Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 453

Issue # 453                                             Week ending Saturday 26th May 2018

Fix Cramp by Working Out Exactly What Your Sore Thigh Bone’s Connected to by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

If you have never had a bad leg cramp, you can thank your lucky stars. Yeah, I used to get them when I was much younger but I really thought I had grown out of that phase. Then last week I woke up at some unseemly hour writhing in agony as the mysterious pressure was firmly applied around my thigh and ankle. Yelping like a whipped puppy, I woke up the house, this part of Plasterfield and if there were any low-flying planes around, I can assure the pilots their engines are just fine. That awful screeching was only me.

Last time I had a leg cramp half that bad was 20-odd years ago on a bridge in Glasgow. We had just come out of a restaurant and the pain suddenly struck me. The wrenching stabbing in my left leg was so terrible it gave way under me and I ended up half-kneeling, half standing. My lady friend, while dabbing the last of the tiramisu from the corners of her mouth, ran up to see what was going on and found me, well, down on one knee. Well, as I was already down there ... And that is how she somehow became Mrs X.

No happy ending last week though. This was horrific cramp. No ifs, buts or maybes, this was the worst I had ever suffered. I awoke with a start and discovered that a vice which Mrs X must have had hidden in her petticoats was firmly locked on my thigh and, oh heck, someone was turning the screw. Agony, torment and distress. Like I am having in my hands just now. This new keyboard has all the buttons in different places from where I am used to. I don’t care if it is more ergonomic and ensures I rest my hands in a healthier position, it hurts. I have cramp in my pinky now.

They reckon the people who get cramps most often are sportspeople. It seems marathon runners and tennis players are particularly prone. Oh yeah, I remember when Rafael Nadal got cramp in the middle of an interview on the box a few years ago. He took on that tell-tale pained expression as he sat a table and then slowly slid under it. Listen, that is not what happened to me. I wasn’t running anywhere although I was at break point.Tennis term there ...
Like so many islanders here are at break point over CalMac and their on-off ferries. The shortage of serviceable vessels means some were late going into dry-dock as the summer season began. It’ll be the middle of June before they get back to the proper timetable. It’s crazy. I blame the government. And so should you. Transport Scotland is not forward looking enough when it comes to ferries so planned maintenance is now causing disruption as it they didn’t know about it. They ought to know. The clue is in the name. As usual, Barra and Uist bear the brunt of the chaos.

It is almost as if CalMac and the Scottish Government do not care about us islanders. They are getting stick over it although I see that someone going under the delightful name of Cally Don Ian MacBrains has been robustly defending the ferry company in angry discussions online. Ha-ha, what a twit. Who on earth would dream up a name like that? He must be bonkers. You think he’s a what? Actually their lawyer? Oh heck, why is there no delete button on this new keyboard?

It would be unfair of me to moan about cramp without discussing possible treatments. The old spiritual songs which explain what your thigh bone is connected to are short of tips on how to avoid the dreaded cramp? The answer depends on what you read and in which category you are. If you are one of us less-mobile types, yes I mean lazy, then consume more bananas for their potassium and make sure you take magnesium. I remember magnesium in test tubes from chemistry class and they did not look particularly tasty but spinach, almonds and cashew nuts will also do.

If you are sporty, however, the websites and books say avoiding cramp is all about exercising and hydrating - leg stretches, gulping down plenty of water every day and encouraging blood flow by wearing loose-fitting shorts. Shorts? If they mean Y-fronts, mine are loose anyway because the elastic is on the way out. Look at the state of these underpants. I couldn’t even give them away. Not even a charity shop would take them. I fear my pants are on their last legs.

Why A Second Independence Referendum is Now Inevitable
by Iain Macwhirter
Everyone is either talking independence this week, or trying not to talk about it. On Friday, Nicola Sturgeon has delivered the SNP’s long-awaited Growth Commission blueprint for independence 2.0. The Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, tried to upstage it in a speech at the liberal Tory think tank, Onward, in which she supported the Union, but conceded that the highly-centralised London-centric version, is no longer “fit for purpose”. This is not an issue that will go away, as the former Labour Chancellor, Alistair Darling hopes. There will be another referendum in his lifetime, and here’s why. Scotland cannot be content as a declining region of the over-centralised Brexit Britain that Remainer Ruth Davidson described, inadvertently echoing much of the SNP’s case. The UK Tory attempt to revisit the British Empire in “Global Britain” is not a project that will involve Scotland, emotionally, morally or economically, as the original empire arguably did. This is not a partnership of equals, even in theory.  Nor is it the caring-sharing UK that Gordon Brown promised would be the reward for a No vote in 2014 – a new, federal Union committed to social welfare. It will be a centralised, deregulated, free-market Britain, which will seek to overcome the economic self-harm of Brexit by trying to undercut our European neighbours through social cost-cutting, tariff wars and currency manipulation. Britain is raising the drawbridge against the very immigrants who help keep the economy buoyant and society diverse.  I am not a member of the SNP, or a nationalist, but there is no doubt in my mind now that Scotland should be an independent country in Europe. Federalism might have been an enlightened alternative to independence, but I’ve been writing about it for more than 20 years and it is less likely now than ever. Labour picks it up every so often, and Richard Leonard claims to be an enthusiast, but there’s no demand for it south of the Border, and you can’t have federalism in one country. Moreover, Brexit Britain is about restoring the unitary British state, which is why the autonomy of the Scottish Parliament is being curbed.  Nations exist for a reason: they are geographical entities,with common culture and social norms, which have been shaped by history and economic circumstances. It is the natural condition of nations to govern themselves, and really we can’t expect others to govern for us. That just leads to the paternalism and dependency of the Barnett Formula. Scotland’s endemic slow growth cannot be addressed by remaining tied to London. Only when the key decisions are taken in Scotland will it be able to progress like other European small nations, and remain an open society. This has nothing to do with “identity politics”, as the Tory Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, claimed at the Policy Exchange conference, suggesting that independence was all about tartan racism. This was richly ironic in the wake of Windrush, which revealed endemic racism at the heart of the supposedly “warm home” of the British state. Mr Gove was one of the leading figures in the Brexit campaign which was the epitome of a narrow nationalist project that sought to limit immigration and diversity. Scotland is an open, European nation and wishes to remain so; it is mR Gove’s Brexit Britain that is obsessed with borders and cutting off from the rest of the world. Membership of the European Union allows nations to be self-governing without borders, without protectionism, without punitive immigration controls and without nationalism. The selfish, militant and often racist nationalism of the 20th Century has largely been extinguished. It is Brexit that has revived it in the UK. Independence in Europe is the only option that makes sense for a small country like Scotland. In recent years I’ve explored the diverse small countries of Europe, from Denmark on the North Sea to Slovenia on the Adriatic; from high-tax Norway to low-tax Slovakia. They’ve all been successful in their own ways because they make their own way. Being small works well in borderless Europe. Big is not better.  The EU (European Economic Area in the case of Norway) is a unique set of institutions that provides stable trading relations, and open markets while guaranteeing national security. Small countries don’t have to be concerned about the things that used to make them vulnerable: tariffs, currency wars, military alliances and imperialism. Instead they can get on with business. Yes, the big decisions tend to be made by the Brussels machine, and this can sometimes be hard for countries with acute difficulties like Greece. But no small country has ever sought to leave the EU.  Look at minuscule Slovenia, which was successively occupied last century by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Nazi Germany, Italy and the Communist Warsaw Pact. You can understand why they love the EU and the euro. They don’t need to worry any more about big neighbours with bad intentions. They can carry on with what small, homogeneous countries do rather well, which is innovate and experiment. Tiny Estonia hadn’t a bean when it was liberated from communism 25 years ago, so it turned itself into the leading digital nation on the planet, offering “e-residency” to anyone, anywhere. When land-locked Slovakia fell out of Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Divorce, it had little except mountains and trees. It has been the one of the fastest growing countries in the EU ever since. Scotland can’t look to London to solve its problems – it’s just not going to happen. Countries have to make their own decisions, make their own mistakes. An independence referendum may be off the agenda right now, but Unionists should not delude themselves that because Scottish voters are scunnered with referendums, that means they are content with the Union.  They are not, and as the reality of Brexit becomes clearer over the next couple of years, Scotland will have to look seriously at its options. The spirit of 2014 has not gone away. Voters are biding their time till they see what Brexit brings, but unless Britain finds a way back into Europe, Scotland will find a way out of the UK.

Contempt for Our EU Vote Demands A New Independence Ballot
Iain MacWhirter’s article (Why a second Scottish vote on independence is now inevitable" ) was rather timely on the day after Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said that "it would be economically possible for an independent Scotland to have a currency union with the rest of the UK". This announcement from the Governor was welcomed regardless of which currency would be forthcoming in an independent Scotland.  Like Mr Macwhirter I believe a new referendum is inevitable as a result of numerous events since the 2014 referendum. The biggest event is Brexit, something Scotland did not vote for – yet the Unionists jump up and down continually highlighting the 2014 referendum result while ignoring the 2016 referendum result in Scotland. Mr Macwhirter rightly highlighted that the UK is not a caring, sharing society, one committed to social welfare as promised, whereas Scotland with its new devolved welfare powers is creating a welfare system with dignity and respect at its roots. Scotland’s future needs to be in the EU for economic reasons and for free movement which is crucial to our infrastructure and employment needs and the only way to secure this, in light of the complete contempt for Scotland’s wishes in the 2016 referendum, is for Scotland to become an independent country.

‘Momentous Occasion for Gold Production in Scotland’ Hailed by Argyll Mine Company Scotgold

Scotgold has hailed a £9 million fundraising as a “momentous occasion for gold production in Scotland”, voicing its confidence it has sufficient funds to develop its planned mine at Cononish in Argyll and conduct further exploration.  It announced yesterday it had raised £4 million before expenses from a share placing and subscription at 27.5p per share. It added it had also agreed a secured loan facility of £5m with Nat le Roux, who is its non-executive chairman and a substantial shareholder.  The company said its focus was now on finalisation of necessary planning agreements, which was expected “in the coming weeks”.  Scotgold declared: “Together with existing cash reserves, the company believes it has sufficient funds to build the Cononish gold mine, execute a planned exploration programme and meet ongoing working capital needs.”  Scotgold said that, at full capacity, the Cononish mine is expected to produce on average about 23,500 equivalent ounces of gold annually.

Rapid Growth in China for Scots Paper Firm
Entrepreneur Poonam Gupta has revealed dramatic overseas growth for her company PG Paper in China, while declaring that female business owners continue to face discrimination as they attempt to grow their ventures.  Ms Gupta said the Greenock-based firm has secured £5 million of sales in China since October, boosted by what she described as changes in “industrial and economic policies” in the world’s second-biggest economy.  She noted that the company, which provides paper for publications and packaging, has started to see the benefits of contacts made in the country in recent years, adding that she and her team have made multiple trips to China to meet customers and capitalise on the upswing in demand. The company is also seeing significant growth in overseas regions such as Africa, where sales have reached £2.2m so far this year, and Latin America, where sales are nearing £1m. Ms Gupta, a former Scottish Asian Businesswoman of the year, said the progress made by the business internationally is in “in synch” with a five-year strategy set out for the company last year. Acquisitions remain “very much” part of the strategy, with Ms Gupta revealing that she hopes to tie up a deal to acquire a business in Japan soon.  Speaking specifically about its growth in China, Ms Gupta said: “That opportunity opened up because of some changes in Chinese industrial and economic policies. Fortunately, because we were always keeping a close eye on China, like everybody else because it is identified as one of the biggest growth markets, we were just a little bit ahead of the game there. We managed to go and capture the opportunity and are sustaining it now and trying to grow it further. And it is actually across most grades, most products that we do.”

More Money for City Centre Heritage Work

New funding is set to allow Inverness to continue improving the city centre landscape beyond 2020.  The Highland capital is to receive a further £250,000 for heritage-led regeneration, on top of £1.25 million committed for 2015-20 through Historic Environment Scotland’s City Heritage Trust programme.  That cash has been concentrated largely on improving Academy Street as part of the Townscape Heritage Project, as well as helping fund some of the refurbishment work carried out at the Town House.  As well as improving the look of some of the city centre’s most important buildings the project also aims to create jobs and new training opportunities and to leverage additional funding from other sources. Councillor Jimmy Gray, chairman of Inverness City Heritage Trust which administers the funding and recently announced backing for the Cairngorm Brewery’s efforts to revitalise the former AI Welders building in Academy Street, said: "We very much welcome the ongoing funding support from HES for Historic Building Repair projects here in Inverness. At present our focus will remain on Academy Street for the delivery of the Townscape Heritage project. This additional funding will allow us to take a strategic partnership approach to the repair and protection of the wider historic built heritage of Inverness beyond 2020." Alex Paterson, chief executive of HES, said: "Through schemes such as City Heritage Trust funding, organisations best placed to understand local needs have the opportunity to not only improve the condition and quality of their local historic environment, but align projects to deliver the best possible outcomes in their communities.  We want to ensure more of the money we spend is directed by communities themselves – by the individuals and organisations who know best how to tackle the issues affecting their communities and harnessing the energy of local people. We are seeing the positive impacts previous funding rounds have had on local communities, including the employment opportunities generated and stronger economies from successful commercial ventures."

Falls of Shin Centre to Re-open Next Month As Ardgay Man Takes Over Restaurant
A former Ardgay man is to return to his roots to open his third restaurant – at the rejuvenated Falls of Shin Visitor Centre.  Andy Waugh, along with business partner Calum Mackinnon, own two Mac & Wild restaurants in London, and now will launch their third at Falls of Shin at the end of next month.  In March, just 10 months after opening, the Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust, who own the centre, made the shock announcement they would have to close the complex “due to unforeseen circumstances.” It is understood they had parted company with the operators of  the restaurant at the centre, Platform1864 of Tain. It resulted in two months of no trading, including over Easter, and will be three by the time it reopens. But it was announced on Wednesday that the two restaurateurs are to take over the catering and the gift shop. Andy says Mac & Wild will predominantly serve meat sourced and butchered at his family’s business, Ardgay Game.

RBS ‘Failing to Notify’ Rural Communities of Closures

Royal Bank of Scotland has been accused of closing rural branches without giving proper warning to local communities.  Unite’s regional industrial officer, Lyn Turner, said that the union was only informed about the closure of the branch at Carnwath after it had already shut on 8 May.  Customers of the branches at Mallaig, Wick and Aberdeen Bridge of Don also complained that they had received no postal notification of closure dates.Mr Turner said the bank had produced a business case, with a list of proposed branch closure dates last November, but the union had only received a final updated list on Tuesday – a week after the first closure.  He added: “Bannockburn was supposed to close on 15 May but when I went there I was told it has now been extended to 25 June. Dunblane was due to shut on 17 May, now it’s been extended till 20 June.  It is appalling, but nothing surprises me about how the bank operates these days. Their consultation with customers is pretty poor, it’s not a consultation, it’s an implementation.  They are not consulting with the trade unions, they are not even consulting with their customers.”  The West Highland fishing port of Mallaig saw the closure of its branch on Thursday, but some customers said they had not received a letter to notify them of the closure date. As word sped round the close-knit community, customers filled the bank with cards and flowers to thank the two staff, Anne Bailey and Victorian Coull, for their loyal years of service.  Robert MacMillan, chief executive of Mallaig Harbour Authority, who has been a customer of the branch for 55 years, said his nearest branch now was in Fort William, 40 miles away.  He said: “I never got any notification in the post from the bank about the closure day, I just knew it was closing from going in there. It shut at four o’clock on Thursday. It wasn’t a time for celebration but the staff were so well liked, the bank was awash with flowers and cards for the two bank staff.” John MacMillan, who runs a visitor centre across the road from the Mallaig branch, said: “They didn’t take long in taking everything down, the window signs are down, everything, it’s all away now. It’s very, very, disappointing, we used it a lot.” An RBS mobile banking unit will visit the affected areas twice a week.

Mackintosh Furniture is Secured for Only Church He Designed

A Communion table designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh has been secured for its “rightful home”. The elegant table, designed by Mackintosh for the church at Queen’s Cross, Glasgow, has been bought by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society for an undisclosed sum.  It was purchased, in a deal with the parish of Ruchill, along with alms dishes also designed by the architect.  The deal has been made in the year that Glasgow and organisations attached to Mackintosh are celebrating the 150th anniversary of his birth. When the future of the church, the only such building designed by Mackintosh, was secured by the Society in 1977, the furniture within the building still belonged to the parish – and this remained the case when in 1999, the Society purchased the church outright. Until this point, officially the chancel furniture had been on loan.  Now the table, a key feature of the church and designed by Mackintosh as an integral part of the church design, is owned by the Society. The Society has recently, through its members, had a drive to raise £50,000 towards the cost of the transaction.  Stuart Robertson, director of the Society, said the parish had recently indicated they wanted to sell the table, so the Society is delighted to seal the purchase, which was confirmed yesterday.  It is especially exciting in this very special year, when we celebrate the 150th anniversary,” he said.  The seed imagery carved into the table is a reference to St Matthew’s parable of the sower in his Gospel.  Roger Billcliffe, the Mackintosh expert, has written that “the items he designed for the church are not numerous but together they play a vital role in [his] integration of furniture and architecture, linking imagery in the stone sculpture with decorative motifs in the wooden furniture.”

New £140m Distillery Development Tipped to Boost Visitor Numbers
Visitors to a famous distillery are expected to double after the completion of a £140 million development.  Work began on a new distillery and visitor centre for The Macallan on the Easter Elchies estate in Speyside at the end of 2014 and the first whisky ran through the stills in December last year.  The design of the modern centre in Moray is said “take its cues” from the surrounding landscape and will open to the public on June 2.  Spirits company Edrington said the development is part of a £500 million investment in the brand and will enable production of The Macallan to increase by a third if required. About 60 new jobs are also being created within the new centre, with visitor numbers expected to double in the first year. Worked started on the Speyside development in 2014 (Mark Power/PA)Worked started on the Speyside development in 2014 (Mark Power/PA) Ian Curle, chief executive of Edrington, said: “This is an exciting occasion for Edrington and The Macallan.  The unsurpassed quality of The Macallan is in high demand and we face the future confidently with this new distillery.  “It’s an authentic, abiding, ambitious investment that will match consumer expectations for generations to come.  When the doors open in June, we expect this new Macallan enterprise to deliver significant benefits for the tourism industry, Scotch whisky exports and the economy.”  The new centre was designed by architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and its undulating timber roof structure is said to be “one of the most complicated timber roof structures in the world”, with 380,000 individual parts.  Lead architect Graham Stirk said: “The Macallan estate truly is a special place; a place we have come to love and respect hugely.  The vision was always ambitious but this enabled us to challenge our own thinking to create something so dramatic and awe-inspiring.”

Heads on the Block After History Exam Gets Wrong Date for Death of Mary Queen of Scots

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) got the wrong date for Mary Queen of Scots’ execution in the National 5 exam.  The paper wrongly stated that Mary Stuart died in 1567 - 20 years earlier than her actual death.  Sir Tom Devine, emeritus professor of history at Edinburgh University, said the mistake was "unacceptable”.  He added: "It is slightly cheering to know that the examination board don’t know everything about Mary, because I thought that everyone knew the whole lot, right down to the undergarments she wore at her execution.”  The SQA promised that no candidate would be disadvantaged as a result of the blunder.  A spokesman said: "We are aware of a typographical error concerning the date of Mary Queen of Scots’ execution.  This will not have affected the understanding or interpretation of the question. We will consider this when the paper is being marked to ensure no candidate is disadvantaged."  The error was printed in an introduction to source material for the question from the diary of a lady in waiting who accompanied Mary during her imprisonment in England.  Pupils were asked to evaluate the usefulness of the source "as evidence of the execution of Mary Queen of Scots in 1567".  The diary stated that Mary’s knelt before the block with “great courage” and showed no signs of faltering. It added: "The executioner, or rather minister of Satan, strove to kill not only her body, but soul, because he kept interrupting her prayers. When she eventually finished praying she laid her head on the block. The executioner struck her a great blow on the neck, which was not, however, entirely severed.”

Scottish Employment Numbers Hit Record High

Employment in Scotland reached a record high last year, with an increasing number of over-65s still in work.  A total of 2,618,100 people aged 16 years and over were in employment in Scotland in 2017 - the highest level on record.  This included 84,700 people aged 65 and over who were still working, almost twice as many as there were ten years ago. The figures, revealed in a new report on regional employment patterns in Scotland, showed the overall employment rate for 2017 was 74.3% - the highest ever.  Full-time employment reached a new record level in Scotland, with 1,910,600 people in Scotland in this type of job. A total of 322,900 Scots were self-employed in 2017, close to the highest-ever level since the research began, with an increasing number of women opting to be their own boss.  The number of Scots aged 16 and older who were unemployed reached the lowest level on record at 111,200 in 2017.  Scotland's overall unemployment rate was 4.1%, below the UK rate of 4.4% - but the figures also showed almost half (46.1%) of all Scots who were out of work had been without a job for six months or more.  In addition, an increasing number of Scots were classed as being "economically inactive" - meaning they are not in work but are not looking for a job - a group which includes many students and people with caring responsibilities.  There were 768,900 people in this category in 2017, an increase of 15,100 since 2007. Scotland's rate of economic inactivity was also higher than the UK, at 22.5% compared to 21.8%. The figures also showed lower employment rates for Scots who are either disabled or part of a minority ethnic population.  The proportion of able-bodied people in work was 81.2%, compared to a total of 45.4% for people suffering from some kind of disability.  Meanwhile, the employment rate among the white population was 75%, compared to 60.6% for those from a minority ethnic background. Employability minister Jamie Hepburn said: "This is an historic record for employment in Scotland, demonstrating both the strength of our economy and labour market, and that the actions we are taking to grow Scotland's economy are delivering results.  Closing the gender gap is a priority for the Scottish Government and key to achieving inclusive economic growth.  We are addressing this through several routes, including expanding childcare provision, promoting flexible working and a Scottish living wage, addressing pregnancy and maternity discrimination and improving women's representation in senior management and boards.  I am committed to reducing the disability employment gap by more than half and the latest figures are encouraging and show we are heading in the right direction."

SNP Attacks BBC Over Reporting of Scottish Government
The SNP has been accused of fresh attempts to "undermine" the BBC after claiming the corporation's news service lacks "context" and has lost the trust of many Scots.  But the claims have been branded "sinister" and "grievance politics" by opponents.  SNP media spokeswoman Hannah Bardell makes the claims in an Ofcom consultation response on the future of the BBC. The MP says that the Scottish Government does not get the same treatment as the UK Westminster Government in BBC coverage and that the new hour-long news channel must "change peoples' perception" of the BBC in Scotland.  "The referendum was almost four years ago, and we have seen little evidence of BBC Scotland regaining the trust that it lost," Ms Bardell states.  "BBC Scotland TV news still lacks context, Scotland’s performance is too often reported in isolation and not compared to results across the UK or internationally. A wider, outward looking view from BBC Scotland is needed.  There is a disparity in political reporting. UK and Scottish governments are not scrutinised equally on BBC Scotland’s TV news.  With the cuts at STV it is now even more important that the BBC ensure plurality in their news output in Scotland."  BBC Scotland's Glasgow headquarters was the target of protests staged by Independence supporters during the last referendum campaign amid claims of bias in its news coverage. Nationalists were accused of an attempt to restrict media freedom.  Tory culture spokeswoman Rachael Hamilton said: “The BBC is an internationally respected public service broadcaster, with decades of experience, expertise and impartiality. It is the envy of the world.  This transparent campaign to undermine the BBC is simply further evidence of the SNP’s war on dissenting opinion or informed critique of Scottish nationalism. Most importantly this demonstrates the sinister way in which the SNP is undermining trust in our impartial news media, for its own gain.”

Shops Go Ahead After 330 Skeletons Removed From Land
Shops will now be built on the site of a 13th century Carmelite friary after more than 330 skeletons were removed from the land.  Developers have been given the go-ahead to build two retail units on the outskirts of Perth city centre.  Owners Manorgate took over the plot at the corner of Whitefriars Road and Riggs Road in 2006, unaware of its historic significance. The company’s original plan to develop the land stalled after an archaeological dig uncovered human remains.  It was established the land was once the Carmelite Friary of Tullilum, founded in 1262.  After more than 330 skeletons were recovered during four years of excavations, Perth and Kinross Council has granted Manorgate permission to build two retail units on the site.  Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust (PKHT) has been given assurances no construction will begin until a final, major, archaeological probe is carried out. Manorgate sued a legal company acting for site sellers First Scottish Property Services for failing to tell them about a need for an excavation. The Glasgow-based firm was awarded damages of £680,000.  Project leaders have not revealed which retailers will operate the new shops, but agents say the design of the building will be similar to a nearby Aldi.  Council planning officer John Williamson said: “The site is considered to be a significant and important one in terms of revealing information about the lives of the Carmelite friars.”  He said a planning condition will allow PKHT to access the site and observe construction work. PKHT heritage officer Sarah Winslow said: “The Carmelite Friary of Tullilum was founded in 1262, and is thought to be the first Whitefriars house in Scotland, although 10 other friaries followed in subsequent centuries.  The Carmelite Friary was one of six religious houses based in Perth, indicating its status as one of Scotland’s leading burghs in the medieval period.” Documents suggest that the friary became the most important Episcopal residence of the Bishop of Dunkeld in the early 1500s.

Edinburgh Tattoo Set to Go on the Road Overseas Every Year
An overseas version of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is to be staged every year in future. Full-scale productions will be visiting China, Australia and Canada over the next three years under the event’s biggest ever expansion.  North America, India and the Middle East are also on the hit-list of chief executive and producer, Brigadier David Allfrey. He revealed that the event–seen by 220,000 on Edinburgh Castle esplanade each August – could even visit cities around Europe in the wake of Brexit.  The expansion plans are aimed doubling the turnover of the event, which has been sold out in Edinburgh for the last 18 years, from £10 million in 2015 to £20m in 2025.  The number of staff employed by the Tattoo is set to almost double to around 40 under the new strategy, which will see six different events being produced and programmed at the same time.  It is hoped that the overseas drive will help the Tattoo realise a long-standing ambition of achieving a one billion-strong “multi-platform” audience within the next few years.  An estimated 14 million people have attended the Tattoo since the first event was staged in 1950. Around 30 per cent of the tickets for the modern-day event are sold overseas.  Brigadier Allfrey, who has been at the helm of the event since 2011, said: “The Tattoo is one of the greatest shows on earth, attracting audiences across the globe to Edinburgh and selling out year on year. We’re a small company but we have big ambitions and are focussed on delivering a show that is bigger and better, more technically advanced and visually thrilling every year. Edinburgh is an amazing stage and will always be our home, but for us to continue to thrive as an organisation, we need to look beyond the esplanade and the walls of the city. The model we are developing will enable us to invest more in our shows in Edinburgh and the ones that go abroad. It is designed to ensure that we stay in front and are continually innovating.”

Optimism Returns to North Sea Energy Sector As ‘Corner Turned’

Optimism is returning to North Sea energy operators, with trends in “upstream” exploration and production activity the highest since 2014, an authoritative report out today shows. UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) contractor investment is outweighing cost reductions, with firms also now equally optimistic about the North Sea and international markets for the first time since 2013, according to the 28th Oil and Gas survey, conducted by Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, KPMG and the Fraser of Allander Institute.  Overall, almost two thirds (64 per cent) of contractors are more confident about doing business than they were a year ago, with only 8 per cent being less confident. This net balance of +56 per cent is greater than the +39 per cent recorded in the previous survey and the highest net positive balance since spring 2013. Seven in ten contractors (71 per cent) expect the momentum to continue. The Oil and Gas report showed 70 per cent of firms are forecasting an increase in profits in 2018.  Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: “The oil and gas sector has faced up to some significant and structural challenges over recent years and is beginning to emerge fit for the future.  Companies have and continue to adapt and adjust their approach to ensure the industry’s future viability with collaboration and co-operation as well as the implementation of new technology to improve efficiency being cited.  It does appear that a corner has been turned but we must avoid complacency.” For the first time since 2014 a net balance of +20 per cent of North Sea operators said there had been a a rise in the value of production activities, with 46 per cent forecasting a further increase in the year ahead.  The report said investment had recovered, with 41 per cent of contractors now working at or above optimum levels in the UKCS – the highest figure since autumn 2014. Meanwhile, more firms (30 per cent) increased their investment in the region in the last year than those who reduced their spend (21 per cent).  Today’s survey looked at work in the six months to March 2018, asking about firms’ plans in the year ahead as well as the next three to five years, to assess trends in exploration and production, decommissioning and other related oil and gas extraction activities both in the UK and internationally. The report said most operators were forecasting a continuing slowdown in job reduction, while contractors in the supply chain reported a marginal rise (0.2 per cent) in headcount.