Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 532

Issue # 532                                                    Week ending Saturday 28th December 2019

Our Christmases Are Always Changing But It’s Still A Time for Fairytales
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal
As this is the second last column of the year, nay, the decade, I shall wipe away a tear and think back to these days when I was a kid full of mince pies and expectations about the payback for being such a good wee boy all year long. Christmas has changed so much. We would just gather round the flickering black and white TV screen to see how other people made Christmas special by making their own low-cost festive decorations.

They all pretty much involved making something out of an empty washing-up liquid bottle, a wire coat-hanger and some sticky-backed plastic. This was the BBC TV show Blue Peter with its perennial “how to make something out of nothing” feature. They made sparkle lanterns which were a tad bulky because they had to wind the tinsel round the hangers many times to hide the wire. It was too tacky for even Hebridean crofters’ kids.

Then, from the card and sticky plastic, they made Advent calendars with wee doors that just about opened and shut. Why is it getting harder to buy Advent calendars? Their days are numbered, I guess.

My Christmas back then involved stockings that I had nailed onto the mantelpiece when the oldies weren’t looking. They became mysteriously stuffed with oranges by the red-suited chimney sweep after he had swigged my dad’s whisky and scoffed the rock-hard oatcakes that my ol’ lady had left.

Also lying in the soot on the hearth was the chemistry set which I later used for various not-quite-successful experiments. Most involved singeing my eyebrows and in one I somehow managed to poison my wee brother with a good dose of copper sulphate which I must have accidentally sprinkled on his cornflakes. It turned his lips and face a deep blue. Sadly, he has still not recovered because he supports Rangers to this day.

Sometimes, I would delight relatives with stories of the nativity. I would say: And now I will tell you about what happened in Bethehem. My aunt would correct me saying it was actually Bethlehem with an L. I replied: “No. I think it’s Bethehem and that was the first no L.”

Not everyone can afford to give gifts to their friends and relations. Sometimes a kindly word or doing a wee favour is enough. I had to go down to the Harris Distillery the other day to pick up items for someone who is giving extra-special gifts this year. It is a long drive on your own so I asked along someone I know very well to help pass the time. Big mistake.
That person next to me in the van didn’t stop talking for the whole journey to Tarbert and then all the way back again. They just went on and on and I’m afraid I ended up agreeing with everything my passenger said. I'm starting to regret marrying her.

Let us spare a thought for everyone who has to work at this time of year. Nurses, doctors, care assistants, the emergency services, utilities staffs, there are just so many. I hope they will not be too busy at work and will get some time to be with their loved ones. Speaking personally, I must say hello and thank you to the guys at Scottish Water who were here at the weekend after our sewers in this part of the street blocked up.

They went at it with gusto and a pressure jet thingy and now we can all go with confidence. It’s a great relief. And we promise we will not call you out again over the holidays unless we really, really have to. Good job, guys.

Next year there will be new gifts, I predict. We will be getting the debut Peat and Diesel Christmas Album in our stockings. They had staggering success with the single Fairtytale of Stornoway which came very close to being a download number one. In the style of The Pogues, they sing of someone full of guga, someone full of something else and some people who need to improve their personal hygiene. It is utterly rude, of course, but you would only appreciate that if you spoke Gaelic. Now there’s a good reason to learn.

What am I hoping to get for Christmas this year? I can’t tell you that because I don’t want lorryloads of presents arriving from thousands of readers of the Press and Journal. That would be embarrassing. Our daughter is arriving from Englandshire in a few days and that will do me. A few years ago, I hinted in a December column that I had no playing cards. Someone sent me a pack but I suspected they had been used before as they were all sticky. I found that hard to deal with.

My best Christmas present was a bicycle. It was a really icy Christmas Day and I was out on my new bike and I nearly got run over by the council's salt lorry. “Look where you're going,” I shouted at the driver through gritted teeth.

Medical Waste Backlog At Failed Firm to Be Cleared
Hundreds of tonnes of clinical and human waste piled up at a failed disposal firm for the last 12 months is being cleared up.  Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) stopped trading last December after becoming embroiled in a waste stockpiling scandal.  The collapse left about 300 tonnes of waste at the firm's plant in Shotts, North Lanarkshire.  But now HES liquidator BDO has said work to clear this backlog has begun.  BDO said a licence has been agreed with Cliniwaste Ltd to operate the Shotts site, and two more in Nottingham and Newcastle, with an option for the Glasgow-based firm to also buy them.  It comes as BBC Scotland can also reveal the firm appointed to take over the contract to remove waste from every hospital, GP surgery, dental practice and pharmacy in Scotland will not be operating at full capacity until April next year.  Tradebe Healthcare was due to start removing hazardous waste in April this year but this was delayed and the Spanish-owned firm is now implementing the deal on a phased basis.  This means that some NHS contingency measures, which have cost more than the previous contract, will stay in place until then.  Monica Lennon MSP, Scottish Labour's health spokeswoman, said: "It's encouraging that steps are now being taken to clear the mountain of stockpiled waste from the Shotts yard.  The local community has had to endure this blight since 2018 and it's important the waste is removed quickly and safely.  The clinical waste scandal has cost the NHS in Scotland millions of pounds and it is staggering that emergency payments to private firms will continue well into 2020."  Ms Lennon added that it was "hard to see where lessons have been learned" from the saga.  The collapse of HES, which previously had the NHS Scotland waste collection contract, saw 150 workers in Scotland lose their jobs and forced contingency measures to be put in place across the health service.  In the eight months following the collapse of HES these contingency measures cost the taxpayer a total of £14.8m.  By contrast the ten-year deal with Tradebe Healthcare will be worth about £10m a year.  However, the Scottish government has said the higher costs for the contingency measures come as a result of them being put in place at short notice following the collapse of HES.  A spokeswoman for BDO said: "The joint liquidators have agreed a licence with Cliniwaste Ltd to operate the Shotts, Newcastle and Nottingham sites.  This agreement provides an option to purchase after three months. As part of this licence, Cliniwaste Ltd is already on site clearing waste."  A spokeswoman for NHS National Services Scotland said: "Contingency plans were introduced last year when HES was no longer able to provide waste collection services to NHS boards across Scotland.  Contingency arrangements will reduce as Tradebe Healthcare implement the new contract on a phased basis until Spring, 2020.  During the phased introduction, the cost of contingency will decrease, and the amount paid to Tradebe Healthcare will increase because they will be paid for the services they provide."

Highland Council 'Test' Market About Running Corran Ferry
Highland Council has sought feedback from ferry operators on the running of the local authority's Corran Ferry service.  The route is via a narrow stretch of Loch Linnhe in Lochaber.  Highland Council workers operate the ferry service and the authority is looking at the potential of a contractor taking over this role.  It said a procurement process "may be coming forward" and its was only "testing" the market at this stage.  The ferry allows access to and from the communities of Ardgour, Morvern and Ardnamurchan.  It is also used by people and businesses on Mull, who first travel to the mainland on the Fishnish-Lochaline ferry.  The Corran Ferry and Fishnish-Lochaline services also offer tourists an alternative to the Oban to Mull ferry.

Nevis Range Turns Back the Clock to 1989 to Celebrate 30 Years of Adventure

Skiers have taken a step back in time to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Nevis Range in Fort William.  People who flocked to the slopes at Aonach Mor were asked to wear ski gear from the 1980s, which ensured a variety of colourful retro snowsuits were on display.  As part of the celebrations, visitors were allowed to ski and snowboard for the same price as they did 30 years ago. A gondola day ticket was just £3.50 and a full day snowsports pass was £12.50. The celebrations continued into the evening in a heated marquee next to the gondola base station. There were performances by Celtic fire dancers, in addition to a ceilidh and a series of inspirational talks by the legends behind Nevis Range. Nevis Range founders, Ian Sykes (Spike) and Ian Sutherland (Suds), who were the driving forces behind the original Nevis Range concept, told the story about a group of close friends in a small, remote community who rallied local businesses into action.  They managed to raise a million pounds in less than a month to bring their dream of creating a snowsports centre on Aonoch Mor to fruition.  They also spoke about the hard work and innovation which had been invested in securing the venue’s future.  Mr Sutherland said: “It was a successful day. There were people like myself who were there when it all started and there were some fresh people.  I was talking to someone who said his son had been coming for 22 years and he thought it had always been there. People just expect it to have always been there, they can’t imagine a time when it wasn’t.  Nevis Range opened 30 years ago, but for 10 years prior to that, we were trying to get it off the ground. Some people were supportive and some weren’t. We had a lot of support from the local development agency.  I remember when the lifts were brought it from Austria, it was a big event.  Back then, the pulp mill had closed and the aluminium factory was reducing staff, so Nevis Range helped create jobs.”  He revealed how the Mountain Bike World Cup in June has already brought in millions of pounds to the local economy.  And mountain biking is something they plan to expand even more in the future.  Mr Sutherland added: “We have got two hard routes down the mountain. We are hoping to create a 10km (6.2mile) blue run from the top station which people can go down with their children. That will be open to lots more people.”

Veteran Health Campaigner Claims Inverclyde Royal is Being Deliberately 'Run Down'
A veteran health campaigner claims that Inverclyde Royal is being deliberately 'run down' so that it will be deemed beyond repair.  Councillor Ciano Rebecchi says the hospital isn't being maintained properly and claims there is a covert plan to downgrade it to 'a cottage hospital'. He hit out after the Tele published pictures showing an article in the Telegraph which showed areas of the building in a serious state of disrepair.  Councillor Rebecchi said: "I was shocked when I saw those pictures but not surprised.  You will see a lot pictures like that from the hospital because NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde don't maintain it.  The fabric of the building has not been maintained for years.  The health board are letting it get run down." A worried member of staff sent in photographs showing flooding, buckets lying in corridors and insulation material falling through a damaged ceiling.  The areas included the X-ray department corridors, the link corridor to the Larkfield Unit and the corridor leading to the mortuary.  The whistleblower says little had been done since the article.  He said: "Towels were put down in the corridor leading to the mortuary to stop the stop the water running out to the passageway, but not a lot else."  Councillor Rebecchi believes there is a strategy which will lead to the demise of IRH.  He said: "They could come back and say it will cost £90 million to repair and they could built a new one, a smaller one.  They want to turn it into a cottage hospital and there is the proof.  They are letting it go down the swanny."  Health bosses have apologised over the water ingress exposed by the Telegraph and say they were dealing with this as a priority.  They added that a building surveyor had been engaged to look at the external fabric of the building.  A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, in response to Councillor Rebecchi's concerns, said: "We have made it clear that Inverclyde Royal Hospital will continue as a local hospital but a new model will see it become a centre of excellence with access to specialist care and an increase in planned operations such as knee replacements.  Inverclyde Royal Hospital, as the local emergency hospital, will continue to receive emergencies.  However, in line with national planning, those patients who need the most complex, highly specialised care from across the West of Scotland will be taken to a new Major Trauma Centre at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH).  We have already confirmed that as part of an ongoing programme of modernising our estate a number of schemes are being undertaken specifically at Inverclyde Royal Hospital."

Chapman Delighted with Owner's Reaction
Owners at the Lathalmond Commerce site have come to an agreement to clean up the dump of rubbish and waste that has piled up there over many years and created an eyesore near Kelty.  SEPA has written to Douglas Chapman, MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, to outline plans it has agreed with the owners of the land, Transbrittania Ltd, who have developed a costed plan which will consider options for recycling or disposal of the rubbish. Transbrittania is expected to present these plans to SEPA by the end of January. The site in Mr Chapman’s constituency has been an eye-sore to the public and a potential health risk for many years.  Those held responsible, First Options Solutions Ltd, were prosecuted for it, but have never cleaned up the mess.  Commenting on the news Mr. Chapman said: “This is the first real progress we have seen on getting this eye-sore cleaned up after years of stalemate and I think we can put this down as a win for the constituency.  I am pleased Transbrittania has stepped up to pay for the clearance of the site, although the issue was not caused by them".  He added: “Having visited the site myself and witnessed the danger it poses to the environment and to the people who work there something has been needing to be done. The site is close to the Vintage Bus Museum and I would imagine visitors would not take too kindly to be having to pass by this rubbish site on their way to the museum. I hope this is the first step in getting this eye-sore removed and I look forward to seeing the plans being put forward by the land-owners.”

Policeman Drowned in Whirlpool on Holiday

A policeman drowned after being sucked into a whirlpool during an adventure holiday in Scotland, an inquest heard.  PC Shazad Saddique, 38, died while swimming near the Fairy Pools waterfall on the Isle of Syke on 19 July.  Tourists including a French policeman pulled the father-of-three, of Oldham, Greater Manchester clear but they could not revive him.  The Greater Manchester Police (GMP) officer's wife was expecting their fourth child at the time. Rochdale Coroner's Court heard PC Saddique, who was a student officer based in Ashton-under-Lyne, was involved in outreach work with local youths to get them into the countryside.  He had arranged the Scottish trip for 30 people including his brother and 13-year-old son.   The court heard that he jumped into the water at Fairy Pools - a natural waterfall phenomenon in the Cuillin Mountain Range in Glen Brittle - with goggles, wetsuit and swimming shoes.  He had been swimming for about an hour when tragedy struck. Family friend Temour Ahmed said: "I heard people shouting and went to the pool I could see Shazad was unresponsive in the water. I tried to get into the water but there was a very strong undercurrent which was pulling my trousers down so I got out." He added: "It was looking like a whirlpool effect.  Eventually we were able to get to Shazad from the water but sadly his lips where blue and he was totally unresponsive."  Recording a conclusion of death by drowning Coroner Joanne Kearsley recorded a conclusion of death by drowning and said it was a "very, very sad case".  She added: ''More likely than not he became caught up in a strong current which created a vortex effect."  The coroner also praised PC Saddique for touching "the lives of many".  His family said he was "the most selfless person you could ever hope to meet".  Their statement added: "He was the best dad, and his wife and kids were his absolute world.''

'Cutting Edge' Defibrillators Fitted in Scottish Ambulances
The latest generation of defibrillators are being installed in ambulances across Scotland. The devices record the vital signs of critically ill patients and send the data to hospitals ahead of their arrival.  The Scottish Ambulance Service is spending £25m on fitting the cutting edge technology in all of its 550 emergency vehicles.  It says the project will free up paramedics to focus on patients.  The devices automatically pass data, such as how many shocks a patient has received and changes in heart rate, into the care record passed to medics.  Ambulance service director Jim Ward said the equipment will be particularly useful when transferring patients from some of the most remote parts of Scotland.  He said: "Fitting our ambulances with these new defibrillators puts Scotland at the cutting edge of this new technology, so we are delighted patients are going to benefit from it.  The new devices essentially do the same key job of helping to restart a patient's heart - in addition they also automatically record a patient's vital signs, freeing the ambulance crew from recording this data manually and enabling them to give more focus to patients."  Paramedics and technicians using the new Corpuls3 devices will also be able to record which drugs they have administered to patients. Paul Gowens, lead consultant paramedic with the Scottish Ambulance Service, said some of the equipment they are replacing is up to a decade old.  "This will definitely benefit patient outcomes and save lives," he said.  "Sending more information more quickly is really important when it comes to the decision making at the other end so the hospital can be ready for the patient when they arrive.  It also gives a greater clarity for the crews as the screen is laid out a lot clearer, and it allows the crews to focus on the patients rather than the paperwork."

Daughter Vows to Recover Body of Scots IS Hostage

The daughter of a Scottish aid worker who was beheaded by the Islamic State group in Syria has vowed to return there to recover her father's remains.  Bethany Haines is convinced she has worked out the location of her father's grave near the Turkish border.  David Haines, 44, who lived in Perth, was abducted by IS in 2013 while working in a Syrian aid camp.  His execution was filmed and released in 2014 as part of IS propaganda footage.  He was murdered, with fellow aid worker Alan Henning, by the so-called "Beatles" cell of four British militants.  Earlier this year, the 22-year-old mother-of-one made the journey out to Syria to retrace her father's last movements.  She met aid workers at the camp where her father worked. She spoke to "Isis brides" and saw the spot in Raqqa where her father's executioner Mohammed Emwazi - dubbed Jihadi John - was killed in a drone strike in 2015. She spoke to officers from the YPG - the People's Protection Unit, the home-grown defence force of the Kurdish area of Syria.  However, it was not safe to travel to the spot where she believes her father's remains are buried.  But she has vowed to return until his remains are located. She says she will not rest until she finds out where he is.  Ms Haines said: "Since the word go, I was never told anything substantial or accurate.  It made the situation much more difficult, my dad being taken and having to fight for information.  I watched the videos and I looked at Google maps and I was pretty sure I had found the location from features in the landscape I saw on the video and located on the map.  The area they were executed in wasn't entirely safe. But I wanted to go and even see it from a distance to know it was really there." She said: "I thought it was going to be the last piece of the puzzle to my research and it seemed the logical thing to do, to go out there and speak to people who were involved." While there, she visited the site of a mass grave and saw Syrian people conducting digs and recovering victims.  It made her feel close to her father.  She said: "For that short time I felt like I had him back, I felt so close to him.  Returning to Scotland, I have found it hard to settle back into normal life. But knowing his possible remains were only a few miles away has been really difficult.  The story's not finished, I need to go out again, speak to more people and see what they think.  The YPG agreed with me that he was in that area. I would want to do a dig to see."

Salmon Producer Steps Up War on Food Fraud

A high-end Scottish salmon producer is taking on the illegal food fraud trade with forensic science, ahead of a big push into the US.  Loch Duart has used the technology to launch sting operations on outlets suspected of selling inferior fish, falsely bearing the company's brand. The Sutherland-based firm says it prides itself on farming salmon in an ethical and sustainable way.  Food fraud is estimated to cost UK firms up to £12bn a year.  The practice of intentionally mislabelling cheap products as premium brands led to the 2013 horsemeat scandal, and has also hit the olive oil and coffee industries.  Andy Bing, who co-founded Loch Duart 20 years ago, said: "It's illegal, but people are very rarely caught. We want to change that." He said: "It normally happens in big cities where you get less scrupulous fish wholesalers who will go to a high-end restaurant, say they've got Loch Duart salmon, but they're selling something from a cheaper provenance and invoicing it as Loch Duart salmon." Mr Bing said his company now exported its fish to 20 countries and protecting the brand was vital, given its ethos of farming salmon on a smaller, greener scale, using more expensive fish feed.  Loch Duart teamed up with New Zealand-based firm Oritain, which uses science to find out exactly where products come from.  "Nature gives everything specific markers that is unique to its origin," said Mr Bing, who has been in the salmon business for 30 years. "This technology can take trace elements from the loch in which it's farmed. You have a bank of information and you can match our salmon taken from any market in the world to that bank, and work out whether it's ours."  Mr Bing added: "We've tried to do a couple of stings. We've been led to somewhere by a loyal customer who says, 'I think I've been delivered something which is not the real deal'.  We've gone down there with our sample bags and tried to apprehend them.  We've been doing several checks in the south of England over the last few months. A couple of restaurants refused to give us samples. You can draw your own conclusions from that."   Mr Bing said the science, which requires 100 grams of uncooked salmon for a test to be carried out, could be used as evidence in a court case.  And he said the science could be used across the food and drink industry.  "Next year we're gong to make a push into America where our brand's very strong, and we're taking this technology with us," said Mr Bing.  He added: "We're heavily export-orientated, but we've got to get through Brexit.  We've got to get the right trade deal, but we believe people want our salmon, they want Scottish whisky and, on a trade level, we'll find a way."

Scots Shoppers Face £12m of ‘Unjust’ Delivery Charges
Scots shoppers will be hit £12 million in delivery “surcharges” over the Christmas period which don’t apply in other parts of the country.  It has prompted fresh calls for the new UK Westminster government to “get a grip” of the extra costs associated with getting parcels delivered to rural areas of the country.  It has already emerged that Scottish shoppers were forced to fork out an extra £40.1 million this year in delivery surcharges relative to the rest of the UK, according to figures from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe).  The latest figures for the festive period, obtained by Nationalist MSP for Moray Richard Lochhead, will largely affect people living in the Highlands and other northern areas of Scotland.  Mr Lochhead said: “Westminster has the powers to put an end to rip-off parcel delivery surcharges for Scots – but for too long now successive UK Westminster governments have sat on their hands and done nothing.  It is completely unjust that shoppers across Scotland are expected to fork out huge sums of money each year on these surcharges. Alongside my colleagues in Westminster I have led the campaign and repeatedly raised this issue with UK ministers but they have refused to listen, while delivery surcharges continue to hit the pockets of families across Scotland.  It’s time for the next UK government to take some real concrete action and get a grip of these sky-high surcharge fees.”  Lochhead has now handed two dossiers of evidence to the ASA, which can clamp down on firms that make misleading claims, like “free mainland delivery”, then hit consumers in the north with fees. Among the examples cited in the documents was a delivery to Forfar for a wood burning stove fan from a supplier on Amazon. The fan was valued at £31.99 plus free UK delivery. When the postcode for Forfar was entered, the cost of the delivery shot up to £35. A delivery to Nairn for a pair of epaulettes was valued at £25, with £5.40 delivery. But when the Nairn postcode was entered, it become £18 delivery.  The UK Westminster’s Government’s Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) a dedicated parcel surcharging website was launched to better support consumers and businesses concerned about parcel surcharging last year.  A spokesman added: “Businesses must show clear and upfront delivery charges so customers can shop elsewhere if charges are excessive. We are working closely with consumer groups to assess what more can be done to protect remote communities.”

MP Marion Fellows Says Parliamentary Oath in Scots

The returning MP for Motherwell & Wishaw Marion Fellows says her House of Commons oath in the Scots language.  She then repeated it in English.

TV Audiences in Tears As Scottish Ballet Makes Lily’s Wish Come True

Perth dancer Lily Douglas has described her surprise encounter with Scottish Ballet as the “best experience ever”.  The inspirational 12-year-old danced alongside the company’s principal performers as part of a BBC documentary, which moved audiences to tears.  Lily is battling an aggressive form of bone cancer, Ewing’s Sarcoma, but has continued to dance throughout her treatment.  In the programme Five Wishes – broadcast on Christmas Day and available on iPlayer – she is surprised by Scottish Ballet dancers at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, given a backstage tour and even invited to perform onstage before taking her seat to watch the company’s acclaimed production of Cinderella.  The St John’s Academy student also received a video message from former Strictly Come Dancing judge Darcey Bussell. Lily’s wish was granted by Scottish Ballet as part of an initiative to celebrate its 50th anniversary year.  In the programme, Lily told what it was like to realise her lifetime ambition to join Scottish Ballet on stage.  “Watching them, I just wanted to be like them so much,” she said. “It was amazing, and it was so cool for me to go up with them and show them some of my dancing.  “It was the best experience ever.”  She said: “The prince gave me his shoe and I was so excited, because it is so sparkly. I can add it to my collection at home. I love it so much.”  Lily was invited to help switch on Perth’s Christmas lights in November. During the celebration, provost Dennis Melloy revealed that after three years of battling, Lily was now stable.  Mum Jane said: “When I see her going up there dancing, she’s just like any normal kid.  You wouldn’t know she was ill when she’s on that dance floor.  The fact that she’s up there, still keeping up and able to dance on stage, it just takes away all that feeling that she’s got cancer, and you forget about it for a single second.  This was always her wish.”

Scotland Must Stop ‘Silent Decline’ of Bagpipes – leader comment

Bagpipes are synonymous with Scotland and have helped create a global brand that serves this country well.
Wi’ a hundred pipers, an’ a’, an’ a’, Wi’ a hundred pipers, an’ a’, an’ a’,
We’ll up an’ gie them a blaw, a blaw, Wi’ a hundred pipers, an’ a’, an’ a’.”

The song attributed to Carolina Oliphant, a contemporary of Robert Burns, is a celebration of an auditory phenomenon – the hair-raising effect of a large pipe band.  And, while other countries have their own versions of bagpipes, it is a sound that is most closely associated with Scotland. It is a musical form of instantly recognisable branding that helps give this country a significant profile on the world stage. So the warning by the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust that the instrument faces a “silent decline” should worry us all, not just those who value the pipes themselves or music tuition more generally.  The trust says that 6,000 pupils are currently learning pipes and drums in Scottish state schools, but estimates that five times as many youngsters would like to play given the chance.  A band of massed pipes and drums some 30,000 strong? Now that would gie the world a blaw and no mistake.

The Runaways Who Travelled 700 Miles to See Granny
In 1949, a young brother and sister left a note to their parents saying they were "going away camping for a few days". It was a 700-mile, two day trip that caused panic back home and national newspaper headlines.  Thirteen-year-old Millie Richardson had an ambitious plan for whiling away the school summer holidays.  Bored of climbing trees near her home in Hitchin in Hertfordshire she plotted how to get herself to her grandmother's home at North Tolsta on the Isle of Lewis.  Millie's mother Mary was from the island and she had enjoyed family holidays there. To Millie and her siblings, their grandparents' croft with its animals and the beaches of Tolsta were "paradise". Her brother Syd, then nine, was a willing recruit to her adventure, but their 11-year-old sister Annie refused to join them.  "She said we were crazy," says Millie, who describes her younger self as "adventurous" and a "tom boy". Fuelled by the adventure stories she was reading at the time, Millie set about planning her journey to the Outer Hebrides.  Their provisions amounted to little more than a few pennies, their swimming costumes for the beaches at Tolsta, and some stale buns to eat on the way. But their father, a soldier from Motherwell, later conceded the children's plan to get to Tolsta worked like "clockwork".  Waiting until both parents had left the house, the brother and sister caught a train to London and then caught the night train to Inverness - a 10-hour journey. Millie, who now lives in Queensland, Australia, says: "I knew if we caught the right train we could connect all the way up to Inverness and then to Kyle of Lochalsh." From Kyle of Lochalsh on the West Highland coast they planned to take a ferry to Stornoway on Lewis. The children did not have enough money for the train, or the later ferry trip, but merged with crowds boarding the various trains. "We were children and they just didn't expect us to have tickets," says Millie, adding that railway staff they encountered assumed they were the son and daughter of one of the adults on the train.  On the few occasions they were nearly caught, they pretended they were asleep or hid in a toilet to avoid questions.  From Inverness, the children travelled by train through the Highlands from Dingwall to Garve, Strome Ferry and finally Kyle of Lochalsh.  Syd says he felt nervous boarding the steamer to Stornoway, fearing they would be caught at any moment. But using the same tactic that had worked so well on the trains, they joined the crowd of ferry passengers and sneaked onboard. Back home there was panic.  Millie and Syd were reported missing shortly after they started out their adventure. Annie spilled the beans that her siblings were heading for Tolsta, but the children's parents and the police expected them to be found much closer to home. Yet, a day and a half and 700 miles later, the brother and sister were in Stornoway and steeling themselves for making the last 16 miles of their journey to granny's on foot.  Syd, a journalist who now lives in Yorkshire, says a woman who spotted them took pity on them and gave them the fare for the last bus of the day to Tolsta.  He says their grandmother was hugely relieved to see them. "She was gobsmacked. She had a big Cheshire cat smile. Everything was forgiven," recalls Syd.  A telegram was sent to the children's parents in Hitchin. As word spread of the runaways' journey, their story was reported in national newspapers.  Millie admits to having some regrets about her escapades.  "Thinking what I did to my mother and father at the time, I feel guilty about that. And so I should," she says. Millie and Syd's story is told in a new documentary, Two Go To Tolsta, which will be broadcast on 31 December at 20:30 on BBC ALBA.