Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 626

Issue # 626                                          Week ending Saturday 30th  October 2021
In A Roundabout Way, I Am Saying to Scalpay Drivers to Drive on the Left by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Roundabouts are ingenious feats of civil engineering. They avoid the need to wait at lights when there’s no traffic coming the other way. An absolutely fantastic invention that puts John Peake Knight’s system in 1868, the traffic lights, in the shade. Actually, he didn’t invent anything. He just adapted the railway lights he had worked on to put onto busy roads and crossroads, instead of policemen.

Previously the country’s policemen were fit by having to raise their arms to halt and beckon drivers on. When traffic lights began, they were relieved of these time-consuming duties. They could go back to the station to put their feet up. After all, these doughnuts wouldn’t eat themselves.

Maybe bigger roundabouts are more attractive as flowers or small sculptures can be placed on them. It has even been known for a small band of strolling musicians to be put in the middle of a roundabout to play live and help pass an afternoon. That was the case when Peat and Diesel had a short-term residency on the Manor Park roundabout in Stornoway one fine Saturday in 2019. Tubs of daffodils are so boring by comparison.

Kevin Beresford, age 69, from the Midlands doesn’t think roundabouts are boring. Kevin likes roundabouts so much he founded the Roundabout Appreciation Society and for 17 years has been making calendars with pictures of his favourites. He even organises a worldwide competition to find Roundabout Of The Year. The 69-year-old is the dullest man in Britain. I can say that because he openly admits it.

Which brings me to the new mini-roundabout in Tarbert, on the Isle of Harris. You can’t miss it. It’s like a red LP record in the road at the new ferry terminal. It’s a bit bigger than 12 inches, obviously. The point is that many drivers down there just don’t see it, completely ignore it or have no idea they should keep left. A survey by a local videographer the other day showed that more people were keeping right and not bothering to go round it than were keeping left.

Don’t expect the Tarbert mini-roundabout to feature on Kevin’s calendars. A local said to me: “That new roundabout is in Tarbert but I don’t want you putting in the paper that everyone driving badly coming to it is from Tarbert.” Perish the thought. He then added: “Some of the worst offenders are from Scalpay, you know.” I wouldn’t pick on people who live in Tarbert, Angus. The ones from the nearby island of Scalpay though? I’m not so sure ...

Daniel Mcneil though, I’m very sure of. The Royal Artillery veteran from Dumfries is walking round the UK to raise cash and awareness for the armed forces’ charity, the Soldiers Sailors and Airmens Families Association (SSAFA). Mrs X and I met Daniel last week in Achmore. She says: “There’s that funny wee man with the flag again. He was in Harris the other day. Stop the car until I find out what’s going on.”

Hearing Daniel is just seven months into his three-year trek around the British coast, she ended up making a donation and offering Daniel the cakes from Stag Bakery we had for our day working in Uig. Turns out the footsore and wet-through Daniel was also lactose intolerant. “Not to worry,” said Mrs X, helpfully, “have some toffee.” Poor Daniel looked at her and shook his head. Ah, milk, cream, can’t have, sorry. He did accept the offer of the Coke that I was looking forward to having at our picnic stop. Cakes and toffees are so dry without a drink, I found.

It was a dry night when a Scalpay driver headed home from Stornoway and got flagged down by police for driving too slowly in Manor Park. He was given a fixed penalty of £70. Not being able to go and easily pay it, he stumped up there and then. Composing himself after the shock, he crawls off. He is stopped again. “It’s OK. I was too slow. Here’s my £70.” He goes outside, takes a breath of air and sets off again at a snail’s pace. Again, he is flagged down and reluctantly hands over another £70.

This time the Scalpach wanted to know more. He asked the officer why so many patrols were out in Stornoway catching unwary drivers. The officer says: “You’re from Scalpay, right? I’ll do you a favour. Just follow my car and we will get you off this roundabout.”

Covid in Scotland: Figures Show Booster Gap in High-risk Groups
A significant number of Scots most at risk from Covid are still waiting for a booster jab despite receiving their second dose more than six months ago.  Just over 616,000 people in the top priority vaccine groups are now due their booster - but only 511,807 jabs have been given, figures show.   Scientists say an effective pre-winter booster programme is vital to protect those most vulnerable from Covid.  The Scottish government said its booster programme was "on track".   The UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised in September there should be an interval of at least six months between second and third doses.   There is no breakdown available in Scotland on who the third doses have been given to, but as with the initial vaccine programme, the highest priority groups are being targeted first.   Public Health Scotland (PHS) figures indicate there are 104,000 people in these groups who have passed six months since their second dose, but are yet to receive a booster.  Other older age groups show a similar pattern.   Prof Andrew Watterson, a public health researcher at the University of Stirling, said the vaccines offered "decreased protection" over time, and that it was important for immunity to be boosted before winter.  "Winter will bring more respiratory illnesses and make more people - and especially already vulnerable and highly exposed people - even more vulnerable to the combined serious effects of Covid," he told BBC Scotland.   The JCVI has recommended that everyone over 50 should be offered a third dose of a Covid vaccine, along with front-line medical staff and younger adults with some underlying health conditions.  The Scottish government estimates there are about 3,375,000 people in the nine priority categories in Scotland. All of them will eventually be invited for a booster jab.   

Nicola Sturgeon Urges COP26 Protesters to Respect Glasgow
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has urged protesters to respect Glasgow and the emergency services as the city prepares to host the COP26 summit.   She was speaking less than 48 hours before the UN climate conference gets under way.  Ms Sturgeon was joined at a media briefing by Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone.  She also addressed concerns about an inevitable spike in Covid cases and travel disruption.  Earlier this week, protesters from Extinction Rebellion said they were planning high impact "deliberate disruption" during the summit.    But the first minister urged activists not to cross the line.   She said: "I would ask that people demonstrating show consideration for the city and people who live here.   The people of Glasgow are opening their city up to the world at what is a difficult time for everybody around the world.    I hope those who are travelling into the city, welcome though they are, recognise that."   Ms Sturgeon also said the emergency services were there to keep everyone safe including those involved in the negotiations, those protesting and local residents.    The first minister said Glasgow has hosted major events before but the size, scale and significance of the summit was unprecedented.   She added: "It could quite literally determine the future of the planet."   Major road closures are in place around the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) and the first minister urged the public to avoid unnecessary journeys during the first few days of the conference, which starts on Sunday and finishes on 12 November.   Ms Sturgeon said Scotland and Glasgow had a "proud tradition" of peaceful protest and added: "We want peoples' voices to be heard."   But she also issued an appeal to those planning disruption and urged them to respect the police and other first responders.  The first minister asked people to follow Covid rules amid fears the event would lead to an increase in cases.   Safety measures, such as daily testing and face masks, will be in place at the host venues.   But experts believe the greatest virus risk will come from protests or other activist events, which could attract an estimated 100,000 people.   At present, Scotland and Northern Ireland have the lowest rates of Covid infections in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics.  The Scotland figure now stands at 1 in 75 compared with 1 in 90 the week before.    Ms Sturgeon said the next fortnight would bring disruption and cause frustration to the people who lived in Glasgow but said it was for a purpose.   She added: "This is probably the most important global gathering of this century so far.   It is not just in Glasgow's interest to have a safe and successful summit, that is in the interest of the entire world."   Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said his force was ready to deliver a "safe and secure COP26" while maintaining a quality police service for the people of Scotland.  Operation Urram (Gaelic for respect) will see up to 10,000 officers deployed on some days of the conference.  On Friday 7,000 officers and staff from across the UK arrived in Scotland to support the massive security operation.    Nicola Blaney, head of events resilience, said: "Across the network, we know certain dates are due to be much busier than others, especially November 1, 2, 5 and 6.   "This weekend is also likely to be very heavily congested, and we need people to help us to avoid gridlock and crucially, leave space for key workers and emergency services to make essential journeys.   "We've been encouraging people to work from home as a way of reducing the risk of Covid - which would also help ease pressure on the transport network during the conference's peak."   The main closure is Glasgow's Clydeside Expressway, which will not reopen until 14 November, but full details of all the affected routes can be found on the Get Ready Glasgow website.    Friday 5 November and Saturday 6 November are also expected to be extremely busy, due to planned climate change-related marches from Kelvingrove Park into the city centre and Glasgow Green.

COP26 Volunteers Proud to Help Showcase Glasgow and its People
A 1,000-strong team of volunteers have taken to the streets of Glasgow to play their part in COP26.   The volunteers will be on hand with local information to help the expected 25,000 visitors get around the city.   They will be based at key transport hubs and travel routes including Buchanan Street bus station and along Lancefield Quay on the Clyde.  For many, the event - which runs from 31 October to 12 November - is about promoting Glasgow on a global stage.   Cynthia Tjipuka, who moved to Scotland from Namibia 10 months ago, is thrilled at the prospect of being able to help showcase her adopted home city.   She said: "I am excited about extending a warm welcome to our delegates and visitors, as well as my fellow Glaswegians, and just making sure everyone feels included in the whole event.   When I applied, I didn't know the magnitude of it. There were 10,000 applications and I was one of the 1,000 who were successful.  I'm seriously honoured and humbled to be part of such a huge event. This is a life-changing event for our future generations and for the planet."  She added: "Delegates are coming from my country, including the president, so I'm really excited. I will be so proud to tell people how friendly Glasgow is as a city.  I was extended a very warm welcome when coming to Scotland and I'm excited to extend that to other people coming here."   Karen Donaldson, from Glasgow, was desperate to get involved in the the COP26 experience and jumped at the chance to volunteer.   She said: "Everybody is buzzing. We've been talking about it for so long and now it's here - it's like Christmas Day.   I'm Glasgow born and bred so I just like to know what's going on and, especially with something as important as this, I want to play my part in it.  You could be one of these people who just sits, has an opinion on it but does hee-haw about it whereas I like to get involved and find out for myself."  She added: "You meet all sorts of people from all around the world, having conversations that you would never have had. It's just good fun.    Everyone is coming to Glasgow and I'm so proud of my home city.    Glasgow punches way above its weight. We've got the architecture, the people, the location and the personality."

COP26: Deadline Day to Avert Crippling Rail Strike

The deadline to avert a crippling rail strike during the COP26 summit in Glasgow is just hours away.  ScotRail and the Scottish government have given the RMT until 17:00 on Wednesday to accept an offer already agreed to by three other unions.  The RMT has described the move as like "having a gun pointed at our head".    On Tuesday, Scotland's Transport Minister Graeme Dey said he was "not optimistic" industrial action would be avoided.   ScotRail said the deadline was necessary to finalise its contingency plans, which would see suitably trained supervisors and managers replace striking staff. The operator said its focus would be on connecting Glasgow and Edinburgh and providing key routes through the host city.But it would not be drawn on the frequency of services or their period of operation.  RMT members in ScotRail are mainly conductors and ticket examiners but, unlike in other countries, without them the majority of train services in Scotland do not operate.  Three other unions representing rail workers - Unite, Aslef and TSSA - have accepted a pay deal which is worth 4.7% over two years and includes a £300 bonus for working during the summit.   But the RMT is calling for a one-year deal worth 4.9% which was not linked to efficiency savings.  ScotRail operations director David Simpson defended the current offer, especially as passenger numbers have halved due to Covid.  Mr Simpson added that he could not understand why Mr Hogg had not put the deal to his members.   On the impact of a strike as the eyes of the world are on Glasgow, he told BBC Reporting Scotland: "I think everybody wants to make sure COP is successful and rail to play its part in that but we can't just throw money at that without consequences. There is a very strong offer on the table."    Up to 30,000 delegates are set to descend on Glasgow for the UN climate summit which runs from Sunday to 14 November.   At the same time, the sheer scale of the road closures around the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) will put additional pressure on the rail network for those who need access to the city for work and leisure.  Mr Hogg said while there had been movement over a separate issue of rest day working, there had been no progress on pay and proposed efficiency savings.   Rail services in Scotland have been crippled for months by strike action due to a separate dispute, with few trains running on Sundays.   The RMT is threatening strike action from 1 November, for the duration of the summit.   Another dispute could see thousands of council workers across Scotland including refuse, recycling, maintenance and school catering and janitorial staff taking strike action during the second week of the climate talks                                              Rail strike action during COP26 called off after pay deal agreed -(Late news)

Afghan Family Flee Violence for New Life in Scotland
A family, including a 10-month-old baby, have arrived in the Western Isles after fleeing violence in Afghanistan.   Two of the family - Frishta Matan and her sister Farzana - work for the Isle of Lewis-based charity, The Linda Norgrove Foundation.   The charity feared the women would face persecution after the Taliban returned to power following the withdrawal of a US-led military coalition in August.   Frishta said there were times her family feared they would die.  The family saw others lose their lives trying to flee, and they had to go into hiding for days while trying to arrange passage on a flight from Afghanistan to Qatar.   Once in Qatar, they were helped by British Embassy staff to get to Edinburgh where they completed a 10-day quarantine under Covid rules before flying to the Western Isles.  On arriving in Stornoway in Lewis, Frishta said: "We have heard that Scotland is cold and rainy - but it is peaceful.  We'd rather deal with the rain in Scotland than the Taliban in Afghanistan."  Frishta's husband Murtaza, their baby son Kia and her brother Zaker were also able to make the journey.    Frishta and Farzana work for a charity set up in memory of Linda Norgrove, a Scottish aid worker involved in projects helping women and girls in Afghanistan.  Linda was kidnapped by the Taliban in September 2010 and died during an attempt to rescue her.  Her parents, John and Lorna, run the charity which has supported projects offering education and other opportunities to Afghan women and girls.   Frishta and Farzana are Hazara, an ethnic community at risk of persecution by the Taliban.   The Norgroves appealed for help from the UK government to have the sisters evacuated.   The family was bussed to Kabul Airport the day after 13 American troops and at least 169 civilians had been killed in a suicide bombing on 26 August.   Frishta said: "Everyone was scared there would be more attacks - but we had no other choice.    The closer you got to the airport, you could hear the gunfire getting louder and louder. We'd heard sporadic firing in the street, but this was non-stop."   Frishta said she would cover her baby's ears to protect him from the deafening sound of gunfire.   The family narrowly missed the last coalition flight from Kabul and were forced to find an alternative route out.    After days hiding from Taliban soldiers just north of Kabul they were eventually able to get on a flight to Qatar organised by US charity the Uplift Afghanistan Fund.   Frishta said: "The Taliban came inside the plane to check everyone's documents.   I was so scared we'd get sent back. It was only when the plane finally took off we dared to think: 'Maybe this is the moment we escape'."  The Norgroves said they wanted to thank the US charity and UK government for their help in getting the family to Scotland.  The charity now hopes to be able to help rescue 20 Afghan medical students it has been supporting.   John added: "We will obviously need to change the way we work but our work helping women and children in Afghanistan will continue.   This is not the end of us continuing our daughter Linda's legacy."  

COP26: 'Airbnb Host Increased My Booking by $2,000'
An Airbnb host has been banned from taking bookings during COP26 after he hiked the cost of a lodging by $2,000.   Tan Copsey had booked the two-bedroom flat in Glasgow's west end well in advance of the summit only to receive an email with the inflated price.  The host said he was concerned he had "missed out on a great deal of money" after seeing the average room price increase by "400%" in the area.   Mr Copsey said: "I had already paid. We already had an agreement."   Airbnb said it had "zero tolerance" for this kind of behaviour.  Originally reported in The Herald, Mr Copsey posted about his experience on social media, joking he was having a "great time" with COP26 accommodation.  Mr Copsey, who will be visiting his 10th UN climate summit, told BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime programme he made the booking about three months ago.  But a few weeks ago he received a "really interesting" message from the host.  Mr Copsey, who works for a US non-profit organisation, said: "The message essentially said: 'I am pretty disappointed that you booked early because I have missed out on a whole lot of money. Prices in our area have gone up 400% and so I would like to charge you more. Specifically, in your currency, $2,000 more."   He had originally booked a two-week stay at the property for £2,175 ($3,000).   Mr Copsey said: "The thing that bothered me about it was that I had already paid. We already had an agreement."   He cancelled his booking and has since arranged alternative accommodation for COP26, which starts at the Scottish Event Campus on Sunday.    Mr Copsey said his main concern now was the situation facing delegates who did not have the same resources. "The bigger thing that is happening is that all these people from around the world are coming to Glasgow and they are coming to do something that is really important and really good," he said.   "And I don't think it is right that they are priced out because they are on government salaries. They work for small non-profits in Africa or the Pacific Islands, and they are already paying a huge amount of money to get to Glasgow because of the pandemic and because of travel being disrupted."   Despite his experience, Mr Copsey, whose area of specialism is the reduction of methane emissions, said he did not have any vindictive thoughts against the host or a negative opinion of Scottish people.    And he said he hopes the many "incredibly kind" offers of accommodation he has received can now be used to help others who are less fortunate.    An Airbnb spokesperson said: "We have zero tolerance for this behaviour and have taken action against the host and blocked them from accepting other bookings during this period.    The guest has been refunded in full and we have offered support in helping them find alternative accommodation."  Earlier this month BBC Scotland found evidence that a squeeze on available accommodation had sent prices soaring in Glasgow.    One room in the city initially advertised as £42 per night was later advertised at £1,400 per night during the summit.    Airbnb told the BBC they would donate all revenue from stays in Glasgow during the summit to Zero Waste Scotland.

Torrential Rain Causes Heavy Flooding in Glasgow
Torrential rain has caused heavy flooding and traffic disruption in Glasgow.   Footage posted on social media showed abandoned cars and queues of traffic on Great Western Road in the west end.    The heavy downpours also led to the cancellation of the opening night of the GlasGlow event at the Botanic Gardens.   ScotRail also cancelled some late night services and urged people to check its journey page before travelling.  Network Rail earlier said it was dealing with flooding at Bishopbriggs on the main Edinburgh - Glasgow Queen Street route, and also at Dalmuir, on the Yoker line.    The Met Office has already warned of life-threatening flooding in south-west Scotland.  It said parts could see around 100mm of rain falling by Thursday morning.   Heavy downpours are also causing disruption to cross-border rail services.   The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) had eight flood warnings in place in Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders.   In the west, Sepa issued a flood alert for Pollok Country Park in Glasgow and several road closures are in place in Paisley, Renfrewshire.  Heavy flooding was also reported around Ibrox ahead of the Rangers v Aberdeen match.

Archaeological Digs in New Locations At Culloden Battlefield
Archaeologists hope to unearth new insights into the Battle of Culloden by digging in an area of the battlefield not previously excavated.   The battle saw the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite forces by the Duke of Cumberland's government army.  The spot is near to where the left wing of a second line of British government troops lined up on 16 April 1746.  Archaeologists hope to find personal items dropped or discarded by government soldiers.  Culloden was the last pitched battle (where the time and place was agreed beforehand) fought on British soil.   It saw the deaths of about 1,600 men - 1,500 of them Jacobites.   As well as buttons, buckles and ammunition, the team said they might also find lead shot fired by the Jacobites into the lines of government troops during the 40-minute battle.  A series of pits will be dug in the area close to the access road to the battlefield's visitor centre.   The work for the National Trust for Scotland will also include using digital and drone photography to make 3D models of the Culloden monument, the gravestones of clansmen killed fighting for the prince and other battlefield markers.   A 3D model is also to be created of an enormous boulder known as the Cumberland Stone.   The government army's commander, the Duke of Cumberland, is said to have had breakfast, or his lunch, on the table-flat top of the rock on the day of the battle. It has also been said that he stood on the stone to better survey the course of the fighting.    The boulder is a glacial feature known as an erratic, meaning it is of a rock type that is different from the bedrock on which it sits.  The rock has been matched to the geology of Stratherrick, which lies almost 20 miles (32km) south of Inverness. The stone was torn from the ground as a huge ice sheet crept out of the west towards the Moray Firth coast.   Culloden ended Prince Charles Edward Stuart's campaign to regain the Great British throne for his father.   The prince escaped from the battlefield, which is near Inverness, and died in Palazzo Muti, Rome, in 1788.   Archaeologists have examined the moorland battle site on the outskirts of Inverness before.   In recent years, detailed investigations with metal detecting and geophysical survey work have taken place in an area known as the Field of the English, with trial trenching around Old Leanach Cottage, both close to the position of the government first line.  The National Trust for Scotland manages the battlefield.   Operations manager Raoul Curtis Machin said: "The team are really excited about the dig.  They are passionate about the history of Culloden Battlefield and are always learning new things about this amazing site which we can then share with the public who care so deeply about this important place."

Frustration As Island Ferry Struggles with Demand By Glenn Campbell  Political editor,
In a year of staycations the crossing to Mull has proved especially popular, putting huge pressure on a ferry service already struggling to cope with demand.   That is made worse when a ship is taken out of service as happened on the day I visited the island.  One of the two ferries that serve the popular route from Oban to Craignure, the main port on the island, was tied up while engineers worked to fix the propulsion system.   Some of the MV Coruisk's sailings had been cancelled and the backlog of traffic and the frustration of some stranded passengers was building.  "I'm not having the best of days," said Peter Lees - a visitor to Mull who was trying to get off the island with his car and caravan.  CalMac are not my favourite people right now," he said.  "I'll just have to wait until they can fit me in," Mr Lees said, joking that this was "Scottish tourism at its finest".  While Mr Lees was facing a one-off delay to his journey home, ferry problems are a way of life for those who live and work on the islands.   "It's the sort of drip, drip of inconvenience all the time rather than major calamities," said Joe Reade, who runs the Island Bakery in Tobermory.  Mr Reade, who also chairs the local ferry users' committee, said: "If you're going away you have to go a day early because the ferry timetable is so restricted.   When you come back you get stuck off the island. It just adds cost, it adds time and it affects the quality of life in a big way."   For Mull, the biggest problem is capacity. The island is so popular with visitors, the ferry service is struggling to cope with growing demand.   That means islanders cannot always get a space on the ferry when they need one.   Mr Reade tells me that caused a particular problem in the summer when mourners could not make the crossing in time to attend a funeral.   Fully-booked ferries are also a challenge for island farmers trying to get livestock to market on the mainland.  Tending sheep and Highland cattle at Torloisk farm, Claire Simonetta said local CalMac staff were "fantastic" but that major service improvements are required.    "There's only so much the ground staff can do," she said. "We need a modern fleet, a more reliable fleet, a fleet that's built to deal with the challenges that we have now."   So what are these challenges?   CalMac accepts that its "major challenge" is capacity, especially on popular routes like Mull and Arran.   It is carrying more vehicles and passengers than ever by making the existing fleet work harder and using crews to their maximum working hours.    According to CalMac's managing director, Robbie Drummond, that means "there's just no space in the service for any disruption".    But there's always disruption in ferry services and during the pandemic that has been unprecedented.  Covid gets the blame for many of this year's cancellations, with vessels taken out of service when there are cases onboard.  Then there are technical issues, like the problems on the MV Coruisk at Craignure.   That was one of more than 100 faults to hit the fleet so far this year.   While some breakdowns are relatively minor and lead to few cancellations, others can have a dramatic impact.   Engine problems on the flagship MV Loch Seaforth in the spring took it out of service for nearly seven weeks, causing major disruption.   When a ferry becomes unavailable, others are diverted to help out with knock-on impacts for other islands.   CalMac says fewer than one in 125 sailings are affected by technical problems and that they are relatively "low and manageable".    One experienced CalMac mariner tells me the fleet does not get as much preventative maintenance as it once did.   Speaking on condition of anonymity, the sailor said that was because ships and crews were spending much more time at sea and much less in harbour.     "The people themselves are tired and the boat's tired and they're not getting time to do the preventative maintenance" beyond what's legally required, he said.    Vessels go into dry dock for major overhauls each year but Mr Drummond accepts that fitting in all the resilience work in the winter months when the fleet is less busy is proving difficult.   Bad weather is another big cause of disruption and some islanders suspect CalMac is becoming more risk averse and calling off sailings on that basis more readily now.    All of these factors add up to what looks set to be a record breaking year for service disruption.    CalMac cancelled about one in 18 sailings in the first eight months of 2021.   Those 5,959 cancellations were more than for the whole of 2019 when there were 5,652.    The Scottish government-owned operator is on course for its highest ever annual number of cancellations.  Disruption was at its worst in 2020 when 7,434 sailings were withdrawn from a timetable already much reduced by lockdown.   These figures were released under freedom of information by CalMac to Conservative MSP Edward Mountain.   Transport Scotland turned down BBC Scotland's request to interview a Scottish government minister about CalMac's problems.   In a statement, they said that while ferry operation and maintenance is CalMac's responsibility, they recognised the frustration caused by disruption.   They are promising £580m of investment in the fleet over the next five years including the purchase of new ships.   New ferries are being ordered for Islay and £9m is being spent buying and converting a second-hand ferry, MV Utne, from Norway for Mull.  In addition, the Ferguson shipyard is promising to deliver the scandalously overdue and overbudget ferries MV Glen Sannox and hull 802 next year.   In the meantime, CalMac is likely to remain overstretched.  It expects record levels of demand in 2022 and managing director, Robbie Drummond, said that will be "very challenging" to manage.  "I'm sorry for all the disruption that has happened this year, particularly the disruption around the Loch Seaforth," he said.   CalMac can only work with the ships that it is provided by CMAL, the separate company that owns the fleet and many of the harbours.  Both CalMac and CMAL are answerable to Transport Scotland which is an arm of their owners, the Scottish government.  It is a complicated structure designed to be compatible with EU rules that Mr Drummond concedes has "clearly not worked as well as everyone would like".   Mr Mountain wants an overhaul of these arrangements and an independent inquiry into Hebridean and Clyde ferry service provision.  Whether or not that happens, it seems that it may be several years before the west coast islands can have a more extensive and more reliable ferry service.

Corbyn: Pressure Building for Scottish Independence Referendum
A second vote on Scottish independence will happen "in a few years", former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said.    Mr Corbyn, who stood down as leader in 2019, struggled to settle on a position on independence during his time in charge of the party.    But he told BBC Scotland he now believed a referendum was imminent as the "pressure" was there for it.   "I don't believe it's a good idea to prevent people expressing a point of view and an opinion," he said.   Mr Corbyn's position on independence appeared to shift in his time as Labour leader.   During the 2019 election campaign, he said a referendum would not happen in the early part of the parliamentary term under a Labour government, after previously saying it would not happen for the entirety of the first term of a Corbyn administration.   First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had told Mr Corbyn she would not help him into power unless he accepted the "principle" of a second referendum.  Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime programme on Thursday, Mr Corbyn said: "I'm strongly in support of people having their voice, therefore an independence referendum is something that I believe will happen probably within a few years."    Mr Corbyn's comments come ahead of a tour of Scotland as part of an "alternative COP26" next week, run by his Peace and Justice Project.    It will include events in Glasgow and Edinburgh, focusing on the climate crisis.  Labour has removed the whip from Mr Corbyn since he stood down as leader because of his response to a report on anti-semitism within the party.A spokesman for Scottish Labour said: "Mr Corbyn is not a sitting Labour MP and private citizens are entitled to their views on a range of issues."

COP26: Climate Summit Venue Becomes UN Territory
Glasgow's Scottish Events Campus (SEC) has officially been handed over to the United Nations for the historic COP26 summit.  The venue now makes up the Blue Zone, and becomes official UN territory for the duration of the global conference.  The area will be patrolled by armed UN officers and will be under the highest levels of security.  The UN confirmed the SEC was handed over to it on Friday afternoon ahead of the summit opening on Sunday.    World leaders and delegates will gather in Glasgow from 31 October until 12 November in a bid to hammer out a deal to tackle climate change.   Most countries will be represented, with about 25,000 accredited delegates expected for the UN Conference of Parties (COP) summit, which will attract the attention of the world and activists from around the globe.    The event will take place across two sites - the Blue Zone at the Scottish Event Campus and the Green Zone at Glasgow Science Centre.   The Blue Zone will host the main negotiations between world leaders and climate change specialists and is therefore subject to the strictest restrictions.   Organisations sending delegates to the conference to observe and take part had to apply more than a year ago to navigate tight security requirements.   Police Scotland will only be allowed to enter the site if they are invited to do so by the UN secretary general, or if they believe there is a threat to life.    The area will remain under the jurisdiction of Scots Law if any crimes are committed there.    UN officials, representatives and experts all have diplomatic immunity which means they are exempt from legal process - inside the blue zone.   The Green Zone is located on the south of the river with the Science Centre at the heart, hosting a programme of ticketed events.  The plan there is to spotlight the dynamic, exciting and inspiring strides being made in climate action across the world.  With just two days to go until the world's eyes fall on Glasgow, activity is already building in the city.  Climate change activists Ocean Rebellion staged one of the first demonstrations on the banks of the River Clyde with three "vomiting oil heads" to highlight environmental threats to the oceans.   Extinction Rebellion started a fortnight of protest action off with a demonstration at the University of Glasgow.    Four activists locked themselves to the memorial gate to demand that the university urgently implements the campaign group's Green New Deal - a list of 60 demands they say would end the establishment's "ecologically destructive practices".   The area around the SEC will be protected by about 10,000 police officers every day.   Police Scotland are in charge of the operation and make up about 45% of the numbers, with officers drafted in from across the UK to make up the rest of the police contingent.   Ministry of Defence police will also provide a "24/7 armed policing presence" on the river, which runs close to the venue and through the centre of the city.

Fresh Bid to Save Mcvitie's Biscuit Factory From Closure
A bid to secure the future of a closure-threatened McVitie's biscuit factory will be made to the owners of the site.   Nearly 500 jobs are at risk at the factory in Tollcross, which opened almost 100 years ago in Glasgow's east end.   An action group will propose building a new factory on a nearby site.   Parent company Pladis plans to close the factory in late 2022 and move production elsewhere.    First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to do "everything we possibly can" to save the business in Glasgow.   The plan to build a new factory has been drawn up by a group of union chiefs, politicians and business people.    Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken said: "This proposal is compelling and would secure a future for Pladis in the city. I trust they will give it the consideration it deserves."   Pladis acquired McVitie's in 2014 after taking over United Biscuits, and is now reportedly the third-biggest biscuit maker in the world.  The same year it cut the then 680-strong workforce by nearly a quarter, unions said, but the factory remains a "major employer in an area with higher levels of social deprivation and unemployment".    McVitie's traces its roots to the original Scottish biscuit maker, McVitie & Price Ltd, which was established in 1830 in Edinburgh.

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 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