Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 409

Issue # 409                                             Week ending Saturday 15th July 2017

My Tips on How to Keep Tradesmen Very Healthy by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Tradesmen have such a different sense of humour to the rest of the human population. Don’t get me wrong, the ones working in my house just now are doing a fine job and they can multitask. They can make a racket banging in nails, turning off the power when you least expect it and stopping your toilet flushing while coming out with some wisecracks.  The joiner barged in the other morning and said: “Sorry guys but in a few hours I have to be on the plane.” I looked at him aghast and asked “Why? Where are you going?” He said: “Nowhere. I have to take an inch off that door.”

Chippies and sparkies are different to how they used to be. There was a day when you offered them a cup of tea they would take an hour’s break even though they had just arrived and another hour’s break just before lunch. How did these old-timers get anything done? It’s not like that nowadays. The new breed of tradesman is far more focussed and efficient. Most of them will only take one cuppa or maybe two all day and even then they often sip from the mug with a hammer or circuit tester in the other hand.

Maybe they should take more cuppas. The reason is that the latest research out this week is that people who take more coffee have fewer heart attacks and strokes. All that previous stuff we heard about too much coffee being bad for you was ... just bad. A cove called Dr Marc Gunter, from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, who led the European study, said: “We found that higher coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, and specifically for circulatory diseases, and digestive diseases.” That’s that then.

Hundreds of thousands of coffee drinkers and people who prefer a wee strupag courtesy of Tetleys instead were tested. They say there is little doubt about the results. At this rate, we should all be getting Nescafé Gold Blend free on the NHS. I’d better go down and tell the tradesmen that they should think of their tickers. And they should have a wee drammy or a glass of red wine in the evening. It was also in the paper that they are all good for the heart too.

Which reminds me that I saw the news about these new whisky-powered cars which will soon be stooring past on a road near you soon. They will be fuelled by the gunge called draff which is left over after drams are distilled. That is then mixed with another by-product of making beer and then you have, er, petrol? No? Er, diesel? Paraffin? No? Ah, it must be LPG, the gas which we were told 10 years ago all cars would run on but which never caught on? No? What the heck is it then? Oh, it’s biobutanol. Of course it is.

By the way, what is biobutanol? Well, it says here that it is alcoholic stuff made up of corn, sugar beets and other types of biomass. And biomass is organic stuff that is often just thrown away and it is usually quite stinky. So really this is all about making cars run on fuel that is very cheap. Isn’t it amazing what science has come up with? Who would have thought that you could make vehicles that you could just top up with boozy stuff?

Wait a minute. That is not new at all. Remember the film Whisky Galore? Actually, there are two films of that name now. When some of the good folk of Todday were trying to get away from those awful types from the Customs and Excise, they had to race their lorry around the dunes on the beach. Then they ran out of diesel. Oh uil, an diabhal. What could they do? All they had was a lorry stacked high with bottles of wheesky. Wheesky? Let’s try that. A wily smuggler grabs a big bottle, snaps the neck and pours the botul mór into the tank. Vroom-vroom, the engine starts up and off they go again. See, it was thought of in the islands many years ago. No news here. Move on.

While the tradesmen were working at my house some of their mates came in to see how they were doing. I asked the one who was a Glaswegian if they were tradesmen too. He said: “Aye. I’m a joiner and he’s a carpenter.” Ah, interesting. I said that I had always wanted to know the difference between a joiner and a carpenter. He replied: “I nail wood and he pents cars.”

Scots Have Average of £12,500 in Savings, Study Reveals
Whether saving for home renovations, for a holiday or for their children’s futures, the amount that Britons have tucked away differs vastly throughout the country; from less than £2,000 to more than £13,000, on average.  Research was carried out by www.VoucherCodesPro.co.uk as part of an ongoing study into Britons’ finances. 2,313 Britons aged 18 and over, all of whom stated that they had savings, were quizzed about how much they had set aside and what they were saving for.  Initially, all respondents were asked ‘What’s your preferred method of storing your savings?’ to which the most common responses were ‘in a separate savings account’ (37%) and ‘tied up in ISAs’ (29%), whilst a further 18% admitted that they keep their savings as cash in their home.  All respondents were asked to state how much they estimated that they currently had in savings and which region of the UK they were based in, in a bid to determine regional averages. According to the poll, when asked what they were mostly saving for, the top responses were ‘for home renovations’ (19%), ‘for a rainy day’ (18%), ‘for a holiday’ (15%) and ‘for my children’s/grandchildren’s future’ (12%).  Furthermore, when asked if they ever found themselves dipping into their savings, a third of respondents, 34%, stated that ‘yes’ they did. When asked what they typically used the borrowed money for, the top responses were ‘social events with friends and family’ (25%) and ‘to get through the month as I’d spent more than I should have’ (18%).  George Charles, spokesperson for www.VoucherCodesPro.co.uk, commented on the findings:  “Whilst some are more fortunate than others and can afford to have a healthier savings pot, we’d recommend that everyone makes a point of saving even a small amount from their wages each month. Having something put by to help if anything goes wrong around the house or with the car can really put your mind at rest. It’s always the unexpected costs that leave people short and struggling to get through the month, and savings can put an end to that. You can also go on to enjoy your money more; fancier holidays, a nicer home and so on – the possibilities are endless.”

Cash Boost for Loch Ness Visitor Centre
Plans for a new tourism "one-stop shop" on the shores of Loch Ness have been given a funding boost.  Scottish Canals has been awarded £237,5000 from the Scottish Government’s costal communities fund, which will be put towards a new visitor information and retail centre at Fort Augustus.  It is hoped this will mark an arrival point, across from the Clansman Centre, for the 300,000 annual visitors to the village, to boost the facilities at the Caledonian Canal.  The grant was part of £4.3 million to improve access and facilities in coastal towns. Scotland’s environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: "With more than 10,000 miles of stunning coastline in Scotland we need to do all we can to protect the marine environment that lives there and to help people living and working in these areas make the most of the economic opportunities on offer."

Scotland’s Voice Must Be Heard in Brexit Negotiations, Says Hyslop
Scotland’s External Affairs Secretary is telling European Union ambassadors that the country’s voice should be heard in Brexit negotiations.  Fiona Hyslop will stress the importance of Scotland retaining membership of the single market at a meeting with ambassadors in London as part of Scottish Government engagement with EU members. Speaking ahead of the event, she said: “It is essential that the UK Government looks again at the issue of single market membership.  As the election results on June 8 clearly show, the UK Westminster Government has no mandate to leave the single market.  The Prime Minister should reconsider her aim of a hard and damaging Brexit and listen to the views of all nations of the United Kingdom.  Removing the UK, and Scotland in particular, from the single market and customs union will cause severe long-term economic damage, hitting jobs, growth and living standards.  Indeed, this is backed up by the recent survey by the British Chambers of Commerce, that found a majority of firms believe the UK should remain in both the single market and the customs union.”  She called on the UK Westminster Government to look again at the options set out in the Scotland’s Place in Europe paper in December, adding: ” If the UK Government wish to build consensus then it is vital that Scotland has a seat at the negotiations.”

New Jacobite Artwork Unveiled
A wicker sculpture of a Jacobite soldier has been unveiled at Garry Bridge in preparation for the Soldiers of Killiecrankie event later this month. The figure marks the battle that took place there in 1689 between the Catholic Stuart King James VII of Scotland and the Protestant King the Dutch Prince William of Orange III on the Highland Perthshire battleground.  From July 28-30, Killecrankie will host Scotland’s largest 17th Century battle re-enactment to celebrate the battle which took place during the Jacobite Rebellion. The wicker creation, which was designed by artist Georgia Crook, was unveiled in the Garry Bridge car park by members of the Soldiers of Killiecrankie Committee and Councillor Mike Williamson, who represents the Highland ward at the Perth and Kinross Council. Cllr Williamson, who is helping to organise the re-enactment, said: “Before the creation of the Soldiers of Killecrankie event [in 2014], many people knew of the Battle of Killiecrankie, but had never visited the actual battle site nor understood the significance of the history on their doorstep.  The Soldiers of Killiecrankie event is now going in to its fourth year and much to my delight is attracting event re-enactors, events and activities to it. I would highly recommend anyone who has not yet been to come along to this year’s event - you will not be disappointed.”  The event starts with a ‘street skirmish’ along Pitlochry’s Atholl Road on July 28, with the main event at the Killiecrankie battleground from 11am-5pm on the Saturday and Sunday.

Nature’s Call by Andy Summers
Last week when walking down the River Inver I heard a strange melodious whistle. It was difficult to pinpoint from where it came. I could not think what it was. Perhaps it was a meadow pipit or some other bird? I could hardly believe the noise came from a mammal, let alone an otter, but that is exactly what it was. There, in the middle of the fast-flowing water, I could see movement as a small bundle of fur rushed down the rapids of the river. The anxious mother was calling in her high-pitched melodious whistle from the far shore. Another otter cub further down the river was calling back in an even higher-pitched tone. My presence, along with Bean the dog, was making the situation worse. The mother otter was trying to keep contact with her cubs as the river threatened to separate them and now there was a potential predator nearby. I wanted to watch what happened next but felt I should get out of there to save them more stress. It was obvious that this was a mother taking her cubs from their natal holt somewhere in the hills back down to the shore where food was more plentiful. The female otter needs to give birth far away from any male otter, which will often kill the young cubs if they get the chance. Like lions in the Masai Mara, the male can never be sure who is the father of the youngsters and can therefore be quite aggressive. But by mid-June the cubs are bigger, stronger and less vulnerable to the males.  Other than the whistle contact calls of mother and young, otter calls are rare and usually restricted to occasions when one otter meets another in a less than friendly situation. If an animal is cornered by another during a fight, it will produce a very cat-like caterwauling or wailing sound. It can be quite chilling when you hear it in the middle of the night on a dark and lonely shore. But it did remind me of the time I was called out to an injured otter that had been hit by a car. I quickly checked my book on first aid for animals before setting out. It warned that dealing with injured otters can be very dangerous because they can be very aggressive and have a very severe bite. The book suggested taking a stick in case an otter gets hold of you and will not leave go. The book proposes that breaking the stick can fool the otter into thinking it has broken your bone and it will therefore loosen its grip. With this in mind, I attended the scene with a certain amount of trepidation, only to find the otter almost at death’s door. I was able to lift the otter and gently put it in a cardboard box and set it on the front seat of the van ready to drive it to the SSPCA. Indeed it was so quiet and limp I did not even secure the box and began the long drive to get it medical attention. However, perhaps it was the warmth of the vehicle or the Van Morrison song playing on the CD, but the next thing I saw, out of the corner of my eye, was a large male otter slipping quickly out of the box and under the passenger seat of the car. Unsure what to do I decided to just keep driving. After five minutes, while passing Loch Assynt, the otter emerged from under the car seat and, believe it or not, hopped onto my lap. As a large fish lorry was coming in the other direction on a narrow stretch of the road, I did not have time to do anything but keep driving. However, thoughts of the otter’s self-locking jaws did hover in my mind and all I could think about was that I had left the stick beside the road where I had first picked up the otter. After another five minutes asleep on my lap it settled on the dashboard for a while, before finally retreating back under the passenger car seat. I am sure the drivers of the cars coming from the other direction were giving me funny looks as they passed by the ranger van with a live otter lying along the front windscreen. After arriving at the SSPCA and coaxing the otter into the hands of the waiting vet it was pronounced to be suffering from injuries too severe. Eventually, it had to be kindly put to sleep. But I will never forget that hour I spent in the intimate company of an otter. My only regret is that I never got a photograph, so you will just have to believe my story.

Ten Month Jail Sentence for Wick Man
A north “drugs mule” caught transporting £15,000 worth of cannabis resin from Alness to Wick has been jailed for 10 months.  Unemployed fisherman Graham Shepherd (28),  was carrying a holdall containing three kilos of the class B drug when stopped by police, a court heard.  A search of a property in which he was staying later uncovered cocaine valued at between £500 to £600.  Shepherd’s lawyer argued that he had been forced to carry the drugs because he owed money to drug dealers. The cocaine was for his personal use. Shepherd appeared for sentencing at Tain Sheriff Court on Monday, having previously admitted two charges.  He had pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of cannabis resin to another or others on August 9 last year at Milnafua, Alness, on the A9 road between Alness and Tain and at Tain High Street.  He had also admitted on the same day being in possession of cocaine at Kennedy Terrace, Wick.  It emerged that he had just been released from prison two weeks ago after having served a five-month sentence for assault.

Militant Cornish Nationalists Claim to Have Suicide Bomber Ready
A Cornish terror group dubbed the ‘Ooh R A’ has vowed to target wealthy English second homeowners after claiming responsibility for firebombing Rick Stein’s seaside restaurant. The Cornish Republican Army (CRA) says it carried out the attack last month as part of a renewed campaign to prevent the “ethnic cleansing of the people of Kernow”. Formerly known as the Cornish National Liberation Army (CNLA), the group has been dormant for over a decade and was believed to have been disbanded. But in an official blog announcing the name change, the group made a series of chilling threats - including that it has a would-be suicide bomber in its ranks.  The group promised a prolonged campaign against second homeowners who have priced locals out of the county.  “We have ceased activities against Stein and Oliver, but our activities against second and expensive English owned homes will continue,” the statement said. “We are in no hurry to conduct actions and so these will happen over a period of time.”  The statement - which has now been removed from the website - even claimed the groups has a female martyr who is willing to die for the cause. The posh eatery Rick Stein Porthleven was badly damaged by fire in the early hours of Monday 12 June. But now the alleged terror group has come out of hiding to claim it carried out the attack along with two other recent fires in Truro and Penryn. It claims to have set off a “practice device” at the former Redruth Brewery site and had removed dozens of “red blood flags” - believed to be a reference to the St George Cross. The CRA statement said the group has 30 volunteers who are operating in Active Service Units (ASU) to bring about Cornish independence.  It claimed that ‘activities’ against Stein and Jamie Oliver - who also has a restaurant in Cornwall - have now ceased. But the group vowed to target the second homes of wealthy English people and the authorities of what it calls the “English Imperial System” or EIS. The statement said: “We are also responsible for the damage to Stein’s Restaurant. It continued: “We also intend to target those authorities including the EIS police who victimise Cornish people. What have we to fear or lose - nothing. The English have never allowed freedom to any peoples without a fight and although we understand those who believe that freedom can be won through democracy or political means, we do not accept this. What has really been won this past 50 years? - nothing other than an ethnic cleansing of the people of Kernow.” The CRA claims to have new funding from other Celtic groups and says it changed its name because of copycats who had prompted “many arrests”. And it likened its crusade to the IRA, whose former members are now part of government in Northern Ireland.

Comment
Did someone say a UNITED Kingdom????

Hut on Iona Dates to St Columba's Lifetime in Sixth Century, Archaeologists Say
Archaeologists have uncovered conclusive evidence that a wooden hut traditionally associated with St Columba at his ancient monastery on the island of Iona dates to his lifetime in the late sixth century.  Carbon dating has led to the breakthrough, which proves samples of hazel charcoal, unearthed in an excavation of a wattle and timber structure on Iona 60 years ago, are from the exact period Columba lived in the Inner Hebridean monastery. The structure is believed to be the monk's "cell" where he prayed and studied in isolation.  The samples were excavated in 1957 by archaeologist Professor Charles Thomas but with radio carbon dating only just emerging at the time, they were not tested and instead kept in matchboxes in his garage in Cornwall.  Although the excavators of the hut argued it was likely Columba's cell, the lack of dating technology led many archaeologists to dismiss the findings as speculation and scientifically unproven.  In 2012, part of Prof Thomas' archive was passed to Historic Environment Scotland. It was shared with the University of Glasgow, which recently identified the significance of the samples and submitted them for carbon dating. Results show the hut dated back to between 540 and 650. Columba died in 597.  Altogether, ten radiocarbon dates were returned from samples from Prof Thomas' excavations, all dating to the early medieval period (AD 500-1100).  Prof Thomas died last year but Dr Adrian Maldonado, from the University of Glasgow, described the dating as vindication of his foresight in storing the samples.  "Thomas always believed he and his team had uncovered Columba's original wooden hut but they could never prove it because the technology wasn't there," he said.  "So, for us, 60 years later, to be able to send the original samples off to the radiocarbon dating labs and have them come back showing, within the margin of error, as something which may have been built in the lifetime of St Columba, is very exciting.  This is as close as any archaeologist has come to excavating a structure built during the time of St Columba and it is a great vindication of the archaeological instincts of Thomas and his team."  St Columba is widely revered as a key figure in western Christianity and took the religion to Scotland from Ireland, landing on Iona in the year 563.  In the Life of St Columba, written 100 years after his death by his successor Adomnan, Columba was described as often writing in his cell on a rocky hillock, called Torr an Aba or "the mound of the abbot".  When Prof Thomas excavated the site 60 years ago, the carbonised remains of wattle walls of a small hut were unearthed below layers of loose pebbles, suggesting the wooden structure had burned down and the area filled over. The site was later marked with a cross.  The Iona research group believe the Cathach, a manuscript of psalms reputed to be Columba's own writing, would have been created in his cell.  The tiny island of Iona is regularly busy with tourists from around the world and visitor numbers are expected to grow with the confirmation.  The findings are being presented in a keynote lecture for the 8th International Insular Art Conference at the University of Glasgow.

Skate Park Event is A Hit with Inverness Boarders
Hundreds of people descended on an annual Skatejam event held recently at Inverness’s BMX cycle and pump track.  The event was organised by the Highland Skate Park Association which is a charity that helps to raise the profile of the sport and encourages others to get involved.  The association was set up in 2011 and has been able to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds since.  Competitions were held throughout the day at the event which organiser Allan Carson said was well attended with between 300 and 400 people there.  Along with the various competitions there was also music and entertainment with people of all ages showing up to enjoy the day.  The event lasted from 10.30am to 7pm with people coming and going from the skate park.  Mr Carson was pleased with the attendance and said that he expects the sport will become more popular in the area with its recent inclusion in the Olympics.

Wrath As MoD Plan Exercise for NW Sutherland in August
The MoD has come under fire after it was revealed a military exercise is planned at Cape Wrath bombing range in August, at the height of the tourist season.  Minibus operator James Mather, who uses the 11-mile track across the range to take visitors to and from Cape Wrath lighthouse, said he and others stood to lose out financially because access to the route is likely to be banned or restricted. The lighthouse is a major attraction and has between 2000 and 6000 visitors a year.  Mr Mather made an appeal for compensation when the exercise was discussed at a meeting of Durness Community Council, on Monday at which military representatives were present.  He said: “The MoD has the power to use the range whenever they fancy but it is an unwritten law that July and August are left free for economic reasons. But they have picked one of the busiest weeks in the year which is not going down well. I am gravely concerned. We cannot budget for this.”  The 107 square mile Cape Wrath is the only live bombing range in Europe and historically, the MoD holds joint military exercises there twice a year, usually around April and September, and avoid the busy summer months in a tacit agreement with local people. Three businesses are directly involved in the Cape – a ferry service run by John Morrison across the Kyle of Durness to Cape Wrath; Mr Mather’s Capeside minibus operation and the Ozone cafe and bunkhouse run by John Ure at the lighthouse itself.  However, there is also a spin-off to accommodation and food and beverage providers elsewhere in the area.  This summer’s multi-national operation is being called Saxon Warrior and is scheduled to run from Friday, August 4 until Wednesday, August 9 in the waters and airspace and on land ranges across Great Britain.  It will involve  the US carrier George H W Bush, along with 15 ships and submarines and around 100 aircraft from the UK and four other nations. Some 9000 personnel will take part in geopolitical and military scenarios aimed at improving combat skills and joint working.  Tain-based Major Phillip Curtis and Major Rik Karadia, who is understood to be part of the team planning Saxon Warrior, attended Monday’s community council meeting. Mr Mather said: “It looks as if we are going to be directly affected but they were either unable to say, or would not say, whether the road would be closed every day or not. But they said they would ‘endeavour’ to tell us when or if there would be times that we would be able to get the minibuses through. I asked about compensation and was told that there was no mechanism for that, which is disturbing.” Mr Mather also criticised the MoD for not considering the local community when drawing up plans for Saxon Warrior.  He said that red flags placed around the perimeter to warn walkers arriving at the Cape from the Sandwood End that an exercise was under way were supposed to be taken down during lulls in operations but this did not happen As a result, walkers who would have paid him a fare to make the return journey from Cape Wrath by minibus were forced to retrace their steps.  Mr Mather added the MoD should make use of local businesses.  He said: “One of the big exercises a couple of years ago at Cape Wrath required troops to be transported around the area. The MoD could have used the local ferry and our minibuses but instead took up their own boat and shipped over minibuses. That was seriously bad form.  Our minibuses were sitting empty for a few days while theirs were scooting up and down the road.  They tell us that for each exercise that is held, hundreds of thousands of pounds go into the Scottish economy – where is it going? There is not a penny of it coming our way and I feel that is pretty unfair.”  Durness Community Council secretary Sarah Fuller said permission to hold Saxon Warrior had to be obtained at ministerial level and the exercise was taking place in August because that was the only time the US aircraft carrier was available.  She said: “We have been assured that it is a one-off and is not going to be a regular occurrence. But it is unfortunate and means a loss of income for local businesses.  The officers did say they would try to allow some access (to the Cape) but they could not guarantee it. They also said they would let us know as soon as possible in advance.”  Mrs Fuller said a meeting of the Cape Wrath liaison committee would be held in September at which their concerns would be aired. MP Jamie Stone is likely to be asked to attend. She confirmed Mr Mather had been told he would not receive compensation but said the community council was sympathetic to his plight.  She said: “I do think they (the affected local businesses) have a fairly strong case [as regards to compensation for the loss of earnings resulting from the August exercise].  The community as a whole are going to have to jump up and down because it is not just Capeside businesses that are affected – others in the village are as well if visitors do not stay.  That is why we want go get a politician to attend the September meeting. We think it will give extra leverage.”

Elderly Woman Dies After Falling Down Gorge in North-west Sutherland
A 78-year-old woman from north-west Sutherland has died after falling down a ravine while walking her dog.  The woman, named locally as Evelyn Fleming of Shore Street in Ullapool, slipped and fell down the wooded Corrieshalloch Gorge to the south of the village. A police spokeswoman said that the death is currently being treated as unexplained but confirmed there are “no suspicious circumstances.”  The spokeswoman added: “The next of kin have been informed and a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.”  Sixteen volunteers from Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team (DMRT) were called out to recover the elderly woman’s body after police were contacted at 10.30am.  A DMRT spokesman said there was a forestry track which provided access to the site, adding: “A stretcher was lowered into the gorge then hauled back up. The lady’s remains were passed into the custody of the police. The team’s thoughts go out to the lady’s family. DMRT were called into action again after a father and daughter pair of hillwalkers were reported overdue on An Teallach at about 12.40am. The man in his 60s and his 27-year-old daughter were traced safe and well later that morning. The Stornoway-based Coastguard search and rescue helicopter were also part of the search and scoured the area for more than three hours. The DMRT were also requested for a rescue in the hills near East Rhidorroch Lodge, east of Ullapool. Two young women had been taking part in a charity event and one was injured and both were wet and cold. Two male walkers had found them and stayed with them, marking their location by torch, allowing 12 DMRT members to arrive at 3am with a stretcher and other gear.

Remote Highland Peninsula Earmarked for Satellite Launchpad

A consortium, which includes US aerospace firm Lockheed Martin, believe that the A’Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland would be the ideal location in Britain from which satellites could be launched into orbit.  A detailed proposal for the facility - located between Dounreay and Cape Wrath - has been submitted to the UK Space Agency (UKSA) which has met with Highland council and Highlands and Islands Entreprise (HIE) to discuss the plans. The Scottish base - which could be operational by 2020 - would be the first to launch a rocket into space from UK soil.  The UKSA is understood to give its backing to the A’Mhoine proposals, which could generate more than £1bn over a decade. The agency has set targets to claim 10 per cent of the global space market, which is expected to be worth over £400 billion by 2030.  Other sites in Scotland have been considered for space traffic, including space tourism hubs at Prestwick in Ayrshire and Campbeltown in Argyll. Experts believe however that launching satellites for the military, government or private industry may be the quickest and most cost-effective way of advancing the UK’s space ambitions.

Scotland’s Unemployment Rate Falls to 25-year Low
Scotland’s economic turnaround was boosted again as the jobless rate fell to a 25-year low.  A massive 19,000 decrease in unemployment to 104,000 in the three months to May means the number of people out of work is back to the levels last seen before the recession, while the number of people in work soared by 25,000.  It also indicates that Scotland is now outperforming the wider UK economy in a marked reversal from the start of the year when the picture north of the Border was “lagging behind”.  The latest news comes after Scotland escaped recession last week with a rise in GDP of 0.8 per cent for the second quarter of the year, four times the UK rate of growth. Scotland’s economy had shrunk in the previous quarter. Returning confidence in the North Sea oil and gas sector has helped boost growth, while Scots exports are also up as a result of the weak pound.  Economy Secretary Keith Brown said: “These latest figures show our labour market remains resilient and robust with unemployment now at a record low. Our employment rate is also rising, which is good news, and means 25,000 more people are in employment compared to the last quarter. When considered alongside the fact that last week’s GDP stats show Scotland’s growth rate over the last quarter to be four times that of the UK, this is further evidence of the strength of the Scottish economy.” Across the UK, unemployment fell by 64,000 to 1.49 million in the three months to May, meaning the jobless rate is at its lowest since 1975, at 4.5 per cent, according to the Office for National Statistics. But this is above the Scottish jobless rate of 3.8 per cent which marks a 25-year low.

Nicola Sturgeon Calls Brexit Repeal Bill A ‘Naked Power Grab’
Theresa May’s government is facing a major battle over crucial legislation to implement Brexit amid a fresh row between Edinburgh and London over sweeping powers being handed to UK ministers.  The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will transfer EU regulations into British statute from the day Brexit takes effect, preventing “black holes” appearing in UK law that could stop rules governing areas such as environmental protection and financial services regulation from functioning properly. As the bill was published at Westminster, Brexit Secretary David Davis said it would give the UK “maximum certainty, continuity and control” as it leaves the EU, and said he was willing to “work with anyone” to get it through Parliament.  But the first ministers of Scotland and Wales threatened to withhold their consent for the bill, branding it a “naked power grab” after it was confirmed that no new powers will automatically be passed from the EU to devolved administrations. And the Labour Party signalled that it would pressure Scottish Conservative MPs to back more powers for Scotland, and would not support the bill unless its concerns about the legislation were addressed.  Critics have warned about the possible extent of so-called “Henry VIII” powers under the bill which could allow ministers to amend the law without consulting parliament.  The wide-ranging powers to correct “deficiencies” in EU regulations transferred into British law will last for two years after Brexit day.  Ministers will be able to amend UK laws and even create new government agencies and regulators if necessary.  In a joint statement, First Ministers Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones called the bill an “attack on the founding principles of devolution” and threatened to vote against a consent motion expected to go before the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly early next year. Devolved parliaments cannot block its progress, but failure to get the consent of all parts of the UK could fuel a constitutional crisis.  “Today’s publication of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is the first test as to whether the UK Westminster government is serious about such an approach. It is a test it has failed utterly,” the two leaders said in a joint statement. “We have repeatedly tried to engage with the UK government on these matters, and have put forward constructive proposals about how we can deliver an outcome which will protect the interests of all the nations in the UK, safeguard our economies and respect devolution. Regrettably, the bill does not do this. Instead, it is a naked power-grab, an attack on the founding principles of devolution and could destabilise our economies.”  Ms Sturgeon and Mr Jones said they “agree we need a functioning set of laws across the UK after withdrawal from the EU” but said new devolved powers had to be agreed “through negotiation and agreement, not imposition”. Labour also said it would vote against the crucial legislation unless it is amended, because the European Charter of Fundamental Rights setting out key employment benefits will not be among the EU laws transferred after Brexit.  The party also said it wanted the government to reverse its stance on the devolution of powers, with a presumption that responsibilities will be handed to Cardiff and Edinburgh except in specific cases.

Comment
The return of powers to Westminster and retention by them will only serve one purpose - to further tighten the grip over Scotland and give Westminster greater control on Scotland by a lot of self serving English politicians.

Cladding ‘Used on Grenfell Tower’ Found on 44 Scottish Schools
A type of cladding reported to have been used on the Grenfell Tower has been found on 44 school buildings, the Scottish Government has said. Checks are currently being carried out by local authorities to ensure that the type of aluminium composite material (ACM), which can be used appropriately, has been fitted in accordance with building regulations in all these cases.  Fourteen local authorities have confirmed ACM has been used in cladding systems on low-rise schools, amounting to 1.7% of the school estate.  Sixteen of them are in Dumfries and Galloway, where further inspections are still being carried out, while six are in East Renfrewshire and six in West Dunbartonshire.  Three schools in South Ayrshire, three in Inverclyde and two in Angus are affected. Aberdeen, Argyll & Bute, Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Shetland and South Lanarkshire have one school each affected, while Scottish Borders Council has still to respond. A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Local authorities are responsible for ensuring the safety of school buildings in their areas - and if there is a need to inform parents and pupils on any aspect of school safety it is for the council to do so. Schools across Scotland are currently closed for summer holidays and all checks being carried out are precautionary to ensure building materials have been correctly used.” The Scottish Government’s Ministerial Working Group, convened to examine building and fire safety regulatory frameworks, held its third meeting on Thursday. The meeting heard that no high-rise domestic buildings owned by councils or housing associations in Scotland have used ACM cladding. Edinburgh and Glasgow are completing their investigations and it was acknowledged this will take time due to the numbers involved.