Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 620

Issue # 620                                     Week ending Saturday 18th September 2021
Yes, We’ve Been Brokenhearted. Blue Since the Day They Parted. Why Did We Ever Let Them Go?  by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Remember Agnetha from ABBA? She called me last night from Glasgow. Actually, that wasn’t her. It was my cousin Agnes. Those two are easily confused. Agnes is a smasher, a blonde with a great voice and a real party animal. And Agnetha used to be.

I took Agnetha out for dinner once. I bumped into her a few years later. She said: “No regrets. If I had to do the same again, I would, my friend. For a Nando’s.” What’s a Nando’s? Up here in Stornoway, that’s like what we call it when your granny is getting ready to bake bread.

Back in the real world, 40 years of jolly music and what do we get? Holograms. Abba Voyage, the digital recreation of the Swedish pop legends, will perform in concert next year. In other words, Abba will not perform. Introducing the computer-generated imagery is so we won’t see how old and wrinkly they are. It would do them no harm at all. I mean, look at me.

Not everyone is being digitally enhanced. Abba had various drummers over the years, some no longer with us, sadly. Some of the others are not answering the phone as they are retired, and that is how they wish to stay. After all, if a drummer comes out of retirement, will there be repercussions?

The Abba main quartet are all between 71 and 75 now. So what? A couple of them didn’t look that great in 1979. We want the music - give it to me. We want Abba - wrinkly, grumpy or whatever. Everyone gets old and forgets why they’ve picked up a microphone, probably. Holograms will just be a short-lived headline-grabbing novelty. The plug will be pulled soon enough and Abba will, once again, vanish.

Which reminds me that The Vanishing, the movie based on the Flannan Isles mystery, is on this weekend. Starring Scots actors Gerald Butler and Peter Mullan, it tells how three keepers were apparently washed away in 1900. Or maybe not. The lighthouse log book recorded a fierce storm. It must have been very localised because the curtains in crofters’ blackhouses in the nearest village of Islivig in Uig on Lewis, just 20 miles away, hardly flapped.

It was released a couple of years ago but other events have diverted us since then. The fillum, which is how we pronounce the word movie in the offshore north-west, was mostly shot in Portpatrick, so purists will scoff. Most reviewers, however, say it tells a story well. A story, not the story. I don’t expect it to be factually accurate as fillums are entertainment, not News At Ten. It’s on Film4 at 9pm on Saturday, if a thriller loosely based on a real-life Hebridean unsolved mystery takes your fancy.

Wait, what about our readers in Australia? I have found the New South Wales TV guide. Ah, Southern Cross Central GTS/BKN channel is showing the semi-final 2 of Glenelg v Eagles. Nice of you guys to cover Scottish shinty. We appreciate it so much that Crocodile Dundee was on a film channel here three times last week.

You know what takes my fancy right now? A steak. “That’s not a steak knife.” Dundee unsheathes a huge blade. “That's a steak knife.” OK, enough Crocodile. My doctor keeps telling me to eat less red meat but the thought of a sirloin is making my mouth water. Do vegetarians have the same effect when they mow a lawn?

Now another mystery. I’ve just read that Andrew Neil has quit the awful GB News channel he has been the invisible chairman of. He performed his own vanishing act when he disappeared off to France after what seemed like five minutes on screen. Now that his baby has, like a flickering hologram, become the Nigel Farage Channel, more people are actually tuning in. Has Oor Andrew taken the huff?

Many years ago, I took the huff when a crowd I was with decided we should end a night out in London by traipsing to an upmarket, that means expensive, club that was having an Abba-themed special night. It was new then and everything was so sparkly with the familiar muzak piped everywhere. Too much. I shall always remember how difficult it was to find the toilets which were at the end of a narrow winding corridor with many exits and cocktail rooms off it. It was like a maze.

What a loo. Couldn’t escape if I wanted to.

Nicola Sturgeon asks UK Westminster Government to Agree to Second Scottish Independence Referendum
Nicola Sturgeon has asked the UK Westminster government to agree to another Scottish independence referendum "in the spirit of co-operation".  Scotland's first minister told SNP members at the party's conference on Monday that "democracy must - and will - prevail", to allow the country another vote on its future.  In the conference's closing speech, Ms Sturgeon said: "My approach to government and to politics will be, as far as possible, co-operation not confrontation.  The experience of the pandemic and the challenges we face as a result reinforces my view that this is the right approach.  "So it is in that spirit of co-operation that I hope the Scottish and UK governments can reach agreement - as we did in 2014 - to allow the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland to be heard and respected."  Ms Sturgeon called for another referendum by the end of 2023, should the COVID pandemic permit. "The crisis is not yet over, but we will get through it," she said.  "And then it will be the time to think not of the past but of Scotland's future. To decide who should be in charge of that future."  The SNP leader insisted she has an "unarguable mandate" to hold a second independence vote, adding: "People in Scotland have the right to make that choice.  To decide to take our destiny into our own hands and shape a better future. Trust me, the time for that choice is approaching."  She continued: "The United Kingdom is after all a voluntary union of nations.  Until recently, no one seriously challenged the right of the people in Scotland to choose whether or not they wished to become independent.  Frankly, it is not up to a Westminster government which has just six MPs in Scotland to decide our future without the consent of the people who live here.  "As an independent country, co-operation between Scotland and our friends across the rest of the UK will continue, but it will be on a better basis: Scotland will be an equal partner."  The SNP conference has backed the Scottish government's plans for the timing of another independence referendum at the "earliest" possible moment after the COVID crisis.  The party said the date should be determined by "data-driven criteria" about when the public health crisis is over.  Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Ms Sturgeon said she wouldn't "set a precise level of infection" for when a vote could happen - but she added "you would want to see the COVID situation under control".  Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously signalled he does not support a second Scottish referendum.  When asked about the issue in March, Mr Johnson said: "When you ask people to vote on a highly controversial and divisive issue, an issue that breaks up family relationships, that is extremely toxic and divisive, and you tell them this is going to happen only once in a generation, I think you should stick to it."

Covid in Scotland: £11m of Unused PPE Shipped to Africa
A Scottish health charity is to distribute more than £11m worth of equipment to help protect against Covid in three countries in Africa.  Edinburgh-based Kids Operating Room will send supplies to Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia after raising funds from business and the Scottish government.  Equipment, including visors and goggles, will be sent to the region in 25 shipping containers.  The donated items are due to arrive later this month.  They were identified by NHS National Services Scotland as unlikely to be used within the health and social care sector.  More than one billion items of PPE have been issued by Scotland's health service since the start of the pandemic.  The figure includes nearly 200 million masks and more than 320 million pairs of gloves.   It comes after criticism from the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the approach adopted by some developed countries to donating unneeded stocks of equipment and vaccines.   The WHO said that just 20% of people in low and lower-middle-income countries had received a first dose of Covid vaccine.  KidsOR raised £1m to transport the shipping containers from businesses including the Wood Foundation, Pula Limited, Postcode Trust and Delta Philanthropie, with the Scottish government also donating £250,000 towards the cost of transportation.  Co-founder of the charity, Garreth Wood, said the donation of so many items off PPE would prove vital for countries in Africa battling the pandemic.  Mary Morgan, the chief executive of NHS National Services Scotland, said beating Covid required a global effort.  International Development Minister Jenny Gilruth added: "This contribution builds on our recent supply of oxygen concentrators and ventilators, and we hope it will go some way to easing the current stress on health services."

COP26: Armed Police Prepare for Biggest Deployment
Armed police will be visible like never before in Scotland when world leaders arrive in Glasgow for COP26 at the end of October.  The UN climate change conference is expected to see the biggest ever deployment of armed officers in Scotland.  Police Scotland has 500 officers trained to use guns and they will be joined by many others from around the UK. The force will not give an exact number for how many will be on duty during Cop26 but one former chief constable has suggested it could be about 1,000.  Operation Urram (Gaelic for respect) will see a total of 10,000 officers deployed on each day of the two-week conference, which takes place at the Scottish Exhibition Campus between 31 October and 12 November.  It is one of the largest mobilisations of police ever to take place in the UK.  About 45% of the officers will be drawn from the ranks of Police Scotland, with the rest coming from other UK police forces, British Transport Police, the Ministry of Defence and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.   The conference venue itself will become United Nations territory, guarded by armed UN personnel.  More than 120 politicians and heads of state are expected for the three-day world leaders' summit at the start of the conference.   The Queen, the Pope and President Joe Biden intend to be there. Thousands of delegates will remain for the negotiations that will follow.  Compared to previous high-profile events in Scotland, COP26 will be far bigger and last for far longer than the G8 summit at Gleneagles in 2005.  The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 was the largest multi-sport and cultural event ever held in Scotland, but again, COP26 will be a different and far more contentious beast.  It will also take place weeks after a warning from the head of MI5 that the fall of Afghanistan could embolden lone-wolf terrorists in the UK.  The head of specialist services at Police Scotland, Chief Superintendent Louise Skelton said: "The public will see a deployment of armed officers round about the venue of COP26. They're very much there to protect the event.  It will be the most complex event that's ever been run in Scotland and the biggest deployment of officers in the UK.  I can't provide details of numbers but we are getting mutual aid support from the firearms policing community around the UK during the event."  Armed police officers trained in counter-terrorism will be on hand.  "A massive amount of security is required because of the heads of state, world leaders and all the delegates at the event itself," said Ch Supt Skelton.  "There is no specific threat to the event at the moment but we continue to monitor any intelligence that comes in, and link in with the security services."  Police Scotland invited the media to watch training at the Scottish Police College at Jackton near East Kilbride.  The "students" were wearing black overalls, helmets and balaclavas and carrying carbines, Glock handguns and tasers.  In a country largely unaccustomed to seeing armed police, some people will be alarmed by their presence.  The college's chief firearms instructor Chief Inspector Colin McLellan said: "I would encourage members of the public to approach the officers and speak to them as normal police officers, first and foremost.  They are there to ensure public safety."

UK's Highest Restaurant to Be Refurbished
Work has started on a £780,000 revamp of the UK's highest restaurant.  The Ptarmigan is situated 1,097m (3,599ft) up Cairn Gorm mountain, near Aviemore.  It forms part of a snowsports centre owned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and run by Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd.  The restaurant has been shut to the public since the Cairngorm funicular - the UK's highest railway - was closed 2018 due to structural problems.  The site's owner - public agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) - said the restaurant was being upgraded in anticipation of visitors later next year, when the funicular is due to reopen following repairs.  HIE had hoped to reopen the railway this winter, but Covid, bad weather and a shortage of materials meant this was not possible.  The restaurant revamp includes "significant improvements" to catering areas and a redesign of the dining space and bar.  The funicular connects a base station with the restaurant and a ski area.

Coastal Path Ceremony Will Be Part of Open Day At Historic John O'Groats Mill
Visitors will get an insight into the ambitious project to transform John O'Groats Mill into a community hub and visitor attraction at a free event this weekend.  John O'Groats Mill Trust is taking part in the national Doors Open Days programme and the event will coincide with the opening of a coastal path linking John O'Groats harbour with the mill complex.  The open day takes place on Saturday, September 18, from 10am until 4pm.  There will be an opportunity to learn about the history and heritage of the mill as well as the future plans through internal and external tours and an exhibition of images.  The new all-abilities path has been a joint project between the mill trust and John O'Groats Development Trust. It was funded by the Highland Coastal Communities Fund and Foundation Scotland through the Stroupster Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund.  The work has been carried out by Gordon Robertson of Barrock Quarry. An opening ceremony for the path will take place at noon.  John O’Groats Mill Trust is seeking to turn the historic complex into a social, educational and cultural centre. The John O'Groats Mill, which has been described as 'the last of the great Caithness corn mills'.  Mill trust chairman Rognvald Brown said: "We're very much looking forward to opening up the mill to the community once again and sharing news on all the development work that has been going on behind the scenes. This is a great chance for locals and visitors alike to see the building for themselves and learn about the history of the mill and our plans for its future. The opening of the new coastal path really is the icing on the cake, providing an all-abilities route to the mill and a wonderful asset for the local community who have already been trying it out by bike, pram and on foot." The open day is a free event and all are invited.  This is the 32nd year of Doors Open Days, an annual event coordinated nationally by the Scottish Civic Trust which celebrates heritage and the built environment.  The Wick Society is also taking part in Doors Open Days 2021. Visitors will be invited to look around Wick Heritage Museum and the nearby Cowie’s building on Sunday, from 10am to 4pm.  Following the success of Doors Open Days’ first digital festival in 2020, when 184,000 virtual visitors from around the world were welcomed, the 2021 event will have both online and in-person events and activities.

Caithness Harbour on the Market for Over £500,000
Sandside harbour in Reay is up for sale for over £500,000. It is a category A-listed building and is a traditional stone harbour with two L-shaped piers and a slipway.  The sale is being handled by Savills which points out that the harbour enjoys "far reaching views towards Orkney and over the Pentland Firth."  Included in the sale is the former net store building, also A-listed, situated at the harbour’s edge, and which requires "complete refurbishment."  The ground floor has a double height ceiling from its net hanging days and subject to planning and listed building consents, could be converted to residential accommodation or be combined with the two room Bothy Flat above to create a spectacular single dwelling.  The idyllic, and rarely visited, Sandside Beach is close by and the dramatic cliffs and inlets form a breathtaking seascape surrounding the property. Reay golf course – Britain’s most northerly – is nearby.  Rory Galloway of Savills said: "This is an extraordinary and exceptionally unusual property to come to market and will no doubt entice both keen sailors and those seeking the ultimate coastal retreat. The potential to create a stunning waterside home combined with the ownership of an historic private harbour makes this a very exciting sale."  Sandside harbour is on the market for over £500,000

Action Call to Tackle Dumfries and Galloway Gull 'Epidemic'
A call for action is being made to tackle a gull "epidemic" affecting the south west of Scotland.  A motion to Dumfries and Galloway Council said the whole region had been affected - from Stranraer to Annan.  It has called upon the local authority to put together an "effective and efficient" plan to deal with the issue.  The council said it had taken a number of steps including a trial of a "gull-proof" bin now to be extended across the region.  The motion - from councillors Willie Scobie and Tommy Sloan - said the gulls were causing "all sorts of problems" and affecting people's mental health.  It asked the local authority to seek support from the Scottish government to tackle what it described as a "problem of epidemic proportions".  A report to Dumfries and Galloway Council said there had been a gull control project in Dumfries since 2009 which had focused on egg and nest removal.  A survey in 2018 found numbers of breeding pairs had reduced in Dumfries town centre but there was evidence of them being displaced to other parts of the region.  A count in 2020 found "significant colonies" in Annan, Dumfries, Kirkcudbright and Stranraer.   Large numbers have also been reported in Sanquhar.  Licensing changes mean the egg and nest removal scheme can only be offered as a "last resort" to protect public health and safety, prompting the council to look at other options.  They included a trial of a "gull-proof" bin on the High Street in Dumfries.  It is said to have been "extremely effective" and now dozens more will be put in place at problem hotspots and sites of high staycation numbers.  Gull-proof flaps will also be added to other bins.  The council said that although it remained an issue, the number of complaints it had received had actually decreased.  However, it recently received an open letter from residents in Kirkcudbright complaining about aggressiveness of the gulls in the town and the "noise and mess" they generate.

'Mixed' Response to Dumfries' City Status Bid
A potential bid for city status for a south of Scotland town has received a "mixed" response.   A report to councillors said most of the feedback on a potential application from Dumfries  had been positive.  However, some concerns have been raised about the town's ability to compete for the honour.  Dumfries and Galloway Council is being asked to consider supporting the bid and agree to set up a working group to take the plans forward. The potential for an application emerged earlier this year with the honour set to be given as part of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations in 2022.  A previous bid in 2011 was dismissed after it emerged it had not come from the local authority.  The council is now being asked to consider whether to take forward a bid which needs to be submitted by early December.  It has already started sounding out various groups and individuals to assess local support for the plan.  A report said most people were in favour of the bid as it could raise awareness of the town, help to showcase the area's attractions and fill a "gap" in the south of the country.   Scotland currently has seven cities - Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth and Stirling.  However, there have also been concerns raised about the application from Dumfries.  They included the town's inability to compete with the "size and facilities" of recognised cities, questions over the benefit to the whole region and diverting resources away from Covid recovery.  The council will meet on 23 September to discuss the way forward.  It would then have a little over two months to put its bid together.

Scotland to Vaccinate 12 to 15-year-olds From Monday
Scotland is to begin vaccinating children aged between 12 and 15 from Monday of next week.  The jabs will initially be available at drop-in centres, with parents and carers being asked to accompany their children.  Letters will be sent everyone in the age group the following week, inviting them to an appointment.  There will also be a vaccination programme in schools after the scheduled appointments.  This will allow anyone who has not yet been vaccinated to have a further opportunity to do so.  It comes after the Chief Medical Officers of each of the four UK nations concluded that the additional benefits were sufficient to justify vaccination of children over the age of 12.  They said it would help to reduce disruption to their schooling this winter and benefit those growing up in the poorest areas.  Scotland is also to join the other UK nations in offering a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine to all adults over 50, frontline health and care workers, younger adults with health conditions that put them at higher risk, and adult household contacts of people with suppressed immune systems.  The JCVI advisory group said the move was needed amid concern about waning immunity ahead of winter.  The boosters programme will also begin next Monday, when frontline health and social care workers will be able to book their appointment online through NHS Inform.   Residents in care homes for older people will be offered both flu and Covid booster vaccines from next week.  And adults aged 70 years or over, and everyone aged over 16 on the highest risk list, will be contacted shortly either by letter or by their GP.  Other eligible groups - all adults over 50, all those aged 16 to 49 with underlying health conditions, adult carers, unpaid and young carers, and adult household contacts of people who are immunosuppressed - will be able to book online from October.  Announcing the expansion of the vaccination programme, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said both measures would "help us considerably in our ongoing efforts against this virus".  And she stressed the importance of "informed consent" for young people considering whether to have the jab.  Children able to overrule the decision of their parents on whether or not they should have the vaccine if they are deemed to be competent and understand the health implications.  Ms Sturgeon said: "I know that these are important decisions for young people and their parents, and that many will have questions.  I would encourage everyone to read the information that will be provided, and do not hesitate to visit a drop in clinic to ask any questions or raise any concerns.  Vaccination is a vital part of our overall protection against this virus. That is why it is important to support people - especially young people - to make informed choices that they feel comfortable with".  Ms Sturgeon also confirmed that secondary schools pupils will continue to have to wear face coverings in class until at least the October holidays, when the measure will be reviewed again.  She acknowledged that this would be unpopular with many pupils, but said it remained a "prudent and necessary precaution". And with university terms now starting, she said no large in-person lectures will be held for now.  Instead, there will be a mix of online and in-person learning - with universities and colleges deciding themselves the level of in-person teaching that they will offer during this term.  In addition, physical distancing will remain in place on campuses and face coverings will be required in indoor public spaces.  Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds and offering booster shots had the potential to be "game-changing in halting the spread of Covid this winter".  But he said more answers were needed on how the schemes would be delivered, and called for mobile vaccination units at every school to encourage uptake - particularly those in areas where vaccination rates are low.  Scotland has seen a surge in the number of cases in recent weeks, with the country having the highest infection rate of any UK nation last week and the number of people being hospitalised with the virus also increasing dramatically.  But there are signs that the sharp increase has levelled off and may be starting to fall slightly, with the country recording an average of 5,506 new cases in the week to 11 September - lower than the figure of 6,290 a day for the previous week.  More than 70% of all cases last week were among those under the age of 45.  The latest daily figures showed that 3,375 positive cases were reported on Monday - 11.4% of all tests carried out.  The number of people in hospital with the virus has increased by 16 to 1,064, with 89 patients in intensive care - one fewer than yesterday.  The deaths of a further 21 people who had recently tested positive for the virus have also been recorded, taking the total by that definition to 8,263.

Covid: Opioid Pain Relief 'Soared During Pandemic' for Some Patients
The use of opioids for pain relief soared during the pandemic as some patients waited longer for surgery, according to new research.  The University of Aberdeen team focused on more than 450 patients due to have hip or knee replacement surgery.  They said waiting times for these procedures increased by an average of 90 days.  The numbers of patients using opioids while waiting for surgery increased by 40% compared to pre-pandemic levels.  The research, published in the BMJ Quality and Safety, looked at data collected from 452 NHS patients from the north east of Scotland.   They were on the waiting list for hip and knee replacement surgery, and were compared with patients who had surgery before the pandemic.  The university's Luke Farrow, who led the research, said alternative ways of managing severe arthritis pain needed to be found "urgently" for those waiting for this kind of surgery.  He said: "Our work provides evidence of potential for an emerging opioid problem associated with the influence of Covid-19 on elective orthopaedic services.  With continued delays in the provision of timely total hip and knee arthroplasty expected for some time due to the considerable backlog of patients awaiting surgery, patients will need to seek alternative treatment options to manage their symptoms.  We would advocate that healthcare professionals and patients avoid the use of opioid medication if at all possible due to the known lack of effect in this setting and potential for harm".  He added: "Covid-19 has had a significant detrimental effect on access to hip and knee surgery, and work by others has suggested this has been associated with worsening pain and quality of life for patients."

Nationalised Shipyard Misses Out on Ferries Order
The nationalised Ferguson shipyard has missed out on an order to build two new CalMac ferries.  The Inverclyde yard was among 11 bidders for the order to replace ships on the Islay route, but failed to make the shortlist.   The four shipyards which will now submit detailed tenders are based in Poland, Romania and Turkey.  Ferguson Marine said it was "disappointed" but would learn lessons as it looks for future work.  The new ships will be the first major order by CMAL, which procures vessels for CalMac, since Glen Sannox and an as-yet unnamed ship, known as Hull 802, which are still under construction at the Ferguson shipyard.  Glen Sannox is currently due to be delivered in the second half of next year, more than four years late, with the two ships costing the taxpayer more than double the original contract price.  Problems with the order dragged the yard back into administration in 2019 and since then it has been wholly-owned by the Scottish government, which also owns CMAL and CalMac.  The new order for the Islay route will be for two 94.8m long vessels to replace MV Hebridean Isles - which is 36 years old - and MV Finlaggan which was launched in 2011. MV Finlaggan would then be redeployed to a different route.  The new ships will be larger but more fuel efficient than the current vessels and will have greater vehicle capacity.  Unlike the order for Glen Sannox and Hull 802, they will not use liquefied natural gas (LNG) for the engines but will instead have diesel-electric propulsion systems, making use of lithium batteries where possible, for instance when manoeuvring in port.  Jim Anderson, director of vessels at CMAL, said: "We received interest from many shipyards across the world, and carried out robust assessment of their technical and financial suitability to take on this project.  Four shipyards scored the highest across both criteria and have now been issued an ITT (invitation to tender) for the contract.  This stage of the procurement process will take around six months, and we hope to award the contract to the winning shipyard at the end of March 2022."  A Scottish government spokesperson said: "While it is disappointing that Ferguson Marine have been unsuccessful on this occasion, we are fully committed to supporting the yard to secure a sustainable future, including a pipeline of future work, to help protect jobs and commercial shipbuilding on the Clyde."  Ferguson Marine said it had put forward a "robust bid" for the new order but it respected CMAL's decision.  A spokesperson added: "Scotland's public sector ferries will, of course, continue to be future business targets for the shipyard, but they are not the sole focus.  We believe there is a significant opportunity for contracts and business growth in the build of complex vessels in the 40 to 100m range, which includes offshore patrol vessels and service operation vessels.  We are actively pursuing opportunities of this nature, which exist in Scotland and around the world, and we remain highly focused on completion of the dual fuel ferry project, which is a top priority." The Port Glasgow shipyard has been extensively modernised since it first went into administration in 2014 and was taken over by businessman Jim McColl. Its workforce has risen to more than 450.

Military to Be Called in to Help Scottish Ambulance Crews
The Scottish government has asked the MoD for military assistance for the country's ambulance service.  Nicola Sturgeon said health services were dealing with the most challenging combination of circumstances in their history due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Opposition politicians have highlighted a series of serious ambulance delays, including one where a man died after a 40-hour wait.  They said this should not be happening in Scotland in 2021.  Ms Sturgeon said her government was looking at a range of plans to deal with the significant challenges facing the health services, with the detail of a request for military assistance being considered.  She told the Scottish Parliament: "I'll be going back to my office to finalise the detail of the request for military assistance so we can submit that as quickly as possible."  The first minister added: "Such military assistance is already being provided to ambulance services in England and of course we have had military assistance for other aspects of the pandemic over the past 18 months."  A Scottish government spokesperson later confirmed it was seeking military assistance to address acute services, and a separate request had been made to support mobile testing units.  The Ministry of Defence confirmed it had received a request from the Scottish government, which it said related to support for Scottish Ambulance Service mobile testing units.   A spokeswoman said the MoD was "working hard to identify where we can most effectively assist other government departments and civil authorities."  Investigations are ongoing into several cases reported in the media on Thursday, including one where a Glasgow pensioner died after a 40-hour wait for an ambulance.  The Herald newspaper reported that the family of 65-year-old Gerard Brown were told that he could have survived had help arrived sooner.  Mr Brown's GP - who is said to have repeatedly warned 999 call handlers that the patient's status was critical - was quoted as describing the crisis engulfing the Scottish Ambulance Service as being like "third world medicine".  The Scottish Ambulance Service is investigating the circumstances of the case, and said it will be "in contact with Mr Brown's family directly to apologise for the delay".  Mr Brown's death has been reported to the procurator fiscal, who said an investigation was "ongoing".  Pressed on the case at her weekly question session at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon offered her condolences to Mr Brown's family, and said what had been reported was "unacceptable".  She said Scotland was "experiencing probably the most challenging combination of circumstances that our health service has faced since its establishment" due to the pandemic.

Police Call for Action on Sectarianism Ahead of Orange Walks
One of Scotland's top police officers has said it was time the country dealt with sectarianism.  Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr, who worked in Northern Ireland for 27 years, spoke ahead of a series of Orange walks in Glasgow on Saturday.  About 5,000 people are expected to take part in the marches.   The Orange Order said it does not believe there is a problem with sectarianism in Scotland and the group was not anti-Catholic.  Its leader said the processions were a celebration of the group's heritage.  There have been a number of high-profile incidents around parades by Protestant Loyal Orders and Irish Republican demonstrations in Glasgow in recent years.  Speaking to BBC Scotland, Deputy Chief Constable Kerr said: "[Sectarianism] isn't just a problem that you see the symptoms of around Orange Order parades - this is a problem that affects both Catholic and Protestant communities, it affects many other parts of Scotland than just Glasgow. It's not unique to the Orange Order in Glasgow in any way, shape or form."   He said 800 officers would police Saturday's processions, and that those attending had a right to celebrate their culture but urged all sides to behave peacefully.  Asked whether there was a problem with sectarianism in Scotland, he said: "Sectarianism is a problem in Scotland and I've been surprised at the level of it in some parts. I say that having policed Belfast for 27 years."  Deputy Chief Constable Kerr added that a lot of time had been spent on how to define sectarianism, rather than how to deal with it.  "There's a need to move beyond defining it and talking about it and doing something about it," he said.  There is no "easy answer" to the "generational" problem, he added.  "It needs a joined-up civic, sustainable solution".  He said the role of the police was to intervene when behaviour became potentially criminal.  "All we're doing is symptom management, picking up at the long end of civic failings that have failed to address this issue over the last couple of generations," he said.   Jim McHarg, Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, said the organisation was marching as a celebration of its culture and heritage.  "We as an organisation have always believed in civil religious liberty for all people and that includes us - we are entitled to be there," he added.  Mr McHarg said he felt that the organisation had to "justify" its right to be out there.  "For 200 years, there's been parades in this city with very, very little trouble, if that's the right terminology," he added.  He said the Orange Order was "most certainly" not anti-Catholic. "We are not an organisation that is anti-anything," he said.  Mr McHarg added: "I don't see sectarianism in this country. I would say there's a form of bigotry, you might see 90-minute bigotry at football matches or whatever."  Recent incidents linked to the marches include an attack on a Catholic priest by a follower of an Orange parade in 2018.  Violent protests at a Republican march in 2019 led to a number of parades being cancelled by Glasgow City Council.  Last summer's parades did not go ahead as a result of the Covid pandemic. Saturday's walks were rescheduled from July, as they were not permitted then under the coronavirus rules.  There have also been outbreaks of violence at some events related to football.  A number of people were assaulted in May after thousands of Rangers fans took to the streets of Glasgow - despite the Covid restrictions - when the club won the Scottish Premiership.   The first minister criticised the "sectarian" scenes as "utterly unacceptable", saying that "vile anti-Catholic prejudice" was on display.  Earlier this month, a number fans were charged after footage emerged online of fans singing a sectarian song ahead of an Old Firm game.  Ronnie Convery, of the Archdiocese of Glasgow, said sectarianism was still a "cancer" in Scottish society, pointing to the "violent scenes" in Glasgow earlier this year.   He said the Catholic Church acknowledged people had a legal right to march through the city. However, he asked that the parades were timed and go on a route that avoided causing "fear and alarm" in the Catholic community.  Glasgow City Council has the power to alter a parade's route or timing but has opted not to do so.   A spokesman for the council said the parades would be "more disruptive to the life of the city" if they took an alternative route.  This weekend, vigils will be held outside of three Catholic churches which the parades will pass.  It emerged last summer that the Scottish government had commissioned a civic mediation company in an attempt to ease tensions over loyalist parades in Glasgow.

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