Some Scottish News #58

 

Some Scottish News and Views

This little effort is for the period ending 17th July 2010. Once again I’ve been able to include a couple of small named articles which I think you will enjoy - Robin

Crofting Bill Passed

Western Isles SNP MSP, Alasdair Allan welcomed the passing by 66 votes to 0 of the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Bill. He commented: "Reaching agreement on this Bill has been a very long process. It began four years ago with the appointment, by the previous Government, of Professor Shucksmith's Enquiry into crofting and the Bill itself has been subject to very significant change from the original proposals, which were in part unworkable. Of course not everyone will agree on every part of the bill that has been passed today. Indeed, I took the opportunity today to press the minister for assurances on crofter housing, and I made the case for reducing further the fees to be paid for the new Register of Crofts”. He went on: "However, the debate about legislation cannot go on indefinitely, and we now have a piece of legislation, which is the produce of lengthy consultation in the crofting community. Now it is time to focus on the other issues affecting the future of crofting, besides legislation. Passing this Bill, and turning our attention to the problems facing crofting will allow us to do that," he added.

Calanais Stones – Visitor Numbers Rocket Upwards

Visitors to the Callanish Stones in Lewis has rocketed by 62 per cent in 2010 compared to the same period last year. Urras nan Tursachan (The Standing Stones Trust) manages the visitor centre at the Calanais Stones reported the massive rise in admissions. Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop announced the increase following a visit to the prehistoric site – which is in the care of Scottish Ministers – to hear about the progress in representing the site with bilingual Gaelic and English interpretation panels and plans for the future management of the site. The Minister said: "Calanais truly deserves its recognition as one of the world's most incredible heritage sites and is an excellent example of partnership working between government and Urras nan Tursachan. We are committed to providing both Gaelic and English interpretation at the site to properly reflect the importance of the Gaelic language in the Western Isles. This work has been supported by Bord na Gaelic. Such an impressive increase in visitors at a time of economic difficulty is a testament to the enduring appeal and mystery of the standing stones and the dedication of the team here at the visitor centre. It clearly demonstrates how crucial our culture can be in attracting tourism and supporting the economy."

Historic Scotland is working with Urras nan Tursachan on improving the interpretation and signage at the visitor centre and stones and last year, appointed a Gaelic Language Officer, Mairi Morrison, to develop a Gaelic education plan for the site. As well as individuals and families, Calanais is a hugely popular stop off for passengers from visiting cruise ships. The Trust has taken on new staff and extended opening hours to meet the increased demands. The site dates from between 2900 and 2600 BC, earlier than the main circle at Stonehenge, and there is evidence for around two thousand years of ritual activity at the site. It, and the surrounding satellites, is one of the most important surviving complexes of early prehistoric ritual monuments in the British Isles. Peat preserved the site, leaving the taller stones visible, which revealed the rest of the site when the peat was removed in 1857. Two years before that it became one of the first historic sites to be taken into state care.

Further Delay Hits Plans for New Trains on East Coast Line

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond was under fire after imposing a further three-month delay on ordering new trains for east coast main line services between Inverness, Aberdeen and Dundee and London. The proposal for new dual-drive diesel and electric express stock with more seats – originally put on hold by then Labour transport secretary Lord Adonis in February – is being held up again until the UK Government’s spending review concludes in October. Angus SNP MP Mike Weir, who regularly uses the service to commute to London, said: “It would be shortsighted and stupid to cancel these trains and deny us the opportunity of a faster service. “It is especially true as this government claims to think it is important to get people off air services and on to rail, and the only way to do that is by providing a better service

You Just Have to See for Yourself By Lesley Hart Some Scottish Items # 58

Swapping central-belted city life for the Caithness coast was like swapping telescope ends – at one end, the world looked close and graspable; at the other, remote and elusive. When I first I arrived in Wick last Thursday afternoon, having travelled for over seven hours on a train from Glasgow, I had a clear sense of which end was which – with the closeness of the city counterpointing the remoteness of the far coast. After a short time, however, I began to see things differently.

At first glance, landlocked Glasgow sees itself up close and in the moment; meanwhile, coastal-edged Wick looks out over vast expanses of land and sea, and is engulfed in a sense of timelessness – with the past and future ever present. The city seems to zoom in, placing us at the centre of things, whereas the far coast zooms out, placing us, speck-like, on the edge of things. But while our brains may be inclined to map out these binary narratives, comparing one extreme to another as if the world were made of perfect squares, it’s really not that simple. After all, we work from our own perspective – which is entirely subjective. My impressions of Glasgow and Wick are formed through the filter of my own experience and shaped by chance and circumstance. They are unique to me, and contain no universal truths – however commonly held they may seem. Second-hand impressions can never be fully relied on. To get to know a place properly you have to physically experience it for yourself.

When I stepped off the train at 3.30pm, at the end of the line, Wick seemed like the antithesis of Glasgow. The first thing that struck me was the absence of people. The empty high street with its sad array of closed-down shops gave the impression of a town abandoned. “It’s a ghost town”, I thought, and began to feel terribly cut off from the world. But, within 15 minutes, throngs of high-school teens were spilling into the streets. Half-an-hour later, the traffic and town centre had begun to swell with people finishing work. In just over an hour, Wick had revealed a life less obvious to me at 3.30pm – when any small town centre might look deserted. Likewise, any town centre recently upstaged by a giant nearby supermarket would see its smaller retailers go into decline. So my first impression of Wick as a ghost town proved false – a red herring. For the remainder of my all too brief stay, the people and places I encountered revealed a shimmering world of life, hospitality and wonderful, wonderful stories. In this, they captured the essence of Neil M. Gunn’s great novel, The Silver Darlings, and of the landscape and people that inspired it.

I travelled to Caithness for two reasons – because I needed a break from my hectic city life before starting a very busy job, and because my very busy job is to play Catrine in The Silver Darlings. Aberdeen dwellers and visitors may have seen posters around town advertising the revival of Aberdeen Performing Arts’ acclaimed production, which will play alongside Sunset Song at His Majesty’s Theatre in the last week of July, and at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh throughout August. Geographically and circumstantially, Catrine and I seem worlds apart. I live in 21st-century Glasgow; Catrine in 19th-century Caithness. She works the land and is profoundly connected to the elements; in Glasgow, I barely even notice the weather and make a living by indoor or electronic means. Catrine has prophetic visions, an unquestioning faith in God and is governed by an instinctive fear of the sea; I am a sceptical agnostic with a detached fondness for the sea who believes nature is governed by chaos and is therefore un-fated and impossible to predict. Nevertheless, there is something of Catrine in every woman – and man, for that matter. We all of us are governed by instinct and emotion as well as rational thought. Finding my own connection with Catrine meant tuning out of my urban sensibilities and resisting the urge to rationalise and dissect everything – easier said than done while city life buzzes on around me. So a wee trip to the Caithness seemed just the ticket.

Situated at either end of the harbour, Wick Heritage Museum and Camps Bar provided two rich, contrasting views on Wick life. At one end, we have Camps Bar, a melting pot of characters from all walks of Wick. Here, quiet, retired men and women mingled happily with springy youths and chatty tourists (me). Everyone seemed happy to coexist in this garish, traditional old man’s youth pub for all – complete with pool table, juke box and twice weekly karaoke. Presumably they also have darts nights,

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dominoes, a pub quiz and maybe even a wee beetle drive, and a spot of bingo. Eclectic is the name of the game at Camps. At the other end of the harbour is the award-winning and Tardis-like Wick Heritage Museum, run by a passionate group of volunteers – one of whom showed me round the hidden depths and reaches of the building. From the outside, the museum looks small and rather modest, but inside is resplendent with vast collections of local artefacts, paintings and photographs. My volunteer guide shared her knowledge of the collections and the history of the town with a fluency and grace that quite entranced me, and in a voice so mellifluous that I could have listened blissfully all day. For an hour or two at the museum, I felt at quite the centre of things – and very much in the moment, though surrounded by centuries of history and perched on the uppermost edge of the country. I realised that just as a person is neither one thing nor another, nor is a place – both can be many different things at once. And, with that, my imaginary telescope, with its two opposing ends, vanished completely from my mind.

“How better to see the world,” thought I, “than with the naked eye?”

Isles Patient Travel Costs Soar to £2.5 Million

The cost of sending Western Isles patients to mainland hospitals for treatment is costing the taxpayer £2.5 million annually. It has emerged that, there has been a 12 per cent increase over the past three years in the number of patients being sent to mainland hospitals for treatment. The average travel cost now is in the region of £1,000 - and the cost of treatment is on top of that. NHS Western Isles picks up the tab for treatment, but it is the UK taxpayer that foots the bill for travel. The travel figures just revealed come as the board attempts to reduce locum doctor costs and considers axing 40 beds at Ospadal nan Eilean in Stornoway In the financial year 2007/08 there were 2230 referrals to mainland hospitals for treatment. The following year this jumped to 2455 and in the financial year just past there were 2503 treatments carried out on the mainland. These figures include elective and emergency acute specialties, maternity and mental health admissions/transfers

Knife Carrying Down 23%

Knife carrying has been cut by almost a quarter following an initiative to teach young people about the ramifications and offer them alternatives such as football and boxing. Despite double the amount of police searches in the area, knife carrying fell 23% from June 2009 to January 2010 in Inverclyde where the No Knives, Better Lives initiative has been running. The pilot, funded by the Scottish Government, is now to be rolled out to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Clackmannanshire. Evaluation of the programme found that some 39% of 15 to 17-year-olds said they know someone who carries a knife. More than 80% of the teenagers had seen the advertising campaign and 74% ultimately agreed that carrying a knife can hurt friends and family. The move follows failed attempts by Labour and the Tories to introduce mandatory sentences for those caught carrying knives. Their amendments to the Scottish Criminal Justice Bill were defeated last week. Many of the young people questioned as part of the study already thought there were mandatory prison sentences of up to 10 years for being caught carrying a knife. However, many said the greatest influence in deciding not to carry a knife seemed to be the impact it could have on friends and family. Superintendent Grant Manders, of Strathclyde Police, said “We have never worked so hard to find knives but we found that due to the high profile of the campaign and the work in schools people seemed to stop carrying blades. The results have been incredibly positive. In the same period we also saw violent crime drop by about 20%. The initiative uses a range of programmes within schools and the community to explain the impact of carrying a knife.

Thankfully it is Not Illegal to Have A Wardrobe Malfunction By Iain Maciver Good on our new and fearless legislator Nick Clegg, I say. He is determined to get rid of all these old laws that are still on the statute book since the Whigs were in power. For instance, did you know you could still be locked up for treason if you put a stamp bearing the Queen’s head upside down on an envelope? I so want to do that now, before it is repealed. Not all the daft ones are old, though. It was just four years ago that the UK’s Tax Avoidance Schemes Regulations came in. These have since been legally

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tested and what they actually mean is that it is illegal not to tell the taxman anything you don’t want him to know. However, you don’t have to tell him anything you don’t mind him knowing. Yeah, right.

According to the letter of the law, the head of any dead whale found anywhere between Muckle Flugga and the Scilly Isles is legally the property of the King. But the tail belongs to the Queen, as she apparently has an ongoing need for whalebones for her corsets. Of course she does.

Other countries are just as barmy as us. In France, it is against the law to call a pig Napoleon. But is it OK to call it Monsieur Sarkozy? Apparently, yes. And bankers who get bonuses for making a pig’s ear of their businesses and politicians who fiddle their expenses? Yep, that’s fine. Fine, good law, that. In Ohio, the legislators also had too much time on their hands. It is against the law there to get a fish drunk and women must not wear patent-leather shoes, because they are shiny and men might see their underwear. Is that really true? I might get myself a pair and start sticking my foot out.

During my arduous researches on your behalf, dear reader, I found that a lot of these old laws still on the statute book are to do with relieving oneself. A driver who feels compelled to go can do so only if he aims for his rear wheel and keeps his right hand on his carriage. This was after pressure from operators of Hackney cabs who complained that they had to do long shifts without being near to a wee boys’ room. I can’t say that I have ever seen any of the cabbies here in Stornoway, like Neil Macneil, Jim McCulloch or Norman Maclean, sneaking out to splash their back hubcaps on the rank across from the Crown Hotel. Why not, though? Go on, guys. Give it a try. See what happens. But if Effie in the Crown sees you, please don’t tell her I told you to. Deal? And did you know that a pregnant woman can relieve herself anywhere she wants? Maybe that’s not really so daft. Actually, it says that a bursting mum-to-be can even ask a policeman for his helmet and use it for a potty. Does that apply to peaked hats as worn by Northern Constabulary, I wonder? I suppose it must do. You know, when I think about it, I have never seen my mate Sergeant Alex Macdonald or any of his colleagues from Stornoway nick hanging around near the maternity ward of Western Isles Hospital. Now we know why. They don’t want to have to explain that particular wardrobe malfunction back at the station.

You have to feel sorry for the Lord Mayor of Leicester, whose trousers fell down when he was addressing some kids in a library the other day. His wardrobe whoopsy happened because the poor guy is losing weight. He’s not a clown. Leave him alone.

My own wardrobe malfunction actually involved someone else’s clothing. It was when I was at the health board and had a mad dash one morning to get to work. As often happened, there were no piles of freshly- ironed items in the sock drawer, so I just grabbed a hanky from the basket of washing waiting to be ironed. Mrs X doesn’t always keep on top of the ironing. Poor thing, she is getting on a bit now. Later that morning, I was at a meeting about bird flu. That talk of diseases from wee lovely birdies brought on a bout of the sniffle tickles. You know what it’s like; you think you are going to sneeze, but it doesn’t quite happen. So you have to be prepared. Reaching into my pocket for the clean, if not quite crisply ironed, hanky, I held it at my nose in case an explosion was imminent.

Dr Sheila Scott, the director of public health, was sitting opposite me. Suddenly, she seemed to be squinting at my hanky. Silly woman, I thought. She should concentrate on saving the world from these flocks of bug-ridden blackbirds and blue tits. That’s when I noticed my hanky seemed to have an elasticated border. Strange, I thought. Oh well, whatever will they think of next? Hold on. This can’t be a hanky, I thought. I was right. It wasn’t. We had all been sat round this table discussing the possible end of civilisation as we knew it while all the time I was blatantly and unashamedly fingering a pair of Mrs X’s unmentionables. In my early-morning haste, I had plucked from the washing basket not a hanky but a pair of my wife’s skimpy drawers. And if you know Mrs X you will also know that last bit about them being skimpy is just a barefaced lie. As if that was not bad enough, at that point I had spent five minutes

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holding this triumph of snug-fitting cotton, elastication and tiny ribbons up to my nostrils. Would anyone have believed me if I had even tried to explain? No, so I never did. And that is why I have never been able to look Dr Scott, or anyone else who was round that table, in the eye ever since.

Duke of Edinburgh Joins Fight to Save Historic Clipper

The Duke of Edinburgh said the plight of the 145-year-old City of Adelaide, currently resting on a slipway on the west coast of Scotland, is "hideous" and appealed for help to restore it to its former glory. The Sunderland-built ship, which predates the Cutty Sark, took people and wool between Australia and Britain on 28 round trips. Built from teak and iron in 1864, the clipper once completed the Britain to Australia route in a record 65 days, cutting 35 days off the normal journey. Later known as the Carrick, it subsequently fulfilled many roles, including acting as a floating isolation hospital, a Royal Navy drill ship and finally, during the Second World War, as a floating clubhouse for the Royal Navy Reserve. After its final decomission, it has been left to the elements at Irvine, North Ayrshire, and could still face being dismantled for display in a museum. The Scottish Government is considering a number of options for the future of the ship, with campaigners hoping to refloat the vessel and take it to Australia or back to Sunderland. The Scottish Maritime Museum is under pressure to act, because the land on which the ship rests is earmarked for development.

Kenny Macaskill Hails Offenders' 'Payback' Project

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill visited an award-winning Glasgow project to help offenders turn their backs on crime. Low-level offenders working for The Coach House Trust are transforming derelict areas of Glasgow while learning new skills that can help get them back on the job ladder. Local communities across Glasgow are reaping the benefits with numerous derelict sites being cleaned up and renovated for use by the community. Work has ranged from transforming a once-derelict garden in Knightswood into a thriving garden centre that now grows and sells organic vegetables to local communities, to regenerating eight gap sites near Kelvinbridge. These gap sites, where buildings had been demolished, were becoming overgrown and infested with vermin. The Coach House Trust and its workforce have helped turn these sites into landscaped gardens and workshop spaces for their services users. Through joinery workshops, kitchen duties and work to improve behavioural and communication skills, the trust is equipping those involved in the project with new skills that can help them into employment and away from negative influences that can pull them back into a life of crime. The Coach House Trust was recently named Best Community Service project in Scotland by a panel of independent judges at the Community Service Awards. The Justice Secretary said "Projects like these help reduce crime. The Coach House Trust is a fantastic example of how community payback can help break the destructive cycle of reoffending by putting offenders to work to repay their dues to the community, whilst delivering benefits for local people."

Highland Justice of the Peace Dismissed

A Highland justice of the peace convicted of a speeding offence and for failing to appear at court has been sacked after a tribunal ruled that he was unfit to practise. But last night Henry Dedecker, who was a JP at Inverness court for around eight years, branded the decision “unbelievable” and admitted the saga had left a “bad taste”. The Judicial Office for Scotland revealed yesterday that Mr Dedecker was removed from office on June 29 after a tribunal ruled he was “unfit by reason of misbehaviour”. Mr Dedecker was found guilty of driving at 45mph in a 30mph zone following a trial at Dingwall Sheriff Court on December 12, 2008. At the same court four days later, he was also convicted of failing to appear in court without reasonable excuse. After attending 10 separate court hearings on the matter, Mr Dedecker, 56, of Church Street, Cromarty, was eventually fined £200 and issued with four penalty points for the speeding offence. He was fined another £200 for failing to appear in court.

He said: “I know it’s not the crime of the century but it seems to have been treated as the crime of the Some Scottish Items # 58

century.” Mr Dedecker said he only decided not to appeal against the conviction because he felt the case had already taken up too much valuable court time. Mr Dedecker stood down the day after Northern Constabulary police officers accused him of speeding in a 30mph zone on the A834 Dingwall to Strathpeffer road on September 16, 2007. He claims he was actually caught in a 40mph stretch of the same road. The former English teacher said: “Clearly I would have paid the fixed penalty issued to me at that time had it not been for the fact that I saw the police officer in my rear view mirror pointing the pro- laser gun at me at Blairninich (a 40mph zone) – some four miles north-west of Dingwall.” Had he accepted an on-the-spot fine of £60 and three penalty points, he believes he could still be working as a JP. He also insisted that he notified the procurator fiscal when he would be unable to attend the court as a result of a pre-booked trip to Paris. He did not use any legal representation, preferring to represent himself in court.

Future Looks Bright for Scottish Tourism

In these times of economic foreboding, it is easy to forget that Scotland has an industry that is not only punching well above its weight but is making good progress despite the downturn. Tourism in Scotland might not be in completely rude health, but the product is proving to be ever popular with overseas visitors. A report by VisitBritain has Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow in the top five most popular destinations. The Highland capital alone attracts 180,000 holidaymakers each year. The impact of the recession and the Icelandic ash cloud could help make this the best year for Scottish tourism in a long time. The main draws appear to be the scenery and golf, as well as ancestry and returning to family roots. VisitScotland is working hard on attracting even more overseas visitors from emerging markets like India and Russia and a trade delegation from Scotland is in China this week. Given that all this activity is paying off with jobs being created, the reputation of the country enhanced around the world and the future looking bright, why would anyone want to stick their heads in the sand and oppose the Trump development?

Helicopter Called Out to Four Incidents

The Stornoway Coastguard helicopter was called out to airlift a fish farmer to hospital with serious head injuries after an accident at work. The 49-year-old man was taken to Western Isles Hospital by helicopter after a fall at a fish farm at Scourie near Kinlochbervie at around 10.50am. The helicopter was scrambled again in the afternoon to help search for two missing boys in the Badachro area of Gairloch. The coastguard received a report from the police at 3.57pm that the boys, aged seven and nine, had been last seen near the shore. The children were found safe and well at 4.19pm. The helicopter was then sent directly to Scalpay in the Western Isles, where a female walker had fallen and broken her ankle on the south end of the island. She was airlifted to Stornoway Airport and transferred by ambulance to Western Isles Hospital. The helicopter was out again when it airlifted a climber who got stuck on a mountain in the Highlands to safety. The man was climbing near Loch Beag at Arisaig on Saturday when he became cragfast half way down. The man was winched aboard where he was checked over by Stornoway GP Dr Brian Michie on the aircraft. He was taken to Fort William and released without need for further medical assistance.

Single Force Worthy of Consideration

The idea of creating a single police force for Scotland has certainly provoked a reaction. The fears voiced by politicians in response to the thoughts of Strathclyde Police Chief Constable Steve House are likely to be shared by many communities, particularly those in remote areas who could lose out. Concerns about the loss of local control, a distant hierarchy and central targets are fully understandable. But at a time of economic austerity and all forms of public spending coming under significant pressure, it is an idea that should not be dismissed out of hand immediately, as has already been suggested by Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles. Can eight separate fiefdoms, each jealously guarding their own areas, be justified? That is the question that, rightly, has to be asked and then fully investigated. Mr House, who already oversees Scotland’s largest police force, sees potential in a merger as it is, in his eyes, the most effective

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model. He accepts it may not be the cheapest option, but given the nation’s perilous finances it is something police chiefs have to consider. The most pressing issue, though, is that if services are centralised and one force created then local bobbies must remain on the local beat, policing their communities just as before and in the same numbers. London has one police service serving its 7.5million residents, and it works because control is devolved to areas. Could the same be achieved for Scotland’s 5.1million population?

Wind Farm HGV Dummy Run Goes Without A Hitch

Opponents have protested long and hard about the use of the A9 through Golspie and Brora to transport heavy turbine parts for the Gordonbush wind farm. They have even threatened "civil disobedience" with warnings that they would do whatever it took to halt the traffic. There were hints that they might consider lying down on the road in the path of the HGVs or continually pressing the button to stop traffic at the crossing in Golspie. But in the event, a dummy run, conducted by wind farm developer Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) passed without incident. And, although a large number of residents and visitors watched from the pavement, there was not a protester or placard to be seen. The HGV in question was not actually carrying a turbine part, but instead was pulling a very long trailer with a ladder sticking out the back to represent the 43.75m length of a turbine blade - the longest turbine component. It began its journey at the Mound and slowly wound its way through the two villages, stopping at the north end of Brora. Accompanying it was a police outrider, a police vehicle and a van from an abnormal load escort service, all of which had their lights flashing. SSE's Gordonbush liaison officer Ruth Liddicoat said the simulated run had been successful. "My understanding is that it went well from our point of view, which was to demonstrate that these abnormal loads will pass through Golspie and Brora with minimal disruption," she said.

Faster, Longer Stornoway Ferry on the Cards

A new larger passenger ferry will be on the Stornoway-Ullapool route by 2013 and operating on a 24 x 7 basis for consumer and business traffic, it has emerged. The 160 metre vessel – capable of carrying 160 cars – will replace the Isle of Lewis and the freight ferry, Muirneag. It will cost between £35 and £40 million. The new vessel, which will be 59 metres longer, more powerful and more manoeuvrable than the existing car ferry, is currently at the early design stage and will feature diesel-electric engines. The proposed new design removes the need for a central core in the car deck and this will allow the carrying of 20 more articulated lorries or about 60 extra cars.Speaking at a ferry review consultation meeting in Stornoway, Scottish Government transport official, Mr Graham Laidlaw said a team from CMAL, the company that owns CalMac's fleet, would be in Stornoway in August to discuss the draft design with users including the public, local businesses, hauliers and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. Mr Laidlaw said the new ship would be able to handle the extra traffic generated by RET up to 2025. The M.V. Isle of Lewis is likely to be shifted onto the Isle of Mull ferry service.

Lewis in Line for Jobs Boost As Fish Processing Plant is Set to Reopen

A mothballed fish processing plant will reopen in Stornoway, with the creation of 70 jobs. The Scottish Salmon Company, which until recently traded as Lighthouse Caledonia, will resume production at the factory later this year. The plant, in Marybank Industrial Estate, shut in December 2008, making 130 people redundant. Work at the site will restart this autumn, following a complete refurbishment of the building with new equipment and facilities. The firm’s chairman Jim Mullins said he wanted to “expand the company significantly” in the Hebrides. He said: “We are reopening the Stornoway processing plant in the autumn with the creation of 70 jobs and see this as a springboard to growing and developing our Hebridean operation.” About 20% of the country’s salmon is produced by the firm, which employs almost 250 staff across the Hebrides and west coast of Scotland. Falling profits forced the closure of the Stornoway plant, but a change in ownership has since resulted in an upturn in business. It has already

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been granted planning permission for another £5million factory at Arnish, five miles outside Stornoway. The location will enable boats to transfer cargoes of live mature salmon directly into the plant.

The original plan was for work at the Marybank site to resume briefly as a stopgap, but it will now stay open indefinitely while the company focuses on establishing its new brand name. The firm has also begun trading shares on the Oslo stock exchange. Not everyone is welcoming the company’s plans for growth, however. A salmon farm which it plans to open off the Lewis coast is being opposed by islanders. More than 800 people have signed a petition objecting to the development, at Broad Bay off Gress, as they fear it will upset the balance of local marine life and wild salmon.

Carbon Capture Bid is Revived

Plans to revive a pioneering green-energy scheme in the north-east could sound the death knell for a proposed £3billion coal-fired power plant in Ayrshire, environmentalists have claimed. Scottish and Southern Energy announced last week that it could resurrect a carbon capture and storage project at Peterhead’s gas-fired power station. A similar development was proposed three years ago, but was dropped after the UK Government delayed the launch of a competition to find a scheme it could give financial backing to. The new scheme at Peterhead, which would involve capturing carbon dioxide emissions and storing them in depleted North Sea oil and gas fields, is expected to create scores of jobs. The plan was welcomed by leaders of a national environmental group. It believes the project would mean there is no need for a highly-controversial coal-fired power plant earmarked for Hunterston. Last month, Ayrshire Power submitted plans for the unit to the Scottish Government. The company said the plant, which could provide energy for 3million homes, would also have carbon-storage technology and would be the first of its kind in the world. The Hunterston plant, which would be the first coal-fired unit to be built since the 1970s, is earmarked for land between the Clydeport coal depot and the Hunterston nuclear power plant. The scheme is being considered by the Scottish Government, but MSPs have already signalled their opposition to it.

Catholic Leaders Criticise PM for Backtracking on Act of Settlement

Leaders of Scotland's Catholic Church have attacked David Cameron for backtracking over changes to an historic law that stops Catholics from becoming a British monarch. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of Scotland's Roman Catholic Church, and Joseph Devine, the Bishop of Motherwell, have accused the Prime Minister of discrimination against Catholics, and of demonstrating "arrogance and disdain". The Act of Settlement was passed by the English parliament in 1701 in a bid to prevent the Catholic son of James II from becoming King. It extended to Scotland after the union in 1707. Mr Cameron last year said that he would like to see a change to the rule which disallows a Catholic from becoming King or Queen. Under the 300-year-old Act of Settlement, an heir to the throne who marries a Catholic will also be barred from inheriting the crown unless their spouse agrees to renounce their faith.

Mr Cameron was thought to move forward talks, which began under Gordon Brown, between Downing Street and Buckingham Palace. However, a recent government announcement that there are "no current plans" to change the law have resulted in the angry outburst from the Catholic Church. "When a monarch is free to marry a Scientologist, Muslim, Buddhist, Moonie or even Satanist but not a Catholic, then there's something seriously wrong," said Bishop Devine. "What trust and confidence can we have in such a leader? He is barely two months into government and is already showing alarming signs of the arrogance and disdain so often associated with power."

Lost Bishop’s Palace Gives Up More Secrets As Dig Nears End

The final archaeological excavation at a lost bishop’s palace site in Aberdeenshire has produced further rare finds. After 16 years of investigations, the annual dig at Fetternear has become one of the longest- running of its kind in Scotland. Work started on the ancient estate just outside Kemnay in 1995, when

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the late Nicholas Bogdan from Barra, near Oldmeldrum, and University of Wales Lampeter archaeologist Penny Dransart discovered long-forgotten remains of a 13th- and 14th-century palace below the former lawns of ruined Fetternear House. The latest dig uncovered an unusual bottle seal, while a visiting expert identified a recently uncovered ornate roof carving as probably being from the massive mediaeval palace, which was built for the bishops of Aberdeen. A trained team of local volunteers and students from the USA will be concentrating their efforts inside the former moat of the palace as excavations continue until the end of this month. Last year, a range of imported high-quality 14th- century pottery was found in the area, with a massive and well-preserved beam that had once been part of a trestle bridge entrance to the palace. Ms Dransart said: “This will be the final excavation of the site – there have been continual problems in funding such a long-running dig and we have simply run out of grants. “But work will be continuing for years on researching more than 5,000 artefacts and articles uncovered over the last 16 years.

High Fuel Costs - Prime Minister's Pledge

SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP, Angus MacNeil, today (Wednesday) called on the Prime Minister to introduce an Islands' Rural Fuel Derogation before the January VAT hike comes into force. Commenting after Prime Minister's Questions where he raised the issue, Mr MacNeil MP said: "The Liberals and Tories inflicted a VAT hike which will hit those already struggling with sky high fuel prices especially hard. "Road users in my constituency are paying more tax per litre than anywhere else in the UK. Only this week a constituent who works in Benbecula but who lives in South Uist told me that the price of fuel at around £1.35-£1.40 means that it is becoming too expensive for her to travel to work. The VAT hike inflicted by the Tories and the Lib Dems yesterday will make rural fuel even more expensive and action must be taken without delay." Added the MP: "The Prime Minister has pledged his government to look at the issue and I am optimistic measures will be in place by January 2011 to make life a little easier for rural road users."

Stark Warning on Impact of Savings on North NHS

A warning on the impact of the financial crisis on health services in Caithness and Sutherland has been sounded. Colin Punler, chair of the North Highland Community Health Partnership (CHP), announced this week that services would have to be radically "re-designed" in order to balance the books. Mr Punler, who lives in Scrabster, is the latest in a long line of public sector representatives to make an "age of austerity" warning. And it emerged that health managers in the North have already embarked on a root and branch review of services in order to identify savings. NHS Highland is also to follow the lead of the Highland Council and launch a public consultation exercise. A former journalist, Mr Punler (43), is a lay member of the CHP. His day job is as manager of the public relations department at Dounreay.

Mr Punler pointed out that the Far North had, in the past two decades, benefited from record levels of NHS investment with funding increasing year on year by up to ten per cent. This had enabled managers to, among other things, purchase a £600,000 CT scanner for Caithness; install mobile video conferencing equipment at the renal unit in the Caithness General Hospital; develop a community rehabilitation team in north west Sutherland and a community physiotherapy service in East Sutherland in addition to providing a new £8.3 million hospital, currently under construction at Bonar Bridge. But Mr Punler said that Scottish Government funding to the NHS was now virtually frozen and unlikely to increase any time soon. He revealed that the re-design of services would have far-reaching consequences, changing how people worked and from where services were delivered. He said the review would also take into account other factors such as new rules about bed spacing in hospitals, the growing elderly population in the area and the shift from care in hospitals to the community. And he stressed that there was simply no other option but to make changes. Mr Punler and North CHP General Manager Sheena Macleod plan to hold talks with community councils and other local groups. They will explain the situation in person and invite feedback about public priorities for spending in the future. "We recognise that it will be difficult but also that it is an opportunity for bold and radical thinking, for new ideas and approaches in order to

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achieve what we all want to see - the very best levels of health care for everyone in Caithness and Sutherland."

Twilight Golfers Enjoy An Added Bonus (This little item is just for all you golfing folk - I was going to make a disparaging remark but in the interests of harmony, and my health, I refrained- Robin) Golfers who took advantage of Royal Dornoch's "twilight golf offer" on Thursday 1st July had the added bonus of a spectacular sunset from the Championship Course. The twilight rate starts at 6.30pm for a half-price green fee. During June, 60 golfers took advantage of this offer. Meanwhile, Royal Dornoch's Championship Course has retained its position in the world rankings of No. 3 in Scotland, No. 7 in Britain & Ireland and No. 16 in the world. Comparing where visitors come from to Royal Dornoch has a bearing on marketing and, for June, 34 per cent were from USA and Canada (three per cent up on May). What is significant is that more than 40 per cent of golfers on the Championship Course came from within the UK. For the second month running Germans were in the majority of Continental golfers. Recent market analysis by Golf Tourism Scotland showed that of Scotland's 500 golf courses around 70 generate the bulk of their income from visitors' green fees. This 12 per cent of the golf provision in Scotland generates 75 per cent of all green-fees revenue. This makes the Scottish Golf Union's adult participation initiative vital for golf clubs who depend mainly on members' annual subscriptions.

Football Stars Cancer Battle

The former Celtic and Arsenal football star John Hartson has revealed how Lochaber played a major role in his recovery from testicular, lung and brain cancer last year. On Wednesday , Welshman Hartson (35) completed a trek up and down Ben Nevis, accompanied by about 65 other walkers, to raise thousands of pounds for his cancer charity, the John Hartson Foundation. The hike up and down Britain's highest mountain came exactly a year to the day the star underwent the first of his emergency brain operations. Since then he has undergone six major operations to remove tumours from his body and endured nearly 70 chemotherapy sessions. During that time he became a father for the fourth time when wife Sarah, who hails from Spean Bridge, gave birth to their second daughter Stephanie Cari in March - a sister to two- year-old Lena. The former Welsh international - who enjoyed a trophy-laden spell with Celtic from 2001-2006 - said: "I just love coming up to this area, it's such a special place Sarah's mum and dad, Catherine and James, live at Spean Bridge, I came up here just after the operations and it was fantastic for my health and recuperation.

Each walker taking part in yesterday's Ben Nevis hike has raised at least £1,000 for the John Hartson Foundation which helps raise awareness about testicular cancer and also raise money to support cancer care services for adults and children. The foundation funds were boosted on Tuesday when staff from Marine Harvest in Fort William presented Hartson with a cheque for £2,500. The cash was raised through donations at the recent Clash of the Camans six-a-side shinty tournament and topped up by Marine Harvest itself. John's plan to scale the 4,406ft Ben was hatched while he recuperated in Spean Bridge last year. He said:"You can see Ben Nevis from James's and Catherine's back garden. I looked at the mountain one morning and said to myself, 'one day I'll climb up there'. It became a goal to help me through all the chemotherapy and surgery. July 14 is a special date for me as it's a year to the day since my first operation. The hike is also a chance for me to personally thank a lot of people who have supported me through the last year."

Scots United As Commonwealth Games Handover is Launched

A Scotland-wide programme of events marking this year's handover of the Commonwealth Games to Glasgow was launched on Thursday. The Games for Scotland programme features a range of music, dance and sporting events, from Bollywood dancing in the Borders to a mini Commonwealth Games in Shetland. All of Scotland's 32 local authorities are involved in the initiative, delivered by EventScotland and funded to the tune of £320,000 by the Scottish Government. The programme will see a number of events coinciding with the official handover ceremony in Delhi on October 14. The ceremony, which

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features a cast of 346 Scots, will mark the beginning of a four-year journey that will culminate in Glasgow's hosting the big sporting event in 2014. Organisers believe the programme of events will give people across the country the chance to take pride in Scotland's role as host of the 20th Commonwealth Games. Glasgow 2014 chief executive John Scott said: "The handover ceremony will be uniquely Scottish and blend together the traditional aspects of Scottish culture with the passion, style and fun of modern Scotland, and it is these qualities that I hope will be replicated across the nation and throughout the Games for Scotland events as we celebrate Glasgow becoming the next host city on October 14th."

Jobs Joy As Highland Yard Lands Contracts

An offshore engineering giant will create scores of new jobs in the Highlands after winning two multimillion-pound contracts. Subsea 7 wants to recruit 150 workers for its pipeline fabrication yard near Wick after landing orders worth £145million from BP and Apache to build, deliver and commission connections to North Sea platforms. The hunt for workers has already started and management are confident they can secure follow-up contracts to provide long-term employment at their premises at Wester. Work had dried up during the recession and the payroll dwindled to just 13. The new jobs are coming on-stream just as bosses at Dounreay are looking for volunteers to help shed 180 posts in the latest phase of the wind-down of the atomic plant. Subsea 7, one of the world’s biggest offshore oil service companies, is an acknowledged market leader in “seabed flowline bundles” – which connect offshore installations. Sixty-one have been floated out from Wester over the past 30 years. One £93million contract is for BP, to connect its Arundel and Kinnoull developments to the Andrew platform. The other contract is a £52million order from Apache to connect three new wells in the Bacchus field to the Forties Alpha platform.

Joint Bid to Take Over Nigg Yard

Competition to take over the former Nigg fabrication yard on the Cromarty Firth intensified yesterday with confirmation of a joint bid from one of the heavyweights of Highland commercial life and the port authority. The international energy services company Global Energy is joining forces with the Cromarty Firth Port Authority to try to unlock the near five-year deadlock at Nigg. Previous approaches to get the yard back into use have been stalled by the site’s shared ownership between the US energy giant KBR and local landowners, the Nightingale family’s Wakelyn Trust. KBR leases part of the yard from the trust, but its lease condition requires reinstatement of part of the yard by 2031. This clause could be invoked if KBR was to sell its interest in Nigg. In April, the Birmingham-based DSM Demolition Group announced it had acquired an 800-acre site next to the former yard at Nigg to break up oil and gas platforms. It revealed it was also in talks with owners of the yard in the hope of taking it over and regenerating the base. A spokesperson for Cromarty Firth Port Authority and Global Energy Group said: “We can confirm that an initial bid has been submitted to KBR’s agents by Cromarty Firth Port Authority and the Global Energy Group under the auspices of a joint venture agreement. “The object of this bid is to reactivate the yard as an energy-related facility.”

Wii Consoles Scots Patients in Pain

A new pain-relief implant that mimics Wii-style technology was trialled in Glasgow on Friday. Ailsa MacKenzie-Summers, 42, from East Kilbride, became the first patient to benefit from the new technology when NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Dr Gordon McGinn fitted the neurostimulator implant at Glasgow’s New Victoria Hospital. The implant uses state-of-the-art Wii-style motion-sensing technology to provide pain relief automatically whenever a patient moves around. At present most implants require the patient to constantly adjust the amount of pain relief according to their movements. MacKenzie-Summers suffers severe pain in her leg as a result of nerve damage. Dr McGinn compared the technology to providing a similar sensation as rubbing your elbow after giving it a knock. He said the procedure had gone smoothly, adding: “I think the new implant will bring many benefits to patients in terms of improved quality of life, decreased disability and also in the support of their rehabilitation.”

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Energy Deal Creates Up to 100 Jobs

Up to 100 jobs could be created at a specialist green energy centre thanks to a new deal between Mitsubishi and Scottish and Southern Energy, it has been announced. The two firms have signed a strategic agreement that will see them co-operate on low carbon energy developments. Bosses at the energy company have hailed the agreement as "one of the most significant industrial partnerships to be established in Scotland since the heyday of North Sea oil". Last year Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) set up a Centre of Engineering Excellence in Renewable Energy with Strathclyde University. The deal signed with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe Ltd should lead to up to 100 new skilled jobs at the centre. As many as 1,000 people could be working at the specialist facility by 2015. Mitsubishi and SSE hope to focus their work on developing offshore renewable energy and low carbon vehicles. SSE chief operating officer Colin Hood said: "This agreement represents one of the most significant industrial partnerships to be established in Scotland since the heyday of North Sea oil - and low carbon energy represents Scotland's biggest economic opportunity since then. "As the UK's broadest-based energy company, SSE has extensive interests and opportunities in low carbon developments, and our partnership with Mitsubishi should help us to make the most of them." Akio Fukui, chief executive officer of Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe, said: "I am delighted to have the opportunity to work even more closely with colleagues from SSE in these very exciting areas of low carbon technology."

MUSIC REVIEWS Gu Sunndach - Sunndach Sunndach are John Blair, Colin Fisher and Linda McCallum, and may be known to Mod-goers as Ceol Chluaidh, under which name they formed in 2004, and indeed won the Folk Group competition at the Perth National Mod that year: for the winning entry see Track Nine. The new name, which means cheerful, or lively, was chosen in 2006 to reflect their style: and they really live up to it on this album, Gu Sunndach, which offers eight tracks in Gaelic and four in English. This interesting linguistic blend sums up their mild cultural dichotomy of residing "doon the watter" while living in the music of the Gaidhealtachd. Songs range from the heartbreak of lost loves ("Soraidh Slan do'n Te Bhan", The Rose of Orvieto) to the gallus good luck of "Willie" (of Melville Castle fame) whom every lady fell for; and a puirt a beul medley, all delivered in close harmony and with a noticeable tone of enjoyment. And there's a bonus for Gaelic learners: the words of all the songs in Gaelic and English are on a PDF file which is part of the CD, and can be downloaded. The last sleeve note says: "Tha sinn an dochas gun cord e ribh," or "We hope you enjoy it." I don't think there's any doubt about that. Website: www.sunndach.co.uk

Unstoppable - Bùrach Unstoppable is definitely the word for Bùrach, or founder member Sandy Brechin, guitarist and vocalist David Taylor, bassist and songwriter Chris Agnew of the Dougie MacLean Band, Gavin Marwick of Iron Horse fame, and now back with Bùrach, and percussionist Alan Brown. And this collection endorses that 100 per cent, from the urgent driving force of the opening track to the well-maintained but slightly less gruelling pace of the others. Talking of gruelling pace, Track Two recalls the inaugural Oman Highland Games, in which our heroes took part, with results duly chronicled in music. The album also features several songs by David, Gavin and Sandy. An exciting exploration of Scottish music in many of its diverse moods. Cat No: CDBAR 001 - Publisher: Brechin All Records - www.brechin-all-records.com

IAINS JOKE SECTION - Yes I’m back - school holidays you see!! Alex told his friends that he couldn't come to the pub because his wife was doing bird imitations - she was watching him like a hawk.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Jock reckoned he was a great judge of a glass of whisky - and a merciless executioner.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Dr MacGregor checked over his patient and said with a puzzled frown. "I can't really tell what the trouble is. I think it must be due to drink." Willie said, understandingly "Ach, that's all right doctor. I'll come back when you're sober."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Dad: " Did you use the car last night ? " Little Sandy: " Yes, Dad. I took some of the boys for a ride." Dad: " Well, tell them I found two of their lipsticks."

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