Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 415

Issue # 415                                             Week ending Saturday 26th August 2017

Has Jeremy Corbyn Come to the Islands to Do A Spot of Hunting and Gathering? By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

It doesn’t look very impressive now that we can see it at close quarters having just landed on our shores. It just sits there looking washed up, limp, harmless and with straggly bits hanging from it. No, I am not talking about the new and potentially deadly lion’s mane jellyfish that has been found in north-west Scotland but the surprising stinging machine that is Jeremy Corbyn. He’s up here now.

When he strides purposefully into the sports centre in Stornoway tonight after the long day having the inevitably “useful” meetings with business leaders, Corbyn will be a hunter-gatherer. Not merely for his own amusement will he have made the trek from Islington in North London to this blasted rock but to hunt down converts to his message of anti-austerity and gather in their votes when the next election is called. See what I did there?

He has had it easy so far. He managed to magnificently and memorably silence Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale and other leading lights in his own party, who worked so very hard to paint him as an incompetent extremist. They are no longer quite so vocal in trying to oust him since he confounded them at the general election by not actually winning but proving he actually appeals to ordinary people - and there are rather a lot of them about with votes to cast. Awkward.

Corbyn went into the last election promising to nationalise anything that could move. The energy industry, railways, buses and the Royal Mail are all going to be back in public ownership if he can get into Number 10. And the bad news? C’mon man, you have to tell us everything. We do not want to be disappointed again. Sometimes I get hungry. And I like fish. I went in town yesterday and I bought a huge haddock from the fish shop. The guy in the shop said it would satisfy the whole family. When I got it home, I found out that all its insides were missing. Gutted or what.

Britain has not forgiven his incumbent obstacle to power, Theresa May, for agreeing to reveal the naughtiest thing she ever did and then explaining it was when farmers were not best pleased after she ran through a flipping field of wheat. Wheat? What? Wait. The nation, appetite whetted, waited for the wheat punchline. There was none.

Corbyn had better do as much hunting and gathering as he can in the Hebrides today. I believe that Moggmania is soon to sweep the country which will be a serious blow to JC. A dark knight will rise up and challenge May for the Tory leadership, and he will triumph. Now that Jacob Rees-Mogg, of whom we spoke here but recently, is now ensconced on Twitter with 49,000-odd followers gathered in a couple of weeks, he is primed.

JR-M says that talk about him challenging Theresa May is just August silly season stuff. Yet he won’t actually say the words that he will not stand and friends say he been taking “soundings”. The man is clearly chomping at the bit although he says, as he is not a cabinet minister, it would be nigh impossible to become premier. Poppycock, old boy. Nothing in the rules to prevent it. When you think the likely alternatives are Boris Johnson, David Davis or Amber Rudd, it is but a shoe-in. Heck, Corbyn has a lot of gathering to do tonight to beat off this new toff on the block.

All men are hunter gatherers. On us it falls to be the providers. We are the biblical fishers of men. So I too have to do my duty. That is why, when there are but scant morsels on our table, I hear that primeval call and I know what must be done. It’s going to be cold but there is nothing I can do about that. I have to do what I have to do so I do not hesitate but heave open that heavy door and peer into the snowy wastes beyond.

Despite the chilling blast, I bravely force my limbs to make their way warily past the bodies of animals long since perished. Then I realise there is a very white light, like a ray from the heavens, showing me the way and I see that laid out before me is a small but very green forest. My fingers are cold and my breath is quick but I have to somehow push through the greenery. Then and only then, when I get past the broccoli, can I finally reach the haddock at the back of the fridge.

School Cash Approved in Effort to Solve Crisis

Moves to hike the amount of money that new house builders have to pay towards school improvements in Inverness have been unanimously approved by councillors.  Developers will now have to fork out up to three times as much as before as the city tries to deal with a school capacity crisis.  City schools have been creaking under the pressure of hundreds of new houses built in recent years, as the number of pupils has rocketed.  A recent report showed all five secondary schools in Inverness will be overcrowded by 2030, along with 14 primary schools, but the cash-strapped council cannot afford the scale of expansion needed. This week the council’s places committee agreed to increase developer contributions, to come into effect immediately for new planning applications.  Currently the council takes £2013 per house towards primary education and £1039 for high schools but this will rise to £6983 and £3449 respectively.  Inverness South councillor Andrew Jarvie, who recently discovered Highland takes one of the lowest developer contributions for education, welcomed the price hike during the meeting last Wednesday.  "This is a fairly substantial change which will give us a fairly substantial amount of money in return for developments so we can start solving the overcrowding crisis in our schools without being out of pocket," he said.  Fellow Inverness South councillor Ken Gowans agreed, calling the increase "long overdue".  "I have been concerned about this some time so thank you for the work that has gone in to it," he told officers.  "The report is measured, balanced and realistic. This is long overdue and that has been self evident by the problems Inverness schools have been having and we are really at the tipping point now. This will go some way to alleviate this in the future."  A wider review into developer contributions for infrastructure outwith education is currently under way and councillors will be asked to approve more changes in November, when it is hoped the increase can be rolled out in areas such as the Black Isle and Nairn, where schools are becoming overcrowded.  One in five Highland schools are forecast to be over capacity by 2030, and others in a state of disrepair.

Government Looks to Give More Help with Funeral Costs
More help with funeral costs could be made available under plans for a new national assistance scheme.  The Scottish Government has unveiled a 10-point plan to improve the support already available, including a new benefit, the funeral expense assistance, to be launched by summer 2019.  There will also be further guidance for people on what other advice and support is available.  The plans come 18 months after the cost of a burial in the Highlands soared from £638 to £970, while the bill for a cremation was hiked from £638 to £849.  There was a huge public backlash against the council price hike last year, brought in as part of cost cutting measures to plug a £50 million budget black hole.  Across the region burials can now take up to seven days – previously they typically took three or four – allowing the council to cut four full-time jobs.  Scotland’s equalities minister Angela Constance said: "The death of a loved one is an incredibly difficult time for anyone and it can be even harder when money is tight.  We know funeral costs can push people into poverty and often it is those already in financial hardship who face increased difficulties. That is why we are taking decisive action to tackle this growing issue and have engaged with local authorities, the funeral sector and other support services."

Drumnadrochit to Pilot Energy Project
A Loch Ness community has been chosen to pilot a project looking at local energy consumption and future requirements.  Drumnadrochit is one of four communities selected to develop local energy plans in the Highlands and Islands Enterprise region as part of the Community Benefits of Civic Energy (COBEN) Project.  Using existing data plus information gathered at community consultations, the project will draw together local aspirations and priorities on issues such as power, energy storage, heat, fuel poverty, transport, demand reduction and management as well as considering the implications for energy infrastructure and potential partnership opportunities.  It could consider, for example, the potential for locally-owned renewable energy schemes, or the number of homes with central heating, or those requiring improved insulation.  The findings could be used to help access funding for energy projects, as well as feeding into local authority development plans. The COBEN Project, funded by the European Union, is one of six community energy projects across the North Sea region. The Scottish pilot is 50 per cent match-funded through the Scottish Government’s community and renewable energy scheme.  The three other areas which have been chosen to take part in pilot project are Oban, Barra and Vatersay on the Western Isles and Brae on the Shetland Islands.  Soirbheas, the community charity for Glen Urquhart and Strathglass, responded to the call for communities to take part, putting forward Drumnadrochit as a community keen to address its local energy needs.  The charity’s community development officer Carol Masheter was delighted the village had been chosen. "Soirbheas has been involved in and supported several renewable and energy saving projects over the last three years," she said.  "Being part of the COBEN project presents a real opportunity to take a more holistic approach to plan for future community energy needs. Soirbheas was established to strengthen and support the Glen Urquhart and Strathglass communities through revenues from local renewable energy schemes.  The funds are distributed to local community projects to help protect the environment and to provide and develop more resilient communities.  The four local energy plans will set out key priorities and opportunities and make recommendations and suggest practical projects for each community.  Work in each area starts in October and local energy plans will be completed by mid-2018 with  selected  recommendations implemented by 2020.

Black Isle Community Fridge to Help Cut Food Waste
An innovative project to help reduce food waste and tackle food poverty is being planned in Muir of Ord.  The village is set to host one of Scotland’s first community fridges - provided it can find a suitable location.  It would be part of a growing network whereby surplus food is shared by individuals and businesses with their local community via an open-access communal fridge.  The food left inside is freely available to all members of the community on an honesty basis.  Although the community fridge network is spreading quickly across the southern and middle parts of the UK, it has yet to establish a presence further north. Muir of Ord mother-of-three Emma Whitham, who is keen to establish one in her village, says it would be a first for the Highlands and possibly Scotland, "People can put food into it that they don’t need," said Mrs Whitham, of Ord Road. "Perhaps they grow their own fruit and vegetables and have had a big harvest, or if they are going away on holiday and have leftover bits and pieces, instead of putting it in the bin, they put it in the fridge, it.  It is about preventing waste but it is about food poverty, too."  Anyone could help themselves regardless of their circucmstances but the fridge is also seen as having the potential to help redistribute food to those in need but without the stigma and restrictions of food banks, for example. Mrs Whitham, who has a background in environmental management and climate change, is the founding director of MOO Food, a social enterprise based in Muir of Ord Its mission is to create an inclusive hub for producing environmentally-conscious food which sustains a healthy, empowered, low carbon community.  It is run by a small group of volunteers and has already started working with the local primary school on a food-growing programme. It also plans to set up a food assembly in Dingwall where local food producers and farmers can sell produce directly to customers. Mrs Whitham believed the idea of a community fridge was in line with the enterprise’s vision.  Although funding is available to acquire a fridge, Mrs Whitham is still seeking a suitable location.  Both the village hall and Muir Hub, a recently-opened community building, support the idea, but neither have space to accommodate the fridge inside their premises.  Mrs Whitham is now exploring the possibility of getting a small wooden shelter outside one of the buildings where the fridge could be installed, giving 24 hour access.  "I hope to get the community on board early on so they realise it is everyone’s fridge," she said.  "It doesn’t belong to me, or MOO Food. It belongs to the Muir of Ord community."  She envisaged, however, taking on the role of checking it and making sure it  was clean.  She also said there had to be a degree of responsibility adopted by those who used it whether they were givers or takers.  People taking out food, for example, would have judge when helping themselves to items while those donating food would be expected to ensure the produce met acceptable standards. "As a giver, if it isn’t good enough for you, it isn’t good enough for someone else," she said.

New Admissions to Cambusavie Unit At Lawson Memorial Hospital Suspended
Extreme staffing concerns at the Lawson Memorial Hospital in Golspie have meant restricting in-patients admissions as a temporary measure to ensure staff can deliver a safe level of care.  In recent weeks, the Cambusavie Unit’s nursing team have been managing the situation on the ward by covering staff shortages caused by a combination of staff sickness and vacant posts.  However, further staff sick leave has now led to the decision to suspend admissions to the Cambusavie ward with immediate effect.  Senior charge nurse, Joanne Gemmill, said: “Despite being fragile, we have been actively managing the staffing situation over recent weeks to ensure all shifts were safely covered. Unfortunately, more essential staff have gone on sick leave this week and we have exhausted all options to cover these additional shifts.  Because of that, it is with regret that we have decided that there is no option but to temporarily close to admissions at Cambusavie in order to ensure we can safely provide care to the current patients within the ward.  I would like to reiterate that this is a temporary measure and is solely in response to the staffing shortages. We will be monitoring the situation daily from today and, with job application interviews pending, we do expect that we will be able to resume admitting patients in the near future. I also want to reassure everyone that we have managed to ensure safe staffing levels for the current patients within the unit and we are reviewing the staffing requirements continuously.”  In recent months NHS Highland has experienced extreme staffing pressures which have led to an unprecedented amount of unplanned temporary closures to hospital admissions across Highland.  The board is pushing forward with major service change programmes underway in Badenoch & Strathspey, Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross, Lochaber and Caithness in order to provide a safe, sustainable service in the future.

Scotland’s Highest Village to Finally Get Rail Link Restored
A remote narrow-gauge railway which became a lifeline when a road was closed last year is being finally extended to Scotland’s highest village.  Work has started on a new quarter-mile section of the line from Leadhills into Wanlockhead, where it is hoped trains will run from 2020.  The move comes 20 years after original plans to extend the half-mile-long track across the border from South Lanarkshire to Dumfries and Galloway.  The volunteers involved hope it will be boost tourism in 1,531 ft-high Wanlockhead, which boasts a lead mining museum and Europe’s second oldest subscription library - after Leadhills - which were founded for miners.  The tiny trains on the 2ft-wide tracks - half standard gauge - terminate at Glengonnar Halt, outside the village.  However, they were called on to replace buses for a week last summer when the parallel road between Leadhills and Wanlockhead was closed for resurfacing, saving villagers a 45-mile detour.  The extension breakthrough came when agreement was reached with the landowner for the work to proceed.  Alan Mackie, chairman of the Lowthers Railway Society, which operates the line, said: “Thanks to an agreement we concluded with Buccleuch Estates last year, we’ve now able to access the track bed and are digging test pits to find out where the track drains need to be dug.  We’re following the track bed of the former Caledonian Railway line, which linked Elvanfoot with Leadhills and Wanlockhead and closed in 1938.  We’re using our railway’s digger, which we brought up by rail from our base at Leadhills, to dig the pits.  We’ve found the original ballast still intact below the surface of the ground.”  Mr Mackie hoped the track bed would be cleared and the site of the new station levelled by next August.  Trains are expected to start running in 2020 - 82 years after the last one operated.  Mr Mackie said: “Once we can run right through to Wanlockhead, it will boost passenger numbers as well as being good for tourism and attractions such as the Museum of Lead Mining and one of the world’s oldest lending libraries in the village.  There’s a great deal of work to be done, but we’re confident our experience running trains on the line for the last 30 years will allow us to complete the extension on time.”

International Horse Trials to Bring in the Crowds
Some of the finest equestrian talent around will be descending on Blair Atholl this week for the annual international horse trials.  Four full days of events in the Equi-Trek trials are to kick off on Thursday, ranging from pony shows and dressage to cross country and showjumping.  Also for this year Blair Castle will host leg six of the Event Ride Masters which is part of the CIC*** series and attracts unprecedented prize money to help ensure its goal of showcasing the sport of Eventing to a new global audience.  The Blair Atholl event also boasts a massively popular Bruadar Country Fayre with many demonstrations.  Over the Saturday and Sunday the country fayre will have terrier racing, flyball, falconry and vintage tractors.  And the programme will also offer the chance for visitors to take in course walks. Parties of people can walk one of the Cross Country Track at this year’s Blair Castle Equi-Trek International Horse Trials with the pros: learn how they view the fences, how they walk the distances, walk the lines they plan to ride, and find out if they foresee any tricky moments.

Scotland’s Happiest Place is on A Beach in the Hebrides

Admiring the white sandy beaches of the Hebrides has been voted the country’s ultimate “happy place”, according to a new study.  The research looked into places in the UK which evoke special memories and ultimately make us “happy” – and found that for more than one in four (28 per cent) of Scottish people that place is a Hebridean beach. Visiting Loch Ness (21 per cent) and walking in the Lake District (21 per cent) were in joint second place, while visiting the Roman Baths of Bath and enjoying fish and chips in Padstow harbour completed the top five happy spots for Scots.  The popularity of the beaches in the Hebrides extended to those from all over the UK, making them one of the top five happiest places overall.  Researchers from SACO, The Serviced Apartment Company, polled holiday makers and revealed two in five Scots believe there is “no place like home” when it comes to holidays. The Highlands were by the far the most popular holiday destination for Scots, followed by the Lake District and Cornwall. Nearly two thirds of the adults polled said some of their fondest memories of being a child were spent holidaying in Britain and 62 per cent are now trying to replicate those memories for their own children. More than a third (39 per cent) said some of their best holidays have been in the UK. More than two thirds of those asked (70 per cent) claimed if you could always guarantee the weather, they would never go abroad.  A spokesperson for SACO, which offers serviced apartments in Scotland, said: “Scotland has a huge amount to offer when it comes to holidays, from exciting city breaks to endless opportunities to discover the great outdoors.  The dramatic and beautiful beaches of the Hebrides offer breathtaking views that you would struggle to match anywhere in Europe, so there really is no need to jet off abroad to feel happy and content.  It seems that many parents are choosing to relive their childhood memories by visiting places of interest with their own children across Scotland for their holidays.”  Nearly half of those polled said the biggest benefit of holidaying in the UK was the fact you could travel at a time of day to suit you, and one in five love the fact you don’t need to take out expensive travel insurance. Being able to travel by car, avoiding sweltering heat and being able to take the family dog along were also listed as benefits of the staycation, as well as it being more affordable.  Must-do things on a traditional British summer break included paddling, skimming stones and building sand castles.  Many activities revolved around food with eating fish and chips, cream teas, pasties and sampling a traditional pub lunch all on the holiday checklist.  A more honest 22 per cent of the group said it was a must to get blown about on a windy beach and 34 per cent said, you haven’t experienced a true British holiday until you have been caught in torrential rain. Interestingly, the research showed that a typical seven-day break in the UK would set you back £716, compared to £1,430 if you went abroad.

Bus Suitcase Mix-up Led to Drugs Worth £6,500 Being Discovered
A suitcase containing £6,500 worth of drugs has been handed in to police after someone picked it up by mistake on a bus.  Officers in Dumfries have taken to social media urging the owner to "pop in, tell us what's inside" and claim it. However, their Facebook post warns "you will be arrested and will only get the empty case back after the court case". The suitcase was picked up by mistake by a man in Dumfries when he got off a bus travelling between London and Belfast on Tuesday morning. When he got home, he realised it was not his and took it to the tourist information centre next to the bus stop. Staff there thought it had a funny smell and phoned police, who came to take it away. Officers at Dumfries police station discovered it contained a large quantity of drugs when they opened it to investigate. They are keen to trace a young man seen asking about his missing suitcase in the Whitesands area of the town on Tuesday morning.  The police Facebook post has been liked more than 375 times.  It says: "Were you a bit wasted last night? Did you misplace a suitcase with £6,500 worth of drugs in it ... Great news, it's been found and we have it at Dumfries Police Station. Just pop in, tell us what's inside it, where you left it and we will be happy to return it to you!" The man police want to trace is described as being in his mid 20s with fair hair and was wearing jeans and a horizontally-striped fawn-coloured top.  He spoke with a Scottish accent Constable Alistair Hope said: "We would like to identify this man in relation to this investigation.  Anyone who may have been in or around the Whitesands on Tuesday morning is asked to call us at Dumfries on the 101 number if they can help us identify this man."

Companies Can Take Internet with Them to Most Remote Parts of the North
An Inverness firm is tackling the problem of connecting to the internet in some of the Highlands and Islands’ most remote spots with pioneering trailer-mounted technology. The sophisticated electronic kit developed by External Reality is designed to provide companies working at sites beyond the range of cable or mobile phone connections with a portable satellite link.  With a number of the £10,000 Sinect TMS (trailer mounted satellite) units already ordered by a firm in the north, the company’s founder Richard Allan plans to market them across the UK and internationally.  Mr Allan and his technical team spent almost a year developing the system and have joined forces with local firm D.R. Alexander and Sons to source the trailers required to transport the units. Mr Allan said: “The problem we were trying to solve during our nine-to-10 months of development work was how to get internet access out to wind farm sites, hydro-electric schemes, water treatment plants, power sub-stations and road construction projects where there’s no cable, landline or mobile phone access.  Carried on board the Sinect is a dome housing a small dish which automatically aligns to a satellite to become a high-powered internet access point within just a couple of minutes. The unit, which has a list price of just under £10,000, can be plugged into any on-site power source but also carries its own batteries to make it completely free standing.” He added: “In the past internet access to these sites would takes days or even weeks to set up with engineers having to come out to get things up and running. With the Sinect you don’t have any of that. There’s no need for an engineer because the system can be operated by anyone.”  Mr Allan believes his company is the first to offer a trailer-based satellite connection system. Four of the units have, he said, been ordered by a large company in Inverness, which plans to hire them out to sites across the north Highlands.  We’ll see how it goes in Scotland and then it’s our intention to take it right across the UK and then after that perhaps internationally,” he added. The first units produced by the company are mounted on rugged 6ft by 4ft domestic trailers manufacutred by Welsh company Ifor Williams. Mr Allan added: “We picked Ifor Williams Trailers because of their reputation for being solid, robust and adaptable. Up here in the Highlands there’s not many farms where you don’t see one of their trailers in use and I know it’s the same right across the UK and the world.  We initially asked the distributor for this area, D.R. Alexander and Son, to supply five P6e trailers for mounting the Sinect as they are designed for use in some very remote and rugged terrain.”

Philip to Join Queen At Unveiling of New Queensferry Crossing
The Duke of Edinburgh is to make his first official appearance with the Queen since retiring from solo royal engagements by attending the opening of a new bridge.  Philip bid farewell to his own royal jobs at the beginning of August when he celebrated the fundraising achievements of Royal Marines at Buckingham Palace.  The Queen's consort was pictured doffing his bowler hat to acknowledge the marching marines in the palace's forecourt, as he called time on his personal public duties.  But palace officials have stressed from time to time he may accompany the monarch at her events, and on September 4 he will join the Queen when she opens Scotland's Queensferry Crossing.  The £1.35 billion, 1.7-mile long Queensferry Crossing is a replacement for the Forth Road Bridge across the Forth between the Lothians and Fife.  Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, will also attend the event alongside construction workers, and there will be a blessing by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland.  The Queen's Consort had announced in May he would be retiring from solo royal engagements, a decision which was fully supported by the Queen and was not medically related.  The monarch's public schedule continues as normal but other members of the Royal Family will step up in support of the Queen in her role as head of state.  When the Duke retired on August 2, he had carried out 22,219 solo engagements since 1952. Over the decades he had made 637 solo overseas visits, including 229 visits to 67 Commonwealth countries, and 408 visits to 76 other countries.

Hundreds of Objections Submitted Over Wind Farm Plan

Crofters have submitted hundreds of objections against the EDF wind farm proposal to build 36 turbines on crofting land in Lewis without the crofters’ consent.  Plans for the Stornoway Wind Farm scheme have been submitted to the Scottish Land Court by multinational engineering firm EDF and their current partners in the scheme, Amec-Foster-Wheeler, under Section 19 of the Crofters Act.  A Section 19 application is the request for permission to go ahead with development on crofting ground regardless of whether the crofters in the townships affected would be in favour of the development or not.  Four of the townships affected by EDF’s planning application are known to be opposed because they want to be able to build their own, community-owned, turbines on the same land.  It is thought to be the first time a multinational wind farm has met with objections from crofters wanting to build their own turbines and the number of objections is likely to result in the Land Court convening hearings in Stornoway to hear the crofters’ case. The story has also received national attention, with high profile figures including mountaineer and broadcaster Cameron McNeish speaking out in support of the crofters on Twitter.  Meanwhile, the crofters from the four townships — Melbost and Branahuie, Sandwick East Street, Sandwick North Street and Aginish — have written to MP Angus Brendan MacNeil to express their “extreme disappointment” at his lack of support for their case, particularly in the light of the recent statement in their support from the SNP group of councillors at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. They have written to SNP group leader Gordon Murray, formally thanking him. The letter to Angus Brendan has been copied to MSP Alasdair Allan and Gordon Murray. It is signed by representatives from the four common grazings committees. They are Donald MacDonald (Aignish), William MacFarlane (Melbost), Calum Buchanan  and Rhoda Mackenzie.  In the letter, the townships reminded the MP that there was “a very tight time scale” for action over EDF’s Stornoway Wind Farm.  In terms of the number of objections to the Land Court, Willie MacFarlane of Melbost said: “It is clear that people are disgusted with the attempt by EDF to try and remove our development rights over our own grazings.  We are determined to use our grazings for community-owned development and not for EDF’s plans and this striking response from the community shows that clearly.” Rhoda Mackenzie said: “From the reports we are getting from individual crofters and their families, it seems that there have already been hundreds of objections sent to the Land Court to the EDF proposals.  This is the clearest possible proof of the strength of feeling in the communities about the attempt by EDF to deprive us of the right to manage and develop our own grazings, including building community-owned turbines which will use the profit for the benefit of the whole islands community.  We are grateful for the strong support we have received from the SNP Group on the council and we have written to them to thank them. However, we are extremely disappointed at the failure of the MP and the MSP to support the crofters on this issue. They must realise that they are effectively colluding with EDF to rob the communities over their rights to the grazings. I hope this massive number of objections is a wake-up call to them to swing their support behind the crofting townships.”  When asked for his position, Angus Brendan said he was “working hard” with UK Westminster government to get the ‘island’ category of wind projects included in the next round of the Contract for Difference (CfD) — a government scheme which guarantees electricity prices for renewables projects and is seen as essential for new developments.  “Otherwise nothing happens,” he said, but did not comment on whether he would intervene on the crofters’ behalf over EDF’s Section 19 application to the Land Court. Asked for his response, Alasdair Allan said: “There will be a variety of views about how to get the maximum community benefit out of potential future wind projects across the isles. However, for now the priority is ensuring that the interconnector actually happens and that the UK Westminster Government finally gives the go-ahead to island CFDs. Our efforts are focussed on getting the right political decisions about the interconnector and making sure that the development takes place within an acceptable timescale.”

Malaysian Man Found with 10 Kilos of Cannabis in Edinburgh Airport is Jailed

Yong Keh Kee, from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was stopped by Border Force officers as he travelled from Madrid on April 18.  According to the Home Office, they examined two of his suitcases and found 10 vacuum packed packages containing cannabis leaves wrapped in towels with a street value of £100,000.  Yong was given an 18 month sentence at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Wednesday. Murdo MacMillan, head of Border Force Scotland, said: "The vigilance of our officers has prevented a significant quantity of drugs entering the UK and ending up on our streets."  Following the seizure of the Class B drug, the investigation was passed to the NCA. Ian Thomas, NCA Scotland branch commander added: "Drug trafficking fuels violence and exploitation and we are determined to work with law enforcement colleagues to protect the public from that."

Tattoo Receives National Funding Boost of £19,000
This year’s Highland Military Tattoo is set to benefit from a major funding injection. The fourth annual outing for the military showcase has received £19,000 from EventScotland’s national funding programme. As well as funding the appearance of the Queen’s Colour Squadron to provide a guard of honour the money will also go towards sound, projection and marquee infrastructure. Earlier this week Tattoo organisers revealed ticket sales have surpassed those from the same period last year.  Director Seymour Monro said of the award: “It will enable us to bring The Queen’s Colour Squadron of the RAF Regiment to Fort George for the first time.  They are world-renowned and will contribute greatly to our show which has two special themes this year: the RAF and the RAF regiment’s 75th anniversary, and the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. Some of the award will also go towards providing guides to show our visitors around the ramparts before the show.” Tickets for the Tattoo at Fort George from September 8-10, are still available.

Edinburgh Festivals Win New £10m Public Funding Deal

Edinburgh’s festivals are set to win a new £10 million funding boost from the Scottish Government and the city council following crunch talks to secure their long-term future. The deal, which has been thrashed out in the last week, will see the government and council contribute £5 million each over the next five years.  Organisers of the city’s main festivals have also pledged to try to raise a further £5 million through commercial sponsorship and private donations under the three-way agreement.  The deal has been agreed two years after a major study into the future of the festivals called for action to be to taken to ensure Edinburgh retained its place as the “undisputed world leader as a festival city.” The Thundering Hooves study, which was described a “spur to action” for the city and the country, warned that the festivals risked losing their “premier division status” unless their funding was maintained in the face of growing overseas competition. The city’s year-round festivals are currently worth around £313 million to the city’s economy - a figure which has risen by almost a quarter in the space of five years. Events like the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe, the Tattoo and the Hogmanay festival now attract a record 4.5 million people each year – up by more than 250,000 in the same period.

Trump Turnberry Receives £110,000 Tax Rebate

A luxury golf resort on the Ayrshire coast owned by Donald Trump was handed a £110,000 tax rebate by Scottish ministers as part of an emergency bailout aimed at helping small businesses.  The Trump Turnberry resort received a “mandatory” rebate as part of a relief scheme to reduce the property taxes paid by the hospitality industry.  It was introduced by the Scottish Government following complaints from businesses in the north-east of Scotland suffering from an economic downturn caused by a drop in oil prices and subsequently applied across the country. Trump Turnberry had its property tax cut by £109,530 as a result of the measure, a freedom of information request made by The Guardian and The Ferret news agency found.  MSPs said the figures highlighted the unfairness of a property tax system which took no account of a business’s profitability.  “Trump’s brand is toxic,” Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie told The Guardian. “It’s bad enough that he has a business presence in Scotland. It’s galling to learn that the public purse is giving him a helping hand.” The US president said earlier this year that the Ayrshire resort was doing “unbelievably” because of the fall in the value of the pound after the Brexit vote.  Mr Trump bought and renamed the resort for £34m in 2014. His son Eric now manages his golf business, who declared in June that his family had “made Turnberry great again”.  The family-owned firm now hopes to build a second 18-hole course at its Trump International Golf Links Scotland resort north of Aberdeen but has faced opposition from environmentalists.

Jeremy Corbyn: Government on “Illogical Path” with Welfare Policies

The UK Westminster Government is on a “completely illogical path” with its welfare policies, Jeremy Corbyn has told his supporters. The Labour leader attacked plans to close jobcentres and benefits offices as he addressed a rally in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire. Trade union members are protesting against the shutdown of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) centre in the town, which could see 250 workers moved to Motherwell and Glasgow. The shutdown is part of a wider plan to close processing sites and jobcentres across the UK.  Addressing crowds of union members and protesters outside a shopping centre, Mr Corbyn called for the closure programme to be halted. He also criticised UK Westminster Government reforms to the benefits system – including the introduction of Universal Credit aimed at streamlining claimants’ payments – and the use of sanctions.