Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 418

Issue # 418                                          Week ending Saturday 16th  September 2017

It’s Great Living Legends Are Still Around But Some Ought to Consider Retiring
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

So it’s farewell then, Don Williams. His songs about believing in you, rivers running dry, you being his best friend and how he recalled a certain young gipsy lady are the backdrop to a time when we were impressionable, lovelorn and bewildered. He seemed to talk sense to youngsters in a wee village called Tobson on the edge of the Atlantic.

After all, he was called Donald so he was pretty much an honorary Lewisman anyway. Probably of Caledonian migrant stock, he had that jaded look of the dyed-in-the-wool Great Bernera sheep subsidy claimant. So his verses were adapted and made our own. Out went references to Tulsa. And we sang: “Livin' on Tobson time, livin' on Tobson time, well, you know I've been through it, when I set my watch back to it, livin' on Tobson time.”

Not all American legends stand the test of time – Tobson or otherwise. I will not be cruel right away but should say I loved Blondie way back when. Lead singer Debbie Harry made the late-1970s a time of hope and love for so many people. Her up-tempo guitar–thrashing ditties were a revelation as we tried to regain our balance from wearing glam rock platform shoes. She had it all as she was fresh, punky, spunky, new wave and her hair was quite wavy and blonde too.

And she was American. They are all so stylish and cool. Yeah, right. Parts of America have had to face an incredible and tragic disaster with the hurricanes in the past week but it beggars belief that some of them believed the joke on the radio saying they could turn back a hurricane by shooting at it. Some did. The cops actually had to tell Mr Dumb, Mrs Dumber and their entire dumb families to stop.

Anyway, my point is that Ms Harry is still around. She was in that live concert from Hyde Park the other night. She was awful. Sorry, if you are a fan too, but it sounded like wildcats fighting in a sack during a fight in the Carloway Hall 40 years ago. When she sang One Way Or Another, it was screechingly bad and very difficult to listen to.

Yes, I know it was live but the other acts were bearable. Despite the cove from Take That ripping his breeks, the band sang well. James Blunt sounded really odd and squeaky so that was normal, and Rick Astley has still not given up singing Never Gonna Give You Up.

Astley was on a recent trip to Japan. He learned so much - and so did we. Apparently, many public and hotel toilets in Japan have sound systems playing non-stop Rick Astley hits. There was an online prank thing where you would be misled to click a link and it would be to Rick singing that infernal Never Gonna Give You Up. That was known as a Rickroll. Maybe the Japanese thought it sounded like toilet roll. Just saying. Leave me alone. I’m not criticising him.

This Sounds While You Sit thing is not new. I was in a pub in Glasgow after it introduced musical loos which they said would help to mask embarrassing sounds. That theory was all very well but the fact that they constantly played Yellow River and a fiery circle-inspired hit by yon Johnny Cash fellow was not exactly conducive to the necessary contemplation. Yeah, think about that one.

As Debbie Harry might screech, one way or another Tian Tian is not pregnant. August was a lean time for news unless they wanted to write about Donald Trump so the newspapers have run their annual yarn that Tian Tian, the UK's only female giant panda, was “believed” to be pregnant at Edinburgh Zoo and being closely monitored. Poppycock and balderdash, of course.

It was just bloating because of nibbling too many bamboo shoots and probably a touch of trapped wind. I’m the same when I try to finish everything in the container from the Golden Ocean Chinese takeaway in Stornoway. Here’s a tip to the zoo. Stop closely monitoring them, put the lights out and who knows what might happen.

Tales of Tobson Time remind me that our Jersey cow had a full udder every day so we had loads of dairy products. Our kitchen cupboard was packed with butter, cream, crowdie and whole milk. I remember one year the old man thought about making skimmed milk. It had been on telly and in the papers that it was good for you. We never got the hang of making skimmed milk. Why not? It was just too difficult to throw the poor cow across the loch.

First Minister Calls for Consensus on New Powers
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for a renewed Parliamentary consensus on protecting and enhancing the powers of the Scottish Parliament.  Two decades after the people of Scotland voted for a Scottish Parliament, the First Minister outlined the importance of building a similar consensus to that achieved in 1997, in order to safeguard the devolution settlement and to extend the Parliament’s current powers. Speaking in Edinburgh to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1997 referendum, she also set out the threat to the founding principles of devolution from the Brexit process being pursued by the UK Westminster Government. Addressing a cross-section of civic Scotland, the First Minister said: “Even though there is still disagreement – passionate disagreement – about the final destination of our constitutional journey, we should seek a new spirit of consensus to match that achieved in 1997. With Brexit now threatening the underpinning principle of devolution and many of our vital national interests, it is essential that we do so.  Last week, using the current powers of devolution, I unveiled the Scottish Government’s programme for the coming year.  The changes we are proposing are far-reaching. We have examined every area of devolved policy and asked what more can be done to help create the best country we can – for young and old. So there is much we can, and are, doing. But we should always be restless in our ambition to make life better for the people who live here. And the more powers our Parliament has, the more we can, collectively, do for Scotland. So today I want to talk about how we can build a new consensus in 2017 to match the spirit of 1997. Respecting our differences and then working together – not as government and opposition – but as equal partners, to win more powers for the Parliament and assert and protect its rights. Everyone knows that I believe becoming an independent country would be best for Scotland. Others disagree. But twenty years ago that disagreement about the final destination did not stop us from working together to make progress where we could, and it shouldn’t today. We should work, as we did then, to find and make progress on the areas where agreement exists. So over the coming months the Scottish Government will work to do just that. We will publish a series of evidence-based papers on extending the powers of our Parliament – they will cover the issues of employment and employability, social security, immigration and trade.  They will not be intended as the final word – but to stimulate debate and seek consensus.” The First Minister added: “The EU (Withdrawal) Bill which the UK Westminster Government is attempting to take through the House of Commons today threatens the very principle on which our Parliament is founded. The devolution settlement – the Scotland Act that established our Parliament – is based on the principle that everything is automatically devolved unless it is reserved. The Withdrawal Bill turns that principle on its head. As it stands, it will mean that devolved policy areas such as agriculture, fishing and the environment, which are currently carried out at EU level will be automatically reserved, unless the UK Westminster Government decides to devolve. So on the very day that we should be celebrating devolution, we are being called upon to defend it.”

Raise A Glass to Scotch Whisky

Scotch Whisky distilleries achieved a record 1.7 million visits last year – up almost 8 per cent on 2015 - and more sites than ever are opening their doors to showcase the skill and craftsmanship of this iconic industry. The Scotch Whisky Association’s (SWA) latest annual survey found that visits have increased by around a quarter since 2010 and more than half of Scotland’s 123 Scotch Whisky distilleries now welcome members of the public. Collectively, Scotch Whisky distilleries rank among some of the most popular Scottish and UK attractions, with a similar number of visits annually to the likes of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Royal Albert Hall and the Scottish National Gallery.  Visitors are also spending more than before at distilleries. A total of almost £53 million was spent by visitors in 2016, up from last year. And average spend per person increased 13 per cent to £31 from £27.  The current Scottish Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology is likely to give a further boost to visitor numbers as Scotch Whisky is a key part of Scotland’s past and its present.  In the short term, many distilleries believe that Brexit has given tourism a boost with more visitors coming to Scotland because of the weak pound and spending more at distilleries while they are there. But the longer-term impact of Brexit is not yet clear.  However, current uncertainty has not adversely affected investment in visitor facilities. Over the last year distilleries have spent money on new bar areas, staff, technology, such as apps for visitors, and staff, partly as a result of longer opening hours to meet demand. Over the next 12 months, many plan to continue to invest, for example in upgrading shops and tasting areas to enhance the visitor experience. Distilleries reported that the largest proportion of visitors came from Germany, Scotland and other parts of the UK, the USA, and France. Distilleries are also popular with whisky enthusiasts from Sweden and Norway. The success of whisky festivals, such as Islay and Speyside, are also helping to attract new visitors to distilleries.  Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: “Scotch Whisky – Scotland’s most popular export – is known throughout the world. It is produced right across Scotland, in some of our most beautiful landscapes and some of our remotest communities. Each distillery is distinctly of its place. Their histories, stories and modern-day craftsmanship fascinate locals and overseas visitors alike. It’s not surprising that more and more tourists are visiting Scotland’s distilleries to see how Scotch is made and to meet the people involved.  Last year, Scotch Whisky distilleries achieved a record 1.7 million visits, up almost 8% on 2015, and people are spending more than before – often to take a taste of Scotland home with them. Brexit and the weakness of sterling have given a short term boost to distilleries, and, despite some uncertainty about the long-term, they are continuing to invest to improve visitor facilities. A welcome further boost to the whisky industry during this time of change would be to see a cut in excise duty in the UK autumn budget. The high 80 per cent tax burden on an average priced bottle of whisky means that foreign visitors often pay more tax for Scotch in Scotland than in their own countries. That can’t be the right way to encourage more visitors and to support an industry that plays such an important role in the economy, tourism and local communities.”  

Historian Reveals Why the Unicorn is Scotland’s National Animal

An American historian has uncovered the roots of how the Unicorn became Scotland’s national animal in the late 1300s. Elyse Waters, first became interested in the subject when she discovered a medieval cookbook that included a recipe for how best to cook the mythical beast.  During her research, the historian found that the Unicorn was believed to be the natural enemy of the lion - a symbol that the English royals adopted around a hundred years before.  According to folklore, the lion and the unicorn hate each other - a tradition going back to the ancient Babylonians in 3,500 B.C.  The second natural enemy? The elephant. “It was always said that the unicorn would always defeat the elephant, that it had this immense strength to it, even despite its diminished size, it couldn’t be beaten by something as large and powerful as an elephant,” she said. Narwhals teeth were often used as unicorn horns I think it also had to do with the idea of nobility and purity. In the various depictions of the unicorn, the stories that go along with it there’s one in particular, the water cleansing story. A snake would come up to the watering hole and poison it, but then the unicorn would then come along and dip its horn into the watering hole to purify it for all the other animals. So it had a combination of this power to dominate, but instead of using the power, it used it to protect and provide other resources for other animals. And in medieval times, when there was this great focus on chivalry, it became the ultimate animal. It could do what ever it wanted because of that power, but it chose to use this power to make better for other things. When you combine this with all the other stories about its greatness, its power and its ferocity - you can understand why they wanted it.”  In Western parts of the world, the unicorn was believed to be real for around 2,500 years and was adopted as Scotland’s national animal by King Robert in the late 1300s. The existence of the mythical creature was only disproved in 1825 by scientist Baron George Covier, who said it was not feasible for an animal that had a split hoof to have a single horn coming from the top of its head. Worldwide, belief in the unicorn lasted well over 4,000 years, particularly in eastern Asia where it was a benevolent bringer of good luck. “While the theory that a unicorn could not physiologically exist was disproved by Dr Dove in 1900, due to his experiment with a bull calf, by this point, no one really believed that unicorns existed in the first place,” Ms Waters said.

New Uist Business Hits the Right Note

A new recording studio on Benbecula has launched a monthly music lesson subscription designed to help youngsters and adults develop their playing skills.  Wee Studio’s Bunker, based in the East Trust’s former nuclear bunker, is offering music lovers of all ages the opportunity to take part in as many lessons – and learn to play as many instruments – as they want for just £10 per month.  Studio owner, Keith Morrison, who used help from Business Gateway Outer Hebrides to secure part funding through the European Regional Development Fund’s Grants for Growth scheme to kit out his second studio, believes the offer will nurture young talent on the islands and provide adults with a musical outlet.  The 33-year-old has already welcomed numerous local musicians and bands to the Bunker to rehearse and record since opening on June 1st, and bookings for studio time are flooding in from students studying music at Lews Castle College UHI.  He said: “The bookings we have taken already shows there is real enthusiasm for the studio, as it provides professionals with a place to record, rehearse and perform.  Offering a subscription for music lessons also allows us to help local kids and adults develop a love for playing a musical instrument at a cost that isn’t prohibitive. I loved my music lessons when I was young, my teacher’s enthusiasm made me want to be the best player I could be, and since having my own children I see how important music is in helping mind and body work together.  It’s a fantastic, creative outlet, and AJ Macinnes, who runs the Bunker for me, cannot wait to pass on his love of music to those who sign up. Opening the studio happened almost by accident.  Musicians from Uist had been asking me about accommodation so they could travel to my Stornoway studio to record. I suggested I came to them and asked East Trust how much it would be to rent a space. I then asked about storage and approached AJ about work with me and it snowballed from there! If it hadn’t been for the Trust none of this would be possible, and if it hadn’t been for Business Gateway Outer Hebrides I wouldn’t be in the financial position I am now, as the grant paid for half of the new studio equipment. “Because I’m not from the island, the team also highlighted what needed to be done and what should be avoided. That straight talking approach is invaluable and their advice has been second-to-none.”

Rally of Support May Save Minister
Hopes are high that a Sutherland minister, who was facing redundancy at the end of this month, can continue in one of his two charges following a backlash against the move. Brora and Golspie minister Rev Eric Paterson (57) has been working part-time for the past three years under an Alternative Ministry Arrangement (AMA).  But church managers decided earlier this year that the arrangement was not working and, despite there being a development plan in place, there had been “very little development”.  Both congregations are understood not to be self-supporting and are being financially propped up by the wider church – although Rev Paterson maintains this is not the case.  Numbers of worshippers are growing at Brora, with the congregation now standing at around 50, but Golspie is said to be in decline with an average of between 20 to 30 worshippers, mostly elderly.  Rev Paterson disputes the decline in Golspie, claiming that there are signs of growth.  Rev Paterson, a former police officer who was inducted to the Golspie charge in 1991, was told that his contract would not be renewed. It is due to end on September 30. Church spokesman Rev David Robertson, said at the time the news was made public: “The arrangement was for Eric to be a part-time minister. The Free Church does not think that is a suitable arrangement and would want full-time ministers in both Golspie and Brora.”  However the revelation that Rev Paterson, who is highly regarded locally, was effectively being “axed” caused a stir in the affected communities.  Around 500 people have signed an online petition registering their disappointment at the decision not to renew the Alternative Ministry Arrangement.  Other petitions have circulated in local shops. A public meeting was also held to discuss the situation.  Now Rev Robertson, who pointed out that many of the petition signatories did not attend church, has revealed that talks are ongoing to find a way forward – but that Rev Paterson will definitely not continue his ministry at Brora.  He said: “The Mission Board of the Free Church continues in discussion with the local congregation in Golspie and the Northern Presbytery.  There is an alternative option whereby Rev Paterson could continue on a part-time basis funded by the Golspie congregation alone. This will be decided by the various parties involved.  Our hope is that we will see revitalised and growing congregations, not only in Golspie and Brora, but throughout Sutherland.  The Golspie congregation would be greatly helped if even a small percentage of those who signed the petition came along to the church to support the work there.”  It is understood there will be a meeting next week between the Presbytery and the Golspie congregation.  Rev Paterson said: “The proposal of the Free Church Mission Board is that, due to the measure of growth over the past three years, Golspie can fully fund the current level of ministry without any recourse to other sources of funding.  “Golspie could retain its minister under alternative ministry arrangements and I would continue to devote my time and effort to the Golspie congregation. I would like to reiterate my heartfelt gratitude to those who have fought for the continuation of our church in Golspie.”

Crazy County Climbers Target Ben Nevis for Alzheimer Challenge

A dozen staff from the County Community Hospital in Invergordon will be making the trek up Ben Nevis this month (September) as part of a fundraising challenge for Alzheimer’s Scotland.  The “Crazy County Climbers” are made up of doctors, domestics, physiotherapists and nurses and, for the majority of the group, this will be the first time they have tackled Ben Nevis.  Paul Dillon, a staff nurse based at the hospital, explained the group are keen to support the already excellent work carried out by Alzheimer’s Scotland.  He said: “I think no matter who you speak to nowadays you will come across someone who has been affected by dementia, whether it is through their personal life or their professional one. Most of us taking part in the challenge work as health professionals caring for people living with dementia and the hospital is also working towards being a dementia friendly unit so it is something we are very passionate about.”  Paul, who is from Inverness and is also the Dementia Champion for the hospital, added: “The support we have received so far has been great and we are all looking forward to taking part. Hopefully the weather plays ball and we get to enjoy the view when we’re up there.”

Budding Ross Entrepreneurs Urged to Let Business Ideas Blossom
Budding Ross-shire entrepreneurs could win cash to turn their business idea into a reality by entering the 2017 Inverness College UHI Business Competition. A recent winner from Ross-shire is urging others to take part.  Organised by Create, UHI’s Centre for Enterprise and Innovation, the competition now in its 12th year supports and encourages people to take their first steps to starting their own business.  The competition is open to students studying at the University of the Highlands and Islands and non-students living in the Highlands and Islands. Last year it attracted more than 130 entries. Carol Langston, head of Create, said: “This competition was launched to encourage more students and members of the public to explore opportunities in enterprise and innovation. We really want to hear from anyone with a creative business idea, and that could be commercial or one that has a social impact. Don’t worry if it’s nothing more than an idea, CREATE is here to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and take them forward, with the eventual aim of encouraging more start-ups. We have been really impressed by the wealth of entrepreneurial flair in the past and we expect this year to be no exception.”  Entries will be shortlisted to 15 and finalists will be invited to meet CREATE to discuss their idea further at the finals day of the competition at Inverness College UHI in November.  Judging this year’s competition will be Stewart Thomson, regional manager for youth charity The Prince’s Trust, Brenda Dunthorne, director of adventure specialists In Your Element (formerly Boots N Paddles), and Brian Weaver, of Impact Hub Inverness.  Winners in the various categories will share a pot of £5000 and finalists will be offered a one-to-one with the Create team and guidance to develop their business idea.  Supporting this year’s competition is former winner and Inverness College UHI student David Plested. Mr Plested was in the second year of the BA (Hons) visual communication and design degree when he decided to enter the competition with his idea for a picture book for children. Drawing on the myth and legend of The Fairy Glen near his home on the Black Isle, The Fairy Glen School for Fairies also aims to encourage children’s learning and curiosity about wildlife and the natural environment, with five per cent from each book sold going to the RSPB. “Winning the business competition gave me publicity and allowed me to produce a run of 400, which really got the book off the ground,” Mr Plested (25) said. “It was also a real confidence boost for me. I’d encourage anyone with an idea or business concept to apply – you’ve absolutely nothing to lose and it could just be the start of something really special.” He hopes to publish a second book in the series later this year and has plans to develop a website, educational games and apps to teach children about the natural world. Also backing the competition is former competition judge Gordon Pearson, owner of WOW Scotland Tours, who has delivered talks on running your own business to students at Inverness College UHI. He said: “WOW Scotland started off as a business plan written in an entrepreneurship class, where I had the opportunity of pitching to a panel of business experts. This gave me the confidence and motivation to turn the idea into a reality and is why I am fully behind the Create Business Competition.”

Tories and SNP Offer to Broker Brexit Deal for More Powers
The Scottish Conservatives have offered to broker a Brexit deal for more Holyrood powers in an attempt to break the stalemate between the UK and Scottish Governments over EU withdrawal.  Senior Scottish Conservatives will meet with Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Brexit minister Michael Russell in a bid to find common ground on the impact of leaving the bloc on Scotland.  Mr Russell accepted the offer of a meeting made by Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw after months of SNP claims that the UK Westminster Government is using Brexit to engineer a “power grab” from the Scottish Parliament. The olive branch was held out by the Tories as Mr Russell outlined the Scottish Government’s response to the EU Withdrawal Bill, which was passed by the Commons in the early hours of yesterday morning. Mr Russell repeated his claim that the Bill threatened the founding principles of devolution and said Scottish ministers were considering their own legislation to prepare for the “shock” of Brexit if the UK Westminster Government was not prepared to change approach.  Earlier the Brexit Minister claimed the Withdrawal Bill, which deals with powers returning from the European Parliament, would see Holyrood lose more than 100 parliamentary powers to Westminster.  The SNP has complained that the proposed legislation in its current form would see EU powers “re-reserved” to Westminster when they should in fact be devolved to Holyrood.  The UK Westminster Government has argued that a substantial number of EU powers would then be transferred from Westminster to Holyrood after Brexit - apart from those where it makes sense to have a UK legislative framework.  Making a statement to Holyrood, Mr Russell said the Scottish Government was unable to agree to the Brexit Bill as it was currently drafted, adding that he was adopting the same position as the Welsh Government.  But Mr Russell said now was not the time to bring forward a so-called legislative consent motion, which would allow MSPs to accept or reject the Brexit Bill. Instead, the Scottish Government would attempt to amend the legislation, arguing that, as it stood, it was a “deliberate decision” by the UK to use Brexit to take powers that should be within Holyrood control. He said the Scottish Parliament would have no say on what comes back from the EU in agriculture, fisheries, forestry, research or justice co-operation.  At the conclusion of his statement Mr Russell made an overtures to the Scottish Conservatives saying: “If there are members in this Chamber who have influence with the UK Westminster Government, I would ask that they use that influence to secure the changes that the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government seek.  If, however, any members believe that the right approach is to support the UK Westminster Government in such actions, which go directly against 20 years of the settled will of the Scottish people, and the effective operation of devolution, then let them say it and be judged accordingly.”  Mr Carlaw interpreted Mr Russell’s words as a “challenge” and just one day after Nicola Sturgeon called for a “spirit of consensus” on Brexit, he suggested a cross party meeting.  “The practical issue at hand is a bill to ensure that arrangements are in place – not at some distant point but in the immediate hours after the UK has withdrawn from the EU in March 2019,” Mr Carlaw said.  “Whatever our wishes about the outcome of the vote the vast majority of us campaigned for last June we have a duty to prepare for the UK’s departure from the EU. Last week on the Government’s programme for Government debate I made clear that Brexit is not politics as normal. If...there is a genuine concern matched by an equally genuine reserve to address and overcome this, the Scottish Conservatives at Holyrood will play our part.” Mr Carlaw said he and Tory constitution spokesman Professor Adam Tomkins would be prepared to “meet bilaterally” with Mr Swinney and Mr Russell in a bid to make progress. Labour’s Europe spokesman Lewis Macdonald said his party would not agree to the Brexit bill in its current form.  Mr Macdonald said: “Labour will not grant legislative consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill, in its current form. It represents a Tory power grab that concentrates power in the hands of minister and drives a coach and horses through the devolution settlement delivered by Labour in 1999.”

Oil and Gas Production in Scotland Rises by 2.9%

The beleaguered North Sea energy sector received a welcome boost today after official figures revealed oil and gas production in Scotland rose by 2.9 per cent between 2015-16 and 2016-17. The Oil and Gas Production Statistics 2016-17 also revealed approximate sales value increased by 15.2 per cent. Production north of the border accounted for 82 per cent of the UK total, an increase of two per cent.  The Scottish Government said the rise was a sign of confidence returning to the sector, which has been rocked in recent years by a global downturn in the price of oil, with an estimated 120,000 jobs lost across the UK industry. Oil prices have recovered by 80 per cent since hitting lows of $28 a barrel in January 2016, but a price of around $50 a barrel remains less than half than what it did in 2014. Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said the figures proved the oil and gas industry in Scotland had a “bright future”. He added: “It is encouraging to see this continued increase in production which has risen by a total of 25 per cent over the last two years. These figures show that confidence is continuing to return to the sector after a number of challenging years. Capital investment on oil and gas fields in Scottish waters was £8 billion in financial year 2016-17 and the approximate sales value of oil and gas produced in Scotland was estimated to be £17.5 billion, which is a rise of 15.2 per cent on last year.  I do recognise that this remains a difficult time for the industry and its workforce, and the Programme for Government launched last week clearly outlines that even in the context of our low carbon transition harnessing the resources of the North Sea will be vital to the Scottish economy for decades to come.  The Energy Jobs Taskforce has delivered an exceptional range of support for industry and individuals in the sector, and the Oil & Gas Industry Liaison Group, which I co-chair, will now take forward the actions identified by the Taskforce, ensuring Scotland’s oil and gas sector has a long-term future.  The Scottish Government will continue to do everything within our powers to support the industry and its workforce, while calling on the UK Westminster Government to improve the fiscal and regulatory regime to encourage on-going investment to support jobs and export led growth.”

Perth Praised for Turning Out in Force Against Scottish Defence League

Hundreds of counter protestors took to the streets to drown out hate-filled messages championed by the SDL Perth residents have been praised for taking to the streets to vastly outnumber Scottish Defence League protestors during a counter demonstration. The protest against a plan which could eventually see the creation of a new mosque on the city's Jeanfield Road was announced last month by a group calling itself ‘SDL 2’ and took place on Sunday, September 10.  In response United Against Fascism Scotland, along with a dozen other anti-fascist groups, organised a counter demonstration for the same day. Perth Against Fascism and Racism also hosted a meeting in advance of the events, which was held at the Queens Hotel and attended by more than 100 people. A small number of SDL supporters arrived in the city by bus, met with a large swell of counter protestors at Perth Railway Station.  They were understood to be re-directed by Police Scotland officers before taking part in their walk down South Street and into the city centre.  Anti-fascist campaigners – shouting slogans and carrying banners featuring the likes of ‘No Parking For SDL Hate’, ‘Perth Against Nazis’ and 'Perth Values Diversity' – turned out in far greater numbers than the SDL contingent. Perth and North Perthshire SNP MP Pete Wishart was one of many local figures to take part in the counter demonstration.  Speaking afterwards, Mr Wishart said: “There was a fantastic turnout making it quite clear that there is no place in our Fair City for the hate and ignorance represented by the SDL. A handful of fascists were faced with a huge and diverse crowd disgusted at their attempt to hijack a local planning issue to promote their racist agenda. I spoke to people of many faiths and none, as well as people of all ages determined to make it clear that the local Muslim community has our support. I am very proud of Perth today.”

‘Brexit Risks Triggering Scotland-England Trade War’

Brexit risks triggering a trade war between Scotland and England unless Westminster takes control of billions of pounds worth of agriculture subsidies, Theresa May’s deputy has claimed.  In comments underlining the risk posed to the union by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, Damian Green warned there could be “subsidy wars” over the price of lamb if the UK Westminster Government agrees to demands for all agriculture powers to be devolved.  UK ministers fear a more generous subsidy regime would see lamb reared on Scottish hill farms push English produce off the shelves, and believe food could be turned away at the border if Holyrood is able to impose its own regulatory regime. The Scottish Government says it is willing to strike UK-wide agreements to avoid internal trade barriers, but insists these must be mutually agreed and not imposed. “We need to make sure that we don’t have subsidy wars to try to help sheep farmers, some in Scotland and some in Wales and so on,” Mr Green, the First Secretary of State, told the website Politico.  “We must ensure the benefits of free trade around the UK, which we’ve all taken for granted because we are one country, are preserved after Brexit because a lot of the rules about trade have been operated at a European level rather than at a UK level.” SNP and Labour administrations in Scotland and Wales have attacked the UK Westminster Government’s plans to hold on to responsibilities in some devolved areas after Brexit as a “power grab”.  Ms Sturgeon and her Welsh counterpart Carwyn Jones are demanding amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill currently making its way through Westminster, warning it threatens the central principle of devolution that anything not explicitly reserved at Westminster, like agriculture, is devolved. Unless changes are made to the bill, legislatures in Edinburgh and Cardiff could trigger an unprecedented constitutional crisis by refusing to give their consent. The issue of farm subsidies is particularly sensitive in Scotland, which receives 17% of the UK’s share under the current EU Common Agricultural Policy, despite having 8% of the population.  Scottish farmers face greater challenges than their UK counterparts, with 85% of land classed as ‘less favourable’ meaning more financial support is needed.  Mr Green admitted that minimizing conflict with devolved administration was one of the biggest challenges of delivering Brexit, and the most likely to produce a ‘crisis’. He said: “All the devolution settlements were created while we were a member of the EU and when they were being written, none of the various governments which wrote them thought, ‘Well, what happens if?’ There is just no provision in the devolution settlements for leaving the EU.” A spokesman for Michael Russell, the Scottish Government’s Brexit minister, said: “Devolved powers currently operated at EU level must be returned to Edinburgh, not Westminster, in line with what people across Scotland voted for in the 1997 referendum. “As they stand, the UK Westminster Government’s proposals are a blatant power grab, and we cannot recommend that the Scottish Parliament gives its consent.”

Comment -R

Under the UK Westminster Government we have a Scottish Government that are curtailed from governing in the best interests of Scotland! It proves that Scotland being wrenched out of the EU against their will is a disaster for them. The UK has 47 trade deals as part of the EU, but is abandoning them for.... something else, that is hopefully, or at least has been praised as better, also aka naive hope.  Nothing on paper, no statement of intent, nothing that can be used to compare what they had in the EU as part of a large trade bloc with clout, to a mid-sized economy desperate for any kind of deal, even on WTO terms. After the UK Westminster Government abandoned the Commonwealth by joining the EEC, New Zealand realigned their economy to their closer neighbours in the Asia-Pacific, Australia trades directly with China, the USA is more interested in working with or preferably orchestrating trade blocs (at least under Obama), and Argentina is already a member of MERCOSUR. The future is multilateral trade blocs. If the intent is to restart trade with the Commonwealth (a market one-sixth the size of the EU), where the members moved on four decades ago, then it is inevitable that the UK's
economy will be diminished.