Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 463

Issue # 463                                     Week ending Saturday 4th August 2018

Hey Mrs X. As I Am Not Under the Thumb I’m Just Flying Off to the Boozer by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

What is it about being Foreign Secretary that makes everyone in that job lose their mind? Whatever enthusiasm he took to the role I am not that sure that Boris Johnson will be remembered as the one who achieved the most in terms of foreign relations or that he was one of the most statesman-like holders of the office. Perhaps we knew him too well before he got appointed and he admits himself that few people took him terribly seriously. When you are Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, that is a problem.

Now our shiny new Foreign Sec is Jeremy Hunt. He’s on an official visit to China. However, it is not the new trade links being thrashed out or the improvements to communications like air routes that is making news. It is that embarrassing gaffe. Mr Hunt tried to get on well with his hosts by casually mention that the current Mrs Hunt is actually Chinese too. Guess what? He hadn’t rehearsed it, fluffed his lines and ended up saying she was Japanese instead. Strange looks all round. Oh, he corrected himself and everyone seemed to laugh it off but you could see the Chinese delegation were wondering what this son of Boris was going to come out with next.

Poor Jeremy. Everyone thinks he could be for the chop - not by Theresa May but by Mrs H. Well, who would blame her? After all, politicians’ spouses are mostly out of the limelight and devoted to being supportive to their partner. That can take some doing. Yet there he was not just momentarily forgetting her birthday or her favourite colour but her nationality. Nobody usually even knows spouses’ first names - like Captain Mainwaring’s wife in Dad’s Army or even the missus of a columnist in the Press and Journal. My wife is Sandie but to the world she is merely Mrs X. Unseen, unappreciated and under the thumb. I wish - that last bit I mean.

That is a very interesting phrase - under the thumb. It is said of downtrodden spouses but it is actually a falconry term. I have been learning a lot about these amazing birds after a wonderful display I saw at the weekend at the Lochs Show. This is the annual agricultural event in the south of Lewis and by chance I landed at the bit where a bird expert was making a white owl fly onto the arms of very jittery kids. Then it was the turn of a fierce-looking peregrine falcon that was introduced in a mask like Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. Scary.

The magnificent bird was hoodwinked at first. That is the term for it and it has become a term for people who are tricked to do something. And a falcon is under the thumb when the falconer holds the leash of the hawk under that digit to maintain a tight control of the bird. So that’s why it means something different, but also somewhat similar, nowadays. There are quite a few falconry words that have entered the main language. For example, when a hunting bird drinks that is known as bowsing. So a bird that is known to drink heavily is called a bowser, a word which has nowadays become a similar word to describe drinkers of all sexes and even the places where they drink. Boozers.

See? You discover something new here every week. I have just discovered Kim Kardashian claims a new anti-wrinkle treatment for a woman’s décolletage actually works. But does it work for a man’s you know what? Having only now discovered that the décolletage is that area between the neck and the, er, boo ... it’s the necklace area. Why shouldn’t it though? Just because women are concerned about that particular area, it may work for us too. Yet another discovery. And I have discovered those bristle brushes you find placed beside toilets are very badly designed. These things hurt.

The fact is I should not be so hard on Jeremy Hunt for forgetting his own wife was Chinese. You see, I get a little forgetful. We had a few people round here the other night and I happened to mention a good restaurant we went to when we were in London a while back. But, dash it, I couldn’t remember the name. I said: “Wait, I have a great way to remember things. It reminds me of a golden beach. How would you describe the white stuff all along the shore. Our guest said: “Is it sandy?” I said: “That’s it. Hey Sandie, what was the name of that wonderful restaurant we went to in London?”

Theresa May in Plea to Emmanuel Macron to Back Her Brexit Offer
Theresa May is to break off from her summer holiday in Italy to hold talks with Emmanuel Macron in an attempt to persuade France to be more flexible on Brexit and accept her Chequers Plan as the only way to avoid a no-deal departure from the EU.  The Prime Minister’s dramatic dash on Friday to the French President’s summer retreat at the Fort de Bregancon on a small picturesque island in the Mediterranean comes after Jeremy Hunt warned that the EU27’s intransigence was “increasing by the day” the chance of a cliff-edge withdrawal.  And on another front, David Mundell, during a speech in New Zealand, will today call on Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government to “pull together” with Whitehall or risk jeopardising Britain’s ability to fully seize trade opportunities post-Brexit.  In a speech at the University of Otago in Dunedin, the Scottish Secretary will say: “For the first time in over 40 years we will be able to determine who we trade with and on what terms.  But to seize the opportunities abroad, the fact is we need to pull together at home. We need to be ready for Brexit. This means working with the Scottish Government to make our exit from the EU a success in Scotland and for Scotland.”  This hoped-for collaboration will include the need for UK-wide common frameworks covering various policy areas, which will be required not only to maintain the integrity of the country’s internal market but also to “allow us to safeguard our ability to sign up to and implement trade deals and fulfil our international obligations”.  Tomorrow, Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, will travel to Dover to discuss the preparations being made for Brexit but which will also highlight the potential disruption to trade and passenger traffic should there be a no-deal.  In an interview Mr Hunt said: "The probability of no-deal is increasing by the day until we see a change of approach from the European Commission, who have this view that they just need to wait and Britain will blink. That is just a profound misunderstanding of us as a nation.  There is a real chance of no-deal by accident. Everyone is assuming, no, no, no, this will never happen; well, actually, it could.” Mrs May’s dash to see Mr Macron suggests the UK Government is now seeking to go over the head of Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, who last week was said to have “killed off” the central plank of her Chequers Plan by dismissing out of hand the facilitated customs arrangement.  The PM, who will later in August, spend two weeks in Switzerland, could well break off from this holiday for talks with Europe’s other power-broker: Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, ahead of an informal EU summit in September.  Mr Hunt noted: "France and Germany have to send a strong signal to the Commission that we need to negotiate a pragmatic and sensible outcome that protects jobs on both sides of the Channel because for every job lost in the UK, there will be jobs lost in Europe as well if Brexit goes wrong."  The Secretary of State said a no-deal scenario would have “profound economic consequences” for the rest of Europe and make it harder for European businesses to access finance via the City.  "Probably the City, as the financier of European business, is the central point to make here. If it became harder for European businesses to access finance, that is far from trivial,” declared Mr Hunt.  "The City itself would find a way to thrive, whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. If it became a low-tax, low-regulation, offshoot fully outside the EU, it would find a way to thrive in those circumstances. But for European businesses the impact would be profound," he insisted.  The Foreign Secretary said that a "breakdown in relations and trust between Britain and European countries" would be a "profound geo-strategic mistake".

Scotch Whisky Tourism Enjoys Record Growth

Scotch whisky tourism grew to record levels last year, according to new figures from the industry body.  The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) reported almost 1.9 million visits to Scotch whisky visitor centres in 2017, up 11.4% on the previous year and a rise of 45% since 2010.  Tourist spend was also up, increasing by 15.6% to £60.9 million last year.  The average spend per visitor increased slightly year-on-year to £32.22, up by £11 since 2010.  Visitor centres reported that the highest number of visitors came from Germany and the US, followed by those from India, China and Japan.  Scotland has 122 malt distilleries, with 66 Scotch whisky visitor centres open to the public, and a further eight which can be visited by appointment.  Karen Betts, SWA chief executive, said: "These record figures are great news for the industry and great news for Scotland.  Scotch whisky distilleries have invested - and continue to invest - hugely in providing world-class visitor facilities at their sites all over Scotland, and they are collaborating in establishing new whisky trails and finding new ways of telling the story of Scotch to British and foreign visitors alike.  We will continue to work closely and collaboratively with tourist organisations, local councils and the Scottish Government to ensure that Scotland's tourists have a memorable time visiting our country and experiencing all it has to offer."   Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: "These record figures show the value of the industry and how well-regarded Scotch whisky is to tourists from the UK and abroad.  As we are seeing innovative expansions to the visitor experience at distilleries around Scotland, I am confident we will see a further increase in visitors, which is great for our tourism sector and the wider economy."

Concerns Over Post-brexit Protections for Scotch Whisky

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator has voiced concerns about protection for goods like Scotch whisky after Brexit.  Writing in a newspaper, Michel Barnier said the issue was one of several that are holding up a deal with the UK.  The protections, known as "geographical indications", stop products being copied by firms outside the area where they are traditionally made.  UK ministers want to set up their own scheme that will provide "continuous protection for UK GIs in the UK".  But the Scottish government said the lack of a deal was "alarming", and suggested that standards may be watered down to help secure a trade deal with the US.  The UK is due to leave the EU in March 2019, via a transition period where issues like a new trade deal are to be hammered out.  A number of issues remain unresolved, with the lack of a deal to avoid a hard border between the UK and Ireland one of the most prominent issues.  However Mr Barnier has made clear in a newspaper article that Ireland is just one of several unresolved issues.  These include the status of Gibraltar and UK bases in Cyprus, and the special legal protection afforded to products like Scotch whisky and Parmesan cheese.  Only whisky produced in Scotland can be called Scotch, and even the use of the name "Glen" on a German bottle recently resulted in legal action.  Dozens of products from the UK are currently protected in this way across the EU market, including Scotch lamb and beef, Scottish wild salmon and Stornoway black pudding.  The UK wants to set up its own scheme after Brexit, which it says will provide "continuous protection" for UK GIs domestically. According to the recent White Paper it will also be open to new applications from both inside and outside the country.  There is no mention of what protection the UK will provide for products like champagne, Parma ham or feta cheese.  Keeping the existing arrangements might limit the scope of any future trade deal between the UK and the United States, where there is powerful opposition to European Gis.  Not keeping existing arrangements might lead some in the EU to question their level of ongoing protection for iconic UK products from Arbroath smokies to Cornish pasties.  "We still need to agree on important points, such as the protection of 'geographical indications'," Mr Barnier wrote in his newspaper article.  "This refers to the protection of local farm and food products like Scottish whisky or Parmesan cheese, where EU protection has generated significant value for European farmers and producers."  Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Fergus Ewing said the lack of agreement on this issue was "alarming".  He said: "The UK Westminster government must make it clear it is not preparing to ditch vital geographical indications to facilitate a future trade deal with the US.  It must rule out No Deal and reach an agreement that protects our world-class produce." In a statement, the UK Westminster government said "negotiations on geographical indications (GIs) are continuing".  They added: "GIs are very important to the UK, both culturally and economically, and that is why we will establish specific GI schemes to protect UK GIs in the future.  This means favourites such as Scotch whisky, Scotch beef and lamb, Scottish wild salmon - and all other current UK GI protected products will continue to be safeguarded in the UK when we leave the EU."  The Scotch Whisky Association said there was no reason to believe Scotch would not also continue to enjoy GI protection in the EU after Brexit.  But a spokesperson for the Association said the would "urge the government to ensure the automatic protection of EU GIs in the UK" from the day its new scheme takes effect.  In addition to EU protection for whisky, it also benefits from GI rules enforced by the World Trade Organisation in most countries around the globe.

Two Men Injured in Ibrox Football Violence

Two men have been seriously injured in violent clashes before Rangers' Europa League game against Osijek in Glasgow.  The trouble occurred near Ibrox before the second leg of the second qualifying round tie with the Croatian side.  Police said they had been called to Edmiston Drive at its junction with Paisley Road West just after 19:00.  The injured men, aged 24 and 40, are being treated for stab wounds at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. Both are in a stable condition.  Police Scotland officers have appealed for witnesses to contact them.  Det Insp Steven Wallace said: "This type of violent behaviour will not be tolerated and it is absolutely vital anyone with information that could assist with our investigation comes forward.  I would appeal to anyone who was in the area and witnessed a disturbance, particularly anyone with mobile phone or dash-cam footage, to get in touch."

Barnier Torpedoes May Ahead of Brexit Talks with Macron

Theresa May’s bid to persuade France of the benefits of her Chequers plan for a soft Brexit has been derailed in advance by the EU’s top negotiator trashing key parts of it.  Michel Barnier’s intervention undermined the Prime Minister on the eve of today’s meeting with President Macron at Fort de Brégançon, his state residence on the Côte d’Azur.  In an article published in 20 newspapers across Europe, Mr Barnier said some of the UK’s proposals would undermine the single market and threaten the EU.  Mrs May is cutting short a holiday in Italy to visit the French president as part of wider cabinet effort to woo individual nations on the merits of the Chequers plan.  Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was in Austria earlier this week, warning a failure to agree a Brexit deal based on the plan would be a “huge geo-strategic mistake”.  Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab was also in France yesterday promoting the scheme.  The UK proposal would see a “common rule book” between the UK and the EU on goods and and agri-food, but greater freedom on services and migration. Mr Barnier’s article reinforced the EU view that this was unacceptable “cherry picking”. Although his argument was familiar, his timing was seen as a pointed snub to the PM. It also jarred with reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was ready to back a so-called “blind Brexit”, a vague fudge which would help Mrs May avoid a no-deal Brexit. However, in better news for Mrs May, Mr Barnier also said the EU would be more flexible on the key issue of a backstop for trade and customs in Northern Ireland.  He wrote: “Let's be frank: as the UK has decided to leave the Single Market, it can no longer be as close economically to the rest of the EU.  The UK wants to leave our common regulatory area, where people, goods, services and capital move freely across national borders.  These are the economic foundations on which the EU was built. And the European Council - the 27 Heads of State or government - as well as the European Parliament have often recalled that these economic foundations cannot be weakened.”  He went on: “The UK knows well the benefits of the Single Market. It has contributed to shaping our rules over the last 45 years.  And yet, some UK proposals would undermine our Single Market which is one of the EU's biggest achievements.  The UK wants to keep free movement of goods between us, but not of people and services. And it proposes to apply EU customs rules without being part of the EU's legal order. Thus, the UK wants to take back sovereignty and control of its own laws, which we respect, but it cannot ask the EU to lose control of its borders and laws.” He said the biggest risk caused by Brexit was in Ireland, with the need to avoid a hard border between north and south.  What the EU has proposed is that Northern Ireland remains in a common regulatory area for goods and customs with the rest of the EU. We are ready to improve the text of our proposal with the UK,” he said.  It was reported that Environment Secretary Michael Gove privately discussed the UK being “parked” in the European Economic Area alongside Norway after Brexit to avoid a no-deal.  The Financial Times reported the Brexiter floated the option at a dinner of moderate Tory MPs and peers on June 25, before the Chequers plan was decided.  German reports said Mrs Merkel was considering a blind Brexit involving hazy declarations on intent rather than a formal treaty to help the Prime Minister.  Labour MP Chris Leslie of the People’s Vote campaign, which wants a referendum on the Brexit deal, said the EU should not offer Mrs May a face-saving way-out.  He said: “A blind Brexit would take the UK to the same place as a no-deal Brexit, but without the clarity. The idea that the fundamental contradictions of the government’s Brexit policy can be more easily resolved after the UK has left the EU is simply ludicrous.  A blind Brexit is being talked about because some see it as a short-term face-saving deal for both the British government and the European Union, both of which are now terrified that concluding with a failure to agree a deal will result in a humiliating no-deal Brexit.  With the EU27 governments and the EU commission wanting to spare Theresa May’s blushes, there is a risk we end up with a fake deal to save face.”

Crofters Step Up Their David V Goliath Windfarm Battle with £5million At Stake

They are four remote streets with a handful of houses among them standing amid the harsh windswept environment of the islands.  But the crofting communities on Lewis are poised for a share of a multi million pound windfall as they bid for Government contracts to supply the National Grid from their own wind turbines.  The communities in Sandwick with Aignish and Melbost plan to take control of 21 turbines from EDF and provide annual income 100 times more than what the energy giant proposes.  It comes as Scotland is set for a lucrative renewable energy boom which experts say will transform local communities.  UK ministers have announced that wind power projects on islands will now be able to apply for subsidies which would remove the element of financial risk that comes with building away from the mainland.  Island schemes will become eligible for a “Contract for Difference” (CfD) with the UK Government, which covers the shortfall between the cost of investing in infrastructure in remote locations and the average market price for electricity in the UK market.  This ensures electricity generators have stable revenues while customers are insulated against rising bills.  This has opened the door for communities across the islands to plan their own wind farms to raise much-needed funds for local infrastructure.  Wind is increasingly seen as a key natural resource in the Western Isles, with the potential to boost the economic future of the islands.  Now the four crofting townships on Lewis have become the first to bid in the Contract for Differences auction in May.  The four townships which will be bidding are Sandwick North Street, Sandwick East Street, Melbost & Branahuie and Aignish.  Altogether, they hope to develop 21 turbines, with a total output of 105MW. Although that comprises four different schemes, they all meet or exceed the 5MW threshold for eligibility into the scheme.  North Street is planning one turbine of 5MW, while Aignish is planning two (10MW total), Melbost eight (40MW) and East Street 10 (50MW).  It is also the latest twist to a saga that has seen the townships locked in a legal battle with EDF and its partner Wood Group in an audacious bid to build their own smaller project.  The townships have applied to the Crofting Commission for an area big enough for 21 turbines to be effectively removed from EDF’s control and given to them.  But the multinational’s operating arm, Lewis Wind Power, has filed a petition at the Scottish Land Court, asking it to throw out the crofters’ objections and approve its lease.  Both sides in this David and Goliath struggle are refusing to back down and the only thing they agree on is that the outcome will have far-reaching consequences for the future of the entire Western Isles. Sandwick North Street representative Rhoda Mackenzie said: “It’s a very minimum of 10 times more if we own these 21 turbines, compared to if EDF own them.  So if the townships get control of these turbines, we will be able to put more than £5million a year into the Western Isles economy, compared to about £525,000 from EDF.  We could do a lot with that money. We’ve got massive cutbacks from government.  We’ve got a black hole to fill. We’ve got social problems to address. There’s gaps in social care.  We need to address the problems of the ageing population, social isolation and young people leaving. We need to be more innovative.  We need to invest in different technologies to reverse the trend of depopulation. It’s vitally important that the Western Isles develop these renewables projects for themselves.”  If successful at the auction, Ms Mackenzie stressed that all the profits would go into a community benefit fund for distribution throughout the whole of the Western Isles. She said: “We want to spread this, to invest in the economy of the entire Western Isles, from the Butt to Barra. The profit won’t be kept by the four townships.  With us, all the profits would be put into a charitable trust and distributed via a scoring matrix.”  The bid comes as one in ten children in the Western Isles lives in poverty and the number of households suffering from fuel poverty is running at more than 50%, according to official figures. More than 40% of the working population are in public sector employment, either with the local authority or the health service. Tourism is the main growth industry.  The townships are encouraged that rivals EDF already has full planning consent for its original scheme as it wants to put its turbines in the same places.  Agents for the townships have been working on the necessary bird studies for nearly two years now and expect the study for the latest breeding season will be completed this month. As soon as this is completed, the final preparations will be made ahead of submitting applications for planning consent to Western Isles Council.  Will Collins, LWP Project Manager, said: “Lewis Wind Power’s  proposals would benefit the local economy through the opportunity for up to 20% community ownership across both of our developments, rental payments to community landlord The Stornoway Trust, and compensation payments to local crofters, as well as the £900,000 community benefit fund.  In addition, it should not be overlooked that LWP’s projects currently make up almost 90% of the consented wind projects in development on the island, meaning they are critical to the business case for the new interconnector with the mainland, which would unlock further investment in the future.”

The big issues in Scottish wind power ( and other renewable energy projects ) have always been about ownership. About who gets the major benefit from the scheme - the locals or some distant and possibly foreign investor. Local involvement in Scotland is far lower than it is in Germany or in Denmark. Some Scottish communities have taken the plunge and used their community payments to raise loans and buy in to actual ownership, giving far higher returns in the long run, but most haven’t. Few local communities can build or finance a turbine on their own resources, so the involvement of outside firms and banks is inevitable. But the benefits ought to be mutual, and currently most of them are not. So all power to the crofters campaign.

Is Scotland the Real ‘Vassal’ State? By Joyce McMillan

Scotland is being dragged out the EU by the UK which may flog off the NHS to US corporations, writes Joyce McMillan.  This week a House of Commons’ committtee published a report on devolution, and the impact on it of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s findings are complex, and contain some interesting observations on the under-representation of the regions of England in discussions on the UK’s constitutional future.  From a Scottish perspective, though, the most striking of its conclusions is that 20 years on from the passing of the Scotland Act 1998, which set up the Scottish Parliament, and the parallel legislation for Wales, there has still been no systematic review of Whitehall structures and procedures to take account of devolution; and that most officials have yet to receive “comprehensive training on devolution”.  The committee also invited the UK Westminster government to make clear that it understands what the “reserved powers” model of devolution means – that is, that all powers not specifically retained by Westminster are automatically devolved; and asked that the Government clarify its ambiguous position on the Sewel Convention, which “normally” forbids Westminster from legislating on devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.  What the committee’s report reveals, in other words, is that Britain’s unwritten constitution – famous for its pragmatic muddling along – is being put under unprecedented strain by the shock of Brexit. Essentially, in its EU Withdrawal Bill, the British Government has sought to deal with Brexit by reclaiming dozens of powers which were once exercised at EU level, and administered by the devolved governments; and has sought to deal with the the fact that many of those powers are in devolved areas by simply ignoring or amending the devolution legislation, and hanging on to them, at least for the time being.  And given that some of those powers are in vital areas such as environmental protection, food safety, and public service procurement, the devolved administrations understandably fear that they may never get them back. After all, if a post-Brexit, right-wing government at Westminster finds that its only chance of a trade deal with Donald Trump lies in flogging off the NHS to American private healthcare corporations, and opening up British markets to cheap, low-standard American food, it is hardly going to hand back to the Scottish Government the vital power to block those deals.  At a stroke, in other words, the EU Withdrawal Bill has left whole areas of Scottish domestic policy at the mercy of Westminster governments whose policies in these areas lack popular support in Scotland, and are actively opposed by the Scottish Parliament and Government. And what’s more, if the committee’s report is to be believed, this may – as The Scotsman pointed out earlier this week – have happened more through sheer indifference to the position of Scotland and Wales, and lack of awareness of the workings of devolution, than through any deliberate “power grab” policy.  The point about this impasse, though, is that regardless of whether the situation has arisen through conspiracy or confusion, it reveals with a telling clarity what constitutional experts have always known; that the UK’s piecemeal unwritten constitution knows only one inviolable principle, the absolute sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament, and that everything else is essentially a matter of policy, which can be changed overnight. Institutions like the Scottish Parliament, in particular, have no justiciable constitutional status at all; hence the EU Withdrawal Bill mess, and the fact that even a Westminster committee can do no more than humbly ask the UK Westminster government to be kind enough, if it will, to set out clearly what kind of post-Brexit devolution settlement it envisages.  And somewhere in the depths of this crisis lies the answer to a hostile question often put to the current Scottish Government; the question about why they were happy to see all of those powers in devolved areas exercised at European level, but have balked at seeing them returned wholesale to Westminster. Of course, for some independence supporters, there may be an element of knee-jerk prejudice against Westminster government. For others, it may be a perception that right-wing and market-driven though the EU may be, its relatively high standards in terms of environmental protection and citizens’ rights still place it well to the left of the present British Government.  At the heart of the matter, though, lies the fact that the EU, unlike the UK, is a formidably rule-bound and treaty-governed international confederation in which small countries have certain inalienable rights. The map of the EU is studded with small countries which have prospered since becoming full members; and even in Greece and Ireland, the victims of EU financial policy at its bullying neoliberal worst after 2008, there is no popular majority for leaving the Union – indeed in Ireland, support for EU membership is at a historic high. And even outside the EU, nations like Norway and Switzerland have found ways to flourish by forming semi-detached relationships with the EU through EFTA and the European Economic Area; hard Brexiteers call this being a “vassal state”, but somehow, at this moment, Norway seems much less of a vassal than poor Scotland, being dragged unwillingly out of all three organisations.  Rights and sovereignty are not the same thing as raw power, of course, and never can be. Yet for nations of 10 million people or fewer, the best chance of surviving, thriving and enjoying real security lies in membership of a properly constituted association of countries which, at the deepest constitutional level, fully recognises their existence as distinct political communities, and their right to continue to exist.  To put it bluntly, this week’s parliamentary report suggests that despite the constitutional reforms of the late 1990s, the UK has not yet evolved into that kind of mature multi-national structure, governed by agreed constitutional rules about where powers lie, and who should exercise them. And although the report commendably suggests that the UK Westminster government should try to move in that direction, it’s difficult to avoid the feeling that for many in Scotland – increasingly exhausted by the UK Westminster government’s apparent indifference and high-handedness – the committee’s words of wisdom about how Britain should now seek to govern itself may have come too late, by a margin of almost 20 years.

Skye Firms Hit Back At Reports of Island Swamped with Tourists

Skye tourism businesses alarmed at reports the island is being swamped by tourists have issued an open letter stressing it is “well and truly open for business”.  More than 150 operators have taken the “unprecedented” step “in a bid to balance sensationalist reporting about tourism pressures on the island”.  Last week, pictures were circulated of cars parked on the verge of roads for miles around the Old Man of Storr rock pinnacle. There have also been reports of traffic choking single-track roads around other major tourist draws, such the Fairy Pools in Glen Brittle.  The letter was coordinated by tourism body SkyeConnect and Skye SNP MSP Kate Forbes, who is also the public finance and digital economy minister.  Other signatories include Isabella MacDonald of Kinloch Lodge and organisations representing attractions such as the Old Man of Storr, Fairy Pools and Dunvegan Castle.   The letter stated: “The tourist industry can be a relatively unpredictable industry and so it concerns us to see sensationalist stories in the press, for a second year running, which could jeopardise the jobs, businesses and income of local people.  We would hate to see an industry which has taken many years to develop undermined by a few stories which don’t fairly depict the efforts of hardworking people across the area.  Whilst it is true that some areas of the island are busy, it is no more so than the North Coast 500 or the likes of Morar Sands.”  The letter said funding had been secured for a car park and toilets at the Fairy Pools.  It said there had been road improvements at Neist Point, and parking had been built at the Quiraing landslip, while work on a car park extension for the Old Man of Storr would start by the end of the summer. A new viewing platform had also been built at the Lealt Gorge.  SkyeConnect chair Shirley Spear, who owns the Three Chimneys restaurant, said: “My colleagues and I have worked tirelessly to dispel the myth that Skye is over-run with tourists and unwelcome here.  Indeed, some damaging stories have appeared without any comment being sought locally from Skye. We have stressed continually, that Skye is not the only place in Scotland to have been challenged by the high visitor numbers experienced all over the country during 2017, urban and rural locations alike. For Skye to have been singled-out is erroneously skewed." Edinburgh-based coach operator Timberbush tours welcomed the parking plans for the Fairy Pools.  It said the waterfalls attracted 108,000 visitors last year but there were just 35 parking spaces.  Chief executive Steve Spalding said: “Up until now, we, like many other coach tour operators and private vehicles, are facing long delays reaching our intended destination. True, no one could ever imagine the surge of tourism into the area, but we now have a strategy to relieve the pressure on the local communities, particularly around the Glen Brittle area on Skye.  It’s a tranquil place of outstanding natural beauty, but the Fairy Pools has almost become a shrine to tens of thousands of people from all corners of the world, so something needed to be done to alleviate the traffic burden. It really has been saturation point.” Mr Spalding said Skye’s popularity with overseas tourists - particularly China - was underlined by the launch of twice-weekly flights from Beijing to Edinburgh in June.

Map Shows 400 British Army Camps in Scotland After Culloden

A map illustrating more than 400 British Army camps set up across Scotland following the Battle of Culloden has been published for the first time.  The document has been drawn up following analysis of 270-year-old handwritten cantonment records held in the library at Edinburgh Castle.  More than 11,600 British Army soldiers remained in Scotland following Culloden to suppress the uprising and its supporters, according to research by Stennis Historical Society, which is based in Edinburgh.  Soldiers were also charged with enforcing laws designed to dismantle the Highland way of life, according to the papers.  Army posts were to be “occupied by the regular forces in the Highlands, to put the Laws in Execution for disarming the Highlanders, suppressing the Dress and for preventing Depredations,” a passage in the cantonment records said.  The map shows how the camps, which were recorded between 1746 and 1755, stretched from Orkney in the Northern Isles to the Scottish Borders. Author and historian Stuart McHardy, who encouraged the society to research the papers, said he had been “blown away” by the results of the study. He said: “I came across the document around 20 years ago and there is only one handwritten copy. It is a unique thing.  What is makes clear is that Scotland was under blanket British Army occupation for the seven to 10 years after Culloden.  The standard story is that after Culloden the Jacobite cause was kaput. It wasn’t. There is new evidence coming to light that there was a definite readiness to rise again.  The reason that is didn’t go ahead was that they didn’t get the go ahead from Charlie (Prince Charles Edward Stuart) or his father. They just weren’t interested in Scotland any more.”  Mr McHardy pointed to the 1752 Elibank Plot to kill or kidnap King George II and St James’s Palace and restore the Stuart line to the British throne.  The plan never went ahead given the doubts of some of the key players but Mr McHardy said the plan showed that Jacobitisim endured for some.  Varying vastly in size, the camp at Edinburgh housed a battalion, which was usually between 780 and 1180 men, with records showing multiple, smaller clusters of forces through the rest of the country.  A post at Achtriachtan in Glencoe, for example, was manned by just one corporal and five privates.  Similar camps are listed at locations including Knoydart, Arisaig, Glen Spean and Loch Leven with soldiers listed in Perthshire, Aberdeen and the surrounding Shire, the Moray Coast, The Cairngorms and down through the Central Belt to Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders.  David Kennedy, society secretary, led the production of the map.  He said: “We are very pleased that we have managed to get this information out of these records. This stuff has never been published before.  I was personally surprised by the figures. I think most of us in the society were.”  The society is further researching ‘Situation Reports’ held in the castle library, which detail day to day movements and activities of soldiers.  They include capturing British Army deserters and Jacobite rebels, who are usually described as thieves, or chasing Catholic Priests for holding Mass.  Translating place names listed in the records had, at times, been challenging given they were written down in phonetic Gaelic, Mr Kennedy said.  He added: “I speak Gaelic and I was able to work out how a non-Gaelic speaker might write down a Gaelic place name. Without that knowledge of the language, I don’t think we could have gone to the extent we did with our research.”   The research has attracted interest from academics of history and archaeology given it sheds new light on mid-18th Century Scotland. Professor Murray Pittock, historian and author of Glasgow University, who has written extensively on Culloden and the Jacobites, has shown interest in the map. He is currently writing a book on the occupation of Scotland following 1746. He posted on Twitter: “The occupation of 1746-56 did not just affect the ‘Highlands’. If anyone still requires convincing of the Myth of the Jacobite Clans, just look at the map.”  Stennis Historical Society will exhibit its finding during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival at the Edinburgh Yes Hub 31 Lasswade Rd, Edinburgh EH16, from August 6 to 27.