and Partick, the plans unveiled include a new pedestrian cycle path between the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Campus, Govan, Pacific Quay and the city centre and a new route connecting Glasgow University and the west end with Govan.  One vital part of the work will be to strengthen quay walls along the Clyde, an issue which has in the past deterred developers. The cost of the Transport Museum soared by £30m due to weak quay walls.  Cash will also be spent on unlocking long-term vacant sites along with river for housing and businesses and “to tackle multiple deprivation, particularly in Govan”.  Meanwhile, it is hoped the projects can exploit opportunities for life sciences clusters created by better connections between the new hospital and Glasgow University.  The university itself will benefit from plans to enhance the area around Byres Road, including around the Kelvinhall subway station.  

Gibraltar in Private Talks with Scottish Government Over Staying in the EU
The Scottish Government is in private talks with Gibraltar about a radical plan to keep parts of the UK in the European Union despite last week’s Brexit vote.  The talks could also involve the government of Northern Ireland, which, like Scotland and the overseas territory, voted to Remain.  In the coming days, Nicola Sturgeon is to embark on a diplomatic offensive in which she will lobby Brussels and EU member states to “explore all the possible options” about Scotland staying in the EU.  Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s chief minister, has confirmed talks have already begun with the First Minister. He told BBC Newsnight: "I can imagine a situation where some parts of what is today the member state United Kingdom are stripped out and others remain.  That means that we don't have to apply again for access[to the single market], we simply remain with the access we have today, and those parts that leave are then given a different sort of access, which is negotiated but not necessarily under Article 50," he explained, referring to the provision in the Lisbon Treaty, which sets out how a member state can voluntarily leave the EU.  However, during a Commons statement on the referendum result, David Cameron was asked to give an assurance that it would not be possible for “devolved institutions to wield a veto” on the Brexit process and replied that this was “principally, a matter for this Westminster, United Kingdom Parliament”.  Earlier, his spokeswoman was asked about whether or not the Scottish Parliament had the ability to veto Brexit and replied: “Foreign policy is a reserved matter and this was a decision taken by the United Kingdom.”  Downing Street also sought to pour cold water on the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum by declaring: “The last thing that Scotland needs now is a divisive referendum.”  The spokeswoman insisted the reasons for Scotland to remain in the UK were as strong now as they were 18 months ago, adding: “What we all need to do is to focus on getting the best deal for Scotland and the UK in these negotiations.”  But Fergus Ewing, the Scottish government’s farming minister, claimed to have received a "sympathetic hearing" from his European counterparts over Scotland's bid to remain in the EU, noting how senior EU officials had told him they would like to see Scotland as the bloc’s new 28th member state.  In his statement to MPs, the Prime Minister stressed how it was imperative the interests of all parts of the UK were “protected and advanced” in the Brexit talks, which meant that the devolved administrations would be “fully involved”.  Announcing the creation of a Brexit Unit in Whitehall, bringing together top civil servants to advise ministers on the complex collection of issues ahead, Mr Cameron added: “Our officials will be working intensively together over the coming weeks to bring our devolved administrations into the process for determining the decisions that need to be taken.”  Meantime, the PM and his chancellor moved to calm nerves over Britain's withdrawal from the EU as the financial markets responded with continued volatility.  Both Mr Cameron and George Osborne acknowledged the coming months would not be "plain sailing" and made clear they expected "adjustments" to the expected path of the economy but insisted the UK was strong enough to weather the storm.  However, their efforts were not enough to prevent another day of turbulence on the markets with the pound dropping to a 31-year low against the US dollar while more than £40 billion was wiped off the value of Britain's biggest companies as the FTSE 100 Index fell 2.6 per cent.  Such was the market volatility at one point that some shares had to be temporarily suspended as the losses stack up. Royal Bank of Scotland, 73 per cent owned by the taxpayer, briefly plunged to its lowest level since 2009 before finishing more than 15 per cent down at 174.3p.  After the chancellor made clear an emergency post-Brexit budget was now unlikely until a new prime minister was in place in the autumn, Boris Johnson, tipped by many as the lead contender to succeed Mr Cameron, declared: "Project Fear is over."  In response, Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “Indeed, Boris. Project Farce has now begun – and you are largely responsible.”  The UK suffered a further blow as US ratings agency Standard & Poor's stripped it of the top credit grade following a similar move by Moody's on Saturday.  On a day of high political drama at Westminster, the Labour Party was plunged into turmoil as more than 30 shadow ministers resigned their frontbench posts, making clear they did not think Jeremy Corbyn was up to being leader and prime minister.  At a stormy meeting of the parliamentary Labour party, the leader was told to “do the decent thing” and step down. Afterwards, many MPs appeared close to tears. Former leadership contender Chuka Umunna described the event as "pretty catastrophic".  Elsewhere, it was suggested Stephen Crabb, the Scots-born Work and Pensions Secretary, and Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary, were poised to stand on a joint ticket for the Tory leadership.  The 1922 Conservative backbench executive has drawn up plans for a contest that could see the new leader and, thus, prime minister, in place by September 2; a month earlier than expected. Nominations are due to open Wednesday evening and close Thursday afternoon.  In a separate development, Jacques Gounon, head of Eurotunnel, warned that the Brexit vote could lead to a summer surge in illegal migrants trying to enter Britain from France before new restrictions are enforced.  “I'm afraid that we could have an increased migrant pressure during this summer, as a Brexit consequence," he said.

Highland Woman Scores Top Prize Again with Equestrian Business Idea
A serial award-winning entrepreneur from Sutherland has scooped another top prize for designing a saddle which has the potential to dramatically improve the welfare of horses. Anna Renouf, an Inverness College UHI student and keen horse rider from Invershin, first shared her idea to develop a new saddle tree design at a region-wide business idea competition run by the college.  The 29-year-old’s concept had wowed leading entrepreneurs across Scotland, and she picked up two more awards in late 2015 and 2016 for the design. The latest accolade from the Converge Challenge, Scotland’s biggest entrepreneurship development programme, will allow her to compete for the top prize in September, which is worth £150,000 in prize money and support to make her idea a reality.

Cameron Makes Exit As EU Talks Brexit
European Union leaders are meeting in Brussels without David Cameron, in a highly symbolic portent of things to come.  After bidding an emotional farewell to EU summitry after his last trip to the Belgian capital as PM on Tuesday evening, Mr Cameron was not invited to join the prime ministers and presidents of the other 27 EU nations as they returned to the table to discuss how they will deal with the fallout from last week’s Brexit vote in the UK.  Downing Street insisted that the PM’s absence did not amount to a snub, saying that it accepted that the other member states would need to discuss the EU’s stance in upcoming negotiations over the bloc’s future relationship with the UK.  And in another glimpse of the changes which may be wrought on the UK by Thursday’s vote, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is travelling to Brussels for talks with European Parliament president Martin Schulz just days after setting in train the legal preparations for a possible second independence referendum to keep Scotland in the EU.  Mr Cameron flew back to London on Tuesday night after stepping off the European stage with an admission that public fears over immigration cost him last week’s referendum and his job.  A clearly emotional Prime Minister said that there was “sadness and regret” among the 28 leaders around the table at the European Council that the UK was leaving the EU after 43 years, coupled with an acceptance that the decision of voters must be respected. Getting the right solution on immigration would be a difficult challenge for the EU and “a major test” for the next PM – widely tipped to be Boris Johnson.  Mr Cameron was speaking after German chancellor Angela Merkel warned the UK must accept free movement if it wanted to retain access to the single market after withdrawal, as some non-members like Norway did.  Assuring the German parliament that she would not allow the UK to “cherry-pick” favoured elements of the EU package, she said: “If you wish to have free access to the single market then you have to accept the fundamental European rights as well as obligations that come from it. This is as true for Great Britain as for anybody else.”  And there was continuing pressure for the UK to get formal separation talks under way, rather than waiting for months or years as some potential successors to the PM have suggested.  Mr Cameron said he could not put a time frame on when his successor would get the ball rolling by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which provides for a two-year negotiating period before a final divorce.  Over dinner with fellow leaders before flying back to London, Mr Cameron set out his assessment of the reasons behind Thursday’s shock 52%-48% referendum vote for Brexit.  He told reporters later: “I think people recognised the strength of the economic case for staying, but there was a very great concern about the movement of people and immigration, and I think that is coupled with a concern about the issues of sovereignty and the absence of control there has been.  I think we need to think about that, Europe needs to think about that and I think that is going to be one of the major tests for the next prime minister.  At the end of the day I’m a democrat. I fought very hard for what I believed in. I didn’t stand back. I threw myself in head, heart and soul to keep Britain in the European Union and I didn’t succeed.  And in politics you have to recognise that you fight, and when you win you carry on the programme, and when you lose sometimes you have to say I’ve lost that argument, I’ve lost that debate, and it’s right to hand over to someone else who can take the country forward.  Now of course I’m sad about that but I’m more concerned about Britain getting its relationship right with Europe.  That is a far bigger thing than whether I’m Prime Minister for six years or seven years or what have you.”

Flodden Exhibition Attracts Crowds to Berwick Museum
Showcasing the success of the Flodden 1513 Ecomuseum Project, more than 100 people turned out for the opening of the first exhibition at Berwick Museum and Art Gallery. Guests who gathered to view the project’s findings were welcomed by Lord Joicey, chair of the Ecomuseum project, who expressed his delight with the turnout making a short speech to thank all of the contributors and officially welcome everyone. Included amongst the guests were Mayor of Berwick Ivor Dixon, volunteers from the community archaeology and documentary research projects, staff and owners from Ecomuseum sites including Barmoor Castle and Historic Scotland’s Linlithgow Palace, professionals and academics who have worked together on the project from the start, and members of the Ecomuseum’s steering group.  Alistair Bowden, the project coordinator, said: “It goes without saying that the success of this project is down to the many people who volunteered and contributed in so many ways to uncover and share what has been discovered about the Battle of Flodden and its aftermath.”  With the aim of the exhibition mainly to demonstrate what has been achieved by the local community, it will also provide points of interest and the opportunity for people to become involved in the future and continue this legacy.  The project has involved groups of different ages and abilities, and has seen many youngsters engaged in practical archaeology. Dozens of groups have been involved with the project, together with hundreds of individuals and thousands of people of all ages who have discovered so much more about Flodden and our local history and archaeology.  What has become apparent throughout the last four years is just how important Flodden is to the people both sides of the border and the emotion that this evokes.  The project was set up as the UK’s first cross-border Ecomuseum, with the aim to inspire community involvement and to identify and feature the sites throughout the UK which played a part in the story, before and after the battle. It was also intended to foster sustainable economic development.

Drones and Dna Testing in New Environmental Science A-level
Teenagers will learn about the use of drones in tackling global environmental issues as part of a newly created A-level.  The Environmental Science course – the first of its kind – will also cover new “CSI-style” technology such as DNA testing as well as GPS tracking systems, according to the AQA.  The exam board said that the draft qualification, which if approved by Ofqual will be available from September next year, focuses on sustainability and important issues such as climate change, fracking, energy supplies including wind, solar and nuclear power and marine wildlife conservation.  Richard Genn, lead developer for the course, said: “Climate change, diminishing resources and failing energy security are amongst the most critical issues facing the world today. Planet Earth didn’t come with a user guide, so it’s vital that we equip the current generation of students with the right knowledge and skills so they understand the impact that decisions we make now will have on future generations.” Sixth-formers taking the A-level will learn about how DNA samples taken from timber products can be used to identify tree species, country of origin and whether it was traded legally, as well as how drones can be used to monitor crop pests and track wildlife poachers. Other topics include using satellite surveys to search for new mineral reserves and GPS to track wildlife such as whales, sharks or migrating birds.  The new course is being introduced as part of a major ongoing overhaul of GCSEs and A-levels, with reformed qualifications being introduced over the next few years.

Edinburgh Rated As Easiest City in UK to Travel in
Edinburgh and Glasgow have been ranked among the top cities in the UK to travel within.  Researchers rated 33 cities across the UK in terms of travelling locally and also travelling from, taking into account attitudes towards public transport.  Edinburgh ranked the UK’s easiest city to travel within, scoring 6.55 out of 10, with Glasgow coming fifth, scoring 6.37 out of 10.  Stirling was the best-performing Scottish city in making journeys to further afield, finishing fifth with a score of six out of 10. Inverness finished eighth, scoring 5.94 out of 10. Researchers for ESP Group’s easy travel index found that 53% of 3,331 people quizzed in the 33 cities claimed public transport does not meet their needs.  People over the age of 60 showed a strong preference for the car, with 70% of the group choosing to drive locally and car ownership being the highest among the age group.  The easy travel index also showed clear differences between younger and older generations, with people aged 16 to 20 worrying the most when travelling.  Almost half (47%) worried about getting lost, 37% were concerned about personal safety and 36% stressed about not having the right documents. Dr Steve Cassidy, director of future transport at ESP Group, said: ” With over half of the British public of the view that public transport does not meet their needs, and some common problems needing to be addressed, there are many opportunities for cities to improve their performance.  We will be repeating this research on an annual basis and I look forward to seeing some of those cities towards the bottom of the easy travel index improve their rankings.”

Secret Talks Taking Place to Keep Independent Scotland in Eu, Brussels Insider Claims
Secret talks over keeping an independent Scotland in the EU are already taking place, a Brussels insider has revealed.  Dr Kirsty Hughes said she had been told "off the record" that discussions were taking place in the Belgian capital over placing Scotland in a "transitional holding pen" after the UK leaves the bloc, potentially preventing Scotland from having to leave and re-apply should the public back independence.  The former senior political adviser in the European Commission and an Associate Fellow at Friends of Europe think tank also said that independence would be the "simplest and most obvious way" to achieve Nicola Sturgeon's goal of maintaining the country's place in the EU following last week's referendum result.  Dr Hughes, who has also worked at a number of other leading European think tanks, added that if was "logical" for a second referendum, which the First Minister has said she is "highly likely" to call, to take place by next summer to ensure it is complete before the UK formally leaves.  The country may then be able to enter into a transitional phase, holding on to the benefits of EU membership, until the practicalities as joining the EU as an independent member are ironed out.  She told MSPs on Holyrood's Europe committee: "I talk to people in Brussels, off the record, who are talking about Scotland being in some sort of transitional holding pen. It wouldn't have a seat in the Council of Ministers until ratification of the treaties, but it wouldn't have to go through an absurd out and then in process."  A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon described Dr Hughes' evidence as "interesting" and did not rule out a independence referendum next summer, but said it was too soon to discuss specifics only a week after the shock EU result.  Once the UK formally notifies the EU that it wants to quit, which will take after a new Prime Minister takes office in September, it will have a two year period to leave. Ms Sturgeon has indicated that if an independence referendum is called, it would take place within this period.  Discussing the timing of another referendum, Dr Hughes added: "If Scotland waits until nearly the end of the two years to say, 'This isn't okay and now we're having an independence referendum', you might not have had that and had time to have the negotiations with the rest of the UK on dissolving the union before the whole of the UK has left. So, it's obviously a very big political judgement about whether and when to call an independence referendum. If it was only a question of logic, you would call it as soon as possible in my view.  You would call it, let's say, by next summer because then you would have actually had the dissolution talks - if it was successful - with the UK before the UK left. That would make it much easier for the EU to get into some of these transitional holding pen arrangements than otherwise."  Some have suggested that Scotland could become a 'successor state' to the UK, meaning it would keep many of the perks it enjoyed.  However, Dr Hughes warned that the EU would not welcome another member of the "awkward squad", suggesting that Scotland would have to enthusiastically back the European project and sign up to all that goes with it.  She added: "If the idea of a successor state is that you want the opt-outs from the euro, the budget rebate, the opt-in deal on justice and home affairs, I don't think that will be forthcoming."

Comment -R
Some people are claiming that the SNP does not represent the Scots and Scotland should stay out of the mess that is Brexit. On that basis virtually every government in Europe doesn't represent its people. I think we have to distinguish between the SNP and the Scottish Government. The people of Scotland elect MSPs for the Scottish Parliament and from those MSPs the political arm of the Scottish Government and First Minister are drawn. The SNP have the highest share of the vote and the greatest number of MSPs by some margin over the other parties. To put it in context, no other political party in Europe enjoys the level of support that the SNP enjoy. It is thus at best inflammatory and at worst stupid to say that the SNP do not represent Scotland. They are the Scots elected representatives, their government and everyone else in the world recognises that. Perhaps it is time to put hatred aside and try to start thinking how the Scots can help the Scottish Government in these difficult times.

This Year’s Hebcelt Heading for A Sell-out
The award-winning Hebridean Celtic Festival is heading for a sell-out with tickets going faster than at any time during the event’s 21-year history.  Two weeks before it opens, it is already the highest grossing HebCelt in terms of sales. All weekend tickets have been sold, as have those for the opening and closing nights, while only a limited number remain for Friday. Half the HebCelt audience will come from outside the event’s base in the island of Lewis, confirming its reputation for attracting huge numbers of visitors and generating an economic boom for the Outer Hebrides.  The 21st HebCelt will be held from 13-16 July in Stornoway. Runrig will close the ‘coming of age’ celebrations on Saturday, 16 July during a nationwide tour in support of their 14th - and last - studio album, The Story, which was released in  January.  News that the band were making their fourth appearance at the festival led to an unprecedented demand for Early Bird tickets from fans across the UK and Europe and as far afield as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  Several hundred were snapped up within hours of going on sale and hundreds more were also sold as demand rocketed.  Runrig will be among nearly 50 acts performing over the four days. The diverse line-up also includes the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Hayseed Dixie, Astrid, Julie Fowlis, King Creosote, Eddi Reader and Breabach.  Festival director Caroline Maclennan said: “We are extremely pleased with the ticket sales this year.  This is easily our best performance ever, with big spikes firstly when we announced Runrig and put weekend tickets on sale back in November, and then when we released day tickets.  Since then sales have remained very healthy and we are heading for a sell-out across most events. Runrig are obviously a huge draw, especially in our unique setting in the Gaelic heartland, but we have a large and varied programme with a host of great acts which will appeal to our multi-national audience.”  HebCelt has grown from a small event attracting less than 1,000 fans, to an international showpiece for roots, Celtic and traditional music, drawing an audience of around 15,000.

Members At Royal Troon Agree to Admit Women Members
Members of Royal Troon Golf Club have voted to overturn a ban on female members, as the historic course prepares to host the Open Championship.  In a statement, the club said its members has "voted overwhelmingly" to admit women.  It comes after golf governing body, the R&A, removed Muirfield Golf Club in Edinburgh from the list of approved Open venues after its members voted in May against accepting female members.  The club is now planning to hold a second ballot on the issue.  Speaking following the vote last night, Dr. Martin Cheyne, Captain of Royal Troon Golf Club, said: “We have said a number of times recently that it is important for golf clubs to reflect the society in which we exist and the modern world that looks to us.  Therefore, I am delighted with the decision taken by Members of Royal Troon this evening and look forward to welcoming women to our great Club.  It is the right decision for the Club today, and for the generations of golfers that will follow. I pay special thanks to the Members who turned out tonight for an important discussion and the right decision for Royal Troon Golf Club.”

Blood Everywhere - A Week Westminster Will Never Forget
Blood on the floor, blood on the ceiling, blood on the walls; Westminster has rarely looked more like an episode of Itchy and Scratchy.  Few people would have anticipated the aftermath of the Brexit vote would have led to such tumultuous upheaval in such a short space of time. From time to time UK politics has to deal with the turbulence of one earthquake but dealing with three at the same time is making everyone feel dizzy.  Let’s take the red corner first.  At the last count, there were some 67 shadow ministerial posts to fill, including the Scottish ones, following the mass exodus from the frontline.  There was even a bizarre moment when someone whom Jeremy Corbyn had appointed to his shadow cabinet, to fill a hole left by someone else, decided after two days she had had enough and resigned too.  The sight of 81-year-old Paul Flynn at the Commons dispatch box as shadow leader, whose serial rebelliousness as a backbencher rivals only Mr Corbyn’s, was a sight few thought they would ever see. It simply underlined the depths of dysfunctionality to which the Opposition has sunk.  Some argue Mr Corbyn has now turned Labour into a socialist club rather than a party of government, concerned about its own purity of thought than attaining power to improve the lives of ordinary people.  Of course, they recognise Mr Corbyn has a clear democratic mandate to lead the party but the reality is our democracy is processed through the parliamentary system, which means that if the leader of a party does not have the support of his MPs, the party cannot function; power cannot be attained.  Over in the blue corner, the Tories, at first, seemed to be handling their own post-Brexit vote trauma with a bit more calm and organisation until, that is, that email dropped at 9am on Thursday. As people were just coming to terms with the aftershocks of the Gove earthquake, we then had the Johnson upheaval.  Amid cries of treachery, betrayal and assassination Mr Gove yesterday insisted there was no calculation about his move, no nefarious conspiracy with chancellor George Osborne to first take out Boris Johnson and then Theresa May. In his campaign launch, the Justice Secretary spoke, nose raised, of principle, conviction and doing the right thing for the country. Some in the audience fought to keep a straight face.  And all the while the Home Secretary is doing her best to rise above the bloodletting and appear serenely prime ministerial. It is difficult now to see how she can lose.  Interestingly, amid all the party political pyschodramas, the little issue of coming out of the EU has almost been lost but will, of course, have the largest impact on our lives; good or bad.  But however the Shakespearian tales of both parties work themselves out, each has sunk a well of bitterness that will be drunk from for years to come. The words are recalled of someone somewhere, who once said: “If you want a friend in politics, get a dog.”

Last Updated (Saturday, 02 July 2016 09:28)