Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 478

Issue # 478                                     Week ending Saturday 17th  November 2018

Maybe it is the Little Green Men Up There Who Are Switching on Our Mobile Data Settings
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

By the time you read this, the invasion may have started. Little green people with three eyes and antennas sticking out of their heads could be scampering around the Emerald Isle. When I heard the news on Monday that a pilot of a British Airways had called Shannon Air Traffic Control to report something with a bright light had come alongside his plane over the Irish coast and, he claimed, then veered north. It is a bit early for Mr Claus and his reindeer - even though I know sad people who have had trees with lights in their windows for most of the last month. Why put up a tree in October? To bamboozle pilots ...?

Another pilot from Virgin Atlantic heard the BA pilot and said there was lots of meteors. He said they were really, really bright. Listen mate, you’d better let your co-pilot take over. Meteors do come down or along on the same trajectory but they don’t whizz up alongside airlines, twinkling their really bright lights and then suddenly veer off north. Get a grip, man. It’s more likely to be a fat man in a red suit on a sleigh being pulled by reindeer than a blinking meteor. I suppose the Claus cove is a sort of an alien but he is more E.T. than E.C. - not extra-terrestrial, more extra cholesterol. E.C. phone home.

Whether he is bringing you a new mobile phone for Christmas or not, here is what to do. Turn off your mobile data setting. It’s marked as either 3G or 4G, depending on coverage where you are. The providers are raking it in because we forget to turn it off. Just use Wi-Fi, if you have it at home. There’s no usage charges with Wi-Fi, other than your monthly subscription. And if your phone has a Wi-Fi Assist setting, turn it off too. That turns your mobile data on, if you try and use an app out of Wi-Fi range.

Audley Shaw was the finance minister of Jamaica a couple of years ago and he left his mobile data on for a whole year. During that time he was on government business in various countries and his roaming setting was on. His mobile phone bill for the year to March 2017 was - wait for it - about £6 million. About half that was for just one month when he was abroad. He managed to get nearly £1 million discount but he still had to cough up the equivalent of £1.5 million himself to keep his job. Just because he didn’t switch the wee slider to Off.

The phone giants don’t make it easy. The data slider is hidden in the settings but it should be on a big red button on the side of the phone. Aw, no. That’s too easy. They want you to forget to switch it off. That’s how they get their huge Christmas bonuses. They make millions every month from paid-for unused data and data that was inadvertently used by dosy twonks like me and you. Women are the worst for doing and that is official. They are more likely to not twiddle it because it is too much of a faff for them.

When I saw the movie Olympus Has Fallen, it was about to begin when a young lady from the middle of the row we were in began jostling and working her way out to the end where I was. As she trundled past she was blocking my view of yon Paisley buddy, Gerard Butler. Poor guy, he came home to his house in California on Sunday and it was burned to the ground in the wildfires there. Not a film - in real life. Anyway, I asked the sideways sliding sylph if she could not have gone out before the film began. She said: “Naw, mate. When yon message came up saying to turn aff your mobile, I remembered I had left mine in the car.” Duh,

I can’t stop thinking about the UFO over County Kerry. In these cases, people wonder if it is maybe something to do with the military. Having worked at the Scottish Air Traffic Control Centre in Prestwick, I do know that the military are good at telling air traffic people about any exercises they are having with the latest superfast jets in the skies to allay public fears. Unless, of course, they forget. Yep, even the great military mind gets it wrong sometimes. But I didn’t forget that often. Honest.

Irish people will be very concerned until they get to the bottom of what it was these completely sober pilots saw. They will have more to worry about than what Brexit is going to do to their borders if there is no explanation in the next few days. You can laugh but how would you like it if you were walking down the street and you met this green creature with three eyes just stepping out of a shiny spaceship? I mean, what would you call an alien with three eyes? An aliiien?

Scotland Falls Silent in Remembrance
People across Scotland have observed a two-minute silence in an act of remembrance marking 100 years since the end of World War One.  It was one a series of commemorative events taking place on Armistice Day.  Before sunrise, pipers around the country played the traditional Scottish lament Battle's O'er.  And large crowds gathered at ceremonies of remembrance in Glasgow and Edinburgh, where the first minister laid a wreath.  After four years of bloody conflict, the war between the Allied forces and Germany finally ended in 1918.  The armistice signed in Compiègne came into force on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  Of the 700,000 Scots who joined the forces, more than 100,000 died during World War One.  Nearly every village, city and town in Scotland has some form of memorial displaying the names of their war dead.  Across the UK, the centenary was marked with gun salutes before the two-minute silence at 11:00.  Following the period of quiet observation, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon laid a wreath at a ceremony at the Stone of Remembrance outside the city chambers in Edinburgh. She did so after 11 rounds were fired from Edinburgh Castle, with the guns then falling silent.  Ms Sturgeon joined fellow politicians and members of the armed forces for the ceremony before a service at St Giles Cathedral.  Following the service, the city thanked all those who served with a procession and service of commemoration in the Old Town.  Elsewhere, the silence was observed at the cenotaph in Glasgow's George Square, as it was at war memorials in towns and villages across Scotland.  Lord Provost Eva Bolander, in her role as Lord Lieutenant, led the proceedings in George Square, with a guard of honour provided by the 52nd Lowland, 6th Battalion of The Royal Regiment of Scotland.  After laying her wreath, Ms Sturgeon said: "Remembrance Sunday is always a very poignant occasion. It's our opportunity to express our gratitude to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in conflicts across the last century. Today has an added poignancy as we mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. For those of us in today's generations, it is very difficult to comprehend the scale of loss of the First World War.  But today's an opportunity to express our gratitude but also to learn the lessons of that conflict so that we may hope that we may never see the like."  The Princess Royal joined dignitaries at Glasgow Cathedral for a service of commemoration broadcast live on BBC One Scotland.  Organisers said the service would have a "multigenerational focus", with the National Youth Choir of Scotland singing alongside the Glasgow Cathedral Choir. Meanwhile, on beaches across the UK, large-scale portraits of a casualties from the conflict were drawn in the sand and washed away as the tide comes in.  Masterminded by filmmaker Danny Boyle, he has described it as an "informal nationwide gesture of remembrance". In Scotland, the large-scale art projects took place at Ayr beach; West Sands in Fife; Scapa beach, Orkney; St Ninians beach, Shetland; Roseisle beach, Moray; and Culla Bay on Benbecula.  After dark, the devastating human cost of the war was laid bare at the Scottish Parliament, as the names of 134,712 men and women were projected on to the building. They died serving Scotland during the war and included servicemen, munitions workers and nurses.  Presiding officer Ken Macintosh said: "The fact it will take seven hours to project the names of all those who died reflects the sheer scale of the loss and devastation the war had on communities right across Scotland."  

How Brexit Could Spark New Highland Clearances
Farmers and crofters are warning that a row over subsidies in post-Brexit Britain threatens rural life in Scotland.  Farmers, by and large, are a stoic bunch. So when a panel of Scottish farming and crofting leaders came to Westminster last week to warn that much of their way of life could be lost, you’d imagine people would sit up and listen.  The other thing farmers are known for is spending their money. It doesn’t sit long in their pockets. Cash from the livestock market is spent at the feed mart and, like blood pumped from the heart, flows into a dozen other local businesses that keep small communities going. Tourism is the other big industry in rural Scotland, but farming arguably does more to keep families, and therefore vital services, in rural towns and villages year-round.  Certain sections of the commentariat scoffed when the Scottish Government complained of a ‘power grab’ by the UK Government. Powers that had been held in Brussels were coming back to the UK, so the SNP had nothing to complain about, it was argued.  Except it isn’t just the SNP complaining – it’s farmers, not normally given to nationalist hysteria and grievance.  The Agriculture Bill currently before the House of Commons doesn’t plan out in detail what agricultural subsidies and regulations will look like after Brexit, but it does put in place some of the legal scaffolding that will determine how a replacement for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will be built. Because the Scottish Government refused to sign off on the Brexit legislation that underpins the sharing of responsibility in devolved areas, it contains no specific provisions for Scotland. Farmers are therefore left wondering which government to look to when the transition to a new subsidy regime takes place in the mid-2020s.  The Scottish Government says authority to design its own scheme resides in the Continuity Bill, a piece of Holyrood legislation awaiting a ruling on its legality from the Supreme Court following a UK challenge. The decision is expected this month. Meanwhile, the Agriculture Bill has farming interests in Scotland worried. Appearing before the Commons’ Scottish Affairs Committee last week, Scottish farmers and crofters made clear their needs were determined by a very different landscape – literally – than in the rest of the UK.  Michael Gove, the UK Environment Secretary, has signalled that he wants subsidies paid in future based on the improvements farmers make to the environment on their land – reducing the impact on landscapes and soils, improving biodiversity, and so on. Funds may no longer be paid simply to support the core business of farming.  “If we took a similar approach in Scotland, that would be extremely detrimental, in many senses, to huge tracts of Scottish agriculture,” warned Johnnie Hall, the policy director for the National Farmers’ Union Scotland (NFUS). In Scotland, 85 per cent of farmland qualifies for support under the EU’s ‘Less Favoured Area’ scheme, designed for less productive, difficult terrain and soils. No other part of the UK is eligible. Rural businesses in more forgiving areas can be improved and diversified, but “there are no alternatives” to the way things are done in large parts of Scotland, the chair of the Scottish Crofting Federation, Russell Smith, told MPs.  “If you don’t support, in this case, stock rearing in the north and the west, then you lose the population, the economy and everything that goes with that and supports it,” he warned. “In our croft, what we get from selling sheep and from our basic payment covers the costs of running the unit,” Smith added. Support under the Less Favoured Area scheme “is the profit”. Without it or an equivalent successor, “we would stop”. Without a separate scheme supporting specific types of livestock rearing, “we will see even more abandonment of the hills”.  The NFUS has commissioned academic and legal opinion that if the Agriculture Bill is the last word on how subsidies will be designed, that would give Gove “unilateral control over allocations of funding for certain types of support measure”, according to Hall.  Even if this gets straightened out eventually, it might be too late, MPs were reminded. “Farming and crofting is a long-term game,” Hall said. “It takes years and years. Decisions made today might not see a return for some time to come.”  This is existential stuff not just for farmers, but also for Scottish Tories, who represent a sizeable chunk of Scotland’s uplands in the Borders. Yet it was clear from the way Conservative MPs on the committee interacted with the witnesses that there was greater interest in convincing them they should be happy powers are returning from Brussels than engaging with fears about the detail of a future payments system.  Like a tired marriage, EU farm subsidies are little loved, but impossible to imagine life without. The NFUS’ Hall called the CAP a “straightjacket” holding back innovation and preventing fresh blood from getting into farming, one of the UK’s fastest ageing industries. Some environmentalists believe hill farming is an ecological disaster, particularly in the Scottish Highlands, where before human intervention, a temperate rainforest covered much of the landscape. Eurosceptics on the right and the left see the CAP as the worst example of Brussels waste, and farmers as subsidy junkies. Free market evangelists claim the CAP and other initiatives like geographic indicators, protecting European produce from Parmesan cheese to Stornoway black pudding, are barriers to international trade.  But if Brexit and the rise of populism are a response to the way globalisation lays waste to working-class communities and devalues traditional British ways of life, then protecting Scotland’s most precarious communities must be a priority. Farmers believe the Scottish Government, closer to their interests than Whitehall, is best placed to do that. The risk of families abandoning the Highlands should be enough to get the politicians to agree a solution.

Glasgow School of Art Bosses Hit Back At Fire Criticism
The board of Glasgow School of Art has hit back at claims it failed to look after the A-listed Mackintosh building.  A submission to a parliamentary inquiry strongly defended its record following two devastating fires in four years.  In documents released ahead of an evidence session in parliament on Thursday, bosses denied claims of "systemic management failure". They said the school was "robust and well-managed" and fit and able to oversee repair of the iconic building. MSPs on the culture committee have heard from architects and other experts but this is the first time those in charge of the art school have had their say.  In their written submission, the board members responded to statements from previous sessions - that they failed to engage with experts, were not transparent enough and had "monetised" the building. They confirmed the building was used for events and tours while under the control of the contractors - but insisted all visits were subject to strict safety procedures.  The board said it wanted to replace speculation with a factual position, and responded to a number of criticisms.   On claims there was a lack of transparency, the board said "there has been no intention to exclude people who want to know what has happened or what happens next". It said a website was dedicated to putting out information following June's fire, but accepted it was "not entirely successful in communicating with the public in the immediate aftermath".  A temporary fire suppression system was not installed after the 2014 fire because there was no system "suitable for a building of the scale and complexity of the Mackintosh Building that could have been installed during the construction period".  The school's monetising of the Mackintosh building was limited in scope, and revenue amounted to no more than about £60,000 from tours of the building and the sale of merchandise.  On claims it failed to engage with experts, the board said it put in place an expert panel so that its design team could have access to the right advice when required. These experts have been called upon to provide advice to other institutions following major disasters including the National Museum of Brazil.  The board said events hosted within the building after the 2014 fire followed stringent procedures agreed with the contractors. About half a dozen events were held over the four years since the 2014 fire. "Safety of visitors and operatives and efficient site operations remained the absolute priorities at all times," it said.   It rejected the idea of rebuilding the Mackintosh as a museum. "To strip it of its primary function and consign it to the status of a visitor attraction, would be to strip life and purpose from the building... converting the Mackintosh Building to a museum would not be an expression of responsible custodianship, it would be a piece of sabotage against our built heritage and a failure of our duty to future generations."  Elsewhere, the board said the decision on whether a public inquiry was necessary was a matter for the Scottish government.  It recognised, however, that the scale of the rebuild following the 2018 fire was "significantly different" to the task it faced four years ago.  In other submission papers, the board said the art school's fire prevention plans had been worked up over many years.  It stated: "It was suggested at the hearing on 20 September 2018 that 'the failure was systemic and that there was a misjudged attitude to risk for such a hazardous and iconic building.'  It is understood that none of the witnesses are experts in this area. We strongly rebut that allegation.  Our decision to commission a water mist fire suppression system to enhance the protection of the Mackintosh building, and the installation of sprinkler systems within the Reid and Stow buildings demonstrates our approach."

Unemployment in Scotland Falls by 12,000 to 103,000

Scotland's jobless total fell over the summer while rising across the UK as a whole, according to official figures.  The Office for National Statistics data for July to September put the number of Scots out of work and looking for a job at 103,000 - down from 115,000 in April to June.  The unemployment rate fell to 3.8% from 4.2% during the same period.  UK unemployment rose by 21,000 in the three months to September. The unemployment rate rose to 4.1% from 4%.

Asia Bibi: Scots Church Leaders Urge Asylum Offer

Seven church leaders in Scotland have called for the home secretary to grant a Pakistani woman asylum, after she was acquitted of blasphemy.  Asia Bibi is a Christian who spent eight years on death row in Muslim majority Pakistan after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.  There were mass protests after her conviction was overturned. Kirk Moderator Susan Brown, and Leo Cushley from the Catholic church, have signed an open letter.  Last week, Asia's husband Ashiq Masih called for the UK to grant his family refuge amid fears for their safety after the Pakistan Supreme Court overturned her continued detention.  The Right Reverend Susan Brown, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and The Most Reverend Leo Cushley, Roman Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, are among seven church leaders to sign an open letter which has been sent to Home Secretary Sajid Javid urging him to grant her asylum.  The letter states: "Asia was acquitted on October 31, 2018.  Although she has been reportedly reunited with her husband and three children, she needs round-the-clock protection as Tehreek-e-Labbaik (an Islamist political party in Pakistan) has called for her to be hanged, and there have been several cases of extra-judicial killings of people charged with blasphemy in Pakistan." The letter continues: "The threat to Asia and her family and supporters is real.  The root cause is, of course, Pakistan's blasphemy laws and we urge the UK Government to do all in their power to advocate for these laws to be amended to prevent their misuse and to promote tolerance and harmony between faith communities."  The church leaders said violent protests that erupted in Pakistan after her conviction was quashed highlight the dangers facing Christians in the country, where blasphemy carries the death penalty.  They have also reiterated a call on the home secretary to immediately give the Umeed Bakhsh family the right to remain in the UK, saying it is clear their lives would be in danger if they were deported to Pakistan.  The family - Maqsood, Parveen and their sons Somer, 15, and Areeb, 13 - fled to Glasgow in 2012 after their lives were threatened due to their Christian faith. Somer is studying for five Highers and hopes to become an astrophysicist, while his brother Areeb is said to be interested in art and astronomy.  Maqsood is a qualified and experienced engineer while his wife is a midwife.  More than 92,000 people have signed two petitions calling on the Home Office to allow them to stay, however the UK Westminster Government has rejected their plea for asylum, the Church of Scotland said.  The letter states: "We stand with the Christian community in Pakistan and request that the UK Government takes action to protect minority faith communities and ensure justice for all.  With all respect, we urge you and through you, the Home Office, to grant asylum to Asia Bibi and her family in recognition of the United Kingdom's continuing commitment to freedom of religion and belief.  This case has put into sharp focus the dangers facing Christians in Pakistan and to that end we would implore you to grant the Umeed Bakhsh family the right to remain in the United Kingdom."

Train Factory Bid for Former Power Station Site

The site of Longannet power station in Fife has been chosen by a Spanish train manufacturer as the location for a new factory, employing 1,000 people.  However, it is reliant on Talgo winning a major contract to build trains.  The firm said the factory will get the go ahead if it wins the deal to build over 50 trains. The trains would be used on the high speed rail line between London and Birmingham.  Talgo has the backing of Fife Council and Scottish government.  The Madrid firm said it will go ahead with the factory near Kincardine if it wins an initial order to build new trains.  However, the contract they want is worth £2.75bn. The decision will not be made until early 2020, and with four others bidders vying for this giant contract, Talgo are by no means certain to win.  Earlier this month there were a series of controlled explosions at Longannet power station.  The station was closed in 2016, bringing an end to coal-fired power production in Scotland.  Shirley-Anne Somerville, Dunfermline and West Fife MSP, said: "Its excellent news that Talgo has selected Longannet as the preferred site for their new UK manufacturing facility, and builds on West Fife's record as an attractive location for investment.  This new facility will bring huge opportunities for local economic development, and has the potential to bring hundreds of new jobs to West Fife. Talgo will be well placed to tap into a skilled local workforce, and benefit from excellent links to the rest of the country."  Mark Ruskell, Scottish Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said: "This is excellent news for the community in West Fife - the end of the coal age can be the beginning of a vibrant, low carbon industry in central Scotland and Talgo's commitment to 1,000 new jobs will be transformative.  The rail infrastructure in place was key to the company choosing this site, and I'm excited to see how this can pave the way for more innovative and ambitious freight and passenger rail in Scotland."  Paul Lewis, managing director of Scottish Development International said: "With our public and private sector partners, we've worked intensively for many months to deliver the optimum proposal and to secure Scotland and Fife as the preferred location for Talgo's investment, so this announcement today is a great news.  The quality and skills of the workforce in the Fife area, combined with the strength of the business environment, will help Talgo realise its vision of establishing a world-class high value manufacturing facility for the rail sector, bringing benefits to Fife, Scotland and the UK as a whole."  A ScottishPower spokeswoman said: "The decision recognises the geographic, infrastructure and transport benefits the site offers, and could potentially lead to significant employment and economic benefits for the local area."

Substantial Growth for City-Based Fish Farm Supplier

Pre-tax profit increased by almost £1.2 million for Inverness-based Gael Force Group last year.  The firm - which is involved in a range of activities including the provision of commercial marine and fish farm supplies, and service engineering to the distillery and aquaculture sectors - also saw turnover grow by nearly £7 million in the year ended December 31, 2017 compared to the previous 12 months. A strategic report accompanying the business's latest accounts stated: "2017 saw strong Ossetia the broad, with turnover up 41 per cent on 2016. "Growth was centred on the aquaculture sector through the supply and rental of equipment, technology and services.  Margins were however reduced, which may have been a contributing factor to the substantial growth." Turnover increased from £17,193,353 in 2016 to £24,161,720 last year.  For the same period, pre-tax profit moved to £1,627,359 from £439,083.  The report added: "The main risk to the trading group as a whole is a serious downturn in the Scottish aquaculture industry or loss of, or financial failure of, a major customer within that sector.  Within the group each business unit is working to a detailed business plan which seeks to achieve continuing growth within a long-term strategy for the group as a whole.  Each annual plan sets clear financial and other key targets and objectives for the business, which are monitored and managed continuously. A high priority continues to be managing working capital and improving free cash flow for ongoing investment in growth. In implementing the strategy and in pursuit of a position of market leadership, the group is actively extending capability and reach through substantial investment in innovative new product and service development as well as acquisition." Following the year-end, in April 2018, the business purchased controlling stake in fish farm pen manufacturer Fusion Marine. It acquired the remaining 25 per cent of Gael Force Marine Technology, which it did not own, the following month.  The reported stated: "The directors see considerable potential for long-term growth in the group's key markets and will continue to target resources on those opportunities which deliver the best long-term growth." The firm's average number of employees increased from 153 in 2016 to 161 last year, while staff costs rose from £3,890,447 to £4,635,565.                

Flag Options Raise Ire and A Call for Vote Halt

Disgruntled Sutherland residents are calling for the ongoing public vote to choose a design for a flag for the country to be abandoned amid disappointment over the shortlist of designs. Flag campaigner Leslie Sharp, of Rogart, and others have slammed all four of the designs put forward with one critic calling them a joke.  Mr Sharp said: "The flag will be the symbol of Sutherland and it is very important that we get it right and that the design meets with the approval of the majority of folk in the county.  We have been presented with a very narrow and unimaginative selection. If we have to have one from this shortlist, I think there will always be the feeling that we could have done better.  We should drop this now. It could be revisited in, say a couple of years and we could start afresh."  The hostile reception is the latest setback in an already troubled process to find a flag for Sutherland.  A design competition was launched by Sutherland's Lord Lieutenancy with the assistance of the Flag Institute this year.  The Lord Lieutenancy only decided to go a public vote after an original design chosen by a selection panel was widely condemned with local people protesting at not having been given a voice. Mr Sharp was instrumental in effecting the change of heart, starting up a petition and lobbying members of the Lord Lieutenancy as well as ward councillors and MSPs.  The design shortlist was unveiled on October 5 with Sutherland residents invited to vote for their favourite by Monday, November 26 at www.flaginstitute.org/wp/newhome/sutherland.  Mr Sharp said he thought the whole process had been flawed and that the local authority should have overseen the competition rather than the Flag Institute. He said the local authority had more knowledge and experience of the democratic process.  North-west Sutherland crofter David Forbes has appealed to the Lieutenancy and the Flag Institute.  He said: "Please think again and get it right. I am no expert but you surely can and must do better and give us a proper choice."  The Flag Institute said it would continue with the vote: "The Sutherland Flag Committee has been thrilled with the public response to the vote. In just over a week the total of votes casts has passed the hundreds into the thousands.  This vote is making it evident that the people of Sutherland have responded positively to the wide array of options. Consequently, the result of this vote has a solid mandate for registration.  Cancelling the competition would be unthinkable and a betrayal of the thousands who have casts their votes and the hundreds of people (including pupils from many of the local schools) who were passionate enough to submit their designs."

Eilidh Macleod: Charity Set Up in Manchester Attack Girl's Name

A new charity has been set up in memory of a young islander who died in the Manchester Arena attack last year.  Eilidh MacLeod, 14, from Barra, was one of the 22 people killed by a terrorist's bomb following an Ariana Grande concert.  Her friend Laura MacIntyre survived but was badly injured.  The Eilidh MacLeod Memorial Trust will try to help youngsters get access to musical education - primarily but not exclusively in rural Scotland.  Eilidh had a keen interest in music and played the pipes with Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band.  Her family also hope to create a permanent public memorial on Barra in remembrance of Eilidh, and the other victims of the attack.  Her father Roddy said they wanted the memorial to remember the teenager and all the bereaved and injured, but for it also to portray the love, support and resilience of those who have since supported the families.  Eilidh and her friend Laura both attended Castlebay Community School in Castlebay, Barra.  The two friends were attending the Grande concert with thousands of other pop music fans, having travelled to Manchester for the event with members of their family.

Rare Viking Pin Found on Island As Settlement Uncovered for First Time

A rare Viking-era bone pin, which was likely used to fasten a cloak, has been found on the Isle of Tiree.  The find was made on a hillock overlooking the sea at what appears to be a domestic settlement that was occupied more than 1,000 years ago.  The discovery has shed new light on the island’s Norse settlers with the site now considered to be the most important one of its kind on the island.  A Viking-era loom weight and boat rivet were also found along with a piece of discarded boar tusk and remains of burnt alder, birch, hazel and heather. Radiocarbon dating has placed the items to between 790 and 990AD, a period when Vikings are known to have settled Tiree.  Dr John Holliday, a retired GP and archaeology enthusiast who has lived on the island for 30 years, made the discovery.  Dr Holliday said: “There is a new understanding that the islands in the south Hebrides were some of the first of the first Viking acquisitions - they were not an afterthought.  To find a Norse site on Tiree is very exciting to me and it is a great responsibility.  There aren’t very many of these sites in the Hebrides. It is in a very sensitive part of the island close to the beach and we now have a number of senior archaeologists working to take this forward.”  It is hoped that further archaeological work will be carried out at the site in time.  Some experts believe that the pattern on the bone pin may not be of pure Norse design but perhaps a hybrid made by islanders living amongst the Norse settlement.  It is believed that Vikings arrived on Tiree, an island revered for its fertile ground, between 810 and 830 AD and remained there for around 400 years. It was also a heavily Christianised island which was once home to three monasteries.  Dr Holliday said: “It is fair to say that Tiree was a Norse speaking country for 400 years.  Tiree was a such a fertile island that it was known as the Land of Barley.  You find Norwegian farm names in every nook and cranny. They went everywhere, which is not surprising as it was so fertile. He added: “Tiree has had very little archaeology time spent on it compared to other places but I think that is starting to pick up now. This is definitely the most important site so far.”

Chair of Public Meeting to Set Up Gaelic Parent Association Group Stresses the Role it Can Play in Furthering Gaelic Education
The Gael who will be chairing the public meeting in Stornoway on Thursday with the purpose of officially setting up ‘Comann nam Pàrant Steòrnabhaigh’ has spoken in support of such a group.  Calum Iain Macleod, former Development Director of Comunn na Gàidhlig, said he was “delighted to support current efforts in establishing a local group of Comann nam Pàrant” and stressed the role it could play in boosting the development of Gaelic education in the area.  With the numbers enrolling in Gaelic education in Stornoway, as well as other areas of the Western Isles, growing year on year, it is important that parents are provided with support and advice on all aspects of Gaelic education. A local Comann nam Pàrant group would provide this.  A local group, in partnership with other organisations, would also identify opportunities for family learning and family activities through the medium of Gaelic and work with stakeholders to explore areas of further development of Gaelic education in the Stornoway area.”  This group would represent the views of parents and carers of children and young people in Gaelic Medium Education (GME), including pre-school children in the Stornoway area.  The group would take in Stornoway and Laxdale primary schools and the Nicolson Institute secondary – and representation is very much being sought from all three schools to have an input into the Comann nam Pàrant Steòrnabhaigh group.  Organisers of the event warmly invite any parents and carers of GME pupils at these schools, including pre-school children, to come along, find out more about the Comann nam Pàrant organisation and share their views.  The Comann nam Pàrant group would aim to work with stakeholders in a spirit of cooperation and partnership to build on current Gaelic Medium Education provision in the town area.  The national organisation, Comann nam Pàrant Nàiseanta, was established in 1994 to represent the views of parents and carers of young people in Gaelic education. It is a voluntary organisation that supports parents across the whole of Scotland in all aspects relating to GME.  Comann nam Pàrant Nàiseanta has a dedicated officer for parents – Magaidh Wentworth, who will be at the public meeting to explain the role of Comann nam Pàrant groups and how they can support young people in GME and their families.  Magaidh Wentworth, Oifigear Phàrant at Comann nam Pàrant Nàiseanta, said: “I am delighted to see there is interest from parents in a Comann nam Pàrant group and very much look forward to working with parents in Stornoway in support of their children’s education, building on current provision in line with Scottish Government policies on parental involvement and engagement.”  The Education (Scotland) Act names Comann nam Pàrant as a consultee in the process whereby parents may request GME provision from a local authority. The first parental support movement began in Inverness in 1984 and was instrumental in securing the initial part-funding for GME there.  The developing parents’ movement and the growing demand for GME led to the formation of a network of local Comann nam Pàrant groups throughout Scotland which were established with the support of the Education Officer at Comunn na Gàidhlig.

Lewis Crofters and Airport Firm in Land Dispute
Crofters and Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial) are in dispute over an area of land near Stornoway Airport in Lewis.  Hial wants to release the land for a housing development, but a group of crofters argue that they have a right to use it as common grazing. Common grazing is land shared by crofters for raising livestock. The Scottish Land Court is due to sit in Stornoway on 6 December to hear the issue.  A Hial spokesman said: "Hial has sought to release a parcel of land close to Stornoway Airport for homes which will be available to local people. A small number of individuals with crofting interests have objected on the basis that the area is common grazing. Hial's legal advice does not support that position."

Pokemon Detective Pikachu Movie Filmed in Highlands
Scenes for the upcoming Pokemon Detective Pikachu movie were filmed in the Scottish Highlands, it has emerged.  Parts of Glen Nevis and the surrounding area were temporarily closed to the public in March this year for an unnamed film production.  A trailer released this week for the Pokemon movie includes scenes shot in Glen Affric.  Local Highland councillor Margaret Davidson said the crew were "good neighbours" during the filming. She said: "They were good users of the landscape and they got on well with the people in the area, even leaving a little bit of money for local projects."  Ms Davidson also  said: "We will have to wait and see what impact the Pokemon movie has on the Highlands. "But through the years some other films, and television programmes, have left a lasting legacy. Plockton is still remembered for Hamish Macbeth, and Glenfinnan for Harry Potter."  Pokemon Detective Pikachu's cast includes Ryan Reynolds, who provides the voice for the character Pikachu. Reynolds, known for his role as Deadpool in the Marvel films, has done voice work in the past.  The makers of the Pokemon movie spent days at the end of March filming scenes.  The production involved temporarily closing off areas popular with walkers, and also filming on the C1162 Glen Nevis Road using a helicopter, a vehicle fitted with a camera and also a drone.  Mountaineering Scotland issued advice at the time to hillwalkers about the provision of a minibus service to shuttle walkers and cyclists between road closure points. Walkers were also warned to expect access to Devil's Pulpit in Finnich Glen and the River Affric at Cannich to be restricted.