Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 376

Issue # 376                                                 Week ending 26th November 2016

Is the Shape of A Toblerone Really An Ecumenical Matter?
By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

What makes them guys in Switzerland think they can fiddle with our beloved Toblerones? That adored and most divine perfect row of munchable triangles shaped my childhood and that of millions of others up and down this land has been transmogrified. The chocolate bar now looks awful. It’s all less chunky, too geometric, less packed with chocolatey goodness, more airy - like the roof frame of a kit house, a very brown one built of mahogany timbers, obviously. What are they trying to do?

We must take to the streets. Now. Then again, there’s another programe on the telly about Donald Trump. I really can’t be bothered making placards and marching up and down outside Tesco in Stornoway demanding a return to chunky Toblerones. Actually, I was never that fond of them anyway. They were just too angular and, well, big. They hurt the roof of my gob. When I think about it, I really detested Toblerones and I never bought them for myself but they got foisted on me each Christmas by uncaring relatives.

What they have done is a crime against lovers of isosceles-sided sweetmeats everywhere. Wow, where did that word come from? No, not sweetmeats; that means goodies. I don’t think I’ve used the word isosceles since I last did geometry with our maths teacher George Moody on third year. It came into my head as I was trying to think of the word for a triangle with two equal sides. Not that I can find a ruler or even a pair of compasses right now but it looks as if it might have three even sides. That would be an ecumenical matter. Nah, that’s not the word.

I’m thinking of the scene in Father Ted where Father Jack is taught in vain not to shout “Drink” or to swear when the bishop asks a question. Instead he is coached to reply with the ubiquitous phrase: “That would be an ecumenical matter.” Three even sides of a triangle is like ecumenical. Equilateral? That’s it. A triangle with even sides is equilateral. Mr Moody, whatever you did worked well - and it is still working.  Though for the life of me I can’t remember what that Greek cove Pythagoras and his theorem was all about but it might come to me next time I have a Toblerone.

One magazine raged: “The new Toblerone bar is a symbol of 2016. Fewer peaks with longer, more depressing plateaus.” The best comment about the trials and tribulation over the triangular treat was from the Swiss president, Mr Johann Schneider-Ammann. He said he was unaware of any chocolate-related changes but he was proud of his country's produce. That is like Nicola Sturgeon saying she was proud of Scotch Whisky but never touched the stuff and knew nothing about whatsoever about how it is doing nowadays and was putting zero effort into finding out. Poor show, Johanny boy.

Which whiff of a wee nippy sweetie reminds me Loganair is to part company with Flybe. It could be great news for us occasional travellers who like to be emboldened with something in a glass. Loganair has cut back on in-flight drams previously served on the Stornoway to Glasgow route. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth but now that Loganair boss Jonathan Hinkles says they intend to improve the service on their tod, perhaps it’s time to have a rethink on drams in the sky. They could even lure us with cocktails. Think of the marketing. Shakes on a plane, Jonny boy?

Eating and drinking at Yuletide is mandatory. It’s in the Bible that you must, apparently. We had a relative who used to say that you must give thanks for any goodies you get over the festive period because of Psalm 119. That, of course, was because she was a bit tight and spent as little as possible on presents. However, by gently reminding us of the psalm, she knew she was sure to get applauded for giving me and my brother a solitary orange each and a measly couple of penny chews. Bah, humbug.

Billy Connolly had a great yarn about Toblerone and how difficult it was to eat in polite company. He reckoned the makers shaped it the way it was because they had the Swiss Alps as inspiration. Yeah, just like we have tattie scones carefully sculpted to look like the outline of Ben Nevis. He also spoke of the pain he suffered when he ate a Toblerone and the pointy bit pressed against the roof of his mouth. He reckoned that made early Toblerone munchers howl in agony and that that was how yodelling was invented.

Edinburgh Military Tattoo to Give Clan Members Starring Role in 2017 Production
Clan members from around the world will get the chance of a starring role in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo for the first time.  Dozens of clansmen and clanswomen will parade up the Royal Mile and onto the castle esplanade at the opening of each performance. At least two different clans will be represented each night of the three-week run of the event during the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival.  Friends and relatives will be urged to book up for performances which will be designated for different clans, while chiefs are expected to stage their own special celebratory events on around the day of the show they are involved in.  Tattoo chiefs also want all audience members to wear “tartan clothes, headgear and accoutrements” to the showpiece next year to help embrace the theme.  They hope the initiatives will spark a new wave of interest in the national fabric, as well as raising awareness of the Tattoo among the diaspora.  Brigadier David Allfrey, producer of the Tattoo, said: “We’ve been in conversation for some months with the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs, who preside over the network of clans, to come up with these plans. There is always a bit of a challenge with people being able to come to the Tattoo when they want, but we’re trying to make it easier for them. What we’re doing is similar to the work we’ve done in the past with travel companies.  The plan is for the clan chief and a retinue to patrol up the Lawnmarket and Castlehill to the esplanade where they will be invited to join in with the opening ceremony on the esplanade and be very much part of the those initial stages.  We’re inviting everybody who comes to the Tattoo to dress up. It will be great fun and a tremendous fashion parade, from the most traditional to the avant garde. The only crime will be not dressing in tartan.”  The “Splash of Tartan” theme for next year’s show has been developed to coincide with a Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, which will be targeted at the 50 million people around the world who have Scottish ancestry. Around 213,000 people visitors a year to Scottish carry out ancestral research.  Key elements of the campaign, being led by tourism agency VisitScotland, include helping people with Scottish ancestry to trace their clan to specific parts of Scotland, such as the MacLeods of Skye or the MacNeils of Barra, key episodes like the Jacobite Risings and the Battle of Culloden, and pivotal figures like Bonnie Prince Charlie and Rob Roy MacGregor.  Brigadier Allfrey added: “In the coming year, when Scotland’s heritage and history are once again to the fore, Splash of Tartan offers a fabulous opportunity for everyone to get involved, dress the part and join in the celebration and pageantry.  We’re looking to get the word out, not just across Scotland and the United Kingdom, but to everyone abroad who is linked to Scotland - in whatever way. Kilts, trews, sporrans, plaids, hose and bonnets will all be de rigueur.  We hope the Tattoo will provide a perfect excuse for families to come together at the show and further afield. We want everyone to celebrate their links with Scotland by looking the part in August.”  Sir Malcolm MacGregor, chief of the Clan Gregor, and a direct descendant of Rob Roy MacGregor, said: “Our partnership with The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has been a long-time coming. It’s an excellent way to propel the fascinating history of Scotland’s clan heritage to the fore, and encourage others to explore their Scottish roots, of which there are many.  The clans and families are steeped in history, but it is within a modern context and making it relevant for today that matters.  It’s going to be a wonderful sight to witness people from the Highlands, Lowlands and Borders of Scotland and the world, descending on the iconic grounds of Edinburgh Castle, tartan aplenty.”  VisitScotland’s chief executive Malcolm Roughead said: “Yet again, the Tattoo provides more than just a stage for stunning entertainment but a platform for tourism in Scotland.  The Year of History Heritage and Archaeology will mark an important milestone for us all as we take a look back into our fascinating roots and explore yesteryear traditions.  The ancestral market has huge potential for the Scottish economy, with millions of Scottish descendants across the globe. We hope that Splash of Tartan will ignite interest even further in this area and encourage people to explore their family roots, traditions and customs.”

Fifa to Probe All Acts of Remembrance During Football Game
Fifa is considering far wider charges against the Scottish and English Football Associations as part of its probe into the wearing of armbands with poppies on them during last week’s World Cup qualifier at Wembley.  Players from both teams wore the armbands despite being warned by Fifa that it would contravene an International Football Association Board rule against equipment with commercial, personal, political or religious logos and messages.  World football’s governing body has now confirmed that its disciplinary committee is also investigating almost every aspect of what the FA and SFA did to mark the Armistice Day match.  A Fifa spokesman said: “The disciplinary committee decided to open proceedings against the FA and the Scottish FA in relation to a series of incidents reported after the match, including the wearing of arm bands with a poppy symbol, several cases of fan misconduct, a non-approved pre-match ceremony, the display of flags by fans with poppies and members of the armed forces, the display of poppy symbols on the big screen and T-shirts displaying poppies placed on seats.  These incidents potentially constitute breaches of the laws of the game 2016/2017, the Fifa disciplinary code, the Fifa stadium safety and security regulations, the regulations of the 2018 Fifa World Cup and the guidelines for Fifa match officials.”  Fifa announced on Thursday that the disciplinary process had started in relation to the armbands, which was widely expected given its firm stance in the build-up to the game and the recent spate of decisions its disciplinary committee has taken against other member associations for crowd-related issues or matters of protocol. But confirmation that the FA and SFA could be in much greater trouble is likely to enflame an already heated dispute.  The FA marked the occasion by displaying poppies on the large video screens inside and outside the stadium, distributed poppy t-shirts, held a minute’s silence before the game and asked a lone bugler to play the Last Post, as well as inviting hundreds of servicemen and women.  Both the English and Scottish FAs dispute Fifa’s interpretation of the poppy as a political symbol and believe it is simply a mark of respect for those who have died serving their country.  Cases of “fan misconduct” are believed to refer to objects that were thrown onto the pitch and the booing of both national anthems.  Prior to the game, the home nations both said they were confident they would be able to successfully appeal against any Fifa punishment, particularly as they believe a clear precedent was set in 2011 when England, Scotland and Wales were allowed to wear arm bands with poppies on them during three November friendlies.  But senior figures at Fifa - which is now led by president Gianni Infantino and general secretary Fatma Samoura - have signalled that they are determined to enforce the letter of the law when it comes to banning what they see as external distractions and potentially inflammatory messages.  Earlier this month, the Iranian FA was fined £37,000 for asking fans to sing religious chants and wear black during a World Cup qualifier against South Korea which was played on a holy day in the Islamic country. Several other nations have been fined for the behaviour of their supporters in recent months.  Given the potential list of charges, a points deduction is possible, although it is understood that a fine is the more likely outcome, with a decision expected next month.

Scottish Government Allowed to Intervene in Brexit Battle, Supreme Court Rules

Both the Scottish and Welsh Governments are to be allowed to intervene in a court battle over how the Brexit process should be formally triggered, the Supreme Court has announced. The UK Government is appealing against a High Court ruling that Prime Minister Theresa May must seek MPs’ approval to trigger the process of taking Britain out of the European Union.  Counsel for the Scottish Government is being invited by the Supreme Court justices to address the court on the relevance of points of Scots law so far as they do not form part of the law of England and Wales.  The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, which describes itself as “fighting for the rights and welfare of some of the most vulnerable and under-represented workers in the UK”, has also been given permission to make submissions to the court.  The Attorney General for Northern Ireland has made a reference to the court on devolution issues and did not need permission to intervene.  The historic legal challenge over Brexit was brought by investment fund manager and philanthropist Gina Miller and Deir Dos Santos, a hairdresser, with other “concerned citizens”.  Three senior High Court judges ruled that the Prime Minister does not have 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 Parliament.  Mrs May and her ministers are now asking the Supreme Court to overturn that unanimous decision.  Their appeal is due to be heard by 11 judges between December 5 and 8, with a judgment expected in the new year.

One Year Since the First Syrian Refugee Arrivals
Scotland has welcomed more than 1,200 Syrian refugees since the first flight arrived in Glasgow one year ago.  Equalities Secretary Angela Constance today thanked the people of Scotland for their support in what was a truly national response, with 29 local authorities receiving Syrian refugees to date.  She also praised the country’s quick response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria – up to June this year Scotland received a third of refugees who have arrived into the UK through the Syrian Resettlement Programme.  The New Scots refugee integration strategy has been in place since December 2013 and provided a strong foundation for Scotland’s response to the refugee crisis. As part of this, partnerships, networks and frameworks were designed collaboratively to support refugee integration from day one.  Ms Constance said: “People in Scotland were shocked by the humanitarian crisis in Syria. There was a groundswell of people looking to know how they could help and wanting to see our country take a stance and offer a warm welcome for those who sought refuge. The response has been phenomenal and we have seen the hand of friendship extended to those seeking to flee war.  Scotland has now welcomed more than 1,200 refugees through the Syrian resettlement programme, and we have done this by cooperation and collaboration. Over the past three years the Scottish Government, COSLA, local authorities, and charities including the Scottish Refugee Council have worked together, crucially, with the contribution of asylum seekers and refugees, to ensure the best possible approach to welcoming refugees through the New Scots strategy.  The First Minister convened a Refugee Summit on 4 September last year, which brought together all the key stakeholders. This meant when the Syrian Resettlement Programme was announced on 7 September, all of these organisations were quick to reflect the mood of the Scottish people by stating their willingness and desire to help, stepping up and responding immediately.  We will continue to have an important role to play in helping these refugees settle into their new lives in Scotland, and the Scottish Government will continue to work with local authorities and COSLA to offer a place of safety to those fleeing war and persecution.”

Buchan Observer's View on The Donald

The Buchan Observer touched a nerve with its headline: "Aberdeenshire business owner wins presidential election". Within hours media throughout the world had picked up on the reference to Trump's ownership of a golf and housing complex on the Menie Estate at Balmedie on the coast of Aberdeenshire.  The quality of the golf course has been admired. But the owner's aggressive actions towards neighbouring homeowners who refused to sell up has been controversial. Several locals have had their electricity and water severed by repeated 'accidents' and their views destroyed by Trump planting trees and erecting large earth mounds.  "Ten years ago, as soon as I spoke to him, I went off Trump right away," said Michael Forbes, who lives with Sheila, his wife, and next door to Molly his 92-year-old mother. "All he talked about was money and himself. He's been the neighbour from hell." However the Trump club - Trump Internationals Golf Links - claims to have been flooded with membership applications since his win over Hillary Clinton. Trump also owns "Trump Turnberry Resort" which includes the championship golf course on the Ayrshire coast.

Burrell Collection to Get Major Revamp
One of Glasgow's top museums is preparing to close its doors for four years as a major refurbishment begins. The Burrell Collection will shut on Sunday evening and will reopen in 2020 after the £60 million redevelopment is complete. Sir William Burrell, a wealthy Glaswegian shipping magnate and art collector gathered the collection over many years and then gave it to the city of Glasgow Corporation in 1944.  The Burrell Collection, in the heart of Pollok Country Park, opened to the public in 1983.  Currently, only a fifth of the collection, donated to the city shipping magnate Sir William Burrell in 1944, is currently on display as many items have had to be removed to protect them from damage.  Under the modernisation plans, a new roof and high performance glazing will make the museum more energy-efficient. Two new floors of exhibition space will be created so that 90% of the 8,000 objects can be viewed by the public. Currently, larger pieces such as Romanesque doorways are built into the structure, at the same time giving views out into the park over formal grassed areas to the south, and into adjacent woodland to the north. The display area of Oriental objects is particularly well set beside the woodlands outside the windows and such features will be perpetuated,

Pointed Rebuke to a Montreal Piper
Poor old Jeff McCarthy. The Montreal resident was dressed up in the full Highland rig on his way to blow his pipes at a university event when he was nabbed by the cops - who objected to his sgian-dbhu.  The police reckoned that the small knife, traditionally tucked into the right side of the kilt hose qualified as an offensive weapon under a local bye-law. Jeff was fined $221 (not $219 or $221) and his sgian-dbhu was confiscated.  "As I was walking by these three police officers, one of them asked me, 'Is that a knife?' and I said, 'Absolutely'. "I started to explain to her what it was and why I wear it. It didn't take her long to turn around say, 'This is illegal.' And I was pretty shocked and surprised because I've been playing the pipes for almost 27 years and I've never been stopped for carrying a sgian-dubh."  I hope Jeff gets over the setback and continues to blow his way through the streets of Montreal, sometimes as a member of Canada's Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment or as a solo performer (including playing his pipes at a policeman's funeral).

Airbus Touch and Go at Stornoway
When most folk fly from the mainland to the Western Isles the aircraft is usually a small twin turboprop Saab C340 or a De Havilland Canada Dash8. But recently the airport at Stornoway on Lewis hosted a huge long-range Airbus A350 which can carry up to 400 passengers and is similar in size to a Boeing 777. The aircraft was not on a scheduled flight, however, but was being used to provide practical training to experience landing and taking off in the strong winds that are a feature of the wind-swept Western Isles (nearest land to the west is North America).  The airport authorities said that similar training exercises have taken place at Stornoway in the past for a range of aircraft.  The Airbus A350 flew from Toulouse in France and did some "touch and go" passes where the aircraft touches down but immediately applies full thrust on the engines and takes off again. It is likely that the large aircraft couldn't safely land properly at Stornoway far less take off again as the runway would be too short.  There is a video sequence of the Airbus A350 landing and taking off at Stornoway - and having to fly in a crab-like fashion to cope with the cross-wind. Not recommended viewing if you are a nervous airline traveller!  The arrival of the large aircraft has led to some speculative posts on social media suggesting that US president-elect Donald Trump had been on board - but had been refused permission to land by the Scottish Nationalist ministers because of some of the things he said during his election campaign. But the fact that Mr Trump's mother was born and grew up on Lewis and he had visited the island a number of years to meet his relatives, lent credence (just) to the story.

Transport Minister to Make Statement on Scotrail Fiasco

Embattled Transport Minister Humza Yousaf will make a statement to parliament on the ScotRail crisis after demands he be hauled before MSPs to explain himself.  There has been mounting criticism of the state of the country’s railways, with commuters suffering punitive delays amid breakdowns and cancellations.  After a single broken down train crippled the network last week, rail unions demanded Mr Yousaf resign over the growing fiasco – but he has insisted he has no intention of stepping down.  Now the transport minister has agreed to update MSPs on the situation after Scottish Labour demanded he make an emergency statement at Holyrood.  Mr Yousaf said: “It is important to keep parliament informed of the actions I am taking to ensure Scotrail improve our rail services and I will be proposing to make a statement to parliament this week so all parties can discuss how we improve our rail services.”  A recently introduced improvement plan for the ScotRail service has been severely criticised, while Mr Yousaf has also said he is working on a “viable” public sector bid to run the railways.  Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman, Neil Bibby MSP, welcomed Mr Yousaf’s decision to appear before Holyrood.  He said: “Passengers are fast losing confidence in Humza Yousaf, so it is to be welcomed that he has immediately responded to my call for an emergency statement and agreed to Labour’s demands to come before parliament this week. Exasperated commuters deserve to hear from him about how the SNP will fix this mess.  Performance has deteriorated since ministers received an improvement plan in September, but to date Mr Yousaf appears to have been more interested in photo calls than providing answers to the travelling public.  We need less spin and more substance.” Recently released figures suggest just 86% of ScotRail services arrived at their destination on time or were less than five minutes late from October 16 to November 12 – although the most up-to-date annual figures put this at 89.8%.  Mr Yousaf said in a statement yesterday he was “focused” on “holding ScotRail to account” for improving services, as well “revolutionising rail travel in Scotland” in the “longer term”.  The transport minister urged people to remember “that ScotRail consistently outperforms many of the other train operating companies across the UK”.  He added: “As I have made clear, our focus is firmly on driving up standards for passengers and ScotRail bosses have been left in no doubt about the need for improvements, and the seriousness of my intent.  I will continue to monitor their performance closely.”

Missing Aberdeen Archives Reveal City’s Clash with King James i

Newly-discovered extracts from city records lost for more than 200 years have revealed fresh information about King James I’s relationship with Aberdeen.  The third volume from the city’s council registers, which cover the period 1398-1511, had been missing for more than two centuries.  But Dr Jackson Armstrong, a history lecturer at Aberdeen University, noticed a reference to “very curious extracts from the records of the city of Aberdeen, 1398-1658” in a catalogue of the medieval holdings of ancient universities and colleges produced in 1932. When he tracked down the manuscript, by James Man, he found a number of pages copied in the mid-1700s from the missing volume which covered the period 1414-1434.  The extracts have revealed how the city clashed with King James I of Scotland when it refused to support a campaign against Highland chiefs.  Dr Armstrong said the discovery helped piece together a missing part of Scotland’s heritage.  He said: “To find any trace of the missing burgh records after more than two centuries was unexpected but to find that these extracts offer us a new insight into Aberdeen’s royal connections in this period is extraordinary.  We have found information relating to King James I’s journeys by sea to Aberdeen and Inverness.  We can also see that in 1428, when the king arrested the Highland chiefs at Inverness, he demanded support of men and supply of provisions from Aberdeen. It does not appear that this was forthcoming as other sources show Aberdeen and three other towns were fined by the crown for failing to contribute fully.  This new fragment shows that Aberdeen’s officials received a direct complaint from James I about this incident and recorded it in the missing register.  A year later a further letter from the King was recorded in a council memorandum which seems to relate to selecting burgesses to join the king’s military campaign in 1429 against Alexander Lord of the Isles, suggesting the city was required to make further contributions to royal ambitions in the Highlands.”  Mr Man’s “tortuous” handwriting was deciphered by Dr Edda Frankot, editorial research fellow on the Aberdeen burgh records research project and an expert in medieval and early modern script.  Dr Barry Robertson, of the Aberdeen City Archives, investigated Mr Man. He said: “It appears that James Man, a graduate of King’s College, was collecting information with a view to writing a book entitled Memoirs of Scottish Affairs, from 1624 to 1651.  He published a short section of this projected work along with an introduction in 1741. I doubt he realised at the time that his notes for a book which never came to full fruition would prove so valuable all these years later.”  The archive in Aberdeen’s Town House is home to a collection of medieval records considered so significant that they have been recognised by Unesco.

Solar Panel Deal Costs Council £275,000… But Were Switched Off Due to Fire Risk

Solar panels on Aberdeen City Council buildings have cost the taxpayer nearly £300,000 – despite them being switched off due to fire risks.  The council entered into an agreement with Mark Group Ltd and Our Generation Ltd for the supply and installation of photovoltaic (PV) panels to council buildings.  Under the terms of the deal, signed in April 2012, the authority had an obligation to pay loss of generation income to Our Generation Solar. But the panels were switched off by the council “following several thermal events” which had to be reported to the Health and Safety Executive.  Due to the agreement the council had to pay £275,000 to the firm for their loss of earnings, despite the equipment not being on.  Tomorrow, the authority’s audit committee will meet discuss the shut-down.  A report to committee reads: “Subsequent to the installation of the PV Panels there were three thermal events that were classed as RIDDOR incidents (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences) that required to be reported to the Health and Safety Executive. Following these incidents the Mark Group were instructed by the council having considered all risk factors to switch off all systems as a precautionary measure to ensure buildings and their inhabitants were safe.  Due to the actions of the council a number of sites did not generate income for the contractor which resulted in them being due payment for the loss of income under the terms of the contract.”  Liberal Democrat committee member Martin Greig said the contract had proved to be “an expensive mistake”.  He said: “This project was designed to save money but has instead ended up costing the public purse well over a quarter of a million pounds in unwanted compensation costs.  It is vital to explore and adopt money saving energy schemes but in this case the whole initiative has suffered from a lack of joined up thinking.  We need to adopt more sustainable energy solutions and it is a real worry that this negative experience could discourage further investment in solar energy or other means of generating cheaper power.”  Infrastructure Neil Cooney said the council had “no option” but to switch off the panels if safety was at risk. But he added: “It’s sad that money was misspent, the idea was a good one but the practicalities didn’t work out.”

Comhairle Hopes Loganair Will Be Able to Better Shape the Future of Air Services
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has reacted to the announcement by Loganair that, rather than operating under a franchise agreement with Flybe, it has decided to operate flights in its own right from September 2017.  Commenting on the announcement, Cllr Angus Campbell, Leader of the Comhairle, said: “Whilst we have only very recently been made aware of the proposed changes, we have been assured by the operator that this will put them on a better footing to provide improved air services for the Highlands and Islands and the Comhairle looks forward to being part of that development process.  We recognise the investment and improvements made by Loganair to address the operational challenges, particularly with regard to reliability and punctuality, that the company faced in 2015 and look forward to building on what has become since then a very productive working relationship.  There is no denying that there were significant service failings in the company at that time but we are assured that performance has improved.  We have also previously expressed concerns about the nature of Loganair’s fleet and their significant reliance on the Saab 340 and Loganair have confirmed that options for the medium to longer terms (5-10 years) are being considered.  We have already discussed this with them and expressed an aspiration for increased capacity through larger aircraft without a reduction in the frequency of services. We will continue to press for progress in this area and hope that Loganair as an independent operator will be better-placed to shape the future of air services in the region.”

Scotland and Islam's Marriage of Convenience Result of English Imperialism

Muslims have integrated more successfully north of the Border because of a shared sense of victimhood against an “imperialist and hegemonic England”, an academic has claimed. The Muslim community in Scotland has enjoyed a better relationship with neighbours than in England as they are fewer in number, are more evenly spread among communities and often establish businesses and so are “not competing for public services” in the second half of the 20th century, according to the research.  Dr Stefano Bonino, of the London School of Economics Religion and Public Sphere, also said that a shared sense of grievance against England “has fostered a marriage of political convenience between Scotland and Islam”.

Minister Refuses Use of Hall for Humanist Funeral
The grieving family of a former German prisoner of war was refused a funeral service in a Sutherland community hall owned by a church because it was a humanist service.  Heinz Voigt’s son said he was "saddened" by the decision to refuse the humanist service at the Fountain Road Hall, which belongs to St Andrew’s Church of Scotland, Golspie.  Retired accountant Mr Voigt died at the age of 91 on November 4 at Migdale Hospital in Bonar Bridge.  His son Heinz (63) and daughter Liz (67), a retired technician at Golspie High School, wanted to hold his funeral service under the direction of Brora-based humanist celebrant Wendy Armstrong at the local hall.  The request was made through undertakers Mackay and MacAskill of Alness.  But on the same day as his father’s death, Mr Voigt received a call from the undertakers advising him that the church refused to allow the ceremony to take place in the hall.  "For 41 years my father worked in Golspie. When he retired he and his friend Colin Ploughman looked after the pathways and walks at the Big Burn in Golspie," said Mr Voigt, managing director of a renowned architect’s practice in Arbroath, Angus.  "He loved nature and wanted to share that love appreciating everything natural that was on this earth.  My father was not an atheist – he had a belief in God. But it was a wider view of God as an expression found in nature. All the family were christened and I married my wife, Ruth, in St Andrew’s Church in Golspie.  When he died, my sister and I felt that a humanist service was the best way of remembering our father and to have it in the Fountain Road Hall, which is the main hall in the village.  But when we got the message that we couldn’t have the ceremony in the hall because it was humanist we were shocked and saddened. I was very disappointed. It was my understanding that there have been humanist services there before and the word ‘church’, I am led to believe, was dropped from the hall’s title because it has received community funding.  My sister and I were hugely disappointed – my father had done a lot for the village. We didn’t ask for the service to be in the church which is understandable and we felt that would be wrong. But the hall seemed appropriate as we understood there were previous humanist services there.  We were in a panic, and after a sleepless night hastily phoned round to find where we could hold the ceremony. The Masonic Hall thankfully came to our rescue.  They were fantastic and did not hesitate to offer the hall. Wendy Armstrong who conducted the humanist service did our father proud. The coffin was draped in wild flowers – the music represented the hills of Sutherland my father loved so much. The hall was packed. We could not have wished for a better send-off for our father.  But what happened was a disappointment to our family and to our father’s memory. I have highlighted what happened because I would not wish for another family to go through what we did at such a sensitive time."  According to the church’s own website, Fountain Road Hall was recently extensively upgraded with funding from grant awarding bodies as well as money raised by the congregation.  The website states the hall serves as a "community venue" in the absence of a village hall and is used by many bodies. Mr Voigt snr was born in 1925 at Reichstadt in Dippoldiswalde, near Dresden, and had studied accountancy before being called up to the German army in 1943 at the age of 17. He was involved in the fighting around the time of the D-Day landings and was captured by the Americans after having been wounded.  After the war ended in Europe, the POWs were moved to Scotland and a camp at Kirkton, Golspie, where Mr Voigt worked on local farms. He was eventually allowed to return to Germany but as his home area was by then under Russian occupation, he decided to remain in East Sutherland, living in Dornoch and then Golspie. He was with the local newspaper for 41 years and for a while also had a paper and grocer’s shop in Dornoch.  Mr Voigt is survived by his second wife Sheila and his two children from his first marriage to the late Isabella Ross – plus six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Mr Voigt was buried overlooking the countryside he loved so much at Golspie cemetery.

Sturgeon: Autumn Statement Reveals Tory “Recklessness on Brexit”
Nicola Sturgeon has said the Autumn Statement exposes the reality of the Tories’ “recklessness on Brexit”.  The first minister told MSPs it showed a “real squeeze on living standards” would be the price.  She made the comments during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood yesterday.  The Autumn Statement starkly set out the cost of Brexit to the UK economy and public finances,” she said.  In responding, the UK Government had the opportunity to end its failed austerity policy. Instead the chancellor has continued with the cuts which are reducing budgets for public services and cutting the income of families across Scotland.”  But Philip Hammond defended his plans and insisted the independent experts had to reflect the changed economic circumstances since June’s referendum vote.  He also denied borrowing is out of control, although conceded the debt levels were “larger than we would like”.  The Tory frontbencher said he had tried to use the statement to prepare the economy “for as wide a range of outcomes as I possibly can” after the Brexit vote.  And he rejected the suggestion the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) was being kept in the dark about the government’s Brexit plans, adding it was impossible to be certain about what the result of negotiations with EU partners would be.  He said: “Until we get to the end of the negotiation we don’t know what the outcome will be, so the OBR itself has said there was an unusually high degree of uncertainty around the forecasts they have made.”  Shadow chancellor John McDonnell called on the government to open up about its Brexit plans, blaming Theresa May’s secrecy about her intentions for worsening the economic damage from the referendum result.  The prime minister said the statement was about ensuring a strong economy and “investing in the economy for the future”.