Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 488

Issue # 488                                                  Week ending Saturday 26 January 2019
It is Sweet, Gooey and Boozy and it Isn’t A Mess So I Want it on Every Scottish Table by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

This week I am launching my campaign to have one of the most traditional Scottish dishes saved from extinction by going on and on and on about it. It’s what I do. There is a video online hosted by Bake Off chef Paul Hollywood where they go to Aberdeen to ask about this dish and as many people have not heard of it as those who have. What exotic dish is this? Beef cooked in Claret? Rumbledethumps? Black Bun? Nah, none of them. It’s the most slurpworthy dessert. Cranachan, of course. Maybe it was because Paul Hollywood made a pig’s ear of pronouncing it - crann-achann.

The great thing about having a weekly column is that I can write about whatever grabs my attention on any given week. Last week I got roasted because I went on about those Peterhead fishermen because they now have their own telly show, Fish Town. Some west coasters were not so happy about it and one hard-working skipper got uppity with me because I failed to mention any of their trawlers. That’s because they were not in the show, right? When you are on the box, I will.

That cantankerous old salt was on the blower again this week saying I was in terrible, terrible trouble with the Scottish Government. I may have suggested that the Scottish fishery protection squad were the fish police mentioned in a trailer for this week’s Fish Town and that they had boarded a trawler. On Monday night we learned the fish police were the Norwegian coast guard. Oops. So sorry to Marine Scotland for suggesting they’d do such a thing and also unnskyld for not giving them a proper name check to Norsk Kystvakt. I think I got that right. If that doesn’t mean sorry to the Norwegian coastguard in Norwegian, I am in even more shtuck.

Right, governmental and international grovelling over, this week it’s cranachan. It’s the most wonderful dessert if it is made right and quite a few variations there are too. As long as it has raspberries, oatmeal, honey and whisky in it, it will turn out brilliantly. Try not to be a purist for the mere sake of argument. It can have just oatmeal, rolled oats, toasted oatmeal, toasted rolled oats or crumbled oatcakes in it. Whatever you fancy is fine. However, I would not put shortbread in as that would be too sweet although I do know someone who makes it with broken digestive biscuits. Sad.

Crumbled toasted oatcakes is my choice. In must also go a good dollop of soft honey and a stiff dram. Smash the raspberries and sieve to take out any raspberry fibre and mix into the boozy honey. Then the white stuff. It really doesn’t matter if you use cream or crème fraîche. My way is with crowdie and cream. Crowdie can be a tad salty but that improves it in the way that salt brings caramel alive. We celebrate Burns Night this week so it’s sad that it tends to be the only time that anyone mentions cranachan. Please join my campaign by making it and telling people how good it is.

It was actually with crowdie that cranachan used to be done in the days before they had a name for. Stir the resulting goo once and serve with sliced raspberries and toasted oats on the top. Just two rules after you have made your first, gorgeous, delicious cranachan, really. Serve it cold in a tall glass and never, ever claim that it was originally the Scottish version of Eton Mess. It wasn’t, it isn’t and it never will be. In several parts of Scotland it was the family treat after the harvest was taken in. The treats had changed a wee bit by the time I was a teenager. My reward when all the corn and spuds were in the byre was a tin of Tennent’s Lager and a packet of Jaffa Cakes. Ah, such innocent times.

Mentioning the Bard of Alloway reminds me of when I heard about the time Prince Charles paid a visit to Ayr Hospital. He was shown into a ward with a number people with no obvious signs of injury or disease. He went to greet the first patient and the cove immediately replies: “Fair fa’ your honest sonsie face, Great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race.” HRH was somewhat confused as he thought he had been called a puddin’ but went to the next patient and greeted him.

The patient replies: “Some hae meat and canna eat, and some wad eat that want it, but we hae meat and can eat, and sae the Lord be thankit.” The prince steps back but straight away, the third patient starts rattling off: “Wee sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie, O what a panic’s in thy breastie.” Prince Charles turns to the doctor and says: “I’m so sorry. I do not understand what is wrong with these patients. They seem to have a strange condition. Have they all got speech difficulties on this ward? “Oh no, sir,” the doctor replies. “This is the Burns unit.”

Ex-minister Calls for Hospital Pigeon Infection Inquiry
A former health secretary has called for an inquiry into the deaths of two patients after they contracted an infection caused by pigeon droppings. Alex Neil's comments came as it emerged the problem at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital was reported in December. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde(NHSGGC) said an elderly patient died but from an unrelated cause. The factors contributing to the other death are still being investigated.  A non-public room, thought to contain machinery, was identified as a likely source.  Mr Neil said: "I think there has to be an outside inquiry by experts to find why this happened in the first place, secondly how it has been handled by the health board and, thirdly, what precautions need to be taken for the future."  The SNP MSP for Airdrie and Shotts, who was health secretary between 2012 and 2014, said the public will be concerned by the story. While he acknowledged NHSGGC would not want to cause "panic" Mr Neil questioned why it took three weeks for the news to be made public.  He added: "There are confusing messages coming out of the health board so they need to clarify the situation and do so as a matter of urgency."  Mr Neil also called on NHSGGC to confirm when the patients died and reveal if the airborne infection, which is a Cryptococcus species, was the key or a contributing factor.  Earlier a health board spokesman declined to comment on the timeline of events.  He said: "Our thoughts are with the families at this distressing time.  Due to patient confidentiality we cannot share further details of the two cases.  The organism is harmless to the vast majority of people and rarely causes disease in humans."  NHSGGC confirmed a small number of vulnerable paediatric and adult patients are receiving medication to protect them.  Portable HEPA air filter units have been installed in specific areas as an additional precaution.  The Scottish government confirmed officials became aware of the problem last month.  A spokesman said: "Our primary concern, and that of the Health Board, remains the safety and wellbeing of the patients and their families at the hospital.  There is an on-going review of two isolated cases of an unusual fungal infection within the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital site, which were detected in December 2018. Control measures are in place, including the installation of portable HEPA filters in the ward and adjoining areas. There have been no further cases reported."  The government said it has been given assurances by the board that it is committed to delivering the best medical and nursing care in a safe environment. The spokesman added: "They are keeping patients and their families updated on an on-going basis and will ensure that patients and their families have the opportunity to discuss any remaining concerns with the senior clinical team." When the story was first reported Teresa Inkster, lead consultant for infection control, said it rarely affected humans.  Prof Hugh Pennington, of Aberdeen University, said he was surprised to learn of the infection. The epidemiologist said: "It is very unusual in the UK.  It is quite common in other parts of the world, particularly in tropical parts and in the US and in countries like that, where they have more problems with this particular kind of fungus." Prof Pennington said people with weak immune systems are most at risk. He added: "When it gets into the blood stream a lot of people have fairly straightforward infections and it settles in the lungs but the big problem with this is that it can cause meningitis and, as we know, meningitis can be a very serious infection."  Prof Pennington said anti-fungal drugs are used to treat the infection but warned it can be fatal if it is not diagnosed.  The expert said a key priority would have been stopping the airborne infection from entering the hospital's ventilation system.  He added: "Obviously they have stopped the pigeons getting into the machine room.  It surprises me slightly that there was any there in the first place." During the investigation, a separate issue arose with the sealant in some of the shower rooms.  NHSGGC said repairs are underway and our maintenance team are working to remedy this issue as quickly as possible with the minimum disruption.  As a further precaution, a specific group of patients are being moved within the hospital due to their clinical diagnosis and ongoing treatment.  The £842m QEUH opened in April 2015 and featured in the BBC series Scotland's Superhospital.

Kilbirnie Sew ‘N’ Sews Makes Patchwork Quilts for Sick Children
Members of a North Ayrshire sewing group have been busy making patchwork quilts for sick children.  The Sew ‘n’ Sews, which has been meeting in Kilbirnie for 20 years, recently made 84 quilts for the Schiehallion Ward in Glasgow Children’s Hospital.  The group regularly creates patchwork pieces for different causes at their Thursday morning meeting in Bridgend Community Centre.  Kate Gibson from the group said: “We do it for family, for friends and we do a lot for charity. “Every year our group make quilts for the kids up at the Schiehallion Ward. That’s been going for a lot of years now. We’d actually made 84 quilts this year. Everybody made at least one.  We’ve got members from Largs, Ardrossan, Stevenston, Dalry, Lochwinnoch, Howwood, Beith. We started off with about six and now we have 52 members on our books.  In Bridgend they’re putting up a rail to display a quilt we made for the Commonwealth Games. It’s fantastic, a beautiful piece. It has a flower from every country that took part in the Commonwealth Games. It’s made up of three panels, each about 2ft by 6ft.  "We have an exhibition in Dalgarven Mill at the moment.”

UK Westminster Government Cancels Brexit Talks with Scotland
The UK Westminster Government has cancelled talks with senior politicians from Scotland and Wales over Brexit, MSPs have been told.  Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Government's External Affairs Secretary, said a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee due to be held on Thursday will no longer take place.  She said the move "flies in the face of the Prime Minister's rhetoric" after Theresa May had promised an "enhanced role" for the devolved governments in Brexit negotiations.  Mrs May told the Commons on Monday that while it was the job of her administration to "negotiate for the whole of the UK", ministers were "committed to giving the devolved administrations an enhanced role in the next phase, respecting their competence and vital interest in these negotiations".  Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted at the time she was "very sceptical" about the commitment. Ms Hyslop told MSPs in Holyrood on Tuesday: "Given the Prime Minister's approach to engagement with the Scottish Government to date, her offer of an enhanced role for devolved administrations lacks credibility." She added: "This morning, the UK Westminster Government cancelled a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee that deals with EU negotiations, which was due to take place on Thursday - a decision which flies in the face of the Prime Minister's rhetoric."  A UK Westminster Government spokesman confirmed Thursday's meeting in Cardiff would not go ahead due to diary pressures on the part of Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington.  He said: "We place the utmost importance on engaging with the devolved administrations ahead of the UK leaving the European Union and as you would expect, there are regular and detailed discussions at all levels.  The Prime Minister will meet with the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales later this week."  Bruce Crawford, convener of the Scottish Parliament's Constitution Committee, questioned Ms Hyslop on "the best way forward of resolving the current impasse" over Brexit, after Mrs May's proposed withdrawal deal was defeated by a record majority in the House of Commons.  Ms Hyslop backed a second European referendum to try to achieve this - something the PM has ruled out.  The External Affairs Secretary said: "It is important there is some consensus on the way forward but in the absence of consensus in parliament the best resolution would be a second EU referendum."  She criticised Mrs May for failing to consider seeking an extension to the Article 50 negotiation deadline, and for refusing to rule out a no deal Brexit.  Ms Hyslop said: "The Scottish Government will continue to do everything we can to protect Scotland's interests and the First Minister is due to meet the Prime Minister in the coming days.  The Prime Minister should now focus on securing an extension to article 50, during which time arrangements can be made for a second referendum which includes the option to remain within the EU."

Comment - R
Why am I not surprised that the Scots and their Welsh cousins are deemed not to be as important as other things? Second rate citizens should know their place ~ get back in their box and be quiet!! Their  Imperial Masters, the English majority in Westminster must always have the final say.

Scotland’s Last All-Girls State School Faces Scrutiny Over Policy

It is Scotland’s last remaining all-girls state school, with a history stretching back more than a century.  But the future of Notre Dame High, in the heart of Glasgow’s West End, is to face renewed scrutiny following a campaign for it to open its doors to boys.  Councillors are expected to approve a public consultation on the school’s admission policies next month, which could ultimately decide whether Notre Dame, which opened in 1897, can continue its unique role in Scottish secondary education.  Two campaign groups – one supporting the status quo and the other calling for the girls-only rule to end – have been organising petitions and running social media profiles for the past year.  The forthcoming consultation has re-energised both camps as they prepare for the latest chapter in a wider debate on whether single-sex schools should be provided by the state.  Michelle Watt has one daughter who attends Notre Dame and is chair of the school’s parent council. She believes its academic track record – it is among the best performing in the country – is proof of a successful formula that should not be tampered with.  “This is about offering choice,” she said. “We don’t understand why the council would want to remove choice from many girls across the city.  The West End is already well provided for when it comes to top performing co-ed schools. Three of the best performing in Glasgow are within walking distance.” Campaigners for change counter that Notre Dame High’s school roll relies on pupils who live far outside its catchment area and indeed outwith Glasgow. But Watt says this shows the demand that exists for single-sex education. “There should be more Notre Dames,” she said. “It is a high-achieving school. It’s a sad fact that we have to say this, but girls perform better in a single-sex environment in the very subjects the Scottish Government is trying to promote.” Glasgow City Council recently completed a six-month review of high school catchment areas within the city, the results of which will go before the local authority’s city administration committee this week.  Once that report has been approved, the consultation on Notre Dame’s future is expected to begin.  For Jill Grady and her fellow members of Notre Dame High For All (NDH4ALL), this is a milestone in their two-year campaign for boys to gain admission to the school. She has a son and a daughter attending Notre Dame Primary, a short distance from the high school of the same name. While her daughter has the option of attending Notre Dame High, her son does not.  In any other primary in Scotland you would be going to high school with the cohort of pupils you have spent the last seven years with,” she said. “At Notre Dame Primary, you don’t have that. All of the boys have no right to go to Notre Dame High. So you lose that smooth transition to high school.  What we’re saying is this is a historical anomaly. We understand the school has great attainment, and why parents have decided to send their kids there. But in this day and age, for boys to walk past the local high school, which 0.4 miles from their old primary school, is nonsensical.”

New Programmes Announced for BBC Scotland TV Channel
New dramas, documentaries and a talent show featuring Scottish singer Emeli Sandé have been announced for the new BBC Scotland channel.  Due to start broadcasting on 24 February, it will feature hundreds of hours of newly-commissioned shows, including a four-part drama entitled Guilt.  The show is set in Edinburgh and stars Line of Duty actor Mark Bonnar.  Also known for Catastrophe and Unforgotten, Bonnar joins Game of Thrones actor Jamie Sives as the two brothers who accidentally run over and kill an old man while driving home from a wedding.  Max (Bonnar) and Jake (Sives) make the panicked decision to cover their tracks and appear to get away with the crime - before relatives begin to get suspicious.  Directed by Robbie McKillop and written by Neil Forsyth, Guilt is billed as a "rollercoaster ride" with a strong vein of black comedy and is expected to air in the autumn. While the brothers are completely different characters, the two stars will be treading on familiar ground having met in high school.  Donalda MacKinnon, Director of BBC Scotland, said: "The excitement over the new channel has been building and by unveiling some of our key programmes today, viewers will get a more detailed idea of what they can expect to see. "Our commissioning team has curated an ambitious and engaging schedule aimed at reflecting Scotland in the 21st Century, while satisfying our appetite to see the best of what's on offer from around the rest of the world."  Emeli Sandé's Street Symphony is one of the leading programmes on the new channel which is driven by the arts.  It follows the award-winning singer-songwriter as she travels across Scotland and selects five buskers to put on a concert with an entire orchestra.  Emeli said: "I'm so excited about getting out onto the streets of Scotland to hear first-hand the talent that's out there.  Plucking the talent found on street corners and putting it into a big melting pot with a full-on symphony orchestra is going to be mind-blowing."  A raft of new documentaries which will appear on the BBC Scotland channel this year were announced on Tuesday.  Made by STV Productions, Yes/No - Inside The Indyref is a three-part documentary series looking at the opposing campaigns during the tumultuous 2014 vote.  In Children of the Devolution, Scottish journalist Allan Little meets families across Scotland spanning several generations to look at how their lives have been shaped by the creation of the Scottish Parliament. Also in the channel's documentary offering is Inside Central Station, a six-part series about the people behind the busiest railway station in Scotland, and The Children's Hospital - an eight-part series on the work of staff inside the Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital.  SPFL Championship matches will be scheduled regularly on Friday nights and the channel will have up to 20 live games a season. The channel will air comedy favourites including Still Game and Scot Squad alongside new faces and voices of the comedy circuit in Comedy Underground, The State of It. Nightly news hour The Nine and a Question Time-style debate series from Scotland head up the current affairs offering.

SNP Policy of Free University Tuition 'Vindicated' Says Expert

The SNP policy of free university tuition for Scottish students has been "vindicated", according to the country's Commissioner for Fair Access.  Professor Sir Peter Scott said an increase in the number of poor students at university proved the policy was working. Sir Peter went on to issue a warning over the charging of tuition fees of more than £9,000 in England, saying the system there was “collapsing”.  Last week, it emerged that record numbers of students from Scotland’s poorest backgrounds have secured a place at university. Statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed 15.6 per cent of entrants to Scottish universities in 2017/18 were from the most deprived areas.  The Scottish Government has set a target for the sector of having 16 per cent by 2021 and 20 per cent by 2030.  Sir Peter said: “What makes the latest figures particularly encouraging is that they follow three years when there was little improvement in the proportion of full-time first degree students from the most deprived areas.  This led some critics of the Government’s red-line policy of free higher education to argue that England was doing more for fair access despite charging students high fees.  The latest figures vindicate Scotland’s policy of free higher education, which of course has other aims apart from making universities more socially inclusive - not least the commitment that higher education should be seen as a public good from which society as a whole benefits.”  Sir Peter said the English policy of “high fees, mitigated by bursaries for poorer students”, was now collapsing.  He added: “It is so expensive, not just for students who graduate with tens of thousands of pounds of debt, but also for taxpayers who have to fund student loans in the first place, many of which will never be paid back.”  Richard Lochhead, the Higher Education Minister said the statistics highlighted the good progress being made on widening access to higher education.  He said: “I’m pleased to see more Scots going to university and a record increase from our most deprived areas.  This shows demonstrable progress towards giving every young person in Scotland an equal chance of success, no matter their background.”

Unemployment in Scotland At Record Low As Economy Confounds Brexit Fears

The number of Scots out of work has fallen to a record low – while rising elsewhere in the UK.  Scotland’s unemployment total is now below 100,000 for the first time, while the number of over-16s in work has increased by 6,000 to 2.64 million.  Scottish Government business minister Jamie Hepburn said it showed the “resilience” of the economy north of the Border despite the political turmoil over Brexit.  There are now 99,000 Scots out of work, the first time on record this total has fallen into five figures, according to official figures for September to November last year. Scotland’s unemployment rate of 3.6 per cent is also below the UK rate of 4.5 per cent.

Hundreds Apply for New Life on this Remote Scottish Island

More than 350 people have expressed an interest in moving to a remote Scottish island. Ulva, on the Scottish west coast, was the subject of a community buyout last year.  A survey was set up to attract people with appropriate skills in building, forestry and tourism.  Colin Morrison is chairman of the North West Mull Community Woodland Company, the body representing residents.  He said: “There’s been a lot of interest because I think it has captured the imagination.  A lot of people are now aware of what we are trying to do – I think we have done reasonably well in getting the word out.  There is a paucity of housing in rural areas, so there’s lots of interest because there’s not much else that comes up.”  He said: “We need to be able to show the level of interest before we can apply to renovate and build more houses. This survey is about showing and quantifying the demand and the interest.”  The island was home to more than 800 residents in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, there are currently just five people living there in two properties.  The island has no roads, but does have an award-winning restaurant. Islanders secured £4.4 million from the Scottish Land Fund and cash from the Macquarie Group and a crowdfunding campaign to buy the island.  The initial plan is to renovate up to six existing properties to at least double the population in the next few years.  After that, the long-term target could be to have 50 people living on the island.Mr Morrison said: “Some of the properties we will be renovating will lend themselves to new families.  But our aim is to get a good balance of people on the island.  In the next couple of years we hope to get into double figures fairly quickly.”  He said: “A local primary school already exists just across the water on the mainland at Ulva Ferry. The secondary school is in Tobermory on Mull and children will be transported there from the island.”  Renovation work on the piers is getting under way shortly, and discussions are ongoing about establishing new woodlands.

Stone Circle Isn’t Ancient, But it is Justified
The stone circle at Holmhead in Aberdeenshire may only date back to the 1990s, but this latest architectural find is still a treasure, writes Martyn McLaughlin.  The late Spike Milligan once said that when he died, he hoped to be laid to rest in a washing machine, for no other reason than to confuse the archaeologists of the future.  Those who make a living by combing through the detritus of the past in order to better understand who we are and where we come from deserve sympathy. It can be a gruelling, fruitless task, waged in all weathers. But in a conservative discipline where context is everything, it is nice to see archaeologists can also see the funny side of things. The defrocking of the Holmhead stone circle in Aberdeenshire, which until recently was believed to date back to the Bronze Age, shows how those who retrace the journey made by our descendants are prone to the odd misstep.  Only last month, Historic Environment Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council declared it to be an authentic prehistoric site. This week, a farmer who once worked the land on which is located disabused them of such notions. The stone circle, he revealed, could be traced only as far back as the era of Britpop and combat trousers. As Neil Ackerman, the local authority’s historic environment records assistant, humbly pointed out on Twitter, the revelation is unlikely to grace his CV in future.  “If you are having an awkward day at work, at least you’re not that guy who identified a new prehistoric stone circle to the press that now turns out to be about 20 years old,” he wrote.  It is refreshing to see a professional freely admit to making an error and do so with such good humour. Mr Ackerman has been in his post for less than three years, but his candour means he can look forward to a bright future. As well as providing some levity, the misclassification has helped promote the north east’s established archeological treasures. Who among us would have known of Aberdeenshire’s unique bounty of recumbent stone circles were it not for the imposter in their midst?  In any case, who are we to judge what is real or fake, or to differentiate those creations that have meaning from the ones that are mere whimsy? For all that technology has aided research into our origins, the stone circles specked across Scotland and further afield remain shrouded in mystery, with the purpose of their creation, the manner of their construction, and the choice of their location as elusive as ever.  

Young Scots Have A Duty to Protect Gaelic, Says SNP MSP

Young Gaelic speakers have a duty to pass on the language to the next generation, according to SNP MSP Kate Forbes.  Ms Forbes made the comments ahead of delivering the first annual address in memory of John Macleod, the former president of An Comunn Gaidhealach - the Highland Association.  The organisation was set up in 1891 to help support and promote the Scottish Gaelic language, culture and history at local, national and international level. It is also organises the Royal National Mod. Mr Macleod died in early 2018, having worked to encourage young people in the Gaelic community throughout his life. Ms Forbes, who worked with Mr Macleod while convener of the cross-party group on Gaelic, said she was honoured to deliver the address, paying tribute to the late An Comunn Gaidhealach president.  “He was a man who recognised his responsibility to safeguard and invest in the language,” she said.  “Most critically, he saw that the next generation needed to pick up the baton.”  She added: “The title of the address captures the sense that as we have inherited a great heritage, we have an even greater responsibility to pass it on. I will be discussing the role of young people in taking the language beyond the school gates and into their daily lives.  We have seen a beautiful musical and cultural revival in Scotland - and it seems fitting that the lecture should fall during Celtic Connections - but we want that to include the language.”

'Majestic Waves' Deep Beneath the Surface of Loch Ness
The movement of warm and cold water creates "huge, majestic waves" deep beneath the surface of Loch Ness.  Scientists have been studying the waves, part of a process called thermocline that begins about 20m (65ft) underwater, for years.  However, many of the thousands of visitors to the loch every year may be unaware of them.  Adrian Shine, an expert on Loch Ness, has recorded the waves moving slowly underwater using sonar.  Mr Shine led a project that included recording this movement of water beneath Loch Ness 24 hours day over a period of about a month.  He told BBC Radio Scotland's Brainwaves programme: "We recorded this huge underwater wave moving under the vessel.  In the course of an hour the thermocline dropped from 18 metres to 60. These great, majestic waves, which are part of the slopping or oscillation that develops in Loch Ness, are only moving at about a kilometre per hour."  Prof Mark Inall, a marine physicist at the Scottish Association for Marine Science in Oban, said the loch's prevailing south-west winds influenced the movement of warm and cold water deep in the loch.  When the wind blows, warm water is pushed towards the Inverness end of the loch where it "piles up" and pushes colder water down and back towards Fort Augustus at the other end of the loch.  In calmer conditions, warm water flows the other way, towards Fort Augustus, and the cold water moves towards Inverness  He said this "see-sawing" of water did not happen in a "nice straight line" but "wobbles".  The physicist said: "It manifests itself as a steep step with lots of little waves behind it. Loch Ness was the first place that these waves were observed in a freshwater loch."

Business Masterclass Aims to Put Highland Entrepreneurs Ahead

Entrepreneurs will learn how to create and sustain a competitive advantage at an event in Inverness next month.  Professor Eleanor Shaw, executive director of the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and vice dean of Strathclyde Business School, will deliver a masterclass on February 20 and 21 at the Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness.  The event, which includes a networking dinner, is organised by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) as part of its entrepreneurship programme.  Prof Shaw said: “By creating a competitive advantage, businesses can set a buffer between them and their competitors; in turn creating a more secure place in the market.  The way in which we approach executive education at the University of Strathclyde is different – we put the focus on the participant in the room, looking at their needs and providing access to toolkits and learning so after the masterclass they can start working with colleagues and honing their value proposition straight away. Everything we do has been road tested by working with entrepreneurs and we’ve learned that creating a competitive advantage can help a business in many ways. I’m really looking forward to working with Highlands and Islands entrepreneurs, sharing our learnings and making new connections in the region.”  Louise MacDonald, senior entrepreneurship manager at HIE, said: “Creating and sustaining a competitive advantage can be difficult in today’s ever-changing and dynamic environment. Businesses need to think strategically and be able to analyse their proposition to find ways to enhance impact, value and performance. The masterclass will teach entrepreneurs from across the region the tools and techniques to stay ahead of the game.”

Brexit Sees Scots Tories’ Mask Slip Over Devolution
Joan Mcalpine MSP
After Scottish Conservative MPs warned the UK Westminster Government not to give the Scottish Government a formal role in post-Brexit trade negotiations, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine says it shows they are putting “extreme unionist ideology” ahead of their constituents.  The Scottish Tories were against the establishment of a Scottish Parliament in the first place. They stood alone, of all the major political parties, in their pig-headed opposition to Holyrood being allowed to exist. They campaigned against self-government in the 1997 referendum and were roundly defeated. Democracy for Scotland was never their strong point.  Ironically, the Scottish Parliament’s proportional representation system gave the Tories their best representation in decades. They even tried to re-invent themselves as a pro-devolution party. Now the mask has slipped. It has been revealed the Scottish Tories actively lobbied to block the Scottish Government having any say in post-Brexit trade policy. Only last week, the UK’s Department of International Trade was exposed as having failed to renegotiate a single one of the 40 EU trade deals with other countries. Yet the Scottish Tories believe decisions affecting our export business, and public services such as the NHS, are best left with this incompetent department.  This confirms the Conservatives are as opposed to the notion of Scottish self-government as they ever were.   It undermines attempts by Ruth Davidson and other Scottish Tories to detoxify their brand.  Just look at Ms Davidson’s oscillating stance on Brexit. At first, she was an ardent remainer. Immediately after the EU referendum, she insisted that Scotland and the rest of the UK must stay in the single market. And now? Now, the Scottish Tory meekly accepts whatever chaotic and shambolic version of Brexit Theresa May proposes. Scotland will just have to lump it, despite voting 62 per cent against leaving Europe.  In what other country would elected politicians lobby against having a say over key decisions affecting those they represent?  That fact alone exposes the utter bankruptcy of the Tory vision for Scotland. They have put extreme unionist ideology before the needs of their constituents.  It is further proof, if it were needed, of the case for Scotland taking decisions for itself as an independent nation.

Govan Stones: Appeal to Protect Viking-era Monuments

They are a rare collection of Viking-era grave stones that marked the power centre of a medieval kingdom in the heart of what is now industrial Glasgow.  Now a major appeal has been launched to create a visitor centre fit for the Govan Stones, one of the best collections of medieval sculpture found anywhere in the British Isles.  The Govan monuments offer some of the most powerful surviving evidence of the Kingdom of Strathclyde with some of the stones believed to have marked an elite burial ground for princes, queens and bishops more than 1,000 years ago.  The stones are on display in Govan Old Church after being recovered from a neighbouring graveyard.  The Govan Heritage Trust is now working to preserve the home of the stones and this powerful yet lesser-known story of Scotland’s past. The trust, which halted the closure and sale of the church building in 2016, has launched an appeal to raise £219,000 to start renovating the Grade-A listed property. Over time, it will be transformed into a major new visitor centre for Glasgow.  Frazer Capie, co-ordinator at the Govan Stones project, said: “The collection is still a bit of a secret but it is actually the third largest collection of early medieval sculpture in the United Kingdom and, when looking just at the 10th Century, it is probably the largest.  The money we are trying to raise is pivotal to the future of the collection and the future of the church. It opens up the expansion of the site to create the visitor centre that the collection needs.”  Among the collection are five Viking-era hogback stones - huge monuments designed to replicate Viking halls or places of worship which were protectively placed over graves.  The Govan Sarcophagus, considered to be the outstanding piece of the collection, is believed to have been taken from the tomb of Saint Constantine, a Royal martyr.  The first phase of the development will renovate a space in the church which can then be rented out to raise income for the trust.  This will allow it to further enhance how the story of the collection, which is made up of 31 stones in total, can be told to a wider audience.  At present, the trust relies on short-term grants to keep the church open but an award of £566,000 has been made by Historic Environment Scotland, Glasgow City Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund to help develop the site given the significance of the collection.  The Govan monuments were created after the spiritual and political centre of the Kingdom of Strathclyde, populated by native Britons, moved to Govan.  This followed the destruction of their former base at Dumbarton, which was raided by Vikings in 870AD At the time, Partick and Govan were separated by just a shallow stretch of the Clyde. Evidence of an ancient river crossing, an early medieval ceremonial pathway and an assembly point at nearby Doomster Hill, which has now been demolished, offers further potent traces of the medieval kingdom that developed in the area.  Local Britons eventually learned to live alongside Vikings in Govan with communities likely mixing through marriage and a possible adoption of the Norse artistic style, Mr Capie said.  Professor Driscoll, a trustee of Govan Heritage Trust, said: “The Govan Heritage Trust curates the largest collection of early medieval sculpture not in State care which represents the most tangible evidence for the Kingdom of Strathclyde.  The remarkable collection of hogbacks derive from a hybrid Norse-British society which emerged in the west of Scotland at the end of the Viking Age. Not only is this largest group in Scotland, these are individually these are largest hogbacks anywhere.”  Pat Cassidy, a trustee of Govan Heritage Trust and managing director of Govan Workspace, which will lead the renovation of Old Govan Church, said: “When the closure of the A-listed building and its medieval site was announced, local people reacted with anger, arguing it was yet another slap in the face for a downtrodden community. A campaign was launched and business plan developed to rescue the situation. Govan Old and its remarkable heritage status was identified as a vehicle to bring social and economic benefits to the area. Our plan is to make it a Glasgow cultural attraction, visitor centre and community resource, and to develop income-generating business space to sustain it long-term.”