Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 401

Issue # 401                                                              Week ending 20th May 2017

That Was Some Weekend Between Bugs and Ukrainian Bottoms
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

It was a bitterly cold night in January when Mrs X sent me that chilling text message. It said: “Windows frozen.” Well, of course it is, I thought to myself. If she thought she could come and pick me up in the pub without first defrosting the car window on a night like this then she is barmy. I sipped that wonderful warming winter tipple of rum with added rum and texted back: “Don’t panic. Just pour some hot water over it before you come to pick me up. That’s all you have to do.”

I was not ready for her next message which came 10 minutes later. It said: “I poured the hot water on the monitor. It’s not working now. Do I also pour it over the box thing under the desk?” I read that text and, totally losing the battle to keep calm, replied: “No. No. No. Stop. What are you doing? No, I said. Stop. Have you gone stark raving bonkers? No. No. No. Stop it, whatever you’re doing. Come for me now. No, I’ll walk. No, I’ll get a taxi. I thought you were defrosting the car window. Stop whatever you’re doing. No taxis. I’m running past the post office now and trying to hitch a lift.”

Galloping across town to find it was my wife’s idea of a joke to get me home early did not do much to ease my grumpiness. Even she is not that daft that she would pour hot water over a computer because Windows had frozen. Even she uses the latest operating system and appropriate antivirus software because she is not as daft as the Department of Health which has been happy to leave vital but ageing NHS computers unprotected against a horde of known virus threats and then just, well, hope for the best.

Seeing health secretary Jeremy Hunt squirm in interviews as he was interrogated over creakingly old computers with outdated and unsupported software like Windows XP being used to hold vital patient data in what was once the finest health service in the known universe was an eye-opener. Hunt kept telling anyone who would listen that only 80% of the NHS was unaffected which was simply an admission that a fifth of our health service was completely messed up in the face of what seemed to the rest of us like gross and utterly-avoidable negligence.

Someone’s priorities are all wrong. While the nation’s health service relies on useless old computers that can be freely hacked and held to ransom by spotty teenagers clicking away at their keyboards in their bedrooms, our TVs can link up via computers around the world to bring us someone clambering onto a stage in the Ukraine and flashing his bottom in real time and in what we used to call glorious technicolour. Did you witness that amazing sight? No, not the stage invader’s bottom but the entire Eurovison Song Contest. It was fabulous.

Didn’t you just love the entry from Romania? It was truly unique because it was a mix of rap and yodelling. By the way, what would you call that? Rodelling, I suppose. Which is exactly what our name was many moons ago for a pub crawl around the extreme south of Harris. Rodelling involved a long journey from Stornoway on a Friday or Saturday night by car, or more likely a battered old van with fishboxes in the back for seats, and the only hostelry we could find in the deep south - the Rodel Hotel.

The best thing about Eurovision were the comments by TV host Graham Norton. Italy decided to grab attention this year by having a gorilla on stage. Of course, we all thought it was a gorilla, maybe one that was a bit tired. Graham had his doubts and let rip, saying: “If you're going to get someone to dress as a gorilla, at least get a decent outfit. That looks like couple of old car seats sewn together.”

I may have suggested earlier that my beloved Mrs X was more computer-savvy than Jeremy Hunt but that’s not saying much. Had she been very savvy in technology matters she would not keep coming out with the occasional howler. The other week she asked me for the new password to our wi-fi. Having neither the time nor the inclination to look it up, I suddenly remembered I had written it down and put it somewhere safe. “It’s under the router,” I told her. Ten minutes later, after several failed attempts to log on, she came back into the office and asked: “Am I spelling this right? U.N. D. E. R. T. H. E. R. O. U. T. E. R?”

Whisky Galore Screening by Visit Scotland
An Aberdeenshire premiere of the film Whisky Galore will highlight its importance to the local tourism industry.  A map highlighting the locations used in the modern remake of the classic 1940s movie has been produced.  Portsoy and Pennan were two of the main locations during filming of the movie starring Eddie Izzard, Gregor Fisher and Sean Biggerstaff. The film was released in Scottish cinemas on Friday, May 5 and will be out in the rest of the UK on May 19.  While Alexander Mackendrick’s 1949 comedy was shot almost entirely on location in the Outer Hebrides, where Barra stood in for the fictional islands of Great Todday and Little Todday, Gillies MacKinnon’s version makes use of outstanding locations throughout Scotland, from the Borders up to Aberdeenshire, from Ayrshire to Glasgow and across to the East Neuk of Fife.  Working closely with Whisky Galore’s distributors, Arrow Films, the national tourism organisation’s map shines a spotlight on the principal filming locations, including the Aberdeenshire villages of Portsoy and Pennan, St Abb’s Head in the Scottish Borders and the Central Bar in Glasgow.  Based on the real-life sinking of the SS Politician off the coast of Eriskay in 1941, and the subsequent seizing of thousands of bottles of whisky by locals, Whisky Galore! is a celebration of a nation’s love for the "Water of Life". Gregor Fisher, who plays postmaster Macroon, said: "I’ve been in this business for 40 years and I can honestly say this was one of the nicest, if not the nicest, job I’ve ever had. There were no negatives about it. On a seven-and-a-half-week shoot in Portsoy, it rained for half a day – max, and even then it was very light drizzle. Normally when you take over a town, which we more or less did at Portsoy, there’s a bit of agro because you’re closing roads and so on, but there was none of that. We were welcomed with open arms to the point that when I expressed an interest in buying some lobster, four lobsters were delivered to my door the next day, free of charge. I couldn’t believe it. Half the community is in the film. It was a joy."  Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: "Scotland is widely recognised as an excellent location for film and TV productions. Whisky Galore! has been added to the growing list of films shot here. This map allows visitors from home and abroad to walk in the footsteps of the actors and actresses that appeared in the film, and they can also enjoy the spectacular scenery that Scotland has to offer."  Jenni Steele, Film and Creative Industries Manager at VisitScotland, said: "Since the novel by Compton Mackenzie was published back in 1947, Whisky Galore has been raising laughs for 70 years. Celebrating not only this nation’s love for the Water of Life but also demonstrating the warmth, humour and spirit of our people, this new film shows off Scotland at its dazzling best. Our handy map will allow visitors to explore the Whisky Galore! locations and enjoy a set-jetting holiday around Scotland."

Club Marks Day Burns First Journeyed South of the Border
More than 50 members of Coldstream Burns Club followed in the footsteps of poet Robert Burns by heading to the town’s Tweed Bridge in commemoration of the Bard of Ayrshire’s first step onto English soil in 1787.  The annual ceremony by the club, formed in 1888, was attended by representatives from nearby towns including James Hastie, of Kelso Burns Club, principal guest for the day.  Also in attendance was this year’s Coldstreamer, Andrew Guthrie, along with his right and left-hand men, Stefan Home and Jamie Nicholson. A plaque installed at the bridge by the club back in 1926 is a reminder of Burns’ visit to the town in the May of that year, when he walked over the bridge with his good friend Robert Ainslie, from Duns. As they did so, Burns, born in Alloway in 1759, recited the last stanza from his poem The Cotter’s Saturday Night.  Pipers Rob Bell and Keith Guthrie led the procession from the High Street’s Royal British Legion Club to the bridge.  Club chairman David Douglas then re-enacted part of Burns’ visit to Coldstream 230 years ago to the day by dropping down onto one knee.  Wreaths were placed next to the plaque before the procession retired to the Craw Green, where James Hastie delivered a speech before standard bearer Kenny Brodie lowered his flag. Performances were then given by Rob Bell, Bobby Hanlon, Ian Buick, Davey Scott and James Bell.  John Elliott, the Coldstream club’s secretary, said: “The day was one of our most successful, with principal guest James Hastie delivering an excellent and well-crafted toast to the memory of the Bard and Isa Hanley following this with a complimentary toast to Coldstream Burns Club, which was extremely well received. On returning to the legion club after the ceremony, the impromptu entertainment was high in quality, which is not unusual considering the talent which exists within our own club, complemented by that of the visitors who contributed.”

Boy's Story Helps Raise Thousands for Charity

A lybster mother whose young son has a heart defect condition has given a vote of thanks to the people who backed her drive to raise thousands of pounds for a charity.  Two years ago, Scott Norris was airlifted from Caithness General Hospital in Wick to Glasgow Children’s Hospital after he fell seriously ill soon after birth.  Thanks to the quick actions of midwives at the hospital and medical staff in Glasgow, Scott is still here today.  His mother Rena Polson wanted to raise money for the British Heart Foundation and organised a thrift shop in her home village which raised the bumper sum of £4780.76.  Rena with her partner Graham Norris, Scott and his eight-year-old sister Erin travelled to the University of Glasgow Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences to present the money to the charity.  The money will be used to carry out research into children’s heart problems.  The thrift shop was held in the village’s Free Church Hall and Miss Polson was amazed by the number of people who turned up.  She said “Individuals came from as far afield as Bettyhill, Brora, Golspie, Melvich and even Inverness to support us.  It was an event that was held with help from members of the family and volunteers from the community.  It just started off as a baking stall and pieces of bric and brac but people were very generous with donations.  There was a lot of support from people in Lybster and it shows what a great community it is.  Those involved in the charity in Glasgow were overwhelmed by how much money a small community could raise.” Businesses in Caithness were also touched by Scott’s story and made donations.  Scott has a rare heart defect which was shown up on a scan at Caithness General.  After having surgery when he was 10 days old and three months old and a six-month stay in the Glasgow hospital, he is now doing well.  Miss Polson said the quick thinking of staff at Caithness General to identify the problem is the reason Scott is still here today.  She said: “At just one week old, we took him into the hospital and their quick thinking and professionalism helped identify there was a problem.  The midwives realised the seriousness of the situation and got him flown straight to Glasgow Children’s Hospital.  As they were about to airlift him from Wick, the staff insisted I gave him a cuddle.  It was like I was saying goodbye to him.  The midwives at Caithness General saved Scott’s life and I will always be grateful to them.” Miss Polson said Scott will still require surgery for his heart condition over the next two years before he starts school but is able to live a normal life. “He’s got further operations to go but he is a strong-willed little boy,” she said. “He is living life to the full.”

SNP Call on Tories to Suspend MP Who Told Schoolgirl to 'F*** Off Back to Scotland'

The SNP has called on the Conservatives to suspend an MP who told a schoolgirl to "f*** off back to Scotland" after she said she backs independence.  James Heappey is seeking re-election in Wells, Somerset, and made the remark at Millfield School in his constituency. He asked sixth-form pupils at the £12,000-a-year private school their opinion on independence.  When one Scottish student told him she supports independence, he told her to "f*** off back to Scotland".  She complained to her father and the school sent a letter of apology to the family.  Heappey said the comment was a "joke" and he has written to the pupil to apologise for causing any offence, but the SNP wants him to be suspended from standing in the General Election.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Sky News: "I think it's appalling behaviour for any adult to show to any young person, but particularly somebody who has been an MP and is standing for election again.  I think the Tories really have some big questions to answer about the conduct of the some of their candidates and elected representatives."  SNP candidate for Glasgow North West Carol Monaghan, said: "For a candidate to make this kind of remark, especially to a schoolgirl, is absolutely disgraceful and the Tories should suspend Mr Heappey as a candidate.  Mr Heappey's protests about it being a joke just don't cut it. This sort of offensive and abusive language has no place in our politics."  Heappey said in a statement: "I made a comment - intended only as a joke - but it was inappropriate and I am deeply sorry for any offence caused.  I wrote to the pupil soon after the school brought her concerns to my attention and apologised unreservedly."

Stunning Scenery Praise for Inverness Music Festival
Inverness music festival Groove Loch Ness has been named as one of the most scenic events of its kind in the UK.  It has been named it among a list of eight “stunning and scenic” festivals.  “The banks of Loch Ness in Scotland take some beating as far as epic scenery goes, especially with an event like this going on amongst them,” they said.  The one-day festival by Dores, which returns for a third time this August, brings together world class DJs and electronic arrists to perform for a crowd of around 5000 revellers.  It has been billed as “Scotland’s nightclub under the stars” and this year’s headliners will be chart topping act Faithelsss.  Last year’s festival was a tribute to Inverness J Ross Lyall who had type one diabetes and died just months before the event took place.  Event organiser Dougie Brown previously described the atmosphere at the festival as “just incredible”.

Doctor is Praised As Fall Woman is Saved
A female climber was plucked to safety by a rescue helicopter after plunging more than 100 feet off a mountain in Glen Affric.  The woman, who has not been named, was climbing with her husband on the spectacular 3615ft high Munro Mullach Fraoch-Choire when she fell over a sheer cliff edge on Thursday.  Fortunately, the fall was witnessed by an off-duty doctor who managed to reach the woman and her husband, who had climbed down to help his wife, and administer first aid.  The emergency services were alerted and the Stornoway Coastguard R948, which was on exercise locally, made its way to the accident scene which is in wild country between Cannich and Kintail.  The coastguard arrived on the scene only 11 minutes after the 3.11pm call out and winchman Norman MacLeod was lowered down the dangerous cliff edge by winch operator Dylan Burns to airlift the woman to safety. Speaking of the doctor and woman’s husband, Mr MacLeod said: “They are both unsung heroes and had done a wonderful job to help make her comfortable at great risk to themselves as they were perched on a precarious 400ft drop and in danger of falling further.  We understand she is on the road to recovery which is great news for us to hear.”  After rescuing the woman Captain Peter Richardson and co-pilot Marc Grant flew her to the Belford Hospital in Fort William.

International Acclaim for Inverness College University of the Highlands and Islands Art Student
An Inverness College UHI art student has snapped her way to victory in an internationally renowned photographic competition.  HND Contemporary Art Practice student Evija Laivina was one of five student photographers from around the world to be recognised in the Lens Culture Portrait Awards, which celebrate the pinnacle of professional photography. Ms Laivina, who has studied at the college since 2014, submitted a series of quirky images titled Beauty Warriors, depicting the alternative side of female beauty preparations and treatments as part of her course work. The young artist experimented with painting, drawing and sculpture before returning to her first love of photography, and likes to blend humour and surrealism to produce witty and thought-provoking photographs. “To create my portraits, I purchased many bizarre beauty aids from the internet to be used by the models, before preparing different backdrops and setting up a series of studio sessions,” she said. The portraits were judged by a panel of industry experts including Susan White, photography director for Vanity Fair magazine and Phillip Prodger, head of photography at the National Portrait Gallery.  The college’s Contemporary Art Practice course supports students to explore their ideas through different medium, from sculpture, painting, drawing, photography and digital media.

This Year’s Chieftain of the Highland Games is Revealed!
A well known Emmerdale actress, who plays Harriet Finch, has been announced as the Chieftain of Bearsden and Milngavie Highland Games.  Katherine Dow Blyton also appeared in Emmerdale as an unnamed doctor who treated Roy Glover after he severed his fingers. And between 2001 and 2005, Blyton appeared as Sally Hunter in Hollyoaks and in 1996 she played a nurse in Brassed Off. She has also had minor roles in Coronation Street, The Royal and Where the Heart Is.  All profits raised from the Games will go to local charity Funding Neuro, which was set up by Bearsden man Bryn Williams after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2007 aged just 36.  The charity raises funds for research into Parkinson’s Disease and other brain related disorders such as tumours.  Katherine said: “I’m thrilled to be Chieftain and to be supporting the amazing Funding Neuro charity this year, it is an absolute honour.”  The Games on Saturday, June 10 will take place at West of Scotland FC in Milngavie and will be the official first event of Milngavie Week 2017.  To add to this Emmerdale’s Chris Chittell has agreed to an annual ambassadorial role as ‘High Protector of the Spirit of the Games.’  This role will include spreading news of the unique Highland Games throughout the UK and beyond in an attempt to entice more tourists, visitors and locals year on year.  Organiser and chairman of the event, Alan Oliver, said: “As always we will have all the traditional Highland Games events such as wrestling, pipe bands, heavies, arm wrestling and Scottish dancing.  On top of that we have the Haggis Hurling World Championship, Jellympic Games, Water Wars, fairground rides, live shows and attractions, on-site catering and beverages, as well as exhibitors, trade stalls, and various displays.” There will also be a covered Family Football Fan Zone to watch the Scotland v England Match at 5pm, immediately after the Games.  Alan added: “I believe 2017 is shaping up to one of the biggest and most exciting Highland Games ever.”

Trade Office Opened in China to Improve Business Links
Scottish Chambers of Commerce has opened an international trade office in China to capitalise on opportunities for Scottish businesses.  The official opening in the city of Yantai took place during a visit by a delegation from chambers around Scotland which aimed to explore new trading opportunities and links with business, education and government organisations.  The ceremony was hosted by vice-mayor Madame Zhang Bo, together with senior officials from Yantai municipal government.  Both parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding for trade engagement and partnership, which aims to create an effective channel for exchange of business between Scotland and Yantai.  Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) president Tim Allan, who led the Scottish delegation, said: "The Chinese economy continues to grow at a faster pace than western economies and the rate of growth within new cities such as Yantai and Jinan opens up the potential for Scottish businesses to promote and sell goods and services which Chinese businesses and consumers want and need.  That demand, together with a more recent policy of 'opening up' to new trading partners and overseas alliances by the Chinese, presents a myriad of opportunities for Scottish businesses to capitalise on.  Yantai is a city of seven million and SCC's base in Yantai will enable us to plan a comprehensive approach to exploiting the many opportunities in Yantai and further afield."  The Scottish delegation also comprised SCC chief executive Liz Cameron as well as presidents and chief executives from Aberdeen, Ayrshire, Dundee and Angus, Glasgow, Edinburgh and West Lothian, and senior business chiefs.  During the visit, SCC said it held a series of "productive meetings" with senior business people, politicians and local government officials, as well as national think tank bodies in Beijing, Yantai and Jinan in the Shandong province.  SCC said Shandong represents the third largest economy in China with a population of more than 97 million and a GDP in excess of 6.3 trillion yuan (£0.7 trillion).  Key sectors to meet economic needs in the Chinese target cities include electronic information, robotics and artificial intelligence, pharmaceutical, bioscience, manufacturing, engineering and smart technologies.  Ms Cameron said: "This exploratory visit is part of the new partnership which was formed between Scottish business, through our extensive chamber network, and the Scottish Government to utilise the worldwide connectivity of the business community.  We now have a deeper understanding of how we can achieve the best exchange for business, where the opportunities exist for Scottish organisations and how we can best pursue these."

Obesity Blamed for 5,000 Bowel Cancer Cases Over 10 Years
Almost 5,000 bowel cancer cases have been caused by obesity over the last decade in Scotland, according to research.  Cancer Research UK described the findings as a "huge worry" and called for action to promote healthier lifestyles along with restrictions on offers for unhealthy foods.  There are around 3,800 cases of bowel cancer diagnosed in Scotland each year and around 1,600 people die from the disease annually.  Obesity is linked to 13 types of cancer and Cancer Research UK said resistance to insulin, a hormone important in the breakdown of food, is one likely explanation. Scientists have found high levels of insulin in the body causes cells to divide more rapidly, raising the likelihood of the cells changing and leading to cancer.  Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK's cancer prevention expert based at the University of Stirling, said: "It is a huge worry to see so many bowel cancer cases being caused by excess weight, and to see that proportion rising as more of the population becomes overweight or obese.  Being overweight or obese is linked to 13 types of cancer, including bowel cancer which is the third most common form of the disease in Scotland. It is also now more common for adults in Scotland to be overweight or obese than a healthy weight.  In the face of this, the Scottish Government has a responsibility to take action and introduce an obesity strategy which will help everyone to make healthy choices. Shoppers are bombarded with multi-buy offers every time they set foot in a supermarket. Unfortunately, instead of encouraging us to fill our trolleys with food that's good for us, these 'deals' persuade us to stock up on foods that pile on the pounds.  Cancer Research UK believes restricting these multi-buy offers on unhealthy foods and drinks would go a long way to improving the health of the nation. The Scottish Government can and must do more and its forthcoming strategy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to introduce measures that will have a profound impact on our lives."

Loganair Unveils Barra Boost
Scotland’s Airline Loganair is operating another eight services between Barra and Glasgow this summer, in addition to the 17 extra rotations it announced in January.  The schedule will be enhanced during May and June, following a surge of bookings for the unique route. The regional carrier has seen a 38% growth in reservations to Barra during the peak June – August holiday season compared to the same period in 2016. It is also reporting a 13% increase of booking to Stornoway and Benbecula, while there is a 26% rise in tickets purchased from the Western Isles to Glasgow.  The famous service – flown by Loganair operating Transport Scotland’s Twin Otter DHC6-400 aircraft – lands at Barra’s beach airport, where flight times are subject to the tides.  It’s a hugely popular journey for holidaymakers, aviation enthusiasts and locals alike, and the extra flights will help to meet high demand during the holiday season.  With the cost of international travel increasing due to currency changes after the Brexit vote and safety concerns in previously popular sun-spots, Loganair believes Western Isles tourism is heading for a strong year.  A direct link between Manchester and Stornoway on a one-stop same-plane service has also been popular, as travellers opt for a journey time which can be as short as three hours.  Jonathan Hinkles, Loganair’s managing director said: “Summer is a busy period for any transport provider but this year is exceeding our earlier expectations and our partnership with Transport Scotland means we are able to proactively increase capacity in line with customer demand.  People are opting to stay closer to home and our bookings reflect that. Barra and the Western Isles have a tremendous amount to offer, and it’s pleasing to see so many travellers planning their holidays around a trip to the islands.  “We’ve made more seats available at our lowest fares than ever before. It’s clear that our increased schedule is also proving popular in an environment where customers are looking for – and clearly finding - holiday options closer to home. Early signs from bookings via our new reservations system at for travel from 1 September suggest this will continue well into the autumn.”

Court Overturns Block on Forth and Tay Offshore Wind Farms

Four giant offshore wind farms are set to be built off Scotland’s east coast after ministers won a legal bid to overturn a previous judgement blocking the schemes.  Scotland’s most senior judge has reversed a decision to halt the developments in the Forth and Tay, which could power 1.4 million homes and create thousands of jobs.  Scottish ministers granted planning consent for the Inch Cape, Neart na Gaoithe and Seagreen Alpha and Bravo projects in 2014.  But RSPB Scotland challenged the decision over fears that the 335 turbines could kill thousands of protected seabirds, including puffins, kittiwakes and gannets.  The conservation charity claimed the Scottish government had acted unlawfully when considering the applications.  The Outer House of the Court of Session upheld the complaint in a ruling by Lord Stewart last summer.  He said ministers had breached legal requirements to give proper consideration to the areas being a haven for rare wildlife.  He also found the government had erred during environmental assessments and acted unlawfully by considering “unconsulted information” when making the decisions.  The Scottish government had previously estimated the proposed wind farms could generate between £314 million and £1.2 billion for the Scottish economy.  The Holyrood administration also estimated the developments could create between 2,567 and 13,612 jobs in Scotland during the building period.  But Lord Carloway, the Lord President, has now dismissed the judgement, saying his colleague had interpreted the law incorrectly and the Scottish Government had acted properly.  Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, expressed dismay at the outcome of proceedings and said his team would need time to consider the findings before deciding on any future course of action.  The judgement has been welcomed by the wind farm developers.  It’s thought construction will soon begin on the £2 billion 450MW Neart Na Gaoithe scheme in the outer Forth estuary, which is fully funded and already has a power contract in place. Developer Mainstream Renewable Power said the 64-turbine wind farm would help Scotland and the UK meet climate and energy targets, as well as creating more than 500 jobs during construction and more than 100 when it is powered up.  RSPB Scotland has three weeks to decide whether to appeal against the ruling.

TV Baking Show Savours Delights of Kitchens Across the Highlands and Islands
A home baking show set in the Highlands and islands returns for a fifth series this week with visits to kitchens from the Black Isle to the Hebrides.  Fuine (Cooking) returns to BBC ALBA for an eight-part series on Wednesday evenings from 8.30pm.  Presenter and keen cook Mairi MacRitchie travels the region meeting the nation’s most skilled home bakers. Throughout the series, the bakers share with Mairi their favourite and most treasured recipes, from sponges and breads to pies and puddings. The cooks offer advice and tips on how to perfect each recipe as they guide Mairi through a selection of tasty offerings.  Mairi also meets bakers who are experimenting in the kitchen with unusual flavour combinations or a modern take on a traditional classic, including in Stornoway, Donna MacIver’s delicate little cupcakes with a gin and tonic twist. From her kitchen in Uist, Mairi uses her own recipes that will impress any guest including a striking walnut cake with a white American frosting and a meringue roulade with a crunchy almond crust filled with fresh raspberries

Dingwall 'Fighting Mac' Monument Campaign Boost As MSPs Give Backing

Dingwall Community Council says it has “hit a brick wall” over its aspirations to see the 100ft Hector Macdonald monument re-opened to the public, paving the way for a viewpoint attraction that would boost the town’s pulling power on the hugely successful North Coast 500 road trip. While a similar venture at Inverness Castle – the starting point of the NC500 – secured substantial public cash and the support of Highland Council, the local authority has poured cold water on the aspirations for Dingwall, citing health and safety concerns.  It has refused the community council access to the “Fighting Mac” tower and dragged its feet over a report into the internal condition of the building.  Now, two MSPs have thrown their weight behind plans to re-establish the monument to the Black Isle-raised military hero. And who said that it would require a lot of hard work and funding, but it is certainly not an insurmountable challenge if the people of Dingwall work together to make it happen. And now I want to see us turn the Hector Macdonald monument into the visitor attraction that it should be, so that visitors and residents alike can be proud of the Gaelic-speaking, Black Isle crofter who joined the Gordon Highlanders in 1870 and rose through the ranks of the British Army.”  Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant said she understands the frustration of the community council over the Hector Macdonald Monument, “an asset which is not being utilised”.  The 100ft tower on Mitchell Hill can be seen from across the town and has since its erection in 1907 become a landmark symbol of Dingwall.

Brexit Heralds Shake-up of Supply Chains for UK Firms

Just under one in three British businesses that use European Union suppliers are looking for UK replacements as they move through the Brexit trade talks, a new survey says.  UK businesses also view Britain’s “weak negotiating position” as the biggest obstacle in the talks, said the report from the influential Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (Cips). The survey says that 46 % of European businesses expect to reduce their use of UK suppliers as a result of the UK quitting the single market, while 36% of UK businesses say they plan to respond by “beating down supplier prices”.  Cips chief executive Gerry Walsh said: “Diplomats either side of the table have barely decided on their negotiating principles and already supply chain managers are deep into their preparations for Brexit.  Both European and British businesses will be ready to reroute their supply chains in 2019 if trade negotiations fail and are not wasting time to see what happens.  Fluctuations in the exchange rate or the introductions of new tariffs can dramatically change where British companies do business. The separation of the UK from Europe is already well underway even before formal negotiations have begun.”  The survey of 2,111 supply chain managers found that 32% of UK businesses working with suppliers on the Continent are actively looking for alternative suppliers based on this side of the Channel as an initial response to the referendum.  It added that, with exit negotiations in their early stages, “the most pressing supply chain challenge” for UK businesses has been identified as currency fluctuation.  Almost two-thirds (65%) of UK businesses said they had seen their supply chains become more expensive as a result of the slump in the value of sterling since the referendum vote last June. Nearly a third (29%) had renegotiated some supply contracts as a result, the Cips report said.  Walsh added: “We have already seen high-profile disputes between British retailers and their suppliers as a result of currency fluctuations. We now know that this pattern is being replicated across the UK and is likely to escalate. The re shoring of British supply chains in advance of Brexit could provide an excellent opportunity for small businesses looking to win new contracts, but it also comes with significant challenges.”

Scotland 'Leading the Way with Progressive Policies'
A decade on from the nationalists first coming to power in Edinburgh, the First Minister claimed the country had " come a long way".  She hailed it as a "special day" for her party, as she marked the 10th anniversary of her predecessor Alex Salmond becoming first minister on May 16 2007  "Over the past 10 years we have worked every day to make Scotland a better country," she stated.  "And we have made real progress to be proud of."  Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said the SNP's 10th anniversary in power marked a "missed opportunity", as she insisted ministers could have achieved much more " if they hadn't spent so much time trying to rip Scotland out of the UK".  I think people, if they stop and think about a Scottish Government that's got more powers than any previous Scottish Government, that's got a bigger budget than any previous Scottish Government, what they could have done in 10 years if they hadn't spent so much time trying to rip Scotland out of the UK and continuing to do so.  There will be people in Scotland thinking it is a real missed opportunity." However, Ms Sturgeon insisted: "The SNP has only reached the milestone of 10 years in government because we have worked hard - each and every day - to repay the trust of the people of Scotland and deliver on their priorities."  Speaking to activists in South Queensferry, outside Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said: " I know we are not perfect. We haven't got everything right and there is much more work still to do.  Work to grow our economy, get more people into employment and drive up standards in our schools even further.  But we can be proud in Scotland that when it comes to progressive policies, we are leading the UK.  Labour launched its own manifesto this morning, and many of the policies in Labour's manifesto will seem very familiar."  Ms Sturgeon claimed Labour's manifesto "directly lifts policies that the SNP is already delivering" including free university tuition, ending hospital parking charges, and the abolition of the so-called Bedroom Tax. Meanwhile, she said the Tories " who for years have mounted ideological attacks on policies as diverse as free prescriptions and council house building have now - albeit belatedly and with little credibility - decided that they are both a good thing".  The SNP leader said: " They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But in this case the imitation shown by both Labour and the Tories is anything but sincere.  The fact is that they have had the chance to back the SNP's progressive policies - but instead they opposed them tooth and nail."  With the General Election approaching, Ms Sturgeon warned the UK is facing " the prospect of another Tory government, imposing more cuts, attacking the vulnerable, putting pensions at risk and imposing an extreme Brexit deal that will put jobs at risk".  In such circumstances, she argued it "is more important then ever that we have strong voices at Westminster standing up for Scotland".  Ms Sturgeon said: " Scotland has come a long way over the last 10 years - but the next few years will be hugely important in determining the kind of country we become.  In the face of an uncertain world and an increasingly right-wing Tory Government, now more than ever it is vital to have the SNP standing up for Scotland."

Scotland’s Unemployment Total Falls by 14,000

Scotland’s jobless total has fallen by 14,000 over three months, with the number of people in work increasing by 5,000 over the same period.  Figures showed that unemployment for the period January to March 2017, including those out of work and not eligible for benefits, dropped to 120,000 - with the total 48,000 lower than it was a year ago.  While the UK unemployment rate reached a 42-year low of 4.6 per cent, in Scotland the jobless rate was even lower at 4.4 per cent.  The figures, from the Office for National Statistics, also revealed that over the first three months of this year the number of Scots in work grew to 2,620,000 - up 41,000 from the first quarter of 2016.  The figures showed the number of Scots who are out of work and claiming jobseeker’s allowance increased by 200 in April to stand at 48,200 - 9,400 lower than the same month in 2016.  Economy Secretary Keith Brown said: “Today’s statistics show that Scotland’s labour market continues to perform well in the face of significant economic challenges. Unemployment is down, employment is up and Scotland’s youth unemployment rate is the fourth lowest in the EU. This is welcome news.”