Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 420

Issue # 420                                     Week ending Saturday 30th  September 2017

Like the Old Country Singer Told Us, I Just Cannot Wait to Get Out on the Road Again by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

According to an online words thing, caravanette is in the lower 50 per cent of commonly used words in the UK. At some point it was replaced by campervan and there is also now motorhome. Still, no matter what word is used to describe them, more than 99 per cent of people will resort to some Anglo Saxon words – particularly if they are stuck behind one.

In America, they are called RVs – or recreational vehicles. Entire American families set off in huge RVs, some the size of a bungalow belonging to a Hebridean crofter - one who gets a lot of sheep subsidy obviously - along Route 66 in pursuit of the American dream - to boldly go where no man has gone before. Then comes a wee cry from the back. “RV there yet?”

Motorhomes have been a hot topic in the Western Isles over the last week. Islands MSP Alasdair Allan came up with a jolly wheeze after noting how the number of such vans has shot up in recent years. Ten years ago, about 145 of them came across here on the Ullapool ferry. In 2015/2016 it was a whopping 1,057. So let’s tax them, he suggested. He proposes a levy on every vehicle with an on-board cooker and chemical bog coming across the Minch.

That could pay for stuff the MoHo brigade need like wider roads, campsites and waste disposal facilities. Eeugh. Anyway, it has caused quite a stooshie with enthusiasts, tourism bosses and opposing politicians happy to point out it is unworkable and would send the message that teuchters don’t care tuppence for towerists and they all should come no further than Ullapool or Skye.

This is bad timing because I have just fallen in love with motorhomes. I have been following that Channel 5 series Celebrity 5 Go Motorhoming with the gloriously alluring pussycat that is Lesley Joseph (her who played Dorien Green in Birds of a Feather) roughing it in a metal box on wheels with Don Warrington (him out of Rising Damp), Melvyn Hayes (him from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum), Nick Heyward (him that once was a pop singer) and Cleo Rocos (who was Kenny Everett’s curvaceous sidekick back in the day).

They went around the Highlands and Skye. I learned so much that I have got myself a piggy bank to start saving for a gleaming motorhome with twirling seats and a foldaway dining table like they had. Imagine whizzing down the A9 with Mrs X making bangers and mash in the back. Not allowed? OK, she could make them in the front. What do you mean I’m showing my age? Nonsense, we could drive all the way to the crazy party resort of Magaluf if the urge took us – if there were enough waste disposal facilities on the way. No, don’t get that idea in my head.

Talking about my head, I may have mentioned last week that I was going to be at a wedding. It was on Saturday at the Callanish Stones, where Katharina and Andreas Langgartner, from Austria, tied the knot. Mrs X was the wedding photographer and I was doing video. Unfortunately, the couple and piper Ashleigh arrived at the Stones a bit too fast for me and as I rushed down the hill, I slipped and my leg twisted. I fell forwards towards a huge rock but somehow my head missed it and the video camera also fell clear, thankfully.

I was dazed and seeing stars. A retired American doctor, and his wife, rushed to help me. He was worried about a knee fracture but reassured me saying: “Nothing’s broken, sir. It’ll be a few days before that leg will feel great again.” I was so befuddled that I thought he was saying he was going to make America great again. My mind was racing. What the heck was Donald Trump doing on his hands and knees feeling my legs on a slippery hillside in Callanish? Then I thought: “Melania looks a lot older in real life than she does on TV.”

My knee is improving. So much so that I have been making inquiries about how to go off for a wee road trip in a motorhome already. I phoned up a place somewhere round Inverness and this very helpful assistant answered. I told him I was looking for something cheap for a short holiday on wheels. I misunderstood when he asked: “Camper?” I replied: “Listen here, mate. I’m from the islands and we are not like you Inverness types. We don’t do high-pitched voices like you and …oh, I see what you mean. Yes, a campervan is exactly what I’m looking for.”

Runrig Announce Plans for Their Last Ever Gig After 45 Years

Celebrated Celtic rock band Runrig are to end their 45-year career with a final concert in Scotland next summer, they have announced.  The event, entitled The Last Dance, will take place in front of around 25,000 fans in Stirling’s City Park next August before the band part ways for good. Runrig were founded in 1973 on the Isle of Skye, starting out by playing wedding receptions before finding fame and taking their brand of Scottish rock all over the world.  They have since recorded 14 studio albums, releasing their final LPThe Story last year, and have been credited with introducing Scottish Gaelic to a wider audience. Their Play Gaelic record, released in 1978, was the first ever Gaelic pop album comprised entirely of original material. Seventeen years later their song “An Ubhal As Airde” (The Highest Apple) became the first Scots Gaelic language song to enter the UK top 20.  The band’s popularity peaked in the 1990s, when they played in front of 50,000 people on the shores of Loch Lomond in Balloch Country Park.  During that decade they also supported The Rolling Stones, U2, Rod Stewart and Genesis, as well as twice selling out London’s Royal Albert Hall.  “This has been an enormous and difficult decision for us, but through the machinations of longevity and circumstance, we feel that the timing is now right, for a positive and celebratory conclusion,” said Runrig stalwart Calum Macdonald.  Drummer Iain Bayne said the band wanted the concert to be a “celebration” for their fans, but added they would strike the last note of the night with “heavy hearts”.  A number of Runrig’s previous members have been involved with politics. Singer Donnie Munro left the band in 1997 to try to become an MP, losing out to the late Charles Kennedy.  Former keyboardist Pete Wishart is now the SNP’s longest serving MP, retaining his seat of Perth and North Perthshire at last year’s general election by just 21 votes.  Guitarist Malcolm Jones said: “Although the band as we know it will end, its iconic music will live on, as will the Runrig brand.  Individual members will continue to write songs, record and engage in live performances, whilst there are various exciting Runrig legacy projects in development.”  The final show in Stirling will be preceded by a farewell tour of venues in Germany, Denmark and England, with the stage set for the band to bow out on Saturday 18 August 2018.  Concert promoter Les Kidger said the “momentous occasion” would have a long set list, with the band performing songs from the past four decades. Tickets go on sale on Friday.

Scottish Labour Candidates Call on MPs to Reject Brexit Deal

Both candidates for the Scottish Labour leadership have called on the UK party to vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal at Westminster to bring about an early general election.  At a leadership hustings at the Labour conference in Brighton, Richard Leonard and Anas Sarwar rejected calls from ex-leader Kezia Dugdale for a referendum on the terms of the UK’s deal. However, the comments will add to pressure on the UK Labour front bench to harden its opposition to Brexit. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has today also called for Labour to back a referendum once the terms of the UK’s Brexit deal are known.  The candidates also traded blows over their position in the UK Labour party, with Mr Sarwar suggesting that union support for his rival risked returning the Scottish party to “branch office” status, while Mr Leonard sought to highlight inconsistencies in his opponent's support for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.  Asked about Ms Dugdale’s intervention in a column for the Daily Record, both candidates expressed a hope that Labour could collapse the government ahead of the conclusion of Brexit in March 2019.  “I’m not persuaded that we need a second referendum,” Mr Leonard, saying Ms Dugdale’s call was “premature”.  He added: “The process that we’re involved in will lead to the deal going back to Westminster, and I think there's a possibility of Westminster voting that deal down, which would in turn precipitate a general election, and I think as a Labour party that is something we should relish.  So I’m not contemplating second referendums, I want to see an early general election, and I want to see Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister.”  Mr Leonard later went further when asked again if there should be another referendum to stop Brexit: “I hope there will be a parliamentary process that does stop it,” he said.  Mr Sarwar said there was “election fatigue” in Scotland and that politicians had to “respect the mandates that are given by the public”.  He added: “We should not accept Tory Brexit and I would love there to be an election before the deal is concluded while we are still in that transition period, so that we can take over the negotiations and make sure we get the Brexit deal that works for working people and works for the UK and Scotland.”  Reports that union Unite are set to mobilise thousands of their members to back Mr Leonard prompted claims of a “stitch up”, with Mr Sarwar warning that Scottish Labour could not afford to look like a “branch office” controlled from London.  During the hustings, Mr Leonard hit back saying support from Unite “wasn’t a decision taken by [general secretary] Len McCluskey, it was a decision taken by the rank and file leadership of Unite in Scotland.”  He highlighted his consistent support for left-wing politics, in comments seen as highlighting Mr Sarwar’s previous one-time opposition to Mr Corbyn’s leadership.  “I’ve held the same views throughout my 35 years as a member of the Labour party and in that sense, I’m similar to Jeremy Corbyn in that I’ve been consistent, and there have been times when I’ve been accused of being off message and out of fashion.”  Mr Sarwar hit back at criticism over his decision to send his children to private school, claiming questions about his family usually depended on which “faction” of the Labour party the questioner belonged to.

Talks Taking Place Over Georgemas Railhead Use
Options to transport goods by train throughout the Highlands are being looked at by a group launched by the Scottish Government. The Far North Line Review Group is looking at freight -options as part of a review into ways of reinvigorating the far-north line. The news comes after further criticism was made about the lack of usage of the railhead at Georgemas Junction outwith the nuclear industry.  Cumbrian-based Direct Rail Services (DRS) constructed the £3.1 million railhead at the railway station, near Halkirk in July 2012. The 13-metre-high gantry, which has a capacity to carry 110 tonnes, makes it the largest railhead in the UK serving the nuclear industry.  When it was opened five years ago, its operators said it was canvassing other industries to make use of the facilities but it has only been used to service the spent-fuel consignments from Dounreay. Caithness Chamber of Commerce chief executive Trudy Morris said the Scottish Government is looking to find out if more customers can be enticed to change to rail transport.  She said: “The Far North Rail Review Group is looking into freight options as part of a review into the whole line. But the issue it is trying to get enough traffic to justify getting a freight train to go up and down the line. It is all down to volumes and prices.” Caithness Transport Forum received an update from DRS saying it is pursuing discussions with leading “blue chip” organisations to promote more use of Georgemas.  They also reported DRS would welcome approaches from any operator with commercial opportunities that do not conflict with the terminal’s prime purpose. Highland Against Nuclear Transport chairman Tor Justad said he had been told the railhead cannot be used for any customer other than the nuclear industry.  “It saddens me to see it is never used for any other purpose apart from nuclear materials.  We were told clearly it was an open access site by DRS. I have been told it can’t be used by any other operators other than for nuclear materials being moved.”  Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) programme manager Mark Raffle dismissed claims that the railhead could only be used by the nuclear industry. He said that talks have taken place with other industries about the facility. “The railhead is available for use by other organisations and I don’t know why it couldn’t be,” he said.  DRS or NDA can’t force people to use the facility.  DRS is the firm that can offer it for use and I know there have been a number of discussions. But it cannot subsidise people to use it as it has to be done on a commercial arrangement.”

Former Servicemen Invited to Australia to Take Part in ANZAC Day
Former servicemen in Caithness have received an invitation to take part in an ANZAC Day parade in Australia next year.  Members of Wick Royal British Legion Scotland (RBLS) have been asked to march with former Australian servicemen at a ceremony in New South Wales. The Returned Services League of Australia (RSL) Laurieton Branch has invited a colour party from Wick to the event on April 25 after the link was established between the two branches last year.  Wick RBLS chairman Richard Otley has accepted the invitation and said all members of the branch will be asked if they want to take part in what promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  “It is a big honour to be asked to take part in the ANZAC Day parade in Laurieton,” he said.  “It’s an invitation we are intending to take them up on. It is also a great opportunity to send some of our veterans to Australia.  I would like to think we could have at least 10 people from here taking part.”  Wick RBLS recently merged with branches in Canisbay and Latheron and have a combined membership of around 180 people. Letters will be sent out to each of the members to gauge how much interest there is to travel to Australia.  Last month, Laurieton RSL honorary secretary George Wise and his wife Teresa visited Wick and participated in a number of events across the county. They also visited the ANZAC war graves at Wick cemetery where Mr Wise saluted the graves of each of the five men who served in the Australian forces.  The couple were also invited as the guests of honour at the Mey Highland Games where they met Prince Charles, which received national attention back in Australia.  Mr Otley said as a result of Mr Wise’s visit, there is great interest in Laurieton about making a return visit to the far north in the near future. He also believes Mr Wise’s visit could have benefits to tourism in Caithness as well. “The picture of George meeting Prince Charles at the Mey Games received nationwide attention in Australia and has struck up interest about Caithness there,” he said. “We’re hearing that as a result Australians who are thinking about visiting Scotland are now looking at coming to Caithness.” In addition Wick RBLS has been invited by the French Veterans group, l’Association des Anciens Combattants de la Résistance (ANACR), to take part in an annual parade to honour French resistance fighters at St Benoit du Sault in central France on July 28.

MP Douglas Chapman Suggests MoD Caledonia in Rosyth Could Escape the Axe

Rosyth’s doomed naval base, HMS Caledonia, could be saved from the axe according to Dunfermline and West Fife MP Douglas Chapman.  A decision to close the base was made last November, however, the MP said there were now “moves afoot” to ensure it is retained. Mr Chapman, who is the SNP’s Defence Procurement spokesperson, is hopeful MoD officials will come to the decision that the base is of too much strategical importance to the Royal Navy.  However, the MoD refused to confirm or deny such a reverse and said the position would be clarified later in the year. A spokesperson said: “All sites announced under ‘A Better Defence Estate’ are subject to further assessment studies and an update on estate optimisation is due to be given to Parliament in Autumn 2017.”  In November, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced that the last Royal Navy presence in Rosyth would be gone by 2022.  The closure, which would coincide with the completion date of the HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier, being built at Rosyth, was said to be part of a long-term strategy to deliver a more efficient, modern and capability-focussed defence estate. The decision would mean reserves at HMS Scotia and local cadet groups who currently use the base would need to be re-homed.  Back then, Mr Chapman branded the closure of the unit as a “historic mistake” and he said this week that he was now hopeful that the Navy had, “at long last”, realised their surface ship presence in Scotland was poor.  “My understanding is that there may be moves afoot to retain Caledonia as their Scottish surface ship outpost,” he said. “Strategically, the seas around Scotland are very important. We dominate the North Atlantic and the new routes which might become more accessible to the north towards the Arctic.  There is also the prospect of carrier refits for Rosyth and the long-awaited programme to remove the old submarines from the dockyard basin.” Rosyth SNP Councillor Sam Steele praised former councillor Sharon Wilson for launching a campaign to save the base. “Rosyth has had a naval presence for over 100 years. So it’s heartening to hear that, with pressure from our MP, there is a chance that Caley could be retained,” she added.

Airline Links Offer Boost to Inverness Connections
The Inverness and Highland economy is promised a "significant boost" as the result a marriage of three airlines.  Business leaders are excited by a linkup that has seen EasyJet enter the long-haul market, joining forces with counterparts Norwegian and WestJet to smooth connections between UK regional airports using Gatwick.  Norwegian connects more than 150 destinations in Europe, the US, South America and Asia. The Canadian firm WestJet operates direct services to more than 100 places in North America, Central America, the Caribbean and Europe.  EasyJet claims that its "Worldwide" initiative – launched this week – is the first such global airline collaboration involving European low-cost airlines. It aims to simplify travel through "a digital, virtual hub" promising seamless connections with its new partners.  Passengers’ luggage are automatically transferred onto their next flight. The "Worldwide" initiative is subject to a 2hr 30m "minimum connection time" giving customers sufficient time to transfer between flights and terminals. Should a passenger miss a connecting flight they will be transferred to the next available flight. Luton-based EasyJet is looking to expand the partnership and is negotiating with several airlines with links to the Middle East and the Far East. It has promised that the new scheme will not impact on punctuality as easyJet will not hold flights for connecting passengers. Loganair, which operates a complementary network to EasyJet, will join next month. Inverness Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stewart Nicol said: "The whole idea of ‘code share’ is a very important one for regional airports like Inverness. "For EasyJet to add this to other airlines gives that benefit to a very substantial amount of traffic through Inverness Airport. It’ll mean a significant uplift in the opportunity for business and tourism and leisure travellers through Inverness.  We’ve seen the benefits of premium airlines like BA and KLM having hubs like Heathrow and Schiphol. You can check into Inverness and go through either Heathrow or Amsterdam knowing that your baggage and your travel commitments will be honoured by that arrangement. That’s important in terms of peace of mind and security and the whole presentation to the world that we’re part of a significant connected air infrastructure." EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall said: "Around 70million passengers flying through an easyJet airport each year are connecting on to other flights, mainly long haul, and it’s this market segment that Worldwide will open up for us. "Our own customers and those who fly with other airlines, short and long haul, have asked us to make it easier to connect with EasyJet flights and this simple booking platform makes it easy for them to do so."

Staffing Issues At Root of Problem for North West Dentistry
Schoolchildren in north and north-west Sutherland are having to make round trips of up to 208 miles to access dental treatment after a mobile NHS service was “put on hold” without notice.  Pupils from as far afield as Durness, Scourie and Kinlochbervie are now being forced to travel either to Lairg or Inverness for NHS dental care.  Kinlochbervie High School head teacher Graeme Smart has expressed concern that pupils and staff were having to take whole days off school in order to attend appointments.  Highland Council’s Sutherland Committee has now put the issue at the top of its agenda and is to raise its concern directly with NHS Highland’s director of public health.  North, west and central Sutherland ward councillor Hugh Morrison said people who did not have their own transport and could not take time off work, were effectively being denied dental treatment. But NHS managers say the mobile service has not been withdrawn but “put on hold” because of staffing issues. The mobile dental unit previously visited Kinlochbervie every six months, initially treating both adults and children, but in latter years concentrating on children only.  Pupils from Kinlochbervie High School’s associated school group – Durness and Scourie as well as Kinlochbervie primaries – would travel to the port for dental check-ups and treatment.  But the mobile unit has not been seen in the area since before the school holidays.  The school and parents were not officially informed that it had been withdrawn but were told informally that this was the case.  Apparently an employee of the dental service told local people that the mobile unit would not be visiting again and the information was spread by word of mouth rather than by any official communication.  Head teacher Mr Smart said pupils had since been taking entire days of school to travel to dental clinics in Inverness.  It is a 207 mile round trip from Durness to Inverness and 188 miles return journey from Kinlochbervie to Inverness. Mr Smart said: “The big issue for us is that the children and members of staff now have to take a whole day off to go to the dentist whereas previously they would be out of school for around 20 minutes. Pupils are losing a considerable amount of school time.”  The situation regarding dental care was discussed at a meeting of Sutherland County Committee earlier this month. Highland Council leader councillor Margaret Davidson was in attendance. Members discussed the entitlement of residents to access basic health services delivered locally. Committee chairwoman Councillor Linda Munro said: “Members agreed to write to the director of public health for NHS Highland (Dr Hugo van Woerden) to raise concerns about access to some basic local health services, such as dentistry in Kinlochbervie.” Meanwhile, in his column, Cllr Hugh Morrison writes: “On the education front the big issue from the north and west areas is the pulling out of the mobile dentist which used to visit Kinlochbervie High School and check the children in all four schools. Now it seems the children have to go to Lairg or Inverness to get these checks done. That is all good and well if your parents have a car and can take time off work but not everybody can do that. And it is also a day off school.”  And Cllr Morrison was critical of the NHS for not responding to earlier approaches from the county committee. A spokesman for NHS Highland apologised for the lack of information about the mobile dental service. “It is important to stress that the service has not been withdrawn, but remains on hold due to staffing pressures.” The spokesman said that the dental clinic in Lairg had been prioritised as the focus for access for dental patients from north and north west Sutherland.  He said: “All affected patients have been offered dental provision in Lairg.”

Gaelic Gathering for Teachers At Major Language Conference

Around 200 Gaelic teachers from across the country will gather in Aviemore today for a major conference.  Organised by Gaelic educational resources organisation Stòrlann, based in Stornoway, this will be the ninth year of An t-Alltan.  It is taking place in the Macdonald Aviemore Conference Centre today and tomorrow and the number of attendees has been growing every year.  Teachers from the early years sector through to high school are attending.  The keynote speech will be delivered by Joan Mackay, assistant director at Education Scotland, on the theme of ‘developing the young workforce’ and ‘what kind of leaders we need to be’.  There will be nearly 30 workshops held across the two days and 18 exhibitors.  For the early years, there will be sessions on how to use puppets to bring language to life, how to use the outdoors, including how to build dens, and how to use song to reinforce learning.  Neil Smith, Stòrlann’s Head of Development Services and lead conference organiser, said: “Teachers come from all over Scotland. Every authority that teaches Gaelic is represented.  This is our ninth year and it grows in number every year. There’s been more attending it every year.  We’re hoping that we get as many as possible this year. It’s a great networking opportunity for teachers and they appreciate not only being able to attend workshops with colleagues but also to speak to colleagues from all over the country and swap ideas. Some work in isolation in their schools so it gives them the opportunity to meet others who teach in similar circumstances. Lots of them appreciate that.”

A Royal Appointment for Stornoway Singer

An accomplished singer from Lewis was among students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland who entertained members of the Royal Family at Dumfries House in Ayrshire to mark ten years since HRH Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, saved the estate for the nation. Josie Duncan, 22, a former pupil of the Nicolson Institute, entertained a select audience in the Tapestry Room of the Palladian mansion, including The Prince and his wife, The Duchess of Rothesay, as part of a live radio broadcast from the House to mark the estate’s anniversary, as well as Classic FM’s 25th birthday. Recitals were performed by radio presenters Myleene Klass and Aled Jones as well as Josie’s fellow students of Glasgow’s Royal Conservatoire (RCS), whose link with Dumfries House provides high-quality performing arts to the East Ayrshire community in the form of regular performances and education programmes.  The Prince has transformed the estate near Cumnock in order to use it to help people engage in learning experiences that promote confidence and personal development, as well as offer training in real-life skills to open up future employment opportunities.  Josie, who is studying on the Bachelor of Music (Traditional Music) course at RCS, said: “Dumfries House is absolutely beautiful. It is a unique venue, with so much attention to detail. We met the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay after our performance and they spoke of their genuine interest in traditional music.  Performing at Dumfries House is the latest of many opportunities I have gained through the Royal Conservatoire.  I’ve had my first experiences performing abroad and live on radio, and they have been really special. It has been lots of fun and hard work but I am really grateful.” From modest beginnings, Dumfries House is now the second-largest employer in East Ayrshire with more than 200 full-time and part-time staff across the house, estate and education and training programmes.

Film Disruption is A ‘Price Worth Paying’
Fears of disruption and possible loss of trade have been raised ahead of filming for Outlaw King in Berwick. Preparations for the movie will start in earnest over the next few days before filming on October 9 and 10. The potential long-term benefits of the film in terms of raising the town’s profile have been acknowledged but concerns remain about the short-term impact.  David Thompson, who runs Berwick Boat Trips from the Quayside, will have to cease business during the two days of filming.  However, he has greater concerns about the loss of trade while the Quayside area is used for filming.  Several road closures are planned and parking restrictions will be in place.  “I think it’s going to have a major impact on us,” he said. “We rely heavily on footfall coming down to the Quayside, perhaps 60 per cent of our trade, and that’s going to be severely curtailed by the various restrictions that are going to be in place.”  His wife, Pamela, added: “To make matters worse, it’s the Scottish half-term holidays which is our last real chance of the season to do some good business.  I hope the film will encourage more tourists to visit the town but we’re going to take a short-term hit.” The Lookout café, which only opened on the Quayside last week, is closing for two-and-a-half weeks.  However, Lily Barnes has a different outlook.  “I think it’s a good thing for helping to promote the town,” she said. “Hopefully, it being the location for a film will bring more business to the Quayside.”  The Lookout has been offered compensation whereas Berwick Boat Trips has not.  “The film company could have been in touch with us a bit more,” added Mr Thompson. “I’d just like someone to speak to us about how it’s going to affect us.”  Berwick Chamber of Trade is taking the longer-term view that the film could boost visitor numbers.  Stephen Scott, secretary, said: “The Chamber’s view is that the filming of the Outlaw King is a good thing for Berwick. It will give the town some publicity, which will bring economic benefits both during the period of filming and hopefully when the film is released too.  The filming will inevitably bring a little disruption, particularly as it will create parking problems in some areas of the town. However, we feel this is a price worth paying for the publicity and for the boost the town will receive. Most importantly, let us all enjoy our bit of the limelight.”  The film focuses on 1308 when Robert the Bruce was made an outlaw by the English. The Quayside is being turned into the Port of Glasgow, while the Old Bridge will be London Bridge.

Country Town Promoted As Destination of Choice

A new £44,000 marketing campaign is aiming to make Crieff the “destination of choice” for those seeking adrenaline-pumping adventure and good food.  The Strath capital’s wealth of outdoor activities, as well as its restaurants and shops, will be the main focus of the 12-month digital drive, which has received a £22,000 match-funding boost from the VisitScotland Growth Fund.  Crieff Succeeds BID (Business Improvement District) will produce a number of online videos to promote the town to the short-stay tourism market in Edinburgh, Glasgow and the north-east of England.  Blogs, press trips and social media will also help to raise awareness of Crieff, which lies within 90 minutes’ drive of 90 per cent of the Scottish population.  Glenturret, Scotland’s oldest working distillery, Crieff Hydro and Campbell’s – one of the country’s oldest bakeries - will be cited among the town’s tourism offerings and the area’s stunning scenery and its string of top independent shops will all feature prominently in the new campaign.  The announcement was made at Pura Maison by Neil Combe, manager of Crieff Succeeds BID, and Jim Clarkson, regional partnerships director at VisitScotland.  Mr Combe said: “This substantial award from VisitScotland’s Growth Fund is a real vote of confidence in our vision to promote and develop Crieff. The town is an attractive visitor destination and a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts. It has so much to offer and our ambitious online film project will showcase the people, landscape, history and culture through its range of outdoor activities, food and drink, and local cuisine.”  The VisitScotland Growth Fund supports collaborative tourism marketing projects which focus on growth and ensure that visitors experience the true Spirit of Scotland. To be eligible for a Growth Fund award, applicants must place a strong emphasis on digital marketing and the creation of digital content assets. They are also encouraged to align themselves with Scotland’s themed years, including the 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

Rise in Renewable Electricity

Scotland is on track for a record year of renewable electricity generation, with output in the first half of 2017 17% greater than the same period in 2016.  New figures published by the UK Westminster Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy show that Scotland continues to lead the way in renewables, delivering the equivalent of 54% of Scotland’s gross electricity consumption in 2016.  Scotland generated approximately 24% of total UK renewable electricity in 2016.  Total energy consumption in 2015 was 15.4% lower than in 2005-2007, exceeding the Scottish Government’s 12% energy consumption reduction target for 2020. And 17.8% of total Scottish energy consumption came from renewable sources, which is an increase of 2.6 percentage points from 2014. Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse said: “Today’s statistics show that Scotland is on track for a record year of renewable electricity generation, and that our renewable energy sector is stronger than ever. This reflects our commitment to clean, green energy building, and we will continue to support the renewable energy sector in Scotland. The future for renewable energy is bright in Scotland and these figures show that over 50% of our electricity consumption was delivered by renewables. A low carbon economy is not just a practical way forward, but Scotland’s clean, green energy resources are playing an increasingly crucial role in the security of our energy supply.”

Far-right Group Scottish Dawn Banned Under Terrorism Laws
Far-right group Scottish Dawn is to be banned under terrorism laws after it was identified as an alias of the proscribed neo-Nazi group National Action, the Government has announced. The organisation, which heavily promotes its belief in Scottish nationalism online, has been the subject of an investigation alongside similar group NS131 (National Socialist Anti-Capitalist Action).  Both have now been judged to be re-branded versions of the banned National Action collective, which called for copycat attacks similar to the murder of murder of Jo Cox MP by the Scots-born extremist Thomas Mair and the massacre at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.  Scottish Dawn was established shortly after National Action was classified as a terrorist organisation. Being a member of or inviting support for either organisation will now be a criminal offence carrying a sentence of up to 10 years' imprisonment. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “National Action is a vile racist, homophobic and anti-semitic group which glorifies violence and stirs up hatred while promoting their poisonous ideology and I will not allow them to masquerade under different names.”

Anger Over Weapon Ban on Royal Marines Visiting School

Councillors have criticised a decision to ask Royal Marines to leave their unloaded weapons outside a school when they were delivering a classroom presentation.  The marines who were invited to talk to pupils at primary schools in Oban were given a last-minute instruction not to bring the tools of their trade inside.  Yesterday Roddy McCuish, an independent councillor and depute provost for Argyll and Bute council, said: “I am extremely disappointed in the actions that have been taken, do they want the Royal Marines to sit in a corner and sing Kumbaya?  Given that the Royal Marines do what they do, you would expect them to have weapons with them, there is no live ammunition, they are highly trained professionals and it’s the tools of their trade. If you go to an airport, or a train station, you will see armed police in Scotland so I don’t see the difference.”  The marines visit the two schools regularly, in memory of local man Gordon MacPherson, a Royal Marine who was killed in action in the Falklands. Councillor McCuish, who said he had apologised to the Royal Marines for the decision, taken by the local authority, said: “As I understand it, there was one complaint. Of course you take people’s concerns seriously but the majority of people I have spoken to don’t seem to have any concerns over this, I am disappointed that there was this knee-jerk reaction.”

Billy Connolly Inducted Into Scottish Music 'Hall of Fame'

Legendary entertainer Sir Billy Connolly is to be inducted into a Scottish music "hall of fame" in his home city next month. The Glasgow-born star, who shot to fame in the traditional music scene in the 1960s playing in the Humblebums with Gerry Rafferty, will be honoured at a gala dinner.   Connolly, who famously told jokes on stage with the Humblebums, will join the likes of Jimmy Shand, Michael Marra, Barbara Dickson, Callum Kennedy, Dick Gaughan and Aly Bain in the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame, which was launched in 2005.  Connolly will be honoured alongside the late Scottish tenor Kenneth McKellar and singer-songwriter Rab Noakes at the dinner in Oran Mor in Glasgow on 27 October.

Looking for Your Views on Gaelic Services At Parliament

Gaelic speakers, Gaelic learners and non-Gaelic speakers are all being encouraged to give theirs views to the Scottish Parliament on the future shape of its Gaelic services. Whether you take the short, three minute online survey about using Holyrood’s Gaelic facilities, or whether you want to submit a formal submission on the Parliament’s next Gaelic Language Plan, the Presiding Officer, Ken Macintosh, is urging people to have their say. Announcing the launch of the online surveys, Presiding Officer, the Rt Hon Ken Macintosh MSP said: “Gaelic matters. Whether or not you are Highland-born like me, it is part of who we are and part of Scotland’s rich cultural identity. The Scottish Parliament recognises Gaelic’s special status and that’s reflected in our laws, and in the Gaelic services we offer people when visiting Holyrood and engaging with the Parliament. That’s why we are launching two surveys about our Gaelic services - a quick and easy one to tell us briefly what you think, and a more detailed one about our Gaelic Language plan that covers our approach for the next five years. Do Phàrlamaid, do chànain, thoir dhuinn do bheachdan. It’s your Parliament, your Gaelic, tell us your views.”