Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 434

Issue # 434                                     Week ending Saturday 6th January 2017    
If You Are Against the Guga Hunt, Then I Think You Must Oppose Christmas Turkeys Too by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journel

It was a quiet holiday weekend. I say quiet but Mrs X was very busy with the preparations and was grumpy. She was going into the Spar behind a well-known church minister. He probably forgot to hold the door open for her. Oops, big mistake. She huffed and puffed with her bags before a gallant fellow dashed over and held it for her and her baggage. She shouted loudly: “Ah, a nice gentleman. Not a lot about today.” The minister heard her tirade, looked back and slunk off quickly. He was probably already having a bad day and my wife just made it worse. These things happen on the rock.

Which reminds me, did you see that programme on BBC Alba about the guga hunters on Monday? If you are not sure whether you approve of these 10 guys from the north of Lewis going 40 miles up onto the Atlantic rock called Sulasgeir each August to slaughter the solan geese each year, you really should watch it. It was riveting, not least because it properly showed the weather conditions they have to endure, the breathtaking danger of going along a narrow ledge to catch and wallop the birds and, wait for it, the effect of the death threats.

The grim message was radioed out to them on the rock when idiotic Sassenachs phoned up saying they were going to kill the Ness guga hunters. Yeah, right. You and whose navy, army and air force? You wouldn’t have the stomach for the voyage in the trawler Heather Isle to leave Port of Ness harbour, never mind make it to storm-lashed Sulasgeir, ya Bournemouth bampots. If you don’t have the brains to withhold your phone number when you are making vile threats, you are likely to be just a bunch of Dorset dotards, as Kim Jong-Un might call you.

The camerawork of Daibhidh Martin was amazing on An t-Sealg. The Lochie lensman caught the essence of life atop a blasted rock. The tent flapped in the gale, the humane despatching and the anticipation of lads preparing to head home and have their first shower in three weeks. They work with the carcasses of oily seabirds all day and then they are crammed in a tent, topping and tailing with each other. Imagine the smell. No, not from the guga - from their socks.

It was the last time on the rock for John Dods Macfarlane. Famous for leading the guga hunt for many years, he’d been going after the big birds for 42 years. That is longer than many not-so-elegible bachelors on Harris. That is also almost as long as some people have been arguing about the rights and wrongs of the guga hunt. I was against it. It was just an annual adventure for bored Niseachs who needed a couple of weeks away from the lure of the bothans, the not-quite-legal drinking bothies than were north of Galson when I were a lad.

Even though the taste is not for everyone, it is not a so-called sport like fox-hunting. It is not like the disgrace that is horse racing which injures 200 horses so seriously in the UK each year they have to be put down. Nor is it like bull-fighting which happens in Spain and also allegedly-civilised countries like France and America too. The bloody-spattered way shot deer die on Scottish hills and glens is utterly shocking. Where are the hypocrites who moan at the food gatherers of Ness?

That the once-great SSPCA, set up in 1839 to improve the lot of overworked horses, is now part of this nonsense shows its leadership is clueless. When they start to protest at the needless slaughter of turkeys at Christmas, racehorses and deer then perhaps I’ll take them seriously. Until then, they had better not come near me asking for a single penny. Scotland needs to tell these people to shape up or ship out. Part two of An t-Sealg, which I think is going to be about the various old codgers who have taken part in the hunt over the years, is next Monday.

The other thing that struck me about the programme on Monday was how close the guys could get to the gugas. It was like being at a house party in the 1980s in Stornoway where birds that you had never met before would come up and look at you in that funny way trying to suss you out. Then they would flutter off and you would wonder what that was all about. Mind you, on Sulasgeir there were definitely more party poopers.

Girls Encouraged to Join Historic Aberdeen Boys’ Brigade Company

A Boys’ Brigade company, whose first leader helped pioneer the entry of women into an Aberdeen university, is encouraging girls to join up.  The 3rd Aberdeen Company, which has been running since 1895 and is the oldest company in the Aberdeen Battalion, was first captained by James Trail, a professor at the University of Aberdeen.  The hope is that more girls can be encouraged to join the group, whose aims are to promote five important themes: mind, body, spirit, community and creativity.  Zoe Reid, officer in charge, said: “Our first captain was a professor of botany at the University of Aberdeen who supported the entry of women into the university.  “While this is an interesting coincidence, I do think he would be very proud of what we are trying to achieve.  The Boys’ Brigade has accepted girls for a number of years now. However, our own company has only recently had the capacity and staffing levels to do so, which is why we have recently opened the doors of our Anchor section to include girls.  We believe that we have something to offer the young people in our community and wish to make those opportunities open to both boys and girls.  We are a forward thinking company backed by more than a century of tradition,” she added.  Now that there are the staff to facilitate the new female members, the St Columba’s Church-based company is keen to become fully inclusive.  Zoe said: “We work closely together to ensure we create a programme that fulfils those themes in an environment that is equally fun and challenges the children to develop and think about their surroundings. Our weekly sessions normally include races, marching, games and crafts, but perhaps most importantly of all, dodgeball. We aim to give the Anchors the option to make decisions about what they do, where appropriate, and to ensure they feel part of the team.  After all, we wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for them,” she said.  Ultimately, we want to facilitate the development of our young people through community, sport and the outdoors.  The Anchor section is just the beginning of that journey and any young girls who would like to try it out are more than welcome to join us.”

Original Lockerbie Bomber Appeal ‘Showed Scottish Justice At its Most Effective’

Cabinet members praised the handling of the original appeal into the conviction of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for showing Scotland’s justice system “at its most professional and effective”, official papers reveal.  Scottish Executive papers from 2002 newly released by the National Records of Scotland record the discussion of the Cabinet meeting on March 13 that year after Megrahi lost his appeal against his 2001 conviction for the 1988 bombing which killed 270 people.  The minutes state the Cabinet noted its appreciation for the “excellent” work of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service over the appeal.  It continues: “The way the appeal had been handled had shown the Scottish criminal justice system at its most professional and effective and was a credit to all concerned.”  Holyrood is currently considering a petition for an independent inquiry into Megrahi’s conviction from Justice for Megrahi campaigners, who include relatives of the bombing victims.  The long-running petition is being kept under consideration pending the completion of a Police Scotland operation investigating nine allegations of criminality levelled by Justice for Megrahi at the Crown Office, police, and forensic officials involved in the investigation and legal processes relating to Megrahi’s conviction.  Megrahi was jailed for for 27 years but was released home to Libya on compassionate grounds in 2009 and died of prostate cancer aged 60 three years later.  Five years after he lost his 2002 appeal against his conviction, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission recommended in 2007 he should be granted a second appeal.  He dropped the second attempt to overturn his conviction in 2009, ahead of his return to Libya, but his widow Aisha and son Ali lodged a new bid to appeal against his conviction in July 2017.

Richard Leonard Admits An Independent Scotland is 'Perfectly Feasible'

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has said that the “creation of a separate Scottish state is perfectly feasible”.  Leonard's comments come as the new Scottish Labour leader attempts to soften Labour's position in order to appeal to independence supporters who are attracted by Jeremy Corbyn's left wing prospectus.  However, Jim Sillars - a one-time Labour MP who went on to become depute leader of the SNP - poured scorn on Leonard's strategy. Sillars warned that English voters would keep the Tories in power at Westminster against the wishes of Scots at the next UK general election.  Sillars said a Corbyn defeat would expose the “emptiness” of Leonard’s bid to woo left-wing independence supporters, and lead to an upswing in support for independence.  Leonard, a close ally of Corbyn, also promised to “forge radical change” in 2018 with a plan for a federal UK as an alternative to independence.  He said that despite his opposition to independence he accepted a separate Scottish state would be possible.  Senior Labour figures repeatedly claimed ahead of the 2014 referendum that an independent Scotland would face ruin. However, Leonard has set out to shift Labour's stance.  Leonard said: “While the creation of a separate Scottish state is perfectly feasible it would defeat rather than advance the higher cause of economic democracy that we so badly need to strive for. Nationalism is not a short cut to socialism.” Leonard hinted that Scottish Labour would embrace a more radical stance on federalism in the New Year.  He said: “Scottish Labour’s position is one of federalism – something I’ve argued for over many years – which allows disparate parts of the UK to find solutions to their own regional economic needs, while at the same time being part of a greater whole with all the benefits that entails.  The party’s constitutional convention, which I know my interim deputy and shadow Scottish secretary Lesley Laird, is keen to get going, will forge that radical change.”  However, Sillars, a veteran leftwing supporter of independence, said Leonard's strategy would "disastrously" fail.  Sillars remains an SNP member, but has previously said he would rejoin a left-wing Labour party in an independent Scotland. However, he predicted a repeat of elections in the 1980s and early 1990s, when Scots, who overwhelmingly voted Labour, were denied their choice of government by a Tory-dominated England.  Sillars said Corbyn's failure to win in England would be the “basis of a new drive to independence”. "Faced with another Tory Government, we have again the political equation that was the breeding ground for the independence movement," Sillars predicted. Sillars did, though, say he thought that Corbyn and Leonard would “outflank the SNP on the left” - and in a highly controversial claim, he said the SNP was not a “genuine left party”. As a result, Sillars believes, the SNP will suffer losses to Labour in Scotland's Central Belt at the next Westminster and Holyrood elections.  He claimed swathes of independence supporters would vote for Corbyn to oust the Tories,  Sillars said many would also be attracted by Leonard's pledge to deliver a Corbynite agenda at Holyrood.  However, Sillars believes a mass Tory mobilisation in England against Corbyn will lead to a UK Labour defeat. Sillars warned that would mean Thatcherite policies would be imposed on Scotland from Westminster.  He said "devolution’s limited powers provide no defence" against such a right-wing agenda, whether Leonard becomes First Minister or not.  Sillars said: "We have been here before. In 1992, Neil Kinnock’s Labour looked like a winner, and Labour did well on that belief in Scotland. But winner it wasn’t, because England voted Tory again. I think that will be the case at the next Westminster elections.  While I am sure Corbyn will be able to mobilise a big Labour vote in England, he will also mobilise a big Tory vote to make sure he doesn’t win."  Sillars said that if English voters kept the Tories in Downing Street, it would lead to a revival of the independence campaign.  He added: "Initially, it would be drowned in the noise of Unionists rejoicing, crowing with glee at the certainty of no second referendum on independence.  But that sorrowful scenario would depend on one political factor over which Scottish Labour has no control - how the English vote.  If Corbyn cannot win there, then the first rule of the Union kicks in - that we again get again a Tory Government we rejected, against which devolution’s limited powers provide no defence. The Leonard claim will be shown false, and disastrously so.  Whatever the relationship between the movement and the SNP, the failure of Corbyn to deliver England, which will reveal the emptiness of Leonard’s position, will be the basis of a new drive to independence." Leonard and Sillars set out their competing visions in separate pieces for the forthcoming edition of an influential political magazine - the Scottish Left Review.  SNP MSP George Adam accused Leonard of having "radical pretensions" while opposing the devolution of powers over areas such as employment rights.  Adam said: "Richard Leonard seems to think that being tied to Westminster Tory governments we didn't vote for advances the cause of 'economic democracy' - that position is just completely absurd.  In fact, it was Labour who blocked the devolution of key powers such as employment rights to Scotland - showing up Labour's promises of federalism for the tired soundbites they are. The only way to ensure all powers over the economy come to Scotland is through independence."

SNP Demands Corbyn 'Steps Up to the Plate' to See Off Hard Brexit

Five days ago Ian Blackford wrote to the Labour leader and the other opposition leaders in the House of Commons, inviting them to attend a soft Brexit strategy meeting on Monday January 8, when MPs return from their festive recess.  In his letter, the SNP leader at Westminster said: “As we move into the crucial second phase of the Brexit negotiations, it is now absolutely vital that we have an effective cross-party effort to safeguard our membership of the single market and customs union.  Extreme Tory Brexit plans to drag Scotland and the UK out of the single market would cause catastrophic damage to the economy, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs and hitting people’s incomes, livelihoods and living standards for decades to come.  It is time for MPs of all parties to put politics aside and work together in the national interest, to protect our place in the single market and customs union. Short of retaining our EU membership, that is by far the least damaging option, the best compromise, and the only way to protect jobs, incomes, and workers’ rights,” he added.  But so far, while the Greens and Plaid Cymru have said they will attend the summit, and the Liberal Democrats have indicated the same, there has been no response from Mr Corbyn.  A spokesman for Mr Blackford said: “Both Plaid Cymru and the Greens have responded positively to this invitation. The Liberal Democrats and Labour have yet to reply. Jeremy Corbyn must step up to the plate and show we can work together on this issue; particularly as we know that in this parliament of minorities we can beat the UK Westminster Government on their extreme, chaotic Brexit.''  Christine Jardine, the Lib Dems Scotland spokeswoman, indicated her party would be willing to attend the summit and "work constructively" with others to stop a hard Brexit.  The Edinburgh MP said: “There is growing evidence that people across the UK want to have the opportunity to reject a bad deal on Brexit. Leaving the single market would undoubtedly be a bad deal.  Liberal Democrats will work constructively with all those who want the UK to stay in the single market. With thousands of jobs at stake, it is important that efforts are made across the parties to retain the benefits of the single market," she added.

Work to Begin on Midmills Arts Hub

The first phase of a £5.7 million scheme to transform the former Inverness Royal Academy building at Midmills into a new Inverness Creative Academy is expected to be completed by the summer.  The initial £1.2 million project will provide high quality, affordable workspaces for 39 artists and makers. The venture – a first for the region – is being led by Scottish award-winning charity and social enterprise Wasps Artists Studios which is also fundraising for work on a second building to provide exhibition, performance and events space, a public café, workshop areas and offices for business working in the creative industries.  Matt Sillars, who will run a community-based photographic initiative called the Inverness Darkroom at Midmills, welcomed the imminent start of work on the B-listed building.  "The arts community has been hoping that Wasps would set up a major centre in Inverness for years so the enthusiasm was overwhelming when it was announced," he said. As one of the largest developments of its kind outside the central belt, the centre is expected to play a valuable economic role by supporting jobs and providing new business opportunities.  Tenants could include everything from visual artists, theatre groups and craft makers to media companies or businesses at the cutting edge of the digital arts. Inverness visual arts producer Kirsten Body was involved in the initial demand study for a creative hub in 2015 and was struck by the responses. "There is undoubtedly a strong need for a focussed, vibrant space where people can come together to share ideas," she said.  "I’m really keen to see this new hub as a place that caters for events, provides networking opportunities as well as a gallery space for emergent contemporary artists to showcase their work and take risks. The Midmills building has huge potential to function as a production centre and true meeting place highlighting the wealth of creative talent from our area."  Audrey Carlin, Wasps chief executive, said although Scotland was a powerhouse for the arts, craft-making and the wider creative industries, people in the Highlands wanting careers or to build businesses in those sectors faced major obstacles due to an acute shortage of quality workspace and hubs to allow them to collaborate and generate new ideas.  The project is supported by Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Creative Scotland, Inverness City Heritage Trust and McCarthy and Stone Retirement Lifestyles Limited. Phase one is being carried out by Robertson Northern of Elgin.  A new darkroom and photography workspace will be among the facilities provided by the first phase of the Inverness Creative Academy Project.

Piping Live Event Generates £2.5m for Glasgow

The International Piping Festival, to give Piping Live its full name, ran for a week in August this year, and organised 200 events across Glasgow from Scotland’s home of piping music, the National Piping Centre.  A survey commissioned by Economic and Social Development in Glasgow, showed that three quarters of attendees travelled from outside of Glasgow and nearly a third from outside of Scotland.  Over 45,000 attendees were recorded at the festival, a 9 per cent increase on last year, with the average overseas visitor staying in Scotland fo for over five days.  The Festival is supported by Event Scotland, Glasgow’s cultural organisation Glasgow Life, and Creative Scotland.  Roddy MacLeod, Piping Live! Glasgow International Piping festival organiser, said: “What a fantastic year it’s been for Piping Live! We continue to break our own records, bringing in more visitors to Glasgow each year, and showcasing some truly amazing talent.  Piping Live! is intrinsic to Scotland’s cultural calendar and we’re delighted to say that this report reflects a worldwide thirst for traditional music that is going from strength to strength. The number of overseas visitors are a welcome boost to tourism in Scotland, and Glasgow, bringing vital custom to local businesses, including hotels, bars and restaurants.  We’re already planning for next year and we look forward to welcoming even more guests to our city in August 2018.”  Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: “As a key part of EventScotland’s annual portfolio of events, I’m delighted Piping Live! continues to go from strength to strength, with 2017 festival bringing a record audience to this fantastic week-long celebration of one our country’s most iconic instruments and sounds.  Scotland is the perfect stage for piping events and festivals and I’d like to congratulate the team at Piping Live! on delivery another outstanding festival in 2017.” Councillor David McDonald, Chair of cultural organisation Glasgow Life said: “Piping Live! is well established in Glasgow’s cultural calendar and plays a vital role every summer bringing people from all over the world to enjoy outstanding music performances. At the same time, the many venues Piping Live! uses takes visitors right across the city giving them a taste of what Glasgow offers all year round. This study highlights the role Piping Live! has, in conjunction with the World Pipe Band Championships, encouraging terrific artists to perform in Glasgow and providing yet another reason for visitors to come here.”

Island Looks to the 100th Anniversary of Iolaire Disaster

It was a New Year’s Day tragedy so heartbreaking that for decades the people of Lewis rarely spoke of it.  Now, a very public commemoration is being planned for the centenary of the Iolaire disaster which claimed the lives of around 200 returning servicemen, just 20 yards from the shores of home.  There was barely a family on the island that didn’t lose a blood relative when the Iolaire inexplicably veered of course and crashed into rocks at the Beasts of Holm in the early hours of January 1,1919.  Of those known to have died, 174 came from Lewis with seven Harrismen among the dead. A further 18 crew and two passengers on their way to the Stornoway Naval Base were killed.  The men, mostly naval reserves, made it to Armistice but drowned within such painfully short reach of their families who had gathered on Stornoway pier in high winds and swirls of sleet to greet the heroes.  As daylight broke, the scale of the disaster started to emerge. Bodies were strewn around the rocks, discarded overcoats washed up around them. Children’s toys and gifts lay among the wreckage of Britain’s worst ever peacetime naval disaster.  Such was the devastation, it was not the done thing to speak about what happened that night. Sorrowful scenes of small boats navigating the rocks at Holm to pluck servicemen form the water were painfully etched in the island’s eye, as were the horse and carts that delivered bodies home to villages around Lewis. Such was the death toll, the island - already suffering from heavy wartime losses - ran out of coffins.  Roddy Murray, founding director of An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway, who has been involved in plans for the commemoration, said: “It is arguably the most devastating tragedy ever to happen to the island.  These men had been away for four years, there was a great senses of anticipation and celebration of them coming home and for families to be together, and then this happens, something so catastrophic.  It took the island the best part of 50 years before it was considered reasonable to discuss it.  The first time there was any public expression of the tragedy was in 1959 when BBC Radio Scotland journalist Fred Macaulay interview a dozen survivors of the tragedy.  For a long time, the only book printed on the events of the night was published in Gaelic in the 1970s, Mr Murray added.  Mr Murray said: “With the centenary, it is important to lay it to rest and to commemorate what happened appropriately.”  A new element of the Iolaire Memorial, which wasn’t unveiled until 1960, will be added in time for the centenary.  The memorial, designed in collaboration by Angus Watson, Will Maclean and Marian Leven of the Royal Scottish Academy, depicts the heaving rope used by John F Macleod, of Port of Ness, to save around 40 of his comrades.  Macleod jumped ashore with a line, miraculously made land, wedged himself in the boulders and hauled ashore a hawser along which most of the survivors struggled to safety.  It is hoped to hold an event at Stornoway Harbour on Hogmanay 2018 to mark the 100 years since the night the men stepped onto the overcrowded HMY Iolaire at Kyle of Lochalsh which set sail across Minch around 8pm.  The boat, whose lights failed, headed into the pitch black despite the Stornoway harbour lights came into view in the distance.  Around crashing onto rocks and tiltng to 45 degrees, dozens of men died after jumping into the water in a bid to escape.  Many more perished as waves “rolled in like mountains”, breaking up the Iolaire and throwing the servicemen against the rocks as the gale strengthened to Force 10. Six men lie in graves in Sandwick Cemetery marked only Known Unto God given they were so badly injured no one could identify them.  Eighty two men survived the Ioliare. Around a third of those known to be lost were never recovered from the sea.  Malcolm Macdonald, of Stornoway Historical Society, has written a new book on the Iolaire which will be published ahead of the centenary and brings together information on every man known to have sailed on the boat that night.  He said: “What happened that night has never been satisfactorily explained . There is view here that the Admiralty got away scots free. They were never questioned in court. It was the locals who were questioned.”  A two day inquiry was held at Stornoway Sheriff Court in February 1919 found that insufficient care was taken in the approach to the harbour, that no orders were given by officers, that there was a delay in life-saving equipment reaching the scene, and that there were insufficient lifebelts, boats and rafts on board for the number of passengers.  No evidence of intoxication amongst the crew was found.  Mr Macdonald said: “Today, such an inquiry would last months or even years. The feeling still carries on that the Admrality wanted to close the book, the war was over, it was done and dusted.  For a long time I didn’t know much about what had happened to my grandfather as the Iolaire left my father an orphan and he just didn’t want to talk about it. People generally dint’s talk about it on Lewis and Harris. It was really just too painful to mention.”

Power Firm Pays for Hogmanay Dinner At Jura Hotel After Power Cut

Islanders struggling with a power cut on Hogmanay faced a bleak start to 2018 - until an energy firm laid on a free party.  Residents on Jura were able to enjoy New Year celebrations after Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks organised the get together at the Jura Hotel. Officials from the energy firm directed people to the hotel for food and drink after Storm Dylan took out power to homes.  It was then standing room only at the hotel, which is equipped with back up generators, as the party got underway.  SSEN then picked up the bill, which is thought to have come to more than £2,000.  Hotel owner Cath McCallum, 39, and her seven staff, pulled out the stops to make sure 2018 got off to a great start.  Cath, who runs the hotel with husband Andy, 38, served 120 meals on the night. Mrs McCallum said: “The place was packed, it was a fabulous party. We ran out of everything – except drink. I have to say SSEN were marvellous and it’s not often you say that about a power company.  The company had contacted all customers who would be affected and told them to head down here to enjoy dinner and drinks on them.  People came down and had their dinner and a drink but then paid for their own drinks too.  The company were still phoning here at 11.45pm, making sure anyone who had been cut off was in the hotel.  The bar is usually quiet on Hogmanay as people tend to see in The Bells at home. It’s not normally a case of everyone being in the pub spending time together but it was this year.” The hotel was also affected by the power cut and couldn’t use fryers, microwaves, electric ovens or kettles in order to preserve the supply.  Mrs McCallum said: “It was back to basics with the Aga, and gas. But our chefs were amazing and our whole team were fantastic. It turns out it takes more than a power cut to dampen Hogmanay spirits on Jura.”  A spokesman for SSEN said: “We would like to thank everyone for the community spirit they’ve shown while our engineers worked hard to repair the damage done by Storm Dylan.”

Resting Place of Leaders of Lost Kingdom on Strathclyde Found

They have been a fixture of a Scottish village for centuries, prompting intrigue as to who erected them and why.  For generations, people in the Renfrewshire community of Inchinnan have assumed that the burial stones in the grounds of their parish church were a legacy from medieval times.  But a new analysis of the ancient artefacts using the latest imaging techniques has found that they are several centuries older than first thought.  It is believed they were used to mark the final resting place of prominent figures from the long-lost kingdom of Strathclyde, a historically significant yet poorly documented stronghold which reached its zenith as the Vikings were waging bloody raids on Scotland.  Until now, historians believed the three burial stones – long slabs featuring various carvings – dated back to around the 12th century.  They originally came from the long-demolished All Hallows Church, itself a replacement of the earlier Inchinnan Old Parish Church, which was active in medieval times and dedicated to St Conval, who is thought to have established a monastery near the site around AD 600.  In an attempt to better understand the history of the stones, a community archeology project enlisted the help of specialist researchers to carry out new analysis using cutting-edge technology.  While the stones are known to have decorations and inscriptions, the passage of time rendered them largely invisible to the naked eye. Clara Molina Sanchez, a conservation expert at the Edinburgh-based firm Spectrum Heritage, used a multi-imaging technique known as reflectance transformation imaging (RTI), which provides detailed information about a material’s surface.  It allowed experts to create a virtual model of the stones and, using photogrammetry – the science of taking measurements from photographs – they were able to identify details such as swords and other inscriptions. With the help of Megan Kasten, a PhD student at the University of Glasgow – who has studied the history of the Govan Stones, which date back to the ninth century and were sent on loan to the British Museum in 2014 – the significance of the Inchinnan artefacts became clear. Studying the three dimensional models, Ms Kasten noticed one of the stones had a cross design on the top third, as well as faint panels of interlacing, just like the stones in Govan.  She said: “This new addition is really exciting. We have few historical records for this time period, so each new discovery increases our understanding of the connections between important early medieval sites in the local area, like Inchinnan and Govan.”  The discovery comes at the end of a season of archaeological work at the site of the All Hallows church, a project developed and led by the Inchinnan Historical Interest Group and Dr Heather James from Calluna Archaeology.

Couple Become First to Get Married on Remote Island of Ailsa Craig
An adventurous couple have become the first people to wed on a remote, uninhabited Scottish island.  Jim Lindop, 60, planned the magical wedding on Ailsa Craig, off the South Ayrshire coast, in just four weeks.  And Jim, who has been with partner Angela for 20 years, decided they wanted to do 'something a bit different' for the big day.  The retired electronics engineer had to get special permission from the Marquess of Ailsa to hold his dream wedding -- and it took some persuading.  It was the first official wedding to have taken place on the island, which was organised along with Glenapp Castle.  Jim said: "It took a little persuasion getting the Marquess of Ailsa, the local registrar and Glenapp Castle to head up Ailsa Craig in mid-winter and with four weeks notice. But they admirably rose to the occasion."  Bride, Angela 61, donned a pair of sturdy hiking boots and a new lime-green jacket, while the groom was kitted out in ski-wear.  The pair were joined by Roddy Leitch, former Girvan Harbour Master, John Orr, General Manager of the castle and coxswain David Bova. After a windswept ceremony, they popped open a bottle of bubbly, heard a history of the island and were shown its only residents -- the seals. Jim said: "We had to get wed in a unique way and thought why not take a boat out? Angela was away at the time but when I told her she said 'lets do it'.  "We spoke to the registrar who said he couldn't marry us until 2018 but I told him it had to be this year.  So we arranged it in four weeks. We had to get permission from the Marquess of Ailsa. It was wonderful."  Angela, a retired teaching assistant, said: "It was wonderful and magical, the weather was just perfect and the island is so beautiful.  We started to walk up the hill and then about half we up we decided to stop and that's where we took our vows."  Ailsa Craig is home to one of the largest gannet colonies in the world, with thousands of breeding pairs.  It lies about 10 miles off the Scottish coast and is colloquially known as "Paddy's milestone" because it is half-way between Glasgow and Belfast, as the crow flies.

Scotland's Carbon Footprint Down by A Quarter Since Passing of Climate Change Laws

The carbon footprint of Scotland's homes has fallen by a quarter since the passing of the laws to reduce climate change, new research has shown.  Analysis from conservation charity WWF Scotland found that the carbon footprint of homes across Scotland has fallen by 25 per cent since the Scottish Climate Change Act.  Passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2009, the law set binding targets to cut emissions for each year until 2020.  The charity’s analysis shows how the ‘climate damage’ caused by using electricity, gas and other fuels to power and heat their homes has fallen rapidly since the law was passed and the most recent figures from 2015.  It said that the growth of renewables, more efficient homes and appliances, and the governments’ climate change policies had all affected the decline.  Gina Hanrahan, Acting Head of Policy at WWF Scotland said: "The Scottish Parliament’s first Climate Change Act put us at the forefront of a global energy transition. These figures show that individuals across Scotland and governments at every level have played a part in cutting the climate damage of our home energy usage. When it comes to cutting our emissions, and protecting ourselves, the places and nature we hold dear from the worst effects of climate change, we all need to continue to do our bit.  This analysis shows Scotland’s low-carbon transition is working, but we must step up our efforts. A new Climate Change Bill this year is an opportunity to double down on our commitments to make our homes more energy efficient, to increase the use of renewables to heat homes, and put Scotland on the path to a zero-carbon future.”  Scotland has been at the forefront of international efforts to mitigate climate changes.  In 2016, the UN climate change secretary Christiana Figueres praised the country's progress on renewable energy and fighting global warming as "exemplary" and said the fact that emissions had been cut by were "impressive".

Brass Plate From Shipwreck Found in Bird’s Nest Inspires Exhibition

It was one of the worst tragedies to befall Scotland during World War One, when all but one of the crew aboard two Royal Navy destroyers perished in the waters off Orkney in treacherous conditions.  Now, a century after the loss of nearly 200 men who served on HMS Opal and HMS Narborough, a remarkable discovery will help ensure their sacrifice will never be forgotten.  The relatives of one young sailor who was among the dead have tracked down a brass plaque he made and used on the Opal before it was sunk off the coastline of South Ronaldsay.  It comes as the people of Orkney are preparing to honour the memory of the 189 crew members who lost their lives as the ships were en route to Scapa Flow during a snowstorm on 12 January 1918.  Among those killed was Fred Rotchell, a cabinet maker who had only recently joined the Opal. The 19-year-old sailor was the great-uncle of Jane Brady, from Frodsham, near Chester, whose husband, Kieran, has looked into Fred’s story. During his research he was put in touch with Willie Budge, from South Ronaldsay, who has documented the wartime history of Orkney.  As the two men conversed, Mr Budge said he was only aware of two names relating to the disaster. The first was William Sissons, the sole survivor. Much to Mr Brady’s surprise, the second name was one F.Rotchell. It transpired that an Orkney man, John George Halcro, had been climbing the cliffs near where the Opal went down and came across a cormorant’s nest. Inside, he found shards of metal the bird had scavenged from the wreck.  But in amongst the detritus he found a brass name plate from a ship’s ditty box, used by sailors to store their personal possessions. The name on it was that of Ordinary Seaman Rotchell. The discovery, Mr Brady said, meant a great deal to his family. “Fred was the older brother of my wife’s grandfather Charles,” he explained. “They were very close and Charles suffered more than anyone after Fred was lost. There’s a poignant message on the rear of a portrait of Fred in his uniform which states: ‘To Charlie from Mum and Dad. In Memory of Dear Brother Fred’.”  Next Friday, on the centenary of the tragedy, a wreath will be laid at the Opal and Narborough memorial at Windwick Bay in South Ronaldsay.  The name plate and photographs of Fred can be seen on a website Mr Brady has created in memory of his wife’s great-uncle and all the other sailors lost in the tragedy. It can be found at