Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 489

Issue # 489                                                      Week ending Saturday 2 February 2019
You Know You Have A Really Severe Cold When Your Wheelie Bin Goes Out More Than You do by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

You will be distressed to hear that I have not been very well. In fact, I have been seriously laid low by the headaches, the sniffles, the coughs and the sore throat. You see, I have had the mother of all colds and it just went on and on. I was laid up for three whole weeks. Why they call it the common cold I shall never know because what I had was quite uncommon and was the most exhausting, bedraggling, sickening and totally draining experience I have ever had the misfortune to suffer. Except for some hangovers, obviously.

So poorly was I that I’ve been housebound for weeks, wheezing and spluttering. Mrs X told me yesterday that I was like that guy in the nursery rhyme. Of course. Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Yes, my dear. I was up and down the wooden hill to get a glass of water or a cup of tea or cough mixture all day long. She said: “No. I meant that you remind me of Wee Willie Winkie.” Upstairs, downstairs, in my nightgown? She replied: “Nope. That’s not what I meant. But, aye, I suppose that too.”

Having all that time at home on my hands for weeks, I did what everyone does. Then, when there was nothing interesting on the telly, I would just read and read. Anything that came through the door. Electricity bills, bumph from the MSP, flyers from the Free Church (Continuing) and the terms and conditions for replacing a propellor on a small plane. I don’t know why someone put that through our door but it probably blew over from Stornoway Airport which is not very far away from us as the crow, or the coastguard helicopter, flies.
And the labels on bottles of cough mixture. I don’t read medicine labels because I think of them as safe. However, the first mentholated mixture for chesty coughs I used had grim warnings. “Do not take this medicine if you have raised pressure in your head.” What? How will I know? What causes that? “Do not take this medicine if you are allergic to anything in this medicine.” Oh heck, I’d better check what’s in it then. That’s when I noticed “Do not take this medicine if you are an alcoholic.” Then when I studied the small print I found out why. It contains 7% ethanol.

I remember my chemistry lessons from Mr Robbie. Ethanol is used as engine fuel and rocket fuel. It is also used as a solvent and an antiseptic. It is also used as the recreational drug which we know as ... alcohol, a tipple, hooch, bevvy, falling down juice. There is blinking booze in my cough mixture. Seven per cent? That’s stronger than beer and on the way to being as strong as wine. Are you sure you take a teaspoon of this? It should come with an optic. I then saw that my cough medicine, called Covonia by the way, also had in it something called squill tincture. What? Essence of petrified porcupine, I guess.

I discovered squill comes from a certain herb and is good for bronchitis. It is also a rat poison and gets rid of dandruff.  Romans and ancient Egyptians were among those who used it for such purposes and also as an emetic. That’s the word for something that makes you sick. No, I don’t mean like the wrangling over Brexit, I mean something that, for some reason, you swallow quickly and it then makes you nauseous and then you vomit. Actually yeah, when I think about it and the divisiveness that it is causing, that is a bit like the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

Scotland has been in the grip of such icy weather our island roads were in danger of becoming blocked by the snow. The council despatched snow ploughs to the worst areas. Over in Carloway, a snow plough itself got into difficulties when it began sliding down a hill and ended up blocking the road. The driver had a lucky escape but, while he was waiting to be rescued, the locals were determined to help keep his spirits up through the medium of stirring songs. They sang: “Oh plougher of Scotland ...”

Some years ago, in similar conditions, our council came up with a good idea to keep the snow clearing going. They announced on radio for everyone to put their cars on the even-numbered side of the street so snowploughs could get through. Mrs Mac did that. The next day, with more snow due, they asked residents to park their cars on the odd-numbered side of the street so the snowploughs could shift all the snow.

The following day, a snowstorm was forecast. Just as the announcer was about to say what side of the road to park on, the power went off. Mrs Mac moaned to her husband she had no idea what side to park her car on. He replied: “A ghraidh, why don't you just leave it in the garage this time?”

Good Friday Agreement Ripped Up, Says SNP
The Conservative Party has been accused of "ripping up" the Good Friday Agreement by seeking changes to the Brexit withdrawal deal.  On Tuesday, MPs voted to back an amendment seeking "alternative arrangements" to replace the Irish border backstop. The SNP's Ian Blackford said the result showed MPs had "reneged" on the UK's commitment to the peace deal.  MPs, including the DUP, backed an amendment by Conservative MP Sir Graham Brady by 317 votes to 301.  It is not binding but Prime Minister Theresa May has said the vote gives her a mandate to return to Brussels to seek changes to the legal text.  The Good Friday Agreement is an internationally binding treaty that was signed in 1998 and helped end more than three decades of violence in Northern Ireland.  The peace that followed allowed for the removal of some customs checkpoints at the border between NI and the Republic of Ireland.  Mr Blackford, who is the leader of the SNP at Westminster, said MPs who backed the Brady amendment had "reneged on the backstop" and the peace agreement. The backstop is the insurance policy to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland unless and until another solution is found through a wider UK-EU trade deal.  The UK government agreed to a backstop in the draft withdrawal deal with the EU in November 2018 that would take effect at the end of the transition period in December 2020. It would see the whole of the UK stay in a customs union with the EU, while for regulatory matters, Northern Ireland only would continue to follow some EU rules that would see extra checks on goods coming into NI from the rest of Great Britain.  Although it would avoid checks on the land border in Ireland, it has been rejected by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and other parties at Westminster who said it created a "de facto Irish Sea border".  The DUP was opposed because it believes anything that separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK could threaten the integrity of the union.  Mrs May has said she recognises the concerns about the backstop, and is planning to seek changes to it - but the EU has already said it is not willing to renegotiate the current withdrawal agreement.  Its statement said: "The withdrawal agreement is not open for re-negotiation.  We have consistently said that we want the closest possible future relationship between the EU and the UK. A change in the UK red lines could lead to a change in the political declaration on the framework for the future relationship, and a better overall outcome."

Rescuers Battle Tough Conditions to Save Climber

An injured climber has been rescued after getting into difficulty on the Cairngorm plateau near Ben Macdui.  Willie Anderson, from Cairngorm Mountain Rescue, said rescue efforts were hampered by the weather:  "It was very difficult, certainly in the early stages, it was the wind that was causing the problem.  "It was making crew members struggle just to get to the location."  The man was carried along the mountain before he was was airlifted to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.  His injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.

Scotland "Silenced, Sidelined and Shafted by the Tories"

The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford has claimed that by passing the Brady amendment the Government had "ripped up the Good Friday Agreement".  To jeers from Tory MPs he said in his point of order that he called for the Prime Minister to make sure that a no-deal Brexit was taken off the table.  Slamming the decision to pass the Brady Amendment he said: "We were told the backstop was there to protect the peace process but tonight the Conservative Party has effectively ripped apart the Good Friday Agreement. This House should be ashamed of itself. The contempt shown by the UK Westminster  Government right across these islands is stark. This government, Westminster and the Tory party has no respect for the devolved administration or the other regions of the United Kingdom."  He said Scotland had been "silenced, sidelined and shafted by the Tories". First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: "The House of Commons could have asserted itself tonight - instead it indulged the PM’s decision to chase a fairytale at the behest of the DUP/ERG, and increased the risk of no deal in the process. A woeful abdication of responsibility."

Biggest North Sea Gas Find in A Decade Off Scottish Coast
A major North Sea discovery has been announced, uncovering what is understood to be the biggest gas find in the region in more than a decade.  Chinese oil company Cnooc announced a new discovery on the Glengorm prospect, located in the UK Central North Sea, which experts said could be the biggest of its kind since the Culzean gas field 11 years earlier. Project partner Total E&P UK, which owns a 25 per cent working interest in the field, estimates its resources could produce 250 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe). Cnooc holds a 50 per cent stake, while the remaining 25 per cent is owned by Euroil, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Edison E&P.  Kevin McLachlan, Total’s senior vice president of exploration, said: “Following the recent Glendronach discovery, West of Shetland in the UK, Glengorm is another great success for Total in the North Sea, with results at the top end of expectations and a high condensate yield in addition to the gas.  Our strong position in the region will enable us to leverage existing infrastructures nearby and optimise the development of this discovery. Glengorm is an achievement that demonstrates our capacity to create value in a mature environment thanks to our in-depth understanding of the basin.” Kevin Swann, a senior analyst with Wood Mackenzie’s North Sea upstream team, said: “At 250 million boe, Cnooc’s Glengorm is the largest gas discovery in the UK since Culzean in 2008.  There is a lot of hype around frontier areas like West of Shetland, where Total discovered the Glendronach field last year. But Glengorm is in the Central North Sea and this find shows there is still life in some of the more mature UK waters.  This is a good start to what could prove to be a pivotal year for UK exploration with several high impact wells in the plan.”  Oil & Gas Authority chief executive Andy Samuel added: “This is very exciting news; Glengorm was first mapped as a prospect around 20 years ago and it is great to see Cnooc taking up the exploration opportunity and completing a difficult high-pressure, high-temperature exploration well.”

Scotland's Weather: More Snow on its Way Tonight
(couldn’t resist putting this in -R)
More snow is expected to fall across parts of Scotland with freezing conditions overnight continuing across much of the country until the weekend.  It follows disruption on the roads for commuters today, when schools in the Highlands were closed.  A severe weather warning for more snow and ice remains in force for the western half of Scotland and the Highlands and Islands until 11am on Wednesday.  The Met Office said the wintry conditions could hit travel, with the risk of injuries on untreated roads and paths.  A spokeswoman for the agency said: “Further snow showers are expected overnight into Wednesday morning, these more frequent across north west parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland.  Expect 1-3cm of fresh snow, even down to very low levels in places, but locally around 5cm across the northern Highlands.  Temperatures dropping below freezing will result in ice forming onto untreated surfaces.”  Temperatures are forecast to dip to -9C in parts of Aberdeenshire such as Braemar tonight, and -8C tomorrow night.  It is also expected to be freezing in Scotland’s major cities, with -5C in Edinburgh tomorrow night and -2C for the following three nights.  Glasgow is expected to see -4C tomorrow night and -3C on Thursday night, then -2C on Friday and Saturday nights.  A motorist was caught driving a snow-covered car with just a small square of windscreen cleared.  The driver was stopped by police on the A9 at Thurso in Caithness early today.  The car’s rear and side windows were completely covered with snow while only a small area had been cleared on the front windscreen.  Police issued the driver with a fixed penalty notice and warned other motorists to clear snow and ice from their vehicles before setting off.  Police Scotland said: “Winter has been biting for most of us this week, which means it is more important than ever that your vehicle is suitably prepared for the roads. It is important before you set off to make sure your windows are clean, properly demisted and clear of all snow and ice before you drive.”  The IAM RoadSmart motoring group said not enough drivers were prepared.  Head of driving and riding standards Richard Gladman said: “Clear all your windows and mirrors fully. Clear off snow piled on the roof of your car and the bonnet too, as it can fall and blow on to the windscreen. Don’t leave anything obscured.”

Rockets for UK Space Port to Be Built At Scottish Site
Rockets to be launched at the UK’s first spaceport, in the northern Highlands, will be built in Moray.   Private spaceflight company Orbex has bought a vacant building on Forres Enterprise Park and started a recruitment drive for highly specialised engineers.  The firm has previously said it expected its plans to launch small rockets carrying satellites from the proposed spaceport on the A’Mhoine Peninsula in Sutherland would create around 250 new direct and indirect jobs.  Its decision to develop the technology in Moray has been hailed as a “huge boost to the local economy” by MSP Richard Lochhead.  The Forres facility, which will be Orbex’s headquarters, is due to be officially opened next month at an event attended by Graham Turnock, head of the UK Space Agency.  The company is currently recruiting six specialised engineering posts, in disciplines including avionics, propulsion and composite structures.  The £17.5 million Space Hub Sutherland vertical launch site is being developed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. In July 2018 Orbex announced it had secured £30m of public and private funding for the development of orbital space launch systems. The start-up company said the Prime rocket it is developing will send small satellites to altitudes of almost 800 miles.  Shortly after that announcement, Orbex chief executive Chris Larmour said: “We’re planning to launch our vehicles into orbit from Scotland, so building up a new production facility to support that activity locally makes complete sense. We’ve identified an excellent launch site on the north coast of Scotland and have been working with various regional and national agencies to make detailed proposals for development.”  Orbex has taken over Nova House on Forres Enterprise Park, which was previously owned by Scotland Electronics.  Mr Lochhead said: “This exciting new venture will bring high value, hi-tech jobs to Forres, which is a huge boost to the local economy and something I very much welcome.  Moray and the Highlands are ideally positioned for the development of satellite and space related industries and there are big opportunities for expansion locally in this area going forward.”

Thousands Gather for Up Helly Aa Festival in Shetland
Thousands of people are due to gather for the world-famous Up Helly Aa fire festival on Shetland.  The spectacle, which attracts visitors from around the globe, takes place in Lerwick on the last Tuesday of January each year.  People dressed as Vikings march through the streets of the town to recreate its ancient Viking past, in a tradition dating back to the 19th century.  The procession is led by the Guizer Jarl, or chief guizer, and culminates in a replica longboat being set alight.  This year the boat is decorated in the distinctive green and white hoops of Celtic at the behest of Guizer Jarl John Nicolson, a supporter of the football club. Volunteers are responsible for the building of the galley boat and the production of more than 1,000 torches.  Those taking part in the festival spend the night visiting a host of celebrations in halls around the town.  Shetland and neighbouring Orkney were ruled by the Norse for about 500 years until they became part of Scotland in 1468.  The festival stems from the 1870s when a group of young local men wanted to put new ideas into Shetland’s Christmas celebrations.

Mystery of Headless Woman Found in Clan Chief’s Coffin Unravels
The mystery surrounding the identity of a headless woman found in the search for the body of one of Scotland’s most notorious clan chiefs has started to unravel following scientific analysis of her remains.  The partial skeleton of the woman, who was aged around 25 when she died, was discovered last year as the search got underway for the body of Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, who was executed in London in 1747 - following the Battle of Culloden. There is a long-held tradition that the clan chief - also known as the Old Fox given his double dealings between Jacobites and the State - was secretly moved back to the Highlands by his supporters after his death.  But an exhumation of a lead coffin at the family crypt at Wardlaw -Mausoleum by forensic anthropologist Professor Dame Sue Black, formerly of Dundee University, led to the discovery of the woman instead.  Mystery surrounds the identity of the woman and why she ended up in the coffin believed to have been built in London for Lord Lovat, chief of Frasers of Lovat, ahead of his execution.  Now, new details of her life have emerged following chemical analysis by Dr Peter Ditchfield, manager of the Stable Isotope Laboratory at Oxford University.  Using a fragment of the woman’s breast bone, he has been able to determine the young woman’s diet and possible social position. He found that the woman enjoyed a diet of meat and some fish and shellfish, which suggests that she was from a relatively wealthy background.  Tests have indicated she had a diet similar to someone living in the relatively affluent area of Spitalfields in London at the time, although it has not been possible to confirm whether she did indeed live in this neighbourhood given the state of her remains.  Erik Lundberg, custodian of Wardlaw Mausoleum at Kirkhill, where generations of the Frasers of Lovat are buried, said: “It is fascinating to get a glimpse of the life led by this young lady, and a testament to the skill of Dr Ditchfield in recovering this information.  Unfortunately, the isotope analysis undertaken by Peter is not able to say that she definitely came from an affluent area of London, like Spitalfields, just that she had a diet like someone from there.  A person from a wealthy local family around Kirkhill – like the Frasers – may have had a similar diet, or perhaps she is someone that had spent a significant amount of time in London.”  The London connection has also raised fresh questions over why the woman’s body was found in the Highlands. Mr Lundberg said a “puzzle” remained over whether the woman was put in the coffin in London and moved north.  Mr Lundberg added: “The clan story is that, after the execution, the body in the official coffin was swapped and the coffin was brought home, as Simon had wanted. We now know that Simon was not in the coffin in our crypt. It is just possible that he came to Wardlaw and was then moved to an unmarked grave elsewhere in the graveyard once word got out that he was here when he shouldn’t be. This would leave a convenient empty coffin for the young lady to occupy.”  Mr Lundberg said he believed it was the case that Lord Lovat was buried in the chapel at the Tower of London and his double-lead coffin brought home and placed in the crypt.  The custodian added: “Could the young lady have been in the coffin from London and, if so, why? Her body would not have made a significant difference to the weight of the coffin to give it credibility as containing Simon, so could it have been a convenient way to dispose of a body many miles from the scene of a crime? If she was indeed a local person, especially a Fraser, why was she placed inside Simon’s coffin and not given one of her own?”  So far, it has not been possible to retrieve a DNA sample from the bones given their poor condition. The woman was reinterred during a special service last summer.

‘Woolly Mammoth Tooth’ Found Washed Up on Scottish Beach

The tooth of a woolly mammoth is believed to have been found washed up on a Scottish beach.  The fossil, which is around nine inches long with deep ridges down one side, was discovered on the foreshore at Miltonhaven, near St Cyrus, Aberdeenshire.  Scott Stewart, who owns Miltonhaven Caravan Park by the beach, said the tooth was found by his daughter, Kirstie and grandson Ally, 5, who were out walking on the beach at the time.  Mr Stewart said: “They came and said they had found a dinosaur tooth. We all laughed.”  The tooth, which is now petrified and weighs several kilos, sat at the back door ‘in the rain’ until a professor visiting the holiday park confirmed it once belonged to a mammoth.  “You can see a fossilised blade of grass in the tooth. It was obviously the mammoth’s last meal,” Mr Stewart added.  Meanwhile, an almost identical tooth was discovered by the Stewarts at a sale in Ely, Cambridgeshire, last month.  Staff at St Cyrus National Nature Reserve, which lies just over a mile south of Miltonhaven, said they believe mammoth remains have been found at only 16 sites in Scotland.  Mammoth teeth are usually dated to around 60,000 to 80,000 years old - or even older.  A post on the reserve’s Facebook page said: “In days gone by when the North Sea was a vast plane of Tundra and Steppe land, mammoth and other prehistoric animals would have wandered the plains freely for about 300,000 years before the became extinct about 4,000 years ago.”  Last year, the first woolly mammoth bone found in Scotland was discovered near Stranraer.  The leg bone washed up on a beach at Loch Ryan with experts at National Museum of Scotland confirming it came from a mammoth.

Police Scotland to Put 400 Officers on 'Brexit Duty'

Up to 400 Scottish police officers could be deployed to deal with the consequences of Brexit, the country's chief constable has said.  Iain Livingstone said Police Scotland had contingency plans in place based on a "reasonable worst case scenario".  This could include potential public disorder, disruption at ports and airports, and the need for officers to be deployed to Northern Ireland.  He called for additional funds to be made available to help meet the cost. Speaking at a board meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), Mr Livingstone confirmed the force would bring forward plans to recruit about 100 extra officers.  It will also scrap plans to reduce its number of officers by 300 - which had been expected to save £12.6m. The savings were part of a drive to reduce the force's deficit, which stood at £34m last year. Questioned if the 400 officers would be applied "specifically to Brexit", Mr Livingstone confirmed they would.  But he warned: "The financial sustainability that we need to establish will be threatened by some of the operational decisions I need to make around Brexit.  There is a significant risk that without additional funding, the budget will result in a larger deficit than previously stated if officer numbers are retained at current levels.  In this regard, it is important to publicly underline that the consequences of Brexit have not yet led to necessary additional funding being allocated to Scottish policing."  Mr Livingstone said his priority was to ensure that people in Scotland were "effectively protected, policed and kept secure".  He said the UK Treasury had made additional funding available to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), and to policing and law enforcement in England and Wales.  The chief constable added: "There is real, acute, imminent pressure on policing at the moment, and I would really welcome some additional funding as some of my chief constable colleagues in other parts of the UK have already benefited from."  SPA chairwoman Susan Deacon said she shared his concerns and would write to the Scottish government to quantify the funding required.  She said the letter would stress the "hope and belief that it would be possible for additional contingency funding to be made available" either from the Scottish or UK Westminster government.  Ms Deacon added: "These provisions have been put in place in others parts of the UK and I think it is not unreasonable that we should look for the equivalent here."

Another Royal Award for Caring Lenzie Woman
Caring local woman Anne Jarvie is to receive a prestigious award for her services to St John Scotland, a charity dedicated to enhancing and saving lives.  Anne, who lives in Lenzie, is to be appointed as an Officer of the Order of St John.  She will pick up her award on behalf of the Queen from the Grand Prior of the Order, Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, at a ceremony in March. She retired in 2004 from the position of Chief Nursing Officer/Director of Nursing for Scotland but is still an  active trustee of St John Ambulance.  She also holds the  position of deputy chair for the Scottish Housing Regulator.  Anne, who grew up in Kirkintilloch where her parents owned the pharmacy on the main street, was also chair of the Council of Nursing Institute in Scotland.  She was awarded the CBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours list in 2000. Other accolades include an Honorary Doctor of Law at Dundee University, an Honorary Doctor of Nursing at Napier University, Honorary Doctor of Science  of Glasgow Caledonian University and an Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University of Stirling.  She is also an Honorary Member of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine.  The Order of St John, formally the Most Venerable  Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, is  a British royal order of chivalry first constituted in 1888 by royal charter from Queen Victoria.

Credit Union Volunteer is Calling it A Day After 31 Years - But Leaves Behind Millions of Pounds in the Bank
A leading credit union volunteer is calling it a day after 31 years - but leaves behind millions of pounds in the bank.  Greenock man Lee Hendry has helped a grassroots community project set up in a corner of the east end grow into a major player in the local economy.  In the run-up to Christmas the Tail O' Bank Credit Union released around £1 million saved up by their 8,000 members.  Board member and volunteer Lee says the credit union has never lost its roots despite now working with a £5m in the bank.  Grandad Lee, 70, from Greenock's Castle Road, said: "I will always be very proud of what we have built at the credit union. We don't have customers here, we have members, and everyone belongs to the credit union. I have made so many friends along the way.  I only came in for a fortnight to help cover and I have been here for 30-odd years.  I am a volunteer but I worked six days a week."  Lee says he has seen a lot of change during his service with the group, which is based in Kilblain Street, with technology having a big impact.  He said: "When I first started we didn't have any computers, so you had to use your brain."  Like most volunteers Lee's involvement began when he joined as a member back in the days when the credit union belonged in the east end. It was established by local priest Father Jamieson and minister Reverend Iain Fraser to help families who had lost their livelihoods when the shipyards closed.  Retired train driver Lee said: "I was paid off from the shipyards and you had to use your redundancy to live on.  I became a member of the credit union like most people back then."  At that time the credit union worked in the hundreds, taking small savings and handing out small loans.  Now they finance cars and home improvement projects but the idea of regularly saving money remains. Lee added: "If you save money and keep it in the credit union it helps other members."  The former board member is now planning to spend more time with his family - wife Anne, daughters Carol and Cathryn and son Ian, as well as his grandchildren and three great grandchildren.  The Tail O' Bank team are currently focusing on setting up in schools and encouraging young people to come on board. The credit union has £2.5 million loaned out at the moment and double that figure in savings deposited.  One of its most successful projects is the Christmas Club.  The savings scheme, set up in response to the infamous Fare Pak scandal a few years ago, has proved hugely popular.  Members saved up £139,000 in total in the run up to Christmas.

Drone Plan to Carry Medicines in Highlands Considered

The potential of using drones to deliver medical supplies to GP surgeries, hospitals and care homes is being investigated in the Highlands.  NHS Highland is working with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the University of the Highlands and Islands on the project.    The health board said drones could potentially pick up and deliver items across its regions.  The health board said the project, which is based in Inverness, was still in the early stages.  A spokesman said: "They could be used to transport goods and supplies across the region, delivering and picking up items from sites including, but not limited to, GP surgeries, hospitals and care homes."  He said a so-called prior information notice had been issued so that the partnership could have a look at what was currently available, both in terms of the market and the available technology.  In Malawi in Africa drones have been tested for use in supplying medicines along a Humanitarian Drone Testing Corridor.

New Images Reveal Sunken Royal Oak Battleship

A volunteer team has been given special permission to dive on the wreck of the Royal Oak in Orkney's Scapa Flow.  The ship - which was sunk by a U-boat in Scapa Flow in October 1939 with the loss of more than 830 men and boys - is protected as a war grave.  But the divers have been allowed to gather images and information for use in 80th anniversary commemorations.  It follows similar projects by the same group on the wrecks of the Royal Navy ships HMS Hampshire and HMS Vanguard.  Stromness-based dive boat owner Emily Turton told BBC Radio Orkney "diving was banned on Royal Oak in 2002" to protect it. Very little access is given to British war graves, and it has to be by special licence," she said. She said she had been working closely with the Royal Navy northern diving group and the Royal Oak Association.  "We asked what they would like to see," she said.  Ambitious plans to produce video and 3D images were delayed following the theft of a laptop and two external hard drives from the team.  The equipment was taken during a break-in at a flat in Stromness, which prompted a £1,500 reward for its return.  Emily Turton said the theft had been "devastating", but she said she hoped it would be possible to recover the raw data, and recreate the processed images.  Gareth Derbyshire, chairman of the Royal Oak Association, said the project was "an important means of ensuring that the history of the ship and the circumstances of its loss were available to future generations.  The last of the survivors of HMS Royal Oak died in December 2016.  Diving work on the wreck is now almost complete The next phase of the project will see all the data that has been gathered being collated and processed.  A comprehensive survey report is due to be produced before the end of the year. The dive team will also present their findings to the public.

Policiticans Dismayed by Closure of Talktalk in Stornoway

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan and Angus MacNeil MP have expressed their dismay at the news today that telecoms company Talktalk are set to close their site in Stornoway.  Earlier today, the company announced that it would be making all 59 staff at its site in Stornoway redundant as of July this year. Talktalk are one of the largest private sector employers on the island and have had a presence in Stornoway since the site at Gleann Seileach Business Park was acquired from OneTel in 2005.  Alasdair Allan MSP commented: “Today’s news is deeply troubling, and my thoughts are with the staff and their families at what will be a very difficult period for them.  For an economy the size of the Isle of Lewis’, the impact of the loss of 59 jobs cannot be overstated. It is proportionate to job losses in the thousands for a city the size of Glasgow. This is a real body blow to the Isle of Lewis.  Since being informed of the company’s intentions earlier this afternoon, I have spoken to HIE and have asked the Scottish Government’s Business Minister, Jamie Hepburn MSP, what the Government can do to help in this situation.  This is a site that has operated in one form or another for more than a decade and it is important that all options are now explored to try and ensure its future.”  Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said: “Having spoken with TalkTalk, it is obviously disappointing to hear that they have taken this step. TalkTalk acknowledge that they have highly skilled staff in Stornoway, dealing with complex customer complaints.  This will be affecting 59 people in total and will be devastating for them. However, I would also like to take the opportunity to flag up to other companies that there is the potential to employ 59 highly capable, highly trained conscientious staff and who have been one of the best operators in TalkTalk.  What TalkTalk are doing is essentially centralising around Salford, Manchester. They will not be talked out of that decision it appears. I am not sure what might happen in the future but we clearly have to flag up that there is an opportunity for another company who want to have such highly trained staff to gain from this situation.  Meanwhile, our thoughts are with the employees and families affected. This is obviously a very difficult situation and alarming news for them.”

‘Red Clydeside’ Battle of George Square Remembered with Centenary Gathering
Civic leaders, union representatives and political activists gathered in the heart of Glasgow yesterday to mark the centenary of the Battle of George Square, one of the most turbulent episodes in the city’s history.  Police and striking workers clashed on 31 January 1919 in a violent confrontation also known as Bloody Friday or Black Friday.  Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in George Square after the end of the First World War as the city’s sprawling industrial community demanded a 40-hour week compared to their 57-hour contracts.  Police baton charged the crowd while several union leaders were arrested, as officials even resorted to reading the Riot Act during the clashes, which spread out across the city centre.  Amid fears the unrest could lead to a socialist uprising in the wake of the revolution in Russia only a year previously, the UK Westminster government sent more than 10,000 troops and tanks north to restore order.  Although the unsuccessful strike ended in February, with its leaders arrested, it provided inspiration for future generations in the labour movement.  A century on from the mass gathering – estimates of the crowd size vary from 20,000 to as many as 60,000 – a series of speeches and performances was organised yesterday by the Open University in Scotland.  The open learning event, which was designed to inform people about the events leading up to the protests, as well as some of the myths that have sprung up around it, drew an appreciative crowd, with students mingling alongside workers on their lunch break.  Musician Jonzip McNeil performed a song he wrote about the events of 100 years ago.  The small gathering began with a speech by Dr Gerry Mooney, a senior lecturer in social policy and criminology at the university.  He described the events of 100 years ago as “one of the most volatile and violent protests in the city’s history”, but stressed the importance of filtering out the fiction from reality.  “We need to get the history right, so we understand how it affects the present and even the future,” he explained. Ms O’Hara pointed out that the location of the strike cemented George Square’s reputation as a place for protest in the city. She said: “We can gather here now without fear of violence. This is our square.”   Ms Bolander, who delivered a closing speech, announced that a new plaque would be installed to mark what happened in 1919 and said she hoped the event would encourage more people to take a closter interest in Glasgow’s rich social history. Yesterday’s speeches are among a number of events taking place across the city to mark the centenary. Kenny MacAskill, the former justice secretary and Scotsman columnist, held a book signing last night in the Sauchiehall Street branch of Waterstones to coincide with the launch of Glasgow 1919: The Rise of Red Clydeside.  A free walking tour taking place will show people around the key sites linked to the unrest in the city at the time.  The event, which will begin in George Square at noon, is being organised by a group of historians and researchers in the city.

Last Updated (Saturday, 02 February 2019 02:22)