Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 438

Issue # 438                                     Week ending Saturday 3rd February 2018

Trump Says this Series of Islets is Serious Scotland. But Why is That? By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

When the President of the United States of America said he was serious about building a wall along the border with Mexico, the world listened. And when he said rude things about Kim Jong-un in Korea, he said he was quite serious. So when Donald Trump told Piers Morgan that his mum had been born in Stornoway, he added: “You know what they call that? Serious Scotland, right? That’s serious Scotland. She was born in Stornoway.”

Who calls it serious Scotland? Never in my puff have I heard anyone call this wee town, that used to smell of fish guts but which now smells mostly of curry and chips, serious Scotland. Yet the POTUS thinks that is what “they” call us. Are you being serious? I’m at it now. Serious is a word you have to take seriously because there has to be some reason why anything is called, serious.

Piers Morgan could not get himself to say the word Scottish so he instead asked Domhnall Iain if he was half-British. Even when The Domhnall said: “Well, my mother was born in Scotland, in the Hebrides,” Morgan could only chime again that it made him half-British. Why not half-Scottish? Ach, away and boil your head. I know you’re from Sussex, Morgan, and I would have thought one half of you would suss that out.

Maybe Trump thought parts of the islands are seriously beautiful - and, apart from the majestic mountains and breathtaking beaches in and around Great Bernera, there are probably places in the Hebrides which are also deserving of that title. Only a couple or so, I would say. Meanwhile, some people hated that interview. They were not all Democrats or neighbours of Trump properties in Ayrshire and Aberdeenshire. Having been trumped by ITV (it took me ages to think of that) some of the more self-absorbed BBC types could not contain themselves. World affairs editor John Simpson, a wizened war correspondent of yore, vented his jealousy. He called it “self-evident tosh”.

Morgan, of course, hit back pointing out the corporation had used the interview in its bulletins, adding: “You’re the one spouting tosh, you pompous old prune.” Pompous? Ouch. Old? Ouch. Prune? Ouch ouch ouch. It was nice of Simpson to take time off from counting his money and donate it to the debate. It is so refreshing that someone who is well into their seventies and still taking up to £200,000 of licence-payers cash each year (Beeb’s figures) could find the time because the broadcaster seems to pay lip service to equality and keeps only the most boring, wrinkly, old men on the payroll. Time for change, guys.

Honestly, John Simpson is so miserable he could pass for a minister in the Free Church (Continuing). They too have been continuing to feature in the news this week. Well, a couple of them have. The rest of the edgy Sabbatarians simply could not be bothered to get out of the upholstery, switch off the telly and go to protest at the Sunday opening of our cinema at An Lanntair. Songs of Praise was simply too rivetting for them. So I am sure they will all be there at the next Sunday showing, out of the media glare, waving their placards and mumbling: “Down with this sort of thing”.

The old sailor down the road from me also made a placard. It said: “I have been round the world and the most dangerous people I met were the ones who thought they knew God’s will.” It was all finished off at the corners and everything. Unfortunately for the cause of balance and reason, his wife decided to make his favourite roasted onions and peppers to go with the chicken so he decided to stay home and enjoy that rather than walk up and down Kenneth Street in the rain antagonising the Continuing. Got to get your priorities right, John. You can use it when the swimming pool opens seven days, eh?

So I suppose Donald Trump is right. This is serious Scotland but for many reasons. Most Yanks do not get it. An American student was over here on an exchange and her host family in Stornoway are a bit OCD. They have rules for everything. She was told by her new friend, the daughter of the house, where to eat, the cleaning she had to do an that she must be in bed early. The American lass was shocked. She said: “You eat in the kitchen, your room is always clean, and you go to sleep at 10 o'clock? In South Carolina that can only mean one thing. You don’t have Internet.”

Bid to Tackle Blight of Plastic Waste

A community volunteer group is calling on people in Caithness to do their bit to counter the growing blight caused by plastic waste.  As a first step it is targeting local fast food takeaways to try and get them to switch from its ubiquitous polysterene packaging to a cardboard alternative.  Pay it Forward Thurso (PiFT) is the latest organisation in the north to take a lead on what is becoming recognised as a major growing source of Pollution to our coastlines and seas.     Spokesperson Joan Lawrie said: “As a result of much of the waste at Thurso East being polystyrene takeaway containers, the group is if it would be cost effective for local takeaways to switch to cardboard to prevent such plastics littering the foreshore or entering the marine environment.”     She adds: "Over half-a-million single use plastic straws are used globally every day, enough to wrap around the world twice."  

Helping to Make the Outer Hebrides A Great Place

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has been successful in securing a cash injection of around £200,000 to help shape future heritage development in the Outer Hebrides, one of the first awards to be made through The National Lottery’s new Great Place scheme.  The Great Places Scheme has been devised and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund in consultation with organisations involved in regeneration to ensure it responds to the specific needs of Scottish places, from city-wide initiatives to smaller, rural schemes.  The Comhairle’s heritage service will use the funding to place heritage at the heart of joined-up thinking to create a better place for people to live and visit.  The project, which will see an investment of just under £200,000, will help develop and implement a Great Place Strategy for the whole island chain, placing heritage at the heart of joined-up thinking to create a better place for people to live and visit.  The Comhairle and Highlands and Islands Enterprise collaborated to propose the work which will generate new links between heritage, arts and tourism to build economic growth and contribute to solving the challenging problems of population decline, access to work and access to recreation.  Community heritage organisations, landowning trusts, arts organisations including An Lanntair and Taigh Chearsabhagh, and tourism sector group Outer Hebrides Tourism recognised the need to work together to tackle economic challenges and gave their support to the application.  The Great Place Strategy will propose actions both in the short-term and over a ten-year period which can deliver change for communities across the Outer Hebrides, with development and consultation work starting this summer. Commenting on the announcement, Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “You can’t imagine the Outer Hebrides without it’s lovely scenery, spectacular beaches, traditional Gaelic communities and ancient historical sites. Heritage and culture gives the place a unique identity and makes it special for the people that live there. It’s the roots if you like.  This scheme will show how building on those roots can have a hugely positive impact on the local economy in terms of health, employment and education, as well as well as instilling community cohesion and pride. Thanks to players of The National Lottery, we are enabling a step-change in thinking, encouraging local leaders to come together and recognise that heritage is a driving force for change for the Western Isles.”  A recent report highlighted that tourism related to heritage in the Islands has the potential to be worth £8m and 160 FTE jobs.

Whitehall Leak Means Hard Brexit "Dead in the Water" Says Nicola Sturgeon
The case for a hard Brexit is “dead in the water,” Nicola Sturgeon has insisted after a leaked UK Westminster Government analysis concluded Britain would be worse off whatever deal is struck with Brussels.  The First Minister, describing the revelations, as a “watershed moment” in the Brexit process, declared: “Time is running out and the chaos in Downing Street must end. “Theresa May must face down the hard Brexiteers around her and put jobs and living standards front and centre of the Brexit negotiations by remaining in the single market and customs union.”  Ms Sturgeon insisted that the Whitehall report now must be published in full.  But Whitehall, seeking to play down the leak, refused.  The Prime Minister raised the matter at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting in Downing Street, telling colleagues that the document "purported to show" the economic impact of various Brexit scenarios. No other minister spoke on the leak.  No 10 later stressed how the report was an incomplete draft, was “not signed off” by ministers and did not address the bespoke deal the Government was seeking.  The leak to the BuzzFeed News website suggested even if the UK were able to negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement - as Mrs May hopes - it estimated growth would be down five per cent over the next 15 years.  This would rise to eight per cent if Britain left without a deal and was forced to fall back on World Trade Organisation rules. Alternatively, if the UK were to retain access to the single market through membership of the European Economic Area, the loss would be just two per cent.  In the Commons, an Urgent Question was granted, forcing a minister to the Despatch Box; it led to acrimonious exchanges.  Steve Baker, the Brexit Minister, suggested it was not in the national interest to release what was an incomplete assessment, not seen or approved by ministers, while negotiations with Brussels continued.  He described the document as a “selective interpretation of a preliminary analysis” and claimed: “It is an attempt to undermine our exit from the European Union.”  But Sir Keir Starmer for Labour replied: "Not good enough." The Shadow Brexit Secretary urged the Government to release the information showing the impact of Brexit, accusing it of "piling absurdity upon absurdity". Mr Baker hit back, claiming Labour was "completely neglecting" its duty to protect the national interest during the Brexit process.  "They care passionately about remaining in the European Union and they want to overturn the result,” he argued, describing Mr Corbyn’s strategy as one of “demoralisation, delay and revocation”.  Kenneth Clarke, the Europhile former Conservative Chancellor, accused ministers of trying to protect the Government from "political embarrassment" in refusing to release the leaked document in full.  Fellow Tory backbencher Antoinette Sandbach said: "I take exception to being told it is not in the national interest for me to see a report that allows me to best represent my constituents."  Labour’s Chris Leslie accused the Government of a "cover-up," telling MPs: "For the minister to basically use the excuse of not publishing this because he hasn't yet had the chance to edit it, twist it, distort it, redact the information within it, is a total and utter disgrace.”  Today during a Commons debate and vote, Labour will today try to force the Government to release the Brexit impact assessment in full, using the same archaic parliamentary procedure it adopted last year to coerce ministers to release Brexit impact papers to a Commons committee.  Sir Keir said: "Ministers cannot keep side-lining Parliament to hide the deep divisions within their own party. They should accept this motion and allow the country to have an informed debate about its relationship with Europe after Brexit."  Meanwhile, Mr Baker also incurred the wrath of civil servants after he suggested they had produced a sub-standard piece of analysis; Whitehall forecasts were "always wrong," he said.  Dave Penman for the FDA union of top officials, denounced the minister’s remarks, saying they “not only insult the dedicated professionals working in his department and across the civil service but they epitomise the current state of affairs in government”.

Council Gives Go-ahead for Manufacturing Plant
A council has given permission for a new alloy wheel factory which is expected to employ 400 workers in the Highlands.  The GFG Alliance has welcomed Highland Council's decision to grant full planning permission for the factory next to its Liberty British Aluminium smelter at Fort William.  The consent, clears the way for the company to develop the UK's only large scale alloy wheel plant, with work expected to start on site later this year.  As part of a £120 million investment, the new plant will use aluminium from the smelter to make up to two million wheels a year for the British car industry.  Sanjeev Gupta, executive chairman of the GFG Alliance which includes Liberty British Aluminium, said: "We are delighted to have reached this milestone in the development of a very exciting project and are very grateful to the council for giving this matter their close attention over recent months.  We also appreciate very much, the valuable input of the many statutory bodies, other organisations and the local community, who have worked with us on the wide range of issues associated with this development, which will add major value to the Highland economy." GFG envisages "hundreds more jobs" generated in businesses supplying the plant and in the wider Highland economy.  Kate Forbes, MSP for Lochaber, said she was "delighted" the authority had accepted the planning application She added: "The key here is not necessarily alloy wheels or aluminium smelting in and of itself, but instead the impact on the local economy. It's about the future of jobs, houses and training opportunities for local people, as well as attracting people to move to the area.  "Fort William has a history of peaks and troughs when it comes to the local economy due to an over reliance on one employer, such as the paper mill."  The proposals for the Liberty Aluminium Lochaber facility include redevelopment of part of a former brownfield site where a former carbon factory stood.  Lochaber Leader, Councillor Andrew Baxter added: "This is a once in a generation opportunity and Liberty Group should be applauded for this contribution to the economy and community. Up to 400 direct jobs will be created at the facility which will also help secure the existing 170 jobs at the smelter. "

Decision Deferred on Culloden Housing Plans

Protestors campaigning against building 16-houses a stone’s throw from Culloden Battlefield have been given an 11th hour reprieve.  Highland Council deferred planning permission on the proposal today, calling on developers Kirkwood Homes to come up with a more sensitive design for the homes, given their proximity to the historic site.  Members of the south planning applications committee do not want the houses at Viewhill to be built at all but the application in principle has already been approved by the Scottish Government’s appeals department, leaving councillors with authority only over the design of the buildings. Supporters and members of the Group to Stop Development and Culloden (GSDC) turned out in force to protest outside council headquarters during the meeting and after the meeting leading campaigner George Kempik praised councillors’ efforts to find a solution.  “It’s a better result than we thought we would get when we came here today,” he said.  “I feel for the councillors because I know their hands are tied.  Our focus will now shift to the Scottish Government to try to get them to intervene with a way to stop this development.  We knew today was about the design rather than the houses themselves but that is not something we are willing to accept.  This gives us more time to get the reporter to look at it again and hopefully have the decision overturned.”  Councillors refused the application when it came before them in 2011 but it was overturned on appeal by a Scottish Government appointed reporter.  Now members of the group, who say the site could be an unofficial war grave as it is so close to the battlefield, are planning a protest at Holyrood in the hope that the Scottish Government will overturn the planning permission

Islay Pays Tribute to World War I Dead

The residents of a Hebridean island where hundreds of troops perished during one of the worst wartime tragedies in Scotland’s seas have gathered to pay tribute to the dead.  In an event marking the launch of a year-long series of commemorations for those lost during World War I, civic leaders and residents on Islay recalled those who died off its coast. Around 700 US servicemen and British crew members died after the sinking of SS Tuscania and HMS Otranto.  Piper Isobel Ferguson played at the grave of Private Roy Muncaster, who served in the 20th Engineers (Forest) regiment of the US army. He is the only American soldier whose resting place is on the island.  The Inner Hebridean island will host a year-long series of events arking the island’s contribution to World War I and the loss of two troop ships carrying American soldiers to fight alongside the Allies.  Community events will take place on 5 February and 6 October, one hundred years to the day since the sinking of the SS Tuscania and the HMS Otranto respectively.  On 4 May, the WW100 Scotland Day of Commemoration, in partnership with Argyll and Bute Council, forms the centrepiece of the programme, with a service taking place at the American Monument on the Mull of Oa followed by a public service at Port Ellen War Memorial, where VIP guests will lay wreaths in honour of Islay’s war dead.  As well as the valiant rescue efforts of the local community when the ships went down and its efforts to give the dead proper burials, the events will remember the Ileachs that served and around 200 that lost their lives throughout the war. Lord George Robertson of Port Ellen, whose maternal grandfather was the police sergeant on Islay at the time of the sinkings, said: “My grandfather, Malcolm MacNeill, had the distressing job of reporting what had happened and attempting to identify the bodies, noting any distinguishing marks that could help identify the drowned men. There were so many bodies that their descriptions filled 81 pages in his notebook.  When they were finally buried, it fell to my grandfather to correspond with the families in the US who were desperate to know more about the fate of their loved ones.  They wrote with information which they hoped could be used to identify the bodies of their sons, husbands or brothers, and in an extraordinary example of compassionate public service, my grandfather replied to each letter, providing what information he could.”  WW100 Islay chair, Jenni Minto, said: “Every village on Islay lost men in the Great War but the SS Tuscania and HMS Otranto disasters brought the war directly to Islay’s shores. In addition to remembering the soldiers and crew who lost their lives in these two tragedies the Islay 100 programme recognises the contribution made by the local community.”

Kirk Consults on Gaelic Plan

A comprehensive survey on the use of Gaelic within the Church of Scotland is being launched.  The Kirk’s Gaelic Group is laying the groundwork for a new plan that will look at how the language is currently being used in ministry.  The audit will help determine how Gaelic-led ministry could be supported in future.  It will include a questionnaire for ministers, including student ministers, probationers and ordained local ministers, that is designed to build a complete picture of Gaelic ministry within the church today. Ministers who do not speak Gaelic and have no Gaelic parishioners are also urged to contribute and share their thoughts, to ensure the fullest possible picture.  A second part of the audit will identify where there is further potential for Gaelic-led ministry in the future.  The audit will help bring together a Gaelic Plan for the whole church. Very Rev Dr Angus Morrison, chairman of the Gaelic Group said there are areas across Scotland where Gaelic-led ministry is flourishing. He added that there is an interest in Gaelic in some places but no Gaelic-speaking ministers— or vice-versa.  Dr Morrison, a former Moderator of the General Assembly, said: “We hope that every minister will complete the questionnaire so that we can have the best possible foundation for an informed Gaelic Plan for the Church. In the past we have seen successful projects demonstrate the potential for nurturing Christian faith through Gaelic worship and witness.  Now we want to move ahead with creating a Gaelic Plan that will support Gaelic-speaking believers and Gaelic-led ministry for many years to come.”  Steven MacIver, who has been involved in Gaelic development for the last 10 years, will be carrying out the audit during a three-month collaboration with the Church.  “I’m delighted that the church has seen the value in preparing a Gaelic Language Plan and also how the ministry can benefit the awareness, usage of, and confidence in the language,” he said.  “The use of Gaelic in the church is extremely important to the future of the language as well as providing a context for the historical importance of Gaelic within Scotland.”  All ministers will receive an email inviting them to complete a questionnaire regarding the Gaelic language this week. Mr MacIver will be using the audit to develop recommendations on the church’s Gaelic Language Plan for the Gaelic Group, which will then report back to the General Assembly.

New Domestic Abuse Law Passed At Holyrood

MSPs have passed a “momentous” new law on domestic abuse. The legislation creates a specific offence of domestic abuse, previously dealt with under various existing laws. Abuse survivors were among those in the public gallery at Holyrood and were applauded by MSPs following the vote.   Standing ovation from MSPs for domestic abuse campaigners after the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill was passed at Holyrood.  The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill covers psychological and emotional maltreatment and coercive and controlling behaviour as well as physical attacks.  Examples of coercive and controlling behaviour include isolating a partner from their friends and relatives or controlling their finances. Justice Secretary Michael Matheson praised the survivors who contributed to the new law. He said: “Their courage helped shape the legislation I brought to Parliament and their actions will help the justice system prosecute those who commit one of society’s most insidious crimes.”  During the Holyrood debate, he said attitudes towards domestic abuse had changed since the Scottish Parliament was re-established in 1999, from the mindset that it was a “private matter” outwith the justice system, particularly if the abuse was not physical.  He added: “This is a momentous day as our laws will be changed in a way that reflects the experience that all too many women have suffered in terms of domestic abuse. The offence modernises the criminal law to reflect our understanding of how victims experience domestic abuse,” he added.  “It will enable the court to consider both behaviour which would be criminal under the existing law, like assault and threats, and psychological abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour that can be difficult to prosecute using the existing law.” Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr said: “Domestic abuse is monstrous and can cause immense and enduring trauma and harm. It has been sobering to hear and read the testimony of victims and the organisations that support them, which has highlighted the fact that there is behaviour that cannot currently be prosecuted because it does meet the threshold of criminal conduct.”  He added: “There is a gap in the law and it is correct the new offence is required.”  Labour’s Rhoda Grant said any measures that provide better protection against domestic abuse were welcomed but there were still areas which needed to be addressed. “The bill does look at the impact of domestic abuse on children but it does not go far enough,” she said.  “Through my case work I see far too often examples of custody and access to children being used to continue to perpetrate abuse.”  She also called for all domestic abuse victims to be given access to a domestic abuse court. She added: “Without specialists presiding over this legislation we will have a two-tier system where those with access to a specialist domestic abuse court will get protection while those without will not.” The Scottish Government has given Scottish Women’s Aid an extra £165,000 to train staff at the charity to promote understanding coercive control.  The vote was 118 to one and the Tories confirmed the single vote was a mistake by Margaret Mitchell, who spoke in support of the Bill.  Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald said: “We recognise that domestic abuse is more than physical assaults, it’s about abusers who exert control over their victims by using a range of debilitating tactics.  Survivors have long told us that whilst physical assaults are often part of that abuse, it is commonly the punishing psychological abuse which is more difficult to cope with.  This new legislation is very welcome as it recognises the full extent of abuse that victims suffer and allows us to bring the full weight of the law against those who commit abuse, whatever its form. In preparation, Police Scotland will be training around 14,000 officers and staff on recognising coercive and controlling behaviours.”

Mike Russell Frustrated by Latest EU Withdrawal Bill Talks

Scotland’s Brexit minister has described the latest meeting with the UK Westminster Government as “very frustrating”. Mike Russell and Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney held talks on Thursday night with David Lidington, Theresa May’s defacto deputy, and Scottish Secretary David Mundell.  But after the meeting in Edinburgh, Mr Russell said the Scottish Government could not recommend legislative consent for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.  He described the event as “a useful opportunity” to impress the Scottish Parliament’s unanimous view the bill is incompatible with devolution.  But he added that both he and Mr Swinney found the discussion “very frustrating”.  Mr Russell said: “The UK Westminster Government has rejected Scottish and Welsh Government amendments that would protect devolution but, despite its previous commitment, has failed to bring forward any solution of its own.  Despite many meetings, once again the UK ministers arrived and left without putting words on the table to allow for a meaningful discussion.  So we are still in the position that the Scottish Government cannot and will not recommend that the bill should receive legislative consent.”  The discussions, which were held at the Scottish Parliament, came with the Conservative government and devolved administrations in a stand-off over the Brexit Bill, as both Edinburgh and Cardiff are refusing to give their consent unless changes are made.  Ahead of the meeting, Mr Russell made clear the Scottish Government was looking for action from Westminster and said the time for talking was well and truly over.  The devolved administrations have branded clause 11 of the legislation a “power grab” as it transfers devolved EU powers to Westminster in the first instance. The Conservatives, however, insist this is necessary to set up UK-wide frameworks before further devolution can take place.  Mr Lidington was also in Wales for talks with Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales.  After the meeting in Edinburgh, he said: “We have had a useful discussion.  There are issues that still need to be resolved on the Withdrawal Bill but I remain optimistic that we can find a way forward.  There are areas that we agree on. We both want all parts of the UK to be ready for the day that we leave the EU.  We need to protect the benefits of the UK internal market.” Mr Lidington added: “We have to make sure that there are no new barriers to living and doing business for people in Scotland and other parts of the UK on the day we leave the EU. I am determined that we will agree amendments to the legislation that achieve this while also addressing the concerns of the devolved administrations.  The Scottish Parliament will have increased powers at the end of this process.”

Ministers ‘Seeking Powers to Tax Without Consent of Parliament’ After Brexit

Ministers have been accused of seeking to use controversial “Henry VIII powers” to enable them to impose taxation without the consent of Parliament once Britain has left the EU. A House of Lords committee said measures in the Government’s flagship EU (Withdrawal) Bill breached fundamental constitutional principles dating back to the Glorious Revolution of 1688.  In a hard-hitting report, the committee said it “should not be possible” for ministers to impose taxes or “tax-like charges” through regulation.  It comes after the Bill – which transfers thousands of EU laws and regulations onto the UK Statute Book – cleared its first hurdle in the upper chamber when it was given an unopposed second reading on Wednesday. It sets the stage for the real parliamentary battle in the weeks ahead when peers – who are overwhelmingly opposed to Brexit – are expected to use the committee stage to make a series of major amendments.  In its report, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee said the legislation as it stood gave “excessively wide law-making powers” to ministers.  It said the so-called Henry VIII powers in the Bill – which allow ministers to amend EU rules as they are transferred into EU law – were “wider than we have ever seen”. Once the Bill became law ministers would then be able to amend it – or even repeal it altogether – by regulation, something the committee described as “wholly unacceptable”. In particular the peers highlighted Schedule 4 of the Bill enabling ministers at Westminster and in the devolved administrations to authorise public bodies to impose “fees and other charges” in order to cover their costs through the use of regulation without any parliamentary scrutiny. The accompanying delegated powers memorandum refers to the creation of “tax-like charges”.  The report said: “A ‘tax-like charge’ means a tax. Not only can ministers tax, ministers can confer powers on public authorities to tax. Indeed, they can do so in tertiary legislation that has no parliamentary scrutiny whatsoever.  “Taxation, including ‘tax-like charges’, should not be possible in fees and charges regulations made under Schedule 4. Taxation should be a matter for Parliament, a principle enshrined in Article 4 of the Bill of Rights 1688.”  As an example, the committee suggested ministers could authorise a UK successor body to the European Medicines Agency to levy charges on pharmaceutical companies – or even the general public – in relation to the costs of establishing a new regulatory regime for medicines.  The committee chairman Lord Blencathra – a former Conservative chief whip in the Commons – said: “The committee had serious concerns about the proposal that new tax-like charges could be introduced by ministers, or even public authorities, without any parliamentary scrutiny at all. Tax-like charges are taxes and it is a fundamental principle of our constitution going back to 1688 that taxation is a matter for Parliament.”

Plans to Regenerate 'Lost Townships' Decimated by the Highland Clearances

It remains one of the most controversial periods in Scotland’s history – a dark legacy of upheaval that still provokes passions to this day.  Now long-forgotten townships destroyed by the Highland Clearances are set to be reborn under ambitious plans put before the Scottish Parliament.  Campaigners have called for Scotland’s deserted glens to “once again ring to the voices of children playing in their landscape” as they laid out proposals to inject life back into rural areas.  Community Land Scotland (CLS) – which represents Scotland’s community landowners – has proposed amendments to new planning laws currently going through Holyrood in an effort to right some of the wrongs of the past. It wants ministers to be able to compulsorily purchase land for the purpose of resettlement, and also called for communities to be handed powers to buy up land that has sat neglected for three years or more – insisting current policies don’t do enough to promote repopulation.  Policy director Dr Calum MacLeod said the Highlands’ famously sparse rural landscape was “socially constructed” through historic depopulation, and argued encouraging sustainable settlement was a “really important thing to do”.  He said: “In Scottish public policy at the moment, the mapping of wild land has got a lot of attention – and, of course, there’s a role for that. But what we don’t want is for people to be airbrushed out of that.”  He added: “What we would like to see is certainly more areas that have had populations in the past actually being reinstated where that’s feasible and practicable. It’s an ongoing process.  To be clear, this is an issue for all parts of rural Scotland, and how we are framing the idea of sustainability within rural Scotland. People have to be at the centre of that.”  Hundreds of thousands of people left the Highlands during the Clearances, which lasted between roughly 1760 and 1850.  Many of the most notorious examples of forced evictions occurred in the later years, as landlords sought to cash in on sheep farming.  In the far north, the Duke of Sutherland’s factor Patrick Sellar was even put on trial after allegedly burning down a croft with an old woman still inside. CLS has now called on the Scottish Government to create a map of “no-longer-existing communities” in order to highlight long-gone townships – and earmark them for potential future use.  It said the principle straths of Eastern Sutherland – Strathnaver, the Strath of Kildonan and Strathbrora – once housed between 150 and 200 separate communities, all now gone.  While insisting it had no wish to recreate former times, CLS said its ambition was the “reoccupation of at least some of Scotland’s unpeopled places”.  Professor Sir Tom Devine, one of Scotland’s top historians, said the plans were “an interesting idea” – but warned repopulating lost villages would be an expensive process.  He said an attempt had been made to resettle one township in Ross of Mull in recent decades, but that it had failed to take off. He added: “The main issue in terms of Highland Scotland would be the vast nature of the loss of land.  The vast majority of clearances took place under the radar, in the sense that people were squeezed out over time. There’s hardly any part of Highland Scotland that was not affected by dispossession.

Anger Over “Horrific” New Flag for Sutherland
Outraged opponents of a region’s new flag have hit out, branding it ‘ugly’, ‘communist’ and ‘like an outer Mongolian third division football team.’  Sutherland will soon have the new emblem after designs were drawn up.  But to say the swooping eagle on a yellow and red background with three stars or “mullets”, has not gone down well is an understatement, and questions have been raised over what it has to do with the county.  One opponent likened the flag to one of “an outer Mongolian third division football team” one said the bird looked more like a ‘budgie’ and another likened it to a “communist flag”.  Carey Kerr said: “It is horrific. The last place I think of when I see that flag is Sutherland. There is absolutely nothing Scottish about it. A very sad outcome.” Sutherland’s Lord Lieutenancy team had organised the competition to find an image for a new flag that would “unify” the county. The new flag will be officially launched at an event later in the year, to be attended by the Lord Lyon, who has given his seal of approval to the design.  Sutherland is only the fifth of 34 Scottish counties to secure its own distinct flag and the third mainland county to do so, following its neighbour Caithness in January 2016 and Kirkcudbrightshire, later that year. Orkney and Shetland both have their own flags but Lord Lieutenant Dr Monica Main said: “You can’t please everyone”. There were 328 entries for the contest, which was launched last September and ended in November.  An 11-strong selection panel eventually chose three winners with the final design an amalgam of all three.  However, the criticism of the design centres around the yellow and gold colour and the use of the eagle rather than a wildcat – seen to be the traditional emblem of Sutherland.

Edinburgh One of First UK Cities to Get ‘Ultrafast’ Fibre Broadband

Edinburgh is one of eight UK cities to be the first to benefit from an “ultrafast” broadband network which will see households able to get speeds of up to one gigabyte per second. The new Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) programme is set to be rolled out across the city in the first phase of a programme which will reach up to three million homes and businesses across the UK by the end of 2020, offering speeds 24 times faster than the average broadband connection – fast enough to stream 200 HD Netflix movies simultaneously. Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester are also among the cities where work will start later this year, under new proposals to extend the rollout by 50 per cent. Broadband infrastructure provider Openreach said 40 UK towns, cities and boroughs will eventually be connected with FTTP networks, which provide a fibre optic connection the entire way from the telephone exchange to a home or business. Traditional fibre broadband connects to an on-street cabinet with a fibre connection, then to individual premises with a copper cable, making it more difficult to obtain top speeds.  Openreach has estimated that the cost of building FTTP in towns and cities over the next three years to be around £300 to £400 per premises passed.

Last Updated (Saturday, 03 February 2018 02:25)