Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 575

Issue # 575                                        Week ending Saturday 24th  October  2020

I Was One of Those Chefs Who Swears A Lot and That Was When I Discovered Oven Mitts
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

It wasn’t my fault. Honest. It was pure coincidence that I happened to be trying to turn on our new oven when the electricity went off on Friday. Everything suddenly faded away. Ken Bruce on the radio, and the whirring of the fridge and freezer. And the heaters. Just no sound at all. There hasn’t been such a frosty silence in this house since I came home late and told Mrs X I had been kept talking in the pub by the Salvation Army. I took their War Cry but changing my ways was always going to take a little bit longer.

I didn’t know how to work the dashed oven so I never even managed to switch it on. I couldn’t have anything to with the power cut. She has such a suspicious mind. After a weekend of constant earache, I contacted the electricity distribution people on Monday. Thankfully, they said they didn’t know anything about a mysterious surge from a house in Plasterfield causing the outage. Phew.

It now seems that 13,600 homes and businesses were affected and some were off for a couple of hours. The worrying thing is that they still don’t know what caused it. But it absolutely wasn’t me. I don’t think so anyway. The power people suggested something untoward may have happened somewhere very dark and very wet. No, I don’t mean Oban. I mean out at sea.

They then said: “Following the unexpected system outage on Friday 16 October, we can confirm that a fault has been identified on the 33,000-volt subsea electricity distribution cable that connects Lewis and Harris to the Scottish mainland. Initial location testing indicates a fault on the 32-kilometre cable, which runs from Ardmore in Skye to Beacravik on Harris, around 15 kilometres from shore and in an area of deep water.”

So you see it was more likely to have been submarines playing hide and seek on the seabed in the Minch than anything I did with our oven in our kitchen on Friday morning. So there, wife. Say sorry anytime you wish. You could try and apologise to me by excusing me from baking duties for the next 12 months or so. Might be worth a try.

She is a very reasonable person, though. We discuss things like adults. We talk and we arrive at a solution. Compromise is healthy. That’s how it should be. Like on Sunday afternoon when Mrs X kept saying she was feeling a bit cold and she thought we should put the heating on. Not me, I was quite warm and I didn't want the heating on. In the afternoon? Have you any idea how much that costs, woman? Anyway, we compromised and we put the heating on.

So we could be comfortably warm when we watch the latest Covid news, like the rest of the country. Then shake our heads, like the rest of the country. Then we can say in unison: “This government doesn’t know what it’s doing.” Like the rest of the country. The attempts by Boris Johnson’s government to try and show they are in control is now becoming somewhat farcical. They now have a UK Vaccine Taskforce. They do what, exactly? The poor woman who runs it was wheeled out last week to announce that a Covid vaccine could be given to some of the most vulnerable people “this side of Christmas”.

She then added that limited supplies would mean the government would have to decide who should get it, and when. Just one thing, madam. Why are you telling us that vulnerable people could get vaccines before Christmas when there are no vaccines? So, if there are no vaccines yet, nothing you said after that is actually going to happen. You know it and we have figured it out too. That is just treating us like nincompoops. And we’re not, because we’re not the government.

If Mrs X explained her housekeeping tips to me, I would not be a nincompoop in the kitchen either. We got that new oven because she has been busy doing doorstep photography of people during the worst part of lockdown. So I agreed to step up to the plate and make meals if we got a proper oven that worked.

That is why I offered to make the pie for dinner on Friday but I wasn’t sure how to work this oven. Too many fiddly controls on it. She said: “Don’t worry about all the buttons and dials. All you need is one thing. That is the big knob in the middle.” I quickly stepped to the side but then I couldn’t see any of the controls.

As she went out the door, she was still shouting at me. “It’s a very easy oven to work. As long as you remember to always turn it to 180 degrees, your pie will be perfect.”

Ah, rightio. Why didn’t she say that in the first place? So I turned it to 180 degrees. Then what? I had no idea because then the oven door was facing the wall.

Covid in Scotland: Deaths At West Lothian Care Home Rise to 11

The operators of a care home in West Lothian have said 11 residents have died in a coronavirus outbreak. The Redmill care home in East Whitburn has a further 35 residents and 20 members of staff who have tested positive for Covid-19.  The deaths represent an increase of four on those reported by operators HC-One last week.  A spokesman for the company said staff at Redmill were "doing everything they can to care for residents".  The spokesman said: "We have a comprehensive coronavirus contingency plan in place and we are working closely with NHS Lothian and public Health to ensure we are doing all we can to respond to and overcome this outbreak. A very significant amount of resource and senior leadership time is being dedicated to this home so that we can help as many residents as possible to return to good health.  The home continues to be well supplied with the medical equipment and PPE needed to protect residents and colleagues. We have additional senior management supporting the home and our colleagues seven days a week. We also engage with the NHS daily to ensure that residents can access the healthcare they need."  Scotland's chief nursing officer Prof Fiona McQueen told BBC Scotland the deaths at care homes were a "great tragedy".

Russian Jets Intercepted Off North-east Scotland
RAF jets intercepted two Russian bombers as they approached the UK.  The incident off north-east Scotland came during the closing stages of a major military exercise involving the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier.  The quick reaction alert (QRA) incident involved Typhoon jets flown from Leuchars in Fife.  The jets and crews are usually stationed at Lossiemouth but were temporarily moved to Leuchars during a £75m revamp of the Moray station's runways.  Working with the Norwegian air force, the RAF crews "shadowed" the two Tu-160 Blackjack bombers until they left the "UK's area of interest", the RAF said.  A Voyager fuel tanker aircraft from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire also joined the mission to refuel the Typhoons.  QRAs have happened since the Cold War era of the late 1940s to early 1990s.  The RAF say the Russian aircraft pose a risk to civilian flights because of their lack of communication with air traffic control.  Some of the Russian aircraft also trail five-mile (8km) long wire antenna behind them, which the RAF say also poses a risk to civilian traffic.  This recent QRA came amid military activity around north-east Scotland.  Exercise Joint Warrior, UK-led Nato training involving new Royal Navy carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, was being wound down.  Over the past two weeks the exercise had seen live firing by jets at ranges in the Highlands and simulated aerial attacks on HMS Queen Elizabeth involving more than 20 aircraft.

Glass Half Empty As New Rules Hit Hard in Renfrewshire

You could have forgiven staff at Renfrewshire’s pubs and restaurants if they felt in need of a stiff drink as they pulled the shutters down last week.  Scores of businesses in local towns and villages have been forced into temporary hibernation by tough new lockdown rules imposed by the Scottish Government. Licensed premises were ordered to close their doors at 6pm on Friday, October 9, and remain shut for 16 days as part of a ‘circuit breaker’ policy that aims to halt the spread of coronavirus.   A number of traders admit it will be a struggle to survive the latest restrictions, with the situation already at breaking point.  There are also fears that pubs and restaurants that are able to reopen in 12 days’ time will be doomed if similar rules are in place during the festive period. Indrit Mataj, who owns the Trattoria Roma, in Johnstone, said: “Like most owners, I am looking to our December trade to make up for the losses of earlier in the year and set us up for 2021. If we have another lockdown, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, then it could be curtains for us.  We suffered financially during the first lockdown in March and this one won’t be any different.  Our message to Nicola Sturgeon is that we are surviving but don’t try to close us down at Christmas.”  Leo Pierotti, owner of the Piccolo Mondo and Luna Rossa eateries, both in Renfrew, is shocked and baffled by the new restrictions.  He says his businesses have only survived the pandemic through the introduction of takeaway meals and home deliveries.  Mr Pierotti added: “I don’t see any real logic or science behind this two-week closure.  “We have only survived up to now because of the support of the local community, who have been great since we reopened in July.  It’s not fair that the cafes can remain open and serve food and soft drinks during the day but we can’t.”  Last week, Ms Sturgeon said the new lockdown is needed to bring Covid-19 back under control, with licensed premises identified as one of the key spreaders of the virus. But Mr Pierotti added: “I don’t believe there is enough scientific evidence to show that is the case.  If these restrictions are still ongoing in a couple of months’ time, then a lot of people will throw in the towel. If we’re not allowed to trade at Christmas, that could be the end of a lot of businesses.  Many small bars have remained closed since March and more could follow.”  Although pubs and restaurants have been forced to close temporarily, cafes which don’t serve alcohol can stay open until 6pm.  Further measures impacting Renfrewshire that will remain in place until October 25 include a ban on contact sports, such as football, for those aged 18 and over, with the exception of professional sports.  Indoor group exercise activities are no longer allowed but gyms can remain open for individual exercise.  The likes of snooker halls and bingo halls have also been closed.  Staff at Globe Bingo, in Johnstone, have had to close the doors as part of the lockdown.  Johnstone bingo hall owner Richard Laciok said his business had just been getting back on its feet after being allowed to reopen in late August.  Now customers won’t be able to return to New Globe Bingo, in the town’s High Street, for another 12 days.  Mr Laciok said: “The news of a second lockdown came as a bombshell. It’s potentially devastating for our business.  We are following all of the government’s guidelines but we are still being penalised.  I would be concerned by a further lockdown in the run-up to Christmas. We rely on Christmas – it’s a busy time for us.”  Kenny Blair, managing director of Buzzworks, which operates The Coach House pub-restaurant in Bridge of Weir, has concerns the latest restrictions will be extended beyond October 25.  He also claimed the hospitality sector is being made a “scapegoat” by the Scottish Government for a recent rise in coronavirus cases.  Mr Blair added: “Many businesses in hospitality are already substantially weakened and this may be the final straw for them.  We are hoping to reopen after 16 days but, if that’s not the case, we will have to make some serious decisions about our workforce.  Christmas is already looking uncertain. It is a key trading period and it very often makes up for the quieter months.  If there are further restrictions, it will severely impact on the finances of every restaurant.”  The Scottish Government has promised £40million of funding to help the hospitality sector in the wake of the tighter lockdown rules, which affect pubs and restaurants in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Ayrshire and Arran, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley and Lothian health board areas.  There will be one-off grants of up to £3,000 for businesses forced to close by the regulations, as well as payments of up to £1,500 for businesses that remain open but are directly impacted, such as suppliers.  Ms Sturgeon said she has had to make “unavoidable decisions” to try to get the virus under control.  “We’re trying to do it as best we can,” she added. “But don’t forget why we’re doing it – because, if we don’t make these tough decisions, this virus will run unchecked, more people will die.”

Covid: Care home resident dies after positive test
A care home resident in South Uist has died after testing positive for Covid-19.  The death at the Sacred Heart Care Home in Daliburgh follows a Covid outbreak in Uist.  In a joint statement, NHS Western Isles and and local authority Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar said the resident died about three weeks after their test.  The authorities expressed their condolences to the resident's family and loved ones.  The statement said: "Following the positive test all care was carried out using the appropriate personal protective equipment in order to reduce the risk of transmission of infection to either other residents or staff.  Residents are tested routinely for Covid-19 twice a week, and the past three sets of results have shown no positive tests amongst residents."  Cases on the islands had risen to more than 50 in recent weeks, with the majority linked to the outbreak in Uist.

Charities Join Forces to Take Fresh Approach to Help Addiction in the Highlands
A partnership between two charitable organisations is helping more people get out and about and improve their mental wellbeing.  Matt Wallace from Clarity Walk is working with Debbie Smith from the Salvation Army in Inverness to help those recovering from drug and alcohol issues by providing an hour’s escape with a ‘no phone’ nature walk. The project started in mid-September, will last for six weeks and hopes to help people build positive connections. Mr Wallace said: "There is often a negative stigma attached to those suffering with drug and alcohol issues and Clarity Walk wants to help break that stigma by supporting those who want to recover.  One of the biggest issues for people trying to recover is their social circle is influenced by others who are still ‘using,’ so Clarity Walk wants to help them build a new social circle that is healthier and helps them achieve what they want by becoming clean of drugs and alcohol."  The aim is to provide support, reduce anxiety, build healthier connections and provide a positive alternative to drug use to improve recovery. Over six weeks, it involves taking a small group to a beautiful scenic location to simply walk and talk without the phone for one hour.  Mr Wallace continued: "After the project, users of the service can join Clarity Walk’s community walks for ongoing recovery support as a sustainable method of recovery in collaboration with the Salvation Army.  The walks have already proven to dramatically reduce anxiety, encourage regular exercise, build positive connections and help people discover the beauty of the Highlands."  A service user, who did not want to be named, said: "Coming off drugs and drink has being a lot easier than I thought it would be using Clarity Walk and the Salvation Army’s Connections group as I am now surrounding myself with people who support me, and I feel great physically with more energy, I feel fitter and I feel healthier from getting off drugs and doing lots of walking in nature.  If I knew I would feel this good by becoming clean it would have helped me when I tried to come off before." Ms Smith said: "Anyone can join in with the Connections SMART recovery group. We are here to help.  "Anyone joining in person will be asked to sign in for Track and Trace.  "Alternatively, contact me via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for an online link to join the meeting remotely. Anyone who joins online can remain anonymous or they can share their name.  We are following a programme that can be joined at any time." Clarity Walk wants to do similar six-week projects with other charities and groups to help improve mental health and build connections at this time.

Easter Ross Musician Liam Ross Hopes for Glory for Debut Album As Its Nominated in Prestigious Scots Trad Music Awards
An Easter Ross musician has been left stunned after his debut album made it to the longlist of one of Scotland’s most prestigious music prizes this week. Hearts & Faces & Abandoned Places has been nominated in the Trad Album of the Year category of this year’s prestigious Scots Trad Music Awards. Its creator, Liam Ross, previously described the moody album as a love letter to his home town of Invergordon, featuring local voices and even locally- gathered sound effects. Influenced by the likes of Mark Knopfler, Fleetwood Mac and Runrig, as well as being delighted with his nomination on a personal level he hopes it will give the town – which he previously called “such a good place, with a good past” – a boost as well.  He was alerted to his nomination by an email and said: “I could see everyone else that was longlisted and there were some pretty big names. It’s a bit of good news. It’s great to be recognised and it felt surreal – I am not used to anything like this.” The album’s atmospheric tracks incorporate local voices while closing track, Darklands, features sounds gathered on a visit to the town’s underground Inchindown Oil Tanks which provided a bomb-proof store for the wartime Royal Navy base in Invergordon and boasts the world’s longest reverb. On Facebook the 25-year-old guitarist, who works as a freelance music tutor, admitted the high profile nomination had left him “gobsmacked”.  It sees him listed alongside the likes of long-standing, world-renowned folk musicians Ewen Henderson and Hamish Napier as well as well-known Highland four-piece Tide Lines and modern folk phenomenon Peat and Diesel, who hail from Stornoway on Lewis.  His eyes “filled with tears” as he read the news, he admitted.

It's All Thumbs Up At Kingussie's New 'Hub'
Work is now under way at converting the former Bank of Scotland building on Kingussie High Street into a new community hub.  The project is an initiative of Badenoch's successful social enterprise Caberfeidh Horizons.  It's all go at the new Kingussie hub, say Highland councillor Bill Lobban, Carolyn Cornfield, Caberfeidh Horizons chair Patsy Rimell and the two staff members, Sandy Maxwell and Helen Armour, who will through a brand new job share, serve as community hub managers.  "This impressive building will provide community meeting spaces, training areas/facilities, retail space, preparation areas, kitchens and rest rooms," said Carolyn Cornfield yesterday. The building will also become the base for the Caberfeidh Horizons' training and activities project, offering training and work experience for adults and young people with a learning disability, mental health problem and long term unemployed.  Everyone refers to the building as the 'old bank' so we decided to make it official," said Carolyn.

Covid in Scotland: Testing Delays Due to Glasgow Lab 'Capacity Issue'

A delay to the publication of Covid test results was caused by a "testing capacity issue", the Scottish government has said.  It said the issue with the UK government Lighthouse lab in Glasgow has caused 64,000 tests to be re-routed to other sites. It comes as 316 new cases were recorded in 24 hours - a dramatic drop from 1,167 on Saturday.  There were no new deaths reported, but the number of people admitted to hospital continues to increase. A post on the Scottish government website said an increase in the number of positive Covid test results was expected.  It read: "The Scottish government is urgently trying to establish with the UK government what exactly is causing the delay in testing but this is mainly due to demand from outwith Scotland.  We continue to reroute routine testing of care home staff through NHS Scotland testing facilities to ensure prompt turnaround times."  The UK government later issued a strongly-worded statement denying that there was a problem with its laboratory. "This claim is categorically untrue," a spokeswoman said.  "There is no capacity issue at the UK government's Glasgow Lighthouse Lab. The Glasgow Lighthouse Lab is highly efficient, with the capacity to analyse tens of thousands of samples a day ". Temporary restrictions to bring the outbreak back under control in the central belt have led to the closure of most licensed premises in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Lothian, Forth Valley and Ayrshire and Arran NHS boards.  Those living in these areas have been warned not to travel to other parts of Scotland or to areas in England where such restrictions are not in force.  The introduction of the tier system in England has prompted concerns that the divide between science and the UK government's decision making.  Meanwhile leaders in Greater Manchester have outright rejected its move to the highest alert level without more generous financial support.  Instead of imposing restrictions on travel, Ms Sturgeon appealed to football fans to stay at home ahead of the Old Firm game on Saturday.  Discussions regarding travel are ongoing, with some regions feeling more urgency for action than others.  According to The Herald on Sunday, the leader of the Orkney Islands Council has called for separate rules to be introduced for people arriving from the mainland - such as mandatory testing. The first minister has written to Boris Johnson urging him to adopt a "four nations" approach to travel restrictions.

Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Lands 'Step-change' Funding Boost

A slice of southern Scotland recognised for its exceptional environment has secured a "step-change" funding boost.  The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Unesco Biosphere (GSAB) will receive £1.9m over the next five years. It will help create a number of new jobs and is the second biggest investment to date from South of Scotland Enterprise.  The area received the designation in July 2012 for its "world-class environment for people and nature". It covers parts of South and East Ayrshire as well as Dumfries and Galloway and is home to about 95,000 people. The definition of a biosphere is in recognition of the "fantastic array of landscapes, wildlife, cultural heritage and learning opportunities" in the area.  It brings no new rules or regulations - but rather encourages co-operation to create a "better future for people and nature".  The four main functions are conservation, learning, development and helping to tackle climate change.  The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire site was the first in Scotland and is part of a family of hundreds of biospheres worldwide.  Prof Russel Griggs, who chairs SOSE, said GSAB had already established itself as a "key player" in environmental matters in the area.  "I hope this funding will allow continued emphasis on collaborative learning, innovation and efforts to find ways of sustaining livelihoods and communities which is one of our main priorities," he said.  "It will also allow them to fulfil the promise they have already demonstrated and become a leader in their field in the south of Scotland and beyond."  Joan Mitchell, who chairs the Biosphere Partnership Board, said the funding was a real "step-change" for the organisation.  We are hugely excited at the opportunities it creates for us to grow the team; broaden the range of partners we work with and the initiatives we can help deliver," she said.

Eden Court Theatre Project Was Praised As An Example of Tackling Loneliness

A project at Eden Court Theatre in Inverness has been cited as an example of how loneliness can be tackled.  The LGTBI+ Elders Social Dance Clubs, a partnership between the theatre and National Theatre of Scotland, has been highlighted by the Campaign to End Loneliness in a newly released report.  The Eden Court project has launched an online dance club for the autumn and winter season to enable its members to continue meeting, chatting and dancing. The national campaign is calling for urgent action by governments, health bodies, funders and service providers to better address the critical issue of loneliness in Scotland.  The call comes as the results of a survey by the charity also reveal the devastating impact that the Covid-19 pandemic is having by amplifying the experience of loneliness in Scotland, particularly for those who were already feeling chronically lonely.  In a survey more than 1000 people, it found 89 per cent were concerned about older people with a long-term health condition or disability feeling lonely while 87 per cent were worried about a bereaved older person being lonely.

Sturgeon: Sunak’s New Covid-19 Measures Are ‘Unacceptable’
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted it is “intolerable and unacceptable” that coronavirus funding in England will not lead to extra cash being given to the Scottish Government. UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced billions of pounds of extra help for firms and workers affected by Covid-19 restrictions in England. Scottish Tories hailed the “blockbuster support” from the UK Westminster Government, but Sturgeon said the Chancellor has told the Scottish ministers that the new measures “won’t deliver any upfront extra cash for Scotland” beyond £700 million of funding that has already been pledged. The First Minister hit out on Twitter, saying: “Businesses in England have been given, rightly, an open ended commitment to support for as long as needed. And @scotgov will be expected to match that for Scottish businesses – with no confirmation that the money will be there to pay for it (& no borrowing powers to raise it)”.  She added: “It is an intolerable and unacceptable position – and deeply unfair to Scottish businesses who deserve the same open ended commitment given to counterparts in England.”  Her comments came after Sunak announced that the Job Support Scheme, a replacement for the furlough scheme which is due to end this month, will be made more generous, with less expected from employers and fewer hours needed to be worked by staff.  Grants of up to £2,100 have also been announced for businesses in the second tier of the English alert system.  Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes also hit out, saying: “The Chancellor has written a blank cheque for business support grants in England, but is refusing to do the same for Scotland.”  She too described the situation as “unacceptable and unsustainable”, before claiming that the Scottish Government was “being kept in the dark on future funding and denied the ability to borrow if we need to”. Forbes urged the Chancellor to provide more funding for Scotland, saying: “It is utterly wrong for Scottish business to not have the same level of certainty on financial support that is available to businesses in England.  The Chancellor must urgently commit to providing the Scottish Government with the funding we require to support Scottish businesses thorough this pandemic.”  She has already claimed the additional £700 million of UK Westminster Government funding coming to Scotland is “insufficient” to meet the needs of Scottish people and businesses during the remainder of the pandemic.

Scotland to Enter New Five-level Alert System For Covid

Scotland is to enter a new five-level system of coronavirus restrictions, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.  The new model will come into force from 2 November, when temporary curbs on the hospitality trade are due to expire.  It features five tiers of measures - from "level zero" to four - to be applied in different areas of Scotland depending on the spread of the virus. The top level would be close to a full lockdown, but the aim is for schools to remain open at all levels. Restrictions under levels two and three are similar to those which are currently in place for different parts of Scotland.  The first minister said the new strategy was about "striking the best balances we can" between suppressing the virus and minimising wider harms to businesses and individuals.  The move in Scotland comes as tougher restrictions are brought into force for millions of people in England and Wales.  Coronavirus cases in Scotland continue to rise, with 1,401 registered on Friday alongside a further 18 deaths.  The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest the virus is spreading across the UK, with 1 in every 180 people in Scotland thought to have been infected in the two weeks to 16 October.  Ms Sturgeon said the ban on home visits and the short-term restrictions currently imposed on bars and restaurants in the central belt of the country in particular were beginning to slow the increase in cases. However, she said restrictions would still be needed until a vaccine for the virus was developed, adding: "Everything we do must be consistent with suppressing Covid as far as we can." The first minister said there would be talks with opposition parties and representatives of businesses - particularly from the hospitality trade - about the exact details of the different levels. Decisions on which tier each part of Scotland will be placed in will be made alongside local health protection teams in the coming week.  Ms Sturgeon has previously said decisions about where levels would be set for each region of Scotland would be taken on a "collaborative" basis, but said she would ultimately bear accountability for them.  The system will come into force from 2 November, following a vote by MSPs, and the application of different levels in different areas will be reviewed on a weekly basis.  The first minister said: "It's possible the whole country at some point could be placed in the same level. But it means we don't have to take a one size fits all approach if that's not warranted.  A part of the country with low rates of infection won't have to live with the same levels of restrictions as a part of the country with high rates."  Ms Sturgeon said that while case numbers were still rising across Scotland, there were "some signs of progress" in the data.  The average number of new cases per day in Scotland has increased by 7% over the past seven days, compared with the previous week. This is down from a 29% increase on average the previous week, and a 52% jump the week before that.  Ms Sturgeon said: "Cases are still rising, which is why we cannot be complacent. But the rate of the increase does seem to be slowing down, which gives us grounds for some cautious optimism."  A system of grants for businesses hit by closures or restricted trading has also been announced, with payments on a par with those offered in England.  Ms Sturgeon said firms in Scotland "deserve nothing less", but said she wanted greater guarantees of funding from the Treasury "as quickly as possible".  The strategic framework comes alongside an expanded testing strategy, which includes a commitment to expand Scotland's testing capacity to 65,000 tests per day by the end of the year.  This will include boosting the number of tests that can be processed at the UK government's Lighthouse laboratory in Glasgow, as well as NHS facilities and some smaller commercial ones.  New NHS regional hubs are under construction in Grampian, Lothian and Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and are expected to take on all of the daily routine testing done in care homes around Scotland.

EV Chargers for Na H-eileanan Siar

HITRANS, the regional transport partnership for the Highlands and Islands, have attracted funding of £1.5 million to deliver the installation of a network of 24 rapid charging points on the west coast to break down the main barriers to ownership of electrical vehicles in rural communities.  No details are yet available on locations for the charging points.  It intends to employ two new members of staff to deliver the project, which has attracted Euro funding and support from the Scottish Government. Units will be installed in Lochaber, Skye and Lochalsh, Argyll and Bute and the Western Isles at locations yet to be confirmed.  HITRANS has tapped into a European collaboration to help deliver the FASTER Project - Facilitating a Sustainable Transition to Electric Vehicles in the Regions. It is a project supported by the European Union. The project will assist with analysis of the planning and procurement requirements needed to kick start a commercial charging service. Ireland and Northern Ireland are included in the project partners.  FASTER aims to ensure that the availability of charging stations is not a major obstacle to EV market penetration.  Councillor Allan Henderson, Chair of HITRANS, said the FASTER project was the latest in a growing number of environmentally- friendly European projects that HITRANS was involved in.  He said: “We are committed to delivering practical projects which contribute towards green transport in our rural area. FASTER will share best practice for deploying charge points. It is expected we will install 24 rapid chargers or more if budget allows.”  He said preliminary work has been conducted on possible locations.

MSP Announces Dates for Conversations
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has announced the dates for a series of community conversations on Gaelic’s future as a community language in the Outer Hebrides. Meetings for Tiree and Staffin, Isle of Skye, are being organised by Michael Russell MSP and Kate Forbes MSP.  The meetings, due to take place virtually in November, are in response to the recent publication of research suggesting that the Gaelic language could soon cease to be a spoken language in the communities of the Western Isles. Alasdair Allan MSP is working with the Soillse research team and a cross-party representation of MSPs including Donald Cameron, John Finnie and Rhoda Grant.  Along with the conversations, a call for written submissions has also been launched.  As well as discussions about Gaelic usage in the home and community, the meetings will also gauge opinion on whether any different structures are needed to coordinate and drive forward local development actions under the direct control of the Gaelic-speaking community.  Alasdair said: “I am happy to launch these conversations on the future of Gaelic in the Western Isles and hope that they highlight viable initiatives which will support Gaelic in its island communities.  Due to the coronavirus pandemic, meetings will now be held virtually. The meetings will discuss important issues, such as how people view the future of the language, what challenges and barriers people face using Gaelic in the home and community, and whether a Gaelic community cooperative should be established.  I have confidence that this will allow for a useful discussion and hope that all those who wish take part in these meetings are able to do so. If for whatever reason someone is unable to attend a meeting, they have the option to submit a written opinion on my website.”

Worst-hit Health Board Has Over 500 Covid Patients
More than half of the patients hospitalised with Covid in Scotland are being treated in the country's worst-hit health board area.  NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said staff are currently caring for over 500 patients with the virus.  It also confirmed 20 "red wards" are exclusively treating patients who have tested positive.  Latest figures show 975 people are in hospital with a confirmed case, 41 more than on Thursday.  On Friday First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced 493 of the country's 1,401 new cases were detected in NHSGGC. And, since the start of the pandemic, 17,926 of Scotland's 54,016 cases (33%) have been recorded by the health board.  NHSGGC said it has now implemented red, amber and green patient pathways across its sites to separate Covid and non-Covid patients in a bid to minimise the spread of the virus.  Dr Scott Davidson, deputy medical director for acute services, said: "Numbers are continuing to rise across Scotland and Greater Glasgow and Clyde has been the worst affected region in the country.  It is absolutely critical the public follows the guidelines to ensure that our staff are able to continue effectively managing and treating both Covid and non-Covid patients."  A programme of elective surgery is being maintained but Dr Davidson warned staff are currently looking after a record number of patients. In the meantime the public are being asked to attend hospital appointments alone, unless they fall into one of the specific support categories, and only to use A&E in an emergency.  Meanwhile, NHS Tayside has suspended regular visiting for patients in wards in Ninewells, Perth Royal Infirmary and the surgical wards in Stracathro. The board said it had taken the "difficult decision" to limit the spread of the virus and protect vulnerable patients.  Almost 50 people are being treated for confirmed Covid in Tayside hospitals, along with a number of suspected cases, and the board said the number is increasing on a daily basis.