Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 604

Issue # 604                                               Week ending Saturday 29th  May  2021
For Peat’s Sake, is it Not Time We Had A Really Different Kind of Scottish Entry in Eurovision? by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Imagine you were on holiday to an island in a country far, far away and you could not get off that island when you wanted because the ferries were badly run. Most of the ships were broken and there was a backlog running into weeks to get some types of vehicles on and off. How shambolic would that be?

Imagine you were stuck like that and you see 20 large ships out at sea. Would you ask whether any of them be used to help get people back and fore?

Then you discover these ships and ferries are run by two governments who both claim to run services well. How’d you feel? You’d want to bang their heads together but these governments are bitter rivals who are somewhat deaf and don’t talk to each other. This is not a catastrophe in a struggling island nation run by tinpot dictators who care only for themselves. This the Outer Hebrides today.

News editors are being somewhat deaf. It just makes wee snippets on the Scottish news. Our dire situation doesn’t trouble London newsrooms furiously regurgitating press releases from a plethora of government departments about how well they are doing. Some papers are, of course, basing entire front pages on entirely predictable tweets by ousted malcontent Dominic Cummings. That’s big news, apparently.

What 20 large ships, you ask. This is Exercise Strike Warrior 21, one of the largest military exercises of its kind ever held. It actually had 31 warships in the war games, but only 20 were ours. Now if it was our navy under the command of our Lady Admiral Sturgeon of the Scottish Fleet ... then who knows? I am just off the phone to Nicola’s office. Her secretary said she was in Communi Cardo. Didn’t they have a Eurovision entry this year?

You knew I would get round to it. Just as many are now speculating that Scotland would get far more than “nil pwah” if it had its own entry. So let me tell you what happened in Eurovision. The UK didn’t win. Zero pwah. What on earth has the UK done to annoy the rest of Europe? Apart from telling them for the last five years that the UK wants nothing whatsoever to do with them?

Maybe we need a fresh look at our contestants. We’ve had a couple of Scottish ones - Lulu and Kenneth McKellar. He sang A Man Without Love, a dreary dirge. At least he got Ireland’s vote. Lulu boomed bang-a-bang - and won in 1969. Now we need authentic performers who may not be polished, melodic or slick giving it laldy in native tongues.

I think we need a memorable group with amazing smiles and wide personalities, or the other way round. Now I can’t get the thought of mega-authentic Hebridean folk trio Peat and Diesel out of my head. Their lyrics would dumbfound even Graham Norton.
Salt and pepper, Justin Beiber
Salt an pepper, cup of tea
Cuppa mo sheanair (A cup for my grandfather)
A little bit of salt and a little bit of pepper
And a little bit of salt and sugar in your tea
A cuppa for myself
And a cuppa for mo sheanair.

They’d understand Boydie’s lovingly-crafted outpourings in San Marino - almost. Send emails to Eurovision to put their name forward and to Ken Bruce and all the DJs at Radio 2 to get it onto their playlist. Well, it worked for Skerryvore and their song You and I a while back.

It was the right time for You and I. Good friends everywhere now are meeting up again after more than a year without hugs. Just an air hug is fine for You and I. I will tell you why - it’s that bad breath again. It seems most people have developed a taste for garlic and raw onions during lockdown. Yuckitty-plop. They stink, these people.

Finally, thank you to my secret informant in South Uist who told me about Mary, a lady of a certain vintage. She’s in her 70s. Bad breath or not, she wanted to resume hugging a somewhat older and somewhat deaf bodach called Joseph who lives near her. After not seeing him for so long, Mary turned up at his door in a slinky black dress last week.

When he opened the door, Mary says: “Joe, I’ve missed you. I’m here to give you super love all night long.” Joseph replied: “Oh m’eudail. I think I’ll just have the soup.”

Covid: Half of Appointments Missed At Glasgow Mass Vaccine Hub
Around half of people who were due to get a Covid jab at a mass vaccination centre in Glasgow failed to turn up over the weekend.  The BBC has learned a "considerable" number of no shows were recorded on both Saturday and Sunday at the Hydro.  The venue can administer a minimum of 4,000 vaccinations each day, with a capacity to scale up to 10,000.   It comes amid efforts to accelerate vaccination following a rise in cases in the city. The BBC understands that the number of missed appointments at the Hydro was higher on Sunday than on Saturday.  Both NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the Scottish government said they were looking into the issue to establish if it was a localised issue or more widespread.  The Scottish Conservatives suggested there may have been an issue with people receiving their vaccination appointment letter on time while the Lib Dems pointed to younger age groups who they said "move frequently" and have less contact with their GP.  In Scotland, people are invited to vaccine appointments, usually by letter, rather than booking slots themselves.  Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, who received his first jab on Monday, said there had been a "slight increase" in those not attending appointments.  He said: "My plea would be to please attend and if you can't attend the appointment you're given of course you do have details where you can switch appointments, rearrange and reschedule - which is really important to do."   Glasgow City currently has the second highest coronavirus rate in Scotland at 136.8 cases per 100,000 people, having recorded 866 new positive tests in the seven days to 21 May.  Clackmannanshire has overtaken it for the highest case rate, at 139.7 per 100,000 although the number of positive tests is much smaller, at 72.  Glasgow is the only council area in Scotland under level three Covid restrictions amid concerns over the prevalence of the variant first identified in India - referred to as the April 02 variant by the Scottish government.  People aged 18 to 39 who live in postcodes G41, G42, G5, G51 or G52 in the southside of Glasgow are being offered jabs early to tackle surging cases.  The national clinical director, Prof Jason Leitch, confirmed there were bigger numbers of non-attendees than expected and that it was being looked into.  He told Radio Scotland's Drivetime with John Beattie: "It's not simple, it will be a mixture of reasons. Some of it will be our fault, because we didn't send letters in time or the appointments didn't go where they were supposed to go.  Some of it will be vaccine hesitancy and some will be complacency. But it doesn't matter if you didn't attend, we just want you to come. Make a new appointment and come back."  He also said he was optimistic that case numbers in Glasgow would stabilise and that the city might be able to move down to level two next week.  The Scottish government is now inviting 18-29 years to self-register after a successful trial for unpaid carers.  A spokeswoman said: "This age group is particularly mobile and having the ability to text these groups means they will receive details of their vaccination appointment regardless of where they are.  This is particularly relevant for students who may have registered with a GP near their term time address but be heading home for the holidays. Therefore, once they receive their appointment details vie text or email they simply contact the helpline should they need to change the location."  The service is open between 24 May and 4 June and those who register for their vaccination during this period will be allocated the first available slots from mid-June until the end of July.  But anyone in this age group who does not register for whatever reason will still receive a blue envelope appointment.  University of St Andrews psychologist Prof Stephen Reicher, who advises the UK and Scottish governments, said the message should be that it is important to get both jabs. But he said it was not as simple as assuming people were to blame for not going for their vaccinations.  He said: "Sometimes it's a matter of practicality. Getting to the SECC if you have caring responsibilities over the weekend, or if you are a single parent and you have got to take a couple of buses to get there, it is quite tricky.  It makes sense that rather than ask people to come to you, to go into communities, take mobile labs there to get people vaccinated.  We also need to talk to people and understand what their concerns are."  Hospital admissions in Glasgow have increased recently, and the health secretary said the Scottish government would be monitoring whether this figure translates into more severe cases which require ICU treatment.  Mr Yousaf also said this new variant meant it was "vitally important" that people received both doses of the vaccination when it was offered.  "The second dose offers greater and longer lasting protection, and should not be missed," he said.  "We want everyone to come forward for a vaccine and we continue to work with community organisations to address any barriers people may experience to ensure that everyone is able to get an appointment.  The vaccines we have are extremely safe and highly effective."  The Scottish Conservative health spokeswoman Annie Wells said the number of missed vaccine appointments was "extremely concerning" and called for further transparency from the government on the issue.  She said: "If there are any issues with people receiving their appointment letters on time, then SNP ministers must give health boards the resources to ensure that people's details are fully up-to-date.  That is even more important now as we encourage younger people to take up the vaccine and ensure we can safely ease restrictions in the coming weeks."  Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP added: "Younger age groups are more likely to move frequently and have less contact with their GPs so the government should be exploring a range of options as to how they can get people registered and get their jab.  If you did not receive your letter, please check with your GP."

Judicial Review Into Sutherland Space Port Due Next Month
A judicial review of planning permission for a satellite launch site in the Highlands is due to be held next month.  Billionaires Anders and Anne Holch Povlsen, who own land near the proposed Space Hub Sutherland, have concerns about its impact on protected areas.  Their company Wildland Ltd raised the legal action against Highland Council's planning approval.  Preparative work at the proposed site near Tongue has started.  A six-week long ground investigation began on Monday. The survey will guide the final design and construction of the facility.  Engineers are examining sections of the 10.4 acre (4.2ha) site to establish the sequence and thickness of the soil strata and the level of bedrock that lies beneath.  Laboratory testing of peat, soil and rock samples will later be carried out, with the findings being used to inform detailed design of foundations, access roads and spaceport infrastructure, including the control centre and launch pad complex.  Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which is leading the project, said it expected the judicial review to begin next month.  The scheme also needs approval from the Scottish Land Court, as the proposed development is on crofting land. A hearing is under way.  HIE has proposed building the facility for launching small satellites on the Moine Peninsula, an area of peatland and crofts on the Highlands' north coast.  The public agency has said the project would create jobs and help boost the Highlands' and wider Scottish economy.  Highland Council received 457 objections and 118 representations in support of HIE's planning application.  The impact on the environment, including the Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands Special Protection Area, and risk to human health were among the reasons for objections.  The local authority approved the plans in June last year and referred their decision to the Scottish government for scrutiny.  In August, Scottish ministers said the plans did not require a decision at national level and should be dealt with by Highland Council.  Last year, Wildland Ltd said following "a period of review and reflection" its initial concerns about the potential environmental impact of the space port remained.  It said it was "absolutely vital that planning applications of such scale and significance for environmentally vulnerable protected areas" were subject to "rigorous scrutiny" at the planning application stage, whoever the applicant happened to be.  Wildland Ltd said it believed that the council did not have access to "sufficiently detailed or rigorous impact assessments" on key aspects of the proposal to approve it.

Covid: 'The Horror of Laying Everyone Off Made Me Sick'
Early last year, the future looked bright for coach tour operator Robin Worsnop.  The chief executive of one the UK's largest small group tour businesses was planning to add 30 staff to his 246-strong workforce as he prepared for the 2020 season.  But his world was about to crash.   When lockdown was imposed in March, he lost almost overnight his international visitor market - a core part of his business.  Mr Worsnop estimates that his company, Rabbie's Tours, lost millions of pounds in revenues last year, with income down by more than 90% on 2019.  It forced him to confront the unthinkable - shutting down a UK-wide business he had built up from his Edinburgh base over decades.  He openly admits that the pandemic took a heavy toll on his mental health.  "The month of March was the most harrowing of my business career as I faced the immediate prospect of saying goodbye to everything I had built up over 28 years," he explains.  "The sleepless nights and stress and day-by-day reworking and reformulating business plan after business plan, based on a few words here and there from government ministers.   It took an immense toll on my mental health and I lost 10kgs in that month alone.  Admittedly I am now a better weight, but I also started chain smoking."  He said he had been in "the depths of despair" - but was kept going by his family and the team around him.  "The horror of laying everyone off and putting them in penury made me physically sick," he said.  "But the support I got from both my management team and words of encouragement from many frontline team members convinced me I had to try and save Rabbie's."  Things were to improve as the UK Westminster government furlough scheme kicked in at the end of March 2020, allowing Rabbie's to retain 190 staff.  But he says that the past year has been "incredibly challenging" for both him and his workforce, whom he describes as a "clan".   "There have been some very dark days over the last year and motivation levels can be sapped very heavily.  I know that I have suffered from these things so I can only imagine members of the team have been feeling the same way."  However, Mr Worsnop remains optimistic about the future as restrictions are gradually lifted.  "I cannot say losing the millions of pounds we have over the last year has been enjoyable and we've got an awful lot of incredibly hard work to build back the business so it is financially robust again.  But I look forward to doing that and making the business even greater than it was before."  The lockdown has also been tough for managers like Simon Round, who runs the Huxley bar and restaurant in Edinburgh.  He spent a total of 10 months in furlough over the course of the pandemic, and only returned to his workplace full-time four weeks ago.  He says furlough came as a shock.  "I needed to keep active and fit to stay positive, as I live by myself and lockdown at times was really tough," he said.  His employer, Signature Pubs, set up social media groups to help motivate Simon and his team to remain active.  Staff were also encouraged to take part in quiz nights and post videos to the staff pages.  But returning to work also presented its own challenges.  "Myself and most of the team have gone from not seeing any people to serving hundreds of guests on a single day, so that alone can be quite intense.  It's also difficult for guests, who are having to get used to going out and about socialising again."  Simon admits that he still facing challenges as he continues to re-acclimatise to his work environment.  "I personally have suffered with my mental health, and anxiety will come and go, but I tackle it by talking it out and staying active," he explains.  "The best thing I have ever done is take up running and playing lots of golf - badly.  Being around alcohol all the time can lead to you wanting to drink more yourself, and even though I do love a day/night out at the pub, the next day can sometimes be quite tough with anxiety."  Companies and trade bodies across a range of sectors are already placing greater emphasis on mental health in the workplace for managers, as well as staff.  In tourism and hospitality, for example, there is growing concern that a crisis is looming, with many businesses still on government lifeline support, grants and loans.  Robert Allan, HR director of the Apex hotel chain, says measures to develop mental health support services are "a crucial component of the industry coming back strongly".  He says companies should be "extremely mindful" that line managers, heads of department and supervisors may need support.  "Many will have been playing their part in supporting companies through the past few months, which in reality may add to their own challenges," he says.  Hospitality Health, a charity which supports people working in the sector who are "experiencing tough times", agrees that the pandemic has been hard on managers as well as staff.  Founder Gordon McIntyre explains: "Overnight they had to close the business and either make staff redundant or thankfully consider furlough, a better option at the time.  The situation caused an immediate rise in stress, anxiety and in several cases depression.  For staff it was the fear of the unknown. Would they keep their job? Would they be on a lesser income? What would things be like if and when they returned?   And for the owners and managers, they had the sleepless nights of what to do with their staff, whose lives depended upon the income they provided."

TSB Urged to Drop Ruthwell Savings Bank Museum Closure Plan
Campaigners have called on the TSB to drop its plans to permanently close a museum at the site of the world's first savings bank in the south of Scotland.  The banking firm recently revealed it intended to shut the Ruthwell cottage and move its contents to Edinburgh.  Tour operator Mark Turner, who set up a petition opposing the move, said it was an important facility for the village.  The TSB said it had been in talks over ensuring items which were of local relevance would stay in the region.  The small cottage museum is on the site where Rev Henry Duncan set up his "penny bank" for parishioners in 1810.  It has been shut during the Covid pandemic but the TSB now plans to close it permanently and move some of the contents to its Edinburgh headquarters.  Mr Turner, who runs Solway Tours, said he had been "pretty devastated" when he heard the plans and set up a petition which has been supported by more than 1,000 people.  "For a small museum in rural Dumfriesshire I think it is a fantastic response," he said.  "It probably says a lot about how important and how valued that wee museum is.  The curator that runs that museum is fantastic."  He said moving it from the cottage to Edinburgh seemed "daft".  I think the artefacts are great and people seeing them is brilliant - but I don't think that's the story," he said.  "The story is actually seeing it in situ and hearing the story of Henry Duncan."  The campaign has gathered cross-party political support with the SNP's Emma Harper, Labour's Colin Smyth and Conservative David Mundell all calling on the TSB to change its mind.  "I think they understand the feelings in the local community are running high," said Mr Turner.  "Obviously when it is a big bank like TSB they might make decisions on a more financial rather than a cultural basis."  However, he said he hoped they might rethink their plans given the level of opposition.  The TSB has said the Henry Duncan story is a "proud part" of its history and the move would allow more people to learn about his work.  It has also highlighted the small number of people visiting the Ruthwell site each year.  It has already held talks with local politicians and campaigners and said it would continue the dialogue to ensure any artefacts which should remain in the area would do so.

Lidl Ordered to Stop Selling Gin Brand Lookalike
Discount supermarket Lidl has been ordered to stop selling a redesigned gin bottle that looks too similar to an upmarket rival.  A senior judge has told the retailer the redesign of its Hampstead gin breaches the trademarks of premium brand Hendrick's.  At the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Lord Clark awarded an interim interdict to the makers of Hendrick's gin.  The temporary order stops Lidl selling the redesigned bottles in Scotland.  The decision comes just months after M&S took action against Aldi over its Colin the Caterpillar cake lookalike.  It argued the supermarket's Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake infringed its Colin the Caterpillar trademark, that their similarities led consumers to believe they were of the same standard and that the product "rode on the coat-tails" of M&S's reputation.  William Grant and Sons Irish Brands Ltd instructed lawyers to to take legal steps, believing the retail giant's Hampstead gin brand resembled their own product, which is distilled in the Ayrshire town of Girvan.  The company claimed the supermarket redesigned the Hampstead gin bottle to resemble the "apothecary-style bottle" used by Hendrick's.  The legal team argued that the redesign changed the colour of the diamond-shaped label from white to a similar pale colour used on the bottle in the Hendrick's trademark.  They argued that the look of the label was changed to look like the Hendrick's label and the bottle was changed to a similar dark colour.  The lawyers also said the redesign contained images of cucumbers which alluded to the fact that Hendrick's was infused with cucumber.  William Grant's lawyers asked for a temporary order which would force Lidl to stop selling the redesigned Hampstead gin. The firm feared sales of Hendrick's gin could be harmed by the cheaper rival.  Lord Clark agreed and said that the drinks firm's legal team shown there was a case that Lidl had breached section 10 (3) Trade Marks Act 1994.  In a written judgement issued on Tuesday, Lord Clark wrote: "I accept that the pursuer in the present case has not (as yet) provided a sufficient basis to show a reasonable prospect of success in establishing a change in the economic behaviour of the average consumer or a serious likelihood that such a change will occur in the future. I do however recognise that there is at least some risk to the pursuer of harm to the brand.  I take that factor into account and find that there is a reasonable prospect of success for the pursuer in showing that the defenders intended to benefit from the reputation and goodwill of the pursuer's mark.  Whether or not there was a deliberate intention to deceive, there is a sufficient basis for showing that there was an intention to benefit. It is difficult to view the re-design, including the change in colour of the bottle, as accidental or coincidental.  I therefore conclude that there is a reasonable prospect of success on the part of the pursuer in showing a change in economic behaviour or a real likelihood of such a change by customers who buy from Lidl." Lidl said it was disappointed by the ruling.  A spokesman said: "We note the court's decision and have closely adhered to the requirements outlined within the ruling.  We continue to liaise directly with the parties involved and hope to reach a satisfactory resolution in due course."

Four-nation Summit on Covid-19 Recovery Postponed
A four-nation summit on Covid-19 recovery has been postponed amid a row between the Scottish and  Welsh and the UK Westminster governments. Talks between the prime minister and the leaders of the devolved administrations were due on Thursday.  But Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford wrote to Boris Johnson asking for more clarity around the agenda, saying the discussion must be "meaningful".  A UK Weatminster government spokesman said the delay to the talks was "disappointing".  The summit is to be rescheduled "as soon as possible", but no date has been set - with both sides blaming the other for not being sufficiently prepared.  Mr Johnson called the summit in the wake of the election results earlier this month, which saw Ms Sturgeon's SNP returned to government in Scotland and Mr Drakeford's Labour triumph in Wales.  The prime minister called for a "spirit of unity and cooperation" in building back from the Covid-19 crisis, and both first ministers said they would be happy to take part in the talk.  However there has been a row over the substance of the summit, with Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford penning a joint letter to Mr Johnson criticising his office for sending a "very rough agenda".  In the letter - copied to Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill, the first and deputy first ministers of Northern Ireland - they made the case for "further discussion" to take place to make sure the talks could be "a meaningful discussion with substantive outcomes".  Mr Johnson's spokesman said it was "disappointing that the Scottish government and the Welsh government would prefer to delay this meeting so they have more time to prepare, especially given the scale of the challenge".  A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon hit back that "the summit would be going ahead tomorrow if the UK Westminster government were remotely prepared for it".  The row comes as Mr Johnson's former chief advisor, Dominic Cummings, told MPs that senior ministers and officials had "fallen disastrously short of the standards that the public has a right to expect of its government in a crisis like this".  Pressed on this at prime minister's questions, Mr Johnson said: "None of the decisions have been easy - to go into lockdown is a traumatic thing for a country. We have at every stage tried to minimise the loss of life."

SNP Discussing Formal Co-operation Deal with Greens
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been discussing a formal co-operation agreement with the Scottish Greens.  She told MSPs that the SNP and the Greens were exploring different policy areas where they could work together.  Informal talks had begun after the election, she said, and these would now become structured talks with a view to agreeing a formal arrangement.  Although a full coalition deal is not likely, Ms Sturgeon said ministerial jobs for Green MSPs was a possibility.  "Exactly what the content, extent and scope of any agreement will be is what the talks will focus on," she added.  The SNP won 64 seats in the Holyrood election - one short of a majority - and Ms Sturgeon would have a stable majority if she could also rely on the seven Scottish Green MSPs.  Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the parliament had to choose between spending the next term focused on delivering on voters' priorities or being "distracted about independence".  And Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the Scottish government had to be more "bold and ambitious" in its plans for recovering from the pandemic, and that his party would work to be a "credible alternative" for voters.  Ms Sturgeon said she has had "a series of exploratory discussions" with the pro- independence Greens since the election, and that these informal discussions would now become "structured talks", supported by the civil service, with a view to reaching a formal cooperation agreement.  The talks are expected to conclude before the next parliamentary recess, which is in a month's time.  The first minister said the two parties would discuss specific policy areas where they could cooperate, including the climate emergency and how Scotland could accelerate its progress towards net zero.  She added: "As we embark on this process, we are setting no limits on our ambition.  So in that vein let me be clear that while this is not a guaranteed or pre-agreed outcome, it is not inconceivable that a cooperation agreement could lead in future to a Green minister or ministers being part of this government.  The key point for today is that we are both agreeing to come out of our comfort zones to find new ways of working for the common good".  Scottish Greens' co-leader Patrick Harvie said that Green parties across Europe and in countries such as New Zealand had "rolled up their sleeves and worked with other parties to deliver a better future".  This showed that "there is more than one way for government and opposition parties to work together, without losing the ability to challenge one another," he said.  Mr Harvie added: "We believe the people of Scotland want to see grown-up politics like this, and will approach the forthcoming talks in this spirit."  Douglas Ross said there were some areas where parties across the chamber could agree and work constructively.  But he added: "Ultimately, as always, this comes down to independence for the SNP".  The Scottish Conservative leader added that the parliament had to choose between "wasting" another five years on independence or using its existing powers to "get things done".  And Mr Sarwar, Scottish Labour's leader, said he was willing to work with anyone in the national interest or on the issues they agreed on.  But, Mr Sarwar said, a "bold and ambitious opposition and a credible alternative" was needed, and called for the Scottish government to be more "bold and ambitious" in its plans for recovering from the pandemic. The talks emerged shortly before Ms Sturgeon set out her government's plans for its first 100 days in office.  She told MSPs that recovering from the Covid pandemic would be the immediate priority.  Over the next three weeks, the first minister said, the government would set out its expectations for how the Covid restrictions levels system would be wound down after the pandemic, allowing a return to "a much greater degree of normality".  Tackling climate change was another priority, she said, and the first minister also outlined policies to tackle child poverty and inequality.  And she said legislation to create a national care service will be introduced in the next 12 months, with a view to having the service operational by the end of this parliament.  "This will be, in my view, the most important public sector innovation since the establishment of the National Health Service," she said.  Ms Sturgeon also repeated her pledge to hold an independence referendum once the pandemic is over.  She said the election result had delivered a "substantial majority" in parliament for an independence referendum within the current parliamentary term, adding that there could be no justification for the UK Westminster government seeking to block that mandate.

Is Kintyre's 'Route 66' the Next Road to Recovery?
Kintyre 66 is Scotland's newest tourist route. Local businesses hope the scenic drive around the peninsula will help with Argyll's recovery from the Covid pandemic.  Campbeltown is less than 60 miles west of Glasgow as the crow flies but the drive over the hills and around the lochs of Argyll makes the journey more than twice that distance, taking at least three hours.  Johnny Beveridge and his wife Mandy have run the Dunlossit House B&B in Machrihanish, near Campbeltown, since 2017.  They took it over when Johnny retired to his childhood home on the west of Scotland peninsula after almost 35 years in the international hospitality industry.  The business was doing well - but then everything came to "an abrupt halt" with the lockdown in March 2020.  "We spent six weeks handling cancellations," says Johnny.  Since the end of April this year, the B&B has seen the return of a few guests and Johnny hopes more will follow once word of Kintyre 66 spreads.  K66 - as it is known for short - follows a 66-mile (106km) main loop around the Kintyre peninsula on the A83 and B842 roads.  But the initiative also includes roads branching off the main loop which give visitors access to other parts of Kintyre such as Machrihanish. The project also extends to islands off the coast of the peninsula.  Johnny describes it as a "mini, compact" version of the North Coast 500 - which quickly became a popular tourist route around the north of Scotland after its launch five years ago.  The Explore Kintyre and Gigha Tourism and Marketing Group had hoped to launch K66 in 2020, but it was delayed until this year by the pandemic. Its name plays on the name of America's famous Route 66, one of the original routes in the US highway system.  One of the spur routes goes close to the Mull of Kintyre area - made famous in the 1970s by the number one hit by Paul McCartney and Wings.  The main route offers visitors the chance to visit places like Kennacraig, Campbeltown and Claonaig.  It also offers views of the Hebridean islands of Gigha, Islay and Jura to the west, and the Kilbrannan Sound and the Isle of Arran to the east.   The peninsula also has ferry links to the islands of Islay, Jura, Colonsay, Gigha and Arran, which K66 travellers are also being encouraged to visit.  "Kintyre offers so much variety," says Johnny.  "There is the fantastic scenery, and people come to Kintyre to walk, golf, fish, surf, explore or just to relax."  He hopes that hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, shops, distillers and local food producers will all benefit from the new route.Explore Kintyre and Gigha Tourism and Marketing Group chairman Niall Macalister Hall said K66 had been developed to encourage visitors to explore the whole of Kintyre - "slowly and at their leisure".  He said: "After a long and stressful 12-months for everyone, it's a good feeling to be able to launch the route, and we look forward to welcoming travellers to our friendly community in the months to come."  Scotland's other tourist routes include:   The North Coast 500, also known as the NC500, which follows roads along the coastal edges of the north Highlands. Starting and finishing in Inverness, the 516-mile (830km) route passes through Wester Ross, Sutherland, Caithness, Easter Ross and the Black Isle.   The South West Coastal 300, or SWC300, is a 300 mile (483km) road trip around the south west of Scotland. The route is a loop and can be joined at any point. It passes through Dumfries, Stranraer and Ayr.  The Snow Roads Scenic Route is a 90-mile (145km) journey from Blairgowrie in Perth and Kinross to Grantown-on-Spey in the Highlands.  Heart 200, launched in 2019, is a trail linking Loch Lomond and Cairngorm national parks via the Trossachs and Highland Perthshire.

Galloway Viking-age Treasure Hoard Begins National Tour
It has come a long way, and possibly further than anybody thought.  Ongoing research into the Galloway Viking-age hoard - unearthed in a south of Scotland field seven years ago - continues to surprise the experts.  Amid painstaking restoration and conservation work, new insights into its history keep emerging.  The public is now getting a chance to see the story so far as it goes on display in Edinburgh before heading to Kirkcudbright and Aberdeen.  The Galloway hoard was discovered in 2014 by metal detectorist Derek McLennan from Ayrshire and was acquired by National Museums Scotland (NMS) three years later.  It has been described as "one of the most important UK archaeological finds of the century".  NMS senior curator Dr Martin Goldberg said it still had the power to surprise.  "There is something unexpected about the Galloway hoard at every turn," he said. "It just keeps telling more and more stories."  The latest is about a lidded vessel which held some of the hoard's most precious treasures.  It was thought to come from continental Europe, but a new 3D model of the container suggests it might come from much further afield.  Research has also shown that the wool wrapping the vessel is older than expected and pre-dates the Viking era.  "This is only the third silver-gilt and decorated vessel to be found as part of a Viking-age hoard in the UK, and so we might have expected it to be like the other two," said Dr Goldberg.  "However, the 3D model reveals that the vessel is not from the Carolingian (Holy Roman) Empire of continental Europe as we'd expected based on other similar examples. Instead, the decoration and design show leopards, tigers and Zoroastrian religious symbols, all of which suggest that it is a piece of central Asian metalwork from halfway round the known world." Radiocarbon dating of the wool wrapping the vessel has been dated to between 680 and 780AD. "So, the vessel is from beyond Europe, potentially thousands of miles away, and the wool wrapping it pre-dates the Viking age, being more than 100 or maybe even 200 years old by the time it was buried," said Dr Goldberg.  NMS director Dr Chris Breward said he was "excited" to put the hoard on display.  It will be at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh from 29 May until 12 September, before going to Kirkcudbright Galleries from 9 October to 10 July 2022 and Aberdeen Art Gallery from 30 July to 23 October 2022.  Artefact conservator Dr Mary Davis said the hoard treasures had presented a "wide range of conservation challenges".  "The conservation and the research work so far have really gone hand in hand, revealing fantastic details on individual objects which have enabled us to start piecing together the story of the hoard," she said.  The exhibition itself takes visitors through the different layers of items exactly as they were uncovered in southern Scotland. Research is continuing into what more it can tell us about life in the area at the time and who the hoard might have belonged to.  Whatever the answers, the public will get a chance to see for itself one of Scotland's most significant archaeological finds over the next 18 months or so.


Scottish Australian Heritage Council & the Celtic Council of Australia invite you to the following events;
Fri 25 June Scottish/Celtic Bards Dinner - entertainment includes Scots/Irish Dancers, Poetry from Wales/Ireland/Scotland/Brittany Sat 26 June Inspection of CAIRN, Rawson Park, Mosman. Sun 27 June Kirkin o’the Tartan, Hunter Baillie Church, Annandale.  Mon 28 June Tartan Day Lunch NSW Parliament House.  Evening  Lecture (via zoom) “weaving the tartan: Culture, imperialism and Scottish identities in Australia 1788-1938

Scotland Down Under with Robin MacKenzie on 2RRR 88.5 FM

Scottish music is a huge part of Scottish culture. It carries with it ancient stories and languages that have influenced many forms of music.  Each week from 6.00 - 7.30pm on a Tuesday Robin presents Scotland Down Under from 2RRR where he showcases all things Scottish.  Featuring music from the traditional to the contemporary, Robin will also keep you in touch with local and international Scottish news. Listen locally on the dial at 88.5FM, broadcast live from 2RRR's studios in Henley, Sydney or if out of range tune in, from anywhere in the world,  via our website, and go to Live Stream where the reception is crystal clear.  You can reach the station at the following contact points;
by Phone in the office at 9816-2988 or the Studio: 9816-2777.
By email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
To Text Robin while he is On-air  0412 777 885.
Mailing Address PO Box 644 GLADESVILLE NSW 1675.  
Street Address Henley Cottage, 4 Victoria Road, HENLEY NSW 2111

Celts from all over Australia will be making a weekend of it in Ipswich to attend The Gathering at the Ipswich Turf Club on Sunday May 23,
Order of St John Priory of Queensland will host A Night in Scotland at the Southport Yacht Club, Main Beach on the Gold Coast on Friday May 21 from 6.30pm.

Coisir  Ghaidhlig Astrailianach (Australian Gaelic Singers) is back rehearsing on a face to face basis at Macquarie Presbyterian Church in Eastwood and they are looking for interested folk to join them.  If you’d like to join - the choir is open to all, whatever your background.  The only pre- requisites are willingness to learn and lots of enthusiasm! A knowledge of Gaelic and/or music is not essential. If interested please contact the Music Director on (02) 9638-2625 or email him on: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it