Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 361

Issue # 361                                                 Week ending 13th August 2016

is Donald the Only Wannabe President Linked to Lewis?
By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

We all know about presidential wannabe Donald John Trump and his connections with the jewel of the Hebrides that is the Isle of Lewis. In fact, he came over to tell us all about his mom and how she grew up in Tong, a few miles from Stornoway, and how chuffed he was about being a bit of a teuchter.

It is almost as if he thinks that we can somehow influence what goes on in the election for president. Have a go at Hillary. Leave us alone. It’s nothing to do with us. Moran taing, DJ. I would not be surprised if Hillary, presidential hopeful and wife of former president Bill Clinton, and her husband, had more in common with Donald Trump and this island than they know.

A few months ago, I bumped into island businessman Alex Clinton, who is director, salesman and chief hubcap polisher at Angus Clinton Motors Ltd, purveyors of fine pre-owned chariots to the more discerning Hebridean motorist. Were they, by any chance, related to those other Clintons, I gently inquired.

“No, no, no. No, no, no. No, no and no,” he shrieked. Alex didn’t think I should link him with the other slightly better-known Clintons. However, after meeting Alex again a couple of days ago, I think the answer could actually be ... yes. Someone has recently been checking out the Stornoway Clintons’ family tree and there are cousins all over the United States. More interestingly though, they have loads of cousins in Northern Ireland. They may even be from a wee county called Fermanagh.

It just so happens that Bill Clinton is Irish on the side of his mother. She was Virginia Cassidy Kelley, who was the granddaughter of emigrants who were originally - oh bejaysus, would you credit that now? - from around Enniskillen in, er, County Fermanagh. Blow me down. That is no coincidence, surely?

Here we are, perched on a tiny storm-lashed rock where all kinds of flotsam and jetsam wash up on our western coast - even the occasional oil rig. Yet our people may be directly connected to some - if not all - of the most powerful people in the world. Trump. Hillary Clinton. Who’s next? Vladimir Putin? How long until someone figures out that his mother, who was Maria Ivanovna Shelomova, could actually have been Mary Joan Mackay and that she looked a bit like a Hearach?

Take our new Prime Minister. Theresa May is a fine looking Oxfordshire lass who was elected by the British people to ... oh hold on, that’s not right. She was carefully chosen by the Conservative Party because of her wonderful track record on ... naw naw, that’s no right either. She was ordered to get herself into 10 Downing Street to keep Boris Johnson out. Yay, I knew I would get there eventually.

She has a lookalike in Stornoway. A couple of weeks ago, I was outside my pad when a man from the west side of the island came up to me and said it must be wonderful living near well-known people. He said Theresa May had just walked down the road, smiled at him and then she went straight into a house across the road. That house over there? Listen, that is not 10 Downing Street, Calum. That’s John Norman Macdonald’s, the plumber.

But he was very insistent. A few days later, I met John Norman’s wife, Phyllis Macdonald, on the ferry. By heck, she looked like yon Theresa blone. The CalMac ferry Loch Seaforth was wobbling a bit, probably trying to dodge oil rigs in the Minch, but she remained serene, unperturbed. She glided around the cafeteria while I was crashing about like Norman Wisdom, as tea and baked beans sloshed around my tray.

The prime minister admits she is a bit Imelda Marcos and obsessed with nice shoes. So is Phyllis. Theresa likes reading and sewing while Phyllis says she reads a lot too, including the Press and Journal, and has been known to have a go at John Norman’s trousers from time to time. This is uncanny.

Phyllis says she’s not a vicar’s daughter, like Theresa, but wait for this. Her granny was from Ireland and they have not worked out the family tree details. Not only is Phyllis the spitting image of the PM but she could be a long lost cousin of Bill Clinton's too. Ubhag, my head hurts.

Isn’t genealogy wonderful? It can take years of dedicated work to try and piece together the history of your own family and work out who is actually who. Just remember that when you shake the family tree, sometimes all that falls out are a few nuts.

Still No Gaelic-medium
Exactly a year ago Councillor George Farlow suggested that Highland Council planned to open a Gaelic-medium unit in Bettyhill Primary School, most likely this year. A year on nothing has come of it, apparently because no parents wished to sign up.  Mr Farlow said that two meetings had been held in the village, one of them in Strathnaver Museum, to take forward the plan but only one parent had turned up. Yet, the initial meeting held on June 29 of last year to assess interest had been very well attended and “very positive” although it had been poorly advertised, according to our report at the time. No details of how more recent meetings were advertised are available and the education authority’s “corporate communications office” held no information at all on the situation, citing staff holidays as the reason. However, George Farlow said that work to “enervate” the community by the council is going on and that all parents would be spoken to individually. He added that most of the interest in Gaelic-medium education seemed to be in Strathy and Melvich, rather than in Bettyhill, Tongue, Melness and other places.  Tongue Primary Gaelic-medium unit was “mothballed” in 2014, after twenty-two years, apparently without consultation, on the pretext that the probationer teacher would not have gained “appropriate experience” by continuing with the few pupils remaining. Gaelic was said to be absent from the classroom during much of the period of the decline in numbers.

Armed Police Called to Aberdeenshire Village
Armed police descended on an Aberdeenshire village earlier this evening following reports of a man acting strangely in the centre.  Forces were called to Stuartfield just before 7pm to detain an unnamed man.  The actions of the individual are unknown, but police confirmed that there was no threat to the public and that the man was suffering from mental health problems.  A police spokesman said: “Armed police attended an issue in Stuartfield centre involving a man with mental heath issues.  Police arrived just after 7pm and it was resolved at 7.30pm.  There was no threat to the wider public during the incident.”

£9,300 Windfall for Remote History and Heritage Project
A remote Highland community has been awarded a £9,300 lottery grant to promote the 6,000-year history and heritage of its ancestors across the globe.  The Ardnamurchan History and Heritage Association will use the money to share the story of the people of the Ardnamurchan peninsula, which is the most westerly part of Britain.  And the project, led by volunteer members of AHHA, will be funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  In recent years, the association has been exploring the wealth of archaeological and historical heritage on its own doorstep.  This includes Neolithic tombs, Bronze Age hut circles, a Viking grave and Iron Age forts, as well as the remains of ancient villages which were destroyed in the 19th century.  The grant will enable the group to set up a website through which their discoveries will become more widely known, particularly to the many descendants of Ardnamurchan people who are scattered across the world.  Members will also be concentrating on working with schools to give students a sense of local and family history. They will also be preparing guide books, so that visitors can get the most from Ardnamurchan’s litany of historical sites.  AHHA secretary Jon Haylett said: “This community may be small, it may be very remote, it may be almost forgotten, but it sits on a heritage gold mine which it has been struggling to publicise for years.  This grant will enable us not only to describe the area’s heritage, but also convey the sense of excitement we have about it.  We’re particularly pleased our young people will be at the heart of the project, but we also hope that the wider community will see many benefits, not least from an increase in the number of visitors coming to share the historical riches we have to offer.”  Head of HLF Scotland Lucy Casot added: “Sharing the history and heritage of the remote communities of West Ardnamurchan is a great project.  It shows clearly how local heritage can be a catalyst for lots of different activities and bring people together in a common purpose.”

Moray Kirk’s £100,000 Revamp Proceeds Despite Snags
Minister Peter Turnbull, who relocated from a parish in England to oversee Burghead Free Church last summer, has devised grand plans to revolutionise the 19th century venue. The 31-year-old took up the post in the quiet seaside community last summer, with the ambition of reinvigorating the small congregation by offering a progressive approach to religion.  In an effort to fund the regeneration project, he has sold the church’s 40 pews and has now purchased removable seating which creates space in the expansive hall for other pursuits.  New flooring has been laid, and a heating system installed to replace an outdated version which often left the building freezing during the winter months. Last night, Mr Turnbull said he had amassed more than £60,000 towards the ambitious scheme – and that the majority of donations had come from local well-wishers.  But he revealed that a few “snags” had delayed the scheme and would increase the costs of refurbishment.  He added: “We had hoped to be finished with phase one by now, but one or two snags have slowed us down.  The church was built in 1845, and it isn’t until you strip things back that you see the full extent of what needs to be done to improve it. There will be a marginal increase in costs, but things are going well overall.  The changes we have put in place are already making the building more welcoming, and we have new people at church every week.”  Mr Turnbull will throw open the doors of the Grant Street building to children from the village and the surrounding area this week, while it hosts a holiday club.  From Wednesday to Friday, between 10am and 12.30pm, youngsters will take part in a series of activities at the kirk.  Mr Turnbull said: “We will have a mixture of crafts, games and songs – all themed around the story of Jesus from Mark’s Gospel.  Depending on the weather, we are keen to venture outside to places like the Burghead Community Garden as well.”

Haggis Hurling Fun At Aberlour Gathering

Scores of competitors from across the globe took part in a unique tradition during a Speyside Highland Games gathering.  Roughly 100 visitors from destinations including the United States, Japan, Germany and Australia tried their luck in the “haggis hurling” event at the Aberlour Strathspey Highland Games on Saturday.  Entrants stood atop a whisky barrel to propel the Scottish delicacy, and New Zealand’s Craig Chalmers came out on top after sending his further than anyone else.  Bold six-year-old Liam Proven was on holiday from Tipperary in Ireland when he decided to enter the contest – and wore a determined expression as he launched his haggis into the air.  Competitors had to ensure that the foodstuff, which poet Robert Burns described as the “great chieftain o’ the pudding race”, was still edible after landing.  Organising committee secretary Brian Cameron explained that the challenge was exclusive to attendees visiting Aberlour from abroad – and said that demand was such that he nearly ran out of haggis.  Mr Cameron added that the popularity of the novelty contest was testament to the games’ growing reputation overseas.  He said: “We had more international spectators and competitors this year than ever before.  The haggis hurling is just for people from overseas, and we had about 100 taking part in that alone. There really was an exceptional turnout, I don’t think there was any element of the games we would want to change and we will just build on this as we go forward.”  The 73rd instalment of the annual event welcomed a record 4,200 onlookers to the Speyside High School playing fields.  Austrian Martin Schiller and Auchenblae’s Bruce Aitken kept observers on the edge of their seats as they traded wins in the day’s heavy events.  Mr Schiller, from Vienna, eventually emerged as overall winner.  Fay and Ella Gibb, sisters from Texas, dominated much of the ladies’ light events.  Mr Cameron credited an expanded programme with attracting locals to this year’s gathering, with an opening ceremony on Friday and closing concert on Saturday both proving popular additions. Folk group The Elephant Sessions arrived at Aberlour from the Belladrum music festival near Inverness to commence the festivities on Friday, while Flashback Heroes – a classic rock cover group – brought the event to a rousing conclusion on Saturday night.

Sturgeon Unveils 'Stimulus' But is Accused of Ramping Up Uncertainty with Independence Stance
Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled a £100 million 'stimulus' package aimed at shoring up the post-Brexit economy, but was challenged to instead boost business by standing up to SNP "fanatics" and ruling out a new independence vote.  The First Minister said funding would be brought forward this financial year to pay for infrastructure projects that are already in the pipeline, announcing an initial £5m to fast-track an expansion of Golden Jubilee hospital in Clydebank, and saw her plan welcomed by business representatives and unions. However, the Scottish Secretary, David Mundell, said it was her stance on a new independence referendum that was proving most damaging to business while the Liberal Democrats accused her of deploying "smoke and mirrors" after it emerged that the cash would come from a budget underspend in the last financial year rather than new sources.  The row came amid growing concerns over the prospects for the economy following the EU referendum result, with a gloomy Bank of England yesterday warning that UK firms are expecting to put hiring and expansion on hold as they brace for a trading hit.  Ms Sturgeon called for more action from the UK Westminster Government, claiming it should roll out its own stimulus but had yet to take any meaningful action to alleviate uncertainty, and also revealed new plans to provide assistance to businesses uncertain about the future. She said: "It is important to act now to support and stimulate the economy. Scotland is and remains an attractive and stable place to do business - however, there is no doubt that the referendum outcome has created deep and widespread uncertainty, with the impact on jobs and investment already being felt." Mr Mundell, who visited a hub for fledgling businesses in Glasgow that was part-funded by the UK Government as part of a tour in which he is seeking views on a post-Brexit deal with Europe, blamed Ms Sturgeon for ramping up uncertainty.  He said: "There are indications that some people in the SNP just see this as an opportunity to further the cause of independence. I hope Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government are serious about getting the best possible deal for Scotland out of these negotiations... on a team UK basis.  Nicola Sturgeon has made an announcement about money that had been underspent from last year, in order to boost the Scottish economy. I think the number one thing that Nicola Sturgeon could do right now to boost the Scottish economy is to remove the uncertainty of a second independence referendum. Instead of reducing uncertainly in Scotland, [she] is maximising it by threatening another independence referendum. That is not the way to increase business confidence.  What she needs to do is take the independence issue off the table. I know it's very hard for her because she's got a lot of very fanatical people who are obsessed with having another independence referendum. But there is no mood in Scotland for another independence referendum and certainly not for the uncertainty talking about it brings. It's already having an impact that there's additional uncertainty in Scotland... it's very, very unhelpful."  In further signs of a post-Brexit hit to the economy, there were warnings that housing market in Scotland had continued to slow during July. A new report found that Aberdeen's economy is likely to be "severely challenged" in the period leading up to Brexit and beyond while the return on some UK government debt turned negative after the Bank of England missed its target in a new bond buying operation.

Comment-R

And what of all the on going uncertainty over the EU vote? Is MP Mundell really telling the Scots none of that matters? And that the only drawback to Scotland is the prospect of Independence from London? Really? Secretary Mundell, and his better together pals, the LibDems, and Labour do not care tuppence for Scotland. And as the UK are already heading into a downtown, and the EU vote is accelerating, these guys would do well not to be talking about uncertainty.  Scotland must become Independent as soon as possible. The Scots cannot keep being dictated to by the Westminster Establishment who only care for them selves, and do not live in reality of any kind. As for the stimulus thing.... at least Sturgeon is making an effort to help, which no one else seems to be doing.

Barra Airport Celebrates 80 Years of Beach Flights
A Scottish airport with the world’s only beach runway used for scheduled flights is to celebrate its 80th anniversary today.  Barra airport on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, is celebrating eight decades of island community links to mainland Scotland with a time capsule burial beside the beach runway.  The event will be attended by Scottish Government Minister for Transport and the Islands, Humza Yousaf MSP, as well as local dignitaries.  The iconic airport’s 80th Birthday party celebrations include goody bags for all passengers and an airport picnic for Barra Airport employees and their families.  Earlier this year the white sands of Traigh Mhor, which double as the Hebridean island’s runway, helped the tiny airport to fourth place in an international poll of the most scenic airports in the world.  Inglis Lyon, managing director of Highlands and Islands Airports Limited, said: “I’m very pleased to mark Barra Airport’s 80th anniversary with a community-led celebration.  The airport delivers a vital service to over 10,000 passengers a year and opens up opportunities to connect island businesses with the mainland, supporting the local economy.  The iconic Barra beach landing attracts a great deal of attention from film makers around the world and the local team here are always so accommodating, helping to promote the island as a bucket list destination while at the same time, operating and managing an airport with growing passenger numbers.”  Barra Airport is served by Loganair, who fly the Government-owned Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter propeller planes, regularly making the 75-minute journey to and from the picturesque beach. There are normally two return flights between Glasgow and Barra per day, with each timed to coincide with low tide.

Fife Drinks Firm Eden Mill Launches Gin Range in US
Brewer and distiller Eden Mill is eyeing a sales boost after signing a deal to launch its gin range into the US market. The Fife firm, which is already achieving overseas sales successes across Asia and Europe, is working with US distributor ImpEx in a bid to target key markets such as California, Florida, New York and Texas.  Its range of tipples – including Hop Gin aimed at beer lovers and Oak Gin for whisky fans – will be hitting American shelves this summer and international sales manager Daniel Sherry said the company was “ecstatic” about the expansion plans. He added: “Scotland has a rich history of distilling, and with a pool of talented distillers and the ideal climate for botanics, it is the perfect place to distill gin. We’re moving from strength to strength.”  Eden Mill has also recently revived whisky making at the same location where the famous Haig family made whisky, gin and beer for most of the 19th century, and is now gearing up to launch its first single malt.

Scotland’s Tourism Sector is Thriving
With the Edinburgh Festival season now in full swing, and a swell of people on our streets, the city has become an international hotspot, attracting visitors from across the globe.  We continue to see Scotland’s tourism and world-renowned events industry thrive as its global reputation goes from strength to strength. The most recent Scottish Government figures indicate that the sector generates around £12 billion of economic activity across the wider Scottish supply chain and accounts for around 7.7 per cent of employment in Scotland.  Music tourism continues to be a key growth sub-sector as, thanks to venues like the SSE Hydro and festivals such as T in the Park and Belladrum Tartan Hearts Festival, the economic value of live music for Scottish communities’ continues to increase. According to figures compiled for UK Music’s Wish You Were Here, in 2015 an estimated 920,000 music tourists visited Scotland to attend a live concert or music festival, generating £295 million for the local economy and supporting 3,230 full-time jobs.  These big-ticket events can have a huge ripple effect and offer a great opportunity for the surrounding communities in terms of hospitality, retail and food and drink, as well as tourist attractions when visitors decide to prolong their stay. To maximise these opportunities, we are seeing more tourism businesses collaborating within their own communities, with other regional operators and with other sectors including food and drink. This is paying dividends as regions reap the benefits of pulling resources together to provide a united offering to attract more visitors.  We work with a number of agencies and industry bodies, such as chambers of commerce, VisitScotland, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise, to develop strong private and public sector relationships. We believe that this fosters a more informed understanding of how we can all better support tourism and hospitality businesses as they look to fund growth and manage cashflow in what is a very seasonal industry.  For example, using financial solutions such as invoice finance or asset-based lending, tourism businesses can secure funding against the company’s inventory of stocks or assets. Using these alternative sources of finance can streamline borrowings and provide useful headroom to fund future projects as well as the underlying growth of the business.  On a national level, through public sector partnerships, the Scottish tourism industry has also fostered proactive and innovative campaigns over the years to give businesses a springboard for growth. VisitScotland’s ScotSpirit 2016 campaign and the Scottish Government’s “Year of” initiatives give the industry a superb focus and lots of opportunities to take advantage of. During this “Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design”, there is a lot to celebrate. My recommendation is to surround your business with good advisers and benefit from industry body memberships while deepening relationships within your local community to continue your success into 2017 and beyond.

Australian Ska Band Starts Conga on Edinburgh Tram
More than a dozen musicians entertained festival goers when they formed a conga on Edinburgh trams.  The Melbourne Ska Orchestra struck up for an impromptu concert for commuters and visitors while they waited for a tram at York Place.  The band, which includes Kilmarnock singer Steven Montgomery (who is performing in Scotland for the first time after leaving for Australia 20 years ago), are performing at the Fringe to promote their latest album Sierra-Kilo- Alpha.  Lead singer Nicky Bomba said: “We are just loving it here in Edinburgh – what a great vibe. The Scottish sense of humour and the Aussie one is very similar so we are having a fantastic time.  Getting out on the trams and on the streets is an amazing experience and loads of fun.  People just love getting involved and dancing whenever we start to play. It looks like being the most fantastic week.”  The band nearly missed their preview show on Monday at the Gilded Balloon when their flight from London was delayed by five hours.  They arrived with two minutes to spare after a dash across Edinburgh to get to the venue.  Bomba said: “That was quite a rush – forget about rehearsal time, we didn’t even have time to get changed, it was just up there and play. But it was brilliant, the audience were fantastic.”

Drilling Rig Update
Following the grounding of the semi-submersible drilling rig Transocean Winner on the Isle of Lewis, the Secretary of State’s Representative (SOSREP) for Maritime Salvage and Intervention Hugh Shaw is now in discussions with the owners Transocean and the salvors. The Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s counter pollution branch and the SOSREP have both been monitoring the situation since yesterday evening and the local authority, police and Marine Scotland have all been kept informed.  There is 280mt of diesel on board and this situation is being monitored.  The drilling rig has now grounded on the west side of the Isle of Lewis near Carloway. SMIT Salvage has been mobilised to deal with the incident.  Police Scotland and HM Coastguard Rescue Teams are also on scene.

German Minister Praises Nicola Sturgeon After Berlin Brexit Meeting
Germany's Europe Minister has hailed Nicola Sturgeon as a "dedicated pro-European" following Brexit talks in Berlin.  Scotland's First Minister met Michael Roth in Germany to discuss the European Union (EU) referendum result and the next steps for the bloc, the UK and Scotland.  Mr Roth said Europe could only weather the coming challenges by coming together and that the German government would work hard to boost capability and cohesion in Europe.  He said the EU was much more than an internal market and had to strengthen its role as a community of shared values.  Ms Sturgeon set out Scotland's perspective on the Brexit result, which saw the country vote to remain part of the EU.  The First Minister has said a second independence referendum is "highly likely" to preserve Scotland's place in the EU.  She told Mr Roth she is determined "to explore all options to protect Scotland's interests" in Europe.  Mr Roth said: "This has been a very pleasant and constructive conversation between two dedicated pro-Europeans and has demonstrated once again that a degree of Europe's strength lies in its diversity.  I hope that the UK finds a way forward that will benefit Europe as a whole in the end."  Ms Sturgeon said: "Today's discussion has been a welcome and constructive opportunity to strengthen our relations to discuss the way forward for the European Union and how all voices can be heard in that process.  Scotland chose to remain in the European Union and the solidarity shown toward Scotland as an enthusiastic part of the EU - demonstrated once again in today's talks here in Berlin - has been very welcome."

£10.5million Aberdeenshire Home Up for Sale
A luxurious Aberdeenshire home has recently gone on the market, and it could be yours for offers around £10.5million.  The striking estate, located near Tarland covers approximately 12,000 acres and it currently owned by Philip Astor, who inherited Tillypronie in 1984. The 11-bedroom property which has recently gone on the market with Strutt and and Parker is currently the most expensive estate for sale in Aberdeenshire. And rumour has it that former Prime Minister David Cameron, and his wife, Samantha, could be making it their residence in the north-east.  The estate, located in Aboyne, includes breath-taking views of both Deeside and Donside, across its own private loch. The main house includes four reception rooms, but most impressively offers a range of outbuildings to accommodate Tillypronie’s famous sporting activities.  Historically it was one of the most prolific grouse moors in the Highlands during the 1960s and 1970s.  Tillypronie also includes one of the most celebrated driven pheasant shoots in Scotland.  The Cameron’s have reportedly taken an interest in the property after their exit from Number 10.

Shetland Named As One of the “Must Visit” Remote Spots in the World

Shetland has been named among the “must-visit” remote spots of the world.  The Far North island chain was the only place in the UK to make the list of 25 named by top travel guide Wanderlust.  In fact Shetland came sixth, beating such exotic destinations Christmas Island in Australia, Komodo Island in Indonesia and Cocos Islands in Costa Rica. Wanderlust picked out the Viking fire festival of Up Helly Aa and Unst’s “pure wild escapism” as highlights on Shetland.  “Explore the British Isles’ distant north, exploring the Shetland archipelago across more than 100 windswept islands. Just 15 are populated, with the best time to visit in January, when whole towns light up for Up Helly Aa, a raucous Viking-style fire festival to mark the end of Yule.,” said the guide.  “The biggest festival is held in capital Lerwick, which flickers to the licks of torchlight as its main procession gets going. But if you want to escape, tranquil Bressay Island is a short ferry ride away, where you can spot rare birds and seals in peace.  “Elsewhere, Unst is the northernmost inhabited island in the Shetlands, its wind-scored tip host to the battered ruins of Muness Castle. Above it circle flocks of sea birds from the colonies in Hermaness reserve, in autumn grey seals pup in the caves below and 25,000 puffins burrow its cliffs. Pure wild escapism.”  Top of the 25 of the world’s must-visit remote outposts was the Cook Islands in New Zealand followed by Angel Falls in Venezuela and Easter Island in Chile.  “The middle of nowhere can be the most exhilarating destination of all – well worth the effort to get there. Explore pirate islands, volcano villages, incredible wildlife and Arctic tundra in the furthest reaches of the world,” said Wanderlust.  Steve Mathieson, the islands manager for VisitScotland, said:”With around 2700kms of coastline you won’t meet anybody else on Shetland unless you really want to. Shetland is one of the last wild places left in the UK. It is a wilderness within the British Isles which you can have to yourself.”

College Request Investigation After Entire Class Fails Course

An entire class of Inverness students has failed their course – forcing education bosses to launch an investigation.  Twenty students sitting the Higher Media course at Inverness College UHI all received “No Award” grades when their results were released earlier this week.  The college has insisted that the embarrassing set of results were delivered despite quality assurance processes being in place.  They have now asked the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to investigate the results.  But angry students have to taken to social media to criticise the college for a lack of support during the course – while saying that they would now need to change their plans to go to university.  One post from a student, which was being shared widely on social media yesterday, read: “This is awful. Myself and others have had to make changes to our university plans and it is time to act.”  The post urged classmates to speak out about problems they faced, including “how throughout the whole year we were given very little support.  How the online system was never updated and we were left with few resources.  UHI are doing a ‘high priority’ investigation into what happened but we will only see re-marked results by August 29.  The post added: “This has changed our future. We can’t do much at this stage, but we can tell whoever will listen.”  Diane Rawlinson, principal and chief executive at Inverness College UHI, said: “At Inverness College UHI we take exam results and student success very seriously.  This is evidenced by the excellent HMIE report we received earlier this year as well as the year on year improvements to attainment levels we have achieved in both Further and Higher education.  As we do every year, we are undertaking a review of all published results comparing them against those projected for each student.  In the case of this particular course, the usual quality assurance processes were in place and the awarding body verifier recently reported “significant strengths in the delivery and management of this award” and confirmed that “assessment judgements were consistent with the national standards set. SQA are currently investigating this matter at our request.”

Heavy Rain Forces Crinan Canal to Close
Torrential downpours in Argyll were so heavy that the Crinan Canal was forced to close for several hours today – because it was too full.  The Met Office has a weather warning out for rain in the area, which is in place from 11am today until 6pm tomorrow.  The nine mile long canal runs from Crinan to Ardrishaig in Mid Argyll.  A spokeswoman for Scottish Canals said yesterday: “The Crinan Canal is now reopened following a temporary closure this morning. The local team worked overnight to reduce the water levels but as it is not advisable for boats to be moving about while this is happening, we closed the canal for three hours to complete the work.  Given further rain forecast this evening and overnight, we will continue to monitor water levels and be advising customers that anyone transiting the Crinan may face delays.  We are now ensuring that the small number of boats which were affected can move where they need to go.”  There was localised flooding on the A816 Oban to Lochgilphead road, however the route remained open, allowing drivers to proceed with care. A Met Office spokesman said: “Across the northwest Highlands and northwest Argyll, including the isles of Mull and Skye, persistent rain will continue through much of Thursday and well into Friday.  Please be aware of the likelihood of low impacts. For example, driving conditions are expected to be poor, with localised flooding on prone sections of road. The persistence of the heavy rain may also affect outdoor events and holiday camping activities in these areas.  The rainfall is expected to ease from the middle of Friday, perhaps a little earlier than originally expected.”

£17million Blueprint to Splash the Cash on Three North-east Ports

Three north-east ports are poised land £17million of investment as part of a blueprint to transform their fortunes.  Aberdeenshire Council wants to modernise Banff Marina, expand the Macduff Marine Aquarium visitor attraction and make Fraserburgh a centre of seafood excellence.  Splashing the cash on dozens of projects could create and sustain an estimated 270 jobs – and launch more than 40 new businesses in the next five years.  At the heart of the masterplan is the desire to cement Fraserburgh as a centre for seafood excellence.  Last year, the town was rocked by news that fish processing giant Young’s Seafood was axing hundreds of jobs.  Now the council wants to promote the port’s produce as a brand around the world to boost the local economy.  The £2.1million plan includes hiring a team of chefs to design seafood recipes and creating a “seafood park” where fish processors could be based together. The local authority is now trawling for private sector investment and European and government grant funding to make the long-awaited regeneration scheme a reality.  First proposed in 2014, Aberdeenshire’s “Four Towns” strategy to rescue the two Banffshire ports as well as Fraserburgh and neighbouring Peterhead has been a flagship policy of successive administrations.  The new masterplan report will be discussed by councillors when they meet in Fraserburgh.  Local authority regeneration tsar Christine Webster said: “The action plans represent a complex set of projects and initiatives, some well developed, some requiring research and refinement prior to delivery.  It should be recognised that transformational change neither comes quickly nor in one clear action, but is long-term and made up of dozens of contributory actions and changes by many.”  Another “big ticket” item in the plan is an expansion of Macduff’s aquarium at the cost of £1.1million.

'Historic Moment' As £1.3bn Queensferry Crossing Touches Down in Fife
The new Forth crossing has touched down in Fife in what has been hailed as an "historic and symbolic moment" for the £1.3 billion project.  Engineers working on the Queensferry Crossing closed a 70cm gap between the north deck and the north approach viaduct - meaning the new bridge is now connected to land in Fife.  The part of the bridge that connects the viaduct with the north deck tower is made up of more than 10,000 tonnes of steel and 20,000 tonnes of concrete, with 46 cables being used to hold it in place.  Forth Crossing Bridge Contractors (FCBC) have installed 22 deck sections on the north tower, with each weighing an average of 750 tonnes.  The new crossing had originally been due to open by the end of 2016 but that was pushed back to May 2017 after adverse weather hampered the project.  "The Firth of Forth presents challenging weather conditions right throughout the year and I'm sure I speak for us all when I sincerely thank all of those hard-working people for getting us to this point," Mr Brown said.  "I am pleased to update that, subject to weather conditions, the project remains significantly under budget and on track to open in May 2017 in line with the revised programme and the contractual completion date.  Overall, nearly 79% of the total bridge deck is now in place, the final section of deck is having its concrete deck cast in Rosyth today, meaning all the deck is ready to be lifted into place on the bridge."