Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 496

Issue # 496                                               Week ending Saturday 23rd   March 2019

She Once Said That Brexit Was Brexit But it Could Actually Be About Her Own Exit
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

She is not going to quit. She has vowed to press on even though Speaker John Bercow has really scuppered her plan to wheech Brexit through Parliament with just a few days to go. Theresa May wants to show the country, and Europe, and those of her own doubting colleagues who think her job could be done better by Jeremy, Sajid or even Boris, that she is also not for turning - even if she is headed into a blind alley which she will have to do somersaults to get out of. The EU is not for turning either.

So what’s going to happen? As beleaguered politicians do, she says she will keep right on to the end of the road but there is not much tarmac left for her to keep right on on - if you know what I mean. Very senior government figures seem to be suggesting there will be no need for a confidence vote and that she will just slip away. Others say she alone will choose the right time and that it will be in the summer. My app says the weather is going to get warmer next week - but maybe that is just here in Plasterfield. An early Indian summer? That may do for May.

If she was released from her employment contract, what would the PM do? When prime ministers have outlived their usefulness, they tend to fill their time speaking and writing even although most people have completely lost interest in what they have to say. In her case, Theresa May did work in banking way back. It was, of course, no ordinary bank branch where she toiled from nine to five. You may have heard of it. It is in a rather imposing building in Threadneedle Street in the City of London. Yep, the Bank of England.

After that, she worked at what was then called the Association for Payment Clearing Services (APCS). I knew that building well. I may have met her there because they were among my best customers. Having taken a temporary job in London before I started with a newspaper there, I drove a delivery van for top cheese shop Paxton & Whitfield. My challenge was to get on the road early and battle through the traffic and get to about 20 offices in the City. They needed their cheese and other delicatessen orders well before lunch.

APCS always had a big order and they were the friendliest bunch on my round. I regularly got invited in for a cuppa. Executives often sat in with the kitchen staff and chewed the cud. No, I don’t recall if the PM was there. Anyway, they were much more welcoming than the insufferable snobs at Baring Bros. Wonder what happened to that once-revered banking institution? Ah yes, I remember. Some guy called Nick Leeson was already working there while I was going up in the world - well, going up in their lift actually - carrying heavy cartons of Edam, Gouda and the curiously flavoursome Stinking Bishop.

Anyway, Mrs May is probably too, er, mature to be a bank clerk. So if she doesn’t want to write and speak she may want to go for a different role. Imagine advertising for a job and Theresa May sends her CV in. Job interviews are the worst, aren’t they? I have been working as a recruiter and they can still be unpredictable. I always advised candidates to be positive but one guy recently took that the wrong way. When he was asked what his strengths were, he said he was an optimist and a positive thinker. The interviewer asked for an example and he replied: “When do I start?”

Or she could advertise herself for a job in Situations Wanted. There is a chap from Inverness looking for a job on a certain online forum. In his notice, he says: “I’m looking for a job where I am politely ignored and left to my own devices, preferably with unlimited internet access, doughnuts and coffee.” There do not seem to be too many employers rushing to hire him. Funny that.

Graham, from the west side of Lewis, sells office equipment. When the new owners of his company paid off him and half the staff, he had to start job hunting. He went for an interview in Glasgow for a sales job similar to his old one. There was a presentation first with a lot of the usual nonsense about how much he could earn if, but only if, he hit his targets. He saw through the spiel very quickly but stayed for the craic.

At the interview, the managing director tested his selling skills. He said: “Take something off this desk and sell it to me and make it irresistible.” Graham did not hesitate. He grabbed the boss's laptop and strode out the door. Within minutes, he got a call from the frantic MD demanding that he return the device immediately. Graham replied: “OK. I’ll tell you what. I will cut you a deal. £250 and it’s yours.” What a guy. He’s still on the dole though.

Green Light for Shetland Subsea Link But Western Isles' Rejected
Plans to lay a £709m subsea electricity cable from Shetland to the Scottish mainland have been provisionally approved by Ofgem.  The energy regulator said it was minded to give the go-ahead for SSE Networks' (SSEN) 600MW transmission link.  It would allow new wind farms on Shetland to export electricity to the rest of the UK.  However, Ofgem has rejected current proposals for a 600MW cable linking the Western Isles to the mainland.  The energy regulator said it had concerns about the cost to consumers of having the cable constructed based on the link serving just two wind farm projects on the isles.  Ofgem said it would instead support alternative proposals for a 450MW cable, or even a 600MW link but at a reduced cost.  The regulator said the alternative projects would need to "more appropriately" protect consumers from additional costs of funding "a potentially significantly underutilised link". SSEN said it had managed to reduce the estimated costs of its proposed 600MW link from £662.9m to £623.8m, and the 450MW cable from £616.8m to about £596m.     It had proposed having the Western Isles link laid by 2023.  SSEN said the Shetland link could be completed in 2024.  Ofgem said it was consulting on approving the Shetland cable subject to SSEN demonstrating, by the end of this year, that the Viking Energy Wind Farm project planned for the islands had been awarded subsidies through the UK Westminster Government's Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction.  The subsidies would protect consumers from the risk of paying for a link that was bigger than needed, said the regulator. Colin Nicol, SSEN managing director, said the company hoped to convince Ofgem of the need for 600MW Western Isles cable. He said: "Whilst we welcome Ofgem's recognition of the need for network reinforcement, we strongly encourage them to reconsider and approve a 600MW link.  A 450MW link would be short sighted, limiting the potential for community schemes to benefit from renewables expansion. Moving to a 450MW at this late stage also introduces risks and uncertainty which, in turn, could impact on the delivery of a transmission link to the Western Isles."  Industry body Scottish Renewables welcomed the decision on the Shetland cable, but has concerns about the Western Isles link.  Hannah Smith, senior policy manager, said: "Scotland's remote islands have some of the best renewable energy resource in the world.  We welcome Ofgem's minded-to position on the Shetland interconnector - the lack of which has left promising projects effectively locked out of the energy market for want of a network connection.  The decision to approve a smaller connection to the Western Isles - which is in an almost-identical situation - does, however, raise questions about whether consumers now and in the future will be denied access to the islands' potential for low-cost renewable generation."  Western Isles local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, which has been calling for a cable since 2005, said Ofgem indicating its support for a 450MW cable was a "step in the right direction".  But leader Roddie Mackay added: "I am, however, extremely disappointed at the short-sightedness of Ofgem's position of being minded to approve a 450MW connection rather than 600MW. I am confident that the present pipeline of renewables projects will quickly fill a 600MW cable and that Ofgem's fears around 150MW of stranded assets are ill-founded. It will be in the consumers interest for a 600MW connection to be built rather than risk the high costs of a second inter-connector in a short number of years."

Councillors to Review Glen Etive Hydro Plans
Councillors are to review proposals for three small-scale hydro-electric schemes in a Highlands glen.  The three projects in Glen Etive, near Glen Coe, are among seven that were approved by members of a Highland Council planning committee last month.  But one committee member, Andew Baxter, secured enough support for the review.  There is both support and opposition to the three schemes.  The campaign Save Glen Etive and Mountaineering Scotland, a body representing the interests of hillwalkers, climbers and skiers, are among those opposing them. However, Glencoe and Glen Etive Community Council supports the overall hydro project, which could produce enough electricity for up to 8,000 properties and raise community benefit funding.  The developer Dickins Hydro said it appreciated the glen was a special area and would do everything in its power to reduce any impact on the environment.

Pupils Who Learn Lessons in Gaelic Come Top of the Class

An ever-present amongst the top schools in Scotland over the past few years has been the Glasgow Gaelic School.  This year is no exception with the school coming top for council-run state schools in Glasgow and tenth overall after 68 per cent of school-leavers secured five or more Highers.  Although located to the west of the city centre, the school is unusual because its catchment area covers the whole of Glasgow and all lessons are taught through the medium of Gaelic.  When the secondary opened in 2006 it only had 33 pupils, but there are now 343 and numbers are growing.  Donalda McComb, the school’s headteacher, said the bilingual nature of the education on offer helped boost attainment and provided a special atmosphere. “We have created a unique and welcoming campus. Because we are an all-through school from three to 18 we can track the pupils very closely as they develop and we really get to know them,” she said.  “We also have very strong family engagement and we expect parents to be involved in their child’s learning from nursery through primary and into secondary.  Eighty per cent of our families don’t have Gaelic in the home so they are making informed decisions about sending their children to this environment, but we also say to them that they have to work hard alongside their child.” Ms McComb dismissed a perception the secondary was outperforming others because parents who choose a Gaelic language education in cities are more middle class.  According to poverty statistics, some 15 per cent of pupils from the Glasgow Gaelic School come from neighbourhoods classed as the poorest in Scotland - although 17 per cent come from the richest.  She said: “Some 19 per cent of our school population are eligible for free school meals and every year that is increasing.  By now we should be over the perception of Gaelic as for middle class families. That is not the case.  We encourage all families from the local area and beyond so that parents know what is ahead and it is unfair if people still see us like that. Our class sizes are no smaller than any other school.”  Ms McComb said bilingual education was known to help pupils develop.  “There is a lot of research about how bilingualism helps you cognitively because it gives you two windows on the world,” she said. “Gaelic education is also very rich because it tells you all about the culture of Scotland with music, traditions and history.  We have to embed that in our children to foster a pride in learning this language that may be new to them or may have been lost to them.  Many of our pupils will go on to have families themselves and enrol their own children into Gaelic medium education, but others may not use the language in future. Whatever our pupils do, all have had a benefit from bilingual education.”

Comment - R
This was my old school (Woodside Senior Secondary) and in the late 1940's this school and Bellahouston Academy were the only schools that taught Gaelic, Woodside also had a Gaelic choir in which I was a treble until my voice broke.  The school eventually closed but it was reopened in August 2006 as Glasgow Gaelic School (Sgoil Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu), providing Gaelic medium education for pre-5, primary and secondary pupils.  I believe there are now three Gaelic Medium schools in Glasgow - so much for those who said Gaelic was dead - but there again I’m biassed.

Major Study of Scots Vocabulary Being Launched by University of Aberdeen
A major new linguistic survey of the Scots vocabulary is being launched, in a bid to help preserve the language.  Researchers at the University of Aberdeen will lead what they describe as the first comprehensive appraisal of the language to be conducted since the 1950s.  It will cover Scots as well as what is known as Ulster-Scots.  The project - said to be a "huge undertaking" - is expected to take many years to complete.  Robert Millar, a professor in Linguistics and Scottish Language at the University of Aberdeen, explained: "In Scotland we have the Linguistic Atlas of Scotland and Dictionary of the Scots Language but both draw heavily on material collated in the 1950s. In Ireland no such equivalent exists for Ulster Scots.  The Linguistic Survey of Scots in the 1950s was ground breaking but does it remain relevant today? This is a question we will be seeking to address.  This will be the first real attempt to move towards a survey that will give us a sense of the language in the 2020s. We hope it will represent the same great leap forwards as the original survey did and can contribute greatly to our national dictionaries."  Prof Millar said: "Language naturally changes over time and words are replaced and cannibalised.  "Much of what makes Scots so distinctive is entwined with occupations and pastimes that have changed beyond recognition since the surveys of the 1950s.  Nonetheless Scots continues to play an important role in our cultural and everyday lives and informs both our identity and sense of place."  The project will get under way in the coming year.  Prof Millar added: "The previous survey was quite patchy and relied on volunteers so the quality of the information recorded varies significantly.  We will use the north east of Scotland, which has one of the best preserved native speech varieties, as a test bed but want to collate information from across Scotland and the areas of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland where Ulster Scots is spoken.  Our approach will be much more scientific and we want to make our findings freely available on the internet once it is complete."

5,000 Highlanders and An Unprecedented Exodus to Australia

Details of the 5,000 Highlanders who emigrated to Australia amid an unprecedented exodus from Scotland during the 19th Century have been published.  The records from the Highland and Islands Emigration Society have been released online by the National Records of Scotland.  The society was set up in the aftermath of the Highland potato famine that put 200,000 people at the risk of starvation after the disease first hit crops in autumn 1846.  The society’s aim was to use emigration as the solution to the appalling destitution endured by many on the islands and west mainland coastal communities. The society was funded by landowners, whose estates were increasingly becoming insolvent, and wealthy benefactors to support the passage of Highlanders to Australia.  In 1852, the society published a pamphlet calling for donations for the emigration scheme.  Prince Albert was listed as the patron with Queen Victoria personally donating £300 to the cause.  Support also came from British colonies in Australia in return for emigrants arriving on their shores.  Residents from Skye were the first invited to apply for funding with around 3,000 people - many of them entire families - on a list of potential emigrants within a month of the scheme being launched in 1852.  Among those to leave were Donald Buchanan, his wife Ann and their three children, from Snizort on the island.  The emigration records include a note which described the Buchanans, who were given a promissory note for £14 ahead of the journey, as a ‘fine family’.  The society replaced a system of poor relief that was seen by some over time to be too generous and ineffective at bringing around real improvement in quality of life on the Highlands and Islands.  Critics believed the system was at risk of making Highlanders effectively beggars and dependant on hand outs with moves taken to give a pound of meal only to those who had finished an eight-hour day of labour.  Sir Charles Trevelyan, assistant secretary to the Treasury and chairman of the Highlands and Islands Emigration Society, wrote to his aunt in 1852: “The only immediate remedy for the present state of things in Skye is emigration and the people will never emigrate while they are supported at home at other people’s expense...they will see the necessity of emigrating and working for their subsistence instead of living in Idleness and habitually imposing upon benevolent persons.”  The society, underpinned by Trevelyan’s conservative views and often blatant anti-Celtic bias, was determined to erase the “mistaken humanity” of charity and cure the social ills of the Highlands by removing its people, under coercive force if necessary, wrote Sir Tom Devine in his book To The Ends of The Earth, Scotland’s Global Diaspora.  Sir Charles proposed that 30,000 to 40,000 people from the Western Highlands and Islands should emigrate, according to Sir Tom.  The chairman called for a ‘national effort’ to rid the land of ‘the surviving Irish and Scots Celts’ and encourage waves of Germans - ‘orderly, moral industrious and frugal’ - to take their place.  Newspapers of the day supported the emigration of Highlanders, including The Scotsman, The Glasgow Herald and The Inverness Courier. Applicants for passage to Australia were chosen based on a person’s level of destitution and the skills they could contribute.  The society selected applicants and paid contributions towards assisted passage and clothing.  The remaining amount was met by landowners and public subscription with emigrants required to repay the Society all of the money given to them, so it could in turn be used to assist others.  According to National Records of Scotland, interest in the scheme increased.  In July 1852, 951 people were sent from the Highlands, all from the lands of Lord Macdonald of Waternish, and from the estates of Skeabost and Burnsdale.  The emigrants were also later chosen from Harris, North Uist, Strathaird, Raasay, Iona, Adnamurchan and St Kilda. Emigrants from St Kilda travelled on board the Priscilla in October 1852.  An article on the society’s published by National Records of Scotland said those boarding the ship Georgiana sang the 23rd Psalm amidst much sobbing.  However, it added: “Others, boarding a ship in 1852 were said to have ‘beaming countenances [that] would rather suggest the idea that they are anticipating the pleasures of a summer excursion then that they are tearing themselves away from their fatherland,” the article added.  The voyages were often beset with danger and disease. A mutiny was reported on the Georgiana, which left Glasgow for Port Philip in July 1852, after a number of passengers demanded to go on shore in search of gold.  Meanwhile, 100 people died at sea on the Ticonderoga, which left Liverpool in August 1852. Many hundreds were seriously ill by the time the ship reached Australia given outbreaks of scarlatina and typhus amid unsanitary conditions onboard. The boat was banned from stopping at Port Philip and redirected to a deserted beach, now called Ticonderoga Bay, to be quarantined. Another 68 bodies were buried in the bay with reports many bodies were packed into mattresses and thrown overboard.  National Records of Scotland holds a letter received by John Macdonald in Scardoish, Moidart, from his brother who sailed on the Araminta in 1852.  While noting the “prettiest spot” of Colac in Victoria, he added: “The water is very bad and very scarce in some parts.  “It is murder to bring old people out here; nothing will do but a strong family of men who can stand fatigue and keep sober.  A man with a weak family had better stay at home, as he will not get an employer to support them for him; and suppose he did get £1 a day, he could not keep them in the town. The smallest room in town is charged 15 shillings weekly’.”  The society wound up in 1857 as economic conditions improved in Scotland and the demand for labour in Australia dwindled.  It was Trevelyan himself who arranged for the emigration records to be placed in Register House in Edinburgh.  Today, they serve as an accessible document that traces the lives of hundreds of Highlanders who left the toughest of circumstances behind in the hope of better days. While some did not survive the journey, for many it may well have been the voyage that saved their life.

Scots Living in Remote Communities Claim They Are ‘F*****’ Because of Brexit

Scots living in remote areas have issued a stark warning that “we are f*****” as result of Brexit, an official report as revealed.  The blunt language appears in a document published by Scottish Rural Action (SRA). It featured on a side banner on page four of the document. It was one of a number of banners attributed to participants in a workshop which asked them to imagine what newspaper headlines they might expect to see after Brexit.  Amanda Burgauer, SRA chairwoman, said that the exercise had been used as an “icebreaker” and that several of the participants had used “earthy language” in describing their feelings towards Brexit. The comments are explained on the following page, saying they had been put forward by those taking part in the workshop event. Ms Burgauer said that she would flag up the “design and layout” issue with the SRA design team.  The Scottish Government has said that although the SRA report was funded through its Brexit Stakeholder Fund, it had no editorial role.  The report will be launched at an SRA event with cabinet secretaries Mike Russell and Richard Lochhead in Elgin on Monday.  Its findings also detailed the potential impact of Brexit on rural Scotland, suggesting that it could lead to “21st century clearances”, with a loss of freedom of movement resulting in significant depopulation.  Further concerns raised in the report, taken from conversations with rural communities, also included the risk of EU funding being lost post-Brexit and potential damage to social cohesion.  Speaking about the report overall, Ms Burgauer said: “This report is about giving voice to a rural point of view that is rooted in Scotland’s people and places, rather than its rural industries.”  She added: “There is widespread anger and frustration across rural Scotland, but that anger isn’t solely about Brexit.  It was clear from workshop discussions that Brexit is compounding long-standing concerns about rural equity and fragility.  Brexit was described as the ‘straw that breaks rural Scotland’s back’, with people pointing to structural fragilities across rural communities.  Participants generally believed that an historic over-reliance on EU funding to ‘prop up’ rural areas makes rural Scotland particularly exposed to future loss of EU support.” Brexit Secretary Mike Russell said: “The findings in this report are stark. Taking Scotland out of the EU against our will removes us from a market which is eight times bigger than the UK alone.  Rural communities are deeply worried about the impact of Brexit on their lives. From funding and trade to community life and the workforce, many believe the effects will be nothing short of catastrophic.”  A UK Westmnster government spokesman said: “Thriving rural areas with strong, sustainable economies and vibrant communities will continue to be a priority for the UK Westminster government when we leave the EU.”

Is Scotland Scunnered with Brexit?

Let me join the chorus of congratulation which has attended the initiative by the University of Aberdeen to launch a substantial new linguistic study of vocabulary in the Scots language. Long years ago, back in the Middle Ages, I had an unofficial role in the Commons press gallery, helping baffled Hansard reporters cope with the Scots words not infrequently used by Donald Dewar and others. I provided soothing translations.  I was delighted to note today that the Aberdeen endeavour is already mirrored at Holyrood.  Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats summed up Scotland's view of Brexit by declaring that folk north of the Border were "scunnered".  He could - and should - have gone much further down this welcome road. Perhaps he might have decried his rivals as fushionless. But it's a start, chums. An attempt to revisit the language of Dunbar, Henryson and Douglas; the language of Burns, Fergusson and, yes, Scott; the language of Welsh, Kelman, Leonard and Lochhead.  At Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon would undoubtedly endorse Mr Rennie's use of Scots words.  She agreed with him too when he argued that Brexit had been miserably badly handled by the prime minister.  But at that point their paths departed. Mr Rennie did not agree with the first minister that the answer to the Westminster guddle was to opt for Scottish independence. Indeed, he was rather vocal on the subject.  The last thing Scotland needed, he argued, was to add what he called the chaos of independence to the crisis of Brexit.  Let us back-pedal a little.  Politically, Brexit is all-consuming. The PM is in Brussels as I write, seeking an extension to the scheduled date of the UK's departure from the EU. She has been told that such an extension would be conditional on the Commons backing the existing withdrawal deal - which has twice been overwhelmingly rejected by MPs.  Despite that, the two principal opposition leaders opted to steer clear of the subject in questioning the first minister.  To be clear, they chose deeply serious topics. Jackson Carlaw, for the Tories, asked about drugs deaths. Labour's Richard Leonard asked about hospital staffing.  Perhaps they felt they had said all they had to say on Brexit. Perhaps they had heard what the FM had to offer on the topic. Perhaps they felt decisions on this matter rested elsewhere.  For whatever reason, they steered clear.  But Patrick Harvie of the Greens did not. He said Brexit argued for Scottish independence - and that the FM had promised to update her thinking on the subject. He concluded his argument with a single word: "When?"  Ms Sturgeon said, having waited quite some time, it was right to give the Brexit process a further few days in the hope that clarity might emerge.  But she empathised with the frustration felt by those who, she said, witnessed the influence over Scotland and the rest of the UK currently deployed by DUP MPs and what she characterised as a cabal of right-wing Conservatives.  Westminster governance, she continued, was evidently broken and it was right to give Scotland the chance to choose an alternative path. She also agreed with Patrick Harvie that it would now be sensible to dump Brexit altogether.

Lockerbie Plastic Roads Firm Macrebur Opens First Factory
A company which uses plastic waste to surface roads has opened its first factory in Dumfries and Galloway.  The MacRebur plant in Lockerbie will take rubbish which would have gone to landfill to help produce asphalt.  A one-kilometre stretch of road made with its mix would use the equivalent of about 684,000 plastic bottles or 1.8m single-use plastic bags.  Chief executive Toby McCartney said the opening of its first factory was an "important milestone". He said it would help to tackle both plastic waste and potholed roads.  The new factory will granulate rubbish which would otherwise have gone to landfill.  The granules are mixed with an activator to make the plastic bind and it is then bagged ready to be distributed to asphalt producers.  The company said its mix allowed the bitumen used in the production of asphalt to be extended and enhanced, reducing the amount of fossil fuel used.  If the company's claims are right about the robustness of its product, plastic roads could be a game changer. We all know what a nuisance potholes can be. If we can reduce them while putting waste plastic to good use it's a double whammy.  Conventional roads use crude oil to make bitumen which binds the rocks, limestone and sand. This new process replaces some of that oil with plastic. And there's apparently a "secret ingredient" in there too.  Trials have taken place in a few areas including Dumfries and Galloway and Aberdeenshire.  MacRebur say they are also working with Tesco to fix some of their car parks. And they have just agreed a £1.6m deal with the Department of Transport to test the technology in Cumbria.  Confidence in them is growing. So much so they have now opened this factory near Lockerbie so they can make their own recycled plastic pellets rather than buying them in.  But we will have to wait and see what a hardy Scottish winter will do to their claims. And their roads.  Mr McCartney said: "Our technology means that we can not only help solve the problem of plastic waste but also produce roads that cope better with changes in the weather, reducing cracks and potholes.  That's because our roads are more flexible thanks to the properties of the plastic used in them, so although a MacRebur road looks the same as any other, it has improved strength and durability.  Our technology also means there are no plastic micro beads present in the mix and we can even recycle the road at the end of its lifespan, creating a circular economy that is sustainable and cost effective."  MacRebur roads have already been laid around the world from Australia to Yorkshire using plastic waste processed by waste companies.  The new factory, which has created 12 jobs, brings the processing in-house with the hope of building further factories across Europe.  Mr McCartney said: "Our ultimate aim is for local rubbish to be used in local roads and MacRebur factories will help us achieve this by allowing waste plastic to be processed and mixed with our additive for use in asphalt."

Kirkcudbright Resident Winnie Smith Celebrates Her 108th Birthday in Style

One of Scotland’s oldest residents has celebrated her 108th birthday at a Kirkcudbright nursing home.  Winnie Smith toasted her big day with family, friends and staff at Merse House.  Niece Mhairi MacDonald, and husband Denis Haarsager flew over from the United States for the party.  Mhairi, 73, was asked what had helped Winnie reach such a remarkable age.  “She was very athletic, an excellent diver and swimmer and taught both sports – so I suppose that’s part of it,” Mhairi said.  “She has no bad vices but will drink a glass of champagne – she’s already had some today!  Also, Winnie has never had a serious health disorder ever, so obviously she has a great genetic set-up and immune system. She is still very sharp and can still converse with everybody.”  Winnie has been at Merse House only since 2016.  Care home manager Isobel Little said: “Winnie is a very independent lady and loves listening to music and the TV.  She is still up and mobile and uses her zimmer to get about.” According to Mhairi, who has homes near Portland, Maine, and in Dollar, Clackmannanshire, Winnie married Yorkshireman Booth Smith after the war and settled in Denholme, near Bradford. Winnie’s Scottish mother Jane Graham also married a Yorkshireman, Alf Wild. The couple went on to have eight children with Winnie the middle child.  In Denholme, Winnie was an elementary school teacher and music teacher before she and Booth retired and moved to Barcloy near Kirkcudbright around 1980.  According to official records, the centenarian is Scotland’s fifth oldest citizen.  Current title holder is also a Smith – 110-year-old Perth man Alf, who was born on March 29, 1908.

Soldier Reunited with Daughter At Inverness Airport After Winning Visa Battle
British soldier Denis Omondi and his family are celebrating tonight after the arrival of his daughter at Inverness Airport following a four-month battle to secure her a visa.  Ann Omondi had initially been refused a visa on the grounds that her father had not visited her enough despite him serving with 3 Scots and was not free to take leave whenever he wished. However, when the family got in touch with Inverness MP Drew Hendry who launched a campaign to reunite the family – including raising the case three times in parliament including once at Prime Minister’s Questions. Speaking at the airport, Mr Omondi’s wife Shelagh said: “This has been a very tough time for our family and we are delighted to finally have Ann with us.  We would like to thank Drew Hendry and his staff for their untiring work, as well as our family, friends, the media and the general public for their on going support.We have been overwhelmed by the support given by so many to a commonwealth military family and we hope that this will encourage other families in similar situations to continue their fight.”  Mr Hendry was also there and expressed his relief that there was a positive outcome to the case while congratulating the newly reunited family. “We were all really excited to finally meet Ann in person and to see her reunited with her dad and Shelagh,” he said. “It's an incredible case that’s gone from heartbreak to heart-warming and has really caught the attention of the public and rallied their support. As the work goes on to tackle the hostile immigration environment from the UK government, we can all join in the joy of this event and wish this Highland soldier's family a happy future together.”  The case had been complicated by Mr Omondi not knowing about his daughter when he left Kenya to join the British Army as a Commonwealth soldier more than eight years ago.  He only found out about Ann when she was about eight and he was serving in Afghanistan and subsequently spent as much time visiting her in Kenya as he could so that he could get to know her.  The visa was turned down because it was claimed Mr Omondi has not visited her enough – that is despite being him being on active duty and assuming full custody of Ann, as well as paying for her to go to boarding school. When Mr Hendry demanded a review into the application at PMQs Prime Minister Theresa May and Home Secretary Sajid Javid readily agreed – it resulted in the rejection being overturned.

Pilot Demands Drone Identification After Fife Near Miss

An angry private jet pilot has demanded that drones be identifiable after one came 20m from his aircraft over Fife.  The near miss, involving an Embraer Legacy 500 on approach to Edinburgh Airport, was given the highest - category A - rating by investigators. The UK Airprox Board also reported today a second category A incident near Glasgow Airport, in which a drone came as close as 3ft from a passenger aircraft.  It concluded that in the first incident, near Burntisland on 14 December, “providence had played a major part in the incident and/or a definite risk of collision had existed”.  The board’s report stated: “The pilot commented that he was surprised and angry at the drone’s proximity and stated that a mandatory identification device should be fitted to drones before a multi-million pound engine is destroyed, or worse. “Having finished the approach briefing, the pilot in charge looked up and saw something black, moving in his peripheral vision on the right. He turned and looked right and clearly saw a ‘quadcopter’-like drone. There was no time to take avoiding action.”  In the Glasgow incident, a drone came 3-10ft from colliding with an Embraer EMB 175 on 30 December. The board stated: “The pilot reports that on approach to Glasgow airport, when passing about 600ft he saw an object pass between 3 and 10ft from the aircraft, at the same level.  He couldn’t tell was the object was.  It was lit up in various places and was more horizontally long than it was vertically.”  The board concluded: “The pilot’s overall account of the incident portrayed a situation where providence had played a major part in the incident and/or a definite risk of collision had existed.”

Drugs Worth £2.3m Seized in Clydebank House Raid
Two people have been arrested after police recovered cocaine and other drugs worth about £2.3m during a house search.  The haul, discovered at a property in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, included 41kg (6st 6lb) of cocaine and 14kg (2st 3lb) of cannabis.  Heroin and diazepam tablets were also seized by police in the operation on McCreery Street. A woman aged 30 and a 45-year-old man were arrested following the find.  Det Sgt Nicky Beattie said: "This substantial recovery shows our commitment to disrupting drug activity and supply in our local communities.  This seizure ensures that £2.3m worth of drugs will not be distributed on our streets.  Drugs cause real devastation to people's lives and the wider community. The public can be assured that targeting drugs and tackling those involved in criminality remains a priority."

Highland Council Begins Shake-up of ASN and PSA School roles
Highland Council has said it is "committed" to avoiding redundancies as it begins a shake-up of school jobs.  The authority said it had the highest reported levels of additional support needs (ASN) teachers in Scotland.  It is beginning a three-year "phased approach" to targeting this role to "where it is most needed".  In line with its budget agreed last month, the council said there will also be a "re-allocation" of pupil support assistants (PSA) resourcing. The budget for ASNs is to be reduced, while PSA roles are to be reduced over the next three years.  A training programme to help ASNs take up other teaching roles and for PSAs to find work in new roles in early learning and childcare is in development.  Highland Council said the training could be implemented from May.  It said briefing packs had been prepared for staff and information on the process of change would be communicated over the coming days, with the council "working closely with trade unions".  Although the ASN budget is being reduced, Highland Council said the Scottish government had committed to extend the early learning and childcare entitlement to all three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds from 600 to 1,140 hours by 2020.  "Significant funding" to meet these increased hours has been provided, the local authority said. Highland Council said it spends £36.1m on its ASN budget to support 1,253 full-time equivalent jobs.  The local authority currently has 13,461 pupils who have been identified as having a need for at least one ASN. Friends of Autism Highland said that some parents were "terrified" that their children will receive no additional support. A spokeswoman said: "As the largest autism charity in the Highlands, we help to support over 440 families affected by autism. Some of these families have more than one autistic child.