Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 612

Issue # 612                                                                      Week ending Saturday 24th  July  2021
If Tech Goes Too Far, We May Have to Rise Up and Fight the Robots. Make Them Rust in Peace by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

We love technology. We have iPads, iPhones, iDlers, iDiots - and I’m an iDol. Even idols use gadgets to make our life easier. It is not easy to squint at the shopping list on your smartphone in bright sunlight in a supermarket car-park to work out whether she wants carrots, cardamom, caraway, courgettes, or just currants.

OK, a scribbled note is sometimes better. Some old tech still works. That’s my sermon today. Vinyl records made a comeback but cassette tapes never will because they unwind, they twist and then they sound awful. I also loved my old portable typewriter that I started writing but I probably won’t get another one.

If you’re too young to know what I’m talking about, a typewriter was a manual computer with an integral printer. Or maybe it was a printer with an integral keyboard. Actually, when you think of it like that, it was a handy thing. You still had to buy typing paper, but not ink. Just ribbons. That was because all typists back then had to have nice, elegant hair. I did, but my typing was very faint.

Technology, however, has a cost. I am not talking of the human cost of generations of greasy youngsters turned into gaming addicts. Nor the fact that self-service check-outs are chucking people onto the dole. I am talking dosh.

For instance, we have a very hi-tech tumble dryer that works a bit like Mrs X. It doesn’t always do what you want when you press its buttons. Whether it does have Artificial Intelligence, I know not. All I want is a dry shirt. This particular appliance of science takes about three hours to do what a dryer did 30 years ago in 30 minutes flat. And it is horrendously heavy on the leccy.

Islanders have things we don’t need. We don’t need ferries that keep breaking down, shipyards building ferries that are run so badly they’re years behind schedule and island airports run by robots in Inverness tossing local workers on the scrapheap. By robots, I don’t mean the planned remote-controlled air traffic systems, I mean the management of Highland and Islands Airports Ltd.

Robots are cold, heartless, unfeeling. Or maybe I’m thinking of Katie Hopkins who’s been booted out of Australia. A bit like what could happen to our now-despised robot - our tumble dryer. So we stepped back in time and decided to get ... a clothes line. Old tech. It’s the way forward, as Paul Nikpavlovich, the Stornoway-based gardener to the stars - and some dodgy types too, is often heard to declare.

So I galloped down to the housewares place for a line. An assistant unhelpfully claimed they did not have clothes lines in stock. He then giggled like a girl and said: “You can only get them online.” That’s enough. I’m in a hurry. If I wanted a laugh, I’d go to Heathrow and watch Katie Hopkins getting off the plane - or see what Dominic Cummings is accusing the PM of this week. The unfunny thing is that it may all be true.

Meanwhile, associated support structures were erected at the beginning of last week by Neil Across The Road. Neil probably does have a proper surname but that’s how we know him. We’ve only lived here five years. By the middle of the week, with the cement set and tension tested by Mr ATR, Mrs X did a wash. With great ceremony, she announced, basket under her washerwoman arm, that she was going out to hang her first Plasterfield washing. The neighbourhood gathered to witness the premier event. I should have sold tickets.

Sadly, she’d got about two steps out the door when the rain started. Washout. Still, better days ahead. There is now a severe heat warning for much of England. That probably means the rain may keep away here for one or two days. Good drying weather, then.

Oh-oh, it’s happened. Apart from rain, there is something else that is a constant fear when you have a washing line. Knicker nickers. Underwear has just been stolen from our new washing line. Just one item taken - Mrs X’s favourite panties. Strangely, she wasn’t that upset about it. I asked her why and she said it was OK as she had that pair for many years. That’s the spirit, old girl.

Listen, bloomers bandit. It’s like this. Keep her drawers if you want, but we’re not made of money. We want those eight pegs back.

Why Are Scotland's Emergency Departments So Busy?
Emergency department admissions this year are almost 40% higher than pre-pandemic levels, figures show. One senior doctor told BBC Scotland that accident and emergency (A&E) departments across the country were currently experiencing "winter-type pressures", with no sign of any relief. What's going on and why does it matter?  Public Health Scotland publishes monthly figures on emergency departments, with the most recent showing admissions up to 27 June.  Weekly admissions rose above the 2018-2019 average in the first week of 2021 and have remained there ever since.  In total, 3,120 more patients have been admitted through accident and emergency this year when compared with the 2018/2019 average - a rise of 37.6%.  In early April, admissions reached 67.4% higher than the 2018/2019 average, although that figure has now fallen.  Other PHS figures show the proportion of people waiting more than eight hours in emergency departments in May was also very high for the time of year.At the same time, "attendances" at A&E - the number of people who turn up at the door - are actually lower than normal.  Attendance dropped dramatically during both of Scotland's lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. It's now rising, but is still below average levels.  So while there are fewer people turning up at emergency departments, a higher proportion of those that do are being admitted through A&E for further treatment.  Dr John-Paul Loughrey is the vice chairman of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM), and an emergency care consultant at a Scottish hospital.  He believes there are a number of factors behind the rise in admissions, but told BBC Scotland the primary reason was people arriving at A&E with more serious conditions at a more advanced stage.  Many of these patients are "very sick" and have illnesses not commonly seen by A&E doctors.  "We're seeing a lot of people who are presenting late with problems that they have perhaps tried to access healthcare but had difficulties," Dr Loughrey told the BBC.  "But often it's other people who haven't wanted to access healthcare for fear of Covid in the hospital systems."  Added to that are lots more children than normal being brought to A&E with "feverish illnesses".  Dr Loughrey said typically they would have been exposed to these viral illnesses during the winter when mixing at nurseries or school, but were instead locked down at home.  "We're seeing a lot more of that into the summer that conventionally would have quietened right down by now."  Dr Loughrey also thinks there's another factor at play - the fact that A&E remains a "recognisable brand" when much of the rest of the NHS has been reconfigured to deal with the pandemic.  "We're open 24-7 and people know what they're getting when it comes to an emergency department. There've been such big changes in so many other services that some people struggle to understand and to navigate their way through the healthcare systems," he said.  "People will turn to us in times when they're frightened or unsure what to do - and that's completely understandable."  Dr Loughrey's comments have been echoed by NHS Lanarkshire, which is the only health board in Scotland seeing an above average number of attendances at emergency departments.  The health board said "exceptionally high numbers" were turning coming to A&E, including many who arrived with minor conditions like sunburn or insect bites.  Director of acute services Judith Park said: "The sustained pressure we are seeing across our three acute hospitals is showing no signs of easing.  In fact, the pressures on our hospitals are as severe as at any time in the whole pandemic."  Covid admissions are still having an impact  There is strong evidence now that vaccination has weakened the link between Covid infection and serious illness.  But the link has not been eliminated, and people are still being admitted to hospital for treatment.  Covid-19 admissions began to rise again in early May. Across Scotland, the number of people being treated in hospital for Covid-19 has risen from under 60 at the beginning of May to 529 on 21 July.  This means reconfiguring hospitals to keep Covid admissions separate, which reduces flexibility and capacity.  And like anywhere else, emergency departments have to observe social distancing, which makes it harder to cope with higher numbers of patients.  The overwhelming majority of NHS staff will now have received both doses of a Covid vaccine.  This should protect most of them from falling seriously ill from Covid-19 - but staff are still required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact.  As the the number of cases rose rapidly in Scotland during May and June, so did the number of NHS staff reporting as absent with a Covid-related reason.  NHS staff absences doubled between 8 June and 6 July, though the number is now declining.  Why do emergency department admissions matter?  The emergency department is often said to act as a barometer for the rest of the NHS and what we can gauge this summer is a health service that is running very hot.  From children arriving with infections usually expected in winter and people with advanced disease who have perhaps held off seeing a GP, or whose earlier operations were cancelled, more needed to be admitted for further treatment, but beds are hard to find.  Usually the summer months mean more capacity in hospitals, but the combination of Covid cases, staff absences, and an increase in non Covid patients means hospitals are busier than ever.  There's also pressure at the other end - trying to get people out of hospital means provision in the community has to be in place so they can safely be discharged. Some health boards are having to cancel routine work, just to create space, pushing problems further down the line.  All of this creates a backlog at the hospital's front door - the emergency department - and doctors say it is worse than they have seen before. Too many patients are waiting over eight or 12 hours for beds to become available or an ambulance to take them home.  Staff say they are doing the best they can, but they are exhausted and morale is low, with no expectation that things will cool off any time soon.What are the prospects for the rest of the summer?  According to Dr Loughrey, long waits at A&E are usually something you'd see in winter months rather than May, but he says there are "no signs" of this trend going away.  "We'll have to try and take a breath and steel ourselves for the shifts to come because it is challenging and it is difficult," he said.  "Although the link between Covid infections and hospital admissions is weakened, it certainly hasn't broken.  Having seen reports from friends and colleagues across the country, I worry about what emergency departments across the UK are going to go through in the coming three months, before we've even reached the winter."  The Scottish government said it wanted to encourage people to consider options "closer to home" before going to A&E, including the NHS Inform website or contacting their GP or local pharmacy.  A spokesperson added: "We are acutely aware that hospitals are facing significant challenges due to a rise in non-Covid attendances and that some health boards are taking necessary measures to protect urgent and emergency care capacity.  That is why we have released £12m in additional funding to health boards across Scotland to support non-Covid emergency care.  This will help put measures in place to reduce waiting times for urgent or emergency treatment, with a focus on boosting staffing levels and available beds."

Hottest Day of the Year So Far in Scotland
The hottest day of the year has been recorded in Scotland, peaking in Dumfries and Galloway.  Temperatures have soared across the country, including a 29.3C hot spot at Threave, near Castle Douglas.  Elsewhere, haar (or sea fog) was spotted earlier in eastern and central areas, caused by warm air passing over the cold North Sea.  Amber warnings have been issued for extreme heat in Northern Ireland, Wales and the south east of England.  The Met Office warning comes with an appeal to watch out for heat exhaustion and sunburn.  The hot weather is expected to last until the weekend.  The second highest temperature was 28.4C recorded at Dunstaffnage, near Connel Bridge in Argyll and Bute, while 28C was recorded at Auchincruive in Ayrshire. Temperatures hit 26C in Glasgow but were cooler in the east, rising to only 19.5C at Gogarbank near Edinburgh.  BBC Weather said the heat was triggering a few thunderstorms in Dumfries and Galloway with grey, murky skies in some eastern coastal areas and the Northern Isles.  Forecaster Kirsteen MacDonald said: "High pressure across the UK did not really move all week.  We also have had a cumulative effect, where each day of strong sunshine warms the air further, on top of the warming by descent. This is what has caused the hot weather in parts of the UK over the last few days. Temperatures will peak again tomorrow around 28C, possibly 29C.  "This weekend, high pressure will remain in charge across Scotland. Plenty of warm sunshine in the forecast, but temperatures will be down by quite a few degrees. Eastern coasts will continue to be plagued by haar."  The Met Office launched its new extreme heat warning system at the start of June to highlight potential widespread disruption and adverse health effects. Amber is the second-highest level in the system.  Heatwaves are becoming more likely and more extreme because of human-induced climate change.  The world has already warmed by about 1.2C since the industrial era began, and temperatures are predicted to keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to greenhouse emissions.

IndyRef2: SNP MP Calls for Penalties to Decide Independence
An SNP MP has jokingly proposed an "alternative idea" to break the "deadlock" over a second independence referendum in Scotland.  During the final Commons debate before MPs' summer break, Chris Stephens said the UK Westminster government "seems unwilling to grant us a referendum".  "Perhaps they could give us a penalty shoot-out to decide the issue", he said.  Mr Stephens said Scotland's record on taking penalties "is rather good" compared to England's, which he framed as "perhaps somewhat different".  He paid tribute to the England football team, and said "every single" MP should condemn racist abuse targeted at the players after the Euro 2020 final.

ScotWind Offshore Wind Auction Attracts 74 Bids
More than 70 bids have been lodged by developers seeking the rights to develop major offshore wind projects on the seabed around Scotland.  The ScotWind leasing auction, which is being overseen by Crown Estate Scotland (CES), is the first of its kind for a decade.  Bidders include consortia of major oil companies, utility firms and investment funds from around the world.  The auction, which closed to bids on Friday, covers 15 areas of seabed.  They include areas of the North Sea to the east of Angus, the outer Moray Firth, west of Orkney, east of Shetland and north-west of both Lewis and Islay.  CES said it was hoped that as much as 10GW of new generating capacity could be built over the next decade as a result of the project - enough to power every home in Scotland.  The auction could net the Scottish government up to £860m.  CES aims to make initial offers to successful applicants in January of next year.  Agreements will then be finalised before developers can move forward with detailed plans.  Colin Palmer, director of marine for CES, said: "The high number of applications from developers shows just how much potential Scotland's seas hold for the future expansion of offshore wind.  There is now a huge amount of work to do in assessing every application thoroughly and fairly so that the strongest projects go through to the next stage in helping to power Scotland's energy sector towards a net-zero future."  The Scottish government has set a target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2045.Reacting to the CES announcement, Scottish Renewables tweeted: "Results show worldwide interest in ScotWind Leasing - industry now awaits outcome with real sense of urgency to get the job done."

Polly Swann: Olympic Rower on Working the Wards, Training in Her Shed & Unfinished Business
Rower Polly Swann has not had to look hard to find perspective as she approaches what may well be her final Olympic Games. As a junior doctor who returned to the hospital after the coronavirus pandemic led to an NHS rallying cry for help, she has seen suffering at first hand at St John's Hospital, Livingston. "I remember being in ICU and seeing quite a young guy on a ventilator," the 33-year-old says.  "I found that really hard. Even when you're working in a hospital, it's easy to think it's ok for people unless they're a bit older or they've got other health problems. But seeing this young guy on a ventilator just hit me. It just made me realise and really appreciate my health and what I've got - my ability to go out and do the sport I love - that's special and it's given me a real perspective. There are dark moments, but you have to be able to take yourself out of that."  Working on a surgical ward while training to row at the Olympics seems like a scarcely feasible task and, despite Swann's modesty, she does not try to sugarcoat the experience.  Having decided to make a comeback in 2019 following a sabbatical after the Rio Games - where she earned a silver as part of the women's eight - Swann had just moved home to Edinburgh for lockdown.  Before, after, or between shifts, she would train. Rowing machine in the hall, exercise bike in the shed, she was relentless. Before she went back to work, it was studying to which she had to adapt her schedule. How did her head not explode?  "With quite a lot of crying, a few tantrums and a lot of support," she laughs. "Because medicine came first, I had to think outside of the box with training. I had a really great team at Edinburgh Uni, bending over backwards so we could deliver something in terms of performance in the summer of 2019.  "My mum, dad, and brother are still in Edinburgh so they definitely helped out with meals and stuff. I saw some pretty dark days - you don't get an awful lot of sleep when you're studying, and in the hospital, and then trying to train. It's a bit of a whirlwind."  Swann is as positive, bright and upbeat as they come, but there is an inner steel and determination.  She says the Olympics will likely be her last event before focusing on being an anaesthetist, but she "daydreams" of a comeback for Paris in 2024, when she'll be 36. She can't conceive of letting go of rowing completely. It's one of the most physically draining sports around and the training is not what most people would describe as fun. Even Swann struggles to pinpoint exactly what keeps her going through the gruelling days.  "There was a lot of times where I wanted to throw the towel in," she says. "I remember one of my physiologists, Pete Bonner, made me do this really intense pace the same day I had a medical school final.  I was basically crying, having a tantrum and I think I literally threw a towel at him. He reminded me who I am and he was like, 'you just have to do this one thing and then after that you can go and sleep'."It's just day-by-day, not losing yourself, because it is tough, but it's not the worst thing in the world. I'm very lucky to be able to have two passions - clearly there's a lot of conflict between the two of them, but if I wake up every day and try to do my best then that's all I can ask."  Now the hard work is mostly done and the Olympics await. Like most athletes, Swann regrets the occasion won't be the "full shebang", with crowds and the usual buzz in the host country.  However, it doesn't dilute the meaning personally. Despite being in the box seat after European Championship success in April, she wept in the car park after training once she opened the letter confirming her selection.  The chance she took by coming back in 2019, and then when adding her job back in last year with all its physical and mental toils, had paid off. Aptly, Swann is reunited with two-time gold medallist Helen Glover, 34, in the women's pair and there is a sense of fate about their reunion.  The pair won World Championship gold together in 2013 and are both on the comeback trail. Glover returned last year and became the first mum to be selected for the British team, having trained at home while raising three children under the age of three.  The remarkable pair won the Europeans together on their return and are poised to go again.  "We had a conversation where we said that we couldn't let it go, couldn't stop thinking about rowing, which is really geeky isn't it?" Swann laughs.   I was a complete geek - I would look up all the times of people in the regattas and stuff, and see who's been selected for what team, and I just really wanted to know all the information. Apparently she was the same, so obviously we had unfinished business.  I just came about and I just think it's been nice to spend time together again. We could have been in different boats, but it's quite poetic that we get to do this again for the last time. Although never say never!"  Asked, despite all the other distractions in their lives, if they are still targeting gold, Swann grins and pauses.  "Yeah you've got to go for it, haven't you? The field for the women's pair is very spicy - we've got the world's best, record holders, world champions in our event, as well as people who have been beating these people that have got world records. It's going to be a stacked event, but if you don't put yourself in a position to win then you're never going to know - so we'll give it a whirl."

Experts Examine Secrets of Orkney Viking Burial Site
Post-excavation work has begun on a "significant" ancient Viking burial site in Orkney.  Historic Environment Scotland (HES) said the recently-discovered graves may form part of a previously-unknown cemetery.  The human remains were discovered in 2015 on the northeast coast of Papa Westray.  Excavations revealed a number of finds, including evidence of a rare Viking boat burial, and a second grave with weapons, including a sword.  Archaeologists said the Papa Westray graves may be those of first-generation Norwegian settlers on Orkney.  AOC Archaeology will analyse the graves to gain new insights into the life and death of the Viking community in Orkney during the 10th Century.  This will include a programme of bone analysis and radiocarbon dating.  HES will work with the Ancient Genome Project to uncover further information about the people in the graves, including genetic ancestry and sex.  Dr Kirsty Owen, deputy head of archaeology at HES, said: "Many of the Viking burial sites we know of in Orkney were excavated in the late 19th and early 20th Century, meaning that we have a rare opportunity to investigate this discovery with the cutting-edge methods and techniques available to us today."

Roman Artefacts to Go on Display At Revamped Museum
A new collection of artefacts from the Roman occupation of southern Scotland is to go on display in the Borders at the start of next month.  Thousands of Roman soldiers were based near Melrose almost 2,000 years ago.  A £1.4m investment has seen the Trimontium Museum in the town expanded and improved to give a flavour of what life was like at the time.  The facility will reopen on 2 August with one of the "finest collections" of Roman military objects on display in the UK.  The revamped museum has a large collection of Roman artefacts.  The museum takes its name from Trimontium, meaning the place of three hills, which was the site of a large frontier fort for the Romans set up in the first and second centuries AD.  It lasted for about 100 years and the museum tells the story of its rise and fall.  "Trimontium was one of the largest forts in the UK," said Erica Reid of the Trimontium Trust. "I think it is the interaction between the local people and the Romans that fascinates me."  The major redevelopment of the museum has been supported by a wide range of organisations.  Ms Reid said: "The last museum was fantastic, this is now a modern museum for today.  There are so many fabulous things to see - there are Roman helmets, coin displays from the Synton hoard.  One of my favourite pieces is the Caracalla gem stone which is absolutely tiny but was found by Walter Elliot, a local man, when he was field walking in Newstead."  The museum will have a new online booking system, and also allows for drop-in visitors.

COP26: Glasgow Will 'Welcome' Climate Protests Says Council Leader
Glasgow will "welcome" climate change protesters when the city hosts the COP26 summit in November, the city's council leader has said.  Susan Aitken said it was vital people were allowed to have their voices heard in order to influence world leaders.  She said Glasgow had a long tradition of protest, but urged campaigners to respect the city and its residents.About 10,000 police officers will be deployed each day during the summit. Ms Aitken described COP26, which is expected to be attended by about 120 heads of state, as a "generational event."  "It is the moment at which world leaders will determine the future course of humanity and the planet," she told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme. Asked about the possibility of direct action or disruption by campaigners, she said protest was "democratically absolutely crucial".  "I think we will see protests, undoubtedly - and that's something we as a city welcome," she said.  "Glasgow has long been a city of protest. We are known for our bolshiness and for speaking up on issues that concern us, and we certainly wouldn't be looking to turn away people coming in to make their voices heard at COP.  It's enormously important that civil society from across the world is there, able to influence what those world leaders are discussing."  While she welcomed the prospect of demonstrations, she added: "Obviously we want that to happen in a way that respects the city, that respects the people of the city and the residents of the city - and that's certainly what we will be asking protesters to do."
Glasgow - a history steeped in protest
1915 Rent Strike - Many women were angered by rent prices raised during World War One while their husbands were away fighting. Led by Mary Barbour, about 25,000 tenants refused to pay their rent, eventually prompting the government to introduce a rent freeze.
1919 Battle of George Square - A series of disputes known as "Red Clydeside" took place between workers in the Glasgow area and the government during the war. Within months of the war ending, tens of thousands of workers gathered in Glasgow's George Square during a strike demanding a reduction of the 54-hour working week. Fearing insurrection, the authorities deployed 10,000 troops, six tanks and machine gunners to the city.
1988 Nelson Mandela Freedom March - Tens of thousands attended a rally on Glasgow Green demanding the release of the anti-Apartheid leader. Five years later he visited the city to personally thank its residents for their support.
1990 Poll tax demo - Glasgow was at the forefront of opposition to the tax, introduced to replace domestic rates and piloted in Scotland in 1989, a year ahead of the rest of the UK. More than a million Scots withheld their payments and 50,000 marched through Glasgow the following year.
2018 Scottish independence rally - Police said about 35,000 attended a march and rally at Glasgow Green, while organisers put the figure much higher, at about 80,000. It was one of a series of pro-independence events held in the city in recent years.
2021 Kenmure Street protest - When two Sikh men were detained by the Home Office for alleged immigration offences, hundreds of people surrounded the van, resulting in a stand-off lasting several hours before the men were released.
Police officers from across the UK will be drafted in to provide security for the summit, which was due to take place last year but was postponed because of the Covid pandemic.  A number of road closures are planned close the the Scottish Event Campus venue.Police Scotland said it recognised its duty under the European Convention on Human Rights to protect the rights of people who wish to protest peacefully, balanced against the rights of the wider community.  Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr said: "We will provide a proportionate policing response to any protests and will seek to engage with known protest groups to ensure their rights to peaceful assembly and protest are met.  Those wishing to protest have a responsibility to do so within the law and we would remind the small minority of people who may be intent on violent disorder or causing damage that we will deal with them swiftly and robustly."  Ms Aitken said that despite the ongoing Covid crisis, it was vital the event was attended in-person by world leaders, rather than being held virtually, as this was more likely to deliver the required outcomes.She insisted that strict precautions would be in place to ensure it was not a "super spreader" event.  "The public health protocols that will be put in place will be absolutely focused on making sure that the city is protected but also that the delegates are protected - and it isn't some kind of super spreader event," she said.  "We will do everything possible to ensure that is not the case and this is a Covid-safe event when it takes place in November."

Covid in Scotland: Legal Review of 1m Rule in Cross-border Rail Row
Scotland's social distancing regulations are being reviewed following a row with cross-border rail operators, the first minister has said.Nicola Sturgeon said lawyers would see whether "clarification or tightening" of the 1m rule was necessary.  On Monday London North Eastern Railway (LNER) told customers it was operating "under English guidance" as the measure had been lifted down south.  Transport Scotland criticised the firm for issuing "inaccurate advice".   Operator Avanti West Coast also refused to enforce the 1m rule on its cross-border services, and will instead make announcements about changes in restrictions as trains enter Scotland.  Currently people in Scotland should stay 1m from each other in public places - but the rule has been lifted in England.  Scottish legislation states that anyone providing a service in a level zero area take measures to ensure that "as far as reasonably practicable", that a 1m distance is maintained.  During a Covid briefing on Tuesday, the first minister said she had seen commentary suggesting trains may not be included in the law because they were not classified as "premises".  She said: "I've just asked our lawyers to look at that to see whether there is any clarification or tightening required.  But the intention is clear. I would expect companies operating in Scotland to follow the law in Scotland and follow the guidance in place in Scotland, even if it is not contained in statute."  Hours after saying it would not enforce Scottish regulations, LNER changed its position saying it was "reviewing its approach" on Anglo-Scottish services.  It said it would provide an update in due course.  A spokesperson for the firm said: "The safety of our customers and colleagues remains our top priority. We are continuing to provide an enhanced cleaning programme onboard our trains and at our stations as well as reminding customers to wear a face mask, unless exempt.  "We are also using our reservation system to prevent overcrowding and our website to continue to inform customers which are our least busy and busier services."  The first minister thanked the firm for "making clear" it would follow Scottish guidance.  The BBC understands that Avanti West Coast will make announcements on trains leaving Carlisle, advising people of Scotland's social distancing rules to give them a chance to move seats.  The firm has encouraged passengers to travel at quieter times.  Meanwhile, operator ScotRail said "physical distancing can't be guaranteed" in stations or on trains and asks people to "take personal responsibility".Transport Scotland earlier said the "law was clear" and that rail operators had to take steps to ensure social distancing was "reasonably practicable" in level zero areas.  A spokesman said: "It is our expectation that operators providing a public transport service in Scotland to comply with the law as far as is reasonably practical and inform passengers using their services."Transport Scotland officials received assurance from LNER on Friday that their messages to customers would be changed to reflect and respect Scottish government law and guidance. It is not acceptable that LNER has continued to issue inaccurate advice."  Scotland has moved to the lowest level of Covid restrictions, while England has lifted most legal restrictions.  The move means more people in Scotland will be allowed to meet indoors and attend weddings and funerals but there are some "modifications". In public places, one-metre physical distancing remains for people from different households.  Some limits on outdoor meetings are also being maintained and the mandatory use of face coverings is to remain in place for "some time".

David Haggart: the Killer Whose Story Inspired A Hollywood Legend
It was a crime which horrified a south of Scotland town but the culprit ended up featuring on the silver screen.  Two hundred years ago - on 18 July 1821 - David Haggart was hanged in Edinburgh for the murder of a jailer in Dumfries.  A book was published not long after the killer's death - reputed to be his own version of his life story.  It would form the basis of the film Sinful Davey - starring John Hurt and directed by John Huston in the late 1960s. According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, David Haggart was born in Edinburgh on 24 June 1801, the son of a gamekeeper.  He worked as a ghillie in his youth but "soon turned to petty theft".  According to his own version of events, he was about 10 when he began his "sinful career" and later in life made the acquaintance of many "worthless characters".  Over time he became a regular pickpocket at fairs and racecourses across northern England and southern Scotland, although sometimes venturing as far north as Aberdeen.  A series of break-ins and thefts would also follow.  Among his early crimes - according to his book The Life and Adventures of David Haggart - was stealing a cockerel from a woman in Edinburgh's new town and, later, making off with a till in Stockbridge.  In another incident, having gone to the village of Currie, he found himself "some miles from town and tired" and so took a pony to ride it home.  His book then recounts how he and a friend targeted village fairs and races at places like Kelso, Lockerbie and Langholm to steal money.  Caught and imprisoned on a regular basis, he managed to break out of four times - but his final escape would be a deadly one.  On 10 October 1820, his breakout from Dumfries tolbooth would prove fatal for both Haggart and his jailer.  He knocked down Thomas Morrin with a stone and killed him.Haggart fled but was eventually arrested in Belfast the following year, escaped again, and was finally caught in Dublin. He was brought "heavily ironed with a crippling iron helmet" from Kilmainham to Dumfries where a crowd waited.  On their approach to Dumfries, which was in the dark, there were many thousands of people on the road, many of them with torches in their hands, waiting his arrival," the book on his life recounts.  When he got to the jail door, it was scarcely possible to get him out of the coach for the multitude all crowding for a sight of Haggart the murderer."  He was tried in Edinburgh on 11 June 1821 and found guilty of murder. "When the judge was passing the awful sentence, he turned dizzy, and gasped for breath," his book says.  He was hanged "before a large crowd" on 18 July.  While he was in jail, Haggart is reputed to have partly written and part dictated an account of his life.  It was to be published after his death to raise money for his family.  The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography said "an air of improbability breathes over many of his pages" but it proved to be a popular publication nonetheless.  The story would also prove an inspiration for a cinema giant nearly 150 years later.  John Huston - the man behind films like The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre - directed the 1969 film Sinful Davey based on Haggart's book for United Artists in 1969.  The film did not prove a huge success and was described by Time Out as an "inconsequential but likeable romp" praising the lead actor for his "engaging performance".  Encyclopaedia Britannica dismissed it as one of a "string of lacklustre films" directed by Huston in the late 1960s.  Nonetheless, it gave Haggart's story a new life.  The book recounting his life was republished and the tale of his eventful life was taken to a new audience long after he had been executed for his most serious crime.

Cardiac Patients 'Prescribed' Football Training
Cardiac patients in the Highlands are being encouraged to play football as part of their rehabilitation.The Inverness-based initiative is aimed at helping people recovering from heart attacks or surgery.It is a collaboration between Inverness Caledonian Thistle Community Trust, the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and NHS Highland.During the 13 week course, patients are helped with physical activity, diet and weight loss.  The cardiologist at NHS Highland, Prof Stephen Leslie  said: "It's a shock to many people, cardiac conditions often come out of the blue. A lot of people really struggle to get back to a normal life.  "So anything that we can do to improve patient care and get people exercising and feeling healthy fitter is to be encouraged.  What we want is people to exercise doing something that's fun and engaging."Those on the course are given advice, exercise and some challenges, and their progress is checked each week.

The End of A Queensland Scottish Bi Monthly News Magazine
Carmel McMurdo Audsley Author and Editor of the Scots News Magazine said “After 10 years of keeping the Scottish community up to date with news and events, it’s time for me to take a break .  I will continue to promote all things Scottish via the Scots News Magazine Facebook page, so make sure you ‘like’ the page.   Thank you for all your support over the years.  It has been a pleasure to receive your emails.  I have gotten to know some of you well through email communication, and met other readers at various Scottish events via my book stall”.  Stay safe and well.  Best wishes, Carmel”

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, President

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) will be back rehearsing on a face to face basis at Macquarie Presbyterian Church in Eastwood as soon as this*** Covid restrictions allow.   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