Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 392

Issue # 392                                                          Week ending 18th March 2017

What Has Crispy Bread to Do with Doctor Who’s Enemies? By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

When one reaches a certain age, one remembers TV shows one saw when young and one cherishes the very mention of their name. Who else remembers Champion the Wonder Horse, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Doctor Who? Yes? Yeah well, you’re getting on a bit, aren’t you? Not for the Daleks or the Cybermen do I become dewy-eyed at the mention of Doctor Who but for characterful types like Patrick Troughton, the second doctor, and Davros. Remember that freak? He was one guy I wanted to ex-term-i-nate.

He was the awful-looking creature who was the creator of the cruel cyborg aliens and was himself half-Dalek, perambulating about in what looked for all the world like a dustbin on wheels. Davros’s entire head was so wrinkly and horrible that it was clear it was even beyond Nivea Skin Cream to make him pretty again. Looking constantly pained, Davros could not have looked more agonised had he been a Western Isles councillor faced with having to vote for the Sunday opening of our sports centre or cave in to the pressure from the serried rows of the Wee Frees.

While everyone else was listening very carefully to the dialogue, I was trying to work out the practicalities of being a metallic mutant monster. I pondered long and often on what does Davros do when he needs to go to the loo. I mean, how does he ...? And how can a dosy Dalek get up stairs when it’s time for bed? Actually, the wooden hill is a problem that still afflicts people today. Many in America are convinced Donald Trump has an irrational fear of stairs and think that was why he held Theresa May’s hand so tightly when she led him along a ramp during her hasty visit across the pond to flaunt her credentials. Ah, first world problems.

It was with astonishment that I thought I saw a wee Davros on telly the other day. That professor cove Robert Kelly was on the news talking from the office in his own house in Korea. He was rabbiting on about South Korea politics when his wee girl suddenly found the door open and barged in - swaggering proudly over to Daddy right in the middle of his live interview. The kid was closely followed by the cutest tiny baby who was pushing himself along in a baby walker on wheels - not unlike that legendary ugly dude Davros. Seeing the angst-ridden mum frantically trying to drag them out quietly was the funniest thing since that episode when Davros’s head exploded.

The foes of the Tardis-travelling timelord are taking over my life. Everywhere I go I hear references to them. On Saturday night we were out for a scoff. One of our Stornoway hotels - you know, the one on Francis Street - oh, for goodness sake, just Google it - is trying out an Italian menu just now and our family was gathered to celebrate the arrival on earth of Mrs X. That was only a very few decades ago, obviously, but I thought we should go and mark the occasion. I forgot that just a sip or two of wine makes my wife muddle up her words so I had to sit there red-faced as she loudly ordered Dalek bread.

It took her a while to live that down. She said it was only because she had a cold and could not pronounced it correctly with her nose blocked. Yeah, right. Nothing to do with the vino then. The next day we were still on a high after our great meal. Well, any pasta dish with that many prawns delights me for weeks. Mrs X was so inspired that she decided to plan some dishes Italiano herself. She decided to start with a big Mediterranean omelette thing. I think the Italians call it a frittata and it has lots of vegetables and healthy stuff like that plonked in the middle of it while it is cooking.

At the age she has now reached, she is not so good at remembering recipes so when I went into the kitchen she was crouched over the cooker with a spatula in one hand and the cookbook in the other. I was concerned. Did she know what she was doing, I asked. I was assured that unless I left the kitchen, the spatula would have to be surgically extracted from somewhere tender. Ok, I said, but did she have all the ingredients? I don’t know whether she was reading from the cookbook or the Daleks’ Guide to Conquering the Universe, as she shouted: “Eggs. Stir. Min eight.”

Stoer-born Choir Conductor and Teacher Dies
The death occurred in late February of Rodney (Ruaraidh) MacKenzie, a distinguished secondary school teacher who  “emigrated” from Assynt, across the Minch to Lewis with his wife Alison in 1972. He founded three Gaelic choirs in Lewis and was honoured with induction into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame.  Ruaraidh, came to Lewis to teach at the Nicolson Institute, and came to live in Gress. During 30 years in Lewis he started Coisir Òg a Bhac, Coisir Loch a Tuath and later Coisir Sgire a Bhac. Ruaraidh described his time in Lewis as the best years of his life. He said: “To see these folk from our local community develop into such a musically satisfying and socially cohesive ‘family’ was so personally fulfilling and satisfying.” One of those he inspired, piper and singer Anna Murray, said: “His selfless dedication and encouragement to our community and singers was an inspiration and something for which we will be forever grateful.” Three of his four daughters, Eilidh, Gillian & Fiona are well known Gaelic singers,.

Scottish Independence: Nicola Sturgeon to Seek Indyref2
Nicola Sturgeon has fired the starting gun for a fresh referendum, saying Scotland should have the choice of whether to follow the UK out of the European Union or become an independent country. The First Minister will ask the Scottish Parliament next week to give her the authority to agree a Section 30 order with the UK Westminster Government, transferring the power to hold a referendum to Holyrood.  In a Bute House press conference she said the vote could be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.  She said: “It is important that Scotland is able to exercise the right to choose our own future at a time when the options are clearer than they are now – but before it is too late to decide our own path.”  Her announcement was met with fury from pro-Union politicians, including Prime Minister Theresa May, who accused the SNP leader of setting Scotland towards more uncertainty and division.  But Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government had worked hard in pursuit of a compromise agreement with UK ministers on Brexit which would recognise Scotland’s voting in favour of staying in the EU, but had been met with a “brick wall of intransigence”.  She said there had been talk of special deals for the car industry and others, but a “point blank refusal” to discuss a different approach for Scotland.  And she added: “If Scotland can be ignored on an issue as important as our membership of the EU and the single market, then it is clear that our voice and our interests can be ignored at any time and on any issue. That cannot be a secure basis on which to build a better Scotland.”  Ms Sturgeon said Brexit had made change inevitable.  She said: “Having Scotland’s referendum, at a time when the terms of Brexit are known, will give the Scottish people a choice about the kind of change we want.”  Campaigning was already under way last night with an SNP-backed fundraising website recording donations of more than £135,000.  Ms Sturgeon’s move for a second independence referendum took Westminster by surprise, coming on the day MPs and peers were engaged in the final stages of the legislation which will allow Mrs May to trigger Article 50, giving the EU formal notice of the UK’s intention to leave.  Mrs May accused the SNP of “tunnel vision” and said of the referendum call: “It sets Scotland on course for more uncertainty and division.”  But it could be politically difficult for the UK Westminster Government to refuse a request from the Scottish Parliament for a Section 30 order to allow a referendum to take place.  Ms Sturgeon said: “We set the precedent in 2014 that the details of an independence referendum should be for the people of Scotland to decide – that’s the principled argument. The practical reason is this: it’s really important that before people in Scotland are asked to make this choice they have clarity about what Brexit means, but equally if we are to have a genuine choice with the ability to choose a different course we cannot leave that choice until it’s too late for that to happen.  For the UK Westminster Government to say they are not going to allow that to happen in that window … It would be tantamount to the UK Westminster Government, having sunk the ship with the Brexit vote, trying to puncture Scotland’s lifeboat as well – and I don’t think that would be an acceptable position for them to take.”  Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said Ms Sturgeon’s announcement was “utterly irresponsible”. Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “We do not want to be divided again, but that is exactly what another independence referendum would do.”

Comment -R
The leaders of Scottish Tory and Scottish Labour, both rejected by the Scottish voters by the way, are claiming Nicola Sturgeon doesn`t have a mandate to speak for Scotland --well if not Nicola, who has ?  Unfortunately for Unionists, there is a majority of MSPs in Holyrood who support independence. The Scottish electorate, therefore, provided Holyrood with a mandate to explore an alternative to Brexit for Scotland. If there was a majority of Unionists in Holyrood, this would not get past the first hurdle.  No amount of Mickey Mouse petitions and variations on the 'too small, too poor and too stupid' theme (which is in full flow in all its guises), can change the likelihood of Holyrood voting to request Indyref2 this coming Tuesday. And then we'll just have to see where it goes from there. Seems Sturgeon wasn't bluffing after all.......

Chance of A Yes Vote for Scottish Independence ‘Greater Than Ever’

The prospect of Scots voting for independence is now “greater than ever before”, a leading academic has said.  With Scotland now facing a potential second ballot on leaving the UK, Professor James Mitchell of Edinburgh University said the chances of a Yes vote were higher than they were in 2014.  The co-director of the university’s Academy of Government said while he “would have put money on” the 2014 referendum resulting in a No vote, the result of the next one could not be predicted.  Prof Mitchell said: “I was clear it would be a No vote (in 2014) but this time I couldn’t say.  The chances of it being Yes are greater than ever before, but I don’t want to predict it.  I would have put money on it last time being a No vote, this time there is no doubt in my mind that the possibility of independence is greater than ever before.”  While Scots voted by 55% to 45% to remain in the Union in September 2014, Prof Mitchell said the Scottish constitution question was still unfinished business for many. Despite the vote for No, “many people felt that the issue was unresolved”, the expert said. “The European result has clearly fed into that and there is a clear sense that this is unresolved business.”  In the immediate aftermath of the No vote in September 2014, membership of the SNP soared.  At 5pm on Thursday September 18 2014, the SNP said it had 25,642 members. A year later that figure had increased to 112,208.  Membership of the pro-independence Scottish Green Party also rose dramatically.  Further evidence of the popularity of the SNP was seen in the 2015 general election when Nicola Sturgeon’s party scooped up all but three of the 59 Scottish seats at Westminster, leaving Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats with just one MP each north of the border.  A year later, in the Holyrood elections, the party celebrated another victory, with the nationalists returned for a third consecutive term in government - a record for devolution.  While the party lost its overall majority in the Scottish Parliament, the success of the Greens - who boosted their number of MSPs from two to six - means there is still a majority in Holyrood in favour of independence. Critically, the SNP manifesto for the 2016 election included this statement: “We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people - or 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.”  After Scots voted to remain in the European Union but the UK as a whole voted for Brexit, Ms Sturgeon cites that as giving her a “cast-iron mandate” to hold a fresh vote on independence.  While the Scottish Government has put forward what it describes as “compromise” proposals, primarily centred on keeping Scotland in the European single market even if the rest of the UK leaves, Prof Mitchell said the Tories’ pursuit of a “hard Brexit” had increased the likelihood of a Yes vote.  “Things are moving forward because of the hard Brexit,” the expert said.  “The people I know that were hostile (to independence) are not so hostile.  We all know a number of individuals who were No supporters who have moved to Yes, I know nobody who has done it the other way round.”  He also argued the time the UK Westminster Government will have to spend negotiating the UK’s departure could hinder efforts to fight a second campaign to keep the Union together.  In 2014, various UK Westminster Government departments produced papers outlining the benefits of the UK, something that could well prove much harder to do in the midst of Brexit talks.  Prof Mitchell said: “Any referendum is going to be a gamble, you can never be certain, there’s a risk involved in it. What anyone would want to do is assess that risk and determine if it is worth taking, if putting it off would make it more difficult.  The UK Westminster Government’s role in 2014 was huge, the Whitehall machine really got active. They’re not going to be able to do that this time.  In a way, the UK’s Brexit problem is potentially Nicola Sturgeon’s opportunity.”

Dunnet Distillery Expansion is Boost for Economy

A Caithness distillery has embarked on a major expansion plan which will increase production, add to the area’s tourist attraction and help secure local jobs.  Dunnet Bay Distillery, which was formed in 2014, hopes the extended premises will boost its international sales and turnover and create at least one job. The expansion is expected to cost around £248,000 with £64,000 coming from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).  The micro distillery was established in 2014 by Martin and Claire Murray and is the most northern distillery on mainland Britain.  It produces Rock Rose Gin and Holy Grass Vodka which are hand distilled and crafted using a blend of traditional and local botanicals.  The company has grown quickly and now employs 12 people. It needs to expand to meet increasing demand for its products as well as rising visitor numbers using the North Coast 500 route.  The extension will enable the company to install another still for increased production flow.

Fears That the 'Beast of Bettyhill' May Be on Prowl Again
Crofters in the Bettyhill area claim they have been the latest victims of a mysterious beast which has killed one of their ewes and stripped the carcass bare.  The attack took place on Saturday when a Cheviot ewe belonging to Swordly couple George and Susan Mackay was killed and had all of its body ripped off its bones.  It is the latest in a series of sheep killings in the area which have taken place in recent years which locals claim have been perpetrated by a big feral cat.  The killing took place within 100 yards of the couple’s house and close to the spot where, in February 2012, a long-tailed cat-like creature the size of a springer spaniel was seen by neighbour Andy MacLachlan when they also experienced one of their ewes being killed.  In last weekend’s killing, the skin had been cleanly flayed from the body before almost all the flesh had been consumed.  Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) staff have taken the carcass away and will be carrying out tests in an attempt to identify what has killed the ewe.  Mrs Mackay (56) said she and her husband are keen to find out what killed their ewe, as they feel the carcass was left too clean to have been attacked by a dog or fox.  "We found the carcass peeled bare on Saturday morning," she said.  "The killing was spectacularly done and it was a big ewe as she weighed 55 kilogrammes and was marked to have twins.  But she is completely gone and there is not a smidgeon of meat left on her.  The fleece was peeled off and all the meat on the inside had been eaten.  Foxes are messy eaters who just tug parts of the carcass out so we don’t think it was that." The killing follows on from incidents last year at Invernaver, west of Bettyhill, when crofter Lorna Mackay lost 15 lambs in the space of eight weeks . She is certain a mysterious big cat was responsible.  Lorna was provided with a set of night vision cameras by SNH in an attempt to find out what was killing her flock. But she was unable to detect any sighting of the mysterious beast.  In December, crofter John Mackay from Naver, Bettyhill, came across the remains of a hogg in his reseed park which locals say could be attributed to being killed by an unknown beast.  The killings are reminiscent of carcasses found in a similar spate of killings which took place across a wide tract of land from Skerray to Strath-halladale between 1976 and 1981.  Bettyhill, Strathnaver and Altnaharra Community Council chairman Jim Johnston said members of the community want to find out the results from SNH to identify what has been killing livestock.  "We hope that the beast has left something detectable behind to identify what has been killing the sheep," he said.  "There have been views expressed through time about what the predator is.  The latest attacks are similar to those the area experienced between 1976 and 1981 when there was sighting of a puma type animal roaming across north Sutherland and Caithness.  There are also views it might be a loose dog that is killing the sheep or perhaps foxes have changed their behaviour.  But the real truth is that nobody knows what is killing the sheep in this way."

Aberdeen-Based Study Reveals Fish Quotas Grossly Lower Than Stocks
Most UK fish quotas are tiny relative to the size of stocks in our waters, according to a major new report by university scientists.  The gap between the total allowable catch (TAC) and the volume of fish is up to six-fold.  A team from Aberdeen University’s School of Biological Sciences analysed the spatial distribution of 17 commercial fish stocks.  For all but three of those, UK quotas were significantly below stock levels within the UK Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).  “The message of this report is very clear – the fish are abundant here in our waters, but our boats are entitled to catch only a small proportion of our own natural resource under the absurd Common Fisheries Policy,” said Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation.  “Earlier work by Dr Ian Napier of the NAFC Marine Centre showed that we are forced to give away almost 60 per cent of the fish within our EEZ every year to other EU countries.  Together these pieces of academic research – along with very clear legal advice – overwhelmingly support our case for restoring control of fisheries in the post-Brexit era.  We have been making this case vigorously in the run up to Article 50 and will continue to do so as the detailed negotiations proceed. This is a sea of opportunity for the industry which we cannot and must not trade away for other priorities.” Mr Armstrong added: “We will of course maintain our commitment to sustainable fisheries - the point here is that the balance of who gets what is all wrong.” The Aberdeen University study compared the UK’s quota allocations with the estimated spatial percentage of the stocks over five years, based on independent data compiled for the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).  For North Sea herring, the UK’s quota (share of the total allowable catch) is 15 per cent, while the average percentage of the stock in the UK EEZ is 88 per cent.  In the case of North Sea hake, it is 18 and 60 per cent respectively, and quotas for saithe, cod, whiting and haddock are all significantly lower than the percentage of those stocks in the North Sea.  For West of Scotland species, the hake quota is 18 per cent, while the stock is 79 per cent, and again quotas for saithe, cod, herring, whiting, haddock and monkfish are well below the level of those stocks. The mackerel quota is 13 per cent lower than the level of the species in our waters.  Only North Sea monkfish and Rockhall haddock quotas, among mature species, are higher than the stocks.

Plockton Music Students Annual Tour
This year’s concert tour by the S6 students of Sgoil Chiùil Na Gàidhealtachd will see them head south to the Scottish Borders, and also Glasgow, to raise funds for the Friends of Plockton Music School and meet some old friends.  The tour runs from Monday 27th March to Thursday 30th, ending in the National Piping Centre, Glasgow. The students will also undertake a number of school workshops in the daytime.  Director of Sgoil Chiùil Na Gàidhealtachd, Dougie Pincock, said: “These tours are always a highlight of the session, and give the students a great opportunity to get out and share their music, not only with the audiences, but also with the many young musicians they meet at workshops or who provide support at the gigs.”  Sgoil Chiùil Na Gàidhealtachd is extremely grateful to Kelsey Jubin, creative learning assistant at the children and young people’s service of the Scottish Borders Council, who has provided invaluable assistance in setting up the tour.  The concert at the National Piping Centre is a fundraiser for the Friends of Plockton Music School, a charitable trust which provides financial support for the touring and recording activities of the centre. The bill that evening will be shared with former students of the centre, and topped off by the exciting quartet of Innes Watson, Mike Vass, Innes White and Michael Ferrie.

Inverness MP Welcomes Possibility of Second Independence Referendum
Opinion in the Highlands has been split following an announcement by Nicola Sturgeon that she is seeking permission to hold a second vote on Scottish independence. The First Minister has accused the UK government of trying to “puncture Scotland’s lifeboat” as she tries to secure the country’s place in the EU, despite Britain voting to leave last June.  The SNP leader wants a vote to be held between the autumn of 2018 and the spring of the following year, giving Scottish people a chance to choose between independence or a “hard Brexit”.  Ms Sturgeon said she would ask the Scottish Parliament to request a Section 30 order from Westminster next week.  The order is needed to allow a fresh, legally-binding referendum to be held but it's unclear if Prime Minister Theresa May will grant permission for this. Since the Brexit vote in June, when Scotland voted 62 per cent to 38 per cent to remain in the EU, Ms Sturgeon has been trying to secure a place in the single market but said that had now been ruled out by Westminster. News of a possible second referendum was welcomed by Drew Hendry, SNP MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey. “In the months since the EU vote, Theresa May’s government has been given every opportunity to work with the Scottish Government to find a compromise that would meet the needs of Scotland – instead there has been nothing, no response," he said.  “Still, even as she made her speech, the First Minister told UK Government ministers it is not too late for them to listen and act, although I do suspect even the most optimistic of people must see that as unlikely given the months of silence from the Prime Minister.  Therefore it is absolutely right that Nicola Sturgeon, as the First Minister of Scotland, take steps to give people of Scotland the choice over their own future.” In September 2014, Highland voted to stay in the UK by 52.92 per cent and in June last year 56 per cent voted to remain in the EU.

Muirfield Votes to Lift Ban on Women Members
The doors of one of the last male-only bastions in golf are to be thrown open to women following a historic decision by the 273-year-old Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers to admit female members at Muirfield.  A “yes” vote, achieved at the second attempt after initially failing to secure sufficient support last May, saw the East Lothian venue immediately restored to the Open Championship rota by the R&A. However, it could be a six or seven-year wait before the first woman is actually admitted due to a “complicated membership admission process” and, if so, that would be cutting it fine for the venue next staging golf’s oldest major.  That door, which had been slammed shut by the R&A immediately after the first ballot fell just 14 votes short of securing the two-thirds majority required, was re-opened by 498 out of 621 Muirfield members supporting the proposal second time around.  The 80.2 per cent backing was announced in front of the iconic clubhouse – where a group of visiting women golfers had just finished a round minutes earlier in gale-force conditions – by Henry Fairweather, the captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which owns and runs Muirfield. “This is a significant decision for a club which was founded in 1744 and retains many of the values and aspirations of its founding members,” he said. “We look forward to welcoming women as members who will enjoy, and benefit from, the great traditions and friendly spirit of this remarkable club. We always knew that there would be a number of people who didn’t want to see any change. Our job now and in the future is to convince those people that it is not the end of the world and that women can be integrated into the club and it will not change the great things that we all love about the club.”  While the outcome of the first ballot sparked a torrent of criticism, Mr Fairweather said he did not feel that the members had been “chastened” into changing their minds in the intervening ten months over fears that the Open Championship might not be held at Muirfield ever again.  We have the 600-plus members, all of whom are people of independent spirit and mind, and I would be reluctant to generalise about what has influenced their decisions,” he added. “To some of them, yes, the Open is a very important event and part of history, so that may have influenced them. But, as far as the committee has been concerned, our main concern has been to make a decision that we felt was the right direction for the long-term future of the club.”

Unemployment Level in Scotland Falls
New figures show Scotland’s unemployment levels fell by 16,000 over the most recent quarter to 129,000, with the rate down 0.6 percentage points to 4.7%.  Over the same period the employment rate increased by 0.4 percentage points to 73.7% with Scotland maintaining the second highest employment rate of the four UK nations.  The Labour Market Statistics for November to January 2017, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today, show Scotland continues to outperform the rest of the UK on youth employment and unemployment, with overall youth unemployment rates at the lowest level since records began.  Other key statistics include: • The employment rate rose 0.4 percentage points over the quarter and there are now 2,608,000 people in employment – 44,000 more than the pre-recession peak;  • Scotland continues to outperform the UK on female employment and inactivity rates;  • Scotland continues to have the second lowest youth unemployment rate in the EU, behind Germany.  Minister for Employability and Training Jamie Hepburn said: “While we still have much to do, our work to develop opportunities for young people through apprenticeships and training and to close the gender pay gap is helping us set ourselves apart from the rest of the UK. In terms of youth unemployment rates, we are second only to Germany within the EU.  There is no doubt that businesses have faced increased economic uncertainty in the wake of the EU referendum result. We have set out our commitment to protecting Scotland’s interests, and will now take the steps necessary to ensure that Scotland has a choice of whether to follow the UK to a hard Brexit – or to become an independent country, able to secure a real partnership of equals with the rest of the UK and our own relationship with Europe.  We will do all we can to support the Scottish economy, taking forward our £500m Scottish Growth Scheme - targeting high growth, innovative and export-focused SMEs; by supporting our universities and research base; and by investing in our £6 billion infrastructure plan. Next month we will start to deliver our newly devolved employment services which will help up to 4,800 people with health conditions and disabilities into work.  These latest figures show Scotland’s labour market remains resilient with unemployment rates and levels falling, and our female and youth employment rates outperforming the UK overall.”

Friends of Buchan Meadows to Be Established
Residents are being encouraged to join the ‘Friends of Buchan Meadows’ group to help in the development of the community woodland on the outskirts of Peterhead.  Managed by Peterhead Projects Limited, the 43-acres of woodland is leased from local engineering company Score Group and provides a fantastic outdoor venue for environmental activities for all age groups.  Through various funding streams over the years, it has hosted an array of popular open days and activities for children and young adults, together with enabling development of paths and environmental features.  Now, armed with excellent feedback and suggestions, Peterhead Projects is seeking the support of the local community to help shape the woodlands and meadow areas to attract even more visitors in the future.  Project manager Ken Duncan explained: “Thanks to our funders including Big Lottery, People’s Postcode Trust and SITA, we have been able to undertake major works to create a wonderful outdoor facility for people to enjoy.”  The project now requires a dedicated band of volunteers to help with a range of hands-on activities including tree-planting, path maintenance, fencing and general tidying.

Top National Award for Cambusavie Unit

The Cambusavie Unit at Lawson Memorial Hospital, which offers day attendance, palliative and "end of life" care, has been recognised by Macmillan Cancer Support for the high-quality environment it offers to patients.  The unit has been awarded the national Macmillan Quality Environment Mark which recognises and rewards good practice and high standards within the physical environment of a building in which cancer care is provided.  The unit, which takes referrals from across Sutherland, offers a number of services and is used by both cancer and non-cancer patients.  It is staffed by a team of nurses supported by occupational therapists, physiotherapists and social services staff. GPs and visiting consultants provide medical support, and an out-of-hours and minor injuries unit service means advice is always available.  The Macmillan assessors said that while the unit was old and in need of updating, it appeared well cared for and clean, showing staff took a pride in their environment.  Senior charge nurse, Jo Gemmill, said: "We are obviously delighted and very proud to receive this award. Not only does it recognise the good work the team here have been doing for many years, it also gives us the confidence to continue to build on recent developments. In the past four months, we have introduced a new social, sitting and dining room space where activities and group interactions take place, and which allow patients to relax and socialise with family and friends away from their treatment area.  We now have plans to upgrade our palliative care suite so that relatives can stay overnight within a comfortable and more homely environment and improve the in-patient spaces with the introduction of new soft furnishings. All our changes are driven by feedback from patients and relatives as well as the staff who work here. Our focus is on continuous improvement and we are dedicated to ensuring that the facility meets the needs and desires of our service users."  The Macmillan Quality Environment Mark has been developed in collaboration with people living with cancer and organisations including the NHS.  It aims to ensure that people affected by cancer are treated and supported in physical environments of uniformly high quality.  The scheme is open to any healthcare providers from the public, voluntary or private sectors that operate cancer care buildings.

Two Islanders in Harris Tweed First

Two island women have become the first to achieve Modern Apprenticeship accreditation as Harris Tweed weavers, a milestone for both the industry and the national Modern Apprentice programme which has never previously accredited an individual in self-employment.  Jacqueline Craig and Anne Marie Henderson received their certificates from Cllr Alasdair Macleod at an event held as part of Scottish Apprenticeship Week. Presenting the certificates Cllr. Macleod commented: “I am very pleased to present these certificates today, this project has tested new ground for Modern Apprentice delivery and we are proud to be involved. There has been a considerable joint effort here from those who conceived and funded the project to the training officers involved in the co-ordination and delivery, the assessors, the HTA, the community Trusts and not least the mentor tutors and trainees. Well done to all, we wish the trainees every success with their weaving careers going forward.”  The Modern Apprenticeships were delivered as part of a wider project to support the Harris Tweed industry. Community trusts Horshader Community Development and Tolsta Community Development Ltd. utilised revenue from their renewable energy assets to purchase double-width looms with a view to creating locally based, flexible employment opportunities. The new looms were ordered directly from engineering firm Griffiths Textile Machinery Ltd and then leased to individuals living within the trusts catchment areas. Tolsta Community Development Limited commented: “TCDL/Tolsta Power are delighted to have had the opportunity to be part of this project. Purchasing the four looms made it possible to create employment for four residents locally and we are very proud that one of our weavers has achieved this Modern Apprenticeship. With the help from Harris Tweed Authority, CNES and HIE, we have enabled all our weavers to train to SVQ Level 2 and we wish them well in their new employment.”  Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the Harris Tweed Authority and Highlands and Islands Enterprise supported training for the prospective weavers via a bespoke programme of mentor-led tuition.  With the involvement of Skills Development Scotland the innovative proposal of aiming to deliver this training as a Modern Apprenticeship was conceived.

Travelodge Site in Inverness Up for Sale for £4.15 Million

A major hotel has gone on the market for more than £4 million – and its sale is expected to spark global interest.  Property consultancy Knight Frank has been appointed to sell the Fairways Travelodge next to the city’s southern distributor road for £4.15 million.  The 79-bedroom hotel sits in a 1.2-acre site and is currently let to Travelodge on a long-term lease up to February 2030, with the landlord having the option to extend that contract to February 2038.  And the booming Highland tourist industry is already leading to expectations of significant interest in the sale.  Patrick Ford, a partner at Knight Frank, said: "Inverness is going through a tourism boom – it has seldom been a more attractive location for visitors, with so many hotspots on its doorstep.  It is relatively rare that a hotel opportunity of this size comes onto the market, with secure long-term income and such an attractive yield. There have only been a dozen or so deals for hotels in the area since 1999. The majority of interest in the Scottish commercial property market has come from international investors and this asset could be ideal for a currency play.  But we expect the property to attract widespread attention, with a number of Scottish and UK property companies looking for investments that match its profile."

£4m Fundraising Drive Secures Monarch of the Glen for Public Display

The Monarch Of The Glen painting will remain on public display after a successful £4 million fundraising drive.  Privately owned by drinks giant Diageo, the painting has been on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh for the last 17 years. The company announced last year its intention to sell the painting and agreed to waive half of the expected £8 million asking price to help it remain in public view in Scotland.  NGS led a fundraising drive with support from the public, the National Lottery, the Art Fund, the Scottish Government, private trusts and foundations that has now secured the future display of the Monarch Of The Glen.  NGS director-general Sir John Leighton said: "We are thrilled that we have been able to secure this iconic work for the national collection. The enormous support from the public has been incredible with donations coming from all over the world and from the length and breadth of Scotland and the rest of the UK. Thank-you so much to everyone who has donated. Your gift has helped to ensure that this magnificent work will be enjoyed by millions of people for generations to come."  There are now plans for it to go on tour around Scotland with funding from the National Lottery and Scottish Government.