Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 443

Issue # 443                                     Week ending Saturday 17th  March 2018

My apologies for missing last weeks edition but I’m afraid an emergency ambulance to the nearest A& E Department drove everything out of my mind.  Back home now but with no definitive diagnosis and some time with tests gu leoir.  Now to your news fix. Robin

How Tattyfilarious it Was for Little Old Me to Be Asked for My ID Once Again by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

The name of Dodd and Doddy and the Diddymen from Knotty Ash is ingrained in 50-somethings upwards. So earlier this week when anyone said: “Did you hear Doddy died?”, the inevitable response had to be: “Did he?”, then “Not Diddy. Doddy. The Diddymen are fine, I think.” As the ultimate master of droll wordplay, Ken Dodd himself would have loved it. And because he was Doddy and it was beautiful day, he could get away with anything. Who else could say: “What a beautiful day. What a beautiful day for sticking a cucumber through someone’s letterbox and shouting: ‘Help help, the Martians have landed.’

Even when he was famously investigated by the taxman and hauled to court, people still loved him. He didn’t trust banks so he kept his cash in the attic. They could make a TV show from that idea. He had so many catchphrases like ‘how tickled I am’ and ‘by jove, missus’ and of course, nonsense made-up words like tattyfilarious and discomknockerated. Having the whole country joining in the daft jokes on his passing was very fitting for someone who laughed in the face of his advancing dotage. “Age doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese”, he used to say.

I had someone else’s age on my mind on Monday night. Because it was going to be Mrs X’s birthday from midnight, I decided I would dash out and get a drop of something that could be enjoyed by a lady of a certain age. Something soothing for an old throat as a nightcap when the clock struck 12. It was about 9.50pm when I got into the supermarket and the stop serving bevvy at 10pm so I grabbed the crisps and the wee golden bottle. Glè mhath, I thought. I have a few minutes before they stop serving the hooch so I picked up dips too. The charming young lady on the tills greeted me warmly and thrust my birthday bundle through yon beeping machine.

Just then a young dapper fellow strode forth with a furrowed brow. Maybe a trainee manager coming to oversee his young charges at the tills to make sure everything was going tickety-boo with the customer service aspect of the retail operations? He looked at me, all quizzical. Shop managers usually look at me that way when the card machine goes “Bee-ee-eep.” Computer says no. I had not even presented my debit card to the beep-beep. The tyro supervisor came out with those few immortal words that hearken back to a forgotten time long ago. He said: “Sir, may I see your ID?”

Not a trace of a smile played upon his lips. Oh heck, he’s serious. Have I got ID? I have only my loyalty cards for Tesco and the Co-op - how’s that for loyalty? And a book of stamps and receipt for fuel for my van. Haoi, why am I looking? This is just ridiculous. I beg your pudding, young sir. Not for two score years or so have I been asked that question. I know, you do the maths. With my chiselled jawbone structure and baronial Bernera brogue, I have never been mistaken for an under-age whippersnapper trying to wheedle an illicit drammie from some sweaty nightspot or late-night mart ... ever. As an under-age whippersnapper, I may have been mistaken for a more mature person but that is another story and anyway that was a long time ago. Obviously.

Yet, I was secretly delighted at my check-out humiliation. Deep down, I knew I was being wound up, of course, but deeper down I also enjoyed the feeling of déjà vu from way back. I felt naughty, I felt illegal, I felt like doing a runner but I’d left my sandshoes at home. Then my tormenters broke into nervous laughter and I had to pay up like everyone else. I told the dapper fellow that he had made my day - and he had - but as I scuttled out I was also plotting revenge. He was going to read about himself on Wednesday. Mwah-ha-ha-ha.

Of course, I have to be very careful and not name the supermarket where I was so utterly devastated at being asked for my ID nor the recalcitrant himself who had pretended to demand it so sternly. The cove did have me going for a bit but I would not want him to get into any bother. Oh, you want a clue, do you? See you readers, you are awful. As Ken Dodd is supposed to have said when he used to stash all his tenners up in the loft, every little helps.

SBC Granted More Than £1m to Help Fund Tapestry Visitor Centre in Galashiels
Scottish Borders Council is to receive more than £1 million to go towards creating the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre in Galashiels.  The money is part of the Scottish government's £26 million Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, which aims to support disadvantaged and rural communities.  And today local government minister Kevin Stewart has announced 24 projects across the country will be given cash – including the new Galashiels visitor centre, which has been allocated a total of £1,180,000.  He said: "I’m really pleased that 24 fantastic, locally-driven projects will benefit from this major injection of funding. Spanning the length and breadth of the country, they will help regenerate local areas, stimulate inclusive growth and create new jobs.  The focus of the projects range from tackling social isolation, mitigating welfare cuts, providing training opportunities, creating business space and increasing tourism – to name but a few. They are an excellent example of how national and local government are working together on shared priorities that benefit local communities."

Plans for New Car Park in Centre of Thurso

Thurso could be in line to get some extra town centre car parking if plans to redevelop Olrig Street playing fields bear fruit.  The tennis courts, putting green, children’s play park and greenhouses have been included in a consultation exercise carried out by Thurso Community Development Trust.  Proposals mooted include the conversion of the double tennis court into car parking and the development of a men’s shed along with a creative arts studio.  Councillor Karl Rosie said: "The tennis courts could be a relatively low-cost transformation to much-needed town centre car parking and an additional opportunity exists to relocate the bus shelter on Olrig Street with more appropriate shelter and seating being provided at this location.  Mr Rosie believes the development would also help bring visitors to the town centre while enjoying the North Coast 500 route.

High Noon As Sturgeon Prepares to Take on May Over Powergrab by Iain Macwhirter:
If anyone had any doubts that Brexit posed a threat to the powers of the Scottish parliament, they need only have listened to the Tory MP Bernard Jenkin addressing the devolution conference organised last week by the Brexit think tank, UK in a Changing Europe. Not only did he say that Scotland and Wales had been “allowed to vote in our EU referendum” - gee thanks for that - he airily dismissed as “fantasy” the idea that the Scottish Parliament could lose powers and influence as a result of the EU Withdrawal Bill. Jenkin, who chairs the powerful Commons Constitutional Affairs Committee, insisted that the Scottish parliament never really had powers over matters like agriculture, and only ever implemented policies imposed by Brussels. Now that the UK was taking over from Brussels, “nationalists” had no right to insist that the powers should gravitate to Holyrood or Cardiff. Thus spoke the authentic voice of post-imperial Brexit nationalism.

It must have come as something of a shock to MSPs in Holyrood to learn that they didn’t really have those 111 plus EU-derived responsibilities, which even Whitehall identified as falling under Holyrood’s remit. These include animal welfare, food standards, food labelling, pesticides, genetically modified crops, agricultural support, fisheries, etc - all of which the UK government intends to keep at Westminster pro tem. Of course, these powers were exercised within policy frameworks set at a European level, but that didn't mean they weren't part of Holyrood's jurisdiction – a reality that the Scottish government is attempting to nail down by passing the Legal Continuity Bill. This basically freezes the status quo and incorporates EU laws into Scots law. That emergency legislation received the overwhelming backing of the Scottish parliament last week, despite the reservations of the Presiding Office, Ken Macintosh.  Now, Jenkin did accept the inconvenient truth that, under the Scotland Act, 1998, matters not specifically reserved to Westminster are 'automatically' powers of the Scottish parliament. As the House of Lords EU committee reported last year, powers repatriated from Brussels become Holyrood's “by default” - (only now are we are realising just how radical the late Donald Dewar's drafting of the 1998 Scotland Act really was) -but the Tory MP brushed this constitutional nicety aside because, well, Brexit has changed the rules. The Scottish parliament was subordinate to Brussels in the past, and now it is subordinate to Westminster, and that's that. So, now we know.  Number 10's approach is less confrontational than Jenkin's, who is a hard line Brexiteer, but it has made clear that it will impose its will over powers that it regards as essential to the creation of the UK internal market. On Friday, The UK Cabinet Secretary, David Lidington, insisted that at least 24 would be held at Westminster until such time as there is a level playing field across the entire UK. Different rules on things like food standards or genetically modified crops might impede the UK government's ability to strike trade deals with non EU countries, while divergences on standards of animal welfare or food hygiene might increase the costs of trading within the UK. Brexit requires a unitary British state.

Now, the Scottish Brexit minister, Mike Russell, has accepted that there should be these agreed frameworks across the whole UK, but says Scotland should give its “consent” to any changes in its powers. It must be by agreement and not by imposition. The UK government is sticking here, and doesn't want to give what might be a Scottish veto on changes, say, to agricultural support payments, worth around half a billion pounds. Such is the current deadlock. The UK government believes voters don’t really care much about the division of powers and will accept that Westminster should prevail at least in the meantime. Devolution is a complex issue, to be sure. Unlike independence, which is pretty straightforward, the debates about Schedule 5 of the Scotland Act, and its relationship to Clause 11 of the EU Withdrawal Bill, are highly technical.  Indeed, when you look closely at the powers of the Scottish parliament, they can appear to come away in your hands. Holyrood is a quasi-federal parliament which exercises sovereignty, but only to the extent that Westminster allows it. That was Donald Dewar's solution to the conundrum of how to allocate limited sovereignty to the Scottish parliament in a unitary state. This quasi-ness was supposed to have been addressed after the independence referendum, when the revised Scotland Act supposedly “entrenched” the Sewel Convention such that, as a matter of law, Westminster could not legislate in devolved areas without consent. But Sewel became somewhat un-entranched again last year during the Supreme Court's deliberations on the Miller case on parliament's right to vote on Article 50. The Law Lords ruled that Sewel is still merely a “convention”, not a law, and that Westminster can impose consent if it really needs to do so. Looked at through this constitutional hall of mirrors, it sometimes seems as if Holyrood never had any sovereign powers at all - that they were merely on loan from Westminster.

That indeed, is what many Scottish nationalists have always believed. Power devolved is power retained, as SNP MPs used to say before Alex Salmond persuaded them to support the campaign for a Scottish parliament in the 1990s. Many in the SNP still regard devolution as, at best, a diversion from the true path of independence, and at worst a devious plot by the English to confuse the natives by giving them what Billy Connolly called a “pretendy parliament”. In joining with the Labour First Minister of Wales in trying to defend the constitutional status of Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon risked being accused of hitching the independence movement to a chimera.

But I believe she deserves credit for standing up for devolution. It's good politics too. There's no doubt that if Clause 11 of the EU Withdrawal Bill had passed in its original form, Holyrood would have been very much reduced as a parliament. It was indeed a “naked power grab” by a UK government rattled by Brexit and determined to clear away any devolutionary obstacles to Britain's departure from the EU. By allying with a Labour political leader, the Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones, Sturgeon may have supped with the SNP's arch enemies, but it was worth it. She has made a very clear statement that when it comes to Scotland's interests, the SNP is not just a sectarian organisation, obsessed with independence-and- nothing-less. She has acted in concert with all the non-Tory opposition parties in the Scottish parliament to try to keep intact Donald Dewar's legacy.  It is significant that the opposition parties are no longer reciting their mantra that Nicola Sturgeon should stop obsessing about indyref2 and “get on with the day job”. That's exactly what she has done in the run-up to the final confrontation with Theresa May this week. If she loses, and Holyrood's limited sovereignty is eventually extinguished by Brexit, she'll be able to say that at least she tried. And if Scottish voters conclude that independence is now the only way to ensure that Scotland's interests can be protected in the new, highly centralised, post-Brexit UK, she won't argue with them.

Dougie Maclean’s Music Festival is Set to Make A Comeback
Singer-songwriter Dougie MacLean is to revive the annual music festival which has drawn fans from around the world to his native Perthshire.  The Caledonia singer has announced that Perthshire Amber will be making a comeback in a “scale-back, simplified” form this autumn.  MacLean had axed the festival after 12 years in 2017 due to the amount of work involved in staging the event.  It had been organised by MacLean, his wife Jenny and their family from its inception in 2005, when it started as a two-day event.  Perthshire Amber was gradually extended to become a ten-day event attracting upwards of 10,000 fans. The festival, which has been staged across Perthshire, was estimated to be worth £1 million to the economy. Its cancellation last year was a major blow to Perthshire, which also suffered from the demise of the  T in the Park festival.  MacLean has traditionally performed on every day of the Perthshire, alongside a hand-picked line-up of leading Scottish musicians and singers. Among the acts to appear at the event over the years have been Duncan Chishol, Rachel Sermanni, Martin Carthy, Julie Fowlis, Eddi Reader, Emily Smith and Karine Polwart. The new festival is expected to be largely focused on Dunkeld, near MacLean’s home -village of Butterstone, with a gala at Perth Concert Hall.  A statement on the Perthshire Amber website from Jenny MacLean, the director of the festival, said: “It has definitely been good for us to have a break from organising the festival in 2017.  As a result Dougie and I had a truly creative year with more time for our wonderful grandchildren and the rest of our family … and watercolours, mountain biking, gardening, cooking up storms, songwriting and recording.  At the same time you must all realise that Dougie and I genuinely love getting together with our team and bringing together folk from all over the world to enjoy Perthshire in the autumn, as well as sharing the music of course.  So our plan is to distill Perthshire Amber right back to a weekend in 2018. For the festival to carry on for years to come (as we would all like it to) it must be something that we all look forward to. A scaled-back, simplified festival will give more time for our organising team to enjoy each other’s company and the music.”

Funding Cuts Will Damage Communities - Warning
Christmas lights could be ditched, play park maintenance shelved, local events scrapped and donations to needy charities halted as a result of budget cuts by Highland Council.  The warning, from community councils in and around Inverness, follows reductions of between 48 per cent and 58 per cent in their annual grants for basic running costs.  Some could fold, it has been claimed, because they will no longer afford to operate.  Play parks could be especially hard hit due to Highland Council’s decision to reduce direct funding for the facilities.  Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson has praised the organisations but defended the cut because it will help safeguard front-line services. She also dismissed claims that the volunteer groups are being expected to do more as part of a "big society" or what she calls "localism".  Alarm bells rang at a meeting of the Association of Inverness Area Community Councils (AIACC) which represents 28 of the groups.  One example given was Smithton and Culloden, which has faced a council grant reduction of almost two-thirds in five years.  Larger, urban community councils will see a bigger reduction than their rural counterparts.  The groups will receive an annual £400 in rural areas and £350 in urban places – plus 13p per elector within their council boundary. In 2012, that top-up was 37p per elector. In Smithton and Culloden, the rate for 2018-19 will be just over £1100 compared with £3175 six years ago.  An extra burden will be a new cost of insurance liability for hosting local events. It was previously paid by Highland Council. Community councils also fund the costs of auditing accounts. AIACC chairman David McGrath fears communities could lose out on a wide range of things including festive lights, pensioners’ lunch clubs, children’s nurseries, donations to local charities and floral displays.  He said: "We want to carry on but, ultimately, some will shut up shop. It’s quite possible that smaller councils will fold.  We’re all going to be struggling to function in future without a decent level of grant – while Margaret Davidson keeps banging on about ‘localism’ with communities taking on more duties like grass cutting, sports fields and running village halls.  Why would we, if there’s no guaranteed funding to help us?"  Council finance chiefs have conceded that reducing the overall annual £188,000 community councils’ grant by £100,000 (53 per cent) would have a "significant impact on service".  Another major issue of concern is a lack of funds to assist applications for external funding such as lottery grants and government agency aid for local projects.  A formal application requires a proper business plan, architects’ drawings and feasibility studies – all of which can cost professional fees," Mr McGrath said. Inverness South Community Council secretary Bob Roberts said: "This could get very serious. It’s not so bad for some of the communities with a large or growing population but where there’s a steady population they’re going to lose out because of the scale of the grant cut.  When you take off the cost of insurance and any other essential expenditure, it’ll leave almost nothing, which means they won’t be able to do the basic things.  I understand the council’s budgetary constraints but if they want community empowerment legislation initiated it will put more of a burden on communities."  The budget papers conceded that "this level of reduction will prove difficult for some community councils and may restrict their ability to be more involved in engagement activity in their community at a time when the (Highland) council is developing its approach to localism".  The existing grants system is due to be reviewed by Highland Council in the coming year.  Councillor Davidson said: "The £100,000 saving meant we had fewer front-line services to cut. For example, we protected pupil support assistants, street cleaners and mental health officers.  Some community councils have several thousands of pounds in reserves. If any have a problem coping financially I’d suggest they approach their ward managers and apply for a discretionary budget top-up."

Couples Invited to Tie the Knot At the New Falls of Shin Centre
Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust, which operates the centre, have decided to make the new building and its surrounds available as a wedding venue.  The Trust's Falls of Shin experience officer Dale Pryde-MacDonald said: "It's a wonderful place for a wedding.Our aim is to provide couples with a special, unique memory for a lifetime".  The venue is at the end of a road that winds through Achany Glen, alongside the River Shin, and it sits in a clearing in a pine forest.  The original Falls of Shin centre, owned by former Harrods boss Mohamed Al Faye, was razed to the ground in a fire in 2013. Its loss represented a huge economic blow to the area.  The Kyle of Sutherland Trust stepped in to rebuild the centre and the new venue opened last May.  One of a highlights of a visit there is taking a stroll to the Falls, after which the centre is named, and where salmon can be seen leaping in season.  The new building has been designed by Catriona Hill of local company CH Architecture, and is based on the concept of a leaping salmon.  It has already made quite an impression, having been shortlisted in architectural and design award competitions, including the Scottish Rural Award 2018 and the Scottish RICS Awards 2018.  Mr Pryde-Macdonald said the centre and its surroundings offered a variety of options for brides and grooms, both indoors and outside. He said: "There are fantastic photo opportunities inside and out. the building itself is stunning with its trellis walkway framed by a beautiful handcrafted metallic sculpture of a salmon's tail.  "Then there is the grass plaza and the surrounding woodland. There are so many options available, from having the ceremony on the viewing platform to having photos taken in the woodlands."  The centre has a restaurant that seats 60 people and the venue could facilitate marquees should a wedding party wish to bring one to accommodate more people.

Work Begins on New North Justice Centre
Work has begun on Scotland’s first purpose-built Justice Centre in Inverness due to be completed late 2019.  As well as providing modern court and tribunals facilities, a range of justice and support organisations will be based in the centre providing integrated facilities for victims, witnesses, litigants and other users.  Specialist facilities for children and young people will be incorporated within the design.  The Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service Chief Executive Eric McQueen and Grampian, Highland and Islands Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle officially broke the ground at the start of construction, joined by the justice centre partners.  Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Today brings us a step closer to providing new facilities to deliver a truly 21st century service. Scottish Government funding of £30 million has made the project possible, reflecting our commitment to deliver a justice system that is accessible, modern and fit-for-purpose.  The new Inverness Justice Centre will give the people of the Highlands access to modern facilities and support all in the same place, which will have a positive impact on local communities.”  Eric McQueen, SCTS Chief Executive said: “Inverness Justice Centre is a unique opportunity to bring organisations together, focussing where practical on problem-solving approaches to reduce reoffending and increase the opportunity for community sentencing.  The centre will represent the changing face of justice by including facilities and technology to remove the need for children to appear in person at court and to support the development of digital case management for summary crime in the future.” Frank Reid, managing director, Robertson Northern said: "Inverness Justice Centre will host a wide range of vital services and organisations for the local community, making this building one of the most important in the Highlands for years to come. "Being selected to work on delivering Scotland's first new Justice Centre, through Scape Group’s Major Works framework, is a proud moment and we're looking forward to getting the construction work underway and delivering a hugely significant building that the whole of the Highlands, and  Scotland, can be proud of.”  With ongoing support and funding from the Scottish Government, the SCTS is confident the justice centre will be a landmark building in the city. The design was approved by The Highland Council Planning Committee in September 2017 following extensive and successful public and stakeholder engagement. The justice centre is being constructed on the site of a former bus depot on Longman Road next to the Police Headquarters in Inverness.  In addition to the direct justice benefits, the location of the justice centre means that Inverness Castle – the current home of the courts will transfer to the Highland Council when vacant, enabling a long term desire for its use as a major tourism attraction in Inverness.  Robertson Northern Ltd is scheduled to complete the main building works in 2019.

Scotland’s Visitor Attractions Boast Record Growth in 2017

Scotland’s top visitor attractions have “outperformed” the rest of the UK for the sixth year running, according to analysis.  The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) found that Scotland’s tourist destinations had a “record-setting” 2017, with a 13.9% increase in numbers through the doors compared to the previous calendar year.  This was up against the 7.3% boost in visitor numbers recorded for sites across the UK as a whole.  For the first time in four years, the most visited attractions outside London were in Scotland, where two attractions welcomed more than two million visitors.  The National Museum of Scotland, which opened 10 new galleries in 2016, was the most visited attraction outside the UK capital.  It moved to 11th place in the overall UK list, with 2,165,601 visitors – a 20% annual increase.  World-famous Edinburgh Castle was in 12th position with a 16% increase in numbers to 2,063,709, making it the most visited paid-for attraction north of the border. Visitor numbers across the four sites for National Galleries Scotland topped 2.5 million, with a 30% increase at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.  Mary King’s Close on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile experienced a 9% boost in numbers to almost a quarter of a million, while Inverewe Garden in Wester Ross, on the North Coast 500 route, enjoyed a 109% rise. Other strong increases were recorded at Glasgow Cathedral (36%), Stirling Castle (18%), People’s Palace Glasgow (19%), Culzean Castle (11%), Crathes Castle (23%) and Culloden (27%).  Overall, 129,954,657 visits were made to the top 238 ALVA sites in the UK. ALVA director Bernard Donoghue said: “2017 was a remarkable and record-setting year for Scottish attractions. The fact that Scottish visitor attractions are outperforming the rest of the UK in visitor growth reflects years of strong investment by central and local government in Scotland.”

Site of Huge Iron Age Feast Celebration Found on Orkney

Archaeologists have identified the site of a huge Iron Age feast on Orkney where more than 10,000 animals were cooked and eaten in a vast cliff top celebration.  Tests have shown that horses, cattle, red deer and otters were on the menu at the gathering above Windwick Bay, South Ronaldsay, more than 1,700 years ago.  Archaeologists from the University of the Highlands and Islands have been working at The Cairns for several years.  A large number of jewellery fragments and tools have already been discovered at the site, where the remains of an Iron Age broch and metalworking site can be found, with recent radiocarbon tests carried out at a midden - or rubbish tip - nearby.  Examination has identified the cooked bones of around 10,000 animals in the dump. Martin Carruthers, an Iron Age expert at UHI and programme leader for MSc Archaeological Practice at the UHI Archaeology Institute, said: “These numbers tell you about the scale of the feast and the largesse of being able to have that amount of food in circulation for what appears to be a short lived event.  The feast is doing two things. Its probably celebrating the successful conclusion of the making of a big batch of jewellery.  The second point is the feast is pretty enormous and it is it probably the arena where pins and brooches are being handed out to individuals within the community.” He said the event was likely to maintain and reinforce the structure of Iron Age society on the island at a time when Romans could be found further south on the mainland.

Glasgow ‘Gin School’ Stars in National Geographic Traveller
A gin school in The Barras in Glasgow has been chosen as the top place in Scotland for a “Wild Weekend” by a prestigious global travel magazine. The latest edition of National Geographic Traveller’s ‘Best of the British Isles 35 Wild Weekends’ lists five places in Scotland in its ‘Best of the British Isles 35 Wild Weekends.  However, Crossbill Gin’s gin school, in the shadow of the legendary Barrowlands, is the only ‘city break’ on the list focussing totally on alcohol - with others ranging from joining an RSPB puffin patrol in East Yorkshire, wild swimming in North Wales to kayaking by moonlight in West Cork.  Scotland’s other recommended wild weekends are a survival skills course at Skye Ghillies on Skye; learning to drive a pack of huskies at the Cairngorm Sleddog Centre; travelling the 516-mile North Coast 500 route; stargazing at Europe’s first Dark Sky Park in Galloway Forest Park; coasteering involving jumping on and off cliffs and exploring cave off Arbroath with Vertical Descents and visiting Ardnamurchan Peninsula to enjoy the wildlife.

Holyrood Faces Being Bypassed Over Final Brexit Bill That Implements EU Deal
Holyrood faces being bypassed by Theresa May on the crucial final Brexit Bill that will put the agreed UK-EU deal into law.  The SNP leadership said such a prospect was constitutional "madness".  The UK Westminster Government intends to introduce a series of bills relating to Britain's withdrawal, including the current legislation, the EU Withdrawal Bill, which will transpose all EU law into domestic law. There will also be a number of other bills, on some of which, such as those covering agriculture and fishing, the UK Westminster Government will seek the consent of MSPs.  However, there is now a doubt as to whether or not the Prime Minister will seek agreement from the Scottish Parliament on the last but most important piece of Brexit legislation: the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill, which would put any final deal into UK law.  When asked if the UK Westminster Government would seek MSPs' consent on this bill, a spokesman for the Department for Exiting the EU said: "The Government has announced its intention to bring forward a Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill to implement the withdrawal agreement in domestic law. "As with all new legislation we will continue to work closely with the devolved administrations in preparing for a smooth and orderly exit." He then added: "The Government fully respects the Sewel Convention. As with all legislation, once the bill is further developed, the Government will consider whether the Sewel Convention applies." The convention involves Westminster seeking the consent of Holyrood if it wants to legislate on devolved matters.  Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, was dismayed by Whitehall's response, suggesting it raised the possibility that Mrs May would seek to bypass Holyrood.  "This will be the most significant Act of Parliament on Brexit and will affect the whole of the UK.  It would be madness for the UK Westminster Government to go down the route of not allowing MSPs to have a say on the most important piece of Brexit legislation." The Highland MP added: "The department's response is quite remarkable and shows Westminster does not get how devolution works. It illustrates a lack of respect for the devolved administrations."  It is thought that one possible line of argument as to why the PM would not seek the consent of MSPs, or indeed AMs at the Welsh Assembly, on the final piece of Brexit legislation is that the Implementation Bill would in effect be putting into law a new treaty and foreign affairs are reserved to Westminster.  However, given the battle Whitehall is currently having with Edinburgh and Cardiff over the Withdrawal Bill, it would be nothing compared to the constitutional row created if it did not seek to get the consent of MSPs and AMs on the final key piece of Brexit legislation.  It could be that Mrs May and her colleagues know that with regard to the Implementation Bill, Holyrood would not give its consent in any case; a bill that put into law Britain's departure from the European single market and customs union would be anathema to Nicola Sturgeon and her party.  Meanwhile, politicians on either side of the border are preparing for what has been dubbed “Super Wednesday”; at Westminster, peers will debate Clause 11 of the UK Westminster Government’s flagship EU Withdrawal Bill and its amendment that seeks to allay fears of a power-grab – so far unsuccessfully – while at Holyrood, MSPs are expected to pass the Scottish Government’s Continuity Bill, which seeks to protect the devolved settlement in the event of no agreement on the UK bill.  Earlier this week, Nicola Sturgeon emerged from Downing St talks with Theresa May in an unexpectedly upbeat mood, suggesting a deal on the Brexit legislation could be done; she said while her differences with the Prime Minister were not insignificant, nor were they insurmountable.  However, Whitehall sources have suggested the First Minister’s optimistic mood was more due to her not wanting to rock the political boat on the day of Mrs May’s keynote statement on the Russia crisis.  If, as is expected, MSPs back the Continuity Bill, then UK Westminster Government lawyers will have six weeks before Royal Assent to consider whether to mount a legal challenge, which would stop the Holyrood legislation in its tracks.  The deadline for the Conservative administration to get the consent of MSPs will come after the sixth and final day of the Withdrawal Bill’s Report Stage in the Lords; expected to be in early May.  If at this stage the Scottish Parliament is still minded to withhold consent, The Herald understands the PM and her colleagues would be determined to press on with what they regard as a “vital piece of legislation”.  At the same time, Whitehall lawyers would go to the UK Supreme Court, the arbiter of devolution issues, to block the Continuity Bill.  Such a conjunction of events would plunge Britain into a constitutional crisis.

Botched Battlefield Vote to Be Challenged
The decision to approve design changes to the controversial Culloden Battlefield homes has been suspended by Highland Council after it was revealed some councillors voted the wrong way by mistake.  The issue will now be reviewed, sparking a furious reaction from developer Kirkwood Homes.  The company dubbed the situation "a circus" and is taking legal advice. Adding to the muddle, it transpired the video recording of the vote was not switched back on immediately after an adjournment.  The 16 top-end homes won planning permission on appeal some time ago, but Highland Council requested design alterations to make the homes more in keeping with the area and on Tuesday councillors on the south planning application debated the changes.  After discussion Cllr Andrew Jarvie moved that the changes be refused on the grounds that Kirkwood had not gone far enough to enhance the scheme, and was seconded by Cllr Ron MacWilliam.  Committee chairman Cllr Jimmy Gray seconded by vice-chairwoman Carolyn Caddick then called for the plan to be approved, with Cllr Caddick remarking that if they refused it could go to appeal and the council might have to pay the costs.  After councillors pressed red, green or white buttons on their desks, the vote was declared as five for the amendment to grant, and three for the motion to refuse.  It then emerged that Cllr MacWilliam had voted to approve by mistake, and it is understood Cllr Bill Boyd his SNP colleague had done the same.  If they had voted as they apparently intended, the outcome would have been reversed.  Now a Notice of Amendment has been lodged by Cllr Jarvie and countersigned by Cllr George Cruickshank, Cllr Ron MacWilliam, Cllr Roddy Balfour, Cllr Ken Gowans, Cllr Richard Laird, Cllr Blair Allan and Cllr Bill Boyd to have the decision reviewed by the environment, development and infrastructure committee (EDI). The review will be first item on the May 17 agenda.  A spokesman for Kirkwood Homes said: "We are consulting a QC. Given that we already have Scottish Government consent for the development, the whole situation surrounding the design element has become a circus.  We made the changes which were sought, won the vote and now face a bizarre attempt to overturn it via an attempt to muddy the water of what actually happened." He added that they reserve the right to act if they feel Highland Council has not treated the application fairly.  George Kempik of the Culloden protest group said: "A possible course of action will be to cause disruption on the building site creating as much bad publicity for Kirkwood homes as possible."  Some objectors believe the development disrespects possible burial sites at Viewhill and is contrary to the Conservation Area that now covers the area. Cllr Ken Gowans called for the Scottish government to call in the application.

Fort William School ‘On Lockdown’ After Toy Gun Scare

A Highland Primary School was placed ‘on lockdown’ by concerned teachers earlier today after concerns over the behaviour of a man who was later revealed to be carrying a toy gun. Teachers at Inverlochy Primary School in Fort William implemented the procedure after reports concerning the behaviour of a man in the town centre reached police.  The BBC reported that the measure was lifted after the incident was resolved by officers from Police Scotland, who have since confirmed the nature of the operation.  Inspector Mike Middlehurst said: “We received numerous reports from members of the public about the behaviour of a man near the centre of Fort William.  I can confirm that the man has now been arrested and is in police custody. An item was recovered from the man which has since been confirmed as being a toy gun.  Nobody was injured during the incident.”