Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 560

Issue # 560                                                 Week ending Saturday 11th July  2020

Do Enough People Like Loud Rap Music to Put Skye Visitor Kanye in the White House?
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

On November 4, the new president of the USA may be the foul-mouthed rapper-turned-churchgoer Kanye West. No, I can’t really believe I wrote that either but Ke seems to be throwing his hat in the ring. I say he seems to be. Kanye has somehow missed the deadline for lodging papers in many states for standing and all the main parties already have their hopefuls. There’s just two, parties not hopefuls.

These wannabes have been whittled down somewhat. All the ones who were set to liven up the depressing ritual have now said no. George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey and even Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg. Even Michelle Obama decided she had better things to do. What about Bob Iger, the Walt Disney Company boss, and ex-professional wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson? They all said: “I’m out.” Joe Biden is still there but then Joe Biden is always there.

Ah, but what about Hillary Clinton and her dearest daughter, Chelsea? Apparently, they plan to be at home on November 3. “This hair ain’t gonna wash itself,” Chelsea allegedly said. So that’s probably a no then.

If it gets any longer, my scruffy thatch won’t wash either. I haven’t had such a mane since my first day in the RAF when we were all marched over to what looked like a standard brick outhouse but which, like the Tardis in Doctor Who, had a fully-kitted out hairdressing salon within it. By kitted out, I mean that the two stern barbers with cutting Glasgow accents each had scissors and loud grindingly-noisy clippers and that was it.

My new Glaswegian friend asked what style wanted that day. I mumbled something taking it off my shoulders. He placed my beret atop my bonce and growled: “Under your beret is your own, anything I can see is mine.” In seconds, my fashionable Noddy Holder curls were on the floor as the clippers screamed Cum On Feel The Noize on my cooling skull. That was one of Mr Holder’s typically raucous renditions that was popular then in Stornoway and Lincolnshire military encampments.

Lockdown was a bit like basic training. We could go outside the base but why? We didn’t know the area or whether places were welcoming of shorn airmen. Staying in did not just mean being in the barrack block and folding your bedsheets although we had to do that each morning too. We could visit our own NAAFI and get cheap pints, cheap hot pies even play cheap video games. Just like lockdown, except our telly is not coin-operated.

Some of the younger lads used to get acne. They were told to avoid touching their faces. But how? The RAF medic said: “Easy. Just have a drink in each hand.” Hmm, probably good advice for avoiding Covid-19 too?

From Friday we will all need face coverings to get the messages. They will be compulsory. Wonder how the refuseniks who claim no one will tell them what to do will fare? Of course, we have been using face coverings for years. We call them midgie hoods.

I still can’t get over Kanye thinking he can be president. Just as Donald Trump can claim a wee connection with Lewis, Kanye’s tenuous link with the islands is that he was on the Misty Isle in April 2016 for a couple of days making a video and promoting an album, The Life of Pablo. The rapper and his entourage arrived on Skye taking half of the 14 rooms at Skeabost House Hotel. He took the biggest one with four-poster bed. You would probably get one of them in the White House too, Ke. Obviously.

Hotel owner Anne Gracie Gunn was being savvy when she told anyone who asked that K West was “the perfect guest - charming, courteous and polite.” They were delighted to offer him and his companions the usual Highland hospitality and “would welcome him back any time.” Good move, Anne. If he is elected, and a large military helicopter swoops low over north Skye, Kanye and his curvy missus, Kim Kardashian, could be about to alight from Marine One, the presidential chopper, for that four-poster again. Keep it free, Anne.

Being President is a tough gig. People question the POTUS’s decisions and policies all the time. Rumours start about how clever they are if they are slow to answer questions. None more so than George W Bush. He once said: “These stories about my intellectual capacity really get under my skin. You know, for a while I thought that even my staff believed it. There on my schedule first thing every morning, it said: ‘Intelligence Briefing’.”

Some people say being prime minister, or a president, is not a job for a full-time politician. Politicians are thought to be a bit out-of-touch with what people really care about. Maybe we should have a person who understands technology in the White House. They say someone like the late Steve Jobs would have made a better president than Donald Trump. But that’s comparing apples to oranges.

Scottish Politicians Call for Urgent Action to Stop Gaelic Dying Out

Senior politicians in Scotland’s Gaelic-speaking areas have called for the language to be given much greater priority in civil and public life to stop it dying out. Kate Forbes, the Scottish finance secretary, and Alasdair Allan, a former minister, said Gaelic had to be given precedence or parity in all areas of public life and the economy across Gaelic areas of the Highlands and islands.  Academics at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) warned last week Gaelic was in terminal decline in Scotland because it was spoken habitually by only about 11,000 people. These are mainly elderly Gaels living in the Western Isles. Forbes, the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, who chairs the Scottish parliament’s cross-party group on Gaelic, said: “I cannot overstate how critical the next few years will be. This research is sobering and stark and I think all of us should actively work to ensure these predictions don’t come true.  Every organisation in the private and public sectors, particularly in the Highlands and islands, faces a choice of either facilitating or reversing the decline of Gaelic.”  The research found that although about 52% of residents in Gaelic-majority areas were able to speak it, it was used infrequently at home or in social situations. Teenagers claimed to self-identify as Gaels and felt positive about their heritage but rarely spoke it. Allan, the MSP for the Western Isles, said greater effort was needed by Gaelic speakers to reverse decades of subtle or overt pressure to prioritise English in their daily lives, including within Gaelic-speaking families. It meant much less deference to English speakers in social or work situations in Gaelic-majority areas.  “The language can only survive if its speakers take action themselves, to use the language, and use it in the community,” he said. “Schools are vitally important, but I think the next step is definitely through the community.” The UHI report has exposed fresh tensions and challenges for public bodies charged with protecting Gaelic, particularly Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the official Gaelic language body.  It is based in Inverness, on the other side of Scotland from the majority-Gaelic communities in the Western Isles, Skye, Tiree and parts of the west coast, and blamed for putting too much emphasis on its use in schools, and too little in wider civic and cultural life.  Gaelic revival campaigners said Western Isles council had become much more active in protecting the language. It recently made it the default language in all schools. A council spokesman insisted Gaelic was often the primary language in meetings and official communications. Full council meetings are bilingual, he said.  The spokesman said the council had an apprenticeship programme where all 50 recruits were expected to either use or learn Gaelic in their jobs.  “The future of Gaelic is inextricably linked to the economy and population retention,” he said. “Our biggest export is our young people, and the future of Gaelic is dependent on enabling them to meet their life aspirations without having to leave or at least return.”

No Quarantine Checks Carried Out on Passengers Arriving in Scotland

Officials have carried out no quarantine checks on visitors arriving in Scotland from overseas, the Scottish health secretary has admitted.  Jeane Freeman said staff did not have security clearance to access passenger details so they were unable to check arrivals were sticking to the rules.  However she added that the security checks were now complete and passenger checks would begin this week.  The quarantine measures have been in place for four weeks.  Under the rules introduced on 8 June to prevent the spread of coronavirus, anyone entering Scotland from abroad must isolate for two weeks or face a £480 fine.  Ms Freeman explained that Public Health Scotland officials needed access to the UK Westminster government's Home Office system which holds information about new arrivals. "Our officials had to get that necessary security clearance in order to be able to access that data that then allows the follow up calls to be made," she said.  That's now thankfully resolved and those calls begin this week."

Scots Urged to Take Care As Beer Gardens and Outdoor Cafes Reopen Today Amid Warning From English Police
Nicola Sturgeon has urged Scots to socialise safely as beer gardens and pavement cafes reopen across the country following a warning from police in England that drunk people will not stick to the rules.  Scotland will take its next tentative steps out of lockdown from today as members of the public are encouraged to enjoy outdoor hospitality for the first time since March. Anyone visiting such outdoor establishments will be asked to provide their name and contact telephone number to the business as well as logging the date and time of their visit as part of Scotland’s test and protect system.  A major easing of lockdown measures in England this weekend also saw pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas open their doors under modified social distancing rules but the occasion was marred by chaotic scenes on Saturday night.  Police Federation chairman John Apter, who was on duty in Southampton, reported dealing with “naked men, happy drunks, angry drunks, fights and more angry drunks”, while there were several reports of officers being assaulted.  The Scottish Government is expected this week to confirm whether two metre social distancing may be reduced to one metre, with additional safeguards, in a bid to help more businesses reopen.  But Mr Apter warned it was “crystal clear” revellers could not or would not adhere to the “one metre plus” rule already in place in England.  Ms Sturgeon said sacrifices made by the public in Scotland had already helped to suppress the virus and protect the health service.  She said: “I hope as we take these first gradual steps out of lockdown people will begin to feel more of the sense of normality that we have worked so hard for, although it is important to remember that the virus has not gone away so we cannot get complacent.  No beer garden or cafe should feel the same as it did before. The vast majority of the hospitality industry will be following the rules and putting in place new procedures to help control the virus.  If we continue to stick to the rules we will be able to drive the virus down further and live less restricted lives in the weeks and months ahead.”

Welcome Ullapool Distributes Hand Sanitiser Kits to Sites Across Ross-shire Village As Area Prepares for Summer Visitors As Covid-19 Coronavirus Lockdown Begins to Ease
A Wester Ross village hopes to be well prepared for the phased return of tourism and summer visitors as the coronavirus lockdown eases.  Welcome Ullapool, the community organisation that runs the website ullapool.com has distributed automatic hand sanitisers to premises in the village and surrounding area to give everybody the chance to keep their hands clean – from shops and cafés to museums and guest houses.  Di Rusling, of Welcome Ullapool, said: “We are delighted to have organised this project that helps both residents and visitors to stay safe. All of the units are now allocated and we hope will have plenty of use.” The units were all supplied with sanitising liquid from a Highland distillery and are branded ‘Keep Our Community Safe’.  The safety initiative was funded through Ullapool Community Trust, following a grant award by the H.I.E. Supporting Communities Fund for Covid-19 Activities.  The distribution of hand sanitisers came as CalMac urged passengers on the Ullapool-Stornoway ferry to obey rules to wear face coverings while aboard.

Police Seize £12million Haul of Coke, Heroin and Guns in Sting Linked to Lyons Crime Gang

An organised crime sting resulted in £12million of drugs and guns linked to the Lyons crime clan being seized in just two weeks.  Police intercepted more than 100kilos of cocaine, heroin, firearms and ammunition in a series of raids after an encrypted phone network was cracked.  Officers also busted a safehouse being used to stash dirty money they believe belonged to the group after law enforcement managed to hack into the military-grade communications system.  Detectives say the seizures have punched a massive hole in the gang’s criminal operation, believed to be the biggest in Scotland.  It comes after agents in France and the Netherlands managed to breach security used to protect EncroChat – a Dutch-based encrypted phone network used by 10,000 criminals in the United Kingdom.The National Crime Agency (NCA) and British police forces, including Police Scotland, were able to access messages sent between gang members – giving them unprecedented access to their plans to flood the country with Class A drugs, weapons and carry out attacks on rivals.  Over a period of just 14 days, officers seized 124kilos of cocaine and 1.4kilos of heroin – with an estimated street value of £12million – they believe was being trafficked north of the Border by the Lyons gang.  They also recovered almost £3million in cash and firearms during the crackdown, codenamed Venetic., following searches of property in Glasgow and Clydebank, around £2million was found. Two men aged 50 and 54 were arrested and charged.  Two days later, officers stopped a car and a van on the A74 near Ecclefechan, Dumfries and Galloway, and recovered 59kilos of cocaine and £750,000 in cash. Three men, aged 38, 41 and 56, were charged and appeared at court.  On May 28, 65kilos of the drug was recovered from an lorry at Hamilton Services. A 53-year-old man was arrested and charged in connection with the seizure and appeared in court.  Then on June 1, officers searched a house in Larkhall, Lanarkshire, where they recovered two guns, ammunition, heroin and tablets believed to be Etizolam, a powerful sleeping pill.  A source said: “These seizures will pose a huge problem for the Lyons gang. The recoveries were made within a very short space of time and are of high value.  Information obtained from the phone network played a vital part in making the interceptions. But the investigation won’t end there. The intelligence obtained will keep officers busy for months.”  Police Scotland made 59 arrests during the operation and seized £25million worth of drugs, eight firearms and explosives. It also recovered more than £5million and 1.3million euros.  Some 200kilos of cocaine, 33kilos of heroin and 63kilos of cannabis was also found by officers.  The Lyons gang has been one of Scotland’s most powerful crime groups for almost 15 years. It is headed by Steven Lyons, 39, despite him being based 3500 miles away in Dubai. He left Scotland after he was shot in the leg during a failed murder attempt in 2006.  Crime groups have relied heavily on encrypted messaging services to avoid detection in recent years and have seen their empires grow. Law enforcement agencies across Europe believe EncroChat’s handsets – which cost £1500 – were being used solely by criminals since 2016.  The NCA says 746 suspects have been arrested as part of the operation. The crime agency claims it prevented 200 murders due to  intelligence they obtained .  There has also been a large number of arrests in the Netherlands, France, Spain, Norway and Sweden. EncroChat administrators sent customers a message on June 12 informing them that their security had been breached – almost two months after it was infiltrated.  Graeme Pearson, former head of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, hailed the breakthrough as “the most significant event of a lifetime”.  

Whisky By-Product Could Help Power Electric Cars
Waste material from whisky distilling in Caithness looks set to be used for generating power for the charging of electric vehicles.  Abbey Ecosse Limited has secured permission to build an anaerobic digester and biomass boiler energy generating plant near Thurso.  The complex at Forss Business and Technology Park would make a biogas as a fuel for generating electricity.  The electricity would be used at the park and for a vehicle charging point.  The waste material would be supplied by Inverhouse Distillery at Pulteney in Wick. Highland Council has approved the plan.

Sturgeon Urges People Not to Protest At Border
Nicola Sturgeon has asked people not to protest on the Scotland-England border, saying it is not "sensible or helpful".  The first minister said protestors who displayed a "keep Scotland Covid free" banner at the border with England on Saturday "do not speak for me". Ms Sturgeon has refused to rule out a quarantine system for people coming to Scotland from other parts of the UK.  However, she stressed this was "about public health", not "whether people in England are welcome in Scotland".  There are currently no plans to impose quarantine or any other kind of restrictions on travellers from the rest of the UK into Scotland, and there has been no formal discussion on whether they should be introduced. But there has been an escalating row between the Scottish and UK Westminster governments over the issue, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying "there is no such thing as a border between Scotland and England" and Ms Sturgeon hitting out at "absurd and ridiculous political statements".  On Saturday, a small group of protestors gathered at the side of the A1 road at the border, wearing protective overalls and encouraging people to "stay out" of Scotland.  The group were widely criticised both by Scottish government figures and opposition politicians, with Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf tweeting that "these morons don't represent the Scotland I know and love".  Police Scotland said officers had been called to the scene and had given "suitable advice" to the protestors.  When questioned about the matter at her daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said she agreed with Mr Yousaf. She said: "The people who protested at the border did not speak for me, they were not there on my behalf or communicating a message that I endorse in any way. I would emphatically say I do not endorse that."  The first minister added: "This is not a question about whether people in England are welcome in Scotland - of course they are, just as people in Scotland are hopefully welcome in England. It's about public health and I will take decisions based on protecting the people of Scotland if there is a risk to public health.  That is not political or constitutional and it is certainly not based on any desire to keep English people out of Scotland."

Councils Urged to Reduce Protests During Pandemic

A senior police officer has urged local authorities to help reduce the number of protests and counter-protests held across Scotland.  In a strongly worded letter, Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr said such events posed policing challenges and public safety risks due to coronavirus.  However, he accepted many protests were "entirely legitimate".  In recent weeks, police have handled clashes between anti-racism protestors and opposing groups at demonstrations.  On one occasion, violent scenes escalated after a far-right group gathered in Glasgow's George Square to "protect the Cenotaph".  They arrived shortly before a planned demonstration against the evictions of asylum seekers.  Some councils have already seen planned demonstrations scrapped in light of the pandemic. The Orange Order's annual 12 July celebration has been cancelled for the first time since World War Two.  Mr Kerr said protests and counter-protests have often required "significant resource deployment" from the police, meaning officers are taken out of their local area and are unable to attend to other demands.  He said the issues and grievances being aired are often rooted in "wider social and political issues", and can act as proxies for "ingrained sectarianism".  "Protecting the safety of the public is paramount and all Police Scotland operations are planned and conducted with this in mind," he said.  "We live in a democratic society and police have a duty to protect the rights of both individuals and groups who wish to peacefully protest or counter-protest. But this has to be balanced against the rights of others who might be impacted upon by such activity and will not accept or tolerate violence and thuggery."  The letter cited a range of issues handled by police including the mass stabbing in Glasgow on 26 June.

Scottish Finance Secretary Makes Fresh Call for New Powers
Scotland's finance secretary has repeated her call to be allowed to switch capital funding to day-to-day revenue.  Speaking ahead of the UK Chancellor's summer statement, Kate Forbes also called for an end to "arbitrary" limits on borrowing.  Ms Forbes said she was asking for "relatively limited powers".  But she said the move would "ease some of the immense pressures on our budget" caused by the coronavirus crisis. Covid-related costs are greater than the funding we're given. There are three options to resolve it: additional funding, flexibilities on the fiscal rules or cuts elsewhere. The first is unlikely, the last is unthinkable, so the second must be delivered.   The Chancellor is to announce a £2bn "kickstart scheme" on Wednesday to create more jobs for young people.  The fund will subsidise six-month work placements for people on Universal Credit aged between 16 and 24, who are at risk of long-term unemployment.  It will cover England, Scotland and Wales. The UK Westminster government says Scotland has already benefitted from £3.8bn of Barnett consequentials as a result of increased spending in England during the pandemic. And it has said that the Scottish government is already able to borrow up to £450m per year for capital projects and £300m to support day-to-day spending.  Ms Forbes originally made a request to be allowed to borrow £500m this year and to be given the flexibility to reallocate any unused capital funding on day-to-day spending in a letter to the Treasury two weeks ago. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at the time that he would consider the request - but Ms Forbes subsequently said that it has been "kicked into the long grass" by the Treasury.  She has now made a fresh request alongside her counterparts in Wales and Northern Ireland.  Ms Forbes said: "At the moment, any extra money spent bolstering services and supporting the economic recovery must be taken from other areas.  That creates risks for our essential public services, jobs and businesses.  I am therefore calling on the Chancellor to ease these rigid fiscal rules and give us the flexibility we need to properly address the monumental challenges our economy is facing." Ms Forbes also repeated her call for the UK Westminster government to show "greater ambition in the level of investment in our economy" by introducing an £80bn stimulus package. The Scottish government wants to see a stimulus package worth 4% of UK GDP to "deliver an investment - led recovery" in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. It also wants "major investment in low-carbon, energy efficiency and digital infrastructure".  This would include support for consumers and businesses through tax cuts, cash grants to individual households, a public sector investment programme to focus on green technology, and an extension of wage subsidy schemes for the hardest-hit sectors.  The Scottish government also wants the standard rate of VAT levied on goods and services to be cut from 20% to 15% for six months post-lockdown, and to 5% for the hospitality sector.

Kirkcaldy Asda Calls for Vital Food Donations
Asda stores across Scotland have launched a food drive to help the community’s most vulnerable people access vital food and essentials items through the coronavirus pandemic. Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline Asda’s are amongst the stores that will take part in the month-long food drive calling on customers to donate vital food and hygiene essentials to support people in their local community.  For the first time, the retailer has installed a new signposting system to encourage customers to donate items their local food bank is most in need of, such as tinned, hygiene and non-perishable goods,  The food drive this year is in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, as food banks across the Trussell Trust network have seen a staggering rise in demand of 89 per cent in need compared to April last year.  Jo Warner, Asda’s Senior Director for Community said: “We already have permanent food collection points in store and encourage our customers to donate what they can, but over the next month we’re really trying to increase the number of donations as we support our partners through the unprecedented demand for emergency food parcels which food banks have sadly seen due to the pandemic.“Our customers and colleagues are always very generous and I want to thank them for continuing to support our Asda Fight Hunger Create Change programme, which is making a real difference in their local community, as well as on a larger scale as we continue to help people out of poverty.  “Through the retailer’s Fight Hunger Create Change partnership with anti-poverty charities the Trussell Trust and FareShare, Asda is providing ongoing support to help meet the pressures faced by the charities and the communities they support.”  Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust said: “Since the outbreak of coronavirus, more people have needed food banks than ever before. Our network is working hard to make sure emergency help is there for people unable to afford the essentials, but we really need support in Asda stores this month.  It’s not right that anyone needs a foodbank in the UK, so we’re pushing for long-term changes that get money into the pockets of people who most need it. But while we do, food banks need your donations to make sure help is there for anyone who needs it in the coming months.  Anything you’re able to give will make such a difference – thank you.” The £20m partnership between the supermarket and the two charities has already enabled FareShare to double their capacity, meaning more food can reach those in need, while supporting the Trussell Trust to provide even more support to people referred to foodbanks and work towards a future without foodbanks through better research into the drivers of food bank use.  

Nicola Sturgeon Says We're Moving to Phase 3

COVID-19 continues to be suppressed to lower levels.  We're making real progress, thanks to our collective efforts in sticking to the rules.  This means we can now move to Phase 3 of our routemap:     Face coverings in shops will be mandatory from tomorrow; From Monday, shopping centres will be able to reopen; From Wednesday, hairdressers, bars, restaurants, and cinemas can reopen; Places of worship can resume services on 15 July too;  Personal retail services like beauticians and nail salons can reopen from 22 July.  With every restriction we lift, the risk increases. So let's all remember the FACTS:  Face coverings in enclosed spaces; Avoid crowded places;  Clean your hands and surfaces regularly; Two-metre social distancing;  Self-isolate and book a test if you develop coronavirus symptoms.  We are progressing step by step, to ensure the risk is kept to the absolute minimum.  A brighter future is in sight, if we stay safe and look after each other.

Uninhabited Loch Lomond 'Wallaby Island' Up for Sale
An uninhabited Loch Lomond island, famous for its colony of wallabies, has gone up for sale.  Inchconnachan Island, which has been owned by the Colquhoun family since the 14th century, is accessible by boat from the village of Luss.  The 103-acre island has a price tag of offers over £500,000 and comes with a derelict colonial-style timber bungalow dating from the 1920s.  It is an area of Special Scientific Interest and a conservation area.  The private island is also part of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park and has views of Ben Lomond and the Arrochar Alps, including the Cobbler.  Inchconnachan is best known for its wallabies, which were said to have been introduced by Fiona Bryde Gore, Lady Arran Colquhoun, at the end of the World War Two.  Legend has it they were transported north from her marital home in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, where she also kept pot-bellied pigs, llamas and alpacas.  The marsupials, which are native to Australia, have thrived on the island ever since, surviving by eating oak, holly and birch.

Highland Games Piping Competitions to Be Online

Aboyne Highland Games has moved three of its piping competitions online.  Organisers announced in May that this year’s games were being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Now, in an effort to provide a platform for solo pipers to play competitively this year, organisers have taken the decision to run a trio of live piping competitions online on Saturday 1 August.

Praise Be! Churches Welcome News That Places of Worship Can Open Soon

Places of worship can reopen from next week following the Scottish Government’s announcement to move to Phase 3 of easing lockdown.  They will open from Wednesday, July 15, for congregational services, communal prayer and contemplation with physical distancing and limited numbers. Commenting on the move, the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, Bishop Hugh Gilbert said: “Over the past month, our parishes have been preparing for the safe resumption of communal prayer and the celebration of Mass, which is at the centre of the life of the church.  Thanks to the widespread implementation of the church’s Infection Control protocols, Catholic parishes will begin the resumption of public Masses and other communal activities from July 15.” Bishop Gilbert added: “ we would remind parishioners that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended and ask those who return to do so in accordance with the infection control measures in force in each parish, mindful always of the need to protect themselves and others.”  Meanwhile, Rev Dr George Whyte, Principal Clerk of the Church of Scotland, commented: “We welcome the news that worship services will be able to resume on a limited basis after being required to close our buildings earlier in the year due to the Covid-19 emergency.  As we continue to live with the threat of coronavirus, ministers and congregations must consider carefully whether or not they should return to the church building in these early phases, depending on their own circumstances and the nature of their church.  Our guidance is designed to support those who will need to implement the changes and restrictions which will need to be put in place so that congregational worship, funerals and weddings can safely take place.  Parishioners and ministers in high risk groups may be at particular risk from infection and many will prefer to continue with online worship options at this stage. Others will know that with physical distancing and a cap on numbers that there simply will not be room for all those who might wish to attend Sunday worship.  However, we recognise that for many the buildings themselves are an important sacred space and the opportunity to return to their place of worship, even on a limited basis, will bring spiritual and mental-health benefits.”

On Tackling Coronavirus, Scotland Asserts its Separateness From England
By Mark Landler Courtesy of The New York Times
The measured response by Scotland’s leader, Nicola Sturgeon, is a marked contrast to the freewheeling approach of Prime Minister Boris Johnson — and appears to be working.
EDINBURGH, Scotland — There was nothing particularly festive about Nicola Sturgeon’s recent visit to the Cold Town House, a newly reopened Edinburgh pub, but maybe that was the point. Sipping coffee and surveying plexiglass dividers, Ms. Sturgeon, the leader of Scotland’s government, warned customers not to expect the jolly, sweaty intimacy of nightlife before the coronavirus pandemic.  “No beer garden or cafe should feel the same as it did before,” she said as a drenching rain fell, obscuring the stony ramparts of Edinburgh Castle that tower above this once-teeming establishment.  As Scotland emerges from a three-month lockdown, it is moving more carefully than neighboring England, a divergence that owes a lot to Ms. Sturgeon’s cautious style and her conviction that England, under its more freewheeling leader, Boris Johnson, is taking too many risks in a headlong rush to resume public life.  For now, Scotland’s approach has made it a bright spot in coronavirus-ravaged Britain. New cases have dwindled to a handful a day, and deaths to a trickle. If Scotland maintains this progress — a big if, given its open border — it could stamp out the epidemic by the fall, public health experts say. Such a goal seems fanciful in England, which is still reporting hundreds of new cases and dozens of deaths every day. But what happens in England inevitably spills over into Scotland. In the case of the virus, the stark contrast in daily numbers has reanimated old grievances for the Scots, who voted against leaving the United Kingdom in 2014 but overwhelmingly rejected Britain’s vote to leave the European Union two years later.  Nationalist sentiment has surged during the pandemic: Fifty-five percent of Scots now favor independence, according to a recent poll — a solid majority that analysts said reflected a perception that Scotland’s nationalist-led government has handled the crisis better than Mr. Johnson and his pro-Brexit ministers have. Scotland imposed its lockdown on March 23, the same day as England did, but has lifted the restrictions more selectively. It kept pubs closed a few days longer. It requires people to wear face masks in shops, which England does not. And unlike England, it left Spain, a popular holiday destination, off a list of countries to which Scots can travel without isolating themselves when they return.  “We’re quite stubborn and steadfast because Nicola has handled it elegantly and we’ve seen how England is flapping around,” said Katy Koren, the artistic director of Gilded Balloon, a company that stages outdoor performances during the Edinburgh Festival, which has been canceled this summer.  So far, she said, Scots have given Ms. Sturgeon the benefit of the doubt because she has been willing to make tough decisions and has convinced people that her overriding goal is the public health. Her no-nonsense briefings have become a reassuring daily ritual, even providing grist for comedians. Ms. Sturgeon’s fans liken her to New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, who has come closer than perhaps any other leader to stamping out the virus. The unspoken contrast is to Mr. Johnson, who has been all over the map in his response and has often seemed reluctant to deliver bad news.  “Men like to be popular,” said Ms. Koren’s mother, Karen, who runs the festival company with her daughter. “For women, it’s not about ego.” But it is, inescapably, about politics.  Ms. Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party is committed to independence and a return to the European Union. As she has diverged from the British government - a process that broke into the open in late May when she stuck with the slogan “Stay Home” and rejected Mr. Johnson’s more permissive “Stay Alert” - she is building a powerful new case for Scotland’s ability to go it alone.  Under the terms of limited self-government in the United Kingdom, the Scottish authorities are responsible for matters like health and education, while the British government handles immigration, foreign policy and, crucially, the fiscal rescue packages to protect those who lost their jobs in the lockdown. That has enabled Ms. Sturgeon to slow-walk Mr. Johnson’s steps to ease the lockdown, which she complains are often foisted on her without advance notice. She clucked over pictures of revelers jamming the streets of Soho in London after he opened pubs — a spectacle that she avoided by scheduling Scotland’s reopening for a Monday rather than a Saturday.  To some, particularly those who do not share her nationalist politics or are eager to get their businesses running again, there is more than a whiff of point-scoring.  “She is a fantastic politician,” said Nic Wood, the owner of the Cold Town House, who invited her to visit his pub. “But a lot of what she now does is all about getting independence. Her talents would be better used if she could just lead the country.”  Hotel and restaurant owners were alarmed when Ms. Sturgeon declined to rule out a quarantine for visitors from England after Mr. Johnson lifted a 14-day quarantine for people traveling to and from 59 countries. She expressed concern that visitors could carry the virus into Scotland from third countries. “We can’t afford any inference that the English aren’t welcome in Scotland,” said Marc Crothall, the chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, who noted that 70 percent of Scotland’s tourism revenue comes from visitors within the United Kingdom.  Ms. Sturgeon’s threat also provoked Mr. Johnson, who typically says the differences between Scotland and England are overblown. He described it as “astonishing” and claimed, “There is no such thing as a border between England and Scotland.”  Over the last three months, Ms. Sturgeon, who declined a request for an interview for this article, has developed strong ideas about how to combat the pandemic. She convened a group of scientific advisers separate from the British Westminster government’s panel, and they consulted a German health official for best practices.  Scotland honed its test-and-protect program, which is less dependent on private contractors than the system in England and recruits its contact tracers from communities - all of which, officials say, make it more effective.  “We’ve been really pleased to see the case numbers fall the way they have,” said Dr. Janet Stevenson, who coordinates the program for the Edinburgh region, though she acknowledged that it will be harder to control cases as more outsiders start flowing into Scotland from England. “It’s a leaky old border,” she said. Devi Sridhar, who runs the global health governance program at the University of Edinburgh, noted that the two countries took radically different approaches from the start: England’s priority was to prevent its hospitals from being overrun, while Scotland’s was to drive cases down to zero. If not for imported cases from the south, Dr. Sridhar said, Scotland could come close to that goal by the end of the summer.  “If we were an island, we could eliminate it entirely,” she said. “That’s why cooperation is needed in global health.”  Other experts say elimination is a quixotic target under any circumstances. To achieve it, Scotland would have to keep in place measures that are economically untenable and would cause other health-related problems. Even New Zealand has been struck with new cases- imported from England, as it happens. Some also question whether Scotland’s performance is all that remarkable compared with Europe as a whole.  Its reported death rate of 46 per 100,000 is far lower than the 71 per 100,000 in England. But it is on a par with France and higher than Northern Ireland. England has 56 million people, compared with Scotland’s 5.4 million. It is sparsely populated, without a metropolis like London, where the outbreak exploded in early March. Fortunate timing may have spared it the worst.  “Scotland was six or seven days behind London,” said Mark Woolhouse, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh. “That is a very long time, if the epidemic is doubling every three or four days.” Scotland’s experience, he added, was not “particularly better or worse than other European countries.”  For many in Scotland, however, what matters is not how their country fared relative to the rest of the world, but how it stacks up to England. Ms. Sturgeon’s approval ratings have risen to above 80 percent, while Mr. Johnson’s ratings have declined. That could embolden her to press him to allow another independence referendum - something he has so far ruled out.  “They might still say no,” said Nicola McEwen, a professor of politics at the University of Edinburgh. “But it will be more difficult. She is emerging from this, at least so far, with more authority and more respect.”  At the Cold Town House, where a handful of customers sipped pints on a chilly day earlier this week, there was a stoic pride in Scotland’s disciplined response to the pandemic. The cobbled streets of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, which usually throb with festival goers at this time of the year, were nearly deserted. From the castle’s ghostly ramparts, residents contemplated their becalmed city. “There’s a conservatism in Scotland, where doing the sensible, rational stuff outweighs the more emotional response to things,” said Tom Harries, an entrepreneur who is originally from Bristol, England, and runs a start-up that has helped businesses find ways to survive during the lockdown.