Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 423

Issue # 423                                     Week ending Saturday 21st  October 2017

Choose A Mower Wisely and Get A Fine Tattoo Or You Will Rue it in the Future by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

It’s amazing how attached we get to things. There are some things we go bonkers over if we do not have them to hand. Joiners love their hammers and chisels, brickies love their trusty trowels and the rest of us love our smartphones and cars. We actually need them because the bad people at BT have taken away all our payphones and the awful people at the councils have taken most buses off the road. It is their fault. We were perfectly happy as we were, looking for coins to put in the slots and standing on street corners in the rain waiting for Donnie Shoval’s omnibus. Not our fault.

And mowers. Some people love using them to cut grass but it will soon be time to put them away for a few months. Last week Mrs X proudly announced she was going to give our rolling acres - actually our small back garden - a final once-over. To celebrate the end of the mowing season, she used a machine that she had not ventured out with before. It is one of these propellor-driven jobs which looks like an upside down food processor. Yes, a hover mower. She is now very attached to it.

I volunteered but, ach, she had done it all before and would get it done in a jiffy. She knew about hover mowers - and that you had to rake up the cuttings after them. This mower was a bit bigger than others. It was bulkier and a little heavier. However, she was soon whizzing through it. After 10 minutes, she got quite puffed. Her cheeks went red and the task became rather difficult. I put my head round the back door to see if she needed a hand but she would rather have pins put in her eyes than allow me to boast that I had to finish what she started. After another five minutes, the poor cratur was all done in.

Her temperature had shot up, her legs were aching and she was gasping for breath. She was convinced that the motor was failing on the hover mower but it sounded fine, although it maybe had a deeper  throbbing sound. Thinking she was suddenly a technical expert, she began to examine the mower and realised it had become top heavy. My van was more likely to hover. She somehow prised open the big top cover and found the hover mower - was packed tightly with grass cuttings. It had a secret grassbox. She thought that was the motor. She loves it now and can’t wait till spring.

People are also more attached than ever to ink. It used to be old bodachs who had been in the war who had tattoos but now they’re popular even though there we’re learning of more health hazards. Heavily tattooed people are said to be more likely to get sunstroke because inked skin doesn’t sweat properly and nasty infections from skin punctures can appear after 15 years. I can understand the attraction though.

Many years ago, I went out with a Glasgow lass who was well-inked. She kept on and on at me to go under the needle but I resisted. Instead I got a fake tattoo on my arm. It was one of those iron-on ones. It was a flaming skull inside a giant red burn mark. She wasn’t impressed but she was a really classy bird. Most of her tattoos were spelled correctly.

Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that Mrs X was out doing the grass with her new non-hovering hover mower. I will no doubt get the usual comments that I am lazy and that I should not have allowed her to do a manual task like that but should have taken on the job myself. She says she likes doing stuff like that. Do you know what - she even has her own toolbox - and stuff. She is very attached to that box of spanners and screwdrivers. We are good at different things and she is very practical so I am happy to let her do those jobs.

However, I wouldn’t want you to think I am completely useless around the house. OK, I don’t have many tools, as such. I use pens and computers and cutlery. That sort of thing. I can use scissors. There is another tool of sorts that I use in the house to reach things. It helps me. I get so emotional to even think about it. It is just there waiting - waiting to help me rise above all my day-to-day troubles. You see, dear reader, I have a stepladder. I never knew my real ladder.

Turnberry Resort Owned by US President Donald Trump's Family Among Scottish Courses Which Have Lost Millions of Pounds for Three Years Running
Donald Trump has lost millions of pounds for three years running on his two Scottish golf resorts, according to financial records filed in the UK.  A Companies House report shows losses last year at the resorts more than doubled to £17.6million.  The US president’s company attributed the results partly to shutting down their Turnberry resort for half the year while building a new course there and restoring an old one.  The Trump Organisation have faced several setbacks since they ventured into Scotland a dozen years ago.  Trump angered local residents near his Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire with what they say are bullying tactics to make way for more development.  The company have also lost a court fight to stop an offshore wind farm near that resort, which drew objections from environmental regulators over building plans there in August.  They also appear to be at risk of losing a bid to host the coveted Scottish Open at their courses.  Trump handed over management of his company to his two adult sons before becoming president but still retains his financial interest.  In addition to the Turnberry shutdown, the company also noted in their report that they took an £8million loss due to fluctuations in the value of the pound last year.

Royal Bank of Scotland Quits Prestwick, Troon and Girvan After Serving Generations of Families in Ayrshire Towns
The Royal Bank of Scotland quit Prestwick, Troon and Girvan last week after generations in the towns.  The bank, which had to be saved by the taxpayer, wasted no time in obliterating evidence it was ever there. Troon closed on Tuesday, followed by the Prestwick branch on Wednesday.  There was no official fanfare by the bank, just a final lock of the door. And immediately workmen turned up to get the signs down.  We captured the moment for posterity the signs came down in Prestwick. The giant safes which used to hold the money in Troon, were craned onto a truck on Friday.  Astonishingly, it leaves just the Ayr branch in The Sandgate, their former chief office, as the ONLY office. It follows earlier shutdowns in Cumnock,, Maybole, Mauchline and Dalmellington.  John Scott MSP said: “It is indeed a sad day that my constituents in Troon and Prestwick have now lost their branches.  I implored the RBS to change its mind and spoke in Parliament several times.” Jeanne Freeman, MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, has engaged cabinet secretary Keith Brown to highlight the “the abject failure of RBS to provide accessible mobile banking.”  Ms Freeman asked Mr Brown to join her in pressing RBS to meet their statutory duty under parts 3 and 4 of the Equality Act 2010.  This Act requires organisations must take positive steps to ensure a disabled person can access the same services and premises, as far as possible, as someone who is not disabled.  She said: “I am delighted Mr Brown has taken the decision for the Scottish Government to press RBS to meet its statutory and moral obligations. It is unacceptable for the bank to close branches then fail to put genuinely accessible alternatives in place. Phone or online banking does not work for everyone.”

Innerleithen Man Completes 1,650-mile Edinburgh to Gibraltar Cycle

An Innerleithen man has completed a 1,650 mile cycling challenge from Edinburgh Castle to the Rock of Gibraltar.  Since 2010, Gordon Smith has raised over £20,000 for terminal illness charity Marie Curie, and this year, he decided to go one step further in his efforts, and embark on his solo journey, which was expected to take 16 days.  The 57-year-old painter and decorator, first got involved by decorating the Marie Curie Hospice at Fairmilehead in Edinburgh, where his wife Tracy works.  Before setting off on Friday, September 15, Gordon also received a message of support from Olympic Champion Sir Chris Hoy, wishing him good luck.  Despite a few setbacks along the way, including battling the wind, rain, heat and falling ill, Gordon has raised £9,519.98, with the amount continuing to rise.  After arriving at the Rock of Gibraltar on Wednesday, October 11, Gordon said: “The doctors and nurses who attend our loved ones deserve our support and whilst I don't have the skills of the staff at Marie Curie, I can ride a bike.  It's been a long tough, and event filled challenge, from falling ill in France for around five days to the hot temperatures of Spain.  I'm absolutely delighted to have over nine thousand pounds for Marie Curie. By giving a little we can make a difference to someone at the end of their life. A huge thank you to everyone who has donated.”  Jenna Moore, Marie Curie Community Fundraiser said: “Gordon is inspirational in his attitude towards fundraising. He is so passionate about supporting Marie Curie and is always challenging himself one step further than the last time; we couldn’t be more grateful for everything he is doing.  The money Gordon is raising will support people living with a terminal illness to make the most of the time they have. I know his family are so proud of him, and will be there to cheer him across the finish line.”

North Highland Tourism Initiative Fund Gets 23 Proposals
More than 20 potential new businesses have shown interest in applying for loans dedicated to boosting the holiday trade in Caithness and north Sutherland. North Highland Regeneration Fund (NHRF) has received an encouraging response to the launch in July of its scheme offering £200,000 in funding to tourism ventures.  A total of 23 expressions of interest have been received for loans of up to £25,000 with the aim of increasing accommodation, facilities and tourist attractions in the Dounreay travel-to-work area.  Those behind the drive are particularly keen to help existing or new accommodation providers start up hotels, guest houses, B&Bs, self-catering complexes, caravan parks, bothies, sleeping pods and mobile home docking stations.  NHRF chairman Lord Thurso said with the success of the North Coast 500, tourism is at the forefront of efforts to revitalise the Caithness and north Sutherland economy to take advantage of the growing number of tourists heading north. “We have had 23 expressions of interest and one formal application,” he said.  “We are also in talks with others which we hope will get to the point of making applications.  Loans are available to businesses which create wealth which would not otherwise be created in the area by exporting goods or by importing money.  The tourist business is an export business as every tourist who comes in exports money and we are exporting the services.  That is where our focus will be over the next 18 months while continuing to promote the other aspects of the fund.  We want to help people where there are more tourists visiting this part of the world as there is clear need for investment to allow businesses to grow.”

Highland Whisky Sales Stay Strong Amid Slump
Strong tourist numbers may be helping to cushion Highland retailers from the effects of a tax hike that has seen whisky sales plummet nationwide.  However, there are concerns about the long-term impact of Chancellor Philip Hammond’s decision to increase spirits duty by 3.9 per cent in his March budget.  Producers say this has resulted in UK sales of whisky falling by one million bottles in the first six months of 2017 – down from 37.7 million in the same period last year.  One Inverness retailer, who preferred not to be named, suggested that in tourist areas like the Highlands a fall in sales could be balanced by overseas shoppers taking advantage of the devalued pound.  However, with the tourist season drawing to a close, retailers will now become more dependent on domestic sales.  Although a number of distilleries produce whisky exclusively for the export market, including Glen Ord in Muir of Ord with its Singleton of Glen Ord brand, there are industry concerns that they are not immune from the impact of the excise rise.  The fall in UK demand has prompted the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) to launch a Drop The Dram Duty campaign in a bid to force a rethink.

Brexit Crisis More Calamitous Than Most Imagine by Lesley Riddoch
The Brexit crisis is deeper and more calamitous than most imagine. We must change course now.  Another weekend, another wave of Brexit-related chaos – but perhaps a weekend when MPs finally accept that the future authority of parliamentary democracy depends on their intervention now.  Theresa May has delayed her flagship EU withdrawal bill in the face of a threatened rebellion by pro-European Tory MPs working across party lines to rewrite it. The bill was expected to begin eight days of detailed scrutiny in the Commons this week, but that timetable has slipped as the prime minister tries to head off multiple rebellions.  A Europhile group including former Tory chancellor Kenneth Clarke, several Conservative ex-ministers and prominent Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrat and Green MPs aim to give parliament the ability to veto, or somehow legally prevent a “bad deal” or “no deal” outcome.  Glory be. At last MPs seem to have woken up to the car crash being perpetrated in their names and have stopped expecting campaigner Gina Miller to defend parliamentary democracy for them.  If Brexit is now visibly falling apart – and it is – MPs in the two main Westminster parties must abandon the blind pursuit of power, abandon the pretence that any aspect of Brexit is on course and accept that the European Referendum of 2016 was advisory not binding. It has suited everyone to ignore this inconvenient detail.

The SNP hardly want to create the precedent of allowing Westminster MPs to thwart the popular will expressed in a referendum, but the circumstances surrounding Brexit are now so serious, a rethink is needed. MPs are elected to vote for what they believe to be in the interests of Britain. Yet we have an absurd situation where the majority of MPs believe Brexit to be deeply dangerous, yet allow the parliamentary process to hurple on, knowing that if they insist on change, demand minimum standards of transparency, or try to protect the competence of devolved assemblies and parliaments, they will derail the process hopelessly and entirely.  Yet raise these important issues, MPs must.  Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs still want guarantees that devolved powers transferred from the EU are passed directly to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. And the former Tory attorney-general, Dominic Grieve, is leading pressure for Mrs May to water down sweeping “Henry VIII powers” in the bill which let ministers make big Brexit-related legislative changes without parliamentary scrutiny. And yet these serious questions aren’t the biggest stumbling blocks.

Internal cabinet bickering has now reached such a crescendo that Theresa May is being pressed to fire both Philip Hammond and Boris Johnson, when she lacks the authority to sack her dry cleaners and cannot possibly hope to keep the “strong and stable” blather going for another week if her Chancellor and Foreign Secretary must be shown the door. In any case, the in-fighting has already done the damage – Theresa May revealed last week that her government is spending £250 million on preparations for a possible “no deal” result because negotiations with Brussels have stalled.  That’s not an inconvenient amber light – that’s a Brexit car in need of a pit stop, or indeed a scrapyard. Already.  The curious thing is the casual way those with recent experience of Westminster describe the developing omnishambles. On John Pienaar’s Sunday Radio 5 Politics programme, the former head of the civil service Sir Bob Kerslake didn’t pull his punches.  “Every time you think [Brexit] can’t get any worse, it does. I’m naturally optimistic but you have to work hard to see glimmers of hope. The cabinet is behaving like a scene from Reservoir Dogs with extra tomato sauce thrown in.  We need at least a four-year transition period and we are nowhere near starting proper talks about trading relationships because we need to sort the payment issue out. £50 billion looks like a lot of money but in the scheme of government spending, it isn’t. This should simply have been agreed, but Theresa May has been held back by hardliners. Even this critical period for reflection is being eaten up by the dog fight within the Cabinet.”   Meanwhile, Theresa May spent last week wooing Saudi princes and letting it be known that Britain is prepared to bend the rules to let Saudi oil giant Aramco be listed on the London Stock Exchange.  But she’s taken no tough stand against Donald Trump’s decision to impose 300 per cent tariffs on imports of C-Series jets made by the Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier which employs 4,000 people in Northern Ireland.

With “allies” and possible trading partners like these we should be worried. When we survey the world’s countries and discover that only five exist without a regional trade agreement of some kind, we should be very worried. When we realise no other complex issue will be dealt with properly for perhaps a decade as both Holyrood and Westminster are paralysed – voters should react.  Instead, many have completely switched off – not because of the fiendish complexity of Brexit but because the Westminster party system makes a rational solution nigh on impossible. An anonymous comment on a Financial Times article last week explains the predicament perfectly;  “The Labour leadership, while notionally pro-Remain, really want to leave while the Tory leadership, who are pushing through Brexit, are on the whole in favour of remaining. The Labour leadership has to argue half-heartedly for Remain to hold its coalition together and the Conservative leadership has to argue unconvincingly about the benefits of leaving to hold its coalition together.  A significant majority of MPs want to Remain. Most Conservative MPs are in favour of Remain but fear that if they do what is right, and oppose the government, they will pave the way for a Labour government. Most Labour MPs are also in favour of Remain but fear that, if they vote for what they believe in, they will lose seats to the Tories. Many Tories would accept that a Corbyn government, though unpleasant, would be a price worth paying to stop Brexit. Many Labour MPs would see [Corbyn’s] defeat as a price worth paying to save Labour from left wing extremism. But no one can say any of this.”  Correct.

Devolved Administrations to Have Say on Brexit Amid Impasse with Brussels

Brexit talks with ministers from across the UK will be held in London for the first time in eight months with little sign of any progress.  A formal group for discussing the exit negotiations was set up to allow Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to have their say but the Government has faced claims it is not treating the devolved administrations with respect. Damian Green, the Prime Minister's deputy, insisted he wanted the meeting to be "positive and constructive" but said it should recognise the "importance of preserving" the UK single market. Scottish nationalists, however, will continue to push for the government to give Scotland a legal say on the exit process and drop plans to leave the EU's single market. Mr Green will be joined at the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations) by Scotland's Brexit minister Michael Russell and Welsh finance minister Mark Drakeford as well as David Sterling, head of Northern Ireland Civil Service, who is attending following the breakdown in power-sharing.  The Government said bilateral meetings and conversations between ministers and officials had been held since the last JMC.  The First Secretary of State said: "These are important talks on the future of the United Kingdom.  I am looking forward to positive and constructive dialogue that recognises the importance of preserving the UK single market that is so vital for people and businesses in our country.  I also remain committed to delivering a significant increase in the decision-making power of each devolved administration after we leave the European Union.  I hope in our meeting on Monday we can agree on the principles for common frameworks that will deliver certainty and continuity to people living and doing business in the UK."  Mr Russell said the Government must reconsider its hard Brexit strategy.  He said: "I hope progress can be made on a number of fronts, for example on recognising the importance of single market membership and amending the EU Withdrawal Bill so the Scottish Parliament can give it consent.  The UK Westminster Government must reconsider its hard Brexit position and the disastrous impact it would have on jobs and living standards and take account of the concerns, shared by Scottish businesses, about the impact of leaving the single market and customs union," he added.  Secondly, they must start giving the Scottish Government a real opportunity to contribute to policy papers which affect the whole of the UK.  Finally, on the EU Withdrawal Bill, progress can made if the amendments suggested by the Scottish and Welsh Governments are accepted."

Were You A Winner At the Royal National Mod?
Record Breaking Royal National Mod Takes Over Lochaber.  The Royal National Mòd is underway as Scotland’s biggest Gaelic cultural festival arrived in Lochaber for the first time in a decade. Thousands of visitors and competitors will make their way from across Scotland, the UK, and even the US to Lochaber for the annual festivities.  The event opened with a torchlight procession through the streets of Fort William ahead of the official opening, with hundreds in attendance. Allan Campbell, the new President of An Comunn Gàidhealach, in his inaugural address called for the Royal National Mòd to be acknowledged as a Scottish cultural treasure.  The main competitions kicked off with young Gaels vying for medals in fiddle, piano, accordion, melodeon and bagpipes. The Coisir Sgir a’Bhac from Lewis had a fantastic competition at the Royal National Mod. They won the prestigious Lorn Sheild, and a host of other trophies. Their conductor Avril Allen was given the Mrs Catherin C MacDonald Silver Baton, and they also won the Dalriada Cup for the highest marks in Gaelic, and the Captain Angus Stewart Trophy for the highest marks in music. They also won the Hamish Graham (Strath) Trophy for highest aggregate marks in Gaelic throughout competitions A300, A305 and A306 (qualifiers); and they shared the prize for highest aggregate music marks in the same competitions –  having scored equal points with Còisir Ghàidhlig Mhealbhaich (Melvich Gaelic Choir).  Adult soloist winners were Silver Pendant Final (Ladies) Ishbel Campbell, Tiriodh.  Silver Pendant Final (Men) Coinneach MacLeod, Glasgow Gold Medal Final (Ladies) inner Rachel Walker, Drochaid an Aonachain.  And Gold Medal Final (Men) Alasdair MacMhuirich, Ìle

May and Juncker: Brexit Talks Need to Start Within Days
Efforts to get a Brexit deal should “accelerate” in the coming months, Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker have said in a joint statement but the Prime Minister’s desired breakthrough on starting trade talks remained elusive.  After a 90-minute dinner at the EU’s headquarters in Brussels, which involved a “broad, constructive exchange on current European and global challenges,” Mrs May emerged to give the European Commission President a kiss while David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, made his farewell with a bear-hug for Mr Juncker.  Before the meal, the PM had a telephone conversation with Emmanuel Macron, the French President, in an apparent effort to get him to soften his line on Britain promising to stump up tens of billions of euros on the divorce settlement before any talks could even begin on a future trading relationship with the EU27.  Downing Street said the two leaders had "discussed progress" in the negotiations and agreed to go over the "next steps" in the margins of the EU summit later this week.  Having spoken to Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, about trade and transition over the weekend, it seems Mrs May was left in no doubt that the Franco-German alliance remained determined to play hardball and would not budge on sequencing.  French officials made clear Paris and Berlin were “perfectly aligned” in their approach to Brexit.  Ahead of the working dinner, Mr Juncker caused wry smiles when he said he would give a “post-mortem” after the meal had finished.  In their joint statement he and the PM said it had taken place in a “constructive and friendly atmosphere”.   The working dinner, which according to Downing Street, had been planned for weeks took Westminster-watchers by surprise; it was not mentioned in Mr Juncker’s pre-released diary last week.  In April, details about a previous private dinner at Number 10 were leaked when Mr Juncker was reported to have famously said that he had he left Downing Street "10 times more sceptical" than when he had arrived.  The leak led to an angry response from Mrs May on the steps of Downing Street when she warned that "there are some in Brussels who do not want these talks to succeed".

Councillors to Discuss Fortrose Care Home Plan

Care groups are urging councillors to back plans for a new care home for the elderly in the Black Isle.  Council officials have recommended the application for a 40-bed home in Fortrose be refused because the site is not zoned for development.  But local campaigners say the home is "desperately needed" with some people having to be cared for in homes as far away as Ullapool and Skye because of a lack of suitable care more locally.  Private provider the Parklands Group has lodged a fresh application for a care home in Fortrose’s Ness Road in response to earlier comments by planning officials.  A previous application was turned down by council officials and did not even go to committee.  Officials are now recommending refusal because the proposed site is prime agricultural land, but a majority of Black Isle councillors have now voted to refer the fresh application to the area planning committee for wider discussion when next it meets.  A public vote in March endorsed the Parklands plan with Fortrose and Rosemarkie Community Council, Black Isle Cares, Highland Senior Citizens Network and Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Ian Blackford all backing the proposal.  Ron Taylor, managing director of Parklands, says he hopes the public support for the project, the new design and the pressing social need for a care home on the Black Isle will sway councillors in favour of the proposal. "This is an issue of relevance to the entire region given the large and growing elderly population across the Highlands," he said.  There is currently no provision for a care home on the Black Isle. That, combined with the closure of Marine House, leaves an area with a growing elderly population hugely disadvantaged, puts pressure on an already over-stretched NHS and forces families apart, with some older people having to leave the area to receive residential care. Older people on the Black Isle deserve better than that."

Pipe Band Pleads: 'Don't Stop the Music'

It is now or never for the West Fife Schools Pipe Band in their desperate search for a new leader.  The band could be silenced by the end of the year if they can't get a a team of tutors to come forward.  Founded in 1994, they are open to all pupils from the age of eight to 18 and regularly turn out for competitions, galas and charity events.  They don't want the music to stop and secretary Alister Rae said: "The committee of the West Fife Schools Pipe Band is pleading to the entire piping community for help as the band is struggling to find experienced pipe tutors.  The band was set up in 1994 with the specific objective of providing school-aged children with the chance to learn to play pipes and/or drums at an affordable cost. We have eight intermediate pipers, three chanter learners and five drummers, all of whom attend schools in the West Fife area and they range from 10-14 years-old. The band has produced a strong performance in competitions and local galas over the 2017 season, however our senior piping tutor has retired, leaving the band without a leader.  Without an experienced piping tutor in place, there is no likelihood of competing next year and the band is at risk of folding altogether."  Mr Rae continued: "We need a team of tutors to work together to teach the kids and to take the band forward, so if there are any experienced pipers who can commit to joining us, we would like to hear from them urgently.  We have a great bunch of kids in the band and a supportive committee, we simply need more hands on deck for the band to survive. Unfortunately, if we cannot secure tutors we may have to close the doors on this great little band which has been performing in Fife for 23 years and has produced world class pipers and drummers, many of whom went all the way to Grade 1 bands.  If there are any experienced pipers that can commit to a couple of hours per week, we would like to hear from them.  We will be happy to pay a fee for an experienced piper to take the reins. We competed at Novice Juvenile Grade this year at all the major competitions by teaming up with another band.  Our ultimate goal would be to do the same again next year under our own steam. The guys are very enthusiastic and always keen to do their best.”

Scottish Economy is Doing Well in EU and Part of the UK, Think Tank Claims

Scotland has one of the best performing economies of the UK with wages and productivity outstripping every other area outside the south-east of England, a leading international think-tank has found.  The latest UK economic survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that Scotland has the third highest household income in the UK and EU immigration has fuelled a rise in productivity.  It also found that Edinburgh and Glasgow only lag behind London in the economic performances of all major UK cities. But the OECD is projecting economic growth of just one per cent next year, saying that the uncertainty of Brexi tnegotiations is likely to leave the UK without a free-trade agreement with the EU by its official exit date in 2019.  It warned that Britain's economic prospects could be further hit by a "disorderly Brexit" if negotiations between the EU and UK are cut short.  This will trigger a sharp reaction by financial markets and send the exchange rate to new lows which would lead to a downgrade in the UK's sovereign rating. But the Paris-based OECD has suggested the UK could dodge those risks through a Brexit reversal.  A second referendum that reverses Brexit would have a "positive" and "significant" impact on the UK economy, which is on track to be crippled by its EU divorce. Brexit has compounded the challenge of reviving labour productivity growth, which the OECD said had come to a "standstill" and made "no meaningful contribution" to UK output since 2007. The report highlighted that labour productivity was also weakest outside of Greater London and the South East of England with only Scotland faring favourably.

Storm Ophelia Causes Tenement to Collapses in Glasgow
A city tenement block has partially collapsed as Scotland continues to suffer the aftermath of Storm Ophelia.  The frontage of the Victorian sandstone building in the Crosshill area of Glasgow gave way at around 4am on Tuesday, with one local resident describing the incident as sounding like a “gas explosion”.  It is understood the privately-owned corner block in the southside of the city has been empty for at least a year due to previously identified structural issues.  The bay windows of the tenement in Albert Street were due to be removed in the coming weeks, Glasgow City Council said.  An exclusion zone was already established around the tenement. None of the falling debris breached the barrier.  Seven fire appliances were dispatched and remain on site this morning. Council officers are now assessing the structural integrity of the block.  A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “The building is comprised of privately owned tenement flats. Officers from the council’s Building Standards and Public Safety service previously ordered its evacuation due to its condition and set up an exclusion zone around it for public safety.  Responsibility for repairing the property lies with the private owners however the council had offered them financial assistance to help with the cost of repair. Stabilisation works to the property and removal of the bay window areas were due to commence on site within the next two weeks following the appointment of a contractor, by the owners’ agentt.”

Tragic Tories Reel From One Disaster to the Other and Ordinary People Are the Ones Who Suffer

Whether it's our stalemate Brexit, botched benefits system or damaging JobCentre closures, the UK Westminster government has a lot to answer for, they spend their time reeling from one disaster to another. But even by their exceptionally low standards, the current list of cock-ups they’re presiding over is breathtaking.  Exhibit 1 is David Davis, who admitted Brexit negotiations have reached a stalemate with no further progress possible unless Brussels backs trade talks.  There is absolutely zero chance of EU leaders doing so. Davis is the man who told us getting a deal with the EU would be a cinch. He’s shown himself to be so inept he couldn’t strike a deal at a market stall. Exhibit 2 is the continuing chaos engulfing the Universal Credit system.  Labour will seek to exploit Tory divisions by demanding the roll-out of the controversial benefit reform be paused.  It’s thought as many as 25 Tory MPs could actually find a backbone and rebel against despicable measures forcing some of society’s most vulnerable people into debt. Nevertheless, deluded Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke insists the roll-out will continue with just minor tweaks.  And new Scottish Conservative MP Douglas Ross won’t even bother turning up at the debate. He’s got better things to do – acting as assistant referee for Barcelona’s Champions League game against Olympiakos. It certainly shows where his priorities lie. Then there’s the ongoing plans to close JobCentre Plus offices across the UK. The proposals to slash numbers in Glasgow will be particularly damaging.  An impressive report by Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee published in April catalogued the problems. The UK Westminster Government have only unveiled their response now. No prizes for guessing it was to put their fingers in their ears and ignore the evidence. The Westminster debate is sure to see a spate of Tory MPs insist welfare reform is required to fix the benefit system and get people working. The irony is the only thing that’s not working is this shambolic, divided and mean-spirited Government.