Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 623

Issue # 623                                                        Week ending Saturday 9th October 2021
Maybe God Made the World Round So We Would Not Be Able to See Too Far Down A Bad Road by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Facebook crashed on Monday taking with it WhatsApp and Instagram so the world began doing some dusting behind the computer instead of staring at it. So many people flicked between watching TV on the box in the corner and not a computer screen, cooking a meal and even talking to other people in the house. Yay.

The outage put Mrs X so droll she decided to go and get fish suppers - on a Monday. She came back empty-handed because she couldn’t find anywhere to park. Other households had a similar idea. Nothing else for it. We had to talk to each other.

When Mrs X and I have time on our hands, we dress up and pretend to be other people. Why do people guffaw and go nudge-nudge when I say that? Anyway, having a bit of time to kill on Skye the other week, we put on tartan bunnets and pretended to be towrists, as we call them up here. We thought about hiring a campervan, driving slowly around the island, holding up ferry traffic to Harris and dumping rubbish by the roadside.

However, we just bought sea salt and fudge made in Dunvegan, gin made in Uig - for tasting at home sometime because it’s sober October, and some seaweed-infused beard wax made in Sconser. That last one was not for sharing with Mrs X. You probably wondered. I now must grow a moustache, a goatee, shaggy eyebrows and stop trimming my sprouting ear and nose hair to discover how well it works. This time next year, I should have enough strands to wax so I can twiddle them pensively for an in-depth review.

Taking the wheel of Mrs X’s Vauxhall Vivaro van, I set off from Kyleakin in our pretend sluggish motorhome, our RV or recreational vehicle, as Americans call them. RV? Yeah, road villains. I pretended to struggle in first gear up that steep hill before Sligachan. Unlike a real holidaymaker, I let all sorts pass - artics, tractors and even real campervans with bicycles on the back. Cycling in a Skye downpour? That’s no holiday.

Portree wasn’t busy. Plenty of parking. Parking is important in tourist destinations. Why were visitors avoiding sightseeing in the metropolis of the Misty Isle? We decided to head up to Staffin. That A855 Portree to Staffin route is a busy road in the sunshiny months as it is the other artery on the east side if you do not wish to take the comparative autobahn that is the A87 to Uig. Yet it is a total disgrace.

Unlike Facebook, that road is unfit for purpose every day. Badly patched with a pitted surface, it has unmade passing places and unflagged posts in the road where it suddenly switches to single track. That causes violent swerves unnerving other drivers, local wildlife and passengers. Even though I was only doing 35 mph, Mrs X was screaming: “Slow down. You’re bouncing me out of this loose-fitting top which cost you £29.99 when I bought it at M&S with your card. Didn’t I mention ... hoi, slow down.”

Skye is a shop window for Scotland. Legendary mist-shrouded peaks draw climbers, walkers, tourists, campers and every big city’s jaded masses. Having such a dire road is pitiful. What are the Skye councillors doing? I remember the EU pumped a pile of cash into that road to get it upgraded 12 or 15 years ago. You cannot expect that help now, more’s the pity. You need to seriously pester these Invernessian mandarins to keep it maintained. They don’t care. They holiday in Dubrovnik, not Dunvegan.

Rough passing places and parking places were on the snagging list when the upgraded road was officially opened 10 years ago, That is in the photos. Still not been done. Highland Council is letting itself down, letting the people of Skye down and if it doesn’t do some work smartish, it will let a lot of cars down where the tarmac is cracked by that bubbling bog. Parking is pretty important in a scenic area.

Parking back home in Stornoway is also difficult. On Cromwell Street the other day, I saw a guy stretched out in the gutter outside the Bank of Scotland. Thinking he had overdone the bevvy, I peered down and asked if he was alright. He said: “Oh yes, cove. I’m fine. I found a parking spot at last and I don’t want to lose it. I’ve sent the wife home to get the car.”

DNA Advances Link Edinburgh Rapist to Third Attack on Women
An Edinburgh woman who was assaulted in the street when she was a teenager has discovered her assailant went on to attack two others.  Jenna Pike was 16 when a man approached her from behind, attacked her and squeezed her throat until she started to black out.   Nine years later, advances in DNA technology have linked her attack to two others.  The man went on to sexually assault one woman and rape another in 2015.  Ms Pike has waived her anonymity in a bid to help trace the man responsible for the attacks.  She told BBC Scotland she was coming home from a party in the early hours of 28 October 2012 when she heard someone behind her.  She said: "It was the road I walk home all the time. I became aware of a man about six feet behind me.   Thinking I was just blocking the road, I stepped aside and I guess I ruined his plan to surprise me.  The next thing I knew he had spun me round, pulled me to the ground and put his hands around my throat trapping my arms and my hands so I couldn't pull him off me and started putting pressure on my neck to the point where I was blacking out."   She was not sexually assaulted but since then has been unable to walk alone day or night. No one has ever been charged for the crime.   Now in her 20s, she considers herself "lucky" her attacker suddenly stopped and ran off.   Earlier this year, police in the capital made social media appeals for information as part of a renewed investigation into the 2015 incidents.  A 21-year-old woman was sexually assaulted in Craiglockhart Quadrant on 5 August that year and, just over three weeks later, a 19-year-old woman was raped in the Newmills Road area.   Jenna Pike was attacked in Colinton Road. All three are in the south-west of Edinburgh.   After seeing the appeals, Ms Pike contacted police.    She said: "I read it and just thought this area is similar, the situation with it being a lone female and then one male and I thought the age and description was so similar and I thought I might waste someone's time - but I might not.   It turned out they hadn't made that connection and it subsequently was the same male who had committed a further two assaults."  In the wake of the sentencing of Sarah Everard's killer, Wayne Couzens and public anger surrounding her murder, Ms Pike is asking women to come forward if they have experienced similar attacks in a bid to trace her attacker.   "I want to encourage anybody else who has been in a similar situation to phone in, check and make sure it isn't the same person. If you didn't report it then, report it now," she said.  "It helps us get an understanding of what this guy's been up to. Two-and-a-bit years is a long time to not have done anything and it makes me really concerned whether he has gone on to do more. Because it is definitely an escalation from what happened to me to his last attack."  She is concerned that other women could also have been victims of his who have not come forward.  She said: "I wasn't affected as badly as the other two women. I guess I will never know if that was his end goal or whether he was just seeing how far he could push a human but I was let go of, he let me go and he walked back up the road like nothing had happened."  She made this appeal: "Maybe there's a niggle in the back of your mind, someone has said something to you at some point that didn't quite click then, but is making you think about it now. Maybe a family member you know wasn't always around in the middle of the night as he seemed to enjoy a late-night walk and just women in general if something has happened to you whether you think it's related to this or not, report it now.   It makes me annoyed more so that he has lived his life scot-free. He is not worried. It makes me concerned that he could be in a relationship, he could have a child even. He is capable of anything.   Detectives have a full DNA profile of the suspect thanks to more sensitive testing systems and the ability to test smaller amounts of material. Samples taken at the time were retested and the 2012 attack was linked to the two three years later. His profile has not been matched on any databases so far.  Det Insp Jon Pleasance, the investigating officer for the renewed inquiries, said: "I want to sincerely thank Jenna for bravely speaking out.  Using advanced DNA technology we've been able to review the forensics from Jenna's case and determine that these attacks are all linked.   It's incredibly concerning that the man responsible was targeting lone women as far back as 2012, especially given what we know now.  It leads me to believe, due the proximity of these incidents, that the answer may very well lie in the local community.    Anyone who can help is strongly asked to come forward, no matter how small the information or their concerns may seem. We have the ability to very quickly rule people out of our investigation."

Residents Left Terrified As Masked Car Thieves Target Scots Housing Estate
Residents of a West Lothian housing estate have been left shaken after a pair of masked car robbers lurked around the area before stealing a vehicle from a man's driveway.  According to Edinburgh Live, Matt Stokes, 30, awoke to find his car gone from outside his Whitburn home in the early hours of Tuesday October 5.  Posting to a neighbourhood community page, he said: "Broken into last night... Car stolen.  Not exactly sure what time but I'd guess 3/4am. Back door glass smashed and let themselves in.  "If anyone has CCTV footage of a white golf R being taken last night or suspicious people on McGregor Crescent/Coilery Lane that'd be great."  Matt's white Volkswagen Golf R was nabbed from the front of his home at approximately 3.10am, after he awoke to some noise outside.  Speaking to Edinburgh Live, Matt said: "I'd gone to bed at midnight and woke during the night after hearing a noise.   We have two young cats who tend to make noise at night so i'd gone back to sleep as it sounded like nothing more than a picture frame being knocked over.  "We [Matt and his girlfriend Chloe] woke up at 06.30 and quickly found that our back door glass has been smashed, and my car keys and car stolen along with a purse and a wallet.  The police were called and they turned up about 0730 and spent the rest of the morning knocking on doors, taking forensic evidence and searching local towns and villages.  Multiple neighbours have come forward with footage of a pair of masked men walking around the heartlands development around 3am, trying car and house doors. "  In the footage sent in by Craig Merritt of the same estate, two figures can be seen walking around the estate and trying car doors, keeping their faces covered at all times.  Not long after this video was captured by a security system, the two unknown thieves broke into Matt's home and stole his car.   Matt believes the reasoning behind his car being stolen is a factor of two things: where his house is situated, and the value of his vehicle.  He continued: "Unfortunately as my house was on a bend it's not covered by any neighbours cameras, which might be another reason for choosing it.  It's a high spec/performance car, which is probably why it was chosen - VW Golf R, It's white with black roof, wing mirrors and wind deflectors, and may now be on false plates, but the original plate was VU69 FKX."    The police are investigating this incident, and Matt has been told they have a lead onto where his car is headed.  On the response of the community, Matt is overwhelmed with the support he has received from surrounding neighbours, who all want to help catch the perpatrators.  Matt added: "It's something I've been aware of but through luck it's always seemed like it's never happened to anyone I've known personally.  But now that it's happened to me I've been really impressed with how the local community has responded, the first post I put up was filled with cctv from residents, and a post later on with photos of the car had more than a thousand shares in the space of 12 hours.    I've been bombarded with messages suggesting places to look, some of which have been followed up by the police although so far it just seems to be similar cars."  Back in August 2021, police appealed for information after there were a spate of car thefts in the area of Linlithgow, West Lothian, and appealed once more on October 3 as more vehicles were stolen in the same town.

Why A Hebridean WW2 Airstrip Was "Ploughed Up"

Sand and gravel on a World War Two airstrip in the Inner Hebrides has been ploughed up for the benefit of wild birds.   RAF Tiree on an area called the Reef on the Isle of Tiree was a base for aircraft and crews carrying out maritime patrol and meteorological flights.   The disused old concrete strip and taxi ways, along with the surrounding coastal grassland, has since become a "haven" for ground-nesting wading birds, according to RSPB Scotland.  However, the sand and gravel laid 20 years ago over the airstrip to create a better nesting habitat had recently become overgrown and less favourable to the birds.  RSPB Scotland had a tractor brought in from the neighbouring Isle of Coll.   The tractor was used to pull an implement called a cultivator over the top of the airstrip to break up the vegetation and bring the sand and gravel back to the surface.   RSPB Scotland said the work had restored the strip to a "perfect" habitat.   Tiree's birdlife includes oystercatcher, ringed plover, lapwing and snipe.   This work forms part of Life 100% For Nature, a project funded by the Life Programme of the European Union, NatureScot and RSPB Scotland.   The Reef was requisitioned by the Ministry of War in 1940 for the construction of an air station.  RAF Tiree opened in 1941 and during its time served as a base for anti-submarine aircraft, a Polish air squadron and crews that flew out over the Atlantic to take weather measurements.

Whisky Firm Loses Legal Fight Over Tomatin Name
A whisky producer has failed in a legal bid to stop a hotel developer from using the name of a Highland village in its branding.  Tomatin Distillery was opposed to The Tomatin Trading Company also using the name of the village.    The distillery's owners argued it amounted to an infringement of its trademarks.   But a Court of Session judge has decided the public would know they were different businesses.  In a written judgement Lady Wolffe said: "The relevant public, who will be consumers of Scotch whisky, will appreciate that the defender's sign (Tomatin Trading) is used in relation to different goods and services than those offered by the pursuer (the distillery)."   The whisky firm produces the Tomatin single malt and has a visitor centre at its distillery in the small village near Inverness.   It has used the village's name in its branding since 1963, and in 2018 began using it for other products and properties.    Tomatin Trading owns a plot of land close to the distillery.   It was granted permission for a development in 2018, which includes a hotel, farm shop, restaurant and petrol station.
In 2019 it filed a trademark application with the UK Intellectual Property seeking to register a sign, which included the word Tomatin.

Caithness and Sutherland Named As One of Scotland's Top Six Business Hotspots
The north has been confirmed as Scotland's entrepreneurial hotspot after a survey revealed the Highlands and the North East dominate a list of Scottish Parliamentary constituencies with the highest number of businesses.  As part of its campaign to find Scotland’s best smaller firms, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has revealed which MSPs have the largest local business communities.   While Edinburgh Central and Glasgow Kelvin topped the FSB list, seven of the top 10 constituencies in terms of number of local firms are in the Highlands or the North East.   Three of these constituencies are in the Highland Council area: Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, which came fifth on the list with 4910 businesses, followed by Caithness, Sutherland and Ross with 4715, while Inverness and Nairn was in eighth place with 4255 firms.   Caithness, Sutherland and Ross MSP Maree Todd welcomed the findings.  “The SNP Government have been determined to create a successful and supportive business environment where the whole of Scotland – rural or urban – is a place for small, independent businesses. I’m delighted to see this reflected in the list of Scottish business hotspots, where Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, along with many Highland constituencies, rank high," she said.   “As a constituency, Caithness, Sutherland and Ross faces a unique and diverse set of challenges, but our local business economy is resilient and innovative, creating the perfect environment for small businesses to grow and flourish.”   Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “Raised in the Highlands and now with a Highland constituency – the largest and in some ways most fragmented in Scotland – I am well aware of the vital roles that small, independent businesses play both in their local economies and communities and within Scotland as a whole.  Anyone who thinks that there’s no point – that winners always come from the south – should perhaps consider why it is that the FSB’s last two UK Small Businesses of the Year have both come from the Highlands; in fact from my constituency!  We need more Highlands and Islands winners and there’s all to play for, so please give it some thought.”  The last two UK-wide winners have been Fort Augustus-based Cruise Loch Ness, who won UK Small Business of the Year 2019, and Woodlands Glencoe who beat more than 3100 entrants to scoop the accolade in 2020.   The figures have been collated ahead of FSB’s Celebrating Small Business Awards 2022, which have seen the UK’s overall winners come from Scotland for the last two years. The awards are free to enter and open to members and non-members alike.  There are 12 categories for the Scotland-leg of the awards: international, sustainability, micro business, start-up business, high growth business, family, young entrepreneur (aged 30 and under), wellbeing, community award, business product and innovation, self-employed or sole trader, and digital and e-commerce.    Winners will go on to compete at the UK final in May 2022 in Glasgow.   The Federation of Small Businesses’ Highlands and Islands development manager, David Richardson, said: “We know both from our own research and from that of others that people in the Highlands and Islands are more entrepreneurial than in any other Scottish region and that the Highlands is home to Scotland’s two most entrepreneurial towns: Ullapool and Newtonmore. In these uncertain times we should be brightening our lives by celebrating success, and there is no better way for businesses to do so than by entering our FSB Awards.  This region has always punched way above its weight, and we hope to do so again at the 2022 FSB Awards final.”  Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said: “After such a tough year for all, we’re excited to celebrate the achievements of Scotland’s small business community.   “Across the length and breadth of Scotland, local and independent businesses play a key role. We’re on the hunt for firms who demonstrate the best of this vital sector.    The North of Scotland really has a formidable record when it comes to these awards. Could another UK-wide winner come from this patch?”   Kevin O’Toole, managing director of headline sponsor Sky Connect, said: “The resilience, innovation and creativity that small business owners have shown over the last 12 months is awe-inspiring.   At Sky Connect our mission is to help small businesses succeed, stay connected to their customers and bounce back even stronger post-pandemic. We’re thrilled to become headline sponsor of FSB’s Celebrating Small Business Awards and help recognise and celebrate their vast achievements.”   Scottish businesses have until February 13 2022 to lodge their awards application at fsbawards.co.uk

Does Johnson's Vision Work for Scotland's Tories?
The Scottish Conservatives consolidated second place at Holyrood in May's election, but the party faces questions about its future purpose as Boris Johnson's "levelling up" project reshapes its very foundations.   Do the Tories simply want to frustrate the SNP in opposition, or progress their own policies? And having kept Mr Johnson away from the Holyrood campaign, have they now signed up to his bid to cut into Labour's working class base?  The Scottish Conservatives have carved out a comfortable position for themselves as a foil to the SNP. This started in the wake of the independence referendum, when they cemented themselves as the party of No even as the issue started to pull Scottish Labour apart.   The continuing prevalence of binary constitutional debates and tactical voting has suited them fine, just as it has suited the SNP - who are far happier with the Tories as their primary rival.  Having consolidated second place in Scotland, what do the Tories intend to do now?  Douglas Ross has said his ambition is to one day be first minister of Scotland. This may seem a bold statement, but his party actually has more seats now (31) than the SNP did in the term immediately prior to taking office in 2007 (27).   The Tories have a reasonable clutch of target seats, having finished in second place in seven constituencies with a majority of under 10% in May. By that measure, they actually have a more realistic path to making gains than Labour does.   So it is entirely possible that the Conservatives could make gains in future Holyrood elections. However, this doesn't necessarily mean they could actually govern.  When the SNP did so as a minority administration, Alex Salmond bodged together deals with other parties to get his budgets passed - ironically, including the Conservatives. Conversely, there would seem to be few suitors to do a deal with Mr Ross.   Labour would only be undermining their own aspirations to take power at Westminster; the Lib Dems were badly burned by the 2010-15 coalition; and relations with the Greens are at an all-time low after Mr Ross wrote them off as "extremists".  So what are the Scottish Tories going to do at Holyrood, going forward?  Nicola Sturgeon often accuses the party of indulging in "opposition for opposition's sake", of opportunistically planting their flag in direct contradiction to whatever position she has taken.   Given the deal with the Greens has handed the government a majority, there may be little left for the opposition to do but heckle from the side-lines. Mr Ross certainly seems to delight in needling Ms Sturgeon at her weekly question sessions.  That said, the party has set out a range of domestic legislation it would like to see passed, with a "right to recovery" bill to get drug addicts into treatment swiftly top of the pile.  Others proposals include bread and butter Tory policies, like a bill defending local councils from centralisation, along with some politicking, like one aimed at sacking disgraced MSPs named after Derek Mackay.  However, there is little chance of any of it happening if the party settles into the admittedly comfortable position of opposition rabble-rousing. There will need to be some effort to build bridges if the Tories are to progress their domestic agenda.   The most glaring question for the Scottish Tories is that of Boris Johnson.  The party opted to keep him as far away from Scotland as possible during May's election campaign, given the prime minister's generally poor personal popularity ratings north of the border.   This contrasts sharply with the images projected from the Tory conference, where delegates hung on Mr Johnson's every gag. It was a reminder that he rose to lead the party because he makes it feel good about itself.  It is not clear if this devotion extends to the Scottish membership - more than half of the party's MSPs preferred Jeremy Hunt for the leadership in 2019 - or the electorate more widely.   But more fundamentally, there is a question about Mr Johnson's mission to reshape the Conservative Party and its support base.   There has been much talk of the "levelling up" agenda, of targeting the "Red Wall" in the north of England and winning seats which had been held by Labour for generations.   This has come alongside questions about the ideology of conservativism itself, partly forced by the pandemic - is this a party which is happy to raise taxes and make hefty economic interventions, or one cut from more traditional small-government free marketeer cloth?   Whether this project translates north of the border will be a key test of whether the Scottish Tory revival is built on more than the Union flag and opposition to the SNP.  In a way, the challenge is easier for Mr Ross, given he is not in power. He doesn't need to make tough decisions about balancing the books and the various competing interests which make governing difficult.   However, it is notable that his speech at the Tory conference included claims that he leads "the party of working Scotland" and accusations that Nicola Sturgeon has become "detached from working class communities".   It was a naked pitch to former Labour voters - and a fairly brazen one given the current debate about Universal Credit and the cost of living - straight out of the Johnson playbook.   This suggests that despite the fact Mr Ross distanced himself from the prime minister before he had even ascended to leadership, having quit as a Scotland Office minister in May 2020, he may be happy enough to tread a similar path.So even if the prime minister remains absent from Tory campaigning north of the border, his influence still looms large in the party's approach.

Archaeological Dig At 'Brutal' Highland Clearances Sites

Archaeological digs have started at the sites of two Highlands townships cleared of all their residents by a landowner 200 years ago.   Dozens of families were forced to leave Inverlael and Balblair, near Ullapool, so the land could be turned over to sheep farming.   Ullapool Museum, which is leading the two-year community project, described the evictions as "brutal".   They came during the wider Highland Clearances.   The clearances saw hundreds of families moved off land by landowners to make way for large-scale sheep production or other agricultural uses.  Some families moved to other parts of Scotland, while others emigrated - many to Canada & Australia where their hardships continued.   Evictions could be violent, and communities were forced to give up homes and land where generations of people had lived and worked.  Landowner Sir George Steuart MacKenzie began clearing Inverlael and Balblair in the winter of 1819-20.   Stone from homes and beehive-shaped shelters called shielings are still visible in the area, some of which was later planted with trees.  Ullapool Museum said little was known of the "lost" communities, which were cleared within about five years.   The museum said historical records dated Inverlael to at least the 13th Century and, until the establishment of the village of Ullapool in 1788, it was described as "the largest settlement north of Dingwall".   As well as the archaeological excavations, which have involved Ullapool High School pupils, the project is examining archives for information on the townships.   Museum volunteers have been "painstakingly" gathering family genealogies for the past 20 years, which the new project will draw on.   But most of the little information that is known of the townships has been "preserved through oral tradition handed down through generation of local families", said the museum.  Project coordinator Helen Avenell said the hope was to find out who lived in the area and for how long.

Reversing the Clearances Bit by Bit
A new phase of Highland history is unfolding in Sutherland as land still owned by the family of the man blamed for the Highland Clearances is to be sold to descendants of those he evicted.  A community group has secured all of the funding it needs to buy 3,000 acres of crofting townships near Helmsdale on the far north-east of Scotland.   It is seen as a significant development for an area which still lives with the legacy of the decision by the infamous Duke of Sutherland two centuries ago to remove his tenants to make more money from sheep farming.   The English nobleman inherited the vast tracts of northern Scotland when he married and quickly set about making what he called "improvements".  He carried out extensive clearances between 1811 and 1820, with his factor Patrick Sellar personally supervising the eviction of any tenants who showed reluctance to leave.  About 15,000 people are thought to have been removed from the wider estates of the Sutherlands and the cleared dwellings were burned to prevent them being re-occupied.   The Strath of Kildonan bore the initial brunt of his brutal decision and the townships to which many residents were cleared now form part of the buyout deal.   Many of those who were evicted left to seek a new life in Scottish cities or overseas.   However, others were cleared to the less fertile, exposed ground closer to the coast such as at Portgower and West Helmsdale.   A statue in nearby Helmsdale, called The Emigrants, is dedicated to those driven out of the hills by Sutherland.   It shows a bronze couple and their children. The father is looking out to sea and the mother is looking back to the hills they are leaving behind.   While many of the cleared left Scotland, others tried to make a living in the crofting townships, which are included in the buyout deal.   Two centuries on, descendants of those cleared are on the verge of an historic purchase of land at the centre of the struggle.  Anne Fraser, one of those driving the purchase of the croft land, said: "For me personally because I can trace my ancestors back to people who were cleared off the strath back into this area, it's really significant, and it's quite emotive as well.  There are still lots of people living in the community who have that connection so I think they see it as finally getting something back."   The townships of Marrel and Gartymore are also included in the buyback deal, which has been made possible with private funds as well as the £273,000 of public money awarded from the Scottish Land Fund. Ms Fraser hopes that more development and prosperity will flow from taking the land into public hands.   She says: "We are designated as a fragile area. We are part of the social deprivation stats because we are seen as being a poor place so the opportunity to have the land and develop it into something that is useful for the community so we can attract people back into the area, I think that is massive for the whole place, including the village.  "So it is not just about the crofting areas, it is much wider than that."  This latest land purchase is all the more symbolic because it was offered for sale by the Sutherland family, descendants of the landlords who sparked the Highland clearances.  Esther Macdonald, whose family were also cleared, says she hopes the first east coast purchase of its kind will create a new sense of belonging and ownership for those living on and working the land.  She says: "I'm looking at the hill and thinking how great it would be for our forefathers to come back now and see that we are being able to purchase the land.   "I feel so strongly about this area because it is in my blood. I love this area. It is just part of me and it feels right."  The physical scars of the Highland Clearances still remain today in the abandoned hillside settlements of the Strath of Kildonan.

Job Vacancies Rise As Candidate Numbers 'Plummet', Says RBS Report
Job vacancies are nearing an all-time high and Scotland has seen a surge in employment despite warnings that the number of candidates has "plummeted".   The Royal Bank of Scotland's report on jobs recorded the third-sharpest growth of new appointments on record.  But the survey of businesses in September found the second-fastest decline of applicants for permanent jobs since records began in 2008.   Firms cited Brexit and pandemic uncertainty as the key factors.   Candidates for temporary jobs decreased for the seventh consecutive month, although the decline slowed from the substantial drop in August, according to the bank's report.   Starting salaries for people in new jobs and the hourly rate for temporary workers both rose once again, although so did the rate of inflation.  The industries with the highest rate of vacancies were the IT and computing sectors, followed by engineering and construction, and then the accountancy and financial sectors.  Meanwhile, the hotel and catering industries had the fastest rise in demand for temporary staff, followed by IT and computing.  Sebastian Burnside, chief economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland, said: "Scotland saw a further rapid uplift in hiring activity during September, with the rates of increase in both permanent placements and temp billings easing only slightly from the all-time records seen in August.  This rounded off a third quarter of unprecedented hiring activity as the Scottish labour market continues to rebound.  Meanwhile, vacancies for both short-term and permanent staff rose at near-record rates during September, but recruiters widely reported skills shortages as the supply of candidates continued to plummet."   Mr Burnside added that these shortages were likely to become more pronounced over the coming months, possibly posing "significant challenges" for companies hoping to fill roles and expand their operations.

Airlines Asked to Tender for Lifeline Wick Flights

Airlines have been invited to bid for a contract to resume lifeline flights from Wick John O'Groats Airport.   Services to Edinburgh and Aberdeen were withdrawn last year after the Covid-19 pandemic hit the airlines industry.    Communities and local politicians called for the connections to be reintroduced.   In February, the Scottish government said up to £4m would be made available over the next four years to subsidise services.   Highland Council hopes an airline or airlines will take up the contract, which has been put out to tender.  An initial business case to prove the requirement for the public service obligation (PSO) routes was developed by Caithness Chamber of Commerce.   The business organisation received funding from Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, the operators of the former Dounreay nuclear power complex near Thurso, to help put together the case.   The nuclear industry has been funding projects set up in Caithness and neighbouring parts of Sutherland to create new employment opportunities to lessen the blow of the winding down and eventual closure of Dounreay.  PSO routes involve government subsidies and require the airline or company involved to provide a set level of services. The arrangement is used for flights serving the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland.  Highland Council said Caithness and Sutherland formed the "most peripheral part of mainland UK", with geographical challenges to connections with the rest of Scotland and wider UK.  Journey time by road from Wick to Aberdeen is more than four hours and it is five hours to Edinburgh.   Flights from the Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd-owned airport at Wick to Aberdeen take about 35 minutes and about an hour to Edinburgh.  Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson said: "We are looking to launch the flights at the beginning of next spring and have tried not to be too prescriptive as we are encouraging bidders to come up with their own ideas on how they can best provide the service."  Trudy Morris, chief executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said the flights would play a "vital role" in area's recovery from the pandemic.

'Some People Find it Very Unusual That I Speak Gaelic'
Gaelic speakers of African and Caribbean descent have shared their experiences of the language in a new BBC Alba documentary.  Glaswegian student and musician Cass Ezeji says some people she meets think it is unusual she is fluent in Gaelic and also has African heritage. Her paternal grandfather is Nigerian.   Growing up, Cass went to the Glasgow Gaelic School, Sgoil Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu, which teaches at both primary and secondary school levels.   Cass' parents, who do not speak Gaelic, chose the school because they thought she would get a good education there.  But Cass says she felt "a little lost" in immersive Gaelic-medium education, and among peers whose families were from the Highlands and Islands - the Western Isles are Gaelic's "heartland".  She says she argued with her mum about having to go to the school, and even felt angry about it.   The 27-year-old says: "The impression I had when I left school was that I didn't feel part of the Gaelic world.  But she says she has since gained an appreciation of her education and describes herself as an Afro-Gael.   Through making the documentary, which also examines racism and Scotland's historical links with the slave trade, Cass met other women of African and Caribbean descent who are also Gaelic speakers.   They include Amina Davidson, a traditional musician who lives in the Partick area of Glasgow.   During the first lockdown last year, she joined her neighbour Robert Robertson - singer with the Scottish band Tide Lines - in singing the Gaelic song Teann a-Nall from the windows of their tenements to entertain other residents. A video of the performance on social media went viral.   The singer says she enjoys being part of the traditional Scottish and Gaelic music scene, adding: "It's a small, friendly world which I enjoy.  "Everyone knows one another and there are lots of traditional musicians in this area where I live."  Tawana Maramba, of Tranent, East Lothian, is a student and Gaelic singer.  Her parents are from Zimbabwe and they raised her to speak their Shona language, but also encouraged her interest in other languages and placed her in a Gaelic-medium education primary school.  She says:  "That was so good in primary school because it meant that we spoke Gaelic every day."    Tawana now teaches Gaelic singing and participates at the Royal National Mod, the annual celebration of the language and culture.
Comment
I feel so good about this to learn that my old school is still going strong.  In my day it was known as Woodside Senior Secondary, was the only Public school to teach Gaelic, we also had the first Gaelic school choir south of the Highland Line.  I had a treble voice in those days until my voice broke Oh Cuimhneachain Cuimhneachain o chionn fhada
Robin


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