Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 473

Issue # 473                                            Week ending Saturday 13th   October 2018

As Abba Asked, What Would Life Be? Without A Song Or A Dance, What Are We?
By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Someone has sent me their phrase of the week. It is in Latin. Oh help. Something by that great Roman philosopher Cicero, apparently. “Nemo enim fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit.” Let me think, I do not have much of a grasp on Latin but nemo is nobody and it is something about something insanitary so I don’t think I want to know. Ah, the automatic widgety translator thing says it means: “Almost nobody dances sober unless, of course, he is insane.” Ah, I see.

What is it with dancing? Every year about this time, many people start mumbling about dancing because Strictly is on the telly. What a waste of energy that programme is. The judging is a bit too random to be taken seriously, most of the so-called celebs are not that good, and the only reason they agree to go on is to get a bit of exposure to try and show everyone that they don’t take themselves too seriously. But they do, they really do take themselves absolutely seriously and do not like the fact that they could be laughed at. However, they could not miss the chance to be in front of nine million viewers.

So there is this constant exposure to twisty-clicky-flicky dancing by people who would have been better off staying on the sofa like the millions of viewers. Most of the people at home only watch because it is just Channel 4 News on the other side nowadays. The celebs’ hearts are not really in it, a bit like the professionals who have to dance with these numpties and somehow try to make them look good. It all ends up looking like some sacks of potatoes being flung around a barn and now we know the real reason, thanks to Marcus Tullius Cicero, the geezer who said wise things and was around, according to the best available records, from 3 January 106 BC till he waltzed off into the sunset on 7 December 43 BC.

When I think of dancing, I think of Scottish traditional dancing, not all that lah-di-dah ballroom stuff. Think post-ceilidh dance in the Bernera Hall circa 1974 or the pre-wedding celebrations - the réiteach - on the island of Todday before the wedding of George Campbell before he made it to the mainland and went off to work for the security services and became Major George Cowley with Bodie and Doyle in The Professionals. Yeah, him. Gordon Jackson, that’s the fellow.

That was the famous tale, retold with a little licence by Compton Mackenzie in Whisky Galore, of the ship SS Politician, an 8,000-ton cargo ship which left Liverpool on 3rd February 1941, with a cargo including 264,000 bottles of whisky, but which came to grief off Eriskay. Which reminds me hearing about a dance teacher in Inverness, probably with a southern isles connection, who taught her students a dance called The Politician. It is easy to learn if you want to try it. All you have to do is take three steps forward, two steps backward, then side-step, side-step, and turn around.

Which brings me to Theresa May. Oh my golly gosh. She glided onto that stage at the party conference to the strains of Dancing Queen but very quickly became a bit robotic and ended up looking like someone trying to move a sideboard. When I finally peeped out from behind the sofa, the funniest thing was the sight of all these Tory Party conference delegates with what appeared to be stick-on smiles, obviously afraid to laugh out loud in case they were castigated for treason. And we were all thinking Mama Mia, what is going?

She had started this Maybot shoogling on her African tour recently and just couldn’t help herself. How much more is to come? Will she boogie on down when she is next on the Andrew Marr show? I am not sure I could keep Sunday morning breakfast in the right place. There are still a few Abba hits left she could shake her thang to at Prime Minister’s Questions - Knowing Me, Knowing You, The Winner Takes It All or, better still, Take a Chance on Me. She could get stick into Brexit negotiations with Voulez Vous or even The Winner Takes It All. Spooky, most of Abba’s hits could have been written for the reluctant Brexiteer.

Enough is enough. We can only have a giggle about it for so long. As far as Swedish schmaltzy singalong nonsense goes, I suppose I liked Abba. They were bigger than they should have been so their music was pretty much everywhere. We always look back more fondly than we actually were at the time. No longer. Abba is now an instrument of broken governments. That dancing queen is dead to me.

Of course, as one who has not set the disco floor on fire for decades, I would never describe anyone else’s dancing as toe-curling. It is just coincidence that I have been able to get my shoes off for a week.

Sturgeon Calls for 'Patience' Over Scottish Independence
Nicola Sturgeon has called for "pragmatism and patience" from independence supporters in her SNP conference speech.  The Scottish first minister said she was "more confident than ever" that Scotland would become independent.  She added that members must "wait for the fog of Brexit to clear" and work to win over people who voted No in 2014.  Ms Sturgeon also announced new policies on nursing, infrastructure, fair work and support for the homeless. The first minister was speaking on the final day of the SNP's three-day conference in Glasgow.  She used her speech to hit out at "unfolding calamity" and "despair" at Westminster, contrasting this by painting an independent Scotland as "a beacon of progressive values".  The SNP leader kicked off the conference by announcing that the party's 35 MPs at Westminster would vote in favour of a new referendum on Brexit, were such a question to be tabled at Parliament.  And she closed it with a speech also packed with constitutional arguments, describing Brexit as a "serious problem" and repeatedly promoting the cause of independence.  Ms Sturgeon hailed the "passion" of independence supporters, nodding to the tens of thousands who marched through Edinburgh the day before the conference began.  And she acknowledged the frustration that has been voiced by some campaigners over the fact that plans for a fresh referendum have not been forthcoming. She said: "Our job is to take that passion and blend it with pragmatism, perseverance and patience to persuade those not yet persuaded.  If we do that, then believe me - the momentum for independence will be unstoppable."  In essence, Ms Sturgeon was telling her party two things from an SNP point of view.  One, that passion alone is insufficient to achieve their objective. They must operate with a calm, temperate approach. They must be prepared to see the alternative view - to acknowledge and understand those who dislike independence. Secondly, she was making plain that an independence referendum must be deferred - at least until there is clarity over Brexit and possibly substantially beyond that.  She was addressing an audience who yearn for independence. They want it tonight, if not sooner.  And yet her underlying tone was all about elongation of time scales.  Ms Sturgeon went on to say that "the future relationship between the UK and the EU will determine the context in which Scotland would become independent".  She said: "But as we wait - impatiently, at times, I know - for this phase of negotiations to conclude and for the fog of Brexit to clear, be in no doubt about this.  The last two years have shown why Scotland needs to be independent. And I am more confident than ever that Scotland will be independent." The UK Westminster government has placed itself in opposition to a second referendum either on independence or on Brexit.  The prime minister's official spokeswoman said Scotland "had an independence referendum four years ago and voted decisively to remain in the UK", adding that "now is not the time" for a fresh vote.  Ms Sturgeon announced some new policies in her speech. She also called on the UK Westminster government to halt the rollout of Universal Credit "now", saying the policy was leaving people unable to eat and urging ministers to "find some compassion".  Ms Sturgeon said the Westminster administration was a "shambles" which "stumbles from disaster to disaster", saying that "a political system that throws up Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson as contenders for Prime Minister has clearly gone very badly wrong".  Paraphrasing Winston Churchill while decrying Brexiteer "ideologues", she said that "never has so much been lost by so many to satisfy so few".  And she warned any parties "itching to open up our NHS as part of a trade deal with Donald Trump" to "prepare for the political fight of your lives".  Earlier on Tuesday, the Scottish government's Brexit secretary, Mike Russell, also urged activists to be patient over a second independence referendum, which he said should only take place when voters are "persuaded, ready and determined to win".

Heavy Rain Causes Flooding in Parts of Scotland
Extensive flooding and landslides have caused problems in parts of Scotland following prolonged heavy rain.  In Oban, a number of low-lying areas were submerged in deep water, leaving vehicles stranded.  In Wester Ross, the occupants of a car had to be rescued from flooding on the A832 Badachro junction, near Gairloch.  And multiple landslips closed the A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful in Argyll, with a diversion of almost 60 miles in place.  A Met Office yellow "be aware" warning for heavy rain is in force across much of western Scotland until midnight.  On Tuesday evening, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) had four flood warnings still in force - for Strathglass, Moy Bridge, Glen Lyon and Spey Dam to Newtonmore - and a number of flood alerts.  In Oban, much of the retail park on Lochavullin road has been submerged. Police were advising people to avoid Lochavullin Road and Lynn Road.  A spokeswoman for Argyll and Bute Council said there were a number of low lying sections of Oban, surrounding Lochavullin, which were flooded. She said: "The standing water is caused by the exceptional amount of rain recently, augmented by higher tides than usual and the strength of the wind backing up the Black Lynn towards the flooded area.  There are pumps in the area which will cope with reasonable quantities of water but not the volume of water we have experienced over the weekend and the start of the week."  The A83 at the Rest and be Thankful has been particularly prone to landslides, and work has been carried out in recent years to reduce the risk to drivers.  Bear Scotland said about 2,500 tonnes of debris had been caught in the recently-installed landslip "catch fences" above the road.  A spokeswoman said four of the fences had stopped the majority of material from reaching the A83, but a large boulder had damaged one of the fences and some debris had reached the A83 carriageway and the Old Military Road below. Prolonged heavy rain throughout Tuesday prevented teams from safely accessing the slope to investigate the potential for any further landslips.

Free-roaming Cattle Could Return to Plockton

Cattle could again roam a Highlands village 15 years after the practice was suspended due to an E. coli outbreak.  Plockton has areas of common grazing, land on which crofters are legally entitled to use for raising livestock.  Local landowner, the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), is looking at ending the voluntary restriction on the movement of cattle next month. However, people in the community have concerns about livestock being allowed back into the village.  Their concerns include the potential for another outbreak of E. coli, a type of bacteria common in human and animal intestines.  Some types of E. coli can cause gastrointestinal infections, and in some cases life-threatening health complications.  Other concerns, which were raised at a public meeting organised by Plockton Community Council and held on Monday, related to the animals causing damage to property.  About 50 people attended the meeting.  The community council said a new development trust is to be set up and it hoped the new group could work with the community council and the crofters to achieve a solution that would satisfy the majority of villagers.  NTS said it was pleased to have a representative at the public meeting.  A spokesman added: "It's our view that whatever agreement is arrived at should ensure a balance between the graziers' rights, their legal responsibilities as owners of livestock and community safety." Crofting's regulatory body, the Crofting Commission, said it had noted that the 15-year agreement between the NTS and Plockton Grazings Committee to exclude cattle from part of the Plockton Common Grazings could cease at the end of November.  It said it had also noted that as there was "no desire to renew the agreement", and that the grazings committee had proposed exercising a "limited and controlled" use of its legal right to graze.  The commission said it had no formal role in the matter, but would wish to see a longer-term solution to the situation and offered to assist, where possible, to develop this.

Woman Killed Lover with Whiskey Birthday Gift

A woman killed her lover by striking him on the head with a bottle of whiskey she bought for his birthday.  Alexis Cook attacked James McGrogan with a bottle of American bourbon at his North Lanarkshire flat on 13 March - the day he turned 54.  The assault came just hours after the butcher was reunited with a son he had not seen for a decade.  Cook, 32, had been due to stand trial for murder at the High Court in Glasgow.  But prosecutors accepted her guilty plea to the reduced charge of culpable homicide.  Cook was remanded in custody pending sentencing next month.  The court heard Mr McGrogan had been celebrating his birthday at his Coatbridge home, initially with Cook - whom he had been dating for about two years - and his mother.  The father later went to a shop and it was there he met his son, whom he had not seen for 10 years.  Prosecutor David Taylor said: "James returned to his flat and was noted to be in a happy and emotional state following this reconciliation."  But Mr McGrogan and Cook later started arguing.  Mr Taylor explained: "She was castigating him for his lack of previous contact with his family. She was noted to be storming in and out of rooms at the flat."  The couple were then heard having a "blazing row" and a neighbour noticed "sounds of a commotion" which appeared to stop about 20:15.  It was around this time Cook texted her sister claiming: "Answer your phone. I'm in big trouble."  The killer then went to a nearby flat where blood was spotted on her pyjama bottoms and head.  She confessed to people there: "I hit him with a Jim Beam bottle. It was his birthday today. I hit him twice. I'd bought a bottle of it for him for his birthday."  She claimed that she and Mr McGrogan had been fighting.  Cook went on: "I think I gave him a bad one this time. I left him lying in the hall. He'll be all right. I threw a cover over him."  Before leaving, Cook added: "The next time you hear from me will probably be a letter from Saughton."  It was Cook herself who later dialled 999.  Mr McGrogan was discovered by police lying under a duvet in the hall.  He was found to have "significant head trauma" with a large amount of broken glass in the flat.  Cook told officers she had hit Mr McGrogan, but denied using a weapon.  She also said her boyfriend had bitten her on the bottom.  Cook insisted Mr McGrogan had been alive when she left his home.  The victim was later found to have injuries consistent with smashed or broken glass.  The cause of death included "blunt force head injury".  Donald Findlay QC, defending, said: "I wish to make clear that Miss Cook has at no point shied away from accepting responsibility for the death."  He added the killing is a crime she "profoundly regrets".  Lord Mulholland deferred sentencing for reports.

First Refurbished High-speed Train Starts on Aberdeen-Edinburgh Line Next Week
The first of a fleet of upgraded high-speed trains (HSTs) is to enter service in Aberdeen next week, it has been announced.  Rail operator ScotRail said the first of the 26 newly- refurbished Inter7City trains would run from Aberdeen to Edinburgh via Dundee from Monday.  The diesel trains date back to the 1970s but they have all been renovated, at an estimated total cost of £54m.  The first of the refurbished trains had been supposed to be introduced in May.  But ScotRail admitted the refurbishment project had been "a challenge". The Intercity 125 Class 43 HSTs (high-speed trains) will operate on the lines from Aberdeen and Inverness to Glasgow and Edinburgh, which take in Dundee, Perth and Stirling.  The rail operator's boss Alex Hynes is reported to have told an SNP conference fringe meeting earlier this week that "people don't care how old their trains are".  He said the upgraded trains would offer a third more capacity on some trains, quicker travel and a more comfortable journey than the old Class 170 diesel multiple units (DMUs).  The HST was the mainstay of British Rail's inter-city service and is still the world's fastest diesel train.  However, ScotRail HSTs will have a maximum speed of 100 mph.  The operator said the first of the trains would help deliver Scotrail's improved timetable from 9 December.  ScotRail hopes the other trains will be phased in on the Inverness and Aberdeen lines over the next year.  The Class 43 HST trains were first introduced in the late seventies and have millions of miles on the clock. The refurbished trains have been released by Great Western Railway (GWR), which operated them on long distance journeys between London and the south west of England. The carriages have been refurbished in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, and the power cars in Loughborough. They had been previously refurbished just over a decade ago. The trains will be in sets made up of two Class 43 power cars, one at each end of four or five Mark 3 carriages.  Abellio Scotrail has leased 26 sets for 12 years, spending an estimated £54m on refurbishments.  Overall, 17 upgraded five-carriage trains and nine four-carriage trains are scheduled to be used on lines across Scotland by late 2019.  ScotRail said the trains would eventually make journey times shorter and have more seats and luggage space available for passengers.  They will also offer an enhanced food and drink service, with a new cafe area on board in addition to the usual trolley selection.  Bruce Williamson, a spokesman for the campaign group RailFuture, told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland people should not be deterred by the fact the trains are very old.  He said: "They are really well-built trains and passengers love them. They are undoubtedly one of the nation's favourite trains.  They will have more seats, they'll be faster and, having been refurbished, they'll have lovely interiors." He added: "The ideal, I suppose, would be to have brand new electric trains but hopefully the introduction of new 125s to Aberdeen and Inverness will result in an increase in passenger numbers." Mr Hynes, ScotRail Alliance's managing director, said: "This is another major milestone in our plan to build the best railway Scotland has ever had.  Our Inter7City service will provide more seats, better services, and more comfortable journeys for our customers. The investment we are making in these iconic trains is a clear sign of the ScotRail Alliance's commitment to building a bigger and better railway for the whole of Scotland." Transport Minister Michael Matheson said: "The entry into service of the first fully upgraded high-speed train is to be welcomed and I look forward to seeing more follow in the months ahead.  The boost in seating provision will help support the overall 23% increase in capacity being delivered during 2019 as rail continues to grow in popularity across Scotland."

Surfer Rescued From Wave Battered Rocks At Mangersta

A surfer had to be rescued from in rough seas and a rising tide on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis on Tuesday.  The man was one of three surfers who got into difficulty at Mangersta. Two of them managed to make it to the safety of the shore.  The third man clung to rocks as he was battered by waves.  Stornoway Coastguard helicopter crew winched him from the rocks and took him to the safety of the nearby beach.  Miavaig and Breasclete Coastguard Rescue Teams were also sent to assist the surfer.  The alarm was raised just before 18:00 in a 999 call from the member of the public.  The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the surfers were feeling the effects of the cold, but were uninjured.  They were looked after by the coastguard rescue teams on scene who warmed them up in their vehicles and gave them hot drinks and some food.

Bake Off Finalist James Morton's Book Stirs Up Shetland
A cookbook by a former Great British Bake Off finalist has stirred up a storm in Shetland. James Morton, who was a contestant in 2012, and his broadcaster father Tom have released a book called Shetland: Cooking on the Edge of the World.  It is billed as a celebration of food and life in Shetland  But it has been bombarded with one star online reviews from people claiming it paints a disgraceful and untrue picture of life in the islands.  James Morton, 27, grew up on Shetland and his father has lived in the north of the mainland for 30 years. But that has not stopped them including comments that have incensed people on the small but successful fishing island Whalsay.  In 2012, skippers from the island, which lies just east of Shetland mainland, were embroiled in the biggest fishing scam in Scottish history. The "black fish" scandal saw skippers fined tens of thousands of pounds for under-reporting their catches of mackerel and herring that breached EU quotas.  In the Mortons' recipe book, an original poem written by James includes various references to illegal fish landings, clubbing seals and what some have construed as a comment about drug abuse among fishermen.
Poem from the book:
Cash!  That annual quota hit after two weeks. Fisherman mean black fish International landings onto rigged scales Unscrupulous baby seal bludgeoners  Twenty four hour shifts fuelled by what's behind the hidden door The destruction of the sea on which they sail

While the poem doesn't specifically reference Whalsay it has been inserted into the middle of a page about the lucrative fishing industry there.  The page also makes a point of describing the island as being "mega-rich".  The authors top it off by taking a pop at the Whalsay accent, describing it as "incomprehensible" even to other Shetlanders.  Councillor Duncan Simpson, who lives in Whalsay, says there is a real mood of shock in the community.  "I have no idea what he was thinking," he said. "I'm failing to see the relevance of any of this to Shetland cooking. I'm not sure what the need for it was in the first place."  James took to Twitter to defend his father's right to speak out about what he describes as the "vast wealth" of fishermen.  He also tweeted: "The book promotes the beauty and wonder of Shetland, including Whalsay.  Turns out a few fishermen can take neither a joke, nor face up to their colleagues' convicted criminal past, nor do they like having their wealth exposed." Asked about his response to the backlash, James Morton said that while he was "very sorry" and "didn't mean to upset anyone", he thought it was important to highlight "both sides" of the fishing sector.  Tom Morton branded islanders "oversensitive" and said they were "petty" for posting bad reviews on Amazon. Tom said: "It is unfortunate and petty for anonymous comments to be placed on Amazon.  I think the point that we were trying to make was about how indiscriminate and thoughtless industrial fishing does affect the long-term viability of what is a very precious resource for Shetland."  The Shetland Fishermen's Association declined to comment on the story saying they didn't want to give it publicity.

Age Proves No Barrier to Degree Success
An Inverness grandfather proved that age is no barrier to academic success when he graduated from Inverness College UHI along with more than 300 fellow students.  Hugh MacKintosh (60) graduated with a 2:1 BA (Hons) in business and management with human resource management, following in the footsteps of his daughter Tara, who graduated from the same course in 2006.  Former Scottish Government business manager Mr MacKintosh, who lives in Inverness and enjoys spending time with his wife Carole and 18-month-old granddaughter Ava, retired from his civil service role in 2011 and had worked in Go Outdoors before deciding to study full-time.  "I never got the opportunity to go to university when I left secondary school in 1975," he said.  "I got married and had a successful career in the civil service for 35 years.  But getting a degree was something I had always wanted to do. Retirement gave me the opportunity, but also the fact that the course was offered by a university on my doorstep."  Mr MacKintosh believes his experience of working in business helped him and his fellow students through their studies.  "I really enjoyed the course," he said.  "My IT skills weren’t as hot as some of the younger students’, but I was able to balance that out with my practical experience working in a business environment, and we all supported each other in different ways. I was always made to feel very welcome and my fellow students and tutors were so supportive. I’m happy in my retirement knowing I’ve got my honours degree.  That was what I was desperate to do."  Also graduating was student representative Donna MacAngus (35) from South Kessock, who achieved an HNC in events. She combined her studies with raising her five children and working in the food and beverage team at the college.  She previously studied events and hospitality operations and is now aiming for a degree in events management.  "I have gained so much experience in different types of events and gained more confidence in myself and my abilities," she said. "The course has provided a range of opportunities to gain experience in the workplace and it’s been wonderful through my studies to be able to volunteer at events including NessCon and Gok Wan’s Fashion Brunch Club.  My time at Inverness College UHI has been amazing so far. The staff have all been fantastic and are always there to help when you need it. You are never alone – there is always someone there to help."  As well as students celebrating the culmination of years of study, special awards were also presented at the ceremony. Among the recipients was Rachael Bews (25) from Evanton, who was named the college’s Alumnus of the Year.  The award is given annually to a graduate who has made an outstanding contribution to their community or has made significant achievements in art, science or business or in public or academic life.  Having graduated with a first-class honours degree in business and management in 2014, she has gone on to specialise as a digital marketing consultant.  In February she founded ALICAS, a social enterprise based in Edinburgh which gifts bespoke parcels of clothing to women who have fled abusive relationships. The packs are created using surplus retail stock which would otherwise be sent to landfill or incinerated. Ms Bews was awarded an RSE Unlocking Ambition Enterprise Fellowship, supported by CREATE, UHI’s centre for enterprise and innovation.  "The University of the Highlands and Islands played a formative role in sparking my passion for and experience of enterprise and entrepeneurship," she said. "I couldn’t be more delighted to continue working with the university and CREATE on my new venture, ALICAS.  With the continued support of the university and CREATE, it is now my ambition to create a scalable business model, designed to support as many women as possible."

'Something Old, Something New'
Wick Heritage Museum made history itself at the weekend when a wedding was staged there for the first time.  The museum was chosen by happy couple Faith Bramley and Kris Manson because they both share an interest in the history of Wick and enjoy seeing photos of years gone by.  Faith, the new Mrs Manson, said: "Everyone commented on what a lovely and unusual venue it was and thought the centre itself was amazing and atmospheric.  We couldn't have asked for a better day.  The feeling inside the centre is special and Ian Leith [chairman of the Wick Society] was so accommodating and helpful.  When we started discussing the wedding with him we knew it couldn't be anywhere else."  Seventy guests attended the ceremony which was held in the museum on Saturday and followed by a dance in Canisbay hall.  Faith, a dental nurse, added: "Our heartfelt thanks go to Ian for his time and to his wonderful group of volunteers that helped out on the day. The hall committee in Canisbay were absolutely outstanding as well."  Mr Leith said: "The wedding went very well, everything went according to plan.  The guests were delighted with the environment and after the ceremony they were able to wander around the museum and have a chat about our history."  Mr Leith explained that the idea to have a wedding at the museum was all down to the bride who asked if it was something they would consider allowing.  Describing it as a unique venue, Mr Leith said now that a precedent had been set they would look at any requests that came in.  However, he was just happy that they had been able to create a historical moment on Saturday.  He added that a lot of credit had to go to the committed band of volunteers at the museum who helped get everything ready, assisted on the day and were enlisted in the tidying up after.

Man Convicted of Importing Firearms to Auction Online
A man imported more than 40 firearms from abroad in a bid to make a profit by selling them online.  Shezad Khan, 44, paid £3,200 to order the weapons from a company based in the Czech Republic.  But police raided his home in Glasgow's Broomhill after a parcel firm spotted a gun in a package addressed to him.  Khan now faces a lengthy jail term after he admitted importing prohibited weapons as well as three charges under the Firearms Act. He was remanded in custody at the High Court in Glasgow pending sentencing next month. The hearing was told the pistols were capable of discharging harmful gases, blank cartridges or flares.  The crime came to light when a delivery company spotted a damaged parcel with a gun inside.  Three similar packages were then found - all to be sent to Khan. Prosecutor Michael Meehan said a total of 43 pistols, which were either Turkish or Italian made, were eventually seized.  Mr Meehan told the court Khan had paid for them from his own bank account.  Asked why Khan had the weapons, his advocate Lili Prais replied: "He was buying these items in bulk with a view to selling them on an auction site. Of course, he did not actually receive the items."  Lord Burns deferred sentencing for reports.

Scottish Brewery Sector Sees 'Explosive Growth'
Scotland's brewing industry has enjoyed "explosive growth" since 2010 as craft beers have become increasingly popular, according to new research.  The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) found there were 115 breweries across Scotland this year - compared with just 35 eight years ago.  More than four-fifths of businesses in the sector were micro-breweries.  The study also found that 30% of all brewing enterprises were in the Highlands and Edinburgh.  The report said: "Globally, beer consumption has been falling for decades.  However, this has not dampened the significant brewery start-up rate, responding to consumers choosing to drink more expensive, specialised beers.  Scotland's craft breweries have flourished over recent years with a plethora of new breweries entering the market."  While just four local authority areas contained breweries in 2010, currently 16 of the 32 separate regions are home to at least one brewing business.  "Both urban and rural areas have benefited from the explosive growth of the sector," the report found.  Breweries had an average turnover of £271,310 in 2018 - lower than the average business turnover of £673,000.  But 10% of breweries had sales levels worth over £1m, while just over half (52%) had turnover levels that were below £100,000.  The research also identified 128 malt and grain distilleries in Scotland, giving the country the largest concentration of whisky producers in the world.  In addition it found more than 60 distilleries producing gin in Scotland, with more than 110 varieties of Scottish gin available.  Overall, the spirits industry makes up 3% of Scottish GDP, with nine out of 10 distilling jobs in the UK being located north of the border.  Average turnover across all Scottish distilleries was approximately £5.3m each in 2018, according to the report.

Europeans Flock to Scotland to Take Advantage of Weak Pound

The number of tourists to visit Scotland from European countries has rocketed by 39 per cent in the year to June, official figures have shown.  Experts said that the weak pound, combined with strong marketing overseas, had driven visitor numbers, but warned that the Scottish Government needs to give a strong message that the country is still open after March next year when Britain leaves the European Union.  The figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that in the same period, spending by European visitors jumped by 21 per cent to £1.6 billion compared to £959 million in the previous 12 months. However, the number of visitors from North America fell by nearly 10 per cent.  Across all international markets, there was a 23 per cent increase in overseas overnight visits, with almost 3.6 million visitors choosing Scotland as a destination in the 12 months to the end of June 2018 with spending rising too by eight per cent to almost £2.3 billion.  The number of visitors from Europe rose in the 12 months to June from 1.65 million to 2.3m. The number of visitors from the “EU15” countries - the original member countries before the bloc’s expansion in 2004 and which is comprised mainly of wealthy western European nations, rose by 33 per cent. John Lennon, professor of tourism at Glasgow Caledonian University, said that Scotland had become far better value for European tourists due to the pound’s falling value.  He said: “It is good news to see this increase. The value proposition has increased by 20 per cent for inbound visitors. What was, for a long time, one of the most expensive visitor destinations has suddenly become good value.”  He said that Visit Scotland’s branding was “very well regarded” internationally, adding that tourists were venturing further afield to visit more parts of Scotland.  He added: “The question is, were these visitors coming because they were not too sure what would happen post March 2019? The job of the Scottish Government is to make it clear that visitors are welcome after Brexit. We do not want any uncertainty that could spook tourists, especially when we have such a healthy demand.”  Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland said: “Tourism is the success story of Scotland’s economy and it is fantastic to see a rise in international visitors. Scotland is about building bridges, connecting places and bringing people together, with tourism at the heart of this.”

Hebrides A ‘Global Hotspot’ for Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises

The seas off the west coast of Scotland are a “global hotspot” for whales, dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks, according to a catalogue of sightings made over the past 15 years.  A newly compiled marine atlas details the array of discoveries made in the region by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust between 2003 and last year.  The charity has so far carried out around 200 research expeditions on its specialised yacht Silurian, staffed by both scientific researchers and more than 700 paying volunteers.  The surveys have previously established the Hebrides is a vital feeding ground for minke whales and basking sharks and one of the most important areas for harbour porpoises in Europe. Research has also found the region supports the UK’s only resident population of killer whales, or orca, which is likely to become extinct within a generation as no calves have ever been seen.  So far 23 species of whales, dolphins and porpoise – collectively called cetaceans – have been recorded in the Hebrides, a quarter of the global total.  Biologist and TV presenter Liz Bonnin, who is also the charity’s patron, said: “It is increasingly clear that the Hebrides is a truly special place for cetaceans and basking sharks, and that we need to do far more to protect them and their environment.”

Lord Kerr: Prejudiced Little Englanders Are Hemming Scotland in
The man who wrote the European Union’s now infamous Article 50 has warned prejudiced “short-sighted Little Englanders” are hemming in Scotland.  Former diplomat John Kerr - who devised the mechanism under which Britain is set to leave the bloc next year- has been campaigning for a second referendum on Brexit, the People’s Vote.  Citing the war dead of his own school, Glasgow Academy, the now Lord Kerr of Kinlochard made his most impassioned defence yet of Scotland’s place in Europe, saying Brexit was an “historic mistake”  Lord Kerr said: “Scots of all parties and none should rally behind the People’s Vote cause.  “Glasgow and Edinburgh have long been great European cities. We mustn’t let short-sighted Little Englander prejudice hem us in.  My grandfather was on the Somme. My parents met in 1930s slump Glasgow : their Hillhead home was blitzed in 1941. We should heed the lessons of history.”  Lord Kerr is channelling widespread concern about Britain’s diplomatic and security relationships post Brexit amid new threats, including Vladimir Putin’s to destabilise the West.  His remarks come after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed SNP MPs at Westminister would back a people’s vote. Lord Kerr said these votes could prove “decisive”. Prime Minister Theresa May opposes a second referendum.  Lord Kerr said the people had a right to change their mind. He wrote: “Sixty-one per cent of Scots, and a rising majority in the UK as a whole, want a People’s Vote on the outcome of the current negotiations. So it was good to see the First Minister say on Sunday that SNP MPs would back such a Vote when the Westminster crunch comes. How Scots MPs vote could be decisive.”  A crossbench peer, Lord Kerr was Britain’s ambassador to the EU and US and a Foreign Office permanent secretary.