Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 557

Issue # 557                                                     Week ending Saturday 20th June  2020

I Haven’t Been in A Transport of Delight Since Hearing We May Have to Isolate After Flying by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Lockdown is stressful and some people are not coping. Take my wife. She is a bit tetchy. I say a bit, but she has, in fact, become a monster. I went shopping the other day for some extravagant fripperies. You know, bread, milk and cheese and that sort of thing. Within five minutes, I got a text asking what was keeping me and saying she was weak from hunger. I just replied: “Are you joking? I have only just reached the Co-op?” She texted back: “Since you cannot work out the sender’s tone from texts, just assume all mine are sarcastic and hurtful. Hurry up.”

It all started when she went to get money at the hole in the wall after doing shopping herself. Why she did that I don’t know, because everyone is contactless since the lockdown - including her. Don’t tell her I said that. Anyway, there was a queue at the cash machine. While she was in the queue, probably gabbing to someone in a completely socially-distanced way, of course, someone else must have brushed past her and pinched frozen peas from her basket.

Which goes to show that, even in these unprecedented times, you have to mind your peas and queues.

That made her tetchy alright. Another of her new grumpy things is: “I always get granules on my tongue when you make a cuppa. It is not like that when I make it. If you are going to make me coffee, you should stir it five times.” Er? Just say thank you like everyone else. That woman’s becoming impossible. Right now, she would give an aspirin a headache.

Talk of quarantine after flights is upsetting us. Now they may extend the quarantine to any flight - even the longer internal ones. Any passenger could be passing it on, they say. Just when we had started planning to go and see a junior member of this family in Gloucestershire, via Birmingham Airport, when the unprecedented times stuff is over, or at least manageable. Hmm, this is not good. Listen if I get quarantined for two weeks with Mrs X and then I die, I can assure you it was not the virus that killed me. Just saying.

Hey solicitor, make a note. This is my will and testament thingummybob. If I am found dead covered in coffee granules, I am leaving nothing to her - except my overdraft. Ha, our lawman’s going to be on the phone later to ask how serious I am as it is in writing. Deadly serious, John. Unless it is ground coffee from a cafetière - in which case I will leave her a few lottery tickets that I forgot to check. Don’t say I didn’t think about you, dear.

And I think about that wonderful army of volunteers who venture out to ensure that vulnerable people don’t go without. They provide a wonderful service. The local ones here on the Isle of Lewis are fantastic. They phone up the old people, and those unable to shop themselves, and ask what they need. I heard last week about an old lady from Shawbost who was asked what groceries she wanted and she said she wanted the religious pizza from Tesco. The volunteer was baffled and asked if the old lady was sure about that.

She was, because her friend had got one of that supermarket’s Jesus pizzas. Off went the helpful but doubtful volunteer and she could see no religious-looking topped flatbreads in that aisle. She then asked an assistant if they sold religious pizza. Nope, they hadn’t ever stocked that. They must stock Jesus pizza? No, never. Just then, one of the younger assistants piped up: “I bet it’s this one they want. It’s not a pizza for Jesus, but it is called Four Cheeses.”

The volunteer lass said to me: “You can just imagine a religious lady being told over the phone about a pizza called Four Cheeses. I laughed so hard the tears ran down my leg.”

This lockdown can bring tears to everyone’s eyes, eventually, and we will all sometimes do things that are a wee bit, er, random. When I am at home with nothing to do, I get just a wee a bit crazy as well. And just a wee bit hungry. So much so that inanimate objects take on a life of their own. The other night, I was walking past the fridge when I thought I heard an onion singing a Bee Gees song. That’s a bit odd, I thought. When I yanked opened the door it was just a chive talking.

So many people at all levels in life are deeply affected and it’s so good that rather than stay in the house some will go out and do safe work when they can. We’ve just had a decorator in to do some socially-distanced work. I got chatting to him through the window and it turns out that he’s a Loganair pilot who has been furloughed and he’s earning a bit of extra cash. He made a lovely job of the landing.

Scottish Job Fears Over UK Westminster Government 'Super Department'
Boris Johnson is being asked for urgent reassurance over jobs at the Scottish-based Department for International Development (DfID).  The prime minister has announced a merger with the Foreign Office (FCO) to create the new Foreign Commonwealth Development Office.  He said the "long overdue reform" would ensure "maximum value" for taxpayers.  But the move has prompted fears for 600 staff at the DfID headquarters in East Kilbride.  As part of his "Global Britain" address to the House of Commons on Tuesday, Mr Johnson told MPs combining DfID and the FCO would "unite our aid with our diplomacy". Downing Street sources indicated there would be no compulsory redundancies. But local MP Dr Lisa Cameron said she wanted guarantees staff would be protected.  The DfID has been based at Abercrombie House in the new town since the 1980s and is believed to produce £30m for the local economy.  In 2010, the DfID's Overseas Territories Department (OTD) was relocated from London to boost the workforce in East Kilbride.  The department has played a key role in tackling Ebola, gender inequality, the crisis in Syria and the provision of lifesaving aid in emergencies.  Dr Cameron told the BBC: "Boris Johnson must commit to protecting jobs in DfID's East Kilbride base - it is one of Whitehall's biggest footprints in Scotland and its work highly thought-of worldwide.  The PM must deliver a public guarantee that these jobs are secure and that they will stay in East Kilbride. I will be writing to him requesting urgent reassurance for local DfID staff."  The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford accused the prime minister of "playing politics" by announcing the changes during the Covid-19 crisis.  Mr Blackford said: "The prime minister and this UK Westminster government are using the cover of a terrible pandemic to rip apart the UK's structures for international development and humanitarian aid at a time when we should be standing with the world's poorest, acting as a beacon of hope.  He called for a "cast-iron guarantee" that the jobs were secure and would stay in East Kilbride.  Mr Johnson replied: "Of course we are going to keep the jobs in East Kilbride. Of course we are going to support the work of those fantastic people in East Kilbride."  The prime minister said work would begin immediately on the merger and the department would be formally established in early September, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in charge of the new-look operation.  However, the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) said members at the East Kilbride site were very worried about their job security.  They were told verbally that the building would remain in the new department, but the union is seeking a written assurance on this point.  PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka said: "This has come to a shock to staff who, disappointingly, only learnt of the news through leaked reports made before the announcement in Parliament. Such a major change will be costly and take months of planning. Yet the PM expects it to be up and running within three months in the midst of a national crisis.  There has been absolutely no consultation with the trade unions and we are concerned that this merger is driven by cutbacks and not about making improvements to international aid and diplomacy."

Sturgeon Warns Against 'Reckless' Easing of Lockdown
Nicola Sturgeon has warned against any "reckless" move to ease lockdown in Scotland despite a growing "economic crisis" and rising unemployment.  The first minister spoke after the release of the latest jobless figures.  The unemployment rate rose to 4.6% in Scotland between February and April, compared with a UK-wide rate of 3.9%.  Ms Sturgeon said easing the lockdown "too quickly" would risk a resurgence of the virus which would cost lives and economic productivity.  She said the progress made in suppressing Covid-19 so far could help build a "sustainable economy recovery".  And she called on the UK Westminster government to extend the job retention "furlough" scheme, saying it was "almost certain" to be needed beyond October.  Scotland is expected to move to the second phase of the government's "route map" towards lifting lockdown on Thursday, which could see a "safe re-opening" of more shops and workplaces.  The latest data from the Office for National Statistics suggested that unemployment in Scotland had risen by 30,000 to 127,000 between February and April, covering the period when lockdown first hit the labour market. Ms Sturgeon said it was important to be "cautious" about drawing conclusions from the data. She said the protection of the furlough scheme "means these figures are likely to be an underestimate of the full impact of Covid-19 on business activity".  However, she said it "undoubtedly" showed that "dealing with the public health crisis of Covid has created an economic crisis that demands our full focus and attention".  She said: "These kinds of statistics and generally increasing economic anxiety will lead some to argue for a quicker than planned exit from lockdown.  But difficult though all this is, we must guard against a reckless relaxation of lockdown. If we ease restrictions too quickly and allow the virus to run out of control again, that would be economically unproductive and would cost more lives. The progress we have made is an essential foundation for the sustainable economic recovery we want - the more we can suppress this virus now, the more normality we can restore as we do open up the economy and society."  The latest review of Scotland's lockdown is to be held this week, with the first minister saying she would "hope and expect" that Scotland could move to the second phase of her government's "route map".  Measures included in phase two include letting people meet in larger groups outdoors, and with another household indoors. It could also see factories, warehouses, laboratories and small shops re-open and the construction industry begin to re-start.  Ms Sturgeon said: "Not all major changes will happen overnight, but I do hope in the coming weeks that further important restrictions will be lifted so workers can return to factories, with strict hygiene and physical distancing measures in place, so the construction industry can continue its restart plan, and non-essential shops have a date for safe re-opening.  None of this will restore the economy immediately to full health but will be a sustainable improvement on our current position."  The Scottish government has identified four phases for easing the restrictions:  The first minister said she had "zero interest in keeping any part of the country in lockdown any longer than is necessary", but said "patience will pay dividends in the future".  She said: "A gradual re-emergence is crucial - it allows our businesses to start to operate and make money again, but we know that because this re-emergence is by necessity gradual it must be accompanied by continued support for business. "We have welcomed assistance from the UK Westminster government such as the job retention scheme, but it's essential this is extended if that proves necessary - which I think is almost certain."  Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the UK Westminster government was providing "comprehensive coronavirus support packages" and that the furlough scheme and a similar system for the self-employed had "saved nearly 800,000 jobs across Scotland". More than a quarter of the UK's workforce is now covered by the furlough scheme, which is due to run until the end of October - although the amount of money firms have to contribute is to increase each month.  Ms Sturgeon also resisted calls to relax the 2m (6ft) physical distancing rule, saying it would hit businesses harder if the virus were to start spreading out of control again.  The Scottish Chambers of Commerce said it was "essential" this rule be relaxed "to prevent wholesale economic collapse" of the retail, hotel and restaurant sectors. Ms Sturgeon said the rule would be kept under review, but said it was better to re-open the economy "sustainably" than to "run the risk of having to shut it again weeks or months later" because of a resurgence of the virus.

Lockdoon's Naw Fur Me: Schoolgirl's Cheeky Poem Gets Fm Approval

A Scottish schoolgirl who captured the essence of lockdown in Scotland has won the praise of the first minister for her writing.  Leah Begg has been writing about her experience of the coronavirus restrictions and penned a cheeky take on living life between four walls.  The 10-year-old has already had a poem published but this one caught the attention of Nicola Sturgeon. She wrote the youngster a letter to tell her how much she enjoyed it.  The first minister wrote: "Your words really do sum up the experience and frustrations of lockdown for many people.  I know that you are finding it difficult not being able to go to school and will be missing friends and family.  I know I am missing being able to hug my friends and family. I am very proud of how you all have been handling this difficult situation."  She also said that she hoped Leah would continue to write about her experiences in lockdown and in the future.  Leah told BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime with Fiona Stalker that the poem was her mum's idea.  She said: "I was in the house and my mum said why don't you write about how you are feeling in lockdown. So I did."  Leah's class teacher at Oxgang Primary in Kirkintilloch, Miss Nisbet, said: "We are all so proud of Leah and think her poem is simply brilliant.  She puts into words how many of us are feeling during this very strange time and does it so beautifully.  She is very talented and often shares her poems and writings with us all and I have no doubt that her talent will see her go far. " She added: "To have received a letter from the first minister with such kind words about the poem, is a wonderful experience for Leah and another feather in her cap."

Busy Weekend for Central Scotland Mountain Rescue Teams
Mountain rescue teams in central Scotland had a busy spell over last weekend. The leader of Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team, which had two call-outs, said a rise in incidents had been expected after some easing of the lockdown. The team was asked to go to the aid of a walker lost in low cloud on the Saturday and a fallen climber on Sunday.  Lomond MRT had three call-outs, including to an injured walker near Conic Hill.  Until recently, the lockdown had seen the longest period with no mountain rescue incidents in 19 years.  Ken Weatherstone, leader of Arrochar MRT, said his team had expected a rise in call-outs after people were allowed to travel further for exercise, and that the team's patch is among the easiest accessed from large areas of population.  The team has had three call-outs since the easing of some restrictions.  Last Saturday, the team was asked to help a hillwalker lost in cloud on Beinn Narnain in the Arrochar Alps.  The walker had managed to find the path off the hill by the time the team reached her.  Arrochar MRT was called back out on Sunday after a climber fell 30m (98ft) on a route up Creag Tharsuinn. Their climbing partner was able to raise the alarm.  The climber had fallen on to a slab of rock in steep terrain. Prestwick Coastguard helicopter dropped off members of the rescue team close to the scene of the fall.  The volunteers carried the casualty to a place where they could be winched on board the helicopter and then flown to hospital in Glasgow.  The "complicated" rescue operation was completed in about six hours.  Lomond MRT's call-outs at that weekend also included assisting in the search for a missing person. Killin MRT and the Search and Rescue Dog Association were also involved.

Multimillion-pound ‘Return to Work’ Package Announced by Scottish Government As Unemployment Rises
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced a £230 million “Return to Work” package as Scotland recorded the highest unemployment rate in the UK.  Ms Forbes renewed her calls for more borrowing powers to be transferred to the Scottish Parliament as she unveiled the initiative to combat the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus.  The package will see millions invested in construction projects, business support, help with social distancing on public transport and digitisation of the education and justice systems.  The Finance Secretary outlined the cash injection after new figures showed the number of people without jobs rose by 30,000 to 127,000 north of the border during the lockdown.  The Office for National Statistics (ONS) statistics revealed the Scottish unemployment rate for those over 16 was 4.6%, compared with a UK figure of 3.9%.  Ms Forbes said the “Return to Work” cash came from underspends in some portfolios, which had resulted from activity being paused or delayed during lockdown.  During a Scottish Government debate at Holyrood on the “Fiscal Implications of Covid-19”, Ms Forbes outlined where the money would go.   A total of £51m would go towards business support, including boosting high growth companies. £78m for construction, including £40 million for regeneration projects and £20m for roads maintenance.  £66m to kick-start our green recovery, including £7 million to equip buses for physical distancing and the return to work.  £35.5m for digitisation, including justice and education services.  Earlier Nicola Sturgeon had indicated beneficiaries would include such as Ravenscraig, Edinburgh Bioquarter and the Michelin site in Dundee.  Ms Forbes said: “The impact of Covid-19 has been enormous on both businesses and individuals and the Scottish Government has so far spent more than £4bn tackling its effects.  We are also taking steps to accelerate our economic recovery and this package ensures that we can make immediate use of money which, because of the pandemic, might otherwise not have been spent this year.  I do not underestimate the challenges we face but I also see opportunities. It is important we take this chance to reshape our economy in a way that works for everyone and promotes long-term growth, not just quick fixes. ”  The finance secretary said the cash received from the UK Treasury was welcome, but argued the Scottish Parliament needed more flexibility within its fiscal framework, the arrangement underpinning Holyrood’s tax and welfare powers.  Ms Forbes claimed the framework was not fit for purpose and warned that the costs caused by Covid-19 now exceeded the cash the Scottish Government had received from the Treasury.  Her remarks came as SNP, Labour, Lib Dem and Green MSPs voted in favour of seeking more flexibility within the framework from the UK Westminster Government.   Ms Forbes claimed the £3.791bn received by Scotland from the Treasury through the Barnett Formula was not enough, adding that there was a risk the amount would be revised downwards. “We currently estimate a shortfall of hundreds of millions of pounds,” Ms Forbes said. The finance secretary said more money was needed for transport, education and social security.  Without additional funding or flexibilities we will face the impossible choice of not funding those areas and thus harming the economy and the recovery or making deep cuts to other areas of expenditure, which will similarly undermine recovery,” Ms Forbes said. “I want to be straight with the nation. As long as we are denied the ability to borrow for these purposes or use our budget as efficiently as possible or get full guarantees on the funding available, the risk, the uncertainty and the volatility undermines our best efforts.” But Conservative finance spokesman Donald Cameron disagreed with her analysis, arguing £10bn had come to Scotland from the UK Treasury. “The United Kingdom is Scotland’s insurance policy and it has paid out in full and on time,” Mr Cameron said.  He added that the “strength of the Union” was “being able to spread resources across the United Kingdom during tough times”.  “Pre-pandemic, the Scottish Government requires to find some very significant funds to plug the £1 billion black hole in our finances due to tax reconciliations,” Mr Cameron added.  Mr Cameron said ministers had “substantially committed” Scotland’s existing borrowing powers before the virus struck. Since 2015 £2.5bn had been borrowed in capital funds. He said there was only the small – “in relative terms” – sum of £165m left in the Scottish Government’s reserves.  “So having virtually maxed out the credit card with little left in the kitty, is it any wonder there is cynicism when more credit is being sought?” Mr Cameron asked.

Traffic Police Scarecrows Target Local Drivers
Scarecrows dressed as traffic cops have been enlisted to help tackle the issue of speeding motorists on local roads.  Residents living in villages within the Sinclair's Bay Community Council area are worried about road safety during the Covid-19 restrictions.  Due to the increased number of pedestrians exercising on rural routes at the moment, drivers are being urged to slow down and obey the speed limits.  Urging motorists to take care, six-year-old Caalin Rosie from Reiss said: “Please slow down. It makes me sad and angry when people go speeding past my house – there will be an accident. You might hurt me or my family or my pets."  The scarecrows are just one of the creative ways in which residents are highlighting the problem.  As part of Wick Gala's scarecrow competition this month, six-year-old Paige Ronaldson and her family, who live in Reiss, and Papigoe resident Denny Swanson have created their own policemen.  PC Scarecrow in Reiss – who is toting a fake radar speed gun – has already had an impact with anecdotal observations of motorists slowing down.  Other residents of the Reiss community have self-funded signage for around their properties in an attempt to highlight that children reside and play within the village.  Members of Reiss and Killimster Park Committee have raised their concerns about speeding within the village through the community council.  Road safety and speeding is an ongoing issue throughout the Sinclair’s Bay community, which includes the villages of Reiss, Killimster, Sibster, Keiss, Ackergill, Staxigoe and Papigoe.  Sinclair's Bay Community Council member Ian Ross, of Reiss, said: "We urge motorists to exercise respect and good manners to enable everyone to access our rural spaces safely. We are concerned about this and the potential for accidents.  We are doing our part as a community to address this, but we need motorists to respond with action. We simply ask motorists to please slow down.  We are aware that many people, motorists, farmers, dog walkers, horse riders, families (with prams and children) and cyclists, use our rural country roads.  Covid-19 related restriction on movement have increased foot traffic on many rural routes and there have been concerns raised with us by the community around motorists failing to take due and necessary care to others accessing and using the space.  Examples include failure to reduce speed, passing those on foot at a dangerous speed, not leaving sufficient space for safe passage, as well as speeding through villages close to residential properties, all of which are concerning.  Lots of people use these country routes, particularly at the moment, and it is important that this can be done so safely."  The community council has contacted the police and speed checks are being carried out in the area.  A questionnaire put out to residents at the start of the year by Sinclair’s Bay Development Trust revealed that road safety was a key concern, particularly in Reiss and Keiss.  The community council sourced traffic-calming measures for Keiss and hopes to secure funding to provide these for other villages.

Bishop of Aberdeen’s Plea Leads to Nigerian Priests Serving the Highlands

It started out as an urgent request from the Bishop of Aberdeen to one of his counterparts in Africa.  And now, five years after Hugh Gilbert wrote to the Bishop of Aba in Nigeria looking for spiritual help, a new TV programme has recorded the experiences of two priests who have relocated to the Scottish Highlands.  With the region facing a shortage of priests and young men prepared to undertake the role, the Bishop was effectively asking: “Do you have any you can send over?”  The documentary focuses on Father Maximilian Nwosu and Father James Anyaegbu, two Nigerian priests sent on a mission to serve a large area of the north of Scotland.  Based in Beauly, near Inverness, their ‘patch’ takes in a clutch of parishes stretching all the way to Ullapool on the west coast.  There has been a significant contrast between the duo preaching to congregations numbering in the hundreds in Aba and travelling across the Highlands and spreading the word in empty churches, while encountering a population that is rapidly ageing.  Fr Nwosu said: “I think there is a shortage of Catholic priests here in Scotland, maybe because young people here are not that eager to join the priesthood.”  His companion added: “I had heard about the football and Celtic, but I have come to know a lot more about the country since we have been here.”  We enjoyed it because it is an appreciation of our mission in Scotland.  The time was when missionaries from Ireland and Scotland would come to Africa, but we have made the journey in the other direction. It is very positive.”  The documentary, directed by Kieran Hennigan and Zoe Hunter Gordon, features the two priests driving from one remote church to another trying to keep a feeling of community alive, employing their good humour and Igbo songs in their mission, and attending events such as ceilidhs to learn more about Scottish culture.

Shops in Scotland to Reopen From 29 June
Most shops in Scotland are to reopen from 29 June as part of a further easing of the country's lockdown rules.   The changes will also see anyone who lives on their own - or only with children - to form an "extended group" with one other household from tomorrow.  People will also be able meet outdoors with two other households at the same time rather than just one.  Face coverings are to be made compulsory for everyone using public transport from Monday. And people who have previously been told to shield during the lockdown because they are at high risk are now able to meet other people outside for the first time.  No decision has yet been made on when pubs, restaurants or beer gardens will be able to reopen.  The announcement by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon means the country has now moved to the second phase of its four-phase "route map" aimed at ending the lockdown while continuing to suppress the virus. But Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw called for "much more ambition", saying everything Ms Sturgeon had announced had already happened in England two weeks ago.  And he claimed Ms Sturgeon "simply doesn't understand or comprehend the depth of the economic crisis we're about to go through".  The Scottish government has generally been taking a more cautious approach to opening up the economy again than the UK Westminster government has in England, where shops were able to reopen earlier this month. Ms Sturgeon is concerned that moving too quickly will risk a resurgence of the virus that has already been linked to the deaths of more than 4,000 people in Scotland.  She said she understood the desire of all businesses to reopen quickly, but it was vital that they do so "safely and in a way that is consistent with continued suppression of the virus".   Her announcement means that shops of all sizes will be able to open from 29 June long as they have outdoor entrances and exits - so indoor shopping centres will remain closed except for essential retailers such as supermarkets and pharmacists. Ms Sturgeon said retailers should now start to put plans in place to ensure that customers and staff are able to keep the required 2m apart.  She added: "Of course, all of us as customers have a role to play. When shops do re-open, I ask everyone to exercise patience, stick to the measures that are in place for your safety, and at all times please respect retail staff who will be asking you to shop in a different way."  Other changes outlined by the first minister include dentists being allowed to reopen for urgent care from Monday, while professional sport will be allowed to resume behind closed doors and places of worship will reopen for individual prayer.  Many indoor workplaces such as factories, laboratories and warehouses will also start to reopen from 29 June, subject to strict physical distancing and hygiene rules.  And outdoor outdoor markets, playgrounds and sports facilities will reopen on the same day, along with some visitor attractions such as zoos - although visitors should still not travel more than five miles from their homes and tickets should be bought in advance.  Figures released this week showed that Scotland's economy shrank by 18.9% in April, slightly lower than the 20.4% recorded for the UK as a whole, while its unemployment rate is now the highest of any country in the UK at 4.6%.

Police Will Not Tolerate 'Violence and Thuggery'

Police say that "violence and thuggery" will no longer be tolerated after far-right groups targeted peaceful protesters in Glasgow.  At least six people were arrested on Wednesday after far-right loyalists targeted a refugee poverty rally in George Square.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called the scenes "disgraceful".  Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins said Police Scotland would provide a "robust response".  His comments came after the Scottish Police Federation said nationalists, unionists, "statue wreckers and statue protectors" were as guilty as each other when it came to protests during the coronavirus lockdown. Mr Higgins said: "What we saw last night was people intent on hijacking a peaceful event and intent on violence and thuggery."  He said: "It is completely and utterly unacceptable and we will not tolerate these scenes any longer, including attacks both physical and verbal on the public and our officers.  My message to those who have been involved in the disgraceful scenes witnessed over the last couple of weeks is that if you continue to behave like this, then be prepared to be arrested."  He added: "We have no tolerance any longer. There is no place for it in Glasgow or anywhere else in Scotland. It doesn't reflect the Scottish society in which we live.  We're working very closely with partners and with event organisers to ask what they want to achieve.  But if other people come out to hijack a peaceful event for other purposes then we will put in a very robust policing response."  Mass gatherings are currently unlawful and put lives at risk, the statement from the body representing officers said.  Scottish Police Federation chairman David Hamilton said events over the weekends of 6 and 13 June - which saw Black Lives Matter protests and a gathering of people purporting to protect statues in Glasgow's George Square - along with Wednesday night's disorder - have "laid in tatters any suggestion that non-compliance with the coronavirus restrictions is a serious issue". He added: "When our politicians fail to condemn the actions of those who defy the law, we cannot be surprised that it is increasingly difficult for police officers to enforce the law.  The public cannot expect the police service to turn a blind eye to those who break the law in the name of a particular cause whilst demanding different treatment for opponents.  There is no moral high ground to be claimed. Right or left; green or blue; unionist or nationalist; statue wrecker or statue protector, your side is as guilty as the other."  Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken said there was "no moral equivalence" between the two groups at Wednesday's clash.  Their statement read: "The racist and thuggish behaviour we witnessed last night was not peaceful protest, it was organised violence and disorder designed to intimidate.  There is no moral equivalence between those demanding equality and better support and services for asylum seekers and those intent on violence, racism and disorder.  The message is clear, if you are involved in violence, racism and disorder you will face the full force of the law."

Appeal for Performers to Get on Board for Virtual Mod
An Comunn Gàidhealach have announced that they will be holding an online version of Am Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail later this year.  In keeping with the tradition, the event will take place during October and allow our Gaelic community to celebrate and showcase our language and music.  Like many other events and festivals, this year’s Royal National Mòd, due to take place in Inverness in October, fell victim to the on-going Coronavirus pandemic.  Junior and senior participants will be able to record performances in their respective categories and upload and submit their performances online with performances being showcased via The Royal National Mòd’s social media channels in October.  The full list of disciplines including singing, bàrdachd, instrumental and highland dancing categories can be found at: https://www.ancomunn.co.uk/air-loidhne/ as well as further information on the Virtual Mòd. P  In addition to the performances of participants taking part in the Mòd, a programme of exciting online events is planned to run alongside the online celebration. Further details on a programme will be released in due course.  Marina MacKay, Mòd Officer, said: “We hope that participants will take full advantage of the opportunity to record and submit their performances to us, without the pressure of performing in front of a live audience or adjudicators.  The event isn’t comparable to a typical Royal National Mòd event, but, instead, it is hoped that people can embrace, enjoy and celebrate our music in a less formal setting.” James Graham, Chief Executive, said, “Like everyone else in the Mòd community, we were saddened that we are unable to come together in person this year in Inverness for the Royal National Mòd. “However, we are excited to engage with our Gaelic community, albeit online, and celebrate our language and culture in this way.  The current situation in which we find ourselves presents opportunities to be creative and engage with others using a different approach.  Bòrd na Gàidhlig Director of Language Planning and Community Developments, David Boag said: “Bòrd na Gàidhlig and, no doubt, people around the world, will welcome the news regarding the online Mòd. It’s more important than ever just now that the Gaelic community comes together to promote the use of Gaelic and celebrate our valued language and culture. We wish An Comunn Gàidhealach and everyone who takes part in the Virtual Mòd in October every success.”  To find out more information on The Royal National Mòd Online 2020 event or for any guidance required in submitting performances, visit www. ancomunn.co.uk or contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , tel. 01463 709705.

'The Buildings Are Shut, But Church is Open'
A church minister recovering from coronavirus say she gained a "new flock" online after lockdown forced the closure of her church building.  Rev Julie Rennick from Larbert and fellow minister Rev Dan Harper from Bridge of Allan were struck down by the virus more than two months ago.  Mrs Rennick said her church's online presence had reached a new audience during lockdown.  Mr Harper stressed that "the buildings are shut, but the Church is open."  The Church of Scotland has welcomed the Scottish government's announcement that places of worship can reopen for individual prayer or contemplation from Monday.  Mrs Rennick, minister at Larbert West Parish Church in Forth Valley, said having the virus had been a "terrifying experience."  She said at one point she had considered writing goodbye letters to her three adult sons.  Mrs Rennick said she had "no idea" where she contracted Covid-19, and that, as far as she is aware, none of her congregation have had the virus.  She said that whatever measures to ease the lockdown take place, the church's online activities would not be abandoned.  She said: "The other connections, online prayer meetings, online worship, sending out worship sheets, that will continue, because we are reaching people that haven't been reached before.  The Facebook congregation is a different set of people to the ones who physically come to church.  So I don't want to abandon that new flock."  Mrs Rennick said that her church building would re-open when all necessary safety guidelines were met.  She said: "For some people being in a building is important to them and they may well want to take advantage of being in a building.  For others, they're quite happy to continue what we're doing right now."   Mr Harper said despite closed buildings, "Church has continued since lockdown began. The buildings are shut, but church is open."