Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 408

Issue # 408                                             Week ending Saturday 8th July 2017

She Was Such A Cow But She Was Very Good to us by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Some things just make your blood boil. Take those places you can go in Glasgow and London where you can take out a cuppa and a tasty sausage roll - if you are not counting the calories. They are really good but Greggs have stopped making another of my off-diet favourites. That’s the Scotch Pie with an Italian twist that is torta scozzese - in other words, macaroni in a Scotch Pie shell. It was yum. Now they there is not enough demand. Listen, I will send you an email with a million demands on it, if that would help. No, I thought not.

It was like a local company - wherever they happened to be. Greggs is different now. Some of their workers in England have been in the news again because they have started refusing to take Scottish banknotes. You do not have to be an indyref2 fanatic to be miffed. That is a policy born of ignorance and the English would be well advised to stop those Scottish banknote refusals right now before we make Scotland great again by building a wall to keep them out of Alba. Sassennachs, huh.

Another thing that makes my blood boil is the news the transfusion service will no longer collect blood donations here in the Western Isles. They say it’s because it cannot always get back to the processing centre within the 22-hour time limit. People like to give blood and they feel they are helping people. However, if it is not safe ... Not that I donate my blood. No, certainly not. I need it all for myself because, you see, I have rare red stuff in my veins.

A blood sample taken in the RAF set alarm bells ringing as the sub-group pp coursing around me was rare. It was common in Scandinavia but there were only 19 of us in the UK. For years, I had my very own private stash of Viking blood stored in nitrogen at Raigmore Hospital. When they were due to transfer it over to the islands after I moved back to Stornoway, they found that the number of pps in the UK had mysteriously shot up. I haven’t been able to convince the Scottish Blood Transfusion Service that I am still a bit rare or even special since then.

Also very special is where myself and some cousins went hiking a week and a half ago. I hadn’t been for decades to the grazings at Valasay, south of Tobson, where our family kept sheep and cows. A place rarely visited except by visitors from other continents who follow the designated tourist walking trail, few locals venture into those historic areas beyond kerb and tarmacadam. It was a yomp of maybe two miles, that felt like 20, across moorland bog and Lewisian rock to reach Caolas Lungam, where mere traces remain of the once-thriving fishing industry.

‘Twas on yon green knoll I learned to milk a cow, to deftly shove the pail out of the way before the, er, splatter of the discharge got near the milk and learned a whole lexicon of ancient words and oaths from my father when he accidentally kicked over the full pail. And that row of decaying sticks with the grass growing through them are what’s left of the village boats - the Mary Ann or the Tern, which lay splendidly, like a reclining pensioner, above the high water mark when I last tugged beautiful Blackie’s teats there. What a cow she was.

There were tears rolling down my cheeks but that was possibly due to the fact that the wind howling across Loch Roag was so strong we could hardly stand up. Or maybe the tears were because I remembered Blackie once took a step back while I was squishing her white stuff into the pail, crunching my toes into the soft grass. Ouch, what a cow. I could dine out on tales of Blackie for many a year.

Not that we do dine out much - we sip out. The Stornoway tea sipping scene is not what it once was. It is difficult to keep up with the changes and how the amount of places where one can take one’s missus are quickly dwindling. I am not asking for a lot. Just some joint where I can take herself now and again, have a yarn and a cup of something hot that doesn’t cost the earth. We used to go to a church hall every few months and have a lovely cup of tea and a nice biscuit. That didn’t cost much and we didn’t mind giving them a couple of pints of blood while we there.

Queensferry Crossing Opening
The New Queensferry Crossing will open to traffic on 30 August and it is hoped that Fife will get a great deal of benefit from the £1.35 billion project.  According to the Fife Council the new bridge will give a boost to both tourism and commerce based in industrial sites. The port of Rosyth is also expected to gain from the new link. A few days after the opening it will be closed to allow 50,000 people to take part in a "once-in-a-lifetime chance" to walk across the bridge before it becomes a motorway with no pedestrian access.  On the opening of the crossing, the Forth will become home to three major bridges from three consecutive centuries.  The railway bridge, which was completed in 1890, remains an iconic structure thanks to its distinctive cantilever style and appealing red anti-rust paint. Network Rail is progressing plans to take visitors onto the bridge for the first time, focusing on delivery of a 'bridge climb' experience in South Queensferry. The aim is to attract 80,000 visitors a year to climb the 127 year old structure. The views from the top will be well worth the climb!

Billy Connolly at 75
Billy Connolly's unique talent has been recognised in three, quite different, ways. Many eyebrows were raised when Buckingham Palace announced that Billy would be dubbed a knight of the realm. Shortly afterwards Sir Billy became Dr Sir Billy when University of Strathclyde gave him an honorary PhD.  But the moist striking award, timed to coincide with his 75th birthday, will be when three murals, commissioned across Glasgow and based on portraits by John Byrne, Rachel Maclean and Jack Vettriano go on display.  In accepting the degree, the comedian turned actor said: "I never wanted to attend university. The only time I was in one was to deliver coal. I'm a little boy who didn't do his homework.  I think if I had got a real degree I would hate me. Sitting there having worked my bum off to see this lout go up and get a degree for nothing." For more on Billy, see the Billy Connolly Web Site.  For more on the artists who are creating the murals see John Byrne Web Site, Rachel McLean Web Site and Jack Vettriano Web Site

The Ups and Downs of Inverness's Gathering Place
A fresh effort is being made to create a piece of public art on the banks of the River Ness in Inverness, near the Eden Court Theatre.  The original idea was for a tilting pier - a kinetic art project which would tilt up and down in a gentle but artistic way at a cost of £300,000. It got the thumbs down from local councillors.  The revived project has kept the same name, the Gathering Place, and it is hoped that artists and the public will collaborate more successfully this time.  The chairman of the Evaluation Panel, Prof Jim Mooney said: "The Gathering Place", as the name suggests is an attempt at place making i.e. creating a new civic space for Inverness. If we get this right, then the Gathering Place has the potential to bring a great variety of people together fostering beneficial social interaction and cohesion."

New Poll Reveals 57 % of UK Adults Oppose Controversial Tory Deal with the DUP

A majority of British voters oppose the DUP deal to prop up the minority Tory Government. An exclusive poll suggests 57 per cent of UK adults disagree with the arrangement, sealed in a controversial £1billion deal. Just 32 % of respondents to the Survation phone poll backed the “confidence and supply” partnership, while 11% weren’t sure.  Theresa May needs the DUP’s 10 MPs to pass key votes including her government’s budget.  Widespread opposition to the deal emerged as Tories were forced to defend the use of public cash for political advantage.  Conservatives spent £20,000 to fly DUP leader Arlene Foster to Belfast on an RAF plane after talks in Downing Street despite a range of available commercial flights being available.  One Tory backbencher, Heidi Allen, has expressed her “distaste” at the use of public money to win political control. But Michael Gove, the UK Environment Secretary, defended the deal yesterday.  Asked if the £1billion was a “bung”, Gove told the BBC’s Marr show: “I think that’s unfair, I think that’s unfair to the people of Northern Ireland and I think it’s also unfair to the way in which during this negotiation decisions were taken in the interests of everyone in the United Kingdom.  Bung is, the implication is... it implies this money is somehow going to the DUP on their own as if it were a partisan deal. It’s not. It’s about strengthening the whole United Kingdom by helping people in one of its most vulnerable areas.”  The SNP said the UK Westminster Government failed Scotland while lavishing cash on Northern Ireland.  SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Scottish Secretary David Mundell should have lobbied the Treasury for extra help. “David Mundell has shown he is not fit for the job of Scottish Secretary and his credibility lies in tatters,” Blackford said.  “Why is it that 10 DUP MPs can extract £1 billion for Northern Ireland but 13 Scottish Tory MPs are unable to extract one single penny for Scotland? This whole episode has exposed Ruth Davidson ’s post-election boasts have been exposed as empty bluster.”

The DUP May Live to Regret Stealing A £1billion March on the Rest of Britain

The Orangemen were in George Square yesterday – Glasgow city centre brought to a halt by
Protestants celebrating a triumph over Catholics.  If you are not from the west of Scotland, the marching season is odd. Like seeing your GP carrying a bloodied saw and a bag of leeches – the past incongruously alive in the present. In the modern world, most people don’t parade religious difference or openly associate with an identity linked to terror and social disorder.  But if you are familiar with this tradition, then it’s a cause for some pride, or irritation.  The problem for the Orange Order is that the political party closest to them, the Democratic Unionist Party, have done a deal with the Conservative Party.  Dictators these days use fake news and social media until bit by bit the lies become the norm This means the strange but discreet habits of the north of Ireland and west-central Scotland are under the spotlight.  It may be a level of scrutiny Protestant activists come to regret.  The DUP emerged from Protestant unionist anger at the Troubles in Northern Ireland.  The political wing arose alongside a militant trend, of people willing to resort to violence in order to the defend their values.  This hardline unionism eventually overtook the more pragmatic politics of the UUP. Northern Ireland is now split between the DUP, the political wing of unionism, and Sinn Fein, the political wing of nationalism. This is a wilfully ignored detail of British politics. Most people, in Ireland and Britain, would rather Northern Ireland was left to the Northern Irish to squabble over.  The mainstream identities of Britain and Ireland do not include the North – a deep irony, given how both sides in Ulster think of themselves as representing a kind of essence of the two nations. It is like a forgotten Jurassic Park, best left to its own devices. What has changed is the DUP-Tory deal. Last week, Labour MP Stella Creasy amended the Queen’s speech to legislate for Northern Irish women to get free abortions on the NHS in England. This is a very significant step. Obviously, it’s a boon to the women of the province, who were paying more than £1000 to have abortions in the UK.  Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland. It is important because the DUP like the fact that abortion is illegal – they made it clear that any deal with the Tories would not alter the law of Northern Ireland. What they didn’t bargain on is that the same deal would bring the peculiar anomalies of legal variance across the UK into focus.  The DUP have won a £1billion bung out of Theresa May to boost spending in the province (already the most heavily subsidised part of the UK).  They can’t have bargained on a moral defeat at the same time but that is what has happened.  It will not stop there. The Orange Order may think themselves the epitome of Britishness but they are alien to the Britishness of the home counties.  If there were Orange marches in Maidstone and Guildford, you can be pretty sure there would be no DUP-Tory deal now. The question is: Will the marches be next to come under Westminster scrutiny? A vote in Westminster could not stop marching in Northern Ireland or Scotland. Different legal systems and different police jurisdictions make it impossible for someone like Creasy to ban the marches. However, the right to march could be taken to the UK Supreme Court. Certainly, if the DUP-Tory deal is seen to cause Scotland particular grief – and it is already denying Scots any share of the bung that is heading to Belfast – then Holyrood could grow tired of a tradition which is so provocative and offensive to many Scots.  The SNP have been desperate to keep the Barnett formula despite Tory grumblings for reform.  This latest cash splurge may revive those calls for change.  Orange Lodge spokespeople like to say they are expressing an Ulster-Scots identity and it’s no different to any other community celebrating their history. This is clearly not true.  The SNP ditched attending Bannockburn marches, aware it made them look, well, like folk from Northern Ireland. The DUP have made no similar move to modernise. Nor are the Orange marches innocent fun, like celebrating Guy Fawkes’s plot on November 5.  The offence they cause is real and palpable.  Westminster does not have its troubles to seek but MPs across the divide are pretty sure they find the intolerance of Northern Irish politics abhorrent and backward.  The DUP-Tory deal has given them cause to look again at the North.  The DUP may come to regret the attention.

Moray, Ross & Caithness Bishop Mark Strange Make History

A leading Highland religious figure has vowed to continue serving the region after he made history by being elected to a prestigious church post.  The Rt Rev Mark Strange has been appointed as Primus by the Episcopal Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church.  The Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness – who is based at Inverness Cathedral – said he was humbled by the vote of confidence from church members.  It is the first time a Bishop of Moray has held the role in 82 years.  “I am humbled by the confidence shown in me by my colleagues and I will seek to serve the church as Primus with love and strength,” he said. “I am deeply privileged to be the Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness and am very aware that it has been 82 years since a Bishop of Moray became Primus. I pray that I may be worthy of this trust. I will continue to serve in my beloved Highlands while I also step out into new and exciting journeys of faith in both Scotland and the wider international church.” Bishop Mark (56), who will now be referred to as The Most Rev Mark Strange, is the youngest member of the College of Bishops and was consecrated Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness in 2007. Bishop Mark succeeds the Most Rev David Chillingworth. Brought up in Aberdeen, where he was both a choirboy and server at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Bishop Mark studied Divinity at the University of Aberdeen, attended Theological College in Lincoln and has served in the Diocese of Worcester and the Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness.  Bishop Mark was also previously convener of the church’s youth committee and ran summer youth camps at Glenalmond. Bishop Mark takes up this role as a Primate within the Anglican Communion at a point where the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church has voted to permit same sex marriage, a decision which is expected to be on the agenda of the forthcoming Primates Meeting in Canterbury, a meeting which Bishop Mark will attend. Bishop Mark is married to Jane, a teacher in Inverness and they have a son and two daughters.

Three Frigates Worth £3.7bn Secure Shipyard Jobs for Decades
The next generation of shipbuilding jobs in Scotland has been secured with the announcement of a £3.7 billion contract with BAE Systems to build three Type 26 frigates on the Clyde.  Work to begin cutting steel for the vessels will begin next month, with up to 1,700 jobs protected across Scotland and another 1,700 in the UK-wide supply chain until 2035.  Unions welcomed the announcement, which follows months of speculation that the Type 26 programme could be delayed or downgraded due to a lack of funds. However, there was disappointment as the Ministry of Defence confirmed that the contract for another five vessels, worth upwards of £5bn, would not be negotiated until the early 2020s. Defence secretary Michael Fallon said the contract for the Type 26 programme had been designed to prevent cost overruns and delays.  The anti-submarine Type 26 “global combat ship” will be built at BAE’s Govan and Scotstoun shipyards, where the defence giant promised to invest in a “frigate factory” three years ago.  The number of vessels in  the class was subsequently cut from 13 to eight, and unions had raised the alarm over claims the MoD was seeking to shave hundreds of millions of pounds from the contract.  The GMB union said the contract would ensure that shipbuilding skills remain on the Clyde.  “It’s a fantastic announcement,” said Ross Murdoch, GMB national officer and acting chair of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions.  “This will be a great boost for apprentices as well, not just securing existing jobs. There will be a lot of young people in the west of Scotland who can now get highly skilled jobs and guaranteed work for a generation.” Investment in shipbuilding on the Clyde became a key battleground in the 2014 independence referendum, with the Scottish Government accusing UK Government ministers of failing to deliver on promises made ahead of the vote. Last year the MoD announced that two more offshore patrol vessels would be built on the Clyde to act as a stop-gap until work on the Type 26 begins, amid fears jobs and skills could be lost.

Initiative to Help Lonely People in Inverness Wins Three Years' Worth of Funding

A project which aims to help people who are feeling locked out of society and isolated in their communities has secured money to continue its work for at least another three years in one of the city’s poorest areas.  The Reach Out Merkinch project run by the Merkinch Partnership has received just under £150,000 from the Big Lottery Fund.  Project manager Anne Sutherland said the cash would be used to provide a programme of activities aimed at bringing people together in ways that will help to tackle loneliness, giving a boost to their physical and mental wellbeing.  The Partnership, which is based at the recently refurbished Merkinch Welfare Hall, previously backed a newspaper’s own Reach Out campaign, run in conjunction with NHS Highland. Ms Sutherland said: “Loneliness was definitely something we recognised as a major problem for a lot of local residents, whether that was because of ill health not allowing them to get out and about as much, or just lack of funds. The statistics are fairly stark in terms of the impact loneliness can have – there is one finding that the impact on people’s health can be as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day – so it’s certainly not the sort of thing you want to ignore.”  Starting as a pilot project last year, Ms Sutherland said the idea was to concentrate on “simple things” like getting people to go for a walk together or meet for a chat over coffee. It has now grown into a regular activities group with arts and crafts high on the agenda as well as regular organised visits to places of interest. “It’s good for people to learn new skills and just have a go at different things,” Ms Sutherland said. “Finding out you’re good at things you’ve never tried before can be a real boost, as can being able to lend a hand along the way. In terms of the trips, it’s just good for people to get out and about now and then and see different things. We also incorporate a bit of a walk into visits so there’s some very gentle physical exercise as well.”  Trips so far, all provided free of charge, have seen project participants visit Culloden and Skye and this week they were at the Falls of Shin and Dunrobin Castle.”

Secrets of Scotland’s “Second Iona” to Be Unearthed
Archaeologists are to return to Lismore to work on a major seat of religious power with experts believing the tiny island was as historically important as the isle of Iona. The island, in Loch Linnhe, Argyll, was a centre of ritual and power for more than 1,000 years but few records of its important role survives.  The island was home to a medieval cathedral, home of the Bishops of Argyll, which was built by Clan MacDougall in the 12th Century.  It was also important centre for early Christianity with St Moluag settling on the island, a sacred place of the Picts, in the 6th Century.  He founded a large religious community on Lismore and created 100 monasteries across Scotland as part of the first wave of Christian evangelists. While a contemporary of St Columba, widely regarded as the man who spread Christianity across Scotland from his abbey on Iona, the importance of St Moluag remains relatively unknown, said Dr Clare Ellis, of Argyll Archaeology, who is leading the dig later this month. Dr Ellis said: “I do an huge amount of work on Iona which as got this documented history and that modern fascination. I think in some ways Lismore, when you go there, is just as atmospheric and, as you can with Iona, you can really sense the history. In terms of the development of Christianity it is as just as important. Lismore is really on a parallel with Iona but it is just an unknown story. There has not been the same level of documentation or excavation carried out there.”  St Moluag is said to have staked his claim to Lismore by cutting off his finger and throwing it onto the island as he raced St Columba to the shore in a boat. Despite its apparently remote location, Lismore - which today has a population of around 200 - was thought of as accessible at a time when most travel was conducted by boat. Dr Ellis, who is working with Dr Robert Hay, archivist at Lismore Heritage Centre on the project, said it was ultimately hoped to uncover the remains of St Moluag’s monastery. First, the project will focus on the remains of the medieval cathedral, considered to be one of the most important buildings of the era in the Western Isles but also one of the most poorly preserved. Several medieval features have survived although it is believed the nave and tower have been ruinous from the 16th century onwards with the site now neglected. Eighty skulls were found on a dig at the cathedral site in the 1950s with samples now being examined to determine the age of the remains.  Tests will be carried out on mortar used in the cathedral’s construction to give an accurate reading of when it was built. It is hoped to expose and preserve the cathedral remains, open them up to the public and create an outline of the entire building to highlight the historical significance of the site.  The parish church of Lismore now stands on the cathedral site with the building still known as the Cathedral of St Moluag.

Queen Welcomed to Edinburgh for Traditional Ceremony of the Keys
The Queen has taken part in an ancient ceremony to formally welcome her to Edinburgh as Holyrood week gets under way.  The annual Ceremony of the Keys saw the monarch handed the keys of the city and welcomed to ''your ancient and hereditary kingdom of Scotland'' by Edinburgh Lord Provost Frank Ross.  She is symbolically offered the keys to the city by the Lord Provost and t radition dictates that the Queen then returns them, entrusting their safekeeping to Edinburgh's elected officials.  As part of the ceremony, she also inspected a guard of honour at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, formed by Balaklava Company, The Argyll and Sunderland Highlanders, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, with music by the Band of The Royal Regiment of Scotland. The ceremony on the palace forecourt marks the traditional start to the monarch's stay at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Scotland.  Holyrood week includes an investiture and garden party at the palace, while the Queen will also meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Palace of Holyroodhouse on Wednesday to "honour her importance to Canada's history".

North Sea Development to Support 1,500 Jobs

Around 1,500 jobs will be supported by the next phase of a major North Sea development by oil and gas firm Statoil.  The jobs are related to connection and commissioning activity which begins in early July and will run until the start of production at the Mariner field in the second half of 2018. The short-term roles are predominantly in offshore construction and commissioning personnel and cover a variety of disciplines including engineering, electrical, rigging and pipe-fitting.  In the long-term when production starts, the Norwegian firm, which has a base in Aberdeen, says 700 permanent jobs will be supported both onshore and offshore.  The installation of the platform's topside will happen in early July, when modules weighing a total of 38,000 tonnes will be lifted on to its base. Hedda Felin, managing director Statoil Production (UK), said: "The Mariner development will create wider ripple effects in the supply chain for the next 30 years.  We are privileged to be able to contribute towards job creation and the longevity of the UKCS (UK Continental Shelf). Mariner demonstrates that this industry has a positive and exciting future ahead."  Mariner is located approximately 95 miles east of the Shetland Isles. It has reserves estimated at more than 250 million barrels of oil with an average plateau production of around 55,000 barrels per day.

MoD Urged to Reconsider Plans to Close Military Sites Across Scotland
Veterans Minister Keith Brown has urged the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to reconsider planned site closures in Scotland after a meeting with UK Westminster Government counterparts in London.  It was announced last year that eight military sites in Scotland - including Fort George near Inverness, the Glencorse Barracks near Penicuik, Midlothian, and the Redford Cavalry and Infantry Barracks in Edinburgh - are among more than 56 sites to be closed across the UK over the next 15 years.  The Caledonia Naval base in Rosyth, Fife, Condor Airfield near Arbroath, Angus, Craigiehall Barracks in Edinburgh and Forthside Barracks in Stirling are also affected. Mr Brown, who served in the Armed Forces, met UK Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood on Monday to discuss the impact of the planned closures. Mr Brown said: "I've repeatedly expressed my deep concerns about the UK Westminster Government's brutal cuts to defence bases in Scotland, as well as the total lack of engagement with the Scottish Government ahead of decisions being taken. These were the largest set of defence cuts made in Scotland and they will have a major impact on communities across the country.  It is clear from my discussions with Tobias Ellwood today that nearly eight months on from those closures being announced, the Ministry of Defence still has no answers on what this means for personnel numbers, where units will go, or the economic impact of their proposals in Scotland.  The rationale for these closures is very questionable and I urge the MoD to reconsider."  In April, the Scottish Parliament passed a motion calling on the UK Westminster Government to engage more fully with the Scottish Government, local authorities and communities before any cuts. Mr Brown said: "The Scottish Government believes it is utterly wrong to slash personnel and conventional defence capabilities, while investing billions to retain nuclear weapons.  I remind the UK Westminster Government of promises they made to reverse the decline in Scotland's defence footprint and increase regular personnel numbers in Scotland to 12,500 by 2020. I want to see this promise for Scotland honoured - it is disappointing that I've heard little evidence today that there is a concrete plan in place to achieve it."

The Nuffield Trust Report on Scotland’s NHS

The Nuffield Trust, a charity that produces research on how to improve healthcare, has published a new report on Scotland’s NHS.  ‘Learning from Scotland’s NHS’ sets out the lessons that the NHS in other parts of the UK can learn from Scotland. This is what the lead author of the report had to say this morning. The quality of care is being improved by supporting dedicated NHS staff. “Scotland has a unique system of improving the quality of care. Focussing on engaging the altruistic professional motivations of frontline staff to do better, and building their skills to improve.” Scotland’s smaller size as a country supports a more personalised, less formal approach than in England. The focus on continuous improvement allows best practice to be rolled out across the health service in Scotland. The Scottish NHS has also benefited from a continuous focus on quality improvement over many years.  It uses a consistent, coherent method where better ways of working are tested on a small scale, quickly changed, and then rolled out. Unlike in the rest of the UK, this is overseen by a single organisation that both monitors the quality of care and also helps staff to improve it. There is much for the other countries of the UK to learn from this.”  Scotland’s approach to healthcare in remote and rural communities, and to tackling inequalities, is “pioneering”.  Scotland faces particular issues of unequal health outcomes, and very remote areas. There are pioneering initiatives to address these, like the Links worker programme 1 and Early Years Collaborative to support people in very deprived areas, and use of video links for outpatient care on remote islands.  These should be considered in other parts of the UK facing similar issues. Other parts of the UK can learn from Scotlands integration of health and social care.  Scotland has a longer history of drives towards making different parts of the health and social care system work together.  It has used legislation to get these efforts underway while recognising that ultimately local relationships are the deciding factor. There is much for England and Wales to learn from this.

How Scotland Avoided Recession – and What it Means for the SNP
Scotland has managed to avoid recession – in previous years this would not have been either particularly noteworthy nor a cause for celebration.  Today’s announcement, however, that the Scottish economy grew by 0.8 per cent, was greeted with relief in business quarters and the SNP.  The country would have entered recession had today’s figures shown that the country had experienced negative growth (or contraction) for the second successive quarter. Rival politicians seemed geared up to expect that outcome, with furious missives urging Nicola Sturgeon to prioritise growth over her now-delayed plans for a second referendum on independence.Opposition leaders, who have been blaming the First Minister for Scotland ‘standing on the brink of recession’ will now need to re-tool their arguments after the SNP Government oversaw a better growth than the rest of the UK.  With scarcely concealed glee, SNP politicians are now demanding that the Scottish Government is credited for that turnaround.  Good economic data might seem abstract to the average punter, especially someone struggling with stagnant wages and high inflation, but they are a huge boon for Governments.  Nicola Sturgeon, who has endured her toughest spell in office since the General Election of last month, will feel more secure when confronted with the charge from Labour and the Conservatives that her party should ‘focus on the day job’.

Thurso Safety Training Firm in Expansion Mode
A far north safety training company is completing its expansion plans on the back of a £60,000 loan secured from HSBC bank. HelCat, which delivers theoretical and practical health and safety training to businesses throughout the UK, has increased its accommodation at the industrial estate from one to eight rooms.  With both indoor and outdoor facilities, HelCat services range from outdoor forklift and scaffolding training to theory in IT and leadership. Clients range from those who have recently been made unemployed and those who are looking to boost their skills to offshore workers and public sector organisations.  HelCat founder Helen Mackay said: “Our reputation for delivering training has attracted more contracts, and contracts of longer length, from companies based all over the UK.  Our aim was to provide clients with a more comprehensive training offering but to do this we needed to firstly expand our site. The funding package has helped not only to develop our premises but grow our expertise.” Andrew Little, head of HSBC’s business banking in Scotland, said: “We were more than happy to support HelCat’s evolving business needs by funding the development of its training site.” The finance was allocated from the bank’s national £10 billion fund to support small and medium-sized enterprises and is designed to support Scottish firms and rebalance the economy outside of London.

Brexit: Michel Barnier in Fresh Warning Over EU Trade Deal
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator slammed the door shut on hopes the UK could get easy access to the European single market, warning that “frictionless trade” was “not possible”. Michel Barnier said Brexit would be a “lose/lose situation” for both sides and the UK could not avoid “negative” consequences of leaving the EU.  He had a particularly stark warning for livestock farmers, who were told that 100 per cent of live animals and animal products for export would be checked at the EU border after Brexit.  Mr Barnier’s comments will raise the stakes of trade negotiations and attempts to keep the Northern Irish border open, as well as casting doubts on the Brexit policies of the government and opposition.  Prime Minister Theresa May has said she wants trade with the remaining EU to be “as frictionless as possible”, while Brexit Secretary David Davis has suggested a new trade deal will deliver the “exact same benefits” as single  market membership.  Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn revealed he would meet Mr Barnier next week to set out Labour’s position on Brexit in the event of another snap election that puts him into Downing Street.  Mr Corbyn said: “Fundamentally we want to make sure there’s tariff-free trade access to the European market, that’s crucial.” The Scottish Government’s Brexit minister, Michael Russell, said Mr Barnier had “burst the ideological bubble” on post-exit trade.  He added: “I am all for being ambitious in negotiations but it is time for the Tories and Labour to be honest with the public and business about the path they are determined to pursue. These comments from Barnier make abundantly clear that this concept of ‘frictionless’ trade outside of the single market and the customs union is simply a figment of Tory and Labour imaginations.  It is time that the Tories put the economy first, and accepts what the Scottish Government, the business sector and many others have been telling them for the last 12 months – that the only way to receive the benefits of the single market is to remain members of the single market.” Mr Barnier told an EU committee in Brussels that some of those on the British side have still not understood the EU’s position, and said the UK has “more to lose” than the remaining 27 member states. He also said there was “no reasonable justification” for Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal, in a clear rejection of Mrs May’s claim that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.

Foreign Investors Surge Into Scotland
Scotland attracted more foreign investment projects last year than any part of the UK outside London and the southeast, according to official figures. The statistics, released by the UK Westminster government, showed that foreign investment in Scotland rose last year despite uncertainty caused by Brexit and a possible second independence referendum. In 2015-16, there were 108 foreign investment projects north of the border, bringing 4,178 jobs. Last year, in 2016-17, there were 183 such inward investment projects, creating 5,500 new jobs. London secured by far the biggest number of foreign investment projects: 891 and almost 20,000 jobs. The southeast was next with 217 projects and 5,400 jobs, while Scotland was third.

35,000 Music Fans Descend on Glasgow for New TRNSMT Festival

Around 35,000 revellers are thought to have descended on Glasgow Green for Scotland's newest music festival, TRNSMT.  Revellers began pouring through the gates at 2pm to see bands such as London Grammar, Belle and Sebastian and Friday-night headliners Radiohead. The three-day event runs over the same weekend usually taken up by T in the Park, which organiser DF Concerts announced last November would "take a break" in 2017. Geoff Ellis, festival director of TRNSMT, said: "The first day of Scotland's newest music festival has begun, with festival-goers heading into Glasgow Green, excited to kick off this amazing new event.  Friday has been a great success so far, and we have a weekend packed with some of the mightiest names in music, the best street food and drink stalls and an atmosphere unlike anywhere in the world. Glasgow is definitely where it's at this weekend, so don't miss out." Those putting the festival together admitted their surprise at how popular it has been, with more than 100,000 people anticipated to attend the event over the weekend. Glasgow's weather offered no surprises, with spells of rain breaking out from a cloud-covered sky, but many festival-goers turned up in summer gear and glitter - although wellies are still a popular footwear choice.  Police Scotland has advised those attending to expect increased security measures, including armed officers near the area, as standard procedure for an event of its size.  The force stressed there is no specific intelligence to suggest there is a threat to the festival. Chief Inspector Simon Jeacocke, Event Commander for Police Scotland, said: "Public safety is our top priority and we'd like to commend those attending the first day of the TRNSMT festival for their behaviour and good spirits. No arrests have been made and we've had no issues with the increased security at the entry points." Bags larger than 30cm x 42cm - the size of an A3 sheet of paper - have been banned from the venue. The event finishes on Sunday, with acts such as The View, local band Twin Atlantic, Two Door Cinema Club and headliners  Biffy Clyro.