Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 391

Issue # 391                                                     Week ending 11th March 2017

You Could Get A Ticking Off If You Don’t Do this by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

So you get a tick bite? So what. We have always thought of them as being a bit like midges. Annoying but we will get over it. I used to think like that until Mrs X was bitten a few years ago while trekking over a hill trying to get photos of the aurora borealis. I told her to rub the itch and she would be fine.

When her whole side turned red and swollen and horrible-looking, I did change my mind and carted her off to A&E. They were really impressed. The diagnosis was that there was a big, huge, monstrous, enormous - okay, not so tiny - blood-engorged insect burrowing its way into … my wife. It was in and going deeper. An operation was needed. Clear the room. Gowns on. I was in shock. Doctor, I thought it was just a …Oh, they’re not listening.

My beloved’s face was contorted with pain. It reminded me of a time all those years ago when medics first used forceps on her and she was in a different position, and a different size. However, the medics were just as determined to get whatever was in there out. What eventually emerged was really ugly and had the potential to cause a lot of trouble. But we love our daughter.

Oh, the tick? Yeah, after a heck of a struggle, they got that out too.

Talking of ticks and ticking off things to go and see, where can you go in south-east Asia to hear Gaelic? It’s a city-state, the only proper city-state in the world. It has four official languages - English, Malay, Mandarin, Chinese, and Tamil, but in one wee corner you can hear Gaelic spoken with a North Uist accent. Of course it is Singapore. Obvious, innit?

One of the wee yarns I heard this week was about Chi-Yan Lew, a teenager in Singapore, who taught himself the bagpipes recently. However that was not enough for this smart Singaporean. He since went on to study the culture of the home of bagpipes and started reading in his local library about Scottish Gaelic.

That was when he looked online and came across the popular Teach Yourself Gaelic kit, compiled by eminent Gaelic educationalist Boyd Robertson and thought he would give it a try. Guess what. Chi-Yan now speaks like a Gael.

When I met Boyd Robertson in the mid-1980s, he was spreading the gospel according to North Uist Gaelic at Jordanhill College and I remember how precisely and properly he spoke - much better than most people from Lochmaddy that I know. That perfect Gaelic diction has now been transferred via CDs in the Teach Yourself Gaelic kit to south-east Asia.

If you too want to speak like an Uibhisteach, you can probably pick up TYG on Amazon for less than 30 quid. If, for example, you are fed up of your own sloppy Stornoway or Argyll dialect, that is a great bargain.

The funny thing is that Singapore has been close to some Gaelic culture for decades. They have the Singapore Gaelic Lions, a Gaelic football club which does well in the Asian Gaelic Games. Yes, there is such a thing. That kind of football, of course, is a sport originally from Ireland but it is very popular there and even Irish clubs with a travel budget go over there to show them how it’s done.

Gaelic football is not like soccer but a bit like rugby and the occasional bit of wrestling thrown in. Just like Irish hurling, also known as iomáint, is different from shinty also known as camanachd, also known as iomain. Yes, they say they are all based on hockey or lacrosse but there are major differences too.

Players do not handle in the ball in shinty although these Irish players seem to be able to do anything they want with it. The sticks are different and the Irish have oddly-shaped balls. They look as if they are small square leather cushions roughly sewn up with a big darning needle.

Anyway, I was telling you about my wife’s tick. Apparently, there are more ticks biting on Uist than anywhere else just now. Our health board is doing a tick awareness session to tell Uist people how to deal with the wee blighters. They can spread Lyme’s Disease which can be serious.

Do hill-walkers and hikers realise how serious that could be? I don’t think so. I am not sure an awareness session is enough. Maybe they should publish a booklet to explain the danger to visitors. Maybe they should call it The Itch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Great Tapestry of Scotland to Return to Dundee Verdant Works

The Great Tapestry of Scotland will return to Dundee in August as part of a two-month exhibition.  The work, which details more than 2,000 years of Scotland’s history, was the brainchild of author Alexander McCall Smith.  The exhibition will take place between August 26 and October 22 at the city’s jute and social history museum, Verdant Works, on West Henderson’s Wynd.  Smith worked with historian Alistair Moffat and artist Andrew Crummy to create the tapestry between spring 2012 and September 2013.  Stitched by more than 1,000 volunteers, it was Scotland’s largest community art project.  Measuring 143 metres long in total, each of the hanging’s 160 panels took more than 500 hours to sew.  Dundee solicitors Blackadders LLP have sponsored the event, with the Alexander Moncur Trust enabling the museum’s operators, Dundee Heritage Trust, to host the exhibition. Marjory Knowles, chairwoman of the Alexander Moncur Trust, said: “The tapestry is an extraordinary celebration of Scottish history and a wonderful community endeavour that has really captured the public imagination.  We hope that many local people plus tourists from far and wide will visit the impressive exhibition.”  The first Dundee showing of the Great Tapestry of Scotland took place last year, between March and May, and proved popular, attracting almost 8,000 visitors during its run.  This new display will exhibit 82 detailed panels depicting important historic events such as the Vikings’ invasion of Scotland, the massacre at Glencoe, the first Edinburgh Festival, the miners’ strike in the 1980s, and the founding of Scottish rugby with the first Scotland v England match.  Paul Jennings, executive director of Dundee Heritage Trust, said: “It is fantastic to have the second part of the Great Tapestry of Scotland at Verdant Works this year.  It was such a successful event last year and the High Mill is the perfect venue for it. We are extremely grateful to Blackadders LLP and the Alexander Moncur Trust for supporting this exhibition.”  The museum will also re-display seven of the most popular panels from last year, including the Discovery Sails from Dundee, and Dundee: Jute, Journalism, both stitched by local volunteers.

Plans for Biogas Generator Could Be Ressurected
Wind turbines and waste management will be considered as potential money-makers for Highland Council as it tries to make itself more “business-minded”.  Turning empty land owned by the council into renewable energy is among proposals to generate income, but leading councillors say nothing has been ruled out.  This comes after a year-long review of the council’s structure, sparked by massive cuts to the local authority’s staff and budget last year.  Councillor Isobel McCallum, the council’s convenor and re-design board chairwoman, said nothing would be axed at this stage, despite initial fears that the council would stop providing some services.  “Renewable energy is one area we are going to look at. We looked at turbines at the Longman at one time.  It might not happen but we have to look at all areas of the renewable energy spectrum.”  Plans for a biogas generator at the former Longman dump could be resurrected under the redesign as board vice-chairman Bill Lobban pointed out the massive expense of waste management, which will soon be higher as the Scottish landfill tax is set to increase this year.  Last year the council mooted the idea as a way to make money through generating electricity by harnessing gas naturally produced by decaying waste.  The review is only at the proposal stage at the moment and it will be up to the new council to implement following the local government elections in May, although councillors will be asked to endorse the plans at a meeting on Thursday.  And it is hoped the review will be an ongoing process to prevent the need for another massive overhaul in future. More decisions will be made locally by area committees under the proposals, in a nod to the previous district councils.  This comes after feedback to the board called for less centralisation to Inverness, although planning and licensing will remain under the power of a council-wide strategic board.

South Skye Fish Feed Plant Gets the Green Light

Highland Councillors have today given the go-ahead for a major fish-feed development at Kyleakin on Skye.  Developers Marine Harvest say construction at the Altanavaig quarry site will start by the end of March and the £93 million plant will be completed during 2018. They say the state of the art feed plant will employ 55 people in a diverse range of permanent jobs. At a meeting of the North planning committee in Inverness councillors said that the prospect of jobs, and a boost to the area’s economy had to take precedence over concerns over the visual impact of a plant that will include 40-metre high buildings and a 60-metre chimney stack.  Isobel McCallum, who chairs the committee, had submitted a motion to refuse the planning application, arguing that the developers had not done enough to meet existing policies on design. Her view that the development needed a more sympathetic design, was backed by Lochalsh councillor Audrey Sinclair.  However, Skye councillor Drew Millar moved an amendment to grant planning permission, which was backed by 10 votes to 3.  Councillor Millar said: “This is a fantastic proposal and development. Yes it’s a factory – but where better to hide it than in a quarry. This is about jobs.” Ben Hadfield Chief Operating Officer Feed and Managing Director of Marine Harvest Scotland said: “I’m delighted with the positive decision from the local authority and even more heartened by the overwhelming support we have had from the local community. We will do our utmost now to ensure that this large construction project is managed in a sensitive way.  This provides a modern platform for us to further enhance the sustainability of the salmon farming sector.”

Litir Bhon a’ Cheathramh
le Alasdair MacMhaoirn
Bhruidhinn ri mi cuideigin bho Cheap Breatainn an là roimhe, agus thuirt e gu robh cèilidhean cudromach sa bhaile aige airson math na Gàidhlig. Thuirt e cuideachd gu robh e a’ mìneachadh cèilidhean ceart, chan e cèilidhean mar a tha iad ann an Alba. Thuig mi na bha e ag innse dhomh. Tha cuimhn’ am air daoine, gu mì-fhortanach nach eil againn a-nis, a bha a’ cumail cèilidhean ann an taigh ach chan eil iad cumanta san là an-diugh. Mar as trice ann an Alba ’s e seòrsa de chonsart a th’ ann an cèilidh.
I spoke with someone from Cape Breton the other day and he told me that ceilidhs were important in Cape Breton for maintaining Gaelic. He also said that he meant house ceilidhs and not ceilidhs as they are in Scotland. I understood what he meant. I remember people, sadly no longer with us, who kept ceilidhs in their houses. This is not so common today, and for most people a ceilidh means a concert.

Co-dhiù, thòisich mi a’ smaoineachadh air na diofar stòraidhean a chuala aig cèilidhean ceart, agus chuimhnich mi air dà dhiubh a dh’fhaodadh a bhith inntinneach dhuibh. ’S ann à Taobh Mhealanais a chuala mi iad. (Cha chan cò aige a chuala mi iad, ach bidh fios aig cuid agaibh...)
In any event I started thinking about the different stories I heard at ceilidhs and I recalled two which may be of interest. They are both from Melness.

Là bha seo bha muinntir air tighinn air cèilidh dha taigh agus ’s ann air telescopes a bha iad a-mach. Bha grunn daoine ann, nam measg bha cuideigin a bha ainmeil airson cho luath agus ait a bha e ann an bhith a’ toirt freagairtean dha muinntir eile. (Bha facal sònraichte ann airson seo ach, tha mi duilich ach chan eil cuimhn’ agam.) A bharrachd, bha duine cràbhaidh ann, agus bha iad uile a’ bruidhinn air telescopes. Thuirt aon neach, “Tha na telescopes cho math gum faiceadh iad muinntir os iutharn’”.
One day people were gathered for a ceilidh and they were speaking about telescopes. There were a few people there: among them there was a man known for his quick repartee, and another who was very holy. They were all discussing telescopes and finally one man said, “Telescopes are so good they say you can see the people in hell”.

Cha robh an duine cràbhaidh glè shìthisd’ leis na chaidh a ràdh agus dh’èirich e ri falbh, ’s e a’ cantainn, “Chan urrainn dhomh fuireach an seo leis an droch chainnte!”
The religious man wasn’t pleased so he rose to leave saying, “I cannot stay here with all the bad language!”

Ach thuirt an duine eile, “Dèan suidhe far an robh thu! Cha tuirt mi gum faiceadh iad thusa ann!”
But the other man said, “Sit down where you were. I didn’t say that they would see you there.”

Bha stòraidh eile ann cuideachd mu dheidhinn duine na sheann aoise a thòisich air togail culaidh. Bha e suas anns na bliadhnaichean agus bha eagal air a bhean gun cuireadh an obair às dha.
There was another story as well about a man in his old age who decided to build a boat. Because he was up in years his wife was afraid that the work would finish him.

“Carson air thalamh a bheil thu ri rudeigin cho gòrach ri sin aig d’ aoise? Faodaidh tu a dhol a-mach cuide ri sgioba sam bith ma ’s math leat, agus bheireadh iad iasg dhut uair sam bith cuideachd. Tha thu ro sheann.” Ach fhreagair am bodach, “Bha culaidh an còmhnaidh agam, agus tha mi a’ sireadh culaidh a bhith agams’.”
“Why in the world have you started such foolishness at your age? You could go out with any of the crews if you liked, and they would give you fish anytime. You are too old.” But the old man would always answer, “I always had a boat and I want to have a boat.”

Mu dheireadh chaidh a bhean dhan mhinistear ann an dùil gun bruidhneadh e dhan duine agus gun toireadh e air sguireadh. Dh’fhalbh am ministear airson bruidhinn ris agus fhuair e e ag obair gu dìcheallach air a’ chulaidh.
Finally his wife went to the minister hoping that he would speak to her husband and that he would make him stop. The minister went to speak to the man and he found him working hard on his boat.

“Dè a-nis a tha thu ris? Tha an obair ro cruaidh. Smaoinich air an aoise a tha thu”, thuirt am ministear. “Bhoil,” fhreagair an duine, “An innis thu seo dhomh ma-thà? Dèn aoise a bha Noah nuair a shìn e air an àirc?”
“What are you doing now? The work is too hard. Think about your age,” said the minister. “Well,” answered the man, “Can you tell me this? What age was Noah when he began the ark?”

Dh’fhalbh am ministear, agus cho fad ’s a tha fhios ’am thog am bodach a’ chulaidh. ’S iad na seòrsa stòraidhean a chluinneadh tu aig taigh cèilidh.
The minister left and as far as I know the man finished his boat. Those are two examples of the kind of stories that were told.

Hundreds Help Couple After Reading Online Appeal for Furniture
Kind strangers have rallied round a young family-to-be to help them get life in their new home off to the perfect start.  Hundreds of people contacted Matty Lee and his partner, pregnant Sharis Toy, with offers of free or cheap furnishings to help them get started.  Mr Lee, a 20-year-old care worker for dementia patients who was once homeless as a teenager, wanted nothing more than a house for his new family – but knew a very tight budget would make it a struggle to get their Beauly home ready for the baby.  But after posting a plea for furniture on the social media page, Inverness Buy, Swap and Sell, he was blown away by the response.  “I just couldn’t believe it,” Mr Lee said, “They were offering this and that and even just wishing us well and that really meant a lot to us.” The couple were given a wardrobe, two cupboards, three sets of drawers and a lamp. They were also sold various things at knock down prices.  “Once people knew our situation they were able to take the price of items right down, we got a huge king size bed for £40 and a table and chairs for £60. They are all such good quality and people were so nice about the whole thing I feel that the community really pulled together and it is so warming.” The couple now live on Orchard Park in privately rented accommodation and Miss Toy is expecting their first child in June. She said: “It was the little things that people helped with like hangers for clothes, and holding on to things until we could get a van to pick it up – that was really lovely.  We both just wish that we had the money to deliver flowers to all of them for all the help they gave us.” Mr Lee said: “I love living here and I love my job. I wake up at half six each morning with a smile on my face. I grew up in Wales but me and Sharis both lost family members young.  I went off the rails at 14, I was homeless and staying in hostel – it was a very scary environment.  Me and Sharis were 18 when we met, I’d moved with my friend to Liverpool and she was living there, we were into the same things and in a similar situation so when she had to leave her flat, she moved in with me and my friends and we haven’t looked back since.”  The couple later moved to Aberdeen and shared a flat with other people before moving in with her brother in Dingwall and his young family.  Although Miss Toy is originally from Cornwall in England she spent much of her childhood in Culbokie and always wanted to move back, particularly before starting a family.  Mr Lee said: “We felt helpless waiting on council housing, no-one was ever in touch and I just couldn’t keep Sharis and my future baby overcrowded in a house.”  He currently works up to 66 hours a week to help support Sharis who is focusing on her health during her pregnancy.

Brexit Will Have ‘Profound Consequences’ for Scots Economy
Brexit will have profound consequences for Scotland’s economy and future prosperity, a Holyrood committee has said.  A report from the Scottish Parliament’s European Committee calls for a “bespoke solution” for Scotland to be included in the UK’s Article 50 settlement. With membership of the EU Single Market and European Economic Area (EEA) ruled out, the committee said the UK Westminster Government has “lost the only opportunity for an easier Brexit”. The report, titled Determining Scotland’s Future Relationship With The European Union, said: “The UK Westminster Government’s decision to leave not only the EU but also the EEA, thereby relinquishing membership of the single market, will have profound consequences for Scotland’s economy and future prosperity. The single market is the most successful example of a multilateral free trade area in the world.  “The UK has decided to abandon the advantages it currently enjoys as a member of the EU and EEA, not only through the single market but also through the trade agreements that the EU has with 55 countries. Instead it has decided to start from scratch in establishing free trade agreements with the EU and with other countries.  The UK has decided to do this in a period when there are signs of the world becoming more “mercantilist and protectionist.”  The committee wants the UK Westminster Government to respond to the Scottish Government’s Scotland’s Place In Europe paper before Article 50 is triggered.  Committee convener Joan McAlpine said: “We are calling for a bespoke solution that reflects Scotland’s majority vote to remain in the single market. We’ve found there to be understanding within the EU of Scotland’s position on Brexit and we believe a bespoke solution can be included in the UK’s Article 50 settlement. Our committee has always argued that retaining access to the single market would be the best outcome for Scotland.  However, with the UK Westminster Government having ruled membership of the single market out for the UK, we have had no choice but to look at other options. Our evidence suggests that membership of the EEA, for example, would be one route that could provide an easier transition out of the single market than a ‘hard Brexit’, which would have significant consequences for the Scottish economy.”

Britain Will ‘Fight Back’ Over Brexit Deal

Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned the EU that Britain will “fight back” and not “slink off like a wounded animal” if it does not get the Brexit deal it wants.  In some of the toughest talking yet ahead of the UK triggering the Article 50 negotiations on terms of withdrawal, the Chancellor said Britain would “do whatever we need to do” to be competitive in the event of leaving the EU without a trade agreement.  Mr Hammond told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “If there is anybody in the European Union who thinks that if we don’t do a deal with the European Union, if we don’t continue to work closely together, Britain will simply slink off as a wounded animal, that is not going to happen.  British people have a great fighting spirit and we will fight back. We will forge new trade deals around the world. We will build our business globally.  We will go on from strength to strength and we will do whatever we need to do to make the British economy competitive and to make sure that this country has a great and successful future.”  Asked if this meant the UK would slash business taxes to attract investment away from the EU, the Chancellor said: “People can read what they like into it. I’m not going to speculate now on how the UK would respond to what I don’t expect to be the outcome. But we are going into a negotiation. We expect to be able to achieve a comprehensive free trade deal with our European Union partners, but they should know that the alternative isn’t Britain just slinking away into a corner.”

Tory Austerity Mantra Means Continual Cuts to Lifeline Public Services While the Rich Reap Rewards with Tax Breaks by Nicola Sturgeon
The First Minister says the Scottish Government constantly has to battle to protect low income households from the fallout of constant Conservative cuts.  If there’s one thing we know about the current Tory government it’s that they are as wedded to austerity as they are to a hard Brexit.  No matter what has been happening in the economy successive Tory Chancellors have used their budgets each year not to back public services, but to slash them. Since 2010, cuts have been heaped on top of cuts - and all this in spite of clear and growing evidence that austerity is harming the economy and our public services, as well as hitting living standards.  At the same time as the Tories have cut spending, of course, they have been happy to sell off public assets and hand out tax cuts to the very richest in our society. This week we face another Tory budget and unfortunately, instead of reversing George Osborne’s failed austerity programme, it seems that Theresa May is determined to make it even tougher, with plans for at least a further £3.5bn of cuts in the next few years.  Over the past six years, Tory spending decisions have already reduced Scotland’s budget by £2.3bn - these extra cuts will only make things harder.  The Scottish Government has worked hard to protect Scotland from the worst of UK austerity without piling the pressure onto low income households. It’s not always easy but the choices we have made have helped households across the country - for example, more people earn the living wage and no-one has had to pay the bedroom tax. We’ve also invested in our public services - in the coming year, we have ensured real terms protection for our frontline NHS and for police budgets and we have targeted additional investment in education.  We are also working hard to back business with investment in enterprise and infrastructure.  And while the Tories plan to increase fees for higher education we have decided to keep education free of tuition fees - ensuring that access to education is based on ability to learn, not ability to pay. Every year that the Tories decide to cut even deeper, the tougher it becomes to protect Scotland from their agenda.  So we have set out our priorities to the Chancellor. Top of the list is ending austerity, investing in public services and stopping the welfare cuts that are having such a devastating effect on many vulnerable people.  Indeed, when the Prime Minister spoke in Glasgow on Friday, it was telling that she had not a single word to say for those in the city who have been hit by her cuts to social security.  The hard fact is that Tory budget plans are bad for the economy and bad for the country.  And with the very real prospect of Brexit inflicting further damage to our public finances and economy, now is the time for the Tories to change course.  So my challenge to the PM and her band of hard right Brexiteers is to do the right thing.  On Wednesday, they should deliver a budget that puts a stop to spending cuts and instead invests in public services, jobs and opportunities for all.

Government Defeated Again in Lords Over Final Brexit Deal Vote

The House of Lords has handed the UK Westminster Government its second defeat on legislation to trigger Brexit as a Tory grandee warned that the UK faced “the most momentous peacetime decision of our time”.  Peers voted by 366 to 268 to demand a “meaningful” vote for MPs on the terms of the UK’s Brexit deal, giving the House of Commons the right to reject Prime Minister Theresa May’s negotiation.  There was heated debate between former political big beasts ahead of the vote, with peers accused of having a “hidden agenda” to derail Brexit for supporting the amendment to the bill.  The decision further complicates Mrs May’s aim of triggering Brexit by the end of the month, after the Lords earlier attached another amendment calling for a unilateral guarantee of the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.  However, amendments can be stripped from the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill when it returns to the House of Commons.

Number of Smokers Falls to Lowest Level Since Records Began in 1974
The popularity of smoking has “dwindled” across Britain as new figures show the proportion of smokers is at its lowest on record.  New Office for National Statistics (ONS) data show that 17.2% of British adults smoked in 2015 – the lowest level since records began in 1974. And figures from 2015 show the highest level of so-called quitters in more than four decades. Statisticians said the prevalence of smoking in the population is reflected in the numbers who have quit.  Data for smoking habits across Britain in 2015 show that among former smokers, 56.7% had quit – the highest proportion of quitters since 1974.  And British smokers are consuming the lowest number of cigarettes on average in more than four decades.  Smokers consume an average of 11.3 cigarettes a day.  This average daily consumption is 33% lower than when consumption peaked in 1976.  Overall, 17.2% of British adults smoked in 2015, down from 20.1% of adults who smoked five years previously.  More men than women were smokers in 2015 – 19.3% of men and 15.3% of women smoked.  “The popularity of smoking in Great Britain has dwindled over the past 40 years,” the ONS report states.

Moray Firth Campaigners Against Ship to Ship Oil Transfers Hand Petition Into Highland Council
Placard waving protestors handed a petition bearing more than 100,000 names to Highland Council’s leader Margaret Davidson.  Campaigners want to stop the Port of Cromarty Firth from gaining permission to transfer oil between ships in open waters of the Moray Firth. They fear the oil transfers will cause noise pollution, ruin the area’s tourism trade and put dolphins and other wildlife at risk of an oil spill. But the Port of Cromarty Firth insists it can carry out the work safely.  The firm is expected to submit fresh plans to transfer more than eight million tonnes of crude oil in open waters.  Highland Council can give a view as a statutory consultee.

Caithness Army Reserves Link Up with Aussie Unit
Army reserves in Caithness could have the opportunity to head down under as a link has been established with an armed forces unit in Australia. Caithness Seven Scots Army Reserves has agreed to a partnership with the 41st Battalion Royal New South Wales Regiment with the view to reserves from the far north travelling to Australia to carry out joint training army exercises.  Captain Richard Otley, who is in charge of the Caithness unit, is in Australia on holiday and visited the unit in Lismore, New South Wales.  The unit is based across the east coast of Australia between Brisbane and Sydney.  He said as well as giving the opportunity for Caithness reservists to visit the other side of the world, members from the Australian unit would also have the chance to visit Wick and carry out training in the Highlands.  He said: “I have family links in Australia and while here last year I was asked to initiate approaches with 41st Battalion Royal New South Wales Regiment which I did.  This year I have taken that relationship forward.  The joint training is still to be discussed but it is likely that the two week annual deployment for Caithness Seven Scots reserve soldiers could be in Australia and Australian reservists would visit Scotland and train with us.  There are many opportunities available to army reservists.”  The Army Reserves have experienced a renaissance in the far north after it almost faced being wound up in the county in 2015 after the number of volunteers dwindled to single figures.  However, a major recruitment drive in the far north led by Captain Otley and Seven Scots Lieutenant Colonel Piers Strudwick has seen a surge of 60 people apply to sign up.  The Caithness Army Reserves are based at Macrae Street in Wick.

Inverness Castle Viewpoint on Schedule for Easter Opening.
Work is on schedule to complete the interior fit-out of the North Tower of Inverness Castle into a visitor attraction and viewpoint.  The attraction will be opened in time for the Easter period and the first week will be free entry.  Provost Helen Carmichael said: "The views are spectacular from the top and I am confident that visitors to Inverness will be delighted with the Castle Viewpoint. It adds significantly to the city’s draw as a worldwide tourist destination."  Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson added: "I am delighted that the Castle Viewpoint will be open for Easter. The first week will be free to visitors and locals who wish to get a look at how the tower has been transformed."

Ian Rolls Out Barrel Worldwide with His Spirited Creation

An offbeat hobby which began life in a garden shed could develop into a full-time business for Wick offshore worker Ian Horne.  His creations made from staves, lids and hoops of old whisky barrels have been snapped up by online customers throughout the world and he has just opened a new studio in the town to service the demand.  The 58-year-old’s Whisky on Tour venture started as a Facebook site where he took pictures of bottles of Old Pulteney at locations across Caithness.  His images of the produce of Wick’s distillery proved so popular people asked if they could buy them with whisky barrel frames.  He used wood staves to create the frames and started to receive and service orders from around the world.  Mr Horne decided to start up his online business making various items from a workshop in his garden shed which are now available to buy at 14 outlets across Scotland.  To help him meet the fast-growing demand, he has opened a studio at Dempster Street for extra storage and workspace as he had been running out of room at home.  He said: “Whisky on Tour started off eight years ago when I went for a walk at Loch More and took a bottle of Old Pulteney with me, thinking it would be a nice picture.  I received a few orders and then I started just doing bits and pieces for friends and family in my garden shed. Then someone asked me if I could make tealight holders and it has gone on to me making items such as clocks, framed prints and coat racks.  We have received a huge number of orders and have posted items to Australia, Canada and the United States and it has been very successful.”  The majority of the barrels Mr Horne uses comes from the Speyside Cooperage in Craigellachie and his most popular items are slogan staves, which are signs with Caithness phrases printed on to them.” Whisky on Tour has also been given permission to use the North Coast 500 logo to create items which are available to buy on the official route website as well as at shops and stores along the NC500 route.  Mr Horne said he will continue to work offshore, but if Whisky on Tour continues its steep, upward curve, he may plump to work at the studio full time. “I am coming to the stage where I feel I will need to make a decision about what I want them to do,” he said.  “I am waiting to see how well our NC500 items sell and I can imagine that they will prove to be popular.  We think the NC500 brand will only get bigger and bigger so we are hoping this side of the business will take off.”

Royal Navy Welcomes Naming of HMS Forth in Glasgow

The first of a fleet of Royal Navy new offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) has been named after one of Scotland’s major rivers.  The 90-metre warship will be known as HMS Forth and was christened at a ceremony at the BAE Systems Scotstoun shipyard in Glasgow.  She will soon depart on sea trials before beginning service in 2018. She is the first of a fleet of five new batch 2 river-class OPVs being built on the Clyde which are expected to be in service by 2021.  HMS Forth, which will be used for counter-terrorism, anti-smuggling and maritime defence duties, was named by the Lady Sponsor Rachel Johnstone-Burt, who kept Naval tradition and broke a bottle of whisky on the ship’s bow.  Defence procurement minister Harriett Baldwin said: “As part of a sustained programme delivering world-class ships and submarines, HMS Forth’s naming is a vitally important part of the government’s ten-year £178 billion plan to provide our Armed Forces with the equipment they need.  From counter -narcotics operations in the Caribbean, to securing the UK’s borders on patrols closer to home, the Royal Navy’s new offshore patrol vessels will help protect our interests around the world.”  HMS Forth, the fifth Navy vessel to bear the name, is affiliated with the city of Stirling after it adopted a ship of the same name during the Second World War.  The vessel is equipped with a 30mm cannon and flight deck capable of accommodating a Merlin helicopter and manned by a crew of 58 sailors. Admiral Sir Philip Jones, first sea lord and chief of naval staff, said: “In a few short years, these five offshore patrol vessels will be busy protecting the security of UK waters and those of our overseas territories.  They are arriving in service alongside a new generation of attack submarines and fleet tankers, and will be followed shortly by new frigates and other auxiliaries; all of this capability will coalesce around the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers.”  

Nick Clegg Warns Theresa May of Dangers of Blocking Indyref2

The UK Westminster Government has been warned against “imposing a fatwa” and blocking a second independence referendum, “however unwelcome” such a vote may be. Former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said Theresa May’s government should not obstruct another ballot on independence if this was “being pushed” by the SNP. He also argued the Prime Minister may not be the best person to lead a campaign to keep the United Kingdom together, saying she may not be politically agile enough to deal with a fast-moving referendum campaign.  The former Liberal Democrat leader spoke out on the prospect of a second vote on independence ahead of a speech at his party’s Scottish conference in Perth. Asked whether Westminster should refuse to grant Holyrood the power to hold a legally-binding vote, Mr Clegg told journalists: “I think it would be very difficult for any government of any composition in London to try and impose a fatwa on any move towards a referendum if that was something that was being pushed - however unwelcome it is, and indeed it is unwelcome to the Liberal Democrats.  Do we think a solution to a country careering towards hard Brexit is to have another divisive and all-absorbing referendum about whether the United Kingdom survives or not? No, we don’t.”  Mr Clegg, who worked with Mrs May while in coalition government with the Conservatives, described her as a “thorough” and “methodical politician”.   He added: “There’s a certain rigidity, I don’t think she’d ever call herself a particularly agile, innovative politician.  Her strengths are when she is in control of all the facts and can methodically go through them. She’s not a politician who I sense is very comfortable when she has to react to events.  It has strengths and weaknesses, it has strengths because it is a very deliberate, methodical way of working, but the weakness which may well manifest itself in both election campaigns and referenda campaigns is these are very fast-moving events in which you don’t control all the factors.”