Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 372

Issue # 372                                                         Week ending 29th October 2016

And Now Some Handy Tips on How Not to Fish for Salmon by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal
It probably happens all the time to people with really common names like John Smith, Angus Campbell and, er, Nicola Sturgeon. Friends and business colleagues writing to them get their email addresses mixed up with other similar sounding names. I have not really had the problem - until yesterday morning. When I got up there was this email congratulating me on being appointed treasurer of the Liberal Democrats. Wahey, all the cash coming in to Tim Farron, Paddy Ashdown, Nick Clegg and whatshisface who sounds like an electrician, oh yeah Vince Cable, will be coming to little old me. Fantastic.

What an honour. Wait a minute, I am not a member of the LibDems - in fact, I am not a member of any political party. Who sent me this? It’s from a woman with a pretty unique name. I’ll Google her. She is a retired church minister down in South Lanarkshire and she wants to switch her donations from the Glasgow LibDems to, well, me.

After I emailed her back, it turns out another Iain Maciver has just been appointed treasurer of the Clydesdale LibDems. The branch has been pretty much in abeyance and the membership could pretty much fit into the proverbial phone box. Now a man with a similar name and very similar email address to me is handling the subs. If I play my cards right they will probably make me leader if they want their shekels back.

That was not the only mistake that had me chuckling in the past week. It is said a certain veteran of the Royal National Mod arrived by plane in Stornoway last week for the festival and his driver was late. So Murdo - not his real name - had a wee dram or two while waiting. When he phoned to find out why no one was there, he learned the car had a flat tyre and was being taken to the garage. So he had another few drammies.

Soon, Murdo went outside for fresh air and wobbled his way round the airport terminal building. He came to a door with a sign saying “MOD property. Authorised personnel only’. Thinking this was the office of Mod organisers An Comunn Gaidhealach, Murdo was soon pressing the red alert button while holding up his membership badge to the CCTV and demanding they let him in. “Whit’s goin’ on? Wis the Mod last week or whit?”

Now, a public warning. The children’s section of the Royal National Mod is a nest of subversives with its cutest wee starlets celebrating criminality and stirring up trouble. It is just as well that the most powerful people in this land do not have the Gaelic or they would be spluttering over their gins and tonic had they been tuned in to last week’s outrageous televised goings-on.

It all kicked off with one wee angelic-faced darling taking to the stage and telling us all what delights can be had from the pastime they call poaching. Poaching? I’d heard of it a long time ago but there has been decades since I have heard of anyone actually doing it. I prefer them with soldiers in the morning but I know some who prefer their gamekeepers boiled in oil.

You don’t expect a wee cutie pie with curls and gap teeth to have been drilled relentlessly in how to acquire by the cheapest means the ‘bradan’ - the king of fish. It doesn’t seem that long ago that the meanest-looking miscreants were summarily hauled up before the beak at Stornoway Sheriff Court. I don’t know what the tariff is for aiding and abetting but if Police Scotland has access to translators ...

There are all these great rivers on Lewis so it is a great place to catch salmon. No one would admit to poaching when it was all the rage and I remember two guys from Inverness being very impressed when they met two locals from Bernera carrying their haul home. Asked how they caught them, the two locals claimed they had just held each other by the legs over the Grimersta Bridge and tickled the salmon into submission as they swam through. The pair of Invernessians were impressed and vowed to do the same back in the Highlands.

The following year, they all met on the High Street in the Highland capital and the two Bernera lads asked the other pair how they got on. “Aye not so great, right enough,” said one. “We got to the bridge and I hung him over the side by his legs and all that. But he was not there two minutes when he started shouting: “Pull me up, there’s a train coming.”

Highland Hospital Bed Cuts Spark Mass Protest

A huge demonstration of public unrest took place in Caithness yesterday over the downgrading of hospital services in the region. A hospital bed was pushed for 21 miles from Dunbar Hospital in Thurso to Caithness General in Wick.  The protest was organised by Caithness Health Action Team (Chat) as more patients, particularly expectant mothers, are having to travel more than 100 miles to Inverness for care. Nicola Sinclair, secretary of Chat, said: “It went brilliantly. It couldn’t have gone better. We had a massive turnout. We think there were about 500 members of the public turned out. It was huge.  All 21 teams turned up at the correct times for their miles. We had a couple of wheels fall off the bed at one point, but fortunately it was when the rugby club were doing their mile, so they just picked it up and ran with it. We then had a wheel change at Formula 1 speed.  The staff and patients at Caithness General were at their windows clapping and waving. We hope that the massive turnout we had shows NHS Highland how much the community values Caithness General and the Dunbar and all the services we have here and how important they are to the community.  NHS Highland had promised us there would be a full public consultation before any changes would be made. But we have already lost three beds and no consultation has taken place. They put a newsletter through the letter boxes last week. They are talking a lot but we feel they are not listening.  These are valid concerns that we have. It is not a small group of parents expressing these worries, it is the whole community that feels it.”  The threshold for sending mothers to Raigmore was lowered last year after a girl died of an e.coli infection 40 hours after being born at Caithness General.  The number of maternity beds at Caithness has been cut from six to three.

Time to Set Tribalism Aside and Put Scotland First by Iain Macwhirter:
The last time Nicola Sturgeon met Theresa May was in June, shortly after she had become Prime Minister. They got on well, we were told. As women at the summit of politics, they have a lot in common, and May was trying to present herself as a more down-to-earth leader than the Eton elitists she had replaced. What a difference 100 days makes.  Tomorrow's Brexit joint ministerial committee will be a very different affair from the Bute House honeymoon. No swapping anecdotes about political misogynists and the difficulties of getting civil servants to stop calling you Ma'am. The First Minister's ferocious attack on the “xenophobia” of the Tory conference will hang over tomorrow's Brexit joint ministerial meeting in Westminster like a dark cloud.  Back in June, the Prime Minister was insisting that Article 50, triggering the two-year EU withdrawal process, would not be declared until there was “an agreed UK position” involving all the devolved legislatures. But in case anyone thought that this meant the Scottish Parliament would be meaningfully involved, the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, made clear later that there could be no “veto”. The “agreed position” is whatever the UK Government defines as the meaning of Brexit, which currently means halting immigration and shunning the single market. Ministers have also said there can be no special arrangements for different nations and regions because it has to be one Brexit for everyone. Except, that is, for the City of London, which needs to have privileged access to the single market. And of course there will be a different arrangement for Northern Ireland, and all those little places everyone forgets about like the Isle of Man. But the Scottish Government, we’re told, just has to accept reality, stop whining and get over it. However, it is not just the Scottish Government that's whining. The publication last week of the referendum bill has concentrated minds in Scotland. The avowedly Unionist Daily Record ran an ambiguous front page with a referendum ballot paper and the claim that Theresa May was “pushing us that way”, suggesting that Scotland might be moving towards independence. The Scottish Greens are firmly behind the idea of holding a referendum if Scotland is out of the single market. The deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Alex Rowley, endorsed the case for Holyrood to have powers over trade and immigration. He also called for a new constitutional convention to press for a “special deal” for Scotland. Scotland may not be ready for an early referendum, but it is firmly behind the First Minister’s demands.  But we’re told that Theresa May has other things on her mind right now as she is cold-shouldered in Brussels and as she loses the battle to exclude the UK Parliament from a vote on Brexit. Public opinion is changing fast in England as the economic problems become apparent. There is still no coherent plan for leaving the EU, and any latitude given to Scotland may only increase the impression that the Government is making it up as it goes along.  So, this may well be the moment at which historians judge that the United Kingdom finally unravelled. The First Minister is going in with a very tough agenda. She wants controls on immigration to be devolved to Scotland, the right to negotiate separate trade deals with Brussels and the right to remain, effectively, in the single market. On the face of it these demands have no chance of being accepted, given the UK Government's Brexit dogmatism. But it may not be as simple as that. Last week, the Financial Times argued that it was possible for Scotland to remain in the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) along with Norway and Iceland. Being part of EFTA (or the parallel European Economic Area) does not require membership of the EU customs union. A free trade area is different from a customs union in that the latter requires that common tariffs are applied by all member states. What this means, argued the FT, is that there need not be a so-called “hard border” between Scotland and England.  The UK Government has already made clear that it favours a continuation of free movement of people and goods over the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. It's called the Common Travel Area, and both sides of the Irish divide agree that abolishing it could provoke a revival of the Northern Ireland troubles. It would certainly undermine the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement, which was endorsed by referendums on both sides of the border.  Many believe that the UK Government will reject any attempt to replicate this arrangement for Scotland. But that would send a very troubling message to Scots. It would be saying, in effect, that there can only be special arrangements when there is a fear of actual violence. Scotland has always stuck to peaceful means of advancing towards constitutional change, and no-one wants that to change. As for immigration, the Common Travel Area again provides a precedent for managing immigration without hard borders. But it isn't clear that immigration really is a red line for the UK Government. Before the referendum, the former Tory Lord Chancellor, and leading Brexiteer Michael Gove, said that Scotland should get immigration powers after Brexit. Asked about this last week, the UK Brexit minister, David Jones, said there would “be discussions about where the powers should lie”.  The City of London is angling for a system of regional visas based on the American and Canadian systems, which allows exemptions from overall immigration policies to deal with specific skill shortages in sparsely populated areas. If that applies to over-populated London, it must surely also apply to Scotland. The City, moreover, is determined also to remain in the single market as far as finance is concerned, and it wants to emulate Switzerland, which is not in the EU but accepts EU financial regulations so that it can do business within it.

So the First Minister has every chance of achieving a “bespoke arrangement” for Scotland, and this is something that all parties in Holyrood can support, if they have any sense. For this is not an independence project. The First Minister has made clear that the “option” of independence will only be explored if her negotiations with the UK fail to deliver. Nicola Sturgeon told the SNP conference a week ago that she wanted a “coalition” with progressive parties against hard Brexit. That was a pretty remarkable suggestion since it implies working with Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the Nationalists' bitter enemies.  So, these negotiations are a considerable political risk for the First Minister – if she wins she risks undermining the case for an early repeat referendum. Cynics might say, and they do, that hard Brexit is the best outcome for the SNP because it will demonstrate that there is no future in the UK. It is a risk the First Minister is prepared to take, however, to demonstrate to the Scottish people that she is sincere in putting Scotland's interests before party advantage. She understands instinctively that Scottish voters like to see their parties working together, and that they will only support independence once they are sure that all options have been explored.  So, Labour and the LibDems have every reason to set tribalism aside and follow the First Minister's lead. Indeed, if the venture succeeds, they could say that they have saved Scotland from indyref 2.

Comment - R
Despite the taunts of the unionists,  what the vast majority of SNP and Green supporters want is what is best for Scotland. That is most certainly not a hard Brexit and that is the priority area for the Scottish Government rather than independence. If negotiations fail to secure an advantageous position for Scotland then, and only then, should the Scots turn again to the question of independence. For those unionists carping about Scotland trying to do a separate deal - just look at the City of London. What's good for the goose....

Mod to Return to Inverness As 2016 Festival Draws to A Close
An economic boost for the Western Isles and a boom in publicity for Gaelic have been hailed as the Royal National Mod drew to a close last Saturday night.  More than 3,000 competitors and their families have flocked to Stornoway and other parts of the islands for the showpiece Gaelic festival, which attracted high profile visits from Prince Charles and deputy first minister John Swinney.  The Mod began to draw to a close  – with the choirs taking centre stage as the coveted Lovat and Tullibardine trophy was awarded as the final prize on offer. Yesterday the organisers hailed the success of the event – and revealed that the Mod will return to Inverness in 2020.  The Highland capital hosted the event as recently as 2014 and was praised for its facilities and welcoming atmosphere.  It is estimated that the Mod will have generated close to £3million for the island economy over the past nine days.  John Macleod, president of organisers An Comunn Gaidhealach, said: “It’s been a great week for the Mod, it’s been a great week for Gaelic.  We’ve had a visit from His Royal Highness, the Lord of the Isles (Prince Charles) and the deputy first minister, both giving our language strong support at a very high level and we appreciate that very much. He added: “We do an economic assessment every year which ranges somewhere between £2.5million to £3.5million.  I think the highest it has been is when the Mod was in Inverness in 2014 and last year in Oban it was £2.8million.  I would think it probably won’t be as high as £3million in the Western Isles. We have to recognise the number of people who attend the event and the contribution to the island economy might not be as much as it would be in a city. We await the results of this year’s survey but we’re confident that with attendances and the numbers of competitors and their family means the popularity of the event will reveal a very significant economic benefit to an area which needs every help it can get in order to survive and develop.  It is very difficult in the islands to maintain and develop a strong economic base and we’re happy to be here and contribute to that in our own way.”

Whisky Distillery Left with A Hangover As More Than £1million Worth is Leaked
More than £1million worth of whisky flooded into the ground after a major leak at a distillery.  An investigation was launched by safety experts and environment watchdogs after the huge alcohol spillage.  Around 60,000 litres disappeared – the equivalent of 85,000 regular bottles – from the Loch Lomond Distillers warehouse in Catrine, Ayrshire. The loss was caused by an unnoticed leak in one of the company’s giant vats.  Most of the whisky simply drained into the ground, while the rest went into the local River Ayr. The Health and Safety Executive and Scottish Environmental Protection Agency carried out an inquiry into the leak amid fears it was a potential danger to the public.  Whisky bosses have been told to tighten up their operation and safeguard against further spillages.  A SEPA spokesman said:“It’s likely the majority of the whisky was absorbed by the ground beneath the warehouse but a small amount did manage to enter the drainage system and discharge directly into the River Ayr. “Following numerous assessments of the watercourse by SEPA officers, the discharge was not found to have had any significant impact on the surface water environment.  As the facility is also regulated under the Control of Major Accidents and -Hazards Regulations 2015, a joint investigation was carried out by SEPA and the HSE. As a result, a series of corrective actions have been issued to the operator to ensure this incident does not reoccur.” SEPA and the HSE have only just completed their investigation into the leak, which happened in June.

Who Knew Moray Had A Connection with Shakespeare?

Ambitious plans have been unveiled to lure visitors to Moray by cashing-in on the region’s links to one of Shakespeare’s most notorious characters.  Holiday chalets could be built beside Macbeth’s Hillock near Brodie to transform it into a destination for fans of the Bard. Local couple Karen and George Sutherland believe the small mound is currently “underwhelming” for visitors and want to put it on the map.  In William Shakespeare’s “Scottish Play” the hill near the A96 Elgin-Inverness road is where Macbeth meets the three witches who predict his rise to become king. There has been a surge in interest in the story since the release of a Hollywood version of the play last summer.  The Moray Speyside Tourism group credited the Michael Fassbender film with increasing visitor interest the Forres area by 135%.  There are signposts directing tourists on the trail of Macbeth towards the hillock but Mrs Sutherland said: “We get a lot of people stopping us and asking where it is.  They’ve followed the signposts but there’s no signage there. It’s just an unloved corner of a field.  There’s a huge potential in Moray to promote Macbeth. We want to be part of that and help promote our little bit of it.”  The heath and surrounding land have been in the bookkeeper’s family for nearly a century.  Mrs Sutherland and her husband have lodged plans with Moray Council to site five “camping pods” at the foot of the mound.  Inside each tree-trunk clad chalet would be a small kitchen, bathroom and shower and dining area, and space to sleep four.  Specialists have designed the pods to resemble 17th century houses with long sloping roofs. Laurie Piper, tourism operations manager at Moray Speyside Tourism, said: “The proposed development first well with the aspirations of the Forres area tourism initiative, which identified Macbeth as one of Moray’s cultural assets.  The release of the new Hollywood adaptation last year saw us working with VisitScotland to promote Moray as the home of the real Macbeth to a global audience.”  Despite its unassuming appearance in modern times, visitors have been drawn to the hillock for centuries.

Duke of Cambridge Becomes Patron of Appeal to Raise £4m for Regimental Museum
The Duke of Cambridge has been appointed patron of the Thin Red Line Appeal on a visit to Stirling Castle. Prince William, known as the Earl of Strathearn while in Scotland, visited the castle on Monday, where it is hoped £4 million in funding will be secured by 2019 for the redevelopment of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regimental Museum.  On arrival, the Duke was met by the Earl of Mar and Kellie, hereditary keeper of Stirling Castle, who presented William with the keys to the castle. The Prince was escorted around the current museum by Colonel AK Miller, viewing key exhibits including The Thin Red Line painting which depicts the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War in 1854.  He spoke with pupils from the Queen Victoria School whose parents serve in the Armed Forces.  One of the pupils was 10-year-old Lily-Grace Methven, whose father Scott is the Queen's piper.  She said: "He is the sovereign's piper which is another word for the Queen's piper, and he plays most days and goes around the castle for the Queen and wherever she goes."  Prince William officially launched the redevelopment of the museum and the Thin Red Line Appeal in a speech to trustees and guests.  The museum recently received news that it is to receive funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and William said he is "confident" the £4 million target is achievable.

Theresa May Lacks Coherent Brexit Plan Months After Referendum, Says Sturgeon
Theresa May still does not have a coherent Brexit strategy four months after the vote to quit the EU, Nicola Sturgeon has warned.  Scotland's First Minister said a Brexit summit in Downing Street between the PM and devolved leaders had contained no new information, and left the Government's stance "no clearer".  "I don't know any more now about the UK Government's approach to the EU negotiations than I did before I went into the meeting," Ms Sturgeon said.  The two-hour long talks, which Ms Sturgeon branded "feisty", saw Mrs May and the First Minister clash during a "very frank exchange of views."  Ms Sturgeon rounded on a warning from Number 10 that the devolved administrations must not try to undermine the UK's negotiating position as "nonsense" as she insisted London did not actually have a firm grasp of what it wanted.  Ms Sturgeon dismissed talk of undermining Britain's EU withdrawal deal, saying: "I think that is nonsense, and it is not what anybody is seeking to do. To be brutally frank about it, you can't undermine something that doesn't exist, and from everything I have heard today in Downing Street there isn't yet a UK Government negotiating position. "I've no interest in undermining that when it does exist, but I do have a massive interest in protecting Scotland's interest. What I'm not prepared to do is stand back and watch Scotland driven off a hard Brexit cliff-edge."  Ms Sturgeon said the tone of the meeting had been robust. "We had a very frank exchange of views. I don't mind admitting large parts of the meeting were deeply frustrating," she said.  Ms Sturgeon agreed when asked by a journalist if the Government had provided such little information because it "didn't have a clue".  Number 10 said Mrs May had told the devolved administrations she would strike a bespoke Brexit deal that works for the whole of the UK, and wanted their input in shaping a deal.  Ms Sturgeon was dismissive about a so-called hotline being set up between the devolved capitals and Brexit Minister David Davis.  "Having a direct line is good, but it won't mean much if David Davis is not prepared to say anything when he picks up the phone. I don't have any interest in a lot of silent calls."  The First Minister said Mrs May should be under no illusion about her party's determination to hold a second independence referendum if the SNP felt that was in the best interest of Scotland.  Ms Sturgeon said it would be inconceivable for London to try to block such a vote. It would be inconceivable for the UK Government to be in that position given that it's them that has put us into this position in the first place."  Scotland will bring forward specific proposals for a so-called flexible Brexit that would keep the nation in the single market, even if the rest of the UK was not part of the trading agreement, in the next few weeks, Ms Sturgeon said.  Labour's Carwyn Jones said there had been no details about what happens next in the divorce talks, and warned "time is not on our side".  The Welsh First Minister said access to the single market was the most important issue.  Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister, said there was a "joint responsibility" to manage the challenges posed by Brexit.  He told reporters: "As this process moves along, we need to be at the heart of it," as he warned against the imposition of a "hard border" with the Republic.  Downing Street earlier said leaders of the devolved administrations must not undermine the negotiations.

Sturgeon Calls for United Scottish Front to Fight Hard Brexit

Nicola Sturgeon is to urge politicians, business and universities to join an “all-Scotland” coalition to oppose a hard Brexit.  The First Minister will seek to bring together organisations and parties with the aim of protecting Scotland’s place in the European single market.  The Scottish Government has said it will bring forward specific proposals for a so-called flexible Brexit that would keep the nation in the single market, even if the rest of the UK was not part of the trading agreement, in the next few weeks. Opening the annual National Economic Forum in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon is expected to say: “Creating jobs, expanding the economy and growing tax revenues – these priorities are at the centre of everything we do. But economists have estimated a hard Brexit will cost Scotland 80,000 jobs within a decade. I believe a coalition can be built to keep the UK as a whole in the single market. That outcome is in the best interests of everyone in these islands. So we will work with other organisations and parties, not just in Scotland but across the UK, to achieve that outcome. And in Scotland, regardless of the positions people take on the constitutional future of Scotland, on this central issue of single market membership there is widespread agreement. Rarely has there been such unity on an issue.  So today let’s resolve to present to the UK Government a unified Scottish position: an all-Scotland coalition of support for the single market. An all-Scotland coalition – of politicians, business, universities and others – to resist a hard Brexit. We will work constructively with all relevant parties to achieve the goal of retaining our place in Europe and single market membership.”  The event takes place just days after Ms Sturgeon attended what she described as a “deeply frustrating” Brexit summit in Downing Street between Prime Minister Theresa May and devolved leaders.  Speaking afterwards, the First Minister said she was not prepared to “stand back and watch Scotland driven off a hard Brexit cliff-edge”, despite a warning from Number 10 that the devolved administrations must not try to undermine the UK’s negotiating position.  Mrs May has said she will strike a bespoke Brexit deal that works for the whole of the UK, but Ms Sturgeon has warned that the Prime Minister should be under no illusion about her party’s determination to hold a second independence referendum if the SNP felt that was in the best interest of Scotland.

Altnaharra Wind Farm Sparks Fury
A National charity is "furious" with a Scottish Government decision to give consent to a Sutherland wind farm which will be the first to breach its own wild land map boundaries. Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse announced on Monday that he has given the go ahead for the construction of the 22-turbine Creag Riabhach Wind Farm on the Altnaharra Estate in central Sutherland.  But the chief executive of the John Muir trust (JMT), Stuart Brooks, was concerned the project would become a "Trojan horse".  The wind farm will have a generating capacity of 72.6MW, enough to power 36,000 homes, with estimated savings of 66,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.  The proposed development is anticipated to provide in excess of £9 million in community benefit.  Five of the turbines will fall within the boundary of Wild Land Area 37 (Foinaven-Ben Hee).  Mr Brooks said: "Naturally, we are very disappointed and concerned. This is the first such development to be consented within the boundaries of the wild land areas map since it was agreed in 2014.  The decision flies in the face of a series of previous decisions by the Scottish Government, refusing consent to similar applications impacting on wild land areas.  This is not a few small community-owned turbines. It is a major industrial development, including giant turbines, access roads and transmission infrastructure, which will almost certainly lead to the redrawing of the boundary of Wild Land Area 37.  We are concerned that this project will become a Trojan Horse, attracting further large-scale industrial development into the area in the future, leading to further diminishing of the qualities of this wild place which attracts visitors from around the world. We also fear that the decision could set a precedent for other wild land areas."  The decision contradicts previous rulings by the Scottish Government to reject applications on wild land grounds at Allt Duine, Glenmore, Carn Gorm, Sallachy and Glencassley.  But the development received widespread support from the public and local community councils. The Highland Council also raised no objection. Both local MP Paul Monaghan and MSP Gail Ross have stated that they are delighted that consent was given.  The wind farm has been developed by a private firm in partnership with the local working estate.  Tim Philpot, director of Creag Riabhach Wind Farm, said: "Creag Riabhach will give the communities of this region a lasting legacy benefit of £700,000 through the estate’s Altnaharra Foundation. This is aimed at giving employment and business opportunities in the area and includes a partnership with North Highland College UHI, to provide training and skills, employment opportunities, and apprenticeship funding for local employers."  Pieter Bakker, estate manager and tenant farmer at Altnaharra Estate, said: "This is a significant boost to our estate and our community. "Altnaharra Estate is the main source of employment in the area and this project will help secure additional jobs for local people.  My local community and the other communities surrounding the estate will significantly benefit from this project, which will provide up to £9 million in inward investment. The economy in Sutherland is fragile and in desperate need of investment, in particular in Altnaharra.  This is why we are all so delighted with this positive outcome. Projects like Creag Riabhach Wind Farm are vital to our communities, and are the only way in which we can create a sustainable legacy for future generations in the area."  The five community councils in the area – Scourie, Kinlochbervie, Durness, Tongue, and Bettyhill, Strathnaver and Altnaharra – have agreed to participate in the North and West Sutherland Charitable Trust to distribute part of the community benefit fund, along with the Altnaharra Charitable Trust."

Caithness Brochs in Media Spotlight As Promotional Drive Gains Ground
A campaign to get Caithness recognised as the broch capital of Scotland is to feature on national television on Friday evening.  Those behind BBC Scotland show Landward travelled to the far north to meet representatives of Caithness Broch Project (CBP) to find out about their drive to promote an important part of the county’s history.  CBP has launched ambitious plans to build a replica Iron Age broch, hoping it will become a major tourist attraction in the area.  The group also wants to raise awareness about other broch sites across the county, including those in a state of disrepair and requiring work.  CBP chairman Kenneth McElroy met Landward presenter Dougie Vipond and took him on a tour of the county to visit a few of the many historical sites the group wants to promote.  He said: “We took them to several sites of archaeological and historical interest in Caithness – both well-known attractions and hidden gems.  We took them to Ousdale Broch, probably Caithness’s best-preserved broch, which is about 2000 years old and has, unfortunately, recently suffered some collapse.  We then took Dougie to Camster Cairns, which is probably Caithness’s most famous archaeological site, before taking them to Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, which, in my opinion, is one of Scotland’s most striking and impressive castles.  I hope that by showing off these sites we can demonstrate there is real potential in promoting Caithness as a heritage tourism destination.”  Caithness has the highest concentration of brochs anywhere in the world, with over 200 sites across the county.  The group’s main aim is to create a full-size replica Iron Age broch which could become a major tourist attraction.  It wants to create the broch and an adjoining drystone dyking workshop to give a glimpse into what it was like to live in the far north over 2500 years ago.

Support Structures Installed in Firth
All four support structures for the MeyGen tidal energy project in the Pentland Firth have been installed.  The first one was put in place on October 7 and now Atlantis Resources Ltd – the company behind the pioneering venture – has announced that the remaining three structures have been installed.  The Neptune jack-up vessel owned by Geosea carried out the work.  A spokeswoman for Atlantis said: “This offshore operation was a resounding success and importantly has validated the use of jack up vessels for the purpose of installing tidal turbine foundations offshore in high flow locations. The use of a jack-up rig for the installations is significant for the future of the industry offering a flexible and fast installation solution. The project remains on track to have all turbines installed and connected to the grid in time for first power delivery from the world’s largest tidal power project by the end of the year,” she added.

Solidarity to Debate Anti-racist Independence Motion At Conference
A motion branding nationalism and patriotism as “dangerously close to racism” will be debated by members of the left-wing party Solidarity.  The party, which was founded by former MSP Tommy Sheridan, is holding its annual conference in Glasgow on Saturday. Activists will also debate a call for more power to be devolved down to local people, with a suggestion this could lead to “direct democracy” with referendums being held to determine issues of national importance, as well as local ballots for people to approve matters such as council budgets.  The Fife branch of the party has put forward motions in favour of anti-racist Scottish independence and in support of “taking power from politicians”.  Branch member Bill Mair said the motion linking nationalism and patriotism to racism was designed to “open up debate about why we want independence”.  It argues the “bonds between the working-class in Scotland and England, Wales, the island of Ireland and elsewhere as being more relevant than those between working-class Scots and the millionaire ruling classes in Scotland”.  It states: “Solidarity condemns any prejudice, overt or covert, intentional or unintentional, perpetrated in the guise of patriotism or nationalism, which can be dangerously close to racism.”  Mr Mair will tell the conference the ” motion seeks to define why we want independence, to separate out a desire for a better, fairer Scotland under socialism from the vague nationalist idea that Scotland is better than England or any other country, or that independence is revenge for unjust treatment dating from the Highland clearances”.  He will say: “This is the essence of our motion – independence is nothing to do with vague notions of ancient history, holds no grudge against another country, is not about national superiority but is all about creating the conditions to build a better society.  We do not campaign for blood and soil and history, we fight for peace and socialism and the future.”

SNP Slams Westminster Over UN Nuclear Resolution Snub
The UK government has come under fire from CND and the SNP for rejecting a United Nations resolution to hold a global summit on eradicating nuclear weapons.  More than 120 nations supported the resolution raised by the UN’s disarmament and international security committee, defeating the likes of the UK Russia, Israel and France who voted against it. The resolution will now go before the UN General Assembly. The UK government said it was committed to ridding the world of nuclear weapons, but supported gradual multilateral disarmament within “existing international frameworks”.  A total of 123 nations voted in favour of the resolution while 38 opposed it and 16 abstained in the vote.  The resolution aims to set up a conference in March to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.  Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa were among countries to support the resolution, but the Foreign Office said it did not support the proposed talks.  A spokesman said: “The UK is committed to a world without nuclear weapons, in line with our obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The UK voted against the resolution at the UN General Assembly first committee as we do not believe that the negotiations it mandates will lead to progress on global nuclear disarmament.  We firmly believe that the best way to achieve a world without nuclear weapons is through gradual multilateral disarmament negotiated using a step-by-step approach and within existing international frameworks.”  This year the House of Commons voted for the multi-billion pound Trident replacement. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament said the negotiations could follow in a similar vein to the banning of biological and chemical weapons, land mines and cluster bombs and urged the government to reconsider.  Kate Hudson of the CND said: “[It’s] very disappointing to see the British government attempt to thwart these vital negotiations.  We urge the British government to rethink its approach, to support and participate in the UN conference in 2017 that will explore steps towards a global nuclear ban.”  SNP MSP Bill Kidd, co-president of PNND (Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament) said: “While the Tories are determined to build new nuclear weapons regardless of the cost to the public purse, the SNP is clear in our opposition – and we’re joined by the clear majority of countries.”