Some Scottish News & Views issue # 397

Issue # 397                                                        Week ending 22nd  April 2017

Elections and Why You Must Not Knock Those Knockers
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Ssshhh. Did I heard a knock at the door just then? Nope, nothing there. It was probably just a ghost. There was a show on one of these telly channels that shows old repeats the other night about a couple in a house and they claimed ghosts were knocking the walls most nights. When the TV crew came along to record them, the ghosts didn’t show but as soon as the TV crew went away, the batty couple would claim the knocking had started again.

Maybe it was a bit like that. I heard it but now it’s gone because we are all listening. They should have got that Derek Acorah, the so-called medium, to tell the ghosts to go away. That always works -  according to himself anyway.

Oh heck. There’s the knocking again. Quiet everyone. Turn down the telly. There is someone at the door. Quick, hide. Don’t go near the window in case it’s the police about my parking ticket. Or maybe there is something wrong somewhere and someone needs help. I suppose we should maybe answer the door. Right honey, you answer it and I’ll be in the kitchen with the rolling pin. Wait. Maybe I should phone the police? Oh, you’re right. Maybe not. No, I don’t really think that intruders would actually knock to get in.

Conversations like that one in our house the other night are happening everywhere just now. This is all because every four years, local politicians, and wannabe councillors attracted by the salary and perks for apparently doing very little except turning up to vote, dare to show their faces on our doorsteps. They ask if we will vote for them. We smile. They smile. We say maybe. They thank you. They turn to leave. We shut the door firmly. We turn the key. We collapse with relief that they have finally gone off to be awkward and annoying with someone else. You know that shiver when you feel a ghost has entered the room? Same feeling when they vamoose.

If they don’t come and show their faces, how will we know who to blame when the bins aren’t emptied, the pavements are full of dog dirt and our schools turn out people with so little self-confidence that they cannot even answer their own front doors without melting into nervous, gibbering wrecks. Yep, blame the council. Who else is there to blame? That is as obvious as Melania Trump nudging Donald John to put his hand on his heart on Monday at that Easter Egg thingummybob.

However, the vote hunters shouldn’t come round when this hard-working ward constituent is busy relaxing in front of Michael Portillo on his Great American Railroad Journeys. And I hope they don’t come knock-knock tonight because Corrie is on. And at 8pm I want to marvel at the wonders of the NHS when some sick people agree to go on GPs: Behind Closed Doors on Channel 5 and an original episode of the Man From Uncle series is on at 9pm on the True Entertainment channel.

And if they do come? I have a plan to make the vote hunters flee. I will print out a notice and pin it to the front door. It will say: “Hungry dog loose. Knock and enter at your own risk.” That usually works. However, there is a better one with a 100% success rate. It says: “Ssshhh. Baby sleeping.” We have no baby here nowadays but they don’t know that. There is not a single politician, from Rae Mackenzie, the veteran politico who came round on Saturday - again, to brave Boris Johnson, who would risk the wrath of a nursing mother by chapping her door.

Rae first stood for cooncil when I was a pimply schoolboy. There is little I recall about the 1970s except his name on Stornoway lampposts. Rae? What kind of a name is that for a Lewisman? Stingray had been on the telly a decade before so that’s what we called him. Pesky kids. Whatever you do, don’t tell Mr Mackenzie he was Sting long before Walking On The Moon.

It’s so spooky thinking back to those times and these ghostly figures from long ago. So many people have passed on - councillors who were around at that time and many other people I knew back then. Wouldn’t it be good to talk to them and ask them what they think of how things are nowadays? Oh, I would love to do that. This is where I have a confession to make. The fact is that a long time ago I was actually a medium myself. Now I am an extra large.

Homes Tax ‘Choking’ £1m-plus Sales

A leading finance expert has claimed that the property tax brought in by the Scottish Government in 2015 has stifled the top end of the property market – leaving would-be sellers forced to rent out their homes.  Sir Timothy Noble, founder of merchant bank the Noble Group and chairman of Spark Energy, said that buyers looking for £1 million-plus homes are moving less as a result of the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) and warned that expensive houses are falling in value.  The tax can see an extra £45,000 added to the cost of a £1m home if the property is bought in Scotland rather than England. Noble said: “What I predicted has indeed begun to happen. Expensive houses in areas of Edinburgh such as Colinton, The Grange and Barnton have fallen in value by 25 per cent and have become almost unsellable. Perhaps there are one or two other influences causing this, but the property tax is a major element.  The government yield from the tax has been falling. There have been so many fewer transactions above the £1m level than before, so people are moving less. I am aware of several large houses being rented out rather than being sold because the owners were unable to sell at any sensible price. I am also aware of owners being unable to move because they cannot sell their existing house.”  Property experts have previously warned that the high level of taxation on high-end homes in Scotland is stifling the traditional migration of bankers and lawyers who would have moved north of the border from other parts of the UK or abroad.  A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our priority for the LBTT is helping first-time buyers enter the property market and assisting people as they progress through the market.”

Lord of the Isles Power Base “To Open” for First Time in 500 Years
Visitors to the headquarters of the ancient Lords of the Isles could soon be able to step onto the site of their parliament for the first time in 500 years.  Plans are underway at Finlaggan on Islay to connect Eilean na Comhairle (Council Isle) - where chieftains, lords, and bishops met to pass laws and govern - with Eilean Mor (Large Island), where Finlaggan Castle, the seat of Clan Donald, once stood.  A 50-metre bridge is being proposed to span Finlaggan Loch and connect the two to open up access to the historic site and meet demand from visitors.  Lynn MacDonald, chair of the Finlaggan Trust, said: “We do get a lot of requests to go over to Council Isle. It was an extremely important site for the Lord of the Isles.  If you go onto the main island, it doesn’t feel very far away. You actually really want to go down there. There are a number of logistical issues about getting across, particularly because the site is quite exposed, but what we are trying to do is preserve the integrity of the site as well as make it more accessible.” Finlaggan was the seat of the Lord of the Isles and Clan Donald between the 12th and 15th Centuries.  David Caldwell, archaeologist and author of Islay, the Land of the Lordship, said it was likely people had not been able to walk between the islands for the last 400 or 500 years.  The new bridge would replace an earlier structure, built between the 12th and 14th Century, which remains submerged under the loch.  Mr Caldwell, who is also a trustee of the Finlaggan Trust, said: “The Council Isle is where the Council of the Isles met in medieval times, the council being a medieval parliament. It was a real power base and an incredibly important site.”  The rulers, who were broadly independent from the Crown and controlled the Hebrides and part of the west coast, took on a kingly quality with Lords of the Isles sworn in at Finlaggan.  Accounts detail a 15th Century inauguration ceremony of John of Islay, 4th Lord of the Isles, who stood on a stone embedded with a footprint, clad in a white robe and holding a white rod and sword.  Meetings were usually held on Council Isle to coincide with such occasions, which drew people from all over the kingdom and were a good opportunity for business, trade, games and sports, according to Mr Caldwell.  Gatherings of the Council of the Isles met in the Council House on the island, which measures around 4.8 metres by 7.5metres.  Four Clan Donald chieftains made up part of the council along with, four nobles, four thanes and the Bishop of the Isles and the Abbot of Iona, according to accounts.  “This Council could be convened to offer advice to the lord wherever he was, but the meetings at Finlaggan were probably more formal, in effect a parliament constituted to give judgements and make laws,” Mr Caldwell said. Excavations also discovered a hall which was possibly the residence of a keeper or steward who looked after the property when the lord was not in residence. The Lordship was claimed by the Crown in 1493. The Finlaggan Trust, which recently won £60,000 from Lagavulin, one of the main whisky distilleries on the island, is now working to develop the proposals.

The Battle Cries of Some of the Highland Clans

Used by clans to rattle their fighting foes and to help distinguish different sides during a battle, each Scottish clan had its own war cry that would have a psychological effect on the enemy, as well as helping to find comrades on the battle field.  The battle cries of the clans would often include the rallying points of home or immortalise powerful leaders.  Meanwhile, some simply sought to noise up the opposition with claims of their fighting power. We take a look at this history behind nine Scottish clan battle cries:

Cry of ; Chlanna nan con thigibh a’ so ‘s gheibh sibh feòil! - Sons of the Hounds Come Here and Get Flesh!
Camerons were known as fierce fighters with most of their territory sitting at more than 1,000ft in altitude, including Ben Nevis. The last wolf in Scotland is said to have been killed in 1680 by Ewan Cameron of Lochiel, one of the most renowned chiefs of any clan. He was the only chief who did not submit authority to Oliver Cromwell.

Cry of; Cruachan
Thought to refer the mountain which dominates Loch Awe and much of Argyll but also linked to the farm of the same name on the west bank of Loch Awe, directly opposite the clan stronghold of Innischonnell Castle, which became a natural rallying point. Cruachan is also used by the old Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment.

Cry of; Cnoc Ealachain - Hill of the Black Willow
Cnoc Elachain sits near Rossdhu at Loch Lomond close to the clan seat of power at Luss. The Hill of Black Willow was the gathering place of the clan.

Cry of; Craig Elachaidh - The Rock of Alarm
The Grants were in Strathspey during the reign of Malcolm III and were tasked with lighting a beacon on at the summit of Craigellachie, by Aviemore, to warn the king if danger loomed from the North. When lit, clan members would mobilise there.

Cry of; Bratach Bhan Chlann Aoidh - the White Banner of Mackay.
In reference to the white battle flag carried by Angus Du Mackay, 7th of Strathnaver, who led his men to victory at 1431 the Battle of Drumnacoub against the Clan Sutherland at Tongue. Once an incredibly powerful clan, the Mackays had their roots in Moray and gained influence across the Highlands from the 14th Century.

Cry of; Fear eil’ air son Eachainn! – Another for Hector!
In memory of seven brothers that fought in the Inverkething battle of 1651 and died when trying to defend Sir Hector MacLean of Duart, who was also killed in the battle against the New Model Army. Inverkeithing ended in a decisive English victory that gave Oliver Cromwell’s forces control of the Firth of Forth.

Cry of; Buaidh no Bàs! - Victory or death
The Macneils were infamous throughout Scotland and beyond for their pirating and great seamanship, with the clan raiding the seas from their base at Kisimul Castle on Barra. Recent research on DNA of clan members found that they descended not Ireland’s “greatest” King, Niall of the Nine Hostages, but from the Vikings.

Stewarts of Appin
Cry of; Creag an Sgairbh – Cormorant’s Rock
The cry comes from Castle Stalker, the first clan castle built around 1540 by Duncan Stewart of Appin around 25 miles north of Oban. It was later gifted to James IV for use as a hunting lodge. It sits at the mouth of Loch Laich by Loch Linnhe on a rocky islet known as the Rock of the Cormorants.

Scotland's NHS to Boycott 'Barbaric' Tory Rape Clause
Scotland's NHS is set  to boycott the “barbaric” Tory rape clause.  Health Secretary Shona Robison has written to the UK Westminster Government refusing to co-operate with the “terrible policy” and demanding an  urgent rethink “before serious harm is done” to rape victims  and their families. She vowed not to distribute Whitehall guidance to Scots NHS workers on how to  implement the policy – raising serious questions about how it can operate here in practice.  The Tories want to save money by limiting tax credits to the first two children in every family – with an exception for women who have a child as a result of rape. But to claim, victims would have to convince a “professional third party” – health workers, police, social workers or rape charities – that they were telling the truth about their ordeal. The plan has caused outrage. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has branded it “inhumane, disgusting and barbaric” and charities including Rape Crisis Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid are refusing to “collude” with it.  Robison has now made it clear that the Scottish NHS will informally boycott the policy. In a letter to Employment Minister Damien Hinds and Treasury Secretary David Gauke, she said it would never be acceptable “to require a woman to disclose she has been raped in order to access social security”.  Robison added: “I would  urge you to rethink this terrible policy before serious harm is caused to women who have already suffered enough.”  She said she had “extreme concerns” about how the Tories plan to assess women, and warned no suitable training for assessors had been put in place. She complained that the Tories had not given the Scottish Government enough time to comment on the proposed guidance.  And she said that while our NHS staff  would act in the best interests of patients , they would not become “gatekeepers” for the welfare system.  The Royal College of Nursing backed Robison’s stance, but the Department for Work and Pensions defended the rape clause.

Castle Viewpoint Opens to Public

The Inverness Castle tower viewpoint has been officially opened by the last family to call the castle their home.  And the new tourist attraction, which provides views over Inverness and beyond, was already proving a hit with visitors today, with all slots to the top fully booked. The ribbon to mark its official opening was cut by 75-year-old Isobel Taylor, who lived in the castle with her children and husband James from 1969 to 1995 when he was a caretaker and court officer there. Curious visitors eager to check out the new viewpoint have the next few days to enjoy a sneak peak before charges come into force on Friday. After this it will cost £5 for adults and £3 for children.

St Fergus Returns to His Namesake Church

An effigy of St Fergus, the patron saint of Wick, has been returned to its original home at the town’s St Fergus Church.  The 16th century sculpture has – over the past 500 years – found many homes around the town, including spending some time reposing in the town jail before being placed standing upright in a garden next to the townhouse.  In 1908 it vanished for two weeks from the gardens on Bridge Street but just as mysteriously reappeared again. More recently the effigy was moved to the former museum in the library, and it has stayed there upstairs ever since.  With Wick Library soon to be closed, the way has been closed for its return “home”.  Hugh Simpson (Contractors) was called in to do the complex job of getting the heavy sculpture safely out of the library building, through the town and into the church, which was completed on Wednesday. The effigy can now be found lying to the right of the pulpit on an oak base made by Ian Maclean, a member of the church’s congregation. The sculpture is of a man with long, tonsured hair, dressed in a loose, cassock-like garment with loose sleeves. His hands are folded across his breast and hold a cross with small round bosses, probably representing jewels, on it. His feet rest upon a crouched or sleeping lion. Church elder and local historian Harry Gray said the church is delighted to have St Fergus home. The effigy originally came from the old St Fergus kirk, of which a fragment still stands and known locally as the Sinclair Aisle next to the current St Fergus Church. The church will hold a reconsecration service soon, with a date yet to be set. Mr Gray said: “St Fergus was a very important man. There were two or three saints who came here but he seemed to be popular.  The first church built on this site was built some time before the reformation in 1560. Nobody quite knows where the first church was in Wick.  The effigy was in the church for a very long time. Once the old St Fergus kirk was demolished, the authorities took him away and had him standing in the town gardens next to the town hall.” The effigy’s nose was broken when it was attacked in 1613 by Bower minister Dr Richard Merchiston but it has been fixed. Apart from that, it is in very good condition.  Mr Gray said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have St Fergus back. Not only have we got St Fergus but we’ve got the original baptismal font from the old kirk.” Mr Gray said: “We had people up from Edinburgh to look at it and they thought it was 15th, 14th or even an earlier century. They had never seen anything like it before.”                    

Long Wait for Reay Windfarm Decision
Campaigners against a 24-turbine wind farm on the outskirts of Reay will have a long wait to find out if they have been successful as a public inquiry begins.  The Scottish Government has called for a report on Infinergy’s controversial plans for the development at Limekiln, sparking an eight-month inquiry process.  The firm wants to build 15 turbines which would stand 139 metres high and nine up to 126 metres tall.  This comes after Highland Council’s north planning committee unanimously objected to the proposal earlier this year. The wind farm attracted more than 200 objections from addresses in Caithness and north Sutherland, who said the visual impact on the landscape would be unacceptable. Scottish ministers referred the planning application to the department for planning and environmental appeals (DPEA) earlier this month. The department will hold a public enquiry before writing a report with recommendations for ministers.  A DPEA spokeswoman said: “The case only came to us a few days ago so it is in the very early stages. The timings vary from case to case but it is likely to take at least 32 weeks.”  But there is an added complication as Scottish Natural Heritage is at an advanced stage in an application to designate the Flow County as a world heritage site of special cultural or physical significance.

‘Unicorns’ Are Alive and Well in Galloway

Knockengorroch World Ceilidh Music Festival organisers are aiming to break the international record for the highest number of unicorns in one place later this year.  The attempt, which has been registered with and accredited by the Guinness Book of Records, will see festival-goers wearing unicorn horns and counted by an official adjudicator. 2017 will see the festival’s 20th year. It will take place from 25 to 28 May, featuring music and arts from across the globe in its stunning location in the Galloway hills of South West Scotland.  Festival organiser and landowner Liz Holmes said: “We wanted to do something exciting, fun and different to celebrate our 20th year.  The unicorn is an ancient and fascinating mythical creature, depicted and worshipped in many countries across the world. Its a truly multi-cultural symbol for us to celebrate, reflecting our international taste in music!”  The unicorn is the national animal of Scotland. Portrayed on the Scottish Royal Coat of Arms in chains, it is said to govern through harmony and peace. Festival- goers will be encouraged to wear unicorn horns.  The four day family-friendly festival programme includes music from Scotland and across the world, with a strong emphasis on traditional and roots music.  Children’s workshops will join adult activities and festival artwork based around the legendary beast.

North MSP Backs Geopark Funding Appeal

Ross and Sutherland MSP Gail Ross has offered her “complete support” to the North West Highlands Geopark, which faces losing its UNESCO status due to lack of funding. The geopark is now running a crowdfunding campaign, Love the Geopark, in order to raise the £70,000 that it requires to retain its staff on an annual basis. Offers of support have already come in from throughout the UK and over £4,000 raised.  Ms Ross said: “The work done by the North West Highland Geopark in promoting the unique geology in the north-west Highlands, not only for local communities but also to visitors, is fantastic. However, they cannot continue to provide the services which they do without the money required to staff the park. Time is now running out for the future of the park.  The Geopark’s drive is not only to promote the area in terms of its geology but also encourages all visitors to be good stewards of our natural and cultural resources and strengthens the links that this remote area has with the rest of the world.”  Ms Ross added that time was now critical for the Geopark and funding must be found to ensure that the staff who were bringing up their families in the park could be retained.  She said: “I’m very concerned that there is the possibility that they could lose their UNESCO Global Geopark Status due to lack of funding.”

General Election Will Be About Indyref2, Says Theresa May

Theresa May has said her snap general election is a chance to make a compelling case for the United Kingdom as she called on Scots to oppose another independence referendum. Mrs May urged those who believe in the UK to speak up against the “narrow, tunnel-vision politics of the nationalists” after sensationally announcing an election for less than eight weeks time. The Prime Minister said a vote for the Scottish Conservatives would send a “clear message” of opposition to the SNP’s “divisive” plans for a second independence vote. The views expressed by Mrs May confirmed that Nicola Sturgeon’s proposal to hold another vote by spring 2019 will be the dominant election issue north of the Border.  Despite repeatedly ruling out an early election, Mrs May performed a U-turn when she made her announcement to hold a 8 June poll in a statement outside Downing Street yesterday morning.  Mrs May indicated she regards the election as a chance for her party to make a dent in the SNP’s dominance of Scottish Westminster politics.  Mrs May added: “In Scotland, only Ruth Davidson and her Scottish Conservative colleagues are able to stand up for our United Kingdom and provide a strong voice against the SNP. And only a strong Conservative government at Westminster can deliver a Brexit that works for the whole UK.” Ms Sturgeon presented the snap election as a contest between her party and a right wing Tory party, which wanted a hard Brexit. The SNP leader said Mrs May had made a “huge political miscalculation” describing her bid for a June vote as “one of the most extraordinary U-turns in recent political history”. Ms Sturgeon said the Prime Minister was putting the interests of the Conservatives ahead of the country’s. Ms Sturgeon said Mrs May was “clearly betting” that the Tories can win a bigger majority in England given the “utter disarray” in the Labour Party. “That makes it all the important that Scotland is protected from a Tory Party which now sees the chance of grabbing control of government for many years to come and moving the UK further to the right – forcing through a hard Brexit and imposing deeper cuts in the process. “That means that this will be – more than ever before – an election about standing up for Scotland, in the face of a right-wing, austerity obsessed Tory government with no mandate in Scotland but which now thinks it can do whatever it wants and get away with it. “In terms of Scotland, this move is a huge political miscalculation by the Prime Minister.”

Wow.  The PM must have had some of these “Powerful Magic Mushrooms” for breakfast - informing the Scots that the Tories will win 30 No seats in Scotland to then be able to stop Scottish independence.  Remind me how many there are now? Oh thats right they have 1 solitary Tory MP. If both May and Sturgeon consider this to be a vote on Scottish Independence, surely all the SNP require would be 30 seats? If the Unionist parties fail to get 30 seats, there is no support for the Union. May really has handed the initiative to Sturgeon.

An SNP Win Would Turn May’s Blocking Strategy to Dust
by Nicola Sturgeon
This week it has become clear beyond doubt that, for Theresa May, party comes before country.  For months the Prime Minister has said that a snap, early election was, in her view, the last thing the country needed.  Now was not the time, she said, to be distracted from the job at hand. But she has suddenly changed her mind - not for the good of the country - but for simple party advantage. Her motive is clear. She knows that as the terms of her hard Brexit become clearer, the deep misgivings that so many people already have will increase and grow. So she wants to act now to crush the parliamentary opposition that she faces. Labour’s self-inflicted weakness has presented the excuse.  Theresa May herself has said that politics is not a game, but by calling this election to suit her own party interests she is playing with fire.  No Prime Minister, not even Mrs Thatcher, has complained that there should not be robust debate in Parliament. That is a healthy and indeed necessary in any parliamentary democracy, but Theresa May does not seem willing to acknowledge any views other than hers. That simply isn’t acceptable in a democracy. A virtual one-party Tory state is a horrifying prospect - but given how weak Labour is, and the Lib Dems’ past record of propping up a Tory government, it is clear that only the SNP can offer strong and credible opposition in the House of Commons.  The SNP in this election will, as we always do, stand up for Scotland.  The 2015 election turned UK politics on its head, and over the last two years, SNP MPs have provided the only effective opposition to the Tories at Westminster. On issues from austerity to wasting billions of pounds on new nuclear weapons, the SNP has been the only clear and consistent voice speaking up for Scotland’s interests. It was the consistent campaigning of SNP MPs which saw the Scotland Bill, which is seeing new powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament strengthened - though they are still not strong enough. Mhairi Black, the youngest MP in over 300 years, has campaigned tirelessly on the injustice of women’s pensions being slashed. Eilidh Whiteford secured a significant victory as her Private Member’s Bill – which will require the UK Westminster Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women – received the backing of MPs. Alison Thewliss has led the campaign on the two-child tax credit limit and the disgusting rape clause, which will require women who have been raped to prove this to a professional in order to access financial support for their child.  Rather than stand up for women and families on low incomes, the Scottish Tories have thrown their full weight behind the family cap and the rape clause – a decision which will haunt them throughout this campaign.

Foodbank to Hold 'Calendar' Event in Wick
Foodbank volunteers who distributed nearly 1100 emergency food parcels to people in Caithness and Sutherland last year are holding a special event to boost donations and attract new members to help those in need.  Caithness Foodbank will be holding its reverse advent calendar event on Saturday to welcome more volunteers and donations as demand in the far north continues to grow.  In January, the organisation handed out over 250 bags to members of the public for them to put items in to help families and individuals who are struggling to feed themselves. The event was originally meant to take place in January but was postponed due to extreme winter conditions.  Now it has been arranged to take place on Saturday afternoon at Rosebank Sports Pavilion and chairwoman Jane Coll said the event will also provide information about how the foodbank works in the community.  She said: “The aim of the event is to inform the public about the work of the foodbank and to address the standard criticisms of foodbanks.  We also hope that the event will attract new volunteers.  There is no charge for admission and soup and sandwiches will be available.”The number of people using foodbanks in Caithness and north Sutherland reached a record high last year.  Between August 2015 and July 2016, 1061 – 795 adults and 266 children – received emergency food, compared to 958 for the same period between 2014 and 2015.

Top Award for Loch Duart Salmon

Loch Duart, the salmon farming business based in north west Sutherland, has won the Food and Drink Company of the Year at the Scottish Business Insider’s Made in Scotland Awards. Announced at a ceremony last night at the Glasgow Science Centre, Loch Duart was chosen for its innovative approaches which include low density farming and a suite of practices focusing on sustainability, environmental stewardship and fish welfare.  The award noted that Loch Duart has a hard-won reputation for extraordinary tasting salmon which has been achieved by building the brand of choice among top chefs, leading hotels, restaurants and retailers in the UK and further afield.  On receiving the award Alban Denton, managing director of Loch Duart, said: “Food and Drink Company of the Year – what an accolade! Very fitting because in our remote and beautiful part of Scotland, that's what we do - produce a fine food which is the most delicious tasting salmon. There's a whole bunch of great people who make this happen. Operations, technical, finance and sales. This award is for each and every one of them."

Sutherland MP - 'I Am Not Planning on Going Anywhere'.

Sutherland MP Paul Monaghan says he is “not going anywhere” despite Prime Minister Theresa May’s calls for an early general election.  The Conservative leader shocked the UK  with the announcement that she hopes to hold a snap vote on June 8, just seven weeks from now.  Mrs May said the country needs certainty, stability and strong leadership but it is thought she is seizing an opportunity to take seats from Labour, who have dropped in popularity in recent months.  This shocked Paul Monaghan, MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, but he is not worried about the future of the SNP.  “I was very surprised by this as only a few days ago Theresa May was saying she felt the country was becoming more united,” he said.  “I was also surprised at the tone Theresa May used, it was almost aggressive. She seems to think this election will unite the country and give her a mandate for a hard Brexit.  I’m definitely not planning on going anywhere and I don’t think any of my fellow SNP colleagues will be planning on it either.”  Mrs May became Prime Minister when David Cameron resigned following the vote to leave the European Union last June. Announcing her plans outside 10 Downing Street, she said the decision came as a result of opposition parties and members of the House of Lords threatening to vote against Brexit plans.  “Britain is leaving the European Union and there can be no turning back,” she said. “Our opponents believe that because the government’s majority is so small, our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course. They are wrong.”

Energy Giant Total and Heriot-watt University Sign £2.5m Research Deal

A university has signed a multimillion-pound partnership agreement with oil and gas giant Total to boost research and education.  The five-year agreement between Heriot-Watt University and Total will be worth a minimum of £2.5 million, the education institution said. The Partnership Agreement covers global research and development as well as educational activities undertaken jointly by Total and Heriot-Watt, including sponsored PhD and post-doctoral studies, guest lectures and presentations, internships and scholarships. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon visited the Edinburgh Campus of Heriot-Watt on Thursday, where the agreement was signed by Elisabeth Proust, Managing Director of Total E&P UK, and Dr Gillian Murray, Deputy Principal, Business and Enterprise, at the university.  Ms Sturgeon said: “Ensuring the future of Scotland’s offshore industry is a key priority for this government and it is hugely encouraging to hear the positive impact this partnership will have for both the oil and gas sector and our university system.  Not only will this provide an excellent opportunity to harness the technological advances Scotland’s universities are so famed for, but it is also set to help ensure Scotland’s oil and gas sector will continue to prosper for future generations.”  The partnership will also cover seminars and training events, career, business and education forums and conferences and university and industry-based site visits.  Dr Murray said: “This is the latest development in a long-term and much-valued partnership between Total and Heriot-Watt University. Such partnerships and joint ventures are key to the way the university operates and are of great value to development and the wider economy.”  Total is also a sponsor of Heriot-Watt University’s year of Robotics.

MSP Delighted As His Drug Driving Campaign Prompts New Legislation

MSP David Stewart’s campaign for a clamp down on drug drivers will come to fruition at the end of this year with the announcement the Scottish Government intends to bring in new legislation.  The veteran road safety campaigner, who represents the Highlands and Islands, has previously criticised the Government for being slow in tackling drug driving saying it should act quickly to equip the police with ‘drugalysers’ to test motorists for cannabis or cocaine during road-side stops.  In an answer to an ‘Inspired Parliamentary Question’, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said that the Scottish Government intended bringing forward, before the end of 2017, the necessary secondary legislation to introduce drug driving limits in Scotland.  “I am delighted that the Government has finally decided to act on this and will be following the legislation to see the fine detail,” said Mr Stewart.  “The main issue is to have a deterrent so people considering driving, who are impaired because of drugs, will think twice.  I had hoped it would be introduced sooner, thus preventing any more tragic accidents caused by drivers who take to the road with drugs in their system.  But I welcome the fact that the police will have more power and shouldn’t have to rely on the old-style field impairment test at the roadside for anyone suspected of driving under the influence of drugs.”