Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 450

Issue # 450                                                    Week ending Saturday 5th May 2018

All These NATO Forces Were Interested in Was Jamming, Jamming and A Bit of Cheese
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

When I was out for the messages on Monday there were lots of clean-cut foreign guys with shiny buttons in the supermarket. One of them, apparently a pilot going by the wings on his chest, had gold braid slung across his chest and through his epaulettes. If you have never been in a uniformed service, you may not know what an epaulette is. Having signed the Official Secrets Act, there is no way I can tell you. If I did, I would then have to kill you. And you must not Google it, okay? If you do, I will be duty-bound to come round and shout through your letterbox.

With his white suit and shiny shoes, the only thing the pilot needed to look like Liberace was a piano and a candelabra. Which reminds me that it was a revelation recently to discover that Mrs X had no idea what a candelabra was. We have just had our living room redecorated because one of the home insulation guys came crashing through our ceiling a few months ago. That’s another story for another day but the place is now looking really quite swish.

With our new decor and shiny light fittings, I did happen to say to herself that maybe we should have a piano in the corner. I like to tinkle. That was when I suggested, just as a wee joke, that it may be nice to get a candelabra. I may have said it slowly and in an inappropriately sultry manner with a flourish of an upper limb. Without looking away from Emmerdale for a single second she said: “I don’t even know what a candela bra is but you are not buying my lingerie. Buy your own.” Er, what? Do you really think that ...? No.

Someone wondered if the supermarket visitors were from a show at An Lanntair arts centre. That was when check-out staff twigged that they were officers and crews from the NATO exercise Joint Warrior which is going on now around Scotland’s west coast. The MoD says they will be jamming radio frequencies but have promised they will not knock out our broadband in the islands as allegedly happened a few years ago. If this column does not reach the P&J, they may still have some work to do on that.

Their particular signals are also claimed to be badly affecting marine life in the area which is teeming with whales, seals, porpoises and the like. In fact, a scientific project has been going on recently to try and work out what dolphins say to each other when they make these squeaking noises. This week, when they come to the surface and look around, I bet they’re saying: “Have they gone yet?”

The military mind is trained to identify a target then fearlessly complete the mission. On Monday, the objective of these combined NATO forces mission was to ... buy some cheese. The tactical strategy was to find someone who spoke German or Dutch, to ask where to find the Red Leicester, and probably Edam too, to purchase it and to return to the ships. It was frustrating for them - they had little time ashore and locals kept trying to be helpful saying “non comprendi” and “no entiendo”. Some Stornowegians even managed a little mangled Gaelic like: “Chaneil mi ag understandaigeadh idir idir idir, cove.”

Why did so many people in the supermarket think the German word for cheese would be the same as the French. As they tried to work out what the visitors wanted for their respective galleys, they kept saying “du fromage?” It turns out the German word is “Käse”, very like the Gaelic for cheese, which is “càise”. And the Dutch word is “kaas” and the Welsh is “caws”. There was no one from the ancient Roman Empire on the wargames in the Minch but if there had been they would have asked in Latin for “caseus”.

Later on Monday afternoon, two of our local Stornoway crows were flying along slowly in the Minch out past the Arnish fabrication yard. All of a sudden, out of the blue an RAF Tornado from Lossiemouth goes screaming past. It was going like the clappers. It barely missed the two crows which had been sent somersaulting sideways and left wildly flapping.

They were so shocked they had to head back to the castle grounds and get their breath back. “Oh my gosh,” exclaimed one crow in surprise. “He was fairly moving.” The other crow, still trying to straighten its own feathers, looks up and replies: “You would be too if you had two backsides and both of them were on fire.”

Eight in Hospital After Glasgow Bus Crash
Eight people are being treated in hospital after a bus crash in Glasgow. Police Scotland said one person is in a critical condition and two others are in a serious condition following the crash on a slip road near the Clyde Tunnel at around 7pm on Sunday. The other five people are said to be in a stable condition while 10 others were treated at the scene of the crash. A single decker First Bus overturned on the A739 slip road from the Clyde Tunnel heading to the west-end of Glasgow, police said.  Five people, including the driver of the bus, were taken to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow where staff described one person as critical and two others as in a serious condition.  The other injured people were taken Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley. A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “A further 10 people are being treated at the scene and if required they will be taken by patient transport to either the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, or Glasgow Royal Infirmary to be checked over.  Officers from the Divisional Road Policing Unit remain at the scene and the road is closed.  A full investigation will be carried out into the cause of the crash.”

Sturgeon Has A Point on Brexit Deal But She’ll Pay A High Price for Being Right
Sometimes you can be right and still lose the argument. Sometimes you can be on the moral high ground and still find it giving way underneath you. Much to my surprise, this is where Nicola Sturgeon has found herself this week - making an excellent point about the flaws in the EU Withdrawal Bill but making it so badly that she risks undermining support for her arguments, her party, and, most importantly for her followers, the nationalist cause in general.  Most of the problem is down to the language the First Minister has chosen to use. Discussing the bill on television yesterday, the Scottish Brexit minister Mike Russell was sounding pretty positive on the whole - possibly because, behind the scenes, there’s a suspicion that Mr Russell would have accepted the deal that’s currently on the table, as the Welsh have done. Whatever the truth, Mr Russell was playing Mr Reasonable to a T. There was, and still is, hope of a deal, he said.  But compare that to Nicola Sturgeon’s response.  The First Minister forecast a bleak future for the Scottish Parliament in a post-Brexit Britain. Be under no illusions, she said, the Tories will “demolish” Scottish devolution. She also summoned up a scary ghost from the future: Jacob Rees-Mogg as Prime Minister “trampling all over Holyrood’s authority” and warned that a future Tory government might interfere in the Scottish NHS. There was also multiple use of the SNP’s phrase du jour: “power grab”. Now, we know that this kind of edge-of-the-cliff rhetoric, this political shrieking, plays well to Ms Sturgeon’s core support (which is probably why she’s doing it) but it certainly doesn’t serve the Scottish Government’s central argument on the Withdrawal Bill, which, far from being hysterical, is extremely sound. Essentially, Scottish ministers are appealing to one of the founding principles of devolution, which is that the Scottish Parliament has control over devolved areas - and anything that is not explicitly said to be reserved is devolved. The EU Withdrawal Bill in its current form would transfer powers from Brussels to London in areas that are traditionally devolved to Holyrood and so fails to respect that convention.  So why can’t the UK Westminster Government simply accept this and do what it has always done, which is to seek the consent of the Scottish Parliament to act in areas that are devolved? Mainly – and sadly – it’s because of all those unlikely, sun-lit trade deals we’ve been promised after Brexit. UK ministers have come a long way towards a compromise by reducing the number of areas they seek to control from 111 to 24, but, if it is to have any chance of achieving those trade deals, the UK Westminster Government needs control of the core 24 policy areas that are in dispute - and the last thing Brexiters want is a grumpy, unco-operative Scottish Parliament getting in the way.  Nicola Sturgeon: 'Be under no illusions, the Tories will demolish Scottish devolution'  However, the failure to reach a compromise is also a major failure of trust – on both sides. Mr Russell said yesterday that the Scottish Government would never unreasonably withhold agreement to new legislation in the 24 policy areas and clearly expects the UK Westminster Government to trust him on that. The UK Westminster Government has also said it expects to be trusted on its commitment that if the Withdrawal Bill goes ahead in its current form, it would abide by the conventions of devolution. Both sides are saying the same thing: I can be trusted, but I wouldn’t trust that other guy. Of course, it’s up to you who you believe in the end, but the fact is that since devolution successive UK Westminster Governments have respected – and indeed expanded, albeit under duress - its conventions; the SNP’s life work, on the other hand, is to undermine the UK Parliament. Could the Scottish Government be trusted not to exploit the situation every single time the UK Westminster Government sought its consent post-Brexit? Much more likely is a repeat of what we’ve seen from Nicola Sturgeon over the weekend: more talk of the Tories demolishing Scottish devolution and stomping over Holyrood’s authority, a kind of never-ending grievance, always looking for the next reason to rise up.  From the First Minister’s point of view, the big gamble is that the hyperbole will help her get her way – and I suspect she’s right; the UK Westminster Government is much more likely to capitulate than the SNP. But I wonder if she’s considered the long-term effects on her support in Scotland? After the Brexit referendum, we saw the Sturgeon hyperbole on Brexit, independence and the Tories rolled out and it backfired. Then we saw the same thing at the General Election in 2017 and the result was the SNP losing one-third of its seats.  And yet here we are, in the middle of the Brexit debate, with the First Minister performing the same form of political self-harm. There aren’t many disputing Ms Sturgeon’s central argument that the Scottish Government should have consent in those last 24 policy areas. But the language of power grabs and the demolition of Scottish devolution sounds exactly like the kind of language we heard after the Brexit vote and then again at the last General Election: a little loud, a little obsessed. Perhaps the First Minister should take note of the interesting phenomenon found in cognitive science called selective filtering: if you hear a repetitive phrase or sound often enough, you start to filter it out and listen to something else instead.

Last-ditch Brexit Talks in Effort to End Deadlock
A breakthrough in the Brexit powers stand-off between Holyrood and Westminster could still be reached as crunch talks loom between both sides in London this week, Scotland’s Brexit minister has said.  Mike Russell suggested yesterday that it may even be “easier” to reach a deal, despite First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claiming that the Tories were ready to demolish devolution.  The Scottish Government last week rejected UK ministers’ proposals to amend the European Union Withdrawal Bill in an effort to end the long-running row with the devolved administrations over where powers will lie when the UK leaves the EU. The Welsh government has accepted the deal despite similar concerns over a “power grab”.  Mr Russell insisted he is still confident a deal can be reached as he prepares to meet UK Cabinet Secretary David Lidington.  Mr Russell said: “I think a deal is perfectly possible. Paradoxically I think it is probably easier to achieve because it is absolutely clear what will produce a deal and what won’t.”  Mr Russell also said he would give consideration to amendments being tabled by Lord Hope in an attempt to break the deadlock.  “If these amendments are as positive and hopeful as I think they probably will be,” he said. Once I have seen them I’m happy to comment on them, and I hope I can be very positive about them.”  Ms Sturgeon said yesterday the latest amendments put forward by UK ministers made a “mockery of consensus” and would “completely demolish” the principle of the devolution settlement.  The stand-off centres on powers being repatriated from Brussels to the UK after Brexit and claims that responsibilities which should come to Holyrood in line with the devolution agreement are being appropriated by Westminster. UK ministers say they need control in these areas – such as farming and fishing – to protect the UK internal market during the immediate post-Brexit years.  New amendments from the UK Westminster Government to introduce a “sunset clause” so that devolved powers returned to Westminster did not stay there indefinitely have been rejected. They also introduce a requirement for a “consent decision” at Holyrood before ministers can legislate in devolved areas. Ms Sturgeon said the definition of “consent” could even apply if the Scottish Parliament said no.

World's Fifth Largest Cruise Ship Docks At Invergordon

The world’s fifth largest cruise ship is creating waves after arriving at Invergordon in the Cromarty Firth in Easter Ross.  MSC Meraviglia, which has capacity for 5,700 guests, more than the entire population of the Easter Ross town, is the largest such vessel ever to call at a Scottish port.  The vessel’s arrival yesterday comes as the Port of Cromarty Firth this year prepares to handle its largest number of cruise ship passengers yet, with an estimated 170,000 expected. The growth comes as ports across Scotland bid to capitalise on the country’s boom as a destination for cruise ships.  Plans have been unveiled to create a 150-metre jetty at Fort William’s waterfront, allowing it to accommodate a huge influx of cruise ships.  And in East Lothian, the site of the former Cockenzie power station is being proposed as a new cruise liner terminal.

Nurse Training to Receive Almost £7million Boost
Almost £7 million will be invested in training nurses as part of a new NHS workforce plan, the Health Secretary has announced.  Shona Robison said the funding would be directed at helping the existing nursing workforce better meet the needs of people who need care in their own homes, GP practices or other community settings.  The Scottish Government's new primary care workforce plan emphasises the importance of highly skilled multi-disciplinary teams.  It also sets out plans for an extra 800 GPs to be recruited over the next ten years as well as an annual investment of £35 million by 2022 for an extra 800 mental health workersA&E departments, GP practices, police stations and prisons.  Ms Robison said: "A strong and professional workforce is at the centre of the success of Scotland's health and social system.  The investment in nurse training will mean that more patients are treated in the community and ensure the sustainability of a multi-disciplinary team approach. Scotland is leading the way on workforce planning and I am proud that we are the first nation in the UK to publish a plan that not only puts community care at its heart, but also helps prepare us for the expected challenges Brexit may bring for our workforce."  Theresa Fyffe, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland director, said: "RCN Scotland is pleased that the Scottish Government has listened to our concerns and that this plan reflects the need for a new approach to developing multi-professional primary care teams.  We welcome the recognition that district nurses, advanced nurse practitioners and practice nurses are essential in providing safe, high quality care in our communities and to the overall success of primary care services.  The commitment to investing £6.9 million over three years for the education and training of general practice nurses and district nurses is a move in the right direction. We will continue to work with the Scottish Government to support the development of plans for further investment to grow the community nursing workforce, and district nurses in particular, to meet the needs of patients and shift the balance of care from hospitals and into our communities.

Claimants Told Legal Support is Available

People who challenge swingeing cuts in their benefit payments as a result of UK Westminster government welfare reforms are eligible for legal representation to fight their case.  The offer has been highlighted in the wake of the case of a severely disabled Inverness woman who has had her monthly personal independence payment of £252.49 axed.  She had feared having to challenge the reduction alone because the city’s Citizens Advice Bureau has reluctantly withdrawn legal representation at such hearings because of its record workload, largely dealing with people’s debt crises.  It was evident from Donna Macdonald’s experience that the availability of legal aid was not common knowledge. Not even the CAB branch knew.  A spokesman for the Scottish Legal Aid Board said: "The legal aid system enables solicitors to provide advice and help to prepare benefit appeals.  The legal aid legislation passed by (UK) Parliament does not provide for representation by solicitors at initial appeals but this may be available for an onward appeal to the upper tribunal. Public funding is in place to assist people in Inverness with benefit disputes. This includes assistance provided as part of our own grant funding programme."  Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey CAB manager Alasdair Christie revealed last week that four specialist staff who had previously represented up to 30 disabled people at tribunals each month would no longer be available.  The CAB will provide "written submissions and support to clients" but are unable to represent clients personally.  The hearings largely concern personal independence payments (PIP), employment support allowance payments and universal credit. They are chaired by an independent panel comprising a solicitor, a medical expert and a lay person.  Miss Macdonald (45), who lives in Inverness and is confined to a wheelchair, feared that she would miss having a legal adviser alongside next month when she challenges a reduction in her monthly benefits from £564, at the start of this year, to £311.  A spokeswoman for the UK Westminster government said: "Since PIP was introduced 3.1 million decisions have been made. Of these, nine per cent (279,000) have been appealed and four per cent (124,000) have been overturned. In the majority of successful appeals, decisions are overturned because people have submitted more oral or written evidence."  The UK Westminster government is currently conducting an "evidence-based review" of legal aid legislation "to assess the changes made against their objectives".  It is due to publish its findings this year.

Castletown Community Council Facing Uncertain Future As it Goes Into Abeyance

The future of Castletown Community Council is in doubt after two key office holders resigned from their posts. The departure of chairwoman Brenda Herrick and vice-chairman Billy Swanson, along with the recent loss of some members, means the organisation cannot continue and has gone into abeyance.  The announcement of the two resignations was made at the annual general meeting.  There were no nominations to replace the chair and vice-chair and as a result an interim election will be held in June in a bid to fill the positions. Mrs Herrick, who has been the chairwoman for six years, said she had decided to stand down due to health issues and other commitments.  She also pointed out that the community council had lost several active members recently.  Highland Council has to be notified of the position by May 11 with the elections to be held on June 28. Secretary and treasurer Liz Geddes says she is happy to stay on in her role, while Alice Hill and John Calder are to continue as members.  Mrs Herrick said the community council cannot continue without a chair and vice-chair. “We have to go into abeyance and, hopefully, get nominations for these posts,” she said. “Castletown is a thriving village and deserves a community council with more members.”

Travels with A Donkey - From Durness
Charity walker Adam Lee is taking an unusual companion for his next adventure – Martin the Donkey.  Aside from a few brays, conversation might be a bit difficult, although some would say that is an advantage.  Mr Lee is attempting the Lighthouse to Lighthouse west coast walk, from Cape Wrath to Portland Bill. A Liverpool based photographer and experienced traveller, he sets out from Cape Wrath on May 26 and will walk the 700-mile length of the west side of the UK, finishing at Portland Bill lighthouse on Dorset’s south coast.    He hopes to raise at least £2000 for Centrepoint, a charity that supports homeless people. A seven- year-old Jerusalem donkey, Martin, lives at donkey sanctuary Alwood Donkeys where Adam has been learning how to look after and manage him.  The two have been training for the trek, with Martin learning to wear a pack saddle. Adam was concerned about how he would transport Martin across the Kyle of Durness, as the 12-seat passenger ferry is unable to take the donkey.  But his fears have been allayed after ferryman John Morrison explained it was possible to access Cape Wrath by foot. Adam expects to take up to four months to complete the journey and he will be documenting his experiences on his blog and social media platforms.

‘Eyes of World on Scotland’ Over Alcohol Pricing Move

Nicola Sturgeon has said the “eyes of the world” are on Scotland today as minimum pricing of alcohol is finally introduced today after a six-year court battle. The First Minister said the “bold and brave” policy is expected to save hundreds of lives over the next five years in a radical approach to tackle Scotland’s “troubled relationship” with drink. But opponents claim that it will mean “drastic increases” for Scots drinkers and the public have been misled over suggestions that only strong lagers and ciders will rise in price. The new minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol means a bottle of vodka will now cost at least £13.13 and whisky would cost at least £14.  The measure is backed by all political parties at Holyrood and medical leaders in Scotland. The plans were first passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2012, but were delayed after a legal challenge by the Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) which was finally kicked out by the Court of Session last year.  Alcohol misuse costs Scotland £3.6 billion each year. As a nation Scots drink 40 per cent more than the low-risk drinking guidelines of 14 units per week for men and women.  Ms Sturgeon said: “I am extremely proud that the eyes of the world will once again be on Scotland with the introduction of this legislation. Our action is bold and it is brave, and shows once again that we are leading the way in introducing innovative solutions to public health challenges.  Given the clear and proven link between consumption and harm, minimum unit pricing is the most effective and efficient way to tackle the cheap, high strength alcohol that causes so much damage to so many families.”  Deaths through alcohol misuse in Scotland are 54 per cent higher than England and Wales and six times higher in the country’s most deprived areas. It is now estimated that 392 lives will be saved in the first five years of implementation, according to government research. The British Medical Association (BMA) says there is a “proven link” between alcohol price and consumption and has been a vocal backer of the minimum pricing. BMA Scotland chair Dr Peter Bennie said: “Minimum unit pricing is a policy that will help to save lives and reduce alcohol harms in Scotland. It will help to reduce the burden of alcohol on our health service, on Scottish society, and most importantly on individuals and their families.  This is an important milestone for Scotland, and many other parts of the world will now be watching the implementation of minimum unit pricing with great interest.”  Despite the SWA challenge, the move does have some support within the drinks industry, with Tennent’s among the long-term advocates. Norman Loughery, off-trade sales director at Tennent’s owner C&C, said: “We strongly believe that the industry must play its part in tackling alcohol abuse and will therefore continue to work with relevant bodies in the territories in which we operate, including Ireland and Northern Ireland, to seek the introduction of minimum unit pricing legislation.” Meanwhile, campaigners south of the Border said more than 1,000 lives could be lost if England fails to mirror Scotland’s reforms to alcohol pricing within five years.

Colin Macleod Joins Hebcelt Line up

The internationally-acclaimed Hebridean Celtic Festival has added Colin Macleod to its line-up during a landmark year for the singer songwriter. The Lewis crofter, who releases his debut album ‘Bloodlines’ on 18 May, will share the bill at HebCelt this summer with headliners Deacon Blue, The Fratellis, Eddi Reader, Skippinish and Roddy Woomble. In October, he will perform at BluesFest in London and Dublin alongside music legends Van Morrison and Robert Plant.  Before these performances he has also been booked to appear on James Corden’s Late Late Show, which has previously featured acts such as Stevie Wonder, Adele and Ed Sheeran.  HebCelt director Caroline Maclennan said: “This is such a massive year for Colin so we are so excited to have him join us at HebCelt.  This is the amazing final piece in an incredible line-up we’ve put together this year and Colin’s growing band of fans will be thrilled he will be on the festival stage.”  Colin, who previously performed at HebCelt under the names C.Macleod and The Boy Who Trapped the Sun, signed a three-album deal with major record label BMG last year. He recorded ‘Bloodlines’, produced by the revered Ethan Johns, at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios in Wiltshire and recently played at the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas.  He said: “I’m delighted to be back at this year’s HebCelt. It’s always great playing to a home crowd but it’s always another level at the festival. And with a new album coming out I couldn’t be more excited.”

Largest Wind Turbines on Land Proposed for Lewis

Energy giant EDF is living up to its name as it has been revealed that the power multi- national, through partner ‘Lewis Wind Power’, is considering increasing the size of its turbines to be located in Lewis.  The turbines would be up to 200 metres tall – far higher than the original proposals which have planning consent for turbines up to 150 metres - the 200m structures would be the tallest that exist on land in Scotland.  EDF, as part of ‘Lewis Wind Power’ with project partners Wood Group, have planning permission for 91 turbines in Lewis.  Of these, 45 turbines are approved for their Uisenis Wind Farm, which is due to be built on the Eishken Estate and approaches the border of the South Lewis, Harris and North Uist National Scenic Area.  The other 36 turbines would be sited in the Stornoway general area of mainly common grazings land out on the Pentland Road. This Stornoway Wind Farm is already controversial, being the subject of more than 200 objections to the Scottish Land Court. In a statement released about the proposed changes, Lewis Wind Power said that they were “in in the very early stages of exploring potential changes to its proposed wind farms at Stornoway and Uisenis”.  The company explained that these initiatives are intended to make sure that the company looks at all the potential ways to boost the projects’ chances of winning future auctions for low carbon electricity. Original project consents remain in place, but two additional options are being explored: The first option would be to keep all aspects of the existing layouts and planning consents, but to seek a variation to allow the project to use larger generators within each of the wind turbines. The second option is to seek a fresh planning consent for larger turbines and a revised layout. This may mean fewer turbines being built but may also lead to an overall increase in installed capacity.  At Stornoway the company will be assessing the potential for tip heights of up to 187m on some turbines, an increase on the 145m models outlined in the current consent, with smaller turbines closer to the town. The two projects currently make up almost 90% of the consented wind projects in development on Lewis, making them central to the business case for the new grid connection to the mainland, which is required before any additional renewables schemes can be built on the island. The process for the new proposals began with a meeting led by the Scottish Government’s energy consents unit at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, with representatives from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, LWP, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Scottish Government.  Local reaction to the story has been highlighted by the Hebrides Writer blog (www.hebrideswriter.com) written by journalist Katie Laing.

BBC Scotland Mocks Communion

Bishop John Keenan of Paisley has sent a letter to the Director of BBC Scotland complaining about a recent BBC short film: ‘Homophobia in 2018, Time for Love’.  In the April 23 letter, Bishop Keenan described the content as “beyond the pale, and unworthy of the BBC as a public service broadcaster.” Particularly insulting was the depiction of the Sacrament of Holy Communion as a Mini-Cheddar, wrote the Bishop, while a voiceover claimed that it “tastes like cardboard and smells like hate.”  The Bishop of Paisley put the video in the context of recent Scottish Government research finding that Catholics are the victims of fifty-seven percent of religiously aggravated crime in Scotland despite constituting only sixteen percent of the country’s population.  “In the current climate of growing hostility to Catholics, I would appeal that the BBC guard against adding fuel to the fire,” he wrote.  Bishop Keenan stressed that the Catholic community “is now worried that some elements in the Corporation have adopted an agenda” that “amounts to ‘LGBT views good, Catholic views bad’”.He added: “When it comes to important public debates about the wellbeing of the human person and the truth and meaning of human sexuality Catholics feel their views are becoming increasingly marginalised, almost criminalised.”  Bishop Keenan requested a meeting with the Director to voice his concerns and restore some impartiality in broadcasting. The Director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, Peter Kearney, has also complained to the Head of Public Policy and Corporate Affairs at BBC Scotland that the film breaches Corporation Guidelines.

Rare Century-old Bottle of Whisky Goes Home to Glenfarclas

A rare bottle of whisky dating back almost a century is being returned home after it was found in the back of a laundry cupboard.  The unopened bottle of Glenfarclas, which was sealed in 1920, is believed to be the oldest from the distillery which is still in existence. The malt is emblazoned with the words rare old on the label and was found at a house in Troon, Ayrshire.  It was presented to the manager of Gartloch Distillery, Stephen Dowell, when the site closed shortly after the end of the First World War.  Mr Dowell kept the bottle until 1947 before passing it to his daughter.  The bottle was then forgotten about for nearly four decades after it was wrapped in a tea towel and put at the back of a laundry cupboard.  It was rediscovered by Hugh Taylor in 1988, who is married to the niece of Mr Dowell’s daughter. The historic bottle has been in his possession until recently when his family contacted Glenfarclas.  The bottle was then returned to its Ballindalloch home in Speyside during a lunch in April with John Grant.  He is the fifth generation of the family to run the distillery, which was started in 1863 by his grandfather John Grant.  He said: “I am delighted to bring this bottle containing whisky from the time of my grandfather back to its spiritual home, and as such add another chapter to our archive.”  Visitors to the Spirit Of Speyside Whisky Festival will be able to view the bottle, which will be on display in the Glenfarclas visitor centre alongside the latest special Festival bottling.  Glenfarclas distillery has six stills which are said to be the largest on Speyside

Scots Economy Bounces Back After North Sea Recovery

Scotland’s economy has surged to its highest growth in four years after a recovery in the North Sea oil and gas industry, official figures have shown.  More than £1 billion in North Sea Oil and Gas revenues were collected in 2017 after revenues turned negative in 2016 as tax breaks outweighed receipts.  The figures differ from the official GDP statistics published last month which showed 0.3 per cent growth in Scotland, and 1.1 per cent over the year, because the latter do not include the offshore figures and are measured in real terms. Economy Secretary, Keith Brown said: “It is hugely encouraging to see that GDP grew across 2017, ending the year over 1 per cent higher than the previous year.”  But growth over the year remains below the UK rate which was 3.8 per cent, according to the latest Scottish National Accounts. And there is little prospect of Scotland’s GDP per capita outstripping the rest of the UK in the near future as North Sea output is only a third of the level seen in 1999. The £1 billion raised in revenues compares with £7 billion a year when the North Sea was booming. Economist John McLaren of the Scottish Trends website said: “GDP growth has been boosted by a slight recovery in the North Sea contribution, such that overall growth is the fastest seen since 2013.”

‘See you in Court’: SNP Warn UK Westminster Government Over Brexit Bill

The SNP’s Westminster leader has warned Theresa May that the Scottish Government will ‘see you in court’ after admitting a deal to end the row over post-Brexit devolution is no longer possible.  Ian Blackford claimed the UK Westminster Government is “demonstrably unwinding elements of the Scotland Act” with flagship Brexit legislation that will ‘freeze’ control two dozen devolved powers at Westminster for up to seven years leaving the EU. Peers in the House of Lords debated amendments to EU Withdrawal Bill that would have required Holyrood’s consent before ‘freezing’ any devolved powers at Westminster, but none of the Scottish Government’s proposals were passed.  At the same time, the Scottish Government minister Michael Russell met UK counterparts in London for talks on Brexit, including how joint control of the contested powers will work in areas like agriculture, fisheries and the environment. Mr Russell had suggested a deal was still possible if the UK Westminster Government accepted amendments proposed by Lords Hope of Craighead and Mackay of Clashfern. The SNP has called on the Government to pause the passage of the Brexit Bill through Parliament until there is agreement with the devolved assemblies.  Speaking to journalists after yesterday’s meeting, Mr Mundell insisted there was still time to reach an agreement but added that it was “disappointing” that a deal was being held up over a “head of a pin constitutional argument”.  “My view is that the best way forward is to have agreement,” the Scottish Secretary said.  Rival legislation in the Scottish Parliament, which asserts Holyrood’s authority over the contested powers, has been challenged by the UK Westminster Government and will be ruled on by the Supreme Court.  “If there is a failure to reach agreement over the coming days, which I suspect is now where we are, then we are going to be in the situation where this is going to be determined by the Supreme Court,” Mr Blackford said. “That in itself puts us in uncharted territory since the reestablishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1998.  This is about protecting the devolution settlement, and I’m staggered that the UK Government and the Conservatives don’t get that. Many people fought long and hard to establish the Scottish Parliament… anything that unpicks the devolution settlement should deeply worry us all.”

Memorial Held on Islay for US Soldiers Lost in Sinkings

A service has been held at sea to remember around 700 First World War soldiers who lost their lives in the sinking of two ships carrying US troops off the coast of Islay.  The SS Tuscania and HMS Otranto sank off the island within eight months of each other in 1918. The Tuscania had almost completed its transatlantic voyage, carrying 2,500 British and US troops, when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat.  Most on board were rescued by the Royal Navy but more than 200 men were lost at sea, with many swept up on the shore of Islay.  Another tragedy followed shortly after when the Otranto sank on 6 October . Amid a strong storm, the ship crashed into HMS Kashmir while travelling in convoy. Many US troops were saved by HMS Mounsey but those that could not escape the Otranto were swept toward an Islay reef that wrecked the ship. Around 470 men died.  Almost a century on, the British, US, French and Germany navies paid their respects to the dead in a ceremony above the wreck of the Tuscania.