Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 394

Issue # 394                                                                        Week ending 1st April 2017

Hollywood Star Put in the Shade by Andy’s Wee Granny by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

How could they do this to us? They bring in a new £1 coin this week, then tell us that the old ones will not be legal tender after October. There are tins, piggy banks and probably chamber pots in this house overflowing with brass farthings, threepenny bits and the round pounds are at the bottom. It’ll take years to find every poit that Mrs X has hidden from me after emptying my breeks when I have rolled home late of an evening.

After all, I was brought up on tattered green banknotes. I am just getting used to the round pound that came out to replace the note. It is only 34 years since it came out but, here they go again, trying to fix something that ain’t broken. I don’t care if this latest one is a revolutionary design with 12 sides and marvellous new anti-counterfeit measures built in as standard. Do you expect me to believe it was ever an issue? It is only a quid, after all.

Was the Hatton Garden safe deposit robbery in 2015, which netted about £200 million, about nicking pound coins? Hardly. Ronnie Biggs and his mates in the Great Train Robbery made off with £2.6 million cash in 1963. Would they have been foiled if the new anti-coin-copying technology had come in then? Methinks not. Are there geeks in glasses sitting at home churning out clever fake pound coins each and every day? No way.

Yes way. The Royal Mint have just phoned back to say there are at least 30 million fake pound coins in circulation. Never. Yes ever, said the moneymaker. That must be worth about - ooh, let me think. They say 30 million of the fake pound coins are out there so that’s worth about 30,000, no maybe 300,000. Oh, £30 million. Yes, of course. I knew that. Just seeing how quickly you would work it out. They are, of course, worth very little but that is what most people think they are worth. Someone is churning them out and raking it in.

Look, the Royal Mint have also now sent me another email. “About one in every 40 pound coins in circulation today is a fake.” Surely that is nonsense? It is apparently, er, on sense. So I may have been a bit wrong about there being no fakery problem. The 12-sided almost-round pound may not be such a bad thing. In fact, I am looking forward to collecting as many of them as I can for the rest of my puff. A quid quo pro.

Another pro I saw at the weekend was Mrs Shirley Erskine. What a star. What do you mean who? She is Dunblane racqueteer Andy Murray’s granny and she turned up on that new chat show with Agnes Brown at the weekend. Did you see her? She was on with busty beach babe Pamela Anderson but Mrs E put her in the shade. Poor Pam did not know what to say. Vocabulary was never her talent.

Shirley met her husband on a tennis court and claims the success of Andy, the world number one, and brother Jamie is down to her. She has told daughter Judy: “If I hadn’t been sent away to boarding school in Bridge of Allan I wouldn’t have met your father, we wouldn’t have had you, you wouldn’t have had the boys, so therefore it’s all down to me.” Heck, the cailleach has a point.

Mrs E got into the spirit of the spoof show and was dancing in the kitchen with Mrs B, having a wee nip - and confirming it was the real stuff.  She was nervous about going onto the show and was praying for power cuts on Saturday night all over Dunblane so people wouldn’t see here but she needn’t have worried. She was the absolute star - not dour at all like perhaps some in her extended family.

Can’t imagine where they get it from. I hope all the other Scottish channels will sign up this unlikely laugh-a-minute granny to host a late-night show. When you see the tired old dinosaurs still doing it, how difficult can it be?

Oh look, more news is coming in from the Royal Mint. It has been a busy time down there stamping out all the new pounds coins. The pressure to make more and more has been relentless. Everyone is exhausted. So much so that it seems many of the workers there are thinking about taking industrial action. You know what that will mean. They will be the only people ever who go on strike because they want to make less money.

EU Student Status Confirmed
EU nationals choosing to study in Scotland and enrolling in 2018-19 have been guaranteed free tuition for the duration of their entire course, Deputy First Minister John Swinney announced today.  His announcement to guarantee free tuition for eligible EU students demonstrates Scotland’s determination to welcome all EU nationals who choose to live, work or study here.  Following the uncertainty caused by the UK Government hard Brexit and the imminent triggering of Article 50, Mr Swinney has moved to reassure applicants for 2018-19, confirming the guarantee already in place for eligible EU students enrolling this year will be extended to those beginning their studies the following academic year.  On a visit to the University of Dundee meeting students and staff, Mr Swinney said: “I am proud that Scotland is a destination of choice for EU students and I am delighted to give them further reassurance by confirming that support from the Scottish Government for tuition-free studies will continue for those commencing courses here in the 2018-19 academic year. However, the continued refusal by the UK Government to give assurances to EU nationals living in Scotland that their rights will remain in place, ahead of the formal Brexit procedures beginning next week, is deeply concerning. EU students will rightly have concerns about any change in their status half way through a course. These students deserve certainty and knowing that their free tuition is in place for the entirety of their course is important, that is why I have confirmed this free tuition.”

Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon to Hold Showdown Indyref2 Talks
Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon will hold crunch talks in their first meeting since trading verbal blows over a second independence referendum. The Prime Minister will deliver a speech to staff at the East Kilbride base of the UK’s Department for International Development, insisting her Brexit deal will aim to make Britain a “stronger, fairer, more united and more outward-looking country.”  She will then discuss counter-terrorism issues with officers from Police Scotland before hosting bilateral talks with First Minister Ms Sturgeon in Glasgow.  UK Westminster Government sources stressed Mrs May wants to discuss the triggering of Article 50, the formal mechanism for leaving the European Union which will be triggered this week.  It is likely, however, that Ms Sturgeon will push independence onto the agenda, with the Scottish Parliament due to formally back a second referendum in a vote on Tuesday.  The SNP leader wants another ballot to take place between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 but the Conservative boss has said “now is not the time” for a return to the polls and has ruled out any activity until after Brexit.  Mrs May will say: “When this great union of nations – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – sets its mind on something and works together with determination, we are an unstoppable force.  That is why the plan for Britain I have set-out – a plan to get the right deal for Britain abroad as well as a better deal for ordinary, working people at home – has as its heart one over-arching goal: to build a more united nation.”  An SNP spokesman said: “The next two years will determine the kind of country Scotland will be.  So, once the terms of Brexit are clear the people of Scotland should have the final say on their future.  That’s why the First Minister set out a plan to give the people of Scotland a choice between Brexit and becoming an independent country.” Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has written to Mrs May calling for a Brexit deal for Scotland that includes retaining access to the single market and freedom of movement.  She wrote: “I believe a deal can be negotiated, on differential terms if necessary, which ensures that the interests of people across the UK are well-represented.”

Black Watch Legend Slams Bogus Military Charities Destroying Genuine Efforts
A Black Watch legend has demanded a blitz on bogus military charities, claiming they are destroying genuine fundraising efforts for veterans.  Former Army major Ronnie Proctor – who served nearly 40 years in the famous regiment – has demanded action against “questionable” charities whose collection methods have been dubbed “pushy and bordering on aggressive”.  Councillor and veterans’ campaigner Ronnie, 72, has lodged a motion with a council calling for an urgent crackdown.  He said: “At one time, a Walter Mitty character was easy to spot. He would be festooned in medals it would have been impossible for him to have earned.  Now it ranges from people purchasing and wearing unofficial commemorative medals through to organisations who collect money and take anything up to 80 per cent of funds in management fees.  Our armed forces do an amazing job defending our way of life when called to do so. They are rightly admired and when leaving the forces, they take transferable skills with them to the benefit of employers and the wider community. The issue of Walter Mitty characters and pseudo charities needs to addressed so people are confident their charitable donations are put to good use.”  His motion – to be delivered to Angus Council on Thursday – also instructs the chief executive Richard Stiff to write to Veterans Minister Keith Brown and ask the Scottish Government to examine ways to combat sham charities.  Ronnie’s move comes amid growing concerns that rogue fundraisers are pocketing millions of pounds intended to help wounded war veterans.  Support The Heroes was closed down on the eve of Remembrance Sunday last year after they were exposed for allegedly misleading the public over how much money they give to good causes.  Two more military charities are also being investigated after failing to pass on the vast majority of money they collected. According to the Charity Commission, who regulate fundraising, one group – Our Local Heroes Foundation – received £500,000 in donations in 2015 but spent only £10,000 on projects to help veterans.  Support The Heroes was set up in 2014 to help veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They have been ordered to suspend operations after a BBC probe filmed collectors falsely telling members of the public every penny they donated went to good causes. The charity pays 33 per cent of everything it collects to a fund-raising company Targeted Management.  The firm is run by Tony Chadwick, from Blackpool, who has denied any wrongdoing. An alleged conflict of interest is being probed as Support The Heroes is run by two of Mr Chadwick’s ex-business partners.

Brewery is on the Cards for Fiddler's
A Popular tourist restaurant looks set to eventually expand its premises into a brewery and distillery.  The Fiddler’s restaurant in Drumnadrochit recently lodged an application to Highland Council to give them the option to provide its café-bar with a brewery and distillery.  The application was granted by Highland Council, but work is not expected to begin in the immediate future with the restaurant currently being renovated.  Run by the Beach family since 1996, the business currently closes for three months over the winter period.  While running a distillery is a dream for the owners they are viewing the chance to open a brewery as a way of keeping busy and the building open in the winter months. Currently in the process of renovating their bar they are not far away from opening up the premises again for the summer.  Given its location close to Loch Ness, Fiddler’s is a popular stop for tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of the infamous Nessie and taste some traditional Scottish food.  It is situated on Drumnadrochit Village Green on the A82, opposite the Tourist Information Centre and Loch Ness Cruise. A dream location, it is also only 200 metres from both Loch Ness Monster Exhibitions and is right on the Great Glen Way. While owner Jon Beach stresses that the plans are long-term goals, it is still an exciting time for the family-run business.  "We are just fitting out the bar first," he said.  "We are very busy in the summer but the brewery side of things will keep me busy in the winter.  Especially after the brewery in the village here closed down I just thought I needed to do something to expand the business.  It’s a long term project for me. Distilling is a dream of course but it’s quite an expensive game."  A number of jobs were lost in Drumnadrochit as a result of the closure of the Loch Ness Brewery last year, just months after it claimed to be expecting a record-breaking 2016.  During its time in business the brand gained a number of contracts – most recently with supermarket giant Asda.  However, thanks to Cobbs Group Loch Ness and the Cairngorm Brewery, the beer will be making a grand return to the Highlands.  Drumnadrochit-based company Cobbs will attempt to salvage the brand alongside the Cairngorm Brewery, which previously bottled beer for Loch Ness Brewing Company.

Far North GP Voices Concerns Over Out-of-hours Cover
Local doctors who work out-of-hours have safety concerns over the large geographic area they have to cover.  One GP, who wished to remain anonymous, said one weekend he was responsible for 30,000 patients over a 900-square-mile area.  The doctor is concerned NHS Highland is talking about extending the north coast area covered by out-of-hours GPs. It already stretches from Reay to John O’Groats and Dunbeath but could be extended to include Tongue.  The GP said: “The rumour is they want it to extend all the way to Tongue. This means the GP could be in Tongue and then if there is a problem anywhere else in Caithness and the ambulances are all away then patients will be left all alone with no help.  I don’t think the situation that weekend was safe. If the area was made larger it would be even worse. There are only a few local GPs who do out-of-hours. If they make it a harder job then I expect we will stop helping out the service,” he said.  The doctor explained that an ambulance was needed in Wick after a person collapsed but the nearest one was in Thurso and took 20 to 25 minutes to get there.

Police Pledge Action Over Killer 'Blue Plague' Fake Valium After Two Million Pills Found in Raid
The imitation backstreet drugs have already claimed a number of lives including six friends in Glasgow's Toryglen area who all died within months of each other.  Killer “blue plague” fake Valium pills have been made a top priority by Police Scotland.  After officers seized more than two million pills from a suspected drugs factory in Paisley, police said gangsters are churning out more and more of the pills to satisfy rising demand.  There has been repeated warnings that the pills, which can be bought for just 50p, are deadly when taken in large numbers and combined with alcohol or other drugs like methadone or heroin. Detective Superintendent Stephen Grant said: “The criminals are using their expertise to produce illegal drugs and new substances, which are often classed under the new psychoactive substances legislation.  Criminal gangs often control the entire operation from production and -distribution to supply, with national and local networks.  The criminals do this with little regard for the misery this causes communities and families.”  Raids in street Valium hotspots such as Possilpark, Glasgow, have taken hundreds of thousands of pills off the street.  The latest bust proves the huge scale of the problem, which the local newspaper believes is being inadequately addressed by both health bosses and police. The stories have told how low level dealers spread the drugs on the streets. In Possilpark, they hide their stash in closes and gardens to avoid arrest.  They have also reported of  clusters of deaths in Ayr, Renfrew, Dundee, and Glasgow’s Toryglen – where six friends died within months of each other after taking a street version of sedative Valium.  People affected have been critical of police.  Despite relatives of the Toryglen victims repeatedly giving the names of dealers to police, raids only took place after our revelations were brought to the attention of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who demanded a firm response. Det Supt Grant said: “I want to be very clear. Targeting criminals involved in drugs is a priority for Police Scotland.” Police confirmed three men, 43, 42 and 38, were arrested in the Paisley raid.

Historic Robert the Bruce Church Would Have to Close If £500,000 Repair Bill Isn’t Met
A church with close links to historic figures such as Robert the Bruce is under threat unless £500,000 can be raised for urgent upgrades.  Cullen and Deskford Church, which was established in 1236, is one of the oldest buildings of its kind in Scotland and boasts a string of notable connections.  But members fear its days could be numbered if they are unable to pull off an ambitious improvement project.  An increasing number of tourists have flocked from across the planet to the A-listed building to see where their ancestors worshipped. But its bell has not tolled for more than two years amid health and safety concerns over the state of the cracked tower.  And parishioners fear a dilapidated heating system could give out at any moment.  They are now posting notes to every home in Cullen and the surrounding area, asking people to attend a crisis meeting on the venue’s future next week.  Church member Sheila Sellar explained that the extent of the historic venue’s problems became clear after the committee looked into repairing its ageing bell tower.  She said: “We learned that would cost in excess of £20,000 but then all this other work came to light.  The building needs a lot of maintenance work and a new heating system, and we want local people on board helping in whatever way they can.  Our congregation is getting older and we can’t pay for this process from church funds.  It’s a lot of money involved, but the alternative is that we have to close it.  That wouldn’t just be a loss for those who attend here, but for the whole area.” The church’s visitor book displays heartfelt messages left by people from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.  And, with an ageing congregation, organisers are hoping to capitalise on the venue’s tourist appeal to raise the funds necessary to keep it open. Mrs Sellar explained that new access ramps for disabled people will have to be fitted to truly capitalise on its potential as a visitor attraction. She added: “People want to come to the same church their forebears went to, and that’s something we will need to explore more as a way of generating income.”  Fabric convener Bill Davidson is in charge of looking after the building – and has intriguing stories relating to almost every facet of it.  Mr Davidson is determined to keep it functioning, though he conceded members face a battle to accomplish that.  He said: “We have had to close the door beneath the bell tower, which was used for wedding photos, for safety reasons.  The tower needs repaired as a matter of priority, there are some pretty big cracks in it.  But then the outside needs repointed, there is damp on the walls that needs to be addressed, and a suitable flood drain needs to be created all the way around the church.  What makes it so expensive is that we can’t just take machinery in, it’s a historic building and everything needs to be done with care.”  The group is hopeful that the repairs package could help the church reach 1,000 years of age if implemented in full. Postcards bearing an image of the storied building have been sent to every address in Cullen and Deskford, inviting people to a meeting there next Tuesday, April 4, at 7pm. It states that attendees will discuss the condition of the building, options to secure its future and “why it is so special”.

Shetland Oil Find ‘Could Be Biggest of the Century’
An oil discovery has been made near the Shetland Islands which has been described as potentially the biggest find in British waters this century.  Hurricane Energy is set to announce that surveys of its Halifax well in an area off the west of the Shetland Islands have identified a “kilometre-deep oil column” linked to its existing Lancaster find.  The firm is expected to say that this appears to be part of “a single large hydrocarbon accumulation”. The geological formation is thought to contain more than one billion barrels of oil.  News of the find comes after the collapse of global oil prices in 2014, which has hit the North Sea industry hard and resulted in significant job losses.  Drilling began on the Halifax exploration well in early January and Hurricane said that the results would be due by the end of the month.  Hurricane needs to raise about $400 million (£318m) to develop the project and aims to start producing oil from the Lancaster field in 2019. It was formed 12 years ago and has drilled five wells in the west of Shetland area.  Lancaster is expected to be confirmed as the “largest undeveloped field on the UK continental shelf”.

Medical Students Ordered to Resit Exam After 'Collusion' Uncovered
Final year medical students at one of Britain's oldest universities have been told to resit an exam after bosses uncovered evidence of "collusion" among a small number of learners. Around 270 undergraduate students at the University of Glasgow's medical school were given the news on Monday morning.  The university said the clinical examination they sat earlier this year has now been declared "void" after it emerged a handful of students had shared information about the test using social media.  The students responsible are now facing a disciplinary and fitness to practise process and the fresh exam has been timetabled for early May.  In a statement, a university spokesman said: "The undergraduate medical school at the University of Glasgow has detected evidence of collusion by a small number of final year medical students during their clinical examination.  The collusion involved sharing of exam information using social media. The responsible students are now subject to disciplinary and fitness to practise procedures, and after consultation with the senate of the University of Glasgow the affected examination has been declared void and a new clinical examination will be set for all final year students.  This decision has been made in an abundance of caution to ensure that the skills of our students are rigorously and fairly tested before they graduate in medicine." The new exam will take place at the start of May, with any resits resulting from that paper to be taken later the same month.  The test involved is known as the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE).  It is a practical exam in which students are faced with a number of clinical challenges at different points on a ward.  Professor Matthew Walters, head of the university's school of medicine, dentistry and nursing, said it was "disappointing" to have discovered the data breach - an "unprecedented" experience for the department.  He told Press Association Scotland: "We discovered that there has been a breach of security and that, using social media, a very small number of students were sharing information about this examination. In an abundance of caution, and with the interests of the public as our primary concern, we didn't feel we could use that examination as the assessment to ensure that our students are fit and ready to graduate and work on the wards. Although we didn't have any evidence that the results of the exam have been compromised, we felt that... the safest course of action was to scrap the exam and put on a whole fresh assessment."  He said there was a "shared sense of disappointment" among students and staff when they were told the news, but also a joint understanding of the importance of having a trusted assessment. The class essentially recognise and understand the need for a robust and thorough assessment prior to their graduation and are accepting of the decision to rerun the whole exam."

Holyrood’s Indyref2 Vote Rejected by Westminster
The UK Westminster Government has kicked Nicola Sturgeon’s bid for another independence referendum into the long grass moments after it was backed by a majority of MSPs.  Scottish Secretary David Mundell said the UK Westminster Government would not consider referendum discussions until the Brexit process is complete and underlined his opposition to Ms Sturgeon’s proposal for a vote in around 18 months time.  Mr Mundell said there could be a transition period after EU withdrawal raising the possibility of a referendum being delayed until after the 2021 Scottish elections.  After plans for another referendum were passed at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon warned it would be “democratically indefensible and utterly unsustainable” for the UK Westminster Government to stand in the way of a second vote.  But Mr Mundell was unmoved by the vote which saw Ms Sturgeon’s referendum vote passed by 69 votes against 59 the day before Theresa May triggers Article 50 to leave the EU. Six Scottish Green MSPs join with the 63 SNP MSPs to defeat the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems to set Holyrood on a collision course with Westminster. A Green amendment to the motion calling for 16 and 17 year-olds as well as EU citizens to be given a vote was passed by the same margin.  Speaking a few minutes after the votes were counted, the Scottish Secretary said he did not recognise Ms Sturgeon’s proposal that a vote should be held in around 18 months time between autumn next year and spring 2019.  “We are not entering into negotiations on whether there should be an independence referendum during the Brexit process,” Mr Mundell told the BBC. “We don’t have a crystal ball as to how long that process will take. We don’t recognise, for example, 18 months as being a key point in the journey.  It will be a journey that will involve negotiations with the EU. It may be a journey that involves transitional measures. It may be a journey that will involve significant implementation time. It is not appropriate to have a referendum whilst people don’t know what the future relationship between the UK and the EU is and they won’t know that until the Brexit process is complete.”  With the deadlock between the two governments becoming more entrenched, Ms Sturgeon said she would return to parliament after next week’s recess to set out the next steps she will take “to progress the will of the parliament”.  In the meantime, the First Minister said she would act on the mandate given to her by the Scottish Parliament by formally approaching the UK Westminster Government for the section 30 order required to pass referendum holding powers from Westminster to Holyrood. She said the approach would be made within the next few days after Mrs May has triggered Article 50 today.  MSPs voted at the conclusion of a two day debate, which had been interrupted by the attacks on Westminster last week. Re-opening the debate Ms Sturgeon said Scotland, like the UK, was standing at a “crossroads”.  “My argument is simply this: when the nature of the change that is made inevitable by Brexit becomes clear, that change should not be imposed upon us, we should have the right to decide the nature of that change.” the First Minister said.  “The people of Scotland should have the right to choose between Brexit - possibly a very hard Brexit - or becoming an independent country, able to chart our own course and create a true partnership of equals across these islands.”  

Comment - R
Of course the UK Westminster Government “wont allow” another Scottish Referendum - their Public (Civil) Service will be too busy with Brexit whereas in the last referendum the entire British Civil Service mounted a major campaign (funded by the taxpayer) in full support of the Tory led “NO” campaign.  This time is different the UK Westminster Government will simply not fight a battle on two fronts.  End of story - they wish.

Brexit: Northern Ireland ‘Can Leave the UK for Europe’
Northern Ireland has the right to leave the United Kingdom and join the European Union as part of the Republic after Brexit, ministers have concluded.  According to The Times, ministers have decided that Northern Ireland would not have to reapply for EU membership as a new country if it voted for reunification. The British government’s position was revealed in a letter from Brexit secretary David Davis to SDLP MP Mark Durkan.  The development comes as civil servants prepare to take control of Northern Ireland’s budget after powersharing talks between political parties in the province collapsed.  There are also fears that Northern Ireland’s economy will take a particularly hard hit from Brexit.  James Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland secretary, said that Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party would have a “short window” to resolve their differences and that there would be “consequences” unless a new powersharing government was swiftly formed. He said: “We are rapidly approaching the point where Northern Ireland will not have an agreed budget. This is not sustainable.”  Ministers and government lawyers are understood to have concluded that the situation in Northern Ireland is akin to that in Germany before reunification. When East Germany joined together with West Germany in 1990, it automatically joined the European Community - the forerunner to the EU.  This would mean Northern Ireland would have to adopt the euro but, unlike Scotland, would not have to apply for membership in its own right.  Under the terms of the Good Friday agreement of 1998, the British government is legally obliged to offer Irish voters a reunification poll should there be clear evidence of public support for the plan.  In the referendum last June, 56 per cent of voters in Northern Ireland voted to remain within the EU.  Mr Davis’s letter says that the British government’s position remains to “support Northern Ireland’s current constitutional status”.  It states: “We are committed to the principle of consent enshrined in the Belfast agreement which makes clear that Northern Ireland’s constitutional position is a matter for the people of Northern Ireland to determine.”

Scottish Parliament Police to Be Armed with Tasers
Police patrolling outside the Scottish Parliament are to carry Tasers in the wake of the Westminster terror attack.  MSPs and Holyrood staff were informed of the move in advance of an announcement from Police Scotland regarding a review of security arrangements at Holyrood.  It follows the attack by terrorist Khalid Masood, who killed four people in an 82-second rampage in London last week.  The 52-year-old was shot dead by armed police after fatally knifing Pc Keith Palmer in the Palace of Westminster's cobbled forecourt. In a letter to staff, Holyrood chief executive Paul Grice said: " Police Scotland will announce this morning that police officers carrying Tasers will patrol the public area outside of the Scottish Parliament building with effect from today. Police Scotland has assured us that the move is an operational contingency measure and is not based on any intelligence threat in relation to the Parliament or Scotland. Following on from the Westminster attack, Police Scotland will undertake a review of its security arrangements at Holyrood. The results of that review will be reported to the SPCB (Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body) for its consideration." Two officers equipped with Tasers will be on duty at Holyrood at any one time, with the site covered 24 hours a day, it is understood. Other firearms officers, while not deployed inside Holyrood, are believed to be in the vicinity of the parliament building and the wider government estate in Edinburgh.  The full-scale review of security at the Scottish Parliament is expected to take about three weeks to report back to senior police officers.

Alex Salmond and Nigel Farage Trade Insults in Brexit Clash
As the Prime Minister prepared to trigger Article 50, Alex Salmond and Nigel Farage got into a heated exchange on live radio.  The SNP MP and ex-UKIP leader were taking part in a debate on LBC as Theresa May prepared to formally withdraw the UK from the European Union.  Mr Farage, a leading voice of the Leave campaign, clashed with Mr Salmond, a passionate advocate of remaining in the EU, during the broadcast.  Mr Farage argued that the British people are more behind Brexit than ever and then took at swipe at what he called the “sneering” SNP.  He said: “A third of the SNP voted to Leave and I think as this debate plays out there will be more and more genuine Scottish nationalists, as opposed to the SNP who don’t believe in independence and are not a nationalist party.”  Mr Farage added: “People want to govern themselves, not be part of Brussels.”  But the former First Minister of Scotland hit back, saying the SNP had a mandate for Scotland, after getting 50% of the vote in Scottish elections, compared with Ukips 2%.  Mr Salmond said: “The reality is Northern Ireland’s in deadlock, the Welsh are alienated, the Scots are having a referendum, England’s split down the’s a total shambles. This is whistle while you work. It’s gung-ho nonsense.”

Scotgold Cheers ‘Significant’ Boost to Mine Plans
Scotgold Resources, the firm developing Scotland’s first commercial gold mine, has hailed a “significant” boost to its plans on the back of lower running costs and higher prices for the precious metal. The Aim-quoted company said that changes to the design of a storage facility as its Cononish site near Tyndrum, along with higher assumed gold prices, meant that its peak funding requirement for the project has reduced to £7.4 million, down from previous forecasts of £18.5m.  Scotgold, which last year raised almost £46,000 by auctioning off ten coins made from its first gold, also told investors that the mine, in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, is now expected to deliver underlying earnings of £100m over its nine-year lifespan – well above an earlier estimate of £67m – following the success of its bulk processing trial (BPT).  Changes to the miner’s development plans means it now needs fresh approval from the park authorities, a process that is expected to complete before the end of the year.  Scotgold also said that it needed additional working capital to see it through this period, but chairman Nat le Roux has agreed to lend it £1m for one year at an interest rate of 10 per cent. The net loan will amount to about £700,000 after the repayment of an existing facility.  “The revised development plan now completed significantly lowers the financing hurdle and improves the economic returns, with significant further enhancement from the current pound sterling price of gold,” said le Roux.  

Heroin Worth Tens of Thousands of Pounds 'Found in Edinburgh Wheelie Bin'
Heroin worth tens of thousands of pounds was found in a recycling bin next to an accused drug dealer’s house, a trial heard yesterday.  Taylor Melvin, 23, is accused of supplying heroin after a police raid in Niddrie, Edinburgh , recovered a bag containing blocks of plastic-wrapped brown powder.  There was £3655 in cash in unemployed Melvin’s bedroom in 2015.  His dad David Melvin told jurors at the High Court in the city some of the money may have come from a local “menage” savings club his son was in.  David, 51, said his son had been putting at least £20 a week into the menage and could have recently received £1000 or more from it.  Richard Goddard, prosecuting, said: “Could this money be from drug dealing?” David replied: “I don’t think that, no.”  Melvin’s sister Demi-Lee was asked about designer gear from brands including Hugo Boss and North Face her brother had bought. Demi-Lee, 20, said she didn’t know how her sibling got the clothing and was “surprised” about the cash in his room.  She said about £1300 of backdated income support for her brother was paid into her bank account days before the raid.  Melvin denies drug dealing. The trial, before Judge Michael O’Grady, continues.

BBC Staff Told to Learn Gaelic for Flagship News Show
The flagship news programme on the BBC’s new dedicated Scottish television channel will include at least ten minutes of reports in Gaelic, with staff to be enrolled in compulsory lessons in the language. Detailed plans for the weeknight programme will be announced to staff at BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay headquarters on Monday. A briefing specifies “at least a sixth” of the programme’s output will be given over to “issues of Gaelic interest.”  Newsroom staff have been issued with “personal development programmes” which state that they must become fluent before the channel’s launch next autumn.  The plans, drawn up by BBC bosses in London, are viewed as a response to criticism that the network-wide News at Six features stories on education and health which have little relevance to audiences in Scotland. Politically, the so-called “Gaelic quota” is also seen as a convenient way of appeasing critics of BBC Scotland’s coverage, such as Pete Wishart MP.  The segment represents the most significant boost for Gaelic broadcasting since the 2008 launch of BBC Alba. Fa Roil Pol, the Gaelic representative on BBC Scotland’s audience council, described it as a “milestone”.  But tensions between Pacific Quay and Broadcasting House have intensified ahead of the announcement, due to be made by Ken McQuarrie, the BBC’s Mull-born director of nations and regions. Some veteran staff are said to be uneasy about the fixed slot. “We have gone from the Scottish Six to the Gaelic Sixth,” one said.  The National Union of Journalists has also expressed misgivings about the bilingual training, which includes a VHS boxset of Dòtaman episodes and copies of Iain Crichton Smith’s Selected Poems.  Other staff, however, are said to have embraced the idea. Jackie Bird, widely tipped to the anchor the new programme, has insisted she be referred to as Jackie Eun.  A spokesman for BBC Scotland said: “The BBC in Scotland has a rich heritage of producing Gaelic programmes such as Eòrpa and Motherwell versus Hamilton Academical. The new channel will continue that tradition for a modern, multi-platfor
m audience.”