Some Scottish Views & Views Issue # 500

Issue # 500                                                           Week ending Saturday 20th April 2019

This is Flight Leader. We Will Go Low Over Plasterfield to Make Sure They’re All Awake
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Phew, it’s finally over. That round of NATO war games, called Exercise Joint Warrior 19-1, has been going on over the last two and a half weeks. The sea lanes of the Minch were clogged up with French, Danish and Norwegian warships as well as our own, and those of us living close to Stornoway Airport have seen quite a bit of military activity. And we heard it too. We always hear planes here in Plasterfield but Loganair’s puddle-jumpers flying from Uist and Glasgow put-put on a different level to a squadron of Merlin helicopters each with three Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM 322 02/8 engines roaring at full pelt. That thunderous blast can be confusing. The first time I heard the choppers in the distance, I thought it was the bin lorry turning into our street.

So I rushed downstairs, ran out the back, grabbed the green and blue wheelie bins and yanked them out behind me to find a couple of tonnes of metal and electronics, each worth £20 million, gliding low-level behind Mairi’s house across the road and heading between Plasterfield and Sandwick to the airport. The green and blue bins are always collected on a Friday. I knew that. The neighbours knew that. This was Tuesday. I felt such a plonker standing there pretending to be rubbing dirt off the bin wheels as the neighbours whispered to each other that the Maciver fellow over there was losing himself. Poor cove doesn’t even know what day it is. It’s herself indoors they felt sorry for.

Sorry is how I am feeling too. Sorry I have missed out on a TV series that everyone has been talking about and I couldn’t understand why. Yep, that thing, Line of Duty. It has been on the box for the last seven years and I could not get into it. The first time I saw an episode, it struck me that me that it was made cheaply, a bit predictable, and not going to amount to much. Having seen bits here and there since, I did not care to change my view. A police procedural series, just not one that was done very well. That old Tyneside cailleach, Vera, with the raincoat that needed to be reintroduced to Persil, was so much better.

Now we’re sucking diesel. That is actually a line by dodgy Superintendent Ted Hastings from Line of Duty at the weekend and I was puzzled because I knew I had heard it before. It is an old Irish saying and having worked with one Paddy in particular, whenever his situation got better, he celebrated by announcing the suction of derv. Maybe the series has always been fanatstic but it is only now that Mrs X and I have got into this grim tale of corrupt cops and those who take them down. It is a wonderfully-written series with baddies, goodies, red herrings and enough head-scratching moments to bring on a national outbreak of alopecia.

Of course, it’s all fiction. Isn’t it? Line of Duty isn’t based on anything factual, we are told by Auntie Beeb, but merely the fevered imagination of writer Jed Mercurio, a former RAF officer. Then stories came out that the largest police forces in the UK had officially refused to offer any help to a series about an anti-corruption unit but that many serving and former officers are known to be secretly “advising” to help mould characters and plots into the wonderful mélange that the series has become. Could some of these yarns over the last seven series actually be loosely based on true crime and real bad cops with enough flim-flam to divert the innocent viewer? Many think that is the case. Me? Haven’t a clue. Silence is golden.

Listen to that silence. Ah, bliss. No hellish helicoptering heroics harassing herself here. Of course, I am glad and grateful we have the security we enjoy because of our military forces but I am overjoyed when they roar away to their motherships, or whatever they are called. Phrases used by people in uniform are always very precise for a reason and civilians can sometimes misunderstand military terms.

For example, some soldiers were here for a few weeks on another exercise a few years ago. They had regular time off and many got on well with local lasses. One of the squaddies failed to turn up to a date he had arranged with an island girl called Mairi. He phoned her later to apologise, saying: “We are all confined to barracks. Dirty magazines were discovered in the platoon camp.”

Wee Mairi was absolutely livid. She launched into a tirade, shouting that our brave soldiers should not be punished for having glossy periodicals you can buy in many newsagents. She was going to write to the Secretary of State for Defence. In fact, she decided she was going to complain to the Queen about it. The squaddie said: “Please don’t bother Her Majesty. When I said dirty magazines, I meant the clips holding the rifle bullets. They hadn’t been cleaned.”

Fire Crews Tackle Large Grass Blazes in Moray and Ayrshire
Firefighters have been tackling two large grass fires in Moray and East Ayrshire.  The blazes near Ballindalloch and in Dalmellington came as the fire service warned of an increased risk of wildfires.  Six appliances and a special wild fire unit were called out to a blaze near Paul's Hill Wind Farm at Ballindalloch which broke out at 22:55 on Saturday.  A total of 35 firefighters eventually extinguished the blaze at about 15:20.  A helicopter was also brought in to waterbomb the area.  Mark Loynd, group manager with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, told BBC Scotland: "The fire was initially on two fronts and the crews had to gain access to a very rough terrain.  It was in a very inaccessible location with very limited water supplies so most of the fire has been put out by firefighters using beaters and knapsack sprays to attack the heather that was on fire."  The cause of the fire, which covered an area of about 1km sq, is being investigated.  Mr Loynd added: "I would like to thank the crews who have been working very hard over a protracted period.  And although it's still cool in the Highlands and Morayshire, the risk of wildfire is quite high because everything is very dry. So I would ask members of the public to please take care during the holiday period and going into the Easter weekend so we don't get any more wildfires unnecessarily."  The blaze in Dalmellington broke out in a forest near Loch Doon at about 18:50.  Four appliances are still at the scene.  Beaters are being used and high winds are making dealing with the fire more difficult. Nearby residents have been advised to shut their windows. There have been no reports of any injuries.  A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) spokeswoman said: "Crews are working alongside the Forestry Commission.  We will remain on scene until the area remains safe."  A grass fire also broke out in an open area near the Buckpool Golf Club in Buckie on Saturday afternoon. That blaze was extinguished.

Neolithic Dog's Head Recreated Using Orkney Skull
The head of a Neolithic dog has been recreated using a skull discovered in a cairn tomb in Orkney.  A forensic artist used 3D images of the 4,000-year-old animal to build the model - complete with realistic muscle, skin and hair.  The animal is believed to have been the size of a large collie with features similar to a European grey wolf.  The skull was one of 24 discovered when the chamber at Cuween Hill was excavated in 1901.  It is believed the dogs were placed there more than 500 years after the passage tomb was built.  The model was built by forensic artist Amy Thornton using 3D images produced by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and Edinburgh University's Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.  Ms Thornton used identical techniques to those she would normally use to recreate a human head.  She said: "The reconstruction was originally created in clay using traditional methods, with a 3D print of the Cuween Hill skull as the base to build the anatomy onto.  The completed sculpture was then cast in silicone and finished with the fur coat resembling a European grey wolf, as advised by experts.  The resulting model gives us a fascinating glimpse at this ancient animal."  Steve Farrar, interpretation manager at HES, said the model would help "to better relate to the people who cared for and venerated these animals".  He said: "Just as they are treasured pets today, dogs clearly had an important place in Neolithic Orkney, as they were kept and trained as pets and guards and perhaps used by farmers to help tend sheep.  But the remains discovered at Cuween Hill suggest that dogs had a particularly special significance for the farmers who lived around and used the tomb about 4,500 years ago. Maybe dogs were their symbol or totem, perhaps they thought of themselves as the 'dog people'.  While reconstructions have previously been made of people from the Neolithic era, we do not know of any previous attempt to forensically reconstruct an animal from this time."

Major Land and Sea Military Exercise Comes to An End

A major NATO exercise taking place across Scotland’s skies and waters came to an end this week.  Aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth took part in Exercise Joint Warrior 19-1 which included aircraft from three different services.  They operated out of a number of military and civilian airfields, with crews being put through their paces in air-to-air and air-to-surface combat.  RAF Lossiemouth had Typhoons from 1(F) Squadron and 6 Squadron launch in a variety of complex missions involving the F-35B Lightning II.  The base has also been hosting helicopters from the United States Navy and Royal Navy, which have been operating at the RAF ranges at Tain and with a variety of ships.  Thirteen NATO nations, six UK Joint Expeditionary Force partners, and Australia participated in the exercise this year, which is designed to improve the defence capabilities of the UK and her allies.  Participants conducted joint operations in a range of scenarios which involved air, surface, sub-surface, sea control and maritime security roles.  Operation Joint Warrior also provided a unique opportunity to integrate a large number of maritime vessels with their colleagues in the air. Maritime patrol aircraft from France, Germany, and Norway have been operated out of Prestwick Airport, formally HMS Gannett.  The US Navy has been operating the P-8A Poseidon aircraft, which will enter RAF service in October, with the first RAF Poseidon expected to arrive at Lossiemouth early next year.  Four NATO warships docked in Aberdeen Harbour yesterday following a war games training exercise in the North Sea.  The ships, including minesweeping vessel HMS Cattistock, arrived in the city yesterday morning. Other warships were from Germany, Denmark and Norway. They are in Aberdeen for a short break following the Joint Warrior exercise, which took place in the North Sea.

'Unexploded Ordnance' Shuts Ardersier to Fort George Road
A road in the Highlands was closed to traffic following the discovery of a suspected piece of unexploded ordnance. Police said the B9006 was shut between Ardersier and Fort George, an army barracks and former artillery fortification.  The device was found on the nearby shoreline of the Moray Firth and has been described as "historic".  A Royal Navy bomb disposal team attended the site and found the device, "old war unit", to be safe.  Constructed in the 18th Century, Fort George was used as a military base during both world wars, and parts of the site continue to operate as barracks.

Scottish Salmon Company Invests £10m in Trio of Projects
The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) is to invest about £10 million in a trio of freshwater projects, securing more than 20 jobs.  The Edinburgh-based salmon producer, which has more than 600 staff and operates 60 sites across the west coast and the Hebrides, has announced the creation of a new facility and the purchase of two sites, all in Wester Ross. SSC is to create Applecross Kishorn, a centre of excellence in freshwater production, to drive innovation and promote best practice.  It has also acquired Appleburn Couldoran, an on-shore hatchery, and nearby Loch Damph, a facility to support increased smolt production as the business targets “responsible, sustainable” growth.  The investments are expected to provide long-term job security for 21 full-time members of staff.  SSC chief executive Craig Anderson planted Scottish heritage apple trees at the Kishorn and Couldoran sites to mark the developments.  Last month the firm unveiled record annual revenues of £180.1m, with export volumes comprising more than 60 per cent of sales and particular success in the US and Far East.  Anderson said: “We are making a significant investment in the Highlands and Islands which will strengthen our freshwater operational infrastructure and deliver greater capacity to meet the increasing global demand for our quality Scottish salmon.  These infrastructure projects will mean long-term job security and more spending in the local area through our local sourcing policy.”

Jeremy Clarkson and Grand Tour Team Brand Scottish Electric Car Project ‘Dignitas Collection Service’

Scottish university researchers are reeling after Jeremy Clarkson mocked their electric “airport trolley” cars.  The Grand Tour presenter and his team slammed the Esprit car sharing project which is partly being pioneered at Aberdeen University.  They compared the lightweight 30mph vehicles to something from the B-movie horror film “The Human Centipede”, a “Dignitas collection service”, and a series of airport trolleys.  The tiny Esprit (Easily diStributed Personal Rapid Transit) vehicles are designed for short city-centre hops and are to be tested in Glasgow, Lyon and L’Hospitalet de LLobregat near Barcelona. They stack together like shopping trolleys, and can travel linked together in trains of up to eight. Aberdeen University and transport business First Group are among a number of partners for the EU-funded project, which aims to reduce congestion and pollution in city centres and suburban areas.  A spokesman for the university said they were “flattered” that the Grand Tour team - Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May - took notice of their work and wanted to “improve their understanding” of the project.  In the episode on Amazon Prime, Jeremy Clarkson said: “What they’re saying is the future is going to be very inconvenient. That’s basically what they’re actually saying.”  However, Esprit is designed for the first or last mile of a journey, with the idea being people use their own cars to get most of the way to their destination.  A spokesman for the university said: “We’re flattered the Grand Tour team has taken notice of our involvement in the Esprit project, and we’re happy to help improve their understanding of this innovative solution to city centre congestion.  One of the main strengths of the concept is that the stacking function enables the redistribution of empty vehicles, overcoming the main weakness of one-way car sharing.  As Esprit is specifically designed for the first or last mile of a journey, you’ll still be able to use your own car to get close to your destination.  With car-sharing schemes expanding throughout Europe, Esprit will create a system that will help reduce congestion and noise and air pollution, while providing greater energy efficiency.”

Edinburgh Comic Jay Lafferty’s Brexit Gag Makes Front Page of New York Times
An extended gag about Britain’s Brexit woes on the new BBC Scotland channel has ended up on the front page of the New York Times.  Edinburgh comic Jay Lafferty was appearing on the BBC Scotland panel show when she set off on a rant about Prime Minister Theresa May’s failure to get her deal through the House of Commons and the deadlock over Britain’s departure from the EU.  The comic’s 38-second gag was used in full to help promote the show, hosted by Des Clarke, on BBC Scotland’s social medial channels.  A clip was subsequently sent to New York Times writer Roger Cohen by a friend, with the journalist using it to illustrate where Britain has arrived at after almost three years after voting to leave the EU.  Under the headline “Brexit heads for that big black hole,” the paper run her gag in full.  Speaking on Breaking the News, she said: “So the way I understand it is that Parliament have said no to Theresa’s deal. And they’ve said no to no deal, but some of them said yes to no deal but no to Theresa’s deal, but not as many that said no to no deal and no to Theresa’s deal, but they don’t actually have a deal of their own, which is a big deal because without a deal then no deal is more likely to be the deal that’s dealt, and the people who want the deal can’t be dealing with that.”  The piece by Cohen also stated: “You can hoodwink people — but not if you give them three years to reflect on how they were hoodwinked before doing the deed the hoodwinking was about.  The British cannot actually go through with something that will lower their incomes, make them poorer, lose them jobs, drain investment, expose their market to trade deals over which they would have no say, and — just an afterthought — lead to the breakup of Britain.”  Lafferty, who wrote the gag for a recording of Breaking the News at the end of last month, said she had been messaged by friends in New York to take her she was on the front paper of the paper.  She said: “I was bit blown away when I first heard about it. It’s been a bit of a shock to the system.  I was teaching kids all week at The Stand comedy club in Edinburgh and was up really in the morning. I went to make a cup of tea and saw a message on Twitter asking if I knew I was on the front page of the New York Times. I looked at it and didn’t know what they meant at first. It took me a while to release that they had used the whole quote. I couldn’t believe it.  I’ve had other comedians get in touch with me to tell them they’ve been sent the clip by people all over the world. We probably talk about Trump and Brexit every week on the show. All that stuff about Theresa May going backwards and forwards with her deal was going on all week.  You write so many little bits for each show and you don’t get a chance to say all of them - you pick and choose what to say in the moment.  But this was actually the first thing that I said on the show. I knew that if I could nail saying it properly, and not mess it up, it would be quite relatable to people, especially in a Scottish accent.”  Lafferty made more than 100 appearances during last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe and will be again with a new show this year at the Gilded Balloon.  She added: “As a comedian, you never really know what is going to spark the interest of people. You just your best to be funny. If people laugh in the room they will also generally laugh online. It got a great response at the time that I said it.  You can tell from my reaction afterwards that I’m just relieved to have got it out.”

Here's Scotland's First Bus You Can Wheel Your Bike Onto

Scotland's first buses which can carry bikes inside were launched today on Borders Buses between Edinburgh and the mountain-biking mecca of Peebles.  Three brand new Scottish- built buses each have space for two bikes each on the X62 route. Two additional bike bays are to be added by the end of next month. Borders Buses said each of the £275,000 buses could take up to 76 cars off the road.  Operations manager Lee Young said: “Active travel is increasingly becoming a popular choice with people from all walks of life.  As a key transport provider, we are committed to continuously tailoring our product offerings to meet those changes in travel demand.  Scottish Borders Council leader Shona Haslam said: “The Scottish Borders is the leading cycling destination in Scotland, from the forests which provides a world-class mountain biking offering to the various cycling routes which allows people to explore our fantastic area.  “Tweeddale in particular has an excellent offering for cyclists of all ages and abilities, including the recent extension of the Tweed Valley multi-use path and opening of the e-Bike Hub in Innerleithen.  The provision of these brand new bike-friendly vehicles Buses on the main service through Tweeddale will be hugely welcomed by local people and visitors and we hope will see even more people travel here.” Charlie Miller, regional sales manager at Falkirk-based bus builders Alexander Dennis said it had worked with Borders Buses "to find this fantastic solution to carrying bikes on buses". A spokesman for manufacturer said: "As far as we and Borders Buses are aware, these are the first in Scotland to carry bikes inside the vehicle. "Other buses and coaches, when they do carry bikes, have external racks."  The vehicles also have free wi-fi, and wireless and USB charging points.

Scotland Hit by £700,000 in Doorstep Scams Over Six Months
Doorstep scammers took more than £700,000 from people across Scotland in six months, according to new figures.  Police Scotland said 249 victims were targeted between April and September last year.  The figures were released ahead of a new campaign, Shut Out Scammers, which aims to raise awareness on cold calls.  While half of those hit by scams could be considered "vulnerable", police are stressing that a wide range of people are falling victim to such frauds. Ch Supt John McKenzie warned: "Nobody is immune to this kind of crime."  Police also highlighted that many fraudsters have links to organised crime groups. Ch Supt McKenzie continued: "It is incredibly invasive and victims often feel embarrassed about being deceived.  We take doorstep crime very seriously and understand the significant impact it has on victims. It is vital that people report crimes to us when they happen.  Our Shut Out Scammers campaign will help us stop more members of our communities being targeted by those intent on defrauding them of cash or gaining access to their homes.  We want to make sure victims know where to turn to so that they can receive all the necessary support and assistance.  There is no specific look to a bogus caller or rogue trader. Be alert, and if you have any concerns at all, do not allow an individual entry to your home, or provide them with any form of payment and do not hesitate to phone the police immediately. Always ask for ID and only let callers in if they have an appointment and you know that they are genuine."  The Police Scotland campaign will be carried out in conjunction with a number of partner organisations to highlight prevention advice and support services.

Tim's Tales: Markle and Saint Andrew

There is a legend attached to a small rocky outcrop at Markle, which is close to present-day East Linton.  The legend tells us it was from this location that the Pictish King Angus II saw an x-shaped cross in the sky in AD 832 during the Battle of Athelstaneford.  This was said to be a miracle sent by St Andrew, and was foretold to the king in a dream. A local tradition claims that the name Markle is actually a corruption of the word miracle, a reference to this legendary intervention of the saint on that day.  This event is now seen as the ‘birth of the Scottish flag’, the Saltire thereafter becoming the flag of Scotland; the tale is well told by the Scottish Flag Trust in the doocot by Athelstaneford Kirk, which has been wonderfully adapted into the Flag Heritage Centre.  But why was it St Andrew who came to the aid of the Picts and Scots on that day and not, say, St Columba? The answer to this question may begin in a 1,300-year-old crypt in Northumberland.  This crypt lies underneath the abbey of Hexham, a town in northern England. The crypt is an amazing survival from Anglo-Saxon times, built in the seventh century, more than 150 years before the Battle of Athelstaneford is said to have taken place.  The crypt was part of a monastery built on the orders of the then abbot Wilfrid and it had a special purpose.  Wilfrid was a passionate devotee of St Andrew. He had travelled to Rome and returned with a relic connected to the saint. Christianity at this time had not yet fully established its dominance, and Wilfrid was determined to create a great Christian holy site to encourage the spread of his faith.  And what better way to do this than use a relic of St Andrew, an Apostle of Jesus himself?  So he established St Andrew’s monastery at Hexham in AD 674, and in the crypt below there was a shrine, in which the relic of the saint was kept.  Pilgrims began to flock to the site and, although small, the design of the crypt gave an intense religious experience.  Even today, the now-empty shrine has the atmosphere of a sacred inner sanctum. The ancient feel of it is added to by the fact it was constructed with stones taken from abandoned Roman buildings, as Hexham is close to Hadrian’s Wall and the Roman garrison town of Corbridge.  But what is the connection with the miracle at Markle?  The connection begins with Wilfrid’s successor Acca, who became the abbot of St Andrew’s in Hexham in AD 709. He had travelled with Wilfrid and shared his devotion to St Andrew. It is said Acca acquired his own relics of St Andrew and added them to the collection at Hexham.  But Acca the abbot was an evangelising monk. In AD 732, he left Hexham and journeyed beyond the old crumbling Roman wall and further north.  It was around this time that East Lothian became part of Northumbria. But the kingdom beyond the sea (the Firth of Forth) was the land of the Picts.  The story tells us that Acca met with the Pictish king Angus (Oengus) at a place called Kilrymont in Fife. Here, we are told, Acca gave the Christian Pictish leader some relics of St Andrew he had taken from Hexham and urged the king to create a new centre of Christian pilgrimage for the saint.  From the limited historical accounts available, it does seem that it was indeed around this time that the religious site of St Andrews in Fife was established, at the place previously called Kilrymont. Further evidence of this is the amazing St Andrews Sarcophagus, which was discovered at St Andrews in the early 19th century. It can now be seen in the cathedral museum, where it is described as “one of the finest examples of early medieval sculpture in Europe”. It dates from the mid-700s and was almost certainly commissioned by Angus for his own burial. He died in AD 761.  And so the veneration of St Andrew in Scotland had begun well before the miracle at Markle, with King Angus resting at St Andrews in his magnificent sarcophagus. No wonder, then, when a later King Angus (often called Oengus II) was in need of divine intervention in AD 832, the saint he prayed to was St Andrew, who is then said to have replied in such a legendary, dramatic fashion.  Here is the connection between the crypt at Hexham and the miracle seen at Markle: the relics of St Andrew brought to Fife which began the Scottish attachment to the saint may well have been part of the Hexham collection. But wait a minute! That’s not the story I have always been told when I go to St Andrews. The oft-told legend is that it was St Rule (or Regulus) who brought the relics to Fife in the fourth century. He was the bishop of the Greek city of Patras, where St Andrew was crucified. The story tells us he had a dream in which he was told that the relics of the saint, which he was the custodian of, were in danger and he must set sail with them. The dream told him that wherever he was shipwrecked, there the relics would find their new home.  After months at sea, his ship was wrecked at Kilrymont in Fife. And so he established a new shrine and re-named the place St Andrews. No mention of a Northumbrian abbot, or relics from Hexham in this story!  What are we to believe? There is often a haze between history and legend and they sometimes meet in a place too misty for us to see. Historical truth can be an elusive creature. You think you have grasped it when suddenly it slips away, leaving you searching once again. And sometimes a lost historical truth is to be found hidden in a legend. In the tale of St Andrew’s relics, history will side with the abbot, I suspect, but the romanticised and dramatic tale of St Rule has become the more popular and well-known explanation.  But the reason for this is another story in itself.

Premier Oil Action Over North Sea Platform Explosion Risk
An oil firm has said it has taken action after concerns were raised about the potential for gas to accumulate on a North Sea platform.  The Health and Safety Executive issued a prohibition notice to Premier Oil because it found flammable gases were not being combusted by a flare system.  The safety watchdog said the issue risked fire and explosion on the Balmoral floating production vessel.  Premier said it had taken "all the appropriate action" to address it.  The company said in a statement: "It is our highest priority to operate all of our assets in a safe and responsible manner and Premier has taken all the appropriate action to address the issue raised in the prohibition notice."

Barra's Mainland Ferry Service Resumes After Breakdown
An island's mainland ferry link has been restored several days after a mechanical breakdown disrupted services.  Bad weather had hampered repairs to Barra's MV Isle of Lewis after it developed a fault at the weekend.  The vessel, which had been blocking relief services from getting in or out of Castlebay pier, was due to sail Wednesday.  Local Councillor Donald Manford blamed the problem on CalMac's ageing fleet.  He welcomed investment which had increased services in recent years but added: "Historic neglect of the fleet is the basic cause of the pressures being put on vessels."  He said: "They are getting older and are having to work harder.  That is placing a great deal of stress on the existing services."  People travelling between Barra and the mainland had faced an alternative route via Eriskay and then on to Lochboisdale.

Glasgow City Council to Limit Number of New Taxis and Cabs
Glasgow City Council is set to take steps to limit the number of new taxis and private hire cabs.   The council says it may start turning down applications for new vehicle licences because there are too many taxis and cabs on the road.  There are currently 1,420 taxis and almost 3,900 licensed private cabs.  The policy is designed to ensure work is not spread too thinly between existing drivers. Applications to renew existing licences will not be affected. Personal licenses - that is, the certificate required to become a driver in a vehicle with an existing license - will also be unaffected.  The council was always free to turn down applications for new taxi licences but the new policy makes this explicit.  Until recently, licence applications for private hire cabs could only be turned down if the person or company was deemed unsuitable - the number of cabs on the road was not a consideration. Glasgow believes it is the first Scottish council to set upper and lower limits for the number of black cabs and licensed private hire vehicles. In Glasgow, all licensed taxis are black Hackney vehicles.  City of Edinburgh Council currently has a limit on the number of taxi licences but not on the number of private hire licences.  The council says there should be:     Between 1,278 and 1,420 black taxis and between 3,195 and 3,759 licensed private hire vehicles. The numbers are based on research carried out for the council into the demand for taxis and private hire cabs.  The council aims to ensure there is a sustainable business for taxis and cabs.  However, average figures disguise peaks and troughs - for instance extra demand after a major concert, busy weekend evenings and bad weather.  Black taxis can use ranks and pick up customers who hail them off the street. A licensed private hire cab can only accept advance bookings.  Taxis charge fares which are regulated by the council. Licensed private cabs set their own fares so there is competition between different operators.

Scots Pop Pioneer Edwyn Collins ‘Changed’ by Highlands Move

Edwyn Collins, the groundbreaking Scottish pop and rock pioneer who has recovered from two devastating strokes, has opened up on how moving to the Highlands has transformed his life and helped him continue to make music.  The former Orange Juice frontman said his entire “world has changed” after relocating from London to Helmsdale, on the Sutherland coast, five years ago.  Collins, who has just released his first album recorded in a clifftop studio he has had built, revealed he had been forced to simply his songwriting and conentrate on “simple and direct words. In an interview recorded at his Helmsdale home in Sutherland for BBC Scotland’s new channel, Collins admitted: “Music is my life and my passion, and without music I would be lost.”  Collins is widely regarded as one of Scotland’s most influential singer-songwriters after enjoying chart success in the early 1980s with the post-punk band Orange Juice, who released their first singles with the celebrated independent Glasgow label Postcard.  After the band split in 1985, Collins went on to pursue a solo career and had a worldwide hit a decade later with “A Girl Like You.”  However the Edinburgh-born musician was struck down by two brain haemorrhages in February 2005 and spent months in hospital.  But following extensive rehabilitation and therapy was able to return to recording, releasing three albums between 2007 and 2013.  The following year Collins and his wife Grace decided to sell their home in Kilburn in London and move to Helmsdale, where generations of his family have lived and the musician had been a regular visitor over the years.  Interviewed in Helmsdale for The Loop, a new weekly arts programme, Collins said: “I had a stroke. I had a titanium plate inserted in my head and six months in hospital. I couldn’t say a word. I used therapy to help me get better.  Nowadays I’m calm, relaxed, my world has changed since moving up to Helmsdale. It’s a magic experience. I start my day at nine in the morning. I go off to the studio and climb up approximately 105 stairs. I was so fluent before my stroke. Now it’s difficult to get the message across and get the idea across. It’s about simple words and direct words and feeling vulnerable.  I can’t do ironic nowadays, it’s beyond me. Words are important to communicate. I’ve had a stroke, but words are important to get ideas across.”

Perth Farmers' Market Set to Celebrate 20 Years
Perth Farmers’ Market has been celebrating its 20th anniversary this month.  The market, which was the first of its kind to be established in Scotland, was set up by Perthshire livestock farmer Jim Fairlie.  The first market was held in April 1999 and only had 12 stalls in King Edward Street, but over the past two decades the market has grown from strength to strength.  On the first Saturday of every month, around 50 stalls showcasing local produce fill the streets of Perth city centre. Jim, who now runs his own retail business selling Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb, as well as his outdoor event catering business The Kitchen Farmer, said his early idea was an opportunity for farmers to sell directly to consumers as an alternative to only selling through the major retailers.  He said: “The inspiration came on a visit to France. Food is a huge part of French culture and it was clear that farmers’ markets were thriving there as a result of French consumers’ desire for top quality local food that they know and trust.  Farmers’ markets offer a two-way benefit - producers can meet and get a valuable understanding of what their consumers want and forge a close relationship with them, and consumers can get to know and trust the people who produce the food they buy.”  Jim says it is rewarding to see the successes of the farmers’ markets, adding there is opportunity for people with a shared interest to collaborate in producing top quality food and drink together. He added: “When farmers and other producers get together to share ideas, the results can be excellent. This kind of collaboration will be vital for the industry going forward if Scotland Food and Drink’s ambitious 2030 targets are to be achieved post-Brexit.”

Edinburgh Tidal Energy Firm Lands £3.5m Investment

Edinburgh-based renewables firm Sustainable Marine Energy (SME) has netted almost £3.5 million to drive development of its tidal products for the Canadian market.  The tidal energy specialist has secured the seven-figure equity investment to further develop its Plat-I platform system currently in use in Nova Scotia. German-headquartered marine propulsion and renewable energy company Schottel Hydro, which in 2018 merged its tidal energy businesses into SME to become the Scottish firm’s largest shareholder, contributed close to £2.5m in the funding round.  The Scottish Investment Bank (SIB), the investment arm of Scottish Enterprise, committed the remaining £1m on behalf of the Scottish Government’s Energy Investment Fund.  SME conducted initial testing of the Plat-I system in Argyll and Bute last year, before transporting the device to Grand Passage, Nova Scotia, where it generated power for the first time in February.  The funding will help to continue SME’s testing and demonstration programme in preparation for building a larger project at the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy located in Canada’s Bay of Fundy.  Jason Hayman, MD of SME, said: “It is fantastic, and a great testament to the team for all their hard work, to close this funding round.  Securing new investment from the SIB and commitment from Schottel for our work in Nova Scotia will enable us to take a significant step forward on our renewable energy journey.”  SIB director Kerry Sharp added: “This investment could ultimately see SME further its commercial activity, placing the company at the forefront of the development of tidal energy technologies and further cementing Scotland’s position as a leading player in the global transition to a low-carbon economy.”

National Wallace Monument Opens After Refurbishment
The National Wallace Monument has reopened following a refurbishment of its exhibition galleries to celebrate the landmark's 150th anniversary.  Work to transform all three floors of the monument near Stirling has been going on since February. For the first time, visitors are able to see the sculptures of Scottish heroines Maggie Keswick Jencks and Mary Slessor in the new Hall of Heroes.  The Maggie's Centres co-founder and the Dundonian missionary won a public vote.  An animated film, titled Wallace - A Hero in The Making, is now playing in the Hall of Arms. And in the highest gallery, The Royal Chamber, a new viewfinder reveals how the landscape around the Abbey Craig appeared to Wallace in the 13th Century. Wallace led the Scottish army to The Battle of Stirling Bridge there on 11 September 1297. Zillah Jamieson, chairwoman of Stirling District Tourism, said the aim of the refurbishment was "to tell the story of William Wallace better than it has ever been told in the past". She said: "The upgraded exhibition spaces will resonate with modern audiences from all over the world, through dynamic storytelling and digital enhancements."