Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 439

Issue # 439                                     Week ending Saturday 10th  February 2018

Is it Time for Everyone to Learn What A Forecaster is Actually Talking About?
By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

The snow is back. It may snow and turn to sleet again tomorrow. However, on tonight’s TV weather forecast, how will you know? They may tell you by putting a wee icon on the weather map. Do you know what they put up to represent sleet? Is it a wee umbrella? Some people think it is and a whopping 48 per cent of people, when asked, had no clue whatsoever. Yes, it is that wee cloud thingummy with a couple of drops and a couple of stars as snowflakes under it. Now, what is the one for intermittent rain? See? You really are a numpty.

The Met Office is so concerned about this that they are going to consider a proposal to start using slang terms to discuss the weather. I am not quite sure that posh weatherman that comes on each Sunday lunchtime is ready to say: “And if you live in Stornoway, do not go out as it is blowing a right hooley.” Nowadays they like you to share your local weather via social media. “And thank you to Mrs Maciver up there for sending us a photo of her bloomers billowing in the brisk south-westerlies. We’ll be showing them in our late forecast tonight - well after the watershed.”

The big problem is how to convey a rainy day which in Scotland is often dreich. Depending on where we live, we all have different ways of saying: “Hey look everyone, it is raining outside.” In Gaelic we say: “Tha an uisge ann” or “there is rain”. But uisge is also the word for water, particularly as in the water of life. So, if it starts raining, what better reason to stay in and have a wee dram? So, depending on the company you are in, if someone says “uisge a rithist”, or “rain again”, it is absolutely fine to take that as a question and reply “Och, I don’t mind if I do. Mine’s a large one.”

You see the problem? In Glasgow they say it’s pelting it down, in Manchester they say it is lashing it down, and in London, the usual expression is that it is caning it down. Of course, they say what they like in Aberdeen because no one else understands a flipping word of that Doric stuff they come out with at the best of times. Thon loon fae Laurencekirk tells me a popular piece of Doric gibberish for rain is ding - as “it’s nae half dinging doon a day.” That’s just “Goodness me. The rain is falling really quite heavily.”  In some parts of Scotland, heavy showers that soak you quickly are said to be plowtery. That’s strange because that is also what comes out when people from Uist try to say the word poultry.

Brummies tend to say it is tipping it down and those in Yorkshire are the ones who will most often say it is chucking it down. Mind you, just about everywhere, a downpour will have people exclaiming that it is p- ... Oh wait, I don’t know if I can write this in a family newspaper. They say p- ... Will my dear readers be offended if I write this? I’ll chance it. They say it is persistently precipitating. It’s these long words, you see, they rub people up the wrong way. You have to be careful with weather terms. The important thing is being understood by everyone. So if the forecaster says it is brass monkeys out there, most people will understand but you may not want to explain to granny about the derivation. Yeah, Met Office. You have a problem.

Talking about the weather can get complicated. I am reading here that when they say it is going to be breezy, that is not a rough guesstimate but a wind specifically predicted in the range of 15 miles per hour to 25 mile per hour with mild or warm temperatures. Meanwhile, brisk is wind in the same range when the temperature is cold. Ah, but how do they define cold? Er, this book doesn’t actually say.

Like so many things in life, bad weather is not all bad. It can also be enchanting and awe-inspiring. When the snow is falling, my wife and I love to watch each perfectly-formed flake dropping from the heavens above and being carried on a cushion of light air then nestling with the others on perfect pillows of vivid white. It is a lovely sight and Mrs X finds it really hypnotic and captivating. Since it began to snow early this morning, she has not moved away from that window. I should probably think about letting her in now.

Wolves Not the Answer in Alladale
A new conservation organisation set up by Alladale Estate owner Paul Lister is pushing once again for the reintroduction of wild predators to his Highland estate, writes Anne Macdonald. The European Nature Trust (TENT) has teamed up with London-based consultants Conservation Capital to promote Mr Lister’s vision of a 50,000 acre “Highland wilderness reserve”. TENT’s full consultation paper, published by Community Land Scotland, claims that “due to centuries of human pressure, the Scottish Highlands has lost most of its original native forest cover and several key native species have disappeared”. Consequently, “biodiversity remains low and ecosystem services are failing — a situation exacerbated by climate change.”  The panacea put forward to solve this problem is blanket woodland, guarded by large-scale predators like lynx, wolves and bears. Alongside the release of these “missing” predators, plans for the reserve include: tree planting and peatland restoration, nature and wildlife tourism, luxury, medium-range and camping accommodation, and “nature-friendly consumer products”.  The proposal claims that over £6,000,000 in annual revenues could be generated by the end of ten years and that thirty-seven full time and twenty-six part time job opportunities would be created by the scheme. Most controversially, it alleges that “through a school experiences programme, general communication and community involvement, the Highland Wilderness Reserve will be able to educate and inform local communities and visitors about the importance of ecological preservation and restoration.”  According to Community Land Scotland, “the suggested benefits of employment for local people appears as secondary to the desire to re-introduce species as a philosophical and cultural construct of how TENT think a small part of the Highlands should look and be managed. The suggestion that the TENT reserve would be able to educate local people about the benefits of the ecological preservation and restoration environment appears as patronising.” This response was endorsed by an editorial in The West Highland Free Press in January, which asserted: “Re-wilders such as Paul Lister invariably assume that the residents of this region are careless and neglectful of their environment, and need people like him to intervene and tell them what to do.”  Marcus Munro, proprietor of the Highland Shooting Centre at Altass, was manager of the Alladale Estate under a previous owner, but only lasted seven months of Mr Lister’s tenure. Mr Munro said that the leaving had saddened him, but that Mr Lister’s attitude to the indigenous population made it impossible to continue. “My father was there for thirty years, and I was there for another thirty years. He just ignores that wealth of knowledge,” he said. Mr Munro agrees that the estate’s proposal to educate local people about their environment is ill-conceived. “It’s almost like we’re not important”, he said. “People have invested in the Highlands because they think it’s beautiful. Well you know what? The people that have lived here have taken care of it. That’s why it’s beautiful.”

Police Probe Death of Fisherman
Police in the far north are investigating the death of a fisherman after he fell from his vessel. The tragedy occurred off Durness on Monday evening. It is understood he was retrieved from the water by other members of the crew but could not be revived.  The vessel has since returned to Scrabster harbour.where police are co-ordinating the investigation.

Old Wick High Goes Under the Hammer
The vacant building in West Banks Avenue was made redundant after the opening of the new east Caithness  campus in April last year.  It l was previously put up for sale by Highland Ccouncil but there was no interest so it is now being put up for auction on February 15.   The accommodation consists of a traditionally built two storey C-listed building; four 1960s teaching blocks of two to four storeys; a standalone games hall and several single storey classrooms. The floor area has been calculated at 119,424 square feet while the site area is about four acres.  “There is the possible potential for change of use and redevelopment subject to obtaining all necessary consents,” said a council spokesperson.    

Reprieve for Ten RBS Branches – But Future of 52 Others is Grim
62 Scottish branches of the RBS have been scheduled for closure. Ten now have a reprieve. RBS bosses have offered a lifeline to 10 closure-threatened Scottish branches, including Comrie.  They have promised to keep the banks open until at least the end of 2018 and will give each a chance to prove it is busy enough to retain.  However, the announcement could signal the death knell for the remaining 52 branches earmarked for closure.  RBS said its “support package” for the network nationally had been formulated following talks with the all-party Scottish affairs select committee at Westminster.  The package includes a commitment to retain ATM machines in communities where there is not another free-to-use service within 1km.  It will also see RBS commit to talks with interested development and community trusts for free transfer of buildings it owns, following closure.  Within Tayside and the surrounding area, branches in Aberfeldy, Pitlochry, Kinross, Dunblane, Montrose, Dundee (Stobswell) and Perth (South Street) remain under immediate threat. RBS has blamed changing customer habits and a fall in usage of 44% across its network since 2012 for its decision to cut physical services. It has since emerged that the drop in usage at some closure-threatened branches is significantly below that national figure.  At Comrie, the drop in usage since 2012 has been just 14%, illustrating its continued importance to the community.  Politicians have been fighting for weeks to save the branches in their constituencies, where significant protests have taken place.  Dozens gathered in Aberfeldy last month in an effort to force bosses to change their minds.

Sturgeon Angry Over Theresa May Talks Snub
A frustrated Nicola Sturgeon is angry with Theresa May about what she believes is the freezing-out of Edinburgh in the UK Government’s decision on what “end state” relationship the country should have with the EU post-Brexit.  As the Prime Minister’s “war Cabinet” meets for two crunch meetings tomorrow and Thursday to thrash out what it wants to see in the transition period and in the future relationship with the EU27, the First Minister said it was "unacceptable" that Mrs May and her senior colleagues in London were deciding on that UK-EU relationship without “meaningful engagement” with the devolved administrations. "We're seeing the Government yet again put the interests of the Conservative Party ahead of the interests of the country,” declared Ms Sturgeon.  It is over a year since the last plenary meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee, chaired by the PM, and no date has yet been set for a JMC to discuss the on-going talks with Brussels.  Commenting in the wake of Downing Street making clear the UK would not be part of any customs union following withdrawal from the EU, the FM told BBC Radio’s Today programme: "It is overwhelmingly in the interests of the country, our economy, to remain within the customs union and the single market.  It is a real frustration that there hasn’t been more discussion and engagement with not just with the Scottish Government but with all the devolved administrations. I’ll be writing in fact to the Prime Minister later today ahead of her discussions in her Cabinet sub-Committee, where, we are told, they will decide or at least make some decisions about what they are trying to achieve here.”  She added: “It’s unacceptable that that is happening without meaningful engagement without the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations.”  Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, suggested Ms Sturgeon’s account about consultation was “not entirely” accurate and that she would have known from the PM’s Lancaster House speech and other speeches the general approach of the UK Government. “Actually, there has been quite a lot of consultation with the devolved assemblies but I can understand Nicola would like to have more involvement; she always would. But I’m certain she was consulted before those speeches,” she said.  Ms Rudd noted how there had been a “lot of picking over” about the term ‘customs union’ and pointed to how the Government had published a document last summer, setting out two possible options for a future customs arrangement or partnership with the EU post withdrawal.  “I hope in the next few weeks we will be able to give some clarity to people and let me reassure Nicola Sturgeon we will make sure we talk to her about it as well,” added the Home Secretary.  Ms Rudd also sought to calm rising tensions in the Conservative Party after pro-EU MP Anna Soubry urged Mrs May to "sling out" arch Brexiteers and threatened to quit the party.  "This is the sort of debate you expect when tempers run high, when people have very strong views on either side. So, Anna's putting her views out in a characteristically robust way and we'll see what the Prime Minister's response is.  But it's no surprise to me that there are very strong views on what is such an important part of this country's future - working out how we leave the European Union - and people have very, very strongly held views."  Ms Soubry had told BBC Newsnight: "If it comes to it, I am not going to stay in a party which has been taken over by the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson. They are not proper Conservatives.  And if that means leaving the party, form some new alliance, God knows I don't know. But we just simply cannot go on like this any longer.  Something is going to have to give because if it doesn't not only will we get Jacob Rees-Mogg as our prime minister, we will get a devastating hard Brexit which will cause huge damage to our economy for generations to come."  Ms Soubry said the Government "is in hock to 35 hard ideological Brexiteers who are not Tories".  "They are not the Tory party I joined 40 years ago and it is about time Theresa stood up to them and slung 'em out," she said.  "They have taken down Major, they took down Cameron, two great leaders neither of whom stood up to them." Tory former chancellor and prominent Leave campaigner Lord Lamont branded his colleague’s remarks as “quite ridiculous”. The Scot added: “I don't want to be rude about Anna Soubry but she does sometimes tend to go over the top."

Trump Organisation’s Plan for Second Golf Course Opposed by 31,000
Campaigners have handed councillors a petition signed by 31,000 people opposed to the Trump Organisation’s plans for a second golf course in Aberdeenshire.  Proposals were submitted by the Trump Organisation for a second 18-hole course at Balmedie in 2015, three years after the first one opened.  Members of campaign organisation 38 Degrees presented the petition to Isobel Davidson, chair of Aberdeenshire’s Formartine Area Committee in Ellon on Tuesday.  Campaigners said a recent 38 Degrees/Survation poll found that of those who expressed an opinion, 68 per cent said the course’s planning application should be rejected by Aberdeenshire Council.  When “don’t knows” are included in the figures, 53 per cent said they are opposed to the course, 25 per cent supported it and 22 per cent don’t know. Stewart Kirkpatrick, head of Scotland for 38 Degrees, said: “Today’s hand-in, the huge petition and our crowd-funded opinion polling are clear evidence of strong public opposition to the Trump Organisation’s plans for a new course.  After the first course failed to deliver the promised investment and jobs bonanza, Scots now feel the new plan just won’t bring economic benefits to the area. They don’t think the first course should have gone ahead and they certainly don’t feel this one should.  Does Aberdeenshire Council really want to give a vote of confidence to this man?”  Sarah Malone, executive vice president of Trump International Golf Links, Scotland, said: “The figures presented are nonsense. The argument to build world-class golf and leisure facilities at Menie Estate was fought and won 10 years ago, which included a second golf course.  Planning consent has already been granted and the project continues to attract great support. A number of independent reports have concluded that Trump’s world-class golf course has brought significant economic benefits to the tourism industry and put Aberdeenshire on the world map.  Nothing has been lost and the leisure and tourism sector has everything to gain. The detractors who make these ignorant and false statements should be ashamed. At a time when the North East of Scotland is so focused on the diversification of its economy, the Trump investment and future plans have never been more critical.”  Aberdeenshire councillors have still to make a decision on the planning application.

Ex-boxer Hands Over £2.5 Million in ‘Dirty Money’ to Crown Office

An international businessman once accused of masterminding a massive VAT fraud has been forced to hand over £2.5 million in “dirty money”.  Former boxer Ronnie Decker has surrendered land, property, bank accounts, cash, jewellery and luxury Rolex watches to the Crown.  The Dubai-based entrepreneur did so in an out-of-court settlement with the Crown Office’s elite Civil Recovery Unit (CRU), which chases the ill-gotten gains of individuals who have not been convicted.  Mr Decker, who was born in Sierra Leone but educated in Scotland, had been fighting a forfeiture order obtained by the CRU in April 2016. The £2.5m settlement marks an end of that battle.  The CRU’s head, Denise McKay, said: “Ronnie Decker set out to line his own pockets and deny the public purse of millions of pounds through a systematic abuse of the VAT repayments system.  Uncovering the fraud involved a financial investigation that spanned the globe and required the cooperation of numerous agencies in many different countries.”  The action against Mr Decker is one of the biggest and most complex of its kind ever taken by the Scottish Crown. Assets recovered were in several countries, including France and Antigua, the CRU said.  Mr Decker was previously accused of helping to organise a VAT fraud using a Glasgow firm called Q-Tech Distribution. The fraud was initially valued at more than £48m.  He did not show up for his trial at the High Court in Perth in 2008. A warrant was issued for his arrest but charges were later dropped. A director of Q-Tech, Mohammed Sarfraz Sattar, also faced proceeds of crime action. He eventually settled out of court and paid £1.27m.  Another man, Michael Voudouri, was jailed for 10 years in 2014 for his part in the VAT fraud. Voudouri, who was only jailed after he was extradited from North Cyprus, admitted laundering more than £10m through various jurisdictions. Diamonds and designer watches taken from Mr Decker were sold at auction in London in December and raised more than £130,000. Other assets recovered include £82,000 found in cash in his house, more diamonds, a house valued at £380,000 and money from investments, bank accounts and a pension policy.  The CRU said it worked alongside HMRC and authorities across the globe to examine bank accounts and other assets held in several countries. Charlie Merrick, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, praised his organisation’s partnership with the CRU.  He said: “We are dedicated to ensuring that those who owe money to HMRC pay in full.”  CRU lawyers have to prove their case on the civil proof of “balance of probabilities” rather than the criminal one of “beyond reasonable doubt”.  The £2.5m from Mr Decker is not the biggest amounted recovered under proceeds of crime laws. It is dwarfed by £6.5m seized from Russian businessman Anatoly Kazachkov in 2010 and the £13.9m in dirty profits surrendered by Weir Group in the same year after it admitted criminal sanctions- busting in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.  Money raised from such actions – along with criminal proceeds of crime seizures – go to fund Scottish Government good causes around the country.

A New State-of-the-art Radar is Predicted to Give Scots Earlier and More Accurate Warning of Rain and Floods.

The Met Office say that new scientific advancements of Scotland's rainfall radar network has been completed and will ultimately lead to improvements in the accuracy of where there will be downpours.  For the first time, the new radar can capture the size and shape of raindrops and snowflakes which helps improve the skill of weather forecasts, the forecasters say. The project will lead to better rainfall predictions particularly in mountainous terrain in Scotland and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency say it will help cut the impact of flooding in Scotland with better predictions for forward planning.  The Met Office said that in the past anything from birds and insects, to hills and buildings, have interfered with the original vertical radar signal and "therefore returned false data".  "The new upgrade means the radar can send two beams at once, one horizontally the other vertically, meaning we can visualise objects in three dimensions. By picturing the size and shape of objects, we can discount flying creatures and ground clutter from the signal and the data being fed in our weather prediction models," said. a Met Office spokesman.  The roll out was motivated by the need to replace an increasingly difficult to maintain radar network and the radar network is now more resourceful than before and there’ll be fewer engineering problems and less downtime in future.  The improvements have been made to the four weather radar systems in Scotland including stations on the Isle of Lewis and Munduff Hill, Perthshire.  The new system was developed in-house by Met Office engineers, using what it described as "unparalleled levels of skill and expertise" meaning it has a number of unique capabilities not found on commercial radar.  The new radar delivers five time more data, with almost a terabyte being received from each radar over the course of a year.  The Met Office can now record 1.8 million rainfall observations per hour per radar and can identify swarms of insects or flocks of birds over 25 miles away. Pat Boyle, head of strategic relationships for devolved administrations at the Met Office said: “Weather radar provides the only means of measuring the spatial extent and distribution of rainfall over a wide geographical area.  The most intense rainfall events are often highly localised and can therefore be missed or under-sampled by rain gauge networks, and whilst their occurrence can be forecast with skill, it is often not currently possible to forecast their exact location. Radar therefore provides a crucial input to short-range weather forecasts (nowcasts) of precipitation rate, and improves the skill of weather forecasts when it is assimilated into numerical weather prediction models.”  David Pirie, Scottish Environment Protection Agency's evidence and flooding director said; “We’re delighted to see the completion of this project.  It will enhance our joint capability in forecasting river and surface water flooding events with improved accuracy and longer lead time. It is an essential step in achieving our aim of reducing the impact of flooding in Scotland”.  The stations will include Doppler technology which allows the radars to observe how the rainfall is moving, including a wind measurement.  The systems also now include 'dual polarisation' which allows the radar beams to travel both horizontally and vertically through the atmosphere means that the Met Office can now examine the shape of raindrops. This, in turn, provides understanding the structure of the raindrops and helps forecasters accurately pinpoint the difference between rain, hail and snow.

Westminster Showing "Contempt for Scotland" Over Brexit Papers
Westminster has been accused of showing “contempt for Scotland" after suggesting it would only allow MSPs to view controversial Brexit analysis in a guarded room for a 12-hour time period.  UK Brexit minister Robin Walker gave MSPs less than 24 hours’ notice regarding the arrangements, which come as many Scottish politicians prepare for parliamentary recess. In a letter sent to the Scottish Parliament's Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, dated February 7, Mr Walker said MSPs would be able to view the documents during working hours on Thursday and Friday at the Scotland Office on Melville Crescent in Edinburgh.  But MSPs said they only received the letter at 1pm – meaning they had already lost half a day’s viewing time.  The Scotland Office later insisted it had “made clear” that the Brexit documents would be available to view from Thursday onwards via appointment, despite Mr Walker’s letter only referencing four three-hour time slots.  Only eight MSPs will be allowed to examine the papers at any one time, with “at least one” UK Westminster Government official present throughout. MSPs also need to make an appointment in advance.  The Brexit analysis, which was previously leaked, shows Scotland is forecast to lose at least £15 billion in growth if no Brussels deal is agreed.  Mr Walker wrote: “Members will be issued a visitor’s pass and be escorted to the reading room by a UK Westminster Government official. When members enter the reading room, they will be required to sign in and indicate their acceptance of the rules of the reading room. There will be at least one UK Westminster Government official in the reading room at all times.”  His letter adds: “In keeping with the arrangements for previous reading rooms under this and previous governments, no mobile phones or other electronic or recording devices will be permitted in the reading room.  Members will be able to write notes which can be taken away when they leave. It will not be possible to remove any of the documents from the reading room to photograph, scan or copy in any way. Any unauthorised disclosure of the documents or information contained within them is strictly prohibited."  Joan McAlpine MSP, who posted the letter to social media, said it showed “total contempt” for the Scottish Parliament.  She added: “They think a last minute invite to view the analysis they denied existed – at the other side of town, while parliament is sitting – is good enough. Well it isn’t.”  Scottish Labour's Brexit spokesman Neil Findlay said: "This is an absolute nonsense, and takes no consideration of MSPs who have constituencies far from Edinburgh - or indeed the fact that Holyrood is sitting at those times on a Thursday. This is the shambolic Tory approach to Brexit summed up."  Greens external affairs spokesman Ross Greer MSP insisted “the Tories’ contempt for Scotland knows no bounds”. He added: “They’ve chosen to make this information available to MSPs for just 12 hours over two days with no prior notice – two days in which we have committees, debates and constituency business.  Given the massive economic damage this analysis predicts, it's no surprise they're making it as difficult as possible for us to know any more than what has already been leaked.  It’s like the planning application from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - in the cellar, with no lights or stairs and at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet in a disused toilet behind a sign saying Beware Of The Leopard. Except this isn’t fiction.”A UK Westminster Government spokesperson said: “We wanted to give MSPs the opportunity to view the document before recess.  That’s why, in the letters to the Presiding Officers, we made clear that the reading rooms would be open from Thursday 8 February. If MSPs would like to return to review the document at any point (including after recess) they would be very welcome to do so.”

Comment -R

The majority of UK voters may have voted to leave the UK, but that was only on the basis of emotional statements from those who should know better, with regards to e.g. immigration. And of course the ridiculous claim of an amount of money that would be spent on the NHS. But, be clear, in Scotland they voted 62% to remain in the EU, 38% to leave, and in that regard, the Scots, together with Northern Ireland displayed a distinct difference from England and Wales. Now, if Mrs May claims to be listening to the devolved governments in the UK then she would be showing greater respect to them, instead of completely shutting them out, for, in the act of ignoring the Scottish government they are also ignoring the people of Scotland.  However, I fully expect that the BritNats will not be willing to take that on board.  How can Westminster politicians of the BritNat variety expect the people of Scotland to go along willingly with what they are doing when they repeatedly display the utter arrogance and contempt of Scotland & the Scots as shown in recent weeks.

Ambitious Plans for Remote Highland Island of Tanera Mor Revealed

It is the largest of the Summer Isles, the remote archipelago said to have inspired the cult horror film The Wicker Man.  Now ambitious plans could breathe new life into Tanera Mòr, which lies off the Coigach peninsula near Ullapool, by making it a “world class” holiday location.  A planning application would restore a track around the island while a broader vision would see historic buildings redeveloped, holiday accommodation opened and three individual communities established.  Tanera Mor was bought last year by English hedge fund tycoon Ian Wace for £1,695,000 - far less than the £2.5m asking price when it was originally put on the market in 2013.  Mr Wace, who has a reported net worth of £505m, will oversee a four-year programme of improvements on Tanera Mor which could see it become an idyllic retreat capable of hosting up to 60 paying guests.  A project report submitted to planners said the scheme would “safeguard and enhance the island’s natural, built and cultural assets for generations to come”.  The underlying ethos of the project is a profound respect for the Island’s rich cultural and natural heritage,” it added. “Work will be carried out to the highest standard, and wherever possible will use local expertise and labour to add additional value to the existing community on the mainland and the surrounding area.”  The 796 acre island features a sheltered deep water anchorage, several cottages and a post office which produces its own private stamps.  All letters posted on Tanera Mòr must bear two stamps - a Summer Isles stamp to carry it from Tanera to the mainland and a Royal Mail stamp for the rest of the journey.  It was once a thriving fishing community until it suffered from the decline in the industry and has seen periods of being uninhabited since 1991, although there are now some residents. Three communities - at Ardnagoine, Tigh-an-Quay and Garadheancal - are to be created so different groups of guests can occupy Tanera at a time or one large party can take over the entire island.  Buildings will be made from “ruined structures” which are to be redeveloped “in keeping with their historical context and place within the wider landscape”. Cafes, social spaces and a church will also be built alongside an already existing post office. Staffing would include up to 10 full-year residents, with an additional 20 part-time workers. Developers hope the island, accessible by a ferry service from near Ullapool, will be a place for people “to escape to” for celebrations or those who enjoy creative pursuits.  However, it has already hit a stumbling block as the Scottish Environment Protection Agency has objected unless modifications are made to the tracks so as not to disturb peat and wetlands. The island is home to various protected species including the European otter, and it has flora which is unusual for the area as there are no sheep, rabbits or deer to feed on it.

Lewis Ignores Trump and His NHS Attack Helps Explain Why
Donald John Trump has never shown the slightest real interest in his Hebridean connections and, to the great credit of the island from which his mother was an economic migrant, it has reciprocated by paying the least possible attention to him.  It would have been different if she had come from Ireland. By now there would be a Trump Trail, lots of tourist tat and perhaps a moving statue. But Lewis has done its best to ignore its most famous son while he, patently, has assimilated absolutely nothing from its history or values.  Occasionally, that seems like a pity. An example was last Sunday when Trump crowed via Twitter: “Thousands of people are marching in the UK because their universal system (of health care) is going broke and not working”. With his unerring ability to get the wrong end of every stick, Trump appeared to believe that people were demonstrating against the NHS and its “universalism” rather than in defence of that principle.  If only, at some point in his life, he had done a little listening and learning in the croft house kitchens of Lewis, how different things might have been. Possessed with even the scantest knowledge of his own people’s history and the society his mother was born into, it would surely be impossible to vent such ignorant hostility towards the concept of “socialised medicine”.  For there was no corner of the United Kingdom which benefited more from the NHS’s creation. Indeed, his mother’s native island and the poverty which it endured were at the roots of the first great experiment in universal health provision, free, or almost free, at the point of use – the Highlands and Islands Medical Service.  In the early part of the last century, the system which Trump upholds prevailed in the Highlands and Islands as elsewhere. If someone needed a doctor, they paid. Most people could not afford it (like the 28 million in the United States who have no health insurance today) so they postponed a visit to the last possible moment, when often it was too late. There was a recent story about a New York man who won a million dollars in a lottery. Only then could he afford to visit a doctor who promptly diagnosed advanced cancer. He died a few weeks later. That pretty much sums up the case against Trump’s preferred system, just as countless similar experiences in the last century made the case for change in all civilised countries – and in the Highlands and Islands, possibly before anywhere else. Conditions were so dire that in 1911, the Secretary of State for Scotland, Lord Pentland, asked Sir John Dewar, the whisky baron, to lead a Committee of Inquiry into provision for medical care in the Highlands and Islands. The Dewar Report was devastating and, of all the evidence which the committee heard, the most harrowing was in Lewis.  The Dewar Report did not mince its words: “That such a condition of affairs as we found in Lewis should exist within twenty-four hours of Westminster is scarcely credible. Nor is it creditable from a national standpoint.” As a direct result of the Dewar Report, an embryonic scheme of universal health care was created, built on affordable access to doctors and a network of newly trained nurses.  It was a great social reform which – alongside improved sanitation and housing - slowly transformed conditions throughout the Highlands and Islands, most markedly in the Western Isles. It was not until the NHS came along in 1948 that the final attack on diseases associated with poverty – TB and polio among them – prevailed. If only Donald John Trump could comprehend and apply a little of that history.  Recalling the Highlands and Islands Medical Service points to another truth worth reinforcing before political mythology carries all before it. There is a long and honourable history, decades before Holyrood was conceived of, where Scotland did things differently from the rest of the UK and led the way in enlightened reforms which others then followed.  The treatment of young offenders and the right to education of children with special needs are two noble examples that spring to mind and there were many more, delivered through Scottish legislation at Westminster. Indeed, the ongoing challenge for the Scottish Parliament is to deliver as much progressive social reform as was achieved without the benefit of its deliberations in the preceding post-war decades. It’s that kind of history which makes many Scots feel a strong distaste when everything that has gone before is dismissed in order to give succor to a new political orthodoxy. Take for example a tweet of Trumpian stupidity this week from Dr Philippa Whitford MP, who felt called upon to advise the nation: “The choice is simple. Independence or subservience. Eventually Scots will have to choose.”  Personally, I have never felt remotely subservient and have no intention of doing so under prescription from Dr Whitford. She has previous form when it comes to dramatic statements. During the 2014 referendum campaign (when she was obliged to apologise to fellow NHS professionals in England for gross misrepresentation), Dr Whitford presented us with an ultimatum: “In five years, England will not have an NHS and, in ten years, if we vote No, neither will we.”  Like Trump, she fell victim to her own hyperbole. Pretending that the NHS is on the verge of collapse is as disrespectful as American hostility to universal provision is irrational. The NHS is far stronger than the rhetoric which surrounds it and the vast majority of people who experience it are grateful and satisfied, rather than intent on predicting its doom. And, of course, we are fully entitled to do things differently in Scotland if we want to.  Pressure for a better NHS should never stop because there will always be new needs and demands. It should be recognised that it is not all about money. But pretending, from any quarter, that the system is on the verge of breakdown in order to make a political point scarcely does justice to the importance of the institution or faces up to the genuine challenges which any government will have to cope with.

Scottish Charity Helps Malawi Farmers Achieve Water Security
A pioneering water stewardship standard adopted by a multinational drinks giant could help bring prosperity to farmers in one of the world’s most impoverished nations thanks to the work of a Scottish charity.  Edinburgh-based Water Witness International is helping communities in Malawi make better use of their precious water resources with an approach already backed by Diageo, which produces some of the world’s best known drinks brands.  Securing access to water for all is one of the most pressing global challenges, with United Nations -studies projecting that, by 2030, 3.9 billion people will be living in areas with severe water problems.  Malawi, known as the warm heart of Africa, already faces huge water challenges as a result of increasingly erratic rainfall patterns and a rapidly expanding population.  Most of its population are farmers whose income and livelihoods are dependent on the rain falling at the right time for their crops to grow.  Water Witness International hopes to address this by expanding its water stewardship standard to the country. Along with the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), it has created a standard much similar to the Recycling Mark for paper or the Rainforest Alliance Certification for coffee.  The water standard ensures big business - and now Malawian communities - use water efficiently and without polluting supply or impacting on water sources for the surrounding community. The charity does not build infrastructure but instead educates and trains local people to demand better services from government and benefit from the water laws that are already in place.

Last Updated (Saturday, 10 February 2018 04:47)