Some scottish News & views issue # 388

Issue # 388                                                         Week ending 18th February 2017

Now That I Am Awake Again, Who is Doing What Job Now? By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Having been under the weather for the last few days, I got up out of my sick bed to find that a lot of people have changed jobs while I was on drugs. Maybe I should explain that paracetamol does take away the pains in the head at least and did knock me out when I absolutely needed to sleep. You can keep your fancy neuro-whatevers, the fact is that the good old para works for me and that is why I use it.

Some people are managing to stay on the payroll even though they themselves did not expect to. It’s not often that the boss of a publicly-owned company announces that he has decided to quit to pursue other opportunities and then changes their mind. Martin Dorchester has been MD at ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne for five years but last October said he was heading for the exit. He would have cleared his desk by March, he assured us. Aw, we were just getting to know you. Oh well, if you must. Best of luck.

Now another announcement this week. He is not quitting but staying. Really? But you said ... Ah yes, but things are different now. The Scottish Government said recently it wants to commit to nationalising these ferry routes to stop uncertainty over whether improvements should be made in case they are merely handed over to some other outfit. Everyone must be very happy.

Except they’re not. John Mackay, the straight-talking transport chairman at Western Isles Council wishes the cove had actually quit, as he promised. And he went on to wonder loudly and publicly why CalMac had apparently not made any arrangements for the replacement of their supposedly-outgoing boss. Ooh, I see where you’re going with that, Mr Mackay.

Nor are they happy on Skye. Roddy Murray of the Sleat Transport Forum also fumed that the service on the Armadale to Mallaig route over the last year and a half was not much to speak of. He was amazed at the change of heart by Mr D. They have been battling CalMac over the Armadale to Mallaig route. The longtime vessel, the MV Coruisk, a very reliable tub, was switched down to Mull and the replacement vessels did not fit the jetties at Armadale, or Mallaig, at certain tides.

They changed it back to the Coruisk, right? No, when tides were unsuitable, rather than bring back the ferry that fitted, the services were simply cancelled. No? Yeah. That was the answer by the big boss at CalMac. Even Skye MP Iain Blackford, who was said to have been personally promised by Mr Dorchester that the Coruisk would return last summer, has raged at CalMac and went so far as to say the top management was “incompetent”. Ooh err.

The whole saga of the reaction to Mr Dorchester’s change of heart is published on the BBC News website. The BBC Alba version, that is. Sadly, at the time of writing, there is no news on the deeply-felt feelings and reactions in the north to the non-departure of the ferry boss on the English-language version so you have to be bilingual to get a balanced yarn. BBC bosses seem to have decided that news just affects teuchters. Where are CalMac headquarters again?

I’m a fan of an elegant lady who may have landed herself a new job. Prue Leith is hotly tipped to host Bake Off when it goes to Channel 4. Hotly tipped means she got it. Always liked her. Knows her onions. Good job, Prue. At another institution, John Bercow is still Speaker of the House of Commons. I think I did speculate that it would curtains for him within a month. Could be, unless he can summon support from somewhere.

Then there’s Michael Flynn. He’s not staying but has changed job status since I went to sleep. At the end of last week, he was President Donald Trump’s national security adviser and now he is, er, nothing. For chatting to Russians and then denying it. Is this not the same chap who was also sacked by Barack Obama for all sorts of stuff? Yeah. Och well, that’s good to know. He is probably thinking he may not have too long to wait for the next president to come along who he can latch onto.

All these stories about people in new jobs, others quitting and some staying have got my sore head in a right muddle. Not just me though. I see that Prue Leith’s nephew has tweeted: “So stoked to read that my aunt Prue Leith is tipped to replace Mike Flynn as National Security adviser.”

Inverness Couple's Deportation Fight Wins Backing From First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
The fight to stop the deportation of an Inverness couple has been taken up by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.  Russell and Ellen Felber, who moved to the city from the USA and run the Torridon Guest House in Kenneth Street, saw their application for permanent residence in Scotland turned down shortly before Christmas.  This was despite them investing £400,000 in their business and, they say, complying will all necessary immigration conditions before the Home Office moved the goalposts on them.  As reported last week around 1700 people have signed a petition calling for them to be allowed to stay. This was handed in to 10 Downing Street by Inverness MP Drew Hendry who also alerted Nicola Sturgeon to the Felbers’ plight.  In her response to him the First Minister said she was “very sorry” to hear about their difficulties, which have seen Mrs Felber spend days in hospital due to stress.  “I appreciate that this has had a considerable impact on them both, and I was particularly sad to read of the effect this situation is having on Mrs Felber’s health,” she said.  As you are aware, the Scottish Government does not have devolved competency over immigration law and policy. However, on this occasion I have written to the Home Office and asked them to look into Mr and Mrs Felber’s case.”  Promising to keep Mr Hendry informed of any response she receives from the UK Westminster government she also asked for her best wishes to be passed on to the couple and added: “The Scottish Government welcomes migrants from all over the world and the value that they bring to Scotland’s economy and society.  Pushing for an immigration system that recognises individual circumstances and provides a welcoming environment for new Scots and their families will remain a priority for this government.” Mr Hendry said: “Russell and Ellen’s situation has been brought into sharp focus over the past couple of weeks, where much of our national discussion has been about unfairness, immigration, and the appalling actions of Donald Trump.  I am very glad of the First Minister’s support for the Felbers and for her letter to the minister highlighting the unfairness of their situation.  It is vitally important that we maintain pressure on the UK Westminster government to remind them Inverness – indeed Scotland – isn’t just our home, it is also the home of the Felbers.”  Russell Felber said of the First Minister’s intervention: “It’s great. It’s very encouraging at this stage.”  Mr and Mrs Felber are still waiting to receive a date for their case to be re-examined by the Court of Appeal and are being allowed to stay in the UK until that is heard.

Areas of Glasgow Lost to the M8
The M8 provides a vital arterial link for the people and businesses of Central Scotland, but its construction left a deep scar on the nation’s largest city which has never fully healed. Whether it was for the greater good or not, the motorway ripped the heart out of inner city Glasgow. It obliterated buildings and extinguished long-established communities, forcing friends, neighbours and relatives to spread out far and wide.  The once heavily-populated areas of Townhead, Cowcaddens, Charing Cross, Anderston and Kinning Park would never be the same again.

Taking in historic landmarks such as Glasgow Cathedral and Provand’s Lordship, Townhead is one of the oldest parts of the city.  By the early 1900s, it had developed into a densely populated, close-knit community, but, like many other working class areas of the day, it struggled with high levels of poverty and deprivation.   In 1962 the decision was taken to make Townhead a Comprehensive Development Area to allow for the construction of the M8 and the expansion of Strathclyde University. A great number of streets, and ancient road layouts, including the legendary kilometre-long Parliamentary Road, vanished in the process. Within just a decade of the CDA declaration, an area once teeming with young working families and vital industry had been replaced with a construction site and a massive motorway interchange.  The population of Townhead by the end of the 20th century was around 8,000, less than half the number of people who had lived there a generation before.

Cowcaddens began life as a village to the north west of the old centre of Glasgow. The district grew following the construction of the Monklands Canal, leading to it being amalgamated with Glasgow in 1846. As the 20th century approached, the vast majority of residents in the area were living in insanitary, overcrowded tenements, and Cowcaddens became infamous for its low life expectancy and high child mortality. This reputation for poor living conditions continued well into the 1900s and contributed heavily to the area’s existing layout and architecture being wiped off the map.  Designated a Comprehensive Development Area in the 1960s, very few of Cowcaddens’ original tenements now survive. Also demolished was Buchanan Street Railway Station, which, along with St Enoch to the south, was considered surplus to requirements in the wake of the Beeching Report. The area today is a mish-mash of commercial developments, high rise housing, busy roads and underpasses, with the M8 providing a distinct barrier to the north. Buildings such as the neoclassical National Piping Centre on McPhater Street provide a subtle hint of what existed here before.

Charing Cross
For many Glaswegians, the destruction of old Charing Cross for the M8 was an unforgivable act of urban vandalism.  Providing a link between Sauchiehall Street and Glasgow’s upmarket West End, the formerly bustling crossroads once boasted some of the finest architecture in the city. This is evidenced by the few buildings from old Charing Cross which still remain; J.J. Burnet’s exquisite Charing Cross Mansions and the Edwardian Baroque Mitchell Library towards Anderston being perfect examples.  Just west of Charing Cross Mansions was the Grand Hotel, a stunning Victorian edifice which provided the base for many a Glasgow wedding reception during its lifespan. Despite the best efforts of student activists and heritage campaigners, the Grand Hotel and hundreds of other widely-admired buildings were pulled down in the late ‘60s.  Today, the M8 cuts a deep canyon through the heart of Charing Cross, continuing north towards another barely-recognisable old junction, St George’s Cross.  However, a new proposal to build a roof park over the M8 at Charing Cross could see it transformed into a pedestrian-friendly district once again. Speaking of the plans, which were announced this week, one design firm said it would “heal the wound” caused by the motorway.

Situated south of Charing Cross is Anderston, on the north shore of the Clyde. The old Anderston was positively flattened for the M8. Scores of high-density tenement-laden streets, including the ancient five-way-junction at Anderston Cross, were ruthlessly swept away for what was originally intended to be the western flank of the Inner Ring Road. A side by side comparison of old Anderston and how it looks today can be quite startling as the developers left barely a building standing.  Known for generations as a tight-knit community, Anderston in the immediate post-war period was described as a “large village” within Glasgow’s inner city. Locals knew one another and had little need to venture out of the district for everything they needed was right on their doorstep.  However, with many of its dilapidated Victorian properties suffering from overcrowding and poor sanitation, Anderston was an easy target for the developers. Once it was agreed to build the motorway, the area began to rapidly disappear.  In 1950 Anderston had 32,000 residents, but within just 20 years more than two thirds of them had been relocated to new ‘villages in the sky’; the high rise blocks which were being constructed on the outskirts of the city and beyond.  A comprehensive redevelopment plan saw the creation of the Anderston Centre complex in the 1960s, an ambitious, Le Corbusier-esque residential-commercial project which would never be fully-realised.  The new Anderston of glass office blocks and concrete high rises shares very little common with the thriving industrial/residential district it replaced. The former Bilsland Bakery, an Anderston landmark for over a century, was torn down in 2015 as part of the third phase of the Central Quay Development.

Kinning Park
Hemmed between the Glasgow-Paisley railway and the busy docks on the south shore of the Clyde, Kinning Park was once a thriving industrial hub with a large tenement-dwelling residential population. In the 1970s the district was cut in two by the motorway’s western approach towards Tradeston. Swathes of Kinning Park’s four-storey sandstone tenements gradually disappeared, with residents shipped out to far flung outskirts. Situated close to Kinning Park tube station, the long-since flattened MacLellan Street was a Glasgow curiosity and a postman’s worst nightmare. The north side of the street once boasted a continuous row of tenements, half a kilometre long; an unbroken link of 49 individual buildings, making it the longest row of tenements in Glasgow.  Much of old MacLellan Street is now buried beneath 8 lanes of motorway where the M8 meets the M77.

First Step Towards £3.2 Million Haven Centre in Inverness
A dream of building a dedicated centre in Inverness for children and young people with multiple complex learning needs, made an important step forward yesterday.  The Haven Centre, a Scotland first, is the vision of Elsie Normington, and yesterday the foundation she formed launched the Haven Project Appeal to raise £3.2 million in 18 months.  The Haven will rise from the ashes of Culloden Court Nursing Home which was destroyed by fire in October 2010.  The appeal was launched at Drummond School where many of the prospective users are currently cared for, and today a similar public event is at Smithton and Culloden Free Church between noon and 8pm.  The complex will have a specialist play centre, community cafe, an outdoor play centre, community garden and meeting rooms, and three respite apartments.  Children from birth to 19 and young people up to 30 with high support needs will be catered for.  Highland Council has committed £250,000 and plans to build eight council homes on the site.  Mrs Normington, a community development officer at Merkinch Community Centre who has a 32-year-old son Andrew with multiple complex needs, said: “I have had this dream for more than 20 years, and after I launched my book The Silent Doorbell about life with Andrew, it rekindled in me the need for a special play centre and respite facility.  We can all be the agents for social change and it is sometimes just a matter of having the courage to be that person.”

Syrian Refugees Arrive in Outer Hebrides to Start New Life
Eighteen more refugees from war-torn Syria have arrived in the Outer Hebrides to start their new lives.  The four families bring the total number of families resettled on the Isle of Lewis to six.  Western Isles Council said the new residents would be housed around Stornoway, as with the other two families.  They arrived on the island on Thursday – and include several school-age and pre-school children.  In October it was revealed that a baby was born to the first Syrian refugees to be sent to the Outer Hebrides – only weeks after they arrived.  The baby girl was born at the Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway and to one of the two Syrian families who only came to the islands in July.  The Outer Hebrides Resettlement Team is seeking more volunteers from the Lewis area to support the families with a range of aspects of day-to-day life such as using public transport, going grocery shopping, going to the gym, attending appointments and participating in children’s activities.  A council spokesman said 30 people had volunteered in the first two days of the new appeal.

Aberdeen Has its Own Gaelic Arts Festival
Fèis Obar Dheathain is looking forward to its first main fèis in several years, which is due to be held in the city this month.  The last fèis, which offers tuition in music, song and drama to children and young people around Aberdeen, was held more than eight years ago. A new committee – made up of volunteers – was set-up in January 2016 to re-establish the festival and has already held two workshops in the past twelve months.  Fèis organiser Anne Thirkell said that one of the most important elements of the fèis is that it gives children a chance to hear and speak Gaelic outside the classroom, while also giving children with little or no Gaelic the opportunity to engage in the language in a relaxed setting.  The fèis, on February 11 to 13, will offer three days packed full of music tuition, song and drama for children and young people aged 3-18. Older participants (aged 8-18) will receive tuition in a range of choices from whistle to step-dancing, delivered by top-class tutors. As well as that, the Fèis Bheag (Wee Fèis) for children aged 5-7 and the Fèis Bheag Bhìodhach (Tiny Fèis) for 3-5 year olds will offer songs, games and taster music sessions for younger children. All events will take place at Cults Academy.  The fèis is open to all children and young adults, irrespective of their Gaelic language and musical ability.

Collector Appeals Over Mystery of £50k Jacobite Pistols
A private collector is looking to solve the mystery behind the original owner of two extremely rare Jacobite pistols now returned to Scotland that date back to 1730 and may have been fired at the Battle of Culloden.  Kevan McDonald, a retired lawyer, bought the pistols which are believed to be worth around £50,000 as a pair from another private collector in London.  They were made for a senior Jacobite officer by renowned gunmaker Alexander Campbell of Doune, in Perthshire, and are believed to have been taken to America at the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775.  The elaborately designed guns were previously owned by a wealthy New York socialite who sold them to a collector based near London through Christie’s Auction House in 2006 and were finally returned home to Scotland by McDonald a fortnight ago.  There are believed to be only five genuine pairs of these type of pistols in the world including McDonald’s. A pair are on show at the Met Museum in New York and the V&A Museum in London – there are also two pistols at Brodick Castle, on the Isle of Arran. McDonald said: “They came back to Scotland two weeks ago from London where they had been since 2006 after being sold by Christie’s on behalf of an old lady socialite in New York. “We know they were made in Doune around 1730 but the whole period from 1730 to 2006 is missing.  “Christie’s may give us more information but they generally have an in-house 60-year rule, which means they won’t disclose the seller for 60 years to protect their confidentially.  We don’t know when the lady bought them – so it’s a mystery which we need help to solve.  They are undoubtedly pistols that were made for a high-ranking Jacobite sympathiser and may have been at Culloden.”  The earliest surviving Doune pistol was manufactured in 1678 and is in the Neufchatel Museum in Switzerland. The design was attractive, with intricate decoration that made it a fashion accessory for the wealthy. The pistols were sold in pairs, and allegedly a pistol made in Doune was the first weapon fired in the American war of Independence – the weapon that fired “the shot heard around the world” was fired by Major Pitcairn, a British soldier. George Washington was also presented with two Doune pistols by his staff, which he bequeathed after his death to Major-General Lafayette.  McDonald said: “Somewhere in Scotland there will be somebody sitting in a room in front of a mantelpiece looking at a portrait of one of their ancestors with these pistols tucked into his belt.”  He added: “There were several pistol manufacturers in Doune at the time of the Campbells and others, but Alexander Campbell who made these pistols and whose signature is on them supplied families with a Jacobite tendency.  “The Campbells were generally Hanoverian and supported the other side, but there is a pistol that is almost identical to the pair and was made for Donald Cameron of Lochiel. He met Bonnie Prince Charlie when he landed in Scotland and but for Donald Cameron there would not have been a 1745 [rebellion] because it was his influence that got the clans to come out in support.” He added: “The bit I love the best is the back of the handles, it’s steel and silver inlay and these pistols have got much more silver in them than Cameron of Lochiel’s and the trigger is in the form of the rose.”

Show Some Love - Hundreds Raised for Syrian Children
A kind-hearted young woman from Syria has been selling red roses for Valentine’s Day to raise money for refugee children from her home country.  Layla Zeitouni (17) is Head Girl at Bearsden Academy, where she became a pupil five years ago.  Layla, who was born in Scotland, lived in Saudi Arabia with her parents until she was five years old and then in Aleppo, Syria, with her mum until she was 12.  Layla’s mum, Sima Marashi, has family in Bearsden and when she brought Layla to visit them five years ago she decided to stay here because the conflict had begun in Syria.  Layla’s American school, The national School of Aleppo, was vandalised just before they came to visit Scotland - the smart boards were all smashed and computers and other equipment was stolen.  And Sima, who was also born in the UK and lived in England for a few years as a child, started to worry about what was going to happen in Syria.  Layla said: “At that time it was still peaceful in Aleppo but we were hearing about trouble in other parts of Syria.  The bombings had started in other areas and my mum was getting worries about what was happening in Syria.  “She thought we may not be safe if we stayed there, so she decided to bring me to Scotland.”  Layla stays in touch with her friends and family from Syria, all of them have managed to get out of the country since the fighting got worse.  Her great aunt and great grandma remain in one of the safer areas of Aleppo, Shaba, but Layla worries about them because their house was bombed - luckily they were not injured.  And amazingly Layla’s house in Aleppo is still standing despite all the bombing raids in the city.  Layla added: “My friends and family are dotted all around the world now, they are in Damascus, Dubai, America and France and I try to stay in touch with them all with Facetime chats.  I can’t bear to watch the news about Aleppo, I find it very upsetting to see my home country so totally destroyed by the bombs.  I wanted to do something to help all the refugee children who are in a desperate situation after losing parents in the conflict.”  Layla’s campaign “Show Some Love” has raised £400 so far which she plans to donate to Save The Children’s Syria Crisis Appeal.

Europe ‘Can’t Afford’ to Lose Scotland, Says Guy Verhofstadt
The European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator has said that Europe “cannot afford” to lose Scotland.  Guy Verhofstadt said that Europe was aware that a clear majority of Scots had voted to remain within the European Union during last year’s referendum.  His comments come as Prime Minister Theresa May prepares to trigger the formal process which will lead to Britain’s departure from the bloc.  Mr Verhofstadt said: “Europe hasn’t forgotten that a large majority of the Scottish people voted to remain.  We need the Scottish people and their firm European beliefs. Scotland has shaped European civilisation, through iconic figures such as David Hume, Alexander Fleming and Adam Smith and still does so today by being at the forefront of defining and strengthening European values. We cannot afford to lose that.”

Billy Connolly: the One Man Comedy “Revolution”
He was the original Glasgow patter merchant who shook up the comedy establishment with a brand of Scottish humour that allowed us to laugh at ourselves – and laugh like never before. Billy Connolly, a former boiler maker in the Clyde shipyards, is credited with “revolutionising” comedy during the mid-1970s, then the domain of tuxedo-wearing stand ups, with his ribald songs and stories of ordinary life.  Bottoms, farts and the church were among his favourite early topics with his story of the Last Supper, set not in Galilee but a pub in the Gallowgate, among his most famous yarns.  Tommy Sheppard MP, founder of the Stand Comedy Club, said Connolly was the first alternative comic on the scene, arriving even before alternative comedy had become a thing.  He said: “By the mid 1970s comedy had become staid, boring, sexist, racist establishment awfulness.  It was just guys in tuxes and dickie bow telling mother-in-law jokes and even really old mother-in-law jokes that they had just recycled. There was no sense of wit.  I can remember being a teenager and getting hands on some Billy Connolly LPs and it was like having some sort of epiphany. Here was someone talking about things that ordinary people talked about but he was also savaging the political and religious authorities and using sweary words to do it. He was using language that you would here at school or down the pub.  Up until then, it was really only middle class people who got on the television or people were some sort of cardboard cut out caricature of the working classes.  Connolly was a breath of fresh air. It was the first time a lot of people had seen people on telly who were like them.  In the mid 1970’s this was revolutionary.” Born in Anderston, Glasgow, in 1942, Connolly was raised by two aunts after being abandoned by his mother while his father fought in the Burma War.  Connolly has since spoken openly about his disturbed childhood, the meanness of the school nuns, the beatings of his aunts and the sexual abuse of his father.  “I was raised a Catholic. I have a Grade A in guilt,” Connolly once joked.  Connolly joined the shipyards at 15 as a boiler maker and it was it was here he soaked up the “merciless” Glasgow humour and the art of storytelling, which were to become the trademarks of his routines.  “Connolly had this wonderful ability to provide a narrative, to take a shaggy dog story and punctuate it with gag every half a minute. You didn’t have to wait for some big pay off line, it was funny all the way through,” Sheppard said.  He left his job, seeking life and a living on the folk scene and released three albums with Gerry Rafferty as the Humblebums.  The Cottage Theatre in Cumbernauld hosted his first solo show and shortly afterwards his managers took the rare step to release a double album of his live routine. Solo Concert was enough to propel him from relative obscurity to a nationwide audience. Regular appearances on chat show Parkinson were to follow.  By 1980, Connolly had turned a corner and was at the call of the world, which he has since crossed several times over with his schedule of tours, television documentaries and more than 40 film appearances, the most famous being his 1997 part in Mrs Brown, when he starred opposite Judi Dench’s Queen Victoria.  Connolly has long left Scotland, claiming he needed to leave to grow. He now lives in Los Angeles with his second wife Pamela Stephenson, whom he claims saved him from alcoholism and the dark spirals set by his childhood.  Four years ago, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease but keeps working to keep his mind off the illness. After more than 50 years in the business, Connolly still remains typically self-deprecating about his success.  On receiving a lifetime achievement award from the National Television Awards last year, he said: “I am so deeply moved. It’s a precious thing. I don’t feel I deserve it. When I see all these other stars parading up I don’t feel like them. I feel like a welder.”

Labour Set for Heavy Defeat in Scottish Council Elections - Poll
Support for Scottish Labour has more than halved since the last local government elections in 2012, a new poll suggests.  A Panelbase poll of 1,028 voters found 14% of those who were likely to vote planned to give their first preference to Kezia Dugdale’s party in May when “don’t knows” are excluded.  Support for the SNP was at 47%, the Scottish Conservatives were on 26%, the Liberal Democrats 5%, the Greens 4% and Ukip 3%.  Only about half (53%) of those who voted for Labour in last year’s Holyrood election said they intended to give the party first preference under the single transferable vote (STV) system used to elect Scottish councils, with 21% opting for the Tories and 19% for the SNP instead. In the 2012 local council elections the SNP narrowly won the largest share of the vote at 32%, followed by Labour on 31%.  The Tories were in third place on 13%, 12% voted for independent candidates, support for the Liberal Democrats was at 7% and the Greens were backed by 2%.

Scottish Government Funding to Pay for 371 More Teacher Training Places
Universities will have almost 400 more places on teacher training courses next year, paid for with more than £3 million of Scottish Government cash.  Education Secretary John Swinney announced the number of places will increase by 371 at the start of the academic year 2017-18, to a total of 3,861. It is the sixth year in a row that student teacher numbers have risen, according to the Scottish Government.  The announcement comes at a time when the SNP administration has come under fire over education standards in Scotland's schools.  Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson claimed on Monday ministers have been ''asleep at the wheel on education'' and that ''constitutional division has taken precedence over education reform''.  Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has pressed the First Minister on falling teacher numbers, claiming schools have lost 4,000 such staff since the SNP came to power in 2007, including 826 science and maths teachers.   A new teacher recruitment campaign launched by the Government last week aims to attract more teachers to key science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects.  Mr Swinney said: "To give all our young people the best opportunity of success, we need to have the right number of skilled teachers in our schools.  "That is why we worked with local authorities to increase teacher numbers this year, with an additional 253 teachers in Scottish classrooms, and are upping student places for the sixth consecutive year.  We know our student teacher targets are stretching, which is why we are supporting universities to meet them through our new teacher recruitment campaign and £1 million from the Scottish Attainment Fund to develop new routes into the profession."

Thurso Hotel Plan Suffers A Blow
A plan to build a £7 million luxury hotel overlooking Thurso Bay is unlikely to go ahead after local councillors decided to preserve the site from development. Local businessman, Raymond Taylor, wants to build the hotel on land between Thurso caravan park and the Weigh Inn but Caithness Highland councillors have consistently opposed the plan because of the impact it would have on the panoramic views of the bay.  The area committee refused to include the site in renewed discussion about the Caithness and Sutherland Local Development Plan at its meeting in Wick on Tuesday.

Tulloch to Build 800 Homes At Ness-side
A £250 million masterplan to build 800 new homes in Inverness over the next 10 years is set to be unveiled.  Tulloch Homes is putting the finishing touches to its plans for Ness-side and expects to lodge a planning application by April.  It hopes to be in a position to start construction next year.  It follows progress on the West Link, which will join the Dores Road roundabout at the southern end of the Southern Distributor Road to the A82 via a new bridge over the River Ness.  Stage one of the £55 million development is due to be finished in December and will see the road from Dores Road to Glenurquhart Road completed and a new bridge built over the River Ness.

Scotland ‘Overlooked’ in Division of Powers After Brexit
The Scottish Parliament has been “overlooked” in the role it will play taking on widespread new powers returning to the UK after Brexit, a parliamentary report has warned. And the prospect of “intergovernmental conflict” between Westminster and the devolved nations is looming as control over key areas such as farming and fishing are repatriated from Brussels. About 80 per cent of EU funds coming back to Britain currently go to the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But they have so far failed to feature in the question of how the new powers will operate, according to the report entitled Brexit, EU Area-based Policies and the Devolved Governments. “Since the EU referendum, the post-Brexit future for agricultural, regional and rural policies in the UK has been hotly debated, but the role of the devolved governments in relation to these policies has been largely overlooked,” it warns. “Even if the UK Westminster government decides to continue with area-based policies, important decisions must be made about the allocation of responsibility for their design, administration and evaluation. Repatriating the policies to the UK will pose many political and economic challenges.”  Conflicts over post-Brexit funding decisions have the potential to “disrupt the relationship” between different levels of government within the UK and should not be underestimated, according to the report by Stirling University economist Professor David Bell.  Growing tensions between the devolved administrations and Westminster have emerged in recent weeks, with the growing likelihood that a second Scottish independence referendum will be staged as the SNP seeks to safeguard Scotland’s place in the EU. Political leaders in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Stormont have demanded greater clarity from Prime Minister Theresa May about her plan for the UK outside the EU. Scottish Secretary David Mundell held talks recently with Holyrood finance secretary Derek Mackay and Brexit minister Michael Russell about the repatriation of powers after Brexit.  The UK Westminster government says it has an open mind at the moment about how the process will work. Scotland spends about £700 million a year of European cash on farming subsidies and structural funds and Prof Bell says the devolved parliaments will have a pivotal role to play in dealing with a tranche of new controls in agriculture, regional and rural policy which will be returned after Brexit. Some believed that these would naturally fall within Holyrood’s auspices because they are not explicitly reserved in the Scotland Act.  There are widespread concerns among farmers about the prospect of highly lucrative European subsidies, through the common agricultural policy (CAP), being jeopardised or reduced if they are not matched by the UK ministers after Brexit.  Prof Bell says UK ministers may not continue with this “area-based” approach prompting a power tussle with he devolved administrations. “Some argue that existing EU regional and rural policies do not provide value for money anyway and have consistently failed to achieve their objectives,” the report adds.  “If the UK Westminster government accepts such arguments and redirects funding to other priorities conflict with the devolved governments is inevitable.”  Even if these are retained there will have to be “important decisions” about their structure and administration. A Scottish Government spokesman said last night: “The issue of EU funding and what potentially replaces it is a hugely important one for communities across Scotland – and we are clear that any repatriation of powers as a result of Brexit must see responsibilities coming to Scotland and not Westminster.”  Prof Bell outlines possible approaches to the funding distribution. Government officials could consider adopting the Barnett Formula which determines Holyrood’s current grant from Westminster.  Alternatively a new set of “objective statistical measures” could be agreed or the transfer of tax revenues based on an agreed a level of shared support in the devolved nations.  He said: “Using the Barnett Formula would be a fairly straightforward option, however, if agriculture and regional spending is cut back in England by the UK Westminster government, the devolved governments would come under pressure to follow suit.”

Comment - R
As the countries of Scotland and England end their political union and go their separate ways, It's a no-brainer guarantee that the country that remains in the world's largest single market place is the one that the thousands of businesses will flock to.  We have already seen that volatile days lie ahead when the UK border force tries to deport all non UK citizens from Scotland.  Wonder if the Tory UK Westminster government will deploy tanks in George Square once agai
n to crush the rebellious Scots trying to protect these non UK citizens???.