Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 471

Issue # 471                                         Week ending Saturday 29th September 2018

If You Go to the Pub These Days You’ll Get Chips with Everything
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

There was a day that you could go to the pub, drink your fill, talk utter nonsense about politics and politicians, pretend you were an expert about sport and motorcycle maintenance and burp loudly. That was it. A great night. Everyone promished each other to shee them at the shame time tomorrow and then everyone shtaggered home. Life was simpler back then. Then over the horizon came a dark threat to that way of life and things began to slowly change. Everything is smart and there is a computer chip in everything - computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Even in my dog.

When my cailleach and I were in Inverness the other week, we went to a pub that claimed to do a fine scoff. We sat at a table deciding whether to order fish and chips, pie and chips or curry and rice, also available with chips. You can also get the so-called jumbo portion of fries which is really just chips with, er, more chips. We also decided we would have a wee drinkie-poo but in glasses with no chips out of them, obviously. That’s when we noticed that we could get fast service and table service if we followed a wee procedure explained at the foot of the menu. We had to download an app and order using that.

What a load of nonsense, we thought. This will be like the free wi-fi promised in certain Stornoway establishments. The log-in will take all night and the speed will be so dire that it will all be a complete and utter waste of time. However, rather than risk living up to the Luddite tendencies of our age range, we decided to give it a go. Hey, look at us. We’re so cool using the very latest technology to do do really complicated tasks - like ordering a bevvy.

But the iOS application - see, I know all the techno buzzwords although why they have to keep mentioning the Isles of Scilly I’ll never know - - downloaded quickly from the iTunes app store - whoosh. The app rapidly opened - whoosh. We were able to order banger, chips and stuff like pancakes and ice cream, and two red wines to come to table 54 - whoosh. Within a very few minutes a polite waiter with a smile as wide as Academy Street dashed over with our supper - whoosh. He said if we wanted more just to “app him”. And then he was off - whoosh. And, do you know what, we did order again - of course, we blinking well did. After then after all that, I had to go to the smallest room a few times - whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.

How awful. After all, what is the world coming to when you have use your phone to get your pub order taken? Actually, that was not the case. We had the choice to order from the bar or use the app. If I wanted to stand at the bar waiting my turn and being jostled  boozy Tam and his mates who wanted to know who was this stranger who had encroached on the spot they had been rooted to for the last 10 years, I could have. If I’d wanted to fumble around in my pocket for the right money or wait while the staff found a bag of coins for change, I could have opted for all that.

What next? No cash, that’s what. There is a pub down south already that doesn’t even accept cash, money, sponduliks, wonga, sovs, ponies, monkeys or even the occasional 10 bob. You cannot even pay for your dram with a wing, which as everyone knows was the Olde Stornoway term for a penny. It is The Boot in Suffolk where they only accept card payments. You do not have to have the right money, you do not have to wait for your change, you don’t get change to buy a raffle and it is all done with a simple contactless wave of the wrist. Whoosh.

While we were in that pub in Inverness, Mrs X was being pestered by a tipsy retired gentleman who tried to impress by telling her he was a lover of fine things - especially whisky that has been carefully laid down and women that are, well, just women. “Ye might not think it, like, but ah’m a wee bit of a conneeshoor of both women and whisky. See youse, ma dahling, youse are like a fine whisky - very smooth and a fine vintage tae,” he whispered to her after I had whooshed off to the loo.

She was getting right fed up of him so she replied: “What a coincidence, Tam. Because I like my whisky just as I like my men too.” His ears immediately pricked up and he puffed out his chest. “Really? Is that because you like men who are well-matured, strong and fae the north of Scotland, aye?” She goes: “No, cove. It’s because I would put some of them in a barrel for a few years with very little oxygen.” Whoosh, and Tam was gone.

Would You Pay Almost £1m for A Bottle of Whisky?

A bottle of Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 will be auctioned next month in Edinburgh, with an estimate of £700,000 to £900,000.  The 60-year-old whisky was bottled in 1986 and is one of only 24 bottles of its kind.  Martin Green, the whisky specialist at the Bonhams auctioneers, said:" The Macallan 1926 60-year-old has been described as the Holy Grail of whisky.  Its exceptional rarity and quality puts it in a league of its own, and the world's most serious whisky collectors will wait patiently for many years for a bottle to come onto the market. It is a great honour to be offering this amazingly rare whisky at our Edinburgh sale."

Scottish Borders Council and NHS Borders Merger Moves Forward

Scottish Borders Council has taken a first step towards becoming the first local authority in Scotland to merge with its local NHS board.  It agreed to alert the Scottish government's local governance review that it is open to the idea.  It would create a combined organisation with 9,000 staff and a budget of more than £400m of public money.  A council report described the proposals as an "unprecedented opportunity".  Council leader Shona Haslam asked her fellow councillors to "start thinking radically" and support the submission to the Scottish government. "Our local services are facing challenges which have never before been seen," she said.  "Rising costs and decreasing funding mean we have to think of new ways to protect our public services and make sure they are fit for the future.  The Borders is facing a particular issue with our ageing population, which is putting a strain on our health and social care services.  We need to start thinking radically about how we're going to meet those challenges."  Tweeddale West councillor Heather Anderson, also deputy leader of the opposition, claimed the proposals had not been subject to scrutiny.  She said: "The real issue here is that we have opted for one solution to solve every sort of scenario without there being any real discussion or debate within this council.  Rather than considering or imagining a range of different approaches, the paper comes up with one predetermined solution - a single public authority.  There is no analysis of any alternative options.  We are told that whatever the problem is - be it obesity, outward migration, low wages or lack of infrastructure - a single public authority will sort it."  She put forward a motion calling on the council to highlight to the Scottish government that other options would be explored, but that was defeated by 18 votes to 11.  A second motion seeking further time to redraft the submission was also turned down.  Speaking after the debate, council chief executive Tracey Logan said: "Now we formally submit the proposal to Scottish government as a response to the local governance consultation.  We hope this is the very first step on a journey towards an end which we really don't know.  We're hoping for closer working and more collaboration between partner agencies towards better outcomes."

Refurbishment Plans for Scottish National Gallery
Plans have been unveiled to transform the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh with new exhibition spaces.  The £22m building project will offer improved accessibility with direct access from the adjoining Princes Street Gardens.  New displays will include work of early 20th century artists such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  For the first time in a generation, displays will be drawn from the Scottish and international collections.  The project will also create a larger shop, brand new cafe, more accessible restaurant and extensive new landscaping in the surrounding gardens.  On completion, the gallery plans to increase the number of volunteers on hand to assist visitors and offer a dedicated family day one day each week.  Construction work on the gallery, which stands in the heart of Edinburgh's World Heritage site, will begin in October and last for two years.  The gallery will remain open as usual with free admission and disruption kept to a minimum.  The project is being supported by The National Lottery and Scottish government.  Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, said: "This exciting project will further enhance our nation's profile and raise the international profile of our world-class galleries, ensuring that visitors in Scotland and from all over the world can enjoy our arts and cultural heritage."  Sir John Leighton, director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, said: "We will create the perfect showcase for the nation's extraordinary collection of Scottish art, giving it room to breathe and showing it off with real pride to the world.  This ambitious project will completely transform the experience of our visitors, creating a National Gallery that is even more open, engaging and inviting with new presentations of Scotland's art in a setting that will be truly world-class.  The new displays will be revealed when the galleries open in early 2021.

Irn Bru Maker Sees Sales Soar Despite Controversial Recipe Change

Irn-Bru maker AG Barr has battled the new sugar tax, a CO2 shortage and extreme weather to report a solid rise in half-year sales and pledged further investment in its brands. The Cumbernauld-headquartered group, which also makes Rubicon and Tizer, reported a 4 per cent hike in underlying pre-tax profits to £18.2 million for the six months to 28 July on sales that were 5.5 per cent higher at £136.9m.  It said its “growth momentum has not been interrupted” in spite of headwinds hitting the sector and a “challenging and volatile marketplace”.  An interim dividend of 3.9p per share was declared by the soft drinks maker – up 5 per cent on the year before.  Chief executive Roger White said: “We have delivered a solid financial performance in the first half of the financial year, navigating through the soft drinks industry levy implementation, reformulation, extremes of weather and CO2 shortages in addition to a dynamic consumer, customer and macro-economic environment. Our core brands have performed well and have good momentum with both consumers and trade customers.”  He added: “We plan to invest further across the second half of the financial year which we anticipate will have a moderate impact on margins. We remain on target to meet our profit expectations for the full year.”  The group revamped its iconic Irn-Bru drink and other products to reduce the sugar content ahead of the launch of the new soft drinks sugar tax in April.  But AG Barr also had to contend with a market-wide shortage of CO2 at the height of the summer heatwave, when demand for fizzy drinks surged.  Added to this was a period of extreme weather, with the Beast from the East in early spring and the searing temperatures in June and July.  The firm said its share of the market by volume increased by around 15 per cent as it continued to see a growing following for Irn-Bru outside of Scotland, particularly in England and Wales thanks to an ongoing marketing push.  Alasdair Ronald, senior investment manager at Brewin Dolphin, said: “Warmer weather contributed to sales growth of 5.5 per cent, although this had been reported early in August.  It was reassuring that operating profit margins exceeded 13 per cent and, thanks to a lower tax rate, there was a good increase of 8.6 per cent in earnings per share.  Perhaps it’s no surprise that analysts will be focusing on the performance of Irn Bru, which has contained 50 per cent less sugar since January.  The company’s claim that most people won’t taste the difference appears to have been borne out in these results and the market will also be pleased with early signs of success with new products and partnerships – AG Barr highlighted its ventures with San Benedetto and Bundaberg, in particular.”  Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The sugar tax, a CO2 shortage and extreme weather have made the first half of the year a tumultuous one for the soft drinks industry. Against that background AG Barr’s volume growth has outpaced the sector.”

‘Significant’ Gas Field Found Off Shetland

A major new reservoir of gas has been discovered off the Scottish coast.  The find, on the Glendronach prospect north-west of Shetland, has the potential to deliver around one trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas.  French energy giant Total has described the resource as “significant” and is confident it can be developed rapidly using the firm’s existing pipelines and Shetland gas plant.  It is thought the well could have a productive life of ten to 15 years, or perhaps longer.  Arnaud Breuillac, president of exploration and production for the energy company, said: “Glendronach is a significant discovery for Total, which gives us access to additional gas resources in one of our core areas and validates our exploration strategy. Located on an emerging play of the prolific West of Shetland area, the discovery can be commercialised quickly and at low cost by leveraging the existing Laggan-Tormore infrastructure.”  The announcement comes soon after it was revealed that the value of Scottish sales for oil and gas rose almost 20 per cent in the past 12 months, despite a fall in production.  Glendronach is operated by Total, which has a 60 per cent interest in the discovery, alongside power firm SSE and chemicals company Ineos, which each have 20 per cent.  The gas will be piped from Shetland to the St Fergus terminal at Peterhead, then fed into the distribution network.  Martin Pibworth, wholesale director for SSE, said: “This discovery represents a major addition to SSE’s recoverable gas resources.  Gas production assets are a natural complement to SSE’s interests in gas-fired power generation and gas supply to business customers.”  Deirdre Michie, chief executive of the trade association Oil & Gas UK, said: “This is a major discovery by Total, which demonstrates the exciting potential the West of Shetland frontier region holds.”  She said the focus on rapid commercialisation provides “motivation” for investors and industry. She added: “This significant discovery demonstrates that the improved competitiveness of the basin is having positive results.”  Alexander Burnett, Scottish Conservative energy spokesman, said the latest find is proof that the North Sea still has huge potential.  He said: “It’s more important than ever for the Scottish and UK Westminster governments to work together to secure the long-term future of the North Sea oil and gas sector.”  But environmentalists say the find is a “disaster” for the climate and the resource should remain untapped.  Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Exploitation of this new gas discovery off the coast of Shetland is incompatible with a country and a world that takes climate action seriously.  The world cannot afford to burn even a fraction of the fossil fuels we already know about. Fossil fuel firms should not be searching for and exploiting new reserves. This summer of extreme weather has shown we are long past the time for business as usual. This gas should stay where is it.  On the same day the Scottish Government is urged by its own climate advisers to do more to cut emissions, it needs to end further oil and gas exploration in the North Sea.”  Gina Hanrahan, acting head of policy at WWF Scotland, said: “We can’t limit global warming with one hand tied behind our backs.  To bring down our emissions globally we simply can’t burn most of our existing fossil fuel reserves, let alone new discoveries like this Shetland field. The smart money should be going into clean energy, not risking stranded assets in the North Sea.”

The Open-air Church That Drew Hundreds in the Highlands

They came from miles around to gather among the rocks for Sunday -services, the new open-air church created after a deep schism in the Kirk left worshippers without a home. The open-air preaching place at Plockton, Wester Ross, was one of several set up in the north west Highlands following the Disruption of 1843, when the Church of Scotland split over the rights of parishioners – rather than landowners – to choose their ministers.  The divide ultimately led to the creation of the Free Church of Scotland, but as land owners refused to give over property for the new church buildings, alternative homes were sought.  At Plockton, a natural amphitheatre to the south of the village was seized upon. The slopes were dug out with terraces so that worshippers could be seated. A rubble wall and archway were built to form an entrance.  A corrugated iron shed was put in place to protect the minister from the elements, his little wooden pulpit standing inside and hundreds of people came from across the surrounding countryside for services.  Although the Free Church was quickly able to raise funds for a church in the village, the open-air church remained in use until the mid-1930s. In recent times, weddings have occasionally been held there.  Gavin Skipper, ranger on the Balmacara Estate, which is run by the National Trust for Scotland, said: “Although they completed a new church in the village within two years, they kept on using the open-air church for communion services. People were coming from all over Glenelg by boat and horse and cart to attend the church.”  He added: “It’s ironic that when the Church of Scotland was sold in the village a couple of years ago, it was actually the Free Church of Scotland who bought it.”  The remains of the open-air church are a scheduled monument. Other similar sites can be found Aite na h’Uardighean near Achiltibuie and Am Ploc at Torridon, which is made up of four rows of flat boulders enclosed by a drystane wall, although Plockton is considered unusual given its more formal and permanent feel.  A spokesman for Historic Environment Scotland said: “Such open air communion sites were common along the north west coast after the Disruption when local heritors denied adherents of the newly established Free Church sites upon which to build churches.  As a consequence, the Free Church was pushed to marginal sites, especially along the coast. Such places of worship were often transitory and Plockton is unusual in the permanence of its construction and its formal layout.  The site was used for annual communion services by the Free Church and was last used as such in July 1936.”  The open air church is included in a new history walk of Plockton, which is being held as part of Highland Archaeology Festival and Wester Ross Walktober Week.  The walk has been created by National Trust for Scotland and Plockton Heritage Society.  Plockton has become known as the Jewel of the Crown of the Highlands given its pretty harbour and the palm trees that grace the waterfront. They were planted in 1950 by horticulturist Tom Cload and thrive in the village due to the warm air created by the North Atlantic Drift.  In the early 19th Century, however, Plockton had the unenviable tag of Village of the Poor given the high number of destitute crofters moving into the planned village following the Clearances. The village was created by landowner Sir Hugh Innes to house tenants moved off his surrounding farm land, with shipbuilding and herring fishing the new sources of income.  By 1841, there were 537 permanent residents in the village – the highest number on record.

Neil Oliver Examines ‘Glencoe Massacre Finds’

Archaeologist and broadcaster Neil Oliver has visited the Highlands to examine finds which could date to the period around the 1692 Glencoe Massacre.  Mr Oliver, president of the National Trust for Scotland, visited the glen to see traces of the lost settlement of Achtriochtan which stood at the time of the atrocity.  Here, the outline of a large turf house can still be seen with archaeologists recovering a fragment of late 17th Century tankard, believed to have originated in Staffordshire, from the site.  A copper alloy coin from the same period was also found in the yard area of the house.  Mr Oliver was shown the remains by Derek Alexander, head of archaeological services at NTS, and the trust’s Natasha Ferguson, lead inventory officer for archaeology.  Achtriochtan is one of six settlements that appear on Roy’s 18th century military maps but which disappear from documents by the 19th Century after the townships were cleared for sheep.  NTS are working at the lost settlements to help place the human stories of the glen back into the landscapes.  On seeing the piece of tankard, Mr Oliver put to the archaeologists: “So that could hypothetically have been used at the time of the massacre?”  Ms Ferguson said that was the case, with the coin also dating to the same period.  Three settlements have been examined by NTS archaeologists with more detail survey work to follow.  Glencoe was the scene of one of Scotland’s most infamous murders of the clan era when British soldiers killed at least 38 MacDonalds of Glencoe after their chief tried but failed to meet a deadline to pledge allegiance to King William II.  The soldiers had enjoyed 12 nights of Highland hospitality in the homes of their MacDonald hosts before the slaughter.

Couple Accused of Yacht Theft on 'Spiritual Lifestyle Experience'

A couple accused of stealing a yacht from a Scottish harbour have appeared in court to deny the charge.  Richard Gould and Vivienne Duke told a court they were on a spiritual lifestyle experience.  Prosecutors allege the pair stole the yacht from Arbroath marina on Saturday and spent more than 40 hours on the Osprey - in the North Sea.  They were arrested on Monday and earlier appeared at Forfar Sheriff Court.  Defence solicitor Billy Rennie, representing both of them, said the case had an "unusual" background.  He told the court the couple had been travelling for the past two years from the north of England and were following a shamanic lifestyle experience and that they "live with nature".  He said: "They don't have a fixed address and don't require a home. They have made that lifestyle choice." He told the court: "The position in relation to this case is somewhat unusual.  I've explained to them that their backgrounds don't easily lend themselves to the court system.  They have no difficulty staying in the area until the case is completed."  Procurator fiscal depute Stewart Duncan said the Crown opposed bail on the basis the pair had no fixed abode.  Gould, 41, and Duke, 51, whose addresses were recorded as c/o Bruce & Co Solicitors, High Street, Arbroath, denied a charge on summary complaint of theft committed on 22 September.  A trial date was set for November and the couple were released on bail on condition that they sign on at Arbroath police office three times a week ahead of the trial.

Move Home Elementary for Watson

Rural development expert David Watson is returning to his Sutherland roots as new manager of Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust.  Mr Watson moves from his previous role as economic development manager at the Cairngorms National Park Authority to take over responsibility for the trust from retiring manager Helen Houston retires in October. Pete Campbell, chairman of Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust, said: "David Watson comes with a lifetime of experience in the sector. Interestingly, his origins are from Altass near Rosehall, and one of his driving forces for wishing to get the job is the fact that he will be returning to his roots, and able to fulfil his ambition of giving something of value back to the community which he feels he ultimately belongs to."  Mr Watson added: "I have spent most of my professional life working in economic and community development in rural communities across the Highlands and Islands, from Shetland to the Cairngorms, and although I was always 100 per cent committed to each of those communities I have always wanted to apply the skills and knowledge that I have gained to the community that I grew up in. I now have that opportunity.  The Trust has had great success and deserved recognition since its foundation. I need to ensure that current projects continue to thrive at the same time as driving the Trust forward. TI am greatly looking forward to starting work with the staff and the board of the Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust and will be fully committed to the area and work my hardest to try and contribute towards ensuring it has an exciting and sustainable future."

Turning Down the Volume: Tackling the Problem of 'Noisy' Electricity

The drive to reduce our carbon emissions has produced an unintended consequence: poorer quality electricity.  An Edinburgh company has created a new approach which it says will transform the way electric power is delivered. It will still come down the same transmission lines but is predicted to be cheaper and more efficient than before.  Whether it's a hot shower or cold milk, we tend not to think too much about the power behind it.  But the rise of renewable energy is creating new problems for the electricity grid.  In the 20th Century our electricity supply was straightforward: a relative handful of big power stations drove big generators. The power came from the top down from them to us. That has changed. Many big power stations still exist, the flywheels of their huge generators creating electricity at a relatively steady frequency of fifty cycles a second (50 Hz).  But increasingly there are smaller power producers at the other end of the chain. Solar panels on our roofs and wind turbines power individual homes or communities.  They can also feed the surplus back into the grid, sending electrons in the opposite direction to the one for which it was designed. The system has become top-down and bottom-up at the same time.  The issue of what's called intermittency is well understood: you can't generate solar power if it's dark, wind power in calm weather.  But these new sources carry with them another problem: the electricity they produce can be far from the smooth 50 Hz which is the system's ideal.  Instead there are harmonics and distortions. The electricity is "noisy".  Prof Campbell Booth heads the department of electronic and electrical engineering at Strathclyde University. He says poor quality electricity has serious implications for the suppliers.  "Our power is provided via what they call a three phase system - so there are actually three wires carrying an equal amount of power," he says.  "Some of our renewable energy sources connect to just one of these phases. That can result in 'unbalance' and that can cause heating in the power transformers that transform high voltage to low voltage. It can also cause heating in the neutral cables which are part of the supply system."  A lot of thought and work is going into dealing with a much more volatile energy supply across the industry.  One response is coming from the Edinburgh company Faraday Grid.  The firm's founder and chief technology officer Matthew Williams says their aim is nothing less than to change the architecture of the electricity system.  "It's based on an entirely new device called a Faraday Exchanger," he says.  It is a large grey cabinet run from a computer display.  "The Faraday Exchanger is able to control voltage, frequency, power factor and balance across phases.  "Which is all very technical, but what it ends up meaning is that the electricity system is much more robust and flexible."    He likens the new approach to the switch from the copper wires of the old telephone system to the fibre optics of the internet.  "We have an electromagnetic device and a control system that allows us to control the power flow through the device without using electronic circuits, which is very expensive at higher power levels and introduces noise into the system."  The monitor shows a split screen. The ragged traces on one side show poor quality electricity being fed into the device. On the other side the output graphs show altogether cleaner, less noisy power.  This is still a young company but it has already grown from just four employees to almost 100.  Its ambition seems daunting: to replace existing transformers and substations with Faraday Exchangers in every locality.  The first is expected to be installed in the UK's electricity transmission system early in 2019. Installations on continental Europe and the US are also planned.  Its chief economist Richard Dowling says consumers stand to benefit from a decentralised grid: "The sun's free and the wind's free but that's not translating to lower power bills for households because the cost of transporting that type of power is really expensive.  What we're actually doing is trying to improve the efficiency of the grid so we can transport the power from the generation source to the home at the lowest possible cost."

Strontian: the Community That Built its Own School
A small Highland community decided to build its own school after parents rejected the local council's solution to sorting out their ageing primary.  Strontian Primary School has roll of about 30 pupils.  It was built in the mid-1970s and the building has seen better days. Highland Council had proposed making improvements to the old school, before the community took it upon themselves to finance their own school building.  Now completed and due to open its doors in the coming weeks, the overall cost of more than £900,000 for the new school has been met through a community shares issue and grants.  And this Strontian Community School Building Ltd -led innovative project does not end there.  Should it no longer be needed as a school in the future, the building has been designed in such a way it can be converted into affordable homes in the future. Head teacher Pamela Hill said the 1970s primary school building was now "a bit dated and sad".  Highland Council agrees the current school is not fit for purpose, but its proposals to make improvements to the building or add temporary classrooms did not find favour with parents.   Strontian? You've never been, but it sounds familiar?  The village is on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula in the west Highlands, and is a small community with a population of about 400 people. Lead was mined near Strontian in the 1700s and the metal was used to make ammunition for Britain's war against France. The mines provided employment for hundreds of workers.  The community also had a floating church on nearby Loch Sunart between 1846 and 1847.  Members of its congregation would row out to it. Contemporary accounts say it had seating for 750 people.  But for many people, Strontian might sound familiar because of strontium, an element of the periodic table.  Strontium is found in strontianite, a mineral which occurs near the Highland village.   The idea for a community-built school emerged from local people's work with the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust, which had some land available. A new school was planned and costed and put it to the council and proposed the model which was that the village finance, design and build the school and then lease it to the council for use as long they need it for a school."  Local Highland councillor Andrew Baxter said the work of Strontian's "very talented community" could inspire other areas.  He said: "I think other communities in the Highlands and across the whole of Scotland could be looking at this and saying: 'Yes, we could do this too'."

Music Website Launched to Help People with Dementia

A website has been launched to trigger memories in people suffering from dementia.  BBC Music Memories follows research showing how music benefits those with the condition. The new site, for use on a PC, tablet or smartphone, is designed to help people “reconnect with the music they have loved”.  It contains snippets of around 1,800 musical tracks, including the biggest songs from the last 100 years, TV and radio theme tunes, and the most popular pieces from 20 classical composers.  Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody, who has been named Ambassador for Music Memories, said: “My dad has dementia and anything that throws a light on the disease and helps in any way to reconnect people with their lost memories is something I want to be involved in.”  He added that music “is the most powerful international language. It can break you and mend you sometimes in the span of a single song.”  Lightbody has authored a special film on music and dementia for The One Show, to be broadcast on Friday night.  Tim McLachlan, operations director – local services at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “From talking to people with dementia we know the positive effect music can have, helping people at all points on their dementia journey… In latter stages, some people who may no longer be able to communicate much or at all through language can be transformed when they hear a song they recognise – joining in singing and/or dancing along.”  By browsing for tracks by decade and genre, the site aims to help users find their most powerful musical memories and create and share their own personalised playlist.  Supported by leading dementia organisations, it has been launched on BBC Music Day 2018, the annual music celebration.

Wrecking of Annie Jane Off Vatersay to Be Marked
The deaths of 350 people, including many children, in a maritime disaster 165 years ago is to be remembered in a special service on Sunday. Annie Jane, a ship taking 450 emigrants from Liverpool to Canada, broke up on rocks in a storm off Vatersay in the Western Isles. Following the disaster on 28 September 1853, the bodies of those who died were buried in two unmarked graves.  The service will be held near the scene of the tragedy. It will be led by the Rev Dr Lindsay Schluter, minister of Barra and South Uist Church of Scotland congregations, and Barra Roman Catholic priest Father John Paul Mackinnon.  Most of the men, women and children on the Annie Jane had hoped to escape poverty and famine by starting new lives in Canada.  Passengers included emigrants from Ireland and Scotland, children from London, Swiss missionaries and skilled workers from Glasgow hired to help build railways in Canada.  The Annie Jane, a three-mast wooden merchant ship carrying a heavy cargo of iron, had made an earlier attempt to cross the Atlantic.  Its crew had turned the ship back because of bad weather and it was on its second attempt at the crossing when it ran into severe difficulty off the Western Isles.  The captain tried to bring the Annie Jane into more sheltered waters in Vatersay Bay.  But in the bay the ship ran onto rocks and was swept ashore in three parts.  The survivors were fed and looked after by the few islanders, who lacked adequate resources to make wooden coffins for the dead.  Dr Schluter said: "The shipwreck of the Annie Jane overwhelmed the tiny island of Vatersay, which only a few years earlier had been cleared of its people to make way for cattle grazing and only a handful lived on the island at the time.  The neighbouring island of Barra was impacted by Clearances also and struggling with such levels of destitution and poverty which meant that its people too were overwhelmed with the consequences of the tragedy, caring for survivors and burying the dead."  She added: "The shipwreck, impacting on Vatersay and Barra, countless families throughout Britain, Canada and Switzerland also left its mark on the life of the nation by establishing the practice of public inquiries following major incidents."

Nicola Sturgeon Slams Theresa May After She Calls on SNP to Forget Independence

In an interview ahead of the Conservative conference in Birmingham, Theresa May urged Nicola Sturgeon to stop focusing on independence stating that the issue had been settled by a “clear vote” of the Scottish people in 2014.  Mrs May said that the internal market of the UK was far more important to Scotland’s economy than the EU and that the SNP focussing on independence would impact other issues.  However, the First Minister hit back in a post clearly aimed at the Prime Minister.  A post linking to the comments from Mrs May from Nicola Sturgeon read: “In the last two days alone The Scottish Government has delivered a pay increase for police, put dignity into disability assessments, shown that we are building affordable houses at faster rate than UK, and more...but always glad to hear from our single issue Brexit PM”  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had previously said she will set out her thinking on the possible timing of a second independence referendum once the terms of Brexit become clear.

Victory for Bank Campaigners in Barra

Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil had welcomed the announcement that the Castlebay Branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland has been saved.  Mr MacNeil has been at the forefront of the campaign to save the Castlebay Branch and secured and hosted a visit to Barra by the Economic Secretary to HM Treasury, John Glen MP.  Commenting on the news, he said: “This is indeed very good news for the Isle of Barra and a victory for common sense.  I am pleased that the Johnston Carmichael review agreed that there are exceptional circumstances in Barra which means that this branch should remain open and that the RBS have accepted this recommendation.  I am delighted for RBS customers and the staff in Barra who provide such a valuable service. A cloud has been lifted from the island economy and now visitors and locals alike will keep proper bank services on Barra.”

Work Starts Monday to Repair A9 At Helmsdale

BEAR Scotland has announced it is finally to begin repair work on a landslide at Helmsdale that saw the A9 reduced to a single lane. But a far north councillor is asking why it has taken nearly a month for the trunk road maintenance and management contractor to repair a "major lifeline road".  The incident at the end of August saw a section of the embankment underneath the A9 collapse at West Garty, three miles south of Helmsdale. It was washed into a field.  The landslip affected the south bound carriageway with temporary traffic lights put in place.  Bear Scotland said work to repair the embankment would start on Monday and was expected to take up to a fortnight to complete.  It was explained that part of the delay was due to the fact that geotechnical engineers had to assess the site before Bear Scotland could design a repair for the embankment.  A spokesman said: "The repair will involve working from the bottom of the embankment and installing around 450 tonnes of rock on the slope to stabilise the area while still allowing water to drain through."  When the repair is completed, the temporary traffic lights will be removed and both lanes of the road will be open. However Caithness councillor Willie Mackay said he was disappointed that it had taken Bear so long to get going.  He said: "Let’s hope it will be a good, solid job and that there are no more landslips. That stretch of road between Brora and Helmsdale has not been improved for many, many years.  This is a lifeline road for the north of Scotland."