Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 469

Issue # 469                                     Week ending Saturday 15th September 2018

The Mountains of Harris Aren't Just Funny, They Are Somewhat Hill Areas by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

The ferries to and from the Western Isles have been disrupted again this week but, hey, at least it is not technical trouble this time. Our creaky old rustbucket CalMac ferries are on the way out and it is ruining livelihoods here in the islands among those who depend on tourists, fresh food products and even getting brake calipers for my van in time from Inverness. The Ullapool-to-Stornoway tub is only a few years old but it is far too small to cope with the amount of summer traffic - because islanders are softly-spoken and never complain when they have the right. It is quite sickening that the Scottish Government seems incapable of listening.

You would think they would make it a priority to fix all the transport problems which are preventing people coming up here to see for themselves the rolling hills of Harris - which I have noticed are  actually quite stationary most of the time - the golden beaches in Uig, the historic ruins that tell us so much about bygone generations and to gaze upon the ever-so-gentle, mild-mannered teuchters which are simpering and apologising for making a wee sound, in their natural habitats. We must have proper ferry capacity for next summer. If not, we will have to get bolshie with islands minister Paul Wheelhouse and transport secretary Michael Matheson.

Maybe we need an approach like the military. When any of us messed up on the drill square, Sergeant Lusty at RAF Swinderby would shriek: “You do that again, you oik, and I will break off your arm and smack you round the head with the soggy end.” At no times were any limbs actually detached from us newly-shorn recruits, but the gentle reminder that all things were possible in Sgt Lusty’s world, was enough. It was a joke. Nor, of course, am I advocating any amputations on the torsos of government ministers.

The tone of voice is so important. Mrs X has such problems with Siri and Google Voice, you know these voice apps that you can use to ask a computer in San Francisco questions about the CalMac timetable. The technology works perfect for me. I ask: “When is the next ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway.” It answers: “The next ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway is the CM25 which leaves in 1 hour and 25 minutes.” Yeah, it is a bit confusing and, no, they have not changed the Loch Seaforth’s name to CM25. That is the route number. So it works.

We were in Inverness and everyone in the hotel could hear Mrs X shouting that the work of the multinational Google Inc was all in vain. She didn’t quite use those words, you understand. She could not find out when to set off for Ullapool. “That Google thingummybob is a load of rubbish,” she told the housemaid, who used it to find out what was happening in the Celebrity Big Brother house. I told her to try again and I would listen in.

She started by saying: “Haoi blone, are you awake?” Then when she did get a response, she said: “What’s the craic the day?” The robot answered: “I am well. What is your question?” That was enough to make my cailleach think she was in a proper conversation so she began to tell Google Voice how much she spent in Inverness, what the weather was like and how much she hated crossing the Minch in a gale. “Listen, a ghraidh,” she said. “You know what it’s like - up and down, up and down.” To which the American computer, said: “That sounds like a lot of fun, now what is your question?”

The computer listened to the customer, responded and then asked if there was anything else it could do. It was almost as good as the service we had the other day at a certain cold meats counter when I saw something for sale called haslet. I have scoffed weird foods I had heard of haslet. I know - wait, wait, wait - it is a small goose. No, that’s a goslet. No, I know that is. It’s the name of the Norwegian chemist who made chemistry difficult for all of because of his work on organic molecules. They were on about him on the telly the other night. He was Haslet. No? He was Hassel. That’s odd. I’m right? Because his name was Odd Hassel? I’m confused.

The assistant then went on to explain that it was meat with all kinds of herbs - and he even began to name them. They gave it a lovely taste, he told us. He took so much time to explain that we got hooked and bought a roll of this mysterious product that we had never heard. It was deleesh. Meatloaf of pig’s heart and liver and all offal-type stuff with the most lovely aroma and taste from the herbs. Maybe a bit like stuffing but better and sliceable. You would love it. And, of course, there is a vegetarian version. That’s just rosemary, parsley and thyme on a plate.

Scottish 'Site' in New Martian Panorama From NASA

NASA has released a new image of Mars that include a site named after Stoer in Assynt in the north west Highlands. The 360-degree panorama was created using photographs taken by Curiosity, a robot exploring the Red Planet.  It is of the Vera Rubin Ridge, and includes a sky darkened by a fading planet-wide dust storm.  In the foreground is the "drill target" Stoer, named after an area of Assynt with rock formations of interest to geologists and other scientists.  Stoer is in the North West Highlands Geopark. The park contains some of the oldest rocks to be found anywhere in Europe.  NASA said "important discoveries" about early life on Earth were made in lake bed sediments at Stoer.  The US space agency used a drill on Curiosity to take samples of the rock at the location on Mars.  NASA said: "The new drill sample delighted Curiosity's science team, because the rover's last two drill attempts were thwarted by unexpectedly hard rocks.  Curiosity started using a new drill method earlier this year to work around a mechanical problem.  Testing has shown it to be as effective at drilling rocks as the old method, suggesting the hard rocks would have posed a problem no matter which method was used."  There are many locations on Mars named after places in Scotland, often due to the Scottish sites having important geology.  Among the place names on the Red Planet are Glenelg, St Kilda, Torridon, Siccar Point, Muck, Wick, Sandwick and Holyrood.

Paisley Abbey Opens Ancient Drain for Doors Open Day

A mysterious medieval passageway on the riverside next to Paisley Abbey is being opened to the public for the first time this weekend as part of Doors Open Day. Considered one of the town's major historical assets, the earliest parts of the 90m (295ft) long drain are thought to date from the 14th Century.  "When you wander around Paisley Abbey there is no evidence of it on the ground," says Bob Will of Guard Archaeology, who is leading the tours this weekend.  Between the abbey and the river it's just a grass park maintained by the council. Trees, flower beds. But if you look closely you will see that there are two or three manholes and they are marking the line of the drain."  Through one of those manhole covers, it is a careful climb down a 5m (15ft) ladder before you reach the drain. Although it is narrow, in this particular part of the structure you can stand up, elsewhere it is a crawl space.  The medieval drain was first discovered in 1879 and then rediscovered in the 1990s.  Much of it was silted up, preserving and hiding many treasures, some of which are now on display in the abbey itself.  A group of archaeologists spent months sieving through the silt and were rewarded for their efforts.  They found a picture of life in the animal bones they discovered, pieces of pottery, lots of plant remains, herbs and spices - some from as far away as the Far East.  There was also a medieval love poem as well as lead seals from cloth which showed the abbey imported items from around Europe.  "They are stamped with the crest of various towns in France, Germany, London, Italy," explains Mr Will.  "It shows you the importance of cloth in the medieval period and how already Paisley was involved in the European cloth trade."  There are different kinds of stonework visible on the walls of the drain.  Some are from different periods, others show the marks of the individual masons who worked on them - they were paid per piece. Other marks have been interpreted by some as so-called "witches' marks" designed to ward off evil.  That, as well as the fact only 90m or so of the passageway is known along with its well-formed structure, has led to some speculation as to whether there was more to the drain than first appeared.  "We know it empties out into the White Cart (river) at one end," says Mr Will.  It is then lost as it heads out towards the council building but at that stage it is much smaller.  Certainly if you look at other monasteries, they have a huge drainage systems, maybe not quite as elaborate as the one in Paisley but certainly, probably longer."  There has been real interest in public access to the drain, with ticket allocation being decided by ballot.  It is not surprising perhaps for something that Mr Will describes as an "architectural gem" with much to show.  "It wasn't just the abbey standing in isolation," he says. "There was a whole monastery round about it, supporting the abbey. Monks, priests, pilgrims and all the visitors and activities associated with that. There is so much interest in the drain from the people. Once they know about it, they want to see it."

Grandmother Finds Her Old Wedding Dress in Charity Shop

A Grandmother-of-three was shocked to see a mannequin in her local charity shop wearing her wedding dress – and it looked as crisp and clean as the day she wore it 36 years ago. Linda Jackson was bargain-hunting in the Forces Support charity shop in Telford Street, Inverness, when she made the surprise find.  Spotting the second-hand gown straight away, she happily paid the £20 on the price tag and plans to give it to her daughter Heather to wear on her own wedding day.  "When I saw it on the model in the shop I recognised it immediately," she said.  "You don’t forget your wedding dress."  Ms Jackson, of Dochfour Drive, Dalneigh, bought the dress for £75 and married Marcus Jackson in Pontefract, Yorkshire in 1982.  She then moved to Inverness and after selling it to a bride-to-be, thought she had seen the last of it.  The 61-year-old, who is a full-time carer for her 27-year-old son Ross who has Down’s syndrome, said not many people bought wedding dresses brand new in the 1980s, so she felt she was doing a good turn by selling it.  But she was speechless when it turned up again after so many years.  "I actually couldn’t believe it when I saw it in the shop," she said.  "It does sell second-hand wedding dresses from time to time but I never in a million years expected to see mine.  I knew it was mine straight away because I had cut the labels and added an extra hook at the back."  And despite having no sentimental ties to the dress, the mother-of-four bought it without hesitation.  "My daughter has the veil and now she has the dress. She is actually the same size as I was back then and she is in a serious relationship. She said she would customise it."  The dress, a simple white gown with lace embroidery, is in very good condition.

Church Inspires Pedal Power Pals

The revival of a church at the heart of a Wester Ross community for hundreds of years and saved from an uncertain fate by a determined local campaign has inspired a pair of pals to employ pedal power for a challenge far away from its tranquil setting.  Celia Charity and Sara Callaghan, friends and neighbours near Clachan at Lochbroom, will saddle up for a sponsored cycle linking Glasgow and Edinburgh at the weekend – inspired by the antics of another plucky 94-year-old local who hit the headlines with his own fundraising effort at an one of Scotland’s most iconic crossings.  Celia and Sara, who both have grown-up families, decided to take on the 45-mile challenge a Cycle Scotland event starting out from Glasgow Green after the effort of another Burma war veteran Donnie Mackenzie who hauled in more than £2500 for the church with a walk across the Forth Road Bridge.  Clachan Church, believed to have been a site of worship for around 1000 years, has witnessed some of the defining moments of history and been at the centre of many key local events down the centuries. When the kirk on the shores of Lochbroom was put up for sale by the Church of Scotland back in 2016, it’s future looked uncertain.  A determined local fundraising drive saw it eventually taken into community ownership by locals who see it as a key hub in the beautiful, remote area.  Celia said: "We saw how well Donnie Mackenzie’s fundraiser for Clachan did and the huge boost it gave everyone involved. Sara and I thought we would enjoy getting fitter, seeing more of our country, and help Clachan at the same time. Since our local Trust became owners on June 22 we straightaway saw the difference it has made to our community. It has become a community focus right from the start.  With the doors open more often we know there’s someone there and stop for a chat. For those of us living on the no-through road on the west shore of Loch Broom, we pass Clachan every time we go anywhere so it is ideal. When Clachan opened during the Lochbroom Sheepdog Trials, the trust displayed some local produce, from handloom weaving, cards, honey, handmade books and paintings, to show the range of economic activity in Lochbroom. That is the tip of the iceberg. There’s only a small population but there’s a huge number of people producing high-quality goods – having their work displayed in a public building helps everybody. Sara and I are confident that Clachan will be an asset to the Lochbroom community for many years to come so we are asking for sponsorship."  Kenneth Macleod, an interim trustee of Clachan Lochbroom Heritage Trust, said: "I have seen the benefit that grows from rescuing a building, improving it and making it available for wider purposes. Of course Clachan continues for the usual church occasions – we want everyone to know that! – whilst extending its usefulness for other appropriate purposes."

Experts Say Scots Are Right to Be Worried As Poll Shows Concern Over Brexit and the Future of Elderly Care

Scots are more concerned about Brexit than people elsewhere in the UK, according to a major new poll.  With 200 days remaining until the deadline for the UK to leave the European Union, polling by Ipsos Mori found that 53 per cent of people in Scotland view Brexit as one of the most important issues facing Britain today, compared with just 46 per cent across Britain as a whole.  However the huge challenges Scotland faces around planning for an ageing population were also a key issue for 18 per cent of Scots surveyed, compared with a UK average of 11 per cent.  Responding to the findings, Dr Donald MacAskill, Chief Executive of Scottish Care, said the two issues were linked and said the Scottish public were right to be concerned.  "We are just 200 days from a potentially cataclysmic breakdown of care and health," he said.  The findings came as Theresa May faced increasing pressure from within her own ranks over Brexit, with further criticism of her so-called Chequers plan from former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. Mrs May spent the weekend at Balmoral where she briefed the Queen on progress with plans to leave the EU.  In some parts of England, such as the Midlands, the survey – which seeks the public's views on the issues which concern them the most – found only just over one in three believed Brexit was the most important issue, with many saying they were more concerned about issues such as the state of the NHS and immigration.  New figures from the polling firm's regular Issues Index, which were gathered using face to face interviews with nearly 6000 people across the UK in the first six months of this year show Scots are more likely to view Brexit as a critical issue for the future than those living in the rest of the UK but less likely to be concerned about immigration.  In Scotland, Brexit, was cited as the most important challenge by 53 per cent of interviewees, ahead of the NHS which was mentioned by 50 per cent of people.  Schools and education reform were mentioned by one in five people, similar to the result in the rest of the UK.  Immigration, named as a key issue by 21 per cent of those south of the border, was further from the minds of most Scots, with only 16 per cent naming it to pollsters.  Emily Gray, Managing Director of Ipsos MORI Scotland, said it was understandable the index had found concern about Brexit to be highest in areas, including Scotland, where there had been a relatively high Remain vote in the EU referendum.  She added: "Our findings confirm Brexit remains at the forefront of people’s minds, with Scots more likely than those across the rest of Britain as a whole to see Brexit as a key issue facing the country.  Other findings suggest that while people in Scotland share many of the key concerns of our neighbours – about the NHS and education – there are also some significant differences. More of us view our ageing population as an important issue, while fewer of us identify immigration as an issue.”

Trump Turnberry Hit by 30% Tax Rise After Scottish Government Changed the Rules

President Trump’s Turnberry golf resort has been hit by a 30 per cent increase in business rates after the Scottish Government withdrew tax relief from the venture.  The property tax bill for the luxury venue in Ayrshire soared to over £834,000 after Ministers redrew the eligibility rules which meant that the firm just lost out.  Turnberry, which has hosted four British Open championships, was purchased by Trump in 2014 and the hotel was reopened two years later. Although the President has no involvement in running Trump Turnberry – his son Eric is in charge – it is ultimately owned by the Donald J Trump Revocable Trust.  It emerged last year that businesses throughout Scotland faced large increases in their non-domestic rates bills – a property tax – following a revaluation.  Criticism by the business community prompted the Scottish Government to introduce a transitional rates relief scheme, which limited the rises for hospitality-related properties such as hotels, pubs and restaurants. However, Ministers were believed to be unimpressed after it emerged that Trump Turnberry benefited financially from the scheme. It was reported that the resort received tax relief of around £110,000, but in fact the total value of the reduction stood at £168,052.  The Scottish Government tweaked the eligibility rules so that relief could only be granted to businesses with a rateable value of up to £1.5 million. Trump Turnberry’s figure stood at around £1.6m and missed the cut. Trump reportedly purchased Turnberry for around £36m and it has been estimated that around £140m has been spent transforming the venue.  However, despite the multi-million pound revamp, it has not made a profit since the acquisition. According to the 2016 accounts of Golf Recreation Scotland, which owns the course, the firm ran up a £17.6m loss.  In July, it was revealed that the US Government paid more than £50,000 so that the President could stay at Turnberry for a “working visit”, which included rounds of golf.  Federal spending records showed that payments worth £52,477 were made by the State Department to SLC Turnberry Limited, which is owned by Golf Recreation Scotland.  A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our current Transitional Rates Relief Scheme is expected to save businesses over £15 million across 5,500 eligible properties this year. In total we provide the most competitive rates relief in the UK, worth around £720 million, including the Small Business Bonus Scheme, which alone lifts 100,000 properties out of rates altogether.”

Edinburgh Tattoo Donates £1m to Charities After Sell-out Year

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has announced it will donate £1 million across 13 charities after another sell-out year.  Organisers of the Tattoo, enjoyed by thousands at Edinburgh Castle throughout August, said £775,000 will go to Armed Services beneficiaries including the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, Army in Scotland Trust, and Scottish National War Memorial.  Arts organisations will also benefit, with the Edinburgh International Festival receiving a donation of £20,000 and the Royal Lyceum Theatre to collect £5,000.  The remaining £200,000 will go to the Tattoo’s Youth Talent Development Fund and an Edinburgh City Council fund to increase access to the arts.  The Tattoo has donated more than £11 million to charity since the event began in 1950.  This year’s show - The Sky’s the Limit - saw more than 1,200 international performers take part.  Rucelle Soutar, head of finance for The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, said: “We are beyond thrilled to mark our third consecutive £1 million donations in support for military, veterans and the arts.  A strong component of this year’s donation has been awarded to organisations that will continue to engage people, especially young people, with the Armed Forces; support and care for veterans as well as inspiring the next generation of musicians and dancers. All of this will help to sustain the Tattoo and all that lies behind.”

Gaelic Nursery Plan ‘Still in its Infancy’, Says Council
The Highland Council is fitting out a classroom at Farr Primary which it says may be used in future as a Gaelic nursery. However, no recent work has been done to assess the level of support from parents whose children might attend it. With the exception of Thurso, there is currently no Gaelic-medium provision at either nursery or primary school level north of a line stretching from Ullapool to Tain.  Highland Council member Linda Munro, who lives in Bettyhill, was cautious when approached about the seriousness of the plans. “I think there’s more than a little smoke, yes,” she said. “I think there’s a very definite ambition to have a Gaelic-medium nursery at Bettyhill.” She added that the purpose of locating Gaelic provision in Bettyhill was that it “sits in the middle of the patch”, and would thus be central for children from across the area who wished to attend.  A council spokesperson confirmed that building works within Farr Primary were incorporating “an additional space should a Gaelic-medium nursery be a viable option for the future”. An existing classroom is being refitted to match the specifications of a nursery, including a kitchen area and wet-flooring. “This will be pretty much the same as the other nursery in Farr which was refitted last year,” the spokesperson added. The council appears keen to put the time frame for completing the new nursery space firmly in the future. We were told that “the building works within Farr Primary School are on-going and are very unlikely to be complete before Christmas 2018.” This is in fact a mere four months away.  The “Farr associated school group” is made up of Tongue, Melvich and Farr primaries, along with Farr High School and two English-medium nurseries in Melvich and Bettyhill. In a controversial move last year, the schools were grouped together under a single headteacher as part of a more widespread policy of combining the management of what are known as “3-18 campuses” — in other words, all schools in a given area from nursery to secondary level. Katherine Wood, previously acting head at Farr High School, was appointed to the combined post in May.  The council’s track record in Gaelic-medium education has not been encouraging for parents in the area. In December 2014, the last children to attend the Gaelic unit at Tongue primary were withdrawn due to inadequate staffing and fears over the quality of education being provided, in which the Gaelic teaching element had become minimal. Instead of remedying the causes of concern, council officials swiftly stepped in to “mothball” the unit. During the 1990s, Tongue’s Gaelic-medium pupils stacked up a string of educational successes under the leadership of Gaelic teacher Mairi Reid and headteacher Anne Scott. In Bonar Bridge, where parents had lobbied hard for Gaelic-medium from the late 1990s, the unit closed in 2016, barely ten years after getting off the ground.

Plan to Cut Number of Scottish MPs ‘Can’t See Light of Day’

MPs in Scotland have hit out at plans to reduce the number of constituencies north of the Border as part of a bid to slim down the size of the House of Commons. Updated proposals for a shake-up of constituency boundaries sparked cross-party anger, with the government pledging to press ahead despite opposition.   Scotland is set to lose six MPs, taking the number of Scottish constituencies to 53 in a 600-strong House of Commons.  The proposals will mean a battle for the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford to retain his Highlands seat, which is set to be merged with the constituency of a neighbouring SNP MP.  Jeremy Corbyn’s seat in North London is also set to be axed, and Boris Johnson’s majority could be slashed challenged under the proposals.  Former Brexit Secretary David Davis’ Haltemprice & Howden seat is among those still on course for abolition after the Boundary Commission released revised constituency boundaries.  Downing Street has insisted that Theresa May remains committed to delivering “more equal and updated” constituency boundaries that all contain a similar number of voters.  However, with opposition to the changes set to come from all parties, it is not clear when a vote on the plans will be scheduled. Number 10 said only that the reforms would be put to MPs “in due course”.  Ministers must secure the backing of Parliament if they want to push the plans through but the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has previously warned the overhaul is unlikely to pass as some Tories, along with Labour, are opposed to the move.  If the plans are approved as proposed, Scotland would lose an MP from the Glasgow area, Lanarkshire, the Highlands, the North-east, Ayrshire and in Dundee. Scotland’s two island constituencies – Orkney and Shetland and the Western Isles – are protected by law and will retain their existing boundaries.  SNP MP Tommy Sheppard claimed the changes would reduce the ability of Scotland’s parliamentarians to make their voice heard at Westminster. “Instead of reducing the number of democratically elected MPs, there should be a reduction of the 791 unelected peers in the bloated House of Lords,” Mr Sheppard said. “These proposed plans would see Scotland’s representation at Westminster slashed by over 10 per cent, with Scottish MP voices further diminished in a Parliament that looks increasingly like it’s set up to work against those protecting Scotland’s interests. For the mainland Highlands – which has a geographic area one and a half times the size of Wales – to be cut down to just two constituencies, as this report recommends, is ludicrous. There is no appetite for these changes at present, and I am confident that these proposals won’t see the light of day.”

Scots Biotech Firm Enterobiotix Gains Key Licence
An Aberdeen-based biopharmaceutical venture is thought to have become the first company in the world to gain a licence from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to produce faecal microbiota for therapeutic applications.  EnteroBiotix has also appointed senior biotechnology executive James Clark as chief executive, with company founder James McIIroy moving to the role of chief business officer in order to support the new boss and accommodate NHS hospital requirements to complete his medical training as a clinician.  McIlroy said: “We are absolutely thrilled to welcome James Clark to the team at this critical inflection point for the business.  With the MHRA approval under our belt and a strengthened senior management team, we are well positioned to make an outsized impact in this exciting field of science and medicine. I am grateful to our board and shareholders for allowing me to continue my NHS medical training alongside my continuing role at EnteroBiotix.”  The firm is developing novel medicinal products targeting the gut microbiome to serve patients with serious unmet clinical needs.

Food, Fringe and Euro Championships Boost August Sales
Retail sales grew for the fourth successive month in August following a "successful summer" for retailers, according to a new report.  Food sales did well, and the return to school boosted sales of children's clothes, but overall growth was down.  The SRC-KPMG Scottish Retail Sales Monitor found total sales were up 0.5% on August 2017.  The Fringe Festival and the European Championships helped boost spending but general clothing and TV sales dipped. The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) said it was a positive end to the summer but struck a cautionary note looking ahead. Ewan MacDonald-Russell, the SRC's head of policy and external affairs, said: "A fourth month of sales growth brings a positive end to a successful summer for Scottish retailers.  Yet as the shadows lengthen with the nights drawing in, there will be some concern the same challenges we saw earlier in the year may return with strong grocery sales offsetting a fall in non-food sales."  The report found total food sales in August increased 3.8% compared to August 2017.  The figure is below the three-month average of 4.7% and the 12-month average of 4.3%.  August's overall year-on-year sales increase of 0.5% was below the three-month average of 1.5% but in line with the three-month figure. Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said: "August can be a tricky month for retailers as summer sales draw to a close and shoppers wait for cooler temperatures to hit before investing in a winter wardrobe."

Ineos to Invest £60m in New Furnace At Grangemouth
Energy giant Ineos is to invest £60m to expand its petrochemical complex at Grangemouth. An additional furnace will be built on its ethylene plant at the 1,700-acre site.  The company said the investment showed its commitment to UK manufacturing at a time when it is in decline across many industrial regions around the country.  The addition of a 10th furnace will improve the efficiency of the plant and increase its production capacity.  Ineos announced last summer it would boost the amount of ethylene it can produce at Grangemouth and in Norway.  It follows the opening of a new supply of fracked shale gas that is now shipped to Europe from the US.  John McNally, chief executive of the company's olefins and polymers division, said: "Our plans to invest in the UK with the further expansion of our plant at Grangemouth has been made possible because we now have access to the raw materials that we need.  The successful completion in 2016 of our project to bring to Grangemouth plentiful supplies of competitive US shale gas ethane over a long-term agreement, has breathed new life into the plant.  Production from Grangemouth provides vital raw materials used extensively throughout UK industry.  Having additional furnace capacity will provide a range of future opportunities, not just for Ineos and for the site, but also for the heartlands of manufacturing in Scotland and the North East and North West of England."

Search in Cairngorms for Missing Walkers

A search is under way for two hillwalkers lost on Britain's third highest mountain in the Cairngorms.  Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team and a search and rescue helicopter are taking part in the operation on Braeriach.  While looking for them, the mountain rescue team found two other walkers who appeared to be suffering from hypothermia.  The search for the original missing hillwalkers is continuing.

Thousands to Attend V&a Dundee 3D Festival

V&A Dundee's opening weekend will launch later with a sold-out festival headlined by Primal Scream. About 10,000 people are expected at the 3D Festival in Slessor Gardens, which also includes performances from Lewis Capaldi and Dundee musician Be Charlotte. The event will be broadcast from 21:00 on BBC Two Scotland.  The £80.1m museum opens on Saturday but the balloted ticket-only opening weekend has sold out.  About 2,000 local children and community group representatives will visit the museum on Friday.  Saturday's day festival in Slessor Gardens, which is not ticketed, includes performances from Dundee musicians Kyle Falconer and Gary Clark.  The V&A Dundee's Young People's Collective have designed the festival with promoters DF Concerts and Events.  The museum was designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and is expected to attract 500,000 visitors in its first year.  The design galleries include 300 objects, including Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Oak Room, the conserved and painstakingly reconstructed interior of Miss Cranston's Ingram Street tearoom which has been not been seen for 50 years.        

Inverness Give Royal Regiment of Scotland A Warm Welcome After Iraq Deployment
The 3rd Battalion of Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS) has received a well-deserved warm welcome on their homecoming parade through Highland capital after a six-month deployment.  Freshly returned from Iraq, 3 SCOTS – better known as the Black Watch – were deployed on a mission to train local border security forces.  The battalion provided security for the thousands of coalition troops stationed at the Al-Assad air base in an area that had in the previous three years come under attack by ISIS.  The deployment of coalition forces at the base is aimed at providing the ISF with a secure base of operations as well as the capability to conduct their own security operations targeting and protecting against ISIS. The six-month tour saw Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) trained in infantry tactics, security procedures, first aid, advanced weapons and communication skills.  Major Finlay Anderson, 29, officer commanding Delta Company, said: “We deployed January to July of this year so we have had a couple of months of leave when we got back – well deserved for all the soldiers and now we are back into normal life.  But before we get back into training we are have a quick celebration with a homecoming parade here and throughout Scotland.”  Mr Anderson explained the mission was to train Iraqi Security Forces in “a whole range of skills, infantry skills from 3 SCOTS as well as with our counterparts in the Royal Engineers and the Medical Corps teaching their skills to the Iraqis as well.  “Certainly it was successful, the Iraqis were very receptive and they were very keen to learn from our guys and all the skills that they have in the British Army. And they are using that in the fight against Daesh so we were proud to be part of that.”  Corporal Robert Steel, 23, a detachment commander gave in insight into infantry life and some of the skills that would be passed on.  He said: “We work in sections so it is usually about two Dets of four, so eight men and when we deploy on the ground we work as one unit, we can get tasked with different things.  We could do ambushes, we stay in OPs, observation posts where basically we will just live together, dig a hole, make a camp, so the enemy effectively can’t see us.”  He added: “I am well chuffed to be back, got some well-deserved leave. It was quite good as a newly promoted corporal it was a good experience to get out there and improve my skills as an instructor.”


Gigha Residents Shocked As First Serious Crime in Years Sees £2000 Stolen From Island’s Hotel

It is a virtually crime-free island where many of the locals have never felt the need to lock their doors.  However, the first serious crime to be reported on Gigha for years has sent shock waves rippling through the community owned island, which is home to just 160 people. As police investigate the weekend theft of £2000 cash from the island’s only hotel, resident Willie McSporran, 82, who led the island’s famous community land buyout in 2002, said: “It’s terrible that these things are happening now after all these years.  The last thing I remember is a bike going missing about 20 years ago, when my brother had the local shop.  When we are on the island our door is open but we will lock the door now, I think it would be sensible for people to lock their doors now.  People tend to be more trusting on the islands, they have no suspicion, but they will need to think again.”  Ken Deacon, lease owner of the community trust owned Gigha Hotel, said staff discovered the cash was missing from a storeroom when they opened up on Sunday morning.  Mr Deacon, 66, said: “It was about £2000, part of the takings from the evening and the float. We had a busy Saturday night, a normal sort of Saturday, the hotel was full of guests.”  Mr Deacon added that everyone was shocked by the theft as serious crime was so rare on Gigha. He said: “There might be a few lads on the island that get into a bit of mischief, but nothing like this.  I have been here four years and the last crime that I remember was a bicycle that was technically borrowed and returned the next morning, that was two or three years ago.  As one police officer said, on the west coast and especially the smaller islands, we have lived in a bubble.  My house has not been locked for four years, I don’t lock my car, a lot of people here haven’t ever locked their house.  It has disturbed people because they are now thinking have we now got to start locking up?”  

Nicola Sturgeon Backs Bid to Keep Teenage Asylum Seekers in Scotland

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has given her backing to a campaign to keep two asylum seekers who live in Glasgow from being deported from the country.  85,000 people have signed a petition protesting the deportation of Somer and Areeb Umeed Bakhsh, who are 15 and 13 respectively, to Pakistan, where they fear persecution due to their Christian faith. At First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon pledged her support to a campaign being run by the Church of Scotland after being pressed by local MSP Bob Doris.  The petition was started by Rev Linda Pollock of the Possilpark Parish Church in Glasgow, and was handed into the UK Westminster Governments Immigration Enforcement Reporting Centre in the city last month Ms Sturgeon said: “I am really heartened to hear how the community have rallied round the Bakhsh family and about the response to the Rev Pollock’s petition.  “I would also like to congratulate Somer and Areeb on what they have achieved in very, very difficult circumstances.  They are an absolute credit to their parents, their school, their community and indeed they are a credit to Scotland. “The Scottish Government will continue to look at what appropriate representations we can make.”  The brothers and their parents, fled to Glasgow from in Pakistan after their father was subjected to death threats from Islamic extremists due to his Christianity.  Jeremy Corbyn met the two boys at their church in Possilpark last month and described them as “wonderful” with so much to offer their adopted home of Scotland. Right Rev Susan Brown, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 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.  If more than 85,000 people are willing to welco
me them, why on earth can’t the authorities?”