Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 384

Issue # 384                                                                  Week ending 21st January 2017

Reports of the Passing of Jimmy O Were Exaggerated by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal
Death is always such a serious subject. So it was with great sadness and broken hearts that almost everyne in Stornoway heard a week ago that one of the characters of our town was no longer with us. The great Jimmy Ogilvie had shuffled off this mortal coil, was bereft of life, he rested in peace. He had kicked the bucket, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible. As John Cleese also said of that stiff parrot in Monty Python, Jimmy O was an ex-character. Eyes were wiped. Hankies were unfurled. Noses were loudly blown. We weren’t crying and we all pretended to have a cold. Poor Jimmy.

Brandies were raised in tearful remembrance of the larger-than-life cove. Since I first met him in the 1980s when he was the night porter at the Caberfeidh Hotel and he’d managed to get me a swift half as it was bitterly cold without, Jimmy O had gone on to run other oases of quality and distinction with the same sharp wit and professionalism that had made him such a natural fit for the hospitality industry. Farewell James, we wept, as we knocked back another of his beloved Courvoisiers. Brandy producers were already talking about putting workers on a three-day week.

You can only imagine my surprise therefore when a day after that news I popped into the premises of Robert Doig, an optician in these parts, and spotted what seemed to be Jimmy O propped up on a chair in the corner of the waiting room. Aw, that’s nice, I thought. Remembering how optometrist Robert had famously helped fix Jimmy’s corneas a few years ago and helped him discard his distinctive jamjar glasses, he had soon become a model customer at the optician’s. Now he was just a model. They must have decided to make a mannequin of Jimmy. It should go into Madame Tussauds, I thought. It was a better likeness than most of the rubbish in there. Except the mannequin of Jimmy looked far too young. The real Jimmy had looked far more, er, mature.

There was another surprise, nay shock, when the mannequin suddenly moved and said: “Good day, Mr Maciver. How’s the missus?” What the ...? I shot out of there in one second and I was halfway down Sandwick Road heading for the Free Church (Continuing) to ask for forgiveness and a membership form when I stopped and thought - wait, that’s not a mannequin but a talking robot. How did they do that in two days? I ran back into Doig’s and there was the real-life Jimmy O still in the waiting room, quietly reading the Woman’s Own. “So you also heard I had snuffed it, did you?” he growled. Someone had heard about the passing of a Jimmy and put two and two together and got O.

I am pleased to report therefore that an addition can be made to the list of those whose deaths were announced prematurely. To the names of the Queen Mother, the Pope, Fidel Castro, Mark Twain and Humphrey, the Downing Street cat, can now be ceremoniously added J Ogilvie, Esq.  For some reason it also brought to mind the time when the magazine Melody Maker in the early 1970s wrote a daft tongue-in-cheek obituary of the rock star Alice Cooper. So many worried fans believed it that Cooper issued a statement, declaring: “I'm alive, and drunk as usual.” Not that there is any connection in that respect to our own Jimmy O. Phew, glad I made that clear.

Strong drink is the great leveller, it is often said. My auntie used to add to that by saying: “A glass of whisky is a terrible thing. It is not to be sniffed at.” She never understood why so many took that as their cue to stop sniffing and start swigging. After I rolled back from the pub some years ago, my daughter asked: “What’s it like to be drunk?” Praising her for eagerness to learn, and cursing her under my breath for being so very annoying, I giggled, as you do when you want time to think about the answer and how I could firmly deny any suggestion of wobbliness.

I spluttered and coughed and rolled my sleeves up and said: “Yes well, actually, as it happens, I do recall that certain people have told me how they are when they have had too much of the old uisge beatha. See those six chairs right there? A drunk person would see 12.” Yes, I had nailed it. Great answer, I told myself.  Until the brat said: “Dad. There are only three chairs.”

Nicola Sturgeon on Why She Thinks Tories' Brexit Plans Threaten Workers' Rights
We live in challenging times – the events of recent months make this the most unpredictable political climate in a generation or more. Brexit looms large over everything. Tomorrow, the Prime Minister will give more detail about her negotiating stance once Article 50 is triggered.  While everyone wants to hear more from Theresa May than the meaningless “Brexit means Brexit” soundbite, the hints in yesterday’s media about what she might say are worrying.  It seems the Tories really are prepared to drive the UK off a hard Brexit cliff edge. Instead of staying in the single market – the most sensible compromise option – they want to turn the UK into a low-tax, deregulated economy. Make no mistake, such an approach will threaten hard-won workers’ rights. It would be a damaging race to the bottom, leaving everyone – perhaps apart from the very wealthiest – worse off.  It doesn’t have to be this way. The Scottish Government have already published a detailed plan to allow us to stay in the single market – which is vital for jobs and the economy – even if the rest of the UK leaves. The PM has pledged to give our plan her full consideration, and I intend to hold her to that. As we survey this extraordinary political landscape, I’m reminded in some ways of the 80s when, as a teenager growing up in Ayrshire, I first became involved in politics.  Then, as now, we had a Tory Government in Westminster who Scotland didn’t vote for, doing untold damage to our economy and society.  The current crop of Westminster Tories now seem to think they can do whatever they want to Scotland and people here will just sit back and accept it – they may be about to find out just how wrong they are about that. Brexit will dominate debate for a long time to come but I am determined to stay focussed on the big challenges we face on the home front as well.  Education, health, our rural communities, the environment, providing support to our business sector and a whole host of other issues keep the in-trays of me and my ministerial team full.  These bread and butter issues keep us busy day in, day out. On all these issues, I know that as First Minister, the buck stops with me, and that’s the way it should be.  And while there are serious challenges in education, health and beyond – not just in Scotland but across the globe – that shouldn’t blind us to our many success stories.  Yes, we want to make our NHS even better – but our doctors and nurses do a fabulous job and are delivering some of the best healthcare anywhere in the UK. On education, I’ve made it my mission to drive up standards and close the attainment gap between kids from richer and poorer areas – but we already have record exam passes and more youngsters from all backgrounds going to university.  Sometimes we are too reluctant as a nation to celebrate all that is good about Scotland. We have so much going for us. We have assets other countries would give their eye teeth for – it’s up to us to make the best of it. That’s what I seek to do each and every day as First Minister – and I’m excited to be sharing it with you on these pages.

Work to Replace Coghill Bridge to Start in March
Work on the replacement for an unsafe 124-year-old bridge over Wick River is scheduled to start in two months’ time.  Wick Highland councillor Neil MacDonald confirmed work to replace Coghill Bridge is to start in March at a cost of around £170,000.  The work is expected to take around six months to complete with the new bridge opening in September. The dangerous state of the Coghill Bridge was highlighted in June 2014 when a five-year-old boy ended up in hospital with a head injury after falling through a gap in the wooden walkway.  It has deteriorated drastically in recent years with wooden planks rotting and falling into the river.  The bridge was built in 1893 and was gifted to the people of Wick by Harry Coghill.  He donated the bridge as a tribute to the place of his birth.  Mr MacDonald said: “The last update I received from Highland Council was work on the new bridge is set to begin in March and we have received no update about changes to those plans. It is a popular bridge for dog walkers and joggers and the work is long overdue as it has been a major concern among residents.”

Pay Rise Offer Turned Down As Industrial Action Looms At Dounreay
Industrial action looks set to take place at Dounreay after last ditch talks over a pay dispute failed to reach an agreement last night.  Hundreds of union members, working as specialists, engineers and scientists at the former fast reactor, rejected a one per cent pay offer from Dounreay Site Restoration Limited’s parent company, Cavendish Dounreay Partnership. Talks led by Prospect union’s national secretary for Scotland, Richard Hardy, Unite Officer Ian Ewing and GMB Officer Liz Gordon,  failed to reach agreement resulting in all three unions on the site – Prospect, GMB and Unite – accelerating their preparations for a strike ballot.  Hardy described the talks as candid and constructive. But the employer’s representatives were unable to agree to a union proposal that would have halted the ballot process.  “Negotiations have stalled over DSRL’s refusal to improve the 1% offer, despite massive increases in shareholder dividend payments, company profitability and senior directors’ pay.  We understand that the DSRL representatives, including managing director Phil Craig, have to talk to their shareholders, but our members’ patience is running out. This is a government contract being delivered by the private sector, and we will not sit by while our members’ pay packets are used to prop up the directors’ pay and shareholders’ dividends. Our members are delivering the work and should be rewarded fairly.  It is disappointing that we couldn’t strike a deal, and we are eager to listen to what the company says when we meet again on 24 January. But in the meantime, the strike ballot preparations will continue,” Hardy said.  Workers at the adjacent nuclear plant operated by Rolls Royce were recently offered two per cent.

Air Pollution Threat in Glasgow’s West End
Partick Cross in Glasgow’s West End is among the most polluted streets in the country – and Hope Street in the city centre is the worst.  Those are among some of the key findings in a damning new report on air pollution from Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland, which is demanding urgent action.  The report highlights areas around Scotland said to have unsafe and illegal levels of toxic pollution seven years after a legal deadline, and despite a government plan to comply with clean air obligations.  Glasgow’s Hope Street topped the list of most polluted streets for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) with a reading of 65 microgrammes per cubic metre, smashing the European legal limit of 40, which was due to be met in 2010. Glasgow’s  Dumbarton Road/Byres Road (Partick Cross) also had illegal levels of NO2, with a reading of 42, making it one of three official pollution zones in Glasgow where air quality safety standards are regularly broken - the others are Hope Street and Parkhead Cross. Glaswegian Jean Nelson, 59, from Glasgow, who has suffered from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) for 17 years - and who relies on a nebuliser - said: “Cars are choking the city. A lot of people are dying unnecessarily due to air pollution. Europe has told Scotland to clean up this problem, but nothing has been done.  Air pollution makes it hard for me to breathe and on bad days, I can barely walk. I do not own a car and often have to take the bus from Hope Street.”  She added: “I can see black smoke coming out of the buses and sometimes am forced to take a taxi just to escape the fumes.  We need less traffic on our roads if air pollution is going to improve. There are thousands more cars on the roads every year and the problem is only getting worse.”

Scots Students Most Financially Savvy in the UK
Students at Scottish universities are more financially savvy than their UK counterparts, according to new research commissioned by the UK’s largest specialist student lender, Future Finance.  Only 20% of students in Scotland do not consider payday loans and credit cards as debt, compared to 33% and 35% in London respectively. What’s more, Scottish students also proved to be the most clued-up when it comes to understanding financial jargon. Just 7% of those surveyed had never heard of APR - compared to 18% in Wales.  Additionally, 61% of those studying in Scotland would class themselves as having a ‘good’ overall understanding of finances, compared to just 53% of those in London.  The research also unveiled that parents had the biggest influence on the financial habits of Scottish students. However, Scottish students do feel financially vulnerable when it comes to living off their government student loan. 68% of those studying in Scotland do not consider the amounts enough to live comfortably, compared to 59% in Wales.  Brian Norton, CEO and co-founder of Future Finance, comments: “It is reassuring that Scottish students are particularly strong when it comes to understanding financial jargon – and even more so that they correctly recognise payday loans as debt. Going to university is the first time many young adults have needed to properly budget, manage the household bills and make some tough decisions with their money. It’s not easy and it’s no wonder we hear of so many students suffering a financial meltdown.  In a crisis, many turn to payday loans as a way to survive financially. Our research suggests that students in Scotland have a greater financial awareness than most so hopefully they’re less likely to go down that path. I just wish students across other parts of the UK were as financially literate.”  Future Finance is the UK’s largest specialised private student lender, enabling undergraduates and postgraduates to fund their university education. With tuition fees at record levels and inflation on the rise, it is more important than ever that students go to university with a solid understanding of basic finance so they can budget responsibly and avoid unsuitable forms of credit.

New Hospital Delivering More Jobs
Construction of the new Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary has resulted in 215 new jobs – 55 more than planned – for people from the region, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed.  At the project’s outset, contractors Laing O’Rourke pledged to create 160 new jobs, training opportunities and apprenticeships on top of the 800-strong workforce already employed for the build. So far, the hospital’s construction has created 215 new jobs.  The hospital will provide 344 single-bed en-suite rooms, combined assessment unit, theatres complex, critical care unit, women’s and children’s unit and outpatients department. It is expected to open, on time, in December this year.  The First Minister met apprentices and graduates working on the site during a visit last week.  Nicola Sturgeon said: “This is delivering a meaningful community benefit, as well as an injection into the local economy. With a full year’s work ahead of us until the hospital is complete, we fully intend to make the most of the opportunities this presents to the community, as well as to individuals seeking training or work opportunities.  This new facility will deliver high-quality health services to patients from the Dumfries and Galloway region, and we are investing in the latest technologies to ensure efficient and effective diagnostics and treatment for every patient.”

Community Raises Thousands for Family of Black Isle Pedestrian Killed in New Year’s Day Crash
An online appeal has raised almost £12,000 to support the family of a Black Isle man who died after being struck by a car on New Year’s Day.  George Jack, from Avoch, was left in a critical condition after the incident in his home village and died later in hospital.  The popular 36-year-old worked as a groundsman and digger driver and was well known for his contribution to community life, along with wife Jillian.  The couple breathed new life into Avoch sports pavilion by regularly cutting the grass, tidying the grounds and serving behind the bar.  Now locals have rallied round to “give something back”.  Last night a Just Giving page, which was only set up on Friday, had already raised £11,650. The page has been set up by close friend Rikki Keanie.  He wrote: “To all those who knew George, they will remember him as a kind, funny and larger than life character who was completely devoted to his lovely family.  George was also a massive believer in ‘community’ within his village of Avoch and has demonstrated this by fulfilling our vision of bringing everyone together at the heart of the village.  It is safe to say that George was a man who liked to get things done instead of talking about doing it and it was this motivation along with the support of locals that has brought a promising change to the village.  George and his wife Jillian have together devoted huge amounts of time and effort in order to try and provide their beloved girls and all other locals with some facilities within the village. It is with this dedication in mind that many people have expressed their desire to give something back to the family and help them through this very difficult period in their lives.  I was asked to set up this page in order for people to give their support by trying to help ease the financial burden that comes with losing a loved one.”  Mr Keanie continues: “In recent years the Jack family have become like family to my own and I would like nothing more than to know that we have all done our little bit to support George’s girls now he is gone. I personally will be lost without my gaffer giving me jobs down the club and already miss him more than words can describe.”

Growing Likelihood of A Hard Brexit Sets Pound Sliding Again

Downing Street has refused to confirm reports that Prime Minister Theresa May will set out plans for a “hard Brexit” in a major speech tomorrow, signalling that the UK will pull out of the single market and the European customs union to curb immigration and end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.  Although the exact contents of the speech are not known, a government source was quoted as saying: “She’s gone for the full works. People will know when she said ‘Brexit means Brexit’, she really meant it.”  SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson MP tweeted: “Sunday newspapers full of reports that Theresa May backing hard Tory Brexit. Scotland did not vote for this. We will not accept it.”  The pound fell to a three-month low last night as markets reacted to the growing likelihood of a hard Brexit. Deutsche Bank forecast that sterling could fall further, potentially reaching parity with the euro.  In an appeal for unity, the Prime Minister is tomorrow expected to say: “One of the reasons that Britain’s democracy has been such a success for so many years is that the strength of our identity as one nation, the respect we show to one another as fellow citizens, and the importance we attach to our institutions means that when a vote has been held we all respect the result.  The victors have the responsibility to act magnanimously. The losers have the responsibility to respect the legitimacy of the result. And the country comes together. Now we need to put an end to the division and the language associated with it – Leaver and Remainer and all the accompanying insults – and unite to make a success of Brexit and build a truly global Britain.” Preparations for the event take place as the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier offered the first hint of a compromise from Brussels to ensure member states continue to have easy access to the City, it was reported.  But there could be further Brexit drama this week, with the verdict from the Supreme Court in a case that will decide whether Westminster and Holyrood must hold votes to approve the triggering of Article 50 expected imminently.  Meanwhile, Brexit Secretary David Davis said he was willing to have a transitional arrangement that could potentially delay Brexit taking effect for years after the UK leaves the EU.  Writing in a Sunday newspaper, Mr Davis said the government “will consider time for implementation of the new arrangements” if necessary.

Church Deeply Distressed At Offence Over Koran Reading in Cathedral, Says Leader
The Scottish Episcopal Church is deeply distressed at the offence caused by the reading of a passage from the Koran in a Glasgow cathedral, its leader has said.  The verses were read at St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral on January 6 to mark the Feast of the Epiphany but sparked criticism.  Church Primus, the Most Rev David Chillingworth, wrote in an online post that the church is committed to interfaith development and will meet with those involved.  He also said he regretted abuse targeted at the cathedral.  A reading from the Koran given at the service told the story of the birth of Christ saying Jesus was not the son of God.  Members of the local Muslim community were also invited to the service in an effort to build relationships between the Christian and Muslim faiths.  The cathedral said it had since received offensive messages from online platforms and police are investigating.    Rev Chillingworth wrote: "Those who seek to work in the area of interfaith relationships must weigh carefully whether the choices which they make are appropriate or otherwise. In today's world, those judgments must give careful consideration to good relationships which have been carefully nurtured over many years in a local context.  They must also weigh carefully the way in which national and international issues shape perceptions of what is appropriate or inappropriate.  The decisions which have led to the situation in St Mary's Cathedral are a matter for the provost and the cathedral community but the Scottish Episcopal Church is deeply distressed at the widespread offence which has been caused.  We also deeply regret the widespread abuse which has been received by the cathedral community.  In response to what has happened at the cathedral, the Scottish Episcopal Church will bring together all those who are involved in the development of interfaith relations.  Our intention will be as a church to explore how, particularly in the area of worship, this work can be carried forward in ways which will command respect."  Last week, Police Scotland confirmed it was investigating the offensive comments directed at the cathedral and did not tolerate any form of hate. A spokesman said: ''We can confirm we are investigating reports of offensive comments made towards St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow and inquiries are ongoing.  Police Scotland will not tolerate any form of hate and encourages all communities to work together to ensure no-one feels threatened or marginalised.''

Indyref2 Now ‘More Likely’ with Hard Brexit Plans
Theresa May’s pursuit of an -“economically catastrophic” exit from the European single market has made the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum “more likely”, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said last night.  The warning came as the Prime Minister set the direction for the next two years of Brexit talks, -confirming that the UK will abandon its membership of the single - market and seek a trade deal with the EU instead.  She also ruled out the Scottish Government demand for a separate Brexit deal allowing Scotland to remain in the single market – and warned EU leaders she was willing to walk away from the negotiating table, telling them: “No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.” Ms Sturgeon said a “hard Brexit” was against Scotland’s interests and presented voters with a choice between independence and a “race to the bottom”.  Mrs May said the referendum result meant the UK had to impose controls on EU migration, making continued membership of the trading bloc impossible. But she pledged to go into negotiations seeking the “freest possible trade in goods and services”.  Dismissing the central pillar of the Scottish Government’s demand for a separate Brexit deal, the Prime Minister said there would be “no new barriers to living and doing business within our own Union”.  The comments rule out Scotland having its own trading relationship with Europe, which would require customs checks within the UK.  In a call for unity aimed at the SNP, Mrs May said she would “put the preservation of our precious Union at the heart of everything we do” and said the “right powers” would be passed to devolved administrations as they are returned from Brussels. The Prime Minister set out an ambitious timetable, insisting the UK could agree exit terms and a new trading relationship within the two-year official negotiation period that begins when the government triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of March.  Mrs May also said she wanted a “phased process” following the UK’s departure in 2019, giving companies a “smooth and orderly” transition.  However, the Prime Minister made clear she was willing to walk away from talks without a deal if EU members refused to give the UK the trade deal it wants, leaving businesses facing World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs. MPs will also be given a binding vote on the final deal with the EU, which would also result in the UK reverting to WTO trade rules if the government failed to win support for the agreement it negotiates. Any attempt to impose punitive Brexit terms on the UK would be a “calamitous act of self-harm”, she said.  “Britain would not – indeed we could not – accept such an approach. And while I am confident that this scenario need never arise – while I am sure a positive agreement can be reached – I am equally clear that no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.”  Mrs May said that without a phased transition to a favourable trade deal, she would be “free to change the basis of Britain’s economic model”, slashing business taxes and regulations to undercut EU economies.  The Prime Minister said she would seek continued co- operation with EU countries on justice and security, as well as ongoing participation in European science and research. She also pledged that EU regulations on workers’ rights would be built upon as they are transferred into UK law. Britain could continue to pay Brussels for inclusion in specific European programmes, the Prime Minister said, but pledged that “the days of Britain making vast contributions to the EU every year will end”.  Mrs May said she wanted agreement with the EU on the rights of its nationals living in the UK, and British citizens - living in Europe.  The SNP’s deputy leader Angus Robertson said the Prime Minister was bowing to pressure from the right, and demanded that the Scottish Government’s calls for Scotland to remain in the single market be considered.  Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the Prime Minister of seeking to turn the UK into a “bargain basement tax haven on the shores of Europe”.  Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said Mrs May was “waving the white flag” on retaining access to the single market.

The Tory Government Cannot Be Allowed to Act Against Scotland’s Wishes by Nicola Sturgeon
Scotland did not vote for the direction set out in the Prime Minister's speech today – and it is not in our national interests.  For all her warm words, it is now clear that the UK is heading for a hard Brexit, which threatens to be economically catastrophic.  Decisions are being driven not by the rational best interests of the country, but by the obsessions of the hard-right of the Tory party.  It is also becoming clear that a more fundamental issue is emerging – not just whether the UK is in or out of the EU, but what kind of country it is going to be. The Prime Minister gave the game away towards the end of her speech when she talked of the potential for the UK to become a low wage, low tax, de-regulated economy. That would see a race to the bottom replace our membership of the single market and everyone – perhaps apart from the very wealthiest – would be worse off as a result.  The Scottish Government set out, before Christmas, compromise proposals that would protect Scotland's interests – and we made clear the central importance of single market membership to Scotland's economic and wider national interests. While discussions on those proposals continue, and while the Prime Minister today reiterated her pledge to give our plan proper consideration, we have not yet seen evidence that Scotland's voice is being listened to or our interests taken into account.
That must change in short order if there is to be any confidence that Scotland's interests can be met within the UK. And if, as the PM has now signaled, the UK is not staying in the single market, then there must be serious engagement on our proposal to allow Scotland to do so.
So while the Scottish Government will continue to take decisions in an orderly and responsible way, one thing should remain crystal clear – the Tory Government cannot be allowed to act against Scotland’s wishes and our interests, and reject all attempts at compromise.  It seems the Westminster Tory Government now think they can do anything to Scotland and get away with it. They must start to understand how wrong they are. The UK Government cannot be allowed to take us out of the EU and the single market, regardless of the impact on our economy, jobs, living standards and our reputation as an open, tolerant country, without Scotland having the ability to choose between that and a different future. With her comments today, the Prime Minister has only succeeded in making that choice more likely.

Comment -R
Democracy, Westminster style. Theresa May confirmed this morning that she would give politicians in the Commons and the Lords a vote on the final Brexit deal. Mr Davis, the Brexit Secretary,  was asked what would happen if the Commons & Lords voted to reject it. He said it wouldn’t matter – Britain would still leave the EU.  “The referendum last year set in motion a circumstance where the UK is going to leave the European Union, and it won’t change that,” he said.  Only 38% of Scots voted to leave the EU.  But more importantly 0% of UK citizens voted to leave the world's largest single market; it wasn't even an option in the referendum.  It'd be like "No" winning the Scottish referendum and trying to use it as justification to cancel devolution.  But don't worry, its all perfectly democratic - honest. Because it has to be approved by the House of Lords and a House of Commons with a Tory majority despite over 63% of votes cast being for other parties.   However I am sure even the most ardent supporter of all things British would admit that the current UK Westminster government are acting in the interests of their own wealthy voters, to which there are precious few (if any) in Scotland. Disbelievers please consider this. Were you the First Minister of Scotland and you knew that your own people had voted over overwhelmingly to remain a part of the EU, what would you do. Stand up for your peoples interests or heel to a Westminster government that has lied to, stolen from and repeatedly raped Scotland of its resources and its people for decades. I applaud the efforts of the present First Minister....if only her predecessors from the other political parties had half the amount of backbone she obviously has, but then they had to keep their masters in Westminster happy.  

Counterfeit Banknotes Found in the Highlands
A group of men are due to appear in Inverness Sheriff Court tomorrow for the alleged distribution of counterfeit banknotes in the Highlands.  Officers from Divisional Road Policing Unit, alongside local officers, stopped a vehicle on the A9 in Ross-shire yesterday (Monday) and detained the four men - aged 16, 20, 23 and 25.  Police Scotland has reminded the public, particularly those employed in shops or who regularly handle cash, to be aware of counterfeit banknotes and report any suspicious incidents.  Detective Inspector Scott Macdonald said: "Recently police have received a number of reports of counterfeit banknotes being used in the Inverness and Ross-shire areas in recent weeks. These are being tendered for low cost items in shops in the Highlands and later being found to be counterfeit currency. Police are advising those members of the public who are dealing with cash sales to bear this in mind and check high value banknotes before giving change. Anyone who deliberately uses counterfeit currency is committing crime and we will investigate all instances reported to us."

PM Refuses to Rule Out Blocking Scots MPs Voting on Brexit Law
The UK Westminster Government has been accused of mounting a “power grab” after the Prime Minister refused to rule out blocking Scottish MPs from voting on parts of a key bill to implement Brexit.  All EU law will be brought into UK statute by a Great Repeal Bill set to be unveiled in the Queen’s Speech later this year.  Scottish MPs could be blocked from voting on parts of the bill that apply to devolved responsibilities such as agriculture or higher education after the Prime Minister refused to rule out using controversial regulations on English votes for English laws (EVEL).  It risks opening a new front in the constitutional row over Brexit that could see a second independence referendum called before the end of the decade.  At Prime Minister’s Questions, Theresa May refused to rule out using EVEL on the Great Repeal Bill when asked by the SNP’s Kirsty Blackman.  The Prime Minister said the government would “need to look at the whole issue of reserved matters and devolved matters”, but added that “if any part of proposed legislation brought before this House applies only to England, it will be subject to English votes for English laws.”  The Scottish Parliament would normally be asked to give approval to UK laws that affect devolved responsibilities through a legislative consent motion, but such votes are not legally binding. The SNP claimed the Prime Minister’s comments left the door open to MPs from the rest of the UK voting to retain powers over devolved areas at Westminster as they are handed back from Brussels after Brexit.  Commenting after PMQs, Ms Blackman called on the government to “set a clear commitment that devolved matters remain devolved.”  Answering questions in the Commons earlier yesterday, Scottish Secretary David Mundell insisted that no devolved powers would be “re-reserved” after Brexit.  And in her speech setting out the government’s strategy for talks in Brussels this week, Mrs May said Holyrood would gain the “right” powers when the UK leaves the EU.

Brexit Deadlock Looms As Nations Warn Article 50 Talks Could Fail
Scotland’s Brexit minister has warned of the growing likelihood that the UK’s devolved administrations will refuse to support Brexit being triggered following “difficult” talks in London.  Michael Russell said “the clock is ticking” towards a constitutional deadlock unless the UK Government makes concessions over its plan for Brexit talks. Scottish Government proposals to allow Scotland to stay in the European single market will be given detailed consideration by Whitehall officials, in a bid to keep talks alive.  But Mr Russell accused Theresa May of showing “contempt” for pro-EU voters in Scotland by rejected any plan that creates “internal barriers” to trade within the UK.  UK Brexit Secretary David Davis said the Scottish Government’s proposals were an “important contribution” but said ministers had yet to show they were practical or deliverable.  During First Minister’s Questions at the Scottish Parliament, Nicola Sturgeon said she was “determined to save Scotland from Brexit” by keeping it within the single market.  Emerging from yesterday’s meeting of the Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) in London, Welsh Government ministers joined Mr Russell in accusing the UK Government of treating the intergovernmental forum on Brexit as a talking shop.  And there were claims that Sinn Fein, which is preparing to fight an election in Northern Ireland following the collapse of the power-sharing executive, could pull out of the process entirely. Mr Russell said there was “Great frustration building up” about the lack of involvement in developing a common position on Brexit strategy ahead of the start of talks, which will be triggered by the invoking of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of March. “We would then be in a very serious situation indeed, where the promises from the prime minister would turn out to be worthless.” Scottish Secretary David Mundell insisted talks were ongoing and that the Scottish Government’s plan would be examined. “But at the moment I don’t have any evidence to suggest that Scotland would benefit from a differentiated arrangement from the rest of the UK.”  Asked what would happen if the parties failed to reach an agreement, Mr Russell said: “We are not going to be put in a position where we walk away from this until we are absolutely sure, absolutely sure that nothing can be done. We’re patient, I just wish the UK government could show the goodwill and spirit of compromise that we’re showing.”

Comment-R
Theresa May repeatedly shows that she is not up to the job as Prime Minister.  Her arrogant, self interest in trying to save the inept Tories from the spectre of defeat at the next general election by the racist UKIP has completely skewed any miniscule amount of judgement she had. She is about to ride roughshod over the wishes and legitimate claims of the Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh administrations. She has had months to discuss and debate with the other home nations how to try to meet their needs whilst respecting the result of the EU referendum. She has failed to do this in spectacular fashion and has almost single handedly alienated millions in the three nations as wel
l as damaging British democracy.