Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 371

Issue # 371                                                                Week ending 22nd October 2016

Does That Skye-based Trick Cyclist Have Weird Powers? By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal
We are all inquisitive. Whenever we see a performance on stage, on TV or just in the street, we just cannot help wondering what is really going on behind the scenes. Mind you, the last few weeks on the X Factor, I cannot help wondering if the judges have been on the jungle juice. Have you noticed how frenetic Sharon Osbourne, Nicole Scherzinger and Louis Walsh have been the last few weeks? They are waving their hands about a lot more, being unprepared when the cameras come to them and forgetting people’s names.

Sharon excused herself saying her head was in Lapland. Methinks, I would like to lap up whatever she’s having. It may be coincidental but it fires us all up into thinking they are partying it up behind the curtains before they stride on hand-in-hand in that over-the-top blaze of glory. Meanwhile, another rising star has been firing us up by showing everything that goes on behind the scenes when he does his thing.

The very first time I got on a bicycle, I lost control and careered downhill, shot over a ditch and hit a fence so hard I was catapulted over it and landed in the stinky, oozing pile of, er, something that cattle owners kept back then as fertiliser. Smelling like a sewer, I limped home. That was when the midden really hit the windmill  - because I got pure laldy for not riding with care on my new bike, putting scratches on it and nearly getting myself beheaded.

They say the best thing is to get back in the saddle and I did until another accident during an illegal hurl on a motorbike which resulted in my mangled leg being attached to a pulley on our living room ceiling for weeks to keep what little blood was left in my battered body from spurting out and soaking into the bri-nylon stretch covers of our sofa.

Meanwhile, over on Skye another lad was doing a tad better on his bike. Danny Macaskill has given us more reason to believe in magic powers in Dunvegan more than the fairy flag in the castle on the loch. His videos have shown him and his bike atop phone boxes, narrow walls, railings and some very inaccessible places like Sgùrr Dearg, a 3,235ft column of rock in the Cuillins.

The cove went up there without safety ropes. And he had his bike on his back. With his wee GoPro camera and a drone with a camera buzzing alongside him, the video he made contains some of the most heart-stopping Scottish footage you will ever see. I’ve just watched it again and I’m feeling really Moby Dick. Now Danny is at it again with another masterpiece.

Danny Macaskill’s Wee Day Out is different. The stunts are wild. To pick a highlight or two, Danny balances on a haybale but, just to make it interesting, the bale is rolling down a hillside. Nae borra tae ra Dunvegan fella. He comes across a puddle in the road - a very, very deep puddle, and he rides into it, pedals under the surface and we see him emerge alive and well on the other side without benefit of a yellow submarine. Just riding along on his pushbike, honey. Enough, I’m getting carried away now.

The difference is that Danny shows us in the second part of the latest video that he has no magical powers. What? That’s right, he is not invincible or sprinkled with fairy dust from the famous fairy flag in his home village. He does get it wrong. He gets in badly wrong. He does fall and he does hurt himself. He is just a normal guy. Phew, I did wonder for a couple of years. His secret is simple. He practices a heck of a lot.

In Wee Day Out, we see the outtakes where he falls off the haybales, off the sewerage pipes, and we see him go asparagus over titanic off a gate which he slides off so elegantly in the final edit. Thanks for sharing, Danny. I’m just glad you didn’t slip up on that pinnacle. Ooer, I’m feeling unwell again.

In fact, the last time I tried cycling was a few years ago. It was a narrow road going down to the shore, not far from Stornoway. A woman was driving her car very slowly uphill when she began honking her horn. “Pig”, she shouted at me. Well, I was livid. I had been cycling very carefully and had done nothing wrong. I flipped her the finger and called her a naughty animal name back. Then I collided with the pig.

Sturgeon Vows Second Independence Referendum If Tory's Trigger Hard Brexit

Nicola Sturgeon has vowed that she will call a second independence referendum if the Tory UK Government delivers a hard Brexit and Scotland is dragged out of the single market against its will.  Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would unveil proposals in the coming weeks for new powers to help Scotland retain free movement of goods and services in the European Union, even if the rest of the UK leaves.  In a stark warning to Theresa May, Sturgeon declared that she would call a fresh independence referendum if Downing Street sought to block the Scottish Government's plan.  The move represents a significant shift in the SNP's previous position from one which said Scots would have a right to a new referendum, to one that now states a vote on independence will definitely be held if the Tory government ignores the position of the Scottish government over Europe.  Sturgeon said Tory ministers should be in no doubt that the SNP Government would act to ensure that "Scotland must have the ability to choose a better future" if the country stood to lose its place in the single market.  The First Minister's declaration comes ahead of the publication of a draft referendum bill by the Scottish Government this week.  Sturgeon also told SNP members that her government will set out specific proposals to protect jobs and businesses to keep Scotland in the single market, a plan that would fall short of Scottish independence.  A raft of measures are expected to be set out in the next few weeks, with a blueprint for keeping Scotland in the Single Market after the UK formally leaves the EU.  However, in a direct challenge, to the Prime Minister, Sturgeon said: "Make no mistake, it is the opponents of independence, those on the right of the Tory party, intent on a hard Brexit, who have caused the insecurity and uncertainty.  So it falls to us, the advocates of independence, to offer solutions to the problems they have created. We will work with others across the political divide to try to save the UK as a whole from the fate of a hard Brexit.  We will propose new powers to help keep Scotland in the single market even if the UK leaves. But if the Tory government rejects these efforts - if it insists on taking Scotland down a path that hurts our economy, costs jobs, lowers our living standards and damages our reputation as an open, welcoming, diverse country - then be in no doubt. Scotland must have the ability to choose a better future. And I will make sure that Scotland gets that chance."  The SNP leader said that a hard Brexit would amount to the UK Government breaking the promises it made during the 2014 independence referendum, and that such a departure from the EU would lead to another vote on independence. She said: "And let us be clear about this too. If that moment does arise, it will not be because the 2014 result hasn't been respected. It will be because the promises made to Scotland in 2014 have been broken. Above all, it will be because our country decides, together, that being independent is the best way to build a better, stronger, fairer future."  Sturgeon also used her speech to state that she was more confident than ever during her 30 years of SNP membership that Scotland was now on the road to independence. The First Minister went onto say that supporters of independence would now have to take responsibility for leading the campaign to keep Scotland in the EU and single market.  She said: "This year marks 30 years since I first joined this party of ours. In all those 30 years, I have never doubted that Scotland will one day become an independent country. And I believe it today more strongly than I ever have before."  Sturgeon went on to talk about what she said was the "common ground" between Yes and No voters who were dismayed at Scotland being outvoted by the UK as a whole in the EU referendum in June.  She said: "I know how upset I was on the morning of June 24 as I came to terms with the result of the EU referendum. I felt as if part of my identity was being taken away.  And I don't mind admitting that it gave me a new insight into how those who voted No might have felt if 2014 had gone the other way. Likewise, there are many No voters now looking at the Brexit vote with real dismay and wondering if independence might be the best option for Scotland after all.  Let's build on that common ground. Let's decide that whatever decisions we face in the years ahead, we will take them together - respecting each other every step of the way. And let us in the SNP lead by example."  Meanwhile, with the conference address taking place five months after the SNP won its third consecutive term in power at Holyrood, Sturgeon spent much of it on domestic issues.  However, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, hitting back, said the First Minister's speech was preoccupied with placating independence supporters.  Davidson said: ?"In truth, that's all this conference was about - keeping the activists happy with threats of a second independence referendum.  It's clear independence is Nicola Sturgeon's sole priority and her continued brinkmanship over another referendum is hampering Scotland's progress in areas such as the economy, health and education."

Comment - R
The post-EU-Ref £ has fallen by up to 25% with respect to other currencies. The UK has barely started to feel the effects. The prices of all commodities and raw materials - which are usually US$ prices - will rise steeply, e.g. all hydrocarbon products. The prices of all imported food & drink will rise, including grains, fruits, nuts & the like. The prices of all imported machine parts & machines will rise, e.g. road, sea, & air vehicles, and many of the parts for wind turbines. The prices of all foreign publications will rise, including key educational texts. The prices of all foreign services will rise, e.g. foreign property & business consultants. The prices of foreign-based services will rise, e.g. ferry & airline companies that necessarily source staff and goods abroad will have to increase their prices. UK-EU collaborations & exchanges in academic, educational, commercial, industrial, and cultural fields will be lost, or become much more difficult. Think of joint ventures such as Panavia and Airbus. Think of the many agreements for staff development exchanges between UK & mainland universities. Think of the many EU-funded research posts at top UK universities and in the EU that are now lost to the UK. Think of how the lives of the UK's most talented youngsters - people who ought to be mixing often and easily with their mainland peers - are going to be affected.  And on top of all this there are: (1) the loss of very cheap access to the world's biggest single unrestricted market, and (2) loss of the favourable trade terms that the UK enjoys with non-EU countries - countries which have seen the UK markets for their products shrink drastically due to the fall of the £, and which are now in a position to drive very hard bargains with the Brexited UK.  Furthermore, Brexiteers may happily think that many jobs will be opened by pushing EU citizens out of the UK. Not so. Firstly many menial jobs are only partly performed by non-UK, EU citizens. Many are undertaken by youngsters from the UK Commonwealth and North America, be it sandwich-making at Heathrow, chamber maids in Edinburgh, floor cleaners in Bristol, fruit pickers in Somerset, & shelf-packers in Birmingham. Yes, some of these jobs are done by EU migrants, but the jobs are of low value, and in the past UK youngsters have not leapt to do them. EU citizens also occupy many high value jobs in the UK, mostly in Southern England. Why? Because these people are very good at what they do, and the UK hasn't produced people with the requisite skills. So when an optical physicist working for a medical device company returns to the mainland, or a printed circuit designer goes back to Germany, you are going to see the vacancy remaining open for a long time. And that means the UK economy is losing. These educated, skilled EU migrants are needed. They add to the UK economy, and put food on the plates of others. For Scotland there is a much bigger problem: As English companies battle to fill the places of EU citizens who have returned to the mainland, they will strip Scotland of its most talented and skilled workers, in all fields. Scottish companies simply won't be able to compete, & Scotland will see its high tech industries decline.  Regardless of all this, even if Brexit is a great success, the Scottish Govt is being prudent - in fact the Scottish Govt is fulfilling its duty to do the best it can for Scots - by laying the groundwork for a second independence referendum as a possible escape route. You should not, for an instant, buy the tall tale that the rest of the UK will make trade with an independent Scotland difficult. A Brexited UK needs all the trade it can get, & it is in its best interests to bolster trade with its neighbours. Similarly, provided Scotland polices its borders with non-UK countries properly, there is no reason whatsoever why people should not move freely across the rUK-Scottish border. It is better that Scots have the option of holding the referendum - just in case! You will still have the option of voting to remain in the UK! A referendum gives you a choice. For you, Mr John Smith, and others who may possibly be in a safe financial position, Indy Ref 2 may appear to be a complete waste. But given the direction in which things currently seem to be heading, for those who are struggling it could literally be a lifeline. Make no mistake: poverty kills through many poverty-related physical and psychological illnesses. Ms Ruth Davidson and all members of the Conservative Party who say that the SNP is diverting resources away from health, education, etc. by doing the groundwork for Indy Ref 2 are being unbelievably shallow. On the contrary, Indy Ref 2 could be essential as a means to save health, education, and a whole lot more, when in 2019 wholly unnecessary & catastrophic poverty - manufactured entirely by the Conservative Party's idiocy - blights the UK.

Passenger Numbers Soar At Inverness Airport
Almost half a million passengers passed through Inverness Airport in the first part of this year according to new figures.   During the first half of this financial year, from April to September, a total of 456,778 passengers travelled through the airport.  This was compared to 376,092 for the same period in 2015, said owners Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL). They reported “outstanding” performances on the new British Airway/ Oneworld service linking Inverness to Heathrow and the KLM/ SkyTeam link with Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.  HIAL chair Dr Mike Cantlay said: “Inverness is now better connected than ever to two key airline networks – Oneworld and SkyTeam - with an impressive 40 to 50 per cent of passengers connecting through Amsterdam and Heathrow to and from international destinations.”  A new easyJet connection to Geneva Airport is scheduled to begin in December.

Confidence Among Construction Employers Recovers After EU Vote Slump

Confidence among Scottish construction employers has recovered following a slump in the wake of the EU referendum result, according to a survey.  The latest quarterly Scottish Construction Monitor found confidence recovered to plus two after falling to a three year low of minus 19 in the wake of the Brexit vote in June.  However the survey, which takes in to account the answers of hundreds of building companies across Scotland who are members of the federation, found the majority of respondents thought the prospect of Brexit was driving up supply costs.  Bricks, timber and metal products were all reported to have a noticeable rise in costs since June, according to respondents.  Ninety per cent of those surveyed expected these costs to continue to rise over the next 12 months, with many expressing concern that some suppliers may be using economic uncertainty to increase costs artificially.  Vaughan Hart, director of the Scottish Building Federation, said: “At the moment, the construction industry is experiencing the same uncertainties as those facing the wider economy.  In that context, I’m encouraged that our members’ confidence seems quite resilient, having rebounded back into positive territory this quarter following last quarter’s negative reading. In the current climate, it’s important that we don’t inadvertently talk ourselves into an economic downturn by over-analysing the economic indicators out there or jumping to conclusions about how the economy is performing when these aren’t borne out by experience on the ground. We need to remain vigilant against suppliers exploiting the current economic uncertainty to increase costs artificially.  I would encourage building employers to bring any such practices to our attention so that we can raise these with Government and make sure industry competitiveness isn’t adversely affected as a result.”  The construction industry is said to contribute around £10 billion to Scotland’s GDP and has traditionally provided direct or indirect employment to more than 200,000 people, according to the Scottish Building Federation.

Visitors Set to Flow Into £1.9 Million Centre

Forsinard is set to welcome visitors to its new home when it opens its doors to the public for the £1.9 million centre for the first time. The Flows Field Centre is due to open next weekend and will celebrate with a special event which will allow people to learn more about the Flow Country.  The centre will carry out research into the tracts of blanket bog which make up the internationally important Flow Country and allow the study of the peatlands and the effects of the ground-breaking peatland restoration techniques being led by RSPB Scotland and Forestry Commission Scotland.  During the day there will be a range of family oriented events including art activities, a children’s trail and crafts, screenings of its new film ‘The Flow Country’, a chance to see its 3D digital landscape model, carbon capture computer game, and the opportunity to find out all about the scientific research that is taking place across the Flow Country.

No Place for Hostility Towards Gaelic in Scotland

John Swinney has declared that there is no place in Scotland for hostility towards the Gaelic language, after being “horrified” by the negative response to a recent funding announcement. The Deputy First Minister pledged to help increase the number of Gaelic speakers during keynote speech at the Royal National Mòd in Stornoway yesterday, and also announced £700,000 of extra government funding for Glasgow’s two Gaelic schools.  But he had clearly been stung by an anti-Gaelic backlash, mainly on social media, to the award of “modest funding” of £33,000 last month to Fèisean nan Gàidheal, a group which takes Gaelic into schools.  “I announced some additional funding to enhance and expand the excellent work they are doing,” said Mr Swinney, as he delivered the Angus Macleod Memorial lecture. “It would hardly have broken the bank, but I was horrified to read many hostile responses to this announcement.  I know many of you have encountered this hostility to Gaelic. You will be familiar with the negative points - ‘it is a dead language’, ‘it was never spoken here’, ‘it is a waste of money’, ‘it is being shoved down our throats’, ‘it is a divisive SNP plot’. These views are often found and shared on social media, but sadly sometimes enter into political exchanges and mainstream media.  These views are as groundless and unwelcome as they are inaccurate and misleading. They betray a poor understanding of our country, its history and the respect we should show to minority communities. My very clear view is that hostility to Gaelic has no place in Scotland.  Let me set the record straight. Gaelic is a language of daily use. The support for Gaelic is a good use of public funds. Gaelic offers a range of benefits to Scotland. It is a valuable language to learn and it deserves the support of people of all political backgrounds in Scotland. And it will have that support from this Scottish Government and from this Deputy First Minister of Scotland.  Gaelic belongs to Scotland, and we should all unite behind the effort to create a secure future for Gaelic in Scotland.”  Mr Swinney, who assumed ministerial responsibility for Gaelic earlier this year, added: “The picture of Gaelic development through the years has progressed from campaigning for recognition, to putting structures and projects in place. Now that we are at the point where we have good structures in place, we must ensure these are effectively used to strengthen the language and to reap the rewards of its contribution to the diversity that exists in Scotland’s culture and language.  (Gaelic) has been spoken in this country for well over 1000 years and I believe this places a duty and a responsibility on us as custodians of this heritage. This is not special treatment or favouritism or a nationalist plot. It is simply the steps that should be taken to secure a measure of fair treatment for our minority language that has been with us for a long time.”  And he quoted a 2014 report which said that Gaelic had the potential to bring £150 million of economic value to Scotland each year, saying: “I cite these examples of positive economic impact to make an argument, that confounds the critics of Gaelic and demonstrates the relevance and significance of Gaelic to our society.” The money for the Glendale Gaelic School and Sgoil Ghaidhlig Ghlaschu will go towards imporving facilities for current learners and upgrades to help tackle an increasing demand for places. Since the introduction of the Gaelic Schools Capital Fund in 2008, the number of young people in Gaelic medium education has increased nationally by 32 per cent.  Meanwhile, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the national agency set up in partnership with the Scottish Government to promote Gaelic, has announced an award of £115,000 to support Gaelic drama development at professional, community and school levels.  “The primary aim of this project is to produce a professional Gaelic drama that will tour communities across Scotland, whilst at the same time offering on-the-job career development opportunities for those interested in working in the sector,” said David Boag of Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

Holyrood's Brexit Minister to Hold MEP Talks in Brussels
Scotland's Brexit minister is in Brussels for talks with MEPs in a bid to prevent a so-called "hard Brexit" for Scotland.  Mike Russell, minister for UK negotiations on Scotland's place in Europe, and External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop will be at the European Parliament on Wednesday.  They will hold discussions with MEPs aimed at enabling Scotland to stay in the European single market before hosting a briefing session in Scotland House for more than 130 audience members from Europe and further afield.  A majority of Scottish voters, 62%, backed remain in the European Union (EU) referendum in June while the UK as a whole opted to leave.  Speaking ahead of the visit, which is the first in his new role, Mr Russell said: "Since the referendum result in June, the Scottish Government has worked hard to continue our strong relationship in Brussels and protect Scotland's interests across Europe. A key objective from these talks will be to work with others across the political divide to avert a hard Brexit for Scotland - there is simply no UK mandate for that.  I will also raise the First Minister's commitment to publish proposals that would allow Scotland to stay in the single market and to preserve aspects of our relationship with the EU even if the rest of the UK is intending to leave.  I am incredibly proud of the warm reception we've always had from those right across the European Parliament and the hugely positive pick-up we've had from those wishing to attend the question-and-answer session is proof that Europe sees the Scottish Government being at the heart of the discussions on the UK's exit from the EU. As a government, we remain absolutely committed to finding a solution that offers a good outcome for the people of Scotland, who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union, and for the EU as a whole."

Charles Presents Gaelic Award During Royal National Mod Visit
The Prince of Wales has presented an Italian cyclist with the Gaelic learner of the year award as he attended the Royal National Mod in the Western Isles.  The eight-day celebration of Gaelic language, music and culture is being held on the islands for the first time since 2011 and involves more than 200 competitions in Highland dancing, sport, literature, drama, Gaelic music and song.  Charles, known as the Lord of the Isles when in the Western Isles, handed the Gaelic learner award to Carmine Colajezzi, 30, in recognition of the significant steps he has taken to becoming fluent.  Mr Colajezzi was born and raised in Abruzzo, Italy, before moving to Scotland five years ago.  He began to study Gaelic after getting hooked on the language while on cycling tour of the Western Isles and last year moved to Skye and enrolled at Gaelic college Sabhal Mor Ostaig to boost his fluency.  He has since taken part in several Gaelic radio programmes for beginners.  The prince also met young Gaelic singers and Highland dancers as well as volunteers and staff from Mod organisers An Comunn Gaidhealach, organisers at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway on Tuesday.  John Macleod, An Comunn Gaidhealach president, said: "Carmine is a worthy winner of the Gaelic learner of the year award, his hard work and commitment has been remarkable. The level of competition already this year has been outstanding and we're delighted to have witnessed such high levels of Gaelic being spoken in the younger generations."

BBC Scottish News Programme Would Boost SNP's Independence Efforts

A flagship BBC Scottish news show would "chip away at a great British institution" and boost the SNP's independence efforts, a Tory MP has claimed.  Alberto Costa was mocked by SNP MPs after also claiming a so-called "Scottish Six" would deny Scots a chance to see the "g ood work" of the Conservative Government elsewhere in the UK.  He argued against the SNP's desire for changes to the news output north of the border, which calls for the next BBC charter to offer "maximum devolution of broadcasting" - including Scotland's own six o'clock news bulletin.  Former BBC Breakfast presenter John Nicolson, the SNP's culture spokesman, insisted the corporation is "not delivering for Scotland" with audiences and BBC staff wanting greater control over programming.  The SNP has tabled an amendment to the new draft agreement for the next BBC charter in support of its proposals.  But Mr Costa (South Leicestershire) claimed the SNP's amendment was the latest "tool" adopted by a party "hell-bent on destroying the sovereign United Kingdom".  He said he would speak to fellow Tory MPs who backed the "Scottish Six" concept, adding they may have " unwittingly fallen foul of the SNP's propaganda to pretend this will somehow further devolution". Speaking during a debate on the draft agreement for the next BBC charter, Mr Costa said: " All (the amendment) wants to do is drive a wedge between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom."  Mr Costa cited a YouGov poll which suggested 63% of Scots want the BBC's news output to continue as it is, including a UK national evening broadcast followed by a Scottish programme.  Mr Nicolson questioned why Tory MPs had backed the idea of a Scottish Six.  Mr Costa replied: "The honourable members on this side of the House who may be supporting the Scottish Six have never fought the SNP, and I'll be speaking to those honourable members to explain very clearly what the SNP's policy on these matters is, because they'll do anything to bring about the end of the United Kingdom - and this is what this amendment is all about.  It's just another example of chip chipping away at a great British institution."  Mr Costa went on: "I believe that the Scots want to know exactly what's going on across the United Kingdom.  And given that England is the larger partner of the United Kingdom, simply by sheer numbers, it's imperative Scots are able to see the good work the Conservative Government is doing in other parts of the United Kingdom."  This remark prompted laughter among the SNP Mps.  SNP MP Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) told Mr Costa local, national and international news would be included within a Scottish Six, adding he was wrong to fear it would not include news from elsewhere in the UK.  Moving the proposal, Mr Nicolson said: "I believe in the concept of a separate Scottish Six, but at that point politicians should stand back and allow the BBC to decide the form of that programme and the content of the programme." He added: "For a significant period of time it's been clear the BBC is not delivering for Scotland in the way it should be.  There lies a problem, I think, at the heart of BBC Scotland. Without a fairer share of the licence fee, without greater control over its own budget, without the authority to make commissioning decisions, BBC Scotland too often relies on the decisions of executives in London. Meaningful editorial and financial control must be transferred north of the border." He said audience satisfaction surveys showed Scottish viewers did not think BBC programming represented their views, both in current affairs or drama.  Mr Nicolson added: "You don't have to take my word for it - that's what the BBC says itself, and it fully acknowledges that this is a problem."

Singers in Fine Tune for Royal National Mòd

Melvich Gaelic Choir is putting the finishing touches on preparations to represent the far north in this year’s Royal National Mòd.  The choir made a clean sweep of all five awards at the competition last year and it is keen to defend its Lorn Shield title this time. The event, which each year changes venue, takes place in the Western Isles this year.  Last year, for the first time, Melvich Gaelic Choir won the Lorn Shield, which is the premier choral competition for rural choirs; the awards for highest marks in Gaelic and music; the silver baton and the prize money.  The choir, celebrating its 40th anniversary year, will compete in Stornoway on Thursday and Friday in the Puirt-a-Beul, or mouth-music, competition and the Lorn Shield competition in which they are the only choir to represent mainland Scotland. The ladies’ choir will perform for the Rural Ladies’ Choir competition and the male voice choir will take part in the Male Voice Choir competition. A number of choristers will be competing in solo sections this year.  Thurso High pupil Isla Bain will sing in the girls’ 16-18 years category on Monday. This will be the first time the 16-year-old, who has been taking part in the Caithness and Sutherland Provincial Mòd, competes with Melvich Gaelic Choir. Eileen Duncan, from Tongue, is to take part in the Silver Pendant competition, the highest accolade that a learner of the language can achieve.  Mikie Henderson from Keiss, will be competing in the competition for former first prize winners at a Provincial Mòd and also the accompanied solo competition.

Panic! We’re Led by a Dad’s Army of Brexiter Buffoons
by Iain Macwhirter
SO, now we know. David Cameron’s Government agreed as long ago as 2010 that, “because of the sovereignty of Parliament, referendums cannot be legally binding and are therefore advisory”. This was in evidence to a House of Lords Committee. This is devastating news for the Prime Minister, who’s been trying to push through Article 50 on the back of pre-democratic powers of Royal Prerogative, just at the moment when public attitudes are changing and Brexit is turning into Regrexit.  The vote to leave the EU has been widely interpreted as a cry of anguish, predominantly from the dispossessed in non-metropolitan England: white working class people, typically in the north, who feel they have been left behind by globalisation, rising inequality, casualisation and low pay.  It is a cruel irony, therefore, that it is these people, the ones at the bottom of the social heap, who stand to be worst hit by the emerging post-Brexit economy. There have been howls of anguish from financiers in the City of London, who are demanding a special deal in the EU, and, since money talks, they’ll probably get one. But the first casualties, as The Herald reported yesterday, will be low-income families caught in the vice of rising living costs and benefit cuts who stand to lose £360 a year. As we know, most of the working-age benefit claimants are actually in work and their income had already been squeezed by 10 per cent since the 2008 crash.  It’s beginning to dawn on Brexit voters that leaving the EU will be a disaster for working people. Inflation is back as a direct result of the 18 per cent devaluation of the pound since June 23. The forecast for price rises next year is three to four per cent, which doesn’t sound like much but most of this is going to be on essentials such as food, clothing, energy and transport, which will disproportionately hit those on already tight family budgets. Meanwhile, the Guardian reported yesterday that the UK Cabinet has been presented with three independent reports (from the Treasury, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and the London School of Economics) forecasting an average loss of 4.5 per cent of GDP by 2030. That is equivalent to a major economic recession spread over 15 years. We are talking about losing hundreds of billions of pounds in economic output if Britain is forced out of the EU customs union, the destination of half of Britain’s exports. We know who will pay the price of the public spending cuts that will ride on the back of this fall in national wealth.  Brexit ministers pooh-pooh this as pessimism and negativity from Bremoaners and Eurowhingers. But they’ve demonstrably failed to come up with any alternative forecasts, or indeed any coherent plan for dealing with the consequences of isolation. Intoxicated by their referendum victory, Brexiters seem to be more interested in fantasising about new Royal Yachts and inspecting the teeth of migrant children.  Environment Minister Andrea Leadsom did her bit by promising that good old British tea and jam would take the place of all that stuff we send to Europe; as if groceries could replace high-end engineering and financial services. Britain is being led by a Dad’s Army of hopeless Brexit romantics who think they can return to the days of Empire, when compliant colonial countries would buy our manufactured goods and send back cheap produce and raw materials. It’s not like that any more. You have to cultivate your markets, keep your friends close and your trading rivals closer.  Yet Britain has opted out of the world’s largest customs union, encompassing 500 million of the wealthiest consumers in the world. There is an alarming sense of drift in the May Cabinet as ministers jostle for control of the sinking ship. Hard liners, led by Brexit Secretary David Davis, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, have tried to disguise their cluelessness by reducing the argument to immigration, as if that were the only issue that matters. Brexiters have assumed that working class people who voted to leave the EU were interested only in keeping foreigners out. We now know this was far from the case. Opinion polls have demonstrated that some two-thirds of voters believe economics and free trade are more important than immigration.  It’s the economy, stupid. English working class voters are not all slavering racists and have a better understanding of the economics of the real world than Tory backbench financiers. Being as remote from the lives of working people as any Bourbon monarch before the French Revolution, the Brexit bunch assume the portrayal of working class attitudes in tabloid newspapers is true to life. It is not.  Public attitudes are changing as people realise how threadbare the Brexit case is; not just the nonsense claims of saving £350 million a week for the NHS but the entire project for “independent Britain”, a bogus sovereignty never lost on the EU. The oft-repeated lines that the rest of the planet is just waiting to buy our exports in unprecedented volumes, and that the Germans will offer a deal on trade so that they can still sell us their cars, is wearing thin. Treasury estimates make clear that trade with the rest of the world would have to increase by 37 per cent to compensate for the blockage of exports to Europe. In Scotland, there is mounting concern as it becomes clear that our anaemic economy is in no shape to suffer a Brexit squeeze.  For most of the early years of the Scottish Parliament, spending rose annually by a comfortable margin due to the Barnett Formula, which linked spending in Scotland to rises in UK departmental budgets. But, as Barnett is phased out and more revenue is raised by Holyrood through its new income tax powers, a very large hole is beginning to appear in the accounts.  Our economy has depended on migrant workers to boost our dwindling population of working age Scots. If this is cut off, at the same time as World Trade Organisation tariffs of 10 per cent are slapped on Scottish exports to Europe, the impact on the Scottish tax base will be severe. There will be too few workers paying taxes adequately to finance our public services, especially as Holyrood takes on welfare spending. The UK Government is deluding itself if it thinks it can leave Scotland to its own devices because the Scots have nowhere to go. Mrs May would be wise to listen to Nicola Sturgeon’s plea for special arrangements on trade and immigration for Scotland.  The news will only get worse as we approach Article 50. Mrs May will almost certainly have to give Parliament a vote and that means she can no longer conceal the confusion and division in her Cabinet. The full extent of ministerial disarray and lack of planning is about to become public knowledge. The case for leaving the single market was always thin, but it has come apart in spectacular fashion as the Brexit boom has turned to bust.