Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 581

Issue # 581                                              Week ending Saturday 5th December  2020

Vader Built A Galactic Empire Wearing PPE But His Son Had No Mask and Wouldn’t Stay Home
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Why do so many people try to find the loopholes in the Covid regulations? Restrictions are a nuisance but they are about keeping people safe. Lines have to be drawn somewhere. It’s about reducing risk. Stop trying to push the boundaries or else nothing is going to work. In England, the big talking point now is whether a sandwich is meal, so you can have a drink to accompany it in a pub or restaurant, just because it looks like a Scotch Egg is a meal.

The sausage in the Scotch Egg is cooked so it is probably more likely to qualify as a meal. Covidiots, leave it. Pub owners and boozers alike are trying to unpick the regulations and it’s doing my nut in. No, I know nuts are not a meal either. Dry roasted nuts? Aaargh, I don’t know and I don’t care. Just leave it. We are in Tier One so why should we bother?

By the way, where are the eggs in a supermarket? In exile, of course.

It was a sad moment when I heard Dave Prowse had passed. The iconic Green Cross Code man back in the 1970s and 1980s, a sort of superhero figure all dressed in green and white who ticked off kids for not being careful when crossing the road, he’d say: “Stop, look, listen, think.” Then he got the part of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Dave got the imposing role being muscular and 6ft 6in. Yet it was the voice of James Earl Jones they used in the film. They thought Dave sounded too West Country.

Back in the 1990s, the editor on the newspaper I was on in Croydon asked me to “put on your Star Wars helmet and go and interview Darth Vader.” He had been talking to his agent and, as he lived just a couple of miles up the road, the big man was up for a chat. No glitzy media entourage, I was just to go to his home.

When he answered the door, I asked: “Mr Vader?” He said: “Ah, you must be the Scotch git the editor said he was sending along for a confab?” Yeah, that would be me. A Scotch git, eh? Huh. Dave then posed for my photographer and in we went for tea and large wedges of his wife’s homemade cake. No drams though as I was driving. We had a great time all the same.

He had hilarious yarns about behind-the-scenes accidents that happened when making the Green Cross Code stuff. Then the big intergalactic Star Wars stuff. They should have used Dave for the weird Vader voice too. Producer George Lucas thought his Bristol accent too strong. Being a consummate professional, Dave had all that laboured dialogue off to a tee. Yanks, what do they know?

Soon I was conscious I had taken up enough of Dave’s time. But, no. He had other yarns. I suggested the editor would wonder where I was. Is maciver in the pub? That sort of thing. Dave demanded his number. Like a creature from another world, he lumbered over to the phone and his big hands dialled. In that Bristolian accent, he asked for the editor. Then that raspy voice: “This is Darth Vader. Is that Editor Skywalker? Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father, I mean, reporter? I am holding him hostage until he has more cake. You don't know the power of the Dark Side.”

That was it settled. I could then stay as long as I wanted. As I left his house in the late afternoon, Dave rushed out after me and said: “Do you need any help crossing the road? Should I get that uniform?” I got a great double-page spread out of my chat. Dave phoned up afterwards to say thanks. I should have been thanking him but that was the type of guy he was. Thank you, Lord Vader.

With it being near Christmas, a Star Wars film or two will be on soon. Thank you, Santa. Before you mock kids who still believe in Santa, just remember there are still many adults who believe everything they read on social media.

Mrs X is not happy. She says that since I heard the sad news about Dave Prowse, I have become obsessed with Star Wars. It’s so bad, she’s thinking of leaving me. I said: “Please don't go, honey. You’re the Obi-Wan for me.”

Clyde Boat's Crew Taken to Shore After WW2 Mine Find

Seven people were taken off a marine research boat in the Firth of Clyde after the crew found an unexploded mine from World War Two.  The discovery was made at about 11:20 as the vessel carried out a routine survey around the west coast.  The Scottish government said Marine Scotland's emergency response was activated and the mine was removed by a bomb disposal team.  A spokeswoman said Troon lifeboat took "non-essential personnel" to safety. Rothesay Coastguard Rescue Team was also involved in the response.  The mine is understood to have been discovered near Wemyss Bay.  The Scottish government spokeswoman said: "Marine Scotland's emergency response was activated and the vessel worked with HM Coastguard and bomb disposal experts to contain the incident and safely remove the mine.  The safety of our staff and crew remained of paramount importance as we worked with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to co-ordinate the emergency response. At all times the incident was handled in order to minimise the risk to the public. As a precaution non-essential personnel were safety disembarked from the vessel via the Troon lifeboat this afternoon."

Cops Promise Zero Tolerance Approach to Crime Involving Weapons

Police in East Renfrewshire have vowed to clamp down on crime involving weapons.  The pledge comes after a new report revealed the number of people carrying offensive weapons has increased significantly.  Figures presented to the Scottish Police Authority’s Policing Performance Committee last month show that, between April 1 and September 30, there were 242 such reports in the Greater Glasgow division, which covers Glasgow, East Renfrewshire and East Dunbartonshire.  This compares to 182 crimes over the same period last year. Chief Superintendent Mark Sutherland, divisional commander, said: “I would like to reassure the people of Glasgow, East Renfrewshire and East Dunbartonshire that we will continue in our commitment to keep them safe, with a zero-tolerance approach to weapons carrying. “We are deploying tactical approaches to prevent people from bringing them into our communities and causing harm.”   The new report also highlights that the number of reported crimes involving someone threatening to disclose intimate images has gone up by around a third. Ch Supt Sutherland added: “I would appeal to anyone in our communities to speak to us if they fear images of them may be used to compromise them.  Perpetrators rely on the fear their threats instil in their victims but we can protect you and bring them to justice.”  Latest figures for the local police division show the number of sexual assaults and serious assaults carried out have dropped compared to last year and detection rates are up across most types of crime. Ch Supt Sutherland said: “Officers are visible in our communities, working with partners and using every means at their disposal to keep crime levels down and public confidence levels up.”

Trains Between Dumbarton and Glasgow to Be Cut by A Third

Trains between Dumbarton and Glasgow will be cut by a third when ScotRail’s new timetable begins this month.  The half-hourly Monday-Saturday daytime service between Dumbarton Central and Springburn will be axed from December 13.  ScotRail is reducing services on a number of routes because of a downturn in passenger numbers, and revenue, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.  The half-hourly service on the Helensburgh-Edinburgh route will not change, while the Balloch-Airdrie service, which also runs every 30 minutes, will stop additionally at Kilpatrick and Bowling to plug the gap left by the withdrawal of the Dumbarton-Springburn trains.  Dumbarton councillor David McBride said: “Any reduction of service will just have a negative effect on social distancing.  Those who still have to travel to work deserve the same standard of service. I would urge the Scottish Government to step in and ensure our service is not reduced.”  A ScotRail spokesperson said: “We have reduced the service from six trains per hour to four, but only between Dumbarton Central and Dalmuir.  We had put two extra trains on as a trial in 2016, but there has been no increase in passenger demand as a result of the extra services.  By withdrawing them, we will help improve reliability of the train service in West Dunbartonshire and reduce the cost to the taxpayer with little, if any, customer impact.”  The spokesperson added: “All services will have a normal formation of six carriages during peak times from the timetable change. Once we understand how customers have redistributed amongst the services, we’ll consider if we should remove any carriages to reduce cost for the taxpayer.  We don’t believe there will be any overcrowding issues.”

Scottish Ministers Told to Up Payments for NHS and Care Workers to Receive £500

The Scottish Government has been told to increase its thank-you payments to NHS and care workers if it wants them to receive £500.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon used her keynote speech to the SNP conference on Monday to announce a £500 payment this year for all full-time health and social care workers – with a proportionate amount for part-time staff – in recognition of their “extraordinary” service during coronavirus.  But with tax liable on the one-off Scottish Government payments, she urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to allow them to receive the full amount.  However, Treasury minister Steve Barclay said if the ministers in Edinburgh wanted workers to receive £500 they should “simply increase the value of the payments going to them.”  Ms Sturgeon told the conference the Scottish Government does not have the power to make this payment tax-free, urging the Prime Minister: “Please allow our health and care heroes to keep every penny of Scotland’s thank you to them.  Do not take any of it away in tax.”  SNP Treasury spokeswoman Alison Thewliss challenged Mr Barclay on the payments in the Commons, asking if the UK Westminster Government would “do the right thing and ensure this festive gift of goodwill is not clawed back by HMRC?” However he said: “Income tax on these payments is actually paid to Scotland, not to Westminster, and the Scottish Government has the power and the funding to gross up the payment if it wishes.”  SNP MP Tommy Sheppard argued taxing the payments would mean a “windfall” for the Treasury.  Mr Barclay said: “While decisions to exempt these payments are reserved, the Scottish Government will keep all the income tax receipts from these payments.  So if they do wish for NHS and care workers to receive £500 net of tax, which is what they say is their wish, then they can simply increase the value of the payments going to them.”  SNP MSP Tom Arthur said: “While income tax is devolved, the tax on this bonus wouldn’t be paid back to Scotland until 2023-24 – and National Insurance contributions would just be swallowed by the Tory Treasury and would never come back to Scotland.”  The row erupted as Unison called off a ballot on NHS pay in the wake of the payment announcement.  Willie Duffy, the union’s head of health, said: “We welcome this move by the first minister on the eve of our NHS pay ballot to acknowledge the outstanding efforts of our health workers.”  But he added: “It’s important our NHS workers are acknowledged for the vital work they do each and every day, not just during this pandemic. Our dedicated NHS staff have suffered a real-terms pay cut over the last decade and, while this is a move in the right direction, we will now be focussing our efforts on ensuring a significant pay rise for our NHS workers.”  Dr Mary Ross-Davie, director for Scotland at the Royal College of Midwives, echoed his views, welcoming the payments but calling for an “early and significant pay rise for our NHS staff”.

Covid Level Restrictions
The areas of Angus, Clackmannanshire, Dundee, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Inverclyde, Midlothian, North Ayrshire, and Perth and Kinross will all remain in Level 3, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed.  She added: “Eleven local authority areas will remain in Level 4 for one further week. These are Glasgow City, East and West Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire, North and South Lanarkshire, East and South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian.  We will confirm next week the levels these areas will move into when Level 4 restrictions end on December 11.”  Ms Sturgeon said ministers “remain hopeful that even before Christmas, we will be able to start vaccinating people in Scotland against Covid”. She said the Scottish Cabinet reviewed vaccination plans when it met on Tuesday morning, telling MSPs: “I can confirm that we are ready to begin that process as soon as we receive the first supplies of vaccine.  “And we hope that by the spring, a significant proportion of the people who are most vulnerable to Covid will have been vaccinated.”   While no changes are to be made at the moment, Nicola Sturgeon said it was “likely” that next Tuesday’s review of coronavirus levels would be “more substantial”.  At this point, the First Minister will set out what restrictions will be in place in the 11 local authority areas currently under the toughest Level 4 restrictions – which are due to end on Friday December 11.  Ms Sturgeon confirmed that for now, Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles will all stay in Level 1 – the second lowest level of restrictions under the five-tier system.  Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Argyll and Bute, the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway and East Lothian will also stay in Level 2.  However, Ms Sturgeon said Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire were being closely monitored, as cases in both areas have “increased quite sharply in the past week” – rising by 68% in Aberdeen City and 42% in Aberdeenshire. While case numbers in these areas are still below the national average, she said they were now higher than some areas under Level 3 restrictions.  In Dumfries and Galloway, Ms Sturgeon said infection numbers suggested it could perhaps “move to Level 1 soon”. But she said there was a concern “that it is bordered by areas with significant higher levels of infection”, hence the “strong public health advice” for it to remain in Level 2 just now.  Nicola Sturgeon also warned that cases could rise again over the winter months.  “As we go deeper into the winter period, there are a number of factors that may well push transmission up again,” she cautioned. “So we could see cases and resulting illness and death start to rise again.  “That means we have an interest in driving cases as low as we can now. That necessitates continued caution.”  The 11 council areas in Level 4 lockdown will find out their new tier next week.

Ross Greer Flaimingo Land Petition Supported by 13,000 People

A petition supported by 13,000 people has been presented to the Scottish Government calling on them to terminate the Flamingo Land ‘exclusivity agreement’ which sees the company still hold land over Balloch.  Despite Flamingo Land’s ‘resort’ plans were defeated over a year ago, the company still hold sway over the land there, with local Green MSP Ross Greer describing the situation as a ‘long-running saga which has exhausted the community and needs to end’.  The developer still maintains an ‘exclusivity agreement’ with Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Government agency who owns almost all of the site, meaning only Flamingo Land can purchase the land. Ross Greer MSP, whose campaigning led to more than 57,000 of the eventual 60,000 objections being lodged against the original plan, has been collecting signatures for a petition calling for the exclusivity agreement to be brought to an end.  The petition has collected nearly 13,000 signatures and Mr Greer has now written to Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Government’s Economy Secretary, urging her to ensure the agreement with Flamingo Land is not renewed.  Mr Greer said: “It’s over a year since the community first defeated Flamingo Land’s destructive and unwelcome plans and we still don’t know whether a line can finally be drawn under this or if it will start all over again with a fresh application.  This long-running saga has exhausted the community and it needs to end. Flamingo Land lost, they are not welcome, and they need to move on.  Whether or not that happens is ultimately in the hands of the Scottish Government and their economic agency. They can either extend the agreement, again, which would likely mean years of Flamingo Land fighting for an inappropriate, damaging and unwanted development, and the community being forced to once again fight back, or they can cancel the exclusivity agreement and support local residents to decide what an appropriate future for the site would be.”

Last of Scotland the What? Trio Buff Hardie Dies At 89
Buff Hardie - the last surviving member of the award-winning Scotland the What? comedy trio, has died at the age of 89.  Mr Hardie - together with partners Stephen Robertson and George Donald - entertained audiences around the world with their irreverent, heavily Doric-tinged stage and TV shows.  The north east entertainers were made MBEs for services to entertainment in Scotland in 1995.  And in 2008 they were given the Freedom of Aberdeen.  They were recognised for "their services to the Fine Arts, the Doric language and North East of Scotland culture; promotion of the City and, above all, for making' a 'body laugh."  Mr Donald, a talented pianist who was regarded as the musical brains of Scotland the What? - died in 2013 at the age of 79.  Mr Robertson, who was elected rector of Aberdeen University, died in 2011, aged 78.

Scouts Scotland Appoints Mollie Hughes As First Female President

Scouts Scotland has appointed an Everest and South Pole adventurer as its first woman president.Mollie Hughes takes over the voluntary role from Chris Tiso, chief executive of the Tiso Group outdoor shops.  The 30-year-old, who lives in Edinburgh, became the youngest woman to ski solo from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole earlier this year.  She said her message to Scouts was to use the outdoors to help boost their mental health during the pandemic.  "Getting outside is something that we need for our physical health but I think more importantly, especially at the moment, for our mental health," she told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland.  "You don't have to climb massive mountains to get that mental health benefit. It's all about spending a little bit of time in nature and taking a relaxed approach in getting out into the ocean or into the forest and just having that time away from the stresses of everyday life."  Ms Hughes also became the youngest woman to climb Mount Everest from the south and north sides in 2017.  She reached the South Pole in January 2020 after eight weeks and 650 hours of skiing alone in whiteouts, storm-force winds and temperatures as low as -45C.  She told BBC Scotland it was a "total honour" to be appointed as president of Scouts Scotland, which she said was a role she intended to take on with "full force". "Scouts is such an incredible organisation and it gives people those skills that they need to succeed later on in life.  And that's skills not only in outdoor activities, but also they do things from coding to drama, to supporting young people in their local communities," the adventurer said.  Scouting has continued throughout the pandemic by moving meetings online, though some face-to-face meetings are now taking place where local protection levels allow.  Andrew Sharkey, the chief commissioner of Scouts Scotland, said: "We are delighted to have Mollie joining Scouts Scotland as president.  Through her many adventures and expeditions Mollie has shown her incredible ability, determination and resilience. I have no doubt she will inspire and enthuse our young people and volunteers."

100 New Affordable Homes Delivered in East Lothian this Year
More than 100 affordable homes will have been delivered across East Lothian this year, despite the coronavirus pandemic. Tenants have been collecting keys to 25 new council houses which East Lothian Council took ownership of in Haddington in the last few months, with a further 12 on the same estate due to be handed over by the end of this year. However, the local authority has revealed that despite the closure of construction sites for large parts of the year, it has continued to bring forward affordable housing. Since September, the council has also taken ownership of seven new homes in Dunbar and 12 at Pinkie, Musselburgh. And during the year, six homes at Dovecot, Haddington, and 30 new homes at Limeylands, Ormiston, were handed over to East Lothian Housing Association for social rent.  An additional 12 new extra-care council houses at Elder Street, Tranent, are due to be handed over to East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership.  The latest handover of 25 homes at Letham Mains in Haddington, one of the largest new developments in East Lothian, includes two wheelchair-accessible homes.  Justine Holmes, who got the keys to her new home at Letham Mains in September, is delighted and says the move has been life-changing for her and her two children.  Justine, 33, said: “We have had a hard three years. I was made redundant and we lost our home as it was tied to my job. We spent a year in temporary accommodation and it was made even harder during lockdown as the property was really too small for our needs.  We are so happy with our forever home. We no longer feel we are living on top of each other and the kids love having their beautiful garden – even if it is freezing.”

Caithness Cadets Going the Extra Mile to Help Veterans' Mental Health
Army cadets from across Caithness will be going the extra mile this festive period to help improve the mental health of armed forces veterans. The cadets from 1st Battalion The Highlanders have signed up to the Walking Home for Christmas Challenge, an annual initiative from the charity Walking With the Wounded to support its work with the NHS. It seeks to empower ex-military personnel and their families who have been in a downward spiral due to poor mental health.  For the past six years, thousands of people have done their own solo and team walks. Some have involved walking to a war memorial or to their old barracks, or even while carrying a Christmas tree to a friend.  The challenge officially started on December 1 and from then until Christmas Eve everyone who has signed up has pledged to walk at least 24 miles to raise funds for the charity.  The 1 Highlanders group is one of several army cadet teams from around the UK who have signed up to this year’s challenge. The Army Cadet Force has already raised more than £12,000 for the charity – of which just over £1300 has been contributed by cadets from the Highlands – with plenty of time for more money to come in.  Cadet Corporal Caitlin Green (17), from Thurso detachment, one of the first cadets from the battalion to sign up to the challenge, said: “Veterans deserve the best support we can provide to them.”

Vaccine Will Reach Care Homes From 14 December
Care home residents in Scotland will be able to receive the Pfizer Covid vaccine from 14 December, the health secretary has confirmed.  There had been fears that homes would not be able to receive the first batch of doses due to logistical challenges.  But Jeanne Freeman said confirmation on how the vaccine can be transported and stored meant it would now be possible to deliver them to care homes.  The vaccines will be given to the vaccinators from Tuesday 8 December.  The health secretary said about 65,500 doses of the vaccine would arrive in Scotland by Tuesday.  BBC Scotland has been told a consignment is due to reach the UK from Belgium on Thursday.  It will be checked by officials from Public Health England before being distributed across all four UK nations.  They will initially be stored in packs of 997 doses in specialist freezers around Scotland. The Pfizer vaccine needs to be kept at a temperature of -70C.  Ms Freeman said this posed "particular logistical challenges" when vaccinating people at or close to their homes.  But she told MSPs it had now been confirmed the vaccine could be transported in an unfrozen state for up to 12 hours.  It can also be broken down into smaller pack sizes and stored undiluted for up to five days, she said. "So in effect we can take the vaccine to them [care homes] or close to them, and we will begin that exercise from 14 December," the health secretary said.  "From next Tuesday we will begin vaccinating first the vaccinators themselves and then work our way through the first cohorts of health and social care workers."  The health secretary said Scotland already had the 160 vaccinators who would be needed from Tuesday.  The government is also "on track" to recruit 2,000 vaccinators and support staff by the end of January.  "An existing core of trained and experienced vaccinators from the flu programme will transition over to Covid vaccination over this month and next," she said.  "We are actively recruiting from the emergency registers and the NHS Scotland accelerated recruitment portal and drawing from the wider clinical workforce of GPs, pharmacists, dentists and optometrists."  Ms Freeman confirmed 16 and 17-year-olds with underlying health conditions would be vaccinated, following a request from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. Half of the initial supplies of the vaccine that arrive in Scotland in December will be held back for the second dose.  The Scottish government has bought 23 ultra-low temperature freezers to store the vaccine.  They will be based at all major acute hospitals across the country and on Scotland's islands.  Ms Freeman said the introduction of mass vaccination centres was "further down the line".  But she added that she hoped the first wave of the vaccination programme would be completed by the spring.  Everyone in Scotland over the age of 18 will be offered a vaccination. The UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has drawn up advice on how people should be prioritised. What is the vaccine?  It is a new type called an mRNA vaccine that uses a tiny fragment of genetic code from the pandemic virus to teach the body how to fight Covid-19 and build immunity. An mRNA vaccine has never been approved for use in humans before, although people have received them in clinical trials.  The vaccine must be stored at around -70C and will be transported in special boxes, packed in dry ice. Once delivered, it can be kept for up to five days in a fridge.  The vaccine was 95% effective for all groups in the trials, including elderly people.  The head of the MHRA, Dr June Raine, said despite the speed of approval, no corners have been cut.  Batches of the vaccine will be tested in labs "so that every single vaccine that goes out meets the same high standards of safety", she said.

No Extension to Scottish School Christmas Holidays
There will be no extension to Scotland's school Christmas holidays, the country's education secretary has confirmed.  Talks had been held about potentially shutting all schools on 18 December and reopening them again on 11 January.  But there had been concern about the impact on teaching time and the difficulties it could cause parents.  The EIS, Scotland's largest teaching union, said the decision not to extend the holidays would anger many teachers.  And it accused the government of "once again showing a complete disregard for the concerns and welfare of teachers".  The union had wanted schools to move to remote learning in the final week of term to ensure senior staff did not find themselves having to deal with Covid outbreaks during the holidays.  This would also have minimised the risk of staff, pupils and parents having Christmas ruined by infections, the union had argued.  Holiday dates in Scotland vary between different council areas, with many schools due to finish on 22 or 23 December before returning between 5 and 7 January.  A memo that was leaked to the Daily Record newspaper last week suggested that the government was considering a national extension to the holidays.  It would have seen schools either remaining closed or introducing remote learning for a temporary period.  The proposal was designed to limit the spread of Covid after families get together for Christmas.  In a letter to the Scottish Parliament's education committee on Thursday morning, Education Secretary John Swinney said: "I have reached the decision not to make any changes to the planned Christmas and new year holiday dates".  Mr Swinney said there had been a "range of views" when the proposal was discussed at the Education Recovery Group, which includes councils, teaching unions and other organisations.  He added: "The public health advice that I received is to keep schools open as planned as the controlled school environment is more preferable to social mixing outside of school if schools are closed early.  In addition, vulnerable children may be at greater risk if they are out of school for an extended period."  Mr Swinney also said he had taken into account the need to provide childcare for key workers, and the "significant difficulties" an extension to the holidays could cause for working parents.  And he said the advice he had received continued to be that there is no evidence that schools and early learning settings are driving transmission of the virus, and that there is "no clear rationale for disrupting children's education." Mr Swinney also confirmed that there would be a staggered return for university students after the holidays, and that students would not be returning in the "congested period" directly after Christmas and new year.  He said he was still in discussions on the precise nature of the return and that he would set out the details as soon as possible.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament on Thursday that the government was considering "very, very carefully" whether the exams should go ahead, and appeared to suggest a decision could be made sooner than February.

The Rollercoaster Ride of Scotland's First Gold Mine
After 35 years of highs and lows, production is finally under way at Scotland's first commercial gold mine. The journey has been fraught with difficulty for prospectors - but it looks like their investment may be about to pay off.  Extracting gold from Cononish, near Tyndrum, in the west of Scotland was never going to be an easy proposition.  The technical challenges - and costs - of accessing the precious metal from halfway up a mountain were a daunting prospect for those willing to try.  But try they did.  Early attempts from the mid-1980s saw prospectors come and go, as they struggled - and failed - to raise sufficient cash for what was always going to be a capital-intensive project.  By 2006, the mine had changed hands several times and was up for sale once more.  That seemed to spell the end of Cononish and Scotland's hopes of producing its own gold for the first time.  However, in 2007, Australian-listed firm Scotgold Resources entered the scene and revived the mine.  It has been a rollercoaster ride ever since.  By 2013, Scotgold had obtained planning permission and put a funding plan in place, only for the gold price to collapse, making the project less palatable for potential investors.  Costs were also spiralling, as the mine had fallen by that point within the boundaries of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, which meant much more stringent planning and environmental conditions. The problems were compounded by the fact that Scotgold couldn't raise money from traditional banking sources, given its small-scale nature.  That seemed to be that - until Edinburgh-born businessman Nat le Roux arrived on the scene and recapitalised the company in 2014.  Since then, he has pumped in millions of pounds of his own money to keep the project alive. Mr le Roux, who is a former independent director of the London Metal Exchange, said there was "a certain romance" about the idea of a Scottish gold mine.  "By world standards, this is a very small mine. At full production, we will be producing about 2,000 ounces of gold a month.  At the same time, the amounts of money needed to finance the operation have been quite substantial."  Scotgold anticipates that over the expected nine-year life of the mine it will cost about £25m in capital expenditure and a further £81m in operating costs.  That's a whopping sum - but the owners still stand to make millions if all goes according to plan.  Repeated feasibility studies have also shown gold deposits at Cononish to be high-grade - and its rarity as "authentic Scottish gold" has already attracted a premium from buyers.  In 2016, the company auctioned off 10 limited edition 1oz fine Scottish gold rounds formed from initial extractions from the mine.They raised an average of more than £4,550 per ounce - a premium of 378% over the then spot price of about £950.  There are still challenges ahead.  These include the impact of Covid-19, which forced Scotgold to delay production of first gold earlier this year.  Scotgold expects to produce 10,000oz of gold next year before ramping up production to an average of 23,500oz a year for the rest of the mine's life.  Cononish may yet prove to be the start of a golden era for prospectors in Scotland.  Scotgold remains optimistic that it will discover extensions to Cononish, which would lengthen the life of the mine.  And it has identified potentially significant gold deposits in other areas of Scotland where it holds option agreements with Crown Estates Scotland.

Leverburgh RNLI Station May Close If More Volunteers Can’t Be Found
A service, which to many of those who live or work in coastal communities is as important as the police, ambulance or fire services faces closure.   The RNLI boat based at Leverburgh, which is currently off-base for its annual service, may not return if more crew cannot be found to man it 24/7.  For those who are keen to help ensure the sustainability of the station, the following might give some insight into the process of becoming a lifeboat crew member. The RNLI in Leverburgh has a state-of-the-art Shannon class, all-weather lifeboat (ALB) that uses water jets instead of propellers to manoeuvre.  Having an ALB means that they can accept crew from the age of 17 through to the upper age limit of 65.  To be a crew member and to help ensure a sustainable service (at any station) the RNLI ask that you live within approximately a ten-minute (following speed limits) drive to the lifeboat station.  A spokeswoman said: “Due to varying work patterns we can find that we have challenges with daytime cover. This is seen around the coast of the UK and Ireland where many of our crew can provide evening and weekend cover, when they’re at home, but we still rely on having enough people to keep our lifeboats on service during the day.  Therefore, if you work/live within a ten-minute drive of Leverburgh and are available during the day, we are especially keen to hear from you. If you live a little outside of this range then please still get in touch, given the current situation we are keen to be more flexible.”  The great news about volunteering is that you don’t have to have any maritime experience – they actively aim to recruit volunteers from all backgrounds. Those who have maritime experience may find that they can progress through the training faster and be signed off as competent crew in as little as 12 months, however this is very much down to the volunteer. For those with no maritime experience at all, from starting to completing your crew plan could take up to 24 months. Training to become a fully competent RNLI all-weather lifeboat crew member involves studying and passing around 38 competency-based training modules.

Renfrewshire Man Caught with Eight Guns Following Dramatic Police Swoop

Paul Duncan, 55, was detained following an operation that led to him being stopped as he drove his Mazda 6 car on August 21 this year.  Officers found a self-loading pistol hidden in a sock in the vehicle during the search in Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street.  They also recovered a quantity of "home-made" ammunition.  Police went on to search the home Duncan shared with his wife in Erskine.  Prosecutor Angela Gray told the High Court in Glasgow how a black suitcase was found in a lock-up garage there.  It contained six more converted pistols, a revolver and several packets of ammunition.  Miss Gray said: "He was interviewed but declined to answers questions put to him."  The hearing was told the guns had originally been designed to fire blank cartridges but had been converted.  Miss Gray continued: "The pistols...and one revolver..were tested and it was confirmed they had enough energy to be considered lethal barrelled weapons."   First offender Duncan today admitted nine firearms charges, including possession of the guns and ammunition.  John Scullion QC, defending, told the court his client had got involved with the firearms after falling on "hard times." Lord Armstrong remanded Duncan in custody ahead of sentencing next month.