Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 494

Issue # 494                                              Week ending Saturday 9th  March 2019

We Should Be Very Careful with Our Money Whether We Are Paying for Pants Or Police
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Sometimes you hear news items and you think it’s just obvious, right? The government has cut 20,000 police officers and now knife crime and other offences are going up. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police says that, of course, there is a connection. Fewer officers, more crime. Obvious, innit? It doesn’t take a genius to work it out that if no cops are about some hoodlums will chance their arm and take advantage. Yet the Prime Minister has just been quoted on the radio saying there is no connection whatsoever. What the heck?

If I was an opposition MP, I would ask if the Right Honourable lady opposite had discovered Harris Gin because it also made me a bit gaga the other week when I had a bit too much of it. Her attitude is just a symptom of when political dogma becomes stronger than the common sense the politicians were supposedly born with. It makes them justify their own actions no matter what, even if that means claiming black is, er, white. Yes, she is under pressure because transport secretary Chris Grayling has not quit yet, despite awarding a contract to a ferry company with no ships and not investigating the Gatwick drone properly, but doesn’t Theresa May see common sense?

Of course councils and governments need to be careful with public money so when it is spent, it should be invested wisely. My mate John is an ex-soldier down London way and he tells me he has neighbours in a big council house down there. They sound awful. There’s a grumpy old woman with a pack of irritable dogs. She is always going here and there in her car which isn’t taxed or insured. It doesn’t even have a number plate but the cops turn a blind eye. Her husband is also very grumpy and is always shocking people with his off-colour comments. Two of their grandsons were supposed to be in the Army a few years ago but were always out partying in nightclubs. Poor John is fed up of living near Buckingham Palace.

We all have to budget. Mrs X was on the phone ordering clothes the other day and that classic song The Lion Sleeps Tonight came on. It was so funny as she and the woman on the phone tried to work out who sang it back in the 1980s. I heard Mrs X say: “It is has something to do with my husband’s underwear so I must order a few pairs of pants for him too.” Then I heard her say, no, she didn’t think it was Long John Baldry. Certainly not, I do not wear long johns. Then Mrs X said: “Got it. I knew it was something to do with his pants. It was Tight Fit.”

Yeah well, it wouldn’t be the lyrics that would remind her of anything else. How do they go again? A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh. Ee-e-e-um-um-a-weh. Ee-e-e-um-um-a-weh.

Ah, memories. Which reminds me that I must remember to remember the anniversary of Mrs X’s birth this year. One of my resolutions for 2019 was to not forget it this time. I’m pretty sure it’s this month. The problem is that when you get to a certain age, some figures and dates that were lodged in the grey matter for ages somehow slip out. Last year, I got it a bit wrong because I had a few bob put aside for a meal or a trip to Harris. She has simple tastes. So I asked what she would like for her birthday. She replied that all she wanted was for me to remember it. I said: “OK, I promise to do better than the last few years. Now, how long is it until your birthday?” She replied: “364 days.”

I have been banging on about public spending but all of us, employees and service users, should stop and think. For example, John, the ex-soldier, also told me about another ex-soldier who applied for a job at a certain Scottish local authority. At interview, he was asked if he had ever worked in public services before. He explained that he had been in the Army and served in Afghanistan. Then he was asked: “Are you disabled?” He said: “Well yes. A mine exploded near us and I got injured in the backside. I still get pain.” Finally, he was asked if he was allergic to anything and he replied: “Only caffeine.”

The interviewer then said: “OK, start on Monday. Our normal hours are from 8am to 5pm but you can start at 10am every day.” The ex-squaddie was puzzled. “If others start at 8am, why don't you want me here until 10am? I'm not looking for any special favours.” The interviewer replied: “Listen, mate. This is a council job. For the first two hours, we just stand around drinking coffee and scratching our behinds. Well, there’s no point in you coming in for that.”

Edrington Executive Steps Up to Become Macallan Managing Director
The head of Asia Pacific and India for spirits group Edrington has been named as the new managing director for its Macallan single malt brand.  Igor Boyadjian, who is currently based in Singapore, will succeed Scott McCroskie who was recently appointed as the Edinburgh group’s chief executive.  McCroskie said Boyadjian will bring valuable international experience to the role, having lived and worked in South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, adding: “Igor’s strong commercial background, entrepreneurial mind-set and deep understanding of prestige brands will ensure that The Macallan will continue to grow and prosper.” Boyadjian will take up the position on 1 April and will move to Scotland with his family in the summer. He said: “Under Scott’s leadership, The Macallan has demonstrated a constant pursuit of excellence and dedication to creating the finest single malt Scotch Whisky. It is both an honour and a privilege to work alongside a dedicated and talented group of people all over the world, whose mastery, creativity and pride for the brand have helped push the boundaries to make The Macallan what it is today. I am looking forward to my role in continuing to drive innovation in the brand that will inspire future generations of consumers, while staying true to our deep rooted heritage and traditions.”

Brexit: Scottish and Welsh Parliaments Pass Joint Motion

Scottish and Welsh politicians have joined forces to urge the prime minister to change her position on Brexit.  The Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly voted to pass identical motions calling for the planned exit date of 29 March to be put off. MSPs and AMs also reiterated their opposition to the UK Westminster government's plans and to leaving the EU without a deal.  The UK Westminster government said its deal was a good one for Scotland and Wales.  It said the focus should be on gaining further assurances from the EU to allow the prime minister's deal to go forward.  Mrs May has promised MPs a vote to delay Brexit if they cannot agree on her deal.  This was the first time in 20 years of devolution that the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales had debated the same motion simultaneously.  Leading the debate at Holyrood, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish and Welsh governments had been "brought together by our dismay, bordering now on despair, at the UK Westminster government's handling of Brexit".  She said the Brexit process should be extended "long enough to enable a better path to be taken" - either a compromise exit which would keep the UK in the single market and customs union, or her preference of a second EU referendum.  She added: "Pressing ahead with Brexit, knowing we are heading for disaster, makes no sense at all. Whatever most people voted for, it certainly wasn't where we find ourselves now."  Scottish Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw said Mrs May's proposed deal could provide a "smooth and workable" exit from the EU, and would provide the groundwork for a "strong and abiding friendship" with the bloc going forward.  The MSP argued that if the prime minister's deal was rejected, then the "default" result would be the UK leaving without a deal - "no amount of bluster gets away from it". Scottish Labour backed the motion, in tandem with the Labour administration in the Welsh Assembly.  Leader Richard Leonard said Mrs May's deal was "dead", arguing that "there has to be a new approach" to avoid a "completely unacceptable" no deal exit.  He said Labour still hoped there would be a chance to "fundamentally revise" the Brexit deal or to force a general election, but said if this was not possible then there was "no choice" but to hold a new referendum.  Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie also argued in favour of a new referendum, saying the UK government's negotiations had demonstrated "incompetence on a historic scale" and saying "this chaos must be stopped".  And Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said politicians should "give the British people the final say", with a referendum on endorsing Mrs May's deal or remaining in the EU.  MSPs ultimately voted by 87 to 29 to pass the motion, while AMs in Wales did so by 37 to 13. The debates in the devolved parliaments come as UK ministers resumed their efforts to secure legally-binding changes to the prime minister's Brexit deal that might get MPs' backing in a week's time. UK Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox will meet EU officials in Brussels in search of guarantees over the backstop plan to avoid border checks in Ireland.  MPs will vote on the deal by 12 March, with the UK currently due to leave the EU on 29 March.  Leading Brexiteers are seeking assurances that the backstop - a controversial plan which will see the UK aligned with EU customs rules until the two sides' future relationship is agreed or alternative arrangements worked out - will not endure indefinitely.  A UK Westminster government spokeswoman said: "An orderly Brexit is in the UK's best interests and the best way to achieve that is for MPs of all parties to support the prime minister's deal."

Man Faces Motoring and Firearm Charges

A driver has been charged after police allegedly discovered a gun in his car following a collision with an Audi in Glasgow.  The white Audi crashed into the 29-year-old's white Nissan Juke on Gartloch Road, near Avenue End Road at about 06:30 on Saturday.  It is alleged the two motorists were speeding before the crash which forced the Nissan off the road near Craigend.  The Nissan driver faces charges on firearms and road traffic offences. Emergency services attended the incident and police allegedly discovered a weapon in the Nissan. The driver was taken to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary to be treated for his injuries before he was arrested and charged.  He was due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Monday and a report has been submitted to the procurator fiscal.  Officers said the two cars were driving on Bargeddie Street in Riddrie prior to the crash and may have travelled to Gartloch Road together.  Police are trying to establish if the firearm allegedly recovered from Nissan Juke was connected to the incident.  Inquiries also suggest the Audi, which drove off after the crash, may be a Q7 model.  Anyone with information on the incident has been urged to contact Police Scotland's non-emergency line.  Insp Craig Warren said: "Our officers have been carrying out inquiries since the road traffic collision and we now believe that the vehicles were driving at speed from Bargeddie Street and into Gartloch Road before colliding in Avenue End Road.  He added: "Think back, you may have heard or seen something that can help us. We would also ask for anyone with any dash-cam footage that could help us to come forward."

St Colmcille: Remembering A Lesser-known Saint
Ask anyone around the globe who is the patron saint of Ireland and you can expect to be answered definitively and quickly.  Thousands at home and millions abroad celebrate the life and legacy of St Patrick every 17 March.  But perhaps it is fitting that as a land feted for its saints and scholars, Patrick is not alone in having national patronage.  Now there are moves afoot to honour arguably - at least in the country of his birth - the lesser known of the emerald isle's saintly trinity, some 1,500 years after his birth.  Colmcille, meaning "the dove of the Church" in Gaelic, or Columba was born at Gartan in County Donegal in 520 or 521. With St Patrick and St Brigid, he is honoured as one of his homeland's patron saints. "St Patrick wasn't Irish, almost certainly he was British. St Brigid, we aren't overly sure if she even existed as a real person," argues historian and Columba expert Dr Brian Lacey.  "She may have been a Pagan goddess who was translated to become a Christian saint.  But Colmcille was a genuine historical person of which there is absolutely no doubt. He is a huge figure in our political, diplomatic, cultural, scientific, religious history and it is appropriate that he is remembered and honoured."  Born into Irish aristocracy, Columba is said to have been a descendant of legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages.  Niall was a fifth century Irish warlord reputed to have fought against the Romans and armies of ancient Scotland, England and France.  In Ireland's north west, there are many sites associated with Columba.  It is said he founded his first monastery in what is now the modern day city of Londonderry or Doire Cholm Cille, in the year 545.  Dr Lacey said that establishing the facts of Columba's early life in Ireland are a challenge for historians.  It was not until about 100 years after his death that his life was documented by an abbot from Iona, Adomnán.  "The legend is that Derry was founded because of the monastery built by Colmcille but the earliest recorded account of Colmcille founding Derry's monastery dates to the 10th century, 500 years after the monastery was founded, Dr Lacey said. The early records specifically mention another person as the founder of Derry's monastery - a man called Fiachra, who was actually a cousin or nephew of Colmcille."  Medieval monasteries were not akin to those of modern day, Dr Lacey points out..  "In those days they were intellectual powerhouses - they were hospitals, hotels etc all rolled into one.  Indeed, all those monasteries and churches founded at that time were essentially family businesses.  So when we use the word 'monastery' we are referring to a major cultural and religious institution.  "I know the legend is strong about Colmcille founding Derry but the historical facts don't support that.  "But what we can say without any doubt is that the monastery was founded, if not by Columba himself then, certainly by relatives of his."  Irrespective, Derry is a city which also holds the saint as its patron.  Known as the city of the oak, it was given Christian roots by its Columban founders.  Its schools and churches, streets and parks, cultural and sporting clubs, bear his name still.  Columba is held in high regard by Protestants and Catholics alike.  The Return of Colmcille pageant stood out as the centrepiece of Derry's year as the inaugural UK City of Culture.  A massive Christ the Redeemer-esque statue of Columba was once mooted for the bed of the River Foyle.  And it is a city from which the saint, along with 12 monks, left bound for the Scottish island of Iona where much more is known and better documented about his life's work.  St Columba arrived on Iona from Ireland in the year 563.  He is widely credited as one of the key figures who brought Christianity to Scotland.  Columban missionaries, setting out from Iona, would found churches and monasteries all over western and northern Britain.  "Iona was one of the most important centres of religious life, cultural life, even of scientific life in this part of the world," Dr Lacey said.  "When he founded the monastery at Iona, one of the things they did there was they began to record Irish history, writing down events, battles here, foundation of a church there."  Almost all the history of Ireland and Scotland up until 740 AD we get from these chronicles invented by Colmcille and his followers on Iona. Without them we wouldn't have any Irish or Scottish history of that period," he said.  "He really was a most important individual and left behind huge cultural, historical and religious inheritance."  The Book of Kells and the Book of Lindisfarne are among the works attributed to Columban monasteries. Were it not for the "complicated religious politics of the Middle Ages", argues Dr Lacey, Columba could well have been named Scotland's patron saint.  He lost out to St Andrew, who of course was one of the apostles and who never visited Scotland."  It is even said Columba had the first encounter with the Loch Ness monster in the year 565.  According to the writings of Adomnán, the monster surfaced from the River Ness and darted towards Lugne, one of Columba's followers.  Columba is then said to have performed a miracle, saving Lugne and banishing 'Nessie' back into the river's icy depths.  This is the first recorded reference of the legendary Scottish beast which has gone on to become a world famous part of Scottish folklore and culture.  Now in Derry and Donegal, plans are being put in place to honour Columba to mark 1,500 years since his birth.  A series of public workshops have been held by local councils on how best to remember the saint. Derry City and Strabane District Council said it wanted the public to help shape "a series of memorable events in 2020/21 that both celebrates and promotes our rich Columban heritage".  Dr Lacey said: "There are people in Tokyo, Moscow and all over the world studying Colmcille.  His reputation spread across the world," he said.

Forestry School Embarks on MA Training Scheme
A group of eight forestry apprentices is embarking on a new two-year training programme at the Scottish School of Forestry.  The school, located at Inverness College UHI, is welcoming the first intake of students on its new Modern Apprenticeship (MA) in Trees and Timber.  The programme, which is supported by Forest Enterprise Scotland, will allow the students to study and work at the same time.  Welcoming the students during a visit to the school to mark this week’s Scottish Apprenticeship Week, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said there was a high demand for young people learning forestry skills.  He said: “It is very heartening to see that young women and men have recognised forestry is a hugely rewarding career.  The choices that these young people have made are not only great for them, but are also great for the sector and for the local area, which is keen to attract, train and retain young people.  They have also entered forestry at a hugely exciting time, when forestry itself is about to embark on a new chapter, with the creation in a few weeks of two new agencies – Scottish Forestry and Forestry and Land Scotland.”  He said the two new agencies would be instrumental in helping Scottish forestry to deliver more benefits to people, the environment, communities and business over the next 50 years and beyond.  The apprentices will receive on-the-job experience and training with Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) from May this year.  They will also develop their skills through a recognised SVQ2/3 qualification from the Scottish School of Forestry.  Mr Ewing said FLS, which comes into being on April 1, has ambitions over the next few years to increase the number of apprentices and other trainee routes in forestry roles, as well as in professions such as civil engineering, and digital and business administration.

New Viewing Platforms for Inverness Riverside

A new series of "people perches" are to be installed along the River Ness to let people "engage" with the water – as a row continues over how plans for a more major piece of waterside art were approved.  One of several planned for the length of the water it is currently in storage, with plans for its installation next month.  Designed by Glasgow-based design practice Dress for the Weather it says on its website: "Rest Spaces is one of a series of art initiatives to encourage people to experience and engage with the river as it flows through the city.  It will encourage people to stop and enjoy the river in a variety of ways: to perch, to explore, to bask, to gather." Councillor Isabelle MacKenzie, chairwoman of the city of Inverness arts working group, which is overseeing the wide-ranging public art programme of which Rest Spaces is one part, said she thought it was “rather magnificent”.  Adding that, cumulatively, the artworks being created along the riverside would make walking in the area a more interesting experience she said: "There might well be some detractors but we are all individuals."  Councillor Ken Gowans, who was a vocal critic of the previous "tilting pier" proposals shelved several years ago, said he was more relaxed about the Bank Street installation. "It will be in a very busy and popular location, especially with tourists, and I suspect it will add some interest to that part of the river," he said.  Their remarks were made as other councillors continued to voice anger over revelations that the larger scale curving walls artwork proposed for a site close to the Ness Islands has been nodded through by planning officers rather than being put before elected members.  Previously called The Gathering Place and My Ness, but referred to as My River Ness in the recently approved application, this artwork involves two crescent-shaped walls curving out from opposite sides of the river.  Having been approved by officers under delegated powers councillors have reportedly been told there is now no way to call it in to the planning committee.  Ness-side SNP councillor Ron MacWilliam said he is set to meet with Inverness city centre manager David Haas over the issue and has called for a special meeting of the city of Inverness area committee.  "The natural urban environment is a key asset for Inverness and shouldn’t be degraded by development where it can be avoided," he said.  "The commitment by the previous council to spend on the original Gathering Place design, whilst not to everyone’s pleasure, was based on an economic impact assessment which has never been revised to reflect the new location and design.  Common sense tells you that not a soul will visit Inverness to view this utterly boring creation."  He added: "As things stand it appears that as a member of the Inverness city committee, a trustee of the Inverness common good fund and member of the south planning applications committee I, and therefore the people I am elected to represent, have not been involved in the decision-making."  Inverness West councillor Bill Boyd, who also sits on the planning committee, said he has written to officers to complain about the way the application has been dealt with.  However Councillor Graham Ross, depute provost for Inverness, said it was his understanding that the application had been advertised following normal procedures and had failed to attract enough objections to require it to go to committee.  "The decision to approve was then taken under delegated powers, which means it met with all the planning regulations," he said.

Stone Circle Moves to New Home Overlooking £250m Glasgow Regeneration Scheme

A modern-day stone circle, built 40 years ago in a deprived part of Glasgow, is set for rebirth as part of a major regeneration project in the heart of the city.  The ring of stones, which stood on a hill in the city’s Sighthill area, was earmarked for demolition as part of the £250 million redevelopment scheme, but proved so popular with the public it has been saved and translocated. Commanding a panoramic view over Glasgow city centre, the 17 stones will stand at the spot originally picked in the 1970s but ruled out due to tower blocks obscuring the horizon sight lines.  As well as the giant whinstone slabs, selected from a quarry in Kilsyth, topsoil from the old site is also being moved to preserve funeral ashes scattered at the landmark.  The circle – the first astronomically alligned version to be built in the UK for around 3,000 years – was the brainchild of Troon-based science writer Duncan Lunan, who has been back on site overseeing the latest works.  Drawing inspiration from prehistoric monuments at Callanish in Lewis, the Ring of Brodgar in Orkney and Wiltshire’s world-famous Stonehenge, he designed the circle as an astronomical observatory with the standing stones aligned with the sun and moon and so able to mark the passing seasons. As part of the shift, Mr Lunan has had to recalculate the positioning of the stones to suit their new home.  But he believes the recreated circle will be even more imposing than its first incarnation and closer to his vision for the megalithic site as the 6ft-tall stones will be set higher out of the ground.  He said: “In the original site some of the stones were half buried due to the slope they stood on but now they will be erected at their true height.  We’ve had to make a couple of changes and recalculate the alignments for each stone to take account of the new location but I’m very happy with it so far.  The new site means the stones will be more visible than before and can be seen from the road.  I think they were a slightly under-appreciated asset for the community but now they stand as a symbol of the area’s regeneration.”  Most of the stones are already in place, with the rest due to be erected in the next few days.  A 4.7 hectare park will be created on reclaimed land at Newhaven under the vision to revive the waterfront site.  The final stone will hoisted into place in time for the spring equinox, on 20 March – exactly 40 years from the day it was first completed in 1979. Councillor Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “The re-emergence of the Sighthill Circle is a fitting symbol for the regeneration of the area, an area which in the near future will welcome a new community, schools campus, parkland and connections to the city centre and nearby communities.  The support for the retention of the stones was compelling and I’m delighted they will now become a central feature of a reborn Sighthill, linking to the area’s past and acting as a gateway to a new neighbourhood that was for too long disconnected from the rest of the city.”  The job of erecting the circle was carried out under a government job-creation scheme.  As project manager, Mr Lunan suggested it should serve as a tribute to Scots archaeoastronomists Prof Alexander Thom and his son Dr Archie Thom, Prof Archie Roy and Dr Euan Mackie.

Lord Mayor of the City of London Backs Scots Growth
The person in charge of promoting the UK's financial industry around the world has said there is great potential for Scottish firms to expand abroad.  Peter Estlin, Lord Mayor of the City of London, also said industry's move to operating outside the EU would be "relatively smooth".  An estimated 161,000 people work in financial services in Scotland.  Mr Estlin said he wanted Scots firms looking to expand to join him on foreign trips to places like China.  The recent announcement by Barclays Bank that it would open a big operation in Glasgow is one of several signs of growth in Scotland's financial sector.  And a 2018 industry report revealed Scotland outpaced London in terms of jobs growth in financial services. Mr Estlin said Scotland had a growing reputation for innovation, particularly the way universities help promote and start businesses in growing areas like the financial technology - or FinTech- sector.  He said: "London is already quite a crowded place, and one of the things we're keen to do is ensure that we've got as much investment coming into Scotland and other cities round the UK."  The Lord Mayor, who has been travelling abroad to promote the UK industry, said companies like Edinburgh-based investment firm Baillie Gifford were looking to expand in China. "It may be that we can help," he said, adding: "It can be better if you've got the businesses with you. I can talk well but I'm not sure I can talk as well as they can in terms of their own businesses."  Mr Estlin added that The City of London was "largely not" worried about Brexit, due to happen on 29 March.  He said: "We have had turbulence in the sense that businesses have by and large prepared for the worst-case scenario - a no-deal. But in the meantime, the city's seeking to promote 'we want a deal' because we believe that's the best outcome."  The Lord Mayor - who is the elected head of the City of London Corporation - said of Brexit : "From the financial services perspective it'll be a relatively smooth transition.  That's partly because what's fuelling the economy underneath is this innovation into FinTech, cyber and these creative industries that is growing jobs and opportunities."

Sweet Smell of Success for Harris Candle Company
Candle and home fragrance company Essence of Harris is celebrating after achieving the prestigious Investors in Young People Standard accreditation.  Developed in 2014 as a result of the Wood Commission recommendations, Investors in Young People is a framework that helps organisations in Scotland recruit, develop and retain young people.  Jamie McGowan, founder of Isle of Harris-based Essence of Harris (pictured, with two members of staff and the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon), said: “We are honoured to receive the Investors in Young People award in recognition of our young, talented workforce based at our factory in the Outer Hebrides.  There has always been a problem on Harris with the younger generation moving away for education and employment, and we wanted to change this; we aimed to create a business which would allow people to stay on the island to build their career. We owe a huge amount of our business development to our workforce of young, creative staff.”

Theresa May Says SNP Have 'No Mandate' to Pursue Independence

The SNP have reacted furiously after Theresa May claimed they have “no mandate” to pursue independence and mocked their latest currency plans.  They demanded a correction and accused the Prime Minister of choosing to “scurry” from the Commons chamber rather than hear their complaints.  It followed a series of noisy exchanges at Prime Minister’s Questions on the constitution.  Aberdeen North MP Kirsty Blackman, the deputy SNP leader at Westminster, raised Tuesday’s unique double vote at Holyrood and the Welsh Assembly on Brexit.  The devolved legislatures voted simultaneously against no-deal and urged the UK government to extend the withdrawal process in order to find a better deal than Mrs May’s. Ms Blackman said: “Isn’t it the case that the Prime Minister has no mandate from Scotland for either no-deal or her deal?”  Mrs May replied: “We entered the European Union as the United Kingdom. We will leave the European Union as the United Kingdom. And I also say to the honourable lady that the SNP has no mandate from the Scottish people to continue to pursue independence.”  As the chamber erupted and Ms Blackman and other SNP MPs shouted “Yes, we do”, Speaker John Bercow was forced to call for order.  Mrs May then mocked new SNP plans for an accelerated move to a Scottish currency after independence. She said: “I seem to recall back in the 2014 referendum the SNP were absolutely adamant that Scotland would keep the pound. There have been a few changes since then. They’ve gone through looking at the option of the euro, then they went back to sterling, now they’re into an independent currency.  This government is working to get a Brexit deal that protects jobs and our economy. The SNP should focus on that rather than continuing to pursue their independence fantasy.”  Nicola Sturgeon says the SNP have a "triple lock mandate" to hold a second independence referendum because of its wins at the 2016 Holyrood election, the 2017 general election, and the 2017 vote by MSPs in favour of temporary referendum powers.  However, Mrs May has refused to grant such powers.  At the end of PMQs, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford raised a point of order and said it was disappointing Mrs May had “chosen to scurry from the chamber” when she knew it was coming.  He said the PM's claim that the SNP had no mandate was “simply not the case.”  He said: “The Scottish National Party stood on a manifesto commitment [in 2016] of an independence referendum if there was a material change of circumstances. Now it might be a surprise to the Prime Minister, but we won the election.  Perhaps, more importantly, we took a motion to the Scottish Parliament because there is emphatically a majority for independence in that parliament. And we won that vote in March 2017 by 69 votes to 59.”  He said the PM should come back and “correct the record” and accept there was a mandate.  Mr Bercow said there was “nothing untoward in parliamentary terms” in what Mrs May had done, and said it was “in the nature of political debate” that Mr Blackford might disagree.  Ms Sturgeon has promised an update on using her mandate for a second referendum since last autumn.  Earlier, Mr Blackford raised the case of 87-year-old Danish grandmother Tove MacDonald who is being forced to register and an EU national despite living in Scotland 59 years.  She told STV this week: “I was brought up during the German occupation so we always looked up to Britain, we thought Britain was just fantastic. I’m afraid it’s not quite the same.”  He asked Mrs May if she would “end this heartless policy” and tell all EU citizens in the UK “to work, live and love that the UK is their home, without precondition?”  She replied: “We have consistently said to EU citizens who have been living here for many years and others who have come here more recently that we recognise the contribution they have made to our society and our economy, and we want them to stay... This is their home. We want them to stay, and they can stay.”

Comment - R
Well there's a surprise. Teresa May ignoring reality again. But there again this is reality - for Mrs May that is.  I have never seen anyone in public office (Donald Trump excepted) who is so convinced that their world view is the only view and all other views are simply wrong. Thus being defeated by the largest margin in UK parliamentary history is simply water off Mrs May's back. Some people find this admirable but there is something of the pathological about it.

Jobs Boost for Arnish Yard Near Stornoway

The Arnish yard near Stornoway that was mothballed about a year ago has been brought back into use to construct supports for offshore wind turbines in a move that is expected to create some 80 jobs.  The fabrication facility is operated by BiFab, which is now owned by Canadian company DF Barnes. BiFab has been awarded a contract by GeoSea to produce supports worth up to £26.5 million as part of the Moray East offshore wind farm development.  Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish minister for energy, said: “The award of this contract is great news for BiFab and the wider Isle of Lewis community.  The Scottish Government’s continued support, and collaborative approach with DF Barnes, has helped secure, at peak, 82 good quality jobs for this yard.  However, we have always been clear there remains hard work ahead to rebuild the pipeline of work for the business.”  Sean Power, vice president of business development at DF Barnes, said: “This announcement is the first stage in a long process that aims to develop and secure a sustainable business.  We have made a long-term commitment to BiFab and are actively leveraging our global skills and expertise to position the company for future growth.”

Hunterston B: Pictures Show Cracks in Ayrshire Nuclear Reactor
The first pictures have emerged of cracking in the graphite bricks which make up the core of nuclear reactors at Hunterston B Power Station in Ayrshire.  Reactor three has not produced electricity since cracks were found to be forming quicker than expected.  About 370 hairline fractures have been discovered which equates to about one in every 10 bricks in the reactor core.  Owner EDF Energy says it does intends to seek permission from the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to restart.  It first has to prove it can still shut down the North Ayrshire reactor, which has not produced electricity for a year, in all circumstances.  The graphite bricks form the vertical channels within the reactor where the nuclear fuel is housed. They sit alongside narrower channels where control rods can be dropped into place to counteract the nuclear reaction.  Tests and modelling have been undertaken to ensure that an earthquake would not distort the control channels and prevent the power station being shut down. Station Director Colin Weir said: "Nuclear safety is our overriding priority and reactor three has been off for the year so that we can do further inspections. We've carried out one of our biggest ever inspection campaigns on reactor three, we've renewed our modelling, we've done experiments and tests and we've analysed all the data from this to produce our safety case that we will submit to the ONR. We have to demonstrate that the reactor will always shut down and that it will shut down in an extreme seismic event."  The operational limit for the latest period of operation was 350 cracks but an inspection found that allowance had been exceeded.  EDF plans to ask the regulator for permission to restart with a new operational limit of up to 700 cracks.  The company accepts that the cracking is 'life-limiting' for the reactor but will not say what it believes to be a limit beyond which it would be unsafe to operate.  Mr Weir added: "We have demonstrated our operational allowance, we've demonstrated our safety allowance. This cliff edge is still to be demonstrated. It has got a huge safety margin before we are anywhere near a cliff edge."  When operational, the two reactors at Hunterston B provide a base-load of electricity which is enough to power 1.8 million homes.  It has advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGC) similar to those at Heysham 1 and 2, Torness, Hartlepool, Hinkley Point B and Dungeness B.  The industry expects all 14 reactors to eventually be decommissioned because of the cracking.  Nuclear expert Prof Neil Hyatt from Sheffield University said: "The structural integrity of the graphite core has always been known to be the ultimate limiting factor to the lifetime of these reactors. So, ultimately there may come a point in time where those reactors have to come offline and are not able to restart."  Hunterston B is expected to continue producing electricity until 2023.  If it were forced into decommissioning early because of the cracks - with others following suit - it could cause serious energy supply problems.  With construction of a wave of new nuclear power stations running into difficulties, it would probably mean more of our power coming from fossil fuels such as gas.  Concerns have also been raised about the consequences for local jobs if Hunterston closed early.  Councillor Tom Marshall said: "Most of the large employers round about here have disappeared - from Greenock all the way down to Kilmarnock - and this is one of the last major employers.  So, if it is safe to run most people locally would be happy to see it running."