Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 373

Issue # 373                                                 Week ending 5th November 2016

What is it That Scares Me More Than Even Halloween? By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal
I know it is just after Halloween but it is still scary that a man walked into a chip shop and bought a haggis supper and the next day it was all over the papers. He was no ordinary Glasgow balloon, of course, but Justin Bieber and everyone is so excited he went into that chicken and chips chain for a couple of pokes of sliced potatoes with haggis and sausage.

He seemed to like the scoff and the drink, which was that stuff that Glaswegians rave about - the ghastly made-from-girders stuff. Maybe the drink in question is actually leftover turnip juice from Halloween because it is really orange. A bit like his skin. It doesn’t taste of turnip though - just sugary fizz. A bit like his music.

Earlier, Bieber must have been concerned tickets weren’t selling for his Glasgow gigs. How could he raise awareness that he was here? He did what anyone does - he went outside for a walkabout in his drawers. Yeah cove, it’s a bit quiet so leave the computer and Twitter, take off your breeks and go and get a bit of fresh air in those lungs ... and other places.

It just so happens there were some fans, or Beliebers, at the gate of the big house in Kinross where he was staying and, whoosh, he and his undercrackers were all over the media. Guess what? Full houses each night. Sold out. Kerrching. You can afford to go and buy yourself a haggis supper before you go off to Dublin for your next gigs, where we will no doubt see you scoffing stew with Guinness.

Just a wee word of advice, Mr Bieber. Underwear is very much like intelligence. It is important you have it but it is really not necessary to show it off.

Halloween is becoming scarier. Not the junior ghoulies that roam the streets and cajole you out of your hard-earned, it’s the grown-ups. They take it too far. Everyone on the telly feels it mandatory to blacken their eyes, powder their skin as white as possible and have blood seeping from every orifice. I thought Ed Miliband was particularly good on Sky News last week but it turns out that is just how he is anyway.

On the other side, his mate Ed Balls was showing the nation his dance moves. That was really scary - not his ghostly get-up but the dancing. The week before, he hoisted that poor girl over his head and she began to overbalance. Had he not grabbed her somewhere awkward - and from where I was sitting, very tender - they would both have collapsed on the linoleum in front of a nation agog.

Years ago the BBC chose Halloween to broadcast a radio play about lighthouse keepers who went missing on the Flannan Isles in 1900. We could see these uninhabited islands from the croft up from our house. I had heard about a search for men who had worked there long ago but until that evening I had no idea they had vanished so mysteriously.

I remember being rooted to the spot. My father grimly confirmed the story was true and I had a bad case of the heeby-jeebies. So that long poem the teacher read was factual. I thought Wilfrid Wilson Gibson was like Hans Christian Anderson. I plucked up the courage to pick up the binoculars and go up the hill to peer into the darkening night to see if a light still shone on Flannan Isle. There was a twinkle out there and Gibson’s words in my head.
Of the three men's fate we found no trace
Of any kind in any place,
But a door ajar, and an untouch'd meal,
And an overtoppled chair.

Now they are going to make a film about the mystery. Two of Scotland’s best actors Gerard Butler and Peter Mullan, as well as Londoner Joe Alwyn, will be in Keepers and from what I have read, it will be loosely based on what happened but it will be scary. I hope they record some of it on Eilean Mor, the big island. When the coastguard helicopter took me out there a few years ago, it was still pretty spooky - and that was in broad daylight.

Halloween used to be such fun. We would go round the houses with a scabby old sheepskin on our backs while reciting ancient Gaelic rhymes to scare our neighbours witless so they would give us a few pennies to get lost. It’s all so very different now. The scariest night of this year for me is going to be next Tuesday - that’s election night in America.

Nairn Bakery Ashers Tries to See Funny Side of Online Mix-up After Namesake Belfast Firm Loses Court Case Over its Refusal to Bake Pro-gay Cake
A Nairn bakery was forced to defend itself against an online critic who really took the biscuit this week. Family firm Ashers is known across the Highlands, where it has been putting smiles on faces since 1877 with its cakes and pastries.  But in recent times it has also had to deal with more than its fair share of online criticism, as people from further afield mistake it for the identically-named Belfast firm which recently lost a court case over its decision to refuse to make a cake for a gay couple.  A French Twitter user known only as "Tetunicois" branded the Nairn firm "homophobic" on the social network site this week – to which Ashers responded "Vraiment?" ("Really?")  In response, it was then asked, in French: "Can you imagine a gay baker refusing to make a cake for a Christian marriage?" before Ashers responded "Je suis a bit out of ma depth now, but you have the wrong boulangerie Monsieur." Speaking afterwards, sales director Alister Asher said sometimes humour was the only way to deal with situations like this.  "Basically, ever since the Irish case came to light, and through every stage of the appeal and so on, we’ve had to deal with people getting the two firms mixed up," he said. "Humour is usually the best way to tackle it, as in this case.  In our case I can’t think of any situation where we’ve been asked to produce a cake and decided to refuse.  What’s offensive to one person isn’t to another after all."  The latest Twitter "spat" had a happy ending anyway - Tetunicois got back in touch to say "Sorry... I made a mistake about you. Your bakery is not in Belfast."

Exciting Plans in Durness to Retain Young People in the Area
A Village community has come up with a different kind of “home brew” plan to stop its young people leaving.  Two major schemes to breathe new life into mainland Britain’s most north-westerly village are now taking big steps forward after “worrying” demographic trends. Durness, like many other rural areas, is facing a dwindling population timebomb. The Durness Development Group (DDG) recently estimated the population at around 340 – with almost half the total aged over 60. The village’s primary school is down to just 11 pupils. Now DDG is to seek, in the coming months, around £25,000 from the Scottish Land Fund (SLF) to work up a business plan and feasibility study for a micro brewery, bistro, four single-bedroom flats and two three-bedroom houses.  DDG previously decided not to pursue its plans for a distillery at Loch Eriboll.  Durness-born construction tycoon David Morrison had also unveiled plans for a new distillery – just a mile apart.  They have both had talks with development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise.  Mr Morrison has registered Loch Eriboll Distillery Ltd, and aims to open a whisky, gin and vodka distillery plus a micro brewery on a two-acre site.  The community plan through DDG involved a distillery and brewery along with a neighbouring slipway at Port Chamuill, which could then have led to a grander harbour and cafe project with a smokehouse and small hydro scheme.  However DDG director Neil Fuller said they are now concentrating on developing just a brewery, bistro and housing on the old Caberfeidh site in Durness itself.  Mr Fuller said: “The project is vital for Durness. We need to try and retain our young, to stop them moving away, and also attract young families to the area.  Housing is obviously an issue – it is desperately needed here. We are looking at either homes to rent or shared equity schemes.  We have had outline plans drawn up and hope to go to the SLF in the next couple of months to seek the funding to work up a business plan etc for the scheme.  This project has huge potential and will provide meaningful full-time employment in the area and create a real visitor draw as well as creating a profitable business that will provide an income stream for further community development.”  DDG is also pushing ahead with one of the country’s most unusual community buyouts – in the middle of a bombing range.  This week it made an application for £25,000 from the SLF for a feasibility study on the only land the Ministry of Defence (MoD) does not own at nearby Cape Wrath.  Once DDG has worked up a proposal for a bunkhouse and toilets, it is likely to come back and ask for most of the £58,000 it believes it will need to buy the land.  Residents at Durness are mounting a community buyout under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. There was once a full-time community of around 35 people living on the Cape in the 1930s. Today it is just John Ure, who runs the cafe by the lighthouse.  At the centre of the unusual community buyout is just 111 acres around Cape Wrath Lighthouse.  Three years ago the MoD was halted in its £58,000 purchase of the land from the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB), which would have added to the 25,000 acres it already owns in the area.  The then First Minister Alex Salmond said: “If the community is able to go ahead and successfully purchase the land, it will secure a stronger local economy for the people of Durness and preserve one of Scotland’s iconic landscapes for generations to come.  Put bluntly, we would see more benefits for the local area rather than more land for bombing which is the principal use the rest of the Cape is put to by the MoD.”  The then Scottish environment minister Paul Wheelhouse approved an application by DDG to register a community interest in the site.  It means that the community have to be given first option to buy if the NLB goes ahead with plans to sell the land.  Mr Fuller said: “It has to be a viable business. Public toilets and a bunkhouse will be the main priority as well as looking after this unique site.”  It is likely the buyout bid will be made next year. The MoD is understood to remain an interested party. Cape Wrath attracts around 6000 visitors each year which could be increased to 10,000. The lighthouse could even be opened to the public. The Cape is estimated to be worth more than £600,000 to the nearby Durness economy.  Meanwhile DDG is holding a soup and sweet event at Durness Village Hall on November 25 at 6pm to raise funds for a Christmas Party for the area’s senior citizens. The party had lapsed but DDG plan to reinstate it at Smoo Cave Hotel on the evening of December 12.

Fate of the Survivors of the Battle of Dunbar Revealed
The fate of Scottish soldiers captured in one of the bloodiest battles of the 17th Century has been revealed by new research launched after the discovery of the bones of their comrades in the grounds of Durham Cathedral.  A study of those who survived the vicious fighting of the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 was carried out by scientists at Durham University, with some being traced as far away as France, Barbados and the USA.  The men were among 3,000 who were herded south after the battle, many of whom died of disease and malnutrition en route or perished in captivity.  A research paper published by the university offers new insight the treatment of those who survived, revealing that some went on to fight for their captors in battles in Ireland and France, while others worked on the salt pans in South Shields and helping drain The Fens in the East of England.  However, the best information comes from America, where some of the Scots were shipped as indentured servants.  Project leader Dr Pam Graves said: “There is a wealth of information about the fate of the Scottish soldiers during and after their imprisonment in Durham, but it is only when you draw all this together that you get a real sense of what became of these men.  Many were sent as indentured servants, to work for a contracted length of time in order to earn their release. Documents from the time tell us the names of the soldiers sent to the USA, where they were sent to and even the name of the ship they voyaged in.  Tracing their names through history also shows us what these men did once they were released from indenture. Some went on to become successful farmers and we know there are many descendants of these men still living in the USA.”  The Battle of Dunbar was one of the most brutal and short battles of the 17th Century civil wars. The Royalist-supporting Scottish Covenanting army, led by General David Leslie was defeated in less than an hour by Oliver Cromwell’s English Parliamentarian army. Around 3,000 soldiers were captured and imprisoned in Durham Cathedral and Castle, at a time when the Cathedral was empty and abandoned. As an estimated 1,700 prisoners from the battle died and were buried in Durham, and their final resting place remained a mystery until bones were uncovered in 2013 within the Cathedral grounds.  Research on the remains is being now undertaken by Durham University’s Department of Archaeology, with the aim of learning more about where the soldiers came from, their health and what illnesses they suffered from at different stages of their lives.  In August 2016 Durham University announced that, once research on the remains is completed, they will be reburied in Durham City, as close as possible to their original burial site.  In late 2016, the University plans to hold a commemorative event and dedicate a plaque to the memory of the soldiers.  The project team travelled to the USA to meet descendants of some of the soldiers who were sent there nearly 400 years ago, and learn more about their lives.  The new publication also explores the men who made up the Scots army, the battle itself and its aftermath in detail.

Reports of Scots Soldier Shot Dead in the Highlands

A Scots soldier has reportedly been shot dead in the Highlands.  It is understood another soldier has also been injured in the incident which occurred during a live fire training exercise at Tain Bombing Range.  The soldier would be the second from the north of Scotland to be shot in training exercises in recent months. A Black Watch soldier from Fort George was killed in August this year.  Police  shut down the roads surrounding the area and are parked at the entrance to the site.  A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Police are currently in attendance at RAF Tain following a report of an incident.  A call was received about the incident at 5.55pm. Officers are currently at the scene.”  An Army spokeswoman said: “We are aware of an incident at the Tain base, near Inverness.  We will release more information as and when it becomes available. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this point.”  The Tain range is used by tri-service, US Air Force and other Nato air forces for bombing and strafing practice.  It has 18 separate targets suitable for a variety of weapons and different delivery methods.  Typhoons and Tornados from RAF Lossiemouth are the main air users of the range.  Tain is also responsible for Cape Wrath Range near the village of Durness.  Both ranges employ a number of civilian contracted workers who manage the estate, assist in the control tower, target score and deal with ordnance clearance from the range.

Campaign Launched to Save 19th Century Floating Church
It was forged by the fitters, welders and engineers of Clydeside with a little divine inspiration.  Now, a campaign has been launched to safeguard the last remaining relic of a unique floating church frequented by members of the Free Church in the 19th century. The unlikely place of worship has its roots in the Disruption of 1843, when around 450 evangelical ministers of the Church of Scotland broke away.  Although the schism resulted in a vast building scheme as the new faction erected churches and manses of their own, they encountered opposition from landowners in Ardnamurchan.  Undeterred, the Free Church’s members approached the Glen shipyard in the Inverclyde town of Port Glasgow with an uncommon commission. Instead of a steamer or a battleship, they were asked to build a church that could berth in Loch Sunart.  The £1,400 project, hailed as an example of “community power,” was completed by 1846 and the church towed north to the loch and anchored to the seabed. Resembling a corrugated iron shed, it lacked aesthetic charm, but that did not prevent hundreds of people being ushered across the waters by boat from Ardnastang Bay to attend regular services.  The church was driven ashore during a storm and eventually sold for scrap after permission was granted for a new church to be built on land in 1869. Nearly 150 years later, divers have discovered one of the anchors which tethered the church to the seabed, sparking a campaign to have it brought to the surface and preserved. Those behind the £6,000 project want to place the anchor in the village of Strontian, located at the head of the loch, with an exhibition relaying the church’s remarkable if short lived history.  The broadcaster and musician Mary Ann Kennedy, who features in video promoting the campaign, said: “This is the last surviving link in an important piece of history – not just Scottish history, but the history of the Free Church. It’s a unique piece of history. On one hand it’s a rusty old piece of metal – something people had thought disappeared completely. But it connects to the wider world as the Free Church exists worldwide. It’s part of their history as well, not just local history.”  She added: “I’m interested because of the fact it was a local idea. Ordinary people having been refused land to build their own church just take matters into their own hands.  They said if we can’t do it at land we’ll do it at sea. It’s a fantastic example of community power.”  Isobel Baker, local development officer at the Sunart Community Company, said there had been a great of interest generated by the find. She explained: “The church vanished a long time ago, so there is nobody who remembers it in the community now. But it has entered local folklore and there has been a lot of research about it.”  Ms Baker added: “Everybody has always thought it is a really good story. What usually happens is that these stories get forgotten over time, but if we can actually recover this link to the past it gives everyone an excuse to tell the story all over again.”

Scotland’s Heritage of  Innovation is Breeding A New Generation of Tech Talent
For centuries Scotland has been the home of innovation. Names like Logie Baird, Watt and Carnegie are synonymous with Scottish entrepreneurship and success. Between them they have given us the television, the steam engine and America’s steel industry (and a network of public libraries thanks to Andrew Carnegie’s altruistic leanings).  So, what do they all have in common? Scotland. For such a small country it arguably punches way above its weight, and can lay claim to many everyday items the world can’t live without: Penicillin, Grand Theft Auto, ATM machines, golf, radar and the MRI scanner, the bicycle and decimal fractions– the question is, why?  The Royal Society of Chemistry previously held a symposium in Glasgow to examine the what makes Scots tick and examine what we’re made of. Ideas were varied, but education, education, education seems to play as significant a factor as location, location, location. For centuries Scots have had a healthy respect for education, and a sense of kudos and achievement when attaining a place at university. These days, the brightest brains and most innovative products are making their way to Scotland, no matter where in the world they began. Names like Morgan Stanley, Mitsubishi, JP Morgan, Amazon, Outplay Entertainment, Zonefox and Barclays have found a new home in Scotland. Their reasons are easy to understand. Through Scottish Development International, the international arm of Scottish Enterprise, Scotland can woo investors with start-up costs of up to 40 per cent less than in other parts of the UK, with businesses being able to hit the ground running within two weeks of first inquiry. Add to that a vibrant talent pool, diverse and strong company clusters, the greatest concentration of universities in Europe and five international airports within easy reach of most of the population; it’s as well connected a country as you could wish for.  Stephen Flaherty, managing director at JP Morgan, put it simply: “Why invest in Scotland? The primary reason … is talent.”  Earlier this year California-based Cloudwick Technologies picked Glasgow as its new European headquarters. The firm offers data technology services to the likes of Visa and Nike, and needed a strong base with the right kind of people.  What attracted them was Glasgow’s reputation as a centre for the collection, analysis, security and applications of big data. The city has a wealth of big data knowledge and expertise thanks to the Urban Big Data Centre in the University of Glasgow and the Data Lab, which provide training and information on practical applications, as well as the University of Glasgow's data science postgraduate programme.  Given the importance of collaboration and cooperation in data collection and analysis, this concentration of expertise makes Glasgow an ideal location for big data projects.  "We are excited to begin our European journey from Scotland, one of the fastest growing big data ecosystems in the world," said Harshdeep Singh, director of operations for Cloudwick Technology. Not only is Scotland an attractive location for overseas companies looking to invest there is also a vibrant and growing group of innovative companies developing tomorrow’s technologies. Companies like Pure Lifi, Cloudgine, Stream, TV Squared and Sensewhere are all leading the way with new and innovative technologies The 21st century innovators may not have names synonymous – yet - with Scotland, but they are following in a lucrative, well-trodden path by investing in its broad talent base. Scotland continues to benefit from its early scientific reputation and is still considered a natural hot-house of brilliant young minds, eager to challenge authority and the status quo and find new ways in the world.  The future is just beginning.

Older People in Scotland Say ‘Thank You for the Music’

Music is described as a means of escape for many, with fresh research from Royal Voluntary Service identifying the power it has to help older people remember pivotal events from their past.  According to the study conducted by the older people’s charity for their Sing Your Heart Out campaign, over 300,000 over 75 year olds in Scotland find listening to music triggers special memories.  A reminder of the day they met their partner (16 per cent), a special day (10 per cent) or their wedding day (11 per cent) are just some of the memories music has the power to access. Music and singing can be a powerful force in helping older people in many different ways. Studies have demonstrated its power in helping those with dementia, such as stimulating and even unlocking people who may be removed from the present through their illness, and singing can also help to recall memories and emotions and enhance mental performance.  Singing along to a favourite tune can also have positive effects on the health and well-being of older people as well, with 94 per cent saying it lifts their mood, 83 per cent that it keeps their mind active and 64 per cent that it helps them forget their health worries.  Although some memories grow faint over the years, many older people say they that they have forgotten lots of things but they can still remember the words of their favourite song (74 per cent) and that listening to music improves their memory (56 per cent). It’s not just the older people that have been reminiscing about songs that bring back happy memories; some of Royal Voluntary Service Ambassadors have identified their special song and its significance in their life:  Phillip Schofield, said: “My song is Make me Smile by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel. That’s my childhood in a song. What seemed like endless summer days, growing up in Newquay, Cornwall. Playing on the beach, being late for tea having lost track of time and (blissfully) no mobile phones so I couldn’t check in even if I wanted to.”  Wayne Sleep, said: “My first musical memory is Has Anybody Seen My Girl - Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue? I danced to it when I was 8 years old for a competition where all the schools competed in the North East, I entered the song and dance section. The adjudicator gave me first place and she said, “where is this boy’s mother, he must learn ballet?!” I had danced a tap number with my feet turned out like Charlie Chaplin. At the time my mother snuck out the auditorium, however, I did take up ballet which changed my life forever.”  Royal Voluntary Service is calling on choirs to join their Sing Your Heart Out fundraiser to raise money to support vulnerable older people through their love of singing. Choirs of all sizes and experience are encouraged to hold a performance in aid of the charity, with all money raised going towards supporting older people in their local area through services such as lunch clubs, companionship, transport and books on wheels.  Josephine Mill, Head of Support and Development for Royal Voluntary Service said: “Music and singing can have such a great impact on the life of an older person especially as it has the power to transport them back to a happy memory or make them forget about how they are feeling physically or mentally. We’ve seen first-hand how it can lift spirits or help those with dementia through the music related services we run for older people.  We’re asking choirs to sing their hearts out and donate a performance to Royal Voluntary Service to enable us to help more older people in need of support. Every penny raised will help older people to get the best out of life.”

Doctors’ Leaders Sign Deal with Scottish Government Over GP Services

A joint agreement on the future direction of GP services has been signed by doctors’ leaders and the Scottish Government.  The agreement, signed by the British Medical Association (BMA), is being sent to all GPs today.  Ministers said it “sets out a shared vision for how primary care services can be improved, and the role GPs have to play”.  Under the plans, the Scottish Government said it has committed to pay stability for family doctors up to April 2018 while a full review of pay and expenses is to be carried out next year.  Work will also be undertaken with health and social care partnerships and health boards to see which services currently provided by GPs could be transferred to the wider healthcare system. The document will be used as the basis for a re-negotiation of the GP contract between the Scottish Government and the profession.  The agreement comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last month announced an increase in funding for primary care which will see GPs and health centres receive an extra £500 million by 2021.  Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “This agreement is significant because it is the bedrock of a strong partnership between the Scottish Government and the GP profession. We want to improve and redesign the way health services are provided in the community, but this can only be achieved by working in partnership with profession.  We are significantly increasing the amount of investment going into primary care – an extra £500 million by the end of this Parliament. However, as we have made consistently clear, we must also reform the way we provide services.  We are shifting the balance of care away from hospitals and into the community, and GPs have a vital role to play in working with us to make it happen. For our part we will work to improve the attractiveness of general practice as a career, with action on workloads, and steps to create a more sustainable workforce.”  The move is the result of on-going negotiations that began last year.  Dr Alan McDevitt, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said: “Our shared vision for the future of Scottish general practice requires a team approach. It relies on clinical and non-clinical staff working together and to progress this there needs to be discussion that goes beyond the GP contract.  We are mindful that this is an on-going process, that further contractual changes will be necessary and that it will take time to make general practice in Scotland sustainable for the future.”

More Action Urged to Help Veterans Into Work and Education

Scotland’s veterans commissioner has called on the Scottish Government to do more to help former personnel into employment, further and higher education.  A study into those seeking civilian employment, new skills and education, the Veterans Community – Employability, Skills & Learning, sets out a list of recommendations to improve employment and learning opportunities for Scots veterans.  The report suggests how more employers across public and private sectors can use the talents and skills of those who have served in the Armed Forces to benefit their organisations, communities and the wider economy.  Commissioner Eric Fraser also recommends the Scottish Government provides longer-term strategic leadership to ensure the veterans community, including spouses and partners, maximises its potential and fills in skills gaps.  He said: “The veterans community possesses an impressive set of skills and personal qualities that can be so valuable in the workplace and in our communities. There are already opportunities across many sectors in Scotland but more can – and should – be done to maximise the undoubted potential of this group.  The overall skills and educational achievements of service personnel are improving and we need to ensure that across Scotland, we are making the most of these talented people when they leave the military. Doing so will be to the benefit of not only those individuals and their families but also wider society and to Scotland’s economy.”  A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We welcome the Scottish Veterans Commissioner’s new report on employability, skills and learning. The Commissioner was appointed for this very reason – to help us identify issues for us to address.  The report focusses on removing barriers to employment and improving opportunities for the veterans community, including the role of further qualifications and developing additional skills.  We are committed to ensuring the best possible outcomes when moving into the civilian workplace, and will fully consider the report’s findings and recommendations.”

Petrol Cost Rises Due to Weak Pound and Higher Oil Prices

The price of petrol rose more in October than in any month since February 2013, new figures show.  The RAC’s fuel data also revealed that d iesel prices rose at the fastest rate since May 2008.  A combination of a weak pound and rising oil prices led to average petrol prices rising by 4.4 pence per litre, from £1.12 on October 2 to £1.17 on October 31, the motoring organisation said.  Diesel increased by 5.2 pence per litre, ending the month at £1.13.  The average price of both fuels is now at the highest level since July last year.  RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “October 2016 was an historic month for UK pump prices for all the wrong reasons.  The effects of the weak pound have really been felt on the wholesale market, and this, combined with an oil price at nearly double its lowest level in 2016, has put significant upward pressure on wholesale fuel prices.  Retailers have had no choice but to reflect these dramatic increases in the prices they charge at the pumps.  Certainly, we are a long way from the remarkably low fuel prices enjoyed by families and businesses early in 2016, when the average price of unleaded was around £1.02 per litre and diesel was £1.01.”

Whisky Firm Chivas Brothers Plans Huge Expansion of Dumbarton Plant

Whisky producer Chivas Brothers is to invest £40 million in its Dumbarton bottling plant as part of a huge expansion of the site. The proposals include a purpose-built bottling hall and office which are expected to be completed by the end of 2019, providing a "more integrated and engaging environment" for all Chivas Brothers workers.  The expansion is part of "an extensive review" of the company's current operations and would see the closure of the Paisley site in three years' time. The move from Paisley to Kilmalid is scheduled to start in 2018 and by the end of 2019 all Chivas Brothers employees based in Paisley would move over to work at the company's Kilmalid site - which already employs 600 people.  The new integrated operation will build on the company's 80-year history in Dumbarton. Laurent Lacassagne, chairman and chief executive at Chivas Brothers, said: "This £40 million investment will enhance and improve our operations and support the development of our global and iconic brands. This is a project of significant size and scale for Chivas Brothers, which is why which we are announcing our proposal three years in advance.  We want to provide ample opportunity to manage the transition of our business effectively and for our employees to adjust and adapt to working from a new site.  We've been in Dumbarton for over 80 years and in that time we have forged close ties to the area and its people. We are proud to be part of this community and now hope to build an even deeper foundation here." Economy Secretary Keith Brown described the news as "hugely encouraging", but said the loss of the Paisley site would have an impact on the local economy.  Mr Brown said: "The news of £40 million of new investment in Chivas Bros Dumbarton plant is hugely encouraging. It demonstrates confidence in the Scottish drinks industry and will be a boost to the Scottish economy.  While it is encouraging that all employees at Paisley will be offered jobs at the new site, the loss of the Chivas site in Paisley and the effect on the local economy is clearly of concern.  The First Minister spoke to the CEO of Chivas today and the Scottish Government is absolutely committed to working with the company, the local authority and local partners to do what we can to minimise local impact and explore positive opportunities for the Paisley economy for the future."  Trade union Unite, which said it represents around 200 members at Chivas Brothers in Paisley, has called for reassurances in light of the announcement.  Regional officer Pat McIlvogue said: "It's fair to say that the first reaction of our members to this news was shock, closely followed by anxiety.  We believe the company should have made an effort to talk with Unite's workplace representatives at Chivas in Paisley long before they made this huge announcement.  The company has started a period of consultation on these proposals and we will be working with our members to get the answers they need going forward, and we will be looking for reassurances from the company around jobs, working conditions and the logistics of any proposed move."

Theresa May Moves to Keep Her Finger on Brexit Trigger

Theresa May is trying to restore her grip on Brexit as calls mount for an emergency general election to settle the question of British withdrawal from the EU.  The Prime Minister was engaging in an urgent round of telephone diplomacy in the wake of the High Court decision which insisted Parliament must have the final say on Britain triggering divorce deal negotiations with Brussels.  Mrs May is calling European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday in a bid to persuade continental leaders that the explosive legal ruling would not shake her from the pledge to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – which would formally launch Brexit – by April next year.  But the uncertainty created by the High Court judgment was underlined by Tory former chancellor and ardent pro-European Ken Clarke, who told BBC Newsnight he would move to block invoking Article 50, saying: “I will vote against it. I shall stick to my guns. I’m not going to cast a hypocritical vote.”  With the largely pro-EU Commons in the Brexit driving seat pending an appeal of the High Court ruling to the Supreme Court in early December, interim Ukip leader Nigel Farage called on Mrs May to call a snap general election, even though he said such a move would face stiff opposition from Tory and Labour benches alike. The move came as Communities Secretary Sajid Javid gave a scathing response to the judgment as he branded it “unacceptable”. Asked on BBC Question Time if the High Court ruling flew in the face of democracy, Mr Javid said: “Yes, it does.”  He added: “This is an attempt to frustrate the will of the British people, and it is unacceptable.”  Mr Farage said: “The best thing Theresa May could do now would be to call a general election, but it is unlikely that Labour MPs, led by a man they don’t believe in, would be keen on facing the likely electoral oblivion that would follow. It also seems likely that some on the Prime Minister’s own backbenches, who are seeking to overrule the will of the British people, would be unlikely to support an early general election either.  The establishment, in denial after the referendum result, still just don’t get it. The British people are not simply going to let this incredible establishment arrogance lie. I suspect even more radical political change is on the way.”  Under the Fixed Term Parliament Act brought in by the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition, the slated May 2020 general election could be brought forward only if two thirds of MPs vote for it or the Government loses a vote of no confidence and other parties cannot form an alternative administration within 14 days of such a move.  After the High Court ruling rocked Westminster, Brexit Secretary David Davis conceded that an act of Parliament would now be needed to trigger Article 50, with Mrs May’s spokeswoman stating his view was the “logical conclusion” to draw from the High Court judgment.  The spokeswoman said Mrs May was keen to tell other European leaders she would stick to the declared timetable for withdrawal, stating: “She will set out what the process is, which is that we are appealing and that we are carrying ahead and sticking to the timetable we have set out. This judgment is not going to derail that.” Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry told the BBC: “I think that Article 50 is going to happen. I think that in the end Parliament will vote for Article 50 to be triggered. But the really good thing about this judgment … is that the Government will need now to come to Parliament and actually give us some basic terms on which they are going to negotiate Brexit. We do not allow the executive a free hand.” Mr Juncker’s spokesman made it clear to reporters in Brussels that the phone call was taking place at the request of the Prime Minister, not Brussels.  Despite his opposition to triggering Article 50, Mr Clarke said he was “pessimistic” and expected the referendum to result in Britain’s exit from the EU.