Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 435

Issue # 435                                     Week ending Saturday 13th January 2017    

What is the World Coming to As We Make Up New Words and Start Using Old Numbers? By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

So someone decided that Youthquake was the word of the year just gone. How? Am I the only person who had not heard it - at all? Did you know that another new word, or perhaps phrase, of the year is digital blackface? When I read that, I thought someone had invented virtual sheep. With all the problems that sheep people have had extracting subsidies from the Scottish Government, I thought this must be a novel way to reduce the administrative burden by having your rams and ewes online for the government to count for themselves.

Apparently though, a digital blackface is when non-black people use images of black people on their own social media profiles to make themselves look cool. That’s right, people. Not Cheviots. So it’s not so much of a story. Although there is a wonderful Cheviot flock based near here in Plasterfield which are regularly shown off on Facebook. Those lambs are the cutest ever. They are not so good at doing the duck face though.

For myself, I think the word of the year was used by Kim Jong Un, that nasty cove from North Korea, who responded with yon fine Shakespearean insult when The Donald called him Rocket Man. Donald John was just a dotard, he said. When Jong Un launched it in September at the self-styled genius who himself also invented an amazing new word, covfefe, so many people began looking up dotard’s meaning that it almost broke Google. To this day, it is being looked up more often than Youthquake.

Stable is another. Someone called himself a very stable genius the other day. Remember it was Theresa May who said she offered stable government before the horse broke out of it.

Is it me or does dotard sound like it should be a Gaelic word? Maybe its because it’s a bit like dotair - a doctor. The old quack who picked up the wrong tablets 50 years ago and tried to dose my auntie with liver fluke pills for sheep is an example of a dotair who was a dotard. I see that one of the online Gaelic dictionaries has a dotard as a “sean duine leanabail”. That translates roughly as a childish old geezer which must be what the North Koreans think of our Donald John. Un, your days are numbered.

Like the faces of old clocks and watches. All those Xs and Vs and Is and XXs and IIIs and all that stuff. What’s all that about? Yeah, Roman numerals. They decided to do away with them in Italy a few years ago. The old number system has become too complicated for the digitally-connected minds of these young Mediterranean types and they want to move on to the numbers which are used by the rest of the world.  Now, it seems that Latin and Roman Numerals are making a comeback.

Since Apple decided to call their latest dog and bone the iPhone X, everyone else is on about switching to the figures on granny’s mantelpiece clock. I’m not so sure. Would we still remember that Bryan Adams song if it was called Summer Of LXIX. I would just go with 69, cove. It takes too long. I’ve tried to work it out and now I am getting angry. I am having so much trouble finding out what 51, 6, and 500 are in Roman Numerals. I am getting LIVID.

The long numbers are just too fiddly to work out that way. Once you go over 100, which is C, my brain begins to complain. I think 200 is CC and then it changes to something else at about 500 or so. For instance, those people are very weird and obviously have little useful to do with their time if they can tell you, right off the top of their heads, what 509 is in Roman numerals. DIX, by the way, but I am sure they are nice people deep down.

And the Romans who love all their ancient numerals are taking their homegrown craze with them abroad. A few months ago, a group of old Italian tourists came off a cruise liner and walked into a bar in Stornoway. One held up two fingers and said: “Five pints please, signore.”

Donald Trump is countering stories about alleged megalomania by introducing staff-friendly words. He is changing even the emergency and safety drills to make them more personal. Everyone must help each other and be on first name terms. Great idea. Even the Secret Service has to change their commands. If the President is under attack, they can’t say the words “Get down” any more. Now it’s: “The Donald. Duck.”

Aussie Flu Danger Zone Spreads to Prestwick and Ardrossan
Prestwick and Ardrossan have officially been marked on the "danger zone" for Aussie Flu. This has spread to at least six more UK hotspots in the last day, according to the 'red zone' map.  The H3N2 strain has spread to around 30 miles southwest of Glasgow along the coast of Ayrshire and all the way up to the Outer Hebrides, as well as in the UK's southeastern towns such as Dover, Margate and Folkestone.  The map, which shows the strength of diseases, including the Aussie flu stain, shows a sharp increase in the number of 'very high' reports.  The data from the FluSurvey map is used by researchers at Public Health England and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  A government report revealed yesterday Aussie flu is officially on the rise as 17 were left flighting for life in the last week. The number of people admitted to intensive care units (ICU) with the deadly illness almost doubled between December 28 and January 4, according to Public Health England's weekly National Influenza Report.  Between December 21 and December 28, nine people struck down with the H3N2 strain of the infectious disease required specialist treatment and monitoring on an ICU or High Dependency Unit (HDU).  But since December 28, a further eight sufferers have required urgent medical attention. And a further 112 people were hospitalised outside of emergency care units in comparison to the previous week's five.  Experts in Ireland revealed on December 31 "less than 10 people" have died from the outbreak . Doctors have warned children - particularly those aged between five and 14 - could be most at risk.  Public health officials are urging people who are eligible for the free flu vaccination to "get it without delay".  This year's flu vaccine has been developed to tackle the main strains which are circulating this season, including H3N2.  A number of strains of the virus, but particularly H3N2, led to Australia's worst flu season for nearly a decade.  The arrival of so-called Aussie flu comes as NHS England urged hospitals to defer pre-planned operations and routine outpatient appointments until the end of the month.  A subtype of influenza A, the bug mainly affects older people, those with long-term health conditions, pregnant women and children.  As flu viruses are constantly mutating, vaccines to protect against the disease have to change each season.  People are asked to take particular caution to spreading germs by washing their hands more often, covering their mouths and noses when they cough, and cleaning surfaces.  Dr Jillian Johnston told the BBC: "Getting the free flu vaccine is the single most important thing you can do to help protect yourself against flu. With high levels of flu activity in Australia during their winter, and the potential for similar here, it is more important than ever that everyone who is eligible gets vaccinated.  We are fortunate to have a more comprehensive flu vaccination programme than Australia or England, but the benefits can only be realised if a high proportion of the groups who can get the vaccine actually take up the offer."

Impact of Lynx ‘Catastrophic’
An NFU Scotland study trip to Norway has learned that 45% of almost 20,000 sheep losses compensated by the Norwegian government in 2016 were attributable to predation by lynx, bears or wolves. Following the trip, NFU Scotland Vice President Martin Kennedy said: “The Norwegians told us that to reintroduce predators into our country would be an absolute catastrophe. Their experience has simply strengthened our resolve to ensure that any proposals to do the same in Scotland receive rigorous scrutiny. If they will have an unacceptable impact on farmers and crofters, the union will act accordingly.” Natural England is currently assessing an application for a trial reintroduction of six lynx to Kielder Forest in Northumberland. Although Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, announced in November that he “would not, in any circumstances, support the reintroduction of lynx into Scotland”, Scottish sheep producers are keeping an anxious eye on developments south of the border.  The UK Lynx Trust, which seeks licenses to conduct a regulated trial of reintroducing lynx in Britain, describes the animal as “a missing jigsaw piece in the puzzle that is the UK ecology”. Lynx are seen as the answer to controlling deer, which are blamed for damaging forests and, consequently, the habitats required for other wildlife.  Closer to home, the rewilding lobby continues to promote a vision of the Highlands as a wilderness reserve modelled on international experiments such as Yellowstone Park in the USA. In discussion with Doug Smith, wolf project leader at Yellowstone, Alladale Estate owner Paul Lister has argued for the environmental, economic and educational benefits of reintroducing wolves, bear and lynx to his estate. A persuasive argument garnered from the Yellowstone experiment is that $35 million of economic activity is said to have been generated as a result of “wolf tourism”. Mr Lister has said that reports he is seeking to reintroduce dangerous predators irresponsibly into an uncontrolled environment are unfounded. Based on the example of South African reserves, he believes they can be safely contained within a fence.  Halladale crofter, Sandy Murray, who chairs NFU Scotland’s Crofting, Highlands and Islands Committee, is not so persuaded. “My own personal view is that they’re gone, so leave them gone”, he said. “A fence is deteriorating all the time. When I was young, if people put up fences, you expected them to last for thirty, forty years, whereas the life expectancy of a fence now is only twelve years because of the quality of the materials. All it needs is one snowstorm where there’s a drift against the fence and they’re out.”  Mr Murray also points to the lessons learned from the introduction of sea eagles to the west coast and the islands, which has led to problems with increased predation. “It’s the thin edge of the wedge”, he warns. “Once you get one species, then there will be another species and another species.”  The UK Lynx Trust claims that lynx are no threat to humans, and that “it is exceptionally rare for them to predate on agricultural animals”. In November, The Scottish Farmer reported on a case in Wales, where a Eurasian Lynx escaped from a zoo in Aberystwyth, killing seven sheep in a single attack.

Medal Awarded to Creators of Refugees’ Solar Charger
Students from Edinburgh University who created a solar charger to allow refugees to charge their mobile phones have been awarded the institution’s prestigious Principal’s Medal for their work, as they prepare to roll out the technology across more camps in Europe – and into communities in Africa.  Fourth-year ecological and environmental science students Alexandros Angelopoulos and Sam Kellerhals created the units, which generate electricity for 12 mobile devices per hour and run for ten hours a day, and installed them in camps in Greece.  Now they are to introduce the Project Elpis technology to refugee camps in Serbia, where more than 7,000 refugees have been trapped since borders with the European Union closed two years ago.  Two devices will be installed in Sombor and Obrenovac, two camps in northern Serbia, in January, while the pair also plan to send units to communities in Africa which do not have access to electricity.  Angelopoulos met refugees when he was working for a marine conservation charity on the Greek island of Samos two years ago as the first refugee boats began to arrive. “Refugees were coming up to me and asking desperately if they could use my phone,” he said. “That triggered the idea and we realised we needed to use the skills we had to solve the problem. When we went to camps, we saw that boredom was starting to set in, people are trapped there for such a long time. So, we have also created educational content and ebooks translated into Farsi and Arabic, which the refugees can download on to their phones by standing near the units.”  The solar-powered units generate electricity for 12 devices per hour and run for ten hours a day – providing electricity to 3,600 refugees in one month.  The pair was awarded the university’s Principal’s Medal at a ceremony last month.  Professor James Smith, vice-principal for international, at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Tackling global issues has always represented the essence of Edinburgh’s international ambitions. Project Elpis is a great example of a student-led project that makes a practical contribution to the emerging humanitarian crisis.”  Each unit costs £850 to produce. The students raised their initial target of £4,000 through a crowdfunding campaign. The project received financial backing from the University’s Scholarships and Student Funding department and support from the University Chaplaincy.  The pair, who are due to graduate in the summer, hope to find a way to make the project financially viable, allowing them to run the organisation as an NGO full time.

Nature’s Call by Andy Summers
A sudden fall in the temperature can transform a grey, washed out January into a scene of stark, crystalline beauty perfect for a winter walk. As long as you are warmly wrapped in at least three layers of the best wicking clothing, with colourful woolly hat and two pairs of gloves and extra thermal fleece socks, it can be great.  But spare a thought for the local wildlife. Imagine being a small wren trying to survive the winter blast, trying to stay warm and find enough food to last the night. Have you ever tried looking at the landscape through its eyes? See how many hibernating caterpillars you can find in the heather or spiders hiding in the crevice of a birch bark or insect eggs on a willow twig. It will not be long before you are crying, “ I’m a celebrity, get me out of here!”  Yesterday I took a quiet walk through the deserted treescape of the Culag woods. The tourists had gone, the dog walkers still in bed. The snow remained thick under the old lichen-strewn hazel trees and all was soundless, but I did see some signs of recent activity. Strips of bark and bits of rotten wood lay accusingly in the snow beneath a rotten stump of a spruce tree. A woodpecker had been busy.  A while ago, to see a great spotted woodpecker in the North Highlands was something to write about, but now their numbers have swollen. It is still something to marvel at as they try to winkle out beetle larvae from behind the stubborn bark of an oak tree. Some scientists believe the key factor in their increase is global warming but also the fact they have learned a new trick — hanging on to fat balls and peanuts on bird tables. There is even a suspicion that their current increase in the UK is the result of a coincidental decline in starlings, which compete with the woodpeckers for tree-holes as nest sites. In my experience here, starlings are more likely to nest in chimney pots than trees and I have yet to see a woodpecker on my chimney pot. But one thing is for sure: the hydro are busier than normal replacing a number of wooden power poles because woodpeckers have drilled a row of holes at the top of many of the poles. The other thing to look out for, when snow is lying, are signs of feeding crossbills. They are messy eaters as they try to prise out the seeds from a pine or larch cone. In Britain, common crossbills feed and breed in Scots pine and larch but in Scandinavia they rely on Norway spruce. If local crops are depleted, or fail, the birds head south.  In some years nomadic flocks from Scandinavia and Russia invade Scotland, swelling our resident population and the similar but related Scottish crossbill. Nine times out of ten you hear them before you see them. Their flight call is a loud, far-carrying “jip-jip” with a distinctive ringing quality. If you see them up close you will notice their amazing cross-tip bills. The birds sidle along branches like mini parrots and hang acrobatically from the cones like Christmas tree baubles. The adult males are brick-red and the females are grey-green with lime-yellow rumps. Altogether a stunning bird to watch!  On a still, frozen morning such as this, it can be incredibly quiet. Behind the faint rumble of the distant ocean and the occasional vehicle braving the treacherous roads, the silence seems unnatural. I was reminded of a poem by Max Ehrmann, who exhorts us to “walk placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence”.  You do not have to go far into the hills and look down on the croft houses nestled in the landscape to feel an incredible sense of tranquillity. It is not just naturalists who will swear by the power of nature to heal both body and mind: most of us have known the value of getting outdoors and enjoying nature.  I have personally made a new year’s resolution to escape the office often and see more wildlife. And I encourage you to do the same. I might not be a celebrity, but please get me out of this office!
Andy is a senior High Life Highland ranger, based in Lochinver.

Offenders Paying Back to Society in A Positive Way
Offenders who are ordered to carry out unpaid work in the community as punishment for their crimes are making a positive difference to life in Caithness and turning their own lives around.  Highland Council’s criminal justice service reported that offenders on the community payback scheme have been involved in a string of projects over the past 12 months that have improved the look of towns and villages in the far north.  Community payback orders are punishments imposed on offenders as an alternative to a stint behind bars and involve them carrying out unpaid work within a set period.  As well as making a difference to communities, the staff overseeing the scheme see the benefit offenders derive from their work.  This is reflected in a fall in the number of repeat offences committed by people who have been involved in the programme.  Criminal justice service temporary team manager Maria Cano said that in projects working with groups, including Latheronwheel and Latheron Improvement Group and Wick Riverside Project, offenders were made to feel part of the team.  She said it allowed them to see the benefits of carrying out positive work in the community and feel a part of it.  "Members of the community were working with our squad in the Latheronwheel Playpark project and it was done in a positive way," she said. "The offenders felt they were part of the project.  They were welcomed by members of the community. They had breaks together and members of the public brought them food during the project.  That is what we want to see as we want the offenders to repay their debt to the community but also to re-integrate with the community.  It helps them feel they are part of the community and creates a sense of belonging that might not have been there. This is really important to decrease offending rates.  The community knew they were working with offenders but they were OK with that. It took members of the community to accept the offenders as part of the group for the offenders to feel a sense of pride and belonging." Under the community payback order scheme, personnel is provided for free to organisations, however, they are expected to buy any equipment required for the projects.  Other schemes that involved offenders included painting restrooms and changing areas at Lybster Bowling Club; painting safety bollards at Wick’s riverside car park; repairing play areas and painting fences and benches at schools.  Mrs Cano said the demand for the services of the community payback teams has remained steady over the past few years. The group is available for projects that can benefit the community and will consider any requests.  She said: "We have had a few challenges ourselves, but it has been a good year and the scheme is going well. The activities the scheme is involved in can depend on the time of year.  In the summer, offenders are mostly grass cutting for organisations and people who are unable to cut their own lawns. We have been working with groups such as the Riverside Volunteers in Wick to clear paths in the town and painting the railings at Wick Riverside car park.  We have also been helping out at schools getting planters, benches and picnic tables that need to be repainted and refurbished for next summer."

SNP Ministers Warn of Emergency Brexit Legislation
SNP ministers have threatened to rush emergency legislation through the Scottish Parliament if the UK Westminster Government fails to overhaul its main Brexit Bill.  Brexit minister Michael Russell and parliamentary business minister Joe FitzPatrick warned Holyrood’s Presiding Officer of their intent after MSPs criticised the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.  The move, which could end up in a UK Supreme Court battle, is intended to put pressure on the UK Westminster Government to amend the Bill to the SNP’s satisfaction in the coming weeks.  Holyrood’s cross-party finance and constitution this week said the Bill was “incompatible with the devolution settlement” in its current form and should be denied legislative consent.  In a letter to Holyrood PO Ken Macintosh, the ministers said they wanted to work with the UK Westminster Government to amend the Bill successfully, but also had to prepare for failure and Holyrood withholding its consent, something that would trigger a constitutional crisis.  “To that end our officials are developing a Continuity Bill for Scotland,” they wrote.  Its purpose would be to “ensure that Scotland’s laws can be prepared for the effects of EU withdrawal even if it does not prove possible to rely on the UK Bill”.  They said they would seek an “expedited timetable” to pass the legislation “quickly”, with pre-introduction scrutiny later this month and formal introduction of the Bill in February.  The ministers stressed they had not “definitely resolved” to reject the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, now going through the Lords, but needed to have a contingency plan. In theory, a Continuity Bill would freeze EU law in devolved areas on the date of Brexit and ensure laws in Scotland remained operable thereafter.  Such a Bill would be highly contentious legally, but could be useful as political leverage, pushing the UK Westminster Government into overhauling the EU (Withdrawal) Bill to the SNP’s liking.  A recent comment piece from the Institute of Government said a Continuity Bill would face a number of hurdles, including prior passage of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill making it redundant.  If Holyrood passed the Bill, it could also be ignored by the UK Westminster Government or challenged at the UK Supreme Court - although both these options could rebound on the Tories politically. The 1998 Scotland Act makes it clear that unless powers are specifically reserved to Westminster, they should be exercised at Holyrood by default.  However the EU (Withdrawal) Bill would see all powers repatriated from the EU at Brexit going to Westminster, at least initially, even those in devolved areas.  The Scottish and Welsh governments say this is a “naked power grab”.  Green MSP Ross Greer said: “That the Scottish Government has to prepare a Continuity Bill is yet another example of the absolute shambles the UK Westminster Government has made of this process. This was entirely avoidable, but the Tories voted down amendments, drafted by the Scottish and Welsh governments, which would have resolved these issues. Brexit is not a mess of Holyrood’s making, yet it seems our parliament is more adequately prepared for leaving the EU than Westminster.”  A UK Westminster Government spokesperson said: "We want the whole of the UK to come together in support of this legislation [the EU (Withdrawal) Bill], which is crucial to delivering the outcome of the referendum. Every part of the United Kingdom needs a functioning statute book, and that applies as much to Scotland as elsewhere."

New Year Brings Good Cheer for North Out-of-Hours Cover Campaigners

The New Year has brought cheer for Sutherland’s north coast with a breakthrough in the row over out-of-hours medical cover.  NHS Highland is buckling under public pressure and reconsidering its decision to relocate the service outwith the county, it has emerged. The change of heart follows a “very productive” Christmas meeting between NHS chiefs, local GPs and community council representatives.  Hopes for the way forward are to be outlined at a public meeting in Strathy Hall on Friday, January 12.  But it is understood it involves a four-strong team of associated nurse practitioners (ANPs) supported by local GPs providing the out of hours service in shifts from Melvich Community Care Unit.  Dr Andreas Herfurt, lead GP at the Armadale practice, said: “I am delighted because I think we have a chance to come up with something workable as well as sustainable. This is probably one of the best Christmas presents I have ever had.”  North coast residents were stunned to learn in October that NHS Highland was planning the most far-reaching change to the area’s out-of-hours service since the introduction of the national health service in 1948.  Traditionally local GPs from the Armadale and Tongue medical practices have provided weekday out-of-hours cover to the far-flung, sparsely populated area. At weekends, a locum GP is drafted in to take up the reins – staying in bed and breakfast accommodation in Bettyhill.  But health chiefs suddenly transferred the north coast week-end locum GPs’ base from Bettyhill to Thurso, citing problems with finding B&B accommodation – a claim strongly refuted by local people. And it was announced that from February 2018 the entire service would be provided by a medic based at the Dunbar Hospital in Wick and four advanced nurse practitioners (ANPs) – who are still to be fully-trained – based at the Caithness General Hospital.  Patients would not have direct access to the service but would have to ring NHS 24. NHS Highland said the shake-up was being driven by the soaring cost of providing out-of-hours care, the difficulties in recruiting GPs and the low usage of the service in remote and rural areas. The changes prompted an outcry locally, with residents worried that lives would be put at risk because of the long distances involved – the two parishes of Tongue and Farr are almost as large as Caithness. It would take a Thurso-based medic 40 minutes to reach Bettyhill; an hour and 10 minutes to reach Tongue and an hour and a half to drive to Melness.  Local councillor Linda Munro was in the vanguard of those fighting against the move. She said NHS Highland was allowing north Sutherland to go into “free-fall”.  Health managers agreed to set up a working group to review the situation in advance of the January 12 meeting, and also to consider an offer from Dr Herfurt to continue providing out of hours cover. In the meantime it was agreed that status quo should continue and that the weekend locum GP should revert to working out of the area.

‘Pimped’ Porridge Goes From Scottish Staple to 2018’s Most Popular Food Trend
It has long been a mainstay of the Scottish diet, with the salt versus sugar debate raging between different corners of the British Isles.  Now Scots staple porridge – albeit a “pimped” version – is set to be one of the most popular food trends for 2018.  Vegan junk food and “micromanaged” menus, which would see diners asked for feedback on each dish, are also among the foods trends set for this year, according to the restaurant industry’s annual predictions for the food trade. Industry website Big Hospitality said that the trends, alongside a resurgeance in the popularity of French food and a demand for casual Chinese dining, were set to take the restaurant industry by storm in 2018.  Porridge, which Big Hospitality describes as granola’s “dowdy and downright boring cousin”, could become popular once more due to the creation of “build you own” porridge bars in London, it said.  Tony Fullerton, spokesman for Scots porridge maker Stoats, said Big Hospitality’s predictions of a porridge boom were being borne out in a rise in its sales.  He said: “There are more people talking about porridge online and there is an increase in popularity.”  Joe Lutrario, author of the annual predictions for Big Hospitality, said: “Granola has long been the favoured ‘healthy’ bowl breakfast of the Instagram set, but 2018 will see a return to a more old-school breakfast staple – albeit one that’s been pimped.”  He added that a branded mid-market Chinese restaurant format – akin to Indian-Iranian chain Dishoom – is ripe for opening. He said: “Much like the curry house, the family-run high street Chinese is in desperate need of a makeover. Yet nobody has ever really managed to create an affordable Chinese restaurant with mass appeal that builds on the traditional Chinese restaurant experience beloved by many in spite of the often second-rate food and ambience. A Chinese answer to Dishoom’s bacon naan roll? Yes please.”  The site said the market for the “less virtuous” side of vegan cusine, such as burgers and fried chicken, had been growing in recent months. Mr Lutario said: “2017 was undoubtedly the year veganism went mainstream, but throughout the coming 12 months, expect to see plant-based restaurants letting their hair down a bit and embracing something not typically associated with veganism – ‘junk food’.”

Full-sugar Irn Bru No Longer in Production

The traditional recipe for Scotland’s most popular fizzy drink is no longer in production. The makers of Irn Bru  confirmed that the manufacture of the full-sugar version of the drink has now been stopped.  Last week, AG Barr said the sugar content would be cut by around 50 per cent, prompting devotees of the drink to begin stockpiling cans in case the taste changes. The iconic Scottish refreshment will be blended with a mix of low-calorie sweeteners including aspartame, which is used in thousands of other products.  The move from Barr comes ahead of the UK’s proposed sugar tax which come into effect in April.  Irn Bru will fall from 10.3g of sugar per 100ml to just 4.7g, making it officially under the 5g level at which the tax takes effect.  The company claim most fans won’t notice the difference when they try the new recipe, a spokesman for the drinks producer said: “We ran lots of taste tests that showed most people can’t tell the difference – nine out of 10 regular Irn-Bru drinkers told us we had a good or excellent taste match.”  Irn Bru have assured sweet-toothed Scots that the drink will still be loaded with sugar - around four teaspoons per can.  Rivals have also reacted to the incoming levy.  Coca-Cola recently announced it will launch smaller bottles at higher prices to absorb the charges.

The New Whisky Distilleries Opening in Scotland in 2018
There are already more than 100 distilleries licensed to produce Scotland’s national drink, ranging from commercial giants to tiny craft operations.  That figure is expected to rise by at least 10 in 2018, with several major projects set for completion.  The spate of openings reflects the growing confidence in the Scotch whisky sector, which accounts for a quarter of the UK’s total food and drink exports with 99 million cases being shipped overseas annually - or 38 bottles every second.  Industry figures say the Scotch industry is currently enjoying levels of investment last seen in the late 19th century.  “It’s great to see such unprecedented investment in the Scotch whisky industry, with new distilleries opening and older ones being given a new lease of life,” a spokeswoman for the Scotch Whisky Association said: “Investment in the Scotch whisky industry, with new distilleries opening and older ones being given a new lease of life. It’s also encouraging that this investment is happening across Scotland from the Borders to the islands.  With more distilleries set to launch this year, it shows that there is optimism and confidence in the future of the industry. This can be seen in the return to growth of exports – the value of shipments was up 3.4% to £1.8 billion in the first half of last year to almost 200 markets across the globe.”  2018 is expected to be the year that malt distilling returns to Edinburgh for the first time since in almost a century. The Holyrood Park distillery is due to open later this year, housed in a former engine shed in the St Leonard’s district of the capital.  In June last year the firm launched a £5.5 million funding drive to help fund the balance of its ambition to create a distillery and visitor attraction, spanning 11,969 sq ft, in the historic building, which lies a short distance from Holyrood Park and the city centre.  A joint development by David Robertson, former master distiller for The Macallan, and Rob and Kelly Carpenter, founders of the Canadian branch of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, the new distillery will be the city’s first since the nearby Glen Sciennes was closed in the 1925.  Further east along the Forth, distilling is also set to return to the Falkirk district. The long-awaited Falkirk Distillery is expected to open in the summer at a custom-built site near Polmont, after first winning planning permission in 2009.  Brother and sister directors Alan and Fiona Stewart hope the new distillery will draw around 75,000 visitors per year, adding to the district’s other landmark attractions such as the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies.  But it’s not just the Lowlands that are enjoying a spate of openings. Islay, an island beloved by whisky fans, should see its ninth distillery open later this year.  Ardnahoe, on the north-east coast, will feature glass walls to allow visitors to enjoy the site’s incredible views of the Jura coast from within its stillhouse.  The distillery will feature long lyne arms – claimed to be the longest in the world - which run from the head of the still to the condenser.

New Lifeboat for the Western Isles
Leverburgh RNLI’s new Shannon-class vessel – named the Stella and Humfrey Berkeley – was launched into the water for the first time at the RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat centre in Poole this week. The RNLB Stella and Humfrey Berkeley is the 13th Shannon to roll off the RNLI’s production line. Each costs £2.2 million to build and is capable of reaching speeds up to 25 knots.  The lifeboat will now be put through sea trials in and around Poole, with arrival at Leverburgh on Harris scheduled for April 21. An official naming ceremony is planned for Saturday July 14. It is anticipated the boat will enter service during the first week of May. Between now and then, Leverburgh’s volunteer crew will undertake additional training to familiarise themselves with how their new Shannon will work. Leverburgh RNLI lifeboat station was established just five years ago, initially for a trial period of one year. Following a successful year for the new volunteer crew, the decision was taken to make the station permanent.  The station is currently home to RNLB the Royal Thames, one of the RNLI’s Mersey-class lifeboats. While the Royal Thames has served Leverburgh and her previous stations well, the boat is reaching the end of its working life.  The Shannon is the latest class of all-weather lifeboat to join the RNLI fleet. It is the first modern all-weather lifeboat to be propelled by water jets instead of traditional propellers, making her the RNLI’s most agile and manoeuvrable all-weather lifeboat yet – even in the shallowest of waters. These features make the Shannon particularly suitable for serving the often-challenging Sound of Harris, and beyond. The new lifeboat is also capable of reaching speeds up to 25 knots, which will mean the crew can reach casualties in a shorter space of time.

Rosslyn Chapel Visitor Numbers Reach Record Breaking High

Rosslyn Chapel has reported a record breaking year - with more people visiting the site than in 2006, when the Da Vinci code film was released, catapulting the 15th century chapel into the international spotlight.  Just over 181,700 paying visitors bought tickets to visit Rosslyn last year, according to the Trust which manages it, smashing 2006 numbers of 175,074 visitors.  The historic Midlothian church came to worldwide prominence in 2003 when it was identified as the hiding place of the Holy Grail in Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, and the subsequent film released three years later. Visitor numbers rose dramatically at that time.  Ian Gardner, director of Rosslyn Chapel Trust, said: “It is wonderful to have welcomed a record number of visitors in 2017. As a charity, Rosslyn Chapel Trust depends on income from visitors, donation and legacies, to conserve the Chapel for future generations to appreciate, and so each visitor makes a valuable contribution to help us continue this work.  Annual passholders and children in family groups do not pay for admission and so when those numbers are added, we welcomed the remarkable number of over 196,000 visitors in total in 2017. Visitors come from far and wide and it’s great that historic buildings, such as the Chapel, continue to hold such strong appeal.” Rosslyn Chapel was founded in 1446 by Sir William St Clair and, although it took forty years to build, was incomplete at the time of his death in 1484. The beauty of its setting and its ornate medieval stonework have inspired, attracted and intrigued visitors and artists for generations. The Chapel continues to be a working church, within the Scottish Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Edinburgh. However, in 2006, the priest at the time, Rev Michael Fass, resigned amid claims that he felt he could no longer tolerate the worldwide hype generated by Brown’s book, claiming it was becoming a “Disneyland” for fans of the novel. Rev Fass had been at the chapel for nine years before his departure. The building was seen in all of its glory for the first time in 14 years in 2010, when a ‘cage’ of scaffolding and a steel canopy to protect its crumbling roof were finally removed following major renovation works.