Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 377

Issue # 377                                                                Week ending 3rd December 2016

After Cyber Monday, are you all ready for Fright Friday? By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

That was not Black Friday, really. That was a really Black Week. That week must now be its tenth day and it’s still going on. Fuelling the orgy of irresponsible spending were TV and radio commercials that made it seem we were going to miss out on some life-altering bargains that, if we were daft enough to miss them, we would have to live with mind-numbing regret forever more. I buckled too. I bought a toothbrush. 50p off. Yay. And a reduced coffee maker. That’ll do nicely.

Well, at least that’s Christmas sorted. Except it isn’t, because that coffee it makes is far too good to give to anyone else. Friends, cousins and people we don’t really know but who keep giving us presents each year will have to make do with socks and hankies like everyone else. Wait. We cancelled Christmas a few years ago so we are not even sending cards but giving the Crimble cash to a good cause. Excellent, more coffee anyone?

Black Friday is when people just lose control. Grim stories are reaching me about some very tight-fisted bargain-hunters with desperate intent in their eyes rampaging into a shop, knocking over anyone who dared stand in their way and just grabbing anything they fancied. It was not just in Scalpay either. The things they will do on that island to get Fairy Liquid while the BOGOF offer is on. Apparently, it was just as bad in some of the bigger cities on the mainland last week. As that woman said after lamping the guy as she went for the big telly in London: “I will take on anyone to get my hands on a cheap 40-incher.”

We then had a weekend overdosing on cappuccino from our new burble-burble-fizz. That’ll do nicely. Then Cyber Monday. That’s when every online store is insistent they are still offering at least 50% off everything and this is your last chance. Then we had Turmoil Tuesday yesterday, when we realised exactly how much we’d bought, and today is Wonga Wednesday. Today is when you realise you are seriously overdrawn and you rush back online to get a loan to pay for the stuff you bought online.

Tomorrow is Thumping Thursday when you go on the sesh with all the money that has suddenly appeared in your account. Prosecco and microwaved pizza with caviar on the side. Well, it’s not actually caviar but yucky gunge scraped out of the picked herring jar. Looks very similar in a dim, romantic, candlelit room. I know how to impress her. Then it’s Fright Friday when you read the small print and realise you will be paying a couple of thousand per cent interest APR. I think that stands for Atomic Power Robot as that is what you need to do the calculations on your ever-so-handy payday loan.

Anyone know the website to order gold, frankincense and myrrh? Must be cheaper than Black Friday electro-stuff. Frankincense and myrrh, if I remember right, are sap you get from trees. You let it run down the trunk, let it harden and then you set it on fire. Then you blow it out and the smoke you get smells like every second house in Stornoway in the 1960s and 1970s. It is only now that I am hearing stories about the local characters who were into flower power, peace and love and all that then and burned incense on a regular basis.

By the way, if you ever get your hands on frankincense, and I am reliably informed that none of the trees in the grounds of Lews Castle produce any of that particular sap, you should respect it. It is said to have great medicinal properties and was prized as a cure for poisoning and for leprosy. It is also thought in many cultures to be the go-to cure for rampant diarrhoea. Got a bit of a dicky tummy? That’ll do nicely.

All this relentless shopping is getting to me. I have been feeling very rundown and peely-wally. I went to the doctor yesterday as I had not been feeling myself for the last few days and he examined me. Afterwards, he said there was absolutely nothing wrong. I was just slightly tired and very lazy. Oh, was he sure? Yup. No doubt at all. As I left, I turned and asked him if there was a medical term for laziness so I could explain the situation to Mrs X. He said: “Well, not really. However, I have seen it in one book referred to as sluggish cognitive tempo disorder.” I said: “That’ll do nicely.”

Free Parking Would Let Us All 'Move with the Times'
One of Inverness’s leading business figures has swung his weight behind the campaign to introduce free parking in the city centre.  Malcolm Fraser (50) is well known to many as just the latest member of his clan to work in the family butcher and fishmonger business, Duncan Fraser and Son.  A true city institution based on Queensgate, the shop first opened its doors in 1911 and has been trading almost continuously since, after a slight hiccup caused by founder Duncan’s time fighting for his country in World War I.  Malcolm first took to the shop floor in 1990 after working for the company’s game exporting interest.  Ever since then, he said, the changes around the shop have been extensive, with a noticeable impact. "There is a definite downturn in footfall and that is something that has to be addressed," he said. "It’s not that you expect everything to stay exactly the same but some of the changes have made it more difficult for small traders and the parking situation in the city is one of them.  When you think back, I can remember when the site now occupied by M&S was an open car park which is now gone.  And with the two-storey structure at Rose Street also marked for development you think that that could be gone soon as well.  Anything that makes it more difficult for people to get into town is going to make it more difficult for businesses to survive."  He likes the idea of short term free parking as it would allow people to quickly pop into shops like his and reduce the likelihood of the big supermarket, out-of-town option being plumped for by consumers simply because it’s the the automatic easier choice.  "As it stands I think the parking wardens will give anyone parking over their time five minutes before they book them, which is really no time at all," Malcolm said.  "If the 15-minute option for free was there that is enough time for short messages – enough time to pop in and get what you need and then move on.  As a good business you’re always trying to move with the times. I think the click and collect idea where people can order online and then just come in to pick their goods up is something more small businesses would look at as an option if that free parking was available for customers.  We are up against it in terms of the out-of-town shopping centres and online shopping.  I would support anything that makes things a bit fairer across the board.  It’s definitely worth giving it a try."  The debate about the free 15 minutes parking has attracted a range of views on the organisers  website.  Many suggest they like the idea but also think 20 minutes or even half an hour could be worth trying.  Ian Midgeley said: "The more you charge the more you drive people away or force them to park in stupid places.  "Free parking encourages people to use the shopping facilities, which is what is needed in the Highlands."  And Judith Reid said: "Why not take on Elgin’s example? "They have free parking after 3pm up until the end of December.  This would take back some shoppers into the town and a much-needed boost to local businesses."

Brexit Bashing Turns Into Independence Love-in As Irish Senators Swoon Over Nicola Sturgeon
The First Minister is given a warm welcome in Dublin with political leaders keen to hear when Scotland will win its freedom.  Nicola Sturgeon must secretly wish only the 60 members of the Irish Seanad will get a vote in Indyref2.  It would be a Yes landslide.  The First Minister's dream of independence was more popular in Dublin than a sneaky pint of Guinness at a dry wedding.  Her historic address to the Irish parliament’s upper house was supposed to be about the Brexit balls-up.  But all the senators wanted to talk about was when Scotland would win its freedom.  Even the SNP leader seemed surprised at how candid they all were about their hope of seeing a UK split. During the 2014 referendum it was an open secret that Ireland was hoping for a Yes vote.  They kept their mouths shut to avoid enraging the Brits. Brexit seems to have loosened their tongues.  But while the senators are clearly committed to indy, some of the nuances of Scottish politics seem to have passed them by. Labour’s Aodhán Ó Ríordáin claimed the first Indyref was “unifying” for Scotland, another senator was under the misapprehension the SNP held every Scottish seat at Westminster. Best of all, one senator mistakenly described Sturgeon as Scotland’s “head of state” rather than our “head of government”.  She did have the decency to look a bit uncomfortable at the promotion to Queen, even if she didn’t bother to set the record straight.  The Seanad has some experience of referendums - the Irish people only just decided not to abolish the unloved institution in a 2013 vote.  An indication of the usual interest generated by the upper chamber is the fact the press gallery only has seven seats.  The Irish hacks who helped me fill it out yesterday were convinced Sturgeon’s sparkle dust explained the fawning response. “The senators don’t normally get any attention,” one journo told me as we watched an orgy of selfies after the proceedings had finished. “They’re just delighted that somebody so high-profile has actually noticed them.”  Maybe so, but it’s also the case that Scotland enjoys a huge amount of goodwill in Ireland - and across the EU - right now.  You sure as hell can’t say that about the UK as a whole.

Divers Looted Wrecks of Sunken Ships in Scapa Flow
Two divers who looted the wrecks of the scuttled German fleet in Scapa Flow have been fined £18,000 each in a “unique” Scottish court case.  Glasgow dentist Gordon Meek and American businessman Robert Infante systematically removed equipment including telephone units, lanterns and lamps and a ship’s bell from seven battleships and cruisers that lie off Orkney.  The spree was detected when people on another charter boat in the popular diving area spotted a diver with a bag full of rusty items.  Police stopped the men when they landed and discovered stolen items on the boat and in the boot of a car.  It is not known how much the items are worth because of their rarity – but single items from less infamous war sites can change hands for hundreds of pounds each.  Meek, 67, and Infante, 48, appeared yesterday at Kirkwall Sheriff Court and admitted the 2012 offences under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas act 1979 – the first of its kind in the country.  Speaking following the sentencing, Andrew Laing, Procurator Fiscal for Grampian, Highlands and Islands, said: “For a number of decades now Scapa Flow has been one of Europe’s top attractions for sports divers with the wrecks being of great significance to our heritage and the local community.  They have lain on the sea bed for nearly 100 years and the vast majority of those visiting have treated them with the respect they deserve.  It is vitally important that there are laws in place to protect such important sites and as with this case where there is sufficient evidence of a crime and if it is appropriate and in the public interest to do so, we will prosecute.”  The court heard yesterday how police armed with a search warrant found a broken bulk head lantern frame on the boat and later – when searching Meek’s car – retrieved further items including a chest microphone, telephone unit and bulk head lanterns.  Regarding value, Procurator Fiscal Sue Foard said: “There did not appear to be a clear answer to this because of the rarity of these items. It’s known that land-based field phones can sell for £500, Navy badges for £110 and German Beer Mugs £200 but these were items directly from the WW1 German Fleet.”  A steam pressure gauge, electric ship’s bell and portable lamp were among the other items removed from the SMS MarkGraf, SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm and SMS Konig WW1 battleships and the SMS Coln, SMS Dresden, SMS Karlsruhe and SMS Brummer WW1 cruisers.  Infante’s defence agent Brian Cooney said: “My client understands the sensitivities of this situation in Orkney. He is someone who has studied and is fascinated by the wartime history of the area and wishes it to be known that he had never any intention of selling the artefacts from Scapa Flow on for a financial profit.”  First offenders Meek, of Carmunnock Road, Glasgow, and Infante, of Morris Avenue, Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, both pleaded guilty to the offences which took place between the 8th and 12th of October, 2012.  Pleas of not guilty from boat owner John Thornton, 61, of Peedie Sea Loan, Orkney, and and Simon Ball, 47, of Scutts Close, Lynchettematravers, Poole, Dorset, were accepted.  Sentencing, Sheriff Andrew Berry said: “I pay credit to those who saw and reported the thefts as they were unfolding and the police for acting so swiftly to secure the items.  If nothing else I hope that the fines I am imposing will convince other divers that to break the law in this way might prove to be an expensive exercise.”

£66million Vision for Stornoway Harbour Unveiled
Harbour chiefs have released revealed a £66million masterplan for the port of Stornoway. The creation of a £50million deep water facility is part of the plans now out for public consultation.  Stornoway Port Authority has outlined its 20-year vision for the harbour in the draft plan, which could drastically improve the town’s economic future.  It identifies a number of projects which would boost facilities for various sectors, from ferries and cruise ships through to renewables and oil exploration.  The “first phase” of proposals have been estimated at approximately £66million and includes the creation of the deep water facility on the south east of the harbour.  Also proposed is the redevelopment of Goat Island boatyard and the creation of a new marina at Newton with an estimated cost of £10million.  Other important improvements to facilities in the harbour, such as pontoons for the fishermen, landscaping, and ferry access road improvements are also included.  This first phase of work has been described by the port authority as “absolutely essential to the future of the port and a major driver for the island economy”.  Alex Macleod, Stornoway Port Authority chief executive, said: “This consultation process is important for the development of our Port Masterplan and we encourage the community to get involved in the process. A lot of research and engagement with key stakeholders has been progressed to get to this stage, and this public consultation is the final part of the process.  The port must update what is generally 100-year-old infrastructure, and we must move forward to ensure we can accommodate modern ships and industries.”  All of the options are up for discussion during the consultation period between now and January 13 2017.  The masterplan document is available for viewing online on Stornoway Port Authority’s website, with hard copies available on request.

First Scottish Gold Goes on Sale At Edinburgh Auction
The first gold mined commercially in Scotland was sold for an average £4,557.9 per ounce at auction in Edinburgh yesterday.  It marked a major milestone in the history of London and Sydney-listed Scotgold Resources, which revealed plans nearly nine years ago to open a gold mine at Cononish, near Tyndrum in Argyll.  The gold was sold in the form of “rounds” minted by Baird and Co Bullion Merchants, each stamped with the Scottish gold mark of a stag’s head and bearing a unique serial number linked to a chain of custody system certified by the Edinburgh Assay Office.  The average selling price for individual lots netting as much as £21,0000 represented a premium of 378% over the current spot price of £953. Scotgold chief executive Richard Gray said: “This unique and historic event is the first demonstration of our ability to attract a premium for Scottish gold.  The next opportunity to show the continued support for this precious metal from the Highlands will be the conclusion of agreements with members of the Scottish jewelry trade, who appreciate the value that can be added to their products by the proven provenance of the stag’s head. We expect to release news of these sales in the new year.”  Cononish went into initial production in May of this year, with the commissioning of a pilot processing trial which aims to demonstrate the marketability and profitability of Scottish gold production.

Philip Hammond to Discuss Brexit with Nicola Sturgeon
The UK Chancellor is to discuss the "challenges and opportunities" of leaving the EU with Scotland's first minister.  The Chancellor Philip Hammond has emphatically ruled out a separate Scottish deal on Brexit, potentially pushing Nicola Sturgeon closer to a second independence referendum. Speaking shortly before a meeting with the First Minister at Holyrood, Mr Hammond bluntly rejected a separate deal for Scotland or any other part of the United Kingdom.  He said those hoping for a bespoke arrangement on immigration and trade were “clutching at straws” and should accept Brexit rather than “resist the will of the people” Philip Hammond will meet Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh later as he makes his first visit to Scotland since last week's Autumn Statement.  It also follows the formal devolution of new income tax powers to the Scottish Parliament.  Mr Hammond will also host a business round table in Edinburgh.  The event will include representatives of the oil and gas industry, as well as financial services firms.  The Chancellor said measures outlined in the Autumn Statement would add £800m to Scotland's capital budget over the period until 2020-21.  He said this would allow the Scottish government to "invest significantly in infrastructure".  But analysis by the IPPR Scotland think tank said the Autumn Statement would create a "very significant and unprecedented spending squeeze" for many public services in Scotland.  Speaking ahead of the visit to Edinburgh, Mr Hammond said: "Scotland's contribution to the UK is invaluable and we have delivered on the Scottish government's call for increased capital funding and investment through our Autumn Statement.  The rest of the UK is also Scotland's most important market, providing four times the trade volume than that of the EU 27 - so it is imperative that we work together to achieve the best for everyone in the United Kingdom.  The Scottish government now has responsibility for significant areas of policy as a result of further devolution and I look forward to meeting with the first minister of Scotland to ensure we seize the opportunities we face together in the future. "  Mr Hammond will also meet Scotland's finance secretary, Derek Mackay, during his time in Edinburgh.  Mr Mackay hit out at the UK government's economic policies on Wednesday, telling Holyrood that "instead of supporting households in the face of a deteriorating economic outlook" they were "exacerbating the situation".  He said: "Hard-working families should not have to pick up the tab of the UK government's austerity policies or their decision to leave the EU.  Scotland did not vote for Brexit yet this renewed economic squeeze is going to hit families here, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet."  Mr Mackay also indicated that the Scottish government could make further changes to the tax system than the ones set out in the party's election manifesto.  He added: "I know the first minister and I have said before we will continue to look at our tax position and look at the transfer of powers coming to Scotland to make sure we get the balance right to try to support low-income households."  The Scottish government is currently examining ways of keeping Scotland in the European single market even if the UK as a whole leaves, with its proposals due to be published before the end of the year.  But Ms Sturgeon has said the possibility of a second referendum of independence remains "on the table" if she feels it is the best way of protecting Scotland's interests. .    

Comment -R
This is all the most patronizing nonsense. As far as Westminster based politicians are concerned, Scotland is only useful for the oil it flows into the London Treasury, and as a base for the nuclear submarines. If Scotland, and Scottish interest meant anything to London, then, they would allow them Full Fiscal Autonomy. Full control over all Social Security matters, and a host of other important things. Then there is the "Brexit" fiasco. It is obvious the London Establishment are doing and saying everything they can possibly think of to keep Scotland in the Union....It's just that everything they do hastens the day the Scots leave.
As for the poll that says Independence support is falling.... I would say that from what I’ve read and heard that is not the reality on the ground

Gaelic Choir Leader Inducted Into Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame
An inspirational choir leader who brought a Western Isles community to the forefront of the Gaelic music scene has been inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame.  Rodney Mackenzie, known as Rod, spent 30 years living on the island of Lewis, where he founded and led three Gaelic choirs in the district of Back.  His choirs frequently enjoyed success at the National Mod and provided a springboard for several solo gold medalists. It was in 1978 that, concerned there was no local school or community choir and mindful that the 1979 National Mod would be the event’s debut in the Western Isles, he started up a children’s choir.  He later formed a choir for 13 to 18-year-olds and then an adults choir. In 2010, following his retirement, Rod performed with this adult choir at the National Mod in Thurso, the same year gold medal winners Margaret MacLeman and Eoghainn Macleod came from the choir.  Mr Mackenzie said that working with these choirs was among the most enjoyable and rewarding years of his life, adding: “To see these folk from our local community develop into such a musically satisfying and socially cohesive ‘family’ was so personally fulfilling and satisfying.” Mr Mackenzie was born to a Gaelic-speaking family in Culkein, Stoer, in Sutherland in 1941, and was the youngest of five children.  His mother died when he was just 10 months old and his father was posted in Orkney during World War II, and with the family split up, Rod and two of his brothers were sent to an orphanage in Inverness until his father remarried in 1945.  The family resettled in Lairg and then Lochinver, where Rod’s interest in Gaelic song and choral singing was whetted by headmaster Angus Ross, who introduced the young Mackenzie to the basics of traditional music.  He later left home aged 17 to train as a business studies teacher in Glasgow, where he met his wife, Alison, with whom he has four daughters – Sheila, Eilidh, Gillian and Fiona. In 1972, Mr Mackenzie’s work took the family to the island of Lewis, where he also taught at the Nicolson Institute until his retirement.  He moved to the Black Isle in 2002 to be closer to his family and now lives in Dingwall.  Mr Mackenzie described the family’s time on Lewis as the best years of their lives.  Adult choir member of 26 years, Murdo “cloudy” Macleod, said his long-running involvement was down to Mr Mackenzie’s encouragement and tutoring at the start, adding: “He has single-handedly brought our district of Back to the forefront of Gaelic music – all without looking for recognition or acclaim for himself, but simply for his love of Gaelic singing.”  Acclaimed singer, piper and actress Anna Murray, a former member of the 13 to 18-year-olds choir, described him as “an inspirational music educator”, adding: “Rodney’s door was always open to anyone and everyone who wanted to sing, and especially those who feared they couldn’t. He taught us to really listen and to never forget the listener. His selfless dedication and encouragement to our community and singers is an inspiration and something for which we will be forever grateful.”  Mr Mackenzie’s induction will be celebrated at the annual Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame dinner in November 2017.

Experiencing A Gaelic Welcome When Visiting Scotland
A new Welcome Scheme which recognises the special efforts made by tourism businesses to provide for visitors with an interest in Gaelic heritage was launched at the Highland Tourism Conference in Inverness this week.  Scotland’s Experiencing Gaelic is a newly-developed Welcome Scheme and was launched by John Thurso, Chairman of VisitScotland.  VisitScotland is working in partnership with The Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to deliver this year’s conference.  More than 180 delegates had the opportunity to attend breakout sessions on the topics of Slow Adventure Tourism, VisitScotland’s iKnow Scotland Programme, Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, Business Gateway support and Marine Tourism.  Recent research show that over half the visitors to Scotland are interested in learning more about the Gaelic language, heritage, culture and traditions.  VisitScotland has developed the Experiencing Gaelic scheme to recognise those businesses that excel in meeting the expectations of visitors who are interested in learning more about this native language, including all accommodation sectors, cafes, restaurants and visitor attractions.  The Experiencing Gaelic scheme is not just about speaking Gaelic but it encourages businesses to spend time researching their local area, providing translations and offering links to local Gaelic heritage centres and places of interest.  VisitScotland is encouraging businesses to offer details of traditional music events and festivals, make Gaelic TV and radio available, and offer opportunities to practice a bit of the language, and provide some story books in Gaelic with English translations for the younger, and even older, generations.  Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is also currently working on an industry toolkit, entitled Gaelic and Scots Language.  This will be an online resource for industry detailing the business opportunities in embracing our Gaelic and Scots culture, heritage and traditions.  Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017 was launched last month and with the Highlands’ world-class history, resources, unique attractions and passionate and knowledgeable industry, next year poses fantastic opportunities for the region.  At the conference, delegates found out ways to engage in this themed year in a dedicated workshop.  Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Gaelic is an integral part of Scottish culture. Tourists will come across Gaelic names all across Scotland, in our towns and cities and rural areas with lochs, mountains and rivers that are still using the original Gaelic description.  VisitScotland’s Experiencing Gaelic Welcome Scheme will see tourism businesses providing links to heritage centres and places of interests for visitors with an interest in our Gaelic heritage. This initiative recognises the cultural, economic and social value of the language to our whole country.”  John Thurso, Chairman of VisitScotland, said: “I am delighted to be attending the Highland Tourism Conference and to be launching our new Experiencing Gaelic scheme today.  For many visitors, it is an interest in the Gaelic language and culture that drives them to visit establishments in this scheme and not necessarily that they speak Gaelic to any degree. Scotland’s many place names, mountains, rivers and natural features are often created and written in Gaelic, such as Cairngorm (the blue or green mountain).  To give our non-Gaelic speakers a translation of these names would capture the spirit of the area, bringing it to life and giving a sense of place, which will enhance their experience of Scotland and, in turn, their understanding of Gaelic.”

Pay Rise Offer is Not Good Enough, Say Dounreay Staff

Industrial action could take place at Dounreay after union members overwhelmingly rejected a one per cent pay increase offered by bosses at the site.  GMB, Prospect and Unite carried out a ballot which saw a huge turnout vote against the pay rise which was offered by Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL).  The offer was rejected by union members on the basis profits at the site have increased since DSRL’S parent body, Cavendish Dounreay Partnership, took over the running of the site and in 2015 recorded an increased profit of £9 million.  DSRL states it has made a fair offer and will look to hold further negotiations to strike a deal.  DSRL trade union co-ordinating committee chairwoman Sandra Owsnett said staff are unhappy with the pay rise offer and are considering taking industrial action. “Staff are disappointed with the figure that has been offered and with the way the matter has been dealt with,” she said. “We’ve got an indicative feeling that members are willing to take some form of industrial action as there is a feeling DSRL aren’t taking staff seriously. A survey is in the process of being carried out asking staff what type of action they would be willing to take. Afterwards we will organise the ballot which will determine what action will be taken. No date has been set but it might not take place until after New Year.”  Representatives from all three unions at the site have also condemned the pay offer, stating staff should be entitled to a better deal due to increasing profits.  GMB officer Liz Gordon said: “It’s our members who have created this profit for the PBO (parent body organisation) and we think it seems only fair and proper that they and DSRL recognise this with a decent pay award, rather than cutting members’ take-home pay and pocketing the profit.”  A Unite official said: “Our members at Dounreay have worked very hard to move the decommissioning project forward. Yet all they have seen are attacks on their pensions, conditions and now their pay – it is simply unacceptable.”  Prospect negotiator Richard Hardy said: “Our members are working hard to decommission the site, yet much of the money this generates is flowing out of Caithness and Sutherland, reducing the economic benefit for the local community.  Everybody should get a share of the profits, not just the shareholders.”  A spokeswoman for DSRL maintains the offer is a fair increase but will speak to trade unions to discuss the issue. She said: “The pay offer that DSRL has made is comparable to recent nuclear decommissioning industry pay increases and is above inflation. We remain committed to engaging with the trade unions and staff but due to the sensitive nature of these negotiations, we are unable to comment further.”

Warning Over Dangers of Mountains in Winter
As Scotland's mountains become well covered in snow, a top mountaineering body has warned of the dangers facing winter walkers and climbers.  Some 20 people have already lost their lives in the mountains this year.  Mountaineering Scotland has analysed the deaths and said 10 were either approaching, or on, a technical climb.  Three died as a result of avalanche, and three had spent a lifetime enjoying the hills.  Heather Morning, mountain safety adviser with Mountaineering Scotland, said: “Shorter daylight hours, dropping temperatures and the first snow on the hills are all good indicators that it is time to think about extra kit in your rucksack.  Routes will take longer than expected in winter and many people will end up finishing in the dark – so a head torch – and spare batteries – is crucial. In fact better still is to carry a spare head torch – as anyone who has tried to change batteries in the cold and dark will testify.”  Temperatures above 3,000ft are at least 10c below what they are at sea level at this time of year, and extra layers are essential for safety.  An emergency bivvy bag is also recommended while groups should also carry a nylon shelter in case they become stationary for any period of time. Ms Morning added: “If you are heading out on the higher tops, now is the time to add crampons, rigid boots to accommodate them, an ice axe and spare essentials such as hats and winter gloves to your essential kit list.”  This year's avalanche warning service for the main areas enjoyed by hillwalkers and climbers is to start next month.  The number of avalanches in the Scottish Highlands fell last winter - but there were still a number of deaths linked to the killer snow slides.  The vital warning service provides climbers and hill walkers with the avalanche risk on Scotland's mountains. The Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) will start on December 17.  Daily reports for the six operational areas of Lochaber, Glencoe, Creag Meagaidh, Southern Cairngorms , Northern Cairngorms and Torridon area will be issued.  Last season, the organisation's team of forecasters recorded fewer avalanches than the previous winter - 205 compared to 237. There were no avalanche-related deaths the previous winter.  During the winter of 2012-13, eight people died because of avalanches. It was the highest number of deaths in five seasons of SAIS forecasts.

Scottish Salmon Farmers Invested 16% More in Their Future in 2015
Scotland’s salmon farming industry increased its capital spending by 16% to £63.1million during 2015, a new report says. In its latest economic review, industry body the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) highlights the investment as a vote of confidence in the sector.  The report also looks at pay, employment, training, local and national economic benefits and exports.  Hailing the findings, rural economy and connectivity cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing said they highlighted “the significant and growing contribution salmon farming makes to Scotland’s rural economy”.  Mr Ewing added: “That is why this government supports the industry’s 2020 sustainable growth targets and why they are included in Scotland’s National Marine Plan and the UK multi-annual plan for Aquaculture. Achieving those targets could be worth well over £2billion to the Scottish economy, supporting 10,000 jobs annually.  Sustainable growth in the salmon farming sector brings a huge potential prize for Scotland and I am determined to help deliver on those ambitions.”  SSPO chief executive Scott Landsburgh said: “The last few years have seen an increased confidence in salmon farming based on the quality of our fish, the international recognition of our standards of production and the investment in people, technology and innovation. This is an important boost to local and national economies, and I’m delighted that the results in this report continue to emphasise how important salmon farming is to Scotland’s food industry and the wider economy.”  SSPO’s report says gross pay in the sector rose by 12% last year to £71million, with more than 90% of the total going to salmon farm workers in rural Scotland. Wider economic benefits highlighted include more than 2,300 companies in the Highlands and islands doing business with salmon farming companies.  “From equipment suppliers to hotels, the total expenditure in the Highlands and Islands reached £147million,” the organisation adds.  It also says the workforce has “reshaped” towards more full-time jobs and fewer seasonal and part-time positions, suggesting better long-term employment and career prospects.

Banning Children Using Scots Language ‘Damages Education’

To tell a child that the Scots language is corrupt is potentially damaging and hold back educational attainment, the Scots Scriever has said.  Hamish MacDonald, who has a residency at the National Library of Scotland to promote the Scots language, was speaking at the launch of the Wee Windaes website, which tracks the language across the centuries to its current day use.  MacDonald said: “Any practitioner in Scots say that bairns struggling in the classroom will shine when given the opportunity to express themselves in Scots. To tell a child that their Scots language is slang or corrupt is potentially damaging, a falsehood and a bar to educational progress.”  MacDonald, appointed in 2015 by Creative Scotland, created the website with the library’s Learning Team to raise awareness of Scots.  The site which uses Scots language material from library’s collections, the oldest being a performance poem The Buke of the Howlat from the 1440s to the 20th century writings of novelist and playwright Jessie Kesson. Examples of contemporary writing by writers such as Irvine Welsh and James Kelman will be added later.  David Christopher Allan, 16, a pupil at Broughton High school in Edinburgh, who gave a reading in Scots of The Man in the Boat by Betsy Whyte, said: “I was brought up to speak both Scots and English. Speaking Scots words gives you more identity. Nicola Daniel, head of English at the school which teaches Scots to 2nd, 3rd and 4th pupils, said: “Kid who don’t feel valued get a sense of worth in Scots language classes as it gives them a chance to come into their own when with more affluent children.” John Swinney, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education, who launched the website said: “The Scots language is an essential element of our nation’s culture and heritage and this Government is committed to promoting and preserving it in all its distinct regional and local variants, which are spoken by around 1.5 million people. I very much welcome the launch of the Wee Windaes website, which shines a light on the breadth of Scots influence on our rich literary heritage through the centuries.”  Dr John Scally, National Librarian, said: “The Scots language is very much part of our cultural identity and we are keen to help it thrive.” Janet Archer chief executive officer of Creative Scotland, said: “Wee Windaes is a braw way to give the language further prominence. It captures the breadth and variety of Scots in all its variants and dialects.”