Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 451

Issue # 451                                     Week ending Saturday 12th May 2018
Just Because Something is Old and Worn Does Not Mean it Cannot Entertain by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

What is going on with those Tory people? Who the heck has been telling them that they look more authoritative if they stand with their legs well apart. Sajid Javid is following David Cameron and George Osborne by looking like Superman after a particularly exhausting shift putting the world to rights. The ladies are at it too and when Theresa May splayed them at the Conservative Party Conference she looked as if she was going to topple over. Not strong, and certainly not very stable.

Unnatural poses that make these gormless politicians look like models in a Kay’s catalogue from the mid-1970s and that they seem to have convinced themselves it is a power stance should make us think they are so desperate they will try anything, if we don’t mock them. Aw, diddums. My theory is that someone in their own ranks is taking the mickey. There must be a Labour agent undercover in Tory ranks. He will now be reporting back: “Then I told Sajid he would look powerful if he stood there looking like a right wally. He fell for it. Ha-ha-ha, hee-hee-hee, ho-ho-ho.”

Never should we be cruel to people who have devoted their lives to public service. Well that is what their colleagues claim when any politicians shuffle off this mortal coil. Yet, we have to question how gullible are these types from Oxbridge when they will allow themselves to fall for all that psychobabbly claptrap. I say that as someone who has stood just as awkwardly as George Osborne in the past. In my defence, I had just wet myself, my seat and the floor. Well, it was my very first day in school.

Also uncomfortable in his trousers on Saturday night was bad boy Jeremy Clarkson. Back from the televisual wilderness, he took over as host of a week-long trial of rejigged Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? A bit slow and measured, he struggled to get into the flow - cracking few jokes that helped him along. On Monday night, he got into it and even had a jibe at the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. Aw, bless ‘em. No no no, don’t ask. I’m certainly not repeating it here. I would quite like to write a piece here next week as well.

Not my favourite by any means - I am not a petrolhead so Top Gear was really dreary to me - JC has suddenly gone up in my estimation. The fact is that there are too many safe and boring presenters about who do not have what it takes to put their own stamp on a show. After all the endless vanilla broadcasting of recent years, it is a refreshing gulp of O2 to have Clarkson off BBC2 and livening up ITV, the last bastion of vanilla and beige programming.

Many will rue Clarkson’s return, even for a week, while others will see past the inevitable prejudice against the creaking, hoary, old laddism which he made his uncomfortable trademark. Sorry, I’m still giggling to myself about what he said about Her Maj and her draughty houses. So we should give the cove a chance. Just like we should do to Abba if they haven’t gone rusty as they haven’t played together for decades. Will their two new songs will be a massive dissa?

Thirty five years break and all they could come up with is two songs? Have they still got the voices, the flair, that raw Swedish talent that made many of us with a Free Church upbringing come close to disgracing ourselves on the floor of the discotheque by the Clyde. They spoke to us. They were super troupers. They were in our hearts. Don’t tell me you do not still get abdominal flutters with the words: “I was sick and tired of everything, when I called you last night from Glasgow.” I have visions of weeping drinkers queuing at the payphone in the Park Bar on Argyle Street.

For my final thoughts this week, I will go into old bodach mode. There is too much rudeness today. Younger people, particularly, pick it up from that box in the corner. There are so many performers and commentators of one kind or another on TV who think it cool to be obnoxious when they talk about other people. People like Jeremy Clarkson should set an example and be a bit more like Abba. The problem is in our house too. It’s my daughter, you see. She won’t take the blame for anything and she just always seems to be putting down on other people. Mind you, she gets that from her mother.

'Scotland Office' Name Change to Make it More British
The Scotland Office has passed on, it is no more, it has ceased to be. After more than 130 years the diminutive department which is meant to represent Scottish interests in Whitehall and the UK Westminster Government in Scotland has undergone a Dr Who-style transformation. The words Scotland Office have been scrubbed out over the doorway at Dover House and the plaque welcoming folk to HM Scotland Office has been removed and replaced. The Scottish Office, created in 1885, and which became the Scotland Office after devolution, has now become: the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland.  After a consultation it appears some voters admitted to being somewhat confused and thought the Scotland Office was an arm of the Scottish Government. A UK Westminster Government spokeswoman explained: “The change ensures people can be confident about which responsibilities the UK Westminster Government delivers and are able to identify which issues have been devolved. This will make clear the extensive role of the UK Westminster Government in delivering for people in Scotland.”  The OSSS, as it will lovingly become known, said the cost to the taxpayer of the rebranding was “less than £10,000”; which, it helpfully pointed out, was a fraction of the £100,000 the Scottish Government spent on rebranding itself from its former guise as the Scottish Executive.  Since the 2014 independence referendum there has been a push by Whitehall to brand projects with the UK Westminster Government logo to ensure Scots know how much Theresa May and her colleagues are doing for public works north of the border. The rebranding means in Scotland the office will be known as UK Westminster Government Scotland while in the rest of the United Kingdom, where Whitehall feels there is a need to distinguish between different UK Westminster Government departments, it will be known as the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland.  The corporate identity change has also extended itself across the road in Whitehall to the Welsh Office, which has now become the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales. However, the Northern Ireland Office apparently remains as it was: the Northern Ireland Office.  Yet the news of the transmogrification has not, it appears, made its way 100 yards down the road to Downing Street.  When a No 10 spokesman was asked about the abolition of the Scotland Office, he appeared unaware there had been any change, insisting: “The Scotland Office continues to do the work the Scotland Office always has.” Only it isn’t because it no longer exists.  Tommy Sheppard for the SNP suggested it was “bizarre” that, given all the troubles befalling the Conservative Government, it should concern itself with rebranding A corner of Whitehall. “They need to admit the Scotland Office has had its day and wind it up. It’s a dead parrot,” declared the Edinburgh MP, adding: “You can change the name but what on earth is the point of it; other than to keep David Mundell in a job.”

Comment -R
This is quite bizarre - is this really the most important thing that these people in Westminster need to be doing - changing a name, and of course the brass plates?  It actually shows how out of touch they are with the feeling of people in Scotland. You would have thought that, if they were at all interested in bringing people onside (particularly those who voted Yes in 2014) that they would realise that to use the term 'UK Westminster Government in Scotland' is such a mistake.

New Leverburgh Lifeboat Now in Harness
The new RNLI Lifeboat at Leverburgh was enthusiatically welcomed into port two weeks ago by the Harris community.  Now, following a very busy period, Leverburgh RNLI’s volunteer crew have passed their training on the Shannon-class vessel, which is named ‘RNLB Stella and Humfrey Berkeley’, and the new vessel started active service this week. The Shannon class Lifeboat is the RNLI’s first modern all-weather lifeboat to be propelled by waterjets instead of traditional propellers, making her the most agile and manoeuvrable all-weather lifeboat yet, a feature which will be particularly beneficial when working in the challenging waters of the Sound of Harris. Furthermore, the Shannon is almost 50% faster than Leverburgh’s previous Mersey Class Lifeboat, RNLB The Royal Thames, with a top speed of 25 knots – a crucial factor when lives are at risk. Leverburgh RNLI Coxswain, Angus Morrison, who was part of the team who took the new Shannon from Poole to Leverburgh said: “Apart from the increased speed, range and manoeuvrability of the Shannon, one of the most significant improvements is the increased safety and welfare of the crew.  “Each seat is mounted on a shock absorber, and individual electronic screens allow the crew to operate and monitor most of the lifeboat’s functions from the safety of their seat.” Leverburgh RNLI’s Lifeboat Operations Manager, Chris Ross added: “We would like to pay particular thanks to all the RNLI trainers and assessors who have visited us over recent months, for their time and the wealth of knowledge they have brought with them. We would also like to thank our local coastguard helicopter teams for assisting us with our most recent training. The Mersey Class Lifeboat has served us well since the station’s establishment in 2012, but the arrival of the Shannon in Leverburgh brings a whole host of new, much more advanced, life-saving capability to our coasts.”

First John O’ Groats Book Festival Draws the Crowds

Caithness was the birthplace of one of Scotland’s greatest novelists, Neil M Gunn, and is the home of dramatist, poet, historian and novelist George Gunn, historian and festival organiser Ian Leith, novelist and biographer Catherine Byrne and poet and novelist Sharon Gunason Pottinger. Caithness is also home to many other writers, both new and experienced.  It is therefore fitting that the county now has its own book festival, based at the county’s most famous village, John o’ Groats. Such was the success of this first festival, I have little doubt it will become a feature of the literary calendar.  Four of Scotland’s best writers, covering the whole literary gamut from children’s books to poetry, were persuaded to travel to the far north, and all of them gave the enthusiastic audiences both entertainment and food for thought.

Anti-Gaelic Prejudice is Still Alive in Scotland
by Brian Wilson
In the Gaelic language and culture, Scotland has a priceless asset, but why are so many Scots hostile towards our ancient tongue, asks Brian Wilson.  What is it about Gaelic that brings out the playground bully in a steady stream of Scottish commentators who, on other matters, would preen themselves on the liberalism of their opinions? The front page of a Scottish newspaper this week carried the ludicrous, patronising teaser: “Does Gaelic matter? Let the battle begin.” And who, pray, has decreed that a “battle” is required to determine whether a language, far less the people who speak it, “matter”. And matter to whom?  It was appropriate that this appeared on the same day as a report which dismantled the idea that Scotland is less racist than other parts of the UK. One reason for this delusion, it suggested, is that anti-Catholic bigotry has been classified as “sectarianism” rather than racism, where it belongs.  Hostility to Gaelic, and hence to Gaels, might be placed in the same category. It has been going on for centuries within Scotland but even then it seems remarkable that in the year of grace 2018, it is deemed “normal” to question the very right to existence of a linguistic and cultural minority.  “Does Urdu matter? Let the Battle Begin.” “Does Polish matter? Let the Battle Begin” ... It is inconceivable that such headlines would appear. Nor should they. Yet Gaelic retains its appointed status as a punch-bag for prejudice within the only society on earth that can determine whether it will live or die.  The Gaelic scholar John MacInnes has written of the “remarkably consistent hostility to Gaelic” through the ages. To much of Scotland, via both church and state, the Gaels were always “the other” and the answer lay in eliminating the linguistic distinction. The miracle is not that Gaelic is weak but that it has survived at all, in the face of what history has thrown at it.  The latest twist in a very old tale involves efforts on both fringes of the Scottish constitutional issue to turn Gaelic into its adjunct. This is another travesty in the making and should be nipped in the bud. There is nothing worse for a minority language than to be captured as a political totem and rendered divisive on that basis. We do not have to look far for confirmation. The government of Northern Ireland remains in abeyance largely because of an absurd argument about the status of the Irish language. Sinn Fein wants to capture it. The DUP is so intellectually dim that it has dug itself into the stand-off.  Scotland – and particularly those who have Gaelic’s interests at heart – would be mad to allow the same kind of division to develop, as a by-product of the constitutional debate. Over the past 40 years, to my certain knowledge, all political parties have been supportive of Gaelic and that is how it must remain.  In the early 1980s, George Younger created a ring-fenced budget within the Scottish Office to allow for the development of Gaelic-medium education. This was absolutely crucial and has survived to the present day. The Tories also created the Gaelic Broadcasting Fund which was the first vital step towards the creation of a television channel.  Also in the early ’80s, I wrote a Gaelic policy for the Labour Party built around three pillars – education, broadcasting and status. These were the days of the big Labour-run regions and along with the excellent Colin Spencer, a Mancunian who worked for An Comunn Gaidhealach, we met councillors from them all.  Malcolm Green, the erudite chairman of education in Strathclyde, needed to be convinced of the intellectual case for Gaelic, but once that was achieved he put the full weight of that mighty authority behind it, carrying on a tradition of support for Gaelic education which has existed in Glasgow since the 1940s.  In Lothian, outstanding councillors like John Crichton, Phyllis Herriot and Eric Milligan, with absolutely no prior knowledge of the subject, listened, were convinced and acted with enthusiasm. The success of Gaelic at James Gilliespie’s and then a dedicated primary school became a source of great pride. I remember a meeting with Central Region where the education chairman represented a mining village. “I’ve folk who can’t afford to put shoes on their children’s feet,” he said, “and you’re asking us to spend money on Gaelic ... but if it’s party policy, we’ll do it.” And they did. With parallel developments in the Highlands and Western Isles, foundations were laid for the current Gaelic-medium network.  There is a legitimate debate (which also exists in Ireland) about whether the “numbers game” of expanding Gaelic-medium schools in cities is at the expense of prioritising communities where the language is in daily use but the thread of continuity is slender. That feeds into socio-economic issues in these places – for without people there is no language.  It should be possible to have these discussions about means not ends without them being turned into bogus controversies which invariably end up with the same dreary cliches, probably with the aid of radio phone-ins, about whether or not Gaelic “matters”.  By chance, I came across a press report from 1960 when the great singer and political activist Paul Robeson visited Glasgow. He confirmed he had been “keeping up with his Gaelic studies and demonstrated his proficiency by reading a passage from one of his well-thumbed text-books”. Robeson added: “Hebridean songs are very important to me because they represent music built on a world language, the pentatonic scale, and in the world language they are among the most beautiful.”  It was one small reminder that in the Gaelic language and culture, Scotland has a priceless asset. Remarkably, it still stands a chance as a living language for generations to come. Let’s just get on with doing our best towards that outcome for the alternative would shame us deeply.

Wanted: A Young Farming Entrepreneur
The Border Union Agricultural Society (BUAS) is searching for a young farming entrepreneur from the Scottish Borders or north Northumberland to represent them at the Royal Agricultural Society of The Commonwealth’s Conference, in Alberta, Canada in the autumn.  The RASC comprises over 50 national and regional show societies, agricultural associations and research bodies working in 20 Commonwealth countries and its bi-annual conference invites a Next Generation representative aged under 40 from each member to attend.  These young people come together to hear about and discuss the latest farming issues and developments and to see examples of innovative farming practices in the host country. The theme of the 2018 conference is Connecting the World through Food.

Knight Fever As Medieval Fighters Set to Cross Swords
Perthshire’s tranquil Scone Palace is a place where visitors from all over the world can explore key moments in Scottish history.  As the Palace’s website says, this is a place where you can walk in the footsteps of Scotland’s ancient founding fathers. It housed the Stone Of Destiny, and it was where Robert The Bruce was crowned in 1306.  But the generally peaceful atmosphere at Scone will be in short supply this week, edged out by the loud and distinctive clash of medieval weapons on medieval armour.  The Palace is the first venue in the UK to stage the International Medieval Combat Federation (IMCF) world championships, with some 500 full-contact competitors taking part, each relying on authentic replicas of medieval steel armour, shields and weapons.  The four-day event begins on Thursday, and thousands of visitors are expected. “It’s going to be a real-life Game Of Thrones,” Stephen Brannigan, head of house opening at Scone, was quoted as saying recently. The present and 8th Earl of Mansfield, William Murray, saw a display of medieval combat in New York and reportedly enthused: “It was quite the spectacle, like watching boxing in armour.  The weapons are all dulled and rounded for safety.  Established in 2013, the IMCF and its world championships have since been staged in Spain, Poland, Portugal and Denmark. Scotland’s hopes at Scone Palace will rest in the heavily protected hands of the Scottish Knight League. Speaking from Montreal, Benoit Leger, IMCF vice-president, said: “The exact number of fighters who will be at Scone won’t be known until the last minute, because of injuries, or transport or visa issues, but we will have some 500, and between 800 and 1,000 total participants with all the staff and helpers. Putting a knight on in armour each day is basically like a Formula 1 team operation – you need a lot of people to organise that. There are three individual types of fighting, for men and women.  There’s a polearm duel, which is one-on-one – polearms have axe-heads at the end of long poles.” He laughed as he added: “That’s for guys who don’t care about their brain-cells too much. We have the long-sword categories, the sword you hold with two hands. That’s a lightning-fast fight, it’s really technical and it’s beautiful to watch. The last individual fight is the sword-and-shield. That’s for the real aficionados.”  The team fights range from a female 3 v 3 and the man’s 5 v 5. That’s the one that can best be described as insane, because it consists of throwing the other team to the ground. It’s a lot of fun, and it will have up to 28 international teams taking part. It’s also the event I will be fighting in.

Police Scotland Dogs and Handlers Win Top National Prizes

Dundee-based PC Peter Gargan and Police Dog (PD) Dale, a three-year-old German Shepherd, won the Jordan Shield for Overall National Police Dog Champion at the 58th National Police Dog Trials.  They also won the trophy for best tracking dog, and another for winning the highest combined marks for tracking and searching.  PC Magnus McGarry and PD Gray, a four-year-old Dutch Herder/Malinois cross, won the trophy for best obedience. PC Andy Gamble and PD Duke, a four-year old German Shepherd, also took part in the event.  The National Police Dog Trials were the culmination of regional heats, with all competitors being either runners-up or winners in their regional events. Chief Inspector Neil Anderson of the specialist services division for the North of Scotland and Dundee Dog Section said: “This is an excellent result from the PC Peter Gargan and Police Dog Dale, who won this prestigious national award and PC Magnus McGarry and Police Dog Gray who won the obedience trophy.  This is the first time for a very long time that an officer from Dundee Dog section has won this award and it is down to hard work and determination of the officer, dog and instructional staff that resulted in winning these awards. Police Scotland puts a lot of work into training the police dogs and handlers and through the quality of dogs sourced and excellent instruction, the results obtained from our Police dog handlers in an operational context is outstanding.”

End of Line for Sleeper Trains That Go Bump in the Night

Passengers on the Caledonian Sleeper’s brand new trains are promised a “silky smooth” ride that will consign the service’s notorious bumps and jolts to history.  Rail chiefs who showed off the first of the Spanish-built carriages to The Scotsman yesterday said the impact of sections being coupled and decoupled en route would be “almost negligible”.  The trains are being fitted out in Glasgow ahead of the first ones going into service between Edinburgh, Glasgow and London on 28 October.  Replacing carriages up to nearly 50 years old, they are due to also operate the Sleeper’s London routes to Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen from the spring.  Innovations include double beds, wheelchair-accessible rooms and ensuite wet rooms with showers, to be “tested to in an inch of their life”.  Passengers will access cabins with tap-on smartcards, and can order room-service food via intercom. Operator Serco said air conditioning, another passenger bugbear of the current service, would also be transformed. New trains director Marcus Conn said: “It was one of the areas I was really concerned about but I’m confident it will be fantastic.”  The new lounge car can accommodate 34 people compared to 18 at present, with its new layout including banquette seating, and stools along a “saw tooth”-shaped table for solo travellers.  The new galley has a wide range of equipment such as a holding oven which Serco said could keep scrambled egg in a “nice state” for two hours.  Caledonian Sleeper managing director Ryan Flaherty said: “We have won awards with the current two-microwave galley - what we will be able to do with this is very exciting.”  Seated passengers will have individual reading lights, power and USB charging points, and lockable storage for valuables, using an access code they set themselves.  Airline-style screens showing the progress of the journey and landmarks en route will replace announcements to reduce disturbance.  The tan and teal reclining seats do not tilt towards the person behind but they also don’t go back any further than the current ones.  Original plans for lie-flat “pod” seats were abandoned because of crash safety concerns.  The £150 million fleet will be covered by CCTV for the first time, while the vestibules even have shoe cleaners.  Features that reflect the Scottish Government’s requirement that the trains are “emblematic of Scotland” include brown Tweed walls. Mr Flaherty said: “It makes it Scottish without being a shortbread tin.”

Public Inquiry Called for Battle of Killiecrankie Road Plan
A public inquiry is to be held into controversial plans to widen and re-route the A9 through the site of the Battle of Killiecrankie.  Proposals to widen the road at the site of the major battle of the first Jacobite uprising in 1689 have been put on hold following significant opposition.  Transport Scotland confirmed the plan to dual the Killiecrankie to Glen Garry stretch of the A9 is now “subject to statutory process” with an inquiry to take place in due course.  The existing road already cuts through part of the battlefield but Historic Environment Scotland said the latest proposals would have a “significant” impact on the site where Jacobites loyal to deposed James VII claimed victory over government forces. More than 200 objections were received by Transport Scotland over the battlefield plan, with campaigners from KilliecrAnkie 1689 leading the opposition to the proposals.  George MacLean, of KilliecrAnkie 1689, said: “The process has been flawed from the start. The area of the designated battlefield should have been central to the plan so that the sensitive part of it is not damaged.”  Mr MacLean said Historic Environment Scotland (HES) had highlighted “gaps” in Transport Scotland’s assessment methodology.  He said: “HES says that far too little research and fieldwork has been done on archaeological and physical remains relating to the battle of Killiecrankie and Transport Scotland has not understood the relevance or importance of the battlefield’s topography and landscape.”  The Battle of Killiecrankie is thought to be the first in Britain in which hand grenades were used.  The Jacobite victory came at an enormous cost. Nearly one-third of the Jacobite force were killed including their leader John Graham, Viscount Dundee, who was fatally wounded towards the end of the battle.

Aberdeen Kiltwalkers Gear Up for Chance to Win New Car in Event Raffle

Generous people set to don their kilts for a good cause could drive away with a brand new car.  Participants in this year’s Aberdeen Kiltwalk event will not only raise money for their chosen charities by walking either the 26, 15 or five-mile courses through Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen city centre, but will also be in with the chance to win a Vauxhall Corsa. As hardy souls enter the Kiltwalk, which will take place on June 3, they will automatically be entered into a raffle, the results of which will be announced the week following the event.  The four cars, one for each Kiltwalk event in Scotland, were donated to the group by Arnold Clark as part of a four-year partnership.  After putting his best foot forward at last year’s Aberdeen Kiltwalk, Darren Smith was the lucky winner who drove away in the new wheels.  Paul Cooney, chief executive of the Kiltwalk, said: “Arnold Clark really has pulled out all the stops again this year by so generously donating four brand new Vauxhall Corsa 1.4 SRis across the four Kiltwalks.  It was a really special moment when we surprised Darren with the great news last year, he was a top fundraiser and deserved this fantastic prize. “What a great chance for someone here in the north-east to win a brand new car and all you need to do is sign up to walk the Aberdeen Kiltwalk and raise money for a charity close to your heart.” Fundraising by participants will also receive a massive 40% boost from The Hunter Foundation, meaning that for every £100 raised by a walker the chosen charity will receive £140. More than 1,800 people took part in last year’s Kiltwalk event and were successful in raising £212,072 for various local charities. Thousands are expected to attend this year’s event, after Glasgow’s walk on Sunday proved the biggest yet with more than 10,000 people taking part and raising around £2 million for charity.

Runrig Create Tartan for Farewell Shows
Runrig have finally created their own tartan - just in time for their farewell shows this summer. The band said the tartan had at “long last” been made after years of requests by fans.  The tartan is being released to coincide with the band’s 45th anniversary and its final concert, which will be performed in Stirling in August.  The black, light red and grey tartan has been designed by Prickly Thistle, a textile design studio and weavers on the Black Isle. The colours are said to have particular significance for the band. A statement from Runrig said: “After decades of being asked by fans and associates when were we going to create a Runrig Tartan, we have now, at long last, finally done it! And at an appropriate time to mark the 45th Anniversary and the final concerts. No one could accuse us of being in a hurry, that’s for sure!  Probably the main reason we resisted, over the years, was that we felt uncomfortable being associated with such an obvious Scottish cliché and one with such a dubious history of design sense and quality values - the tourist shops on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, for example, reinforce that stereotype. However, our reticence was turned on its head when we heard about a young, tartan design company called Prickly Thistle, with a passion to restore tartan to its rightful position as a true icon.”  The band described the company as one of a “new breed of exciting Highland companies committed to restoring a sense of pride and value in long neglected areas of heritage.”  Details on how to buy the first Runrig tartan products will be released later this week.  A statement from Prickly Thistle, posted on their Facebook page, said the company was “thrilled” to have been chosen to design the Runrig tartan.  The cloth is now registered with The Scottish Register of Tartans.  A statement from the register said the tartan has been designed for exclusive use of Runrig and permission must be approved by the band to weave it.  The tartan must also be woven in Scotland, the statement added.  Runrig announced they were bringing their long career to an end last September.  The band said it wanted a “positive and celebratory conclusion” to their time together and will perform to around 25,000 people in Stirling at The Last Dance show this summer, with dates also planned for Denmark and Germany.  Runrig formed in 1973 on the Isle of Skye and reached chart success in the 1990s with a number of Gaelic songs. Their song An Ubhal as Airde reached number 18 in the charts in 1995.

Brexit: Uk Westminster Government Suffers Further Defeats Over Flagship Legislation

The UK Westminster Government has suffered three further defeats, and 13 in total, over its flagship Brexit legislation in the House of Lords.  In the sixth and final report stage debate on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, peers backed retaining key aspects of the single market by continued participation in the European Economic Area (EEA).  The vote by 245 to 218, majority 27, came in defiance of both the Government and Opposition frontbenches. While the Opposition's official stance was to abstain, 83 Labour peers rebelled against the frontbench and 17 Tories rebelled against the Government by supporting the amendment. The EEA allows for the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital within the European single market. Labour's Lord Alli said continued membership of the EEA was vital to ensure the future profitability of the UK's export business.  Lord Alli, moving the successful amendment, said: "It is the EEA that deals with services, services like retail, tourism, transport, communications, financial services and aerospace where we have a £14 billion trade surplus in these services.  The customs union only will benefit our European neighbours in their imports and without an EEA equivalent it will damage our profitable export business and therefore the jobs and livelihoods of many thousands of people.  It's for that reason that we need to ensure that any continuation of the customs union must include a continuation in the EEA or its equivalent."  Labour former Cabinet minister and ex-European trade commissioner Lord Mandelson also spoke passionately in support of the amendment, warning peers not to be bullied and to do what was right for the country.  Stressing the huge importance of services to the UK economy, Lord Mandelson warned the impact of quitting the single market without EEA access on cross-border delivery of services to Europe would be "savage" with a significant proportion of broadcast production, banking and insurance "hit for six". Responding for the government, Brexit minister Lord Callanan warned remaining in the EEA "would not deliver control of our borders or our laws".  The debate exposed deep divisions on both the Labour and Conservative benches.

Glasgow Set for Third Gaelic School in Government Language Drive

John Swinney has announced that a third Gaelic school is to open in Glasgow as part of the Scottish Government’s drive to increase the number of speakers of the language. The new school will provide Gaelic medium education (GME) and is expected to open in the Cartvale area of the city.  Nearly 900 pupils are enrolled in Glasgow’s two existing GME schools at Glendale and Berkeley Street – both of which are now at capacity.  The plans for the new school were announced during a Holyrood debate on the National Gaelic Language Plan 2018-23.  Mr Swinney, the Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary, said: “We have an opportunity to build on the success of recent years and to ensure a faster rate of progress in the expansion of Gaelic education across Scotland. “Glasgow City Council has a remarkable record with Gaelic education and the establishment of a third standalone school will provide capacity to meet growing demand from parents. Following the opening of Portree Gaelic School last week – the sixth in Scotland – we will continue to support and encourage the growth of Gaelic education.”  Chris Cunningham, City Convener for Education, Skills & Early Years welcomed the grant funding and said:  “The expansion of Gaelic Medium Education across Glasgow is very exciting and more families than ever before are able to access Gaelic for their children and at all stages through nursery to secondary school. The development of the former Cartvale School is yet another example of our continued commitment to GME and we welcome the additional grant which will go towards the upgrades and renovations for the opening of the new school building in August 2019.” Funding for the school will come from the Gaelic Capital Fund, which was set up in 2008 in recognition of the key role of education in increasing the number of Gaelic speakers.  The number of people recorded as being able to speak, read, write and/or understand Gaelic in the 2011 census was 87,000. Of these, the total number of people who speak Gaelic was 58,000. Although use of the language has been in decline, the most recent data shows an increase of 10 per cent in the number of Gaelic speakers below the age of 15, and a 15 per cent increase in the 16 to 29 age group.

MSPs Back Rejection of Brexit Bill Without 'Political Solution'

A cross party Holyrood committee has recommended rejecting a key part of the Westminster Brexit law unless there is a “political solution” to a dispute over its content. The SNP, Labour and Green MSPs on the Finance and Constitution committee said the parliament should withhold legislative consent for Clause 11 of the EU Withdrawal Bill.  Clause 11 deals with the way powers in devolved areas are redistributed once they are repatriated from Brussels at the point of Brexit next year.  The three Tory MSPs on the committee dissented. The UK Westminster government wants to temporarily reserve devolved powers in around 24 areas in order to create UK-wide frameworks to protect the internal market.  The Scottish Government says frameworks must be agreed by consent, not imposed.  However the UK Westminster government says giving Holyrood the final say would amount to a veto over events in others parts of the UK, something unprecedented under devolution.  With the two sides deadlocked, MSPs are due to vote on whether to give legislative consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill next Tuesday. If they refuse, it will take the devolution settlement into uncharted territory and could lead to Westminster imposing the Withdrawal Bill on Scotland against Holyrood’s wishes. The Committee said the disagreement over Clause 11 and its connected Schedule 3 can be resolved through “mutual trust and respect”, with reciprocal political commitments used to establish parity between the UK and Scottish governments. The committee said that would mean that Clause 11 would not be needed to enable the future agreement of common frameworks.  Committee convener Bruce Crawford said:“The Secretary of State for Scotland said he trusted the Scottish Government, and I welcome that, but it is time for his trust to be put into practice. “And for that reason, our Committee has reached the conclusion that Clause 11 and Schedule 3 of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill should be removed and for reciprocal political commitments to be included in the Inter-Governmental Agreement.”  Green MSP Patrick harvie said: “It’s a very positive sign that the whole Scottish Parliament is united on this issue, with the exception of the Tories, who have given up on our European future and now want MSPs to give up on protecting Scotland’s interests. The parties that campaigned together to create Scotland’s Parliament must now stand together against Theresa May and Ruth Davidson’s demolition squad.”