Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 591

Issue # 591                                     Week ending Saturday 13th   February  2021

We Had A Great Night But As I’m Not From Wester Ross, the Earth Didn’t Move for Me by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

This TV here in this here living room has something like 200 channels and most nights there’s nothing on I like. The reason I keep saying “this here” is because most of the shows are American and they keep talking about this here and that there and it’s getting on my wick. Should that be wig? I don’t care, right? Go away, let me have my rant and come back when you no longer hear the sound of breaking glass.

Yes, I know that’s a line from an American film but I can’t remember which one either. Maybe it’s the enforced shut-in that makes me grumpy. Bah, it was ever thus. I just usually hide it better but what can you do to pass the time that doesn’t cost a fortune, make you fat or upset the missus? Heck, that’s a difficult one when you think about it. It’s not as if you can even get out from under her feet. Still, there’s always the Saturday evening ritual of variety TV.

The Voice is the best talent show on the box and its format allows it even to continue through a time of social distancing. The Masked Singer, though, is badly-conceived, childish, unfunny and a waste of a precious hour and a half that you will never get back. I don’t care if Americans do love it. They also love taking diners’ plates away while people at the table are still eating and dem darn Yanks also don’t know how to spell colour, pyjamas, cheque, doughnut, kerb, tyre and favourite. And they spell A&E as ER.

All these various lockdown have been a chance for some to catch up on their board games skills. I know people who have taken up Monopoly and chess again. Mrs X has gone all hi-tech because she does word games but hers are all phone apps. Me? I like word games but I like to hold them or, if it’s a crossword, just fill it in with a pen.

So we have these long silences in our house as she stabs away at her virtual keyboard and I battle with the mighty Press and Journal crossword until I become totally exasperated. The other day, I sighed loudly, threw down the paper and said: “I’ve been stuck for more than an hour. Six letters, a broad road in a town or city. I still haven't got it.” She goes: “Avenue? To which I roared: “No, I haven't. Now stop rubbing it in.”

I have another one for you. What do you call it when you wake up early in the morning with a rumbling, shaky motion, your bed shaking and your dog being “disturbed”? Well, I would call it the after-effects of a good night - the kind of evening our parents warned us not to have. That is what the people of Poolewe and Gairloch felt like the other day. The funny thing was all they’d claimed to have had the night before was Horlicks or hot milk. In Wester Ross? Yeah, right.

When I read that online, I thought a lot of west coasters have been breaking restrictions. What an irresponsible shower. The next thing I saw was that the British Geological Survey was reporting an earthquake at 5.42am centred on, you guessed it - Diabeg, Poolewe and Gairloch. Blimey. You really were shaking rattling and rolling over there. Sorry, I thought you were all moaning because you had all been on the sesh. My mistake.

Of course they would not be partying over there. They are not irresponsible idiots - like our students? Have you seen the latest figures about how the supposed leaders of tomorrow are acting in the middle of a pandemic? They are supposed to be clever, yet they get together and party and become infected and pass it on even though they mostly don’t bad symptoms. They just don’t care. I know I do go on about it but what are they playing at?

It should be board games like the rest of us? People need to be doing something to exercise the grey matter if they are going to spend more months indoors. Now I see there are all kinds of competitions for people to invent their own games. That’s a good idea. I wonder if I should enter the board game that I developed years ago. I called it Bonopoly.  It’s quite similar to Monopoly but it’s where the streets have no name.

Scottish Labour Leadership: Lennon and Sarwar Clash on Indyref2 Mandate
Monica Lennon has said there should be another independence referendum If people in Scotland want one.  The Scottish Labour leadership hopeful is against independence but said she would not oppose indyref2 if there was a democratic mandate for it.  Rival candidate Anas Sarwar said the prospect of another vote was not credible as the country rebuilds after Covid.  Both MSPs were speaking ahead of voting opening for a new party leader.  The contest was triggered after Richard Leonard resigned as leader, saying it was in the best interests of the party for him to stand down.   Going head-to-head on The Nine news programme on the BBC Scotland channel, both candidates were asked if they would respect the mandate for another independence referendum if there was a Yes majority after May's Holyrood election.  Ms Lennon, who reiterated her opposition to independence, said: "It should be a matter for Scotland, that's what the question is about.  If people in Scotland want a referendum - should they be able to have one? Yes, they should.  It shouldn't be a matter for Boris Johnson to decide."  Mr Sarwar said it was not credible to go straight from dealing with the impact of Covid on Scotland to a referendum campaign.  He said: "There's this fatalism that's taken hold, partly in the Labour party but also beyond, that somehow a SNP majority is inevitable, therefore a referendum is inevitable, therefore independence is inevitable.  I don't think that is the case.  I honestly don't think, having come through the trauma of Covid, we should have our government machinery focused on another referendum."  Both contenders suggested that Scottish Labour could push for income tax rises.  Ms Lennon said any changes would be part of an overall review, while Mr Sarwar claimed he would want to bring in more money to the public purse by increasing the amount paid by top earners.  He added: "I think we need a progressive tax system where we get the powers we need to do a progressive tax system.  I think people can, in that top bracket, pay more."  The Glasgow MSP suggested a 5% tax rise for those earning more than £150,000 a year and 2% for those over £100,000. Ms Lennon said there needed to be a "national conversation" about the tax system.  The Central Scotland MSP added: "I think it needs to be looked at, I'm not going to rule that out. There are top earners in the country who can afford to pay more.  But we have to look at the whole basket of taxes."  On the subject of Scottish Labour's election fortunes, Ms Lennon said the party had spent "too long being angry at the SNP" instead of addressing its own shortcomings and Labour needed to address its "image problem".  Mr Sarwar said the party's policies should continue to be radical but needed more credibility if they were to be taken seriously by more voters.  The two MSPs were asked by one viewer to mark previous leader Mr Leonard's performance out of 10 but both declined saying it was unfair to do so.  Voting for the new leader will begin on Tuesday with Ms Lennon and Mr Sarwar the only candidates vying to take on the job.  The ballot of Labour Party members and affiliates will run until Friday, 26 February, and the result will be declared the day after on Saturday, 27 February.

'Blackout' As Power Cut Affects Edinburgh to the Scottish Borders
A large swathe of Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders was plunged into darkness following a power outage on Sunday night.  SP Energy Networks said about 88,000 homes experienced the power cut just after 21:00.  Households in the capital were affected, as well as properties as far south as West Linton and Cardrona. The power cut, due to a fault on the transmission network, lasted for up to 45 minutes.  Crime writer Ian Rankin, who lives in Edinburgh, tweeted to say "40 minute power cut... and spent 35 minutes of those searching for a torch and finding fresh batteries."  Others tweeted they had no mobile phone signal and that the streets were "eerie" as street lights had switched off. A spokeswoman for SP Energy Networks said the scale of the outage was "highly unusual".

Small Earthquake in Wester Ross 'Shakes Beds' and 'Disturbs Dogs'
People have reported feeling a small earthquake in Wester Ross in the Highlands. The 2.1 magnitude quake was recorded near Diabeg at 05:42. British Geological Survey (BGS) said people in Diabeg, Gairloch, Poolewe and Charlestown had told of feeling the earthquakes. Residents said they experienced a "rumbling, shaky wave motion", waking up to their "bed shaking" and of dogs being "disturbed".  Earthquakes are rare in Scotland and when they do occur they usually pass unnoticed.  BGS, which records seismic activity across the world, detects up to 300 quakes in the UK every year.

UK Westminster Government Blames EU for Ban on Live Shellfish Exports
Environment secretary George Eustice has accused Brussels of changing its demands after barriers were placed on some UK shellfish exports.  Responding to an urgent question on Monday from Labour’s shadow environment minister Stephanie Peacock on shellfish exports, the senior Tory minister told the Commons he had written to the EU Commission in a bid to resolve the crisis.  He said: “Bringing an end to this traditional and valuable trade is unacceptable and I recognise that this is a devastating blow to those businesses that are reliant on the trade. While we do not agree at all with the commission’s interpretation of the law, we have had to advise traders that their consignments may very well not be accepted at EU ports for now. I am seeking urgent resolution to this problem and I have written to commissioner [Stella] Kyriakides today.  I have emphasised our high shellfish health status and our systems of control and I have said if it would assist the trade, we could provide reasonable additional assurances to demonstrate shellfish health. But that this must also recognise the existing high standards and history of trade between us.”  Jacob Rees-Mogg claims Brexit means fish are now ‘British and happier for it’  Ms Peacock suggested his answer didn’t resolve the problem and was inconsistent.  She said: “Whoever is to blame, the fact is shellfish farmers and fishers are not able to export their most valuable product to their most important market.  The rule banning imports from third-party countries of untreated shellfish from class B waters has been in place for decades. The Secretary of State claimed in front of the House of Lords environment subcommittee last week that the EU had changed its position on how the rules would affect the UK.  He had originally told the industry the ban would be lifted in April and has now said it won’t be.”  Responding, Mr Eustice insisted the EU had changed it position and promised to present both letters written to the EU.  The European Commission last month told the British shellfish industry that unpurified oysters, mussels, clams, cockles and scallops caught in most UK waters were banned indefinitely. It comes after the UK Westminster Government set up a "seafood taskforce" to help addressing the concerns of Scotland's fishing industry.  The group will be hosted by the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland and chaired by UK Westminster Government Minister for Scotland David Duguid.  He said: “I want the taskforce to track the export process to identify issues stopping or delaying export and areas of complexity that are not yet well understood. We have had extensive consultations with the industry and have been working day and night to resolve issues around the new arrangements for getting our world-class seafood to customers in Europe.”  The SNP’s candidate for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Karen Adam, labelled Mr Duguid "clueless". She said: “At a time when the Tories should be focussing on sorting out the challenges being faced by Scotland’s fishing communities, it is having endless discussions when it should be taking tangible action to protect the industry. It has been more than a month since the end of the transition period and what the Tories arrogantly dismiss as ‘teething problems’ continue for Scottish exporters.”

Repayments for Delayed Edinburgh Children's Hospital to Increase
Remedial work on Edinburgh's delayed children's hospital will result in increased repayments to the private consortium behind the project.  The opening of the new hospital was halted in July 2019 amid safety concerns over its ventilation.  Upgrades made to allow the facility to fully open have now triggered a jump in the annual fees paid to private consortium IHSL. IHSL and NHS Lothian said the increase reflected the extra upkeep required. The size of the repayment increase has still to be disclosed.  Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has previously said the cost to the taxpayer of fixing the ventilation system and delays in opening the hospital campus was estimated to be £28m.  But the latest NHS Lothian board papers show there has been "significant movement between estimated and actual costs" of the ventilation repairs, which alone were estimated at £16m in 2019.  The new hospital campus has been in partial use since July last year when the Department of Clinical Neurosciences moved in and then later children's outpatients appointments started there.  The remedial work was officially due to finish on Monday with its full opening, and the closure of the existing Sick Kids site, now expected to take place in the spring.  The new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People originally cost about £150m to build but its full price tag over the next 25 years, including maintenance and facilities management fees, will be £432m.  Under the terms of the original contract, repayments - which would average about £1.4m a month - are made in the form of an annual payout known as a unitary charge.  These payments started in February 2019 when NHS Lothian took possession of the site from IHSL after it was signed off as complete by an independent certifier. It was only days before the hospital was due to open in July 2019 when further building checks identified the ventilation issues.  Susan Goldsmith, director of finance at NHS Lothian, said that under the NPD funding model the new ventilation setup is maintained by IHSL's facilities management contractor. She added: "Therefore, allowances for maintenance and life cycle replacement are costed as annual amounts and are incorporated into the unitary charge. This is not unique to this project but is standard to all Public Private Partnership projects where changes are instructed to reflect, for example, new healthcare standards or clinical service changes. Such costs are obviously offset by any maintenance or lifecycle on equipment."

Temperature of -23C in Braemar is UK's Lowest in 25 years
BBC weather presenter Simon King described the temperatures in Braemar, Aberdeenshire, as "incredible".  It was the lowest February temperature since 1955, and the UK's coldest night since 30 December 1995.  A Met Office yellow snow and ice warning is in place for large parts of the country until 12:00 on Saturday. ScotRail said the winter weather was causing major problems for its services on Thursday morning. Mr King said cold air from Siberia and the Arctic - known as the Beast from the East - had sent temperatures "plummeting" over the last week.  "While we've all experienced the cold wind, it's over the last couple of nights the temperature has got really low, especially in northern Scotland," he said. "There are three reasons for this: thick snow on the ground, clear skies and light winds."  He said that a covering of snow traps the warmth in the ground. "So when night falls, where the ground would normally radiate heat to the air, that heat can't get out so the air temperature is lower," he explained.  "If skies are clear, any heat that does get out of the ground, escapes into space.  Wind normally mixes the air close to the surface, so at night it'll mix the warmth coming from the ground and keep temperatures up. When the wind is light and there's no warmth from the ground, the temperature can fall to levels you normally find in your freezer. Just like we've seen in northern Scotland."  Malcolm MacIntyre, of the Braemar Mountain Rescue Team, told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland: "It is a beautiful morning actually and it is really cold. The snow is squeaky, which always signifies that it is really cold.  But in some ways once it gets below about minus 10/12, as long as it is not windy, it just feels really crisp and clear." Scottish Water said it was dealing with double the normal number of burst pipes for the time of year as temperatures plunged.  Hundreds of burst pipes have been reported in the past week.  About 29,000 properties were left without water on Wednesday night in the east end of Glasgow after a mains pipe burst.  Scottish Water has also brought in divers to break up ice in reservoirs at Stornoway on Lewis and Kinlochbervie in the Highlands. The build-up of ice was affecting supplies.  The company said it had not previously used so many divers in a such a short period of time.  Police in Tayside charged a man with dangerous driving after being stopped in Dundee with snow covering almost his entire front and rear windscreens. They said it was "about the most extreme example of lack of preparation" that they had ever seen. Officers said the man had been driving with "practically zero-visibility" when stopped. In stark contrast, firefighters worked through the night to tackle a large wildfire in the Western Isles.  The blaze on Benbecula was reported at 15:30 on Thursday and extended across about 1km at its height.  Traffic Scotland urged drivers not to leave home unless it is essential and ScotRail is encouraging people to check their journey before leaving the house. The operator tweeted: "We're currently seeing severe disruption across the network, particularly in the Central Belt with disruption affecting services to/from Glasgow Queen Street High Level and Edinburgh Waverley."  On Tuesday heavy snowfall caused widespread disruption across Scotland.

Covid in Scotland: Vaccination Programme 'May Need to Slow Down'
Scotland's vaccination programme is likely to slow down later this month because of supply problems, the first minister has warned.  Nicola Sturgeon said a "temporary reduction" in Pfizer's manufacturing capacity meant the country had received slightly lower stocks of the vaccine than expected. This means the number of vaccination appointments is likely to be reduced.  But Ms Sturgeon said Scotland is still on track to hit its vaccine targets.  And she said the country would be able to "rapidly accelerate" the vaccination programme again if supplies increase again.  A further 63,178 people had their first dose of the vaccine on Wednesday - the highest in a single day so far despite the bad weather - bringing the total in Scotland to 1,048,747.  The figure for the UK as a whole stands at more than 13 million. Nearly a quarter (23%) of all adults in Scotland have had their first dose, including about 97% of over 80-year-olds, 87% of those aged between 75 and 79 and 54% of 70 to 74-year-olds.  Ms Sturgeon said the figures meant that Scotland had given the first dose to 75,000 more people than had originally been expected by this stage.  And she said it gave "real hope" that the vaccine will soon start to have an impact on the number of people dying or becoming seriously ill with the virus.  But she said the higher than expected take-up, alongside reduced supplies of the Pfizer jab and the need to preserve some stocks for second doses, meant that "we may need to reduce the number of appointments that we schedule over the next few weeks".  The first minister added: "This sort of issue is not unexpected, given the huge complexities that the vaccination programme throws up.  Importantly, we remain on course to meet the key targets we have set out.  And we still anticipate, subject to supply, that everyone over the age of 50 will have received their first dose by early May."  It was revealed last month that the UK was set to face short-term delays in delivery of the Pfizer jab as the pharmaceutical company upgraded its production capacity.  Pfizer is upscaling production at its plant in Puurs, Belgium, in efforts to produce more doses than originally planned for 2021 - temporarily reducing deliveries to all European countries.  The American firm said at the time that this would mean "fewer doses will be available for European countries at the end of January and the beginning of February."  Scotland's health secretary, Jeane Freeman, told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme earlier on Thursday that the issue was "about the supply into the UK, it is not about distribution around the UK" and would therefore affect all four nations of the UK.  But the UK Westminster government said it was "confident of our vaccine supply" and that it would be able to hit its target of vaccinating everyone in the top four priority groups by next Monday.  The prime minister's official spokesman said: "We are confident of supplies but we haven't commented on details of delivery schedules or movements of the vaccines."  And a spokeswoman from Northern Ireland's Department of Health said: "We are not aware of any Pfizer supply issues and are continuing to work through the priority groups as planned."  Meanwhile, the deaths of a further 48 people in Scotland who had previously tested positive for the virus have been recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the total by that measure to 6,599.  However, only 4% of the tests carried out on Wednesday returned positive results - down from 4.8% the previous day.  The R number - effectively the rate at which the virus is transmitted - continues to be below one.  And the number of people in hospital wards with the virus has now fallen slightly below the peak from the first wave last year, with the number of patients in ICU units also gradually falling.

FM says UK Borders 'Too Leaky' Despite Quarantine Rules

UK borders will still be "too leaky" despite the introduction of hotel quarantine rules for some international travellers, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said. The UK Westminster government's new rules will apply to people arriving from 33 countries deemed "high risk".  Health Secretary Matt Hancock described this as "the right approach". But Ms Sturgeon wants the UK Westminster government to follow Scotland and extend the rules to cover all international travellers. The new quarantine restrictions will take effect from Monday.People arriving in England from "red list" countries must isolate for 10 days in hotels, costing £1,750. However, Scotland's rules will apply to all international travellers.  Mr Hancock told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme that passengers arriving in England from "low risk" countries would be required to quarantine at home - even if their home was in Scotland - rather than face hotel quarantine at their point of entry. He said travellers to England would be required to take three tests - one before travel, then further tests two days and eight days after arrival. Mr Hancock said that policy was the "right approach".  "There are some countries where the risk, because of the number of cases domestically, is very low and we have this robust set of testing arrangements in place," he said. "If you require a hotel quarantine for people coming from anywhere, then that includes people coming from countries where there aren't any cases or where the cases are significantly lower than they are anywhere in the UK."  Speaking at the Scottish government's coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said Scotland's approach was "more in line with scientific advice".  "When we are faced with new variants, we don't know which countries they are in because not all countries do really extensive genomic sequencing," she said.  The first minister said she could only impose restrictions on people arriving directly into Scotland.  She said discussions were continuing with the UK Westminster government, and that she had raised her concern that "UK borders as a whole are… still a bit too leaky to protect properly against importation of this virus and new variants of it. We are still trying to persuade the UK Westminster government to impose the same kind of restrictions that we are doing, and then that takes away the problem."  Ms Sturgeon added that Scotland could also be "asking the police to do more than they are doing right now in terms of the checks coming into the country.  Nobody wants to be doing this. I want people to be able to travel freely, but this is a public health crisis."  Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has already called for regulations across the UK to be brought in line with Scotland.  Scotland's Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, earlier told Good Morning Scotland that the country's policy was based on clinical and public health advice.  "I think it is a fair return for the huge efforts that people across Scotland are making in restricting their own lives in order to bring cases down. We, and the UK Westminster government, have a responsibility to try and do everything we can to prevent the virus coming in. Remembering this is a global pandemic, we're not here as a wee island entirely on our own. We need to be working globally."  She said border checks between Scotland and England would be considered to prevent the inward transmission of the virus at any of Scotland's port, air and land borders "without disrupting necessary supply chains".  Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nicola Steedman said multiple infections coming in from abroad and across the UK "seeded the pandemic within Scotland" in the first and second waves.

Bidders 'Frustrated' by Wind Farms Auction Delay
An auction for the next generation of wind farms off the Scottish coast has been delayed after a parallel English and Welsh auction resulted in far higher prices than expected.  Crown Estate Scotland, which leases the seabed, was at risk of losing out on hundreds of millions of pounds if it stuck to its auction price guidelines.  It told bidders on Thursday the process was being paused while it was reviewed.  It was opened on 15 January and was due to close on 31 March.  Scottish Renewables, which represents the industry, said firms would be "disappointed and intensely frustrated" at a further delay.  There is also industry concern that the high value placed on having a right to develop an offshore site will lead to higher customer prices.  Crown Estate Scotland is a public corporation, which has been split from the Crown Estate and follows Scottish government policy.  It has run a process known as Scotwind Leasing for 15 seabed areas that could be developed for offshore wind.  These include large sites off the Aberdeenshire and Angus coast, smaller sites in the Moray Firth, one to the east of Shetland, three to the west of Orkney, one off the west coast of Lewis and one north-west of Islay.  The Scottish process has put a priority on ensuring that bidders are committed to make developments go ahead, and has set price points at which it anticipates bids.  By contrast, the Crown Estate has had an open, price-driven auction for sites off the coast of England and Wales.  The results were announced on Monday, and astonished the industry by how much large corporations, including oil and gas firms such as BP, were willing to pay to have an option to develop a site.  The Crown Estate will receive nearly £900m per year for the next 10 years, simply for the right to develop six large sites in the North Sea, the Irish Sea and to the south of Kent. That money goes to the Treasury, and a share goes to fund the Royal Family.  It would be less if developments actually took place during the 10-year option. Once wind farms are operating, the Crown Estate receives 2% of revenue.  Concerned that it was under-pricing the Scottish sites and with Scottish government approval, Crown Estate Scotland halted its process.  In a statement, it said it would complete a review of Scotwind Leasing by 24 March. The end date for bidding has not been made clear, except that it will be after 31 March.  Crown Estate Scotland chairwoman Amanda Bryan said: "The unprecedented outcome of The Crown Estate Round 4 process has, overnight, changed the market dynamics around offshore wind leasing, and could have significant implications for offshore wind development in Scotland.  It is only right that we consider the implications of this new situation in relation to ScotWind Leasing. Our team will now work on the details of how these latest developments can be properly reflected in the ScotWind Leasing option structure, and we'll ensure our registered applicants, and the wider sector, continue to be kept engaged and informed."  Scottish Renewables chief executive Claire Mack said the process was already 14 months behind the original schedule, and that the review must conclude quickly.  Companies will be disappointed and intensely frustrated at this further delay, as well as at the possibility that the goalposts will be moved at such a late stage," she said.  "Scotland is already disadvantaged by its tougher seabed conditions and the higher electricity transmission charges projects here face.  If offshore wind is to deliver on its potential for job creation and economic development in Scotland it is imperative that the processes through which this low-cost, reliable technology is deployed are as straightforward, and progress as rapidly as possible, and we would urge Crown Estate Scotland and the Scottish government to proceed quickly with that in mind."

Lenzie Housebreaker Snared Through Ipad Tracking Signal
Scott McLuckie had taken £8,000 of items from a property in Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire, on November 4 2020.  The 45-year-old’s haul included a wedding band, an engagement ring as well as electronics.  But, an iPad app, alerted the owner where the iPad was and he called the police who arrested McLuckie. The offence took place more than 17 years after McLuckie was jailed for 10 years at the High Court in Glasgow for an assault to danger of life.  McLuckie pled guilty today (Friday) at Glasgow Sheriff Court to housebreaking. The court heard the homeowner returned from work at 5pm to his conservatory smashed. The bedroom drawers were pulled out and a variety of items were taken. The homeowner then dialled 999 which prompted a police investigation. Prosecutor Jennifer McKee said: “Police were alerted to an address due to the activation of a signal on the Find my iPhone app. A search found items identified as belonging to the homeowner as well as a bag containing a pair of trainers in the back garden.”  A second activation of the app signal was also traced and a Kindle tablet was recovered.  McLuckie wasn’t initially found but was later arrested at the property where the first signal came from.  Miss McKee added: “It is estimated £8,000 of items were stolen and some were not recovered. Some of the items included a wedding band and an engagement ring as well as other items belong to family members no longer here.” Lawyer Mel Wise, defending, told the court McLuckie committed the crime to fund a drug habit after a relapse.  Sheriff Joseph Platt said: “The first time you were convicted of a case like this on your record was 1992.  I consider a custodial sentence is appropriate as the victims in the offence lost items of sentimental value. “Two family items were not recovered which will resonate in their minds.”

Evidence St Kilda Was Inhabited 2,000 Years Ago

Scotland's remote St Kilda archipelago was inhabited as long as 2,000 years ago, according to archaeologists.  Pieces of Iron Age pottery were uncovered on the main island of Hirta in the largest archaeological dig to be carried out on the island chain.  A fragment of possible Bronze Age pottery was also found, suggesting the islands were occupied even earlier. St Kilda, more than 40 miles (64km) from the Western Isles, was abandoned by its last islanders in 1930.  Today Hirta is only occupied for a few months of the year by National Trust for Scotland staff and volunteers as well as some scientists. Ministry of Defence (MoD) contractors also spend periods of time on St Kilda operating a rocket testing radar. Glasgow- based Guard Archaeology carried out the archaeological excavations between 2017 and 2019. The work was done ahead of a refurbishment of the MoD's base in Village Bay on Hirta. Analysis of the finds made by the archaeologists have now been made public. Radiocarbon dating of carbonised food remains stuck to sherds of pottery indicated "intensive inhabitation" of Village Bay between the early part of the 4th Century BC to almost the end of the 1st Century BC.  The majority of the pottery dated from the Iron Age.  Alan Hunter Blair, who directed the excavations, said: "The recent archaeological work has revealed that the eastern end of Village Bay on St Kilda was occupied fairly intensively during the Iron Age period, although no house structures were found.  One of the most significant problems facing archaeologists working on St Kilda is that earlier buildings were dismantled and cleared away in order to build new ones using the old stone as a building resource.  Stone was also cleared, including that in burial mounds to increase the available cultivation area, leaving little trace of what may have been there before."  Susan Bain, NTS manager for the Western Isles, said the archaeology provided "tantalising glimpses" of life on St Kilda 2,000 years ago. She said: "These few clues tell us that people were well established on St Kilda as part of the wider settlement of the Western Isles."

Seagreen Delivers Green Jobs Boost to Port of Nigg As Part of Offshore Wind’s Ongoing Green Recovery
SSE Renewables and Total have announced that Global Energy Group’s (GEG) Port of Nigg near Inverness, Scotland, has been selected as the marshalling, storage and logistics base for 114 wind turbine foundation structures destined for the 1075 MW Seagreen Offshore Windfarm being constructed in Scotland’s Firth of Forth.  The offshore wind contract award will support 141 skilled jobs at Port of Nigg in Tain during peak construction, including work for 93 permanent roles already on-site as well as the creation of an additional 48 new roles at the port, delivering a green jobs boost to the Scottish Highlands. Recruitment for the new roles at Port of Nigg will begin in the coming months and opportunities will be advertised on Global Energy Group’s recruitment and social media channels. The 1075MW Seagreen Offshore Wind Farm project is located 27km off the coast of Angus in the North Sea firth. A £3 billion joint venture between Total and SSE Renewables, Seagreen will be Scotland’s largest and deepest offshore wind farm when complete. It will provide enough green energy to power more than 1.6 million homes, equivalent to two-thirds of all Scottish homes. Seagreen will displace over two million tonnes of carbon dioxide from electricity generated by fossil fuels every year – similar to removing more than a third of all of Scotland’s annual car emissions and making a significant contribution to Scotland’s net zero ambition by 2045. Foundation installation at Seagreen is expected to commence in the second half of 2021 and last for a period of 12 months. The marshalling and logistics activity will see the delivery of Seagreen’s 114 foundation structures to the Highlands port via Heavy Transport Vessels (HTVs), prior to shipping out to the North Sea for installation. After jacket foundations are installed, Vestas V164-10 MW turbines will be positioned on each of the 114 bases.

'Shocking' to See More People in Their 30s in ICU
At the age of 35, Richard Linning, from Falkirk, has found himself fighting for every breath. Now wearing a high-pressure oxygen mask, he says he is in a state of shock after testing positive for Covid-19 and being admitted to Forth Valley Royal Hospital. "At the beginning of last week I was perfectly fine and then I got a really sore headache," he says. "For three days I was in pure agony.  And then I started struggling to breathe and that's when it started to deteriorate. I don't know how I've picked this up. My work has been really careful in making sure that we've all been safe and I've always followed the rules from day one," he says.  "It just shows you how transmissible this virus is." Older people are more at risk of developing severe disease or dying from coronavirus. But Heather Riddoch, a senior charge nurse, says they have seen a different profile among some patients in the second wave. "We're certainly seeing younger patients that are coming in and requiring ventilatory support," she says.  "All ages contract Covid, but we are seeing more people ending up in intensive care in their 30s and 40s in this second wave."

Australian Scottish News
Coisir Ghaidhlig Astrailianach (Australian Gaelic Singers) have just started back to rehearsals unfortunately they can only rehearse by Zoom due to Covid restrictions.  This virtual rehearsal obviously is not as successful as an actual physical rehearsal but it is still invaluable for individuals learning and practising their songs and we have shown the benefit of being together - even if we are only connected by an unstable internet.

From the SAHC - Events and Around the Clans
Cancelled/Postponed Events: Further to the information provided previously, we are advised that the following events have been cancelled in 2021:
* Maryborough Highland Gathering, Maryborough, Victoria (1 January)
* National Multicultural Festival, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory(February, date TBA)
* Richmond Highland Gathering, Tasmania (21 February)
* Scots Day Out, Bendigo, Victoria (March)
* Geelong Highland Gathering, Geelong, Victoria (21 March)
* Australasian Pipe Band Championships, Maryborough, Victoria (April)
Scottish/Celtic Events planned for 2021
We are delighted to learn that events are being planned for 2021. We do not have confirmation from all of the following events in 2021 yet:
6 March: Liverpool Plains Military Tattoo, Quirindi, New South Wales
28 March: Ringwood Highland Games, Victoria
2-3 April (Easter): Maclean Highland Gathering, New South Wales
# 17 April: Bundanoon Highland Gathering, New South Wales
29 April-2 May: Australian Celtic Festival (Ireland & Isle of Man), Glen Innes, NSW

BRIGADOON HIGHLAND GATHERING

The following is a statement from the Brigadoon Executive from a meeting held on Thursday 14 January 2021.  Brigadoon this year (17 April 2021) is restricted to 3,000 persons in total. Of course, this number is likely to change as COVID-19 twists and turns its way through the community. With this in mind the Executive have decided to continue the planning at this stage with a final decision to be made on March 4th.
BRIGADOON WILL BE A TICKETED EVENT. ONLINE PURCHASES ONLY
Tickets to the general public will go on sale in early February advance notice will be published on our website and social media. Planning and preparation for Brigadoon is well in hand, check out our website https://brigadoon.org.au/ for all information or log onto our Facebook page for daily updates: https://www.facebook.com/Brigadoon1978  We have 23 Pipe Bands, the Kilted Warriors (The Tartan Warriors have a name change), Scottish Country and Highland Dancing, the Fiddlers Tent, Southern Highlands Dogs and of course the Children’s games. Not  forgetting  the Stalls and Clans all ready to go.
Brigadoon Grand Raffle First there was the bushfires, then the floods and rain now COVID-19 which led to the cancellation of our 2020 Gathering. Because of this drastic chain of events we were unable to make any financial donations to our volunteer groups. In an attempt to rectify this, Brigadoon will be holding a Grand Raffle for our 2021 gathering be held on Saturday 17th April 2021. (https://brigadoon.org.au/brigadoon-grand-raffle/) IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT THAT BRIGADOON IS CANCELLED THE RAFFLE DRAW WILL STILL TAKE PLACE ON 17 APRIL. The Raffle is going along nicely although sales are slow they are promising.