Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 468

Issue # 468                                     Week ending Saturday 8th September 2018

The Best Fish Must Swim Three Times - in Water, in Butter, and in Wine by Iain Maciver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Maybe I eat too much fish. How many other people have herring for breakfast every day? No one else that I know, that’s for sure. It used to be a mackerel fillet but now I’m on the hard stuff. They say fish is good for you but many people also say that you can have too much of a good thing - except salted caramel ice cream, obviously. Too much of anything is bad, say the self-proclaimed proponents of healthy eating who are only too keen to dole out advice when you finally decide to admit your weird addiction is smelly fish.

I have the herring tossed in oatmeal then fried with beefy tomato halves sizzling in the same pan. For me, that is quite a novel way to do them because we grew up eating herring the same way as we gobbled up all fish - with potatoes and a glass of milk on the side. If it was salt herring, you could have Lucozade, beer or even a dram at hand to kill the salty fishiness of the package that had just been brought in from the smelly fish van that had stopped at the gate. But it was still a treat then because the van came round only once or twice a month, and not in the winter.

Yet here I am now having herring every day. Fish is supposed to be good for your brains and intelligence what with its omega-3 but I am still not confident enough to go on Mastermind. I fear I could turn into a fishface like the one in the Pirates of the Caribbean films which was on TV at the weekend with the character Davy Jones. He’s the grotesque one with the face like a plateful of calamari - that’s calamari before it is fried and before the squid and octopus have had their tubes and tentacles sliced. Not a good look.

And I saw that story earlier this week about the fishmonger’s shop that was closed down in Kuwait. The crime? They had stuck those plastic googly eyes you get on teddy bears on the fish to make them appear fresher. Photos, even including one showing one of the fake eyes slipping off, were passed around on social media and they do look like tastier when they have teddy bear eyes. Keen to stick the boot in, other Kuwaiti fish sellers have been advertising fresh fish “without cosmetics”.

The real reason I am on about fish this week is because a fine Christian gentleman gave me a bag of squat lobsters, basically the smaller, redder variety of nipping shellfish. On Saturday he had been on seabed of Loch Luerbost where he dives and finds all these wonderful delicacies sitting waiting to be taken to a plate. I gratefully accepted the bag and put it in Mrs X’s car, right behind the driver’s seat. Thank you, Michael. I am looking forward to a scoff.

Yesterday morning Mrs X got her photo equipment ready and headed off to a job. She climbed into her car - and shot back out of there. The next thing I saw was her retching in the street. Had she had a dodgy egg for breakfast? She’ll never learn to check the Best Before date. However as I walked up to the car, I felt the awful smell. That indefinable stench of shellfish that has gone off. She can’t stand much fish at the best of times but she was red-faced, almost vomiting, and furious. I had completely forgotten about the bag of shellfish.

You have to be so careful with fish. I heard a story about a posh Inverness couple who hosted a dinner party and their daughter who was helping with the cooking came and whispered to the lady of the house that the cat had eaten a chunk out of the middle of the salmon in the kitchen. The hostess remembered she had a few tins of salmon and asked the maid to serve that. No one would notice. It all went well and everyone enjoyed the meal. As everyone relaxed afterwards, the daughter beckoned her and told her tearfully that the cat was dead.

The hostess was horrified. She had to tell the guests what happened and took them off to Raigmore Hospital. They had to have their stomachs pumped - not a nice experience. Afterwards, the bedraggled dinner guests headed homewards and the embarrassed hosts returned and found their daughter still dutifully clearing up. The lady of the house then asked where the body of the cat was. The daughter replied: “It’s still out by the road, Mum, where the car hit it.”

Island Gets its Own Tartan
A new tartan for the Isle of South Uist has been created. The tartan comes a year after South Uist gained official recognition for its flag with the design now officially registered.  The tartan was designed by former councillor Donnie Steele with the weave based on the green, black, blue and white of the South Uist flag.  Mr Steele told Hebrides News: “Since the flag recognition I have been working on innovative ideas that can enhance South Uist and the surrounding Islands.  To have the tartan officially recognised by the tartan authority is another enormous boost for the Island and can only enhance the name and brand of South Uist.  “Discussions with our community landlord Storas Uibhist and key stakeholders such as community councils were very positive, and the green light was given to drive this forward.” Mr Steele co-owns Uist Gifts with the firm to give a percentage of profits from the tartan to local good causes, according to reports.  Last year, South Uist secured the first officially recognised community flag in the Outer Hebrides.  The blue Nordic cross design is held by the Court of the Lord Lyon.  The tartan is the fourth to registered to South Uist with the new tartan and is the latest enterprise from the island whose residents embarked on the biggest community land buyout to date in 2006.

Celtic V Rangers: Five Injured After 'Crush' At Old Firm Game
Five people have been injured trying to get into Sunday's Old Firm game at Celtic Park. One was taken to hospital after falling from a wall and others were treated at the scene before going into the match.  Celtic fans said some supporters were forced to climb over a high fence to escape a crush, which they claim was caused by the stadium entry points being changed.  Police and Celtic FC said they would be reviewing their procedures.  The incident happened about 20 minutes before the 12:00 kick-off as Celtic supporters tried to make their way into the stadium.  Police had earlier cordoned off a section of London Road to allow Rangers' 800 fans access, forcing more home supporters than usual to use the Janefield Street entry point.  Hundreds of people were then caught in a two-way crush in the corridor under the stadium's North Stand.  A Police Scotland spokesman confirmed entry to the area was then temporarily stopped and London Road re-opened in a bid to ease the congestion. One supporter, who did not wish to be named, told the BBC Scotland news website: "People couldn't walk round the stadium anymore so there was a bottleneck under the North Stand. Suddenly there was an absolute crush because there were about 1,000 people trying to get one way and about 1,000 trying to go the other way. The corridor is only six to seven people wide."  He added: "They kept letting people through from either side of the corridor and it became a crush, with people getting semi-trampled.  Myself and my friends were fine but there were women and kids there. It must've been really scary for them."  The Celtic fan said it took him 30-40 minutes to move 300 yards but that the police and club eventually stopped people going in so the situation resolved itself.

SNP Overtake Tories As UK's Second Biggest Party, Data Suggests
The SNP have overtaken the Conservatives to become the second largest political party in the United Kingdom, new analysis suggests.  Data collated by the House of Commons Library estimated the Nationalists have just under 125,500 members, compared to the Tories’ 124,000.  However the latest Tory figures are from March this year, and so will not take into account any recent membership changes.  The Library’s analysis noted: “The latest available data shows that SNP membership has surpassed the latest reported Conservative membership figure.  SNP membership rose from 118,162 in April 2018 to 125,482 in August 2018, according to information provided by the party’s headquarters.  It worth noting, however, that the latest Conservative membership figure (124,000) was reported in March 2018. This therefore does not account for any possible changes since then.”  Ukip donor Arron Banks recently called on party members to infiltrate the Tories and help oust Theresa May in a bid to usher through a hard Brexit.  Unconfirmed estimates suggest Labour had around 540,000 members as of April 2018.  Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats had around 99,200 members as of August.

Pupils At Glasgow School Told to Go Home After Bomb Hoax
A secondary school in Glasgow was evacuated and children sent home after a bomb hoax. Rosshall Academy issued a text alert to parents at about 08:20 on Monday asking that pupils return home.  Local roads in Crookston were closed as police and emergency services responded to the alert.  Police Scotland later said nothing suspicious was found during searches and they were treating the incident as malicious.  Parents were alerted by text shortly before the school day was about to begin.  The text from the school said: "Unfortunately we have had to evacuate the school. Please make arrangements to have your child collected or for them to go home."  Glasgow City Council gave an update at 10:30 to say the incident was over but pupils would remain off until Tuesday.   A tweet from Greater Glasgow police division read: "Emergency services are at Ross Hall Academy after a report of a suspect package. "The school was evacuated. It has been closed as a precautionary measure and is currently being searched.  "Roads in the vicinity of the school have also been closed."  A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: "All pupils and staff are safe and the school notified parents just after 08:20 today that the school had been evacuated.  The school followed correct procedures and police are at the school as a precautionary measure." A update tweet from Greater Glasgow police said: "As a precautionary measure Ross Hall Academy, Crookston Road, Glasgow has been searched and nothing suspicious was found. The incident is being treated as malicious and will be fully investigated."

Scottish University Opens New £110 Million Campus
A Scottish university has opened its new multimillion pound campus in Lanarkshire.  The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) said the £110 million development would provide a state of the art facility for staff and students.  Officials said the UWS Lanarkshire estate, located in a business park on the outskirts of Hamilton, represented a shift in learning and teaching in higher education across the UK.  The three campus buildings on the estate are joined by a "street" which provides work and social spaces for students, staff and the local community.  Students will also benefit from the chance to work closely with more than 80 local, national and international businesses, offering practical opportunities to gain experience during their university career. Businesses include HSBC, Babcock and John Lewis.  Professor Craig Mahoney, principal of UWS, said: “The opening of the UWS Lanarkshire campus is a momentous occasion in our university’s history and has been delivered on time and on budget - an extremely proud moment for everyone involved in this highly ambitious project.  The new campus will completely transform our students’ university experience and will give students and staff access to some of the most advanced teaching and research facilities in the UK. It will also have a tremendous impact on the local community."  Mr Mahoney said the buildings had been designed to adapt to modern learning techniques which rely more heavily on smart devices. He added: "UWS Lanarkshire is equipped with first-class facilities to support the changing nature of learning and teaching higher education.  Every element of the campus has been carefully considered to ensure it is modern, connected, collaborative, sustainable and that it provides significant opportunities for research and enterprise activity."  The campus includes a 236-capacity auditorium and a conference space for up to 128 people. A priority has been placed on sustainability, making UWS Lanarkshire one of the UK’s greenest university campuses, powered by renewable energy from the nearby Blantyre Muir wind farm.

Restaurant Chief Hails Maryhill Renaissance

One of Glasgow’s best known restaurateurs has pinpointed Maryhill as the up and coming part of the city as he unveiled details of his latest venture in the west end.  Hospitality veteran Alan Tomkins, whose portfolio includes Urban Bar and Brasserie and the Western Dining Club, has completed a deal with partner Calum Lawson to acquire The Strathmore Bar on Maryhill Road outright.  Mr Tomkins and Mr Lawson have run the Strathmore with an unnamed joint venture partner for the last three years, having transformed a “closed, derelict working man’s pub” into a contemporary bar. They added a glasshouse extension and outdoor patio as part of the renovations.  Now the pair are poised to relaunch the venue as The Botany later this month, with the duo reshaping the outlet to move more decisively into the casual dining market. The latest investment takes to more than £200,000 the amount which has been spent on the venue, which looks out to the revitalised Forth & Clyde Canal, since they first became involved.  The Botany launches amid the continuing renaissance of the Maryhill area, with the venue surrounded by a host of new housing, including luxury flat developments.  A new school is planned for the area behind the venue, while on nearby Garscube Road a major new medical centre is being built.  Mr Tomkins, a former long-standing chairman of the Glasgow Restaurateurs' Association, said the project is “one of the most exciting” he has been involved in for some time.  He said: “One of the attractions for us to go to the area in the first place, and it has now been confirmed to us, is that there are big changes out there.  If you look at some of the lovely flatted buildings that have been created overlooking the canal, there’s big investment [being made]. There is a big new school getting built in the area behind us.  If you just go down to Garscube Road, which is about 300 yards the other way, there is a massive big new medical centre getting built as well.  This is just underpinning that the area is transformed and there is a lot of new accommodation, so obviously services have to be provided. It’s one of the most exciting things I have done in a while.”  Noting that the venue enjoys strong trading on Partick Thistle match days, given its relatively close proximity to Firhill Stadium, Mr Tomkins added: “We really like being part of the community. We feel like we are bringing something to the area as it develops.”  Asked what inspired the venue’s new name, Mr Tomkins said it stems from a notorious part of the area’s past, when convicts were transported along to the canal before making their ultimate journey to Botany Bay in Australia. The name is also a nod to the nearby Botanic Gardens.  Mr Tomkins said trading at the bar over the last three years led him to conclude it would operate more effectively as a casual dining restaurant.  He added: “We’ve realised that there’s much more of an appetite for a restaurant in the area than we first had envisaged.”  Meanwhile, Mr Tomkins described trading at his other ventures as steady, despite the challenges which have beset major brands in the casual dining sector.

Looking to Navigate A Better Course for Islands’ Ferries
Island proofing is a concept where central Government is mindful of how decisions taken impact on Scotland’s fragile islands.  The concept is part of the backbone to the ‘Islands Bill’, which made its way through the Scottish Parliament earlier this year, ensuring greater protections for these vulnerable regions.  But many believe that in reality the west coast Islands, and their residents, have been ignored in regards to lifeline ferry links and their support to grow economies locally.  The suitability of the MV Loch Seaforth, which services the Stornoway to Ullapool route, has been in question almost since its first day of operation four years ago.   Many were sceptical that this single vessel could meet the pressure of demand on a route which had been previously serviced by two ships.  This criticism has proven correct and availability on the vessel at peak times during the summer is at a premium.  Despite some efforts by Calmac to deal with this demand by introducing increased sailings the problem continues and critics say the economy and Island businesses, who need good links to the mainland, are being failed by the Scottish Government.  When Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant highlighted last week that the financing of this ferry - reported to be costing the public purse £53m (its full construction cost) for only an 8 year lease, and with no indication of its final cost over a 25 to 30 year lifespan, concerns were also raised about ‘best value’ to the taxpayer.  Transport Scotland was asked about the MV Loch Seaforth financing, a spokesman detailed: “The financing was driven by the need to maintain investment during a period of constrained capital budgets.  This investment has delivered a larger, faster and more reliable vessel with greater capacity than the two that it replaced.” The department were also able to confirm that the financing for two new vessels, currently under construction - although facing build delays, will be financed “using conventional Government capital funding, as set out in the 2012 Ferries Plan”.  Island ferry services and their costs has provided rich material for Scottish Labour, who are keen to highlight local concerns.  Scottish Labour Leader Richard Leonard was in Stornoway last Friday to listen to the issues and met with various local politicians and groups to come up with a plan to help find solutions to travel demands.  He also highlighted the need for further information on ferry financing and finding out more about the delay to a new vessel for the Uig-Lochmaddy-Tarbert route, which had been due to enter service in 2018, but will now be delayed until 2020.  In regards to whether financial penalties will be imposed because of these delays on Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited (FMEL), the shipyard building the ferries, a spokesperson for CMAL said this week: “Within the design and build contract between CMAL and FMEL, there are clauses for matters of late delivery, excessive fuel consumption, speed deficiency and deadweight deficiency.  These are all matters which are determined and quantified at the point of delivery, and not during the build process.”  Comhairle nan Eilean Siar recently expressed its disappointment and frustration to the delay of the new ferry for the Uig-Lochmaddy-Tarbert route.  With criticisms being levelled at Government in regards to forward planning, investment, costs and build delays, the Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan was asked to give his view on the issue.  He said: “Nobody underestimates the importance of investing in ferry services, and the SNP in Government has doubled Scotland’s ferry budget since coming to office. Over a billion pounds has been invested in Clyde and Hebrides ferry services in that time.  “There is always more we can do however, which is why as local MSP, I have recently been raising the need for more capacity in the summer, a better booking system and other issues,” but the MSP argued that Scottish Labour were in no position to take the moral high ground, he added: “Labour are not in a great position to point fingers here.  One of the biggest challenges we face is catching up on a period over ten years ago when virtually no major vessels were being built.  I also recall that Labour were dismissive locally of RET fares which have slashed ferry costs in recent years. They may wish to consider more constructive ways of raising what are undoubtedly vitally important issues.”

Smoke Plume Visible for Miles As Fire Engulfs Hamilton Carwash
A large fire has broken out on Wednesday morning at a carwash in South Lanarkshire, creating a plume of smoke visible for miles around. Fire crews were called to the Sponge N' Hoses premises on Muir Street in Hamilton just after 05:35am.  A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman described the carwash as "well alight".  There were no reports of injuries, and it was believed no one was in the property when it went up in flames.  Four appliances were in attendance, including two pump vehicles and two aerial vehicles. The surrounding area was cordoned off by emergency services, and some public transport was affected.

Seabed to Ben Nevis Diving Suit Challenge Completed

A team of divers have completed a challenge to walk from the seabed to the summit of Ben Nevis while wearing a vintage diving suit.  The venture began 5m (16ft) underwater in Loch Linnhe at Fort William on Saturday morning.  It finished at a height of 1,345m (4,411ft) on top of Britain's highest mountain at about 13:00 on Monday.  The team of Royal Navy divers and civilian volunteers worked in a relay, taking turns to wear the suit.  The team were raising money for the Historical Diving Society, Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team and the family of former Thai Navy diver Saman Kunan, who died while assisting in the rescue of a football team and their coach from flooded caves in Thailand.  Weighing more than 80kg (176lb), the diving gear was of a design dating from before World War Two.  The Sub Sea to Summit challenge was created by Ginge Fullen, a former Royal Navy clearance diver.  He holds Guinness World Records for the first person to climb the highest mountain in every country in Europe and in Africa, and completing the highest peaks in Africa in the fastest time.  Subsea training and trials centre The Underwater Centre supported the walk.

Military Charity Selling Nazi-themed Merchandise Ordered to Close
A military charity found selling Nazi-themed merchandise has been ordered to close following a BBC Scotland investigation.  1st Knight Military Charity, which took money from donors in Scotland, touted the products online and from its HQ.  Undercover filming by the BBC team also exposed anti-Islamic comments made by a 1st Knight trustee and a volunteer.  The charity regulator described the footage as "wholly offensive and inappropriate".  The closure order by the Charity Commission came after the broadcast of the documentary, The Great Military Charity Scandal in November 2016.  After viewing the BBC footage, the watchdog launched its highest level of investigation.  Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: "The public rightly expect charities to demonstrate the highest standards of integrity and conduct. What we saw in this case fell short of that. Not only was this charity mismanaged, we also saw evidence of behaviours and attitudes that have no place in charity.  The organisation has now wound up, and I am pleased that we have ensured its assets are redistributed by another charity."  Although registered in England and Wales, the charity was found to be fundraising in Scotland through private fundraising companies.  It raised funds through prize draw tickets and sold merchandise from its headquarters in Blackpool.  An undercover BBC team secretly filmed the founder of the 1st Knight Military Charity selling T-shirts emblazoned with offensive messages at its Blackpool base.  Andy Linihan also sold badges alluding to the shooting of suicide bombers.  Velcro badges designed to be placed on uniforms or baseball caps featured a picture of an assault rifle and the words "72 Virgins Express".  When asked by an undercover journalist what the words meant, Mr Linihan said they referred to the shooting of suicide bombers.  He said: "When they supposedly go up to heaven or wherever they go to, there are 72 virgins waiting for them."  He then put on a woman's voice and is heard saying: "Hello Johnny, I'm here, even though my head's blown off", before erupting into laughter.  A volunteer for the charity, which organises respite trips for veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, then told the BBC investigator: "We shoot them and they get the virgins."  Following the programme, Mr Linihan said he accepted the items filmed by the BBC were "products which ought not to be sold by the charity".  He added: "As a result of your visit we have withdrawn the products from the shop and removed them from the internet."  Releasing its decision on the charity, the Charities Commission, said it had conducted an unannounced visit to the charity's premises and that the "relevant items had been removed from sale".  But it added that "offensive and inappropriate merchandise was still displayed on the charity's online store".  On the Charity Commission's website, 1st Knight Military Charity is now listed as "Removed - CEASED TO EXIST".

Come What May, the SNP Stubbornly Refuses to Split
by Iain Macwhirter
Civil war erupted in the Scottish National Party at the weekend. Mock reports, illustrated with photoshopped visual gags, appeared all over Twitter and Facebook, listing casualties in the Battle of Glasgow Green, the Siege of Leith and the Assault on Lorne (sausage). There were accounts of atrocities in Greggs. The Nationalists have discovered that humour is a more effective weapon than abuse in their battle with the “Yoons”. They simply laughed off media reports that the party had split over the fate of Alex Salmond.  I am not and never have been a member of the Scottish National Party, but I’ve no difficulty believing it to be the most extraordinary phenomenon in British politics, not least in its preternatural ability to unite in the face of adversity. Other parties are becoming virtuosos in the art of political division. The Conservatives are split at least three ways over Brexit, with their Prime Minister’s authority in ruins and Boris Johnson in open revolt. Labour is bitterly divided over anti-Semitism and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. The SNP isn’t: it realises that unity works. With 125,000 members, the SNP is now the second largest party, not just in Scotland, but in the entire UK. Indeed, if the SNP membership were scaled up to UK level, it would have twice the UK Labour Party membership and 12 times that of the Tories. Such numbers might be expected in a radical opposition party, but not a long-in-the-tooth party of government. Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon announced the 12th legislative programme since the SNP entered government in 2007. The SNP is now into its second decade in office, yet support appears actually to be rising again, according to YouGov, and is back to 40 per cent. This despite the widely-publicised problems with NHS waiting lists and poor performance in educational league tables. Nor has support for independence flagged, with one poll this week suggesting that, if Brexit happens, more Scottish voters are minded to support Yes than in 2014.  Ms Sturgeon appears to have seen off the threat from Richard Leonard’s newly-Corbynised Scottish Labour, and we are reliably informed that Ruth Davidson is now looking to a political future in Westminster. Much of this success is down not to the Scottish Government, which has made its share of mistakes, but to the resilience of the party itself. Yesterday’s programme was a workmanlike job with important measures on mental health, animal welfare and children’s rights, but it was essentially an addendum to last year’s offerings on tax and the environment. Everyone says Ms Sturgeon’s administration is looking tired, and in some respects it is. Truth be told, the Scottish Cabinet, Sturgeon aside, has never looked particularly dynamic. But the slide to political disfavour, widely predicted after 2017’s abortive referendum, hasn’t taken place. The party continues to break all the established rules of politics – the pendulum refuses to swing. This is largely because the SNP membership has turned party unity into an article of faith, and turned positive thinking to a potent political weapon.  It’s not as if the SNP lacks issues to split over. There’s Brexit for a start, upon which there are widely differing views. Some back Brexit, some back a People’s Vote against it, most are dismayed at the prospect and feeling powerless.  Many SNP activists are desperate for an early independence referendum, and believe that if Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t announce one now, the chance might never come again. We have pro-independence marches wending through Scottish cities almost by the week. But Ms Sturgeon has pointedly declined to endorse them, and has given precious little sign of being about to call a referendum. In any normal party, there’d now be two warring camps, like the Leavers and Remainers of Brexit, on this existential question of independence. But not the SNP. You can almost sense it positioning itself for constructive disappointment, not open revolt. The great split over the referendum may never come.  Then there’s the Sustainable Growth Commission Report,with its dismal science of deficit reduction. That caused much dispute on the Scottish left, but the membership has refused to turn it into any recognisable left-right division in the party. There’s no Campaign for SNP Socialism. The will to unity is just too strong – as it has been in the backwash from the resignation of  The row over Mr Salmond’s crowdfunding took place outside the SNP. Faced with the extraordinary prospect of the former First Minister taking the Scottish Government to court, SNP members refused to turn what they see as a personal drama into a political crisis. Many SNP women have concerns about victims of sexual harassment, and Mr Salmond isn’t universally popular, but they chose not to turn this difficult case into an intra-party gender war.  Labour and press commentators often talk about the SNP’s almost unnatural unity as if it is centrally enforced. As if there is some dictatorial party secretariat imposing rigid discipline and suppressing debate. Either that, or the SNP is a “cult”, they say, in which star-crossed believers lose their ability to disagree. In truth, it is neither: the SNP is just damned if it will give the hated “mainstream media” stories about splits, so it keeps it in the family.  It wasn’t always so. The SNP used to be notorious for its squabbles and divisions. Mr Salmond was expelled from the party in 1979 for leading a left-wing faction. And the party was deeply divided over devolution in the 1990s. It learned the hard way that unity works. Rather like the Tartan Army, the SNP has found a way to insulate itself emotionally from the disillusion and despondency that afflict most political parties once they starts governing in prose. This is what has prevented the Scottish Government from lapsing into mid-term doldrums and disarray. For its many thousands of members, the SNP has become, not so much a political party, more a way of life.

City Centre Eyesore Gets Demolition Approval

The owners of a fire-ravaged building blighting Inverness city centre will meet Highland Council representatives this week to set out a timetable of work after the go-ahead was given for its demolition.  Hopes are growing of a breakthrough in the impasse over the former Eastgate Hostel which has been an eyesore since going up in flames in April 2013 – some 1984 days ago – although the council has acknowledged a compulsory purchase order could be considered if an agreement is not reached.  Public frustration has been growing over the lack of visible action at the site.  A planning application was lodged with the council earlier this year to remove scaffolding and demolish the remaining structure ahead of reconstruction. But hopes that work would start in June floundered when a council officer and Historic Environment Scotland voiced disquiet over proposals for a rebuild that would have been lower than the original building.  Planning officers using delegated powers have now given permission for the demolition on the condition the stones are numbered and stored for the rebuild.

North Coast Minister Moves on
A farewell lunch was held at Melness Hall earlier this month for Church of Scotland minister Stewart Goudie and his wife Liz.  The couple are moving on after eight years serving the parishes of Melness, Tongue and Skerray.  More than 60 people attended the lunch to wish the Goudies the best and thank them for their service.  Both Mr and Mrs Goudie qualified as engineers and worked in that capacity for some years before Mr Goudie was called to full-time ministry. The scattered communities along the north coast were his first charge. Tribute was paid to them at the lunch for the introduction of more creative services together with a greater congregational involvement in the leading of worship.  Both the Goudies have immersed themselves in community life – Mr Goudie as a member of the Coastguard team and Mrs Goudie as a volunteer driver with Transport for Tongue.  So the farewell event at Melness Hall was a time of very mixed emotions, expressed in song by the local choir and in speech and stories by others, and ending with the giving of gifts to show appreciation of the Goudies’ hard work and service.   The couple now move on to the parish of North West Lochaber, where Stewart will be inducted as minister on September 1 at Mallaig Church of Scotland.  It is another remote area, this time including several of the nearby Small Isles, so his Coastguard experience might be useful! The churches at Melness, Tongue and Skerray now enter a period of vacancy before being formally linked to the parish of Altnaharra and Farr under the leadership of Rev Dr. Beverly White Cushman, who has been minister there since early 2017.

Skye Issues Plea for Cash Amid Boom in Robert the Bruce Tourism

The Isle of Skye is seeking government cash to help it cope with an expected Robert the Bruce tourism boom.  The period drama Outlaw King, starring Star Trek actor Chris Pine, launches on Netflix in November.  Tour firms are already marketing trips to three locations on Skye that feature in the film, but locals fear their infrastructure such as parking, toilets and motorhome facilities will be overloaded.  Highland councillors yesterday said they needed a “special deal” from the Scottish and UK governments to claw back some of the money generated off-island by Skye’s booming economy. Three dramatic Skye locations feature in Outlaw King, which opens at the Toronto International Film Festival tomorrow and at the at the London Film Festival on 17 October. Highland Council’s tourism and film officer Colin Simpson told the Skye and Raasay committee in Portree yesterday that 2018 had been the biggest year ever for the north as a film and documentary location, rising from 198 shoots to 243, with a significant number in Skye.  But Councillor Ronald MacDonald said: “We need a special deal for Skye. Businesses outside the island benefit significantly from tourism here, businesses in Inverness, the Central Belt and beyond.  I suspect there’s a very significant increase in the tax taken out of this island over the last few years and this brings in the whole thing about imposing a tourist tax, which I would be against, because I believe some of that money should be returned to the island.  There needs to be a really massive uplift in infrastructure throughout the island.”

Plans for £15m Cruise Ship Terminal in Greenock Revealed

Plans for a £15m terminal complex to welcome cruise ship passengers to the Clyde have been unveiled.  The berthing facility, visitor centre and restaurant in Greenock includes a purpose-built art gallery celebrating the work of sculptor George Wyllie.  Greenock Ocean Terminal could attract £26m extra spending to the economy, according to Inverclyde Council.  More than 150,000 passengers could pass through the hub.  The new berthing facility and visitor centre will be operated by Peel Ports, and the new restaurant will have panoramic views across the Clyde.  Inverclyde Council leader Councillor Stephen McCabe said "Just a few weeks ago, the eight city region councils and our partners launched a new tourist strategy and action plan which aims to increase visitors by one million by 2023." The £14.7m cost of the Greenock Ocean Terminal project is part of the £1bn Glasgow City Region City Deal which is funded equally by the Scottish and UK governments. The planned completion date for the visitor centre is Spring/Summer 2020.

Still Game Director Creates Gaelic Sketch Show As BBC Alba Plans Expansion

The director of one of Scotland’s most successful TV sitcoms has created a new Gaelic language sketch show as part of a “bold new content vision” unveiled by BBC Alba. Michael Hines, who helped turn Still Game into a multi-award-winning ratings smash, has created Func - a fast-paced show described as blending razor-sharp satire and surreal silliness.  The comedy is a cornerstone of BBC Alba’s autumn schedule, which will see the digital channel enter its second decade with an expanded programme of content.  The Gaelic station will also produce a seven-day news service for the first time, with current affairs programme An Là now being broadcast at weekends - an investment the BBC said had created six new jobs in the Inverness area.  Gaelic language children’s programming will be quadrupled under the expansion, with further details expected at an event next week.  But it is the addition of Func to the station’s listings that bosses are hoping will tempt more viewers to the channel. Producer Michael Hines said:“There has been a terrific creative collaboration to find fresh and exciting new Gaelic writers, and I know - finger’s crossed – that everyone will find it as funny as we have.”  Margaret Mary Murray, head of Gaelic Services at the BBC, said: “We are delighted to be marking BBC Alba’s 10th birthday with a fabulously rich package of programmes and digital content.  Autumn 2018 will bring with it some fantastic television: laugh-out-loud comedy, a new-look children’s zone, moving and inspiring documentaries, and the latest dramatic twists and turns in Bannan. In addition, music continues to be at the heart of our schedule and new international co-productions such as Iùl a’ Chiùil join acclaimed series including Port. BBC Alba will bring the best television to audiences in Scotland and beyond.”  Launched in September 2008, BBC Alba is broadcast for up to seven hours a day. It is funded by both BBC Scotland and by MG Alba, which itself is financed by the Scottish Government and UK Westminster Government.