Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 511

Issue # 511                                                         Week ending Saturday 3rd August 2019

They Say That Money Can’t Buy Happiness But A PPI Payout Can Raise A Wee Smile
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

A British man called David Threlfall was always convinced the Americans would put a man on the moon. So, five years before it happened, he bet £10 on it happening. The odds he got then were 1,000-1. He won £10,000 or £160,000 in today’s sponduliks. That was an amazing payout. You can bet on pretty much anything and the current hot flutter is on who will replace Boris Johnson. Yep, already they are staking their hard-earned and Jeremy Corby is 2-1 favourite. Keir Starmer is 7-1 and Rebecca Long-Bailey is 9-1. No, I hadn’t heard of her either.

I am not much of a betting man but that is one way to get a payout. There are others. Have you seen all those silly ads, particularly on daytime TV, for PPI? What on earth does PPI stand for? When I asked Mrs X if she knew what PPI was, she said: “Every parent knows that. It’s a condition you get if you go in the swimming pool without wearing goggles.” I had to think about that one. It actually stands for Payment Protection Insurance. Banks and other previously highly-respected institutions used to try to get you to sign up for it without explaining properly how much it would cost.

If you ever paid it, you can probably claim back at least part of it. Claims management companies will help you - or you can do it yourself. What a load of nonsense, I always thought. There is no way that anyone can just put in a claim form and then get hundreds or even thousands of pounds from your bank for mis-sold PPI. If only. Anyway, muggins here finally gave in when a well-meaning friend said we should apply. You never know, he said. He knew someone who had got nearly a thousand pounds. Very handy, I’m sure, but, if it was real, everyone would be doing it.

He advised not to use the claims management guys who phone you up when you’re doing the washing-up because, he said, they take a big chunk out of any successful payout. You can fill in a form yourself and keep all the money. I’ll do it. That form on the bank’s website was a pain. It takes ages - well, about 30 minutes. I couldn’t even remember when we had that loan or had the bank’s credit cards. Still, it lets you put in approximate dates if you are not sure. I posted it off and, after a few weeks, the bank confirmed they were investigating.

Prepare for disappointment, I thought. Then a wee note arrived to say the claim was ... successful. What? No. But yes. I bet it’ll be a tenner at most. No, it wasn’t a tenner. The payout was not just one thousand pounds either. It was much more than that. It was actually a whopping ... no, I am not going to tell you. You are too nosey. And there was no deduction for a claims management company trying to take their 25, 30 or even 35 per cent. It’s all mine. Er, I mean ours. Sorry, dear. Slip of the qwerty. Hurrah. Mine’s a large one.

We have, of course, invested it very wisely where no one can see it or touch it - in our overdraft.

The deadline for claims is August 29, and that’s just four weeks away. If you think you had a loan, a credit or store card, a catalogue account, car finance or even an overdraft arrangement in the last 30 years, it is worth checking. Payment protection was often pushed with these products. The banks have had to put the money aside to pay people. If you don’t claim they can keep it. It’s your money.

Unless you are reading this in Australia. If you are one of our readers in the far continent - and there are a few, because of a certain Gaelic warblers website, thank you, Robin - you are probably very confused about now. Not least because PPI means something very different in the business news there. Trust me, this is nothing to do with the Producer Price Index. The interesting news is that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission is considering similar action against banks there. Just hang on, Sheila. You could soon be able to spit in their PPI. Hurrah. I hope yours will be a large one too.

You have to be careful with insurance schemes. When Mrs X had an accident with her car a number of years ago, the insurance company was very sticky. She was running out of patience with the assessor who kept saying she could get a couple of thousand pounds at best. She was furious and said: “I had that car insured for £7,000 and I want my money.”

He replied: “No, Mrs Maciver. Insurance doesn’t work like that. We will ascertain the value of what was insured and provide you with a replacement of comparable worth.” There was a long pause before she replied: “In that case, I’d like to cancel the policy on my husband.”

Report Warns of Dramatic Impact of No-Deal Brexit on Islands
A new report by the Scottish Government’s  Chief Economist has warned that a no-deal Brexit would hammer Scotland’s economy,  with national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) predicted to fall by up to 7%. The report warns that the Western Isles is at particular risk of economic shock and possible job losses, noting that between 20% and 24% of the workforce in the islands will be exposed to economic damage from a no-deal Brexit.  The Chief Economic Advisor reports that a no-deal Brexit has the potential to push the Scottish economy into recession, with unemployment rising and trade and investment disrupted. If prolonged, the shock of Scotland’s departure from the EU could lead to significant structural change in the economy.  The report highlights that rural Scotland may be at serious risk with agriculture, food and fishing sectors most exposed to economic shock and job losses.

Fears for Ancient Lochaber Burial Ground's Stolen Bell

A medieval bell stolen from an ancient island burial ground may never be found, a local history group fears.  The artefact was taken from uninhabited St Finan's Isle in Loch Shiel in Lochaber sometime over the past month.  Police are investigating, but Moidart History Group has concerns it will never be recovered.  The small hand bell is said to be cursed and when last stolen in the 1740s was reputed to have flown back to the isle.  For centuries since 661 AD, the island was a Christian burial ground and more recently became well-known as a location in the Harry Potter films.  The early-medieval hand bell was last stolen after the 1745 Jacobite Rising.  A government red coat soldier took the item and was pursued by "furious locals".  He was caught and severely flogged on the orders of his superiors. Officers are understood to have returned the bell to St Finan's Isle.  But a spokesman for Moidart History said: "The tale is that it (a bell) then flew back to the island.  I hope the curse is genuine."  In the latest theft, a bolt cutter would have been needed to remove the bell from a heavy, hand-forged bronze chain.  Moidart History has appealed for help to find the bell. It said the item had "great religious and cultural value".  Loch Shiel, and St Finan's Isle, also known as Eilean Fhianain or the Green Isle, appears as the Black Lake in the Harry Potter movies.

Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson Hold Telephone Talks
Nicola Sturgeon has spoken to Boris Johnson for the first time since he became prime minister.  The Scottish government said the first minister and Mr Johnson spoke on the telephone where Ms Sturgeon was said to have reiterated her strong opposition to a no-deal Brexit and again urged the prime minister to change course.  It is understood Mr Johnson, who has predicted a "golden age" for the UK, will visit Scotland on Monday.  The prime minister says the country will definitely leave the EU on 31 October and is confident an exit deal can be agreed before then.  There has been speculation that Mr Johnson will visit Scotland next week - but Downing Street has played down reports that he will hold a meeting of his cabinet in Glasgow on Monday. Downing Street has confirmed that Mr Johnson told the first meeting of his cabinet on Thursday that he would be taking the title of Minister for the Union alongside that of prime minister.  A spokesman for the prime minister said: "It is a statement of his commitment to the strengthening of the Union and the value he places upon it.  The Scottish government said Ms Sturgeon had congratulated Mr Johnson on his appointment during their telephone conversation, before she set out her "strong opposition to a no-deal Brexit".  Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish government would continue to make every possible preparation for no deal, but urged the prime minister to change course in order to avoid such an outcome.  She said immediately after Mr Johnson became prime minister that an independence referendum was now "more essential than ever".  As well as Ms Sturgeon, the prime minister also spoke to Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, as well the leaders of the DUP and Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill respectively.  The Podlitical team look back on a wild week at Westminster as Boris Johnson moves into Downing Street and immediately cleans out Theresa May's cabinet.  You can listen to the latest episode here, or download it on your favourite podcast app.  The Scottish and Welsh first ministers sent Mr Johnson a joint letter shortly after his appointment to say it would be "unconscionable" for the UK to leave the European Union without a Brexit deal.  The prime minister's spokesman said the discussions had been "positive", with Mr Johnson insisting that he is going be the leader "for the whole of the United Kingdom".  The spokesman added: "He wants to unite the country and unleash the productive power of every corner of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland."  Mr Johnson is continuing to appoint more new junior ministers during his second full day as prime minister.  His appointments so far include Baroness Annabel Goldie, the former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, who becomes a minister at the Ministry of Defence.  He is also expected to unveil a ministerial team for the Scotland Office, who will work alongside the new Scottish Secretary Alister Jack.  Mr Jack took on the role after Mr Johnson sacked David Mundell on Wednesday in a move that is said to have left Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson "livid".  Ms Davidson had publicly urged the new prime minister to keep Mr Mundell in the job just days before he was sacked.  Mr Mundell backed Remain in the EU referendum and has been a vocal critic of Mr Johnson and the possibility of a no-deal Brexit in the past, while Mr Jack claimed on Thursday that leaving the EU without a deal would would not be "seriously damaging".  Scottish Conservative MP Andrew Bowie told the BBC that Mr Johnson would be "very reckless" and making a "grave mistake" if he does not take Ms Davidson's advice on Scotland in the future.  Mr Bowie served as the parliamentary private secretary to Theresa May during her time in Downing Street,

Visiting the Isle of Gigha
Hello and welcome to the community-owned Isle of Gigha, the most southerly and one of
the most beautiful of the Hebridean Islands. One of Scotlands little secrets...Seven miles
long by a mile and a half wide, Gigha is situated three miles west of the Kintyre peninsula, less than three hours drive from the city of Glasgow. Gigha is breathtaking – silver beaches and beautiful bays, clear green seas, stunning views and amazing sunsets, lochs and gently sloping hillsides, as well as a plentiful variety of wildlife and birdlife. You can enjoy exploring the many archaeological and historic sites or welcome the peace and beauty of a walk or cycle. Whatever the time of year you can immerse yourself in the colours of Achamore Gardens that benefit from Gigha being low lying and influenced by the North Atlantic Drift resulting in the climate being drier and warmer than that normally associated with the west coast of Scotland. We can only give you a flavour of Gigha, named by the Vikings 'Gudey', The Good Isle or God's Isle, but it is such a special place that once you visit, you will always want to return.  

No-deal Brexit Now 'Assumed' by Government, Says Gove

The government is now "working on the assumption" of a no-deal Brexit, Michael Gove has said.  Mr Gove said his team still aimed to come to an agreement with Brussels but, writing in the Sunday Times, he added: "No deal is now a very real prospect." Mr Johnson has made Mr Gove responsible for planning a no-deal Brexit.  Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told Mr Gove to chair meetings seven days a week until Brexit is delivered, according to the paper.  Mr Gove said tweaks to Theresa May's withdrawal agreement - which was approved by the EU but resoundingly rejected by Parliament - would not be enough.  "You can't just reheat the dish that's been sent back and expect that will make it more palatable," he wrote. He added he hoped EU leaders might yet open up to the idea of striking a new deal, "but we must operate on the assumption that they will not".  While we are optimistic about the future, we are realistic about the need to plan for every eventuality."  Mr Gove highlighted a major flaw of Mrs May's deal as the Irish backstop plan - a measure designed to prevent the introduction of a hard border on the island of Ireland.  So far the backstop has proved a sticking point in the Brexit negotiations.  A no-deal Brexit would mean the UK leaving the EU and cutting ties immediately, with no agreement in place.  The UK would follow World Trade Organization rules if it wanted to trade with the EU and other countries, while also trying to negotiate free-trade deals.  But with Britain outside the EU, there could be physical checkpoints to monitor people and goods crossing in and out of the UK - something ruled out by the Good Friday agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland.  Mr Gove is one of several new ministers pressing on with Brexit preparations since joining Mr Johnson's cabinet earlier this week.  Chancellor Sajid Javid has pledged extra funding to help prepare for a no-deal scenario.  Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Javid said there would be "significant extra funding" for 500 new Border Force officers and "possible" improved infrastructure at British ports.  Mr Javid is expected to pledge more money for projects next week. Meanwhile there have been reports of more dissatisfaction within the Conservative party, as MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit continue to consider ways to avoid it.  The Observer alleges former chancellor Philip Hammond held private talks with Labour's Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer before Mr Johnson became prime minister.  The pair met shortly after Mr Hammond resigned from the government, the paper said.  Mr Starmer told the paper that work to build "a strong cross-party alliance" to prevent a no-deal Brexit would "intensify over the summer".  But despite several Tory MPs voicing their opposition to Mr Johnson in his first week in Downing Street, an opinion poll has suggested a recent boost in support for the party.

Boris Johnson Puts His Government on A War Footing, and Expects Ruth Davidson to Do Her Duty
By Iain Macwhirter
Well, it was cathartic at least. After three years of indecision and delay, Boris Johnson ripped through Westminster last week like, well, a potent laxative unblocking the body politic. Expelling what he'd no doubt call “the rancid remnants of remain” in the most ruthless cabinet clear out in history. Mind you, as anyone who has had cause to resort to such preparations, the relief is immediate, but it can be damned difficult to control the consequences.  Even the hapless Scottish Secretary, David Mundell, was evacuated. The Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, was reportedly “livid” at this because she had personally asked Johnson to keep Mr Mundell in post. But the new PM is clearly in no mood to indulge Ms Davidson. She had been part of an anti-Johnson conspiracy in the party, appropriately named “Operation Arse”. (Now out window, according to one wag). Whether she faces defenestration herself we will learn at Ms Davidson's first meeting with her new leader.

He presumably wants to keep Davidson in Scotland. She delivered 13 valuable Tory seats at the last election, after all, and Johnson's majority is currently a shaky 2. But she is clearly going to have to bend the knee to the boss, and accept the new hard line Brexit doctrine of his government. The Prime Minister has made clear there is no room for doubters or “gloomsters” as the apostle of naïve optimism calls people who disagree with him.  Johnson's new cabinet is a war cabinet. The campaign for the next general election has already begun, and social media is being weaponised as we speak.. Despite his protestations that he wants to deliver Brexit before “defeating Corbyn”, the general election is most likely to be before 31st October. This is because of the parliamentary arithmetic. He has no effective majority and is vulnerable to a no confidence vote at any time after 3rd September.

Johnsons first target in the war, his daylight bombing raid, was on the Labour left and liberal opinion in general, which has been universally hostile. For months we have been hearing that Boris Johnson is a “racist” and even a fascist. Social media worked itself into a lather about this hateful reincarnation of Oswald Mosley taking over the reins of government. “Was this what it was like in the 'thirties”, said one. Nicola Sturgeon herself has denounced Boris Johnson as a “racist”.  His response to all that was to install the most ethnically-diverse cabinet in British history. And that's not my assessment but that of the prominent BAME campaigner, Sunder Katwala of British Future. He tweeted last week that there: “is as much ethnic diversity around the Cabinet table as there has been in the rest of British political history put together". That was an extraordinary statement, which turns out to be true. The first BAME cabinet minister in British politics was Paul Boeteng in 2002. Petty shocking, that, when you think of it.

Of course, for Guardian columnists, like Kehinde Andrews, this doesn't matter because Johnson-appointed ministers like Priti Patel and James Cleverly are the wrong kind of ethnic diversity. He dismissed them as “ministers with brown skin wearing Tory masks”. But it was always absurd to assume that politicians had to be left wing because of their ethnic origins. It's the same with gender balance. Boris Johnson was careful to have more women around his cabinet table than in his predecessor's. He has installed prominent feminists like Nicky Morgan and Amber Rudd, the latter as Women's Minister. Again, they are the wrong kind of feminist for many the left. But this cabinet sends out a very strong message to the wider electorate, that claims that Johnson is a racist and misogynist are baseless.

This doesn't mean that Johnson is going to be a great Prime Minister or even a good one. It may be the most ethnically diverse cabinet, but it is also the most right wing government in recent memory. It is filled with ideologues like Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, and out-and-out reactionaries like Jacob Rees Mogg, now Leader of the House. With Priti Patel, who used to support the death penalty, as Home Secretary, and the banker Sajid Javid as Chancellor, this is as right wing as any of Margaret Thatcher's teams.  This is a cabinet of Brexit ultras. Boris Johnson insisted on all of appointees committing themselves to a No deal Brexit, if necessary, by 31s October. They didn't quite sign the pledge in blood, but it was not far off. It will be most interesting to see whether Ruth Davidson signs the pledge tomorrow.

There's been much speculation about whether Boris Johnson, heart of hearts, really believes in No Deal. Isn't he just an opportunist saying what is necessary for his own personal advancement? When push comes to shove, surely he'll see reason. A crash out Brexit would wreck the economy, and where would the Tories be then?  Johnson probably believes that he is sincere, but is also capable, like his idol Winston Churchill, of abandoning any position if it becomes politically untenable. He presumably hopes that Brussels will come up with something to prevent a chaotic Brexit, which would damage many European countries almost as much as Britain. Germany is suffering a downturn at the moment, with business optimism plunging. Angela Merkell has proposed “over-writing” the Irish Backstop, whatever that means.  What it doesn't mean is replacing the Withdrawal Agreement, negotiated in good faith with the UK. Nor are the 27 prepared to throw Ireland under the Brexit bus. There is no form of deal that does not involve Northern Ireland remaining in a customs union with the Republic. Johnson must know that. This means Britain remaining in the EU Customs Union too, until a “technological solution” to the Irish border emerges. If it ever does.

Logic suggests that Boris Johnson will have to fold. The idea of a negotiated No Deal is a contradiction in terms. There is no WTA free trade solution that does not also involve an Irish backstop. Indeed, the EU negotiators regarded the backstop as a great concession to the UK because it allowed friction free access to EU markets without the UK being in the single market.  So, as Churchill would put it, Johnson is a mystery wrapped in an enigma and topped with a blond thatch. He is style without any obvious substance. He is adept at trolling the left, and is not afraid to wield the hatchet in government, but has no great plan B. There are now many discontented former cabinet minister on the backbenches just waiting for him to fail - almost government in exile.

All that Johnson has is self belief. That like Alexander the Great, he can undo the Gordian Knot of Brexit by bold action. We won't have to wait very long to find out whether Johnson is a latter-day Alexander, or like Phaeton, son of Helios, is riding for a fall.

Belladrum: 'How We Grew A Music Festival in the Highlands'

Over the last 15 years, Belladrum has grown from a small one-day event to become one of Scotland's biggest music festivals. Other festivals have fallen by the wayside in recent years - so why has this Highland gathering thrived?  The Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival was the brainchild of Joe Gibbs, the owner of the Belladrum Estate near Beauly.  It started small in 2004 as a one-day event with tickets for just 2,000 people.  "When Joe asked me about starting a festival I said it would never work," says Pete Campbell, who has been a member of the organising team since day one.  But the first festival exceeded expectations. It was a sell-out.  "That was quite an achievement for a first-time event in the Highlands," says Rob Ellen, who has helped with booking acts and publicising Belladrum since 2004.  "I don't think it had ever been done before."  Bella, as the festival is affectionately known, continued to be run as a small festival in the following years. It then moved to a two-day format, and became a three-day event in 2015.  This year's festival, which gets under way on Thursday, will attract a 20,000-capacity crowd, about 14,000 of whom will be camping.  But as Bella has grown, some other Scottish festivals have struggled in recent years.  This year Electric Fields tried to switch from a rural location in southern Scotland to Glasgow, before being cancelled.  The organisers of T in the Park admitted this year that it had "run its course", with their focus now on the TRNSMT event in Glasgow. It also attracts big-name acts over a three-day festival, but without the camping element of T in the Park.  In the Highlands, RockNess last took place in 2013 and Loopallu will take place for the last time later this year.  Joe Gibbs said there had been occasions when he feared that Belladrum might not make it.  "There were many times in the first five years when we were physically and mentally exhausted, pushing hard to make it work," he says.  "There were times we were terrified of losing a lot of money."  It had been a huge challenge competing for acts with bigger festivals backed by multinational companies.  "But over the years we have built up a reputation and there are acts that come to us now asking to be on the line-up," he says. "Running a festival is like growing an oak tree.  Oak trees take a long time to grow, but their roots are deep. Bella's foundations are secure."  Event manager Lesley Strang, who has worked at the festival since year one, says the secret of its success is that organisers never forget the core audience - those who live in the Highlands.  "Bella's tag line is 'Homegrown in the Highlands'," she says.  "It's got a Highland attitude - a bit laid back and not corporate.  We benefit from having a core audience. These are people who came in the early years when they were in their 20s and are now in their 30s and coming here with their own young families."  New generations have also joined the "family" which is involved in running the festival.  Andy Venters, who has worked at the festival since 2006, says: "My favourite thing about Bella is seeing my three boys, who came with me as kids to help in the early years, become part of the site team in their own right."  Amy Atkinson, who worked at her first Bella in 2006, now takes holidays from her day job to work as the festival's artist liaison manager.  "We have each grown with the festival, and the festival has grown with us," she says.  Last year, music promoter Kilimanjaro Group bought over Belladrum. It had previously been involved with booking headline acts over the previous decade.  Boss Stuart Galbraith says: "The festival has a very broad appeal with everything from children's entertainment through to late night drum and bass.  We just like what Joe and the team have been evolving, and that is a perfect festival run by Highlanders for Highlanders."

Plans Unveiled to Build River Clyde’s First Opening Road Bridge by 2022

Plans for the first opening road bridge over the River Clyde have reached the tendering stage, with three international teams submitting bids.  They will participate in the process for the crossing, which will connect Renfrew to Clydebank and Yoker in a project expected to create thousands of jobs.  It comes after engineering firm Sweco worked with Kettle Collective – the architects behind the Falkirk Wheel – to draw up initial designs for the bridge. The project, which it is hoped will start next year and be completed by 2022, also includes 1.2 miles of new roads including connections to the new Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District Scotland being developed by Glasgow Airport.  The bidders include ARC – a joint venture of Roadbridge and American Bridge supported by COWI as design partner, whose previous projects include the construction of the Queensferry Crossing. A Balfour Beatty team made up of Cleveland Bridge, Qualter Hall and consultants Atkins, and construction and civil engineering company Graham working with Hollandia are the others vying for the contract.

Ministers Reject Ferguson Shipyard Share Ownership Bid
An offer to hand a share of ownership in Ferguson shipyard has been rejected by the Scottish government.  The latest encounter in their dispute makes it more likely the yard will be fully taken over by ministers.  Finance Secretary Derek Mackay wants to ensure two Cal-Mac ferries are delivered and the yard, which employs 350 workers, is kept open.  The £97m contract is behind schedule and considerably over budget, and the company's finances are precarious.  The Port Glasgow yard's owner, Clyde Blowers Capital, controlled by industrial tycoon Jim McColl, tabled the new proposal on Monday.  It also presented legal advice, commissioned by Clyde Blowers Capital, that the proposed deal would be within European rules on procurement and state aid - the extent to which governments are allowed to intervene in support of businesses.  That advice has been flatly rejected by the Scottish government, saying it is obliged to seek the lowest cost option.  The dispute could lead to it using a clause in the £45m of loan agreements between the Scottish government and Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited (FMEL), through which it could take over the yard for only £1.  It is understood that a separate private lender debt, providing a £25m bond required of FMEL to ensure delivery of the ferries, is secured against ownership of the land, rather than the plant and business on it.  The two ships being built for Cal-Mac, the Scottish government-owned ferry company, have caused particular difficulties because of their innovative hybrid power systems, using diesel and liquefied natural gas.  FMEL claims numerous design changes have been required by the client, government-owned Caledonian Marine Assets Limited, which leases to Cal-Mac, and that a new design such as this requires repeated certification by the shipping regulator.  Although it has been paid most of the £97m for the fixed price contract, the firm faces a uncertain future without an injection of funds.  Estimates of the overspend are now at least £60m. Jim McColl wants the taxpayer to meet some of the extra cost.  His proposal sought to share the cost, with an offer that would mean the Scottish government taking on a stake in the company.  Legal advice for ministers says this would be open to legal challenge from firms that did not win the ferry contract.  More significant could be the problem with state aid rules - the European law limiting a government's ability to support a company against its rivals.  In rejecting the legal advice to Clyde Blowers Capital, the Scottish government claims it is required to keep public expenditure to the lowest level possible.  That either means more injection of capital from Clyde Blowers, to cover the extra cost of the ferry contract, or the takeover of the business by the Scottish government.  Use of the clause that allows a takeover of the loan conditions are breached, and for only £1, would avoid administration.  Jim McColl met Inverclyde councillors this week - both the Labour council leader Steven McCabe and SNP opposition leader Chris McEleny - to explain the proposal. A mass meeting of the workforce on Wednesday also heard about the legal advice supporting it.  In the official response from the Scottish government - though not conveyed to the company - a spokesman said: "We share the determination to ensure a strong, long term future for Ferguson's.  This proposal has formed part of the discussions with CBC over a number of weeks. However we have been clear that their proposal contained a number of serious risks to the public purse, including risks in propriety, regularity and value for money, and that we are unable to take this forward for those reasons.  We remain open to any workable proposals and to any commercial investment CBC wish to make."  A spokesman for FMEL said: "We continue to engage with both the Scottish government and CMAL, and remain fully committed to ensuring the construction of the CMAL vessels, while guaranteeing the ability of the business to continue with its diversification and growth strategy and to maintain and exploit its leading position in the development of hydrogen propulsion technology."

Scotch Whisky and Salmon 'Must Keep EU-style Protection Status'

Scotch whisky and salmon must get the same protection after Brexit even if the UK leaves with no deal, Scotland's rural economy secretary has said.  Fergus Ewing called for "iconic" Scottish products to keep their protected status under European rules.  The EU uses geographical indications (GIs) to protect products including whisky, salmon and Ayrshire earlies potatoes.  The UK Westminster government said it will use its own GIs "when EU rules cease to apply".  The Scottish government said it was worried about guidance from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which it claims contradicts UK Westminster government assurances about Gis.  Writing to his newly-appointed UK counterpart, Theresa Villiers, Mr Ewing said her department's "deeply concerning" position was "causing real uncertainty".  Mr Ewing wrote: "I wish again to put on record that the Scottish government find the approach being adopted by the UK government deeply concerning.  It is not enough to simply hope and believe that the EU will not take steps to remove existing UK GIs from their registers, especially if we are not to protect their GI products from day one in the UK scheme.  This stance is causing real uncertainty for producers and I implore you to do more to attempt to secure this mutual recognition in negotiations taking place."  In response, a Defra spokeswoman said geographical indicators "played a crucial role in protecting the provenance and heritage of some of our best-loved food and drink products".  She added: "That is why the UK is ready to launch its own GI schemes at the point at which EU rules cease to apply in the UK.  Our amazing food sector will be ready and waiting to continue selling ever more, not just here but around the world once we leave the EU on October 31."  What Scottish products are protected? Traditional Ayrshire Dunlop cheese, Scottish farmed salmon,Orkney Scottish island cheddar,Scotch lamb, Stornoway black pudding, Scotch beef, Scottish wild salmon, Arbroath Smokie, Shetland lamb, Native Shetland wool, Orkney beef, Teviotdale cheese, Orkney lamb, Bonchester cheese, Scotch Whisky

Heavy Downpours Bring Flash Flooding to Parts of Scotland

Flash flooding has brought disruption to parts of Scotland including East Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and Stirlingshire.  A section of the A77 was closed near Kilmarnock after heavy rain. Images on social media also showed disruption in Johnstone and Dundonald.  Properties in Blanefield in Stirlingshire were flooded by a nearby burn.

Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Gardens to Get £70m Revamp

A revamp of Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Gardens has been given the go ahead despite fears over a new access point.  The £70m plans were approved by the city council's development management sub-committee.  They are "the most significant project in the gardens' history". A new curved glasshouse, 20m in height, will be built with a multi-level walkway to house a "wider range of plant specimens" as well as a new visitor attraction.  The current education building will be replaced with a new structure while a new research glasshouse will replace the existing range of interconnecting research glasshouses.  Existing greenhouses are set to be upgraded to double-glazing.  A separate application to build a new sustainable energy centre and "plant health suite" at the gardens' nursery site, north of the public area, was also approved by councillors.  The technology, only matched in the UK by Kew Gardens, will use a combination of ground-source heat pumps, combined heat and power engines and gas boilers to produce both heat and electricity to the main gardens attraction and greenhouses. Planning convener Neil Gardiner said: "I welcome this exciting new addition to Edinburgh's botanic gardens which is a national asset.  It's another brilliant bit of Edinburgh and I think this is a really good scheme.  RBGE regius keeper, Simon Milne, said: "As a world-leading botanic garden responding to the climate emergency and the associated alarming loss of biodiversity, we recognise this is an essential, urgent and exciting project of national and international significance, bringing great benefits to society.  "It is a necessity to avoid the catastrophic loss of up to four thousand species in our collection.  The planning decision enables us to move forward with what is the most significant project in the gardens' history. The need for our pioneering work has never been greater, be it through cutting-edge science, impactful education or inspiring people with the beauty and value of natural capital.  Edinburgh Biomes is crucial to achieve this and the project needs the widest possible support if we are to secure our place as a leader in plant science and education, horticulture and ensure the astonishing living collection thrives for future generations.  Edinburgh Biomes will engage people of all backgrounds and nationalities, inspiring them to be part of the protection of plant life that sustains and delights us."

Orkney 5g Trials Could Soon Be Reality

5G networks are starting to pop up in UK cities - but for many rural areas even getting a basic mobile signal remains a challenge.  This was certainly the case in the Orkney Islands, an archipelago of 70 islands off the north coast of Scotland.  Its population of 22,000 is spread across 20 of these islands and has consistently ranked as one of the most under-connected in the country.  But this could be about to change.  The 5G Rural First project, a consortium of more than 30 organisations, has been running trials with local businesses, using bespoke 5G networks, for the past 18 months.  Now, a landmark decision from Ofcom, the UK's communications regulator, means these trials could become reality sooner that anticipated.  The regulator says it is opening up unused parts of the airwaves, also known as spectrum, to rural communities.  The unused spectrum is mostly owned by mobile phone companies but will now be sold to anyone who identifies a legitimate use for it.  It will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis, with bids being accepted towards the end of the year.  If accepted, the bidder will have to cover costs only, which Ofcom says could be as low as £85 for a business wanting to create its own local network.  "Mobile operators want to provide services right across the country but in some places they don't use all the spectrum, so some of it might be available for others to use," Ofcom group director of spectrum Philip Marnick said.  "We want people to be able to use spectrum as a way of deploying new services, be it in rural areas where people are doing new and interesting things or actually inside factories or offices as we go towards more industrial internet of things and 5G services, we just want people to be able to use it and do it."  But at least one of the four major mobile networks has said this new bidding system potentially clashes with its plans for the spectrum.  "These ambitions must be balanced with the spectrum rights of existing users in the 3.8-4.2GHz band," Three general counsel and regulatory affairs director Stephen Lerner said.  “We have exciting plans to use this spectrum to provide 5G home broadband in competition with BT and Virgin. Continued access to the band is fundamental to this ambition. We therefore call on Ofcom to ensure that new users do not interfere with our planned 5G deployment." Ofcom says it will assess each bid to ensure there is no interference with other users.

Last Updated (Saturday, 03 August 2019 04:00)