Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 387

Issue # 387                                                                  Week ending 11th February 2017
So, When Did You Last Have A Really Good Scurryfunge? By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Not so long ago, we managed quite easily with a good dictionary to find any word. It was always there on the shelf. It did not get lost or updated very often and, just as the poor are always with us, according to the Bible, so were our dictionaries. Right beside the Bible, of course. And the Good Housekeeping guides. And the colourful Mary Berry books about baking great cakes. Wonder what happened to her?

You can still depend on the Mary Berry books to keep you right and many think the Bible too. The housekeeping volumes look very dated now but a dictionary? Not that it is dated, really, but it is just not up to date. No sooner has it been printed than is updated with all the new words, sayings and slang which are being adopted by those who are down with the kids. The really big dictionary - well, it’s also a big website now - is the Oxford English Dictionary and it has new words inserted every few months.

Why would you want to make up a silly word that is longer, more difficult to pronounce and utterly incomprehensible to 90 per cent of the population when you have an existing that says it in a way that is better understood and more succinct. Good word that, succinctly. It means more brief or less long. I’ll shut up because that’s what its inventor would want. Take the new OED word defatigate, as in “I took the dog for a walk to defatigate him.” It just means tire, exhaust or when you drag your mutt around Plasterfield, Sandwick - and Steinish.

Why would anyone choose a longer word than tire? It’s the American influence, I bet you. They mangle the language to the extent that they think nothing of even changing the names of criminal deeds to ones that no one can understand. They have changed burgle to burglarise - or burglarize, as they mis-spell it. I’ll give you another for-instance. What is a backhoe? Apparently it is not a lady from Vatisker in the Back district of Lewis with a colourful reputation. It is just a digger. No, not a gold digger either. It’s just what our American cousins call a JCB.

Mind you, we mangle the lingo too. A set of something is more than one, right? What about a TV set? What will they do at the emporium that is Lighting & Electrical in downtown Stornoway if I buy a 42-incher and then ask “Where’s the other one?” Not very much, I suspect. We keep breaking the rules that were drilled into us in primary school. It is still a mystery to me why a bra is singular yet pants are plural. Is it because ... oh, I’m not going there.

Whether you use words to welcome someone to your house, for example, is no big deal for most of us. However, when your house is the House of Commons and you are the Speaker thereof, it is a biggie. Just ask John Bercow MP. Those Tory colleagues of his who have been waiting for years for him to put his foot in it are chomping at the bit. His carefully chosen words may mean he will be very lucky to be in post a month from today. They always wait for the fuss to die down - then chop.

Maybe though, there is a case for introducing some new words because, let’s be honest, we are not making use of the ones we have. For instance, I have just been having a scurryfunge. Do you scurryfunge much at all? I bet you do. Most of us do a bit of scurryfungeing but, of course, we do not admit it. Not to anyone outside the family anyway. A scurryfunge is when you have a quick and slightly desperate tidy-up because you are expecting a visitor or six. Honest. It was first recorded in the late-1800s.

Of course, words, old and new, can also be used to make things seem better than they actually are. Speaking to an old mate of mine who I had not heard from for years, I wondered what his current job was so I asked him what he was up to. He took the question very literally.

He said: “Right now I am involved in the aqua-thermal treatment of ceramics, aluminium and steel in a constrained environment.”  Insurance man Tom had become some kind of engineer? He hadn’t. “That just means I am washing the dishes with hot water while my dear wife is watching me out of the corner of her eye to make sure I get them done.”

Big Freeze Heading for Scotland with Temperatures Plummeting to -15c for Three Weeks
Hunt out your snow shovel as rare conditions which triggered a month of freezing weather in 2010 are due to hit again.  Scotland faces a three-week freeze as cold as -15C from Saturday, February 11, – due to the rare North Pole phenomenon that triggered the 2010 big freeze and nationwide white-out.  The worst cold spell of winter, with widespread snow, ice and travel chaos, threatens.  The North Pole’s high-altitude air has suddenly warmed up and is set to shunt cold low-level Arctic air south to Scotland.  The event, known as a Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) usually chills Scotland for two weeks or longer and sees widespread snow. It has not occurred for four years, Met Office records show.  The Met Office is warning of the Arctic phenomenon in its February to April forecast being briefed to the Cabinet Office, transport bosses, councils and emergency services.  The Met Office said an SSW often allows cold air to flood Britain from the east and is forecasting “colder and drier conditions” from the end of the week for up to three weeks, lasting into March. The last SSW event to hit Scotland was in early 2013, which saw the coldest March for 51 years, with snow and -12.5C lows as late as March 31 in Braemar, Aberdeenshire.  SSW events also triggered -16.1C lows in Altnaharra, Highland, in November 2010 - starting December 2010’s month-long Big Freeze.  Britain’s record coldest ever February temperature is -27.2C, set on February 11, 1895, at Braemar, Aberdeenshire.  A Met Office forecaster said: “It is likely to become rather cold in the East, and from mid-February until the beginning of March, high pressure over the continent will gradually build. Our weather is likely to stay on the cold side, with a lot of dry days.  Nights will bring further frost. The start of March may turn more unsettled.”  The Met Office February to April contingency forecast said: “The probability of Sudden Stratospheric Warming is higher-than-normal in February. These events disrupt the stratospheric polar vortex and, more often than not, bring cold weather to the UK.”  The Met Office’s Professor Adam Scaife added: “A Sudden Stratospheric Warming involves a complete reversal of the high altitude polar jet stream. This can burrow into the lower stratosphere. The Atlantic jet stream often weakens and moves south. This allows cold air from the east into northern Europe and the UK.”

Carbisdale Castle Owners Announce Tourism Initiatives
The fragile Kyle of Sutherland is in line to be given an economic boost by the new owners of Carbisdale Castle.  London based FCFM Group Limited, a privately owned investment firm, has announced it is planning a number of tourism initiatives aimed at attracting visitors to the area.  The group intends to build bothy accommodation and create a small campsite in the grounds of the castle.  FCFM is also planning an interpretation centre focussed round the Battle of Carbisdale in 1650.  And the castle’s dilapidated tennis courts are to be renovated – with a pledge that local people will have access to them.  A spokesman for FCFM said: "Plans for the castle grounds focus on bringing tourists to the area and providing jobs for locals.  That will hopefully build on other economic successes linked to the various initiative driving tourist to the Highlands."  A "stakeholders" meeting is to be held later this month to set out the plans in detail. But community leaders have already enthusiastically welcomed the plans.  It signals a continued upturn in the area’s fortunes – a new Falls of Shin Visitor Centre is set to open shortly, replacing the old centre which burned down two years after the castle closed.  FCFM Group acquired the 40,000 square foot castle from the Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA) for an undisclosed sum in October.  SYHA had run it as a youth hostel since 1945 but closed the building in 2011 following water ingress.  It was put on the market after the association was unable to meet the substantial costs of renovation.  The closure was a significant economic blow to the Kyle of Sutherland area – the castle accommodated an average 20,000 visitors a year.  And there was a degree of disappointment when FCFM announced at the time of purchase that the run-down building, built between 1907 and 1917, would not operate as a commercial enterprise with the potential for jobs locally.  Instead it was set to be returned to its former glory and become a "world-class" private residence.  The 40-bedroom structure boasts a grand hall, ballroom and billiard room. Now FCFM has unveiled its plans for the castle in an application to Highland Council for planning and listed building consent to carry out a range of improvement works.  Agent for FCFM is Fearn architectural and design practice Lachlan Stewart Studio LLP.  The most ambitious project is the erection of a spa complete with gym, jacuzzi and swimming pool in the castle’s basement which is to be extended.  The pool will be sited underneath the castle’s substantial first-floor terrace and will enjoy spectacular views of the Kyle of Sutherland.  A range of other improvement works is also proposed.  A spokesman said: "Plans for the castle include restoration of the main state rooms which have been extensively damaged by unsympathetic remedial works, removal of the 1970s-concrete fire escape that scars the building, creating of a small swimming pool and removal of the internal partitions that were installed by the former operations to allow for rooms to be split into bunking areas."  But it is the plans for the grounds that will be met with most enthusiasm locally.  The proposed "small and environmentally friendly bothies" are earmarked to be built around a lochan near the castle.  And the planned interpretive centre will tell the story of the Battle of Carbisdale which was fought as part of the War of the Three Kingdoms in 1650 and was the last battle for ultra-Royalsit the 1st Marquis of Montrose before his execution.  The spokesman said: "We’re very eager to actively engage local businesses and residents to understand their views and to ensure the grounds of the castle are sympathetically developed in a way that will enhance the experience for all stakeholders – whether they be local businesses which will benefit from additional trade, those working to build and renovate the bothies and camp site or local residents, who will benefit from additional local amenities."

Fair Isle Could Get Guaranteed 24 Hour Electricity for the First Time
Britain’s remotest island community could secure a guaranteed 24-hour power supply for the first time if a proposed new £2.65million electricity system gets the go-ahead.  Fair Isle has already successfully applied for £1.3million of funding from the Scottish Government’s EU-supported Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme for the project.  Ian Best, a boat builder and one of the directors of the community-owned Fair Isle Electricity Company, claimed the planned three new 60kW wind turbines and a 50kW solar array would improve the islanders’ “quality of life”.  This week, Shetland Islands Council’s development committee will vote on whether to approve a £250,000 contribution towards the project.  Since the 1980s, Fair Isle – which is situated halfway between Orkney and Shetland – has been powered by two on-island turbines and two diesel generators.  However, the 60kW and 100W turbines have both been out of action for the last year due to technical problems and a lightning strike.  The new scheme would guarantee round-the-clock electricity for the first time and also enable grid connection to new customers such as the famous Fair Isles Bird Observatory.  Mr Best added: “We did a lot of work a few years ago about getting together a community development plan, and upgrading our power scheme was one of the main objectives.”  The scheme is currently in the process of securing full funding for its estimated cost of £2,651,026.  The Big Lottery Fund has been approached in the hope of raising a further £600,000 while Scottish Water will stump up £208,000.  Highlands and Islands Enterprise confirmed it will give up to £250,000 to the project and other sources, such as Fair Isle owners National Trust Scotland and Fair Isle Bird Observatory, have been contacted. The community-led Fair Isle Electricity Company will use £20,000 of its own funding to put towards the scheme.  Company spokesman, Robert Mitchell, argued the development would have a “massive impact” on the island’s 55-strong community.  He said: “It will improve the infrastructure of the island immensely. It has suffered for years from population decline, so we have to do something about it.”

Police Reveal Crime Drops Year on Year in the Highlands

The level of crime in the Highlands and islands has fallen over the past 12 months – according to figures released by the police.  A new report produced by regional commander Chief Superintendent Philip MacRae shows a drop of 1% compared with last year. However, the number of offences recorded in some areas have increased, including sexual crimes, which have risen from 387 to 417 year-on-year.  The force said the statistics represented the successful achievement of a key target, with police having set themselves the goal of increased reporting of sexual crimes.  Officers believe that many crimes have previously gone unreported because victims were not comfortable coming forward.  Ch Supt MacRae will present his report to members of Highland Council’s scrutiny committee later this week. The overall number of crimes has fallen from 5,804 to 5,741 year-on-year.  Mr MacRae also highlights a “strong” detection rate of 61%.  The number of violent crimes has dropped from 176 last year to 172, while the level of antisocial behaviour, such as malicious mischief and fire raising, has also dropped.  A key area in the local policing plan has been reducing the number of people killed on the roads, although at present this remains the same as last year at 12 to date.  The number of people seriously injured has dropped from 50 to 44. Meanwhile, the number of people caught speeding has dropped substantially from 4,431 to 3,280 – a reduction of 1,151.  The most significant rise has been in the reporting of sexual crimes – while the detection rate for both sexual crimes and domestic violence has dropped.  In his report Ch Supt MacRae said: “Police Scotland are moving away from targets in relation to crimes of this nature.”

Promoting Gaelic Language

The Gaelic language is to be promoted through one of the world’s most popular websites thanks to a new role based at the National Library of Scotland.  Dr Susan Ross, who learned Gaelic as a teenager and has since gained a doctorate in Gaelic studies, has been appointed the world’s first Gaelic Wikipedian.  The year-long post will see her working with the Gaelic community across Scotland to improve and create resources on Uicipeid, the Scottish Gaelic Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is the world’s most popular online encyclopaedia of which Uicipeid forms one part.  It has been in existence since 2004 and currently has more than 14,000 pages of information in Gaelic.   Dr Ross will work with the existing community of users to identify priorities for development and encourage new users to begin contributing.  Over the coming year Dr Ross will collaborate with Gaelic speakers, community groups and organisations to improve Uicipeid content by offering training and edit-a-thons.  The work will also seek to promote use of the extensive Gaelic resources held by the National Library of Scotland, many of which can be accessed online.  Dr Ross, who has been contributing to Uicipeid since 2010, said: “Contributing to Gaelic Wikipedia builds a 21st century information source where knowledge, in Gaelic, about both the Gaelic world and the wider world, can be stored and shared.  It is a great opportunity for Gaelic speakers to exercise reading and writing skills in a creative, informal, collaborative environment and I’m excited about the possibilities to get more people involved.”  The National Library has some of the best collections of Gaelic material anywhere in the world and has been working hard in recent years to make much of this material as available online. This material demonstrates the key role played by Gaelic in Scottish history and culture.

Cruise Ships, Bigger Boats and More Jobs: Plans Unveiled for £90million Mallaig Harbour Expansion
Major plans have been unveiled for a £90million revamp of Mallaig Harbour. A masterplan for the busy West Highland fishing port includes building facilities for bigger boats and even cruise liners, tripling the size of the marina and creating a new slipway for watersports. The proposals, which will be phased in over 15 years, would retain existing jobs, create new ones – and could provide a base for the renewable energy sector and timber trade.  Mallaig Harbour Authority will now seek to finalise costings and secure funding for a preferred project option – and a final plan is expected by the autumn.  Key to the whole expansion will be sourcing enough rock to build an outer breakwater to the north of the existing outer harbour pier. This will allow a new quay and ferry berth to be built to accommodate bigger ferries, cruise liners and cargo ships in deeper water within the first decade of expansion. The masterplan has emerged after plans for the £3million Corpach marina project at the southern end of the Caledonian Canal were submitted towards the end of last year. Yesterday, Harbour Authority chief executive Robert MacMillan said the masterplan will provide a structured framework for the development and transformation of the harbour by the early to mis 2030s. He added: “These boats are only getting bigger and we have to safeguard the future of the harbour. It’s about safeguarding for future ferry use, jobs in the fish farming industry and increased yacht usage. It’s a vital development for the local economy. ”  Plans in the first five years will involve relocating the existing boatyard to the outer harbour for much-needed extra capacity, as well as improving the ice plant and storage facilities to support fishing-related activity. Focus in the middle harbour will be on improving facilities for fishing and freight operations. A planned regeneration of the waterfront would include expanding the marina from 50 to 150 berths, building a leisure slipway for watersports, building more car parking, extending the promenade and redeveloping the former boatyard site. Work will also take place to improve the infrastructure for passenger only ferries and small cruise boat tours to support this growing sector.  Within 10 years, the harbour could also become a potential base for the installation and maintenance of wave, tidal and wind power devices, and for cargo such as road salt and timber products which could be transferred to the islands.  Facilities will be developed in line with demand in these emerging markets in the subsequent five years.  Yesterday Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes said she was “absolutely delighted” with the scale of the investment, adding: “The plans could make a huge difference to the ferry service as the revamp will allow bigger ferries, cruise liners and cargo ships to berth in deeper water within the decade. Both the fishing and tourism sectors can be unpredictable because of markets and the weather, so investing a whopping £90m will help to secure more sustainable career opportunities and that is fantastic news. “I welcome any and all investment in the West Highlands – we’ve got stunning scenery that draws visitors, we’re a renowned source of seafood and we’re home to lots of small, entrepreneurial businesses.  But it does need investment to unlock our full potential – and I hope that the plans for Mallaig harbour will do exactly that.”  The harbour authority is working on the harbour project in partnership with development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Highland Council and Nevis Estate.

Forensic Artist Reconstructs Face of Orkney’s St Magnus

He was a compassionate leader whose rule was cut short by the axe of his cousin. Now, nine centuries after his death, the benevolent face of St Magnus is to be seen on Orkney once again.  In a fusion of Norse legends and cutting edge forensic technology, a facial reconstruction has been created of the archipelago’s former earl.  Magnus Erllendsson ruled the islands for just over a decade at the start of the 12th century.  A man with strong religious convictions, he refused to take part in Viking raids in the Battle of Anglesey Sound, instead staying on board his ship to sing psalms.  His demeanour won him the support of Orcadians, but the earldom he shared with his cousin, Haakon Paulsson, was short lived. Jealous of Magnus’ popularity, Haakon put his relative to death.  According to the Orkneyinga Saga, written between the late 12th and early 13 centuries, Magnus was martyred by his nephew, Rognvald Kali Kolsson, and his relics laid as the foundations of what would become St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.  Although the exact date of the martyrdom is uncertain, it is believed to have taken place between 1115 and 1118.  Organisers of Orkney’s annual St Magnus International Festival have chosen this year to mark the 900th anniversary, with a special project forming part of the celebrations. Hew Morrison, a forensic artist from Inverness, has created a likeness of Magnus which it is hoped will go on display during the festival this summer. His recreation is based on photographs of a skull and bones discovered inside the cathedral during renovation work in 1919 – the remains were deemed to be those of Magnus by academics and theologians.  Using specialist software, he was able to enlarge the image of the skull and draw on tissue data to gauge the murdered earl’s appearance. He explained: “The photographs were fortunately of a good quality, but most importantly a scale ruler was photographed alongside these photographs, which allowed me to scale the skull up to life size. The missing jaw was re-created using a formula from the fields of anthropology and orthodontics.  Although there were no visual records such as illustrations or paintings of St Magnus created during the time of his life, there are depictions of him in the form of stained glass windows and statues, but these were created many years after his death. Taking into regard St Magnus’s Scandinavian ancestry, light-coloured hair and blue eyes were added to the face.”

New Schools Opening Date Delayed Again

The opening date of the £48.5 million Wick community campus has been delayed again after it was confirmed it will not open until at least April.  Highland Council will be unable to open the campus, that will become home to Wick High School and Newton Park Primary School, on Monday, February 27 as works still have to be completed.  It is the fourth time the opening of the community campus has been delayed.  The council released a statement saying: "Having assessed the building following handover by Hub North Scotland and Morrison Construction, the council has reached the conclusion that the level of snagging and other works still to be completed does not allow it to commence it’s February decant plan, as had previously been advised to stakeholders.  The council has always made clear that it would only commence decant from the existing schools and community facilities once it was satisfied as to the standard and completeness of the new facilities.  Over and above general snagging relating to fittings and finish, the particular matters still to be completed include commissioning and balancing of the heating and ventilation system, to resolve hot and cold spots throughout the campus, completion and commissioning of the swimming pool and leisure facilities, and configuration of the external network connection to enable ICT installation and setup.  The council can provide assurance regarding the safety of the campus, and that no safety issues are a factor in the Council’s decision to defer operations."

As Search for Missing Kayaker Moves to Brora, Police Ask Public Not to Use Drones to Help
Police Scotland is urging the public to support the specialist air team leading the search for missing kayaker Dominic Jackson by refraining from launching drones.  The Police Scotland helicopter is conducting searches in the north this morning following the recovery of a kayak earlier this week.  In particular the air team will be focusing on the coastline between Lybster and Brora.   Inspector Kevin Goldie, who is leading the Police operation, said: "Searches have resumed this morning both in the North and North East as our operation to trace Dominic continues.   I am aware that well-intentioned members of the public have offered their own drones to assist, however I must warn of the implications this can have for aircrafts and the potential interference. Drones can pose a significant threat to small aircrafts when they will be flying at lower altitudes, and I can't stress enough the dangers. I would urge people to please support the highly specialist team we have in place to do their job. I completely appreciate the need to help and use every method possible to assist with the search, however the safety of everyone involved in this operation is our highest priority, including those members of the public who want to help."

Don't Sleepwalk Into A Bad Brexit - It's Important to Keep A Cool Head for Tough Talks Ahead

With last night’s historic Commons votes, the die is cast – Britain is on the way out of Europe, in a now almost unstoppable process.  Theresa May has outflanked Parliament and the courts and is getting her way with what she calls a “clean” Brexit.  Within weeks, she will trigger Article 50 and the two-year countdown begins.  So do the hard negotiations. What emerged from three days of Commons debate is that many MPs are fighting the last referendum and, in the case of the SNP, the one before that too. This Brexit decision cannot be undone and the task of politicians over the grinding weeks and months of negotiation to come is to hold the Government to account and make sure the best deal is being done for the UK.  The SNP’s threat of a second independence referendum hangs over any Brexit talks and the situation on the Irish border is just one major complicating factor.  The whole process could be brought down by the outcome of elections in France and Germany. If the far-right win in France, all of Europe is going to hell in a handcart.  But while the talks are being conducted, the public must be careful not to switch off, to sleepwalk into a bad Brexit or to easily accept the alternatives offered by the SNP.  The time for sentiment, European, Scottish or otherwise, is not now.  The hard talk and the screwed-down common sense on what is best for us economically must take precedence now.  Scotland’s refugee doctors programme counters perfectly the lunacy of the “keep them out” brigade.  The doctors are being welcomed in a Scotland which recognises the enormous contribution they can make to the NHS.  Had fate brought them to American shores and not ours, Donald Trump would have them banned for their nationality.  A recent poll showed there are a number of Europeans who hold the same irrational prejudices towards Muslim newcomers.  The refugee doctors are from countries Trump seeks to ban, including Syria, Iraq, Iran and Sudan.  Trump sees them as potential terrorists when actually they are life savers.  Rather than sit back and live on benefits, refugees want to work and contribute to the society they are living in.  The doctors will gain from this initiative but the greatest benefit is to Scotland.

Thousands Set to March in Capital Against Donald Trump
Thousands of people are expected to march through the Capital today in a fresh demonstration against Donald Trump.  The Scotland Against Trump protest will start at noon at the Meadows and follow a route via the High Street and North Bridge, past the United States consulate and down to the Scottish Parliament.  One of the organisers,  Jonathon Shafi, said the demo would highlight Mr Trump’s relationship with Theresa May. “The simplicity of saying ‘Scotland Against Trump’ is to send a message to Theresa May that we oppose the state visit and the sort of relationship she is building with him.  Donald Trump has a lot of investments in Scotland and we feel we have a special  responsibility to make clear our opposition to his policies.”  Speakers are due to include anti-racism campaigner Aamer Anwar and ex-Dungavel detainee and human rights campaigner Pinar Aksu, along with representatives from NUS, the STUC, Friends of the Earth Scotland and more. Mr Shafi said: “We want to build the broadest possible  coalition against Trump and Britain’s special relationship with the Trump White House.”  He said after tomorrow’s march the focus would switch to organising protests for the planned state visit, which is reportedly being organised for June.  “If he comes to Edinburgh there will be a big ‘welcoming’ party.”

Yet Another Indyref? Not Until After Brexit

Theresa May placed her handbag at the side of her chair, straightened herself and looked directly into the cameras set up in the Scotland Office at Melville Crescent, London especially for the occasion. The Ides of March had passed and it was time.  “This evening I wanted to speak to everyone across the United -Kingdom about how we journey together towards a successful departure from the European Union that benefits us all, delivering a new more progressive partnership with our European neighbours, and provides us with fresh global opportunities to help establish greater prosperity and harmony at home.  Earlier this month in Malta I gave formal notice to the European Union that the United Kingdom was -applying Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to initiate process of negotiating our new relationship. Over the next two years I shall report regularly to the House of Commons to explain the progress that we are making to reach a successful conclusion.  During that period there will be moments when the exact arrangements are unclear, possibly even in dispute. We might be seeking to establish the fairest outcome for any financial obligations that we must honour or the cost of future partnerships that we will want to continue, such as educational exchanges or scientific research.  It is because we shall not know the exact outcome of our detailed deliberations that my government has decided that the demand from the Scottish Government to hold a referendum on Scottish independence in the Autumn of 2018 cannot be met.  I shall make it very clear, I am not saying No, not ever; I am simply saying, No, not now.  The Scottish people continue to make clear their opposition to holding another independence referendum and Scottish businesses tell us the same, voicing their sincere and genuine concerns about the Scottish economy and the current risks to investment. It makes no sense to hold a referendum on Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom over its departure from the European Union when the costs and benefits of that change are not yet clear to the electorate. And it is reckless to put forward such a high-risk proposal when the terms of an independent Scotland joining the European Union are beyond knowing and cannot begin to be known until after the UK leaves the EU. Once we have a clear idea of what we have achieved in our negotiations, what the risks and opportunities are, I shall then be able to enter into discussions with the Scottish Government to discuss how an independence referendum might proceed. But until then I must protect the interests of everyone in the United Kingdom that we strike the best possible deal.”  The cameras faded out and the channel switched to another repeat of Floyd on Italy. It would not be the Prime Minister’s last speech on the subject but she had made it clear. There would be no independence referendum until after Brexit was delivered.

Southside Arrests Over Human Trafficking Ring.

There was a palpable sense of horror in Govanhill yesterday following a multi-unit task force operation which uncovered a human trafficking ring. Three men and two women have been arrested and are detained in police custody in connection with alleged trafficking and related offences following a Police Scotland intelligence led operation in the Southside yesterday (Friday, February 10). Police Scotland officers from the Specialist Crime Division searched a number of houses in the Govanhill area and arrested the three men aged 58, 35 and 28 years along with two women aged 25 and 40 years.  Detective Inspector Steven McMillan of Police Scotland Specialist Crime Division said: “Police Scotland is committed to protecting people at risk of harm, including those who have been the victims of human trafficking. Yesterday’s action formed part of a joint operation with several other forces in the UK and also police in Slovakia. It was supported by partner agencies such as Europol, TARA, Glasgow City Council Social Work Department, Immigration Enforcement and COPFS. As part of the overall UK wide investigation 13 women, who were victims of trafficking, have been traced and with the assistance of our partners are now safe and receiving support.  A further three women were recovered as a result of yesterday’s activity and enquiries are currently ongoing in relation to this.  Human trafficking cannot be tolerated and it is important that members of the public understand the impact human trafficking has on people, businesses and communities and to report any evidence of exploitation. Victims can be vulnerable from a number of factors such as poverty, war or poor education and are often targeted and subjected to abuse and forced into work where they are exploited.  Where we identify trafficked people, we will work with partner agencies and other law enforcement agencies to support victims and to bring offenders to justice.”

International Interest Boosts Record Sales for Speyside Whisky Festival

Customers from all over the world have got into the spirit of a Moray festival celebrating Scotland’s national drink.  First-day ticket sales for the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival smashed records when the box office opened this week.  More than 4,100 briefs were sold when they went on sale, nearly 800 higher than last year’s total, and 85 events are already full.  Customers from 22 different countries have booked their places, with Switzerland and Germany the biggest buyers ahead of Scandinavia and the USA.  Festival manager Pery Zakeri said: “After setting new opening day ticket sales records for the last couple of years, we didn’t actually think it was possible to achieve this scale of growth.  The level of interest has been phenomenal – as more and more tickets disappeared, we couldn’t quite believe what we were seeing.”  Behind-the-scenes tours of distilleries and opportunities to meet master distillers and expert blenders were among the most eagerly-sought tickets. Although the online rush netted the event £121,000 on the opening day, organisers are stressing there are still hundreds remaining.  Paul Bush, Visit Scotland’s director of events, said: “It’s great to see tickets are once again selling at record rates for this year’s festival.  Speyside is the perfect stage for hosting this unique festival that attracts people from around the world.” The festival, which has 500 events, runs from April 27 to May 1 in venues from Kingussie to Buckie and Forres.

Minister Posts Confirmed As Lewis Presbytery Ordains Two

Over a two week period in late January / early February, Lewis Presbytery of the Church of Scotland ordained two new Ministers. On January 20, Rev Gordon Macleod was ordained to the Ministry and set aside to Chaplaincy.  He has since joined NHS Western Isles as a part time Chaplain in the Western Isles Hospital.  On February 3, Rev Dougie Wolf was ordained to Ministry and inducted to Barvas Church of Scotland.  He succeeds Rev Paul Amed who retired in 2015.  Memorable services were held in Martin’s Memorial Church of Scotland and Barvas Church of Scotland respectively to mark the ordination and setting aside of Gordon and the ordination and induction of Dougie.  Both Gordon and Dougie belong to Martin’s Memorial Church of Scotland.  They journeyed together through the rigorous assessment, selection and training regime set out by the Church of Scotland for its Ministers. With a further two candidates for Ministry in training at the moment, Lewis Presbytery gives thanks to God that He is continuing to provide workers for the harvest.