Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 512

Issue # 512                                               Week ending Saturday 10th  August 2019

Take your time to fill in your form, to make whisky and to fly the Minch by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

All I did was tell people to take a little time out of their busy lives to fill in a form and they may get some cash back from their bank if they were oversold PPI. That’s all I wrote here last week. We did and we got a wee payout. Now everyone I know is at it. Suddenly, I am this great financial guru, handing out pearls of wisdom. Much of the country is banging in applications too. There has been a big spike in PPI applications in the last week and, while I cannot really claim the credit for much of it, I am delighted. I did my bit. And, if you haven’t put yours in, why not do it now? There’s only three weeks because you cannot do it after August 29.

Some banks are squealing about the time to process all these claims. To be expected but I would remind Barclays, whose finance director has been moaning that some claims are vexatious, you did much worse. So what if some members of the public are taking up your time to see if they have a claim or not? It was your bank, and others too, who tried to rip off customers by piling on the PPI charges without explaining them and even charging when customers didn’t need them.

It doesn’t take much time. Fill in a form if there is any possibility of a claim. You should be able to fill in the form on your bank’s website in less than 30 minutes. That’s only slightly longer than French flier Franky Zapata took to cross the English Channel the other day. Whoosh. It took him 60 feet up in the air and then 22 miles in 22 minutes to alight safely beyond the white hills and on the green, green grass of Dover. He did speeds of up to 110mph but he had to slow down at one point for a passing helicopter to top up his fuel backpack. Cool.

His isn’t like these wobbly and dangerous battery-powered hoverboards that were all the rage a few Christmases ago and which were responsible for shattered smugness, sideboards and skulls. This one does not take AA or PP3 batteries. This was a jet-powered hoverboard better than those in James Bond. No special effects required. Whoosh. And, like all great inventions, it won’t be long until we all have one in the garage. When Mrs X tells me to go for a pint of milk I can pop out and then wonder where shall I go for the cow juice today? The bakery across the road? Or Tesco? Or Tesco in ... Ullapool? Whoosh.

I want one. Imagine if you had one of these jet hoverboards and you overflew the ferry Loch Seaforth mid-Minch. How fed up would you be on the Caledonian MacBrayne tub to see someone rich and good-looking, like myself, rubbing it in by doing tight turns above the familiar Lion Rampant emblem on the ferry’s funnel? You can just imagine a passenger shouting up from the deck: “Hoi Maciver, have you got vertigo?” I would just shout back: “Nah. Another 10 miles and I’ll be at Achiltibuie post office for a quart of Mrs X’s semi skimmed.” Whoosh.

If we all got these hoverboards, it could sink CalMac. Loganair would just be for the super-rich. Mind you, isn’t it already?

Unlike the new dram being created in America. Because they don’t know how to spell properly over there, our cousins across the pond are calling it whiskey, not whisky, but by all accounts the dram that Endless West has created has a lot more in that it shouldn’t have. The California company says it makes synthetic food and drinks - including whiskey. It claims to make the whiskey in 24 hours - which is a bit different from the 12 years it takes to mature my own fave, Macallan Triple Cask.

Synthetic stuff is a substance made by chemical synthesis, especially to imitate a natural product. This dram sounds like a poor imitation. The reviews I have read suggest it tastes of apricot and not heather, smoke, peat and diesel - like most very fine Scotch Whiskies. I wonder if it makes you exclaim: “Oh, heorna mhor,” now coincidentally a battlecry of a recently-formed beat combo called Peat and Diesel - of which more soon.

So making great whisky takes a little time, but more than filling in a PPI form. Time management is not my forte either. Mrs X wife keeps telling me I spend too much time on this computer and I must go out for a walk with her. She is getting angry about it even though I told her I have to stay and write this column. She is taking it too far now. She has just told me she will slam my head into the keyboard the next time she catches me on it. So I told her that I’m the boss in this house. I’m the man. No one tells me what to jkhlk hGHr tKG^ %$:Ljk suir$.

Union Warns Edinburgh's £150m Hospital May Never Open
The new £150m hospital for children in Edinburgh may have to be "ripped down" amid safety concerns, a senior trade union official has warned.  Tom Waterson said drainage at the building is a more pressing matter than the ventilation issues which saw the postponement of its official opening.  He also claimed NHS Lothian had paid millions of pounds in a settlement to help resolve some of the problems.  The health board said reviews into the delay are already under way.  As well as focussing on ventilation they will also look at drainage and water systems as a priority.  The development comes after BBC Scotland revealed NHS Lothian is paying millions of pounds to a private consortium for a hospital it cannot use.  Mr Waterson said: "I've been speaking to senior staff within NHS Lothian over the last two or three weeks and more and more have been coming to speak to me.  They are telling us that they have concerns primarily over drainage at the site. People are unable to confirm whether the drainage that has been put in, is in fact fit for purpose.  We need to find out what's happening before everyone moves in. We can't wait to find out later on and just keep our fingers crossed."  Mr Waterson said the problems date back 18 to 36 months when senior staff were "alerted to shortcomings in the drainage".  But despite that the contractors continued to press ahead with construction.  He added: "There is a school of thought that they might have to rip it down.  "How do you fix drainage in a building when it's "x" number of feet beneath the building? I'm not an engineer, but it's not going to be easy.  I'm extremely worried."  The father-of-two said he is also speaking as a parent.  He added: "My daughter had to use the Sick Kids last year and the service was excellent.  My concern is that we can't use the new building until we know that it's 100% safe.  The Scottish government had three people on the project board from day one. They would have been fully aware of this issue 36 months ago."  The new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People, which will have over 200 beds, was supposed to open in July, but health secretary Jeane Freeman overruled NHS Lothian after last-minute inspections found safety concerns over its ventilation system.  The project has been marred by disputes between the local NHS board and IHSL Lothian, the consortium responsible for building the hospital.  Although the investigation is expected to be finished this year, no date has been offered by the Government or NHS Lothian for when the hospital will open.  Mr Waterson, who is the chair of Unison's Scottish health committee, represents 12,500 members in NHS Lothian, including staff who were expected to switch from the existing facility in Edinburgh.  A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "The health secretary has made clear that her greatest responsibility is the safety of patients, and for this reason decided to delay the move of patients, staff and services to the new hospital. Patients and carers have been contacted directly to confirm appointment arrangements and a dedicated helpline remains in place.  She recognises that many staff share her frustration following the announcement of the delay."  The spokeswoman confirmed Ms Freeman will meet again with NHS Lothian staff representatives in the coming weeks.  Prof Alex McMahon, nurse director at NHS Lothian, said: "There are a number of independent reviews and investigations underway to verify and provide assurance that all aspects of the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People, the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services meet the appropriate standards before it becomes operational.  The decision to delay the move followed the identification of a problem with ventilation in critical care. Given the pause in occupation, the commissioned reviews will focus on ventilation and will also look at drainage and water systems as a priority.  An Oversight Board, made up of Scottish government, NHS Lothian, National Services Scotland and Scottish Futures Trust, has been established in order to provide co-ordinated advice on the readiness of the hospital to open and on the migration of services to the new facility.  The reviews and subsequent reports will be provided to the cabinet secretary for health and NHS Lothian."

Bumi Thomas: British-born Jazz Artist Faces Deportation From the UK
Jazz artist Bumi Thomas was born in Glasgow in 1983, but now faces deportation after the Home Office said she had no right to remain in the UK.  A law change, six months before Bumi was born, affected the automatic citizenship rights of children born in the UK to parents from the Commonwealth.  Her parents were unaware they had to fill in a naturalisation form and thought Bumi was a citizen like her older sister, who was born before the law was enacted.  Bumi has appealed against the decision, with her case set to be heard in October 2019.

Nicola Sturgeon Points to 'Growing Urgency' for Scottish Independence

Nicola Sturgeon said there was "growing urgency" for Scotland to become independent "sooner rather than later".  The first minister believed the country faced being "dragged down a political path we don't want to go" because of Brexit and with Boris Johnson as PM.  Ms Sturgeon was speaking after an opinion poll suggested a majority of Scots could back independence.  However, opposition parties said another vote would be "divisive" and was "not the way forward".  Ms Sturgeon wants to hold a referendum in the second half of 2020, but has said her preferred timetable could be accelerated in light of developments around Brexit, particularly if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.  On Monday, the poll by Lord Ashcroft put independence in the lead, with 46% saying they would vote for it and 43% saying they would oppose it.  Excluding those who said they did not know how they would vote, it would give the Yes side a lead of 52% to 48%.  Discussing the poll at an Edinburgh Festival event, Ms Sturgeon said she was confident that opinion was swinging behind her side.  She told her host: "I think there is growing support for independence in Scotland and I think there is, accompanying that, a growing sense of urgency that if we don't want to get dragged down a path, and I'm not just talking about Brexit here although largely that's what I mean, but dragged down a sort of political path that we don't want to go down, then we need to consider becoming independent sooner rather than later.  Anecdotally, I have been detecting that shift that's shown up in the Ashcroft poll for quite some time now and I think we are now starting to see that manifest itself in the opinion polls."  Ms Sturgeon has put forward "framework" legislation which could pave the way for a second independence referendum.  However, she is holding off on the next step in the process until there has been time for MSPs to "debate the issue further".  UK Westminster government ministers have repeatedly said a deal will not be forthcoming, with Mr Johnson insisting the 2014 vote was a "once in a generation" event.  Ms Sturgeon said the only path to independence was via a "legitimate, recognised referendum", adding that the UK Westminster government should be under pressure to agree to one.  She said: "It's absolutely legitimate to oppose independence, but - particularly when we see polls where a majority want a referendum and want independence - it's not acceptable democratically to say you'll block the right of people in Scotland to chose.  Frankly they should be getting dogged by that question. What on earth do you think is remotely democratically acceptable in that? I think it's a position that's unsustainable."

Glasgow Scientists Develop Artificial Tongue to Tackle Fake Whisky

An artificial "tongue" which can taste subtle differences between whiskies could help tackle the counterfeit alcohol trade, according to engineers.  They have built a tiny taster which exploits the properties of gold and aluminium to test differences between the spirits.  The technology can pick up on the subtler distinctions between the same whisky aged in different barrels.  It can tell the the difference between whiskies aged for 12, 15 and 18 years.  Engineers say the tongue "tasted" the differences with greater than 99% accuracy.  Alasdair Clark, of the University of Glasgow's school of engineering, said: "We call this an artificial tongue because it acts similarly to a human tongue - like us, it can't identify the individual chemicals which make coffee taste different to apple juice but it can easily tell the difference between these complex chemical mixtures.  We're not the first researchers to make an artificial tongue, but we're the first to make a single artificial tongue that uses two different types of nanoscale metal 'tastebuds', which provides more information about the 'taste' of each sample and allows a faster and more accurate response."  He said the tongue could be used to "taste" virtually any liquid - not just whisky.  Dr Clark added: "In addition to its obvious potential for use in identifying counterfeit alcohols, it could be used in food safety testing, quality control, security - really any area where a portable, reusable method of tasting would be useful."  Whisky was poured over a chequerboard pattern of the two metals - which act as "tastebuds" - and researchers then measured how they absorbed light while submerged. Subtle differences which were highlighted on the artificial tongue allowed the team to identify different types of the spirit.  The team used the tongue to sample a selection of whiskies from Glenfiddich, Glen Marnoch and Laphroaig.  Research was conducted by engineers and chemists from the universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde.  Their paper, titled 'Whisky tasting using a bimetallic nanoplasmonic tongue', is published in Nanoscale.

Flooded West Highland Line Rail Route to Remain Closed for A Week

Part of a rail route in the west of Scotland will be closed for at least a week after severe flooding swept away part of the track.  Replacement buses have been introduced along sections of the West Highland Line, which runs from Glasgow Queen Street to Oban and Mallaig.  Heavy rain flooded the track between Tyndrum Lower and Dalmally on Monday. ScotRail expects the disruption to last until just before midnight next Monday, but repairs could take longer.  Replacement buses will run from stations between Oban and Arrochar, as well as from Ardlui and Arrochar to Crianlarich.  A ScotRail spokesman said: "The line will remain closed for the next seven days while engineers carry out vital repair works.  We've arranged alternative transport to keep people moving and we're sorry for the inconvenience this will cause."  Engineers will be working to repair the track at sites around Ardlui, Crianlarich and Tyndrum, where the heavy rain and flooding washed the trackbed from under the railway.  At the worst affected sites, between Ardlui and Crianlarich, more than 1,000 tons of material has been swept away.  A Network Rail spokesman said: "Our engineers are working hard to fully assess the repairs required to reopen the line as quickly as possible for customers."  He added: "The flooding over the weekend has caused significant damage at multiple locations along the line and we will need to rebuild the trackbed and supporting embankments in some locations before we can reopen the line."

Wick Memory Lane Photo Exhibition Raises Over £2800

Retired photographer Janet McDonald was thrilled with the response to her one-day exhibition of photographs of Wick life spanning more than half a century.  Around 700 people attended the show, entitled The McDonald Collection, in the St Fergus Church Hall last Wednesday during the town’s gala week. It raised more than £2800 which will go towards Church of Scotland Guild projects.  “It was absolutely fantastic that so many people bothered to come,” Janet said. “People who spoke to me thought it was great, going down memory lane and seeing people they knew. They all seemed to like it – they all went out on a high.”  On display were 498 prints from the archives of McDonald Photographers, the family business run for many years by Janet McDonald and her late husband Ian.  The hall was filled with a mix of black-and-white and colour photographs taken at community events, special occasions and other activities in Wick and district from around 1950 until the early 2000s.     People who spoke to me thought it was great, going down memory lane. They all seemed to like it – they all went out on a high.  There was a constant stream of visitors throughout the day, creating a buzz of conversation and reminiscence as people picked out familiar faces and shared memories of times gone by.  The exhibition was held under the auspices of Wick St Fergus Church Guild. Janet (80) is on the leadership team of the St Fergus guild as well as being project co-ordinator for Caithness.  She had hoped the event would raise between £500 and £600 so was surprised and delighted with the final sum of £2845. The money will be distributed later in the year.  “I was meeting people I hadn’t seen for ages,” Janet said. “A lot of folk came down from Thurso and in from Keiss and all around.  Residents from local care homes were brought down especially, and it was lovely to see them.  It turned into a much, much bigger event than I had ever anticipated.”  One Wicker now living in Inverness travelled up especially for the exhibition, picking up a friend in Tain on the way.  When asked why the exhibition struck such a chord with the public, Janet said: “I think it’s nostalgia – seeing people that are no longer here, seeing activities in the town, seeing their children when they were young, seeing their parents... There were four generations of one family in different photographs.  We all worked together, guild members and friends. People were so generous and so helpful in giving baking and raffle prizes, even if they had nothing to do with the guild. It was very hard work. By seven o’clock at night I thought it was the longest day I had ever known. I was wilting!”

Ancient Viking 'Drinking Hall' Unearthed in Orkney
A Viking "drinking hall" that could have been used by a high-ranking chieftain 800 years ago has been unearthed in Orkney, archaeologists say.  The discovery was made at Skaill Farmstead in Westness, Rousay, and is believed to have been a high-status Norse hall, dating as far back as the tenth century.  Westness is mentioned in the Orkneyinga Saga - a historical narrative of the archipelago - as the home of Sigurd, a powerful 12th-century chieftain. The site offers an "unparalleled" opportunity to research eating habits in the region over a millennia, according to researchers from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI). The name Skaill suggests the site was home to a Norse hall or drinking hall and was a high-status site.  A team from the UHI Archaeology Institute, residents and students have been digging at the site for a number of years in an effort to find the building.  Dan Lee, co-director of the excavation project, said "The exciting news this season is that we have now found the hall at Skaill, as the place name suggests.  You never know, but perhaps Earl Sigurd himself sat on one of the stone benches inside the hall and drank a flagon of ale." The hall is believed to date to the tenth to 12th centuries and was discovered below a more recent farmstead. "Substantial" stone walls were found 5.5m apart, with internal features such as stone benches along either side.  The building appears to be more than 13m long and facing down a slope towards the sea, although it is not yet fully uncovered.  Finds have included soapstone from Shetland, pottery and a bone spindle whorl, while a fragment of a Norse bone comb was also unearthed.  Archaeologists have been investigating the later stages of the farm complex and its middens, with a particular focus on past diet, farming and fishing practices.  Project co-director Dr Ingrid Mainland said "We have recovered a millennia of middens  which will allow us an unparalleled opportunity to look at changing dietary traditions, farming and fishing practices from the Norse period up until the 19th century." The excavation is part of the Landscapes of Change - Archaeologies of the Rousay Clearances and Westness Estate project.  It aims to explore the farmstead at Skaill from the Norse period to its abandonment in the 19th century.  The present farm dates to the 18 or 19th centuries and was part of the Rousay clearances during the mid-19th century.  Orkney was once a seat of great power in the Norse empire and its Viking heritage - such as place names and architecture - remains strong to this day.  Genetic studies have found many from the archipelago are descended from those who settled the islands in the late eighth century. A historic account of this period can be found in the Orkneyinga Saga, which was written in Iceland in the 12th century.  The islands remained part of a Scandinavian kingdom until 1468 when they were pawned to the Scottish Crown by Christian I of Denmark.

Why Plans to Build Road Over Famous Jacobite Battlefield Must Be Stopped

Much of the site of the 1689 Battle of Killiecrankie – a victory for the Jacobites over a government force loyal to William and Mary – faces being buried under tarmac under plans to turn the nearby section of the A9 into a dual carriageway, writes Murdo Fraser. Eleven days ago Perthshire commemorated the 330th anniversary of the Battle of Killiecrankie, which took place on 27 July 1689. This was not, as some people think, a clash between Highlanders and Lowlanders, Catholics and Protestants, or even Scots and English. Rather, it saw a Scottish Government army supporting King William and Queen Mary, consisting mainly of Scots Lowland Regiments but led by a Highlander, General Hugh Mackay of Scourie, facing a mostly Highland Jacobite army fighting in the name of the deposed King James, led by a Presbyterian Lowlander, John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee.  The battle was won by the Jacobites, their Highland charge proving irresistible and sweeping away most of Mackay’s army. But it was the classic Pyrrhic victory: Dundee himself falling to a Williamite bullet and dying on the battlefield.  Without their charismatic leader, the Jacobite army continued to Dunkeld, where the town was stoutly defended by the Cameronians led by William Cleland. After a bloody battle on 21 August 1689, the Jacobites were repulsed, and the rebel rising petered out. The Crown was secure for William and Mary. Standing on the site of the government lines at Killiecrankie today, it is possible to get a sense of what Mackay’s soldiers would have experienced, as they lined up in formation, muskets in hand, sweating in the sun in their red coats, waiting patiently and nervously for hours for the inevitable charge down the slopes by their Highland adversaries. Most of the location of the actual fighting is open land where one can easily walk and follow the development of the battle.  Unfortunately, that may all be about to change. For Transport Scotland’s preferred route for extending the existing A9 single carriageway to a dual one will obliterate much of what remains of the battle site, burying it under tonnes of concrete, tarmac, and earthworks.  For many years I have been a supporter of the campaign to see the A9 made up to a dual carriageway in its entirety from Perth to Inverness. Any study of the accident statistics on this road tells us why such an improvement is necessary. And yet, I have a real concern that the proposal to build the dual carriageway at Killiecrankie will put at risk a historic battle site in an unnecessary fashion.  There is a realistic alternative to extending the A9 dual carriageway on the south side, and that is to widen it to the north, on what is currently open land, further away from the site of Mackay’s government lines. Sadly, Transport Scotland seem determined to push on with their preferred route.  The protection of Scottish battlefields is the statutory responsibility of the government agency Historic Environment Scotland, who originally objected to Transport Scotland’s plans, but subsequently withdrew their objection whilst still expressing concern with what is being proposed. This leaves the only objectors as a group of local residents, who will face a public enquiry on the route, probably later this year. Up against the deep pockets of a government agency, able to pay for expensive lawyers and experts, it would be unwise to hold out too much hope for their chances. So the battlefield at Killiecrankie as we know it today may not exist for many more years to come.  Killiecrankie is not the only famous Scottish battlefield facing challenges from development. At the site of that other great Jacobite battle, Culloden, there have been concerns raised about encroachment on the battlefield by proposed housing developments. Unsurprisingly, questions have been asked as to whether our current planning process provides sufficient protection for historic sites such as these.  The irony is that these threats to our Jacobite battlefields are happening just at the time when there is renewed interest in this period of our history. The success of the Outlander series of books and its TV adaptation is bringing an upsurge of visitors to sites associated with the period. I confess I once tried to watch some of the Outlander series and simply couldn’t get into it, but what do I know? It has been a worldwide, phenomenal success, and Scottish tourism is benefitting as a consequence. Those coming from overseas, and indeed domestic visitors, want to learn more about the Jacobites. They want to visit the castles featured in the TV series. And they have an interest in seeing the battle sites where the Jacobites fought in their doomed uprisings. Meantime, the protections we have in place for sites like Killiecrankie are simply insufficient to secure them for future generations I do think it is a sad reflection on today’s Scotland that we seem to have so little regard for our heritage and our historic sites, that we are even considering allowing the construction of a dual carriageway over such a historic location as Killiecrankie. There has been very limited archaeological work carried out on the battle site, and the location of the mass graves that must have been dug for those who fell in combat is still unknown. It seems extraordinary that, despite this, we have a Scottish Government agency determined to pursue a major construction project at this location, particularly when there is a viable alternative which would be less damaging.  I hope that the objectors in Killiecrankie win their fight against Transport Scotland’s preferred route. But if they do so, they will have triumphed against the odds, with next to no support from further afield, and a disappointing lack of interest from the very agency supposed to protect our nation’s heritage. We really should be doing better than this.

Tourists Urged to Heed Holy Island Safe Crossing Times After Dozens of Emergency Call-outs to Lindisfarne Causeway
An innovative new way of reducing the number of tourists caught out on Holy Island’s tidal causeway has been launched.  Ian Clayton of Seahouses lifeboat and Michael Avril of Berwick lifeboat are helping to raise awareness about safe crossing times on Holy Island causeway.  The RNLI is asking tourism businesses to help it spread the message about safe crossing times.  There have been more than 50 emergency call outs to motorists stuck on or by the Holy Island causeway in the last five years and numbers are increasing.  Most are holidaymakers or visitors who may not be aware that the rising tide cuts off access to and from the island twice a day.  Now, working with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Northumberland County Council, the RNLI has produced a range of products including posters, coffee cup wraps, coasters and bags, all bearing the RNLI’s safety messages and links to tide time information.  Michael Avril, community safety partner with the RNLI, said: “Tourists are the most likely to get caught out. That’s why we need the help of local businesses where those tourists visit, stay and eat. Too often they don’t think twice. Sometimes there is the language barrier too.  Sometimes people think they can drive through a little bit of water but they don’t realise there are dips in the causeway where the water is deeper. Then if they turn around t go back, the tide has been coming in around them and they’re surrounded by water.”  Ian Clayton, Seahouses lifeboat operations manager, added: “A lot of people who don’t live by the coast have no appreciation of the tides. Sometimes there’s also a sheep mentality whereby they see one car crossing then think it’s okay to follow suit.”  Martin Lowe, HM Coastguard senior coastal operations manager, said: “We need tourists to check the tide times before they visit the island so they know it’s safe and get it through to them that they should never cross if there is water on the road.”  Steve Mitchinson, general manager of holiday cottages company, Northumbria Byways, said: “We have thousands of holidaymakers coming every year and we know tourists are more likely to be caught out by the tide. We hope this campaign will get the message across and we fully support it.”

Carloway Broch Repair Uncertainty As Concerns Are Raised About the Impact on Tourism

The culture, wildlife and landmarks play an important part in attracting visitors to Western Isles and, in turn, bolster the Islands’ economy.  With one of those landmarks closed to public access for some time - the Carloway Broch - and a suggestion that this may have an impact on local tourism, there has been a call for the Scottish Government to intervene in the matter.  The issue has been highlighted this week by Highlands and Islands Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron.  The regional MSP has called on the Scottish Government to resolve the issue and has contacted tourism minister Fiona Hyslop informing her that some coach operators are considering pulling out of the Western Isles because of the continued uncertainty at the landmark.  Mr Cameron explained: “The Broch, which is the direct responsibility of the Scottish Government through its agency Historic Environment Scotland, is a major part of the tourist offering on Lewis. Its prolonged closure, combined with a failure to adequately consult with local stakeholders, is causing consternation in the area.  This follows a summer when ministers have failed to get to grips with a series of transport disruptions affecting ferries and flights to and from the Western Isles.  I am very concerned that these continued problems could drain confidence from the business community and unsettle people who are considering investing in the islands. That would make it even harder for us to retain our young people here.  Fiona Hyslop now needs to intervene and show that she understands the gravity of the situation.”  Mr Cameron’s concerns were echoed by Comhairle Councillor for Uig and North Lochs, Ranald Fraser, who added: “The broch at Doune Carloway is one of our islands’ major landmarks and is vital for our islands tourism and general economy.  In my view it is ridiculous for Historic Environment Scotland (HES) to have closed this monument without there being any precise information on the nature of the problem or any time scale given to rectify it.  What is the problem? We have not been told. I strongly request HES start communicating with the local estate trust to resolve this matter urgently.”  Historic Environment Scotland was asked for an update on the situation at the Carloway Broch, a spokesperson for HES said: “As the safety of members of the public is our utmost concern, as a precaution we closed Dun Carloway Broch following the discovery of loose high level masonry and a potential structural issue.  Following an initial assessment, we will be conducting a detailed inspection of the site in the next few weeks to determine the extent of the associated issues and fully assess the works required.  Following this inspection we will be able to determine the appropriate course of action for the conservation of the site.”  There is no firm date for that inspection, but the spokesperson reassured it should happen soon.

Levenmouth Rail Link to Reopen in £70m Project
A disused rail line in Fife is to be reopened after being closed for decades since the Thatcher era.  Detailed designs are to be drawn up for the Levenmouth link, which will connect Leven to the Fife Circle.  It is estimated the project, which also includes improved bus services, cycle and walking facilities, will cost about £70m. Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said he hoped the line would be operational within five years.  The line will also feature stops at Leven and Cameron Bridge.  Mr Matheson said: "The detailed appraisal work that has been carried out suggests that improved transport links, which give Leven a direct rail link to the capital, will lead to an enhanced local economy, bringing better access to employment and education and the potential for new investment.  Easier and more sustainable travel options will make it easier for people to reach hospitals, schools and visit other areas of the country as well as giving better access to Levenmouth."  David Ross, Fife Council co-Leader, said: "We have relentlessly campaigned for this link that is set to increase employment opportunities, as well as improve access to education, health and leisure services."  He added: "The rail network is now set to be taken forward to the next stage of development, and we look forward to seeing detailed designs."  The Levenmouth Transport Study suggests that by 2037 there will be 750,000 passengers annually, boarding or alighting trains in the area.  The train journey time from Leven to Edinburgh will be 70-75 minutes.

Perth Highland Games Cancelled Over Safety Concerns

Perth Highland Games, which were set to take place this weekend, have been cancelled due to health and safety concerns.  The organisers said that because of the recent spell of bad weather, the site at Scone Palace was waterlogged.  A spokesman said: "There are genuine safety concerns for foot racers and cyclists, and indeed, all who attend."  Hundreds of tickets have been sold for the event but everyone would be refunded in full, organisers said.  They added: "The decision was not taken lightly, but the ground is absolutely waterlogged and the forecast is not showing any let up. Our sincere apologies to you all. We're gutted too." A post on the event's website said the decision to cancel had been taken by its committee, Scone Palace, the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association and traffic managers. The cancellation has cost the organisers about £7,000, however, they said they also had to take into account the fact that the Games committee was financially responsible for reinstating the land to its original condition.

Remain Voters Driving Swing to Yes, Says John Curtice

Brexit is behind a definite shift in support for Scottish independence, with Remain voters the key group swinging behind Yes, the country’s leading pollster has said.  Professor Sir John Curtice said a poll this week showing a majority of decided Scots voters now back independence reflected a wider pattern.  Conducted by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft after Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, it found 52-48 support for Yes, the first survey since March 2017 with such a result.  Prof Curtice said it was “part of a trend”.  He said: “Prior to that poll, we had four other polls this year, and they on average had Yes at 48 [%]. Whereas all the polls in the second half of last year on average had Yes at 45.  So there was already evidence of a small trend, but it doesn’t need to be a big trend to shift it. All of the movement last year has occurred among Remain voters in Scotland. Leave voters haven’t shifted.  One of the ironies of the 2014 referendum is that we had this enormous row about whether an independent Scotland would or would not be able to maintain continuous membership of the European Union.  It was completely irrelevant. There was no relationship at all between people’s attitudes towards the EU and whether they voted Yes or No. Now there is. The two things have got intertwined.  Does that mean however that the SNP can call a referendum tomorrow with confidence? No. Basically, they would need many more polls showing bigger leads.”  He also said that it was “now too late for us to leave the European Union on 31st October with any kind of deal” because there not enough time to get the required legislation through the Commons and Lords, even if MPs finally agreed on a deal.  However he said that did not necessarily mean a no-deal Brexit, as if a deal was almost done, Mr Johnson might request a short extension to complete it, or the PM might be brought down in a no-confidence vote or MPs might revoke Article 50.  He also said one of the biggest changes of recent years was an alignment between voting patterns at Westminster and Holyrood elections.  Previously, Scottish voters had been willing to back the SNP for Holyrood, but markedly more reluctant to do so at Westminster.  But that changed at the 2015 general election, and the SNP now has around 40% support in both.

Thousands to Descend on Glasgow for World Pipe Band Championships
Up to 8,000 pipers and drummers are expected to descend on Glasgow for the World Pipe Band Championships next weekend.  The competition will welcome 195 bands from 13 countries on August 16 and 17 as Glasgow Green once again plays host to the event.  Nations represented at the championships include New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Austria, Switzerland, Eire, the US, Belgium, England, Spain, Malaysia, Northern Ireland and Scotland.  Many tickets have already sold out for the weekend but organisers say there is still a chance to snap up seats for the finale of the Grade 1 competition where the world champions will be crowned.  Ian Embelton, Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association chief executive, said: "Year after year, pipe bands across the world head to Glasgow and the World Pipe Band Championships knowing they face the ultimate test of their skill.  The competitions are of the highest quality, with bands constantly finding the smallest improvements in the pursuit of a perfect performance.  It all adds up to a thrilling competition that builds to an incredible conclusion on Saturday evening when the world champions are crowned."  It is the culmination of the Piping Live! festival in Glasgow which has held the championships each year since 1986.