Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 452

Issue # 452                                               Week ending Saturday 19th May 2018
Let Me Tell You Why I Think Hillary Clinton and Prince Harry Dab by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

So what has been the biggest news of the last seven days? Probably all the pallaver and the “will he, won’t he” over whether Meghan’s father was actually going to rush over here from wherever he was to be at the Royal Wedding on Saturday to walk her down the aisle. Or maybe it was that other fellow who rushed over from wherever he was last Saturday to grab the microphone from the British entry SuRie in the middle of her surprisingly agreeable Eurovision performance.

No, that wasn’t it. It was the news that took me by such surprise that it nearly put me off the road. I was driving when the BBC news announced they had found a cure for the common cold. What a shocker that was. This wasn’t news. I was the one who perfected that cure 10 years ago and there it was on the radio as if it was breaking news. Then I realised that I should have probably told someone that my potent invention of a mix of ginger, garlic and something I can’t pronounce called echinacea actually worked. That and a secret ingredient.

I know that boffins from the European Medicines Agency say merely that oral consumption of dried expressed juice of echinacea, which is actually a type of daisy, could prevent or reduce symptoms of a common cold at its onset. But they are not doing it right. You have to mix it with the ginger and garlic. Pulverise it with a pestle and mortar until it is a sticky paste. That will be too dry to just swallow so that is the point at which you put in the magic ingredient, an elixir which so far is unfortunately not available on prescription. Rum.

Take a half cup of this dark and mysterious spirit and add just a few drops at a time, while still pestling - or is it mortaring? - to ensure all constituents parts are finely ground together. Add the rest from the cup and lift it gently to your lips and slowly sip with eyes firmly shut. The soothing effects will be felt immediately. If it doesn’t work, just pop in more rum and repeat until the symptoms disappear. When you come round, check if the symptoms are present. They won’t be because there will be other sensations to block them out. I did to cure my bout of sniffles on Saturday night when Graham Norton in Portugal did his annual Eurovision tribute to his much-missed predecessor, Sir Terence of Wogan.

Like many medications, this particular remedy may not work for everyone. Works for me, though. That and washing my hands. Germs are spread mainly by hand contact so keep them away from your face. Anyone who has the sniffles should carry a handkerchief or tissues. My kerchief is always in the top pocket of my blazer, pointy side up. You too, right? However, if you have to sneeze and have no hanky or tissue, do it into the crook of your elbow and not into your palms. In effect, you will be doing a dib. No, a dob? Or is it a dab? Yeah. When you see a celeb like Prince Harry or Hillary Clinton doing a dab, they’ve just forgotten their hanky.

If you happen to see Prince Andrew doing a sneaky dab, that may mean he is very happy. It could even mean that he is going to marry Sarah Ferguson - again. As I understand it, the Royal Marriages Act of 1872 means the first six people in line to the throne need the Queen’s permission to marry. Well - and here is the interesting bit - now that Prince Louis has arrived as son of Prince William and Kate Middleton, he is fifth in line and Andrew has dropped down to seventh and can do what any man of his age pleases. With all the liking and faving of his posts that Fergie is doing on Instagram, it could be a clue. They are pally, very pally, very very pally. I can see it now: “Hey, guess what, mother?”

Meanwhile, who is going to give Meghan away? Will Charles step in? Or would it be better if William took her on his arm for that long walk to fairyland? They had better be careful. They could end up taking some of the blame for some of the catastrophic planning that has gone into this wedding. The nation is furious. They have overstepped the mark and left us hurt. Why on earth did they decide to get married on a Saturday when they could have done it during the week and we would all get a day off?

Cannabis Worth £100,000 Seized From Car on A9
Police have recovered around £100,000 worth of cannabis after stopping a car on the A9. Officers stopped the vehicle south of Inverness on Friday afternoon.  Police said two men, aged 43 and 45, have been arrested in connection with the recovery.  They are expected to appear at Inverness Sheriff Court.  Detective Inspector William Nimmo said: “We rely on information from the public to help us intercept drugs bound for the streets of the Highlands. I would urge anyone with information which could help prevent criminal activity to pass it on to us.”

Historic Day on Ulva As Island Sale Concludes
Negotiations have successfully concluded over the community buyout of the island of Ulva. Binding contracts were signed on Friday and ownership will transfer on June 21. North West Mull Community Woodland Company bought the island after present owner, Jamie Howard, put the estate, which as been in his family for 70 years, on the market last year.  The community company, which owns part of Mull, received £4.4m from Scottish Land Fund, financed by the Scottish Government, to make the purchase.  It is now hoped to boost the permanent population of the island, which is home to six people, invest in infrastructure - including housing - and develop the tourist trade.  Ulva was the birthplace of Lachlan Macquarie, seen by many as the “Father of Australia” and the National Trust for Australia has offered to help promote the tourism opportunity for visiting Macquarie’s birthplace. Colin Morrison, NWMCWC Chair, said the organisation was “extremely grateful” for the support received during the buyout but acknowledged it had been, at times, a demanding and stressful process for all parties.  He said: “To say we are extremely grateful to all our supporters and to the various funding agencies, organisations and individuals would be an understatement.  We cannot thank everyone enough, not just for the financial support, but also the encouragement we’ve been given throughout the process. We have been heartened by the degree of interest and depth of support we have received from official agencies, commercial organisations and also private individuals at home and abroad.”  The decision to sell Ulva was “a very difficult one” for Mr Howard, the community company said. A statement added: “As stewardship passes from the Howard family to the local community, we look forward to an amicable transition based on mutual respect and the Board is keen to wish Mr.Howard and his family all the best for the future.”  The Howard family said in an earlier statement that the ongoing costs required to maintain Ulva could not be maintained indefinitely.  It added: “We have continuously supported the Ulva and Mull communities in making strenuous efforts to try to stem the decline of Ulva’s island population. Over the years, the family has worked continuously and carefully to maintain and to improve the fragile infrastructure of the island without damaging or destroying its wild and wonderful bio-diversity, which is rarely found today, and of which it is immensely proud.” After plans for the community buyout emerged, more than 500 people from around the world contributed to the Ulva Buyout JustGiving crowdfunding site. The sale was completed under The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 , which gives communities the right to buy land and assets under certain conditions.

Prince Charles Reveals Plans for New Wedding Venue At Dumfries House
Prince Charles has announced plans to build a luxury wedding venue in the grounds of his Scottish stately home.  The state-of-the-art facility is to be built at Dumfries House near Cumnock in Ayrshire to provide high-end wedding packages.  Weddings are currently held at the estate in a marquee which has been erected next to the main house. However the tent is thought to detract from the character of the A-listed building, which the heir to the throne helped save for the nation, and the new venue will be built in surrounding woodland. It will cater for up to 200 guests and plans have also been lodged for a new walled garden to be built next to it. The Princes of Wales, whose son Prince Harry will marry Meghan Markle at St George’s Chapel in Windsor on Saturday, helped arrange a £45 million deal to buy Dumfries House and its collection of Chippendale furniture. He led a consortium of charities and the Scottish Government to make the purchase in 2007, with his own charitable foundation contributing £20 million.  The plans have been lodged with East Ayrshire Council by The Prince’s Foundation and a decision is expected to be made next month.  A design statement submitted by the prince’s representatives states: “Event hosting is vitally important to the survival of all that goes on within Dumfries House Estate and farther afield. Income generated by wedding and corporate event hosting is essential to the day to day running of the Estate and the wide range of educational programmes that run throughout the year. The primary function of the new pavilion is to provide a venue for weddings, unique in character and of the highest quality. The reception and banqueting spaces will accommodate up to 200 guests, with state of the art facilities to the rear providing service and support. As part of the wedding venue, the external space created around the pavilion is very important. The garden is an extension of the interior and provides a private area for guests to spill out onto. As viewed from inside, the gardens provide an ornamental outlook, with the backdrop of the mature woodland beyond.”  Princes Charles is also bidding to create a haven for red squirrels in the grounds of the estate. It will also be turned into a visitor attraction with raised walkways built around the squirrels’ habitat for the public to view them. The prince is patron of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust has previously spoken of his love of the wild animals and is keen to save them from threats to their survival. The 18th century property, designed by the Adam brothers, was put up for sale by its former owner, the aristocrat and former F1 racing driver Johnny Dumfries. It opened to the public in the summer of 2008 following intensive restoration work. Princes Charles recently merged four of his charities focussing on culture, heritage, built environment and community education into one foundation based at Dumfries House.

Robert Burns’ Value to Scots Economy to Be Studied by Academics
The economic value of Robert Burns to Scotland is to be assessed by university chiefs. Professor Murray Pittock, of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at Glasgow University, will lead the research. Funded by the Scottish Government, it will assess how the “worldwide fascination” with Scotland’s national bard is supporting Scottish business and jobs. It will also look at the potential for Burns to further support regional growth in hotels, restaurants, food and drink industries and memorabilia.  The study is believed to be a world first in carrying out a thorough assessment of the economic value of a global icon.  Professor Pittock, pro-vice principal at the university, said: “Tourism and food and drink are two of the three largest industries in Scotland, which in their turn reflect a highly visible national Scottish brand in the global marketplace, a brand which owes an enormous debt to Scotland’s 18th and 19th century history.  We need to understand the relationship between our culture and our economy more fully in order to maximise our already world-leading position.”  Within the UK, culture and heritage tourism in Scotland attracts more visitors than anywhere outside London.  Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway is second only to Shakespeare among UK writers’ museums in its visitor numbers. University chiefs say up to nine million people now attend Burns Suppers every year across the world, while Norwegian Airlines put the poet’s name on the tail fin of one of their planes.  The research project will run until summer 2019, with an interim report published ahead of the January Burns season. Professor Gerard Carruthers, co-director of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies, said: “More than 250 years after his birth, Robert Burns, his life and work, still holds a continued and growing fascination for a worldwide audience. Therefore it’s vital to have a well-researched, clear and up-to-date picture of what this looks like in economic terms – for business, tourism and jobs. We are delighted to play our part in this important research.” Dr Alasdair Allan, Minister for International Development and Europe at the Scottish Government: “We are delighted to fund the work that Professor Pittock and colleagues will carry out in assessing the impact of Robert Burns on the Scottish Economy, and particularly how this could be further harnessed to drive inclusive economic growth for Scotland. The report team will link to the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, and to the developing Ayrshire Regional Partnership – two areas of Scotland intrinsically linked with Robert Burns – but will also examine the scope for development across the country as a whole.” The research project will run until the summer of 2019, with an interim report ahead of the Burns season in January.

Cabinet Secretary Opened Restored Castle Varrich
An official opening ceremony marking the completion of restoration work at Castle Varrich, which overlooks the Kyle of Tongue, was held on May 11. Anders Holch Povlsen’s Wildland estate, which owns the land on which the castle stands, had invited Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, to officiate at the ceremony. The restoration, which cost a total of £360,000, was part-funded by Wildland Ltd, with an additional contribution from Historic Environment Scotland. A new viewing platform has been installed as part of the renovation works.  Tim Kirkwood, chief executive officer of Wildland Ltd said: “The preservation of Castle Varrich originally came about because we were keen to see a much-loved local landmark protected and brought back into use for the entire local community as well as visitors to the area.”  The opening ceremony began at 10.15am on May 11. The event, which only lasted for thirty minutes, incorporated speeches and a contribution from the pupils of Tongue Primary School.  Castle Varrich, or Caisteal Bharraich in the original Gaelic, is the remains of a tower house, the precise origins of which are unknown. It has been suggested that it may be a sixteenth-century reconstruction of an earlier tower. It is also said to have once belonged to the Bishop of Caithness, who stayed there on his way from Scrabster Castle to his property at Balnakeil.

Whitehall Warns Brussels UK Could Abandon EU Galileo Navigation System
THE UK Westminster Government has issued a new warning that it is ready to walk away from the £9 billion EU Galileo programme and develop its own rival satellite-navigation system.  Sam Gyimah, its Science Minister, said it was "extremely disappointing" Brussels was continuing to block the UK's participation in secure elements of the project in the wake of the Brexit vote.  He said other member states would have to stump up "billions of pounds" in additional funding if the UK - which has already invested £1.2bn in the programme - decided to withdraw.  "The EU is playing hard ball with us," Mr Gyimah told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. "We have helped to develop the Galileo system. We want to be part of the secure elements of the system and we want UK industry to be able to bid for contracts on a fair basis. It is only on those terms that it makes sense for the UK to be involved in the project.”  Mr Gyimah stressed that the Galileo programme was of mutual benefit to the UK and the EU and if the UK were not part of it, then it would cost EU members billions of pounds more to develop.  "Because of the implications for us in terms of defence and our national security, were we not to participate in Galileo we would look at alternative options and we will leave nothing off the table. That includes developing a British satellite navigation system," he added.  The UK Space Agency has previously said it has begun feasibility work on a UK system, which could cost a "lot less" than Galileo, due to work already done and "British know-how and ingenuity".  The latest warning came after Airbus said last week that it would be forced to move work on the programme - intended to provide an answer to the US GPS system - out of the UK to its factories in France and Germany.

Sauchiehall Street Fire: Piece of Glasgow History Gone As Demolition Works Intensify
A part of the iconic Sauchiehall Street lay in tatters on Monday as demolition works after March’s devastating fire intensified.  The block which housed Greaves Sports, The Works and City Palace Chinese restaurant was ripped down in emotional scenes.  Demolition on the section of the street began in the first week of April and was set to last for at least two months as construction workers take the structure down “almost brick by brick.”  At the height of the blaze on March 22, more than 120 firefighters were at the scene, tackling flames that started in the roof of the building which housed Victoria’s nightclub.  The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said it was one of the biggest incidents it has had to deal with and surveyors said the building had to come down on safety grounds with parts of the structure unstable.  The properties affected are 92 to 106 Sauchiehall Street – from The Works stationery shop to Savers at the junction with Hope Street.  Other surrounding buildings, including the Pavilion theatre, are closed while the demolition is carried out.

Airport Has Record April As Route Wins Give Boost
Edinburgh Airport has recorded its busiest-ever April, with a 5.7 per cent year-on-year rise in passenger numbers to more than 1.2 million.  The increase was driven by a 7.2% year-on-year increase in international passenger numbers, to 757,608.  The airport highlighted the fact that Ryanair was last month flying on 15 routes to overseas destinations which were not operated by the budget carrier from Edinburgh the previous April. Edinburgh Airport also flagged easyJet’s use of larger aircraft for international, as well as domestic, routes. It also highlighted the boost to passenger numbers from Norwegian’s introduction of transatlantic services from Edinburgh to Providence and Stewart last June.  Domestic passenger numbers at Edinburgh Airport in April were, at 448,932, up by 3.1% on the same month of 2017.  Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar said: “It’s great to see growth in both our domestic and international markets, especially after a flat month in March due to the Beast from the East, and this has resulted in our busiest April ever.  We’re flying to more destinations than ever before with 22 new routes launching since this time last year, 21 of those to international destinations.” Highlighting confidence in the outlook for passenger numbers, and flagging recent route wins, he added: “We’ve recently announced two fantastic additions in Beijing with Hainan and Dubai with Emirates and they will attract even more tourists and expand business opportunities, as will our direct flight to Washington with United which comes online later this month.”

Community Buyout Plans for Castle
Bold plans for a community buyout of Urquhart Castle visitor centre overlooking Loch Ness – which could generate millions of pounds for the local economy – will be discussed at a public meeting next week. The site, visited by almost half a million people last year, making it one of Scotland’s most popular tourist attractions, is operated by the government agency Historic Environment Scotland (HES).  But a community group believes the tourist attraction could generate much-needed funds for local projects ranging from road improvements to supporting a childcare centre if it was run by locals.  It wants to explore the possibility of using community asset transfer legislation to acquire the visitor centre, car park and land along with the neighbouring tourist information centre and Loch Ness Homes parkland. The Glen Urquhart Rural Community Association (Gurca) is urging people to give their views at a meeting at Glenurquhart Public Hall, starting at 7.30pm next Tuesday.   Loch Ness tourism expert Willie Cameron, a spokesman for Gurca which includes community and business representatives, said there had been some initial meetings to discuss the idea.  "At this stage, it is a proposal," he said. "No action is going to be taken until the meeting when we will find out the will of the people."  If support was forthcoming, the next step would be to carry out a feasibility study but he believed Urquhart Castle had the potential to bring in revenue for infrastructure projects such as pothole repairs, improved footpaths and cycle ways, as well as supporting local facilities such as the day care centre and a childcare centre."We have a cash cow sitting on our doorstep but it seems not a penny is coming into the area," he said. "We have potholes on the A82. How can you invite people to the area, flying in from China and hiring cars, only for them to have a burst tyre?" He stressed, however, the buyout was only a suggestion at this stage. "I believe it is possible and feasible," he said. "It could be the tipping point for complete change in the area."     A HES spokeswoman said: "We were approached by the Glen Urquhart Rural Community Association to discuss their broader plans for the area and have had two initial meetings. However, there are no firm plans on the table."

Brewery Top of the World After Success At Major International Contest
A world beating ale from a brewery on the Black Isle has wowed judges at an international festival.  Red Rocker, by the Cromarty Brewing Company, won gold in the Rye Beer category in this year’s World Beer Cup. Staff at the brewery are “over the moon” at the award, which was awarded last week at the contest in Nashville, Tennessee.  And the achievement is all the more remarkable given the scale of the competition.  More than 8000 different entries from 66 different countries took part in the various categories, in what organisers have labelled the “Olympics of Beer”.  “We’re totally over the moon with the award!” said a spokesman for the brewery. “Red Rocker was our third ever beer, and still remains very much at the heart of our range. [We’re] absolutely delighted by the news!” It was one of 26 different award winners from British breweries in this year’s event. A spokesman for Cromarty and District Community Council, said: “Fantastic news for the team at Cromarty Brewing Company. Congratulations on such an achievement.”

Multiple Offences Detected At Inverness 'Car Cruise' Event

Several drivers are to be reported to the procurator fiscal over offences detected during a "car cruise" event held in Inverness.  Road policing officers were out in force around the time of the event, which took place at Inverness Shopping Park on Saturday.  It is estimated that around 500 vehicles took part, with police stopping more than 50 cars. Police Scotland has said that, of those stopped, eight drivers will now be reported for speeding while three will be reported for insurance offences, two of these having their vehicles seized. Other drivers will be reported for careless driving, construction and use offences, licence offences, MOT/ registration offences and dangerous driving the force said. One driver was warned for not obeying a red light signal while another had their vehicle in seized in relation to anti-social behaviour.  Four others were also warned with regard to their behaviour and a number of warnings were also issued for other matters. Road Policing Sergeant Angus Murray said: "It is disappointing that a significant minority of drivers attending this event thought they could get away with a variety of road traffic offences. Anyone attending events like this one should make sure their vehicle is roadworthy and they drive within the law and with consideration for other road users. We would encourage anyone with concerns about illegal activity on the roads - it could be speeding, driving under the influence or any other offence - to contact Police Scotland on 101 or 999 in an emergency."

Rejected: Holyrood Vote to Refuse Consent for Brexit Bill
Theresa May’s key Brexit legislation has been rejected by the Scottish Parliament in an unprecedented vote that paves the way for a constitutional crisis.  Scotland’s Brexit minister Michael Russell warned Mrs May to respect the will of Holyrood after the SNP, Labour, the Greens and the Lib Dems united to vote against the EU Withdrawal Bill.  The vote takes the UK into uncharted constitutional territory, marking the first time that Holyrood has knocked back legislation that a UK government intends to press ahead with regardless. But Mr Russell said UK ministers should not “drown out” Holyrood as the prospect of Mrs May’s administration defying the will of the Scottish Parliament moved a step closer.  MSPs voted by 93 to 30 for a Scottish Government motion rejecting the bill, with a Labour amendment calling on the Scottish and UK  Westminster Governments to convene cross party talks in an attempt to break the impasse.  Yesterday it emerged that UK Cabinet minister David Lidington had written to Scottish party leaders saying the UK  Westminster Government would consider any “practical variations” to the Bill. The dispute centres on how EU powers in devolved areas such as agriculture and fishing are repatriated to the UK.  The UK  Westminster Government has said the vast majority of such powers should go straight to the devolved institutions apart from some in 24 policy areas where they want to develop “common frameworks” across the UK.  UK ministers propose that Westminster should temporarily have control over those 24 areas for a few years so that those frameworks can be developed.  That arrangement has been accepted by the Labour government in Wales, but is opposed by Labour at Holyrood and the SNP administration.  Scottish ministers claim that the UK  Westminster Government’s approach represents a “power grab” and maintain that devolved institutions should give explicit consent for changes to be made to the frameworks. The UK  Westminster Government considers that unacceptable because it would give devolved institutions in Scotland, Wales and potentially Northern Ireland a veto over UK-wide policy.  After the vote Mr Russell warned the UK  Westminster Government that it “must respect the will of the Parliament”.  He said: “The UK  Westminster Government cannot ignore the reality of devolution or try to drown out what this Parliament says. They cannot pretend that no motion has been passed.  If after tonight’s vote the UK  Westminster Government move to force on this Parliament an arrangement for restricting devolution that does not have Parliament’s consent they will do so in the full knowledge that they are breaking the 20-year old devolution settlement and operating outwith the agreed constitution. Those are actions that will be noted here and across Europe.” Mr Russell will now write to Mr Lidington, calling on him come to Scotland and “hear the concerns of all parties and to discuss with the Scottish Government and the UK  Westminster Government any new ideas from any of the parties”. The UK  Westminster Government has the power to go against the will of Holyrood because the long-standing agreement that Westminster should not legislate in devolved areas without Holyrood consent is merely a political convention and is not enforcible by the courts. The European Withdrawal Bill was supported by the Scottish Conservatives, but their amendment urging Holyrood to give consent to the legislation was rejected by a majority of MSPs. Conservative Jackson Carlaw claimed Labour and the Lib Dems were acting as “midwives” for a second independence referendum by supporting the Scottish Government. Labour’s Brexit spokesman Neil Findlay warned the Tories’ “shambolic” approach to Brexit could see the dispute end up in the Supreme Court. Mr Findlay said: “As the party that delivered devolution, Labour will always seek to defend and strengthen it – and that is why we could not vote to give consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill at this time. The Tories’ shambolic handling of this key area for Scotland is pushing the case towards the Supreme Court. The people of Scotland want this mess fixed and even after this vote there is still time to do that. It is welcome that both the UK and Scottish Governments have agreed to cross-party talks to resolve this deadlock and this must begin urgently.”

Comment - R

The silence from Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, is now beginning to become deafening. Is she now perhaps realising that her often stated ambition of becoming First Minister wont be worth the paper its written on if the Tory party does prevail in its efforts to wring out the last remaining aspects of  Scottish identity, as well as the Scots ambition for a truly fairer society?

Trad Band Creates Special Song in Memory of Eilidh

Scottish trad band Skipinnish are set to release a charity single as a memorial to Barra teenager, Eilidh MacLeod who was killed in the Manchester bomb attack  One year on from the attack on the Manchester Arena that claimed the life of teenager, Eilidh MacLeod, Scottish trad band Skipinnish is releasing a charity single to help build a permanent memorial on her home island, Barra.  Titled Wishing Well, the song was written by Angus MacPhail, accordionist and founder member of the band in the wake of the tragedy. Angus kept the background of the lyrics private until meeting with Eilidh’s parents and telling them that the song was written about their daughter.  The original song was released in December, but following on from meeting with the family, the lyrics have been added to and changed slightly to create this new version. This new recording of the song is being issued on digital download at midnight on Saturday 19th May with all proceeds from the release going to the ‘Team Eilidh’ fundraising group. It is also available for pre-order on iTunes from this week. The ‘Team Eilidh’ fundraising group hopes to raise £5,000 to support the funding of a permanent memorial to the 14-year-old and to ensure her love of music lives on through the Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band that she was a member of.  Members of Skipinnish are running the Edinburgh Half Marathon on May 27th to raise money for the campaign and are joining ‘Team Eilidh’ to run the Manchester 10K the week before.  Skipinnish’s Angus MacPhail said: “The very first summer that we started the band, we spent most of it on Barra and from then on we’ve had huge support over the years from the people of Barra and Vatersay. When tragedy strikes close to home it is felt deeply and this is a very small gesture of just doing what we can to help in these terrible circumstances. Memory is one of the most powerful means of dealing with tragedy and a memorial will hopefully help the family and the island heal together.  If the song Wishing Well will also help this bright, talented piper and highland dancer be remembered, then I’ll be very glad.” Eilidh’s dad, Roddy, added: “We as a family love the song. For us, it brings us back to so many wonderful memories of Eilidh growing up here in the islands.  We truly appreciate the support from Skipinnish and Malcolm Jones [from Runrig who produced and plays on the track]. We can’t thank them enough for writing and performing such a beautiful song for Eilidh.”  Lyrics from Wishing Well have been chosen by the family to be used as part of the anniversary event ‘There is A light’, which will take place on May 22nd.  The following lines from the song will be projected on to buildings at St Ann’s Square Manchester.  “Your spirit was strong, now silent your song But your soul with the Pole Star shines on.”  The new version of Wishing Well will be performed live for the first time just hours ahead of the download launch, at the band’s biggest ever gig at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall on May 18th.  Skipinnish will be joined on stage for this piece by World Champion pipers, Inveraray and District Pipe Band, and Gaelic Song super-group Cruinn. To pre-order the song, please visit:

Scottish Photography Treasure Trove Secured for the Nation in Million-pound Deal

A vast private photography collection charting a century of life in Scotland has been secured for the nation.  The £1 million purchase of nearly 15,000 images amassed by former Aberdeenshire pharmacist Murray MacKinnon will prevent parts of the collection being split up or going overseas.  His archive, described as “Scotland’s last great photographic album,” has returned to Scotland after previously being acquired by a London-based collector, who initiated discussions about a potential new sale earlier this year to the National Library and National Galleries of Scotland.  The deal, hailed as the most important photographic acquisition for the national collections in Scotland for decades, will allow regular public exhibitions to be staged and for them to be viewed online in future.  Family portraits, studies of fishing and farming communities, scenes of shipbuilding, dockyards and distilleries, and loch and mountain landscapes all feature in the collection, much of which has never been on public display before.  Spanning the 1840s to the 1940s, it also includes hundreds of images captured by a host of the nation’s earliest photography pioneers, including David Octavius Hill, Robert Adamson, Horatio Ross, Cosmo Innes and James Ross, as well as some of the country’s first successful commercial photographers, including George Washington Wilson and James Valentine. Images from the Crimean War are in Murray Mackinnon's collection. The Scottish Government has joined forces with the National Library, the National Galleries, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund charity to buy the archive from a private collector, who had earlier purchased it from Mr MacKinnon, after four months of behind-the-scenes talks to raise the funds. A major exhibition drawn from the collection, which will be digitised over the next three years, will be staged at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh in 2019, with further displays planned to tour around Scotland.

Musicians Sought for “World’s Biggest Ceilidh Band”
Musicians are being sought to break the world record for the biggest ceilidh band this summer.  More than 250 musicians are needed to take the title, with the attempt being staged by Stonehaven Folk Festival to mark its 30th anniversary.  Strings, flutes, guitars, mouthies, reeds and bodhrans are all needed for the challenge on July 6.  “To make sure there is no fiddling with the numbers, the event will be photographed, videoed and witnessed to conform to the requirements of Guinness World Records,” a spokesman for the folk club said. The band will play three dance sets with dancers from Scottish Culture and Traditions to take to the stage at the concert, which will be staged at Mackie Academy.

Britain Getting Happier - Thanks to Scotland, Says ONS

In its annual survey of well-being, the Office for National Statistics points out how, amid the continuing gloom of the Brexit process, folk south and west of the border in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are becoming more unhappy. Yet the UK’s overall happiness rating has been pushed up thanks to the sunnier disposition of those living in Scotland.  The ONS says: “Scotland has shown improvements in average ratings of life satisfaction, worthwhile and happiness but there have been no overall changes in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.” It explains: “Between the years ending December 2016 and 2017, improvements in worthwhile and happiness ratings in the UK were driven by Scotland, where average ratings also improved.  Interestingly, average life satisfaction ratings also improved for Scotland; however, there were no significant changes for ratings of anxiety. No overall changes were reported for any measure of personal well-being in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.” Frustratingly perhaps, the ONS does not explain just what makes Scots happier than those who live in other parts of the UK but it does say that the three most influential factors on people’s well-being are their employment status, self-reported health and relationship status. The organisation tracks wellbeing by surveying people and looking at four measures: are you satisfied with your life; are the things you do worthwhile; how happy are you and how anxious are you? The unhappiest Britons appear to be the Welsh. The ONS notes: “A larger proportion of people in Wales reported low levels of life satisfaction, worthwhile and happiness compared with the UK average in the year ending December 2017.”

Runners Ready for Scotland's Own 'Marathon Des Sables'

Almost 200 runners will set off from Fort William in the Scottish Highlands for the extreme Cape Wrath Ultra Race 2018.  The 190 participants are from 23 countries worldwide and include 21 from Scotland will set off on Sunday at 10am.  They face an eight-day expedition race over 400km with a total ascent of 11,200m into some of the wildest areas of the Scottish Highlands.  It is only the second time the Cape Wrath Ultra has been staged and this time there will be double the number of runners.  Last time, participants hailed the ultra as a bucket list race. The Cape Wrath Ultra also was said to be Scotland’s answer to the Marathon Des Sables.  The route of the Cape Wrath Ultra is based on the long-distance Cape Wrath Trail.  The average time to walk the Cape Wrath Trail is three weeks, yet the ultra runners will have just eight days to finish. There will be strict cut-off times. The race starts in Fort William on May 20 and finishes at the lighthouse on the cliffs of Cape Wrath, the UK’s most north-westerly mainland point, on May 27.  Last year, in almost perfect weather, more than a third of participants did not finish.

Look Out for the Hebridean Whale Trail
A new marine nature trail is being developed by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust. The charity is proposing to identify 25 of the best locations to spot the marine wildlife from points across the Western Isles and west coast.  It is hoped the project will promote Scotland as one of Europe’s best destinations for spotting whales, dolphins and porpoises – collectively known as cetaceans.  With a summer 2019 launch pencilled-in the initiative intends to support existing wildlife tourism businesses and heritage sites.  The charity are keen to hear from local people, communities and businesses for their ideas and suggestions – to ensure the Hebridean Whale Trail embodies the spirit of the Hebrides.  Scotland’s west coast offers excellent opportunities for accessible, land-based whale watching as the region’s seas are home to around a quarter of the world’s whale and dolphin species – including bottlenose, Risso’s and common dolphins, harbour porpoises, minke whales and Orca.