Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 412

Issue # 412                                             Week ending Saturday 5th August 2017

Remember to Charge Up Your Phone and the Car by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

When I was young, our family was very poor. Everybody was struggling. We eked out an existence with crofting but there were no luxuries. Our family didn’t even have a car and now my daughter, who is a student, has passed her test and already has a car. How the world has changed. Sometimes we could not even afford the essentials. I remember how sometimes we even ran out of toilet paper - and newspaper. That’s how poor we were. I sometimes had to use a calendar to wipe my backside. Thankfully, those days are behind me.

I was also wiped out by that big news last week and surprised so few people mentioned it. The government says that by the year 2040 it will no longer be possible to buy a petrol or diesel car in Britain. Why? Are the prices going up? No, but yes, but no. They are so worried about pollution and the low air quality in parts of the country that in little over 20 years, all cars will be powered by electricity or horse manure or wind-up springs - anything except petrol or diesel.

I fancied an electric car but prices are shocking. That’s not a joke, by the way. The price for a plug-in Volkswagen Golf is £30,000. That’s twice what you pay for a new, polluting Golf of the fill-er-up-with-unleaded type. And even worse, the Germans dropped their alleged plan to rebrand electric vehicles as Volts-wagen. Anyway, I’m not sure I want a car that will just conk out after a few hours. It should at least do the job for as long as a member of Donald Trump’s staff. That’ll soon be down to a few hours too, I reckon.

No fuel to buy. Yippee. So there will be no filling stations? Excellent. Er, what’s this? The government will have to raise money somehow so they will either have to raise the car tax to about £1,000 a year or we will have to pay a tax to drive on certain roads. Ach, we’ll just avoid the toll roads. But they will tax the direct routes so it will take us a long drive to avoid them. Like putting a toll on the Ullapool-to-Inverness road so you pay up or you have to go round the north coast via Cape Wrath instead? I get it ... and I don’t like it. Oh well, it’ll be a chance to do the NC500, if your electro-car doesn’t die by Durness.

Speaking to an electrician the other day, he reckons he knows all about electric cars. I have my doubts. He said the crucial thing was to be careful not to run down the battery. Wow. That’s why these cars have a radio, he said, but they are special devices which can only play certain appropriate artistes. Really? I asked him what was appropriate to play in these vehicles. He said: “AC/DC maybe? Or the Electric Light Orchestra?” I really amn’t sure about that cove. Never trust an electrician with no eyebrows.

Our whole lives will change when we go all-electric. Mechanics like Iain Ross, the spanner-wielding boss of Ross’s Garage in Stornoway, will have to unlearn what he knows about carburettors and pistons. He’ll have to swot up even more about coils, LEDs and fuses than he knows already. Things that you plug in are appliances, aren’t they? What, like fire engines? They became, firstly, apparatus and now they are appliances but maybe that is because the fire chiefs were far-sighted and could see they were facing the charge of the light brigade. Boom-boom.

I too must remember that when women talk about kitchen stuff, they usually mean plug-in appliances. After a few G&Ts the other night, I stood up and shoved an ice cube down Mrs X’s front. Ooh, she was livid. I said: “What’s wrong? You said you would like a chest freezer.”

Our daughter, who will hopefully be around for all-electric cars, won’t be happy I mentioned her. I do try to be strict with her, you see. She bought a load of cider last weekend and started planning a party, I said: “You’re only 20. You should be concentrating on your studies if you want to graduate. When I was your age, I was in the RAF and training to defend this nation.”

I crossed my fingers and added: “We studied day and night.” Then I put the boot in and I roared: “Listen, young lady, your behaviour is appalling. You are no daughter of mine.” She replied: “I know that. Mum told me ages ago.”

Edinburgh Castle Launches Own Tweed Range

Edinburgh Castle has moved into the world of fashion with the unveiling of its own tweed collection.  Historic Environment Scotland said it highlighting the country’s rich heritage with the launch of its exclusive Edinburgh Castle Tweed.  The organisation’s retail arm is looking to boost its fashion credentials with the launch of the stylish Edinburgh Castle Tweed, in-store and online.  The 11-piece range includes chic staple pieces and sumptuous homeware items, from long scarfs, tote bags and tweed holdalls to cosy throws, wallets and teddy bears, with heritage at the heart of each design.  Natasha Troitino, of HES, said: ““We recognised that there is a growing demand for our Scottish heritage products from further afield, as many tourists like to take a piece of Scottish heritage home with them. We felt it was key to introduce a fashion line which would appeal to our expanding market, both at home and overseas."     

Vacant Crofts Now Have Five New Entrants to Crofting

The Crofting Commission has successfully let five vacant croft tenancies to new entrants recently, who will use the land and ensure it is not neglected.  They terminated four tenancies in the Western Isles and one in Glen Torridon, as the tenants where not complying with their duty to be resident. The tenancies were all advertised locally and interested parties invited to submit an application to the Crofting Commission, to be considered for the tenancy. The applications were then sifted and scored, with all those successful going forward to be chosen ‘blind’ by a Commissioner.  New entrant, Dennis McGonnell said: “ I was delighted to be selected as the new tenant for the croft 24 Gravir.  “I have lived on Lewis for 12 years and was always very eager to get into crofting especially working with animals. My plans for the croft include getting some pigs to deal with all the ferns and over growth, before reseeding and then letting some rare sheep graze happily, once I’ve fenced the boundary. I’m looking forward to getting started.”

Extensive Prehistoric Remains Found At Site of New Inverness Prison
A team of archeologists have found extensive prehistoric remains at the site earmarked for the new £66 million prison. Highland Council archaeologist Kirsty Cameron is calling for a full scale excavation to the 18-acre plot near Inverness Shopping Park. The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has already lodged a planning application to build a prison in the area to replace the 115-year-old Porterfield Prison.  The SPS was looking to start work on the facility in December 2018, to be completed by 2020 or early 2021.  Ms Cameron lodged a consultation response, stating: “Initial archaeological evaluation work carried out in advance of the submission of this application has identified that extensive buried prehistoric remains survive here.”  She is calling for conditions to be attached to the planning permission so that no development or work can begin until a plan has been submitted to the planning authority for evaluating, preserving and recording of archaeological and historical features affected by the proposed work.

Six Rescued As Yacht Hits Rock Off Islay
Islay RNLI volunteer lifeboat crew rescued six people, including two children, after a yacht ran onto a charted rock on an ebb tide at the south end of the Sound of Islay. Her captain chose to stay on board the heavily listing, 16m sailing boat Anjela. The all-weather lifeboat Helmut Schroder of Dunlossit was launched 18 minutes past midnight in a medium wind, fair visibility and a relatively calm sea, and reached the yacht 20 minutes later to find that she was listing heavily to port. It was decided to evacuate all personnel by lifeboat, except for the captain who wished to stay aboard, and take them back to Port Askaig until the tide should turn and rise enough to refloat the yacht. At about 5.30am she floated off the rock, unholed, and made her way safely back to Port Askaig escorted by the lifeboat.  Afterwards her crew said how impressed they were by the help, care and attention that they had received from the RNLI volunteers.

Police Advise to Arrive Early At Belladrum and Black Isle Show

Police Scotland is looking forward to supporting two major events in the Highlands this week as the Black Isle Show and Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival return. The Black Isle Show on Wednesday and Thursday, along with Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival between Thursday and Sunday (Aug 6) promise to be great family-friendly events and Police Scotland has been working closely with organisers and other partners to ensure those attending are safe.  Police Scotland is supporting the organisers' advice to arrive early, particularly as the region's roads are expected to be extremely busy on Thursday.  Car parks and campsites at Belladrum are open from 8am on Thursday morning.  Event Commander Chief Inspector Bob Mackay said: "We are pleased to be supporting these events as they return for another year. Our local officers will be in attendance at Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival and the Black Isle Show and I would encourage people to approach them with any concerns they may have or if you need assistance. Anyone who sees anything suspicious should report this to police”.  Divisional Road Policing Inspector Gus Stewart added: "We have been working with the organisers to support them with their traffic management plans for these popular events. For those attending the events, we would encourage leaving plenty of time for your journey and follow the travel advice provided by organisers. I would also like to take this opportunity to remind drivers of the drink-drive rules and to be aware of how much you drink the night before you plan to leave, as you could still be over the drink-drive limit in the morning”.

Places to Visit in Scotland - (a) Loch Katrine
Due to its inaccessibility, the beauty of Loch Katrine was little known to those who did not live there until Sir Walter Scott published his poem "The Lady of the Lake" in 1810. After that, it became a favourite place to visit not just by tourists from abroad but by Scots living in the Lowlands of Scotland.  Loch Katrine's name may be derived from the Brythonic (a form of early Welsh) word "cethern" meaning "furies" possibly because of the many mountain streams which tumble down the mountain slopes. The Scots Gaelic word "cateran" later came to mean Highland robber, quite appropriate when you take into account the number of stolen cattle hidden in the area over the centuries. The MacGregor clan roamed this part of the country and Rob Roy MacGregor was born at Glengyle on the banks of the loch in 1671.    Loch Katrine is eight miles long and an average of one mile wide and flanked by mountains on all sides. There is a visitor centre at Trossachs Pier at the eastern end of the loch and another pier at Stronachlachar towards the western end. The steam ship Sir Walter Scott takes tourists on trips on the loch - the morning trip plies between Trossachs Pier and Stronachlachar while that in the afternoon is a shorter cruise of about an hour covers about half the length of the loch. There is also a road from Trossachs Pier to Stronachlachar but it is for walking, cycling and electric vehicles only (on hire for the disabled at the visitor centre).  The reason for the control of traffic both on the loch and around it is that Loch Katrine is one of the major sources of water for the city of Glasgow. In the early 19th century, water of variable quality for the rapidly expanding city was from private wells distributed in large barrels. In a far-sighted project, the city built an 8ft-diameter aqueduct 26 miles in length from the loch to a reservoir on the outskirts of Glasgow and then distributed it by pipes across the city. The system was formally opened by Queen Victoria in 1859. The success of the project was seen a few years later when the next cholera epidemic broke out and Glasgow was relatively unaffected. The water travels along a large diameter pipe with no pumps to Mingavie just north of Glasgow using just gravity, and now delivers over 65 million Imperial gallons per day.  Oddly, most of the houses in nearby Milngavie and Bearsden do not get their water from Loch Katrine despite surrounding the reservoir as these houses are in East Dunbartonshire rather than Glasgow!  There has been a steam ship on Loch Katrine since 1843. But they had to be built elsewhere, cut into pieces and reassembled at the loch. The SS Sir Walter Scott was built in 1899 at Denny on the Clyde at Dumbarton, sailed up the river Leven to Loch Lomond, then dismantled and transferred to Loch Katrine. She is now the oldest surviving screw-steamer in regular service in Scotland. A diesel- powered replacement is unlikely because of the risk of contamination to the water. The engine room of the venerable ship is open for all to see and a feature is just how quiet the vessel is.

(b) Glasgow Cathedral
Legend says that St Mungo came to bury a monk at a cemetery dedicated to St Ninian, on the banks of the Molendinar Burn, a tributary of the river Clyde. Saint Mungo later became patron saint of Glasgow and a church, associated with him, was established beside the cemetery and became the centre of Glasgow which grew up around it. St Mungo was also known as St Kentigern and stories about the saint involving the saint became the emblems of the city including this motto;
There's the tree that never grew,  There's the bird that never flew,
There's the fish that never swam, There's the bell that never rang.

The cathedral was consecrated in 1136 in the presence of King David I. But this building was destroyed by fire and the present building was started in 1197 by Bishop Jocelyn and this was largely completed by the end of the 13th century. The "Glasgow Fair" which is still celebrated to this day, was started by Bishop Jocelyn. The cathedral was expanded and reconstructed in the 15th century. At the Reformation of the church, many ecclesiastical buildings were destroyed in Scotland but Glasgow Cathedral survived, partly because it was capable of being shared by the different congregations!  The cathedral is 285 feet long and the open timber roof dates from the 14th century. The cathedral contains the regimental colours of a number of units, including the Highland Light Infantry (which was closely associated with Glasgow), the Scots Guards and the Cameronians. The Cathedral has magnificent stained glass windows, one illustrating the creation and others with the badges of the twelve Scottish regiments that fought in the Second World War.  A flight of stairs takes visitors to a "Lower Church" where some of the early 12th century stonework is still visible. The tomb of St Mungo is also located here and there are fragments of an old 13th century shrine to the Saint. Also below the level of the main cathedral is the Blackader Aisle, built in the 15th century but said to occupy the site of the 5th century burial ground consecrated by St Ninian. Fine views of the Cathedral can be obtained from the nearby Necropolis - an old burial ground on a hill which is now reached from the Cathedral by the "Bridge of Sighs". The characteristic square steeple which is such a feature of the building, was erected in the 15th century.  A relatively "recent" addition is the statue of the explorer and missionary, Rev David Livingston. Across the square from the cathedral is the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art which covers all the main religions, not just Christianity.

Donald Trump’s New Scottish Golf Course Opposed by Environment Body
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has objected to plans by Donald Trump’s company for a second golf course in Aberdeenshire.  Proposals were submitted by the Trump Organisation for a second 18-hole course at Balmedie in 2015. But SEPA has called on the plans to be revised over pollution and sewage concerns. One of the public body’s conditions of support is that all waste water should be connected to the public sewer. A private system is currently in place but only has authorisation until December 2018. A Trump International Golf Links statement said: “The recent correspondence between Trump International, the local authority and statutory consultants is a normal part of the planning process and the regular ongoing dialogue conducted during the application process. Scottish Natural Heritage and SEPA always reference a range of policy considerations and factors which is standard practice and nothing out of the ordinary. Our application is making its way through the planning system and this dialogue will continue until it goes before committee for consideration. The Dr Martin Hawtree-designed second golf course is located to the south of the Trump estate and does not occupy a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is not covered by any environmental designations. We are extremely confident in our proposal and that this process will reach a satisfactory conclusion acceptable to all parties on our world class development.”  If given the go ahead, it would be named The Macleod Course after Mr Trump’s Scottish mother Mary. The first course on the Menie Estate opened in 2012.

Patients in Pain Forced to Endure Seven-month Waits for Surgery
Hundreds of patients in the Highlands are enduring an average seven-month wait, often in pain, for routine procedures such as hip replacements due to a lack of theatre space at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.  The shocking new figures reveal the number of patients waiting more than the supposed 12 weeks for routine orthopaedic surgery has soared to 332 from 249 over the past 15 months.  The average wait is seven months, although some patients could find themselves waiting even longer depending on circumstances such as the type of surgery required or the availability of a specific consultant, or the patient themselves. The news emerged as NHS Highland board members this week maintained there was a compelling need for a world-class £27 million treatment centre to be based at the new Inverness Campus specialising in orthopaedics and ophthalmology. Their views are supported by a senior hospital manager who said the proposed north of Scotland elective care centre currently being considered by the Scottish Government would help to free up theatre capacity at Raigmore and improve the service for patients.  Andrew Ward, NHS Highland’s directorate general manager for surgical, acknowledged that the 12-week waiting time for routine orthopaedic surgery was not being met and there were also more than 1500 people waiting more than 12 weeks for their first outpatient orthopaedic appointment – although this figure was improving.

Scotland in A New Golden Age of Archaeology As Number of Discoveries Trebles
Scotland has entered a “new golden age of archaeology” according to experts, with hundreds of relics uncovered every year.  Remote sensing and sophisticated devices such as x-ray guns means more discoveries are now being made than ever before.  Finds in Scotland are curated and distributed to museums by the Treasure Trove - which looks after rare archaeological discoveries. The Treasure Trove has seen the number of discoveries reach its highest level ever. Among the artefacts uncovered are items belonging to ancient bishops, key figures in the wars of Scottish independence and the Glorious Revolution, as well as a haul of more than 200 rare Roman coins.  Stuart Campbell, Treasure Trove Unit Manager, said: “We have seen the number of finds that are reported to us annually and saved for the public benefit in museums more than treble in recent years, which is a result not only of our outreach programme across Scotland but demonstrates also an increased interest in the past on the part of the Scottish public.”  There are more than 100,000 sites of archaeological interest in Scotland – including the feted Skara Brae on Orkney. September is Scottish Archaeology Month which will see 300 events held in almost every corner of the country, from academic lectures to public archaeology digs.

Outlander Twists the Facts But I Love It, Says Real-life Outlander

We all stitch imagination into facts to give them meaning. “Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that,” wrote Virginia Woolf.  The real Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat enjoys the spotlight that fictional Outlander shines on clan Fraser. His ancestor, Lord Lovat of the ’45 is the grandfather of Outlander hero, Jamie Fraser. It’s like being distantly related to Hollywood royalty. “Outlander – I love it,” says Lovat. “What’s not to like?”  I agree. An outlander myself, I came to the Highlands from Essex over 30 years ago. I married Frasers, bred them and wrote about Lord Lovat of the ’45, the Old Fox, and the most outrageous of them all. The clan and Highlands haven’t felt this kind of buzz for a very long time. Yet, the Outlander TV series – based on the novels by American author Diana Gabaldon – twists the facts, when a historical person is closely related to the fictional male lead; and when Lovat Frasers and Mackenzies feuded through a lot of this period, rather than being allies.  “For sure. But does it matter?” Lord Lovat asks. “We gain more than we lose.” He touches on a heated debate about historical fiction. From Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell novels, to Game Of Thrones and Outlander, historians enjoy, or howl with irritation at the mashing up of historical facts, distortions or downright lies.  From the Fraser point of view, the Outlander effect on the entire region has given us some borrowed glamour. Until then the whole clan shtick had grown a bit mothballed and folksy.  Now, it feels like someone is throwing a years’ long, global party for us – fancy dress optional. As a result, the Highlands and clans look quite sexy again. Perhaps the last time this happened is after Walter Scott published Waverley, or Stevenson’s Kidnapped came out.  Even my book on Lovat of the ’45 has profited by this latest revival. When Outlander series two aired last year, The Last Highlander – Scotland’s Most Notorious Clan Chief, Rebel And Double Agent jumped into the New York Times ebook bestseller list.  A notable grandfather for Jamie Fraser, Lovat of the ’45 led a riotous life. Outlawed twice, the Old Fox was a lace-wristed courtier of kings. At home, he ruled the Frasers with all the patriarchal love and aggression of an old-style clan chief. Wonderful to write about, I’m sure he was hell to live with. Outlander captures some of his outrageous character. Whether you like the Outlander effect or not, the surge of interest in the clans and the Highlands produces marked economic benefits. VisitScotland calls the phenomenon “a goldmine”.  The sites used as locations for filming have seen their visitor numbers rocket by between 20 and 45 per cent. The ripple effect benefits local businesses. The National Museum of Scotland published pictures of author Gabaldon visiting their blockbuster Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites exhibition. The museum seems comfortable with the fact/fiction interface. It trusts us to work out the differences.

Successful 2017 Hebcelt Injects Economic Boost to Isles

The Hebridean Celtic Festival has recorded another successul year - and has now generated around £25million for the local economy in its 22-year history.  Organisers of the four-day event claim it has delivered a lasting positive economic and cultural impact for the community.  While some music festivals in Scotland are being discontinued, HebCelt is showing it is going from strength to strength, with this year’s event confirmed as one of the most successful in its history.  The festival was held in the isle of Lewis, with headliners The Waterboys, Imelda May, Dougie MacLean and Lucy Spraggan.  It featured more than 40 acts and over 70 hours of performances in the main arena, in Stornoway town centre and in sell-out community shows in Lewis and Harris, reaching nearly 16,000 attendances over its four-day run. Festival director Caroline Maclennan said: “Our 22nd festival was a great success. The beautiful weather added to the wonderful atmosphere in and around the arena and the feedback from the artists, audience and traders has been extremely positive,  demonstrating the enormous benefit to the community the festival undoubtedly brings. It is a relaxed, chilled out occasion and, with the kids running around enjoying themselves too, it provides a superb family experience. Our continued success is testament to the fantastic support we get from our audiences, funders, sponsors, supporters and from this community.” During festival week Stornoway and surrounding villages were crammed with visitors, with nearly 60 per cent coming from outside the islands – from across the UK, Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - filling hotels, guest houses and campsites in the area.

Traumatic Story of the Hebridean Clearances Retold
A book based on the true story of the daughter of a North Uist landowner during the Highland Clearances is to detail the brutal episode for Hebridean crofters in the 19th century. Based on the story of islander Jessie MacDonald, The False Men is a fictionalised account of period which saw the huge swathes of the Highland crofters cleared from the land to make way for more profitable sheep farming by rich landlords.  The False Men is written by Mhairead MacLeod who lived on the Isle of South Uist and in Inverness, before emigrating to Australia. It will be released on 14 September.  The False Men shines a light on the personal stories of those impacted by the violence perpetrated on families by their landlords and neighbours in a period of Scottish history that devastated communities, split families and depopulated huge swathes of the country. Mhairead MacLeod tells a story of a community split by status, privilege and power, and the personal story of one woman’s courageous struggle to resist social pressure and choose her own path.  Mhairead said: “The Uists are distinct and evocative islands, with a sometimes dark history that is linked to the stark beauty of the wide open spaces and depopulated vistas. “The False Men is one story of many that reveal the personal impact that the power and influence of the landlords who implemented The Clearances had on all aspects of society.” The story centres on Jess MacKay, based on Jessie MacDonald, in 1848 who had led a privileged life as the daughter of a local landowner, sheltered from the harsher aspects of life.  Courted by the eligible Patrick Cooper, the Laird’s new commissioner, Jess’s future is mapped out, until Lachlan Macdonald arrives on North Uist, amid rumours of forced evictions on islands just to the south. As the uncompromising brutality of The Clearances reaches the islands, and Jess sees her friends ripped from their homes, she must decide where her heart, and her loyalties, truly lie. Set against the evocative backdrop of the Hebrides and inspired by the true story. Mhairead MacLeod was born in Inverness, Scotland and spent her early childhood on the Isle of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. She now lives in Brisbane, Australia, where she worked as an ethics lawyer, investigator and university lecturer.

Livingston Teen’s Roman Silver Find to Go on Display
A hoard of Roman silver discovered in Fife three years ago is set to go on show for the first time in a new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland this October.  The finding was made in Dairsie by metal detectorist David Hall when he was just 14.  David, from Livingston, has since visited researchers at the Museum to help catalogue the fragments of the Dairsie hoard and learn about the insights they have yielded to museum experts. The Roman silver dates to the late 3rd century AD and is the earliest ‘hacksilver’ from anywhere beyond the frontiers of the Roman Empire.  Hacksilver refers to objects literally hacked into pieces, converted from beautiful treasures into raw silver bullion. Archaeologists think this silver came to Fife as a gift or payment from the Roman world. The Romans could not just rely on the strength of their army – they also used diplomatic efforts to secure the empire’s borders by buying off surrounding tribes.  But the discovery has given National Museums Scotland staff an additional challenge. As well as being hacked-up by the Romans, the hoard had been shattered by ploughing.  As a result, conservators and curators have undertaken a daunting jigsaw puzzle, reconstructing four Roman vessels from over 300 fragments, as well as examining how they had been cut into packages of bullion. Dr Fraser Hunter, principal curator, National Museums Scotland, said: “New archaeological evidence is rewriting our understanding of Roman frontier politics, and silver was a key part of this.  It’s a fascinatingly complex picture that shows interaction and realpolitik, with the Romans changing their approach to deal with different emerging problems, and local tribes taking advantage of Roman ‘gifts’. The Dairsie hoard is internationally significant. It’s the earliest evidence for a new phase of Roman policy in dealing with troublesome tribes, using bribes of silver bullion in the form of hacked silver vessels.” The exhibition, Scotland’s Early Silver, will show for the first time how silver, not gold, became the most important precious metal in Scotland over the course of the first millennium AD. New research and recent archaeological discoveries will chart the first thousand years of silver in Scotland. The exhibition will showcase Scotland’s earliest silver, arriving with the Roman army, and show the lasting impact this new material had on local society. The research is supported by The Glenmorangie Company.

Scotland’s Top Six Historical ‘Hidden Gems’ Revealed
They are a reminder of Govan’s status as an ancient religious and royal centre, long before the Clydeside community was merged into Glasgow. Now the Govan Stones, a collection of more than 100 carved crosses and grave markers dating from the ninth-11 centuries, have been voted as Scotland’s favourite historical hidden gem.  They received more than 2,000 votes in a nationwide poll carried out to promote some of the country’s lesser known tourist attractions.  The stones are housed in Govan Old Parish Church, a Victorian building which stands in a graveyard that has been in use for at least 1,500 years. The parish was once a stronghold of the kingdom of Srathclyde, a Brittonic-speaking land that was centred around Dumbarton Rock, until it gradually came under the control of Scots kings from the 11th century onwards. The five large ‘hogback’ stones found in Govan suggest that it was occupied or at least partly settled by Vikings, who carved similar monuments across Ireland and Scandinavia. Ardrossan Castle, a medieval ruin which once played host to some of Scotland’s most powerful people including William Wallace, came in second place. The Howff, a 453-year-old graveyard, landed in third place with over 1,000 votes. Fourth place was claimed by the James Watt Cottage - a former workshop of the Scots inventor which stands in the grounds of Kinneil House in Bo’ness.  As part of the 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, Scotland’s six World Heritage Sites were celebrated with six events in April. The six winning Hidden Gems sites are now preparing to mark their victory with six events during Scottish Archaeology Month in September.

UK 'Determined to Push Down Tariffs on Scotch Whisky Sales Overseas Post-Brexit'
The UK Westminster Government is determined to "drive down" tariffs on the sales of Scotch whisky overseas in the wake of Brexit. With whisky boosting the UK economy by about £5 billion a year, Scottish Secretary David Mundell said ministers are keen to open up new markets around the world for the iconic drink. He spoke out ahead of a meeting on the island of Islay, in the Hebrides, which is home to several distilleries.  Mr Mundell will have talks with representatives of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and drinks manufacturers Diageo at the Caol Ila distillery. Export tariffs on Scotch range from zero to more than 150%, with the UK Westminster Government now looking at how future trade agreements with other nations could reduce these for products such as whisky, smoked salmon and gin.  The Scottish Secretary said: "Scotch whisky is a world-class product, globally recognised for its quality and heritage, and the industry employs thousands of people in Scotland and around the rest of the UK. We are determined to open up new markets around the world for the very best whisky our distillers have to offer - and to drive down any tariffs they face." Scotch whisky accounts for about a third of Scottish food and drink exports, with a report by the SWA estimating the industry directly contributes £3.2 billion a year to the UK economy, with a further £1.7 billion of indirect benefits. Meanwhile, 10,800 people are employed in the sector, while it also supports 29,300 jobs indirectly, according to the research International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox who said: " With the recent uplift in trade, we should raise a glass to our exporting success and further help UK businesses make the most of an ever-growing demand for top-selling British products such as Scotch whisky as part of a global Britain." Holyrood Brexit minister Mike Russell hit out at the Scottish Secretary, saying: " David Mundell's record during the whole Brexit debate is a catalogue of contradictions - in the space of little over a year he has gone from warning about the threats that Brexit poses to Scottish jobs and our economy to being a hard Brexit cheerleader. Meanwhile, our whisky industry needs urgent assurances that the UK Westminster Government will not sell them out in order to secure a wider trade deal with the US. The EU's protection of the whisky industry will be undermined and the industry will suffer if the looser US definition is forced on Scotland." He added: " David Mundell and his Tory colleagues spend a lot of time peddling false reassurances which have no evidential backing, whilst avoiding taking about the inevitably difficult consequences of Brexit.  People across Scotland's rural communities are increasingly of the view that the UK Westminster Government is merely looking for ways to placate opposition whilst they attempt to deliver the hardest of Tory hard Brexit agendas. His job is to argue Scotland's case at Westminster, not try and sell Westminster's case to the most fragile communities in Scotland."

Mey Games to Be the Biggest Yet

This year’s Mey Highland Games is set to be the biggest in the event’s history with the number of stalls having increased fivefold from last year. Organisers have had requests for 50 stall pitches at the games which is to go ahead at the John O’Groats Showfield a week tomorrow. The games was traditionally held at Mey but it is now set to stay at Groats for the forseeable future. The events is organised by the Wick branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland, which has merged with the Canisbay branch, which previously organised it. Games committee chairman Barry Butler said relocating to Groats has allowed the event to expand and has proved to be a popular move with visitors. “John O’Groats will become home to the Mey Games for the immediate future.” Mr Butler said the tourist pull of Groats combined with the signal success of the North Coast 500 (NC500) bringing more people to the far north has resulted in organisers planning for a bigger gate this year.

West Highlands Shaken by Biggest Quake in Region for 30 Years
The biggest earthquake to hit the Highlands in three decades was reported by nearly 80 people.  It was one of three to hit the same area within three hours yesterday. The British Geological Survey, which recorded the biggest – and first – of the trio of quakes at about 3.45pm, said it had a magnitude of 3.8 and was centred on Moidart. So far 78 people there have reported its effects. It was the biggest such tremor to be felt in the region since a 4.1 magnitude earthquake in Oban in 1986. The second quake followed two minutes later and measured 3.4 magnitude, followed by a 2.2 magnitude at 6.35pm.  More recently, a quake measuring 3.6 was recorded, centred on Dumfries, on Boxing Day 2006. A smaller earthquake also struck in the Highlands yesterday. The 1.5 magnitude tremor was recorded near Kingussie. It happened at 2.19am and at a depth of 4.3 miles, with the epicentre about three miles north west of the area’s Highland Wildlife Park.

Queen to Open Queensferry Crossing in Ceremony on September 4
The ceremony will take place exactly 53 years to the day from when the monarch opened the Forth Road Bridge. It will feature an address by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, a blessing by Church of Scotland Moderator The Right Rev Dr Derek Browning, a specially-commissioned poem read by Scotland's Makar Jackie Kay and musical performances. The £1.35 billion crossing across the Forth was due to open last December but its completion was delayed by adverse weather conditions.  It will now open to traffic on August 30, before closing again on September 2 and 3 to allow 50,000 members of the public the chance to walk across it. After a ballot for the walking experience attracted almost 250,000 entries, an extra community day has been added on September 5, giving up to 10,000 more people from local schools and groups on both sides of the Forth the chance to walk the crossing. The bridge will then reopen to traffic with no pedestrian access.