Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 618

Issue # 618                                              Week ending Saturday 4th September 2021
Our New Puppy is Far More Retentive Than Any Late-night Dancers in Aberdeen Clubs by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

A much put-upon husband took his wife out for a meal in Aberdeen at the weekend. She moaned about everything. The food was awful, she hated the wine and she said her husband was boring. To cheer her up, he suggested a dance club. “Suppose so,” she said. “Just for 10 minutes. I’m tired.” When they got in, a guy with glasses was on the dance floor coolly throwing shapes.

He wasn’t break-dancing or doing backflips - just waving his hands. The wife turned to the husband and said: “That’s my old friend Michael. About 30 years ago, we both worked at the Press and Journal. He got serious but I turned him down and he went off to London.”  Her husband yawned: “Really? Looks like Michael had such a lucky escape, he is still celebrating.”

Michael G’s dancing was memorable. We have a new border collie puppy in this house and she is a bundle of yappy, flappy non-stop energy. I swear when she is throwing a tantrum, she is not as frenetic as was the groovy former P&J newshound, who has the unfathomable job of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and possibly the next Prime Minister.

Puppy Sleek came up from Wales last week and, although just a couple of months old, amazingly has not disgraced herself. Our carpet is dry, unlike Mr G’s clobber after 90 minutes of rapid-fire flagless semaphore.

We love politicians with the common touch. From whichever party, those politicians who don’t just kiss babies at election time but go to events where they will rub shoulders with the great unwashed goes down well. In the supermarket, on the sports field, or down the rub-a-dub-dub. That is where we want them.

Scottish Greens may struggle with that. I’m not sure they are cuddly enough or can look ordinary. Their new power-sharing agreement with the SNP means we’ll see them often. Their public faces are Patrick Harvie, a man of fairly fixed expression now required to be ministerially excited and sell us concepts like zero carbon buildings, active travel and tenants’ rights.

Also, the high-flying trapeze artist - yes, really - Lorna Slater, now minister for green skills, the circular economy and biodiversity. The circular economy? The FM has handed them job titles that’ll make voters cringe. Nice move, Nic.

Yet Michael G never struck me as being close to the common five eight, as we plebs are often known. Up in Stornoway on a flying visit recently, no reports emerged of him popping into an island hostelry for a wee sensation or a swift half-quart. That makes his nocturnal flapping in Club Bohemia seem contrived. As much a mystery as that first episode on Sunday evening of rain-coated detective Vera. In those two hours, that storyline had more twists and turns than the road to Hushinish on Harris.

On the long and winding road to Number 10, Mr G knows Boris’s likeability is plummeting. Someone may have to step up. Rishi Sunak has been favourite to be the next PM. Yet will a posh boy like rich Rishi appeal to the great washed and combed - the Tory MPs who will ultimately decide. What they need is someone with appeal to all, now that Dominic Raab blew it by taking his ill-considered foreign break.

Younger voters, older voters and couldn’t-care-less voters may prefer a PM comfortable on an Aberdonian dance floor. Someone who ventures outside the Westminster bubble on occasion to shake his thang, as one commentator said of Mr G. No, I don’t know what thang means either. When I find out, I might give it a shake though.

So what was Michael Gove actually doing there anyway? I think he was showing Tory grandees that he can be trusted to mix with the hoi-polloi without putting his foot in it. Because he put his left foot in, he put his left foot out, he put his left foot in, and he shook it all about.

OK, that’s enough about Gove’s moves. What’s the most attention-grabbing way for a politician who wants to be PM to show he wants to be elected? Poll dancing?

By going clubbing, it was as if Mr Gove regressed and went to a school social. Like many a clod-hopping schoolboy, his dancing wasn’t the best, but he tried. We shouldn’t diss him. Wait a minute, maybe that's what he was doing. Social diss dancing.

Action 'Needed Now' to Cut in Farming Sector Emissions
Ministers need to stop talking and "begin acting" if emissions reductions in Scotland's farming sector are to be maximised, a report has claimed.  Campaign group WWF Scotland says plans to replace the existing farm support mechanism in 2023 is too late.  The Scottish government is looking at how to replace the EU's Common Agricultural Policy which provided support and incentives to farmers.  NFU Scotland first presented proposals to ministers more than three years ago.  A range of farmer-led groups have since made recommendations.  But last week another advisory group was formed by the government to drive those policies forward.  Farming leaders say the time for talking is now over and the report warns delays are slowing down the potential for reducing emissions.  The Scottish government welcomed the findings which it said would help outline what is needed to "achieve rapid and efficient results that are also supportive of our farmers and crofters".  The findings of the WWF report suggest direct agricultural emissions could be reduced by around 30% by 2032.  However, this is heavily dependent on farmer uptake and the report warns that "a lack of policy tools and support could hinder delivery".  Many farmers have been feeling under siege in recent years because of the spotlight shining on the sector's emissions.  The largest cause of them - methane from the front end of cows - is difficult to overcome with a technical fix and scientists have been saying we simply need to eat less meat.  But that would undoubtedly damage the livestock sector on which Scotland's farmers rely so heavily.  NFU Scotland now wants to be seen to be embracing the change necessary to support the battle against climate change. But they need a government framework and policies to achieve it.  They've been talking about it now for years but are becoming increasingly anxious at the slow pace of change.  This report puts into context the emissions cuts that are being lost with the status quo. The conclusions are supported by both WWF Scotland and NFU Scotland.  Their joint message - let's get our finger out - is a difficult one for ministers to ignore.  A previous study by WWF Scotland said Scotland's farmers could "comfortably" reduce their emissions by 38% over the next 25 years using established technologies.  It suggested farm level and system-wide changes could see greenhouse gas emissions fall by the equivalent of 2.9 million tons of CO2.  The new report's authors looked at whether proposed policies would reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to meet the target set out in the Scottish government's Climate Change Plan Update .  They say that it is possible, and farmers are "in agreement and ready to take action in areas such as improvements in animal health and the application of nitrogen fertilisers".  However, they add that a delay in support for farmers to make the necessary changes "puts the industry at risk".  Jonnie Hall, director of policy at the National Farmers Union (NFU) Scotland, said the industry needed "a new, properly funded, agricultural support package that delivers for Scotland's current and future needs".  He added: "The challenge facing Scottish agriculture has never been clearer - tackling climate change and biodiversity loss whilst simultaneously contributing to Scotland's ambitious food and drink sector targets. It is not a case of one over the others.  However, the stark reality is that the legacy of continuing CAP schemes is just not up to it. In fact, current area-based support measures largely incentivise inertia.  The rhetoric of change must now be replaced by delivery - adequately funded, easily accessed measures that drive necessary actions.  "Get that right and farmers and crofters across Scotland will deliver."  Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said she had asked the new advisory group to create a package of government-funder measures "that can be agreed as part of our approach to COP26".  She said: "This National Test Programme will include early progress on reducing livestock emissions and the package should be implemented by spring 2022, with recruitment of farmers and crofters expected to begin this autumn."  Ms Gougeon added: "I do not underestimate the challenge we are collectively facing to strike the balance to ensure greenhouse gas reductions can take place while Scotland continues to produce high quality and sustainable food.  It is also important we remain focused on the long-term future for agriculture. That is why I have launched a consultation exercise which will ensure everyone can play their part in shaping the future of farming, food production and land use in Scotland.  By working together, I am confident that we will be able to support Scottish farming to maintain its world-leading credentials in an ever-changing environment."

Scottish Greens Back Historic Government Deal
Members of the Scottish Greens have backed a deal that will see its leaders in government for the first time.   With some proxy votes still to be counted, 83% of members who took part in an extraordinary general meeting were in favour.  The deal, which required a two-thirds majority of the party's National Council, was then formally ratified.  Co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater said it promoted "a sustainable Scotland that works for everyone". The pair will become government ministers under the power-sharing deal, with the Greens required to back the Scottish government in confidence votes and annual budgets as they work on a raft of agreed policy areas, including tackling the climate emergency, Scottish independence and rent controls.  Public disagreement between the parties will only be allowed on a set of agreed topics. These include aviation policy, green ports, direct financial support to businesses involved in the aerospace, defence and security sectors, field sports and the economic principles related to concepts of sustainable growth and inclusive growth.  However, speaking during the EGM, Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer insisted that the list of subjects could be changed if further agreements or disagreements emerge.  Before this vote, Green leaders were anxious not to take membership support for granted - there are, after all, some radical elements in the party and there is more than a hint of anarchism too.  In the end, the lure of power proved highly persuasive. The co-operation agreement was emphatically endorsed by ordinary Greens and by the party's National Council, as it was in a separate ballot of SNP members.  That means that Nicola Sturgeon can now formally appoint Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater as ministers in the Scottish government and seek Holyrood's approval when MSPs return from their summer break next week.  The outcome of that and most other parliamentary votes is now a foregone conclusion because one of the key features of an SNP-Green government is that it will have a built-in majority for what they've agreed, including an indyref2 bill.  There are of course a range of policies including the desirability of economic growth, aviation, field sports and private schools that sit outside their agreement.  These topics and the compromises reached over road building and oil and gas extraction could be the source of future tension between the power-sharing partners.  The co-leaders insisted the agreement will be good for Scotland, the country's efforts to tackle the climate crisis and contains "transformational" policies such as implementing rent controls.  Ms Slater, the newly-elected Lothian MSP, said the members' overwhelming support would give the party "the tools we need to tackle the climate crisis and implement transformative politics in Scotland".  She told BBC Scotland: "With the Scottish Greens at the heart of government, we will see some real changes. Things like rent controls will be transformative for people in Scotland.  We can also accelerate the development of our renewable energy industry, which will create thousands of jobs as well as tackle the climate crisis."  James Puchowski, co-convener of the Green Nation Council, believes the deal offers the chance to have a real influence on government policy.  "They're weighing up some things that I don't think three or four years ago we'd ever had a chance of getting - which is basically getting ministers inside Scottish government and maintaining opposition in the background."   Party member Rosie Smith backs the deal, but is worried it could backfire for the Greens.  "When I first saw it, especially the rent control section, it kind of felt a little bit like Christmas. What worries me about it is just hesitancy to enter coalitions having seen how badly it can go elsewhere in the UK."  Chas Booth, a Green councillor in Edinburgh, voted against the deal. He wasn't against a deal in principle, but felt this agreement didn't do enough to protect local services after years of cuts.  "I didn't see enough in this deal that would protect local councils and local services like leisure services, parks and stuff like - and that's why I voted against it.  I accept there's an awful lot of stuff in here that is really good policy - on active travel, on equal rights, on energy efficiency in our hands - but I felt that gap on local authorities and local services is something that Greens shouldn't support."  Ms Slater cited oil and gas extraction policies as an area of disagreement between the Scottish Greens and SNP, but added: "I am very hopeful and optimistic about the change of travel that we've seen.  When the first minister wrote to Boris Johnson the other week and asked him to reconsider the Cambo oil field, that was a significant change of direction for the Scottish government whose previous position was maximum economic extraction.  Having Greens around has even turned the dial of that far, and I know that, by having Greens in government, we can continue to push that dial around and really tackle the climate crisis."  Mr Harvie, who has spent 18 years in opposition at Holyrood, said it felt "incredibly exciting" to be on the brink of government.  He said: "I am delighted that our party members have given their support to this historic co-operation agreement that will see Greens enter government for the first time in Scotland, or indeed anywhere in the UK.  With Greens in government we will be able to deliver positive change for the people of Scotland."  The SNP's ruling body endorsed the power-sharing agreement last weekend.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was "delighted" that members of both parties had agreed to work together.  She said: "This historic agreement will provide a strong platform for the transformative programme we want to deliver.  "We will work collaboratively to support a fair recovery from Covid, address with urgency the impacts of the climate emergency, and give the people of Scotland a vote on independence."  Scottish Conservative chief whip, Stephen Kerr, said the SNP/Green deal would be "devastating for workers and our economic recovery".  He said: "The SNP and Greens will put their obsession with a divisive referendum ahead of what is best for Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon failed to win a majority in May's election and now has had to cut a deal with a radical anti-jobs party, solely to ramp up her campaign for independence."  Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the deal proved the Green party was "in many ways a branch office of the SNP".  He said: "The Green party over the course of the last parliament voted through big cuts to local government budgets and voted against a pay rise for care workers.  This is a deal that is not about the environment, it's about the independence agenda.   It's not about building transparency and accountability of the government. It's about control for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP so that they can largely ignore parliament. And I think that is really unfortunate for our democracy."

'Arrests Expected' Over Anti-Catholic Singing by Group of Rangers Fans
Police say they expect to make arrests after footage emerged appearing to show Rangers supporters singing a sectarian song before Sunday's Old Firm game.  A video on social media showed a group being escorted by police through Glasgow city centre while chanting an anti-Irish song referencing the famine.  Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins defended the actions of the officers who came across the fans.  And he said anti-Irish Catholic behaviour was "wholly unacceptable".  Inquiries are continuing to identify those involved, and he said "appropriate action" would be taken.  Rangers said the club "condemns all forms of racism, sectarianism and discrimination". Police Scotland earlier said it had launched an investigation after being made aware of sectarian singing by a group of people in the Jamaica Street area.  The incident happened before Rangers beat Celtic 1-0 at Ibrox in the first Old Firm game of the season.  Assistant Chief Constable Higgins said officers on patrol had come across the group in the city centre on Sunday.   "We did not facilitate this event and to say so is inaccurate," he said.  "Due to the numbers and to ensure public and officer safety, additional officers were called to assist and, at this point, individuals' details were noted and the group dispersed.  A retrospective investigation into this anti-Irish Catholic singing has been launched and we are following up a number of lines of inquiry, including reviewing CCTV footage and footage on social media.  I fully expect a number of arrests to be made."  He went on to say that anti-Irish Catholic behaviour was "wholly unacceptable".  ACC Higgins added: "The challenges of the sectarianism still evident in some parts of Scotland are a much broader societal problem and, whilst policing will have a role to play in addressing the symptoms, its causes are a problem which require a more effective, joined-up, civic response."  When the footage emerged, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf expressed "solidarity" with the Irish community and said he was "disgusted" by the incident.  "I am sure Police Scot will hold those responsible to account," he posted on Twitter.  Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said the images "ought to be shocking but are shamefully all too familiar".  "At the very least, we need an assurance that every identifiable person in that crowd will face charges," he added.  Glasgow Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy said she was "absolutely disgusted at the behaviour displayed yesterday".  A Scottish government spokesman said hatred and bigotry of any kind was "completely and utterly unacceptable".  "Scotland is a diverse, multicultural and multi-faith society and we are fully committed to tackling all forms of bigotry, prejudice and racism, including anti-Irish racism.   We support Police Scotland in taking appropriate and proportionate action to safeguard public safety." Speaking on The Nine, Prof Sir Tom Devine claimed: "This problem is very specific and it seems to be related to the supporting element who are attracted to Rangers FC."   He added: "Rangers have recently had a good track record in dealing with elements of their fandom who behave badly.  So they may have, with Glasgow City Council and the police, some time to see how they can deal with it."  Rangers said in a statement: "Following an incident on Sunday, we repeat that Rangers FC condemns all forms of racism, sectarianism and discrimination. We are working with the police to identify any season tickets holders.  As a club, we are proud of our Everyone Anyone campaign, led through the Rangers Charity Foundation, our work with a wide range of stakeholders and our ongoing dialogue with the Scottish government.  Discrimination of all forms is a societal issue within Scotland. Those with influence within Scottish discourse should put their energy into eradicating this very serious issue across all sections of Scottish society who suffer sectarianism, discrimination and racism of any form."

Water Warning As Reservoir Levels Hit 18-year Low
Scottish Water has urged customers to help conserve supplies after levels at some reservoirs dropped to their lowest in 18 years.  The company said some parts of Scotland were experiencing their second driest summer in 160 years.  It said demand remained high at up to 100 million litres per day higher than average, after falling from a spike in demand during hot weather in July.  That month more than 30 water tankers were needed to supplement supplies.  Scottish Water said the need for tankers had reduced during August, but they continued to be used in some areas including Tighnabruaich in Argyll and Skye.  It added that weather forecasts suggested there might be some rain in September, but further dry weather in October and November.  Kes Juskowiak, Scottish Water's water operations general manager, said: "People might assume that, because we are at the end of summer, Scottish schools are back and there has been some heavy rain recently, there is no longer an issue with water supplies.  That is absolutely not the case and maintaining normal supplies remains a massive challenge for us.  We can't do anything about the low rainfall, but customers can continue to help us by using water efficiently."  In July, people watering plants and filling paddling pools pushed the demand for water by 200 million litres extra a day for about a week.  Hot weather and also increased tourist numbers were factors behind the spike in demand.

Scotland Had Fourth Hottest Summer on Record
Scotland has had its fourth hottest summer on record, according to provisional figures released by the Met Office.  The city of Glasgow, which will host the COP26 climate change conference, had its hottest ever summer since records began in 1884.  The Met Office said it was unusual for the UK's highest August temperature to come from Scotland.   A high of 27.2C was recorded at Tyndrum, near Stirling, on 25 August.   Most of the UK recorded lower than average rainfall, with the exception of Northern Ireland and parts of eastern Scotland, according to the Met Office figures.  Dr Mark McCarthy, head of the Met Office's National Climate Information Centre, said: "Summer 2021 will be remembered very differently depending on where you are in the UK, with record-breaking warm conditions in parts of western Scotland and Northern Ireland, while in the south and east it's been much duller and wetter."  Earlier this week, Scottish Water urged customers to help conserve supplies after levels at some reservoirs dropped to their lowest in 18 years.  The company said some parts of Scotland were experiencing their second driest summer in 160 years.  It said demand remained high at up to 100 million litres per day higher than average, after falling from a spike in demand during hot weather in July.  That month more than 30 water tankers were needed to supplement supplies.

Inverness Hairdresser, Ego Hair Design Has Been Named the First-ever Accredited Mindful Salon in the World Salon owner Caroline Sanderson has scooped the accolade after her team undertook training from the first continued professional development certified mindfulness course for small businesses.   Ms Sanderson is the multi-award winning owner of Ego Hair Design in Inverness and five-star accredited salon coaching academy Salon Jedi.  She credits mindfulness with helping to bring her business back from the brink of closure during the 2009 recession, when not only did she claw her way back from bankruptcy, but become a thriving, multi-award winning business which scooped Salon of the Year at the British Hairdressing Business Awards and Most Wanted Business Thinker, for the third time, in 2021.  This year, she is shortlisted for four British Hairdressing Business Awards, four British Hairdressing Awards and four Hair and Beauty Awards.  Every team member took the mindfulness course, called the MINDFUL Salon Source Code, which covers being more mindful within the work environment, mindset exercises, how to be mindful as a team, what to focus on and why limiting beliefs cause disempowering behaviours and how to shift this.  Ms Sanderson said: “I have been practising and teaching mindfulness since 2011 and can directly credit this technique with the incredible success my salon has experienced – can you imagine, a small salon in the Highlands of Scotland being named the best salon in the UK?  It’s because my team is calm, focused and confident thanks to their training. There has never been a time that mindfulness is more needed.  During lockdown I created a free, five-day Magic Mind Challenge to which more than 500 people, including children, joined in to do. It’s five days of what I call my magic mind tools to help with mindset.  "It’s free and easy to find on Facebook, and suitable for anyone, from individuals to businesses and teams.”

Inverness Mum Who is Living with "Unbearable" Pain Says There Are No Words to Explain Impact of Cancelled Operations At NHS Highland
A mum-of-four says that there are 'no words' to explain the impact of cancelled operations at NHS Highland.  Angela Gibbs (51), whose youngest daughter is nine years old, said that her operation was cancelled the night before surgery was due to take place.  NHS Highland has "paused" all elective surgery until August 30, after pressures on the service due to rising numbers of Covid patients.  Living with pain – Mrs Gibbs describes as "unbearable", she wants to know when she will receive her operation.   Mrs Gibbs, from Hilton, said: "There are no words to describe the impact on so so many lives.   I had my hip replacement cancelled the evening before I was due to have my replacement.  Everything was organised, my husband had taken three weeks off work to support me. I had been isolating ahead of the operation.  I had had my pre-op and I was getting ready to stay in the hospital, when I was contacted the night before I was due to go into surgery and told my operation was not going ahead.   I was devastated, but as the hospital asked me to continue self isolating, I thought it would not be long.   "However I was wrong, I am still waiting. I eventually phoned the hospital to be told I could stop self isolating."  She continued: "Long term chronic pain effects your mental health, and the people around you. I’m a 51-year-old woman with a nine-year-old daughter.   I am struggling through since I was 46.  I love the mountains and walking. I don’t drive so getting out can be difficult.  I took up cycling to help keep me fit. I’m so tired now and actually at the point of giving up.  The impact on my health and mental health is tremendous.  I’m not a quitter, but it’s getting beyond a joke. "Yes, there are far more people off in worse situations, I fully understand that. But this is my life and I’m just existing."   A statement from NHS Highland said that all elective operations – not emergency care – were cancelled until the end of August.  A spokeswoman for the health board said: "NHS Highland’s clinical emergency pathways have been under significant pressure across primary and secondary care.  As a result of these pressures we are struggling to keep pace all the services we are currently aiming to deliver to as a part of the remobilisation of planned elective care.  Katherine Sutton, Chief Officer for Acute Services, said: “Within acute services we have had to act to relieve some of this pressure, both immediately and with rapid but sustainable measures to improve the situation.  Our immediate action must focus on the safety of the patients in the hospital and has therefore led to a pause in elective activity including orthopaedic patients who require an inpatient bed as part of their care."  Mrs Sutton continued: “This is a very difficult decision which has not been taken lightly. We know it will be extremely disappointing to patients who have been waiting too long for their orthopaedic operations, often in pain, and to our colleagues in orthopaedics who are determined to help their patients.  MSP Edward Mountain, Highlands and Islands, said he was very concerned about the cancelation of operations.  He said: "This gives me grave concern because I know there around 2400 people waiting for operations.  It means all the people who are waiting for operations will have to wait for even longer.  The pain that people are going through is phenomenal."

Judges Urged to Halt Vorlich North Sea Oilfield
Greenpeace has urged judges to stop an oil field in the North Sea due to "myriad failures".  The environmental group believes permission should not have been granted for the Vorlich field, 150 miles east of Aberdeen.  Ruth Crawford QC said Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng had been "deprived" of information about the environmental impact it could have.  The Inner House of the Court of Session is hearing the case.  Greenpeace has gone to Scotland's highest civil court with the aim of overturning Mr Kwarteng's decision giving permission for Vorlich.  Ms Crawford told Scotland's most senior judge, the Lord President, Lord Carloway, that the government had a legal obligation to conduct a proper public consultation on the development.   The advocate for Greenpeace said the consultation that had been held was inadequate. She said it did not meet best practice and the government did not properly publicise the scheme.  She said the government took out two adverts, one in a national newspaper and another with a publication in the Aberdeen area.  She added: "There has been little statutory compliance other than the press notice.  Greenpeace had been prejudiced by the failures - the prejudice which I identify is the failure to properly publicise, because the appellants were unable to submit representations which the Secretary of State would have been obliged to take into account."  Ms Crawford said this resulted in Mr Kwarteng failing to have data which could have affected his final decision. She added: "The broad overview at the heart of this appeal is the complaint that there has been a myriad of failures in the public consultation exercise requirements. That has resulted in Greenpeace, the appellant, being deprived of the opportunity, as it is entitled to, to take part in the decision making process.  As a result of the Secretary of State has been deprived of information which could have been relevant and material to the decision."  Permission to drill the Vorlich site was given to BP in 2018.  Greenpeace wants the court to revoke a permit to drill for 30 million barrels of oil. The court heard that BP failed to publish a statutory notice on its website regarding the development.  The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has instructed Roddy Dunlop QC to contest the action.  Mr Dunlop said the failure to publish the notice was an error, but that it would be wrong to overturn permission for Vorlich on this basis.  He said: "A blank template went on rather than the notice itself. It is a minor technical issue which didn't give rise to any material prejudice to any party."  The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), also contesting the action, has instructed advocate Ross McClelland to act on its behalf.  Greenpeace believes that if it were to win its case at the Court of Session, it would have ramifications for how the UK Westminster government makes future oil permit decisions, such as the Cambo field off Shetland.

The Alcoholic Alchemy of Marketing Scotch by Douglas Fraser
When you buy a bottle of Scotch whisky, you take home 70 centilitres of coloured spirit. The ingredients: barley, yeast, and Scottish mountain water, with flavour and colour added by years maturing in oak casks.  Any chemical analysis will miss the other component of your purchase: the magic of marketing.  There's nothing like Scotch for putting a premium on provenance, and locking out challengers.  Its value is not just in the rules, including distillation and at least three years maturation in Scotland: it's the ferocity with which the rules are applied.  There is protection around the world, with dogged legal pursuit of anyone who tries to pass off inferior spirit as Scotch.  That, in itself, is part of the myth-making. It's value is built up not just by being high quality, but by being so fiercely defended.  From Monday, the public will be able to see the most extravagant iteration so far of that Scotch marketing.  A £25 ticket for "Johnnie Walker Princes Street" pays for a tour and buys into that whisky myth-making.  I've had a preview, and can report that it is an audio-visual tour de force. A Los Angeles company was hired to immerse its Hollywood-trained creatives in Scotland, and to interpret the story with an immersive, sensory wash of colour, smell and taste.  It's not just digital. The centre has recruited a troupe of actors to perform your way from room to room, among 150 people newly hired for the centre.  Diageo owns Johnnie Walker, the most valuable commercial brand to come out of Scotland. With a 40% share of the Scotch whisky market, and dependent on Scotch for 23% of its business, it claims to be spending £185m on this project.  That also buys them big upgrades in four distilleries that contribute to the market-leading blend: Clynelish in Brora, Cardhu on Speyside, Glenkinchie in East Lothian and - yet to be transformed - Caol Ila on the island of Islay.  According to Ivan Menezes, the Diageo chief executive, the conversion of the entire former Frasers department store on Princes Street is "an investment in Scotland".  But it's not merely an act of generosity to the country that generates such profits for Diageo. This is a commercial decision to invest behind the brand and its provenance.  "Consumers are looking more and more to understand what's in their products, how is it made, who are the people behind it," the chief executive told me.  "And as you look to the next generation of consumers coming through, there's going to be an increasing demand. For instance, the thirst for product knowledge in China is extraordinary."  Diageo will have done its own market research. But what is public knowledge, from the Scotch Whisky Association, is how fast whisky tourism has been growing.  In the year before the pandemic, it was worth £85m to the Scottish economy, with nearly 2.2 million visits, an average spend of more than £39 and 1,250 people employed. All those numbers were rising steeply until the pandemic struck.  Other distillers have been investing big as well. There have been whisky visitor centres for decades, but William Grant and Sons' Glenfiddich raised the game. It was followed by Edrington, with a new distillery for The Macallan near Craigellachie, built as a cathedral to whisky and a wow factor for visitors. The Edinburgh Johnnie Walker centre is aimed at least partly at locals' use, with three bars including a rooftop one, space for private events, a modest-sized venue for theatre or music performance, and a training space for the hospitality sector.  But it's the global reach of whisky that is clearly the focus. The newly-recruited staff have 23 languages between them. And although the international footfall on Princes Street is currently very poor by non-pandemic standards, Ivan Menezes puts the investment in the context of a 202-year old Kilmarnock-born brand that has survived pandemics, wars and US Prohibition.  Emerging from recession, "it's encouraging, across the world, with very strong growth. The premium end is where the market is growing fastest. Our single markets are growing double digit.  "A couple of trends have accelerated through the pandemic. One is spirits taking more share from beer and wine. The cocktail culture is very alive, people learning how to make highballs and manhattans, just like people discovered cooking from scratch. So spirits have benefited through the past 18 months with increased penetration.  The other is moving up to premium brands: "People are not drinking more, they're drinking better," says Menezes. "Last year, alcohol sales volumes dropped 6%. We only have 4% share of the world alcohol market. Where our gains come from is people drinking better. We see that trend has accelerated, in whisky, tequila and gin.  His optimism is shared by rival distiller Pernod Ricard, one of the next biggest distillers of Scotch.  It puts out its full-year figures on Thursday showing like-for-like sales were up 6%, and getting back to pre-pandemic levels.  While airport duty free shops remain a long way down on their pre-pandemic figures, the four "strategic" whisky brands were recovering well; Chivas up 13%, Ballentine's up 12%, The Glenlivet single malt up 26% and Royal Salute rising 32%.  Part of this rebound comes with the removal of the 25% tariff the US government imposed on single malt Scotch, as retaliation against the European Union for subsidies to Airbus. It had harmed blended Scotch exports to the US as well.  "In spite of these high rates of tariff, our Scotch whisky business is on fire in India, really growing very fast - faster than our domestic whiskies," says the company's boss. "We're seeing this trend to better brands, better products, and higher price points, are playing through very strongly in India.  Getting those tariffs down is a high priority for the distilling industry, and it is pressing the UK Westminster government to make it a priority in any moves towards a Free Trade Agreement. With the European Union trying to get an FTA with Delhi, it kept stalling. A post-Brexit British deal would be likely to see Indians push for a big increase in work visas for Indians, and that could be politically difficult for the Johnson administration.  But according to Ivan Menezes, both prime ministers, Boris Johnson and Narendra Modi, have political pressure to get a trade deal: "Prospects are better than they've ever been in the last few decades.  Both the UK and Indian governments are in serious conversations about FTAs. Scotch whisky is on the table. Obviously, this will take time, but I'm encouraged that we should see an improvement in the very high rates of tariffs.  Indians love whisky. It's the biggest whisky market in the world, so I'm encouraged by the FTA discussions happening right now."  The return to growth for Scotch exports faces further hurdles in freight in and out. Supply lines to bottling plants for glass and packaging is "stressed", but manageable for a company that has built up deep relationships with its suppliers.  On the way out in freight containers to export markets, distillers are facing much higher costs due to disruption in the shipping industry. That is a cost Menezes says they simply have to absorb. And rather than pulling back on re-stocking overseas markets, Diageo is pushing to ensure any further disruption doesn't affect its Christmas and New Year sales.


AUSTRALIAN SCOTTISH/CELTIC NEWS
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, 2rrr.org.au and go to Live Stream where the reception is crystal clear.  You can reach the station at the following contact points;
by Phone in the office at 9816-2988 or the Studio: 9816-2777.
By email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
To Text Robin while he is On-air  0412 777 885.
Mailing Address PO Box 644 GLADESVILLE NSW 1675.  
Street Address Henley Cottage, 4 Victoria Road, HENLEY NSW 2111

Coisir  Ghaidhlig Astrailianach (Australian Gaelic Singers) 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