Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 533

Issue # 533                                                  Week ending Saturday 4th January 2020

If You Would Like to Drink Whisky on A Windy Beach with A Sexy Man, Read on
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

This is the best time of year to be a columnist for the Press and Journal. Everybody else is having to go out to their workplaces but I can work from home. My cousin Ann said to me the other day that she suspected I was sometimes at my computer in my dressing gown. As if. OK, sometimes I do write this column in my pyjamas. In fact, I have to confess that I sometimes write it in bed, Ann. When I’m in bed with my computer on my knee, I often wish I had bought a laptop.

Computers and TV get us through the festive season if we have suspended our belief about a fat red man coming calling in the middle of the night. There have been great dramas. I thought Call the Midwife was excellent in the Christmas Day episode set up here in the Hebrides. Miriam Margolyes, the old cailleach from Harry Potter and many other drama productions is fantastic anyway.

So many people criticised it, though. Many seemed to be so used to seeing the same boring old kinds of documentaries about the Western Isles that they could not get their heads round the fact that this was actually a drama. It was a story to just entertain but they just could not suspend disbelief in the way that you need to do to enjoy any drama. You know, like Brexit.

Ridiculous social media comments about Midwife included: “They came out of the Garenin Blackhouses and there was a lighthouse there - just like the one on Scalpay if I am not mistaken.” Another said: “A white stag at the Callanish Stones? I have been there many times and I have never even seen a sheep inside that fence.” No sheep, Sherlock. This was pure and utter fiction which is not real but a delusion to while away some time and it shouldn’t be taken seriously - like Brexit.

Another TV star is coming to Harris after 20 years. Ben Fogle, once in the running for the UK’s sexiest man, spent the year 2000 on the island of Taransay, off Harris, with a bunch of other castaways in a documentary dubbed a social experiment. Castaway 2000 made him and a few others household names. Since then Ben has rowed across the Atlantic with James Cracknell, climbed Mount Everest, trekked to the South Pole and contracted a horrible tropical disease in Peru. Oi oi, cove. Slow down.

Ben will perform an exclusive, free, wet, cold, performance of Tales from the Wilderness on Luskentyre beach. He has invited everyone on Harris and Lewis, for a wee celebration on the sand. He writes: “Performance is at the mercy of the weather (though only a hurricane will stop this performer). I’d encourage car sharing to minimise our footprint. Please no plastic. Whisky will be provided. Bring your own mug.” Mrs X wants to bring me.

Action man Ben says: “Fellow open swimmers welcome to join us for a dip at 11am. Only speedos allowed.” Heck, he must be a fast swimmer if he needs a speedometer. If you think New Year week is a good time to go onto a wind-blasted beach to hear the great man, be there before 11am. Sexiest man, huh? I may not be the sexiest man alive but I’m definitely in the top three billion.

This is also a time for DIY, apparently. We have to replace the floor in the utility room. She has been on at me for ages to get it done. I have said I will do it but I’ve been busy. Women do not understand the planning and the workflow analysis that men have to carry out. If a man says he’ll fix something, he’ll fix it. There is no need to nag him every six months about it. Coincidentally, I saw an advert last week about new durable floors for kitchens and utility rooms with a new type of plastic floor.

So I texted the details to everyone who I discussed the project with to get an idea of the likely cost and so on. Unfortunately, the predictive texting thingummyjig changed the spelling and the tradesmen got a message asking if they had any ideas for my planned pelvic floor. Most of them replied that they had no idea what I was talking about. Then one who was married to a nurse replied that he didn’t even know I was pregnant. Oh heck, I must look it up and see what pelvic means.

Another computer problem. I cannot turn down the sound in any way. It is playing a track of some woman singing and it just goes on and on. I have just phoned up the computer repair shop and I think they have sussed it. The engineer asked me what make of computer it was but I didn’t know. He then asked who the female singer was but I had no idea. He then asked what the song was and I said it was Someone Like You.

“Ah,” he said, “there you have it. It’s a Dell.”

Top EU Lawmaker Raises Prospect of Easy Scottish Return to EU
An independent Scotland could return to the European Union after Brexit, says David McAllister. The German chair of the EU parliament's foreign affairs committee has hinted he's ready to assist.  McAllister, asked by the Hanover-based RND news portal Sunday if Scotland could "very quickly" acquire EU membership, replied that such accession would be "presumably shorter" than the bloc's procedure for outside candidates. "Scottish institutions are already asking me whether I can be their contact person in Brussels after Brexit," said McAllister, adding that Scottish universities were keen to retain EU research and academic incentives and that he studied the Scottish media "daily."  A post-Brexit Scottish accession bid was, however, "currently a theoretical question," said McAllister who has German and British nationalities, is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and chairs the European Parliament's committee on Foreign Affairs.  The "first prerequisite," he said, was whether Edinburgh under First Minister Nicola Sturgeon prevailed with a second independence referendum in 2020. Scots voted in a 2016 referendum to remain in the EU after they had rejected independence by 55% to 45% in 2014.  McAllister, referring on Sunday to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's post-election drive to take the United Kingdom out of the EU — despite Scottish objections — by January 31 said the British premier "stood before enormous challenges."  "A new round is this battle has begun" in Britain's Brexit drama, McAllister told RND.  McAllister grew up in Cold War West Berlin where his father, originally from Glasgow, was a British forces civilian official and his mother as a music teacher.  Asked if Britain, post-Brexit on January 31 would rearrange its future relations with the EU by the end of 2020, McAllister described the time-frame as "extremely ambitious."  "A detailed free trade agreement is in any case not realizable in so few months," he said, speculating that London might seek a transitional phase of "up to two years."  "The UK may be leaving the EU, but remains linked to us in many ways," he added. McAllister governed Germany's northern state of Lower Saxony as premier from 2010 until 2013, became an EU parliamentarian in 2014 and its foreign affairs committee chairman in 2017.  The welcoming overture to Scotland came after former British Prime Minister Theresa May asserted during Westminster debate on December 19 that an independent Scotland would not be allowed to be part of the European Union.  Currently waiting to join the EU are four Balkan nations — Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Albania —  but their accession bids had been slowed down by EU focus on Brexit and lack of domestic reforms as perceived by the European Commission. At the EU's Brussels summit in October, France, the Netherlands and Denmark sought to delay such accession bids.

Andy Murray to Miss 2020 Australian Open and ATP Cup Because of Pelvic Injury

Britain's Andy Murray has pulled out of next month's Australian Open because of a pelvic injury. The three-time Grand Slam champion, 32, was aiming to play in his first Grand Slam singles event since Melbourne 12 months ago, when he announced that his career might be over because of injury.  He will also not play for Great Britain in next month's inaugural ATP Cup.  "Unfortunately I've had a setback and as a precaution need to work through that before competing," the Scot said.  "I've worked so hard to get myself into a situation where I can play at the top level and I'm gutted I'm not going to be able to play." Murray has not been in action since Britain's opening tie at the Davis Cup finals last month because of the pelvic issue.  The former world number one, who underwent hip surgery 11 months ago, did not travel to Miami for his scheduled December training block.  Murray has been on court over the past week, but the injury has not cleared up as quickly as the world number 125 had hoped.  Murray and his team - consisting of coach Jamie Delgado, fitness coach Matt Little and physio Shane Annun - decided he should not rush back for the start of the 2020 season next month.  That has ruled out a remarkable return to the Australian Open in Melbourne where, little under a year ago, Murray broke down in tears during an emotional pre-tournament news conference and admitted he thought an ongoing hip injury would force him to quit.  However, he had a "life-changing" operation to resurface his hip later that month - in which a metal cap is put over the femur head - allowing him to return to the doubles court last summer.  Murray made a competitive comeback in the singles in August, going on to win the Antwerp Open title two months later in just his seventh tournament back.  Since that victory over fellow three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka, he has only played one more singles match - a laboured three-set victory over little-known Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor at the Davis Cup finals.  "After the Australian Open earlier this year, when I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to play again, I was excited about coming back to Australia and giving my best, and that makes this even more disappointing for me," Murray said. Murray will not play a match until February at the earliest, with his first tournament now scheduled to be the Open Sud de France in Montpellier.  Instead of going to Australia he will remain at home and continue hitting on court to build up his fitness.  The Australian Open runs from 20 January to 3 February in Melbourne, while the ATP Cup begins on 3 January and takes place in three cities across Australia.  Sydney, Brisbane and Perth will host matches, with teams from 24 countries competing.

Scotland Marks 100 Years of Public Forestry

The first tree of Scotland's publicly-owned forestry was planted 100 years ago this month. The Forestry Commission was formed in September 1919 with an aim of preventing a repeat of a timber crisis which took place during World War One.  The war effort put "huge demands" on Britain's home-grown timber, while imports from overseas were crippled by German U-boat attacks on shipping.  As a result, the commission was launched to create state-owned woods and forests across the UK.  The first Forestry Commission tree in Scotland was planted by the organisation's first chairman, Highland laird Simon Joseph Fraser, the 14th Lord Lovat.  But he had been defeated in the race to plant the UK's first Forestry Commission tree by fellow commissioner Lord Clinton. Lord Clinton planted his tree at Eggesford in Devon - although it was said that he prevailed because the distance he had to travel was much shorter than Lord Lovat's trip to Monaughty near Elgin in Moray. This year has seen the end of the Forestry Commission in Scotland, to be replaced by two new Scottish government agencies - Forestry and Land Scotland and Scottish Forestry. They were created in April this year after powers over forestry were fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament.  Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said forestry was as important today as it was 100 years ago.  He said: "Forestry in Scotland has never played such an important role in sustaining livelihoods, communities, habitats and species and in delivering so many other environmental, social and economic benefits.  Marking this centenary was a gesture of thanks both to the farsighted people who established the commission and to the generations of foresters - men and women - who have planted, nurtured and developed Scotland's forests and woodlands over the past century."

Torchlight Procession Fires Up Edinburgh's Hogmanay Celebrations
Thousands of people have taken part in a pre-Hogmanay torchlight procession in Edinburgh. The crowds created a huge "Be Together" symbol of two people reaching out a hand in friendship in a display of fire art in Holyrood Park.  Revellers were led by 10 pipe and drum bands from across Scotland as they packed the city's Royal Mile.  The Edinburgh's Hogmanay display, backed by VisitScotland, kicked off two nights of New Year celebrations in the city.


Scotland 'Open for Business' in Pioneering Driverless Vehicles
Scotland is "open for business" to develop driverless vehicles, says cabinet secretary Michael Matheson.  The minister wants the country to spearhead the testing and development of self-driving technology.  Transport Scotland's new "Roadmap For Scotland" sets out plans to put Scottish business at the forefront of innovation.  One of its first projects is a fleet of autonomous buses running from Fife and Edinburgh, via the Forth Road Bridge.  A consortium of partners from government, industry and academia are collaborating in the design, development and operation of the full-sized fleet.  The plan is designed to keep Scotland at the forefront of developments in the connected and autonomous vehicle (Cav) industry.  The Cav Roadmap sets out the future vision for how Scotland can benefit from and contribute to the sector.  According to a recent report by The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT), more than 95% of the vehicles on the road in the UK will be connected vehicles by 2025.  2020 will bring a major milestone when Project Cav Forth will trial the first autonomous full-sized bus fleet in passenger service after receiving £4.35m part-funding from the UK Westminster government.  Cav Scotland, a Transport Scotland conference and event, will bring together global experts to assess latest developments and discuss future trials and research.  Transport Scotland will also work closely with the Department for Transport, other road authorities and European counterparts to determine regulations for adoption of Cav technologies on the Scottish road network.  Transport Scotland has already completed a trial of roadside beacons, capable of transmitting messages into an app displayed on a smart phone mounted in the vehicle. The successful trial involved sending directional static journey time information when passing the point on the network where the equipment was installed.  The report says the diversity of Scotland's strategic road network offers opportunities for testing and trialling connected and autonomous vehicles and the technologies that will enable them.  Michael Matheson, Cabinet secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, said: "I am delighted to launch the Cav Roadmap and deliver one of the key commitments from our programme for government.  It sets out how Scotland can play a key role in this fast-moving industry, as well as the steps we need to take to unlock these opportunities.  I intend Scotland to be at the forefront of these technologies. We are open for business to test, demonstrate and pilot autonomous vehicle trials.  The deployment of connected and automated vehicles has the potential to bring transformative change to peoples' lives - not just in how we travel, but in how we work, where we live, the environment, and safety."

Inverness Hotel to Hold Hogmanay Hoolie in Aid of Highland Hospice

The Drumossie Hotel is to host a special event to benefit Highland Hospice.  The event takes place tomorrow night (31st ) and £20 from each ticket sold will be donated to the charity.  The Drumossie Touch of Tartan Hogmanay Hoolie will also raffle a luxury gin hamper on the night.  Partygoers can enjoy champagne and canapes, a five-course meal and entertainment from The Anne Dickson Band as well as the hotel’s resident DJ.  Hospice fundraiser Emma Nicol said: “We are so grateful to our friends at the Drumossie Hotel for supporting Highland Hospice through their Hogmanay event.  Not only are they donating £20 from each ticket sold and the proceeds of their fantastic raffle, they also donated six tickets for us to use as a Facebook competition where people were invited to tag themselves or a friend who deserved to win.  This is so generous of the hotel, and we wish them every success with what promises to be a fantastic event.”  Kenny Mcmillan, the hotel’s general manager, said: “The team at the Drumossie Hotel are over the moon to support such a brilliant charity, the Highland Hospice. It’s important to think about others at this time of year and donating £20 of each ticket sold is not a patch on the effort the hospice makes every day to support patients and their loved ones.  We are lucky to be in a position where we are able to do this and support local people and charities. We look forward to welcoming our guests, as well as the competition winner, on Hogmanay and we will all have a night to remember while supporting a very worthy cause.”

2020 ‘Last Chance to Bring World Together to Tackle Climate Change’
The coming year is the “last chance” to bring the world together to tackle climate change to protect communities and nature, the heads of two key environmental bodies have warned. Climate change and damage to nature are already having “dire consequences”, the leaders of government agencies Natural England and the Environment Agency said.  In an article on the Green Alliance website, Natural England chairman Tony Juniper and the Environment Agency’s Emma Howard Boyd pointed to the recent flooding which saw hundreds evacuated at Fishlake, Doncaster, with some people still out of their homes.  And a report in October on the state of nature in the UK found two-fifths (41%) of the country’s wildlife species had declined over the past 50 years and 13% of the species tracked were threatened with extinction in England.  The warning comes after little progress at UN climate talks in Madrid, and ahead of a series of international meetings in 2020 including on protecting nature in China in October and crucial climate talks in Glasgow in November.  “It’s clear that 2020 is our last chance to bring the world together to take decisive action on climate change in order to protect our communities and reverse the alarming loss of wildlife we have witnessed in recent years,” Mr Juniper and Ms Howard Boyd said.  They said the environmental challenges of climate change and nature losses were fundamentally connected to each other. “Climate change is causing damage to ecosystems, such as the droughts which are wrecking chalk rivers and wetlands, while the degradation of the natural environment, such as deforestation and drainage of peatlands, is leading to the emissions causing climate change. They said: “If we are to adapt to what are now inevitable climatic shifts, including the effects of extreme weather, then restoring the natural environment must be at the heart of our response.”  Our government has the opportunity to lift plans for clean, green, healthy and resilient communities at home towards action for the whole world.  They said there would be “every opportunity to raise the tempo of action here in the UK” in 2020, with a new Environment Bill expected to be presented to Parliament with provisions for an ambitious national nature recovery network.  The two environmental bodies have plans for large-scale woodland regeneration to store carbon, improve wildlife habitat, clean up rivers and reduce flood risk.  And they said the Government’s commitment for a new £640 million Nature for Climate Fund in the Tory election manifesto is one way national efforts could be delivered. Projects such as the efforts to prevent dozens of species being lost from the UK or creating and restoring large areas of habitat are helping adapt to climate change, protect wildlife and capture and store carbon. But they warned that ambition to cut greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050 was “only as good as its delivery”. Alongside policies and initiatives, substantial financial investments in environmental recovery would be vital – including properly resourced government agencies.  “Our government has the opportunity to lift plans for clean, green, healthy and resilient communities at home towards action for the whole world. In that programme it will have our full support, for if we walk the talk, we might just persuade others to share our vision,” they urged.

Lottery Win for Five Fifers
Five people in St Andrews are celebrating after they each scooped a £1000 cash prize thanks to their lucky postcode.  The Trinity Place neighbours netted the windfall when KY16 8SG was announced as a Daily Prize winner with People’s Postcode Lottery today (Monday). People’s Postcode Lottery ambassador Danyl Johnson said: “Congratulations to our winners in St Andrews. I’m sure this win will make their New Year celebrations even more special.”

MSP Questions Government on New Island Ferries

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan has questioned Economy Secretary Derek Mackay on the delivery of the ferries under construction at the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow. The Cabinet Secretary gave an update to Parliament today on the shipyard, where two new duel-fuel ferries are under construction for CalMac.  The yard was officially taken into public ownership earlier this month following the company previously operating the yard, Ferguson Marine Engineering, going into administration.  The statement follows the publication of a report on the update costs and programme for the vessels.  The estimated delivery window for the first vessel MV Glen Sannox, which will operate on the Ardrossan to Brodick route, is October to December 2021.  The estimated window of delivery for vessel number 802, earmarked for the Uig-Lochmaddy and Uig-Tarbert routes, is July to October 2022. Alasdair Allan MSP said: “The delays to the delivery of these vessels have been unacceptable. As I said in Parliament earlier today, it is vitally important to my constituents in Harris and Uist that vessel 802 in particular enters into service as soon as possible and relieves pressure on an ageing fleet.  Without the Scottish Government stepping in to purchase Ferguson Marine, and bring it under public ownership, there would be no obvious means of ensuring completion of the new ferries.  The Tories have let their ideology trump the needs of our island communities by continuing their opposition to this move.  The recently-published report on the costs and proposals around these vessels lays out in some detail the how the previous failings in management have caused such significant delays.  I hope vital lessons will be learned from this and that we get the building of these vessels back on track and delivered as soon as possible.”

Funding for Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries to Help Protect Pearl Mussels
The Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust have landed a share of £85,000 towards protecting freshwater pearl mussels.  The funding is through the Scottish Government's Biodiversity Challenge Fund.  Critically endangered freshwater pearl mussels at two Highland sites will benefit – the other being on the Isle of Mull.  Scotland holds many of the world’s most important populations of these mussels. However, the species is extremely rare in Scotland, mainly due to poor water quality, habitat damage and ongoing, illegal pearl fishing. Police Scotland run proactive operations against illegal fishers and Scottish Natural Heritage strongly encourages anyone who believes they have witnessed wildlife crime to contact the police as soon as possible.  The Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust will focus on improving habitat for the mussels, both in the water and on the banks, working in a tributary of Loch Shin.  Other projects in the Highlands receiving funding are Trees for Life, who will use more than £46,000 to create a deer-proof enclosure to help establish a new native woodland for wildlife; and £156,000 for Curlews in Crisis Scotland to help the distinctive but dramatically declining bird population, which will include Caithness projects. Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “I am delighted that, through the Biodiversity Challenge Fund, the Scottish Government and SNH can support these fantastic projects across the country to safeguard some of our most vulnerable species and habitats, and protect them from invasive species. Their success will play a crucial role in our efforts to improve nature and help Scotland meet its international biodiversity commitments.”  SNH chief executive, Francesca Osowska, said: “Climate change is one of the key drivers of nature loss – but it’s not too late to act. In fact, improving nature is also one of the solutions to the climate emergency.  There are five areas we need to focus on to improve biodiversity – restoring our habitats, changing our use of the land and sea, reducing pollution and climate change and tackling invasive non-native species. These projects will improve nature across Scotland for all our benefit.  We know we have a big task before us but we have been working for years with our partners to meet international nature targets. We are ready to deliver the transformational change needed to bring a nature rich future for Scotland.”

Whisky Casks Up for Sale in Online Auction 'First'
Two dozen barrels of Scotch whisky are being put up for sale in what is being billed as the world's first dedicated online auction for casks.  The auction will feature a wide range of barrels, from a 2015 Glen Ord cask with a pre-sale estimate of £2,000-£3,000 to a Springbank 1995 sherry hogshead (£40,000-£50,000).  The event will run from 22 January for 12 days.  It is the first of four planned this year by specialist firm Cask Trade.  The barrels have been submitted to the auction by private owners and investors.  Cask Trade said it had validated all the sellers and confirmed proof of ownership as well as the history of each cask. The London-based company, which specialises in buying and selling "exceptional cask whiskies", was set up in 2018 by serial entrepreneur and whisky collector Simon Aron. He founded the business after running out of space for his collection.  He explained: "I built up a collection of 2,000 bottles over nearly 25 years, and it drove my wife mad that I had so many of them stored under the stairs and in cupboards around our home.  I started to look more at casks and decided to build a new marketplace for buyers and sellers.  With the launch of auctionyourcask.com, we offer a fresh approach to selling whisky by the cask, not just the bottle."

Gold From Highlands Mine to Be Made Into Scottish Jewellery

A small goldmine in the Highlands plans to start producing gold in commercial quantities for the first time after repeated delays.  The mine at Cononish near Tyndrum, a village on the edge of Loch Lomond national park, is expected to produce enough gold to make nearly 440 ingots and kickstart a cottage industry in Scottish gold jewellery-making this spring.  The mine, run by a company called Scotgold Resources, will be in the UK’s only working goldmine. It believes it can recover more than 175,000 troy ounces (5,474kg) of gold and 673,000oz of silver from the site.  Richard Gray, Scotgold Resources’ managing director, said it was expected that about 25% of the gold they produce will come from ore they have set aside for use by Scottish jewellers to sell at a premium price.  Their gold, processed on site, will carry a Scottish hallmark – a stag’s head in a triangle, stamped by an assay office in Edinburgh, allowing it to be marketed as Scottish gold. Gray said villagers in Tyndrum hope craft jewellers could start up there, making rings, earrings and brooches for tourists heading north towards Glen Coe and Fort William.  One luxury jewellery retailer, Hamilton & Inches, has already made and sold some diamond-set products, describing its gold as ethically mined and “exuding warmth and lustre, evoking a golden Scottish sunset, the amber glow of whisky and the radiant beauty of wild landscapes”.  Interest in Scottish gold prospecting jumped again in December after a gold-hunter claimed to have found the UK’s largest ever nugget, weighing 121.3g, at an undisclosed river in May. Sniping involves snorkelling and searching face down in the water.  Scotgold Resources sold its first Scottish gold in 2016 in the form of 11 commemorative coins, or “rounds”, as a marketing exercise using ore cut when the mine shafts were cut and widened. Most of its gold in future will be sent for smelting and refining in Europe, for sale on the open market.  The Cononish mine was first dug in the mid-1980s but the price of gold crashed, forcing it to close before commercial mining could start. As the price soared again in the late 2000s, it was bought by Scotgold Resources in 2007.      By then the area was controlled by Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park authority, set up as Scotland’s first in 2002, and came within a special area of conservation, which meant a much tougher set of environmental and planning tests for the mine.  Hillwalkers and conservationists objected to the mine reopening. The national park authority gave its approval, but with strict and expensive planning restrictions. Despite a surge of interest from private investors in Australia, Scotgold Resources had problems financing the project, which was seen as too small for serious investors.  Now employing 25 people, including locals who had previously worked as shepherds and chefs, the company had forecast it would start full commercial production in February 2020.  Gray said they then discovered the peat they need to carefully remove and store while the site was prepared for very heavy ore-grinding machinery, was much deeper than expected; the weather deteriorated too. That delayed their start date to May 2020.  They were now on the last stretch. “As someone said the other day, it’s like they’re swimming the Channel and the white cliffs of Dover are in sight,” he said. Scotgold Resources is eyeing up other potentially significant gold deposits elsewhere in the Highlands which lie on the Dalradian rock formation that stretches across Scotland to Northern Ireland where it feeds an opencast gold mine in Co Tyrone, where production has halted for safety reasons.  The company has taken up 13 exploration licences from the Crown Estate Scotland covering sites across the southern Highlands from Glen Lyon in Perthshire to the north end of Loch Lomond. Another firm, Erris Resources, has a stake in two other exploration licences near Loch Tay, about 25 miles north-east of Cononish.  Gray said Cononish needed to start earning significant income before other sites would be explored. Once that happens, environmental concerns will again come to the fore.

Hundreds Take Part in Dornoch's New Year's Day Loony Dook
It was a frosty start to New Year's Day but the low temperature did not deter hundreds of people from turning up for Dornoch's annual Loony Dook. Charlie Stenhouse and Robert Mackenzie, both from Fife, are veterans of Dornoch Loony Dook - this is the 17th time they have taken part. The two, who were dressed as lager cans, raised £408 for charities in their home area through their participation.  The event took place at Dornoch beach at mid-day and saw the turn of the decade marked by a stampede of people into the sea - watched from the sidelines by family and friends.  Members of East Sutherland Rescue Association (ESRA) were already in the water to ensure no one came to any harm.  Event volunteer Jimmy Melville, who gave directions through a loudspeaker, said: "I think it was a record crowd - I have not seen so many before and many of them were from overseas as well, judging by the accents."

MBE for Inverness Terrorism Expert
A Police officer who has made the Highlands and islands a safer place to live thanks to his counter terrorism work was made an Member of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen’s New Year Honours list.  Robert “Mel” Fowler (53), from Culloden, has been given the honour for services to law and order, and in particular his ground-breaking work as a counter terrorism strategy liaison officer in the Highlands.  Serving for more than 30 years as a police officer, before retiring in February, Mr Fowler said his work was about bringing together partners around the table, and getting people to think differently about terrorism in the Highlands, and to see it as a real risk. Known as the Prevent agenda, his role was to challenge the ideology that supports terrorism, to protect vulnerable people and to support institutions where there are risks of radicalisation.  Mr Fowler said: “I’m humbled at being nominated for such an award.  I have been very fortunate to work with a number of really good colleagues, many who would also be worthy of such an award.  I would like to say a huge thank you to those working within the partner agencies who enthusiastically embraced the meaning of the Prevent agenda as part of the counter terrorism strategy.  It is only by working together and working collaboratively that communities will defeat the threat we face from terrorism. Often the public will think that there are fewer risks in the Highlands and islands when it comes to terrorism, my job was to get people to think about those people who might become radicalised.”  The commendation for his MBE states: “Scotland is a much safer place thanks to his counter-terrorism expertise. He has developed a significant knowledge of terrorist and extremist organisations and the factors which lead to a person becoming radicalised. His work is viewed as ground-breaking.”


Last Updated (Saturday, 04 January 2020 01:46)