Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 460

Issue # 460                                     Week ending Saturday 14th   July 2018

Never in the Field of Human Conflict Have So Many Ornaments Broken
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Herself and myself are happy to announce the safe delivery of the latest addition to our family. We realise that, at her age, this will come as a surprise to friends and family but there has just not been enough hours in the day to stop and update you on everything that has been happening here in the last week and a half. All the screaming, the tantrums, the feeding and the constant tears - and that was just me. It was a much awaited event of great joy and I can now tell you there was no IVF involved at any stage at all.

It was not as much the patter of tiny feet as the almighty thumping of his legs that alerted us to his arrival from his first few months of special care in Great Bernera. Intelligent but also daft, wise but quite stupid, full of energy but also prone to ridiculous childish grumpiness, please welcome ... Winston. Known in his former home as Ringo, the poor dog has probably been very confused at not just his change of home but the fact that we started calling out the name of a former Prime Minister whenever we see him or take him for a W.

We do not want to excite him too much by saying the W word as that big tail will start swishing sending even more of Mrs X’s beloved coffee table adornments crashing into the fireplace. Why the name Winston? I really don’t know as it was The Brat’s decision which was only right as he is hers. Maybe it was because “come here, Gordon Brown”, and “Harold Wilson, sit down” didn’t quite work. Nor did “David Cameron, stop licking your bits.” So maybe, just maybe, he is not daft after all. Nor is he quite the absolute sheepdog he seems to be at first sight.

He reminds me of that silly man who was walking down the street pulling a lead with a piece of cabbage on the end. He was asked: “Why are you pulling a lead with a cabbage on the end?” He replied: “Oh no, the man who sold it to me said it was a Collie.”  Yeah, I know you may have heard that one somewhere before but I am making a point. You may think it is a Collie, or even a cauli, but it ain’t necessarily so.

There is supposed to be a bit of grey matter between the ears of this make of dog - he looks like a Collie but is actually a cross-Collie and Springer Spaniel or a Sprollie, as they are called, and obviously Churchill is a figure already well-known in doggy circles - and car insurance circles. Oh yes. That Springer bit can make him impetuous and want to do his own thing. He reminds me of Boris Johnson.

But what of Hector? Our Miniature Schnauzer has been part of this family for 11 years and he has had his snout put well out of joint by the arrival of this larger, stronger but softer giant - and he has been having none of it. Only now can he come into contact with Winston at all without snapping, howling, growling and generally indicating his displeasure in every way he knows how. Winston has so far put up with the absence of welcome from his housemate but if he wanted he could rip the wee ratting canine from Bavaria apart and fling him into the middle of next week if he wanted to. Happily, his patience is still holding.

So Mrs X, The Brat and I have new responsibilities in this house. We now need to also feed this near-horse, exercise him, risk death by playing with him when he has boundless energy. The Brat however is rather adept at his training and already has him walking at heel on a lead. Only when larger vehicles roar by does he get distracted enough to try and herd them as if they were diesel-powered Blackfaces and Cheviots. It’s hard work - almost like having a very responsible job. Unlike Boris Johnson.

We are planning to go to Glasgow at the weekend to visit friends. They told us bring our new dog. Ach why not, we thought. When I phoned Loganair to ask if we could do that they were very helpful. They said I just had to take a kennel - but not a small one. They explained that the kennel needed to be large enough for Winston to stand up, sit down, turn around, and roll over. “Oh, a’ Thighearna,” I said. “I’ll never be able to teach him to do all that by Saturday.”

Strathnaver Gael Named As Sabhal Mòr Vice-Principal
Marsaili MacLeod, originally from Strathnaver, has been named as the next vice-principal and director of studies at Skye’s Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands.  Dr MacLeod currently lectures in Gaelic studies at the University of Aberdeen and is expected to take up her new appointment in the autumn. She takes over from John Norman MacLeod, who is retiring after thirtyfive years leading the academic affairs of the Gaelic college.  Marsaili MacLeod gained her PhD in Geography from the University of Aberdeen on the subject of the meaning of work in the Gaelic labour market in the Highlands and Islands. Before joining the Gaelic department in Aberdeen, she held posts at the Scottish Agricultural College and Queen’s University, Belfast.  Welcoming her appointment, Angus MacLeod, chairman of the board of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, said:“Marsaili has excellent skills in teaching, research, management and administration and we are sure she will achieve great things in this role.” Dr MacLeod will join Dr Gillian Rothach, Sabhal Mòr’s new principal, who takes over the helm from Professor Boyd Robertson in mid-August.

Gove Disclaims Responsibility for Scottish Rural Policy After Brexit

Michael Gove, UK Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has acknowledged that future agricultural support must be tailored to the nature of Scotland’s landscape, recognising the high percentage of less favoured areas and the needs of upland farmers. However, he reiterated that the detail of how this is worked out remains a matter for the Scottish Government, suggesting that the Holyrood administration may wish to introduce its own agriculture bill to fine-tune how rural funding will be managed after Brexit. Mr Gove’s comments came on June 27 during an evidence session on the implications of Brexit for Scottish agriculture and fisheries, during which he took questions from members of the Scottish Government’s rural economy and connectivity committee. The session followed the publication of a Holyrood consultation paper setting out priorities for a new agricultural strategy for Scotland after 2019. The report, titled Stability and Simplicity, emphasised that while a majority of Scots did not vote for Brexit, “change now seems inevitable”. In his introduction, cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing forecast an uncertain future, in which Holyrood “might not even have the powers over farming, food production and environment previously devolved to Scotland”. However, Mr Gove repeatedly referred to the “autonomy of the devolution settlement” in his evidence to committee on June 27. “The money is there; how it is spent should be for the Scottish Government minister to decide,” he asserted.  Crofting was not mentioned by any of the committee delegates in questions to Mr Gove, although he referred in passing to the declining demand for sheep meat within the UK, suggesting that growing markets were instead emerging in the Middle East and “elsewhere”. Tapping these new markets would ensure that upland farmers have “a secure future”, Mr Gove claimed.  Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MSP Gail Ross took the opportunity to challenge Mr Gove about the implications of Brexit for migrant workers employed in the soft fruit, salmon farming and fish processing sectors. Mr Gove rejected the suggestion that Scotland should have control over its own immigration system to protect the specific needs of these rural industries, arguing that the four UK countries should work “collectively and collaboratively” in this area. Commenting after the discussion, Ms Ross said that Mr Gove had ignored “the serious concerns of the sector”, disregarding EU migrants who had chosen to make their lives in Scotland permanently.  Jamie Greene, regional MSP for the west of Scotland, pressed Mr Gove to clarify who holds the primary responsibility for agricultural policy in Scotland. “Is it the Scottish Government’s responsibility, the UK Westminster Government’s or a bit of both?” he asked. Mr Gove replied that it was “a devolved matter”, batting responsibility back into Mr Ewing’s court. “We have outlined an approach that we believe will help to make farming more productive in England and that will safeguard the environment. I sense that people in Scotland want the Scottish Government to be a little clearer about the direction of travel post-2024.”  So far, Mr Ewing has given little indication of any major changes in the way agricultural funding will be allocated. “In the short-term, I am proposing that support schemes for active farming, food production, environmental improvements, forestry and rural development fundamentally stay largely the same,” he stated in the introduction to June’s consultation report. “However, where schemes and processes can usefully be simplified and streamlined, we should do so.”  Commenting on the document, Scottish Crofting Federation chairman Russell Smith said: “Clear principles such as maintaining environmental standards are welcomed, as are the suggested possibilities of innovation, such as simplifying the application process for those whose circumstances stay largely unchanged year on year.” “There are other areas in the consultation that we will be commenting on, such as mapping of eligible areas, duplicating inspections and over-severe penalties, which all cause problems for our members.”

Theresa May to Boris Johnson ‘It is Only Right You Should Step Down’

Theresa May has issued a reply to Boris Johnson’s resignation letter in which he was critical of the Prime Minister’s Brexit strategy. In her reply to Mr Johnson’s letter of resignation, Mrs May said she was “sorry - and a little surprised” that he had chosen to leave following their “productive discussions” at Chequers.  However, she said that if he was unable to support the Government’s agreed position “it is right that you step down”.  As I outlined at Chequers, the agreement we reached requires the full collective support of Her Majesty’s Government,” she said.  During the EU referendum campaign, collective responsibility on EU policy was temporarily suspended. As we developed our policy on Brexit, I have allowed Cabinet colleagues considerable latitude to express their views. But the agreement we reached on Friday marks the point where that is no longer the case, and if you are not able to provide the support we need to secure this deal in the interests of the United Kingdom, it is right that you should step down.”

Churches Plan Outdoor Service At Historic Revival Site

Churches in Lewis are planning to come together for a joint outdoor service on the evening of Friday 27 July 2018 in Baile na Cille Glebe, Uig.  Everyone is invited to attend in the service, which will include preaching, and praise, both traditional and modern, with contributions from people of all ages and from different denominations.  Baile na Cille Glebe became famous in the 1820s when as many as 9,000 people would gather there to take communion together. Known as the Great Lewis Revival, the services were led by a local minister, Rev Alexander MacLeod.  Rev Hugh Stewart, minister for Lochs in Bernera linked with Uig, said the last outdoor ecumenical service was eight years ago and attracted around 250 worshippers from across Lewis. “Baile na Cille Glebe offers a spectacular setting with a glorious sea and mountain landscape,” he said. “It is an ideal place to appreciate divine creation and worship God as a community of Christians. The Great Lewis Revival was a monumental event in the life of our islands and resulted in a lasting spiritual transformation and renewal that not only impacted individuals but also the community as a whole. We hope as many people as possible will join us this year to recreate that same spirit of renewed faith and gratitude for our many blessings.”

Seabirds Return to Outer Hebrides After Mink Eradicated
Seabirds and waders are flocking back to the Outer Hebrides after the success of a scheme to eradicate non-native mink from the islands. Terns, waders, divers and ducks were among wildlife “devastated” on the islands due to the invasive American species that escaped from fur farms and preyed on ground-nesting birds and fish. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) led a “complex and challenging” 17-year scheme to remove the predators and protect the native wildlife.  The success of the Hebridean Mink Project (HMP) in catching nearly 2,200 of the animals, and its positive effect on native species, has also resulted in a boost in tourism. SNH chairman Mike Cantlay said: “Mink, an invasive non-native species, prey on ground-nesting birds and fish. With major funding from the EU Life programme, at the project’s height a team of just 12 core Scottish Natural Heritage staff worked as teams of trappers to remove mink, and help bring back native birds to one of the remotest, wildest landscapes anywhere in Scotland.” Hundreds of islands contribute to a coastline of approximately 2,500km – 15 per cent of Scotland’s total. More than 7,500 freshwater lochs – around 24 per cent of Scotland’s total – helped invasive mink grow to dense populations rarely reached in their native North America.  SNH area manager for Argyll and the Outer Hebrides David Maclennan said: “Invasive species are one of the greatest threats to the beauty and variety of our nature. But the Hebridean Mink Project shows that we can take on invasive species and win. It is fantastic to start welcoming back our native species.  A range of factors are likely to be at play, but local people are telling us that a mink-free Outer Hebrides is having a hugely positive effect on wildlife and the economy.”  Murray Macleod, an operator with tourist boat provider SeaTrek, added: “Boat operators are already starting to see the results of the mink project. We have changed our tourist routes this year because. in places where there used to be no bird populations to view. Now we are seeing colonies of terns with chicks. It’s been an incredible boost to local tourism.”  The introduction of mink in Scotland has been directly connected to the fur farming industry established in the 1950s.  In the Outer Hebrides fur farms on the Isle of Lewis went out of business in the 1960s and feral populations quickly became established.  Small-scale control operations carried out by sporting estates and an attempt by SNH to prevent the mink population spreading south had limited effect. By 1999 breeding populations of mink had become established on North Uist and Benbecula. The HMP was set up in 2001 by SNH and partners as a five-year conservation initiative with the aim of removing mink from the islands of North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and the Sound of Harris, with funding from EU Life. The HMP used so-called “mink police”, small waterproof units attached to live catch cage traps which are activated when a mink is trapped inside. To date, 2,198 mink have been caught, with only two non-breeding females and associated males caught in Lewis and Harris in the last 18 months.

UK Westminster Government Has Descended Into 'Utter Chaos'

The resignation of David Davis as Brexit Secretary has confirmed the UK Westminster government’s descent into “utter chaos”, Nicola Sturgeon has said.  The First Minister said Theresa May’s administration was now simply a “shambles”. Ms Sturgeon tweeted her verdict as SNP MPs were being asked to attend a Downing Street briefing on the Prime Minister’s Chequers deal by her of chief of staff Gavin Barwell. Mr Barwell has offered a briefing on Mrs May’s Brexit proposals to all opposition MPs, in a sign Number 10 knows it cannot rely on the support of Tory MPs alone to make them work. Leading Brexiter Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said it showed Ms May would need “social votes” to get her scheme through parliament. After quitting on Sunday night, Mr Davis said this morning that he could not have sold Mrs May’s Brexit proposals in Brussels as he did not believe in them. They were giving away “too much, too easily”, Mr Davis said on BBC Radio 4. Ms Sturgeon wrote: “The Chequers unity didn’t last long. This UK Westminster government is in utter chaos and ebbing authority by the day. What a shambles.”  Carwyn Jones, the Labour First Minister of Wales, added: “The resignation of David Davis shows that the UK Westminster Government is in complete disarray over Brexit and action urgently needs to be taken to resolve this chaos - businesses need certainty and the country needs leadership and direction.” Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard called for a general election.  He said: “Theresa May has no authority left. The Prime Minister is in office but not in power. This is not sustainable.  In the interests of the great majority of people in Scotland and across the United Kingdom, we must have a General Election.”  Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell tweeted: "With such instability in government it's impossible to see how EU leaders could take Theresa May seriously in the next round of negotiations. It's time for her and her party to put country before party and go."

Trump Golf Course 'Destroyed' Dunes
Donald Trump's north east golf course has "partially destroyed" the specially protected site it was built on.  That is the conclusion reached in a draft monitoring report by the government watchdog, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).  The findings have been released to the BBC under freedom of information, as the president prepares to visit the UK.  The assessment dates from 2016 but SNH has delayed a decision on downgrading the site from special status. Donald Trump opened his controversial and widely acclaimed golf course on the Menie estate in Aberdeenshire in 2012.  It is partly built on Foveran Links - a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), originally listed as one of the most exceptional sand dune systems in Britain.  In 2008, SNH warned a planning inquiry that the golf course development would seriously damage the SSSI.  Planning permission was granted on the basis that the potential economic benefit would outweigh environmental harm.  In 2012, SNH advised the Trump Organisation that de-notification of the SSSI was likely.  They have been monitoring the impact of the course on the dunes and the habitat they created, with site visits in 2012, 2013 and 2016.  Two years ago they concluded that the site's special features had been "partially destroyed" with no prospect of recovery.  The draft site condition and monitoring report states that "part of the site has been destroyed or damaged by the construction of the golf course on Menie".  "Most of its important geomorphological features have been lost or reduced to fragments," it adds.  Before the course was built, the dune system moved north at substantial speeds - up to 11 metres (12 yards) per year - across an area of about 15 hectares (37 acres).  It was considered one of the finest examples of a mobile sand dune system in the UK.  In November 2017, SNH confirmed that it was reviewing the boundary of the Foveran Links SSSI.  It said a decision on whether or not to denotify all or part of the site was due by the end of that year.  Within days of that being reported by the BBC, SNH sent a full briefing to the Scottish government and held a meeting with the Trump Organisation.  It has since decided to consider the future of the Foveran Links site as part of a wider review including other SSSIs.  That has delayed a final decision which is now due to be taken by the SNH board later this year.  SNH has released a series of documents relating to the environmental status of Trump Aberdeen in response to a freedom of information request.  It has withheld documents that make recommendations about the site's future on the basis that publication could prejudice the board's decision.  Ross Johnston, head of operations, said: "We are reviewing a number of SSSI designations across Scotland including the Foveran Links SSSI which overlaps the Menie golf course.  In response to a request for information, we have released the site condition monitoring report that has been prepared as part of the review. The results of the full review will be published after it has been considered by SNH's board later in the year."  The Trump Organisation has previously said that it would be comfortable with whatever decision is reached.  It has also insisted that its environmental approach in Aberdeenshire has been "first class".

Wood Wins Dounreay Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Contract
Wood has won a contract to support work on decommissioning the Dounreay nuclear power plant in Caithness which is expected to be work around $4 million to the company. Aberdeen-based Wood has been engaged to provide design and engineering services on the project for up to four years.  The services will include the preparation of environmental cases in support of decommissioning work and the preparation of waste strategy documents. Led by chief executive Robin Watson, Wood has been trying to grow its share of markets such as nuclear engineering to help reduce its reliance on the North Sea oil and gas industry, which is emerging from a deep downturn. Bob MacDonald, chief executive of Wood’s specialist technical solutions division, said the contract added to Wood's growing portfolio of work at Dounreay and helped to advance the company’s strategy to increase its share of the growing nuclear decommissioning market.

Nature’s Call by Andy Summers
It is getting dark. The summer sun seems reluctant to leave but eventually disappears over the Minch. The area is desolate and a silence hangs over the woodland. The tourists who thronged the place in the afternoon have left for their caravan or B&B. The only sound is the quiet clucking of a blackbird settling down for the night. The full moon is rising and trying to weave a veil of hazy bluish light around the forest, with parts of sky visible through the inconsistent canopy of trees.

The flowers of the wood sorrel and anemone have closed for the night and the sweet scent of honeysuckle moves through the trees, but there is also a nastier smell nearby: a half-eaten corpse lies on the woodland floor. Common shrews are frenetic animals. They need to eat constantly, day and night, to stay alive. Unlike mice and voles they are carnivores and will eat worms, beetles and any other insects they can find. But this one now lies still and lifeless. I suspect it has been murdered! But who has killed this poor creature? A shrew’s main predators include foxes, stoats, weasels, cats and owls. However, they have poison glands on the side of their bodies and so many predators learn to avoid them. Shrews have six or seven young and sometimes have four litters a year. By the autumn their population in woodland can be very large.  I get down on my hands and knees and investigate the crime scene thoroughly. Straight away I notice the cryptic colours of a soft feather lying on the ground. The feather is barred with rich ochres and umbers. Nearby, a creamy splash of bird droppings covers the new fronds of bracken and a small ball of fur and feathers. I continue my search and find an old discarded lemonade bottle. Bright green moss is starting to envelope the sides and assimilate it into the woodland floor, but the bottle is open and the sticky sweet smell inside has lured and entrapped several creatures. I can see the bones of small mammals and the hard carapace of several insects.

In a small clearing I see an unmistakable small mound of loose earth. But this mole hill has a hole in it, leading deep down into the ground. I can almost imagine seeing some tiny footprints leading away from the mole hill. What is more obvious is the track of another animal. The footprints are round, about the size of a two pence coin, with four digital pads and no claw marks. The track leads off past a strange yellow mucus patch in the undergrowth.  Before you read the next paragraph, see if you can figure out what happened to the shrew using all the clues provided. Which are the real clues and which are just red herrings?

To work out what happened you must remember the fact that shrews are poisonous. The tawny owl is one of the few predators which can and will swallow a shrew whole and seem unaffected. The feather, droppings and regurgitated pellet belong to the tawny owl, a common bird in woodlands of the northwest. But this bird was more interested in the mole. The fact that the mole hill had an uncovered hole suggested that the mole had come out to feed on the surface to look for worms (something they do sometimes at night, especially after it has rained) but not returned. When moles return to the safety of their underground tunnels they will cover up the access hole. Perhaps this one fell victim to the owl overhead. The empty bottle is a red herring but can be responsible for the deaths of many small mammals, who might climb inside and cannot get out. I once found a discarded bottle with the bones of almost twenty mice and voles. The real killer in this case was a cat. The distinctive tracks and yellow vomit all point to the culprit being a domestic cat (cats withdraw their claws when walking and therefore do not leave any claw marks). It probably caught and killed the shrew before realising it was poisonous and ended up being sick. Interestingly, peregrines and other birds of prey break and only eat the head of a shrew. They seem to know not to touch the rest of the body.

UK Westminster Government to Start Stockpiling Food for No-deal Brexit

The government is about to start stockpiling processed food in case the country is plunged into chaos by a “no deal” Brexit. Ministers came up with the plan after Theresa May allowed planning for a total break to begin – and as the resignation of Boris Johnson and David Davis threw more doubt on her ability to pull off a deal.  The vast majority of processed food and drinks in Britain are imported, with 97 per cent arriving from the European Union. A stockpile is intended to prevent empty shelves in a situation where customs arrangements change dramatically and overnight.  Around 400,000 people are employed in jobs related to the processed foods industry in the UK.  The imports are worth £22 billion annually. The food plan is one of 300 contingency measures that will be revealed in the next few weeks as part of a Brexiteer plan to show Brussels that “plan B” is a serious option.  Downing Street said;  “no deal preparation work is to be stepped up”.  Dominic Raab, who replaced Mr Davis as Brexit secretary after his resignation, will take charge of the plans.  It was revealed last week a unit had been set up in the Cabinet Office to deal with the complex issues that could arise.  It is reportedly focused on plans for the border in the case of a swift change. Other departments have also been handed budgets to get plans in place.  NHS England boss Simon Stevens revealed earlier this month that “extensive” plans have been put in place to make sure the health service keeps running in a no-deal scenario, while justice minister Lucy Frazer said in Parliament that preparations were underway.  “Like all competent government departments, we are also working to ensure that if there is no deal we are ready for it,” she said. “We have £17.3 million extra from the Treasury to look into and ensure that we have the right Brexit scenario.”

Collection of 6,000 Scottish Whisky Miniatures Up for Auction
A dedicated whisky fan is auctioning off his unique collection of 6,000 unopened miniatures to create more space in his home.  Alex Barclay, 68, originally from Banff who now lives in Worcester, believes he has spent around £30,000 on whisky miniatures over the past 40 years but never opened a single one. “I decided to collect at least one bottle from each distillery I visited and from there I expanded the collection,” Mr Barclay said.  Most of the collection will go under the hammer in five separate auctions, with a £1 reserve price on each one. “At its peak I had upwards of 6,000 bottles that have all remained sealed and unopened throughout the years, so buyers will be receiving full bottles,” he said. The miniatures fill a room in his house, but he has decided to clear some space for when his grandchildren come to visit.  It took auctioneers five hours to carefully pick the bottles off the shelves and pack them in to 45 plastic tubs.  The vast collection including Irish, American, Japanese and Taiwanese whiskeys, is thought to be one of the largest in the world.  Mr Barclay, who is president of the Mini Bottle Club, has been collecting since 1974 and says his father shaped his lifelong passion.  He said: “I received a small whisky book from my father after moving to Birmingham in 1972 and I really liked the look of the miniatures. I didn’t keep track of how much was spent on the minis since pursuing the hobby and even if I had to begin with, I would have certainly lost track. However, I’d say that each bottle would average at around £5 making a total of £30,000 – at least.” He added: “I had been thinking about selling for a long time and there were a lot of reasons for this.  It took up a lot of space as I had one whole room for them alone and since the grandchildren arrived, my wife and I have wanted to convert this into a spare bedroom for them. I also used to do a lot of whisky trading with collectors from around the globe but a change in our postal system about three or four years ago meant I could no longer do this, so the fun then went out of it as well.” Despite parting with much of his collection, Mr Barclay will be holding on to some of his most prized possessions.“I have decided to keep one bottle from each of my collections.”

Donald Trump ‘Hates’ Nicola Sturgeon, Ex-UK Westminster  Government Aide Claims

US President Donald Trump ‘hates’ Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, it has been claimed by a former UK Westminster Government adviser. The controversial President’s animosity to the SNP leader was revealed ahead of a visit from the former businessman to Scotland, where he will spend this weekend at his Turnberry golf course. A number of former advisers to Prime Minister Theresa May were quoted in an article about how difficult it is to keep conversations between the two leaders on track.  One gave his ‘hatred’ of Nicola Sturgeon, and her predecessor Alex Salmond (with whom Trump clashed over windfarm developments near his Aberdeenshire golf course) as an example.  The former staffer told the Huffington Post: “He totally hates Nicola Sturgeon. He spends lots of his time bitching about Sturgeon. He loathes Salmond too. But why spend so much time talking about Sturgeon in a phone call with Theresa May?”  Ms Sturgeon has been a critic of Trump since before his election to the White House, calling on Americans to vote instead for his defeated rival Hillary Clinton.  She called for this weekend’s visit to be cancelled after the President retweeted videos from the deputy leader of far-right party Britain First that were criticised as Islamophobic.  Trump will meet the Queen today ahead of a bilateral meeting with Theresa May, whom he has also strongly criticised, before travelling to Scotland, where he is expected to play golf at his Turnberry resort. There are large protests planned in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh by opponents of the President.

Brexit Plan Gets Business Cheers But Tory Anger
The UK Westminster government published its long-awaited plan for Britain’s future relationship with the EU yesterday but was immediately faced with resistance from Brexiteer Tory Mps. Ministers won cautious approval for the White Paper from business leaders but are set for a tough fight against eurosceptics in their own party who denounced the plan as “vassalage”.  The 98-page document sets out a significantly “softer” version of Brexit than desired by Tory Brexiteers, prompting the resignation of Boris Johnson and David Davis from Mrs May’s Cabinet earlier this week.  It involves the UK accepting a “common rule book” on trade in goods, with a treaty commitment to ongoing harmonisation with EU rules. The UK would enter an association agreement with the EU, making continued payments for participation in shared agencies and programmes.  An independent arbitration panel set up to resolve UK-EU disputes would seek guidance from the European Court of Justice, but only on the interpretation of EU law.  CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn welcomed the plan, saying it put “pragmatism before politics”, but warned there were still “gaps” on the future VAT regime and customs systems. “With three months left to go, it is now a race against time,” Ms Fairbairn said. “This is a matter of national interest. There’s not a day to lose.” Liz Cameron, the director of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, welcomed plans for visa-free travel for tourism and short-term business activity, as well as a UK-EU Youth Mobility Scheme.  However, Ms Cameron added that the labour-intensive Scottish hospitality, manufacturing, oil and gas, and food processing sectors “need urgent clarity on the longer-term arrangements for the recruitment of workers from EU and non-EU countries”. There were shambolic scenes as the document was unveiled, with House of Commons Speaker John Bercow forced to suspend the session of Parliament so MPs could be issued with copies of the White Paper. The Speaker rebuked new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, saying it was “most regrettable” that journalists had been briefed on the contents of the document yesterday morning, before MPs had a chance to look at a copy.  Mr Raab faced hostile questioning from all sides, including his own. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the backbench European Research Group, said the proposals amount to “vassalage” and “a bad deal for Britain”.  The Scottish Government’s external affairs secretary Fiona Hyslop said the White Paper had “fallen short on employment rights and environmental protections” and offered “little reassurance” on the economy.  While the paper provides an indication that the UK wants to participate in pan-EU programmes in areas such as science and research, there continue to be too many unknowns on issues such as whether the UK’s proposals can deliver continued use of the European Arrest Warrant and what they mean for the future migration of people,” Ms Hyslop said.  The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said he would assess the White Paper to see if it was “workable and realistic” before meeting Mr Raab next week.
Q What does the Brexit White Paper say about... customs and trade?
A The government says it wants to create a “free trade area for goods” between the UK and the EU. This will involve the establishment of a “combined customs territory” with EU tariffs and checks applied to goods destined for the continent, and the harmonisation of regulations for goods under a “common rulebook”. The government says this would “preserve frictionless trade for the majority of UK goods trade and reduce frictions for UK exporters and importers”.
Q ...immigration?
A The government insists that free movement of people will end after Brexit, but the White Paper states that the UK “will want to continue to attract the brightest and best, from the EU and elsewhere”. The detail of exactly how that will work won’t be known until a review of migration is concluded, but the White Paper says new arrangements will allow businesses to hire the workers they need, and visa-free travel will be extended to tourists and businesspeople on short-term work visits. EU students will also continue to be welcome. Brexiteers feel this could become free movement in all but name if the UK Westminster government could be forced into further concessions.
Q ...devolution?
A Harmonising rules for agricultural and food products would be “legislated for by Parliament or the devolved legislatures”, but it isn’t yet clear what would happen if the Scottish Parliament disagrees on a specific regulation in a devolved area. The UK Westminster government says only that it will “work closely” with Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. Negotiations on dispute resolution are ongoing.
Q ...the European Court of Justice?
A The White Paper says that when there are disputes between the UK and the EU over the “common rulebook” on goods, “the UK recognises that only the European Court of Justice can bind the EU on the interpretation of EU law” – so any deviation from EU rules means losing access to the European market. A new joint committe from London and Brussels will oversee any conflicts, but may be forced to refer to the ECJ for its opinion on the rules – a source of anxiety for Brexiteers.
Q ...the service sector?
A The White Paper concedes that the UK “can no longer operate under the EU’s “passporting’ regime” that allows the services sector, making up four-fifths of the British economy, to trade in the EU on the same terms as now. Businesses had hoped for a “mutual recognition” regime, where the UK and the EU accept each other’s regulations, as the next-best option for frictionless trade. Instead, the White Paper says there will be a “new economic and regulatory arrangement” to ensure the deep links between the UK and EU economies in services can continue. However, it isn’t clear how this will operate, or if the EU will accept what it considers to be ‘cherry picking’ of parts of the single market.

Iolaire Disaster Commemorated At Gaelic Drama Summer School
A new play commemorating the tragic events of the Iolaire disaster 100 years ago was performed this week by participants of this year’s Sgoil Shamhraidh Dràma (Gaelic Drama Summer School).  ‘Call na h-Iolaire’ (The Loss of the Iolaire) was performed at 7.30pm at Plockton High School hall as part of Fèis Alba’s Family Cèilidh.  The School’s director is Mairi Morrison. Mairi, originally from Lewis, lives in Glasgow, and is well known as an actor and singer.  She said: “Over 200 lives were lost in the Iolaire disaster which took place 100 years ago this Hogmanay.  It’s important that young people from the islands and throughout Scotland remember the lives that were lost and its impact on the people of Lewis and Harris.”  Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s Drama Officer Angus Macleod, who co-ordinates the Sgoil Shamhraidh Dràma project, commented: “The play was devised and scripted and rehearsed at the School which started on the second of July.  “‘Call na h-Iolaire’ showcased many of the drama skills participants have gained during the first week of workshops which include mime, character development, improvisation, mask work, storytelling, voice work, Gaelic song, dance and movement.” In addition to tuition provided by Mairi and Angus, the School’s timetable also featured two specialist workshops in contemporary dance and choreography delivered by Skye Dance’s Ailsa MacInnes and Meara O’ Donnell-Webb. Participants also produced a short film for FilmG, MG Alba’s Gaelic short film competition which this year is based on the theme of ‘Ann am Priobadh na Sùla’ (In the Blink of an Eye).  The Sgoil Shamhraidh Dràma is supported by Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Creative Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and The Highland Council and will return to Portree next year between 1st and 13th July 2019
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