Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 436

Issue # 436                                             Week ending Saturday 20th January 2017    
I Would Just Like to Point Out That I Have No Problem Pointing Anything Anywhere by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Having just got up out of bed, I saw all this stuff swirling about outside the bathroom window. Oh no, it must be bin day and the lid of one of them must have flipped open and the remains of last weekend’s takeaways are in a vortex of north-westerly gales outside. So, even though I was in the middle of shaving, I opened the bathroom window and whoosh, the wind is so strong it yanks the window out of my hand. I eventually get it shut but the lather I had so carefully applied to my chubby cheeks is now over the sill, the glass and all over the bathroom.

That tiny tornado yesterday morning reminded me of my most favouritest poem, as Delboy Trotter used to say. It is rather a long one with 143 verses and is a gripping, hypnotic ballad about some people on the way to a wedding reception who meet an old sailor. No, not Uncle Albert. He starts telling one of them about an awful, spooky voyage he was on. Oh, and there’s an albatross in it too. Aye, you remember it now? The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I know what you’re thinking - that clever guy called Sam who has such a way with words should have learned to spell rhyme.

Why did it remind me of the poem I hated learning parrot-fashion in school but have loved ever since? When I opened the bathroom window “The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew, And the furrow followed free. We were the first to ever burst into the silent sea.” I think the furrow in the poem is the wake behind their boat and I suppose I did make a sort of furrow but my old English teacher might be reading this so I had better stop there. I get enough grief from people closer to home about what I supposedly leave in the bathroom but maybe I will tell you about that another time.

Meanwhile, Domhnall Iain Trump, the cove from Tong who landed some kind of half-decent job in America, is not coming to visit the Queen. Aw, that is a shame. We were all so looking forward to seeing him being chauffeur-driven from Downing Street, up Whitehall, left at Trafalgar Square and gliding down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace and the milling throng of thousands. Of protestors.

Probably the fault of yon Steve Bannon or that former head of the FBI or someone else who he decided was not on-message but the fact is that Domhnall Iain is somehow not able to persuade people over here that he is the wonderful guy he says he is. Such a shame. Too many people still seem to have their doubts and that is so very disappointing. I just cannot figure it out. The Queen was said to be getting her best tweed skirt and everything for the meet and greet. What went wrong? I don’t think it was about the embassy because he would not collect cigarette cards. Talking of cards, maybe someone told him Clinton has lots of card shops in the UK. Better stay home, cove.

Yet when I stay home, people question my loo etiquette. No, I will not leave it till another time. Why should I? And I should point out that I may not be the only fellow who has complaints from others who may happen to live in the same house about wet floors. It has always baffled me that I get the blame for things I am absolutely sure I was not responsible for. However, if I say that, then I am then accused of not having the courage to put my hands up and make a heartfelt confession. When one shares a pad with two women, one has not be careful not to suggest they may have been hosing the place down instead. No.

Serious trouble starts when the floor in our bathroom is found to be wet. Herself goes around muttering how men do not know how to use the facilities properly and she has to constantly go around after them with a mop. She says it must be mopped or there will be an odour. Listen here, I use a wet razor to shave and I do wash my hair and other certain other personal effects when I am in the bathroom. A drop of water may splash on the linoleum now and again. I would point out that it is not a problem, as she claims, with pointing properly. Say it again, Sam. Water, water everywhere, and not a drop that stinks.

Highland Pub for Sale on North Coast 500 Route
A country inn that sits on the North Coast 500 scenic route has gone up for sale.  The Ben Bhraggie Hotel in Golspie, Sutherland, has gone on the market with the sale described as a “rare opportunity” to buy a successful business on thriving tourist route.  Estate agents said the new owners of the hotel could take “immediate advantage of the popularity of the area and substantial passing tourist trade.”  The North Coast 500, which starts and finishes in Inverness and takes in the Black Isle, Caithness, Easter Ross, Inverness-Shire, Sutherland and Wester Ross on the circular drive, has been described as one of Europe’s best road trips and has brought a new wave of visitors to this part of Scotland.  The hotel has seven letting rooms, a private bar and 60 cover restaurant and can be “easily managed”, according to agents.  A beer garden with a view is also included in the property.  The inn, which is on the market due to retirement, is close to Dunrobin Castle and a selection of sandy beaches. The hotel is being sold for £300,000.

Shell to Build First New North Sea Installation in 30 Years
Energy giant Shell is to develop its first new manned installation in the northern part of the North Sea for almost 30 years.  The Scottish Government and industry body Oil and Gas UK welcomed the company’s confirmation it is to construct a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel which will begin drilling in the Penguins oil and gas field.  The oil field - 150 miles north-east of the Shetland Islands - was discovered in 1974 before being developed in 2002 and is a joint venture between Shell and ExxonMobil.  The Penguins field currently processes oil and gas using four existing drill centres and its redevelopment will see an additional eight wells drilled.  Describing the plan as an “attractive opportunity”, Shell said it is expected to have a peak production of about 45,000 barrels of oil per day. Discovered in 1974, the field was first developed in 2002 and is a 50 per cent joint venture between Shell and ExxonMobil.  The news comes amid a resurgence in oil prices which has seen Brent touch 70 US dollars (£50) a barrel - although Shell stated the project would have a break-even point of less than 40 US dollars (£28) per barrel. Andy Brown, of Shell, said: “Penguins demonstrates the importance of Shell’s North Sea assets to the company’s upstream portfolio.  It is another example of how we are unlocking development opportunities, with lower costs, in support of Shell’s transformation into a world-class investment case.”  Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said the news was a “hugely positive announcement “ for both the Penguins field and the “future of North Sea oil”. He stated: “This significant investment by Shell and ExxonMobil is further evidence of rising confidence in the future of the region and it will offer a significant boost to communities across the north-east of Scotland, along with boosting the wider Scottish economy. We have always maintained there are significant opportunities remaining in the North Sea, even in the context of a low carbon transition, and that a strong and vibrant domestic offshore oil and gas industry will play an essential role in the future energy system we set out in our recently published energy strategy. Our work to date to support the sector is seeing us invest £90 million in the Oil and Gas Technology Centre, and through further funding for research, innovation and skills development for the sector means that Scotland is now very well-placed to capitalise on this investment domestically and in export markets, with opportunities for workers and businesses throughout Scotland’s oil and gas supply chain.” Deirdre Michie, chief executive of Oil & Gas UK, said: “This is great news and an exciting start to the new year.  A global leader like Shell making a commitment on this scale demonstrates the investment potential the UK Continental Shelf still holds. It also shows the importance of the efficiency improvements our industry has delivered which have helped make redevelopment projects like this commercially attractive.”

In War of Wool Vs Synthetic, Harris Tweed is A Winner
Natural and sustainable Harris Tweed could have a bright future as the public wakes up to the environmental damage caused by synthetic clothes, writes Brian Wilson. Florence is a smart city at any time but the second week of January adds an extra edge. For 46 years, this has been the calendar fixture for Pitti Uomo Imagine, which modestly describes itself as “the world’s most important platform for men’s clothing and accessory collections”. The peacocks are out in force, strutting their stuff.  I first came here 20 years ago as a Government Minister, supporting Scottish companies. In fact, I was reminiscing about that happy era this week when we called on a stand run by Jamieson’s, which sells wonderful Shetland knitwear to the world. The same folk were here in Florence two decades on, doing the same vital work that supports 35 jobs in Lerwick.  It’s curious, perhaps, that Pitti Uomo is busier than ever. Isn’t all business supposed to be done online these days? Yet there must be 20,000 people at Pitti Uomo, from around the world, displaying and examining the season’s new ranges, making contacts, socialising and doing all the human things that -cannot be delivered via computer. More recently, I have come to Pitti Uomo through my involvement in Harris Tweed Hebrides which will celebrate a decade of production later this year. At that time, the industry was at a low ebb and reopening a derelict mill at Shawbost on the west side of Lewis was an act of faith more than expectation. It turned into a great success story which it is a privilege to be part of. As makers of a fabric, rather than finished products, Harris Tweed Hebrides is dependent on what other people do with it. Pitti Uomo offers a glimpse of that for the season ahead. There is still something quite uplifting about seeing tweed that started life in a weaver’s shed being transformed into beautiful clothing which will adorn the fashion capitals of the world.  A lot of breath is wasted on worrying about the identity which Scottish goods should be marketed under. The simple answer is “horses for courses”. Harris Tweed benefits from multiple identities – Hebridean (good for provenance), Scottish (good for woollens), British (good for fashion). The one that trumps them all is quality, without which the others would not get us very far.  Events like Pitti Uomo are reminders of just how vast and competitive the market is. It owes nobody a living on the basis of reputation alone. As Harris Tweed found out just in time, it’s necessary to constantly remind the world of your existence. Failure to do so leads in only one direction, as much of the Scottish textiles industry discovered to its cost. I wish there was more of it left and we should cherish what remains. The Scottish industry is based almost entirely on natural materials – i.e. wool – so the growth of synthetic fabrics from the 1960s spelt bad news. But wheels always turn and the movement now is back towards the natural, at least at the high end of the market. This is not just about fashion but in response to well-founded environmental concerns about the unsustainability of harmful synthetics. I was discussing this with Peter Ackroyd, who runs the excellent Campaign for Wool, an organisation which benefits from Prince Charles’s longstanding commitment to that cause. There’s considerable hope that the heavier woollen look is coming back,” he said. “Take a look at the Zegna stand – they’re putting up quite a formidable challenge in proper overcoats to the puffa lot.” It’s quite refreshing to retreat to a real world in which debate does not involve the words Brexit or independence but rather focuses on woollens versus puffa. For the uninitiated, puffa means the padded jackets which most young men wear, at least in Italy. Ten per cent of that market would keep all the weavers in Lewis and Harris working for a long time to come. Another trend of recent years has been towards “athleisure” wear, taken up by all the big fashion brands. It denotes casual as opposed to formal, a hybrid style where sportswear is upscaled to designer styles, with prices to match. That can mean using cashmeres and tweed. “The stars are aligning in favour of Harris Tweed,” Peter assures me, so that was worth coming to hear.  Peter left Florence to attend the funeral in Hawick of James Sugden, a great champion of Scottish textiles. A Yorkshireman steeped in the textiles industry of that county, he came to Scotland via Johnstons of Elgin, transforming it into a marvellous standard bearer, employing 800 people. Needless to say, Johnstons are at Pitti Uomo. Like all successful exporters, they know if you want to sell, you have to travel.  Latterly, Mr Sugden was committed to shoring up what remains of the Borders industry and one method was by encouraging luxury brands to invest in Scottish mills in order to ensure a “sanctity of supply” rather than become wholly dependent on the Far East. The most conspicuous example was the acquisition of the Barrie mill in Hawick by Chanel, saving it from going the way of so many other Borders mills.  Over the years, it has been good to see small companies we met at Pitti Uomo going on to great things. One example is Finlay and Co, established by an Aberdonian, David Lochhead, and friends to make sunglasses because they thought they could design better ones than the market offered. They have just opened their first shop in London and were catapulted to modest fortune by Meghan Markle wearing their product in the first photographs of herself and Prince Harry, at the Invictus Games.  It’s a nice story and one with a moral. The company’s success, says David, was built on attending shows in Florence, Paris, Miami and New York – all assisted by modest grants from government funds.

Campaign to Protect Bennachie From New Road Gathers Pace
Its distinctive peaks signal home to many and have proved to be the perfect destination for those seeking a bracing weekend walk.  Mountaineering Scotland, the Cairngorm Club, Ramblers Scotland and the Woodland Trust are among organisations joining residents in the Save Bennachie campaign.  The campaign group recently met with economy secretary Keith Brown in a bid to win protection of the landmark.  While a final decision has yet to be made on the detailed route for this stretch of upgraded A96, preliminary options show a straight line running alongside the site of Bennachie, which is surrounded by woodland.  Bob Smith, of Save Bennachie, said: “Bennachie is a very special area. It is steeped in history, archaeology and folklore and attracts around 150,000 visitors every year.  Putting the A96 here would leave some fairly major scars at the bottom of the hill. It would be an environmental, economic and social disaster to site the upgrade route near the hill. We are trying to protect Bennachie for the future.”  The group’s objections have won cross-party support in the North-east.  Potential routes are currently being assessed by Amey-Arup Joint Venture for Transport Scotland.  A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The route options assessment work is now underway and we expect to consult later this year on the options which are developed with a view to identifying a preferred option for the route in 2019. We are at the early stages of the design and assessment process and no route options have been identified yet. Meaningful engagement with communities and local groups, including the Save Bennachie Alliance, is a key part of our work as we develop the plans.”

‘Press Button If Still Alive’ Plan for OAPs is ‘Dangerous’

Pensioners living in sheltered housing will have to ‘press a button’ every day to let carers know they are still alive.  The controversial move planned by Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) is part of a budget-cut strategy.  The OkEachDay button is pressed by a resident every 24 hours. Failure to do so results in a telephone call from staff. If the vulnerable pensioner fails to answer, staff then contact a named person or friend.  The new system is expected to replace daily visits from wardens who will be moved to three new ‘delivery hubs . However the proposed alarm system has attracted strong criticism in England after a pensioner lay dead in his sheltered housing complex in 2014 after an alleged failure in the OkEachDay system.  Critics say moving to such an automated system is a danger to vulnerable pensioners.  Adam Tomkins, Scottish Conservative social security spokesman, said the proposals were “dangerous.”  “The idea that face-to-face surveillance of at-risk individuals can be replaced by a button is a dangerous proposal. This new system is financially counter-productive, but worse, it is fraught with risk.”  Anas Sarwar, MSP, Scottish Labour’s health spokesman, said: “These are deeply concerning reports. Families in Glasgow and across Scotland will rightly be outraged at these proposals.  The reality is the SNP has cut local services by more than £1.5billion since 2011 across the country, damaging services some of the most vulnerable people in Scotland rely on.”  Keith Robson, director of Age Scotland, said wardens played a valuable role which could not be replaced. Whilst we recognise the financial pressures councils are facing this is a concerning and potentially short-sighted development. Wardens do not provide care but they can provide reassurance and be an early warning system. Skilled and empathetic wardens who are familiar with residents can spot changes in behaviour or routine which may prompt further queries and allow for earlier help or support.”  A spokesman for GHA said consultation ends on 21 January. “Funding from Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership for sheltered housing services ends in March. We are committed to helping older tenants live independently and we are consulting them about how we can continue to provide services to do that after the funding ends. Tenants will have an important role in shaping that service.”

Father Who Fast-tracked His Wedding Makes Cancer Vow
A Scottish father who brought his wedding forward by a year after he was diagnosed with a rare cancer is backing a new fundraising campaign.  Craig Speirs, 37, has teamed up with wife Angela and children Rhianne, eight, and Adam, one, to urge people to wear a unity band on World Cancer Day on 4 February.  The bands, available for a suggested donation of £2, feature a classic reef knot design to symbolise the strength of people coming together to unite against the disease.  Mr Speirs, from Elderslie in Renfrewshire, urged people to buy the unity bands.  He said: “I’ll keep on fighting and I’m determined to do everything I can to help other people suffering from his horrible disease.  I have so much to live for. I want to see my son start school and walk my daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.  I’d like to dance with my wife on our silver wedding anniversary and read stories to my grandchildren.  There is life after cancer today thanks to research and thanks to scientists developing better treatments for the disease.  Just by wearing a unity band, everyone can help make a real difference to people with cancer.”  After a career as a Royal engineer in the army, Mr Speirs was working as a security company manager when he first developed symptoms, including abdominal pain, hot flushes and diarrhoea in 2010.  It was not until October 2013 after dozens of visits to his  GP that tests at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley finally revealed tumours in his liver.  Mr Speirs and his fiancée had set a date to get married in the summer of 2015, but brought the wedding forward after his diagnosis. They were married at the Beardmore Hotel in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, on 15 February 2014.  Mr Speirs started a course of injections every four weeks in an effort to stop the cancer from growing.  He also endured surgery in June 2014 and again in September 2014 at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer centre in Glasgow to cut off some of the blood supply to the tumours.  Mr Speirs is now due to start peptide receptor radionuclide therapy, which will involve the radioactive substance being given to him through a drip in his arm every eight to 12 weeks.  He said: “In 2018, I’m hoping for love, friendships and to continue to be the best dad that I can be to my children.”

Scotland in ‘Strong Position’ to Host First UK Spaceport
Scotland is in ‘a strong position’ to host the first UK spaceport and to capitalise further on commercial space activity, an MP has said ahead of a Westminster debate on the sector. Dr Philippa Whitford, whose Central Ayrshire constituency includes Prestwick aiport, said the second reading of the Space Industry Bill was another chance to highlight Scotland’s success in this sector, with 18 per cent of the UK industry based in Scotland and Glasgow now building more satellites than any other city in Europe.  The bill aims to create the regulatory framework for commercial space opportunities as the turnover of space related industries reaches £14 billion. There are three sites under consideration as launch sites in Scotland - Machrihanish, Sutherland, and Prestwick.  A consortium, which includes US aerospace firm Lockheed Martin, believe that the A’Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland would be the ideal location in Britain from which satellites could be launched into orbit.  A detailed proposal for the facility - located between Dounreay and Cape Wrath - has been submitted to the UK Space Agency (UKSA) which has met with Highland council and Highlands and Islands Entreprise (HIE) to discuss the plans.  Other sites in Scotland have been considered for space traffic, including space tourism hubs at Prestwick in Ayrshire and Campbeltown in Argyll. Experts believe however that launching satellites for the military, government or private industry may be the quickest and most cost-effective way of advancing the UK’s space ambitions.  Dr Whitford said that with more convenient access to launch capabilities, the industry could easily grow to meet the UK government’s ambition of reaching £40 billion turnover by 2030.  “More than 100 private and public organisations have created almost 7,000 jobs in this industry and are contributing more than £130m to the Scottish economy, and in the last two years Glasgow has built more satellites than any other city in Europe,” she said.  “This is a flourishing and vital new industry in Scotland, which is home to 18% of jobs in the UK space industry.  When I first joined the Westminster All-Party Parliamentary Space Committee, Prestwick was considered a rank outsider but with its long runway, fog free weather, good transport connections and local aerospace cluster, Prestwick is now one of the leading contenders to be the first Spaceport in the UK.  Launches are currently carried out from Kazakhstan, so having easy launch access from a Spaceport in Scotland would benefit not just Scotland but the commercial satellite industry right across the UK.  The bill contains little that could be seen as contentious but there are issues, such as liability, to be considered as Space access moves from being the domain of major states, such as the US and Russia, to being a commercial enterprise.”

Scots MP ‘Heckled Over Accent’ in Commons
A Labour MP has told how he was subjected to slurs over his weight and Scottish accent during Commons debates.  Hugh Gaffney, who was elected in June last year, revealed he has been “heckled something awful” by Tory MPs – but said nothing would deter him from standing up for “workers and equality”.  The Scot, who has been involved with the trade union movement for more than a decade, shrugged off the insults, saying he had a “harder time” from former postal service colleagues.  He said: “There’s heckling, aye, it is what kind of heckling you get. When people start attacking your body size then you’re winning the argument because they’re not going for the policy. In the chamber one of the MPs made a remark about my language, basically he was saying we can’t understand you, so he’s having a wee pop at the Scottish accent.  Somebody else pulled him up for it and in fairness to the man he came up and apologised, he was heckling me something awful.” Despite the heckling Mr Gaffney, who represents the Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill constituency, expressed a fondness for Parliament – a place he has dubbed “Butlins”.  Mr Gaffney said Labour can “definitely” take back Scotland from the SNP and the Tories under Jeremy Corbyn. He said Labour were “all over the place” before Mr Corbyn.  The SNP secured a landslide victory in 2015 with 56 of the 59 seats compared to Labour’s one. Labour now hold seven following the 2017 election.

Rare Sword Belonging to Robert the Bruce to Go on Display
It is an imposing weapon which, according to legend, was once owned by the father figure of Scottish independence, and was even used to confer an unofficial honour upon the nation’s bard.  Now, a double-handed broadsword said to have been owned by Robert the Bruce is set go on public display in the capital.  The early 14th century Sword of State, which has been treasured by the Bruce family for centuries, will be the centrepiece of a new exhibition devoted to Bruce and his descendants. The weapon, which is rarely exhibited in public, is thought to have been used by the King of Scots, although it remains unclear whether he ever wielded it in battle. The historic sword, which weighs eight pounds and has a 44 inch long blade and bog oak handle, was later kept in Clackmannan Tower, where in 1787, it is said to have touched another towering figure in Scottish history.  That year, Lady Katherine Bruce, the widow of Henry Bruce, the last of the male line, reportedly used the sword to perform a knighting ceremony on a visiting poet by the name Robert Burns.  Within a few years, however, the mansion and tower at Clackmannan were abandoned, and the sword was taken for safekeeping to Broomhall House, the Bruce family seat near Dunfermline and home of the Earl of Elgin.  Later this month, it will feature in Treasures from Broomhall House and the Bruce Family, a new exhibition being held at Bonhams in Edinburgh.  Lord Charles Bruce, the current earl’s son, said he could not remember a time when the sword had gone on public display in Scotland.  He described it as a “very cherished” possession which, much like the Bruce family, has a storied history.  “The sword was a gift from David II, the surviving son of King Robert,” he explained. “His marriages did not produce an heir and realising that the Bruce dynasty would come to an end, he presented his father’s sword to his first cousin, Thomas Bruce of Clackmannan.  The sword was kept at Clackmannan Tower for 14 generations until 1791 when it passed by descent to the Earls of Elgin and Kincardine.” Lord Charles said that although the blade does not show much in the way of evidence of having been used in the heat of battle, it could not be ruled out.  “It could easily have been,” he added. “It is the finest tempered steel and beautifully balanced. It would certainly have been a weapon of choice to fight with.” Other items being shown at the exhibition, which takes runs from 22 to 27 January, include a suit in the Bruce tartan from around 1760, which was worn by James Bruce of Kinnaird, who discovered the source of the Blue Nile in 1770

Man Putting Focus on Historic North-east Stone Circles with Online Photos
A man who has spent almost 20 years visiting historic sites has spoken of his fascination with stone circles around the North-east.  Martin Morrison, who lives in Glasgow, has visited Aberdeenshire four times over the past few years as part of his project Before Caledonia. Martin has been to historic spots across the country, mainly neolithic and bronze age sites. The 38-year-old said: “I’ve built up quite a bit of photography content over the years. I’m just an amateur, but I’ve got a deep-rooted interest in the subject.  There are more stone circles in Aberdeenshire than anywhere else in the country. It’s an absolutely fascinating area. It’s the only place in the UK where you can find recumbent stones, but there’s also some in South-west Ireland.  I’ve done a lot of work recently up in Aberdeenshire. It’s one of my favourite areas in the UK.”  Martin documents all the sites he visits on his Facebook group Before Caledonia, and uploads videos of his travels to his YouTube channel, of the same name, which both have more than 500 followers.  Recently he uploaded content showing Druidstone Stone Circle in Insch, Broomend of Crichie, Brandsbutt Stone and Bass of Inverurie, Memsie Round Cairn in Fraserburgh and the Wheedlemont Stones and Upper Ord Standing Stones in Rhynie.  Martin said: “We’ve all heard of Stonehenge, but when you mention other ones, such as the ones up in Aberdeenshire, people don’t have a clue they’re there. It’s such a unique and fascinating area. I’ve been up four times visiting, because there’s so much to see.”

Landmarks At Risk From Climate Change, Expert Review Warns

Some of Scotland’s most historic landmarks have been found to be at very high levels of danger as a result of climate change, according to an expert survey.  Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has published a “groundbreaking” report which identifies 28 sites as being at the most risk against natural hazards.  Among them include Fort George in the Highlands, Kisimul Castle off of Barra’s coast and Incholm Abbey in the Firth of Forth.  Ewan Hyslop, head of technical research and science at HES, said: “Climate change poses a number of very real threats to Scotland’s historic environment, from an increased frequency of extreme and unpredictable weather events to rising sea levels.  As well as this, average rainfall in Scotland has risen by more than 20% since the 1960s, with historic buildings particularly susceptible to the accelerated decay this can cause.  It is important we’re well-equipped to deal with these challenges and the climate change risk assessment report enables us to better understand the risks we face and enhance the knowledge we have to help protect and preserve Scotland’s historic environment for future generations.”  In total, the assessment identified the most “at-risk” of more than 300 sites of national and international importance in the care of the body.  There were 160 of such found to be at a high level of danger as a result of climate change.  Factors highlighted as contributing to the risk of natural hazards include rising sea levels, increasing temperatures and higher intensity of rainfall. Information from the report will be used to prioritise investment through conservation and maintenance programmes to manage the climate change risk to the historic places.  The report outlines a new approach for assessing such risks from natural hazards at the forefront of the analysis. It is also the first time that a heritage-focussed organisation has collaborated in this way to use a combination of datasets from other public bodies – including the British Geological Survey and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency – to inform management of climate change risk.

War of Words Breaks Out After Labour Amendment on Brexit Bill Defeated
A war of words broke out last night after a Labour amendment to “protect Scottish devolution” was defeated in the House of Commons.  The 13 Scottish Tory MPs voted with the UK Government to defeat the Opposition’s move, which lost by 321 votes to 297, a majority of 24.  Lesley Laird, the Shadow Scottish Secretary, said: “The Scottish Tories rolled over to protect their party instead of protecting the devolution settlement. They gave excuses but could offer no substantial reasons why they would not support Labour’s amendment to Clause 11.”  Stephen Gethins, the SNP’s Europe spokesman, accused the Scottish Conservatives of a “shameful abdication of duty” in preventing what the Nationalists believe is a “power-grab”.  During earlier Commons exchanges, Stephen Kerr, the Conservative MP for Stirling, expressed his “intense disappointment” that the Government was not, as promised, amending the bill in the Commons; it will do so in the Lords.”  The SNP’s Pete Wishart insisted it was incumbent on Theresa May to remove the “devolution threat” from the legislation.                        
Comment -R
What a spineless bunch of hypocrites are the Scottish Tory MPs . Anyone who voted for them should be hanging their head in shame. Well done Scotland. Tug away at your forelocks and do as you are told.

Brandon Buys Legend's Accordion
He has been hailed as the new Sir Jimmy Shand.  Now Scotland’s best accordion player in generations has bought the legendary box player’s instrument and will be using it to bring the old master’s sound alive again in a major UK tour. Brandon McPhee from Castletown has tracked down Shand's famous Hohner Morino in Belfast.  Shand had four of the instruments built around 1949 and Brandon managed to trace the very first – “number 1”.  He paid about £5000 for the accordion which he then lovingly restored so that it could be played again in public for the first time in decades.  Its sweet sound will now ring out again to audiences for the Jimmy Shand Story, which begins its tour at Belfast’s Grand Opera House in March 7. Brandon will play toe-tapping renditions of Shand signature tunes such as the Bluebell Polka and Whistling Rufus. The 20-year-old  has played for royalty and celebrities and is regarded as one of the best box players since Shand.

Jobs Boost If Nigg Plans Get Green Light
A major Ross-shire employer’s plans to expand its fabrication yard on the Cromarty Firth is set to be given the green light.  An application by Global Energy Nigg Ltd for the extension of an assembly shop at Nigg Energy Park to create a huge 179-metre blast and paint facility, has been recommended for approval when it goes before planners next week.  The proposals also include a smaller compressor building as use land for the storage of raw materials and fabricated products in connection with manufacturing for the offshore renewables sector. If approved, it will create at least 300 jobs and strengthen the port’s position as a leader in renewable energy. It will allow for 20,000 square metres of new floor space and is aimed at helping the firm win bids for offshore renewables fabrication work.  The Nigg yard is a large scale industrial complex covering flat reclaimed land and comprises extensive fabrication, assembly and warehouse buildings.  It also houses a graving dock and a quayside loading area for oil rigs and other vessels.  It was used as major oil fabrication yard from the 1970s to the late 1990s.  The yard lay virtually dormant until Global acquired it in 2011 and since then millions of pounds have been invested in the site. During that time the yard has won contracts for subsea fabrication for the oil and gas sector, and for the nuclear industry. Now, a report for Tuesday’s north planning applications committee has recommended that councillors approve the application.

As Scotland’s Tech Sector Grows, What Will the Jobs of 2020 Be?
Scotland’s digital technology sector has experienced strong growth in recent years, with business and political leaders confident the upward trend will continue in the long-term with sufficient support and investment.  But predicting what the future holds in such a continuously evolving industry is difficult. Decisions must be made on where to focus training and skills development. Standing still is not an option.  Official forecasts published by the Scottish Government suggest that 12,800 jobs will be created year on year, which ministers view as a “major opportunity” for young people and those willing to change careers.  The question asked by both companies and potential employees is what kind of jobs these will be and how they can prepare for them.  Addressing a skills shortage is crucial in the short term. CodeClan, the Edinburgh-based digital skills academy, has been leading on this front by speaking with industry leaders to help influence its 16-week professional software development course. So far more than 300 people have graduated, with 90 per cent finding employment within five months. Steven Drost, chief strategy officer at CodeBase, the tech incubator based in Edinburgh, agrees there is a shortage of suitable candidates to fill newly created roles.  Gordon Kaye, managing director of tech recruitment specialists Cathcart Associates, said there was remained a strong desire for software developers. “Our consultants are seeing the biggest need for web and mobile software developers and the appetite for people with those skills shows no sign of slowing,” he said.  “Javascript and full stack developers are in high demand. Growth areas include FinTech, the mobile market and big data, which is now much more accessible to companies in the UK thanks to the strides being made in technologies such as Splunk, Hadoop and Hive.”  Kaye also sees Scotland as an employee’s market, with skilled graduates being highly sought.

Making Sure Tweed Work is Shared
Stornoway North SNP Councillor Gordon Murray has written to the Harris Tweed Authority to look at re-introducing a Distribution Centre for the industry.  Councillor Murray stated: ”The Distribution Centre was an excellent initiative that worked a number of years ago and I think that it would be the way forward for the industry if it was reintroduced.  It makes sure that all work is equally shared out amongst the weavers.  This would help new entrants who aspire to take up the traditional industry and also work at home.  I am delighted that the Harris Tweed Authority have agreed to discuss the matter and have added to the agenda of their next meeting.”