Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 389

Issue # 389                                                 Week ending 25th February 2017

Robson Green and How Not to Research A Telly Programme by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

In keeping with the hypochondriacal tone of this column, and my need to tell you how unwell I have been, I now give you ... toothache. It never used to be this painful. It used to respond to clove oil, fine old VSOP brandy, methylated spirits or a combination of tinctures from licensed premises. It was fun to be laid low by a cheek ballooned by rotting ivories because, for some reason, it was only the best brandy that actually worked in my own case.

Am I feeling better? Naw, not really. Gie’s a swig o’ the medicine. Slainte. Wahay, I am much better already. Just leave the medicine bottle and I am sure I will make a much quicker recovery. Worked every time.

Those were the days. Being sick was fun. Now, having a sore gob is a more miserable affair with fancy potions available that smell like our village nurse’s starched uniform used to. You are supposed to dab these expensive over-the-counter preparations onto your gums a couple of times a day and soon you will be fit enough to go for your extraction, filling or whatever. No headache the next day or anything. Where’s the fun in that? I would rather trek in the rain from the Butt to Barra.

Pounding the Outer Hebridean blacktop is a pastime for some tourists. Many come and walk, cycle, hitch and drive the length and breadth of our archipelago. Some are sponsored, some are trying to lose a few pounds but some just want a selfie or two with bodachs and cailleachs between the Butt of Lewis and downtown Castlebay. I blame Samuel Johnson. The best-known writer and commentator of his day, he and James Boswell headed north in 1773 to see what kind of people lived in the extreme north-west.

They both scribbled away furiously in their journals. Their accounts were so different that it was difficult to believe they actually travelled together. Johnson, the older cove, wrote about the history, the customs, the language and the roughness of the ordinary people's diet. Porridge again, Isabel? Aye Murdo, there’s nothing else in the cupboard at all, at all. Boswell, who was 30 years younger, instead wrote about Johnson’s witty and profound sayings on the trip. He also recorded the colourful rich people they met and also of the great meals that were prepared for them.

Had Facebook been around in the 18th-century, Boswell would be the kind of wally who would have put posted daily images of hefty dinners - complete with captions which were the then equivalents of "yummy", "delish" or "nom-nom". Get a life, Jimmy. Nobody's interested, then or now.

The latest twist on Johnson and Boswell is to travel the islands with a camera crew in tow. ITV became interested in the concept and ordered not one but two so-called celebrities to go from one end of the outer isles to the other while looking somewhat excited, at the ferries, blackhouses and beaches. It fell to Robson Green, erstwhile balladeer and Soldier Soldier actor, and Alan Cumming, a Scot we never see over on this side of the pond because he is making it big in America. His second job over there seems to be abusing the president of that great nation on Twitter.

Johnson’s and Boswell’s journals were published years apart. Green and Cummings efforts popped up last Tuesday and then on Friday. Overkill is not a thing at ITV. Cumming did marginally better. He at least managed to pronounce places he saw. Having decided to consult no locals whatsoever on how to actually say the word, Robson’s unprofessional production team made him instead mangle our ancient language by decalring the west Lewis blackhouse village at Gearrannan (often helpfully written as Garenin, to aid prounciation) was “Gear” (as in Top Gear) - “rannen”.

Gear-rannen. Wrong on every level. Were you people really too busy, self-absorbed, or snobbish to ask a real, living, breathing Gaelic-speaking local how to say it correctly? Oh, you didn’t want to engage with anyone not in the script? Look, just go. Don’t come back. I know you got the best shots in ages of a white-tailed sea eagle snatching a fish - but you crossed the line. Gear-rannen indeed. Grrrr.

Now my face hurts again. I must try and dull the pain of this toothache before my appointment later this week. There are all kinds of dental websites and they all have great advice. Well, I thought they did and then I saw this one. It says: “Remember, you don't have to brush all your teeth - just the ones you want to keep.”

Queensferry Crossing Comes Together
The final section of the Queensferry Crossing has finally been slotted into place.  The 1.7 mile bridge, which is budgeted to cost £1.3 billion, is scheduled to be opened in May this year (original target was December 2016 but that date was been put back due to weather delays (25 days lost due to high winds during April last year). 149 segments of bridge deck, each of which is 12 metres (39 ft) long and 40 metres (130 ft) wide, were constructed in China and Spain, then delivered by sea in October 2013.  The structure will be the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world. It is being built alongside the existing Forth Road Bridge and will carry the main M90 motorway across the Firth of Forth between Lothian, at South Queensferry, and Fife, at North Queensferry. Wind shielding is being built into the design, to enable use of the bridge in high winds, which regularly led to restrictions on the existing bridge. The decision to proceed with a replacement bridge was taken at the end of 2007 and the existing road bridge is to be retained as a public transport link - increasing volumes of traffic on the existing bridge cause delays at peak times. Several new and upgraded roads will connect the bridge into the existing road network. Construction began in September 2011.

Cnoc An Eas Wind Farm Campaigners Get Ready for Round Two

A controversial application to erect massive turbines 447ft high in a scenic Highland glen will be decided by planning appeal inquiry.  Campaigners against the 13-turbine wind farm in Glenurquhart were jubilant when Highland Council last year rejected the plan by Force 9 Energy and EDF at Cnoc an Eas in the glen, not far from Loch Ness.  But their joy was short-lived when the developers lodged an appeal against the refusal of planning permission. Now Scottish Government planning reporter Timothy Brian will hear evidence over four days from Tuesday, March 7 in Cannich Village Hall.  There was massive local objection to the scheme, which campaigners say will dominate the landscape near Balnain village. Local residents formed an action group – Stop Turbines At Glenurquhart (Stag) – to successfully fight off the energy giants, and now it is gearing up for this latest chapter.  The reporter will consider the visual impact on the landscape, including the cumulative impact from other wind farms in the area, and the impact on residents’ amenity.  Mr Brian will also have to consider what impact the wind farm might have on the setting of the ancient chambered cairn at Corrimony.  There has been concerns voiced that Loch Ness ospreys featured in the hit TV series Highland – Scotland’s Wild Heart, could be threatened by the massive blades of the turbines as they hunt in the area.  Nature lover Dan Luscombe has voiced concerns for the safety of Scotland’s rarest bird, the Slavonian grebe.  Mr Luscombe, whose home at Balnain overlooks Loch Meiklie, pointed out the Loch Ness ospreys are within easy flying distance of the trout rich waters of Loch Meiklie and might be struck by the blades.  He said: “Should the Cnoc an Eas scheme go ahead, many birds including this osprey will be in grave danger.” Slavonian grebes nest in close-by lochs and are classified as the rarest birds in Scotland, he said.  RSPB Scotland has also previously voiced concerns about the safety of golden eagles and black grouse in and around the Cnoc an Eas area.  Stag spokesman Cliff Green was unavailable for comment, but has previously voiced his strong disappointment that the application was being appealed.  “The developer is showing contempt for the decision of Highland Council and the objections lodged by four community councils and many local residents,” he said.  “If the appeal is successful, the wind farm will have a significant detrimental effect on the local landscape, environment and residential amenity. The turbines will be very close to homes and there are real concerns about noise and potential health issues for those living nearby.  Local residents would be subjected to a 20-month construction period, including a massive increase in heavy lorries travelling through the glen and surrounding area.”

New Tay Bridge to Revive Perth?
A new Tay bridge and link road that will "redefine" Perth as a major hub and create thousands of jobs has been approved. See layout in graphic above.  The £113 million Cross Tay Link Road, joining the A93 and the A94 north of Scone to the A9 north of Inveralmond. Work on the project will not start until 2019 and will open in 2022 and will provide a major new route avoiding the City of Perth. Graphic on the right shows one of the two bridges currently crossing the river in the city.  It will pave the way for new development in the Perth area and relieve traffic congestion in the city, which has become a bottleneck on some north-south routes. Perth owes its existence to being a suitable point for a bridge centuries ago and as the city has grown, a second bridge was created (as well as a bridge for the railway).  A report by Jim Valentine, the council's depute chief executive, said that Perth was already a strategic hub in Scotland's roads network but that the danger of traffic grinding to a standstill was hampering economic progress.  Scottie, the Rampant Scotland editor, is a frequent visitor to the grounds of Scone Palace which is north of Perth and can vouch for the traffic jams in the central area of the city. He usually makes a detour over the Friarton Bridge (pictured below) which was opened in 1978 to take road traffic going in the direction of Dundee and the north-east and Aberdeen away from the centre of the city. Even though that is a detour when going to Scone and more miles it is preferable at the moment to crawling through Perth!

Number of Liners Sailing Into Scrabster Harbour Set to Break Record

Scrabster Harbour is set to welcome a record number of cruise liners this season as it continues to market the port to the tourist industry.  Scrabster Harbour Trust has confirmed 13 vessels are set to arrive during 2017, on top of one provisional booking.  The total beats last year’s record of 12 liners with the potential for more than 6000 passengers to arrive. The first liner due to arrive at Scrabster is the Pacific Princess which is scheduled to arrive at the port on Saturday, June 24.  The final vessel set to sail into the port is the Amadea which is booked to dock on Tuesday, September 5. It will be the third year in a row that the Amadea has visited Scrabster en route from Reykjavik in Iceland to Bremerhaven in Germany.  Last year, the port welcomed 5096 cruise passengers, up 63 per cent compared to the 2015 season.

Scotland Looks Forward to Wave of Warm Weather
A blast of Caribbean hot air could push Scottish temperatures over that of Menorca, Majorca and Sardinia next week.  The air mass is set to continue the unseasonable warmth of the last week as parts of the country prepare for highs of 17C on Monday, following a spell of mild weather.  The cloud of hot air is making its way over the Atlantic Ocean from Florida and parts of the Caribbean, and is expected to reach the British Isles over the weekend, the Met Office said.  The rise could make the UK among the hottest locations in Europe, following bouts of snow and freezing temperatures that took hold earlier this month. Despite bringing British temperatures above the average 4-7C (39.2F-44.6F) for this time of year, the expected rise will not be record-breaking by official measures.  Met Office spokesman Oli Claydon said: “In terms of temperatures it is going to be around 16C to 17C (60F to 62F) and more broadly it will be mild across the east and north east of the country.  Although obviously above average, it’s not necessarily unusual. In February 2012, around 50 stations recorded temperatures of 15C (59F) and over and we’re not expecting that many to record the same next week.”  Mr Claydon said the warm spell is expected to last into the middle of next week, before turning cooler next weekend.  He added: “It should be continuing through next week but not necessarily through to the temperatures seen on Monday.”

Durness and Lochinver TICs Under Threat
Two remote tourist information centres (TICs) on and near the booming North Coast 500 visitor route are facing closure after their leases were hiked by their landlord who lives more than 700 miles away.  VisitScotland said it could not meet the demands being made to triple the length of the leases, which had also been greatly increased in rent.  Community leaders claim the landlord is trying to cash-in on the popularity of the North Coast 500 drive route – which has seen a massive increase in tourists. Ironically the visitor centres have never been more needed or popular.  Dorset-based businessman Michael Bonham Cozens, said he only bought the centres at Durness and Lochinver in Sutherland out of “sentimental” reasons after exploring the coast on a sailing trip.  He has owned the centres for 12 years.  But the move to seek a nine-year renewal for the licences has been refused by VisitScotland – who say it was not in the taxpayers’ interest to commit to such long periods.  They now face having no home in the popular area.  The Durness lease with the tourist body ends next month and Lochinver’s term comes to a finish in May. A small part of the Durness building is leased to Highland Council for its threatened ranger service and is also due to end in the next few months.  Mr Cozens is seeking £9500-a-year, rising to £11,500 per annum over the period of the lease for Durness and £12,500-ayear, rising to £15,000 per annum for Lochinver.  Community leaders are now fighting to save the centres, which have seen booming trade from the North Coast 500 initiative. Inquiries at the Durness centre, which is directly on the 500 mile plus route, soared by more than a quarter last year.  Mr Bonham Cozens, 85, said: “I am looking for somebody who can operate a vibrant commercial business and provide a tourist centre as part of that business.  I have served notice and I am advertising the properties and I have had good interest. I have no connection with the area but I bought them out of sentimental reasons having sailed in that area. I earnestly hope that the new tenants of the main part of the Durness premises will come to suitable arrangement for the ranger service to be continued for the benefit of the community and visitors.   Interest will be welcome from any business or organisation that thinks they can make a profitable occupation of the premises. This, of course, includes Visit Scotland and the Highland Council.  As with all commercial leases being offered, all is subject to negotiation.”  But Sarah Fuller, chair of the Durness Development Group, said:”The value and length of the lease seems to have increased in time with the popularity of the North Coast 500. We know the rent was £5800-a-year in 2014. Not many people locally will able to afford the new rent.  Those centres are vital to the area. More and more people are coming but face having nowhere in the whole of North West Sutherland to help inform them centrally of what is available locally. Also a lot of community assets are in those buildings. It is a real worry. We are exploring other options urgently.”  Scott Macpherson, chairman of Durness Community Council, added: “It will be a huge loss to the village if it closes. There are also two jobs involved. We are very concerned.  It came out of the blue. That building is more than a tourist information centre – it is full of information.”  VisitScotland said it had been unable to reach agreement over Durness and Lochinver.  A spokesperson said: “It is regrettable that we have been unable to reach a positive outcome regarding the leases of our iCentres in Durness and Lochinver. “We have co-operated with negotiations and offered a 3+1 year lease extension at the increased rent proposed by the landlord. The landlord has since changed the terms and we cannot accept his new requirement of a nine year lease agreement with no lease break, which does not represent good value for money for the public purse.  We are therefore now exploring alternative options – in consultation with local groups – for the provision of visitor information in Durness and Lochinver.  VisitScotland is committed to working with partners in the public and private sector to enhance the provision of visitor information and inspiration, and to ensure that every visitor to Scotland has the warmest welcome and receives quality information to help them make the most of their stay.”  The venue in Durness is shared by tourist information and Highland Council’s countryside ranger service, which is separately under threat, and could be axed as a result of budget cuts.  Long-serving northwest Sutherland ranger Donald Mitchell and his wife Valerie could both lose their jobs because she is part of the Durness tourist information facility.  Mr Mitchell said: “It is a very worrying time. The centre is increasingly important for the community, particularly with the success of the NC500.”

When Will Rosyth’s Nuclear Submarines Finally Be Scrapped?
When the seventh HMS Dreadnought was launched by The Queen at Barrow in 1960, it was a momentous day for the Royal Navy.  The vessel was the UK’s first ever nuclear-powered submarine and represented a great leap forward in the country’s defence capabilities at the height of the Cold War.  But the Dreadnought today is a source of embarrassment rather than pride for the Senior Service. The submarine was decommissioned in 1980 and has been laid up afloat at Rosyth Dockyard ever since. It has now spent double the time tied up in Fife than it did on active service.  Another six decommissioned nuclear submarines have since joined Dreadnought at the former naval base. The cost of storing and maintaining them was £1.6 million in 2013/14, down from £3.8m the year before.  A total of £16m was spent in a five-year period on 19 laid-up submarines at Roysth and Devonport on the south-coast of England.  Although all the vessels in Fife have been defuelled, they cannot be scrapped until their radioactive parts have been removed - a process that will take decades.  The Ministry of Defence (MOD) announced in December it had finally began this gradual process, beginning with HMS Swiftsure, which has been laid up at Rosyth since 1992.  “We have begun initial dismantling on time and as planned in Rosyth, and are committed to ensuring that submarine dismantling is undertaken in a safe, secure, cost-effective and environmentally sound manner,” an MOD spokeswoman said.  They added the decommissioned submarines were subject to regular maintenance and checks by both the MOD and regulators, and “pose no additional risks to workers or members of the public”.  The first step in the dismantling process is to take “low level waste” out of the Swiftsure.  “The process will be refined with this first vessel and then best practice taken forward for the remaining vessels,” the spokeswoman added.  It will take a number of decades to complete all of the submarines in the scope of Submarine Dismantling Project. It is not possible to give a precise timescale until feedback is received from the demonstrator submarine. This will inform the current assumption of dismantling one submarine every 18 months.”  But those who have long campaigned for the submarines’ removal, citing safety fears, are worried about potential delays arising from the experimental nature of the decommissioning project and a lack of budget. Douglas Chapman, MP for Dunfermline and West Fife and a former Roysth councillor, has been calling for the MOD to take action since first being elected.  “The submarine dismantling programme has been waiting to happen for years,” he said.  “Thank goodness some progress appears to be underway however, even if the process proves successful, the pace at which submarines being dismantled amount to just one per year. The MOD confirmed to me in the Defence Committee that the pace of dismantling could not be accelerated due to lack of sufficient budget.  The key issue for Scotland and Rosyth is that all hazardous waste is safely removed from our shores and no further old submarines are brought to Rosyth for storage. Our deal is once the ones we have are gone, they’re gone and we’re not interested in accepting anymore.”

William Hill First Bookies to Back Yes Vote for Indyref2
William Hill has become the first bookmakers to back Yes as the likely outcome of a second Scottish independence referendum.  The bookies has put odds of a vote in favour of the UK splitting by 2024 at 8/11.  A No vote sits at evens.  Former First Minister called the bookmaker’s prediction “more significant than any opinion poll.”  He added: “This is the first time I can remember independence being odds on favourite.  It doesn’t make it a cert, but bookies tend not to throw their money away.”  Top pollster Professor John Curtice said it was not an “unreasonable bet” but added: “I don’t think the fact a bookie has made it odds on favourite means it’s going to happen.”  Ladbrokes, bookmaker rivals to William Hill are backing a No vote.  A William Hill spokesman said: “We are pretty sure there will be another referendum by 2024. And we think by then, it’s likely Scotland will vote yes.”

Lords Ready to Fight Brexit, Peter Mandelson Warns
Peter Mandelson has warned the government to expect a fierce battle as the Lords begin considering legislation that will trigger Brexit.  Lord Mandelson said opposition peers were prepared to inflict defeat on the government over the final vote on the terms of Brexit, despite pressure to wave through legislation on Article 50.  The former EU commissioner and minister in Tony Blair’s government said peers should “not throw in the towel early”, telling colleagues to fight for guarantees on the future of EU nationals living in the UK, and to secure a “meaningful” vote on the final Brexit deal in which MPs could send the government back to negotiate a better arrangement.  His comments came as another Labour peer, Peter Hain, said he was ready to force amendments to the Article 50 bill to keep the UK in the single market and keep the open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Opposition peers were warned against snarling up the Brexit process by Justice Secretary Liz Truss, who told Lord Mandelson to “move on” and refused to rule out using the Parliament Act to override the Lords and force legislation through.  “I fully expect the House of Lords will recognise the will of the people and the will of the House of Commons, which was overwhelming, to pass that legislation,” Ms Truss told the Andrew Marr Show.  Two days of debate on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill in the Lords begin today, with amendments considered next week. The Lords can send an amended bill back to the Commons and delay its passage, but cannot push through changes themselves.  There are just 252 Conservatives among the 805 peers in the Lords, giving the opposition and independent crossbenchers a chance to inflict defeats. Lord Mandelson told the Marr Show that there was a “strong body of opinion” on EU nationals and the status of the final Brexit vote.  “At the end of the day, the House of Commons must prevail because it is the elected chamber,” he said. “But I hope the House of Lords will not throw in the towel early.”  Polling by ICM for the campaign group Change Britain found that support for reform of the House of Lords would increase if peers obstruct or delay Brexit.  The survey found 43 per cent of respondents would be more likely to back abolition or reform of the second chamber compared to 12 per cent who are less likely in such circumstances.  “Peers would be wise to consider this clear democratic mandate, and their own futures, when debating the Article 50 Bill this week,” Tory MP Dominic Raab said.

Macneil to Fight for Fishing Rights
Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil is calling for control of fishery zones West of the Hebrides to be devolved to the islands post-Brexit.  His call comes as it was revealed in a document leaked to The Times newspaper that the fishing industry is not a top priority for the Tory Government in Brexit negotiations and has been designated of just ‘medium importance’. In last week’s debate on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill in the House of Commons, Mr MacNeil said: “I represent probably the only constituency to reach 200 miles of the exclusive economic zone.  Surely there is a case not just for putting Scotland in control of fisheries, but for giving the Hebrides and island groups some power over them?  We should certainly not leave them in charge of those in Westminster who sold them down the river once and, given this White Paper, are looking to sell them down the river yet again?”Mr MacNeil drew attention to the ‘Our Islands, Our Future’ campaign led by island local authorities which is seeking more devolution of decision making to a local level and said fisheries was a solid example of where this could be put into practice.  He said: “As the UK Westminster Government ploughs ahead with a seeming disastrous Brexit with no idea of where their negotiations will take us, we can try to salvage something for the islands on the west coast, as there is prevalent concern about the priority being given to the fishing industry. Many in the fishing industry voted to Leave the EU in last year’s referendum but they did not expect to be treated as anything less than a top priority in negotiations. At the moment a lot of mackerel and herring is caught on the west coast of Scotland but no boats on the west coast have quota, that has to change.”  Withdrawing from the EU will mean withdrawing from the Common Fisheries Policy. The UK will have to renegotiate its quota of total allowable catches for stocks that are shared with the EU and neighbouring countries. The majority of fish caught by UK fleets are exported, mostly to EU member states.  Top priorities identified in the leaked UK Government report include pharmaceuticals, car-making, textiles and clothing, aerospace and air transport; fishing and chemical industries as medium priority; and Steel construction, oil and gas and Telecoms as low priority.

Premium Scotch on the Rocks?
Adventurous investors have been toasting decent returns from whisky and wine investing, but could Brexit be about to hit profits ? Collectible whiskies have recorded annual returns of 36 per cent over the year to the end of September, according to the Icon 100 index of the most sought-after brands compiled by RareWhisky 101, the broker.  The Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index for the second quarter of 2016 shows that fine wine has returned 8 per cent over the previous 12 months. Under UK tax codes, whisky and wine benefit from being "wasting assets", so they are free from capital gains tax as long as they are not actively traded. Yet the falling pound and prospect of trade tariffs that may result from Brexit could leave investors with a sour taste.  The low pound is good for the whisky industry because more than 90 per cent is sold outside the UK. However, the Scotch Whisky Association warns that many free-trade deals are arranged through the EU so the introduction of tariffs could hit prices. The EU also sets rules on the definition of whisky, its labelling and bottle sizes, which could change after Brexit. A spokesman says: "There remains uncertainty around future access to the EU single market - representing about a third of annual scotch exports - and the UK's future trading relationship with important, non-EU markets."  The most valuable bottles tend to be the most rare. For example, the Glenlivet distillery is releasing a rare collection of one hundred 50-year-old single-malt whiskies as part of its Winchester Collection: Vintage 1966. Bottles are expected to retail at £20,000 each. This month a rare bottle of Glenfiddich from 1937 sold at auction for £68,500, believed to be the highest price paid for a single malt.  Andy Simpson, of Rare Whisky 101, says there are three things to consider when valuing a whisky: age, vintage and silence. "Anything from a silent, or closed, distillery is in heavy demand. The longer ago it was distilled, the better," he says. "Overlay the principle of buying from an iconic distillery and buying small or limited releases, and demand swells. Buy the best quality."

Top Marks for Seaforth House
A Sutherland care home has again received a glowing report from Scotland’s care regulator. Seaforth House in Golspie was highlighted by the Care Inspectorate for consistent provision of high quality care following an unannounced visit earlier this month.  A spot check at the 15-bed home resulted in “very good” grade 5s in two categories – quality of care and support and quality of management and leadership.  This matched “very good” grades in the same categories in two previous visits by the independent regulator of social care and social work services in February 2015 and December of that year.  Lorraine Coe, NHS Highland’s Sutherland district manager, said: “I am delighted to say that Seaforth House was inspected last week and retained grade 5s in their quality themes. This is a wonderful reflection on all the hard work that is delivered on a day-to-day basis to provide a high quality service at the home.”  Seaforth House manager Tina Mitchell said: “I am really pleased we retained our very good grades in the two categories that were assessed. It shows that our staff continue to make every effort to provide a warm, friendly and homely environment at Seaforth for all our residents.”  During the visit over two days, five residents, three relatives and four service users of the home were interviewed at different times.  The report states that comments received were all positive and “overall everyone that we spoke with were happy with the quality of care and support provided at Seaforth House”.  Two recommendations to improve services were made.  The first is that the provider should ensure they keep making further improvements to the medication system, and the second is to continue access to training for staff in areas highlighted in the training analysis.

BBC Announces New ‘Scottish 9’ on Dedicated New £30m Channel

The BBC is to create a new Scottish channel which will include an hour-long news programme featuring a mix of Scottish, UK and international news.  Politicians of all parties and union leaders have welcomed news that the channel, which is due to start broadcasting in the autumn of next year, will see 80 jobs created for journalists.  The National Union of Journalists said the announcement, described by the BBC as the biggest single investment in broadcast content in Scotland in more than 20 years, was greeted with “massive relief” by its workforce in Glasgow when it was announced by director-general Tony Hall.  However, there was some disappointment that the BBC had rejected calls for a so-called “Scottish Six”, the long-standing SNP demand for an hour-long news bulletin to replace the existing arrangement of a UK news programme at 6pm on BBC One followed by Reporting Scotland. The channel will be available from 7pm to midnight every evening and accessed via digital services such as Freeview, Sky, online and the iPlayer. The new news programme will be broadcast at 9pm on weekdays.  The BBC has also been urged to make sure that the new channel, which was proposed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in a speech at the Edinburgh International Television Festival two years ago, is properly resourced. It will have a budget of around £30 million, £19m of which is extra funding for BBC Scotland, while a further £20m will be made available for the making of drama and factual programmes in Scotland for the UK-wide network.  An additional £1.2m has been allocated to Gaelic channel BBC Alba, taking its budget to £20m, which will allow weekend news bulletins to be broadcast. Around £11m of the budget for the new channel will come from programmes currently made for BBC Two in Scotland.  In future, Scottish-produced programmes such as Kirsty Wark’s recent The Insider’s Guide to the Menopause, Burns in the USA and the fly-on-the-wall documentary Sighthill will be shown on the new channel rather than BBC Two.  Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop, who had led Scottish Government demands for a shake-up of BBC Scotland in the past few years, said: “This is a real shift in the right direction from the BBC and responds to calls we’ve made for some time for a new TV channel for Scotland.  It’s vital that the new BBC Scotland channel has complete commission and editorial independence, and is provided with the funding needed to match ambition.  The channel will increase the proportion of the licence fee raised in Scotland that is spent in Scotland in years to come – but sadly will still fall well short of the proportionate share being spent in Northern Ireland and Wales.”

Can and Bottle Deposit Return Scheme Backed by Coca-Cola

Drinks giant Coca-Cola has given its backing to a campaign to introduce a deposit return scheme for cans and bottles in Scotland.  A spokesman for the soft drink firm said the "time is right" to try new measures "such as a well-designed deposit scheme for drinks containers, starting in Scotland where conversations are under way".  Campaigners calling for such a scheme to be introduced welcomed the intervention, stating Coca-Cola had previously opposed similar schemes.  John Mayhew, director of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS), said: "This is truly a landmark moment and we are very pleased to add Coca-Cola to the list of companies which agree that Scotland needs a deposit return system for drinks containers."  The APRS has led the Have You Got The Bottle? campaign, which is urging ministers to bring in a scheme where shoppers would pay a deposit when buying products in cans and plastic or glass bottles, with the money refunded when they return the empty containers.  Mr Mayhew added: " I am optimistic that Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham will in due course announce that Scotland will join the growing community of countries around the world which use deposits to boost recycling, cut litter and promote the circular economy.  The crucial next step is for ministers to design a system that works well for the public, for local authorities and for small Scottish businesses, including retailers as well as producers."  He made the comments after a Coca-Cola spokesman told Holyrood magazine: "It's already clear from our conversations with experts that the time is right to trial new interventions such as a well-designed deposit scheme for drinks containers, starting in Scotland where conversations are under way."

First Cloned Mammal Dolly the Sheep Still Inspires Scientists 20 Years on

Dolly the sheep continues to inspire research 20 years after she was revealed to the world, scientists have said.  Treatments for degenerative conditions like Parkinson's disease are still influenced by the creation of Dolly, the world's first successfully cloned mammal.  The sheep was born at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh in July 1996 but announced to the world on February 22 1997.  Her creation has been fundamental to stem cell research and "opened up previously unimaginable possibilities" in biology and medicine, scientists said. Professor Bruce Whitelaw, now interim director of The Roslin Institute, was working at the centre when Dolly was created and still uses lessons learned in his research. He said: "Cloning enabled gene-targeting strategies to be used.  We have now moved on from using cloning technology and instead use very efficient genetic engineering methods that can be directly applied to the fertilised egg.  These are based on DNA editing technology which enable extremely precise changes of the genome of animals.  We apply this exciting method in farm livestock and poultry, aiming to produce animals that are less susceptible to disease." Dr Tilo Kunath, Chancellor's Fellow at the University of Edinburgh's MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, said: "Dolly really changed our view of biology, showing us that we could take adult cells and reverse them in time.  Reprogramming cells in this way is something that I use to search for treatments for degenerative conditions like Parkinson's disease.  Dolly's influence on scientists around the world will continue to impact on cell and tissue repair research for many years to come."