Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 628

Issue # 628                                             Week ending Saturday 13th November 2021
The Bosses of Calmac Seem Intent on Showing Us How Not to Run the Ferries by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

The highly-paid executives running ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne seem to have finally taken leave of their senses. After a difficult 18 months, passenger numbers are improving on routes like the Skye, Harris, North Uist triangular route served by MV Hebrides. Good news. Not so in CalMac’s eyes. Its management detests that ferry because of its moving floor. Really? They ought to pin down that linoleum.

No, it’s not the linoleum, it’s the mezzanine. A mezzanine is not the latest offering in the cafeteria, it’s the adjustable upstairs car ramp. Extra crew are needed to work it. A poor management that only cares about money, not service, hates that. So now passenger numbers are up, CalMac wants to close the mezzanine to cut jobs. That will cut the number of vehicles that can be taken by a fifth.

That’s the solution from the finest brains in CalMac’s Gourock HQ. Shut it down. Even though it’s a lifeline service, that’s their answer. If ever anyone needed proof that CalMac management is broken and doesn’t care about the islands, that’s it right there.

Duncan Mackison, the chief executive of CalMac used to be a Royal Marine. Thank you for your service, sir. Mr Mackison now runs our ferries. No thanks for your diabolically-poor ferry service and being insensitive and uncaring about our islands’ needs. You should abide by the contract CalMac is signed up to. It requires you to fulfil it, or quit. It’s not going well so far, sir.

Mr Mackison and his minions have a deliberate policy of having no Outer Isles representatives on CalMac’s board - not for years. Their biggest routes are here but no islanders are allowed a seat. That’s atrocious management. Mr Mackison simply has no first-hand knowledge of how we feel about his rubbish decisions.

He doesn’t stray out of the GG, the Gourock-Grimsby bubble, the sounding boards of CalMac management. Hey Mr Mackison, make it 3G. Add Geòcrab or Great Bernera and you may learn something.

Any good business manual will say that management that does not listen is bad management. The good news is that my advice is free to Mr Mackison. He should maybe read this column every week, of course. Hmm, the P&J may be difficult to get in Gourock. I’ll post him a copy today.

Meanwhile, Councillor Uisdean Robertson, our isles’ transport chairman and former CalMac employee, is fizzing. He rages that Mr Mackison’s plan is “unacceptable” and he’s asking transport minister Graeme Dey step in. “Whether this cost falls on CalMac or Transport Scotland is immaterial to islanders who should rightly expect a lifeline ferry service contract to be maintained on the terms it was awarded,” said Mr Robertson. Go Uisdean, go rock the boat.

Other clueless people are world leaders who jetted in to COP26. They aren’t listening. How sad that the one thing that has done more for climate change than Greta Thunberg is Covid-19.

Some people who get Covid are careless. That’s the awkward truth we need to speak out about. They are so clueless they don’t understand they become carriers taking it to vulnerable people even if they themselves merely get sniffles. The sharp rise in cases in the Western Isles - actually here on Lewis - is down to idiocy. Doctors should be allowed to be more critical because privately they are wondering what these dunderheids expect?

Halfwits go dancing without masks in packed and sweaty clubs, they go to football matches and to the bustling, crammed pubs afterwards and then they go home and what happens? They infect their own kids and other family members? That’s why island schools are riddled with it. The idiots are sorry only when it’s eventually pinned on them for their brainless behaviour.

I was quite ignorant myself the other week - about Rishi Sunak’s budget. I missed the news about the small price rises but it’s now affecting stock on the shelves. Tesco has just said it is putting up the price of the whisky I like tomorrow by a penny to £20. Tonight, I'm going to party like it's £19.99.

Not that I am not clueless about other things too sometimes. For instance, I was such a clueless first-time dad. When our daughter was born nearly 25 years ago, I picked her up for the first time and I looked at her, adoringly. Then I whispered to Mrs X: "This baby's got bad breath already - and a runny nose.“ Mrs X growled: “You’re holding her upside down.”

How Nicola Sturgeon Has Carved Out A Role At COP26
There was a time when Boris Johnson seemed determined to exclude Nicola Sturgeon from COP26.   At his party's 2019 conference he told Scottish Conservatives that he did not want Scotland's first minister "anywhere near it".   That would have been hard to achieve given the UK Westminster Government is hosting the UN climate summit in Ms Sturgeon's home city.   In any event, the prime minister relented telling the BBC in August that all devolved leaders would have a big role to play.   Exactly what their role is has never been formally spelled out by Mr Johnson.  Ms Sturgeon has certainly not been afforded a speaking slot on the main conference platform.  The only SNP politician to be given that honour was Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken, who gave the civic welcome.  The first minister has managed to carve out roles for herself and achieve prominence anyway.  She's been photographed with everyone from US President Joe Biden and Germany's Angela Merkel to climate activists Greta Thunberg, Vanessa Nakate and Al Gore.  Ms Sturgeon's spoken at Cop26 fringe events on offshore wind, climate justice and female leadership and given interviews to media outlets from Vogue magazine - where she talked about life after politics - to CNN.  If she has half an eye on a new job beyond Holyrood, COP26 has given her the greatest networking opportunity in the world.   As European co-chair of the Under2 Coalition of 260 devolved governments, regions and cities acting together on climate, she is promoting their pledge to achieve net zero by at least 2050.   There have also been some formal meetings with leaders from developing countries like Malawi and Bangladesh.   Whisper it but there has actually been a notable degree of cooperation between the UK Westminster and Scottish governments. Not the fullest partnership perhaps, but an accommodation.   There always had to be, given the Scottish government has responsibility for policing and public health.  Ministers from Edinburgh and London have toned down their mutual hostility over independence and much else to present a more united front on tackling global warming.  The SNP riled their UK Westminster Government -supporting opponents by publishing adverts welcoming delegates to "a nation in waiting". The first minister also accused the UK Westminster government of "classic corruption" over its handling of the Owen Paterson affair - but beyond that there has been a relative truce.  Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon appeared together at a breakfast event attended by an array of world leaders.   The first minister also joined COP President, Alok Sharma and UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa to receive written demands for climate action from young people around the world.  The truth is the UK Westminster and Scottish governments have a shared interest in making the Glasgow summit as successful as possible.  Nicola Sturgeon may not be a party to the negotiations but she is actively advocating the outcomes the UK and UN are seeking.   The Scottish government has won international recognition for its contribution to tackling global warming from, among others, the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres.  In a BBC interview, he expressed appreciation for the Holyrood administration being among the first "international actors" to allocate funds to developing countries for loss and damage caused by the effects of climate change.  Mr Guterres also praised the Scottish government's very clear target of achieving net zero before 2050.  Hitting net zero by 2045 is a legal requirement in Scotland, with an interim target of a 75% reduction in carbon emissions (compared to 1990 levels) by 2030.  The snag is the Scottish government has missed the annual targets it needs to hit to achieve the 2030 outcome in each of the last three years.   Scotland's emissions were down by 51.5% by 2019 - short of the 55% target for that year. A catch up plan has been put in place.  The 2030 target has been described as "enormously challenging" by Chris Stark, chief executive of the UK Westminster Government's official watchdog, the Climate Change Committee.  He told BBC Scotland's No Hot Air podcast that he had not seen a strategy that would deliver it, that there was a danger it had been "overcooked".  Nicola Sturgeon told me she believes there is a "credible pathway" to delivering what's been promised on climate change.  She argues that it is better to be overly ambitious and fall a bit short than not to push hard on carbon reduction.  A key part of the Scottish government's plan is to use carbon capture and storage technology to divert emissions that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.  That strategy suffered a setback last month when the UK Westminster Government government decided not to prioritise a Scottish carbon capture cluster including the Acorn project at St Fergus.  Ms Sturgeon has written to the prime minister asking him to reconsider not least because the UK Westminster Government is counting on Scotland's contribution to hit its own net zero targets.  Perhaps the biggest Scottish success story is the decarbonisation of electricity production, with almost all of Scotland's domestic demand now produced from renewable sources.  The US interior secretary, Deb Haaland has noted that "Scotland has led in creating a clean energy economy".  What that observation glosses over is what campaigners describe as 'the elephant in the room' - the continued extraction of oil and gas.   It is a major Scottish industry supporting about 100,000 jobs.  New fields are under consideration with the Scotland secretary in the UK Westminster Government government, Alister Jack offering his 100% backing for the controversial Cambo field, west of Shetland.   Until very recently, SNP ministers might have been expected to offer similar encouragement. The party has a long history of championing oil and gas.  Just before the 2017 general election, Nicola Sturgeon told an oil industry conference that the North Sea still contained 20 billion barrels, and that the "primary aim is to maximise economic recovery of those reserves".  A couple of years later the first minister declared a "climate emergency" and in the lead up to COP26 ditched the mantra of maximum economic recovery on environmental grounds.   This followed the SNP negotiating a new power-sharing partnership with the Scottish Greens.  A new energy strategy is to be produced that prioritises the fastest possible transition out of oil and gas, while keeping the lights on and replacing lost jobs.  The policy shift that is under way is quite profound. However, it does not include immediate opposition to new oil and gas.  Indeed Scotland's net zero secretary Michael Matheson has not ruled out issuing new drilling licences in the event of Scottish independence.   Ms Sturgeon has said that the UK Westminster Government authorities, who currently decide, should reassess Cambo - applying strict new climate tests she thinks it would struggle to pass.   She has stopped short of opposing it outright, drawing criticism from Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.  Boris Johnson has said that contracts for a project like Cambo that's been in the development pipeline for 20 years cannot simply be torn up.  The UK Westminster Government government is proposing climate compatibility tests for wholly new exploration licences. The Cambo controversy has raised questions about the UK Westminster Government's commitment to achieving net zero by 2050, but ministers insist the impact of oil and gas is priced in to their calculations.  Both the UK Westminster Government and Scottish governments consider themselves world leaders in decarbonisation, but that does not mean they're getting everything right.  Close scrutiny of their records on climate action comes with their privilege of welcoming the world to Glasgow for COP26.

The Barras Banter on COP26 and Climate Change
It would be hard to find a place more "Glasgow" than The Barras.   The area, east of Glasgow city centre, houses the popular weekend market and the iconic music venue the Barrowland ballroom.   It has survived war, fire and redevelopment. Time will tell if the area, and the city will survive the threat on everyone's minds - climate change.  It is less than three miles from the high-level talks of COP26, and the people in the cafes, stores and event spaces are all talking about it.  Alan Duff from Bill's Tool Store would love to buy more British products to reduce the carbon footprint of importing stock from abroad.   Bill's Tool Store is a landmark at The Barras. It has been in Alan's family for three generations and celebrates its 75th anniversary next year.   He wants to see promises kept from COP26.   He said: "I think what they are trying to do is great... if they carry it through. If this is the 26th one, what has happened at the other 25 that hasn't worked?   I think the penny's dropped for us at home, looking at all the plastics we use has certainly made my family realise we have to do more."   He says he would like to cut the carbon footprint of the business, but it is tricky.    "The problem we have is that more than 90% of what people buy from us is made in China or India and until these countries do something, we are stuck," he said.   "We don't manufacture enough in this country now so we have no control over it. We try to buy local and British whenever we can but there are very few suppliers."   Parked up in his tour bus outside the Barrowland ballroom music venue is driver Keith Pittaway.   He knew COP26 was going on in Glasgow when he drove the band Easy Life into town for their gig.   Keith says a lot of the acts he transports are worried about the climate and the consequences for touring.   But he can't see a solution yet.   "Don't forget you are sitting on a 26-ton bus that's using a gallon per ten miles, but you don't mind that because you've got to get from A to B.   He adds: "These things are never going to run at 700km a day on electric. It is just not going to happen."   Michael Woods from Saint Luke's thinks the people of Glasgow could have been more involved in the conference   Saint Luke's is a newer music venue and bar around the corner from the Barrowland. It has quickly cemented itself in the hearts of Glaswegian music lovers. It had hoped to enjoy a COP26 boost but people have been avoiding the city.    Owner Michael thinks it has been a missed opportunity.    "Messaging has told people to stay away from the city but I think that's a mistake. I think they should have been embracing the event and the visitors. People make Glasgow but nobody is in Glasgow to make it."  He thinks a lot of Glaswegians have felt a bit detached from what is going on at the COP26 conference.  "We had a fringe festival called Beyond The Green over the weekend to do with sustainability and building products. But we put everything on ourselves. I think they have missed a trick in not getting everybody else in the city involved."    Sheran Lang from Reeta Fashions sees suppliers looking for sustainable fabrics    Reeta Fashions is another Barras institution, outfitting the brides of Glasgow for the past 70 years.   Owner Sheran is proud her city has been hosting COP26 and took her 10-year-old daughter to the climate rally last weekend.  "She knows all about climate change, they have been learning about it at school and I think it's important for her to understand. I think it's really positive for the city.   Although the big motorcades were a bit uncomfortable to see, because that doesn't really represent climate change."   Sheran is aware of the damage the fashion industry does to the environment and is happy to see her industry changing.   "A lot of our suppliers are changing the way the fabrics are being made, to make them more environmentally friendly, which is great to see."  Denise dishes out "rolls and sausage and banter" in the east end of the city. The only thing she has noticed about COP26 being in town is that the city and even the Barras has been quiet, even at the weekend when it's usually the busiest time.   "For my kids and their kids I worry about climate change," she says. "It upsets me to see billionaires going into space when there's so much more that can be done to make things better on this planet.   I know this is down to all of us so I am a big recycler. I buy all the different recycling bags from the council to make sure we recycle properly."   Georgia Elliot-Smith from She Changes Climate wanted to bring female activists from around the world to a different Glasgow.  Unbeknown to the locals, some COP26 activity is merely metres away from them. Around the corner from Dengy's, in the Pipe Factory venue, a session is exploring how to get more women into the COP negotiations.   Georgia Elliot-Smith is a former UNESCO special junior envoy for youth and the environment. She is part of a a group called She Changes Climate that is trying to see at least 50% representation of women at the top table of climate negotiations - 90% at the moment are male.   She said: "We've had 25 previous COPs and yet carbon emissions are still increasing - we feel we need a different mentality, a different perspective, some diversity to come up with different solutions because what we have been doing isn't working.   We wanted to be real and part of the community and to bring people into a different Glasgow - to bring women from all over the world together to see what we can do."

Plans Submitted for New Highlands Distillery
A malt whisky distillery has been proposed for a site on a Highlands estate on the Dornoch Firth.  Outline plans for the site on Midfearn Estate at Easter Fearn, near Ardgay, have been submitted with Highland Council.   Midfearn Distillery Company Ltd is also to start a public consultation on its proposal.   The site is believed to be where a local businessman, George Ross, produced whisky in 1798.   The 13,000-acre Midfearn Estate has been in the Brooke family since 1893.  The current owner, Charlie Brooke, said he believed the new distillery would be an "important development in providing employment and economic benefit to the wider community".

The Man Who Has Lived As A Hermit for 40 Years
For almost 40 years Ken Smith has shunned conventional life and lived without electricity or running water in a hand-made log cabin on the banks of a remote loch in the Scottish Highlands.   "It's a nice life," says Ken. "Everybody wishes they could do it but nobody ever does."   Not everyone would agree that Ken's isolated, reclusive lifestyle of foraging and fishing as well as collecting firewood and washing his clothes in an old bath outdoors is the ideal. And even less so at the age of 74.   His log cabin is a two-hour walk from the nearest road on the edge of Rannoch Moor, by Loch Treig.   "It's known as the lonely loch," he says. "There's no road here but they used to live here before they built the dam."   Looking down on the loch from hillside, he says: "All their ruins are down there. The score now is one and that's me."  Filmmaker Lizzie McKenzie first made contact with Ken nine years ago and over the past two years she has filmed him for the BBC Scotland documentary The Hermit of Treig.   Ken, who is originally from Derbyshire, tells the programme how he began work at the age of 15, building fire stations.   But his life changed at the age of 26 when he was beaten up by a gang of thugs after a night out.   He suffered a brain haemorrhage and lost consciousness for 23 days.   "They said I would never recover. They said I would never speak again," he says.   "They said I would never walk again but I did.  "That's when I decided I would never live on anyone's terms but my own," he says.  Ken began to travel and became interested in the idea of the wilderness.  In the Yukon, the Canadian territory that borders Alaska, he wondered what would happen if he just walked off the highway and "went into nowhere".   So that's what he did, saying he finally walked about 22,000 miles before returning home.  While he was away his parents died and he didn't find out until he came home.  "It took a long while to hit me," he says. "I felt nothing."  Ken walked the length of Britain and was at Rannoch in the Scottish Highlands when he suddenly thought of his parents and started to cry.  "I cried all the way while walking," he says.  "I thought where is the most isolated place in Britain?" Ken tells the documentary.  "I went around and followed every bay and every Ben where there wasn't a house built.  Hundreds and hundreds of miles of nothingness. I looked across the loch and saw this woodland."   He knew he had found the place he wanted to stay.  Ken says that was the point when he stopped crying and ended his constant wandering.  He set about building a log cabin, having first experimented on the design by using small sticks.   Four decades on, the cabin has a roaring log fire but no electricity, gas or running water - and definitely no mobile phone signal.   The firewood has to be chopped in the forest and carried back to the remote shelter.  He grows vegetables and forages for berries but his main source of food comes from the loch.   "If you want to learn how to live an independent life what you have to do is learn how to fish," he says.   Ten days after film director Lizzie left the cabin, in February 2019, the perils of Ken's isolated existence were brought home when he suffered a stroke while outside in the snow.  He used a GPS personal locator beacon, which he had been given days before, to trigger an SOS, which was automatically sent to a response centre in Houston, Texas.   It notified the coastguard in the UK and Ken was airlifted to hospital in Fort William where he spent seven weeks recovering.  Staff did what they could to make sure he could return to living independently and doctors tried to get him to move back to civilisation where he would have a flat and carers. But Ken just wanted to get back to his cabin.  However, the "double vision" he suffered after his stroke and his memory loss mean Ken has had to accept more help than he'd had previously. The head stalker of the estate, who looks after the forest where Ken lives, has been bringing him food every couple of weeks, which he pays for from his pension.   "People these days have been very good to me," Ken says.  A year after his first rescue, Ken had to be airlifted again after he was injured when a log pile collapsed on him.  But he says he is not worried about his future.  "We weren't put on earth forever," Ken says.   "I'll stop here until my final days come, definitely.  I have had lots of incidents but I seem to have survived them all.   I am bound to go ill again sometime. Something will happen to me that will take me away one day as it does for everybody else.  But I'm hoping I'll get to 102."

Vaccine Firm Valneva Seeks Apology Over Javid Comments
French vaccine maker Valneva is seeking an apology from the UK Westminster government for casting doubt on whether its Covid jab would get approval.   Valneva said it would not rule out seeking "legal recourse" for loss of earnings and damages.The UK Westminster government had about 100 million doses of Valneva's vaccine on order before it dropped the deal in September.  The vaccine would have been produced in Livingston, West Lothian. UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the House of Commons that the vaccine would not have gained UK regulatory approval.   Valneva's chief financial officer David Lawrence told BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime that Mr Javid's comments had a devastating impact on the business.   "We had to do a lot of work to rebuild and restore confidence in the vaccine" he said.  He said Mr Javid's comments were "very clearly wrong" and "we'd love to hear an apology from him."   On Wednesday, the European Commission agreed a contract to supply up to 60 million doses of the Valneva jab, subject to approval by the European Medicines Agency.  Mr Javid's addressed parliament the day after the UK vaccine deal was scrapped, which Valneva said could have been worth up to £1.2bn. Valneva's share price dropped 35% at the time.  Mr Javid said it was "clear to us that the vaccine in question that the company was developing would not get approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency here in the UK".   However, he later amended his comments in the parliament's official record to say that Valneva's vaccine had not yet got and may not get approval.   Mr Lawrence acknowledged that Mr Javid had later corrected himself, but said the damage he did to the company was "significant".   The results of Valneva's clinical trial have since been published. Mr Lawrence described them as "absolutely phenomenal".  He added: "Our clinical data wasn't ready and available at that time, and we've since reported it to show that our vaccine looks great.  "That apology would help many potential customers understand he made a mistake and there was nothing wrong with our vaccine."  Mr Lawrence said Valneva was still seeking an amicable resolution with the UK Westminster government.  But he added: "As to legal recourse, we haven't ruled out any of our options yet."  The Valneva vaccine uses inactivated Covid-19 virus in a similar way to flu vaccines, and is seen by some as having the potential to win over people wary of vaccines that use new technology.  Trial results suggested those who received the Valneva jab had high levels of neutralising antibodies against Covid - with the jab outperforming the AstraZeneca vaccine on this measure in head-to-head tests.  Valneva has also met Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Mr Lawrence said it was with a view to supplying doses directly to Scotland in the future.  The Scottish government has said it would continue to engage with Valneva on a regular basis   A spokeswoman added: "We will consider using any vaccine approved by the regulatory bodies."

Green Light for St Boswells Distillery Project Welcomed
Developers of a new £46m grain distillery in the Borders have welcomed a decision to approve their plans.  Growing demand for gin has helped to fuel the Jackson Distillers scheme on the Charlesfield Industrial Estate in St Boswells.   It will produce about 20 million litres of pure alcohol a year to help meet rising demand for use in blended whisky, gin and vodka.   It will create about 20 permanent jobs and 200 during construction.  The company said an 18-month construction period was scheduled to begin next year with spirit being produced in 2024.   Jacksons Distillers founder Trevor Jackson said planning approval was another "significant step forward".   He said they had "great support" for the proposals to ensure they fitted into the landscape and included measures to reduce their climate impact.   

Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry: Marist Brothers Abuse 'Shocking and Distressing'
The systemic abuse of children in two residential schools run by the Marist Brothers was "shocking and distressing", a report has found.   The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry examined the provision of care by the Order at St Columba's College, Largs, and St Joseph's College, Dumfries.   Chairwoman Lady Smith found children were exposed to risks of sexual, physical and psychological danger.   The inquiry heard the offences occurred between 1950 and 1981.  Lady Smith said: "Marist Brothers in positions of trust at both boarding schools violated their monastic vows and breached the trust of children and their families.  Both schools had flawed systems that allowed abusers driven by sexual motives to have easy access to children in their care."  At St Columba's she said two Brothers who had easy access to children were serial sex abusers.  One was former teacher Peter Toner who was jailed in 2019 for sexually abusing five pupils.   The High Court in Glasgow heard Toner, from Glasgow, told one of his victims: "I love you like a son" as he sexually assaulted him.   In her report, Lady Smith also identified Brother Germanus Paul.  He was at St Columba's for two separate periods, 1957 to 1973 and 1975 to 1980, and was described by one witness as the "sergeant major".   Lady Smith added: "They sexually abused children of tender years with impunity. Some children also suffered sadistic treatment associated with sexual abuse.  Their presence at St Columba's for a period over 20 years meant that the sexual abuse of children there was a chronic problem that destroyed childhoods and had lasting impact.  A culture of obedience, fear of severe punishment and the authority of the Catholic Church served to empower abusers, and, conversely, rendered many victims powerless in the belief that their complaints of abuse would not be believed."  Lady Smith said the failures to respond adequately to reports of abuse represented "serious failures in care".  In 1998 former teacher Norman Bulloch was jailed for eight years for sex offences against two boys at St Joseph's College.  The inquiry heard from 43 witnesses between October and November 2019. The report is the third to be published following findings into the Christian Brothers and Benedictines earlier this year.   Lady Smith said complaints of abuse were met with inaction or, in some cases, the movement of brothers.  She added the safety of children "did not feature as a consideration".  Lady Smith concluded: "The Marist Brothers were not qualified or trained in how to care for children in their residential care.  The establishment of residential schools may have been well meaning but, in the absence of robust protective systems, the outcome for many was the creation of abusive environments.  Systemic failures allowed sexual predators easy access to vulnerable children."  Applicants and other witnesses continue to come forward to the Inquiry with relevant evidence about the care provided by the Marist Brothers and Lady Smith said this will be considered as part of the continuing process.   St Colomba's College closed in the early 1980s, while St Joseph's was taken over by the local council in 1981.

Scotland to Ban Most Single-use Plastic From June 2022
A ban on most single-use plastics will come into effect in Scotland from June next year.  The legislation will ban the use of plastic cutlery, drink stirrers and food containers made from expanded polystyrene.   An exemption will be in place for people who need plastic straws for medical reasons or to ensure they can continue to live independently.    Scotland is the first UK nation to pursue the ban.   Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater said: "Every year, hundreds of millions of pieces of single-use plastic are wasted. They litter our coasts, pollute our oceans and contribute to the climate emergency.   That has to end and this ban will be another step forward in the fight against plastic waste and throwaway culture.   This is another example of the sort of bold action that is needed if we are to deliver on the commitments that are being made at Cop26."   But Ms Slater said the Internal Market Act passed at Westminster last year could create issues with the ban.   She said it effectively exempted any items that were produced in or imported via another part of the UK.  "I will be writing to the UK government to ask that they take the necessary steps to ensure the integrity of this ban," she added.   Scottish Lib Dem climate emergency spokesman, Liam McArthur, said the legislation was a step in the right direction, but "nowhere near the scale of action needed".    He added: "The Scottish government are tinkering round the edges, and have failed to motivate change. They parked their Circular Economy Bill, and even with a Green minister in charge important policies won't be seen for years to come.  The waste pile just keeps on growing. The pandemic has already backtracked progress, and more delays will be hugely damaging."   WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said the global climate impact of plastic was equivalent to the output of almost 200 coal-fired power stations annually.  He added: "If we're to stop climate change and eliminate plastic pollution from our oceans, we need to rapidly phase out unnecessary single-use plastics."

Gas Pipe Network in Ayr Blast Estate to Be Ripped Out
The gas pipe network around a house destroyed in an explosion is to be replaced to "reassure" the community.   Four members of a family were seriously injured in the blast at their home in Gorse Park, Kincaidston, Ayr.   Scottish Gas Network (SGN) said it was working closely with the Police and HSE to establish the cause of the explosion on 18 October.   Work to replace iron pipes with plastic on the estate is expected to begin in the week beginning 29 November.   Officials from the police and health and safety executive are working with SGN to establish the cause of the explosion.   SGN said gas remains safe to use in the area.   A spokesman for the gas distribution company said: "Having listened to the concerns from across the whole community, we've decided to convert our whole gas pipe network on the Kincaidston estate to plastic pipe to provide everyone with reassurance.   We're now in the advanced stages of planning this significant project."  Four homes had to be demolished after the explosion.  A 43-year-old woman and a 16-year-old boy were treated for serious injuries at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, and a 47-year-old man and an 11-year-old boy were also hospitalised.  Their home and three others were later demolished.   Other buildings were damaged in the explosion and residents of hundreds of properties had to wait for several days for safety inspections before they could return home.  

Dozens Taken From Offshore Platform Due to Flooding
Dozens of workers have been taken off a North Sea platform due to flooding in the accommodation block.  Apache North Sea said there was a "release of water" from the sprinkler system on Beryl Alpha off Shetland on Wednesday morning.  The company said that all 168 personnel were safe and well but that 47 were taken off.  Work is ongoing to "return the impacted area to normal operational status".  

Highland Company Cairngorm Windows Invites Community Groups to Bid for Share of £6000 to Ease Poverty and Stress for Families At Christmas
A Highland company has launched a novel scheme inviting community groups to bid for cash to ease poverty and stress for families at Christmas time.  Cairngorm Windows, the region’s largest windows manufacturer, has donated £6000 to the Highland Third Sector Interface (TSI) to drive forward the initiative.  It will enable two £500 donations to groups for projects in each of the TSI’s six areas – Inverness and Easter Ross, Lochaber, Badenoch and Strathspey, Caithness, Sutherland, Skye and Wester Ross.  Iain McKenzie, Highland TSI development manager for new projects, described it as a "wonderful gesture" which would allow the organisation to do something completely different to help over the festive season.  "This new fund will ensure there will be Christmas joy for some children whose families have faced their worst festive season in years after being hit by the Universal Credit cut and rising heat and lighting costs," he said.   "It might be a special meal or ensuring kids have presents to open.   He said poverty was still a major issue in the area with three of the top 15 officially most deprived areas in Scotland in South Kessock in Inverness, Milton near Invergordon and Milnafua in Alness.  "Against the backdrop of the pandemic, Cairngorm’s impressive intervention is an opportunity for community groups to bid for the cash by outlining how they would spend it," Mr McKenzie said

Highland Council Unveils 'Bold' Strategy for Inverness
Highland Council has set out what it describes as a "bold and ambitious" plan for the future of Inverness.  The local authority said the Highland capital was at a "pivotal moment" as it emerged from the Covid pandemic.   It said major investment was being put in to make the city a "more resilient, more vibrant and lower carbon" place.   Investment has already gone towards redeveloping Inverness Castle as a tourist attraction and a revamp of the Victorian Market shopping arcade.   The council said there were new employment opportunities being created through a new NHS Highland elective care centre and a Life Science Innovation Centre, which is a collaboration between Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the University of the Highlands and Islands.   A new malting barley processing plant and silos are also under construction at the city's Longman Industrial Estate.

Nursery in 'Discrimination' Row Sued for £30,000 by Minister's Wife
A nursery accused of discrimination by Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has said it will "robustly defend" a £30,000 damages claim against it.  Little Scholars in Broughty Ferry said it had received confirmation that Mr Yousaf's wife Nadia El-Nakla has launched the legal action.   The couple say they were told there was no space for their daughter but said applicants with "white Scottish-sounding names" were accepted.  The nursery denies the accusation.  A spokeswoman said it was "saddened, but not wholly surprised" that legal proceedings had been raised, describing the five-figure sum sought as "astonishing."  She said: "They have previously demanded an apology but we cannot apologise for something we haven't done, no matter the pressure applied to us."  Ms El-Nakla's solicitor Aamer Anwar confirmed that a legal writ had been lodged at Glasgow Sheriff Court this week.  He said that if his client's action was successful, any potential compensation would be donated to an anti-racist charity of her choice.


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

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