Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 490

Issue # 490                                     Week ending Saturday 9 February 2019

Sinatra Sang “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” But I’ll Get You with My New Tick Remover by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

So the Scottish Government is to help people wave a problem with a nasty blood-sucker that just won’t let go. Eh? That was last week and I have filled in my Self Assessment Return and paid my income tax so I won’t have that problem with HMRC for another year. Not the taxman? It’s actually something that the government gives for free? There are a few things we get without paying a fee. Education, tick. Healthcare, tick. In Scotland that includes medicines only available on prescription, tick. Now we can add to that list a wee tool for yanking out blood-sucking insects. A tick remover, tick.

Ticks are a real pest. We always thought they were only that not knowing about the horrible diseases they can carry - not least of which is Lyme disease, a really horrible condition which can make you very poorly and in some cases have longtime or even lifelong effects. The strange thing is that a vaccine was developed to protect people from it but it is not made now. The vaccine called LYMErix very successful because it protected 100% of children and more than three quarters of adults. However, the international panic over vaccines - particularly MMR and a supposed connection with autism which was based on complete nonsense - affected Americans.

The fly ones started making bogus claims it caused arthritis and other ailments. People began suing the makers who could not afford to keep defending it - even though there was no evidence of any harm - so they stopped making it. No one else will risk the same fate. As youngsters, we were always told to tuck our trousers into our socks but that didn’t always work. The ticks would still somehow get through the layers of bobban socks and Harris Tweed, or crimplene in the mid-1970s, and work their way up. In my case, the parasitic invaders would advance up my ankles, negotiate my knees, rise up my thighs and find a place to rest their weary bones - okay, exoskeleton.

That was invariably in that vast pink expanse of skin usually shrouded in my underpants. After enjoying the ectoparasites’ equivalent of a fag and a cuppa, they would start to excavate under your skin. At this point, one detected a severe itch. That was a problem back then. If the tick was somewhere you couldn’t see yourself, you would start wondering who to get to examine the affected area to confirm that a parasite had dived into you, was gorging on your blood, and only had its hind legs still showing. If it was on your back, for example, or behind your knee or in your armpit, that was what brothers and parents were for. If, however, it was out of sight in the aforementioned pink shrouded area, that was a problem. There was no one you could ask ... ever.

Luckily, I was able to borrow a mirror from the dressing table in the parents’ bed chamber and make do with that and an assortment of tweezers, scissors and pliers. Shifting spanners, drills, even chisels were used, I also remember. The mirror I had acquired was two-sided and one of those sides magnified everything so the tick looked more like a giant half-buried crab. It was worse than something scaley and creepy out of Doctor Who but there was absolutelu no one you could show off your new sea-going monster to. This, of course, may have been yet another sound reason why one decided to take a spouse. Always thinking ahead, that’s me.

There are now fears of an epidemic of Lyme disease, which is also carried by rodents, and there is still no proper vaccine to protect people who get a tick bite or a bite from an infected animal. It is a really sad tale of how ordinary people listened to false prophets who claimed to have proof of problems caused by this vital medicine. Not for the first time, ordinary people let their common sense desert them, ignored the scientists and the entire world is left the poorer. It is right to properly challenge scientific claims but it is not right to ignore evidence and instead follow bogus prophets of doom. It is yet another avoidable modern-day cause of much suffering. I feel like crying.

Just because Nicola Sturgeon is about to hand out a wee tool to pull out ticks, does not mean we should not worry. It is much better to try and avoid getting that bug in the first place. Humans do not pass Lyme disease onto other humans but just be careful. If you touch where a tick has bitten, you could catch it. So, if you go off-road, tuck your breeks into your socks, do up your zip and keep clear of rats, mice and any wee animals that may have been bitten by a tick. They are still researching the symptoms but I would keep clear of any rabbits too. Or maybe it’s that name that’s making me wary. Why did they have to call it Bugs Bunny?

Westminster Should Pay for Scottish Brexit Policing, Say SNP
Figures show that contingency plans for Brexit could cost Police Scotland up to £18m. The Treasury should foot the bill for Police Scotland's Brexit planning costs, the SNP have said. Police Scotland's chief constable Iain Livingstone has said "reasonable worst-case scenario" planning for the UK leaving the EU means 400 of his officers being deployed on Brexit duty. He has brought forward recruitment of 100 officers and ditched plans to cut numbers by 300 - costing a possible £18m - to have sufficient strength to deal with possible public disorder and disruption at ports following the UK's exit from the bloc.  The SNP have called on the Treasury to pay out, pointing out Scotland voted by 62% to 38% to remain in the EU. SNP MSP Rona Mackay, deputy convener of the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee, said: "The reality of the Brexit situation we face is becoming increasingly apparent - with Scotland's chief constable clear in his professional assessment of what extra pressures will fall upon Police Scotland.  It's important that he's planning for the worst-case scenario since, regrettably, that's the brink that the Tories seem to be dragging us closer towards.  The risk of disorder, disruption at ports and airports, and the need for Scottish police officers to be redeployed to help forces elsewhere, are outcomes becoming all too possible in the event of a no-deal."  She continued: "But this is not a mess of Scotland's making. We voted Remain, we voted for stability and security in Europe and it's a situation created by the Tory government against our express will.  On that basis, it's only fair that the Treasury foots the bill for all contingency costs incurred by Police Scotland.  Police forces in the rest of the UK have had extra funding in these circumstances and Scotland should be treated no differently. Ultimately, the vital work Police Scotland does to keep our communities safe should not be jeopardised by the additional pressures of a Tory Brexit, which we have stood firmly against at every turn."  Earlier this week, Mr Livingstone called for the necessary contingency funding to be made available, pointing out the UK Westminster Government has given around £17m additional cash to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, as well as money to some forces in England to tackle the issue. He warned if no extra cash is received it could threaten the financial stability of Police Scotland.

Glasgow Fopp Music Store Saved After Customer Outcry

A branch of the Fopp record shop chain has been saved from closure after an outcry from customers and musicians.  The Byres Road branch in Glasgow closed as part of a deal to save the collapsed HMV and Fopp music chain.  But the new owners have been persuaded to reopen the branch following a "groundswell of support" from customers and bands.  Members of some of Scotland's biggest groups had all paid tribute to the influence of the branch.  A spokesman for HMV said: "Following successful negotiations, we can confirm that the iconic Fopp Byers Road store will re-open for business on 9 February.  This is the best outcome for everyone and we are delighted to share the good news with all those who have been so supportive over the past weeks.  There has been a huge amount of goodwill and a tremendous groundswell of support for this store in particular, with many customers and media campaigns calling for it to be re-opened.  We would like to thank all of the bands and musicians, and especially our amazing customers, whose support cannot be underestimated." Canadian firm Sunrise Records bought the collapsed music chain HMV out of administration, securing 1,487 jobs across the UK.  But it announced that 27 stores would close, including the Byres Road Fopp store, and outlets in Ayr and the Braehead shopping centre.  Sunrise Records chief executive Doug Putman he was delighted to be able to give the Fopp store a reprieve.  He said: "I am proud to say we have the most knowledgeable and committed staff, and it gives me great pleasure to see such a well loved and renowned part of Scottish music retail history open for business ready to welcome all of our loyal customers once again."

SNP Heavyweight Forms Polling Group to 'Help Prepare' Case for Independence By Paul Hutcheon
A former leader of the SNP at Westminster has launched a new polling and research organisation to study public opinion north of the border. Progress Scotland, headed by Angus Robertson, will commission polls, focus groups and research funded by subscriptions and donations.  Robertson was an SNP MP for sixteen years from 2001 before losing his Moray seat to the Conservatives.  He led the SNP group in the House of Commons and was his party’s depute leader for around 16 months. Robertson was also in charge of the SNP’s Holyrood election campaigns in 2007 and 2011.  He is opening a new chapter in his life by preparing to launch Progress Scotland, which will examine public opinion in the wake of the referenda on independence and Brexit.  Mark Diffley, who was the lead pollster for the UK Government in the run-up to the independence referendum, will be conducting the polling and research.  Speaking ahead of the launch, Robertson said: “Progress Scotland aims to help prepare the case for Scotland to progress towards independence, keeping pace with the views of the people who make their lives here. With the help and support of subscribers we will research the opinion of people in Scotland and test their appetite to emulate the most successful small countries in the world. We will provide insight and analysis on what is needed to persuade people on the case for Scotland to make progress."  Diffley explained his involvement in the project:  “Scotland has been my home for nearly 20 years and I have witnessed how the country has changed and continues to change. We are at a time when it has never been so important to listen to the people of Scotland and understand what the public is thinking”.  "I am going to conduct the polls and research for ‘Progress Scotland’ and I am very excited to see what we will find. With so much going on with Brexit and the debate about Scotland’s future; now is the right time to ask people about their opinions, how they are changing and why. It makes sense to try and understand people’s hopes and concerns especially at this time of change”. Ahead of the launch, Progress Scotland released a series of interviews with individuals who are now backing independence. Chris Wilson, a politics student and young Liberal Democrat member from Lanarkshire said: “Lib Dems like me will have to make a choice sooner or later about which Union we prefer. I choose for Scotland to set its own path as a progressive, socially democratic society within the European Union, not as part of an increasingly right wing intolerant United Kingdom. While I was a ‘No’ supporter in 2014 I have changed my mind since, and I would vote ‘Yes’ today for Scottish independence in Europe, for the sake of my generation and the ones that will follow.  Youth activist Erin Mwembo, who recently left school, said:  “At the time of the independence referendum I was too young to vote, but having looked at the issues I would probably have voted ‘No’. Since then however, my views have changed and like most young people in Scotland I now support independence.  Being responsible for our own future and making better decisions closer to home is definitely the best future for Scotland and everyone who lives here. Looking at the Brexit mess at Westminster I’m convinced we can do better, and protect our place in Europe. I know that many people, like me, have been changing their views on independence. And I think many more will do the same.

Clan MacEwen Aims to End 500-year Chief Wait

An actor and writer from the Borders is hoping to be recognised as a clan's first chief in more than 500 years.  Sir John McEwen, who lives near Duns, said he had "no particular qualifications" to take up the role other than his love of the clan.  He said the last known Clan MacEwen chief had died in 1492.  A gathering will be held in June near their ancestral home near Loch Fyne to "solidify" the clan's position that Sir John should be its new chief. The Clan Ewen Society - formed in 1977 - claims to represent many variations of the name including MacEwan, MacEwen, McEwan and McEwen.  Chairman Sean McCuin said a previous Derbhfine (gathering) in 2014 had seen Sir John selected as clan commander for a period of five years.  "This is the first step in having a chief of the name recognised," he said. "The clan is happy with his fulfilment of this role and the next steps are to verify our support through the attendance of our gathering in June 2019.  We also have an online petition for those who are unable to physically attend. From there we can petition the Lyon Court to have a coat of arms of the name be matriculated, which in turn recognises Sir John as chief of the name."  Sir John said he had been contacted by the clan society as his grandfather, the first Baronet of Marchmont and Bardrochat, had been approached in the 1950s.  "I am the fifth baronet, after my grandfather, my uncle Jamie, my father Robin and my brother James," he said.  "I am an ordinary writer and actor, husband of a teacher, small-holder and the main carer of our four children.  I have no particular qualifications for chiefship - unless you count the baronetcy - but I love my clan, and my country, and would love for the clans to play a full and active part in the life of modern Scotland."  Mr McCuin said it would be a major boost if Sir John was recognised as clan chief.  "Clan MacEwen is an ancient though small clan and have been subject to larger clans in the past," he said.  "Having a chief of the name allows for a seat on the standing council of Scottish chiefs and recognises our clan as independent and autonomous. "It also helps to provide clan unity throughout Scotland and the rest of the world."

Life on A Hebridean Croft Through the Lens of A Woman

Canna House archivist Fiona J Mackenzie looks at the rare record of female crofters left by US photographer Margaret Fay Shaw.  The daily life of an early 20th-century Hebridean crofter was a hard existence.  Whilst the men worked on the peatland or were at sea fishing, the croft itself had to be tended to ensure the family’s daily sustenance.  The man may have been seen as the ‘head of the household’ but the woman was undeniably the ‘head of the hearth’.  However, her story has had to fight to achieve its rightful equal place in history. Attitudes towards women varied from island to island in the Hebrides.  In the largely Catholic southernmost islands, whilst the man of the house was generally recognised as the breadwinner, it was understood that the household could not function efficiently without women. Their role became even more important during the two world wars, when many of the islands’ men left to join the armed forces.  Women, and the older children, had to take up all the activities traditionally undertaken by men as well as their own chores. Margaret herself said that she had ‘never seen both men and women do such hard physical work’. When we examine collections of images depicting rural labour, the largest proportion will show men working. This is where the collection of Margaret Fay Shaw differs. There are as many images of women working as there are of men, possibly even more. Could this have been a deliberate ploy of Margaret’s to help redress the balance of society’s attitudes towards women and work?  Margaret was certainly active at a pivotal point in history in terms of women’s rights, and we already know from studying her correspondence and writings that she did not believe in shying away from expressing her opinions. Perhaps the fact that she was American, and not bound by the ‘norms’ of Scottish ‘social commentary’, meant that she could express her empathy with her female companions.  She was perhaps even in awe of their resourcefulness and strength of character; she was certainly not averse to getting her hands dirty and doing some of the heavy jobs on the croft.  Whether subconsciously or not, Margaret used her unique position as a ‘proxy’ community resident to observe and document the lives of the Uist crofters in her photography. Living with two women gave her an insight into a Hebridean woman’s life. She had a knack for making her subjects relax and ‘open up’ to the camera, catching her friends as they went about their daily lives, with no requirement for formal posing.  In Margaret’s diaries and papers, she details the crofting year and the relentless round of activities and chores:  She wrote: “The spring work of the croft began in February, when seaweed, used as fertilizer, was cut with a saw-toothed sickle called a corran on the tidal islands of the loch at low water of a spring tide … then the year closes with all the harvest work done, the women wash and card the wool and start the spinning wheels. It is the season for the fireside and the ceilidh, the rough weather and the short days.” Margaret captured the spirit and beauty of the Uist croftswomen with deftness, an awareness of posture and ‘line’, sometimes with humour and always with a sense of preserving the humility and gentleness of those she regarded as her family.  Margaret’s daily life was her ‘source’. Her aim to document an ‘authentic’ lifestyle shines through her images of traditional Uist croftswomen. She could relate to her female friends’ hard lives for she was living that hard life herself. However, she was not averse to taking herself off to the Lochboisdale Hotel every so often ‘for a hot bath and dinner’!  We already recognise the invaluable contribution that Margaret Fay Shaw made to the preservation of early 20th-century Hebridean culture. However, the contribution she made to the recognition and respect for the 1930s Uist croftswomen is ripe for further exploration.  Her images give us an insight into a world that no longer exists.

Increased Salmon Farm Protection Leads to Drop in Seal Culls

A salmon producer has reported seeing a reduction in seal culling after introducing new nets to keep them away from fish.  Fish farms are licensed to kill the animals to prevent them from attacking and eating salmon in the farm cages.  Scottish Sea Farms (SSF) said the number of seals culled last year was 31% down on the year before.  It added that culling of seals was a "last resort".  The figures, which have been shared by the producer for the first time, suggest that nine of the producer's 45 salmon farms culled seals between 1 February 2018 to 31 January 2019.  Eleven seals were culled to protect salmon stocks. The mammals can each eat 3-7kg (6.6-15.4lbs) of food per day, depending on the species.  During the 2017-18 reporting period, 16 seal culls took place, and in the previous year 17 seals were culled.  SSF said new Sea Pro netting was piloted at its Orkney fish farms. Since it was installed in 2016, SSF claims no culls were required there.  Of 45 farms, 21 now have the netting installed. There are plans to install the netting over the next few years at nine more farms and will be targeted at those which face problems with seals.  The netting with a more rigid surface whereas traditional netting allows seals to push their snouts into the twine and catch salmon as they swim by.  Other measures include increasing the tension of the nets, making them harder to break into.  Acoustic deterrents are also being used as part of plans across the sector to reduce the need for seal culling.  SSF claim that the measures have contributed to an 81% drop in the number of seal culls since 2011.  SSF's Ralph Bickerdike said: "On occasion, we have installed Seal Pro netting at one farm only to see seals relocate to another farm where there had been no prior seal challenge.  This, we believe, accounted for five of the 11 seals culled in the last reporting period and is further reason why we will continue to roll-out the new netting until each and every farm is protected.

Celtic Connections Gets £100k Cash Boost From Scottish Government

Glasgow's Celtic Connections festival has been awarded £100,000 of Scottish government money, after winning funding from the Expo Fund for a second consecutive year. Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop announced the financial boost as this year's event - which spotlights traditional, world and folk music - drew to a close.  Since 2008 the Expo Fund has invested £21m in Scotland's major festivals, boosting arts and culture.  The money will be used to further evolve the 2020 festival, allowing for eight new pieces of work by Scottish composers to be developed.  These will then be brought together into a single symphonic piece by composer Greg Lawson, which will be performed by the Grit Orchestra.  Ms Hyslop said: "Celtic Connections is an excellent example of the international reach our festivals offer, enhancing Scotland's reputation as welcoming and inclusive, which is so important as we strengthen relations with our European friends during these turbulent times."

Officers Hurt in Glasgow Prison Drugs 'Standoff'
Prison officers drew batons in a standoff with inmates after an attempt to smuggle drugs into a Glasgow jail, it has emerged.  Four officers were slightly injured during the confrontation at HMP Barlinnie on 26 January.  The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) said inmates tried to stop prison staff intercepting three packages of drugs that had been thrown over the wall. The incident has been reported to Police Scotland.  An SPS spokesman said staff handled the incident "very well" but officers suffered bruising during the standoff.  Figures in December revealed that Barlinnie was operating at 139% capacity.  But the SPS spokesman said that staffing levels were not believed to be a contributory factor in what happened.  Police Scotland said: "A report on this matter was received on 29 January. We await further details of the incident being confirmed."

Two People Airlifted to Hospital After Boat Capsizes

Two individuals have airlifted to hospital after their fishing vessel capsized on the west coast.  The vessel was travelling near Ardtoe near the Ardnamurchan peninsula when it overturned leaving two individuals stranded.  Coastguard rescue teams  including the Stornoway coastguard helicopter and Mallaig Lifeboat scrambled to the scene following reports of an upturned fishing vessel in the area.  The injured casualties were brought back to shore before being airlifted to hospital Raigmore Hospital.  The helicopter landed shortly after 6.10pm before transferring the injured parties into the hands of medical staff.

MPs Demand Government Protects Oil and Gas Sector
The UK Westminster government has been told it needs to step up “urgently” to protect the future of Scotland’s oil and gas industry.  The Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster has published a report outlining significant challenges facing the sector and recommendations to ensure it can thrive.  The committee heard from academics, industry bodies, unions, energy and climate change specialists, experts in decommissioning and regulators, as well as the UK and Scottish governments, over the course of an inquiry.  Noting the sector had “come through a significant and challenging downturn”, the committee report calls on the UK Westminster government to agree an “ambitious sector deal” to protect the future of the industry.  It states: “The opportunities presented by an oil and gas sector deal for Scotland are too significant to be overlooked.  The sector deal would both provide energy security for the UK for decades to come and support the industry to remain a global leader in energy production.”  The committee recommends developing new technology to maximise the recovery of 10 to 20 billion barrels of oil and gas remaining in the UK Continental Shelf, helping the industry reduce its carbon footprint, and supporting the transfer of skills and technology from the oil and gas sector into other industries.  The industry contributed £9.2 billion to the Scottish economy in 2017, supporting 135,000 jobs, the report said. Scottish Affairs Committee chairman and SNP MP Pete Wishart said: “The industry is going through a period of immense change as it prepares for a challenging future and the government urgently needs to step up and support the industry. My committee’s report sets out a pathway for the future of the industry – a sector deal that would support the industry’s past, present and future. There is potentially another 30 years of oil and gas production in the North Sea but it’s important the sector uses this time to ensure the sector’s future as production starts to slow. To do this the government needs to support the sector in exporting its skills and expertise around the world and to transfer the sector’s world-leading engineering into other sectors, like renewable energy and carbon capture technology.”

Museum of Scotland in Row Over Authenticity of Great Pyramid Stone
The Museum of Scotland has been caught up in a row about whether it has permission to exhibit a casing stone from an Egyptian pyramid.  It was announced last week that a block of limestone from the Great Pyramid of Giza was to go on display in Edinburgh.  Egypt's Antiquities Repatriation Department has since cast doubt over its authenticity and documentation.  However, the museum has insisted that a British engineer was given permission to take the stone in 1872.  The pyramid stone is due to go on public display for the first time next month as the centrepiece of an exhibition on ancient Egypt in Edinburgh. But Shabaan Abdel Gawwad, supervisor-general of Egypt's Antiquities Repatriation Department, has said he wants an official team to visit Scotland, asking for a certificate of possession and export documents.  He said measures would be taken to repatriate any artefacts found to have been illegally smuggled out of his country.  Mr Abdel Gawwad also said he did not believe the stone was from the Great Pyramid of Giza, as the museum claims. He said: "The ministry of antiquities has addressed the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take necessary measures to contact Scottish authorities and the museum asking for a certificate of possession and export documents for the casing stone and how it left Egypt and when the museum obtained it.  We want to see all certificates of possession for other Egyptian artefacts due to be exhibited in the museum as well.  The Egyptian law on protection of monuments no.117 for 1983 stipulates that trading or exporting antiquities is a crime.  If it's proven that this block or any other artefact were found to have been illegally smuggled, necessary measures will be taken to repatriate them."  Officials at the museum, in Edinburgh's Chambers Street, said the casing stone came from the Great Pyramid of Giza, and was found by British engineer Waynman Dixon, working on behalf of the Astronomer Royal of Scotland, Charles Piazzi Smyth.  He uncovered it in a rubble heap from road works being undertaken by the Egyptian government in 1869.  A spokeswoman for National Museums Scotland said: "In 1865 Piazzi Smyth had initiated a programme of research including the first largely accurate survey of the Great Pyramid.  In doing so, he had the official permission of the Viceroy of Egypt and the assistance of the Egyptian Antiquities Service.  The stone was brought to the UK by Waynman Dixon in 1872 and transported to Charles Piazzi Smyth in Edinburgh.  After reviewing all the documentary evidence we hold, we are confident that the appropriate permissions and documentation were obtained, in line with common practice at the time."  It has been reported in Egypt that the casing stone could not be from the Great Pyramid of Giza because it is made of the wrong material. Egyptian experts said that the outer layer of the pyramid was made of granite, like the pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure, and not of limestone as the National Museum of Scotland claims the casing stone is made from.  However, a museum spokeswoman added: "The Great Pyramid was originally clad in fine Tura limestone.  Even today, some limestone casing stones still remain at the base of the pyramid.  The block in our collections was discovered at the foot of the Great Pyramid, and we are confident that it is a casing stone from it."  Built for King Khufu and dating about 2589-2566 BC, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza pyramid complex.  The museum said the stone was one of the few surviving casing stones from the Great Pyramid and will be displayed in a new, permanent gallery at the museum called Ancient Egypt Rediscovered.  It forms the centrepiece of the Museum of Scotland's display about the design and construction of pyramids in ancient Egypt, and will be the only display of its kind in the UK when it goes on show in late February.

Lewis Crofters Win Airport Land Dispute
The Scottish Land Court has ruled that the disputed land at Stornoway Airport in Lewis should remain in crofting tenure.  Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (Hial) had sought a ruling that all crofting rights had been extinguished.  It had been argued that the land was requisitioned in World War Two to establish an RAF station.  Hial had planned to sell the area of land to a developer so that more than 80 new homes could be built. Melbost and Branahuie grazings committees disputed the plan, arguing that their grazing rights continued because there was no evidence that compulsory purchase powers had been used to acquire the land.  The crofters also argued there had never been a ruling from the land court to de-croft the land.  The land court has repelled Hial's pleas and sustained the crofters' plea that the disputed land remains in crofting tenure.  Common grazing is land shared by crofters for raising livestock.  A spokesman for Hial said: "It has always been our intention to develop this land, not for profit, but to create affordable, high-quality homes that would benefit local people.  We are disappointed the land court's judgement prevents us from implementing our plans. We will study the court's decision in full and will assess our position."  Hial said the decision did not impact on the day-to-day airport operations at Stornoway Airport.

Five Weeks of Free Singing and Musical Games
Returning for a third year after a highly successful run, NYCOS Wee Sing is a completely free project that introduces Primary 3s to singing through fun musical games.  Taking place on Wednesday evenings from 27 February at Stornoway Town Hall, children will learn about pitching, rhythm and beat through interactive games and activities.  This is a Youth Music Initiative funded project from NYCOS, Scotland’s youth singing organisation.  NYCOS Wee Sing is completely free.

Anti-Semitism on the Rise Across the UK, But Incidents Remain Scarce in Scotland

The number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the UK reached a record high in 2018 - but such instances remain rare in Scotland, a report by a leading Jewish charity has found. A total of 1,652 incidents - a 16 per cent increase on 2017 - were logged by the Community Security Trust (CST) in its annual report, a record for a single calendar year.  Of that total, 21 were north of the Border, an increase of five year-on-year. A spokesman for the CST said that while the Scottish total was relatively small, anti-Semitism remained an issue.  The charity, working with police and other community groups, has monitored anti-Semitism across the UK for 35 years and provides security to the country’s Jewish communities.  The vast majority of incidents were logged in London and Manchester, the cities home to the country’s largest Jewish communities.  An incident in Scotland saw a Jewish organisation receive an email in which the sender claimed: “I’m going to kill every single one of you ugly rat-faced kikes.”  The email was sent to the organisation in the aftermath of the prosecution of a man from Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, who filmed and put on YouTube a video of his pet dog performing Nazi salutes in response to its owner calling out antisemitic slogans such as “Gas the Jews”.  Mark Meechan was found guilty of breaching the Communications Act by posting material that was “grossly offensive” and “anti-Semitic and racist in nature”, in an offence aggravated by religious prejudice, following a trial at Airdrie Sheriff Court last April. A spokesman for the charity said: “Anti-Semitism is not the day-to-day experience of the Jewish community in Scotland. Scotland is a welcoming country for Jews but we cannot be complacent.”  There were 5,887 Jews living in Scotland according to the 2011 census, with the majority living in East Renfrewshire and Greater Glasgow.

Renfrewswhire Cop Makes Crackdown on Drug Dealers His ‘Number One Priority’

A Top cop has pledged to “shut down” drug dealers in Renfrew, Johnstone and the villages in the hope of improving the quality of life for residents.  Inspector Jim Cast stepped in to replace Cassie Glass last month as head of community policing in the area.  And he said his number one goal is to target drug dealers who are “making people’s lives a misery.” But to be able to do the job properly, the 41-year-old insists he needs the public to keep delivering information about any ongoing drug problems they have witnessed.  Insp Cast said: “Drug dealers are a massive issue. They attract users and, quite often, they will need to commit crime around them to get money.  From that, there can be motor vehicle crime if they are trying to get from A to B and there is also the anti-social behaviour, with needles being left around and people hanging about, causing others misery.  I find that, if you can shut down a drug dealer, you actually increase the quality of life for people in that area.  For me, that’s my number one goal – to get in and about the drug dealers.  While I can’t eradicate the problem, I feel I can make a difference and drive that aspect forward.  What we do need, though, is intelligence.  We ask the public all the time for information and they might be bored of telling us the same thing but they need to keep trusting us and know that, every time they pick up the phone, we do look into it and we will do something with it.  We may have to work on it, we might not be able to get a warrant straight away, but everything that comes in, we will look at and review. We are here to react to what people tell us.”  Insp Cast joined the police at the age of 18, following in the footsteps of his dad, who was an officer for 30 years. He initially worked in his home area of Essex on a pro-active drugs team, before moving on to become a dog handler.  After about eight years of service, Scotland came calling and he found himself working in both the old Renfrew and Johnstone stations as a response officer. He was then picked to work as a community officer for Linwood, before being promoted to a support unit post in Glasgow.  After a period of working as a response inspector covering Renfrewshire and Inverclyde, Insp Cast was handed his current role.  And he is excited about the prospect of using his skills to make a difference in the area.  He added: “I found working in response was brilliant but it wasn’t a job where you had the satisfaction of problem solving. This role is more about having geographical responsibility.  What I will bring to the role is a real enthusiasm for being pro-active. I want us to be as productive as we can.  I would like community officers to be the people to go to, I would like the community to recognise who their officer is and feel they can trust them.”

Climate Change Could Wreak Havoc on Scottish Species

From schoolchildren to businesses and anyone in-between, politicians are being told loud and clear that we need to urgently tackle climate change. Our natural world is already in decline, with global warming being considered as the greatest cause of species extinctions this century. And it is not just tigers and polar bears that will find it difficult to cope. The recently published Scotland’s Nature on Red Alert report demonstrates that the future is looking bleak for many Scottish species and habitats. Commissioned on behalf of Scottish Environment LINK, a network of more than 35 environmental charities in Scotland, and WWF Scotland, the report draws together existing evidence of climate change impacts on Scotland’s biodiversity.  In Scotland, climate change is changing the habitats of many species to such an extent that they can no longer live here.  Species such as the Snow bunting is already a conservation concern as its mountaintop habitats are under threat, due to higher temperatures leading to less snow cover. Scotland’s globally significant machair habitat, only found in northern Scotland and north-west Ireland, is under threat from rising sea levels. Machair holds a variety of plants and insects which attract birds such as the Corncrake and the Corn bunting; it is also the last UK stronghold of the Great yellow bumblebee.  Climate change is warming our rivers and seas. Forecasts indicate that Scotland may lose its White beaked dolphin population, as it is already at the edge of its range and is being pushed further north with warming seas.  Some of our most well-known fish species, such as Atlantic salmon and Arctic charr, prefer colder waters but as water temperatures rise, this will threaten the survival and growth of their eggs. While Scotland is regarded as a stronghold for the Arctic charr, a recent study showed that 10 out of the 11 UK populations of Arctic charr studied have declined in abundance since 1990.  Warmer waters are also affecting the availability of food for many of our seabirds. For example, Kittiwakes, which have declined by approximately 60 per cent since 1986, rely on sandeels. Sandeels feed on zooplankton, including the copepod Calanus finmarchicus, which does not do well in warmer waters. So as our waters get warmer, sandeel populations decline, which then affects seabirds such as the Kittiwake.  Climate change is also affecting food sources of other species such as the Golden plover and the Capercaillie. Changing climate conditions upset the availability of food on which chicks rely on.  In Scotland, climate change impacts on biodiversity will be further compounded due to our geography.  With Scotland located at the  western edge of the European  continent, many species will simply have nowhere to go as the Atlantic Ocean is a natural barrier to their movement.  These species losses are potentially devastating, and not just in terms of our environment’s natural and cultural value but also because of the ecosystem services our species and habitats provide. We rely on those services for our own wellbeing and to mitigate the impacts of climate change. If our peatlands dry out, they can no longer store as much carbon for us and our rivers may no longer protect us from flooding if rainfall levels rise.  To stem the tide of species decline in Scotland, we need to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.  However, emissions will go down faster if we have a healthy environment that can sequester carbon, while continuing to provide important ecosystem services such as pollination, clean water and air.  In other words, ambitious climate targets will only really deliver if we restore the health of our nature and improve its resilience to climate change.

Last Updated (Saturday, 09 February 2019 02:02)