Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 563

Issue # 563                                            Week ending Saturday 1st August  2020

Superheroes Have Always Worn Face Masks. So Did Batman Or Superman Have Bad Spots?
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

A hairy friend in Edinburgh went for his post-lockdown haircut on Monday. He was concerned as he had weighed himself in February but when he went on the scales last week, he was now half a stone heavier. Who knew hair weighed so much? Aye Tam, it was nothing to do with the fact you were working from home and your office desk was the kitchen table, complete with vital office equipment like a laptop, a stapler, a jar of hot chocolate and a biscuit barrel.

I had my Covid cut too. In the barbers’ emporium, I had to do the track-and-trace questionnaire. Have you had a high temperature and a cough recently? I had a coughing fit after my Pepsi went down the wrong way and I was very hot after the Chicken Madras but these symptoms didn’t happen at the same time. Does that count? Oh, that’s a no then.

It’s such a faff for a barber to cut hair when the customer is masked. They’ve to go round the ears and get round the mask’s elastic loop. It’s a case of lift and separate. That phrase seems strangely familiar. Oops, I’m getting sidetracked, but the shearing wasn’t easy. When you are asked the obligatory question about where are you going on your holidays, not only is the mumble in the mask almost inaudible but who knows if anyone is going on any holidays - not if the governments of the UK introduce quarantine measures with 300 minutes’ notice as they did last Saturday.

Then there’s maskne. It is a new medical condition - mask acne. Things get sweaty under face masks and people can get spots and itching and it’s not nice. I had a touch of acne as a teenager, of course, because it is a sign of virility but I wouldn’t want to endure that again. Spots everywhere. Waking up in the middle of the night to burst your plukes was a yuck job but someone had to do it. Red pillowcase, yellow pillowcase.

Even my own parents made fun of my spots. My mother went to Stornoway one day and left my dad in charge. When she came back, she asked where I was. Dad mumbled something which sounded like “Who”? She said: “Iain. You know, the one with the acne.” Eventually, he admitted: “I’ve locked him in the byre.” She shouted: “You amadan. He's only 13 - and he is not a calf. Why did you put him in the byre?” He replied: “Your fault. You said you wanted the house spotless when you came back.” Oh, how they giggled. Oh, cruel memories.

Problematic masks are also a sore point for the UK government and many other governments swithering on whether to make them mandatory or not. They should be a sore point for our own Scottish Government too, but they just don’t get it. The political party of government decided to make a few bob by flogging SNP face masks. There is a worldwide pandemic which has killed more than 4,000 Scots. So why not cash in on the worldwide misery and heartache by flogging over-priced masks with our party logo on them. How distasteful. How insulting. How outrageous.

Nicola played a blinder for months being so much better than another leader down south at conveying crisp, clear Covid messages to us. She was taking it all very seriously. Good job, blone. Then her party commits this monumental blunder. Sheesh, what were they thinking? The SNP has apparently approved and defended their sale, reportedly saying “just like football clubs and many others, we’ve launched our own branded face coverings”.

Is that how the SNP now see their responsibility and their party? Like organisations that take advantage of loyal supporters and squeeze them for every penny. I am shocked and disappointed that Nicola Sturgeon, who has been so level-headed in recent months, has not kicked this tawdry money-spinner into the long grass. If she does not put this right, it won’t just be Alex Salmond gunning for her.

Us islanders used to be gunning for tourists in campervans. They contributed very little to the economy, people said. Critics used to say visitors in campervans were awful because they only made a quick trip to a supermarket and then didn’t come near anyone. Now, because of coronavirus, we all say visitors in campervans are wonderful because they only make a quick trip to a supermarket and then don't come near anyone.

I said my mate Tam had his first haircut this week. He tells me that on the wall there was a sign showing the new post-Covid prices. Hairdressers of all kinds have had a tough time with their enforced closure for months. Many have put prices up. Tam was used to paying £15 for his monthly trim but the price had now shot up to £25. He was not impressed as he donned the mask.

The Barber of Calton Hill beckoned him to the chair. “Hello, sir. And how much would you like off today?” Tam grunted: “About ten quid.”

My Campaign to Become An SNP MSP Was Met with Aggressive Abuse From Social Media Trolls by  Angus Robertson
The power of social media is immense. On Sunday I officially launched my campaign to become selected as the SNP candidate for Edinburgh Central and elected to the Scottish Parliament next year by winning Ruth Davidson’s seat from the Tories. In less than 24 hours more than 150,000 people had watched my launch video through Twitter alone. My message went far and wide that Edinburgh Central is a key constituency if the SNP is to secure a pro-independence majority in next year’s Scottish Parliament elections. I was able to communicate directly that at present the Tories hold the seat with a tiny 610 majority, and I believe I can win with the support of SNP members and voters of all parties who don’t want to see the area represented by a pro-Brexit MSP.  For people who weren’t already aware, I let them know that I grew up in Edinburgh Central, went to school here and work here, that this is where I live and that I understand the different issues that matter to communities across Edinburgh Central.  Together with a new website which explains that I need SNP members to select me and then voters elect me, I appealed to viewers who want to help elect a hard-working local MSP with high-profile national experience, who will support First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and deliver independence – please support my campaign. Tories are already saying that I am the biggest threat that they face in holding the seat. I hope to prove them right on this occasion.  Thousands of messages, likes and shares have been recorded on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linked-In with lots of people visiting the campaign website to sign-up, volunteer and donate. It shows the power of positive grassroots campaigning. With the click of a button the postings were sent and available for people to see.  In addition to the overwhelmingly positive feedback sadly there was also aggressive and abusive commentary, mostly from anonymous accounts, trolls and bots. That reflects the extremes sadly found on social media everywhere the world over. It shouldn’t, however, be tolerated.  Some people face particularly insidious abuse, such as Jews, and it has to stop. The Holocaust Education Trust issued a statement highlighting the failure of Twitter and Instagram to adequately deal with the torrent of antisemitic abuse from a prominent grime artist and joined others in saying enough is enough.  They are right to highlight that “recent weeks have seen people around the world come together to stand up against antisemitism and racism. We will not be divided. It is about time that social media companies live up to the values their users would expect”.  Since yesterday I have joined social media users internationally taking part in a 48-hour walkout on Twitter and Instagram to highlight the inactivity of social media companies. With the hashtag #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate, the message has gone globally to social media platforms that they must act and act decisively. We have come to rely on the benefits of social media: to communicate directly with family, friends, supporters and strangers alike; become informed, share news and views, campaign and organise.  Democracy and tolerant society deserve a positive public dialogue. People are responsible for their own online postings just as social media companies are for hosting them.

Knightswood Summer Camp Ordered to Close After Lease Dispute
A summer camp caring for dozens of children in Knightswood was forced to close after it emerged it was operating without proper permission.  West End Adventure took over the former Step by Step nursery site on Rotherwood Avenue in June but last week, Glasgow City Council (GCC) ordered the camp to cease all activities and vacate the area.  The camp organisers had erected a climbing wall, pop-up tents and outdoor toilets on the site, while some staff brought campervans to stay on the grounds. The local authority, which owns the land, was unaware it was being used.  It is understood the site was used primarily as a drop-off point for children who were attending day trips with the camp.  It’s not known exactly how many children were using the area, but council officers were tipped off after a series of noise complaints from local residents.  Baillie Malcolm Balfour, who visited the site after his constituents raised concerns, said: “The buildings are partly condemned, there’s issues with asbestos and some other things.  I got a number of complaints from neighbours about the noise and kids running around, what would normally be, a busy bus route.  The concept is a good idea, I don’t have any problem with that, but they don’t have permission to be there.”  Councillor Paul Carey reported the issue to GCC after parents questioned the situation.  He said: “We cannot allow any group to turn up and start running summer camps on council land without going through the proper process.  We are not in the business of spoiling the fun for young people, but you have to go through the proper channels. The rules and procedures are there for the safety of the children and this must be paramount.”  It’s understood an application to allow the camp to operate on the site was submitted to the council by the nursery, which leases the land from the council, but camp organisers apparently went ahead prior to the decision being made.  Step by Step Nursery, which owns a chain of childcare facilities across the city, insists the incident was a “misunderstanding”. The company operated from within a building, which it still owns, on the site until 2014.A spokeswoman for the group said it was mistakenly thought it could grant permission within the terms of its lease for a drop-off site on a temporary basis to the West End Adventure company, but it was unaware of the amount of equipment which was brought on site. She added: “I had no idea that what we were doing wasn’t allowed. We knew we needed the landlord’s permission for the formal lease but this was only temporary for the four weeks the schools were off.  We said they could throw their stuff in the building and the kids could meet there, I didn’t know there would be anything else on the site.”  GCC contacted the childcare chain last week and insisted it instructs the camp to pack up and leave by the end of last week.  However, the camp organisers dispute the claims. Instead insisting they left the site of their own accord and had a lease agreement with Step by Step which allowed them to operate on the land.  A spokesman said: “We never knowingly entered into an illegal lease. We were trying to do everything for the right reasons and were going through the process of trying to purchase the building ... we’ve been caught up in an issue between Step by Step Nursery and Glasgow City Council.  A spokesman for City Property, which manages the property on behalf of the council, said: “Following complaints from local residents, City Property Glasgow (Investments) LLP (CPGI) discovered that West End Adventures had taken occupation of the ground together with the building and were undertaking activities with disregard to adjacent residents.  "Our tenant has neither formally or informally received our consent to sub-let the ground and has therefore breached the terms of their lease agreement.  Step by Step Nursery has confirmed that they have instructed West End Adventures to remove from the property. CPGI will continue to monitor the situation and seek to resolve the matter with our tenant.”

Recycled Pianos Are Key to New Glasgow Auditorium Project
A steel shed in a Glasgow park is being transformed into what's claimed to be a world first - an auditorium made out of recycled pianos.  About 30 instruments have been dismantled and rebuilt to create tiered seating at the former Glasgow City Council grit store in Springburn Park.  The project was the brainchild of Tom Binns from Glasgow Piano City.  It is a social enterprise which finds new homes for hundreds of donated pianos.  The Shawlands-based enterprise receives the instruments, which originate from as far afield as Chicago, Austria and Germany, and places them in public spaces like hospitals and bookshops.  GCP has been working in collaboration with Pianodrome - instrumental pioneers who have created mobile piano amphitheatres - and the Friends of Springburn Park.  "They've been gathered here, labour-intensively dismantled and turned into this thing where people who have given us a piano can have a whole new thread of emotional connection to their instrument instead of it being dumped into a skip or going to landfill," explained Tom Binns. The project started around a year ago with funding from Glasgow City Council, the Connected Arts Network and the Social Enterprise Network in Glasgow, but it was put on hold over the coronavirus lockdown. "It's giving a new venue for people in Springburn, hopefully in the New Year when it's done, to have a place where they can come and share their voice for all sorts of different events. It won't just be performance, I can see educational workshops happening in here, dance things, community meetings, all sorts of stuff. It's a beautiful space to be in." Now work can start again on the project, it is hoped the auditorium will be open for public use in 2021.

Coronavirus: Sturgeon 'Increasingly Concerned' Over Resurgence
Nicola Sturgeon is "increasingly concerned" about the risk from coronavirus after a "worrying resurgence" in several other countries.  The Scottish first minister said people should be "very cautious" about foreign travel amid outbreaks in Spain, Belgium, Germany and France.  She said a "sharp increase in cases" in any country could see travellers forced to quarantine on arrival in Scotland.  Spain was struck from the UK's list of "air bridge" destinations on Saturday.  It came just days after the Scottish government had added Spain to the list of countries exempt from quarantine rules, which Ms Sturgeon said illustrated the "inherent uncertainty in everything we are dealing with right now".  She added: "I wouldn't be booking a foreign holiday right now."  The Scottish government said it was forced to reverse its decision on allowing travel to Spain without quarantine after "deeply alarming" data emerged about a rise in coronavirus cases there.  The prevalence of the virus in Scotland is still at a low level, but Ms Sturgeon said that the "progress remains fragile" in light of cases "accelerating" around the globe.  At her daily coronavirus briefing, she said the danger of cases coming into Scotland from abroad was "probably higher than at any time since the start of lockdown".  She added: "I remain highly concerned, possibly increasingly concerned, about the risk from Covid.  We are seeing a worrying resurgence in Covid cases in several countries across Europe, for instance part of Spain and Belgium, and we're seeing outbreaks in Germany and France.  There are important lessons for us from that - the most immediate is that as the prevalence of Covid in Scotland continues to fall, we must guard against the risk of cases coming in from outside."  The first minster said her government would re-impose quarantine restrictions "if countries see a sharp increase in cases", warning people to be aware of this if they are thinking of booking trips abroad.  She added: "People planning overseas holidays need to be aware of that - you cannot assume that the rules that apply to your destination will remain the same while you are there, or will be the same when you come to travel home.  My advice to you remains to be very cautious about non-essential foreign travel at this time, and if you are in a position to have a holiday the safest way of doing so is by staying here in Scotland."   Asked if the government would consider offering compensation to people who booked travel to Spain after it was exempted from quarantine rules, Ms Sturgeon said she did not want to create any "expectation" this would happen. The Scottish Lib Dems have also called on Scottish minsters to publish the scientific advice which informed decisions made in the "shambolic" u-turn over Spain. Ms Sturgeon said the data involved "is not ours to publish" as it came from the UK's joint bio-security centre, and that she had asked UK ministers to publish it. She added: "I know this is really tough, these decisions are not easy and I know the people who bear the consequences find it really difficult as well.  There is inherent uncertainty in everything we are dealing with right now, and an inherent unpredictability - the situation with the virus here and overseas can change very quickly."

Inverness Teenager Grabbed Police Officer's Neck

An Inverness teenager attacked two police officers who had seen him shouting and swearing outside a house.  Inverness Sheriff Court was told that George Beveridge (18), of Carnarc Crescent, had been drinking whisky prior to the incident last Friday.  Fiscal depute Niall Macdonald said Beveridge threatened the constables, and as one put his hand out to fend him off, he went for the officer’s neck. “There was a struggle and the other officer landed on the ground,” he said. “Beveridge had his arms around the officer’s neck and Pava spray had to be deployed."  He continued: “Both constables were slightly injured.”  Beveridge admitted threatening behaviour, police assault and resisting arrest. He was ordered to carry out 60 hours of unpaid work by Sheriff Sara Matheson.  Defence solicitor Patrick O’Dea said: “My client is shocked and appalled by his behaviour. "He does not normally drink to excess and whisky is not his drink of choice.”

Hotels to Receive £14m Funding to Protect Jobs
A £14m hotel recovery programme to help support the tourism industry until the start of next summer has been announced by the Scottish government.  The funding package is aimed at securing up to 3,000 jobs at Scotland's larger hotels through the winter.  Eligible businesses can apply for individual grants of up to £250,000.  Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said the deal recognised the "important contribution" hotels make to the Scottish economy.  VisitScotland will also deliver £1m in grants to self-catering businesses that have not received any other Scottish government Covid-19 support.  Businesses that meet the criteria will be eligible for a one-off £10,000 grant to support them until summer 2021.  Industry figures suggest the hotel sector supports about 46,000 jobs across the country.  Ms Forbes said the package would provide essential funding as well as business support and advice. She added: "Its core purpose will be to protect larger hotels, which have been badly effected by the events of the recent months.  "This is also about looking forward and successful applicants will be offered wraparound support to help strengthen their companies for the future."  Nic Wenn, managing director of Point A hotels, told BBC Scotland he hoped the new funding would be part of a series of packages to help hotels survive the coronavirus pandemic.  He said: "At the moment we've got the rates holiday and the VAT changes - and hopefully we may see an extension to those. As a hotel sector, we've been closed for 15 weeks, taking no revenue whatsoever. Whilst we will see some demand in July and August, it's nowhere near the demand we would normally expect.  Obviously, the Fringe festival drove 95% occupancy in Edinburgh through this period and we won't see anything like that. So anything the government could provide would be very welcome." The Scottish Tourism Alliance's Marc Crothall welcomed the "sizeable" financial package but warned it would not be enough to support all the hotels in need of immediate financial support".  He said: "It remains the case that without other forms of longer-term support and relief in the future, many of Scotland's hotels will remain at significant risk of being forced into permanent closure which will result in many more thousands of jobs still being lost." UKHospitality's executive director for Scotland, Willie Macleod, said the £14m programme was "a positive sign of intent", but it was going to be "a drop in the ocean for the sector". He added: "The reality is that any programme of recovery intended to keep hotels in Scotland open and staff in jobs, will need to be much bigger and much more wide-ranging. It must be hoped that this is an initial step in supporting these businesses and that further resources will be made available in the likely event that the programme is over-subscribed."

Inverclyde Pharmacy Linked to Covid-19 Cluster
A pharmacy in Inverclyde is among a number of businesses which have been linked to a new coronavirus cluster.  Eight positive tests in Port Glasgow are among 14 new cases reported in the Greater Glasgow health board area.  NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said none of the cases were experiencing anything more than mild symptoms.  It added: "Close contacts are being advised to self-isolate and other identified contacts are being followed up and given appropriate advice."  Greenock and Inverclyde MSP Stuart McMillian tweeted to say he would not speculate "where or who is involved". But he said: "News has broken that there has been a cluster of Covid-19 cases in Port Glasgow.  I have spoken to the Scottish government and the health board, and their Track and Trace Investigation Team are working on this as we speak. I will share information to help the community when I get it." First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that an incident management team was meeting to discuss the development.  The cases were among 22 reported across Scotland in the last 24 hours.  Ms Sturgeon has previously said localised outbreaks of the virus are all but inevitable, following clusters in North Lanarkshire and Dumfries and Galloway.  However, the first minister said the "test and protect" system was working well, with the number of people being treated in hospital for Covid-19 remaining low. Ms Sturgeon said: "Part of the challenge we have around any potential cluster is to make sure everything possible that can be done to minimise onward transmission is done." The first minister said people should be assured that "any suggestion of any links between cases or possible clusters or outbreaks are absolutely rigorously explored, investigated and dealt with".  News of the cluster came as the National Records of Scotland said the number of deaths linked to coronavirus had increased very slightly, with Covid-19 mentioned on eight death certificates in the week to Sunday. This was an increase of two deaths from the six that were recorded the previous week. Ms Sturgeon said numbers were likely to fluctuate at such a low level, pointing out that the overall number of deaths in Scotland was below the five-year average. She said "very significant changes" had been made in recent weeks, with the hospitality and tourism industries reopening, and said it was "still too early to be completely assured" of the impact of this.  Ms Sturgeon said it was important not to "do too much too quickly and give the virus the chance to overwhelm us again".

Royal Navy Boats Conclude Welcoming Summer Deployment in the North

Royal Navy patrol boats which spent the past three weeks training on both sides of the north coast have set sail for home after a successful summer deployment.  The P2000 Archer class ships HMS Trumpeter, Archer, Explorer and Example have been training crews in seamanship and navigation off the east coast, while HMS Biter, Charter and Express did likewise on the west coast.  Those on the west coast paid visits to Port Ellen, Oban, Fort Willian, Kyle of Localsh and Ullapool before meeting locals, laying a wreath at the HMY Iolaire memorial and carrying out search and rescue training in Stornoway.  Further stops in Loch Boisdale, Tobermory and Campbelltown followed before crews returned south to Edinburgh.  Meanwhile, on the east coast, the four patrol boats in Peterhead port offered virtual tours of the ships to local Sea Cadets before visiting Wick and Orkney, where the island’s Lord Lieutenant Elaine Grieve and guests from Kirkwall High School were welcomed aboard Archer and Example.  Time was spent in Stronsay, Westray  and Stromness before visits to Wick and Fraserburgh on route back to Edinburgh’s Leith harbour. The Navy’s regional commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland, Captain Chris Smith, said: “As the summer deployment for the seven ships from the Coastal Forces Squadron draws to a close, I am delighted with all that has been achieved.  The Royal Navy has conducted some high value navigational training in demanding waters and renewed our much valued, and most important links with many coastal communities.  Throughout the deployment, the ships have been given a very warm reception, while also conducting mutually beneficial exercises with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency search and rescue helicopters and the RNLI. We are very grateful for the hospitality that has been extended to the Royal Navy by all who have said hello, ashore or at sea.”

Retired Dumfries Police Officer Launches New Series of Kids Books

Forget Bob the Builder and Postman Pat.  There is a new children’s hero in town: Community Cop Colin.  He has been created by Martin Greenlees as the lead character for a new series of children’s books.  Martin retired last April after a 27-year crime fighting career in the region.  The child-friendly law enforcer stars in his debut picture book Community Cop Colin: Keeping Safe, which goes on sale today.  He was actually first written about in a draft by 49-year-old Martin, who lives in Dumfries with his wife Leslie, almost 20 years ago when he was a community police officer in Georgetown trying to get “stranger danger” safety messages across to schools and nurseries.  Martin, who has two grown-up children, said: “I am really excited about the book.  I retired as a cop last year but I am not one to sit around doing nothing. I have always felt that Colin should be in a book because there is nothing out there in book form to promote policing in a positive way to young children. Colin provides so much scope to get all kinds of safety messages across to children through stories. I want children to be aware and keep safe. The books will be informative but a lot of fun too.”  For this first book Martin said he considered that children are told about the stranger danger aspect of talking to someone they do not know - but what if they need to approach a stranger for help? He said: “From my time visiting schools I quickly picked up that advising groups of young children that a stranger is a person who you don’t know and you should not speak to them was not best practise.  This inspired me to do talks differently with more interaction and emphasis on the importance of uniform as a visual guide of who they should seek out when their parents and guardians are not around to help. Get children to seek help from a safe stranger, someone wearing a uniform: a policeman. I hope this first book helps explain the difference to young readers. For me it is a very special and personal project. I have been delighted with the response to my book and the safety messages it carries so far and I am thrilled it is going to be available to buy in bookshops and online around the world.” Martin added: “I am already working on the next book in the series, which should be out next year. This time Community Cop Colin will be doing a bit of investigation work.” He also has a website with more information on Community Cop Colin and free colour-in pages to download. Martin joined Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary in 1992 and served in Dumfries, Thornhill, Sanquhar and outlying areas of Annan.  He also served in fraud and financial investigation, youth justice, human trafficking, wildlife liaison officer and as an intermediate safety training instructor for the force, thanks to a martial arts background which saw him compete internationally.  During service within the organised crime and counter terrorism unit, Martin received the Chief Constable’s Commendation in recognition of his “tenacity, diligence and professionalism” in recovering controlled drugs with a street value of £750,000.  As a nod to his own career Martin made sure Community Cop Colin’s police number is his own: 379. The book is available from bookshops and online for £7.99.

Bid to Make Flow Country Blanket Bog World Heritage Site

Plans have been approved to allow Europe's largest peatbog to apply for Unesco World Heritage status.  Called the Flow Country, the area stretches across Caithness and Sutherland. The 494,210-acre (200,000ha) area of peatbog, lochs and bog pools is more than twice the size of Orkney.  The Peatlands Partnership has secured approval from the UK Westminster government to prepare a bid to Unesco for the designation in three years' time.  Public consultation on the plan has already taken place, with communities living in and on the fringes of the Flow Country.What is the Flow Country? Bogs in the tundra-like landscape have been growing since the end of the last Ice Age more than 10,000 years ago; The area's peat is up to 10m (33ft) deep; Its soil stores about 100 million tonnes of carbon; People live and work in the Flow Country and its communities include tiny Forsinard;  Wildlife found in the area include otters, deer and common scoter ducks. In the UK, common scoters breed at only a few locations in the Flow Country and lochs in the hills and glens near Inverness.  Scotland currently has six World Heritage sites. They are the Antonine Wall, Heart of Neolithic Orkney, New Lanark, the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, St Kilda and the Forth Bridge.  A wide range of organisations are involved in the Flow Country Unesco bid and include Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry and Land Scotland, Scottish Forestry, Highland Council, RSPB Scotland and Plantlife International. Also, the Environmental Research Institute UHI in Thurso, Highland Third Sector Interface, Flow Country Rivers Trust, Northern Deer Management Group and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. The UK Westminster government has responsibility for approving submissions to Unesco for the status.  Scotland's natural environment minister Mairi Gougeon has congratulated the partnership on its work on the submission so far.  She said: "I visited this amazing peatland myself last year and saw the local community's support for the World Heritage Site application. This is indeed great news not just for Caithness and Sutherland but for all of Scotland.  The Flow Country will be a great addition to the global list of World Heritage Sites."

Get Your Cèilidh Till New Year Thanks to the Council’s Popular Live Music Streams
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has confirmed that the live weekly Cèilidhs, which have been running on the Facebook page every Friday and Saturday night since lockdown began, will continue until the end of the year.  The Comhairle ran a poll on the Facebook page to ascertain whether there was an appetite from the community to see the cèilidhs continue and 98% of over 400 respondents confirmed that they were.  Whilst most of the Comhairle’s COVID-19 social media programme of activities has now come to an end, the cèilidhs have been considered a key source of entertainment by islanders and expats around the world. Colin George Morrison, Media Coordinator at the Comhairle, said: “The cèilidhs will continue until the New Year but we will be reducing it to one a week with a weekly Friday evening slot at the usual time of 9pm.  We are delighted to announce that this week’s ceilidh will be hosted by Iain ‘Costello’ Maciver, who has been one of the most prominent artists on the live ceilidh scene since lockdown began.  We have consulted with many of the artists who have been performing over recent months, and without whom none of this would be possible, and have received an overwhelmingly positive response to the continuation of the ceilidh programme. It has been quite incredible to see how the artist have so willingly supported the communities of the Western Isles and likewise how the communities have supported the artists. The local musical talent, including Gaelic and English songs, have seen over 30 cèilidhs take place over the last 4 months with a total of around 374,300 views to date.  We do hope that this continues to be an extremely positive experience for all concerned and the Comhairle is more than happy to facilitate the continuation of the project.”  Iain “Costello” Maciver, said: “In the absence of live music events, the COVID cèilidhs have been great for keeping people’s spirits up, not only the general public, but the performers as well. I hope the Comhairle keep them going for the foreseeable future and I look forward to taking part in a few more of them.”  In addition to the continuation of the online Cèilidh programme, the Comhairle has also this week agreed to work with local artists to provide exclusive 30 minute weekly ceilidh footage to all Care Homes throughout the Western Isles in order to provide residents with some musical entertainment.

RAF Lossiemouth Crews in Temporary Move Back to Fife
An RAF Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) group based in Scotland is to temporarily move from Lossiemouth in Moray to Leuchars in Fife.  QRA crews at Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire intercept unidentified aircraft approaching UK airspace.  Recent incidents have included Russian military planes near UK airspace.  The Lossiemouth group's move to Fife on 10 August is to allow for a major revamp of Moray station's runway. QRA crews had previously operated from Leuchars until 2014 when the group relocated to Lossiemouth. Leuchars has been an army barracks since 2015.  Round-the-clock construction work is to be carried out at Lossiemouth from 17 August to enable the "swift return" of the Typhoons from Leuchars, the RAF said.  Typhoon training done at Lossiemouth will temporarily move to nearby Kinloss Barracks.  The improvements to the runway will mean it can accommodate larger aircraft, including a fleet of P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

Jackson Carlaw Quits As Scottish Conservative Leader

Jackson Carlaw has resigned as the leader of the Scottish Conservatives after only six months in the job.  Mr Carlaw said he had come to the "painful conclusion" that he was not the best person to lead the case for Scotland remaining in the UK ahead of next year's Holyrood election.  He said he had therefore decided to stand down with immediate effect. Mr Carlaw succeeded Ruth Davidson as the party's leader in February after previously acting as her deputy.  He had also served as acting leader while Ms Davidson was on maternity leave following the birth of her son, and again after her resignation in August of last year. PM Boris Johnson said Mr Carlaw had been a "tremendous servant" to the party for more than four decades.  Mr Johnson added: "As an activist, deputy chairman, deputy leader and leader, he has given his all and deserves our thanks for his efforts. It is a mark of his commitment to the cause that he chooses to stand aside at this time and I offer my best wishes to him, Wynne and the family."  The BBC understands that former Scotland Office minister Douglas Ross - who quit his ministerial post earlier this year over Dominic Cumming's trip to Durham - is being urged to stand for the leadership.

Edinburgh Castle Reopens its Doors to Visitors

Edinburgh Castle is to reopen to visitors - although only 1,000 people a day will be able to go rather than the usual 10,000.  Visitors will also only be able to see the castle's external spaces, with a one-way system being put in place.  Tickets are only available to buy online, and the first weekend has already completely sold out.  The castle's executive manager, Nick Finnigan, said it had been a huge effort to get the castle ready. But he said he hoped it would send a message that Edinburgh is open for business again, and bring people back to the city centre. The castle reopens seven days a week from today (Saturday).  It has been closed since March because of the coronavirus lockdown, which Mr Finnigan said had left the grass knee high and the water, plumbing and electrical systems all needing to be tested.  He said: "This is the longest Edinburgh Castle has been closed since World War Two and I hope it never happens again.  I didn't reckon it would be closed for this long. It is the biggest challenge I've had in my almost 10 years in my role. I am excited we are open as it sends a message that Edinburgh is open for business again."  Mr Finnigan said entrance prices have been cut because visitors would only be able to visit the castle's external spaces.  However, The Great Hall, Laich Hall, St Margaret's Chapel and the Scottish National War Memorial will be open to visitors. The castle has had to cancel concerts and the annual fireworks display, which marks the end of the Edinburgh International Festival, too. He said: "We are only allowing 1,000 people a day compared with the 10,000 to 11,000 people a day who attend normally during the summer months. This will be reviewed on a daily basis. We want to raise the numbers as quickly as we can. In July we normally receive 300,000 visitors. We are opening up to 1,000 people, which you would think we would be disappointed in that, but we have to make sure it succeeds, we have to be see how it goes."