Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 497

Issue # 497                                                Week ending Saturday 30th  March 2019

When Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy Came Over Here and Got Into Another Fine Mess
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal
Saturday morning was when they were on the box in the 1960s and 1970s in glorious techni-black and white. Heaving a piano up a long flight of steps, chasing runaway automobiles, having their legs hoisted on pulleys to hospital ceilings, and bopping each other on the head, they had me in stitches so soon after breakfast that my pyjamas often had to go straight to the washing basket. Who can forget when they would turn to the camera and look glaikit? No, not the politicians on Question Time. I mean Laurel and Hardy.

Stanley Laurel and Oliver Hardy, as a pair of bumbling nincompoops that made Del Boy and Rodney seem normal, were massive around the world. Nowadays their films are rarely shown by mainstream broadcasters because they are “dated”. Of course they are dated - classic is always dated. What’s the point of arguing with numpties? Anyway, Hollywood realised that people are still interested in the duo which is why the new film Stan & Ollie is big box office having raked in more than $20 million so far.

The big deal about this film is that they found two actors who are really quite like the originals. With a Free Church expression and hat, Steve Coogan is really disturbingly similar to the permanently confused character of Stan and John C. Reilly, with extra padding in Hardy’s latter days, is also very believable as the roly-poly Oliver Norvell Hardy. That, and the fact they do not rely on the catchphrases like That’s Another Fine Mess ... from the silver screen performances, is what makes it.

Don’t expect belly laughs throughout though. Take a hanky. It features the pair’s final heartbreaking tour of Britain in 1953 and 1954 when they were old, broke and wheezy. Poor audiences meant they were ripped off by industry sharks and Ollie, or Babe as he was known to his friends, had a dicky ticker and in poor health. And he bet on nags. Then their wives came over to join them. Their spouses, if the film is anything to go by, were something else and are played magnificently. Ollie’s other half was lovely but Stan’s was Ida Kitaeva Raphael, a domineering Russian former opera singer, who wore the trousers. Reminds me of no one at all, Soviet or otherwise.

No, I am certainly not thinking of Mrs X even though she did go to Stan & Ollie with me at the weekend and insisted we dine out beforehand. And there are so many myths about restaurants. Chefs always make it wrong so always ask for a medium curry. Hebrideans like everything well done. Don’t eat anything long and thin like a worm. The word noodles is Chinese for white worms. Eating carrots will improve your eyesight. As a child, I recall my granny saying: “You never see a rabbit wearing glasses, do you?” There’s the proof, right there.

We plumped for Chinese. I could show my face there again because 15 years ago I got terribly embarrassed there. We all had a great meal. In fact, there was too much for us to eat. It would have been such a shame to throw out all that lovely chow mein and lemon chicken after me spending all that money on Mrs X’s birthday scoff. Then I had a brilliant idea. I asked the waiter if I could have a bag to take the leftovers home for the dog. That was when my darling daughter, then aged six or seven, piped up: “Oh dad. Are we getting a dog? When, when, tell me when. Oh dad, I love you.” I slunk out of there with my tail, and my doggy bag, between my legs.

I always try and choose something different because I do not want to be boring and choosing the same house special curry, which I love by the way, every time. Not having had chop suey for years, I thought I should try that. You know what, it tasted fabulous - just like it did all these years ago. Why have I not being having it as takeaway? My taste buds had forgotten. The daughter, who not surprisingly is on her second dog now, spotted ramen on the menu and that is a fantastic soup, broth, concoction that is lovely too. Never saw that on a Chinese menu before. Stornoway restaurants are leading the way.

And then the film was great. One of my favourite Laurel and Hardy lines is in another film, Bonnie Scotland, which just isn’t made enough of these days, and is not spoken by either of them. The duo come over to find Stan Maclaurel to claim Stan’s inheritance. This is where they end up joining the Scottish Army. Of course, there is no such thing - yet. They look for digs and find a stern landlady, called Mrs Bickerdike. Oliver tells her that they would like for her to give them a room and a bath. Mrs Bickerdike, played by Mary Gordon, come out with the immortal reply: “I can give you the room but you’ll have to take the bath yourself.”

Police and Fire Service Merger Review Identifies 'Systemic Problems'
Improvements are needed to address "systemic problems" created when Scotland's police and fire services became national bodies, according to MSPs.  Holyrood's Justice Committee has completed a review of the reorganisation of the services.  Bad money management and personnel issues were identified as issues.  The Scottish government said the changes had brought about a more consistent and improved service.  Prior to the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012, the police and fire services in Scotland had each consisted of eight regional organisations.  When the act came into effect in 2013, it was one of the biggest transformations of public services since devolution.  The separate organisations were merged to create two national bodies - Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. In April last year, the justice committee began an inquiry into the centralisation of the two services in order to examine how effective the change has been.  In its conclusions, the committee said that although reform had led to greater consistency of service across Scotland, as well as allowing for more equal access to specialist capabilities and support, a number of issues, particularly within Police Scotland, should be further addressed.  The committee's report on policing indicated that poor financial management, unclear lines of responsibility and a failure to focus on the views of officers and staff in the early stages of reform lie at the root of many of the problems faced by Police Scotland.  Among the issues highlighted were forecast savings not being realised, IT problems hampering police effectiveness and a string of well-publicised personnel problems resulting in senior management "instability and concerns over a lack of clear leadership" in the initial years of the reform process.  A need for an exemption for police and fire services from the payment of VAT was also highlighted in the committee's considerations.  Other police fire services throughout the UK continued to benefit from a rebate on VAT because they are still funded through local councils.  In November 2017, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced he would address the anomaly, and extend the exemption to the Scottish fire and police services.  The report set out a range of recommendations for improving Police Scotland, including; an overhaul of police complaints processes to create a more "equitable, clear and fair system", a more proactive role by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) in its oversight and scrutiny of new Police Scotland policies and to provide more robust financial projections. The committee also suggested that the option of including the Scottish Parliament in the appointment process of the SPA chair should be explored, as well as stating that SPA and Police Scotland should demonstrate that recent improvements in leadership and governance would mean that previous "shortcomings caused by personality issues" could not reoccur. Justice committee convener Margaret Mitchell MSP said: "Our police and fire services do a vital job keeping people in Scotland safe. It is imperative that the structures and regulations underpinning these organisations work well.  The Justice Committee has found that some of the problems it has seen can be traced back to the frameworks and relationships created by the Act itself.  These are not simply 'teething problems' of a new service bedding in, but systemic problems that must be addressed.  The committee has identified a raft of necessary improvements to regulations, structures and practices. Members look forward to working closely with the Scottish government and the organisations created by the Police and Fire Reform Act to implement changes.  "Reform of these frontline public services is one of the biggest challenges undertaken since the start of devolution in Scotland. It is in everyone's interest that they succeed."  Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf said: "The people of Scotland are well-served by officers and staff in Scotland's police and fire services who are working alongside communities and a range of partners to make Scotland's streets and homes safer.  I am very grateful to the justice committee for its work on scrutiny of the 2012 Act which was the largest exercise in public service reform since devolution.  It has rightly recognised some significant achievements, including the creation of national capabilities in policing, described as 'a success story for Scotland' and improvements in how Police Scotland deals with sexual offences.  This has been delivered alongside the Scottish government's commitment to protect Police Scotland's revenue budget during this parliament to deliver a total boost of £100m by 2021 and the announcement of a 6.5% pay deal for officers.  he report also makes a number of recommendations which ministers plan to consider in full, alongside Police Scotland, SPA and SFRS over the coming months.  The report recognises that Dame Elish Angiolini is leading a review into complaints and conduct in policing. It is right and proper that the review be allowed to conclude and its findings be published before considering the next steps."

Solar-powered Car Parks for Electric Cars to Go on Trial
Motorists will be able to charge their electric vehicles in solar-powered car parks as part of a new trial.  The Smart Hubs demonstrator project will also use vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology to enable cars to deliver electricity back to the smart grid.  Edinburgh-based Flexitricity, Flexisolar, Turbo Power Systems and Smart Power Systems are among the firms involved in the project.  They are now looking for sites to take part in the trials later this year Up to 150 V2G-enabled electric vehicles are expected to be involved in the project at six sites.  The consortium said the project, which will look at integrating "various battery storage options", would allow large numbers of electric vehicles to be charged without placing further pressure on an already-constrained grid.  The research will also seek to show that car park owners such as airports, train operators and retail centres would benefit from "sustainable revenue streams".  The consortium said it aimed to "help power the electric vehicle revolution", with nine million electric vehicles expected to be on UK roads by 2030. Flexitricity chief strategy officer Alastair Martin said: "Having the ability to recharge in a short time using a grid-friendly infrastructure will have a huge impact on the electric vehicles market - it really is a question about how quickly we can deliver this capability.  We are now looking forward to identifying partner sites and embarking on the trials later this year, as we strive to deliver a solution that will drive the growth of the electric vehicle market and bring transformational benefits to motorists, car park operators and energy re-sellers."

'Burlesque Helps Us Fight Life's Challenges'

A group of women in the Highlands say forming a burlesque dance troupe has helped them to overcome mental and physical challenges in their lives.  "Troupe mamma", or leader, Caroline Adkins suffers from health problems including arthritis and osteoporosis.  She says performing improves her well-being, while other troupe members say it boosts their self-esteem.  The group, Bump N Grind, plans to become a social enterprise, a business that reinvests or donates its profits. They describe themselves as the Highlands' first burlesque troupe.  At present the group has five members. They are Caroline, who is known on stage as Evelyn Adore, also Emma MacKenzie aka Candy Kitten, Rowan Drever who performs as Lady Ivy, Cody Ross aka Moonstone Cherry and Rhianna Bain who performs as Miss Rhi Von Bee.  Burlesque is a genre of variety show and features music, song and dance routines. Many of the Inverness-based troupe's shows raise funds for charity, including Highlands- based suicide prevention group Mikeysline. A show this month is raising funds for the Scottish Association for Mental Health.  Caroline says mental health was an issue "close to the dancers' hearts".  "All members of the troupe face challenges daily due to needs concerning mental and physical health," she says.  "Becoming part of Bump N Grind has helped them with their anxiety and depression and general mental health.  It has built their confidence and self-esteem and helped them to be comfortable in their own bodies, and realise how much they are capable of, and indeed how talented they are - as I tell them daily." Caroline adds: "I myself also suffer with 'invisible illness' and have arthritis, ataxia, osteoporosis and severe joint and tissue pain and fatigue."  Emma MacKenzie says: "There is nothing like this in the Highlands. There is no cabaret or burlesque up here so it would be really nice to have a scene.  There are lots of people interested at it. When we did our first show people were saying 'Oh my God this is great'. It also changed perceptions about what people think it is. It's empowering." Bump N Grind was started in December last year.  Its formation followed a solo performance by Ms Adkins a few months earlier at Ness Factor, a talent competition held in aid of the Highland Hospice.  Caroline says: "I hope that when we begin classes we will be able to offer our students the opportunity to give performing a go with a view to becoming part of the troupe and our shows."

Scotland Can Lead the Way in Green Energy Industry
By Neil Mackay
It’s too easy in these times of political crisis, hate, terror and division to think of humanity as somehow inherently failed; that the society we’ve created will only spiral ever more downwards. But humanity has always had its saving grace: our ingenuity, our ability to imagine a better world for all.  I’ve been researching the state of our economy and how to fix it. We’ve a job market so volatile it makes the word “precarious” sound stable. Demography is against us and it’s squeezing the public purse. Our ageing population needs an ever-bigger spend on health, putting pressure on education, policing and other public services. Robotics, automation and artificial intelligence are coming for your job.  How do we pay for more care for the elderly, while keeping our streets safe and educating our young people at the same time as there are fewer well-paid jobs to go around and a resulting decline in taxation essential for public spending?  It sounds like a recipe for a dystopia of mass unemployment and social decline. However, the key to a brighter future exists and Scotland is in prime position to benefit. The answer lies in climate change. The threat it poses has focused some of the world’s sharpest minds on exploring alternative energy supplies. The problem with green energy is that it’s been impossible to store, which makes it unreliable and means it cannot be transported and exported.

Australia has cracked the problem. Scientists there have worked out how to store green energy and are preparing to commercialise the industry for export. The science involves the extraction of hydrogen from ammonia, produced as a result of solar, wave or wind power. The hydrogen can be used as a cheap, dependable, clean, plentiful energy source. It can also be stored and exported while in ammonia form. Some have described the process as bottling sunshine and wind. A blueprint has been drawn up by the Scottish think-tank, HIAlba-Idea, laying the groundwork for Scotland to become a global powerhouse for green energy through renewable hydrogen. It is run by Ronald MacDonald, professor of economics at Glasgow University’s Adam Smith Business School, and the mathematician, scientist and engineer Dr Donald MacRae. Mr MacDonald has been a consultant advisor to the European Central Bank, the European Commission, the World Bank, the IMF and the Audit Office. Dr MacRae held positions in the Australian government and was a director with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.  They say renewable hydrogen would be transformative. Scotland could fuel the proposed European Supergrid, generating so much money that a sovereign wealth fund could be established as Norway did with its North Sea oil. It would be a public services windfall. Renewable hydrogen is a “skeleton key” technology: it unlocks many doors. First, and crucially, it provides a reliable green energy source when the planet is in peril from global warming. Jobs will cascade from the renewable hydrogen industry. A “Highland renaissance” is envisioned. Wind farms will be located in remote areas and people will be needed to run them. They will need houses, shops and schools, creating employment.  Productivity and growth will increase. Energy and transportation costs are often the biggest drain for any business. If you run a deli, microbrewery, internet start-up or you’re a plumber, the cost of keeping your lights on and your supply chain working hit you hard. Cheap green fuel would change that.  It’s the possibility of exportation that is the game-changer. It’s estimated that the North Sea could provide enough power to make Europe energy-independent four times over. French President Emmanuel Macron wants a carbon-free Europe by 2050. Many parts of Europe are heavily reliant on Russian gas imports, causing security concerns.  Europe wants to be green. It will need a supergrid. That grid will need green energy. Dr MacRae told me: “You can imagine an energy independent Europe, through power generated by Scotland going into a supergrid.” Everything feels in place, just at the right time, for the nation to prosper from the hydrogen revolution. Scotland is literally in the right place. Other countries don’t have our coastline or our weather. Like the Australians, who have worked out that no-one can rival them for exploiting solar power, we need to realise that few can rival us for wind and wave power. We have economic needs to address: employment, taxation and public services. We have social needs to address: climate change, an ageing population and our commitment to our children. We have technological needs to address: how do we stop scientific advancements rendering many of us redundant? It appears we have the answer to those needs in the shape of renewable hydrogen.  All we need is a little government action and we’ll see it flourish. The big oil companies are desperate to diversify from carbon. If government stimulates a new energy industry, they’ll come knocking to help develop the market.  But there is no real action. It feels like we’ve just invented electricity but are stubbornly insisting on living in the age of steam. Governments may be hypnotised by Brexit but they cannot be blind to a pot of gold sitting before them.  The way forward is to take the work of HIAlba-Idea and use the think-tank to help construct a roadmap for the commercialisation of renewable hydrogen in this country. The Australians have already done that and have their eyes on Asian markets moving towards hydrogen vehicles. If we act fast, we can dominate the new industry. If we don’t, a country such as Norway could overtake us and we’ll have thrown away the benefits of what sits in our own backyard.  It wouldn’t be the first time we have led the world in revolutionary change. We helped forge the first industrial revolution, and the Enlightenment was the creation of Scottish minds. There’s no reason why this small, smart nation cannot be at the forefront of global change for a third time, shaping a new and better future for our troubled world.

Reopening of Section of Caledonian Canal Delayed

A stretch of the Caledonian Canal is to remain closed to traffic for longer than expected due to a delay completing a major refurbishment.  Scottish Canals said it had encountered "unexpected issues" with the "the historic fabric" of the lock chambers at Fort Augustus and nearby Kytra.  The canal has been closed and drained between Fort Augustus and Kytra since the start of the year.  It was to reopen this month, but the date has been put back to 17 April. Opened in 1822, the waterway runs between Inverness and Fort William.  The refurbishment project involves replacing lock gates at Fort Augustus and Kytra.  Scottish Canals said the challenges encountered were to do with the installation of the new lock gates - which use an "innovative structural system" - into the historic walls of the lock chambers.  It said the system had been developed to minimise any impact of the works on the canal's designation as a scheduled monument, and the delay was from making sure the project was completed "safely and sensitively".  Peter Robinson, head of engineering at Scottish Canals, said: "While our teams have been working seven days-a-week to complete the refurbishment of the lock gates, caring for the infrastructure of this 200-year-old scheduled monument - and ensuring we do so in a safe and considerate way - is not without its challenges.  We would like to thank our boating customers for their understanding during the project, which will safeguard the future of the canal for years to come."

Mike Russell Insists Indyref2 Mandate is 'Cast Iron'

A series of proposed reforms to devolution is set to be unveiled - though Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell has insisted independence is the only way to become a "modern state" and restated the Scottish Government's view it has a "cast-iron mandate" to hold a second referendum.  He said during a speech in London that he believed Theresa May has refused to permit another vote because she fears it "might be lost by her argument, therefore she does not want to have it".  Mr Russell's comments, in an address at the Institute for Government think tank, came just after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said another vote on independence for Scotland was "as inevitable as it's possible to be".  She will make her position on the prospect of a second ballot on the issue known when there is more "clarity" about the UK's future post Brexit.  Mr Russell said the SNP leader would "give more detail than I can give" on this.  He criticised Mrs May, who has repeatedly said "now is not the time" for Scots to have another vote on independence.  I find it insulting to be told by anybody, let alone the Prime Minister, that now is not the time and you do not have permission to do something," Mr Russell said.  "The people of Scotland are mature enough to be able to choose whether we do something or not."  He added: "I suppose the Prime Minister is basing her argument on the fact that she doesn't think there is any support for this, I think she should look at opinion polls.  I think she should look at what the people of Scotland are doing at the ballot box and realise that is no longer the case.  There is support for this and there is support for independence.  What I suspect motivates the Prime Minister at the moment is not lack of support for a referendum, it is the fact that the referendum might be lost by her argument, therefore she does not want to have it."  The Constitutional Relations Secretary insisted Brexit had highlighted "the very fragile position of Scottish autonomy and decision-making", with Scots having overwhelmingly voted to stay in the European Union in 2016.  While Scots voted by 55% to 45% against independence in 2014, Mr Russell stressed that at the time they were voting for a "United Kingdom that was part of the EU, but also a United Kingdom that was characterised repeatedly during the campaign as a union of equals".  He added: "Now the UK is set on leaving the EU against the clear will of the people of Scotland.  That is such an enormous change that it would by itself justify returning to the people of Scotland to reconsider the issue of independence.  And we did set out these exact circumstances very clearly in our manifesto for the 2016 Scottish general election."  The SNP won most seats at Holyrood in that election on a manifesto which set out that the Scottish Parliament "should have the right to hold another referendum ... if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances which prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will", he stated.  Mr Russell added: "No matter what the Prime Minister thinks, we have a cast-iron mandate for a further independence referendum on those grounds alone."

Orkney’s Undiscovered Archaeology ‘At Risk’ From Major Energy Development

Undiscovered archaeological treasures on Orkney could be harmed by bold new plans to upgrade energy transmission to and from the islands, it has been claimed.  Orkney Archaeology Society has raised concerns about proposals by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks to create a ‘highly prominent’ new substation at Finstown that will be linked to renewables projects by a mixture of underground and overground cabling. SSEN says the development is required to insure that electricity generated by Orkney’s forthcoming wind and marine energy projects can be fed into the National Grid.  Martin Carruthers, chairman of OAS, said the project could impact on ‘an unknown but likely substantial’ quantity of unrecovered archaeology across Orkney.  A number new artefacts have already been found as a result of preparatory surveys of the ground to be developed.  Some on the island have called for as much of the cabling to be laid underground to limit the visual impact of the island.  Mr Carruthers said the society generally backed this position but added that this approach posed a particular problem for the preservation of archaeological remains. He said the landscape of Orkney, home to the best preserved Neolithic village in Europe at Skara Brae, could be considered an entire archaeological site in itself given the quality of finds made.  He said: “No one can currently know if there would be unrecorded archaeological sites present along the transmission route if it were to be undergrounded. Based on previously noted rates and densities of sites it seems extremely likely that sites would be encountered, especially over that distance in Orkney. There are many unknown sites (far more than are currently known) waiting to be encountered beyond those recorded in the official Sites and Monuments Record, and other archives. In fact, the preservation of archaeological remains and residues in Orkney is so good, and so prolific, that the entire landscape can, to some extent be justifiably referred to as an archaeological site.  Any intervention in that landscape can have consequences for our knowledge and understanding of Orkney’s past. Mr Carruthers said the society did not wish to see Orkney “frozen in aspic as a museum of past achievements” where obstacles were placed in the way of improvements to island life, including the economy. However, he said the society wanted a programme of pre-works to be carried out as a “vital requirement” of undergrounding the transmission line.

Big Hand for Orthopaedic Surgeon Helping to Provide A Remote Service for Western Isles patients

A Glasgow Orthopaedic surgeon, Grzegorz Sianos, is collaborating with a physiotherapist in NHS Western Isles to offer video conferencing clinics to patients. Grzegorz, who specialises in hand surgery at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, has teamed up with Innes Morton, an extended scope practitioner at Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway, to offer this economical service to patients.  Together they are providing this new remote service that allows patients in the Western Isles to receive their initial assessments via video, in order to prevent unnecessary travel to mainland Scotland.  Grzegorz, said: “Previously, patients in the Western Isles who had specialised and complex hand problems had no other option except to travel to Glasgow for an assessment and then possibly a return journey for the procedure to be done.  Now the initial assessment is being done by video link where I can ask questions as well as having access to the National PACS [Picture Archiving and Communications Systems] to view X-rays. We then make a decision about intervention.  If a patient is offered surgery all pre-operative screening is done in the Western Isles.  This new way of working has also helped improve waiting times as patients can be efficiently scheduled for their surgery and most of the diagnostic as well as non-surgical treatment solutions are to ‘on hand’.” The project is a perfect example of how realistic medicine is striving to best support patients and how NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is at the forefront of revolutionising healthcare in Scotland.  The service was recently recognised when it scooped the Innovative Remote and Rural Services Award at the recent Digital Health and Care Awards.

Hial Appeals Against Stornoway Grazings Rights Judgement
Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial) has begun an appeal against a Scottish Land Court judgement on an area of disputed land in Lewis.  Last month, the company lost a bid to have all crofting rights to the land at Stornoway Airport extinguished.  Its lawyers argued that the land was requisitioned in World War Two to establish an RAF station.  Hial had planned to sell the area of land to a developer so that more than 80 new homes could be built. Melbost and Branahuie grazings committees disputed the plan, arguing that their grazing rights continued because there was no evidence that compulsory purchase powers had been used to acquire the land.  The crofters also argued there had never been a ruling from the land court to de-croft the land.  In February, the land court rejected Hial's arguments and ruled that the disputed land remains in crofting tenure.  Common grazing is land shared by crofters for raising sheep and cattle.  A spokesman for Hial confirmed that the company had begun an appeal.

US Navy Equipment Found in Tiree Beach Clean

A piece of US Navy minesweeping equipment has been found during a beach clean on a Hebridean island.  The item was among marine litter cleared away from a shoreline in the Isle of Tiree.  Volunteers involved in the beach clean filled 12 rubbish sacks, according to the SCRAPbook project.  The project, which involves Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol pilots and conservation groups, is mapping coastal litter in Scotland.  It is the latest in a number of unusual items found during Scottish beach cleans.  Last year, part of a controller for a game made in the former USSR in the 1960s was found at Fisherrow Harbour, Musselburgh. The plastic was from a Novo Raceways racing car set.  Also last year, merchandise from a FIFA World Cup held more than 30 years ago was among piles of rubbish cleared from a Highlands beach.  Lotion bottles from Russia and jam containers from Newfoundland were also among the 450lbs (204kg) of litter tidied away at Balnakeil, near Durness, in Sutherland.

Thief's Makeshift Map Led Police to Hidden Gun Stash
A thief who raided a Fife army cadet base was caught after drawing a map of where he had hidden the stolen guns.  Sean Barclay ransacked the centre in Newport-on-Tay, where he had once been a cadet, after climbing in through a smashed window.  Barclay, 28, fled with a firearms haul including three training rifles that he planned to sell.  He was jailed for eight years after he admitted the theft and two firearms charges.  The High Court in Glasgow heard that a staff sergeant discovered that there had been a break-in at the cadet base on 9 May last year. A window had been smashed, a door forced open and three training drill purpose rifles, dummy rounds and five gun slings were missing.  A total of £100 in cash as well as a rucksack were also taken.  Barclay was not immediately traced as the culprit and he was locked up for other matters shortly after the raid.  But, two months later, police moved in on a flat in Cowdenbeath, Fife. It was the home of the sister of one of Barclay's friends.  Prosecutor Eric Robertson said the map was found in the flat, and it appeared to show a trail with "distinctive bends".  Officers then compared it to ordnance survey maps of north east Fife.  They were able to follow the directions taking them close to Inverdovat Farm in Newport-on-Tay.  After driving down a quiet, single track road, police went into woods. There, they found a camouflage bag stashed under bushes.  The guns stolen from the cadet centre were soon discovered inside.  The makeshift map was then analysed - and Barclay's DNA was on it.  Mr Robertson explained that it was drawn on paper from Perth Prison, where Barclay had been remanded.  The handwriting matched that from another document Barclay had completed while in jail. Tests also revealed his palm print was on the map. Barclay was arrested and confessed to the break in.  Chris Fyffe, defending, described Barclay's crime as "opportunistic".  Sentencing, Lord Arthurson said planting the rifles had involved "stealth and carefully planned concealment".  Det Insp Christopher Mill said: "The theft and circulation of illicit firearms is completely unacceptable and when it occurs Police Scotland will take proactive steps to curtail this activity and bring those responsible to justice.  While these were training weapons, they have the capacity to be converted into viable weapons, which could have caused real harm to the public.  Thankfully these weapon were recovered and ultimately posed no risk to the Newport-on-Tay community."

Architects Appointed to Design Sutherland Spaceport

Three companies are to work on the design of a spaceport proposed for land on the Melness Crofters Estate in Sutherland.  The site would be used for launching small satellites. Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is heading up the £17,5m Space Hub Sutherland project.  Architectural firm Norr Consultants will lead the production of the design, working with Arup Engineers and ERZ landscape architects.  The funding for the spaceport includes a £2.5m grant from the UK Space Agency.  HIE said planning consent could be sought later this year and construction of the facility could begin next year.

Gerard Butler's Lighthouse Mystery Movie Hits the Big Screen

A film shot on location in southern and western Scotland and based on a true story from the Outer Hebrides is hitting the big screen.  The Vanishing - previously entitled Keepers - stars Gerard Butler, Peter Mullan and Connor Swindells.  It was filmed at a number of spots in Dumfries and Galloway and on the Firth of Clyde in 2017.  It is based on the true story of the disappearance of three lighthouse keepers on the Flannan Isles.  Three lighthouses in Dumfries and Galloway - Killantringan, Mull of Galloway and Corsewall - along with Cloch in the Firth of Clyde - were used for filming.  They also filmed in Port Logan which was said to have many similar features to the Isle of Lewis harbour where the men would have sailed to the Flannan Isles.  "We had lots of offers to take the film elsewhere but we always held firm to the idea that we wanted it to be shot in Scotland," said producer Sean Marley. Paisley-born Butler took to social media during filming to say how much he was enjoying being back in his homeland.  "I have not made a movie in Scotland since Dear Frankie in 2001," he added in the film's production notes.  "I've been reminded of how proud I am to be Scottish while making this movie."  The film was directed by Kristoffer Nyholm, best known for The Killing. It has already been released in the United States and is now being released in the UK.

Delivery of Public Sector Services in Key Highland Towns is to Undergo A Dramatic Transformation
Over 150 public sector sites across Inverness, Fort William, Thurso and Wick, including schools, libraries, offices, hospitals, health centres and university campuses, will be able to access future-proof gigabit-speed services thanks to the newly built full fibre network, constructed by CityFibre. The project has brought together Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Scottish Natural Heritage, NHS Highland, the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), in partnership with the UK Government’s Local Full Fibre Network Fund, to award a £9.5 million contract to Capita for the delivery of gigabit-capable services by March 2021. CityFibre has also committed a multi-million-pound private investment to construct the fibre network connecting the sites, which it will design, operate and own. Full fibre connectivity will allow the development of new digital services and smart city applications such as smart traffic controls, HD CCTV and even remote health and care tools.  Highland school children will also benefit. Full fibre connectivity will enhance digital learning by improving the performance of devices such as tablets and computers.  Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey MP Drew Hendry said: “The Gigabit City steering group has been working to realise this cutting-edge high-speed fibre connectivity over the past year and today’s announcement will ensure we make significant progress towards that objective. As well as transforming internet connectivity in our public buildings, I would like to see our business community also benefit from this infrastructure in the future. The potential for Inverness and the wider Highlands really is enormous through improved productivity, inward investment and innovation. Instead of following, we will be at the forefront of the digital opportunities and that is certainly cause for celebration.” James McClafferty, head of regional development at CityFibre, commented: “This announcement marks yet another major CityFibre investment in Scotland's digital infrastructure. With existing full fibre projects in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Stirling, connecting schools, libraries, council offices and community hubs, our fibre infrastructure is already transforming the delivery of public services – fit for the future.  Better connectivity not only drives efficiency and improves the digital experience of staff and community members, it will also help position these areas for economic growth, investment and innovation.” Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson added: “This is the first step in what will make the Highlands one of the best connected regions in the UK. This will ultimately draw millions of pounds of investment to local communities and benefit both businesses and the wider population.”