Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 426

Issue # 426                                                  Week ending Saturday 11th November 2017
Why it is Becoming Very Hard Not to Hate People Like That Lewis Hamilton by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

So very rich people can avoid paying tax by taking advice from dodgy people about very dodgy schemes, which of course are not illegal. Let me emphasise that I have not seen or heard about anyone doing anything that is not completely legal and above board. However, the horrible thing is that these schemes let very rich people avoid paying the type of pesky taxes that the rest of us who do not have the means to take part in such schemes have to pay. It is not illegal - but it should be.

Anyone who takes part in a tax avoidance scheme should be denied public services and ... be banned from every pub in Stornoway. Because of some bizarre quirk in our shoogly legal system, staff on licenced premises are entitled not to serve anyone and they do not have to give a reason. That was what one manageress shouted in my ear a few birthdays ago. She pushed me out and told me to take the balloons with me. Ridiculous. My mates Callum and Murdo had actually lost weight.

I have just been reading that after Lewis Hamilton announced in 2013 that he had a £16.5 million jet, his advisers were relieved the newspapers had not carried awkward details. His tax accountant - undoubtedly a violin player - looked at a news story and said: “I thought the article is OK. Not too much concentration on the VAT benefits and it mentions the availability for charter, which is helpful.” Really? I need to do something about that.

I believe Lewis Hamilton has avoided as much as £3.3 million in Value Added Tax, you know that tax the rest of us have to pay, for his “redjet”, as he so childishly calls it, because he thinks he is more clever than us who actually pay our way. No wonder Saturday night televisual squeeze Nicole Sherzinger dumped him and his fly ways. Hey Mr Violinist, is that awkward enough for you? Go back to fiddling while Hamilton’s reputation burns.

Would I fly in Hamilton’s redjet? Pass the sick bag, Alice, as my old editor used to say. And that would be before we took off.

The scandal is getting close to home. Panorama tried to interview actress Fiona Delany from TV comedy Mrs Brown’s Boys. Their encounter took place outside the BBC studio in Glasgow. As the reporter tried to quiz her on why she was being paid via dodgy outfits in Mauritius, they went under a sign outside saying BBC Alba. Alba still hasn’t come up with a handy Gaelic phrase for tax dodge. Might need to soon.

Other TV stars are also in the sticky stuff. Mrs Brown’s Boys’ Martin Delany, who plays priest Trevor, and Patrick Houlihan, who plays portly Dermot Brown, also allegedly had fees from the show transferred to companies abroad and they got them back in the form of “a loan”. A loan which they don’t have to pay back. So they didn’t have to pay tax in the country where licence payers pay their flipping wages. As the foul-mouthed old cailleach Agnes Brown might say sarcastically: “That’s nice.”

We should have a bonfire of the vanities where everything got without paying proper tax should be set alight. Not unlike the Plasterfield bonfire on Saturday which was magnificent. Our local volunteers in the best little community in Scotland gathered an incredible amount of wood, furniture and carpets to make a spectacular blaze that could be seen at the far ends of Point and North Tolsta.

The puny little effort that our neighbours in North Street, Sandwick, managed spluttered and died while ours raged on for hours. Our fireworks were spectacular and went on and on and ... well, you get the idea. And we had a disco as well as Calum Boydie and our main go-to organiser Innes Scott on guitar and box. Calum does an amazing set of modern classics intermingled with Gaelic puirt a beul like Rubh Nan Cudaigean, made famous by Runrig, Norman Maclean et al. Come next year to see him.

And it hardly cost us very much at all to put on the bonfire. Listen, Lewis Hamilton, we had sparklers, skyrockets and red jets and we didn’t do any dodgy deals with offshore advisers. We just asked nicely. So thank you, Tesco and everyone else who donated fireworks, buns, burgers, soup and, well, stuff. I have just got over the bonfire and look what has arrived. My tax bill. Look at that - there is hardly any tax relief for getting married nowadays. Here’s my advice. The rate of income tax is now so high now that you might as well marry for love.

Westminster Politics Decaying Before Our Eyes, Says Alex Salmond
The former first minister of Scotland told a conference of the Scottish Independence Convention that the timing had “never looked better” for the cause.  The Build: Bridges to Indy event brought together around 1,600 activists at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall to explore the future of the movement.  Addressing the audience, Mr Salmond said: “Obviously our strength is great, look around the hall, feel our strength as a movement but also understand the weakness of our opponents.  I’ve been active in politics for 30 years, elected politics, and I’ve never seen the British state in a state of more disorientation and chaos. We’re Johnny no mates in Europe, not a single friend across the continent .  The structures of Westminster politics are decaying before our eyes. So this is a matter not just of our strength but their weakness. That also dictates the timing of the campaign and that is another factor for us to consider. I would say the timing has never looked better for the national cause of Scotland. ” Mr Salmond said the platform the movement decided upon would dictate the timing of another referendum, repeating his belief that membership of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) would be the best course for an independent Scotland. “In that case the referendum must be held at the point of hard Brexit or at the point of transitional agreement beyond hard Brexit,” he said.  Such a position would offer an “island of certainty in a sea of confusion and that would be of enormous value in winning the next independence referendum” .  Mr Salmond, who lost his Gordon seat in June’s snap General Election, acknowledged that lessons had to be learned from the previous campaign, highlighting the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence.  He said: “The independence white paper perhaps strayed too much into the form of a party manifesto as opposed to a national platform.  But equally, no sane person would suggest that in Scotland we should replicate the empty white sheet of paper that the pro-Brexiteers advocated during the UK referendum .  We have to get a balance between offering a vision of a future and having something which is so detailed it goes into what should properly belong in the manifestos of the political parties contesting the first independence election after our constitutional aspiration is achieved.”  Mr Salmond said he would like that platform to evolve together with the Scottish Independence Convention, adding: “There’s always an understandable reason that people have to say ‘we’re not ready for independence, we’re not ready for another referendum campaign , we’re not ready to move into that again’. The only way you overcome these reservations is by leadership going into the campaign. And by leadership I don’t mean one individual or even one political party. I’m talking about the national leadership of a national campaign like this. You have to put the matter to the touch. There is an army of interest waiting to be led. The question for us and for the leadership is the platform and the timing that arises from it.”

North-east Experts Create Device Set to Tackle Pollution
A clever device that converts pollution into a valuable material has been developed in Aberdeen – and could be a money spinner.  Engineering experts at the University of Aberdeen have come up with a carbon capture device, which fits on the flues of industrial buildings to stop harmful gas escaping into the air.  The carbon then mixes with other chemicals to produce a substance used to produce common household goods such as writing paper and food packaging.  That substance is typically sold at £400 per tonne and the team hope they can sell their devices across the world to help the environment.  The academics are so confident their device will generate a profit, they have formed their own company, CCM (UK) Ltd, and are now looking for £5 million in investment to get their idea to the next stage. Leading the project is the company’s chief executive officer, Dr Mohammed Imbabi, who teaches civil engineering at the university.  He said: “We have tested the machine and we know it works. The next step is to scale it up, by testing it at higher capacity.  We are hopeful of getting the investment we need and the hope is that it can either be sold individually to companies or produced by another company to sell around the world.”  Dr Imbabi said cement factories produce the highest levels of carbon than any other industry. He added: “You could attach one of our modular devices to a cement plant and it would produce a material that can be sold at a profit. It works as a business idea and is kind to the environment.” The idea has captured the imagination of innovation enthusiasts across the world and has been shortlisted for the Carbon XPrize – a contest whereby judges pick an innovation that can change the world.  The winning entry receives $20 million (£15.3m) prize money and judges are set to visit the university in January.  The CCM (UK) Ltd team, which also includes Dr Zoe Morrison, research student Wanawan Pragot, chemical engineer Dr Waheed Afzal and Professor Fred Glasser, were praised at the UK Parliament by Aberdeen South MP Ross Thomson in Westminster. Mr Thomson told his fellow MPs the university “has world-leading experts at the forefront of research.”

Ayrshire's Fire Service Set for Uncertain Future As Rural Stations Come Under Scrutiny Ahead of Major Shake-up
Fire stations across Ayrshire are set for an uncertain future as service chiefs get set for a major shake-up.  Plans to close stations and cut firefighter numbers were made public last week, and an Ayrshire MSP is lobbying to make sure our stations escape cuts.  South of Scotland member Brian Whittle said: “While it’s important that our fire service is fit for the 21st century, I’m wary of any proposal if it involves reducing the number of stations in rural areas. Retained stations in places like Mauchline, Colmonell, Girvan, Maybole, Dalmellington, Cumnock and New Cumnock play an important role in protecting their local area.  Being able to get to the scene of fires and other emergencies quickly can make all the difference.”  Papers circulated to senior figures within the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service were leaked to the press last week.  Problems around recruiting on-call rural firefighters have led to as many as 100 fire engines sitting idle when they could be used elsewhere, according to Chief Officer Alasdair Hay.  Conservative MSP Mr Whittle added: “I’ll be writing to the head of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the responsible minister within the Scottish Government to clarify their plans and emphasise the importance of ensuring that response times for rural communities don’t suffer as a result of any changes.”

Gecko Killers Jailed for Nine Months
Two young men who killed pet geckos during a house party - by putting one of them in a food blender - have been jailed for nine months.  Daniel Innes (20) and Jordan McIssac (18) were put behind bars at Banff Sheriff Court on Tuesday.  The pair killed the geckos at a house party in Aberchirder in March 2016 and filmed the incident on a mobile phone. Sheriff Philip Mann had previously described the act as "chillingly evil".  He had initially remanded sentencing for the pair to show remorse and offer to help out at animal charities.  However, none were willing to take them and last month they were remanded in custody after the sheriff called for background reports.  Innes, from Inverurie and McIssac, of Banff, were also banned from keeping animals for 10 years.  Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said, “We were delighted to hear that McIssac and Innes received a custodial sentence. Their behaviour is unforgivable and thanks to the success of this case they will be unable to bring future harm to animals.”

New Format for Banff and Macduff Christmas Lights Switch-on

Banff and Macduff Christmas Lights Association are planning their Christmas lights Switch On celebration for Thursday, December 7.  The event will see the twin towns sparkle and will follow a new format this year for all ages to enjoy.  The festivities will centre around St Mary’s Car Park and Banff Parish Church Hall with the programme running from 6.30pm-8.30pm.  Santa and a lucky chosen individual will have the honour of flicking the switch to turn the Christmas tree lights on at approximately 7pm.  Among the entertainment within the car park will be a fun fair, pipe band and emergency services.  Refreshments will be available to purchase and there will be also be a Prosecco van this year.  The committee is hoping to involve pupils from both Banff and Macduff primary schools to come along and sing carols.  Secretary Sandie Cummings said: "Christmas is all about children and we want to bring the two communities together and get everyone into the festive spirit."  Santa will be available to meet with children in his grotto in the church hall and there will be stalls offering festive wares with 18 tables already booked.  This is what the group have been hoping to arrange for a while but weather has always been an issue in the past. Some stall holders from the Macduff monthly market are also attending.  The lights committee is currently contacting local businesses to regenerate interest in the group and suggesting various ways they can offer support.  These businesses are also being encouraged to decorate their shop fronts in red and to stay open later on December 7 for late night shopping.  The car park will be closed from noon to allow for setting up and motorists will be reminded not to park in the car park.

Tourist Rush for NW Businesses
The 2017 season has rushed by with no sign of the upturn in visitors slackening for businesses situated along the North Coast 500 route. When we spoke to Sarah Macleod, manager of the Shore Caravan Site in Achmelvich on the last day of their season, she had just completed adding up the figures for the year. “We’re almost double what we were in 2015. It’s been unbelievable,” she said. Check-in figures are also around 30% up on 2016. Ms Macleod believes that the North Coast 500 has had a lot to do with the increase, resulting in many people continuing to visit outside the traditional camping season. “We usually get quiet as soon as the school holidays go back in August but it didn’t stop. We actually extended by a week last year in October because there were so many people around.” One change, however, is the pace at which people travel. “The only thing that I’ve noticed, which is a little bit of a shame, is the fact that they only stay one night”, Ms Macleod said. “I don’t think they realise that there is quite so much beauty in the place so they’re not giving themselves enough time to do it — they’re trying to do it in a week.  Another change is the level of congestion and its resulting strain on infrastructure. “On a nice day, you get all the people that are staying in Lochinver coming down to Achmelvich and there was one day that the beach car park was so full that the cars were parking partly on the machair, they were parking down the side of the road, on the grass. They were actually at the turning point where the phone box is. It was just covered in cars. I’ve never seen that many cars in my life”, said Ms Macleod. “The beach was packed. There were hundreds of people on the beach and it was just unbelievable to see it.”  Media attention — Achmelvich was voted Scotland’s best beach by the BBC’s Landward programme in 2016 — can be good for business, but frustrations ensue when there is no corresponding investment in public services. “There has been a lot of press on Achmelvich itself, which is nice, but I just wish that we had a better road system or better parking and that the council cared about our area, and cared about our beach”, said Ms Macleod. “We’re not the only place with single track roads that are falling to bits, but ours are actually disintegrating around us. Our parking places are becoming mud pits because the tar has disintegrated. At the end of the day, if our road crumbles away or these potholes get so big they’re impassable, we’ve got two major businesses — me and Durrant Macleod who does the Hillhead caravans — and then you’ve got the youth hostel as well as the people that live here. What kind of impact would that have?”  A major strain on narrow single track roads is the increase in large motorhomes travelling the route. A study of NC500 visitors carried out by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (published June 2017) found that 26% of respondents travelled by motorhome, while 51% were either staying in a motorhome or camping as they travelled the route.  Not all campers and caravaners choose to pay for overnight facilities at a designated campsite. Where numbers are concentrated, this can lead to issues with waste disposal and pollution. Sarah MacLeod says that campers have been found disposing of chemical toilet waste at the public toilets at Clachtoll, from which waste flows out to sea. There are also localised issues at popular overnight spots, such as the overflowing litter bins at Ardvreck Castle.  Action on some of these points is in the pipeline. “I’ve just joined the committee that is going to be putting in an Elsan disposal point and grey water point at the crossroads in Lochinver”, Ms Macleod said. “Hopefully that will get funded over the winter. I’m hoping that it will be put in place at some point next year.”  A similar attempt to cater for unregulated campers has already been established further up the coast. In 2015, the Kinlochbervie Community Company set up an overnight stopover point for campervans at Loch Clash. The facility is self-service, with waste disposal, water and electric hook-ups. An honesty system for using the stopover is in operation, with tickets to be purchased from the nearby Spar shop. Company chair Graham Wild said that the project had gone “exceptionally well”, although the five berths available can only scratch the surface of demand. There are plans to expand the facility via a second phase of development, as toilet and shower facilities are required before the license can be extended for further vehicles.  Alongside campers, the North Coast 500 is a popular route for cyclists, and is specifically marketed as such via itineraries on the route’s official website. Simon Wilkinson, who recently moved from Lancashire to Sutherland, has just completed his first season running a cycle workshop, Pedal Power Highlands, from his new base at Armadale. Mr Wilkinson has worked in the cycle trade for twenty-eight years, having taken over his parents’ business, Pedal Power Clitheroe, back home in Lancashire.  Mr Wilkinson said he had had a “really busy summer”, with the mobile repair side of the business doing particularly well. Previously situated in Clitheroe, which lies along the main Land’s End to John O’Groats route, he is no stranger to helping long-distance cyclists get back on the road. This summer, however, he has seen them closer to their journey’s end.  On the down side, he has found little market for bike hire so far in Armadale, something he puts down to two factors: a smaller demographic, and the pace at which North Coast 500 travellers opt to explore. “I think the reason it’s not going to work up here is because all the NC500 people are just passing through”, he said. “If there’s any way that we can manage to slow them down, whether it’s to hire a bike or walk, or trying to offer them better accommodation, it’s going to be better for the local economy and people that are offering other things.”  One of the things that has frustrated Pedal Power’s first summer at Armadale is the lack of mobile phone reception, which has hampered Mr Wilkinson’s ability to respond to customer emergencies as quickly as he would have liked. “A lot of the customers, unbeknown to me, ring my mobile because they don’t understand about the mobile phone reception”, he said. He hopes this issue may soon be resolved through the appearance of a new phone mast in Armadale, which has yet to go live.   

History File by Malcolm Bangor-Jones
In his booklet, “The Highland Estate Factor in the age of the Clearances”, Eric Richards describes the responsibilities and power exercised by factors. Highland factors have gained notoriety for the role they played in the Clearances, but their influence was to be felt long after the Clearances were effectively over.  There had not been a resident factor in Assynt since 1824 when George Gunn had taken over at Dunrobin. After the purchase of the Reay estate in 1829, John Horsburgh the factor at Tongue had supervised arrangements in Assynt, with Ralph Reed assisting as subfactor at Scourie.  In 1832 the Marquis and Marchioness of Stafford, no doubt advised and guided by James Loch the estate commissioner, decided that the management of the Reay estate should be divided into two separate factorships. There would be a new factor for a Scourie district comprising the parishes of Assynt, Eddrachillis and most of Durness.  The instructions which Loch gave to the appointee, John Baigrie, are particularly revealing in terms of Loch’s perceptions of the people. We must assume that what Loch wrote had been agreed to by the Staffords. All three parishes would require the factor’s “frequent and vigilant superintendence”. The factor “must be active and very industrious, look carefully and kindly toward the people, but at the same time strictly enforce the regulations of the estate and the improvement required”. To this the Marchioness had added a knowledge of Gaelic.  The completion of the coast road from Inchnadamph to Tongue that year would mean that the district would no longer be so remote. Lochinver was twenty-nine miles and Rispond twenty-eight miles from Scourie — this was the “real distance of active and real management”.  Loch stressed that “it must be distinctly understood that all the great outline of arrangement as determined on by the Marquis of Stafford, and communicated thro’ me, must be implicitly adhered to”. Though the judgement of the local factor must determine how it things were effected or “the degree to which it is to be pressed, yet no material departure from it must be made”.  “The principal duty of the factor will be to watch over the interests of the people and by explanation and continued perseverance to induce the people to adopt better habits of industry, more cleanly and tidy customs, an improved and increased cultivation of their Lots and in building new houses.” One reason for a separate factor was to restrict and control expenditure. There was no farm to improve at the expense of the landlord: the factor’s expenditure would be limited to some new buildings which would be built under contract, construction of some branch roads and draining, but only where it would benefit more than one tenant.  In Loch’s view, the people of the district were “necessarily from their position among the most backward in Scotland”. They had “hitherto been unaccustomed to the presence of any immediate management”. The factor would require “much firmness, perseverance, and determination, accompanied by still more patience and temper”.  According to Loch the Staffords took “the greatest interest in the welfare, and watch with the greatest earnestness every thing connected with the prosperity and contentment of their smaller tenants”.  Donald Macdonald, tenant of Lochinver sheep farm and owner of the fishing station at Culag, was singled out as a particular challenge. Loch informed Baigrie confidentially that Macdonald had been “long accustomed virtually to direct the affairs of Assynt as he chose [and] the influence of the Landlord’s authority was little felt”. Although Loch did not explain, Macdonald had commercial dealings with many of the small tenants, and most of the other sheepfarmers in Assynt who might have been a competitor had gone bankrupt in the 1820s.  Loch was confident that he and Baigrie would be “able to inspire into these remote districts the same spirit of Improvement that has commenced in other quarters of these domains and that we shall be able to teach the people the value of having so kind and wise and so just a Landlord as the Marquis of Stafford and her Ladyship”. While the residents of the Reay country might regret their transfer to the Sutherland family, Loch and Baigrie would “succeed in convincing them that they are as much considered as the people of the Ancient Clan [of Sutherland]”.

Dinosaur Hunters Discover Skeleton on Skye Which Could Be As Big As A Tyrannosaurus Rex
A major dinosaur discovery has been found by palaeontologists on the Isle of Skye – and the bones could belong to an animal as big as a Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Expeditions in Scotland have previously uncovered individual bones and fossilised footprints from the Jurassic period. The historic discovery is yet to be fully uncovered and experts are still trying to identify the find but the leader of the dig suggested the dinosaur remains may be a similar size to a T-Rex.  It has also been learned that another significant discovery was also made recently on the Isle of Eigg. Experts now say Scotland has entered a “golden age” of palaeontology and predict many more dinosaur skeletons could be uncovered in the next 10 years.  Leading the dig on Skye is palaeontologist Elsa Panciroli, 35, from Inverness, a PhD student based at the University of Edinburgh and the National Museum of Scotland.  She said previous dinosaur discoveries in Scotland have amounted to “individual bones” but added: “I can tell you that there is something bigger that has been found and I’m currently heading the team that’s looking into collecting it. I wouldn’t want to say exactly what it is because we’re not sure yet – but it’s definitely bigger.”  The team working on Skye revealed two years ago they had found hundreds of fossilised dinosaur footprints. Panciroli said: “Those are from your massive dinosaurs with longs necks and tails – the big sauropods. Those things were multiple tonnes, the size of double-decker buses. But there are also footprints from things that are much smaller. So, medium-sized things like tyrannosaur-type dinosaurs.”  Palaeontologists carefully control the timing of announcements which can be dictated by funders who pay for costly excavations, but when pressed Panciroli described the discovery on Skye as coming from a “medium-sized dinosaur”.  She said: “I wouldn’t want to say too much but it is a kind of medium-sized dinosaur. Well, it might be a dinosaur – we’re not one hundred per cent sure. It’s going to be good.”  Panciroli is part of a group exploring Scotland’s islands and when asked whether recent discoveries will make them world famous she said “hopefully”.  We just went to Eigg [and made another discovery] and I’m quite proud to say that I found it,” she added. “I don’t want to say any more but it’s nice to be a Scot finding Scottish fossils. It makes me quite proud.”  When asked what was discovered on Eigg she suggested speaking to expedition leader Dr Steve Brusatte, who is Chancellor's Fellow in Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Edinburgh.  He was guarded when asked about Eigg. “We did go to Eigg but we’re not at liberty to say anything about that yet,” he said.  It understood the announcement will eventually be made in National Geographic, which provided funding and has “media rights”.  “We have some funding and some stipulations on our funding which means we can’t make certain announcements,” Brusatte admitted. He was also reluctant to reveal details of the recent dinosaur discovery on Skye, but said: “What I think we’re starting to find a lot more of now is stuff like dinosaurs and things that lived with dinosaurs. That’s been the focus of a lot of my work on Skye. We’ve been finding things, we’ve been announcing things. We’ve made some big dinosaur discoveries.  China is at the forefront of recent dinosaur discoveries with dozens of skeletons uncovered, but one expert suggested Scotland could be equally important to dinosaur-hunting palaeontologists in the coming years.

New Defence Secretary Gets Plea for Fort George Closure Review
The army base near Ardersier was one of eight military sites in Scotland earmarked for closure in an announcement last year by Sir Michael Fallon, who resigned from his post this week amid the growing sexual harassment scandal at Westminster.  As Conservative chief whip Gavin Williamson was yesterday named as his replacement, MP Drew Hendry said he would again highlight the need to keep the barracks open.  “The UK Westminster government’s ministry of defence is making a massive military mistake with the closure plans for Fort George and, if it goes ahead, it will have a negative impact on our communities with hundreds of jobs and millions of pounds per year for our local economy at stake,” said the SNP representative for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey.  I will urge the new secretary of state for defence to review this wrong-headed decision. “For, however long he remains in post in this dysfunctional Tory government, it is vital that he is made to understand the importance of the base and why it should remain open.”  The 18th century artillery fort currently houses soldiers from the Black Watch (3 SCOTS). It was one of 56 UK military sites – including eight in Scotland – earmarked for closure under plans to cut the defence estate by 20 per cent.  Fort George is set close as an active barracks in 2032 when the Black Watch battalion will move to another base in Scotland.

Culloden Battlefield Housing Battle Back On?

The fight against plans to build homes on the boundary of Culloden Battlefield could be back on after detailed designs for new houses were submitted to Highland Council.  A 16-house development at Viewhill Farm, Balloch, which sparked an outcry when it secured planning permission several years ago, is causing renewed anger among protesters who were hoping it would not go ahead.  David Sutherland, who owns the site at Viewhill, is in the process of selling the land to Aberdeen-based Kirkwood Homes, with the legal proceedings under way. However, protesters warn if their appeal to the sentiments of the developer fails, they will do everything in their power to tarnish sales prospects by making the idea of buying one of the houses as “ugly” as possible.  And Inverness South councillor Ken Gowans, who was part of a successful campaign to create a new conservation area after the 16 houses got planning permission to stop more homes being built, said the new owner would have a “moral” duty to rethink the plan.  He said: “The developers are not doing anything illegal so they’ve every right to build but do they have that right morally? That is another question.” Mr Sutherland – an Inverness businessman and former boss of Tulloch Homes – believed Kirkwood Homes had dealt with fears “quite sensitively” when putting forward their designs for the homes. The housing scheme at Viewhill Farm goes back to 2014 when it was granted planning permission from the Scottish Government – despite massive protest locally, nationally and internationally.  The 16-house scheme got permission after Historic Scotland officials decided not to raise an objection, much to the fury of the National Trust for Scotland, which owns part of the battlefield.  Its then chairman Sir Kenneth Calman demanded planning laws be overhauled in the aftermath.  Cllr Gowans, who helped in the scheme to greatly expand the new protection boundary in 2015,which was kick-started by Highland Council conservation and planning officials together with Culloden and Ardersier councillor Roddy Balfour and ex-Inverness South councillor Kim Crawford, said he hoped Kirkwood Homes was fully aware of the planning history of the site.  He said: “I am sure a lot of people see houses on that site as deeply disrespectful. Culloden Battlefield and that greater battlefield area is a very significant piece of land. All we are going to try to do is appeal to their moral compass.”

Special Status of Dunes At Trump Golf Course to Be Reviewed

An area of Donald Trump's Aberdeenshire golf course which is of special scientific status is under review, it has been learned. The status of the Foveran Links as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is being reviewed by Scottish National Heritage.  The environmental agency said the Menie golf course had caused habitat loss and damage to the protected dune system.  The agency said it was assessing the scale of the impact to decide whether all or parts of the site should lose their special status.  An SNH spokesman said: "We're currently reviewing the SSSI boundary of Foveran Links and hope to complete this by the end of December.  As expected, there are areas where there has been some permanent habitat loss - for example, where tracks, tees, fairways and greens have been constructed. There have been other habitat changes where, for example, mobile sand dunes have been stabilised through the planting of marram grass. Part of our review will be to assess the significance and scale of this loss and damage."  SNH regularly checks SSSIs for the special features they were selected for.  The spokesman added: "If they have changed, it's sometimes necessary to adjust the boundary and de-notify all or parts of the site."  The Foveran dune system has developed over the last 4000 years and, together with Forvie, forms the fifth largest area of wind blown sand in Britain.  The site is of special interest as it is one of the best dynamic dune systems of its type in North Western Europe, moving north at substantial speeds of up to 11 metres per year.  It is also of special interest for its botanical features, with only seven other dune sites in Scotland have a more diverse vegetation.  US President Trump's golf course, called Trump International Golf Links, is part of a global portfolio of world-class golf resorts.  The site has been fraught with controversy since plans were developed a decade ago, and met with fierce opposition from environmentalists.    The group has recently submitted a planning application for a second 18-hole course at the Menie resort.  Unrelated plans are also underway for a proposed luxury 18-hole course at Coul Links in Sutherland which is protected as part of the Dornoch Firth and Loch Fleet Special Protection Area and also a SSSI.  Both have been met with environmental oppositions.

Thurso Lifeboat in Marathon Rescue

Thurso lifeboat crew battled rough seas and a force eight gale to go to the aid of a fishing boat which had got into difficulties off the north Sutherland coast on Thursday. They set off on what proved a nine-a-half hour marathon mission at noon after the Sparking Line, with six on board, was reported to have fouled its propellor off Whiten Head.The relief lifeboat, Roger and Joy Freeman, battled against strong winds and heavy seas for one hour 45 minutes before reaching the 17-metre long vessel and getting a line on board it off Skerray. Though in no immediate danger, it had been drifting slowly towards the shore.  On the return trip, the crew faced waves of up to 10 metres and had to endure heavy squalls of hail, sleet and rain. They also had to cope with the tow parting five time. They arrived back at Scrabster Harbour at 9.30pm.

Did Poachers Do This?
Police are looking into a potential deer poaching ring operating in the far north after more than a dozen stag heads with antlers intact were found behind an abandoned croft. The grim discovery at Baligill, near Strathy, comes as Police Scotland launches anti-deer poaching patrols in Caithness and north Sutherland to clamp down on illegal activity. The 12 heads were discovered by a member of the public travelling through the area on Sunday.

Scots Pupils Urged to Become Next Generation of Cyber Crime Fighters
From businesses to families, we are all sharing increasing amounts of information online. The upside is we get to enjoy the convenience of services such as internet banking and shopping. But rising popularity also means they are being increasingly targeted by criminals keen to steal the vast amounts of personal data contained within.  Stopping the online crooks is the work of the growing digital security industry - a sector with no shortage of work or well-paid opportunities for those with the right skills.  Now young Scots are being encouraged to take advantage of this cyber crime fighting boom.  A new initiative from Skills Development Scotland (SDS), aimed at pupils from S1-S3, hopes to create a new generation of white hat hackers - so called as they use their skills for good.  Launched at this week’s STEM Festival at Glasgow Science Centre, the Cyber Skills Programme will see a series of events to create the online crime fighting “superheroes” of the future.  As well as meeting experts in the field, pupils will learn how to hack and protect passwords and how to rob a bank – in this case an electronic piggy bank - in a series of special live and recorded online tutorials.  Around 13.8 million people - almost one quarter of the population - were affected by cyber crime in the UK in 2015, an annual increase of 10 per cent. The risks for businesses are clear - data loss can have an immediate effect on reputation, result in legal action, and have a negative impact on shareholder value. With the average cost to large UK firms is £4.1 million per incident, capable security experts are highly prized.  The SDS programme, which is supported by the Scottish Government, will also work with employers - including Police Scotland and FanDuel - to make them aware of the training programme and the skills its graduates will offer.  The importance of cyber security was widely illustrated in May this year when more than 200,000 organisations in 150 countries were affected by the WannaCry cyber attack.