Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 383

Issue # 383                                                 Week ending 14th January 2017

Tong Village on High Alert Ahead of That Inauguration
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal
Our lovely island’s connection with the Most Powerful Person In The World-elect still brings hordes of media people from around the world to knock on doors in the village of Tong to see if anyone has anything interesting to say about Donald Trump or his mother or the house she lived in or his island cousins or anything vaguely relevant at all. It was there where Mary Anne Macleod was born and raised before she sailed off to the United States where she met Fred Trump and the rest is history, most of which I suspect is not written yet. Mary Anne’s wee balach will become the POTUS next week so they all want something new to write.

Editorial budgets are stretched at one American newspaper as it keeps flying over squeaky fresh-faced scribes as well as deep-voiced, stetson-wearing veterans to bang their knuckles vainly on the doors of the village bungalows trying to get someone, anyone to say something, anything. They don’t realise they are spotted as soon as they turn in at the crossroads and the local phone lines are buzzing until they finally give up and head back to Washington to face the prospect of have to churn out more screeds of recycled nothingness.

Not that the stalwarts of the UK media fare much better with the wily cousins of The Domhnall Iain and their alert neighbours. Not matter where they are from, the doors are firmly bolted when the media cavalcades are spotted heading down the Tong road. So everyone held their breath when another Scottish-Scandinavian media veteran turned up last week with microphones and TV cameras in tow. What would the wee village make of the saintly Sally Magnusson?

It was the instant recognition that won them over. Why, the locals kent her faither as they were growing up. OK, the Magnussons were not actually Gaels but they were half-Scottish and half-Greenlandic or Icelandic or something like that. To get to Iceland, you simply go up to Port of Ness and just keep going. “Ach, she’s the daughter of whatshisname who used to say: “I’ve started so I’ll finish” on Mastermind. She’s doing something for Songs of Praise? Oh m’eudail, she’s lovely. Do you think she will come in for a wee strupag and have a pancake I made this morning?”

Sally is a darling, right enough. I had a few words with her and I said she must have been starting out in London when I was there back in the early-1990s. No way, she said. She’s actually been putting people at their ease on sofas since BBC breakfast telly back in the 1980s with Frank Bough in his Pringle pullover, Jeremy Paxman who was still practising the art of grumpiness on people not yet awake and Peter Snow with his swingometer. Yeah, she did general election coverage - and everything. I had forgotten how long she had been at it.

She looked at me, tapped the bony casing of the Magnusson grey matter and whispered: “You and I are both a wee older than we think.” Ooh stop it, I like it. And sure enough our Sally had no problem getting Lewis people to talk to her - although the DJ’s closest cousins still kept firmly to the “Silence is as golden as Donald J’s hair” policy. As Songs of Praise is a religion-based programme, Sally was interested in the Macleod family’s faith. They attended the High Church in Stornoway - only it was something like the United Reform back then in the 1920s. You can see for yourself which Lewis folk were won over by her beguiling charms when Songs of Praise from the birthplace of Donald Trump's mammy is broadcast on Sunday afternoon.

The history of the church in Lewis, of course, has featured many splits and divisions - although I doubt if Songs of Praise will feature them. To this day, we hear of ripples and strains of disharmony in the pews. I heard of an island mother who got up on a Sunday morning recently and went to waken her son to tell him it was time to get ready for church.

Rubbing sleep from his eyes, he replied: “No, I’m not going.” She had never heard him speak that way before. “Oh a thiarraidh, why not?” she demanded. He sat bolt upright and said: “I'll give you two good reasons why not. One, they don't like me, and two, I don’t like them.” His anxious mother replied: “Haoi, a bhalaich. I’ll give you two good reasons why you should go to church. One, you’re over 50 years old and, two, you’re the minister.”

Arise Sir Andy!
Andy Murray has had an amazing year both on the Tennis Courts and off them. In February he became a Dad for the first time when his wife Kim gave birth to daughter Sophia. Then in June he became Wimbledon champion for the second time in a row. In August 2016 he successfully defended his Olympic singles title in Rio de Janeiro. A string of successes in various tournaments meant that in November he overtook Novak Djokovic as world number one and was still #1 at the end of the year.  In December he won the vote by the public to be BBC Sports Personality of the Year in a landslide victory, with double the number of votes of the runner-up. It was a record third time he had won the title, having won it in 2013 and 2015.  Then, in the Queen's New Year's Honours List at the end of 2016, he was awarded a "knighthood" and will be "Sir Andy Murray" after the investiture - possibly by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Skyscanner Bought By Chinese Giant
The sale of Skyscanner to a Chinese company for $1.7 million came as a shock to Scottish business, which had seen the Edinburgh based travel website as a model for other Scots entrepreneurs.  Skyscanner, which is based in Edinburgh , is a travel price-checking website, which was founded in 2003 by Gareth Williams and two friends. The three founders are now set to share in proceeds estimated at around £400m.  CEO Gareth Williams has stated that none of the 500 staff in the UK will lose their jobs and that the takeover will not affect growth plans .  Skyscanner's current management team will continue to be in charge of its operations independently after the completion of the deal.  Nasdaq-listed Ctrip, partly owned by the Chinese search company Baidu, provides online booking for airline and railway tickets as well as hotels and describes itself as China's largest travel company. It generated more than 350bn yuan (£41bn) of online sales in 2015, according to the company website.

Is this Scotland’s Oldest Recipe Book?

It is more than 330 years old with a collection of handwritten recipes contained within its fragile, almost translucent pages, some which are marked with the spills and stains of kitchen life.  Dating from 1683, the recipe book is believed to have been written by Helen, Countess of Sutherland, with the instructions solely concerned with fruit preservation and jelly making.  The worn and torn notebook forms part of the Sutherland Estate papers deposited at the National Library of Scotland (NLS) and is the earliest Scottish manuscript culinary recipe book in its collection.  It includes recipes for orange marmalade, lemon cream (made without cream) and jelly made from gooseberries. Vast quantities of sugar are involved in them all. The book would have been kept in the kitchen of Dunrobin Castle in Golspie, the seat of Clan Sutherland. The Countess was married to John Gordon, the 16th Earl of Sutherland, an army officer who was honoured following the defeat of the 1715 Jacobite rebellion. According to NLS, well-to-do women would record their favourite recipes or new dishes in manuscript recipe books.  Often passed down through generations of a family, many contain household and medical preparations as well as culinary recipes.  A slightly later 17th Century document held by NLS includes instructions for Caikes of Pippens (apples) and quinces, as well as several fruit jellies.  According to NLS, these were generally stiff conserves which would be sliced and served as sweetmeats. They were a practical means of conserving superfluous produce, but were also intended to impress.  Generally, most Scots only eat fruit when it was in season with preserves not widely eaten until the 19th Century.  Other similar examples within the NLS collection include recipe books of Katharine Bruce and Margaret Carnegie in the Fletcher of Saltoun Papers, 1689-1709.  The earliest printed cook book in the NLS collections was published in London and dates from 1671.  It is presented as “The Queens closet opened. Incomparable secrets in physick, chirurgery, preserving and candying, &c. Which were presented unto the Queen: by the most experienced persons of the times, many whereof were had in esteem, when she [ple]ased to descend to private recreatio[ns.].” The oldest cookery book printed and published in Scotland was Mrs McLintock’s Receipts for Cookery and Pastry Work, published in Glasgow in 1736.  It is held by Glasgow University Library.

Massive Effort to Sort the Rhino's Toothache
Edinburgh's Firefighters proved they had a thick skin when they were called to assist a rhino - suffering from toothache.  The crew supported Royal Zoological Society of Scotland vets at Edinburgh Zoo during the dental procedure in order to ensure the safety of both staff and the animal.  Firefighters from Newcraighall fire station were asked to assist in the procedure last month.  They drew on their skills of searching collapsed buildings to safely manoeuvre two tonne "Bertus" into the correct position for the operation.  Station Manager Willie Pollard said: "Being requested to support RZSS Edinburgh Zoo in the moving of their rhinoceros is one of the strangest special services I have undertaken.  The task of safely moving an animal of this size clearly presents a number of challenges.  And Bertus is now back enjoying his favourite food of browse (leaves, soft shoots, or fruits) and vegetables.  Simon Girling, head vet at the zoo, said: "We are incredibly grateful for the help of the fire and rescue crew. Bertus' operation was a great success and even though it was a minor tooth operation, it involved a massive team of people all working together to ensure the operation went smoothly."  Bertus is now reported to have made a full recovery from the procedure carried out earlier this month and is eating comfortably. Bertus is a greater one horned Indian rhino and is eight years old.

Scottish Tourism Flourishing

Tourism leads an upbeat new assessment of the Scottish economy, with strong signs of recent growth and expectations of a positive start to 2017. The Royal Bank of Scotland Business Monitor shows transport and communications also performing well.  About 400 firms across a range of sectors in the Scottish economy were questioned.  The findings contradict other recent survey evidence suggesting confidence being hit by Brexit (the UK leaving the European Union) creating uncertainty.  The Royal Bank survey was carried out by the respected Fraser of Allander Institute at Strathclyde University, and balances those firms with positive results against those reporting negatively.  36% of firms reported an increase in total volume of business during the last quarter, compared to 25% which reported a fall. There were similar measures for new business, though firms in north-east Scotland reflected the continuing difficulties of winning business amid the downturn in the oil and gas sector. Prof Graeme Roy, director of the Fraser of Allander Institute, added: "The volume of business activity is at its highest level in over a year with businesses reporting turnover at its highest level in over two years. That being said, expectations for turnover and investment are down on the quarter suggesting that the outlook for 2017, whilst improved, remains uncertain."

Patients Set for Showdown with Ambulance Chief
Angry patients in north-west Sutherland are to vent their frustration over medical transport in a showdown meeting with the head of the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS).  It follows a series of complaints over the patient transport service in an area where public transport is said to be "deteriorating".  Patients – including cancer sufferers – have complained about having to go through constant hurdles of bureaucracy or made to feel embarrassed about using the service.  Now a public meeting is to be held at Lochinver Village Hall on February 27 at 1pm – with representatives of other far north communities also invited to vent their frustration and seek change.  Pauline Howie, chief executive of the SAS, has agreed to meet people in north-west Sutherland after a plea from Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant, representatives of Assynt Community Council, patients and their families.  Mrs Grant wrote to Ms Howie after meeting constituents in Lochinver in August.  The community wanted to talk to the head of SAS about the need for improvement for the whole of the area. Previously it had met with north representatives of the service.  Residents felt that there was nothing happening to change the current patient transport service for the Assynt area and that it was being run from a central point in the central belt which was not engaging with the rural population.  Moreover, it was pointed out there was no longer a bus service which would allow people from the area to travel to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness and back in the same day, due to Highland Council subsidy cutbacks.  "I am delighted that Ms Howie is coming north as the journey will reinforce the community’s perspective," said Mrs Grant.  "What I have learned about people’s view of the service has troubled me, from problems with the system for booking patient transport, to patients reporting that they are ‘totally exhausted’ after some hospital trips due to the wide area covered for picking up people.  The message from my meeting in the summer was that people did not want to abuse the patient transport system but wanted to ensure they could use it when it was really needed.  This gives the community a chance to air their views to the person at the top and I’m hoping there will be a positive outcome for everyone involved."  Retired GP David Slator, chairman of Assynt Community Council, also welcomed the meeting and said some patients had been through "unbelievably distressing" situations to use the service.  I am highly delighted that the SAS has agreed to come to Lochinver to meet with people who use the service. It has been a rumbling problem for some years involving all North West communities," he said.  "It will be good for her (Ms Howie) to hear people’s first-hand accounts of the difficulties they have encountered. I don’t want her to think this is just about a few bellyachers from Lochinver – it is far wider than that."  Mr Slator said sick patients who could technically drive were being told they could not use the service, that they could not take an escort when they were undergoing such gruelling treatments such as chemotherapy and even people undergoing regular treatment at Raigmore had to constantly fill in a needs assessment questionnaire. There are widespread issues with the service which need addressing," he said.  They often involve the elderly with complex needs trying to access the service and given that the public transport is deteriorating there is no alternative for them."  

Stirling Castle Comes Out Top

Stirling Castle has been named Scotland's best visitor attraction at the inaugural 2016 Scottish and Outdoor Leisure Awards.  The castle, which attracts about 460,000 visitors per year, beat competitors including Edinburgh Zoo (voted runner up) and Dynamic Earth. Winners in 17 categories were announced at an awards ceremony in Glasgow at a Gala event in the Marriot Hotel.  The castle's executive manager Liz Grant said winning the award was a "wonderful achievement". She said: "Scotland's heritage attractions, such as Stirling Castle, form an important part of the country's wider tourism and leisure offering and it's great to see this recognised.  This accolade is made doubly special as it is initially voted for by members of the public and our visitors."

Golden Eagles - Flying High in Scotland
A survey of golden eagles in Scotland has shown the birds to be thriving, with numbers close to an historic high.  RSPB Scotland announced there had been a 15% rise since 2003, when the last survey took place, from 442 to 508 pairs. The research was carried out by experts from the wildlife charity and the Scottish Raptor Study Group. Scotland is now thought to be home to the UK's entire population of golden eagles. The huge raptors have a wingspan of over 6 feet.  England's only resident golden eagle, which occupied a site near Haweswater in the Lake District, has not been seen for more than a year and is feared to be dead.  The RSPB said the six-month survey - which the charity co-funded with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) - showed the raptor could now be defined as having a "favourable conservation status".  Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management at RSPB Scotland, said the birds were an "awe-inspiring part of our natural heritage" and welcomed the news from the survey.  "Across many parts of Scotland there's been a very welcome turnaround in how people respect these magnificent birds, part of a more enlightened public attitude towards birds of prey," he said.  "Increased monitoring and satellite tagging of eagles, as well as stronger sanctions against wildlife crime may be serving as effective deterrents against illegal activity, therefore helping their population to increase. However, the continued absence of golden eagles in some areas of eastern Scotland remains a real cause for concern and suggests that much more work needs to be done."

Stop-and-Search Power Code of Practice to Be Laid At Holyrood

A new code of practice for police powers of stop-and-search is due to be laid before the Scottish Parliament this week.  It is being introduced following concerns over the number of people being searched without a legal basis.  Figures highlighted by the Scottish Liberal Democrats show the number of stop-and-searches has fallen dramatically since 2013/14, when the scale of their use was first exposed.  Statistics show 888 consensual searches and 20,665 statutory searches were conducted between April 1 and September 30 2016. This compares with 450,173 consensual searches and 192,470 statutory searches in 2013/14. Once the code comes into force, non-statutory or ''consensual'' stop-and-searches will be banned entirely.  The code will set out guidance on how and when stop-and-search is used, how the search should be carried out and the type of information that should be recorded. Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur said the drop in the number of searches "proves just how incredibly unwarranted it was for the national force to search people on an industrial scale in the first place".  He added: "The new code of practice laid before Parliament this week will govern the remaining statutory searches.  For the first time ever, the stop-and-search procedure, the police's responsibilities and people's rights will be clearly defined in law.  Ministers must work with us to guarantee it is fair, that it consolidates and builds upon the positive changes we have seen already, and it rules out the return of industrial scale stop-and-search."  A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act, passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament, has already legislated for the end of non-statutory or 'consensual' stop-and-search when the code of practice comes into force later this year. Stop-and-search can be a valuable tool for combating crime but the right balance must be reached between protecting the public and rights of individuals.  We have consulted widely and listened to the views of the expert advisory group in preparing this code of practice."

Floating Wind Farm to Deliver Jobs Boost for Scrabster

New jobs could be created at Scrabster to service a floating wind farm based off the north Caithness coast.  Dounreay Trì Limited has agreed a deal with Scrabster Harbour for the port to become its service base for two floating turbines planned to be based nine km from the Dounreay coastline.  If Scottish Ministers approve the project, it will create seven full time jobs at Scrabster and support many other jobs ranging from the harbour authority itself, through to fuel suppliers, cranage and other supply chain activities.  Dounreay Trì Project operational and maintenance manager Simon Tuchewicz said, “Scrabster Harbour is an excellent facility, with great local infrastructure and support services that we believe can fully meet the operation and maintenance requirements over the 25-year Project life."  Scrabster port manager Sandy Mackie said: "Scrabster is ideally suited to support their operations and maintenance needs. We look forward to working with the company to deliver a successful project that will benefit the port and local economy."  Dounreay Trì Limited has also announced it has awarded the construction contract for the floating wind farm to Global Energy Group.  The works will be carried out at the group’s Nigg Energy Park facility and the project is subject to Marine Scotland and Scottish Ministers processing the planning application by March 31.

Drink Driving Rise ‘A Disgrace’ Says Top Cop

The number of drink drivers caught by police over the festive season is up, despite the usual high profile police warnings. The increase in the number of checks by police – up 15 per cent – could account for some of the 625 motorists found to breaking the law.  But Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins, slamming the result as “a disgrace” – says the increased police activity doesn’t account for the rise, which was still higher in percentage terms.  The number of drivers over the limit rose from 2.8 per cent of those tested to 3.3 per cent, while the number of those caught after drinking the night before was also slightly up – from 13 to 46.  Police Scotland’s four-week enforcement campaign saw an average of 610 drivers tested every day.  The police anti-drink driving campaign came at the same time as a Scottish Government awareness campaign to reinforce the message that “the best approach is none”. Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “It is hugely disappointing to see a rise in the number of drivers who have flouted the law and put their lives, and the lives of others, at risk over the festive period.  Of course people should be enjoying time with their loved ones over Christmas and New Year but this isn’t an excuse to ignore the law and get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol.  By drink driving, including the morning after, you are not only putting yourselves at risk, but also facing a minimum one year driving ban, a criminal record, points on your licence and a substantial fine.  Please remember, the best approach is none.” Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins said: “It is an absolute disgrace that so many people were prepared to risk their own lives, as well as the lives of innocent people, by recklessly taking to the roads while in a drunken state.  We were massively active over the festive season and while the number of tests we carried out was greater than last year, proportionately the number of people caught, particularly those the following morning, was greater still. Drivers need to take far greater personal responsibility, and also be aware that while this campaign is over, my officers still have a very sharp focus on detecting and arresting drunk drivers. I repeat the guidance given at the start of the campaign - don’t risk it, because - as these 625 people have found to their cost - we will detect and arrest you.”    

Gold Coins From Cononish

A mining company hoping to open the only underground goldmine in the Scottish Highlands near Tyndrum has sold its first gold in the form of 11 commemorative coins.  Scotgold Resources raised just under £46,000 by auctioning 10 "rounds" to enthusiasts and collectors. Each solid gold coin weighs an ounce, which represents a mark-up of nearly 400% on the current market price of $1,192 per ounce.  The company hopes that the auction, the first sale of Scottish gold in recent history, will attract enough investment to fund its long-delayed mining operation at Cononish on the edge of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park in Stirlingshire in the southern Highlands. Scotgold Resources believes its gold will attract a premium price as a niche product for tourists, jewellers and couples keen on Scottish gold wedding or engagement rings.  The first round, embossed, like all the coins, with a stag's head, was snapped up by Graham Donaldson, a Scotgold shareholder who lives in Christchurch, Dorset. His bid of  21,003.3p was the highest. "As to what I would do with it now, I would probably look at it and stroke it, and put it in a safe," he said.

Nicola Sturgeon: I Am Not Bluffing Over Second Scottish Independence Referendum

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted she is not bluffing about the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum as she accused Theresa May of having an “unacceptable” approach to Brexit.  The Scottish First Minister hinted that a “hard” Brexit could see a vote on independence within five years, but insisted that she was offering a “compromise solution” to the Prime Minister.  Ms Sturgeon has indicated that “soft” Brexit could take the issue of a second referendum on Scottish independence off the table in the short term.  But she told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show that she was prepared to call a fresh vote if the terms of Brexit were not right.  She said “they will be making a big mistake if they think that I’m in any way bluffing” because leaving the European Union created a “fundamental question” for Scotland. If we’re going to be ignored, if our voice has been completely cast aside, our interests cast aside, then that can happen on anything,” she said.  “And we have to ask ourselves in Scotland are we happy to have the direction of our country, the kind of country we want to be determined by a right-wing Conservative government perhaps for the next 20 years, or do we want to take control of our own future. And that’s the case that in those circumstances I think it would be right for Scotland to have the opportunity to decide.” Asked if she was looking at a referendum “much quicker” than in five or 10 years’ time if there was a hard Brexit she said: “I would think, yes. But let me not get away from this point, I’m putting to Theresa May a compromise solution.”  But the First Minister was critical of Mrs May’s approach to the issue and co-operation with leaders of the devolved administrations.  She said that instead of “prioritising ” the “sensible solution” of keeping the UK in the single market, Mrs May was trying to “appease” Eurosceptics in her “deeply-divided” party.  Voicing concerns about the Prime Minister’s approach to the process, she added: “If the UK’s coming out of the European Union that has enormous implications for Scotland as it does for other parts of the UK, it has enormous implications for our economy, for jobs, for living standards, for trade, investment, for the kind of society we are and I want to play my part in making sure we get the right outcome from that.  That’s why the Scottish Government has published proposals that we hope are taken seriously, but thus far almost two-thirds of the way to the triggering of Article 50 we know no more about the UK’s position than we did the day after the referendum and that is increasingly unacceptable.”  Commenting on Nicola Sturgeon’s interview on The Andrew Marr Show, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “This is yet another attempt by the SNP to sow division and uncertainty, at a time when the country needs to pull together more than ever. On Friday the First Minister hinted that she was backing away from another vote, yet today she is again threatening to impose a second independence referendum on the people of Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon could provide much needed clarity on Scotland’s future by ruling out another independence referendum altogether.  With a growing crisis in our NHS and a shameful gap between the richest and the rest in our schools, the challenges facing Scotland are too great for the SNP government to be distracted by another referendum.  With power returning from Brussels, it is now clear that we need a People’s Constitutional Convention and a new Act of Union to reform where power lies across the whole of our country, and to save the Union from the threat of the SNP and the Tories who risk pulling it apart.” Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie criticised the First Minister saying: “The First Minister is all over the place on independence. One minute she backs off, the next she threatens to break up the UK. Nicola Sturgeon’s inconsistent position is causing damaging uncertainty. She rightly criticises the Prime Minister for a lack of clarity on Brexit but the First Minister is making matters worse with a similar lack of clarity on independence. She should rule out another independence referendum as she promised only two years ago.”

New Highland Connections But Train Critics Continue to Be Rattled

A new railway station near Inverness Airport, has raised public funding to the tune of  3.4 million. In a separate announcement, the government has said a new group is to co-ordinate efforts to improve services on the Highlands' Far North Line which connects Inverness to Wick and Thurso.  In the Central Belt, where passenger numbers are concentrated, the situation has been less happy with much criticism of ScotlRail's performance. Season ticket holders may get a free week of travel as compensation under a government scheme. Since 2015 ScotRail has been operated by Abellio, a company headquartered in the Netherlands.

2 Truths About Opinion Polls by Stephen Bird
As we head into 2017 with the half of the media rabbiting on about how much of a triumph we are going to have in May. The other half of the media keep up the recurring theme of the SNP poll figures are about to collapse. There are only two things we can be sure about.  One is that the polling industry got it so badly wrong in so many cases in 2016.  From the Scottish Elections through the Tory civil war which became Brexit to America failing the collective IQ test. They predicted, pontificated and pronounced to all and sundry; and they got it wrong with a consistency which was only matched by Kez.  But do they show a degree of remorse, even humility? Aye right!  The pollsters still carry on as if 2016 never happened. Expecting the media to carry their “predictions” as though they were tablets of stone brought down from on high for the betterment and guidance of we mere mortals and of course voters. But of course, the media need to pretend that the “predictions” have relevance because they are a wonderful replacement for actual news. The big problem with real news is that it requires real journalists who can understand the difference between for example a Labour press release and the meaning of exam stats. Or who can recall that the Tories (red, blue & gold) all ganged up to vote through more money for the Edinburgh Trams, when the Tories put out “Tram waste of money” stories.  And be “willing to call them out” as our transatlantic cousins say.  This refusal to employ real journalists was of course best seen here in the Brexit campaign. The blind refusal of news outlets on air and in print to tackle the blatant lie of £350 million for the NHS lead to ever more outlandish statements (from both sides) as the campaign wore on, and on and on…..  On the other side of the Atlantic, the need to “inject some interest” in the election meant that we now have a President Elect who thinks that running three tweets together constitutes a policy document. Quite how even Fox convinced themselves that he was Presidential material is something I will never understand in the proverbial month of Sundays. To go from Barrack Obama one of the most thoughtful, learned and intellectual Presidents to this poses real questions about the capacity of US commentators to explain issues and that actions have consequences.  To pivot from “the communicator in chief” as Bill Clinton was known to George W was bad enough! To follow Obama with the Trumpet is just downright embarrassing.  But do the US media and pollsters ask why they got it so wrong and what they can do to avoid repetition? If so then it’s not been on any programme I’ve seen. But still we get the “predictions”. As I write the latest is a “leak” of internal polling by the British Labour Party in Scotland that they are going to be hammered in May and take only 15% with the Tories getting 25% and the SNP 45%. It’s possible but since we are still more than 4 months from Polling Day, and outside the political bubble, the real world couldn’t care less about the Council Elections, then forgive me for reaching for the salt cellar.  We will see lots of polls between now and May, some will be good and some not so good for the SNP, they will all claim certainty that they are reading the mood of the voters and all should be read with a great big sign which says “Remember 2016.”  I started this piece by saying that there were two things we can be sure about in regard to the polls. Obviously one is that they are, to be polite, less than reliable.  The other is the most important and is simply stated!  The only poll which counts is on Thursday 4 May. Every other is a distraction. Do not let yourself become complacent by the good ones or despondent by the not so good. Do not let the media talk you into playing games with your votes. There is only one Party which says what it means and means what it says on the future of Scotland.  On May 4 it doesn’t matter if I am a candidate or someone else is, the only thing that matters is that we return SNP Councillors in huge numbers. The next 5 years will be tough in local government, the consequences of the No vote are now going to felt and they will hurt people. But I know that I trust SNP Councillors to do a better job of protecting our services than any other group.

Brexit May Cost Aberdeen Haulage Firm Millions
Haulage boss Eddie Anderson, who runs Aberdeen firm ARR Craib, said yesterday uncertainty over Brexit had potentially cost his business new work worth many millions of pounds.  Two projects have been put on the shelf as a result of ongoing concerns about Britain’s future outside the European Union, with one of them worth up to £5million and the other “a couple of million”, he added.  “Nobody knows what is going to happen after Brexit,” Mr Anderson said, adding: “It is already having a negative impact on my business.”  Mr Anderson, owner and chief executive at Dyce-based ARR Craib, said mainland European customers were no longer interested in doing business in UK pounds, insisting on euros, in a further sign of changed trade relations.  He was speaking after accounts from Companies House showed his firm suffered a fall in pre-tax profits to £1.05million during the year to March 31, 2016, from £1.39million in 2014/15.  Turnover was down by more than £4.5million at £43.49million as ARR Craib – like so many other north-east businesses – felt the impact of the oil and gas downturn.  Mr Anderson said: “It was a difficult year but, with a lot of hard work, we still managed to make a profit and keep our head above water.  This year is likely to be fairly similar but we are starting to get good feedback that 2017/18 should be better.”  Mr Anderson said ARR Craib had “cut its cloth” under the circumstances, with a slight reduction in the workforce .  ARR Craib operates more than 200 vehicles and 500 trailers.

Wintry Weather Continues to Take its Toll
Wintry weather has continued to take its toll across Scotland with road closures, fallen trees and power lines down.  More than 2000 homes were left without power in the in Highland, Aberdeenshire, Moray and Angus areas as a combination of high winds, snow and fallen trees caused disruption with supplies.  Schools were also badly hit by snow and ice with 29 school closures in place in Moray, Aberdeenshire and Highland.  Met office "be aware" warnings are still in place for many parts of the country with motorists facing road closures in Perthshire and the Borders.  A spokeswoman for the Met Office said the worst affected areas had been in the north of the country where 18cm of snow was recorded in Inverness-shire.  Motorists also faced problems on the roads with closures in place on the A9 at Dalnacardoch, Blair Atholl and on A701 at St Ann's where the B7020 was closed in both directions after an accident.  Utility firm Scottish Hydro estimated 2000 properties were left without power in the area it covers.  Northlink Ferries is reviewing its ferry services between Scrabster and Stromness while ScotRail reported no problems to the far north line.  Highland Council reported routes in Caithness and north Sutherland had up to five inches of snow.

Jobs Boost for Isles As Tourism Booms
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed new figures which show the number of people working in tourism in the Western Isles increased by 22% in one year – with Scotland as a whole seeing an increase of 11%.  The statistics produced by Visit Scotland show that tourism supports 1,100 jobs in the Western Isles, 10% of total jobs in the area.  Between 2014 and 2015, the number of people employed in the sector across Scotland grew to 217,000 – with the 11% increase in Scotland above the 4% rise in Great Britain as a whole. Alasdair Allan commented: “At a time of great economic uncertainty is it great to see such a large increase in the amount of people employed in the Isles’ tourist industry. These figures underline the increasingly important role tourism has in the islands’ economy.  With this year being Historic Environment Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology and Scotland ranking second in this year’s Rough Guides list of the best countries in the world to visit, tourism in the Isles has a very bright future.”

Kishorn Regeneration Plan Boosted by Cash Boost of £500,000
Plans to breathe new life into the former oil fabrication yard at Kishorn in Wester Ross are to be boosted by a £500,000 investment.  Kishorn Port Limited, the joint venture seeking to resurrect the yard, has begun the first phase of re-instating the site’s dry dock.  Kishorn has recently been identified as an area which could play a key role in the decommissioning of North Sea oil rigs. With support of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, a contract has now been issued to marine engineering company Harris Pye to trial the dock gates, which were last opened when the Skye Bridge caissons were constructed there in 1993.  Kishorn Port Ltd, a joint venture between Ferguson Transport and Shipping and Leiths (Scotland) Ltd, has been working over the last eight years to identify markets that need access to sheltered deep water and a large dry dock.  Alasdair Ferguson, a KPL Director, said: “If Scotland is to capture a share of this market, it is essential to invest in and bring on stream sites such as Kishorn and make them ‘decommissioning ready’. Dry docks are ideal for decommissioning floating structures in a contained environment, particularly if they can be accessed by super heavy lift vessels that need sheltered deep water up to 38 metres in depth where 70 metres is available to tranship their loads.”  The projected cost of decommissioning the North Sea oil and gas infrastructure has been estimated at £75 billion and continues to grow. To date, most of the large contracts have gone to yards elsewhere in Europe or Scandinavia, mainly because there is a shortage of adequate licenced facilities in Scotland.