Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 484

Issue # 484                                          Week ending Saturday 29 December 2018

Here I Am Droning on About What I Got for Christmas and Sharing Some Great Health Tips for You
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Imagine a clootie dumpling that does not have dried fruit in it. The point is that duff should always have currants in it. However, you cannot tell by looking at a duff what is behind that yummy skin that forms so magically inside the pillowcase you steamed it in. You have no way of knowing if it is a proper duff or a lesser thing that does not have the complete set of ingredients. So anything that does not live up to expectation is a metaphorical “duff gun churrants” in Gaelic.

And is that not the case with our Yuletide celebrations? We look forward to them all year long and then boomph, that’s it all over. Was it worth it? Did we get the dream presents we had been hoping for? Did we have such a happy Christmas with bright-eyed friends and family gathered round the crackling hearth as we sipped mulled wine and pulled crackers? The only thing I pulled was a muscle in my lower back when I slipped on the stairs. Yes, I have been walking funny since so don’t believe any other rumours you hear about the cause.

Yes, I did get a drone but I have been nowhere near Gatwick Airport. Honest. In fact, those few days of chaos last week and the endless questions about drones and whether they should be flown at all by anyone without professional pilot qualifications have left me wondering if I should even open the box. Who would have thought that such absolute mayhem would ensue even if we do all know that safety has to be the number one priority? Maybe I will go out the Pentland Road and try and get it up in the air.

Mind you, I have to be careful. The Achmore TV mast is not far from there and I don’t want the cops at Stornoway Police Station getting reports that a mystery man is using an aerial attack on the antenna to try and cut off the endless propaganda from Western Isles Council by taking BBC Alba off the air. How long before you would have Stornoway’s finest donning flak jackets and sidearms to bang my Unmanned Aerial Vehicle out of the skies? Is there anywhere that is completely deserted with no sign of life at this time of year? Of course, Western Isles Council. I’ll go and fly it there.

Getting presents is always a nightmare for me. So I did it early. I was halfway through wrapping them when I realised that I had got the wrong wrapping paper. The paper I had bought said Happy Birthday. I didn’t want to waste it so I just added the word Jesus to it. Yay, perfect. If you have still to buy a present, just buy Salt and Pepper. That is the incredible new single from Lewis band Peat and Diesel. It’s very different. It could change your life.

Like many people, I have been listening to the health advice about reducing my units per week. We have to watch our units of sugar and fat and particularly at this time of year, our units of alcohol. It is so easy to get caught up in a session when you meet someone you haven’t seen for a long time. There is often a reason why you have not seen them for a long time and that is usually because you can’t stand the sight of them. You need a stiff drink just to talk to them. Be careful. One Christmas, I went out and got so tipsy I woke up naked in a cheesy bar or, as some people prefer to call it, a delicatessen.

Some people do not have to worry about getting presents though. Those with money. What about that builder fellow who found the winning ticket for a £76 million EuroMillions jackpot tucked in the visor of his van six weeks after the draw? Andrew Clark was like most people a bit of a numpty who kept forgetting to check his lottery tickets. He had a stockpile of them in his van. He discovered the winning ticket stashed in the van’s sun visor. His partner Trisha had nagged him for weeks to check the ones in the van. He also found 27 cans of Irn-Bru, 13 receipts and the banister brush he had taken to clean out the van last year. Oops.

If you choose wisely when deciding what to buy a lovely youngster, you can be sure that memory will stay with the wee darlings. In my own case, it has taken nearly 15 years for the memories to fade after I went to a lot of effort to choose something that would always remind my daughter of me for a long time. Socks and chocolates, and even smartphones are just so disposable that one sharp toenail, one bite, one slip above the toilet pan and they are gone forever. Make it memorable. I did. I once bought my daughter a set of four batteries for Christmas. It had a note on it saying “toys not included”.

Greenland Ice Melting 'Even in Winter'
A team of Scottish scientists has revealed how the Greenland ice sheet is melting - even in winter.  The research has been carried out at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) who found massive warm waves are melting the ice from below.  The Greenland ice sheet contains almost 650,000 cubic miles of ice and is the planet's second largest ice sheet. Climate change means it is also the second largest contributor to rising global sea levels. Ocean physicist Dr Neil Fraser at the SAMS laboratories at Dunstaffnage, near Oban, has created a computer model of how huge waves below the surface of the Atlantic are pushing relatively warm water up Greenlandic fjords.  The scientific name is "coastally trapped internal waves".  They measure 140m from trough to crest.  The waves are warm, although in the Arctic winter this is a relative term, being a few degrees above zero.  They are created by strong winter winds in the northeast Atlantic.  Dr Fraser described it as a "perfect storm scenario".  He said: "These waves are pushing warm water into the fjord and towards the glacier, causing melting hundreds of metres below the ocean surface."  Dr Fraser concentrated his work on the Kangerdlugssuaq fjord which drains one of Greenland's major glaciers.  The team used computer simulations because it is difficult to study the system during the extreme Arctic winter.  Oceanographer Dr Sam Jones has used the model to create animations that accurately replicate the flow of warm water into the fjords and beneath the ice sheet.  It builds on work by Prof Mark Inall of SAMS whose field studies of the fjord in summertime hinted that the waves could be undermining the ice.  Greenland's ice melt is accelerating, with the volume of meltwater reaching unprecedented levels.  SAMS said an estimated 600 gigatonnes of water flowed into the ocean in 2012.  Greenland accounts for more than 20% of the total annual increase in sea level.  Models like Dr Fraser's are contributing to a better understanding of what is happening and what could happen next.

Solar Panels Proposed for Common Grazing Land At Tain
Highland Council has proposed installing solar panels on an area of public land available for raising livestock in Easter Ross.  The local authority said the plan is for 13 acres (5Ha) of common good grazing land at Blarliath near Tain.  The renewable energy scheme would require investment from the council and using the land for at least 25 years.  An eight-week public consultation has started on the proposal.  Gordon Adam, chairman of Highland Council's commercial board, said: "The proposal represents real potential for Highland Council and Tain Common Good Fund to generate income, and to reduce carbon emissions. Both of these are key priorities for Highland Council."  He added: "At this stage, however, I want to stress that it is only a proposal, and we will be carefully listening to all responses to the consultation before making any decision."

Festive Cheer for Vulnerable At Inverness and Nairn Churches

A number of events are being held across the Highlands to help prevent loneliness and isolation on Christmas Day. Rev Sarah Murray and staff at Inverness Cathedral is hosting an open table Christmas lunch in the Old Boys’ School from 1-4pm.  Entry is free and is open to all to help provide comfort to those who are alone or find the festive period difficult.  Ness Bank Church is also hosting its annual festive lunch from 12.30pm.  The three-course meal, with all the trimmings, is being served up for the sixth year in succession.  Nairn United Reformed Church is also hosting a meal at 12.30pm for the disadvantaged and those who may be on their own.  Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC is holding an event for elderly people who may be on their own. The club is laying on a meal and showing a Christmas film.

Caledonian Canal Hub Awaits the Green Light
Preparations are under way in anticipation of work starting on an ambitious regeneration project next to the Caledonian Canal in Inverness – although planning permission is yet to be granted. Scottish Canals has a long-held aim to develop an outdoor hub and café on a derelict site off Carsegate Road, Merkinch. It will also provide Inverness Sea Scouts with a new base to replace their decaying building.  The project was awarded £850,000 this year by the Scottish Government’s regeneration capital grant fund which supports community projects in disadvantaged and rural areas.  Following consultation with local residents and organisations, it has now submitted a planning application to Highland Council for an office/multi-purpose building and boat users’ store plus a cafe linked by a foot bridge.  But Inverness boating enthusiast David Edes has objected to the plans in their present form and is querying why work appears to have started.  He is concerned about vehicular access for construction and deliveries, maintaining the current track behind canalside offices is unsuitable while the junction coming on to the A862 is difficult.  “Any increase in traffic using this junction needs to be avoided,” he stated.  “Having cars towing 10m canoe trailers through here is an accident waiting to happen.”  He is also concerned about car parking spaces and potential for noise from the centre which will be next to residential berths.  The centre should never be licensed to sell alcohol in the interests of the residential amenity and on the grounds of safety as it’s so close to the water,” he said.  Mr Edes would support the plans if the concerns were addressed especially as the sea scouts needed modern fit-for-purpose premises.  A spokesman for Scottish Canals insisted work had not started. He said scrub clearance had been carried out to enable safe access for site investigations which did not require planning consent. A full ecology and tree survey was undertaken ahead of the clearance.

Whisky Giant Slams Cost of Brexit Stockpiling

One of the UK’s biggest distributors of premium spirits has revealed it has had to significantly increase its investment in stock sourced from the European Union in anticipation of a hard Brexit, as its boss hit out at the distraction caused by political wrangling at a crucial time of the year.  Glasgow-based Edrington-Beam Suntory UK, whose portfolio includes The Famous Grouse, The Macallan and Jim Beam, has been ramping up inventories of drinks such as Courvoisier Cognac from France to ensure it will have up to six months of stock in place after the UK’s scheduled departure from the EU on March 29. It is making the investment to ensure supplies to UK bars, supermarkets and restaurants are not interrupted by a no-deal Brexit. Managing director Mark Riley declined to say how much the distributor, owned equally by Edrington and Beam Suntory, is investing in Brexit stockpiling. However he said the company usually imports the spirits it requires from the EU on a “just in time basis”, suggesting it has hiked its investment in stock significantly.  Mr Riley, who has worked in the drinks industry for 21 years, said: “The main frustrations are the whole uncertainty. At this time of year, our focus should be on executing all of our seasonal plans with our key customers, and also planning for an exciting growth agenda for next year.  But, as well as that, too many people are being distracted by contingency planning for all kinds of Brexits – hard, soft and anywhere in between.  And when you are taking some of your smartest people away from your core focus, the results are not going to be as dynamic next year as they otherwise could be.”  He added: “Brands being imported in from the EU, such as Courvoisier, are directly impacted. The indirect effects may also be felt by locally produced brands that have a production supply chain that reaches into the EU and potentially beyond.”  Mr Riley said Brexit has already had a big impact on the distributor, with the collapse in sterling following the leave vote in 2016 costing it “an awful lot of money” by pushing up imports costs.  He added: “Whether it is Brexit or tariffs, there is just a huge amount of uncertainty which is adding cost and complication to our business.”  Asked how the company could practically prepare for Brexit, given that there continues to be no clarity on the outcome, Mr Riley said it was planning on a “worst case scenario”, which would be a hard or disorderly Brexit.  While it has taken steps to build flexibility into its business processing systems, he underlined that the biggest cost implication has been on upping stock levels to overcome any “friction” which may arise at borders following the UK’s withdrawal.  Mr Riley said it is taking steps to ensure it has three to six months’ supply from the end of March, “just to make sure”.  He added: “Premium spirits are not cheap products. The cost of that is remarkable.”  As well as the extra cost, Mr Riley pointed out that the move to stockpile was putting pressure on warehousing in the UK, as so many other businesses are making similar preparations.  He explained: “Getting product in doesn’t sound so bad, because the product is available.  The problem is warehousing, trucks, drivers. It’s not until you get into the detail that you understand what the logistical challenges are. There is just not enough warehouse space in the UK for all products to be stock-built for three to six months.  There’s not enough drivers, there’s not enough trucks because the supply chain has been refined over the last 20 years to work on a just in time basis.”

Brexit Hasn’t Covered Union with Glory, Could Independent Scotland Do Better? By Lesley Riddoch
The pantomime played out at Westminster has destroyed the global image of UK politics, What is there to look forward to in 2019?  One sunny upside of the final Brexit moment should be the disappearance of thoroughly discredited politicians like Jacob “Irish investment fund” Rees Mogg, Boris “f*** business” Johnson, Priti “starve the Irish” Patel, Dominic “I didn’t understand the full extent of cross-channel trade” Raab, Ruth “I will resign” Davidson and Andrew “Irish passport” Bridgen.  Of course, one voter’s shameless opportunist is another’s canny operator and in the slippery world of British politics it takes more than involvement in crashing the economy, putting the army on alert, depriving patients of life-saving medicines and stockpiling food to trigger the receipt of one’s jotters. The reputation of individual politicians may survive Brexit, but one reputation will not – that of the so-called “Mother of Parliaments.”  Throughout 2018, the weakness, elitism, confrontational nature and ad hoc approach to constitutional change embedded in the Westminster system has helped precipitate the Brexit crisis and then allowed the UK government to grab, abuse and centralise power as it sees fit.  None of your foreign checks and balances here, matey. The British system is special, and absolutely revered abroad. Well, Brexit has changed all that, judging from some telling BBC interviews with members of the London-based foreign press last week.  According to Stephen Castle of the New York Times; “There was an assumption that Britain as a smart sophisticated country would navigate its way through Brexit.” Evidently - it hasn’t. “When Italians look at Brexit debates in parliament they don’t find it particularly scary or crazy.” Italy is a working model of chaos with 29 changes of government in the last 25 years. Meanwhile, Stephanie Bolzen of Die Welt observes; “Many Germans watch PMQs and they find it fantastic how people are shouting at one another in such an educated, sophisticated way. That’s why there is bemusement and even irritation at the fact this very parliament is suddenly falling apart.”  Irritation – because Britain was believed to be the “special one,” and educated, sophisticated people across the world fell for that smooth, suave, Etonian lie. But the tenacious trio of Juncker, Merkel and Macron have drawn back the Brexit curtain like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, revealing a tiny coterie of inept, confused politicians trying to run the country in lofty, splendid isolation. Once upon a time, in the eyes of admiring foreign journalists and academics, the “Mother of Parliaments” provided the certainty, leadership, command and political focus often missing in the coalition, consensus-based modern democracies of mainland Europe.  Now that illusion of control has gone – leaving nothing to characterise British political life save archaic rules, comedy dress codes, pantomime-like theatricality and an ever-widening democratic deficit between governing and governed which probably prompted the Brexit vote in the first place.  Take Norway.  Øivind Bratberg, a senior lecturer at Oslo University, runs the British Politics Society and edits a regular online journal analysing developments here.  Interviewed for the Nation Norway film this summer, he explained that British politics offers the chance to observe behaviour mostly consigned to the history books everywhere else. It’s grimly fascinating to the citizens of modern democracies to watch one person wield so much power; “When something goes wrong in Britain you know who will be up against the wall.” Such a concentration of power (and blame) is less common in modern democracies where PR is the norm (Norway celebrates a century of proportional voting in 1921), decision-making is shared and consensus must be built before big decisions are taken. The Norwegian system produces relatively stable outcomes as a result of patience, politeness and long discussion.  Over here, “stable” isn’t just one half of the emptiest phrase in politics. It has come to mean stagnation.  A quarter of Westminster seats have been held by the same political party since the Second World War because in our first past the post system, the winner takes all and the devil takes the hindmost. The two main political parties still think that’s fair. Elsewhere, the kind of faultlines currently paralysing Labour and the Tories, would have created new political parties with clear purpose and a vestige of integrity. Instead, Britain is stuck with another outdated travesty of democracy – the world’s second largest unelected chamber.  As the late Paddy Ashdown said twenty years ago; “There can be no place in a 21st-century parliament for people with 15th-century titles upholding 19th-century prejudices.” Yet later the outspoken former Lib Dem leader became Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon – so powerful is the habit of preferment. Now, Brexit reveals a Britain without respect for international law, as evidenced by widespread Tory contempt for the Irish backstop, contempt for the ECJ ruling that MPs can unilaterally cancel Brexit and contempt for the very idea the UK must pay its “dues” before crashing out of the EU.  In Italy’s La Stampa, Michele Valensise likens Brexit to a poker game, and warns readers that, with all the drama in London, “it is easy to forget about the other contracting party, the 27 EU countries, whose patience has limits.” But living in a Punch and Judy political culture where the media holds coats instead of holding politicians to account, it’s no wonder the Brits underestimate Eurocrats – men and women who don’t scream, grandstand, flounce or threaten. They don’t make headlines, just progress. The majority are born negotiators and conciliators largely because of proportionality in their systems, just as British politicians are born confrontationalists because of first past the post and all that entails.  Former Tory policy advisor and CEO of Brexit Analytics, Garvan Walshe wrote last week; “The desire to seize positions of power and hold them against equally matched enemies is more associated with countries on the descent toward civil war than mature liberal democracies like the United Kingdom.” Well, quite. In his opinion the most probable outcome for “a country with few formal institutions and weak legal oversight of the political process” is simple. “English political chaos will stimulate Scotland to choose independence.” Brexit has hardly covered the Union with glory. Can Scotland do better as a modern independent state within the EU? In 2019, we must have the chance to choose.

Aberdeen Man Arrested Over Massive £1 Million Ecstasy Haul
A man has been arrested in Aberdeen over a massive haul of ecstasy worth more than £1 million.  The 22-year-old was arrested by officers from Police Scotland and the National Crime Agency.  The arrest was made in the Rosemount area of Aberdeen.  More than 45 kilograms of MDMA (ecstasy) was seized.  Police said the arrest was the result of his alleged involvement in illegally importing and supplying Class A controlled drugs.  Senior Investigating Officer Detective Chief Inspector Graeme Naysmith said the arrest was part of an intelligence led operation and enquiries were ongoing.  A case has been referred to the procurator fiscal.

Record Year for Veteran Collector
Veteran poppy collector Babe Mackay broke a local record for last month’s armistice appeal, gathering £160 from door-to-door collections in Skerray and Borgie. Mrs Mackay (84) said this was the most she had ever collected in almost seventy years volunteering for the Scottish poppy appeal. She added her appreciation of the help provided by Irene MacLeod, Tubeg, who accompanied her on her rounds.  Looking back over a lifetime collecting for the fund, Mrs Mackay said: “When I started off, I was just a young girl and I wanted to have a poppy collection in Skerray. I remember writing to Edinburgh and asking, could I get a poppy tin. I was still at school and I was going round the doors then. I was very independent; I didn’t want anybody to help me.” This was shortly after the Second World War, when rationing was still in place, and the experience of wartime an immediate memory.  Mrs Mackay was born in the old post office in Skerray, where her father was postmaster. One of six children, she and her sisters continued to run the post office after him, keeping it in the family for over sixty years. Her mother, originally from Bathgate, met her husband through an unusual sequence of events. “My father was a baker with his father in Skerray,” Mrs Mackay recalled. “He wanted a rise, but grandfather- wouldn’t give him any money, so my father and his friend next door set off for Africa. He worked in the gold mines and his friend was in the African war. His friend John met my mother in Africa; she was eighteen and they got engaged.”  Tragedy followed when the young man was killed in combat. “The night he was killed in the African war, his picture fell off the wall,” Mrs Mackay continued. “His friend, my father, went to meet my mother and then they fell in love and they got married.” Three children were born in Africa before the young couple returned to Skerray.  “We had a great childhood,” said Mrs Mackay. “There were no mobile phones and games in those days. We were outside until twelve o’clock at night.” She remembers the post office being open all hours, with Christmas being a particularly busy time. “There was a parcel lorry that came over Christmas time and there would be ten or twelve bags of parcels, and then the bus would come with all the Christmas cards.”  In 2011, Mrs Mackay received a long service badge for over fifty years collecting for the poppy appeal. “There’s not many people left here, but they seem to be giving more money,” she said. “Especially this year, because of the [First World War] centenary.”  The Scottish poppy appeal was founded in 1921 as the Earl Haig Fund. Field Marshall Earl Haig, the commander of the British forces during World War 1, began the appeal after witnessing a group of French widows selling silk poppies to raise funds for disabled ex-servicemen. The poppy, immortalised by Scots-Canadian soldier John McCrae in his poem, “In Flanders Fields”, swiftly became a symbol of remembrance. The Earl Haig fund, rebranded Poppy Scotland in 2006, continues to support current and former service personnel and their families with advice and funding.

County's Flag Finally Flying But Public Opinion Still Split

Lessons have been learned as a result of the debacle over the Sutherland flag, according to a flag expert who oversaw the selection process.  Vexillologist Philip Tibbetts spoke out as the new county flag was finally unveiled at a ceremony in Drummuie last Friday – nearly two years after the initiative was first announced.  The winning design features a Saltire and a Nordic Cross on a white background with a star representing the sun.  It was chosen by a public vote and supersedes a previous design of an eagle on a red and yellow background, picked by a panel.  The Lord Lieutenancy, who initiated the flag design competition, had not intended to hold a public vote but was forced to do so after an outcry over the panel's choice. Last Friday's ceremony was attended by Sutherland Lord Lieutenant Monica Main and members of her team, along with veterans and crew members from HMS Sutherland, the warship affiliated to the county.  Addressing the gathering Mr Tibbetts, conceded that the process had "not been without some issues".  He said: "There was genuine concerns about whether the resources were there to run a competition, which was the original reason to have a selection panel. We have leaned from that and changed our process as a result.  I ultimately have to commend the flag committee for not reacting in a knee-jerk sort of way and for being able to sit down and understand what the true picture of things in the county were and accept that a public vote was probably a good thing to set up to resolve any issues fairly."   Mr Tibbetts praised the flag as "a real showcase of what good flag design is" and said it was free for everyone to use and could be flown without permission. He said unveiling a county flag was an "important moment in any community's history", adding: "Neighbours in Caithness have made a huge success of their flag and Orkney. There is no reason Sutherland cannot replicate that."  Lord Lieutenant Monica Main said the winning design was "striking". But opponents to the previous winning design have given the new flag a lukewarm response.

Gregor Fisher Resurrects Scotch & Wry's Rev IM Jolly

This Hogmanay will see a return to television screens of Scotland's most miserable minister, the Rev IM Jolly.  Actor Gregor Fisher is to pay homage to one of Rikki Fulton's most iconic characters to mark the 40th anniversary of Hogmanay favourite Scotch & Wry.  The Rab C Nesbitt star dons a clerical collar to become Fulton's comically morose clergyman for a one-off sketch.  It leads Monday's Hogmanay Live celebrations on BBC One Scotland. Gregor Fisher, who was a close friend of Rikki Fulton who died in 2004, said he was delighted to take on the role.  He said: "I think there was a bit of Rikki that always saw me as the heir apparent - I'm sure he had many heirs apparent - and I think he'd like the idea of Jolly being back on screen again.  It's not an impression of Rikki - there wasn't any way we would even attempt that, you just couldn't do it. He was absolutely unique."  He added: "The script is based on a lot of Rikki's stuff, though, and hopefully there's a flavour of his performances about it. I watched the last ever IM Jolly sketch that he did, just purely to get the timing of it, before I came in to film. It was great and funny and joyous. He was a one-off."  The sketch sees Gregor Fisher sit in the familiar original wing-backed green leather armchair Fulton used in Scotch & Wry sketch Last Call - a send-up of the 1970s and 80s late-night TV sermon Late Call - where IM Jolly first appeared in 1978.  He added: "When I was told it was the 40th anniversary of Scotch & Wry, I thought it couldn't be right. But then I did the sums - I was about 25 when I started on it, and I'm now 65 so it adds up.  It would be nice if a new generation of viewers were introduced to Jolly by seeing this sketch. I'm sure it would be quite easy for them to find old clips of Rikki on YouTube. It's of a different generation but it's still fun, in a gentle, slightly colloquial way, and it's none the worse for that.  Rikki was a good friend. He was always nice to me. I hope nowadays when I come across youngsters, I'm as understanding and as kind to them and as encouraging as he was to me." Hogmanay Live executive producer David Staite pulled the script together from some of the best-known IM Jolly sketches and called in original Scotch & Wry script editor Colin Gilbert to check for authenticity.  He said: "Scotch & Wry was, and still is, such a huge part of Hogmanay in Scotland. The writing was so clever and has very much stood the test of time. Going over old scripts, it struck me how the lines are still as funny today as they ever were.  I think Gregor brings that ideal mix of deadpan droll and clever comic timing to Jolly - something I'm sure Rikki Fulton would have approved of. We hope the audience have as much fun watching it as we did making it."  Colin Gilbert said:"Inevitably, people will compare what Gregor's doing to what Rikki did, but it's not about that. Gregor is not doing an impersonation, it's more of an emulation. Rikki was a one-off in every sense of the word, and it's nice to pay tribute to him and the character.I know Rikki saw Gregor as his apprentice - if anyone is right to do this, it's Gregor."

Centuries-old Stone Carvings Discovered At Dunkeld Cathedral
Stone carvings hidden from view for 600 years have been discovered on a tomb at a Perthshire cathedral.  Conservationists found at least a dozen unrecorded carved figures on the back of Bishop Cardeny's tomb in Dunkeld Cathedral.  He was the cathedral's longest-serving bishop and was appointed by Pope Benedict VIII in 1399.  The tomb was created in 1420 and the carvings were found on the side facing a wall.  The unearthing of the stone carvings has shed new light on the history of the site, revealing the tomb was moved and built into the wall from its original free-standing location.  Colin Muir, stone conservator at Historic Environment Scotland (HES), said the discovery was "very exciting".  He said: "This discovery also gives fresh incentive for further research and exploration of the site, as we still don't know when exactly the tomb was moved or why."  Mr Muir said that there may other obscured areas of detail preserved within the walls of the tomb.  A detailed 3D model has been made of the carvings using cameras and mirrors.  Relics of St Columba were brought to Dunkeld from Iona by King Kenneth McAlpin in 849. The cathedral was developed over a period of about 250 years, with the earliest surviving section dating from the late 1200s.

RAF Lossiemouth Poised to Counter ‘Russian Threat’

The latest statistics from the Ministry of Defence have revealed that crews at RAF Lossiemouth have launched more QRA (quick reaction alert) missions from January to November 2018 than they have done for the last three years.A £400 million expansion project is currently under way at the base and during a visit to launch the work Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson described an “increasing” threat from Russia. By 2020, nine submarine-hunting P-8 Poseidon spy planes will join the fight to track submarines lurking under the surface of the North Atlantic.  Moray MP Douglas Ross said: “The fact that this has been the busiest year since 2015 with six call-outs shows how vital this facility is to the safety and protection of the UK.  This reiterates the crucial role Moray and RAF Lossiemouth play as a major part of the UK defence footprint.  It’s a role that will continue to grow with the significant investment at the base by the UK government in the months and years ahead.” Approaching aircraft from Russia are routinely tracked by UK radar before QRA orders are given.  Typhoon crews are then scrambled to determine the identification of an aircraft either approaching or within Nato airspace without approval or without identifying themselves.  Personnel at RAF Lossiemouth are tasked with monitoring the north of the country while maintaining a constant state of readiness 24 hours a day to deter intruders.  The new squadron of P-8s at RAF Lossiemouth will also be armed with anti-submarine torpedoes and will also be capable of launching search and rescue operations.  A hanger to house up to three of the aircraft as well as a tactical operations centre, training simulators and squadron accommodation is under construction at the base.

Whisky Distillery in Pencaitland to Be Transformed

A historic whisky distillery in East Lothian is set to be transformed and expanded after being formally granted planning permission.  Work on Glenkinchie Distillery, near Pencaitland - founded in 1825 and famous for producing Edinburgh Malt whisky - will begin in the new year.  It will have a new bar and event area, a welcome lounge, tasting rooms and a cask draw experience.  Owned by Diageo, the visitor centre will tell the story of Glenkinchie. Glenkinchie Distillery manager Ramsay Borthwick said: "We would like to thank East Lothian Council and all our neighbours for their support with this development.  This is not only a major project for Glenkinchie Distillery, it will enhance the whole economy of East Lothian, attracting more visitors to the area.  This is a very exciting time for Glenkinchie and to have planning permission granted before the New Year is perfect timing.  Everyone involved is eager to get started with the work to transform the distillery and establish Glenkinchie as a must-visit tourist attraction in Scotland."  Glenkinchie is one of a number of Diageo distilleries that will see major work undertaken as part of investment plans totalling more than £185m across Scotland.  It will include a new global visitor attraction for Johnnie Walker in Edinburgh, as well as investment in 12 distillery visitor centres and the revival of the iconic lost distilleries of Port Ellen and Brora.

Hogmanay No-Fly Zone Will Forbid Drones in Edinburgh
The senior officer in charge of policing Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations has issued a stark warning that anyone attempting to fly a drone will be immediately arrested.    Chief Superintendent Kenny MacDonald’s message came amid heightened public anxiety following the incident at Gatwick Airport that caused widespread disruption to air travel. The event commander said it would be “highly irresponsible” for anyone to fly a drone in a crowded area. Up to 160,000 people will descend on the capital for the official programme of Hogmanay 2019 events, which could also reach one billion people across the world watching on television or online.  The exclusion zone which is a continuation of previous policy, will be in place ahead of the festivities and applies to the Torchlight Procession on tomorrow and the Street Party on Monday.  Air restrictions will be within a two-mile radius of the junction between East Market Street and Jeffrey Street - this covers all areas from this centre point to Figgate Park in Portobello to the east, Braid Hills to the south, Edinburgh Zoo to the west and the Forth coastline to the north,  Chief Supt. Macdonald said: “Drones are not allowed. This is not something we have introduced just on the back of Gatwick.  For many years it’s been a no-fly zone round about both the Torchlight and the Hogmanay Street Party events. That’s due to public safety. It would be highly irresponsible for somebody to fly a drone above a very crowded place and therefore anyone who does so will be committing an offence. It would be a breach of the Air Aviation Act.  If you did get a drone for Christmas then obviously you want to fly it in a responsible manner.  Flying it over a very crowded space with tens of thousands of people within a relatively defined space, if that drone falls out of the air, the potential to injure somebody is there.  We would ask people to act responsibly because if they fly it over either of the events they will be breaking the law and they can expect to be pursued and charged with the relevant legislation. Asked if there were plans in place to down any drones seen flying in the no-fly zone, Chief Supt. Macdonald said: “It would depend on the prevailing circumstances as to the tactics that we would deploy. There’s a plan in pace to deal with drones, which revolves mostly around mitigation of the threat in the first place rather than actually tackling a drone that’s in the air.”  He said the primary concern of police and organising partners was the safety of those attending Edinburgh’s Hogmanay events, while making it as enjoyable as possible.  Chief Supt. Macdonald said there was “absolutely no specific intelligence” to suggest that there is any terror threat to Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.  However, hundreds of officers will be on duty alongside event stewards, and revellers can expect to see armed police.  There will also be some road closures and revellers can expect to be searched. The restrictions do not apply to any aircraft flying in the service of Police Scotland, the Scottish Air Ambulance Service and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, or those which have asked for and been granted permission to do so in advance  The restriction will also not apply during the Loony Dook on January 1 in South Queensferry.  Edinburgh’s Hogmanay directors Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam are hopeful the extended coverage of events over the new year period will draw in a global audience of 1 billion people. Met Office adviser Gregory Wolverson has also predicted “fairly settled” weather for the festivities. He added: “It is expected to remain mild for the time of year.”

Jewellery Gifted by Mary Queen of Scots Goes on Display in Edinburgh

It was a present from Mary, Queen of Scots to one of her most loyal attendants, a symbol of their friendship during a turbulent time for both women.  Now an ornate brooch gifted by the monarch to her friend and long-serving ally Mary Seton has gone on display at Holyroodhouse, the historic royal palace in Edinburgh.  The handcrafted item, made from enamelled gold and studded with pearls and rubies, dates to around 1580 - a time when Queen Mary was a prisoner in England following her abdication in 1567.  Its display comes at a time when heritage chiefs are keen to attract more visitors to the palace following a major Hollywood biopic of Mary’s life.  Mary Seton was a devoted assistant and friend of the queen and lived with her at Holyroodhouse from 1561–6. She was one of the four attendants known as the ‘Four Marys’ who spent many years in France before the young monarch returned to Scotland.  Seton continued to accompany Queen Mary during her long captivity in England and was known for her hairdressing skills.  Queen Mary was born at Linlithgow Palace in 1542 but was sent to France six years later for her own protection. Her father, King James V, had died aged 30 when she was just six days old.  The English king, Henry VIII, was determined the young queen would be married to his son Edward and thus unite the two kingdoms.  Mary was sent to France in 1548 to prevent such a union by her mother, Mary of Guise, and loyal Scottish nobles.  The queen returned to Scotland in 1561 and established her court at Holyroodhouse. The queen’s private apartments have recently been re-presented as part of a £10 million investment by Royal Collection Trust to enhance the visitor experience at Holyroodhouse. A royal residence for more than 500 years, the palace has served as home to numerous kings and queens.