Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 527

Issue # 527                                     Week ending Saturday 23rd   November 2019

The Day My Wife Stood Up and Then Slapped the Minister Up in the Pulpit
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

People nowadays are constantly making out they are talking about a curiously rare event and then they talk about it non-stop. They may say their gob was never so smacked, they may refer to an inexplicably unsteady aunt’s giddiness or people dropping bombshells or having their small stockings knocked off.

So it was last week with Mrs X, the wee woman who is my own bidey-in. She is, of course, nailed to my kitchen floor by holy wedlock, but I do sometimes suggest that she is a spinster of the parish whose apron strings I am entangled in. Our newer acquaintances question her on whether it is not time she put down some roots and make the arrangement legal. She therefore has to go to great lengths each time to explain that I am, in fact, her husband due to an error of judgement more than two decades hence.

In her role as a photographer, she was capturing the wedding of a young couple on the west side of the island the other day. In charge of proceedings at Barvas Free Church of Scotland was the minister, Reverend Murdo Campbell. A Melbost fellow originally, Rev Murdo is one of the more sensible ministers in these parts, having been a Sandwickhill kid, a former academy of lower learning whose door was once darkened by Mrs X. The rev makes it easy for people to engage with him which is what a preacher should do. Verily verily, I say unto you, not all are so - but that is another story.

With the assembled congregation murmuring expectedly before the bride made her grand entrance, Mrs X glided in and slipped discreetly into her place where the happy pair were to stand and make declarations of eternal cuddles and hugs. Suddenly, from way up in the pulpit a great voice spake and it boomed: “So where’s my high five?” Mrs X looked up toward the rafters and her mouth fell agape as she realised the Rev Murdo was staring down upon her from his lofty perch with his five raised high above her.

Normally a shrinking wee violet on such occasions, she had to not just get up, but reach up and high-five the overhanging Free Church minister in full view of the increasingly-giggly congregation. The kapow as her sweaty clicking fingers slapped the firm and muscular limb of the playful pastor ricocheted around the auld kirk which had not seen that much joviality since it was built back in 1850. Well, maybe once. Like many of the older churches on the island, its toilets were added in the late-1970s and that must have brought a smile of relief to the faces of one or two.

Mrs X returned home, exhausted after a day on her feet, and gasped: “It’s not often I am lost for words but I was then with yon minister cove. I don’t think everyone heard him but most of them did see me reaching up and walloping him on the palm. They were all wondering what is that woman doing. They must have thought I lost my marbles.” No dear. No one could ever think that of you. Never, ever.

It was a surprise, almost as much as The Richard Dimbleby Lecture on TV the other night. All these boffins and VIPs turned out to watch Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man they call the inventor of the World Wide Web, explaining why he thinks it is all going wrong. Rather than sing its praises, the man who made the first web page and then gave the details of how to do it away free, said it was not all good.

It is now being used to manipulate people, he said, as he talked about the spread of fake news and bogus claims. I know. I have still not had a reply from the woman in Nigeria who asked me for $1,000 for the only surviving copy of her book on how to win the National Lottery at least 10 times a year. Some people, eh?

With Christmas now nestling at our chimney pots, the pre-Yule gifts have started. People you don’t know that well are actually practising gift-giving. I was in Marks so I bought you socks. Thanks. There was a bogof so I didn’t pay anything for the second pack of toilet rolls so you can have it. Thanks a lot. Morrisons were selling these gorgeous fruitcakes and they look a bit like Christmas cakes so I thought you may like one. I thought lots of sugar, fat and calories in November. Yay, ta much.

Mrs X, however, seemed to welcome that last gift. She eyed the cake, licked her lips, and winked at me as she purred mysteriously: “Do you that if there is one thing that I have always fancied it is a big, rich fruitcake.” Ugh. No ta. Why are you purring, woman? What has that awful cake got to do with me? She replied: “Quite a lot, actually. It’s just a shame you’re not rich.”

Huge Flow Country Wildfire 'Doubled Scotland's Emissions'
A massive wildfire on peatland in the far north in May doubled Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions for the six days it burnt, a study has estimated.  About 22 sq miles (5,700 hectares) of blanket bog in the Flow Country, which stretches across Caithness and Sutherland, was affected.  The WWF Scotland study claimed 700,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent was released into the atmosphere as a result.  That is similar to the amount released across the rest of Scotland.  Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, contribute to climate warming and are released by many activities such as energy supply, industrial processes, transport, heating and agriculture.  Peat bogs are an important natural store for carbon.  The Flow Country, home to the largest continuous peatbog in Europe, is estimated to hold almost 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).  The study, commissioned by environmental campaign group WWF, called for more government investment to protect and improve peat bogs. Head of policy Gina Hanrahan said: "This analysis puts into stark figures the importance of our peatlands and the huge cost to climate and nature when something goes wrong."  The Flow Country peatbog is formed from layers of dead vegetation such a sphagnum moss. Because of the waterlogged conditions, the plants do not decompose which traps carbon in the peat soil. Experts say the quality of peatlands can play a significant role in minimising emissions in the event of a wildfire.  Emma Goodyer, from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said: "Healthy peatlands are more resilient to fire. A great deal of peatland restoration work is being undertaken across the UK already with at least 150 projects carried out in Scotland.  However, we need to increase the scale of funding available for peatland restoration if we are to urgently respond to the climate crisis and to increase the resilience of our peatlands."  A Scottish government spokesman said restoring peatland had an important part to play in delivering climate change ambitions.  He said the government was committed to delivering the peatland restoration targets set out in the Climate Change Plan.  "We are currently updating our Climate Change Plan which will set out detailed actions to deliver on our climate change ambitions," the spokesman said.  The fire stretched from the outskirts of Melvich on the north coast to the village of Forsinard, about 15 miles further south.  A long-term project is being carried out in the Flow Country to estimate the ecological impact of the fire.  Measurements gathered before the fire give researchers a unique data set for understanding the way vegetation and water quality has changed.

Gordon and Macphail: Spirits Firm Boosted by Strong Overseas Sales
Spirits firm Gordon and MacPhail has reported a rise in profits and sales, following a strong performance in international markets.  The Elgin-based group, which owns Benromach Distillery in Forres, saw pre-tax profit climb by about 20% to £15.6m in the year to the end of February.  Total sales were up 4% to £41m, with overseas sales climbing 32%, to £14.2m. However, UK sales fell by 7%, to £26.7m.  The company said the domestic fall was partly as a result of its decision last year to exit its wholesale operation for wine and beer in order to focus on premium spirits.  Gordon and MacPhail, which is owned by the Urquhart family, has been implementing a new growth strategy, which includes building a second distillery near Grantown-on-Spey. It recently secured planning permission for the project.  Last year the firm launched its Red Door Gin brand, after installing a still in the refurbished malt barns at Benromach. A visitor centre was also opened at the site this summer.  Managing director Ewen Mackintosh said: "We're pleased to report another successful year and to be pushing ahead with our planned growth strategy, including the proposed new whisky distillery we're progressing in Speyside."

Mystery Surrounds £2,000 Bundles of Cash Left Lying Around Village
Locals living in a village where people have found 13 bundles of £2,000 and handed them in said the first they knew about the mystery was when police announced it on social media. Gossip about the puzzling series of events in Blackhall Colliery, County Durham, had not spread beyond a few rumours about money being found.  The village, made up of a long high street with rows of terraces off it, overlooking the North Sea, once had a thriving pit and has retained its sense of community, locals said.  Detectives have thanked honest residents who have repeatedly handed in bundles of £2,000 in cash which keep mysteriously turning up in their village.  There have been 12 incidents reported since 2014.  Until a post on Durham Police’s Facebook page on Monday, no-one appeared to know an anonymous donor had repeatedly dropped off bundles of 100 £20 notes in clear plastic cash bags, leaving them in communal areas such as in the local park, outside a church and behind shops.  It has been happening since 2014 and the last time was on Monday, when detectives went public with their inquiry to find out who was behind the random generosity.  Police have contacted the local bank and post office, and tried to trace the donor from fingerprints, so far without success.  Detective Constable John Forster said: “We’ve even had the theory that it could be a lottery winner who has decided to pay something back to their local community, but the truth is we don’t know.  I hope that by going public with this that we get some answers, rather than whoever is behind this suddenly going quiet.  I really don’t think this is connected to criminality because people in that game are very careful with their money, they can account for every penny in my experience.”  Gaynor Crute, chairwoman of Monk Hesleden Parish Council, which covers Blackhall Colliery, took pride in the fact that 13 times people have handed the cash over to police.  Each time they can claim it if the rightful owner has not come forward.  She said: “There’s so much negativity and bad press so when you have something like this it is obviously heart-warming to know the people you live with, your neighbours, have so much honesty and integrity.  It could be they’re in a situation where they could do with a nice windfall but they have still handed it in.”  She added: “Where has it come from? Is it a Good Samaritan, a well-wisher?  Then you think why Blackhall, what’s the link? Maybe it is someone who worked in the colliery.  The money has been left in public places, where you expect people to be, so they want it to be found.  A place like Blackhall, everybody knows everybody and everyone knows their business and yet nobody has a clue. It’s so intriguing, all around the village people are talking about it.”  Parish clerk Lynda Wardle wondered: “Is it a good person, is it somebody who is trying to make up for bad deeds?  It’s so random – who could pick it up? It could be anyone.”  Blackhall was the home of Bradley Lowery, the mascot who touched the hearts of many in football with his battle against neuroblastoma, and it came to a standstill for his funeral when he died, aged six.   A barmaid at the Hardwick Hotel, the pub known to locals as The Wick, said: “Is it a modern day Robin Hood? But criminals don’t give their money away.”  A drinker, who declined to be named, said: “The community is very close here and if someone found £2,000 in the street, you’d expect them to come down The Wick and say ‘everyone can have a pint’.  It’s the sort of place where if someone had an extra £2,000, people would know.  Maybe someone has won the lottery and when they’ve drunk themselves sober and done everything on their bucket list and not even made a dent in the interest, they could be sick of money.  It’s like Brewster’s Millions.”

Return of the Drink Loved by Vikings and Ancient Celts

High in the hills above Pitlochry in Perthshire a former soldier has embarked on a new mission to revive an ancient Scottish drink.  Mead, which is made from fermented honey, was much loved by Celtic tribes and Viking warriors.  But, over the last few centuries it has largely disappeared with beer, wine and whisky knocking it off its pedestal.  However, Christopher Mullin has now restarted mead brewing in Scotland and is recreating recipes dating back thousands of years using archaeological evidence.  His army career as an intelligence officer took him to numerous military headquarters around the world, but after retiring from the armed forces he has now set up his own base, the Rookery, in a converted stable building amid the hills and forests of Glen Brerachan.  Christopher's interest in mead stems back to his time studying Gaelic at the University of Aberdeen when he learned about it through studying Beowulf and other early literary works from across the British Isles. There was one other key reason for its appeal - honey.  Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland's Kitchen Café programme, he said: "The process I use is not unlike making wine as I ferment the sugars in water but my sugar source is honey. That's absolutely sacrosanct. It must be honey.  I don't add white sugar. I don't add anything else as a fermentable. "  He added: "Honey is almost like a magic potion. It's an amazing product to work with. It's malleable, it lasts forever, you can get different varieties of flavour, it's resistant to infection and it is anti-bacterial.  One of the things I am really proud of is I don't use any chemicals in my production process. I don't use fining agents but more importantly I don't use sulphates or preservatives because honey itself is a preservative. It's just a wonderful thing to work with." Much of the honey used is sourced from an apiary just a few miles down the road from the Rookery. The location of the business also makes it an ideal location for foraging for other key ingredients.  "I add adjuncts which is a brewing term for things to give the mead additional flavour," said Christopher.  "Most of these come off the hill that we brew on. Most of my adjuncts are native species, such as mountain ash berries or hawthorn berries, because I am really interested in the history and archaeology of Britain.  Most of what I do either was definitely done by our ancestors or probably done by them. The evidence I use goes back 4,500 thousand years and people have been around here for a good 10,000 years before that. I gather things our ancestors were out picking at similar times of year to me to make similar products."  In the Rookery a new concoction with its origins in the Bronze Age is currently brewing. It is based on archaeological evidence of mead production gathered from the Machrie Moor standing stone site on the Isle of Arran.  Christopher said: "It is a honey and grain and flour brew which is what most of those really old brews were. I have brought together two of my hobbies - making booze and archaeology.  Sometimes it is an interpretation so I am getting close to what was maybe being made thousands of years ago. But this one, which should be getting released next year, is as close as possible. It is not an interpretation it is practically a reconstruction. "  Mead was the drink of choice for the elite for the early people of the British Isles, but by the Middle Ages imported wine from the Mediterranean had become more common.  However, Christopher said the real decline in mead's popularity can be linked with changes in the way beer was produced, which vastly increased its shelf life.  He said: "The big game changer for mead is the introduction of hops. Once hops comes in beer lasts longer. It now becomes a commercially viable product made by men rather than women at home.  Beer becomes cheaper so you can now get drunk on a penny instead of a shilling. And economics takes over.  So mead falls by the wayside and becomes a niche historical curiosity. And that takes us to the modern day where you have got in the UK probably about five or six of us making properly made meads and I am the only one in Scotland. I am the Scottish mead industry right now."  And Christopher said it is something that is definitely worth bringing back.  He said: "The flavours that are possible are just legion. From dry and herbal through wine like and sharp. Through fruity through complex through focused through sweet. It's just a great thing to be experiment with and play with.  It's great in cooking too. Where you can use beer, wine, sherry you can use meads. The best bit though is you get to taste the past."

Burglars Steal Fuel From Glasgow Humane Society Lifeboats

Burglars who broke into Glasgow Humane Society stole the fuel from its lifeboats.  The life-saving organisation, based at Glasgow Green has patrolled and protected people along the River Clyde since 1790.  Police Scotland confirmed an incident had been reported. The society tweeted about the break-in which took place on Tuesday night, saying: "To our unwelcome visitors last night, please don't break in again."  The tweet continued: "It's not very nice and stealing fuel from lifeboats is pretty scummy. Thanks for leaving the crowbar behind (hopefully with your fingerprints all over it), we're sure @policescotland will find that very useful!"  Glasgow councillor Eva Bolander called the incident "both sad and shocking" She said: "You are a life-saving service for all users of the river and nearby areas. If anyone don't know how important, think how it would be to have a personal reason to thank you."   A spokesman for Police Scotland said: "We received a report of an attempted break-in premises at Glasgow Green which happened sometime overnight between Tuesday 19 November and the morning of Wednesday 20 November.  Inquiries are ongoing and anyone with information should contact police."

Cut in Funding for Gaelic's Royal National Mod

Gaelic's showcase of language, song and arts has had its funding cut by one of its main supporters.  The Royal National Mod receives £40,000 annually from Highland Council under an agreement which comes to an end after next year's festival in Inverness.  The local authority is committed to continued support of the Mod, but at a reduced cost of £37,500 annually over the next four years.  Councillors approved the new funding package at a meeting on Wednesday.  Highland Council has also proposed the Mod be held in its area in 2024, 2028 and 2032.  The Mod is held in a different Scottish town or city each year. This year's event was held in Glasgow and previous festivals have been in Paisley, Dunoon, Oban and venues in Lochaber.  The festival attracts thousands of visitors and entrants to its competitions, which include singing, music and dancing.  Next year's Inverness Royal National Mod runs from 9-17 October.

Controversial Inverness Market Closure to Be Considered
A plan to close a historic Inverness shopping market for up to a year to allow for a major revamp is due to be considered by councillors.  Highland Council has proposed offering compensation based on six months' rent or the financial equivalent to traders renting units in the Victorian Market.  Traders would have to re-apply for a unit in the refurbished market. Some traders have criticised the plan and fear giving up premises in the market will put them out of business.  Costing about £1.5m, the proposed revamp includes creating a larger open area in the market where live entertainment and other events could be staged.  The building work could start early next year and would take about 10 months to complete. Tenants could be in redeveloped units early 2021, according to the council.  The local authority said there had been "ongoing engagement" with traders including one-to-one consultations for the last two years.  Councillors on the City of Inverness area committee will be asked to approve the business case for the revamp at a meeting on Thursday.

A Bourach Over Languages at FMQs
Tricky times, elections. Just one word out of place - and you're in trouble, not least with the wicked media. It's a phenomenon which gars oor elected tribunes tae ca' canny.  At Holyrood today, Nicola Sturgeon was even reluctant to express a preference for her favourite Scots word.  Why so? Apparently, she was concerned she might inadvertently deploy a rude expression or one that caused offence.  Ms Sturgeon had been invited to pronounce by the redoubtable Christine Grahame. Undeterred by any first ministerial sensitivity, Ms Grahame boldly opted for "bourach" as her chosen word in Scots.  It is a fine word. An excellent word. One now thoroughly assimilated into Scots, with variants such as "omni-bourach", describing a guddle of galactic dimensions.  Snag is - and one hates to be pedantic - it's actually Gaelic, not Scots. Fearing I was wrong - as I said, these are cautious times - I consulted a BBC chum who is a Gael.  I was told it is undoubtedly Gaelic. "That's definitely one of ours!", was the robust, even indignant response. I don't know, cultural appropriation, it's everywhere.  Ms Grahame, as is her wont, is unabashed. She told me: "Aye, I know it's Gaelic. But it alliterates with Brexit and that suits me fine." Or words to that effect.  Me, I like words arising from Scotland's rural origins. I think of "the weary plyter o' life on the land", from Sunset Song (plyter = struggle).  Or two words my late father regularly used, despite having long shed his Angus bucolic background. On starting work, he would declare his determination to get "yokit tae the plew". To assume the harness of a shoulder-plough.  On resting, he would announce that he was "lowsed". Or loosed from toil.  Another Scots word I favour is "clanjamfrie". This I regard as eminently topical. It means confusion, a muddle, a melting pot of uncertainty.  McDiarmid uses it in a poem about the planet, in which he concludes "but greet and in yer tears ye'll droon the haill clanjamfrie".  Enough. When I worked as a journalist in the Commons, I was occasionally called upon by Hansard and PA to translate Scots words deployed by, among others, Donald Dewar. But that was back in the Middle Ages, when Jeremy Corbyn was a young back-bencher.  Now, we are told that Michael Gove baffled the current Cabinet by declaring that he was scunnered about something or other. You're not the only one, Michael.  Linguistic checks may be required when the Scottish Labour manifesto is produced on Friday, after Thursday's UK party launch. I believe that the two documents will both adhere to the formula that there would not be any support for indyref2 in the early years of a Labour government at Westminster.  Would Scottish leader Richard Leonard prefer to take a tougher line? Almost certainly yes. It would fit better with his combative approach to the SNP.  But he'll live with the manifesto wording, as long as everybody sticks to it and, in particular, that it takes the debate beyond the 2021 Holyrood election. Not least because Mr Leonard intends to posit himself as the next first minister in that contest.  How about Brexit? I expect the Scottish manifesto will commit the party in Scotland to campaign for Remain in any further Brexit referendum. This is in contradistinction to Jeremy Corbyn's position in that he argues for renegotiation of the Brexit deal, followed by a public vote - but won't commit to campaigning either way.  Labour strategists insist that isn't a problem. They say they understand Mr Corbyn's caution, given the preponderance of Labour seats in the north of England which voted Leave. They say folk on the doorsteps just want to know that they'll be given a choice.  And Trident? We'll watch out for the wording in the Scottish document - and for the position adopted at the launch - but I believe that, in practice, it is the UK position which will hold sway, given that defence is reserved. And the UK Labour position is to renew Trident.  Expect Scottish Labour to stress the wider context of a search for global disarmament and demilitarisation. Words matter. In any language.

Gorgie City Farm: Mystery Donor Boosts Appeal by £20,000

A fundraising appeal to save a well-loved city farm has received a mystery donation of £20,000.  Gorgie City Farm in Edinburgh fell into financial difficulty and called in a liquidator earlier this month.  Since then, a fundraising page called Save Gorgie Farm has been collecting donations to try to secure a future for the site.  Former staff members revealed on Wednesday that an anonymous benefactor had given the lump sum.  On their Edinburgh Community Farm Facebook page, they posted: "Dear Edinburgh & beyond. The GoFundMe page is now at an incredible £92,665.  "This morning an anonymous person donated £20,000. Who knew 18 days ago that we could be so strong together?  "We can now add 92,665 more reasons to our list of why this farm is so important to the community." The group said that more than 3,000 people had donated to the appeal, from Ireland to Australia. The farm closed its doors on 1 November with the loss of 18 jobs. Two staff remain on site to care for the animals.  Last week the liquidator revealed ten charities and commercial organisations had "expressed interest" in buying the farm.  Liquidator Shona Campbell, of MHA Henderson Loggie, called it positive news but warned it could take many weeks before they would be able to submit proposals and secure the funding that is required to take over the running of the farm.  Gorgie City Farm gave volunteering opportunities and support to disadvantaged young people and adults.  It welcomed about 200,000 visitors a year since it was saved from closure in 2016 after a crowdfunding appeal raised in excess of £100,000. The farm has about 50 livestock and 50 pets. They include sheep, pigs, ducks, geese and chickens and a number of smaller animals including snakes and lizards. The farm received funding from City of Edinburgh Council, various trusts and individual donors. Its cafe and animal boarding service also generated income.  It chairman George Elles blamed falling revenues due to a decline in external funding and rising costs.

Borderers Asked to Avoid Under-pressure Borders General Hospital

People are being asked to avoid the Borders General Hospital’s accident and emergency department unless they require urgent medical attention.  Health bosses at NHS Borders say that an “exceptionally high demand” on the hospital has led to delays and a shortage of beds. This afternoon the health board urged people only to go to accident and emergency in Melrose if really necessary in a bid to clear the backlog.  A NHS Borders spokeswoman said: “We are currently experiencing exceptionally high demand in our accident and emergency department which is putting pressure on bed availability in the hospital.  We are working hard to discharge patients who are well enough to go home to create some more space, however this takes time. If you have a relative in any of our hospitals who is ready to be discharged, please make arrangements to collect them as soon as you can.  We are looking after some very sick people so please help us take the pressure off the hospital and only go to the emergency department if you have an illness or injury that is serious and requires urgent medical attention.  If you are unwell and it is not an emergency there are a wide range of NHS services available to provide you with the appropriate treatment and care including your community pharmacy.”  People are being urged to visit www.nhsinform.scot for information on how to treat a wide range of minor ailments, or contact the NHS 24 helpline on 111.

New Scottish Cola Drink - Made From Heather

The world’s favourite soft drink has been reinvented with a premium Scottish twist.  Alba Cola, designed for people looking for a new cola drinking experience and a contemporary change from the big brands, has been launched in time for St Andrew’s Day by Chris Ewing and Niall Holmes of the Caledonian Cola Company.  The new premium craft drink is made with lightly carbonated Scottish water and a buzz of heather botanicals, contains less sugar than large brands and comes packaged in a sleek black can with a gold unicorn, Scotland’s national animal on the front.  The brand’s slogan ‘A take on the traditional’ reinforces the cola’s call to people to try something different.  The idea for the soft drink was born when entrepreneur and ex-Motherwell footballer Chris noticed the popularity of regional colas in France and spotted a gap in the market for a cola from Scotland.  He got together with musician Niall, who had been working in the food and drink industry for over 15 years. Together they tasted and tweaked the recipe to perfectly balance the heather botanicals in the cola and are now launching what they deem the best cola around into cafes, stores and bars around Scotland, packaged in a can with a fitting sleek new look.  Chris said: “People in France would frequently ask for a cola made from their region over the big brands and I knew there would be a market for the same kind of thing from Scotland with its own wonderful food and drink and culture.  Consumers are drinking less alcohol and looking for new premium soft drinks or mixer experiences. Niall and I got together to develop the brand further and the result is Alba Cola which in our opinion has to be the best looking and tasting cola around!”  Niall added: “The reception we are getting when people see and taste it is fantastic. It really is such a versatile cola with a refreshing taste and we look forward to seeing what people think of the world’s favourite soft drink reinvented with a premium Scottish twist.” The cola also appeals to the health and environmentally conscious as it contains only natural sugars, and 20% less sugar than the big brands, is vegan friendly and comes in recyclable aluminum cans.  It is currently stocked in a range of independent retailers, cafes and bars around Scotland, with plans to roll out further afield into the New Year, priced from £1.40/330ml can.

Loch Ness Could Supply Water to Homes in Dry Summers
Water could be pumped from Loch Ness to help supply households in and around Inverness and Nairn during dry summers.  Inverness Water Treatment Works is currently supplied by lochs Ashie and Duntelchaig.  To "improve the resilience" of the water supply Scottish Water has proposed drawing water from Loch Ness when needed.  The plan would also support new development. In Inverness alone hundreds of new homes are being built.  Scottish Water has proposed having an underwater intake in the loch and a pumping station set back from the loch-side near Dores.  The water would be pumped to a partly buried water tank at Inverness Water Treatment Works. Planning applications could be submitted to Highland Council next year.  Information on the project is to be made available at Dores Village Hall on 2 December.  Gavin Steel, of Scottish Water, said: "We have been in contact with the community in Dores over recent years about the development of this proposed project and have been grateful for their input and their patience.  This is a significant potential project, which we need to consider carefully to ensure we select the best option to meet the long-term needs of our customers in the Highland capital and beyond.  We also want to ensure the potential impacts of construction work on local residents and businesses are well managed so that any work leaves a positive legacy for the area."  Loch Ness contains more water than all the lakes of England and Wales combined and is the largest UK lake by volume.

Packed Programme As John O’Groats Book Festival 2020 Extends to Four Days
Some of the best-known names in Scottish writing will descend on John O’Groats next year for its annual book festival.  The event will be full of local interest, looking at subjects such as police detective Donald Swanson, from Thurso, and the mid-1800s meal riots in Caithness, as well as discussing gender, music and gin.  Guest authors this year include renowned traditional musician Freeland Barbour, historian James Hunter, crime writer Gillian Galbraith and children’s historical novelist Barbara Henderson, with local writers involved throughout.  The festival’s first two years have proved such a success organisers have extended it to four days of sessions and workshops, running from April 23 to 26. It is being organised under the auspices of John O’Groats Development Trust.  This year organisers have worked closely with the publisher Birlinn.  The first session will be held at Lyth Arts Centre with a joint production from Freeland Barbour and singer Gerda Stevenson, a guest author at last year’s festival.  Mr Barbour’s new book, The White Rose of Gask, looks at the life and songs of Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne.  Lady Nairne wrote some of Scotland’s most famous traditional songs.  Festival organiser Ian Leith said: “She was a prominent Jacobite and a lot of her songs she wrote anonymously. They are songs we all know.  Freeland is a respected and renowned musician and music producer. As an accordionist he plays with a number of bands.”  Barbara Henderson, from Inverness, will do sessions throughout the Friday with local primary schools.  She has just released a new book called Black Water, a Scottish smuggling tale featuring a real incident in the life of Robert Burns.  She will also do a workshop at Lyth for older children, called Puppet Power. Ms Henderson is a puppet-maker and creates stories using them.  Historian James Hunter’s latest book, Insurrection, is based around the meal riots in 1846 in which Wick played a major part. Mr Leith said: “He is a brilliant writer. He uses immense detail but also has a knack of telling a story. It’s not just dry history.”  Gillian Galbraith is a former advocate and now Scottish crime writer. Her crime novels include four featuring Edinburgh-based DS Alice Rice.  Mr Leith said: “Her new book is called The End of the Line. She comes highly recommended.” The five authors will appear together on the Friday evening at the Seaview Hotel in a session called Author Appetisers, giving short talks about their work.  Saturday morning’s Caithness Connections features Adam Wood, author of a biography about Thurso man Donald Swanson who as a detective worked on the Jack the Ripper murders in London, plus others prominent writers with a local connection.  Saturday afternoon’s session – Birlinn Showcase – will include three one-hour talks from the guest authors.  On Saturday evening Highland writers Helen Sedgwick and Liz Treacher will do a joint talk on gender writing over the past 100 years, interspersed with gin tasting at the Seaview in a session called Gin and Gender.  The final day will include local writer Kevin Crowe doing a session for LGBT writers based on his involvement with an LGBT magazine.  There will also be a poetry and music session in LAC with contemporary folk musician and clarsach player Esther Swift.  Mr Leith said: “She is creating a piece which she will put into production next year offering local poets to help develop this programme. It’s great to have that included.”  

Powering on with A New Idea on Local Electricity Network for the Western Isles

A report to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is to recommend support for a proposed Local Electricity Bill which will make it easier for Local Authorities and Community Generators to become licensed Electricity Suppliers.  The Bill, which has cross Party support, has the potential to transform the UK’s electricity market, instructing the Regulator, OFGEM, to issue simplified Local Supply Licenses at a cost proportionate to the scale of the local supply operation.  At present, prospective local electricity suppliers seeking to obtain a Supply License from OFGEM face prohibitive costs and a web of regulations.  A report is going before the Comhairle’s next Sustainable Development Committee recommending that the Comhairle support the principles of the Local Electricity Bill.  Speaking ahead of the meeting, Chairman Donald Crichton said: “The principles of this new Bill align closely with the Comhairle’s ambitions in the area of electricity generation and supply. Shared Community Ownership in Stornoway and Uisenis Wind Farms and the strong portfolio of community owned generation already in place across the islands will provide sufficient generation to supply all island consumers in a closed island network.  Since 2015, the Comhairle, in consultation with the Distribution System Operator and OFGEM, has been developing a model for a parallel island network which will allow all island electricity consumption to be supplied directly by on-island generation without the need for UK wide electricity shipping charges, shareholder dividend for commercial energy supply companies and the punitive North of Scotland Locational Surcharge.  In 2016, the Comhairle established ‘Hebrides Energy’, an arms length Community Interest Company which, once Stornoway and Uisenis Wind Farms are built, will become a licensed Local Supply Company, supplying low cost green electricity directly to island homes and businesses.  This Bill will simplify the process and reduce the costs faced by local supply companies.  In the same way, our existing Community Generators will be enabled to become electricity suppliers in their own right and we urge them to take advantage of this opportunity.”