Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 374

Issue # 374                                                           Week ending 12th November 2016

Rough Winds Do Shake the Darling Buds of Mrs May by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

It’s getting breezy here in Stornoway and the man on the telly says there is a storm on the way soon. Oh, there sure is, and some bad weather too. When Harold Macmillan spoke about the gathering pace of unexpected events in his famous Winds of Change speech about giving independence to African territories, he had his finger on the pulse. You can see patterns even in the frequency of events that make you go: “Oh heck. I didn’t see that coming.”

What is that Maciver fellow on about? I’ll tell you what is in my bonnet this week and that’s how so much of what we all just take for granted as being just, well, permanent and reliable and strong is nothing but a mere image that withers and fades and will soon be but just a fading memory. I know my dear cousin will take that to mean that I am on the verge of joining the Free Church or the Continuing, but you may have to wait a little longer for that.

Many of us did not expect Brexit. We now know many who voted for Brexit did not expect to actually get Brexit. They just wanted to register “a sort of protest” against the status quo. You got that and Brexit. Now the big question is what does it actually mean. Meanwhile, up and down this land, companies of all sizes are getting notices saying that because of Brexit it will cost them a lot more to do deals with European markets. A few companies here will almost certainly go under because of others wanting to register “a sort of protest”. Be careful what you wish for.

You know they really, really shouldn’t be up there. Neither has the qualifications, the experience nor the personality to carry it off in the professional manner that we expect from the people we put in the spotlight. They don’t look right. Yet Honey G may round off this incredible year by winning X Factor and, by the time you read this, Domhnull Iain Macleoid Trump may have become the most inexperienced leader of the Western World ever to have a finger near the nuclear launch button.

He says that he will transform the Oval Office in the White House if he gets in there. Big plans are already being drawn up to make it more efficient. He still has not decided whether to keep the big Resolute desk at which presidents are often pictured on the phone. It was a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880 and was built from timber from a wrecked British Arctic exploration ship, the Resolute. It was gifted by Queen Victoria. Trump’s people say he may just have a workstation.

A workstation is not a good idea, DJ. A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. And you want to have a workstation?

If Mike Ashley, the controversial director of that football club on the south side of Glasgow, today decides he wants to be First Minister of Scotland, then what? It seems to matter little that he is no politician because he says he has ideas. His views may seem barmy to the rest of us but a portion of the population think he’ll be a breath of fresh air and will make Scotland great again.

His business Sports Direct is profitable and Scots still buy his clothes and sports gear. Like Trump, he has helicopters hoisting him up under the clouds between meetings to discuss his staff’s working conditions which have been described as Dickensian. Mr Trump too uses helicopters although he uses an airliner too, of course. Everyone from Tong, where Trump’s mother was from is like that. Whatever their neighbours get, they want one like it, but bigger.

If Donald Trump has been declared the winner over the pond then I will make a prediction. Other weird things will inevitably happen that we could not imagine even a few months ago. Theresa May’s days are numbered anyway as she is unable to explain the firmness of Brexit. So changes are afoot. Who will be PM? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

Ah, those winds of change again. They will blow. We may not be far into 2017 before we see stories like: “Boris Johnson has flown to Washington for a meeting with President Trump to discuss immigration policy and other issues they have in common. It is understood the agenda will include a discussion on how they can control their hair during interviews in strong winds, according to sources close to Prime Minister Johnson.”

MP Supports Wind Farm At Altnaharra
Local MP Paul Monaghan has given the thumbs up to Creag Riabhach wind farm on Altnaharra Estate.  The long awaited decision by the Scottish Government to go ahead was warmly welcomed by the developers, councillors, community councils and others over a wide area, perhaps reflecting the widespread community benefit envisaged in the planning application which even included free electricity to local residents. Dr Monaghan said: “I think that the Creag Riabhach wind farm is an excellent example of what the communities of Sutherland can achieve if they work together with developers to take forward economic initiatives that are both consistent with our sympathies towards this environment and supportive of economic development in very rural areas.”  The 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 over twenty-five years. With the associated trust funds in local hands, as expected, private businesses of the area could benefit, said the MP.  One possible drawback of a 22-turbine wind farm sitting on open hillside is the visual intrusion it might bring. The quiet, single track road from Lairg to Altnaharra is a great favourite with cyclists who appreciate the wide open spaces, a feature of the landscape.  “I think the visual impact will be minimal,” said Paul Monaghan. “I have visited the site and only a very small number of turbines are visible from the road and even then only for a relatively short distance. The North Coast 500 is bringing fresh interest and tourism activity right across Ross-shire, Sutherland and Caithness, and all of that is very welcome. But we need to obviously balance that against other industries that contribute to our local economy, some of which are renewable energy schemes. So I think the North Coast 500 and renewable schemes, when they're done in a way that’s consistent with the communities’ wishes and aspirations and are environmentally sympathetic, can exist together.”  A disadvantage of electricity generated by wind is the difficulty of storing the electricity when the wind doesn’t blow. Dr Monaghan said there are some interesting experiments going on at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, which involves using electricity to convert sea water into hydrogen and then storing the hydrogen for later burning, then converting back into electricity. “It’s still at the experimental stage,” he said, “but once the processes are refined, it could very well be viable”.  We also have tidal power schemes in the Pentland Firth, and they are very consistent indeed because we know exactly what the tides are going to be doing, for thousands of years ahead.  So we’ve got a very good understanding of what sort of power can be produced by them.  And I am also working with the Japanese, looking at the possibilities of pumped sea water storage.” This is quite novel, he said, explaining that though there are a few pump storage schemes in Scotland they all rely on fresh water.  So, again, there are a number of alternatives there, but if we had a little bit of each of them, what we would find is that we had a very consistent energy supply that was entirely green and entirely renewable.”

Bowel Movement Gathering Momentum

The bowel movement is sweeping Scotland with more than 500,000 people doing their bowel screening test every year.  Although the figure is higher than ever before, the Scottish Government’s Detect Cancer Early campaign is targeting those who put off taking the test, in a bid to save more lives.  Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Scotland, but it is the most treatable, and can often be cured, if found early.  Statistics show that the likelihood of surviving bowel cancer is 14 times higher if detected at an early stage compared to a late stage, and the bowel screening test – offered to people aged 50 to 74 – remains the most effective way of finding the disease early.  One woman who is thankful for doing her test is Liz Harris, 64 from Rutherglen, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in November 2014. The mother of three, who has since been successfully treated, has shared her experience in a bid to encourage those who put off taking the test not to delay doing it. Liz routinely returned her bowel screening test in October 2014 and was then asked to re-take it as the result wasn’t conclusive. She had no worries at that stage, as she wasn’t experiencing any symptoms. Following a colonoscopy and a CT scan, Liz was told she had bowel cancer and went through surgery in January 2015 where a tumour was removed from her bowel.  Liz has recently received the all-clear and credits this to her cancer being found early through screening. Speaking about her experience, Liz said: "I have recovered well since the operation and I am feeling great. I have been walking daily and taking exercise classes to keep fit.  I’m a very positive person and although the last year or so hasn’t been the easiest, I’m just so glad it was found early and I can now look forward to spending time with my children and grandchildren."  To encourage others to join the bowel movement, Liz teamed up with comedian Fred MacAulay – an advocate of bowel screening – to make a short video highlighting the importance of doing your bowel test.  Liz said: "I’m happy to do anything to raise awareness of the bowel screening test as it saved my life.  It’s not pleasant but it takes minutes and is done in the privacy of your own bathroom. I think everyone who is eligible should take up the offer of bowel screening.

Great Tapestry of Scotland: SBC to Announce Decision in December
Scottish Borders Council (SBC)will make a decision regarding the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre in December.  At the end of September, following the presentation of a business case for siting the visitor centre in Galashiels town centre, councillors initially agreed to defer a decision to November. Now following the decision being pushed back again, a meeting which will also be open to the public, is scheduled to be held on Thursday, December 15.  Much of the work required to enable elected members to make a fully informed decision is now complete. However there remains some work to be signed off by Borders Railway Blueprint partners including the Scottish Government. We are confident this will be completed this month and can now confirm a report will be considered at the December meeting of the Council. Councillor David Parker, Leader of Scottish Borders Council, said: “The decision elected members will take regarding the future of the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre is a significant one, which will be subject to a great deal of public scrutiny.  It is therefore entirely appropriate that we have as much detail available to us as possible when we make our final decision and consider the options available for the project. We now believe that decision can be made next month.  This will enable all due diligence work to be completed and the Cabinet Secretary to consider the release of the £2.5m committed to this project, which forms a key component of the Borders Railway Blueprint.”  The Galashiels proposal would see the town’s Post Office building brought back into use and the former Poundstretcher building demolished and a new build erected, with a connection made between the two.

Smiles As Wide As the Clyde As Shipyard Jobs Secured

The task of completing the new fleet of frigates to be built on the Clyde will fall to shipyard workers who have not yet been born, the UK Defence Secretary has said. Sir Michael Fallon said that the decision to press ahead with the construction of the “most advanced combat ships on the planet” will keep shipbuilding jobs on the Clyde secure for the next two decades. Steel will be cut for the first of the eight Type 26 global combat ships next summer, with the project expected to last until 2035, meaning that it will be the next generation of engineers and shipwrights who finish the job. The Defence Secretary announced the news as he visited BAE Systems’ shipyard in Govan yesterday, saying that it was “Great news for the Clyde”. Addressing workers inside one of cavernous fabrication sheds where the work will take place, the cabinet member said: “It is good news for Scottish industry, and for Scottish taxpayers. This is an important step towards securing billions of pounds of investment in shipbuilding on the Clyde, securing hundreds of high-skilled jobs for at least the next two decades and hundreds more in the supply chain across our country.”  Sir Michael added: “Having met the apprentices on my way in this is also good news for Scottish skills. For centuries Govan shipbuilders exported their reputation to the furthest corners of the globe.So investing now in the most advanced combat ships on the planet, we will keep you where you belong - at the heart of the UK’s warship industry. I hope it will also inspire the next generation of shipwrights with this work programme through to 2035.” Fears over the future of the yard were raised earlier this year after the work was delayed, with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon previously accusing the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of breaking a promise to workers there ahead of the 2014 independence referendum. Plans to build the new frigates were set out in the Government’s 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, although the project has been scaled back from earlier proposals to construct 13 ships. BAE Systems’ managing director Nigel Whitehead said the work will be “a significant programme for the next two decades, manufacturing outstanding ships”  The announcement was welcomed by Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale and Brendan O’Hara MP, the SNP’s Defence spokesperson, although both continued to criticise the delay in announcing the project. Unions were also critical of the uncertainty which had dogged the fleet-building programme, with Gary Cook, GMB Scotland Organiser, saying that the UK Government had to be “dragged” to make the announcement.  However, he called the decision “massively welcome news”, adding: “This confirms a generation of skilled employment that will support local communities and generate hundreds of millions for the Scottish economy until the 2030s.”

Comment - R
Absolutely great news for the yard, Govan and Scotland with the continuation of shipbuilding hopefully guaranteed. There will be many happy families secure in the knowledge that the shipbuilding goes on. This along with the continued success at Fergusons down the river is just the tonic needed for Scotland. However the contract between the Ministry of Defence and BAE Systems hasn't yet been signed. There are details to be finalised. The announcement has been about an "agreement in principle". The price tag is being left very vague.  All 13 replacement frigates were to be Clyde-built, the Scots were told. But now, er, not so much.

Nicola Sturgeon to Consider 'Actively Opposing' Brexit Judgment Appeal

The Scottish Government could become involved in the legal challenge resulting from the Brexit vote, the First Minister revealed as she described the High Court's verdict that MPs must consent to the triggering of Article 50 as "hugely significant".  Nicola Sturgeon said ministers will now "actively consider" if the Holyrood administration should become involved in the case.  Ruth Davidson claimed the prospect of a second vote on independence is damaging confidence and is the 'biggest threat to Scotland's economy at the moment' Ruth Davidson claimed the prospect of a second vote on independence is damaging confidence and is the 'biggest threat to Scotland's economy at the moment'  She was speaking after the UK Government confirmed it would appeal the result.  In one of the most important constitutional cases in generations, three senior judges ruled that Prime Minister Theresa May does not have the power to use the royal prerogative to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to start the two-year process of negotiating Brexit without the prior authority of the Westminster Parliament.  Ms Sturgeon said: "The judgment this morning I don't think is a huge surprise for anyone that followed the case, but it is hugely significant and it underlines the total chaos and confusion at the heart of the UK Government.  We should remember that their refusal to allow a vote in the House of Commons is not some matter of high constitutional principal, it's because they don't have a coherent position and they know that if they take their case to the House of Commons that will be exposed."  Asked by Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald if the Scottish Government would "actively oppose" the appeal by the UK Government when the case reaches the Supreme Court, Ms Sturgeon said: "We will be looking at the judgment very carefully and yes we will actively consider whether there is a case for the Scottish Government to become participants in that case."  She added: " The job of this Government is to protect Scotland's interests, Scotland voted to remain in the EU and my job is therefore to protect our place in Europe and in the single market as far as I possibly can.  "SNP MPs in the House of Commons will certainly not vote for anything that undermines the will or the interest of the Scottish people."  Ms Sturgeon, speaking at First Minister's Questions, also used the weekly clash to attack Ruth Davidson after the Tory leader claimed the prospect of a second vote on independence is the "biggest threat to Scotland's economy at the moment".  The SNP leader insisted instead that "dragging Scotland out of the European Union against our will" poses the greatest economic danger.  She added of Ms Davidson: " For her to talk about constitutional uncertainty is beyond words."  The Tory leader began the exchange at Holyrood by attacking the Scottish Government over its plans to increase council tax charges for those living in the most expensive properties. Ms Davidson then went on to tell the First Minister that Scots will pay more in income tax under the SNP, while businesses are also paying more in rates.  The Conservative said: "Here is the SNP plan. Higher council tax, higher business rates, higher income tax and a second referendum which is damaging confidence. We all want economic growth but how does that plan deliver it?" Ms Sturgeon said: " This is when I start to wonder if Ruth Davidson is my secret FMQs agent - that she can get up today of all days and talk about constitutional uncertainty frankly beggars belief.  This is the day when her party has just been overturned in the courts, when the courts have said their intention to trigger Article 50 without a vote in Parliament is illegal. For her to talk about constitutional uncertainty is beyond words."  The SNP leader continued: " Let me make clear the job of this Government. The job of this Government is to make sure we look after public services, it's to make sure we bring forward proposals for tax that are reasonable, balanced and progressive, that allow us to protect those public services and allow us to make sure we're supporting our economy to grow, particularly through our support for the smallest businesses in our country. Our job also is to make sure we're standing up for the interests of this country and doing everything that we can to prevent the party that Ruth Davidson is a member of from dragging Scotland out of the European Union against our will, because that is the biggest risk to our economy and that is what Ruth Davidson really needs to wake up to." Ms Sturgeon argued that reforms of the council tax, which will see the near decade long freeze lifted with councils able to increase the levy by up to 3%, are "responsible, balanced and progressive".

Brexit Not Irrevocable, Says Peer Behind Article 50
The author of Article 50 has said the UK could choose to remain in the European Union even after exit negotiations begin.   John Kerr said the UK could still legally choose to reject a Brexit after the legislation that begins formal negotiations is invoked.  The Scottish cross-bench peer, who wrote Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, also renewed calls for parliament or the public have another say on the referendum.  Lord Kerr told the BBC: "It is not irrevocable - you can change your mind while the process is going on.  During that period, if a country were to decide actually we don't want to leave after all, everybody would be very cross about it being a waste of time, they might try to extract a political price, but legally they couldn't insist that you leave."

MoD to Close Eight Military Sites Across Scotland
Eight military sites in Scotland will close in the next 15 years, cutting the defence estate by 20%.  Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said major Army bases at Fort George near Ardersier, north of Inverness, Glencorse Barracks near Penicuik, Midlothian, and Redford Cavalry and Infantry Barracks in Edinburgh are among more than 56 sites to shut across the UK.  Naval base MoD Caledonia in Rosyth, Fife, Condor Airfield, near Arbroath, Angus, Craigiehall Barracks in Edinburgh and Forthside Barracks in Stirling will also close. Sir Michael told the House of Commons military bases would instead be at “fewer, better locations” in Scotland.  He said: “In Scotland this strategy will result in investment being concentrated into fewer, better locations.  Our proposals will release eight sites over the next 15 years.  We will invest in main centres of specialisation.”  But Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the closure of eight of Scotland’s 22 military facilities is a “huge blow” for the country.  He said: “These brutal cuts spell the near total removal of the Army from large parts of Scotland and the end of the Royal Navy’s presence in Fife.  It is deeply distressing to witness the announcement to close truly historic sites, such as Glencorse, home to the Army for almost 150 years, and Fort George, a garrison for almost 250 years.  The decision to cut these historic ties will be met with understandable anger in Fife, Midlothian, the Highlands and throughout Scotland. These cuts will have far-reaching economic and social impacts, placing jobs at risk, both directly and indirectly.  Despite our best efforts, the UK Government has continually refused to engage with the Scottish Government ahead of these decisions being taken. It is vital that we now understand what this means in terms of personnel numbers and I call on the MoD to guarantee that Army units are not further diminished or moved out of Scotland altogether.  Scottish ministers and local communities have clearly set out our opposition to these cuts – it is deeply disappointing that Scotland’s views have not been taken on board.”  Major General Alastair Dickinson, the director of Army basing and infrastructure, speaking at Dreghorn Barracks in Edinburgh said: “The announcement is with regards to the consolidating of the defence estate. The estate at the moment is too large for what we need as a military.  We are spending our money quite thinly across the estate. What we need to do is consolidate it down and spending the amount of money that we have got on the right estate, thereby improving it.”  He added: “It’s incredibly sad and we’re very conscious of this but the reality is – let’s take Fort George as an example – we’ve got 21st century soldiers. They need 21st century equipment. They need 21st century training and they need 21st century accommodation.  Fort George is a great monument. It’s a great tourist attraction, but it’s a listed building and it’s very difficult to get it to the point where we can have 21st century living and as a result we have got to move.  From a military sense I think this is the right thing to do. We’ve got an estate that’s too big. We’ve got to do something about it and we are doing. The way that this will work is that we will use three hubs of specialism and centres of capability. What we’ll be able to do is put two or three regiments and the same sort of individuals together.”  SNP defence spokesman Brendan O’Hara, said: “These announcements are yet another worrying blow and worse than expected.  The UK Government has made this another bleak day for defence in Scotland. Defence has already been cut to the bone in Scotland – with the country suffering disproportionately for years – so these new cuts are unacceptable.  The communities in all the areas hit are going to be faced with economic uncertainty as these bases wind down.”

Thousands of Jobs At Risk Over Plans to Close Military Sites

Plans to close more military sites throws thousands of jobs into doubt, unions warned. Another 56 Ministry of Defence sites are to close, including the historic Fort George in Scotland.  The plans are part of the Government’s Defence Review that aims to cut thousands of civilian posts under huge budget cuts.  The Public and Commercial Services union said the cuts will severely hit the support available to armed forces and will further damage morale.  The union will oppose closures and job losses, adding that the MoD should learn from previous mistakes if it sells off land for housing.  PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We are opposed to these closure plans that throw the future into doubt for thousands of staff.  The MoD has a poor track record on selling off land for homes and this again exposes how the Tories are simply paying lip service to the urgent need to address the housing crisis.”  Unite national officer Mike McCartney said: “In many instances the bases earmarked for closure are at the heart of their local communities providing a source of decent and secure employment.  Their closure will be a severe blow to the local economies where they are located and the people whose livelihoods depend on them.  Over the coming weeks we will be analysing the detail of the proposed base closures and pressing the MoD to step back from its brutal base closure programme.”

Postie’s Post by Paul Blackman
Before I got the Skerray posting job I did some holiday cover in Bettyhill. I remember my first day setting off with “John the Post”, notebook in hand, up Strathnaver to Kinbrace, to meet the early morning train with all the newspapers. They had to be sorted in the back of the postbus and delivered on the way back down, along with milk, messages and prescriptions, not forgetting the mail. Never mind the NC 500, in those days it was the Post Bus Rally Run — especially in the winter. That was twenty-four years ago when it was all paper dockets to sign, soggy with ink running on wet days, hanging on for dear life on windy days ensuring those precious pieces of paper were not ripped out of your hand by an unexpected gust of wind, never to be seen again.  There have been some changes for the better over the years. Posties now have to have some knowledge of ICT as they upgrade from one PDA (Personal Delivery Assistant) to the next. The latest version has now arrived. It is a fancy electronic device which you see us carrying around, but even the latest version is only as good as the phone signal it receives. Sometimes it’s quite a challenge to get it to log in/on depending on where you are at the time. It is a great machine. It can tell where the postie is at any time (if he’s in signal) and it can automatically send a text to the customer when a tracked parcel has been delivered, or not as the case may be. This is definitely a change for the better. Whether the rest of my colleagues agree with me is a different matter. After a day’s training in Inverness, it was my responsibility to train them to use this new device. So if there are any problems with the PDA all the moaning and complaining is directed at me as a workplace coach. This is when I get into Thurso in the afternoon after I have emptied thirty post-boxes along the way, starting from Tongue. Sometimes my patience has worn a little thin by the time I get there.  The main change in the Skerray duty is that it is no longer a postbus route. When I started posting it was a popular service used by many. The postbus allowed me my fifteen minutes of fame — well, one minute anyway. On a very wintery day back in 2006 I picked up Griff Rhys Jones at Skerray Post Office and did a whole afternoon of filming with him which resulted in one minute of TV time on the “mountain” programme and a whole page in the mountain book. I still get people saying to me “I saw you on TV last night”, so maybe all the airings of the programme at one minute a time have added up to fifteen minutes by now, or will do eventually. Anyway in the book Griff mentioned the great service the postbus did for the community which he witnessed first-hand and because of that he predicted it wouldn’t last much longer, as good things usually don’t. He was right: it was phased out a few years later, in 2009.

Sturgeon demands Holyrood's voice is heard on Brexit trigger

Nicola Sturgeon is to ask the Supreme Court to rule that the UK cannot begin formal Brexit talks without approval from Holyrood.  The First Minister confirmed the Scottish Government’s most senior law officer, the Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC, will apply to make representations in the case.  Ms Sturgeon said that if Westminster was to vote on a law to trigger EU withdrawal, she believed Holyrood should also have its say, through a legislative consent motion (LCM).

Doubts Remain Over Future of Highland Military Tattoo
The spectacular Highland Military Tattoo continued to hang in the balance last night after crunch talks over its future. An emergency meeting at Fort George ended inconclusively yesterday, but there was fresh hope that the pageant will survive next year.  Board members recently revealed that poor ticket sales and a funding crisis had cast a shadow over its future. Event organisers previously reported that they were facing a £40,000 loss in the last three years and its survival hinged on financial backers. Speaking after lengthy board discussions at the doomed barracks, tattoo director Major General Seymour Munro said: “We had an extremely positive meeting and we’ve been extremely grateful for all the support of a number of public bodies and businesses and other organisations.  We’ve also had positive messages from many performers and from many people who have attended the tattoo. We’ve decided we need further discussions between now and December 1 when we will make a announcement.  There are a few further discussions to be held before we feel it sensible to take a final decision.”  Those talks will involve the board, local public bodies and sponsors. The biggest tattoo outside of Edinburgh has been held at Fort George for the past three years. Previously held at the Northern Meeting Park in Inverness, it was scrapped after 60 years in 2011 due to cost-cutting measures, before being reborn in 2014.  Maj Gen Munro said the fort’s future would not affect the tattoo in the short term.  “Indeed,” he said, “we saw that we must grasp the opportunities of the military leaving the fort of devolving the tattoo in a number of ways and perhaps ensuring that there is considerable benefit to the local area by continuing to hold the tattoo.  It’s sad that the military will be leaving the fort in a number of years time but we in the tattoo must seize the opportunities to make the best use of the fort going forward.”  A number of the tattoo’s directors have pledged personal guarantees against loss. However, they have also emphasised the need for a strong commitment from sponsors. Recent funding amounted to £30,000 from the public sector, £43,000 from commercial sponsors and £33,000 in “help in kind” from other private sector backers.

Woman Who Opposed Trump’s North-est Golf Course Says She ‘Feels Sorry’ for America
A former north-east councillor who opposed the billionaire’s plans for the multimillion-pound Menie Estate golf course last night said she felt “sorry” for America. Debra Storr, who stepped down as a councillor for the Ellon and District ward in 2012, was an outspoken critic of the Trump International Golf Links at Balmedie.  Speaking after the result of the Presidential election, she said she was fearful of what might happen under Mr Trump’s rule.  She said: “Donald Trump is a deeply-flawed individual and we have seen his impact on the people of Menie. I fear that his lack of empathy for people will lead to him being an appalling leader.  I’m sorry for America.”  Ms Storr was a vocal opponent of the plans for the course from its early stages. Along with Councillor Martin Ford and five other elected members, she voted against the proposals when they initially came before Aberdeenshire Council in November 2007.  The following November, she would step down from the Liberal Democrats group in protest to become an independent councillor.  Along with three other former Lib Dem colleagues, Mr Ford and councillors Sam Coull and Paul Johnston, she would form the Democratic Independent group. Ms Storr did not seek re-election in 2012 due to her own concerns about her new job as a planner for a renewable energy company creating a conflict of interest.

Final Hurdle Cleared for Orkney’s New £60million Hospital
Work is set to start of Orkney’s new £60million hospital in “the very near future” after the final hurdle for the project was cleared.  Councillors granted the major new facility planning permission yesterday – paving the way for the scheme to proceed.  The project is the biggest in NHS Orkney’s history and will replace Kirkwall’s Balfour Hospital and other health services in the islands.  The health board hope that the new facility will cut the dependence on sending patients to the Scottish mainland for treatment.  Planning committee members gave their blessing with one minor recommended adjustment involving moving a planned pedestrian path to protect a buffer zone around the hospital.  The plans were submitted by contractor Robertson Capital Projects who were appointed to the development earlier this year.  The hospital has previously won the backing of the Scottish Government which approved the health board’s business case last month.  Cathie Cowan, NHS Orkney chief executive, said: “The board is delighted that Robertson has achieved this important milestone, which, with the approval of the board’s full business case by Scottish Government last month, allows us to finalise the contract in the coming weeks.  We look forward to seeing a start on site in the very near future.”  The new building, which will be established on the outskirts of Kirkwall, will include the relocated Skerryvore and Heilendi GP practices, as well as King Street dental services.  The health board and Robertson are now working on finalising legal and commercial agreements in order to reach financial close.  Neil McCormick, managing director, Robertson Capital Projects said: “We are delighted that the planning application was presented with recommendation for approval at today’s meeting. Our team has worked extensively with Orkney Islands Council planning officials since our appointment as preferred bidder, and I believe today’s formal approval reflects those positive engagement efforts. Working in close collaboration with NHS Orkney we have continued to foster positive relationships with local stakeholders as part of our commitment to community benefits, and we look forward to continuing this close working relationship with all parties as we deliver a building of the highest design and quality standards for the NHS and Orcadian community.”

Nicola Sturgeon Demands Answers on Defence Cuts
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has claimed that Fort George could be “run down” before its closure date in 2032.  The SNP leader issued the warning yesterday as she demanded answers over the future of the base in a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May.  Veterans Minister Keith Brown had earlier reaffirmed his anger about the lack of consultation prior to Monday’s announcement that the Highland garrison will close in 15 years.  Ms Sturgeon’s letter states: “These closures are a stark illustration of the priorities of a UK Government that favours retention of nuclear weapons over investment in conventional military bases.” She told Mrs May that Scotland’s defence footprint had been “hollowed out” by successive defence cuts and that the latest round was “brutal.”  The first minister claimed the Westminster government had shown “disregard for defence commitments” made in recent years.  Demanding data on the potential economic impact of closures, Ms Sturgeon said: “The effect on local jobs or services does not even appear to be a consideration in decision making.”  She added: “I am concerned that bases will be run down long before closure dates so we need to understand the true dates for drawdown and what investment will go into sites before closure.”  Referencing the letter in the Scottish Parliament, Keith Brown told colleagues that previous UK Government reassurances of “stability and certainty” had “for the most part been disregarded.”  A UK Government spokesman said: “This review puts Scotland at the heart of our plans to create a flexible, modern fighting force. It’s about equipping our armed forces with the facilities they need. Hundreds of millions of pounds are being invested in our key bases at HMNB Clyde, RAF Lossiemouth and the Army’s command centre at Leuchars Station.”  He said the number of service personnel in Scotland would continue to rise and the 19% reduction in the defence footprint was “substantially less than the 30% reduction across the UK as a whole.”