Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 454

Issue # 454                                                Week ending Saturday 2nd June 2018

Maybe the Only Difference Between Wally and Kylie is That One Uses Sunscreen
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

He was ugly. Folds of fat, beady eyes and a prickly beard that even put Brian Blessed’s effort in the shade. Looking as if he would tip the scales at least around the ton mark, he did not seem bothered by anything. He just wanted to loll about on the beach and then would pop into the briny to cool off anytime he fancied. Sometimes he would go for a proper dip, swim out and just let the tide take him well out to sea.

No, not David Walliams swimming the English Channel. This is Wally the Arctic walrus that turned up on various shores around the north of Scotland over the last few months after being blown south by the Beast from the East. Poor Wally must have been very disoriented and confused and has been island-hopping in the hope of meeting friends. I say he because Wally is probably male going by his size and how long he is in the tooth, I mean tusk. However, let’s not be sexist. Facial growth proves nothing.

Wally was first spotted back in March up in Orkney. He was then seen at various beaches and inlets on the north coast. However, just as happens to so many island visitors, CalMac was fully-booked so he had to cross the Minch by himself. At the beginning of May, he turned up on Harris. Then Wally was spotted on Thursday last week in Wick. He looked done in and wasn’t bothered about the crowd who had gathered to watch him as he nestled in the pebbles on the beach and promptly had a kip.

After his norrag, Wally was off again and no hide or hair - okay, pelt - has been seen of him since Friday. Maybe he has now got his bearings and is wiggle-wiggling back north towards the Arctic Circle. I hope so because that is where he will meet his own kind and not be lonely. You see, he may look rather old and wrinkled but Wally is probably just 15 to 20 years old. You see what happens when you don’t use sunscreen?

Or maybe it’s because he is a male. In the human species, for example, you can get women half a century old who look as if they have just left school. I really mean one woman. Heck, she must be using a lot of sunscreen. Kylie Minogue is two score years and 10 and still looks as if she should be wearing the yellow braid round her blazer as worn by every Nicolson Institute prefect. How does she do it? I have been investigating.

First of all, Kylie does not diet. She does usually go for low-GI foods, but she doesn’t go to the gym and does not even go for long walks round Stornoway castle grounds of an evening. Her only secret to looking good, according to herself, is that she wears sunscreen. Hoi, I just said that as a joke earlier. She says that even if it is cloudy she slaps the old Ambre Solaire on her mush. But that is what Aussies do because they are so used to slapping it on anyway. Heck, is it too late? Do they do factor 500?

Which reminds me - have you got old sun tan lotion, as we used to call it, at the back of the bathroom cabinet? These products are only good for about 18 months after opening. They can damage your skin after that. Spend your money, you old skinflints. Be more Kylie.

If you do see Wally, do not go near him. Yes, I know that in Lewis Carroll’s poem The Walrus and the Carpenter, they had a chinwag but a man in China was killed two years ago after sidling up for a selfie with one who looked a bit Esther Rantzen. If only there had been a chippy in the Caithness crowd, it would have been so poetic. “The Walrus and the Carpenter, walked on a mile or so, and then they rested on a rock, conveniently low: And all the little Oysters stood, and waited in a row.”

It would be nice if Wally did find a love interest though. Who knows, it could happen. You can just see them now, can’t you. A walrus can make a sound not unlike someone singing. They could frolic in the waves for hours then find a shore, like in Wick or in Harris, and he could sing her romantic songs. Aw. With those tusks, his pronunciation is not so good but maybe he could do a Whitney Houston song. I can hear it now: “I will walrus love you ... ”

Scotland Set for Highlands Solar Farm

Scotland is set to become home to Europe's most northerly solar farm. Despite the country often lacking in the warm, yellow stuff, an abandoned airfield in the Highlands has been earmarked for a 50 megawatt (MW) project that could power 15,000 homes or 19,000 electric cars for a year.  Ministers have given approval for the farm in Elgin, Moray, which will be almost four times bigger than the 13MW Errol solar farm in Perth, currently the largest of its kind in Scotland.  Details of the project have been disclosed by developers Elgin Energy after it became the first solar farm to win approval from the Scottish Government's energy consents unit, which rules on large-scale projects.  It is estimated that the site, former RAF base Milltown airfield, could fit as many as 300,000 solar panels and generate revenue of more than £40,000 a day.  The Tennant family, which owns the site, as well as Innes House, said some of the profits will be reinvested into maintaining the historic house. Ronan Kilduff, the managing director of Elgin Energy, said work on the Milltown farm was expected to start "in the early 2020s". Data published by the Met Office shows that the north of Scotland saw 158.8 hours of sunshine last month, the highest recorded in the UK.

Prayers for the Ill Curbed in Scots Catholic Churches Due to New EU Privacy Rules

Catholic churches across the country have begun banning the publication of the names of ill people in their bulletins, because it is feared it may breach the new personal data statutes. The General Data Protection Regulation, which came into force on Friday is aimed at curbing US tech giants like Google and Facebook - but it has emerged that church leaders fear that they face crippling fines if they fall foul of the law.  The Catholic Archdiocese of Glasgow and of St Andrews and Edinburgh have been among the first to agree that publishing the names of sick people who need congregation prayers is not realistic.  But the Information Commissioner's Office which is responsible for enforcing the rules across the UK say churches may be taking things too far.  And the Church of Scotland said they see no problem in identifying any member of the congregation that needs prayed for. An Archdiocese of Glasgow spokesman said: “The advice we have been given at the moment is that a person’s name should only appear in a parish sick list when they have given prior written permission.  Obviously in the case where someone has been taken ill suddenly and without warning, such prior written permission is not a realistic option. "This would appear to be an unintended consequence of a much wider law which affects all organisations which hold data on individuals.  It may be that as time passes a clearer picture will emerge about such issues, but for now we have been advised that it is best to be careful to avoid unintended breaches."  It is understood that the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh concur with the advice.  It is understood church leaders took their lead from the Catholic Insurance Service Ltd whidh advise all eight Scottish Catholic diocese.  The parish bulletin of the Holy Family and St Ninian in Kirkintilloch, which is part of the Archdiocese of Glasgow has already told its congregation: “Parishes have been advised that names of the sick can no longer be published in the bulletin without the direct permission of the sick person to the parish priest.  Names cannot be put on the sick list via a third party. All names on the present sick list will be removed next week."  The rules also raise questions about prayers for identified individuals during church services.  But a Church of Scotland spokesman said: "Guidance for congregations is that including the name of a member of the Church of Scotland, or member of the congregation, or regular attender of worship with the congregation, in an order of service so that person may be prayed for is a legitimate use of that person’s information and is in keeping with the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation.  It is however important to note that if any detailed health information was to be shared – including the nature of the illness – then consent would be required.” The General Data Protection Regulation is a piece of EU legislation passed by the European Parliament in 2016 that gives greater power to regulators to penalise companies who mishandle personal data or are not transparent about how their business uses it.  For consumers, it brings new powers that require firms to obtain clear consent from users before processing their personal data, as well as grants users a right to easily access the information collected from them and transparency on how it is being used. The data includes a person's name, email address and phone number, and also internet browsing habits collected by website cookies.  Heavy fines for data misuse and breaches can reach £18 million or four per cent of global annual turnover, whichever is higher.

Family with Three-year-old Child in Canoe Rescued by Lifeboat Team
A family with a three-year-old child have been rescued by lifeboat after getting into difficulty in a canoe around the Applecross peninsula.  The volunteer Kyle of Lochalsh RNLI team received an urgent message at around 12.30pm on Friday as winds and waves picked up in the area.  The canoe had been out with two kayaks, but they lost sight of each other in the choppy conditions and called for help.  The lifeboat crew found the family of two adults and the young girl had safely made it to shore and were sheltering from the swell.  Two crew members went ashore and when it was established everyone was safe and well, the crew returned them to Toscaig where the group had set off from. A Kyle of Lochalsh lifeboat spokesman said: “The family group consisted of five people in kayaks and a canoe. They were well prepared and set off from Toscaig in good weather, however the conditions soon worsened. The two kayaks lost sight of the canoe in the choppy conditions, and they did the correct thing by alerting the emergency services.”  Other rescue teams have also been busy in the good weather.  Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team said it dealt with three incidents in 12 hours, including rescuing three walkers dressed in shorts, t shirts and sandals who got lost overnight on the Plateau. All were found safe and well.

Plans for Some More Whisky Galore in the Islands
Residents of the Hebridean islands of South Uist, Eriskay and Benbecula will get a taste of “whisky galore” if plans to create to a new distillery in Lochboisdale come to fruition. Stòras Uibhist, the community company that runs the islands’ estate, has drawn up plans to bring a whisky distillery to the islands for the first time since 1844.  The distillery will cost in the region of £10 million and be owned and run by the local community.  The new distillery will be located in Lochboisdale, near the south of the island, close to the site where the SS Politician sank and the history and legends surrounding the story will play an important part in the distillery’s offering.  It is expected to produce 300,000 litres of whisky each year, with the potential to increase to 1,000,000 litres, as the brand grows and develops.  There are also plans for a visitor centre including an exhibition area, reception, distillery tours and tasting, and a shop.  The buildings and processes will be designed to the highest environmental standards, with waste heat being transferred to distillery buildings and the local community. Local grown barley will be used to make the whisky, which will provide additional income to local crofters.  A malting floor will be part of the design of the distillery, to avoid having to export the barley for malting and bringing it back to the island. Local peat will also be used to produce distinctive smokey whiskies.  Angus MacMillan, chairman of Stòras Uibhist, said: “This distillery will be a significant investment in the future of our communities. The Scottish islands have a long tradition of producing some of the finest whiskies in the world, so we look forward to building on that legacy.  The inclusion of a distillery visitor centre is hugely important to the economy of the area and adds to other tourist attractions including fishing, shooting and the rediscovered Old Tom Morris golf course at Askernish.  Last year, the new distillery on the Isle of Harris attracted around 80,000 visitors, which shows the potential that could be tapped by our islands. There would also be the opportunity to work with the Harris distillery on a Western Isles Whisky Trail, encompassing all the legends and traditions of the SS Politician, with great quality products and the famous hospitality of the Western Isles.”  The distillery will provide a number of full time jobs, across all of the functions including warehousing, administration and customer service.  It will also need a creative and highly experience distillery manager, who will manage and supervise the whole process, from field to bottle.

Last Chance to Halt RBS Branch Closures, Warn Politicians
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has singularly failed to appreciate the damage their closure programme will inflict on many communities across the country says a report by the Scottish Affairs Committee. The report highlights the vital role that bank branches play in sustaining rural and urban communities.  It calls into question the assumptions made by RBS that led to the planned closures and urges greater openness in future decisions.  It also says that UK Westminster Government must use any influence it has as majority shareholder to pressure the Royal Bank of Scotland to reconsider plans to close 52 branches in Scotland. As it stands, many branches will shut in June, some have already closed, and an additional 10 scheduled to shut, including the branch in Castlebay, Isle of Barra, have been given a temporary reprieve.  Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, Pete Wishart commented: “The Royal Bank of Scotland do not seem to understand the impact of the closures on communities in Scotland. The loss of a permanent bank, and the services it provides, cannot be replicated by the occasional visit of a mobile bank or community banker. In rural areas, the local branch is as an essential, whose withdrawal is compounded by poor access to broadband and journey time to the next available facility.  RBS did not consult adequately and even at this last stage should reverse their decision to close these branches. The reprieve offered to ten branches is inadequate and almost designed to fail, with no solid plan about how these branches performance will be assessed.  We also note that the savings secured in closing these branches is dwarfed by the operating profits generated by the bank last year. The UK Westminster Government has an obligation to represent the interests of the citizens and communities in Scotland that will be harmed by this swathe of bank closures. Instead, they have been silent both to those communities, and to this Committee.  They own 70% of the shares in this company and should use any influence they have to try and have this decision reversed.”  When they appeared before the Committee, RBS said that the closures were not a money saving exercise and were a reaction to changes in customer behaviour.The Committee finds that the closure of these branches will have a devastating impact on affected communities affected, removing vital services from businesses and individuals alike, and that RBS have underestimated how much people rely on traditional in-branch banking services and should halt the closure programme. The alternatives being offered to customers are equally insufficient in replacing lost branches. Online services provide a quicker, easier way of banking for many customers, but cannot provide an adequate service in areas where broadband can be patchy or non-existent.  The Committee expresses it disappointment that no UK Westminster Government Minister appeared to respond to its questions about the closure programme and that the UK Westminster Government did not seek to make stronger representations to RBS about the impact these closures will have on communities across Scotland.  The Committee recommends that, if RBS does not halt the closure programme that the Government should use any influence that its majority shareholding provides to apply pressure on RBS to reconsider the closure programme.  If the Lending Standards Board, the self-regulating industry body for the banking sector, is to secure public confidence it must strengthen measure and increase openness.  The Committee recommends the development of measures to require banks to consult customers ahead of final decisions on branch closures. They should also reconsider their decision not to publish the results of its work on the RBS branch closure process and any action plan that is agreed. Self-regulation cannot occur in secret and expect public confidence.

Scotland 2017: Murders At Record Lows; Rapes At Record Highs

Scotland's murder rate fell back to 40-year lows last year just as reports of rape hit a new high.  Police figures showed there were just 59 killings in 2017-2018, one of the smallest violent death tolls since modern records began in 1976.  However, the fresh numbers also reveal a dramatic 22 per cent rise in reports of rapes to an all-time high of 2136 - with two out of five such complaints described as "historic".  The two statistics, which are as yet unofficial, underline two huge generational changes in Scotland: the decline in violence of the last decade and a new readiness to report sex crimes.  John Carnochan, a retired detective chief superintendent and former head of Scotland's ground-breaking Violence Reduction Unit or VRU, said stressed homicide figures were always the most reliable of all.  And the trend - over the years - is clear. There were 55 murders and four culpable homicides according to Police Scotland's first body count for 2017-2018. That compares with an official tolls of 137 criminally violent deaths in 2004-2005 and 61 in 2016-19 and 58 in 2015-16.  Scotland's homicide rate looks set to be around the level achieved in 2015-2016 of under 11 per 100,000, putting a country once unfairly branded Europe's murder capital at roughly the same level as neighbouring Nordic states such as Sweden. Scottish figures used to be twice as high as Sweden's. However, final checked figures will not be published until later this year.  Mr Carnochan wants to get behind the numbers to understand why Scotland, on average, still suffers more than one murder a week.  "We still have to look at why 59 people died because that is still a high number."  The veteran detective added: "I would never want to say that more than 2000 reported rapes is a good thing. But we must see this as a sign that attitudes have changed, that the police and other agencies are more receptive and that women feel more confident to report."  The rise in rapes - and overall sexual offending - helped nudge up Scotland's total number for crime. But a biggest contribution came from crimes of dishonesty.  Experts have long suspected that cyber thefts were being under-reported. The national force said there were 8,628 incidents of fraud recorded in 2017/18, a nearly 18 per cent increase on the previous year. Officers said this was thanks to internet crime such as "vishing" and money transfer frauds.  Interim Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said his force was adapting to meet the changing shape of crime, not least online, with both sexual and dishonesty offences now increased carried out over the web or phones.  He said: "We are investing in our cyber capabilities to ensure we are properly equipped to meet the modern challenges in keeping Scottish communities safe.  We have dedicated cyber-crime units and work in partnership with national and international partners to tackle this growing threat. Levels of satisfaction and public confidence have remained very high and people will continue to see uniformed officers in their communities. We are moving officers from back office roles onto the frontline, but frontline policing has also moved into the virtual world where an increasing number of crimes are being committed." The drop in both murders and serious assaults comes despite high-profile tit-for-tat gangland violence across the central belt. Mr Livingstone's force said number of serious organised crime groups had fallen with wo major operations - Escalade and Monchina - resulting in the conviction of several members of serious organised crime groups in the past year.  However, most police work does not involve crime. Officers had to look for 23,000 missing persons in the year, a rise of more than four per cent. But road deaths fell, in a historic change even more dramatic than homicides. There were 146 traffic fatalities, down 15 per cent from 172 a year before. Of those who lost their lives, just two were children, down from 11.

Warning As Firefighters Tackle Highlands Wildfires for A Second Day

Firefighters have warned that wildfires can kill as efforts to tackle three in the Highlands entered a second day. Crews remain in attendance in the Sligachan to Carbost area of the Isle of Skye, where a large wildfire first took hold at 9.51am on Sunday.  Firefighters are also still tackling a wildfire in the Torridon area of the Highlands which has been ongoing since 10.30am on Sunday.  And a wildfire in Achintee, Strathcarron has also seen firefighters today working hard with water and beaters to extinguish the fire involving grass.  A warning for an increased risk of wildfires is in place across Scotland until Thursday, May 31.  Members of the public are being urged to play their part in preventing further potentially devastating fires. A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: "Crews are working tirelessly to extinguish significant wildfires on the Isle of Skye, Torridon and Strathcarron highland areas. Wildfires have the potential to kill, cause serious injury and destroy wildlife and property."

Heritage Chiefs ‘Do Not Object’ to Holiday Park At Culloden
An application to build 14 holiday chalets and a 100-seat restaurant at the former site of Treetops Stables at Faebuie, Culloden Moor, has been lodged with Highland Council. The land sits to the eastern edge of the Culloden Battlefield Inventory and within the Culloden Muir Conservation Area, which was drawn up in 2015 to protect the area from inappropriate development.  Campaigners believe the application is a “significant threat” to the preservation of the battlefield, where Jacobite troops were routed by British Government forces on April 16, 1746, in the last pitched battle fought on British soil.  Historic Environment Scotland, in its official response to the proposals, said the battle was one of the most important in the history of the British isles with the battlefield holding a “particular emotional connection for many within Scotland and with Scottish connections.”  However, HES said it won’t be objecting to the holiday park proposals given the site was “not central to the events of the battle itself and primarily forms a backdrop to the battlefield landscape.” An archaeological survey found only an empty shotgun shell and a belt buckle, both which date to the 20th Century, on the land. HES added the proposed area is now heavily wooded and separated from the core battlefield by trees.  It said: “The result of the woodland and forestry is that the proposed development area is not widely visible from elsewhere in the battlefield, for example, from the centre of the battlefield and the location of hand-to-hand fighting, the Clan Cemetery, the Field of The English or the National Trust for Scotland visitor centre and car park.  It remains possible to appreciate the flat topography over which the Government troops may have advanced and which formed the backdrop to the battle.” In conclusion, HES said: “Our view is that the proposals do not raise historic environment issues of national significance and therefore we do not object. However, our decision not to object should not be taken as our support for the proposals.”  Meanwhile, more than 130 separate letters of objection have been received from individuals over the plans. Highland Council’s own development team has also supported the plans, given the leisure park fits broadly on land already developed and that its design is in keeping with the Conservation Area requirements.  Critically, the Treetops site does not fall in the highly sensitive “core visual setting” of the Conservation Area, which contributes highly to the understanding of the landscape of the battle and how it informed tactical and strategic decisions, movements and positions. The application for Treetops Stables comes shortly after a hugely contentious row over 16 new homes to be built on land at Viewhill Farm, which sits in the Culloden conservation area.  There, significant contact is known to have been made in the last throws of the battle, with historians and campaigners deeming the land as a war grave. National Trust for Scotland, which owns the core battlefield and visitor centre, has yet to lodge its formal response to the proposed holiday park.  Today, the 1745 Association, which works to safeguard Jacobite heritage, expressed its opposition to the latest proposals for Treetops. Chairman Michael Nevin said: “It is a matter of major concern that this development is being mooted so soon after the approval of the View Hill residential development within the Culloden Battlefield, which we opposed.  The Treetops proposal represents a significant threat to the integrity of the battlefield site.  If Treetops proceeds, it will mark a further step in the progressive destruction of a battlefield of national importance and international resonance. Many of our members consider this to be sacred ground, and, lest we forget, it is a war grave.”

Ruth Davidson Throws Down Gauntlet to May on Immigration, NHS and Tax
Ruth Davidson has challenged her own party over immigration, NHS funding and taxation as part of a pitch to centre-ground Scots ahead of the next Holyrood election.  The Scottish Conservative leader said the UK Tory party needed to drop its migration target and, with the health service at “a tipping point”, put funding it ahead of new tax breaks.  In a speech at Glasgow University, she also said the UK government should renew the “social contract” with more housing, better vocational education and decent social care.  Setting out a stall to lead the Scottish Government after 2021 while rebuking Theresa May’s administration, she said she wanted to restore faith in “centre-ground values” shared by both Conservative and Labour moderates.  There was a noticeable lack of references to Scottish independence and the constitution, as Ms Davidson focused instead on bread-and-butter policy matters. Titled “Building a stronger Britain”, and in large part a prescription for avoiding a Labour victory at the next general election, the speech is likely to fuel speculation that Ms Davidson is eyeing a move to Westminster and a run at the Tory leadership after Mrs May exits.

Tory Migration Policy ‘Could Cost Scotland £10bn A Year’, Say SNP
Tory plans to cut net immigration in the UK to less than 100,000 a year could cost Scotland £10 billion a year in the long term, the Finance Secretary warned.  Derek Mackay hit out at Westminster’s commitment to reduce the overall number of people coming to the UK, complaining that “the right wing, Brexit madness of the hardliners in the Conservative Party sets the immigration policies of this country”.  Figures earlier this year showed net migration to the UK from the European Union has fallen to the lowest level in nearly five years, with an estimated 90,000 more long-term EU migrants arriving in Britain than left in the 12 months to September 2017.    But an SNP-commissioned report on Scotland’s economy highlighted the need for the country to attract more workers as part of efforts to deal with an increasingly elderly population.  The Sustainable Growth Commission said an independent Scotland could have a new visa system, as well as a “Come to Scotland” package of incentives to attract people.  Mr Mackay said the commission had set the target for Scotland “to be the most talent friendly country in the world”.  The Finance Secretary spoke of the “enormous benefits to Scotland’s economy, demography and society that migration offers us”, adding that a new system tailored to the country’s needs could “help realise those benefits”.

Approval for Major North-East Solar Farm Project Welcomed
Plans for a major north-east solar farm project have been welcomed.  Elgin Energy received planning permission for a 50MW solar PV project at Milltown Airfield, close to the town. The project is the largest of its kind consented in Scotland to date and is the first to be approved by the Energy Consents Unit (ECU). It will be developed on approximately 285 acres of the former RAF airfield.  Dr Sam Gardner, acting director of WWF Scotland said: “It’s great to see this large solar farm granted planning permission.”  Elgin Energy managing director Ronan Kilduff said it was hoped that the firm would begin developing the project by the early 2020s.

Funding Boost for Mackintosh Tearoom Restoration

A project to conserve and restore a complete interior by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and put it on display at the new V&A Dundee after almost 50 years has received a funding boost. Glasgow Museums rescued the tearoom, known as the Oak Room, from destruction in 1971 and took the disassembled interior into the city council’s collection. V&A Dundee and Dundee City Council are now working with Glasgow Museums to preserve the room, used as a tearoom until the 1950s, for future generations. V&A Dundee said it has now received £200,000 from the Art Fund and £100,000 from the Scottish Government towards the £1.3 million project. It follows an initial grant of £400,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Philip Long, director of V&A Dundee, said: “The project to conserve and restore an entire interior by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, unseen for nearly 50 years, has been one of the most exciting parts of creating V&A Dundee.  As a designer, architect and artist, Mackintosh is of worldwide significance. He has been an inspiration to very many designers from the moment his work was first seen through to today, including the architect of V&A Dundee, Kengo Kuma.”  Mackintosh designed the interior for his most important patron, Miss Cranston, for her famous Ingram Street tearooms in Glasgow. It consists of hundreds of individual wooden and stained-glass parts. V&A Dundee opens on September 15 this year, and the Oak Room will be displayed at the heart of its Scottish Design Galleries.

Iconic Edinburgh Club Closes Doors After Repair Bill Shock
An iconic club in the heart of the Capital has closed its doors after almost 90 years.  The Royal Over-Seas League at 100 Princes Street shut on a temporary basis at the end of January to allow a full assessment of the condition of the building. But now members have been told it will not reopen and the property will be put up for sale.  There was said to be “dismay” at the meeting of around 50 members when officials broke the news.  An online announcement by the league, which also has a clubhouse in central London, said: “Following the conclusion of building investigations over the last few months, it is with great sadness we must announce ROSL’s Edinburgh Clubhouse will not reopen and will be sold.”  It said repairs to the building had been estimated at £2 million and refurbishment at a further £3.5m, including replacement of windows, boilers and ventilation, fire alarm and sprinkler systems and rewiring. “Setting this against a valuation of the building of £1.5m means that ROSL has no choice but to sell the building and realise what value it can.”  The league’s activities include cultural, social and humanitarian events and it boasts a membership of 16,000 around the world.

Nicola Sturgeon Attacks 'Shameful' Tory Silence on Deportation Case
Ruth Davidson has been savaged for failing to back a student nurse threatened with deportation just 48 hours after demanding a more enlightened immigration regime. Nicola Sturgeon said "shame on them" when the Scottish Tory leader and her MSPs were the only party at Holyrood not to show support for Denzel Darku. The Tory benches sat in silence at First Minister’s Questions while all other sides cheered and applauded in support of Mr Darku after his case was raised.  The mute response was in spite of Ms Davidson saying on Tuesday the UK government should drop its migration target for a more “mature” and “welcoming” system.  Mr Darku, 23, came to Scotland from Ghana nine years ago, was elected to the Scottish Youth Parliament and carried the Queen’s baton in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.  The Home Office is now attempting to remove him, claiming he has not been able to show he is still dependent on his father, an EU citizen who also lives in Scotland. The former Paisley Grammar School pupil says he had had to drop out of Stirling University because of visa issues and to fight the deportation ruling.  Mr Darku’s case was raised by West of Scotland Labour MSP Neil Bibby, who asked the First Minister to challenge the Home Office over its policies. He said: “This is a young man who has built his life in Paisley, once a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, a Commonwealth Games baton bearer and student nurse who wants to work in our NHS, but who is also the victim of bogus migration targets and the hostile environment policy of the Home Office"  The chamber then erupted in spontaneous applause and desk slapping, with only the Tories not taking part, despite being encouraged to so by other parties and SNP cries of “shameful”. Mr Darku's lawyer, Jamie Kerr of Thorntons Solicitors, said: "Denzel now has a court hearing coming up and we are focussed on using strong legal arguments to win that.  We are still hopeful that the Home Office might apply some common sense before the hearing and not force us to use up valuable court time to resolve this."

Tranquility Shattered in South Uist by Community-buy Out Tensions

With its white sandy beaches, sweet smelling and colourful machair and peaceful communities strung out along the only main road it is undoubtedly one of Scotland’s most tranquil places.  But a bitter row has erupted on South Uist with locals becoming increasingly angry at the way their community-owned island is run and includes a dispute over rights to the abundant seaweed on its shores. It was the largest community-buy-out in Scottish history and saw 93,000 acres of South Uist, neighbouring Benbecula and Eriskay bought by the community for £4.6 million.  However, it has culminated in more than 200 islanders demanding the resignation of the board and has also seen the chairman being voted down, which he has legally challenged.  Islanders also failed to halt a controversial plan to licence seaweed extraction to a commercial company with many crofters fearing they will lose their traditional practice of collecting seaweed to fertilise crops.  Critics say the disputes highlight the problems of large-scale community buy-outs in which the local management board has to juggle the needs of locals with the very real need to run it as a going concern and invest.

Lewis Woods Are Living Memorial to Island’s Fallen Heroes

A living memorial to the soldiers who died in the First World War will see some of Scotland’s traditionally barren Hebridean islands dotted with native trees as part of a £12m UK-wide planting project by the Woodland Trust.  A total of 130 forests are being created across the country as part of the charity’s First World War Centenary Woods project, which marks the 100th anniversary of the conflict.  The Isle of Lewis suffered heavy losses during the war, losing almost an entire generation of men – 1,141 out of a total population of 29,603.  The community was left further devastated by a tragic shipwreck that saw nearly 200 returning fighters drowned within sight of their homes.  Today’s landscape is relatively treeless, but evidence shows the area was once covered in natural woodlands.  These were felled centuries ago as people cleared the land for farming.  As part of the Centenary project, 14 woods are being planted on local crofts.  Skye, Barra, Islay and North Uist are also getting new forests, with schemes ranging from 300 to 1,350 trees.  Planting has already begun, with the last trees expected to be in place by the end of this year. Lewis crofter Donald MacDonald, from Back, is one of those taking part in the initiative. He has erected a sign by his wood that reads: Mairidh an cliù gu bràth – Gaelic for -Their fame shall last forever. Four flagship national woods have also been created – in Scotland at Dreghorn Woods near Edinburgh; in England at Langley Vale in Surrey; in Wales at Coed Ffos Las in Carmarthenshire; and in Northern Ireland at Brackfield Wood in County Londonderry – as well as many smaller community woods.