Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 360

Issue # 360                                                               Week ending 6th August 2016

Woes of Big Girl’s Blouse Locked in Lochinver Gents by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

When my wife beckons me with that persuasive smile and purrs mysteriously that she wants me to go with her, it is a worry. Is she being romantic or just wanting me to go shopping? My heart flaps like a wellington boot in a tumble dryer.

So when she curled that fearsome index finger last week, I thought we were heading for another round of pushing a trolley round cooked meats and pickles. When she said that I should check the oil and tyre pressures that I realised we were going further than the Co-op.

Her hand is still a bit sore from a fall so Mrs X wanted me to drive her to a wedding. Me? I’ll get my tie. Where is it? Dornoch? That place on the other side of the country from where well-known chopper hero Chris Murray hails and where equally-notorious Madonna christened Rocco 16 years ago before marrying Guy Ritchie the next day? Yep. Right, I’d better take pants as well then.

Everything went well at Shirley-Ann and Willie’s wedding on Saturday. Well, almost. A wee hitch was when the wedding cars didn’t turn up because the dozy car firm boss forgot. However, the sight of the bridesmaids teetering along High Street in their killer heels to get to the cathedral was funny. Sorry, girls. There are even photos of the bevvy of immaculately-coiffeured beauties trying to hitch a lift.

Kindly friends in Dornoch helped get the happy couple to the beach to whoop in sand dunes for photos before a classic car eventually arrived with dapper driver John who had to face the music - even though it was not his fault. Then onwards and southwards to Balintore for dancing and that sort of thing.

I bumped into Hamish Macrae there. He and his good lady have read this column once or twice so I must say hullo to them. This distinguished fellow, being ex-Merchant Navy and past-captain of the magnificent Royal Dornoch Golf Club, was great fun. Pint due on my return.

I shall also return to Assynt. I couldn’t leave that place on Sunday afternoon because I was trying to extricate myself from the smallest room of a pierside hostelry. Having had lunch, myself and Mrs X were about to depart for Ullapool when nature called.

In the gents cubicle, the sliding bolt did not work. Anyone could have interrupted me while I was, er, contemplating. But the journey by Vauxhall Combo van to the ferry port via Ledmore Junction would last nearly an hour ...

As I went to leave, I found there was no handle to pull open the cubicle door. There was only a wee knob on the bolt to tug. Not having north-west Highland fishermen’s monster net-hauling fists but soft writer’s hands that do dishes, it was impossible. The door was stuck like, perhaps, a door that wasn’t finished and was too big for its frame. Nowhere to get a grip. Like a big girl’s blouse, I began to whimper for help. Then I began to shout.

Bellowing and screaming at the top of my voice, they must have heard me in Kinlochbervie. No one came to help. Abandoned and alone, I wept. Well, almost. Actually not at all because I’m from Great Bernera and we’re hard as nails, right? That’s cleared that up.

After maybe 10 minutes, I managed to dig my van key into the side of the door enough to make it shift a tiny bit. Then a bit more and more and more ...   When I eventually managed to get out, I rushed outside onto the pier gasping for air, for freedom, for the tight embrace of a worried wife. I am sure she thought I had left her for a lusty Lochinver lass. She is not that lucky. Me neither.

Reaching home I typed a note to the owner of the Culag Hotel, where I was incarcerated last Sabbath. Rather than take umbrage at some cheeky scribe disparaging his bog, he immediately began making repairs and adjustments to my erstwhile prison. He has since written back to confirm the door no longer sticks. A new handle has been fitted on the inside. I am welcome back to try the facilities again. Ken, you’re a star and I will.

Mrs X was mortified I had managed to get myself stuck in a loo. As we were returning from a wedding, I thought she would be all sympathetic - even a tad romantic. We were at Inchnadamph before she said one word. She snapped aptly: “What are you like? Men’s brains are like the British prison system - not enough cells.”

Scotland’s Forgotten Castles Offer Alternate View of History

It once stood proudly on a small island in the Forth, but is now surrounded by warehouses and dock buildings.  While other medieval ruins are frequented by visitors, the only people with the chance to view this A-listed building are staff employed at Rosyth Dockyard and associated businesses.  The castle, which features a well preserved 15th century tower house, was gradually absorbed from 1903 onwards by the neighbouring naval base.  As a result, the castle is not officially open to visitors - except for occasional tours - and has largely faded from view.  But until the turn of the 20th century it was one of the most prominent landmarks on the Fife coast.  There was once more than 2,000 castles across Scotland, but few of them stood long enough, or enjoyed prominent locations, to become international tourist attractions like Edinburgh and Stirling. “For a relatively small country we are very fortunate to have so many fine castles to visit, and inevitably some are better known and more celebrated than others,” said Stephen Duncan, tourism and commercial director at Historic Environment Scotland.  Although many people will be aware of the likes of the iconic Caerlaverock Castle in Dumfries; the unique Corgarff Castle in Aberdeenshire; or the foreboding Hermitage Castle near Hawick - with its bloody history, some will be unaware of the existence of these incredible sites. These are just a few examples, but there are many more.”  Rosyth Castle was built around 1450 by Sir David Stewart, who took the title Lord Rosyth after being granted the local barony by James I in 1428.  The L-shaped tower house was constructed on a rocky outcrop in the Forth, with a causeway linking it to the mainland. An unusually tall barmkin - the Scots word for a defensive enclosure - was also built, suggesting the Stewarts were not expecting a trouble-free existence.  A crest in the courtyard, dated 1561, displays the initials MR - or Maria Regina - suggests upgrades were made in time for a visit from Mary, Queen of Scots.  When Mary was forced to abdicate in favour of her infant son James in 1567, the Stewarts of Rosyth supported the new regime, led by the Earl of Moray as regent. But Blackness Castle - on the south bank of the Forth - was held for the deposed queen.  The garrison at Blackness frequently sent raiding parties along the firth, attacking Rosyth in 1572, before surrendering a year later.  The Stewarts sold Rosyth in 1711 and it eventually passed to John Hope, Earl of Hopetoun, whose estate stood on the opposite bank of the Forth, before the navy took charge in 1903.  At least Roysth still stands largely intact.  Yester Castle, near Gifford in East Lothian, has almost completely disintegrated at ground level. But its few visitors are drawn to the ruin for what lies beneath.  Under the fragments of the 13th century stone keep lies the ‘Goblin Ha’ - a subterranean chamber with an impressive vaulted roof.  Local legend dictates the hall was built with supernatural help. While its true purpose was likely more prosaic, it remains a fascinating medieval curio.  Most castles have been used for a variety of purposes, but few have a back story as varied as Corgarff.  The 16th century tower house in rural Aberdeenshire was built by the powerful Forbes family.  It played a key role in both the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite risings, which partly explained why it was converted into barracks for Government troops.  As the threat of the Jacobites faded, soldiers from Corgarff focused their attentions on the illegal whisky distilling - a booming industry in the early 1800s.  Unlike the ruins at Yester and the hidden Roysth tower, Corgarff is owned by Historic Environment Scotland and is easily accessible to visitors.

A Chance Encounter of the Historic Kind

Cupar Heritage Centre has taken possession of two of its most exciting finds yet – thanks to an eagle-eyed auction-goer on the Isle of Man.  They’re a silver gilt engraved key given to John Duffus in June 1911 to mark the opening of Duffus Park and an oak casket and illuminated scroll presented to him on June 30, 1927, when he was made a Freeman of the burgh of Cupar.  The key was also used 40 years later, in 1951, when John Duffus’ sister opened the park extension.  “The items came up for auction on the Isle of Man and were spotted by Sean Murphy, a member of the Manx Heritage Society,” said Cupar Heritage chairman Guthrie Hutton.  “He apparently used to holiday in Elie and had played rugby in Duffus Park, so he recognised the name and made the connection.  He Googled us and found us through our website to let us know the items were up for auction. Of course we were very excited and dug deep into our resources in order to bring them back to Cupar.  The one thing we don’t know is who it was on the Isle of Man who owned them in the first place, but we’re doing some investigative work in the hope of finding out.”  The ornate scroll, which is on vellum, confers the Freedom of Cupar on John Coutts Duffus “in recognition of his munificence to his native town and his kindly interest in everything pertaining to the welfare of the burgh.”  It’s signed by the Provost of the time, H.J. Smith, and the Town Clerk, J. Anderson.  John Duffus and his family had made their fortune in the jute trade in Dundee. It was in 1910 that he gifted the land to the community ‘for the purposes of a public park and recreation ground.’   The new acquisitions won’t be going on display to the public just yet as there is still some conservation work to be done, but their arrival dovetails nicely with an exhibition with a sporting theme planned for next year.  In the meantime, the centre has a fascinating range of exhibits lined up for the 2016 season, including two displays marking significant milestones for the town –the 90th anniversary of the building of the sugar beet factory on the outskirts of Cupar and the 150th anniversary of Stratheden Hospital.  The Heritage Centre, which has charitable status, is situated at Cupar Railway Station.

Two Men Arrested After Police Seize Drugs Worth £235,000
Two men have been arrested after police seized cannabis and cocaine worth around £235,000.  The recovery was made during an intelligence-led operation in East Renfrewshire and East Ayrshire on Friday.  Two men aged 35 and 40 were held after officers stopped and searched vehicles in the Uplawmoor and Stewarton areas at around 7pm.  They are expected to appear at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court on Monday in connection with the drug finds.

16 Affected by E.coli Outbreak Linked to Blue Cheese
Sixteen people have fallen ill with the same strain of E.coli in an outbreak officials said may be linked to eating blue cheese made from unpasteurised milk.  Health Protection Scotland (HPS) said initial investigations show a number of those affected had consumed Dunsyre Blue, made by Lanarkshire-based Errington Cheese, before they became unwell.  They developed their symptoms between July 2 and 15, the health body said.  Two of the patients are understood to be in a stable condition in hospital, while the remaining 14 are recovering at home.  Of the 16 cases, 14 are in Scotland across seven NHS boards and two are in England.  Food Standards Scotland (FSS) said the company is carrying out a voluntary recall of suspected batches of the blue cheese and advised consumers who have bought the product and still have it in their fridge not to eat it.  Officials are advising that - as a precaution - Dunsyre Blue cheese purchased between mid-May and the end of July with the batch codes C22 or D14 should not be eaten.  HPS said it has been working with FSS, NHS boards and local authority environmental health teams to "investigate and manage" the outbreak. The strain of E.coli involved is O157.  Dr Syed Ahmed, clinical director at HPS, said: "The majority of cases have consumed Dunsyre Blue while eating out, but members of the public who purchased Dunsyre Blue cheese between May 18 and July 29, and still have the product in their fridges, should return it to the retailer where they purchased the product or dispose of it.  Symptoms associated with E.coli O157 can include stomach cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting and occasionally fever. Anyone developing symptoms, including bloody diarrhoea, or who is concerned about their symptoms, should contact their GP or telephone NHS 24 on 111 for advice.  It is important to maintain good hand and food hygiene practices at all times as this reduces the risk of passing the infection to others."  Humphrey Errington, of Errington Cheese, said the company is doing everything it can to help the investigation.  He told the BBC: "They tell us that they think there may be a connection with our Dunsyre Blue cheese, so obviously as a responsible company we took the voluntary decision to recall the two batches of cheese which they were concerned about and we've done that.  At the moment we're doing a lot of testing ourselves and investigation to see whether there is in fact any evidence of a connection."

Theresa May Most Right-wing PM Since Thatcher, Says SNP's Angus Robertson
New Conservative leader Theresa May has been described as the most right-wing prime minister since Margaret Thatcher by the SNP's Angus Robertson, as he claimed Scotland is "truly on the brink of independence".  Mr Robertson formally launched his bid to become depute leader of the SNP with a warning to Mrs May that her days as leader of the whole of the United Kingdom will be numbered if she fails to respect Scotland's desire to remain part of the European Union.  Almost two thirds (62%) of voters north of the border backed keeping the UK in the EU in last month's referendum, with SNP leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying afterwards that the result makes another vote on Scottish independence "highly likely".  Mr Robertson, the SNP leader at Westminster, hit out at Mrs May after she said on a visit to Edinburgh that Scots have "had their vote" on independence in 2014.  In a speech, Mr Robertson told an audience in the Scottish capital: "Just last week, Theresa May said that options for keeping Scotland in the EU were 'impractical', and that we've 'had our referendum'.  I think we have an opportunity to show her that things are different in Scotland.  She has of course said that there will only be a 'UK approach' to Brexit. She has refused to accept that for Scotland, Remain means Remain.  My message to the Prime Minister is this: If you ignore the expressed will of the people of Scotland, if you refuse to even consider how we might protect Scotland's place in the EU then be in no doubt - your days as Prime Minister of a United Kingdom are numbered."  Mr Robertson added that the next few months will be a "major test" for the SNP - which now has more than 120,000 members - with the party facing the prospect of "delivering a new prospectus for independence".  The Moray MP said: "We are truly on the brink of independence - the campaign that comes now should be all about persuading people why our vision for Scotland is the right one."  Mr Robertson said that the Brexit vote has brought "much uncertainty" with it, but said Scotland and the party have a future "redolent with opportunity".  He told SNP members and activists: "Our next job is to communicate with the many people who believe their 2014 referendum vote was to stay in Europe by voting 'no' to Scottish Independence. They are right to feel cheated. They are right to feel betrayed. After that, we need to speak to those many people who thought they were voting for certainty over risk.  Since 2014 it's the UK that has become the risky option, and since the Brexit vote this is about to get much much worse.  We need to take our new prospectus to the streets to make sure that we can deliver the best for Scotland."  Mr Robertson outlined three themes to his campaign: leadership, engaging grassroots members across Scotland, and independence.  The MP, who joined the SNP as a teenager in the 1980s and was part of the team which helped it become an "electable victorious party of government" in 2007, said he has the necessary skills and track record to be depute leader.  "I've learned a lot about leadership over the last year, leading a talented group of MPs, the largest ever team of SNP MPs in Westminster," he said. "We've gone from six MPs to the third largest party in Westminster. I am so proud of our team, they have achieved so much."  And in a swipe at the official opposition, he added: "We've provided the leadership whilst Labour has had none."  Mr Robertson's most high-profile challenger for the depute leadership is Alyn Smith, the MEP who received a standing ovation in Brussels for his plea to EU members to respect Scotland's vote to remain.

Japanese Giant Snaps Up Small Aberdeen Print Firm
A Japanese printing technology and office equipment giant has snapped up a small Aberdeen firm for an undisclosed sum.  Konica Minolta is now the owner of document management and printer firm, Capture Imaging Solutions.  Established by local businessmen Colin Yule and Robbie Cheyne in 2005, Capture Imaging Solutions said it provides managed print hardware, servicing and document services to over 600 clients across the UK. The Aberdeen firm said revenues grew 10% during 2015-16, with new revenue sales reaching £1.6million in the past six months. Managing director, Colin Yule, who remains a director of the firm following the transaction, said the deal marks the “next level” in its longstanding relationship with the Japanese company.  He said: “Capture Imaging is a company with its feet firmly in the local area. By taking our partnership with Konica Minolta to the next level, we’re simply enhancing our existing service in a number of ways.  The speed with which technology changes is phenomenal, and our aim has always been to keep clients at the cutting edge of such change. However, by joining forces with Konica Minolta, we’re now opening up new horizons in this respect, whilst allowing our clients to benefit from ‘direct from manufacturer’ costs.” Neil Dingley, managing director of Konica Minolta Business Solutions (UK) and now a director of Capture Imaging, added: “This acquisition allows us to further develop and deliver a complete and unrivalled service to new and existing customers in the Aberdeen area, providing Capture Imaging customers with a premium, locally-driven service that is supported by Konica Minolta’s knowledge and expertise.” The Japanese conglomerate was formed by the merger of Konica and Minolta in 2003 and has offices in 49 countries. Both firms, which pioneered camera manufacturing, subsequently sold off its photography businesses to Sony in 2006.

Australian Brain Family Told to Leave Scotland
An Australian family fighting to remain in Scotland have been asked to leave the country voluntarily by the Home Office after a deadline for them to meet visa requirements passed. Kathryn and Gregg Brain, who moved to Dingwall with their son Lachlan in 2011, had until Monday night to find work which would have allowed them to stay in the UK.   UK immigration minister Robert Goodwill has now written to the family saying there are “no exceptional considerations” that would justify granting them leave to remain outside of the immigration rules.  The Brains yesterday vowed to continue their fight as actor Tom Conti repeated his pledge to help them financially.  Mr Brain said a “major Scottish company” had been in touch with the family to discuss a possible job offer.  The family moved to Scotland on Mrs Brain’s student visa five years ago, but a two-year post-study visa scheme then on offer was later withdrawn by the UK Westminster government.  Mr Goodwill’s letter, which was sent to SNP MP Ian Blackford and copied to the family and Scottish external affairs secretary Fiona Hyslop, said: “As we have both agreed, either Kathryn or Gregg Brain needed to secure a job offer which qualifies under tier two, the skilled work route. “I regret that that has not yet happened, despite having had since 2012, nearly a year having passed since Kathryn finished her studies and the three extensions that have been granted to the family on an exceptional basis.  We need to treat the Brain family fairly, but also everyone else in a similar position.  There is no fundamental difference between their circumstances and that of any other individuals who came to the UK on a temporary study visa and there are no exceptional considerations which would justify granting them leave outside the immigration rules.”  Mr Goodwill said Scotland-based family engagement staff will contact the Brains later this week “to begin discussions with them regarding a voluntary departure to Australia”. In order for the family to stay, either Mr or Mrs Brain was required to secure a skilled job, paying a minimum of £20,800 per year. Speaking to the BBC, Mr Brain said: “We’ve been told we have to go, however I certainly would not nearly characterise this as being a lost battle or over. We’re still talking to our lawyer about options going forward. In fact I understand that we may still be able to make a complying application if an employer comes forward. So certainly we’ll be talking to the Home Office about what arrangements need to be made.”  Mr Conti, who earlier this week pledged to provide money to ensure the Brains maintain a minimum balance in their bank account in order to meet visa requirements, said the situation was “absurd”. He said: “These are people from a Commonwealth country who have no criminal record, as far as I know. I just don’t get it. We’ve got to find a way to help people who want to work.”

UK’s First Vertical Farm to Be Built in Scotland
They have the ability to grow crops in quick time, without the need for vast amounts of land, water or sunshine.  Now the first vertical farm of its type in the UK is to be built in Scotland following a £2.5 million investment from the James Hutton Institute and Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS).  Lettuce, baby leaf vegetables and microgreens are to be planted in the high-tech growing house near Invergowrie as part of a research project into how vertical farms can best produce crops for Scotland and beyond.  The method is being championed around the world –particularly in urban centres in the US as a way to grow food in small spaces without the need to transport the produce over long distances.  Crops are typically grown under LED lights with hydroponic systems using minimum water and no soil.  IGS predicts costs – such as those generated by lighting –will fall quickly to allow crops such as strawberries and tomatoes to be grown.  Henry Aykroyd, chief executive of IGS with 30 years experience in large-scale farming in the UK, Eastern Europe and California, said: “Our mission is to enable our customers to be the lowest cost producers by growing local globally, with better quality and saving natural resources. The process uses little water, no pesticides, can enhance taste and is consistent all year round.”  The Invergowrie farm will be the first in the UK to be built using automated towers which can respond to peaks and troughs of energy use.  Mr Aykroyd said: “Our real-time software can ‘grab’ power when the grid has surplus power and ‘shut down’ at peak times.  Our automated growth towers are fully programmable to suit many diverse crops, and provide smart solutions to automation, power management and lighting issues,” he added. Perth and Kinross Council has granted approval for the project with a 10-year lease now signed by the James Hutton Institute and IGS. Professor Colin Campbell, Chief Executive of the James Hutton Institute, said: “We are doing more research with such innovative companies in the private sector and this example combines our knowledge of plant science and specialised infrastructure to work with others whose vision is aligned to help solve the challenges around long-term food security.”

Edinburgh Tattoo in its 66th Year Will Celebrate World's "Glorious Differences"
It is the annual pageant of military music and colour which illuminates Edinburgh Castle during the festival, attracting thousands of tourists and fans of martial prowess and musicianship.  This year, however, the 67th running of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, is celebrating tolerance and the celebration of difference in a world of political and military tumult.  Brigadier David Allfrey, unveiling the programme for the 2016 event, which takes place from August 5-27, said 1200 performers from all over the world would be taking part, which he said was "significant".  He said it was notable that at the "centre" of this year's show is a display from the Jordanian Royal Guard, Band and Drill Team, which will help mark 100 years since the Great Arab Revolt.  "We are living of course in a world which is having 'a bit of moment' it is fair to say, there have been all sorts of really difficult things happening, are happening, and I don't doubt will happen," Brigadier Allfrey said.  "We are living in a world where differences are not being enjoyed, people are being set against other people, and I think what is wonderful about the Tattoo, and the Edinburgh festivals, is that we are here celebrating our glorious differences."  He added: "When you watch the awful things that are happening in the world, because people do not get on or don't believe in each other, I think there is to need to say 'hang on, there are opportunities to get together', we have [the Olympics] Rio coming up, and I think music is remarkable in many ways and it can cross many boundaries.  This is where the world comes in August, there is all sorts of craziness going on, and for a moment you can suspend all those difficult issues.  I am not suggesting the Tattoo offers any sort of utopian vision of the future, but it is incumbent on us to play our part."  Brigadier Allfrey said that by the end of this year the Tattoo will have sold 460,000 tickets, including those sold in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year.  Without going into detail he also said security of both audience and performers was being taken "very seriously".  The producer said by 2020 the event could have a TV audience of 1bn people. The 2016 military spectacle will also mark The Queen's 90th year and the anniversary of The Battle of Jutland.  There will be a Massed Pipes and Drums with eleven Regimental and Commonwealth band, including 250 pipes and drummers. The Tattoo has invested £250,000 in new projections technology.  The team behind the projections also worked on Danny Boyle’s 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.  Ticket sales are already high, at around 96% sold at present, with 2016 set to be the event’s eighteenth consecutive sell-out year. The Tattoo was first performed in 1950 and is estimated to generate £77m a year for the Scottish economy.  Brigadier Allfrey added: "The centre act is that of the Jordanian armed forces, we have 130 Jordanian service men and women with us.  That part of the world is not enjoying a great time at the moment and it is so important that we have a group like this, setting out for us what is extraordinary about that part of the world."

Bus Operator Builds £750,000 on New Skye Depot

A bus operator has built a £750,000 new depot on Skye.  The purpose-built facility in Portree means buses will no longer have to be driven on a 214-mile round trip to Fort William for routine maintenance.  The depot features state of the art engineering facilities, as well as parking and washing space for the 15 vehicles based on the island.  Steve Walker, managing director, Stagecoach North Scotland said: “We are delighted to open the new depot which has good on site facilities for both the engineering and driving staff.  The previous depot gave us limited opportunity to maintain the vehicles so this will make our operations in Skye much more efficient.”  Stagecoach employ 20 people on Skye.

New Bug Recorded for First Time in Scotland At Highland Nature Reserve

A particular species of insect has been officially recorded in Scotland for the first time after being discovered at a nature reserve in the Highlands.  Psallus montanus, a species of plantbug, was found by RSPB Scotland volunteer Bob Fleetwood at the charity’s Inshes Marshes nature reserve near Kingussie.  The females of the species are black and red in colour, while the males characterised by a duller black and brown.  Mr Fleetwood has volunteered at Insh Marshes for four years and routinely carries out survey work on the reserve. He found the female Psallus montanus while collecting and recording beetles and bugs from a birch tree.  He said: “Of all the bugs I came across that day, this one looked quite distinctive. As I’m still learning, I wasn’t 100% certain what it was, so I contacted the national recorder for terrestrial bugs, Jim Flanagan, who positively identified it as a female Psallus montanus.  When I got the confirmation back that this was the first official record of this bug in Scotland, of course I was over the moon. Every day is different when you’re volunteering and this just goes to show that you don’t have to be an expert to play a part in an exciting discovery like this.”  Psallus montanus has only been recognised as a British species fairly recently and is similar to Psallus betuleti, which also occurs on birch.  Bugs are an order of insects generally characterised by having two pairs of wings and piercing mouthparts. RSPB Scotland Insh Marshes is one of the most important wetlands in Europe, home to bird species such as curlew, snipe, whooper swan, redshank and lapwing.

UK Seas ‘Worryingly Low’ in Patrol Boats to Secure Borders
Britain’s Border Force has a “worryingly low” number of boats for patrolling the coast – despite being given a key role in heightened security arrangements, a Commons committee has warned.  MPs highlighted differences between the UK’s fleet and the capacity other European nations can call on – and said Royal Navy vessels should be made available to plug any gaps.  They also called for security to be stepped up at smaller ports amid fears they are being targeted by criminal gangs.  Controversy erupted earlier this year when it emerged that just three Border Force cutter vessels were being used to patrol the UK’s 7,000 miles of coastal borders.  The issue fell under the spotlight after 18 Albanians were rescued from a sinking inflatable boat off the Kent coast.  In May ministers announced measures to bolster maritime security, including new patrol boats for Border Force to supplement the existing five-vessel fleet. While the first batch were to be in place within months, full deployment is not expected until the end of next year.  By contrast, reports suggest Italy has as many as 600 boats for 4,700 miles of coast.  Border Force has been given a “key role in implementing strengthened coastal security measures” – but it is ” experiencing problems in gaining access to a sufficient number of patrol boats”, the Commons Home Affairs committee said.  Its report added: ” Only four of the new vessels are currently deployed and the remaining four will not be available for more than a year.”  Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the committee, said: “Despite maritime security being critical to an island nation, Border Force is operating worryingly low numbers of vessels to protect our borders.”  In addition security “must be tightened” at small ports which are now being used by gangs to move people between the continent and the UK, the committee said.

The Man Who Rid the Hebrides of Thousands of Men, Women and Children
He has been described as one of the most hated men in Scottish history, a brutal landowner who forcibly evicted up to 3,000 tenants to Canada, some handcuffed and thrown on boats at Lochboisdale “like cattle.”  Colonel John Gordon of Cluny, of Cluny Castle, Aberdeenshire, embarked on removing people from their Hebridean homes in 1851 after he saw poor returns on his estate in the Western Isles, which included land on Benbecula, South Uist and Barra. Described as a hard-headed businessman and a miser so tight he moaned he couldn’t afford to get out of bed, Colonel John Gordon bought the islands from the 18th chief of Clanranald, Reginald George Macdonald, in 1838.  The clan chief, an Eton and Cambridge-educated man who had been banned by his family’s trust from visiting his Scottish property, was forced to sell due to mounting personal debt.  The deal with Gordon signalled the beginning of an even darker, dismal chapter in the livelihood of the tenants on the new Long Island Estate.  Within nine years, the deteriorating condition of the islanders was described “as a scene of wretchedness” by Reverend Norman Macleod as land for farming was reduced for sheep grazing.  “Despicable, nay heart rending,” is how the minister described the scene entering the Cluny estate.  On the beach the whole population of the country seems to be met, gathering the precious cockles...I never witnessed such countenances, starvation on many faces,” the account, contained in The Jaws of Sheep: 1851 Hebridean Clearances of Gordon of Cluny, said.  Four years later, Gordon, who also owned six plantations in the West Indies and was described as the ‘richest commoner” in Scotland, began forced evictions on all his islands.  A compulsory public meeting in Lochboisdale, South Uist, was held on August 11 1851, after which tenants were forced on board waiting emigration vessels. One account of the meeting summed up the chaos, violence and fear of the night: “One stout Highlander, named Angus Johnstone, resisted with such pith that they had to handcuff him before he could be mastered, but in consequence of the priests’ interference his manacles were taken off and (he was) marched between four officers on board the emigrant vessel.”  On Barra, attempts were also made to handcuff the evictees. Some managed to run to the hills where they were hunted down by dogs. A number of families were separated.  The evictions were described as “loathsome work” by eyewitness Catherine Macphee, of Iochdar, South Uist. According to The Jaws of Sheep, she said: “I have seen big strong men, champions of the countryside, the stalwarts of the world, being bound on Loch Boisdale quay and cast into the ship as would be done to a batch of horses or cattle, the bailiff and the ground officers and the policemen gathered behind them in pursuit.”  On arrival, Gordon’s former tenants claimed that promises of work - and even land, in some cases - were non-existent.  A newspaper cutting from the Dundas Warder, printed in Hamilton, Ontario, October 2 1851, illustrates concern over the condition of the new Highland arrivals.  “We have been pained beyond measure for some time past, to witness on our streets so many unfortunate Highland emigrants, apparently destitute of any means of subsistence and may of them sick for other attendant cause.”  Gordon, who also served as a Tory MP for Weymouth and Melcombe, Regis died in 1858 his estate ultimately passing to the wife of his late son, John Gordon of Cluny.  Lady Emily Gordon Cathcart. who visited the estate once in 54 years, continued to “encourage” tenants to leave for Canada and stopped releasing land for farming.  Some believe her support for emigration was to clear Catholic tenants from her property. Others say it was to boost the value of her stock in Hudson’s Bay Company and the Canadian Pacific Railway.  After her death in 1932, the Estate was managed by her trustees before being sold in 1944 to the London banker, Herman Anton Andreae, before it was taken over by a syndicate of sporting enthusiasts in 1960 with the South Uist Estates Ltd created.  In 2006, a community buy out acquired the entire share capital of the company with Storas Uibis formed by residents. It now manages 93,000 acres of land with a population of 3,000, including 850 tenant crofters. Part of its income is derived from renewable energy production. It is considered a success story of Scotland’s land reform agenda driven to rebuild rural and island life darkened by people such as John Gordon of Cluny.  As Stewart notes: “The people of the Hebrides will never forget John Gordon of Cluny for his cruelties.”

'No Risk to Public' As People in Scotland Diagnosed with Zika Virus
A number of people in Scotland have been diagnosed as having the Zika virus, it has been confirmed.  The Scottish Government stressed that the disease, which has sparked a major health alert in South America, "does not pose a public health risk" in Scotland, but said that an undisclosed number of cases had been found.  More than 50 people across the UK have been treated for the infection, which is associated with a birth defect called microcephaly, which results in children being born with abnormally small heads and brain damage.  Fear of the virus has led a number of competitors to opt out of this year's Olympic Games in Brazil, including top British golfer Rory McIlroy.  A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We can assure the public that Zika does not pose a public health risk in Scotland, and of the cases identified in the UK a very small number have been found in Scotland.  The mosquito that spreads the virus is not found in the UK, and in any case would not be able to establish in Scotland because of our climate. Zika cannot be spread through person-to-person or airborne contact."  Since the Zika epidemic began in 2015, nearly 5,000 cases of microcephaly have been recorded in affected regions.  On February 1 this year the World Health Organisation declared the epidemic an international public health emergency. Worldwide concern has centred on north-east Brazil but more than 20 other countries have now been affected. So far more than 1,650 Zika infections have been reported in the US - four patients in Florida who have tested positive for the virus appear to be the first cases not linked to travel outside the US mainland.