Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 593

Issue # 593                                         Week ending Saturday 27th   February  2021

Nowadays It’s Like: Earphones In, I Don’t Want to Talk. Earphones Out, I Forgot My Earphones by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Back in the early 1980s, I plodded around South London for a firm I worked for and one day I ended up in Brixton. The bustling commercial area, under the railway bridge and in the streets off that, was a wonderful sight, lanes teeming with people and cultures from around the world and constant music. Rock, funk, and reggae streamed from every doorway as well as performers boogieing on down.

Going down there on the bus, someone had a large shoulder-borne radio-cassette player, a ghetto blaster, with the sounds of Eddy Grant, an emerging young reggae singer from Guyana, formerly British Guiana, who had settled in London. It boomed out Electric Avenue, riding high then in the charts.

Minutes later, I stepped off the bus at the bridge to drop off documents at a law firm and found myself walking along, yep, Electric Avenue. Wow. Yeah, man.

It was like being on the Portnaguran-to-town bus during the Royal National Mod with everybody singing Bha Mi Latha Samhraidh An Steòrnabhagh (One Summer’s Day I Was in Stornoway) and then alighting right there. OK, Gaelic festivals are more chaotic with more substance abuse, I mean drams, but you felt part of something special.

It’s not possible to walk down that avenue in London without at least humming those famous lyrics.

Oh no. We gonna rock down to Electric Avenue
And then we'll take it higher.

Years later, and back in Stornoway, I found youngsters in the islands had embraced other cultures. They adored the likes of reggae. We don’t have many avenues in Stornoway but everyone knows Smith Avenue, an upmarket thoroughfare running alongside the playing fields beside the secondary school, the Nicolson Institute. An innovative young band avoided the barber trying to get dreadlocks and rewrote the words of Eddy Grant to:

Oh no. We’re going to walk down to Smi-ith Avenue
Then we’ll take our Highers.

That was aeons ago but, despite such prodigious talent, those guys were never heard of again. Aw.

Technology has changed schoolkids. Tablets, iphones, earphones, rudeness, grumpiness. We had technology too. Youngsters today don’t understand how thrilling it was when someone would wheel in a trolley with an overhead projector on it. Yay. Why scrawny line drawings on a transparency would be exciting beats me. It was always out of focus and the broken floorboards in the Springfield South classrooms put the maths teachers’ fractions on a slippery slope.

I recall a maths class in Springfield South in which we watched a blurry moonwalk. The teacher, being a space fanatic, justified the telly by making us calculate the distance to the sun by the length of the astronaut’s shadow. Geometry, innit? It wouldn’t have been the first moonwalk with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin because the Apollo 11 mission was in July, during the school holidays. Apollo 12 maybe.

Did you watch the Mars landing? Good times. Did anyone watch the Mars landing in a classroom? Not many, eh? Sad times. The subsequent video of the descent onto a curiously-rusty Luskentyre Beach-like terrain was amazing. But no Major Tom or Rocket Man soundtrack. Major Tom by David Bowie was played ad nauseum with the Apollo moon landings, but not Rocket Man. Ah, it hadn’t been released then. Good excuse, I suppose, Elton.

On the bright side, that Mars technology is staggering. It is making us humans seem quite redundant. Perseverance, the Mars Rover, actually tweeted from the surface of the Red Planet to say everything was in good order and still working properly as it should. That’s more than Donald Trump can do.

Music is the backdrop to our lives. A character in a play by that writer cove William Shakespeare thought music always inspired people to love things and also to fall in love. That was why Orsino, the Duke of Illyria, who was head over heels in love with Countess Olivia, came out with the great line, “If music be the food of love, play on.”

Lockdown has been challenging and many sectors, like musicians, have had to get financial help packages. Food producers too. I know a farmer, he’s a large-scale crofter I suppose, who says he wouldn’t have survived without help. He tells me he just had to fill in a form for his grant. He is diversifying so he used it to buy pullets, which are young hens. He describes the grant system as: “Money for nothing, and the chicks for free.”

Safety Assurance Ahead of Pupils' Return to Schools
Education Secretary John Swinney has insisted it is safe for Scotland's youngest pupils to return to the classroom.  Children in early years education and the first three years of primary will go back to school on Monday.It is the first step in a phased reopening of schools which have been closed to all but a minority of pupils since the beginning of January. Mr Swinney said "detailed clinical analysis" assured him it was safe. It followed concerns raised by the EIS teaching union and one epidemiologist about the measures put in place to reduce risk of transmission in schools.  The deputy first minister pointed to documents prepared by a government expert advisory group which states that younger children are less likely to catch or pass on the virus than older children and adults.  "I do believe it is safe to do what we are doing tomorrow and I base that view on the very detailed clinical analysis prepared for us by our education clinical advisory group that was published earlier on in February," he told BBC Scotland.  "The rates of infection amongst the youngest children, who will be the ones primarily going back to school tomorrow or back to early learning and childcare, are more than half those of the general presence within the population.  We've got to look at all the evidence that supports such decisions but we've also got to take the measures to ensure absolute safety within the school and early learning childcare environment and that's exactly what our guidance is designed to do. "  As well as the youngest children returning to school, a small number of senior secondary pupils will be allowed into school buildings on a part-time basis to complete work for national qualifications.  Other age groups will continue to learn from home and it is unlikely they will return to the classroom before 15 March at the earliest.  In primary schools measures to minimise the spread of the virus include regular hand-washing, open windows, and 2m physical distancing between adults, and between adults and children.  In a letter to parents from Professor Jason Leitch, the national clinical director, parents have also been asked to play their part in the safe return of the youngest children to school.  He asked them to:
wear a face covering at drop off and pick up times, and in congested areas
limit drop off and pick up times to one adult
keep 2m away from other adults when waiting for children
avoid car shares and limit use of public transport and to be vigilant for symptoms of coronavirus in the household and follow the Test and Protect guidance.
Urging parents not to relax the rules elsewhere, he reminded them that indoor play dates are not allowed - though children can play together outside.  And he said parents should continue to work from home if they are able to do so.  Mr Swinney said the behaviour of parents was important in keeping the R number - the rate of transmission - low.  "We've all got to play a part - not just the school environment - but the whole surrounding environment of society to make sure we do all that we can to suppress the virus because we don't actually have an awful lot of headroom between where the R level is just now - somewhere between 0.7 and 0.9 - and 1 where the virus begins to spread exponentially."  HIs safety assurance came after an epidemiology expert raised concerns about the knock-on effects of sending children back to school.  Dr Deepti Gurdasani, of Queen Mary University of London, said data from England showed primary school children were two times more likely to be the first Covid case in a household, and once infected were two times more likely to infect their contacts. Speaking to The Sunday Show, she said children aged six and above should wear masks in schools and more attention should be paid to ventilation.  The EIS teaching union has also raised concerns about school safety and have said a blended learning model - with about half of pupils in classes at any one time - would be more appropriate. Plans to reopen schools have been welcomed by opposition parties but the Scottish Conservatives have urged the government to publish plans for helping pupils catch-up with schooling they have missed.

Australian Open Fans Criticised for 'Booing Vaccine'

Australia's government has criticised fans at the Australian Open tennis final after some loudly booed the mention of a Covid-19 vaccine rollout.  The booing happened during an awards ceremony after the men's final, when a tennis official referred to global vaccine efforts as a sign of optimism.  It comes just as Australia begins its national inoculation programme.  Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack called the crowd's behaviour "disgusting". I don't like booing at any event, and certainly any sporting event," he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.  This vaccine is going to get our country back to some sort of pre-Covid normality," he said.  Australia kicked off the first stage of its vaccine programme on Monday. Frontline, health and quarantine workers are in line to get the first of 60,000 Pfizer vaccine doses this week.  While the vaccine has broad support locally, it has also sparked protests. On Saturday, small crowds of anti-vaccination demonstrators marched in cities including Melbourne and Sydney to protest against its rollout.  In Melbourne, where the Australian Open was held, the crowd also booed mention of the Victorian state government when Tennis Australia chief Jayne Hrdlicka thanked authorities.Last week, the government ordered the state's residents into a snap five-day lockdown amid fears of an outbreak. The tennis event was allowed to proceed and the virus did not spread. Australia's low case numbers.  The vaccine is not mandatory in Australia but highly encouraged by health authorities. Australia aims to inoculate four of its 25 million people by early March.  Prime Minister Scott Morrison was among the first to get his jab on Sunday, broadcasting the event in an effort to boost national confidence.  Government polling has shown that close to two-thirds of Australians say they will "definitely" get vaccinated, while just over one quarter are "unsure".  Australia has received doses of the Pfizer vaccine and last week approved the AstraZeneca vaccine.  Both have undergone extensive safety checks and are already being used in several countries.  Critics have suggesting the relative delay of the vaccine's roll-out in Australia - compared to other Western nations - could explain a recent small uptick in people "unsure" about receiving it.  The government has defended the slow roll-out, saying it wanted all elements fully approved by regulators, and that the country's low infection rate meant it didn't warrant urgent distribution.  As of Monday, Australia had under 40 active cases in the country, with most in its hotel quarantine programme. The nation has recorded about 29,000 cases and 909 deaths in the pandemic - far fewer than many nations.

Defence Firm Thales UK Wins 'Threat Detection' Contract
A contract to make "threat-detection technology" for the Army's new Boxer vehicles has been awarded to Thales UK's Glasgow site.  The UK's Ministry of Defence said the Remote Weapons Stations contract was worth £180m and would last 10 years.  The weapons station uses 360-degree, high-definition long-range cameras attached to the outside of the vehicle to scan for enemy threats.  It then alerts soldiers inside the vehicle through a digital display. The system also offers a multi-barrel smoke grenade launcher, thermal imaging and infra-red pointers.  The Boxer is a Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) which can be deployed to deliver soldiers in the most extreme environments.  Initially the Army will buy a mixture of the troop-carrying variant, ambulances, command vehicles, and specialist designs to carry military equipment.  The UK rejoined the Boxer programme in 2018 and has committed to deliver 500 vehicles to the Army. The first vehicles are scheduled to be ready for service in 2023. Iain Stewart, a minister with the UK government's Scotland Office, said the Thales contract would help protect hundreds of jobs.  In February last year, Thales Glasgow won a contract to build periscopes, sensors and sonar for the UK's next generation of nuclear submarines.  The periscopes - known officially as combat system masts - will be manufactured at Govan.

Raigmore Hospital Welcomes Gift of Nebuliser to Help People with Respiratory Conditions

Raigmore Hospital recently accepted a nebuliser, for the benefit of patients with respiratory conditions, donated by the Rotary Club of Inverness.  The club operates a community grants programme that allows charities to apply for financial assistance towards projects, and agreed to a request for help from the Asthma Relief Charity.  It is the second nebuliser the Inverness hospital has received courtesy of the Rotary Club.  It will benefit not just asthma sufferers but also patients troubled with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and cystic fibrosis as well as the elderly.  A Rotary Club spokesman said: “The Rotary Club of Inverness Loch Ness is delighted to be able to contribute to the health and wellbeing of the local community.  In these trying times, it is fitting that the Rotary Club are able to offer practical assistance to our citizens.”

Inverness College UHI Awarded £11,600 by Education Scotland to Develop Continuing Professional Development Online Module Support Up to 40 Practitioners Initially with Teaching Cyber Security in the Broad General Education
Inverness College of the University of the Highlands & Islands has been awarded £11,600 by Education Scotland to develop and deliver an online Continuing Professional Development (CPD) module. It will support up to 40 practitioners initially with teaching cyber security in the broad general education (BGE). This funding has been announced in support of Cyber Scotland Week which started yesterday.  The week aims to increase cyber awareness, encourage innovation in cyber security and inspire people to discover a career in cyber technology. The online module is directed at primary or secondary school teachers who may not have a computing science background and aims to help them develop knowledge, understanding and problem solving skills related to cyber security. It also aims to develop a deeper understanding of cyber security and cyber resilience and their relationship to each other.  The funding will enable the module to be delivered to 20 teachers from this month, followed by another 20 in September.  Nicola Macdonald, the college’s head of the School of Business, Computing and Hospitality, said: “Inverness College UHI runs a range of CPD programmes for primary and secondary school teachers, including programmes designed to help teachers upskill in the areas of computing and information technology. Having spoken to teachers on these programmes, we identified the need for an introductory module in cyber security and resilience and thanks to continued support from Education Scotland we have been able to develop and deliver this module, with 40 funded places available initially. “No prior knowledge of cyber security is required, and it will allow teachers to develop their confidence to teach all pupils the underpinning knowledge required in cyber security and to raise awareness amongst young people of this growing area of importance.”

Nicola Sturgeon Challenges Alex Salmond Over 'Conspiracy' Claims
Nicola Sturgeon has challenged Alex Salmond to prove there was a conspiracy against him, saying he has made claims "without a shred of evidence".  Mr Salmond is due to give evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the government's mishandling of harassment complaints against him later this week.  He says he has "documentary evidence" of a "malicious and concerted" attempt to remove him from public life.  But the first minister said any claims of a conspiracy were "not true".  And she said Mr Salmond had an "obligation" to "replace the insinuation and assertion we have heard over several months now with evidence".  The Holyrood inquiry was established after the government conceded an internal investigation of two harassment complaints against the former first minister had been "unlawful".  He was awarded more than £500,000 in legal expenses following the judicial review case, and was subsequently acquitted of charges of sexual assault in a separate High Court trial.  In a written submission published on Monday, Mr Salmond said there had been "a deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort amongst a range of individuals within the Scottish government and the SNP to damage my reputation, even to the extent of having me imprisoned".  He said the government and SNP "felt threatened" by the judicial review case, and said he had "documentary evidence" that there was a "fishing expedition to recruit potential complainants".  In other letters to the inquiry he has described the behaviour of the government as a "disgrace", accusing it of concealing key evidence from his legal team and of leaking information to the media to damage him.  He has also accused Ms Sturgeon of "repeatedly" misleading parliament over her meetings with him, making statements which are "simply untrue", and of breaking the ministerial code.  Mr Salmond is to give evidence to the inquiry on Wednesday, with Ms Sturgeon expected to face MSPs the following week. The first minister said she hoped Mr Salmond would "turn up to the committee and bring the claims he has been making out into the open".  She said: "He appears to be suggesting some kind of conspiracy or concerted campaign against him, without a shred of evidence.  This is his opportunity - because the burden of proof of that lies on him, to replace the insinuation and assertion we have heard over several months now with evidence.  I don't believe he can do that, because I know what he is claiming about a conspiracy is not true.  If he can't substantiate it, it's time for him to stop making these claims - because it's not fair to women first and foremost who came forward with complaints, or the other people who have given years of loyal service to Alex Salmond who he appears to be directing those claims to."  In an interview with BBC Scotland, the first minister said she would "stand by what I said in parliament" about her meetings with Mr Salmond, saying she would "relish the opportunity" to go into detail.  She said: "I will set out what I knew and I will set out my recollection of all these things, and answer questions for as long as the committee wants to hear about that.  This is a situation where I and others were faced with a really difficult scenario - allegations against someone I had been very close to. I dealt with that to the best of my ability and I think I made the right judgements overall."  Ms Sturgeon said the government "did make a mistake in the application of its procedure" for handling complaints, and said it would "reflect on the lessons of that".  But she insisted the new policy had been drawn up in response to "the global MeToo movement", not Mr Salmond.  This echoes evidence given to the committee by Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans - Scotland's top civil servant - who told MSPs that the government was not out to "get Alex Salmond".  Ms Sturgeon said she still had full confidence in Ms Evans, and that she expected her to remain in post for the duration of her current contract.

Covid Vaccines - 'Spectacular' Impact on Serious Illness

The first results of the UK vaccination programme suggests it is having a "spectacular" impact on preventing serious illness.  Research led by Public Health Scotland found at four weeks after the first dose, hospital admissions were reduced by 85% and 94% for the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs respectively.  It is the first sign of the real world impact of vaccination in the UK.  Figures for England are expected to be released later.  Among the over 80s, there was an overall 81% reduction in the numbers admitted to hospital.  The researchers did not look at the impact on transmission - whether people who were vaccinated passed it on - or whether immunity waned over time.  The preliminary data from the EAVE II project covers 1.14 million vaccinations given in Scotland between 8 December and 15 February.  The study looked at the numbers being admitted to hospital with Covid among this population and compared it to those admitted who were not vaccinated.  In total, there were just over 8,000 people who ended up in hospital, but only 58 were among the vaccinated group after the four-week mark.  Lead researcher Prof Aziz Sheikh said the results were "very, very" impressive and both vaccines were working "spectacularly".  "These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future."  Trials of both vaccines had suggested they would have a significant impact at preventing hospitalisations. But for the Pfizer vaccine studies, that had involved a second dose being given after three weeks.  The UK has adopted a policy of delaying the second jab of both vaccines by three months, which had led some to question whether the approach would give sufficient immunity.  The trials of the AstraZeneca looked at a longer dosing interval so there was more confidence about that vaccine.  Dr Josie Murray, of Public Health Scotland, said the findings were "brilliant news" and suggested the vaccine programme was working.

Appeal Lodged Against Creel Fishing Ruling

The Scottish government has lodged an appeal against a ruling requiring it to reconsider the way fisheries should be managed in the seas off Skye. The Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation (SCFF) wants a pilot project to be run which would see no trawling and dredging in some inshore areas. The SCFF went to the Court of Session after the Scottish government turned down the proposal.  The government has now appealed against the judicial review the SCFF won. Robert Younger, of legal organisation Fish Legal, which won the case for the SCFF, said it appeared the Scottish government was "desperate" to avoid the pilot scheme. The Scottish government said it was "very much focused" on supporting the fishing industry, adding that a lot had happened since the start of the case in May last year.  Last month, the Court of Session ruled that the creel fishermen's proposal was turned down by ministers solely because of the strength of opposition.  The judge, Lady Poole, said the SCFF's proposal - to separate mobile and static fishing in Skye's Inner Sound as part of a trial - had not been fairly considered before being rejected.  Mobile fishing, through trawling and dredging, can often come into conflict with static methods. Creel fishermen - who lay their pots on the seabed before returning days later to empty them - say thousands of pounds worth of gear can be lost when a fishing boat drags its nets through an area.  The proposal was to designate some areas of the Inner Sound to static fishing while others could be used by the mobile fleet. A consultation, launched in 2017, invited fisheries management proposals for the seas around Scotland which would be judged against five criteria, including national and international obligations and the impact on quotas.  But Lady Poole ruled that the SCFF proposal for the Inner Sound was not judged on these criteria but simply on the strength of opposition.  Lawyers for the SCFF told Lady Poole that Scottish government directorate Marine Scotland acted unreasonably when it rejected its plan. The organisation claimed objections from trawler operators had outweighed "published criteria for assessing pilot proposals set out in the government's own guidance".  SCFF lawyers claimed the Scottish government's guidance stated that local community groups could put forward a pilot proposal which could be approved. They said approval could be granted if such schemes provided firm proof that management of fishing stocks could be maintained and improved.  The Scottish government confirmed that an appeal had been lodged.  A spokeswoman said: "Given this is a live legal matter it would not be appropriate to comment further on the case.  This case focused on the assessment of a proposal for the Inner Sound of Skye by some creel fishermen, and is not related to wider inshore fisheries management matters. A lot has happened since the case was lodged in May 2020. The Scottish government has been very much focused on supporting the fishing industry through the impacts of Covid-19 and EU Exit." The spokeswoman said that in December 2020 the Scottish government also published its Scotland's Future Fisheries Management strategy setting policy initiatives for the next 10 years, including for inshore fisheries.

Covid in Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon Unveils 'Cautious' Route Out of Lockdown

The reopening of Scotland's economy - including shops, bars, restaurants, gyms and hairdressers - is expected to start from 26 April, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.  She said it was hoped that the country's stay at home restrictions could be lifted on 5 April.  Four people from two households will be allowed to meet outdoors from 15 March.  All primary pupils and S4 to S6 secondary students could return to school from that date.  However, pupils in the first three years of secondary school are unlikely to return until after the Easter holidays.  Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish government's strategic framework was "deliberately cautious" at this stage.  "But in the coming weeks, if the data allows and positive trends continue, we will seek to accelerate the easing of restrictions," she said. However, opposition parties said the statement "fell short" of expectations and lacked clarity on its "ultimate goal", while business leaders called for more detail.  On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that shops, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality in England could reopen on 12 April. Under a four-step plan to ease lockdown south of the border, all legal limits on social contact could be lifted by 21 June if strict conditions are met. Ms Sturgeon said the aim in Scotland was to move fully back to a levels system of restrictions from the last week in April.  "At that stage, we hope that all parts of the country currently in level four will be able to move out of level four and back initially to level three - possibly with some revision to the content of the levels."  The first minister said that from 26 April, the government would expect to see a "phased but significant re-opening of the economy, including non essential retail, hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers".  More detail will be set out in mid-March, including the order in which parts of the economy will reopen.  The aim is for a "progressive easing" of the level four restrictions at three-week intervals.  Scotland's youngest children and some senior pupils returned to the classroom on Monday, and Ms Sturgeon said schools were the "immediate priority".  The rules on outdoor mixing would also be relaxed on that date, with up to four people from two households allowed to meet, and non-contact sports for under-18s resuming.  The final phase of the return to school would take place from 5 April, a date when school pupils will be at the start or middle of their Easter holiday break. It is also hoped to lift the stay at home restrictions from that date. At least six people from two households should be able to meet together outdoors, and communal worship will be allowed to resume.  The timing of major religious festivals - such as Easter - will be taken into account when deciding the exact date. The levels system of restrictions would then be reintroduced from 26 April, along with a "more substantial" reopening of society and the economy. "It is important to stress, of course, that all of this depends on us continuing to suppress the virus now - and continuing to accept some trade-offs for a period, for example on international travel," said Ms Sturgeon. "However, if we do so, I am optimistic that we can make good progress in returning more normality to our lives and the economy."

Perfect' Whisky Collection Fetches £6.3m At Auction

One of the world's largest private Scotch whisky collections has raised more than £6m (well over $AU12m) at auction.  The "Perfect Collection" of 3,900 rare bottles was amassed over decades by the late US bottling magnate Richard Gooding.  It included a Macallan 1926 Fine and Rare 60 Year Old, which fetched a hammer price of £1m.  Auctioneers Whisky Auctioneer said the collection raised a record amount for an auction dedicated to one collector.  The online auction was held in two stages, with the first raising £3.2m last year. This week's auction of the remaining 1,900 lots added a further £3.1m.  Auctioneers had hoped the 1926 Macallan - one of only 14 bottles of its kind - would achieve a world record hammer price, but it fell short of the £1.5m paid for another Macallan from the same original bottling batch in 2019.  However, Whisky Auctioneer said it was the first time a single bottle of whisky had sold at an online-only auction for £1m.
Selected hammer prices from the second part of the Gooding auction:
The Macallan 1926 Fine & Rare 60 Year Old 75cl - £1,000,000
The Macallan 1972 Fine & Rare 29 Year Old - £30,000
The Macallan 1940 Fine & Rare 37 Year Old - £28,000
Bowmore 1967 Largiemeanoch 12 Year Old - £23,000
Iain McClune, founder of Perth-based Whisky Auctioneer said : "This auction was solely dedicated to one collector's magnificent library of whisky - a man who was dedicated to building The Perfect Collection.  As enthusiasts of whisky ourselves, we knew that this collection deserved its own spotlight to allow us to truly convey the rarity and sheer scale of something so historic."

Nationalised Ferguson Shipyard to Recruit 120 Extra Workers

A nationalised shipyard working to complete two overdue and overbudget ferries is taking on 120 workers as it moves to seven day working.  Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow said the extra staff - mostly pipe fitters and steel workers - would help "secure the long-term future of the shipyard".  They will be working on MV Glen Sannox and hull 802 for at least six months. The yard went into administration in 2019 following controversy over the two ferries being built for CalMac.  The cost of the dual-fuel ships has risen to twice the £97m fixed price contract and delivery is four years late.  The yard, which is now government-owned, said it was "taking serious action" to speed up the delivery schedule.  The extra workers will mean the shipyard can be in production seven days a week during spring and summer and will bring total number of staff to more than 500. Tim Hair, the "turnaround director" appointed by the Scottish government, said: "Last year was challenging, with disruption created by the pandemic, but we're confident we can increase momentum in 2021."  Ferguson said it was only looking for UK-based workers at this stage because of the current Covid-19 restrictions and the need to start in mid-March.  Earlier this year there was controversy when it was reported that migrant workers from Eastern Europe had been employed at the yard by a sub-contractor.  In the past year, the yard has taken on more than 100 extra staff and reintroduced its apprentice programme, which recruited 25 young people.  Mr Hair added: "We are confident, despite many challenges, 2021 will be a pivotal year in securing the long-term future of the shipyard.  We must do everything possible to deliver the dual fuel ferry programme, improve productivity, secure contracts for future vessels, and protect local jobs."

Names of Scottish Ospreys Sent to Mars on Nasa Rover

The names of four birds of prey from a Highlands nest site are among those "sent to Mars" on Nasa's rover Perseverance, it has emerged.  Nasa sought names to be stencilled in microscopic lettering onto three fingernail-sized silicon chips fitted to a plaque on the robot.  Louis, Aila, Mallie and Rannoch - four ospreys from Loch Arkaig Pine Forest - are among the 10.5 million names.  Perseverance landed on the Red Planet last week. The rover touched down in a Martian crater known as Jezero where it will search for signs of past microbial life. The names have been given to the four ospreys by conservationists and birdwatchers. The nest site at Woodland Trust Scotland's Loch Arkaig Pine Forest, near Fort William in Lochaber, can be viewed online via a webcam.  Linda Keene, of Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, was among those following the fortunes of Louis and Aila and their two chicks in 2019 when Nasa's Send Your Name to Mars campaign caught her eye. She submitted the names and they were, along with the millions of others, etched into the tiny chips. George Anderson, of Woodland Trust Scotland, said: "The Loch Arkaig ospreys became very famous last year when they became a lockdown hit with people stuck at home desperate to connect with nature.  We never thought their fame would stretch as far away as another planet though. We are very touched that Linda has celebrated the birds in this way." A previous mission to Mars also had links to Scotland. Rover Curiosity visited geological features given Scottish place names by scientists. They included St Kilda, Newmachar, Benbecula and Jura.

Edinburgh Council to Support Moves to Have Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones

Edinburgh councillors are to support moves to have "buffer zones" around abortion clinics to stop women being approached by anti-abortion activists. The local authority agreed to work with other councils and the Scottish government in a bid to implement 150m (492ft) no-protest zones. Anti-abortion campaigners say their aim is to support women to make a different choice.  Many women, however, have said they felt uneasy about their presence. A 4,800-signature petition organised by Back off Scotland, , a campaign group started by Edinburgh University students, was supported by the council's policy committee.  The council cannot introduce the necessary legislation itself, and will now engage with the Scottish government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) to help support that aim. Back Off Scotland said the presence of anti-abortion activists at clinics was a threat to both privacy and a woman's right to access legal medical services.  Alice, who had an abortion in Edinburgh two years ago, told BBC Scotland's The Nine her experience of facing demonstrators led to her getting behind the buffer zone campaign. She said: "One of the positive parts of my experience was that when I went in, the health care workers had a lot of time to talk me through my decision, making sure it was definitely what I wanted to do. It's not just a case of you go in and within five minutes it's done. The staff are really good at all the care. "So I think it's offensive to them to assume that conversation doesn't happen, when it most definitely does." Margaret Akers, from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children Scotland, said activists were seeking to support women make a different choice. She said: "That is the last opportunity for people, who feel pressured or coerced, or feel they have no option to be presented with an alternative. We are making sure people receive counselling, material support and making sure this narrative of choice is a real one. We find in our work that so many women report feeling that they have no choice, so what can we do to open that up and provide real options."  Lily, was met by an anti-abortion group while attending the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.  She told BBC Scotland: "To feel like your privacy has been invaded so much is terrifying when you are in that vulnerable position, even if you are sure of yourself. They are making a decision about their body autonomy and are being demonised for it.  They are having their privacy invaded." Adam McVey, City of Edinburgh Council leader, said: "There are certain principles I would certainly hope we would all be in agreement with - certainly the right to access healthcare facilities unimpeded when needed is one of the absolute cornerstones of our society, as is free speech. But free speech doesn't give us the right to run into a crowded building and shout 'fire' at the top of our lungs - there has to be sensible parameters around how we engage in some of these questions as a society, that are very emotive for many people."

AUSTRALIAN SCOTTISH NEWS
Coisir  Gaidhlig Astrailianach
The Gaelic Choir in Sydney will be back rehearsing on a face to face basis as from Thursday March 4th  2021.  This is due to the relaxation of Covid restrictions and a sympathetic and understanding of our plight by the authorities at Macquarie Presbyterian Church.  All choir members will still follow the rules set down by the Government and the church but at long last they will be able to sing together.  Yippee!!!!  Nach eil sin mìorbhuileach

In Glen Innes they have the GlenFest – 1st to 14th March 2021 this is An Australian Government bush fire recovery initiative, supported by Glen Innes Council.  The official ticketing site will open online for all of March’s free GlenFest Events The Australian Celtic Festival in 2021 featuring Ireland and the Isle of Man is on 29 April - 2 May 2021
The Scottish Australian Heritage Council
- have advised that the following events have been cancelled in 2021:
* National Multicultural Festival, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory  
* Richmond Highland Gathering, Tasmania
* Scots Day Out, Bendigo, Victoria (March)
* Geelong Highland Gathering, Geelong, Victoria
* Australasian Pipe Band Championships, Maryborough, Victoria
Scottish/Celtic Events planned for 2021
The Council doesn’t have confirmation from all of the following events in 2021
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,
They also advise that they are still looking for a Newsletter Editor.  If interested please contact the President to discuss this very important role for keeping the Scottish Diaspora informed at his email address  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

BRIGADOON HIGHLAND GATHERING

The following are extracts from advice received from the Brigadoon Executive on the  14th January and 11th February 2021. Due to the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic a final decision will be made on March 4th as to the future of BRIGADOON in April 2021.Therefore unfortunately NO tickets will be available in February.  In regards to the current Public Health Order (No 7), BRIGADOON 2021 will be a ticketed event and numbers will be restricted. In the event that BRIGADOON is unable to proceed in April, The Committee will look at an alternative date later in the year. Once the decision is made to proceed with the event Tickets will be made available through Ticketebo online ticketing.
Brigadoon Grand Raffle First there was the bushfires, then the floods and rain now COVID-19 which led to the cancellation of the 2020 Gathering. Because of this drastic chain of events there were no financial donations made to the usual volunteer groups. In an attempt to rectify this, Brigadoon will be holding a Grand Raffle for the 2021 gathering to be held on Saturday 17th April 2021. (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 you can get them on www.brigadoon.org.au/brigadoon-grand-raffle/).