Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 379

Issue # 379                                                            Week ending 17th December 2016

Can’t Get No Satisfaction Because of 3am Baby Feed by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal
People can be so horrendously cruel. Just because you and your girlfriend have a sprog together, why does that entitle so many people to make jokes at your expense and, worse, at the expense of the wee, gurgling, bundle of wrinkly cuteness. Not that I have seen Sir Mick Jagger’s wee son yet but if he’s anything like his old man he will be very wrinkly. Cute? Well, a lot of long-legged dames have thought so.

Jagger is 73 now but has always looked as if he needed ironing since he couldn’t get any satisfaction back in the 1960s. Not that I could tell how he looked when I first heard the I Can’t Get No ... song coming through my leather-bound thingummybob under the sheets. Maybe I should explain it was a radio and the station was Radio Luxembourg. Being the deluxe model with VHF, Medium Wave and Long Wave, it had a stimulated leather case (that’s what the instruction leaflet said) with an “ultra-comfortable” partly fur-lined carrying handle, making the Bush clunky push-button model, the “ultimate in modern portability”.

Guess what, I found the instructions and warranty for my old tranny online. Er, tranny just meant transistor back then. It promised that, as long as it was not regularly used in damp places and had dead batteries quickly replaced, we could expect “a lifetime of satisfactory performance”. No, not Mick Jagger, those were the instructions for the radio. Mind you, he has given us a lifetime of Satisfaction performance and his batteries have still not gone dead. Oh, the radio? It fell apart after about the lifetime of the daddy long legs that was always above my bed - and the longest they live is three years.

What a shock I got when I saw on Juke Box Jury, or some such high-brow musical compendium, what Jagger looked like, shuffling about and thrusting himself this way and that. Still, that was good practice for all the exertions he would endure in years to come. Out of the same transistor would come These Boots Were Made For Walking by Frank Sinatra’s wee girl. “One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.” Ooh, madam. I half-expected fancy Nancy to come stomping onto Top Of The Pops in her wellingtons. No no no, stop it, that was not a fantasy of mine. Just the immature thoughts of this son of a crofter-man. Then again ...

Another fantasy of mine is to be a great chef and have everyone agog at the food I turn out. Yes, we have been watching this series of Masterchef in this house and the standard has had me drooling. Even better that one of the contestants is a fellow Glaswegian. Gary Maclean, who is a lecturer at the City of Glasgow College, is consistently brilliant and not just because he made that scallop-shaped biscuit-type thing, I mean delicacy, last week. It was perfect because he got the shape by baking it inside a scallop shell. And it was accompanied by black pudding but judge Marcus Wareing didn’t say where it was from.

Brilliant. Gary said they ate it “up in the Western Isles”. Well, not yet in this house but when I get the recipe I will.

The trouble with trying out all these recipes from Masterchef is that they are not good for the waistline. Mrs X has brought it to my attention on occasion that she has noticed a wee bulge but, sorry I lost the thread there, where was I? Oh yes, my exercise regime will not, of course, begin until the New Year but I have already decided to time myself as my walks get faster. I shall order a stopwatch to time myself as I stride down the Steinish road and back. She is not being supportive. I heard her telling her friend: “Huh, it’s not a stopwatch he needs but a sundial.” Such a ray of sunshine, my wife.

Sir Mick’s happy news has reminded me that I recently heard of a certain young lady from Uist who was at the dentist for a filling. She was very nervous. She started fidgeting nervously in the chair as the dentist looked into her mouth. He tried to calm her down but she would not settle. She was getting a bit hysterical and the dentist was considering abandoning the whole procedure.  Realising that, she said: “Oh doctor, I'm so nervous. I think I’d rather have a baby than have a filling.” He replied: “Well, a ghraidh, you'd better make up your mind quickly as I may have to adjust the chair.”

Royal Bank of Scotland's First Polymer (Plastic) £5 Note Illustrating Scottish Poet Nan Shepherd

This banknote is part of a new series of 'Fabric of Nature' themed notes coming into circulation in 2016 and 2017. It is made from a De La Rue's Safeguard© polymer material. It also contains a variety of new security features, making it difficult to counterfeit but easy to authenticate.  The launch of a Bank of England £5 note made of similar material resulted in social media protests - because the plastic polymer contains small amounts of tallow, derived from animal waste products - and some vegetarians are not happy. Tallow used to be used to make every day items such as soap and candles. But it is traditionally derived from beef or mutton (but sometimes pork). So Vegans and vegetarians faced with this revelation have voiced their concern and over 40,000 people have signed a petition calling for the contents of the Bank of England notes to be changed. The Bank of England immediately undertook to "look at alternatives" to tallow and presumably the Scottish banks will follow suit. Meantime at least one vegetarian restaurant is declining to accept the new notes and a Sikh activist has described the animal fat as "extremely offensive".  The Royal Bank of Scotland consulted thousands of people across the country in order to develop a series of new notes with relevance to the people of Scotland. This lead to the choice of 'Fabric of Nature' as the theme and the Royal Bank of Scotland Scotland's Board chose Nan Shepherd to feature on this note. Behind Nan's portrait sits a picture of the Cairngorms, so beloved by Nan Shepherd and celebrated in her writing, as well as a quote from her book 'The Living Mountain'.  The reverse of the  5 note features two Mackerel, the single most valuable stock for the Scottish fishing industry, as well as an excerpt from the poem 'The Choice' by Sorley MacLean. Behind the portrait sits a picture of the Cairngorms.  The Royal Bank of Scotland has announced that the scientist Mary Somerville will appear on its new polymer £10 note, set to be issued in the second half of 2017.

History of Scottish Banks and Bank Notes - Part 1

In the Beginning
The first coins used in Scotland were probably those brought in by the Romans. The first Scottish coins were issued in the reign of David I round about 12th century. They were silver pennies called "sterlings" similar to coins issued in England. Silver groats (four pence) and half-groats appeared in the 14th century when the first gold coin was struck. This was a "noble" and the first such coins had a lion rampant on them! The first Scottish coin to bear a date was a gold ducat issued by James V in 1539. This shows the King in a flat cap and was referred to as a "bonnet" as a result! Around the same time a coin to the value of 6 pence was issued called a "bawbee" (worth 6 old Scottish pennies, equivalent to a halfpenny Sterling. The name was probably derived from "Sillebawbe", a part of the country where Archibald Orrock (a 16th century master of the mint) had his residence.

Early Banking in Scotland
There is evidence that the great Italian banking houses were active in Scotland in the Middle Ages and they may have introduced the concept of the bill of exchange. Italians were involved in the transfer of papal taxes from Scotland and the origin of the word  Bank  is the  Banco  or bench used by the Italian merchants and money lenders.  By the seventeenth century two groups in Edinburgh, the merchants and the goldsmiths, were providing a simple form of banking. Some of the more prosperous merchants were willing to extend short-term credit to others to cover the period between buying and re-selling goods. Merchants also acted as money changers and dealers in foreign exchange. This was an important function since Scotland being a small economy, foreign coins circulated alongside the Scottish coins. Goldsmiths were also involved in money changing and foreign exchange as well as bullion dealing. Scottish merchant and goldsmith bankers suffered the same problems as their English counterparts namely - limited resources and small scale of operation. As in England there were those who argued for the establishment of a joint-stock bank (what we know today as a limited liability company) and the founding of the Bank of England in 1694 provided a useful precedent.

The Bank of Scotland
The Bank of Scotland was established in 1695, one year after the Bank of England by an Act of the Scottish Parliament. It was a great age for the promotion of new business ventures and while many other ventures of the period were not so successful both banks have just celebrated their tercentenaries. From the beginning the Bank of Scotland was a very different institution from the Bank of England. Whereas the Bank of England was closely aligned with government and made a massive loan to the King, the Bank of Scotland was concerned with the needs of commerce and was actually forbidden to lend to the government without parliamentary approval.  It is one of the peculiarities of history that while it was a Scotsman, William Paterson, who prompted the establishment of the Bank of England, it was an Englishman, John Holland, a London merchant, who was most closely association with the foundation of the Bank of Scotland. Holland went on to serve as the Scottish bank s first Governor although most of the support for the new company came from citizens of Edinburgh or from Scots settled in London.  The Bank of Scotland began by issuing notes and making loans and notes were issued for £100, £50, £10 and £5. A twenty shillings (one pound) note was introduced in 1704. Remember the value of money in those days and you will realise that banks were only for the really wealthy. The new notes proved a convenient and attractive means of payment. The notes were easier to handle than coins and more reliable since their value was clearly stated and guaranteed by the Bank. Scotland became one of the first countries in the world to use paper currency from choice.  The Bank put its notes into circulation as loans to borrowers and they were acceptable as long as there was general confidence in the Bank s ability to redeem its notes for gold or silver. The Bank in effect received an interest-free loan from those holding its notes while earning interest from those to whom the notes were issued as loans. So important was the notes issue as a way of financing its lending in its early years that the Bank of Scotland did not accept deposits on a regular basis until 1708.  The first notes were bound in books rather like a modern cheque book, but without perforations. The bank cashier would cut them out with a knife or scissors. Impatient issuers might perhaps just tear them out   the ragged edges were used when the notes were returned as an early form of detecting forgeries. Clearly volumes were not large! The Bank of Scotland was established by Act of the Scottish Parliament which included the unusual privilege that foreign investors in the Bank "shall be and become naturalised Scotsmen to all intents and purposes whatsoever". The Act granted the Bank of Scotland a monopoly of public banking for twenty-one years during which time its dividends were to be exempted from tax. This monopoly was subsequently allowed to lapse - a significant development since it allowed the future establishment of other joint-stock banks. In consequence banking in Scotland developed differently from banking in England where one bank, the Bank of England was in a dominant position over the other, smaller banks. Even before the loss of its monopoly the Bank of Scotland was faced by a rival.

The Royal Bank of Scotland
The competition to the Bank of Scotland came from a rather unusual source, the Darien Company which was formed as a Scottish overseas trading venture. Rather than let its funds lie idle while it pushed ahead with its own schemes the Darien Company lent them out at interest to its members and began to issue its own notes. The Darien Company s attempts to establish a colony on the Isthmus of Panama failed and the subsequent collapse of the company was a tremendous loss to Scottish investors. Part of the arrangements under the Act of Union (1707) provided finance to compensate the subscribers. The financial arrangements were complicated and to protect their interests the investors set up a society, the Equivalent Society which became the Equivalent company in 1724. The new company sought to move into banking and this request was received sympathetically by the government. The "Old Bank", the Bank of Scotland, was suspected of Jacobite sympathies and, with 1715 still a recent memory, a Royal Charter was granted in 1727 to the "New Bank" with the title of Royal Bank of Scotland.  Thus Scotland gained two-joint-stock banks to England s one; legal corporations with the right to sue and be sued and, for their shareholders, limited liability.

Competition Between Bank of Scotland and The Royal Bank of Scotland

Fierce competition ensued between the "Old Bank" and the "new", much of which centred on the note-issue. The aim of the Royal Bank of Scotland was either to force the Bank of Scotland out of business or to take it over on terms favourable to the Royal Bank s shareholders. The Royal Bank s strategy was to build up large holdings of its rival s notes, acquired in exchange for its own, and then suddenly present them to the Bank of Scotland for payment. To meet these demands the Old Bank was forced to call in its loans and in March 1728 to suspend payments. This relieved the immediate pressure on the Bank of Scotland but hurt its reputation and allowed the Royal Bank a clear field to extend its own lending and note issue. This increased note issue made the Royal Bank open to the same kind of attacks but despite talks of a merger the Royal Bank lacked the strength to carry its scheme through to fruition.  By September 1728 the Bank of Scotland was able to start redeeming its notes with interest and in March 1729 to resume lending. As a defence against similar attacks in the future, the Bank of Scotland added an "optional clause" to its notes which gave it the option of making the notes interest-bearing while delaying payment for six months. Despite its failure the Royal Bank maintained a considerable holding of Bank of Scotland notes as a potential threat. But they too incorporated the "optional clauses"  Eventually both banks realised that this type of competition was mutually destructive and a truce was arranged. Even so it was not until 1751 that the Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank of Scotland agreed to accept each other s notes.

Development of Other Banks

Elsewhere in Scotland some banking services such as discounting and exchange, were provided by merchants. As the pace of economic change gathered speed, the demand for banking services grew and it was not long before other organisations developed to fill the apparent void.  The problem was that the two Edinburgh banks concentrated the provision of most of their credit in Edinburgh. Before a Glasgow merchant could borrow from one of them, he would have to be well known in the capital. Only the more senior Glasgow tobacco lords found themselves creditworthy.  Initially, the problem was partially solved by a growing number of small private banks who borrowed large sums from the Edinburgh banks and lent it out in smaller amounts to merchants from Glasgow and elsewhere.  A more satisfactory solution arose when merchants in the other cities and major towns began to set up their own banks. Whereas English merchants were not given the same freedom to set up as bankers, there was no legal restriction in Scotland to prevent the Scottish merchants from doing this.  The Edinburgh banks were horrified at the proliferation of these provincial banking companies and joined forces to try and drive them out of business. Some of the provincials were quite small and vulnerable but others, such as the Dundee Banking company, were made of sterner stuff and survived the attacks from Edinburgh.

The British Linen Company
In the background to this was the emergence of the British Linen Company as a potent force on the banking scene. Formed in 1746 to promote the Scottish linen industry, this company soon developed banking services which it offered to customers at its offices in many parts of Scotland. The British Linen was therefore the real pioneer of branch banking although Bank of Scotland had tried, unsuccessfully, to establish a branch network in the 1690s and again in the 1730s. it was more successful at its third attempt in the 1770s. The Royal Bank, by contrast, maintained just one branch for many years. This was in Glasgow but it soon became one of the busiest bank offices anywhere in the United Kingdom.  Nearly all of the banks which were opened in these years issued their own bank notes and there was a clear danger, in the 1760s, that this would lead to monetary instability. Some modest regulation by statute in 1765, and the opening of the note exchange a few years later, soon regularised these problems and the note issue became one of the most popular and successful aspects of the activities of the Scottish banks. The existence of the note exchange also brought more mutual respect into inter-bank relations.  Subsequently many more banks were established to meet the needs of an expanding economy. In this, Scotland benefited from its separate legal system and the fact that the prohibition on banks of more and six partners did not apply north of the border. These early banks were not joint-stock companies but they were able to have many more partners than the English private banks. In some cases there were over 2,000 partners. Another major aspect of banking which developed in the eighteenth century was lending by cash credit. Although the bulk of lending was by discounting trade bills, the cash credit (forerunner of the modern overdraft) was a popular lending device. It was developed by the Royal Bank early in the 18th century but, eventually, all banks offered advances to their customers by this means.  The next major element of this emerging banking system was the acceptance of deposits and the paying of interest. This was by no means a new idea but the Scots were the first to develop it as a significant and continuing activity on a large scale. Significantly it first developed in Glasgow where the pace of economic progress was most rapid and the demand for funds was greatest.  PART 2 AVAILABLE NEXT WEEK

Scotrail Unveils First of 70 New Electric Trains That Will 'Transform the Experience' of Frustrated Passengers

The trains, part of an overall £475million investment programme announced last year, were hailed by transport minister Humza Yousaf as a “great milestone.  The train now arriving in Glasgow was built in England, inspired by Japan, tested in the Czech Republic - and carries the hopes of under-fire ScotRail .  The beleaguered national rail operators unveiled the first of 70 new electric trains at Glasgow’s Shield’s Depot yesterday, pledging a faster, smoother, cleaner experience for frustrated passengers.  Based on the design of famous Shinkansen Japanese bullet trains, the first of the new Class 385 trains is timetabled to pull away from Scottish platforms in September 2017, with all journeys between Glasgow Queen Street and Edinburgh scheduled to feature the new trains in 12 months.  A fleet of 70 new trains are to be rolled out across Scotland by 2019, with pledges to increase the capacity between Edinburgh and Glasgow from six to eight carriages at peak times.  A programme of nocturnal performance trials will commence this week and will run into next summer, following earlier tests in Velim in the Czech Republic.

UK Urged to Pay Heed to ‘Vital Needs’ of Scottish Fishermen in Quota Talks
The Fisheries Secretary has called on the UK Government to take the “vital needs” of Scottish fishermen into account at the December fisheries negotiations.  Fergus Ewing MSP will attend the conclusion of the Agrifish Council’s annual talks in Brussels on Monday, which will decide the industry’s fish quotas for 2017.  Speaking ahead of it he urged the UK Government to take Scotland’s interests into account when it negotiates on behalf of the whole of the UK.  The Scottish Government is calling for greater flexibility for vessels, to allow them to fish in more areas, and is appealing to the UK Fisheries Minister to stop fish quotas from being traded away unnecessarily as part of these negotiations.  Mr Ewing said he would be “very disappointed” if the uncertainty of Scotland’s and the UK’s future in the EU influences negotiations.  He said: “At these vital end-of-year negotiations it’s crucial that the UK delegation focuses on the day job and getting the best possible deal for our industry. A good deal for Scotland would mean more flexibility for vessels and an acknowledgement that quota trading must be in Scotland’s interests. Scotland should be at the heart of discussions which is why we will push the UK Government to deliver the best deal possible this week. If they do not act on our vital needs the results could be financially damaging.  We have delivered some good results for the fleet so far at EU/Norway and EU/Faroe with cod, whiting, saithe and mackerel, but it’s important that there’s recognition of the diverse nature of fishing, and that many other species require our attention.”  He added: “My priority is ensuring that Scotland’s fishing industry – and the onshore jobs and businesses supported by that industry – gets a deal which serves all of our interests. I’d be very disappointed if the uncertainty of Scotland’s and the UK’s future in the EU is allowed to influence our negotiating position. There is a time and a place for those discussions – these negotiations are not it.”

Aiding Parents with Kids in Gaelic Medium
The popular Gaelic4Parents website recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.  Launched at the Royal National Mod in Dunoon in 2006, the website provides key support for families involved in Gaelic Medium Education (GME) and is run by Gaelic educational resources organisation Stòrlann Nàiseanta Na Gàidhlig.  Gaelic4Parents offers a wide range of resources and support to all children and parents with an interest or involvement in Gaelic education but offers vital help, in particular, to those parents who don’t have any Gaelic themselves.  Lewis mum Megan Macdonald is among those who decided to put her children into Gaelic Medium Education, despite having no Gaelic herself.  Megan, who lives just outside Stornoway and is originally from New Zealand, said: “I couldn’t put the girls in Gaelic if it wasn’t for this. It would be impossible because I have no words! It’s just brilliant, especially by the time they get to P3 because their words are a wee bit more difficult.” Megan and husband Donald, who also has no Gaelic, thought seriously about whether they would be able to support Neeve, now seven, and Marley, six, in bilingual education. It wasn’t a decision we took lightly,” she said. “I did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions. I thought, ‘Can I manage? Will I be able to do their homework?’”  Megan, who can speak Spanish, was impressed by the researched benefits of bilingual education and finally persuaded when she learned of the help available. Now it is routine for Megan and the girls, plus one-year-old brother Samuel, to read their homework books at the computer and then play the Gaelic4Parents version. “I try and get the girls to read the stories themselves and then we listen to it properly.”  She added: “I find it interesting when I hear people say ‘I can’t put him into Gaelic because I can’t speak it’ because there’s a lot of support. I honestly couldn’t have done it without Gaelic4Parents.”

Face of Robert the Bruce Revealed in New Documentary

For the first time in almost 700 years, Scots will be able to look into the face of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots 1306 - 1329, who won Scotland’s independence at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314.  A new BBC ALBA documentary, Ceann an Rìgh/The King’s Head, will reveal the face of Robert the Bruce as it follows the work of Britain’s leading expert on craniofacial reconstruction as she uses cutting edge digital technology to create a 3-D portrait of King Robert.  Professor Caroline Wilkinson of Liverpool John Moores University - who was responsible for re-creating the face of Richard III from his skull after his body was discovered buried underneath a car park in Leicester - has used a plaster-cast of Bruce’s skull to base the portrait on.  The muscles and tissues of the face are then added to the skull, using her knowledge of anatomy.  Commenting on the reconstruction, Professor Wilkinson said: “The finished head is really a very strong, robust looking male.  He’s got a very strong neck, big shoulders, someone who’s used to physical activity.  The other thing that’s come out of it is that he’s got quite a strong jawline.  The muscle attachments on the skull suggest that he had very strong, well-built muscles which means that he was using them a lot and from that period of time we can assume that means he was quite a physical individual, either doing heavy manual labour, or involved in fighting.”  Bruce has been depicted for centuries in paintings, sculptures and films - without anybody actually knowing what he looked like. The quest to reveal his face was launched by Dr Martin MacGregor, a historian at the University of Glasgow. Martin has been obsessed with Bruce for decades and was inspired by Caroline Wilkinson’s work on other historical figures, including Robert Burns and Mary Queen of Scots.  Dr Martin MacGregor said: “Bruce was an interesting man and an exceptionally capable King. If we have new technology to tell us more about him, and get closer to him, it seems sensible to use it.  I would like us to take every opportunity available to make that happen and to try to learn something new about this hero.”  The University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery has a cast of Bruce’s skull in its collection. The cast was taken in 1818 when workmen building a new church on the site of Dunfermline Abbey discovered the remains of a royal tomb.  The tomb is widely believed to be that of Robert the Bruce, who was buried in the Abbey in 1329 – although some historians suggest that it might be that of King David I who founded the abbey.  Caroline’s portrait may reveal if the head had signs of injuries that might have been sustained in battle.  It may also show of signs of leprosy, which Bruce was rumoured to have contracted. Such evidence could settle the King Robert/King David controversy for ever.  Craniofacial reconstruction can’t reveal a person’s skin, eye or hair colour.  A number of Bruce’s Stewart descendants were red-headed but in the absence of DNA there is no evidence that he himself was.  His Stewart descendants ruled well into the period of artistic portraiture, and Martin MacGregor examines paintings in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery to attempt to discover the family traits that may run through King Robert’s bloodline.  Ceann an Rìgh / The King’s Head has been produced by Caledonia TV for BBC ALBA and will be broadcast on Thursday 15 December 2016 at 8.30 – 9.00pm.

Scotland's 'Renewable Energy Expertise' in Demand Worldwide, Says New Research

Scotland's "expertise in renewable energy" is in demand around the world, with businesses working in more than 40 countries, according to new research.  Projects include advising the government of Japan, providing cranes to build wind farms in Morocco and South Africa and working with the World Bank in Chile, industry body Scottish Renewables said.  Its research has found firms from across Scotland are working in countries as diverse as China, Russia, Taiwan and Cape Verde.  Firms have been involved in projects worth more than £125 million over five years, with the industry extending across 43 countries - on every continent bar Antarctica.  Jenny Hogan, director of policy at Scottish Renewables, said: "This research clearly shows that Scotland's expertise in renewable energy is in demand around the world. The stretching targets set in Scotland have meant our home-grown green energy industry has developed skills which are in demand on every inhabited continent, bringing investment and income to Scotland from across the world.  Countries like Japan, Canada and Chile have seen the lead we've built up in wave and tidal energy and now employ Scottish organisations to advise them on developing their own marine energy resources.  Scottish green energy engineering skills are in demand from South Africa to Norway while our environmental, planning and technical know-how is being used in Colombia, Canada, China and many other countries."  Some of the businesses involved include Orkney's European Marine Energy Centre, which was called upon to plan for the development of a wave and tidal energy industry in Nagasaki, Japan, and St Andrews-based SMRU Consulting which is working in the Bay of Fundy, Canada, to monitor how porpoises and dolphins interact with tidal energy turbines.  Windhoist, a crane company based in Irvine, North Ayrshire, has installed more than 4,800 wind turbines across the globe, from South Africa and Morocco to Australia and Belgium.  

Two Big Outdoor Music Festivals Planned for Banff and Inverurie

Two outdoor festivals could be launched in the north-east, bringing tens of thousands of music lovers to the area.  Banff and Inverurie could play host to the events, which would mirror existing favourites Belladrum, Loopallu and Hebcelt.  It is hoped the festivals – which will complement each other – would boost the local economy by millions.  In Banff, the aim is to host a music festival in the grounds of Duff House.  Inverurie has already hosted a number of small outdoor music events at Davidson Park although a location for an expanded event has not yet been mooted.  Talks are still at an early stage, but Roger Goodyear – organiser of the hugely popular Portsoy Boat Festival and a board member of Visit Aberdeenshire – said the idea was a massive opportunity for the north-east.  Around 18,000 people attended the boat festival last year, generating around £1million for the local economy.  Mr Goodyear pointed out that the infrastructure is already in place to support large crowds, and that since Banff is bigger, it was an obvious choice.  Mr Goodyear – who was made an MBE for services to tourism last year – said a variety of music would be considered including classical, Scottish folk or contemporary rock and pop.

Retailers Encouraged by Real-terms Sales Growth in November

Total retail sales in Scotland recorded a "promising" third successive month of real-terms positive growth in November, experts have said.  The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and KPMG Retail Sales Monitor figures showed total retail sales last month fell by 1.5% compared with November 2015. However, when adjusted for deflation measured at 1.7% by the BRC-Nielsen shop price index, sales were found to have risen by 0.2% in real terms. Total food sales were found to be flat on last November while non-food sales dropped 2.7% compared to a year ago, which retail experts are attributing to Black Friday promotional and discounting activity.  SRC director David Lonsdale said: "Total retail sales in Scotland recorded a third successive month of real-terms positive growth, albeit at a pace less marked than in October.  This promising news was underpinned by further improvements in grocery sales, which grew for a third month in a row; the best quarterly performance in almost three years.  Non-food sales were heavily driven by online sales arising from Black Friday. Promotional and discounting activity by retailers around cyber-weekend led to electricals and electronic goods performing particularly well last month, as did fragrances. The two months leading up to Christmas account for a fifth of annual retail spending and these figures provide grounds for optimism for the rest of this crucial trading period."  Craig Cavin, head of retail in Scotland at KPMG, added: "Online is the new black in 2016 as cyber sales drove much of the growth while stealing the show on Black Friday.  This may well herald the tone of years to come, with increasingly sophisticated online sales technology giving consumers a convenient yet rich shopping experience without the hassle of crowds."

David Mundell Urged to Back Immigration Policy Change for International Students

Scotland's higher education sector has called on the Scottish Secretary to help it make the case for changes to UK immigration policy for international students.   Universities Scotland, the body which represents the sector, wants to ensure that those coming to Scotland to study can remain after graduation to help meet the skills gap.  Convenor Professor Andrea Nolan urged David Mundell to support a change in policy ahead of his appearance at Westminster's Scottish Affairs Committee on Wednesday as part of its inquiry into Scotland's place in Europe following the Brexit vote.  Professor Nolan said: "As we prepare for exiting the European Union, we are being advised to take the opportunity to focus our interests more broadly than Europe, to build even more relationships across the world.  If universities are to take this as an opportunity and make a bigger contribution to the UK's export economy in doing so, we need to see positive and meaningful change on immigration from the UK Government so we can restore our competitiveness in the recruitment of international students.  Universities are a key sector of the Scottish economy, contributing over £7 billion every year.  We call on the UK Westminster Government and its Scotland Office to make the economic decision to support universities to be competitive, to support them to grow the value of their exports, as it would any other sector of the economy. We need the UK Government to bring forward positive changes to its policy on student immigration." Commenting on reports that the UK Westminster Government's planned consultation on immigration may aim to reduce international student numbers entering the UK by half, she added: "University leaders are deeply fearful of any proposals to further restrict the flow of international talent into our universities.  A move to limit international student numbers would come at great cost to our universities and would compromise the kind of education we want our home students to experience; it would take a chunk out of Scotland's export industry and put jobs at risk."

Stills for New Distillery Arrive on Raasay

Work to create a whisky distillery on Raasay took a step forward this week with the arrival of two copper stills on the island.  On Tuesday the 5,000 litre wash still and 3,500 litre spirit still arrived on Raasay after being custom made in Italy by Tuscany-based Frilli for R&B Distillers. Tuscan wine casks are also being sourced for the whisky and the Raasay distillery is due to launch in late spring 2017.  The stills six day journey saw them travel by sea and road but, because of their huge size, only by night. Now safely on the island, the stills will be housed in the distillery’s production hall.  R&B Distillers co-founder Alasdair Day said: “It’s all very exciting and ever-real now. Seeing the stills wrapped up and leaving Italy it definitely looks like Christmas is coming early to our Raasay distillery.”  Borodale House on the island, which has stood empty since 2006, will now be converted into a visitors centre and luxury members’ accommodation with the distillery adjacent. Designed by Olli Blair from ABIR Architects and Allen Associates, the distillery will be independently owned and operated and is expected to generate employment for up to 10 per cent of the island’s 120 residents.

All News is Bad News
by Rev. Stuart Campbell
Figures released this week indicated that the number of full-time teachers employed in Scotland had risen by 253 over the past year, despite budget cuts imposed by the UK Westminster government’s austerity programme. This obviously presented the Scottish media with a dilemma: how could such statistics be presented as an “SNP BAD” story? Luckily, we’re dealing with experienced professionals here.  The BBC and STV both led with the fact that numbers had decreased in a minority of local council areas, relegating the fact of the overall increase to lesser prominence.  (The former, embarrassed by an outcry over the headline, went through at least FOUR variants in the course of the day, each slightly less negative than the previous one. At the time of writing, STV still have the original negative one.)  In case anyone still wasn’t sure that this week’s SNP BAD theme in the media was going to be an attack on education, the Scottish Daily Mail this morning weighed in with a thunderous “SCHOOLS CRISIS!” blast, comprising a blaring front-page headline, the standard clutch of distorted and spun figures, and an apocalyptic column by Carole Ford, who the Mail identified as a former headteacher.  But oddly they neglected to disclose another fact about her, that readers of the sort-of newspaper might have considered pertinent in the context of a political attack.  Ms Ford trailed in a poor FIFTH in May’s general election, with fewer than a tenth of the votes of the SNP’s victorious Sandra White, so we can see why she’d want to keep attention away from her political side.  (She also leaves her Lib Dem affiliations out of the Nat-bashing letters she regularly bombards the press with, and recently posed as a member of the public – expressly NOT a politician – in a video interview published by millionaire-funded hardcore nutter Yoon collective Scotland In Union.) It’s slightly harder to come up with an excuse for the Mail hiding the fact from its readers. But when even supposedly neutral national broadcasters are willing to drill down into positive figures until they can find SOMETHING negative in them to lead their coverage with, the subterfuge looks increasingly like a waste of effort anyway.  So … we have a situation where, as I understand it, 12 LABOUR/TORY controlled Councils have cut in a variety of ways teacher numbers. Somehow though, the fact that Labour and Tory Councillors decided to cut teacher numbers, it is all the fault of the S.N.P. I wonder what part of “the S.N.P. did NOT make any decision about cutting teacher numbers because that decision is made at COUNCIL level” the BBC/SKY/MSM are incapable of understanding