Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 608

Issue # 608                                            Week ending Saturday 26th June  2021
Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a yacht big enough to pull up alongside it by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

, the nights are fair drawing in. Monday was the longest day and in Edinburgh, at least, they had more than 17.5 hours of sunlight, with sunrise at 4.26am and sunset at 10.02pm. I know about these things.

Most people think I am daft you see, but I’m clever though I don’t often show it.
Because I have a laptop, wi-fi and Google. And I’m a poet and I just don’t know it.

As the shadows lengthened on Monday evening, I spotted a vessel gently swaying in the eventide sun behind Arnish Point. Big and black, but it’s wasn’t another CalMac ferry broken down and drifting into the clutches of Harland and Wolff, the famous Belfast shipyard, which is taking over as operator of the Arnish fabrication yard? It was merely a near-billionaire’s superyacht.

According to The Sunday Times Rich List, yacht owner Sir Lloyd Marshall Dorfman CBE is worth £720 million. The 240ft Elandess, bobbing about behind Arnish, is only worth a supercool £87 million, according to a super website for super people who like messing about in superyachts.

In 2011 he sold a business for US$ 400 million and another for US$ 800 million. But he does have a wife, three children and his own private jet to support as well as the Elandess. Sir Lloyd is chairman of the Princes Trust and a philanthropist. I think that means he gives money to good causes, not to good people. Shame, I could have nominated one or 20.

By the time you read this, you will know if the good people who are Scotland’s footballing bravehearts thrashed Croatia to get through with the determination that saw us thrash England to a, er, 0-0 draw. They’ve still not learned their lesson and some Scottish media are going wild already talking up Scotland. One story breathlessly says: “With 90 nerve-ridden minutes left to spare their blushes, how have Croatia fallen from grace?”

Have they? Have they really? Wait until after the game, mate. Knowing little about how Euro soccer works, I understand we need at least a score of 2-0 in favour of us Jocks. We have to achieve that if we are to nudge past Switzerland and be in with the first sniff of a chance of glory for a long, long time.

These new-fangled rules are doing my head in. Like tie breakers. Why break your tie? I just put it round my waist instead of a belt and it eventually breaks by itself. Apparently, another tie breaker could be goal difference, then goals scored, number of wins, lower disciplinary record and the positions in the UEFA rankings. No wonder my trousers won’t stay up.

Let’s keep smiling through. It’s a good job we don’t work for Canon, the camera company, in China. They are trialling a new door entry system which won’t let staff into their offices unless they have big smiles and look happy at work. Great idea. Just scowl at the camera and you can take the rest of the day off. What? You won’t get paid? As I’ve always said, it’s a rubbish idea.

Imagine having to smile to be allowed in to work. I know a few organisations up here which would soon have several vacancies. I’m saying nothing more. Obviously.

Now, before I forget, is anyone interested in a break this weekend? Not a tie break, a two-cities break. How about a sail down the west coast and then a helicopter trip? I’m looking for two people to join Mrs X and myself. We’ll depart Stornoway harbour early on Saturday and take the yacht to Glasgow in time for dinner at a top hotel. Then we’ll take a helicopter flight to Manchester on Sunday and stay in another fine hotel.

For goodness sake, please don’t tell the First Minister about our plans. You know what she is like about Scots going to Manchester. “Youse are no goin’ onywhere near yon Andy Burnham, right?” Dangerous move. If she’s not careful, these irate Mancunians could ban us Scots from watching Corrie.

On Monday, we’ll take the chopper back to Glasgow, spend the afternoon shopping and have a great night in the Clydeside casinos. After an overnight stay, we’ll then sail back up the west coast and arrive back in Stornoway for dinner.

If you are interested in coming, please message me asap. This would particularly suit someone with a yacht. And a helicopter. Otherwise we can’t go.

Covid in Scotland: Can We Stop Worrying About High Case Numbers?
Vaccination is offering Scotland the "route out" of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Nicola Sturgeon. The first minister told MSPs this week that the link between new cases and the serious health harms caused by the virus hasn't gone away - but it is weakening significantly.  What do the latest figures show us about this link? And does this mean we no longer have to worry about case numbers?  Cases are rising fast - and there are no signs yet that the rate of new infections is slowing.  Scotland had been enjoying a sustained decline in the number of new Covid-19 cases, but that all changed on 5 May.  Since then, the number of new Covid cases per day has mainly been rising, and at an increasing pace in recent days.  On 5 May, the number of cases detected over the previous seven days was 1,046. By 23 June, this figure had gone up to 11,067 - a 10-fold increase.  Scotland also has the highest case rate among all of the UK nations, reaching almost 203 cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday.  The sharp rise is being driven by the more infectious Delta variant, first identified in India, which accounts for more than 90% of new cases in the UK, according to the UK government. However, the Scottish government says fewer people are being treated in hospital for Covid illness now and fewer people are dying, despite this increase.  Are people still getting sick from Covid?  In short, yes.  But according to the government's analysis, only about 5% of people who are infected end up in hospital, rather than the 10% we were seeing before vaccination started to offer us protection.  People are also staying hospital for shorter periods after being admitted.  The number of people in hospital is rising - but at a slower rate. During the outbreaks in the autumn and over the winter, the daily figure on hospital occupancy has closely tracked the daily cases figure, but it's different this time.The number of people in hospital is trending upwards, but the gap between the two lines is obvious. To draw a comparison with the end of 2020, when the average number of new cases being recorded a day was similar to now, there were 1,174 Covid patients in hospital. On 23 June, there were 170.  Public Health Scotland publishes data on daily hospital admissions of people with a positive test for Covid, and again there appears to be a different pattern this time.  On 28 August, as the second wave took hold in Scotland, an average of seven people were being admitted a day. It was a similar figure on 5 May 2021, as the Delta variant began to drive a new wave of cases.  The rate of hospital admissions appears different this time. Seven-day averages.  For the first three weeks there is not much difference at all between the two lines, but then the rate of new admissions in the autumn begins to rise at a much faster rate.  The evidence on deaths is less clear There is generally a lag of several weeks between new cases and Covid-related deaths, which means it is harder to draw firm conclusions on whether the link between the two figures is weakening.  Certainly, the number of new death certificates mentioning Covid-19 in Scotland has been reasonably stable over the last few weeks.  However, the rate of new deaths in the autumn did not begin to rise fast until the latter half of October - six to eight weeks after case numbers began going up.  The death rate has remained flat for several weeks. Death certificates mentioning Covid-19.  Showing deaths per week.In the seven days up to 6 September just two death certificates mentioned Covid-19, the lowest figure in any week since the pandemic began in Scotland.  After that, weekly deaths began to rise, with 76 recorded in the seven days up to 18 October.  Last week, there were 13 death certificates mentioning Covid-19, according to the National Records of Scotland - three weeks after this spring's low of four deaths in the middle of May. What happens to this rate in the next few weeks will give a clearer indication on how much the link with deaths has weakened.  Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, told BBC Scotland she was expecting the number of deaths to go up.  "We will see more deaths if cases continue to increase and we're going to see those deaths in two groups - the unprotected by full vaccination and, in a small number of cases, people who have had both doses, because the vaccines are not 100% protective," she said.  "So I think it will go up, but I'm hoping that it won't go anywhere near where we were before."  In the first minister's statement to Holyrood on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon announced a "revised strategic framework" for tackling Covid, which took into account the protection being offered by vaccination against Covid sickness.  She said that previously the Scottish government was intent on suppressing the virus to the "lowest possible level", but this has been replaced with an aim of suppressing the virus "to a level consistent with alleviating its harms".  This essentially means that higher numbers of cases will be tolerated than in past waves of the pandemic.  The Scottish government's new strategy reflects the latest guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) on public health and social measures to tackle Covid.  In this document, the WHO says the focus can shift from case numbers to hospital admissions and intensive care rates in countries where the most vulnerable are fully vaccinated - a position Scotland will be in by next week, according to the first minister.  But there is a balance to be struck here.  If case rates are allowed to get completely out of control, then pressure will inevitably increase on the NHS and more will die, Prof Bauld said.  "If we really see these numbers continue to increase, it's still going to translate into some hospital admissions and people becoming very unwell.  So we've just got to hold the course for a few more weeks and try and send the behavioural message that this is not a free-for-all - we all need to do our bit."  A high case rate also increases the risk of new variants of concern emerging - ones that are more infectious, more deadly or which are resistant to current vaccines.  The WHO's document says that some form of Covid restrictions - for example isolating after a positive test - will need to be used "for the foreseeable future".  "Things are improving but it's not going away," Prof Bauld said.  "Into the winter months we're still going to have to have some mitigations... there may be [restrictions] that are put in place again, rather than everything just continuing open indefinitely."  And Prof Bauld also cautioned against governments coming up with an acceptable death rate for Covid-19.  "I think there's pressure on politicians to come up with a number of tolerable deaths from this disease in the future and quite rightly they're resisting that," she said.  "There are also these constant comparisons with flu which is unfortunate, because its much more deadly than influenza - and more transmissible."

Why Has the Sea Off Scotland Turned Turquoise?
The vivid turquoise colour of the sea has captured the imaginations of those living nearby with many taking to social media for answers.  In the absence of any known samples being analysed, experts think it is a coccolithophore bloom.  In layman's terms, it is a type of microscopic marine algae living in large numbers in the upper layer of the sea.  You cannot see them with the naked eye, but these spherical cells under a powerful microscope are surrounded by intrinsic tiny disc-shaped platelets known as coccoliths.  It is the shedding of these white calcium carbonate plates - which can turn into chalk - that transforms the sea into that photogenic aquamarine colour.  Think about the sun hitting the water and bouncing off brilliant white particles just under the surface.  Satellite images capturing the phenomenon have also been posted on social media by scientists who study the oceans from a birds eye view. They too believe it's a coccolithophore bloom.  So we have a good sense of the what, but what about the why?  Dr Paul Tett, from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), has been studying algae for five decades and says what we've been seeing is rare in coastal waters.  The last time he saw this level of colour intensity in Scottish waters was in the 1980s, he said.  "The coccolithophores are very common on the high seas in the North Atlantic, for example, and in the southern ocean," Dr Tett said.  "They are probably the second most common kind of phytoplankton group in the oceans."  Dr Tett said he was not quite sure why it was now happening off Scotland's west coast.  "My best guess is that some water from the North Atlantic has come on to the Mallin shelf, which is the sea between Ireland and the west of Scotland.  "Some of it has gone into the Firth of Clyde and some has gone up the Minch and that has brought the bloom of coccoliths with it."  In the SAMS laboratory in Oban there are hundreds of samples of algae suspended in jars.  Tiny they may be, but insignificant they are not: the health of algae populations is growing more significant in the battle against climate change because of their relationship with CO2.  Dr Tett said: "The good news is these little algae are one of nature's ways of reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because the calcareous plates take up carbon dioxide from sea water and when they sink to the bottom they are removing it from the sea and the atmosphere."  But as we see throughout the natural world, life is all about balance, and too much of a "good thing" can prove detrimental.  Despite some algae blooms being harmful, scientists do not believe this bloom is.  If anything with many of us kissing goodbye to sunny getaways this summer because of the pandemic, this is just the picture postcard we need.

Two Arrests Over Attempted Murder of Police Officer
Two men have been arrested after a police officer was struck by a car and seriously injured in Ayrshire.  Police said the 28-year-old officer suffered serious leg injuries after being hit by the car in Eglinton Place, Kilwinning, in the early hours of Tuesday.  She is continuing to be treated in hospital.  The incident is being treated as attempted murder, and two men aged 58 and 59 have been arrested and charged.

Glasgow MP Moved to Police Safe House After Death Threat
A Glasgow MP who had to be shielded in a police safe house after a death threat, wants women in public life to have more protection.  Carol Monaghan feared for her and her family's lives when online abuse turned into the detailed threat.  Earlier this month Jonathan Bell, 35, admitted a course of conduct which caused her fear or alarm.  The SNP MP for Glasgow North West says social media companies must take action to end misogynistic abuse.Twitter said it takes action against accounts which violate rules on abuse and harassment.  Like most women in politics, Ms Monaghan has always received attacks via her social media accounts.  But after a series of offensive tweets emerged from a particular individual, the attacks turned sinister.  Messages she was sent included references to murdered MP Jo Cox.  Then her constituency office in Partick was targeted, with windows being smashed.  While the MP was in London, the office front was splattered with ketchup.  "When my staff came in it was quite a disturbing thing to see," she told BBC Scotland's The Seven programme.  "It was obviously meant to look like blood across the windows. That was the start of the physical activities."  Things got worse when a death threat was made against her.  It was phoned in and it contained enough details about my personal life, enough detail to cause the police to take it seriously," she explained.  "I got a call from my office manager. The police had contacted him to say there was what they considered to be a credible threat. They weren't necessarily sure I should come back to Glasgow. But I was keen that I did come back to Glasgow - my family were here."  Ms Monaghan was terrified for her family.  She said: "Because of the personal nature of the threat and the personal details, I knew he knew where I lived, I knew he knew who my kids were. I just had to be there.  "That evening when we came back from the police station to the house, the police wouldn't let us into the house until the whole area had been searched.  They spent the night outside the house and very early the next morning we left and went to a safe place."  Bell harassed the SNP MP between January and April 2019.  At Glasgow Sheriff Court he pled guilty to causing fear or alarm. He will be sentenced next month.  Ms Monaghan puts a lot of what happened down to social media. She has endured a stream of abuse and has tried unsuccessfully to engage the platforms to deal with it.  "Social media gives people a platform, it gives them a way of directly contacting a person - at any time of the day or night," she said  "It gives them the opportunity to say things anonymously. It gives them a whole lot of protection that the target of their abuse does not have."  Ms Monaghan believes any woman in a public role is party to this abuse, and says she has been told told to "grow a thick skin" and get used to it.  But, she says: "Really, why should we take that level of abuse? We wouldn't accept it in a workplace, but we are just supposed to take it and somehow we are to blame if we don't."  She is calling for safeguards to be put in place. Her main issue is with people being untraceable.  "This idea that an abuser on Twitter can stay anonymous cannot be right," she said.  "I understand some people want to interact on Twitter anonymously for the best of reasons but there is also a huge hiding place for people who want to put more sinister stuff out there. We need a way of identifying users and take action against them for tweets that are offensive."  The MP has considered giving up politics because of the abuse, saying it wears her down. But although she says she is not planning to go yet, she admits she would probably not want any of her three daughters to go into politics.  She will keep pushing for change.  "Longer term, we need to consider how we deal with people in public-facing roles and how we put protections in place for them to ensure they can go about their jobs in a normal manner.  I live here in Glasgow and I represent the area where I live and I love to walk about in this area. I don't want that to change. And I don't want it to change as a result of this."  In response, Twitter said: "Abuse and harassment have no place on our service. We have clear rules in place that apply to everyone, everywhere, that address threats of violence, abuse and harassment and hateful conduct, and we take action when we identify accounts that violate these rules."

The Youth Workers Embedded in Children's A& E
Youth workers have been embedded in a children's hospital emergency department for the first time in Scotland to try to reduce repeat admissions.  The specialist staff work alongside clinicians to help teenagers tackle the causes of violence, self-harm and substance abuse.  Sixteen-year-old Amy was one of the young people to speak to the youth workers.  She was violently assaulted by her boyfriend after a night out and suffered serious head injuries.  "He was drunk and he had a bottle in his hand and he began to hit me in the head, nose and face," Amy says.  She went to hospital for a scan and at that's where she met workers from the charity 6VT, who are running the scheme.  Amy, not her real name, says they helped her get away from that relationship and reset her life, not only in the days and weeks after the attack, but before and after the case went to court.  ''Knowing it wasn't just me who'd been through that it's helped me gain my confidence again because when it happened I had no confidence at all," Amy says.  The specialist youth workers are embedded in the emergency department of Edinburgh's Royal Hospital for Children and Young People on Friday and Saturday nights.  They liaise with clinicians to offer emotional and practical help to teenagers presenting with everything from drink and drug abuse to self-harm.  One of the emergency youth workers, Natalie Paris, says: ''They don't see you as a professional when you come in, in a hoodie they see you as an average Joe.  They feel comfortable opening up even when you don't know them and they want to talk, whether they're upset or a bit drunk whatever, the fact they come to you, it's a total privilege to know you're the person they come to in that time of need." "They come in for all sorts of different reasons, some it can be assault, mental health issues, some accidents, so we spend some time and see what they need."  Clinicians are expert at mending broken bones, and treating other injuries and illnesses, but they don't have time to help teenagers tackle underlying problems which may bring them back to the emergency department repeatedly.  Paediatric emergency medicine consultant Dr Jen Browning says ''We realised there were lots of young people coming to us frequently and we were trying to see if we could break that cycle and prevent them coming back to us again and again.  The idea being if we can get them when they are most vulnerable in the emergency department, at a time when they will hopefully be open to seeking help, then hopefully that will then break the cycle and change behaviour so they don't come back and become frequent attenders to us."  Dr Browning says there is sometimes a "barrier" between healthcare workers and patients and the youth workers help break it down.  "They know how to speak to the parents and they educate the parents on how to speak to the young person and discuss how to break that cycle of substance misuse," she says.  Edinburgh Children's Hospital Charity raised £116,000 to fund three years of this emergency youth work.

Edinburgh's St James Quarter Shopping Centre Opens
After five years of construction, Edinburgh's largest development in a generation, opens its four-storey shopping centre.  St James Quarter, at the east end of Princes Street, has Edinburgh's first Lego shop, Peloton and restaurants such as Salerno Pizza.  Harrods is due to open a beauty store in the next few weeks.  The £1bn development replaced the 1960s St James Centre and the New St Andrews House office block.  Thousands are expected to flock to the new centre, bringing a much needed boost to the city centre as Covid restrictions ease.  More than 40 retailers including brands in Scotland for the first time, such as & Other Stories, Stradivarius, Bershka, and Pull&Bear will be opening their doors at 09:00.  A further 40 shops will open over the coming weeks.  Martin Perry, director of development for St James Quarter, told BBC Scotland he did not want the development to pull shoppers away from other retailers in the city centre.  He said: "There is a glass roof here so people don't get wet but there are no doors at either end.  "We want people to do a circuit of the city centre when they come here. We have purposely designed it so that people move through the city.  We have invested in the city centre because we believe the future in shopping lies in city centres rather than out of town or online."  Erica Moore, owner of Eteaket at the west end of the city centre, said she hoped the arrival of such a big shopping development would be positive for small retailers.  She said: "It's a good draw for Edinburgh as a whole to keep the capital as a world class leading city centre.  But there is the danger that as more and more developments are happening at that side of town, footfall is pulled away from this end of town.  I think we need to be careful and watch we don't lose too many businesses."  Cocktail bar The Alchemist is to open in the centre in July along with Black Sheep Coffee, Sushi Samba and Joelato. The Scottish foodhall, Bonnie & Wild as well as Bross Bagels, The Kooples and Aeronautica will also open next month.  A five-screen Everyman Cinema is due to open later in the year.  The 244 bedroom W Hotel, also known as the Walnut Whip, which is attached to the shopping centre will open next year.  A 75-room Roomzzz Aparthotel and 152 apartments at the development will open during future phases.  Ewan MacDonald- Russell of the Scottish Retail Consortium told BBC Scotland: "I really think the high street has been battered by the Covid pandemic.  The big challenge now for city centres is how we attract people back, which is going to be easier for Edinburgh and Glasgow, which have a lot of exciting reasons to visit."  Prof Leigh Sparkes, retail expert at Stirling University, said: "Retail is going through a major transformation generally and has been for quite a while.  The pandemic has accelerated and enhanced that so now it's a question of what do we value, what do we bring back."

Barrhead Mum Honoured for Dedication to Charity Work
A Barrhead woman has told of her delight after being awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her work with children’s charities and the community.  Evelyn Oliphant, 54, has also been recognised for her key role as a senior civil servant with the Scottish Government, promoting education across the country.  Her youngest son David, 15, has cerebral palsy and complex needs that require full-time care.  The Barrhead News has previously highlighted efforts by Evelyn and her husband Robin to secure better treatment and facilities for children with his condition.  Evelyn has also raised thousands of pounds for the Children’s Hospices Across Scotland charity (CHAS) through various sponsored activities, including the Kiltwalk.  She has further campaigned for the NHS to provide specialist hospital beds for children with illnesses such as cerebral palsy.  Evelyn, who has another son Calum, 18, said she was both surprised and delighted to be informed about her MBE.  “I have no idea who put me forward but it is a great honour,” Evelyn told the Barrhead News.  “I have been involved in a few charities over the years, particularly since David was born. That really opened my eyes to fight for what was needed.”  Evelyn, who is a past member of the Parent Council at Cross Arthurlie Primary and a current member of the Parent Council at Barrhead High, works as head of the strategic business unit at Education Scotland, helping colleagues in areas such as school inspections and the national curriculum.  Maureen Hamilton, head of operations at Education Scotland, said: “Despite having to act as a full-time carer, she has found the time and energy to work determinedly to fight for and contribute to charities such as CHAS.  Thanks to Evelyn, The Royal Children’s Hospital in Glasgow now has four beds that keep children like David safe while they are in hospital.  Evelyn is a truly remarkable person who has faced personal challenges head on and used them to improve the lives of others and their families.  “One of the things that stands out when we think of Evelyn is her continual compassion and empathy. Her patience and understanding is remarkable and we are very proud to call her our colleague and our friend.” Last December, the Barrhead News told of Evelyn’s concerns over the closure of the Corseford Short Breaks service, in Johnstone, which provided overnight respite care for parents of disabled children.  She is now campaigning for a replacement centre for families.  Evelyn is hopeful that, once restrictions have been lifted, she will be able to receive her award from the Queen, either at Buckingham Palace or Holyrood.  She added: “It would be nice to have something to get dressed up for.”

Fisherman Dies After Two Fall Overboard Off Eigg
A man has died after two crew members fell overboard from a fishing vessel off the Isle of Eigg.  The men were recovered from the water by the third member of the crew in the Sound of Rum.  Police said that one of the men, a 61-year-old, was pronounced dead.  A rescue operation was launched after the coastguard received a mayday call from the vessel just before 19:10 on Thursday.  The alert stated that two of the three crew had entered the water, just north-west of Eigg in the Small Isles.  Mayday relay broadcasts were issued to vessels in the area and the coastguard helicopter from Stornoway and RNLI lifeboats from Mallaig in the Highlands and Tobermory in Mull were sent to the scene.  The coastguard said the crew member still on the fishing vessel managed to get both men back on board, where the helicopter's winch paramedic attended to them.  A Police Scotland spokeswoman said there were no suspicious circumstances and a report will be submitted to the procurator fiscal.  The other man suffered a minor injury and did not need any hospital treatment.  An HM Coastguard spokeswoman said: "Mallaig RNLI lifeboat escorted the fishing vessel to Mallaig Harbour, where they were met by Police Scotland and Mallaig Coastguard Rescue Team."

How A Highland Village is Changing to Meet Staycation Demand
Tourism businesses in and around Ullapool are expecting a busy summer, with the area a popular destination for people who choose to holiday closer to home amid the pandemic.  Will Copestake, an outdoor instructor and former Scottish and UK Adventurer of the Year, runs sea kayaking classes and trips off Achiltibuie, about 40 minutes by car from Ullapool.  He says the popularity of the whole Wester Ross area for staycations is plain to see - with demand for the activities he offers increasing.  Bookings this year have definitely been elevated over what we would normally expect," he says, with "sometimes well in excess of" 50 emails a day from potential customers.  Before Covid, many of Will's clients were people who had kayaked before and wanted to explore the Summer Isles just off the coast. He says: "The difference this year and last year is that it is new people, who are wanting to go camping and kayaking for the first time."  But some businesses are facing challenges as they prepare for the influx of staycation visitors.  Robert Hicks, of the Arch Inn in Ullapool, says he does not have enough people to run the business normally, and has had to make adjustments to his offering.  "We are open seven days a week for accommodation and drinks, but we have had to stop serving food two days a week for the welfare of staff," he says.  Robert believes staff shortages in the hospitality industry are not just a Highland problem, but a UK-wide one with workers leaving the trade to pursue other careers.  He says: "Furlough has been really wonderful, but I think it was maybe a mistake allowing people to pick up second jobs. Some people have kept that second job and given up the job they were furloughed from."  Di Rusling, who runs about 30 self-catering properties around the village, is also experiencing staff shortages.  She says: "We would usually try and do some lets for three or four nights, but this year can only do seven night lets or longer due to the changeovers.  There just isn't the staff to be able to manage that part of the business."  Last year, post-lockdown, some tourism hotspots became crowded and communities spoke out about a lack of facilities to cope with the demand.  Will describes the popularity of Wester Ross as a "mixed blessing".  He says: "There was definitely elevated pressure [last year], but on the other hand I think the community has been fairly shut down for over a year now and it's really good to have a bit of business back and a little bit more activity."  Di says there was "a lot of negativity" last year around tourism, though agrees some concerns about excessive numbers of visitors remain.  But she says: "The village really needs to have visitors to survive."  Robert is also keen to find the positives in the area's popularity.  He says it is "shining a light" on a part of the country which had been forgotten until recently.  "I think very much the positives outweigh the negatives," he adds.

Best of the Highlands Celebrated At Online SCDI Awards
A hotelier who has brought five-star service to the Highland capital has been named the north's outstanding business leader of the year at the SCDI Highlands and Islands Business Excellence Awards.  Tony Story, chief executive of Kingsmills Hotel Group, was named winner of the award by the host of the online event, comedian and impressionist Alistair McGowan.  Mr Story had seen that Inverness lacked a five-star standard hotel offering, and had met that need by opening the Ness Walk in 2019, Mr McGowan told the online audience. Accepting the award, Mr Story said the success was not just down to him alone, but the 300 plus members of staff.  "Any strategy is only as good as the people who deliver it," he said. He went on to appeal to the virtual audience to support the hospitality sector's recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.  Hospitality is in for a very rough ride," he said.  "We still have a long way to go and any support you can give is very much appreciated."  Commenting later, Mr Story added: "I am delighted to receive the outstanding business leader award. However, I would highlight that no matter the vision or strategy it takes a team to deliver it. Our industry is all about people, and Kingsmills and Ness Walk truly have some of the best.”
Williamson Foodgroup delifered the equivalent of 49,000 meals free of charge in the first five weeks of the Covid crisis.  Food wholesaler Williamson Foodservice claimed another title for Inverness as winner of the Highland Council Award for Highland Spirit and Resilience.  Councillor Trish Robertson, who chairs the authority's infrastructure, environment and economy committee, praised the family business for its response to the Covid crisis.  Despite losing 85 per cent of its custom as hospitality and catering customers were forced to close at the start of lockdown, Williamson's turned its attention to providing essential supplies for the area and in the first five months of the crisis, delivered the equivalent of 49,000 meals free of charge.  They served vulnerable communities as national retailers withdrew their services," she said.  "They brought groceries to rural households who had no other option, helping to maintain resilience, confidence and spirit in these areas." Wiliamson's marketing manager Simon Stewart responded by thanking the judges, staff and customers and added: "We are so proud to have been able to serve the community in different ways and we look forward to working with you all again in the future."The 2021 Awards saw winners from across the Highlands and Islands, from the best SME winner, software developer Mesomorphic in Shetland, to the marine innovation title winner, independent marine science group SAMS in Oban, and the Cullen Hotel, which won the Crown Estate Scotland Award for outstanding supporter of coastal communities.  Other winners included employee-owned Alness fish processor Aquascot, which won the people development award while fellow aquaculture firm MOWI won the excellence in international business title.  Ben Hadfield, MOWI Scotland's chief operating officer, said: "The last 18 months have been tough for everybody in the Scottish salmon industry. I know how hard the team here at Mowi has worked, especially to overcome the challenges posed by Brexit so it is great to see this acknowledged by the SCDI through this award."  AES Solar of Forres won the award for excellence in upskilling, reskilling and emerging leaders, with Sutherland social enterprise Plastic@bay the winner of the natural capital, climate change and sustainable communities award.  Martin and Claire Murray of Dunnet Bay Distillers, winners of the SCDI Highlands and Islands chair's award for outstanding business achievement. The final award, the SCDI Highlands and Islands Chair’s Award for outstanding business achievement, saw Caithness gin-maker Dunnet Bay Distillers chosen by outgoing chairwoman Jane Cumming.  She described the firm founded by married couple Martin and Claire Murray as a hugely impressive business which exemplified the best of the region.  "Their location is an asset, not an obstacle and they are flexible and innovative in their approach," she said. "This has put them at the forefront of gin production in a region more usually associated with Scotch whisky and I am delighted to honour them with the Chair’s Award for Outstanding Business Achievement.”  SCDI chief executive Sara Thiam commented: “We are delighted to recognise the people who have kept the Highlands and Islands economy going through the hardest of years. Not only have many continued to provide much needed products and services to communities, many have transformed their businesses for the better.  The ability to work across public, private and third sectors marks SCDI members out and their commitment to people and planet will ensure that they will continue to create prosperity in the Highlands and Islands for many years to come."


SAHC Postpones Scottish Week 2021 events on 25-28 June 2021
Today, the Scottish Australian Heritage Council and the Celtic Council of Australia have come to the difficult decision to postpone the “Long Weekend of Events” in Sydney on Friday 25 June to Monday 28 June, inclusive.  We understand our responsibility for the health and safety of our patrons at these events. Following the health advice on Wednesday 23 June by Dr Kerry Chant, the New South Wales Chief Health Officer, regarding the growing risk to the community, we have decided to postpone all the events until later in the year. While we are confident the commercial venues we use are well set up to manage our events effectively, attendance may have been considered as "non essential" in the context of the NSW Premier’s announcement today. The events in Sydney are to encourage social interaction in the celebration of our Scottish and Celtic cultures. We looked forward to catching up with our friends and new participants at the rescheduled events later in 2021. We will keep you informed once the SAHC and CCA have had a chance to review the proposed events for later in 2021.  For those who wish to receive a refund, please advise your banking details to Nea MacCulloch via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   The next event is the Aberdeen Games, Saturday 3 July 2021. We expect the SAHC will attend the Highland Games and we look forward to catching up with everyone there.  We wish you all the very best and to remain safe and well.
Malcolm Buchanan

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