Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 444

Issue # 444                                     Week ending Saturday 24th  March 2018

A Quote is A Handy Thing to Have About, Saving One the Trouble of Thinking Oneself by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Things are not always what they seem. So many philosophers, writers and know-it-alls have come to the same conclusion that you should not take anything at face value that it must be one of the most popular pieces of perceived wisdom ever. Oh, I know you think I am going off at the deep end this week but the old quotations are still true today. Why else do we hear endlessly about dodgy politicians, fake news and cars that are never quite the amazing bargain they seemed to be at first?

Take that amazing display of the Northern Lights the other evening. To us mere mortals at our back doors, with the point-and-shoot in hand, it looked as if the very heavens had become multicoloured silk curtains which were being gently and slowly blown by the breath of some unseen force beyond the few wisps of cloud that added to that amazing array. Breathtaking or what. Put your clicker on a longer exposure to compensate for the reduced light and stand by to be amazed. Mrs X, of course, being a professional clicking person, was offski when the alerts came through from Greenland, Siberia or the International Space Station.

She was gone ages. I tossed and turned all night and then I began to worry that something had happened. When she finally tiptoed up just before dawn came peeping over Tiumpan Head lighthouse, I was wide-eyed and worried. Where the ... when the ... and what time do you call this? Don’t shush me. I am calm. What did you do? Oh, you were in Bragar? Oh, you were under Steve. OK then, goodnight. Wait a minute ... who the aurora borealis is Steve? Steve who? Wake up. I demand an answer now. You were under Steve all night in Bragar and now you want to go to sleep. Haoi blone, wake up.

Happily, not all was as it seemed. Steve, it turned out, is not a cove but an acronym - a Northern Lights thing. Steve stands for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement - which I think is also the name of the part that Ross’s Garage put in my van the other week to make it go faster. No actually, that was a Steel Turbocharging Electronic Voltage Extender. The Steve thing up in the sky though is basically a near-vertical purple line that seems to reach to the ground when the spooky unseen forces are making the aurora borealis dance across the fantasmagorical firmament. It was seen very clearly here in the islands and all the way down to Argyll. So if there is a Steve living in Bragar I am pleased to report he had his feet firmly on the ground all night ... probably.

While the quote about things not always being what they seem is popular, so are the ones about doing the right thing. Mohandas K. Gandhi, who was very troublesome for the British as he tried to get independence for India, was a very wise guy in his spare time when he was walking around in his shawl and fasting. Despite the hunger, he came out with some of the very best quotes and proverbs ever and he said: “You have to do the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” Wow, that is so true. There was one dude who knew a thing or too about the human condition.

Then there was Eleanor Roosevelt. She was the First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945 but that did not stop her saying her piece. She was a politician too but, far more importantly, she was a newspaper columnist. She had a daily column at one stage and she knew there could be a price to pay for not doing what dodgy people of poor character - even if they are friends and family - tell you, but what your heart tells you is the right thing to do. What a dame. That was why she said: “Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you'll be criticised anyway.” Yeah, sister. Right on.

Quotations are great. They can make you think, or cry, or laugh. G K Chesterton said: “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.” A good one just encapsulates what can take hours to explain. One of my own favourite quotes is from the film Naked Gun 2½. It goes: “The truth hurts. Maybe not as much as jumping on a bicycle with the seat missing, but it hurts.”

Challenge to “Wild Land” Map Under New Planning Bill
Community Land Scotland (CLS) has called for Scottish planning reform to balance the so-called “wild” land map of Scotland with a parallel map of formerly inhabited places. “While not wishing to recreate the land-use patterns of former times, CLS has an ambition for the reoccupation of at least some of Scotland’s unpeopled places,” the organisation has said. “At present, this would seem an unlikely proposition, partly, in our view, because land use planning policy does not really contemplate such a possibility.” Community Land Scotland was due to give oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee on February 28 as part of the stage one scrutiny of the Planning (Scotland) Bill currently going through parliament.  To support its argument, the land body draws on the example of the 1892 royal commission set up to establish the extent of land in use for sporting purposes which might otherwise be cultivated or occupied by crofters. The commission created a series of maps plotting land use throughout the crofting counties, marking out areas which might be set aside for new holdings or added to additional ones. Its recommendations were never fully followed through.  Patrick Krause, chief executive of the Scottish Crofters Federation, believes this issue is still of relevance to modern Scotland. He said: “As Community Land Scotland so eloquently points out, vast tracts of our land are empty but the remnants of buildings bear testament to the once thriving communities that were cleared. It would be right and just to resettle this land. Many people want to move to rural locations but there is a desperate shortage of available land. SCF have called for the creation of 10,000 new crofts and the resettlement of once occupied land would be a sensible way to satisfy this demand. If our government is being genuine in its declared desire to see Scotland’s land used by more people, it has to use this opportunity to legislate for it.” Rob Gibson, former MSP for Caithness and Sutherland, has also publicly supported Community Land Scotland’s suggestions and believes the 1892 commission’s map should form a starting point. He said: “If the 1892 recommendations had been implemented, crofters would be due more community benefit from modern renewables. If we’re talking about land for reclamation, it goes hand in hand with the modern developments for which we would use land, some of which would include woodlands and forests as well as renewable energy. It might be an extension of land to existing communities, so that there’s more potential to make an income of various sorts.”  In a written submission on the planning bill, Anders Holch Povlsen’s Wildland Ltd, which owns five estates in north-west Sutherland, said that the natural and scenic heritage of Scotland “should be the key material consideration when considering industrial scale development proposals in such designated areas”. Mr Povlsen’s call for a judicial review of the Scottish government’s decision to allow a wind farm development at Creag Riabhach on the Altnaharra Estate was overturned in court last August.

Science Festival Opens with A Bang
The Caithness International Science Festival  went off with a bang, quite literally, at its official opening evening when one experiment led to a very explosive finale. A capacity audience made up of  children, mums, dads and teachers filled a hall at Wick's Newton Park primary school for the 16th annual festival and the biggest to date.   The honorary guests included Nasa astronaut Duane ‘Digger’ Carey, former Lord Lieutenant of Caithness Anne Dunnett and the present one, Lord Thurso.  MSP Jamie Stone officially opened the festival and said: “When I was being brought up a long time ago, science seemed to be the way forward and we talked about the "‘white heat of technology". Caithness Science Festival is making that the top of the agenda again. Science and research is vital to this country’s future.”  The audience then got a taster of what to expect in the festival with James Soper finishing the preview with a deafening explosion in the hall as a balloon of hydrogen was ignited. The festival contiues on Saturday with a family science fun day.       

Scottish Tories Warn Theresa May They Could Collapse Government Over UK Fishing Rights
Angry Scottish Conservative MPs have warned Theresa May that they are prepared to collapse her Government if she reneges on a “fundamental pledge” to give Britain’s fishermen full sovereignty over UK waters from 2021. The group of 13 Scottish Tory MPs feel the issue is “totemic”; that after years, from Ted Heath onwards, when Conservatives were accused of letting down the fishing industry, they could not be seen to be doing so again.  “It’s the position of the Scottish Conservative Group that if we don’t get a guarantee of full control of UK waters after the implementation period is over, then we will be prepared to vote down the final EU Bill,” explained one MP.  Asked if the group was really prepared to see the fall of the May Government over fishing rights, he replied: “That’s how seriously we are taking this issue.”  Another MP insisted: “We don’t want to bring the Government down, obviously, but the Prime Minister knows the vote will all be about numbers. She must honour her fundamental pledge.”  The Scottish Conservative Group has previously pointed out to No 10 how, with 13 members, it is larger than the 10 Democratic Unionists, who are propping up the Government.  As David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, set out the basis for a transitional deal, which looks set to be ratified by European leaders at their meeting on Thursday, Nicola Sturgeon accused Mrs May of a “massive sell-out” of Scottish fishermen over the deal struck over the 21-month implementation period.  This will mean UK fishermen will have to abide by quotas set by Brussels until December 2020.  The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said it had been let down as UK fishing communities would be “subject to the whim and largesse of the EU for another two years”.  Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, expressed her own disappointment at the transitional deal but also warned Mrs May: “I should make it clear…I will not support a deal as we leave the EU which, over the long term, fails to deliver that full control over fish stocks and vessel access.”  John Lamont, the Tory MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, asked if he would vote down the final Brexit deal, if it did not include total control of fish stocks and vessel access, tweeted: “Yes.” Later, Ms Davidson added her own tweet, saying Mr Lamont would have her "full support" if that came to pass while her response was liked by David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary.  Their Conservative colleague Ross Thomson, who represents Aberdeen South, asked if it were indeed possible he and his Conservative colleagues could vote against their own Government should full sovereignty over fishing rights not be guaranteed, replied: “We can’t vote to betray our fishermen.” Douglas Ross, the MP for Moray, summed up the dismay and disappointment of his Scottish colleagues over the transitional deal, saying: “There is no spinning this as a good outcome; it would easier to get someone to drink a pint of cold sick than try to sell this as a success."One Government insider suggested that Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, who last week penned an article with Ms Davidson making clear how during the implementation period “we will ensure British fishermen's interests are properly safeguarded," was livid at not being kept in the loop regarding the precise deal Mr Davis had hatched on fishing with Mr Barnier. Tory HQ was also said to have been taken by surprise by the details.  Downing Street denied the transitional deal was a “sell-out”. The PM’s spokesman explained that the original text only contained an unspecified consultation with the EU in advance of setting its total allowable catch limits; now, “specific safeguards” had been agreed relating to the annual negotiations for 2019.  The EU, he pointed out, would have to consult the UK ahead of those negotiations, give a commitment its share of the catch could not be changed and that from December 2020 Britain would negotiate as a fully independent coastal state, “deciding who can access our waters and on what terms”.  Asked if the PM could give a cast-iron guarantee that from January 2021 the UK would have full sovereignty over its fishing waters, the spokesman replied: “Yes. We have been absolutely clear once we leave the EU we will be taking control of our fishing waters and, as the PM set out in her Mansion House speech, ensuring there are fairer rights for UK fishermen.”  Outwith Westminster, Bertie Armstrong for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said what Mr Davis had agreed with the EU27 on the implementation period fell “far short of an acceptable deal”.  He explained: “We will leave the EU and leave the Common Fisheries Policy but hand back sovereignty over our seas a few seconds later.” Mr Armstrong said UK fishing communities did not trust Brussels to look after their interests, warning it: “Be careful what you do or the consequences later will be severe.” Claiming the Tory Government held let the industry down, he added: “We expect a written, cast-iron guarantee that after the implementation period, sovereignty will mean sovereignty and we will not enter into any deal which gives any other nation or the EU continued rights of access or quota other than those negotiated as part of the annual coastal states’ negotiations.”

Rural Living Not Such An Idyll for Assynt Youths
Young folk living in one of Sutherland’s more remote areas have busted any myth of rural idyll.  Residents under the age of 25 in Assynt have hit out over the isolation and lack of facilities they face, saying there were more disadvantages than advantages to living in the area.  They are also aggrieved at not being involved in decision making in their communities. The disgruntled youngsters put their feelings on paper, with Assynt Youth Voice producing a leaflet listing the pros and cons of living in small north west communities. The youngsters from Lochinver, Stoer and Drumbeg cited just five good aspects of living in the north west but list more than four times as many reasons not to live there.  They like the area for its low crime rate and good seasonal jobs. But chief among the gripes are not enough permanent jobs, training, shops, transport or activities as well as poor broadband and phone signal. The youngsters made their feelings known at the Sutherland Youth Forum winter conference in Lairg where they called for a greater say in the decision-making of their communities. Their dissatisfaction touched a chord with East Sutherland and Edderton ward councillor Deirdre Mackay who was at the conference as vice-chairman of the Sutherland Community Partnership (SCP).  Cllr Mackay said: “I was particularly touched by the young people from Assynt who told me about the challenges they face in their community.  Their depth of feeling was such that they produced a leaflet flagging up their concerns, which they distributed at the conference. The youngsters identified 23 negatives and of these 23, most relate to the challenges of living in a remote and rural area.  I was particularly struck with what they had to say about housing. If they want to stay in the community after leaving school and are lucky enough to get a job, there simply is no housing available to rent.  When it comes to consultations and decisions that influence their home communities, they wish to have the same opportunity to have their voices heard as young people across the rest of Sutherland.”  Cllr Mackay raised the issues at a meeting of the SCP, which took place a few days after the youth conference.  She said: “It was opportune because as well as our regular partners around the table, we also had in attendance Highland Council chief executive Steve Barron and Melanie Newdick, vice chairman of NHS Highland.  After hearing their story, it was agreed that we would invite the Assynt youngsters along to the partnership to talk about the challenges they face and what might be done to improve things.  This is also the Year of Young People so it is all the more important our youngsters have a real voice and the opportunity to participate in the democratic process.”

Car Parking Charges At Stornoway Airport
Air travellers from Stornoway will soon have to pay parking charges at Stornoway Airport. Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) are introducing a flat rate charge of £3 per day to begin in early summer. A waiver scheme will allow passengers who have to travel to attend medical and hospital appointments to park for free. Parking for 318 spaces are being marked out at the airport with pay stations and barriers to be installed.  HIAL said they expect the £500,000 investment in equipment and works to introduce the charges will be recouped in the first 12 months, but added that the money would then be reinvested to maintain and ultimately improve facilities.  Responding to the news Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Chairman of Transportation and Infrastructure, Cllr Uisdean Robertson, said: “The Comhairle is aware that there has been a huge increase in the number of parked cars at Stornoway Airport and recognises the need for something to be done to mitigate the situation.  However a flat rate three pounds per day, irrespective of whether you’re parked for two hours or 24, seems a high charge.  The one hour drop off/pick up zone is to be welcomed, as is the exemption for those accessing healthcare, but I think the overall scheme could be improved so as to be fairer to the travelling public.  Perhaps a period of consultation would have assisted with this.  Whilst we have an initiative like the ADS to encourage people to use Air Services it seems the thinking is not entirely joined up when it comes to charging. I will be seeking discussions with our MSP and HIAL at an early stage. “

Scotland’s Digital Tech Industry Expects A ‘Positive’ 2018

Scotland’s burgeoning digital technology industry is set to make strong further strides this year, a survey out today says.  Trade body ScotlandIS, representing more than 300 software, telecoms, IT and digital agency businesses, says in its Scottish Technology Industry Survey that confidence is high, with optimism on sales, profits and overseas expansion.  The survey says 80 per cent of respondents expected a positive 2018, with nearly one in three forecasting sales increases topping 50 per cent.  A total of 80 per cent of those surveyed also anticipate boosting headcounts in the next 12 months – up from 66 per cent in 2016.  The survey said nearly two thirds of Scottish digital tech businesses already export, and that an additional 17 per cent plan to do so.  “As in previous years, the top three export markets remain the rest of the UK, Europe and North America,” today’s report notes.  Polly Purvis, chief executive of ScotlandIS, said: “This year’s survey shows Scotland’s digital technology industry is thriving with many of our businesses enjoying success at home as well as experiencing increasing overseas demand.” Scotland IS said that 68 per cent of businesses recorded improved sales during 2017 compared to the previous year.  Higher profit margins were reported by 47 per cent of respondents for 2017, just 1 per cent fewer than those cited in the previous year’s study.  Purvis added: “The overwhelming majority of respondents are optimistic and forecast business growth.”

Scottish Landscape Projects Scoop More £5.6m Funding

Three major landscape projects across Scotland have been chosen to share more than £5 million of funding.  The cash, from the Heritage Lottery Fund, will benefit communities and help protect wildlife across more than 700 square kilometres of Scottish countryside. The winning schemes are: Garnock Connections Landscape Partnership, in Ayrshire, which has been awarded £1,354,700; the North Isles Landscape Partnership Scheme, in Orkney, which received £2,829,200; and Callander’s Landscape, in Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, with a grant of £1,354,700.  A total of around 60 individual projects will take place as part of the three projects, with work aimed at conserving a variety of habitats as well as forging stronger connections between local communities and the landscape. Viking history, rare machair habitat, industrial heritage, seabirds and wild flower meadows are just some of the features being celebrated   “Our species and habitats are under constant threat, yet they make a massive contribution to our economy,” said Lucy Casot, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland.  The enormous pressures upon them mean that we have to approach landscape restoration and conservation on a bigger scale than ever before.  For the last 14 years the National Lottery has been doing just that, and more.  What communities have often already started on a small scale, we are delighted to support and grow to bring real cohesion to the natural and built heritage of a region.  People are reconnecting with and appreciating the nature that makes Scotland so special.”  The latest awards bring the total investment in land and biodiversity projects in Scotland by the Heritage Lottery Fund to over £150 million. Scottish environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham welcomed the announcement.  She said: “The people of Scotland rightly take pride in our wonderful landscapes. The close relationship between the land and the people who live and work on it has helped to shape Scotland’s national identity over the centuries.  Securing funding for these fantastic projects will further strengthen our understanding of that relationship and ensure these precious landscapes are preserved for generations to come.”

Community Awarded £4.4m in Funding for Ulva Island Buyout

A community hoping to stage a buyout of a small island has been awarded up to £4.4 million funding to help them make an offer.  North West Mull Community Woodland Company (NWMCWC) hopes to buy the Ulva Estate, valued at £4.2million, which spans 2,000 hectares and includes the Isle of Ulva as well as some land on nearby Mull.  If it also wishes to buy Ardulum House on Ulva the cost would be around £4.5 million.  The Scottish Land Fund (SLF) has announced an award of up to £4,415,200 to enable the community to open negotiations for the purchase.  The community has said its main priority is to attract new residents to the island, where only six people currently live.  NWMCWC, the first group to register interest in an island under the Scottish Government’s Community Right to Buy legislation, now has until June 9 to agree terms with the current owner and complete the sale. Colin Morrison, chairman of NWMCWC, said: “This award from the Scottish Land Fund is hugely significant, not only for Ulva but also more broadly for North West Mull.  Our top priority is to renovate the existing buildings and provide secure leases for present and new residents and businesses.  We aim to have 20 or more people living on Ulva within two or three years, rising to as many as 50 or more in time as new houses are built. Social and economic development of Ulva will bring benefits to the neighbouring communities on Mull. Schools, shops, local services and industry will all receive a boost from the increased population and also from the increased number of visitors we are confident we shall see once accommodation and facilities are provided for them on the island.” In December, following an independent ballot of 401 voters in north-west Mull, almost 64% of people were in favour of the community buyout.  SLF is funded by the Scottish Government and delivered in partnership by the Big Lottery Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.  Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Today’s award should provide the NW Mull Community Woodland Company with the means to make a fair and serious offer for the island.  This is further demonstration of the Scottish Government’s commitment to empowering communities via land reform - enabling them to determine their own futures. If the purchase is successful, then I’m sure that the people of Ulva, and its surrounding area, will reap the benefits of community ownership for years to come.”  Highlands and Island Enterprise, previously awarded NWMCWC £23,363 to investigate the purchase and advised them on their SLF application.

Archaeologists Return to Site of ‘Lost Pictish Monastery’

Archaeologists are to return to the potential site of a lost Pictish monastery where Scottish Gaelic was written down for the first time.  Archaeologist Alison Cameron and her team could be on the brink of making a discovery of national importance at land close to Old Deer in Aberdeenshire.  For 10 years, a search has been made for the monastery that dates from the sixth century but disappeared around 1,000 years ago. Some believe the Book of Deer, a richly decorated pocket-sized book of gospels was created here with Gaelic notes on local life later written in the margins by monks.  Last year, Ms Cameron, director of Cameron Archaeology, switched the focus of the search to land near Deer Abbey and made a tantalising breakthrough when she discovered the remnants of a hearth and a previously undiscovered building below ground level.  She and her team will return to the site in June with a Crowfunding campaign now underway to finance the dig. Ms Cameron said: “I’m feeling a mixture of nervousness and excitement at the moment. We came so close to the buildings the last time and we will be able to go right in and sample what is there when we return to the site.  We will definitely be able to say this year whether or not it is the monastery. I have thought about it a lot over the last year and we just don’t know which way it is going to go. If it is the monastery, it is going to be a major find. If it is not, it will be disappointing but at the end of the day we will have found another amazing site.” Ms Cameron made the discoveries on her fourth excavation in the Old Deer area.  She found a hearth and a thick layer of charcoal, with carbon testing dating the objects to between 1147 and 1260, which chimes with the later monastic period.  The discovery of a layer of stone and post holes also indicate that remnants of a previously undiscovered building lie deep below the earth’s surface.  Layers will now be removed to date the structure which Ms Cameron believes fits with the medieval period.  She said: “It would be a big deal if we found the site of the monastery. For me personally, it would be a career highlight but it would mean an awful lot to a lot of people. I would love to find anything that related to book making, such as smoothing pebbles, as this would give us incredibly important information about the Book of Deer and help clarify whether it was made here or brought over from Ireland.”  Meanwhile, discussions are ongoing between the Book of Deer Project and Cambridge University, which has held the manuscript since the early 18th century, to bring the publication home to the northeast for a year-long exhibition at Aberdeen University. Dr Michelle Macleod, lecturer in Gaelic at Aberdeen University, earlier described the Book of Deer as a “tiny book” with a “huge legacy”.  It showed for the first time deviations in Scottish and Irish Gaelic and illustrates how the languages separated over time. Anne Simpson, chair of the Book of Deer Project, said the Book of Deer was as significant as the Book of Kells in Dublin.  It is hopes that discovery of the monastic site would raise the profile of this corner of Aberdeenshire.

Court Battle Looms As Holyrood Passes Alternative Brexit Bill
Holyrood has passed a Bill intended to elbow aside Brexit legislation at Westminster and prevent a “power grab” in a controversial first for devolution. MSPs voted 95 to 32 in favour of the EU (Legal Continuity) Bill after the Scottish and UK Westminster Governments failed to agree on the distribution of devolved EU powers after Brexit.  Only one LibDem MSP and the Scottish Tories, who tried unsuccessfully to insert a ‘Union guarantee’ to freeze Holyrood’s powers after the UK leaves the EU, opposed the emergency legislation, which has been fast-tracked through parliament in three weeks.  It is the first Holyrood Bill passed against the advice of the Presiding Officer.  Ken Macintosh said the legislation was ultra vires because it strays into EU law, while SNP ministers, backed by the Lord Advocate, insisted it was competent and pressed ahead.  The UK Westminster Government law officers are now likely to refer the Continuity Bill, and a Welsh equivalent passed in Cardiff, to the UK Supreme Court and ask it to rule it illegal.  It would be the first time the UK Westminster Government has attempted to overturn a Holyrood Bill.  The vote by MSPs follows months of wrangling between Edinburgh and London over a “power grab” contained in the EU Withdrawal Bill at Westminster.  The UK Westminster Government wants 24 key devolved policy areas being repatriated from Brussels to lie at Westminster after March 2019, to allow the creation of UK-wide common frameworks in fields such as agriculture, fishing, the environment, food standards, and procurement.  The Scottish Government wants frameworks agreed by consent, not imposed, something the UK has resisted as it would amount to Holyrood having veto powers over Westminster.  The Continuity Bill is a fallback measure which would transfer devolved EU law into Scots law at Brexit if the two governments cannot resolve their differences by May, the deadline for amending the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords.  With both sides refusing to move on what they see as issues of principle, the UK Westminster Government is expected to start the ball rolling on a Supreme Court fight in case there is no agreement.  SNP Brexit Minister Michael Russell said his clear preference remained a deal on the EU Withdrawal Bill, but that legislation would have to be heavily amended first.  He said London had tried to “redesign devolution” unilaterally, adding: “It was clear at the outset this was never going to get the agreement of any devolved administration worth its salt. It was obviously incompatible with the devolution settlement in Scotland and in Wales.”  He said: “Today starts a new chapter in this story. The Scottish and Welsh parliaments will be armed with an alternative to the way in which the United Kingdom government wishes to treat devolution. We will not go naked into the negotiating chamber any longer.  We have an ability to negotiate based on an alternative which we have put in place ourselves. We can and we will make this Bill work if we have to.  So now the ball is firmly in Westminster’s court. If they want to come to the table and discuss these issues - and I hope they do - they know we have the alternative.  Let us now see what takes place.”  He said the Continuity Bill would ensure Scots law operated effectively following EU withdrawal if Holyrood could not give legislative consent to parts of the UK Bill. He said that if there was a future deal between the Scottish and UK Westminster Governments, it would have to be approved by MSPs, with MSPs also scrutinising repeal of the Continuity Bill.  A UK Westminster Government spokesperson said: “Our focus continues to be on finding an agreed way forward with the devolved administrations on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. Everyone agrees this is the preferred option. As with all Scottish Parliament bills, the competence of the Continuity Bill will be considered by the Law Officers.”  In one of the most dramatic moments of the final Stage 3 debate, LibDem MSP Mike Rumbles dissented from party colleagues to announce he would vote against the Bill.  He said he believed it would be referred to the Supreme Court and found illegal, and he wanted “no part” of legislation that would “greatly damage” Holyrood’s reputation.  Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said the Bill was “bad law”, reckless, unwelcome and unnecessary.  He said: “It’s real purpose is to create legal chaos and legal confusion.”  He challenged the Lord Advocate to seek a ruling on the legality of the Bill at the Supreme Court if he and SNP ministers were so confident it was within Holyrood’s powers.  Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said all the powers the SNP complained would go to Westminster under the UK legislation would stay in Brussels under the SNP’s plan to remain in Europe, while Tory Donald Cameron said MSPs would not be respecting devolution by passing “this wretched, reckless and lamentable legislation”. Labour MSP Neil Findlay said the “messy” Bill had been “avoidable” but the Tories had failed to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Commons as they had promised. He said: “We should not easily forget it was the Tories who have gotten us into this mess and time is running out for them to get us out of it.”  He said: “Labour has offered cautious support to this legislation but not a blank cheque to the Scottish Government to further a narrow political agenda around the constitution.  The passing of this legislation should finally alert the UK Westminster Government to fix the mess they have made of the EU Withdrawal Bill.”  LibDem MSP Tavish Scott said he hoped the Bill would quickly become “redundant”, with the UK and Scottish governments agreeing a deal on devolved powers instead. Earlier, an attempt by the Scottish Conservatives to guarantee the “precious Union” after Brexit, by keeping Scottish laws and policies in step with the rest of the UK, badly backfired. Instead of uniting parties against the SNP, it united every other party against the idea.

Extra Glasgow to Barra Flights Added Over Summer
More flights from Glasgow to the Hebridean islands of Tiree and Barra are being added over summer.  Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said the increased flights were in response to talks with both island communities about rescheduling services.  There will be 22 additional return flights from Glasgow to Tiree this summer and 22 additional Glasgow to Barra return fllights between May and early June.  Mr Yousaf said: “We have consulted with the communities of Tiree and Barra to see how we can improve their air services and address capacity concerns over the summer months.  These additional services will ensure that we are maximising the potential of these services during the busiest time of year, supporting local economies and improving connectivity for these remote communities.  The majority of extra flights will be created by moving a bank of rotations from the winter timetable, while still meeting demand during that time of year. This will create more capacity during the summer and reduce the number of empty seats across the year.  We are also providing around £18,000 in additional funding to bring in the additional Barra flights in May and June. We are committed to supporting our remote communities and these improvements to our iconic air links will help do that.”  Barra Airport is renowned for being the only airport in the world with a beach runway, which is hugely popular with tourists and cockle pickers.

£10 Million Hotel and Retail Complex Planned for Tomatin
More than 100 jobs will be created if an upmarket hotel, restaurant and shopping complex on the southern gateway to Inverness gets the go-ahead.  Plans have been submitted for a £10 million project beside the A9 at Tomatin.  The long-held ambition of the Tomatin Trading Company would mean about 40 construction jobs and 70-plus long-term hotel and retail jobs would be created. It is likely many of the workers will commute from Inverness.  Perthshire- based property developer William Frame, the company’s managing director, aims to breathe life into a long derelict site near the A9 junction. Business leaders are confident the creation of a 97-bedroom hotel – up from previous plans for 42 – a farm shop, 200-seat restaurant, "drive-through bakery", retail outlets and filling station would prove a huge boost to the local economy.  The company hopes to have it open by autumn next year. Things were delayed by a combination of complex planning conditions, the banking crisis and awaited confirmation of a new road layout for the imminent dualling of the local stretch of A9.  The site was previously occupied by the 1895-built Freeburn Hotel and reputed to have been a stopping-off point for Bonnie Prince Charlie. It ceased trading in the 1960s and a Little Chef restaurant that replaced it was demolished in 2008.  Comparisons are already being drawn between the Tomatin project and the lucrative House of Bruar near Blair Atholl. Mr Frame said there was no intention of copying it and that the Tomatin project would be distinctive, not least because of its accommodation element.

Isles’ MSP Condemns Tory Fishing ‘Sell Out’
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan, has condemned the UK Westminster Government’s “sell out of Scotland’s fishing industry”. The draft terms of the Brexit transition deal show the UK government has agreed to abide by Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) rules for the whole of the transition, which ends in December 2020.  Alasdair Allan said: “The Scottish Conservatives’ leader had claimed that ‘Britain will leave the CFP as of March 2019.’ We know now that this was simply conjecture, and this news gives the lie to her claim that her MPs ‘have the ear of government.’ Now we know not only will the UK have to abide by CFP rules during the transition period, it will lose the voting rights it has now.  It is certain that leaving the European Union will bring about considerable disadvantages, and it is absolutely critical for our islands produce and trade that we remain in the single-market.  However, the one possible claimed advantage of Brexit was that our islander fishermen would no longer be restricted by the CFP.  This transition deal however delivers nothing for our island fishermen. It is shameful that at this stage of negotiations, the Tories have sold out the fishing communities.”