Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 467

Issue # 467                                     Week ending Saturday 1st September 2018

Is it Time for All Good Men to Come to the Aid of A Shiny, New Party?
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

When your offspring comes into the world, you have to take great care. I was a terrible parent for a young animal-loving child. I remember we were in Glasgow when my daughter was young and she demanded I take her to the zoo. Because I had serious ideological concerns about animal welfare in zoos - or more accurately because I did not want to spend £50 on an outing to Calderpark - I took her to a pet shop instead and I told her it was the zoo. “Daddy, why is the zoo called Pets At Home?” “Vicki, just be quiet and watch out for the tigers lurking over there just behind the bird seed.”

Maybe it was the buisneachd because the actual zoo closed weeks later. We all may have a touch of the second sight that makes us think we know that something is going to happen before it does. Norman Macleod down at Point and Sandwick Trust is convinced I have it because when I mentioned here a few weeks ago that the ferry Loch Seaforth was not up to the job, it broke down the same day my wise words were published. Norman now looks at me in that funny way that all Rudhachs look at people they are not sure of - he’s thinking that I’m thinking what he’s thinking and that makes Rudhachs really worried. Some even stop thinking altogether.

Oi oi, my buisneachd radar is bleeping again - just like it did in the early-1980s. That was when a load of politicians got so fed up with the way things were going with what they saw as a Conservative government that wasn’t listening and an ineffectual opposition that they decided to do something about it. Any clues there yet? Yep, a group known as the Gang of Four got together in a wee hoose in the east of London and formed a new party. The Social Democratic Party was born, nursed by midwives Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams.

They formed an alliance with the Liberals under David Steel. Then they shot to the top of the opinion polls pushing the Tories into third place. Excitable David Steel flicked through the poll results and, exhibiting some telltale signs of having the buisneachd himself, told his members to return to their constituencies and prepare for government. Wow, what excitement. What happened then? Flick all, that’s what. Maggie Thatcher’s Tory party won with a landslide in 1983 and Steel gave up the second sight stuff and went back to being a rather dull politician. Sad sight.

Thirty seven years on, is it now time for a new Third Force in British politics? While the Gang of Four got all the publicity, one of their lesser-known people was a young councillor in Glasgow by the name of Vince Cable. Yeah, the same cove who is now Liberal Democrat leader. Many think Sir Vince, as he is now, wants to set up a new anti-Boris Johnson and anti-Jacob Rees-Mogg, pro-EU party. He seems encouraged by Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche movement in France which resulted in Macron becoming president last year. Go for it, Vinny. What have you got to lose - apart from your knighthood?

My point is that we may now be at the point where a new party could just pop out, I mean up. And, just as I tried to undertake my responsibilities for my young offspring who wanted to go to the zoo, the politicians who begat a new party have to take care of it and make the right decisions to nourish it so it grows up and puts on its own wellies. They have to look after its health and that is a job and a half. Sir Vince is no spring chicken himself but with the right team around him. Wait, there must be someone. Er .... no, I can’t think of anyone either.

Making the right health decisions is so important at all times. I had headaches recently and my ear was a bit sore. The doctor told me to stop using cotton buds but that went in one ear and out the other. However, as a family, we have always done what we could to keep up a general level of health and wellbeing. We have always looked after each other and made sure we all looked spick and span. For instance, when we were having lunch the other day, Mrs X said to me that I had something on my chin. She’s so nice, I thought, as I dabbed it with my napkin. Then she said: “No, not that one. The third one down.”

New TV Guide Dedicated to Inventor John Logie Baird
A new guide to TV programmes which have either been filmed in Scotland or have Scottish links has been dedicated to John Logie Baird.  The Helensburgh-born inventor became the first person to demonstrate a working television in 1926.  Tourism body VisitScotland has dedicated its free book, TV Set in Scotland, to Baird to help mark the 130th anniversary of his birth.  It contains details on more than 60 programmes.  Baird's son, Prof Malcolm Baird, said he was delighted the guide was dedicated to his father.  He said: "Television will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2026 and I am currently in touch with an independent producer and an experienced screenwriter, both based in Scotland, about a possible film or TV series on the life of John Logie Baird.  "If the project goes ahead, there will be no shortage of Scottish locations."  Prof Baird said these location could include Helensburgh, which he said had kept much of its character from the time his father lived there.  He added: "Between 1906 and 1914 he studied at Glasgow's Royal Technical College, now the University of Strathclyde, where an historic plaque has been placed in the electrical engineering department.  A few blocks away, another plaque recalls his long-distance transmission of television in May 1927, from London to a room in the Central Hotel, now the Grand Central Hotel."  The programmes in the guide include the crime dramas Taggart, which is set in Glasgow, and Shetland, which has used various locations in the islands, including Lerwick and Fair Isle.  Two Thousand Acres of Sky, a drama starring Michelle Collins and filmed in Dumfries and Galloway.  Filming for historical drama Victoria included scenes shot at Blair Castle in Perthshire.  Time travelling science-fiction series Doctor Who has numerous connections to Scotland.  Bathgate-born David Tennant has been among the Scottish time lords, while Karen Gillan, from Inverness, played Amy Pond, one of the show's companions. Other entries in the book are Paisley-born Fulton Mackay's roles as The Captain in Fraggle Rock and the Loch Ness Monster appearing in animated comedy South Park.

Safety Nets Fitted After Glass Panel Falls From Hospital

Safety netting has been erected around the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow after a glass panel fell from the 10th floor.  NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) said an investigation into the incident earlier this month proved inconclusive.  It is understood panels have fallen from the £842m building on at least three occasions since it opened.  In the latest incident the panel shattered near the front entrance but no-one was injured.  An NHSGGC spokeswoman said: "It has not been possible to establish the cause of this decorative external glass panel shattering before falling to the ground on 9 August.  The shattered pieces recovered were not large enough to analyse and determine the cause. However, the safety of our patients, visitors and staff is our paramount priority which is why we have installed safety netting where these panels are situated on the building." The QEUH opened in April 2015 and featured in the BBC series Scotland's Superhospital.

New Braemar Highland Games Centre Named After the Duke of Rothesay

A new Highland Games discovery centre on the site of the annual Braemar Gathering will be named The Duke of Rothesay Highland Games Pavilion.  The Royal Deeside venue is home to the famous event which is attended by members of the Royal family.  Exhibits at the new pavilion - supported by The Prince's Foundation - include medals and trophies.  The Duke of Rothesay is the title by which Prince Charles is known while in Scotland.  It is hoped the new building at the Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park will boost tourism. The Braemar Gathering - which will again be held this Saturday - is seen as the biggest in the Highland Games calendar, and attracts thousands of people.  Queen Victoria first went to the Braemar Gathering in 1848 and since then the reigning monarch has regularly attended. The annual Highland Games event is held a short distance from the Royals' retreat on the Balmoral estate and is always held on the first Saturday in September.  The Queen first attended the event as a seven-year-old child in 1933.  Robert Lovie of The Prince's Foundation said: "The Duke of Rothesay Highland Games Pavilion will offer visitors to Braemar from around the world the opportunity throughout the year to immerse themselves in Highland Games history.  The collection of artefacts and items is really impressive and is sure to prove a big draw for those with an interest in Highland Games as well as act as an informative resource for those who are not as familiar with traditional highland sports." The Prince's Foundation was formed as a result of the merger of four of HRH's existing charities. The new pavilion will also provide a new headquarters for the Braemar Royal Highland Society.  David Geddes, president of the society, said "For the last seven years, we have worked towards developing The Duke of Rothesay Highland Games Pavilion.  HRH The Prince of Wales became interested in the project and had a vision of how he wanted the building to look and, through Michael Harris (architectural designer), we have a fantastic new design that I love.  The Duke of Rothesay Highland Games Pavilion includes a new office for the society to call home.  I think it's great for the future of the Highland Games. We have 200 years of history on paper and in photographs, and an archive accessible by the public will house all that. The new pavilion will allow us to tell the world the story of the Braemar Highland Gathering and the wider Highland Games circuit."  He added: "I feel The Duke of Rothesay Highland Games Pavilion will be a major boost to tourism in Deeside. It is the type of attraction that is sadly lacking around here and will hopefully attract more people, including coach trips touring the area."

Alex Salmond Formally Starts Legal Action Against Scottish Government
Alex Salmond has formally started his legal action against the Scottish government over its handling of sexual misconduct complaints against him.  Two people have made allegations about the former first minister, who strongly denies ever sexually harassing anyone. He is seeking a judicial review of a new complaints procedure that was introduced by the Scottish government in December.  The Scottish government said it would "defend our position vigorously".  Mr Salmond's petition has been lodged with the Court of Session in Edinburgh. The court will now seek a response from the Scottish government. It is likely to be some weeks before there is a hearing before a judge. The complaints about Mr Salmond were made in January - just weeks after the new procedures for dealing with harassment complaints was introduced with the blessing of his successor, Nicola Sturgeon.  Ms Sturgeon had asked for the Scottish government's existing policies to be reviewed and updated following wider concerns about harassment at Holyrood and Westminster.  Mr Salmond claims that the subsequent investigation into the allegations against him by senior Scottish government civil servants was "unfair and unjust".  He said he had been given no opportunity to "see and therefore to properly challenge the case against me" and that he had "not been allowed to see the evidence".  He has also described the allegations as "patently ridiculous", and has written to the Scottish government's top civil servant, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, urging her to investigate how the claims were made public.  Mr Salmond has claimed that someone within the Scottish government has "flagrantly and repeatedly" breached the confidential complaints process by leaking details to the Daily Record newspaper.  The Scottish government argues that a statement released by Mr Salmond last week contained inaccuracies about its procedures, and has insisted the complaints process has been "entirely confidential throughout".  A spokesperson said: "Matters of process will be resolved in court now Mr Salmond has lodged his petition and the government will defend our position vigorously.  The judicial review will not address the complaints themselves - complaints which it was important for the Scottish government to address.  As we set out last week there are a number of significant inaccuracies in Mr Salmond's statements and we will address those matters in court.  But that should not be allowed to distract from the fact that there are two complaints that could not be ignored or swept under the carpet."  The Scottish government has passed details of the complaints to Police Scotland, and the force has said it is assessing the information.  The Daily Record newspaper says it has seen the wording of one of the complaints, which was made by a Scottish government staff member.She alleges the former first minister touched her bottom and breasts through her clothing while she was alone with him at Bute House, the paper has reported.  The alleged incident is said to have taken place at the first minister's official residence Bute House in Edinburgh in the first week of December 2013.  The paper claims the woman has alleged "multiple incidences of harassment and conduct of an unwanted sexual nature".  Mr Salmond, who had two spells as leader of the SNP, led the devolved Scottish government as first minister from 2007.  He quit in the aftermath of the independence referendum in 2014, when Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom.

Exclusion Zone Extended Around Ayr Station Due to Unsafe Hotel
Trains have been delayed and cancelled after an exclusion zone was extended around Ayr station. Contractors found crumbling and exposed roof areas at the former Station Hotel next door.  Councillors said the problems "present a significant and immediate danger to people and places around the station".  No services are running between Ayr and Girvan and there is a reduced service between Ayr and Glasgow Central.  It is unclear how long the rail disruption is expected to continue for.  ScotRail has refused to comment on reports that the station could be closed completely from Sunday.  The company has apologised to customers and detailed the changes to services on its website.  Speaking earlier on the BBC's John Beattie radio programme, Angus Thom, ScotRail's chief operating officer said: "We are not able to access the full length of all the platforms at Ayr station.  This means that we can't get the length of trains that we usually operate, which are as long as seven carriages, into the station.  The maximum length of train we can operate from the station is four carriages long." Mr Thom also advised visitors to the Scottish International Airshow this weekend to seek alternative transport.  He said trains would be running over the two days, Saturday and Sunday, but at a reduced capacity.  "We will put in as many trains as we can into Ayr station, but what I would encourage people to do is look at other forms of transport where they can," he said.  "Our plans for Ayr airshow will be publicised on our site. My advice to people would be plan your journey, and take extra time.  If you can use something other than the railway, we'd like you to consider that. But we will be running trains."  In March, South Ayrshire Council issued the owner of the Station Hotel with a dangerous buildings notice demanding action but it said there had been "no meaningful dialogue".  An exclusion zone was set up around the building in the summer.  The B-listed hotel, which dates to 1885, was built by the Glasgow and South-Western Railway Company, according to the Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland.  The council said it was working closely with Network Rail and ScotRail as work progresses to address the dangers presented by the hotel.  Eileen Howat, chief executive of South Ayrshire Council, said: "Unfortunately, we're having to take urgent action to extend the exclusion zone in place at the station after contractors identified crumbling and exposed roof areas that present a significant and immediate danger to people and places around the station.  This is not action that anyone is taking lightly, but is wholly designed to keep people safe, and not put them at risk as a result of the failure of the private owner of the building to address the safety concerns we have highlighted time and time again.  Network Rail and ScotRail have been fully involved in the discussions about this and - as a result - a reduced service will be operating between Glasgow Central and Ayr, supported by rail replacement buses.  Our priority right now is to continue to work with Network Rail and ScotRail to keep their passengers, staff and the public safe, before continuing discussions regarding the next steps that need to be taken to address the dangers of the Station Hotel building."

Ancient Clan Artefact Uncovered After Being Hidden for 400 Years
It is a piece of Scotland’s bloody clan history that has remained hidden for more than 400 years.  But a rare find during an excavation at Dunyvaig Castle on Islay has uncovered the seal of Sir John Campbell of Cawdor.  The artefact dates back to 1600s when the Campbell and MacDonald clans were locked in a violent and bitter feud over Scotland’s islands. Buried below mounds of rubble, the find - described as “remarkable” and “extremely rare” by archaeologists and historians - was discovered on a hidden clay floor at the historic site. Archaeologist Dr Darko Mari?evi?, director of the excavation at Dunyvaig, said: “This is a remarkable find. Not only is it a beautiful and well-preserved object, but it comes from the floor of a building that we can now confidently date to the Campbell occupation. So buried below this floor, we will have the story of the MacDonald’s – the Lords of the Isles – to reveal.”  Roddy Regan, an archaeologist at Kilmartin Museum, added: “Seals are extremely rare finds. This discovery conjures up an image of a Campbell garrison fleeing from the castle when under attack, dropping and losing one of their most precious items, or maybe the seal had once been hidden within a wall niche and long forgotten.”  Once used to sign and seal charters and legal documents, the seal is a circular disc of lead which carries the inscription IOANNIS CAMPBELL DE CALDER (Calder was the original spelling of Cawdor).  It carries the Cawdor coat of arms with a galley ship and a stag and is dated 1593. The Campbells and the MacDonald’s fought over Dunyvaig in the early 17th century, with a series of sieges and bombardments of the castle until the Campbells finally prevailed. Sir John took ownership of Islay in 1615.  Mr Regan added that the seal could have been lost in a later raid in 1646 when Alasdair MacColla, a descendent of the MacDonalds, reclaimed the castle. He said: “Alasdair MacColla, a descendent of the MacDonalds, retook the castle and installed his elderly father, Colla Ciotach to defend it.  The castle was immediately besieged again.  We may have Colla Ciotach’s hasty defences in the form of turf walls built above the already ruined stone walls of Dunyvaig, before he was forced to surrender in 1647 and then hanged from the castle walls.”  The excavation at Dunyvaig is being undertaken by charity Islay Heritage in partnership with the University of Reading.  A team of around 40 experts, including leading archaeologists, geophysicists, scientists and environmentalists, are almost at the end of an initial three-week dig at the castle, which sits in Lagavulin Bay, with further projects planned for next year.  Organisers were keen to use the excavation as a teaching project for current archaeology students and it was one such student, Zoë Wiacek, from the University of Reading, who discovered the seal.  She said: “I removed a piece of rubble and it was just sitting there on the ground. I immediately knew it was an important find, but had no idea what it was.  I called over my trench supervisor, and when it was lifted, the soil fell away to show the inscription. Then everyone became excited.  I am so proud to have found something so important for the project and for Islay.”  Professor Steven Mithen, chairperson of Islay Heritage and director of the Dunyvaig Project added: “Coming towards the end of the dig, after the team had worked so hard to move huge amounts of turf and rubble, this has been a thrilling discovery.  “We have found a piece of Islay’s past and Scottish history. We can’t wait to start digging again in 2019.”  Islay Heritage hope to raise further funds to allow excavation work to continue at Dunyvaig over the next five years.

Scotland 'Needs' Guaranteed Trade Role

Scotland should have a guaranteed role in future UK trade talks, the Scottish government has said.  It has published a discussion paper which argues the current arrangements are in need of "an urgent overhaul".  Scotland's Brexit secretary Michael Russell said Scotland must be protected whatever form of Brexit emerges.  The UK Westminster government said it would work with devolved administrations on an approach to trade negotiations that delivers for the UK as a whole.  The discussion paper makes the case for the Scottish government and parliament to be involved in all stages of future trade deals.  It draws on international examples, such as the role of devolved administrations in Belgium and Canada.  The Scottish government argues "the benefits of involving the provinces in the recent EU-Canada trade deal were widely recognised".  Mr Russell said: "The Scottish government has consistently argued that the best future for Scotland and the UK is to remain in the EU, or at the least in the single market and customs union.  But we must do everything we can to protect Scotland's interests in future trade deals in all possible Brexit outcomes.  The discussion paper makes a strong case for the Scottish government and Scottish parliament having a guaranteed role in the development of trade arrangements and ensuring that the views of the Scottish parliament are respected."  He added: "This would bring clear benefits for Scottish producers, exporters and consumers - not least protecting Scotland's NHS from being opened up to private competition, or opening up our markets to chlorinated chicken or hormone-injected beef."  The Scottish government said it was currently updating its export promotion strategy.  A spokesperson for the UK Westminister government's Department for International Trade said: "The people of Scotland, and the whole UK, will have far more involvement in our future UK trade agreements than over current EU agreements. Indeed, the trade policy minister is visiting Scotland next week to host a consultation event with the Scottish Council for Development and Industry on future free trade agreements.  We are committed to working with the devolved administrations on an approach to trade negotiations that delivers the best for the UK as a whole."

Ex-SNP Leader Alex Salmond Resigns From Party
Former SNP leader Alex Salmond has resigned from the party amid allegations of sexual misconduct.  In a statement he said he wanted to avoid internal division within the SNP, which has faced calls to suspend him.  He has denied any wrongdoing, and said he intended to apply to rejoin once he had an opportunity to clear his name.  It emerged last week that two Scottish government staff members had lodged complaints in January about his behaviour when he was first minister.  Mr Salmond has described the allegations as "patently ridiculous" - and has also criticised the complaints procedure which he claims is "unjust". On Tuesday he formally began legal action against the Scottish government in the Court of Session over its handling of the misconduct allegations.  In a statement released on social media, Mr Salmond said he had been a member of the SNP for 45 years, 20 of them as party leader and seven as first minister.  He continued: "I truly love the SNP and the wider independence movement in Scotland. They have been the defining commitment of my life. But today I have written to the National Secretary of the party resigning my membership." Mr Salmond indicated that his resignation was to avoid potential divisions within the party, as his successor Nicola Sturgeon faced opposition calls to suspend his SNP membership.  He stated: "I did not come into politics to facilitate opposition attacks on the SNP and, with Parliament returning next week, I have tendered my resignation to remove this line of opposition attack.  Most of all, I am conscious that if the party felt forced into suspending me it would cause substantial internal division."  The current SNP leader and first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said she "felt a huge sadness about the whole situation".  In a statement on Twitter, she said the decision was Alex Salmond's alone, and she understood why he had chosen to separate "the current questions he is facing from the day to day business of the SNP and the ongoing campaign for independence".  She continued: "The hard fact remains that two complaints were received by the Scottish government that could not be ignored or swept under the carpet."

EU's Michel Barnier Blinks As He Offers Britain A Unique Post-Brexit Partnership

Michel Barnier has accepted that the EU27 will have to offer Britain a bespoke Brexit deal in the first significant sign of flexibility from Brussels.  The unexpected remarks from the EU’s chief negotiator caused a sterling spike against the euro and the dollar. They come as he prepares for substantive talks with Dominic Raab, the Brexit Secretary, in the Belgian capital on Friday.  Meanwhile, addressing business leaders in Paris, David Lidington, Theresa May’s effective deputy, warned Brussels that UK-EU relations were at “a fork in the road,” and that the choice on offer was now between the Prime Minister’s "pragmatic" Chequers compromise or the risk of no deal at all.  At Westminster, Mr Raab echoed his Cabinet colleague telling a Lords committee that the deal deadline could “creep beyond” October. He also made clear a no-deal would mean Britain withholding some of the mooted £39 billion divorce settlement.  He told peers it could “not be safely assumed” the money would be paid over in precisely the same shape, speed or rate as previously envisaged; that, the Secretary of State, insisted would be a “peculiar position for the UK to take”.  Earlier in Berlin, Mr Barnier raised eyebrows when he said: “We are prepared to offer a partnership with Britain such as has never been with any other third country.”  He noted: “We respect Britain's red lines scrupulously. In return, they must respect what we are.”  But the chief negotiator also stressed Britain had to respect the EU’s key structures, adding: “Single market means single market; this is not negotiable.”

Couple Told to Remove Saltire That Was ‘Lowering the Tone’ of Their Street
A couple have claimed they received an anonymous note telling them the Saltire they hung in the window of their house was ‘lowering the tone of the neighbourhood’.  Shane Semler, who is American, and his Italian partner live in Paisley and put a Scottish flag inside their window.  The pair told The National they were stunned to read a note that had been posted through their letterbox, which told them to take down Scotland’s national flag.  The note said the Saltire in the window was ‘lowering the tone of the neighbourhood’.  The unsigned missive went on: “We appreciate you are very proud to display this. However, it’s not something that looks attractive to the eye when you enter the street. Would you please kindly remove it or even have it to the back of your property.”  Mr Semler said he asked neighbours individually whether they sent the note, but none confessed.  He said: “Someone said that this is an upmarket place – it’s a nice neighbourhood, but it isn’t filled with multimillion dollar mansions, so I guess they just don’t like the Scottish flag. I know there’s a bit of commotion between Unionists and people who want independence, but I’m surprised that they would actually send a letter to us and then lie about it.”

Moderator Hands Over Petition on Glasgow Boys Seeking Asylum
A petition calling on the Home Office not to remove two teenage brothers from Scotland has been handed over to immigration officials - after being signed by almost 85,000 people. Somer and Areeb Umeed Bakhsh, from Scotland, fear their lives would be in danger at the hands of Islamic extremists if they are sent back to Pakistan against their will. The brother, 15 and 13, have lived in Glasgow with their parents Maqsood and Parveen since their family fled Pakistan in 2012.  It came after their father was subjected to death threats due to his Christian faith, but the UK Westminster Government has repeatedly rejected the family’s plea for asylum in Scotland. Today a petition signed by 84,000 people was handed over to staff at the Border and Immigration Agency office in Glasgow.  Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Right Rev Susan Brown, said the boy’s story has touched the hearts of thousands.  She said: “The story of this family has touched the hearts of tens of thousands of people who want those in authority to know how upset they are that they are being treated so dispassionately.  All both boys want is to be the Scots they are and not sent to a country where Christians are persecuted and threatened by Islamic extremists. Somer has done so well in his exams at Springburn Academy, scoring six As and a B in his National 5s, despite the worry and stress of the family situation.  “Mum and Dad simply want to be a part of a society where they are safe as Christians and where they can give what they can to the wider community around them.  “If 84,000 people are willing to welcome them, why on earth can’t the authorities?” Rev Brown said Christians are a minority group in the Muslim country where blasphemy carries the death penalty.  She added that she hoped that Home Secretary Sajid Javid would have “the decency, wisdom and compassion” to provide the boys with permanent sanctuary in the UK.  The petition was handed over by Rev Brown, Paul Sweeney, MP for Glasgow North East, and the family’s minister, Rev Linda Pollock of Possilpark Parish Church.  They were joined by the family, Possilpark Parish Church members and youngsters from Springburn Academy, where both boys are pupils.    Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn met the two boys at their church in Possilpark last week and described them as “wonderful” with so much to offer their adopted home of Scotland. Sixth -year student Amy Brown has started a separate petition in support of Somer and Areeb, who hope to go to university to study astrophysics and astronomy respectively.  Some 2,322 people have signed it so far.  The UK Westminster Government has repeatedly rejected the family’s plea for asylum, largely because officials believe they can live peacefully in another part of Pakistan.  But Mr Bakhsh claims his name and photograph has been circulated among Islamic extremist groups and nowhere in the country is safe for them.  Mr Sweeney, who has raised the family’s case in the House of Commons, said the Umeed Bakhsh family are a “beacon of dignity” despite the despair and anxiety they have endured.  He said: “Their plight has moved thousands of right thinking people across the country to support them against the hostile environment the UK Government has imposed on our asylum system. When the family met Jeremy Corbyn last week, he was appalled by the lack of humanity and compassion the family had endured but was so impressed by their resilience and dedication to their church and their neighbours.  As their MP, I will not relent in my efforts to secure for them the permanent sanctuary in the country that they deserve and have more than earned through their positive contribution to our community.”  The catalyst for the family’s move to Scotland was the murder of two Christians who were gunned down outside a court, while in police custody, in Faisalabad in July 2010.  Pastor Rashid Emmanuel, 32, and Sajid, 24, were accused of writing a pamphlet critical of the Prophet Muhammad that flouted Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.  The men were good friends of Mr Bakhsh and he believes Islamic extremists would kill him and his family if they had the chance.

Talking Up Gaelic At Historic Sites
Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has announced a Gaelic volunteer programme at Arnol Blackhouse in Lewis, as part of the launch of its Gaelic Language Plan 2018-2023. This is the first five-year Gaelic Language Plan developed by HES and takes into consideration feedback received from stakeholders, partner organisations and the public.  During the 12-week consultation, over 200 people engaged with the heritage body on the plan.  HES aims to acknowledge and promote Gaelic language and culture as an important and valuable part of Scotland’s historic environment.   Gaelic speakers, or those with an interest in Gaelic, are being invited to develop and deliver bespoke tours for visitors to the historic sites.  This forms part of HES’ commitment to show the influence of Gaelic culture on Scotland’s history and living heritage through its visitor experiences.  Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of Historic Environment Scotland, said: “Gaelic is a distinct and unique part of Scotland’s history and culture which attracts visitors from all over the world, contributing significantly to Scotland’s economy. Currently, there is Gaelic interpretation at 29 of our sites throughout the country, from Glasgow to Aberdeenshire and the Isle of Lewis, which shows the extent of Gaelic’s influence on Scotland’s heritage and its relevance to our historic environment. Due to an increase in volunteers, we are currently developing and expanding our wider volunteer programme.  This new opportunity at Arnol Blackhouse will help us continue to support volunteers across the country and empower communities and partners to engage with projects that promote the value of Gaelic culture to Scotland’s past and present.”

Business Confidence Among Scottish Firms 'Remains Steady'

Confidence among businesses in Scotland has "remained steady" for a second month in a row, a survey suggests.  Economic optimism stood at 9% in August, an increase of seven points on the previous month, according to the Bank of Scotland's Business Barometer. Companies reported lower confidence in their own business prospects, however, which fell six points to 25%.  The bank said a net balance of 6% of businesses in Scotland expect to hire more staff during the next year.  The Business Barometer questions 1,200 UK businesses - 90 in Scotland - each month.  Fraser Sime, Bank of Scotland's regional director for Scotland, said: "To see overall confidence holding firm demonstrates the continued resilience of Scottish businesses during uncertain times."  Across the UK, firms in the manufacturing sector remained most confident, but confidence of construction businesses fell sharply. In Scotland, a net balance of 19% of businesses said they felt Brexit was having a negative impact on their expectations for business activity, up one point on a month ago.  Meanwhile, a review of the manufacturing engineering sector has suggested a continuing positive quarter overall for the third time in 2018.  The report, by industry support body Scottish Engineering, said order intake and exports "remain positive at less than 5% above even".

Rare Beano Album Sold for £2,700 At Auction
A rare copy of the first Beano annual, published before the appearance of Dennis the Menace, has sold for £2,700 at auction.  The 1940 Beano Book was issued around the outbreak of the World War Two in 1939.  It came a year after the weekly comic was first brought out by Dundee-based DC Thomson in July 1938.  The annual had been expected to fetch between £1,200 and £1,500 at the auction at Keys in Aylsham, Norfolk. It is the first of 79 Beano annuals published to date and features comic strips, stories and illustrations - but does not include mischief-maker Dennis the Menace, who made his first appearance in 1951.

Women ‘Banned’ From Joining Up Helly Aa on Shetland
Fresh calls have been made to let women to join the main Up Helly Aa celebration of Shetland’s Viking past after a mixed sex squad was reportedly banned from taking part. A group of four women claim they have been blocked from registering their #MeToo squad for the event in January 2019.  Organisers told them there is no room for new squads, according to reports.  The procession in Lerwick draws around 1,000 men, dressed as Viking warriors and formed in jarl squads, who parade through the town in one of Scotland’s biggest fire festivals.  The men follow the Guizer Jarl - a form of King - through the streets with the burning of a replica galley boat the climax of the night. While smaller Up Helly Aa events in Shetland have introduced a female Guizer Jarl, the Lerwick celebration has yet to embrace change.  Zara Pennington, of the Shetland for Up Helly Aa equalities group, said she had responded to advertisement in the Shetland Times calling for registration of squads. Ms Pennington told the BBC: “There was nothing clearly in the advert that restricted it to previous squads, so we thought it was an opportunity to see how the land lies for whether women would be accepted in squads in Up Helly Aa.”  The group said it was told there was no room for new squads, but it suspects this is an excuse for excluding women, according to the report.

Rare Chance to Buy Disused Station on Scottish Rail Network
It is a two-bedroom village home that will admit its new owners to an exclusive club – living in a former station on a working railway.  Gartly in Aberdeenshire is among what is thought to be just a handful of lived-in disused stations on the Scottish network.  Owners Helena and Euan Couperwhite, both 49, are reluctantly saying farewell to the single-storey building on the Aberdeen-Inverness line after nearly five years because of a job move.  Built in 1854 for the Earl of Lennox, the station closed in 1968 and lay derelict until being converted into a home 14 years ago.  The couple have just put the building up for sale, at offers over £209,975.  It contains the original stained glass window station name and a station lamp. Another unusual feature is the unfenced trackside garden, which Mrs Couperwhite said the couple had looked after by agreement even though it is part of the railway.  Disused stations on the current network rarely come up for sale as homes.  Loth, near Helmsdale in Sutherland, which closed in 1960, went on the market two years ago. Rail experts said the few other such lived-in stations included Dalguise, near Dunkeld, and Thornhill in Dumfries and Galloway.  They said some others had become holiday accommodation, including Sanquhar in Dumfriesshire, Strathcarron and Plockton in Wester Ross, and Beasdale near Mallaig.  Several operating stations also contain homes, including Springfield in Fife, Scotscalder in Caithness, Rogart in Sutherland and Newtonmore near Aviemore.