Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 424

Issue # 424                                                   Week ending Saturday 28th  October 2017

Bring Out Your Frying Pans As We Have Cracked it and We Now Have Very Safe Eggs
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

When I was driving over from Great Bernera to Stornoway the other day I saw a sign on a box beside the road that said Free Range Eggs. Do you know what? I don’t think I have ever heard of Range Eggs before but at least they were free so I took loads of them home to try them out. They were really good with that deep yellow yolk that shows they were not from hens that are couped up all day. They were so good I think I’ll go back tomorrow and grab some more.

While I was driving back they said on the radio that it is safe to eat eggs again - even if they are soft and runny. The government also says they are now okay to have for breakfast and lunch and dinner - even if you are pregnant. The problem is that some of us have been happily scoffing them, and letting the yolk run our chinny-chin-chins, for the last 20 years thinking that the danger was over about then. They really didn’t do a good job of keeping us informed.

It was back in the late-1980s that Edwina Currie, who was a junior health minister at the time, told the world that most egg production in Britain was infected with salmonella. Not very nice but, soon after that, the link between eggs and salmonella poisoning was confirmed so, of course, everybody stopped buying them. Well, nobody was going to take the risk after someone like her said most of them were infected. It turned out she was not right about that and the poor woman had to resign after 4 million gogags had to be slaughtered.

Now all the news coverage has meant that all these food experts are looking at eggs again. They are now calling eggs names like “nature’s multivitamin pill” as they contain good stuff like vitamins A, D, E, and a range of B vitamins. They are also packed with minerals including calcium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, potassium, sodium, copper, iodine, magnesium and other ones with rather long names. Youngsters are learning to love eggy things all over again - and even wanting them for Christmas presents. It’s cheap so I will get my daughter an eggs box. I offered to get more but she only wants one. Aw, bless.

In more news about this superfood, my favourite cook has finally learned how to poach eggs. Nigella Lawson does not want to have to use scissors to cut the straggly bits off them so she has started putting them in a tea strainer before she puts them in boiling water. Doesn’t everyone? No, they don’t - I was joking - and can anyone really be bothered to take the scissors to a poached egg before they put it on toast and scoff down the dashed thing? OK, maybe if you are a TV cook.

The weather has been unpredictable here in the last while. It has been so warm on some days that I have even contemplated going out to the back garden and taking off my semmit. I only thought about it though. Half an hour later, it has been blowing a right old hooley. A guy from Harris came up here and went to Inverness last week. He was on the ferry Loch Seaforth when it got so wild it couldn’t tie up at Ullapool. When he came back, he told me how sick he had been. I said that I thought, being a Hearach, he would have found his sea legs. He replied: “What are you talking about? Do you think I am daft? I know for a fact that seals don’t lay eggs.”

Stornoway has loads of great cafés now and they serve some great treats - including eggs and chicken. When the Harris guy who was on the ferry came up on the bus one morning recently, he went into one of these new establishments. He noticed that the menu said they served something called an Exotic Breakfast. When the waitress came over to take his order, the cove from Tarbert asked: “What’s in the Exotic Breakfast?”

The waitress was well-trained and she knew the menu very well indeed so she was able to tell him all about it. She explained the Exotic had various delights in it including baked tongue of chicken with various beans and tomatoes. Our man was far from impressed. “Oh yee-aah,” he shouted. “That is disgusting. I would never eat anything that came out of a chicken’s mouth.” Helpful as ever, the waitress asked if there was anything else he would like. The Hearach replied: “Just bring me a boiled egg.”

North-east Schoolboy Finds Ancient Coin At Castle Fraser Dig

A coin dating back to the construction of a historic North-east castle has been discovered. The 16th-century find was unearthed at Castle Fraser, near Inverurie, by a nine-year-old taking part in an archaeological dig, run by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS). The Elizabeth I sixpence dates to 1572 and it is the first artefact from that time backing up when construction started on the five-storey Z-plan castle.  Archaeologist Dr Daniel Rhodes said the currency was the star find of the digs. Dr Rhodes, who works for NTS, led the work – with young and old alike getting involved.  He said: “What happened was we got repairs done to the castle drive earlier this year, which was a routine repair, and when it was dug up we found this buried wall that wasn’t on any of the plans.“We decided that we would do a dig later in the year and we offered everyone the chance to come out and help us be an archaeologist for a day.” He added it was the first “hard evidence” from the time period the castle was constructed in had been found. He said: “It is an Elizabeth I sixpence that dates back to 1572 and we can tell this from the coin itself. There is a picture of the Queen’s head on one side and it says sixpence on it. It was actually in use, the coin, because you can see it has actually been broken.  This is how coins worked back then. For example if you owed someone threepence you would break off half of the sixpence and give it to them.”  More than 250 people took part in the archaeological digs that took place at the castle but it was nine-year-old Sonny Crighton, from Banchory, who made the discovery.  He said: “I first thought it was a bit of glass then copper because it was covered in dirt.  I took it over to Daniel, the archaeologist, and he cleaned and showed me what it was. I was really surprised and happy.”  The coin is set to be sent to specialists in Edinburgh at the National Museum of Scotland. It is there experts will decide how to best take care of the coin.  Dr Rhodes added: “We had so many people take part in the digs, from youngsters who were a couple of years old to people in their 70s. It was great to see everyone get involved and by doing the digs we can unearth more history and knowledge about the area and the castle at the time. Once it is decided what is best to do with the coin it should come back to Aberdeenshire and be displayed somewhere near the castle.  It would be great if there could be an exhibition of some sorts with the coin being part of the show.  We also found some bits of pottery but the coin was definitely the major find of the dig.”  NTS estimates that the core of the castle possibly dates back to the 1450s.  But later additions were made to the building as it developed into a huge fortified structure, eventually creating one of the largest tower houses in the country.  It is thought that the then Laird Michael Fraser had started major upgrade work in the 1570s – tying in to the date of the sixpence.  The building was home to the Fraser family for more than 400 years and is still filled with family portraits, ornaments and mementos.

New State-of-the-art Highlands Prison Granted Planning Permission
The Highlands could be getting its first prison in more than a century after councillors backed proposals.  A new state-of-the-art facility has been granted planning permission in principle as part of plans to replace HMP Inverness.  It would be the first building of its kind to be constructed in the region for 112 years.  A Scottish Prison Service (SPS) spokeswoman said: “We are delighted that planning permission in principle has been granted for HMP Highland.”  The new prison facility is planned to be built on land to the south of Inverness Retail and Business Park.  It would incorporate a visits building, family help hub, regimes and facilities building, community integration unit and a car park. Members on Highland Council’s south planning applications committee granted planning permission in principle on Tuesday.  It will replace the 112-year-old HMP Inverness Prison, located in the city centre, with a new development which serves the Highlands, Islands and Moray areas.  The current jail has a design capacity of 103 but has an average population of 117, according to the prison service’s website. Developers Colliers International, who are carrying out the project for SPS, expect work to begin early next year. However, a number of conditions must be met before it can get under way, including finalised design details, as well as providing information about water supply and lighting.

Troon's Wintertainment Christmas Spectacular Saved After Pressure From People in the Town Forces Rethink

Organisers of Troon’s festival extravaganza were told they could not set-up the traditional fair on the Academy Street car park.  New land agents Savills blackballed the event – claiming the car park was to be resurfaced on the precise Sunday of Wintertainment.  And with 365 days in every year that raised more than one eyebrow in the town. But last week it emerged, following outcry they have had a re-think. A letter to Troon Community Council chairman Helen Duff confirmed the tarmac work has been shifted until next year.  Chairman Duff said: “I am absolutely delighted as this was causing us a real problem as no other car park in the town was suitable. It is a victory for the community and will be a great day.” Savills, which took over the operation of the car park for landlords Red Button Ltd, confirmed the date for major works has been moved.  They said: “Resurfacing works will not be progressing until next year. In the interim, a pot hole repair programme is being costed.” Councillor Phil Saxton helped put the squeeze on Savills after pointing out South Ayrshire Council owns part of the area.  As well as drawing in kids, revenue raised at the fair is vital to help fund community council projects.  This year’s Wintertainment is on Sunday November 19.

Perth Christmas Lights Switch on Acts Announced - Alesha Dixon is Booked
The Perth Christmas lights switch-on next month is going to be a sparkling family affair, with Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon headlining and local band Longstay opening the main stage.  While visitors sample the delights of the Chocolate and Gin Festival, glam rock favourites Mud will add a festive twinkle to the November 18 Christmas kick-off in the Fair City.  Glam Rock band Mud will be appearing on November 18  For a bit of contrast, East 17 will ramp things up with their ‘90s pop vibe.  Councillor Ian Campbell, leader of Perth and Kinross Council, said: “The team behind the event spend months planning to ensure that what we offer to residents and visitors is a truly wonderful day with activities and entertainment for people of ages.  This year’s event will be no exception to this and I am looking forward to once again seeing Perth city centre being full of people enjoying the festivities.  The lights switch-on event is the centrepiece of the fantastic Winter Festival programme of events that will take us right through to the end of January, and I have no doubt that there is something in the programme for everyone.”  The line-up has been gradually introduced on social media and has elements to please all ages.  Before East 17 close the main stage at the end of the switch on event, there will be appearances by blend act Boyzlife – comprising Westlife’s Brian McFadden and Boyzone’s Keith Duffy – The Midnight Soul Sisters and Mark Summers as the young Elvis Presley.  The day begins on a sweet note with the launch of the Chocolate Festival at 9am, followed at 10am by the opening of a city centre ice rink.  At noon the Music Stage on King Edward Street opens, while simultaneously the Children’s Stage on the new-look Horsecross Plaza starts up and across Perth, street entertainment begins. Things build up when at 2pm the Main Stage opens on Tay Street.  A whole array of characters muster at Thimblerow for a parade which moves off at 5.30pm and reaches South Street/Speygate/Tay Street at 5.55pm in time for the principal guests to arrive at the main stage for the top of the hour.  Then the Perth crowd will go wild as the button for the Christmas lights is pressed at 6.15pm.  Young ones will make a splash at 7.30pm on the Community Stage and Children’s Stage with the End of the Show Show.  City centre fun continues until 9pm when the Chocolate Festival closes and the stages wind down.

Gala Author Believes Selkirk Will Save the World
A Galashiels author is hoping Selkirk can thwart a looming terrorist threat as well as blast him to the top of the book charts.  Security expert Keith Turnbull has just co-authored a gripping new thriller.  The former Galashiels Academy pupil has teamed up with a former SAS major to produce the explosive Fallen Angel.  And the protagonist throughout the powerful page-turner is none other than Tom Selkirk.  Keith told us: "Selkirk, the hero, is a British Special Forces commando elevated beyond such simple status. Selkirk specialises in leading ultra-secret international operations.  Acquiring teams of ‘the best’ from allied military the world over, Selkirk’s ad hoc units are lethal, sneaky but very effective." Keith, who returns to Galashiels regularly from his adopted home of London to visit his parents, graduated from Glasgow University with a Master’s degree in Politics.  After working in finance he moved into defence sales, quickly rising to senior managerial and director positions.  His knowledge of commercial defence products and services led to a move as a contractor for the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall - working closely with British Special Forces.  He has since held a classified position within the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  But the latest chapter in Keith's life is as an author.  Teaming up with Major Ken Hames MBE, who has commanded Britain's Anti-Terrorist Unit as well as the SAS, Keith has helped to produce one of the most highly anticipated thrillers of the year. Several film and television companies have already expressed an interest in the anticipated best seller.  Keith told us: "A chance conversation between Ken and I over two years ago has today resulted in the first publication of what we believe will be a series of action books. The storyline and research has taken two years plus to formulate and write in a manner that hides the truth but allows the reader to believe in what is on the page.  Together, we have hinted at real life career experiences without giving away any operational specifics.  Fallen Angel is full of action, high-stakes races against time, and large, silver-screen style set-pieces.  All this points towards hefty entertainment, sure, but as we know from the movies, explosions and fire fights only go so far.  It’s good then that Fallen Angel paces itself with an intricate and well-developed plot along with enjoyable and vibrant characters."  Fallen Angel will be officially launched in London on December 12. Hosted by Who Dares Wins presenter Nick Knowles the major launch will involve the nation's media as well as invited film producers.

Theresa May Called on to Publish UK Westminster Government's Brexit Analysis on Scotland

Theresa May has been called upon to publish the UK Westminster Government’s own analysis of the impact of Brexit on Scotland after David Mundell revealed Whitehall had agreed to share it privately with the Scottish Government.  The Scottish Secretary admitted the analysis did exist, that Nicola Sturgeon’s Government had done its own research and that at a recent meeting of the intergovernmental Joint Ministerial Committee on Brexit[JMC(EN)] both sides had agreed to exchange their impact assessments. Asked if the UK Westminster Government was going to make its analysis public, Mr Mundell hinted it might at some stage. He replied: “That’s not a matter for discussion today. What I am saying is at the JMC(EN) it was agreed there should be a sharing of analysis.”  Earlier this month, the UK Westminster Government, in response to a Freedom of Information request, would neither confirm nor deny it had done any analysis on the impact of Brexit on different parts of the UK, saying that to admit it could harm Britain’s position in the Brussels talks. The FoI request came about after James Chapman, a former senior aide to David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, claimed that the Whitehall analysis did indeed exist and suggested Scotland and north east England would suffer most from the impact of Brexit.  Yesterday, fresh analysis from the London School of Economics suggested Scotland would be hit hard by a soft Brexit to the tune of losing £17bn in the value of its goods and services over five years but would suffer much more if there were a hard no-deal Brexit, losing almost £30bn. The respective figures for Britain were £235bn and £430bn.  During an evidence session before the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, the Secretary of State said he did “not recognise” the LSE figures and later described them as “provocative”.  He added: “What we all need to do is to come back to the situation that we’re seeking to get a deal; we are not seeking to achieve a no-deal scenario. Nobody denies a no deal would be disruptive. What we need to do is focus on getting the deal and that’s where I am.”  The SNP’s Deidre Brock, who sits on the committee, said: “At long last the UK Westminster Government has confirmed they have carried out a Brexit impact assessment on Scotland; now they must publish it.”  Noting how the LSE analysis had suggested Scotland would “pay a heavy price for being dragged out of the European single market,” she added: “Theresa May can’t sit on this impact assessment; the UK Westminster Government’s analysis on Scotland must be released immediately.” Christine Jardine, the Liberal Democrats’ Scotland spokeswoman, echoed the call, suggesting the First Minister should make public any shared analysis. “The people of Scotland deserve to hear exactly what Brexit will mean for them.” During the evidence session, Mr Mundell also revealed how Whitehall officials were now engaged in a “deep dive” into the details about how specific areas would be dealt with in regard to the 111 powers and responsibilities coming back from Brussels post Brexit.  He said there would be a “presumption of devolution” but some powers would be subject to UK frameworks and he hoped to progress on this in “in very short order”.  In other developments: *Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator, said a trade deal with the UK would take years to complete, noting: “I am convinced a path is possible as long as we de-dramatise discussion. My team are already starting work on the draft of a treaty for the exit of the UK from the EU.” Donald Tusk, the European Council President, said it was up to the UK if there was a “good deal, no deal or no Brexit”.  the City of London Corporation warned Square Mile firms would begin activating their Brexit contingency plans unless the Government provided clarity over a transition period by the end of the year.

Production Begins At Offshore Wind Farm
Hywind Scotland, the first floating wind farm in the world, has started to deliver electricity to the Scottish grid.  Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, officially opened the wind farm on Wednesday.  The 30MW wind farm, operated by Statoil in partnership with Masdar, is located 25 kilometers offshore Peterhead and will power approximately 20,000 households. “Through their government’s support to develop the Hywind Scotland project, the UK and Scotland are now at the forefront of the development of this exciting new technology,” said Irene Rummelhoff, executive vice-president of the New Energy Solutions business area in Statoil.  In officially opening the wind farm, Ms Sturgeon said: “I am delighted to open Hywind Scotland—the world’s first floating wind farm.  Hywind will provide clean energy to more than 20,000 homes and will help us meet our ambitious climate change targets. This marks an exciting development for renewable energy in Scotland. Our support for floating offshore wind is testament to this government’s commitment to the development of this technology and, coupled with Statoil’s Battery Storage Project, Batwind, puts us at the forefront of this global race and positions Scotland as a world centre for energy innovation,” The onshore operations and maintenance base for Hywind Scotland is located in Peterhead, while the operations center is located in Great Yarmouth.  Hywind Scotland is adding to Statoil’s strong UK presence, and over the last few years Statoil’s footprint has grown in the UK. In Aberdeen over 1500 are employees in the final phase of commissioning the Mariner oil field, one of the largest upstream UKCS developments in the last ten years, due to come onstream in 2018.

Castle of Mey Top Draw for Tourists with More Than 25,000 Visitors in Summer
One of the top tourist attractions in Caithness welcomed more than 25,000 visitors during the summer as it experienced a huge increase in visitors for the second sucessive year.  The Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust reported the number of visitors to its grounds during the 2017 season had increased by 18 per cent compared to the same period last year. The result consolidates the castle’s status as one of the top tourist haunts north of Inverness. The increase in visitors has been attributed to the success of the North Coast 500 which is bringing more tourists to the Highlands.  It was a record-breaking season for it with the number of visitors increasing significantly in the past two years.

Thurso Meeting to Discuss Future Croft Law Changes

The future of crofting law in Scotland is set to be discussed at a special meeting in Thurso as part of a national consultation.  The Scottish Government will host the event at Miller Academy on Tuesday night where an agriculture expert will deliver a presentation into the purpose of the consultation and explanations of the options for changing legislation.  Crofting law is a series of acts which provides security to crofters, protecting them from being unfairly removed from their land, guaranteeing fair rents and allowing them to claim compensation for improvements should their tenancy come to an end.  The first Crofting Law Act was passed in 1886. Before it was introduced it was legal for landlords to evict any crofter at their convenience, which was widespread during the Highland Clearances period. Over the last 130 years there has been several amendments and changes to crofting legislation.  It is deemed vastly complex, difficult to implement into practice, and often open to dispute or other interpretation.  The Government is holding the consultation to collect evidence in order to make an informed decision possible on how to proceed with crofting law in the Tuesday’s public meeting in Thurso will give crofters and representatives from the agricultural community to discuss the options available and raise questions about the consultation.

Tories Should Not Cast Fishermen Adrift in Brexit Divorce As Holyrood Stands to Lose Power

The SNP Government have long claimed Brexit is being used as a Tory power grab. And now their concern is being echoed by unlikely allies.  The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation agree the Tories’ EU Withdrawal Bill must be changed.  In its current form, the finer details are unacceptable. The promise of real power, taking back control, looks hollow.  In their own words, the SFF are telling Brexit allies they must “respect” the devolution settlement.  May is cornering herself into the hard Brexit the wreckers want  It’s a tone that Scots Secretary David Mundell better pay attention to.  He’s always insisted his boss in Downing Street fully intends to pass on powers from Brussels.  At the same time, he tries to bat away SNP cries of foul play and betrayal.  It won’t be so easy to palm off the Brexit-supporting fishing leaders in communities switching from SNP to Tory.  The fishermen’s federation call Brexit a “sea of opportunity”.  The UK Westminster Government, meanwhile, simply appear to be all at sea.  If Tories are to convince the SFF they mean what they say, ministers will also have to take on board the SNP’s complaints.  Remain voters already feel betrayed. The last thing the UK Tories want is to cast fishing leaders adrift, too.

Violent' Stabbing in Maryhill Leaves Man, 20, with Serious Injuries

A young man has been stabbed in a "violent" targeted attack in Maryhill.  Cops are now hunting for the knifeman who attacked the 20-year-old at around 5.15pm on Wednesday.  The victim was discovered with serious injuries in Maryhill Road near to Fingal Street. He was taken by ambulance to Glasgow Royal Infirmary where he is currently being treated for stab wounds. Hospital staff describe his condition as stable.  Detective Constable Martin Smith, at Maryhill CID, said: “This was a particularly violent attack and we believe that the victim was specifically targeted by the culprit/culprits.  We are currently viewing CCTV and speaking to local residents in an attempt to gather more information and know that Fingal Street and Cumlodden Drive were very busy at this time of day, therefore we are keen to speak to anyone who was in the area and may have witnessed a disturbance or the young man being attacked.”

Ghostly Image of Mary Queen of Scots Found Hidden Behind Portrait
A new and previously hidden, ghostly image of Mary, Queen of Scots, has been discovered underneath the surface of a 16th century painting.  The spectral image of the Queen has discovered under the 1589 portrait of Sir John Maitland, 1st Lord Maitland of Thirlestane, a work attributed to painter Adrian Vanson, which hangs at an historic house near London. The image, which "shows compelling similarities" to other near-contemporary depictions of the queen, was revealed by X ray photography.  The discovery is to be revealed in a new display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh this week.  Imprisoned by Elizabeth I from 1568, Mary was executed in England in 1587 – two years before the date on the overlying portrait of Sir John Maitland.  Mary’s recent execution may be a reason why her portrait was covered over, hidden or abandoned by the artist.  The portrait was one of several created by painters Vanson and Adam de Colone, two artists from the Netherlands who worked in Scotland at the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century. They were examined by Dr Caroline Rae at the Courtauld, who recently undertook a collaborative research project in conjunction with National Galleries of Scotland (NGS). Vanson’s portrait of Sir John Maitland (1589), the Lord Chancellor of Scotland, is part of the National Trust collection, and usually hangs at the Trust’s 17th century Ham House. Dr Rae discovered the concealed portrait while conducting a technical examination using X-radiography (X-ray), a technique that can penetrate through paint.  The X-radiograph revealed the presence of lead white, depicting a woman’s face and the outline of her dress and hat beneath the upper layers of paint. Dr Rae said: “The discovery of this hidden portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots is an exciting revelation, not only as it adds to our knowledge of 16th century Marian portraiture and patterns of commission at the time, but as it aids in illuminating our understanding of Adrian Vanson, a Netherlandish émigré artist who came to Jacobean Scotland to seek a new life and quickly ascended to the status of Crown painter.” Sir John Maitland was Keeper of the Privy Seal in Scotland, Secretary of State to James VI and Lord Chancellor, and when the portrait was painted he was the second most powerful person in Scotland.  He was brother of William Maitland of Lethington who was Mary Queen of Scots’ Secretary of State. Dr Rae's work was funded was a partnership between the Galleries and the Courtauld, and undertaken in both locations. The discovery took place while she was examining several works by Vanson from the NGS collection, although the work itself belongs to the National Trust.  Dr Rae was able to trace the outline of a woman, and based on other depictions of the Queen made in her lifetime, in particular her later years, concluded it was the monarch.  In particular, the face of the sitter for instance shows a strong resemblance to two miniatures by the famous English miniaturist Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619), kept in the Royal Collection and the V&A Museum collection.  The National Galleries have also maintained this week that the iconic Monarch of the Glen painting was based on a stag in Scotland. Stoke Park hotel in Buckinghamshire, previously a country house, believe the painting was based on a stag within its grounds during Sir Edwin's regular visits to the estate in the 19th century.  The NGS said Sir Edwin made annual trips to the north of Scotland and there is "no doubt" the Monarch of the Glen depicts a Highland setting.

Brussels Won't Go Down to Wire in Brexit Talks, Claims Top EU Aide

Brussels is now preparing for Britain to crash out of the European Union without a deal, a senior EU official has said.  Stefaan De Rynck said the EU27 was braced in case an agreement was not reached but made clear this was "not a scenario" the bloc wanted. The adviser to Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said transitional arrangements could be "wrapped up very quickly" but only once progress had been made in the divorce talks. Mr De Rynck also dismissed claims by David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, that Brussels would push the deal talks down to the wire.  The EU did not want to "add risk" to the exit process by "playing with time," he told the Institute for Government think-tank. "On going to the wire, we would certainly want to avoid that," declared Mr De Rynck.  Noting how there was a “clear negative impact from no deal,” he explained: “We are preparing for it, that is for sure, at 27 but it is not a scenario that we in the negotiation room want to bring in that negotiation room."  Earlier this month, Donald Tusk said the rest of the bloc was not preparing for a no-deal outcome.  "EU27 is not working on a no-deal scenario. We negotiate in good faith and hope for sufficient progress by December," said the European Council President. Meanwhile, a row broke out after Mr Davis suggested Theresa May had not read the “excruciating detail” of secret Whitehall studies into the impact of Brexit. Appearing before the Commons Brexit Committee, two ministers from the Department for Exiting the EU, Steve Baker and Robin Walker, were accused of also not fully reading reports about the impact of leaving the EU on different sectors of the economy, which Whitehall has refused to publish.  The issue was raised by Labour’s Seema Malhotra, who told them: "It sounds to me like both of you haven't fully read those reports that you say can't be published because they could jeopardise the negotiations."  Mr Baker replied: "In the roles that we have, we must ruthlessly prioritise our time.” He added: "Some of that material I have read in great detail. I have not read all of the documents which we have.”

Royal Mail Stopped to Remote Highlands Properties for Safety Reasons

Royal Mail has suspended deliveries to four remote properties in part Highlands over safety fears for workers. Postal staff are said to have faced an hour round trip on private roads to the addresses in Altnabreac, Caithness. Concerns for safety are linked to the fact the area has no phone signal, meaning no call for help could be made in difficulty.  A Royal Mail spokeswoman said: “We are sorry for the inconvenience this causes customers. Suspension of delivery is not something we do lightly, but we need to ensure that all our people are working in a safe environment.  “Ofcom’s own regulations state that postmen and women should not spend more than 15 minutes in a single trip on private roads to deliver mail. This step has been taken after a detailed assessment as we believe that there is a risk of safety to our postmen and women, who are delivering on private tracks off the public highway. Our people are spending an hour round trip to deliver the mail. There is also no mobile phone signal to call for help if there is an issue and the condition of the track is poor.” Those staying at the properties can now either have their mail delivered to somewhere with the same postcode or make a round trip of about 36 miles to Halkirk. The spokeswoman added none of those affected are housebound and have been collecting post from the delivery office in the village.

Skye Could Seek World Heritage Status Amid Tourism Boom

World Heritage status could be sought for the Isle of Skye as part of new plans to improve infrastructure and tourism.  The Highland Council paper sets out a range of short to long-term projects to ease pressure on the island, which has seen a significant increase in visitors in recent years.  Among the suggestions is to seek dual World Heritage site listing to recognise its landscape and wildlife and also its culture.  Councillor Ronald MacDonald, co-author of the paper, said: “The paper proposes two long-term ‘anchor’ project statements: a dual World Heritage Site listing for Skye and a Tall Ships project.  The World Heritage listing is intended to offer long run sustainability to the land based tourism industry, by attracting funding from a diverse range of sources.  Similarly the Tall ships race, with various events built around it is intended to kick start the sleeping giant of marine tourism by way of offering imaginative and innovative funding solutions.”  Scotland already has six places with the UNESCO listing including the Forth Bridge, St Kilda and Neolithic Orkney. Highland Council’s paper claims the status would provide it long-term funding for conservation, better access to global project management resources and and an enhanced identity.  According to the paper, infrastructure issues on the island came to a “watershed” in 2017 with the “exponential growth” in tourist numbers.  Skye is Scotland’s second busiest visitor destination, with sites such Storr and Quirang currently having no entrance fee.  Figures in the paper from 2014 show there were 1.3 million visitors to the island and Lochaber in 2014, but Highland Council said issues came to a “watershed” this year.  The paper highlights problems with toilets, parking, WiFi, roads, 3G and 4G phone reception, public transport, wet weather facilities, affordable housing, off-peak events and distribution costs.  A number of potential short-term projects were also included in the paper to tackle some of these issues.

Scotland Offers 'Independent' Catalonia Rare Voice of International Support

Scotland has taken an opposing stance to most countries over Catalonia's declaration of independence from Spain.  While many prominent nations including Britain and the US rejected the independence vote and said it was crucial that unity in Spain was upheld, the Scottish Government said it "understands and respects the position of the Catalan government" and that the region's people "must have the ability to determine their own future".  Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, reiterated the view of the EU — and the wider international community — that they would not recognise an independent Catalonia.  But he also urged Madrid to show restraint as it seeks to impose direct rule.  “For EU nothing changes. Spain remains our only interlocutor. I hope the Spanish government favours force of argument, not argument of force,” Mr Tusk said.

Rise in Oil and Gas Jobs for First Time in Three Years

The first oil and gas jobs bounce back since the worldwide oil price crash is now being forecast as employers expect more new positions to be created than lost over the next year. A new survey of employers and workers found that after a devastating four years new research shows that for the first time since 2014 the oil and gas industry expects a net increase in jobs in the sector over the next 12 months.  Since the price of oil crashed in 2014 it is estimated that more than 440,000 jobs have been cut in the sector worldwide.  However, with the price of oil having stabilised since July this year, new research by recruiter NES Global Talent and oilandgasjobsearch.com shows that almost 90 per cent of employers expect staffing levels to either increase or remain the same in 2018.  The survey shows that in total almost 60 per cent of employers expect to recruit significantly over the next year.  In total NES Global Talent and oilandgasjobsearch.com surveyed more than 3,000 employers and almost 7,000 workers as part of their Oil and Gas Outlook 2017 report. Tig Gilliam, of NES Global Talent, said: “Globally we are now increasingly confident that the market supports increased investment in the energy sector.  Energy companies with the support of their partners have right-sized their organisations for the current levels of activity.  With our own staff operating in over 60 countries, the increasingly positive tone of our clients and contractors is a welcome signal of the turnaround in the market and the participants in this survey echo that sentiment.”