Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 390

Issue # 390                                                           Week ending 4th March 2017

Now We Know Whether Royals Wear Tights Under Oilskins
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

After I passed my driving test, I loved roaring about in my wee white Mini van which had both seats in the back and windows in the side. That meant I had this rather interesting looking form of transport that today would probably feature in one of these American restoration TV series like Pimp My Ride, if I could just find out which quarry it ended up in.

Not having much money, we were always working out the cheapest way possible to make running repairs. For instance, a cracked window would be Sellotaped, a roaring exhaust would be made quieter sheathed in a Cow & Gate tin of formula baby milk and, if the radio aerial broke, a wire hangar from the wardrobe made an excellent substitute and bring in Radio Luxembourg loud and clear. Happy days.

One night, I was stooring about in my rickety little van when it became clear, a few miles out of Stornoway, that the engine was overheating. The flashing light and the hissing sound told me it was time to pull up and investigate. Being only a salesman of Axminster carpets and comfortable double divans, I had little expertise when it came to fixing anything under the bonnet. I peered anyway, shook my head as if I had the measure of the seriousness of the problem but that was only to impress the two girls from Ness who we had given a lift to.

A passing taxi stopped and the driver told me what really happened. He said the fan belt had snapped but suggested I could use my tie for a temporary fix until morning. A tie? This was Friday night so I had none. The prayer meeting was on the Thursday so I always carried a tie that night in case I bumped into my uncle who would want me to accompany him there. The taxi driver understood, nodded and said: “In that case, there’s nothing else for it. You need a pair of ladies’ tights.”

Get lost, cove. I thought he meant I should put the tights over my head, run into the filling station and disappear into the night clutching a new fan belt. I could not do that. After all, I was in the Free Church. Thankfully, the taxi man instead suggested the tights should be wound together and used as a temporary fan belt. But where would I get a pair of sheer, seamless 30-denier tights at ten o’clock on a Friday night?

It was a difficult conversation with the girls. “Aw, come on,” I pleaded. “It is raining and you don’t really want to be stuck way out here all night, do you?” That worked. The first pair unaccountably shredded as soon as I turned the ignition key but the fishnets from the other Ness lass were ideal for the purpose and got us all home safely. It was a happy conclusion and the entire experience was an education. Years later, I was able to advise a couple broken down at a service station near Bristol how to get themselves to a garage with the aid of the red-faced lady’s underthings. Glad to be of help, madam.

Which is what they probably said on the Isle of Eigg after Princess Anne’s yacht, Ballochbuie, limped in with an engine that had the same problem as my old Mini van. No one had a pair of tights on under their oilskins to get her going again. The Princess might be a very experienced sailor and also President of the Royal Yachting Association but she was flummoxed. Even her husband, Vice-Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, who has commanded warships, was stumped.

Locals phoned around to see if anyone had a belt to fit a 44ft Rustler yacht, worth a cool half a million quid. Nope. No one. Then someone in the garage over on Mull realised that the dusty old belt they had on the shelf for a Vauxhall Astra was the right size. It matched the pulley size and was ribbed on one side. It would cost them though. Astra spares are not cheap. How about £15 for cash, Your Royal Highnesses? Done.

The royals got a good deal. I, however, was not so lucky with my wee van. It started running rough and a guy who knows about these things said it was time to change the spark plugs. So I went to  a local garage and told the mechanic on duty that I wanted four spark plugs for my van. He looked at my pride and joy and said: “That seems like a fair trade to me. There are your plugs. Now, have you got the documents?”

The Origins of Glasgow’s Famous Street Names Explained
Up until the mid-1700s there were only thirteen streets in Glasgow, as well as a handful of lanes, squares and roads.  Thanks to rapid expansion during the era of Empire, as well as more modern developments, the city now has several thousand streets within its borders.  The origins of some street names are fairly obvious, but many of Glasgow’s most famous streets have unusually interesting stories behind their names.

Argyle Street
Previously known as Dumbarton Road and then Wester Gate, Argyle Street was renamed when the West Port was demolished in 1751 to expand the city westwards.  It was called Anderson Walk for a short while, before becoming Argyle Street. Archibald Campbell, 3rd Duke of Argyll laid in state in the Highland Society’s House (now a Marks & Spencer) after his death in 1761 and the street was named in his honour.

Perhaps most famous now for its craft beer brewery of the same name, the Drygate is probably the oldest thoroughfare in Glasgow.  The word ‘dry’ is thought to come from an old Germanic or Pagan term for a priest, and the nearby Necropolis was once used as a place for Druids to worship. It makes sense, therefore, that the road leading up to the Necropolis was known as the priests’ road, or the Drygate.

George Square
With plenty of Georges in Britain’s royal history, you’d be forgiven for not knowing which one George Square is named after. The Square (and nearby George Street) is named in honour of King George III, who was the reigning monarch at the time of the Square’s opening in 1787.  George Square was intended to be used as a private garden for the surrounding townhouses, but disgruntled mobs pulled the railings down on several occasions and it has been a public space ever since.

Byres Road
Before Glasgow expanded westwards, this area was a separate village known as the Byres of Partick - sometimes also referred to as the Bishop’s Byres. As it was a fairly rural area, the ‘byres’ part of the name is likely to refer to the Scots word for a cow shed.  The road was known as Victoria Street for some time but this name was never popular with the public (especially as there were four other Victoria Streets elsewhere in Glasgow) so it was changed back to Byres Road in the 1890s.

Buchanan Street
Like many of the streets in the centre of Glasgow, Buchanan Street was named after a famous merchant who had made his fortune thanks to Glasgow’s reputation as the Second City of the Empire.  Opened in 1780, Buchanan Street took its name from Andrew Buchanan, one of the city’s most successful tobacco merchants. He was the head of two great Virginia tobacco houses, Buchanan, Hastie & Co and Andrew Buchanan & Co.

Jamaica Street
Similarly, Jamaica Street (along with several other streets in the Merchant City) also takes its name from Glasgow’s connections with the Empire.  Jamaica Street opened in 1763, which was around the time of the height of the rum and sugar trade between Glasgow and the West Indies. The plans for the street included a customs house and shipping office to help continue this trade.  The name also hints at the darker side of Glasgow’s history - many local merchants made their fortune by exploiting slave labour in the plantations of Jamaica and the West Indies.

Sauchiehall Street
A bit of a tongue twister for non-Scots, Sauchiehall Street is actually a corruption of the Scots word ‘sauchiehaugh’. ‘Haugh’ means a meadow or valley and ‘sauchie’ refers to the type of trees that grew there, so Sauchiehall roughly translates to Willow Grove.  The street was originally known as Sauchie-haugh Road, but after being widened in 1846, many of the older villas were replaced with tenements and the name was changed to Sauchiehall Street.

Bath Street
As well as the merchants of the Empire, many Glasgow streets from this era were named after businessmen, entrepreneurs and industrialists.  Bath Street got its name from William Harley, who was known as the water entrepreneur. He built a series of public baths along this street which led to ‘pleasure gardens’ on his estate at the northern end of the thoroughfare.

Drury Street
According to local legend, Glasgow’s Drury Street got its name thanks to the Drury Lane Theatre in London.  Two young residents of the street had become enamoured with theatre after reading about it and so decided to bring some of this theatrical air to their Glasgow home. They got the name Drury Street printed and hung it on the corner building, and the name has stuck ever since.

Duke Street
Previously known as Carntyre Road, Duke Street was opened in 1794 and takes its name from the Duke of Montrose as his lodgings overlooked the street.  At 1.6 miles long, Duke Street is often cited as the longest street in Britain. Whilst it does beat competitors like London’s Oxford Street, Aberdeen’s King Street is now thought to take the crown at almost 2 miles.

5 Reasons Scotland and North East England Share More Than Just A Border
When the Conservatives won a majority in 2015’s general election, a petition which originated during the Scottish referendum campaign, gained a new lease of life.  Thousands called for a ‘New Scotland’ under the SNP, where Scots and Northerners could live together in harmony.  Though this movement has lost some momentum since then, there’s no denying citizens of Northern England (particularly North East locals) have more than a little in common with the people of Scotland.  Now, the Northerners at City Breaks in Newcastle are making their case for why border-sharers in the North East are very much the same breed as their Scottish neighbours.

Regional dialect
Geordies and Glaswegians are no strangers to being subtitled on British television, but locals wear these characterful accents with pride. While visitors from overseas may benefit from their own travel-size phrasebooks, Northerners and Scots alike are well accustomed to translating traditional localisms for tourists. Who knows? By allowing North East natives to join forces with Scotland, we could see a new ‘superlanguage’ come into being.

Statement dishes
From neeps and tatties to pan haggerty and panacalty, comfort food is a core part of life in both Scotland and the North East. While more southerly palates may not be able to appreciate the orchestra of flavours found in Auld Reekie’s cock-a-leekie soup or South Tyneside’s majestic saveloy dip, locals are proud to be connoisseurs when it comes to their one-of-a-kind cuisine. Deep fried Mars bar, anyone?

Rugged wilderness
If there’s one thing the Scottish and North Eastern landscapes have in common, it’s pure, unadulterated ruggedness. From taking on the 84-mile National Trail that is Northumberland’s Hadrian’s Wall Path to hiking mighty summits on the Outer Hebrides, exploring these natural worlds will leave you in no doubt that the two are a perfect pairing of vast, abundant greenery and challenging terrain.

Love of colder climates
The same cold blood that runs through Scots’ veins can be found in most North East natives, to the abject horror of tourists visiting from fairer climates. This Viking-like immunity to wind, rain and ice is what sets us apart - and we’re not shy about showing it off. Just look at the heroes making their tempestuous trek through the Highlands in the face of gale force winds, or catching a wave in the merciless North Sea in the middle of November.

Local charm
Scots and Northerners share an international reputation for being as charismatic as we are unashamedly brash. In 2015, the North East was named the friendliest region in England in a Government survey - with 84% of locals saying they chat to their neighbours at least once a month. Rough Guides’ readers even voted Glasgow the world’s friendliest city, while a 2016 YouGov survey saw the Scottish accent emerge the sexiest in Britain.

Sadiq Khan in New Row with SNP Over ‘Isolationism and Division’ Claim

Sadiq Khan has reignited a furious row with the SNP after he accused the Nationalists of pushing an agenda of “isolationism and division”.  Kezia Dugdale, the Scottish Labour leader, was forced to defend the London Mayor over his claim that there was “no difference” between Scottish nationalism and racism.  Mr Khan insisted he was “not saying that nationalists are somehow racist or bigoted” during his speech to the Scottish Labour conference in Perth on Saturday – but stood by his comments in an interview; “We live in a time where there is a rise of populist and narrow nationalist movements across the world,” said Mr Khan when asked if he thought his actions would help Labour win back votes from the SNP.  “We live at a time where people have voted for President Trump and voted to leave the European Union.  Now, you have two choices as a sensible politician. You can try and address the people’s fears, or play on them.  I’m a firm believer in hope and unity rather than fear and division.  You know, at a time when we are looking for an antidote to Trump and Brexit I don’t think we should be talking about separation.  The message I would have to the voters in Scotland, and the voters in Wales and all around the UK is we should recognise the huge strengths we have as a country.  It’s a huge sense of pride to me that on a whole host of issues we as a country punch well above our weight.  The point I was trying to make is that as the Mayor of London I am a patriot. I love Scotland, I love the UK and I want to see all of us benefit.  That means being hopeful and being confident rather than looking towards isolationism and division.”  Ms Dugdale insisted Mr Khan did not accuse the SNP of being racist when she was questioned about the row on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme.  Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, has said Mr Khan’s comments were a “sign of the sheer desperation and moral bankruptcy that has driven so many from Scottish Labour’s ranks”.

Highland House Sales Boom 'Continues'

Another major estate agency has reported a boom in house sales in the Highlands. Property consultancy, CKD Galbraith, said there had been a “healthy level of residential sales and buyer activity across the Highlands” during the final three months of 2016 followed by a “significant increase in activity” in January and February. Its Inverness office reported a 23 per cent rise in the number of property viewings in the final three months compared to the same period in 2015.  The office also had a particularly active January with 87 viewings and 156 prospective buyer registrations.  The news follows reports from Highland Solicitors Property Centre (HSPC) that it had seen a 44 per cent year-on-year increase in house sales in January.  And Gregor Simpson, a partner with Shepherd Chartered Surveyors, singled out a range of housing developments currently underway as evidence that demand for new housing is as high as ever, including the Essich Meadows site being created by Kirkwood Homes in Culduthel where all 15 luxury homes sold out within five weeks of being released for sale. Phiddy Robertson, head of residential sales at CKD Galbraith’s Inverness office, said its own figures were also good: “We experienced a steady level of sales throughout the final months of 2016 but recorded a significant increase in buyer activity during the first five weeks of 2017.  Whilst the winter months have traditionally been held as a less favourable time to sell, there appears to be a change in buyer behaviour and sellers are now benefitting from a twelve month market so shouldn’t wait until the spring months to start marketing their properties when competition in the area will be higher. The Highlands attract buyers from across the whole of the UK. During the fourth quarter of 2016 national buyers accounted for 67 per cent of all sales in region.  Homeowners often move to the Highlands to take advantage of the fantastic value for money property here offers as well as the unrivalled lifestyle opportunities. The second home market continues to thrive with interest coming from buyers as far as Canada.”

Theresa May ‘Preparing for Indyref2 Call Once Brexit Starts’

Prime Minister Theresa May is preparing for the Scottish government to call a second independence referendum to coincide with the triggering of Article 50 next month.  Senior government sources have said that Nicola Sturgeon will use the start of the Brexit process to demand another vote on the future of the UK and that Whitehall is planning for that event. The prime minister could reject the demand. However, such a move would risk causing a constitutional crisis.  Ministers have also been warned that, if Mrs May agreed, she would risk the break-up of the United Kingdom on a “coin toss”.  The UK Westminster government’s worries come after recent polls showed that support for Scottish independence was on the rise.  In a BMG poll published earlier this month, 49 per cent of those asked said they would vote yes in a second plebiscite.  Mrs May has also been told that she faces a double-headed “devolution crisis” next month, with Stormont elections on Friday unlikely to resolve Northern Ireland’s political crisis.  Concerns over Scotland and Northern Ireland were discussed last Tuesday by the cabinet, with senior figures saying that the impact of Brexit on the UK’s devolution settlement was the government’s greatest concern about the process of taking Britain out of the European Union.  The prime minister has rejected the SNP’s claim that Scotland’s rejection of Brexit requires it to be given a second chance to vote to leave the UK.  Writing in Holyrood magazine, she said: “In June last year, when the UK as a whole was asked if we should leave or remain in the European Union, every voter had an equal say and the collective answer was final.” She also said that there was “considerable common ground” between Westminster and Holyrood over the shape of the Brexit deal, adding that both wanted the “freest possible trade in goods and services between the UK and the EU’s member states”.  She also called on voters to use the local government elections in May “to send a clear message to the SNP that they do not want a second independence referendum”. Responding to the Prime Minister’s magazine article, an SNP spokesman said: “There is already a cast-iron democratic mandate for an independence referendum - that was delivered in last year’s Holyrood election, however much the Tories might try to deny it.  That mandate also stems from the EU referendum, which saw Scotland vote by a 24-point margin to stay in Europe - and Theresa May’s reckless pursuit of an economically ruinous hard Brexit will only strengthen opinion in Scotland against leaving Europe.  The Prime Minister couldn’t be more wrong to suggest there is considerable common ground between her Government and the Scottish Government on Brexit - her party is hell-bent on taking us out of the world’s biggest single market, with all the economic damage that would cause, while we are intent on protecting Scotland’s vital national interests.”

New Move for Bishop Precedes Highland Priest’s Summer Retiral
One of the most popular priests in the Argyll and Isles Diocese, Monsignor Thomas Wynne, is set for a summer retiral.  Now in his mid-80s, he is parish priest at St Margaret’s Church in Roy Bridge, a large parish which covers the Catholic Churches in Spean Bridge and Invergarry.  During a 60-year career, Monsignor Wynne has served throughout the West Highlands and is due to retire from active ministry of church duties in June.  His departure will see the current priest from Benbecula parish in the Outer Hebrides, Fr. Danny Convery, move straight away to Roybridge in the Braes of Lochaber.  In an unprecedented move, the vacant parish of Isle of Benbecula will then be covered by the Bishop of Argyll and the Isles. The new Bishop, Brian McGee, appointed by Pope Francis and inaugurated in February, is from Greenock. He’ll move from the Bishop’s House, beside Oban’s St. Columba’s Cathedral, to Benbecula, to experience the island life of a parish priest first hand. The Argyll and the Isles Diocese has said Bishop McGee will be resident in the Isle of Benbecula from February until June.  He has said he wishes to learn the Gaelic language, and what better way than to immerse himself in one of his busy island parishes? From Benbecula, he’ll be well placed for visiting his far-flung flock of parishioners in the less populated areas of the Western Isles, by travelling to parishes in Lochmaddy North Uist, South Uist, Eriskay and Barra, as well as visiting the new church building in Stornoway.

Nicola Sturgeon Blasts Theresa May: ‘Indyref2 is Your Fault’

Scotland’s First Minister will today tell the Prime Minister that her “sheer intransigence” over Brexit is the reason a second independence referendum could be called so soon.  Nicola Sturgeon will also tell Theresa May that she has a “cast-iron mandate” for Indyref2. Writing in The Times newspaper, Sturgeon said her manifesto stated Holyrood should have the right to vote again on independence if Scotland backed staying in the EU but was taken out ‘against its will’.  She also claims May has adopted a ‘my way or no way’ approach to Brexit talks.  She wrote: “Our manifesto said this: The Scottish parliament should have the right to hold another referendum.. if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014 such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.  The SNP was re-elected to government with more votes and seats than Labour and Tories combined. So as well as justification for a referendum, there is also a cast iron mandate.” Sturgeon said a lot of Scots backed a No vote to protect their place in Europe. She added: “If an independence referendum does arise, it will not be down to bad faith on the part of the Scottish Government - but sheer intransigence on the part of the UK Westminster government. It is not too late for the UK Westminster government to change course, but time is running out,” she added.

The Honours of Scotland
The Honours of Scotland, also known as the Scottish Regalia and the Scottish Crown Jewels, dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, are the oldest surviving set of crown jewels in the British Isles. They were used for the coronation of Scottish monarchs from 1543 (Mary Queen of Scots) until 1651 (Charles II). Since then, they have been used to represent Royal Assent to legislation in both the Estates of Parliament and the Scottish Parliament, and they have also been used at state occasions including the first visit to Scotland as sovereign by King George IV in 1822 and the first such visit by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.  There are three primary elements of the Honours of Scotland: the Crown, the Sceptre, and the Sword of State. These elements also appear on the crest of the royal coat of arms of Scotland and on the Scottish version of the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, where the red lion of the King of Scots is depicted wearing the Crown and holding both the Sword and the Sceptre.

The Crown of Scotland in its present form dates from 1540 when James V ordered the Edinburgh goldsmith John Mosman to refashion the original crown. James wore it to his consort's coronation in the same year at the abbey church of Holyrood. The circlet at the base is made from Scottish gold and is encrusted with 22 gemstones and 20 precious stones taken from the former crown. Freshwater pearls from Scotland's rivers were also used. The crown weighs 3 lb 10 oz (1644 g). The crown was remodelled in 1540 for James V when the velvet and ermine bonnet were added to bring it to its present form. It is not known exactly when the crown was originally made, but it can be seen in its pre-1540 form in the famous portrait of James IV of Scotland in the Book of Hours that was created for his marriage to Margaret Tudor in 1503.

The Sceptre of Scotland was a gift from Pope Alexander VI to King James IV in 1494, and was remodelled and lengthened in 1536. It is made of silver gilt, and is topped by a finial with polished rock (possibly Cairngorm) and a Scottish pearl. The Sceptre includes several Christian symbols: stylised dolphins, symbols of the Church, appear on the head of the rod, as do images of the Virgin Mary holding a baby Christ, of Saint James the Great, and of Saint Andrew holding a saltire.

The Sword of State of Scotland was also a papal gift; Pope Julius II presented it to James IV in 1507. The etched blade, measuring 4.5 feet in length, includes figures of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, as well as the etched name of Julius II. The silver gilt handle bears figures of oak leaves and acorns. The sword, an example of Italian craftsmanship, was damaged in 1652 whilst being hidden from Cromwell's troops, as it had to be broken in half to be properly concealed while it was being taken to safety. It is accompanied by a wooden scabbard which is covered with velvet and silver and hung from a woven silk and thread of gold belt. The Honours are on display at Edinburgh Castle, along with the alleged Stone of Destiny which was the coronation stone for Scottish kings. When the alleged Stone of Scone was returned to Scotland in 1996, it  was placed in the Crown Room, alongside the Honours.  In May 1999, at the first sitting of the devolved Scottish Parliament, in October 2004 at the opening of the new Scottish Parliament Building, and at subsequent opening ceremonies of each new session of the Scottish Parliament the Crown of Scotland has been present alongside the monarch. Due to their age and condition the sword and the sceptre are considered too delicate to be present alongside the crown at such occasions.

Lords Inflict First Damaging Brexit Defeat on Theresa May

The UK Westminster Government has suffered a damaging defeat in the Lords over its plan to start negotiations on leaving the EU at the end of this month.  Ignoring stern warnings not to amend the Brexit Bill, peers backed a Labour-led move to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK by a majority of 102.  Voting was 358 to 256 after a passionate and sometime ill-tempered three-hour committee stage debate on the European Union Bill.  The defeat means the Bill, which was passed unamended by the Commons, will now have to return there for further consideration by MPs.  And within minutes of the result Government sources confirmed the Government will seek to overturn the House of Lords defeat in the Commons,  It could put at risk Theresa May’s timetable for triggering Article 50 to begin Brexit talks by the end of March.  Shadow Brexit minister Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town warned against EU nationals being used as “bargaining chips” in negotiations to quit the EU.  Lady Hayter said the concerns of EU nationals here and British expats living in Europe shouldn’t be “traded against each other”.  Urging ministers to remove the uncertainty, she said: “These people need to know now - not in two years’ time or even 12 months’ time. They simply can’t put their lives on hold.” Home Secretary Amber Rudd wrote to every peer yesterday urging them not to back the Opposition amendment to the legislation and was present for part of the debate - sitting on the steps in front of the throne like the Prime Minister did at the Bill’s second reading.  But it failed to persuade peers that the Bill should pass unamended and become law as quickly as possible.

'Significant' Reduction in Sugar Levels for Brands Including Irn-Bru

AG Barr is to reduce the sugar content in some of its best known brands, including Irn-Bru, ahead of a government crackdown on the fizzy drinks industry.  The group, which is also behind Rubicon and Tizer, said over 90% of its brands will contain less than 5g of total sugar per 100ml by the autumn of this year.  AG Barr is grappling with a shift in consumer tastes towards low-sugar drinks and is preparing for the implementation of a sugar tax in 2018. The proposed levy, due to be introduced in April 2018, is aimed at tackling soaring obesity rates. The industry tax relates to the sugar content of drinks, with a higher amount charged for the most sugary beverages. Chief executive Roger White said: "Evidence shows that consumers want to reduce their sugar intake while still enjoying great tasting drinks. We've responded by significantly reducing sugar across our portfolio in recent years, through reformulation and innovation."  Mr White said the drink, popular in Scotland, will retain its "unique great taste", just with less sugar.  In February, the Cumbernauld-based firm said it is on track to meet full-year profit guidance, but flagged another challenging year ahead.

Fears People Could Die If Autism Centre Closed
The only autistic adult services centre in the Highlands has been put on the market, prompting anxiety and anger among the hundreds of people who use it.  For sale boards have been placed outside of the building which is currently rented by One Stop Shop Highland in Inverness.  Before the centre can even look for a new home, officials need to plug a £60,000 funding gap which is putting it at risk of closure. Kabie Brook, chairwoman of Autistic Rights Group Highland, said: “We are extremely concerned that closure could cause deaths within our community as many people have expressed feelings of hopelessness at the thought of its closure.”  The mother of an autistic 16-year-old, Kim Corbett, has also spoken out and claims her daughter has lost sleep worrying about the shutdown.  She said: “I think many of the service users will end up just walking the streets – just wandering with nowhere to go if this place shuts because there really is nothing else for them.  She [her daughter] used to have no friends and that really is the worst thing about autism – the social isolation. But now she has more than 15.”  The centre supports more than 400 autistic people across the region from the age of 16, and its oldest member is 68.  It houses the autism diagnostic service for NHS Highland and has 120 people waiting on a diagnosis – a process which can take years. The owner of the premises has put the building on the market and viewings have already taken place. It costs £150,000 to run the centre each year, including staff and rent and travelling to places such as Caithness and Lochaber to reach people.  It has secured funding from NHS Highland but is still facing the shortfall, despite adding that to its own fundraising efforts.Gill MacLennan, manager of the One Stop Shop Highland, said: “The reason we do this is for the individuals at the centre but without this centre we would lose our jobs, there is nowhere like this in the Highlands.  It is a question of whether we will be able to continue but we are doing all that we can right now to provide stability for the service users.”  The centre provides help with housing, benefits, employment and training, is able to offer one-to-one support and is a place where adults with autism can come together and spend time together safely.  The building in Ardconnel Terrace is up for sale for £250,000 by Wester Ross Salmon and has planning permission for housing.  Funding for the centre originally came from the Scottish Government in 2013. It provided the money for three autism charities to deliver six pilot centres across Scotland. Last year NHS Highland contributed, as well as Autism Initiatives UK.  A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The expectation was that should they prove their value locally, by filling gaps in local service provision, then they would become embedded in local autism action plans and become funded by the relevant local authorities. Following this pilot phase the decision whether to continue the service is ultimately one for Highland Council.”  Inverness MP Drew Hendry has vowed to help the service where he can. “This is a service that helps people to overcome many of their challenges and gets them to a place where they can make a better life for themselves and a positive contribution to their communities,” he said. One Stop Shop Highland has started a JustGiving page in attempt to raise funds.

New £14m Ferry Ordered for Gills Route

Pentland Ferries has ordered a £14 million replacement ferry to operate its service between Caithness and Orkney next year.  Community and economic development representatives have  welcomed the investment as giving a shot-in-the-arm to tourism in the far north. The new catamaran will replace  the Pentalina on the short-sea crossing of the Pentland Firth between Gills and St Margaret’s Hope.  The 85 metre-long vessel being built at a shipyard in Vietnam will be able to take 450 passengers - 100 more than the Pentalina.  The firm’s managing director Andrew Banks said it is possible they will add to its 55 staff when the new ferry goes ito operation.  He said: “Trade has been building up each year and we have been running at full capacity so we needed a bigger vessel.”

Ambulance Boss Commits to Solving Patient Transport Problems in NW

The chief of the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) has pledged to work with community leaders to fix a crisis in the patient transport service in north-west Sutherland. Edinburgh -based Pauline Howie made the commitment during a public meeting organised by Assynt Community Council and held at Lochinver Village Hall on Monday. The meeting was the culmination of more than a year of campaigning by the community council which has lobbied ambulance service managers, MPs, MSPs and Scottish health secretary Shona Robison.  It was only following the intervention of Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant that Mrs Howie agreed to travel to Lochinver for a meeting. She was accompanied by two senior managers.  Around 40 people attended from communities as far afield as Coigach and Tongue.  The ambulance chief remained “straight-faced” as she was told of an “unsympathetic and unhelpful” service which excluded some of the most vulnerable, ill and isolated patients.  A “task force” with the remit of planning a way forward is now to be set up under the leadership of Councillor Phillips and its first meeting is due to take place on Monday.  The SAS’s own definition of its patient transport service is that it “provides non-emergency transport for patients who have a medical condition that would prevent them from travelling to outpatient appointments by any other means”.  The service funds a vehicle – a Honda SUV – and driver based at Kinlochbervie but covering a geographically vast area stretching to Thurso in the north-east and as far south as Skye. In the event the driver is off sick or on holiday, no relief driver is provided.  It is a 200-mile round trip from Assynt to the Highlands’ main hospital, Raigmore.  Discontent with the service has been simmering for some years with  community councils in north-west Sutherland  receiving frequent complaints.  Community council chairman and retired GP, Dr David Slator, who chaired the meeting, said; “The service is not fit for purpose. It is designed for an urban environment where there are taxis, buses and trains. It is not designed for a rural setting where there is no public transport and where people are often isolated and distant from friends and families.”

Five Trawlermen Rescued From Sea Off Shetland After Vessel Sinks
Five fishermen have been rescued from the water after their trawler sank in bad weather off Shetland. The crew called for help at around 6.50am on Friday when the Lerwick-registered vessel Ocean Way began taking on water.  Lerwick RNLI lifeboat and the Coastguard search and rescue helicopter from Sumburgh both went to the scene, with the lifeboat arriving at 8.05am.  Two lifeboat crew, one of whom works on the Ocean Way, were transferred to the trawler with a salvage pump, while Norwegian fish carrier the Gerda Saele had already put a pump on board.  The helicopter began winching a third pump on board, however Ocean Way's skipper decided to abandon ship when it became apparent that the vessel was beyond saving.  Due to the sea conditions, it was too dangerous to take the lifeboat alongside, so the five crew and two RNLI volunteers jumped into the water minutes before the trawler sank at 8.20am.  They were picked up by the lifeboat, crewed by eight volunteers, and taken back to Lerwick, arriving at 9.50am.