Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 606A

Issue # 606A                                     Week ending Saturday 12th June  2021
I Think Some People Are Like Wheelbarrows. They Are Useful When Pushed, But Can Be Easily Upset by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

This does not happen to ordinary people like us, they all shriek. That’s the nonsense you always hear when someone has won so much money they need a wheelbarrow to take it to the bank. It happens.

First of all, it used to be football pools, then Spot the Ball in every newspaper worth its salt and then Wheel of Fortune with Nicky Campbell. Then in 1994, our windfall method changed. A big hand with a pointed finger came out of the sky and a voice boomed: “It could be you.”

Unfortunately it hasn’t been me but many people have had their lives changed. Many millions have been scooped on the Lotto, the EuroMillions, the Hotpicks, the Thunderball and the Set For Life. That’s where you can win £10,000 every month until you die, or for 30 years - whichever comes along first. After 30 long years of trying to find ways to spend £120,000 per annum, I’d be ready to kick the bucket.

Then, of course, there are the Instant Wins. That’s when you buy a scratchcard in the Co-op to divert the attention of other people in the queue while you sneak a half-bottle of something into your shopping bag. You think I don’t notice what you housewives and househusbands get up to?

Of course, I would never lower myself to squander the housekeeping on such fripperies in the foyer of a bustling supermarket. Why would I do such a thing when I can log in on my phone in the privacy of my own drawing room and select my Lucky Dip numbers as I unfurl on the chaise longue?

That way, there’s no chance of a Free Church elder loudly tut-tutting behind me while he’s tucking the Smirnoff deep into his basket under the posh nosh like the salmon, the sauerkraut, and the souchong. Slàinte, Mr Macleod. You enjoy those Communions now.

Meanwhile I am raising my glass to the staggering £3 million won on the Postcode Lottery by 101 folk on North Uist and Berneray which was the subject of a Channel Four documentary broadcast at the weekend. Islanders won tidy sums ranging from £21,425 to £193,055. Not to be sniffed at. Good luck everyone, I hiss covetously. And to the star of the show, Duncan Campbell, who is 83 years young.

Mr Campbell is like Johnny Mathis. I don’t mean he sings When A Child Is Born every Christmas. He may do, for all I know but I mean he doesn’t look his age. He’d easily pass for someone 20 years younger. And Johnny Mathis, now 85, still looks as he did on TV every time since the year dot.

Because the fresh-faced Mr Campbell was shown cutting peats, it prompted one London-based newspaper to describe him as a peat farmer. They’re obviously thinking of those haggis farmers. Easy mistake to make - if you’re a silly Sassenach.

With his win a mere £21,000 plus, Mr Campbell set out his priorities for doing a Viv Nicholson, the late Yorkshire housewife who won £152,319 on Littlewoods Pools in 1961. She vowed to spend, spend, spend. Like many a big winner since, she did - and blew the lot. Allowing for inflation, Viv won £3.5 million in today’s money - just a bit more than the Uist and Berneray windfall.

Duncan’s spend, spend, spend involved going to the hardware shop and purchasing a swing-top bin and a pan or two. Oh, and a new plasticky wheelbarrow. That was the priority. Duncan was asked what he was going to do with the shoogly old barrow that had been patched up many times and had lasted him about 40 years. Throw it away? Give it to anyone who wants it? Looking wistful, Duncan said: “Well, I think I’ll sell it.” Good idea. Now it’s been on telly, it’ll have doubled in value. You’ll get £2 now.

I have just heard about another Uist man, Finlay, who used to work for a construction company down there. His foreman said: “Finlay, a bhalaich. We need a new wheelbarrow. There's a shop up on Benbecula. Go and buy a new one and charge it to this company.”

Off went Finlay as he was told. He was back an hour later with two wheelbarrows. One was stacked inside the other. The foreman was not happy. “Oh dhia dhia, Finlay, what are you doing? I told you to buy one barrow.” Finlay nodded and replied: “Well, yeah. But you didn’t expect me to carry it all the way back here, did you?”

Covid in Scotland: Recorded Cases in Children Reach Highest Level

Recorded Covid infections among children are now the highest they have been during the outbreak in Scotland.  Weekly infections in 0-14 year olds reached 1,064 on 7 June - higher than the peak in early January, according to Public Health Scotland.  While there is no evidence children are becoming seriously ill, growing numbers of pupils are off school.  Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland would move quickly to vaccinate 12-15 year olds if recommended by the regulator.  The number of cases among the youngest age group is rising rapidly, having seen a near four-fold increase since early May.  Despite the rise, medics have said children's wards are not seeing any significant rise in admissions due to Covid and said there is no reason for parents to worry.  However, a number of schools have had to shut temporarily because of pupils testing positive, with St Peter's Primary in Galashiels among the latest to announce a short closure to allow contact tracing.  While most schools are open, growing numbers of pupils have been asked to stay home because they are possible contacts of pupils who have tested positive.  Provisional figures indicate 15,687 pupils were absent for Covid-related reasons at the end of last week, with overall attendance dropping to 87.8%, the lowest percentage since pupils returned after Easter.  Children under the age of 15 represent about quarter of the daily case numbers in recent weeks in terms of total numbers.  However, when the size of the population in each age groups is factored in, it is clear that infection rates are considerably higher among young adults and older teenagers.  On 7 June, the weekly case rate among people in their early 20s was 277.2 per 100,000.  Older teenagers had the second highest rate, at 228.4, while for younger children it was 122.9.  Highest infection rates in 20-24 age group. Weekly cases per 100,000. Showing rates for 7 June.  What is clear from the data is that infections among older age groups are relatively low during the latest outbreaks, possibly a reflection of the rollout of the vaccination programme.  More than half of Scotland's adult population has now had both doses of a Covid vaccine.
Should vaccinating children be a priority?  The UK regulator has approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in children aged 12-15.  The Scottish government is now awaiting advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on whether it should begin vaccinating children.  On Tuesday the first minister said the focus remained on getting all adults vaccinated but if the JCVI recommends vaccination of children, she said Scotland would "move as quickly as possible to implement the advice".  Scottish government adviser Prof Devi Sridhar has backed the rollout of the vaccine to those over the age of 12.  Speaking to ITV's Good Morning Britain earlier this week, she said: "If we want schools to continue without disruption in the autumn and lift restrictions so children can have a normal experience, we need to vaccinate them — if we wait and watch for the evidence it will be too late in the next few weeks.  "We have the supply. It's not a large amount, it's a couple of million doses to cover that population of 12-plus.  Given that we know children can transmit, where we are going to see problems is not going to be in care homes, it's not going to be in hospitals, it's going to be in schools."  Another leading health expert, Prof Linda Bauld, has said she "really welcomed" plans to vaccinate teenagers but said completing the adult age groups must come first.  She told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "They will be next in line after we have issued vaccinations to all the 18-29 year olds, as Wales has already done. I really welcome the vaccine programme for teenagers... it will make a difference but they will not be able to receive it until older groups have.  Over two million teenagers in the US have already received the vaccine, the trial suggest it's safe, so let's hope this all goes well."  With world leaders facing calls to do more to share vaccines internationally, some have argued a greater priority should be driving down infections globally, which could be the source of new variants.  Christine Tait-Burkhard, an infection expert from University of Edinburgh, said it was a complex issue because while vaccination might help school attendance, there is little evidence of children becoming seriously ill.  She told Drivetime with John Beattie: "The last question is an ethical one. If we are starting to vaccinate children in this country yet other countries haven't got any vaccines or very little vaccines to vaccinate their must vulnerable.  It is not only an ethical question, it's also a message that it sends to the world that says we don't care."  Prof Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, has said that if enough immunity was built up through the adult vaccination programme then vaccinating children may not be justified.  He said: "The issue is not that there's a problem doing it, it's just a question of whether we need to do it, given the very low incidence of serious illness in children and the fact that we're achieving so much with the adult programme at the moment with very high coverage.  If indeed it turns out that children can be indirectly protected by the immunity that we induce in adults then there's clearly no justification for immunising - or at least immunising all of them."

Dozens of Spar Stores to End Post Office Service
Dozens of Spar stores across Scotland are to close their Post Office counters over the next six months.  Operator CJ Lang & Son said it was "constantly reviewing" provision in its shops around the country.  The company confirmed that meant 31 stores across Scotland would no longer be able to offer Post Office services.  It said the decision - which comes after 18 months of negotiations - had been "carefully considered" and was due to "industry-wide pressures".  South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said the loss of four offices in Dumfries and Galloway - at Thornhill, Eastriggs, Gretna and Georgetown in Dumfries - was a "blow to the region".  He urged the Post Office to try to find an "alternative home" for the branches set to close across August and September.  Mr Smyth said the situation was "very concerning" and that a post office in the community was "vital" for many constituents.  A statement from CJ Lang & Son said it would continue to invest to ensure its stores served the communities in which they are based.  However, it said it regularly reviewed the impact of the Post Office counters on its overall store operations.  It said that in order to ensure it could keep the 31 shops involved running it had decided it could no longer offer the service.  "It is unfortunate that we find ourselves in the position of having to change the services we offer over the next six months," it said.  "This is representative of the industry-wide pressures on retail outlets as we evolve to keep up with changing consumer habits."  A Post Office spokesman said it was "disappointed" the decision to close the counters which it said was solely CJ Lang's.  He said post offices played an "important role" for communities and it had worked hard to find a solution to keep them open.  "At certain locations, there are nearby alternative Post Office branches, but we recognise that for some particularly older and disabled people they may not be easily accessible," he said  "We will look for replacement solutions both on a temporary or permanent basis for those branches that close."

Covid in Scotland: Learners Drivers Face 16-week Wait for Theory Tests
Learner drivers in Scotland face a 16-week wait to sit a theory test - almost four times longer than candidates in England and Wales.  The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency said its testing capacity was limited in Scotland as centres must ensure people observe 2m physical distancing.  South of the border only 1m physical distancing is required.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she will look at the situation to see how quickly capacity can be increased.  Driving lessons resumed in Scotland on 26 April and practical driving tests restarted on 6 May, following the easing of lockdown restrictions. The average wait for practical tests is currently just under 14 weeks - compared to seven weeks pre-Covid - and broadly similar across Scotland, England and Wales.  But for theory tests the average wait in Scotland is 16 weeks, compared with just 4.6 weeks in England and Wales.  One MSP claims young people are missing out on jobs due to the backlog.  The DVSA said it was delivering as many tests as it could within the requirements.  A spokesman said: "We are doing all we can to offer more theory tests at our centres in Scotland by increasing opening hours and running tests on extra days where possible.  The safety of our customers and staff is our priority and we can only increase the number of tests when physical distancing restrictions are eased by the Scottish government."  The DVSA said it did not keep records of whether people who live in Scotland are getting round the delays by crossing the border to sit their theory test. But it added all candidates were reminded to observe local Covid restrictions.  The theory test pass certificate lasts for two years and individuals must pass their driving test in that time.  The agency said the certificate would not be extended because of the heath crisis as candidates' road safety knowledge and hazard perception skills need to be up to date when they are taking lessons and a practical test.  From Monday examiners will be able to conduct up to seven tests a day, as opposed to the current limit of six.  The DVSA said this will increase testing capacity to between 15,000 and 20,000 tests a month.  Scottish Conservative MSP Finlay Carson, who represents Galloway and West Dumfries, has urged the Scottish government to relax the physical distancing restrictions to speed up testing capacity.  During first minister's questions on Tuesday he asked Nicola Sturgeon to address the problem, which he claimed has had a greater impact in his constituency due to its poor public transport.  Mr Carson said: "There are genuine concerns for businesses this summer- particularly those in the hospitality and agricultural sector who are struggling to find employees, a situation that has already been highlighted by the local chamber of commerce.  Having already been in contact with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, it has stated that capacity at most theory test sites in Scotland has been reduced by 50% as a direct result of the Scottish government's two-metre physical distancing restrictions."  In her response, Ms Sturgeon said she recognised the importance of the matter and how "frustrating" the delays  were.  But she also described the issues involved as "complex and rarely straightforward".Ms Sturgeon added: "In certain environments, 2m physical distancing remains an important mitigation.  However, the issue is important and we will continue to look at the situation to see how quickly we can increase capacity and get the backlogs down."

Covid in Scotland: Cruise Ship Not Allowed to Dock in Greenock
Passengers on a cruise ship touring the UK have been told they will not be allowed to disembark in Scotland.  The MSC Virtuosa's operator says Scottish government Covid rules block it from entering the port of Greenock.  The government has said domestic cruises can only restart when restrictions in all of Scotland reach level one.It insisted the decision was based on the risks "between both cruises and the wider travel context".  The MSC Virtuosa left Liverpool earlier this week for a seven-night cruise, with planned stops in Greenock in Inverclyde, as well as Belfast, Southampton and the Isle of Portland.  It was then due to stop in Greenock again on the return journey.  It can carry more than 6,000 passengers but has just under 900 currently on board to allow for social-distancing measures.  The Scottish Passenger Agents Association (SPAA) confirmed that Wednesday's scheduled stop in Greenock had been cancelled. The ship was due to dock in Greenock at about 09:30, departing at 20:00 the same day.  The industry body said the situation meant Scots on board the vessel were effectively "barred from setting foot in their own country". Passengers will not be able to get on the ship at Greenock either.  MSC Virtuosa can carry up to 6,000 passengers on board but has a vastly-reduced capacity for its seven-day UK tour.  The SPAA said it understood 75% of passengers on board were fully vaccinated, and had recently tested negative.  The organisation's president, Joanne Dooey, told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme she believed the decision was "ludicrous" when people can travel into Scotland by train or car unhindered.  She said: "We had the Northern Belle in last week to Edinburgh from Manchester which had lots of tourists on it with no testing at all.  What's the difference between a cruise ship coming in and football taking place in Glasgow with no testing being put in place?   And when are we ever going to have confidence in the vaccination progress? We are going to have to live with new variants coming in and we have to get on with our lives."The SPAA has seen a copy of an email sent to current passengers by the cruise operator.  It says: "Due to the latest Scottish government Covid 19 restrictions and regulations... we are sorry to inform you that the port call of Greenock has been cancelled.   No guests are allowed to embark or disembark... This decision has been made by the Scottish government and is out of our control."  Scottish passengers were due to join the cruise in Greenock and the SPAA anticipated that a third of those currently on board were expected to go ashore for excursions on Wednesday.  Michele Lister, who works for Glasgow-based Glen Travel, is one of those who boarded the ship in Liverpool.  She said: "We were expecting to go into Greenock tomorrow morning for the full day... and we're not allowed to go into my own country which is really disappointing.  There's about half a dozen people that I'm aware of on board that are Scottish and they want to show off to the English customers what Scotland's all about and they want to spend the money in the area as well, which is badly needed."  Linda Hill, who owns LAH Travel in West Kilbride, described the decision as "another nail in the coffin for the travel industry".  She told BBC Scotland's Drivetime programme: "The cruise industry has obviously been very hard hit over the past 18 months.  But we had seen a way to start, very safely, some UK cruises with lots of very safe protocols including limited numbers on board.  This is a brand new cruise ship which was coming to Greenock tomorrow and there was great excitement to see such a fabulous cruise liner in our own waters.  Sadly, the Scottish government has said passengers cannot embark or disembark at Greenock. The sailing is still going ahead - it's just missing out Scotland."  In a statement, the Scottish government said it fully understood "the impact of the current restrictions on domestic cruises".  It added: "We explained our concerns about the transmission risks posed by cruise vessels in an update to industry on the 24 May and confirmed that we would clarify the position in June.  Following extensive engagement with stakeholders, we have now confirmed that domestic cruises can restart when all of Scotland reaches level one and we have made industry, including the operator, aware of this."  An MSC spokeswoman said: "In light of recent information received, we are now awaiting further clarification from the relevant authorities in Scotland about the situation for cruising which regrettably means that we have had to cancel our proposed visit to Greenock tomorrow.  We hope that our calls to Scotland with our special cruises can commence soon considering how much we were looking forward to welcoming our Scottish guests onboard MSC Virtuosa and how we are aware of the important and widespread contribution that the cruise industry makes to Scotland."  Affected passengers have been advised to contact the operator for further information.

Scottish Food and Drink Sector Criticise Australia Trade Deal
Scottish food producers have sent a letter warning UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss about the way trade deals are being negotiated.  The 14 companies and trade bodies have expressed concern about the free trade agreement being developed with Australia.  They say they are disconnected from talks which have been "rushed".  Ms Truss has insisted British farmers have nothing to fear and an "awful lot to gain" from a deal with Australia.  She suggested a 5% whisky tariff may be scrapped in the first agreement drawn up from scratch since the UK left the EU.  In the letter, Scotland's main farming, fishing and processor groups said there was no collaboration between Whitehall and the industry.  They said the deal struck at Christmas with the European Union left firms to face costly consequences, and they warned that could happen again when new deals are "hurried through" with Australia and then other major exporters of farm produce.  Whitehall ministers have sought to reassure producers that there will be safeguards, and new trade deals will open up opportunities to sell exports beyond Europe.  But critics of the proposed agreement fear the zero tariffs, zero quotas deal that the government in Canberra is demanding would see British farmers and businesses undercut by Australian rivals.  Scotland's food and drink sector suggested it could set a bad precedent for future deals.  The letter, with signatories including the chief executives of the National Farmers' Union Scotland, the Scottish Seafood Association and Scotland Food & Drink, said: "We recognise the UK Westmister government's desire to move quickly to create new opportunities with nations beyond the EU.  However we are concerned that the pace of these negotiations, particularly the free trade agreement with Australia, is too quick and denying the opportunity for appropriate scrutiny and consultation.  Trade deals are complex and markets are sensitive; the impact of the Brexit deal has demonstrated this.  The risks here are enormous for the whole food and drink supply chain and, in the absence of any formal impact assessment to suggest the contrary, we remain hugely concerned at the impact on sensitive sectors of our industry."  It added: "We welcome an ambitious trade policy if it will open new opportunities for our producers."It said that the EU market remains the most important export market, with it being the destination of two-thirds of all food exports.  Scotland Food & Drink chief executive James Withers said: "As a food and farming industry we want to be ambitious for global trade. The future of our sector relies on it, and international sales of Scottish food and drink are already worth over £6bn in a normal trading year.  However, if we rush trade deals through, without any serious scrutiny and no engagement with industry and other experts, we can harm businesses, communities, the environment and the UK's international reputation."  A Department for International Trade spokesman said: "We seek a wide range of views before, during and after negotiations to ensure all voices are heard, and consult widely across the country before we launch talks, including extensive engagement with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  We will only sign deals that work for all parts of the United Kingdom, including any potential deal with Australia.  Our Exports Minister was in Scotland last week to champion the benefits of the Australia FTA, highlighting how a tariff reduction would benefit iconic goods like Scotch whisky.  Any deal we sign will include protections for the agriculture industry and will not undercut UK farmers or compromise our high standards."

Lockdown May Have Led to Loss of Strength and Mobility
Older people are in danger of losing the ability to do daily tasks because of the pandemic, according to experts in ageing at Strathclyde University.  The researchers say that after the closure of vital support services during lockdown, it is important that people get back to being physically and socially active as soon as possible, to stop any decline.  Two thirds of people over 50 say they are now less active than they were before the pandemic.  About half fear that spending so much time at home has led to a loss of strength and mobility, according to a new survey by Age Scotland.  Kathleen Hendry, 78, used to attend a strength and balance class run by occupational therapists in Aberdeen. But it had to be suspended because of coronavirus.  She says she's been struggling to keep her strength up.  My exercise has been quite different, not structured as you would have in the classes," she says.  "I really want to try and maintain my physical ability, absolutely, because I just want to go on. My mother lived to 104 and she was very, very active so I want to follow her role model."  Occupational therapist Janet Thompson says the loss of vital services is having an impact on older people's ability to live their lives to the full.  What we are finding is that people are not as fit, they are not as able," she says. "Falls have gone up in older people as well, so we can see that there's going to be some work to do to get back to where we were."  To try to keep her motivation up, the OT team connected Kathleen with an app called LifeCurve, which reminds her to keep doing daily activities.  It's based on a model developed by researchers at Newcastle University, that says we lose the ability to do certain things in a particular order, as we age. Early in the curve, a person would still be fit enough to go for a proper hike or a brisk walk. As they age, it would get harder to do things like cut their own toenails, cook a hot meal or do some light housework.  The older they get, the more they might struggle with just getting up and dressed or eating independently.  But the theory says the journey along this curve can be faster or slower, and that people can hold off the ageing process by keeping up these regular tasks.   The academics at Strathclyde University are now using the app to gather data on users' levels of activity, as Scotland emerges from the pandemic.  Researcher Susan Kelso says that even when we stop doing these activities for a while, if we pick them back up again, the ageing process can effectively be reversed.  She says: "There's an idea that, well I'm getting older so I kind of should be used to this, I'm not going to be as fit and active as I used to be, so I just have to accept that as part of getting older. Our message is, no you don't. If you've lost that ability, you can quite quickly get that back.  There's that phrase of killing with kindness, you say, 'Och mum, you sit down, I'll make you a cup of tea, I'll go to the shops for you'.  That's the wrong thing. Get your mum up, get your dad up, and say, 'You come with me to the kitchen, you come with me to the shops, and let's walk up and down the aisles and you can push the trolley for a bit of support.' And all of that will have a big impact over time on somebody's ability to stay active and mobile in later life."  Many support services and organised activities for older people are just getting started again as restrictions ease.  Brian Sloan from Age Scotland says almost half of the 3,000 people who responded to their survey had reduced their social interactions significantly, and 53% of respondents stated that the pandemic had made them feel lonelier.  He says the health impacts of loneliness are the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.  "We need to get people back attending these groups where they can be physically, mentally, socially active for their health."  "It's a combination of all these things and the great thing we have seen is where family and friends can play a part in this and help older people to embrace it."

Edinburgh Council Pays Damages for Cancelling Religious Speaker
Edinburgh Council has apologised and paid £25,000 in damages to Destiny Ministries after cancelling its three-day conference due to the religious beliefs of a guest speaker.  The conference was to be held in Edinburgh's Usher Hall last summer.  The council cancelled it after receiving a complaint about views held by guest speaker Larry Stockstill.  The council accepted it did not take into account the church's rights under human rights and equality legislation.  Mr Stockstill, a Louisiana-based preacher, had made previous comments on marriage and sexuality that were said to be based on Biblical study.  Andrew Owen, of Destiny Ministries, said: "We hired the Usher Hall in 2020 to run our Surge Conference but the council mistakenly decided to cancel our booking for reasons that related directly to our religion and belief. We were shocked by this.  We asked the council to change its decision but it would not.  After speaking to a range of people in the Christian community, we decided that this serious infringement of religious liberty and freedom of expression had to be challenged in the courts.  We are sad that the case needed to be pursued in the first place but we are pleased that the council has now apologised and acknowledged that it acted unlawfully under the Human Rights Act and that by cancelling our booking it also discriminated against us in terms of the Equality Act."  A City of Edinburgh Council spokeswoman said: "As a council, we are fully committed to promoting equality and diversity, and are keen to increase respect, tolerance and understanding.  We accept that, in terminating Destiny Ministries' hire of the Usher Hall due to the published religious beliefs of one of their keynote speakers, we did not properly take into account their rights in terms of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010."

Brewdog Boss Vows to Learn After 'Toxic Culture' Criticism
A co-founder of Brewdog has promised to listen and learn from savage criticism of the beer company by 60 ex-staff.  James Watt told the BBC claims of a "culture of fear" and "toxic attitude" were tough to hear, but said they would help make him a better chief executive.  In an open letter, signatories said a "significant number" of former staff had "suffered mental illness as a result of working at Brewdog".  Mr Watt said it is clear some things went wrong: "We genuinely apologise."  In the letter, the ex-staff claimed that the firm was built around a "cult of personality" of founders Mr Watt and Martin Dickie.  The fast-growing Scottish brewer and pub chain has enjoyed rapid success and now employs 2,000 staff. But it has also courted controversy with its marketing and commercial decisions.  The letter, posted on Twitter, made a number of allegations, including a culture where staff were afraid to speak out about concerns.  It said Mr Watt and Mr Dickie had exploited publicity, "both good and bad", to further their own business goals and chased "growth, at all costs".  It added: "You spent years claiming you wanted to be the best employer in the world, presumably to help you to recruit top talent, but ask former staff what they think of those claims, and you'll most likely be laughed at. Being treated like a human being was sadly not always a given for those working at Brewdog."  In his BBC interview, Mr Watt said: "It's very clear, looking at the feedback, we haven't always got things right here.  We have to see this feedback as an opportunity to get better. We have to learn, we have to act. We have to take it on the chin."  Mr Watt would not confirm if the allegations were true, but said: "For me, it's not about disputing individual claims. But 60 people were unhappy and we have to get better. That's the only way we can get something good out of this situation."  One of the many criticisms was that Brewdog management operated a culture of fear, with staff afraid to speak out - even after they had left.  Mr Watt admitted that the company's rapid growth had been a steep learning curve. "But the buck stops with me. I will use [the criticism] to be a better chief executive and leader."  He said the company will embark on a series of anonymous surveys of current staff "and do some listening groups".  However, Brewdog's rapid expansion - the source of much of the problems, ex-staff claim - would continue, he said: "It's not about slowing the growth, because that's in our DNA." The challenge now would be how Brewdog can maintain the intensity of its expansion, "yet be a better employer," he said.  Brewdog started out in 2007, being passionate about craft beer and contemptuous of rival big brewers. It's become at least as passionate about growth, by unconventional "punk" means.  So far, there is a big brewery in Aberdeenshire, plus others in Berlin, Brisbane and Columbus, Ohio. There are more than 100 Brewdog bars dotted across the world map. And a new project is beer-themed hotels, in Ohio, Manchester and Edinburgh.  This has been funded through the sale of a big chunk of the business to private equity and several rounds of crowdfunding. The AGM in Aberdeen has become something of a party.  But it seems the combined publicity-thirsty passion for beer and growth has been bruising. Every employer has disgruntled ex-employees. Usually, once dispersed, they moan into their beer. But in this case, these ex-staff signatories have taken their passion for beer and applied it to improving working conditions in their industry.  Co-founder James Watt concedes he didn't always "get things right". He dispensed with the usual combative defiance. His response is chastened, recognising that the accusations could be damaging to the brand and to recruitment.  He has become very successful by inviting drinkers to buy into products infused with the passion of beer people. So this runs counter to the values of clubby comradeship. Repairing the damage will take more nuance than Brewdog usually deploys.

Record-breaking Hiker's Agony At 16-mile Walk for Bus Home
Matt Girvan was relieved when he reached Cape Wrath after smashing the record for hiking a trail which runs the length of mainland Scotland - only to discover he had to walk another 16 miles to get the bus home.  The 29-year-old was suffering from the onset of trench foot and was in excruciating pain when he completed the Scottish National Trail, with his blistered feet having swollen up by a shoe size.  And that was when he discovered that the ferry he was due to catch had been cancelled.  Matt said he was "heartbroken" when he realised he had to do an extra walk to reach the bus.  "I had been pounding along 40 miles a day for two weeks, lancing blisters and in crippling pain to reach the finish line - so to find out the ferry was cancelled was almost unbearable," he told BBC Scotland.  "I was in agony from the throbbing pain in my feet and I felt desperate.  "The time I had spent on my feet had caused them to swell from all the blood rushing to them and they had been so wet I had the onset of trench foot."  His last leg of the hike was along such remote terrain that there was no path.  Matt, who lives in Edinburgh, then had to go back along 16 miles of the route that he had walked just hours beforehand, to catch a bus from Kinlochbervie.  He had originally been planning to catch a ferry from the finish line to Durness, where he could catch a bus back to Edinburgh.  "The terrain up there was pretty terrible. It was the worst stuff, rolling pathless bogs," he said.  "I didn't know if my feet could take it but I knew I had to get to the town where the bus stop was."  The Scottish National trail stretches 537 miles (864kms) from Kirk Yetholm, near the English border, to Cape Wrath in the north.  The route, created by Cameron McNeish in 2012, links up sections of Scotland's best-known walking routes.  Matt, a Scottish Water mechanical engineer, completed the record-breaking solo unsupported hike in 13 days, 19 hours and 35 minutes in September 2020.  He shaved more than three days off the previous record set by Graham Nash, who was supported in his attempt.  Matt also recorded hours of video footage during the journey, which he later edited into a 20-minute film, called Dawn till Dusk.  That film has now won the best solo film award at the New Zealand Mountain Film Festival.  It will be screened at a five-day-event later this month before being part of a national tour of New Zealand, where Matt grew up.  The documentary includes footage of Matt coming close to giving up his charity hike due to fatigue and his painful feet, as well as squelching through miles of bogs and running over rough and bleak terrain in the dark.  Matt, who moved to Scotland from New Plymouth two years ago, said: "It was amazing to really test myself to my limits and attempt something when I thought I had at best a 50% chance of pulling it off.  I had a gigantic blister on my toe after only two days, and wet weather and exhaustion on day six brought me to the point of tears and really questioning what I was doing."  Matt came up with the idea of the solo challenge at the start of the Covid lockdown when travel was restricted and many endurance races were cancelled.  He said: "It was a trail of two halves. You cross a line as you go north and you drop off the face of the earth, where it became difficult to find food.  I didn't do enough research and got timings wrong, so at points I was surviving on a few sweets and biscuits."  At one point he thought he was hallucinating when he saw a white orb light up from his head torch in Glen Almond, near Aberfeldy.  However, it turned out to be a sheep wedged sideways in a cattle grid.  "It had pretty big horns but I managed to grapple with it until I had it around the stomach and I could pull it out," he said.  He said the hike was tougher than he thought it was going to be, but added: "I've learned a lot of lessons."


AUSTRALIAN SCOTTISH/CELTIC NEWS
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
BOOKING & INFORMATION www.scottishaustralianheritagecouncil.com.au  

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, 2rrr.org.au 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

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