Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 607

Issue # 607                                               Week ending Saturday 19th June  2021
The Queen Wanted Them to Enjoy Themselves But Why Did G7 Leaders Forget Their Masks? by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

They set the autopilots on Air Force One and other airliners and they all headed for Cornwall from all over for G7. America, France, Canada, German, Japan and USA. And 10 Downing Street. They came, they talked, they barbecued, they went.

Whether the premiers and presidents at the summit achieved anything depends on what you think of China and whether the G7 is doing enough to get Covid vaccines out to poorer countries. That’s a naw then.

Carbis Bay had better weather than Carloway but it was bizarre seeing them all discussing how to eradicate Covid while not wearing their own face masks or social distancing. Dominic Raab explained that there are, and there always have been, different rules for government business.

Let’s not spoil the occasion by saying something hurtful such as actions speak louder than words. After all, these guys are just common-or-garden world leaders. Huh, they’re all in this together ...

The rest of us now have a new TV news channel to gaze at world leaders. It’s called GB News. Wonderful. Not the channel, you understand, just that we have more choice. Our Axminster must be worn through as I spent all of Sunday pacing up and down waiting. Maybe I didn’t quite wear the carpet through but I am trying to convey some sort of build-up to the switch-on. Then the pre-recorded guff faded and Andrew Neil emerged through the mist after possibly declaring “Tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be king of the airwaves”.

And he wasn’t the king of anything. Crikey, that first night was as dull and predictable as Scotland’s thrashing in the Euros on Monday. Do we really have to put with a further month of lame excuses and hand-wringing about Scotland?

Instead of news, GB News churned out all sorts of self-congratulatory vagueness from people who didn’t really seem on-the-ball amid the various audio drop-outs which made the entire thing difficult to comprehend. Where was stirrer-upper Piers Morgan when they needed him? Andrew Neil probably remembered that his chum Boris doesn’t like being grilled by Morgan. He will bring him in later.

Sometimes loved, sometimes loathed, the see-saw anchor drew nearly two million viewers each morning before his huffy Good Morning Britain walkout. Whispers suggest the Marmite anchor may get bored doing nothing and soon join Neil after the launch fuss. Otherwise, their lasting legacies could be Piers 1.9 million, Andrew nil.

Andrew Neil, you’re supposed to be Scottish - as are you, Neil Oliver. Tell us about something Scottish. Indyref? For instance, will the Outer Hebrides manage if the next referendum is aye. Yes, Scotland will be fine as long as we have Mackie’s - because they make iconic ice cream, cracking crisps and joltingly, joyful chocolate.

And we know an independent Scotland will thrive as long as we can also have Tunnocks, the wafer waving biscuit-maker, for Sunday treats, and Macleod & Macleod’s hand-sculpted Stornoway Black Puddings morning-after fry-ups. Drambuie will help us deal with all other eventualities.

Except we will need Ian Ross of Ross’s Garage for engineering - including ferry repairs, obviously. With CalMac trialling the Pentalina catamaran thing for the Minch, that too may need to come to his garage on Caberfeidh Road for its MoT work. Other maintenance outfits are not as dedicated. Just a pointer there for the transport minister, whoever it is this week.

The ugly-but-stable Pentalina should excel on the choppy Minch. Technology does it all for its captain. No charts or maps required.

Studying maps is something I love. They are a unique medium in which all parts of the composition are data. In case you’re wondering, I just read that on a map reading website. Sounded impressive coming from me though, eh?

Large maps on tables were important once. Such as at RAF Bentley Priory where much of the Battle of Britain was planned. You see the WAAFs in the old films pushing models of planes around a big map of the English Channel. It says here they quickly realised girls were better at it than “slow-brained” men. That’s probably a misprint, eh?

Most important was reading the map from wherever you were around the table. They even had to read the map upside down.

Having always wanted to control Spitfires, I was excited to get an email the other day offering to teach me how to read maps backwards. It was just spam.

Covid in Scotland: What Will the Next Few Months Be Like?
Scotland has put the brakes on easing Covid restrictions this summer and it is all down to the new Delta variant that first emerged in India.  We may have seen it coming but that doesn't stop a familiar anxiety creeping across our shoulders. Despite confident assertions from the first minister that this is just "a pause", we have been here before.  The good news is that scientists do not seem to be overly worried.   Scotland may have the highest infection rate in Europe but it also has one of the highest vaccination rates and the jabs are doing their job.  Prof Aziz Sheikh is the director of Edinburgh University's Usher Institute for Population Health.  His team has been working with Public Health Scotland to track the pandemic in real time.  Their latest research, published in the Lancet this week, does raise some concerns about the Delta variant.  They found that not only was it more infectious than the Alpha variant, first identified in Kent, but that the risk of hospital admission was double.  But Prof Sheikh says vaccines are providing good levels of protection.  "The vaccines overall are still very effective which is fantastic news, and that's both the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine," he says.  "But there seems to be a bit of a delay with the vaccines exerting their maximum effectiveness, so the key message here is that the second dose is really important, and what we need to do after that is give people a couple of weeks to mount their immune response."  That's one reason to buy more time.  Just over 56% of the adult population in Scotland has had two doses but almost 900,000 people - one in every five adults - are still completely unvaccinated.  So keeping existing restrictions will allow many more people the chance to get at least one jab.  The scientists also want time to monitor the data in detail.  There has been an increase in the number of people in hospital over the past few weeks.  It's nothing like the rise we saw in previous waves, and it appears that this time patients tend to be younger, less likely to need intensive care, and stay in for shorter periods - meaning the pressure on the NHS is less intense.  A few more weeks of data gathering will allow a clearer picture of what is going to emerge.  You could see this wave of infections as a test.  By mid-July we will know how well we've coped and the rest of the summer could look a lot brighter. But that doesn't mean Covid is banished from our lives.  Prof Emma Thomson is an infectious diseases consultant working with Covid patients at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.  She is also one of the leading scientists behind the UK's efforts to identify and monitor new variants and is running a trial in Scotland to investigate the role of booster jags.  She compares the role of vaccines to a dam, holding back the virus.   As restrictions ease, she says, we're asking the vaccines to work harder to do that and so far they're succeeding.  But we are starting to seeing chinks where the virus is breaking through the dam - with new variants for example - so it needs to be constantly reinforced.  For now that means speeding up second doses, but as time goes on, scientists will need to continuously adapt the vaccines to plug more holes, and to make sure they maintain the advantage and stop the virus overwhelming us again.  Prof Thomson says the virus is here to stay in the medium term.  "Most of us think that we are going to be stuck with it, possibly for years to come.," she says.  "The key thing that we need to do is to get ahead of it. And if we can get ahead of it with booster vaccines or with adapted vaccines then it becomes something for us to worry about as health professionals, and it becomes less of a major strain on the country."  That's why sequencing and monitoring new variants is so important.  At Glasgow University's Centre for Virus Research, they made an early call to put all other work on hold to do that, last March.  Prof David Robertson, head of bioinformatics, explains that the Delta variant was introduced to the UK hundreds of times in hundreds of locations, since it was first detected in early April.  He says the speed with which it became the dominant variant took experts by surprise. But the big question now is when and how the next powerful mutation will arise.  "What is predictable is that the virus will continue to evolve and the ability to escape the human immune response is inevitable," he says.  "We really just don't know the timeline that that will emerge on, so it seems wise to proceed on the assumption that worse mutations will emerge sooner rather than later.  It won't be tomorrow, and it's not five years - but it's somewhere in between.  So keeping our surveillance systems in place and making sure not too much virus is circulating seems wise. That's how this will become normal in the longer term."  Hopefully it will soon be an issue that only worries the scientists - allowing the rest of society to slowly reset.  In the meantime, politicians will have to wrestle with what might be acceptable levels of coronavirus - an equation that gets ever more difficult to answer.

Removal of Union Terrace Gardens Granite Steps Referred to Police
The removal of granite steps from historic Union Terrace Gardens in Aberdeen has been referred to police by the city council.  The gardens originally opened in 1879 and have been undergoing a £28m redevelopment since 2019.  Images emerged of slabs piled in a residential garden, and it was later confirmed they were from UTG.  An Aberdeen businessman confirmed the steps were in his garden, but said he had not known where they were from.  Mike Wilson said: "I have no prior knowledge of it. They are not my blocks and I have no use for them. It's of no interest to me.  I just came back one Friday night and they were there in the front garden, now half of them have gone.  50% of them remain and 50% of them have gone, I'm not to know where they came from.  If anyone wants to phone me up and talk to me about it I'm happy, I've nothing to hide."  The Aberdeen Evening Express quoted a sub-contractor who said he stored the steps on a piece of rough land at Mr Wilson's property because he had no room at his yard.  Aberdeen City Council said the matter had been referred to Police Scotland for consideration.  An internal investigation, including an audit into all granite from Union Terrace Gardens, is under way.  Police Scotland said: "Officers are carrying out inquiries following contact from Aberdeen City Council regarding the removal of granite from a site on Union Terrace."  Planning permission for the work stipulated that original granite from the site had to be reused there.  The council met contractors on Wednesday to discuss the situation.  Earlier, SNP group leader Alex Nicoll had called for a police investigation.  Mr Nicoll said: "In my view, the correct people to investigate whether or not anything untoward has taken place is Police Scotland.  At this point in time, we don't have all the facts to hand. What we do know is very substantial pieces of property have moved outwith our control. And I think we need to get to the bottom of how did this happen, who did what and has anything criminal taken place."  The council said that a review would be carried out to consider "whether any breach of contract had occurred on behalf of any responsible party".

Covid in Scotland: Opening Festival Event Cancelled Over Quarantine Rules

The Edinburgh International Festival has been forced to cancel its opening event.  The three-day Night Light event was due to take place over the first weekend of the festival at the beginning of August.  A group of French artists who were working on the Royal Botanic Garden show cannot make it to the capital due to quarantine restrictions.  Scottish traditional musicians were also due to work at the free show.  France is currently on the UK Westminster government's amber list for restrictions, meaning people have to isolate for 10 days after arrival in Scotland and take two Covid tests.  Preparation for the show, which involved fire sculptures and a large scale fire walk, required the performers to arrive seven weeks in advance.  All other shows at the festival are unaffected by the cancellation.  Three temporary venues are being created at Edinburgh Park, Edinburgh University's Old College Quad and Edinburgh Academy Junior School's playing fields.  An Edinburgh International Festival spokeswoman said: "Regretfully we have had to cancel the Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event: Night Light scheduled for 6-8 August.  Without the previously available artists travel exemption from quarantine, it is not logistically feasible for the Carabosse creative team to travel from France to Edinburgh to undertake the necessary preparatory work, which needs to be completed seven weeks before the event itself."  Paul Bush, VisitScotland's director of events, said: "Since its inception in 2015, the opening event of the Edinburgh International Festival has captured the imagination of festival goers and opened it up to a whole new audience.  Despite the best efforts of all involved, it is regrettable the festival is having to cancel this year's Aberdeen Standard Investments opening event, Night Light."

Thousands Log on to Edinburgh's Royal Highland Show Behind Closed Doors
More than 20,000 people logged on to watch live streaming of the opening of the Royal Highland Show which is being held behind closed doors this year.  The Royal Highland Showcase - as it is being called this year - got under way at Ingliston earlier.  Farmers are showing their livestock, but with the event being streamed online to people around the world.  In normal times, up to 190,000 people would visit the agricultural show over the week. It runs online until Sunday.  Bill Gray, chairman of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, said although members of the public would not be allowed in this year, farmers would still be showing their animals online.  Martin Kennedy, president of the National Farmers Union Scotland, said the event was important for the farming community.  The live streaming is free and will show the best of food, farming and rural life with livestock judging, equestrian, food and drink and rural skills.  There will be show jumping, sheep sheering and forestry work.  There will also be cheese, dairy and ice-cream competitions and chef demonstrations.  A one-tonne wicker Beltie bull, hand-sculpted in Dumfries and Galloway, is the centrepiece of the Royal Highland Showcase.  The well-known underpass where livestock is led in and out of the Ingliston showground arena, has been painted with a huge mural of farm animals, horses, wildlife and scenes from Scotland.  Last year's event was cancelled due to Covid restrictions. Tickets are currently being sold for next year's event.

Cameron House Fire Deaths Inquiry U-turn

A fatal accident inquiry will be held into the Cameron House fire which killed two men after the mother of one of them called for wider lessons to be learned.  Richard Dyson and his partner Simon Midgley died in a fire at the luxury hotel by Loch Lomond in December 2017.  The Crown Office had said an FAI was not needed because the circumstances of their deaths had been established.  A review of that decision has now overturned it.  It emerged during a prosecution case against Cameron House that the blaze started after a night porter placed a plastic bag of ashes in the concierge cupboard which contained kindling and newspapers.  In January, Cameron House was fined £500,000 after admitting breaches of fire safety rules, while the porter was given a community payback order for breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act.  In April, the Crown Office said the purpose of a fatal accident inquiry was to determine the cause of death and to establish what lessons could be learned.  It added that it was "satisfied" the reasons for the tragedy had been established.  The family of Mr Midgley exercised their right to ask for a review of the decision.   Jane Midgley told the BBC her life had been "destroyed" by the deaths of "her boys", who lived in North London but were visiting the hotel on a pre-Christmas break.  Ms Midgley said: "No prison sentence, no fine would ever justify what's happened, so all I've got to do now is fight for this fatal accident inquiry and make it safer for everybody else."  Now an independent Crown Office review has decided that a fatal accident inquiry should be held.  It is a type of court hearing which publicly inquires into the circumstances of a death, presided over by a Sheriff and normally be held in the Sheriff Court.  They are routinely held if the death has happened as a result of an accident at work or if the death happened while in legal custody - for example in prison or police custody.  But they can also be held in other circumstances, if prosecutors believe it would be in the public interest to hold an inquiry.  The review into the decision not to hold an inquiry was carried out by Crown Counsel with no previous involvement in the original decision-making process.  A Crown Office spokesman said the fire had caused two deaths and put the lives of many other people at risk.  He said that although meaningful changes had been made and lessons had been learned over what had already been presented in court, there were further issues which could be addressed in an inquiry.  "There are wider public interest issues around the safety of guests and building fire safety which ought to feature in a fatal accident inquiry," he said.  The spokesman continued: "The procurator fiscal has now started work to initiate this inquiry and there are a number of legal steps which must be taken before it can commence.  The detailed work carried out in the preparation of the prosecutions will be invaluable in this process.  The families will be kept informed of what will happen next."

Mcvitie's Factory Closure 'A Slap in the Face' to 500 Glasgow Workers
Union leaders have described news that nearly 500 workers at the McVitie's biscuit factory in Glasgow are to lose their jobs as a "slap in the face".  McVitie's owner Pladis has issued formal redundancy notices to all 472 staff at the Tollcross plant.  Scottish Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said she was "extremely disappointed".  A spokesperson for Pladis said it was committed to "meaningful consultation" with employees and their representatives.  The company had previously said that, pending consultation, the factory would close in late 2022 with production moved to other factories in the UK.  It has blamed "excess capacity" at its plants for the move.  There have been concerns raised about the future of the plant, which produces Hobnobs and Rich Tea biscuits among other products, for a number of years.  An action group set up to try and save jobs presented a series of proposals as an alternative to site closure last week, according to Ms Forbes.  "We are therefore extremely disappointed Pladis has decided to notify staff they are at risk of redundancy," she added.  She said the group would meet next week to consider how they can support staff affected by the closure and secure the jobs.  I would once again ask Pladis to engage directly with the action group to explore opportunities to secure a future for the site," she said.  A joint statement by the Unite Scotland and GMB Scotland unions said the closure of the factory, which has been operating in the city for nearly 100 years, was "a disgrace".  Pat McIlvogue, of Unite, said the company had refused to engage with the action group which includes representatives from the government, the unions, and Glasgow City Council, among others.  Pladis said it had been consulting with trade union representatives on a weekly basis and was in regular contact with Ms Forbes and Councillor Susan Aitken.  Mr McIlvogue said: "Everyone except the company is working together in order to bring forward options which could save hundreds of jobs in the local area.  Pladis has a duty of care to hundreds of workers to jointly discuss with us what could be done to save jobs instead of this belligerent and arrogant approach which they have adopted."  The GMB's David Hume accused Pladis managing director David Murray of "an act of extreme bad faith".  He added: "This is a profitable business with an innovative workforce that can and should have a future in the east end of Glasgow."  In a statement, Pladis confirmed it had issued the HR1 notice - part of the formal consultation process on its proposal to close the Tollcross plant.  A spokesperson added: "In recent weeks we have been frequently engaging with our trade union representatives and the action group co-chaired by Cabinet Secretary Kate Forbes and Councillor Susan Aitken.  We remain committed to meaningful consultation with our employees and their representatives."

Giant Scotland Map Mown Near Jedburgh Ahead of England Clash

A giant map of mainland Scotland has been unveiled ahead of the crunch match with England at Euro 2020.  The outline - which took two months to sketch out - covers about 1.5km (one mile) of a field near Jedburgh.  It is the brainchild of John Henderson, founder of the Born in Scotland retail chain, which has its headquarters nearby.  He said he wanted to create "something fun" to celebrate Scotland's participation at Euro 2020.  The map was designed by Kelso company Landmaps and needs several hours of mowing a week. Visitors will be signposted around the outline and will be able to walk the "whole of Scotland" in under an hour.  Mr Henderson said: "Given what the country has been through over the last year or so, I wanted to create something fun to celebrate not just our great nation, but also our national team's return to the Euros.  Outside is where it's going to be at this summer, and how else could you get around the whole of our great country in less than 60 minutes, at the same time as grabbing a bit of healthy exercise and fresh air?"  Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said Mr Henderson had come up with a "uniquely quirky way" to put a smile on people's faces.  "Scotland's tourism industry has faced an unimaginable crisis and it is so heartening to see businesses like Born in Scotland continuing to innovate and pivot so successfully to attract visitors and showcase all of Scotland's wonderful assets," he said.  Born in Scotland - which has six retail sites across the country - specialises in selling "retro" Scottish brands.  Visitors to its headquarters will be able to walk the Scotland outline from Friday and entry is free.

Calmac Insist They Can Take Foot Passengers in July, But Space is Severely Restricted
CalMac have insisted have insisted that they are able to take foot passengers in July on the Stornoway to Ullapool route, but that spaces are severely restricted.  It comes after the Gazette reported problems that some regular travellers have been told that bookings for foot passengers cannot be accepted on some weekends due to the Loch Seaforth being full to capacity.   The latest twist has led to calls for a proportion of space to be reserved for workers in both directions and a review of restrictions on the number of foot passengers.  CalMac are operating to around 30 per cent passenger capacity, due to social distancing restrictions, and that is mainly taken up by tourists.  Fiona Galbraith, Area Operations Manager for the Hebrides, said: “Please be assured that we do have spaces available at weekends during July. However, ongoing covid restrictions have meant that unfortunately, the number of spaces available to book have been reduced in order to comply with government guidelines on phsyical distancing. This applies across the network and to foot passengers too.  This is a very unusual situation and we would love to be able to offer more bookings, and as soon as the Scottish Government announce changes to the restrictions, we will comply as soon as possible. We will always try to accommodate people who need to travel so please be patient with our staff as they try to help.”  Iain MacLeod from Ranish, currently working at Nigg in Easter Ross, told the Gazette this week: “My son and I go away on Monday as we are on nightshift and back on Friday mornings. We had been booking travel three weeks in advance to be on the safe side until last Friday when we tried to book ahead again as we do every Friday in Ullapool. When we tried to book the first weekend in July we were told all sailings were full both ways and the same for the following three weekends - just as foot passengers.”  He said that unless resolved, the problem would make it “very difficult” for islanders to work away and be home at weekends.

Please BBC: Give Us Back A Decent Radio Highland, Like it Used to be
Why is radio broadcasting for the Highlands and Islands so poor? Does a region the size of Belgium, bristling with distinctive issues, not merit more respectful treatment from the BBC?  BBC Scotland in Inverness used to produce quality journalism that was able to reflect the region.  Perhaps hardest to answer, why is provision so much worse than decades ago when BBC Radio Highland won a reputation for quality reporting a mission to serve its area. And why has public service broadcasting for the Highlands and Islands been allowed to decline to a few desultory five minute news bulletins?   My own first experience of reporting for radio was on a programme called Northbeat which emanated from Aberdeen daily and covered Scottish news and current affairs from a “north” perspective.  This was an imaginative approach before local radio existed. It showed how a different Scottish news agenda emerges if it is determined from outside the central belt.   Stories from the north-east and the Highlands and Islands were carried on their merits rather than as curiosities thought worthy of inclusion by editors in Glasgow. Accordingly, there was knowledgeable coverage of issues which, to much of Scotland, were peripheral but from a different geographic perspective were central. No such programme exists today.  In 1976, there was a great leap forward with the creation of BBC Radio Highland which served both English and Gaelic language audiences. Three years later, Radio nan Eilean started in Stornoway, also with a bilingual output. In 1985, all Gaelic provision came together as Radio nan Gaidheal - a national station which remains its proper status.  BBC Radio Highland, broadcasting in English to a potential audience of 200,000, lasted from 1976 to 1993. There were half-hour opt-outs from Radio Scotland, also feature and current affairs programmes. It was a serious “local” station which built a strong reputation for real journalism with excellent reporters who really cared about their work.  Then it all stopped. A 1993 reorganisation reduced the Inverness output to these five minute news bulletins. The supposed trade-off would be increased input into Radio Scotland but it never happened.  A big campaign was waged against Radio Highland’s closure, led by local authorities and politicians who realised something of value was being taken away. The battle was lost and promises were soon forgotten.  Every time I hear one of these five-minute bulletins, all of this crosses my mind. It is not the fault of the people working on them who I’m sure are more frustrated than anyone by the format – a brief mix of press releases, road accidents and unchallenged soundbites before they get onto the sport and weather. All in five minutes. I don’t know what the BBC call this but it certainly isn’t journalism.  To give one example I happened to hear last week - two mornings running, Alasdair Allan was given air time to say something about the ferry situation, entirely on his own terms. No questions, no challenge yet this is an issue on which his feet should have been held to the fire by any competent interviewer.  It occurred to me that he has never had a hard question put to him on air in 14 years because there is nowhere to ask them.   This is not however about any one politician or party. They all get away with it because there is effectively no serious news and current affairs broadcaster in the Highlands and Islands – and there hasn’t been for nearly 30 years. It is a major democratic deficit. And the same applies to myriad stories that have nothing to do with politics.  In the meantime, what has happened on BBC Radio Scotland? There are now three hours of “Good Morning Scotland”, an hour and a half of “Lunchtime Live” and two hours – yes, two hours – of “Drivetime”, all covering essentially the same agenda which is wearily stretched to the limits in order to fill the space, with massive central belt orientation. Radio 4 can get by with an hour for “PM” but Radio Scotland apparently needs two hours of John Beattie.  So why is what was possible in the ‘70s, 80s, 90s now impossible – substantial opt-outs from these interminable Scotland-wide programmes? Why is there no coverage of Highlands and Islands issues at Holyrood? Why was there no debate around ferries? Why will there be no radio space for intelligent discussion of a forthcoming Crofting Bill which is of no more interest to Galloway than the state of the road to Cairnryan is to the Western Isles?  The centralisation of Scottish broadcasting has been a hugely retrograde step in terms of scrutiny, debate and the mission to inform. It should either be justified or reversed.

QC to Lead Teacher Abuse Case Inquiry At Scottish Borders Council
Linda McCall was found guilty of assaulting five pupils at school for children with learning difficulties     A QC has been appointed to lead an independent investigation into how a council handled complaints about a teacher who assaulted five pupils.  Linda McCall was found guilty last month of committing the offences between August 2016 and October 2017.  Andrew Webster QC will examine how an internal council inquiry initially cleared her of any wrongdoing.  Scottish Borders Council chief executive Netta Meadows said Mr Webster had significant legal experience.  She also announced that Education Scotland would carry out a widespread review of the council's complex needs education provision.  Plans for the inquiry into the council's handling of the case were announced last month.  Parents have accused the local authority of "covering up" a catalogue of attacks and have launched civil proceedings.  Ms Meadows said it was important to "fully understand" what happened at the time.

Hidden History of Robert Burns' Farm to Be Revealed
A detailed heritage survey hopes to reveal the "hidden history" of a site farmed by Robert Burns.  The work aims to shed new light on the poet's time at Ellisland Farm near Dumfries, identify repairs needed and help to develop a conservation plan.  Burns lived and worked at the site between 1788 and 1791, producing some of his most famous works.  The survey has been described as a "landmark moment" in revealing the full history of the buildings.  Dr David Hopes, vice chair of the Robert Burns Ellisland Trust, said: "This unique survey of the buildings will allow us to understand the story of Ellisland like never before.  It will involve getting under the skin of the history of the buildings - quite literally - by analysing layers of paint, tracing alterations to the shape of walls, roofs, windows and doors, and gathering as much archival evidence as we can.  Ultimately, we will have a robust material narrative which allows us then to prioritise our resources in caring for Ellisland, and to shed new light on an extraordinary period of Burns' life."  The survey is being carried out by Dr William Napier, of Adams Napier Partnership, who said he was looking forward to the project.  He said one of the main challenges would be reversing the impact of some previous work carried out with "modern and inappropriate" materials.  Dr Napier added that the work would also be helped by anyone willing to share either photographs of the farm or their recollections of previous visits.  Dr Hopes said: "Revealing the full story of Ellisland Farm and understanding Robert Burns' time here is critically important to conserve the site for the future, and unlock its full tourism and heritage potential.  Ellisland Farm was hugely important as a place of inspiration for Burns, in particular as a site of environmental importance where we can see the natural world through the poet's eyes.  Ellisland's significance to Scotland and to Dumfriesshire can't be overstated, and as a trust we look forward to revealing its authentic story and making Burns' time here accessible and inspirational for generations to come."

Euro 2020: Crowds Celebrate Scotland's 0-0 Draw with England
Crowds gathered in London's Leicester Square and George Square in Glasgow following Scotland's 0-0 draw with England.  Scotland fans have been celebrating the result, which keeps alive hopes they could still qualify for the next round of the Euro 2020 tournament.  There was large police presence in both cities, and in London 18 men were arrested, the Met Police said.  Most arrests were made in central London and near Wembley Stadium.  The force said offences included violence and disorder, possession of drugs, possession of an offensive weapon (a knuckle duster), racial aggravation, drunk and disorderly behaviour and assault of a police officer, who suffered minor injuries. When a "large" crowd gathered in Leicester Square, flares were set off as fans, many wearing kilts and draped in Scotland flags, sang Flower of Scotland and chanted "No Scotland, no party".  Thousands of supporters travelled south for the match despite being urged not to unless they had a ticket or had organised somewhere to watch the game.  Earlier a dispersal order was issued for central London, giving police extra powers to break up groups of people where they believe their behaviour is causing a nuisance, harassment or distress.  There was no indication of disorder in George Square but unauthorised large gatherings are prohibited in Scotland under Covid rules.  Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, had urged fans to "be respectful to our hosts" in London and not to behave in any way that was going to make the Covid problem worse.  The 3,000 strong crowd of supporters watching the match at Glasgow's fan zone erupted into huge cheers when the final whistle went on the 0-0 draw.  And at Wembley the Scotland players lapped up the applause of the Tartan Army who stayed behind to celebrate the result as the England fans left.  The result comes off the back of Scotland's 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic on Monday and England defeating Croatia 1-0 the previous day.  Scotland will face Croatia at Hampden on 22 June.  Wembley and Hampden are among 11 venues across Europe hosting the games in the tournament, which was delayed for a year because of the pandemic.  Wembley was open at 25% capacity for the match, with supporters having to show either proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow test before entry.  The Tartan Army were allocated only about 2,600 tickets for Wembley, due to Covid rules.  In the absence of access to the stadium or official fan zones, many supporters instead booked to watch the match from pubs and bars across London.  Some gathered in Hyde Park and Leicester Square throughout the day, with police moving Scotland fans on from the square during the second half of the match.  It is understood it came after an opposing group tried to approach the visiting fans.

Gangland Figure Jailed After Johnstone Drugs Factory Raid
A man has been jailed after a major police operation cracked a drugs and gun gang in the west of Scotland.  David Hough, known as Murfy, was arrested after a raid on a street valium factory in Renfrewshire last June. The site in Johnstone was able to make 100,000 pills an hour.  Guns, ammunition and hand grenades were recovered in a separate raid on a "safe house" in Milton, Glasgow.  Hough was sentenced to six years in prison at the High Court in Paisley.  One of his accomplices, James Dalziel, was jailed for two years and three months. Hough, 39, admitted last month to being involved in serious organised crime between April and June 2020.  The convicted cocaine dealer - who was brought back from Spain to face justice - was also given a three year Serious Crime Prevention Order.  These are designed to tackle and monitor criminals when they are freed.     The swoop on the street valium factory was part of Police Scotland's Operation Gadget.  An earlier hearing in Glasgow heard the police operation was focused on Hough and his associates.  It was linked to the Europe-wide Operation Venetic - an investigation into the top secret Encrochat phone network used by criminals.  The court heard Hough was involved in the "business and marketing side" of the drugs lab with trusted lieutenant Hugh McHugh, 43, having a "hands on role".


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

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