Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 625

Issue # 625                                             Week ending Saturday 23rd  October 2021
That Surprise Movie About Asylum Seekers on A Wee Island is A Twist on "Hasta La Visa, Baby."  by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Colder weather is here for the next few months, if the forecasters are to be believed. Their predictions about bad weather are more accurate than when they tell us it is going to be sunny. Instead, we are getting hail, wind and a white Christmas. Yeah right, heard that before. Until the end of January, it is going to be bitterly cold in Scotland, they say. That’s nonsense. It’ll probably be the end of March.

Then we are on to the military months of 2022. Can February March? No, but April May.

The nights are getting longer so there’s a tendency to spend too long in front of the box. I’ve an extra jumper on, the electric fire on, Question Time on and I begin to yawn. Yawning is not related to your age, despite what some younger people think. It is better explained by comparing it to technology. Yawning is just your body’s way of saying you have 10% battery left.

Despite the notoriously unpredictable Hebridean weather, we’ve had a lot of visitors as in previous years. OK, maybe not so many last year. Back in 2018, a lot of visitors came to Uist - some of them to make a movie. They were making an unusual comedy flick called Limbo. Well, it isn’t about dancing under a low bar, if that’s what you mean. It is about migrants on an island because they are left in limbo waiting for their asylum claims to be assessed.

When filmmaker Ben Sharrock heard that Syrian refugees were settling here on Lewis, he decided not to make this film in Iceland, as planned, but in the Western Isles. It is all about Omar, a young musician with potential. With his Syrian family elsewhere, he is stuck on this fictional Hebridean island. In the film, he is surrounded by very good-looking extras who look suspiciously like Uist people.

Played by Amir El-Masry, a star in the making who has made being sullen into an art form. He seems born to the part. Not everyone can pull off every type of character. I once got a part in a version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It wasn’t the one I wanted. I wasn’t happy.

Sad Omar is in the middle of grim and funny events despite the serious situation he’s in. The reviews of his performance, and of the movie itself, are fantastic.

Limbo was to have had its premier at the Cannes Film Festival last year but it was cancelled because of some virus or other. Still, it won three awards at the Cairo Film Festival, including the coveted Golden Pyramid award. You can see Limbo yourself for free if you subscribe to MUBI, a streaming service - like an indie version of Netflix. It’s about a tenner a month but the first week is free so remember to cancel on day six if you wish to keep your spondulaks. Trailers of Limbo are also on Youtube.

As shooting began on North Uist, Limbo was plagued by bad weather. Soon they were rained off. Starting a day and then cancelling was very expensive as everyone still had to be paid for that day. A local production assistant suggested they ask old Katag in the wee cottage if it was going to rain.

She had the buisneachd, the second sight, and could predict the weather, locals claimed. So the producer decided to visit her. No sooner did he knock on the door than Katag came out, looked up to the sky and announced: “Tha uisge trom faisg air làimh, a ghraidh.”

The assistant translated for him that Katag was predicting heavy rain on the way, so the following day’s planned shooting was cancelled. Sure enough, it pelted down. That night, he went and asked her again. Katag scanned the sky and she said: “Tioram a-màireach, a ghràidh.” That meant it would be dry tomorrow, so the producer planned a full day’s filming and, sure enough, it was perfectly dry until they were packing up for the day.

The producer was incredibly impressed. That night, he knocked on her cottage door again with a present of cake and a half-bottle of something warming for Katag. She came out, sheepishly, looked upwards to the heavens and shook her head as she mumbled in Gaelic. Puzzled, the director asked: “What did Katag say? Is it going to rain tomorrow?”

His assistant said: “She doesn’t know. It seems the batteries on her radio have gone flat.”

John Kerry Says Glasgow COP26 is the 'Last Best Hope for the World'
America's climate envoy John Kerry says the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow is the "last best hope for the world to get its act together".  Mr Kerry told the BBC that key countries were pursuing policies that border on being "very dangerous".   He said that if greenhouse gas emissions were not reduced enough over the next nine years there was no chance of meeting long-term targets.   The aim is to hold the rise in the earth's temperature to 1.5C.   Scientists have said that would require global carbon emissions to fall by 45% from 2010 levels by the end of this decade.   But apart from a brief period during Covid-19 lockdowns, emissions are still rising.   China, the world's biggest emitter, will be key to any hopes of a strong outcome at COP26, when it is held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.   Leaders and delegates from around the world will attend the summit, including Mr Kerry and US President Joe Biden.  Mr Kerry has previously said the US will push for rapid action after four years of "reckless behaviour" under previous President Donald Trump.   He said the US would now move forward with "humility and ambition" in the global negotiations.   A former presidential candidate, Mr Kerry has long been a powerful voice in climate politics. As President Obama's Secretary of State he played a key role in securing the Paris agreement in 2015.   The US Special Envoy on Climate Change told BBC Radio 4 documentary Glasgow: Our last best hope? that there were a lot of big promises without the necessary action.   "The truth is emissions are going up around the world, not down in enough countries, and key countries are pursuing policies that border on being very dangerous for everybody."   Mr Kerry has previously called on China to increase the speed and depth of its efforts to cut carbon.   China has promised to peak emissions by 2030 - but the US diplomat said that was not good enough.  "If you don't reduce enough between 2020 and 2030 the scientists tell us we can't get where we need to go. We will not be able to hold the earth's temperature rise to 1.5 degrees and we won't be able to achieve net zero by 2050."  Mr Kerry said he wanted Glasgow to raise the ambition of the 20 major economies in the world.   He said he would be looking for definite road-maps to net zero and money to help less developed countries also reach their goals without suffering economic hardship.   Mr Kerry called this the "greatest test of global citizenship" he could think of.  "Glasgow is coming at a point where these scientists have told us we have about nine years remaining within which to make the most critical decisions. Those decisions have got to really start in earnest and in a significant sum in Glasgow.   We have to get on the road here and we've been talking about it for 30 years.  So this is really what Glasgow is about, the last best hope to do what the scientists tell us we must which is to avoid the worst consequences of climate by making decisions now and implementing them now."

Four in Hospital After Explosion Destroys Ayr House
Two adults and two children have been taken to hospital after an explosion shook a South Ayrshire housing estate.   Local people reported hearing an explosion in the Kincaidston area of Ayr just after 19:00 on Monday.    Police said four homes were affected by the blast. Witnesses said at least one of the terraced homes was destroyed, with those on either side also damaged.    Scottish Gas Networks said they were ensuring the site around the "serious explosion" was made safe.   The area surrounding the explosion was evacuated, with two local rest centres set up to provide shelter to those that needed it.   Inquiries are ongoing to establish the cause of the explosion.    The fire service said nine appliances and specialist resources including an air ambulance had been sent to the scene.    A man who lives about 100m from the explosion site told the BBC his whole house shook with the force of the blast.  Kerr McCann was one of the first on the scene. He was arriving home when saw a "massive plume of fire" in the sky, over a few houses.   He said: "Immediately after I felt a big bang. I knew it was an explosion. I was in the army so I know what explosions are.   I ran up, about a quarter of a mile away... There was fire in the back garden and pretty much in where the house was.    The house was not where it was, it was scattered about the street."   Mr McCann said he and other people who had run to help were removed from the area for their own safety shortly after.    He added: "The whole house has disappeared, the gable end of the other house is opened up and there's cars with windows put in from the shrapnel.  "Passing the shop on the way back I heard people saying stuff came off the shelves from the explosion."    Caroline Finnett lives in Kincaidston, and was playing bingo at a friend's house when she heard a "massive bang".   She heard sirens and saw smoke billowing, so made her way back home. Her street was littered with broken roof tiles.    She told BBC Scotland: "We walked up to where the house has been blown away, and it was horrendous - was like something from a movie set. It was overwhelming.   Ms Finnett then took hot food to the community centre where those affected are sheltering, and offered up her spare room to anyone who needed it.   A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: "Four houses have been affected by the explosion.   Two adults and two children have been taken to Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock.   A number of premises have been evacuated and two local rest centres have been set up to assist.   Local road closures are in place and we would advise people to avoid the area at the present time."   

Boy, 16, Charged Over Glasgow Fatal Railway Station Stabbing
A 16-year-old boy has been charged in connection with the fatal stabbing of Justin McLaughlin in Glasgow.  The 14-year-old was wounded in an incident at High Street train station at about 15:45 BST on Saturday.   He was taken to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later.   Police confirmed the 16-year-old was due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday and that inquiries remained ongoing.   A dedicated police website has been set up to collect information about the incident.    James McParland, the headmaster at St Ambrose High School in Coatbridge where Justin was a pupil, said the community was "shocked and saddened" by the death.  "Justin was a valued member of our community and his loss will be felt by staff and pupils alike," he said.   "Our prayers and thoughts are with his family and friends, and additional pastoral support will be available to young people within the school on their return on Monday morning."   In an online tribute, the teenager's aunt, Maggie McLaughlin, said his family were "absolutely heartbroken".  She said he was the "biggest gentle giant" with "a smile that would take up the full world".   Coatbridge and Chryston MSP Fulton MacGregor said: "I am deeply shocked and saddened, as we all are, by the death of Justin McLaughlin and my thoughts are with Justin's family, friends and the school community of St Ambrose High School at this tragic time.   The community are grieving such a devastating loss of a young life with so much future ahead of him."   Niven Rennie, director of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, said the murder was "devastating" for all involved.  The unit approaches violence as a disease to be prevented, and has worked closely with partners in the NHS, education and social work.   Mr Rennie told BBC Scotland such incidents not only affect the victim's family but also the families of the individuals involved and those who witnessed the incident.  He said: "It is a tragic event and it is that ripple effect. That's why in Scotland we try and reduce that as much as we can.   "Our ultimate aim is to make Scotland the safest country in the world and there is still a lot of work ahead of us in that respect."

Covid in Scotland: Vaccine Passport Scheme Enforceable by Law
The Scottish government's vaccine passport scheme has become enforceable by law from Monday morning.  Nightclubs and large events, like some football matches, will only be able to allow entry to people who can show they have had two doses of a Covid vaccine.    The scheme came into effect on 1 October after MSPs voted to back the proposals.   Businesses were given a 17-day "period of grace" to allow venues time to test out their procedures.   People who have had two vaccines in Scotland can download or get a paper copy of a certificate with a QR code.   Everyone over the age of 18 must now show - if asked - that they have had both doses of the vaccine before they are allowed entry to certain venues and events. These include:  Nightclubs and "analogous venues";   Adult entertainment venues Unseated indoor events with more than 500 people, even if some are seated;   Unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 people;    Any event with more than 10,000 people in attendance.    The scheme requires venues to put in place a "reasonable system" to check the status of customers, with certain exemptions on medical grounds.   First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that the hospitality industry as a whole would not be included in the scheme, although that decision would be kept under review.    The government also said there would be no need for a vaccine passport to access public services or settings where people have no choice over attendance - such as shops, public transport, education and medical services.  Businesses say they have already experienced a "number of issues" with the scheme - including customers being unaware they need a passport to gain entry.    Leon Thompson, UK Hospitality Scotland director, said public awareness had been a "missing piece of the jigsaw".  He told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "Customers need to be ready, they need to play their part and they need to understand what they have. They will need to come with the right frame of mind and be ready to be patient if they encounter queues."   Mr Thomson added that the pandemic and Brexit had resulted in "chronic" shortages of door staff, which meant that checking people's vaccination status would remain a "key challenge" for businesses.   Responding to the public awareness issue, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf told the programme hundreds of thousands of people were using the scheme.    He said: "Over 700,000 have downloaded the app and well over 750,000 have a paper copy - of course some people who have a paper copy will also have the app so that's not necessarily unique users.   It says to me there are a number of people who have awareness. Where we can up the communication around this we have intentions to do so - we already have over the last two weeks."   In addition to the passport, a number of countries including Wales also require people to provide a negative test result before they can enter venues.   Asked whether the Scottish government would consider this measure, Mr Yousaf said they "wouldn't completely discount it", but were initially put off by people being able to give fake test results.   He said: "The reason we haven't started in that place is because there can be some flaws with unsupervised [lateral flow tests] - people can falsify an unsupervised LFD.    Therefore we think that the most robust system to have in place to launch with is a scheme that involves showing you are fully vaccinated. That will be part of the considerations we make in the three-weekly review cycle."  Public health expert Jillian Evans, of NHS Grampian, said Scotland was likely to have to live with the measure until the vaccination uptake was much higher, especially in younger people.    She told the BBC: "I think although it was announced as being the secondary purpose behind the vaccine passport, getting people vaccinated, I wonder if it was the primary reason.   Scotland's vaccination uptake has been increasing since August, it's really caught up with other UK countries, in fact Scotland and Wales have the highest rates of double dose vaccination uptake in the UK."   Ms Evans added that Scotland could not live with its current Covid rates and that she was "really worried" about how the NHS would cope over the winter period   She said: "We know also, in my own area in particular, the number of people admitted to hospital with symptoms is still increasing. That's counter to fallen case rates which suggests that we're not detecting as many people out there - we may be underestimating the number of people with the virus."    Problems were reported with the NHS Scotland Covid Status app after it was made available to download on Apple and Android devices on 30 September.    The Scottish government has insisted technical issues linking the app to the NHS system have since been ironed out.    The app allows people to register, using their passport or driving licence to verify their identity, and then creates a QR code for each vaccination.    It is similar to schemes used in other countries across Europe.   Scottish Labour's health spokesperson Jackie Baillie described the government's launch of the app as a "shambles".    She said: "If we want to control the virus we must look at proper resourcing of our test and protect system which has collapsed in recent weeks.   If we want to drive up vaccination we should be going door-to-door to convince those we know are hesitant and making it easier to just walk in for an appointment.   Instead, the government is doubling down on this mess."  Elsewhere in the UK, Wales plans to introduce its own Covid passport rules later this month but England has scrapped similar plans.  Northern Ireland has yet to announce a formal vaccination passport scheme.

Covid in Scotland: NHS Grampian Asks for Military Support
NHS Grampian has asked for military support as it tries to cope with staff shortages amid the Covid pandemic.  It is the latest health board in Scotland to ask for army assistance.  The request comes after news that the military will be drafted into Lanarkshire and the Borders to relieve pressure ahead of winter.   The health board confirmed a request for military support had been made and that it was waiting to hear back about the armed forces.   NHS Grampian will also interview more than 160 student nurses with a view to offering some of them places on its nursing bank, in a bid to alleviate staffing pressures.   Jillian Evans, head of health intelligence at NHS Grampian, earlier told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland she was "really worried" about how the NHS would cope over the winter period.   NHS Grampian's aim to interview the student nurses in the coming days for potential recruitment is in a bid to cope with the staff pressures being caused by a combination of Covid and leave.  

Great Tapestry Team to Design New Highlands Artwork
A team behind the making of The Great Tapestry of Scotland have taken a lead role in the creation of an embroidered artwork for the Highlands and Islands.   The new 52-panel tapestry will be a chronological history of the region and hand-stitched by local volunteers.  Members of the Great Tapestry's artistic and organisational team will develop and design the piece.    The Scotland-wide artwork - stitched by more than 1,000 people - is housed in a purpose-built gallery in Galashiels.    The team will work with Highland Council and arts and leisure venue operator High Life Highland on the new project.   The Highlands and Islands tapestry is expected to take two years to complete.   The finished piece will be exhibited at venues throughout the area before being put on permanent display at Inverness Castle, a former sheriff court which is being redeveloped as a visitor attraction.  Tourism Minister Ivan McKee said the tapestry would "bring to life the rich and remarkable history of the Highlands and Islands".   He added: "The project is also a chance to unite communities as they stitch together their stories of the past into our present, leaving a valuable legacy for the future."
The Great Tapestry of Scotland involves 160 panels and is more than 140m (450ft) long.  Author Alexander McCall Smith came up with the idea for the artwork and it was designed by artist Andrew Crummy.

COP26: Does A Climate Summit Need 25,000 People? And More Questions
It's two weeks until the start of the crucial COP26 climate summit in Glasgow - one of the biggest ever world meetings on how to tackle global warming.   But what's it all about? BBC News environment correspondent Matt McGrath answers some of your questions.
Does COP26 really need 25,000 people there? They will generate a lot of CO2, so why can't many elements be online?? - David, BirminghamA The pandemic might be seen as the perfect moment for the UN to use technology for negotiations, and it was attempted during a preparatory meeting for COP in June, which ran for three weeks.   Unfortunately, it didn't go well - time-zone and technology challenges made it almost impossible for countries with limited resources, progress was limited and decisions were put off.    As a result, many developing nations have insisted on having an in-person COP. They feel that it is far easier for their voices to be ignored on a dodgy Zoom connection.   They also bring a lived experience of climate change that it is critical for rich countries to hear first-hand.  There's some evidence that this works. In 2015, the presence of island states and vulnerable nations was key to securing the commitment to limit temperature changes to 1.5C in the Paris Agreement.   Why aren't the heads of state of China, India and Saudi Arabia attending COP26?? - Thomas Myett, Dorset A..   Making the attendance of presidents and prime ministers a key measure of success is dangerous for the organisers.   If President Xi, Prime Minister Modi and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman don't turn up, the risk is that the conference is declared a failure even before it starts.    But, in fairness to the organisers, decisions by leaders to travel to such events are often very last minute.   In the case of China, President Xi hasn't left the country since the start of the Covid pandemic.    Perhaps more of an issue is the fact all three countries have so far failed to submit updated carbon-cutting plans ahead of COP26.  This might be of ultimately greater importance than the presence or absence of their leaders.   How soon will we see action after COP26?? - Ryan Patrick Thorne, AtlantaA..  Barring a complete collapse in the talks, there are likely to be a range of tangible outcomes.  It's expected that more countries will announce they are moving away from using coal for energy. A growing number of nations will probably sign up to curb methane emissions.  There is set to be agreement on phasing out the internal combustion engine and on ending deforestation.    But don't expect to see to many overnight changes across the world as a result of these steps. They are all likely to have long lead-in times, with more flexibility on dates shown towards developing countries.    On the really big question of keeping the 1.5C temperature threshold within reach, the likelihood is that a significant gap will remain even after Glasgow.   What pressure will be put on the countries contributing the most to climate change?? - David Neil, Bolton. A..  It depends whether you mean the countries now contributing the most to carbon pollution, or the ones that have done so historically.    This difference is an important part of the delicate dance between the richer nations and emerging economies on climate change.    Under the terms of the Paris Agreement, those countries that have used fossil fuels the most over the past two centuries - the US and Europe - accept they will make the bigger cuts in the short term.    The larger developing nations that are now the biggest source of CO2 - chiefly China - accept they will make the bigger cuts in the longer term.  In the pact, all emitters - big and small - agreed to bring forward new and more ambitious carbon-cutting plans every five years.   There is only a moral pressure to improve your offer, and a degree of embarrassment if a country doesn't step up to the mark.    Glasgow will reveal whether this approach actually works.    How can we measure progress in climate-change adaptation? ?- Ian, Ontario, Canada.   A..Adaptation is the process of making changes to your country to cope with the impact of a changing climate.   It covers everything from developing better weather-warning systems to simple steps, such as building uphill refuges from potential floods.  For many years, the richer nations wanted the climate aid they provided to poorer nations to be focused on cutting carbon and not on adaptation.   But the reality of rising temperatures, and the impacts they are bringing across the world, mean that view has changed.    The UN is now calling for climate finance to be split 50-50 between adaptation and cutting carbon.    What's also new is the view that adaptation is no longer just a problem for poorer countries - witness the impact of the heatwave in Canada, or the floods in Germany this year.   So success in Glasgow on this issue will be measured not just by more money but by progress towards what's called the "global goal on adaptation".  However, right now, no-one is quite sure what that stands for or how the world should get there.   Getting some clarity on that at COP26 would be a big step forward.   The COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow in November is seen as crucial if climate change is to be brought under control. Almost 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut emissions, and it could lead to major changes to our everyday lives.    How much lobbying from multinational businesses, such as steel, concrete, gas and aviation, is going on behind the scenes?? - Jenny Paton-Williams, Edinburgh. A Representatives from steel, concrete and many other international businesses are usually represented at an event like COP26.   The UN also wants to encourage engagement from fossil-fuel industries and "carbon-heavy" corporations.   There are often questions about the scale of influence that these large companies have, especially when they can afford to send hundreds of delegates to the COP.   This never looks good when compared with developing countries, which may struggle to have any presence at all at this event.   However, environmental pressure groups are also out in force and are very sensitive to any attempts by multinational corporations to influence negotiators, and serve as a key line of defence.  As at previous COPs, they will be keeping tabs on both the numbers and actions of corporate representatives.    Who will be in the room when decisions are made? Will it be the global elite, elected representatives, or people that are going to feel the effects of climate change first?? - Ross Gibson, Dumfries. A..All of the above! The key lesson that was learned from previous attempts at agreement is that it's important to build broad coalitions of rich and poor.    Take the Kyoto Protocol, for example - signed in 1997, this was the world's first major attempt to restrict carbon.   However, it foundered from the start because it wasn't inclusive - only the developed countries had to cut carbon, and there was a feeling that a narrow group of rich countries essentially decided the terms for everyone.    The Paris Agreement was built on input from the Western powers, such as the US and EU nations, but also from the most vulnerable countries, such as the Marshall Islands.   This broad-based "high-ambition coalition" helped broker the two key concepts of Paris - that every country, rich and poor, would take on commitments, and that the lower temperature threshold of 1.5C would be a viable target for the world to aim for.  So yes, there will be members of the political elite in the room, but there will also be representatives of the very poorest. Climate change affects all of us, and the consent of all is needed to tackle it effectively.

Covid: Vaccines '90% Effective' At Preventing Delta Variant Deaths
Vaccination is 90% effective at preventing deaths from the Delta variant of Covid-19, researchers say.  The data, released by the University of Edinburgh, was gathered using a Scotland-wide Covid surveillance tool.   Figures suggest the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 90% effective and the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab 91% effective at preventing deaths.   It looked at people who have been double-vaccinated but who have tested positive for Covid in the community.   The study is the first to show across an entire country how effective vaccines are at preventing death from the Delta variant, which is the most dominant form of Covid in the UK.   Researchers defined death from Covid as anyone who died within 28 days of a positive PCR test, or with Covid recorded as a cause of death on their death certificate.   The study analysed data from 5.4 million people in Scotland between 1 April and 27 September this year.   During this period, 115,000 people tested positive for Covid using a PCR test in the community, rather than in hospital, and there were 201 Covid-related deaths recorded.  No deaths have been recorded in those who have been double-vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine in Scotland, according to the data.  Researchers said it is therefore not possible to estimate this particular vaccine's effectiveness in preventing Covid-related deaths.  The research team from the University of Edinburgh, University of Strathclyde and Public Health Scotland analysed the dataset as part of the EAVE II project - Early Pandemic Evaluation and Enhanced Surveillance of Covid-19. It uses anonymised, linked-patient data to track the pandemic and the vaccine rollout in real time.  So far, 87.1% of adults in Scotland have taken a second dose of the Covid vaccine.  Third "booster" doses are being offered to everyone over 50, along with frontline medical staff and younger adults with some underlying health conditions.  Prof Aziz Sheikh, director of the University of Edinburgh's Usher Institute and EAVE II study lead, said: "With the Delta variant now the dominant strain in many places worldwide, and posing a higher risk of hospitalisation than previous variants seen in the UK, it is reassuring to see that vaccination offers such high protection from death very shortly after the second dose.  If you still have not taken up your offer to be vaccinated, I would encourage you to do so based on the clear benefits it offers."  Prof Chris Robertson, of the University of Strathclyde and Public Health Scotland, said: "This study shows the value of carrying out analyses of routine healthcare data available in near real-time.  Our findings are encouraging in showing that the vaccine remains an effective measure in protecting both ourselves and others from death from the most dominant variant of Covid-19."  He added that it was important to validate these early results with follow-up studies.  

COP26: Russia's Vladimir Putin Will Not Attend Climate Summit
Russia's President Vladimir Putin will not attend the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, the Kremlin said.   No reason was given for the decision not to attend, but a Kremlin spokesperson said climate change was an "important" priority for Russia.  COP26 takes place in Scotland's largest city from 31 October to 12 November.   Russia's decision is seen as a blow to efforts to get leaders to negotiate a new deal to stall rising global temperatures.  "Unfortunately, Putin will not fly to Glasgow," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, adding that climate change was "one of our foreign policy's most important priorities".  When asked about Mr Putin's decision, a spokesman for Boris Johnson said the UK prime minister had previously strongly encouraged leaders to attend "given this is a very critical moment in terms of tackling climate change".   More than 120 leaders had confirmed their attendance, the spokesman said.  Mr Putin has not commented on the announcement of his non-attendance. He had previously said he would take part, but it appears now that will be virtually.   Speaking at an international energy forum in Moscow on 13 October, Mr Putin said the coronavirus pandemic would be a factor in his decision to travel.   Russia has seen record levels of Covid-related deaths. On Wednesday, Mr Putin ordered a nationwide week-long paid holiday from 30 October to 7 November to try to reverse both the rising number of infections and vaccination hesitancy.  Chinese President Xi Jinping is also unlikely to attend COP26, though Chinese officials have reportedly not entirely ruled out a change of plans.   Earlier in October, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attracted widespread criticism for suggesting he might skip the summit, but he later announced that he would indeed attend.   COP26 is the biggest climate change conference since landmark talks in Paris in 2015. Some 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming, by 2030.   Reducing global warming is essential to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.  Many observers will be watching how Russia and other major fossil fuel producers will be willing to reduce their reliance on them.

Lewis Fabrication Yard Secures Black Sea Contract
A fabrication yard in the Western Isles has secured its first contract since being taken over by a new owner.  Workers at Arnish on Lewis will build four steel suction piles - anchors for an offshore energy project in the Black Sea.  The work is expected to last four and half months.   The yard's owner said it had bid for several more contracts and it expected work to "flow through" the yard in the coming months.  Harland and Wolff Group Holdings plc, formerly known as InfraStrata plc, took over Arnish and the former BifFab yard in Methil, Fife, in February.  BiFab was placed in administration in December last year after the company failed to win contracts to build platforms for offshore wind turbines.   The Scottish government had put £37m into BiFab in equity and loans, and had offered a further £15m loan facility in a bid to save jobs.  The new contract for Arnish involves manufacturing two 20m (66ft) long cylinder-shaped piles and two piles at 12m (39ft) in length.

Why is Scotland A Prime Rocket Launch Site?
A plan to expand Scotland's space industry has been unveiled by the Scottish government.   Among the aims of the Scottish Space Strategy is to build a network of satellite launch sites.  The Scottish government worked with enterprise agencies, industry group Space Scotland and the Scottish Space Academic Forum on the project.  It also includes an ambition to support the creation of a "green" space industry.   Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously committed to launching a space rocket from Scotland by 2022.   In 2020, planning permission was secured to build a space port at the Moine Peninsula in Sutherland.   But Scotland has a number of regions which look attractive to aerospace companies for development.   A consortium revealed plans to build the UK's first vertical launch site at Scolpaig, North Uist, following months of investigations.  When looking to build a spaceport, the UK considered both horizontal and vertical launch sites.   Like their names suggest, horizontal launch sites fire rockets at a gradual angle - similar to what you would see at an airport.    Prestwick Airport, for example, has sought interest from companies in carrying out horizontal space launches from its 2,986-metre concrete case runway.  The airport also cites its "coastal take-offs, favourable weather conditions and excellent transport connections" among the factors which make it an ideal launch spot.  A vertical launch pad, as the name suggests, is one which enables rockets to be fired directly upwards into space.  There are key criteria which are necessary for a site to be considered for this.  They revolve around the orbits of the rockets - principally known as polar and sun synchronous orbits (SSO).  An SSO is where it passes over any given point on the Earth's surface at the same local solar time. A polar orbit is one that passes over polar regions, especially one whose plane contains the polar axis.    Scotland contains sites with the best access to polar and SSO orbits without flying over land inhabited by humans.    Three key areas emerged when the government was looking into this - Scolpaig in North Uist, the Moine Peninsula in Sutherland and Saxa Vord in Shetland.  Scolpaig and Moine set out business cases to Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to argue why they would be the best home for the UK Space Agency's new vertical launch pad.  Saxa Vord missed out on the bidding process, but US aerospace company Lockheed Martin has approval from the UK Space Agency to push ahead with plans for site in Shetland.  Members of the British Interplanetary Society concluded it would be feasible to launch from Scotland by means of an SSO or polar orbit.   The most efficient method would be a direct ascent route - one where the trajectory does not fly over, or close to, an inhabited area of land as potential falling debris could be a risk to life.   Spacecrafts would need to perform a dog-leg manoeuvre to avoid inhabited regions, such as the Faroes or Iceland.  They would also need to avoid any "active oil and gas exploration area" - which includes the dozens of oil rigs stationed in the North Sea.    In July 2018, the UK Westminster government decided that the Moine peninsula bid was the best option.  The £17.5m facility - called Space Hub Sutherland - is expected to be used for launching small satellites and was initially granted £2.5m from the UK Space Agency.  In August last year, Highland Council granted HIE planning permission for the site and for up to 12 satellite launches a year. The Scottish government did not call-in the local authority's decision for further consideration, clearing the way for the project to complete its journey through the planning process.  It faced a legal challenge from billionaires Anders and Anne Holch Povlsen, who own land near the proposed space port and are among more than 400 objectors to the plans.   They had concerns about its impact on vulnerable protected areas. Their company Wildland Ltd went to court to seek sought a judicial review of Highland Council's planning approval.  However, the challenge was unsuccessful and the judge said he was "not persuaded" that the local authority had erred in law.  In 2019, Western Isles local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar began working with the Ministry of Defence contractor QinetiQ and others on plans for a space port at Scolpaig in North Uist.

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 This program is no longer available following Robins Resignation as Presenter, Creator of SDU and indeed from 2RRR.   He felt that he could no longer work for or with an organisation that has shown itself to have an unscrupulous, unprincipled back stabbing cabal at Board level who were happy to lie, betray and get rid of a fellow Board member in order to gain power.   He resigned on Monday 18th October 2021 deeply regretting disappointing his many listeners in Sydney and Regional NSW, Canberra, Victoria and Queensland.  These supporters are in addition to listeners dotted across the Hebrides and Scottish mainland.  

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