Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 583

Issue # 583                                           Week ending Saturday 19thDecember  2020

Thank Goodness An Angel of the Morning is Awake to Slam Covid-denying Celebrities
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

We need to call out Covidiots who think they are above the law and who will put other people in danger as long as they have a good time. You know, the ooh-so-elegant news show hosts and the adorable pop star who deserve to be pilloried because they simply didn’t care about keeping anyone else safe. They party, bop and give a very realistic impression of horrible people who care little for others because everything is all about them.

Now the Queen of Breakfast TV has blasted. Once she was like a cuddly lapdog but Lorraine Kelly is now of an age when she is no longer bothered about upsetting anyone. Guest-hosting on the satirical show The Last Leg, she went into festive mode, saying: “To all of us who sacrificed so much this year, I wish you a very merry Christmas and a prosperous 2021.” Then she snapped: “Unless, of course, you’re a celebrity who broke the rules of lockdown. In that case, you can go flip yourself” - or words to that effect. Go, Lorr.

Sadly, some celebs get arrogant with wealth. It’s so indiscreet to mention filthy lucre when discussing people of such magnificent talent as Van Morrison and I am sure he is being honest when he suggests he needs to keep performing to pay bills. Celebrity Net Worth recently calculated he was worth only £68.1 million. They must have got it wrong, Van - like everyone else in the whole wide world.

Ungrateful twits like Morrison and his friend Eric Clapton are out-of-touch and believe any old rubbish. The gruesome twosome are releasing anti-lockdown music - supposedly to aid struggling young musicians. One right does not cancel out a whole host of serious wrongs. Their blithering stupidity may be the effect of the 1960s haze of mind-altering substances that caused such misery but which decrepit survivors from the 1960s still seem so unstintingly proud of.

Unjustified and ancient, this deluded pair seem desperate to stay relevant so they’ve stopped simply caring about others. I’m sure Lorraine has heard how Van Morrison has been deliberately flouting face mask rules. How sad that Van the Man and Clapton have sunk so low they support loony conspiracy theories dreamed up by great thinkers of our time like David Icke, Piers Corbyn and Donald Trump.

Maybe the conspiracy theorists are right. Maybe Covid-19 is just a wheeze by Bill Gates to control the world. Maybe we should reject any orders from the government to do anything. Maybe the Chinese, or Gates’s empire, have put tiny transmitters into each shot of the vaccine so they can control us through the 5G network.

Then there are facts. Our government tells us we must drive on the left. Is this just a trick to get us closer to the 5G transmitters? If you think that, maybe you should stop obeying the state and quit driving on the left and see how you get on. Seriously, I am joking. I need to say that because, as we know, some people blindly believe any nonsense they see in print, however silly. Hey, why are you looking at me?

Maybe we are told to do things to keep us safe. Just think.

Like Aberdonian reader Peter Fraser had me thinking. His letter in the P&J praised me to the skies. He went on about my brilliant perception, humour and topicality. I think David has been reading the hilarious Flying Pigs column, not mine. Then Peter cut me down to size about my P&J photo by asking: “Has he ever been known to smile, and was a photographer there to catch the moment?”

Listen, Peter. It’s like this. I managed a grimace. It was very difficult to smile properly because the photographer was Mrs X. My wife is a snapper - and in so many ways. So while I am pouting and trying to look composed, thoughtful, creative and wise, she is in front of me shouting that I haven’t done the dishes, or put the bins out or got air freshener to mask the stink I caused in the morning. What? She hates the smell of kippers, you see.

She is shouting at me now to go for a walk. OK, OK. I haven’t told her yet but I am going to get a wee lapdog. I won’t call her Lorraine, but Five Miles. That way, when Mrs X asks about exercise, I will tell her that I have walked Five Miles.

Scottish Ministers Clash on Impact of No-deal Brexit Tariffs

Scottish ministers have clashed on the impact of tariffs on goods introduced in the event of a no-deal Brexit.  It comes after the UK Westminster government's Scotland Office minister David Duguid said tariffs would "not necessarily be the end of the world". However, the Scottish government's Europe Secretary Mike Russell described such a scenario as a "disaster".  UK and EU leaders have agreed to continue Brexit talks in the hope of reaching a deal.  However the prime minister has said that a no-deal outcome is "very, very likely". Speaking on the BBC's Politics Scotland programme, David Duguid said there would still be access to the EU market with no deal "on Australia terms".  "We talk about financial tariffs, we talk about non-tariff barriers, these are all the things we're trying to avoid with a free trade agreement.  It doesn't stop exports, it doesn't stop trade. Nobody wants to have to experience tariff barriers if we don't have to. The effect of those tariffs are overstated."  When asked whether a no-deal Brexit could result in food shortages, as reported, Mr Duguid said there had been "scaremongering" around the issue.  He said he would "not guarantee anything hypothetical" but there "would not be the shortages reported". "You may not get the specific shape of pasta you like," he added.  However, Mike Russell responded to the comments by saying any dismissal of the impact of tariffs was "nonsense".  He said: "Tariffs on lamb, for example - a big issue in Scotland - would be 60%. That's not currency fluctuation, that's disaster."  Mr Russell highlighted that the Scottish government had not been able to carry out a proposed expansion of the port at Stranraer in preparation for leaving the EU because the UK Westminster government would not agree to fund it.  He said: "All the arrangements we have made are to meet worst case scenario. The reality is we are doing everything we can to avoid disaster foisted upon us but we cannot do everything.  There should be a pause on this."

Edinburgh Church Transformed by Artwork Featuring 2,300ft of Bungee Cords

A multi-talented designer has transformed the outside of a city church with a stunning interactive art installation.  The thought-provoking work at Liberton Northfield Church in Gilmerton Road is entitled “Deeply Woven” and is intended to reflect people’s connection with the divine.  It is made up of 2,300 feet of white bungee cord strands fastened to the exterior wall of the building and anchored to the ground. One cord is red to symbolise Jesus Christ’s love for all humanity. Its impact is heightened by red and purple atmospheric lighting. And there’s a QR code that members of the public are invited to scan with their smart phones to enable them to interact and share their thoughts.  It is hoped it will inspire visitors and help to counter feelings of isolation and loneliness that have been exacerbated by Covid-19 restrictions.  The installation is the work of Jennifer Sturrock, a 32-year-old multidisciplinary artist, designer and educator, who was until recently the senior producer of residencies at the Victoria & Albert museum in London, the world's leading museum of art, design and performance.  She said: “My hopes for the exhibit are that it will spark curiosity in people who would not ordinarily step through the door of a church or even think about a spiritual element to the season of Advent.  In a time of global isolation and disconnection experienced by so many during the pandemic, I wanted to explore the idea of interwoven textures and underlying fabric of community that still holds true, despite the outer circumstances.  I’ve always been intrigued by the nature of thread and fibre and its ability to articulate that process of weaving and integration.  A bit like light itself - vibrational waves or strands that continually manifest invisible matter into tangible, visible substance - grounding us to ourselves, the earth and each other.”  Miss Sturrock, who completed a master’s degree on “The Idea of Beauty - Theology and the Arts” from King’s College London, said the artwork aimed to create space for questions and words of hope.  We invite people to share messages that allow us to connect to each other at a time when we cannot easily meet or travel due to the pandemic restrictions,” she added.  “Send us your messages - prose, prayers, poems or pictures - and we will post them online. They can be for friends and family in our local communities, across the city or for the world - we welcome all.” Miss Sturrock collaborated with Liberton Northfield Church minister, Rev Attie van Wyk, who took up his role in April this year.  He said: “It is a wonderful installation and my hope is that passers-by will stop and use their phones to scan the QR code to learn about its meaning and engage.  Although the church has not been used as normal this year due to the pandemic, the exhibition helps people connect with each other and Christ this Advent season.” The installation is on display until January 3 and floodlit between 4pm-10pm, Monday to Sunday.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Tells Patients: Don't Visit A&E Unless It's Life-Threatening

Health bosses are telling people needing urgent care in West Dunbartonshire not to go to their local A&E unless the situation is life-threatening.  The instruction is part of a new 'unscheduled care model' being introduced across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde from Monday.  Under the new system, which health officials have called 'Right Care Right Place', people in an urgent but not life-threatening position are being told to call 111and go through an NHS24 phone assessment instead.  Health bosses say the new system is aimed at "allowing urgent care for priority Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients".  They say that instead of going to A&E, people who follow the instructions through a 'flow navigation hub' will get "rapid access to senior clinical decision-makers, where appropriate, through NHS24, who can provide consultations and have the ability to advise self-care or signpost patients to the most appropriate available local services".  Those could include minor injury units, mental health hubs, GP surgeries or the out-of-hours GP service, as well as existing Covid-19 pathways.  Dr Scott Davidson, deputy medical director for acute services at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “Instead of presenting to A&E services, calling 111 or phoning your local GP should be the first port of call for anyone with an urgent, but non-life- threatening condition. Our new flow hubs work in close partnership with NHS24 to ensure patients engage with exactly the right service for their condition as quickly as possible. If it’s urgent, but non-life threatening, you are far more likely to receive the right type of care, faster, by going through these routes, than by presenting to A&E services.  The Right Care Right Place model will underpin all unscheduled care across Scotland moving forward.  We are keen for the public to embrace the new model as it will ensure our doctors and nurses can continue looking after priority Covid and non-Covid patients, and that A&E services are safeguarded for those with life-threatening illnesses.”

Rare Pictish Stone Goes on Covid-safe Display

A rare Pictish standing stone is to go on display in the window of a Highlands museum that is temporarily closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  The 1,200-year-old carved stone was discovered hidden under vegetation at an early Christian church site near Conon Bridge last year. It is to go on display at a museum in nearby Dingwall next week.  The stone will be positioned so that it can be seen by passers-by through a window facing the High Street.  Archaeologists described its discovery last year being of national importance because it is one of only about 50 complete Pictish cross-slabs - intricately carved stones - known to exist. The stone has a large ornate Christian cross and is also decorated with oxen, an animal-headed warrior and mythical beasts.  It has markings showing it was used as a grave marker in the 1790s.  Archaeologists believe the stone would have originally measured more than two metres (6ft) tall. Just over a metre of it survives.  Anne MacInnes of North of Scotland Archaeological Society found the stone lying on the ground under vegetation last August.  Highland Council archaeologist Kirsty Cameron said at the time it was a "once-in-a- lifetime find".  Ian MacLeod, chairman of Dingwall Museum said: "This special stone will enhance our collection and it will be safeguarded for future generations to see. I have been very impressed with everyone who has worked along with the museum team, and special mention must go to the local specialists and tradesmen who gave their time and expertise to complete the installation." The museum is expected to reopen next year.

Caithness Iron Age Stone Tower Conserved
Conservation work has been completed on an Iron Age drystone tower that was damaged by Victorian archaeologists.  The ruins of Ousdale Burn Broch, north of Helmsdale in Caithness, had fallen into further disrepair over the past 130 years.  A wall near the entrance to the broch had collapsed and a tree was growing inside the structure.  Conservation work was delayed by the Covid pandemic and by a caravan being dumped by fly-tippers at the site.  Brochs date back to 2,000 years ago and were built to heights of more than 12m (40ft).  It is thought they were used as dwellings, perhaps for local chieftains. Caithness is home to about 200 brochs. Ousdale broch was once been described as one of the best preserved brochs in Caithness. Excavations caused damage in 1891 and parts of the site collapsed and suffered structural damage in 2013 and 2015.  Damage has been repaired and engineers have installed protection to prevent further deterioration of the broch.  Archaeological charity, Caithness Broch Project, secured £180,000 of funding for the work.  The project's Kenneth McElroy said Ousdale broch had been in a "sorry state".  He said: "We thought within a few years it might be lost forever."  Funding for the conservation work was provided from Historic Environment Scotland's historic repair grant scheme, Highland leader programme and Beatrice Caithness community fund.

Design Agreed for Controversial River Ness Feature
A detailed design of a planned riverside artwork in Inverness has been approved by a working group set up to oversee the project.  Curving walls have been proposed for opposite banks of the River Ness, close to the city centre.  The project has been criticised by some Inverness residents who are concerned it would spoil the riverside.  Inverness City Arts Working Group has agreed to the design and work is expected to begin early next year. The project, called The Gathering Place, had been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and also discussions at Highland Council about the design.  Councillors requested improved disabled access and the working group has approved changes to the plan, including space for rest stops and a widening of part of the site to accommodate a turning circle for wheelchair users.  The design also now includes signage warning that The Gathering Place will be closed when river levels are high.  The project is a replacement for an earlier controversial plan for a £300,000 giant see-saw-like installation.

The Surprise Christmas Show for An Audience of One

There's a buzz of activity in a normally quiet Dundee cul-de-sac; actors scurry to their places, props are pushed into place, and neighbours gather, shuffling their feet to keep the winter chill at bay.  Dundee Rep Ensemble are ready for their first Christmas show of the year - not to a packed auditorium, but to just one special audience member.  George McPherson, who is 102 years old, was nominated for a theatrical treat by his neighbours, who say he is "loved by the whole street".  George is delighted by the show, a potted version of A Christmas Carol - the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future swirling around the street over the course of 15 minutes.  "I'm speechless," he says. "I never expected anything like this, it's absolutely wonderful."  This is the first Dundee Rep Present, a series of four performances by the ensemble and the Scottish Dance Theatre for seven individuals, put forward by their friends and families.  If performers can't take to the stage this Christmas, the theatre reckoned, why not take the stage to the audience?  Andrew Panton, Dundee Rep's artistic director, says: "Present really reminds us of the vitality and the spark of live theatre and allows us to shine a light in these really dark times.  It's a really counterintuitive thing to close your theatre and to say to people, don't come.  Because what we spend our lives doing is trying to welcome as many different kinds of people from as many different backgrounds. But that's what we had to do."  Undeterred, the theatre put together a collection of festive online and community events, in addition to the surprise performances, to maintain its strong links with the Dundee public.  Mr Panton said the theatre was "inundated" with nominations for Present.  He said: "It was quite a difficult and sometimes harrowing experience going through these submissions.  There's a lot of people who have been through a lot of things this year, and many who would not want to live this year again."  Ensemble member Emily Winter said she had been "excited and nervous" before the performance, which she described as "such a lovely project to be part of".  She said: "It's a little bit heart-breaking that we're not on stage doing what we normally do, we're all missing it dreadfully.  But at the same time, I think this is such a great idea and it's important to be doing something live."  Ms Winter said: "We have such a great, supportive audience in Dundee and everyone's had a really hard year, so to be able to give even just a little bit back is really important."  Back in the cul-de-sac, George is given three cheers by his neighbours before being taken back into the warmth of his home.  Neighbour Laorag Hunter said: "George looks out for everybody, he takes an interest in all our lives and it was just nice to do something for him."  She said the show had not just been a special surprise for George, but a "great opportunity for everyone to connect".

Nicola Sturgeon Says Scottish Drug Deaths Record 'Indefensible'

Scotland's record on drug deaths is "indefensible" and the government must do more to save lives, the country's first minister has admitted. The number of deaths rose to a record 1,264 in 2019 - double the number in 2014 and the worst rate in Europe.  The first minister said she was "sorry for every family that has suffered grief", saying they had been let down.  And she said she would chair a meeting of the drugs taskforce in January over what "immediate steps" could be taken.  The number of drug-related deaths in Scotland has set a new record six years in a row, and now stands far in advance of the figures recorded in any European country per head of population - and is three and a half times worse than in England and Wales.  Ms Sturgeon said the figures were "completely unacceptable" and "indefensible", and said her government had "much to do to sort this out".  She apologised to families who had been "let down", adding: "This is difficult and complex, but that is not an excuse - these figures tell us that we need to do more and do it quickly".  She said she would chair a meeting of the drug deaths taskforce in January, and would report back to MSPs later that month to set out what "immediate steps" could be taken. The first minister was pressed by opposition leaders about the availability of rehab beds and the amount of money the government commits to drug and alcohol partnerships. Scottish Conservative group leader Ruth Davidson said rehabilitation was "not a panacea", but that "it can work and does save lives".  There are currently 365 rehab beds available in facilities across Scotland, but Ms Sturgeon confirmed that about 100 were being taken up by patients from other countries.  She said the government was "not satisfied" that the number of rehab beds available was "necessarily sufficient or that they are being used sufficiently".  And she said funding for drug and alcohol partnerships had gone up in all but two of the 13 years the SNP has been in power.  She said: "This should not be comfortable. I am not going to stand here and defend the indefensible, these lives matter too much.  We owe it to the lives which can still be saved that people like me do not engage in the usual political defensiveness, but redouble our efforts."  The UK Westminster government, which has power over drug laws, has refused repeated requests from the Scottish government to allow so-called safe consumption rooms to be set up.  It has described consumption rooms as a "distraction" from efforts to tackle the problem, and says it is not convinced that they work.  On Friday (18th) it was announced that Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick has lost his job in government and the first minister has appointed Angela Constance as a minister to take charge of the response to the drugs crisis. She will be a full-time drugs minister, reporting directly to Nicola Sturgeon. Labour and the Liberal Democrats had been demanding Mr FitzPatrick's resignation and were preparing a vote of no confidence in him.  In a statement, Mr FitzPatrick said he had spoken to the first minister and agreed to leave government.  He said the "most heart-breaking and difficult problems" he faced as public health minister were the harms and deaths caused by drug use. "As the minister responsible for this area I, ultimately, take responsibility," he added. The new minister, Angela Constance - who was reshuffled out of government two years ago - has personal experience of working with drug-addicted prisoners as a former criminal justice social worker.

Swinney Refuses to Rule Out Post-Christmas Lockdown
Tougher restrictions - including a potential lockdown - after the festive period cannot be ruled out, the deputy first minister has warned.  John Swinney said the Scottish government would review Covid levels next Tuesday as part of an unplanned "decision-making moment". He said the move reflected the "deteriorating situation" across Scotland and the UK. Ministers have however ruled out a law change around the five-day festivities. The current Covid rules will be relaxed between 23 and 27 December to allow people to travel within the UK and spend Christmas together. But the government said on Wednesday it would toughen its Christmas guidance with people urged not to stay overnight in another house unless necessary.  Mr Swinney said next week's review "reflected the changing position that has developed over the last two or three weeks". He told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "Unfortunately, in Scotland today, we are in a rising tide of coronavirus cases. The less we do to have social interaction in the period going forward, the better, in terms of stemming the rise in coronavirus cases within our community."  The Welsh government announced on Wednesday that tougher restrictions will be imposed on the country immediately after the Christmas easing period, which is due to end on December 27.  Asked if the Scottish government was considering similar measures, Mr Swinney did not rule out the idea of a lockdown or tougher restrictions. "We'll have to look at what the forward prospects look like, we'll have to take decisions that will be sustainable for a period into January and February to protect the public interest and protect the National Health Service," he said.  Asked specifically if there could be greater restrictions or a possible lockdown, he said: "That could be a possibility, I can't rule it out."  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Wednesday the safest way to spend Christmas was "unequivocally" to stay within your own household and your own home.  It came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the four UK nations had "unanimously" agreed to keep relaxed Christmas Covid rules in place between 23 and 27 December.  The four UK nations previously agreed a set of rules for the festive period, which has been set down in legislation and is not expected to change - even though the guidance has been updated.  Between 23 and 27 December, you can form a "Christmas bubble" comprised of people from three households  You can travel between tiers and between UK nations to meet your bubble. You can only meet in homes, places of worship or public outdoor spaces - not pubs or restaurants. You can meet people outside your bubble according to your local rules

Dancing Starling Spectacle Caused Power Cuts in Scottish Village
An engineer investigating mystery power outages in a Scottish village has discovered they were caused by a spectacular murmuration of starlings.  Villagers in Airth, near Falkirk, were bewildered by the brief early-evening interruptions to their power supply.  Initially power firm SP Energy Networks was also unable to explain the problem.  But their engineer Neil McDonald finally solved the mystery when he spotted thousands of birds "dancing" on overhead power cables.  The starlings were causing the lines to bounce and the power to trip between them, causing power cuts of just a few minutes in about 50 local homes.  Mr McDonald captured the spectacle on his phone.  "It was a mass aerial stunt by these amazing birds and in all my 14 years working for SP Energy Networks, I have never seen anything like it," Mr McDonald said.  "For all the birds looked small, the sheer number of them caused the wires to bounce up and down as they danced on and off - there's actually three wires between those poles and when they clash together, the power will go off for around 10 seconds or so at a time.  That's what's been happening quite frequently, with some of these clashes causing wider damage and longer outages."  He said the firm would work with RSPB Scotland to find ways to discourage the birds from the power lines.  It could involve playing loud noises - like the sound of a predator sparrowhawk - to put them off roosting in a specific location.  We've successfully managed to move on roosting geese in the past so hopefully our starling community can be encouraged to safely relocate somewhere that doesn't impact our power supplies, and local communities, quite so much," he added.  Ross Galbraith, SP Energy Networks district general manager, said: "It's completely breath-taking to watch, although not something we've ever experienced before.  There's been several unexplained outages around dusk in recent weeks but given the work we've been doing to make sure our network is resilient ahead of winter, we haven't been able to get to the bottom of it until now."  Murmurations of starlings see huge numbers of the birds swoop and dive in unison.  They group together for safety, to keep warm at night, and to exchange information such as good feeding areas.  They gather over their roosting site and perform their stunts before they roost for the night.  Toby Wilson, of RSPB Scotland, said starling murmurations are becoming rarer as bird numbers decline due to loss of habitat and changing farming techniques.

Scottish Airports 'Urgently Need Testing Regime'
Aviation industry leaders have called on the Scottish government to "make urgent progress" on introducing a testing regime for travellers.  AGS Airports, Edinburgh Airport and Airlines UK claim Scottish aviation is "being left behind" because of a lack of a testing strategy.  The call came as a Test to Release scheme for international travel was launched in England. The Scottish government said the claims were "simply not true".  It added that while a final decision had yet to be made, it was "not yet satisfied that moving from quarantine to testing would provide enough protection".  Test to Release is aimed at cutting quarantine times for travellers arriving in England.  Under the scheme, travellers are allowed to end self-isolation early if they pay for a coronavirus test and get a negative result five days after arriving.  In a joint statement, the aviation industry leaders described the scheme as "a step in the right direction that offered light at the end of the tunnel".  Derek Provan, chief executive of AGS Airports - which operates Aberdeen and Glasgow - said airports and airlines in England could now start making plans "to safely restart international travel and get the aviation industry moving again".  He said: "There are no such plans in place for Scotland.  We now risk being left behind as airlines will opt to relocate their aircraft and with them what's left of our connectivity and the jobs that rely on them.  We have been calling for the introduction of a testing regime for months and despite putting proposals in front of the Scottish government, we're no further forward.  We can't have a piecemeal approach when it comes to reopening aviation, which is why we need to see urgent progress from the Scottish government on the introduction of testing which needs to go hand-in-hand with the vaccination roll-out." Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said the introduction of Test to Release in England was a "huge step forward" for the aviation industry. He added: "That Scotland has failed to put in place a testing regime at all - not even a trial - is hugely disappointing and somewhat at odds with its status as an aviation nation, and it does place Scottish airports at a serious competitive disadvantage."  Edinburgh Airport said it was "incredibly disappointing that Scotland has decided not to take its seat at that table".  A spokesman added: "Scottish airports have presented plans shown to improve on the current quarantine system to the Scottish government.  These plans are being considered by ministers and we hope they will lead to a pilot."  A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "These claims are simply not true.  It is precisely because we value the aviation and travel sector so much that the current measures won't be in place for a moment longer than is necessary to protect public health and stop transmission of the virus.  We absolutely recognise the impact Covid-19 has had on the industry and know how essential it is to our economy and the challenges that we face in helping it recover."  She added: "Throughout the pandemic all decisions on testing and quarantine have been informed by clinical and scientific advice to minimise the risk to public health.  While we have not made a final decision, we are not yet satisfied that moving from quarantine to testing would provide enough protection."

Thieves Steal 2,400 Cases of Whisky From Trailer in Carmyle
A trailer full of whisky worth £200,000 was stolen from an industrial estate near Glasgow. The red articulated trailer with white writing on the sides was stolen from Clydesmill Industrial Estate in Carmyle.  It contained 2,400 cases of Glenfiddich 12-year single malt Scotch whisky.

Helensburgh Police Step Up Efforts to Deter Speeding Drivers

Police in Helensburgh and Lomond can now double their efforts to catch speeding motorists after taking delivery of a second speed detection gun.  Inspector Roddy MacNeill also revealed that several of the speeding punishments given out by officers include ones to local drivers.  Councillors in the area have also been given details of a new town centre CCTV camera being situated along the Helensburgh seafront.  The inspector said that if the device, placed at the junction of Sinclair Street and West Clyde Street, proves successful, then more cameras may be installed in the town.  The police update was given at a meeting of Argyll and Bute Council’s Helensburgh and Lomond area committee at its virtual meeting today (Thursday, December 17). Inspector MacNeill said: “Speeding is a daily task for us. We have taken delivery of a second laser speed detection gun which we are using to double our efforts. We have issued numerous tickets for speeding, including many to local people.  We can only be in a couple of places at a time and I know we are only influencing driver behaviour temporarily, but it may impact the ‘need for speed’.  The speed detection van has been up for a couple of site visits at Arrochar and will be there again when it is able to.  There is a new CCTV camera being trialled at the bottom of Sinclair Street. It is a very good camera and the only one [of its kind] in the area just now.  It has only been there a couple of weeks and is getting adjusted to give it a better angle. If it is successful we may deploy more.” Inspector MacNeill also gave details of how officers are enforcing any breaches of travel restrictions which are in place during the Covid-19 pandemic.  He said: “Covid has been our issue throughout the year. I have a policing plan for all licensed premises, who themselves are working very well and adhering to regulations.  We have had people from outwith the area returned to their homes, and have had to use enforcement powers on occasions, but that has been minimal. We are continuing with the force policy and visits to licensed premises have been very well received.  There are some travelling from Dumbarton or Glasgow, or further afield, but we are enforcing as and when it is necessary.  We have also had calls about houses with more people in them than there should be. If encouragement to leave does not work, then enforcement will be used.”  The inspector also warned of online and telephone fraud, a topic which was previously discussed at the council’s community services committee. And he said preparations have already started for what could be another busy summer in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. Inspector MacNeill added: “The National Park has quietened down. We are continuing fortnightly meetings with a view to next season to see what we have learned from this year. The number of ‘staycationers’ may increase next year if people are not able to book holidays abroad. It was very busy this year and it could potentially be the same again.  The only real spike we have seen is in fraud, which covers the full spectrum – over the phone, online, or by email.

Christmas Carols Go Online As Churches in Inverness Join Forces
Churches in Inverness have joined forces in an innovative online venture to ensure people can still enjoy a Christmas carol service and readings despite the coronavirus pandemic. Two combined services put together by12 city churches of different dominations will go out via social media on Sunday and Christmas Eve while daily messages of hope are also being shared in the run-up Christmas.  Those involved include Chris Dowling, co-pastor of King’s Fellowship at Smithton, who said the pre-recorded services would last about one hour and each would be slightly different.  Both the carol services and the daily messages will go out at 6.30pm via all the churches social media pages and a joint page, Thy Kingdom Come. Mr Dowling said under the current restrictions, only 50 people could attend a service – although the city was in tier one and other music venues were allowed to accommodate up to 100. "We know that many people, regardless of where they are faith-wise, will come out at Christmas to hear the Christmas story and sing some carols," he said. "Obviously we can’t do that this year so we hope this will be nearly as good." Rev Mike Robertson, of the Church of Scotland’s Barn Church at Culloden, said many people were fed up with the pandemic even though the area had not been as adversely affected as elsewhere.  He felt it was important to offer traditional carols and stories which had connected people over the years.  "Christmas is a very powerful time for the message of hope but people can also find it difficult particularly if other people are not here," he said.  "We just need to hold on to as much as we possibly can.  There is talk this year of Christmas being cancelled – it is not. But the way we do things might have to change.”  Mr Robertson said the story of Christmas was an eternal one and that the message had not changed.  Karen Halkett, the newly-ordained pastor of Inverness Christian Fellowship which meets in Merkinch Community Centre, is also involved.  She said all the churches had played a part such as filming a song, or a reading and she felt it showed a sense of unity.  "A lot of churches the last Sunday before Christmas would have carol services in the evening," she said. "But this year, even if people could attend a service in person they would not be allowed to sing carols.  This way, they can sing to their heart’s content."  Other churches involved are Inverness Vineyard, Junction Church, St Columba’s Church of Scotland, Ness Bank Church of Scotland, Inverness Cathedral, Inshes Church of Scotland, Hilton Church of Scotland, Castle Street Baptist Church and Destiny Church.

Enough Renewables to Meet 90% Scottish Electricity Demand

Scotland generated enough electricity from renewable sources last year to meet the equivalent of 90.1% of its total electricity consumption, according to latest figures. The Scottish government data for 2019 showed an increase of 13.4% on 2018 - meaning the country generated 30.5 TWh of electricity from renewable sources The target is for 100% of the country's electricity to be generated from renewable sources by the end of 2020.  And good progress is being made - in 2009, it was only 27.2%. But we won't know whether Scotland has met this target or not until more data is published next year.  Although electricity only makes up part of the mix of the energy Scotland needs, the amount of energy produced in Scotland from renewable resources increased between 2017 and 2018 to 21.1%. The Scottish government said to decarbonise energy-intensive industries, heating buildings and transport, renewable electricity supplies would need to be further enhanced.  By 2030, Scottish ministers want renewable energy generation to account for 50% of energy demand across electricity, heat and transport. In order to achieve the target, Scotland has been moving away from burning fossil fuels, with the last coal-fired power station, Longannet, closing in 2016. The only remaining gas-fired power station is at Peterhead in Aberdeenshire.