Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 498

Issue # 498                                           Week ending Saturday 6th April 2019

How Vital is A Gooey Chocolate Egg to Our Survival and That of the Entire Human Race? By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Forgive me, but I am a bit out of sorts. In my office, I have one of these this all-singing, all-dancing radio-controlled clocks supposed to be accurate to one second every 20 million years. Seriously, that is written on the box. However, over the weekend it did not change to summer time and was out of sync with the Radio 4 pips by 3,600 seconds - a whole hour. Either we have shot backwards in time by 72 billion years or the battery in my state-of-the-art timekeeper is running down. Or have we gone forwards? I can’t make up my mind which. I think it was backwards judging by the level of public debate in this country at the moment and the failure of the UK government to deal with more than one issue at a time.

As a deep-thinker from Point said to me on the phone one morning last week, we are up a gum tree without a paddle. Let’s call him Daniel, because that’s not his right name. Democracy has broken down, he thinks, because political parties are too similar nowadays. We do not know what we are voting for and it doesn’t matter anyway. They are all the same. We are about to see the rise of extremist single-issue groups and big business trying to wrest control of the country. That will completely distract the elected representatives from their responsibilities and the insurgents will eventually replace them.

My Rudhach friend continued in happy and jocular vein for some time. The golden age is over and it’s all downhill from now on. Yes, he’s such a happy soul. The writing is on the wall, he thinks, and all that has to be done now is for us to dot the teas and cross the eyes. Well, I think that’s what he said. He phoned back later to apologise, adding not to worry about him because he is always dismal about life before he has had his porridge.

On the subject of healthy food, I must say good morning to Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH). Hers is a tough job keeping us eating well. Shirl’s latest challenge is that despite the fact Easter is not for another two and a half weeks, calorie-filled treats are being sold in shops far too early, she reckons. That is tempting parents to buy unhealthy treats for their sprogs. You don’t say, Shirl. When did you notice this? She, of course, is talking about those irresistible Creme Eggs which for years have actually appeared on shelves in the first week of January. Our Shirl wants retailers to crack down on early sales of seasonal products which are high high in fat, salt and sugar. Whatevva, Shirl.

Listen, babe, ain’t gonna happen. They provide a vital function as a restorative now that Sanatogen and hip flasks are not so popular. In the first few months of the year, we need sugar hits to cope with the stress of bank and credit card statements from festive splurges. Don’t deny us secret little indulgences when we nip to the shop for a loaf. Don’t destroy the last gooey guilty pleasure left which does not involve a hefty fine or a divorce court. You see, Shirl, eggs - whether chocolatey or of the hen-laid variety - awaken in us ancient primeval urges. We came from the egg and hence the egg shall return unto us. Break that primordial link at thy peril for thou shalt but threaten the very existence of ye olde human race. Besides, they taste yummy.

Now, what was I going to say about Brexit? Actually, maybe I shouldn’t say anything. The country is divided on it and readers of this column seem to be divided on whether I should write any more about, er, the promised and delayed departure from the European Union of the United Kingdom. A few seem to like that I put a different slant on Brexit matters while and others say they think my scribblings should be a Brexit-free zone where everything else happening in the world is diced and dissected. Is anything else happening, anywhere, at any time ...? Well, there were semi-naked people in the public gallery of the Commons when they were talking about you-know-what. OK, I’ll give that stuff a rest for now.

The sage Daniel has just been on the phone again to say Theresa May has lost another vote in the House of Commons. I know, mate. The news carries little else. When we think about it, we really are stuck in some strange timewarp where previously monumentous events like government defeats, mounting calls for presidential impeachments and corporations fleeing our teetering country are dismissed as either fake, a price worth paying or proof that we are on the right lines. Don’t think Daniel has lost heart though. The Point sage advises there is no point in worrying about potential future calamities. He says confidently: “We'll burn that bridge when we come to it.”

Orkney 'Smart Energy' Grid Project Launched
A pioneering project has been launched in Orkney to create a "green" electricity grid mixing renewable energy with battery technology.  The "smart energy" scheme will use domestic batteries and electric vehicles to "balance" the local power network by meeting supply with demand.  It is being backed by £14.3m of UK government funding.  The aim is electricity from renewables which does not rely on fossil fuels when turbines are not turning.  Orkney has been chosen because of its high take-up of "micro-generation".  Official figures show that 10% of homes create their own electricity - compared with a UK average of 2.8%.  It has 2kW of renewable energy capacity per property which is 900% more than the UK average. The county also has almost four times more electric vehicles per home.  UK Energy Minister Claire Perry said: "What we are seeing here on Orkney is a test bed for the energy system of the future.  These smart systems are a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy and will provide cheaper, greener and more flexible access to energy for everyone.  What we learn from these innovations could one day be rolled out across the UK and exported around the world and we'll be able to say it was 'Made in Orkney'."  The £28.5m project will create a "smart energy group of islands" where software balances local supply, storage and demand. It should make electricity cheaper and eventually remove the need for fossil fuels. Small batteries will be offered to homes with existing wind and solar technology while larger ones will be installed at businesses and public buildings.  Gareth Davies from Stromness-based renewable energy consultants Aquatera, told BBC Scotland: "A key part of this project is to start building in local resilience and capacity within our local energy system. To date we've relied on UK systems to provide that balancing service. This project is all about delivering that service locally."  Existing infrastructure in renewable energy is capable of generating 130% of Orkney's annual electricity demands.  With a steady increase in drivers switching to electric vehicles (EVs), that growth is expected to increase the demand on the energy grid. But because cars are only used for a relatively small part of each day, the batteries in EVs can be used as an energy source when electricity demand is high.  Adele Lidderdale, from Orkney Islands Council, said: "Electric vehicles are a really important part of this project. At the moment, 2% of vehicles in Orkney are EVs and we're looking to take that up to 10%. In Scotland they've made commitments to reduce fossil fuel vehicles and by 2032 we really need to be seeing a lot more electric vehicles on the road."  Neil Kermode, managing director of the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), added: "We think this really significant, not just for Orkney but for the UK as a whole.  We know we're going to use renewables to power the system, we've got to find out how to do it.  This is a way that unlocks the complicated process of using renewables for heat and transport as well as electricity."

Research Finds Scot Jane Haining Saved 'Many' Jews
A Scot who died at Auschwitz saved "many" Jews from certain death by helping them emigrate to Britain, according to new research.  Jane Haining assisted Hungarian women in getting jobs as domestic servants five years before she was taken to the camp where she died in 1944.  The details of her efforts are contained in a new book about her life.  It outlines how Ms Haining, from Dunscore, helped with efforts to assist Jewish emigration.  She worked at the Scottish Mission School in Budapest during the 1930s and 1940s.  When war broke out she refused to return home saying the children needed her in the "days of darkness".  A new book, Jane Haining - A Life of Love and Courage, written by Mary Miller, from Glasgow, casts fresh light on the role she played in helping people to avoid ending up in camps like the one where she would die.  It recounts how, in early 1939, the mission where she worked stepped up its efforts to increase emigration which was seen as the "only way to save the Jews".  "Jane Haining taught domestic management and gave lectures on social life in Britain," the books states.  George Knight (mission leader) commented that Jane Haining was an able teacher, many a housewife in Britain can testify who received into her home a refugee domestic servant from Hungary.  The mission started a servants registry to assist with emigration."  Ms Miller said she had felt both "privileged and immediately excited" when offered the opportunity to write the biography.  "Jane was an ordinary person who became extraordinary through her love and courage and eventually laid down her life for her commitment," she said.  "She did not compromise, and in our own difficult times there is a challenge there for all ordinary people tempted to look away from evil and find reasons to say: 'There is nothing we can do.'  Jane Haining reminds us that there is always something we can do."

Nicola Sturgeon Seeks Urgent Brexit Talks with Theresa May

Nicola Sturgeon is seeking urgent talks with the prime minister over Brexit. It comes after the prime minister said she will ask the EU for an extension to the Brexit deadline to "break the logjam" in Parliament.  Ms Sturgeon accused her of "kicking the can and delaying making any decision" on how to compromise.  Mrs May has been unable to win backing for her proposed Brexit plan, suffering three defeats in the Commons, while MPs have failed to unite around any alternative after a series of "indicative votes".  The UK's departure from the EU was put back from 29 March to 12 April following a summit of European leaders late in March. If MPs or ministers cannot come up with a plan, which is accepted by the EU, then the UK will leave without a deal.  After an all-day meeting of her cabinet on Tuesday, Mrs May said she would ask the EU for a further extension to the deadline.  She said she wanted this delay to be "as short as possible" - before 22 May, so the UK does not have to take part in European elections - and that she would seek talks with Mr Corbyn to agree a new approach.  But she insisted her withdrawal agreement - which was voted down last week - would remain part of the deal.  BBC Scotland's Westminster correspondent, David Porter said it would be "highly unusual" for a request from the first minister to meet the prime minister to be turned down.  He said Ms Sturgeon was hoping to meet Mrs May on Wednesday. He said the first minister would also use any visit to London to meet and update her SNP MPs at Westminster.  In a post on Twitter on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon responded to the prime minister's latest statement: "This does seem very much like the PM kicking the can and, yet again, delaying making any decision that could break her cabinet.  What is missing is an answer to the question that many MPs faced up to last night - what is the compromise she is willing to make?"  The SNP leader favours having a second referendum on EU membership, but her MPs have also backed proposals that would keep the UK in the single market and customs union to keep the option of a softer Brexit on the agenda.  She said: "The sensible way forward - and I think one the PM would take if this was a serious attempt to build consensus - is to agree to fight an election, seek a longer delay and allow the option of a public vote on what the Commons says."  The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford added: "Scotland has been utterly ignored throughout the Brexit process.  The SNP has shown we are willing to find a compromise position to end the impasse, but out priority remains stopping Brexit in its tracks."  In her Downing Street statement, Mrs May said: "This is a difficult time for everyone. Passions are running high on all sides of the argument, but we can and must find the compromises that will deliver what the British people voted for. This is a decisive moment in the story of these islands and it requires national unity to deliver the national interest."  Jeremy Corbyn has said he was "very happy" to meet Mrs May, and would ensure plans for a customs union and protection of workers' rights were on the table. Earlier on Tuesday, the first minister had proposed cancelling Holyrood's Easter recess if the UK is heading for a no-deal exit.  MSPs are due to have two weeks away from the parliament from 8 April, clashing with the latest deadline.  A spokesman for the first minister said "MSPs should not be on holiday" while the UK is "staring down the barrel of the disaster of no-deal".  The move would have to be confirmed by Holyrood's cross-party business bureau management group of MSPs, but has been backed by the Greens and the Lib Dems.  It is understood the current proposal is that if the UK is heading for a no-deal exit on 12 April, Holyrood would sit that Thursday and Friday to provide updates and communicate resilience plans.

Keoldale Plans May Be First Step to Farm Buyout
A Durness-born businessman leading plans for a multi-purpose visitor facility at Keoldale Farm on the Kyle of Durness says that he hopes the development may be a first step towards shareholders taking ownership of the whole property.  David Morrison is a shareholder of the Keoldale sheep stock club, which has submitted a planning application to the Highland Council to develop a brewery, café and visitor centre within converted steadings on the farm. Other ideas for the site include a whisky distillery and tourist information point, to be incorporated into the development in subsequent years as part of a “rolling programme”. The original buildings are believed to date back to the nineteenth century, although there is evidence that the tacksman of Keoldale was involved in sheepfarming at an even earlier date, going back to the late 1780s. The estate was eventually purchased by the British government as part of its “land for heroes” policy after the First World War. A sheep stock club with forty-two crofter shares was set up in 1922, an arrangement which continues to the present day.  Mr Morrison, who now lives in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, previously published plans for a whisky distillery at a site on Loch Eriboll. However, he believes that the Keoldale location is superior. “This is far and away the best place. It’s just got everything going for it,” he told us. “It’s on the Kyle; it looks over to all the hills; it’s the most beautiful view.”  Two major objectives lie behind the proposal. The first is obvious — to create lasting employment in the local area, and to capitalise on the opportunities provided by the North Coast 500, encouraging visitors to spend more time in and around Durness.  “Durness is heavily undercapacitated with things to keep people,” Mr Morrison said. “One of the fundamentals of tourism is that if you can keep somebody for another day, you’ve doubled your income. We’ve got to keep them.” “Durness is a dying village at the moment,” he added. “People like myself and people after me had to leave. You want to create something that will stabilise the local economy. We’ll never be a market leader, but we can carve a niche that will allow us to give five or six people in Durness employment for the rest of their lives in the distillery alone. It’s really to create a future for Durness. If we don’t do it, who will do it?” The second objective is more complex, tied into the structure of ownership at Keoldale. “Keoldale sheep stock club is trying to buy Keoldale Estate,” Mr Morrison revealed, “but we’re having a bit of a problem with the Scottish government [the landlord], because there is no precedent. What we’re trying to do is buy it on a deferred purchase, and they’re not prepared to do that. The main thing is to get the thing moving instead of spending years in fruitless discussions. We’re going to buy the steadings, which is going to cost about £25,000, and we’re going to have that decrofted and then we’re going to do this development as the first part of the diversification programme for Keoldale. It’s really the most important part, because that’s the part that will generate the most cash.”  A previous move by the shareholders to purchase the land worked by the sheep stock club foundered because government right-to-buy legislation requires involvement from the wider community to qualify for funding. “We thought it would be a good idea to buy it under this Scottish government right to buy,” Mr Morrison said. “If you were to have a community purchase, that would be okay, but the Keoldale sheep stock club is a company. It’s been a profitable company for almost one hundred years, so why would you want to bring someone else in just so the Scottish government can tick the right boxes?”  “The whole thing is a process,” he continued. “You can’t go to commercial lenders because it’s in crofting tenure in perpetuity, so although we would be buying the estate, it would still also be an extension of the holdings of fortythree crofts. It’s such a complicated thing. Banks can’t understand it. We almost got a buyout in 2014 for £261,000, but that went into the long grass for various reasons. The last valuation we got was £604,000. It’s value had trebled. It gets more and more difficult to buy. So we’re saying the only way we can afford to buy it is through something like the old crofters’ grant and loan scheme, where you have a deferred purchase.”  “It’s not so much to do with money as to do with belonging and ownership,” Mr Morrison concluded. “If we got the whole estate we could make it go.”

ScotRail Faces Another Train Shortage As Upgrades Delayed
Under-pressure ScotRail faces another train shortage crisis because upgrading of a new fleet is running late.  The latest nightmare comes over its newly acquired inter-city trains, which cannot be used after the end of the year unless they have been upgraded to meet disability regulations.  Only three of the 26 “High Speed Trains” (HSTs) have been refurbished and ScotRail chiefs have privately conceded they will not all be ready in time.  Even those first ones arrived late and the entire £54 million overhaul should have been completed by December.  ScotRail is now exploring ways to plug the potential gap, such as trying to find alternative trains.  The move could see a repeat of the operator having to draft in a temporary electric fleet to cover for delays with 70 new trains arriving from manufacturers Hitachi. However, the headache could be worse this time because there are far fewer diesel trains available.  The 40-year-old HSTs will provide much-needed extra seats to reduce overcrowding between Edinburgh/Glasgow and Aberdeen/Inverness.  ScotRail has been forced to operate ten of them in a “classic” state because of refitters Wabtec struggling with the work, such as replacing old-fashioned manual doors with electrically operated ones. Robert Samson, of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: “It’s imperative that as many of the trains are refurbished as possible. Passengers will want to know what the alternatives will be if they cannot be used after December.” A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “Ministers and ScotRail have been clear to Wabtec they must improve delivery of the refurbished HSTs so more passengers across inter-city routes can realise the benefits of the huge investment made in the upgraded fleet.  As with other operators of these trains, ScotRail is also looking at contingency plans.”  A spokeswoman for Angel Trains, which leases the trains to ScotRail, said: “We are undertaking a detailed review of a revised programme from Wabtec. Our aim is to deliver 26 trains as soon as possible. We continue to explore every possible contingency.”  A ScotRail spokesman said: “The refurbished trains are very popular with our customers and we are looking forward to Wabtec delivering all 26 as soon as possible.  As with the introduction of any trains to our fleet, we are exploring contingency plans to protect the service we provide to customers.”

How Dutch Football Has Tackled Fan Trouble

Scottish football has been engulfed in off-field controversy for what seems like most of the season, prompting calls for the governing bodies to get tough on unacceptable conduct. Coins and bottles have been thrown at players and managers, supporters have confronted players on the touchline and sectarian singing has been highlighted once again.  Some believe strict liability is the answer.  This would see clubs held accountable for the behaviour of fans inside stadiums and could lead to fines, banning orders and even stadiums closures - but how much of a difference would it actually make?  Dutch football has adopted its own form of strict liability for some time. It's a country with a history of fan violence and in recent years politicians there have worked closely with the Dutch FA, The KNVB, to tackle issues similar to those in Scotland. "They are tough. The fines are really high and I think it works," said Mike Verweij from the Dutch Telegraph. When Ajax played against Utrecht away there were anti-Semitic chants on the stands. Utrecht had to close the stand where it was for the next game against Ajax. Then you punish the real guys who did it, and it doesn't happen anymore." The anti-Semitic chanting has similarities to sectarian chanting in Scotland - socially it's completely frowned upon but some fans think it's harmless for 90 minutes. Partial stadium closures are fairly common in the Netherlands but the police believe the behaviour of fans is improving - they put that down to better intelligence and better CCTV cameras. "Everything that happens in the stadium you can see on camera," said match commander Chris Koers.  The clubs and the KNVB are very quick with fines and stadium closures. In the Johan Cruyff Arena you can see everything, you can even see the beard of someone, so you can see when they do something they are not allowed and they get fines, so it doesn't happen a lot anymore."  But if it doesn't happen much, why are fines and banning orders still issued regularly?  The SPFL is currently conducting a review of CCTV systems inside all top flight Scottish football stadia - they are also pushing for more control over football banning orders but after the failed Offensive Behaviour at Football act, politicians here seem reluctant to get involved again.  In the 2015 the KNVB, in conjunction with the Dutch government, introduced a new improved version of something they call the Football Law. It gives greater powers to the Dutch FA, and local mayors, to ban trouble makers - not only from the grounds, but even towns where matches are taking place. Criminal lawyer Christian Visser represented a number of Celtic fans who were charged following clashes with the police ahead of a game in Amsterdam in 2013 - he thinks the policing and the current laws are poor. "I think it's a bad idea," he said.  He is also critical of a rule that allows clubs to pursue individual fans for the fines handed out to them by the KNVB.  "I think it could be good to sanction the club, but you shouldn't sanction the supporters via the club. First of all, most of the supporters who are there didn't light fireworks, didn't sing songs that shouldn't be sang. You punish people that are not involved."  It's clear that strict liability is not the panacea that some believe it could be, but some might argue that some punishment is better than nothing.

Kelvinside Academy Unveils Plans for New 'School of Innovation'
A leading Glasgow private school has announced plans to build a new school that focuses on developing problem-solving skills in students.  Kelvinside Academy will open Scotland's first School of Innovation, set in its west end campus, in October this year with plans to 'disrupt' education  Design of the new school will be based on an architecture studio model and will be built in partnership with construction firm Balfour Beatty as part of a £2.5m contract. Learning in the new school will tackle real-world challenges and collaborative problem solving rather than the traditional model of exams and results.  David Miller, Director of Scotland’s School of Innovation, said: “This is a must for Scotland if it is to continue to punch above its weight in the global economy during these challenging times. We truly believe we can and will transform education in the United Kingdom. We live in a rapidly changing world and schools need to provide an education which prepares young people to look at things differently.  Glasgow is the ideal place for the UK’s first innovation school. The city has a booming tech sector, is home to world class universities and some of the world’s most creative and talented engineers, architects and designers.  Our partnership with Balfour Beatty demonstrates the company’s desire to address a nationwide skills gap. Although central to pupils attending Kelvinside Academy, we intend for the Innovation School to have an impact throughout Scotland and beyond.”  The building is being designed and constructed using sustainable principles including circular models and eco-design. To mark a major milestone in its construction, Kelvinside Academy and Balfour Beatty hosted a ‘topping-out’ ceremony this week to celebrate the achievement of the building reaching its maximum height.  Kelvinside Academy school pupils are already benefiting from the partnership, with S4 and S5 pupil teams shadowing Balfour Beatty’s construction and design teams, learning from industry experts from the global construction giant, attending meetings, and providing feedback and input.  Hector MacAulay, Balfour Beatty’s Regional Managing Director for Scotland and Ireland, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Kelvinside Academy, in a relationship which shares our vision of reducing onsite activity by 25% by the year 2025 and will help us develop our future talent.  We have worked closely with Kelvinside Academy to ensure a collaborative design process and maximise efficiencies through circular and eco-design principles, which are designed to minimise waste and capitalise on resources. We look forward to successfully delivering this unique project and developing close links between the school and industry for years to come.”

RAF Jets Scrambled As Russian Bombers Fly Over North Sea
RAF jets were scrambled after Russian bombers flew over the North Sea, the MoD has said. The Typhoon aircraft were sent out from RAF Lossiemouth on Wednesday after the Blackjack aircraft flew over Norway and off the east coast of the UK before leaving. They did not enter UK territorial airspace.  A spokesman said: “We can confirm that RAF quick reaction alert Typhoon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth scrambled to monitor two Blackjack bombers while they were in the UK area of interest.  At no point did the Russian aircraft enter UK territorial airspace.”  The incident took place as Nato forces are in Scotland for a training exercise called Exercise Joint Warrior.  RAF jets were also scrambled on Friday, when they intercepted two Russian Blackjacks over the North Sea.  They were escorted from the UK’s area of interest and did not enter its sovereign airspace.  Fighters were also called out on Wednesday March 27 but did not intercept the Russian aircraft. A spokesman said Russian activity had increased in the Baltic region and that may have had an impact on the UK.  In 2018, there were six such incidents requiring the assistance of the RAF, in 2017 there were three and in 2016 there were five. There have already been at least three incidents in 2019.

Even Winston Churchill Would Have Applauded Westminster's SNP Team By Kevin McKenna
Out of Westminster’s Zombie Apocalypse something rather more redemptive has arisen and not a little ironic either. Thus the handful of MPs who have evinced some measure of the dignity and grace associated with the UK Westminster parliament belong almost exclusively to the party which wants eventually to leave it.  Few who have been transfixed by the Brexit Danse Macabre will not have been impressed by the regular interventions of the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford and the party’s Justice and Home Affairs spokesperson Joanna Cherry. This pair have carried torches into the darkest recesses of this squalid pantomime.  In the face of delinquent Tory taunts to “go home” and the BBC’s ignorant and unprofessional practice of cutting away from their reactions to key Brexit votes they have maintained their dignity and poise. That eloquent old warrior, Winston Churchill, whose statue stands guard over this place, would have concluded that during this febrile period when Westminster has become an intellectual Lilliput, dominated by braying inarticulacy, these two have upheld some of those qualities that he held dear. The sight of Michael Gove, no mean orator himself, being reduced last week to flinging bar-room insults at the SNP, is proof of how foolish and shallow he and his colleagues appear. The party which seeks to sever all ties with this place has been a credit to it while those who purport to uphold its finest traditions have treated it with contempt and reduced it to an end-of-pier beauty contest as they jostle for position in their squalid lust for power.  In Brussels the SNP MEP Alyn Smith has matched his Westminster party colleagues’ oratory with a few outstanding contributions. His parting plea last week for the European Parliament to “leave the light on” for Scotland was both poignant and significant. It framed the battleground on which the next referendum on Scottish independence will be fought and ensured that the Yes movement second time around will have more allies in Europe than was the case in 2014.  Mr Smith’s experience and contacts at Brussels, where he has garnered a significant degree of respect both for himself and his cause, will be crucial to the independence movement during the next referendum. He won’t need me to tell him either that his advice on Europe to Yes and SNP strategists must come with a measure of vinegar. Such has been the shambolic nature of the Brexit process at Westminster that the unelected bureaucrats of Brussels, white, grey and condescending to a man, and the flawed institution that permits them to promenade through Europe like princes have escaped any scrutiny of their own faults.  Each week they move through those gilded halls dispensing aphorisms and apercus with an air of haughty disdain. With each of their supercilious utterances they remind you of why 17.4 million UK citizens voted for Britain to leave this place. Much has been said about the apocalypse that awaits the UK if we leave the EU; nothing about the root and branch reforms that Brussels still needs to undertake to loosen the influence of the international banking cartel. Just ask Greece and Italy and look at how much some German banks made from the emergency bonds which were issued to bail out the Greeks. The SNP must tread with great care over the next few months that in endorsing a so-called People’s Vote on Brexit it doesn’t alienate the many among its own supporters who voted to leave the EU. Nor must it fall back on the lazy disdain that many Remainers harbour for those who voted to Leave. These weren’t all Tommy Robinson clones wielding mobile phones and talking about the Muslim threat. In Sunderland the other week I watched a drookit bundle of old Brexiters begin their march on London to protect the Brexit they thought they’d voted for. In the main they were decent, old Labour types from communities all along England’s north-east coast who felt betrayed by what they regarded as the metropolitan elite recently come to manage their party. They resented being portrayed as racist simply for seeking to protect jobs and wages from the sort of EU legislation that allowed firms to pay foreign workers at the reduced rates of their countries of origin. Some of the previously concealed fault-lines running unnoticed beneath English society reinforced the divisions that have since become apparent in the last three years. They exist in Scotland, too, and if the SNP and the wider Yes community don’t wake up to them they will conspire to destroy the independence dream just at the point where it has edged beguilingly closer once more. Scotland possesses its own political elites. These include politicians and advisors; lobbyists and bloggers; journalists and ‘artists’. Their discourse is often conducted on Twitter where they compete for ‘likes’ with laconic put-downs and their appreciation for indie bands and photographs of their home-made beetroot fricassees. If you don’t belong to this self-regarding caste of political savants and share their views on what they consider to be enlightened or progressive or modern then you become effectively a non-person. Last week the Catholic Church, whose adherents emerged as the most-pro-independence of Scotland’s faith groups, spoke of its concerns about its members being criminalised simply for adhering to the beliefs of their faith, especially in respect of marriage, the family and the sacred right to life of unborn children.  Others, many of them reasonable, liberal and left-leaning have been puzzled at a raft of legislative stunts like Named Persons, a smacking ban, assisted suicide and minimum alcohol pricing. These might look good on a progressive CV but fail to address the far more pressing problems of multi-deprivation; educational and health inequality; child and in-work poverty and actual alcohol and substance abuse. Decent people who work hard, uphold the law and love Scotland tend to resent being regarded as criminals, abusers, homophobes and sexists simply for upholding the traditional teachings of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Those who would disparage the Westminster elites which alienated England’s working class communities seem not to acknowledge the elect seeking to micro-manage Scottish society and arranging an officially-approved system of values. An independent Scotland run by these people looks like a gaunt and chilly place.

CalMac Backs Ullapool’s Winter Lights Bid
Ferry operator CalMac is backing a north-west community in its bid to win £38,000 of funding for its Winter Lights Festival.  Ullapool has been shortlisted for funding by the National Lottery’s People’s Projects and is looking for votes to secure the funding it needs. CalMac’s MV Loch Seaforth traditionally switches on the lights with a blast from its foghorn and the company is right behind the bid.  Ship’s captain John Gillies talked to Scottish Television about the vessel’s close community ties with the village. “The Loch Seaforth crew were honoured to be asked to carry out the light switch on for the last three years, and delighted to have been able to do it.  We have always been treated as a part of this special and welcoming community and this was the icing on the cake for the vessel.  All the crew give their wholehearted support in the community’s application for this funding,” said Captain Gillies.  The money will be used to expand the light show throughout the village and deliver a Winter Market involving local producers and performers. Winning this could be transformational for the community and would make our festival far more resilient for the future.  Since the first switch on three years ago it really has made a huge difference to the outlook of the village at this gloomy time of year,” said festival organiser, Angela Ford.

Success of First Scottish Pantry in Aberdeen Offers Food for Thought
A basket full of high-quality food for £2.50 may seem too good to be true - but that's now the reality for shoppers at Scotland's first food pantry.  The Woodside Pantry in Aberdeen provides people living in one of the city's most disadvantaged areas a way to shop for a lot less.  It is an innovative, community-run project.  The aim is to combat food poverty, and it has been hailed as a sustainable alternative to food bank use.  For a small weekly charge, members get access to food donated by supermarkets and a local charity.  Clare Whyte, one of the workers at the community centre where the pantry is based, said; "Food banks are not a long-term solution. It's an emergency food service, really. "This could be a way to reduce food waste which is massive and a huge issue as we know and also tackle food poverty at the same time."  Food parcels from food banks are often only available to people who have been referred by frontline professionals like GPs or advice agencies.  But membership of the Woodside Pantry was initially open to anyone living in the immediate area around the Fersands and Fountain Community Centre, where the project is based.  It proved so popular that the catchment area has now been widened and the membership cap extended. Almost half of the people using the service receive benefits or Jobseeker's Allowance. A quarter of the users are single parents.  There are now 83 households with membership to the pantry, and more than 200 local residents - including children - are directly benefitting. All of the food in the Woodside Pantry is donated via supermarkets or through food-distribution charity Fareshare Grampian, operated by Community Food Initiatives North East (CFINE). Unlike food banks where people are given pre-made food parcels, the pantry sees users pick their own items from the shelves.

Historic Perthshire Hotel Up for Sale for £3m
One of Perthshire’s most historic hotels which includes a basement gin distillery is up for sale for £3 million after 20 years of family ownership.  The Royal George Hotel in the centre of Perth has been placed on the market with property firm Colliers International acting for husband and wife team Eddie and Lorna Anderson, and their son Ed Anderson.  The 3-star hotel, which has 46 bedrooms is being sold as a going concern. Its basement was recently leased to a gin distillery start-up.  The Royal George has been a landmark of the city since early Victorian times and there has been an inn on its Tay Street premises for some 250 years.  Colliers said it was inviting offers of around £3m for the hotel.  Alistair Letham, a director in the firm’s UK hotels agency team, said: “The Royal George Hotel has been an important and iconic business on the Perth hotel scene for centuries, and this continues to this day – even more so thanks to its superb location overlooking the River Tay and close to all the major venue and attractions in the city centre of Perth. The Royal George Hotel is an extremely well established and well-known hotel business and it produces good and regular profitability.” The hotel has been in the same family hands for some 20 years.