Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 568

Issue # 568                                         Week ending Saturday 5th September  2020

Old Shep Has A Wonderful Home Or At Least He Would Have One If He Had Ever Existed
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

After he had finished checking all my vital signs inside and out, the doctor had a very stern look on his face. Oh heck, he must have found something seriously wrong. I asked him what he thought. He said: “I don’t think you should eat anything fatty for the next two days.” Should I avoid lamb chops and lamb curry? He said: “No, Fatty. I don’t think you should eat anything for two days.”

And after that, I was told to avoid all the lamb in all the world all the time. All lamb? Forever and ever, amen. That was how it was to be and that is how it has been. I know that sounds like a line from a very sad country and western song but, and I am saying this with a darned wee tear in my eye. It’s the lamb that does not love me. A condition with a very long name means that a few hours after I eat it, I get bad stomach pains and I end up writhing on an A&E table.

Not even a chop on birthdays and at communions? The doctor was American and he said I had to suck it up. Just the gravy then. It does not come close to Old Shep as a sad yarn that will bring tears but it’s true. Who cares about Old Shep? That didn’t even happen. Written by singer Red Foley and Arthur Willis, neither of them had a Shep. In the song, the dog Shep jumped into a swimming hole and saved the writer’s life by pulling him out. So when the dog is old and blind, he struggles to shoot it and put it out of its misery.

Red Foley had an Alsatian. It was called Hoover. There was a problem, though. Hoover was probably a very annoying dog because he was loud as a, er, Hoover. So annoying was he that he ended up being poisoned by a fed-up neighbour who was not willing to suck it up. Now that’s sad too but Red didn’t sing about that particular dispute for some reason. Probably couldn’t get any words to rhyme with our darned neighbour. Instead he wrote: “With hands that were trembling, I picked up my gun, And aimed it at Shep’s faithful head. I just couldn’t do it, I wanted to run. I wish they would shoot me instead.”

Wait, I have something in my eye. Why can’t you find a Kleenex when you need one? Shep in the song was apparently getting on a bit. How does it go? “His eyes were fast growing dim, And one day the doctor looked at me and said, I can do no more for him, Jim.” Oh, my eye again. You see that was his first mistake. He shouldn’t have taken the dog to the quack but to the vet. What does a doc know about blind dogs anyway? The NHS has enough to do trying to fix us humans. America? Oh, right.

With a name like Shep, that fictional mutt would have been a sheepdog, a collie spending its days rounding up Blackfaces, Cheviots and Texels. There was a Texel in the news the other day and I nearly choked on my vegan lamb burger. Did you see it? Down in Lanark, a six-month-old Texel lamb called Sportsman Double Diamond sold for nearly £370,000. I know it was a ram lamb but how on earth do you get enough sausages and lamb lollipops out of a single animal to justify a price like that?

You don’t. No meat, mate. That was just a stud fee. The Texel Sheep Society explained that the Texel breed is the number one terminal sire breed in the UK. That means they produce about 30% of all the lambs born in this country. Sportsman has the potential to father a lot of rams which will in turn go on to breed many thousands of lambs themselves. He will be hoping the ram lamb is up to it.

That reminds me of another song by Rocky Sharpe and the Replays. It goes: “I’ve got a girl named Rama Lama, Rama Lama Ding Dong.” Let’s hope Sportsman is a proper boy ram lamb and that the buyer will be very happy or there could be a ding dong. Online wags are giving the buyer of Sportsman various tongue-in-cheek tips for new and inexperienced buyers of sheep to care for their new beasts. One said: “First, buy your sheep. Tick. Change its name to Relation. Really? Oh well, tick. Now you have a Relationsheep.”

Let us hope Sportsman the lamb also gets on with the sheepdog that will be tending to it. Some people even think that animals of different species can communicate with each other. Imagine their conversation. “I love my job rounding up sheep,” says the sheepdog. Then a wee voice pipes up. “All you do is boss me around all day,” says the champion lamb. “What did you say?” asks the collie. Sportsman glares back and snaps: “You herd me.”

Eyemouth Wind Farm Operations Base Approval Recommended
Plans for an operations and maintenance base in the Borders - linked to a major wind farm off the Fife coast - are being recommended for approval.  The Eyemouth harbour facility, connected to the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) scheme, would create about 40 jobs. It would house office, warehousing and staff welfare facilities required once the wind farm is constructed. Twenty members of the public have opposed the plan but Scottish Borders Council is being advised to approve it.  NnG is one of Scotland's biggest renewable energy projects and once completed will provide power for 375,000 homes.  The Eyemouth harbour base was part of contracts announced towards the end of last year.  It was earmarked as a preferred supplier for maintenance work on the project.  A report to the council highlighted some concerns from the public, including its potential impact on tourism.  However, it added that the development would help sustain the harbour financially for the long-term.  The scheme is being recommended for approval with a string of conditions attached.

Sturgeon to Announce 'National Mission to Create Jobs'
Nicola Sturgeon is to put a "national mission to create jobs" at the heart of her plans for the year ahead in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.  The first minister is to prioritise jobs and training for young people in her annual "programme for government".  She said she wanted to see Scotland "rebuild an economy that is stronger, fairer and more sustainable". Opposition parties have called for more investment in transport, childcare, housing and support for local firms.  The number of people in work in Scotland has been hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown, with a sharp rise in those claiming benefits and more than 700,000 staff placed on furlough.  Each September, the Scottish government sets out a legislative programme for the year ahead.  However the coming parliamentary session is set to be dominated by the continuing coronavirus crisis and the build-up to the Holyrood election in May.  The government has already shelved a series of bills which will not be taken forward because of the pandemic, including proposals for a tourist tax and reforms to the Gender Recognition Act.  Ahead of her speech, Ms Sturgeon said that that continuing to suppress the virus "has to be our immediate priority", adding that it was "the single most important thing that we as a nation can do to allow our economy to continue to open up safely". However she said that looking ahead, it should be "our national mission" to "create new, green jobs across Scotland with fair pay and good conditions".  This is set to include a "youth guarantee" to keep young people in work - as suggested by a panel led by former Tesco Bank boss Benny Higgins - a programme to retrain people to work in new sectors such as low-carbon industries, and investment targeting "green jobs".  The first minister said: "Equipping people with skills for the future to keep them in work or get back into employment will be critical. From our young people entering the job market for the first time to older workers who need to retrain, we will make sure that no one is left behind."  Opposition leaders will have the chance to question Ms Sturgeon about her plans, before MSPs debate them on Wednesday. The Scottish Conservatives have called for a "massive" investment in transport infrastructure, including an expansion of the M8 motorway and faster rail links between Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness.  Leader Douglas Ross also called for "job security councils" to be set up to help laid-off workers find skilled work in specific sectors. Scottish Labour meanwhile want the government to bring forward the Scottish Child Payment - a planned payment to parents which has been delayed until February 2021 - saying that "families need cash now".  Leader Richard Leonard said: "The Scottish government has said that the pandemic has made the implementation of the payment difficult, but it is the pandemic which has made the payment more urgent and important than ever."  The Scottish Greens have set out a five-point plan for better housing - including action to end homelessness, cap rents and improve energy efficiency - which they say will "kick start a green recovery".  And the Scottish Lib Dems have called for a "needle sharp" focus on economic and social recovery, including faster progress on free childcare, better support for local businesses hit by lockdowns, and testing for international students as they arrive in Scotland.

What Was Edinburgh's Royal Mile Like Without the Festivals?

Hundreds of thousands of people descend on Edinburgh every August for the world's biggest arts festival.  The Edinburgh Fringe attracts so many visitors that the Royal Mile - where street performers mix with actors promoting their shows congregate - becomes a sea of people.  But what is it like on the street after the cancellation of the festival and the city's other major cultural festivals?  In a normal year, the Fringe attracts so many street performers that City of Edinburgh Council has to give them time slots.  But this year James Hessler had no difficulty getting himself a place on the Royal Mile.  James, 58, from Midlothian, has performed on the street during 20 Edinburgh Fringes.  He said: "I wanted to come back as quickly as possible so I called the council and was given a licence.  "Normally you just have to make a loud noise and you have a huge audience during the festival but this year there is a much slower build up to attract people and so you have to have more material. Now we are having to build an audience but then pull it when we see it is getting too big, we do this by making the shows shorter.  It's great to be back out on the Royal Mile and we just have to work harder to get more energy from a smaller audience."  Todd Various, 45, from Midlothian, who has performed street theatre during 16 Edinburgh Festivals, said he estimated there was about 20% of the normal footfall of the Fringe.  He said: "This crowd is way better because it is a genuine audience making the choice to watch me.  Normally people are muscled into watching what is closest to them."  David Bosek, 41, from Edinburgh, said his street performance with his puppet Evan had been a hit this year. He said: "Less people is better for my show because I can interact with people more easily and make more jokes. Busier makes me more money but I prefer more funny and less money.  I've been joking all day with people this year, which I love. However, I do want the festival to run next year in all its full glory."  Glynis Hammond, 36, from Watford in Hertfordshire, said she was "shocked and happy" at how many people there were on the Royal Mile.  She said: "I expected it to be so quiet, so to see so many tourists, so many people here, is just great."  Glynis said they should have been on holiday in Ghana, but had come to Edinburgh instead. She and her daughter Nia had visited the castle and had caricatures done by a street artist in the Royal Mile.  "It is our first time in Scotland and it makes me want to come back," she said. "I'm thinking of talking my husband into the Scottish Highlands for Christmas now that I've seen how great it is here."   Rafkha Gibrani, 20, from Brighton, was making his first trip to Edinburgh.  He said: "I was due to be in Mauritius but it was cancelled so I have come to Edinburgh instead and I am staying with friends."  Shops, restaurants and bars in and around the Royal Mile said footfall had been nothing like the levels they would normally experience during the festivals in August.  Naz Issa, manager of Laila's Bistro in Edinburgh's Cockburn Street, said his takings were down to a third of what he would have expected at this time of year. He said: "It's been nowhere near as busy, not even half as busy. It's certainly not a ghost town now, but normally it's chock-a-block on the Royal Mile with 50,000 people and now there are just a few thousand.  During the festival it is very difficult to walk down the Royal Mile. There is still life here now but it's not the same buzz.  I'm looking forward to next year when the festival returns."  Daniela Scott, who runs her father's Italian restaurant Gordon's Trattoria, said: "Normally it takes me 15 minutes to walk down the Royal Mile to our restaurant during the festival because it is absolutely rammed. Now its like a winter's day.  The Royal Mile is breathing again but there is no buzz and it's not comparable just now to previous August days during the festival. We need the festival back next year."

Scottish Gyms and Pools Reopen
Gyms, swimming pools and indoor sports courts can now reopen in Scotland after the coronavirus lockdown.  After almost 24 weeks, venues are able to open after Nicola Sturgeon brought the planned date for some indoor sports forward by two weeks.  It comes as the requirement for school pupils to wear face coverings also comes into effect.  Secondary pupils will wear them between classes and all pupils will wear them on school transport. The reopening of indoor sports halls follows weeks of pressure from the fitness industry and sports governing bodies.  They argued that strict safety measures would allow them to open safely.  Over 12s can take part in non-contact activity in places such as dance and gymnastics studios. Younger children can do all activity.  The gym and swimming pool at Inverness Leisure Centre opened at midnight.  Lee Crawford was one of the first in when the doors opened.  "I had nothing on tomorrow so thought I'd get a couple of hours tonight," he said. "I haven't lifted heavy weights in a wee while, just been stuck in the garage with light weights. I thought it would be busier than this."  Gym owner Steven Morley opened the doors of his New Age Fitness gyms in Hamilton and Coatbridge at 06:00. He told the BBC his staff had been working non-stop to get safety measures in place. Steven said: "It's been tough but we knew this was just temporary. To watch the members walk back through the doors will be absolutely amazing and will make all the hard work myself and the staff have put in the last few weeks worth it."  Gymnastics clubs were also waiting to welcome back their athletes.  West Lothian Gymnastics Club in Livingston was previously the only club in Scotland allowed to open as it welcomed just five high performance gymnasts but it was preparing to welcome its younger gymnasts on Monday. The club has shared videos showing the children how one-way systems and "gym bubbles" will work.  Head women's coach Becki Campbell said: "We have managed to prepare well in advance so we are ready. On Monday we welcome two recreational classes and five competitive groups.  "We have also been doing gymnast workshops on Zoom. We were worried some would not feel ready but they absolutely are." Dance schools also have the go-ahead to open.  Scotland's most successful cheerleading squad, Gold Star in Glasgow said it had made sure its studio was as safe as it could be.  Owner Claire McCreath said: "We have spent the whole week deep cleaning, then doing it again and again. We are relieved, excited and ready to roll and it will be the best feeling to see and hear the people in real life." Not all venues will reopen right away.  Many of Scotland's public and charitable trust-run pools and gyms are taking a slower approach. One issue is the viability of reopening if customer numbers are low and operational costs high.While High Life Highland, which operates sport and leisure facilities in the area, says all of its leisure facilities will reopen today, others have said some facilities will not reopen until October.  Different arrangements are in place for each area. For example, although most of the facilities run by Live Argyll are reopening today, pre-booking will be required and limited to members only for the first four weeks. Pools will be open for lane swimming only and there will be a minimum age of eight. In the Borders, the trust that runs leisure facilities on behalf of the council has started a phased reopening of its facilities. Live Life Aberdeenshire is taking the same approach. But in Dumfries and Galloway, the council is working towards having its sites across the region - including the flagship DG1 centre - open by 14 September.  In Angus, the seven Angus Live sport and leisure venues will not reopen until after 14 September. The operators say it is to allow for safety procedures to be put in place and for staff to be trained. No dates have been given for when pools in the area will reopen.  Similarly in South Lanarkshire, fitness classes will not resume until 14 September and gyms will reopen the following week. Pools will not open until Monday 5 October.  North Ayrshire Swimming Club will resume training in the water in two weeks.  Swimmer Isla Waller has been training by Zoom for five months and only recently started land training and braving outdoor swimming.  After missing her national championships she is ready to get back and more than willing to wait a little longer. The 13-year-old told the BBC: "I was so excited when we heard the date. My mum texted me at school to tell me.  It will be different when we get back to the pool but we will be fine. It will be good to see friends because we don't get to see everyone at land training." More restrictions will be lifted on 14 September. Sports stadiums, theatres and live music venues will be able to reopen with social distancing, limits on capacity and enhanced hygiene. Indoor contact sports for people aged 12 and over could also return. And limits on numbers at weddings and funerals could be relaxed - though they would still be subject to some restrictions.

Scheme to Provide Highlands with Superfast Broadband Labelled 'An Expensive Mistake'

A voucher scheme to provide superfast broadband for the north of Scotland will cost of tens of millions of pounds.  The Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme was announced by Holyrood’s connectivity minister Paul Wheelhouse.  It is supposed to replace the botched R100 scheme which now faces an uncertain future in the north despite being delivered in the central belt.  Mr Wheelhouse then faced questions on the issue at the rural economy and connectivity committee where he revealed that the huge cost of the vouchers is expected to range between £26 million to more than £50 million over five years.  The committee is led by Mr Mountain, who fears the SNP will not fulfil a campaign promise to deliver superfast broadband to the Highlands by 2021.  R100 was set up to deliver superfast internet to the 180,000 premises that still do not have it in Scotland, with the north disproportionately affected by poor connectivity with 100,000 people needing to get online.  The procurement process for R100 was hit by delays and an ongoing legal battle.  At the committee Mr Mountain asked Mr Wheelhouse: “If everyone applies for a voucher how much is it going to cost the Scottish Government?” Mr Wheelhouse said: “We believe the overall cost estimate for the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme as a whole is between £26.4 million and £50.7 million over a five-year period. That’s based on between 20 and 40 per cent take-up.” Mr Mountain said: “It is clear that Scottish ministers were clueless as to when contracts would need to be issued to deliver R100 by the end of 2021. “The voucher scheme could cost over £50 million – that is an expensive mistake for failing to deliver R100 on time and as promised.”

Visiting Restrictions Reintroduced in Glasgow Area
Restrictions on visiting other households have been reintroduced in Glasgow and two neighbouring areas after a rise in coronavirus cases.  The new rules affect more than 800,000 people in Glasgow city, West Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire.  They are being told not to host people from other households in their own homes or visit another person's home. The restrictions came into effect from midnight. They will last for two weeks, but will be reviewed after a week. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday that 135 of the 314 new cases in Scotland over the past two days had been in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area. She said Covid-19 continued to be a dangerous and potentially deadly virus.  "It is spreading again, particularly in these three local authority areas, and we believe that, in these areas, it is spreading primarily as a result of household gatherings," she said.  The restrictions affect 633,120 people living in Glasgow, 95,530 in East Renfrewshire and 88,930 in West Dunbartonshire. People living in those areas should also not visit someone else's home, no matter where it is.  The only exception is for those in extended households, who can continue to meet indoors.  Only essential indoor visits will be allowed in hospitals and care homes. People from different households can continue to meet outdoors as long as they follow the guidance, and outdoor visits to care homes are still permitted. "I think this should be a wake-up call, not just for people in Glasgow city, West Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire," said the first minister.  "It should be a wake-up call for all of us to stick to the guidelines and stop this virus spreading any further or any faster." Ms Sturgeon said the reopening of schools had not been responsible for what had happened. She said a "very small number" of school-age children had tested positive for the virus, and that this had mostly been driven by community transmission. Part of the reason that we have to take tough action, where necessary, to minimise community transmission is to stop that becoming a problem for schools," she said. She added that the preventative action was designed to keep schools open and businesses operating. Ms Sturgeon had raised concerns earlier in the day after the latest daily figures showed that 66 of the 154 new cases recorded in Scotland had been in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area. That compared with an average of eight cases a day in the same area in the first two weeks of August.  The daily incidence rate of Covid-19 is now almost 33 new cases per 100,000 people in West Dunbartonshire, 22 in Glasgow and almost 19 in East Renfrewshire. The rate for the rest of Scotland is just over 10.  The local lockdown which was imposed in Aberdeen last month had been triggered by a rate of 14 cases per 100,000 population. Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, said the announcement was a bitter blow to care homes in the three affected local authority areas. He said : "Unfortunately it is the selfish behaviour and attitude of a few, who have put themselves first, which have meant that some of our most vulnerable citizens have been prevented from meeting their families."

Scotland's Oldest Weaver Fears End of Era of Scottish Craftmanship is Looming
Robert Beaton, 78, from Selkirk says no youngsters are picking up his craft.  Scotland's oldest weaver has told of his fears for the future of the industry with no young people coming through to whom he can pass on his expertise. Great-grandad Rob Beaton started his career aged 14 as a textile mill apprentice – and uses a loom dating from 1928. Over the decades, he has worked at five mills in and around Galashiels and Selkirk and at one time he used to make 25 miles of fabric a week.  But Rob says mechanisation has meant older looms like the ones he uses, some of which are nearly 100 years old, have fallen out of use and the knowledge about them has all but disappeared.  He added: “It’s been very difficult as the years have gone by and I’ve had nobody to turn to for help.  The looms get worn out and all the guys who worked in the loom sheds have passed away. I think it’s going to be difficult to get people in. I had a young lad a few years ago as an apprentice but he wasn’t interested.” But despite going part-time a year ago, Rob, who has been weaving wool for tartan and tweed products at Andrew Elliot Ltd in his hometown of Selkirk since 1989, has no plans to retire and works five days a week.   He said: “I’m fit as a fiddle. I hope I can go on for a few years yet.” Rob’s boss Robin Elliot said: “Rob’s probably the best weaver about, in terms of his knowledge of older looms. If there’s an issue with the machinery, he’s got a very technical mind and can fix any problems.  Rob’s 78 and fortunately he’s very fit but the knowledge he has, we need to get a trainee in so we can carry this forward. It’s very difficult to find somebody to come in but we just need to keep going.”

Man and Woman Charged Over 'Cocaine Supply' Near Helensburgh

A man and a woman have been charged with the alleged supply of cocaine after being stopped by police near Helensburgh.  CCTV cameras located near HM Naval Base Clyde reportedly captured a transaction between people inside a Vauxhall Corsa vehicle on the road near Faslane.  According to police, the persons within the red car were observed to have been involved in a transaction where a package was passed to a man from the passenger in the vehicle.  The man said to have received the package was then stopped by police, and was allegedly found to be in possession of six small packets containing cocaine.  The Corsa was later stopped by Police Scotland officers from Helensburgh, and both occupants were detained to allow for a search of the vehicle and its occupants.  The pair, a 21-year-old woman and a 22-year-old man, both from Glasgow, were arrested at the scene and were then taken to Clydebank police office.  After being interviewed, both were charged with supplying a controlled drug to a named person. A report on the incident will be sent to the procurator fiscal.

Completion Date for Edinburgh Hospital Further Delayed

Remedial work on a delayed children's hospital in Edinburgh will be completed by January next year, NHS Lothian has announced. Last-minute issues with ventilation prevented the opening of Edinburgh's new children's hospital last July.  The Scottish government then said the flagship facility will be open by the autumn of this year.  But this has been put back to January, 2021 with a date for the full transfer of services still to be announced. Outpatient appointments started at the new building in July and already hosts the Department of Clinical Neurosciences.  The £16m worth of remedial work, which continued through the lockdown period as hospitals were exempt from government restrictions, included fixing the air flow in critical care rooms. The building was originally due to open in autumn 2017 but has faced a series of delays since.

Firearms Seized in Largs Police Swoop
Two men have been charged after firearms were seized during a police stop in Largs. Five weapons and ammunition were found after officers stopped a Ford Mondeo on Irvine Road in Largs during an intelligence-led operation.  Witnesses to the stop say plainclothes officers in an unmarked car carried out the arrest.  A 43-year-old man was arrested at the scene and a 37-year-old man was subsequently arrested from an address in Stevenston in connection with the incident. Both men have been charged and will appear at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court. Detective Inspector Martin McGhee, of Police Scotland’s Specialist Crime Division, said: “Information from the public about alleged criminality can be vital and helps us protect communities.  I would ask anyone who has information about the criminal use of firearms to contact us. If you would prefer to remain anonymous, you can pass on information via Crimestoppers."

Dolphin Sightings Are Good News for the Clyde Says Expert

Recent sightings of bottlenose dolphins at Portencross and Skelmorlie is good news for the Clyde, according to a local marine conservation expert. David Nairn, of Fairlie Coastal, said the recent sightings during the recent fine weather is exciting news for wildlife lovers. He said: "We have had some reports of bottlenose dolphins at Portencross and at Skelmorlie. There have been troops of bottlenose dolphins at the Upper Clyde and a big pod in Loch Fyne so it was welcome to hear that was also a couple of them at Portencross." Bottlenose dolphins travel on their own or in groups and are capable of impressive acrobatics, even leaping high out of the water.  It is the most common dolphin and is much larger than most other species, reaching almost 4m in length.  It has a grey colouration with a curved head, stubby beak and a stocky build.  However the sightings are not so good news for the porpoise population in the area.  He said: "They kill porpoises for fun, which isn't ideal. Maybe these bottlenose dolphins have been displaced from elsewhere and have now decided on making the Clyde their home. It is good news all round that there have been more sightings though."

2021 - the Year of the Broch

Local archaeological charity Caithness Broch Project has released its much anticipated Brochs of the North 2021 calendar.  The calendar, which features a different broch for each month, will help raise funds for the group whose ultimate aim is to reconstruct a broch as a major tourist attraction in Caithness. The charity has been constantly promoting the Iron Age towers which are especially prevalent in Caithness – many still awaiting in-depth excavation.  The cover of the calendar produced by Caithness Broch Project shows Dun Carloway in the Western Isles. Information on its website says: "There are more broch sites in Caithness than anywhere else in Scotland, yet we do so little as a county to promote them. By rebuilding a broch, using the same techniques as the original builders, we will provide an insight into how Iron Age people lived their lives in Caithness." Sales of the calendar will help CBP take a further step on the path to realising its long-term dream. The month of April shows a photo by Helen Spencer, and is of Clickimin Broch which can be found on Shetland.  CBP co-director Kenneth McElroy, who helped to create the calendar, was delighted with the results and said: "I can think of no better way to start the day than with a top-notch broch photograph. There are some beautiful photographs of brochs from across Scotland from some really talented photographers. In fact, our cover photo is by Jim Richardson, a photographer for National Geographic!"  The calendar is available from CBP's online shop www.thebrochproject.co.uk/shop as well as Coo's Tail Gallery in Thurso.

Seventeen Injured After Waverley Crashes Into Pier
A total of 17 people have been injured after the paddle steamer Waverley collided with Brodick Pier in Arran.  The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said "a number have been taken to hospital" following the incident.  People stranded in Arran were later due returned to the mainland by an emergency sailing of a CalMac ferry.  Police, paramedics, coastguards and rescue helicopters were scrambled to the scene after the alarm was raised.  MCA said it was believed that 213 passengers and 26 crew were on board the vessel when it struck the pier.  One passenger, Graham McWilliams said: "As we came into the pier, everything seemed quite normal.  Then there was a sudden crash, a loud bang, and the boat stopped very quickly. I saw people falling and it was quite distressing." He added: "There was a lady that I saw who literally flew past the window."  Mr McWilliams said that it was unclear if they would be able to leave the island or whether accommodation could be found for them.  Transport Secretary Michael Matheson later tweeted to say arrangements had been made for CalMac to operate an emergency sailing to take the Waverley passengers back to the mainland. The ship was due to into Brodick at about 17.00 after leaving Greenock in the morning. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has been informed of the incident. The Waverley set sail for the first time in two year less than two weeks ago, an event which was itself delayed due to an "unexpected technical and administration issue".  The ship, described as the world's last seagoing paddle steamer, missed the 2019 season as it waited for urgent repairs.  A funding appeal was launched in June 2019 and it hit its target in December after receiving a £1m grant from the Scottish government to help with the restoration.

Police Investigate 300 People House Party in Midlothian

Police have launched an investigation after more than 300 people were discovered at a house party in Midlothian.  Officers were called to The Mansion House of Kirkhill in Gorebridge. They said the party was being run as a commercial event at the property, which rents for about £1,600 a night on Airbnb.  It was dispersed and a 29-year-old man was issued with a fixed penalty.  Organisers have been criticised for showing a "blatant disregard" for laws to limit the spread of coronavirus.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the incident as "utterly irresponsible" and urged people not to attend house parties.  In a statement published on Facebook, the owners of the property said the man who made the booking for the entire weekend "seemed very pleasant". "We are seeking legal action against the organisers of this event and are devastated as a family that our trust was broken." Police are now investigating culpable and reckless conduct charges against the people behind the party.

Army Cadet Volunteer From Inverness is Rewarded for Work to Boost Young People’s Morale During Lockdown
A cadet who became a hit on YouTube during the coronavirus lockdown has been given an army award.  Second Lieutenant Daisy Burnside, from Culloden detachment 1st battalion The Highlanders Army Cadet Force, co-hosted weekly interviews on YouTube after face-to-face training was suspended in March.  She teamed up with a fellow volunteer from Caithness, Sergeant Major Instructor Stuart Taggart, to present weekly interviews on the battalion’s own YouTube channel. Such was the pair’s chemistry and mix of jokes and serious questioning, they became known as the cadets’ answer to Good Morning Britain’s Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid.  The interviews saw them both speak to various army cadet personalities, ranging from the battalion’s own personnel, former cadets and senior members of the organisation including author and TV personality Big Phil Campion, who is national champion of the force. Conducted over a 13-week period, the interviews have been shared throughout the organisation. 2Lt Burnside has also been ensuring that battalion cadets – which covers the Highlands, Moray, Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland – have been progressing with a virtual training programme she created to allow volunteers to keep in touch with each other during the challenging period of lockdown.

What Lessons Can Rest of UK Learn From Scotland's School Return?
The return of schools in England and Wales this week, after lockdown and the summer holidays, has been called a pivotal moment. As children start to mix, there is concern coronavirus transmission rates will begin to surge.In Scotland, pupils have been back since the middle of August. So what can the rest of the UK learn from its example? Fears that the return to class would trigger a sharp increase in transmission have not materialised - at least not yet. Within days of returning to their desks, some pupils tested positive for the virus. But Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon then pointed out they had contracted it outside of school itself. A large house party in North Lanarkshire was suspected of triggering a cluster of cases involving pupils from four different high schools. In Dundee, an additional support needs school had to close after a cluster of cases. But the majority of these were among adult teaching and support staff.  While some primary schools had to ask a whole class to self-isolate, only a handful of schools have required a temporary closure for deep cleaning. A few days ago the first cases of transmission within school premises were identified at two schools in Glasgow. It wasn't an unexpected development, says Scotland's national clinical director, Prof Jason Leitch. Such clusters would be treated the same as any other.  University of Edinburgh public health expert Prof Devi Sridhar, who advises the Scottish government, says the key is keeping the numbers low in the general population. "Schools are not super-spreader events but they're not bubbles either," she said. "They are a mirror of what's happening in society." Almost a fortnight after most schools returned, Scotland was hit by a spike in demand for Covid testing. The reasons aren't fully understood, but it's suspected that other viruses, like the common cold, are on the rise. It could be parents are cautious and booking a test at the first sign of a "sniffle".  The latest advice for parents points out a "runny nose"does not in itself require a test or self-isolation. Only the main Covid symptoms - continuous cough, fever, or change in the sense of taste or smell - require action. Demand for testing has increased "significantly" since pupils returned, says Ms Sturgeon. But few come back positive. In the week to 30 August, only 37 individuals under the age of 18 tested positive, out of nearly 30,000 who were tested.  By the second half of August all schools in Scotland were back. Then absences started to rise, with attendance dropping to 85% at one point. But Covid wasn't to blame.  It could be coronavirus has led parents to keep their children off school more, even if they don't tell the school that. Covid-related absences - such as a positive test, showing symptoms or self-isolation - were running at only about 3% with about four times as many students off school for other reasons. Absenteeism is an "emerging issue", says Jim Thewliss, from School Leaders Scotland, which represents senior school staff.  "Parents are taking a fail-safe approach," he says. "They're thinking my child is not well, we're going to get a test and keep them off in the meantime."  He believes schools will have to find better ways of supporting learning for children who are being kept home. There has already been one big change in the rules - on the use of face coverings. Only after going back, were pupils told to wear masks in corridors, communal areas and on school transport. The official reason was new World Health Organization advice based on evidence that teenagers transmit the virus in a similar way to adults.  Similar advice was soon issued in Northern Ireland and, to a lesser extent, in England.  In Scotland the Education Recovery Group, bringing together government, the teaching profession, councils and parents, has been meeting regularly since April, providing a forum where issues can be raised. "It would be disingenuous to say everybody has been happy but we've at least been party to the decisions that have been taken," says Mr Thewliss. Ahead of recent meetings, stakeholders have listed what's gone well, what's not going well - and identified emerging problems. Mr Thewliss says practical subjects like drama, music or PE have encountered some difficulties which he expects to be addressed shortly in updated guidance. Schools are also set to be issued with new flow charts to help them address issues quickly. With so much emphasis being placed on hand hygiene, it's not surprising schools are using a lot of hand sanitiser. The bill for protective equipment is for the most part being picked up by councils, which have been given extra funding from the Scottish government.