Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 554

Issue # 554                                                      Week ending Saturday 30th May  2020

Monsieur Dominic Cummings is Correct But Also Very Wrong. That’s No Mystery
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

I am just back from London. Legs crossed and no stops at any motorway toilets. It was a demo in Whitehall on Monday afternoon against banning drivers with dodgy eyesight. My job was just to blow my horn. It was very loud. Bee-ee-ee-eep. You should have heard it. So I missed the press conference at nearby Downing Street by Dominic Cummings. Was it any good?

Dominic Cummings is from County Durham, where Tony Blair and Rowan Atkinson went to school. Pit yackers, as locals call themselves, always mention that - probably good for tourism.  Now Mr Cummings has put Barnard Castle on the map.

The PM’s chief scribbler and whisperer, Cummings drove about 260 miles to County Durham to take his wee fellow to be near his grandparents. Only diehard Tories are not incandescent. Normal people weren’t allowed to do that, rabid opposition MPs moan in fuzzy, badly-lit videolinks to TV stations on cheap webcams.

His critics claim Mr Cummings broke the rules - but which rules? Er ... What would my fictional hero, Monsieur Hercule Poirot, the detective extraordinaire of Belgium and ITV3, say? Whereas Sherlock Holmes just ploughs on for more clues, Poirot would twiddle his moustache, smile sweetly and say: “Let us use our little grey cells and go back to the facts we know.”

Whatever Boris Johnson, or anyone, said about the rules doesn’t matter. After the legislation is passed, the PM is just a mere messenger. The PM doesn’t personally write the law or take to court anyone who breaks it. In this very political case, the most reliable fact we have is the law of the land. Très bien?

New “rules” were drawn up by health professionals and expensive lawyers and became law to deal with the pandemic. The new law is The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020.  Other regulations apply in Scotland.

Mighty newspapers claim the legal regulations ban all except essential travel. What is essential? I started digging to see what the new law says. There is a section called “Restrictions on movement”. Paragraph 1 says: “During the emergency period no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.”

Then “a reasonable excuse includes the need -” and it lists reasonable excuses including getting food, giving blood, doing work that cannot be done from home and so on. And then at the foot of that list it says: “To avoid injury or illness or to escape harm”. Bingo. If Mr Cummings was trying to avoid the illness hitting his family - and no one is saying he was not - then travel is allowed. The law doesn’t say how far anyone can travel - just that travel is allowed. Oui?
I know how enormously difficult it is to understand but awful personal sacrifices and the traumatic suffering this horrific virus has caused others are not relevant to Dominic Cummings’s situation. It is not one law for him and all that. The law allows travel to avoid illness or harm. You look it up if you don’t believe me. Stick to the facts.

Therefore, I now believe Dominic Cummings was allowed to travel to Durham. Certain partisan MPs still raging for effect should have checked it themselves before sounding off on Skype in front of cluttered bookcases. They now look foolish - as well as out of focus.

Mr Cummings, in case you still have your job by Wednesday  morning, I will address you directly. You said what you did was reasonable and legal. Yes and no. Like Roger Whittaker in 1969, you had to leave old Durham but you took a spin to Barnard Castle. You bothered no opticians? That random travel was wrong, by which I mean not legal. You need to properly apologise for that misjudgement before we move on or you must quit. Like yon Douglas Ross, the Morayshire MP in black shorts, who has already given his own junior ministerial career the red card.

I think Dominic Cummings is in the clear about his trip to Durham but I am just a buffoon who likes digging out facts that other people choose to ignore. I am not connected to any political party. No, I did not like Dominic Cummings saying earlier he did not care how the situation looked. Yet he was right not to regret shielding his child but he was wrong not to apologise for his illegal excursion to the castle.

As Hercule himself said in Death In The Clouds: “Justice is a fine word, but it is sometimes difficult to say exactly what one means by it. In my opinion, the important thing is to clear the innocent.” Well said, Miss Agatha.

It is important everyone understands the rules. Don’t be like Norman from Manor Park here in Stornoway. He has just met a new girl and he took her home last weekend. He told me they played hide and seek. He found her in the meter cupboard and went in after her. I told him he breached lockdown rules. He said: “No. We have gas and electricity. There were two meters between us.”

Archives Uncover the History of Dundee’s Pioneering Railway Lines

When major centres of railway history are discussed, Dundee is seldom mentioned. Yet papers held by archive services at Dundee University show that our city was home to some pioneering early railways.  The Dundee and Newtyle Railway was one of Scotland’s earliest railways. The rapidly expanding burgh was increasingly reliant on Strathmore for building materials and food, and better communications were needed.  In 1825, the year the groundbreaking Stockton and Darlington Railway opened in England, Dundee’s town council formed a committee which commissioned Charles Landale to survey the Dundee to Strathmore region to identify a suitable site for a rail link.  It was decided to adopt his proposal for a railway to Newtyle, making use of stationary engines to pull rolling stock up hills, and an 1826 Act of Parliament authorised the construction of this line.  Building work began in 1827 and while it proved more difficult and costly than anticipated it was completed and opened in 1831.  Steam locomotives, famously including the Dundee-built Earl of Airlie, were soon introduced to run on the flat sections and extensions to Glamis and Coupar Angus were quickly added.  However, all was not well. Hauling carriages and wagons up major inclines via ropes connected to stationary steam engines, notably from the terminus at Ward Road up the southern slopes of Dundee Law, proved to be somewhat dangerous, time-consuming and expensive.  This, combined with less traffic than expected, meant the company struggled financially and the line was leased to the Dundee and Perth Railway in 1845.  Eventually diversions were constructed to avoid the inclines, notably diverting the railway round the Law and through Lochee to join the Dundee and Perth near Ninewells. This provided additional traffic, but meant the section from Kings Cross to Ward Road closed, including the tunnel through the Law.  The Dundee and Perth itself was Dundee’s third railway opening in 1847. To reach the centre of Dundee, the line was built through the mudflats in the Tay, changing the western shoreline of the town. A similar approach had been taken a decade earlier when building the Dundee and Arbroath Railway. This had opened in 1838, but initially terminated to the east of the burgh at Craigie. Between 1838 and 1840 further extensions brought the line into Dundee proper. The building of the line through the shore allowed land to be reclaimed for development and also fitted in with the expansion of the harbour.  Meanwhile as Dundee expanded attention was turning to a route to the south by bridging the Tay. A massive undertaking in terms of 19th century engineering, after many years of discussion the project finally went ahead and the longest railway bridge the world had then seen opened to traffic in 1878. However it was destined to achieve infamy rather than fame, collapsing in 1879 while a train was crossing it.  The second Tay Bridge, opened in 1887, and the lines to Perth and Arbroath all became significant parts of the national rail network and largely survive intact.  The Dundee and Newtyle route, however, never rose above the level of a local branch line. Passenger trains between Dundee and Newtyle ceased in 1955 and from 1958 the line gradually closed to goods traffic.  The last part of the line in use was a goods branch linking Maryfield with the centre of Dundee via Lochee. Services ended on it in 1967, the story of Dundee’s first railway finally came to an end. However its legacy lives on via minutes, plans, research papers and other records of its activities held in the university archives.

Quest to Raise Awareness of Suicides in the Highlands
A New Zealand woman whose daughter took her own life has praised the work of two Highland groups which aim to provide support and raise awareness of the issues surrounding suicide.  Suzy Taylor, who is 53 and lives in Rotorua on the north island, has returned to Inverness for the first time in around 20 years as part of her ongoing research and suicide awareness-raising efforts.  She is hoping to talk to people who have been affected and meet with representatives from both Mikeysline and James’ Support Group – two Highland groups which provide support for those affected by suicide.  According to Mikeysline’s chairwoman Donna Smith, traditionally the Highlands has one of the highest suicide rates in the UK.  Ms Taylor, who has two other daughters and lives with her partner of 10 years, Tony Dick, said New Zealand also had a high suicide rate.  She said she had been following Mikeysline, as well as the Hive project, on Facebook and described it as an initiative which had been created following tragic loss and added: “It’s a fantastic idea – I am sure it gets over-utilised in the current times.”  Ms Taylor said she had also been in communication with representatives from James’ Support Group and added: “This is another great initiative that has come out of two grieving parents and it is my understanding that they meet once a month in Inverness. It’s an opportunity for those that are bereaved by suicide to get together and have those conversations that sometimes we possibly can’t have in mainstream society and that would be good to change.”  As part of her trip, she has already visited Iceland, Denmark and Sweden, to further explore why those countries have low suicide rates, before travelling to the Highlands.  Her daughter Georgia MacBeath took her own life at the age of 19 in July 2016 – she had been diagnosed with depression when she was 14 or 15 years old. When she lost Georgia, Ms Taylor said it was like “a bucket of ice-cold water had been poured over me” but, in the aftermath of the tragedy, there was some positivity when she put all her efforts into raising awareness of the issues surrounding suicide.  She said: “I have been asked to speak to many groups including emergency department staff, community groups and prisons.  I always say yes if I am able to make engagements and I will basically speak to anyone who will listen. I will shout about suicide if I have to. There is seldom a week that goes by that I don’t get messages and phone calls from friends of friends or complete strangers who tell me they are worried about their son or daughter.”  In August 2017 she completed her 606 pairs of shoes project which saw them laid out starkly in rows, to represent New Zealand’s annual suicide toll, and by September 10 that year, on Suicide Awareness Day, she was stood on the steps of parliament. She said: “Myself and many others got to speak face to face to six different political representatives. Jacinda Ardern [Prime Minister of New Zealand] joined us and spoke of her own experience with suicide loss.”  She said the aim was to get the government to commit to an independent mental health inquiry and, when she became Prime Minister, Miss Ardern promised this would happen.  They briefly lived in Inverness during 1999 and 2000 to be near her former partner’s family and she was looking forward to her return.  While she is here she is hoping to interview anyone who feels they have something to say about suicide.

Task Force Will Attempt to Save National Trust for Scotland Jobs

The Scottish government has set up a task force to help the National Trust for Scotland avoid making more than half of its 751 employees redundant because of loss of income during the lockdown.  The charity, which is responsible for the upkeep of Scotland’s natural, built and cultural heritage, says 429 permanent posts are at risk.  Asked about a threat to deny Scottish government money to the trust if it carries through the job losses, Economy and Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop says: "We want to support the National Trust for Scotland, but they've got to support their staff and that means using the extension of the furlough scheme. "They have complex issues and I've put a team together to work with them to try to see if we can come to some solution."  Ms Hyslop suggests that withdrawing the threat to jobs would help the trust in its appeal for public funding.

Dominic Cummings Scandal Shows Boris Johnson Holds Public in Contempt

‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ This is the new motto of the UK Westminster Government. The Dominic Cummings debacle has unleashed levels of hypocrisy and cant that are intolerable to the overwhelming majority of the public. People are irate and quite rightly so.  Boris Johnson’s chief Svengali thought he could drive from one end of England to the other while exposed to coronavirus and spent yesterday’s press conference justifying himself without an apology. The Prime Minister thinks that is was fine for his pal Cummings, but everyone else has had to stay at home. Most people have not been able to see friends, family and loved ones, even when they were dying, because they respected the rules. Even Tory supporting newspapers have been headlining with “What Planet Are They On”.  Apart from a small group of cabinet ministers strong-armed into defending the indefensible everyone else has been horrified, none more so than England’s Anglican bishops. The Right Reverend Nick Baines of Leeds said: “The question now is: do we accept being lied to, patronised and treated by a PM as mugs? The moral question is not for Cummings – it is for the PM and ministers/MPs who find this behaviour acceptable. What are we to teach our children? ” He was joined by the Bishop of Worcester John Inge who said: “The PM’s risible defence of Cummings is an insult to all those who have made such sacrifices to ensure the safety of others.”  The Bishop of Ripon, Helen-Ann Hartley, said: “Integrity, trust and leadership were never there; just a driven misguided ideology of power that has total disregard for the most weak and vulnerable, and those who work to protect and care for us with relatively low pay. My parents live in Durham, an hour away from where we live. My father finished radiotherapy treatment just before lockdown. I’ve missed his birthday, Mothering Sunday and countless other catch-ups that would have happened. And that’s a fraction of a story compared with others.”  Calls for Cummings’ resignation were joined by leading Conservatives including the influential Tim Montgomery and a growing number of Tory MPs. In Scotland they were echoed by commentators like Alan Cochrane, Stephen Daisley and Alex Massie.  Finally a statement was issued by Jackson Carlaw bravely stating “I’ve heard what the Prime Minister has said and it is a situation for him to judge”. That is the same Jackson Carlaw who only a few weeks ago said: “There cannot be one rule for bosses and another for everyone else.” What a total disgrace.  The Dominic Cummings scandal has shown the contempt Boris Johnson holds for the public. It’s one rule for his pals and another for everyone else. When given the opportunity to show leadership and consistency the Scottish Tories failed utterly. When invited to explain their total hypocrisy they refused invitations to appear on radio and television by the broadcast media.  Not only are they unfit in government, they are unfit as an opposition. The public deserves a lot, lot better than this.

St Andrews University Coronavirus Appeal Raises £500,000 in A Month

An appeal to help Fife students affected by the Covid-19 crisis and support vital research at St Andrews University has raised more than £500,000 in just over a month.  Scotland’s oldest university said alumni, supporters, students and staff had responded magnificently to the fundraising effort, which will also help the town of St Andrews get back on its feet. St Andrews was one of the first universities in the UK to set up an appeal to harness support for three key areas – a fund for students affected by the crisis, a strategic response for vital research and a community fund for local groups and causes across north east Fife.  More than 1,000 St Andrews students have been unable to return home because of travel restrictions and personal circumstances.  Others have been hampered in their studies due to a lack of access to technology to study online, some have lost income because of the shutdown but are still being charged rent by private landlords and many have required support with bursaries or stipends to complete their studies over a longer period of time.  Meanwhile, world-leading research at St Andrews has been hit by the lockdown and the strategic response fund allows the university to respond rapidly to support staff, students and key areas of research focus. The community fund, launched last month, has already received bids from local charities and groups delivering services and planning for the town’s recovery when the pandemic has passed.  Donations and pledges of support have flooded in from hundreds of graduates, staff, students and supporters, including a six-figure sum from Santander and Santander Universities Network.  Current St Andrews students staged the Soak for St Andrews initiative, encouraging each other to keep alive the spirit of the traditional May Day dip and soakings of senior students after their exams, while raising cash for the university’s community support efforts.  Principal and vice-chancellor, Professor Sally Mapstone, said the response to the covid appeal had been humbling.  “We are so grateful. St Andrews has always been a global community but the overwhelming response to this appeal is a reminder of the importance of the town and its university to people all over the world.  We’ve had donations from every continent and the messages of support which have accompanied these gifts have been concerned and heartfelt.  Like all universities, St Andrews now faces a very challenging and uncertain future as a result of the pandemic.  Knowing that we and this town have the support of a global family of alumni, friends and supporters is a priceless encouragement and the appeal means we can respond rapidly to support the people and activities in our community most affected by the crisis.”

'I Made A Ventilator From A Coffee Machine'
Scottish design engineer Ross Hunter has made it to the finals of a global competition to create low-cost ventilators for Covid-19 sufferers. His achievement is all the more remarkable because his prototype is based on a commercial coffee machine.  Ross Hunter is used to thinking outside the box. As chief executive of a company that specialises in designing accommodation pods, he has constantly sought innovative solutions to help keep his business ahead of the competition.  In his spare time over the years, he has also enjoyed "tinkering" with design concepts.  They include a prototype for a commercial coffee machine - an idea that sprang from a visit to his best friend's coffee shop in Edinburgh.  "I became very interested in the complexity of speciality coffee machines," he recalls. "People in the industry are forever looking to find ways of improving the pressure and temperature profiles of the machines in order to extract every bit of flavour they can from a coffee bean."  That invention was eventually put on the back burner as his day job became ever more demanding. But all that was to change when the coronavirus pandemic took hold.  With his business near Edinburgh under lockdown, Mr Hunter learned of a global challenge set by a group of doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital who were concerned at a potential shortage of ventilators to help seriously ill Covid-19 patients.  The CoVent-19 Innovate2Ventilate challenge called for innovators around the world to create a low-cost, rapidly-deployable mechanical ventilator within 90 days.  Mr Hunter quickly realised that he already had the makings of a ventilator in his coffee machine concept and decided to adopt an alternative approach to a traditional "bellow" ventilator system.  He says: "It struck me that I could easily change a few components in my coffee machine prototype to make a ventilator. My coffee machine idea uses a drive system instead of a traditional pump. It is similar in concept to a lever coffee machine, but with a drive system that can be easily controlled. To get the ventilator prototype working I needed to make a few modifications to the coffee machine design - replace the plunger system with bellows and re-programme it to work." Working on his own, Mr Hunter took just three weeks to develop a prototype and 3D models for his CORE Vent design. "I focused on creating the simplest ventilator possible that could be built anywhere and didn't require specialist parts or equipment," he explains.  Despite his unconventional approach, the CoVent-19 judges were impressed. Mr Hunter has made the final seven out of well over 200 entries from more than 40 countries. He is the only individual left in the competition and the only contestant who is not based in North or South America.  But he is taking nothing for granted, knowing that the remaining competitors include a large team from Stanford University.  "I'm still taking in the news that I've reached the finals of the challenge up against such strong international competition," says Mr Hunter. He has assembled a small team of employees from his Bonnyrigg-based firm, Armadilla, to refine his prototype ahead of the finals deadline of 21 June.  The winner, who will be selected by the end of next month, will not receive any financial reward but will get to name the ventilator.  "I never expected to generate income from this idea," says Mr Hunter, whose company was recently granted the Queen's Award for Enterprise in the Innovation category. "I just want to help in any way I can, especially those countries which do not have a lot of resources to pay for ventilators which can be extremely expensive."  Although the United States and other countries have increased their production of ventilators, many nations, particularly developing ones, face a serious shortage. For example, the World Health Organization has reported that 41 African countries have fewer than 2,000 functional ventilators in public health services between them.  The competition organisers say they are in discussions with manufacturers, distributors and the public sector to deliver the final winning ventilator around the world.

Council Keen to See More Business Grant Scheme Applications From Caithness and Sutherland
Many businesses in Caithness and Sutherland are missing out on potential support through grants being administered by Highland Council.  The Covid-19 small business grant and self-catering grant schemes – set up to help companies survive during the coronavirus crisis – have now paid out £59,628,750 to more than 5500 Highland businesses. But the local authority is concerned that some areas of the region have seen fewer applications than others, with Caithness and Sutherland coming into this category.  The council says it has processed 99 per cent of the applications received since the schemes opened. Applications continue to come in every day but, based on estimates of the number of eligible businesses, uptake is still lower than expected.  The local authority's head of development and regeneration, Allan Maguire, said: "We know from our non-domestic rates register that there are still many businesses who may be eligible who have not yet applied.  "While some may not require this support, as their sector may be impacted less than others, we do know further businesses are eligible and would encourage business owners to check the information on our website. Also of some concern to the council is the fact that certain areas of Highland have seen fewer applications than others. More than two-thirds of the businesses in the Inverness, Nairn and Badenoch and Strathspey areas expected to be eligible for the business grant scheme have applied, whereas only around half of those in Caithness or Sutherland have done so." Mr Maguire added: "Recognising that businesses in some of our most rural areas can face the biggest challenges, we are particularly keen to see more applications from eligible businesses in these areas. Business owners who are unsure whether they qualify for the grant schemes are encouraged to go to the council’s website and follow the links to the guidance and application form.”

Inverness Firefighter Takes on Ironman Challenge After Completing Night Shift
A firefighter who celebrated her 27th birthday by completing an Ironman challenge has raised more than £1000 for charity.  Louise Mason (27), a full-time firefighter for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service at Inverness Fire Station, said she took on the challenge in aid of Mind UK to keep her spirits high during the coronavirus lockdown.  Ms Mason completed the 70-mile triathlon challenge using a paddling pool in her garden, after coming off at night shift at the Inverness station.  Ms Mason, who lives in Forres, said: "Mental Health is a big priority and high on the everyone's agenda with these uncertain times and I wanted to give myself a lockdown charity challenge to try and keep spirits high. On Saturday May 9, I finished my night shift at Inverness fire station and went home on my birthday to then complete a Ironman 70.3-mile triathlon, raising funds for Mental Health Charity, Mind UK."  Ms Mason said the 'swim' was in a children's paddling pool, tethered to her garden fence with a bungee cord swimming just over 1.2miles in about 40minutes, in water of nine degrees. She then spent three-and-a-half hours completing a 56mile cycle on a turbo trainer bike.  She finished off with a run, consisting of 844 laps up and down the side of her house lasting three hours and ten minutes, covering 13.1miles.  She said: "The weather was pretty awful all day and it didn't seem to stop raining. The only dry spell was ironically when I was on a static bike and under a canopy, so I could only smile that the delightful Scottish rain was with me for all 844 laps of my garden.   The postman turned up to deliver a parcel, just as I was stood at the side of my house in a wetsuit! After explaining what I was doing, I took the opportunity to get Alan the postman involved, and he gave me a countdown to set me off on my triathlon.  The neighbours were hanging out their windows taking pictures and video calling friends to prove there is a 'mad lady in her paddling pool with a wetsuit swimming for charity'.  I made myself a little podium with a sign and a chocolate coin medal to celebrate finishing the challenge. I'm born Welsh, hence the flag.  Ms Mason continued: "The reward at the end of my lockdown challenge was fish and chips for my tea and a massive slice of birthday cake. Alongside having completed the challenge, it was definitely a unique way to spend my 27th birthday."  Ms Mason completed the challenge in a remarkable seven-and-a-half hours.

Drone to Deliver Masks to Isle of Mull Hospital

Drone technology is to be used to deliver protective equipment to a hospital on a Scottish island.  Over the next two weeks, masks and a dummy cargo will be flown between Oban in mainland Argyll and the Isle of Mull.  The 10-mile journey, normally involving a road trip and a 45-minute ferry sailing, should take only 15 minutes.  The trial could pave the way for drones to be used in the transport of medical test samples and other supplies.  The project, involving Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership, drone delivery firm Skyports and Thales, has required special permission from the Civil Aviation Authority.  Normally drones are only allowed to fly within line of sight of the pilot.  The drone will fly between Lorn and Islands District General Hospital in Oban and Mull and Iona Community Hospital in Craignure.  Joanna Macdonald, chief officer for Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership, said: "The use of drones provides real opportunities to improve services and will help enable quicker diagnosis for our patients."

'Act Responsibly' Plea Follows Lockdown Easing Announcement

South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said the moves announced by the first minister would be welcomed by many people but remained "fraught with dangers". Nicola Sturgeon has announced that people in Scotland will be able to meet their friends and family outside from today (Friday). "Lots of people have been in touch with me about issues such as recycling centres, garden centres and golf courses so they will be relieved," said Mr Smyth. “But if everyone now rushes to take advantage of the changes then that will cause huge problems and we will soon find ourselves back in lockdown," added the Labour MSP. "People need to act responsibly, use common sense and remember that this pandemic has killed many people in our region and ultimately saving lives is the most important consideration in everything we do."

Hundreds of Subsea 7 North Sea Jobs May Be At Risk

Underwater engineering firm Subsea 7 has announced it is to cut 3,000 jobs from its 12,000 global workforce.  It is believed several hundred of those could be cut in the UK. Subsea 7 has offices in Aberdeen, a support yard in Glasgow and engineering facilities at Wick and Leith.  The company announced "cost reduction measures" on Thursday.  After revealing proposals in April, Subsea 7 has now said that about two-thirds of the reduction would affect the non-permanent workforce and one-third would affect permanent staff.  It said that discussions were taking place with local employee representatives. By the second quarter of 2021, the company is hoping to make annual savings of $400m (£325m). Subsea 7 CEO John Evans said: "Faced with a significant deterioration in the oil and gas market, we are taking swift and decisive action to address the elements under our control. These measures to reduce our cost base will help preserve cash and protect our balance sheet strength, while maintaining our strong competitive position in core markets."

Coastguard Plans to Add Drones to Air Fleet
Drones are expected to play a role in coastguard search and rescue (SAR) operations in the near future. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) wants to make greater use of the technology as part of a new SAR contract to be awarded in 2024.  The contract also covers the continued provision of rescue helicopters, including those based in Scotland, and search planes.  Private aviation companies operate the aircraft on the MCA's behalf. The Bristow Group took over the helicopter search and rescue role in 2015.  The £1.6bn, 10-year deal ended 70 years of search and rescue from the RAF and Royal Navy. In Scotland, Bristow has bases at Sumburgh, Stornoway, Inverness and Prestwick.  The MCA fixed wing aircraft are operated by 2Excel Aviation and are used in monitoring for pollution and illegal fishing. But the MCA said under the new contract, called UKSAR2G, it planned to make greater use of planes in search and rescues, and also new innovations such as drones.  The coastguard said unmanned aircraft could potentially visit rescue sites ahead of air, sea or land-based recovery teams. Images and other information gathered by drones could help develop the emergency services response to a situation.  The MCA has begun early discussions with companies potentially interested in the contract.  Damien Oliver, the coastguard's commercial and programme director, said this work would continue to be done remotely while lockdown restrictions remained in place. Scottish mountain rescue teams are among organisations the MCA is liaising with over the future shape of search and rescue.  This meant that rescue teams had to be fully trained in helicopter operations and they knew their kit, such as stretchers, were compatible with the aircraft.

Major Incident Unfolding in Inverness

A major incident is unfolding in Inverness in the Hilton area of the city, with eyewitness reports of multiple people being injured.  Eye witnesses say emergency services were called to the scene of an incident in flats opposite Grey Friars Church on Balloan Road shortly before 11pm on Thursday night.  It is understood that the area is in lockdown with more than 10 police vehicles at the scene.  One eye witness said: "10 police vehicles, five ambulances, doctors, cars and forensic officers are on scene. We have been told that someone went into the house, and caused harm to the people inside the flat." Eye witnesses say that they saw one female being rushed away from the scene in an ambulance.

Cop 26: New Date Agreed for UN Climate Summit in Glasgow

A new date has been agreed for an international climate change summit in Glasgow. The COP26 UN summit will now take place between 1 and 12 November next year. It was originally supposed to take place in November 2020. However, it had to be postponed due to the pandemic.  Dozens of world leaders will attend the gathering, the most important round of talks since the global Paris Agreement to tackle climate change was secured in 2015. This year's event was due to take place at the Scottish Events Campus in Glasgow, which has been turned into a temporary hospital in response to coronavirus.

Crews Tackle Wildfires As Weekend Warning Issued

Fire crews are dealing with a number of wildfires across Scotland after a warning was issued for the weekend. The largest, in Eastfields, Fauldhouse, West Lothian, covers an area of 100 sq m, and was reported at 14:45.  More than six hours the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said seven pumps remain at the scene.  Earlier it warned there is a "very high" risk of wildfires until Monday and urged people to "exercise extreme caution" in rural environments. Crews in the east are also dealing with a 30 sq m fire on heath land between Armadale and Bathgate. Meanwhile, in the west a blaze was reported in Coalburn, South Lanarkshire, covering 600m by 300m. Nine pumps attended the initial call and six remain at the scene on Friday night.  A number of smaller grass fires have also been reported.  SFRS area commander Bruce Farquharson said a spate of fires could put additional pressure on the emergency services during the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr Farquharson said: "While we appreciate that many people will seek to enjoy the outdoors during this spell of good weather this weekend, we urge everyone to make sure that they don't increase the chance of wildfire. We have had very little rain over the past two months, and a large volume of dead, bone-dry vegetation remains left over from last year - which essentially acts as a fuel for fire. As a result, there are currently vast areas of countryside all over the country that is tinder dry and vulnerable, and has all of the ingredients for fire to take hold and spread." In recent weeks major wildfires in the New Galloway forest in Dumfries and Galloway, at Wester Ross in the Highlands, have and on the Kilpatrick Hills near Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, have required significant resources.