Som Scottish News & Views Issue # 516

Issue # 516                                         Week ending Saturday 7th September 2019

Thank Goodness That Not Everyone in Scotland Can Speak the Gaelic by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

It is not that my eyesight is worse. It is just that I need new glasses. I can’t find my other better glasses and the ones I have are rubbish. These are so bad that I even misread the clock the other day and I was too late for my optician’s appointment. He looked up my details and said that I was due to have an eye test in January. He then asked if I should wait until early next year to have an eye test? I said: “Next year? How should I know? Do you think I have 2020 vision?"

I realise that some of us of, er, less tender years are having to rely more and more on various devices and aids to get by. It’s an age thing. If it is not one thing, it’s another. They are coming to you too. Spectacles, false teeth, surgical supports and ... oops, I have given too much information away there. Of course, I don’t use all that. I do not have false teeth. And I am certainly not looking forward to the day when I might have to.

False teeth were different back in the day. You could break them easily. I remember my uncle was stacking a load of peats up on top of a lorry and he coughed. His false teeth were projected out and smashed on a rock by the side of the road. He was devastated. Then the guy who came round with the mobile shop said to him he would probably be able to get him a pair from his brother who worked in Inverness.

The next week he came in with the teeth and, guess what, they fitted perfectly. Uncle was delighted. He told the shop man that his brother must be a very good dentist. “Oh, he’s not a dentist,” replied the van man. “He’s an undertaker.”

And I undertake to stop saying “a’ bhalaich” when I’m asking something like: “What do you think of Boris Johnson, a bhalaich?” Literally, it just means boy or fellow. It is like saying: “What do you think of Boris Johnson, lad?” It is a wee bit familiar. We shouldn’t be too familiar with authority figures but I can’t help it. Sometimes it even helps. I got stopped for speeding the other week down near Perth.

The cocky cop swaggered over to my van and asked me brightly: “So, sunshine, what speed do you think you were doing?” Heck, I may have been going a bit fast. I said: “I didn’t have my reading glasses on. Wasn’t it about 50, a bhalaich?”

Peering at me from under his peaked hat with a circa-1966 Stornoway bowl haircut, he looked like the heartless swine in Peaky Blinders. He then said: “You’re a teuchter with the Gaelic, aye?” I said: “Yes, a bhalaich. Sorry for the Gaelic words, officer, but I learned Gaelic first and it comes out automatically.” He nodded: “That’s fine, sir. But I am going to have to issue you with a ticket for speeding today. So, what’s your full name?”

Darn it. I thought he was going to let me off for being an innocent heathery-eared islander used only to the single tracks and the passing places on the holy side of the Minch.

My full name, eh? I said: “My full name is Iain Beag Maciomhair, a mac as sine a bh’aig Iain Aonghas ‘an Ruaidh, a Tobasan ann am Bearnaraigh, Leodhais.” My full name, patronymic and the wee island I called home. The traffic cop looked me up and down, scratched his head and stared at me in the hot sun. I felt a bit nervous.

He was obviously beginning to realise that taking down my particulars could mean staying on duty past the end of his shift. He slowly put away his notebook and his pen. Finally, he said: “Aye, well. I think we will leave it at just a warning today but don’t let me catch you speeding again, sir.”

With that, Perthshire’s answer to Robocop jumped into his souped-up lemon curd sandwich, sorry traffic car, switched off his Stop Police sign, and shot off down the A9 looking for speeding motorists who he could better communicate with. I couldn’t believe my luck. I slunk off down Dunkeld Road, at a leisurely 49 mph you understand, to grab a celebratory cold lemonade in the café of the big Asda. Phew. Slàinte, officer. Whatever you do, don’t you go learning “the Gaelic”.

When I phoned home to say I got pulled over, Mrs X was in a foul mood. I was a clown for speeding. It shouldn’t take a polisman to tell me that. Fair enough. You’re right, I said. Then I found out she was grumpy because she had toothache and she’d have to go to the dentist. To make her feel better, I whispered a wee romantic poem to her on the phone.

Your teeth are like the heavenly stars
Like them, they are very bright.
But very soon, just like the stars,
Your teeth will come out at night.

Scottish MP Resorts to Sign Language Because Tory Can't Understand His Glaswegian Accent

A politician's Glaswegian accent left him unable to get answers in Parliament.  The SNP's David Linden, MP for Glasgow East, asked about improvements to disability access during House of Commons Commission questions.  Representing the commission, former minister Sir Paul Beresford twice asked Mr Linden to repeat himself because he could not understand what he had said.  Conservative Sir Paul, who holds dual New Zealand and British citizenship, said: "I'm sorry, it must be something to do with my antipodean background. Could you please repeat the question because I didn't follow it?"  There was laughter and a comment of "oh wow" from the SNP benches as Mr Linden despondently said "oh well, I'm very popular today" and repeated the question at a slower pace.  Sir Paul still struggled and asked again for Mr Linden to repeat it "more slowly and in antipodean English".  Deputy Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who has a robust Lancashire accent, intervened at the impasse, saying: "I think the answer might be helped if he can reply in writing."  Mr Linden then resorted to sign language across the Chamber to confirm he would write to his colleague. He is not the first SNP MP to have difficulties making himself understood.  Last year, SNP MP Alan Brown revealed ministers have so much trouble understanding his thick Ayrshire accent that he rarely receives direct answers to his questions when he speaks in the Commons chamber.  Reporters at Hansard, the official verbatim report of Parliament, struggle with the same problem and pass notes to the SNP backbencher asking him to write out what he said whenever he rises to speak.  Mr Brown ( Kilmarnock and Loudoun) told the Press Association the issue has become "a running joke" with colleagues and that, whenever he gets up to speak, he notices the minster sink back into their green leather bench and put their ear right up against the speaker embedded in it.  The parliamentary sketch writers are also known to scratch their heads when he is speaking.  Mr Brown said: "Sometimes Hansard ask what other people say but I make the joke that they must have an Ayrshire translator in now but the Ayrshire translator doesn't understand my colleagues."

Waste Collection Costs Hit £15m After HES Collapse
Nearly £15m has been spent on collecting medical waste in Scotland since the collapse of Healthcare Environmental Services, figures show.  The Lanarkshire-based company went to the wall last December after becoming embroiled in a waste stockpiling scandal.  Contingency measures were put in place to remove waste from every hospital, GP surgery, dental practice and pharmacy.  But NHS figures released show these costs have soared.  Between December last year and July this year, a total of £14.8m was spent on contingency waste measures by NHS National Services Scotland.  By contrast the deal with the firm taking over the waste collection contract for the next ten years, Spanish-owned Tradebe Healthcare, will be worth £10m a year.  Tradebe was meant to take over the contract in April but delays over planning permissions mean the firm is now not expected to be fully operational until October.  The Scottish government said the higher costs for the contingency measures come as a result of the additional measures required to be put in place at short notice following the collapse of HES.  But Monica Lennon MSP, Scottish Labour's health spokeswoman, said: "By the health secretary's own admission, the NHS in Scotland was put at risk by the clinical waste scandal and it is continuing to cost taxpayers millions of pounds. No one has taken responsibility for the crisis and despite no lessons being learned the Scottish government have handed a new contract to another private firm."  After HES collapsed, the Scottish government provided £1.4m towards initial contingency planning and a string of temporary contractors took over the HES work to ensure clinical waste continued to be disposed of safely.  The Scottish government has insisted the contingency measures are working well but there have been reports of a backlog of waste at some NHS sites.  In Inverness, four porters at Raigmore Hospital were injured carrying out work involving clinical waste, and photographs showing bags of clinical waste piled at three health centres in North Lanarkshire were posted on social media in January.  Some hospital waste from Scotland is to be sent to Wales for disposal under the new collection deal with Tradebe.  A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "National Services Scotland continues to work closely with NHS health boards, contractors, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Scottish government to deliver robust contingency plans to ensure NHS Scotland services to the public are maintained and patient services are not impacted.  The current arrangements ensure clinical waste is appropriately stored, collected and disposed of in line with industry regulations.  As we have said before, the cost of contingency - and ultimately maintaining NHS services - comes at a higher cost due to the additional measures required to be put in place at short notice following withdrawal of services by HES. We will know the final net cost of contingency at the end of current arrangements, when costs can be set against the unpaid contracted costs which would have been due to HES if they had not arbitrarily withdrawn from the contract."

Nicola Sturgeon: Stopping No-deal Brexit is Priority
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said preventing a "catastrophic" no-deal Brexit must be the top priority for political leaders this week.  She said MPs should put their differences aside on the issue.  The first minister said Prime Minister Boris Johnson was prepared to "bin the normal rules of democracy".  Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said any Commons vote would be "essentially a confidence matter".  Ms Sturgeon said there were a number of ways of stopping Scotland having to leave the EU.  She said: "We've backed a second EU referendum, which gives people the opportunity to stop Brexit in its tracks and reverse the decision that was taken.  I would also support a General Election, which would give people the opportunity to do that.  And of course I want to give Scotland the opportunity of choosing our own future through independence through which we can try to fashion a future that has Scotland as part of the European Union and broader international community." But the first minister said the short-term priority had to be preventing a situation where the UK left without a deal.  I'm against any form of Brexit, I want to stop Brexit, but in particular a no-deal Brexit I think will be catastrophic for our economy, society, for a long time to come," she said.  So that's the priority this week.  We're up against someone who is prepared to subvert and bin the normal rules of democracy in Boris Johnson, and therefore I think MPs have to really come together, put differences aside and find a way of stopping him in his tracks."  Tory MPs have been warned that anyone who failed to vote with the government would lose the whip - meaning they would effectively be expelled from the party - and would not be able to stand as a Conservative candidate in an election.  Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has defended the tough line being taken by Number 10 against potential Conservative rebels.  He said: "I think that it is important for the government to establish the House of Commons and that this is essentially a confidence matter.  Who should control the legislative agenda? Jeremy Corbyn or Boris Johnson?  Is there really a Conservative in this country who thinks that Jeremy Corbyn should control our legislative agenda?"  But Ms Sturgeon said those opposed to a no-deal Brexit would have to compromise.  She said: "If there was a situation where we had a caretaker prime minister it would be for a short period of time pending a General Election.  I'm no great fan of Jeremy Corbyn but the damage a no-deal Brexit could do to people the length and breadth of the UK is considerable and I think all responsible politicians should be doing everything they can to avoid that."

Harris Tweed Mill in Lewis Given to its Manager As A Gift
The owner of one of the largest Harris Tweed producers in the Western Isles has handed control of the business to its manager.  Yorkshire businessman Brian Haggas took over Kenneth Mackenzie Ltd in Stornoway in 2006. He is now taking retirement.  He said he had given ownership of the mill to local manager Alex Lockerby as a gift to prevent it from being bought by "financial vultures".  The mill employs 30 people and produces about 25% of all Harris Tweed.  In a letter to the workforce, Mr Haggas said he had sought to protect the business from being taken over by people who might "strip out all the cash, leaving the company bankrupt".  He said Harris Tweed was "integral part" of the Western Isles and should be owned and produced by islanders, with any profits remaining the isles for the benefit of their residents.  In a statement, Mr Lockerby said he was "astounded" by Mr Haggas' generosity.  Kenneth Mackenzie is the oldest Harris Tweed mill in production and has been producing the fabric since 1906.  Textile manufacturer Mr Haggas' takeover of the business 13 years ago was controversial.  The number of patterns produced at the mill were cut from more than 8,000 to only four and the business was focused on making men's jackets. But this approach was later dropped. The range of patterns have since increased and the mill's cloth is used for making bags, belts, headphones and shoes as well as jackets. In his statement, Mr Lockerby said he and Mr Haggas had worked together to re-build the business. Mr Lockerby said: "Throughout the process he has shown true Yorkshire grit and integrity, and I and the staff at Kenneth Mackenzie would like to extend our warmest thanks and gratitude to him."

North-east Culture Festival Launches Events Programme

The programme for a festival celebrating the cultural life, heritage, language, music and stories of the north-east is now available with events being held across Banff and Macduff. Across The Grain is running for the second time throughout October, with an exciting and eclectic mix of activities, performances and workshops for all ages.  Events will be taking place in communities right across Aberdeenshire with most free to attend.  Copies of the programme are available at libraries, leisure centres and museums, and key entertainment venues across the area. The digital copy can be found at: http://bit.ly/ATGprog.  Organised by Live Life Aberdeenshire, last year's inaugural festival got off to a really strong start, highlighting the uniqueness of the north-east and attracting locals and visitors alike to around 50 events.  The desire to celebrate collectively what Aberdeenshire has to offer culturally has led to this year's programme increasing significantly, showcasing the best the region has to offer, with some performances created specially for the festival.  Events in Banff and Macduff include Aabody Dance with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland at the Deveron Community Centre which will see two leading dance experts hosting intergenerational workshops, culminating in a celebratory performance to a live soundtrack mixing Scottish Trad with electronic music; science show A Barrel of Laughs in Macduff Arts Centre; and silversmithing classes at Vanilla Ink in The Smiddy in Banff.  As well as numerous music and singing workshops, there are opportunities to hear authors and specialist speakers, and a range of fun challenges for all the family at Live Life Aberdeenshire museums and libraries. As well as scheduled events at local venues, there will also be a variety of pop-up performances, from country dance sessions in community centres to young musicians busking at local farmer's markets.  The festival is supported by local community groups, arts organisations, arts partners, academics and students who have all come together around a shared love of the Doric culture and language, and the north-east’s musical roots.  Chairman of Live Life Aberdeenshire’s culture and sport sub-committee, David Cook, said: "Our organising team has pulled together a great mix of activities this year, offering something for everyone.  The 2019 programme builds on the successes of last year’s inaugural festival, and as a result, offers some more amazing opportunities and exciting experiences for festival-goers.  I am in awe of the collected expertise gathered together in this programme and it is a reminder of the rich talent we have here in Aberdeenshire.”

Galashiels Ready to Unwrap Tribute to Coulter’s Candy
A final appeal is being made for any relatives of Ally Bally Bee writer Robert Coltart to attend the unveiling of a sculpture in his honour.  The tribute to the 19th century weaver-turned sweetmaker is to be unveiled on Friday, September 20 in Galashiels.  The finished Coulter's Candy statue by Innerleithen sculptor Angela Hunter is to be installed in the Market Square.  And flagpole banners featuring the winning artworks by local school pupils will be raised across the town centre ahead of the unveiling.  Pupils will also tie coloured ribbons to the tray part of the new statue to recreate Coltart's methods of attracting attention to his sweets as he travelled around the Borders.  Sculpture Angela, who is originally from Galashiels, along with local historians Mary Craig and Graeme McIver and local councillor Sandy Aitchison have all championed Coltart’s story alongside Helen Calder of Energise Galashiels.  They now hope descendants of the world-famous sweet seller will join them at the unveiling.  Mr McIver said: “I am delighted that after a lot of hard work by a number of people and organisations that we are now ready to unveil a permanent tribute to one of Galashiels’ most flamboyant characters.  Robert Coltart moved to Galashiels as a young man and sold his boiled sweets around the town and across the Scottish Borders at fairs and festivals.  He lived with his wife and children in various locations within the town, including a flat in Overhaugh Street which is include in the new town trail.  He would dress in a variety of colourful clothes, and sang his much loved lullaby song to help advertise his wares.  We have already spoken to a number of family relatives of Robert Coltart, but would love to have more of his relations present at the sculpture unveiling to help us celebrate his story.  We hope this tribute will help promote Galashiels to visitors and increase the awareness and pride amongst local people in the Coulter’s Candy story.”  Further sculptures of a boy and girl will be added later this year to complete the tribute. And an interpretation panel will also be installed.

New Air Link Connects Inverness and the Midlands
A brand new air route connecting the Highlands and East Midlands took flight for the first time.  The latest Inverness Airport service from Loganair will operate six flights per week using a 49-seat Embraer jet aircraft, with a journey time of one hour and 25 minutes.  East Midlands Airport is conveniently placed for Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, South Yorkshire and Staffordshire and provides an alternative gateway to Birmingham.  Jonathan Hinkles, managing director at Loganair, said: “We’re delighted to be growing our presence at Inverness Airport, adding further connectivity from the Highlands. For those in Inverness, the new service greatly improves accessibility and journey times to the Midlands. We trust it will also come as a welcome boost to the tourism industry in Inverness.”  Inverness Airport general manager Graeme Bell said: “Loganair’s new East Midlands service is an excellent addition to the destinations passengers can now fly to from Inverness. It establishes fast and efficient links to the heart of England and will be welcomed by business and leisure travellers alike.”

Do You Know the Next Tweed Champion?
Organisers of the Tweed Forum Champion hope nominations will soon start flowing in.  Now in its fourth year, the prestigious accolade recognises an individual with an outstanding commitment to the protection, preservation and enhancement of the River Tweed and the natural, built and cultural heritage of its surroundings.  The river has a catchment of 5,000 sq km – 80 percent in Scotland and 20 percent in England – and brings significant economic and environmental benefits to the surrounding area.  The Tweed Forum River Champion Award is open to anyone from the Scottish Borders or North Northumberland, from any walk of life, from farmers, foresters and anglers to landowners or any member of the community who is dedicated to the welfare of the river.  Their championing of the river can include any activity undertaken since 2010 and can be carried out through their employment, through volunteering or any other personal commitment.

Inverness Castle Will Tell Story of Highlands

An ambitious project to transform Inverness Castle and the surrounding area into a gateway for tourists from across the world is set to move forward next year.  Further details have been unveiled to create a multimillion pound “must-see” attraction in the castle, highlighting the Highlands’ history. It could complement a new museum and gallery in the Town House car park where nationally-important exhibits could be displayed.  A third phase in the masterplan will focus on redeveloping the Bridge Street site, currently regarded as a carbuncle with its 1960s buildings.  Redevelopment on the castle, to be carried as part of the £315 million Inverness and Highland City-Region deal, will begin when the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service moves to the new Inverness Justice Centre next April or May.  The work is expected to be completed by late 2023 or early 2024.  The plans, subject to receiving the necessary permission, include reinstating the original front door of the south tower as the castle’s formal entrance while a single-storey link will be created in the courtyard between the south and north towers.  The volume and proportions of the original courtroom will be protected, although there are plans to remove later partitions from the south and north towers to create fewer and larger spaces.  The revamped building will be used to highlight the Highlands’ past, present and future including the region’s creativity, wellbeing, culture, heritage and natural environment.  Stuart Black, Highland Council’s director of development and infrastructure, said it was about creating a must-see visitor attraction.  We want to attract new and returning visitors to the area,” he said.  He said Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness attracted more than 500,000 visitors.  “We think we can attract a significant number of visitors in the Highlands,” he added.  The project is being managed by High Life Highland on behalf of the council while the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, VisitScotland, Scottish Development International, Historic Environment Scotland, and Scottish Natural Heritage are also partners in the project.  Consultant Bryan Beattie, of Creative Services Scotland, has been looking at what might go into the space to convey the spirit of the Highlands.  Citing people such as playwright Matthew Zajac, singer Julie Fowlis and pop artist and sculptor Gerald Laing, he felt it should reflect the region’s contemporary nature, too.  “There is no shortage of stories we can tell,” he said. “The challenge is how do we tell them?”  Inverness councillors were updated on the project on Thursday.  Afterwards, Ness-side councillor Ron MacWilliam said it was a golden opportunity for Inverness to reclaim its own premier building and to put it to a relevant modern use. He called for maximum public inclusion in the discussion about what that building is used for.  “If the cultural brief is to capture the ‘Spirit of the Highlands,’ that cannot be allowed to be interpreted by a small group of familiar faces,” he said.  “I will be following developments closely and asking that local views are sought early on so that when the final product is revealed the people who will be relied on to support it actually feel like it belongs to them.”

Shining A Spotlight on the Scottish Clan System

The Scottish Highland clans are one of the most immediately recognisable parts of Scotland’s history.  Yet centuries of misrepresentation and romanticisation have created a range of persistent myths and stereotypes.  Now a new free online three-week course from the University of Glasgow, the ‘Scottish Highland Clans: Origins, Decline and Transformations’, on the FutureLearn platform, hopes to debunk some of these misconceptions to provide a critical overview of how the clans functioned in Scottish society. It emphasises the need to see clans as highly sophisticated social communities, with complex economic functions and a rich, unique language and culture.  Dr Andrew Mackillop, a senior lecturer in Scottish History at the University’s College of Arts, who has led the creation of the clans’ course, said the course had drawn on world-class levels of expertise on all aspects of Scottish society, language, history, literature and culture.  “One of the most exciting aspects is the inclusion of Scottish Gaelic material in the form of songs and poems,” he added.  “Making these unique historical sources more accessible is a key objective. Learners will be able to engage with Gaelic but will also have full English translations – so there is no need to worry if you have no Gaelic!  The course explores the nature and function of clans from the fall of Clan Donald’s Lordship of the Isles in 1493 until clanship broke apart in the final decades of the 18th century. Then it explores how literature, art and social trends such as Highland clubs and games ‘reinvented’ clanship.  Novels, films and programmes, such as the TV series Outlander, ensure the process of reimagining continues to the present day. Learners taking the course will get a unique, multi-disciplinary perspective as well as an accessible introduction to some of the very latest research on the Highland clans.”  The course draws on the expertise of academics from across a number of disciplines to bring the story of Scotland’s iconic clans to life.  Professor Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh, vice principal and head of the College of Arts, said: “I am delighted to see that the course reflects the central importance of the Gaelic language in Scotland’s history – and many of our songs, poetry, historical legends and tales are still alive today thanks to the clans’ Gaelic bards and seanchaidhs (‘tradition-bearers, storytellers’).  I hope that the many disciplines being showcased in the clan course will whet the appetite for our online learners and encourage them to engage in further education and study opportunities in Scottish history and culture.” The word ‘clan’ is derived from the Gaelic clann meaning ‘children, family, offspring’. According to the Historical Thesaurus of English the word was introduced into English around 1425, as a label for the nature of the society of the Scottish Highlands. The online course explores how clans functioned as communities and created strong bonds as well as how religion, feuding and war shaped positive and negative stereotypes.  Filmed in locations from Glencoe, Lochaber, Glenlyon to the Isle of Lewis, University of Glasgow academics show how the clan family system impacted on Scottish history and key historical events.  The course visits some of Scotland’s most stunning locations to tell the story of the rise of the clans to see them take high-profile roles in the Scottish and British wars of religion in the 1630s to 1650s and the later Jacobite revolts from 1689 to 1746 and assesses their decline and end of clanship by the 1800s.  The course includes a range of activities and materials to bring the clans to life and encourage learners to consider how the clans continue to have a far reach right up to the present-day portrayal in TV and films including the Outlander series. The course was launched last month and more details are available at https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/the-highland-clans


Brexit's Most Important Week? Five Things That Happened on Wednesday

In such an extreme week at Westminster, we could be close to running out of superlatives. Nevertheless, we'll do our best to bring you all you need to know on the biggest moments of Wednesday.                                 1) Brexit delay bill clears the Commons...
It was never really in doubt after Tuesday night's victory for the Brexit rebels, but half of their work is now done.  Their bill - which would force the prime minister to go to the EU and ask for an extension to the UK's membership if there's no progress by 19 October - was endorsed by MPs. In the words of its proposer, Labour's Hilary Benn, it has one purpose - to prevent a no-deal Brexit.  The bill now heads to the House of Lords.  Following the defeat, Boris Johnson was on his feet immediately, decrying those who backed the bill and insisting there was now only one option left - a general election.
2) ... However, there won't be an election - yet
Boris Johnson had to get the backing of two-thirds of MPs to call an election and he failed. In large part, that's because opposition parties don't trust him. Jeremy Corbyn says he is personally spoiling for an election; Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson told the PM "bring it on". But they, along with the SNP and others, want to see no deal categorically ruled out before they'll commit. They want to make absolutely sure, for example, that Mr Johnson couldn't just hold an election on 15 October, win it and then march the country out on 31 October, come what may.  Weary voters out there, don't breathe a sigh of relief though - an election, eventually, is all but inevitable. Mr Johnson is more than 20 MPs short of a majority - he can't govern effectively. Jeremy Corbyn et al want him out. So ultimately, it's a question of when not if.
3) Johnson's first Prime Minister's Questions
Many hours before all of that, it was Boris Johnson's first PMQs and it was memorable. There was clearly no love lost between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, as the pair spat through their exchanges on Brexit like an angry tennis volley with few concrete answers. The Labour leader repeatedly called for details of the PM's negotiating plan with the EU - he didn't get any.  The PM pushed the Labour leader to back an election on 15 October, mouthing the words "you great big girl's blouse" when the answer was not forthcoming, and repeatedly calling the anti-no-deal plan a "surrender bill".  Expect to hear that phrase a lot in the coming weeks.
4) A Burka row... but no apology
The most dramatic moment of PMQs actually had nothing to do with Brexit - imagine that.... The Labour MP for Slough, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, demanded with great passion that the PM apologise for comments he made a while ago in a newspaper article comparing Muslim women to letterboxes.  The question received rapturous applause from his colleagues, but Mr Johnson didn't apologise - even when the initial question was backed up by Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, who warned the PM his words "carry weight" and he "has to be more careful" with what he says.  Elsewhere during PMQs, Mr Johnson used some rather agricultural language so we're not sure the message got through.
5) Farewell and defiance from Tory rebels
The axe fell swiftly after Tuesday's night's government defeat - 21 Conservative MPs, many with decades of service under their belt, were kicked out of the party for defying Boris Johnson's orders.  On Wednesday, we've heard from most of them and it's clear there's real pain and genuine bafflement in some quarters.

Loch Ness Monster: Scientists to Reveal 'Plausible' Theory

A team of scientists are to reveal the "plausible theory" they have identified for sightings of Nessie.  Research led by a New Zealand university has sought to catalogue all living life in Loch Ness by analysing DNA collected from water samples.  Last month, the team said it had a biological explanation for the Loch Ness Monster.  This along with other findings from the study are to be announced at an event in Drumnadrochit later on Thursday.  More than 200 water samples were taken at various depths throughout the loch last year, collecting all forms of environmental DNA (eDNA) for further analysis.  The eDNA was extracted and sequenced, resulting in about 500 million sequences and these were checked against existing databases.  The work led by New Zealand's University of Otago was done to record all current life in Loch Ness, including plants, insects, fish and mammals.  The Loch Ness Monster is one of Scotland's oldest and most enduring myths. It inspires books, TV shows and films, and sustains a major tourism industry around its home.  The story of the monster can be traced back 1,500 years when Irish missionary St Columba is said to have encountered a beast in the River Ness in 565AD.  Later, in the 1930s, The Inverness Courier reported the first modern sighting of Nessie.  In 1933, the newspaper's Fort Augustus correspondent, Alec Campbell, reported a sighting by Aldie Mackay of what she believed to be Nessie.  Mr Campbell's report described a whale-like creature and the loch's water "cascading and churning".  The editor at the time, Evan Barron, suggested the beast be described as a "monster", kick starting the modern myth of the Loch Ness Monster.

PM Moves Political Battleground to Scotland
Boris Johnson is to move the political battleground to Scotland when he visits Aberdeenshire to announce additional funding for Scottish farmers.  The trip marks the end of a bruising week in which the PM lost Commons votes on his general election plan and a bill designed to stop a no-deal Brexit.  The SNP said the motion to hold an early poll was a plot to make sure the UK left the EU without a deal.  The prime minister's trip will include a visit to the Queen's Balmoral estate.  He will also visit a farm, days after the government revealed a £160m funding package for Scottish farmers.  The move settled a long-running row over the distribution of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy payments across the UK.  And Mr Johnson will use his visit to Scotland to announce an additional £51.4m for Scottish farmers over the next two years.  Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson says the extra funding would "correct an injustice", but also help Scottish farmers "secure their future"  But Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, insisted the money should have been given to farmers and crofters in Scotland in 2016. "Three years too late the case is coming to Scotland," he said.  The prime minister - who lost his majority in the House of Commons this week - also used his article in the Telegraph to vow to prevent the break-up of the UK.  "I find it hard to comprehend why anyone would wish to break apart a successful country, tear the cross of St Andrew out of the Union Flag and draw an international frontier across our island," he writes.  Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon,  on Thursday said her party would pledge to oppose Brexit and insist on "Scotland having the right to choose our own future".  The funding was announced as the UK Westminster government confirmed it would work to ensure cash for farmers was fairly allocated across the whole of the UK, and that the industry will be ready for a "prosperous future" outside the EU.  Those are key recommendations from Lord Bew's newly-published review of farm funding.  NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick described the money as being the "largest funding uplift for the sector in recent memory".  But the SNP's Stewart Stevenson said Mr Johnson was like a "thief returning to the scene of a crime".  Labour's Lesley Laird, the shadow Scottish secretary, said the prime minister was "no friend" of Scottish agriculture. "Boris Johnson's disastrous plan for a no-deal Brexit will be calamitous for Scottish farming," she added.  

Darwin Mounds Coral Reef Scientists Check for Regrowth Following Trawler Damage

Scientists are to revisit a rare deep water coral reef off the coast of Scotland to see if it has recovered following years of trawler damage.  Known as the Darwin Mounds, the corals were discovered in 1998 and later declared a marine protected area.  The reef provides a habitat for marine animals, but has been very slow to recover following the damage.  The expedition is the first for eight years and will use unmanned submarines to check if the coral has regrown.  The team will use a three-D imaging system to provide a detailed map of the area, measured at about the size of one hundred football pitches.  The Darwin Mounds lie 1,000m (328ft) beneath the surface of the North Atlantic about 115 miles (185km) off Cape Wrath in Sutherland.  The habitat is an extensive area of sandy mounds, each about 100m (328ft) in diameter and 5m (16ft) high. In 2003, the area was given Marine Protected Area status to prevent further damage.  Scientists last examined the coral reef in 2011 and found it had still to recover from the deep-sea trawling.  The mounds and reef were discovered in 1998 by NOC scientists, who named the area the Darwin Mounds after their research ship, RRS Charles Darwin.