Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 495

Issue # 495                                                Week ending Saturday 16th  March 2019

A Very Important Week and it is Not Just Due to Brexit, Crunchy Bacon and Bangers by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Mrs X was in one of her strops this morning and told me I should not have a cooked breakfast any more and that I should have cereal, like her. Why I would want to eat something that looks for all the world like the covering on the floor of a budgie cage is beyond me. I need to keep this firm physique, I told her, and I need to preserve my carefully-sculpted body. She seemed to agree and said that I did indeed have the looks of a certain Hollywood star. There is always a sting in the tail with her and, sure enough, she said that star was Danny DeVito.

She gets like this just once a year, hanging around as if she is waiting for me to say something and then flounces off as if I have done something wrong. Yes, I have noticed it is around this time of year. Always around or just before March 13. What is wrong with that woman? She should be like Theresa May. She keeps smiling whatever is going on. We were hurtling towards a no-deal Brexit and now we have ... er, something. Not quite sure what the PM has pulled off yet but if you can explain what that is all about in about 850 words then you are a better person than I.

We need to know if we are still going to have bacon and bangers. It seems that British farmers only produce 40 per cent of the pork we eat and the rest is Daniiish, of course, with some from Germany and Holland too. If we have no proper deal and it is too expensive to take in European pork, prices will shoot up next month. It will take years to get British pork production to a level to meet the demand. Funny, they never put that on the side of the red bus alongside their porky pies.

Who doesn’t want a fry-up now and then? Or maybe a bacon sandwich now and then? I think everyone does, even the people who make out that they are healthy and eat muesli for breakfast. I know one of these types very well. I met him the other morning as I was shopping for essentials for a light lunch - bacon, eggs, ketchup and juicy fat sausages. He made a point of making sure I knew he was going off to the gym. Running on the spot, star jumps and then doing crunches, he said. When I dismissed him with a “good for you”, he somehow took that as a compliment. He asked if I did crunches. I replied that if by crunches he meant that sound when you eat crispy bacon, then yes I do crunches.

Right now, Storm Gareth is rattling our windows as I tap away here. Please stop. Stop it, Gareth. Leave me alone, Malone. OK, I will sing in your choir. Anything, just make it stop. When it’s blowing a hooley outside, and the wind is howling in the chimney, that’s when I feel most peckish. I am not guilty about it because I saw the research that, despite all the scare stories about cancer-causing processed meaty foods, a proper cooked breakfast now and again is actually very good for you.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has announced it can help lower blood pressure. We need protein to build muscle and the 11 grams in a sausage and the 10 grams in a slice of bacon help keep our muscles in good order. If you take a brisk walk after breakfast, the hormone coenzyme Q1 in pork, which boosts metabolism, can help you burn off more fat than if you just had a boiled egg or porridge.

What about our eggs, I hear you ask. Good news. British egg producers - or as I call them, hens - can actually lay enough for us to be entirely self-sufficient in omelettes, eggy bread and suchlike. Brexit, it seems, is unlikely to have any effect on the egg part of the fry-up. As bread is made from wheat and about 85 per cent of what is used by British millers is home grown, most of what is produced in the UK is actually used right here - mostly for morning toast and lunchtime sandwiches, obviously. Wheat is like programmes on the new BBC Scotland station. Very little that’s fresh comes across the channel.

Mrs X is stomping around again. She thinks that I have forgotten that it’s someone’s birthday today. Yes, one of her favourite actresses Linda Robson, her from girly sitcom Birds of a Feather, has a special day today. Maybe she thought that I had forgotten that? How silly. The fact that this is in the Press and Journal today also proves that I did not forget it is Mrs X’s birthday too. Yes it is and I want to tell everyone that she is nowhere near as old as Linda Hobson. Didn’t I do well to remember, hon? Maybe you should think about taking me out as a reward? Whaddya think?

Walks on Bottom of Caledonian Canal

Members of the public have been able to wander along the bottom of a drained section of the UK's biggest canal.  Open almost 200 years ago, the Caledonian Canal in the Highlands took 12 years to build.  The waterway's 60 miles (96.5km) length includes lochs Ness, Oich and Lochy and 22 miles (35km) of canal with 29 locks.  A stretch at Fort Augustus has been emptied of water so that lock gates can be replaced, and this section was opened to the public on Friday.  Scottish Canals engineer Peter Robinson described the shape and size of the drained canal and its massive lock gates as being like an "upside down cathedral".  He said: "For me as an engineer this is a fantastic day to celebrate engineering, history, heritage and engagement with the public."  Mr Robinson added: "You can hear the people's astonishment at the scale of what it is."  Scottish Canals has drained more than four miles (7km) of the canal to provide safe access to the gates at Fort Augustus, at Loch Ness, and also nearby Kytra to replace lock gates.  Opened in 1822, with repairs and improvements made in the 1840s, the canal was built to designs made by famous Scottish engineer Thomas Telford. The waterway runs between Inverness and Fort William.  Marks left by men involved in the building of the Caledonian Canal 200 years ago have been found during the work.  Several stonemasons' marks have been found carved into stone of the walls that line the canal. The marks would normally be hidden underwater.  The stretch of canal involved in the locks work is due to be reopened to traffic next month.

Mary Queen of Scots Documents Found At Museum of Edinburgh
A group of documents believed to have been signed by Mary Queen of Scots have come to light at the Museum of Edinburgh after decades spent unseen.  Files showed they were gifted in 1920 but they had been lost in storage until recent inventory work by curators.  The handwritten documents are said to provide a "fascinating insight" into commercial life in Edinburgh in the 16th Century.  They can be viewed online and will hopefully go on display in future.  For the time being, the documents will remain in safe storage at the Museum of Edinburgh because of their fragile state.  Future plans are to have them assessed by a conservator and for further research to be done on them by experts on Mary's reign, after which the hope is to exhibit them for residents and visitors to enjoy.  Meanwhile, the new discovery can be viewed online.  Mary is one of the most fascinating figures in Scottish history.  She was born at Linlithgow Palace in 1542 and became queen when her father died soon after her birth.  However, Mary was taken to France in 1548 and Scotland was ruled by regents.  She returned in 1561 to begin her reign as Queen of Scots but was forced to abdicate at the age of 24 after six tumultuous years.  After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, Mary fled to England seeking the protection of her cousin.  Mary had once claimed Elizabeth's throne as her own and was considered the legitimate sovereign by many English Catholics.  The Scots queen was held in captivity for 18 years before she was executed at Fotheringhay Castle in 1587, at the age of 44.  Her son James became king of Scotland and England.  Donald Wilson, culture and communities convener at City of Edinburgh Council, said: "Museum and Galleries Edinburgh hold thousands of historic treasures on behalf of the city and its visitors, many of which are on display in our venues. However, some items, such as these documents, are too fragile to be on long-term display, so putting them online is a great way to showcase them and tell their stories."  The museum's history curator Vicky Garrington said the documents provided an "amazing bridge to the past".  "It's incredible to think of Mary Queen of Scots reading through these documents before carefully applying her signature," she said.  "We all know the story of Scotland's Queen, her eventful life and eventual execution, but in these documents, we see a different side to Mary.  Here, she can be seen carefully managing the everyday affairs of Edinburgh and Scotland. These documents help us to better understand her reign."  Frank Little of Museums and Galleries Edinburgh said they hoped the ongoing inventory work would continue to turn up "new treasures".  "We are constantly reviewing, caring for and researching our collections, and look forward to sharing more of the city's rich heritage with residents and visitors through our programme of exhibitions and online activities," he said.

The Barra Girls Who Travel Hundreds of Miles to Play Football
Two sisters are making round trips of more than 300 miles every two weeks to play football. Charlotte, 13, and Catriona, 12, O'Carroll travel from their home in Barra to Glasgow on Fridays to train with Glasgow City FC's under 15s.  They play for the team on Saturdays and Charlotte flies back home to the Western Isles on Sundays.  Meanwhile, Catriona stays on in Glasgow for training with a Scotland women's under 14 regional squad on Mondays.  The girls signed for Glasgow City's training academy in June last year after they were spotted by a scout. Charlotte is a striker and Catriona a midfielder.  Since January, Catriona has been receiving one-to-one training at Scotland's national stadium, Hampden, during the day on Mondays before joining an under 14 regional squad for training in the evenings.  She flies home on Tuesday mornings to get back to home and her school work.  The sisters, who also play football in Barra, come from a football-loving family.  Their dad John, a builder, is an SFA-qualified referee and coaches boys' football. He accompanies his daughters on their trips to Glasgow.  The sisters' brothers Michael, seven, and John, 10, also play football and big sister Kayleanne, 22 and a hotel manager, was known to kick a ball around in her youth.  The siblings are passionate Liverpool FC supporters.  Every second week, John accompanies his daughters for their football training in Glasgow.  One of Catriona's trips for practise with Scotland at Hampden was followed by BBC Scotland's The Nine.  However, it turned out to be one of those occasions where the journey did not go as planned, increasing the distance involved to make it a round trip of 500 miles.  The flight from Barra's famous beach runway to Glasgow was cancelled after they had arrived at the airport.  John and Catriona had to then take a mini bus to catch a ferry to Eriskay and then a taxi to Benbecula's airport for a flight to Glasgow.  The journey took five hours.  John says that as Catriona's football career progresses and the level of training and games become harder she will have to spend more time away from home.  Her dad says: "She will have to be here (Glasgow) a day or two days early because if you have an important game you have to be prepare mentally and physically. You have to be rested."  Mum Eileen, a primary school teacher who runs her own dance school with about 60 pupils, concedes the trips are expensive.  She adds: "We've been lucky enough to get a small amount of funding, but really it is just ourselves trying to fund this." Catriona says the journeys to and from home can be tough.  "Sometimes when it gets really hard I think: 'Why don't I just move?' she says. "But then I think I don't want to do that because all my friends are on Barra, and I would miss them."  John says upping sticks and moving to Glasgow would not be easy.  "We'd have to uproot the whole family," he says. "We got a life here in Barra.  But we'll keep making the journeys because of their love for football.  Catriona especially just lives, breathes, sleeps football," he says, adding that he had to stop her kicking a ball around inside the flat they stay in while in Glasgow for fear of disturbing their neighbours.  She was trying to copy a trick that she had seen on YouTube."

UK Oil and Gas Production Forecast Raised
Forecasts of how much oil and gas could be produced by the UK offshore industry have been revised upwards.  The industry regulator now believes 11.9 billion barrels will be extracted by 2050, up from an estimate of 8 billion four years ago.  So far 43 billion barrels of oil or its gas equivalent have been extracted from UK waters.  The new prediction is driven by lower production costs, technical advances and 30 new fields coming on stream.  Estimates of oil and gas potential have been part of the debate about the financial situation facing Scotland should it become independent.  The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) forecast in 2015 that a further eight billion barrels could be pumped by 2050, but that has now been raised by 3.9 million barrels.  Head of performance, planning and reporting at the OGA, Loraine Pace, said: "The 3.9 billion barrels identified is great news with 2018 being a productive year. New discoveries such as Glendronach and Glengorm highlight the future potential of the basin which could be boosted further with new investment, exploration successes and resource progression."  The regulator, reporting to the Treasury ahead of the chancellor's spring statement, said oil output last year was up 8.9 % last year, the highest UK oil production rate since 2011.  Gas production, however, fell by 3%. The total is expected to fall from this year onwards, but at a slower rate than previously forecast.  Capital expenditure also fell for the fourth successive year, although this trend is expected to be reversed in 2019.

RBS Trials Biometric Fingerprint Bank Card
Royal Bank of Scotland is to pilot a biometric bank card which will allow customers to verify a purchase using their fingerprint.  Those taking part in the trial will not need to use a Pin code to verify transactions of more than £30.  RBS said the technology was designed to increase security and make payments at tills easier.  The trial, involving 200 RBS and NatWest customers in the UK, is due to start in April and last three months.  The bank cards are fitted with a built-in sensor, which is powered by payment terminals.  When users place their fingerprint on the sensor, a comparison is performed between the scanned fingerprint and biometric data stored in the card.  RBS, which described it as "the biggest development in card technology in recent years", is working on the project with digital security company Gemalto, as well as Visa and Mastercard.  The technology has been trialled previously in Cyprus and elsewhere, but it is thought this will be its first test in the UK.  Howard Berg, UK managing director of Gemalto, said: "Using a fingerprint rather than a Pin code to authorise transactions has many advantages, primarily enhanced security and greater convenience. Cardholders can pay quickly and easily with just a simple touch, and they no longer need to worry about the limit on contactless payment transactions."

Rescued Glencoe Climber Dies After Hypothermia
A climber who was rescued after going missing on a mountain in the Highlands has died. The 57-year-old was airlifted from Stob Coire nan Lochan, part of the Three Sisters ridges in Glencoe, on Saturday.  He and another climber, 49, were found at about midday, both with hypothermia, after they were reported overdue from a climb the previous day.  Both climbers had travelled to the Glencoe area from Nottinghamshire as part of a larger group.  The other climber is at Belford Hospital in Fort William and described as stable.  The men were found following an extensive search involving police, HM Coastguard and mountain rescue teams. The two men were located with assistance from members of the public at around lunchtime on Saturday.  They were taken to hospitals in Aberdeen and Fort William.  The man's next of kin have been made aware.  The risk of avalanche in Glencoe on Friday and Saturday was rated "considerable" by the Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS), particularly at corrie rims, gully tops and steep slope tops.  A SAIS report warned that conditions would "remain wintry and unsettled" for a few days.

Sale Saves 20 Jobs At Livingston Computer Firm

A division of the Kaiam computer company has been sold to a Chinese tech firm, saving 20 jobs in West Lothian.  More than 300 workers at the firm's plant in Livingston were made redundant just before Christmas when the firm went into administration.  Administrators KPMG said its Planar Lightwave Circuits division would be sold to Broadex UK.  Under the deal Broadex will acquire the Livingston site, securing 20 jobs with the possibility of future expansion.  The division manufactures silicon wafers for telecoms and data uses.

How Will Brexit Affect the Port of Cairnryan?

William Gunn — known to his friends as Billy — is rattling along the A77 in a lorry packed with aluminium, heading for the ferry at Cairnryan.  He may know this road better than anyone, having made the trip from Glasgow to Belfast and back more than 2,000 times over the past 44 years.  "Doesn't bear thinking about" he laughs. "Always on a Wednesday. Back on a Friday."  Happily Billy, 62, likes driving on a route which many people in south-west Scotland curse for its narrow lanes, tight curves and dangerous junctions.  It's a clear run today but Billy fears that Brexit will clog up the ports and the roads.  "I would imagine there would just be tailbacks of traffic," he says. "They'll be queuing on the streets probably." So how might that happen?  Billy's weekly journey takes him on the shortest route across the Irish Sea from Cairnryan to Belfast.  Another busy passage runs from Holyhead, on the Welsh island of Anglesey, to Dublin but if Brexit were to lead to customs checks there, then more hauliers may choose to head north to Dumfries and Galloway to enter Northern Ireland instead.  Of course all of this is conjecture but that is the problem with Brexit. Nobody, from the prime minister down, seems to have a clue what is actually going to happen, leaving businesses and individuals alike struggling to plan.  Ian Hampton, a senior executive at Stena Line, the largest ferry operator in the North Sea says Brexit may well affect the flow of trade. "There are a lot of goods that flow up and down the isle of Ireland," he says.  "They take different routes to and from the United Kingdom, the mainland, so a decision on where that border could be could actually change the way trade moves."  Mr Hampton has even suggested that supplies of food and other goods might run short.  "On shortages, look it's a potential,"he said, Goods will inevitably require checks as you move to being a third party country to the EU so therefore it could inevitably create delay."  In Cairnryan, Lee Medd, business development manager at the Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce is more upbeat.  He evinces a mixture of concern about increased traffic on the roads — everyone here is worried about the roads — and optimism about the prospects for the UK outside the EU.  I think to be honest we will see a much increased flow of traffic coming in and out of this port. It's already got a lot of traffic coming in from Ireland but it's going to be seen as the easy option," he says.  "Business happened around the world before we were part of the European Union," he points out.  "People have always wanted to do business with Britain. Britain has always wanted to do business with other people around the world. That will continue. Let's just crack on with it. This could be the best thing to happen to the United Kingdom."  Romano Petrucci, who runs the Central Cafe in Stranraer, which has been serving up fish and chips for six decades, does not share that optimism.  Cairnryan is a tiny place with little infrastructure and few places to park so any overflow would put pressure on larger Stranraer, still smarting from the decision to move the port out of the town after 150 years.  Stranraer itself is capable of coping, says Mr Petrucci, indeed he would be delighted to see queues of hungry lorry drivers but he believes the roads would struggle to cope.  "We've  been completely and utterly abandoned for the last 20 years," he says. "We're the only place that doesn't have any dual carriageway for 50 miles in Scotland and yet we're a major port. So no we're not ready." Some residents here say they are not convinced that the authorities are ready either. They have accused Dumfries and Galloway Council of failing to explain its plan for Brexit.  Martin Ogilvie, resilience manager for the council, says the criticism is not entirely unfair, explaining that the uncertainty meant they had taken a decision not to scare people with speculation.  But, he insists, they are prepared. "There are plans already to stack up the vehicles on certain roads through just outside Stranraer," he says.  "It's almost like a rolling queue but we can't have these queues blocking the main trunk roads."  The council, he insists, is developing options to get the traffic off the main roads and find somewhere safe to queue. One option is to use the old pier in Stranraer.  Back in his lorry, still moving for now, Billy is disgruntled about the whole affair.  The referendum campaign, he says, did not do much to inform the public about what would actually happen if the UK voted to leave the EU.  "We were not told a great deal about it," he says. "Nobody even tried to explain the full consequences. Even to this day, I don't think folk truly understand the full consequences of leaving Europe."

Sturgeon Uses Vote Defeat to Justify Scottish Independence Push
Nicola Sturgeon has declared Theresa May should ‘hang her head in shame’ at tonight’s Brexit vote defeat as she used the momentous result to incite a fresh push for Scottish independence.  The First Minister reiterated her calls for a second referendum on the UK leaving the European Union as she described the 149-vote defeat of Mrs May’s deal as “entirely predictable”. In an extended statement posted on Twitter, Ms Sturgeon said: “The Prime Minister and the UK Westminster Government should be hanging their heads in shame this evening.  Tonight’s outcome was entirely predictable, and if they had been prepared to listen at any stage and engage constructively instead of simply pandering to Brexit extremists, they could have avoided it. Instead we now have a Government that has effectively ceased to function and a country that remains poised on a cliff edge.  Now that the Prime Minister’s deal has been resoundedly defeated for a second time, what is abundantly clear is that the UK Government and Parliament have been unable to turn the result of the 2016 referendum into a workable or deliverable plan to leave the European Union. The votes now scheduled for the coming days will give Parliament the chance to definitely reject the catastrophe of no-deal and to allow more time for a sensible way forward to be found - but the Prime Minister should definitively rule out no-deal, instead of offering a free vote on the issue.  Ruling out no-deal and extending Article 50 would stop the clock on Brexit and enable another referendum on EU membership to be held.  We will support any such referendum, provided it has the option to remain in the EU on the ballot paper. Scotland’s needs and voice have been ignored by the UK Westminster Government throughout the Brexit process, and today a handful of DUP MPs held more sway over Scotland’s future than our own national Parliament - that demonstrates more clearly than ever that the case for Scotland becoming an independent country has never been stronger.  We will continue to stand up for Scotland and to reflect our nation’s overwhelming vote to remain in the EU.”

Three Climbers Killed in Deadly Avalanche on Ben Nevis
Three climbers have died and another one has been injured in a deadly avalanche on Ben Nevis.  An air ambulance and Coastguard helicopter were sent to the scene on the UK’s tallest mountain after police were alerted about 11:50am today.  Police have confirmed that two climbers injured following the avalanche had been taken off Ben Nevis, but one of them has since died. The other has been airlifted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital.  Two others died at the scene and have been taken to Fort William.  Authorities said the avalanche had occurred in the number five gully area on the mountain.  Police are still trying to trace next of kin and have not yet named those involved.  Fort William Inspector Isla Campbell said: “This has been a challenging operation and I want to pass on my thanks to the mountain rescue teams, colleagues at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and Scottish Ambulance Service for their assistance in extremely difficult conditions.  I would also like to praise members of the public and staff from the Scottish Avalanche Information Service who were on scene at the time and provided immediate assistance.”  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “absolutely tragic news”.  She tweeted: “My thoughts are very much with the bereaved and injured. And my gratitude as always for the work of our emergency services, Mountain Rescue and Coastguard.”  Ben Nevis, near Fort William in the western Highlands, is a popular destination for experienced climbers, attracting 125,000 visitors each year.

Fair Isle Fire Family 'Humbled' by Kindness
The family who ran the Fair Isle Bird Observatory have said they are "humbled" by messages of support from around the world.  The world-famous site was destroyed by fire on Sunday. David and Susannah Parnaby lost most of their possessions in the blaze which destroyed the two-storey wooden lodge and their adjoining flat.  Mrs Parnaby said she was "incredibly grateful" for the support shown to her family.  An online appeal for financial help for the couple and their two young daughters, which was set up by friends, attracted more than £20,000 in the first 48 hours.  Mrs Parnaby said that watching the news could make you think the worst of people but the "reality of life" was much different. "Most people are lovely, kind, caring and supportive," she said. "If there is something good comes out of this, it is that."  Fair Isle is a remote island half way between Orkney and Shetland, which is three miles long, one and a half miles wide and has a population of just 55. It is famed for its knitwear, its place in the shipping forecast and migratory birds.  It is one of the best places in Europe to see rare birds that stop off for a rest and feed along their migration routes in spring and summer.  The first bird observatory was established in 1948 and the current building was constructed in 2010 at a reported cost of £4m.  It offers accommodation to about 30 visitors at a time.  The observatory is run by an independent charity but has close links to other organisations such as the National Trust for Scotland which owns the remainder of the island.  Fire took hold of the wooden building on Sunday afternoon and burnt on through the night. Neither the volunteer firefighters from the island nor fire crews that were flown and shipped in from mainland Shetland were able to contain it.  The entire observatory was burnt to the ground but the Parnabys were able to grab some treasured possessions such as family photos before the blaze reached their flat.  "We got the chance to get a few bits out and we are very grateful for that," said Mrs Parnaby.  She said it was lucky there was no-one staying in the lodges at the time because it was the winter season.  "We are really busy during the summer," she said.  "We are very grateful we did not have to go through the worry of evacuating everybody and wondering what you would do with people who were there.  It was such a relief the following morning to find out that everyone was safe."  Mrs Parnaby said the island had pulled together to help the family.  "We live in a very close community and everyone is helping," she said.  "We have had some parcels in from Shetland with toys for the kids and things like that and you can't help but feel surrounded by care and support."  Her husband said the family will remain on the island.  "There was never a thought of not staying," he said.  He said he hopes the observatory, which was insured, can be rebuilt.  "It's going to be a big rebuilding but it can be done," he said.  Mr Parnaby added: "We want to make sure everyone knows how thankful we are."

Outlander Author Gets Award for Boost to Scottish Tourism
Outlander author Diana Gabaldon has received an award for boosting Scottish tourism through her fantasy saga.  The US writer, 67, received an International Contribution to Scottish Tourism award at the Scottish Thistle awards.  It comes as VisitScotland published a paper detailing how sites used in the TV adaptation have seen visitors soar.  The report says that set-jetting is a growing trend in Scotland, partly due to the "Outlander Effect".  Ms Gabaldon has told in many interviews how she was inspired to write the Outlander series after watching an old episode of Doctor Who.  Her lead character Jamie Fraser is based on the kilted companion Jamie McCrimmon, played by Frazer Hines, who appeared during the Patrick Troughton doctor era.  Outlander follows a romance between Jamie, a Highland poacher and Claire Randall, a World War Two nurse who is catapulted through time to the Jacobite era. It was adapted for TV in 2014 for US network Starz, with Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe in the lead roles. Filming continues to be based in Scotland, with many Scottish locations doubling as France, the Caribbean and North America.  On receiving the award, Ms Gabaldon said: "It's fabulous. I hear a great deal from fans of mine who have read the books and seen the TV show, who come to Scotland because they all write to tell me how wonderful it was and they send me souvenirs of their trips.  I have a stack of postcards as well as a small number of Loch Ness monsters scattered around the house."  The Outlander Effect and Tourism paper, published on Thursday, reports that attractions that appear in the Outlander TV series have seen visitor numbers soar by 67% since 2013, from 887,000 to 1.5million.  Doune Castle, near Dunblane, which doubles as the programme's Castle Leoch, has seen the largest surge - 226.5% between 2013 and 2017.  Numbers at Blackness Castle, near Linlithgow, which features as Black Jack Randall's headquarters, increased by 181.7%. And Glasgow Cathedral's visitors increased by 66.8% after it was screened as a French hospital.  All Scottish visitor attractions were surveyed to discover how screen tourism and Outlander has impacted on their business.  Almost all respondents considered screen tourism as positive for the industry and a fifth of attractions located next to filming locations said they saw an increase in visitors.  Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: "The impact of Outlander on Scotland has been truly extraordinary.  It has been amazing to see the global reaction to Diana Gabaldon's stories of adventure, romance and Scottish history - and the subsequent television adaptation - and seeing it translate into visitor growth for Scotland.  Screen tourism continues to be a growing trend, however it is Outlander which has been the story in recent times, inspiring millions of visitors, from the USA to Europe and even China, to embark on their own Scottish adventure."  Fiona Hyslop, cabinet secretary for culture, tourism and external affairs, added: "Scotland's wonderful landscapes, rich history and culture continue to captivate visitors from home and abroad, making tourism one of our most important industries."

Edinburgh to Be Home to New National 'Supercomputer'

Edinburgh University is to be home to a new £79m national supercomputer.  The announcement was made as part of Chancellor Philip Hammond's Spring Statement. It will replace the current supercomputer, the £43m Archer system which was first unveiled in 2013 and is capable of more than one million billion calculations a second.  The new model, Archer2, will be five times quicker than the UK's current capabilities.  While much of technology gets increasingly smaller with time, the current Archer has its own room at the Advanced Computing Facility at Easter Bush.  It has been housed in the Edinburgh University facility for over a decade.  The room is also filled with noise as thousands of servers process complex problems amid a drone of cooling fans.  At one point it was in the top 20 most powerful computers in the world.  However the new Archer2 will elevate the UK's position within that table ensuring the UK is once again at the cutting edge of supercomputing capability.  Supercomputers are capable of analysing huge amounts of data and can deal with multiple requests at a time.  They are commonly used to model weather patterns, to calculate airflow around aircraft and to design cars.  Experts also believe they will be key to breakthroughs in medical treatments for conditions including HIV and arthritis.  Paul Clark is the director of high performance computing systems at EPCC, the university's supercomputing centre.  He said: "Most other industrial nations invest heavily in their supercomputer infrastructure.  Supercomputers are used across many sectors, they generate jobs, they generate innovation and new science.  Making sure the UK is at the forefront of that is critical."  The university will work with United Kingdom Research and Innovation to install Archer2 over the next year.  Archer2 is part of a £200m investment by HM Treasury in research and technology.  Philip Hammond said that remaining at the forefront of the technology revolution was a key pillar of the government's strategy as he announced funding for the project.  He joked that perhaps with the right algorithms Archer2 might even be able to come up with a solution to the backstop.

Edinburgh’s Gin Boom: How Did the Capital Become the Home of Quality Gin?

The current popularity of gin is best seen in Edinburgh.  A decade ago, where there were no gin distilleries, today there are eight and more in the pipeline.  It was five years ago that Edinburgh’s first gin stills started producing the alcoholic spirit flavoured with juniper that we call gin.  We all know about Edinburgh Gin’s stills underneath the Rutland Hotel at the west end of Princes Street and Pickering’s converted-dog-kennel distillery at Summerhall, the old Royal Dick vet school.  Their tours and gin-making experiences mean the two distilleries have become firm favourites with tourists and locals alike.  Edinburgh Gin also has ambitious plans to build a visitor centre in Market Street – perfectly placed for all those the Royal Mile tourists.  At about the same time as Edinburgh and Pickering’s were opening up, Derek and Karin Mair were starting to make Firkin gin in Leith.  Going into gin-making was a departure for Gleann Mór Spirits, their firm of independent whisky bottlers, but they used that experience as inspiration.  They matured some gin in a firkin, a small-sized whisky barrel, creating a gin which is a light golden colour and has notes of toffee caramel, vanilla and sweet oak. They recently added the more traditional London Dry-style Leith Gin to their portfolio, following it up with LeithAL, a Navy strength edition. As I researched Scotland’s gins and their makers for my book The Gin Clan, it was apparent that the interest and enthusiasm for gin was pretty much countrywide, but it is Edinburgh that feels at the heart of things, with more than 20 different gins associated with the city.  And it is not just a recent phenomenon. Gin has been part of Edinburgh life for hundreds of years.  On the one hand there is the Dutch connection.  Just across the North Sea, what is now the Netherlands, was historically one of Scotland’s closest trading partners. Jenever, the juniper spirit that is the forerunner of gin, would have arrived aboard the ships docking in ports such as Aberdeen, Dundee and Leith.  Scots were often soldiers of fortune and would have fought with – or against – the Dutch and been aware of the jenever-fuelled “Dutch courage” of troops who were said to have drunk their ration before going into battle.  Thirsty sailors – and everyone else – required something to drink. With indifferent water supplies, spirits and ales were the answer and makers congregated in dock areas where they had easy access to raw materials and transport.  There are records that show that around the docks of Leith there were eight licensed distilleries in 1777, and there were probably another 400 illegal stills as well.  Some of the spirit was heading south and James Stein is said to have exported 2,000 gallons of spirit in 1777 to be “rectified into gin”.  Over the decades Edinburgh’s spirit-making fortunes fluctuated and by the 1970s Melrose Drover was the last gin standing – until that is the modern gin boom of the past decade. Its International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD) is the only organisation in the UK to offer Honours and Masters degrees in distilling and brewing and its students take advantage of one of the world’s most respected centres of distilling expertise.  In the five years to 2018, 387 students have graduated with an MSc and the interest of those graduates has increasingly been focussed on gin. Some of the graduate distillers remain in Edinburgh, others find their niche elsewhere.  And there are plenty opportunities. Research has shown that in Scotland 23 distilleries went into production in 2018, with at least 12 more due to come on stream in 2019. In addition, there were another 18 new gin brands launched. In the Capital, four new distilleries opened last year and two future distilleries launched their first gins.

SNP Release A List of 67 Ways the Highland Economy Could Be Hurt by Brexit

One of the UK’s most forthright remainers has released a 67 point list itemising the ways the Highland economy could be adversely affected by leaving the European Union.  Despite the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford currently battling against a no-deal exit, he was still keen to lay out some of the issues that would affect his Highland constituents.  The document titled "how leaving the EU will potentially impact negatively on Scotland’s rural economy” offers 67 points all arguing that Brexit is a bad idea.  They range from political areas such as claiming that no rural constituency voted in favour of leaving the union to the current impasse with just over two weeks to go to the scheduled Brexit day.  It also pointed to the potential shortfalls in the workforce with 95 per cent of official veterinarians in Scotland coming from the EU while non-UK EU vets made up 45 per cent of those employed in government veterinary services.  Proposals to impose a £30,000 salary requirement for skilled workers would make if difficult for Scotland’s rural economy to recruit seasonal migrant workers.  Currently, the sector depends on up to 10,000 non-UK migrant workers in the soft fruit and vegetable sectors for harvest in summer and autumn.  Tens of millions of pounds could be lost as there is no certainty the LEADER programme will continue – it has provided £50 million from the EU with match funding of £50 million.  Nor is there any certainty that funding for agri-environment schemes which supports climate change objectives will be available post-Brexit – a potential loss of around £40 million per year. The publication of the list comes as MPs rejected an amendment calling for an extension of Article 50 in order to stage a second referendum by a huge 249 votes.  Then, in the first good news for Number 10 for some time, MP Hilary Benn's amendment for the parliament to take the Brexit process out of the government's hands and develop a their own version of Brexit. Later the House will vote on whether to ask the EU for a delay to Brexit, if that course is taken then there it is likely that Prime Minister Theresa May will attempt for a third time to get her deal passed parliament or else the country will leave the union without a deal.  However, there are other potential outcomes including attempts at renegotiation, another referendum, election, a vote of no confidence, or no Brexit at all.  If MPs do not vote to extend article 50 then the UK is likely to leave the EU on March 29, with the Prime Minister’s deal or without it.  Speaking before the voting, Mr Blackford said: "The UK Government has descended into total chaos. Theresa May has lost control. That means it's time to put the decision on our EU membership back to the people. Parliament has now resoundingly rejected Theresa May's deal and leaving with no deal.  Only a fresh referendum can now unblock things. The UK government must now extend or revoke Article 50, and set into motion plans to hold a second EU referendum – with Remain on the ballot paper. Staying in the EU is the best deal of all. It’s what Scotland and Northern Ireland voted for, and it’s the only way to protect jobs, living standards, our public services and the economy. Holding a second EU referendum is the best and most democratic way out of the impasse at Westminster. The UK government has failed and the people must now have their say. Scotland did not vote for Brexit and we should not be dragged out of the EU against our will. And the way Scotland has been ignored throughout the Brexit process means the case for independence is now stronger than it has ever been," he added.