Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 357

Issue # 357                                                 Week ending 16th  July 2016

This is the Hebrides and We Do Welcome Everyone. Almost by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal
With the Hebridean Celtic Festival on this week, thousands of people are milling around Stornoway as well as all the regular visitors we have in hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs. Lots of them are from all corners of Europe stravaiging around from the Butt to Barra but, because we sill voters believed the xenophobic nonsense churned out by certain ruthlessly ambitious politicians, we can expect their numbers to start dwindling next year.

We market ourselves as this safe and picturesque haven in a raucous world, which we are, so a lot of Sassennachs get through the gaps in Hadrian’s Wall and end up in attractive wee jewels of the island chain. They end up on beaches in Uig, Ness and, of course, Horgabost. I mention these places particularly because that is where many of them rest up for the evening in their ... campervans.

Did I ever mention I am not a fan of campervans? They are awful things. I say that not just because the occupiers of these self-contained residential units tend to contribute the grand total of flick all to the economy of these islands. Ooh, they are tight. They buy bulk supplies of salmon, lobster and Prosecco in Waitrose and other posh outlets then come up here and buy nothing locally.

The biggest problem is that campervan drivers tend to be retired bankers. You know the sort, all lah-di-dah with fancy accessories that do everything for you - including the tea. However, when it comes to spending a bob or two in the islands then every penny is a prisoner.  The most they shell out on is for a pint of milk and then, after keeping everyone in the queue waiting as they trawl in their wee purses for that last 10p coin, they moan about half pints being no longer available.

My low opinion is not aided by the fact these wee hooses on wheels are magnets for some of the worst drivers ever. Most of them are driven by maniacs don’t observe the the etiquette when one is using that essential and much-maligned piece of instrastructure - the single-track road. Awestruck by the magnificent beauty of the heather-strewn hills of Lewisian Gneiss, they do not glance in their extra-large rear-view mirrors more than once every 20 minutes as they bounce along, vainly trying to tune in Classic FM.

Of course, the reason for me putting this on record is that I was involved in a campervan road rage incident the other day when the driver of one such vehicle was impeding me in South Lochs as I desperately wanted past to see Andy Murray, the Scottish tennis ace - not the British one, smash it in Wimbledon once again. Yay.

The big burly wife of the driver climbed out after I tooted them for several miles to let me past. She screamed they hadn’t seen me and for me to get lost. Wow. I asked her to calm down. Asking an irate Surrey housewife to calm down is not feasible. It would have been easier to try and baptise a cat. Happily, I escaped unscathed.

You cannot help but feel sorry for international visitors who expect to see the sun-bronzed Hebrides as they are in the brochures and on the websites. Most of these photos were taken in the middle of August five years ago when we had those couple of clear days and the sun actually got through. Okay, I am kidding but when I was young every day in July and August was glorious. As I seem to recall, we spent every day of the school holidays stripped off, except for our short trousers and wellingon boots, obviously.

We swam and we turfed peats, we fished and we cut peats, we played hide-and-seek and we stacked peats by the road, we played hide-and-seek and we threw peats into a big lorry to take them home. Then, in autumn and winter we burned them in our fires but the gales were so strong that all the heat from the peats was sucked up the chimney and they were no blinking use at all. God, how we hated peats.

As I am writing this, one of our local builders has just come and parked his van outside our house. On the van is a sticker. Hold on, I’ll just stick my head out of the window to see if I can read what it says. “No tools in this vehicle overnight.” The builder did not really have to put that on the back of his van. It is obvious to anyone that it isn’t a campervan.

Scots MPs Line Up Against Trident Ahead of Key Vote
The SNP has warned of a Brexit-style backlash if Westminster imposes another generation of nuclear weapons on the Clyde against Scotland's wishes.  David Cameron confirmed the crunch vote on the £200bn successor programme to Trident would be on July 18. Speaking at a Nato summit in Warsaw, the Prime Minister said the Commons would be asked to back the renewal of all four nuclear submarines capable of providing around-the-clock cover. “The nuclear deterrent remains essential in my view, not just to Britain’s security but as our allies have acknowledged here today the overall security of the Nato alliance,” he said. “While Britain may be leaving the EU, we are not withdrawing from the world. Nor are we turning our back on Europe or European security.”  He denied the timing was designed to maximise problems for Labour, which has renewal as its policy despite Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to Trident, saying it was a Tory manifesto pledge.  He said: “I think it makes sense to hold this vote, to hold this vote now, to put it beyond doubt, so our military planners and investors can get on the investment that is needed.”  SNP sources warned a vote to renew Trident, like the vote for Brexit, would highlight Scotland's "democratic deficit" within the Union.  In parallel with the Brexit vote, most UK MPs support renewal, while most Scots MPs do not. The 54 current and two former SNP MPs are opposed, as is Labour’s Ian Murray.  LibDem Alistair Carmichael has said he wants a smaller scale replacement, leaving only the Tory Scottish Secretary David Mundell backing a like-for-like successor.  Recent polls show most Scots also oppose renewal, once don’t knows are excluded.  Scottish Labour opposed renewal at its conference last year, but the powerful GMB union wants to press ahead to save the skilled jobs tied to Faslane.  SNP MSP Bill Kidd, a long-time anti-nuclear campaigner, said: “David Cameron has confirmed our worst fears — that the Tories are set to press ahead with an early vote on a new generation of Trident nuclear weapons.  With the potential cost of renewing Trident sky-rocketing to over £200 billion, this would be a wasteful and reckless spend on a useless weapons programme which is opposed by the overwhelming majority of parliamentarians in Scotland.  The Tory Prime Minister has learnt the hard way over recent weeks that big decisions can have severe consequences.  He’s still got time to think again to save billions being wasted on the obscenity of new nuclear weapons on the Clyde.”  Plaid Cymru, the SDLP and Greens also oppose renewal.

Comment-R
Regardless of the EU vote, the renewal of Trident would be grounds enough for another Independence vote. The SNP MPs were elected with the full knowledge they would oppose Trident. That is one thing everyone was well aware of, regardless of their views on Independence. Many would have hoped they might help other MPs block it at Westminster. That hope looks doubtful at present. If 56 Scottish MPs (where does Alistair Carmichael stand?) voted against nuclear weapons to be stationed in Scotland, and London over ruled our views on the matter, then, we have every right to demand Independence. Ian Murray, the Labour MP is anti Trident renewal. We would expect him to vote against it too. Thogh his thinking regards Independence appears to be quite confused these days, if his comments about the EU vote are anything to go by. Would MP Murray still be for London rule if it meant going ahead with a weapons system he opposes? .I find the timing of this vote interesting. Cameron had lots of time for this. But he has chosen a time when Labour are in turmoil and shortly he will not even be Prime Minister. Looks like he is unsure if leaving it off any longer. it could go against him, or that he thinks such a vote now will be binding on Scotland when the Scots become Independent. Well Dave, it won't be! Most of Scotland will not accept it.

Six Ancient Myths From the Scottish Islands
From rock-dwelling giants to mermaids and seals who steal the hearts of local women, Scotland’s islands are still alive today with tales of their supernatural pasts. Seals are considered to have special powers on many islands. It is believed they could come ashore and shed their skin to become beautiful human beings with amazing powers of seduction Here we look at six Scottish islands and the lore that keeps magic alive in these beautiful far-flung places.

LEWIS - Blue Men of Minch
These blue-skinned creature are said to live in the water between Lewis and mainland Scotland, looking for sailors to drown and boats to sink.  Also known as Storm Kelpies, they were described at length in Donald Alexander Mackenzie’s book Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend, published in 1917.  Mackenzie wrote: “They are of human size, and they have great strength. By day and by night they swim round and between the Shant Isles, and the sea there is never at rest. The Blue Men wear blue caps and grey faces which appear above the waves that they raise with their long restless arms.”  Mackenzie said the blue men “skimmed lightly” below the water surface but were sometimes seen “splashing with mad delight” when a storm set in. Some also say the Blue Men live in underwater caves in a clan system.  The origin of the Blue Men legend is unclear but possible from Moorish slaves marooned in Ireland in the 9th Century by Viking pirates and slave traders.

ORKNEY - The Selkie
The Selkies are half seal, half beautiful human and were regarded as gentle, shape shifting creatures.  Selkie lore is particularly potent on Orkney but the legend is also linked to the Shetland Isles - where the selkies may take on a darker role - and some parts of The Hebrides.  Once in human form, the selkie folk would “dance on lonely stretches of moonlit shore, or bask in the sun on outlying skerries,” according to heritage site orkney-jar.com. They would transform from seal to human once a year on Midsummer’s Eve with some accounts claiming the shift would come every ninth night, or seventh stream. Selkie men were known for their powerful sway over females and would come ashore, cast their seal skins and search out ‘unsatisfied women” whether they be unmarried or not. Some believe that selkies were supernaturally formed from the souls of drowned sailors.

SKYE - The Old Man of Storr
Folklore swirls around the Old Man of Storr, the rocky pinnacle which towers high over the west of the island.  Legend has it that Old Man of Storr was a giant who had lived in Trotternish Ridge and when he was buried, his thumb was left jutting out the ground, creating the famous jagged landscape.  But other stories have created further mystery and romance around this landmark,  One tells of a brownie - a Scottish hobgoblin-type creature - who are said to have done good deeds for the families they chose to serve.  On Skye, it is said a villager called O’Sheen saved the life of a brownie with the two becoming firm friends. O’Sheen died from a broken heart following the death of his wife and the devastated Brownie took it upon himself to chisel two rocks - one in memory of O’Sheen and a smaller one to remember his wife.

SHETLAND - The Wulver
The Wulver was said to live alone in a cave on Shetland and enjoyed a peaceful life. Such is the strength of this Shetland tale, the last reported sighting of the wulver is said to be in the early twentieth century.  He took pity on the needy of the isles and left fish on the windowsills of the hungry.  Covered in a layer of thick brown hair the Wulver was never human in the first place - unlike the werewolf.  The ancient Celts believed that the Wulver actually evolved from wolves - and represented the in-between stage of man and wolf.

BENBECULA - The Mermaid’s Grave
Seaweed cutters working the shore at Benbecula are said to have seen a miniature woman splashing in the sea, somersaulting and turning in the water.  Some men tried to seize her and stones were thrown her way, some which hit her in the back. A few days afterwards, she was found dead at Cuile, Nunton, nearly two miles away, the legend goes.  Her upper body was the size of a “well-fed child” aged three or four but with an abnormally developed breast. Her hair was long and glossy with the lower part of her body described as “like a salmon, but without the scales.”  Mr Duncan Shaw, land agent for Clanranald, baron-bailie and sheriff of the district, ordered a coffin and shroud to be made for the mermaid, who was discovered around 1830.  In the early 1900s, one account stated: “There are persons still living who saw and touched this curious creature, and who give graphic descriptions of its appearance.”  It is said the body was buried not far from the shore where the mermaid was found but the location of the grave is not known. A field reconnaissance of the dunes at Culla Bay, undertaken at the request of the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) at the end of the last century, led to the discovery of an isolated stone within a wind-eroded hollow upon the crest of the dunes.  However, following investigation, it is not believed the stone marks the spot of the grave.

MULL- MacKinnon’s Cave
One of the deepest caves in the Hebrides, it is said that Abbot MacKinnon was concealed here in the 15th Century.  Deep inside lies a large, flat slab of rock, known as Fingal’s Table. The story goes that it was used as an altar by hermits and early followers of the Christian church.  Another story linked to the dramatic coastal inlet is of the piper who tried to outdo the fairies in a piping competition and walked into the cave along with his dog.  Only the dog returned, crazed with fear and hairless. Some say the piper went right through the hill and emerged on the other side of the headland at Tiroran on Loch Scridain.  There is, however, a tunnel connection to nearby Cormorant Cave.  Dr Samuel Johnson and James Boswell visited the cave during their tour of the area in 1773. Though they had only a candle, they measured the dimensions of the cave using a walking stick.

Hebcelt Turns 21! Who is Going to Celebrate?
The award-winning Hebridean Celtic Festival will celebrate its “coming of age” next week with a special birthday present, gift wrapped in Nashville – an updated version of its theme song produced with the help of musicians from both sides of the Atlantic.  Blue on Green was originally written in 2009 by Calum Martin, one of Scotland’s top traditional music artists and a pioneer of Gaelic rock music, to capture the anticipation which surrounds the annual staging of HebCelt and the impact the festival has on the islands.  Inspired by the large blue tent which hosted the festival’s earlier main gigs on the Lews Castle green, it has since been used by the festival and broadcasters.  Calum, whose daughter Isobel Ann Martin sang on the original and will be performing in the HebCelt show Hebridean Women this year, had a new version of the song mixed and mastered in Nashville by respected producer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Scott Neubert, who played on the original. It will now be made available as a free download on the HebCelt website www.hebceltfest.com.  The 21st HebCelt takes place from Wednesday, July 13, until Saturday, July 16 in Stornoway. Runrig will head a line-up of nearly 50 acts over the four days, including the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Hayseed Dixie, Julie Fowlis, Astrid, John McCusker, King Creosote, Breabach and Eddi Reader and her band.  In her first visit to HebCelt since 2011, she will perform at An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway with her band – husband John Douglas, Boo Hewerdine, Alan Kelly and Kevin McGuire.  “HebCelt is a brilliant festival. We have a new line-up and I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.  Her show could be something of a surprise to the band as well as the festival audience as having built up a considerable back catalogue of songs, she has yet to decide what to sing. “I don’t have a set list, when I get there I’ll decide on stage. The guys know me so well, they know all the stuff,” said Eddi.  In the past, she has taken to social media ahead of a gig to ask which songs they would like to hear and may use the same tactic for HebCelt: “I don’t see the problem with that.”  Singer Julie Fowlis, from North Uist, says HebCelt is a highlight of the year for her. The internationally-acclaimed singer was an obvious name on the guest list for the event’s 21st birthday celebrations.  This year, she will play two separate shows in different venues including the festival opener, Hebridean Women, a project designed to encourage collaboration and promote the music and song from the area, when she will be joined on stage at An Lanntair arts centre by Cathy Ann MacPhee, from Barra, Mary Smith and Isobel Ann Martin, from Lewis, and Kathleen Macinnes, from South Uist.  Two nights later, she will be on stage with her band in the main festival arena. Julie, one of the first inductees to the HebCelt Hall of Fame and an ambassador for the event, said: “Coming from the Outer Hebrides I have always been excited about playing at HebCelt”, she said.  It is a highlight of the year for me and I am particularly looking forward to returning there for the 21st festival.”  Also attracting a lot of attention are RURA, regarded as one of Scotland’s most exciting and most sought-after live bands, who make their third visit to HebCelt in recent years.  HebCelt has grown from a small event attracting fewer than 1,000 fans, to an international showpiece for roots, Celtic and traditional music, generating more than £20million for the local economy over two decades.

New Gaelic Song Resource Hits Right Key
Fèisean nan Gàidheal is delighted to announce Fuaran – a new song resource researched and created by young Gaelic singers.  The project was established by Fèisean nan Gàidheal with financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund Young Roots scheme and delivered over two years in partnership with Tobar an Dualchais and Lews Castle College UHI. In total 22 songs have been researched and recorded anew by nine young Gaelic singers aged 16 to 24. Throughout the project singers received mentoring support from folklore specialists and respected Gaelic cultural tradition bearers and had the opportunity to work with a range of audio and visual professionals.  The singers are Anna MacDonald (Tiree), Ceitlin LR Smith (Lewis), Ellen MacDonald (Inverness), Isabelle Bain (Lewis), Jamie MacDonald (Tiree), John James Galbraith (Barra), Mairi MacLennan (Lewis), Morvyn Menzies (Perthshire) and Robbie Greig (Edinburgh).  This research has resulted in a new educational resource of Gaelic song, distributed on CD free of charge to fèisean, schools, arts organisations, heritage groups and libraries.  A corresponding free online resource has also been created where all song recordings and lyrics are available for streaming and download. A video showcase of each song – sub-titled in Gaelic and English – is also available to view on the website. Fèisean nan Gàidheal Development Officer and Fuaran co-ordinator Rachel Harris said: “We are delighted with the outcomes of the Fuaran project and are very proud of the achievements of our young team – they have put in a huge amount of work and the standard of the performances is very high indeed.  We hope that Fuaran will be a useful and engaging resource for singers, teachers and audiences and encourage more research into Gaelic song.” Fuaran can be explored at: www.feisean.org/fuaran.

New Bridge Built by the Fairies!
The week long deluge in October 2014 flooded roads, drowned sheep, damaged railway tracks and washed away bridges from Fort William to Durness. One of the bridges it washed away was the footbridge leading to Strathan Bothy, just south of Cape Wrath. Nobody noticed for a month, the site is so remote. Strath Shinary runs north-west from the radio mast on Farmheall, 10 km to Sandwood Bay. In between there are just two man-made structures, a shepherd’s house (now Strathan bothy), and the footbridge which provides access from the south bank of the river, and thus the path to Polin and Kinlochbervie.  In recent times there have been at least three bridges here. Hidden in the heather are some rotted, wooden anchor posts from the oldest. Then there are the four obvious telegraph poles which were installed by Navy Cadets in the 1980s. That bridge survived and served the bothy well, but it gradually deteriorated and, strand by strand, rusted into the river. The remaining skeleton was dragged under by a spate in 2010. In 2012 the bridge was rebuilt using the original telegraph poles and wooden slats but with all-new wire. Unfortunately this one only lasted eighteen months before it too was dragged under by a colossal spate. It has just been learned that in June 2016 yet another new bridge has mysteriously appeared.  This 2016 bridge is similar to the 2012 bridge except that it has forty new 36mm wooden slats and the main suspension cable has been upgraded from 6mm to 8mm wire rope, doubling its strength. The handrail is 6mm wire rope.  Every slat is supported by its own 3mm dropper from the handrail. The span is 16m, the deck is 2.5m above the normal river level. The working load is 150kg, that is the weight of a heavy adult plus a very heavy backpack. Although the bridge is strong enough to carry four or five times this load, the safety notice advises users to cross one at a time.  The expected life of the new bridge is twenty-five years. But that is “expected” in the sense of the expected winnings from that £10 Premium Bond your uncle gave you for your birthday is a million pounds.  Upgrading the strength of the bridge will not, on its own, prevent a repeat of the 2014 failure. If you look carefully you will see, from the flood debris on the back stays, that the river overflowed its banks but never reached the height of the deck. So what happened? The most likely problem was the side stays. Side stays are common on suspension footbridges to prevent that unnerving swaying when someone walks over. On either side wires stretch from the centre of the deck down to anchors on the riverbank. It was the upstream side stays which picked up flood debris and dragged the deck down. Once the deck was under the raging brown torrent, the bridge was doomed.  Needless to say, the 2016 bridge does not have side stays. It sways a little when you are crossing. Walkers on The Cape Wrath Trail may need to add a little seasickness to the many hazards they face.  The trail grows more and more popular every year. Also to anyone sleeping in the bothy, it is good to know that, however hard it rains in the night, they will always be able to cross the river in the morning. A foot-bridge is shown here on the Ordnance Survey maps and walkers expect and rely on it being there. Although people will use it in the summer to avoid getting their expensive Gore-Tex-lined boots damp, that is not its purpose. During heavy rain, fording Highland rivers can escalate from a doddle, to a paddle, to difficult, to dangerous, to deadly, in an hour. Hopefully the bridge will justify the time and effort someone has put into  rebuilding it.  This article so far has covered What? When? Where? and Why? All that remains is Who?  In our age of blame culture and “No Win, No Fee” lawyers, no official body, charitable institution or individual is keen to put their name on a public structure in a remote place. (A woman successfully sued Irish National Parks recently after she slipped on some railway sleepers they had put down to help folks cross a bog.) Here is a list of those who might have, but did not, rebuild the bridge at Strath Shinary: The Highland Council, The John Muir Trust, The Ministry of Defence, The Scottish Department of Agriculture, The Keoldale Sheep Stock Club, The Mountain Bothies Association, The North West Highlands Geopark, The Prince’s Trust, Paths for All, Cameron McNeish, Seasick Steve and Old Uncle Tom Cobly.  So if none of these built the bridge, what kind of people did?  The bridge builders are anarchists. Not the kind of anarchists who lob bombs at arch dukes, but the kind who get up and do something when it needs to be done for the common weal. They don’t recline on their sofas moaning that they aren’t doing anything about this. Neither do they fill in 27-page forms for the Ministry of Protocol or wait for written permission to start countersigned in triplicate by The Lord High Doodlum and his doodlettes. Of course, if everyone behaved in this way the result would be anarchy. Occasionally, however, this is the only attitude that gets things done.  The bridge safety notice is signed Obair nan Sìthichean (“The Work of the Fairies”). In an exclusive interview , one of the Bridge Fairies said: “It’s strange looking at something that has taken so much hard work to finish, knowing that it could all be washed away in the next flood”. Real life isn’t like that, is it?

Two Guilty After UK’s ‘Biggest Cocaine Haul’ Off Aberdeen
Two men have been found guilty of smuggling more than three tonnes of cocaine - the biggest Class A drug haul in British history.  A captain and first officer were found guilty of drug trafficking after cocaine with an estimated street value of £512 million was seized from their tugboat.  The class A drugs were found hidden in a secret hatch on board the Tanzanian flagged MV Hamal in April last year.  The vessel was intercepted by Royal Navy destroyer HMS Somerset and Border Force cutter HMC Valiant in the North Sea around 100 miles off the coast of Aberdeen.  After getting a tip-off from French authorities, National Crime Agency (NCA) officers boarded the MV Hamal and escorted it into the Port of Aberdeen. It was the biggest ever seizure of class A drugs in the UK.  When the MV Hamal arrived in port, cutter crew, specialist Border Force deep rummage teams and NCA and Police Authority forensic teams started a search.  Ballast tanks were pumped out for access, and after drilling through a metal panel inside a tank they found a white powder on the drill bit which later tested positive for cocaine.  Investigators soon found an area of floor that had been cemented over in crew quarters, under a medical cabinet.  Inside, there was a sealed metal hatch holding 128 bales of cocaine each weighing 25kg.  The total weight of cocaine on the boat was 3.2 tonnes and its purity was between 58 and 74 per cent.  Investigators believe it had been cut three times over before being sold, meaning it had the potential to create almost ten tonnes of adulterated street level purity cocaine, valued at around £512 million.  Nine Turkish crew members were detained and formally questioned in Aberdeen. Charges against four crew members were found not proven, while three others were acquitted earlier in proceedings.  Sentencing will take place on August 12.

Ardveenish Harbour is Now Open
This week has seen the culmination of a project which was initiated back in 2007.  The opening of a new £1.6m harbour at Ardveenish in Barra will provide an additional 90m of secure berthing and complement the existing pier.  Funding from the project came after Comhairle nan Eilean Siar recognised the need for a safe, sheltered harbour and agreed capital funding of £1.25m.  Subsequent funding of £283,000 was secured from the Coastal Communities Fund and £125,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise to enable the project to proceed. Barratlantic provided the land on which the harbour is built.  Maintaining and developing a significant local fishing fleet is seen as essential to the long term fishing, fish processing and shellfish export activity in Barra.  The area has accounted for significant fleet investment in recent years particularly in the trawl sector.  With support from the Comhairle’s Fisheries Investment Scheme and the Royal Bank of Scotland, seven local skippers, many of them under 40, have been assisted into vessel ownership.  The harbour investment also supports the processing sector with Barratlantic, one of the largest businesses on the island, employing around 40 people.

Plans to Build New Gin and Whisky Distillery At Historic Highland Castle
One of the largest castles in the Highlands has unveiled plans to build a new gin and whisky distillery within its grounds.  A planning application has been lodged for the new development at the category A-listed Dunrobin Castle in Sutherland.  Under the proposals, several existing estate buildings within the grounds would be transformed into a craft distillery, tasting room, shop and warehouse.  A total of eight jobs could be created as a result of the development.  The 189-room castle, by Golspie, dates back to the early 1300s and is the most northerly of Scotland’s great houses.  The family seat of the Clan Sutherland, it has been open to visitors for tours for the last four decades.  Last year, the Sutherland family approached design firm Lachlan Stewart Studio to draw up plans for the distillery project.  The distillery section would be based in the former powerhouse, adjacent to the castle, which previously supplied electricity to the house from coal, gas and later diesel turbines.  The former icehouse and larder will be repaired under the proposals, with the larder used to store herbs required to make gin, and the icehouse becoming a tasting room. Historic paths will also be restored to allow visitors to access the distillery.  A warehouse to store the whisky would be created at the dilapidated farm steading, while the man-made mill pond would provide a water supply in case of a fire.  A design statement, lodged with Highland Council this week as part of the planning application, said: “The new distillery, while designed primarily as a functional distilling complex, will allow for a limited number of small tours, adding to the overall visitor experience of the castle and grounds.  The tours will give the visitor an inside view of a working craft distillery, and opportunity to taste the whisky in the tasting room constructed from Dunrobin Estate timber and a small shop.  With production at five days a week, the distillery will also provide up to eight new job positions for the local economy.”

Comment-R
The old Duke (of Highland Clearances infamy) must be spinning in his grave at this catering to the peasantry.

New Act of Union Bill Published to Create A Federal Uk and Stave Off Scottish Independence
Devolution should be “turned upside down” to create a federal Britain, a group of senior cross-party politicians insists today as it publishes a draft Bill to create a new Act of Union. The Constitution Reform Group (CRG) believes that its proposed legislation is now the last chance to save the 300-year-old union given the renewed threat of a second Scottish independence referendum in the wake of the Brexit vote.  The aim of the 48-page Act Of Union Bill 2016 is to “to affirm that the peoples of [our] nations and parts have chosen to continue to pool their sovereignty for specified purposes, and to provide universal citizenship with social and economic rights”.  The CRG, whose members include the Marquess of Salisbury, who is the former Conservative Leader of the Lords, Lord Hain, the former Labour Northern Ireland Secretary, and Lord Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader, will now lobby the UK Government and Westminster to back the draft legislation, which it recognises can only be implemented with the support of the Tory administration under its new leader Theresa May.  “The referendum on Scottish independence followed swiftly by the flawed implementation of English votes for English laws and the enormous electoral success of the SNP, brought to the forefront of public consciousness the deep imbalances in the make-up of the Union,” explained Lord Campbell.  The CRG was formed to address these imbalances and we believe that the Bill we have drafted is a good starting point. We want to turn the process of devolution upside down; the four nations of the United Kingdom should be sovereign but agree to pool that sovereignty on issues that it is agreed are best handled at a UK level.  The issues that divide the nation are far outweighed by the common values and cultures that have bound us together for hundreds of years. We hope that the new Prime Minister will take this unprecedented opportunity to realign our Union and secure it for centuries to come,” added the Scottish peer.  The CRG’s aim is to “wrest back the initiative from the separatists” and help save the 300-year-old United Kingdom by creating a bottom-up federal system, where each of the four parts of the UK would decide which powers they wanted to retain and then “federate upwards” and hand power over to the centre on issues they believe could be best managed by there; such as defence and foreign policy.
The bill includes proposals for:
the creation of an English Parliament
strengthened Scottish Parliament controlling all powers except those “central policy areas” assigned to the UK Parliament
the abolition of the House of Lords
a new UK Parliament revising chamber with members elected to it from the UK’s four national parliaments
increased regional devolution
central functions financed by central taxes such as income tax, VAT and corporation tax
the renaming of the Bank of England as the Bank of the United Kingdom with members of the board drawn from the four parts of the UK.

Recently, members of the CRG met David Cameron, the former PM, and have begun a process of liaison with the Cabinet Office, recognising that it is only with government support that it has any prospect of changing the constitution.  However, with the possibility of a second Scottish independence referendum now back on the agenda, with Labour about to undertake a constitutional review and with the issue of federalism increasingly part of the national conversation, the CRG is confident that its proposed legislation could begin the process of radical constitutional change to prevent the break-up of Britain.  If it received the backing of Westminster, then the issue of creating a federal UK would be put to the four parts of the Union in a referendum.  Crucially, however, the proposition would have to win approval from voters in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, for the new federal system to be implemented, meaning any one of them would have a veto.

Comment - R
Why anybody would believe that the next "proposal" for Scotland to continue is to be controlled by Westminster would be an even "better" "deal" is beyond comprehension.  Ever increasing desperation is now being clearly demonstrated as the UK finally realize that the union is coming to an end.... We have already witnessed 'Devo to the max', 'the most powerful devolved parliament in the universe', 'federalism', and a Smith commission that delivered every bit as much as this latest 'federal' offer.... Too little too late, let Scotland 'Take back control', pick up the reins that the rUK decided to cast aside for EU membership, and THEN the Scots can talk of deals as an equal independent nation.

New PM Urged to Back EU Funding for the Highlands
The UK government and new Prime Minister Theresa May have been challenged to protect vital funding for projects across the Highlands in the wake of the referendum result to leave the European Union.  Drew Hendry, MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, is seeking a guarantee the area will receive the 192 million euros in European transition funding at risk as a result of the Brexit vote.  The allocation, announced two years ago, is set to run over seven years and is used to deliver a range of objectives ranging from supporting small rural business to improving broadband links.  "This money has a real impact, making a difference to our people, shops and businesses and helping to underpin some of our most fragile communities," Mr Hendry said.  "If you look around, you can see the impact on the ground in infrastructure of all shapes and sizes. There are hundreds of EU signs dotted around the place indicating European money has been spent here.  However, more importantly, it also directly helps people, our broadband connectivity, supporting various community projects, helping people into work and tackling poverty.  For the UK Government to have failed to think ahead to the implications for young people, the disadvantaged, for the economy of the Highlands and Islands is outrageous. In fact, given the incredible effect this has on everybody locally it is inexcusable."  He was also scathing about the latest political twists at Westminster which have seen the uncontested appointment of Mrs May as the new Prime Minister and Labour facing a bitter leadership battle.  Both the UK Government and the official opposition parties seem to leap from one drama to the next and to be quite honest the people of Scotland deserve better," he said.