Some Scottish News #59

This little effort is for the period ending 31st July 2010. Once again I’ve been able to include a couple of small named articles which I think you will enjoy - Robin

Trump Critic Seeks Action Over Menie Homes Issue (a never ending saga - Robin) Aberdeenshire Council is being urged to bring forward a detailed report on the use of compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) to make way for Donald Trump’s golf resort. Longstanding critic Martin Ford has asked the council what date officers plan to bring forward the required detailed report on CPOs against Menie residents. He said he wanted it “so that the council can take a decision on the issue and give residents a proper assurance that the council will not attempt to force them from their homes”.

Mr Trump has been given permission to add the neighbouring properties to his planned golf course – Mill of Menie, Menie Fishing Station, Hermit Point and Leyton Cottage. The owners have so far refused to sell, but Mr Trump insists he will not ask the council to use its CPO powers. Green Party member Mr Ford lodged a motion at a full council meeting on October 1 last year asking the council not to use CPOs to force the Menie residents from their homes. The council stated that it appreciated the “uncertainty and concerns” over the use of the powers, but it would take no action on Mr Ford’s motion as it would be inappropriate to make a decision without a detailed report being available for full and proper consideration. Mr Trump’s plan to build two golf courses, a £250million hotel, 950 holiday homes and 500 houses was backed by Formartine councillors recently. He has now satisfied 32 of the 46 conditions laid down by the Scottish Government when it granted outline consent in December 2008. Building work can start as soon as the 14 outstanding conditions, relating mainly to technical details, are met.

BP Confirms Commitment to North Sea Amid Sell Off Talks

Oil giant BP reiterated its commitment to North Sea operations after further details emerged of its plans to sell off more assets. Directors at the beleaguered group are understood to have held discussions with major shareholders over restructuring the company following the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. Options under consideration are thought to include splitting up BP by selling off its refineries and petrol stations, scaling back US operations, and doing more engineering in-house rather than outsourcing it. The restructuring will come on top of the sale of about 10% of group assets that BP was already looking to sell to meet the cost of the spill, which has so far reached £2.29billion. But BP remains as committed to its North Sea business as ever, a spokesman said yesterday as the firm continued to try to get on top of the technical challenges posed by the leaking well. The spokesman said the company’s North Sea activities were a core part of the overall business, adding: “In many ways they are even more important to us now as they are generating cash and that is what BP needs right now.” BP has its North Sea headquarters in Aberdeen and this part of the business employs more than 3,000 people.

Scheme May Raise Thousands for Golspie Residents

Plans for a 150kw micro-hydro scheme at the Big Burn in Golspie, which could generate thousands of pounds a year for the community, have been revealed this week. A new charitable company, Golspie Community Power, has recently been formed to push forward the £450,000 scheme. Plans are at an early stage but members of the committee are keen to get the community's support and intend to hold a public meeting within the next few months as well as distribute information leaflets. They are also encouraging local people to join the new community company. Accessed off the A9 at the eastern end of the village, the Big Burn is visited by thousands of people a year. The idea of a hydro-scheme was first mooted by local resident Helen Houston, a former member of Vision Golspie, a group which grew out of the Small Towns Network and was formed to carry out improvements to Golspie. Vision Golspie was granted funding by Community Energy Scotland (CES) last year to undertake a feasibility study into a renewable energy project at the Big Burn. The new community power company has evolved from Vision Golspie. It is estimated that around £60,000 a year could be generated by selling the electricity created to the National Grid.

Super-plane' to Link Scotland with South America Unveiled

To the excitement of plane spotters and aviation fans, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner touched down at

Farnborough ahead of the week-long international airshow which began at the airfield in Hampshire. Last-minute technical issues had raised some fears in recent weeks that the plane might not make its long-anticipated trip to the show, but it arrived doing a flyover with a "tilt and wave" before landing. Thomson Airways, the first UK airline which will fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, plans to operate the

aircraft from Glasgow to Brazil and Costa Rica. But the plane's ability to fly direct as far as 8,000 miles could mean in the future direct flights to Hawaii, Darwin in Australia and Santiago in Chile. Manufacturer Boeing said the plane could fly further and 20 per cent more efficiently than other aircraft, making new long-haul routes from smaller airports such as those in Scotland viable for the first time. Boeing flew the aircraft to the Farnborough international airshow in Hampshire - the first time it has left the US. Several of its components are made in the UK. However, development of the aircraft, which is made of carbon fibre rather than aluminium, has suffered a series of hitches which have delayed production by two years. Thomson Airways currently expects to receive its first Dreamliner in January 2012 and test it on short-haul passenger flights from Manchester and Gatwick in the spring. Managing director Chris Browne said that long-haul 787 flights were expected to start from those airports in autumn 2012, and from Glasgow the following year. She said: "We plan to fly the aircraft to exciting destinations. Glasgow has been one of our strongest performing bases.

Lewis Ferry Marks One Year of Sabbath Breaking

Stornoway's controversial Sabbath-busting Sunday ferry marked its first year anniversary on Sunday by running an extra voyage to transport a mass of travellers. Caledonian Macbrayne received fierce criticism when it launched the first ever regular Sunday service to the Presbyterian stronghold of Lewis. Sabbath observance is a strong tradition even amongst non-churchgoers and the decision to start a seven- day service by an outside quango - owned by the Scottish Government - angered many protesters. Western Isles Council is still opposed to its operation and the method it was introduced. The two ferry trips were used by an estimated 1,500 passengers heading to the mainland. The first travellers arrived at the Stornoway ferry terminal around daybreak being joined by red-eyed early rising festival campers. Protesters from the Free Church Continuing sung Psalms as the vessel departed the quayside. Local views are split between islanders warning it breaks the 4th Commandment to honour the Lord's Day while others say it should be looked upon as an essential marine roadway. Missionary Donald John Morrison said: "We've been here spreading the good seed of the Gospel and it seems the spirit of yesterday and of things that matter are creeping away from the island community. The sad reality is there are many things creeping into the island that are inconsistent with Christian living and it certainly does not help when God's day is being violated. "CalMac's Sunday ferry is inconsistent with the teachings of God's word." A CalMac spokesman said: "The first-year carrying figures show that demand for the service is constant across the board for the year and it was popular and well utilised”. Cal Mac has argued that it is legally obliged to provide the service.

Distilleries Vie to Land Deal to Produce Trump’s First Whisky (Its that man again- R) North-east distilleries are battling for a multimillion-pound contract to produce Donald Trump’s first single malt whisky. The US billionaire has started talks with “several” drinks producers as he looks to expand his luxury merchandise brand to Scotland. Following the success of Trump Vodka, the Manhattan-based businessman is keen to launch a range of whiskies as his £750million Aberdeenshire golf resort plans take shape. Last night Sarah Malone, who is overseeing his plans to create the “world’s greatest golf course” at the Menie Estate near Balmedie, said that bottles would be sold around the world, and that other merchandise could follow. “We will definitely have a few single malts in the years to come, and perhaps a couple of special blends too once the clubhouse is up and running,” she said. “We are meeting with companies regionally and nationally to identify the very best products for Trump International Golf Links, Scotland and we look forward to commissioning and manufacturing a wide range of products over the coming years. We are talking with a number of different distilleries and we hope to have a whisky ready for 2012.” Trump Vodka launched in 2006. The spirit, which is produced by renowned Dutch master distiller Jacques de Lat, sold about 20,000 cases in its first year and is priced

at about £60 for a litre bottle. Miss Malone also revealed that the businessman has applied to the Court of the Lord Lyon so that a Trump coat of arms can be created. The organisation famously fell victim to Scotland’s ancient heraldic laws in 2008 and had to stop using its previous insignia.

Pressure Rises Over Lockerbie Bomber

If the phrase smoke and mirrors had been invented with a particular scenario in mind, the recriminations over the release of Lockerbie bomber al Megrahi would have fitted the bill exactly. The PM, David Cameron, tried to throw a bone to the baying pack of US politicians by ordering the Cabinet secretary to review paperwork relating to the case, to discover if anything new and meaningful could be made public. The political pressure over the release rose considerably as Mr Cameron and former Labour foreign secretary David Miliband blamed Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill for making a huge mistake. If al Megrahi had died swiftly, as he was expected to after being released on compassionate grounds, and BP had not turned itself into a corporate monster in America, this would not be happening. But we do not have to be conspiracy theorists to now question BP’s involvement, the so-called “deal in the desert” by Tony Blair and Gaddafi, the medical advice given to Mr MacAskill and the decision by al Megrahi to drop his appeal, which some believed would have succeeded. Even the release of Ronnie Biggs on compassionate grounds, weeks before al Megrahi, might be seen as a softening-up exercise with the public. If Westminster papers are being laid on the table, the same should be happening in Scotland over medical reports and appeal details. It all stinks, but it is difficult to pinpoint where the smell is coming from. We could well be reaching the stage where a full UK-wide judicial public inquiry is required – and not one of those we have seen recently, where politicians are allowed to rewrite history.

Rare 'Whisky Galore' Bottle Up for Auction

A bottle of Ballantine's from the "Whisky Galore" ship, The SS Politician, is being offered at Bonhams annual Scottish Sale in Edinburgh between 17 - 20 August. It is believed to have been salvaged from the wreck of the ship in the 1950s or 1960s and is being sold with photographs of the salvage operation at an estimate of £1,200 – 1,800. In 1941, the SS Politician set sail for Kingston, Jamaica with a cargo which included pianos, motor parts, bedding and 28,000 cases (264,000 bottles) of whisky. The ship ran aground in a gale off the Outer Hebrides near the island of Eriskay. Luckily the crew were rescued unharmed; and so, over the next few weeks, was the whisky. Islanders, from Eriskay and beyond, starved of whisky by war time rationing, systematically liberated around 24,000 bottles before the authorities caught up with them. Some of the looters were fined; some ended up in jail; few of the stolen bottles were recovered. The hull of the ship was blown up by a frustrated local customs officer to put the whisky beyond temptation, prompting one anguished islander to exclaim, "Dynamiting whisky! You wouldn't think there'd be men in the world so crazy as that!" In 1947 the Scottish author, Compton MacKenzie wrote a novel, Whisky Galore, based on the incident which, two years later, was turned into a successful Ealing Comedy film of the same name. Whisky from the Politician rarely appears at auction. In 1987, eight bottles were retrieved from the wreck which still lies submerged off the coast of Eriskay and sold for £4,000. Despite extensive salvage efforts in 1989 only 24 more bottles were recovered.

Digital Switchover Complete

All analogue TV channels in Lewis, Wester Ross, north west Sutherland and parts of Harris and Skye have been switched off for good, signalling the dawn of an all-digital era for more than 12,000 households. Analogue BBC One, STV, Channel 4 and Five were turned off permanently at the Eitshal transmitter group, enabling extra channels to be broadcast from eight local relay transmitters serving thousands of homes. The changes also affect existing Freeview viewers who may find some of their channels missing this morning. The services have moved to new frequencies and can be restored by retuning Freeview TVs and boxes. Digital UK, which has co-ordinated the switch, and the Switchover Help Scheme are running advice points and a roadshow to provide support for viewers who need it. The Help Scheme is still open to applications from older and disabled viewers who may qualify for help including a choice of equipment, installation and aftercare.

Easing the Burden on Rural Motorists

Evidence, if it were ever needed, of the speed at which government works can be gleaned from ministers’ responses to questions about what is to be done to ease the burden on motorists in rural Scotland where fuel prices are the highest in the UK. We have gone from the issue being acknowledged by Chancellor George Osborne at his emergency Budget last month as one that was being held out for consideration to what appears to be actual, genuine consideration. In a response to inquiries from Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan, the Treasury has confirmed that it is considering suggestions for what parts of Scotland might be used for any pilot schemes for a fuel duty regulator. Meanwhile, the cost of a litre of petrol creeps ever upwards, particularly in the islands, where it could go as high as £1.40 a litre with the planned VAT increase. There is nothing complicated about introducing measures to ensure that residents and businesses in remote areas do not have to suffer punitive fuel prices. There is no need for much consideration of the issue. All that is needed is serious intent and the financial and political will.

I Shall Never Hear A Bad Word About Our Friendly Oil Barons By Iain Maciver What on earth is the point of putting cash into the deep pockets of the Hebridean oil barons for overpriced petrol if you know that you are about to head off to the mainland and be passing filling stations where the spondulicks demand for premium unleaded are going to be considerably less? It’s not that I am in any way tightfisted, you understand. But that was my reasoning as I managed to somehow squeeze the Vectra on to the now hugely-inadequate tub with which CalMac still inhibits the number of passengers that can cross the Minch. My plan was to fill up there at the mainland’s first port of call, but some well-informed Ullapudlian shooter-of-the-breeze strolled up and made it clear that that also would be financial folly. Once I’d got south of Invershneggie, he suggested, quenching the thirst of the General Motors’ reps and reporters workhorse saloon would become a much less-painful affair. Right, mate, good one. Just 20 quid’s worth would do in Ullapool and I would then fill my boots, fuelwise, on the highway south.

I remembered an American clever person on the radio recently. He told just how well signposted our country was. Much better than other nations like the States, he thought. Across the pond, apparently, there just aren’t enough road signs, the ones they have are far too small and they don’t always give accurate information. Brilliant, I thought. Something we are better at than these bolshie Yank-types who have taken again to snapping their fingers and making Scottish politicians jump. Way to go. Literally. As I bypassed the Highland capital and aimed the chariot at Perth, the bottles of water were being slurped and ditties of life in the land of the bald eagle were being sung. Yankee Doodle Dandy and Uncle Sam were getting a loud airing.

Then, a bit north of Perth, the fuel warning light came on. Already? Still, this would be when I would make a massive saving compared to dealing with those Stornoway fuel barons. I’ll show them, eh? Seeing a sign for “services” somewhere near Bankfoot, I turned off and began the hunt for a petrol pump. And, because the issue was becoming somewhat pressing, a toilet. No joy. However, I did find a place that did lovely tea – which did nothing for my most urgent issues. Back on to the tarmacadam and, after a while, I saw a sign for more “services” at Aberuthven. Never heard of the place, but it will undoubtedly have a pump and facilities for the cross-legged, methought. The turn-off took me past an industrial area and after that I realised I was heading into open countryside. Heck, where are these “services”? An answer to the toilet question was now getting urgent. I did think of asking a raucous squad of young footballers where they were. However, I decided against that, having been guilty myself of once misdirecting a driver who was also very obviously bursting. I could not stand it if they did the same to me. Hey, I was young. I was foolish. The other RAF lads with me put me up to it. I am just a very bad man. So, already moist with sweat and in terror of a deluge, it was back on to the A9 to resume the quest for porcelain. Then . . . I couldn’t believe it. There, rising out of the swirling mist ahead of me to the

accompaniment, in my head at least, of a fanfare of golden trumpets was what was at that particular moment the most cherished of all of God’s creations – a filling station.

See? He doesn’t just answer Free Presbyterians. Not on a Saturday afternoon, anyway. Slight snag, though. It was on the other side of the road, on the northbound carriageway. And, because that stretch of road is now more dug up than Stornoway town centre during a special music festival, it is all cones, barriers and heavy lorries, so no right turns are possible. So near and yet so far. Seeing the sign for the toilets as I had to keep on driving by on the other carriageway was such torture that I would recommend it to the CIA if they have to give up waterboarding at places like Guantanamo Bay.

When I was able to turn off, I found myself in a wee village called Blackford. At least if there were no pumps in the village there wouldn’t be anything there to make me think of liquids and going to the smallest room. What was the first thing I came to? The factory for Highland Spring water. Great.

Changing my prayer from filling stations to better bladder control, I kept right on and found myself in Auchterarder. Lovely place – just like bigger, cleaner Stornoway, but without toilets, or at least any WC signs. What did that daft Yank on the radio say about our signposts? Twit. Auchterarder is cute. During my pimply period, a childhood idol of mine was Eve Graham, of the New Seekers. They did I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing, for Coca-Cola. Bonnie lass, memorable for her pair of large boots. Eve, if I remember right is from Auchterarder. As I was looking around anyway, I wondered if I could spot her in her white, perfectly wrinkle-free, PVC knee-lengths. Na. She was probably indoors rehearsing You Won’t Find Another Fool Like Me. With poor me outside singing I Can’t Find Another Place To Pee.

Eventually, I found a filling station. Great place. Officially, they only do takeaway, but I had a fantastic sit-down, if you know what I mean. The moral, I suppose, is that perhaps we should be grateful for our wonderful fuel retailers. While they may charge a penny or two more than on the mainland, giving them our business could make our lives more comfortable in the long run.

No, I never thought I’d ever say that, either.

Asda Drink Price Move 'Does Not Go Far Enough' Minimum pricing for alcohol is still vital to tackle Scotland's "booze culture", health campaigners claimed last night, after Asda became the first supermarket to ban super-discounted drink sales. The supermarket giant promised that it would set a floor price for alcohol, with no drinks sold at below the cost of duty on the product plus VAT. The move by Asda means that a pack of 20 Carling beers will not be sold for below £7.17, while a litre bottle of Smirnoff Vodka will never be cheaper than £10.49. However, medical bosses, the Scottish Government and Holyrood politicians claimed that the move would still means drinks being sold at "ridiculously cheap" prices. The row comes as the SNP government attempts to win support for its plan to impose minimum prices for alcohol, as part of a raft of measures to tackle Scotland's binge-drinking culture. Meanwhile, other supermarket giants, including Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Tesco, also said they were against selling alcohol as a loss leader to attract customers into their stores. The supermarket chains, including Asda, said they had not discussed pricing policy for cheap alcohol among themselves. However, only Tesco has publicly backed the minimum price plan, and has said that the whole retail industry should be involved. The British Medical Association Scotland said that introducing minimum prices would "save lives" after Asda chief executive Andy Clarke wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May promising to end below- cost-price alcohol deals.

Wee Sleekit Cow'rin Tim'rous Carbuncle...

It was to be a striking example of modern architecture and a fitting memorial to Scotland's greatest poet,

but as Robert Burns wrote: "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men, Gang aft agley." The Burns Monument Centre is now in the running to be named Britain's ugliest new building. The centre in Kilmarnock has made the final shortlist for the 2010 Carbuncle Cup, which is given to the country's worst new architectural monstrosity. It was reopened last year following a major refurbishment by owners East Ayrshire Council after a fire devastated the original structure in 2004. However, locals have been left deeply unimpressed by the replacement for the historic Baronial B-listed building and have described it as a "clumpy monstrosity with pointlessly random roofs". The centre, which is used for weddings and conferences, is in the final shortlist of six for the competition run by Building Design magazine. One person who nominated the building described it as "a tragedy in the purest sense of the word, considering what had been lost". The building, designed by the council's own team of architects, hosts a 3D version of some of Burns' poems and has an archive room where visitors can research their family history. When it was officially opened by First Minister Alex Salmond last year, as part of the Homecoming celebrations, he said: "This fantastic new centre will provide a significant boost to local tourism and will help entice some of the 40 million-strong Scots diaspora back to Scotland to explore their heritage and roots further." Isabelle Lomholt, director of Edinburgh Architect website, said: "The memorial centre surrounding the Burns Monument completely suffocates the monument itself. It is truly astonishing that, with the materials available today, the architects still thought it was OK to strangle the monument with this heavy stone shed.

Scotrail 'Going in Right Direction' But is Still Hit with £800,000 Fines

Scotland’s main train operator was yesterday urged to improve quality standards after it was hit with penalties of nearly £800,000 for failing to meet targets. ScotRail's train and station toilets, litter, and information and announcements are still below par, inspections by the Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency showed. The total penalties of £785,630 for the year to June were 16 per cent lower than the £938,959 the previous year, but were still more than twice the £363,216 total in 2007-08. The figure includes bonuses paid to the FirstGroup-owned operator where targets were exceeded. The Service Quality Incentive Regime (Squire) is one of the toughest on Britain's railways, with high targets to spur on improvements, but does not include train punctuality and reliability. Despite the high bar, and ScotRail this week being named as UK rail operator of the year for the second year in a row, the latest annual Squire results demonstrate it still has some way to go to improve aspects of its service. Robert Samson, Scotland manager for official watchdog Passenger Focus, said: "This inspection has found similar results to our own passenger survey. "Passengers tell us that while overall satisfaction with ScotRail's services is good, work has to happen to improve the facilities and services at stations, car parking, train toilets and the availability of staff at the station."

Pressure Mounts on Airport to Ditch £1 Charge for Drop Offs

A second petition has been launched against controversial plans for a £1 terminal drop-off charge at Edinburgh Airport, increasing the pressure for it to be scrapped. The Liberal Democrats have opened a new front in the battle against the "kiss and fly" fee, which they have condemned as "unnecessary and unfair". The move comes as an online petition by the Conservatives attracted nearly 3,000 signatures by last night. The Liberal Democrats' initiative is being led by MSP Margaret Smith, whose Edinburgh West constituency covers the airport. The BAA-owned airport plans to introduce the charge in October to pay for a new "fast-track" drop-off zone in the multi-storey car park beside the terminal. This would replace the adjacent free drop-off area, which the airport said was congested and unsafe because of vehicles double parking and pedestrians walking into the path of vehicles as they crossed to the terminal. The airport plans to move the free drop-off area to the long-stay car park, which would be linked to the terminal by free shuttle buses every few minutes. However, the charge has met with all-party opposition and is not supported by the Scottish Government. It was revealed that airport managers had been divided over the plan because of the risk to its reputation. Neither of BAA's other Scottish airports, Glasgow and Aberdeen, are planning to follow suit.

Diver Robot to Scour Seabed in £25m Dounreay Clean-up

A robot the size of a small bulldozer is to sieve through the seabed off Dounreay to collect radioactive particles that have caused concern for more than quarter of a century. The remotely operated vehicle (ROV) will be lowered from a barge anchored 550 yards off the Caithness complex later this month. Specialist staff will control its movements using an umbilical cable and are expected to cover 31 acres, an area the size of 17 football pitches, in the first of three summer campaigns. The tracked, seabed crawler is based on technology developed for the offshore oil and gas industry. It features a 7ft-wide detection system capable of finding particles buried at least 2ft deep in sediment. About 20 workers will work around the clock in shifts. Particles will be collected in two on-board tanks which will be returned to the surface and emptied aboard the barge before being returned to Dounreay. It is thought up to 700 particles may be found in the target area. Of these, more than 200 are thought to present a "significant" risk to health. A Dounreay spokesman said: "Last year a smaller system by a different company recovered 115 particles from just over 18 acres of seabed with a lower predicted particle population. Of these, 28 particles were significant." The particles, or hotspots, are fragments of irradiated nuclear fuel discharged into the sea during the 1960s and 1970s. The scale of the problem was only realised by the UK Atomic Energy Authority in the late 1990s. Particles were removed from beaches, but those on the seabed were only monitored. Divers were later used to map the area of particles and remove any found before this was considered too dangerous. Dounreay Site Restoration, the company in charge of the decommissioning, awarded a contract to Land and Marine Project Engineering this year to build and operate the underwater system.

Signpost May Raise A Few Puzzled Eyebrows

Golf fans aiming for the Senior Open Championship in Carnoustie should trust their satellite navigation systems rather than the local signposts. While their gadgets should direct them straight to the course, one sign is slightly off-mark – pointing to Carnostie. The signpost, at the junction of the B9128 and the B9127 near Hayhillock, may come as no surprise to locals, others may raise an eyebrow at the missing U. A quick internet search for Carnostie will show that the only place in the world to boast such a name is Carnostie Drive in Laurinburg, North Carolina, US. And by no small irony, it is surrounded by Scottish- named streets. These include Edinburgh Drive, Glasgow Drive and also Braemar Circle. The north- east’s very own Carnostie sign, could have been worse.

Pioneering New Multi-care Centre Opens in Highlands

A huge new medical centre in the Highlands which could radically change how Scottish healthcare is delivered has opened its doors to patients. The pioneering facility at Nairn – the first of its kind in the country – has experts from various fields of medicine working together under the same roof. More than 200 staff, including doctors, social workers and midwives, are based at the primary care centre, next to Nairn Town and County Hospital in Cawdor Road. A five-surgery dental practice will open at the centre next month. The new centre replaces the town’s Lodgehill clinic and the Nairn branch of the Ardersier surgery, which was in a house in Douglas Street. Staff from both centres will now work together alongside members of Highland Council’s social work department in the three-storey building. The centre, described as Scotland’s most integrated medical facility, includes 22 consulting rooms, a minor surgery room and a conference room. Health staff, including district nurses, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physiotherapists and dieticians, began moving into the building last week. Council staff involved in fostering, adoption and community care have also been moved to the new facility from the town’s Corsee Resource Centre care home.

Colourful Stone Age

Archaeologists in Orkney are very excited by the discovery of red, orange and yellow slabs which reveal, they believe, that Stone Age people painted their houses, presumably in similar style to the garish cladding put up by Jack and Vera Duckworth in Coronation Street. The find has caused a stir across Europe and is believed to be the first evidence that Neolithic people developed their very own forerunner

of Dulux. The team working at the site of the former prehistoric temple is now continuing to dig, in the hope of finding 5,000-year-old satellite dishes and a smattering of garden gnomes.

New Perthshire Wind Farm is 'Body-blow'

Campaigners have condemned the go-ahead for a wind farm in Perthshire as a "bodyblow" for the landscape. The Scottish Government has overturned a decision by Perth and Kinross Council to throw out plans for the 14-turbine wind farm at Calliachar, in Aberfeldy. The project is close to a 68-turbine wind farm at Griffin, which was approved in 2008 in the face of widespread protests. Helen McDade, head of policy for the John Muir Trust, said: "We are particularly concerned that this development will be visible from Schiehallion, a mountain which attracts up to 20,000 walkers a year."

Scots 'Get Better Deal From BBC' Significant improvements have been made to the BBC's coverage of Scottish affairs, but concerns remain about "misleading or confusing" news items. The BBC Trust's follow-up report into BBC network news coverage of the four UK nations found a "significant" increase in BBC coverage of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and not just on devolution-related issues. Researchers found 14.2 per cent of news items on BBC TV related to these nations during their study carried out in 2009, compared with 7.8 per cent in research published two years ago. Location reporting also increased - to 12.3 per cent from 7.7 per cent.

Authentic St Kildan Voices

Although many accounts have been written about St Kilda and its history, new information, new photographs and stories continue to appear from a variety of sources. But the authentic voices of those who were native to the Island remain largely silent. A new book available via the Islands Book Trust helps redress the balance. It is the remarkable story of Calum MacDonald, who was born on St Kilda in 1908, and lived there until he was sixteen, when he left prior to the evacuation for the bright lights of Harris. He tells the story of a hard life earning a living from the inhospitable land, but there is another story too: one of closeness, kindness, spirituality and humour. Calum's life was to take twists and turns he could never have dreamt of during his childhood on the island, but throughout his later career in great houses and a top London hotel he was always mindful of his origins: 'All my life I have been very fortunate because I was born among a small community of Christian belief, who lived and shared their lives as a whole, not as a unit. Our closeness was partly due to kinship and isolation from the outside world.' This publication is a fitting contribution to the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the evacuation of St Kilda. 'From Cleits to Castles; A St Kildan Looks Back' by Calum MacDonald is available from The Islands Book Trust at: www.theislandsbooktrust.com

Stornoway Girl's Design on Display in London

From Stornoway to the Saatchi Gallery in London, a skirt designed by local schoolgirl Ceitidh Chalmers is now on display in one of Britain's most prestigious art establishments. Ceitidh, 16, is one of ten people to have been shortlisted for the Young Brits for Art competition organised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). In April Ceitidh attended a workshop for the competition in An Lanntair which urged participants to create art that portrayed the themes of recycling and women's issues, to be displayed at a fashion show at Lews Castle College for International Women's Day. Ceitidh's entry was, quite literally, a rags to riches story as she made her masterpiece solely out of recycled materials. The skirt that Ceitidh made was picked out of 1,700 other entries to be shortlisted and she was invited to attend the awards ceremony in London on June 22. Ceitidh couldn't make it to the ceremony as she was on a school trip to Italy but instead met up with Professor Anne Bamford, Director of the Engine Room, in London last week where she was presented with her prize.

A Tale of Skulduggery with the Provost's Chain!

The Royal Burgh of Dornoch's civic regalia saw the light of day for the first time in decades, thanks to the First Minister's visit to the town. Provost Yvonne Ross, who bears the title by dint of her position as community council chairwoman, donned the very valuable solid gold chain to welcome the cabinet. She looked suitably official but the appearance of the almost forgotten chain led surprised onlookers to query where on earth it had been for the last 30 or so years. And therein lies an astonishing tale of suspicion, cunning and skulduggery. Apparently it all dates back to around 1975 when town councils morphed into district and regional councils and the office of provost disappeared. Outgoing provost Harry Clunie was bound and determined that the chain, along with the ancient Royal Burgh charter, would not be whisked away to a central location, but would stay in the town. So he secreted both in a very safe place, well away from the powers-that-be in Glenurquhart Road, Inverness. And there they have lain until this week and the historic summer visit of the Cabinet.

One man who knows all about it is Duncan Allan, who served for 18 years in successive authorities as a town, district and Highland councillor. During his term in office, the provostship was restored and he took the title. He says: "When the old town council became defunct, Provost Clunie was fearful that, like so many other things including the town council records, the chain and charter would be taken to Inverness and put in a museum there. So it has been held privately in a safe in Dornoch. It was a little bit of deceit and secrecy in order that Dornoch could keep its treasures. When I retired, I let this be known to Highland Council for the first time, but the people who have chaired the community council have always known about it." Mr Allan said the ancient charter, which was granted by Charles I, could not be put on display because it had been written on vellum, which deteriorates if repeatedly exposed to light. "It has been kept in a pouch but fairly recently, thanks to a public spirited donor, it was sent to St Andrew's University where it was restored and put in a book with covers so it is not exposed to the light but can be easily opened up and read." Mr Allan added: "They are in very safe hands. It was just a bit of deceit. We kept our own treasures to ourselves until it was safe to bring them out."

Wind-farm Contract Proves A Breath of Fresh Air for Firm

A Thurso-based engineering company has successfully diversified into the offshore wind industry. Calder Engineering Ltd, which has been supplying cabins to the offshore oil and gas industry for 12 months, has recently won a contract to supply them to the renewables industry. The company secured a deal to provide a suite of offshore cabins for the Sheringham Shoal wind-farm project, 10 miles off the Norfolk coastline. Up until a few years ago a large amount of the company's work was sited at Dounreay until the decommissioning programme got under way and work there began to slow down. However, keen to look at new markets for its fabrication and engineering services, the company began designing its own range of certified offshore cabins. It has been working in the oil and gas supply chain for over 10 years and broke into this new market with specialist support through Highland and Island Enterprise's account management model. The business has made best use of HIE's advisory support to develop plans to pursue contracts for Calder Offshore Cabins for the oil and gas sector and also to the new offshore wind sector. The company's quality fitted-out cabins are designed, fabricated and fitted to customers' exact requirements and can be used for a range of functions including accommodation, control rooms, laboratories and workshops.

Community Joy is Fuelled by Buyout

Residents of a remote Wester Ross peninsula will be able to continue to fill-up at the local petrol station, thanks to a community buyout. A struggle by the Applecross residents to keep the filling station running after its owner decided to give it up has resulted in the community taking over the premises and upgrading it to a 24-hour unmanned facility. They will celebrate the commissioning of its newly- refurbished 24-hours filling station this weekend. The filling station, which belongs to the village through the Applecross Community Company, now has two new pumps and a credit card reader, which allows it to operate unmanned seven days a week. Volunteers carry out all management and administration of the

filling station. Chair of the community company, Alison Macleod, explained, "It has been a long struggle keeping the filling station going after the shop owner who ran it let the community know that he was no longer able to do so. Luckily the tanks and pipework were in good condition so we formed the community company and agreed to take the filling station over. We realised immediately that the limited turnover was never going to allow us to employ somebody to sell fuel, so we applied for funding to allow us to replace the old pumps with a new automatic system." The community company received grants from the Big Lottery Fund's Growing Community Assets programme, and the Rural Priorities strand of the Scottish Rural Development Programme, and these, with a contribution from the Applecross Trust, which owns the local estate, covered the cost of the £40,000 refurbishment. The new equipment was manufactured by Gilbarco Veeder Root, and has been installed in only a handful of UK sites. At all the others it is used to extend the opening hours of filling stations which are manned during the day - only in Applecross does the filling station operate totally without staff, and the software had to be altered to allow for this.

The community has itself raised over £20,000 through donations, loans and fundraising efforts, including an eighteen-mile sponsored walk in terrible weather conditions over the Bealach na Ba road from the next nearest filling station in Lochcarron. This money formed a fuel fund, which ensures a healthy cash flow, allowing the filling station to have a consistent supply of fuel. For seven months prior to the refurbishment the filling station was operated entirely by volunteers, with twenty-six residents - from an adult population of around 170 people - willing to spend time in an empty unheated shop building in the depths of winter to ensure a reliable fuel supply. The determination of this small community has allowed it to buck the national trend of filling station closures. Now the new filling station is in place, the community has pledged to do all it can to ensure it remains viable.

Prospect of Change in Law on 'Hazard' Rail Crossings

The Scottish Law Commission, along with their counterparts south of the border, are seeking the views of the public on how the legislative framework governing the use, management and, where appropriate, the closure of level crossings can be improved and safety risks reduced. Safety at open level crossings is a controversial issue in the Highlands, where there have been several fatalities and many near misses in recent years. There are only 23 open level crossings in Scotland, but 21 of them are in the Highlands. Those in Ross-shire include three in Dingwall, one at Garve, and another at Delny - the latter also the scene of a tragic accident in which two teenage boys were killed.

A Diamond Year for the Tattoo

To say that 2010 is a special year for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo would be something of an understatement. With a Royal endorsement, a big anniversary and a trip Down Under, 2010 is set to sparkle. The ‘royal’ of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo was bestowed on the event earlier this year by HM The Queen. The honour marks the exceptional services to Scottish culture, entertainment, the military and the charitable organisations that this remarkable event supports – since the first Tattoo in 1950 the event has gifted an impressive £5 million to service and civilian organisations. Quite a symbolic birthday present for the 60th anniversary or Diamond Jubilee Year.

In keeping with this special year the line up for the 60th anniversary show promises to be as spectacular as ever. Set against one of the world’s most imposing stages, the beautifully lit mass of Edinburgh Castle. Many spectators of the Tattoo have commented that even before the band has struck the first note the initial sight of the castle bathed in such exquisite light is enough to raise the hairs on the back of the neck. Visitors this year can look forward to the trademark mix of the traditional to the contemporary and innovative with the perennially popular Massed Pipes and Drums and Massed Military Bands and dancers, singers and even gymnasts from countries ranging from South Africa to Switzerland, New Zealand to the United States and of course the Scottish Regiments. Military pipe and drum bands this

year include the South African Irish Regiment, the South Australian Pipes and Drum Band, the Band of the Coldstream Guards and the Grenadier Guards.

Amongst the 1,000 strong cast this year will be performances from the Citadel Band from Charleston, South Carolina who will represent the United States in their return to the Tattoo. Decked in their own officially registered tartan the band have a well earned reputation as one of the world’s first rate military college bands. Expect gymnastic feats from The Army Physical Training Corps who are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year and feats of precision and dexterity from The Imps Motorcycle Display Team. The Imps are Britain’s largest motorcycle display team and range from an unbelievable 5 to 16 years of age. Instantly recognisable in their red tunics The Imps deliver an amazing display of disciplined motorcycle acrobatics on bikes ranging from 50-250cc. Highlights of their show includes motorcycle pyramids and breath taking fire jumps. The New Zealand Army Band, one the finest marching brass bands in the world will be making an appearance. The Band of the Brigade of Ghurkhas will also return to the Tattoo this year. The multi-talented and versatile band who are as at home jamming with pianist Jools Holland as they are performing public duties on Guard Mount at Buckingham Palace, will bring some Nepalese flavour to the show with their own unique style. The Edinburgh Military Tattoo runs from 6th-28th August.

Bishop in Cash Plea to Ensure Mass Attendance

A Bishop has urged parishes to spread the cost of sending people to the public mass planned for the Pope's visit to Glasgow. Pope Benedict XVI is due to take mass at Bellahouston Park in September and Rt Rev Philip Tartaglia, has written to all priests in his diocese, urging them to spread the cost across all parishioners to ensure that "all those who wish to attend can do so regardless of their means". Parishes have been urged to try to raise the equivalent of £20 per person who wants to attend. Bishop Tartaglia wrote: ""A principle of the organisation was that costs should be shared evenly throughout Scotland to make it feasible for people to come from all parts. "This act of solidarity with our Catholic brothers and sisters from throughout the country does not seem out of place for a once-in-a-generation mass with the Holy Father on Scottish soil."

First As Coal Giant is Fined for Breaking Environmental Law

A mining firm has been fined £10,000 for flouting strict measures protecting one of the nation's most important nature reserves. In the ground-breaking ruling ATH Resources, one of the UK's largest coal producers, was penalised after failing to alert a heritage watchdog over plans to expand open cast mining at Grievehill, near New Cumnock, in Ayrshire. The firm built a new road on protected peatland which is part of the Muirkirk Uplands, a vast moorland site awarded special scientific significance in 2001. Vehicles were already using the road, close to the Millstone Moss, by the time the authorities were alerted. The fine was the first to be imposed by a Scottish court under legislation to protect such sites. The area, one of the largest protected nature reserves in Britain, is renowned for its huge variety of upland habitats and breeding birds. The Yorkshire-based firm runs the Grievehill site through a subsidiary, Aardvark TMC Limited and pled guilty at Ayr Sheriff Court to a charge of carrying out damaging operations on the site without the prior agreement of Scottish Natural Heritage. The court was told the company, the subject of the first corporate prosecution under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, had already taken steps to repair the damage to the "peat slip" area.

Massive Facelift Aims to Put 15th-century Castle Sinclair Girnigoe on Tourist Trail

The opening of Castle Sinclair Girnigoe in Caithness on Sunday will be witnessed by about 100 Sinclairs from around the world who are taking part in an international clan gathering. The structure is the only castle in Scotland to be listed by the World Monuments Fund on its Watch List of the 100 most endangered sites in the world. Perched on the edge of a sheer cliff, it has been given a £700,000 facelift that has taken ten years to complete. A further two phases are planned for what will be a multi-million- pound project to turn the building into a major tourist attraction. The castle, which is owned by charity

the Clan Sinclair Trust, has been in a state of disrepair since 1680. The project is backed by the World Monuments Fund, Historic Scotland, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Highland Council and Highland and Island Enterprise, although the majority of the money has come from private donors across the globe. Jill McNicol, marketing manager at North Highland Tourism, said: "We have such a strong sense of heritage here in the north Highlands. We aim to use Castle Sinclair Girnigoe to make our offering to visitors even stronger, boosting the economy of this beautiful area."

Recent research on the castle has meant Highland history had to be re-written. Until 2002, it was commonly held that there were two castles, the tower house known as Girnigoe, said to be built in the mid to late 15th century, and the west gate house, known as Castle Sinclair, in the early 17th century, and that they had been attacked and destroyed by cannon in about 1680. But it later became clear the two ruins were part of the same structure. Archaeologists also found a castle had been built on the site in the late 14th or early 15th century - nearly 100 years earlier than previously thought. Further research established "Sinclair" came into the name in 1606, when George, the 4th Earl of Caithness, gained an act of parliament declaring Girnigoe should be known as Castle Sinclair. Because the two names have been in use for more than 300 years, the trustees have agreed to call it Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, although technically, due to the 1606 act, it should just be called Castle Sinclair. Archaeological excavations also suggest the castle did not suffer an attack by cannon. However, there is evidence of occupation by Cromwell's troops and that they might have started the demolition.

Capital Bus Firm Fined for Running Early (I wonder if they know how lucky they are - Robin) Edinburgh's main bus operator lost its unblemished 25-year record when it was fined £10,500 for running services up to five minutes early. Lothian Buses, which has been named as Britain's best operator several times, suffered its first penalty from the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland after retiming its buses to take account of roadworks delays, including for the tram line. Traffic Commissioner Joan Aitken, who could have fined the company £385,000, said she would limit it "to what I can term as a marker". Checks in February on services 4, 27 and 45 found that 44 buses ran between two and five minutes early. Services are permitted to operate only one minute ahead of schedule. Ms Aitken said: "I am in no doubt that this operator seeks to serve the city to the best of its ability. However, early running cannot be tolerated, given that a passenger can wait for a late bus, but can never catch a bus which has already gone." Lothian Buses managing director Ian Craig said: "We accept the Traffic Commissioner's findings and affirm our commitment to the highest level of service."

Supermarket Set to Fly High in City Terminal

Britain's largest supermarket chain signalled a new focus on transport sites by announcing its first airport store would open this autumn at Glasgow International. The Tesco Express convenience store in the newest section of the terminal could be followed by similar shops at other airports and stations, the retailer said. It will occupy a unit beside domestic arrivals, built as part of the airport's Skyhub development two years ago. The store, which is expected to start trading in October or November and create some 20 jobs, will remain open from the first to the last flights every day but could potentially operate round the clock. It is aimed at both arriving passengers collecting groceries on their way home and the airport's 1,200-strong workforce. Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports said it had no current plans for supermarkets. Edinburgh's expanded departure lounge, which was officially opened on Wednesday, includes new shops such as up-market beauty products chain Jo Malone and Italian handbag store The Collection.

Iain’s Joke Section

I must testify that my grandfather is not mean with his money - just careful - Iain

* There was a Scottish baker who tried to economise by making a bigger hole in his doughnuts. He discovered, though, that the bigger the hole, the more dough it took to go round it.

* And then there was the Scotsman who married a girl born on February 29 so he'd only have to buy her a birthday present every four years.

* What's the difference between a tightrope and a Scotsman ? A tightrope sometimes gives

* Nowadays the Scots do not play bagpipes to frighten their enemies, they do it to annoy their neighbours.

* A Scots pessimist is a man who feels badly when he feels good for fear he'll feel worse when he feels better.

* Teacher: " What do you call a person who keeps on talking when people are no longer interested ? " Little Sandy: " A teacher."