Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 480

Issue # 480                                     Week ending Saturday 1 December 2018

Robots Are Taking Over Here in the Islands and They Have Already Wrecked My Underpants
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

A magazine editor I once slaved for said he looked forward to the day when the predicted Artificial Intelligence devices replaced awkward freelance writers. Having an off day, he was including me in the awkward squad because I rang up and suggested he had not paid enough for my well-crafted literary masterpiece which he had published. The same cove already loudly subscribed to the theorem that enough monkeys with enough typewriters would eventually come up with the complete works of William Shakespeare so he absolutely relished the thought of replacing me with a writer who would not quibble about remittance advices and was happy to be paid in bananas.

Sadly, for him, he shuffled off this mortal coil without AI advancing as quickly as predicted back then. So I assume that somewhere a barrel of monkeys is still clacking away trying to come up with a Wednesday column which the Press and Journal features editor will say yes to. Phew. However, I am not sitting on my laurels. Trying to keep ahead of the game, a while back I dictated a whole column to my smartphone and a clever little app typed it out on screen. It then counted the words and offered to send it to anyone I chose. When I said to dispatch it to the Press and Journal, it asked if I had an email address for the Preston colonel. OK, a bit of tweaking still to do there.

Then I noticed it had changed my words. The electronic brain assumed I lived in America and was trying to be helpful. When I said I had torn my trousers on barbed wire, it wrote that I had split my pants. My pants? No. I did no such thing, I will have you know. Nothing sharp and metallic has been in my underwear for a long ... well, ever. That would have been much more embarrassing and undoubtedly more painful. Why these Americans keep changing good old English words beats me. They say expiration, burglarize and reach out instead of ask. Yuck. They have gotten to be kidding me.

Having given up on voice dictation apps, I am using that voice-controlled Google Assistant more often. It is improving and will often read out the CalMac ferry times instead of just bring bringing up a tiny timetable to squint at. I can ask it to instantly find and play Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up and it also brings up Lovely Stornoway by Calum Kennedy in a flash. However, if I tell it to search for Calum’s Gaelic classic Oran a’ Chaiora, you can feel the heat from the servers losing their cool in California before it finally conks out. Some tweaking needed there too, guys.

Did you hear the latest? A new robot has been recruited at Stornoway Coastguard. Have you not heard? A machine is now reading out the Minch and Rockall weather bulletins to fishermen and ferry crews. And the seafarers don’t like her. Well, they think it sounds female - or maybe it just tore its robotic pants. Anyway, they want her, him, it, whatever, scrapped because it does not sound human enough. I got news for them - it ain’t human at all, at all. Boat owners are on social media wailing that the “incomprehensible zombie voice” must be a hazard and to bring back “those friendly Stornoway voices”. They must know someone I don’t. Just kidding, Stornowegians.

It’ll end up in parliament - which would be a good thing if it gave us respite from the interminable Brexit wrangling. Angus MacNeil MP wants the robotic lady newbie suspended immediately. People have told him she sounds moronic. Angus reckons you can’t replace a human voice where local intonation and pronunciation is so important. Aye well, he’s from Barra and their way of pronouncing words and their intonations have baffled the rest of us for years.

My old neighbour, the coastguard’s maritime operations controller Angus Maciver, admitted the quality of the automated voice doesn’t reflect the warmth of a human voice. He thinks the system needs time to bed in. Not sure that is going to happen, Angy lad. Not unless we all start to talk like Daleks in which case I suppose we may get used to it exterminating common sense and comprehension.

The robots are taking over. We now have articulate apps, conversational computers, fast-talking tumble-dryers, loquacious lights and, along the road from me, a doorbell that turns into a wee telly and lets you see what is going on in their kitchen and they can see on their big TV who is at the door. All these devices now talk to each other. Where will it all end?

“Hello, Iain’s answering machine is not available. This is his voice-enabled fridge talking. I am a robot so I cannot tell a lie - the answering machine is actually broken. I blame Brexit. Please speak at the tone. I will transcribe your message and stick a Post-It note on myself for Iain’s attention when he gets back from the pub. Bee-eep.”

EU Leaders Still Hope for Post-brexit Fishing Access
Nicola Sturgeon has warned of broken promises over fishing as EU leaders agreed to Theresa May's Brexit deal.  A document published by the remaining 27 EU countries made clear they hoped to negotiate access to UK waters based on existing rights.  Ms Sturgeon said that could not be squared with promises made to the UK fishing industry. Theresa May has said her deal would take the UK out of the controversial Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The PM and EU27 leaders approved the Brexit deal on Sunday after less than an hour's discussion at a meeting in Brussels.  But a document published online made clear the remaining EU members were still seeking to negotiate continued access to UK fishing grounds during the two-year transition period.  The document said a fishing deal was a priority and "should build on, inter alia, existing reciprocal access and quota shares".  Scottish Secretary David Mundell has previously said he could not support any extension of CFP rules beyond 2020. Ms Sturgeon tweeted: "I'll be interested to hear David Mundell explain how this - 'existing reciprocal access and quota shares' - can be squared with the promises made to the Scottish fishing industry. (Hint - it can't)."  The Brexit deal has implications for the debate over Scottish independence and the future of fishing.  The withdrawal agreement does not let Scottish Conservatives off the hook over the fishing industry.  All 13 Scottish Tory MPs demanded exit from the common fisheries policy by 2020 and insisted "access and quota shares cannot be included" in the future economic partnership.  Both the UK and EU say they'll use "best endeavours" to conclude a new fisheries agreement by 2020 but the EU has certainly not given up on keeping its current share of the UK catch.  A statement agreed by the EU27 makes clear they will prioritise an agreement that builds on "existing reciprocal access and quota shares".  In short, the fight over fishing is deferred.  Mr Mundell later responded, saying any future deal on fishing had still to be agreed, and that the PM had made clear she would defend the UK's fishing interests robustly.  The Aberdeen South MP Ross Thomson, the only Scottish Tory who has so far said he will vote against the Brexit deal in the House of Commons, said the EU27 document was "troubling".  He said: "The arrangement that we have on fisheries has been devastating to fishing communities across Scotland and across the whole of the UK.  It's in the interest of the EU to keep it going and they want to build on those existing arrangements, so to my mind that can only mean the continuation of some form of common fisheries policy.  It may not be called that but if it looks like the CFP and behaves like the CFP, it is the CFP."

Orkney Islanders Given £260,000 for Estate Purchase
An island community has been awarded £260,000 to purchase more than 1,700 acres of peatland and pasture.  The money will allow residents on Rousay to develop visitor facilities on the Trumland estate and secure the site for a community-owned wind turbine.  The land includes archaeological remains and a site of special scientific interest.  The Scottish Land Fund grant is one of 10 across Scotland in the latest £1.6m allocation of money.  The Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Development Trust (REWDT) said the funding would allow it to employ a project officer and ranger.  REWDT chairman John Garson said they hoped in the longer term to promote tourism on the island which has only 216 residents.  He added: "The project will help promote Rousay as an attractive place to live and provide two employment opportunities.  The follow-on stages of this project will also have significant environmental advantages, will encourage and make it easier for locals and tourists to visit the area, provide well-needed additional public toilets and have the possibility of aiding digital connectivity across our islands. We can't wait to get started."

The other projects to receive funding are:
£229,000 to acquire a schoolhouse in Glenfarg, Perthshire, to create meeting rooms and a cafe
£54,000 to buy 21 acres of woodland in Lochmaben, near Dumfries
£38,000 to purchase land for parking, cycle space and an electric vehicle charge point at Hoswick visitor centre, Shetland
£178,000 to acquire the Kenmuir Arms Hotel in New Luce, Dumfries, and Galloway, to create a new community space
£187,000 to buy a four-bedroom house on Papa Westray, Orkney, to turn it into an affordable rented family home
£324,000 to purchase the category B listed Anderston Kelvingrove Parish Church in Glasgow, for use by community groups
£147,600 to buy a former harbour master's house in Westray, Orkney, to turn into rented accommodation
£130,000 to buy a former Royal Bank of Scotland branch in Wigtown, for affordable homes and a visitor bunkhouse
£99,200 to take over ownership of the Tarves community hub in Aberdeenshire

Children Trapped by Tide Rescued From Sea Cave in Dunbar

Three children have been rescued after being cut off by the tide in a sea cave in East Lothian. The 12-year-old boy and two girls aged 11 and 12 had been playing in the Eye Cave at Dunbar when the tide came in and started to flood it.  They were trapped for nearly two hours before the boy called the police on 999 and the Coastguard was alerted.  The children were up to their ankles in water by the time two rescue teams reached them shortly after 14:30. The Dunbar inshore lifeboat brought them to shore where they were reunited with their parents.  A spokesman for Dunbar RNLI said: "This incident showed how easy it can be to be cut off by the tide.  The children were aware of the risks and usually checked the tide times but on this occasion they forgot. However they did the right thing by dialling 999 and asking for the Coastguard."  He added: "Getting cut off by the tide contributes to a significant number of RNLI rescues every year.  The RNLI encourages everyone to enjoy the coastline safely and advises to check weather and tides before you set out, wear appropriate clothing and footwear and make sure you have a charged mobile phone with you."

£265,000 Upgrade Under Way At Duncansby Lighthouse
A major upgrade of Duncansby Head lighthouse is being undertaken at a cost of £265,000, it has been confirmed.  The Northern Lighthouse Board said the work, which is due to be completed by the end of January, involves the decommissioning and removal of the optic lamp and electrical operating system. It will be replaced with a power-saving LED. Ally Rae, the lighthouse board's project leader, said: "The new light will be more reliable and require less maintenance than the optic lamp and will make a significant saving to running costs. This is only the third time we've been able to place an LED within the existing rotating lens. A temporary light will be used while the work is carried out."  The range of the new light will still be 22 miles.  Mr Rae said the lighthouse tower and adjoining buildings will also be refurbished at a cost of just over a quarter of a million pounds.  The new LED light has been designed and manufactured by the research and development team which supports the UK and Ireland's three general lighthouse authorities – Trinity House, Irish Lights and the Northern Lighthouse Board.  The lighthouse has a square tower and was one of the last built in 1924 by David Stevenson, a member of the famous Stevenson engineering family. There was only a temporary fog signal at Duncansby Head during World War I.  During World War II and on the eve of the invasion of Norway, the lighthouse was machine-gunned by a German bomber but no-one was injured and no damage was caused. The lighthouse was automated in 1997.  Duncansby Head is the farthest point by road from Land's End and features a site of special scientific interest which covers 6.5 km and includes the Duncansby Stacks.

Walk with Dinosaurs At Museum Exhibition

Dinosaur remains including fossilised poo will be unveiled in a new exhibition at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery.  The specially-tailored display of Scottish and other British dinosaurs comes on the heels of a globally-important discovery of dinosaur footprints near the city – the first time they have been discovered on the Scottish mainland.  An invitation has now been issued to follow the footprints through the museum and meet the monsters who called the area home 150 million years ago.  Visitors will get the chance to see and touch real fossils, find out what dinosaurs ate and why they died out, stand beside giant dinosaur skeletons and touch bones.  It will feature 20 species of dinosaur and other prehistoric inhabitants from harmless herbivores to terrifying tyrannosaurs.  Exhibitions officer Cathy Shankland said it will also highlight finds from our own backyard and the crucial role they played in the discovery of dinosaurs – and consider whether a prehistoric creature is still alive in Loch Ness.  "Over a hundred species of dinosaur are found in the UK and some very important finds continue to be discovered in the Highlands - right on our doorstep," she said. The exhibition, which runs until February 2, includes objects on loan from Staffin Dinosaur Museum in Skye, Perth Museum and Art Gallery and Bespoke Scientific and is supported by the Inverness Common Good Fund.  Throughout its duration, other activities will be organised including a Dino Detectives Challenge and a talk by Dr Neil Clark, curator of palaeontology at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, who made the exciting discovery of preserved dinosaur footprints while walking along the shoreline near Inverness.

'Mature Conversation' Needed on Wild Parking

A veteran Sutherland councillor has called for a "mature conversation" to be held on how to better provide for the increasing number of motorhome and campervan users streaming into the county during the summer, attracted by tourism route NC500.  North, west and central Sutherland representative Linda Munro said the sheer weight of numbers were taking their toll on Sutherland's financially strapped public services, such as the refuse collection and public convenience network.  The issue is one that has come to the fore this summer with a number of residents criticising motorhome users for "wild parking" and leaving a mess behind.  Cllr Munro spoke out after a presentation given at last Thursday's Sutherland County Committee meeting on the economic benefits of tourism.  Councillors were told the county had enjoyed a tourism boom this year with almost 500,000 visitors staying around 1,000,000 nights and spending £99 million locally.  But Cllr Munro said: "Our bins are overflowing and tarmac is being burned up at rate we cannot hope to replace. Chemical toilets are being emptied into public toilets and hundreds of gallons of tap water is used that is free to visitors while we are literally paying for it by the bucket load."  Cllr Munro, a Bettyhill resident, went on to address previous criticism from residents that motorhome users were unwilling to pay for services and did not bring any benefits to the county.  She said it was not fair to blame them for the current situation and pointed to the network of Aires d'Service on the Continent where motorhome users could fill water tanks, empty rubbish, dump grey water and empty toilets.  "The lack of infrastructure is not the fault of campervan owners," she said. "If we had camper van facilities close to restaurants and activities, as they do all across Europe, it would be a much improved situation for locals and tourists. We need to have a well-informed and mature conversation on how we meet the needs of motorhome visitors in a way that adds to the local and Highland economy."  Supporting her north coast colleague, Cllr Deirdre Mackay, East Sutherland and Edderton, said: "Nobody was able to predict the success of NC500 and now we need to catch up fast. It's unfair and incorrect to suggest that all motorhome users don't spend money in Sutherland.  We also know there's money to be made by providing the facilities that motorhome users require. Visitors will use facilities if they are provided.  If we look at France, for example; it has more than 2500 well-established Aires d'Service in constant use. People park up, buy from local shops, find somewhere nice to eat and visit local attractions."  Newly appointed committee chairman Richard Gale said: "The issue is that at present we don't have the infrastructure in place to support large numbers of campervans. We have to work with business partners, local communities and development trusts to ensure that we provide the facilities that are needed around the route.  The council can't do it on its own. We need private investment from business partners to help meet the needs of visitors and, crucially, to protect the environment.  We also need the Scottish Government to recognise the importance of the roads around the route and to help us financially to upgrade and maintain our roads."  Chris Taylor, regional partnerships director at VisitScotland, said: "The recently announced Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund gives local authorities the opportunity to apply for additional funds to improve areas experiencing pressure on infrastructure which is negatively impacting on local communities. We also work closely with the NC500 team along with Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Natural Heritage to jointly support and manage the popular route and highlight the many things there are to see and do in the region."

Fort Augustus Canal Locks Get Cash Lifeline to Keep Waterways Open

More than £5 million was announced today to prevent delays on the Caledonian Canal by replacing lock gates in Fort Augustus.  It comes as the latest of a series of repairs faced by Scottish Canals which is struggling to keep its ageing network open.  The money is also the second extra grant received by the body this year after lobbying ministers of the urgent need for more cash.  The Scottish Government-funded body will receive an extra £5.35m to complete the work by next spring in time for the main boating season.  The government's Transport Scotland agency said the cash would also pay for other improvements and upgrades across the network.  However these do not include repairs to Leamington lift bridge, near the east end of the Union Canal in Edinburgh, which has been closed for months. The Fort Augustus work at the southern end of Loch Ness follows some of the lock gates being taken out of action in August for safety reasons, which has delayed boats.  Other work includes the start of lock gate replacement at nearby Kytra and Cullochy, and 24 new moorings at Laggan lock on the Loch Oich section of the canal further south.  The additional funding will also pay for four new pairs of lock gates on the Forth & Clyde Canal, and new water monitoring systems for a reservoir on the Crinan Canal and the "summit pound" (highest point) of the Forth & Clyde Canal at Maryhill in Glasgow.  There will also be a review of remotely operating the broken Bonnybridge and Twechar bridges on the Forth & Clyde Canal, which are being repaired as part of a previous extra £1.6m from Transport Scotland in June. New dredging plant will also be funded to clear obstructions for boats across the network.  Scottish Canals said it was still seeking funding for Leamington bridge, which was closed over safety fears, blocking access to Lochrin Basin. It hopes to re-open the bridge by next spring.  Transport secretary Michael Matheson said: "The additional funding will enable Scottish Canals to undertake a number of projects including work on the Caledonian Canal, one of Scotland's best known waterways, which attracts almost 300,000 visitors each year.  It is essential that this work is carried out now to alleviate the immediate pressure at Fort Augustus for both commercial and leisure vessels.  The repairs will also help ensure that boats will be able to continue to use the canal in future years as it approaches its 200th anniversary in 2022.  These repairs will be in addition to the planned maintenance that Scottish Canals will be carrying out this year as part of its asset management programme.” Scottish Canals chief executive Catherine Topley, said: “This is fantastic news and is testament to the ongoing conversations we are having with the Scottish Government about the value of the canals to Scotland.  These working heritage assets are incredibly important, not only to Scotland’s marine economy but in attracting tourists, visitor spend and investment, stimulating job creation and business growth as well as helping to protect the environment.  This additional investment not only helps to improve the assets themselves but supports our efforts to generate income that can be reinvested in the canals.”  Ms Topley had warned ministers in June: “Without additional investment, we will continue to see asset decline and asset failures – some of which may be substantial."  Gavin Corbett, Green councillor for Fountainbridge-Craiglockhart on Edinburgh City Council, said: "I am delighted to see more funding going to improve and maintain our canals.  The work on the Forth & Clyde Canal bridges will certainly help through traffic from Edinburgh to Bowling, which has been so disrupted in 2018.  However, aside from some new investment in dredging, there appears to be nothing earmarked for the Union Canal.  With the Leamington lift Bridge fenced off at Fountainbridge and steps closed indefinitely at Slateford, among others, it's important the latest funding announcement is just the start of bringing all of the canals up to standard."

Highlands £30m Cruise and Energy Hub Will Bring 140 New Jobs
Investment to expand a quayside in the Highlands is expected to generate around 140 new jobs.  The Port of Cromarty Firth (PoCF) board announced funding of £30 million towards the expansion, which is expected to be completed by 2020.  The quayside will act as an energy and cruise hub and will be able to accommodate large renewable, decommissioning and oil and gas projects.  It will also be able to berth the biggest cruise ships currently being designed and built.  It will be the second quayside and laydown area to be built by the port in the last three years.  In 2015-16, it invested £25 million in a new 150m quayside and nine acre laydown area.  Bob Buskie, PoCF’s chief executive, said: “This is tremendous news for the port and the Highlands and it represents a significant investment by the board.  As a trust port, all of our profits are reinvested in the port’s future development.  We believe this investment will help bring new work to the area for decades to come.  There is a substantial demand for the services in the port and, even with the large new quayside and laydown area finished in 2016, we still experience capacity issues.  This new energy and cruise hub will help us resolve these problems and open up the port to being able to accommodate large-scale projects from across all sectors.”  Fergus Ewing, the SNP MSP for Inverness and Nairn, said: “This is excellent news and a result of hard work by the team at PoCF.  I am delighted they have won this crucial contract and this will provide a real boost to the port and the wider Highland economy.”  The new quayside will be funded jointly by the port and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), with support from the European Regional Development Fund and commercial lender RBS.  Charlotte Wright, the chief executive of HIE, said she believed the project would benefit other areas in Scotland too.  She said: “We are delighted to be supporting this significant expansion by the Port of Cromarty Firth. By strengthening Scotland’s renewable energy supply chain, and creating new opportunities in the tourism sector, we believe this ambitious project will generate wider economic benefits well beyond the inner Moray Firth.”

Diabetes-focused Healthtech Firm to Grow Edinburgh Headcount
A healthtech business that enables diabetics to continuously monitor their glucose levels is looking to expand its workforce in Scotland after opening a base in Edinburgh. San Diego-based Dexcom was founded in 1999. John Lister who heads up its operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), said that it focuses on type one diabetes, where patients need to inject insulin. It offers monitoring using sensors connected to smart devices, avoiding the need for finger stick blood samples – and likened to watching a film compared to only being able to see one frame. Dexcom earlier this month revealed survey findings showing that of Britons living with diabetes, 52 per cent felt having to constantly check their sugar levels to avoid a potentially fatal hypoglycaemic attack has caused them to experience prolonged feelings of stress, anguish and anger.  Lister noted that while managing the condition can be a burden for diabetics and their families, Dexcom’s offering allows users to see trends over time and helps them make better-informed decisions as part of any insulin regime.  In 2016 it opened the Scottish site, its EMEA base, starting with three staff and where 50 of its 75 UK workers are now based. “It’s a new sort of company and new technology to the Edinburgh landscape,” Lister added, praising the quality of the local workforce.  And now the plan is to keep growing headcount at a similar pace in the capital (“we will certainly continue to invest in the Edinburgh office”) while the firm is looking to broaden into Asia and Eastern Europe.  

Brexit: Theresa May Insists Deal with EU is 'Good for Scotland'
The prime minister has insisted her Brexit agreement is a "good deal for Scotland" that will protect jobs and provide new opportunities for business.  Theresa May was speaking as she met factory workers in Renfrewshire as she seeks to build support for the plan.  Her proposals have faced strong criticism from opposition parties - as well as from many of her own MPs.  But she says the country is facing a straight choice between her deal, or leaving the EU without any deal.  Ahead of Mrs May's visit to Scotland, the UK government published analysis which suggested the country's economy could be up to 3.9% smaller after 15 years under her Brexit plan, compared with staying in the EU - but that a no-deal Brexit could deliver a 9.3% hit.  Mrs May's proposals are opposed by Labour, the SNP, Liberal Democrats, the Democratic Unionists and many Conservative MPs on both sides of the Brexit debate - meaning she currently looks unlikely to get parliamentary approval for her deal.  On Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon unveiled a Scottish government analysis paper which claimed the Brexit deal could cost Scotland £9bn a year by 2030, compared to if it had remained in the EU.  Ms Sturgeon, who wants the UK to remain permanently in the single market and customs union and has backed calls for another referendum on the Brexit terms, has said the SNP's 35 MPs at Westminster will vote against the deal on 11 December. But the prime minister said the deal she had negotiated for the UK would be a "good deal for Scotland" as it would provide a "free trade area with no tariffs, no fees".  She added: "That will mean a opportunity to carry on their trade. but also gives us the opportunity to negotiate trade deals around the world that will be good for great Scottish exports like Scotch Whisky, Scottish salmon and smoked salmon."  Labour's shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has suggested it is "inevitable" another EU referendum will be called if Labour are not able to force a general election.  The trip to Scotland was the latest stop in a two-week tour by Mrs May as she tries to promote and sell her deal to the public and business.  On Tuesday, the prime minister made similar visits to Wales and Northern Ireland - where she faced criticism from Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster, whose party has a parliamentary pact to support the Conservative government in key votes.  And speaking as she unveiled the Scottish government's latest Brexit analysis paper, Ms Sturgeon said the deal was "unacceptable to the Scottish government and damaging to the people of Scotland". The document included analysis - first published in January - claiming that a new free trade agreement could leave Scots £1,600 worse off per year by 2030, compared to a scenario where the UK remains in the EU.  It also warned the "backstop" being put in place to prevent the return to a hard border in Ireland could leave Scotland at a "serious competitive disadvantage" to Northern Ireland.  Ms Sturgeon said: "It will not end uncertainty. It will extend it. We are being asked to accept a blindfold Brexit with all the difficult decisions kicked down the road."

Theresa May in the Firing Line After the National Left Out of Press Conference

A furious row has broken out over a decision by the Prime Minister's office to exclude The Herald's sister paper from her Scottish press conference.  The No 10 press office said "limited capacity" meant they wouldn't be able to invite Scotland's only pro-independence newspaper to Theresa May's meeting in Glasgow.  Thursday's front page of The National features a silhouette of Mrs May with the strap line: "We were not allowed in to her press event with the other newspapers. ."  The decision drew criticism from across the political spectrum, with Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine, a former journalist, calling the decision incompetent while SNP MSP Paul Wheelhouse say Mrs May was "feart".  The Prime Minister held a question and answer session with the press in Scotland's largest city this afternoon as she continues her charm offensive around the UK, seeking support for her Brexit deal.   Christine Jardine said: "We all know that there are times when events have to be ‘pooled’, but that’s not the case here and for the PM’s team to leave themselves open to this sort of criticism is incompetent.  Surely when the country is facing the most important decision for generations the Government should want to ensure not only the widest and best coverage, but not allow anything to distract from the issue.  Brexit is going to have a disastrous effect on the UK’s economy. There is no use in Theresa May defending her deal to an audience of her own picking. Just like it’s not worth her holding a debate on the deal if she isn’t going to allow the Liberal Democrats to present the case for a people’s vote and a chance to exit from Brexit.  This allows the claim that journalists are being excluded, a tactic previously deployed by Trump and Alex Salmond. That is not acceptable.”  The decision to exclude The National came two weeks after the paper's political reporters were denied a chance to question May's deputy, David Lidington, as he visited Scotland.  The Cabinet Office claimed The National was not on their mailing list, although the newspaper disputes this.

Trump Golf Homes Plans 'A Weak Substitute' Says Council Memo
The Trump Organisation's plans for hundreds of homes at its golf resort in Aberdeenshire have been described as a "weak substitute" for the original proposals put forward 10 years ago.  The plans include the construction of more than 500 homes at Menie, as well as shops, offices and food outlets.  A council memo says it is now "weighted very heavily" towards residential housing rather than tourism.  The Trump Organisation described the remarks in the memo as "naive at best".  The plan is to invest £150m in the development at the Menie Estate.  Branded The Trump Estate, it would feature a range of two, three, four and five-bedroom cottages, priced from £295,000, to larger properties costing more than £1m. Donald Trump originally promised to spend £1bn developing the golf course. The plans included two courses, hundreds of homes, holiday cottages and a large hotel.  A decade on, there is one course, a clubhouse and a small hotel at the original estate house.  In July, the Trump Organisation brought forward the next phase of its development. The plans include new homes, holiday cottages and leisure facilities.  Aberdeenshire Council is currently considering the application.  As part of that, a memo from the economic development department says the proposal are weighted very heavily towards residential housing, whereas the earlier plans favoured developing tourism infrastructure.  The department said it was "disappointing" to see the "proposed departure from the original plan" from an economic development perspective.  In a statement, Trump Aberdeen said the council acknowledged that the Trump development had significantly contributed to the economic future of the region.  The statement added: "This next phase of development will bring forward improvements to infrastructure, further leisure facilities, hotel cottages and lodges, and residential homes.  The plans are entirely consistent with the original vision and objectives of the project, but also reflect the significant changes in the economy and markets which have evolved in the past 10 years since the council set out its preferences for phasing.  Given the significant unknowns in the current economic content, any suggestion that a £150m investment is not attractive or weak takes some believing.  The remarks are naive at best." A pre-determination hearing will take place on the 12 December at Ellon Community Campus.

Isle of Lewis Prepares Mass Commemoration for People of Iolaire
There will be no fireworks in Stornoway on Lewis this Hogmanay with the celebration of the new year to be more muted this time round.  But this quieter version of New Year’s Eve has been a long time coming for an island that is preparing to mark one of the UK’s worst maritime disasters that hit Lewis 100 years ago.  December 31, 2018 will mark the centenary of the Iolaire disaster which killed at least 201 sailors returning home the Outer Hebrides following the end of the war.  Having survived the conflict, the men were just 20 yards from the shoreline of home when the HMY Iolaire went off course and crashed on the rocks in a winter gale at the Beasts of Holm just before 2am on January 1. Their families waited for them at the harbour side, unaware of the tragedy unfolding so near.  As the centenary of the disaster dawns, a series of remembrances will honour those who died as well as those who survived the tragedy and lived through Lewis’ darkest days.  The commemorations will also recognise how the tragedy shaped an island stripped of so many young men so quickly and offer a very public expression of the private pain endured over the decades.  Several artistic responses to the tragedy have taken shape on Lewis over recent weeks. A new memorial has been designed for Beasts of Holm, new artwork is being built in the sea to replicate the scale of the boat and its losses and a special composition has been performed by musicians Julie Fowlis and Duncan Chisholm .  On Hogmanay, a concert will be held during the hours the men approached home in 1918. Shortly before 2am on January 1, a small delegation of dignitaries and families will head to Holm for a short vigil close to the spot where dozens tried to scramble to shore in the chaos of the night.  Wreaths will be thrown in the water where the wreck of the Iolaire still remains.  Nick Smith, heritage manager at Museum nan Eilean at Lews Castle, Stornoway, said: “People obviously recognise that it is an extremely important and very sad event but it is one that has to be marked. It is recognition of the huge impact the disaster had at the time and the lasting affect it had on Lewis and Harris.”  Mr Smith said some might draw a link between the Iolaire and the mass emigration from the island on board the Metagama in 1923, when 300 young Lewis emigrants - all but 20 of them young men with an average age of 22 - set sail for Canada. He added: “Certainly, there is a local feeling that was another large number of young people lost to the island. It could be seen as another consequence of the disaster.  Now, people recognise that there is an opportunity to commemorate the disaster and remember those who lost their lives but also those who survived - those who had to carry on with their lives.”  An exhibition at Museum nan Eilean remembers the Iolaire from the starting point of island’s contribution to the war effort to long aftermath of the disaster. The worldwide response to the disaster and the funds sent by islanders scattered across the world, from United States and Canada to Argentina, Australia, Siam (now Thailand) and South Africa is touched upon, as is the struggling of those forced to cope amid the loss of their husbands, brothers and sons.  Mr Smith added: “The commemoration is about remembering in the community but also making sure that other people in the country and around the world know about the Iolaire and it’s impact. It is one of the very worst peacetime disasters in the UK but still so many people do not know about it.”  Artist Malcolm Maclean, of Uig, Lewis, has created a sea-based installation that replicates the Iolaire to scale by using 280 posts - each one marking a servicemen who was on board the boat at the time of the disaster.  Each post is due to be individually illuminated with 79 painted white to represent the survivors.  Mr Maclean has been working with journalist Torcuil Crichton, who is originally from Lewis, on the memorial. He said: “We felt is was extremely significant that everyone on board the ship was incorporated into the piece.” Among the survivors of the Iolaire was John Maclennan from Uig, who escaped the Iolaire in his bare feet, walked to Stornoway and managed to catch a lift to the then Calanais ferry before walking into his mother’s home at Kneep.  He made it home before news of the disaster had fully filtered through. Maclennan was unable to leave his house for a long time given he was unable to face the families of those who drowned.  Mr Maclean also told of a serviceman who walked - shocked, frozen and with no shoes - back to his family home in Harris.  He added: “We wanted to show all those involved and the numbers of those who survived and those who did not.  Those who survived very rarely talked about. What we wanted to do was create a visual expression to all that private pain that wasn’t expressed in the past.”