Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 611

Issue # 611                                                       Week ending Saturday 17th  July  2021
Space Travel is Very Risky Because Every Launch is Just Yet Another Enormous Controlled Explosion by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

In space no one can hear you scream, they say. That was actually the famous tagline on that awful science fiction movie Alien. You know the one. The astronauts are round a table eating spaghetti and drinking.

Suddenly John Hurt, who always played tortured souls, seems to have a bad attack of heartburn before being flung onto his back on the table and a tiny blood-spattered long green whale-headed thing with spiky teeth rips his t-shirt - from the inside - and then clambers, nay slithers, out of his chest.

The creature from the red cavity then slowly looks around at the crew before scuttling off - probably not to do the dishes either. Apologies if you’re about to eat. You may wish to leave it until later. Space travel is in the news and this is why it gives me the collywobbles.

It was a horror flick too. That movie is why I still go wobbly at the thought of being squeezed, encapsulated, entombed even, in a space capsule or even certain cabs, along with other people and whatever bugs they brought in.

Being in the RAF at the time, we were relieved Britain didn’t have a space programme to volunteer for. I became worried about social distancing in 1979, after I saw that chest wall part down the middle. Sorry, enough blood and guts.

We’re all scared of something. Walking home a few weeks ago, the guy round the corner asked me what I thought about growing him fruit trees. Me? Haven’t a scooby. He said he was scared of failure and wasting time for nothing. I told him to do it. He asked which fruit tree he should try first and I said he should grow a pear. Do you know that man hasn’t spoken to me since.

Someone who’s not scared is Dave Mackay, from Helmsdale, Sutherland. Chief pilot for Richard Branson’s test mission at the weekend, he took the billionaire up to about 250,000 feet up in the sky, beyond the Armstrong Line. Go higher than that and you are officially an astronaut. That sounds like a long way up. It is, but in miles it’s just 55.

That’s the distance between Stornoway and Luskentyre Beach. I can do that in an hour and a half in a Qashqai, easy. Go 55 miles up, and they call you an astronaut. Go 55 miles south, and they call you a towrist. I wish it was the other way round.

Space travel isn’t for youngsters. Dave is 64, which is no age at all, Richard Branson is 71 this week and Jeff Bezos, boss of Amazon, is having a bash at the edge of space next week with his brother, a paying passenger and a crewwoman called Wally Funk who first trained in 1961. Ms Funk is a glorious 82.

What else was going on in the UK in the last week? Apart from football fans behaving like common criminals and, for the most part, getting away with it again, not much. This is not a time either for Scots fans to crow about doing nothing wrong. There have been many other weekends where they have let Scotland down.

Though not a fan of what used to be a sport until it became tainted by criminals, the international tension meant I had to watch the last bit, the extra time and the penalties.

Abusing the footballers who missed penalties showed the actual intelligence of people who seem to believe they have perfect little lives and are so supremely talented themselves. And I don’t think. The fact that most of the abuse was at the black players was horrific. We have a name for people who target people in that way. We need strings of high-profile arrests and heavy penalties before anything will change.

Oh and while I’m at it - runners-up medals. Never offer them to the England team again. That rehearsed bout of childishness does not show anyone what winning meant to them. Who cares if other lesser teams do it? That sheer lack of basic respect puts the perpetrators in a category almost close to the criminals who abused some of their number.

Not like the respect that Helmsdale Dave and Richard Branson in that space module had for each other. Branson says: “Let’s have a cuppa. My chest is a bit itchy. Darn it. I can’t find any milk for our coffee.” Dave says: “In space, no one can. Here, use cream.”

Covid in Scotland: Masks Could Stay Until Christmas Says Swinney
Rules on wearing face coverings in Scotland could remain in place until Christmas, the deputy first minister has said.  John Swinney told BBC Scotland it was "perfectly conceivable" that masks could still be mandatory in December.  On Tuesday, the first minister confirmed mask-wearing would remain for "some time" as she announced the move to level zero of Covid restrictions.  Nicola Sturgeon modified planned easing due to the spread of the Delta variant.  Scotland will move to level zero on 19 July which means more people will be allowed to meet indoors and attend weddings and funerals.  However, limits on outdoor meetings are to be maintained and the return of workers to offices will also be delayed.  In an interview on BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime, Mr Swinney was asked if he could envisaged face coverings being mandatory until Christmas.  He said: "I think that's perfectly conceivable. I think that we should recognise that we have got to take a careful and cautious approach to the suppression of Covid.  We know the virus is going to be with us for a long time so the more that we can do, a gradual elementary level to provide obstacles and barriers to the circulation of this virus, the more we should do that."  Mr Swinney also revealed Scottish government modelling predicts that Scotland could record between 2,500 and 10,500 new Covid cases on the day restrictions moves to level zero.  He added: "I think it is likely to be much closer to that lower end of the spectrum than the higher end."  He said the impact of the virus was "moving in the right direction - which means that we can afford some of the relaxation".  It is still hoped that Scotland will move beyond level zero from 9 August - the point at which the government aimed to scrap most legal restrictions. A decision on this will be taken next month.  Among other announcements in Ms Sturgeon's statement to Holyrood were plans to remove the blanket requirement for close contacts of those who test positive to self-isolate, as long as they have had two doses of vaccine.  In addition, fully-vaccinated people returning from amber list countries will not need to quarantine as long as they take a test after arrival.  Business groups have broadly welcomed the changes, but some were critical of ministers "moving the goalposts" at the last minute by altering plans, such as hospitality venues now being required to close at midnight.  Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said: "The midnight curfew is just a made-up time with no evidence to justify it.   It's like Groundhog Day with our warnings about driving people into house parties and other uncontrolled spaces that lack all the precautions you find in responsible pubs, restaurants and hotels."  The Federation of Small Businesses Scotland said no longer requiring people to book a slot in a bar or restaurant "should hopefully generate some extra passing trade", but said there was "less good news" for the events sector with outdoor restrictions to continue.  The Scottish Chambers of Commerce said the move to level zero was "another encouraging milestone", but said the modifications to plans would cause uncertainty - and said postponing the return to offices would be "a bitter blow for employees and employers alike".  The continued wearing of facemasks won the backing of shop worker union Usdaw.  Tracy Gilbert, the union's regional secretary for Scotland, said: "We ask the public to show their support and respect for shop workers by following the law.  Wearing a face covering in a shop is an important measure to help protect workers who have no option but to interact with large numbers of people as a part of their job."

Scottish Airports Call for Relaxation of Quarantine Rules
Bosses from Scotland's main airports are urging the Scottish government to match England's relaxation of travel restrictions.  From 19 July, fully-vaccinated travellers will not have to quarantine when returning to English airports from amber list countries.  Chief executives of Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh Airports have written an open letter to the first minister.  The UK Westminster government's transport secretary, Grant Shapps, announced last week that amber list quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers was to end from Monday 19 July. The Scottish aviation industry's letter to Nicola Sturgeon said the announcement was "a positive move towards the genuine reopening the sector has been looking for" and that it wanted the same rules to apply in Scotland at the same time.  Derek Provan, chief executive of AGS Airports which runs Glasgow and Aberdeen's terminals, told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme he believed the two governments should act together.  He said: "We don't want to end up with a piecemeal approach to the reopening of aviation. All we are calling for is a fair and consistent approach and a four nations approach as the Scottish government have told us in the past they wish to deliver."  He said that there was no doubt that without a consistent approach, Scots would travel south of the border in order to fly from English airports.  He said: "We do know that since the announcement came out from the English government we have seen a 90% increase in bookings south of the border."  The new travel rules in England from 19 July Adults will no longer have to quarantine for 10 days on return from an amber-list country, if they were fully vaccinated in the UK.   They have to get a test three days before returning to England, and a PCR test two days after arriving.  They will have to prove they were vaccinated at least 14 days previously.  No tests for children aged 10 and under before departure for England and no tests after arrival for under fours two days after arrival.  Fully-vaccinated passengers returning to Northern Ireland will no longer need to quarantine from 26 July. Under-18s, participants of clinical trials and those with medical advice against vaccines will be treated as fully vaccinated.  Scotland and Wales have yet to say whether they will follow these changes.  Mr Provan said he had accepted that the airports had lost the school summer holidays for this year.  He added that the more concerning aspect was the potential loss of connectivity for Scotland.  He said that airlines would choose to put assets where they believed they had the most support to run operations.  He said: "We have some real concerns that Scotland is at risk of losing some of the hard fought connectivity that we have had for the past two decades.  If you want to travel anywhere to see friends or family or for business, you may have to travel through an English airport at some point in the future.  Mr Provan said that airlines would increase flights if people started to book holidays.  "People aren't booking because they are unable to travel to those countries due to the restrictions," said Mr Provan. "We would fully expect that the airlines would support the country and put those flights on if people book those holidays but until the government guidelines allows them to do that we are at a Catch 22."  In a statement, a Scottish government spokeswoman said: "We are considering relaxing restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers arriving from amber-list countries, but it needs to be fair and deliverable.  Where possible we will look to adopt a four-nation approach for the re-opening of international travel.  However, decisions on border health measures are a devolved matter and will be taken by minsters on the basis of evidence and with the safety of our communities as our primary concern.  If the clinical and scientific advice is that it is safe and appropriate to treat vaccinated travellers differently, we will consider changes to the restrictions and we will make an announcement on that shortly."

Festival Celebrates Sir Walter Scott's 250th Anniversary
A new festival is to be held to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Sir Walter Scott. ScottFest will be held at his former home - Abbotsford House in the Borders - on 14 and 15 August.  Organisers said they plan to hold the event annually as a celebration of his "achievements and influence on Scottish life".  The theme for the first edition of the festival will be one of his best-known novels, Ivanhoe.  Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh on 15 August 1771 and is widely considered to be the inventor of historical fiction.  He lived for many years at Abbotsford House near Melrose which still hosts a huge collection of items related to the writer.  It will be the location for ScottFest which will include a jousting tournament, stunt riding and the performance of 15th and 16th Century music using traditional instruments.  Abbotsford's chief executive Giles Ingram said the event would take place annually in future in order to celebrate Scott after the 250th commemorations had ended.  "We are now putting the final plans in place for what promises to be a fantastic weekend of entertainment for locals and visitors, an opportunity for a great day out on the last weekend of the school holidays and a cause for celebration after the difficult year everyone has been through," he said.

Covid in Scotland: Raigmore Hospital No Longer At 'Code Black' Status
The largest hospital in the Highlands is no longer on "code black" status.  Raigmore Hospital in Inverness had reached capacity last week amid increasing Covid cases.  All non-urgent elective surgery was cancelled, as was outpatient activity - with the exception of areas including cancer and urgent procedures.  However NHS Highland said the situation was no longer considered to be code black, and thanked staff for their efforts.  The health board said it was continuing to deliver services to the most critically ill and vulnerable patients "whilst managing the widespread pressures".  It said in a statement: "Over the weekend we have continued to experience high levels of demand across health and social care services.  We want to thank all of our staff and contracted services for their hard work and dedication. We have reassessed the position and no longer consider ourselves to be on code black."  Meanwhile, NHS Grampian said Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Dr Gray's in Elgin remained at code black status.

£12.5m Grant for Cairngorms Climate Emergency Projects
Projects to preserve the Cairngorms landscape have won a £12.5m share of National Lottery funding.  The money will help fund more than 20 schemes in The Cairngorms National Park including planting thousands of trees, restoring 3,500 hectares of peatland and a new nature-based dementia centre.  The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) also plans to develop an electric bike network around the park.  It is hoped the 23 projects can be completed by the end of the decade.  The money will go towards a series of projects aimed at tackling the climate emergency and delivering a "wellbeing economy".  Cairngorms is the largest national park in the UK and home to 25% of all threatened and rare species, such as capercaillie and golden eagles.  The CNPA wants to increase woodland cover in the park by 1,000 hectares by 2028 and also develop more segregated walking and cycling routes around Aviemore, the park's busiest town.  Xander McDade, convener of the CNPA, which submitted the National Lottery funding bid along with 45 local community groups, said: "We believe that it is only by communities coming together that we can tackle the climate emergency and nature crisis.  This funding allows us to take forward critical work in communities and landscapes right across the national park." The National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded £50m to five projects across the UK.  Caroline Clark, who is in charge of the fund's strategy across Scotland, told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme the pandemic had underlined the importance of outdoor space.  "This project, Cairngorm 2030, we feel is really ground breaking in terms of the way it's looking holistically at the communities and life in the Cairngorms National Park, but also really pushing the essential climate change work that has to happen in that area to deliver Net Zero," she said.  An element of the project is citizens' assemblies that will give a voice to both residents and visitors to the park in shaping its future.  "Reflecting on the last year-and-a-half of the pandemic, I think we're all really appreciative of the need for green space and connecting with the environment - and the national park is a really special place to do that."

Is A Second Western Isles Ferry Finally on the Cards? Nicola Sturgeon Reveals Scottish Government ‘Exploring’ Options to Fix Island Travel Woes
The Scottish Government is exploring the option of putting on a second ferry to ease travel woes in the Western Isles, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.  Ms Sturgeon made the announcement during First Minister’s Questions after she was quizzed by Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan.  Mr Allan raised concerns from islanders as ferry capacities remain capped at 35% because of social distancing requirements.  Some have spoken of their fears over job security due to being unable to plan travel to and from work.  A second dedicated vessel to sail the Minch has long been called for by islanders and elected representatives.  Mr Allan said: “The very important physical distancing measures put in place on ferries to prevent importation of the virus to island communities have also brought serious challenges to island life.  Ordinary passenger capacity on CalMac ferries is down to around 35% and it is currently nearly three weeks before a car can be booked on the Ullapool to Stornoway crossing, and a similar picture on other island routes.  What steps can be taken to assess if there are safe measures available that will allow an increase in ferry capacity in order to support the wider social and economic position for island communities?”  Ms Sturgeon said Transport Scotland regularly engages with ferry provider CalMac on how to “balance safety measures and efforts to maximise capacity”.  The most recent meeting took place last week.  But her final sentence was the one that offered the most hope to islanders battling against ferry disruption.  Nicola Sturgeon said she recognised the frustration of islanders hit by ferry disruption.  The first minister said: “We are continuing to explore the potential charter of an additional vessel that will provide additional capacity on the Stornoway – Ullapool route and the transport minister will keep the member and others updated.”  Ms Sturgeon said she recognised the frustration of people who live in the islands and rely on ferries to get to and from their home.  She said: “Obviously crew and passenger safety is a key factor in determining the capacity of vessels but the impact is understood.  Vehicle capacity is mostly unaffected by physical distancing but there is currently particularly high levels of demand for travel to the islands.”  Reduced capacity for foot passengers has also resulted in some being able to book vehicles on board ferries – but not themselves.  Iain MacLeod, a welder from Lochs in Lewis, said he and his son have been forced to use holiday entitlement in order to travel home for the weekend from their work on the mainland.  Mr MacLeod said: “We have had to tell our employers that we are taking two days holiday – on Friday and Monday – because we can’t get on and off the island in time. The next couple of weeks, I don’t know what we are going to do because we can’t get bookings at all.  There should be spaces made available for locals to travel back and forth.  We are going to have to stay an extra night or try to get a freight ferry, which is no use to anyone as you cannot book in advance.”  The duo had been booking their travel weeks in advance but are no longer able to due to a rise in demand.They are also unable to book in advance for the 3am freight sailing, leaving it to chance if they can get on the ferry or not.  Discrepancies between ferry travel and other modes of transport causing confusion  Mr MacLeod added: “What annoys us is you go on a plane and you are less than a metre from the person in front of you, yet you can’t do that on a ferry.  I have nothing against tourism but right now the ferry is 95% full with tourists.There should be spaces made available for locals to travel back and forth.  If you have a family emergency and you have to go to the mainland, or vice-versa, you can’t – it’s impossible.” Turn up and go spaces have been created for islanders to allow travel at shorter notice in response to earlier concerns.  Inverness councillor Duncan Macpherson took to social media earlier today to express his concern at being unable to attend a funeral on Uist due to being unable to book a ferry.

Covid: Younger Adults Still At Risk of Serious Organ Damage - Study
Younger adults admitted to hospital with Covid are almost as likely to suffer from complications as those over 50 years old, a study has found.  Four in 10 of those between 19 and 49 developed problems with their kidneys, lungs or other organs while treated.  The research looked at 73,197 adults of all ages across 302 UK hospitals in the first wave of Covid in 2020.  "The message is that this is not just a disease of the elderly and frail," said Prof Calum Semple, who led the work.  "The data reinforces the fact that Covid is not flu and we are seeing even young adults coming into hospital suffering significant complications, some of which will require furthering monitoring and potentially further treatment in the future."  The study, conducted by researchers at seven UK universities, the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England, looked at the number of "complications" in those needing hospital treatment for Covid-19, defined as an organ-specific medical diagnosis.  Overall, around half of all adult patients suffered a least one complication during their hospital stay. The most common was a kidney injury, followed by lung and heart damage.  The highest rates were in those over 50 years old, with 51% reporting at least one problem. But they were also "very common" in younger age groups. Some 37% of 30 to 39 year olds and 44% of 40 to 49 year olds had at least one complication recorded by nurses and medical students involved in the study.  Doctors are not yet certain how a severe Covid illness can cause organ damage, but it is thought in some cases the body's own immune system can spark an inflammatory response and injure healthy tissue.  Paul Godfrey, from Frinton in Essex, developed Covid in March 2020 after suffering what he thought was a chest infection.  Paul, who was 31 at the time of diagnosis and has the lung condition bronchiectasis, said: "There's no doubt about it - the NHS staff who cared for me saved my life. I would not be here today if it wasn't for them."  The study, published in the medical journal the Lancet, found that those with pre-existing conditions were more likely to report complications but the risk was high even in young, previously healthy individuals.  Paul was diagnosed with pneumonia in Colchester hospital and was told the bottom half of both his lungs had collapsed. He narrowly avoided being placed in an induced coma and spent two weeks on a Covid ward before he was allowed home in a wheelchair.  The research showed that 13% of 19 to 29 year olds and 17% of 30 to 39 year olds hospitalised with Covid were unable to look after themselves at discharge and had to rely on friends and family.  "It was the worst experience of my life and I am still dealing with it 18 months later," said Paul, who continues to suffer from extreme fatigue and breathlessness caused by his illness.  I don't really know what the damage is to my body so I am just praying I get back to what I was."  Age is the single largest factor in determining a severe Covid infection.  Of the 406,687 people taken to hospital with the disease in England since the start of the pandemic, 62% were over the age of 65.  That leaves another 155,866 under the age of 65 who have needed hospital treatment since February 2020.  Higher vaccination rates in the elderly and vulnerable population mean that the average age of those hospitalised with the disease has been falling.  In the week ending 4 July, there were just 17 people over 85 years old admitted to hospital with Covid in England, compared with 478 aged between 25 and 44.  The research was conducted in the first wave of the pandemic between 17 January and 4 August 2020 - before vaccines were available and new variants of the virus had been detected.  The authors said the data suggested those with more severe Covid symptoms at admission to hospital were more likely to suffer serious health problems, showing the importance of vaccines in reducing the severity of the disease in this latest wave.  The study was only designed to look at short-term complications during a hospital stay but there is evidence some organ damage can persist, becoming a form of what is known as long Covid.  "We do know from other infectious diseases that these sorts of problems with your kidneys or heart can develop into longer-term complications," said Dr Annemarie Docherty, senior clinical lecturer at the University of Edinburgh and a consultant in intensive care medicine.  "I think it's reasonable to expect that this may be the same with Covid-19."

Entire Whisky Distillery Ships Out to China
An entire whisky distillery is being shipped out from Scotland to China today, Friday. More than 35 tonnes of equipment, including stills, flooring, control valves and pipework, is leaving Buckie in Moray for the port of Tianjin.  The equipment will be assembled at a facility being built in Inner Mongolia.  The shipment is part of a £3m "design and build" deal signed between Forfar firm Valentine International and China's Mengtai Group in 2019.  The facility in Ordos will become Inner Mongolia's first whisky distillery when it opens, probably at the end of this year.All of the distillery equipment was built by Rothes-based firm Forsyths, which is sending a team of five engineers to supervise assembly.  Forsyths have a team in Hong Kong to provide after-sales back-up and services.  Valentine International chairman and managing director David Valentine said the project was the brainchild of Mengtai chairman Ao Fengting, who planned to create a "globally award-winning whisky".  Mr Valentine, who specialises in establishing commercial ventures in China, said: "Scotland is the home of whisky and has the greatest expertise in terms of distillery equipment manufacture, which is why Mr Fengting believes we will deliver a world-beating project for him in Ordos."  It is Mengtai's first venture into the world of whisky. One of Inner Mongolia's largest private firms, its core businesses include coal production and electricity generation.  In a separate development, Valentine International has signed a "strategic agreement" with Mengtai to supply bulk whiskies for China.  Mr Valentine declined to name the whisky distiller in that deal but said it was a "long-established" firm.

Google Maps' Ben Nevis Route 'Potentially Fatal'
Google has been criticised for suggesting routes up Ben Nevis and other Munros which are "potentially fatal" and direct people off a cliff.  Scottish mountaineering charities have urged hill-walkers not to use Google Maps to guide them up the mountains.  They said there have been a number of recent incidents involving routes downloaded off the internet which have resulted in "injury or worse".  Google told BBC Scotland it was investigating the issue.  Earlier the John Muir Trust, which looks after the summit of Ben Nevis, said it has attempted to raise the issue with the internet giant but its approaches have been "met with silence".
Inexperienced walkers.  The charities said certain searches for the route up Ben Nevis on Google Maps direct people to the car park nearest the summit as the crow flies.  However they describe the route from that point as "highly dangerous, even for experienced climbers".  Nathan Berrie, the trust's Nevis conservation officer, said they often come across groups of inexperienced walkers heading towards Steall Falls or up the south slopes of Ben Nevis. Heather Morning, Mountaineering Scotland's mountain safety adviser, said: "For those new to hill walking, it would seem perfectly logical to check out Google Maps for information on how to get to your chosen mountain.  But when you input Ben Nevis and click on the 'car' icon, up pops a map of your route, taking you to the car park at the head of Glen Nevis, followed by a dotted line appearing to show a route to the summit."  She added: "Even the most experienced mountaineer would have difficulty following this route.  The line goes through very steep, rocky, and pathless terrain where even in good visibility it would be challenging to find a safe line.  "Add in low cloud and rain and the suggested Google line is potentially fatal."  Other popular Munros have also fallen foul of the app.  The charity said for An Teallach in the north-west, a "walking" route suggested by search engine would take people over a cliff.  Ms Morning said: "It's all too easy to assume that information on the internet is all good stuff, correct, up to date and safe.  Sadly, experience shows this is not the case and there have been a number of incidents recently where following routes downloaded off the internet have resulted in injury or worse."  She added: "Walkers and climbers with even a little experience will know to read information from a map, whether digital or paper, and if they are looking for downloadable routes know to use reputable sources and check several sources to ensure the information they are accessing is the right route for their level of experience and ability."  Mountaineering Scotland and John Muir Trust recommended climbers cross-check information on a map or consult a local guide.  A spokesperson for Google said: "We built Google Maps with safety and reliability in mind, and are working quickly to investigate the routing issue on Ben Nevis.  In addition to using authoritative data and high definition imagery to update the map, we encourage local organisations to provide geographic information about roads and routes through our Geo Data Upload tool."

Brora Manager Says it Feels 'Just Amazing' to Reach £20,000 Charity Target After Four Marathons in 24 Hours
Highland League football manager Steven Mackay says it feels "just amazing" to have achieved his £20,000 fundraising target for disadvantaged youngsters after running four marathons within 24 hours from Wick to Inverness.He clocked up 104.8 miles in 23 hours and 39 minutes to complete the challenge at Bught Park in the Highland capital on the afternoon of Saturday, June 26 – his 40th birthday – in aid of the MFR Cash for Kids charity. Steven, manager of Highland League champions Brora Rangers, had set off at 3pm the previous day from Wick Academy’s Harmsworth Park and was accompanied along parts of the route by friends, former team-mates and family members.  He broke through the £20,000 barrier on his fundraising page this week – adding to the £17,800 he raised last year on an 80-mile run.  MFR Cash for Kids paid tribute to Steven for his "outstanding achievement" and described his support as "truly life-changing".  Steven admitted that he had been unsure whether he would reach his fundraising goal this time.  “Last year the target was £10,000 and this year it was £20,000 so I wasn't too sure if we were going to make it," he said.  “Once I'd finished the run and we were sitting around about the £18,000 mark I was quite satisfied with that amount – I knew that the £20,000 was a bit of a stretch.  But to finally get there is just amazing because I know the difference it will make to the charity. They're absolutely delighted with the amount and it really will make a massive difference, so from that perspective I'm really happy that we've managed to exceed the £20,000 mark.  They are inundated with requests and if the run that we completed is able to service some of the children in the Highlands then that makes all the mental pain and physical pain worth it.  In the back of my mind I thought I would like to exceed last year's total, hence the £20,000, but it's difficult when you're asking people to donate and give generously once again after asking them just 12 months prior.  I don't like to pester people for money but because it's such a good cause then I'm willing to do it. It was great to finally get over the £20,000 mark.  It has been a tough year and a lot of people have been impacted financially so I felt that if I was asking people to dig deep then I would really need to do something a little bit out of the ordinary. When I ran out of Wick and I saw the sign for 103 miles to Inverness, I thought we'd better hit £20,000 – this better be worth it!"  The quadruple marathon took its toll both physically and mentally.  “Physically it took me probably three or four days to get back to feeling normal and being able to walk properly and not walk with any soreness," Steven said.  I was able to do another run, albeit only a 5k, the following Saturday. I feel back to normal now and I feel refreshed.”  He indicated that he will consider tackling another fundraiser next year.  “To date these challenges have raised over £35,000 so if it means getting more money for charity then I'm prepared to do it," he said. "But I'm trying to think, how do you exceed what we've done a few weeks ago? It would need to be something special but we'll see what happens.”  MFR charity manager Lyndsay Rose said: "What an outstanding achievement. Not only did Steven successfully complete his gruelling challenge but he’s also exceeded his £20,000 target.  We are overwhelmed – this is a huge donation for us. We’d like to thank everyone who donated, those who joined Steven on his run and those who supported him along the way – he couldn’t have done it without you.  There are only two of us who work for MFR Cash for Kids and obviously the last year has been really tough from a fundraising point of view. We’ve had numerous established events cancelled but have received even more applications than ever before, meaning that my board have had some really difficult decisions to make as we simply don’t have enough money to help everyone.  We had our latest grant round at the start of the month so most of the money raised by Steven has already been distributed. It has allowed us to purchase essential equipment for children with additional needs as well as basic essentials for children and families in poverty.  Without his support we wouldn’t have been able to do this – it’s truly life-changing."  The cheque for MFR Cash for Kids will be handed over at Dudgeon Park on Saturday before Brora's Premier Sports Cup tie against Forfar Athletic.

Tour O' the Borders Road Closure Impact Assessed
The impact of road closures for a major cycling event in the Borders is being examined. Thousands of riders take part in the Tour o' the Borders which starts and finishes in Peebles. It sees a number of routes shut to other traffic and event organisers and Scottish Borders Council want to assess public views on the closures.  The event was cancelled due to Covid last year but it is hoped it can be held on 5 September this year.  The Tour o' the Borders has taken place for almost a decade and has seen participant numbers rise rapidly.  It took place on closed roads for the first time in 2014.  Before it was last held in 2019, organisers apologised for any inconvenience the road closures might cause.  A consultation is now under way to assess public response to the plans for this year's event.  Further consultation is planned ahead of any application for an event next year.  The council said that was to "understand more broadly the views of communities and residents on the event and the impact of road closures".  It will also form the basis of future discussions with the event organiser.

Hawick Hill Fort Site Wind Farm Seeks Longer Lifespan
A bid has been lodged to extend the operational life of a wind farm near an ancient hill fort site in the Borders.  Councillors rejected the 12-turbine Pines Burn development near Hawick in 2017 due to landscape concerns.  However, it was approved the following year by the Scottish government after an appeal by Energiekontor UK.  The company has now applied to Scottish Borders Council to extend the operational life of the project from 25 to 30 years.  Proposals for the wind farm went before the local authority in November 2017 with a recommendation of approval from planning officers.  Historic Environment Scotland said at the time that it noted the impact on the nearby Penchrise Pen fort but it did not consider it of enough "national significance" to object.  However, the council rejected the scheme due to its landscape impact and effect on the ancient site.  That decision was ultimately overturned when a Scottish government reporter concluded it would have only "localised and limited impacts on landscape and visual amenity". The reversal was described by Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton as "contrary to the opinion of the majority of local residents".

The SAHC still needs a Newsletter Editor.  Do you have a love of storytelling or know of someone that does?  If so, we need a newsletter editor.  Please contact me to discuss this very important role for keeping the Scottish Diaspora informed through my email address  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
I wish you all the very best and to remain safe and well in this troublesome times.
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) as soon as Covid restrictions are lifted will be 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